Make Shift Reflector

Poster board + masking tape + aluminum foil = make shift reflector
None of these image have been modified

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Here’s the before and after shots using light from north facing window:

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No reflector

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With reflector

Remove a stray hair from photo

In small areas, use the heal or patch tool (depending on your photo editing software) to select areas you want to fix and clone. I have found using the tool in smaller areas produce less patchy results:

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Original Image – No Edits

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Stray hair removed

If you’re interested,  you can see the final result with saturation turned up and surface cleaned up here: http://galleries.soft-graphix.com/colored-cubes

What I Learned Doing My 1st Photo Challenge

Over the weekend I entered a photo challenge titled “artificial light”. This was the first photography challenge I’ve entered and at first I was very pleased with what results I was able to present; however, the more I look at it the more I second guess some of the decisions I’ve made. This post is dedicated to that experience and what I’ve learned in the process.

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This was my entry – I wish I had less exposure & changed the angle of the camera so the corner of the table was not visible.

My first camera was a Canon AE-1 that I bought in college many moons ago. The price tag at that time: $500.00.  There is something powerful about capturing an image only from a view finder and then developing pictures in a dark room by placing sheets into a chemical bath. While I may not make it sound all that romantic, the outcome was always awe-inspiring – partly because, as the photographer, you were finally presented with the outcome of your art. I know I’m rambling, but my point was that you captured that image looking through a view finder and basically cropping, framing, angling and capturing the light content right then and there. We didn’t have photo editing software to nit-pick the imperfections out (though we could control how long we allowed the negative to expose on the sheet and also crop the image). This forced us as students to become very conscious of what we were looking at and how the camera was interpreting it.

As life continued on for me, I put my camera aside for many years – only pulling it out when I had an extra $20 to spend on film and developing said film. Then digital cameras became the go-to (and I’m not complaining; cost-wise & ease of use, I love what the digital cameras have brought to the table). Looking back at my experience with the two different technologies and joining that photo challenge opened my eyes to the fact that I’ve been treating my personal digital photo taking adventure poorly. I look at the small screen on the back of my point-and-shoot, click the button and [usually] edit my digital photo. By no means is this a bad or wrong way to go about it,  but the recent challenge presented a problem if that’s the way I’ve been doing things (unless of course I’ve misinterpreted the rules of the challenge). Upload unedited, raw images straight from the camera.

The benefits of these restraints from the eyes of an amateur photographer:

You need to compose in the shot. Your whole thought process changes when you can only upload one photo, and that photo may not have any edits. I began thinking of what I could shoot that entailed ‘artificial light’. When I finally decided to do a photo shoot of a board game I set up the game and started playing by myself just to get pieces out organically. I placed this cheap drafting / table lamp I had on the table. The original idea was to get the whole lamp in the shot so you could see the neck of it angled, hopefully centered over the board game. Behind it I placed a cheap white form board that we had bought for a school project some time ago, though never used. As I playing with positioning my camera it became apparent that that shot I WANTED was not going to happen because the board was too small to get the whole image without the wall and window blinds peaking out from behind it.

You need to get creative, even if your first idea starts falling apart before it ever happens. So I had easily sunken an hour into playing this board game by myself and setting up the equipment, I wasn’t going to just pack everything back up because idea #1 was not going smoothly. As I continued to play with the composition and camera position I noticed the lamps figure produced a shadow that bounced off the backdrop board – so I tried using that instead. After that first shot I tried playing with the camera settings to achieve different effects.

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You can see the shadow of the lamp in this image. Originally I wanted the board centered in the image with the lamp off to the right and other game pieces on the left to balance it. The board was too small – you could see my walls & blinds when I zoomed out to get it.

With a new found enthusiasm I continued taking pictures; zoomed in and out of the subject, re-positioned the tripod, placed the camera on the table and back on the tripod again. It was actually very enjoyable. The goal was to take a picture that would not be edited in anyway other than camera settings. This forced me to rethink the way I’ve been taking pictures.  I’m not saying that many digital photographers skip this step, I’m saying that I have been skipping this vital step basically since I put my Canon AE-1 in the desk drawer. If you are interested in photography and are an amateur like myself, I highly recommend entering into challenges where your file is your submission – you might find it as helpful and exciting as I did.

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Promising Accidents

Here’s a challenge for you:

Find a location to take some shots; however, take two shots: one of clear view of your subject and one with obstacles in the way to frame your subject. Here’s a couple of shots from the same location:

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First shot, not minding my whereabouts.

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Second shot: Trying to get a cleaner shot of the sun rise.

These have not gone through post production and they are not the most refined images I have taken, but this little photo accident produced a nice outcome by framing the sun rise.

 

Experimenting with light

This is a series or photos where the only dynamic was the lamp placement and the cameras allowance to automatically decide the f-stop; the shutter speed, iso, manual focus, placement of objects to be photographed as well as the placement of the camera remained stagnant. Non of these photos have been edited yet and I didn’t realize until today that my lens is dirty! Either way, I’m going to try to work with what I got and by this weekend I’ll have [some of] these on the gallery page of soft-graphix.com for others to see and use.

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Light source (LED desk lamp that can be adjusted) is pointing toward the ceiling. Two white film boards act as the back drop and also allow light to reflect back onto the aloe plant and army toy.

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Light source stayed in about the same position, though the lamp was adjusted downward – facing the white film board backdrop and positioned left of the plant & toy figure.

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Light source placed close and facing subject from right.

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light source moved to the front and right – pointed toward white film backdrop and tilted up.

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light source pointing down on the subject

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light source pointing down and close to subject. I imagined summer at high noon with this position.

Simple color correction with Gimp

 

 

 

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For this project I will be working in Gimp. If you are not familiar with the program, I highly recommend checking it out (especially if you do not have any photo editing software): gimp.org

The above image shows some simple techniques for correcting some minor issues with photos. On the left is the edited version and on the right is a copy from my gallery page. My goal was to create more contrast and give the statue a ‘bronze’ appearance –  (this image was taken on a semi cloudy day and has a pane of glass between the camera and the subject. ie: windshield).

The first thing to do, color correction & balance:

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On the menu bar, click ‘color’ and then ‘color balance’, this will bring up a window that you see on the screen shot above. I played with each setting: shadows, midtones, & highlights. With careful control of the sliders, I was able to rid the statue of that green washed appearance and bring in tones of red.

Next I further adjusted the coloring with the ‘Levels…’ found in the ‘color’ tab on the menu bar. Because I wanted to wash the green out of the statue, I choose it’s complimentary color on the color wheel, red. Notice that I’m working exclusively with the red channel bar at this point (this option is right above where it says ‘input levels’ and below ‘presents’ on the adjust color levels pop up).

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Because I couldn’t stop messing with reds, my leaves in the back ground became slightly discolored and washed out themselves. To try and correct this, I open the ‘Hue-Saturation’ option in the ‘Color’ drop down from the menu. Notice I have the color green selected. These sliders are a little touchy, so take it easy on them by moving in small increments until you are happy with the results. statue-hue-sat

And wah-la, these simple steps allowed me to create more contrast in this image.

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Creating a mosaic with your photos

Andrea Mosaic is a really neat & easy to use program that I have used for years. If you are looking for a one-of-a-kind gift to surprise someone with this Christmas, you might want to check it out.

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I’m not sure if the website offers a newer version than the one I’ll show you, though mine is years old and operating on XP.

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First, as shown above, open the program and select the plus sign near the top to insert the image you want all of your pictures to form. In my case, I selected the crane.

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Notice the setting on the left. If you hover your mouse over an area for a minute, a pop-up will appear explaining what each option does. For print, you want the ppi to be set high. Next, click the ‘select tiles’ button on the bottom. This will open a window for you to navigate to your folder with the images you wish to use to create the mosaic. Note that it can also select any subfolders located in the selected folder.

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Click ‘OK’ to select the folder.

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And save your archive.

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This shows the images added. Click ‘OK’ to continue.

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Click ‘Create Mosaic’. The statue bar at the bottom will show your progress. When it’s completed, it should give you the option to open the folder it was saved to so you can preview it.

Before printing, make sure you zoom in at 100% and check for pixelization. Also, double check your measurements in inches. If you plan on having a print shop print it, run a test print to check for sharpness.

These make great gifts and are easy to do. Check it out: http://www.andreaplanet.com/andreamosaic/

 

 

 

Computer problems, other writers, and a photo

I carry my camera everywhere with me. To the store, to work, when visiting family… Even when I get gas in the car. You never know when a good picture might come up; though as someone said on twitter, the difference between and amateur photographer and a professional photographer is knowing when NOT to shoot. I’m an amateur, that’s for sure. But, you gotta start somewhere. The camera case looks kind of like a purse, so I don’t think people assume I’m crazy or a stalker. I was at my sisters the other night in a terribly lit living room. Had to lower the shutter speed down and still produced a crappy image:

bad light, bad stability, just a bad image

bad light, bad stability, just a bad image

I was hellbent on making this photo look at least a little desirable. I tossed it through my photo editing software. The first thing I did was edit the levels and curves to lighten the whole image up and heighten the contrast so you could at least see it. Secondly, I used a stamp tool to get rid of the plug and wires. Thirdly, I added a filter to it and cropped the image. I’m pretty happy with the quick results:

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Looks like it may have been a painting in another life, except for the window could use some straightening.

On to mundane problems, I think my trusted 2001 Dell XP is finally on it’s way to dying on me, or maybe it could just use a reformatting, which I’m too lazy (or busy, take your pick) to do right now. I’ve got a lot of programs installed on the main drive and surely some files there too. So, I’m in the living room on the kids computer writing now and pondering what to do with my oldy-but-goody computer. Thankfully I remembered most of my passwords, even wordpress, and have been able to at least migrate some of the important things like email and my web host.

Since I did remember my password to WordPress this morning, I logged in and noticed some other blogs that were following mine. First off, if you read this, thanks for following me. I still consider myself new to WordPress and honestly have not taken the time to look around the whole site to figure it out. I can post something and change my theme as well as find the ‘freshly pressed’ button. I can also click on names of people who are following this blog, which I did this morning, and found some really excellent writers! I spent about an hour reading between two other bloggers and instantly recognized that they have a natural talent for writing (something I lack, though always appreciated). I followed them back, because frankly, their writing style rocks and I look forward to reading more from them. Me… I’m not a natural writer.

Brushing up on ye olde website

Well… It’s starting to look better. I did a few minor css changes and modified the header on soft-graphix.com and some tweaking to twitter & wordpress. At this point, I’m going to try and incorporate the chosen color (#35290f) to bring consistency across the various sites. I’m not entirely sure what my limitations are with WordPress, though I’ll put that thought on the back burner for the time being. The new theme that is in use now has a sans-serif font and a white background… so it’s closer than before.

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Now I can get back to taking pictures. Today I opened the fridge and snapped a shot. Not a great picture:

photo of fridge

On the checklist of things needed, a tripod. Because my hand is less-than-steady I opted for a high iso instead of a slower shutter speed. By doing that, I caused my picture to become very grainy indeed. I did run the image through a photo editing program to crop and add some different lighting techniques. The goal was to try and make an interesting image with the refrigerator. Came out kind of dark and bleak. Has a very ‘homemade’ feel to it.