Slightly Warped

One of my favorite subjects, especially in the fall, is the reflection of trees in a calm lake. But unless you’re directly across from the trees (or other subject) you want to capture, your perspective may be slightly skewed – so that the resulting picture makes it look as if the water is going up or down – in other words, it looks like the lake isn’t level.

I had the opportunity yesterday to capture some lake reflections in the Adirondacks. Here’s the original picture, in which the trees were slightly lower on the right hand side:

 

Version 1
See how the lake seems to dip down on the right hand side?

I asked Carl about this during last week’s workshop. He suggested that I take a look at Perspective Warp in Photoshop. Most of the videos I found online about Perspective Warp had to do with fixing buildings; however, I think I’ve made it work for this problem, like so:

  1. Open the photo in Photoshop. Create a new layer from the background.
  2. Select Edit > Perspective Warp.
  3. With Layer selected in the top left, draw a box around the entire photo.

    Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 10.03.36 AM 

  4. Select Warp in the top left. Drag the top-right-corner handle up to level out the landscape.

    Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 10.04.51 AM

… and voila, the final version!

 

Autumn Reflections

 

Now I feel compelled to fix all of those other reflection photos I’ve posted.

Adirondack Workshopping

Yesterday I spent the day in a workshop led by Carl Heiman, who specializes in landscape photography in the Adirondacks. We (hubby and I) hopped in the car around 9 and were in Old Forge by noon.
On the Moose River I
It was a beautiful day, sunny with wispy clouds and temperatures in the 60’s.  Normally, the fall colors peak right around this time each year – but this year they were “brown and down”. There was still plenty of beautiful scenery.
On the Moose River III

Carl was terrific – very knowledgeable, very friendly, very approachable. I had the opportunity to ask a question that has bugged me from time to time. It has to do with shooting across a body of water, when you’re not pointed directly across but maybe to the right or left around 10 degrees. The perspective is skewed a bit, enough to make it look like the horizon isn’t level. The answer? Use either Warp or Perspective Warp in Photoshop.

The rocks in the back of this shot were a bit of a problem in this regard, so I used Perspective Warp on them. I was happy with the result.
Rock Formations

 

We shot until after dark and made it home before midnight. A fun day out!
Adirondack Reflection

 

In the course of a year (part 2)

In my last post, I started listing some things that I’ve learned about photography in the last year. Occasionally I feel stuck in a rut, possibly because I’m not learning as much (and as quickly) as when I was a beginner. Being able to reflect on a year’s photography helps remind me why I keep trying.

Item Learned #5: Enjoy June, it goes far too quickly.

In June, it feels like summer will last forever. On the weekends I get up early to visit the garden; the sun is bright, there’s dew on the grass, and the bees are everywhere. If I don’t get any pictures I love, I always think: that’s OK, there’s always next weekend. But no. I need to remind that June will pass in a heartbeat.

 

dewdrop

 

Item Learned #6: Just be patient

Sometimes I’m convinced that all of the ruby-throated hummingbirds of the world keep track of my whereabouts so that they can tease me. For 3 weekends in a row this summer, I spent hours in the gardens. I’d spot a hummingbird and it would fly off; so I’d stay in the general vicinity, waiting for its return. Of course it would never come back. I was finally rewarded a few weeks ago – not the showy male hummingbird, but a pretty female. I’ve been told that the great wildlife photographers spend days in a blind waiting for their subjects. They’re far more patient than I am.

 

Anticipation

 

Item Learned #7: Your results may vary

Twice a year I have the opportunity to photograph fireworks – July 4th at the lake, and Labor Day out in the country. I usually come away with a few shots that I like, but I’ve always had problems with the grand finale being overexposed. I finally got it right this fall by changing settings just before the big moment. (ISO 200, f/14.0, 5s).

 

Grand Finale

 

The things I’m learning aren’t always technical. These days, they’re much simpler, but more profound: be patient. Be willing to adjust. Be willing to be uncomfortable. And most important: enjoy every minute.

Unshaken

The new Photoshop was released yesterday, as part of the new subscription-based Creative Cloud. Because it seems that Adobe is holding all of its users hostage by making them pay a monthly subscription for software titles that could previously be bought off-the-shelf, I had considered making a statement by not continuing to buy Adobe. But the new Photoshop CC has that one to-die-for feature: Camera Shake Reduction.

And of course I had to test this feature out on a shot that I took on Saturday. All of the wildlife photo opportunities that have come my way recently have been a major test for my 70-300mm lens: those hawk, fox, and heron babies are generally kept away from the paparazzi by their watchful parents. So, I’ve been zooming in as far as possible, which unfortunately leads to camera shake. (Either that, or I get so excited by the photo opportunity that I can’t keep still! I’m not sure which of these is the cause.)

Here’s the shot that I took Saturday – since the shake is difficult to notice in the small size displayed in a browser window, I’m presenting the “unshaken” version:

Heron Landing

Heron Landing

Look a little closer. The pre-camera-shake-reduction-filtered version is on the left; the processed version is on the right.

before after

The verdict? Yes — the shake goes away, differently than if I had just sharpened the photo. The result is a bit more noise and some loss of detail. Do I think it’s worth it? Yes… and it will be more worth it once the other plug-ins that I own are updated to work with CC!

Flying higher

I spent yesterday afternoon at a rodeo, and had a really fun time, but photographically things didn’t turn out so well. I spent much of the afternoon trying to get a good panning shot of a nice graceful horse flying across the arena, but ended up with a lot of close-but-blurrys. Action shots are tough for me! I get so excited when it’s time to snap the shutter that I move the camera. (I may break down and subscribe to Adobe Creative Cloud just so that I can get that camera-shake reduction feature in the new Photoshop!)

Today I planned to take some nice, slow flower macros, but was drawn in to the excitement of watching the baby hawks fledging from the light towers over the fields nearby. I got a few nice standing-still hawk photos, but the birds were far away enough that I would have to crop quite a bit. I was just about to head home for dinner when “Big Red”, the mother, decided to deliver some food to one of the babies who was stuck in a tree.

Big Red with chipmunk

Big Red Delivery Service

There it was, my panned shot! And I took it without thinking twice. If you look closely, you’ll see her talons clutching a chipmunk.

As a bonus, I caught this shot as Big Red flew overhead moments later:

Big Red and the Chipmunk

Look! Up in the sky!

Two keepers in the space of about 5 minutes. I don’t know how to explain it, but I’ll take it.

If you’re interested, there’s a bird cam on Big Red (and hubby Ezra)’s nest. Two of the three babies have fledged (one of them has not managed to make it back to the nest, but is alive and well). When I checked just now, there were 2133 viewers – this family has quite a following!

One more shot to leave you with. While I was waiting, waiting for some hawk action, a mother skunk and her two babies emerged from the bushes across the street and went food shopping in the garden where I had just taken my flower photos.

3 Skunks

“To get to the other side”

Timing is everything.

 

The picture within

In my web wanderings last week, I came across this article which talked about the virtues of using the “Tonal Contrast” filter in Nik Color Efex Pro.

I used this newfound knowledge yesterday on this shot of a small waterfall near my office, taken from underneath my umbrella while walking through the pouring rain.

Tower Road Waterfall

The enhanced version

As part of this experiment, I also used the “Detail Extractor” filter. Each of the filters made a significant difference; used together, they provide rich, colorful detail.

For comparison, here’s the original:

The "before" image

The “before” image

My guess is that some people might prefer the unprocessed “before” look. I kind of like the Thomas Kinkade look, personally – at least for this kind of shot.

I was already a big fan of the Nik collection – this just gave me one more reason to love it.

 

Warning: unbridled cuteness

I live on a small road at the edge of town, with a gorge and small waterfall behind my backyard. We see deer on a regular basis, and other  common wildlife such as wild turkey stop by from time to time. As I wrote recently, some fox have recently moved in nearby; my neighbors tell me that there’s a mom and 4 cubs. But no one has seen mom in the last few days, and the cubs seem to be wandering about on their own.

Two mornings this week, we found one of the cubs sleeping on our back deck. The first time, he was just on the other side of the sliding glass door (with a decidedly unphotographic screen between us); he got up and wandered off when my dog started pawing the door. The next morning, though, he was asleep in the far corner of the deck. He woke up when I opened the door.

Fox cub

Decker

After his photo shoot, hubby chased him off – per instructions from our local wildlife guy. Halfway across the backyard, the cub – “Decker”, as he’s been named by a colleague – looked back longingly at his cozy deck. He hasn’t been back in the last two days.

Yesterday, though, I was on my way home from taking some spring flower pictures, and saw my neighbor’s car stopped in the middle of the street. Two cubs were playing in front of his driveway.  One of them ran off, but the other was unconcerned.

Fox Cub

Too cute to chase away

I’m not sure if it was Decker – if not, there’s a strong family resemblance!

I’m hoping their mom is around so that they can celebrate Mother’s Day with her.

Speaking of Mother’s Day, my daughter posted this on my Facebook Timeline the other night. 😉

Sleepy fox stuffed animal

Sleepy Fox

I’ve bought a new camera! Although I love my Canon 5D Mark II, it is very heavy, I have small hands, and I don’t always need full-frame. I pre-ordered one of the new Canon Rebel SL1‘s in March, and it finally arrived last week (followed by 3 days of rain, of course). It’s tiny! I used it, along with the Canon 70-300mm IS Lens, for the two (live) fox photos above.

Blossoming

We’ve had a banner year for blossoming trees!

One of my favorite techniques for capturing blossoms is to overexpose a little bit, and use an overcast sky as background.

Blossom 2

Blossoms

Using Split Toning (in Lightroom) gives them a very different look. Although I’m partial to the color version, this B&W might be better for decorating.

Split-toned Blossoms

Split-toned Blossoms

Either way, it’s great to finally see something in the landscape besides snow, ice, and mud!

The quick red fox

“The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”… we don’t have any brown foxes in our backyard, but we do have a family of red foxes; I’ve been trying to digitally capture one for quite a while. Luckily, this morning this one stood still long enough for me to retrieve a camera and take its picture.

The quick red fox

The quick red fox

Unluckily, though, it proceeded to run through my backyard – past my not-so-lazy dog – and enticed my lab-mix to break through the invisible (electric) fence and follow it who-knows-where. So far, the story has a happy ending; the dog came back home after about 15 minutes. But now it seems that the fox family has taken up residence behind the stone wall, so there may be further adventures.

In case you’re interested, I’ve loaded up a cropped-way-down copy of this shot. I was pretty impressed with the intensity of his eyes.

Fox

Our new neighbor

For what it’s worth, we’ve noticed that our chipmunk population is way down. Coincidence?