• Rabbit Portrait Face Eyes Texas by Jay Goodrich

It’s Time for a Photography Tune-Up

The Photography Tune-Up

Has your camera been sitting all alone in a dark closet, in a remote location of your house? Neglected. Forgotten about. Allowed to become home to multiple species of arachnids? Did winter send you back into your den for a long, dark hibernation away from the joys of picture taking? A hibernation that has your head filled with miscellaneous cobwebs too? Maybe like that classic convertible in the garage as well?

Now that Memorial Day has come and gone, Spring is officially here, and with it comes a time where we frolic outdoors. What’s the first thing that your dormant car gets before you head out with the top down? Yes, the almighty tune-up. Maybe a fresh battery, new oil, new anti-freeze. Then you create some plans to travel, maybe to some of our National Parks, a great place to drive through with your now completely tuned car. You reach into the closet for the camera…and all those spiders attack. Now as you recover in the hospital, you realize that you don’t remember a thing about taking a photograph beyond an Instagram snapshot. How do those camera controls work? What’s the objective of a compelling photograph?

Free ebook Download

Let’s clean up the cobwebs in your closet and bring your image making out of the darkness from your winter hibernation…head over to our download page and grab a copy of our FREE spring photography tune-up ebook.

5 Reasons to Reject an Image

With the age of digital photography now becoming a mainstream part of society, how do you decide what photos are good to keep and what ones should be thrown in the trash? While we need reasons to reject an image, we don’t necessarily want to form a hypothesis of rules. If you ever take a workshop with me you will quickly realize that I choose to disregard rules in almost every aspect of my life and my photography. And I believe that creativity cannot be contained within a set of rules. Rules force us to follow a standard of practice, and while that may work for controlling crime, slowing down speeders, and successful scientific discovery, it completely ruins the concept of creativity. While my way of teaching others how to create a compelling image differ from the norm due to my educational background as an architect, there are areas of image making where decisions have to be made. So in a world of creative decision making that has many drinking the Kool-Aid of free expression, how do I decide on what work to keep? Here are 5 reasons to reject an image that I have discovered work best in most image making scenarios. Just like rules, plan on disregarding any of these reasons for, well, any reason.

Silhouette Trees Movement Sunset by Jay Goodrich

No. 1 – Blurry without Intended Motion.

While there are certainly times when I intentionally blur part or all of my image. There are also many times when I do the same unintentionally. Too slow of a shutter speed to be hand holding, wind vibration, and even accidentally kicking my tripod have all ruined images. How do we identify this type of blur? Simple. There is typically a ghost or halo of the original image just pixels away from what is somewhat sharp in the very same image. These cypress trees were taken handheld in Florida just after I purchased a new Canon 1D Mark III. I made three very simple mistakes that could have kept this image tack sharp. One, I used a shutter speed of 1/13th of a second. Way too slow for handholding even when using a 17-35mm lens (a great suggestion is to at least match your focal length with your shutter speed – this image was taken at 26mm so if I used 1/25th of a second or higher I could have had a better chance of succeeding). Two, I used an aperture of f/22. Way too small of a lens opening for this shot, f/11 probably would have sufficed. And finally, three, I used an ISO of only 100. Very easily I could have fixed any one of my camera settings to get more speed and the image would have been sharp. Or I could have put the camera on a tripod and succeeded with the chosen settings.

Lines Branches Moss Lobos California by Jay Goodrich

No. 1 – The Solution.

Many years later with a very similar situation in Big Sur, California, I chose almost the same exact settings in camera. The difference this time around – I put the camera on a tripod. Notice how much detail there is in the bark and lichen of the branches.

Pattern Abstract Concrete Sidewalk by Jay Goodrich

No. 2 – Distracting Elements.

When I stumbled upon this patterning on a sidewalk in Astoria, Oregon I also discovered someone else’s trash – a rotten banana peel. I could have cloned the peel out using Photoshop CC, but it was just as easy to pick it up and throw it in the trash where it should have been discarded in the first place. In this composition the peel offers a tangible element in a completely abstract field. Without the peel, you have a harder time figuring out what the literal translation of the subject is in your mind. Thus, I keep you lingering on the photo longer.

Pattern Abstract Concrete Sidewalk by Jay Goodrich

No. 2 – The Solution.

Much cleaner and makes you think about what you are looking at bit longer.

Reflection Lake Mountains Tetons Wyoming by Jay Goodrich

No. 2 – For Every Reason there is an Equal and Opposite Reason.

Now you would probably think that the dead tree trunks are the distraction here. I believe that their hard edged, detail-less lines add to the overall abstractness of the image. It takes the viewer a moment to realize that they are looking at reflection in a lake. The entire image is successful because of the angularity of all of its elements. The ice is what gives you the answer to the overall image concept.

Trees Clouds Sunset Storm Colorado by Jay Goodrich

No. 3 – Lack of a Specific Subject.

This dramatic cloud and silhouetted trees at sunset have a few good qualities, but you struggle to figure out what the subject is. Is it the trees or is it the clouds? In addition, the crop through the trees seams less decisive and more of a guess. Is my subject the brighter clouds? Or a study of blue? Nothing hits me over the head here, and thus my lack of subject has you disregarding the image and moving on.

Tetons Mountains Wyoming Jackson Summer by Jay Goodrich

No. 3 – The Solution.

A well composed image that has a strong foreground subject (Flowers and Lichen Covered Boulder) and a strong background subject (Sunrise on the Tetons). Notice how your eye flows from front to back of the image. And you search for all of the little details in between.

City Lights and Energy usage of Shanghai China by Jay Goodrich

No. 4 – Underexposure.

Today, we can fix a poor exposure (within reason) in Lightroom or Photoshop as long as we are shooting RAW in the field. However, exposing too dark will push way too much noise into our original capture when we try to lighten it, thus degrading the final product. This image is perfect example of when not to try to lighten after the fact. There are many photographers who say you should never “chimp” your LCD/histogram. Really? Why not use the tools available to us to succeed on as many levels as possible? This is how I obtained the proper exposure in the field and walked away with a successful image of the skyline of Shanghai.

City Lights and Energy usage of Shanghai China by Jay Goodrich

No. 4 – The Solution.

A proper exposure. Simple enough. And NO noise.

Nest Osprey Chicks Motion Blurry by Jay Goodrich

No. 5 – Inaccurate Focus.

Notice how my focus is on the nest. That doesn’t help my cause at all when the adult osprey is looking right at the camera now does it? So this image would succeed if the eyes of the adult bird were tack sharp. The motion blur of the chicks is fine in my opinion especially because it highlights how excited they get when mom or dad flies in with a meal.

Horses Grazing Spring Backlit Summer by Jay Goodrich

No. 5 – The Solution.

Now you may question my thought process here, but I chose to focus on the horse in the background intentionally. Why? Because our eyes search for the sharpest element in a photograph. If we don’t find something that is sharp we look elsewhere. By focusing on the secondary subject, not the main foreground horse, I am forcing you again, to spend more time on the image. I used the out of focus foreground horse to frame the sharp background one so you at least begin to figure out what is going on here in the image. In addition to all of this explanation, focusing on the background horse adds depth to the image. Your eyes enter and travel farther into the image. This adds a three dimensionality to a two dimensional process.

Photography is a very complex medium. Not only are there creative variables to a successful image, but there are the scientific ones of actually controlling your camera as well. All totaled, I would safely say there are a million ways to succeed and to fail at creating a compelling photograph. It is a lifelong pursuit, that may never hold a finality for my soul. I truly believe the only way to succeed at it is to take every given situation with an open mind and open heart, and never stop experimenting and practicing your craft. Hopefully these five reasons to reject an image will help you make more concise decisions in the very near future. If you want to learn more, join us on a North American Weekend workshop in 2014 where we discuss these and many other ideas to help you successfully create a stronger image in just about any condition.

Join us right here very soon for our next post as we analyze the components of a successful composition.

Exposure Blending Video for Photoshop CS6

It’s not that often that I use exposure blending anymore because many of my clients want a single capture image. In addition though, Adobe’s Lightroom 4 software has such a robust RAW processing engine now, that I can usually get detail out of both my shadows and highlights if I expose in the proper area of my histogram. Like all of photography though, there are many solutions for many situations, and the technique that I highlight here is one of the best that I have found to deal a high dynamic range when my subject rises above my horizon in my composition. I hope that you find it useful in your workflow when processing images as well.

If you have any suggestions for additional tutorials that you would like to see, don’t hesitate to send me an email.

  • Skiing Winter Colorado Cat Patagonia by Jay Goodrich

    Brennen Fitzgerald looking out the window of the snow cat on Molas Pass.

8 Principles for Professional Photographers that I have discovered in My Career

I have been creating images and articles as a business model for a long time now. During that time frame I have discovered some principles for professional photographers that I have found to truly work towards obtaining, maintaining, and growing your career. Here goes without any sort of order.

1. Perseverance. When my wife and I moved to Vail almost two decades ago we had an amazing land lord. He owned two condos in East Vail, one of which he used whenever he had time to spare (which was very rare) and the other in which he rented to us. Based on his personality, there wasn’t any doubt in both of our minds why he was beyond successful. Every time he was in town, he took us to dinner to one of his favorite fine dining restaurants to see how everything was going. The discussions almost always went in the direction of business.

My photography and writing career were in the early stages of becoming a company and I asked Stephen if he had any advice during one of our meals. His reply was direct and to the point as if he had been asked the question several thousand times. “Honestly, the only thing I can offer you Jay, is that my success is based purely on the concept that I have been too dumb to quit over the course of the last twenty years.” Twenty years later and I still consider his suggestion words to live by.

2. Respect Clients. Notice how I am not telling you to like your clients. In fact, you can hate them to the point that you want to stab them in their sleep. Although, if this is your true emotional experience in a given situation, my advice might be to seek counseling or some new clients. The key here is that we are not going to get along with everybody. Especially in a creative industry. Everyone thinks they are right and more so when those people are the ones footing the bills for you.

However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t treat them with the respect that they deserve for getting to their position and shouldn’t expect to receive the same respect from them. Voicing an opinion that is different than a client’s isn’t wrong and if in the end you lose that client because of it, that client wasn’t worth working for anyway.

3. Shoot What You Love. Don’t think for one minute shooting weddings is going to make you successful if you would rather be shooting bears in the Alaskan Wilderness. However, there is nothing wrong with shooting bears in Alaska and shooting weddings if you have a true love for them both. Money and success come to those who put passion into what they are trying to achieve. I don’t care if it is building software, cars, electronics or crunching numbers as an accountant. The best and most qualified people in any field are the ones who love that specific field.

If you hate numbers don’t be an accountant. If you love people, shoot portraits, and if you hate your fellow man go out into the woods and get eaten alive by mosquitos. The key here is coming to the conclusion of what it is you are going to focus on.

4. Compose, Compose, Compose. I don’t care how different your opinion is from mine on this matter, this is the single most important aspect of photography. It is also the hardest to master. While many of you can dispute me saying that light is most important, as you realize your professional career, you will come to grips with the fact that light doesn’t always go the way you visualize and contracts don’t always permit you another day to allow your best work to happen. If you can pull a composition out of thin air in any situation, you can make everyone happy. A strong composition is always the connection to your viewers emotions. Work it, master it, and never drop the ball when looking through that viewfinder. You will never regret it.

5. You Need to Spend Money to Make Money. The key here is business and very few businesses succeed without marketing and an official marketing plan in place. Why would you want to fly by the seat of your pants and always worry about paying your bills? Photography is no harder to succeed at than any other self-made career, which makes it REALLY HARD to achieve your wildest dreams. We may live in the world of opportunity, but thinking for one minute that the world cares about you because you got the cover of Time once in your life a decade ago is as careless as handing your three-year-old matches in a dry hay field. You need to plan and planning has you putting a realistic budget and system in place to show the world that you are not only good at what you do, but that you can get them what they need. Market yourself, your style, your subjects, and your successes and others will come.

6. Confidence. I am not talking ego here. I am talking about bonafide confidence in one’s self. Confidence does not mean that you are cocky. It means that you are content in your place in this world, on this planet, and in your surroundings. You are not self-centered, you give any and all people your time, no matter the situation. You are balanced as best you can be every minute of every day. Tai Chi is the study of Yin and Yang. Most people think of it as a meditative martial art, the true masters find and achieve an equilibrium with the planet, that in turn, finds them as close to indestructible as anything in existence. If you can strive to discover this kind of power, you will in turn succeed. You will know that you are the best that you can be and others will feel that energy. The confident egotist may succeed faster, but in the end you will surpass them. You will steal their bits of good energy and learn how to use it against them. The cocky egotist is truly lacking any and all forms of self-confidence. Discover your Chi.

7. Win the Crowd and You Win Your Freedom. “Proximo: Listen to me. Learn from me. I was not the best because I killed quickly. I was the best because the crowd loved me. Win the crowd and you will win your freedom.” – Gladiator. I know we may be headed down a road of abstractness here, but if you do win the appreciation of those who follow you, you will win. They will help you become successful without blowing the budget in number five of this post. They will in turn win from your shout outs of their shout outs. My father always said, “What comes around, goes around.” Positive thinking and promotion will allow you to write your own ticket. That would be the ticket for your next project that you think will allow you to achieve numbers three and four of this post as well.

8. Consistency. Do everything that you can to achieve consistency in your photography, your brand, and your professionalism. People will notice and the more people that notice, the more success you will discover. Remove the disconnects, like I said earlier it is ok to shoot weddings and bears, but think about how those clients will look at your identity if they are both coming to the same place. Who will be turned off and who will be turned on? Which side of the fence is greater? Separation here is okay, if different clients are going to different locations, but the message (brand) is the same for each.

I am a contemporary photographer who creates imagery and stories of adventure and architecture, but if you are not an architect, you are not coming to the site (that would be this site) that highlights my roller coaster of life. However, you are seeing the same contemporary imagery and brand identity on the site that I do bring you to.

Have you discovered some aspect of life or career that has helped you understand your place in this world? Give us a comment!

  • Photographing Through the Cypress by Jay Goodrich

    Lisa Lashaway photographs along the coast near Monterey California.

Open

With the announcement of our new website last week, I discussed changing directions. About taking your current status quo and trying to explore new avenues with your photography. Wonderful, right? There is a catch here though, and that is becoming open to the change. You can decide to go for it, decide you can make images in another discipline, but the bottom line is, regardless of your decision, you are going to need to become much more aware of your current surroundings in order to achieve it. And in reality, it’s not even about awareness, but a conscious effort or training even.

Anyone can post the sign “Professional Photographer” at their front door. There is no test that has to be passed. You do not need to go to school for any kind of degree. Hell, you don’t even need to have a closet full of equipment. The reality though, is that you wouldn’t get very far, because in today’s society, people only want to work with people who can prove their experience. In another thought too, you wouldn’t even know how to take a picture if you were that far removed from your title. I am assuming that we can agree that it is not a lack of experience here, at least for what you currently focus on, no it is about stepping into different waters.

You have experience and knowledge, you just don’t have experience and knowledge in the subject you are about to immerse yourself into. So what will it take to get that experience? It will take time and it will take training. This training doesn’t need to be formal though, it can be experience driven. You can take the knowledge you already have and build upon it. Photograph and study, then adjust, then photograph some more. Eventually you will have the experience. It is in that experience then that you will have the consciousness to achieve. Why? Because once you have enough experiences, your brain transforms. It begins to talk to you instead of you talking to it.

When this little switch occurs, you notice things that you may not have noticed before. All of a sudden your level of seeing escalates beyond were you were an hour ago, a day ago, or even a year ago. It is at this point that you realize that heading out into any photographic situation with a preconceived idea is almost ludicrous. Unless of course you have planned and sketched the whole image out, and you are building the concept from the ground up. This holds true for much of the commercial photography out there.

The shot I have included in this post is the proof of this building block scenario. I changed directions for my new website. This took me out of my comfort zone and had me photographing things that I barely touched upon before. The trial and inexperience period happened fast only because I already had the building blocks of creativity laid prior with an architecture degree and fifteen years of photographing. None the less, it was hard to take an image with a person in it, that wasn’t doing something visually exciting – mountain biking, skiing, etc. Fast forward six months – my eyes, brain, and motor skills are teed up in search of these scenarios now. So when I was photographing an abstract of some trees along the coast of California during a workshop last week, my mind was on the lookout.

When one of our participants walked into my composition, I pounced. I shot something that I would have never seen a year prior because my brain would not have possessed the training to look. I would have probably asked her to move out of the scene. And the beauty of the whole situation is that none of the other people standing next to me realized I took the image, until they saw it at the end of the workshop. Go ahead and change directions, but make sure that when you do, you become open to as many situations in your surroundings that your brain will allow you to go after. Your image making skills will definitely show for it.

And The Winners Are…

Architecture Photography by Jay Goodrich Style

Notice that I said winners? Because it is Christmas and I have a soft spot at this time of year and only this time of year, EVERYONE that commented on last week’s post regarding how I shot an interior image is getting a print of their choosing. So Younes, Dave, Ilene, Dick, and Michael just email me your choice from anywhere on any of my sites, include your shipping address, and I will print and ship you a signed print for playing. I also wanted to mention that all of you managed to highlight something that I did to get this image. In an effort to not leave you hanging, here is the full story.

Step 1-Spend over an hour moving all of the homeowners not so great furniture out of the way. This included hundreds of knick-nacks. Assorted bark-a-loungers, pieces of ocean glass, and even the cat. By the way, the cat acted like a dog and I loved that thing. He just always wanted to be in my frame. Then bring in the tripod and camera. In this case I did in fact use a Canon 24mm Tilt-Shift lens on a 1D Mark IV body with a cable release. The tripod and camera were then leveled with a handy hot-shoe bubble level.

Step 2-Use said camera vertically to capture 9 exposures of 4 separate compositions beginning at the left of the frame and continuing with about 50% over lap to the right side of my composition. All images were shot in RAW. No external lighting here.

Step 3-Move all of the shit back into place. Continue photographing house until it was pitch black out and pouring to the point that all of my lens glass was fogged with condensation.

Step 4-Ride the two hour ferry back home. Thank god it was Thanksgiving and not 4th of July–early sunset.

Step 5-Get kissed and hugged by the kids, yelled at by the wife because I am a stupid man. Then kissed by the wife.

Step 6-Upload close to a thousand images into the server.

Step 7-Begin to edit, sort, and process.

Step 8-Process this image. It was a 6 hour long mission. The whole image was mastered completely by hand. First, each of the four compositions needed to be merged to balance the exterior light coming in with the level drop that was present in the interior. Yes, the exterior does really look like what is shown in the glass, but it doesn’t necessarily need to for a lot of my clients. Then, I balanced out all of the lights and darks to make the interior look exactly as I wanted. The Mask Adjustment Palette in Photoshop CS5 is amazing for this. Now, the separate compositions need to be merged together. I have to admit that I did use the Photo Merge function in Photoshop to make this happen. It did a pretty good job. Where this function falls short is in the pattern areas of the plywood and ceiling panels. So after I finalized the crop, I then go back to my separate un-merged exposure images and cut and paste specific areas to make everything line up. Also there was a glass cabinet right above the bench in the fireplace tower that I completely cloned out because it was, yes, full of more ugly shit. This file was then saved as a layered composition file just in case I ever need to move more things around. And it is 1.5GB in size. This is why I use a Mac Pro with 30 inch Cinema Display.

Screen Shot of Jay Goodrich's Computer

Step 9-Flatten the image and go to town removing dust and miscellaneous things that just couldn’t be removed in the field. Then adjust for color, contrast, lightness, darkness, saturation etc. Click the image above to see what all of the layers are. At this point the file is only 630MB +/- something that is workable. :)

Step 10-Go to bed for a mere 4 hours it was 3am and I had 7 other images that needed to completed before noon to be sent off to the book publisher, who is Australia and they are a full day ahead of me.

Step 11-Today I fixed the leaning mullions in the image that I noticed yesterday when I did an architecture promo. See, it never really ends. Just Morphosises onto to something else. Like crazy mountain biking.

Making Your Whites White in Photoshop CS5

Have you ever wondered how to get your whites truly white in an image without changing the overall brightness or colors within that image in Adobe Photoshop CS5? Here is how I achieve it. As usual when I post how-to tips the images are viewable larger just by clicking on them.

Balancing Whites 1by Jay GoodrichHere is my image after making basic adjustments in Lightroom 3. I will typically import my RAW into Photoshop, clean up the dust, and then apply an Auto Curves layer to start with. In this image, I have turned that layer off, as well as my first white adjustment layer so you can see the image from our initial starting point.

Balancing Whites 2 by Jay GoodrichNow by turning on both of the curves layers (curves auto and curves lighten) you can see that the image has pop and something a little concerning on it. Take note where I have drawn over the washing tide foam with a lightening curves adjustment layer. I am using a relatively small soft-edged brush to do this, around 90 pixels +/- in diameter and hardness set to 0%.

Balancing Whites 3 by Jay GoodrichDon’t worry, we are not going to keep the brush strokes that dramatic. We are going to apply a blur directly to the mask to smooth everything out. With the layer mask of “curves lighten” selected, I head up to the top menu bar and pick Filters>Blur>Gaussian Blur.

Balancing Whites 4 by Jay GoodrichWith a Blur Radius of 0.1 pixels the effect of what we are about to do isn’t even noticeable.

Balancing Whites 5 by Jay GoodrichNotice how our hard edged brush stokes begin to smooth out as we set our Radius higher to 50 pixels. This is better but we are not there yet.

Balancing Whites 6 by Jay GoodrichNow at a Radius of 90 pixels look how smooth the effect has become. The whites of the moving sea foam are completely lightened and highlighted as they are moving in and out with the tide.

Balancing Whites 7 by Jay GoodrichHere is what the mask looks like after the blur. Notice how the edges gradually fade with the Gaussian Blur applied to them.

Balancing Whites 8 by Jay Goodrich

I like the effect, but I want a little more. In order to do that all I have to do is copy my first lighten layer and rename it to “curves lighten 2″. However this now makes the effect way too dramatic.

Balancing Whites 9 by Jay Goodrich

The whites are now too white for the surrounding colors in the image. Head into a panic and then back off.

Balancing Whites 10 by Jay GoodrichTo fix that all I do is back off the Opacity slider for the “curves lighten 2″ layer to 40%. Now the moving sea foam in my image looks white and has a much more dramatic presence leading the viewer’s eye out into the Caribbean Ocean. Want to learn more tips and tricks like this one. Attend one of my upcoming workshops where I teach many techniques just like this one.

 

 

 

Photography Tips–Merging Two Exposures in Photoshop

 

Sunrise Over the Desert, Escalante, UT by Jay Goodrich

 On a recent trip to the desert southwest of Utah I photographed an amazing sunrise as a winter storm front approached my location. For landscape photographs such as this one, I prefer to use a graduated neutral density filter in the field to balance out my scene’s High Dynamic Range, but the composition that I selected for this particular moment did not allow me to follow this practice for two reasons. One, my horizon line was very erratic and jagged, which would have made the filter’s delineating line visible along the top of lower peak. Second, I decided to use my new Vari-ND filter from Singh-Ray to slow my shutter speed drastically, which blurred the clouds in the sky to give them a more dramatic look as they drifted across my composition. This filter had my shutter speed so slow that my standard practice of hand holding the grad ND filter still in front of my lens, for the prescribed amount of time, would have been next to impossible.

So with the given parameters how would you accomplish the above image? Simple, take two exposures, one for the sky and one for the foreground then merge the two in Photoshop CS5 to yield the desired results.

Screen Shot (click to enlarge) Importing from Lightroom 3 to Photoshop CS5

As you can see I have selected the two exposures in Lightroom 3, which is what I use to manage my catalog of images and make global adjustments to all of my raw files. These two files have had those initial adjustments already done. From here I right click on my main selected image and choose Edit In>Open as Layers in Photoshop…Lightroom sends my files to Photoshop and stacks the files in layers in a single document. Once the files have loaded you may need to adjust the order of the layers. I always put my darkest image on top, lightest on the bottom, and any consecutive images from darkest to lightest in between the two by simply dragging and dropping them in the appropriate locations.

Image 2--Screen Shot (click to enlarge) Making Selection in Photoshop CS5

 In this next screen shot you can see the two layers, the darker on top which I have temporarily turned off for my next step, which is to select the area of the sky on the foreground image that I want to replace. The reason I use the lighter image to select the sky is because it is easier to make a selection in an area that contains less contrast and detail. To make the selection, I am using the Quick Selection Tool which I have circled in the upper left of the image in red. You can also see the “marching ants” of my selection in the image.

Image 3--Screen Shot (click to enlarge) Layer Selection Photoshop CS5

 Once you have the whole sky selected, turn your upper/darker image back on and click on it to make it the current layer. Take note of how I had to shift the upper image just a bit to get it to line up perfectly with my foreground image below. My tripod collar had a bit of play in it and I managed to spin the lens a little in between exposures.

Image 4--Screen Shot (click to enlarge) Creating Layer Mask Photoshop CS5

Next, with my darker image layer selected, and my “marching ants” selection still current  from image 2 above, I pick the Add a Mask icon at the bottom of my layers palette. You can see that Photoshop creates a Layer Mask on my darker layer revealing the sky/marching ants selection and concealing the darker part of the foreground which was not selected. A sentence to always remember when using layer masks in Photoshop is “White reveals and black conceals.” Next look at the dividing line between both images, it is quite noticeable after this process. Adobe has made some major refinements to their Masks Palette in Photoshop CS5, so now we can easily adjust our mask line in seconds. Make sure your Layer Mask is selected in your darker layer as it is in my image above noted by the smaller red circle in the larger one.

Image 5--Screen Shot (click to enlarge) Adjusting the Edges of a Layer Mask Photoshop CS5

 With our final adjustment we need to open the Masks Palette and then select the Mask Edge…option. This opens a dialog which allows us to adjust the edges of our selected mask. As you can see in the Refine Mask dialog box that I have checked the Smart Radius option, given it an 80 pixel Radius. Then adjusted the Feather to .5 pixels, and Shifted my edge to the plus side by 30%. If you compare the mask edge in this image with the edge in Image 4 you can see how much smoother the transition has become. From here I would typically use the Blur Tool to further refine and smooth my edge transition. Then I save that file separately should I decided to make further refinements in the future. Now I flatten my image and make all of my color, contrast, and exposure adjustments to a final master copy of the photo.

To learn more about the techniques involved in creating HDR images, Jay Goodrich will be teaching a 3 hour workshop at this year’s NANPA Summit in McAllen, TX.

Image Mastering with Grant Kaye

Grant Kaye came to us for a One-On-One image mastering session . It is essentially a way for any photographer out there to get to spend an hour or more working on their images with Jay from their computer to his. Grant is a photographer from Truckee, California visit his website to see more of his amazing work. Here is an email from him regarding his experience.

Lahontan Lake State Recreational Raw by Grant Kaye

I recently discovered a unique and affordable educational opportunity offered by renowned nature and architectural photographer Jay Goodrich. Using  Skype or iChat, Jay will work with you step by step in mastering one of your own images for only $95. The day before our session, I sent Jay a gallery of images from my last two weeks of shooting, and he picked one that he thought would benefit the most from his expertise and approach to processing. The image, was a long exposure shot at dusk after a heavy rain at an eroded shoreline of Lahontan Lake State Recreational area outside of Fallon, NV. While pleased with the composition, I wasn’t quite able to get it to “pop” in a way that conveyed the gloomy, melancholy – yet beautiful – feelings I experienced when making the exposure.

We decided to use my preferred editing suite of Camera Raw in Photoshop (he prefers Lightroom), and after working through some technical difficulties due to my internet connection, Jay brought up my image on his screen, shared it with me on mine, and began to tailor the lesson specifically to my needs. While I have a solid understanding of the fundamentals of digital image processing, I could tell after a few minutes of watching Jay’s workflow on my image that I stood to learn a great deal by observing a master of his craft attack an image of mine. After going through the standards and basic techniques of white balancing and subtle exposure adjustments in Camera Raw, the real performance began in Photoshop as Jay deftly removed dust and then selectively enhanced color and contrast, all via curves adjustment layers expertly applied through selectively shaped masks. As he worked, Jay shared the reasoning behind his adjustments as he made them, answered my many questions, and gently reiterated his objective of utilizing the different processing techniques with the overarching goal of keeping the “statement” of my image in mind. We discussed what I was trying to say with my image, how I wanted the viewer to view it, and how he could tailor his processing steps to best meet those goals.

Lahontan Lake State Recreational Raw by Grant Kaye

As the session drew to a close, I was extremely pleased with Jay’s processing. I felt the resulting image spoke clearly and powerfully in ways that my original attempt did not. Jay sent along the PSD file with his adjustments intact so I can examine them more closely at my leisure.  In the end, I gained invaluable knowledge that I will now have in my toolset to apply to future images, and I even learned a few incredibly useful new keyboard shortcuts. We can all use more of those!

Screen Shot of Layers in Photoshop CS5 by Jay Goodrich

Can’t Han…dle the Wor….kload

For the last week I have been under the gun from commercial architecture clients with ridiculous deadlines. I essentially have 7 projects to finish mastering by the 15th of November, which all came to fruition at the same time last week. It wasn’t like I was slacking on my end, just playing on Facebook and Twitter, figuring that somehow all this stuff would magically get done. No, I am blaming the clients for slacking in this event. I really want to give them a piece of my mind, but the reality is that it would accomplish very little, and I would probably lose those clients in the process of venting and making myself feel better. That means I sit at my wonderful computer relentlessly for days,listening to and purchasing tons of music from Apple. I have spent so much time in Photoshop in the past week, I want to start writing the code for that program. No, not really, but I have become more knowledgable with it than ever before. The up side to all of this is that on the 15th, next Monday, I will have the billings to reflect the fruits of my labor. Is there really a downside to all this? Well the only real thing I can think of, is missing out on some quality sleep time. I have always said though that sleep is for the dead. Well honey, I might be dead and don’t really know it yet–would that make me a vampire?

As I have been typing this I have watched the sun rise over Mount Baker and begin streaming into my office. I love the early morning light here in Washington. For those who have never experienced it, it is almost indescribable. With that said, I need to head back to image mastering, but I did want to show you what happens with a typical architectural image of mine. Many of these new photographs will be on the new website when it launches on January 1, 2011–1/1/11.

Raw File from a Private Residence in Colorado by Jay Goodrich

The above image is the original raw, middle exposure photo from a gallery hallway in one of the projects that I am now working on. I did not light this scene with my typical hot lights or strobes, although I did capture 5, additional, one-stop exposures that I fused together with Photomatix Pro to even out the scene. Then the real work began. The client specified that they wanted the track lighting, miscellaneous sprinkler covers, alarm sensors, HVAC grills, and smoke detectors taken out of the image. To which I obliged thanks to the the new Content-Aware feature in Photoshop CS5. Being in control of how my work is viewed though, that was just the starting point. Removing the lights were easy, fixing the areas where they cast light on–the walls, was where I spent the time. In the end, there were close to two hours spent mastering this image and that is pretty much the norm for all of my architecture photographs. That is why I charge mucho dinero for this work.

Final Mastered Image from a Private Residence in Colorado by Jay Goodrich

Notice the lack of lighting on the beam, it is actually a new beam. Then there is the smoothing out of the light casts on the walls, the balanced color, and additional contrast. I was okay leaving the light on the floor in the foreground because if you notice further down the hall there is the same cast, which is actually from the same track lights. Those just happen to be on the backside of the beam in relation to the camera. And, if you ever want to know how I do all this, you can always sign up for a one-on-one chat session and I will show you. Well, the sun is up and this vampire has to go back to work. I have many new post ideas coming, I just need to find some time to get them all out there. In the meantime, let me know what you think of the image.

  • geyser bacteria colors by Jay Goodrich

    the multiple colors and patterns of geyser bacteria in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

  • geyser bacteria colors by Jay Goodrich

    the multiple colors and patterns of geyser bacteria in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Photoshop CS5 – Spot Healing Brush Tool – Welcome Back from the Darkside

Continuing my exploration of Adobe’s new CS5 Master Collection from a recent first post of ours, I have discovered a newly reinvented friend in Photoshop CS5. The Spot Healing Brush Tool has, up until now, never been my favorite tool to fix and remove dust, branches, etc. from an image. It just never seemed to get it right, unless I was using it to clone dust out of a clear blue sky. Now Adobe has brought this tool back from the “Darkside” and in the process made my job of cloning things out of an image almost too easy. If you roll over the above image you will see what I am talking about. In the past cleaning up an image like the above one would have taken hours and the use of multiple tools and possibly layers to get everything right. This morning it was about a 15 minute project and the new image looks almost perfect.

The key to the Spot Healing Brush is in one of the dialogs at the tool’s top menu named Type. In this dialog, a new option has surfaced and it is aptly named Content-Aware. I have to tell you that it works like magic. I don’t know how those brainiac people at Adobe came up with this one, but it is truly amazing to work with on an image.

A simple click and drag is all it took to remove all of the unwanted items in the above photograph. The image above is about color, texture, and lines. With the Content-Aware option for the Spot Healing Brush Tool I was able to make the image solely about that and not about the sticks that have made their way into the waters over time. Soon I will discuss using another tool where this option exists and works just as amazingly–Content-Aware Fill. It allows you to fill any selection and it works like magic too!

  • Big Leaf Maple Portrait by Jay Goodrich

    Jade Goodrich hides behind a giant big leaf maple during peak fall colors in Washington.

Structure – You Can’t Build Without It

I have been thinking about my photography lately. My style, my vision, my technique. How I create. What I create. What I want to create next. Photography is truly a never ending learning experience. If you want to be successful and I mean really successful, not like me–I am still too young, you need to have staying power. And to achieve that staying power you need to really know photography inside and out. This post is the beginning of a new category on this blog entitled “Structure”. Why is it called Structure? Because I am going to write about those little building blocks that I have discovered along the way to help hold the house of photography up for me. Hopefully, in the long run, helping you to do the same.

Structure is posts, beams, walls, concrete, steel, wood. Today’s structure is the portrait. I am not talking about being the next Richard Avedon. I am talking about creating a portrait of anyone that has something more to it than a simple snapshot. This is something that every photographer regardless of descipline should be able to do. Someone in the park hands you their point and shoot and asks if you can take a picture of them? Can you? It is important. If you say I shoot birds not people, I am not looking to do that, you have failed. Why? Because you are not thinking outside of your box, and if you are not thinking outside of your box, you are not growing, and growth is important to creativity. I know some of you are thinking that I am completely off of my rocker right now but think about it. No matter what you photograph, does it not contain a strong subject? Does it not contain powerful light? Does it not contain a meticulously organinzed subject? Now if you took these three ingredients and applied them to any photograph, regardless of subject, would you not be able to create a strong image? I believe that you would.

The portrait is really hard. It is not a gimme. You have your subject given to you, now you have take that subject and give it to your viewer in a way that they say, “Hold on here, I need to figure this out.” It needs to highlight your subject’s soul. Make your viewer connect with the person in your portrait. “Win the crowd and you win your freedom.” or something like that.

Now back to that park scenario. Inevitably it is going to come at you in the middle of the day, high noon. Time for a gunslinger fight not a photo, right? The people asking you are not photographers, you however are. What can you do? Take those people into the shade for heaven’s sake. What no shade? How about some fill flash? Maybe a little wide angle to capture the surroundings. Wide angle lenses also expand your exposure latitude. Come on you are not saying that the point and shoot has no wide angle? Step back a little. Are there buildings near by with a shady side? And don’t just blast a mugshot. Give them something that they can react to and ask how did you do that? Talk to them for a few minutes. Get their details. Ask them questions. This is a gunfight that is won by being the last to shoot.

And then if they like the image, give them your card. You just promoted the fact that you are a photographer and you are decent, if nothing else. Who knows, maybe one of them will come to you for some instruction some day.

  • Bobsleigh Speed by Jay Goodrich

    4 man bobsleigh final at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Cananda

Vancouver 2010 – The Olympics – Part 2 – The Context

In my first post regarding my visit to the 2010 Winter Olympics, I discussed an image and fascination with the bobsleigh since childhood. With this post I want to take the photographic process a little further and talk about image context. Any time that I shoot a story or idea, whether it be a personal project or an assignment for a client, I create a series of images in my head (and notebook) that I think would illustrate it. After I captured the high-speed image from my previous post, I was looking to create an image that captured the event, the people, the weather, the time of year, and the environment of the location. As I was walking up the Whistler Sliding Center course I noticed a view corridor through a stand of fir trees that allowed me to frame my subject. It was snowing extremely hard at the time and experience has taught me that fast shutter speeds can stop that falling snow, which in turn would work for the sled that was cruising along at 80 plus miles an hour.

This location quickly became my context photograph for this event of the 2010 Olympic Games. The only problem was the difficulty in creating it. I was for the most part shooting blind. Lucky for me I had 6 free assistants standing over my shoulders. They were the friends that I was visiting with. After missing my first image, I figured out the timing of where the bobsleigh was going to be when I needed to release the shutter. I had two of my friends coordinate that location together and give me the standing 10 count to shutter release. The image above is the result of multiple people simply understanding what I was looking for and shouting to me at the perfect moment in time. Mission accomplished, an image that shows the weather, the environment, the spectators, the event, and even the year.

  • Rainy Vine Maple by Jay Goodrich

    Vine Maple branches along the Nooksack River in Northern Cascades National Park, Washington.

Last Week-Rain, This Week-Rain, Next Week-Rain

We have returned home from the dry side of the Cascades, leaving the sun and beautiful colors of the Painted Hills behind. The weather in the Pacific Northwest is needless to say a little wet. In order to welcome us here, the rainfall average is 68% above normal. I wanted moisture. Always be careful what you wish for, right? That’s great for snow, if it weren’t so warm. And I am not going to ever be tan again. Just call me Chaulky. My wife always says that I need to look at the bright side. Here you go sweetie-I guess I won’t die from skin cancer, unless I already have it. That’s positive right?

Where is this going? If it is going anywhere it would be that the moral of the story is to throw caution to the wind and go out and get wet. Nature is wonderful no matter what the weather is doing, and actually, the forest can be pretty amazing during the rain. That is just what we did upon returning home. We spent a morning shooting in the Mount Baker National Forest in, you guessed it, a rain storm. The Mount Baker Highway possesses some of the easiest accessible forest imagery I have ever seen. This image of a big leaf maple covered in moss was taken using a Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer. What this great little filter did was pull all of the sheen off of all of the foliage and the Nooksack River, and then warmed the cool blues being generated from the rainy overcast conditions. I love the texture and forms of the forest along this road.