Sunday, February 27, 2011


San Antonio Zoo

I entered this one in the 2011 KACC Images Exhibit (the annual members show June 30 - July 31). 
11x14 on glossy paper,  1-1/2-inch contemporary mount with black edges

The Hill Country Camera Club went on a field trip to the San Antonio Zoo this morning and a great time was had by all. I must say, photographing the animals in glass enclosures and through the fences is quite challenging! (This image was taken through a wire fence.) I'll be posting more of the zoo photos in my Flickr Photostream

Canon 20D with an EF 70-200mm /2.8L IS USM @120mm
ISO 400    f/3.2    1/80

Digital Darkroom:
-I'm learning to use the 'improved' Adjustment Brush in ACR 6.0 that came with CS5 and it is changing my workflow. More work with better results can be done in ACR than ever before. Yay! On this particular image I lightened the cheetah, darkened the background, bumped up the contrast & vibrance in ACR.
-In Photoshop I (of course) ran Topaz Adjust but this time it required just a hint of an adjustment because I'd done most of the work in ACR.
-A final curves adjustment layer to darken & bump up the contrast just a tad more
-Lovely & Ethereal free action from The Pioneer Woman
-Quick Edge Burn free action from The Pioneer Woman


1) If you're trying to shoot through the wire fences at the zoo and want to have the fence 'disappear'... shooting at a wide aperture (less than f/4) worked for me.  You'll have to use manual focus or really work at getting your auto focus point correct.  (Use a single focus point, not multiple focus points).

2)  If you have a telephoto lens learn what all the switches do!!  For instance, on the Canon telephoto lenses one of the switches is for setting the Focusing Distance Range. (If you're having trouble locking focus you may be too close to your subject  -  in which case you'd need to switch from the longer range to the shorter range.)  Stabilizer Mode 1 is the 'normal' mode.  Stabilizer Mode 2 is for panning. If you're using a tripod turn the IS off.  (These tips fall under the general category of... um... READ YOUR MANUAL! Seriously, there's lots of helpful stuff in there!)

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Bridge Over the Guadalupe River
Kerrville, Texas

Another image I made while searching for something to fit the 'Architecture' theme at next month's HCCC meeting.

Canon 20D with 16-35mm @ 35mm (equivalent of 56mm on a full-frame sensor camera)
ISO 100   f/9   1/200
Digital Darkroom:
-Basic Adjustments in ACR 6.0
-Photoshop CS5
----Topaz Adjust
----Pioneer Woman action Quick Edge Burn
----CoffeeShop action Creamy Chocolate

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Kerrville, Texas

Next month's HCCC contest theme is 'Architecture' so I spent part of the day hunting for some good subject matter. Not sure if this fits the theme but I liked it so I'm posting it here. Just an old burned out building down the road from us. Someone said it looked like a depression era photo so that's what I decided to call it.

Canon 20D with 16-36mm @ 16mm (equivalent of 26mm on a full-frame sensor camera)
ISO 200   f/7.1   1/200

Digital Darkroom:
-Basic adjustments in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR 6.0)
---Lens Correction Filter
---Topaz Adjust 
---The Pioneer Woman action: Vintage

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Fix-It-Friday #86 - Definitely not my normal portrait style!

Here's my entry for I Heart Faces Fix-It-Friday. (I know…it's Saturday. I'm late to the party as usual.)

Just to be clear: This is NOT MY PHOTO. It is provided to us by Rachel Durik at Savor Photography and everyone edits the same photo. Got it? Rachel's photo. My edit.

Straight Out Of Camera on the left and my edit on the right:
(If you want to see a different version just scroll down to the bottom of this post.)

 Here's how I got there:

1) Lightened up the exposure by duplicating the background layer and changing the Blend Mode to Screen. It wasn't quite light enough yet so I duplicated the Screen Mode layer (leaving the Blend Mode on Screen) and lowered the layer opacity to 50%.

2) Extracted the subject from the background. There are many different ways to make selections & extract something from the background. In this particular case I used the channels method because I find it works particularly well with difficult hair selections. Duplicate the selection and put it on a separate layer.

3) Added a red textured background underneath the extracted subject. (The texture is 'Bloodshead' from the '6 Faves of Mine Texure Set #3' which i found on Shadowhouse Creations - lots of good stuff there!)

4) At this point I decided to crop the image because I thought her red leggings were a bit distracting. I cropped using the Rule of Thirds which left of bit of negative space out in front of her. (Normally, I would put the negative space on the opposite side because she's looking in that direction. I tried it that way but like this better.)
Sometimes when I process an image I know exactly how I want it to look before I begin. But sometimes, as with this image, I don't have a clue. So, I just dive right in and start experimenting. At some point along the way things start to gel. (Hopefully!)  In this case, because of her outfit, the oversized hat, and her BIG eyes, I started thinking 'Oliver Twist', adorable street urchins, etc. and used that as my inspiration.

Normally, I would soften/lighten the shadows under her eyes but in this time I wanted to emphasize them. (I definitely wouldn't do that if I was trying to sell this portrait to her mama!!) So, on to the final processing steps…
5) I created a new layer by merging the textured background & the extracted girl. On the new layer I ran Topaz Adjust & selected the 'Mild Contrast Pop' preset.

6) Burned the background in a few places where it was too light - particularly on the right side of the subject near her hair (the shadow side)

7) Added a vignette by running Quick Edge Burn (a free photoshop action from The Pioneer Woman)

Here's a slightly different version. (A little more Oliver Twist-y):
Like I said... not an image I'd try and sell to her mama (or any other client) but that's why I like these challenges. It gives me a chance to play around and showcase something besides my normal style.

That's it! Feel free to leave feedback and constructive criticism in the comments.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Q & A: Why shouldn't I work on the Background Layer in Photoshop?

A:  Great question!  There are several reasons I recommend you avoid working on the Background Layer. But, before I get to that let's talk a little bit about the Background Layer and it's unique characteristics.

The Background Layer:
-is always on the bottom of the stack & cannot be moved (without renaming it to something other than Background Layer)
-cannot be transparent or contain transparent areas
-cannot be deleted (unless you rename it)
-is locked & cannot be unlocked (unless you rename it)
-cannot have Layer Styles (such as a drop shadow) applied to it
-Blend Mode is always (& only) "Normal"
-Opacity is always (& only) 100%
Now, on to why I recommend you NOT work on (or alter) the Background Layer.
1) Any editing you do on the Background Layer permanently alters the pixels on the Background Layer. The 'best practice' for processing your image is to work NONDESTRUCTIVELY, which means leaving your Background Layer intact. (More about that later.)*

2) Think of the Background Layer as your 'original' image file. There are many reason why you might need to go back to the original image and an unaltered  Background Layer allows you to do so easily.

3) Layers are at the heart of Photoshop's powerful image-processing capabilities. Layers allow you to make corrections by isolating areas completely from the rest of the image. Once isolated, you can make adjustments and even go back later and fine-tune those adjustments - none of which is possible if you are simply working on the Background Layer!
*Let's talk about DESTRUCTIVE vs. NONDESTRUCTIVE editing in Photoshop…

According to Adobe, "Nondestructive editing allows you to make changes to an image without overwriting the original image data, which remains available in case you want to revert to it. Because nondestructive editing doesn't remove data from an image, the image quality doesn't degrade when you make edits."

When you work on the Background Layer you are using a DESTRUCTIVE editing method!

There are several ways to perform nondestructive editing in Photoshop including:
Adjustment Layers
Transforming with Smart Objects
Filtering with Smart Filters
Adjusting variations, shadows & highlights with Smart Objects
Retouching on a separate layer
Editing in Camera Raw
Opening Camera Raw files as Smart Objects
Crop using the "Hide" option
Here's an example of a destructive edit in Photoshop:

Let's say you start with an image of a lush, green rosebush with a red rose in full bloom. You decide to improve the image, drawing attention to the red rose by decreasing the saturation of the green leaves surrounding it.

On the Background Layer (or any other normal layer) you select the green leaves. Using IMAGE > ADJUSTMENTS > HUE/SATURATION you lower the saturation of the selection (the green leaves).

You have just made a permanent change to your image. The saturated green color in the leaves of your original image is now gone forever. You have permanently altered the pixels and you once you save the file you can't get that information back.

[Note: History is not "saved" with the file. Therefore, it cannot be accessed after the file is closed & reopened. Undo is not always available since Photoshop limits the number of steps you can go back, depending on the settings you select in Preferences.]

In this particular case, I would suggest using a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer as a NONDESTRUCTIVE edit. 

Hope that helps clear things up. If you have any other questions about Photoshop or photography please feel free to email me. The answer to your question may be featured on the blog!