Support a Charity

By Roger (12 June 2016)

We make a very conscious effort to limit our blogs to photographic topics. Occasionally, we bend our rules to discuss topics about which we are passionate and still connect them to photography.

Both Mark and I support several charitable organizations and supporting your favorite charity is always a good thing. Of course, they request money for their operations, but they also need other types of support – including photography services.

The range of charities you can choose to support are as varied as the type of photography support they need. They need photo restorations, archival work, recording of events, and almost any type of photo work you can think of. There are even several photography-specific charitable organizations, if you prefer those. You can find a charity to match your area of interest, with very little effort. Give them some help.

Like many families, we have had several close family members afflicted with cancer, so, those charities are high on our list. This weekend, several of our family members participated in a Relay for Life walk. My wife's school sponsored a tent for the walkers, and I shot a few photographs for them. Besides the emotional Survivor's Lap, the organizers set up personal luminaires that honored those who were still fighting cancer; those who were survivors; and those who lost their fight. The luminaires lined the walking path and spelled out HOPE on the bleachers.

The Survivor's Lap

Personalizing the luminaire

Since I'm talking charity, another charity I have worked with (although I'm overdue for more support) is St. Mary's Home, link, in Norfolk, Va. Please give them a look and a donation. St. Mary's is a long-term pediatric residential care facility dedicated, exclusively, to children with severe physical and intellectual disabilities. It is one of only approximately 100 facilities of its kind, nationwide. The kids there can always use your support.

St. Mary's Fun Run

So go support a charity of your choosing. You can give them money, but your time and services may be even more helpful. They can use your photos as part of their advertising or publicity for their sponsors. You'll get a warm fuzzy and good karma for helping a worthy cause.

Combining Graphics and Photographs

By Mark

There are times when you want to use other creative elements in your photography. Photoshop gives you lots of tools for bringing in graphic elements and incorporating them.  You can use found images, create them in programs such as Adobe Illustrator or use the tools found in Photoshop itself.   Last week, I wrote about how to find and manage those types of assets, because Lightroom is NOT the best tool for that job.  This week I’m actually going to show you how to create something quick and easy.  


While I was browsing my graphics files one evening (yes, I know pretty nerdy thing to be doing), I noticed and liked this abstract landscape image. 

I’m not really a deconstructionist/cubist art fan, but the colors and the general outline reminded me of some of the pictures from last summer’s Ireland trip.

I opened the Ireland Image from LR using the Photo>Edit In>Photoshop command.  Once inside PS, I converted the image into a Smart Object, by right clicking and selecting that from the pop-up menu.  Since I already had Bridge open, I selected the abstract image and used the Place Command.  That opened it up, as a Smart Object automatically in the PS document.  So why am I making such a big deal about Smart Objects?   In this case especially, it is a very important step.  The graphic file itself is not an exceptionally high resolution image.  It certainly is not the same size or the exact dimensions of my underlying high resolution image from my D800.  Since I knew I would have to transform (Ctrl-t) the graphic, I wanted to take advantage special properties of Smart Objects.  If you try to stretch and resize small objects, all you really do is distort the pixels and then you can’t push them back into shape (Don’t worry, this will be the topic of next week’s blog).  A Smart Object doesn’t really exist except as a figment of software in your image, so as you transform it, you aren’t really messing with the original content.  It allows you to change your mind and even replace the content later if you choose.

My intent was to sort of gradually fade the blobs of the abstract into the image and then out again.  I created a layer mask and then applied gradient masks at the top and bottom to achieve my desired final product.  By painting with White, Black and Grey on the mask, I was able to fine tune the boundaries around the clouds and foreground hills

It’s not going to hang in the Louvre, unless it is the basement which is now under water, but it was something fun to play with.  

A Graphics Bridge to the Past

By Mark

I started experimenting with combining graphical elements and photographs and am going to share a little of what I have learned/created.  As I planned out the next few blogs, I realized I needed to address an underlying issue first.  It is no secret that Roger and I are huge fans of Adobe Lightroom as a management tool for our photographs.  It was specifically designed to catalog, manage and help you find the photos you took.  Included with Photoshop, Adobe has long had an also-ran program called Bridge which was the subject of a lot of jokes.  “There is a reason it is free”, was a typical example.  However, as Adobe has moved into the cloud, they seem to have spent a lot of time rethinking and reengineering of the program.  It really does provide the “bridge” between all of the Creative Cloud programs and is as integrated with Photoshop, Illustrator and their other design tools as LR is with Photoshop for photography.  It handles the graphic files where LR doesn’t really deal well with those.

Long ago I had gotten a large collection of clip art/graphics files covering everything from A to Z.

Bridge Top Level Menu View

Bridge Top Level Menu View

They came on 19 CDs and aside from the fact that some of the graphics were in the old potentially harmful .wmf format, they had some good stuff.   I found a program called XnView which converted all of the .wmf images over to the modern standard .png as I imported them onto my computer.

Bridge provides a lot of options for displaying your image files.  Grid Views, both large and small; as details or reduced to a simplified listing

Large Grid View

Large Grid View

Simple List

Simple List

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Bridge has gotten much smarter, and here a few examples.  It now has the ability to share the keyword list you created in LR.  It also recognizes any embedded keywords already on your files.

The metadata tab provides a lot of detail on the technical specs of your file and can be edited as required.



Bridge also gives you a variety of filtering and search tools to help narrow down and find what you are looking for.  I don’t think they are as user friendly as LR, but I haven’t spent a lot time using them.

I confess, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to browse a large volume of graphic files and find the ones I wanted to work with.  Next time we will actually start doing that “artsy” stuff.

Memorial Day Photo Story

By Roger (30 May 2016)

It's Memorial Day, and, as retired military officers, Mark and I always honor this day. Today is the day we remember service members who died while serving the United States. We have been lucky enough to have all our immediate military family members return safely from their deployments, but I have known several families who were not so fortunate. Here's how I came to create this Memorial Day photo.

COL William B. Nolde

This is U.S. Army Colonel William Benedict Nolde, the last official combat casualty of the Vietnam War. He also served in the Korean War. He was killed just 11 hours before the Paris Peace Accords brought an end to all hostilities. He was survived by his wife, Joyce, and five children.

I met the youngest, Bart, in 1983, while we were lieutenants, attending an Army course, at Ft. Huachuca, Arizona. I photographed Bart and his wife, Shari, and he told me about his father. He talked about the experiences he went through immediately after his father's death. I believe the family was honored at the White House. COL Nolde is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, in Section 3.

I asked him to let me borrow his father's photograph, and I used a macro lens to make a copy – on film. Remember, this is 1983. I was using film and had no access to a scanner. I had never even seen a scanner; they were rare and very expensive tools then. It shows in the poor quality of the portrait.

I made the Vietnam Memorial photo that same year and spent many hours with a professional printer to create the composite. Photoshop didn't exist yet. We made prints of the Memorial, in both color and black and white. We made a photo composite of the black and white portrait; a photo of the Memorial, in black and white; and the color of the flag. (In 1983, selective color photos were very rare and not yet considered bad taste.) You'll notice COL Nolde's name, just above the brim of his hat, has been lightened a bit, to draw the viewer's eye.

I made a couple of prints for Bart and his mother. I wish I had the chance to recreate this composite with today's tools. It would be higher quality and much easier.

I lost touch with Bart when we graduated from the class. I used Google to remember the actual dates and facts about COL Nolde. While I was doing the search, I saw an article that said two of his grandsons were becoming Army officers. The proud tradition continues.

SGT Timothy Sayne

I would also like to remember Army Sergeant Timothy Sayne. He died in Afghanistan, on 18 September 2011. He was a soldier who served with my son, on a previous deployment to Iraq. Mark and I photographed the funeral for his family, at Arlington, in Section 60. His story was told in our blog here.

So, don't forget the meaning of today. It's nice to say things to those you know or meet who are serving now or who served in the past, but Memorial Day is not about them – it's for those who died serving us.