“The Senator” is the nickname of what was a 3500 year old Cypress Tree in Big Tree Park in Longwood Florida. Sadly, it burned down in January of 2012 when a drug addict lit a fire in the hollow at the base of the tree because “it was dark and she wanted light to see the drugs she was using.”. The culprit confessed and is expected to be sentenced shortly to either probation or a few months in prison.
I’ve written several blog articles about this and I hope you’ll forgive me for writing one more:
The latest chapter in this story is even more personal and began in December of last year when someone posted a comment on this photo of the Senator on Flickr asking if I’d be willing to sell a copy of the image. Tony Seifred and I exchanged a few emails, and to make a long story short we also ended up exchanging gifts. I gave Tony copies of two photographs of the Senator and he gave me a piece of the tree itself! I’ll let Tony tell his side of the story:
“Back when the tree burned, NPR covered the story the following morning. Within an hour I was cold calling county personnel and getting passed from one person to another. I was trying to encourage them to make offerings to school systems for educational purposes.
After many months I received an email that the decision had been made to take applications for remains. I contacted my local schools and museum trying to get them to apply. I even provided the applications. No one applied.
So I decided to try on my own. Eventually I did receive a piece of the outer part of the tree, but pick-up had to be in person. The story after that is long and convoluted but eventually did find someone there to accept payment to collect and ship the piece. Upon arrival the box was open and the piece had clearly been out.
Despite the rather expensive UPS store packing. Some pieces were broken off and still inside the wrapping. I am gifting you the largest of those pieces.”
Kudos to Tony for pursuing this and making it happen. I had the piece mounted together with the photo I made before it burned. Here’s how it looks:
This means a great deal to me and I’ll treasure it as a reminder of visits to the Senator before the tragedy. I’m exceptionally grateful to Tony for his generosity in sharing with me.
Topaz released a new plug-in recently, called ReStyle. You can download any of their products for a free thirty-day trial, so I thought I’d give it a go. This isn’t a full review or tutorial (I haven’t used it long enough for either of those). But I have used it a bit so I’ll try to introduce you to some possibilities with three examples I’ve played with. If you want to see the “before” versions, I’ve included them towards the end of the post.
I had trouble with the white balance in this photo of Marineland beach at dawn. I could have separately adjusted the color balance on the sky and ground using layer masks in Photoshop or gradients in Lightroom. Instead, it was easy to pick out this version from the grid displayed inside ReStyle. It’s interesting how remapping changed the color in the beach and rocks differently from the sky.
Down on the beach at dawn (afterTopaz ReStyle).
ReStyle maps color and tone statistics from a selected style to a target image. It seems like Photoshop’s “Image/Adjustments/Match Color” command. When you do this in Photoshop, you have to supply an image with the colors you’re trying to match. ReSyle comes with over 1000 presets and provides control / adjustment of the results that aren’t easily available in Photoshop. There are so many presets that they’re overwhelming, but ReStyle breaks them down into collections (e.g. “Landscape”), and you can mark your favorites. You can show a collection or your favorites as a grid applied to your photo, which makes choosing one very simple. You can also search for similar styles by color or by name. Within each style, you can further adjust the hue, saturation, and luminance of the five colors in each style, as well as the opacity, original image “Texture” strength, and others variables. It also includes mask / selections controls to apply the effects selectively. There’s a lot more info available in the manual at this link.
In this photo of some struggling trees on a small rocky island near Haulover Canal, I wanted a more dramatic color palette. Once again, it was easy to pick out this version from a grid of possibilities.
Survivors (after Topaz ReStyle)
For this infra-red photo of sea oats on the beach that I made in Fred Howard Park near Tampa , I wanted a different look from a typical IR false color image. I like this color mapping I found in ReStyle .
Sea oats – False color infra-red (After Topaz ReStyle)
There are so many presets, options and adjustments that ReStyle can be a little overwhelming. It’s not hard to use, but it is hard to grasp all the possibilities and decide what to do. It’ll take a bit more time for me to get comfortable with it, so I’ll have to play with it some more.
For comparison purposes, here are versions of the photos before I applied Topaz ReStyle:
Before: Down on the beach at dawn.
Before: Sea oats – False color infra-red processing.
Summary: Do you have to use plug-ins? Of course not, but they’re useful and save time. And ReStyle seems to offer something I haven’t seen elsewhere. It’ll definitely make your images look different. Are they better? I think ReStyle improved these three images, but only you can decide for your photos. Will this fix all of your problems and should you use it on every photo? Definitely not – I’m new to the tool, but on several photos I tried, I couldn’t get anything that I thought looked good. But it does look like something that’ll be good to have in your bag of tricks.
Off topic public service announcement: I’m always telling you to get out and enjoy nature. I also need to remind you to protect yourself from the sun. I had two skin cancers removed last week. I’m fine – but it’s not the most pleasant thing to go through. And it can be much, much worse than mine were. So when you’re out in the sun enjoying nature, please protect yourself. Use sunscreen, wear a hat and long sleeves, stay in the shade as much as possible, etc. The sun is brutal, especially in Florida. And no one wants to suffer the consequences of too much exposure ten or twenty years down the road.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos! And use sunscreen!
Sorry this week’s post is a little late – we were pretty busy all weekend. So just a short entry this morning. Yesterday I went over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge with Lynn, Mary, and Mary’s friend Monette. Lots and lots of birds (a story for another day).
On the way home, we stopped by the Fort Christmas Historical Park in Christmas, Florida. They were having their 35th annual “Cracker Christmas” event. Along with tours of the permanent structures at the park, there were demonstrations of early settler life in Florida and many booths selling crafts. There were also some Civil War reenactments going on. When I saw this group posing in front of an old view camera, I just had to make a photo.
Civil War group portrait: A group of Civil War reenactors pose in front of a view camera during the 2012 annual “Cracker Christmas” event at the Fort Christmas Historical Park and Museum.
It was quite crowded, but definitely worth the time to stop by. To satisfy your photographic curiosity, here’s the “before” version of this photo:
Civil War group portrait: Straight out of the camera, before a few tweaks in Lightroom and Photoshop
I cloned out some distractions, leveled and cropped, tweaked the color, contrast, sharpening, and then converted to a sepia toned B&W. I like the “after” version better. How about you?
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Post-processing skills as well as taste develop over time. New tools come out or get updated. Reviewing your image library for things you may want to change is a good idea. Just don’t spend too much time on post processing – leave enough to go out and make new images too!
This is one of my favorite photographs and one that I’ve even sold, but re-looking at it I saw several things I thought I could make a little better. Here’s the updated version after all my re-edits (which are described below):
After: Ponce Inlet lighthouse, sunset, bird, Final Edit
I started over from the RAW file (you do save your RAW files, don’t you?) and re-did the basic adjustments in Lightroom (color balance, initial exposure adjustments). Then I moved into Photoshop and cleaned up distracting elements (tire tracks, poles, the tip of the cloud just right of the lighthouse, …). I then added a duplicate layer and ran that through Topaz Adjust using the “Spicify” preset to bring up structure, detail, and color saturation. I don’t usually like applying this filter all over an image at 100%, so once back in Photoshop I added a hide all layer mask and partially painted in the effect, using a higher opacity brush for the sky to let more of the filter show and a lower one for the rocks and ocean to mute the filter effect. I then took the result back to Lightroom for final tweaks to color balance, sharpening and a crop to remove part of the sky. I thought that the colors of the sky and rocks were still a little off, so as one last tweak I added graduated filters to help adjust their tints.
For reference purposes, here’s the old edit of this photo:
Note: you can click the two versions above to go to my Flickr account, where you can view larger versions.
And also for reference, I uploaded the original RAW file (with default development settings in Lightroom) below.
Ponce Inlet lighthouse, sunset, bird, RAW Capture
Would I go to this much effort for every image? No. But sometimes a photo really appeals to me and I want to get the absolute best I can from it. It helps that I enjoy working in Photoshop and learning about new techniques.
So what do you think? Quite a few changes, some more subtle than others – but overall I like the new version better.
Ansel Adams said that the “negative is the score, and the print is the performance”. In modern terms, the RAW file is the negative and the processed jpg / print is the performance. Ansel was famous for re-printing his photos to try to get the best possible image from his negatives. Some of his later prints are thought to be better than earlier ones as he experimented and gained knowledge about how to “perform” the print.
All photographers should take this to heart and not be satisfied with previous processed versions of their photos. I like to look through my Lightroom catalog sometimes for images that may merit some re-work.
This morning I reprocessed a photo that I made last October at Viera Wetlands. Below is a series of images that show you a progression from the original images to the final result. Look in the captions for details on what I did, and scroll to the bottom of the post to see the most recent version. You can also click on these to see larger versions.
This is the first image I made (RAW, unprocessed). It’s focused on the tree and the two birds are also in sharp focus. Because of depth of field, the moon is out of focus. The color balance could be better.
This is the second image I made to solve the problem with the moon focus.
Step 3: And this was the processed version I posted to Flickr last October. I masked in the in-focus moon, did some sharpening and noise reduction, but didn’t spend too much time on it. It’s since gotten a lot of views, but re-looking at it now, I’m not happy with several things in the photo (e.g. color balance, noise reduction, masking) and this morning I decided to go back and reprocess it from the original RAW files.
And this is the new version that I posted to Flickr this morning. In Photoshop, I was much more careful masking in the in-focus moon. I then created a meticulous selection of the blue sky so I could use it in the follow on steps. Then I applied noise reduction just to the blue sky and sharpening just to the birds, moon, and tree. I also used the Topaz Adjust filter just on the birds, moon and tree. Finally, back in Lightroom I adjusted the white balance off of a sample on the Ibis. I like the vertical crop better as well as the color balance, sharpness, etc.
Today, I had some time and a new computer I wanted to try out, so I went looking for a photo to reprocess. Take a close look at the two images below. The differences aren’t as obvious in these smaller versions, so if you click on them, you can go to Flickr and look at large resolution versions of each so you can see the changes in detail.
Nikon D80 @ ISO 100, Nikon 70 – 300 lens @ 260mm, f/5.6, 1/320 sec.
I made this photo back in April of 2007 in the bird rookery at the St. Augustine Alligator farm. The version above is “straight out of the camera (converted to JPG with Lightroom 2.5). It has potential, but the blown sky is bad and the levels and sharpening need work.
The version below was processed in CaptureNX2 for levels and curves. I also created a version that was sharpened, and a third version that adjusted the sky. I then opened all three in Photoshop and used layer masks to choose the portions of each that I wanted in the final photo. After saving the result, I imported it into Lightroom, tweaked clarity and vibrance, and cropped it slightly before once again exporting this JPG.
Same, photo: re-processed and slightly cropped.
I guess you can tell I’m not a straight out of the camera, photo journalist type photographer. I like the second version much better than the original. Do you?
The interesting thing to me is that almost 3 years after I made the photograph, I can go back and reprocess it with better software and better techniques. Since I captured it in RAW, I have much more flexibility in what I can change. Processing RAW is like having the original light and framing fixed, but being able to tweak the camera settings. Do I need Photoshop, CaptureNX2, and Lightroom? No, but each has strengths and I believe that if you want the best image you can get, you need to have SW and understand how to use it.
Or at least shoot in RAW so that when you do get the software and techniques, you can go back and have another go at things.
I listen to the Digital Story podcast . The June 2007 photo assignment is “Before and After”. The idea is to submit two images showing how you “developed” the final photo.
I also just bought the book Examples, The Making of 40 Photographs , by Ansel Adams. He writes about how he re-visited his negatives over the years and was able to make better prints with additional effort / technique.
So these two things inspired me to go back to a photo I took in March, reprocess it and submit it to the Digital Story. Here are the steps I went through:
The first photo is the scene as I saw it from the road. Lynn and I were driving to an auction up in Ocala Florida and this looked like it could make a good image. It was a bit cluttered, and the composition wasn’t good, so …
The second photo was taken after I stepped inside the gate. Better composition, I think. This is how it appears with no adjustments after importing it into Lightroom . I had underexposed it a bit so that the clouds would show up well. As a result, the road into the trees was pretty dark (and there still wasn’t enough detail in the clouds). I played around with it in the Develop module, but still couldn’t get the exposure quite right. So …
Photo 3 shows the result after I exported two 16 bit TIFF versions of the image from Lightroom and combined them. One with an exposure bias of +2 and a second with it set at 0. Then I used Photomatix to create a High Dynamic Range / tone mapped version. Much better exposure and detail both in the clouds and trees. This was pretty good, but I still wasn’t happy …
I loaded #3 into Photoshop Elements, cloned out the distractions (lights, signs, houses, rags, fire hydrant, wires) and then re-imported it into Lightroom …
Photo 4 shows the final result after using Lightroom’s wonderful B&W conversion tool. You can play around with different color channels to emphasize different things in the picture. It’s like being able to use color filters over your lens after you’ve taken the picture! I think the final result is much better than the original.