Backstreets of Mexico

As I’ve written about in several previous posts, last October/November I traveled down to Oaxaca, Mexico, with Within the Frame to photograph the Day of the Dead festival. Festivals typically involve a number of relatively short periods of frivolity and excitement interspersed with long periods of nothing much happening. For our group, a good portion of this down time was spent simply walking around, alone or as small groups, exploring and photographing backstreets and neighborhoods of Oaxaca and nearby communities (not to mention plenty of eating and drinking). Festival pictures are often fun and dramatic, full of color and movement with people dancing and revelers in fantastic costume. There’s certainly nothing wrong with photographs of this but as images that are representative of a place, they can be a bit misleading. Festivals are only a very small part of a culture or a place. That’s why, for me, it’s the images of everyday life in a community that are often more interesting and compelling.

At the Corner Market

At the Corner Market – Canon 6D, 38 mm, 1/60 sec @ f/2.8, ISO 2500

Villa de Zaachila

Villa de Zaachila – Canon 6D, 70 mm, 1/250 sec @ f/4.5, ISO 100

Unknown backstreet

Unknown backstreet – Canon 6D, 24 mm, 1/1000 sec @ f/2.8, ISO 100

Villa de Zaachila

Villa de Zaachila – Canon 6D, 32 mm, 1/400 sec @ f/4.0, ISO 100

San Pablo Villa de Mitla

San Pablo Villa de Mitla – Canon 6D, 24 mm, 1/500 mm @ f/4.0, ISO 100

Villa de Zaachila

Villa de Zaachila – Canon 6D, 70 mm, 1/500 sec @ f/4.0, ISO 100

Posted in Cultural, Mexico, Travel Tagged , , , |

Lightroom Tip of the Week: Control Your Highlights

Adobe’s Lightroom is a great program for managing your photo library, editing your photos, and presenting them in various ways, from printing to creating books. I’ve been using Lightroom for a number of years now, beginning with Lightroom 2 all the way to the current version. Lightroom 5. Whereas Photoshop is really more of a graphic design program with tools covering a broad range of uses, Lightroom was built from the ground up with photographers and their workflow in mind, from image import and file management to printing and output. I use Lightroom for the majority of my image editing needs, rarely venturing into Photoshop (although Photoshop does have some specific uses and one of my goals for the year is to become more adept at using it).

I don’t how many of my regular followers are Lightroom users but I plan to make Lightroom tips a regular feature of this blog. Part of the reason for this is personal; while I consider myself to be a relatively proficient Lightroom user, I’m aware that there’s a lot I don’t know and this will encourage me to delve deeper. And I hope that some of you find this information useful, also. Although I titled this post Lightroom Tip of the Week, I would interpret the week part rather loosely as I have other topics I hope to cover as well.

While not an exactly new, the highlights adjustment tool has been greatly improved with recent versions of the program. This tool, located in the Basic panel of the Develop module (see Figure 1), allows you to recover detail that may be otherwise lost in areas that are extremely bright or blown out. Of course, this only works if there is detail available in your file to recover. If the highlights are completely blown out, there will simply be no data available for Lightroom to work with you’re just out of luck. This works best if you shoot in RAW, which I highly recommend you do all the time.

Highlights control slider in the Develop module

Figure 1: Highlights control slider in the Develop module

The histogram in the upper right corner of the Develop Module will tell you if you have highlights that are being clipped, or lost, although it won’t necessarily indicate whether all of these are recoverable. The histogram curve will be pushed up against the right side and a white triangle will appear on the upper right side of the histogram box (see Figure 2). Move the highlights slider in the Basic panel back and forth and watch as the histogram shifts. Move the slider to the left to reduce highlights, to the right to increase them.

Figure 2: Highlights clipping indicator

Figure 2: Highlights clipping indicator

If you hover your cursor over the white triangle, you’ll see any areas with clipped highlights appear as red shading in your image (see Figure 3). You can toggle the shading on and off by clicking the triangle. When it’s toggled on, a white box will appear around the triangle. By leaving this toggled on, you can watch the red areas disappear as you move the slider to the left (Figure 4). Notice however that even with a setting of -45 used for this image there are still some clipped highlights somewhere in the image, as indicated by the illuminated Highlights clipping triangle.

Figure 3: Clipped highlights shaded in red

Figure 3: Clipped highlights shaded in red

Figure 4: Red shading gone with Highlights set at -45

Figure 4: Red shading gone with Highlights set at -45

One of the ‘problems’ I find with making highlights adjustment using the controls in the Basic panel is that Lightroom is making a blanket adjustment across the image. Sometimes this is fine, but quite often the area needing adjustment is only in one small part of the image and I don’t necessarily want highlights reduced elsewhere. However, I find that using the Adjustment Brush is often a better option. Using the Adjustment Brush with the highlights setting selected (Figure 5) will allow you to paint the adjustment only over the area needing fixing.

Figure 5: Adjustment Brush

Figure 5: Adjustment Brush

Figure 6: Final histogram

Figure 6: Final histogram

For the final image below, I opted for a slightly different method and chose to reduce the exposure on the sky using the Graduated Filter (which I can cover in a future post). This left only small areas of clipped highlights which I recovered using the Adjustment Brush.

Villa de Zaachila, Mexico

Final Image: Villa de Zaachila, Mexico

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below. And if you know anyone who might find this tutorial useful, please feel free to share it.

Posted in Lighroom, Photography, Tutorial Tagged , |

Looking Back and Ahead

Another year has come and gone, like it does every year at this time. And at this time, it’s often recommended that people take some time to stop and reflect on what they’ve accomplished over the past year and to consider what plans and goals they might wants to pursue in the coming year. Obviously that first part assume that goals were actually set the previous year. In reality, I think when the end of the year rolls around most of us are kinda caught off guard. We look at the calendar and kinda freak out about how fast the year went by. At the beginning of the year many of us may have good intentions about setting goals, but those good intentions get lost in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, exemplified by all the February canceled gym memberships.

Into the Light

Into the Light – Nightcliff, Darwin, Australia

I don’t claim to be much better than the average Joe when it comes to setting goals and planning. I wish I were better at it because I do think it’s an important and useful tool in moving forward and achieving longer-term goals. So with that in mind, this post will be a look back over the past year of photographic non-goal-set accomplishments and a look ahead with some objectives for the upcoming year, interspersed with some of my favorite photos from the past year.

This past year saw a number of photographic accomplishments that I was quite happy about. I had my first article and set of photos published in a magazine, the Southeast Asia Backpacker. Although not exactly a high-profile publication, it was still exciting to see my words and images of the Thaipusam Festival in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, printed in an actual magazine. The travel blog FoXnoMad published a tutorial I wrote on why you should consider shooting more black and white. An article on shooting sunsets that I also originally wrote for FoXnoMad was republished on the high-profile website Lifehacker.com. I was interviewed about my experience being a photographer for the PicsArt blog. The website HDROne.com asked me to become a contributor, writing occasional tutorials on HDR photography. I had three articles (here, here, and here) published there before the site decided to go on hiatus. And, although not directly related to photography, I also had a travel story published on the budget travel website Bootsnall.com.

Fishing off the pier - San Nicolas, Philippines

Fishing off the pier – San Nicolas, Philippines

Traveling, I didn’t make it to a huge number of destinations this past year, but I did manage to check off one of my bucket list items which was to go on a week-long photography workshop with one of my favorite photographers, David DuChemin. For this trip, I went with Within the Frame Photographic Adventures and spent a week with David, cultural photographer Jeffrey Chapman, and nine other ‘students’ in Oaxaca, Mexico, for the Day of the Dead festival. For me, one of the great things about this trip was being able to spend time with other photographers talking about the craft and just sharing the experience of photographing together, something I don’t seem to get to do very often.

Mitla, Oaxaca, Mexico

Mitla, Oaxaca, Mexico

Remembrance - Oaxaca, Mexico

Remembrance – Oaxaca, Mexico

For this coming year, I have a number of things I’m looking to accomplish. In a vague, ambiguous sense, my goals are to take more pictures, write more, travel and get outdoors more. More specifically, one of the things I’m looking to do is to change the direction of this blog. Over the past few years, this blog has been somewhat of a mish-mash of various topics but primarily a place for me to post pictures. That’s been fine, and I’ll still post the occasional photo essay and I’ll regularly post images to my Facebook page and to Google+, but my goal now is to transition the blog to something more educational by providing more photography tips and tutorials, some related to getting out and shooting and other geared toward post-processing. While much of this will likely be geared more to the beginner level, I hope that more experienced photographers will find some useful information as well.

Balinese boy at a funeral - Ubud, Indonesia

Balinese boy at a funeral – Ubud, Indonesia

Does the world really need another photographer telling everyone else how it’s done? Probably not, although I hope to avoid falling into the trap of saying This is how it’s done. But everyone has a different voice, different experiences, and a different vision. Hopefully how I see the world and express what I see will resonate with some people. Yet, I don’t even consider myself a Pro, so who am I to be instructing others? Well, I think too much emphasis can be placed on how much money someone makes, how many clients they have, how published they are, how much they’ve read, or how many places they’ve traveled to. Experience does count for something. I have a long way to go to get where I’d like to be on my photographic journey. But we’re all at different places along our path traveling at a different pace, different stages of whatever photographic journey we happen to be on, and there will always be someone ahead of you. That doesn’t devalue where you’re at now. I’d like to think that I have something valuable to share and I hope you’ll continue along this journey with me.

Biking through Divisoria - Manila, Philippines

Biking through Divisoria – Manila, Philippines

Rustic - San Francisco, California

Rustic – San Francisco, California

Yaquina Bay Bridge, Newport, Oregon

Yaquina Bay Bridge, Newport, Oregon

Yaquina Head Lighthouse - Newport, Oregon

Yaquina Head Lighthouse – Newport, Oregon

Posted in Darwin, Indonesia, Oregon, Philippines, Photography, San Francisco Tagged |

Observing the Parade

Last week I posted a series of images of the Gay Pride parade and march that occurred recently here in Manila. In that post I mentioned how when photographing events such as this, I often find it more interesting to capture the scenes around the event, the passersby, the people there to observe. I had a few more such photos from the Gay Pride event that I really liked but didn’t include in the previous post so I thought I’d post them separately here today. As stand-alone images they probably don’t work very well, but hopefully you will enjoy them within the context of the previous post which you can see here.

Amused gentleman .. Gay Pride Parade .. Manila, Philippines

Amused gentleman .. Gay Pride Parade .. Manila, Philippines

Mixed reactions .. Gay Pride Parade .. Manila, Philippines

Mixed reactions .. Gay Pride Parade .. Manila, Philippines

Young girl watching .. Gay Pride Parade .. Manila, Philippines

Young girl watching .. Gay Pride Parade .. Manila, Philippines

The other photographer .. Gay Pride Parade .. Manila, Philippines

The other photographer .. Gay Pride Parade .. Manila, Philippines

Cooking, no time to watch .. Gay Pride Parade .. Manila, Philippines

Cooking, no time to watch .. Gay Pride Parade .. Manila, Philippines

Posted in Cultural, Philippines, Social Justice Tagged , , |

Manila Gay Pride

A week or so ago I just happened to find myself at Manila’s annual Gay Pride march in the Malate section of the city. A relatively small event, especially considering the size of the city, it was nonetheless a boisterous and lively group that wound its way through the narrow and crowded streets in a part of town known for its colorful nightlife. I don’t know any of the details, but typical of what I’ve seen of many Pride organizations, this event apparently almost didn’t happen due to lack of organization and problems with sponsors. Regardless, the show did go on though this disorganization may have had something to do with the small size of the event.

There was no organized route in the sense that one would usually expect from a parade. There were no blocked off streets, no pedestrian fences to keep people off the parade route, no traffic cops, and very little media presence. And no spectators, aside from the people out on the street going about their business, the occasional odd tourist, or those who came out of their homes or shops to see what all the ruckus was about. Although there was some corporate sponsorship in evidence, overall the march had a very grass-roots feel to it, more like a protest rally than a parade, something reminiscent of what might have occurred back in the 1970s and ’80s when the gay-rights movement was just getting started.

After a few years of photographing events like this, I’ve come to find that quite often it’s the vignettes of the everyday people who come out to watch the festivities that are the more interesting story. In this case, it’s the people on the street, some just going about their business, pedestrians caught-up in the mess of the passing crowd, some amused, indifferent or unsure, and some still covered in the soapsuds of their interrupted bath.

Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

All made up and ready - Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

All made up and ready – Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

Fairy angels, or something like that - Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

Fairy angels, or something like that – Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

A passerby gets caught up in the parade - Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

A passerby gets caught up in the parade – Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

Young homeless street urchins hanging out in the square as the parade prepares to depart - Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

Young homeless street urchins hanging out in the square as the parade prepares to depart – Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

Telling it like it is... - Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

Telling it like it is… – Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

People come out of their homes to see what's coming down the street - Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

People come out of their homes to see what’s coming down the street – Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

Gay parade participants share the street with other traffic in a residential area - Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

Gay parade participants share the street with other traffic in a residential area – Gay Pride, Manila, Philippines

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Posted in Cultural, Philippines, Social Justice Tagged , , |