Cliche Tree

30 05 2012

A backlit shot of a tree is almost as cliche as a picture of railroad tracks leading off into the distance, that was actually my first post now that I think about it. :) While cliche it still has a unique beauty. A lot of things come together well to give it the impact it has, let’s take a look.

One of the most striking things about this picture for me is the gradient in the sky. The sun behind the tree blows out the color immediately around the tree so it slowly washes back to a rich blue at the top. This is a fairly straightforward example of back-lighting but it’s a great photographic tool with a whole spread of applications.

Coming in tighter on the tree and allowing some sun to slip through really changes the mood of this photograph. You can tell the image if being distorted a little bit as I get closer to the tree. Using a longer lens from a greater distance will solve this, there’s also a number of options in Photoshop. The concrete enclosure in the foreground jumps out a lot more in this picture than the last one. I also tend to notice the trees in the background a lot more. 

For the final shot of this set I got lower and focused on some interesting old odds and ends on the brick wall. Everything here looked like it had sat in the weather for years. I think the dark detail in the foreground gives a nice contrast to the overexposed sky in the background.

Thanks for stopping by the blog today! I’ve got a lot of pictures to go through so hopefully you’ll be seeing a load of content popping up all week. I hope everyone in the states had a relaxing Memorial Day weekend. Be sure to follow the blog and you’re more than welcome to click buttons down below to share with your friends. I love responding to your comments so please don’t forget to tell me what you thought of today’s post! Have a great day everyone and God Bless! -Arley

About these ads

Replacing Color For a New Mood (Photoshop)

25 05 2012

Today I will finally be doing another tutorial of sorts. This one is fairly specific to Photoshop but I’m sure there are ways to do it in many other software’s as well. If you are trying to decide if you need Photoshop, you probably don’t. There are much cheaper photo editing software’s you should start out with. The first time I opened PS I was completely lost. It took me many tutorials and failed experiments to learn my way around but it is well worth it. That being said, it is the most advanced photo editing software there is and it can do things nothing else can. If you’re a serious established photographer or if you have the money and are willing to spend some time learning it, go for it. I love it and I couldn’t imagine not having it. (Here’s an affiliate link so if you decide to buy it, you can support the blog when you do.)

One important thing to remember when you use any editor is that it’s not made to make a bad picture good. Sometimes you can use it to correct your own mistakes, but you really aren’t getting everything you should out of your hard work if you start with a crummy picture. The above picture was one of my favorites but I wanted to play around with it and see if I could make it something more.

Photoshop does a nifty trick called “Replace Color.” You can find it under Image>Adjustments. This will open a dialogue box where you can select the color, or colors you want to affect, then change their hue, saturation and brightness. Many effects in Photoshop can be attained at least two or three different ways. You can do this one manually with layer masking and selective color but this is the easiest way. I selected the blues in the sky and water, changed the hue slightly and pushed them darker to make the details pop.

Next I did the same thing with the wood but I pushed it very dark to give it an almost painted look.

This step was pretty tricky. I did a few things here. The trees looked a little neon so I used the brush tool with the darken color to get them a little more natural. The biggest step here was transforming the image so I could get a clean crop on it. I didn’t like the wood post on the left side But I couldn’t crop it out without losing part of the sign. I used the Free Transform>Perspective tool to drag the bottom of the image to the right and straighten the sign post, then I used the distort tool in the upper left to get enough image inside the rectangle for a good crop.

Finally, I realized the image was getting a little too dark so I adjusted the exposure slightly. I also spent a little more time taking care of the white spots in the wood that were bothering me. Overall, most of the changes were subtle and served only to enhance the original image.

I hope you enjoyed today’s tutorial. Feel free to re-blog if you think your readers would enjoy this. Please comment, I love hearing from all of you! Happy Friday everyone, have a great weekend!


I Almost Forgot to Title This Post, That Would Have Been Embarrassing

24 02 2012

The great thing about shooting the natural world is it’s always unique. No two scenes are exactly alike. That being said, sometimes we try to approach different natural scenes the same way. We, as photographers, have to strive to find a new angle or a new way to portray whatever we’re shooting. The same thing can happen when a photographer’s client work becomes stale. Look through your photos, if you catch yourself shooting everyone the same way, maybe you’ll please the people who come to you for that one look, but it’s also important to offer a diverse portfolio.

When I looked at the scene above I thought, “that’s interesting.” I took a few snaps but wasn’t too pleased. The images looked bland so I wanted to try to change it up. Jessica watched in shock and confusion as a climbed across a ditch and started working my way inside this mess of twigs, branches and vines. Have I ever mentioned I have a bad habit of taking pictures of things that tend to poke me? :)

The two shots above are of the same twigs and branches, just viewed from within the thicket looking out. Remember to think of what someone or something else may see when they interpret a scene. Find the other side of your subjects perspective and explore ways to capture it that will leave whoever is looking at your pictures intrigued.

Thanks for stopping by! I always appreciate hearing from all of you in the comments below! Have a great weekend!

Iron and Steel Sunsets with Histogram Basics

9 02 2012

Today I’m going to tell you a bit about histograms. To understand what a histogram is, it helps to know what a dynamic range is. We talk a lot about what the human eye can pick up on vs. what the camera can pick up on. In the real world, the human eye can perceive about 15 stops of light at once. That is to say, once our eyes adjust to an amount of light, we can see a range of about 15 stops around that. A one being the dimmest light you can still see in and a fifteen being the brightest. Unfortunately, most camera sensors today only pick up 5-11 depending on if you’re using a small point and shoot or a high end DSLR. That’s why you manually adjust your f/stop to compensate for which five to eleven of those fifteen you can see that you want in your image. Put Simply Your eyes can see details in a darker dark and a lighter light than your camera can at once so we have to adjust which part of the “dynamic range” we want the camera to capture.

The above picture was shot at f/2.8. All other factors being the same, (shutter speed, ISO, etc) increasing the f/stop will help you capture a higher (brighter) part of the dynamic range, and lowering it will help capture a lower (darker) part. The histogram is the thing that tells you if you’re getting the brightest and darkest parts of the image or if they are washing out or turning black. Almost all digital cameras, from point and shoots up to the nicest DSLR’s, will show you a histogram. Below is an example of a good histogram…

See the graph thing in the upper left. The one in your camera probably won’t have all the color but it will look a lot like that. The far left side represents the darkest part of the image, the far right side is the lightest part of the image. If your image is properly exposed, the histogram will be all bouncy in the center and will have tapered off by the time it gets to either edge. This is a really simple way to look and see how you did right after you take the picture. A bit of glare can make it nearly impossible to clearly see your picture on the LCD but the histogram can be easily checked in any light.

In the above picture, we have more low tones. You can see where the image falls into complete shadow and we lose all the details. The histogram is accurately representing this. You can see the left side of the graph is still really high because we have lots of pixels that are too dark for details. (A pixel is a little square of color, a photograph is made up of a bunch of these little dots) Sometimes areas of extreme dark or light are done intentionally and artistically. The key here is awareness. If you’re using artistic dark regions, you ought to know about them :)

Sometimes you get an image that you just can’t get the squiggly lines inside those five stops. Times like these you have to make a judgement call. Get the settings the way you think it looks best, and go for it! There’s a lot more to learn about histograms and with the right knowledge they can be a powerful tool. Here’s another great article on histograms–> Understanding Histograms by Darren Rowse

I hope you enjoyed today’s post. I love hearing from all of you and look forward to all of your feedback. Don’t forget to follow the blog and check me out on Facebook and Twitter. Social links up at the top in the sidebar. Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend!

P.S. I updated this post on the thirteenth thanks to some help from a new friend over at The Uncensored Photographer. He noted a few incorrect values up in the dynamic range the camera and the eye can see. His blog is just getting off the ground and is certainly not for the faint of heart. Looks like no holds barred reviews of equipment and well, reviews. Might hurt your feelings if you like Ken Rockwell as much as I do :) but definitely worth a read, I’ll certainly be checking in from time to time.

Old Fences, Bridges, and Stumps. Star Fort Part 2

8 02 2012

I’m going to pick up here where the last post left off. A ways further down the path I decided I wanted to shoot the fence line. It had a really nice symmetry to it. At first I stood a ways back and focused on the building so I could see the entire fence line but it didn’t feel like a picture of anything in particular. One of the things I like to think about when I’m shooting is “what is my subject here?” Not all pictures have to have a single subject. Sometimes you have enough good in a picture it can just be appreciated as a whole. But a great way to make a picture more interesting is to draw attention to one interesting part of the image by getting in close and let everything else be supporting elements.

In this shot I put the focus squarely on the end of the closest fence slat. The texture had nice variety and the overall color really helped make the mood of the image a bit more rustic. Variety and non-uniformity are two great features of old and rustic architecture that don’t come naturally any more. When you do see it in modern architecture, it looks forced. A big focus of today’s post is going to be mood and color. Pay close attention to the next two pictures, I’m going to be telling you a little bit about white balance.

The above and below shots are the same subject, same time of day and nearly identical settings except for the white balance. White balance is the way your camera tries to make whites appear white regardless of the light source. When it affects the “white balance” the full color spectrum follows suit though. The trick is that while the human eye can adapt to different light sources nearly perfectly, the camera again falls a bit short. In the top picture, the camera tried to push some blue tones in to offset the rust which it thought was appearing reddish because of the light source. For me, the rust is a major part of this picture so I really didn’t like when my camera turned this rusty steel bridge support into a modern blueish grey.

For me, artistry is more important than accuracy, so I play around with features like white balance until I see what I want in my images. I went into the shooting menu on my camera and found the white balance setting panel. I switched to “cloudy” which was mostly true and pushed the selector a notch or two to the left to warm the image up. That made these two nearly identical images have two entirely different feels.

Under The Bridge

Beside The Bridge

Once I got across the bridge (and out from under it) I shot a few snaps of an old rotted stump. This is an example of what I was talking about before of a decent picture that has no real hero. A little perspective change and I could have brought the focus in tight on the clover, or a small patch of bark and changed the whole feel of this image. I still like it, but it could have been better. It’s important to look at your pictures and try to figure out how you could have improved them. It’s frustrating to catch yourself doing something wrong (or at least not perfect) but the fact is we all still have lots of room to grow. Not to get too Biblical on you but Paul once called himself the worst of sinners. He was a great man but he recognized his short comings and realized that since he knew better, he should be better.

My goal is to learn more so I’ll know better more often and will eventually improve the areas in photography I’m still weaker in. My hope is that some will learn from my mistakes and others will teach me new ways to improve with every post. Thank you for stopping by. It’s great to hear from all of and I really look forward to your comments on my blog and your posts on your own. Don’t forget to follow the blog and like the Facebook if you haven’t done so already. If you twitter, @96arley is my name and I love to hear from all of you on there too. All that social stuff’s in the sidebar up top. Have a great day and God Bless!

Star Fort National Historic Site ShootAbout

7 02 2012

I spent the afternoon at Star Fort and took dozens of pictures that I absolutely loved. Star Fort was the Crown Jewel of Ninety Six, SC and was the site of two major American Revolutionary War battles. My friends across the pond will be happy to hear it was a loyalist stronghold and despite a 28 day siege, the longest of the entire war, it was the last Loyalist fort in SC until July 1, 1781 when the British left of their own accord. History lesson aside, the site has beautiful scenery, some beautifully restored buildings, and many opportunities for pictures.

Shooting at the historic site was a lot of fun for me because I’ve brought numerous clients here to use the lush open grass and amazing patterns and textures of the old buildings. I was walking down the path past the restored Black Swan Tavern and the way the sun set behind one of the support beams caught my eye. During a client shoot I never would’ve (and never had) noticed this but the freedom of being out there just shooting for me really opened my eyes to the kind of picture I have grown accustomed to ignoring for sake of time and task.

It’s a shame we pass photo opportunities like this every day but I’m happy to say I’m looking for them again.






The site has an old wood fence around most of the entrance that made for a lot of interesting photos. The texture of the wood is very rugged and photographs really well. I particularly like the splintered pieces jutting off from the main body.

A little further along the fence line I found this leaf resting rather precariously beside one of the splinters. I tried this shot a little more backlit by the sun at first but it completely killed the detail so I reframed it with the sun higher behind the leaf and it turned out pretty well.

I wanted something that got far enough back from the fence to see how it was actually constructed. The interwoven wood strips had a really nice aesthetic so once I got to a nice green patch in the grass beside the fence I got down on my belly and shot the connection between two sections. I put the sun in the background to accent it. I kept a low f/stop, 2.8 and dialed my shutter in for a quick 1/2500th of a second to get crisp detail, short DOF, and a relatively dark image. The green grass really came out well and I couldn’t be happier with the shot.

I immediately recognized the potential for a shot focussing on the grass. I’ve found that a slight change in perspective, even if it’s just tilting the lens a few degrees and focusing somewhere else can really change an image. I like the above image for what it is, but I like the below image because it feels a little more surreal and the detail of the grass is really pleasing to the eye.

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s post and pictures. This only scratches the surface of what I did at Star Fort so keep your eyes open for more very soon. In my next post I’m going to talk a bit about adjusting the white balance on your camera and how it can help (or hurt) your pictures.

I’d love to hear from you so leave a comment below and be sure to hit me up on Twitter and Facebook, the links are in the sidebar over there –>

Thanks for stopping by and God Bless, see you again soon!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,220 other followers