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.

Sweet!

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”?

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Ohhh iPhone…How I Love Thee

Anyone who has read my various postings already knows I’m not right in the head. I’m “special” as my colleagues across the pond might say. I have a variety of hang-ups about photography, my abilities as related to photography, and in particular of the creative process that can be explored via software.

So why is it I love my iPhone and its camera?

Let’s be honest: as a camera it is mediocre at best. Granted, the 3GS model does bring larger sized images than did the 3G model, but I’m not certain there was any appreciable increase in the quality of the images. I could list all the flaws in the camera built in to this device, but what would be the point? Describing it as “mediocre” probably sums it up well enough.

Yet I find it completely irrelevant. I love using it. I love snapping pictures anytime and anywhere. This does not come as a surprise as I have often noted how much more I love being actually behind the camera as opposed to in front of the computer monitor, labouring with the process of editing, etc. And so I snap, and snap and snap every single day. Some I simply share via e-mail with family and/or friends, while other images are simply for my enjoyment.

But I have also found a strong and pleasant feeling that comes with playing around with my images via the numerous photo editing apps I have downloaded and installed on my iPhone. At this moment in time I have five different apps, each of which is solely dedicated to editing the images I take with my iPhone. I actually have a few other image-related apps, but they aren’t related to actually editing images.

Anyway….

I enjoy messing around with these apps in ways I have yet to be excited by the likes of Photoshop Elements. And I find this weird. Elements is such a powerful piece of software with the capabilities and abilities to do so many things, yet I have not embraced them. No doubt this is due, in no small part, to my lack of creativity. When I see my images I do not ‘see’ what I might do with them other than to correct exposure, add some contrast, etc.

Yet, I look quite forward to massaging my iPhone images through any of the various apps I have installed, preferring Photogene and Best Camera the most thus far. Why? Maybe it’s because I can do this…

I have been pondering this question for the past few weeks after I noticed how much I enjoyed working with my images on my phone. About the only reason I can offer is that these apps are really pretty basic and don’t actually require me to be creative, but instead to simply be satisfied with the results.

Most of the apps installed offer preset effects which are applied to your image. Best Camera ups the ante by allowing the user to layer more than one effect, which I’ve made use of one more than one occasion. Perhaps it is this simplicity, this “Don’t worry your head about it Forkie….we’ll suss it all for ya,” that I like, prefer and need?

Whatever is the reasoning, the opening splash screen for the Best Camera app states “The Best Camera Is the One That’s With You,” and they are spot on. I may love my 40D and Rebel XTi (400D), and I may lust for the Canon 7D, but I’ll be damned if my iPhone really isn’t the best camera sometimes…because it’s always with me in ways the others cannot.

Really? Has It Been A Month?

Where does the time go, eh?

But I guess it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that I haven’t been posting to this blog about photography when I haven’t really been taking pictures. But that isn’t completely true. I actually have a pretty large catalogue of unprocessed/edited photos sitting on my computer. I have the intent to boot-up the machine and sit down and go through them all, etc., but I just don’t seem to make it to the chair. I wish I understood why the trepidation. But for now I refuse to get too worked up about it. I figure that like many of my creative moments in life it will come to me when it comes to me and there is no point in pushing it upon myself.

That or I’m simply a lazy sod.

I think I’ll go with lazy sod.

But all this laziness doesn’t mean I haven’t been something of a shutter bug. Please note:

Charleston Falls

I have found myself making no small use of my somewhat recently acquired iPhone and its camera. My previous mobile blowers also had cameras, but neither (the Motorola RAZR and Palm Centro) were of any particular use for taking pictures that one might wish to share in a forum such as the Internet. But the iPhone does a pretty reasonable job all things considered. And there is a wealth of iPhone apps dedicated to photo editing and I have downloaded a fistful and make good use of each on almost a daily basis. The above picture was captured with the iPhone while I was hiking and then edited using an app named Camera Bag.

A worthwhile moment to mention here, on WordPress, is that I both entered a local photography contest and walked away with second place within the category I entered. I haven’t entered an actual contest until this one popped up so I’m quite surprised and excited that I actually won something! The contest was via Woodland Cemetery in Dayton and winners were announced last weekend on the 11th. I had entered this picture:

Winning Picture

It is actually a Photoshop Elements processed picture I took back in February (I think). It’s one of the first pictures I ever fiddled with in Elements, but oddly enough and as much as I liked it, I never posted it to Flickr. Probably part of being a lazy sod, you know? But still….second place. Awesome.

Here is a picture of me, looking rather rumbled and weird, next to my winning entry:
Contest Winner

After the winners were announced it became known to me that the cemetery was offering one of those walk-about type things where a guided tour is provided of some of the more important or interesting characters buried within the cemetery. At each of the graves of said folks there is an actor/actress who talks about the person as if they were the dearly deceased. Since I was already there I opted to stick around and take the tour, which lasted about two hours. During this time I snapped some pics with my handy Canon Rebel/400, but also clicked away here and there with the iPhone, thus obtaining this picture:

Cemetery Walk

It is actually a crop of the original (I removed the others on the tour) and I know…I know…he really should be in the left of the picture for a better sense of balance, but this was all done on the fly and from within the crowd of folks. The wasn’t a whole lot of time for getting the best angle, etc. so I’m lucky to have what I have. I made use of the iPhone app Photogene to perform the crop and conversion to something akin to sepia. I’m pleased enough with the results considering all things.

Lastly, the other day I was going through some pictures my cousin had uploaded to Facebook of a day trip she and her son took to some park near where they live. Some of the pictures were taken around the shoreline of a small lake and included lily pads. Lily pads always remind me of Monet, which always reminds me of the work of Impressionists. Wheels slowing clicking I emailed my cousin and asked for a full-sized copy of a particular picture, which included my nephew on a dock, laying, while playing with some of the lily pads in the water. Opened in Photoshop Elements (cuz I don’t have the grown-up version of Photoshop) I played around with it all morning to create an Impressionistic version of the image with the end result being thus:

Noel Upload

I actually created two versions and I still haven’t decided which one I prefer, but it was a somewhat fun way to spend a few hours this morning. I say “somewhat fun” because I really didn’t obtain quite the result for which I was looking. Both versions are close, but not quite there and I eventually grew both tired and a bit aggravated as my hoped-for results were alluding me. This might explain why I don’t particularly care to do this sort of photo editing, you know?

Too many damn choices

The moment struck me like a ton of bricks. I guess I really knew it all along, but I really hadn’t thought much about it. Sure, the camera has a bazillion settings and options, but what would I do with them all? And who needs them when photo editing software does so very many cool things? But is that really the story?

IMG_4035

The answer is no. Or at least that is the conclusion to which I am arriving. I hadn’t really considered the meaningful differences between the various photo-editing software that are available and that come with the purchase of a digital camera (whether the camera is a point-n-shoot or dSLR). Since acquiring my Canon 40D dSLR I have been primarily using one bit of software by which to work on the RAW image files and that software has been Capture One 4. It was free with the purchase of some higher-end Compact Flash cards from SanDisk (my trusted name in flash media) and I can say that I have very much enjoyed using it. It’s not resource hungry. It’s rather intuitive. It does a lot of things, but isn’t as robust as Photoshop Elements (or any of the even more robust suites like Lightroom or CS3). What it does and does well is let me tweak (as one of my Flickr mates likes to say) my RAW image to get from it what I want. But I didn’t fully understand its own limitations until just the other day.

IMG_4008

It was after my Woodland Cemetery photo shoot that I came across something I hadn’t anticipated. The shots I had taken with the in-camera monochromatic setting were showing up as colour images in Capture One 4. Huh? I opened the resource-hungry Photoshop Elements 6 and found the same odd results. More huh. Baffled I elected to do something I hadn’t done yet, not in the almost 11-months I had owned my Canon 40D: try using the supplied Canon software.

Result!

When I opened what I knew were monochromatic images (that is, shot in monochromatic) in the Canon software, monochromatic images appeared on my computer monitor. As a matter-of-fact, not only did the images appear as I thought they should I found that the software had editing tools that matched the in-camera settings (at least in regards to the various Picture Styles, filters and tones). I could, for example, now take my shot-in-monochromatic images and change the Picture Style from monochrome to Standard, Portrait, Landscape, etc. and suddenly I was looking at a colour version of my formerly monochromatic image. It was at this moment I realized the true potential of the Canon-supplied software: what it may lack in other photo-editing abilities it made up for in the ability to alter the image at a very fundamental level. I really should have realized this all along, but I hadn’t.

In part my lack of understanding comes from not having played with the Canon-supplied software. But there is also at play a misconception in my own mind as to what software could do with a RAW image file and I think that this misconception is more at the heart of my misunderstanding than anything else.

This entire incident has really left me in a mild state of anxiety. Suddenly I’m confronted with a whole host of issues directly related to how to use the various software suites in my possession as well as which suites to use based upon what outcome for which I’m looking. Suddenly just tweaking images can effectively be done in either Capture One 4 or the Canon-supplied software, but with neither having a clear advantage over the other, yet both having what I perceive to be advantages when compared to Elements, LR, CS3, etc. (at least in regards to tweaking).

Between the host of in-camera settings (which are, in no small part, meaningless seeing how I can change damn near most things with the Canon-supplied software, short of shutter speed and aperture), the Canon software, and a bevy of third-party software suites it’s too much to ponder.

Suddenly that lovely JPEG-only-shooting Canon A630 point-n-shoot is beginning to look pretty sweet…..

You Didn’t Ask For It, But Your Getting It Anyway!

So last night I stayed up a bit later than I had originally planned because I had become slightly obsessed with the notion of playing with some software and doing something new and different. No. Not ‘new and different’ as in no one had ever done it before, but ‘new and different’ for me. Which means short of anything other than tweaking the pic it would be new and different.

So that I wouldn’t forget the new high I had gotten smokin’ that photo-editing software, I took a quick trip through my posted images on Flickr and looked for a few that I thought might do well with the same trick as I had done the night before. I found a few and check ’em out!

Andy Warhol Gas Pumps

Brilliant Butterfly

I’m actually very, very happy (and proud) of both these images. I think I picked the best pics possible for this treatment. And they are pretty much stock images (I worked from the actual uploaded JPEG files on Flickr) as I only increased the saturation for the butterfly to really make him stand out and left the gas pumps alone.

The funny thing is that while I was looking through my pictures I was thinking about the sorts of issues that I was discussing in my other entry from yesterday. I was considering what would be the impact of my actions with the photo-editing software and trying to ‘see’ it and then decide whether or not I thought it would fly as an image. Drat. I’m on the road to artist, aren’t I? I’ve sold my soul and it’s all over. Oh well.

Also, I gave the simpler b&w only treatment to a picture of the daughter, as seen here:

Bug in b&w.jpg

and I feel that this one didn’t work. Or didn’t work as well as I had hoped and/or expected. In other words: my vision and output didn’t match. So the question is, “What did I do wrong?” To that end I have placed this picture in a special Set titled Your Assistance Please on my Flickr site. Like a fellow photography enthusiast I know, I opted to create this set for pictures I wish folks to offer some help and/or guidance. So if you have any ideas or thought, please feel free to comment as such as I’m looking for opinions.