Tag Archives: wacom

Judgment Day

“There’s a storm coming” says the boy. “I know” says Sarah Connor at the end of one of my favourite movies – the sci-fi masterpiece The Terminator.

It wasn’t exactly followed by a nuclear launch and machines taking over the world, but the storm that hit Copenhagen on a Thursday night a few weeks ago still had a “end of the world” feel to it. A very dramatic cloudscape preceded the storm just at sunset and I picked a spot on the harbour with a wide open view of the sky and captured this:

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

Copenhagen Harbour Storm Panorama
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Standing at the harbour shooting this and watching the storm coming with not a soul to be seen anywhere I felt like saying another favourite Terminator quote “There’s not much time left in the world”!

The shot is 6 vertical images stitched in PTgui. I used a neutral density filter to lengthen exposure but then forgot I had the iso at 200…bugger! I wish the 5D would display iso in the viewfinder! The original shot had a sky that was more bluish and purple but I didn’t really like this colour and felt it didn’t go well with the orange colour of the sunset. So I desaturated most of the blues and cyans and then added a bit of a dark brown gradient fill layer to the clouds just to warm the gray clouds slightly. I feel the orange and black go much better together here. As the finishing touch I used my Wacom tablet to paint some light onto the buildings and added a couple of vignettes in Photoshop.

The end result is a dramatic stormy cloudscape view of Copenhagen – Judgment Day style without the robots though!

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 Frederiksholm Canal with light

I received my Wacom Intuos3 6×8 tablet this week and I already find it to be an amazing tool and it is so much better to work in Photoshop with an advanced tablet like this than a clunky mouse. The way that the pen pressure can be set to for example opacity really makes painting with light so much easier and much more creative and enjoyable.

The first photo to receive the “tablet treatment” is the following Frederiksholm Canal mirror perfect reflection from an amazing evening a few weeks ago:

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

A mirror of Frederiksholm Canal
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

This is an against-the-light shot so I used the tablet to paint in a bit of light on the buildings originally buried in deep shadows. I also used the tablet to paint a couple of different vignettes and for creating layers and masking for sharpening etc. In an attempt to really learn the tablet I moved the keyboard and mouse to the side and used the tablet exclusively. It was a great way to work and I found that Photoshop and the Intuous3 tablet were made for each other. I didn’t use a lot of painting with light on this shot, but I think in this case even a subtle use has a great effect!

This image is also a good demonstration of how much gold is buried, not only at the end of a rainbow, but in the binaries of a RAW file. I had forgotten I shot this a few weeks ago and looking at the very pale desaturated, high contrasty and very unexciting RAW file I thought “why did I shoot this?”. But against-the-light raw files are always the worst, they look awful until you begin massaging the information out of the RAW file and after some digital darkroom magic the shot appears and I remember why I shot it in the first place – the gorgeous contre-jour light and colours!

Time Chaser

I always write I’m a light chaser and a weather chaser but lately I seem to be chasing time mostly. Too much to do and could not catch up with time (something about needing to get the Delorean up to 88 miles per hour!).

Been very busy with my photography business and doing some freelance IT-consulting and a tonnes of other stuff + the light has been boring for a week (weather’s been great but boring light from cloudless skies) so I haven’t shot anything new nor found the time to write. Need to catch up with time and need better light over Copenhagen (a small thing to ask!)

Going through the RAW files from last year I did find a few new keepers from Brisbane, one of my favourite cities in Australia. A cityscape at dusk and an amazing sunset panorama from Lamington National Park 2 hours south of good old Brissy:

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

Brisbane River & Skyline at dusk
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

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

Lamington National Park Sunset Panorama
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

The cityscape from Brisbane really shows you how nice the sky lights up at dusk and how good a digital sensor is at picking up the red colours in the atmosphere. And the highrises of Brissy are impressive!

The sunset from Lamington National Park is just a sunset shot, but it was an incredible one at that with great colours and cloud definitions.  Both shots received a bit of ‘painting’ with light but later today I’m picking up my Wacom 6×8″ tablet so expect my next batch of shots to be painted with light like it was going out of fashion!

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!