Christmas 2010

Christmas photos! Had a great time with my mom and sister in town for the holiday. The girls got tons of loot, including a bike for Sam which she cannot ride due to the foot of snow outside but which she loved nonetheless. Click the photos to embiggen.

October, 2010 Photo Dump (Part 2)

Halloween! Mandy changed her mind about what she wanted to be at fifteen minute intervals right up until the time she needed to get ready, but finally settled on a fairy. Samantha, on the other hand, had been resolute all along to engage in some gender bending and go as Harry Potter. We suggested Hermione, his female friend, but Sam was not going to play second fiddle (lyre, whatever) and wanted to be the main character. Good for her.

Making cookies with Aunt Shawn

Over the Thanksgiving weekend my sister Shawn came in town and spent some quality time with her neices. This included making a batch of chocolate chip cookies, which the kids loved and of which I took a ton of pictures. Here’s some.

Also, the cookies were delicious.

Llots of Llamas

Llots of Llamas

Are you a llama lover? You are? You’re in luck! My local camera club took an outing the other weekend to a llama farm out in the middle of nowhere. Some of you may know that I have a thing for llamas. And that thing is that I think they’re awesome. So there was no way I could miss this.

I took …MANY pictures of llamas there. I put some of my favorites in this Flickr set for your clicking and viewing pleasure. Careful, they spit.

Trip to San Francisco

The other week I flew out to San Francisco, California to attend the annual SIOP conference. Geralyn wisely decided that this was a prime opportunity for us to engage in some kid-free vacationing, so we made arrangements for per parents and cousin to watch the girls and she flew out there to meet me a day later. We took some pictures.

While I was busy sitting through lectures on how to measure the return on investment of leadership development programs and what the best practices are for establishing employment retesting policies, Geralyn hit the streets and did touresty stuff. This included Alcatraz prison.

The exception was Sunday, which was the day after the conference. I took a vacation day then and we headed out on a tour of the California redwoods in Muir Park (actually, I think it’s technically a national monument). I got some fun shots, even if I had to lie flat on my back and point the camera straight up to do it.

We also drank some wine and went on a tour of some Sonoma Valley wineries. I was surprised at what a huge production the wineries in this area are after having only visited smaller ones in our neck of the woods and in Southern California. They’re as much about tourism as they are about wines, but we still ended up buying four bottles to bring back with us. Great time, and it was nice to have something besides kids to take pictures of again.

Did I mention that the weather was awesome the whole time? It was.

Book Review: Kelby’s 7-Point System for Photoshop

7-Point System

Note: This is book 3 of 52 in my 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge.

Scott Kelby’s 7-Point System for Adobe Photoshop CS3 Featuring Scott Kelby by Scott Kelby with a special introduction by Scott Kelby is kind of what you’d expect based on a quick thumb-through. The author, Scott Kelby, lays out a seven-point system or workflow that he uses for finishing off digital photographs in post production using Photoshop CS3 (with or without the accompanying Lightroom program). Those steps are:

  1. Basic camera RAW adjustments
  2. Curves
  3. Shadow/highlight adjustments
  4. “Painting with light” (i.e., using layer masks and brush tools)
  5. Channels
  6. Layer blending
  7. Sharpening

Not every photo needs all 7 of those steps, but Kelby claims that after years of taking shots from out out of the camera rough to spit-shined and polished, this is his basic workflow. After this brief introduction, the rest of the book consists of many projects in which the author takes a “so-so” or even awful picture out of the camera (that is, before any post processing) and walks you step-by-step through the process of making it presentable or even fantastic. Each of these projects follows the 7-step process, though some of them omit unnecessary steps and some of them include “bonus tips” like cloning out flaws in a flower petal, adding in a fake sky, or other Photoshop wizardry.

In a way, this is kind of an odd way to write a book. The idea is apparently to lay out the 7 steps up front, then drill them into you by having you read and watch (by way of many, many full color photographs of each step along the way) their application over and over again so that at the end of each project you can marvel at the “before” and “after” versions of the picture when laid out side by side. Given that, this is not a book for beginners. If you don’t fundamentally understand a digital photo’s histogram or what curves are or how layer masks work, you should probably start with a more basic text and then come back to this.

But once armed with that foundation, I figured that the best way to work through this book was to occasionally download one of the source pictures from Kelby’s website and actually work along with him on that project, seeing for myself how sliders affected the picture and how to use layer masks in ways I hadn’t thought of in order to brighten, darken, or sharpen only the parts of the photo that I wanted to. Unfortunately Kelby’s website was borked and I couldn’t do this. But it was a good thought! So I worked on my own pictures.

Perhaps the best thing to do here is provide an illustration. Here’s a before and after comparison of my own, involving a picture that I processed with this 7-point system in mind:

I didn’t find much that I didn’t know about in theory, but the projects did do a good job of bringing it all together and presenting me with an order and workflow that I could use to approach my post processing in general. My only complaint is that this isn’t likely to make a very good reference book –its value is more akin to watching a video or live demonstration of a technique, and in fact this whole thing would probably work better in those media. Look for that product soon, I imagine.

Others doing the 52-in-52 challenge this week:

This Post Has Not Been Photoshopped


I recently joined a local camera club to try and get out to meet people who are also interested in photography and spending money on photography and photography related things. The club in my area is actually huge –one of the biggest in the country, in fact– and they have weekly meetings. Part of the standard agenda for these meetings is a photo competition, in which anyone can enter pictures in one of three classes –basically Rookie, Intermediate, and Super Fancy. There are also different types of competitions, like Black & White, Color, Photojournalism, Nature, Travel, etc. During the competitions a guest judge goes through each picture, comments on it briefly, and in the end picks 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners, in addition to a certain number of Honorable Mentions. So far this has been my favorite part of the meetings, because I learn a lot by studying other people’s pictures and listening to someone more experienced than I critique them.

Anyway, last night I entered the picture above in my first competition in the Projected (read: Digital) Color category. I think it’s a cute picture with decent composition, a nice curve, and some colors that go well together. No great shakes, but worth throwing out there and better than some of the pics I had seen entered into previous competitions. To my surprise, I won an Honorable Mention. The only annoying and slightly disheartening thing was that the judge kind of came across like he was giving it the HM as a joke. He laughed when he saw the photo, but I didn’t think much of it at first since it’s kind of a silly picture and a good chuckle isn’t outside of the expected range of reactions.

But then he started insisting that the duck had been pasted in with Photoshop (which I can assure you it had not) and that he admired my moxie or somesuch. He kept giggling at the picture each time he came back to it in the winnowing process, so I was both surprised and confused each time he didn’t eliminate it and finally awarded it the HM. It was like he was giving it the award on the weight of the joke and sillyness instead of its merits as a photograph. This feeling was reinforced by the fact that he made no comments about the artistic or technical aspects of the picture, as he did with a lot of the others.

So, in the end I’m not entirely sure if he was serious or not when giving me the award. I guess it doesn’t matter a whole lot, since I got my points for placing in the competition and it hasn’t deterred me from my intentions to enter future ones. It was just kind of an odd moment.