One of the side effects of working on my CS4 skills is delving into Lightroom 2. From getting a grip on Photoshop CS4, I started getting into Lightroom, which lead to picking up a scanner to work on my old negs and slides, which lead to a complete renewal of my interest into still photography, and the digital darkroom. Kind of strange for an Editor/VFX guy to admit, but my interests in still work waned years ago, after my initial 20-years or so of photography had lead to other avenues of interest … film, theater and video, directing, designing, editing, compositing, and all that jazz. But no longer.
I’ve been out shooting with my D70, and just ordered a Nikon D90 body to quell my raging megapixel envy (although I liked it when you could own a camera for 25 years, like my old Nikon FM, and still keep taking kick-ass photos without a biennial upgrade for new tech), and am going to start doing more work on a regular, if not daily, basis.
My results so far have been posted to flicker, and can be seen in the viewer below. I’ll keep adding to the collection.
I’ve had a funny relationship with photoshop over the last 10 years, or so. I’ve never really used it for photography. It’s mainly been a tool for creating graphics, and elements for motion composites or editing projects. Most of the work I’ve “Photoshopped” (I hate using Photoshop as a verb, no matter what Adobe says) has been done with Apple Shake. Yeah, it’s kind of overkill for compositing still images, like the one of ICM’s George Ruiz (see below) that I did for his Twitter avatar last Christmas. It’s just that I’ve been really comfortable with the tools Shake has to offer, especially the color correction set, which is the most important part of doing any convincing composite. This has been standing in the way of my broader artistic education and, more importantly, a deeper understanding of what Photoshop can do for me.
Well, that’s changing, as I upgrade my toolset … I’m working with Nuke more on the compositing side, as well as After Effects for Webisode-type work. Getting out there with my camera and using Photoshop CS4 and Lightroom to “develop” the work, will keep my skills growing in that area as well. I’m looking forward to also sharing a lot of work that I’ve done over the years that have been in my treasure boxes waiting to be seen.
I’m really intrigued by HDR (High Dynamic Range) images … Taking a bracketed set of exposures, each capturing the correct exposure for a part of the image, and then combining them together into one photograph with the entire dynamic range of the scene correctly captured. What took Ansel Adams a lifetime of work to figure out in traditional photography, is becoming fairly easy in the digital darkroom. The above photo is a WIP that I’m working on with “Poor Man’s HDR”, a technique where you put different exposures of an image into Photoshop as layers (Lightroom does that automagically) and then use layer masks and paint techniques to develop the composite image. The results can be quite stunning. In this case, I’m using 3 different exposures for the foreground, the interior of the palace, and the sky and trees in the background. A bit more paint work and this will be done. The use of paint tools and brushes brings something painterly to photography that I rather enjoy.
I’ve played around a bit with Photoshop’s HDR assemble tool, which will put the exposures together for you … I’ve read some criticisms of the HDR tool, but I’m also not totally clear on how best to use it, so the layered technique is providing better results for me right now.
In the final shot I wound up dumping the paint work for a more procedural technique using Photoshop Layer blending options. The paint work was taking forever, and not looking as uniform, or real, as I’ve hoped. There’s still some subtle paint work in blending the foreground and background architecture, but this worked out to be easier and better looking.
Time to start coming up with a new web show, tentative title: “I don’t suck at Photoshop nearly as much as I used to.” :p