Sunday, December 18, 2016


Mindfulness:  "The practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment to moment basis"  Merriam-Webster online dictionary

Often, when we go into certain situations, we have preconceived notions or expectations about what we expect or want to happen.  In my article on meditation I stated that I often listen to music that contains the sounds of ocean waves, babbling brooks or even waterfalls and suggested that words to songs can "pollute my mind" and help me raise false expectations of what I want or expect to come away from a shoot with.

Susan Kanfer on the Photofocus website posted a picture of Zion National Park.  Given the same opportunity, many people would come away with just one picture from this opportunity, but Susan was able to discover five other pictures within the one picture that many of us would have taken.

In my previous post titled "A Christmas Walk At The Driskill Hotel, I talked of watching an inspirational video that gave me ideas of possible post processing ideas for pictures I wanted to take to accomplish my ideas.  When you go out shooting, it almost makes the shoot to be a sort of scavenger hunt for the opportunities that you seek and desire to accomplish the objectives you desire.

So what can we do to take pictures that show our heightened  or complete awareness of our thoughts, emotions or experiences that we are having when we take pictures?

First:  Walk slowly over your selected path.  Just as if you were looking for something that you might have lost, I often tell people, "Look up, look down and look from left to right, but look slowly."

Second:  Don't be so concerned with the total picture.  If you go to Google Search and search images of places that you would like to take pictures at, you can see plenty of those.  If you have Google Earth, you can literally see pictures that other people have taken of the places you want to go to.  What will make your pictures stand out is if you take selected images from that bigger picture.  Look for things such as water flowing over rocks, trees that are standing next to each other that perhaps have contrasting colors, perhaps green and yellow or red and either green or brown.  Don't be enchanted with a waterfall.  Again, there are plenty of pictures of those.  Instead look for the water cascading over what is causing the waterfall.  Perhaps you need to put your camera in a vertical position so that you can capture more of the falls.  Perhaps, you need a zoom lens on your camera and a tripod because you can't get close enough to that picture.  Many have suggested using a Neutral Density (ND) filter to make the water more milk like in appearance.  Also, try taking several pictures at a faster speed on your camera and then importing them into Photoshop as layers.  You will find that your vegetation is not blurry around your waterfall, especially if there was a wind, which often seems to happen.

Third:  Before you take your picture, think how you are going to process it.  I eluded to this about the waterfall.  How you are going to process your picture is very important to how you take it. Do you need just one picture or do you need several?  It is difficult to go back and try to take the same picture, especially if the place you took the picture is a long distance from you.  Besides that, the light is never the same because of the rotation of the Earth.  Remember the old phrase, "Better safe than sorry"?  It applies to photography as well.  It is far better to take more pictures and then discard the ones that you don't want to use when you post process than to go back and retake your picture again.

Fourth:  If something makes you happy, take a picture of it.  Life is filled with sorrowful moments. During those sorrowful moments it is often best to go back and reflect on those positive happy moments in your life.  You will find it puts a smile on your face.

There is a quote associated with Mark Twain (a.k.a. Samuel Clemons), "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness".  He went on to say, "And many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.  Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one's lifetime.

Happy shooting.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Christmas Walk At The Driskill Hotel

On Tuesday of this week, I had the opportunity to see a video put on by Topaz Labs and Harold Davis called, "A Homeopathic Approach to Adjustments".  I found it to be very inspirational.  One area that I really peaked my interest was where Harold took what seemed to be a "Cat's Eye" marble, photographed it and then brought a copy of the marble down below the shot, and put an object inside of the marble.  The two marbles were touching each other, but hat got me to thinking.

I went on a photowalk the next night and had thought of photographing a bulb on a Christmas tree and then putting a picture inside of it as one of my intentions of photographing that night.

In my travels, I went by the Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas.  They had their tree up so I went inside to see it since it was in the middle of the lobby.  When I walked through the doors I heard a trio of two violins and a cello and walked toward the tree.  I looked closely at the tree and then I found my perfect opportunity.  I bulb that had many different facets to it.  I photographed it.  Then when I was getting ready to go out the doors that I came in, I turned around and photographed the tree.

When I went to post process my pictures, I could not help thinking about putting the tree inside of the bulb.  I had seen the technique done for clouds and other objects, so I thought I would try it for myself.  I learned a few things along the way, like I need to merge my layers before putting my frame around the picture, but it worked and I am happy with what I produced.

You will need to keep an eye out for the video as Topaz Labs has not put it out yet (they edit it to fit the youtube requirements).  I am sure if you go to youtube and search topaz labs harold davis and look for the video "A Homeopathic Approach to Adjustments", you will be able to see the video for yourself.

This is what I came out with

Thursday, December 8, 2016


Many are familiar with the many different forms of meditation that are out there.  Meditation is an essential part of Buddhism. Many meditate while doing yoga.  Still others, while maybe not realizing it meditate during the day.  Some refer to it as “Day dreaming”. 

I first leaned self hypnosis back in the late 1970s.  The person I learned it from told the class a statement that has stuck with me all of these years.  He said, "Many of us claim we don't have an extra minute in our day, but what is it that you do when you go to the bathroom?  Do you just stare at the wall?  It is a perfect time to do self hypnosis to build you up."

In 2009, I was introduced to meditation.  During that time, the members of the class and I experienced a period of silence where we put our feet flat on the floor, sat back in our chair and then closed our eyes.  We built our time up from five minutes to a period of twenty minutes.  Then the teacher would ask, "How was that?"  Each of the members of the class had a different experience during their period of meditation.

For me, meditation is not necessarily closing my eyes and going "Ummmmmmmm" while I am out in the world.  Far from it, my method is to listen to music with some noise cancelling headphones that help to separate me from the rest of the world.  I listen to music that has a lot of water in it.  Music that has sounds like ocean waves, babbling brooks or even waterfalls occupies a good portion of my playlist.  I also enjoy instrumental music from artist like Kenny G and others.  I find that music transports me away from what is going on around me.  In my mind, it must do something because I have noticed a trend of people that seem to run around with ear buds in their ear listening to something.  I have even heard disc jockeys and sports casters that have music of what to me sounds like a metal brush on a snare drum to help them speak in a rhythmic manner.

Have you ever wondered why we enjoy pictures that have water in them?  Could it be that our bodies are made up of approximately 70% water and as such, water brings peacefulness to us?  I think so, at least for me it does.

The next time you go out taking pictures, try listening to music that transports you to a different place.  You just might find that you make more interesting pictures.  I encourage you to share your experiences.

In my next article, I will write on mindfulness, the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions or experiences on a moment to moment basis.

Friday, November 4, 2016

One Photo Focus Submission

If you are not aware of it, Stacy Fischer does an event every month called One Photo Focus on her blog Visual Venturing.  There are about thirty of us that participate in it (but I am sure others are welcome).

This month's submission came from Julie Powell.  Of course I put my own processing and creativity to work and came up with my submission.  I did my own processing workflow, but added a technique that I learned from Marty at Blue Lightening TV, of course I made some modifications of my own (that is called "artistic license").

I made my Gaussian Blur to be at 50 (instead of 9), then on the brush tool I had my opacity at 90% (rather than 50%), and on the vignette, I increased my pixel size to be 131 rather than 90 (just a personal preference).

The link for all of the submissions is here  If you like what you see and want to participate next month, I am sure Stacy would be more than happy to send you the photographs (you can do RAW or Jpeg) for you to submit

My Submission
Julie Powell's Picture
Is that George Strait I hear in the background?

Well excuse me, but I think you took my chair . . .

Well, I like you too, but to tell you the truth, that wasn't my chair after all.

Friday, October 28, 2016

My Processing Workflow -- Part 1 Lightroom

From my experience most of us are visual learners.  If we watch someone and take notes through what they show us, we can learn, but it is much better when we put the methods that we are taught into practice and then repeat them over and over again.

Two primary teachers I have had are Jack "Wow" Davis and Mark S Johnson.  Jack Davis taught me about Lightroom and Mark Johnson taught me about using Photoshop. I took what I learned from each other them and then worked it into my own workflow.  Yes, I have learned techniques from other people like Blake RudisJ.R. RodriguezAnthony Morganti and others, but this system works for me.

This will be a two part blog post separating my work in Lightroom from my work in Photoshop.  They are two different programs and some people may only desire to use Lightroom and not include Photoshop in their workflow. If you happen to be using Photoshop, Lightroom works very similar to Adobe Camera Raw (ACR).  For me Lightroom is less intimidating.

Once I have loaded my photographs into Lightroom (I use Lightroom to catalog my photographs rather than using Bridge which is part of Photoshop), I go way down to "Lens Corrections".  Check the boxes that say "Remove Chromatic Aberration" and "Enable Profiles Corrections".  Be sure to check your Histogram up at the top on the right hand side to see what the length of the lens you used was.  You might find that it is giving you the wrong lens.  Then go down to "Transform".  Here I select "Auto" but I also look at the picture as I might have to manually adjust my picture to get it the way I want.

Next I go to the top and crop my picture to the way I want it.  Then I go into the Basic panel and set my White Balance.  On a RAW Photograph, you have choices (just one of the reasons I shoot in RAW).  From there I adjust my Highlights and Shadows.  Most of the time you will find yourself pulling the slider to the left to reduce your highlights and to the right to open up your shadows.  It is important to make sure that you are not clipping your whites or blacks, but if you don't like what you are seeing you can always adjust them in Curves, when we get there.  Then go down to Clarity and adjust your Clarity.  You will see your photo sharpen right up.

Then adjust your Whites and Blacks. This might help some of your clipping, so it is why I don't adjust my Curves until I get there.  Then you can adjust your Vibrance. You will really see the colors come to life doing this.  From there I go into the Radial Filter.  Hold the Ctrl (on MAC the Command key) and double click on the picture.  You will see that you get a vignette. Make sure that "Invert Mask" is checked.  This will allow you to adjust what is inside the mask.  Most of the time all I adjust is the Clarity here, but you might need to make some other modifications  Remember you are the artist.  As Bob Ross would say, "It is your world, so present it the way you want."

So just a quick recap to this point:

Lens Corrections
Crop Tool
Basic Panel
     White Balance

Jack Davis calls this the "Wow Tango".

If you still need to fix your clipping for blacks and whites, go to Tone Curves and adjust the side of the curve on the left (for blacks) or the right (for whites).  Just push it straight up to adjust the blacks for clipping and straight down for the whites (you need to be in the point curve for this maneuver).  Once you get the triangles not to have white in the Histogram, you have done the job you need because we will make another adjustment in Photoshop.

Go into the HSL panel and adjust the colors to the way you want.  I start with the Luminance, then go to Hue and then to Saturation.

Then go into Detail and adjust your Sharpening (typically 71 is enough for me), Masking, then Luminance if I notice grain (a look that looks like someone took and threw a handful of sand across your image.) and then do the Detail for the Luminance and the Masking (just about the Masking slider).

That is my basic Lightroom workflow.  When I am finished in Lightroom, I right click on my picture, go to Edit In, and choose Photoshop and let the program transfer the program.  That way I keep my pictures from being destroyed by Photoshop.

Stay tuned for my workflow by Photoshop.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Alamo Cenotpath

On a recent visit to San Antonio I went by the Alamo.  I had photographed the Cenotaph which according to the site means "empty tomb".  Tradition claims that the Alamo Cenotaph marks the spot where the slain defenders of the Alamo were piled after the battle in 1836 and burned in the great funeral pyres.  Today the remains are located in a marble casket at San Fernando Cathedral (according to Google Maps about a 15 minute walk.

The Cenotaph is very close to zone vii on the zone system that was developed by Ansel Adams.  I shot this picture and then made it a high key photograph by following a video from Blue Lighting TV on youtube that you can find here  after doing my normal processing.  I feel this gives this image a very spiritual quality and one that is fitting for so many men that are considered heroes in the history of Texas.

Friday, October 14, 2016

My System

Have you ever sat and thought, that is an incredible picture, of a picture you are looking at?  If you investigate the person that took the photograph, you will find that they live in the area that they took the photograph.  Ohhh sure, there are people that are able to travel all over the world and take pictures of different subjects, but have you ever thought about how many pictures they took to get that one photograph they were proud enough to show?

I had the opportunity to go out with a photographer that had been photographing a particular area for over twenty years.  He has taken some amazing photographs over that time.  When I was traveling home, I thought about what I had observed while I was with him.  There were people that he knew that were also photographers and they would tell him that a particular bear was in an area with her cubs.  He would wait because he knew that there would be a flood of people going there, but he knew he would still get the pictures.  Many of the other photographers that I had read suggested limiting yourself to an area of fifty miles.

My situation is different.  I learned self hypnosis back in the 1970s.  I have been taking pictures since before the time that I learned self hypnosis.  Things never really came together for me until I went through something called "Active Cognitive Therapy".  That and a counselor telling me when I told him I was getting ready to retire helped me put everything together, self hypnosis, meditation, mindfulness and photography.

Most doctors recommend that you walk at least five miles every other day.  Since I am limited in my journeys because I am not able to drive, I decided that I would walk three miles.  Then by the time that I walk back to where I started, I have walked six miles total (beating the doctor's recommendation).   Most of my journeys are limited to streets.  I do mostly landscapes and architecture, but I focus on  abstracts, contrast, patterns and textures.  I often find myself doing all sorts of stretching exercises in order to get the point of view I want for the picture I am taking.  Things like getting on one knee, moving my arms zooming in and out with my legs instead of the lens on my camera and I could go on.

I drew a circle on a map of the area I wanted to photograph.  I then divided it up into six sections.  So one day I will go out, the next day I will process my pictures that I took, the third day I will go to another section and take pictures, on the fourth day I will process my pictures.  I continue on and it takes me roughly two weeks to make my way around the circle.  Perhaps, on one cycle you will work north and south streets, the next cycle you work east and west streets.  Perhaps there is a place of special interest to you and you can go by there and check it out.

You will want to go to places at different times so the light is different.  You will be surprised at how much of a difference the quality of light will be doing that.  Maybe you will hear of an event that will be happening in your area that you want to go to.  If it is your shooting day, don't fret over missing your area, go to it and pick up the area the next time you go out.

You will be surprised at how good you feel going out, taking pictures and enjoying your specific area of the world.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

What Is A Contemplative Photograph?

Quite simply, a contemplative photograph is one that is taken with some thought in mind while taking the photograph.  Oftentimes, people will take a picture of something that stimulates their mind in a pleasing way so when they get home they will have a pleasant memory of their experience.

The contemplative photograph takes into account what direction the subject is facing?  Where is the sun in relation to your subject?  Do you want a shallow depth of field or do you want everything sharp?  What lens is the right lens to take the picture with?  So often we buy a camera with a kit lens and never take it off while there may be another lens that would work better for the situation and the subject.  Is the shutter speed you need for the depth of field you want sufficient for you to hand hold your camera or do you need to use a tripod?  If you forgot your tripod, do you need to increase the sensitivity of your sensor?  If you are shooting a sunrise, would a purple sky help?  Perhaps you need to use a filter to accomplish that. Where should you focus?  All of these questions go into the making of a contemplative photograph.  As you can easily see, much more goes into taking a contemplative photograph than just taking a simple snapshot.

One of the things I often do is to give myself assignments for a particular photograph that I want to take that day.  Sometimes their are lines in songs that I listen to that may stimulate my assignment, other times it might simply be to go out and photograph a particular color against a contrasting color.  You might feel that is too limiting, but we will talk about my system in another post.  Sometimes, I just listen to inspirational music and let my mind drift while I walk.  I will listen to music that has the ocean coming in, guitars that have a rhythm to them that I enjoy.  Sometimes a saxophone does the trick for me.  You have to make that decision for yourself.

My meditation and mindfulness does not stop when I take the photograph.  I think about how I am going to process my picture before I take it.  Sometimes the least suspecting photographs turn out awesome in post processing.