Layers of sharpness…

What I’ve begun to start tinkering more with in my photography, at least when it comes to shots that are close-ups, is layers of sharpness using depth of field. With close-ups, I need to be wary of my aperture, especially because of the closeness of the subject to the lens itself. What this means is that f8 will most likely not have half the scene in focus, but a bit less than that; for full focus, I’d have to go down to something like f20 or f22. It’s tricky, but I’m still working on it; with so much out there to use as potential subjects, finding one, or more, is not the hardest thing to do.

- Purple & Shade -
– Purple & Shade –

The above shot is one such example because of the aperture which was at f8 and the shutter speed 1/200 with a low ISO. What I was trying to get at with this was to set the flowers against the wooden fence and I figured that by blurring the background, it would really set off at least most of the flowers against the fence and it worked. Looking back at this shot, taken midday & a little darker than normal to bring down the highlights, I did the usual refinements of clarity, localized saturation (vibrance in Lightroom), some contrast & noise, to really set out the colours of the flowers against the fence. It surprised me that it came out as good as it did, especially because I wasn’t working a polarizer; that was mostly due to laziness on my part, but it still worked out, thanks to some decent thinking.

We’ve been given so much by the Creator, so much that I can’t really see why I don’t try to get the most out of a scene and really work at presenting the beauty of the scene in front of me; even with this, I don’t always get it right. In life, we’re given things to work with them for the greater good and, even though I often fail at it, I hope that I can at least get it right more than a few times and inspire others to do the same. I don’t want to compete with others out there, nor do I want others to do that, but I want to bring something to the table that will cause us to look up once in a while or even just lend a hand & be there for others.

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On Choices for Exposure…

Often, when we first seek out a shot, the one thing that comes just after composition is exposure: what shutter, aperture, metering, white balance, & ISO to use? All five things affect exposure in the shot and making the decision sometimes isn’t the easiest thing to do. While the last three things (metering, white balance & ISO) aren’t specifically exposure related, they have a strong influence on exposure in how the color & light turn out.

Yellow Rose Under a Smoky Haze
Yellow Rose Under a Smoky Haze

In the above shot, exposure to bring out the right atmosphere was somewhat tricky. There metering was set to spot because I wanted to focus specifically on the cream-colored rose under a sky dominated by a smoke-filled haze. With the sky above acting as if it was overcast (it was filled by high-up smoke from nearby forest fires), the color cast was a pale orange-yellow and barely visible; so the task was to bring out this color cast, not eliminate it, so a cloudy/shade white balance was set (a setting I usually stick with because of the way it brings out the surrounding colors). Going lighter with a slower shutter speed, would remove some of the color cast, making it paler, so I chose to go a bit darker to bring out the slight color cast; I choose spot metering mode to get the meter to read for the rose alone. For the aperture, I wanted to get just the rose in focus, so a mid-range f-stop aperture was decided on. So while the shot above has a bit of darkness to it, the color cast makes up for it, making it look a bit burnt, thanks to the haze in the atmosphere. The ISO was set to my usual (200) and, because of the lighting, it worked out right.

Although this is basically a post-shot analysis, it helps to do these every now and then because it can significantly help us to really think through where we’re going with our photography and what, and where, we expect ourselves to be. Part of the fun of it is seeing how far we’ve come since we’ve first started, but in order to do just that, we’ve got to push past the frustrations; something that I’ll have to admit that I’m horrible at. Sometimes we’ve got to just hope that we’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel, and not the freight train.

On migration…(yet again)

There really is no easy way to handle migration when it comes to software, but for the photographer, or person into photography, it also can be a bigger pain because it means checking file organization, metadata, adjustments to files, file formats, import options, and anything else that could cause a headache afterwards if not done properly. In the case of Lightroom, there’s plenty of sites to help through this (Lightroom Killer Tips, Lightroom forums, etc.), but the one thing I’ve learned is that if you’re dealing with a catalog, then why not use folders for importing and collections & collection sets for organization according to shoots, categories & themes. There’s enough options out there to make a person go crazy quite quickly, so why not plan it out beforehand (something I should’ve done better, in hindsight)?

With what I’ve come to expect between programs like Aperture & Lightroom, I know that the file handling is somewhat similar, with the exception that Aperture has the option to contain every photograph in its library (catalog for those using Lightroom), but Lightroom references the master files. The similarities end when you take about modules, because Aperture tends to unify it all with different viewing options & menu dialogue boxes whereas Lightroom separates it all into the modules (Library, Develop, Slideshow, Print & Web). With differences between them, the layout of the panels often depends on how you work with Lightroom…All I’m going to add to this is that Solo Mode works wonders when you’re in the develop module (something I learned from Lightroom Killer Tips).

Migration can be a pain, but once it’s all said & done, it’ll come out to your liking, if you get it right. The good thing about getting it done instead of holding off until it’s too late is that you just might be stuck with a computer that is too old for the new software and the version that can run on it isn’t sold anymore. Sometimes it takes some watching to figure out what move to make and sometimes, as in the case of Aperture being discontinued, the decision is made for you.

Brown Bird on a Perch

On migrating software…

So, thanks to the new Photos for Mac OS X (henceforth referred to by the less dorky name of Photos) being substandard, compared to Aperture, I’ve made the switch to Lightroom, something I thought I wouldn’t do thanks to seeing how strange a program it was compared to Aperture. To set the record straight, I’ve used Aperture since version 1 up until version 3.6 and would’ve continued with it most likely had Apple not decided to go the Photos route; usage was much easier for Aperture and even though the tools are not as extremely powerful as Lightroom, but really close, I would’ve stuck with it because they were more than enough for me. ‘Split toning’ was not a feature that Aperture had and one I’ve only seen some photographers (i.e. David duChemin) use, but use well.

First, my reasons for switching: tools are really good, it’s non destructive, and the hierarchy (folder, project/collection set, album/collection) are really good. Photos has/will have good tools, but no where near the strength of Aperture and the hierarchy isn’t there, yet; I don’t hold out much hope for it because of its more iPhoto-like audience it seems to cater to. While the Aperture plug-in for Lightroom 5.7 has gotten a LOAD of flack because it imports into folder by date, it doesn’t bother me because that’s where collection sets & collections come in handy in Lightroom; I’ve basically come to think of collection sets as Lightroom 5.7’s equivalent to projects and collections as the equivalent to albums.

Second, my reasons for dumping Aperture: lack of updates going forward & the discontinuation of a program that for what seems like a long time has been relegated to a slow death. Don’t get me wrong, I was an Aperture die-hard until the end (the steps to print in that program along with the ease of use & appearance were/are easier than Lightroom, at least until Lightroom 5); not much has changed in Lightroom in terms of steps & usage, but I’ve made the jump, despite the fact that I wouldn’t trust Adobe for a second (remember the hack of +2 million Adobe user I.D.s within the last two years?). While I will definitely miss Aperture, it felt like a proverbial kick in the groin from Apple when they decided to discontinue it, so LR5 (sounds like a Land Rover model, just saying) is my mainstay now, just as long as I don’t have to give Adobe any personal details other than my name.

After about two weeks of debating the switch to LR5 (I absolutely oppose Adobe’s so-called Creative Cloud), while contemplating alternatives (none of which really had the same cataloguing & editing abilities), I can say that I’m good with the switch. I’d be even happier if it was called Adobe Lightroom, instead of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, but that’s just my personal bias because I’ve always thought of Photoshop as being a paint program trying hard to be a photo editor…and the negative connotations that go with Photoshop (the term photoshopping comes to mind)…But I’m not going to judge on this. As others have said before, Lightroom was developed by photographers and that works for me.

On editing…

I’ve commented a few times before about Photoshop & photography and my chief view of this is relatively straightforward: editing in order to make the photo very different than it originally came out is what Photoshop seems to be about. When software becomes an end to a means, then it’s no longer photography in my honest opinion (it’s photo illustration); software like Apple’s Aperture, Corel’s AfterShot Pro or Adobe’s Lightroom (not a fan of Lightroom…too many steps to print a single photograph) is for photographers because they incorporate the entire process from importing to cataloguing to fixing to rating. Even Corel’s PaintShop Pro is more of a photographer’s program, although it doesn’t include a non-destructive editing tool without creating a whole new image, because it has all four parts of the process (or at least the last three).

With editing, for me at least, it’s only about touch-up…and by that I mean fixing highlights correcting lens coloration issues. For example, when there is abnormal color at the edges of shapes (i.e. bluish smears at the edge of white snow & green trees), then there’s most likely touch-up to be done, if it works against the photograph in the first place; I believe the correct term for this is chromatic aberration. Sometimes it’s better to use these programs as an aid instead of just a way to ‘catalogue’ the photographs; when they’re aids, then they tend not to be the distractions in that they take away from the taking of the photograph in the first place.

The thing is, when it comes to editing, there’s many different opinions about what’s acceptable and it’s quite confusing for the average person; it makes for a lot of noise around the person just trying to get in some photography while learning & growing in the field. Throw in terms like HDR & infrared, then you have one heck of a load of terms to ‘know’ & learn about when all you really want to do is photography. It becomes a distraction & a kind of obstruction from what is really important: vision.

Astoria from Above

Knowing that this can be a touchy issue, comments are welcome, just keep it civil.