Category Archives: Photoshop

Happy Internet Halloween

Looks like Aragog’s relative (Harry Potter alert!)

Looks like Aragog’s relative (Harry Potter alert!)

Photoshop helped me get into the Halloween spirit with this pic, which I recently snapped in Chicago. When I downsized it for easy blog posting, I selected “save for web.”

How ironic! Hope all the spiders you really encounter are much smaller today on Halloween . . . and every day!

Social 4/4 Time

Billy pre-Photoshop: So yellow!

Billy pre-Photoshop: So yellow!

That little tremor in the world’s equilibrium yesterday was merely me leaving the 10-mile radius of my comfort zone . . . at night. For several hours.

Shocking, right? I cherish all the time I spend comfortably ensconced in my community’s little bubble. Usually everything I could ever need or want . . . including two Chipotles! . . . is right around the corner.

However, last night it was time for the Mister and I to pull on our social pants and mingle with the masses in Houston (where only 18th Street could magically become 20th Street). We met at the Corkscrew wine bar—the Mister zipped over from work, while I actually took on the mean streets and spine-tingling traffic of the big city with a few nerves left still intact.

Wonder where the yellow went?

Wonder where the yellow went?

Luring me to Houston was our disc golf pal Billy. He’s been featured in my blog before, famously wearing a blue dress, as well as wrongly advising me that chickens are harmless. Now that Billy has retired, he’s pursuing his dream of pop stardom. Too bad he’s too old for “American Idol”—this white-haired cat definitely can sing and strum!

Billy took to the Corkscrew’s horribly lit stage with his 12-string guitar and an eclectic song list that included tunes by the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, assorted artists I’ve never heard of, plus several that he wrote (the Mister and I liked those the best). We were joined at our table by the Mister’s brother Mike and his wife Paula. Several other disc golfers also attended.

Naturally, I toted my beloved Nikon D700 for documenting the event. The Nikon 85mm (f/1.4) was the perfect lens for the job: It lets in a lot of light, plus it gets me close to the action without being intrusive. I just wish that there had been a lot of light. Talk about your dim bulbs!

Billy gives it his all.

Billy gives it his all.

As you can see from the top photo, the white balance was totally wonky. I put mine on bulb after taking pics on every setting and seeing that it was the “best” and hoped that I could wash away the yellow in Photoshop. My ISO was 4000; Noise Ninja helped tame the grain, which really wasn’t too bad.

All in all, it was a wonderful evening filled with great singing, wonderful family and friends, and Diet Coke and delicious thin-crust pizza.

I might have to shake up the globe a little more often!

Color-Shifting High School Prom Memories

Sweet and innocent back in 1971

Even though my #1 son can’t be bothered with going to his high school prom tomorrow (that would involve effort, especially the talking-to-a-girl part), I can’t help but remember my own prom. Especially after I found some photos I had pasted in an album while looking for pix of my #1 son for his senior legacy project.

As you can see from the above photo of me with my high school and college beau, good, old Tim, the pictures have aged about as well as I have. Colors will shift over almost 40 years just like gravity plays havoc with our middle-aged bodies. Still, it brings back fond memories of already having a dress (I wore it when I was a bridesmaid for my oldest sister Fran’s wedding the previous year) and the misfortune of my too-straight hair refusing to hold a curl (I can’t remember if I went to a hair salon or just—ugh!—slept on curlers).

The original photo of us—handsome Tim and dorky-looking me

As much as I’m not really fond of this photo because I look like such a dork, I decided to try to fix the color shift in Photoshop.

The result of using curves in Photoshop

When I used the curves tool, it washed away some of the ugly yellow (should I have used Pepsodent?), but now we both look like well-dressed zombies And I look like a dorky well-dressed zombie!

Mostly black and white

I decided it was best to just go with black and white . . . with a dash of spot color. I’m hoping that instead of everyone noticing how dumb I look, their eyes will instead be drawn to the daisies!

I sure hope that in three years my #2 son will allow me to concentrate more on taking prom photos of him and his date than revisiting these old pix that undoubtably will look even worse.

The Non-Delightful Light Battle; Warning: Eyes May Glaze Over

arrwd-#5704-(cast-too-dark-&-too-light)

Back in May I wrote about my trials and tribulations with shooting our high school’s dance show in the school’s auditorium. Saturday night found me back in that same location trying to take decent photos of our high school’s play, “Laughing Stock.”

The #1 son and my “third” son Chase wanted to see the play (#1 was determined not to laugh during it), and I decided to tag along (because really what high school senior doesn’t want his mom hanging around with him?). I knew several of the actors, which meant I knew that their moms would like good photos that are impossible to take with a point and shoot.

arrwd-#5744-(white-shirt)

I tried my best to sit as far away from other people in the audience, because, well, my camera’s shutter is very loud. Especially in a quiet auditorium. Plus I knew I would need to chimp (e.g., check my LCD) periodically to make sure my settings were correct. Those lighted cell phone screens that are annoying in the dark? Well, my LCD monitor looks like a torch in comparison!

I remembered from taking pix of the dance show that the lighting is funky on stage. That’s where exposure compensation comes into play. Exposure compensation (the +/- button) lets you add or subtract light without changing your aperture; it allows you to adjust for the bright lights that are on stage, as well as backlighting outdoors.

Eyes glazing over? Sorry!

I was using my Nikon D700 (which does a wonderful job with high ISOs with Noise Ninja’s help, of course) and beloved Nikon f/1.4 85mm lens to let in as much light as possible (no flash photography necessary). My ISOs ran from 1000 to 2500 when it was pretty dark. At first I tried a mild exposure compensation of –.33 but quickly went to –.7 and –1 to try to darken the effect of the overwhelming overhead stage lights.

Too much light despite an exposure compensation of -1.33.

Too much light despite an exposure compensation of –1.33.

An exposure compensation of –1.33 worked pretty well, but as you can see above, sometimes the photo still was blown out. In this case I quickly chimped and reset the e-c to –1.67.

Alec at -1.67

Alec at –1.67

Wow, what a difference!

The cast works on a scene from "Charley's Aunt."

The cast works on a scene from "Charley's Aunt."

Once I finally got the e-c set to either –1.33 or –1.67, the photos looked pretty good, and I could just snap away.

Christin is somewhere within the smoke.

Christin is somewhere within the smoke.

The negative exposure compensation even worked well when there was smoke on stage.

Trey "kills" Dracul (Cameron) in a coffin as Jonathan (left) and Alec watch.

Trey "kills" Dracul (Cameron) in a coffin as Jonathan (left) and Alec watch.

Photoshop did play a role in getting the best quality out of these photos. Sometimes I had to add more light, while other times I had to darken a little using Levels. Photoshop wins the award for best supporting actor!

Brian is silhouetted by the actors taking their "Hamlet" bows behind him.

Brian is silhouetted by the actors taking their "Hamlet" bows behind him.

“Laughing Stock” is a comedic play about actors who rehearse/perform three summer stock plays (“Dracul,” “Charley’s Aunt,” and “Hamlet”) in a barn in New Hampshire. During the play, the cast performed “Hamlet” in the background behind a mesh screen. It made for interesting photos!

Christin, Cameron, and Grace take their bows at the end of the play.

Christin, Cameron, and Grace take their bows at the end of the play.

All of the actors were extremely talented and put on a very funny performance.

The cast applauds the audience.

The cast applauds the audience.

I’m sure I would’ve really enjoyed the play . . . if I hadn’t been busy compensating for my photographic exposure!

Photo Friday: Watch Out for that A/C!

Fogged out

Fogged in

See the photo above? That was my first shot of last Friday’s high school football game. And, yes, it is really foggy. Do not adjust your monitors!

The photo is foggy, but the playing conditions weren’t. That’s because I wasn’t thinking straight when I stowed my Nikon D300 and Nikon 70-200mm lens in my Honda Pilot for the trip to the stadium.

Sidebar: “Wasn’t thinking straight” is a nice way of saying that I was stupid.

The fog is starting to lift.

The fog is starting to lift.

When I put my camera and long lens in the car, I try to secure them in the back under my car seat so they don’t get jostled. But what I didn’t realize was that the back air conditioning duct is right where my camera equipment was. When I got out of the car at the stadium and reached for my camera, my first thought was, “This is freezing!” My second? “Oh, oh!”

Tackling in the lens fog

Tackling in the lens fog

I knew that when I took the cold lens out into the warm, humid air that I would have a fogged-up lens. I had my cleaning cloth ready, but it took what seemed like hours (but was more like 10 minutes) to have a clear-enough lens to shoot through. Foggy photos at high ISOs (I was at 1600) make for some of the most butt-ugly pics ever. Not a proud moment for me as a bogus pro, that’s for sure.

Post-processed first photo

Post-processed first photo

This is kind of what that first photo should’ve looked like; it was the best I could clean it up in Photoshop. I believe the proper response to it is one word: Ugh!

Eric (left) and Zach wait for the kickoff.

Eric (left) and Zach wait for the kickoff.

I finally was able to shoot the rest of the game once my lens warmed up enough to stop fogging. But I must admit it was nerve-wracking for awhile. I vowed that I would never put my camera and lens by that back air conditioning duct again (and don’t you do it, either!).

And I didn’t for almost a week . . . until I was going to the #2 son’s cross-country meet. Yep, old habits take a long time to die, apparently. Well, at least more than a week! Fortunately, I remembered midway to the park and was able to move the camera before it froze over. Once I got there, I made sure to turn off the air conditioning in the back.

Sometimes this middle-aged mind of mine gets a little too fogged up . . . like those football photos! Wish it was easy to clear up in Photoshop, too!!

Photo Friday: Meeting the High ISO Challenge

Kaityln tries to spike past Ashley B.

Kaityln M. tries to spike past Ashley B.

When photographers talk about the toughest sport to shoot, one activity in particular gets our Nikons and Canons a-quaking: Volleyball.

Ah, I could wax rhapsodically about volleyball as a sport to play or watch until the Chick-Fil-A cows come home. Believe it or not, I actually played on the volleyball team my freshman year at the venerable University of Illinois (pre-NCAA days) until I realized that I was a much better writer than player. After that, I opted to be the varsity team’s manager, so I could travel with the squad and write about them for the school newspaper (“The Daily Illini” was award-winning back then, but probably not because of my contributions).

Kaitlyn B. jump sets Mary Ellen.

Kaitlyn B. jump sets Mary Ellen.

And watching volleyball? A good match, like the one pictured here featuring our high school versus a fierce rival this past Tuesday night, is like watching poetry in motion. Looks like its choreographed even though it isn’t.

Breezy gets her fingertips on one of the mighty Ashley B.'s spikes, as Kaitlyn M. tries to help.

Breezy gets her fingertips on one of the mighty Ashley B.'s spikes, as Kaitlyn M. tries to help.

But shooting volleyball? Ugh times 150! Hmmm . . . where to start with the reasons why volleyball is so tough to photograph well?

Savannah is ready to pound the ball past the defense.

Savannah is ready to pound the ball past the defense.

First of all, it’s a fast-moving, indoor sport where you often don’t know where the ball is going. PWCs (Parents With Cameras) using a point and shoot? Take a seat on the bench; you’re never going to stop the action. I use my Nikon D300 and the Nikon f/1.4 85mm lens (the f/1.8 model works well, too).

Second, the lighting usually is terrible plus it’s the bulb type that cycles through the color spectrum. It’s hard to get a consistent white balance—some photos look great, others have a little too much magenta, while still others are too yellow. That leads to some frustrating post-processing in Photoshop.

Our team celebrates a good block.

Is it a tribal dance or is our team summoning some voodoo magic?

You need to use high ISOs (almost all these photos are at IS0 1600 and cleaned up with, what else?, Noise Ninja) to help stop the action. Flash isn’t allowed.

Our coach takes a timeout to talk strategy.

Our coach takes a timeout to talk strategy.

Of course, I love a photographic challenge, plus I’ve been shooting volleyball for several years now . . . not that that makes it any easier. This particular match was played at a local fieldhouse with high bleachers and a walkway above the court, not in our dimly lit, small gym (thank goodness!). The view from up top and the side made it easier to get compelling photos.

Our cheerleaders try to motivate our team.

Our cheerleaders try to motivate our team.

My strategy was to shoot from above in basically the same spot for the first two games. That enabled me to get good photos of both teams. Then I roamed around for the final game.

Kelsey W. serves.

Kelsey W. serves.

Normally, I don’t like a lot of shots from behind; I prefer seeing faces. But some of the volleyball action is more interesting from that backside view.

Kaitlyn M. and Mary Ellen signal their teammates.

Kaitlyn M. and Mary Ellen signal their teammates.

Kelsey M. digs the opponent's serve.

Kelsey M. digs the opponent's serve.

Even though volleyball is a photographic challenge, it’s a great sport to watch with wonderful action to try to capture. It may be high-ISO, wacky-lighting action, but it’s still delightful to see!

Friday Night Lights for the Bogus Pro Photographer

My view of the field with my sideline pass

My view of the field with my sideline pass

Guess who got to pretend to be a big-time, fancy-schmancy sideline photographer Friday night? Yep, little ol’ me! In fact, the above photo shows what my view looked like at the boys’ high school’s football game at one of our district stadiums.

Friday night's lights

Friday night's lights

My friend Heather had asked if I would shoot photos for the high school’s booster club’s website. As much as I hate the high ISOs that shooting under the lights at 7 p.m. and later necessitate, I could hardly say no. Not when I have a blog that needs fresh photo fodder five days a week!

Sidebar: Look at the different colors in the lights. It’s little wonder that sports photographers have so much trouble dealing with a consistent white balance. And it’s even worse indoors.

Quarterback Matt rolls out and start his pitch.

Quarterback Taylor rolls out and starts his pitch to his imaginary tailback.

For most of the first quarter before Heather caught up with me to give me the necessary sideline pass, I shot from above the action with my Nikon D300 and Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. This gave me a great opportunity to eventually contrast the difference between shooting above and at ground level. I captured a good series of photos (at ISO 1600 and f/2.8) in which our quarterback Taylor (Heather’s son) pitched the ball to our tailback Brelynn. It starts above where you have to imagine where Brelynn is (oops!).

Here's Brelynn!

Here's Brelynn!

Welcome to the photo show, Brelynn! Now get going!!

Anthony (28) and Matt are ready to block for Brelynn.

Anthony (28) and Taylor are ready to block for Brelynn.

I really liked the angle from above on these photos. It allows you to see a lot of the action on every play. Now let’s move to the sideline, shall we?

Brelynn tries to escape the defense.

Brelynn tries to escape the defense.

Here’s our buddy Brelynn at ground level trying desperately to avoid being tackled. This was taken at ISO 2000 and, of course, f/2.8, cleaned up by the ever-lovin’ Noise Ninja. As you can see, I could get photographically closer to the action while on the sideline.

Brandon takes a dive, helped by the defense.

Brandon dives forward.

It was easier to isolate on players while shooting along the sideline, but I did have to make sure to stay out of everyone’s way, especially the coaches. Didn’t want to get yelled at by one of them! Oh, and I didn’t want to get run over by any of the players. I only had one close encounter, but it did have me backpedaling the rest of the game!

Tyler tackles the runner.

Tyler tackles the runner.

See number 5? That’s Tyler, a defensive back. The #1 son played Little League baseball with him way back when. He was a good baseball player, too.

Tyler knocks away the pass.

Tyler knocks away the pass.

This was my favorite photo of the evening. Our opponents were getting close to scoring, but Tyler jumped up and knocked the pass away from the receiver. He really played well all night!

Cale smiles.

Cale smiles.

The best part of shooting on the sideline? Getting photos up close and personal of the players, like Cale. As long as they’re not knocking you over when they barrel into where you’re standing!