The Importance of Post Process

Now that you have managed to sort through your images, it’s time to start Post Processing. This is where you can refine your images to what you envision. It has been around as long as photography itself. Getting rid of spots and blemishes, leveling the image, lighting and darkening, along with dodging and burning in details. Photographers still do it today; we just gave the steps in the process modern terms. If you are purist and don’t believe in doing any Post Process to your images, that’s 100% OK. No one can tell you how to show your work. But if you want your photography to grow stronger, try to find a post process routine that works well for you. Here are a few suggestions that was shown to me that helped me develop as a photographer.

Lightroom screen shot

Basic Post Process edits

  • Know your Post Processing software! If you’re using Photoshop, Lightroom or Elements, you have to know how to use it properly. How to import and export images, to have a basic understanding of the tools, how to adjust the exposure, and the list goes on and on. I’ve said it before, YouTube is your know it all friend. Use it and search, “How to use whatever tool or function in whatever program you are using?”
  • Removing dust spots. You got a dirty sensor and it shows. Clone out all those little distractions, they’re taking attention away from your subject.
  • Level your image. If you intended the horizon to be level and it’s not….it draws your viewers eyes away from what you are trying to show. With an unintentional tilted horizon, it can give the illusion that everything in your photo is going to slide out of the frame.
  • Adjust exposure. I can not stress how important it is to get your exposure right in the camera. When it comes to how to adjust your exposure properly, if you look online, it’s like all the members of a church choir are all singing a different songs and at different volume. There’s an overwhelming amount of information out there about exposure. YOU must filter through it, find and try what works best for you.
  • Resizing and sharpening. Most likely you are not going to upload a full-size image. If it’s for Instagram, a Facebook post, or your personal website, you’re going to have to resize your images before posting them. After you have your resized images, you’ll want to do a tad bit of sharpening to them. You just want to sharpen up the details soften from resizing.

This is just a few basic items of post processing. There are far more advanced and complicated attributes to it. I’m just trying to crack open the door to the larger world of post process.

Until next post,

Steven

Bored and in Lock-down? How to keep yourself occupied

Run out of entertaining shows and movies on Netflix and Hulu? Sick of scrolling through the same crap on Instagram and Tik tok? Or have you had your fill of the depressing news from the media? It’s time to get up and do something that could help occupy yourself and get you through these unprecedented and troubling times. Here’s a few things I have been practicing to keep myself busy while staying at home.

  • Create some kind of routine for yourself. Wake up, take care of yourself, work from home, workout. whatever it takes. Set aside time to do certain activities. An hour to reading, a half an hour to workout, 45 minutes to clean. Just wake up, get and stay active. Go to bed and do it again tomorrow
  • Reduce your time on social media and watching the news. To save your precious mental health, ration the time you spend on them. Yes, by all means stay informed but don’t let your appetite for information start to disturb your peace and calm.
  • This is a great opportunity to work on your products around your house or apartment. Got a leaky faucet, a door that squeaks or any home repair that needs to get done or finish, now is the time to get after it!
  • Reach out to family, friends, loved ones and coworkers. We are all social beings and especially during this global pandemic, we need to talk to our families and friends. To hear those recycled bad jokes, to remain your mom that your dad is not crazy! Do it for them, you’ll hear the appreciation in their voice.
  • Cook your favorite meals. Banana pancakes for breakfast, grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup for lunch, throw some rib eyes on the grill for dinner. Why not?! Along with your “Quarantine food”, try cooking one of your favorite meals. If you don’t know how, YouTube is your know it all friend! And if you don’t have the supplies you need, the next time you go to the grocery store, practice social distancing along with protecting yourself. And pick up the things you need for your favorite meals.

Lets Cook

  • Listen to all those podcasts and audio books you have been wanting to get to. Like the song says, “Time is on my side“. Get your tasty beverage, grab those ear buds or that busted ass pair of headphones you got and start listening. Heck, you might even learn something new. Or dare I say it, laugh out loud.
  • Start a journal. “Day 6 in lock down. This morning after my lame ass breakfast, I stumbled across an enlightening and amazing blog today that help me occupy my time. Today seemed to fly by with all the activities I did.” When we get through this, and we will. Looking back and reading our quarantine journals could be entertaining.
  • Rediscover your lost and forgotten hobbies. There is no time like the present to douse that old withering fire with a bunch of fresh gasoline. Get back into whatever you love to do! Unpack that project you got hidden in the bottom of your closet. If all you have are outdoor hobbies, maybe it’s time to unearth something new.

Hobby Time

  • Never stop learning! Sign up for online classes. There are so many to choose from. Some are paid but if you don’t have the coin, I get it. There are plenty of excellent educational channels on YouTube.
  • Working out indoors. “Get your sweat on!” You can still get huge and ripped. There are countless indoor workouts you can do. If you live in an apartment, be considerate of your neighbors.
  • Redecorate your house or apartment. It is Springtime. And a change in season could also be a refreshing change in your living quarters (Star Trek reference). Switch up old artwork on your walls, maybe rearrange your furniture. Heck maybe go down the rabbit hole looking for ideas online. I’m sure your find something interesting.
  • Update your Resume and Portfolio. This could be an excellent time to dust off that tired resume and stale portfolio of yours. Lord knows I do. There is a shit ton of helpful and useful information online. Be brave, you might just find your dream job.
  • Play online games with friends. There is nothing like talking shit with your friends while gaming. It’s stupid fun! Doesn’t matter if you’re on PC, console or even on your mobile device. Just don’t be a Leroy Jenkins!

Game On

Whatever you do, don’t waste this time being unproductive or even worse, full of worry and anxiety. Feel free to share this with others. Stay safe and busy!

 

Until next post,

Steven

Aesthetics

This is the last part in a series I call “Exploring My Creativity”. An examination of my creativity. Being an inspired individual, this is something I feel I must do to expand my thought process. As long as I can remember, I have been doing creative things. And it seems to grow more complex the older I get. At the start of 2018, I told myself I wanted to embrace the idea of “Concentration and not Validation”. To focus on what drives me to be creative and not seek out the instant gratification of social media. The last part in this series, I want to talk about is my sense of Aesthetics. If you haven’t, be sure to check out parts one and two, Passion along with Inspiration.

What is aesthetics? According to Wikipedia, it’s a branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of art, beauty and taste and with the creation or appreciation of beauty. Here’s my simple definition, why things look good, how to create something appealing as well as how to present it. I know it is far more complicated than that. I have always been a bit of a philocalist, a lover of beauty. From images & artwork, music & movies, the human body, and even moments in time. This will not be a post about me explaining my sense of aesthetics. What I do want to share with you all is how my sense of aesthetics effects my everyday life, how it effects the things I create along with how it effects the way I see the world. Be warned, this will be subjective.

My sense of aesthetics is responsible for me having an extremely critical eye. It doesn’t matter what I’m looking at, if it’s an image, a scale model, a surface detail on a vehicle or how light shines on someone’s hair. How is it composed? Are the proportions balanced? Should I Shoot in Landscape or portrait? And that’s just for photography. My eyes and brain are constantly evaluating the aesthetics of things. I’ve learned to put my critical eye to good use. And a good example of this is at work.

I’ve been an automotive clay sculptor for various major companies for the past 20 years. The easiest way to describe my job is, a designer draws an idea, I sculpt that idea out of clay and change it until management is happy with it. First in scale, then full-size making hundreds of changes along the way. As I model, I’m constantly asking myself questions. First, does the model look like the designer’s sketch? Then, if not, what do I have to change to make it look like it? Then I’ll make the necessary changes and ask the same questions again. All the while, being very critical and brutally honest about every surface I create.

Just like my passion, my attention to detail has infiltrated and spread into every part of my life. Over the years, it has become a finely tuned way of seeing the world around me. From how I see images with my photography to sculpting new automotive products at work. It is something I have learn to embrace and use to better my work. Because of it, I know I see things differently than most. I see all the details before I see the whole thing. And if the details are done poorly, I lose interest, move on and don’t see the complete object or picture.

That sharp attention to detail is also a habit that has found its way into my model making. As I build a kit, I treat each part like little models. Putting as much detail into it as possible. I also spend a considerable amount of time addressing how the kit comes together. Hiding the seams and joints to make it appear to be seamless. Even come time to paint, I’ll sometimes spend 30 to 40 minutes masking something off that only takes 2 or 3 minutes to airbrush. All the extra care and attention I put into the build, will make for a more visually appealing model. That ceaseless questioning the aesthetic’s of things along with my attention to details has made me a masterful sculptor and model maker.

Holy Tape Batman

As a photographer, knowing what makes a good image along with being able to see the image before you shoot it heavily influences my sense of aesthetics. When I’m behind my camera, if I’m at an aviation event or on one of my adventures, I’m not looking for subjects to shoot. Instead, I’m searching for some interesting light. “Shoot the light not the subjects” is a fundamental principal of my process to capture images. I feel the light in an image can make or break it. It can set the mood, make it pop, add dimension, and even direct one’s eye.

Fear the BONE

One of my photographic practices I enjoy doing, is to walk through the belle isle conservatory with my camera in hand, but not shooting anything. As I walk from room to room, I’m looking at the light. What is it doing? What direction is it coming from? Is it a reflection? Once I’ve made a complete lap of the conservatory, I then go through again shooting the subjects in the light that stood out to me. I try to keep track of the time of day, weather and sometimes even the season. Maybe the image is an afternoon shot, maybe it would be better on a sunny day or even wait until springtime when everything is in bloom? And yes, I have waited for months to capture a certain image. I have found that I produce better images if I do this walk around first then if I had not. And I did something similar during my trip to Antelope Canyon, by booking two differently timed tours.

We all have a medium of storytelling that we love, mine is cinematic. Some prefer to read; I enjoy watching storytelling. My sense of aesthetics has altered the way I view movies and shows. Some say I’m overly critical when it comes to things I watch. My suspension of disbelief does not tolerate garbage. A poorly conceived story, weak characters, predictable plots, shitty visual and special effects along with crappy cinematography and editing. All contributing to poor storytelling. Which is becoming a dying art form that is increasing due to absurd number of reboots along with the poorly rehashing of established materials.

Even though they are only a few minutes long, there are videos on YouTube that I enjoy far more than those multi-million-dollar Hollywood productions. For example, “Nerdwriter’s” brilliant video essays, to the entertaining maker “This Old Tony”, along with “Sean Tucker’s” personal life-long journey into photography. Regardless of content, they all are clearly passionate about their work. And it’s that noticeable hint of passion I can identify with.

This personal journey of exploring my creativity has been a healthy personal struggle. And through struggles, we grow. It started with a question and took me along an unexpected path that taught me something about myself. And what have I learned? That my creativity is divided into three unique elements. Passion is my fire; Inspiration is my fuel and Aesthetics is my vision. That all three needs to be nurtured and managed with care. My creativity is only one of my numerous fragments that makes me who I am.

Thanks for coming along,

Steven

On a side note, my distaste for social media has slowly eroded with my return to Instagram along with the start of a Flickr account. I’m using Instagram as a creative writing exercise. Sharing a brief story with each image. And Flickr is going to be the place where I show my images. Due to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus, my March and April adventures had been put on hold until we get through this. Stay safe everybody.

The Pain of Sorting

If you have spent any time photographing airshows, you know just how rapidly you can shoot a 1000 images. After I shoot a two-day event, I can easily have over 8000 images. It can be a bit overwhelming trying to sort through thousands of photos. After years of shooting, sorting, and uploading images, I have come up with a system of sorting image that helps me find the images I want to show and share. They are no right or wrong way to sort your images. This is just what I have learned that works well for me. It may or may not work for you. With that being said, this is how I sort my images I want to share.

To start, it would good have an idea of what you are trying to show? Are you just documenting the event? Showing a series of events. Are you trying a photographic technique like panning? Maybe your following a certain act or performer. Me, I want to show the overall feeling of the TICO show for my blog. I try to limit myself to 50 images per event. Images with vibrant clarity and unique to me. Before I even start my sorting process, I make a duplicate set of images I’m going to be working with. I never play/sort/edit… with the original’s files. In my system, I look at every image I shot during that event. Yes, every last one of them. The truth is, you do not know what you got until to see it. It’s exciting went you stumble upon something unexpected. You also have to understand that this process happens over a couple days and not in one sitting. Personally, I could not imagine taking images and not looking at them. What would the point of capturing images and not looking at them?

cropped-open-show-folder.jpg

Basically, my system is viewing all my images from a show or an event and in a series of rounds, I delete the crap and get to a set number of images that show what I’m trying to tell. I used Window image viewer to view and delete unwanted photos. I find the copied folder(s) and open the first image and start sorting. Hitting the next image button if it’s a keeper or delete it if it’s junk.

window image viewer

The first round of images I delete are the painfully obvious out of focus photos. Along with images that my subject is blocked by something. Hats, heads, antenna, speaker, airshow smoke, other aircraft…Gone. Along with images that parts of the subject is cut off. Missing noses, tails, wings, horizontal stabilizer. The struggle is Real.

Rules can be broken. It could make for something interesting images.

For the TICO show, I shot a tad over 7,900 images over 3 days on 2 bodies. (7DMKII and 70D) After the first round, I’m down to about 3500 images. For the next round of deletions, images that don’t fill the frame as I liked. I enjoy showing aircraft as large as possible with little to no negative space around it. So, all the images I feel are too small must go. You have to find the images that has the spacing that you like.

Also, in this round if there are a few clouds in the sky (not completely overcast but a few here and there) like on Friday and Saturday, those images stayed. But the images with a clear blue background, delete. Aircraft live and play in the sky. For me, it’s pretty boring seeing an aircraft perfectly centered in a clear blue sky.

No clouds

And with!

I love showing clouds, but my new thing is blurring them. It’s difficult to do but it shows a sense of motion along with making your subjects really stand out and pop. Some photographers use image stabilization while panning, I get better results without and don’t use it. This works well for me. You have to use what works well with You.

Another type of image I delete in this round are uninteresting belly shots, images where the wing of the aircraft is covering the canopy along with going away shots. Images where you are looking at the ass end of an aircraft with nothing interesting to see. Like the flames of an afterburner, some dangling vertices or a puff vapor. In general, I feel  most belly shots are boring image. And I don’t want to lose my readers attention with dull images. The proposes of sorting this way is to find the most visual pleasing image possible.

Now, I am down to about 250 images. In this round, it’s time to get rid of the multiples or duplicate images that looks the same but shot on different days. For instants, Sunday’s weather crapped out and very few Sunday images made the cut. Here are two similar  shots, the first one is from Friday’s show and the second is from Sunday’s show. I feel Friday images are much better than Sundays. After this round, my image count should be in the 100 to 120ish range.

Final round. Now, the hard part starts. Weeding it down to 50. This is where it is important to know what your trying to show. To pick the correct images for you. What helps me, is to ask myself a series of questions and being brutally honest with myself.

What makes this image better than the others? Does this image express what it is I’m trying to show? Which has the better uses line, color, composition, symmetry? Which image has the better or cleaner background? Is there something else taking away attention from the subject? Which image has the better exposure?

After this round, it’s post process time. The less time I spend in Lightroom and or Photoshop, the sooner I can upload and post. Now I’m down to 50. This number is not set in stone. Events like AirVenture at Oshkosh are too grand to cover with just 50 images. Again, therefore I feel it is so important to know what it is you are trying to show. My sorting process is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a system. A system that help me weed through the crap and discover my gems. I hope my process can help you with your madness of sorting.

To see my final selection of images, look here https://anadventureinawesome.com/2017/05/27/better-late-than-never/

Until next post,

Steven