Ah. That last post left me with a lot to think about, and even more to do. I vowed to change my approach to the Mac Lab by reincorporating learning into my schedule. Mission accomplished. All is well inside the double doors of room 246, for me anyway. And let’s leave it at that.
As opposed to last year’s frantic mission to churn out as many posts as possible in as least time as possible, this year I have tried to listen to some advice that Philip gave me a while back and am now only posting when I have something important to say. The problem is, its been seven weeks since my last post and I have not found much to say. I have found that so much has happened, that it is difficult to wrap it up into a neat little post. Last time, I had my anger to drive me, this time I have a promise.
I gave a speech today in my second period AP Literature class about the impact photography has had on my life over the past 454 days since I first borrowed a camera. I have always been a gifted public speaker, and I have to say that I pulled out all the stops to blow the doors off that classroom. The strange thing is, when I went to bed at 11pm last night, I had absolutely no idea what I was going to talk about. By 11:08pm, I had figured it out. I started with a single word – photography – and in eight minutes drafted a five and a half minute speech that would determine my grade for semester one of AP Literature. You see, this speech was the Final Exam. The only reason I was able to pull off such a good speech in just eight minutes while lying in bed on a Sunday night is that photography is something I am passionate about. There were no drafts, no rewrites, no brainstorming sessions….I just laid down and started talking. Eight minutes later I had a speech.
At the end of that speech, I spoke about the power of a single action to transform someone’s life. This observation became the revelation that nicely tied up my anecdote. Another observation that I could have talked about was the power of passion to drive a person through even the most trying times. Interestingly for my posting career, the past seven weeks have been a very trying time and it’s my passion for photography the both has me posting now, and had me writing poetic phrases in my mind last night. Good things have a way of running my mind in circles.
Anyway, back to the promise that has me seated here instead of watching the second best television show of all time (that would be The West Wing – the first is Battlestar Galactica). It wasn’t really a promise, but if I tell myself that it was then I am more likely to sit here and not go grab some chocolate. In third period AP Calculus, my friend Chris C. asked for the link to my website, this website, which I had mentioned in my speech. I gave him the link but respectively asked him to wait until tomorrow to visit my site. The reason for this, I said, was that I had new content to upload. And boy is that true. Now I have no choice but to get up off the sofa, put down the Sees Candy, and give my keyboard a workout.
“How about that new content?” Well, here’s the story. Over Winter Break, my partner in crime (the 5D Mark II) and I took a trip across the country to the frozen winter wonderland of Northern Wisconsin and the two of us had some good times playing in the snow. Well, I had fun playing in the snow. The 5D spent the trip safely in my backpack inside my grandmother’s warm house. My Mom, sister Emily, and I have been to Wisconsin over a dozen times, but since this was our first time going there in the winter in a few years, I was especially excited. The 5D was excited too.
I spent the first third of our nine-day vacation taking pictures, but the harsh conditions outside confined the camera to the house. So I shot through the windows. I only actually took the 5D outside one time, at night, to capture the beauty of my grandmother’s old barn covered in snow. I took extra care to cover the camera, as it was still snowing out. I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.
And then school started and my life was kicked back into high gear. I had three weeks to solidify A’s in four AP classes as well as Honor Spanish. As far as I can tell, that speech signaled the successful completion of that solidification.
Two weekends ago, Philip, Kyle, my Dad, and I spent the day taking pictures at Gillespie Field, where my Dad keeps his Piper Cherokee, and Mission Trails park in Mission Gorge. Our first stop was the airport, where I treated my friends to the best hamburger the world has ever seen: the B-52. One half-pound patty + two slices of ham + two cheeses + sautéed onions + lettuce + tomatoes + barbecue sauce + a toasted bun = the burger built to win a nuclear war. We spent a few minutes taking pictures around the tarmac, in the “Authorized Personnel Only” zone, before driving a few miles to Mission Trials park. We walked first to an old dam, photographing every rock, foam bubble, and disgusting puddle of ooze that we could find. Before calling it a day, we walked for about a mile on a beautiful trail and I took a picture of every manhole cover I could find.
I have spent the past two weeks editing eighteen of the three hundred, thirty-nine pictures I took that day. Here are the best four, in my opinion. I took a different approach when I Photoshopped these images than I usually do. Instead of going for realism, I experimented with blurs and blending modes to create heaving stylized works of art. Well, what do you think?
Be sure to check my photo gallery for the other twenty-one pictures from my trips to Wisconsin, the Gillespie Field Airport, and Mission Trails park.
Also, Mr. Skocko was so kind as to print the featured image from my last post. It is the eighteenth picture that I have had printed and marks the beginning of a new era in my printing practices. I plan to print fewer images, but frame the ones that I do print. This tumultuous image of the sunset is the first of my pictures that I have ever framed. It really is beautiful.
Ultimately, these past three weeks since I returned from Winter Break have been a transition period. I am waiting with bated breath for second semester, when I will charge forward with a single goal in mind: be the best that I can be. I am reloaded, re-energized, and reawakened to the magic that reverberates through the walls of the Valhalla Mac Lab.
Three, two, one…
Hmmm. Where to begin? I can’t believe that it’s been seventy days since I last posted. Well, in all honesty I can. I haven’t felt very inspired over the last two and a half months. This year in the Mac Lab has been exactly what Mr. Skocko said it would be: amazing on a scale we had never before seen. The reach and scope of the Mac Lab has expanded further than ever before, our little classroom is being called upon more and more to complete projects for the school, and Mac Lab students are accomplishing feats never before dreamed of. And yet, I can’t help feeling like I have gotten almost nowhere in the past seventy days.
Last year, Danny Owens and I decided that I would inherit his role as leader of the Mac Lab Video Team come the start of the 2010/2011 school year. I have done my best to assume this mantle of leadership and drive our little group of dedicated students into greatness. However, I can’t say that I am enjoying it. The year started with Kyle W, Philip B, Josh K, James W, and myself frantically pushing video after video through what felt like an assembly line for the school. For the first few weeks, I was so caught up in the adrenaline of this fast-paced workflow that I failed to realize how what I loved about the Mac Lab was crumbling around us. Simply put, I have not felt proud of a single video that we have produced for the school, despite people saying that they are good. And that is why I am unhappy. Perhaps the defining factor of my epic year in the Mac Lab last year was that I finally felt proud of something I had done, and now that is gone. That pride drove me day after day to work for hours on end in front of my computer at home, striving to be the best that I could be. The never-ending onslaught of projects this year has not allowed me to work at the best of my ability and that has diminished the quality of our projects. This decrease in quality has then sapped away my pride in what I am doing in the Mac Lab. And that is a problem.
At the same time, I encountered problems within our Video Team. People not wanting to work hard, being lazy, not liking to be told what to do, not being professional, and not holding themselves to Mac Lab standards tore a massive hole through the heart of Mac Lab Media. However, in the past month I have backed off, listened more, and lead less and that has in turn seemed to stabilize the social and political situation within MLM. Nobody is perfect, especially not me.
So how am I going to fix this problem of me not being happy in the Mac Lab right now? Well, first I need to identify a more concrete source of my unhappiness. After a few days of introspection, I realized that what made last year so great was that I had time to learn. I had time to learn, practice, and successfully (or not) implement new skills. That and my own determination strapped me to a rocket bound for Mac Lab greatness. Happiness ensued. So the logical way for me be happy again is to start learning again. (Some people are rolling their eyes right now. “Learning……I HATE LEARNING….How can learning make this lunatic happy?” My answer: find something you love doing, then learn about it and then ask yourself the same question.) Well, to learn, I need time. Ah, time, the illusive thing that has escaped me these past eleven weeks. In order to find time to learn, something else has to go. If I don’t deem a project to be conducive to my learning, I won’t take it. Period. That should clear up my schedule a little, and if it doesn’t I’m man enough to do whatever else is necessary to make sure that the rest of my Senior Year is better than these past eleven weeks.
And now on to a more positive topic: what I have liked/loved about these past eleven weeks. First and foremost, I have been able to build friendships that would never have grown without my time in the Mac Lab. In general, the friendships that I have made in the Mac Lab have been one of my main reasons for returning day after day. Mac Lab Media has become a tight-knit group of friends who do their best given the task at hand. Regardless of the projects we have worked on, the other members of Mac Lab Media have been true heroes to the Mac Lab, the school, and to me. Thank you guys. This year has been, above all else, a team effort.
My second reason for surviving these past months has been my Mac Lab work outside the Mac Lab. Specifically, the time I have spent working with Steven Moyer on his projects for Digital Group Audio has been, without doubt, the highlight of my summer and the past eleven weeks of this school year. Steven has taken all my classroom experience in the Mac Lab and channeled it, craft it into something I can use in the real world. For the details of the many-pronged Zipbuds project, read Steven, Kyle, Christian, and Philip’s detailed descriptions.
For me, the Zipbuds project took my skills as a photographer/Photoshopper to the next level while at the same time giving me real world experience that will have repercussions for the rest of my life. “What? You’ve gotta be kidding me. You expect me to believe that those endless hours in front of the computer or in Steven’s garage are going to have an impact on the rest of your life?” Hey, beyond the internal benefits and happiness that working on such a wonderful project has brought me, the successes of the Zipbuds project will fatten my resumé quite nicely. And that is extremely important in today’s gladiator battle for college acceptance. To all you people out there who live for your grades, there is another, equally important side to a college application: the extracurricular activities section. (And hey, I have been able to do all this stuff for the Mac Lab, continuously building my resumé, while still maintaining my straight A’s. That sounds like a good deal to me.)
The Zipbuds project is a true testament to the power of teamwork, because teamwork was the driving force for the greatness of the final result. Steven, Kyle, Danny, Philip, Christian, Evan, and myself could not have done it without each other. And what do we have to show for it? See for yourself: www.Zipbuds.com | Gizmodo | Gadget Review
I will build a gallery of the roughly two dozen Zipbuds pictures that I personally Photoshopped sometime in the next week (they are stored on a different computer than the one I am writing this post on).
There is no doubt that the Zipbuds project will go down in Mac Lab history as one of the greatest examples of how students can, given the opportunity (thanks to Steven), create work that is good enough to stand proud beside the best in the industry. To come right out and say it, the Zipbuds project has demonstrated how, in the Mac Lab, the sky really is the limit.
And so now I finally get to talk about that featured image. I took that picture almost two months ago and have been saving it for a really special post. Obviously, I did quite a bit of enhancement in Photoshop, but that is how I work. For me, an image isn’t complete until I have torn it pixel from pixel in Adobe’s king of pics. This post’s featured image symbolizes the turmoil and conflict of the skies, but given the success that I described in the preceding paragraphs it can be interpreted to illustrate the power of the Mac Lab to elevate a student’s abilities to the level where they can survive such chaos. But that’s just AP Literature talking. I think it’s a great picture.
I have taken a keen interest in the sky lately, and so here is another of my attempts to capture the beauty of nature. I know that the orange glow is lopsided.
While filming a history movie with my friend Chadd Cady, we noticed a horde of bees swarming a nearby bush. I put down my T1i and ran home to grab the 5D Mark II and 100mm Macro. Here is my first attempt to use that wonderful lens.
While taking a break during the same video shoot, I snapped these pictures of a nearby fence post. Check out that beastly depth of field, courtesy of the 100mm Macro.
I have not had much time to work on projects of my choosing, but one thing that I did do was try stop motion photography. I’ll spare you the details for now. Only one of the four test videos I made turned out semi-interesting. I learned a lot from these tests and next time I try stop motion photography the results will be much better.
Mr. Skocko printed one of my pictures during my seventy-day vacation from post-writing, but I don’t think it turned out good so I haven’t hung it. I did go frame-shopping a few days ago and took notes of various frame sizes. Now I have to decided which pictures I like enough to crop, reprint, and frame.
In the next few weeks, I will try stop motion photography again, give FLOAT my first honest attempt, learn more about Adobe Premiere, and do my best to keep learning, start having fun again, and find that zone of intrinsic motivation that made last year so epic.
“You’re never finished in the Mac Lab.” That quote seems to define my approach to a photo. No matter how much time I spend in Photoshop and Camera Raw working on an image the first time around, I always find something to improve upon in the following days (sometimes quite a few somethings).
This is a key quality in a digital artist; the ability to assess one’s work and recognize that it is never truly complete. I am constantly learning new skills and techniques that I can use on old photos to transform them into new wonders. This continual acquisition of knowledge is a defining factor of what makes the cutting edge such a great place. When we stop learning, then we have failed. And so I try to never stop learning.
The batch of photos that resulted from my trip to Mt. San Gorgonio, like most of my photos, has recently found itself inside Photoshop once again. Read this comment, and you will understand my eagerness to get to the tweaking. There is nothing more satisfying for me that seeing one of my photos rolling out of the big Epson, so I have been working fast to get my favorite images up to a level of quality that represents the best of my current abilities. Note that I did not say that I am done, but merely at a point where my skill is appropriately reflected in my images.
Of the four hundred picture I took on my trip to Mt. San Gorgonio, 12 made it to this blog. Of those twelve, I have selected my favorite five to get a second run through Photoshop.
My plan for the three picture of the Milky Way featured in this post is to create a single print for all three, and for that I must make them look like they go together. I used the this one as a starting point, and matched the color and contrast of the other two as close as I could. Here is the before and after of the second image. And the before and after of the third. The different exposure times made exact matching impossible, but I think they go together nicely. I tried very hard not to go crazy and make them too unrealistic.
In addition, for Orion_02, I tried something different. I went all the way back to the beginning and started over with the original file. My goal was to create an image that was mostly color correct but at the same time vibrant and dramatic. My result is feature on this post. It is completely different but I like it even more. What are your thoughts?
Next, I turned to this image. My problems with it were twofold: the sky and the white balance. I played with Hue/Saturation and managed to oust the excessive orange in the forest. I also used H/S to make the sky most pleasing. That was easy, and makes all the difference.
Then I tried to make the focal point of this image, Mt. San Jacinto, more defined, and succeeded with a simple Levels layer. While at it, I brightened the bushed in the foreground and threw a contrast curve on the already dramatic sky. I really like this picture because of its beauty and the personal connection I have with it (end of this post). I think I have done it justice.
I was about to call it a day, when my I realized I had forgotten this photo. I particularly like this one, and so tried my best to oust the red in the rocks and fallen tree and make the sky more peaceful. A handful of complicated Adjustment Layers and Masks later, I had succeeded, and made the leaves actually green.
Well, it has been two weeks since I first posted these photos and already I have found loads of thing to improve upon. That is life as a learner.
Am I finished? Not now, and not ever. By the time I return to these photos again, I will have learned new and interesting things. And the cycle continues forever.
Update: It is September 25th. I woke up at 5:00am to go the Mac Lab Saturday School™ but learned that the video shoot I was going to take part in was canceled, so I decided to stay home. Instead, I spent four hours returning to these pictures once again and make improvements on all of them. I’m not going to bother writing a new post to give the details on this, as that would be a little redundant.
Just never stop learning.
Well, I wish I had better news. My second try at fireworks photography did not go as well as my first, even though I lugged two 5D Mark II’s, a Rebel T1i, six lenses, and three tripods for what felt like ten miles up, down, and around the USS Midway for six hours on the 4th of July.
I was completely prepared and knew exactly what I needed to do to capture great pictures, but three things got in my way: clouds, smoke, and people. Fog started coming in as soon as it got dark and so the fireworks were exploding inside a bank of haze that was impossible for the camera to penetrate. I tried things like increasing the f-stop to 22 so as to capture as little surrounding light as possible, but to little avail. Second, there must have been five hundred fireworks going off every minute from nine different locations around the bay, so the fog was compounded by an impregnable layer of smoke that never blew away. Third, I had a great location to shoot the fireworks but at the last minute decided to move because I was standing in people’s way, and that proved disastrous. Most of my pictures have a line of heads along the bottom that obstruct the lower reaches of the fireworks. Oh well.
I took over 400 pictures in six hours, and less that 20 are worth editing. Like last time, here are the first four.
Most of the time the smoke was a nuisance, but sometimes it added to the composition.
Those fireworks with exploding bulbs make for interesting pictures.
Brief moments of clarity and a lot of Photoshopping produced some smokeless images. Notice the Coronado Bridge at the bottom of the next two pictures.
If you have been following the Mac Lab Blog and the happenings of the 2010 Mac Lab Summer Academy™, then you know that I am determined to capture some amazing pictures of fireworks this 4th of July. Today, the 3rd, I went to the top of the hill in Cottonwood and watched a fireworks show over the Cottonwood Golf Course. My goal was to test the new advanced shutter button and experiment with the techniques I had learned here and here.
Well, I had moderate success. The button worked well once I figured it out but I ended up not using many of its cool features. As for what I had read, well only about half actually proved to be applicable to this particular shoot. Focusing turned out to be more that just throwing the dial to infinity and the 4 seconds and f/11 trick that Scott Kelby suggested didn’t work very well. What did work phenomenally though was the baseball hat trick I read here. Yes, you are going to have to read the article to find out what I mean. The most important thing I learned, however, is that experimentation is key. There is not a single group of settings that will yield perfect pictures every time and so you must be willing to experiment and find what is best. That goes for everything in general.
I took 92 pictures in a twenty minute time period. About 25 are good. About 20 are great. Here are the first 4. What’s really good is that there is very little post-production work to be done with pictures like this. It took be under ten minutes to edit these 4 and most of that time was spent in Camera Raw.
More info here.
Just so you are forewarned, this post is designed to beat Christian’s latest super-post as far as word count is concerned. Here we go.
Philip, I apologize in advance (he doesn’t like lengthy posts).
Light Painting Update:
As I have mentioned many times before, I went through a dry spell as far as new work was concerned during the time leading up to AP Exams when I spent all my time studying and working on the 840 Poster. Well, as the AP Exams are over and the 840 Poster is slowly coming to an end, I have had time to consider and complete new light painting projects. As this post explains, I went to Harbor Island a few weekends ago and took 28 pictures of downtown and the sights of the city from afar. Since that post, I have edited two more images.
I think the first is good, but not spectacular.
I was getting bored with making realistic pictures of Dowtown over and over again, so I threw the “Fill Light” and “Blacks” sliders in Camera Raw all the way to the right, added a few extra crazy adjustments, and got the second image. I have no idea where the halo came from or I would have gotten rid of it (it’s not from “Clarity”).
After the District Art Show, Kyle W, Philip, Christian, Zack, and I went to Tidelands Park in Coronado to take pictures, and we had great success. Read more here and here. After browsing through my images, I counted 24 that were good enough to edit and eventually narrowed that down to nine.
Here they are:
I kind of like this shot of the Coronado Bridge, even though it didn’t turn out as good as I would have liked (I was using the wrong lens – Christian was using the right one).
With these next two images, I decided to listen to Philip’s advice and make them not as warm as the others. This forced me to approach them from a different angle and I think they turned out very nicely (some of my favorites). Thanks for the advice Philip. (But there is a point where cool (blue) turns into unrealistic (too blue/bad).)
This next one was out of focus and I tried to compensate by adding lots of different effects. I don’t really like it.
The next image is my favorite. I really like the contrast between the bluish background and orange foreground (complementary colors), even though the frame isn’t great.
I tried a lot of new techniques on these pictures, including using the “Threshold” Adjustment Layer for the first time. I also ventured deeper into Camera Raw than ever before and used the “Split Toning” panel for the first time.
I was all ready to post this post after three hours of writing, and then I realized I had forgotten to add vignettes to my new images. I had to go back and fix, re-save, re-upload, and re-add twelve images (it turns out the Dip wasn’t up-to-date too). Argh!
With more free time (now that most of my classes have toned done the workload) I should be able to produce more new work relatively quickly. I continue to get better at using the 5D Mark II as well as my Rebel T1i, which has translated into better pictures than ever before. I remember from the beginning of the year how out of two hundred pictures, maybe ten would be good. Well now maybe one hundred would turn out nicely.
The District Art Show:
As you all read here, Superintendent Collins surprised everyone when he awarded my already 1st place Dip picture (named “Night in the Light” for the Art Show) one of the biggest awards of the night. I was surprised my pictures won anything at all because they printed horribly bright (I had tailored them for the big Epson in the Mac Lab and not the small Epson at Mr. Skocko’s house). The actual print from the Art Show is hanging in my living room, and looks just fine in the dim lighting. I gave the “Navy Lights” picture to Kyle R because he hadn’t gotten a print of it yet.
For me, the greatest feeling of accomplishment in the Mac Lab is seeing something of mine being printed, and so to have had eleven things receive that honor, I feel pretty good about my year so far. Oh, and just to set the record straight, the bigger the print the better!!!!!! At only 20 inches by 13 inches, this image looks like a postage stamp next to this one and this one, which are both 30 by 20 inches. (I want my copy of the District 840 poster to be 44 inches by 70 inches, one square inch for every hour I spent working on it.)
The District 840 Poster:
The third thing I want to give an update on is the District 840 Poster. It is currently on its fourth version, which is two more than it was on when it was submitted and mass-printed. After a marathon Skype video conference and some last-minute tweaking the day before it was due, this is what the poster looked like. We (Kyle W, Philip, Mr. Skocko, and myself) all agreed that the sky was just awful and needed to be replaced, so I added some Photoshop clouds that night, which is version two. At that point, we had no choice but to submit the poster but we vowed to make it better. The poster was mass-printed 11 by 17 inches and distributed around the school and a 44 by 70 inch giant was printed for in front of the office. However, as time went on the sky looked worse and worse, so I began the process of finding somehow to make a new one. I decided to look at old photos and try to find one with an acceptable sky (we realized that the idea of making a sky from scratch in Photoshop proved futile). I turned first to the pictures in this post, and combined the skies from the two images (one, two) in Photoshop. Because the stars in the two images are different sizes, the result had a feeling of depth. I liked this third version, but had to agree with Philip when he said that it looked too peaceful. Also, adding a night sky created a different problem: night means the buildings need lights. Making that happen proved impossible with our current skills, and so I continued my search for an image that could work. I stumbled across this one while going through some old files and knew instantly that it was the one. Unfortunately, two problems arose: first, it was a JPG and second, it was VERY noisy. We had no choice but to live with the first problem, and the wonderful noise reduction features in Camera Raw beautifully solved the second. Instead of trying to add the new sky to the same file with the other two skies, we went all the way back to the beginning, to the version two trips through Camera Raw before this version: the big 1.38GB main file with all the components on their own layers. This made adding the new sky a piece of cake and also allowed some problems with the edges of the buildings to be solved relatively easily. However, this also meant that we had to repeat the Camera Raw steps, but in the end that proved to be a good thing too. After a week of work, Kyle and I managed to get the new fourth version looking much better than its predecessors. A few last-minute fixes made for a truly great poster, but since the Mac Lab is out of paper it will remain solely digital for now.
Looking at all the versions of the 840 Poster side by side, I think that the buildings in the final version need to be darker. That’s an easy fix, but I need to run it by the group first.
Over the past couple of months when I couldn’t go out and take pictures because I was supposed to be focusing on my other classes, I turned to Photoshop. I learned dozens of new skills and have become truly great at using Photoshop. The District 840 poster taught me a lot about image correction and the healing tools, which gave me a new appreciation for a different side of Photoshop.
Also, instead of trying to push my images to the brink of destruction, I have really tried to reign in my enthusiasm and not over-process my images. When reworking the Dip and Cars images, I took special attention to this and ended up decreasing the vibrance on both images quite a lot. This took the edge off the bright and somewhat blinding colors and created two images that were pleasant, not painful, to look at. The main thing I fixed in the Dip image was severe over-processing, and it was only through some creative Camera Raw-ing that I was able to same the image. I experienced a moment of desperation and hopelessness while working on that picture, when I ran out of ideas and felt the pain of failure. Then I reached for the Adjustment Brush and blurred/desaturated/darkened the over-processing away. Miraculous, in my opinion anyway. Just look at the road in these two versions (one and two). See the difference? In this post I called the previous version a masterpiece, and now I feel foolish for doing so. There is a point when too much of a good thing (like Photoshop) can be a very, very bad and very, very destructive thing indeed, and that is something I have been trying to avoid in my latest images.
The new tools in Photoshop CS5, like Content-Aware Fill, the Content-Aware Spot-Healing Brush, Puppet Warp, Lens Correction, and the new blending modes have come in extremely handy and have changed the way I work with my images. The new skills that I have learned through thousands of hours in front of my computer have truly transformed my skills as a digital artist in the past six months. (Example: in three days I was able to capture, edit, and print a District Art Show-worthy picture. Unfortunately, when Mr. Skocko learned he could only submit eight things, he had to cut it, leaving only two of my images in the Art Show) Now I feel like whatever the challenge, I have the skills to overcome it.
Also, I have been using Camera Raw on a scale I would never have imagined before. I was just starting to really appreciate the power of Camera Raw 5 in CS4 when Camera Raw 6 was launched with CS5. The new version has a totally new engine that allows for better edits than ever before. The new noise reduction features may be my favorite, but then again the new lens correction software in the 6.1 update just may be cooler. I never realized just how distorted the images straight out of the camera really were until I tried out this new feature!
I almost forget to talk about the wonderful Adobe Digital Negative file format that I discovered a while ago but only started using with CS5. The Digital Negative format allows for increased compression without data loss (which is great when taking high-quality 30MB pictures) and does away with the old XMP sidecar files that CR2 files had. I especially like how if I start editing an image in Camera Raw but don’t finish, I can save the image directly in Camera Raw as a DNG without loosing any edibility (or the edits I just made). Basically, if it’s a picture and it’s not a PSD or a web-ready JPG, it needs to be a DNG. It’s that simple (in my opinion). DNG’s are smaller, store more information, and are more versatile that CR2′s, so why not use them?
I haven’t done much to CRDESIGNLAB in the past months except remove all of Kyle R’s work. That means all the Digital Art pages are looking quite empty, which is likely how they will stay for the rest of the year (along with the 3D pages). I have been searching for a new blog theme, but have not found anything intriguing yet.
I think I will hold out on making new tutorials until summer because I don’t see myself as having any time before the end of the year. I plan to make dozens of new tutorials over the summer (on light painting, Photoshop, and photography) in order to build a wonderful student resource for next year. Speaking of next year, I will be a Senior but I will not be taking any Mac Lab classes. Don’t worry though, I will go periods one through five and spend six and seven in the Mac Lab anyway helping students and working on projects. I hope to be a resource next year both through my direct aid and the tutorials on this blog.
By the way, this is the 72nd post on CRDESIGNLAB. That’s a lot of posts. (Other stats: 550 comments, 6,736 hits)
I am continuing to make final changes to the 840 Poster, but as soon as the Mac Lab gets paper it is ready to print.
Also, I have volunteered to set up fifteen new iMacs for Mrs. Ormsby and the SAGA. I have been working on just one of the computers and plan to build a master disk image that I can then transfer to the others. After some initial difficulties with InDesign, which is the primary program the journalism students use, Mr. Skocko suggested I bring the computer down to the Mac Lab for the setup process instead of working in Mrs. Ormsby’s room. Having access to a reliable internet connection allowed me to download the required updates to make InDesign work, and I was able to complete the installation of all the applications Mrs. Ormsby needs. Now I just need to here back from SAGA on what specific files need to be standardized across all the computers. Hopefully I should be done with the setup and ready to create the image using Carbon Copy Cloner within the coming week. That means that hopefully all fifteen new computers should be up and running and ready to replace the ten year old Macs in room 322 before too long.
Plans for the Rest of the Year:
Well, I have only 2 days left on my trial for CS5, so my plans for the next few weeks must include buying the CS5 Master Collection. Mac Lab Media needs to produce a video advertising next year’s Blood Drive, which I will be very involved in. I need to learn more about Final Cut Studio in preparation for leading Mac Lab Media next year. I need to continue to learn how to use the new audio/video equipment, which will be invaluable for all future video projects. I hope to work with Christian on a stop-motion light painting video, but that might get pushed until summer. The District 840 poster needs to be “finished” and printed for in front of the office. I need to finish setting up Mrs. Ormsby’s new computers. I need to edit my newest light painting pictures and capture new ones. The Mac Lab iDev Team has yet to get off its feet, but I hope that in the next few weeks I can put my iPad to good use and start working my way through the tutorials. And that’s just the stuff I can think of off the top of my head. There’s a lot more, but I think my subconscious is not letting me remember it.
Oh, I almost forgot: Kyle W and I have to assemble the Mac Lab iBook for the Final Exam. That’s going to take a while and teach us more about InDesign than we will ever wanted to know.
Sunday night I will attempt this challenge, which will help me appreciate the skill required to be a photographer before the invention of digital cameras. Plus, getting a free print isn’t bad either. My strategy is to pick four shots and take nine picture of each with different settings hoping to get something good. I will probably work with Kyle W and create some light painting masterpieces the old-fashioned way.
On Monday I have to film a group English project, but because my group didn’t want to step up to Mac Lab standards I am not allowed to use Mac Lab cameras. That’s too bad because I was really hoping to make a phenomenal video, but it looks like I am going to have to settle with what the group want, which isn’t phenomenal.
This year has been much more that I envisioned it to be. My first year in the Mac Lab (as a Freshman) was quite uneventful and, honestly, I expected this year to be the same. When I enrolled in the Mac Lab a year ago, I had no idea that I would have five things on the Wall of Fame (I think it’s five), have eleven beautiful prints hanging in my house, or have stood alongside Danny and Christian and received the ROP Champion of Champions Award (and then that totally unexpected follow-up award from the California Legislature). And as a math and science guy, becoming one of the most decorated recipients at the 24th District Art Show was something that I would never have expected in a thousand years (me, winning art awards, you can’t be serious!!!). This year has been more fun than I could have possibly imagined, and I plan to end it on a high note. I have learned so much about myself and grown so much as a person in the past year that I would not trade my time in the Mac Lab for anything.
And the crazy thing is that something tells me that next year will be even better.
Christian, I cut down the length of this post by over a thousand words because the general consensus seemed to be that I write too much. But at 3014 words this post stills claims the trophy.
Yesterday at 8 pm, after more than a month of waiting, I got an opportunity to capture some new images. My family and I drove to Harbor Island, and I photographed downtown San Diego through the quickly forming haze. I spent about an hour taking pictures of downtown, the USS Midway, planes landing at Lindbergh Field, the Coronado Bridge, and Naval Air Station North Island, with lots of success. I took 28 pictures total, and over half of those are good enough to be taken through Photoshop. So far, I have worked on two.
I couldn’t make my tripod level to save my life, so I gave up entirely and decided to rely on the Ruler Tool in Photoshop. I also decided to manually focus all my images (it’s not that hard, everyone), even though there was plenty enough to let the camera do it. First, there is this picture. I set the f-stop to 11, and 36 seconds later I had a beautifully crooked image with the front of a boat and three tree branches in the frame. Good enough for now. Now I repeated the process a more dozen times.
When I had exhausted the location directly across the bay from the city and taken enough pictures of the Naval Air Station North Island to make the Navy suspicious, we moved to a part of Harbor Island parallel to Lindbergh Field. I set up the camera and while waiting for an airplane, took this picture. Wow, I wonder if it has a white balance problem? I took a few more and then turned the camera to the sky, and captures about five airplanes as they came in to land. Those pictures are coming soon, if I decide they are good enough because they aren’t very interesting. After frantically running after some fireworks, pictures of which are also coming soon, we headed home.
Now time for Photoshop. Today I unloaded the pictures from the camera, 648MB for just 28 pictures. Each of these two images (one and two) went through the following process: Camera Raw, Photoshop, Camera Raw, Photoshop. I have sort of developed a workflow that I like for CS5. My exact methods will remain a mystery for now, but I will say that I am REALLY starting to like the new Subtract blending mode. Oh, and I should mention that this helped a lot, especially with the second image. And here are the finished products: one and two. Quite an improvement, if I do say so myself. After finishing the first image, I realized that I should have used a different one of the dozen or so similar shots I took, so I will probably be redoing it in the near future.
More images from yesterday’s shoot coming soon. Next weekend I will hopefully get the (focused) shot of the Coronado Bridge that Mr. Skocko has been asking for. Now I have to decide which one of my images to submit to the District Art Show.
As it says here, I decided to return to this image in order to recharge after the 840 Poster. Well, today I did just that. It quickly became evident that returning to the original file was a waste of time, and so I picked up where I had left off and tried to fix some of the extreme over-processing. Four hours later, I think I have succeeded. This is the new, more color-correct, easier to look at, version. Without going into the details, I’ll jut say that I used the new blending mode mentioned here and some improved features in Camera Raw, and did a whole bunch of content-aware spot-healing (about two hours actually). After four months almost to the day, I am calling this image edited to the best of my ability. It isn’t finished, but you all know why.
While I was in the mood for some heavy-duty road work, I took the content-aware spot-healing brush to this image as well, and with a little more Photoshoping, a new blending mode, and some other stuff I can’t remember, I got this image. Also almost four months old, this image has now been taken as far as I am willing to take it. There is a point in time when it is impractical to keep returning to old work when you could take up new projects, and for me that time has arrived. For now, I will try to move on and produce new work.
A couple months ago, I asked Mr. Skocko to print this image, the previous version of this one, and he told me that I should wait and see what I could learn to make it better. Listening to his advice, I also held off on asking this old version to be printed. For both of these images, waiting turned out to be the right thing, as they both were made much better with new skills and new tools in CS5. But now I have decided that sense I will not be working on them any more, I think it is time to ask for them to be printed. What do you think?
That is it for now. I am off to add a new sky to the 840 Poster.
P.S.: I didn’t put either of the new versions as a featured image because they both have been featured multiple times before and I felt like it was getting a little repetitive featuring the same images over and over again.
Ahhhh, finally! After two months of vigorous Photoshopping, the “completed” District 840 poster rolled out of the big Espon at 44 inches wide and 70 inches long early Tuesday morning. I’ll spare you the unpleasant details of the two month ordeal culminating in a frantic pair of six hour Skype video conferences, but I will say that I am tremendously happy with the result. Kyle Wheaton, Zack Tatar, Philip Behnam, Fadi George, and myself managed to construct this monstrosity. With a completely 3D Downtown San Diego (courtesy of Zack), an ominous Norsemen space ship (my creation), and a panorama of the football field in the foreground (also my creation), I’d say this is quite the piece of work. Without Fadi’s skills with the pen tool, the book buildings that Kyle and I made and that Philip weaved into Zack’s city would never have existed, and without the determination of Kyle, Philip, and Zack, this poster never would have been finished. This was a great team project that could not have been accomplished without the wonderful support of all those involved. All I have to say now is that it isn’t done yet…
Now onto another topic. After six weeks of him asking, I finally gave Mr. Skocko my picture of the USS Midway to print. It was on the Works in Progress page for a long time, but now it is hanging above the door to the Mac Lab and in my game room.
For now, I have no really pressing projects, so I will try to return to this image, which I twisted into this image, and plastered onto the desktop of every computer I work on. I think I will try to start over from scratch and try new strategies to create a similarly cool image without the massive distortion and over-processing (my specialty, which I am trying to fix). I hope to finish it and get is printed as a nice restful job while I rework the sky on the 840 Poster. Oh, and Mr. Skocko wants lights in the windows on the 840 Poster!!!!!!! How?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!??!?!?!?! I sense a job for Zack…
Today was the last of my three AP Tests (U.S. History, Chemistry, and English Language and Composition). After the last two of those tests, which were yesterday and today, I came back to the Mac Lab even though I was excused for the day. It was fun earning extra time during my own period.
That’s it for now. I’m off to Photoshop.
Info: In case you were wondering why all the new images are all of a sudden so big (1500 pixels in largest direction), it’s because all the displays I use are 1920 by 1080 pixels (1080p) or larger, and I want my images to be larger than a business card when I look at them.
It’s been a while. 17 Days to be exact. To keep it brief, in those 17 days, I have been hard at work on the 840 Poster, a couple of video team projects, and of course exploring my iPad. Now to the important stuff.
A few weeks ago, Mr. Skocko gave me a recipe for taking pictures of the night sky that he learned from this guy. He told me a the very best settings for the camera, and so I vowed to try it out. That’s what I did early tonight. I took the 5D Mark II into my backyard and pointed the lens straight up, and got a wall of white. Total failure. I deducted that this was because I was taking photos from a heavily populated area with lots of light pollution, so I adjusted the setting a little (a lot, actually) and tried again. Total failure for a second time. Fast forward 20 minutes and 50 pictures, and I have finally found a setup that worked. I took a few shots of a house up the street before going inside to see just how granulated the images would be.
When I got to my computer, I waited to unload the pictures until the trial of the CS5 Master Collection was done installing on my main computer, so I could take full advantage of the new features when editing my new photos. I loaded them into Bridge, and………success!!!!! Of the 50 or so pictures I took (of which about 10 were good), I chose two to advance to the next stage: Camera Raw. After boosting Photoshop CS5′s performance preference to eat a MASSIVE 7.5GB of my 8GB of RAM, I took the first image, which is the one featured on this post, through Camera Raw. I proceeded straight to the new noise reduction features and threw the sliders all the way to the right. And…….the amazingness just got WAY better. Man, Photoshop has power!!!!! The image went from relatively grainy but still OK, to perfectly smooth and beautiful. The only side effect was that the house in the photo got a sort of painted texture, which I think looks fine with the image. I played with the “Contrast” and “Blacks” sliders a little, then opened the image as a Smart Object and added a contrast curve before turning to the next image. (In case you’re wondering, the lighter area in the center of the photo are clouds what didn’t render well when converted to a JPG. The whole photo didn’t convert well, and looks much better as a PSD). On this one, I again utilized the noise reduction features, but because the image was not in perfect focus, there was only so much Camera Raw could do. It didn’t turn out as good as the first one, but then again it wasn’t really meant to. I just wanted to demonstrate the possibilities of these new skills and show just how cool a picture of the sky could turn out (if it were only focused!!!!!).
I have been staring into the abyss of space for a long time, wishing to capture its beauty in a photograph, and have finally somewhat succeeded. I did not totally achieve the effect I wanted, and in all reality didn’t even come close to getting the breathtaking picture of the Milky Way that I want to get, but I am happy for now. To take pictures like the ones this guy took, you NEED to be in the middle of nowhere, ten miles from the nearest person, not in the middle of Rancho San Diego.
That’s it for now, I guess. The 840 poster is coming along good and will be my main focus until it is completed.
PS: Dang Photoshop is fast!!!!!!!