Thursday, December 24, 2009

Say "Merry Christmas!" with Photoshop Filters

There's a lot you can do in Photoshop.  Rendered light and other filters can give texture and depth.  Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

Beanie Santa, A photo painting I did entirely in Photoshop in 2002. 
Click on the picture for a larger view.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Rediscovering Black & White in “The Land Where Color was Born”!

My wife used to have a promotional slide show for her native country of Guatemala. It was called “Guatemala: The Land Where Color was Born.” Every slide was a saturated work of art.

In the twenty or so years I’ve been shooting photographs in Guatemala, also known as the “land of eternal spring,” I’ve had little incentive to work in b&w. I would say that Guatemala is arguably the most colorful country in the world, from the brightly painted churches and buildings to the traditional Indian costumes in the markets. Why then shoot in black and white when everything around you is a rainbow of color?

It took me a while to find out, but now half my work is black and white.

Sometimes when you see a picture, the colors are the story. Other times it’s what’s behind the colors that is the story.

Calla Lily, B&W, Antigua, Guatemala

Original Photograph

I shoot every photograph in color, then convert to b&w.  The calla lily remained in a folder for years because I never saw its potential in color.  It's only when I started thinking in B&W that I was able to give it character to stand as an exhibition quality photograph.

Textile Merchant, B&W, Chichicastenango, Guatemala

Original Photograph
The Textile Merchant could have worked in either black and white or color.  I preferred it in b&w.
I work with the photograph to make  the tonal range pleasing, to minimize the distractions -- but after all the work, it's about fine art that tells a story.  If you haven't already tried black and white, give it a try.  You might discover a new world.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

What if the Afghan Girl Had Said "No"?

What if the Afghan girl had said "no"?

If she had said "no," the famed photo by Steve McCurry that appeared on the June 1985 cover of National Geographic would have been replaced by some other photograph, probably not as intriguing, probably not to be remembered.

Obviously,  the girl was looking straight into the lens.  By doing so, she became the subject of what is arguably the most famous photograph of modern times.

About 99 percent of the photographs I shoot are the people and places of Guatemala in Central America, a world away from Afghanistan, just as exotic, yet different in almost every way.

A Lady of Chichicastenango,Guatemala

The comments I receive from those viewing my photographs are often:  "How did you get her to act so natural?" or "He seems so at-ease."

Most of those I photograph never see me, nor at least never know I'm there.  I always take photos in the public spaces and draw as little attention to myself as possible.  For those who put their hand over their face to indicate they don't want to be photographed, I politely wave and turn away to respect their privacy.

Lady With a Bundle, Chichicastenango, Guatemala

The truth is, however, that candid photography cannot take place with the knowledge of the subject.  This is not to say that you can't take excellent photographs while the subject is looking into the camera.  The image of the Afghan girl is the perfect example of a knowledgable, probably curious subject.  The following example is one of a knowledgable subject.  The photograph works, but it wouldn't with every subject.

Girl on Cathedral Steps, Chichicastenango, Guatemala

This photo is of an unaware subject:

Textile Merchant, Chichicastenango, Guatemala

When I get to choose, I'll choose the subject who's unaware of my presence.  It ensures that I'm not just getting a pose; I'm telling a story.  Yes, it usually takes a long lens and some patience, but patience usually pays off. The biggest problem and the best part of shooting people is that they change expressions, they move, they are themselves when they don't know they're being watched. 

Girl at the Market, Almolonga, Guatemala

Mayan Beauty, Panajachel, Guatemala

Be creative.  Tell stories in a single frame.  Make people the subjects of your photographs.  Respect the rights of others.  Move other people with your photographs.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Learning Photoshop and My Dog Have a Lot in Common

Today was a special day for our neurotic-but-charming cairn terrier, Mr. Watson. After six years, he’s finally learned that he can exit his unlocked crate by pushing the door with his prominently handsome snout. We were so excited!

We had such high hopes that he would learn this in his first two or three months of life, like other dogs; but it was not to be. You can’t imagine how we felt.

My friend: “Why doesn’t he come out when you call him? The door’s already a quarter open.”

Me: “Come on, Mr. Watson. Come on, you can do it!”

Mr. Watson: “Whine. Whimper. Whinnnne.”

Me. “That’s right… Come here, Mr. Watson!”

Mr. Watson: “Whinnnnnnnnne!”

My ex-friend: “That’s not possible. No dog is that dumb. Queenie could do that when she was just a puppy. I admit he’s no Queenie, but….”

Me: “I don’t think he feels well. I’ll probably have to take him to the vet.”

Anyway, you get the picture. It’s like having a kid who consistently doesn’t swing at the softball until after it’s in the catcher’s mitt. What are the other parents thinking?

Mr. Watson had to learn this lesson in his own time and his own way. We’re just hoping that he can remember this important life skill beyond today. Actually, we’re praying about it. Maybe you could put Mr. Watson on your prayer list, too.

This Right Brain Photoshop Blog is also about learning in one’s own style and way. It’s so easy to see a Photoshop tutorial or attend a session from a bonafide Photoshop guru and have no idea what you’ve actually seen. You get home and you want to give it a try.

“Wait, I know the first step, but what do I do second. My picture isn’t like his. Do I still have to do that? Dang! I know he said something about resolution….”

This Blog is designed to calm your fears (and tell funny stories about my lovable, but brain dead dog). So, you don’t remember how the Photoshop guy did it. It’s really okay. In future blog entries, we’ll be looking at ways to take photographs from a right brain (creative) perspective. And we’ll be looking at ways to work in Photoshop without being hidebound to a set of formulas. If there’s one way to do something in Photoshop, there’s a million. Remember, you can be creative and break some of the rules.

Now, I just have to get my dog to understand rules, so that I can teach him to break them.

Tune in next time for less about Mr. Watson, and more about photography and Photoshop.

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