Tag Archives: photoshop

No More Stories Are Told Today I’m Sorry They Washed Away

It is the latest album from one of my favourite bands, Mew. It is also somewhat fitting as I love to tell stories on this blog but I just don’t have a story today. Instead I have just a few images from my past weeks of work. Possibly not a bad trade, this is a photography blog after all.

What have I been up to? Well, I am saving all the images and stories for my new upcoming website. I am adding image files in the hundreds to my new site and typing in metadata till my fingers bleed. I am also processing all shots from the past 6 months of travel, including previously developed images from Thailand and Laos as I was unhappy with the stuff I developed on the road. Working 7-10 hours every day in Lightroom and Photoshop is a nice way to hone one’s post-processing skill. I have been toying with many new techniques and managed everything from awesome to plain weird results. Here’s a few images from Thailand and Laos, re-developed and different from my normal wide open spaces:

Thailand - Cosy Streetlife - copy - blog 

Laos Studying - web copy - blog

The street scenes in Thailand has awful colours from wildly different light sources at night. But once converted to duotone I felt the atmosphere come alive again. It is a great experience to eat at the street kitchens in the suburbs. Second image is from Laos, where I now have developed a lot more of the hmong children portraits. I re-discovered these images having not looked at them for long and am now loving them. Soft light blending of layers and high pass filtering with a healthy does of luminosity layers are Photoshop techniques that really shine on these sort of images I find.

That is all we have in the story book today. Much much more to come….launch approaching!

Big Australian Rock in Heaps’a Water

Sugarloaf Rock. It is a famous rock on the beautiful Southwest coast of Western Australia. Australia has a great tradition of very uninspired place names – Mount Bruce, Mount Sheila, Lake Disappointment and I could go on all night. With this tradition in mind, Sugarloaf Rock is actually not too bad. I would have expected it to be called ‘Big Rock In heaps’a Water’. That reminds me, I still have to write the Places With Wrong Names To Be Renamed list to the Australian government (Kakadu, Nourlangie, Alligator river etc). So much work!

I got a couple of scoops of Sugarloaf back in February. We met up with True North Mark and he took us to the Big Rock In Heaps’a Water. Christian Fletcher we had met earlier, but he was unable to come out and play that night, something about having sold his house and car for a Phase One camera.

Big Rock In… really is a big rock. Images do not do it justice as it really is much bigger than it looks and it is a really gorgeous location for a sunset shoot. Mark being Mark, he naturally climbs the highest and hardest to get to rock straight away and sets up shop for his shot, then iphone browses while he waits. I climb around a bit, try a few locations but having never been here before I end up searching too much and do not really find my sweet spot. My best image from the first night is this dusk panorama, shot while escaping mossies on the way back to the carpark:

Sugarloaf in dusk light - blog

We went back the night after and the light was completely different and I created this panorama that I quite like. A dark and moody Sugarloaf is going to sleep image:

Sugarloaf night - blog

Both images are stitched panoramas from about 3-4 horizontal images. It is easier with less images when you have moving water. Long exposures using stacked Lee filters made stitching fairly easy. I export all the layers to Photoshop from PTgui so I can manually mask and blend them and get the waves looking natural, also I can choose the best wave from each image.

Looking at both of them it is clear I did not nail it, did not get the job done. In both images I feel I am too far away from the scene, feels too passive, not enough drama or motion. I want to be down in the water with the rock towering in front of me and the waves crashing into me. Something I have learned about seascapes, the ones I like have action and drama and needs to be shot standing in the water basically. I look forward to tackling Big Rock… again some day, see you down there mates!

I’ll be in my light room

I must admit I much prefer shooting the images to processing them. For one thing, when I shoot them I am out in nature and loving it. When I post process, as much creative fun as that is, I am still inside staring at a screen. I was able to process some of my images along the way on my 6 months on the road, but I am now digging into 3,500 raw images from the 2 months in USA. Can get a bit overwhelming. All images to be revealed in good time, but here’s a tiny glimpse (sticky beak for you Aussies) into what I am working on:

usa lightroom - blog

I process such a large number of images using a recursive approach. I close Firefox (too distracting), put on headphones and fire up some tunes and enjoy a brew (coffee). I run through all images in Adobe Lightroom picking my ‘picks’ and dividing picks into groups using stars, 5, 4 ,3 etc. I repeat, honing the selection. I do some quick processing along the way to try out things. This is where Lightroom shines, I quickly play with many creative variations of an image. I do 80% of my work in Lightroom as it is so intuitive and much more fun and geared towards photographers than Photoshop. Photoshop is for my pixel level editing, selective editing using masks and sharpening etc. When I have the ‘hero’ shots narrowed down I develop them using an iterative ‘juggling many things at a time’ process. Not necessarily the most efficient way but this being my brain works. I cannot work on just one image, for me it is more like sculpturing. I work on an image some, feel I get stuck, switch to another image, sculpt that for a while and then onto the third and then perhaps back again to the first as a new idea strikes me. This repeats itself until I feel the image is good enough, for some images 5 minutes, some 5 days. I then mark this image ‘done’ in Lightroom with colour label green to tell my brain ‘It is done…stop tinkering!". Panos are then stitched in PTgui, editing is finished in Photoshop.

A small look into my light room. Not terribly exciting. I will persevere to write something better next time, I promise. Follow me on Twitter for more image previews as I get them developed.

What is your preferred tools and work method?

Two Toned World Strikes Back

Kimberley Gum Tree, Flemming Bo Jensen Photography Previously I have blogged about A Two Toned World and Return of the Toned World so I messed up the sequence a bit, but this is the 3rd of my tutorials on black and white and can now only be called: Two Toned World Strikes Back!

Following in the footsteps of all the classic and contemporary black and white landscape photographers; I show you how to and create stunning black and whites from your digital images – click ‘Keep reading’ link.

Continue reading

Return of the Two Toned World

I recently wrote about black and white conversions in the Two Toned World post and I have since continued my test of different techniques. Selling five 70x100cm prints in black and white recently for a client taught me a thing or two about black and white conversions and printing them!

Another advantage of black and white photos – besides being able to shoot in the middle of the day – is when it’s raining cats and dogs you can escape into Photoshop and go through old shots and try them in black and white. This Saturday it rained non-stop so I spent the day gathering and checking all my gear before takeoff this Wednesday to Australia – and toying with black and white conversions in Photoshop. With no colours in the world on a gray rainy Saturday I thought it only appropriate to work in glorious black and white:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Nambung National Park in Western Australia
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Copenhagen’s Lake Peblinge in duotone
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Duotone Tree in Fog
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

The first two shots were converted using Alien Skin Exposure2 plugin which I have found to be by far the best way to convert to black and white. The level of control is incredible and the results are perfect. No posterisation or any problems at all in the converted files; they’re gorgeous and will print big with no visible pixel problems. The last shot of the Tree in Fog was converted directly in Lightroom 2.0; also a good way to convert. All 3 of them are in duotone where the shadows are pure black, but highlights have a slightly warm sepia tone. This lends the photo a bit of warmth while steel keeping it in stark mono.

Here’s a few tips on the conversion and printing process:

  • Viewing reflected light off a print compared to direct light from a monitor (calibrated of course!) are two different beasts. With no colours, a black and white print may appear somewhat darker than the image on screen so experiment to find just the right conversion. You may need to do an image that onscreen appears slightly too bright to achieve the print you want.
  • You want a full range of tones from black through all shades of gray to white. Don’t leave big areas of pure black or white though; they look less satisfying in print. Make sure you have shadow detail, don’t burn any highlights. Use shadows and highlight tool in Photoshop for this. White on paper in a black and white print just means no ink is used; so you’re just seeing the paper colour.
  • Create contrast and more contrast than you would in a colour photo – or the print looks a bit dull. Remember though; no burned highlights and no big black areas, always have some detail. Create different layers for shadows and highlights adjustments and blend them manually using masks to ensure contrast but also have detail.
  • Black and white prints can hold a lot more sharpening than colour prints but still you must watch out for unsharp mask halos. They are very visible in big prints.
  • It’s very easy to overdo the conversion and create posterized areas; usually the sky is the first to suffer. This may look alright on screen but is to avoided like the plague once you’ve seen it on a print! You may be tempted to do something like +140% red channel, -50% in the blue channel but it will severely posterize your sky and ruin your print.

After a lot of work I feel I have finally learned how to do satisfying black and white (well duotoned) digital files, something which I have previously found almost impossible and one area where I used to think film was so much better. With some clever techniques; a digital Ansel Adams style print is possible (now if only I had his eye for compositions).

Perfecting your stitched panoramas

Earlier this year I wrote a blog post about stitched panoramas that focused mostly on all the little tricks you need to remember when you are shooting the soon to be stitched photos in the field. The shooting part is still essential. Get everything right in the field and you’ll be laughing come stitching time!

This post focuses on stitching the shots and is a tutorial showing you how I get from these 4 developed RAW files:

Sydney Panorama 4 tiff files

to this final photo as seen in my previous post:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Sydney Skyline at Sunset Panorama
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

It’s a long tutorial, so I split this post in two; click the “Keep reading” link to, well, keep reading!

Continue reading

Two Toned World

I love black and white photos and Ansel Adams is one of my heroes. I don’t convert a lot of my own stuff to black and white though, my own photographic eye is very much triggered by light quality and colour so I don’t actually shoot that much material that does well in black and white. Colours are a big part of my composition and style. But this week allowed me to seriously sink my teeth into black and white conversions and come up with photos like this one:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Kakadu Pandanus Palm in duotone
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

I am working on a project for a company, where I am to deliver 5 photos, 100cm wide, framed and in black and white. The client asked me to put together a cityscape and landscape portfolio in black and white so they have a small selection of the best to choose from. This meant going through my whole photo library and picking out 24 shots in all, 12 for each portfolio, that would do well at 100cm wide converted to black and white. The above is not actually part of the portfolio, just something I toyed with a few days ago. Will be interesting to see the finished project and I’ll post when we get there.

To work as a black and white photo you need a strong composition with strong leading lines and full tones going from shadow to highlights and some nice contrasts in the photo. A typical golden hour or dusk photo relies heavily on colours for all of this, so they often become dull in black and white.  Ansel Adams actually shot many of his photos in the middle of the day. The photo above is from Kakadu National Park in Australia and was shot around noon, the worst possible time for colour photography but check out how much better it fares when converted to black and white!

There are as many ways to convert a colour file to black and white as there are Photoshop experts. Photoshop CS3 now has a very good black and white adjustment layers that gives you a lot of control. I have tried a lot of conversions the past week and I found that I prefer the results I get from using the Alien Skin Exposure2 Film Simulator plugin. It comes with a truckload of colour and black and white film preset settings (like Kodak T-Max P3200 pushed 2 stops) and you can then change settings to achieve your desired effect. It’s a bit expensive but the results are so good I think I will end up purchasing it for this project.

070831-IMG_3068-01 colourThe black and white converted photo above is actually duotoned, or split-toned not just black and white. This is a great effect where you keep the highlights in a  slight sepia tone and shadows are kept in pure black and white. It also helps a lot when printing! On the left is the original colour version of the photo, shot with a polarizer filter in very ordinary noon light but this light actually works well in black and white. This means if you like black and white you can shoot colour early and late in the day and then black and white in the middle of the day. No time for siesta anymore you can shoot all day long!

Sydney Harbour painted with light

Well, I did warn you dear reader that once I got my Wacom tablet I would be painting with light like it was going out of fashion! I guess I forgot to warn you that I would also be writing about it like writing was going out of fashion! Hence every second post now has ‘painted with light’ in the title and is about … painting with light (I desperately need a thesaurus!)

The latest RAW file to be run through my digital darkroom with newly added tablet is a sunset shot from Sydney from October 2007. It was a gorgeous sunset on a Friday night with some beautiful orange hues and a nice bit of cloud perfectly placed behind the city as seen from Milsons Point. I’ll kick things off with showing you the end result (click to see large):

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Sydney Harbour Bridge Sunset Panorama
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

I am really happy with the result. I used painting with light subtly but I think the effect is remarkable. More about that in a bit.

One positive side effect to using the Wacom is that the digital darkroom in Photoshop is suddenly a lot more fun and so I am more creative. I always gave up trying to draw with a mouse  (try drawing a circle with a mouse, impossible) and always had to stop short of how I actually wanted the photo to look. But with the Wacom I just put the tablet in my lap, lean back in my chair and draw like it was pencil on paper. I used to draw a lot many (many!) years ago so using the Wacom feels very natural to me. I find I use it for a lot of different stuff in Photoshop, lasso tool, brush tool, masking etc.

So what did my digital darkroom add to the Sydney photo? Here’s a screenshot of the photo from Pixmantec Rawshooter (one day I’ll switch to Lightroom but I so love Rawshooter, it is so blindingly fast compared to the sluggish Lightroom):

sydney-rawshooter

I composed this using the 17-40 f/4.0 L lens on my Canon 5D with a cropped panorama in mind – I always intended to crop the bottom. The exposure is spot on so I didn’t need to do much in Rawshooter. I have warmed the white balance, added a bit of contrast, saturated the colours, applied a bit of colour noise reduction and reduced highlight contrast. I created the crop I wanted and I then export the photo to a 16 bit TIFF file for further digital darkroom work in Photoshop – this is where the fun begins:

  • I normally like water frozen in motion better than “long exposure” blurred water but in this case the water is bland. So I smoothed the water on a separate layer with a mask using a combination of motion blur and gaussian blur.
  • I used the lasso tool (using tablet) to make some selections for creating vignettes. I added a 200 pixel feather and on it’s own desaturated layer I blended in the vignette to create a darkened effect. I repeated this 4-5 times with different size vignettes, different “lassos” and I have the vignette I want.
  • And now “painting with light” (get me a thesaurus please!). Using different layers I use the dodge and burn tool on the tablet (with pen pressure set to change opacity) and I … paint with light! (there it is again).
  • I specifically put some light onto the bright areas of the bridge structure where the sun hits and I also brightened the buildings, especially the Opera House.
  • The top part of the sky was too blue, looking too much like daylight so I darkened it with a gradient layer and also desaturated a bit.

As I wrote earlier I am really happy with the result, I feel I accomplished what I wanted with this shot I actually made it look just the way I wanted. That doesn’t happen all that often, in fact that almost never happens. I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my own work so there are always many details annoying me (why I stopped drawing years ago) but the tablet certainly is a new favourite tool in my digital darkroom. Now I just need a thesaurus.

Painting with light

One of the most powerful tools of processing a photo (be it in a traditional darkroom or a digital darkroom) is dodging and burning – the process of darkening or lightening parts of the photo. By doing this you are painting with light, you are controlling shadows and highlights and you can dramatically alter and enhance the expression of your art and control where your viewers eyes go when first viewing the photo. The human eyes are always attracted at first to large areas of light or darkness.

Ansel Adams was a master of photography and the darkroom and to see a perfect example of good old darkroom painting with light, have a look at how shadows and highlights are used in this classic Tetons and the Snake River shot to enhance the drama, expression and visual tension. My favourite contemporary landscape photographer is Peter Eastway, an Australia grand master of photography, and his portfolio is a textbook example of painting with light.

As you know I am not interested in a reality that doesn’t exist anyway, and I find myself more and more wanting to manipulate the look of my images to better create the drama, the tension and the expression I’m after. Only I struggle with the techniques in Photoshop and curse myself, my computer and my mouse! I am reading Scott Kelby’s books on Photoshop and photography and practicing but I still have a lot to learn. Unlike say RAWshooter, PTgui  and Lightroom I am still far from getting the results out of ‘painting with light’ in Photoshop that I really want but at least I am improving (ever so slightly, Rome wasn’t built in a day etc!)

Here’s a few recent attempts at painting with light and digital post processing:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Sortedam Dossering HDR sunset
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

This sunset from Copenhagen is a heavily post processed image with a lot more going on than just painting with light and it’s closer to digital art than photography. I merged two exposures of the same shot into a high dynamic range file in the new Photomatix 3.0 software. This brought out the detail in the buildings (shadows) and the clouds. The HDR software didn’t do wonders to the look of the water though so I decided to completely alter this using motion blur tool in Photoshop. Finally I added vignetting and ‘painting with light’ to the image in Photoshop. The sunset is still real though, it really did look like this! It’s mostly an experiment but I am fairly happy with the results.

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Pandanus Palm at Trinity Bay
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

This is a photo from Australia where I have only used ‘painting with light’ to darken the messy boring bits of the photo (the trees and bushes) and lighten the interesting parts – the combination of the palm tree, the water, beach and sky. I am going for the Peter Eastway effect here and I have to admit I am not totally happy with the results. It’s alright but not totally what I had in mind so I will keep practicing on this photo.

One thing that I find hard is to ‘paint with light’ using a mouse. It’s impossible to do nice curves and strokes using a mouse and I am seriously considering getting a Wacom Intuos3 tablet – anyone have good experiences with using a tablet?

I like painting with light and as I slowly get better at it I see how incredible and powerful a tool it is and it allows me to be even more creative and really work my photos into the exact expression I want. I am still a photographer full stop and not a graphic artist and shooting the photo in the field will always be the best part of the experience for me. But no camera can capture what I want to express so I need to be able to do the digital darkroom stuff to perfection to create fine art landscapes and cityscapes so I’m back to cursing myself, the computer and the mouse!

The landscape as a character

The Proposition I am a landscape (and cityscape) photographer so naturally I love movies where the landscape itself is an integral part of the story, a character in itself. In some movies the landscape is almost the main character and through cinematography and music the landscape takes on a personality. I greatly admire the cinematographers of these movies for their work, being able to bring a personality to the landscape and make you feel as you’re actually there, suffering in the intense heat of the outback for example and not just sitting in a comfy seat at the cinema (wanting to kill everyone who eats popcorn and candy loudly but that’s another story).

10 to Yuma Almost any Western has the landscape as an important part of the story, and lately at the cinema there has been some great examples of various Western themed movies: 3:10 to Yuma, There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men – all of them great movies with outstanding cinematography with the landscape itself as an important character. I recently re-watched The Proposition on DVD and this fantastic Australian western (highly recommended!) is one of the best examples ever of making the landscape a character in the movie. In Nicolas Roeg’s classic Walkabout set in the Australian outback the landscape is almost the main character. The movie is “Nic Roeg 70s weird” to the point of not making sense a lot of the time but it is still so spellbinding and so well shot and directed that it lingers in the visual cortex forever.

In still photography; Ansel Adams is one of my heroes and he created masterpieces of landscape photography. His photos, his darkroom work and his totally perfect black and white fine art printing techniques created huge prints that actually created an emotional response in the viewer. That’s hard with a landscape, easier with human portraits. I have a long way to go but I strive for the same, to someday have a landscape print that will not only make the viewer go “that’s gorgeous” but will floor them speechless (well it’s good to have ambitions!). Ansel managed to make the landscape a character.

Walkabout

Walkabout poster. Notice the burned highlights and high contrast

Conveying the landscape as a character and giving the landscape a personality is done through many different ways. Over and underexposure and different filters are often used just as we do in still photography. Overexposure is used a lot when you want the viewer to feel the intense and unforgiving heat, brightness and hostility of a desert or the outback. De-saturating the colours and upping the contrast is also a useful tool to make the image more striking, monochromatic and again make you almost feel the sun. The Proposition is shot this way, completely blown out skies and mostly brownish de-saturated colours. I really admire how you can do this and still make it look striking and beautiful. I do love the supersaturated tropical look, but it is also an easier and sometimes too easy look, to shoot a polarized and Velvia like saturated colour scene in places like Australia where the colours are already so intense. This look also fares much better on the web than the “Western” look because you need to catch the viewers eyes with a small thumbnail image and colours do this very well.

I want to experiment some more with the de-saturated, dusty, high-contrast and over-exposed Western look. This is quite possibly a look that works a lot better on print, not on the web so it will be a challenge to try and create striking images in this category.I’ll end this with a few recent examples, where I’ve experimented with a lot of different Photoshop techniques to try and find my “Western” look. Here’s the examples, click to see fullsize on my gallery:

Click to see large size on my gallery!

A new day at Hawk Dreaming

Click to see large size on my gallery!

Lancelin Sand Dunes in Ansel Adams style

Click to see large size on my gallery!

Gate to the Outback

If you have some tips for how to create this look, I’d love to hear them!