Let’s Just Call It Progress For Now…

Having mentioned in previous posts that I have felt a certain amount of intimidation… and perhaps even trepidation… regarding Adobe Lightroom (and it’s little brother, Photoshop Elements), it has come as good news to yours truly that I have been busy embracing Lightroom (“Lr” from here forward) over the past week.

It is such an incredibly huge programme with so many features, options, settings, etc. such that I don’t even know where to begin most days. Clearly the user’s guide would probably be a nice starting point, but that would be way to easy. We can’t have that, now can we?

Regardless, I have thrown myself into it with full effect and, like the younger version of your humble narrator, remain hopeful that all will be just fine regardless. And thus far…. well… it’s been a bit of mixed bag.

No doubt Lr is a very powerful application for viewing, editing and cataloguing image files and thus far I have only scratched the surface of all it can do to images and for for me. I spent the better part of a week adding keywords to approximately 1/3 of all my pictures (not having yet imported the other 2/3’s) and began working on a project which I have neglected for far too long: processing the pics from my trip to Wisconsin for my grandmother’s funeral and my cousin’s wedding.

It has been during this first major undertaking using Lr that I have started to use some of the more everyday features (or I assume they are ‘everyday’) including a smattering of keyboard shortcuts (I love keyboard shortcuts) and the collections feature. I have also embraced the Auto button in the Development mode, at least for this particular project.

First, collections is a way to group together photos that share some sort of user-defined common theme. Perhaps it is a birthday party. Or a certain person. Or whatever it is you might want to group together for some purpose. For me it was the opportunity to group together the pictures from my trip to Wisconsin. See… that trip includes pictures of different events and settings and as I knew that some images would likely demand more of my attention in post-processing and that some would only be shared with family I elected to divide the entire group of imported pictures into collections. One collection for funeral-related stuff. Another for visiting some friends in Two Rivers. And yet another for the wedding… and so on. Dividing all the pictures into these collections allowed me to work on them in smaller batches and with certain ideas regarding their processing/editing being specific to the collection.

It also made it easier when it came to exporting them as JPEGs because I could select only those collections which I was going to share with family members via burned DVDs. For instance, the pictures I took of my friends in Two Rivers as well as mine and my dad’s photography excursion to the WW II submarine exhibit will not go out to the family members. As such I need only select the other collections for exportation to JPEG, thus leaving the unrelated pictures off the DVD.


However, not all is sunshine and bunnies with this collection business. First, it seems that I cannot always remove a photograph from a collection as the option to do such is greyed out. In some collections this isn’t a problem, but in others… well…. it’s a problem. And as yet I haven’t seen any recognizable relationship between those pictures I can remove from a collection and those that I cannot.

In an unrelated, but equally confusing matter, I have noticed that some functions/settings can be applied to images when they are selected in the filmstrip, which runs along the bottom of the Lr window. However, other functions/settings cannot be applied from the filmstrip, but must be handled either from grid view or as a single image in the viewer. To me that’s just plain weird. A selected image is a selected image and I don’t know why it should matter whether it was selected in the filmstrip or in the grid. Perhaps there is a reason…. a very good reason, but it shall remain a mystery for the moment.

As I mentioned earlier I learned of the miracle of the Auto button in the development module. Auto is just like it sounds: auto-adjustment. Press it and Lr does whatever it does to determine what would make your image better. Nicer. Whatever. And I must say that for the most part it was a rewarding experience to use it. The end result was often very close to the adjustments I made myself, which, after some experimentation, left me feeling confident in its use for moving rapidly through many images.

However, and I think further experimentation is needed before I’m completely certain of this accusation, I’m not certain one can use the Auto option along with the Sync option. It occurred to me after having already gone through maybe one half of the 600+ images I had from Wisconsin, that if I’m generally satisfied with the Auto feature I should use it and then Sync it across all the images! What a time saver! I could then review each photo and if I felt Auto had gotten it wrong I could Reset that image and manipulate by hand to my heart’s delight. Except I don’t think it really worked that way….

As I said, further experimentation is needed, but I think what happened is that when I Auto’d the first image and then synced that to all subsequent images it was the specific individual settings from that Auto-treatment that wound up being applied across the rest of the images, which is NOT what I wanted. No. Instead I wanted Lr to apply the Auto feature to each individual image and not merely copy the Auto-settings from that first image.

Something of a disaster, you know?

But where would humanity be without the adage “Live and learn”?


A Roller Coaster of Indecision

A review of my posts to this oft-neglected blog would reveal a picture of a character who appears completely uncertain of their abilities and/or talents. This, to be frank, describes me perfectly. Lacking confidence… the world is the proverbial ‘glass half empty’… That’s just the way I roll. But I’m trying to do something about that. Taking charge…. trying to see the glass half full instead of the preferred route of half empty…. imagining better outcomes. It is very much an uphill battle.

But lately I have adopted something more of a can-do; take-charge; damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead mentality. And this is a major turn around mentally as it was only a few months back (during the holidays) that I had become very certain it was time to give up on this photography caper…. this photography “lark” as a certain friend is fond of saying.
The reasons were numerous. And almost exclusively shit.

Self-defeating. Self-deprecating. Woe is me. Just pure, 100% fucking bullshit. I tell you I was this close (thumb and fore-finger spread a centimeter apart) to packing up my camera equipment and shipping it off to another friend, who undoubtedly would have put it to far better use than I. However, as the holidays passed I had to make a day-trip to Chicago as part of bringing another portion of my life to a close. And it was during the 12-hour round-trip drive I had loads of time to think. And to ponder. And to re-think and re-ponder. And maybe even wonder a little bit. It was during this trip I decided to stop being such a giant ass and do something about this unbearable situation.

I would get motivated. I would get back into doing photography related things. I would stop looking for excuses as to why I wasn’t doing something and just fucking do it.

And so here I am…. in front of the computer…. adding an entry to my long-neglected photography-related blog. But that’s not all! No!! I’ve already done some other things as well and I’m gonna spill the beans here and now and WOW! you with my steely resolve and dedication. Well…. that is….. if you’re still bothering to read this shit.

First: I bought some books. Not just any ‘ol books either: photography books. For the moment I’ll pass on revealing the author and titles, but suffice it to say I spent no small amount of time researching. I was looking for someone who wasn’t just going to give me a dry dissertation on photography, but someone who would make it feel fun again. I’ll let you know how that goes once I get into them, which will be soon after…

Second: I’m in a photography class. My local camera store, Click! Camera, offers two five-week series of courses designed to help aspiring photographers (hobbyists, not pros) come to grips with this lark. The first course, which started last week, covers the more basic aspects of photography of which I already feel rather certain of. That said, I view this as an opportunity to hopefully expand upon what I already know (or think I know) and to change in wrong information/ideas I might have. And in the meantime…

Third: I caught up with my contacts on Flickr. I regularly follow my contacts uploads and I’m not one who gives them a quick glance in thumbnail sizes. No sir. I open up an extra tab and look at them in slideshow and when I come across one where I wish to leave a comment I return to the previous tab, find the image and leave a comment. I am, if nothing else, a dedicated contact. Except that I wasn’t very dedicated for some months and it took almost an entire week of spending many hours each day in front of the computer to catch up. But I’m glad I did. I enjoy my contact’s pictures and I very much like many of my contacts (the ones with whom I have established a more personal relationship). It felt really good to be caught up.

Fourth: I have revamped my iMac, which is the computer I use for this photography caper. This doesn’t sound like much of anything, but trust me: it’s major. Back when I was working on my old desktop PC and using CaptureOne 4 for editing, etc. I was simply saving my pictures in folders based upon the date I transfered them to the computer from my memory cards. The system was simple, but not particularly helpful at keeping track of my pictures in any meaningful manner. When I purchased the iMac I also purchased Adobe’s Lightroom (v.2), which offered all sorts of options in regards to cataloguing, keywording, etc. To be fair, so did CaptureOne 4, but I had never taken advantage of such options. So not only have I revamped my entire library of photos (not completely true: I haven’t imported the older images edited in CaptureOne to Lr, but I will once I have decided how I want to do this), but I’m going through the slow and laborious process of adding keywords to every single freaking picture I have taken since about May of 2009. No joy, but it should be well worth the effort in the long-term.

Fifth: I entered some pictures into a photography contest! Okay….. this isn’t exactly something new for me as I did enter a picture into a local photography competition last year (taking 2nd place in my category I might add!) and I have entered a handful of pictures into the “Picture of the Week” competition that occurs at my local grocer, but this latest incident is different. Bigger. International. My wife and I regularly donate to an organization called Defenders of Wildlife and this year they are running a photo competition whereby you can enter up to five pics in each of two categories: wildlife and wild lands. As I don’t take much in the way of wild lands photographs I elected to enter the wildlife category, which fortunately for me includes insects! Below are the images I forwarded to the competition:

The important thing about the competition (besides the grand prize, which is a trip to Yellowstone National Park!) is that I entered. That I believed in the power of these particular images. That not entering means there was zero chance I could win, but that entering meant I could win. Sure… the likelihood is quite remote, but that’s not the point. There is some chance…. regardless of how small.

And it is this sort of reaching for what could happen that I need to latch on to. And run with it.

[Update: I just completed the second major process in the way I handle my pictures in Adobe Lightroom by adding keywords to over 1,300 images. What a load off my mind!]

It was bound to happen one day…

Lately I’m behind in all matters regarding photography. I haven’t quite gotten hold of the manner in which Lightroom likes to organize my files and this is frustrating me to no end. I guess I could read the manual a bit, but I wasn’t looking to have to read about file management damn it! This is, in part, why I avoided purchasing such software. I was quite happy with my own system and it served me well. Now I have a robust piece of software that thinks it is helping me, but thus far it, in conjunction with some bone-headed moves of my own, has just made life unexpectedly more complicated.

And then there was the trip to Aullwood Gardens I undertook early last week. I had been charging my camera’s battery expressly for the photo shoot, yet walked right out the door without having grabbed the now fully charged battery. Of course I didn’t realize I had left behind the battery until after I had arrived at the gardens, grabbed all my gear, surveyed the gardens (for maybe 20-minutes) and selected the shots I wanted to take. Setting up the tripod I was humming a little tune to myself and thinking about how lovely was the day and how nice it would be to capture some nice close-ups of the blooming flowers. Imagine my surprise when I turned on the camera, but nothing happened.

And never let it be said that Mother Nature doesn’t have it in for me as well. A few days later (late last week) I returned to Aullwood Gardens so that I might finally snap some pictures, and while walking from the parking lot at Englewood MetroPark I came across a very large blue heron standing quite serenely in the Stillwater River. It was close enough that with my 100-400mm I should have been able to grab a supreme picture. Supreme I say. So I quietly and quickly broke out the tripod and got it set up. I broke out the camera and swapped into place the 100-400mm lens and mounted same to the tripod. And JUST as I framed my shot and considered which aperture I wished to use the damn thing took off. It’s a good thing there were no small children within ear shot.

However, not all is completely lost for I did not yet know that I had some nice heron shots, but from a completely different outing and camera:


Two weeks ago I had ventured to the east banks of the Stillwater River where it runs through the Englewood MetroPark (part of the Five Rivers MetroParks district here in the Dayton, Ohio area). I had with me my Canon Rebel XTi and was hoping to capture some shots of mallards feeding near or along the banks and shoreline. Instead I was treated to a sole heron who was slowly making its way in the river not some 50-yards or so from shore. One thing I have learned about herons is that they are fairly skittish birds and if one sees a heron one should start snapping as soon as possible. With this mantra in mind I trained my camera upon it and fired away. I wound up with a series of photos like the above and below:


I confess that I didn’t think much of the pictures as I looked over them on the tiny LCD screen attached to the back of the camera, but once I was home and had the images opened in Lightroom (and on a nicely sized 24-inch iMac screen) I was much more impressed. Quite impressed to be frank. The low sun was creating great reflections off the water and left the heron in silhouette. My only criticism of the series that look like the first above picture was that too often the heron’s head disappeared into the black area of water just above it. In the end, of the eight or so I took this was the only one where the head was clearly separate from the water. I guess I should clarify though…there was another issue with the picture, but it didn’t rise to the level of problem and that was the strong glare of sunlight off the water.

Fortunately for me I’m finally getting a handle on the use of the Graduated Filter effect in Lightroom and was able to use such to decrease the exposure in a limited area of the image. I was able to keep the colour and strength of the reflected sunlight without the completely over-exposed nature of it. I used this to good effect in both of the above pictures, working the left-side of the above image.

It was also during this scouring of the banks in hopes of photographic opportunity that I came across this reflection in the water:


I snapped the picture less because I thought it was photo-worthy (in terms of its impact), but more because of what it said to me in that moment in time. The long thin cloud is actually a contrail from a passing jet and I was having these thoughts about how strange it was that I was watching the plane and its passengers flying off to who-knows-where to do who-knows-what, but that I was sharing this moment with them from afar. In the end I like the photograph, but I’m more intrigued by the moment itself.

Finally, there was this:


I don’t know about anyone else, but I really enjoy this photo. I had taken position behind a tree in hopes that a couple of nearby mallard ducks would make their way towards me. While standing there waiting for the ducks I noticed this single strand of spider web gently rocking in the soft breeze. I soon became semi-mesmerized by this solitary strand and eventually realized that it was, at least for me, photo-worthy. I switched the lens to manual focus and made the shot. I’m quite pleased with it to be honest. It speaks to me. Unfortunately though I’ve learned from experience that those pictures which speak to me do not usually speak to others. I wonder why that is?

Fear and loathing in Adobe…

It feels as if it has been an age since I posted anything to this WordPress blog. I guess it has been seeing how I usually post every week and yet have only posted twice since 18 March (some 25 days ago). But it’s not my fault….really. Events have conspired against me. Truly. My little side job requires that I finish off the bits and pieces I have before I take my work back to my client in about 10 days. The daughter and her emergency appendectomy. Waiting for the new photo-editing software to arrive. Waiting to find the courage to install said software. Yep. Courage to install software. Sounds pretty lame doesn’t it? Well suck on this for a minute before I explain…


I have discussed this before, but it begs for repeating: I’m afraid of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop Elements. Believe me…no one is more surprised than I. I’ve always been one to jump head-first into new software. Always anxious to grab it by the neck and throttle it for all it’s worth. But for some reason I have been experiencing this incredible sense of trepidation when it comes to both Lightroom and Elements.

I’ve been using other photo editing software in the likes of Phase One’s Capture One 4 which I received for free with the purchase of a high end media card. It really is a nice bit of software: resource light, intuitive (for the most part), covers the basics well, and has an user’s guide one could read in an hour on a Sunday afternoon. Lightroom? The first hint it might be a powerful programme is one looks at the retail price of USD300. The second hint is the pdf of the user’s guide, which weighs in at 175 pages. The third hint can be found at the Adobe website, where one can find what seems like a million or more web pages dedicated just to using Lightroom. Yet, why should this cause me any hesitancy? I’ve used other applications that have large user’s guides and the like, but for whatever reason, this is different.


And then there is Elements! At least Lightroom only took a minute or two to install on the new iMac. Elements took something akin to ten minutes! And talk about intimidating! Over 300 pages can be found stuffed into the user’s guide. THREE HUNDRED! And, of course, there are tonnes of pages dedicated to Elements on the Adobe site, etc.

In a way I think part of the problem is that I don’t even know where to begin. Sure, one can open the user’s guide pdf and start plowing through, but that is, unfortunately, boring. Capture One 4 was so light and basic in comparison that it was difficult to go wrong. And even though one can fix “wrong” with Lightroom or Elements, it just feels far more intimidating to begin with.

Regardless, I finally took the plunge and installed both applications to the new iMac. I also took the liberty of watching a fistful of introductory videos on the Adobe site in relation to Lightroom. Just the first few so that I would have a clearer idea of how to import, catalogue, and develop pictures so that I could clear my camera’s media card and get some shit uploaded to Flickr.


So my first experience with Lightroom went reasonably well. Everything imported just fine. I was able to make the changes I wished without too much difficulty or fussing about. I was even able to make use of the Graduated Filter feature without much difficulty….at least on two images. A third one never worked correctly and so I abandoned the effect. Oh well. On the whole I will consider this to have been a reasonable success what with me just dabbing my toes into the waters of Lightroom. So to speak.


But now comes the really hard part…integrating pictures into Elements and getting creative!

I’m so fucked.

Sometimes a picture is just a picture

When I first began snapping pictures with my lovely, lovely Canon 40D (did I mention it’s lovely?), I horded every image file as if it were the only thing standing between me and certain death. Every image was a masterpiece of lighting, composition, framing, colour management, blah, blah, blah. Well……the truth is that most of those early pictures were, at best, okay. And that is being rather generous. But this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has moved up to a dSLR (or a super nice compact super-zoom) as there is a learning curve with the camera, forgetting completely about the learning curve that comes with the process of photography itself. But within a few weeks of blissful dSLR ownership I was struck by a certain problem: what do I do with all these image files?

For your consideration:

Wedding mausoleum (2)

A lovely picture, no? And no doubt it is a picture. And it was shot in both Canon’s RAW format as well as JPEG. So what do I do with these files once I get home and upload them to my computer? It was a keeper (as not all were from this particular shoot)….the JPEG version was good, but with the RAW file I could make some minor tweaks (to coin the phrase of a certain Flickr mate) and then convert to JPEG, thus making the from-camera JPEG moot. So what is one to do?

Well my solution was to delete the from-camera JPEG, edit the RAW image file, create a new JPEG from the RAW file and then upload that to Flickr. The nice thing about the RAW editing software I use for much of my workflow (Capture One 4) is that it doesn’t really alter my original RAW files, but creates a new file that tracks all my adjustments to each image file within a given folder. If I re-open an image file in Capture One 4 it displays with the afore-mentioned adjustments, but if I open the file in another app (say….Photoshop Elements) then I am once again working with the unaltered RAW file. Heck, if I want to start over completely all I need do is delete the Capture One 4 created file from the folder and there you go! But this isn’t really to what I was referring earlier. I really mean when do I keep the RAW file and when do I only keep a JPEG (either from-camera or generated from the RAW file)?

For me I look at my image files in the context of “What was my intent?” Was I trying to do something interesting or was I trying hard to make a better picture, or was I simply pointing and shooting and thus creating a record of a moment in time that I wish to have? I guess I could split this concept in a different manner….the creative/working hard for a better picture side wants to use the Canon 40D, while the record-creating side can use the 40D, but would have been just as happy with the Canon A630 point-n-shoot. I do not usually carry both cameras with me, so I often end up using the 40D for point-n-shoot situation photographs like the image above and the one below.

BBQ at Aunt Linda's (5)

Maybe it sounds like a bit of a strange way to do things, but I’m finding that it works well enough for me. I keep two folders on my computer: one for images that are simply records of a moment in time and one for everything else (hoping that ‘everything else’ are better or more interesting pictures). I really don’t know if this is such a great system, but one must have a system otherwise their picture collection will become completely unmanageable. And isn’t that the real kick in the head? Because even if you do have a system, if you find or discover one that may work better there isn’t much change of making the change because it could involve so much work as to make it unfeasible.

Isn’t that a warm and fuzzy feeling?