Saturday, May 29, 2010

Editing Life

One advantage that digital cameras have over traditional film cameras is the ability to take the original image file and alter it on a computer with a program like Photoshop. We've all seen the results of creative people (and those that just think they are) with edited pictures. The problem I've been dealing with since I bought my new camera isn't whether to touch up photos or not, but rather, when to stop.

I've been trying out a couple of programs to develop digital images, notably Adobe Lightroom 2 and the editing software that came with the camera called Digital Photo Professional. I know what you are going to say: Digital pictures don't need developing, but most can use a tweak or two before they are ready to be shown. When I started using my camera I would have a very large number of pictures that would require a lot of work to be good enough. I have been getting better at using my camera so I don't need to do that much to get a photo to where I want it. Take these pictures below. The first one is the original image exported directly from the camera's raw file, that's the format that I have my camera set to as default. Raw images can be manipulated much easier and with better results than with a .jpg or other format. It's not really a bad picture, but it definitely looks underexposed resulting in an image that's a bit too dark.

This next image was my first attempt
at correcting the original shot. Unfortunately, I had no idea what I was doing. I started by adjusting the exposure and used the graduated filter tool to darken the sky. I then adjusted the vibrance and saturation. Changing the vibrance and saturation settings warmed up the image considerably and made it brighter, but it also made it look unnatural. Another advantage of the raw format, changes made to the image are not permanent. That means that any and all changes made to the image are reversible (thankfully!).

And this last one is my latest attempt to make the image look as natural as possible. I used a bit more restraint in changing the image this time around. I did brighten up the image a bit, as well as adjust the saturation and vibrance, but hopefully not enough to make the image seem fake. What is obvious is that the the picture itself was not taken in the best possible circumstances. The day was very overcast and that detracted from the overall shot. I'll have to go back soon and see if I can do better with more natural light and less cloud cover.

Any image can be manipulated in a variety of ways. Digital images can be recolored, aged, made into a black and white picture or any combination of those options. The key is to know what you want the image to be and convey and when to stop making adjustments. Practice with whatever program you use is nearly as important as shooting the image in the first place. I still need a lot of practice with both.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hobby Fun

I've always had an interest in photography, but have never had good enough equipment to really enjoy it as a hobby. I recently corrected my hardware issue by upgrading from my little Sony Cyber-shot point-and-shoot to a very decent DSLR camera with a couple of essential accessories. I chose a Canon EOS Rebel T1i which came with an 18-55mm lens, a bag to protect and carry the camera in and a basic tripod. I have also picked up every book and magazine from the PX about photography that looked useful. And yes, I have also done extensive web research. I'm not all that good at it yet and I still have a lot to learn regarding the myriad of features that my camera has. I've been reading up on using ISO settings, aperture priority, shutter speeds, depth of field, lenses, filters, histograms, white balances, lighting and a few other options. It can be a bit intimidating, but it is very fun at the same time. Here's a shot I took while on a picnic a couple of weekends ago. I like that the dock is in the foreground, but not exactly the center of the picture. The focus of the image starts there, but continues to the rest of the lake and trees in the background. Having the light reflecting off of the water helps to bring out the detail both in the foreground and background. If the light refecting off the water had been darker or had the water been still, I don't think that the picture would have been nearly as interesting.

Experimenting has been vital in my learning process. If I take 30 shots I may only keep 2 or 3 good ones. I try to experiment with the settings each time I take a shot. This means that I may end up with 8-10 pictures of the same subject, but it increase the chance that I will get one that I like. This shot was one of about 35 that I took of this field of Raps plants. I tried different exposures and played around with the depth of focus a bit. I ended up keeping about 1/3 of the pictures I took of this field. What caught my eye about these plants was their bright yellow color. These fields are all over the countryside this time of year and is an interesting change from the predominate green that is everywhere, not that I mind seeing green, but a splash of color here and there is a good thing.

Taking a good picture involves several factors-some that I can control, some that I can't-and that is what makes the challenge worthwhile. The end result is a picture that I'm proud to show. I only have one or two really good ones now, but I'm learning and working on taking more. It'll take time and a lot of practice, but I think I'm getting better.
Images © 2010 Benjamin Sharp

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Missing Blogger

Yes, I have been away for a very long time. I know it hasn't really been that long, just a very long time for someone that writes a blog. Possibly I'll get back to my old schedule of writing a couple of times a week, or maybe not. I can find the time, it's the inspiration to write that I'm lacking right now. I know I always have something on my mind, but what I have on my mind is not always of interest to write about or read.

Something interesting did happen today. I woke up about 9 AM planning to go to the gym. When I got up I heard what sounded like a lot of steadily running water. I thought that either my wife or daughter could be up and taking a shower, but that couldn't be. First, my daughter is a teenager and what teen is ever up before noon? Second, the wife is not exactly a morning person. So I decided to investigate. The noise sounded like it was coming from the basement, so I went to the basement to take a look. I checked the laundry room first only to find nothing amiss. I then took a look in the room that we put the cat to bed at night in (he tends to rampage around the house breaking things if not secured in the evenings). Upon opening the door I see the poor creature huddled against the wall staring at me. I then look up to see a torrent of rushing water in the opposite corner falling from the ceiling directly into his litter box. The cat was so thankful to see me he rushed right into my arms. He was nearly out of dry land and to a cat that must be the worst thing in the world. If the water had risen any higher, say to mid paw level, he might have drowned! Any amount of water (not to include his water bowl, a necessary evil) is frightening to a cat after all. Not to mention that his litter box is now a small pond in it's own right.

Since I was at the lowest level and am smart enough to realize that water flows down I proceeded upstairs to see where the water was coming from. I went to the room directly above the cat's room, which is our rarely used (read: never) dining room, to see water coming out of the light fixture in the ceiling. This fixture usually has a glass cover over the bulb that snaps in place with a series of spring loaded mechanisms. I did notice that the cover was not there, and that was because it was in a bunch of little pieces all over the room along with a copious amount of water. So, up to the next floor it is and to have a talk with the wife.

On the top floor the carpeting outside of the bathroom in our bedroom was a bit damp. The wife, having just exited the shower, was confused as to why there was water all over the bathroom floor. What I think happened is that either a pipe started leaking between the first and second floor. The first floor was soaked by water falling down from the fixture in the ceiling. The second was wet by water being absorbed upwards. I'd like to get an expert here to confirm this, but it's Saturday, and getting a German civilian at the Directorate of Public Works to open a work order on Saturday (even on an emergency basis) is next to impossible.

The leak seems to have slowed down a bit for now. My only concern is that after cleaning up all the water from the cat room in the basement I smell horrendous, which means that I really need to take a shower. I'm hoping that the problem lies only in the master bedroom shower and not the shower in the upstairs hallway bathroom. I'll be testing out that theory shortly.

I have come to realize that if I'm not having any luck getting help on Saturday I won't be holding my breath for getting anyone on Sunday. So it looks like I'll be doing the bucket brigade thing until at least Monday morning.