Compositing

By Mark

Two weeks ago we talked about selection techniques.  Isolating specific elements from an image is one of those capabilities which Lightroom just cannot do.  It requires a pixel level editing program like Photoshop or even elements.  The ability to place things and then work on different layers is also one of those capabilities where Photoshop rules.   Building composite images takes full advantage of these three elements. 

In my mind there are three basic categories of composited images. We are going to cover the first two types in this blog.  The first are the simple replacements—ooh, I don’t like that sky and so I will put in a new one.

Taos Cemetery

Taos Cemetery

.   Starting with this nice happy image from the Taos cemetery, I just used the “color range” selection for the sky to create this mask. I inverted the selection to keep only the ground.   

I then took another big sky image I shot from that same trip and opened it up as a smart object.   Why as a smart object?  Well I wanted to be able to resize it without damaging the original file. 

With the sky as a new layer beneath, it’s a much more dramatic image.

The other two types are more artistic in scope.  The creative composite, where images and effects are layered and blended together and you intend for the viewer to be able to see this as part of your message.   Using that same cemetery base shot and the same mask I created a completely different look.   I shot this at Epcot Center during a fireworks display.  I keep it tagged in my effects and colors.  

When you make this into the sky, you need to add an orange cast to the markers themselves.  I just picked out a color from the new sky and then created a new fill layer on top.  I then reduced the opacity way down, just to give it a little glow. 

The last one, which we are saving for later, is where you take various elements from multiple images and create a seamless effect that could be a photograph from a completely different world.   


Take The Slow Train

By Roger (21 August 2014)

Last Saturday must have been “Gee I wish I was a kid” day. While Mark was out shooting balloons, I was out shooting trains. I needed to get out and make some photos that were different than the people shots I normally make. It was a good day for it.

My first shot of the day

My first shot of the day

I got to the little train station before the sun came over the mountains to get a good spot before it got crowded. After scoping out a few locations, I fired a couple of test shots. I wanted the first shot to be decent right out of the camera. It was a matter of pride, since everyone knows I like to play around in Lightroom and Photoshop. I still always strive to get the photo right when I push the shutter. This was the first train of the morning, and, as you can see by the readings below, the exposure and white balance are unchanged. (I did put a slight vignette around it, though.) It's always fun to get the shot, the way you imagined it.

About a dozen trains rumbled through the station while I was there, so I got a variety of shots from each end of the depot. When you find a place you want to make a photo, don't forget to look around and see if there is another shot in the area. We all tend to shoot and move on. Slow down; this is not a race. I have been guilty of moving too quickly, myself, so, this time, I stayed in one area for two hours.

Make sure you cover all areas at your shooting location.

Make sure you cover all areas at your shooting location.

The other end of the station, as you can see above, had a completely different background. This was taken later in the morning, after the sun was moving higher into the sky, so the all the light gives it a completely different look, too.

I then moved across the tracks, so I could include some of the train station. And some people. You didn't think I'd go all day without a people shot somewhere, did 'ya? I thought the sign was slightly humorous, since it looked like it described the outside benches, rather than showing where the door was to the inside of the depot.

The Waiting Room

The Waiting Room

While I was over there, another CSX train came through the scene. All, but one of them, were freight trains, carrying cars, building supplies, and coal, so I concentrated my effort on the engine. And, obviously, the people and depot were about to disappear behind the train. I'm not sure this shot was as interesting as the first, but I pushed the shutter. I think I still need some practice and may need to make a few more trips.

Please, remember to stay safe if you go to a train station. You wouldn't want to ruin a day with an injury or worse. As you've heard us say before, get out there and use your camera. I had a nice, relaxed morning and shot some things I don't usually shoot. All in all, a fun morning.

Up, Up and Away

By Mark

We live fairly close to the Bealeton Flying Circus, and I often see their biplanes flying over my house.  In the 13 years I’ve been here, I’d never made it down there.  This weekend they had a hot air balloon regatta, so Sarah and I headed down to see the show.  One of the items on my photographic bucket list is to visit the annual Albuquerque balloon festival in New Mexico.  That festival has hundreds of balloons and tens of thousands of spectators.  The one in Bealeton was a bit more modest. 

The aeronauts were scheduled to take off starting at 5 PM, so we got down there about 4:30.  The airshow folks were still giving biplane rides, including aerobatic ones for the brave of heart. 

There is still something magical about watching these canvas, wood and wire open cockpit machines take to the sky.   

.   I plan to go back and take one of the rides here soon. 

When the wind finally died down a little bit, the vans and trucks with the baskets and the balloons started to unfold across the property.  

In the nice light of the late afternoon each balloon showed off their unique and colorful patterns.  The giant bass pro balloon had quite a bit of 3D detail.  Seeing the biplane buzz it was pretty interesting.  Frank Luke-anyone?

The kiddie train made a nice contrast as the balloons were inflating.

Each balloon represents a significant investment in time and money.  Seeing the crew working inside the envelope reminds you of just how big they really are. 

Filling them up with hot air is like throwing money in a hole. It takes quite a few people to hold the balloon down on the ground—they really want to go flying.  Of course people got to pay for a ride.  We were quite content watching from the ground.

My favorite was the really brightly colored striped pattern.  It was a good photographic subject.   

At the end of the day we watched them float off into the sunset.   I am glad Sarah saw the little blurb in the paper for this local treasure.   

Worldwide Photowalk 2014

By Roger (14 August 2014)

It's time again for the Worldwide Photowalk. On Monday, Scott Kelby announced this year's date will be Saturday, 11 October. You can see all the information on Scott's blog, here. Pay attention to the instructions, especially that you must use a new log-in name if you've participated in the past. It's free, and, if you decide to enter (and win) the photo contest, there are lots of prizes.

The group from one of our Colonial Williamsburg walks.

The group from one of our Colonial Williamsburg walks.

You've never heard of a photowalk? Where 'ya been? It's simply a walk with the purpose to make photographs, usually with more than one photographer. We have participated in many photowalks, and they are a great way to enjoy photography with fellow enthusiasts. Last year, there were more than 1,200 walks, around the world.

The whole point is to have fun and meet people who like photography as much as you.

Who knows what you will see?

Who knows what you will see?

You can bring any camera and gear you wish to carry, but we recommend you bring as little gear as possible to get through the couple of hours. Concentrate on the scenery, not the equipment.

One of our past photowalkers made a pinhole camera for the walk.

One of our past photowalkers made a pinhole camera for the walk.

Wear comfortable shoes and bring a snack. Take your time on the walk. This isn't any kind of race to the finish. The point is to amble along with your new friends. Talk about what you like to photograph; share contact information; help out the newbies with their gear or photo techniques.

One of my favorites from a past photowalk.

One of my favorites from a past photowalk.

For the last three years, we led the WPWW in Colonial Williamsburg. We are leading one of the walks, again, but this year we moved to a new location: Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. We've been here before on a beautiful autumn day. It is a pretty town, with lots of history, scenic locales, and street scenes for your photography games. The site is active now, and limited to 50 photowalkers. You can find all the details for our walk here.

We hope you'll join us for another great Worldwide Photowalk. It won't be any fun without you.

Church windows, in Harpers Ferry.

Church windows, in Harpers Ferry.

Along the route, in Harpers Ferry.

Along the route, in Harpers Ferry.