Here’s a Fine Stick…

By Mark

Sarah had two firm requirements for our trip; the first was we had to visit the location where the Quiet Man was filmed, and that we would stay in a castle.  Fortunately, we were able to accomplish both in the village of Cong. This blog is a little longer than normal, but does have some decent photos, so stick with it.

We set out for our first big test in driving on the left side, and it was actually pretty easy.  One of the things all the guides tell you is that the roads are “a little narrower” than you probably are used to.  That is very, very true.  Plus the roads usually follow right next to the innumerable rock walls which are everywhere.  Sarah spent a lot of time muttering to herself as we drove along next to the walls.  Cong is all the way across the country—that being all of 2.5 hours. 

In 1952 John Ford, John Wayne, and Maureen O’Hara, plus pretty much any major actor with Irish roots, descended on this quiet town. The village has capitalized on the success of the film with many places now renamed to the businesses they were named in the movie.  The Tour HQ looks like the humble cottage “White a’Morn”, which is actually miles away in another county. 

Pat Cohan’s is now a fine restaurant;  when the movie was made, it was a grocery store.  

There is the colorful dying man’s house, from where he leaps up from his deathbed to see the great fight.  

The nice house of Mr. Reverend Playfair sits right on the river. 

Squire Danagher’s substantial farmhouse is actually over on the Ashford Castle Estate.

The famous ruins scene was not filmed in the ruins of Cong Abbey either.

A few years ago Ms. O’Hara came back to the village for the dedication of this statue and for their annual festival.  

When we finished our delightful walking tour, we headed down the road to start our stay at Ashford Castle.  As you exit the main road, a liveried guard greets you and takes your name.  You drive for a half mile or so, through their beautiful golf course, and drive across the bridge. 

Your five star treatment begins as they greet you, by name, and make your bags magically disappear.  The greeting staff gives you personalized tours of the grounds and the facilities.  We were a little early, so we went into their lounge, for a light lunch and a little appropriate refreshment. 

After we got settled in our room, we went out exploring the hundreds of acres of gardens.

Here is a view of what the whole castle looks like.  It was originally built as a summer hunting lodge by the heirs of the Guinness Brewing Company.  

After our dinner in the dungeon, we wandered around for a while longer until the live music started at 9:00 PM.   Oh, and they have the Quiet Man movie free 24 hours a day on the telly. 

The castle offers salmon and trout fishing, golf, equestrian activities and is also home to the Ireland Falconry School.   

We signed up to go and fly a hawk, and it was one of our absolutely favorite parts of the whole trip.  Our Hawk’s name was Aztec.  

Not a handsaw...  5 pts to the one who correctly identifies the reference.

Not a handsaw...  5 pts to the one who correctly identifies the reference.

He was exceptionally well trained and knew what he was supposed to do, we eventually learned.

Can’t lie, but this was an expensive place to stay.  I can say that it was totally and completely worth it. 

Why You Should Avoid the 'Family Photographer' Moniker

By Roger (28 June 2015)

Back in March, I extolled on the joys of family photography and how to simple it can be to make family shots (link). As I said then, family members are my favorite photo subjects. Family photography documents the passage of time and can create priceless heirlooms for the entire family. You should practice it at every opportunity.

One of my favorites

One of my favorites

Then, there is the other side of the job. There are always, at least, two sides.

What could be wrong with being labeled the official family photographer? You might be surprised. Here are some things you need to be prepared to endure if they stick that moniker on you.

People expect you to bring a camera for every event. You're the photographer, after all. So, during the parties and get-togethers, you get to schlep your camera gear around, taking their photos. They will explain that, since you are the photographer, they don't need to bother with their cameras anymore. And they won't carry your gear, either. In Germany, we used to do 10 and 20 kilometer volksmarches, with my daughter on my back, and two cameras, lenses, and rolls of film around my neck. But, my wife wouldn't carry my gear.

On the volksmarching trail, in Germany

On the volksmarching trail, in Germany

You don't get to play with them. You quickly realize that your new role is to photograph them having fun. You will discover a distinct lack of you in your photo database. If you were to join them, you couldn't make the photos they all want. Besides, who would watch your gear?

Pony rides are for kids

Pony rides are for kids

Looks like a fun slide

Looks like a fun slide

They don't cooperate during photo sessions they requested. Everybody wants to have group photos made for their desks and walls, but nobody wants to help make it happen. You have to think things out ahead of the session and be quick, or you'll lose your chance. This is especially true when the subjects are the “adults.”

You two better behave!

You two better behave!

Their mother might make them behave, so you can complete the photo, but you will know the suffering it took to get the photo. They only cooperated because she threatened to put sticks and leaves in their stockings.

Finally, cooperation

Finally, cooperation

They, even, taught the youngest family member to make goofy faces when I point the camera in his direction. It's a conspiracy, I tell you.

The youngest scofflaw of the family

The youngest scofflaw of the family

They will tell you what and how to shoot. You might think you've got this photography thing figured out. I mean you've been doing it for decades now. If you're a serious portrait photographer, you'll find that your ideas are wrong. That 1970's retro-look is back in for school photos. (I talked about making this daylight flash photo, here.)

Retro school photo

Retro school photo

Your back may be going from decades of heavy camera bags, but you need to get on your belly to capture that shot of the baby playing in the leaves. (Everybody knows babies and leaves are a killer photo combination.)

haley49604

Finally, they have no patience when you take too long to post-process. “Aren't those photos ready, yet? We need to give them away to everyone we know.” You will toil away at Lightroom and Photoshop to make the photos the best they can be. If you're doing well, they won't see any obvious traces of the work you've done. Therefore, it must be easy. They don't understand why it takes you so long to erase the aunt holding the kid on the dog or erase the vulgar graffiti on the background wall. “Didn't you pay attention at Photoshop World? Are you just hiding in your office, when we should all be out here together? Come on out here. Oh, and bring your camera!”

Walking the dog

Walking the dog

piggyback46108

Ready to sign up for this job as family photographer? There is no money in the budget, but you can use the photos in your portfolio. Except that all your photography buddies will tell you family photos have no place in a serious portfolio.

Seriously, the bold points are true, and you should re-consider applying for this job if they would bother you. The rest of the blog is over the top because I don't believe the bold points matter a bit when I'm making photos of my family and friends. Nothing gives me more pleasure than my family, and I will make photos of them until they bury me. No doubt, with my camera gear – I'm telling you, none of them will carry my bags for me. ;-)

Go out and make some family photos. For extra fun, make sure to keep all the goofy shots, just to get back at them.

Egg-cited

Egg-cited

In Dublin’s Fair City….

By Mark

Well, I’m back from vacation. We went for an end of the school year trip to Ireland. This has been on our list of places for travel for quite a while. Thanks to lots of friends who have been there recently, we had plenty of recommendations. The best one was to get the comprehensive insurance for the car, but that’s a story for later.

People always ask how I plan for travel and if I use tour companies. I have nothing against tour companies, and for folks who might not be comfortable operating independently overseas, they can remove a lot of the hassles involved with travel in unfamiliar places. Especially if you don’t speak the native language or you need to drive on the “wrong” side of the road. What you trade for that convenience is flexibility. I find the ability to linger in a pub or to wander in back alleys more appealing. Fortunately sites like Trip Advisor can help tailor your travel plans to best suit your requirements.

Our Irish vacation really broke into four phases, which will lend itself to these blogs. Our first stop was the great city of Dublin. I love cities which encourage you to walk around. Directly across the street from our hotel was Christchurch Cathedral. 

Christchurch Cathedral

Christchurch Cathedral

Down in the crypts they had some interesting sculptures. 

Their most popular artifact are a mummified cat and rat who got stuck into the pipe organ.  

Being a historically Catholic country we visited several cathedrals and churches on our trip.

One of our stops in Dublin had to be that true Irish landmark – The Guinness Beer Factory tour.

Each phase of the brewing process and Guinness’ historical roots were proudly showcased in the tour. All of the classic advertising icons were shown and the final stop was, of course, the bar where you collected your pint-sized reward.

On day two we went to Trinity University to see the incredible Book of Kells and, for us, the equally amazing Long Hall Library on campus. This was why I wanted my wide-angle lens. I purposely shot bracketed seven-shot sequences with express purpose of creating HDR images.

The range of natural light from the open windows, the deep shadows of the books in their shelves, and the rich textures of wood and leather needed the full range of the camera.

We stumbled across the famous statue of Molly Malone plying her wares of cockles and mussels.

Alive'o she cried

Alive'o she cried

Our route to collect our rental car (did I mention get the insurance?) purposely went past St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the national shrine of Ireland. 

The artifacts of the original founders – including Jonathon Swift – to the mercenaries of the soldiers who sacrificed their lives across the British Empire lend a solemnity and majesty to the grey stones. 

Across the river we found ourselves ready to take on our next liver-endangerment opportunity – the Jameson Distillery tour.

While this delectable concoction is no longer produced in Dublin but further south in County Cork, the tour and comparison tasting make up for it. Key historical employees like the lead grain storage pest control specialist were part of the display. (This is the actual cat. They leave that part out of the tour unless you ask – too many animal rights activists disapprove.)

However, tours are limited and timed. After purchasing our tickets we realized we had a couple of hours to kill. We opted to stroll over to the James Joyce center to see the actual home at the address of the fictional Leopold and Molly Bloom from his book, Ulysses.

We finished our day in the Temple Bar area of Dublin.

It was crowded with Scots in their kilts (no, we didn’t ask) who had come over for the Euro Cup qualifying match. 

The New Dehaze Tool

By Roger (22 June 2015)

If you belong to Adobe's Creative Cloud subscription programs, you just received new updates to several programs. One of my favorite new tools is the Dehaze feature. It allows you the opportunity to remove or add haze in your photos. Adobe says that the algorithm used is “based on a physical model of how light is transmitted, and it tries to estimate light that is lost due to absorption and scattering through the atmosphere.” OK, that's nice if you're into the technical details.

In the past, you could find some tutorials, around the internet, that addressed reducing the impact of haze, using Levels and Curves adjustments. In Lightroom, I've tried to reduce the impact of haze, using Clarity and Contrast. Both methods will help, but this is supposed to be a more refined approach. It is, certainly, a faster approach because you just use sliders to make your adjustments. It turns this exercise from minutes to seconds.

You can find the sliders in the Develop Module of Lightroom CC or the Camera Raw windows of Photoshop CC. (Please note: If you have the stand-alone Lightroom 6 version, you will not see this upgrade.)

Dehaze in Lightroom (L) and Photoshop (R)

Dehaze in Lightroom (L) and Photoshop (R)

Notice that the slider's default position is set to 0. The scale moves to 100, in both positive and negative directions. Moving the slider to the right will remove haze and, to the left, adds haze. The algorithm cannot put in details that don't exist in your file, so it will only do so much. This is another reason to make sure you get a proper exposure. And, since there is more information in a RAW file, this is another reason to shoot RAW.

Let me run through a couple examples.

Here are a couple of boats floating so deeply in the fog, they are almost invisible. Photo 1 is the original file, with no adjustments. Photo 2 has adjustments made the old-fashioned way, with the Clarity and Contrast sliders, in Lightroom. And Photo 3, is the original photo and the Dehaze slider, only. I moved the slider to +40, so less than half the available amount.

Original

Original

Original+LR Clarity and Contrast

Original+LR Clarity and Contrast

Original+Dehaze only

Original+Dehaze only

There is quite a difference. You can now see the beginnings of the island behind the boats. I had forgotten that was even there. Sadly, there still isn't a “Make-It-Wonderful” slider.

If you want to create or enhance the moodiness of a photograph, you can increase the haze.

Finished lighthouse photo

Finished lighthouse photo

Lighthouse, with fog added, using negative Dehaze slider

Lighthouse, with fog added, using negative Dehaze slider

I've had mixed results when adding haze. I'm not a fan of it, in this lighthouse photo. I've also found it doesn't work well with every photo, but that is no different than every other tool or plug-in you use in these two programs.

Of course, after you've used the Dehaze tool, you can continue to edit your photo with the other tools available in both programs. I've just started playing around with that. I will keep experimenting with this and recommend you do the same. That's the best way to learn how these programs work. It's part of the fun of post-processing. Give it a shot, and see what works best for your photos.