Saturday, November 6, 2010

RoryMad Studios Remodel


I decided to do some remodeling to the site and it has a completely different look and feel than it did before.  While the other site was ok, it was missing some of those things that help attract attention to the site. I think the navigation of the new site is much more intuitive than the previous version.  For those that wish to have some music playing in the background while looking at images, you will now have that option (bottom right of the page has an ON/OFF for the background music).  There is also a photo representation of each gallery now, for example, the Transportation Art Gallery has one of my Trolley photos representing it. I will still use Printroom to process my orders and ship to clients, they have done an excellent job of this in the past so I saw no need to change that. 

I want to thank the community over at NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals) for all of their help and guidance with the new design.  I'm always open for feedback , especially from those that frequent my site.  So if you have any suggestions, please don't hesitate to share them with me either here on my site which now has a comments section. 

Thanks again for your support.

Warm regards,
Michael

RoryMad Studios: Photographing your life, one click at a time.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

That same shot might not be there tomorrow, take it today!!

For those that read my blog regularly, you know that I really enjoy both IR and  HDR photography.  It's a style that I just get and seem to have an eye for.  One of my favorite subjects is old buildings, there's nothing like old brick , stone and wood to get the creative juices flowing and set a mood for a photo. 

One of my favorite buildings to photograph in the Tampa area is in Plant City.  It's the fertilizer depot below.


This building has so much character it's not even funny.  The place just wreaks of great stories and if the walls could talk, they would have quite the monologue.  After all, it's an old dusty weathered building on a set of active railroad tracks, what's there not to like, right?

So the photo above was taken in May of 2009, the photo below was taken this past Tuesday (8/17/2010).


The difference you ask?  Well, back in 2009, this was an actual business, it's been there for more than 80 years, this past Tuesday when I went back, it was no longer an operating business.  The signs are gone, the windows are all busted out, anything metal of any value has been stripped from the building ,part of the loading dock is actually missing now and the tower has been stripped down to it's skeleton.  I almost sat down and cried.  This oddly beautiful piece of history was being reduced to nothing and I would imagine that in the next few months, it will be deemed unsafe and knocked down. 

What a shame?  There is however a very important lesson to be learned, don't take those things that are close by that you put off photographing for granted.  I've been putting off going to Plant City for months now because my beloved depot will always be there and I can go head over there anytime and photograph it. 

Here's all that is left now, a mere shell of it's former self.


So don't let this happen to you, stop, take the time to photograph those things that you think you can always come back to, there's always that chance that it may go away.

Thanks for reading and commenting and don't forget, you can see all of my work at RoryMad Studios.

Warm regards,

Michael

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Photographing the Mermaids at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

I guess I should start this off by saying what a great time we had at the park. Beautiful place full of friendly people and lots and lots of interesting things, animals, places, landscapes and people to photograph. This is definately one of my favorite State Parks in Florida.


Now, on to the tutorial.

Here's the original photo right out of the camera.




Looks pretty horrible, doesn't it? Don't worry, it's fixable and I'm going to show you how. When you look at a photo like this, the first thing that jumps out is all the blue. There's a ton of blue in this photo and you know what, it really couldn't be helped. This is taken from a very dark room without the use of a flash (flashes are prohibited during the shows and I am always very respectful of the rules when I am visiting a place and want to use my camera). I always shoot in RAW and this is a prime example why, the white balance is way off but that's not really an issue when you shoot in RAW.


Here's the adjustments I made in Adobe Camera Raw.

To set the white balance, I studied the photo for a few moments and then thought back to what I saw with my eyes (not what my camera captured). The rocks in the background were a medium to medium light grey which ended up working well for the white balance, so I used the White Balance tool (the eye dropper that is located next to the hand on the top row of tools in ACR). This gave me a great starting point. Next I started working on adding some much needed contrast, I used the "Blacks" slider and the Tone Curves panel to achieve that. (See the tone curve screen shot below). I then added some clarity and some vibrance and drug the recovery slider to the right until my histogram looked good and the photo started to come to life.

Here's the Tone Curve panel.



Since I shot this at ISO 800, my next step was to do some noise reduction (Thank you Photoshop CS5 and Adobe Camera Raw 6.X for the great noise reduction!!!) and a bit sharpening before opening the file up in Photoshop.




So now we're ready to take the plunge into Photoshop.

First order of business is to make a copy of the background layer, hold down the +shift+ key and drag the background layer down to the new layer icon at the bottom of the layers panel (it's the icon that looks like a turning page , between the folder icon and the trash can icon).

Now that I am working on the copy of the background layer and not on the orginal, I'm all set to really mess this photo up....I mean to clone out some of the distractions in the photo.





I'm mainly concerned with the red spots in the photo where light was bouncing off of the bubbles at an odd angle. So grab the Spot Healing Brush (looks like a bandaid) , click on content aware fill and start eleminating those red spots.


Now that you are done cleaning up the image, go ahead and drag that layer down to the new layer icon (the one that looks like a turning page) with the +shift+ key held down. (make a copy of the layer).


It's now time to try and get rid of some of that nasty blue tint the whole image seems to be suffering from.


Select the top layer (which should be the copy of the layer we used to clean up the image) and go to Image>Adjustments>Match Color (see the screenshot below).









Once you have selected the Match Color option in the Image Adjustments panel, you'll see a screen like this.



Click on the Neutralize box and watch most if not all of the color contamination disappear. When I use this option on a photo like this, I want to make the viewers eyes go directly to the Mermaid, which is the focal point of this photo. I might stop here or if I feel I can get closer to what she really looks like, I might try a few things like Levels Adjustment Layer, Sharpening or even a mask so that the sharpening and levels are only applied to her instead of the entire photo. I really like the color and tones of the blue background, I just didn't want those colors and tones on my main subject.



Here's what my final image looks like and a screen shot of the layers that I had at the end (I merged some layers since I was satisfied with the results of the levels and cloning I had done earlier).




As always, I hope you found this beneficial, if you have any questions please don't hesitate to leave a comment or email me at rorymadstudios@verizon.net (I answer all the questions posted here but if you would like, I will also answer them in email).

As always, if you are looking for an image to hang on your wall at home or in the office, please don't hesitate to head over to http://www.rorymadstudios.com/ and check out some of my photography that is available for sale.

Thanks,
Michael

Sunday, March 21, 2010

IR Photography with a R72 filter

Thanks to my wife's Uncle Jon, I am hopelessly addicted to IR Photography, both B&W and Color versions of this great medium. The whole idea of capturing what is invisible light and making it visible again is really intriguing to me. We as humans can't see IR light but with the right camera equipment we can photograph a scene and reveal the IR light.









The first piece of equipment you need to have is a camera, preferrably a DSLR but you can use a Rail Camera or a Point and Shoot if you have the ability to screw on a filter onto the lens. The second piece of equipment you need is a lens. This is where it gets a bit tricky if you are going to use a filter. Many lenses out there suffer from hot spotting when they are used with an IR filter like the Hoya R72 (this is the filter I use). For a list of lenses that will and won't work , check out this site www.dpanswers.com/content/irphoto_lenses.php word of warning though, this is the most complete list I could find but it's by no means the complete list. Please make sure you research the lens you want to buy the IR Filter for before you purchase the filter, these filters are fairly expensive. I made the mistake of purchasing a filter for my Tokina 12-24mm F4 lens only to find out that it suffers from extreme hot spotting when using an IR filter. Luckily I was able to buy some adapters to go from a 77mm filter down to a 52mm (my Nikon 18-55mm lens uses a 52mm filter size). You're also going to need to use a tripod and a cable release (although you can get away with using your mirror up option on your camera or the self timer and not have to have a cable release). Just a note, these filters block all visible light and only allow the IR light through, they are really really dark and require long exposures even in broad daylight, make sure you have a tripod with you, you aren't going to be hand holding 8 + second exposures.



So, you have all of your equipment with you and you're ready start shooting some really cool IR Color and IR B&W scenes. First step, white balance. Most cameras will allow you to manually set your white balance as a preset. Without the filter on the camera, head over to really well lit patch of green grass, the greener the better and use that as your target to set your white balance on your camera and save it to a preset you can recall. I understand that a lot of you shoot in RAW, I shoot in RAW too and I understand you can use Adobe Camera Raw or Adobe Lightroom to adjust the white balance after the fact, I can't explain why but it doesn't work well with Color IR photography, take the extra time to get it right in camera, trust me, it's worth the effort.



Ok, we're ready to create a visually stimulating scene in IR. Setup your tripod and connect your camera and the shutter release cable. With the filter OFF of the camera, compose your scene (once you put that filter on, you can't see anything through the viewfinder, yes it's that dark). Make sure you have your auto focus set to auto focus, press your shutter release down halfway and get a good focus lock, now switch the camera from auto focus to manual so you can screw on the filter. What's that, you're worried about metering the scene? Don't be, I'm going to give you some guide lines to start with, your camera won't be able to meter the scene with the filter on. Ok, the filter is screwed onto the lens, the camera is setup in manual focus, we're ready to start taking some photos. I've found that in using my Hoya R72 filter, that I get t he best results shooting at F8 -F14. You're going to have to experiment some to see what range you'll get the best results in with your camera and lens. Now, at F14 ISO 400 in broad daylight, I can usually get a good exposure at 8 seconds or 15 seconds. I start at 8 seconds and see what it looks like in camera, then I adjust from there. This is an example of what you will see when you look at the back of your camera.






I know, I made you spend all this time to get a crappy looking red white and black photo. No worries, all IR photos look like this out of the camera when using the filter. It's easier to fix than you think so hang in there.



Alright, let's process this one so you can see the steps involved. It's really not that bad.



First step, adjust the white balance. Open the image up in ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) and select the white balance adjustment tool. It's the eye dropper next to the hand , top left of the window. Now click on something that should be green, in this image I'm going to click on some of the bamboo leaves. This what the image should look like now.







As you can see, I ended up using a 15 second exposure for this photo. It was taken around 3pm in the afternoon on a bright sunny day in March 2010. You're basically done in ACR unless you want to adjust the contrast and black levels some, you can of course do all that in Photoshop as well. So go ahead and click "Open Image".

Once I have the image open in Photoshop, I usually do a Shift+CRTL+L for auto levels , this gives me a decent looking image to start working with. The first order of business is going to be to swtich the red and blue channels around, this will give us our blue sky again. Go ahead and copy your background layer and then select New Adjustment Layer> Channel Mixer.




channel mixer

Ok, now where it says OUTPUT Channel Red, take the red slider and make it ZERO then take the blue slider and make it +100 . Don't worry about what your image looks like, we have another step. Now click on the OUTPUT Channel drop down and select BLUE. Make the Blue slider ZERO and the RED Slider +100. You image should look like this now.




After reversing the red and blue channels

Now you have an image you can work your own wonders with, one of the beauties of Color IR photography, there's no right or wrong once you get to this stage, be as creative as you want to be. This is also where I do my Black and White conversion using the Black and White Adjustment Layer. Play around, have fun and be creative. :)

Almost forgot to mention that sometimes you will end up with an image that has a blueish color cast to it. There's a multitude of methods to get rid of this but the easiest one I have found is to merge the background copy layer and the channel mixer layer together then go to Image>Adjustments>Match Color and click on the Neutralize Box , this will normally get rid of the color cast issues.

Here's a few things to remember.

1) Do some homework on your lenses and find the one that can handle IR best (head to this site to start your research www.dpanswers.com/content/irphoto_lenses.php , then purchase a filter for that lens unless of course you want to send your camera out to http://www.lifepixel.com/ and have it converted. (Keep in mind though, once it's converted, it's an IR camera, you can't go back to shooting regular color photos with so you might want to do this with a spare camera body).

2) If you are using a filter, you're going to have to really long exposure times. Keep this in mind when composing your photos. If you want something tack sharp and it's a breezy day, come back and shoot it when the wind isn't blowing. Don't frustrate yourself, photography is a fun activity , trying to get a tack sharp image of a leaf blowing in the wind with an 8+ second shutter time isn't going to happen so don't force it.

3) Be creative and have fun :) Remember, whatever is normally green is going to end up with a whitish look to it, keep that in mind when looking for a scene to try Color or B&W IR with.

Here are a few more examples of my IR work and the link to Uncle Jon's site.

www.twinpinesrods.com/irPhotos/ <---- Uncle Jon's site




Mine Cart IR B/W

Heritage Village Color IR 1

Florida Botanical Gardens Couryard Color IR 1

Lake Meade, NV BW IR 1


Nelson, Nevada

Life is a highway Color IR



Thank you for reading my blog, you can find my work at http://www.rorymadstudios.com/ , if you have any questions either reply to this blog or you can email me at rorymadstudios@verizon.net

Warm regards,

Michael White

http://www.rorymadstudios.com/

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My name is Michael White and I'm a Fine Art Photographer based out of the Tampa Bay area.   I enjoy photographing various landscapes and wild life that can be found in the US.  I am also the creator of a new process called High Key HDR. 
 
You can find my website at www.carsinhdr.com and I can also be followed on Twitter at @rorymadstudios .