Monthly Archives: December 2005

Night of the Hydrangea

These new hydrangea buds grace our side yard. You have to get really close up to them to see all their colors.

Today was a day of chaos in between storm fronts. Also, tomorrow we are leaving to drive to Phoenix with the kids to be with Phyllis’s parents. Between rain and packing and kiddie chaos I grabbed my chance, and photographed these hydrangea budlets up close and personal.

I’m also taking advantage of the opportunity of wishing everyone a happy New Year. It will be 2006 before I post again.

Happy photographing, and best wishes for a very happy New Year, everyone!

Hydrangea Bouquet

View this image larger.

Unchain My Ladybug Heart!

Christmas Eve was mostly sunny. A week of rain had come before, and a sloppy wet day was to follow on Christmas. We took advantage of the interregnum to get the somewhat cabin-fevered kids out to the playground.

This ladybug landed on Julian’s thumb. He wanted to take it home and put it in a jar. We told him that ladybugs wanted to be free. He reluctantly accepted this (particularly after she flew away).

I was trying out my new AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED lens. The production version of the lens is just available in the U.S. It features vibration reduction, a huge zoom ratio (more than 10:1), a reasonably light weight, and small size. Altogether an incredible lens, with a hefty price tag (about $700 retail). I expect to write more about this lens when I’ve fully tried it out.

I slammed a 36mm extension tube behind the lens, and took this macro hand-held. When I reviewed the photographs, I saw the shadow of the ladybug formed a “heart.” Coincidence, or a plea for freedom? (Is the Ladybug pleading, “Have a heart!?”)

Here are a few other photos of the munchkins playing on Christmas eve.

Nicky:

Nicky

Julian:

Julian

Mathew:

Mathew

Best wishes on this holiday to everyone from all of us!

Christmas eve ended in a red sunset with the dark sky warning of the next wave of impending rain coming in from the Pacific. A lone sailboat enjoyed the twilight colors:

Christmas Eve Sunset

Passiflora Christmas

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Phyllis tells me that passiflora, or passion flower, is named for the passion of Christ. Religiousity aside, probably in the southern Mediterranean as well as here in Berkeley, it blooms near the solitice in the dead of winter.

Making this a very appropriate flower for me to wish you all great joy of the season, and wonder of wonders for the coming year!

Passion Flower

View this photo larger. See my blog entry featuring this photo.

Passiflora Water Drops

View this photo larger. See my blog entry featuring this image.

More Black and White Conversion Fun

In an earlier post I explained several Photoshop techniques for converting digital photos from color to black and white.

Based on comments from readers and my own research, here are another couple of conversion techniques that you might like even more!

For the record, here’s the original color photo:

Oldest

The black and white version at the top, like the first version in the previous post, was obtained starting by converting the color space from RGB to Lab. With the color space converted, I then took the following steps:

  • Discarded everything but the Lightness (L channel) by making it active, then choosing Image > Mode > Grayscale
  • Created a duplicate layer
  • Blended it with the original background layer using Multiply
  • Took down the opacity of the blend until I was happy with the way the b&w photo looked

Pretty simple, right? The next method probably gives you the most control over final results of any of the techniques I’ve explained.

Here’s the black and white image I ended up with:

Black and White Bristlecone 4

View this photo larger.

Here’s how I got there:

  • Using the Layers palette, I created an adjustment layer by selecting Channel Mixer from the Layers palette drop-down menu.
  • I checked the Monochrome box at the bottom of the Channel Mixer
  • In the Channel Mixer, I used the Red, Green and Blue sliders to tweak the image (see the comment below about the settings)
  • I tweaked the overall brightness of the image slightly using the Constant slider

I liked this method best I think, because the ability to tweak the three channels (Red, Green, and Blue) with sliders, with each channel contributing to the result, seems very flexible and intuitive. Normally, you want to keep the total of the three sliders to 100%. It’s possible to create dramatic effects by deviating from this. To create this kind of drama, you typically increase two channels way high, and compensate by making the thrid channel a negative percentage.

For example, a Channel Mixer setting that has been called the Ansel Adams effect would be Red +160%, Green +140%, and Blue -200%. This still totals 100%, but when I tried on this photo, the results looked garish to me. The result above is a more modest Red +70%, Green +50%, and Blue -20%. I think this adds a tad of glamour without going overboard.

Passiflora Water Drops


I was really excited when photographing the passion flower near Sean, Robin, and Keara’s front door to look closely at the pattern of water drops.

This photo, taken with my 105mm Nikkor macro and a 36mm Kenko extension tube, seems to show the world in the refelection in the lower left water drop. I also like the light on the water drop on the extreme left of the leaf: white against white.

This is a very different approach from the intentionally soft focus Lens Baby images I’ve been playing a lot with lately!

Passion Flower

Bright, cloudy, and wet: a perfect day for macro photography of a passionate and colorful flower like this passiflora decorating the entrance to our neighbor’s home.

Converting to Black and White

Here’s the original color image:

Oldest

Amsrun, on Flickr, suggested I try converting it to black and white. I’ve been looked for an image to experiment with b&w conversion, so on this rainy day with a little extra time I thought I’d give it a whirl.

It’s easy enough to mechanically convert an image to black and white in Photoshop using a variety of methods. For example, Image > Mode Greyscale does the trick, as does Image > Mode > Adjustments > Desaturate. But these techniques basically drop the color information without any compensation and produce pale, gray, washed-out looking black and white photos.

I’m not claiming to be an expert at this (yet!), but here’s what I did:

  • Converted from RBG Color to Lab Color
  • Used the Channels Palette to just look at the Lightness (L) channel
  • Worked with Image > Adjustments > Levels to bring the image into a pleasing tonal range
  • Converted to grayscale to discard all the channels other than the Lightness channer
  • Applied a red contrast filter to increase the “drama”
  • Selectively burned and dodged
  • Sharpened using the Unsharp Mask and Smart Sharpen

I’m pretty happy with the way it came out (thanks, Amsrun!), and like it best larger!

Look Ma, no Image menu! (…and no color space change or dropped channels!)

Phyllis, my beautiful wife and resident Photoshop guru, came along and suggested an alternative b&w conversion technique that is really easy and doesn’t involve channels, color spaces, or the image menu. First, here are the results:

Black and White Bristlecone 2

View this photo larger.

This doesn’t look that much different than the first version, maybe a little nicer (I think a bit more of the wood detail is preserved).

Here’s how it works:

  • Add a new layer to the color image
  • Use the Paint Bucket Tool to fill the layer with black
  • Select Color as the Blending Mode (it’s towards the bottom of the Blending Mode drop-down list on the Layers Palette
  • Voila! It’s that simple! Pretty nifty…

Tug and Fog

I took this photo a few days ago from the East Bay hills with my 2X telextender and a 200mm lens for the equivalent of 600mm on a 35mm film camera (here’s the calculation: 200 X 2 = 400mm X 1.5 Nikon mag factor = 600mm). Long lens for an unusual angle of view and some neat colors.

Boost That ISO!!!

When it’s rainy and dark outside–approaching the shortest day of the year–what’s a photographer to do? With this photo I was playing with my Lens Baby, and experimenting with taking up the ISO as far as it could go (to 1640 on my D70). So the name of this song is “grain for rain;” more accurately, “noise for rain.”

I needed the ISO boost to be able to hand hold close-up flower macros (these with the f/4.0 Lens Baby aperture ring at 1/160 of a second).

Lobelias are pretty small, and the grain, er, noise, is kind of grainy (or noisy), but this effect isn’t for everybody or every photo!

Here’s another rainy, noisy photo from the series:

Red Wetter

View this image larger.

And yet another, of a decorative cabbage (I think the noise kind of works in this one!):

Rainy-Day Cabbage

View this image larger

Storm-Bound Shore

While not exactly Skull Island, the coast of Marin is formidable indeed. Particularly when lashed by high surf from multiple storm fronts, as in this photo.

Flickr’s Best of My Best

Death Valley Sunrise 2

View this photo larger. This Death Valley landscape was originally featured here.

Regular readers (or should I say “viewers”) of my Photoblog 2.0 likely know that I use Flickr for my image management. This means that after I’ve post-processed my photos in Photoshop I save off a high quality Jpeg version of each photo and upload it to Flickr (see Post-Processing a Photo for Flickr for more info).

Flickr then hosts my photos in all sizes I might want, and provides an easy mechanism for me to post a photo and story to my blog. Each photo in Flickr comes with a Blog This link. Provided you have configured Flickr to “speak with” your blog, you are one click away from blogging any photo.

Somewhat to my surprise, other parts of my blog have essentially been outsourced to Flickr. Flickr’s tagging facility is an excellent way to help keep track of my photos, and I use it rather than tagging photos within Adobe’s Bridge. More significantly, most of my dialog with you (people who view my photos and read my blog, that is!) takes place within Flickr (rather than on my blog). It’s really great to be able to dialog with people who view my photos, and it is great to be able to use Flickr’s community and sharing features to facilitate this. Combining my photo blog with Flickr has created a far greater pool of interest for me than I ever would have been able to generate just using the blog.

Flickr’s photo community has also become significant to me, as a world inhabited (for the most part) by talented, gracious photographers who are truly interested in sharing. What a gift! This is the community I always looked for as a professional photographer, but never found–because photographer were more interested in “getting ahead” than in helping others.

Flickr also provides a clarifying mechanism for quality photography. As the old saw goes, “cream rises to the top.” There are a number of objective measures of this “photographic cream” on Flickr:

  • How many times a photo has been viewed
  • How often a Flickr member “favorites” a photo
  • The number of comments a photo receives
  • The Interestingness of a photo, a secret formula that Flickr uses to rank photos (read more about this)

All these measures are temporal. Meaning that a photo (hopefully) gets more views, comments, etc., over time. And that (as a relative matter) other photos get better ratings as well. So the Flickr clarifying mechanisms as a way of comparing photos are not static.

A more significant drawback is that Flickr ranking is essentially a democratic mechanism. But being an “artist” (whatever that means) is not a democratic state. Flickr can show me what photos of mine are popular, but it is no substitute for my own judgement of quality of my own work. I can slip something by on Flickr, but will I really be happy if I know I’ve cut corners? (Of course not.) Flickr is an exercise in populism at its best, but great art (and great photography) is not.

These caveats aside, this blog entry presents my top three photos on Flickr at this point in time. The two landscapes are on top using all four measures while the rose photo (being more recent) trails in number of views, but is third in the other three categories.

By the way, these photos are approaching 500 views and 50 comments each. By Flickr standards, they are still light weights. For example, there is a Flickr group devoted to photos with 1,000 views that have been favorited 100 times each.

This photo of reflections in Lake Tenaya in the Sierras was orginally shown in this blog entry.

Lake Tenaya Reflections

View this photo larger.

The rose was originally featured here.

Rose Spiral

View this photo larger.

Between Storm Fronts

We’ve had monsoon like rains and high winds, with now a break. The forecast calls for high winds and massive rain again tomorrow because another front is rolling in. Based on the view at sunset out the Golden Gate in this photo (best viewed larger) I’m very prepared to believe it. Maybe if conditions are right I’ll be able to photograph the twenty foot surf tomorrow, supposed to be pounding the coast from Sonoma to Monterey.

Wet Rose

It’s nice that the torrential rains have stopped, and fun to still have flowers to photograph in my garden!

The Road Goes Ever On and On

Rain, rain, rain! It’s raining here today in the Pacific monsoon way it has here on the, well, Pacific rim. So I’ve gone through some out takes (meaning photos I passed by the first time around). These are from my trip to the mountains and desert in the autumn.

By the way, I’ll be talking about Thinking Digital in the Field at MacWorld in San Francisco on Wednesday January 11 2006 at 12:30 at the Wiley Publishing booth. So if you happen to be there, stop by and say “Hi!”

The photo above is from the eastern lateral to Convict Lake in early October. I wasn’t too worried about being in the middle of the road taking the picture because there wasn’t too much traffic. I processed the Raw once for the background and once for the road. I used Image > Adjustments > Selective Color and the lasso tool to increase the saturation of the yellow in the road lines.

This photo is one of the oldest living things (yes, Virginia, it is alive!) from my visit to the Bristlecone Pines on the same trip:

Oldest

View the ancient tree larger.

I took this one later in the same trip, homeward bound at Twin Lakes in the Sierras above Bridgeport:

Twin Lakes and Moon

View Twin Lakes photo larger.

Me and My Shadow



Me and My Shadow, photo by Harold Davis. View this tiny tiny sugar ant larger.

In this wet and rainy weather, the sugar ants invade our house. Looking, I guess, for food and shelter.

This one is tiny, about 2.4 millimeters long (that’s a little less than 3/32 of an inch). If you look at him closely, you can see his eyes. (You may need to view the photo larger to really see the eyes).

Dare I admit that this ant was caught in museum gel? Even so, he wasn’t still. I photographed him with my Lens Baby 2.0 with the smallest aperture ring (f/8) and stacked macro filters (pretty close to right up against the ant!). ISO 200, and 1/15 of a second, using a tripod.