In Focus, Bangkok Photography Blog August 20th, 2011

20 August: Koh Samed/Balancing Color in Photoshop CS5


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Feature Photograph Koh Samed (Ko Samet) Balancing Color in Photoshop CS5 Photography News of Interest

Readers Submissions Readers Questions A Snapshot of Bangkok Images Week in Review Infocus Blog, Transitions T


Feature Photograph *menu

Fuji x100 @F8 1/60th ISO 200

This is Part Four in our “Pointing Your Camera” series which is designed to help you filter the scene your eyes are seeing, and find that memorable scene your camera can see. Part One , Part Two, and Part Three before this are worthwhile reading.

I picked these three shots to make a point. When you’re deciding what to point your camera at, think about if you want to show a picture of a pretty building, or if you want to tell a story of a pretty building. Allow me to elaborate:

When I first drove past the grange I immediately knew I’d want to take a picture of the structure, so I drove around from all four sides, parked the car, walked around the four sides, and decided there were three different views from two different sides I wanted to photograph. Each side would be compositionally different from the other.

The Feature Photograph is my favorite, but it may not be yours. I’ll tell you why I photographed each the way I did, and maybe you can tell me which you like better.

The Feature Photograph tells the story of how the grange is placed in its community. It shows it being located next to its own gas pumps where its members come to fuel their vehicles. It’s on a main boulevard directly before the Interstate 5 entrance. The I5 South sign acts as a distant foreground anchor and I love the way the light illuminates it’s surface.

I came back the next day at dusk to get this picture knowing the sun would be behind me, shining on the I5 South sign, the gas pump sign, the cars, and of course the grange building itself. The clouds in the background were a bonus, and lend a beautiful contrast between the dark blue/grey clouds and faint yellow patina of the metal siding of the grange building.

There is so much in this scene that it’s almost ‘too’ busy, and while normally I shy away from busy scenes, in this case it’s what made the image. You can actually ‘feel’ the life surrounding this grange building.

Fuji x100 @F8 1/350th ISO 200

This image of the same grange building and even the same side of the building, but from a different angle isolating the building from its environment so I could focus on the building itself. I made this capture on the first day I did the walk around.

I was hoping to catch the light behind me as I did in the first one, but despite doing this many times I was still surprised with how quickly this type of light makes its appearance and then disappears into darkness. I made four exposures from this position, one after the other, and by the time I was done and thinking about my other view the sun had dropped behind the horizon and darkness enveloped the scene.

Can you tell the suns direction behind me when looking at the shadow of the street light to the right of the middle door and in between the two windows?

When the sun is at this steep angle its very intense allowing an F8 aperture and fast shutter speed virtually guaranteeing a perfect critical focus and adequate depth of field (DOF) along with underexposing the sky background resulting in the deep blue. The resulting exposure gives nice deep colors, reflections on the steel siding, and an illuminated loading dock door entryway. Love it!

It’s a nice picture of a unique building, but it sits alone without the rich context of its environment. You can’t tell if it’s in the middle of a dirt field, a big parking lot, a bustling downtown, or even at an airport. You must be satisfied with the building itself and the satisfying way the setting sun embosses its features.

Fuji x100 @F11 1/200th ISO 200

The other interesting view showing several major features the other views didn’t. It shows the high catwalks and the enclosed ladder the controller needs to climb into position, the two additional tanks, and did you notice the freight car underneath the local gangs graffiti? Those big yellow letters really set off the scene.

From these three images you can tell how thinking what you point your camera at rewards you with three very different views of the same building and remarkably different exposures than if you’d just pointed and shot in an automatic mode without any sort of exposure compensation (Ev).

This ends our “Pointing Your Camera” series and I hope you’ve enjoyed it. More, I hope you’ve taken at least a small part with you. Sharing ideas is the best gift possible, and I look forward to seeing yours.

Koh Samed (Ko Samet) *menu

Khunklit has been a regular contributor to our Infocus Weekly and Bangkok Images. His images often give that “raw” feeling you get from actually being there. If he shows you an image or a beach you’d swear you can feel the sand between your toes. Real images you can’t help but enjoy. Working in Southern Germany as an engineer he can’t wait to get his few months of vacation each year to travel SEA.

Here are a few images of (Ko Samet) Koh Samed taken in January 2010 with a Canon EOS 50D. The island derives its name from the cajeput tree and lies in Rayong Province & is part of a marine national park.

To get there you take a boat from the mainland village of Ban Phe to Na Dan harbour or to one of the beaches such as Ao Wong Deuan.

Boats at Ban Phe harbour, the first is a wooden fishing boat, the second from the Sea Fisheries Department.

Colorful fishing boats at Na Dan harbour, these boats are usually used to transport people and goods to & from the mainland.

Low hanging electrical cables can be used as washing lines. Thais are very practical people.

On This road between the harbour & beach people zoom up and down day & night.

Here are a sampling of some of the beaches on Samed Island.

As soon as the sun goes down bungalow operators take over the Hat Sai Kaew beach, and set up their tables, mats and light their grills. In the busy season there are also fire shows every night.

Sometimes I'm up before dawn and walk around the island, sometimes people sit on the beach waiting for the sunrise, sometimes they are lying there from the night before with mange dogs keeping them company.

Between Hat Sai Kaew (Diamond Beach) and Ao Hin Khok beach is a rocky point with a mermaid & prince statue atop, these represent characters of the Thai classical poet Sunthorn Phu from his epic work Phra Aphai Mani.

From this point I captured the Monks on their alms rounds, not far away was a decorated Naga stairway leading to some bungalows.

For breakfast I like to go back to the main road and sit at an open front restaurant and watch the vendors, masseuses and tourists arriving on the island from the mainland, either walking or riding on overloaded pickup trucks.

Some popular vendors walk & sell to the locals, its nice to watch them interacting with each other, I'm hardly noticed taken photos at this time of the morning.

Sometimes when certain important people arrive on the island, these navy boats accompany them.

These images were taken in January 2007 with a Canon Powershot S5 IS on a boat trip around the island.

Years ago I would visit Samed Island regularly as a quiet getaway when traveling around Thailand and the bordering countries, it was the place to go when I had overspent elsewhere, here I would slow down and recover before moving on. Now I visit less often as the motor boats and jet skis slowly take over the nicest beaches.

Khunklit

Balancing Color in Photoshop CS5 *menu

As you begin to understand light you will notice reflected light will often cast unwanted colors from other elements of the frame on to your main subject. Perfectly arranged lighting in a studio prevents this, but when working outdoors or in difficult environments it’s often impossible to ‘prevent’ reflected color, so you’ll need to learn some simple techniques to compensate for the color cast.

If you’re shooting RAW images you can use a grey card or a product such as the Xrite Color Checker Passport I reviewed here. Correcting color through your white balance first is always the preferred choice asI demonstrated in this tutorial, yet occasionally you’ll still need to make small adjustments in the color balance.

But sometimes you’re shooting jpegs from a small point and shoot compact, or maybe you finish processed an image already and then noticed the color needs to be tweaked just a bit. Knowing how to use Adobe’s CS5 Photoshop to balance color is a very useful skill.

Canon 5d Mark II, 300mm F2.8L IS USM, @F4 1/100th ISO 100

Let’s look at the lion above. This is a very common look right from the camera. Most will tell you it’s just flat lighting without contrast, which it is. But mostly it’s a strong green color cast reflected from the large area of bright green grass. This is why natural light portraits against green foliage are usually a bad idea. As an example of what’s commonly done, but shouldn’t be, let’s bring it into Photoshop and adjust the levels for more contrast.

Canon 5d Mark II, 300mm F2.8L IS USM, @F4 1/100th ISO 100


As you can see the contrast is improved, but the image is still lacking. It’s not properly saturated and detail is lost. You should know that in real life this lion isn’t brown. He’s got a strong reddish hue. So let’s pump up the saturation and see the mess that makes.

Canon 5d Mark II, 300mm F2.8L IS USM, @F4 1/100th ISO 100


Terrible isn’t it? Looks more orange than red. Exactly what you’d expect when a red subject has a green color cast. And the image is still lifeless and just plain looks amateurish. Let’s do it the right way.

Canon 5d Mark II, 300mm F2.8L IS USM, @F4 1/100th ISO 100

Much better! By changing the actual color balance we’ve been able to get very close to the original colors (there is no substitute for the right light in the first place), and we can make our changes without loss of detail or image quality. It’s always helpful if your subject has some white (the lions chin area) you can use to help guide your adjustments. Also notice that on the bottom of the color balance dialog box it defaults to correct for the midtones. Depending on your image this will be enough, but if you have color casts in your highlights or shadows you’ll want to click on those boxes and make those adjustments as well.

Canon 5d Mark II, 300mm F2.8L IS USM, @F4 1/100th ISO 100


Add a nice border, brighten the eyes just a bit, and we have a nicely finished image that shows no sign of a color cast. I’m pleased with this image.

A landscape or wild animal is one thing, but where color casts really kill an image is with portraits. Greenish skin tones might be okay for a frog, but they look terrible on a human. Let’s look at the image below.

Canon 1ds Mark II, 85mm F1.2L USM, @F2 1/400th ISO 200

A pretty young lady captured with an 85mm portrait lens. It should have been a nice image, but upon review on my computer she was green! This can be frustrating. Even if you look closely at your on-camera LCD you can miss color casts, especially in bright sun.

There are many techniques you can use during the shoot to prevent this, such as making a custom white balance setting, bouncing in light with reflectors, using fill light from your speedlight, or even placing studio lights.

This jpeg picked up a serious color cast from the surrounding grass and shrubs. The light was very bright mid-day sunlight, not what you’d want for a soft portrait at all, so I moved her into the shadows away from the direct light. Reflectors or any smaller light sources like speedlights weren’t an option as they create a hard light and we wanted more of a flat soft light. Corrections are needed.

Canon 1ds Mark II, 85mm F1.2L USM, @F2 1/400th ISO 200


Wow! What a difference color balance can make! I made adjustments with the color balance, adjusted the levels, added a border, and we have a finished image. Nothing more was needed. Her naturally white teeth and the whites of her eyes were an excellent guide to dial in the color balance corrections. Getting both as close to the real white as possible got us very close, and then very slight adjustments to get her true skin colors brought us the rest of the way there.

I hope you can see how quick and easy it is to make profound changes to your images. I’m sure you already have images with strong color casts. Pull some up in CS5 Photoshop and start with the images needing the most change, and then try some needing only small changes. In 20-30 minutes you’ll be able to make changes to your color balance in under a minute and you’ll find it a very useful skill to have in your image processing toolbox.

Photography News of Interest *menu

The Mathieu Young ‘Cambodia by Moonlight’ series is unique to say the least. A photo essay, A Ray of Hope, which shows the challenges of developing nations and how something so common and simple as a solar powered light source can enhance the way they live.

Lenses shielded 9/11 Photogs as they captured history. Many ask how a photographer can stand to capture the worst moments of humanity and not be affected. There’s not easy answer, but some feel your lens acts as a sort of isolation tool. If you work with hard news you’ll want to read this article.

Yahoo Best Images from the Week of August 12th. There’s always some fun images here and a few amazing ones. Check them out!

This is an interview where Canon claims to be considering a mirrorless camera like most of the other camera manufacturers? Will they or won’t they?

Fuji films Digital Finepix x100 Wins EISA “European Advanced Compact Camera 2011-2012” Award.

Bryan R, sent in a link for the newest Firmware 4.0 update for the Sony NEX-5/NEX-3/NEX-5C Series camera. Many Bangkok Images Readers have purchased this camera and really enjoy it, so I'm sure they'll appreciate upgrading to the latest firmware revision which adds the "Picture Effect" feature and an manual focus "Peaking" function. It also adds the Sony NEX logo from power on which will now show on the LCD screen when you first power up.

The Picture Effects you'll now have access to are listed as "Toy Camera", "Posterization B&W", "Posterization Color", "Pop Color", "Retro Photo", "Partial Green Color" and "Partial Red Color." You'll also have manual focus peaking colors you can assign which basically show you in the focus mask where your strong focus is in relation to the frame.

The installation process is straightforward, but it does require a fully charged battery and connection to your computer via a mini-USB cable. You can get the firmware upgrade here, and the PDF explaining the new functions here.


Readers Submissions *menu

Hi Steve.

This is Navy week and a few ships are visiting the port. Took a few hours and went for a tour on Wednesday.

For the first time in over 20 years an Aircraft carrier ported. Long Beach used to be a very big Navy shipyard, closed now.

This one is nuclear powered – didn't get to see the engine room.

Tour was only the top, Flight Deck, and the lower hangar area where they usually store planes. Nothing below deck or behind the scenes. It is currently in service. Interesting enough for a brief tour but I would like to have seen more.

Something different.

Bart

Bart –

These are great pics! Many readers don’t realize I retired from the Navy in my previous life, so images like these are especially fun.

Nicely done!

Steve

I’d like to mention that everyone, myself included, is really enjoying the current trend of readers submissions. Everyone loves them, but remember we can really use more. I have only another week’s worth in my queue, so please take the time to put together a few images and words if you can and send them in. Thank you. [email protected]

Readers Questions *menu

Steve –

Can you walk me through making a user gallery? I’d like to post some images.

Thank you

Rick

Rick –

A useful tutorial is something I should have provided for our users a long time ago. Thank you for the kick in the pants. Please follow this link to the new tutorial I just put up and I think you’ll find it makes creating galleries easy.

Thanks Rick

Steve

Greetings Steve!

I wanted to give you time to get settled before I wrote to you. Hope things are well with you in your new location.

Need a recommendation again on a DSLR camera and lens. For the daughter to take pictures of her new son, my grandson. Budget = $825. Preference is a Canon. As I recall you said the pkg'd 18-55mm lens is lackluster. Any sound recommendations within this $825 budget? Thoughts?

Standing by. Short fuse. Thanks.

Michael

Hi Michael –

We’re getting dug in here but it’s a slow process. Middle America is pretty vanilla.. but nice enough. Being with my sons is great.

About the camera. For $825 look at thenewest T3i with the 18-55mm kit lens (okay, $899 but close). Since we last discussed cameras Canon has improved this lens and added IS and it’s really much better than before. If you’re fairly sure your daughter will only use it as a point and shoot and not take advantage of the more advanced features or the 18mp (vs. 12mp) consider the T3 at $599 for the kit.

Are you sure she wants a DSLR? Most rather have something of a smaller size like the Canon S95 or even the G12.. they care more about convenience than cutting edge image quality.

A note on the new 18-55 IS: I haven’t personally used one, but several respectable reviewers have found it greatly improved.

Hope this helps

Steve

Please submit your questions to [email protected] All questions will be answered and most will show up in the weekly column.


A Snapshot of Bangkok Images Week in Review *menu

The well will soon run try unless I get more Readers Questions, Readers Submissions, and great Feature Destinations from our readers. Since my move back to the states I can no longer gather new material myself, so the success of this column depends heavily on the generosity if our readers. If you need assistance putting something together please send me an email at [email protected]

I’m taking bookings for workshops during January when I’ll be back in Thailand. If you’re interested in a workshop, or think you might be and you just want to know more about it, send me an email. We’ll get you scheduled and answer your questions. [email protected]

Are there any tutorial topics you’d like to see? Anything you’d like reviewed? Send in your requests and we’ll do our best to get to them.

Infocus Blog, Transitions *menu

One of the most often asked questions about my move back to America is a variation of “do you miss Thailand yet?” The easy answer is sure I do. I miss Thailand, Japan, Korea, California and every place I’ve ever lived. Don’t you?

Canon 5d Mark II, 300mm F2.8L IS USM @F4 1/3200 ISO 100

I think what they’re really asking is if I transitioned well back to the states. Transitioning from one country to another involves many things, everything in fact. Your home, your community, car and roads, family and friends, language, currency, weather, civil rights, foods, and much more.

I’m probably not the best person to ask. You see, in a way I’ve been trained. Before I joined the military the furthest from my Southern California home I’d ever been was Baja California, Las Vegas Nevada, the Sierra Nevada’s, and not much more. Then suddenly I was in my new profession, handed a plane ticket, and ordered to report to places I’d never even heard about. Heck, I’d never even been on a plane.

Every 2-4 years the military would hand me another plane ticket and send me somewhere new, along with my wife, kids, and the family dog. In truth these weren’t ‘real’ moves because the military took care of all the expenses and details and when you arrived you had the choice of living on an American base in housing which was pretty much like American housing and shopping in stores which were pretty much like American stores. They arranged passports, documents, paid for everything, there really wasn’t much to it.

A life changing assignment was my first. Guantanamo Bay Cuba. The only American base on communist soil, and we were not allowed to leave the base or our protected waters used for recreational activities like boating, fishing, or diving. The only transition involved stepping on to and off the plane. Oh, combat landings took a bit of getting used to. Just ask anyone who’s experienced one.

I say this assignment was life changing because I absolutely hated being stuck on base. It was nail in the head boring. Just to break the boredom I’d rent a plane from the Aero club and fly to small neighboring islands to get away for a weekend. Much of the same eh?

So later when my next assignment brought me to Japan I could never understand how roughly 95% of my fellow service members and their families elected to live on base and would rarely if ever drive through the gates into the Japanese community. They avoided anything ‘not American’ with a passion.

Canon 5d Mark II, 300mm F2.8L IS USM @F4 1/2500 ISO 100


Myself, I couldn’t understand. Here we are in a foreign country, and a damn interesting one at that, and they didn’t want to even go shopping off base unless it was with an organized tour, much less set up house off base. So you can understand the looks of concern (for my mental state) when I told them I was moving out in the Japanese community, would rent a Japanese home, shop at Japanese stores, and have Japanese friends.

I had the time of my life! It’s a time I look back on with great fondness and a tear in my eye. I was married, then divorced, then dating, then dating some more, and I advanced rapidly on a professional basis. My middle son grew up speaking Japanese while playing baseball with the neighborhood kids. He can’t remember a word of it now, but later in high school he was amazed at how easily foreign languages came to him. Later when I was there by myself I learned everything I could about Japan, the language, the history, the people.. and I’d spend my annual leave traveling everywhere on my Harley. I could talk your ear off about my time in Japan, or Korea, or the PI, or..

But the point is, it was a life changing event for me. My first major transition. And I loved it. Many more followed at the rate of 1 every 2-4 years. It strikes some people as odd that moving to a foreign country was as easy for me, maybe easier, than for them moving across town. I’m not talking ‘easy’ as in ‘logistics’, the military took care of the heavy lifting. I’m talking about the mental adjustment, immersion into yet another culture. It didn’t take long where the 2 year point would approach and I’d already be looking forward to my next host country.

At retirement I moved to Oregon, bought a ranch, and tried fitting into what many considered the American Dream. It really was a beautiful place with real hard working down to earth people. I called it “God’s Country” and meant it. There might be more beautiful spots on earth, but it’s more a matter of personal choice at this level.

What made the transitions different was when I started moving overseas as a civilian. The cultural adjustment remained the same, but the logistics increased in a huge way. You never realize what you have until you no longer have it. So in that respect I had to adjust.

And I think it was at this point where I realized I didn’t fit in, I didn’t fit in overseas where being a farang instantly and permanently makes you an outsider, and I didn’t fit in with most everyone in my home country because our experience sets are so different. You might not think this a big thing, but your experience sets change your world and personal views in a big way.

It’s true that the vast majority of American’s have never owned a passport, and of those who do, it’s probably long expired. They made the odd business trip or European vacation and that was it. Heading off to third world South East Asia is something you watch others do on the Discovery Channel, it’s not something you do yourself. So they often look at you as if something’s wrong.

It gets worse from there. Their world view is vastly different. They wouldn’t know an Englishman from an Australian much less a Thai from a Japanese. I don’t blame them, America is a wonderful place with so many great places to see and visit here, there’s no need to go looking for whatever else the world offers. We have the most beautiful beaches, several wonderful mountain ranges, splendid deserts, and forests only a few countries can still boast. And then we have Yosemite and the Redwood forest not to mention the Grand Canyon and Smokey Mountains.

Many American’s think “why would I go overseas when we have so much here..” There’s a lot of sense in that. Most foreigners have no concept of how huge America is, how many different cultures we enjoy within our borders, and the vast array of geographical differences.

But it’s also a big world with many great places to see, cultures to experience, people to meet.. and they have no way to really understand this without experiencing it first hand themselves. Or do they?

Canon 5d Mark II, 300mm F2.8L IS USM @F4 1/2500 ISO 100

This is where my photography comes in. Through photography I can not only make pretty pictures, but I can make pretty pictures which help convey my experiences, help the viewer feel the very essence of the people and cultures I’ve visited. I bring home a piece of my experience set they can not only see, but one they can see, feel, smell, and hear as I did. Providing I did my job correctly.

In this way my ‘transitions’ become not only something I lived, but something I can share with others. So when you ask “do you miss Thailand yet?” The answer is “Yes of course.” But I’m not yet finished with Thailand. I left a large piece of myself in Thailand, friends, family, memories and dreams. The transition is ongoing. The transition is my life.

Until next time..

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