Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Toketee Falls Closed

Laurie and I recently got back from a mini trip to visit the many waterfalls of route #138 North Umpqua Hwy. It was somewhat successful however the biggest draw of the trip for me was the anticipation of seeing Toketee Falls. Unfortunately the trail going in is blocked by crime scene type tape complete with photos of a massive tree that has fallen this past winter. So for any of you planning to see these falls it won't be happening. I can't figure out why they haven't worked to open up this trail before now being that this summer is almost over.
You wont be disappointed if you decided to make the trip anyway. there are 15 waterfalls between glide Oregon and Diamond lake. The north entrance to the magnificent Crater Lake is only 6 miles from Diamond Lake. this is a must see wonder of the world, it will take your breath away.
Coming home we came through bend and visited Smith Rock State Park. we came away with some spectacular images of the park as well as up close photos of the rock climbers. you can see more of those images on the web-site .
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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Finishing Your Images

(Insights into today's digital darkroom)

I'll never forget those times many years ago spent with my father in his darkroom. I remember to the dismay of my mother a conversion of one of our 3 bathrooms to a darkroom and the trouble my father went to making it completely light proof. It wasn't ideal and was quite cramped but was functional. Later on we moved across town to a larger home. This new home afforded my father the opportunity to realize his dream. The plan was to take one section of the three-car garage and convert it. Yes he went all out, with finished walls carpeted floors, plumbing, and electrical and even air conditioning. We spent hours in that masterpiece of a darkroom enlarging, dodging and burning and developing primarily black and white photos of family outings. There was a certain mystique about entering that dark room filled with the glow of amber light, the negatives hanging off the line, the smell of developer wafting in the air. I couldn't get enough of it.

Unfortunately today's digital darkroom doesn't offer that same ambience. In fact the whole experience has come down to you your computer and whatever software you have chosen to finish your images with. Don't dismay however because things are good in the world of digital. For those of you who take your photography seriously it is important to finish your images with software. Remember that finishing an image is not the same as correcting a bad image. This is the subject of an entirely different article. Even if the changes are subtle finishing steps you take will result in an image that others will marvel over and you will be proud of.

At the very minimum every photo will benefit from some slight sharpening techniques as well as minor tonal corrections. We can do so much more with the many software programs out there, whether it be Photoshop Elements, CS3, Capture NX for Nikon users, or any number of free or shareware programs out there. You have the ability to manipulate the color curves, shadow and highlights, correct color casts, mimic various filter effects, fixing digital noise or grain and the list goes on and on. With more advanced programs like adobe CS3 one is able to utilize layer masks which allows you to combine photos with different exposures and come away with an evenly exposed photo with definite blacks, subtle highlights and detail in the shadow regions.

I suggest spending the money on a good companion tutorial for your software. It is almost essential as a reference guide as these programs have a steep learning curve. I can recommend books published by New Riders and authored by
Scott Kelby for those of you who use any Adobe product. They publish a reference book with every new edition and they are written in a straightforward explanation style of writing.

When finishing your images I suggest you never work on an original file, always make a duplicate in case you destroy those pixels. Here is my typical workflow for one image: (1) open image in Photoshop at %100 viewing size then I scan the entire image visually for blemishes which is usually dust on the sensor. I then utilize the Healing brush and make those items vanish. (2) I reduce the photo to standard size and resolve any colorcast issues. (3) I then move to color curves and make small adjustments in mid tone brightness, saturation, (watch this as it is easily overdone) contrast and shadow detail. (4) Finally I adjust sharpness, this should be done at %100 and I suggest keeping your radius down and threshold at about 1. I usually bump up the amount to around %150. This setting works well for most photographs but undoubtedly you'll find methods and settings that work best in your workflow. (6) All that's left to do now is to save your work. For photos that I would sell or otherwise be proud of I save one copy as a TIFF file and another as a JPEG file. My web host doesn't allow TIFFS to be uploaded. It is important to remember that if you only save images as JPEG files this is a lossy compression method and you will lose some of the original pixels, which may affect color rendition. On the other hand the TIFF file is a lossless form of compression, which saves all your layers. Be aware however that TIFFS are really large hard drive eating files anywhere from 50 to 90mb.

In closing lets recap the main points (1) All digital images can benefit from some finishing techniques (2) Choose a photo editing software that suits your needs and budget (3) Shorten the learning curve by investing in a good companion text (4) After your adjustments are made make sure and save your work as a TIFF so you do not lose any pixel data.

I hope this article helps those of you fairly new to the process of digital imagery. Thanks for reading and most of all have fun with it.

Shawn Martin

Monday, August 4, 2008

Some Thoughts On Night Photography

      Taking photographs at night can be quite rewarding for the avid photographer to add to their collections. Night photography using a digital SLR camera is one of my favorite genres of photographic imagery for the following reasons: (1) The night shoot opens up a whole new world to your eye as subjects are obviously lit by artificial or natural moonlight and just seem to beg being captured on digital media. (2) It can be quit cathartic to be out an about when most are sleeping while you seek out targets of opportunity to shoot. (3) Long exposures can render really cool effects i.e. lights from moving automobiles, amusment parks, boats on the water ect..

      What makes an interesting night image is really subjective; subject matter can really be anything that may stir some emotion in the viewer. I typically look for extreme contrast, color, unique lighting and drama. Here is an example of a LDS temple in Oregon that I took one chilly evening that looks so much more stunning at night than it ever did in the daylight.

      For those of you that have never ventured out in the early pre dawn hours to search out great photo opportunities I can offer a few pointers. (1) Remember how much the temperature will drop as that night gets long so bring ample clothing. Time seems to fly when your actively seeking new subject matter or having to get in you car going to new locals you can easily burn 5 or 6 hours. (2) Equipment you may need includes: A solid tripod with a good head on it ( I prefer a ball head), a photo backpack where you may place you camera body a couple of lenses like a wide angle and a medium range zoom telephoto. It is also good to have a cleaning cloth for lenses, LCD screens and eyeglasses to take care of condensation on cold nights. One of the most important things I carry is a backpacker’s headlight for obvious reasons.

      Here are some techniques to use at night versus shooting during daylight hours. (1) You’ll obviously be using your tripod on every single shot but remember that were talking 3o second to several minute exposures and you must control camera shake. Think about attaching a weighted bag to your tripod hook to add stability. (2) Turn on your cameras noise reduction software; it will be in menu section most of today’s DSLR’s . (3) Be very aware of stray light sources and how they will affect the final image. (4) Do play with your cameras white balance setting as you can achieve artistic effects from changing from lets say a cloudy to a tungsten light setting. Here is an example (5) Take a lot of captures and experiment with exposure times especially when trying to achieve the perfect motion blur or the silky look to a city fountain perhaps (example).

       I hope you will enjoy night photography as much as I have.

Shawn M

Framing Fine Art Photographs

Now that so many are on board with digital imaging many of you are looking to print and frame your own work. I have some experience with this as I run a small photography website and offer signed and matted prints for you to frame yourself, although I do frame for friends and colleagues.
Printer technologies have become so good that they can match the quality of a professional lab. A good large format printer can be had for around $500.00. The smallest version of large format printers gives you the ability to print a 13x19 inch print or 44 inch panorama if you purchase photo paper in roll format. There will be many of you who are quite satisfied with ordering your prints from a professional lab. Here are a few that do fantastic work: Costco, Walgreen's and Walmart

The dilemma is that the images that come out of today’s cameras come out in different formats than standard Matt and frame sizes that have been the norm for years in the art world. To counter this problem one must crop his/her work to conform to standard sizes or re size the photo with an appropriate software program like Photoshop. The 3 most common standard sizes that most people will display on their walls are: 8 x 10, 11 x 14 and 16 x 20. This means if you have your photographed matted for 8 by 10 then you would display it in at least an 11 x 14 frame. Following this rule as you display larger art.

When I want to take advantage of my large format printer to print what comes out of my camera I’ll stick a sheet of Epson premium photo paper luster in and print it, not worrying about resizing because my solution is to custom Matt the photograph for a Standard size frame. I have found that a 13 x 19 inch photograph looks really nice displayed in an 18 x 24 inch frame. This will leave a nice 2-½ inch border that is aesthetically pleasing.

I use the Logan Simplex Plus mat cutter. A really good medium priced cutter that allows full control. I look for a cutter that has a hinged arm that will hold your stock steady while cutting. All the Logan cutters come with instructional videos that are done quite well. You can also see how-to videos on . I have found that there is no substitute for hands on training. Many of your local art retailers will put on a mat cutting clinic for a nominal fee.

I’m sure many of you have heard about archival inks and papers and that most big name paper manufacturers guarantee against fading for up to 100 years. I have a different take on this archival business. The longevity of you’re art depends wholly on all the components of the framing process. When you buy a frame in the store it usually is shipped with the absolute lowest grade glass from China. You owe it to your investment to upgrade the glass to a U.V. protection at a minimum. Most art supply houses or craft stores offer 3 grades of glass up to museum grade quality albeit quite expensive it does a great job of protecting your art from harmful damage caused by the sun.

The next component to talk about is the backing. When you open up your $40.00 frame from the craft store it will undoubtedly be packaged with cardboard backing that you should immediately put in the recycle bin. I use 3/16” foam core backing that is rigid and will serve as the new back plate for my frame. I throw the store bought one away. The way I hold that foam core backing in place is by the use of offsets which you can buy in any hardware store. They come in various sizes depending on the thickness of the foam core or mat you are holding down.

Choosing your Matt stock is just as important if you wish to continue the process of doing everything possible to ensure long life for your art. The best kind of mat stock is cotton rag made from cotton fiber pulp and is acid and lignin free.

You can see that if corners are cut in the framing process that your art may fade prematurely. This is where I part ways with that thinking I am not ready to spend 3 times the money on the framing as I did on my initial purchase. In most cases the photo can be reprinted for a fraction of the cost of trying to preserve it for 100 years in glass. If the photograph was hung in the direct sun too long and your black mat is now gray then simply have it re-matted.

When photos are matted by a professional they use archival hanging techniques that are non destructive to the art, the T-hinge and the V-hinge are the most common. Making it very easy to re-matt.

For those of you wishing to make a small investment and start custom matting and framing your own work I hope you have been able to glean some helpful advise from this article.

Shawn M.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

" My Favorite Trail "

The Eagle Creek trail in the world famous Columbia River Gorge otherwise known, as trail #440 by far is my favorite hike in Oregon. Try to get to the trailhead early as the upper parking lot fills quickly and the hike is so enjoyable without the heavy crowds that will inevitably come later. Within a few hundred yards you know you’re in for something special as you began to walk along and above eagle Creek. There are sheer walls of Basalt to one side and 1000 ft drop to the other in places. To this end I would not recommend this hike to small children.

After approximately 1.7 miles you are rewarded with the beautifulMetlako Falls. Only a short walk later at the 2.1 mile mark you will catch the first glimpse of the famous Lower Punch Bowl Falls . you will have a chance to see theses falls 2 more times from different vantage points. The High Bridge comes soon after at 3.5 miles which is elevated some 150ft above the gorge below. For you photographers and sightseers you’re in for a third and beautiful waterfall called Tunnel falls where the trail leads you behind the cascading water.

For those of you to make a moderate trip or one night backpack there are several camps along eagle creek designated for that purpose i.e. Wy’ East Camp or the 7.5 mile camp. For the more hardy of you go ahead and continue to the 13.2-mile mark and the end of the trail where you will camp at Whatum Lake. I remember doing this hike as a teen many years back. A friend and I got snowed in at Whatum Lake, had signs of hypothermia and were tent bound for 17 hours.

Other hiking options include: 1. Linking up with the Eagle-tanner Trail #433 and continuing on to Tanner Butte . 2. For the really adventuresome of you with young legs try this option: At approximately 5 mile look for the Eagle- Benson Cutoff trail that will lead you straight up to Benson Plateau and allow you to return to your car via the Ruckle ridge trail. I warn you however that this is a tough loop with a very faint trail at best lots of elevation gain ect.. The Benson Plateau is a fantastic place to camp with plenty of water running throughout the area.
Happy hiking..

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