Saturday, January 30, 2010

Photochallenge 2010: Week 5

The second month's topic for the yearly photochallenge is Natural Landscape. In this context, "Natural" is defined as having no man made objects in the scene. I live in a beautiful area of the country, with gorgeous mountains on all sides and two large lakes nearby. However, being a fairly built up metropolitan area, it does take a bit of a drive to get to locations without evidence of human habitation. I may have to bend the concept of landscape at times to make some images this month.

In any case, my wife and I took a drive this afternoon with the intent of finding a good spot with the evening's sunset for this week's challenge. I planned to at least start with an image that didn't push the definitions too much. Heading out of town, we planned a quick errand. Unfortunately, it took much longer than anticipated and we didn't make it out of town until after sunset had already started.

A while later, as she drove down a back road, I watched a barely visible mountain range slide by my window with city lights illuminating the clouds from the other side. Wondering what the sensor might see, I picked up the camera and clicked. Fifteen seconds later I had nothing but a colorful blur. Hmmm. Looked like possibly some potential.
I had an idea for a composite image, but needed some additional raw material to work with. So much for a standard landscape shot. With peaked interest, I asked her to pull over at the next wide spot. I got out, set up the tripod and made some more exposures. Nothing too spectacular, in and of themselves, but I thought they might work well enough for what I had in mind.
When we got home, I loaded the images into the computer and went to work. With some experimentation, this image finally emerged. It's not what I had visualized; it has a completely different feel to it, but I like it more.
Hidden City Lights

After I finished this first version, I decided to go back and edit the images again to attempt what I had pre-visualized. It was much easier to do and my wife actually prefers it over the previous one.
Landscape Dream

So, two very different final products made from the same two base images. Which do you prefer?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

How to watermark your image

My friend Nicole Young (aka Nicolesy) posted a great video tip the other day on her blog: Two minute tip: Watermarking Your Images. Additionally, one of her photos on twitter has quite a discussion on the pros and cons of adding a watermark. Inspired by these two items, I created a Photoshop action to automate this task.


The action file can be downloaded here.

To install it, click the link above and save the file to your computer.

In Photoshop, on the Actions menu (A), select Load actions (B).

In the open file dialog, go to the location the file is saved, select and open the file. You should get a action group called HP3's watermark (C) with an action in it called Add watermark (D).

As installed, this action will add watermarks with Your Name Here. To change this, first open an image; any image will do. Then click the arrow next to the action (E); this will list the steps in the action. Double click on the line that says Make text layer (F). Text that says © Your Name Here will be added to the image with the text tool selected. Click on the text and change it to what you want your watermarks to say. Then click on the check box in the tool bar. The action should now be setup for your use. Now, close the image without saving.


To use the action, open an image, highlight a layer, typically the top one, click on the action and run it. You should get a new layer with your watermark on it. It will be active with the move tool. You may now move and/or change its size as appropriate for this image. When it is where you want, click on the check box in the toolbar. If you want to change any of the settings, you can do it on the new layer in this image. (If you want to always have a different look, then change the settings in the action on the appropriate line that you want to have different. Follow the same pattern as was used to change the name previously during installation.)

For a full understanding of how this works and the various settings you can change, be sure to watch Nicole's video.

Go here to see other actions I have shared.

If you have any questions, problems or suggestions, leave a comment and I'll try to address the issue. Have fun!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Photocamp Utah 2010: Inexpensive High-speed Photography

Apple splash
Two months from today, over 300 photographers will descend on the Miller Conference Center for a day-long conference filled with workshops, networking, learning and fun. It's the second annual Photocamp Utah event. In spite of a larger venue with room for 50% more people and a technical problem just before registration started, tickets sold out in six hours.

I will present a workshop again this year. To keep with last year's McGyver-ish theme of doing things cheap, I will talk about the basics of high-speed photography and how to do it with equipment most photographers already have or can get inexpensively, such as the HiViz kits I recently built. A live demonstration will illustrate the points and show how to set things up for a shot like the one above.

I hope to see you there. If you see me, be sure to say "Hi".

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sometimes you take what you can get

Path to the sun
Around here at this time of year temperature inversions set in. The valley stays cold while warm air stays at higher elevations. A lack of vertical air movement results in really bad air quality. This causes a heavy layer of mixed smog and fog, particularly noticeable in the mornings and evenings. While very bad for health, it provides some spectacular sunrises and sunset.

Over the course of the last several mornings, I've noticed this layer of air makes conditions for some potentially interesting images. I can see how it could be used to separate foreground elements from background elements with a nice layering effect. I thought the river bottoms at the edge of town might provide some nice foreground elements with the mountains in the far background. So, last night I decided I'd get up early and head down there on the way to work. I checked the time for sunrise, set the alarm and headed to bed.

When I got up this morning, the wind was blowing. Hmm. When I looked out, sure enough, the haze that has been the norm was gone; blown away in front of an approaching front. I decided I'd head out in spite of the changes and see what I could get anyway. The image at the top is what I came away with. Not at all what I pre-visualized, but an image I like none the less. Sometimes you just have to take what life gives you and make the most of it.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Photochallenge 2010: Week 2

I've decided to participate in this year's photochallenge organized by Trevor Carpenter and Jeremy Brooks over at This year the challenge is to post one image a week related to a topic that changes every four weeks. Last week, with only two days in it, was too short for me to get anything up; I didn't actually find out about it until Saturday. So this week is my first entry.
Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.
Resolution is first topic of the year. One of my life goals is to spend time on a daily basis in Bible reading and prayer. I must confess I don't do too well keeping a daily schedule with anything from brushing my teeth to working out to time with God. (This is the primary reason I didn't do last year's challenge. It was a daily challenge and I knew it'd be too much.) In any case, I plan on doing better than last year in setting aside time to listen to what God has to tell me.