Like many photographers, I take lots and lots of pictures that get deleted (probably 5-10 deletions or more for every keeper), and many more that never make it out of Lightroom. I keep some of those because I like them, but there’s a problem that I just don’t know how to deal with — too much noise, perhaps, or something that’s in the frame that I can’t get rid of.

One such shot I took in spring of 2012. I loved the subject – magnolia blossoms reflected in the chapel window – but the angle was just too awkward. You can see the original at the bottom of this post. Because of the placement of buildings and trees, shooting it straight on meant that the bottom of the window appeared to be twice the size of the top; so I took a longer shot from the side. I’ve revisited the photo a few times over the past year but wasn’t able to do much with it.

In my web wanderings today, I read about the new “upright” feature in Lightroom 5. Like magic, this feature modified the photo to look (mostly) like it was taken straight on! Here it is:

Sage Chapel Magnolias

“Upright” version

While it’s not perfect – for example, you can see more levels of detail in the bricks to the right of the window, and the circular window on top is a bit distorted – it does an amazing job of modifying perspective.

The steps I used in this example were:

  1. Under Lens Corrections / Basic, click Enable Profile Corrections and Constrain Crop
  2. Still under Lens Corrections, under Upright, select Full.
  3. Under Lens Corrections / Manual, I used the Aspect slider to make the window look wider.

Here’s the original:

Sage Hall Magnolias


Note that using the tool requires losing parts of the image around the edges, but this shouldn’t be a problem if the original has enough fluff to compensate.

The Upright tool works similar magic on uneven horizon lines, photos taken with wide angle cameras, and more. What a great addition to an already great program!


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


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.


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


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.


Our new neighbor

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


Fun with vacation photos

A big reason that I chose to learn more about photography was so that I could take better pictures when I traveled or went on vacation. Last week, hubby and I spent a few days in Yosemite. I had never been there before, and it was just amazing – every view was a postcard.

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls

The thing about travel photography, though, is that in the type of popular tourist spots that I tend to visit, there are plenty of locals who are entirely adept at making beautiful photographs of their own home turf.

So on this trip, I spent some time trying to be a little creative. I played a little with some forced perspective:

Bridalveil Falls

Filling Yosemite Valley

… and took advantage of some signage at the Mariposa Redwood Groves.

Faithful Couple

Faithful Couple

Hubby returned home with my DSLR while I stayed to work in the Bay area for a few days.  I had a few short hours in San Francisco, and spent it down near Fisherman’s Wharf.

Eat Crab

Eat Crab

Since the zoom on my little S100 wasn’t up to the task of capturing any detail of Alcatraz, I focused on the foreground instead.

Gull with Alcatraz

Gull with Alcatraz

I’m back home and missing the California sunshine, but spring is oh-so-close!

One subject, three views

There was some lovely fog in between rainstorms today. I took a few minutes to stop by one of my favorite photo spots, the beacon at Myers Point.

Myers Point

Foggy Myers Point

I was at this spot less than a week ago, taking advantage of the warmer weather and the still-early sunsets to get this blue hour shot. The color is real – I even toned it down a bit – but as you might have guessed, I used Topaz Star Effects on the light.

Myers Blue Hour

Myers Blue Hour (with Ithaca in the background)

This shot from a year ago February gives a different view still, even though I was standing close to the same spot. I caught the end of the sunset in the southern sky.

Myers Point Beacon

Myers Point Beacon

One subject, three very different views.

Soft and sharp

Last week’s announcement from Google that they were bundling the Nik software offerings and offering them at a reduced price – with a free upgrade to current Nik owners – was such wonderful, welcome news! I spent part of this past weekend working with some of the products that I really hadn’t explored before, including Color Efex Pro. Here’s a sample of some crocuses that were run through the Film Efex (Faded) filter:



I wanted to make sure that there were some sharp edges in the output, so that the viewer would know what it was that I was focusing on. I suspected that the sharpening mask was what I needed, so I did a little Googling and found what I needed: how to use the Sharpening Mask in Lightroom. It turns out that by holding the Alt key (PC) and moving the Masking slider, you can affect what gets sharpened – it picks out the edges and shows them in white on black. This is huge. This functionality has been there for a while. It makes me wonder what else I’m missing!