The Digital Photo Guy

White Balance Trick

by on Mar.12, 2009, under Photo Editing

I’ve seen lots of articles, columns, books, brochures, etc titled XYZ Tips & Tricks but never took the time to figure out what constitutes a tip and what is a trick. When I started to write this post, I nearly titled it White Balance Tip but quickly realized it was really a trick. How did I differentiate between a tip and a trick? I decided that tips are better, faster, easier ways to accomplish a task. So, Photoshop keyboard shortcuts are tips and setting white balance to AWB in RAW is a tip. Tricks, on the other hand, are ways to accomplish a task using some non-standard method or tool. I learned this trick last month at Bosque del Apache, NM in Artie Morris’ workshop.

Not every morning or evening results in spectacular light or soft warm glow. Many days are just plain while other days are just plain ugly. The photo below (left) is of a plain daybreak at Bosque. The middle photo is the same photo with white balance set to 7200 Kelvin in Adobe Camera RAW. The last photo shows a similar scene 5 minutes later with white balance set to 7200 Kelvin.

3210_awb   3210_acr   3218_7200k

I realize they’re two different scenes but the shot on the right has a richer color than the photo in the middle even though both were adjusted for 7200 Kelvin white balance. I’m not sure why but I think it’s because the camera is working in 14 bit mode while the PS version is 8 bit.

The point is, it’s easy to dial in a higher or lower white balance to get the image you want. Even if you decide you don’t like it, if you shoot in RAW, you can dial it back in ACR and you won’t have lost anything except a moment of your time to readjust it.

To get a warmer (redder) image, dial in a higher Kelvin temperature (7000K or more) and to get a cooler (bluer) image dial it back to under 3000K. This is my favorite from that series. One bald eagle was calling the other and eventually both were sitting on this snag in the main impoundment as the sun rose to the east.


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Simplify Your Life – Subscribe via RSS

by on Mar.10, 2009, under Articles, Website

Does anyone remember the unfulfilled promises of the “paperless office?” Do you recall how life was supposed to be in a world where all communications and information would be electronic and paper would be forever banished to the dust bins of history? Well, citizen, it ain’t working out too well. If you’re like me and get most of your information from the web, it’s getting more and more complex to find the right information at the right time in the right format. You can simplify some of this by using a technology called RSS (Really Simple Syndication) which “pushes” only the info you want to you as it is posted on the web.

If you’ve ever read newspaper columns like Ann Landers or op ed pieces by George Will or cartoonists like Scott Adams (Dilbert), you know how sydication used to work. In the good old days, a writer or cartoonist would produce a piece and send it to many newspapers for distribution. Each newspaper paid for the right to reproduce that piece. As you can imagine, managing all those subscriptions and sending all that paper and keeping track of all the payments and royalties was a real pain in the “you-know-what” (rhymes with gas). RSS is the same idea but at a much more proletarian level. Sure, there are big sites like CNN and MSNBC that use RSS but the technology is so simple that even numbskulls like I can deploy RSS.

There are two parts to RSS. First, you need an RSS-enabled site that publishes information that you want to see such as my site. After all you’re reading this drivel so you must be interested. An RSS enabled site will have an RSS symbol like this:

 An RSS Feed icon.

That icon tells you that you can subscribe to have the site notify you whenever new content is added to the site. Some sites have many RSS feeds covering different aspects of the site. For example, CNN might have RSS feeds for World News, US News, Politics, Sports and every other major subject they cover. Other sites, like mine, have just one feed because it’s not that difficult to keep up with everything that happens here.

The other half of the equation is an RSS Reader. There are many different readers so I’m only going to cover the 2 “biggies” and a directory of other readers. Google Reader and MyYahoo! are two ways to get feeds directly from my site. You need an account with either Google or Yahoo! to use either but most people already have a “junk e-mail” account with one or the other so that shouldn’t be a problem.

With Google Reader (below left), click Add Subscription (1) and type my URL to add it to your list of subscriptions (2) and show you the first few lines of each entry (3).

Google Reader    Yahoo! Reader

With MyYahoo! (above right), click Add Content (1) and the entire dark menu will appear. Click Add RSS Feed (2) and type into the dialog that appears.

For those who want a stand-alone reader that doesn’t need a Google or Yahoo! account, check out this page for a list of 3rd party readers.

It may not be very useful if my site is the only one you want to track but if you’re like most people, you can add any site that uses RSS. All your daily info fix will be in one place. You can also make a Favorites entry so you can easily see all your feeds with one click.

Once most of my readers start using RSS, I plan to discontinue the weekly e-mail blast which has become a major PITA.

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Desert Wildflowers Are Blooming or Maybe Not…

by on Mar.07, 2009, under Articles

I’m writing this update from Anza-Borrego Desert State Park where I’m getting ready to go look for wildflowers. Yesterday, on my way back from Arizona, I stopped by Joshua Tree NP and drove as far north as Conttonwood campground. There are definite signs of a spring wildflowers but they’re still pretty scrawny. The desert lupines are sparse and standing about 4″-5″ tall where past displays have been thick and lush, standing 10″-12″. There were lots of chia that looked as if they had been killed by a frost and the live ones seemed pretty forlorn.

A weathered, leathered desert rat of the female variety flagged me down and told me the road ahead was washed out. She and her older but very well maintained RV were camped just outside the south entrance to Joshua Tree NP. By her reckoning, the full spring wildflower display wouldn’t happen for for another 2-3 weeks.

To the east of JTNP, below 2000′ elevation, the bloom was in full swing. Along the freeway, I could see bladderpods, brittlebush, sand verbena, chuparosa, desert lupines, California poppies (in AZ they’re called Arizona poppies, duh!) and other SCBs (small colorful bushes).

Here are some lupines I found just outside my RV this morning as I made photos of the sun rising over the mountains to the east. The sand verbena and desert gold were along Henderson Canyon Road in Borrego Springs.

Lupine    More Lupines    Sand Verbena   Desert Gold    Desert Gold    Carpet of Desert Gold

I removed a dead stalk in front of the lupines using the Clone Tool and cropped to remove the RV parked next to me. Otherwise, I just adjusted Levels. I didn’t even have to remove dust bunnies. The sand verbena and desert gold were cropped, levels adjusted and sharpened.

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Joshua Tree NP Wildflower Report

by on Mar.01, 2009, under Articles, Schedule

On my way to Bosque del Apache, NM, I stopped by JTNP to check wildflower conditions. At the southern end, most of the vegetation is nicely turning green with spots of early bloomers such as this bladderpod.


On the way home, I came across  I-8 along the southern route through Tucson. That route was already in full bloom with lots of brittle bush, sand verbena, Arizona poppy and others that I couldn’t identify at 65MPH.

Some recent reports say Anza-Borrego State Park has already started peak bloom and anyone waiting much longer may miss it. Bottom line, it looks like Joshua Tree NP around the middle of March will be perfect for that area.

If you can’t go to Anza-Borrego, consider my JTNP Spring Desert Wildflower Photoshoot on March 21 or 22.

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More Photoshop Fun

by on Feb.27, 2009, under Photo Editing

I’m back from Bosque del Apache and I have a pile of stuff on my desk so I thought I’d first goof off. Here’s a photo I took at BdA on Saturday, 2/21 before Artie Morris’ IPT started on Sunday. This is the quintessential BdA photo of a snow geese blast-off. Unfortunately, all those cars and people in the frame make it less than ideal.

Playing around a bit with Photoshop CS4, I created this photo.

Let me know what you think. BTW, this isn’t one of my masterpieces so I didn’t put a lot of effort into ehnancing the actual photo to remove all the reflected legs in the water. This is essentially a POC (proof of concept) as it were.

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