Series: Behind the Photo

Sometimes you take a photo and you know, as soon as you take it, that you have a winner. You can see it on the back of the camera, you get a big smile on your face and when you turn on your computer, you confirm what you knew all along... You caught the big fish that day.  You hit the jackpot. You struck gold.  You bought the farm... wait, what?  When you share it with others, everyone says "wow, that's a great photo," and you say in your head, "yeah, I know."  For me an example of that was this photo:

When I took this shot, I knew the composition was just what I was hoping for. The light was awesome and the wind had died down so the water was perfectly glassy.  I knew I was going to like this image.

But this blog isn't about those kind of photos.  This blog is about one that I didn't feel as good about, but boy has the reaction been positive.  Today's post is about this image:

Last week I met up with my friend, teacher and mentor, Serge Ramelli to shoot some photos. He wanted to get a tour of the Lucasfilm offices and I wanted to suck all of his photography knowledge from him, so the day worked out well for both of us.  Serge was looking to get some unique photos of the Golden Gate Bridge and I knew exactly where to take him.  This was the day after the "storm of the decade" here, so the clouds were looking pretty amazing and there was an electricity in the air... I knew it would be a good day.  We headed over to Baker Beach. Not my favorite beach in SF for sure, but one that has some great views of the bridge. When you're taking photos in iconic locations, try to not just take the typical postcard shot that everybody has taken a million times.  Drive around, walk around... heck you can crawl if you want to, but move around to find a unique shot that's more ownable to you.  Nobody wants to see the same shot they've seen a tons of other times. Anyway, we found our spots and I immediately I started wondering "what's Serge doing," "where's he going," "what setting is he using."  Then, I stopped talking to myself and started shooting.  I love this bridge so much and knew I was getting some good shots. I was really interested to see the difference in the shots we were taking.  I can tell you, he got some great ones, but I think I held my own. Serge is an amazing photographer and does tons of great training online.  Check him out here. He has a style and a way of teaching that is really easy to understand and I'm sure you'll learn a lot.  Plus, he's French, so he has a cool accent.

Anyway, I got some great photos that day and a few that I was really proud of and eager to share.  This one i wasn't loving.  The sky was kinda blah, the water was kinda blah... it was just kinda blah.  Then, using Nik Silver Efx Pro I make it black and white and that's when I started digging it.  It was just working.  The contrast in the water made for a more exciting shot, the water on the rocks, the way the sky started to pop... I really liked it.  I then decided I wanted to see what other people thought, so I posted it on both 500px and Pixoto and it's turned out to be my most popular photo yet.

I hope you like it. The photo was taken at 1/15 of a sec. I played with a bunch of different speeds for this photo, but ended up here as I like the way the water was still clear, but a little soft.  I didn't want the water too sharp, as that looked too harsh for me.  I tried the water much softer, but the ocean was so rough after the storm, that a longer shutter speed just looked like a big cloudy mess.  I was at f/22 since I wanted good depth of field throughout the image and I shot at ISO 100 so there would be little noise and I could keep my shutter speed where I wanted it.

I hope you like it.  Let me know by commenting below.  The only thing better than taking photos is hearing from others and talking about them! :-)

Happy Holidays!

Depth of What???

When you are new to photography, there are tons of things to think about when you're taking a photo.  The shutter speed, the aperture, light, what you had for breakfast, etc.  Literally tons of things.  One of the more misunderstood terms is depth of field, or DoF.  You may have heard the term depth of field, but if you are new to photography you may not yet be taking advantage of how it can enhance your photos. A basic definition of depth of field is: the zone of acceptable sharpness within a photo that will appear in focus. In every picture there is a certain area of your image in front of, and behind the subject that will appear in focus.

This zone will vary from photo to photo. Some images may have very small zones of focus which is called shallow depth of field. Others may have a very large zone of focus which is called deep depth of field. Three main factors that will affect how you control thedepth of field of your images are: aperture (f-stop), distance from the subject to the camera, and focal length of the lens on your camera. Here are some explanations and answers to other common questions concerning depth of field.

How does aperture control depth of field?

We talked about aperture in a previous post.  If you forgot, or never read it, use the little search box in the upper right corner of this page and search for "aperture."  Anyway, aperture refers to the access given to light from the lens to the camera sensors. The size of your aperture (the diameter of the hole through which light enters the camera) controls the amount of light entering your lens. Using the aperture (f-stop) of your lens is the simplest way to control your depth of field as you set up your shot.

Large aperture = Small f-number = Shallow (small) depth of field
Small aperture = Larger f-number = Deeper (larger) depth of field

I know this can sound confusing.  Large things equal small numbers and vice versa.  WTF?  Just remember that the lower your f-number, the smaller your depth of field. Likewise, the higher your f-number, the larger your depth of field. For example, using a setting of f/2.8 will produce a very shallow depth of field while f/11 will produce a deeper DoF.  If you're not totally confused now, read on.

Now what about focal length?

Focal Length refers to the capability of a lens to magnify the image of a distant subject. This can get crazy complicated, but the simple answer is that the longer you set your focal length the shallower the depth of field.  Come on, that one is pretty easy, right?  At least easier than that DoF stuff above.

Wait, distance controls depth of field too?

The closer your subject is to the camera, the shallower your depth of field becomes. Therefore, moving further away from your subject will deepen your depth of field.

So when should I use a shallow depth of field?

Using a shallow depth of field is a good way to make your subject stand out from its background and is great for portrait photography. Shallow DoF can also be useful anytime you want the subject to stand out from its surroundings, like wildlife shots. This is also useful because many wildlife photo opportunities are low light situations, and increasing your aperture size will give you more light. Shallow depth of field is also very often used in sports photography, where many times you want to separate the athlete from the background to bring attention to them. The result of this should also help give you a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the action.

In this example, notice that the eyes are totally sharp and in focus?  That's where I wanted focus... for the eyes to be sharp.  However, the background right behind her is soft and out of focus.  That's a shallow depth of field.

Okay, I think I got it, so when should I use a deep depth of field?

Easy... Landscapes, period.  Okay, not period.  There are tones of examples where a deep depth of field would make sense that are not landscapes, but in general... landscapes.

Notice that everything is in focus here... from the front of the image all the way to the back... miles away.  that's a deep depth of field.

Hope that helps.  It's a concept that took me a while to understand, but once I did, I feel like i immediately became a better photographer.  If nothing else, when you're at a dinner party, talking about DoF will really make people think you know what you're talking about.  Try it, I promise it works.

Put A Little Something In There When They Pass The Hat

So I'm sitting here in Stockholm, Sweden, about to go to dinner and I had a thought, so I figured I'd share.  It's more of a tip than a thought, but it's come up about five times today, and I feel like it's really an invaluable travel tip for photographers.  Ooh, before I forget, if you're even in Stockholm, make sure you visit Fotografiska, the photography museum here in the city.  It's amazing and really gets those creative juices flowing.  Anyway, back to the tip.  When you're galavanting around the world, or just on a vacation with the family, make sure you're always carrying at least a few small bills or coins of the local currency.  Taking photos of street performers is a great way to capture the culture and feeling of a city.  However, they rarely like getting their picture taken for free.  So to avoid any uncomfortable situations and to improve your chances of getting a great photo, toss a few coins or a small bill or two in their hat (of course it's not always a hat, but you get the idea.  If it's a bowl or a bucket, toss it in there) and ask if its okay.  They'll almost always agree to your request and they may even give you a smile after a bit of coin makes it's way to them.  Photos like this usually end of being my favorites of the trip.

Series: Behind the Photo

So, here we are again.  It's the Friday before a weekend where I feel like I should be creating  a blog entry, but I didn't really feel inspired by anything in particular.  So I decided just now to create a new series called Behind the Photo.  First of all, if I'm going to be honest, I didn't just think of this.... I thought of it yesterday, but that's not important.  So now when I'm inspired to do a blog post and don't have anything in particular I feel like writing about, I'm going to pick a photo or two that I really like, or has some special meaning, and I'm going talk about what went into creating that image.  It may be once a month, or it may be once a week, but I'll try and keep these coming, because cause I know when I was learning photography, I wanted to get every bit of info from other photographers.  I wanted to know why they made the choices they did and what went into creating their images.  This will be my attempt at helping readers get into my head.  Good luck in there.

So this entry's photo choice was a no-brainer as far as I'm concerned.  Anybody who knows me knows I'm a really big Giants fan.  I love those guys and last night was one of the most fun, exciting games I've ever seen.  In the last inning the Giants won with a walk-off homer by the most unlikely of heroes, clinching the National League Championship and sending them off to Kansas City to face the Royals in the World Series.  Since I'm still thinking about that game and the excitement is still coursing through my veins, I wanted to talk about one of my shots of the Giants from the game I went to in Milwaukee in August.  Since Angel Pagan is out for the season and will miss the World Series, I thought I would choose one of the photos I have of him from that game.

So this is the photo.  Angel Pagan taking his swing at the plate in the first inning of the game against the Brewers.  In fact, this was actually the first batter of the game.  There is a roof over this stadium and I didn't know how that would affect the light as the game went on, so I tried taking a lot of pictures right away, before they closed the roof and the light changed.  First thing to notice is that this picture was taking with my Panasonic micro four thirds camera and not my Canon 5D.  I was traveling with only a carry-on and frankly, i didn't know if they'd let me take a big camera into the game, so I thought it was safer to just bring this.  It doesn't take as good of pictures, and it's much slower to shoot and to focus, but it's better than nothing and I couldn't risk my Canon 5D being not allowed into the stadium.

This photo was taken at 1/640 sec at f/5.6, ISO 1600 and I used a 45-200 lens at 78mm.  Anything jump out at you?  Yeah, me too.  Why the heck would I use ISO 1600 for a shot outside?  Well, good question, I'm glad you asked.  You'll notice my aperture was wide open for the lens at 5.6.  That was going to get me the most shallow depth of field and would let in the most light.  For this shot I was mostly concerned about shutter speed, because I didn't want to bat to just be a blur as he swung.  So, even though it was outside, we were in the shade and it really wasn't that light in the stadium.  That ISO was required to get the shutter speed fast enough to freeze the bat.  In fact, if you notice, the bat isn't tack sharp.  I was trying to get a bit of movement, but I wanted a clear shot of the bat and not a bat-blur, which is a term I just made up.

Another suggestion when you're taking sports photos... take lots of pictures.  It's hard to predict where the players are going to be, how fast they'll be moving, how long they'll be standing there, etc.  So to remove as many variables as possible, take a lot of photos.  You can always toss out the ones you don't want when you're done.

The above image is a perfect example of why you should take a lot of photos when you're shooting sporting events.  This shot was literally taken 10 seconds before the above image.  In this image, Pagan didn't swing at the ball and the catcher took longer to get into position so the photo is much less dramatic.  Now, it's also cropped differently, but you can see that the image itself is totally different and doesn't have the movement or the emotion of the photo above it. 

This image didn't take a lot of post processing and everything I did do was done in Lightroom. You can see the untouched photo below.  The first thing I did, which is the first thing I always do is take down the highlights and open the shadows a bit.  There wasn't many shadows to open, so I didn't do much with that slider.  After doing that I bumped up the vibrance a bit and then it was almost all dodging and burning.  After the dodging (lightening) and burning (darkening) and a little bit of noise reduction, I added a vignette to the whole image and that was about it. Voila, we're done!

So take lots of photos, decide what you want your photo to look like and make camera choices that will deliver those result and... most importantly... GO GIANTS!!!!  Next week is gonna be exciting regardless of what happens, but at the end of the season, no matter what happens, I'll have a bunch of great photos of the Giants losing to the Brewers in Milwaukee. ;-)

New iPhone Camera Even Makes Phone Calls!

So I did it... I bite the bullet and bought a new iPhone.  Maybe I shouldn't imply that there was any question.  I had mine ordered the minute they were announced and because I preordered it, it was waiting for me when I got home on launch day.  I love it... I mean, I really love it.  Yeah it's bigger, faster, thinner and lighter but I know, you're thinking... what else, as if that WASN'T ENOUGH!!!  Well, okay.  How about we mention how awesome the new camera and camera app is.

Wanna hear something crazy?  Every day, people take more photos with iPhones than with any other camera. Not just because it's so easy, but because the camera really takes good photos... and don't even get me started on video.  I don't think I'm taking videos with any of my other cameras and I have a Canon 5D, the video king of DSLRs. With the slo-mo and time-lapse features... who needs a DSLR? (Please don't tell my camera I said that.  I still love him.) So back to the iPhone.  Now, in addition to its 8MP and f/2.2 aperture, the worlds most popular camera is packed with other great new stuff. I mean, it has a super large 1.5-micron pixels... You know what that means???  Yeah, me either.

Obviously bigger is better, whether you’re talking displays or legroom on a plane or... well, let's stick with legroom on a plane. The larger format and thinness (stack two CF cards and you’re pretty much there) of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus screens may be the headline-grabbing feature, but the wider viewing angle, increased brightness and improved contrast of the all-new Retina HD displays is likely to make photographers more excited than our non photo-loving friends.

So let's talking about one of my favorite features.  Faster focusing! The iPhone 6’s sensor comes with phase detection autofocus built in. As you know, phase detection AF is more responsive than contrast detection AF. It uses two images seen from slightly different positions to drive the focusing mechanism, with the goal being to make those two images line up. Contrast detection is slower because it measures the focus directly from the sensor, with the goal being to find the point of maximum contrast – but it has to focus back and forth to find this point. The end result is that the iPhone 6 reportedly autofocuses twice as fast as the iPhone 5. TWICE AS FAST!

Another great feature is that you can finally do some decent tweaking (some people might call it editing) right in the photos app, and the camera now lets you adjust brightness before you take the photo by just tapping on the thing you can focus on and then dragging up/down on screen to brighten/darken. Remember when all you could do when your photo was take it!  When the iPhone really got fancy, you could take an HDR photo, but was really about as fancy as you could get without downloading third party apps.  

To access the Photo edits, click on a photo in the Photos App; tap the Edit button then tap on the dial icon. You can change the Light, Color or make a B&W. What you're seeing above is when you click Light then hit the three-line icon on the far right. Now click any setting and you get a slider for that feature and instant on-screen feedback. Nicely implemented all the way around — huge improvement.So the phone is great and the camera is super great.  Check it out and take some photos.  As the saying goes, the best camera is the one you have with you and since we almost always have our phones with us, my iPhone is definitely my best camera.  Check it out.  I don't think you'll be disappointed, and if you are...

I must be in the front row!

"I must be in the front row," said Bob Uecker in that once famous commercial.  Well I got news for you Bob... The second row is just as good!  As anybody who's read this blog more than a few times knows, I'm a big San Francisco Giants fan.  In fact, my whole family is.  That means that not just me and the people who live in this house, but my parents and my in-laws are big fans too!  Well, although we've been to tons of games at AT&T park (where the Giants play) and many with my parents, my in-laws have never been.  With them living in El Dorado Hills (about 2 1/2 hours away from San Francisco), they’ve actually never made it out to AT&T park for a game.  Well, we were gonna fix that.  We were at their house visiting a few months ago (and had a bit to drink, which is an important fact in this story) and Joanna, my wife, decided it was time they went, so she was determined to find them good seats.  After a little bit of searching, she found 2rd row, right behind home plate for $100.   An unheard of price for that location, right? She decides to buy those tickets for me too for my birthday (it’s the day before the game), cause who could pass up those seats for that price?!  So we’re all going to see the Giants play in the best seats I’ve ever had and for my in-law’s first time.

Well, fast forward a few weeks and my Father-in-law calls to say he knows why the tickets were so cheap... They're away game tickets. Before we could say "wow, that was stupid of us" my wife had already found us flights and hotels in Milwaukee for the game. So last week we all boarded a flight and headed to Wisconsin to see a baseball game.  Pretty awesome, right?  

I decided to bring my Lumix micro four thirds camera which I have been using a lot lately.  I don't like the quality of photo it takes, or the speed it focuses nearly as much as my Canon 5D, but it's really easy to travel with and that was important for this trip.

So after a day of travel and some good midwestern beef and beer, we went to the game.  The seats were incredible and I knew there was going to be some great photo opportunities.  Once the players started coming out of the dugout, I started shooting and I didn't stop until the game was over.  Shooting sports is much harder that shooting, say, portraits, cause the subjects seem to be always moving, but you get used to it pretty quick.  Since the sun was out and the dome on the stadium was open, I had plenty of light so I could shoot pretty fast.  This really helped with the sharpness of the photos.  Focusing was another problem cause the players are moving from one place to another all the time.  It really helped to predict where the subjects were moving, so I could focus on where they would be as opposed to where they were.  If you know a runner is going from 1st base to 2nd base, focus on 2nd base so you're ready for the shot when he gets there.  If you're shooting the pitcher, you know he's going to go through his motion and fall forward toward the plate.  So instead of lining up the pitcher along the left side of my photo, I lined him up against the right side, so when he was done with his pitch and he had fallen forward, he was right in place along the left side of the photo.

You can see some of my favorite photos from the day below.

Best story ever, right?

I've gotta admit, I don't usually like this kind of treatment, where a black and white image has only one part of it in color, but I think it works in this image and focuses the viewer on the iconic orange and black of Susac's uniform.

In London with an iPhone

As you can probably guess, I love to take pictures.  I love everything about it.  I like seeing new places. I like seeing old places in a new way.  I love to share the photos I've taken.  I love the gear and the toys.  Another thing I love is London.  Yeah, the one in England.  I've been there a few times and love it more each time I'm there.  I love the history, the culture, the architecture, the people and so much more.  It's just so classy.  When I'm there I want to eat bangers, wear a scarf and a hat, drink a scotch in a bar surrounded by rich, dark wood and ride a lift up to my room to use the loo (if you don't speak English, that means take the elevator up to my room to pee).  A few weeks ago I found out that I was going to London and Stockholm for work and immediately, I was pretty excited.  I was going to get to go to London for the first time since I've been obsessed, uh, I mean "into" photography.  The idea of being able to get up early and stroll the street of London taking photos made me giddy.  

The small size, interchangeable lens and good quality make this a great travel camera when space is an issue.

So we arrived in the early afternoon the day before we had work responsibilities, so I immediately wrangled the troops to start walking the streets, with my goal to take some great pictures.  Now because this was a work trip and I knew I wouldn't have a lot of free time and I didn't want to bother everybody else with my gear, I decided to take my Lumix GX-1 micro four thirds camera instead of my Canon 5D.  Now this camera doesn't take photos of the same quality as my Canon, but I didn't want to lug a lot of equipment around, so this was a great alternative.  It still has interchangeable lenses, so you have a lot of freedom, but all three of the lenses I brought probably weigh less than one of my Canon lenses.  I also brought two 16GB memory cards and two batteries.  I brought two batteries cause that way I'd always have one charged, and when one ran out I could just switch it with the other... always being ready to shoot (remember this statement... it's important to the story).  

So, I'm in the hotel room, freshly cleaned up from the long flight and ready to hit the streets.  I grabbed my camera bag with the gear I mentioned above and met the team outside.  "Where do we want to go," someone asked. "I don't care... let's just start walking" I said.  We crossed the street and I came upon my first red phone box.  For the record, I always thought these things were called phone booths, but I was quickly corrected by a local and told "they're a phone box, dummy!"  I took my camera off my shoulder to start shooting.  It wouldn't turn on.  Turned it off and on and no luck.  The battery was dead.  Okay, I'm a dummy, I didn't charge the battery before my trip.  Now I'm on the streets of London with a dead camera battery.  NEVER FEAR, I have a  backup!  Remember what I said.  It's important to ALWAYS carry a backup.  You never know when you'll have a situation like this.  So with an "I got this" smile on my face, I reached into my bag to pull out that spare.  Put that sucker in and got ready to start shooting.  Nothing.  Crickets.  Actually, not even crickets, cause they would at least make a chirping noise.  I had silence.  Because the backup battery wasn't changed either!!!  I know, I'm a total dummy-head.  No better way to make you look like a complete photography doofus in front of your friends then showing up with two dead batteries!  So that was it.  We only had this afternoon for free time, and i knew this was going to be my only opportunity to take shots of the city.  Charging the battery would take at least an hour and that was an hour I didn't have.  So, I put the camera back in my bag, reached into my pocket and took out my iPhone.  Yep, that's all I had now, so that was what I was going to use.  You've head the expression that the best camera is the one you have with you?  Well, it's true.  At this moment the iPhone was the best camera in the world.  Now let's be honest, the iPhone takes good photos, but you certainly don't get the control or quality you get with a more traditional camera.  You can't really control ISO, aperture or shutter speed.  You can't blow up the photos large either, but for now it was what I had, so it was going to work.  

Below are some of my favorite photos from England... all taken with my iPhone.  So enjoy the photos and when you're done, go CHARGE YOUR CAMERA BATTERIES!!!  Believe me, it's the kind of mistake that I'll only make once.  Maybe twice, but probably once.

There was no way that not having my camera with me was going to prevent me from snapping a photo of THE red phone box.  I call it a phone booth, but I was quickly corrected by locals.  Kinda funny that I took the pic of the classic old phone box with my cell phone.

Flowers... that is all.

Even with your cell phone, don't forget about b&w shots.  Black and white looks just as cool on your cell phone pics as it does on your regular camera.

What is this?  A phone booth?  NO, it's a phone box... I told you... you weren't listening.  Let's try again.  What's this?  A phone box?  Good.

This photo was taking with my phone as it was getting late in the day, so there's a lot of "noise" because the phone turns up the ISO in the dark and there's nothing you can do about it.  That's okay.  A good picture is a good picture and a little noise never hurt anybody.  You can always remove it in Lightroom or Photoshop, but in this image I kinda like it.  Helps give it that old-timey feel.

If you don't have a red phone box to shoot... shoot the red double decker bus!

Sometime to make a regular photo a little more interesting, it helps to not shoot it straight on and level.  In this case, I've seen this shot of Big Ben about a hundred million times, so I tried a different take on it.

You don't always have to shoot the entire subject when you're taking pictures.  Sometimes part of the subject can be just as, if not more interesting.

I love shooting the locals when I travel.  This wasn't exactly what I had in mind, but heck, I only had my iPhone with me and in fact, I kinda like how it turned out.

Even when shooting pictures with a cell phone, being out at the golden hour makes a huge difference. That warm, soft glow only comes from being out at the right time.

Alien Skin Exposure 6... Exposed!

As you probably know if you've read my blog with any regularity, I really like plugins.  I use them with Lightroom and Photoshop and find they make editing photos a lot more fun.  They allow you, in all honesty, to do a lot of the same things you can do in Photoshop, but you can do them MUCH easier and usually a lot faster with the right plugin.  Now, I'm pretty capable of editing photos in both Lightroom and Photoshop, but I couldn't even begin to tell you how to simulate a light leak or duplicate the look of old Polaroid film in either of those programs.  I'm sure there are plenty of people who can, but I'd much rather be out taking photos than learn how to do that stuff.  That's where plugins come in, and specifically, Exposure 6 by Alien Skin.  I have been using Exposure 5 for quite a while, but just recently upgraded to 6 and love it.  Alien Skin Exposure 6 was announced a few months ago and so far is turning out to be really popular, intuitive, and a great investment for the cost.  Today I thought I would share with you some of my favorite features from the version of the highly functional software.

I’ve often thought that retouching is an art, and if you want to do it right, you cannot take shortcuts. However, there are a few plugins that I think make editing faster, easier and provide exceptional results (you know I couldn't live without my Nik Silver Efx Pro for black and whites).  Once I found Alien Skin Exposure, I found that I can work along side plugins to make my workflow quicker without taking a hit on the quality of work I’m trying to produce. No longer do I need to make complicated curves adjustments to my images when I’ve found that the same can be done using the sliders and presets within Alien Skin Exposure. Most importantly, I've found I can do all sorts of effects that I could never duplicate.

The interface is really intuitive and easy to learn.  Users of other photo editing software will find Exposure 6  looks really familiar and should take very little time getting used to all the sliders and buttons.

Perhaps the biggest upgrade from Exposure 5 to 6 is the speed of the software. It was a small issue, but when the software is designed to speed up your workflow process, it’s counter intuitive when it slows it down and Exposure 5 was pretty slow. They’ve since done an overhaul to the image processing engine, allowing you to quickly see previews far faster than before. Not only will this help with batch processing, but will also allow you to view different tones and film presets quickly and effectively, to help decide on your editing process and direction.

Included with Exposure 6 is a whole new set of tools to adjust Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Clarity, Vibrancy and Saturation right within the toolbar. This allows you to make simple adjustments within the software, rather than having to add layer masks and other tools before or after the fact. Paired with the new controls, is a nice new darker design that is easier on the eyes and gives a cleaner aesthetic to the software.

As I mentioned previously, I love the light leak feature and the ability to tone them down and adjust them as needed. Well they’ve decided to add even more light leaks, borders and textures to the release of Exposure 6, allowing you to customize your your images even further. While many may avoid these additions like the plague, claiming that light leaks are ugly, overdone and too artificial; I can contest that I’ve used them with a lot of success on many images in the past, and when done correctly…can really add an extra dimension to your photos.

In this image I used Exposure 6 to give it a look as if it were processed on old Polaroid film and added some light leaks and a slight sun flair.  The whole process took less than five minutes.

Easily the most hyped update to Exposure 6 is the addition of the bokeh settings within the software. Essentially, you’re able to adjust your depth of field and add realistic bokeh to your images based off of the lens you were using at the time of the photo shoot. While this could result in artificial looking bokeh, if done correctly and used lightly, it can end up looking great

Again, if you’re looking for an Adobe Photoshop plugin that is truly worth it, you cannot go wrong with the Exposure plugin by Alien Skin. Exposure 6 brings new features to the already beloved Exposure 5, while speeding up the entire system in the process.  I highly recommend the software to those who have not given it a try. 

Exposure 6 is now available for $149, but can purchased as an upgrade from any of the previous versions of Exposure for only $69. If you can't make up your mind, there's even a free demo.  Try it, I promise you'll like it and if you don't, I'll give you your money back, but just on the free trial.  I'm that confident.

Sometimes the less color the better

Last weekend the family and I headed down to Pacific Grove, CA for a few days.  For those of you not familiar with this area, it's right down the street from Monterey.  In fact, Cannery Row and the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium are pretty much right down the street.  Now as much as I love a few days of rest and relaxation, my goal for these few days was to get up at sunrise and try to make some great photos.  I got up both Saturday and Sunday at 5:00am in order to be ready for sunrise at about 5:40.  The place we were staying was only 7 or 8 blocks from the beach, so once I was up and out of bed, it was a relatively quick walk down to the beach to the location I decided I was going to take some photos after scouting out the spot the night before.  So, I got up, got dressed, put my camera bag on my back, grabbed my tripod and headed down to the beach.  Once I was there I realized that this wasn't going to be the day I had hoped for.  The weather was pretty awful for taking pics.  Overcast and cloudy.  Now as nice of a portrait as I could have taken in these conditions, this wasn't my goal.  I was trying to take some nice landscape shots, that included the beach, the city in the distance and the sunrise!  Now I was there early enough that I got some good photos, but the sky quickly turned flat and gray and very unintersting.  When I got back and looked at my photos, I liked some, but didn't like a lot. So I started thinking outside the box a little.  When the colors aren't working for you, try taking the color out.  I think it made a big difference and turned some blah photos into some that I really liked.

Boring!  The sky and the light just wasn't doing it for me in this photo.

Using Nik Software's Silver EFX, I took the color out of the photo and really like it.  Sometimes taking the color out can get you to look at an image in a totally different way.

If I'm honest, I've gotta admit, I'm not sure which way I like this photo better.  I really liked it in color, but after playing with it in black and white, I like it that way too.  You decide.  Which is better?