Live from the Road: Episode #55

Northern Lights Poster

Northern Lights Poster

Over the weekend I had the distinct pleasure of joining my colleague and good friend Kerry Garrison (who you probably know from Camera Dojo) out “in the wild” as we traveled to the Breezy Point Resort north of Brainerd MN (about three hours west and north if the twin cities) and spoke at their Northern Lights conference.  Through the coordination of our sponsor, Nations Photo Lab, and the conference hosts, MNNPA, we had a wonderful time.  Not only did the coordinators treat us like Rock Stars (we did give some autographs though), the attendees were quite engaging too.

The pre-conference sessions were set to start at 12, and our gig started at 5.  After a few of the logistical things were addressed that always come up with hosting conferences (they even had a live wedding going on one room next to us – what a great opportunity for a bride to get a wide range of photographers applying their trade), we got rolling.  A mere five minutes into our introduction, we paused to add even more tables and chairs to the room as more and more people started filing in.  For a regional conference to have a crowd this big during a pre-conference tech talk was quite surprising, but also very enjoyable.  So, what did we talk about?

The topic was none other than Lightroom 3!  We talked about how to navigate around, some of the benefits and tips and tricks of LR to soon realize that we are very fortunate to be in the position that we are.  It was humbling to realize that we really are on the cutting edge as so many people are using Lightroom 1, LR 2, or even earlier generations of Photoshop for their workflow.  Our discussion quickly was adapted to both demonstrate why and answer questions on what makes Lightroom 3 such a useful tool for both established and emerging photographers.

The questions raised were just wonderful ranging from very broad-ranging ones like “Why should wedding and portrait photographers care about upgrading their work flow?” to ones as detailed as “Can Lightroom manage PSD files?” and “How can I keyword photos during import?”  By the time our two hour segment was up we had barely covered the import process, a little bit on the adjustment brush, and the nuts and bolts of things like cropping, selective color, and black and white conversions.

Ours was the last segment for the day and we were then invited to the after party over in one of the adjoining houses.  Food snacks, drinks and such were all available and in abundance.  With the abundance of spirits, everyone was in great spirits themselves as we laughed and talked further with lots of people about photography stuff until the wee hours of the morning.  By 1am we were done though and needed to head back to our respective cities (myself to Denver and Kerry to Anaheim, CA).  So, during our road trip back to Minneapolis for the return flight, we decided to record this show for you.  Answers to all the questions above and more are here, as well as a few photo opp stops!  Thanks for taking the time to listen, hope you enjoy it and we’ll be back again soon with more photo goodness!

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Learn more about the Northern Lights Conference and MNPPA here:

Three Tips to Blur Water

Pier Lit Beach

Water always seems to attract attention in photography…whether it’s an ocean at sunrise, dew on a flower, or waterfalls gushing through a mountain stream, the impact that water can have on our imagery is very powerful.  Harness that power to your own creative ends by recognizing 5 ways to blur it to your advantage:

1.  Slow down! – Your shutter speed is the best way to blur water…taking things down to at least 1/4 of a second, if not longer.

SC Waterfall

2.  Steady as she goes – Use your tripod!  When shooting at slower shutter speeds, it helps immensely to be solidly mounted on a good set of legs.  Without getting into the pros and cons of various features and qualities of various tripods, if you are shooting a 10 second exposure of a beach at sunrise, you need legs!

Palmetto Statue

3.  Control the light – What a lot of people run into when slowing their shutter is an invariably brighter exposure…to combat extra ambient light in the scene use ND filters to prevent those extra rays of light from hitting your sensor.  Polarizers can work too, but they are less effective as they can have some downsides to them including elimination of reflections, casting a specific tone on your entire image, and more.  When in doubt, always use ND filters.

Pier Lit Beach

As always, there’s more than one way to skin a can (or blur water)!  More involve shutter dragging with fill flash, and lots of others.  What ways do you use to blur and control waters’ appearance in your images?  Sound off in the comments with tips and tricks of your own! Happy shooting all, and we’ll see you back here again next time with more photo goodness!

Black and White Adjustments in Lightroom 3

The Final Edit

As a regular contributor to the PhotographyBB magazine (which you can download for free simply bu subscribing here), I enjoy putting together articles to both educate and inspire.  In this upcoming month’s issue, I am guest-writing a tutorial on Black and White editing with Lightroom 3.  As a sneak-peak of sorts to the readership here, I’d like to share the first portion of that article…enjoy!

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The power of Lightroom has been so well documented from various outlets across the internet and magazines, I often find it surprising that such a small amount of space is dedicated to black and white photography.  This month, I’d like to take an opportunity to delve more into the creative adjustments you can make in Lightroom to bring out more in an image than just shades of gray!

There are two areas in Lightroom where you can make creative adjustments to the color to make things pop.  The first two HSL (for Hue, Saturation, and Luminance) and Color are great resources to use when you want to massage the color palette of your image.  The Black and White “tab” though, is where it’s really at.  When you click this tab, the image will be converted to an automated black and white adjustment, where the colors are converted to shades of gray – with no color tones at all.  This is where I’d like to begin the exploration:

While this can be a powerful way to present an image, the automated method of conversion is not going to work all the time (and for my tastes rarely does the default conversion work).  So, you have to dive in and really get comfortable with adjusting color tones.  To start off, I am using a pretty basic image – a red flower, and you can see that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the colored version of the image.

Red Flower

It’s got some great black and white potential though, so let’s go ahead and take it into the BW adjustment panel tab.  When I do that, the automated adjustments will kick in:

Default Black and White Adjustments

It looks interesting, but let’s see what massaging the colors just in the panel can do.  To start, since the flower was red and made up nearly 95% of the composition, I started with the red slider to see what the extremes would do on each end.  Here’s the image with the red slider taken up to +100 and then to the opposite extreme of -100…

Red Flower +100

Red Flower -100

In both cases, for me it’s an absolutely hideous image.  Clearly, there is a balance that must be struck somewhere in the middle – the question is where?  Well, now it comes down to subjective tastes.  For me, the default adjustment had the red a bit too strong – which kind of hid the morning dew of the flower, so I dialed things back a bit, taking the red slider from +22 to -20.  The droplets are now much more visible as they are standing out from the petals!

Red Flower Conversion Progress

So, now we are getting somewhere fun!  I tested a few more sliders, and ended up with the yellows and oranges slightly higher than the default settings, just to give a bit more contrast.  Here’s what it looks like after the black and white adjustments are made:

Red Flower w/ all slider adjustments

Of course there is always a bit of sharpening and noise reduction to make in post production, as well as lens correction, and even a little bit of vignette from time to time to help draw the viewer in.  Once these are done, the final image definitely has a creative look and feel to it:

The Final Edit

It’s clearly not easy to decide both when, to make a black and white conversion, as well as how much to massage or tweak it to your tastes.  The ultimate decision is, of course, up to you as an artist and photographer, but you can’t get there by avoiding the Black-and-White panel!  Take some time to explore it!

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There’s more to the article than that, and it has been modified somewhat to make for a better blog post, so be sure you subscribe to the PhotographyBB newsletter when you have a minute.  It is free, after all, and probably one of the best sources of a diverse set of reading material you can find.  Dave Seeram, the editor, has been quite generous with his kindness and patience in my contributions!  Please stop over and give him your thanks as well…nothing but learning and knowledge to gain!

As always though, I end up being more curious than informative!  What types of black and white adjustments do you make?  Do you prefer the neutral grays, or do you like to add a hint of color to your b/w images too?  What methods have you found useful versus not so much?  Sound off in the comments as I love to hear how others are working through their own images!  Happy shooting and we’ll see you next time right here!

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