Dec 092011

I took advantage of Adobe’s generous Black Friday deal and upgraded to Photoshop CS5 I was perfectly happy with Photoshop CS3 until I heard about an announcement from Adobe that it was ceasing its upgrade policy when CS6 comes into existence and intends to follow a monthly subscription approach regarding future upgrades.

Moving to CS5 also meant I had to upgrade my Mac OSX.

In terms of delivery, both orders were placed on the same day, Adobe trounced Apple. I opted for ground shipping to keep costs down and the CS5 upgrade arrived four days before the Mac OSX. Apple’s effort was not helped by the United States Postal Service who contrived to deliver it initially to the wrong address. Technically, Adobe’s winning margin was only three days.

It took most of Wednesday to install the OSX. The upgrade of the OSX was straightforward enough, it was updating the myriad of other applications on my Mac Pro, notably music software, which took time.

Yesterday, it was the turn of CS5. Again it took most of the day, largely due to adjusting preferences and the like, particularly getting the appearance of Adobe Bridge CS5to resemble the CS3 version.

The emphasis these days seems to be to make Bridge resemble a lightbox or virtual contact sheet from which to make selections of the best images.

I shoot with manual lenses and it is important for me to select not only the best shots but also those that are spot on in terms of focus. To this end, I much prefer the file strip of RAW images running down the right-hand side of the Bridge window.

The new features in Photoshop CS5 are impressive. The technology employed is simply amazing and I doff my cap to the computer wizards who create this software.

Straightening a horizon takes seconds as opposed to the old method of messing about with a crop box and aligning it to the horizon.

Content aware fill is an amazing tool and will result in tidier images from me in the future.

Today, I tried my usual workflow and was proceeding apace until I hit my one major disappointment. The original version of Silver Efex Pro will not work in Photoshop CS5 if the more efficient 64-bit architecture of latter is used, which it is by default

In order to use Silver Efex Pro, I would have to go back to 32-bit architecture. A bit of research on Google found a way, rather convoluted and time consuming, to still use the older version of Silver Efex Pro. It entails quitting CS5, clicking on the folder and selecting Info. This action brings up a dialogue box where 32-bit can be selected. Sure enough, Silver Efex Pro duly appeared but when the processing was done I needed to repeat those initial steps to get back to 64-bit.

The only work around I can think of is to process all my images from a shoot as colour files and then have a session on the computer where I convert them all to B&W images in Silver Efex Pro.

It looks like an upgrade to Silver Efex Pro 2 is on the cards.

Reading the box in which Silver Efex Pro came did reveal this shortfall. But who reads boxes?

Faced by this setback, I decided to see what Photoshop CS5 offered in terms of B&W conversion and was quite impressed by the results. I had to work on the image a little longer than I would in Silver Efex Pro but the result was pleasing, as can be seen below.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

To compare with Silver Efex Pro, I did switch to 32-bit in CS5. The conversion and adjustments were a lot quicker and I had greater control, particularly in lightening the foreground In Silver Efex Pro.Please help support this site by clicking on the Amazon link on this page if you are shopping for an item.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Putting both images side by side in Bridge CS5 Preview, I found myself liking the Photoshop CS5 version better than the one produced by Silver Efex Pro.

The two images had minimal processing in PhotoshopCS5, as a test exercise I was more interested in the B&W conversion.

I would be interested hear from others as to which version they prefer.

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Jul 012011

One of the greatest difficulties I face as a photographer is deciding whether to present an image in colour or black & white when the subject does instantly lend itself to one or the other.

All my images are shot in colour as a matter of course. I well remember chief photographer John Fairclough, on the weekly newspaper I worked on in the 1980s, saying that by shooting in colour, the shot could always be printed in the newspaper as black & white but the reverse was obviously not true.

In those days all news photographs appeared in the newspaper as black & white images. Colour was only used for the occasional fashion feature or a Royal visit.

I think my love of b&w photography stems from growing up with b&w images in newspapers, as well as b&w television. Sometimes I get a surprise on the Turner Classic Movie channel when I discover that an old movie I saw back in the 1970s, and which I automatically assumed was shot in b&w because of its vintage, was in actual fact shot in colour.

I also like working with an image in black & white. With Silver Efex Pro, and the various controls it offers, I can play about with an image, tweaking various parameters to get a black & white image just how I like it.

A good example of the kind of conundrum I often face arose from the trip to Fernandina Beach last weekend.

This shot of the man silhouetted on the jetty and the view across the St Marys River under a marvellous evening sky has an instant appeal in colour.

©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

But when the image is converted to b&w in Silver Efex Pro, it takes on a totally different quality and one that I think is more personal.

©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Each version has its own merits and that is where the difficulty arises, deciding whether one outweighs the other sufficiently enough to deseerve its inclusion in a gallery. I suppose an easy way out would be to present both images, as I have done here, and let the viewer decide.

But I feel it is my role as the photographer to decide. In presenting both versions, I would simply be passing the buck at best, lacking in conviction with regard to my artistic vision at worst.

When making choices from a wide selection, be it cameras, cars or whatever, I can usually narrow my choice down to two, leaving me with some agonizing soul searching as to which one I choose.

Now can you understand why I have such difficulty sometimes in choosing between b&w and colour, the choice is already down to two to begin with.

I often think my indecision over making a choice from two things comes down to being a Gemini.

That’s my excuse and I am sticking with it.

Leave a comment to say whether you prefer the b&w or colour version. I would welcome the feedback.

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May 042011

Grocery shopping is a joint venture with my wife until we reach the frozen food display cabinets. At this point, I relinquish command of the shopping cart and head over to the magazine stand and browse the photography magazines.

Leafing through Popular Photography, I came across an article on how to create a fake reflection. The original photograph showed a lake whose waters were brown and choppy, as a result the clouds overhead were not reflected. Photoshop came to the rescue, although I don’t know if rescue is the right word because the final image was, in my opinion, a gross distortion of the original. In other words, a lie, a complete fabrication.

I am old-fashioned enough to believe that a photograph should present the truth. In these days of Photoshop, the absolute truth is often a rarity. I am guilty as the next photographer in that I sometimes clean an image up — take out a branch of a tree at the edge of the frame or make a cigarette butt in the foreground disappear.

My particular ethos is that it is all right to extract items from an image in the interest of producing a better photograph but to add something to a photograph that was not present when the shot was captured is beyond the pale.

It could be argued that I forfeit any claims to be an artist with that statement. But remember my background is journalism, where accuracy and the truth are supposed to count for something. And my style of photography owes much to the genre of reportage. I photograph what I see and how I find it.

In the case of the example shot in Popular Photography, I would have returned another day when the conditions would produce a reflection of the clouds in the lake. I would never dream of thinking to myself, “Oh I can add a reflection in Photoshop.” That is taking image manipulation too far for my taste.

The most extreme image manipulation I undertake is to convert the RAW colour image to B&W in Silver Efex Pro. It was a review of Silver Efex Pro 2 that made me pick up Popular Photography in the first place. The upgrade is now on my wish list but Nik Software recommends 4 GB of RAM for version 2, although it will work with the 2 GB of RAM I have on my Mac Pro. A few weeks back I checked the RAM usage and it gets perilously close to the limit. More RAM may not be such a bad idea but it will be an additional expense.

Photoshop can also rescue images where the exposure is somewhat awry — blown highlights or an area underexposed. I know we all try to get it right in the camera but none of us is perfect.

Last week, I took a shot of a derelict school building with Spanish moss in the foreground. The combination of the two made for an eerie atmosphere. However there was a small area of sky that was way overexposed. Small sensor cameras such as the Ricoh GRD III struggle to cope with a large dynamic range. Working on the principle of waste not want not, I set about seeing if I could rescue the image.

My normal processing — saturation, shadows & highlights, levels and sharpening — produced an unsatisfactory outcome.

©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

In my salvage attemtpt, the first port of call in Photoshop was Curves. I selected the Cross Process option and it worked a treat turning that area of sky into a surreal shade of magenta.

©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Me being me I did a B&W conversion using Silver Efex Pro.

©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

I then hit on the idea of using the crossed processed image as my starting point for a B&W conversion in Silver Efex Pro. I wasn’t quite sure what I would end up with but much to my surprise it was something that held a certain amount of appeal. In fact, I like it better than the cross processed version.

©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Now whether I would use this kind of post-processing on a correctly exposed image is another question. I very much doubt it given my ethos on photography. But it was a fun thing to do with this particular shot and gave me something that passes muster.

I would welcome comments not only on the treatment of this shot — does it work and have merit or is it just an over indulgence — but also on the whole business of manipulating images with Photoshop and if people have links to their examples all the better.

Feb 172011

From the Ricoh B&W gallery, you all know that I am a big fan of the high contrast B&W mode of the Ricoh GRD III. But I have this strange sense that in some way I am kind of cheating by letting the camera produce this B&W effect.

I have been trying to see if I can recreate the same effect in my B&W conversions from RAW using Silver Efex Pro. I took two versions of the same shot yesterday — one in RAW and one using the high contrast B&W mode. The Silver Efex Pro conversion is on the left.

©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

On this occasion, I seem to have replicated the in-camera high contrast B&W mode pretty well.

Of course, it could have been beginner’s luck but today I took this shot of fallen leaves, using similar settings in Silver Efex Pro to the ones used in the conversion above. Again, I was pleased with the result.

©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.