Developing an Image – part 1

The Steps in the Process

In this post, I’d like to give you a view of some of the approach that I take in developing the final image from the shots that I capture on scene.

This particular shot was taken at Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada, as we were exploring some of the Joshua Trees, rock arches and beautifully colored landscape. I came upon a deposit formation in the rocks that caught my eye…

Alpine Crossing

Sometimes our minds make an immediate connection with something that we see, which occurred for me in this case; at the angle that I viewed this through the lens there appeared the eye of an elephant imbued with high intelligence. This regal creature was bejeweled running down its trunk, and I could see tusks protruding to the lower right. In my mind’s eye, I saw it trudging through a challenging mountainous landscape in severe weather conditions, which led me to the working title of ‘Alpine Crossing.’

As I wanted to get as much detail into this image as possible, I opted for using the Focus Bracketing on my Canon EOS R5. If you’re not familiar with this technique, it is a method of taking the focal point in a series of shots from the near to the far; this allows for compositing of the images into a single, high depth of field image. For my options, I chose to shoot a set of 5 images and a somewhat below mid-range focus increment; reason being that I was shooting with a 21 mm focus length at f/8, so there was already significant depth of field. This series of images was the following…

The eagle-eyed among you might be able to spot the transition in focal plane, which is hard to see until examined on a big monitor.

The next step is to do some basic editing on these images, for which I use Adobe Camera Raw (ACR), which I find easiest to access through Adobe Bridge. In ACR, there are 2 main features that I tend to lean on, as they make life easier: Profiles and Calibration. Let’s start with Profiles…

Profile Selections

If you’re not a frequent user of ACR, you may not be aware of the wonderful selection of preset profiles that are provided here. They are a great shortcut to closing in on a look that you have in mind for the final image. In this case, I used the Artistic 04 profile and set the opacity at 81% to tone it down a little bit. Note that I’ve selected all 5 images for this edit; if you find yourself editing only one of the images, don’t worry, as you can sync your edits across all of them. If you wonder how to access Profiles, the arrow in this image shows the way…

Calibration and Pointer to Profiles Icon

Calibration is another quick way to take a look at the colors in your image and allow them to pop. Note that if you have a large amount of one color, such as a blue sky, you may want to de-emphasize that color. In a lot of cases, I find that working just the Blue and Green primaries does the trick; as you can see, I added some Red as well.

Next step will be to take the process into Photoshop, which I’ll cover in tomorrow’s post.

Valley of Fire – ep. 3

Brilliant colors and fiery reds!

As a follow up to the image from Valley of Fire state park that I shared in this week’s Monochrome Monday, I thought it might be interesting to see the color version…

Sunrise on Striped Rocks

My mind was blown by the variety of colors that are in the rock formations in this park and how the red becomes the fiery hue that gave the valley its name when the warm light of early morning catches it.

Travel Tuesday – Ep. 5

It’s an almost otherworldly landscape…

Last week’s Travel Tuesday might have been a bit tricky, even with a sign is written in Hebrew (it was rather small). It was a photograph taken at the Apollonia National Park in Israel just north of Herzliya. The park contains a 13th century fortress, roman villa and a 13th century mosque. Even on a hot day, it’s a wonderful place to explore, as long as you bring some water!

For today’s location, let’s find something a bit more straightforward…

Gorgeous Hills

This shot from almost 10 years ago reminds me that I wouldn’t mind retiring here, as I’d never be wanting for landscape to photograph.

Can you name these hills?

Monochrome Monday

The majesty of nature on display

Valley of Fire State Park definitely merits a return journey at some point in the future, as there are so many more vistas to capture!

For today’s monochrome image, I’m going for a thoroughly modern approach…

Sunrise on Striped Rocks

These glorious rocks were just getting lit up by the sun in our backs, as the tips of the buttes in the foreground are just getting a bit of light, while in the background light is bathing those formations already.

To explain the modern approach of this image. This is a focus stacked set of 5 images to get the greater depth of field and overall sharpness. There was a bit of processing to get them together and properly adjusted. There’s one more aspect to account for; the sky was a lovely, bland shade of blue, so with the help of Luminar AI, I created something a bit more interesting.

I’ll share the color version of this image later this week, so you can compare notes!

Valley of Fire – ep. 2

An Elephant appears out of the dark!

I mentioned that the editing was about to start on my images from this fun trip, so I decided to tackle the most complicated task first! One of our sunrise shoots was at Elephant Rock, which is a magnificent sandstone arch formation in the shape of a Mastodon!

While doing this shoot, the sun was slowly rising behind the arch formation, which gave me an idea to create something like this…

Elephant Rock at Dawn

As the arch is formed of gorgeous red sandstone, I wanted to be sure to get its color represented in the image. However, backlighting would make this very difficult to achieve in a single shot; so I hatched a plot!

In order to expand the range of light captured by my camera I shot HDR sequences to feed into this image. One sequence to capture the color of the rock…

Elephant Rock – HDR Light

…and another HDR sequence to get color of the sky back into the image…

Elephant Rock – HDR Dark

The above two images are the in-camera JPEGs of the HDR sequence, which was shot at 0 EV, -2 EV and +2 EV.

So all I had to do was process the HDR images and then combine them into a single image. Simple enough except for the mask to combine the two HDR images, which took a bit of trickery and some cool tools from Tony Kuyper. To keep you in suspense, I will write a separate post about the entire creative process.

Valley of Fire – ep. 1

Sand and minerals turned to butterfly wings; now that’s geology!

During the week of January 30, 2023, I had the pleasure of spending 4 days in a stunning state park in Nevada: Valley of Fire. This first of Nevada’s state parks lies in the Mojave Desert and is known for its red Aztec sandstone formations that appear on fire when lit up by the sun.

My visit was part of a photo tour organized by Joseph Rosbach Photography and was a wonderful experience, as Joe really knows the park and area. Joe organized our day to be in the park by sunrise to catch locations that set up great for that time of day and spend 3-4 hours shooting until the light was not ideal. A break and time for some quick editing tips and lessons (I learned some cool techniques), and then back to the park by 2:30-3pm to shoot until after sunset.

The park has many features and lots of color in the rock, so as I start my editing, I’ll kick off with one of my favorites so far…

Rainbow Vista Butterfly Wing

The rock formations in the Rainbow Vista area of the park present a stunning array of colors, as seen in the image above. As the dunes turned to sandstone during the Early Jurassic period, various minerals were captured in the sand lending vibrant colors. The continued erosion and geological forces created exposures that are dramatic in their appearance and form.

As there is still a lot of editing to do, keep an eye open for future posts, featuring a variety of colors, arches and stunning landscape features, even including bacon strips!

iPhone Friday

Summer’s End – a lasting memory

Sometimes a photo is not about creating the perfect image, but rather to capture something that speaks to us. This is very much the case for today’s image from one of my trips to Raleigh, NC…

The great John Prine

This wonderful mural can be found next to the GoRaleigh bus station on East Martin Street. It was part of a marketing campaign by John’s record company to draw attention to his album that was released in 2018; Raleigh was one of the selected cities, along with Chicago and Nashville, to get a mural, as it is home to a significant fanbase.

I captured this image on February 19, 2020, during what would be my last business trip prior to the pandemic. As I learned some of John Prine’s songs in guitar class, this mural touched me. Little did I know that John would pass away less than 2 months later due to complications from COVID-19.

Throwback Thursday

Do they float or are they submerged?

As I just went through a forced reconfiguration of all my storage, I poked around a bit in my back catalog to find something that for one reason or another never caught my eye.

Here’s a little bit of amusement that I came up with from an image captured in 2012…

Floating Pool of Mystery

As I used to have a sizable backroads commute to work back then, I made sure to always have a camera with me and frequently found something to catch my eye. In this case, I noticed a bit of marshy pond with a bit of nice light on the trees in be background. The result was a rather mundane image with not so wonderful composition; when that happens, I never throw away (aka delete) these images.

With a square crop and a bit of imaginative processing, it becomes more difficult to place the various components in the image and a bit of mystery appears in the image, as the marshy outcroppings might be floating, or are they lifeforms of an even stranger variety? Let your mind wander!

Sweeping Clouds

Velocity in the upper clouds

Some Winter mornings present us with beautiful, sweeping views that allow us to take a moment out of our busy days and breathe in the wonder that is Nature. Whenever we get one of these opportunities, we should simply stop whatever we are doing and allow the moment to embrace us.

On one such December morning in 2014, I was allowed to capture the following moment in the universe…

Sweeping Clouds

The higher velocity winds in the upper layers of the clouds create a magnificent vista, giving us the sense of motion blur. Our beloved Yoga Tree is very much stripped down for the season, conserving her energies for that change into Spring.

Shot with an iPhone 5S and cleaned up a bit in Luminar AI and Photoshop.

Travel Tuesday – Ep. 4

A calm, warm sea and some ruins!

Much to my surprise, nobody identified the wonderful cliffs in last week’s Travel Tuesday; they are the Cliffs of Kerry, aka the slightly lesser known cousins of the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.

During our trip to the Emerald Isle in 2019 we traversed part of the ring of Kerry as an exploration, rather than a goal of completing the entire 179 kilometer voyage. We stopped in numerous locations where something caught our eye, which is how we happened on the Cliffs of Kerry. The view there was amazing and rivaled the Cliffs of Moher in my eyes.

This week, let’s go somewhere different…

A Nice, Warm Location

As you can see, this location has a warm appeal and beautiful beaches.As I left a clue in the image, I think some of you will easily identify the country. How accurate can you get within the country?

I’m looking forward to your eagle eyes narrowing this down!

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