Visionary Wild, LLC • 2200 19th St. NW, Ste 806, Washington, DC 20009
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org • Tel: 1-202-558-9596 (9am to 6pm, EST). • Justin Black’s iPhone: 1-202-302-9030
We look forward to hearing from you!
1. To tone down the whites in an image, select them using Color Range. Add any adjustment layer, and change the layer blending mode to either Multiply or the slightly stronger Linear Burn. Then drop the layer opacity to taste.
2. When shooting frames for a panoramic, manually setting camera exposure is more precise than using an autoexposure mode. Use the middle of the panoramic scene to set the base exposure. If you’re shooting RAW files, you can leave white balance (WB) set to Auto. When processing the files in Adobe Camera Raw, or Lightroom’s Develop module, select one image and drag the WB slider from the “as shot” position to a distinct number. Now sync all the other frames to that WB.
3. Make a preset to rename your files in Bridge or Lightroom based upon the capture date. When you travel, reset the clock in your camera to the local time zone. This way, all your image captures will match up with your itinerary and there will be no confusion as to location. Just remember to reset the clock when you get home.
4. Photoshop’s Ctrl/Command+Z undoes the last step you’ve taken. But using it immediately a second time simply undoes the undo you just made. To step backward more than once, use Alt/Option+Ctrl/Command+Z.
5. When preparing an image for printing, as the final step add a 3 pixel black hairline around the perimeter to define the edge. Three easy ways to do this:
6. Opening several similar images as layers in Photoshop (from either Bridge or Lightroom) aligns the outer dimensions of the images. To align the contents, select all the layers, and then do Edit > Auto-Align Layers.
7. Make a brush to add your name and copyright to images. Make a new white document no larger than 2500 pixels long dimension. Add the copyright symbol and your name. Then do Edit > Define Brush Preset. For a signature brush, write your name on white paper using a black marker, photograph it (jpeg, small, fine), and size the image to no larger than 2500 pixels. Using Image > Adjustments > Levels clip the image to pure white and pure black. Save as a brush, Edit > Define Brush Preset. If you use either of these brushes on a new layer, you can add Layer Styles (drop shadow, etc.) to that layer.
8. Caps Lock toggles the cursor display — for example, from standard to precise.
9. Use the often overlooked Image Processor (from Bridge: Tools > Photoshop > Image Processor) to quickly create new file types. Select the images, choose an output location, select the file type you want, specify the quality and size, and click Run.
10. When making selections, remember that the “marching ants” only show pixels that are at least 50% selected. Outside of the “ants” are pixels that are also selected, just at a lesser amount.
These tips originally appeared as part of an article John wrote for Photoshop World magazine. John co-leads our Vision Workshops series with Jack Dykinga and Justin Black, and in 2014 will lead trips to New Zealand, Iceland, and Patagonia for Visionary Wild.
Our friends at Hunt’s Photo Video and Ilford are sponsoring a free webinar on fine print making,
What are the aspects and qualities that make for a Gallery-Quality Fine Art Print? Exacting color, smooth tonal transitions, a well-balanced contrast range and the best paper choice for the image all come together to make a print worthy of hanging in most any venue or location. Color workflow, soft-proofing and what fine edits to make will all go a long way towards making your results both accurate and repeatable. In this presentation, we’ll explore the process, tools and techniques from edit to output that allow you to produce a print both you and your collectors will be proud of.
by John Shaw
Editor’s note: There’s a lot of photo-mythology floating around out there. Visionary Wild instructor John Shaw puts a few of his favorite myths to rest.
1. Images for the web should be sized at 72 dpi. First of all, “dpi” refers to dots per inch, and computer screens have pixels, not “dots.” But “72 ppi” is also false. Pixels dimensions are the only criteria for computer images. 1200 pixels are 1200 pixels, whether they be 1/inch or 1200/inch. You still have 1200 pixels. Say you have an image that’s 1000 x 500 pixels at 72 ppi. How many total pixels is that? 1000 x 500 = 500,000. Resize to 1000 x 500 pixels at 300 ppi. How many total pixels is that? 1000 x 500 = 500,000. Exactly the same. If you’re resizing web images to 72 ppi, you’re simple adding a useless step to your workflow.
2. Mac monitors use 72 ppi while Windows ones are 96 ppi. Sorry, this is a myth. If it were true, a monitor would have to change resolution depending on whether it was connected to a Mac or a PC. Want to know roughly what the resolution of your monitor is in ppi? Measure the horizontal width of the screen and divide this into the horizontal pixel dimension at the monitor’s native resolution. My laptop’s screen is 1920 pixels wide, and measures about 13.5 inches horizontally. 1920/13.5 = about 142 ppi.
3. You should set Adobe RGB in your camera if you’re shooting RAW files. While this might affect the image displayed on the camera’s LCD, it does not directly affect a RAW file. After all, if Adobe RGB were actually applied, the file would no longer be RAW data.
4. For the best RAW file results, set a specific white balance in the camera. Don’t use Auto White Balance. RAW files have no white balance. Just as I said above, if a white balance were applied the file would no longer be RAW. A specific white balance is only set when the file is processed into a standard graphic file format such as .psd or .tiff or .jpeg; that is, when it is no longer a RAW file.
5. This RAW image is how it appears right out of the camera. Not true. A RAW image has to be rendered in some way before you can even see it. Exactly how it is rendered depends on the default settings of the RAW conversion software you use.
6. You can evaluate exposure by looking at the image on the camera’s LCD. You can adjust the LCD’s brightness on almost all DSLRs, so exactly which level of brightness would be “correct?” Sorry, not true at all. For that matter, the camera LCD most certainly is not a color corrected and calibrated monitor. You can evaluate composition; you cannot evaluate color or exposure. You definitely should use the histograms for exposure information.
7. Always use a UV filter to protect your lens. From what? Dirt and fingerprints? Then you must take the filter off for every shot, otherwise you’re shooting through a dirty, fingerprinted filter. Use one for “protection” only if you can state from what it is you’re protecting the lens. Salt spray? Yes, this might be an answer, but I live about 100 miles from the ocean and on the other side of a mountain range, and if there is salt spray here, protecting my lens will be the least of my worries.
8. 12 frames/second is better than 10/frames per second. In what way? Neither one guarantees you’ve caught the peak moment. Consider this: let’s assume a shutter speed of 1/1000 second. 12 frames/second captures 12/1000 of the action, and misses 988/1000 of it. Holding down the shutter button at the highest frame rate yields lots of images, but not necessarily the one you wanted.
9. Always underexpose a half-stop to richen the colors. Intentional underexposure with digital cameras is one of the worst things you can do. It simply adds noise.
10. Professional photographers get all their equipment free from the camera manufacturers. Boy, do I ever wish this were true, but it isn’t. For that matter, I wish it were true for cars and houses also.
11. All information on photography forums is true. You might remember back when there was an actual discussion about using Scotch® tape to clean camera sensors. I’m fairly sure someone fell for this, and actually tried it. We all know that it’s not Scotch® tape you should use, but duct tape, right? (Well, I read about using duct tape on the Internet, so it must be true.)
CLICK HERE to check out John Shaw’s blog.
The November 2011 issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine features an article by Justin Black about ways to add greater meaning and purpose to your photography. You can read the full text and see the accompanying photos here:
A question recently came in asking if it is ok to use the camera’s program mode, as opposed to manual, aperture priority, or shutter priority. Other than being bound by the laws of physics, there is little or nothing in photography that requires orthodoxy, “right” or “wrong,” “ok” or “not ok.” Shooting in Program mode is fine if that’s how the photographer chooses to shoot and if it doesn’t get in the way of making the envisioned photograph. As with any photographic tool or technique, however, I’d always recommend that the photographer understand what the camera is doing and be able to express the reasons he or she is choosing to use that particular mode over another one.
I primarily do landscape work. Back in the days of shooting color transparency film, virtually all of my work was spot metered and shot in manual mode, because film was unforgiving and that level of careful precision was how I achieved the best possible results. Now, with digital, the way the medium responds to light is different, so calculating optimal exposure is different. The color Matrix meters these days are quite good at evaluating not only overall luminance, but also the tonal range of each color channel (red-green-blue), so they have certain advantages over traditional metering methods when it comes to exposing to match the performance of the sensor in the camera. We are also able to confirm the exposure we want with the histogram, so for many types of photography there is a good argument to be made that shooting in an automatic mode makes the most sense most of the time. It is always possible to bias the exposure one way or the other using exposure compensation, and to shift shutter speed and aperture as desired.
There are certainly exceptions, but since going [almost] all digital, I am mostly using aperture priority, auto white balance, and Matrix metering. I shoot RAW 100% of the time, expose for maximum data/minimum noise (biased toward overexposure without clipping color channels, otherwise known as exposing to the right), and set correct tonalities, color balance, black point, etc. in post processing. I could achieve the same results in Program mode, but it would require the extra step of shifting the exposure to the aperture or shutter speed I wish to use.
At the end of the day, it’s important to identify and understand a simple set of camera settings, tools, and techniques that are legitimately helpful in making the images you want to create, and then concentrate your attention on concepts, themes, light, composition, color, and gesture. As a photographer, one of your goals should be to get the camera out of the way of your vision and creativity. –Justin Black
Nature Conservancy Director of Photography Mark Godfrey recently interviewed Visionary Wild instructor Jack Dykinga for this multimedia slideshow featuring some of Jack’s best work.
There’s a story behind every image. A combination of visual cognition, emotional response, thoughtful investigation, composition, technical judgments, and timing (among other factors) play into the creation of the best photographs. It’s a process of purpose.
Visionary Wild instructor Jeff Foott recently shared with us a series of teaching images that he uses to as part of a lecture designed to shed some light on the process of, as he calls it, “shooting the scene.” While walking along a stream near his home in Moab, Utah, Jeff’s attention was captured by this frozen puddle among the rocks. His first reaction was to make a record photograph of the scene as he saw it at first glance – “frozen puddle among rocks” – isolated within the broader landscape.
Recognizing that it was the graphics, tones, and textures of the puddle itself that were what appealed to him visually, Jeff chose to make it a close-up, isolating the frozen puddle from the rocks.
The scene then became the puddle itself, and Jeff sought out compositions within it. He points out, “This is the kind of thing that you can shoot all day, looking for the new compositions and treatments. If you’ve got a great scene to work with, stick with it.” We would add that when looking for abstract close-up compositions, it can help to let go of preconceived notions of what the subject is supposed to look like. Be open to reframing the nature of the subject in new ways.
A good exercise in this sort of situation is to speak out loud what it is that you want to make a picture of, and then gradually modify that statement through a series of images. In this case, that statement started with the very literal “frozen puddle among rocks,” and ends with “abstraction of form, tone, and texture.”
All photos © 2010 Jeff Foott
…the ocean was illuminated as if under a black light…so awesome, cannot describe in words…no need to drop acid on this one…every white particle of wave was iridescent, florescent, glowing like you can’t believe…step on the sand and your footprint glows and sparkles… there were banks of waves coming in, white caps in the distance just glowed, and when the waves connected it was elongated strips of fluorescent green stripes across the water… whew…
This strange oceanic occurrence is likely the root of ghost stories told by early sailors who saw the mysterious green fire in the water but failed to comprehend what they were seeing. Documented as far back as 500 B.C., most bioluminescent light occurs in tiny plants called dinoflagellates which live in the sea and gain energy from the photosynthesis of sunlight. In darkness they emit a blue light in response to movement within the water. The intensity of the light peaks about two hours after dark and is simply amazing to watch. During the day they turn red and can be the source of the neurotoxin that poisons shell fish during Red Tides.
After receiving Ellen’s note, and being somewhat fascinated by natural optical phenomena, my mind immediately began pre-visualizing how I could make an interesting photograph. I often try to imagine best-case situations that might occur in nature. The trick is to carefully consider the conditions which would be necessary for a scenario to occur and then consciously reverse engineer it and attempt to put yourself on location at just the right time while being prepared to capture the moment. Something magical often ends up happening, even if it is somewhat different than what you had imagined.
As I pondered the complexity of making an evocative image of the psychedelic tides I felt that the images would look very alien if there wasn’t an earthly land form with which the viewer can easily identify. I started piecing together two ideas that I thought I could achieve in the same night. I’d seen the first sliver of a moon the night before, just after sunset, and knew that the next day it would be about fifty minutes higher in the sky. So I wanted to first make an image of the crescent moon setting at twilight above the breakers and Arched Rock near Jenner. The second image I was visualizing was a long exposure at the cusp of night where I would have just enough light to see the arch, and enough darkness for the dinoflagellates to show up in the water.
I checked the wunderground.com weather satellite which showed crystal clear skies, then double checked the angle of the moon relative to the arch by using a very useful software for such things called The Photographer’s Ephemeris. All the elements seemed to align and it looked like a promising evening.
I pulled up at Goat Rock Beach in Sonoma Coast State Park right about sunset, (which-oops!- is when the Park closes), geared up in rubber boots and wind gear and headed south down Blind Beach in gorgeous light that I would normally have been shooting. This time I was on a mission for something more mysterious than a sunset but at one point I did stop and made a few exposures of boney rocks protruding from the sand with crazy beams of light coming over the horizon. This was an early and unexpected bonus shot. As the light diminished I came to where the convergence of the setting moon and the sea arch were just perfect.
The first set of images were exactly what I expected. In years past I’d made similar images here with the full moon setting at sunrise into the Earth’s shadow. What I didn’t expect this time is that my camera’s sensor was picking up the Milky Way directly above the Arch! This added a layer of intrigue to the image that was far beyond what I’d imagined. Soon the starry night was fully visible to the naked eye.
If the moon had been larger or higher I believe its light would have polluted the clear, cold night sky and blown out the reflection in the water. But it was just slight enough that the relative contrast between the starlight and reflections fell into a range which could be handled if I was careful. But it was the bioluminescence that was most incredible. Each waved rolled in looking like a million neon glow sticks had been dumped into them. The blue-green light shot across the breakers as they crashed, the more wave energy released, the more light emitted. The backwash on the beach left momentary trails of light which resembled a million little galaxies.
I was in “the zone” watching wave sets, adjusting exposures as it got darker and darker, moving south down the beach as the moon traversed to the north, trying to keep my juxtaposition with Arched Rock in alignment. It was a bit ridiculous to realize a shot like this had come together: crescent moon shining through the arch under the Milky Way with the glowing ocean. Then as if in a nod to affirm all was okay in the universe, I watched in awe as a brilliant shooting star streaked across the sky above the arch while I had the shutter open. All the while I was very aware that I should not have parked my car in the heavily patrolled parking lot.
The moon was finally setting so I packed and hiked across the beach toward the car, arriving just as two park rangers stepped out of their cruiser with spot lights on. “Hello!” I called out of the darkness in attempt to not get myself Tazed as I stepped into the blinding beams with a big tripod on my shoulder. I received the full lecture from them (the park closes at sunset…we don’t want to have to come looking for you…) and apologized sheepishly. They wanted to know what I was doing out there. Still buzzing from an incredible experience, I pulled out the camera and offered to show them. The three of us huddled in the wind with our heads close to the back of my Nikon’s LCD and looked through the entire image set frame by frame while dispatch ran my plates and ID. The officers have one of the best office views in the state out their front windshield and were excited to see my photographic interpretation of what they see every day. As it turns out we share mutual friends and a deep connection for preserving California’s wild coast. I didn’t get a ticket that night. Instead I walked away with a couple of new friends, some images with which I’m really happy, and the good info on where to park the car for my next outing.
Visionary Wild instructor Jerry Dodrill will co-lead two workshops on the California coast with Justin Black in 2012, at Point Reyes National Seashore in March and on the Sonoma Coast in September. We hope you can join us.
Sonoma Coast State Park: http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=451
by Justin Black
The Dragon rippled as I slid the kayak out into the swamp’s caramel-brown water. The still quiet of pre-dawn was broken only by the song of a prothonotary warbler, a croaking bullfrog, the sudden splash of a jumping sunfish. Gliding along on the glassy surface past lush swamp plants – arrow arum, water lilies, swamp rose, the lovely purple poker-like blooms of pickerelweed – and under the spreading branches of bald cypress, their conical “knees” emerging from the water in rows like the Dragon’s teeth, I felt completely removed from the Tidewater Virginia farmland that encircled me beyond the forest. Entering this place was like time-travel.
With 200% of normal snowpack for this time of year, the Olympic mountains were positively stunning. Though Mt. Olympus, the tallest, is under 8,000 ft. in elevation, it seems like a much bigger mountain, supporting large glaciers and towering above the surrounding landscape. The old-growth temperate rainforest, lakes, waterfalls, driftwood strewn beaches on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and dramatic weather make for tremendous variety of landscapes in a compact area. It would be obvious to anyone why Pat and his family have chosen to live in this exceptional place.
Time was tight and I was there for logistics more than photography, but I managed to make a few images at some of the field locations that we will likely use during the workshop, like the one above at Sol Duc Falls. It will be a great pleasure to return for the workshop with Pat during the height of wildflower season next summer.
For those interested in technical details, the Sol Duc Falls image is from a 25-megapixel file created very easily using an old manual focus, manual aperture 35mm f/2.8 PC shift lens on a Nikon D700. A polarizing filter was used to cut glare on the foliage. Without moving the camera, the lens was shifted to expose three frames for the top, middle, and bottom of the composition. Toss the files into Photomerge in Photoshop, and voilá, you end up with an extremely high-quality image file with a field of view close to that of a 24mm lens, and format proportions close to 4×5.
My traveling camera kit on this trip consisted of my D700, 20mm f/4 AI , 35mm f/2.8 PC Nikkor, 50mm f/1.8 AF Nikkor, 135mm f/2.8 AI-S Nikkor, and Gitzo G1028 with Really Right Stuff BH-25 ballhead. Using the power of three-frame stitching to increase resolution, I could effectively cover a focal length range of 14mm to 90mm at a level of quality that equals 200MB drum scans from 6x7cm medium format transparencies, with the benefit of the D700′s excellent high ISO/low-noise performance. The fact that this level of quality can be achieved so easily with such a limited array of compact, affordable gear is truly astonishing. The total weight of my photo kit including the tripod was 3.046Kg, and the camera and lenses all fit inside a small waistpack that stashed neatly into my carry-on. I was able to travel for a week with only a Patagonia shoulder bag and a slim laptop case, and still make landscape photographs that could produce top-quality prints without feeling like I was hindered by my lens selection. What a wonderful time we live in.