SILVER EFEX PRO 2 - I'M HAPPY AGAIN
If you are familiar with my website, you know my black & white gallery is not overflowing with images. That's because I spend most of my time looking for vibrant, colorful landscapes. For me, capturing a vibrant landscape requires several factors; great location, interesting subject, and good lighting. But what do you do when you don't have the best lighting conditions? For me, a black & white conversion can be a great option.
For years, I relied on Silver Efex Pro for my black & white images. But when Nik was purchased by Google and the software became free, it was obvious the Nik collection could someday be unusable. That time came for me about a year ago when I made a Mac system upgrade. The Nik software got funky, unpredictable, and eventually unusable on my machine.
So when the word came out that Nik was being resurrected by ODx, I was thrilled. Yes, I love the new b&w profiles in Lightroom, but I consider Silver Efex Pro to be my "go to" plug-in for b&w.
Last week, I bumped my head and had a "creative moment". What if I experimented with the b&w profiles in Lightroom and combined them with my favorite presets in Silver Efex Pro. After, looking at the image below, I think I have created a new workflow process for my b&w conversions. This image was processed in Silver Efex Pro, brought back into Lightroom Classic CC, where I applied a b&w filter. This is still not an image I would put on my wall, but it does hint at the potential.
CHANGE YOUR POINT OF VIEW - LITERALLY
Part of my routine in preparing for a photo outing is to get online and look at images from that location. This gives me an idea of what I can expect with regard to photo opportunities. For years, I would study an image that had already been taken and I would position myself and compose my shot to duplicate the thousand similar shots.
The end result was coming home with a hard drive full of images that I had already seen, and more importantly, had been seen by a countless number of viewers. A couple of years ago, I made a conscious decision to try to photograph popular, iconic locations, and put my own twist on things. If I ever went to the Mesa Arch, which I don't think I ever will, I would avoid locking tripod legs with 30 other photographers, all trying to capture the starburst effect of the sun that creates that beautiful glow on the arch.
l much prefer if the viewer has to ask, "Is that the Mesa Arch? I haven't seen it like that before. That's different." The viewer may not say they like my perspective better than the iconic shot, but that's okay. The image reflects my point of view.
I guess my challenge would be to photograph a familiar subject with a different composition, a different shooting angle, a change in camera settings, maybe a different lens choice, all in an effort to make the image your own.
WHY WE TAKE PICTURES - DO YOU REALLY KNOW?
Those who know my story know that I picked up my first SLR in 1966. After shooting the third roll of film, I was hooked. At the time, my photography was about capturing the moment; to have a permanent visual reminder of a place or a person. I had just gotten married so most of my people pictures were of my new bride. I recall how excited I was to go to the drug store and open the white envelope containing my pictures. After quickly shuffling through the pictures, I would then going through them again to examine them more closely, trying to figure out why some snapshots worked and why other were not as pleasing.
I'm happy to report, the thrill is still there. However, some things have changed. One change is now I'm doing my self-critique while looking at the digital files on my computer. Secondly, I have come to the conclusion that my motivation for taking pictures has changed over the years. For the past six years, my photography has been about trying to capture images that are worthy of hanging on a wall. Admittedly, some of the initial thrill I got from photography was being affected by the self-imposed pressure I was putting on myself to get the perfect, commercially successful, fine art print.
I have talked with other photographers who confess their motivation for photography has gone through changes. For some, their primary motivation is to see how many "likes" they get for pictures they post to Facebook and Instagram. Some admit they have allowed their definition of success to be based on the approval of others. I remember hearing Bill Fortney, photographer, instructor, workshop leader, and friend, make a strong statement that hit me right between the eyes. To paraphrase Bill, "You will have more fun taking pictures and your images will improve when you're not motivated by the opinions of others."
The Orchid on Green image is a favorite of mine. For me, the softness, the selective focus, and the texture of the background creates in me an emotion of calm and peacefulness. This image reflects how I felt at the time I was creating it, and that feeling returns every time I look at the image. For me, it would be defeating to allow the number of Facebook and Instagram "Likes" to influence my opinion of this image. Bottom line; my renewed motivation is about capturing images that reflect who I am, how I feel, and how I see things.
Don't get me wrong, I will always get tremendous satisfaction from the positive response of others regarding my photography. It's like icing on the cake, and I like cake.
I CAN'T EXPLAIN IT - MAYBE IT WAS A TRAP
I have been on a guilt trip for the past six months. I have been feeling overwhelmingly guilty that I haven't taken the time to post to my blog. The weight of that guilt kept getting heavier and heavier with each passing week. Like I said in the heading, "I CAN'T EXPLAIN IT", but actually I think I can.
My dear friend, business coach and mentor, Mark LeBlanc, describes the three traps that business owners tend to fall into. One of those traps is the value trap. We self-diagnosis and come to the conclusion that what we do is of little or no value to anyone else. We can begin to question ourselves as to, "why bother, does it matter to anyone else?" In reality, it doesn't have to matter to anyone else. Is what we do, the photographs we take, the images we create, does it matter to me. Do I still love photography? Yes! Do I still enjoy sharing my images and sharing the experience behind them? Yes!
Based on those two yeses, I'm back. I plan to post at least once a week; sometimes more, and occasionally, sometimes less.
P.S. If you're reading this, thanks for patiently waiting.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT PLUGIN - A TOOL FOR EVERY SITUATION
If you're into landscape photography you know that it can be frustrating to arrive at a great location, with a great subject, and then be faced with poor weather conditions. I prefer a partly cloudy day with big, fluffy clouds scattered about. That allows me several lighting options. I can shoot the scene, highlighting the blue sky and clouds, or I can wait for the sun to go behind a cloud and shoot in diffused light.
A total gray sky with no texture can produce a very boring image. That's when plugins can come to the rescue. I applied a texture layer to this image to create some interest and add some depth to the sky. Then I pushed the blue saturation slider a little to create contrast with the red roof of the lighthouse.