Category Archives: Photography

What I learned at the CS3 Power Tour Part 2

Okay, I’m reasonably recuperated from my early morning porch shoot, so here’s my second installment in this series. (Ooh, look at me, sounding all important and stuff. Don’t mind me, I’m slightly delusional. I think it might be the decongestants. That, or the Kahlua in my chai last night. Or maybe both.)

What I learned at the CS3 Power Tour:

2. Panoramic images are ridiculously simple. (And this entry is ridiculously short.)

Heading to the seminar last week via the ferry from New Jersey was absolutely the best way to get there. I didn’t have to deal with Lincoln Tunnel traffic, the five-minute trip across the Hudson River was unrushed and relaxing, I didn’t have to find parking in midtown, and oh, I didn’t have to deal with Lincoln Tunnel traffic.

But by far, that evening after the seminar, ferrying back to where my car was in Lincoln Harbor brought just about the coolest perk you can get right after a Photoshop seminar. Not only did I get to see my mom (who let me use her parking spot at her condo), but I also got to hang out a bit at her place, which offers an unobstructed and private view of the entire Manhattan skyline. And it was a clear night.

So, with Scott Kelby’s encouragement to “go shoot panos!” here are a few shots of the skyline that evening:




Getting those photos stitched together was going to take me all of – ready for this? – three steps.

Okay, maybe four, but hey, the third one’s Auto, so it kinda doesn’t count much. Oh, and the first step was choosing the photos, which is really a no-brainer. And the last one was to crop off any rough edges, which is also sort of a no-brainer. And the second one was clicking on the Photomerge command, which again doesn’t really require much thinking.

So I guess what I’m saying is that yeah, creating panoramic images is so ridiculously simple that you almost don’t need a brain.


(click on the image to view a larger version – warning: it’s a large file!)

Easy and seamless.

Sigh. If only housework were this simple.


Addendum: Taking the photos is just as simple. With CS3, you don’t even have to use a tripod. You can totally hand hold your camera, and as long as you have noticeable overlap between photos, you’re good to go.


What I learned at the CS3 Power Tour Part 1

Okay, the secret’s out. Who would’ve thought that photographers like Scott Kelby can sometimes take average-looking pictures? Actually, his words were, “the worst baby pictures ever in the history of baby pictures.” Or something to that effect. They weren’t perfectly in focus, the white balance was out of whack, and he had such a hard time picking nine best pictures of the lot of almost 70 shots that he had to use one file twice to complete the group.

But then he made something great with it. So great that the mother burst into tears at the sheer beauty of the presentation. So did he, he admits. Because he felt like such a scam.

I like it when the experts say stuff like that. I like it even more when they show us how to pull the same scams.

So here’s the first of what I hope to be a series of ten. Or five. Or if I’m really feeling smart, maybe fifteen. Or twenty if I’m feeling both smart and uppity. Because, as you well know, I like round numbers.

What I learned at the CS3 Power Tour:

1. You don’t have to throw out those not-so-perfect or even far-below-average photos. Get a group of them together, put them in a grid, make the whole thing black and white to hide color imperfections, and put a title to it. Presto! A keepsake poster beautiful enough to hang on the wall. No one has to know that it was made up of photos shabby enough to make mug shots look like studio portraits.

So here is my beloved niece. I constantly lament not being able to see as often as I wish I could. I love her to pieces and have tons of pictures of her whose sole value, I thought, was for posterity and for jogging my memory when I get too old to remember my twenties. (It’s called artistic license. Stop kicking me.)


Every time I see her picture, it makes me smile. But nothing, and I mean NOTHING, beats hearing her laugh. Trust me, there’s no power in the world that can help you resist laughing along.

Go ahead. I dare you.

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See what I mean?

A Photo(shop) Essay

Once upon a time, I posted a water shot here. Okay, it was just the other day. My readers (yes, all six of them) said that they liked it. I liked it too (I’m the sixth reader).


But the actual image straight from the camera was, well, kinda messy.


Yuck. See how ugly it was? All those water spots that the faucet spray deposited on the lens made me want to go clean up my kitchen pronto. Fortunately, the feeling passed.

So I fired up Photoshop CS2 and the first thing I did was Auto Contrast. Because it was late, I was a little sleepy, and I’m never sure where to start or stop so I let Photoshop decide and then took that as my starting point. Also, I really just don’t know that I’m doing.


Not bad, eh? Looking better already. But I really couldn’t stand those spots in the dark space. So I figured, no problem, I’ll clone them out. So I sampled an area as close as possible to the first spot and started. And I didn’t “paint” the spots with strokes – I “dabbed” by clicking on them.


Okay, spots are less noticeable, but now I have gray circles there that still mess up the photo. And I didn’t want to risk feeling like cleaning my kitchen again.

Then I remembered something I read in Scott Kelby’s Photoshop Elements 3 book, so I decided to try it. First, using the Lasso tool, I selected the offending area in the left.


Yes, I know I have unsteady hands and can’t draw to save my life. But not to fear, there’s always Feather to the rescue (sounds like some chicken superhero, doesn’t it?) . I set the Feather to 10, because I like round numbers. And pi.


Much better shape, eh? Then, I went to Filter and picked Gaussian blur and moved the slider to the right until the spots just disappeared. It was like smoothing out the dark area. The result was so cool and sooo much easier than cloning that I didn’t even mind so much that the blur setting was at 7.3 and not a round number.


Look at that pretty left side. It’s so nice and neat and fits so well with my brain that was just starting to register the non-round number I just used. So before it could protest and rebel and kick and scream, I did the same thing to the right side.


Ah. That’s better. Now all it needs is a little sharpening. Since there aren’t really a lot of details in here that can benefit from sharpening, and all I wanted to do was to make the outline of the bubbles pop (my inadvertent puns kill me!), I used the Sharpen Edges filter.


Much nicer, I thought. So nice that I figured I’d do it one more time.


Excellent. I was about ready to dance a jig. Then, just to defy my brain one more time (I was getting bold now – I was Photoshop empowered!), I thought I’d do one more contrast adjustment and set that to 6. Not 5 or 10, but 6. Ha! Take that, you numbers freak you.


Isn’t that trippy? Once again, here’s the before and after:



Now when I look at the final version, it makes me think that my kitchen is spotless and that you can eat spaghetti and meatballs off my floor. I like it!

The End

P.S. I’m sorry for making you look at so many pictures of shiny water. Will you forgive me if I post a flower picture? Here’s the two mums from the same post, a little less sharp this time.


I hope we can be friends again. And if not, you can blame Shrew. Because she was the one who told me I needed to post this. (Sorry pal, but if I’m going down, I’m taking you with me.)

Playing with Photoshop

Okay, I am still waiting for my copy of Scott Kelby’s 7-Point System for Photoshop CS3. I was so thoroughly inspired by Shrew’s Photoshop adventures that I went ahead and ordered the book. And I don’t even have Photoshop CS3. Nor do I have the OS required for CS3. (Excuse my while I lament my situation.)

To make the wait a little more bearable, I went ahead and borrowed Scott Kelby’s The Photoshop Elements 3 Book for Digital Photographers from the local library. And no, I don’t have Photoshop Elements 3 either. (Feeling sorry for me yet?)

But if what I learned from reading that over the weekend is any indication, then I’m banking on at least quadrupling whatever I’ve managed to learn on my own using CS2. (Okay, I’m not that pitiful.)

So here are the mums from my previous post. Remember? The ones I said were perhaps the best straight out of the camera shots I’ve taken with my camera?

Here’s the before:

rust-colored mums 1

And here it is after some ninja Photoshopping. (Except this ninja often ends up nicking herself and overdoing things before she learns patience and self-control, but that’s beside the point.)


Thank you, Mr. Kelby, for including actual Unsharp Mask values to experiment with in your Elements book, because if you had simply told me to trust my eye, I’d still be sitting here with trackball in hand moving those sliders back and forth trying to figure out at what point it becomes too much.

Here’s another one before:


And here it is again after:


What do you think? Did I change it too much? I tried to be subtle and make only light changes to enhance the photo. Which one looks more real to you? Which one makes you want to get closer to your screen and sniff it? (I know these mums aren’t really known for their scent, but just play along with me for a while.) Which one makes you think, “Is that real? Did she go get some fake flowers and spray them with water? Does she have that much time and impish deceit in her life?”

And here’s another photo for you. Because I was bored, and it was dark outside, and I happened to be in the kitchen with my camera. (I know that sounds weird, but it’s all part of the playing-along-with-me thing.)


Pretty bubbles, eh?

That’s all for today! Thanks for playing along!

Nature's magic

This morning, as I drove up the driveway and headed up the steps with seventy-six things in my hand, I noticed a little plant hidden behind my massive purple mums. It was a rust-colored mum. It wasn’t crying out for attention or anything. It just quietly sat there content with what sun and moisture it could get.

Since it had been raining all morning, it was beautifully speckled with water droplets. So despite my raging hunger and the fact that I had ninety-two more things to carry into the house, I stopped a while to grab my camera and snap some shots.

I wasn’t too thrilled with what I saw using the super macro mode, so I attached my trusty old Raynox DCR-250 macro lens. That’s when the magic happened.

Well, not technically magic, but nature has a way of making it appear so.

By the way, these shots are straight out of the camera. The only processing I did was to resize them for posting.

rust-colored mums 1

These are probably the best straight-out-of-the-camera shots I’ve ever taken.

rust-colored mums 4

So as not to feel neglected, I snapped a few shots of my hibiscus plant sitting on the porch as well. It’s been looking pretty lonely. Imagining my plants feeling lonely kinda makes me feel sad inside.

hibiscus bud

This one was kinda snooty though. See how she just flipped her head and pretended to ignore me?


What a little moonlight can do

This is what I did last night.


cantaloupe in the sky

I stood outside in my front porch and attempted to take pictures of the moon. Because, well, it was there and I wanted to see what else my new camera can do.

My hands weren’t really that steady. Maybe I shouldn’t have had that big mug of French vanilla coffee so late in the night. But in any case, I had a hard time keeping the moon in the frame at that zoom level (12x + 4x).

Eventually, I went inside for ice cream. (I had to get the taste of coffee out of my mouth, so I thought chocolate chip cookie dough was as good a masking flavor as any. And if you ask why I didn’t just brush my teeth or drink some citrus fiber drink, you’re missing the point.)

But then I glanced at our deck out back and saw it bathed in moonlight. So I went out to see if maybe I could get a different view of the moon.

moon behind leaves

I refused to let the maple leaves get in the way of snapping another shot of the moon. But then I heard a strange noise and suddenly wondered if bears like the scent of cookie dough. So I hurried back inside.

No bear’s getting his paws on my ice cream. No siree.