Thursday, December 29, 2016

Combining images by changing layer modes in Photoshop

Over the Christmas holiday I collected some background photos of winter trees with bare branches. I wanted to use these photos to combine with other images. The picture below is one of the first uses. It shows a forest edge at sunset combined with three other photos.

To create an image like this I start with a portrait of a model lit with highly defined areas of dark and light. The background is completely white. The model is dressed in black and is lit with a dark shadow on the side of her face near the camera. The mode of this layer in Photoshop is changed to "Lighten".  That means that everything below the image that is lighter than the model image would shine through. That gave me the sunset trees coming through the black areas of the model image. To soften the tree image down a bit I put another photo of a cloudy sunset on top of it, changed its mode to "Lighten", and dialed down its opacity.

I added a Vibrance Adjustment layer and attached it to the model image. This allowed me to dial down most of the color in her face. Lastly, I added the photo of the gulls over the ocean on top of the model image and changed its mode to "Darken" which allowed the model photo to pass through its dark areas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Reviving an old photograph with some new overlays

Ever run across an old photo that might have been a good selling stock subject at one time, but because of its older treatment it just didn't keep up with the times?  Happened to me recently when I ran across this old stock shot I did of a morning cup of coffee next to a newspaper and cell phone. First of all, the cell phone was ancient and ruined any chance of selling this shot as stock today. Next, the treatment just wasn't bright enough and didn't say "morning coffee".

To breath some new life into the old photo below I began by simply cropping out the old cell phone. To complete the transition all I did was add three modifying layers from my new (soon to be released by MCP Actions) set of  "Sunshine Overlays".  The sun burst on the upper left below was enlarged and positioned near the woman's hand to make it look like a burst of sunlight was coming from that direction. I also reduced its opacity a bit to tone it down.

Next I added the sunset color diffusion layer on the bottom left to give the image an overall warm morning color. Finally, I added the white vignette layer on the bottom right to brighten the corners. I put a mask over it and painted out the areas where I didn't want it to show. 

All three overlay layers had their layer mode changed to "Hard Light" in Photoshop. This meant than any area that was neutral gray would disappear. What used to take me a long time to retouch now took only a few minutes of drag-and-dropping a few correction layers. 

My complete set of "Sunshine Overlays" is going to be released soon with the new revamp of the MCP web site. I will be announcing the release here as soon as it happens. Stay tuned. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Superimposing images using layer modes in Photoshop

The conceptual image above was created by combining two photographs in Photoshop and altering the layer mode of one of them to superimpose the clouds over the silhouette of the man. Here's how: 

The tow photographs below were stacked one over the other as layers in Photoshop with the sky image on the bottom. The top layer of the man had its mode changed to "Light". This meant that everything lighter than the sky photo was preserved while everything darker allowed the lighter parts of the image below to pass through so the sky passed through the dark silhouette of the man. 

A vibrancy adjustment layer was added to the man image only and the vibrancy and saturation were dialed to almost nothing resulting in an almost black and white image. The sky layer was enlarged and positioned to suit the composition and a curves layer added to it to brighten the sky and lower the contrast. That was it. 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

First snow in the city for my Fuji X-T2

I woke up just before dawn to our first snow in the city and grabbed this shot with the Fuji X-T2 and Fuji 10-25mm zoom set to 10mm and f/4 with an ISO of 200. As I was freezing outside taking this photo I was beginning to think that Florida sounds pretty nice about now.

An hour later the snow was still coming down but the city looked like this as the morning brightened the scene.

Finally, to create the image below I combined the two photos as layers in Photoshop with the darker night scene placed in a layer above the white snow image. I then changed the night shot layer to "Color" mode and used opacity to dial down its intensity. After collapsing the two image I then added an overlay layer from my MCP Actions "Sunrise Overlays" with its mode set to "Soft Light". 

The image below from my soon-to-be-released MCP Actions "Sunrise Overlays" pack creates a white vignette when it is placed as a layer over another image and its mode is changed to "Hard Light". The it can be tweaked by rotating it and placing a mask on it to paint out some areas to suit. 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Quick editing in Photoshop using preset overlays

This is an image I created utilizing some of the effects I have in my new Sunshine Overlays pack of Photoshop overlays that will soon be released by MCP Actions. Using overlays in an image like this makes the work quick and easy.

I started with an image of the model against a white background. I removed the background in Photoshop. Next I created the grid pattern by simply drawing it with a white pencil and filling it in with a low opacity of white so I could see through to her face. Then I filled the background with a gray tone instead of the white. From then on it was only a matter of dragging and dropping my overlays into place and resizing them to suit.

Below are the four overlays I used to create the background. On top is a "half-vigenette" which I combined in Hard Light mode Photoshop layer. I then duplicated that layer and inverted it vertically for a vignette on the top. I positioned and stretched them to suit.

The burst and star on the bottom left are what I used to create the bursting effect behind the model by simply changing their layer modes to Hard Light and Screen and adjusting their sizes. 

Next, I added the star burst on the right to the grid in front of the model's finger. 

As a final adjustment I added a curves layer and vibrancy layer to increase contrast and mute the colors. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Searching for dawn colors with the Fuji 100-400mm zoom

The sun was just breaking above the horizon on a bright day and reflecting off of the buildings in Manhattan. With the Fuji 100-400mm zoom fully extended on my X-T2 I was able to crop into some interesting color patterns made by the intense color contrast of reflecting buildings against the still dark city. A super long telephoto is perfect for this type of shooting. The ephemeral light lasted for a few minutes and was gone.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Night fog in Manhattan

A few nights ago a fast moving fog drifted into the city at just the right height to pass in front of the top of the Empire State Building giving the scene a ghostly appearance. With my Fuji X-T2 mounted with the 16-50mm zoom I grabbed some still images first and later made a few 4k video clips, although I had to chop the size down considerably to fit in the blog.

In the series below I grouped six images to form a grid to make a 25" width print. I then took one of the photos where the fog revealed only a part of the spire to make a black and white Acros image. All were shot at an ISO of 10,000 because I wanted the eerie grainy film effect.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Muted City

Recently, I have been capturing images of the city in the subtly muted tones of balanced light around sunrise and sunset. The time period is fragile, usually lasting only a few minutes. I love the quiet, delicate effect of the merging tones and low contrast.

These were photographed with a variety of cameras, usually a Fuji X-T2 or Nikon D810. I'm envisioning the photos as large prints so I try to stick with a larger sensor for the series.

The Muted City

Recently, I have been capturing images of the city in the subtly muted tones of balanced light around sunrise and sunset. The time period is fragile, usually lasting only a few minutes. I love the quiet, delicate effect of the merging tones and low contrast.

These were photographed with a variety of cameras, usually a Fuji X-T2 or Nikon D810. I'm envisioning the photos as large prints so I try to stick with a larger sensor for the series.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Added another image to my Metropolis series

This past week I worked on a new addition to my Metropolis series of images. This one is titled, "Metropolis - 10:22:02 in New York". It is a composite of about eight different images, all taken around Wall Street and on the stock trading floors.

The idea of this image was to capture the split-second, frenetic energy of global stock trading. The title of "10:22:02" represents one second in time when stock data flows around the world in a global network at light speed, affecting the decisions of millions of traders. In another second everything changes and it starts all over again. The onslaught of such data exchanges is kind of crazy when you think of it.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Let there be light! A sunrise helicopter shoot over New York

This morning I participated in a special half-hour, doors-off photography flight over the city sponsored by FlyNYON helicopters. FlyNYON specializes in providing exciting photography experiences in the New York area. A half hour is all the time you need for a shoot like this. We took off about 15 minutes prior to sunrise. That gave us time to capture the colorful morning glow behind the city before the sun came up. Once the sun rose, we positioned ourselves to shoot right into the light to flare out the sun for some exciting effects. After covering the mid-town area with the Empire State and Chrysler buildings, we booked it down the East River to capture our last shot of the sun, now fully up, hitting the Statue of Liberty head on. If you're ever in New York, and want the thrill of a lifetime, check out FlyNYON for an experience you'll never forget.

As sunrises go, this one was not the most exciting. There were no clouds in the sky to catch the light and make it interesting. That was one of the reasons for swinging around to capture the flare shots by shooting right into the sun. In addition to the interesting flare shapes, this created a veil of light over the scene,

I used two cameras on this trip, a Nikon D810 fit with a Nikon 24-120mm zoom, and a Fuji X-T2 with the 50-140mm f/2.8 (75-210mm equivalent) for my long shots. It was only dark for a few minutes before the sun came up. So I started with an ISO of 1600, but quickly worked my way down to a comfortable 200. Of course, shooting directly into the sun resulted in a very high, motion-stopping shutter speed. All in all, a really fun way to spend the morning!


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Sunshine Overlays

In past posts I have discussed how I create overlay layers to use in Photoshop when I want to spark up an image by enhancing a sunset light, or warm up an overcast scene often due to shooting in inclement weather. I have been asked by the MCP Actions group to gather up the many overlays I have been creating and put them together in a package that other photographers can use to accomplish similar effects without the effort of first having to create the overlays themselves.

The image below is a sample from a recent available stock photo shoot I did in my studio. I found the lighting in the original photo to be too dull and wanted to punch it up using some of the overlays I had created over the years. The idea was to create a warm feeling of late afternoon sunlight pouring onto the scene from the window behind the models.

To accomplish the transformation I used three layers from my "Sunshine Overlays" collection. The layer on the far left is a center light punch overlay. It is placed as a layer above the original image and its layer mode is changed to "Overlay". The purpose of this layer is threefold: It brightens the center of the image, creates a bit of punch by adding contrast, and adds a warm tone to the overall scene. 

One thing about my overlay system is that I created all of the overlays to enhance each other and work together in their coloring. So, when I added the second layer sun burst (center below) to the window between the man and woman, its color merged nicely with the previous layer. This second layer is called a "Half-burst" because it only bursts out with color on the bottom. I created these half-bursts to avoid carrying unnecessary coloring to white areas in the top areas of images that were shot on overcast days. The Half-Burst is used as a Hard Light layer mode in Photoshop. 

The final layer I added was the "Half-vignette" shown on the right below. The vignette  consists of a somewhat randomized edge-darkening area on the bottom only. It is used as a "Hard Light" Photoshop layer so all the areas that are gray will turn white leaving only the dark vignette below. I created the vignette at full darkness to allow its opacity to be dialed down later to suit its use. For this sample I used it at 57% opacity.

I created my overlay series to cut down on work time when retouching. Layering is a quick and easy way to do this. I like it better than using actions. To create the layering effect in Photoshop (or Photoshop Elements) I just have to drag and drop the layer on top of the photo that I am retouching, make a few changes to the newly placed layer, collapse all the layers when finished, and that's it -- a very simple technique that has saved me gobs of retouching time over the years.  

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Back to basics: X-Pro2 + 18-55mm lens and a visit to the Guggenheim

Lately, when I go out and want to feel unencumbered by photo gear I find myself putting the original Fuji 18-55mm variable focus zoom on my X-Pro2 and using it as a basic kit for walking around -- small, convenient, unobtrusive, but powerful enough for obtaining real quality images.

The Guggenheim just opened an extensive exhibit of work by the artist, Agnes Martin. Martin has been my favorite artist for decades. I love the subtle minimalist expression of her grid canvases and have always found them to be an inspiration for my own work. I had the X-Pro2/18-55mm combo with me but didn't really think I was going to need it. I was there to see the exhibit, not photograph it. Seeing just a few of Martin's paintings immediately changed my attitude, and, as always, I succumbed to the influence of her work. I didn't exactly photograph the exhibit. Instead I used the camera to record the impression her work was having on me as I walked through the exhibit.

When I work in a place, like a museum, I put the camera on silent mode with its electronic shutter so no noise emanates from it to disturb the silent solemnity of the space.  In the main I shot in Acros simulation mode, switching back to color for those few occasions where I wanted to incorporate the subtlety of color present in most Martin canvases.

This exhibit is the most comprehensive I have ever seen on Agnes Martin. It is well worth a visit to see it if you are in New York. The show will be at the Guggenheim Museum until January 11, 2017.

This is one of the few images I took in color. I did it to emphasize the subtlety of color used in Marin's canvases.