Photo of The Day (working with split toning and compositing)

Nixlot Dameus powerlifter/bodybuilder.  1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 50mm

Nixlot Dameus powerlifter/bodybuilder. 1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 50mm


Making a composite with chalk floating in the air is no easy task. But I have learned to overcome the problem with the help of fog brushes. Still it is no easy task at all. Like a previous composite where my mimesis was a veil I just keep trying different things. Sometimes it means using a plugin like Topaz ReMask 5, saving the image and running it through the plugin again. I have other ways, sometimes I can create the illusion that you (the viewer) is looking through the material, smoke, fog or in this case chalk. Capturing the image was not very hard at all, but I will admit that it took about 5 to 6 tries to get the image we wanted. The hard part about the capture was letting the plume of dust expand, but not too much. So it was a little bit of a timing issue. Camera settings were my standard studio settings of 1/125 second at f/7.1 or 8 ISO 50 50mm prime lens (although the 50mm is not typical)

So the final is a composite with a little of both the real chalk and some created chalk. Then to take it more towards an illustrative side I did some split toning. In the end I’m happy with the way the image turned out and I’m sure Nixlot will like it too. I think it falls into my 2016 goal for “creating images with impact” so I’m happy.

Creating With Analog Efex Pro (It’s like this is where Instagram created their filters.)

Double exposure made in Analog Efex Pro. Self portrait at my house in Thailand. I love the wooden window shutters.

Double exposure made in Analog Efex Pro. Self portrait at my house in Thailand. I love the wooden window shutters.

Let’s talk a little about Google’s Nik Analog Efex Pro plugin for Lightroom or Photoshop. I myself had over looked this at first. In my last post I talked about how I had bought just two products from Nik, but soon after Google acquired the Nik collection they sent download links to previous Nik customers for the whole Nik collection. This was long before Google made the collection available to the public.

So when I downloaded the whole collection I seen Analog Efex Pro but I thought I had no use for it. Actually the truth be told I never even opened it. Not until one day I was trying to open Color Efex Pro in Photoshop and I accidentally opened Analog Efex Pro in the fly out menu. It was at that time I started to explore this fun little gem. It basically gives you all these old camera kits from the film era and lets you create some really awesome stuff. Now I know if you are a Photoshop user your first thought might be that “it can all be done in Photoshop” and I would answer “yes & no.” Well actually “yes” but Nik’s algorithms are a lot different from Adobe’s and seem to produce the end results in a unique way with a different feel. So yes you could do it in Photoshop, but the feel of the end visual seems different to me.

The double exposure effect is a lot of fun and again one might think the “masking” in PS would produce the same effect, but AEP is so much more fun. It could be a “one click” and your done edit if you use the presets, but I really like to play with the controls and see what I can create on my own.

If you like Instagram and all the filter choices, you will love Analog Efex Pro. It’s like this is where Instagram created their filters. I really would like to see more people use it and play around and get real creative. You have so many options available; from light leaks, to dust & scratches, bokeh and many more.

So if you are a Photoshop or Lightroom user download the collection and dive in.

Ghostly Forest

Ghostly Forest created using Analog Efex Pro.

Google Makes Nik a Free Download (…for those who don’t know the original Nik plugins were the “cat’s meow”)

B&W conversion using Silver Efex Pro 2

B&W conversion using Silver Efex Pro 2

Final edit includes adjustments performed using Color Efex Pro 4, Tonal Contrast, Pro Contrast and more.

Final edit includes adjustments performed using Color Efex Pro 4, Tonal Contrast, Pro Contrast and more.

As many photographers may have heard Google has just made the Nik Collection a “free” download. Many photographers already know about the Nik plugins, however I personally have met many photographers who never heard of Nik plugins, even after Google acquired the Nik collection from Nik. I guess I was naïve to have thought everybody knew what they were. I have been using Nik for many years now. I had purchased Color Efex Pro 3 and Silver Efex Pro 2 from Nik and then after Google acquired them one day out of the clear blue I received an email from Google giving me a link to download the whole collection and this in turn moved me up to Color Efex Pro 4. Google stated because I was a current Nik Customer they were dishing out the love and it really was a beautiful day for sure.

Now real quick for those who don’t know the original Nik plugins were the “cat’s meow” especially Color Efex Pro and Silver Efex Pro.

I fell in love with Silver Efex Pro 2 (SEP2) for making black & white conversions. Although I have several methods for making B&W images SEP2 is by far the best and most creative. I love my color images, but at the same time I can get lost in playing with SEP2. Most important to me when working with images that have a face, is being able to see the zone mapping so I can apply my personal recipe for zone mapping human skin. I’m not going to go into all the details about the zone system, but for those who know about Ansel Adam’s zone system… well you know what I’m talking about.

Most important (in my opinion) is that if you want to create amazing black & whites you need to first create a great color image and then move into SEP2. So for those of you who have Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom, you need to get these plugins and get started learning how to use them. For me… if you asked me to choose one tool or plugin for Photoshop and nothing else. Hands down the Nik collection would be my choice, mainly Color Efex Pro.

Another source that increased my wanting for using SEP2 was famed photographer Vincent Versace’s book “From Oz to Kansas” but you must first read “Welcome to Oz” because it is all about making cinematic edits that can stop at being beautiful color images or… move to the next book “From Oz to Kansas” and that is taking those awesome color edits and moving to black& white. The books truly are worth reading, however so many people I meet who want to call themselves a “photographer” want instant gratification and reading a book is just too much trouble, or so it seems. Sometimes I will mention that I learned “this or that” technique from a book I read and I get looked at like I have two heads.  I want to be the best photographer I can be and when I look at anybody who has ever succeeded at anything I many times see people who know their craft inside and out and many will tell you that part of knowing your craft is studying the people who have traveled the road before you. When you think about it it’s a “no brainer,” but seems many have no brains. Every photographer out there in this big ole world wants better images and the Nik collection will get you closer to that holy grail, but do yourself a favor and read a book or take a class that is written or taught by a true master of the trade/art. Fuck those stupid Facebook advertisements and find somebody who is a master. I live in NYC/Philly area and when I know Joe McNally or Cliff Mautner or Lindsay Adler are in town speaking or teaching… well you bet your last dollar I’m gonna be there. And those are just a few of the masters photography has to offer.

So down load the Nik collection from Google and let your creativity move of to the next level. I did!

Dark Days (when the creative light weakens)

Dark Days make you create what you feel.

Sometimes you just create what you feel… literally. Mood is the major factor in “what, when and how” most people are able to create. Stresses (or the lack of) from the outside world help set the tone or kill the creative spirit all together. Internal stresses are just as incriminating because we all know demons never sleep and they rarely take a day off. But for the strong healthy minds and souls demons are kept at bay, although there are those times we let our guard down and the demon within will rise up unexpectedly and quell your ability to create.

For me right now it is the outside stresses of the world that have all but extinguished my creative fire. You cannot control your outside world. We try to and we feel we can, but as we all know life can really come down on you sometimes and like a rainstorm it can be hard, real hard and when it’s real hard and you’re hurting from the rain… it gets even harder and yet again harder.  You feel as though you’ve done something to make God angry with you. When in reality you really cannot complain. For if you wake up breathing with two good eyes, legs, feet, hands and arms your still in the game. You just need to be stronger. Love the most those who love you back. Most of all love God and yourself.

I could list my problems and try to invoke drama but my problems are mine to solve. After all what is life? Just one problem after another, they key is to “solve the problem at hand and wait for the next one.”

Digital Art Rendering (Outside a Paris Doorway 16×20 digital print.)

Outside a Paris doorway.

Outside a Paris doorway.

I worked on this last night and late into the night. Spending hours just trying different techniques fo making this image fall somewhere between a painting and a photograph. I’ll have to wait for the proof to return from the printer before I can say yay or nay to the process I used in the end. It seems strange to put Kendall into such a dark eery setting after putting her in so many light, heavenly visceral images. But I like it. The whole process has been creative, from the actual photo shoot with the makeup and headpiece to the editing. Adobe Photoshop really is such a large and vast universe with options, processes, actions, filters, plugins and on an on…

I was falling asleep in the wee hours of the morning and when I woke I couldn’t wait to see what I created. lol.

Photo of The Day (Movie poster composite…)

Movie Poster Style Composite(ala Corey Barker) with model Kendall Strampel

Movie Poster Style Composite(ala Corey Barker) with model Kendall Strampel

I have had this image for a while now. It is a composite made from a Corey Barker “Down & Dirty” tutorial that appeared in Photoshop User Magazine several months back. Not sure that it looks like a movie poster but it is a nice image nonetheless.. In Corey’s version he uses an image of a model that appears to be shot with a wide angle lens and there is some distortion to her face and body, but in a good way. In my version I just pulled a shot of Kendall that was straight on with no distortion.

Old Photos (because memories are like days we don’t always have good ones…)

Remember Polaroids?

Remember Polaroids?

Photographs & Memories… a cliché? Maybe! It is also the name of one of my favorite 70’s albums. Talk about clichés, some clichés make me just want to puke and smack my head into a wall. How many times have I visited a photographer’s website and I click on the “About” page only to read some (so-called) prolific statement about “capturing time” or “capturing life moments” or “preserving moments in time” and blah blah blah… While “yes” I am mocking these statements but many times that “About” page sounds so damn hokey, same as the camera aperture symbol being used (most often) in the letter O on the photographer’s business card and logos. They (who ever “they” are) claim you should strive to be different to get ahead and get noticed and sometimes being different could be as easy as not vomiting verbally on your “About” page and just sticking to a statement that is naturally “you” or have somebody else write the statement like I chose to do.

Ok on to more serious things…

I feel that while technically a photograph is a moment frozen in time, captured if you will. But there is more to it than just that. So let’s just dive a little deeper and take a trip down memory lane. My hopes are that by the end of you reading this post you will go look at some of your own old photos whether they are in tangible albums or saved on a drive or in a cloud, go get lost in a memory.

You see a photo today that you captured yesterday and maybe it was a great image and you are happy to see it again. As the weeks pass it may lose a little feeling and soon it will start to wane and you’ll not look at it so much anymore. Or maybe you will see it every day because it is your profile or cover photo on your favorite form of social media. You see it every time you logon but you don’t really “notice” it, it’s like your feet, you know they’re there (somewhere… you hope) you just don’t think about them too much.

We have all heard a song from days gone by that triggers a memory. But if you are like me the song will not just trigger one single memory, it will open a window for you to look back and peer into your life and see the entire ambience around that time in your life. You will look well beyond the “moment captured in time” and the moment was just a key to unlock so much more. This is what old photographs do for me, they open a window and there is so much more to see then just that “moment captured in time” that is on your monitor or printed to a piece of paper. “Lost in a memory” can be a very emotional thing because memories are like days we don’t always have good ones, but we do have the images to remind us… good or bad. A picture is worth a thousand words but that one picture could be worth just as many memories too.

Now I know this sounds a little stupid but pictures have to be new before they can become old. My point is; go make some new pictures. Keep them safe and let them age.