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Nov 21, 2010

Creating Fantasy

So I've been a little quiet on the editing side of this blog. Wording the how-to's has been my mental block. But good news, some interesting reading without imaghes on the steps to follow...
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So, I was driving the Longtom Pass, Mpumalanga from Sabie to Lydenburg. It was along these lovely winding turns and bends that I watched as the sun set. Fortunate for me, winding these roads and having many a place to appreciate, I spotted this gem. A once off, a must-stop, rolled passed, quickly reversed and bounded out the car. Surveyed the area to see what sort of composition I could get out of this and well... after snapping here and there, crouching, stretching, tilting and eventually kneeling did I get the "luck shot" (only took me around a dozen attempts). Sun was perfectly positioned, The khaki weeds and this fire stricken tree all sitting uh, I mean, standing just right, allowing a channel through leaving the peak of the mountain and the sun well, near perfect.
Um, before I continue, the clouds you see, they're not clouds. There was in fact a huge fire just north of this location and it was churning smoke in masses. Oh man, this created such a perfect scene. Gave it drama, mood and a great breaker between the remains of the day and the beginning of night... Shot at 1/250 sec exposure, aperture F8 and ISO 100 while exposure bias remained 0. Yeah, off camera looks good... but I like rich, bold colours, it's my thing so you know what's going to happen next, right? Right.

So, in Photoshop(R) I just played around with the contrast/brightness and the usual shadow/highlights, like always. Am I getting predictable? Hope not... So with a few added layers, I adjusted the sky, Toned the hot-spot known as the sun and adjusts the curves just a pinch.

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Yeah, so now it's nice, but if you've read some of my other posts, you'll know, nice isn't enough. I WANT MORE!! MWAHAHAHAAAaaaa... erm... okay, Dr. Evil laugh doesn't work for me either.
Anyways, back to task. Here goes...
1: Lighten the foreground... New (soft) layer, painted with white where needed. Remember to trim the excess if need be to add to the feel. You'll get the hang of it of you practice enough.
2: Darken the sky... What for? Because I said so, this is my pic and that's what I've done :). Okay, seriously, it was done to add to the mood of the image (these whit and black layers also double as dodge and burn). So, another soft light layer, painted black over the areas I wanted darker. Remember again, trim off the excess, there will be overflow (I did this to keep the outer area darker than the center closer to the sun to help draw the eye into the image). Don't use 100% eraser, keep it to around 30%, this way you can still get a nice blend and effect.
3: Start adding objects... For this one, I added a crow from a failed attempt at getting a BIF (Bird In Flight), positioned just right can make or break an image. Furtuantely for me, this one had blue sky all around so cutting it out was easy. Painted it black to get the silhouette. I duplicated the layer, blured that layer and set it to soft light. This creats a sense of OOF (Out Of Focus) and adds to the sense of motion. Now add another soft light layer and get your white paint ready, set to around 30-40% opacity. I did this to accentuate certain parts of the bird just slightly, creating depth and perspective.
4: Continue addining objects... Don't overkill on things added... if you have a good image, you don't want to destroy it altogether, just make it interesting. The planet/moon/anything else you might think it is was diffilultly easy. No, seriously, to get the angle, placement and lighting right, can be a challenge. What I did here, was to add a new layer, get a big white solid brush and smack it down, like a stamp, boom. Now I have a white dot on my image (removeable layer of course) which needed lots of tweaking. Step one, a soft brush eraser, around the same size as the paint spot. Cool, getting there... now I have a nice white crest sort of thing that fades, pretty much like the moon would... so, with this eraser (now reduced drastically in size and opacity) I dabbed the remains here and there (with different size brushes) until I'd creted some nice uh, let's call them craters... but, it's STILL WHITE!! That's just not going to do! Easy fix, eyedropper tool, picked an orange from my sunset and back to paint. I added a new layer again, soft light of course (don't worry about the white spot, getting back to that) and spread a soft brush of orange over the white, remeber to erase the excess, it looks funny if you don't. Awesome, looks good. Back to the previous layer again for final adjustments. This time, I played with the master opacity and master fill opacity to get the blend done. So that's it. Done.
Oh, wait!
5: Lens Flair... Good point, I nearly forgot. Okay, I duplicated the backround layer, added the lens flair (try make sure you get the position right or it will look out of sorts and make no sense). Once I had that done, it seemed odd, ah yes, eraser again, to trim it off the foreground some, the reason for that was so I could reduce the opacity and still keep the foreground. This also helped to make the flairs seem more distant than they should... adds mistery amd intrigue.
So, I'm done, the results are below. I hope I got you interested, if not, sorry... ask me and I'll go into my archives and try fill in the blanks.
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Share this on Twitter, or Facebook, tell your friends and get the word out on cool tricks.

Sep 19, 2010

Inspiration Regained

Yes, I've been a little un-inspired lately... until this realy adorable couple approached me and insisted I am the one they want for their year end dance photoshoot... I agreed thinking the experience would be great... little did I know, just how much this would re-inspire me to go out and expand my skills. Not only that, but to expand my editing skills more...
Here's a few images for you to admire...
Matric dance photographs by South African photogrpaher, Collin Scott

Apr 26, 2010

Roadsides of South Africa

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You know, travelling a lot can get quite tedious, boring and tiring… very tiring. But, if you have camera at hand, it changes everything just that little bit. Well, for me it does...


Collin Scott, roadside images, landscape, hdr, artistic editing, photography, south Africa, Mpumalanga, Free State, Limpopo, Sony dsc-h10




You see, I take some of the most boring roads in South Africa and seem to find beauty in them. It is finding the exceptional in the ordinary that makes the many hours in the car so worthwhile.






Collin Scott, roadside images, landscape, hdr, artistic editing, photography, south Africa, Mpumalanga, Free State, Limpopo, Sony dsc-h10Collin Scott, roadside images, landscape, hdr, artistic editing, photography, south Africa, Mpumalanga, Free State, Limpopo, Sony dsc-h10




My secret? I challenge myself, if I can put it that way. What I do is look ahead, still watching the road, but also the sun’s position, time of day, and the scenery. If I spot something up ahead, I start to plan what’s around it, where can I stop, how is the lighting etc… if It all seems okay, I’ll slow down, double check my surroundings and the safety of the stop. If all plays out, stop, hazards on, get out and walk around to find the best composition.



Collin Scott, roadside images, landscape, hdr, artistic editing, photography, south Africa, Mpumalanga, Free State, Limpopo, Sony dsc-hCollin Scott, roadside images, landscape, hdr, artistic editing, photography, south Africa, Mpumalanga, Free State, Limpopo, Sony dsc-h10



Then I take a few shots, different angles etc because I still don’t get it right the first time and one take is never enough.






Collin Scott, roadside images, landscape, hdr, artistic editing, photography, south Africa, Mpumalanga, Free State, Limpopo, Sony dsc-h10Collin Scott, roadside images, landscape, hdr, artistic editing, photography, south Africa, Mpumalanga, Free State, Limpopo, Sony dsc-h10

I have travelled quite a few roads and have impressed many people with my images.






Collin Scott, roadside images, landscape, hdr, artistic editing, photography, south Africa, Mpumalanga, Free State, Limpopo, Sony dsc-h10Collin Scott, roadside images, landscape, hdr, artistic editing, photography, south Africa, Mpumalanga, Free State, Limpopo, Sony dsc-h10




Look, sometimes, I do the quick runaround thing because I do have timelines and thus get the images either under or over exposed but usually nothing that a little Photoshop can’t uh, fix.


Collin Scott, roadside images, landscape, hdr, artistic editing, photography, south Africa, Mpumalanga, Free State, Limpopo, Sony dsc-h10Collin Scott, roadside images, landscape, hdr, artistic editing, photography, south Africa, Mpumalanga, Free State, Limpopo, Sony dsc-h10
So, next time you’re planning a short drive of more than an hour or between two cities with open countryside, look around, then look some more. Pull over, take a breather, sometimes you see things you wouldn’t usually see when you’re next to the car stretching your legs… Collin Scott, roadside images, landscape, hdr, artistic editing, photography, south Africa, Mpumalanga, Free State, Limpopo, Sony dsc-h10Collin Scott, roadside images, landscape, hdr, artistic editing, photography, south Africa, Mpumalanga, Free State, Limpopo, Sony dsc-h10

Bear in mind, these images are all shot with a compact camera.

Mar 29, 2010

HDR – An alternative process

So, HDR is the way forward for post editing images these days. It’s a great way of converting your normal image into something more… a work of art if you’d like to call it that.
What is HDR? High Dynamic Range – more can be read ->HERE<-
There are various ways of doing HDR conversion. The primary (and said to be proper) way is to take multiple images of the same scene [set at different exposures] then using software like Photomatix or Photoshop to basically merge these layers together creating a final single image that has the fullest colour range, without all the bright bits of a normal photo.
Well, I do it differently.

I use one image that I blend and alter in various layers.

Okay, so the original, like this one below, is actually “not bad” to start with. Good light, nice colour and detail but it’s just another photograph… yawn… I started out just adjusting the colour for richness and a little more vibrancy. As usual, I got carried away and started to add more and more layers.

Collin Scott, photography, photoshop, hdr, artistic editing, sony dsc-h10, photo processing, digital photography
First port of call was to address the bright sky and darker foreground selectively, basically try to recover some of the detail in the clouds and lighten the trees and brick work. I did this in two additional layers. The first is just a light painting of black over the clouds, I set the brush opacity to around 20% and painted all the sky. It’s fine to spill over a little, that’s what the eraser is for. The second layer was to get a little light back over the foreground, darken some spots and lighten others. This is again done with black and white paint. I set this layer to soft light and painted areas like the paving and parts of the wall with black. I painted over the trees and the foreground shadows with white to lighten these up a notch or two… and then set the layer opacity to 40% (though this changes depending on image and how much I want it to reveal or blend).
Collin Scott, photography, photoshop, hdr, artistic editing, sony dsc-h10, photo processing, digital photography Woops! Now I have it looking somewhat flat! My bad… okay not really. This is deliberate, you’ll see why in a bit. I now duplicated the original image and adjusted the exposure up a tad to brighten things up again and give back some colour [opacity remains at 100%]. I set this layer to soft light as well for obvious reasons. Now it’s starting to look more like a nice image with pretty colour and detail, right? I then duplicated the original again, set it to soft light too with opacity of 12% and it made the slightest of difference but will come into play later as it merely tones the image by that 12% colour wise.

Collin Scott, photography, photoshop, hdr, artistic editing, sony dsc-h10, photo processing, digital photography Now, one of usual tricks is of course, the black & white layer (desaturation and brightness/contrast adjustments merged into layer). Soft light setting again and this time 35% opacity (yes, opacity will vary depending on how much shadow you wanting back). The problem with this layer is now the clouds become even brighter than before. No problem to my trusty eraser… be careful not to over erase though. Look! It’s really standing out now! How cool am I?

Collin Scott, photography, photoshop, hdr, artistic editing, sony dsc-h10, photo processing, digital photography

But, the sky, seriously, look at that sky!! Still too bright and clashing with the rest of the picture. New layer again and yes, you guessed it, set to soft light again (with opacity at 100). I used a heavy brush of black paint and got to painting all the light spots like the sky and all the pillars. You have to admit, it was needed, right? Okay, none of this is really needed, but I love doing it, so I will do it.

Collin Scott, photography, photoshop, hdr, artistic editing, sony dsc-h10, photo processing, digital photography

Looking good? Almost… I’m still not happy with those bright clouds. So, another [soft light] layer is added and more heavy paint work is done. This time, just to the clouds because the pillars look good to me. This has now gotten the colours and detail of the clouds to match the rest of the image quite nicely I think.

Collin Scott, photography, photoshop, hdr, artistic editing, sony dsc-h10, photo processing, digital photography But, all this work comes at a price of course… in this case, it was light, the image is now a lot darker than when I started out on this project. So I played just a little more adjusting levels and then of course playing with the selective colour feature… as always… what can I say, I like to enhance the colours to give you this pretty little picture.

Collin Scott, photography, photoshop, hdr, artistic editing, sony dsc-h10, photo processing, digital photography

So, ladies and gentlemen, another tidbit to add to your learning curve. Remember, shoot wisely, plan carefully and always, always have fun doing it.

Oh, you can also drop me a mail on cdscott76@gmail.com if you’re keen on any prints or other queries you might have.

Feb 10, 2010

Catch of the day!

This was a bonus for me, right place, nearly right time as my camera was but mere meters away from the action that started to unfold. I was just coming back indoors when this “commotion” caught my eye. Lo and behold, in the corner of the dog box, this fly had made its way into a spider’s web. A Feather Legged Spider had set up office in this little spot and as usually just gathering dust, until this fortunate moment. When I first saw this, the spider was still trailing its way down to the ever wriggling fly. By the time I had gotten back to the scene of the crime, the fly was already in the process of getting wrapped up. Below is a series of snaps that I got of this bad boy in action as he wastes no time wrapping his meal up for take-away. I wonder if it had a family to feed as that looks quite a bit bigger than him… or is it her? Hmm… curious.
The wind had picked up and drizzle had started to fall so I think both me and the spider had to act quickly...
Unfortunately, I missed the initial paralasis stage where the spider gives the fly the insuing sting while running for my camera.
These photos were taken in quick succession of each other so you can imagine this all went down quite quickly.
Now to tuck the wings back in.
Say your prayers little one...
Final stages of the process.
You can almost see the thorax movement as it works that web at a rapid pace.
Last inspection and closing of any open gaps...
Then all that's left is to grab it and haul it up to safety.
Safely home and into storage. by this time the rain was pounding down and the wind howling so in fear of equipment safety, I retired the camera for a cup of coffee.
I can now only still imagine what Frodo must have gone through when he was in the fly's position...

Among Giants

Living among us giants, faeries still do exist. But, it is the rare few that see them, or at least where and how they live in these modern times... I don't know if any live here anymore as this old house seems quite abandoned. I wonder if they had to move because of all the development that has taken place around them over the last 6 or 7 decades. Sad actually, to think that once there lived the most magical of creatures and we as human beings have forced them out of their habitats...
Okay, not really, this was just me getting creative and adding to my artistic editing. You see, the image below is the original 30 second exposure that I took a few days ago. Note the skew horizon, the very dark foreground and all round poor detail.
While I was looking at this in my photo viewer, ACDSee Pro 2, I wondered what it would look like with lifted shadows and straightened horizon, it brought an intriguing look and feel to it and I wondered about the its potential. Hmmm... PhotoShop!
Okay, so I never did very much in PhotoShop besides a pinch more lighting and a colour boost to give it a bit more life... but I felt it had a void, something was missing, it seemed interestingly boring...
So, now I got creative. First thing I did was go into my archives of photos taken, I rememberd having the perfect picture of an old house that would work, cut and trimmed it to fit. I then had the task of making sure that the old house fits the colour tone and mood of the rest of the image, so some time later, I was happy. Gave the over-all image a complete boost of colour and contrasted brightness.
Threw in another image layer, a high-contrast B&W version which I filtered down to be barely noticeable but to add some more shadow.
Once I'd gotten it to look a little more intersting I decided to give it a more interesting and mystical look... by adding another layer, but this time with a gaussian blur (set to 12.5% blur) and filtered that layer over the others. It, of course, made the foreground a bit too blurry so I erased some (with a 25% eraser) just to add some sharpness back. The end result is quite impressive if I do say so myself. Let's take a look at that one again...
Well, not being completely satisfied (and a little curious), I went forth and converted... to black and white... just to see what it would look like. Well, that's it... another installment done... hope you all liked and enjoyed... take care... take pictures... and have fun!

Jan 26, 2010

Artistic Editing 3

Well, another late submission on the how-to's.
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Magic, as it has been called.
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I was bored and wanted to just play around with ideas and concepts. Man, I have to play more and update this more often.
Here is the already quite impressive original image, but it looks boring...
The trick to having this one seem like it’s caught in mid-fall is due to balancing the coin on its side… on a sheet of glass. Now you’re probably wondering why there is no reflection off the glass, right? Well, it’s because I have the flash firing from slightly above and behind my “subject” reducing light glare. The sheet of glass was placed on top of an old sheet of white card-board (thus the reason for the ‘cracks’) and to reflect some light back up from the flash.
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I took the image into my trusty Photoshop and got to playing with ideas. I didn’t know at the time of capture what I wanted to do with it but I soon got some ideas. I duplicated the layer 4 times and then got to work on each individual layer.
Okay, I’m going to assume you know how to navigate your way around Photoshop…
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Layer 1: I boosted colour with selective colour and then a pinch of contrast, finally adjusting levels to make it a little lighter, to get the desired, rich colour toned, effect.
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Layer 2: Converted to black and white (I did this by reducing saturation to zero, though there are other methods of doing this too) and adjusting brightness/contrast and levels somewhat so the coin itself had a nice silvery look to it. Okay, from here I made use of my eraser brush to erase everything around the coin. Initially I wanted the coin B&W on a coloured backdrop but when I erased a little too much I got another cool idea. So, I made the size of my brush much smaller (using the (Windows) square brackets [/] short-cut) and set the opacity to around 30% to create a nice faded effect (different opacities can be used too) and gradually erased parts of the coin, like the bird and the 5c until I’d achieved my desired effect. So now I’ve got a coin that looks well used but faded on the inside of the elevations of the coin as opposed to the outsides being faded.
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Layer 3: Another colour version, selective colour to make the white slightly more yellowed (as I did on the first layer) and then just levels increase, more contrast to darken the background and that’s it. So now all that will be removed from this one is the coin and some of the shadow. I used my magnetic lasso tool to cut out the coin and then with my eraser, still set to 30%, I began to fade away around the edges of the coin and followed onto the shadow for effect. Remember, not too much otherwise you’re going to sit with a mess and not a decent blend. Also, adjust the size of your brush according to how much you want to erase.
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Layer 4: Yet another black and white conversion and even more contrast to really darken it and enhance the cracks even more. I adjusted levels as well to darken the rest of the layer too. Once again, allot of erasing took place. This time I started on 50% and a reasonably big brush and erased from the coin outwards in a circular motion. I then adjusted the eraser to 25% and continued to erase away from the coin until I had a nice, rich blend between the colour and B&W layers. Last thing to do was to click ‘File’ and ‘Save As’ and saved it to get what you see below... an image that has folks saying things like "wow" and "it looks like magic" to name but a few.
A bit of work but if you’re after a nice artistic look and feel, it’s well worth it. So ends another in the series of artistic editing.

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