Abstract Series LT919-A 6 — You Say You Want an Evolution

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Abstract / California / Impressionism / Inspiration / Photo Log / Photography

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September 7, 2019 — Lake Tahoe. f/16, 4 seconds, ISO 64. Pan to the left.

This is the longest uninterrupted series I’ve done so far on this blog. Your comments have been interesting, informative, and gratifying. A number of people have asked in comments, email, and in person, to see a “before” image.

I don’t usually like to discuss technique because I think it’s potentially limiting: I don’t want it to come off as “do it this way.” So if this interests you, please look at it as “Here’s how I happened to go about it this time. If you try something like this, your process and mileage may vary.” The key thing is, all of this is experimental and if/when I come back to these images for another try, I’ll almost certainly do something different.

Here’s what came out of the camera: 14-bit NEF (Nikon RAW) file. What you see is what I got:

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First step was to straighten the horizon — because what good is a horizon shot with an off-kilter horizon?* I also used a healing tool to remove sensor spots because — shame on me — I didn’t clean my sensor before going out to shoot. By the way, all of these steps were done in DxO PhotoLab, up till the very last step which was done in Photoshop. DxO PhotoLab is similar in function to LightRoom. I’ve been using it for years; I’m familiar with it and I like it.

I noticed some interesting texture on the horizon, so I tried bringing it out by increasing Microcontrast. (Microcontrast is similar in function to Clarity in LightRoom and Adobe Camera Raw.) It brought out the texture just fine. It also shouted out some already visible artifacts of boats that were anchored in the water and I don’t want no stinkin’ boats in my image! You’ll see them as darker streaks if you look at the middle of the image, left of center:

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At this point I realized that this would be a good companion piece — at least in concept — to the image in my last post,** and that bringing the Microcontrast down would soften the overall image and blur the boats out.

Still in keeping with the last post’s image, I brought the exposure up 1.3 stops to make it delicately high-key. At the same time, I reduced both vibrancy and saturation by 20% each to be left with just a hint of color. I also applied very subtle graduated filters to the top and bottom and slightly reduced the exposure of each to better frame the horizon itself. As a last step I over-sharpened the overall image (unsharp mask) to emphasize the light streak and to recover just a little bit of texture for interest:

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Finally I exported the image from DxO as a 16-bit tiff and brought it into Photoshop to give it a 16×9 crop, reduce the image size for the blog, and output it as 8-bit sRGB jpg. And Bob’s your uncle:

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(Nikon D850, Tamron SP 24–70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 2.3; Final editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

For more abstracts, go to www.amagaphoto.com.

* In many of these images, the horizon is ambiguous. What exactly is the horizon? In this case I used the light streak as a guide.

** They were exposed only a minute apart.

Abstract Series LT919-A 5 — Nonobvious

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Abstract / California / Landscape / Photo Log / Photography / Sunset

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September 7, 2019 — Lake Tahoe. Earlier in the evening. f/16, 3 seconds, ISO 64. Pan to the left.

In the past few days, many words on the subject of going in the nonobvious direction have passed through my eyes. Aside from being interesting advice for life, photographically this applies to both the initial creation of the image — click — and to the post-processing of the image.

A recurring theme for me has been playing with how far can I take something away from fine definition and still retain and enhance the essence of what is there. Or what I see is there.

Abstract comes from Latin abstractus “drawn away,” past participle of abstrahere “to drag away, detach, pull away, divert.”

Intentional camera movement already draws away from a faithful representation of what occurred in nature. It does this literally: you pull the camera away from it. Then what’s left? Form, light, color. And then?

Draw further way. There is richness in the nonobvious.

(Nikon D850, Tamron SP 24–70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 2.3; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

For more abstracts, go to www.amagaphoto.com.

PS: WordPress’s color rendition might alter the delicacy of my end result. I hope not. In any case, each image in this series wants to be eight feet wide on a wall.

PPS: Never did think of Monet. Nor Turner. Nor Rothko. Not once.

Abstract Series LT919-A 4 — Embraceable Lights

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Abstract / California / Impressionism / Inspiration / Photo Log / Photography

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September 7, 2019 — Lake Tahoe. Getting even later. Getting even darker. Still at f/10. Now 15 seconds at ISO 64. Pan to the left and back to the right with a twist.

Luke’s mentor advised him to use the Force. My mentors have advised me to embrace and use the conditions before me.

There were lights before me.

(Nikon D850, Tamron SP 24–70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 2.3; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

For more abstracts, go to www.amagaphoto.com.

Abstract Series LT919-A 3

comments 22
Abstract / California / Impressionism / Landscape / Photo Log / Photography

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September 7, 2019 — Lake Tahoe. Getting later. Getting darker. I opened up to f/10 to let in a little more light, and let it go for 10 seconds at ISO 64. Click. Slow pan to the left and back to the right. Clack.

In dealing with abstracts, all of the hard-and-fast “rules” go out the window. The only consideration left in post-processing is “what do I want to show?” Something in the image suggests a direction and I explore it. Other things reveal themselves along the way. The paths often branch out, inviting more exploration. I can save out as many options as I want. They’re all equally valid.

But in the end, one stands out.

(Nikon D850, Tamron SP 24–70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 2.3; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

For more abstracts, go to www.amagaphoto.com.

Abstract Series LT919-A 2

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Abstract / California / Impressionism / Inspiration / Photo Log / Photography

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September 7, 2019 — Lake Tahoe. Second evening. Five second exposure, f/16, ISO 64. Yesterday’s post was almost exactly what came out of the camera. A bit of color optimization, removing a tiny bit of extraneous light on the left, and a 16×9 crop. That was it.

Today’s image, on the other hand, received extensive tweaking, first in DxO PhotoLab and then in Photoshop. Most of the work went into bringing out the subtle color and tone gradations along the darker horizon band while balancing on the too much/too little tightrope. And after all that, it still looks very much like what came out of the camera.

I’ve been devouring Bruce Percy’s brand new e-book, The Creative Process. I unabashedly acknowledge that he is an influence, as are many others — with JMW Turner at the top of the list.

There are more coming. I do appreciate your comments. They inform the process more than you may know.

(Nikon D850, Tamron SP 24–70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 2.3; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

For more abstracts, go to www.amagaphoto.com.

Abstract Series LT919-A 1

comments 21
Abstract / California / Photo Log / Photography

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September 6, 2019 — Lake Tahoe. The sun was down and the conditions were perfect for some ICM (Intentional Camera Movement) work looking across and around the lake. As the evening progressed, the shutter speeds declined. This one was made towards the end of the first night of spin: f/16 @ 8 seconds, ISO 64.

This series is a test of my ruthlessness as an editor/curator. More to come.

(Nikon D850, Tamron SP 24–70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 2.3; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

For more abstracts, go to www.amagaphoto.com.

Palate Cleanser

comments 27
Abstract / California / Impressionism / Photo Log / Photography

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May 8, 2015. Devil’s Slide, near Pacifica, California. For Chewy’s Birthday walk, we settled on two places: Land’s End in San Francisco and Devil’s slide. Chewy always loved the sea breeze.

Highway 1 had years prior been routed through a tunnel at Devil’s Slide (that portion having lived up to its name far too often), leaving the old Highway 1 free to be used as a park with long stretches for Chewy to run and unobstructed views of the horizon for me and Mr. Nikon to soak up.

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The boy had a great run — you can see him comin’ to papa — while the horizon had something special for me. Later in Photoshop, I had something special for it, too. As I worked away, Chewy lay next to me dreaming of the sea breeze blowing through his hair.

This post is a break before we go deep into AbstractLand. It might be a bit of a clue as to what’s to come. Sort of.

(Nikon D750; Nikon 28-300 f/3.5-5.6G Zoom. RAW processing in DxO Pro; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

For more Seascape Horizons, see www.amagaphoto.com

Switzerland, August 6 One More Time

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Impressionism / Inspiration / Landscape / Photo Log / Photography / Switzerland

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August 6, 2019; Vevey, Switzerland. I promised another shot from this dizzying, dazzling, drenching day and here it is. Looking south from Vevey, twenty-three minutes after the first shot posted on August 7, facing the same direction. As the weather speculators are fond of saying, “rapidly changing conditions.”

Quite a few pixels had their lives subtly but permanently altered on this one — all for a good cause.

 (Canon G7X II. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 2.3, Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

East Sussex, August 25: Haven Brow — Dark Motion on a Sunny Day

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Abstract / Impressionism / Inspiration / Photography / Seascapes

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August 25, 2019; Cuckmere Haven, The Seven Sisters, East Sussex. This is a follow-on to yesterday’s post. The day was such that we came to be standing quite happily knee-deep in the English Channel doing ICM (Intentional Camera Movement) shots of the water (yesterday) and the cliff named Haven Brow, which you see a vestige of above. Both shots are processed to a fare-thee-well — and done so with wild abandon equal to the shot iteslf, I might add.

(Nikon D850, Tamron SP 24–70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 2.3; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

For more abstracts, go to www.amagaphoto.com.

Switzerland, August 6 Revisited

comments 39
Impressionism / Landscape / Photo Log / Photography / Switzerland

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August 6, 2019; Vevey, Switzerland. While archiving shots from Europe, I came across this gem. It harkens back to the August 7 post. It was taken about two hours before the blue one near the bottom of that post. It pays to go back over old shoots: I’m still discovering work from that trip. There are more images of this magic two and a half hours and you may well see some in the future.

One of my all-time favorite color combinations is a green leaf against a grey sky. Subtle though it may be, this one does it with water. Unfortunately, WordPress seems to dull colors, so the green is not so apparent in this rendition.

I was thinking of JMW Turner during post-processing.

 (Canon G7X II. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 2.3, Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

East Sussex, August 25: Beachy Head Three Minutes Earlier

comments 27
Impressionism / Inspiration / Photo Log / Photography / Sunset

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August 25, 2019; Beachy Head, The Seven Sisters, East Sussex. How calm is the blue hour?

This calm.

This seascape was shot three minutes (to the second) before the lighthouse image in the last post.

(Nikon D850, Tamron SP 24–70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 2.3; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

For more seascape horizons, go to www.amagaphoto.com.

East Sussex, August 25: Beachy Head Lighthouse

comments 39
Photo Log / Photography / Sunset

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August 25, 2019; Beachy Head, The Seven Sisters, East Sussex. Our trip started with a ten-day workshop with Oliver Klink and ended with a one-day workshop with Rachael Talibart. Both have been judged Black and White Photographer of the Year by globally respected publications. Both have deep and diverse backgrounds. Both are superb mentors. Both are wonderful human beings. Our cup runneth over.

We knew at the outset that we weren’t going to get anything even remotely close to Rachael’s Sirens. For that you need storms and storms come in the winter. But maybe something serene…

That wasn’t going to be easy. Not on the Sunday before UK’s August Bank Holiday. Not in a heatwave where the temperature was 88 F (31 C) on the coast. I would guess that half the population of England was on the beaches under the Seven Sisters trying to escape the heat that day. (I tend to exaggerate, but the beaches were the most crowded Rachael has ever seen, and she’s lived on or near the south coast of England all her life.)

Things calmed down at blue hour, as they often do.

(Nikon D850, Tamron SP 24–70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 2.3; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

PS. This is my 100th blog post. Thanks to all who have followed, liked, and commented. More to come…

Portugal, August 17: Atlantic Horizon Looking West

comments 19
Photo Log / Photography / Portugal / Seascapes

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August 17, 2019; Caplela de Nossa Senhora de Peninha, Parque Natural de Sintra-Cascais. How could I be near a coastline and not do a horizon shot? The sea called and I answered.

The unusual thing for me was looking west over the Atlantic. But not that unusual, because the sea, sun, clouds, and fog bank worked the same here as they do on the northern Sonoma County coast in California, which shares the same latitude.

The calm is the same too. Of course it is.

(Nikon D850, Tamron SP 24–70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 2.3; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

For more horizons, go to www.amagaphoto.com.

Estoril, Portugal, August 18: Six Minutes Later

comments 29
Impressionism / Landscape / Monochrome / Photo Log / Photography / Portugal

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August 18, 2019; Estoril, Portugal. Just starting the third cup of coffee and another pastel de nata. Back to the conversation. I had put the camera away.

Then I looked up and got it out again.

(Check yesterday’s post to see how this started.)

(Nikon D500, Tamron 100-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 2.3; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)