Thursday, April 19, 2018

Don't Be Satisfied With The First

Many landscape photographers, including myself, have a bad habit of shooting the first obvious composition.  That's fine, but the problem comes when we stop there and don't take the time to look for other different less-obvious compositions.

1/4 sec, f/22, ISO 200, 41mm (cropped sensor)
Here's an example from a recent trip to Charleston Falls Preserve in Ohio.  The falls are billed as a miniature Niagra Falls because of the rock strata.  When we were there the water flow was low and the falls were nothing like Niagra, miniature or not.  There is a nice footbridge that crosses the creek below the falls.  This bridge is the obvious place to shoot from and I made all these photos from that bridge.  The best thing I can say about this first photo is it accurately depicts the falls.  It's what I call a documentary photo - accurate, but uninteresting.

The nice footbridge was also a barrier to getting to where I would like to have shot the falls - standing in the water about 20 feet from the base of the falls.  I could have positioned my camera low near the surface of the water and used the flowing water as a nice leading line up to the falls.  The day was cold, rainy and muddy - not worth climbing over the railing.

When the water falls vertically, a portrait (tall) aspect composition will often work best when shooting waterfalls.  That's how I shot the first example.  It shows the entire falls and the pool below.   Another option is to zoom in to capture some of the details in the scene.   In the second photo, I stood closer and used a horizontal crop to emphasize the three places where the water hits the rocks.

1/3 sec, f/11, ISO 200, 28mm
There is still a lot more rocks than water in the second photo.  I think the water hitting the rocks is the much more interesting than the rocks.   By zooming in even more I can emphasize the white water on the rocks. I also put a polarizer filter on my lens for this third photo.  The polarizer cut some of the glare off the wet rocks.
1/4 sec, f/11, ISO 200 66mm
My favorite part of this third photo is the flowing white water contrasting with the hard dark rocks.  The splashing water throws up a mist where it hits the rocks making it appear to glow.  Personally, I think this is a better composition than either of the first two.

When a photo is about contrast and shapes it can be a good candidate for black and white.  When you take away the color it can draw the viewers attention to other parts of the photo.  In this case that is the misty glowing water, the shapes or the water and rocks, and the contrast between the white water and the dark rocks.
The third photo converted to B&W
All of these photos were taken from the short footbridge.  By moving to different positions on the bridge and trying different compositions I was able to find multiple compositions I would have missed if I had stopped with the first.  When you arrive at a photo location, take time to look around.  You might try leaving your tripod and walking around with just your camera looking for interesting shots.  You can always go back for the tripod when you find a composition you like.  Just don't be satisfied with the first.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

New Lightroom Classic Feature Makes Culling Photos Faster

By the time we finished breakfast this morning the temperatures were in the sixties, the sun was shining and there was a soft breeze blowing.  A perfect morning to photograph birds in the yard.  I got my camera, filled my large coffee cup to the top and went out back to spend some time with the birds that visit our yard.  Retirement is really hard.

Between 8:30 and 10:00 I shot 739 photos.  It's easy to do when your camera can shoot 8 frames a second.
Bluebird

In the first round, I culled out (deleted) 412 or 55% of my shots.  These were the easy ones to delete.  They were out of focus, over/under exposed, the bird was behind a branch or facing the wrong way.  I didn't have to look close to see that they needed to be sent to the bit-bucket.

This initial culling process used to be painfully slow.  Lightroom took a long time to build previews of the RAW photos to display on the screen.  Depending on how many photos you imported, it could take a while to build the previews. The best thing to do was to go get a cup of coffee and relax. A new Lightroom Classic feature added in version 7.2 makes this process a significantly faster than before.  

When importing the photos from the memory card, I choose the “Embedded and Sidecar” option in the preview generation dropdown.  Lightroom will use the embedded jpeg preview out of the raw file that your camera generated.  I can immediately start the culling step using these embedded previews without having to wait on Lightroom.

Lightroom will display "Embedded Preview" in the lower right of an image so you can tell that you are viewing the preview from the camera.  

At some point in your Lightroom process, you will want to work with true 1:1 previews.  When you are to the point where you need to zoom in to pick the best photos, go to the Library module, grid view, select all the remaining photos and click the Library menu.  Select Previews and Build 1:1 Previews.  It will take less time because you are building fewer previews. 



Monday, February 19, 2018

Basic Photography Class in March

I am offering my Basic Photography Class this March.


The class will start out with learning the basics of photography - light, shutter speed, aperture and how to use them on your camera.  From there we will get into color, composition, lighting, techniques and photographic gear selection.  We'll talk about some common photography challenges and how to overcome them. We will go over different photo editing packages, organizing photos, printing, and sharing online.   The class will be a combination of classroom teaching, practicing our new photography skills, and reviews of photography assignments.

The class is designed for a photographer who has a DSLR, mirrorless camera, or advanced compact camera.

Classroom sessions are March 22, 27, 29 and April 3 from 6:00 PM– 8:00 PM in the Eastman Employee Center.   There will be one field trip on Saturday March 31 to practice what we have learned.  The Saturday time will depend on what works best for the majority of the students.  This is Easter weekend so we may move the field trip date to accommodate student’s schedules.

In every Class we will have time for:

  • Review of Homework – yes, we are in school again.
  • Problem Solving - Bring your camera and problem photos to class
  • Question and Answer

The class is open to Eastman Camera Club members.  The good news is anyone can join the club by going to http://eastmancameraclub.com/ and clicking on About near the upper left of the page.

Cost - $40/person.   Maximum of 14 people per class.  Call Eastman Recreation Office at 423-229-3771 to sign up. 

Contact –rcsiggins@gmail.com


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Telling A Story - The Prehistoric Birds

Art is more enjoyable if it tells a story and photography is no different.  If we can tell a story with our photos then people will be more interested and may find the photo(s) more compelling.

Sometimes the story is best told using a sequence of photos to show action or behavior of the subject.  I recently caught a family of Double-crested Cormorants in South Florida and was able to capture them doing what all families do - eat together.

A Cormorant is a common bird in Florida with some birds staying year long. The gangly Double-crested Cormorant is a prehistoric-looking black bird with green eyes and yellow-orange on its beak and face. They have been described as a strange combination of a goose and a loon.  The Cormorants are related to the exotic frigatebirds and boobies found in the Galapagos Islands. You have probably spotted one with its wings spread out to dry in the sun. They dive underwater and are excellent swimmers, using their feet and wings to propel themselves after fish.

This pair of adults had gotten an early start on the rest of the birds and already had two juveniles in the nest.  The parents seemed to be holding their heads high signaling they were proud of their little ones.
The Happy Family At Home
Like any home, repairs are required to be performed constantly.  They were adding nesting material to their nest.
There is always work to be done to maintain a home
Just like human youth, these juveniles were constantly hungry.
Mom! Dad! We're Hungry! 
No fast food for these kids.  The parents had to catch and prepare the meals.  This involved eating, partially digesting and regurgitating fish for the young'uns.
Yum Yum Yum

Wait, I know there is more fish down there.
Finished!
This adult may be leaving the nest in search of more food or may have had enough of junior climbing down his throat.

I hope you found this little photographic sequence educational, entertaining, or at least funny.  My intent was to tell more of the story than what can be conveyed in just one photo.

All the photos were taken at the Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray Beach, Florida.  They were shot with a Fuji X-T2 mirrorless camera and a 100-400mm zoom at 400mm.  The photos were cropped by about 1/3.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Adobe Lightroom Class

Allan Barnett and I will again be teaching a class on Adobe Lightroom in February 2018.


You’ve probably heard about Adobe Lightroom software and maybe you have already purchased and installed a copy.  Great!   Now, what do you do?   Sign up for the Adobe Lightroom Class offered by the Eastman Camera Club!

You will learn how to edit landscapes

We’re going to have a great time learning how you can use Lightroom to manage and edit your photos.  In my opinion, Lightroom is still the best tool for digital photographers.  Unlike some other software, Lightroom was designed from the ground up for photographers.  Once you get into it you’ll find it makes perfect sense.  However, when you start Lightroom for the first time you may feel like you just sat down in the cockpit of a Boeing 777.   Don’t panic!   In just four evenings you will become familiar with most of those buttons and when / how to use each one.

Correcting exposures in Lightroom


Our class will be from 6:00 – 8:00 in Room 221 of the Eastman Toy F. Reid Employee Center, February 13, 15, 20 and 22.

How to sign up
Go to or call ( 229-3771) the Eastman Recreation Office in the Employee Center and ask to be put on the list for the Lightroom class in February.  You will need to pay the $60 fee up front.  The class is limited to the first 10 people to sign up.

You will need to bring a laptop with Lightroom installed.  We will be teaching from the latest Lightroom Classic CC version but older versions will be fine.

Contact me if you have any questions. - rcsiggins@gmail.com 


Thursday, December 28, 2017

A Photographic Adventure to Kokomo Opalescent Glass Factory


For more than 128 years Kokomo Opalescent Glass has been producing world famous sheet art glass. Hand mixed sheet glass is an art form in itself. Many of the employees are second and third generation and are proud to carry on the rich heritage of America's Oldest Art Glass Company.

The term "opalescent glass" is commonly used to describe glass where more than one color is present, being fused during the manufacture.  Named after the appearance of opals, opalescent glass can be one solid color, but it is generally a mixture of two or more colors with streaks and swirls. The opalescent stained glass is generally translucent but often almost opaque. While the milky and swirling mixture of colors in opalescent glass let in less light than traditional windows, it was perfect for dark late 19th century interiors with lighting provided by electricity.
Opalescent Glass

Use of the colored glass itself to create stained glass pictures was motivated by the ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement and its leader William Morris in England. This can be contrasted with the method of painting in glass paint or enamels on colorless ["white"] glass that had been the dominant method of creating stained glass for several hundred years since the Renaissance in Europe.

John LaFarge was the first designer to incorporate opalescent glass into a window and received a patent for his new product on February 24, 1880. Tiffany received several patents for variations of the same opalescent process in November of the same year. La Farge was persuaded by Tiffany with hints of a future partnership and possible collaborations to waive his patent. The promises never materialized while competition and animosity grew between the two artists. Fellow artist and glassmakers Oliver Kimberly and Frank Duffner, founders of the Duffner and Kimberly company, and John La Farge were Tiffany's chief competitors in this new American style of stained glass. Tiffany, Duffner and Kimberly, along with La Farge, had learned their craft at the same glasshouses in Brooklyn in the late-1870s.

Eventually, Tiffany became the darling of the Gilded Age industrialists and he created a glass and decorating studio that boasted more than a hundred workers. La Farge remained the lone artist who contracted out fabrication of his designs to smaller studios. Both LaFarge and Tiffany secured their glass from the Kokomo glass factory in Kokomo, Indiana, after it became a reliable source for them in 1888.

The Kokomo Opalescent Glass Works was founded by Charles Edward Henry, who was relocating his existing stained glass manufacturing business from New Rochelle, New York. KOG has long been an important supplier to the American stained glass industry, including documented sales to Louis C. Tiffany, and in 1889, KOG won a gold medal at the Paris World Exposition for their multi-colored window glass.

Naural gas was plentiful and cheap near Kokomo Indiana in the 1880. Literally, hundreds of glass businesses took advantage of this and built in the area by 1890s.  Most closed after the natural gas boom ended. The same fate almost befell the glassworks as Henry’s business slipped into receivership around 1890. Three Kokomo residents bought the works in a receivers sale in 1891.

KOG was a leader in the development of opalescent glass from its origins and has hundreds of color recipes, documented color combinations, and numerous textures and density formulas in sheet glass. Variation is one of the hallmarks of the way the glass is made, still using equipment for the hand-mixed roller table process that was first installed in the early 1900s. Surprisingly, many of the recipes for colors still come from Peter Hoss’s 1904 handwritten book. The process remains very much the same as is was in the beginning. “Recipes” that are over 128 years old are still hand mixed to make the world famous sheet art glass.
The Beehive Furnace
The glass is created in a gas-fired furnace that runs day and night.  They only turn it off for routine maintenance a couple times a year.

Ladling Molten Glass
About 1,400 pounds of ingredients are placed into each of the 12 pots of the furnace and overnight they are melted in preparation to become sheet art glass.  They can use these pots to prepare up to twelve different colors at a time.

The colored molten glass is scooped out of the pots by hand using one of many sizes of ladles and placed on the mixing table. The ladles weigh 20 to 50 pounds empty and can be double that when full.

Running glass to the mixing table
The molten glass must be moved from the furnace to the mixing table quickly before it can cool.  The men practically run across the factory floor with these heavy ladles full of glass, spilling the molten ingredients across the floor.





Ladling Onto The Mixing Table


Each color is added to the water cooled mixing table in proportions based on recipes dating back to 1904.

The molten glass is then hand mixed by the Table Man using a two-pronged fork before being rolled out into a 1/8 inch thick sheet. The Table Man job is as much art as anything else and is one of the most important in the process.  The air-cooled rollers transfer one of 17 textures to the glass.  Some of these textures match the ones used in the late 19th century.
The Table Man Mixes The Glass

The rolled sheet is positioned to go through the Lehr (the annealing oven) which takes about 1/2 hour to be annealed.Annealing cools the glass slowly which helps to remove internal stresses in glass and to strengthen it. Once annealed it is moved onto the cutting table and hand cut then packed up for shipment.  Producing hand mixed sheet glass in this manner is a very labor-intensive process.


A new sheet of glass is created about every 90 seconds using a process that hasn't changed much at all in 128 years.
Feeding the glass into the rollers

Once the glass sheet is finished it is cut into rectangles and stored in the factory warehouse.
One of several rooms full of glass sheets.

The glass is packed in custom wooden crates before being shipped out around the world.

A dirty window mimics the opalescent glass
Packing for shipment


Glass Mountain Ranges
I found this whole process fascinating.  It is very different from the engineered processes at my employer of 35 years.  The 128-year-old process is very much an art process. They are proud of their heritage and resistance to modernization. The company was recently bought by an Engineer.  It will be interesting to go back in a few years to see how things have changed.



The KOG factory tour is well worth the stop.  Check out their website for information on the tours.
https://www.kog.com/tourinfo.html

These and other photos are available on my website.
http://www.thesiggins.com/My-Gallery/Travel-1/Kokomo-Opalescent-Glass-Factory/

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Lightroom CC Auto Exposure

Lightroom has always had an Auto Exposure feature that attempted to fix an image exposure by analyzing the image and automatically changing the tone sliders. I never used this feature because it didn't come close to what I considered the correct adjustments.  Adobe recently released Lightroom CC Classic version 7.1, which is supposed to make major improvements to this feature.  I was interested to see if it is really better.

According to Adobe, the new "Enhanced Auto feature has been optimized by machine learning." to automatically apply the best edits for the following slider controls: Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, Blacks, Saturation, and Vibrance. Using an advanced neural network powered by Adobe Sensei, our artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning platform, the new Auto Settings creates a better photo by analyzing your photo and comparing it to tens of thousands of professionally edited photos to create a beautiful, pleasing image."  The button is no longer called the “Auto Tone” — now it’s called “Auto Settings” because it goes beyond just the tonal sliders in the Basic panel by adding Vibrance and Saturation into the mix. So in theory, the auto button should adjust my photos to what a professional photo editor would do.  Let's see.

Example 1 
Original Unedited Image

Original Tone
Lightroom 7.0 Auto Tone

Version 7.0 Tone

Lightroom 7.1 Auto Tone

Version 7.1 Tone
One reason I never used the earlier versions of the Auto Tone feature was that it always seemed to make the image too bright. You can see this in the version 7.0 example above. Scott Kelby called it the "overexpose button." The new version does not seem to have that problem.

The official differences from the old Auto-Tone are:

  • The new Auto tone will also adjust the Vibrance and Saturation in addition to Basic panel tone controls.  It does not touch the Clarity setting.
  • The analysis is done on the cropped image, ignoring what is outside the crop. If you crop after applying Auto, the Auto button will re-activate – click on it again to redo the analysis.
  • The analysis also takes into account your existing white balance and camera profile.

One thing I have noticed in my testing is the analysis can take a few seconds to complete.  The Auto button is disabled until it is complete.  This is not listed in the "official differences".

Of course, testing on one image is not enough.  Here are a few other examples of the unedited and 7.1 auto results.

Example 2 - an easy one.  Click on one of the images and use your arrow keys to flip back and forth between the two images.
Original

7.1 Auto Tone
The sky was too light in this example and auto brought down the highlights.  It also dropped the blacks -14 and reduced the contrast by -17.  It's not exactly what I would have done, but still a good starting point for future refinement.

 Example 3 - click this image to see a larger side by side comparison.
In this more difficult example, there was a great deal of contrast in the original image.  The auto turned the contrast down -20, dropped the highlights -63 and brought up the shadows +44 to even out the image.  Really not too bad.

My final test image is the hardest yet.  It was taken under extremely difficult lighting conditions inside a glass factory.  The room was dark but the molten glass was very bright.  The auto tone didn't handle this image very well.

  Example 4
In my opinion, it made the image too dark.  I guess that is not one of the tens of thousands of professionally edits that were fed into the artificial intelligence.

In the end, no automatic feature is going to be correct every time, but this version seems to be much better than the previous versions.  I plan on using the new Auto Settings feature when I start my edits.  It can give me a good start with just one click.