Archive for the ‘Journal’ Category

Images with Impact – Contrast in Nature

February 16th, 2016

Last year I started a series of articles under the general theme of Images with Impact. In it we are discussing things you can do with your images in Lightroom and Photoshop to enhance their impact. When I got to the topic of contrast I came to an abrupt halt. The more I thought about contrast, the more I wanted to begin that discussion with some real examples from nature. But to do that, I needed some photographs that illustrated what I wanted to share with you. And in Southern California, the types of photographs I wanted are only possible in winter. But it’s winter now. And I’ve been able to capture the photographs that I want, so now we’re picking up the series again.

What distinguishes a photograph created by the serious student of photography from one taken by a casual photographer? Many things to be sure. But one thing that stands out is a sense of clarity, a clear quality. The casual photographers’ photographs are just what the camera captures and are often like looking through a bit of haze and I don’t mean that they are out of focus. It’s the light. The effect may be subtle but it is very real. A more accomplished photographers’ photographs have a special quality to them, a quality that engages us, that draws us in and holds our attention. You might describe it as a crisp quality.  (You can click on the photographs to enlarge them.)

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(My daughter some years ago as we hiked out of a late spring backpacking trip in the local mountains.)

The serious student of photography skillfully applies contrast in the digital darkroom to achieve this look. But before getting in to how this is done, let’s step back and take a look at how we respond to contrast not only in photographs but also in nature.

In the following discussion I will use examples from nature to illustrate the affect contrast has on us. The idea is to understand how it works so that we can more effectively apply this knowledge to our photographs.

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Sleeklens Lightroom Workflow Review

February 6th, 2016

Sleeklens is a company with a concept that is not new in the Adobe Lightroom world – providing presets to help us in processing our photographs. I’ve always shied away from using presets, just like I rarely if ever use the Auto tone adjustment built into Lightroom. I’ve always felt that I prefer making all the decisions myself rather than letting the computer make them in the case of Lightroom Auto tone or a designer make them in the case of presets.

But I recently received an evaluation copy of one of the Sleeklens presets workflows and have been using them on several photographs I’m working on. Sleeklens has a variety of presets for different purposes. The collection I received is titled ‘Through the Woods Workflow.’

Content

Through the Woods Workflow consists of forty-seven presets and twenty-nine brushes.

Presets

The Presets are global adjustments, affecting the entire image. Once installed they are in their own folder in the Presets area of the Development module screen. The presets are applied just like any other preset – namely, clicking on them.

The presets are organized into seven groups – All in One, Base, Exposure, Color Correction, Tone/Tint, Polish and Vignette. The All in One presets can affect the Basic, Tone Curve, HSL and Split Toning adjustment groups. Base mostly affects the Basic adjustments and occasionally the Tone Curve. One Base preset affects HSL and Split Toning. Exposure sets either Basic or Tone Curve. Color Correction adjustments are applied to HSL. Tone/Tint plays with Vibrance and Split Toning. Polish mostly adjusts Basic. And Vignette sets Post-Crop Vignetting in Effects. One thing that is missing is settings that utilize the new Dehaze adjustment in Effects.

Brushes

The brushes are used with the Adjustment Brush, Graduated Filter or Radial Filter. There are five groups – Basics, Color, Effects, Haze and Light. The brushes are applied by selecting the effect and painting with the Adjustment Brush or creating the Graduated or Radial Filter. Continue reading “Sleeklens Lightroom Workflow Review” »

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Four Types of Photographs

December 12th, 2015

Something hit me the other day on the way into work. That happens quite often. I mean I didn’t get hit by a car or anything. I got hit by an idea. And the idea this time is that there are four types of photographs. In this blog post I want to illustrate what I have in mind by showing you the same raw file rendered four different ways.

 

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Making a Photograph – A New Approach to Tonality Adjustments

July 4th, 2015

For some time now I’ve been using and teaching a process of working on photographs in Lightroom. It consists of basically four steps: manual adjustments, tonality adjustments, hue adjustments and finally saturation adjustments. Quite some time ago I had the brilliant idea of converting the image to black and white before doing the tonality adjustments. The technique I used was the B & W tab in Lightroom’s HSL group.  Once the tonality adjustments were done, the image would be converted back to color and the process continue.

It didn’t work out because when I converted the image back to color, the colors were so oversaturated and unnatural that the image looked horrible. It was just easier to do the tonality adjustments on the color image. So I quickly gave up on that technique. But the other day I was reading an article in Popular Photography magazine that rekindled this idea. It took a different approach. It turned the image to black and white by setting the Saturation adjustment to -100. Now the author did this in the middle of the process but I thought that if I applied this to my process and did that at the start it just might work. So I was eager to give it a try. Let’s try it with this image of the Watchman in Zion National Park.

utah_141010__SM32783 This is the original raw file. I haven’t done anything to it yet. It doesn’t need any mechanical adjustments. These consist of removing spots, straightening the image, maybe some noise reduction and the final crop. But since none of these are required we can move on to the tonality adjustments.

 

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The Four Pillars of Landscape Photography Presentation at Saddleback Church

June 22nd, 2015

This past Saturday, June 20, 2015, I had the privilege of being the presenter for the meeting of the photography group at Saddleback Church.  There were more than 100 enthusiastic photographers of all levels in attendance.  We all went strong for three hours, discussing the landscape photographic process from planning to print.

There were many request for a summary of the presentation so I’ve made it available on the link below.  I hope this is helpful

The Four Pillars of Landscape Photography Presentation Summary

Visit the Ralph Nordstrom Photography website.

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The Best of the 2014 Redwoods Photographs

April 26th, 2015

Well, you have done it. You have spoken and selected the best of my Redwoods photographs from 2014. I chose my eight favorite photographs from trips to the magnificent redwood groves of Northern California and offered them to you for your consideration.

It was exciting to watch the results come in. At one point there was a tie for 1st and 2nd, another tie for 3rd and 4th and, believe it or not, a tie for 5th and 6th, all at the same time. But eventually, with your help, it all got sorted out.

So here are the results.

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It’s the Journey

April 25th, 2015

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In my workshops I encourage the students to slow down and connect with what they are feeling before they snap a shot. The idea is to capture and make a photograph in such a way that it communicates what we experience to our viewers. I must confess, however, that in my classes I’ve ignored the other half of a communication – the viewer and his or her ability to recognize what we are trying to say. I speak of using our Creative Vocabulary, a growing body of tools, techniques, skills, and experiences, to convey what it is we have to say. But just like the vocabulary of speech, if we don’t speak the same language we can’t communicate.

Then there’s also the notion of the Cliché photograph. Many photographers avoid the cliché like the plague, endlessly on the hunt for something new, original, never-been-done-before. Personally, I embrace the cliché, enjoying the experience and taking something that is common and making it my own.

Why do I bring this up? Well, recently I’ve come across a couple of nationally recognized photographers who have expressed a new and, I’d go so far as so say, revolutionary view of landscape photography.

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Death Valley Photography Workshop 2015

March 1st, 2015

The Death Valley Photography Workshop of 2015 is ‘in the can.’ We had a great time and were treated to some very special weather, something photographers always seek and are thrilled when it happens. And, unlike vacationers, very special weather is not clear skies and balmy temperatures. We started the workshop with rain and snow above 5000’. It was beautiful and the desert smelled so good. Combined with the great weather was an eager, enthusiastic and motivated group. We had a great time and you can’t ask for more than that.

I want to share a few highlights of the workshop with you.

Day 1 – Sunday

The storm Sunday night and into Monday created exciting skies. We drove up to Ubehebe Crater Sunday afternoon for ‘sunset,’ although the sun was hidden behind the clouds. My favorite photograph is an abstract of the crater bottom that was rendered best in black and white.

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Mastering Night Photography – Focusing

February 15th, 2015

A lot of people are doing nighttime photography these days including yours truly. There are many good sources of information on nighttime photography. I’ve written a few blog posts myself (Exciting Nighttime Photography in 10 Easy Steps). Nighttime photography falls into two categories – star trails and night sky. In this post I want to elaborate on something I’ve discovered recently with regards to night sky photography.

double-arch-joshua-tree-140628Nighttime photography is pretty much like daytime photography. The biggest difference is you can’t see what you’re doing. Let’s run through a quick comparison of camera settings in daytime and nighttime photography.

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Mastering Light – Sunrise and Sunset

February 1st, 2015

We all love a beautiful sunset, especially when the clouds glow with color. The same happens with sunrise although there may not be as many of us up to enjoy it. There’s something special about sunsets and sunrises that bring joy and wonder to our hearts.

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My personal favorite is sunrise. I like to arrive while it’s still dark and set up my camera in the cold, crisp morning air. I like standing under the fading stars waiting for the sun to come. I like the stillness of the earth at that time of day. For me, it’s magical.

To get the most out of sunrises and sunsets, it’s helpful to know what’s going on in the sky. (I’ll talk just about sunrises now but much of the same things apply to sunsets.) A lot depends on the clouds. If the sky is completely overcast then you’re not likely to have much of a sunrise or sunset. If the sky is clear then you’ll have a totally different experience. But if the sky is strewn with scattered clouds you may be in for a wonderful experience.  And yet it’s hard to predict.

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