Spring Is In the Air!

It’s been a few years since I have taken advantage of my proximity to the Tulip fields near my home in Bellingham, Washington. What a treat! If you are reading this from another part of the country, do yourself a favor and visit Western Washington in the Spring. I have never in my life seen more color. The Rhododendrons are starting to bloom in about every hue imaginable. The impossibly vibrant Azaleas are due to show themselves at any moment. The fruit trees are lining the streets with their white and pink fluffiness. The spectacle of it all is really magical and appreciated by all who survived the gloomy winters.

Here are some photos I took in Skagit County, in the Tulip fields.

 

Spring Warm Up

It’s been a while since my last photography outing. I decided to get out of the house today and soak up some sun while taking a few happy snappys. It was a beautiful morning, but the sun was already rising and the light was becoming harsh. Luckily, there is a fantastic park nearby that is heavily wooded. Splashes of light here and there aided in these two shots captured with a 35mm prime lens. I enjoyed getting my bones warmed up today, but I will be looking forward to that next overcast day when I can capture all that April color.

tiny towers

Complex

Down To The Ground

As with most things in life, changing your perspective can make all the difference. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, as the proverbial advice suggests, broadens our understanding of the world around us. In photography, changing perspective is a powerful tool we can rely on to strengthen our artistic muscles.

After years of shooting pictures and art making, I still sometimes find myself walking around expecting pictures to make their way into my lens at my convenient, eye level, legs straight, non-tripod mounted,  lazy way of shooting pictures. Many times, simply pointing and shooting will suffice. Often times, you have no choice in the matter. You have to shoot when something presents itself. What I am referring to are those moments when the subject matter is fantastic, but for some reason you can not capture it’s essence. Those spectacular round river rock are white flecked, the water is hitting them midway, and you know it’s a lovely sight, but your pictures are dull and uninspiring. Or, there’s is a wonderful repetition in the way some boulders are placed in a pond, but for some reason the pictures you take are boring. My advice? Get down low.

Shooting from a lower perspective adds overlap , an important visual cue, to more elements in your photograph that you wouldn’t get otherwise. It also gives your images drama by placing more objects in the foreground, strengthening the depth of the image. It also allows for more compositional possibilities, and for me this really gets my creative juices flowing. Suddenly, I tiny leaf becomes a focal point and a major compositional anchor. A tiny piece of root directs the eye towards the focal point. A leafy twig springs up in the foreground providing a strong sense of space in your photograph.

Here are some examples of how I positioned my camera real low, sometimes a few inches, to the ground in order to capture the essence of my environment. Thanks for reading and keep in touch!

SpookyTree

 

peeka BooWeb

 

Making the Grade (part 1) photoshop tutorial

Create Graduated Neutral Density effects in Photoshop by blending two exposures into one. In landscape photography, graduated neutral density filters help balance the bright sky and keep it from losing detail and getting overexposed while maintaining clarity and detail in the areas below the skyline. In the digital age we can use software to fix many of these problems if we don’t have a filter at hand. One way to do this is by blending two different exposures of the same image.

Blending two exposures:

Here is the same image shot with different exposure times. Notice the one on the top has more tonal variation and detail in the sky and the one on the bottom has more detail and variation below the skyline:

001 002

To give us the best of both exposures, we are going to blend the two layers using a layer mask with a gradient fill:

1) In photoshop, place the image with the best details in the sky on a lower layer

2) on the layer above, place the exposure with the best details below the skyline, then create a layer mask

ps1

3)With the mask selected, activate the gradient tool in the toolbar

ps2

With the mask selected, start from the top of your picture while holding shift+mouse about 1/5 the way down and release. You may have to do this a few times, dragging more or less down the image, to get the desired result.

ps3

That’s it! You may wish to continue editing color or whatever, but now you have an image with balanced tonality in the land and sky.

003

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you found this tutorial useful. Come back and see part 2 of Making the Grade.

Happy Shooting,

Shawn Pagels