Category Archives: Travel

Snapseed To The Rescue – Monticello


I played around in Snapseed for iPad last night, and came up with another example of how Snapseed can dramatically change the look of an image into something more interesting.  

How many times have you been somewhere with your camera in your bag, or turned off, and hanging around your neck? I can’t count the number of times that something happened, and in a rush to get a shot I neglect to check my camera settings. I shoot a lot of professional baseball for fun, and stadium lighting can be very changeable. The shadow from a cloud on an otherwise sunny day can take your shutter speed from 1/1600 to 1/800 fast. Throw an improper metering setting in, and you can end up with your subject either over or underexposed. For that reason I tend to shoot using center weighted metering which is the closest my Canon 50D comes to spot metering. I have been burned many times by forgetting which metering mode my 50D is set on, and I end up with the wrong exposure.

The example I am using here is a shot I took while on Vacation a few years back. I took a shot of Thomas Jefferson’s house at Monticello. It was midday sun which is hard to shoot in for starters. It was also very hot, and I found my desire to capture a good shot was overtaken by my desire for a cold drink, and some air conditioning. I didn’t pay much attention to any settings, my resulting image was very flat. However I had enough data in the image that I was able to chip away in Snapseed until I found something more interesting. Don’t forget that you still need to have a decent exposure to begin with. I lucked out with this shot as I had enough pixels across the various levels to be able to lighten and darken without strange color shifts or introduction of too much noise in areas that were too dark. Software can only do so much.

I realize this image isn’t going to win any photography contests. However the ability to rescue a flat image to help you remember a fun event is a prize itself. For this image the first thing I did in Snapseed were selective adjustments. I lightened the house up, darkened the grass, and increased saturation. I also darkened the sky, and boosted saturation a bit before adding some drama effects, and increasing structure. Snapseed is so much fun to use because it has such a simple interface.

I think touch based editing adds a feel to creating art that you may not have experienced since grade school finger painting. Perhaps collectively as photographers we haven’t had something quite like this since cavemen painted on walls. The ability to see a direct effect from touching spurs creativity, and I think allows you to more quickly try out artistic avenues that may have been buried under menus and palette options. I look forward to seeing tablet based editing’s evolution.

Christmas Lights at Peddler’s Village

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Finally some bulk images are done.  I hadn’t shot since July,  and was really itching to get out and shoot.  These are my best of the lot as I was becoming re-familiarized with my camera after a long layoff.  It’s like falling off a bike – comes right back to you.  I joined a group of photographers for an outing at Peddler’s Village in the New Hope, PA area.  I have been corrected several times that it is not New Hope but rather Lashka, PA – a town just over from New Hope.  Sorry about the confusion folks.  When your destination is distant you have a tendency to lump it in with whatever major destination you know.  Sort of how Brooklyn or the Bronx are known as New York, but am sure to the locals they are very different things indeed.

So I trekked up with a friend riding shotgun to see the Christmas lights.  I thought it would be a nice scene because I photographed Christmas lights last year at Busch Gardens Christmas town, and had so much fun.  We got there late, and only bumped in to the other photographers there for a short amount of time due to the cold.  I think I only shot for about an hour or so, and realized that using a metal monopod in 30 degree weather without gloves is a bad idea.  I need to get myself some knit gloves where I can cut out the fingertips to ease access to camera controls.  I meandered from the parking area (almost got my car stuck in a spot – grassy field with muddy tire ruts from a previous victim), and made way way slowly because I am still coming off a back injury, but the walking was good.  I got to use my new monopod whose purchase was inspired by Ben Willmore in a class I took this spring – it is a nice monopod.  I think I really need to get myself a nice tripod.  Something in carbon fiber (light weight), and portable that won’t break my bank account which is easy to do.

Finally I made it through to the main area where the other photographers were gathered.  It was a lot of fun talking, and interacting with them as I have been shooting solo, and in a vaccuum for a while.  It’s good to see others in action – makes you push yourself, and you learn a few things as well so I am looking forward to going to future outings.

So here are about 18 images I spent the last week editing.   I am re-finding my style in the editing process, and the source images were rough as I hadn’t shot in a while.  What I normally do in a situation where I have issues with images is try to find the good image within.  Sometimes that means deviating from a realistic look and going for HDR or applying some effect.   As far as I am concerned if it is aesthetically pleasing, and not overkill then it is a successful image –  which is very subjective anyway.  I do think that a New Years resolution of mine is going to be  to try to improve my skills to get better with my in camera capture, and be a bit more methodical when shooting to give me more latitude in the digital darkroom for processing.

I am sure I will have more Christmas related posts upcoming, but for now I hope you enjoy these images.  Feel free to comment.

Panorama using Lightroom and Photoshop

I was just tinkering around in Lightroom today with some photos I took several years ago in Lake Tahoe. I had always intended to do a panorama, but somehow forgot.  In trying to breathe new life into the old photos I came up with this stitched together panorama of 6 photos. I exported then into Photoshop by selecting Merge to Panorama in Photoshop.   I then applied some blending, and effects in Nik’s Color Efex Collection and came up with this. Not too bad especially considering that my camera was a Pentax Optio A10. I had damaged my Canon 20D early in while on vacation …more on that in another post.

Sleep On It Before You Take Photos

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Ah!  Vacation.

I found myself driving northbound on California route 89 entering Lake Tahoe a few years back.   As I rounded the rolling, and steep curves winding into the Lake Tahoe basin area I was amazed at how blue the lake appeared.  I had never seen anything like it in person before, and my mind’s eye immediately began to visualize the photos I would take over the next week.  What a great place to be a photographer.

Slowly navigating the road in a clockwise fashion around the lake, and up the western shore I found myself continually looking through the trees for a glimpse of the next great view.  At every pull-out I stopped to take in the vista, and snap away furiously with my Sony Cybershot DSC-S85, a nice point and shoot for it’s time.  Look at that tree!  Look – a boulder!  Amazing views.  A day later upon review of the images on my laptop from the deck of my condo I came to a realization.  Don’t rely on images you take on the first day of a trip.

I have this theory that when you get your first look at a new place that your eyes, and brain haven’t caught up with each other yet.    So whatever tree or boulder you just photographed because it looked great – well..there is a good chance upon review you will find several things wrong with the composition the next day.

The photo above was taken on the approach to Emerald Bay.  Funny how it looked so good at the time.  You can see several trees, and branches obstructing the view, but at the time – WOW!  It wasn’t until the next day when my irrational exuberance had calmed down, and I was better able to think about my shots before taking them.  My suggestion is to use your first look at a new location as a chance to scout out shooting locations.  Wait until day two to take the shots you want to hang on the wall.