Learning The Fundamentals – Tell Me What You Want What You Really Really Want!

I’m close to finalizing a photography workshop for beginning photographers and I’m looking at doing this toward the end of June. This is an introductory photography course designed to give participants a solid foundation in photography, learning things such as how cameras work, light, aperture, exposure, depth of field, and composition. Plus, you’ll learn what all those buttons on the camera are and when it might be advantageous to use one over another. Many photographers (some that are my friends :)) own 35mm DSLR cameras and they use them in fully automatic mode, turning these technological marvels into expensive point and click cameras. Whether your interests are nature, sports, or family portraits, you need to understand the fundamentals first. So if your camera is always set to that green rectangle or on Program (P) mode, this workshop is for you.

You will learn your cameras basic zone (those icons on your camera’s mode dial) and what the camera is thinking when you choose one of those settings. If you choose to shoot in the basic zone, you should at least know how each setting will affect your images. After completing this workshop, you will be ready for the next step and that is to move off of the fully automatic modes where the camera is making all the choices in your photography, and on to the creative zone (those semi-automatic modes such as Av and Tv).  It is here where you can begin to take greater control of your pictures by making decisions about how you want your images to look and then consciously selecting the right settings to achieve that desired look. This is my intermediate level workshop but before we get to that, we need a foundation.

Before I finalize this fundamental workshop, I want to get your feedback. Tell me what you would like to learn and I will try to include this in the training session. I’d also like to know how many times you want to meet? Vote in the poll below and leave me your comments. I will likely limit the session to 6-8 photographers so that I can assign people to 2-person teams in the field and have ample time to spend with everyone. The classroom part of the training will likely be held in the afternoon so that we can have the warm evening light for our in-field sessions.

ImageSpotlight: Roseate Spoonbill

This morning (Saturday) I made my way to Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco, Texas. Having heard that there were plenty of spoonbills at the park, I joined a few photographer friends and thought I’d try my luck at these very colorful birds. Interestingly, they get their color by eating shrimp, krill, crayfish, and other crustaceans that have fed on algae.

We found about 20 spoonbills at the North side of Dowitcher pond, which is very long and narrow. When we approached, they flew to the center of the pond, of course! The East side of Dowitcher is completely lined in cattails that have grown so tall that it makes photography a futile attempt, though in the morning it would be preferable to photograph from there as the subjects would be frontlit. As it was, I opted for side light and stayed at the North edge of the pond as others in the group walked along the east perimeter in hopes of driving the spoonbills back to the North. It paid off handsomely as the spoonbills did indeed take flight, often circling North and finding another landing spot on the pond. I was fortunate enough to be in the right spot and get a few nice images.

Roseate Spoonbill. Canon 1DMkII | 500/4.5 | 1.4x extender | ISO 400 | f9.

Roseate Spoonbill. Canon 1DMkII | 500/4.5 | 1.4x extender | ISO 400 | f9.

Weekly honors….

Brush Country In Bloom. Oil-Painting Filter Effect.

The image above was selected as the Image Of The Week in the Photo and Digital Art Category on Naturescapes.net for the week of May 11, 2012. Naturescapes.net is one of the premier nature website resources for photographers. With submissions coming from members across the globe, it is a real honor to have an image selected as a winner.

Until next time, enjoy the great outdoors–KEVIN

ImageSpotlight: White-tipped Dove

The white-tipped dove is named for the white tips on its tail feathers (barely noticeable here), which are typically easiest to see when the bird is in flight. These doves are most often seen foraging on the ground so images of these birds perched on a limb are not nearly as common as the ground-level shots. There was plenty of seed on the ground and I was about to get in the prone position to take advantage of the low perspective. However, I noticed that this bird kept tilting its head sideways, looking up at this branch. I patiently waited and a few minutes later, up it went. I captured several images of the bird facing forward but what really set this shot apart from the rest was the graceful lines and movement of the bird’s pose.

Until next time, enjoy the great outdoors.–KEVIN

White-tipped Dove. Canon 1DMkII | 500/4.5 | ISO

Artistic Filters: Reviewing the Possibilities.

If someone were to ask you what art was, what would you say? It’s not the easiest thing to define is it? I suspect it’s accurate enough to say that art is whatever you make it out to be but that is quite vague. To try and formalize the definition, here is what I found by searching the dictionary: Art is “the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.” Of course, “beauty” is in the eye of the beholder is it not? And who decides what is “more than ordinary significance?” Well whatever, lets stick with the notion of what is beautiful. Is photography then, by these terms, a form of art?” The short answer is, Yes! Photographers apply aesthetic principles to produce, either on film or digital sensor, what they see as beautiful, appealing, or of great significance. What’s more, we have a vast number of options (traditional paper, metal, slate, canvas) when considering how to output the images we capture. With today’s technological advancements in software, we can now turn a traditional print into a beautiful oil painting, watercolor, or image with unusual textures. Recently, I started experimenting with artistic filters in Photoshop and in this writeup I want to share a brief review of some of those options, beginning with the built-in filters and then reviewing a Photoshop plugin.

Photoshop’s Built In Artistic Filters

There are many built-in filters that come with Photoshop. I’m not providing a full review of those here but I will share some of the ones I like the most, along with an image showcasing the filter effect. Click on the images to view a higher-resolution file.

Plastic Wrap. As the name suggests, this filter makes it appear as if you wrapped plastic around your subject. You can control the highlight strength, detail, and smoothness settings. Adjusting the highlight strength slider produced a nice white glow behind the flower and superimposed a 5-pt star behind the flower.

Grand Crinum Lily. Canon 1DMkII, 24-70/2.8 | Artistic Filter: Plastic Wrap2.

Rough Pastels.  This filter allows you to control Stroke length and detail, apply various textures (canvas, sandstone, burlap, brick), and determine the direction of light. In this image I used a medium stroke length, detail setting of 7, on a sandstone texture with light from the top left.

Shrimp Boats. Olympus E-PL2 m4/3 camera | Artistic Filter: Rough Pastels.

Bas Relief: This is a neat filter that does not work with every image but where the subject is fairly isolated on a clean background, it produces a cool effect. This filter allows you to control detail, smoothness and light direction. Here I used a detail setting of 12 (high), smoothness setting of 2, and bottom light direction.

Green Jay. Canon 1DMkII | 500/4.5 | Artistic Filter: Bas Relief

Crosshatch: I have shown this filter effect in a prior post, but it’s worth sharing again as it is a cool filter that helped save a slightly out of focus image by converting it into an art piece. To see that review, search “Making Lemondae” in this blog.

Green Jay. Canon 1DMkII | 500/4.5 | Artistic Filter-Crosshatch

Photoshop Plugin: Snap Art3

Now here is a filter I really like. It couldn’t be easier to use and the results are…well, see for yourself. Snap Art3 can be installed as a plugin in either Photoshop or Lightroom. You can download a 14-day trial version but be forewarned, you will want to buy the software and it is not exactly cheap at $199. Still, it is certainly fun to use and though my trial has now expired, I think I may be saving up to buy it. I’m anxious to get some of the images below printed on canvas.

Sunset On Laguna Madre: Oil Painting Effect.

Northern Cardinal Oil Abstract.

Llano Town Square: Colored Crayon.

Wildflowers In Watercolor.

Texas Bluebonnet Watercolor Effect.

Cottontail Reflection.

Brush Country Wildflowers: Impasto Art Filter.

Snowy Egret With Impasto Effect.

Historical Buildings At LBJ State Park In Oil.

So there you have it, fun with Photoshop filters. Let me stress the key operative in that last comment…fun. While I still favor the traditional print, I must admit that I enjoyed creating these artistic effects. I should have printed one of them on canvas during the trial period but either way, I was sold on Snap Art3. I’d like to purchase the software in the near future but I guess the question is, Are the effects worth the cost? You tell me.

Until next time, keep shooting and remember to share the outdoors with your kids.  — KEVIN