A Clear Picture

Being a photographer who loves taking pictures of architecture, one thing that bugs me a lot is when things obstruct the view of whatever building I’m shooting.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a tree, street sign or a person.

I’ll use all sorts of tricks to make sure I capture just the building, and not the unwanted obstructions.  If people are in the shot, I’ll wait until they clear out (sometimes, waiting up to an hour for tourists to move out of the way).  If it’s street signs, I’ll find a different angle where you see just the building.  In fact, I took a photo of Windsor Castle one time where you only saw the top half of the structure, because of all the street signs AND tourists in the way.

But sometimes I can’t “cheat” my way to a clear picture, and so I try to take one with as few distractions as I can, and then edit them out in post-production.

 

portland-maine-021This photo, of State Street Church in Portland, Maine, is a lovely mixture of multi-colored bricks, with some very cool towers and other elements.  And thankfully, the telephone or cable wires are only in the sky, so I could easily use Photoshop to get rid of them one way or another.  I wouldn’t consider the trees an obstruction in this case because–with the fall colors–it just adds to the charm of the church.

 

 

 

 

These next two images would take quite a lot of manipulation in Photoshop.  I might be willing to mess with the church on the left, but probably not the house on the right, no matter how lovely all that ivy looks growing on the side.

portland-maine-010portland-maine-042

 

 

 

 

 

But even though I might or might not be willing to edit them in Photoshop, I still like taking the picture, if for no other reason than to remember some lovely element of the image (more on that in another blog).

portland-maine-107Now, this last picture is a Photoshop editing nightmare, and I DEFINITELY wouldn’t undertake it.  The Victoria Mansion (also in Portland, Maine) is a lovely structure, with lots of cool columns and whatnot, but I wasn’t able to capture the entire building without being across the street (with the lenses I had with me).  Unfortunately, being across the street meant that EVERY electrical wire got in the shot.  Even just editing out the wires in the sky would take a good couple of hours . . . forget about where they cross the building.

 

But, I liked Portland, and definitely plan on going back some day.  So I’ll be sure to bring some other lenses with me, and maybe I’ll be able to capture these buildings without any obstructions in them next time.

 

Experimentation

I’ve done enough research to know that I have no idea what my “signature style” is yet.  And apparently giving the answer of “A lot of different stuff” when asked what I specialize in isn’t looked upon too favorably.  So I’m clearly still in the “discovery” phase of my journey.  Thankfully, that means I get to play . . . a lot.

I’ve been taking a photography class at a local college just to see what’s out there, & we’re getting ready to turn in our portfolio, so I thought I’d share them with you.  I don’t know whether or not any of these images will make it to the website, but you might be seeing the stirrings of some future shots.

pool-dividers-from-090316

This image is kind of similar to stuff I currently have up in the “Miscellaneous” gallery.  It’s very indicative of some of my favorite things; repeating patterns, & cool lighting contrasts.  The image was neat enough in color, but I think the black & white helps to set it off even more.

 

 

 

glass-swirl-3

We spent one class day shooting various pieces of glass.  MAN did I love that!  I’ve always loved glass objects (I could sit & watch the glass blowers at amusement parks for hours), & this object especially caught my eye.  I have a couple other angles of this piece, but I really liked the light reflections in this shot.  I could probably write the entire blog about this day’s images, but there are other photos to see.

 

 

 

 

car-show-vent-wheel

We also spent a day at another nearby college for their annual car show.  The cars were more modern than I normally like to see at a car show, but this gave me the opportunity to do what I do best . . . focus on the details.  I got to see the newest trends in wheels & hub caps, & MAN is there some cool stuff out there nowadays!

 

 

 

 

inverted-railing-from-090816

These next two images are where I got to play the most & find a possible new style.  I was just playing around in Photoshop while editing, & hit the “Invert” option.  BAM!  This lovely image came out.  I originally took the photo because of the lovely curving line of the handrail, but the color version had too many similar brown tones.  But when I inverted it, all these cool blues & purples came out.  I tried playing with it some more to bring the dark blue/black “mountain” in the middle of the photo up to the top as well, but it never quite came out right.

 

 

 

glass-swirl-inversion

I tried this inversion technique on the glass object above as well.  The shot is from one of those other angles I mentioned earlier, & while I like the non-inverted image, I also like the simplicity of this one.  You can see the light reflection REALLY well, & all the nooks & crannies of the swirls look really cool in the darker tone.

 

 

 

So there you have it . . . some new images & possibly new directions for me to venture into.  It’s definitely fun learning & trying out new tricks . . . even if it doesn’t help me hone in on my signature style.

Something NEW from me (Craig)… Color Stipples!

I have two new images to share with you today. You’ve seen them before, but not like this, in COLOR!

I have started to enhance select stipple images, which I normally do in black and white, and give them a subtle color wash. The coloring I do on the computer in Photoshop. I think it gives the images a little extra something, don’t you?

The first image available is the Stairs in the Japanese Gardens at Powerscourt, Ireland. Here is the black and white version, and the new colored version side by side. I think the added color really defines the moss and foliage. Let me know if you agree. If you like them, please share them in all your social media outlets.

The other image is The Palace of Fine Arts. Everyone knows this iconic structure, and I think the color really harkens back to its beginnings, almost looking like an old-fashioned tin-type or postcard. Here are the two versions side-by-side.

We don’t sell the color prints at our Art Fairs, so the website is the only place these prints are available. Get yours today. Get one as a gift for the art lover on your list.

Thanks as always for checking out our blog,

Craig.

Sixth Year in a Row!

I’m thrilled to announce that I was once again chosen to be an artist in the Frank Bette Center for the Arts (FBCA) annual show, Alameda on Camera!  This is the sixth year in a row that I’ve been invited to participate in this fun event, and it still makes me giddy to know that they like my stuff enough to include me.

For those of you who are new readers, the Alameda on Camera (AOC) event is a really cool one where the FBCA cuts a map of the island of Alameda into 48 sections, and invites 48 artists to draw a section of the map out of a hat (which is a fun ceremonial evening in and of itself).  We then have 48 hours to take any photos we want in our section (during a specific weekend in February), and then have the month of March to edit those photos and shape them into any sort of art.  Each artist is guaranteed one piece to be shown in the exhibit (which stays up for two months), and people have created glassware, shower curtains, paper products, books, quilts and all sorts of other cool things.  Anything goes, so long as what you create incorporates the photos you took in your section.  One year, someone even devised an Alameda-themed Monopoly game.

Even though Craig and I live in Alameda, this event is a cool way to learn new parts of the island since I rarely draw the same section.  It only happened once–and I could have drawn a different section–but I kept it anyway, and took completely different shots the second year.

The only downfall to doing this event is choosing which images to submit for consideration.  But it’s a “hardship” I’m happy to endure, because it’s just so much fun.  Sometimes when I’m out taking the photos, I can see exactly what I want to do with a particular shot, but other times I have no idea until I start looking at them in Photoshop.  Out of the hundreds of pictures I take during the 48 hours, my initial selection is anywhere from 10 to 20 images, and then I pare it down further to about 5 or 6.

This year, there was a bit of a theme to some of my photos.  I had a section of town that included one of the island’s high schools.  It was early morning as I walked around and took pictures, and there was a nostalgic feeling in the air.  I tried to capture that nostalgia in the finished products:

Go JetsWillie Stargell Field

 

 

 

 

 

Worn Out

I also found a cool, rundown garage in my section, which looks even cooler in black and white . . .

Run Down Garage

. . . and a serene waterfall . . .

Relaxing Waterfall

. . . but these last two pieces are probably my favorites; although for different reasons.

ReflectionFirst, there’s the piece titled “Reflection.”  As I’ve mentioned before, I love to capture light play, and the sun reflecting off of the shiny globe on the statue’s head was amazing to see.  It brought to my mind the power of our thoughts (or inner reflection), hence the double meaning behind the title.

 

 

 

Psychedelic Flower WheelThe last one is one of those pieces that I don’t “see” until later in Photoshop.  I was editing a photo of a beautiful flower, when I went a little too far in the saturation and color balance.  The psychedelic look captured my imagination, and I initially thought of doing something akin to Andy Warhol’s famous Marilyn Monroe piece, but as I thought about it further, I decided to instead turn it into a wheel.  As it began to take shape, I saw that the leaves behind the flowers could help accent the shape and the center leaves formed their own flower petals.  And so, “Psychedelic Flower Wheel” came to be.

 

 

 

The AOC exhibit is normally on display for the months of April and May, but it’s being delayed this year due to some renovations.  But fear not, the exhibit WILL happen, and I’ll let you know when.  Stay tuned to our Facebook page for the announcement.

Practice, Practice, Practice

An artist must always continue to hone her craft.  It’s how she grows, learns new methods and maybe even finds new facets of her art to explore.  To that end, I’ve recently signed up for a class in photography, and I’ll be sharing some of my pieces with you from the class.

But I also want to share an online tutorial that I’ve found to help me fumble around in Photoshop and offer some tips and tricks.

I found Yanik Chauvin’s Photoshop & Lightroom for Photographers tutorial through Udemy.com (a place where you can get lots of online courses for very cheap prices).  But in looking at his website, I see that he has quite a few more courses to offer, and they all appear to be free.  I’m still working through the one I got from Udemy, but you can bet your boots that I’ll be signing up for his others, too.  He covers a wide array of tools you can use in Photoshop that I’ve found very helpful and his manner of teaching is calm and thorough.

Another site I’m going to point you to is for a friend of mine.  I met Roi Brooks while working for an advertising company a few years back.  His infectious laugh and wonderful hugs drew me in and I looked forward to seeing him each day.  I found out that he did some photography on the side, and everything I saw was very cool and quirky.

So when I started to get into photography as a career and not just a hobby, I asked for his help in mentoring me.  He currently splits his time between the Bay area and Belize, so we aren’t able to get together that often, but I’ve discovered that he also offers some tips and tricks on his own blog, so I’ll be checking those out in the spaces between our meetings.

Roi travels all over the world, taking product photos and whatnot, so I’d say he’s currently my photography idol.  I’d love to get paid to take photos around the world.  But as you can see on his photography website, he also does some very interesting things with his personal photos.

I’d love to hear any tips or websites you use for enhancing your photos, so please feel free to leave them in the Comments section.

‘Til next time . . .

Tough Choices

One of the pitfalls (if you can call it that) about being a photographer is having to decide which image to use.

I tend to take multiple shots of whatever my subject is.  Sometimes I do that in order to get the lighting right, but I also do it because a certain object can yield all sorts of interesting looks.  For instance, if I’m photographing a building, do I want to focus on its relation to the sky and whatever clouds might be there?  Or do I want to take a close up of any molding or architectural details that I find intriguing?  Heck, when Craig and I went to Greece for our honeymoon, I must’ve taken 20-30 different angles of the Athens National Library Steps . . . six of which I think were good enough to keep, and three or four of those are on our website.

But the other tough choice I often have to make is whether to keep an image in the original color, or whether I should change it to black and white.  Granted, there are some shots that just beg for classic black and white, while others clearly need to showcase the gorgeous colors.  But I’d have to say–for me, anyway–the choice is easy only 50% of the time.

Frank-Ogawa-Plaza-TowerFrank-Ogawa-Plaza-Tower_BWFor instance, the earth tones of the Frank Ogawa Tower in Oakland look cool against the cloud-filled sky in the image to the left.  But when I switch it to black and white, the overcast day looks even more foreboding, which then makes the tower look more like a castle turret, rather than the modern office building it really is.  Both are interesting and unique in their own ways, and I found it very hard to decide which one to put up on our website.  As you can probably guess by now . . . I chose to put include both.  (Sometimes when it feels like a tough choice, the best choice is to not make any choice).

Oakland-Clock-Tower_03Oakland-Clock-Tower_03_BWAnother dilemma for me was the the clock tower on top of City Hall, again in Oakland, California.  These images were taken on the same day as those of the Frank Ogawa Tower, but it was a little bit later in the morning, so there was more blue in the sky which contrasted nicely with the ecru of the building’s stones in the original color version.  However, after playing around with the image in Photoshop and checking out how it would look in black and white, the focus then became the building itself and all the architectural details, and not so much the color of the sky.

Oakland-Fox-Theatre_01_BWOakland-Fox-Theatre_01And then there’s the Fox Theatre, also in Oakland.  When I saw this building that morning, I immediately saw it in B&W in my head.  I wanted to capture the grandeur of the theatre’s heyday, and I felt that would best be achieved without color.  But when I saw the full-color version on my screen, I was blown away by the gorgeous hues in the building.  So I felt I had to keep that one, too.  This way, one image could be used for anything that might be focused more on nostalgia, and the other might be able to be used in, say, a tourist pamphlet or book.  Or maybe even the theatre’s own advertising materials.

So, while some images are clearly either/or, sometimes an image works well both ways.  That’s why we photographers like to play around with the editing so much . . . it’s all about the choices.

 

 

Exploring a New Technique

It’s true with every profession that you get better the more you practice.  What’s also true for artists is that, you not only get better at your profession, but you also uncover new ways to express your art.  Picasso went through his Blue Period, and Jackson Pollock had his whole drip painting style, which he didn’t develop until a few years after he’d been a known painter.

Even photographers go through phases.  Sometimes we learn a different photographic technique, or some new software comes out, or we see another person’s work that inspires us to try something new ourselves.  Regardless, we too are constantly growing and evolving in our artistic expressions.

For me, lately this has been the use of the sepia filter in Photoshop.  I’ve normally been prone to using either full color or simple black and white with my images.  But I recently took a trip to Boston and many of the images I captured there seemed to beg for something different.

Especially this one of a path sign in a cemetery I visited just outside of Boston.  You can clearly see the age in the object, but it was such a bright day, that the mood wouldn’t have been right had I left it in full color.

Myrtle Ave Marker - ColorBut changing it to black and white didn’t quite pull off the effect of what I was looking for, either.

Myrtle Ave Marker - B&WSo I took a chance on sepia, and BAM!  The image came alive for me.

Myrtle Ave Marker - SalemI still had quite a few images that looked better in the “old” ways, but a number of them didn’t POP until I used a sepia filter in Photoshop.

I used to be leery of going through a “phase” or “period” like Picasso or Pollock.  But now I see that using a different technique once in a while doesn’t mean I’m going to do ALL my images in that way from now on.  It just allows me to use pictures that I wouldn’t have been able to if I wasn’t willing to expand my horizons and try something new.