Tag Archives: california

Dissecting a Landscape Photo

We all dissect photos! Each time we observe and analyze a photograph, we are mentally dissecting it into what we like and dislike about it. It’s a great way to learn from others and apply what we learn to our own work.

I shot this picture here on a 4×5 camera probably 25 years ago and I have not looked at in many years as it sits in my film files, which rarely get opened anymore.

It is enjoyable to sort through my massive film files and find images I have forgotten about and then, as  teacher of photography these days, I dissect them into what works and does not work, and share that. I even try to see if I can remember what I was thinking when I captured the image.

I see a lot going on in this photo.

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There is a term used a lot in photography these days called ‘lighting in layers‘ and it really has more to do with Photoshop compositing (at least to me) and I think I can look at this image and say the same thing.

When I was photographing this dune in Death Valley, I was very fortunate to be there after a storm which added ripples to the dunes but also erased footprints, which these days, are challenging to get away from.

To the right of the position seen here, was the top of the dune which curved to the right and downhill again. What I mean is that to the right, the dune was more evenly lit and the ripples of sand not so apparent.

By moving left or down slope, the light exaggerated the ripples more. Those ripples also point into the picture and that is a great example of leading lines, guiding the eye into the picture.

There is also a second layer of dunes beyond the foreground dunes and those are followed by the furthest dunes, which are lit with pretty even light due to the angle of the dunes.

All this, plus a little more, adds to an image that incorporates a lot of different elements. You have layers in the three sections of dunes that lead into the picture. Each section is lit differently, going from a dark foreground to the next section of dunes and finishing at the brightest section, which is where the eye finishes. Then there is the bush on the left, strategically positioned in the composition.

The result is an image that has various levels of brightness on each dune section along with leading lines and all this directs the eye to the brightest dune, and the visual destination.

As I mentioned previously, dissecting photographs is a great way to explore what works and does not work with an image and is a great aid when developing your own vision.

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The Amazing Colors of Mexico

The colors of Mexico always amaze me as they are pretty much everywhere. Saturday we walked into Los Algadones, MX for the Gringos Go Home celebration. I should mention: that is not what it sounds like.

Yuma, AZ is the highest rated Snowbird destination during the North American winters and Los Algadones is right across the border from Winterhaven, CA, a few minutes from Yuma. So you can see the importance of Snowbirds to Los Algadones and their economy.

They local community is so appreciative of winter visitors they put on the Gringos Go Home party on Saturday where there was festive music, free beer, and free food. It was great!

Like other locations in Mexico, Los Algadones is quite colorful and perfect for my obsession with iPhone ‘Happy Snappin.’ As I wandered the streets I was not disappointed. That led me to this wall tucked in between street vendors.

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I love these types discoveries and the photos I create of them. The vendor next to this mentioned that the wall was 30 years old and hand prints had been added over the years by school children. It is a great story, but the wall says it all to me.

This file is from my iPhone and I then used Adobe Photoshop Mix (the app) to add contrast (make the whites whiter and darks darker) and added some saturation and slight sharpening.
Viva Mexico!

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Master Back Lighting in Landscape Photography

Back light in nature and landscape photography is very effective lighting technique. When a subject is back lit the sun is in front of you or very close. I like to reference the Lighting Clock as example.

The camera is at 6 o’clock and the subject is in the middle of the clock. If the light is to either side, then it is at approximately 9 or 3 o’clock. I generally think of back light as anywhere between 10:30 and 1:30.

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In this example from the Anza Borrego in CA, the sun is in that zone of 10-12 o’clock. What I love about this photo is that back lighting adds amazing definition to the cactus and especially the Chollas. It looks like fuzz. This approach works on many subjects, even ones that dont look so great side lit.

For processing I added a hint of contrast to make the shadows touch darker, a bit of saturation, and the sky went white which is common in back lit images due to haze and such. So I added a touch of blue back in. Then sharpened a hint as well.

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A Constant Craving

At some point a bird walked by and left these imprints on the wet sandy beach. Birds are foragers, always looking for something to eat that will sustain them. I as well am a forager, always searching for something to feed my craving to create. It’s a never ending hunger. Photography sustains me!

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Captured with a Nikon point and shoot and processed in Photoshop and Topaz Adjust. One of the things I do when I look at something like this is to find angles or rotate the camera to create impact to the lines that are in the scene. The footprints were going in one direction so by positioning the camera to make those footprints come from one corner up to the other, more drama is created in the composition.

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An Historic Post-Processing Look for a Ghost Town Photo

I have thing for photographing through windows of old west ghost towns and taking pictures through the old glass. I get my lens as close as I can to the glass without risking damage, then shade the lens as best I can to remove external reflections , and bracket exposures like crazy.

Here is the barbershop in Randsburg, CA shot a few weeks ago. You can see some of the outside reflections around the left side and that is due to my hands not blocking all the glare. I shot a two image pano: left and right side as vertical images, then let Photoshop stitch them. Next I went into Photomatix and gave it a medium HDR grunge look. Then opened in Topaz B&W Effects and used the filter: Flavescent which added the yellowed newspaper look I wanted. I finished with another layer using the Blueprint effect and set that to 30% opacity to add a dark edginess.

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When I like what I created, I abandon it for the next image. 

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