Musings with Camera in Hand

Belinda Greb – The Photographic Journey

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To Enhance or Not: Part I – Using textures and other exposures

Once again, I missed posting last week. I was out swimming and taking a couple of hikes on my days off, and unfortunately, the time got away from me.

Looking back on the work I did in the last couple of weeks, I thought I’d talk about when I decide to enhance a photo in terms of bringing in another exposure or adding a texture or doing something more drastic than just my normal routine of post processing.

I might come away with as little as 10 or as many as 50 images from a single shoot. If I’m shooting something that is alive and moving. as opposed to a landscape, I often have no idea until I get home and put it on my big screen which photo will turn out the best.  My camera does have a screen and I can magnify it, but I often don’t take the time in the field. It’s just a lot more comfortable and precise evaluating the photo when I can see all of it, and zoom in and out on different sections more rapidly.

I don’t yet have a macro, so when I take a photograph of a butterfly or dragonfly, there is usually going to be some cropping involved.  Using my telephoto, a Canon EF 100-400 mm 4.5-5.6, I generally am at least 5-6 feet from my subject just to be able to focus with the lens and often more if I don’t want to disturb the creature!

I usually go through all the photos very rapidly with the slide slow in Bridge, first making them all with 1 star, and then just getting rid of the “no point in keeping this” ones by marking the picture as 0 stars.  Then I go through a second time and up the stars on particular photos.  If I have a series of one butterfly, I might just look at those together – flipping through them to see which one is sharper, what the position was, what is the background looking like.

Certain ones, I just know I want to do something with it.  The subject is incredible, but the background just doesn’t complement it at all or is too distracting.

This shot, after being cropped, just had a mottled brown and green blurred background. I first added a blend, and worked with layers to just either mask out the background either totally or partially. Then I added one or more layers, again workings with masks to keep the detail on the subject to some extent.  I generally like to keep the subject uncluttered by any additional textures or exposures I bring in, except perhaps along the outside perimeters. But I’ve seen some beautiful work where the textures are incorporated into the subjects or just overlaid.  It’s a matter of preference.

In this photograph, I used two textures and a blend. One texture was from Leanne Cole’s blog where she generously allowed her viewers to download some low res texture files she had created. She is a wonderful photographer and has a great blog and here is the link to one I’m referring to:  The other texture I used was a photograph of a rusted water culvert I encountered on a hike.  I have a file full of textures, like moss, lichen, bark, rocks, crumpled paper, etc.

In the second photograph I liked the background colors, but I wanted to find a way of distinguishing the focal point of the photograph, a butterfly on a bloom, from the soft lovely colors of the background.  I ended up bringing in another photograph I had taken of the ripples of the river’s surface, to create a lovely effect.

This last photograph, today,  was one I did this week. The photograph shows a butterfly and a couple of bees on a wildflower. The background was very dark, as the metering was on the flower and butterfly.  Also, although the flower and bee were quite sharp, the butterfly had been a bit sharper in other photos, but in those, you didn’t get as clear a view. So this was going to be a photo I couldn’t bear to part with, yet it definitely wasn’t picture perfect.
This was the most complicated process of the three. I first got the photo into the best shape I could, added a blend as with the first photo, then I brought in another photo I had taken that day that had some wildflowers and added them using masks and blending options. I merged the layers as a copy, and then used a couple artistic effects, again using masks to paint them in and out as I wanted. Then I added a texture.  So this really is more digital art than photograph.

I will be going on vacation next week, so unsure if I will post, but in Part II, I want to show a composite I pulled together from 3 photographs, and also discuss when I choose not to enhance.  Thanks for visiting and be sure to visit Leanne Cole’s site (link above). I don’t get to read all her posts (she posts daily), but it’s a great blog!