Color Harmony: Cool Dominant Color Harmony

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  by Chris

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret

This is a cool dominant color harmony image. The neck and bill of the reddish egret provides the warm accent, with the remainder of the image, both subject and setting, are cool. The overall effect of using green and blue together is very soothing; the warmth adds a mellow balance.

Image of the Week: Backgrounds

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  by Chris

Great White Heron

Great White Heron

 

How to get a smooth background on a bird image? In brief,

1. Get low. Getting low puts the angle of the focus plane completely off the focal plane. In this image, I was level with the background, and could go no lower, based on the terrain (a boardwalk).

2. Shoot long. The longer the focal length, the easier it will be to blur the world. However, in this image, the I was using my longest focal length.

3. Shoot wide open. With my lens and TC combo I was using (300 2.8 + 2x TC), I like to stop down a full stop to give me better sharpness. Also, the large birds can end up rather out of focus in the wrong parts with too broad an aperture.

4. Position the background as far as possible from the subject. The subject was flying to and from an area where he was gathering sticks, and flying his pattern rather regularly. There was no perceivable way to get him farther.

5. Get as close as possible to the subject. Remember the boardwalk? This was as close as I could get.

6. Post processing. Once the image has been captured, it is possible, and often quite desirable, to render the background more out of focus in the post processing stage. This was not done on this image, however…

Because I actually like the background! The vegetation and water provide an excellent frame for the bird with the curve they make as they meet. The out of focus vegetation is still recognizable as vegetation. The bird’s natural environment is shown here. However, I do not like environmental context for all images all the time. This is art; there is no crime in processing or not processing. The decision is the artists’! The paint is photons and a sensor, as well as some digits in binary. In making the decision of how to process, the goal is not to simply copy what is vogue, but to deliberately select exactly to create in the final image, to express the message desired.

Out of Focus Subject Recovery

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  by Chris

OOF Osprey copy

This image was slightly out of focus when taken; I believe that the bird had flown through the focus area. I really liked the bird’s pose, so I tried some Richardson-Lucy Deconvolution on the image. I managed to recover the image, to some degree. There’s not a whole lot of fine detail, but, it is better than it was. I will try this on some more images, and experiment with images where the eye is out of focus.

Image of the Week: Great Blue Heron

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  by Chris

Great Blue Heron's Scowl

Great Blue Heron’s Scowl

This guy was seen at Shark Valley; I tried a new sharpening method learned from Arthur Morris’ pdf, Digital Basics, https://store.birdsasart.com/shop/item.aspx?itemid=252 (Home Site http://www.birdsasart-blog.com) I used what he teaches in the sharpening section. In this instance, I sharpened at 450, Radius .8, 0 Threshhold, with the image at full size. I had not tried this before, but was impressed at the level of detail it revealed. I also had first run noiseware on it though, www.imagenomic.com/nw.aspx. The lesson we can learn from this image, if nothing else, is to keep on learning and growing. The path of improvement is through change, and change comes when we listen. Sometimes, we are too smart for our own good and miss out on valuable learning opportunities because we would not humble ourselves to listen. Go out and learn something new this year! Stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone! Embrace change!

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  by Chris

Parakeet Eating

Parakeet Eating

Today’s photography lesson is persistence. When I took this image, I was leaving Arthur Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, but had my gear ready, just in case something would appear. At Lox NWR, the water levels were too high for many birds to be in the impoundments, so I left for Green Cay. Never quit trying!

Image of the Week: Color Harmony

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  by Chris

Atlantic Sunrise

Atlantic Sunrise

This image uses a blue and orange color palette, for warm-cool color harmony. This is a great example of natural color harmony; for color harmony in many pictures, the photographer must work a little harder!

Image of the Week #13

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  by Chris

Autumn in Maryland

Autumn in Maryland

Here is an image from my Maryland 2012 Trip; internet access where I stayed was slow, hence no updates for a while. Enjoy this image! There are a few things which could really help it though… 15 minutes of cloning could turn this into a much improved artwork.

Lesson for the Day: A little work can go a long way.

Image of the Week #11

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  by Chris

Hallet and Flattop over Emerald Lake

Hallet and Flattop over Emerald Lake

The lesson this week? Black and white can sometimes help and image immensely. Sometimes, though, color is very helpful to an image. Which version do you like about this image? What are the strengths of this image? Color version to be released in the next post!

Image of the Week #10

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  by Chris

Here is a view of a storm approaching over Mount Massive. At this time, I was descending (thanks to Jesus!). This view is near  the treeline on the North Elbert Trail. Mount Massive looks less massive than it should due to use of wide angle focal length, 24mm Fullframe, my 5D (16mm on 7D). This is a rather processed image; I darkened the sky by about two stops, then added local contrast by way of the Tonal Contrast in Nik Colorefex.

One of the biggest struggles in mountain photography is dynamic range. Very frequently there is a 5+ stop dynamic range difference between parts of the image. I got off easy in this image. For many, a ND-Grad is necessary, or HDR. I prefer HDR, because I hate the way ND grads make the tops of mountains look weird (I can almost always tell when people use an nd grad!!!). Many do use them to very aesthetic effect, and their images look quite good (http://imagesofrmnp.com/). Still, even in many of the best pictures, I can still see the graduated density filter effect. HDR done badly, however, is a nightmarish monstrosity. Halos and posterization is MUCH MUCH MUCH worse than a bit of unnatural darkening of peaks. Good HDR is invisible, and subtle like the spices of a master chef.

Your Photography System: Building an Intelligent yet Affordable Beginner System

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  by Chris

How to build the Intelligent yet Affordable Beginner System:

A. Avoid Pitfalls!

1. Don’t buy what you don’t need. (Corallary: Know what you need and why you need it before you buy it!)

There are a whole lot of shiny things out there… Don’t blow your budget on junk! Know what you need and get a basic grasp of what you are trying to do (if you are dedicated, this will become refined a few months down the road…)

2. Don’t buy the latest, greatest, or most expensive.

You don’t need fullframe to start photography. Actually, you don’t want it either! You also don’t need the latest model camera. Choose a basic yet competent body. Lens choicing we will get to below. Which leads to:

3. Don’t buy into an ineffective system.

Canon, Nikon or Pentax. The rest are still trying to figure it out. Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, et all are not good basic system camera sets. Next post we will evaluate what makes an effective system. The mirrorless crew can be part of a system, but they will not make the system, specifically for our point of interest, adventure photography (wildlife, landscape, etc…).

B. Choose the Right Lenses

1. Base your system more around your lenses than your camera.

Your camera you will replace more frequently than your lenses. Especially if you follow my advice and get in your beginning stages an inexpensive camera. Right now, the T2i is a great camera for the aspiring photographer. It has the same sensor as the 7D, at a much lower price. Until the camera becomes a significant limitation, using an entry level model will save you money and weight and help you figure out what you really want in an relatively painless manner.

2. Start with a 50 1.8.

This lens will teach you how to see. You will be able to use  it to effectively capture images in low light, to easily isolate subjects from their background, and capture fascinating details of your surroundings. However, this lens is not long enough, nor is it wide enough… You will need others…

3. Get an effective mid range zoom and tele zoom.

Don’t drop a lot of money on this. You need to figure out what will work and what won’t for you at this stage. Get a 17-85mm lens off ebay for about 180-200. Get a 75-300 lens off ebay for about the same. Don’t worry about ultra wide or ultra long yet; both are hard to use effectively. The above lenses will serve you well, but, if you are dedicated to learning and growing, you will outgrow them soon…

Why inexpensive lenses? You will invest very little into these lenses, but learn a lot from them. Likely, you will drop them some learning how to control your gear. If they get dunked, smashed, or otherwise killed, you will cry little. You will indeed out grow them. Next article in the series will tell you where to go from there.

C. Add the Following

The following pieces will stay in your gear selection for a while, so don’t skimp on them!

1. Shoulder Strap

This piece is much more important than it may seem. The problem with a neck strap (like your camera retails with) is that it will cause great discomfort with more than only minor use (I one carried a 7D + 300 f4 for 5 hours on a neck strap. It hurt.). Moreover, wearing your camera on a neckstrap will make you look rather neophyte-esque. And, finally, a neck strap will cause your camera to get in your way when you try to do stuff. Use a shoulder strap. They are much more comfortable, and much more user-friendly. The blessed ease of swinging a camera up from the side to shoot, and being able to ease it back and be able to continue functioning makes the 50 bucks these things cost cheap! I use the R-Strap. Don’t skimp and get a knock off. The chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and, by most accounts, the cheap straps really are cheap. You will save nothing by having your connector break on your strap, thus sending your camera (usually lens first!) to the hard merciless ground below. You get what you pay for, and you know it! Here: http://www.blackrapid.com/

2. A Good Tripod

A good tripod will last forever. Get a good one to start. You will never regret the money you spent on it. This article, http://www.bythom.com/support.htm, has a ton of extremely helpful information, way more than this article can say. I ended up getting a set of manfrotto legs (the 3021) and pay the weight penalty. At some point, I will likely get a light tripod for hiking. A heavy tripod is an unused tripod. Also, DO NOT skimp on the head. Kirk, RRS, or Wimberly. I recomend wimberly, but my Kirk isn’t bad. When you get a long lens, you will need a Gimbal head. Don’t whine, just get it and be glad that for around $500 you can protect $5,000 or more in gear! Get the quick release plates from the manufacturer of you head. http://www.kirkphoto.com/ throws in a as a freebie! Get two, and get two allen wrenches, so when you lose one, you can still remove the quick release plate from your camera.

3. A Good Camera Bag

A good camera bag makes the difference between your camera, lenses, and cards and such dying of water, concussive forces, etc, and being able to live to see another day. A good camera back also will allow you to bring the gear you need without weighing too much. A good camera bag will keep your gear organized, yet accessible.

I use a Lowepro AW 75 shoulder bag, and an AW 300 nack pack, as well as their Dryzone 200. These bags are well-made, durable, and tough. The shoulder bag and regular back pack are rather water proof. They can take a steady rain and keep the contents dry for abou 30-60 minutes. Things begin to become somewhat damp after that point, though. Note: the zippers must be zipped! The fierce tropical torrents of Florida or the drenching mountain rains of Colorado are a whole nuther matter, though!  They come with rain covers; the one on the shoulder strap is atrociously ineffective. I have not to this date assembled in correctly. Emergency measures should work smoothly and flawlessly and with a minimum of needed dexterity (because usually there is little dexterity to go around by that point…). This thing doesn’t. The AW 300’s rain cover is remarkable, though! The Dryzone keeps everything dry. If only the zipper would zip!!! I must lubricate it more…

I have no major experience with other bags at this point. However, there are many reviews of bags online; find the bag which will fit your sort of adventure. I would start with a back pack. A good back pack will always be helpful. When you get more gear, as your craft improves, you will refine your choice, and hopefully not blow the bank on bags, seeking the elusive utopian bag!

What then? Go shoot a lot, and learn your gear. Learn what works, what doesn’t, and why. Work on your images (another article for another time!) and learn from your mistakes. We will also deal with the other side of your system, your digital darkroom, in a later episode.

The next article is this series will deal with your next system moves. Until then, have fun shooting, and grow in grace, and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ!