The Digital Photo Guy

Williams, AZ – Gateway to Grand Canyon

by on Jun.30, 2015, under Articles, gear, Lightroom, Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing

It’s Cool in Williams

It’s only 132 miles from Wickenburg to Williams but our convoluted route has been 500 miles total. By now, we had planned to be well into northern Utah but health and planning issues have us hunkered down at Kaibab Lake Campground in the Kaibab National Forest surrounding Williams.

Williams is a cool little town that has reinvented and reinvigorated itself while still staying focused on it’s role as Gateway to Grand Canyon. Located off I-40, Williams is less than 60 miles south of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. During the past recession, Williams discovered it had to renew and refresh itself to stay competitive, a lesson many small towns fail to learn.

We found a great Forest Service CG (campground) at Kaibab Lake. Using our Senior Pass, we’re in an RV site that looks directly into the Kaibab Forest. We were told elk often wandered past our site but I didn’t expecting them to be knocking on the door of the motorhome, asking for handouts. Here are some quick grab shots from yesterday. I hope to have the tripod set up later this week as the herd grazes across the meadow.

_MG_9213   _MG_9219   _MG_9222   _MG_9227   _MG_9228

I’m told only “the boys” grow antlers so these are all males with some serious racks. They all still have velvet indicating new growth antlers. In the fall, all that camaraderie goes to heck as the guys enter the “rut” or mating season. But, for the moment, all is “peace and harmony” as the gang makes its way past the camp site each morning and afternoon, noshing on plentiful grass.

These photos were made with a Canon 7D and Canon 300/2.8 + 2x TC for a total field of view (FoV) of 960mm. I didn’t have time to assemble my tripod and Wimberley gimbal head so handholding at that FoV is PDL (pure dumb luck.) Out of about 50 frames, I got these 5 which all required a lot of post-processing. Also, this was late afternoon and even with ISO 1600, I was stuck with ~1/50 sec shutter speed. I hope to have better photos later this week.

Learning Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

If you’re serious about learning Lightroom and stepping up your post-processing skills, this is the book for you. The full title is The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC/Lightroom 6 Book by Martin Evening. List price is US$59.99 but Mary ordered it from Barnes & Noble using various discounts for ~US$30 or about 4.1 cents per page.

I received it just before we left and I’ve been slogging through it for the past 9 days, a few pages at a time. It’s well written and has helped clarify many previously befuddling issues but, it’s not for the faint of heart.

I also ordered Jeff Schewe’s The Digital Negative (updated 2015.) This is a companion book to Jeff’s outstanding book The Digital Print. Jeff’s book won’t arrive until Sep or Oct but if you’re trying to unravel the mysteries of digital printing, get The Digital Print in the meantime and get ahead of the curve.

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Clean Up the White Background of Portrait

by on Jun.18, 2015, under Articles, Lightroom, Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing, Photoshop Elements

When a Re-Shoot Isn’t Feasible…

Which is most of the time, here’s a tip for cleaning up a dark, gray, unappetizing background that’s supposed to be pure white.


The photo on the left is before I cleaned it up. The photo on the right is after I cleaned up the b/g (background) to make it whiter. That was my original plan but, when you’re in a rush, stuff happens.

After I made all the usual corrections such as Crop, White Balance, Levels and Sharpen, I realized the b/g was still a dingy, off-white. For this photo, I wanted Alyssa to “pop” out of that b/g.

I originally did this in Lightroom 6 but thought it might be useful to show how to do it in Photoshop Elements 9. Besides, I haven’t used PSE9 is so long, I wanted to see if I could still get around inside it.

After opening the photo in PSE9, I selected the Dodge Tool (bottom of the Tool Bar assuming that’s where you keep your Tool Bar) and selected a Soft Round Brush. Next, I set Range to Highlights and Exposure to about 10-15%. For this image, I set my brush size to 150 pixels and just started brushing out the gray. As I got closer to Alyssa, especially her very fair skin, I had to be careful not to let the brush go too far into her skin. For more precision, I enlarge the photo to 300x-400x and reduced the size of my brush. This was particularly important for the area between her right arm and dress.

This isn’t something I’d want to do for lots of images and it’s not a fix for images that will be printed to anything over 4×6 but it’s fine for small web images. Of course, the best solution is to get it right in camera.


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Lightroom and PSE Tips for Weight Loss

by on Jun.04, 2015, under Articles, Lightroom, Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing, Photoshop Elements

Lightroom Tip for Shaving 10 LBS

Dr. Oz and the TV infomercials have nothing on this quick & dirty tip for slimming down a person in a photo. This first tip is for Lightroom. In the next section, I’ll tell you how to do this in PSE and the differences between the two.

Here’s Tylor, a cute 17 year old, aspiring pin-up model in San Diego before she moved to New York. She’s not fat by any means but has the curves of a pin-up model.

Tylor_orig-101   Tylor_LR-101   LR_LensCorrection

In the second photo, I used Lightroom’s Lens Correction controls to elongate her and shaved off 10 pounds. In the process, I made her legs a bit longer in comparison to her torso while still keeping the “curves.” The third image is a screen capture of the controls I used in LR.

I first used the Vertical Perspective Correction to “lean” the top of the image back. That causes her to become slightly elongated. Next I used the Scale Correction to enlarge the image back to it’s original aspect ratio. Finally, using the Aspect Correction, I “squeezed” in the sides to shave off a few pounds that were added when I made her appear taller.

This next photo was edited in Photoshop Elements 9 (see below as to why I didn’t use PSE13.)


Here, I simply used the Free Transform tool to slightly squeeze in the sides and elongate the photo to shave off a few pounds. While this technique is quick, I don’t like it as much because she’s lost her curves. She appears just skinny as opposed to tall and full figured. You can do the same thing with the Distortion tool.

PSE13 Issues

It seems that PSE13 needs/wants me to be logged into my Adobe Account to be launched. It may be my security features but, for some reason, PSE13 always throws a dialog box telling me, “Sign In Required.” None of my other Adobe products including Lightroom4 & 6, PS4 nor PSE 9 throws that dialog box. Until I can figure out a workaround, I refuse to use PSE13. I have a suspicion Adobe can’t add much more functionality to PSE without cannibalizing PS sales so they’re collecting user data to monetize to improve PSE margins.

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Lightroom 6 & Photoshop Elements 13

by on May.29, 2015, under Articles, Lightroom, Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing, Photos, Photoshop Elements, Workshops

LR 6 Released on April 21

By now, I’m sure you’ve all learned that LR6 has been released. It didn’t look to be much of an upgrade from LR4 that I’ve been using for the past 24 months and it didn’t disappoint. Sorry to be such a Negative Nellie. Maybe after I’ve used it for a few months, its improvements will become more obvious. The two immediate new features are native support for HDR and panoramas. That means you no longer need a separate program like Photoshop CS, Photomatix, Dynamic Photo HDR or any number of other HDR software. Of course, the reviews I’ve read report, “It’s better than having to go out of LR but not by much.” Lack of fine control seems to be a common complaint. I don’t do a lot of HDR so it’s not high on my list of things to test. As for native pano support, a big whoop! I’ve had that in PS CS4 and PSE for ages. Again, I don’t make a lot of panos so this is low on my list of interests.

So, WHAT IS on my list of interests? Well, “Faster horses, younger women, older whiskey and more money” is close to the top of my wish list but that’s probably not gonna happen with a $119 upgrade to LR6. I’d have settled for faster processing and all the reviews seemed to imply LR6 would deliver. Alas, not on my POS HP laptop with an i7 CPU, 8GB RAM and 2TB of HD space not to mention over 12TB of external HDD. OK, how about new tools in the Develop Module to help me make older models look like younger women? Not a chance! By the time I fought and argued with the Adobe site to get it to take my order, I drank my older whiskey and certainly had less money.

Being a masochist at heart, I decided to go ahead and upgrade Photoshop Elements V9 to V13 at the same time. Here, I got a little satisfaction because the Upgrade Price was $79.95 but the Full Version was $69.95 due to a current promo. I don’t know how long the promo will be effective but, if you’ve been thinking of upgrading, do it quickly HERE. Remember, I don’t sell or get commissions on anything I recommend so this is the Adobe site, not some sleazy reseller. Even B&H, my “bestie” for photo stuff is more expensive than the Adobe site. I guess you can throw your weight around when you’re the 800 lbs gorilla at the party.

So far, PSE13 meets expectations a little better than LR6, mainly because my expectations weren’t very high to start. Starting around PSE9, it seemed Adobe was doing everything possible to cripple PSE so as not to cannibalize PS sales. In the process, they managed to PO a lot of us who had been teaching, using and generally touting the value of PSE. I’ve hardly used PSE over the past few years but, now that I’ve paid for it, I plan to use it more.

The only immediate tip I have for PSE13 has to do with creating an Adobe account to buy and install. Once you have PSE13 installed, go to the Help tab and log out from your Adobe account. I don’t know for sure but I can imagine Adobe using that to track your activities. As for the annoying and creepy eLive tab that automatically connects to you to Adobe’s list of PSE13 resources, I haven’t yet found a way to disable it. It may be a matter of going into my router and blocking that URL, a messy but positive way to keep Adobe from snooping.

The best way for me to learn is by answering questions so if you have burning questions about either LR6 or PSE13, leave a comment for this post. PLEASE, DO NOT email me because I have too many emails as it is. NB – Please, no questions about PSE Organizer since I use LR for all my image mgmt.

Arizona Highways “Capture Your Moment” Symposium

Yeah, it seems a long way off but on November 7 & 8, 2015, Arizona Highways Photo Workshops is hosting 14 top pros from around the country presenting 26 sessions covering a wide range of topics from macro to wildlife to landscape and portrait photography as well as classes in post-processing & workflow and the business of photography. You can also sign up for a portfolio review to have a professional critique your work.

Based on the topics, this event isn’t geared toward rank amateurs who show up with a brand new dSLR still in its shrink-wrapped box but more for amateurs looking for direction in their hobby. The typical attendee will have several photographic areas of interest that they want to improve. Don’t think of this event as “how-to” sessions but more like “where do I learn how-to?”

Photos That Have Nothing to Do with Today’s Post

After all, this is a photography blog so I felt compelled to add some photos. These are from the Arizona Shootout glamour shoot back in April.

AZSO_2015-101   AZSO_2015-102   AZSO_2015-103   AZSO_2015-104   AZSO_2015-105   AZSO_2015-106



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New Day, New Post, New Directions

by on Apr.26, 2015, under Articles, gear, Lightroom, Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing, Photoshop CS2/4, Photoshop Elements

Nichole Paschal of Topaz Labs to Present Webinar

Most digital photographers know about Topaz Labs’ powerful suite of software that can turn photos into amazing art with a single click. And, most photographers know about Nichole Paschal, Topaz’s outstanding webinar guru. A wonderful photographer in her own right, Nichole has agreed to present a custom webinar to the Wickenburg Art Club Photography Group and you’re invited.

On Monday, May 4 at 6:30PM Arizona Time (6:30PM Pacific, 730PM Mountain, 8:30PM Central, 9:30PM Eastern) Nichole will present a webinar custom designed for new photographers as well as advanced dSLR photographers. She has even added in a segment for cell phone photographers. Stripped of all the jargon and techie “stuff,” this webinar simply focuses on “Creating Beautiful Photography.”

Although the webinar, with my input, was created especially for our Photography Group, Nichole has graciously allowed me to invite my blog readers. To register, simple follow this LINK to receive your log-in code. DO NOT share that code as it is unique to you. Using that code, on Monday, May 4th at 6:20PM Arizona Time (about 10 minutes early,) log-in to the webinar. Once you’re logged in, you be able to hear us as we prepare for the webinar.

Anyone with a PC or Mac and high-speed Internet access can participate. There will be a Q&A period at the end where Nichole will field questions. There will also be a random “door prize” of a free Topaz software license of your choice. Be sure to review the complete line of Topaz Labs programs so you know which one you want if you’re the lucky winner (the complete suite is not eligible, just single licenses.)

To get a sense of Nichole’s presentation style (outstanding!) check out some of the 200+ Topaz Labs videos on YouTube. Even if you don’t use Topaz software for some reason, the basics are all there and you can learn a ton.

This Old Blog is Gonna Change

I want to thank the nearly 1000 subscribers who have helped make this blog successful over the past 10 years. But, as with everything in life, things change and it’s now time for this blog to change. Up to now, my focus has been on landscape, nature and birds with a smattering of other subjects thrown in from time-to-time. However, you may have noticed a shift over the past few years. First, I started photographing pin-up models like Tylor and Tina. Last November, I photographed glamour models at the Arizona Shootout. In between, I photographed Alyssa Caitlain at the junkyard and in a studio.

Last week, I photographed more models at the Spring 2015 Arizona Shootout and, for the first time, made fine art nude images. This isn’t to say I no longer make landscape or nature photos, just that my interests have expanded and I’m now photographing subject matter that may not be to everyone’s taste. Here are some examples.

AmeliaSimoneBW-102   AmeliaSimoneBW-103   AmeliaSimoneBW-104

For the moment, I’ll keep my more explicit images in my Model Mayhem account. But, as readers get used to the new genres, I may post some here. I hope my readers know me well enough by now to know that I won’t be posting erotic or pornographic images but only what, in my opinion, are artful images of the human form.

If you choose to stop reading my blog because of this change, I thank you for your past readership and wish you the best in all your future photographic endeavors.

If you choose to continue reading my blog, I thank you for your acceptance of change and hope you’ll enjoy the new disciplines I intend to pursue.

Lighting Gear

The photos of Amelia Simone (above) were made using Canon 580EX II and 550EX Speedlites (buy them cheap on Craigslist,) Impact 60″ umbrella, David Honl speedlite grid and Interfit COR751 light stands. The backdrop was a piece of mottled velour from Walmart and she was posed on a standard folding table with a piece of black cloth draped over it.

YN_kitA cool device I bought specifically for studio work is the Yongnuo YN-622C-TX kit and two YN-622C transceivers for a $155 from Yongnuo on eBay. I’m not a fan of Chinese goods but, in this case, my concerns were unfounded because these E-TTL compatible triggers (yeah, you heard right, E-TTL) are well made, 100% compatible and easy to use. Even the Chinglish user guide was rewritten by New Zealander Clive D. Bolton. In the end, this was much ado about nothing because I’ve never had to read the manual.

So, what’s the big deal you ask? Let me count the ways. First, regardless of whether you’re using one flash or 10 flashes, the YN-622C-TX (C = Canon, N = Nikon) lets me control the flashes from my camera. I can twiddle around with the flash control in the camera’s Menu but that’s a lot of twiddling. I can also control the flashes using the switches and menu on the flash but that’s a lot of walking back and forth. Using the YN controller I can assign different flashes to different Groups (A, B or C) and adjust each flash output from 1/1 (Full) down to 1/128 power. For people just learning about flash photography, I can set everything to E-TTL and let the camera do all the thinking.

All native Canon modes are supported including E-TTL, 1st Curtain, 2nd Curtain, HSS and, even, Multi-Mode. Each Group can be turned on or off so it’s easy to test which lights are producing too much or too little light. And, the best feature of all is the simple, intuitive control interface. As I mentioned earlier, I unpacked the triggers from their boxes and began using them within 10 minutes.

For studio portraiture, where I want the key (main) light to fill light ratio to be about 3:1, I can set the Key to Group A and the Fill to Group B. If I want a hair light, that can be Group C. The triggers can be set to one of 8 channels so you’re not firing someone else’s flashes or vice versa. There’s a Test button to check your configuration. In the category of really, really cool, one of my 3 transceivers can be used as a transmitter if my controller should croak. In other words, I have a YN-622C-TX controller and 3 YN-622C receivers. If the TX should be dropped and stepped on, I can use one of the receivers as a transmitter. I’ll be down one flash but that’s not usually a big deal because I can set my LumoPro to Optical Slave mode and let one of the other flashes trigger it.

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