Photoshop

Early Summer on Casper Mountain – Laramie Range, Wyoming

Casper Mountain rises just south of Casper, Wyoming but it may as well be a world away.  Come June, town can get scorching hot and the vegetation can dry out pretty quickly.  It is a border zone between the great plains to the east and the high deserts of the American West.  I guess if you really pressed me, I’d say Casper is more high desert than plains, but nonetheless, it’s flat and pretty dry in the summer.  But drive Casper Mountain Road south out of town and up 3000′ on top of Casper Mountain, a very different landscape awaits you.  Much of the mountain is covered in forest but head all the way to the south side of the mountain and you will encounter a vast open area.  In late June and early July, this area is blanketed with colorful wildflowers.

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These photos are from two weeks ago when I headed up to catch a Friday night sunset.  Wyoming had been getting pounded with thunderstorms for a couple weeks and this Friday was no different.  Thunderstorms blew through town that afternoon and evening, but the weather forecast called for the storm to pass and the area was to clear up around sunset.   I was excited at the prospect to have a chance at getting out of the house and not risk getting struck by lightning!  Just in case the storm decided to stick around, when I grabbed my camera gear, I stuffed my rain jacket in my pack and was off.  It turned out I didn’t need that jacket and instead enjoyed a fantastic sunset.

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After just fifteen minutes of driving, I was on top of the mountain but realized June 5th was definitely a little premature for the full showing of wildflowers.  My expectations were biased based on my visit up last summer at the end of June when the whole area was quite literally a carpet of wildflowers.  The images don’t quite show it, but I had to hunt for good groupings of flowers and the ones that were out were not quite in full bloom.  Still, I think I managed to find plenty of flowers that were out and photogenic!

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As the storm dissipated the wind died down; a rarity in Wyoming!  Because there was little wind and the flowers were not blowing all around, I took the opportunity to practice a “focus stacking” technique.  Due to the optics of lenses and because some of these flowers were about a foot away from my camera when I took their picture, not all of the image could be in focus as once.  For example, if I would focus on the flowers in the front, the mountain in the distance and sky would be blurry and just the opposite true if I focused instead on the distant mountain.  So, I set my composition and took a series of frames focused at different points of the scene such that between all the frames, every bit of the composition was in focus.  I later used a blending technique in Photoshop to combine all of those frames into one image!  It’s not Photoshop trickery, it is just a method to overcome the limits of my camera; I actually described the process in a previous blog post.

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I said it before and I will say it again, I’m super lucky and happy to have such an incredibly beautiful place practically out my back door.  If you like the outdoors, there are few better places to live than Wyoming!

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Categories: Nature, Photoshop | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Lupines, Lupines, Lupines! – Laramie Mountains, Wyoming

The Laramie Mountains of South East Wyoming are not well known to most people.  They are not the high peaks of Colorado nor are they the strikingly rugged mountains such as the Teton Range and Wind River Range of western Wyoming.  Despite the Laramie Mountains’ lowly status among the ranges of the Rocky Mountains, they should not be ignored.  At the northern terminous of the Laramie Mountains is Muddy Mountain and Casper Mountain; two unassuming flat topped peaks that are below 9000′ in elevation.  These unassuming peaks are just high enough to support large and incredibly beautiful stands of wildflowers; a large contrast to the dry basins that lie in every direction around the Laramie Mountains.

I missed the peak color of the Baslsamroot flowers and a couple of other dominant wildflowers you see in Wyoming, but I caught the lupines at their peak!  One of my favorite things about living out West is that open space and incredible scenery of all types are just a short jaunt from my front door here in Wyoming.  I can’t imagine calling anywhere but the American West my home!

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Categories: Hiking, Nature, Photoshop | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I’m Seeing Double, Triple, and More

Let me start by saying I don’t use Photoshop very often.  Probably like most photographers, I prefer be taking pictures and pretty much loath organizing and editing them on my computer.  However, Photoshop is a wonderful tool that can really extend a photographer’s creative vision.  Last weekend, I spent a lazy day on the couch and learned how to combine multiple photos into a single frame; and in doing so, created an action sequence.  I’ve done it here with skiing action, but the technique could be used for all different types of action sports and even wildlife.  Anyway, I learned something new and it has me seeing doubles, triples, and more!

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Categories: Photoshop, Skiing | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

New Year’s Resolution

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to learn Photoshop.   I’ve been serious about photography for over five years now, so I’d say I’m long overdue to take the plunge and join the “dark side” of photo editing.  I avoided learning Photoshop for so long because I was honestly too lazy to learn new software and I was put off by the cost.  I also avoided using Photoshop because of the sometimes negative stigma associated with photography and “photoshopping.”  The fact of the matter is every professional photographer, and most serious hobbyists for that matter, digitally re-touch their images.  Photoshop is simply the best (and most expensive) editing program out there.  Truth be told, I have been re-touching my images for several years now using Adobe Lightroom and plugins like Nik Efex.  With these programs, and now with Photoshop, my goal is not to create unrealistic images, but to further improve the images I do take and to help overcome the limitations of my camera gear.

To demonstrate the limitations of even my high end camera system, have a look at this series of pictures of the Capitol Building in Pierre, SD.  Below, in the first image there are two major issues that stand out to me: First, by focusing on the rock at the bottom of the frame, the Capitol and grounds are blurry because my camera can’t keep both the close up rock and far away capitol building in sharp focus.  In fact, even with a wide angle lens, the focus zone is so small that the rock sticking out of the water on the right middle of the frame is already out of focus.  Second, by exposing for how much light the rock needed to be properly lit, the capitol and grounds are overexposed and in the case of the capitol building, so overexposed there is no detail in that area, just pure white.  After all, cameras are just machines and can only record so much of a range of light, much less than the range we see with our eyes, and I have exceeded that range with my camera in the image below.

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In the next image, I focused on the capitol building and also set the camera’s exposure so the capitol dome would be properly exposed.  I now have the same problem as in the first image but in reverse:  Now the rock in the foreground is blurry and also very much underexposed.

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Now here is where Photoshop comes into play.  I loaded the two above images into Photoshop and used layer masking to merge the properly focused and exposed capitol and grounds picture with the properly focused and exposed rocks in the foreground picture to make a single properly exposed image with sharp focus in both the foreground and background.   

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The above example shows a relatively extreme case of my exposure woes.  In practice, I always carry a variety of filters that I place in front of my camera to help control the dynamic range of a scene.  Sometimes, as in this case, using filters is not ideal or is still be insufficient to control the dynamic range of a scene.  Even though I prefer using filters in the field to correct exposure, obtaining “front to back” sharpness in an image is a chronic challenge.  With Photoshop, I will now overcome!

I don’t believe that by learning Photoshop my landscape images will become fake and from my imagination alone.  Instead, I look forward to using it to correct the limitations of my camera and gear and ultimately present an image that is more pleasing to view and is still true to the scene I actually photographed.

Categories: Architecture, Photoshop | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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