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April 27, 2016
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Make Your Unusable Photographs Beautiful

If you’re like me, you take a lot of nature photographs, and you know that nature doesn’t always offer blue skies with fluffy white clouds. I’ve photographed in rain, snow, strong wind, lightning storms and fog, and always get usable photographs.

One of the ways I do this is with Lightroom 5, and presets. Lightroom can add contrast, bring out the details in skies filled with rain clouds, and much more. I know people who spend an hour or more perfecting photographs shot in less than ideal conditions, but that’s not me. I usually spend less than two minutes working on a photograph.

There are some images that I have that just really can’t be saved. They are too flat, and won’t look good no matter how much I play with sliders and curves. That’s where presets come in.

There are many presets to choose from, and many are free. You may remember the list of free presets that I had in a past article, “Make Scary Photographs For Halloween” http://www.thecreativescorner.com/make-scary-photographs-for-halloween/

Besides these, the NIK presets were recently released for free by Google https://www.google.com/nikcollection/. I grabbed these as soon as they came out. I believe they were originally selling for $250. Head on over and get your copy.

What I like most about presets is that someone else has done all the work, and I get to create great images with one click. Be sure to create a virtual copy first, and work on that. You don’t want to radically change your original image.

When dealing with flat images, my first thought is to make them into some kind of monochrome image. Black and white, sepia, split tone and similar presets usually work well. It’s just a matter of personal taste.

Here’s an example of a flat image I took last week at the Grand Canyon. The day was overcast, and you can see some snow in the middle of the image. Even though the light was flat, I wasn’t going to pass up the chance to photograph this monolith.

The original image hasn’t been altered, except for straightening the horizon.

Grand Canyon

Original Image

I tried a variety of presets, and the first one I really liked was this mild sepia toned image, created with OnOne Toners – Light Mocha. It has a nice warm quality to it that counterbalances the cold of the sky and snow.

Grand Canyon

OnOne Toners – Light Mocha

The other one I liked was this Black and White, made with Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 – 034 Yellowed 2. It gives good contrast and shows the snow well, and the frame makes the image look like an old Polaroid image.

Grand Canyon

Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 – 034 Yellowed 2

There were other presets that I liked, but these were my favorites.

Grab some of your old photographs that are flat, a little out of focus or have some other problem, and see what magic you can create with presets. You’ll find that it’s fun, and using presets may spark your imagination into creating a whole series of images.

Have Fun,
Jeff

April 1, 2016
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Comments Off on April Wallpaper Is Ready

April Wallpaper Is Ready

Hi Everyone,

This old house in Jerome has been completely renovated. The new house looks great, but it doesn’t have any of the character of this old beauty.

Old buildings like this keep disappearing in two ways. Either they are in a ghost town, and nature reclaims them, or they are in a town with people, and they are torn down or renovated. Once buildings like this are gone, they are gone forever. I would imagine that in Jerome, almost all the old homes and buildings will be gone within ten years. Be sure to visit Jerome and similar places before these structures disappear into the pages of history.

Get your wallpaper here http://www.jeffcolburn.com/free-wallpaper

Have Fun,
Jeff

Wallpaper-2016-04

February 24, 2016
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Comments Off on Film Photography, Give It A Shot

Film Photography, Give It A Shot

Are you thinking of giving film photography a try? There are a few things you should know before running out the door to expose your first roll of film.

Old-timers, like me, who started out with film, could pick up a film camera and start shooting with no problem. But what if you’ve never used a film camera before? It’s pretty easy, but you do need to know your photography. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • There’s no chimping. You need to have a complete command of exposure, composition and more to create a great shot, with no chimping or immediate viewing of an image.
  • You won’t know if your exposure and focus are correct until the film is processed.
  • The old cameras had a lot of metal, so they are heavy. But that made them more stable. I had no problem with mine hand-holding at 1/4 second, and getting razor sharp images. And, except for time exposures, I never used a tripod outside. I only used a tripod in the studio when doing tabletop projects.

If you’re ready to try your hand at film, you can pick up a used camera and lenses pretty cheaply. Pawn shops and camera stores often carry them, as well as online sellers. Personally, I would want to see the camera in person, and run a roll of film through it before purchase. That way, you can be sure everything works, and there are no light leaks.

The following cameras are pretty tough and last a long time. Canon (EOS-1v, Rebel Ti), Nikon (FM10, F6), Pentax (AF PZ-1P, MX and LX series) and Minolta (Maxxums). And the lenses you use on your digital camera will probably fit on these. That is, Nikon lens on a Nikon film camera, etc.

You also want to make sure you can still purchase the meter battery. Usually, all you need is a button battery to run the light meter and it will probably last for at least a year. If you get an old camera with no light meter, you can use a hand-held light meter. And if the camera’s meter battery dies, you can still use all the features of the camera, except for the meter. Mechanical cameras have their advantages.

When it comes to film, you have three choices, black and white print, color print and color slide.

  • C-41 color print film offers good exposure latitude, and great color and grain characteristics. Many drug and big box stores can develop this film, as well as professional labs.
  • Black and white print film can be easily processed at home with nothing more than a developing tank, film washer, chemicals and a coat hanger and clothes pin to hang it up to dry. If you want to get a little more professional, get a film chamois, negative squeegee and Kodak Photo-Flo. These items help you prevent or deal with water spots on negatives. I used to process all my black and white film in an upstairs bathroom, and printed in a spare bedroom where I converted the closet to hold my enlarger and chemical trays for prints.
  • E6 Color negative film can be processed at home if you want, or most places that work with C-41 can process this film.

Should you get professional or amateur film? Yes, there are two levels of film. The main difference is that pro film is sold closer to its expiration date. As film approaches its expiration date, it “cures” and when it’s “ripe,” or near its expiration date, offers the best color quality. Pro film usually has less contrast and better color rendition than non-pro film.

Another great thing about film is its permanence. File formats change; future software may not be able to read your current image files. And RAW file formats are different with every camera and camera software upgrade. But with film, I can print an image I took yesterday, or an image I took 50 years ago, using the same equipment and chemicals for both. Don’t let your images become part of the looming Digital Dark Ages. http://petapixel.com/2015/02/17/print-your-photos-or-risk-losing-them-to-the-digital-dark-age-internet-pioneer-warns/

Shooting film is like having Christmas presents all year long. The joy and excitement of opening a box of slides, placing them on a light table and seeing the colors jump out at you like a hand full of jewels is hard to beat. Or placing strips of color or black and white film on a light table and slowly examining them with a loupe. You’re never 100% sure what you have until you see the film/slides, and it’s pure pleasure. One of my favorite things to do is to watch a black and white print appear on the paper as I move it around in the developer tray. It’s magical, and brings a whole new dimension to photography that’s not possible with digital.

Have Fun,
Jeff

February 4, 2016
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Comments Off on Film Is NOT The “F” Word

Film Is NOT The “F” Word

Contrary to popular belief, 35mm film photography never went away. And it’s making a sizeable comeback.

Two years ago, a professional photographer I know in Australia, Chris Putnam, told me that professional photographers there were getting rid of their digital cameras in droves, and going back to film.

I also have several photography friends who have purchased a used 35mm film camera to see what it’s like, and to have photographs with that “film” look.

Why use film?

  • The look. Film gives a completely different, and more organic, look than digital, which many people prefer. That’s why there are so many presets on cameras and photo processing software that try to duplicate the look of film.
  • Slower pace. Film makes you shoot more deliberately, giving you time to work on composition and lighting, and allows the photographer to really look at what they’re shooting. Getting it right in the camera is always the best way. With only 24 or 36 exposures per roll, “Run and Gun” is out of the question.
  • No computer time, until you digitize them. If you digitize them at all. Imagine how much more time you would have in your life if you didn’t need to process your images.
  • Improves your photography skills. Most of what you shoot can’t be reshot a week later when you see your processed film. So you MUST get it right the first time, and every time.
  • Better dynamic range. It can take up to three bracketed RAW files to achieve the same tonal range as film.

Film cameras, old and new, are less expensive than low end DSLR cameras, and they last longer. Granted, over the past 35 years prices have increased, but you can still buy a brand new Nikon FM10 35mm SLR film camera with 35-70mm lens for $519. Used film cameras will cost even less. The Canon EOS Rebel T5 DSLR camera with an 18-55mm Lens is $550.

Usually, you can’t just shoot film if you’re working with commercial clients. You have to digitize it somewhere in your workflow. But film scanners have become pretty cheap, and they do a good job. You can also go higher end, and buy a $700 unit like mine, the Epson Perfection V800 Photo Scanner. And, of course, you can buy scanners that are even more expensive.

Don’t forget that many film processing places will scan your images for you. However, my experience has been that their scans aren’t that great. There are scanning services and pro labs that do a good job. There are also services that are designed to scan all of your family photos, like www.ScanMyPhotos.com

If you’re only using your film for prints, you don’t need a scanner, computer or any other technology besides an enlarger. And if you use a lab to do your printing, you don’t even need the enlarger.

Film is still viable in the digital age. It’s not better or worse than digital, just different. Film is a tool to bring your imagination into reality. Choose the proper tool for the job, and go make some magic.

January 3, 2016
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Comments Off on January Computer Wallpaper Is Ready

January Computer Wallpaper Is Ready

Get your free computer wallpaper for January. I found these pictographs while hiking in the Flagstaff area. There were also symbols for water, as this marked a small spring, and a hand print. It’s a pretty amazing find. http://www.jeffcolburn.com/free-wallpaper/
 
Have Fun,
Jeff
Wallpaper-2016-01

December 17, 2015
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Comments Off on Jeff’s Arizona Adventures – The Petrified Forest and Painted Desert – Part 2 of 2

Jeff’s Arizona Adventures – The Petrified Forest and Painted Desert – Part 2 of 2

In the summer it can easily be 90-100 degrees fahrenheit (32-38 celsius), if not hotter, and there is almost no shade. We were there at the end of September, and it was still close to 90 degrees fahrenheit (32 celsius). Even an easy trail in this heat can cause problems for some people. Bring plenty of drinking water, no matter what time of year you will be there.

Petrified Forest0114

For the more adventurous, you can do backcountry day-hikes and overnight hikes in the wilderness area. These hikes require a permit, which is free.

As you move farther north in the park you will see less petrified wood, and more of the colors of the Painted Desert.

Your first good look at these colors will be at the “Tepees.” There’s a pullout that you can use here to take some photographs. There are other pullouts in the Painted Desert that provide wide vistas for you to enjoy too.

Tepees in the Painted Desert.

Tepees in the Painted Desert.

As you go through the park, there are several spots I suggest you visit.

  • Puerco Pueblo – This Native American site has the foundations of several rooms of the pueblo, which is over 600 years old. There are also petroglyphs here.
  • Newspaper Rock – Here you will see over 650 petroglyphs on the sides of boulders. Free spotting scopes are available at the site.

Petrified Forest0206

  • Blue Mesa – Hiking here will let you experience hiking in the badlands.
  • Jasper Forest – This area has one of the largest accumulations of petrified wood in the entire park.
  • Crystal Forest – Some of the petrified wood here has sections that are covered in quartz crystals.
  • Long Logs – This trail has, yes, long petrified logs.
  • Giant Logs – Is a trail with, yes, giant logs.

If you want to go on all the trails, I would suggest giving yourself at least two days to take it all in.

Petrified Forest0245

The Petrified Forest National Park gives visitors the chance to walk through various historical periods, and to see the remains of these times. We saw prehistoric petrified logs, Native American petroglyphs and buildings that settlers from the Wild West made out of pieces of petrified wood. You will find yourself walking through millions of years of Earth’s, and the West’s, history. It’s really an amazing place and well worth a visit.

Have Fun,
Jeff