The House Of Red Neon

red neon joe grossinger advertising restaurant

I have been meaning to photograph this striking Chinese restaurant for months now. Every time I drive east on I-10 at night I see it just south of the freeway. This image is a 9-image HDR I created using a Nikon D90 camera with my favorite walk-around lens, the 18-200mm Nikkor ISO was 400. When photographing for HDR I like to be in aperture priority so that the depth of field does not change with the different exposures. I set the D90 to bracket 3 images at 2 f-stops apart. After those 3 images were taken I set the exposure compensation to -2 stops and then finally to plus 2 stops. That gave me a total of 9 images for a range of 18 f-stops. Using a steady tripod is an absolute must for this kind of photography. I use the Manfrotto 055XPROB Pro with the Manfrotto 804RC2 head. For general photography, not using extremely heavy lenses, this is an excellent combination in price/performance. I also use this combination with the Sony A350 and Tamron 200-500mm lens with total satisfaction.

I always photograh with the camera set to RAW file mode. I process the RAW files using DXO Labs Optics Pro 6. DXO, which  does the heavy grunt work with the images and saves them in JPG format. I generally only work with JPG files and save the RAW files as my negatives. This procedure saves me an enormous amount of time and effort.

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grossinger photography red neon

This is a single image photo taken around the same time using the same equipment with the aperture set on 7.1 and .62 second shutter speed.

Click on image for a better view

Which picture is “better” comes down to a matter of personal taste. Lila likes the single exposure because in her words “it’s cleaner”, while I like the HDR for the tonal range. Lila has a valid point because in the second image many of the distracting elements such as cars and handicapped parking signs are subdued and hidden.

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Thanks for looking and clicking!

Photosho Keyboard Shortcuts I like to use

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Z * Zoom Tool — This command just brings up the zoom tool, which allows you to zoom in. Like with the hand tool, if you hold down the Alt key, it temporarily switches to the zoom out mode.

Ctrl + 0 *  Fit on Screen — This is a quick-and-dirty command to get the entire photo in front on the monitor screen. It’s the number zero not the letter O

B * Brush Tool

Ctrl + Z * Undo I use this the most.

Tab * Hide/Show Palettes

[ * Decrease Brush Size

] * Increase Brush Size – Really speeds up your work. I use both of these all the time.

F9 * will toggle the Actions menu

Ctrl + J * New Layer via copy

Ctrl + Alt + Shift + K * Show Keyboard Commands

If you forget any of these commands, or if you want to check on other commands, use this to bring up the help dialog on keyboard shortcuts.

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Photoshop LAB color and a windmill

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I like vivid, bodacious, poke you in the eye color. There are a lot of outfits that pretend to be masters and have you believe you need their product to get these kinds of colors. Trust me, you don’t.
I have this simple process in an action I created ages ago:
In Photoshop
Click Image – Mode – Lab color
Click Control-J to create a new layer via copy
Click Image – Apply Image
You will get a little pop-up screen that has a lot of cool stuff you can play with but I don’t want to get into.
Just click OK
Your image will now have some super-saturated colors.
IMPORTANT STEP – Click Image – Mode – RGB color
That will bring Photoshop back to normal.
What I do at this point is change the layer opacity from 100% to something around 40%. You can use any number from 100% to 0% according to your taste. In my view this is what makes doing this with a layer so much more useful.
I don’t intend to turn this blog into a “recipes for photoshop” blog.
I just want to show those of you new to Photoshop what can be done with an image.
Scott Kelby and others have some excellent books on Photoshop and he also has a cool online training center that can teach you all about Photoshop and also the Elements series of photo editors.
I have taken several courses and by following along with my own image and Photoshop, plus taking notes, I have learned a great deal.
They have several enrollment plans but I like the $24.95 a month subscription and use that. I don’t always have time to take online courses or feel like immersing myself into the arcane secrets of Photoshop.
Let me tell you from experience, you can learn a lot on just a one-month subscription.
I hope you have a lot of fun playing with Lab color.
Of course you can get a lot more information of the net and also on YouTube.com.
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Why I don’t use a polarizing filter

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This image is OK in my view, except the sky is a bit weak and the desert could use a little more punch in the colors. I will get to the way I fix this in a second but first let me tell you why I don’t use a polarizing filter:
They are a pain in the butt to use. You have to turn the polarizer in order to make the sky lighter or darker, sometimes it works and sometimes it don’t. If you see no change in the appearance of the sky, you need to change your angle to the sun. It does not take much of this before photography stops being fun and starts being a pain. Far too often only a part of the sky is darkened because of the angle between lens and sun.
Other lesser factors are the cost of buying a polarizer for each lens, losing one or two f-stops and having more junk to carry around.
I have not used polarizers in years and the reason I get away with it is this:
Click on image for a better view
I use LAB color in CS5 to punch up the sky a bit and I can do it in the comfort of my home, sipping on ice tea instead of fiddling around with a polarizer out in the desert.
The first step in the above picture was to create a new layer and select just the sky. With CS5 that is easier than ever. The quick selection tool is a miracle of modern science.
Once I have the sky selected I go to Image-Mode-Lab color. Next click Image again and select Apply Image. Click OK on the Apply Image panel. Now you have to click Image again click on Mode and then click RGB Color to get back to normal. I have this in an action I wrote, so the process only takes seconds.
You can read all about LAB colors on the net, just google “photoshop lab color” to get all the information you never wanted in the first place.
Scott Kelby has a good series of books called “The Adobe Photoshop CS(pick your number except 5)
You should get the book for CS5 as soon as it’s released. I have mine on pre-order with Amazon.com. The book will be out some time in August. This is the only book in photoshop that I bother with. I can read it at my leisure and then go to the computer and work Scott’s examples.
In the following example I really punch up the colors by not selecting just the sky but doing the entire image.
Click on image for a better view
A lot of outfits selling plugins that promise super-duper colors are actually just using LAB color.
I believe photo editing is everybit as important as composing an image and most certainly is a fundamental part of photography.
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Photoshop CS5 HDR Sampler

Photoshop CS5 HDR

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I just finished playing around with PS CS5’s merge to hdr pro mode.
For this test I chose 3 images I took some time ago with my Sony R1. I never could get a decent HDR image out of the three images because of terrible ghosting. Someone once told me to use a tripod if I’m going to do HDR, but someone else told me I have a hard head. No, I usually do not use a tripod and the above picture is proof of that.
The new merge to hdr pro mode has a cute little button called “Remove Ghosts” with this picture being the result of that.

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Wowsers! This is way too easy.
When doing a merge to hdr in PS CS5 you have several presets that are pretty cool. Here is the monochromatic artistic mode.
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Personally, I think this rocks and I don’t even like B&W for the most part.
This is just a short demonstration of what the new Merge to HDR Pro feature can do for you.
In my humble opinion I believe that the best photo editing software just got much better.
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Angel In Antelope Canyon

Angel In Antelope Canyon

click on image to better see the angel
I can honestly say that the worst frustration in using Photoshop has always been selecting parts of an image. From early on I simply avoided trying to make selections of images that had hair, tree branches and leaves, grass and other complicated items. That pretty much meant I did not do any kind of photo editing that demanded selecting parts of an image.
Now comes the new improved, bigger and better Photosop CS5 with a selection process so quick and easy, even I can do it.
I watched the early blurbs showing how easy it was to use content-aware edit, puppet warp, much better noise reduction using camera raw and improved HDR. I still have not figured out why I would use puppet warp but when the time comes I’m sure I won’t have any problems using it.
The early releases demonstrated the ease with which one could do these really cool operations, so I immediately dove into a project I’ve been wanting to do for ages.
I have always had a fantasy of hiring a Navajo girl dressed in full Indian costume, standing in one of the light beams in Antelope Canyon. I’ve been wanting to do that for ages. I even called a couple of the tour agencies in Page but was told that due to tribal laws, rules and so on the model would cost hundreds of dollars for this kind of photo shoot. Then there was the extra cost of reserving exclusive access to the canyon, so on and so on. Reluctantly I scrapped that notion.
Along comes CS5 with the reputed easy selection process and since I just returned from Antelope Canyon, that notion came back to bug me.
I watched the advertising videos but they did not show half the steps in the selection process. So I signed up for the Scott Kelby training for $25 bucks a month. I signed up for the monthly plan because I want the flexibility of not using the service from time to time. Let me tell you, judging from this one lesson alone, the service is more than worth the price. I am over 60 and my eyes are not the best. One of the things I have eliminated is trying to work out of a book and use the computer at the same time, so this online training with excellent video solves the problem for me.
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It pays to stick with quality companies

It pays to stick with quality companies

I recently purchased a label printer from Amazon.Com. The thing was DOA (dead on arrival).

Amazon has a link right on the order information for returning merchandise. I clicked the link, provided the information they asked for and received by overnight delivery a perfectly functional label printer.

Amazon also sent me a pre-paid address label. All I had to do is repackage the defective printer and send it back, post paid.

Now that is quality service! A real class act.

I received my Photoshop 5 disk yesterday. I bought it from Amazon.com because it’s a lot cheaper than ordering it from Adobe. A LOT cheaper.

Well, when I entered the serial number it liked the one for CS 5 but since this was an upgrade, I was also asked for the serial number of my CS 3 package.

However, it did not like it no matter how I entered the numbers.

So I called Adobe’s help desk. Ten minutes later I was up and running.

Another quality act and reason for me to stick with Adobe Photoshop.

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More on Photoshop CS5

Adobe Photoshop CS5

By tomorrow every one and his uncle will be experts with CS5, so let me just say that it works as advertised.
Let me tell you what I really like so far.

All of my plugins and actions migrated from CS3 with no hassles and work as before.
Content Aware Editing – It’s magic! Power lines, antennas, beer cans vanish at the click of a key! It works as advertised. This new feature alone is reason enough to upgrade. I have removed powerlines, gas meters and other distracting elements with ease.

Selections – MAGIC! You can do selections that were impossible previously. Its amazing.

Camera RAW – Camera RAW goes way beyond anyting previous. The noise reduction is excellent.
I did some tests and while Camera RAW is great for noise reduction, I believe my Noiseware by Imogenomic is better because it’s more convenient. I am not going to start shooting in RAW mode but it is nice to know it’s there.
Camera RAW will no doubt serve you experts in RAW very well.
I’m sticking with JPEG.
Another really cool upgrade is HDR

Click on image for a larger view
This photo was shot under those spiral energy savers at ISO 5000. I did the noise reduction in Camera RAW. Yeah, I’m impressed. I will have to run some comparative test with my favorite noise buster “Noiseware” by Imagenomic. I don’t do a lot of high ISO shooting, so this is not as important as say color temperature compensation.

Yes, I’m going to purchase CS5 – no question about it.

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It’s here! It’s here! CS5 is here!

Adobe Photoshop CS5 is here!

Download your free Adobe Photoshop demo today!

I just did and will be busy checking it out.

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Create a portrait with a gritty and rugged look

The Gritty Portrait

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In this post I want to show how to add a bit of drama, grit and ruggedness to a portrait using Photoshop.
I am using CS3 but just about any version should work and I believe this will also work with the Elements series but don’t take my word for it. Let me know if it does or does not work with Elements.

Open our project image

Duplicate the background layer by right clicking the background layer and selecting ‘Duplicate Layer’.

With the ‘Background Copy’ layer selected, go to ‘Filter’ on the menu and choose “Other – High Pass”, enter ‘5? pixels as the radius and click ok.


Change the blend of the ‘Background Copy’ layer to ‘Overlay’.

Duplicate the orginal background layer again (Background Copy 2) and move it to the very top of the layers list.


With this new layer highlighted in the layers palette, go to ‘Image’ on the main menu and choose “Adjustment” then “Desaturate”. Change the blend of the this new layer to ‘Hard Light’.

Flatten image – You have one single layer

Duplicate this layer

Press CTRL/F (Command-F on a Mac)

This will apply that High Pass filter again

Change the blend mode of this layer to Overlay

Flatten the image

Click on the “Create new fill or adjustment layer” at the bottom of the layers palette.

Select curves

Move the upper part of the line to the left

You will have to play with this adjustment as to how much to lighten the image
Pay attention to the eyes

Click OK

Click on the layer mask thumbnail of the curves adjustment layer and press CTRL+I (Command-I on the Mac). This will darken the image.

Set the foreground color to white (press D)

Select the Brush tool and using a soft edged brush (about 10px but this depends on your image size) hardness about 10 to 15%. Paint over the eyes to lighten them up.

Flatten image and save

Thanks for looking and clicking!

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