AT JP BRANDANO PHOTOGRAPHY  WE SPECIALIZE IN TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY.  FOLLOW US AS WE TAKE YOU WITH WORDS AND PICTURES TO EXCITING PLACES IN OUR HOME STATE OF FLORIDA, NORTH AMERICA AND EUROPE

MY POST PROCESSING TECHNIQUE --PURISTS BEWARE !!!

December 02, 2014  •  1 Comment

 

“Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships.”

 

“There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.

If I said these words to many people, including (the 'PURIST Photographers'), they would say I was cheating, that my images were not 'honest'. They might have that opinion of me BUT I didn't say these words. The great Ansel Adams, the man most photographers consider the best landscape photographer of all time, did say them. Ansel is considered by most photography scholars to be a great photographer and a Master Printer. He would spend the whole day in the darkroom working on a single image. He would dodge and burn all his prints and would use an enlarger to crop around the edges of his prints. Am I saying that I feel any image manipulation is alright? Nope, at least not for me. I will extract something out of my images but would not, as an example, add a elephant to a beautiful river scene. Do I object anyone else doing that? Yes, unless they tell the viewer upfront. Is this me doing one thing but saying another? I do not think so. You may but that's okay.

RAW shooters: The RAW format is actually what your camera sees. It creates a big file with all the required raw information, untouched, and delivers it to you for your processing pleasure. I would guess that almost all professional photographers shoot in RAW.

A RAW image is seriously an ugly image. The colors are bland and lack contrast and saturation.

A RAW image is equivalent to a negative. It needs to be processed to make the true picture appear. The difference is that the darkroom has been replaced by a software on a computer. It takes less space and does the same thing without the chemical fumes.

I will now try and walk you through my Post Processing Steps for one image. It could and most likely would change for another image.

The picture above is a RAW file that I have imported into Lightroom 5. You can see it is not a very attractive image.

This next picture, made from a Raw file, has been processed it in Lightroom's Develop module. You can see some of the adjustments I have made in the right panel and also on the left in the history section. I am not going over each adjustment individually because quite frankly, it wouldn't be much help to you unless you were working on this same image. You can see that I adjusted almost every slider in the basic section on the right including cropping to a 8X10 size image. By doing so, I eliminated the twig in the bottom of the picture (not the only way I could have taken it out). In the history section, you can see that I adjusted the Camera Profile Section. I always adjust that section for every image.

To get a more JPEG-like starting place for your raw image, here's what to do; Go to the develop module and scroll down to the Camera Calibration panel. There's a Profile pop-up menu near the top of this panel where you'll find a number of profiles based on your camera's make and model (It reads the image file's embedded EXIF data to find this). Not all camera brands or models are supported but most recent Nikon and Canon DSLRs are along with some Pentax, Sony, Olympus, Leica and Kodak models. (Lightroom is adding more each year) These profiles mimic camera profiles you could have applied in-camera (but are ignored when you shoot in RAW). The default profile is Adobe Standard which looks pretty average, if you ask me. (THIS LAST PARAGRAPH IS TAKEN FROM SCOTT KELBY's LIGHTROOM 4 BOOK) Scott's books are a must read for new Lightroom users, in my opinion)

I use one of the profiles in this image called the Camera Landscape profile. When I am photographing nature or landscapes, I always use this profile. Try it once and I think you will make it a 'must do' adjustment. You can see a major improvement in the image already but I am not through.

By the way, a little suggestion from me when your using LR 4 or 5. The Noise Reduction Section is fantastic. I no longer use a third party program to reduce noise because that's how good it is. The Sharpening Section though really improved over previous editions of LR is not my first choice for most images. I feel that Photoshop's Smart Sharpening is far superior.

If you look in the basic section, you can see a Highlight slider and a Shadow slider which is basically a way to dodge or burn your images. Ansel would have loved these sliders, to a point. The sliders Dodge and Burn globally, which means they address the whole image not just a part. With some other tools in LR , PS and third party products, you can do spot adjustments. I'll mention one of these coming up. But now onto Photoshop, which I travel to by right clicking my mouse and picking export to Photoshop.

We are now in the Photoshop editor. I will extract some small things that bother me using a combination of the spot healing brush and content aware tool. In this image, it was some of the dark spots of dirt. From here, I will then export the image into a third party filter named Color Efex Pro 4 by Nik Filters (this is my go to digital filter).

The filter I use the most is the Tonal Contrast Filter which has four settings. The Fine Setting or Standard Setting are my usual choices depending on the image. The other filter that I use in almost every image is the Darken/Lighten Center filter. With this, I have more control over which small sections I want to burn or dodge. It's a great tool. I think Ansel would be using it today.

After I am finished in Nik, I travel back to PS where usually all I have left is sharpening in the Smart Sharpen Tool. In this Screen Shot, you can see my settings for this and most landscape or nature images. I am not saying this is the only setting or the best one. It's just mine.

At this point, I would move back to LR to do a final check on the image. If satisfied, I would export it to one of my external drives.

I would like to make a few final points. The title of this post includes the words 'MY Post Processing Steps'. In NO way am I stating that this is the best or the singular method and you need to follow from point to point. I am just saying it's my way and it's an answer to questions people have asked about how I post process and what tools I use.

If you follow my post, you may have noticed that I do not call my images, pictures. The reason for this is that I feel what comes out of the camera is indeed a picture. But it's not until I work on it, making it the best I can, that produces the final product. In my mind, then, it's an image!!


VIC'S ON THE RIVER RESTAURANT AND BAR, SAVANNAH GEORGIA

July 30, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

With our move down to Florida from New Hampshire, we have driven back and forth eight or nine times. On almost every trip, we have stayed in Savannah for at least one night and one of the reasons for our visits is Vic's On The River. Vic's a really great restaurant located on East Bay Street near City Hall with the entrance located on Factors Walk. There is also an entrance at 15 East River Street where you take the elevator up to the fourth floor where the main dining room is located.

What do we like about Vic's? Pretty much everything including the decor, the location on the banks of the Savannah River, delicious food with a southern attitude and great service. The bar is a wonderful place to either enjoy your meal or have a cocktail made by Angie. As an aside, you have to love a place that calls itself a bar not a lounge. 

The building was built in 1859 and houses more than just Vic's. There is a store and a hotel among other businesses.

The building's history is pretty interesting as described in this section on their web site.

 In 1858, John Stoddard had this building commissioned to be designed and built by the famous New York architect, John Norris. He was one of three major architects in Savannah at the time, along with William Jay and Charles B. Clusky. Some of John Norris’ Savannah works include the Andrew Low House, the Cotton Exchange, the Mercer House, and the Meldrim-Green House. Completed in 1859, this building was originally used as a warehouse and later housed Steven Shipping Company. The lower floors were known as John Stoddard’s Lower Range and the top floors as John Stoddard’s Upper Range.
    
During the War Between The States, General Sherman’s lesser officers used this building’s empty offices for housing and planning space. Our main dining room showcases a map that was hand-drawn by Union soldiers detailing Sherman’s march from Tennessee through Georgia. The map was originally found in 1901 during a renovation of the building. Workers were removing the old finish and noticed lines drawn on the wall. A small portion of the map was preserved, while the rest was covered due to damage and wear.

The upscale elegance of Vic's with the warm colored walls, the high ceilings and beautiful dark wood floors adds to a  truly lovely night. Plus the views of the river right outside their windows, with ships moving right by or below, is really fantastic.

To all this add a baby grand piano being played all night and you have a very romantic venue.

There is also an outdoor patio if you would like to eat there. To be honest most nights when we have been there, the heat and humidity made our decision to eat inside very easy.

 

Let's be honest. We do not eat at a restaurant because of the ambiance unless the food is its equal. At Vic's the food actually surpasses the ambiance. From the appetizers to the after dinner cocktails everything is a treat.

​My favorite appetizer is the BEST Fried Green Tomatoes I have ever eaten and I have eaten my share. They are served with a tomato chutney and goat cheese. (Does goat cheese ever NOT go with anything?) The beautiful presentation shows a lightly golden coating that is fried to perfection, not greasy or hard but just perfect. 

Phyllis had the baked oysters made with melted leeks, fennel and country ham plus a parmesan cheese granite's which she shared. It was simply delicious! The taste of the sea blends so well with the sweetness of the leeks and ham on your tongue. It was a really wonderful beginning to our meal.

A dinner salad was included and was really refreshing. Those corn bread croutons were a nice touch.

I had a glass of pinot grigio and Phyllis a glass of merlot. They have a great wine list with a good selection of wines by the glass.

Phyllis and I do not usually eat biscuits served in restaurants because of the high fat content. This night we forgot to tell the waiter not to bring them to our table, a big mistake. There they sat these three beautiful light clouds of heaven with a marmalade spread. We decided without speaking to just try a little taste of one. If you have been married as many years as we have you might know what that means. You do not speak about it but continue your conversation while breaking off a small piece and dipping it in the sweet marmalade. If you do not speak about it, somehow it is not so bad, plus you're only going to try a small piece.  Oh sure, just a small piece of one!!

Let's move on to the main course, quickly.

I ordered the seafood pilau; grilled sea scallops, shrimp, Verlasso salmon, Sapelo Island steamed clams with seasonal vegetable basmati rice.

What is a 'purloo'? I would call it a kind of a paella. The seafood was all fresh and delicious and the rice was a favorable compliment to the seafood. All the different seafoods were cooked to perfection and seasoned perfectly. It was definitely a meal I would order on our next trip.

Phyllis ordered a pork belly, scallops and risotto dinner with an apple slaw. The pork belly was cooked to perfection and went well with the scallops. The risotto was delicious and to be honest if the dinner includes risotto, there is a better than even chance it will be Phyllis's dinner!!

We were too full to have dessert, blame that on those biscuits! Phyllis went out to the bar while I paid the bill, a good idea if you are looking to sit at the bar which is usually full. When I went out to join Phyllis, she had the one empty chair. I had room to stand next to her and within minutes the couple next to Phyllis left and we both had seats. 

The bartender, who we had met on previous trips, is Angie. She is a really great. She always has a smile on her face, she remembers you even after months of not seeing you and knows your drink: a real old fashion bartender. Well, at least she mixes a great old fashioned, my drink and Phyllis likes cosmos.

After a few cocktails we were on our way to the Hampton Inn which is located right across the street. Another great thing about Vic's is the amount of good hotels within walking distance.

If you are ever in Savannah Georgia and you're looking for a restaurant with great food, service and live piano music, head on over to Vic's. Oh, don't forget the bar and Angie. Tell her we said hello and try her old fashioned with extra cherry water.

http://www.vicsontheriver.com


DECONSTRUCTING THE EIFFEL TOWER IN PARIS WITH IMAGES

July 03, 2014  •  1 Comment

LOOKING ACROSS THE SEINE RIVER AT THE EIFFEL TOWER This was our first real view the Eiffel Tower. We were walking through Paris and reached the point Alexandre 111 Bridge that travels over the Seine River when we saw this view. The tower is such an Iconic structure that I've seen thousands of images in print and movies. When I first saw this view, it was hard not to just gawk at it, to forget I'm a photographer and just look. Which is just what I did. I sat absorbing the fact that I was truly in Paris looking at the Eiffel Tower as it towered over the city! Then I started photographing this historic sight, loving very moment.

When we arrived at the tower this is the first image I made. As I walked under it, I thought how many photographers have photographed this view. After all, when you're close to it like this, the natural point of view is UP.

At that point I decided to try and take images that were not atypical although I doubt that you can make any image of the Eiffel Tower that has not been made millions of times before.

Before moving on let me give you some facts about the tower.

The Eiffel Tower (French: La Tour Eiffel, is an  iron lattice tower located on the  Champs de Mars in Paris. It was named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower. Erected in 1889 as the entrance arch to the 1889 World's Fair, it was initially criticized by some of France's leading artists and intellectuals for its design, but has become both a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world. The tower is the tallest structure in France and the most-visited paid monument in the world; 6.98 million people ascended it in 2011.The tower received its 250 millionth visitor in 2010.

The tower is 324 meters (1,063 ft) tall, about the same height as an 81-story building. The tower has three levels for visitors, with restaurants on the first and second. The third level observatory's upper platform is 276 m (906 ft) above the ground,[2] the highest accessible to the public in the European Union. Tickets can be purchased to ascend by stairs or elevator to the first and second levels. The climb from ground level to the first level is over 300 steps, as is the walk from the first to the second level. Although there are stairs to the third and highest level, these are usually closed to the public and it is generally only accessible by elevator.

There was work being performed on the tower the day we were there which is why you see scaffolding.

The arches are beautiful and I started isolating them as best I could. Look at the craftsmanship put into each one and remember it was built in 1889! That's just amazing to me...

 

​Here are some of the 72 names of French scientists, mathematicians and engineers that are engraved in recognition of their contributions. Eiffel chose this 'invocation of science' because of his concern over the protest against the tower. The engravings are found on the sides of the tower under the first balcony. The engraving was painted over at the beginning of the twentieth century and restored in 1986–1987 by Société Nouvelle d'exploitation de la Tour Eiffel, a company contracted to operate business related to the Tower. The Tower is owned by the city of Paris. The letters were originally painted in gold and are about 60 cm high. The repainting of 2010/2011 restored the letters to their original gold color.

You might ask why would anyone protest against this Iconic structure. The protest started before it was built.

The projected tower had been a subject of some controversy, attracting criticism from both those who did not believe that it was feasible and those who objected on artistic grounds, whose objections were an expression of a longstanding debate about the relationship between architecture and engineering. This came to a head as work began at the Champ de Mars: A "Committee of Three Hundred" (one member for each meter of the tower's height) was formed, led by the prominent architect Charles Garnier and including some of the most important figures of the French arts establishment, including Adolphe BouguereauGuy de MaupassantCharles Gounod and Jules Massenet: a petition was sent toCharles Alphand, the Minister of Works and Commissioner for the Exposition, and was published by Le Temps.[6]

"We, writers, painters, sculptors, architects and passionate devotees of the hitherto untouched beauty of Paris, protest with all our strength, with all our indignation in the name of slighted French taste, against the erection … of this useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower … To bring our arguments home, imagine for a moment a giddy, ridiculous tower dominating Paris like a gigantic black smokestack, crushing under its barbaric bulk Notre Dame, the Tour Saint-Jacques, the Louvre, the Dome of les Invalides, the Arc de Triomphe, all of our humiliated monuments will disappear in this ghastly dream. And for twenty years … we shall see stretching like a blot of ink the hateful shadow of the hateful column of bolted sheet metal."

 

Gustave Eiffel responded to these criticisms by comparing his tower to the Egyptian Pyramids: "My tower will be the tallest edifice ever erected by man. Will it not also be grandiose in its way? And why would something admirable in Egypt become hideous and ridiculous in Paris?" A great argument, don't you agree?

 

The Tower hovering over a carousel across the way from the tower, I saw this and placed myself in position to make this image.

 


SEDONA, ARIZONA THE BEAUTY OF THE DESERT PERSONIFIED

June 30, 2014  •  1 Comment

  Cathedral RockOne of the most beautiful of the Red Rock formations

 

In April of 1976, I moved to Arizona and fell in love with it immediately. We moved to Phoenix but when I really fell in love with Arizona was when I traveled to Sedona. Sedona is north of Phoenix in the Verde Valley. The  main attraction is the beauty of the desert especially the array of red sandstone formations. The formations appear to glow in brilliant orange and reds when illuminated by the setting or rising sun. Sedona was named after Sedona Arabella Miller Schnebly, the wife of Theodore Carlton Schnebly, the city's first postmaster.

The Schnebly name is affixed to a road you will want to travel when you visit Sedona.

The road starts right out of the town of Sedona and provides jaw-dropping vistas as you ascend nearly 2,000 ft on seemingly countless switchbacks.

 

Shortly after you leave town, the road becomes gravel and can be quite bumpy in spots.  You should be fine driving the road to the summit in a passenger vehicle but you will want to drive carefully and keep your eyes peeled for giant 'potholes'.  From along the road you will have some amazing views of the desert in all its beauty with Sedona in the background, as you can see in these two images.

The View From Schnebly Road

            As you drive around Sedona you can view the Red Rock formations around each turn in the road.

Court House Butte Looms over the desert

Courthouse Butte (seen above) is very close to Bell Rock and you are allowed to walk right up close. On Bell Rock you can even walk on it.

The Sun rises over Bell Rock

Courthouse Butte with Bell Rock to it's right If you venture out into the desert, never very far from a road or your car if your careful, you will see amazing views of this truly beautiful landscape. Many people jog in the shadows of Bell Rock and Courthouse.

Jogging around Bell Rock

All of the images were taken right around sunrise or sunset, the golden hour of light, which I will write about in a post very shortly.

At this point, I will let Sedona speak for itself through my images. Just look at the colors! Are you surprised by all the green? Many years ago, I was. Look at the dramatic skies and overall light that makes up this palette of natures colors!

  Taken from on Bell Rock See how close the road is.

                  Cathedral Rock

RAIN CLOUDS OVER CATHEDRAL ROCK RAIN CLOUDS OVER CATHEDRAL ROCK

ON BELL ROCK


THE BEAUTY OF LAKE LOUISE IN BANFF, ALBERTA CANADA PLUS STUPID PEOPLE TRICKS

June 25, 2014  •  1 Comment

 

Lake Louise is called, Canada's 'Diamond in the Wilderness' and the 'Hiking Capital of Canada'. This area offers a vast diversity of recreational and sightseeing opportunities. Many would say that Lake Louise is the home of one of North America's finest downhill ski areas and has many, many hiking and walking trails. This region has an amazing amount of spectacular scenery from glaciers to waterfalls. A Quick Trip Tip for anyone thinking of visiting the area; this is one of the last outposts of man or woman in the area. The next nearest city/town three hours away is Jasper, the town just before you head to Alaska. DO NOT expect to find a booming nightlife like you might find in Vail, Colorado.

The Village of Lake Louise (originally called Laggan) is thirty five miles from Banff on the Trans-Canada Highway. It is named for the nearby Lake Louise, which was named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria. It is separated into two communities. The main community, referred to as The Village is at a lower elevation adjacent to the Trans-Canada Highway. It consists of a small shopping area, Samson Mall, which includes a park center, grocery store, bakery, deli, grill, bar and sporting goods store. Another Quick Trip Tip is that The Trailways Cafe makes great breakfast wraps (besides other meals) and hot coffee. It's very inexpensive about $6-$9 and very delicious.

The second community is at a higher elevation and is centered-around the Chateau Lake Louise (which I wrote about in an earlier article), adjacent to Lake Louise. Another important fact is that Lake Louise experiences a subarctic climate. IT'S COLD especially in the winter and this year in May, the average temps were about 30F-40F in the morning and 50s later in the day.

The image at the top of this post was taken about 20 years ago on our visit in August. It was taken on film and converted to digital file and not as good as our photography usually looks.

As you can see the water and sky is blue with green trees lining the mountains on either side and the glacier in the top middle.

This year when we arrived about 8AM, we had a much different view in front of us.

This time, there were no blue skies or water but instead, a frozen lake covered in snow. The green trees were looking more grey and the glacier was hidden from view behind the clouds.  The funny thing was that it was still a beautiful sight. I stood there just gazing at this white wonderful winter landscape in front of me. It was really an awesome sight!

As I started getting my equipment ready to photograph this great landscape, I was trying to get as close to what I perceived was the edge of the lake. In the first image you can see the rocks leading into the lake, but not this time. There was a slight incline of snow and then a flat surface where the lake started somewhere. Then I noticed the boat house to my right and decided to use that as a guide. The lake house in the summer had colorful canoes lined up on and along side the dock that was in front of it. At this time of year, there was just the cabin with the snow covered trees jutting up behind it.

I knew this was going to be one of the views I would focus on this morning. Many times I will 'work' an image, shooting it from different perspectives. I will walk around shooting from the left, right and in front. But as you can see in the image, that would not be the case today. Not walking on a frozen lake that I was not familiar with was much too dangerous. There was no image to be made from the back and I was not hiking over and through 3 or 4 feet deep snow to get to its right. No, I would need to shoot from here using different focal lengths and cropping in camera and in post production.

​As will happen when you're out in nature, we struck up a conversation with a man walking around the lake. He asked if we had seen the avalanche warning signs as we began to walk into the area. We said yes we had but that we had no planes of hiking into any area closer to the mountains then where we were standing. He said we were smart because in the previous two weeks, four people had died up on the mountain to our right. He said that temperatures were going up and the ice under the snow was melting which would cause the avalanche. He had told the hotel to put up more than one sign and he was walking around to see that they did. I asked about the lake and if it was safe to walk on. He stated emphatically that it was not safe but to look at the footprints on the lake. Shaking his head he said another accident was ready to happen. We bid our goodbyes and he left to check on the signs. He was a very nice man.

A few days later, we decided to visit later in the day hoping to get blue skies. What we saw was that part of the lake closest to the area where we had stood before, now had a pretty good size area melted. This time, there was an avalanche sign right where we had stood plus a sign warning of melting ice on the lake.

   What we also saw (as you can see in this image) were people walking on the ice! Stupidity knows no bounds!!

Our cousins, who were on the trip with us, were there another afternoon without us and saw a women pushing a baby stroller on to the ice. This all helps me believe my theory that if you want stupid tricks, people are the ones for you!!