Archive for the ‘Stylized’ Category

Painted Falls

© 2009 Gary Udstrand

The Falls

The Tettegouche State Park is located along the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota.   Through the park runs the Baptism River and a short hike along its banks finds the High Falls.  On a beautiful sunny summer day my family and I made that hike and were rewarded with the scene above.  The day was hot and humid and the cold water running along the stream quickly refreshed our feet and our souls.   The site, the sounds and the gentle breeze made this a day to remember.   I am fortunate to have picture of that day to take me back there.

Finding Summer

Here in Minnesota spring has not been very warm, or dry. Rather it has been cold and wet for the most part which only added to the impact of a very long winter this year. After several days of cold and rain I decided that it was time to find some sunshine on my own. So off I went to browse my image catalog to see if I could find our missing summer.  When I ran across the image above I was brought back to that wonderful day and whisked away from the cold dreary day just outside my door. With the thoughts of that day still on my mind I found a smile on my face. And that is why I love photography.

So, find your summer even if Mother Nature refuses to cooperate. Post some pics and put a smile on your face, and if you (and me) are lucky, a smile on someone else’s as well. Smile

Topaz Adjust

The impact of the image was very good but when I looked at the original it seemed to me it could benefit from some more “pop”.   To me that usually means a trip to Topaz Adjust.  Once the image was loaded in the plugin I started clicking on the presets but once I got to Spicify I stopped.    Typically I like to tweak the various sliders and see if I can find any improvement, in this case I did not even try.  The preset was exactly the look I wanted and it could not have been any easier.

Farm Setting

© 2010 Gary Udstrand – Farm Setting

The Day

The sunset over the horizon punctuated a bitterly cold December day.   The wind was brisk and did its best to remove the warmth from my face and hands, and quite successfully I might add.  Winter in Northern MN can be cold and bleak but it can also be beautiful.   This day I was glad that I braved the weather to enjoy the glow of the sunset.   Even if it was just for a moment; it reminded me that spring is getting closer every day. 

Getting the shot

The click and the click and the click of the shutter.  What??  If you have not already guessed, the picture above is actually three pictures combined together to produce an HDR image.   In a nutshell a HDR image is a photograph that attempts to capture more dynamic range than traditional techniques.

The dynamic range of an image is the difference in the luminance between the lightest and darkest areas of an image.  Make sense?  Probably not, but think of it this way.   Have you ever taken a picture of someone standing in front of a window inside the house during a bright sunny day?   If you have you have more than likely ended up with a picture in which the person is nothing more than a silhouette while the yard and trees outside look great.  Or, if your camera is a little “smarter” you may have ended up with a nice picture of the person surrounded by a wash of blown out white.  Gone are the nice trees and yard.  

If you were thinking ahead and used a fill flash to even out the bright whites of the sunny outdoors and the shadows of the person in front of you then you might get a picture with both.  However, when shooting landscapes and scenery using a fill flash is just not practical or possible in many cases.

That is where HDR enters the picture (pun intended).  Essentially you take multiple exposures of the scene.  Using the above scenario you would take one that exposed the person correctly and one for the highlights of the window.   Then you could combine the images and tone map the results and get both properly exposed.

HDR

For many landscape photographers HDR offers a new and creative way to capture the scenery before them.   HDR has been around for a few years but many photographers have yet to embrace or understand the technique.   It can be complicated, and it can be intimidating but these days there are a number of great software tools to assist the photographer.  Myself, I use Nik HDR Efex Pro and to a lesser extent the HDR tone mapping in Photoshop CS 5.

In the picture above I took three exposures, one at a –2 EV, one at 0 EV and one at +2 EV.  These three images were then imported into Lightroom.  Next, I selected the three images and from within Lightroom exported them into Nik HDR Efex Pro.    I tried a few of the presets and found one that I thought best represented the scene.  I tend to favor the more natural look in my HDR’s but many are fans of more over processed look too. 

The plugin has numerous options and tweaks and could keep the tinkerer busy for many hours.  For those just looking for a quick result there are also several very good presets.  Click on a few and ifind one you like.  It is as easy or involved as you like.  Besides the presets that come pre-installed with the plugin you can also find other presets available to be downloaded on the web. 

Setting

HDR is a great way to create new images of even familiar places.  It can add new variety to your pictures and maybe even fuel some creative inspiration.    Get out there with your camera in hand and give it a try.   You may find an entirely new way to enjoy your photography. 

Smile

Memories of a Tractor

Memories of a Tractor  © 2010 Gary Udstrand

One of the earliest (and only memories) that I have of my Grandpa was riding on a tractor with him. I was four years old and to me he was larger than life.  With me sitting alongside we made a couple of laps around the farmyard.  I can still smell the great belches of smoke and taste the raw diesel fuel that were the remnants of  the roaring engine. It was a great day and I still see the Yellow tractor with its name spread across the side, Minneapolis Moline. To this day these tractors are near and dear to me.

This past summer my wife and I took the kids to the Wright County fair, a pretty small event but it was fun none the less. As we wandered towards the back of the fairground imagine my surprise when I saw literally *hundreds* of Minneapolis Moline tractors. There were models from virtually every year (if not every) and many one of a kind and other oddities. WOW!

I took tons of pictures and found myself wishing very much that I knew the exact year and model of Grandpa’s old Moline so that I could get a picture of myself with the tractor. Of the shots I took this one reminded me most of my Grandpa for some reason. For all I know this tractor is way newer and maybe not even close to the same model but I can’t help but think of that day so many years ago when I look at this image.

Churchill Downs

The excitement was palpable as the throngs of race fans awaited the arrival of the first horses of the day.   You could feel and taste the history of this place.

The Paddock

Churchill Downs is virtually synonymous with horse racing and is hallowed ground to horse racing aficionados.  As we arrived we were greeted with the scene above and the level of excitement and grandeur was overwhelming.   Standing here one could not help but think about all the past Champions that had strolled around the paddock before heading to the track to make their mark in the history books.

Stylizing

For this image I used Photoshop CS5  and Topaz Adjust 4.  Besides some simple sharpening and toning I applied the Spicify preset in Topaz and was done.    To me the buildings and the surroundings had  a magical /fantasy look to them and I wanted the image to convey that.  The saturated colors and slight glow to the edges added by the effect really accentuated the image and added to the overall feel and look I was after.  .

Lazy Summer Day

The hike had left us hot and tired and our sense of adventure had waned. Wading into the cool water we began to feel our spirits rise. Rejuvenated, our interest returned and the exploring once again began in earnest.

Classic Americana

The processing on this image has a very Norman Rockwell type of feel.  I really like this effect on certain photos,   In this image  the scene, the setting and the kids are timeless and remind us of an era where youth and innocence were celebrated.  To me the photo and effect compliment each other perfectly.

This scene harkens back to a time when days were simpler and ones pastimes were more about enjoying the things around you rather then the things you have.   A stream, a stick and a kid seem so right.  To me, this photo is about the wonder of discovery and the innocence of youth.

Make your own Rockwell

Since this is a photo blog I felt it was worth at least a few words on how I processed this image.  And, if you are interested in this effect you will be happy to hear that all it needs is a few words.  :-)

This photo was shot as a jpg by an ordinary P&S camera and processed in Lightroom.    In Lightroom I simply boosted the blacks a small amount and then opened the image in Topaz Adjust.

Topaz Adjust

I have run other images on my blog in the past that discussed Topaz Adjust in more detail (see blog article here).  For the image above it could not be more simple.  Once the image was opened in Topaz Adjust I simply selected the Psychedelic preset.  I played around with some of the sliders but in the end I just went back to the default settings. 

Adjust has lots of different looks and effects and it a very creative and useful tool to add to your arsenal.   Among other things you can approximate the Dave Hill effect or get something like the above which is kind of a cross between a Rockwell painting and the Dave Hill Effect. 

Topaz does have a 30 day trial for most of its plugins, including Adjust.  It is a very fun and creative tool and well worth the time to download and kick the tires.  If you decide to buy you can use the coupon code tnttopaz and save 10%.

The Orton Effect

Pastels ©2009 Gary Udstrand

Origin

This article is about a popular processing technique known as the Orton effect.   It is a technique named after photographer Michael Orton who pioneered the effect.

The technique takes an image and from it you create an in-focus version and an out of focus version.  The two images are then blended together to create an image with a dreamy, surreal look.    The technique originated during the days of film, but now with Photoshop and other image editors the look can be achieved quickly and easily with a single exposure

 

How its Done

The technique works best with images that have strong lines.  In my experience pictures of buildings and flowers seem to work well.  Probably most important is that the image contains a strong focal point.

Pastels © 2009 Gary Udstrand

Above  is an image that I shot a few years back.  The image is OK but I wanted to accentuate the colors of the flowers and give it a dreamy look to emphasize the softness of the pastel flower color.

The Orton effect is easily achieved in just a couple of steps.  You can drop to the end of the article for a list of the steps, otherwise you can follow along as I convert the image above

 

Step One

Once you have your starting image opened in Photoshop (I used Photoshop CS4) the first step is to duplicate the original layer (ctrl-j).  In the layers panel, select the blend mode screen to create a lightened version of your starting image.  Merge the screened layer with the background layer (right click on screen layer and select merge down). 

Step Two

 

Next, duplicate the background layer again (ctrl-j).  Set the blend mode to multiply.   Don’t merge this layer just yet. 

 

Step Three

Select the layer and choose Gaussian blur (filter->blur->gaussian blur).  You should see a dialog box as below, Click on preview, then you can slide the radius slider and see your changes.

Here I have chosen a radius of 30 but anything from 15 to 50 will work.  You need to experiment to get the look you prefer.    The final result is below

 

 

Step Four

Flatten the image, post to web and share with all of us.  :-)

Summary

  • Duplicate Layer (ctrl-j)
  • set the blend mode to screen
  • merge layers down
  • copy layer again (ctrl-j)
  • set the blend mode multiply
  • open the gaussian blur filter
  • turn on preview, move slider back and forth to get finished look
  • flatten image
  • save and share

City on the Lake of the Isles

Lake of the Isles – Minneapolis, MN

 

The metro area of the Twin Cities offers stark contrasts between the metal and concrete of its towering structures and the gentle waters of the lakes that surround it.  On this day the city on the Lake found its reflection starting back from the smooth, still waters of Lake of the Isles.      As though the buildings were standing upon tiptoe to peek over the trees, they loomed large upon the backdrop of the darkening skies.

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