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Photoshop Tips – The Most Important Button in Photoshop

So let’s talk about buttons, shall we? One thing I think us Photographers, Landscape Photographers, Nature Photographers etc are all agreed on – Photoshop is just chock-full jam-packed, zillions of Buttons! The keen reader will note I am still on CS5, but this holds true what ever version of Photoshop or Elements you are on.

Curves, Masks, Layers, Brushes, they all have buttons. However, I am going to go out on a limb –

One is more important than all the others.

Now – that might look like I am saying that the Curves layer is in some way the most important. Whilst it is important, powerful and I use it all the time, it’s not by far the most important. In this instance I had applied a curves layer, fine tuned the curve amount for contrast to my taste. I had walked away for a day or so and then returned. I thought the contrast was a little harsh.

So….

Rather than messing with the shape of the curve, I merely dropped the opacity down from 100% to – in this instance – 55% and the effect was less pronounced. The Opacity Slider is the most important button in Photoshop. In my humble opinion of course.

And sad but true, I could post ‘before’ and ‘after’ images here, but on your phone or monitor, you will not be able to see the small difference here in a single layer. However, adding many layers together is the key, small steps each time.

Try it – it works on everything, and makes all your editing smoother, less giant-leap-followed-by-giant-leap, and more tiny-step-by-tiny-step. Very few of my layers are set at 100%, particularity when I revisit an image after a night away from the computer.

Thanks for reading this far

Andrew Barnes
The Berowra Photographer

PS – the fine print. Opacity and Fill pretty much do the same thing when we do Landscape Photography. If we have strokes or drop shadows on layers and the like, they start to behave a bit differently – but doing Landscape Photography it’s not a biggie.

The post Photoshop Tips – The Most Important Button in Photoshop appeared first on Andrew Barnes Photography.

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 The Road to the Future – or – Do you use Filters – Part 2

I originally wrote this  in answer to the most-received question ‘Do you use filters’ on my landscape photos – all about having a go at photography filters explained.

I am lucky enough to own a semi-professional Canon SLR. People sometimes call it a Big Camera. It’s certainly heavy and you know you are using it when you carry it. It takes wonderful images and they are large so they print beautifully without seeing any pixels. The funny thing is the way it actually takes pictures. They come out very basic, flat and colourless. I’ll explain – bear with me …

When you buy a stereo system for your home or for your car, you can spend hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands if you want. Generally what you get when you buy a really high end system is clear, crisp, 100% accurate sound. Ideal for playing orchestral recordings. If you play rap or hip-hop, it will sound good, but the neighbours won’t be bombarded by bass. If you buy a cheap system, you may very well end up hearing only bass, which is what a lot of people want. Cheaper systems are evolving all the time, and ‘colour’ the music a lot more than high-end systems.

Cameras? Well, oddly enough, if you buy high-end you get ‘natural’ photos, and ah-hem, if you buy at the other end of spectrum – let’s call it a recent iPhone – you basically get an ‘explosion in a paint factory’. A lot of people when they show me their photos insist ‘it looked just like that when I was there’ and they show me an iPhone 6/7/8/X image which quite frankly looks like Aunt Martha’s old big boxed TV with the colour guns all set (or broken) to 11 on an 10 scale.

To add to the confusion, I do my landscape photography in RAW format, which is like a digital negative and is designed to ‘need work’.

So – I hear you asking – ‘your point’? Well, once again we are in the hands of the tech companies. They, not us, will dictate the way our images look in 5, 10, 50 years’ time. Even more so than up to this point.
And once again I hear – do you use filters, do you use Photoshop?

Yes!!! but to get my images almost, but not quite, to the levels of new phones and up-to-the-minute Instagram filters.

Thanks for reading this far. A different take on ‘photography filters explained’. I hope it made you think.

Andrew Barnes
The Berowra Photographer

In the featured image – indeed – hardly any processing used!

The post The Road to the Future – or – ‘Do you use Filters’ Part 2 appeared first on Andrew Barnes Photography.

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How to ‘do’ Australian Landscape Photography.

This is something I have been thinking about for a while. Let’s consider what people think about when they hear that term ‘Australian Landscape Photography’ – Uluru, Koalas, Kangaroos and not much else I suspect. Oh, and they have heard of the Barrier Reef. And they sure do know about the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.

Wait a minute! And let me get my teachers pen out Uluru, Koalas, Kangaroos, Barrier Reef, Opera House, Harbour Bridge. So that leaves Uluru – a very long way from anywhere, like a really long way. Also Barrier Reef, not too easy to photograph as it’s underwater. The rest aren’t exactly Australian Landscape Photography, are they? Cityscapes, wildlife, yes, Australian Landscape Photography no…

I remember when I first stepped off the plane all those years ago and went bushwalking among the gum-filled landscapes around Sydney. The skies were so blue, the trees so green, the rocky escarpments so magnificent. And my landscape photographs were so boring! It took me a while to start to understand the subtleties of the terrain. Likewise out on a boat, the waters are so blue, and the bush terrain around Sydney so green, but again, take landscape photographs and it’s Dull with a Capital D.

So let’s approach from a different angle. It’s mostly flat (even the ‘mountains’ are generally plateaus), generally dry, can be dusty, and it’s largely barren. As such, panoramic photography is probably the way to go in many cases. With a subtle overall aspect (i.e. it’s hard to find something like the Matterhorn to dominate) you really need to be able to use a kitbag of techniques to get great images. In addition, that sun which we all love, tends to really increase image contrast – unless you are down in Tasmania. There’s also a lot of it. Sun, that is, which means a whole lot of blue skies which can look very empty on an image. I call it Blue Sky Madness!

Let’s also consider the Outback – it’s true Australian Landscape Photography, but in all honesty I doubt you will be doing much of it – when was the last time you were in the outback?

So I think the key for Australian photography (or landscape photography / nature photography if you are not reading this in Australia) is the Golden Hour, ideally with a few high wispy clouds. In all honesty, I have wasted so much film and processing time over the years trying to get what might be termed ‘good’ images but I have been shooting in the middle of the day.

Go strong on the foreground interest as well, there may not be as much going on in the background. Consider panoramic photography as your real friend.

Other areas of the planet have softer light, more mountainous terrain, faster flowing water and bigger rivers, so for them slightly different rules apply. I actually adopted a different approach to my landscape photography when I was in Tasmania due to the softer light. Tasmania has a less intense Golden Hour, and higher terrain.

I hope this helps you think about your approach take great Australian Landscape Photographs!

Thanks for reading.

Andrew Barnes

The Australian Landscape Photographer

The post How to ‘do’ Australian Landscape Photography appeared first on Andrew Barnes Photography.

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So this is an occasional series where give a full account of a particular image… in this case it’s all about an almost out-of-body experience …

My original story went something like … 

I consider taking this  image to be one of my defining photographic moments. One I cannot forget. I was on holiday in Smiths Lake with my family, and had been subject to very ordinary weather for a few days. I had enough and excused myself before dinner to go and  ‘see if there was a sunset’. There were grey clouds all around. I drove down a dirt road and found Cellito Beach, and walked out onto a rocky point and waited. The grey clouds stayed and I took some long exposures as it darkened. Then slowly it all came together, as the sun set peeking through a small gap in the west and the clouds glowed. They glowed all colours, and not just to the west. Consider – this photo is facing East! It was like I was in a cauldron of fire, bright deep reds to the west, oranges to the east. The best 360 degree sunset I have ever seen, and I was standing there on a rock in the middle of the bay with the waves smashing around me. The rock shapes gave wonderful composition.
If this story doesn’t make you get out and have a try in life, what will?

What you don’t see
It was the most intense experience I had been under since I really started taking photos, I have to say. It was a few years ago and it was much more part-time than it is now. In addition, I was not working with the gear that I am lucky enough to have right now, so it was all a little basic. The sky was epic, a real 360 degree shimmer, and I didn’t have a lens that went wider than 28mm at the time. I did really need the wide angle lens. The rock I was standing on was at a steep angle, so anything I did with a tripod needed to be really carefully set up to get it level. I tried a few panoramas and I was lucky enough that one worked really well. I was running around left and right shooting east, west, all ways, but it didn’t stop me standing there at one point with arms to sky and just letting out a real shout of joy, it was that ethereal a moment.

How I felt and what I saw when I was there
I have to say I was I overload. I was not as measured as I am now in my approach. All I really saw was a whole load of colour and tried my best to not panic and take it all in.

What I saw Afterwards
Well…. our featured image was oh-so-close when I stitched it. However it had horizon problems ( a real ‘step’ in the level of the water ) which actually rendered it useless. So I had to learn some fairly advanced Photoshop techniques to get it to look as it does now. This is also the third of fourth attempt, learning as I went, to give the final image ‘balance’.

Am I Happy?
It’s really quite difficult to divorce the image that I see from my memories of that night. So it has to be one of my favourite images I have ever taken. I believe the term is ‘strong emotional connection’. In addition, the structure and repetition of the rocks on the left hand side makes a wonderful frame and leads the viewers eye to the ‘washing machine’ of the water in the centre and to the right. In short its a great image which brings back great memories.

9.5/10

Thanks for reading this far
Andrew Barnes
The Berowra Photographer

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Should I shoot JPG or ROAR!!!!

Oh sorry, I didn’t quite get off to the best start did I? Once more to the kitchen, my friends. Let’s make pancakes, shall we?

As the keen reader knows, I can’t for the life of me, cook. Sure, I can heat things, and put them on plates for purpose of eating, but I actually have to say I can’t cook. So, if I were to have to make pancakes, I would jump into car and drive to the nearest supermarket. Once at said supermarket, I would ask a staff member (and typically I always manage to find someone in a crisp uniform on their First Day on the job who knows as much as I about the layout of the said supermarket) and then find myself in the aisle that sold containers of pre-made pancake mix. I would, with sweat forming on my brow, feverishly read the ‘just add’ waiver on the box, purchase anything I didn’t have, and without delay off I would go to the manned checkout. Once home I would follow, step-by-step with 100% zero deviation, the instructions on the box. At the end of a few highly fraught minutes later, I would slop something on a plate which would likely be 0.1 mm or 25 mm thick.

If I knew what I was doing I would buy, eggs, milk, flour, yah-de-yah de yah… and make a much better pancake. If.

So JPGs are a bit like a pancake mix. Ready-made, processed, just the right blend of all the ingredients to make a generic pancake / image. And that is, of course, to someone else’s preferred recipe. But what, I hear you ask, what if I like 100% salt-free pancakes.  Can’t do that with a pancake mix, can you? You can’t remove the salt once it is added. Nope, there would already be some salt added in the mix. You can’t vary anything, as you have thrown all your options away by going the pre-made route. What if I have allergies to a given e-number?

So, if you shoot RAW, you have every last bit of info still available. All the ingredients are at hand at all times forever. All the detailed info on the lights, the darks, the ability to easily alter colour balance. It’s a camera format that throws absolutely no data away when you take a picture. A JPG compresses and throws away bits of data (Lots actually). If you badly underexposed a JPG grab-shot of the Queen knocking on your front door, there is little you can do to later rescue the image. With RAW you have a much better chance.

Sure, the files are bigger, but they would be, wouldn’t they? It took me three years of shooting JPGs on my Big Camera before I started using RAW. Don’t make the same mistake as I did.

Original RAW file on the left and the original JPG on the right. There are only subtle differences to note, which you may or may not be able to see depending on your monitor settings. (Preparing the images for the web has also further reduced any differences I can still see in the original files.) Subtle differences can be seen  in the mid tones. The JPG shows a little more contrast overall and is brighter generally, where the JPG algorithm in the camera tries to to add ‘punch’. However, with the JPG, that’s pretty much it in terms o of editing, with the RAW, well… the world awaits

To be continued… and more examples to come!

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