• Andy’s E-BOOK — Photography Travel Guides

  • PLEASE RESPECT COPYRIGHTS!!

    All Images and writing on this blog are copyrighted by Andy Richards. All rights are reserved. You may not, without my express, written permission, download, right click, or otherwise copy my images for any reason. Copying an image and putting it on your blog, website, or even as a screensaver on your computer is a breach of copyright, EVEN IF YOU ATTRIBUTE THE SOURCE! Please do not do so.
  • On This Blog:

  • Categories

  • Andy’s Photography Galleries

    Click Here To See My Gallery of Photographic Images

    LightCentric Photography

  • Andy's Flickr Photos

  • Prior Posts

  • Posts By Date

    May 2018
    M T W T F S S
    « Apr    
     123456
    78910111213
    14151617181920
    21222324252627
    28293031  
  • Advertisements

Renditions

Barns in Winter
(blue sky rendition)
Copyright Andy Richards 2011

Do you have a place or subject (or multiples) that have intrigued you as a photographic venue, but you just haven’t been able to “see” it through the lens the way your mind’s eye does?  A couple weeks ago, in my “Detours” blog, I spoke of a scene near where my office used to be, in Frankenmuth, Michigan, with red sheds against a weathered barn backdrop.  I probably drove by the scene several times a week and visualized it as an image.  A few times I stopped and “scouted” different angles and views and even took some “test” images.  Couldn’t get excited about any of the results.

I mean “manipulation” in the “good” – Ansel Adams – sense

And then one marvelous late spring morning, we had one of those totally unexpected snowfalls.  Probably a couple inches of wet, heavy snow following warm conditions.  It sticks to everythingSnow is one of those useful  elements that hides things in photographs that we don’t want to see.  So I had to take a “detour” on my way in that morning and was able to make a few “nice” images of the scene.

Barns in Winter
(original color image)
Copyright Andy Richards 2011

But there were still some elements of the image that just didn’t “work.” One was the leaden, grey sky.  As the opening image illustrates, I had images in my collection with clear blue sunny skies too, so I looked at the metadata.  I recalled that what actually happened is that the morning of the snowstorm, it was overcast.  I hadn’t thought of the image in monochromatic terms, because – well – I haven’t tended to think other than in color for most of my years of photography.  Until recently.  My “mind’s-eye” image had blue sky for color contrast.  But the sun did shine the next day and I got out there again, before things melted, and was able to get the blue sky.  Not sure it was an improvement 🙂 .

some elements of the image … just didn’t “work”

So, the barn scene was an addition to my collection of barn images, but it wasn’t until my recent, winter-doldrums, experimental phase, that I started looking at it again and seeing some possibilities for image manipulation (yeah, there’s that “nasty” word again).  I mean “manipulation” in the “good” – Ansel Adams sense.  So I began trying some different renditions.  Here, I show the progression of my photographic images.  In a future blog, I will show where maybe I crossed the line or went over the top, or something like that 🙂 .

Barns in Winter
(B&W Conversion)
Copyright Andy Richards 2018

As I worked with the image, I could see that it had some characteristics that I have come to believe lend themselves to monochromatic presentation.  There are some prominent graphic shapes here to work with.  And in spite of the denuded trees in the background, there is not a whole lot of fine detail in this image.  There are some really good contrasting colors:  black, white and red.  As I thought about the post-processing of this scene as a B&W image, I felt that the red really needed to stay in.  The original image, post-processed in PS ACR and then Nik, shows a surprising amount of color.  It is spring and there is a lot of red in the new growth of the tree branches.  The sky, though grey, shows tones of magenta and even blue.

I hadn’t thought of the image in monochromatic terms, because I haven’t tended to think other than in color for most of my years of photography

I used Nik Silver Efex to render the image in B&W (a turn away from ON1 – more on that in another blog).  With B&W, I have learned that more is better in many cases, when it comes to contrast.  So I turned back to ACR first, and re-worked the raw image, “goosing” up the contrast.  In Silver Efex, I didn’t use any of their presets, but “worked” it to my own liking.  I then used a couple of the other Nik modules to do some “local” editing, adding some contrast and “structure” (which is, as I understand it, contrast adjustment aimed more at the middle tones).  I like the result.  But it it isn’t “spine tingling.” 🙂 .

Barns in Winter
(“colorized” B&W)
Copyright Andy Richards 2018

That’s o.k.  I knew I was moving toward the “colorized” image here.  Using PS layers, I painted the red back in, and made some additional local adjustments to contrast and brightness.  I added a lot of structure to the snow in the foreground, along with some brightness.  The end result is an image I really like.  And it finally approaches the “mind’s-eye” image I visualized that spring morning.

Advertisements

The Urge to Play Continues

Japanese Maple Leaves
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

For those who follow here, you know I have deviated lately, from my photographic depictions, in an attempt to create art.  I emphasize “attempt,” because I have never seen myself as particularly artistically talented.  The closest I have come over the years is a serious appreciation of art.  When I make a nice photographic image, I have to give a lot of  credit to nature, and a small amount of technical knowledge.  I am hopeful that continued study and experimentation will open my photographic views.  And besides, I have been having fun with this stuff.  So, however inartful the images here might be, I see myself continuing to “play” for the foreseeable future.

However inartful the images here might be, I see myself continuing to play for the foreseeable future

I have recently read Michael Freeman’s book on B&W photography: “Black & White Photography: The timeless Art of Monochrome in the Post-Digital Age.”  I gained some insight into digital conversion, but I have a lot of experimentation and learning ahead of me.

Japanese Maple Leaves
Adobe ACR Greyscale Conversion
Copyright Andy Richards 2013


My software tool box holds Photoshop CC, Painter Essentials, and the NIK Software Plugin tools.  I also have a legacy copy of OnOne Photo Suite 7.5, and just recently downloaded the newest version 10.5.  I understand that NIK (which was purchased by Google some years back) – or at least its technology – is now owned by the folks at DxO.  I am not sure what that foretells for my “now, legacy,” copy of the NIK plugins.  I surely hope they continue to be compatible with Photoshop, as I have come to depend on them for their ease of use.  For me, the”jury” is still out on the “new” On1 Suite.  It is a new interface for me, but it looks like it not only may have the same old tools, but maybe a bit more intuitive and easy to use.  I will be looking harder at it in the weeks to come.

Japanese Maple Leaves
OnOne Perfect B&W Grayscale Conversion
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

For now, one of my photographic colleagues noted that he uses the NIK Silver EFX plugin nearly exclusively for his B&W conversions.  Freeman notes in his book (which should be intuitive) that every conversion engine yields different results.  So I thought I would experiment a bit.

Japanese Maple Leaves
NIK SilverEFX Grayscale Conversion
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

Obviously, if you are going to try to do “apples to apples” comparisons, you are going to need to use the same image.  So the the images in this post may look a bit repetitive.  I used an image shot with my Sony, with a Carl Ziess lens that I like very much just as a color image.  The bokeh is nice and the colors and contrast are rich.  It prints nicely.  Being a “color photographer,” it is an image that feels like it is in my “wheelhouse.”  I certainly did not visualize this in black and white.

Japanese Maple Leaves
B&W
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

Old habits die hard, and even though Adobe Lightroom has come forward from its infancy to become an estimable photographers’ stand-alone software, I still use Photoshop as my “go-to” post-processing tool. So I started with Photoshop’s ACR raw image converter, using its B&W converter.  I shoot almost exclusively raw format images, and use ACR as my primary raw converter.  Adobe users probably know that the Lightroom converter is essentially the same engine, and I suspect that the Lightroom raw converter would yield an essentially similar B&W conversion.

I am not sure I am competent to judge how “good” these conversions are, so I will try to stick with what I “like”

For comparison, I opened a copy in standalone OnOne “Perfect Black and White” (I used version 7.5), and another using NIK Silver EFX as a Photoshop Plugin.  I am not sure I am competent to judge how “good” these conversions are, so I will try to stick with what I “like.”  And though I found them all aesthetically acceptable, the Silver EFX was most pleasing to my eye, right out of the box.  Of course another method of “conversion” would be to simply bring the image up in almost any processing program and just move the saturation slider all the way to the left.  But that doesn’t do a very good job of preserving color relationships and contrast, in my opinion.

Japanese Maple Leaves
B&W
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

Here is where the “playing” comes back into the mix.  I wanted to see what I could do with various adjustments in photoshop, with the numerous “presets” in both Silver EFX and On1 (“Perfect Black and White” has now been replaced – or maybe more accurately, merged into what is now called “On1 10 Effects”).  In the end, I thought the version above (labeled simple “B&W”) which just a bit of added contrast from the Silver EFX original version was most pleasing.  But a guy’s gotta play 🙂 so I kept going.

Japanese Maple Leaves; “colorized”
Copyright Andy Richards 2018

In last week’s post, I used a technique I had often read about, but never used, isolating a “where’s Waldo” (as my friend, Lou commented) yellow umbrella which had caught my eye when shooting the Venice Rooftops scene, even though at the time I was thinking “in color.”  Perhaps a bit sophomoric, but new to me nonetheless.  Besides, this is my blog and I can post what I want – right? 🙂  So in keeping with that same theme, I thought I would try my hand again, “colorizing” the bright scarlet leaves with water droplets in the monochrome version.  Some may note that all the prior versions are copyrighted in 2013.  That is because that is when the image was actually made.  And without getting into too much technical/gear talk, it is the monochrome version that is actually created by the camera sensor itself.  The colors are created by the RGB filter on top of the sensor.  Just saying.  🙂

I am not sure when “processing” crosses over into “creating,”

The thing is, I am not sure when “processing” crosses over into “creating,” here.  So I am going to say – arbitrarily – when I start “painting” things and doing them differently than the original image was intended (in my mind’s eye), that I am “creating.”  Hence the current copyright.  My thinking may not be wholly consistent – but then again, only about 3 people in the world even care 🙂 .

Japanese Maple Leaves
Painter Essentials Rendition
Copyright Andy Richards 2018

I just couldn’t stop there.  So I fired up my new toy, Corel Painter Essentials, and tried playing around with that.  The first version here is just “painting” the original color image with Painter Essentials.  Lots of color there. I need to learn how to make some painting adjustments in this program.  There are some areas of color contrast (like the green patch that kind of comes out of nowhere in the top middle of the frame) that are garish and perhaps jarring.  That could stand to be cloned out.  I will figure it out eventually.

Japanese Maple Leaves
Painter Essentials
Copyright Andy Richards 2018

Next, I tried to “paint” my “B&W” version in Painter Essentials.  I refined it as much at the program would allow, and it gave it a pretty photo-realistic look; perhaps a bit more gritty.  I kind of like the result.

Japanese Maple Leaves
“colorized” composite
Copyright Andy Richards 2018

I wanted to see how my “colorized” B&W version would play out in Painter Essentials.  One thing I learned was that my relatively clumsy job of painting/masking while making the colorized photographic version was really highlighted.  Painter Essentials uses the underlying photo as a source for normal image conversion/painting.  My source had the layers of color showing through, and there were remnants of green and scarlet blobbed around the image.  My path to fix this was to take both the “messy” image and the B&W image back into Photoshop, layer the B&W on top of the messy image, and paint the leaves back in again.  I am pleased with this final image.  It has more “punch” than the other colorized images, with plenty of contrast and very saturated colors (maybe Al Utzig would even say: “oversaturated” 🙂  ).

More to come. . . . .

More “Playing”

Canal, Venice
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

I “discovered” the “oil painting” look primarily by accident. I was post-processing images from my first visit to Venice back in 2013 and while working on this canal image, was using NIK’s ColorEfx Pro plug-in to Photoshop to “enhance” color.  There is a filter in that program called “Detail Extractor,” which my friend and talented photographer and Photoshop user, Al Utzig, had once recommended I try.  As I played with this filter, I saw the effect, here, which reminded my of an oil painting – especially the buildings in the background.  But as I played around with it, I was not able to reproduce that effect over the entire image.  That was o.k.  I rather liked the kind of “hybrid” nature of the image.  Enough so that it is printed quite large, framed in gold, and hanging in our Florida Living Room.

The lesson here is to take advantage of the fact that some people much smarter and more talented than I am have already done the heavy lifting

This experience intrigued me enough that I have played around a couple times with other images, and set them aside, for a time when I had more time and interest in “working” them. Over the holidays, I have been spending a little more time working with the idea of making some of my photographs into “paintings.”  My blog a couple weeks back was my “freshman” foray into this area.  This image was made using the NIK Color Efex Pro Plugin’s “Detail Extractor.”  Those who saw it a couple weeks ago may have read my friend, Al Utzig’s comments and note that I took his suggestion and removed the “halo” that was present between the mountain tops and sky.  While I rather like this image, it was not the “look” I was seeking.  There is too much luminance and saturated color, especially in the umbrellas in the foreground and the people in the image.  Too “photo-realistic.”

Amalfi Coast
NIK Color Efx
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Photoshop already has many features that allow painting and filters that add different “looks” and textures to images.  But I have never found them easy, or intuitive to use.  There is, for example, an “oil paint” filter that has been in Photoshop for some years now.  I thought that it would convert a photographic image into at least a basic oil-on-canvas look (something like the conversion to B&W that can be done).  I expected work would have to be done to make it look like I wanted, but at least a basic start.  That was not my experience.  Try as I might, I could not make the filter look like my vision of a painting, though the one here came closer, only after I really worked it with some layers, and added a texture layer, to at least give it a canvas look.

I did what I always do.  I bought a book :-).  While that was interesting and entertaining, it was still not really helpful for “hands-on” tinkering.  Indeed, many of the example projects in the book did not work the way they were “supposed” to in the book.  But one think I did pick up was that most of the stuff that was getting closer to the look I wanted, was made first, by using another software program; Corel Painter.  As I looked at more and more examples, I saw that others were using this software and that it was really designed with tools for doing some of the things I wanted to do.  So maybe the lesson here (I learned it with NIK some years back) is to take advantage of the fact that some people much smarter and more talented than I am have already done the heavy lifting.  I looked at Painter 2018, but the $450 (discounted!) price tag was more than I wanted to jump into.  But I did find Painter Essentials (for those who, like me, early on looked for an affordable alternative to Photoshop – this was before Lightroom – and started with Photoshop Elements, I think this is a comparable choice).  I am using the free trial right now, but think I will purchase it and the $29.00 tag is more palatable – at least to a beginner.  Will I jump to the “pro” program?  We will see where this goes (probably not).

Amalfi Coast, Italy
Corel Painter Essentials
Copyright, Andy Richards 2017

Using the “auto-paint” feature on the Amalfi Coast image, I immediately started to see results more like I had imagined.  I have a lot to learn about this fairly simple program.  One of the things it does in its default mode is to add edge effects, like the image here.  I tried a couple different “paints” and ultimately, was drawn to this one (“colored pencil”).  But it still wasn’t the final look I wanted.  So I used this image as a layer on my original photograph, and blended it into the photograph.  After playing with some adjustment layers to work with the sky, clean up some color and saturation issues, and to add some blur to the final result, this is the composite I came up with.  It has a few “issues,” but it is much more what my “mind’s-eye” saw as a painting of this scene.  This is new for me.  There are probably many of you out there who have this down far better than I do.  I would be happy to hear from you.

Amalfi Coast, Italy
Composite
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

I will be back at this 🙂

Key West

Key West Harbor Key West, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Key West Harbor
Key West, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

I have a travel “bucket list,” (of sorts).  One of the places on that bucket list has been the Florida Keys, and particularly, Key West.  In January, we traveled to Key West for a long weekend.   As can happen, it turned out to be a bit of an adventure.

Sunrise; Ft. Myers Beach, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Sunrise; Ft. Myers Beach, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

From Fort Myers Beach, you can take a Ferry (The Key West Express) which will land you in Key West in about 4 hours.  I have always thought of Key West as being south of Miami.  It is more accurate to say it is southwest of Miami, and it is really further west than south (sounds like the beginning of a Jimmy Buffet song).  And it is actually straight south from Ft. Myers Beach, so the ferry ride is a pretty straight shot right down the gulf.  From Ft. Myer’s the drive is substantially longer and were were interested in getting there and back as quickly as possible.  Personally, I don’t mind driving — especially when it is to new places. But my traveling companions; well, not so much.  “Be careful what you wish for,” it turns out, applied here.  More on that later.

Fort Myers Beach Fort Myers FL Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Fort Myers Beach
Fort Myers FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

The Ferry pulled away from the dock early in the morning, and we were aboard to see the sun rise over Ft. Myers Beach.  As we left the harbor, we were able to see some of the popular “beach” hangouts from the deck of the ship in early morning light.

Fort Myers Beach Fort Myers, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Fort Myers Beach
Fort Myers, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

As promised, just under 4 hours later, we landed at the Key West Harbor terminal, where the main boating activity, including cruise ships, fishing boats, ferries and pleasure craft, occurs.    A short jaunt from the ferry terminal, Key West’s main tourist attraction, Duval Street, begins just southeast of Mallory Square, on the harbor.  While the island itself is oriented primarily west to east, most of the streets run diagonal from either the Northwest to Southeast, or North East to Southwest.

Sloppy Joe's Bar Key West, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Sloppy Joe’s Bar
Key West, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

As soon as you set foot onto Duval Street, you are confronted with bars and restaurants and shops.  While there are a number of “tourist” and “family” activities available, the main event (for adults anyway — in it definitely is an “adult” kind of place) seems to be the bar/restaurant scene.  We visited several bars while there, including the famous Sloppy Joe’s.  We were interested to see the substantial influence from the military — particularly the Navy.  Since my father-in-law was a career Naval Officer, we enjoyed seeing some of the paraphernalia left by military personnel over the years.

Sloppy Joe's Bar Key West, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Sloppy Joe’s Bar
Key West, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

It was also fun to visit a restaurant and learn a bit about Key West history.  Blue Heaven was such a place with a singular history of  cockfighting (100 years ago), gambling, and Friday night boxing matches purported refereed by Hemingway himself.

Blue Heaven Key West, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Blue Heaven
Key West, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Notwithstanding its “quirky nature, one of the draws it its very unique, partially covered, outdoor area.  In Key West, it is a restaurant/bar of some repute, with live music and good food.

Blue Heaven Key West, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Blue Heaven
Key West, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Our B&B was at the southeastern end of Duval Street, near the furthest south beach in the U.S.  Not surprisingly, there is also a resort next door, aptly named, “The Southernmost Beach Resort.”  After our arrival in Key West, we first took our luggage to the B&B and found a restaurant (equally aptly named), in the resort:  The Southernmost Beach Cafe.

Southernmost Beach Resort Key West, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Southernmost Beach Resort
Key West, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Southernmost Beach Resort Key West, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Southernmost Beach Resort
Key West, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

A stroll down the approximately 1 mile long Duval Street from the B&B back to Mallory Square, gave us a bit of the “lay of the land” and a precursor of the chaotic night life that Duval Street is known for.  Among other famous figures, Key West was a favorite haunt of Hemingway and of President Truman (both of whom had substantial homes on this island).  But for me the personal favorite “famous” person is Jimmy Buffet.  :-).   So I couldn’t walk by the original Margaritaville without stopping (and I couldn’t walk out with out buying a T-shirt) :-).

The Original "Margaritaville" Key West, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2017

The Original “Margaritaville”
Key West, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

I recently noted here that the Florida Gulf is known for its sunsets.  Key West is certainly no exception.  We sat at an outdoor bar listening to a local live band in Mallory Square at the end of our first day and watched the sun set as “our” Key West Express departed with its passengers for Fort Myers Beach.  We thought we would be on that same boat 2 days hence.

Sunset, Key West, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Sunset, Key West, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

I neglected to say, the occasion of our visit to Key West was a birthday present from my wife.  For the actual birthday, she found, and booked a restaurant on the water, called Louie’s Backyard.  For anyone visiting Key West and looking for a nicer restaurant with wonderful food in a great venue, I highly recommend Louie’s Backyard.  As we sipped a Martini and watched the sunset, I captured this image with my wife’s smartphone, of an adjacent pier which must have been yet another bar or restaurant.  Not too shabby a birthday night.  Certainly one to remember.

Sunset from Louie's Backyard Key West, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Sunset from Louie’s Backyard
Key West, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Also, all good things must come to an end.  Sometimes abruptly.  I had carried a cigar around in my shirt pocket for two days, waiting for the right opportunity to enjoy it.  It turned out to be after we returned from the restaurant and up on the 2nd floor balcony of our B&B.  And as I sat there enjoying the night time activity and pleasant weather, and wondering what we would do the next day, my wife received a text from Key West Express.   Due to predicted, near-40mph wind gusts and thunderstorms over the gulf, they would not be there to pick us up at our appointed time at 5:00 p.m. the following day.  I am fond of saying that if things don’t work out as planned, it is always important to have a “plan B.”  When asked what “plan B” is, I usually say that the reason it is “plan B” is because I have no idea what it is. :-).  It is another way of saying sometimes you just need to roll with the punches.  We (actually my wife and brother in law, as I sat back and watched them in action) rented a car on line and the next morning we left the B&B at 8:00 and picked up a rental car at the Key West airport.  So, I did get my chance to drive through the keys!  It was a very long day, but an enjoyable weekend.

 

 

Florida Gulf Sunset

Crystal Beach Pier Crystal Beach, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Crystal Beach Pier
Crystal Beach, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

My friends and some readers here know that I have two homes now; one here in Michigan and one in Florida.  The Florida home is in western Florida on what is known as “the Gulf side.”  We are in the Tampa Bay region and between the Gulf of Mexico, Tampa Bay, and Clearwater Harbor, water is everywhere.

Water is often conducive to sunrise and sunset photography

Water is often conducive to sunrise and sunset photography.  And the Florida Gulf is renowned for its spectacular, colorful sunsets.  So it is interesting; almost surprising to me that though I live no more than 10 minutes from the gulf, I have made very few sunset images.

Part of the reason is that I haven’t made the opportunity.  My trips to Florida are usually short, and often centered around the holidays, and spending time with family and friends.  Unless one of them is as enthusiastic about photography for its own sake, it is more difficult to fit a dedicated photography outing in (even a short one).  I have noted here before, that the best light conditions for late day photography often fall at the same time people make plans for dinner, or other evening activities.

Crystal Beach Crystal Beach, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Crystal Beach
Crystal Beach, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

The other reason is more personal, and perhaps, esoteric.  Back in “the day” (in context, when we shot with film and mechanical cameras), getting a successful sunset (or sunrise) shot required some knowledge of the science of exposure, a decent camera, and a tripod.  It really took a more or less “dedicated” outing to do.  So there were fewer of them out there (in print and later, on the internet).  Consequently, almost any well exposed sunset shot with some color in the sky was new, different, and to many, interesting.

The other reason is more personal, and perhaps, esoteric

Technology has changed that.  Particularly in the last 10 years, digital cameras, and especially the cameras built into cellular phones, have become increasingly impressive at rendering all kinds of scenes in all kinds of light conditions.  Today, we get 100’s of posted sunsets each day on Facebook, Google, Instagram, and the like.  And they are often technically pretty well exposed, even in instances where the shooter really doesn’t know anything about the science of photography.  This doesn’t necessarily mean they are “good” images though. (although I will concede that at some level, “good” is very subjective).  Part of human nature (mine at least) means that this glut of “sunset” photos make them less interesting, and it takes something more to not only capture my interest, but make the image worth making.

Crystal Beach Pier Crystal Beach, FL Copyright 2017 Andy Richards

Crystal Beach Pier
Crystal Beach, FL
Copyright 2017 Andy Richards

During the “Christmas” holidays (roughly late December through early January), I was in Florida for a more extended period and I did make some time to do some scouting and then eventually, shooting.  I try to get in a 15-20 mile bike ride every other day or so, and the Pinellas County Rail Trail is very close to our home and basically skirts the gulf from Clearwater to Tarpon Springs.  I ride it most of the time, and have taken a few detours down to the water, in exploration of possible photo ops.  One of the really nice places I found was a very small community sandwiched between Palm Harbor and Tarpon Springs, called Crystal Beach.  There is a nice little park, a small beach, and a community pier.  So Crystal Beach became a destination for some sunset shooting.crystal_beach_pier_4_2017

My own criteria for sunset shots is different from many of the shots I commonly see (mostly on Facebook).  To me, for interest, there needs to be something more than water, sky and sun (or light) in the shot most of the time.  I emphasize “most” of the time, because I think there are occasions when the sky alone (or the water reflection) may be the true subject and any other objects in the photo may detract from this.  But not most of the time.  This really isn’t different from general “photography 101.”  A good photograph needs a good subject, and good placement (or exclusion) of other elements in the photo to enhance the view of the subject.  A couple of basic things I like to remember as I set up and compose are to be sure the horizon is level (probably the number one “cell-phone” shot issue I observe), and that the horizon (most of the time 🙂 ), is not dead center in the image.  Aside from that, I look for something that will give the image perspective (and, to me “interest”).  Sometimes you just feel the urge to do a “gimmicky” shot, too.  While in Key West a couple weeks ago, we celebrated my 60th birthday at a nice restaurant with a deck overlooking the ocean, noted for sunsets.  I didn’t have my camera at the time so a cell phone shot would have to do, as I saw this image developing.  There was no other place I could get to to shoot the orange ball as it dropped, so I framed it in the pier next to us.

Louie's Backyard Key West, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Louie’s Backyard
Key West, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

My one other dedicated sunset photo outing was in early 2016, to Honeymoon Island, again, close to home and a “favorite” spot for viewing the sunset over the gulf.  The silhouetted couple was a stroke of luck, but it definitely make the image unique and in my view, certainly more interesting than that spectacular colored sky alone.

Honeymoon State Park Dunedin, FL Copyright 2015 Andy Richards

Honeymoon State Park
Dunedin, FL
Copyright 2015 Andy Richards

The opening shot of the Crystal Beach Pier is an example of my thought process.  The golden sunset has a “wow” factor all of its own.  The sunset shot of Newport, Rhode Island is similar in that I don’t know that I could have duplicated that beautiful orange color ever again.  But without the sailboat, it would just be a ho-hum (colorful, perhaps, but still ho-hum) image.  AT Crystal Beach there were 20-30 people who arrived shortly before sunset, just to observe this phenomena, which is a frequent occurrence (thought always somewhat unique).  To the observer, the sunset is the rai·son d’ê·tre.  So we come for that and we watch it and often, we capture it with camera or phone.  But our subconscious puts that sunset into perspective; something the photograph often does not.  Our peripheral vision sees the pier, the ground, the plants, and that the horizon is “out there” (and level).

Narragansett Bay Newport, RI Copyright Andy Richards 2016

Narragansett Bay
Newport, RI
Copyright Andy Richards 2016

There are many spots I have scouted and many I haven’t even discovered yet.  So there will be more Florida sunset shooting in my future.

Mediterranean Reprise

Ponte Vecchio Florence, Italy Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Ponte Vecchio
Florence, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Followers may have noted that I have not been posting lately.  To my own surprise, my most recent post was in March.  I seems hardly possible that 2 months have passed, but they have been 2 of the most action-filled months in my recent years.  Life has a way of taking twists and turns.  I have mentioned here that about 3 years ago, we purchased a home in Clearwater, Florida, which will be our retirement home eventually.  There is still lots more to explore and do in Florida and much of it will probably have to wait until I am permanently down there, which is not yet :-).

Trevi Fountain Rome, Italy Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

Trevi Fountain
Rome, Italy
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

I thought I would follow the travels of my friends, and feature some of my “off the beaten” path images of those iconic places

But it was time for another “phase” in the process.  For 3 years now, I have been living essentially by myself (my wife and our dog spend 90% of their time — blissfully — in our Florida home) in a near 3000 square foot home here in Michigan.  It was time for me to move on from there, and so we put several months of effort and a few dollars into modernizing the home we lived in for 24 years and put it on the market.  I keep saying I should have bought a lottery ticket at the same time.  It sold in a weekNeedless to say, I wasn’t ready, and I have spent much of my missing-in-action time (essentially every non-working minute), cleaning and packing up 30 + years worth of accumulated …. we’ll call them “things” :-).  Some serious down-sizing was also in the mix.

The ubiquitous black gondola (shown here with the also common blue cover) is a favorite subject of photographers Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

The ubiquitous black gondola (shown here with the also common blue cover) is a favorite subject of photographers
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

Now I am moved into a much smaller 2 bedroom rental condominium with no maintenance duties and just right size for me.  I have high hopes this summer of golf, biking, running and photography (oh, and that pesky career thing, too :-)).

VENICE_STREETS Venice, Italy 091220130039

Streets of Venice Copyright Andy Richards 2013

As I follow Facebook, I am struck by that fact that at least 3 of my friends and acquaintances are or have recently traveled to Mediterranean Europe.  As readers here know, I have been on two cruises there.  I must like it, because we just booked another one for 2017, with the same friends who traveled with us last time (they must like it too 🙂 ).GRAND_CANAL Venice Italy 091120130109

 

I must like the Mediterranean.  I have been on 2 cruises there and now have booked another in 2017

It has been fun to see so many images that I captured myself, of places we visited.  But one thing that seems to be consistent is that the images are of well-known primary places all visitors go to see.  It is pretty likely that the tour guides follow pretty much the same menu.  I have a couple mentors who have encouraged me over the years to look to see things other than the icons, and to “see” things happening around me with my camera.  Moving to the “small” camera for my travel has no-doubt fostered this approach.  So, I thought I would follow the travels of my friends, and feature some of my “off the beaten” path images of those iconic places.

Streets of Venice copyright 2013 Andy Richards

Streets of Venice
copyright 2013 Andy Richards

Venice is my (so far) favorite place in Mediterranean Europe.  For a photographer:  “eye-candy” everywhere you look.  20 years ago, I would have burned up all my film in Venice during our 4 day pre-cruise visit!  I’ll just re-post a few here.

Grand Canal at Night, Venice, Italy copyright 2013 Andy Richards

Grand Canal at Night, Venice, Italy
copyright 2013 Andy Richards

We have been to Athens 2 times and are destined for a third.  There is so much European history to photograph there.  Perhaps my best effort there is this image of these young military men, on flag raising detail at the Parthenon.

Flag Detail The Acropolis Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Flag Detail
The Acropolis
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

In Rome, there are so many iconic images, including the Trevi Fountain, The Coliseum, The Vatican, The Pantheon and on and on.  One place everyone visits is the Spanish Steps, and I — like every other tourist, took my share of images on and around the steps.  The image here is looking back from a Roman street, with the normal activity of the local businesses, on the inevitable commercialization cropping up around this awesome example of classic architecture.

Roman Street Spanish Steps in Background Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Roman Street
Spanish Steps in Background
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

My favorite image from both my trips to Rome is this somewhat “reflective” image on a quiet Roman Street.

City Center Rome, Italy Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

City Center
Rome, Italy
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

When I think of Tuscany, I think of wine country, Florence and Pisa.  In Pisa, the “Leaning Tower” is obviously the attraction.  But the walled city and the other buildings are pretty impressive architecture, too.  Of course, you have to get that silly image of your companion “holding up the tower” too :-).  My  unique “takeaway” from Pisa was this detail shot of the marble.

Pisa, Italy Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Pisa, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Florence is all about the grand shot from up on the high plaza of the entire city, and shots in and around the famous bridge passageway.  I got those, too.  But I was intrigued by Mussolini’s speaking balcony perhaps more than anything else in this city.

Mussolini's Balcony Palazzo Vechio Florence, Italy Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Mussolini’s Balcony
Palazzo Vechio
Florence, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Provence is about wine and romance.  My images there hopefully address that.

Aix-en-Provence, France Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Aix-en-Provence, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Chateau la Dorgonne Provence, France Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Chateau la Dorgonne
Provence, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Lots of cruises end in Barcelona.  We started there.  The city of Gaudi has pretty much unlimited photo opportunities for the creative.  Here are a couple of my favorites.

Palau De Musica Barcelona, Spain Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Palau De Musica Barcelona, Spain
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Palau De Musica Barcelona, Spain Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Palau De Musica Barcelona, Spain
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Barcelona, Spain Sony RX100iv Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Barcelona, Spain
Sony RX100iv
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

I will be doing my research soon for the next trip to this region in September, 2017.  Hope you enjoyed some of these re-treads.  Hopefully, I can get back to my regular weekly posting, now that life is returning to a normal routine.  Best regards and as always, thanks for reading.

Photoshop is Not Evil!

I don’t rant much here.  But, it’s my blog, and I’ll rant if I want to.  🙂

I  just recently read something on Facebook that struck a raw nerve. It was titled “The best 100 photographs ever taken without Photoshop.” NEWS FLASH:  You don’t “take” photos with Photoshop. For most of us, Photoshop is nothing more than a post-processing development tool for our images.  And by “Photoshop,” most of these inane commentaries really mean post-processing software (so, Lightroom, PhaseOne, OnOne, Nik, “The GIMP” and others, you are all in the same basket).  When I say “Photoshop” in this article, lets agree that I mean post-processing software.

NEWS FLASH:  You Don’t take photos with Photoshop

The silly title of this Facebook post is like saying, back in the days of film, “the 100 best prints made without a darkroom.”

There isn’t any doubt that post-processing software can be used in an abusive way – as could the old wet darkroom. But am I the only one that is tired of the shrill howls of the would-be “purists” who cry foul any time anyone uses Photoshop to in any way change the image that came straight out of the camera? Did we pass a law in the U.S. that forbids changing or “working” images out of the camera? And is there some new moral “standard” (set, of course, by the shrill criers) for what is “natural?”

Photoshop is not some evil software that has overtaken the photographic world and destroyed all good photography.  C’mon, folks. Lighten up. My imagery (even my nature imagery) is predominantly artistic. I have yet to shoot new footage, evidence photography or something purporting to be an exact replication of what “was.” And, I submit, even those endeavors are probably less “accurate” than supposed.

No matter what we do, there are factors in photography that distort reality

And it is a matter of digital “science” that in most cases, the images render by the in-camera computer needs at least some post processing to make an image presentable.  And that processing can be done without altering the so-called integrity of the image.  But what if I go further with my artistic image?  Why is there so much angst about this from so many people?

I’ll trust the viewer to make her own conclusions about believability

No matter what we do, there are factors in photography that distort reality.  At a bare minimum, perspective and lens focal length are significant factors. But unless I am submitting my photograph as evidence in the courtroom, or as support of a news article, who really cares? If a shot is “believable,” it is worthy. And I’ll trust the viewer to make her own conclusions about believability.