During the day, Mont Saint Michel is crowded with people. All most too much. But as the begins to set, people disappear, and when darkness comes to Mont Saint Michel, and the small street lamps are turned on, you can wander around in empty alleys. This street wasn’t quite empty. I triggered the five exposures manually, I can control, when to shoot, and make sure I didn’t shoot with people in the same location, and that way remove them in the post processing. The longest exposure was 8 seconds, which also allows moving people to disappear in the long exposure.
This photo is from Zürich train station. For some reason I do not know, this enormous hall is empty, except for a couple of cafes and supermarket along the edges. Inspiration came during the post-processing, the roof I enhanced to have a kind of a steampunk feel.
My current assignment in The Arcanum is to think about inspiration and to be ‘inspired’ by others. I have put a lot of thought into this topic over the last couple of weeks. What inspires me? What influences what I do? I have made a number of sub conclusions, but I have also realized, that I may use inspiration, in a different way than many others do.
I have a strong antipathy of copying other people’s work. This antipathy goes all the way back to my school days and early days as a programmer. I didn’t want to copy my friend’s school assignments, even if I had trouble making my own. I didn’t want to copy other coder’s code; I wanted to understand what’s going on, and make my version of a feature.
This antipathy is still strong and goes into photography as well. What I have come to terms with, is that there exists “my version of a classic view”. But, I will try do make it “my version”, and not just a copy.
Anyway inspiration is a good thing. It works as fuel for your brain and your creativity. The question is how to get inspired, and how to use that and what you want to obtain.
I have a few shots from Piccadilly Circus, and for some reason, all of the chewing gum in the world is spat out here. Have a look at the before photo, and see how much chewing gum there is on the ground. I have spent hours and hours cleaning up the ground using healing and cloning tools in Photoshop.
It’s a drag to clean up that much chewing gum, but it is worth the hard work. The result looks so much better, and it does make the difference.
This is the before photo, or rather one of the 9 photos – actually 18, because I shot two series of 9. The first series were completely empty and the second included the bus.
This photo was the last photo after about an hour of photography in Milford Sound in New Zealand. This boat is the first boat early in the morning, one of many that will sail tourists around in the magnificent Milford Sound.
Unfortunately, one of the major drawbacks of cameras with interchangeable lenses, is that they collect dust, when you change from one lens to another. You can take a lot of precautions, like holding the camera downwards, when unscrewing the lens and make a quick switch. No doubt precaution works, but there is still no way around it, you end up with dust inside your camera, and some of that dust places itself on the sensor.
I have my Rocket Air Blaster in my camera bag, and uses it frequently. By far the best “get the dust out of my camera” blower I have used so far. But still I get dust spots on my photos.
Spots also get more visible the smaller the aperture (larger number!) is. If you are on f/2.8, only large spots will be visible, while if on f/22 you will see every little dust spot.
On top of that, I own the Nikon D600, which is known for it’s sensor spots. The problem is more or less gone now. And my D800 was pretty bad too. Both seems to do better now. Nikon have had both in for cleaning more than once, and apparently they have done something to improve the problem.
Anyway, I get dust spots on my images, and how do I remove them?
Once in a while, you just don’t have either the time of day or the weather with you, when you shoot photos. Take this example from Strasbourg. I had researched Strasbourg from home, and had a pretty good idea, what I wanted to shoot. But two things turned out to be a problem. 1) I could not stay in the city until sunset, due to time schedules, but I could stay until an hour before sunset, which could have been good enough. 2) It was grey, and there was drizzle. I shot my shots using an umbrella, and left Strasbourg not quite satisfied with the result. It’s a long exposure, to at least try to make the water interesting enough. I love this place Pont Saint-Martin in Strasbourg. I think it is also probably the most photographed place in Strasbourg, nevertheless I love the place, and I did not want to let my photo go. I looked into alternative processing methods. I did not have any success on the light, so I had to add something else, make it stand out. And as it turned out, it was in using textures I found the answer. This is the before photo: And this is what I did: Continue reading
It’s been a bit quiet from me for a while, I have been busy working on my portfolio book. Finally, it is ready, and I am pretty with it. There is both a book version and an e-book version available right here. The e-book is only $9.99.
Over the next period, I will post all of the photos in the same order as in the book.
Location location and location. Three of the most important things for photographers, at least for cityscape and landscape photographers like myself. The three next important things are light light and light. But what if you only have one them, the Location? Will you then have nothing?
Usually my mantra is ‘Light is everything’, but as recent events has turned out for me, I have ended up with a whole bunch of daytime photos. And instead of discarding them, I have started working on them, to see if I can get something interesting from them. Something more artistic.
This is the original of the photo above:
As you can see quite different, and not really interesting. There is one good thing, to say about the light; it’s slightly defused, due to the slight overcast. And this does give me more flexibility. Lucky me!
This photo needs a kick. A kick to send it somewhere more interesting. The first thing you have to realize, and accept, is that you have to leave reality behind you, and enter the world of art.
The making of this is photo
Since I ended up with all of these daytime photos, I have been playing with toning and cross-processing photos Lightroom. There are number of ways of doing this, to get something really interesting out of it. Cross processing was invented in the film days, and you did it by developing in the wrong chemicals. This of course was a very unpredictable process. Today you can do it digitally, and you have full control.
These are some tricks, that I use when I cross process my photos in Lightroom.
Split toning: There is a panel in Lightroom called split toning. This I use more often than not, on my photos, daytime or not. Sometimes only to nudge a photo ever so gentle in a direction. This photo is split toned like this:
I often end up with some kind of yellow in the highlights and some kind of blue in the shadows, this case is no different. But when you try it, do try to move the cursor around, slowly to digest the changing colors and see what you can get, that you like. Remember that not two photos are alike.
Hue / Saturation / Luminance (HSL): This panel in Lightroom is really powerful, when it comes to Cross Processing the colors.
But how do I end up with these values? Exactly these values? I do it, by using this button for each of the panels. This example is for the Luminance, but you can do the same for the Hue and the Saturation panel.
This way, you typically adjust two or three sliders, at the same time, but not at the same rate, because the pixel you clicked on will not have all colors represented to the same extend.
Colored Gradients: The last thing I used to tone this image, is toned gradients, like this:
As you can see this image has three gradients. Each touches the image in an individual way. Two has got toning, a blue color and a yellow color. The last one, makes sure that the upper right corner has a similar brightness as the left hand corner has. The before photo has a bright and less bright corner, but I like a more symmetric look in the sky, and therefore darken the right hand corner a little bit.
Final steps in Photoshop
After having “toned” and “cross processed” my photo in Lightroom I brought it into Photoshop. What I still didn’t like, was too much contrast and I wanted the gate to be a little more prominent.
First I added some Orton Effect (you might want to learn about that here – it’s digital magic). I used the “Overlay” blend mode, this way, I could stick to my normal exposure. The Orton Effect I added using A mask. I rarely use global changes in Photoshop. The reason why I bring things into Photoshop is to tune specific parts of an image, and by applying global changes, I shortcut my purpose.
After having applied the Orton Effect to the extend that I liked, I merged all layers into a new layer (not flattening!), by pressing SHIFT + CTRL + ALT + E (or on Mac SHIFT + CMD + ALT + E). This is probably the feature that I use the most in Photoshop.
This new layer I changed the Shadows and Highlights in, using this feature:
The final step was to change the perspective. I know, that there is a Perspective Crop in Photoshop, but I really prefer to use a different tool, that is much more visual. But to use that, I once more merge all layers into a new layer (still not flattening) using my favorite feature in Photoshop SHIFT + CTRL + ALT + E (or on Mac SHIFT + CMD + ALT + E).
The feature I use for correcting perspective, is transform->Distort. The advantage of this feature, is that it is visual, you can actually see what you are correcting. The disadvantage is that it only targets one layer, and for that reason I created the new merged layer.
If I used the perspective crop, I would correct perspective in ALL layers. However, if I do that, I would not be able to bring in a new version of the photo or a different exposure from Lightroom to blend in. Because I shoot normally HDR, I often go back into Lightroom to export another version/exposure of my image, to use along with the ones I have in Photoshop already. But if I corrected perspective using crop, this path would be closed to me.
By using the Transform->Distort, all I have to do is to remove that layer, and then import the extra photo into Photoshop. Do what ever I want to do, and then do a new Transform->Distort on a new merged layer.
Let’s see how this is done:
And then you get a frame, that you can move around, and you see the result instantly. This I like, because I can really fine tune what I want.
And this is basically what I did to bring this ordinary daytime photo, into an artistic photo.
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Ryd Junk Yard in Sweden.
The Orton Effect is named after photographer Michael Orton, who invented the method back in the 1980’s – that’s in the film era, but you can apply it to digital photos too. It’s like digital magic. And digitally you can even control it much better and easier than you could in the old film days.
The Orton effect applies a magical soft and dreamy look to your photos, you could call it Glow. It has a softness to it, and yet it remains a sharp photo, if zoomed in.
The junk yard photo above, has Orton Effect applied in the trees and the leaves, and the tree below also has Orton Effect (click to see larger version). And as you can see, it is both sharpness and unsharpness at the same time. That is what gives the magic dreamy look.
It really can be that piece of digital magic, you add to a photo, that makes it really unique and special, but you must use it with care. I fairly often use it (or one of it’s sisters – which I describe later). I use it in perhaps 20% of my photos, but I only use it selectively and sometimes even only in very subtle ways. If you compared to a version without, you would be able to see the difference, but otherwise you wouldn’t notice it, because I use it with care.
This is the final version of the tree from Wanaka in New Zealand, and it has one of the strongest uses of the Orton Effect I have ever used:
How to make the Orton Effect step by step
There are some requirements for making the Orton Effect, and these are:
- You need to have Photoshop (any version) or Gimp.
- You also need an over exposed photo. But don’t worry you can make one artificially.
The Orton effect works best on overexposed photos. If you do not have an over exposed photo, you can increase exposure artificially both in Photoshop and in Lightroom. I shoot HDR photos most of the time, which gives me over exposed photos that I can use for the Orton Effect. Later in this tutorial I will show how to make artificial overexposed photos, but also a couple of alternatives to the Orton Effect.
Let’s make some Orton Effect.
Step 1: First open your overexposed photo in Photoshop or Gimp. Duplicate the layer twice, so that you have three layers with the same image.
Step 3: The second layer must be out of focus, that is you have to blur it. You use Gaussian Blur to do that.
Step 5: Try moving the slider between different pixel levels. As you can see in the preview, the Orton Effect changes, as you change the blur levels. It changes quite a lot.
You can merge the two layers by selecting them and pressing CTRL + E or selecting it from the context menu.
Step 9: Using the effect globally is generally not a good thing and by merging the two layers, you can add a layer mask, and the mask in what you like.
Create a black layer mask to hide the layer. This allows you to paint in what level of “Orton Effect” you want to apply in your photo, and more important, where to apply it.
You can add a Layer Mask by pressing the button, and then invert the layer mask by pressing CTRL+I, while having the mask in focus. Or you press ALT (or CMD on a Mac) and press the button, and you will get a black mask.
Step 10: Using the brush tool (read about layer blending here, if it’s new to you) you can paint in what level of Orton Effect you want in your photo. As you can see I only use it selectively.
The Sisters of the Orton Effect
You might already be thinking ‘What happens if I use some of the other blend modes?’ Well, most gives something that is quite unusable and psychedelic, but ‘Soft light’ and ‘Overlay’ gives something that you can use. The method is otherwise exactly the same, and the effect is somewhat similar, in particular for the ‘Soft light’.
The advantage of using the Soft light and Overlay is that you can easier stick to your ordinary exposures.
As it happens I often end up using either blend mode ‘Soft light’ or ‘Overlay’, rather than ‘Multiply’ because it works better with normal exposures, and therefore is easier to incorporate in my existing processing workflow. Or maybe I am just lazy.
Changing the Exposure to Overexposed
It’s really no big deal to make an over-exposed photo artificially. In Lightroom there is a slider for it, and you can make a virtual copy of the normal exposure, increase the exposure of it and export it along with the normal exposure.
And in Photoshop you can add an Adjustment Layer for exposure, and do the exact same thing. And if you duplicate your layer, and merge the Adjustment layer to the duplicate, you will have both the normal exposure and the overexposed as two layers.
Adjust the exposure to overexposed by 2 stops.
And then you can do the Orton Effect easily:
As I have been writing about I have been searching for something I can use as a new style. I have had a feeling of what I was looking for. I have had a few shots at it, without striking a clean note.
But as I was rumbling through older photos I came across this one, which I never processed before and applied one of the Lightroom filters I made last week – and there it was! A clean note. Or at least the beginning of it. I did a little extra post-processing here and there, but not a lot, and I was happy … for about 10 seconds. I zoomed in, and saw that the image was ruined by noise. I had shot it at ISO 10159 (why why WHY!!!). Because I had had the camera on Auto ISO the day before, while driving through a tunnel to get to this wonderful place. And this photo is shot almost in darkness.
It is processed in Lightroom only, except for the Noise reduction. To handle the noise reduction, I started by reducing the size of the image to about half resolution, not half megapixels. I shot this at 36 megapixels, cropped it down to 29.5 megapixels, and what I did was to reduce the resolution from 7360×4004 to 3676×2000 and thus reducing it to 7 megapixels). After I had done that I applied noise reduction to the final result. And this is it.
I used Noiseware for the noise reduction, and I used the Default settings. There are a number of various settings, but I quickly started loosing details, so I stuck with the default filter.
The photo is still noisy, but it actually works quite nice with the colors and style I think. If I had used stronger noise reduction I would have lost so many details, that the photo would have been ruined.
In my Arcanum cohorte one of my fellow apprentices asked about when to do noise reduction. I first tried to do the noise reduction before the resolution reduction, but that gave a terrible result. Then I reduced the size first and then did the noise reduction, and that was a much better result. This is still noisy, but at least it is regular noise.
I am a realist by Nature. Sometimes that is a curse and at other times it’s a blessing.
Currently I am trying to push new styles out of my photos, but it doesn’t really work for me, yet. Life has taught me, that everything is hard the first time you try. Experience comes in … well levels. You get stuck from time to time, but suddenly you can do whatever you were trying to do. A new skill has been acquired (tada.wav). Sometimes you don’t even realize, what was difficult is in fact no longer difficult.
Then for a while you get comfortable with what you are doing – your mojo is working just great. But then you start trying to reach new areas. Things get hard, and you have to get mojo working again.
Currently I find myself in such a place. I don’t full fill my own expectations to myself to the level I want to be on. I don’t get exactly the results that I want. I am searching for the answer, searching for the key that will unlock the door I want to go through. I am confident that I will find the key, not sure when, though. But eventually I will succeed. This life has taught me.
One of the things I have been dealing with is colors. The danger over over saturating photos, while not leaving them flat and colorless. I am addicted to the colors, and the more I use them, the more I want them, and suddenly, I am over the edge. This photo I have processed over the last couple of days, with the specific goal to keep saturation well under control.
This is a an in between version:
#1: The original had this boomerang cloud, slightly darker than the rest of the clouds. I enhanced it to get an “object” in the sky, to work with the ground. But I wasn’t really happy with it, until I noticed that there were some natural edges or cuts in the clouds.
#2 I used this natural cuts, to brighten up the sides of the boomerang cloud and ended up with a cloud like an object in the sky. This worked much better with the composition, I think.
About the photo
The city of Luxembourg is placed in and above a canyon. Along the edge of the canyon runs a balcony giving you a fantastic view of the beautiful old city below. It’s nick named the most beautiful balcony in Europe. Luxembourg is both modern and an old city, with a grand history of war, money and politics. And there are many great restaurants for food lovers like me. Absolutely worth a visit.