about More Musing

We are focusing on building a community, bringing the Mortal Muses photographers together, and making the world a bit smaller. On this page, you will find mission: MUSE, muse university and special features.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

muse university - correcting white balance

correcting white balance
a repost by ashley of Ramblings and Photos

If you follow my blog, I've mentioned that I have an ongoing battle with the lighting in my inlaws' home. In fact, I'll be there this weekend! Although I operate primarily out of Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop (as well as Photoshop Elements), I wanted to offer some tips that could be applied in any program as it relatest to correcting your white balance in post-processing. First, let's start with a SOOC shot (straight out of the camera).  You might never know it if you only looked at my edited shots, but here is one of the originals: 
How ya like that white balance? Or lack there of. 

Anyways...as I mentioned before, I wanted to start simple....so, I started this edit in Adobe Camera Raw. Regardless of what editing program you're working in, you should have some of the basic functionality that Adobe Camera Raw offers. If you are using Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, you already have ACR (and although I shoot in RAW, you can open  JPG files in ACR by opening PS or PSE - go to File > Open As> Select open as Camera Raw file and select your image). Below, I've copied my SOOC data and the revisions I made in Adobe Camera Raw. Here's what I did:
  • Used AUTO to correct my white balance (it's pulling from the white of my nephew's teeth).
  • Pulled the recovery slider up. 
  • Dropped my blacks a bit.
  • Decreased my brightness.
  • Increased my contrast.
  • Decreased my clarity.
  • Decreased my saturation.
ACR Adjustments
Just making those few adjustments creates a nice clean edit. I've included my edit below. If you're new to editing, I encourage you to try adjusting the exposure, brightness and contrast within your editing program.
IMG_1268 ACR 
I should warn you that most editing programs offer an "Auto" option. Sometimes selecting auto works perfectly but more often than not, you'll need to make some manual adjustments. I'm finding more and more that I use my eye dropper to select an area of the image that is meant to be white, black or gray. In many cases, I'm left with the whites of a person's eyes.

So that was my very basic edit only using Adobe Camera Raw. If you're interested in an advanced edit...keep reading. 
Beyond my edit in Adobe Camera Raw, I brought my photo over to Adobe CS5 (also known as Photoshop). Most of my steps can also be performed in Photoshop Elements. Here are my steps:
  • Created a duplicate of my background. I applied a high pass filter (found under FILTER at the top of the screen). I then applied a soft light blending mode to the layer. This is my #1 favorite trick to make the details of your image pop. You can lower the opacity if needed and/or use a layer mask to erase part of the effect. 
  • Created an adjustment layer - CURVES. In PSE, if you don't have an action curves adjustment, you can download one here (it also includes a mask layer that I use often).
  • Created a new adjustment layer - LEVELS. I pulled the left side (shadows) of the graph to a 11 - this makes my blacks just a tad bit darker. I pulled the middle bar  (mid-tones) up to a 1.11 I often pull the midtones up to a 1.38 to brighten up an image, but that was not necessary here. 
  • Created a new adjustment layer - BRIGHTNESS/CONTRAST. I decreased brightness to -10 and added a contrast of 8. 
  • Created a new adjustment layer - HUE/SATURATION. I find with my computer that I always have to pull back on my yellows and reds (if I want to avoid creating oompa loopmas). 
IMG_1268 Basic Edit
Beyond this point, I felt like my shot looked a little too much like a snapshot (nothing wrong with that, I mean, it is a snapshot), so I decided it needed to be cropped.  I used the same photo ratio to crop the photo. I then made a few more adjustments and created two photo options (I wanted to share both a color and black/white). With my color shot:
  • Created an adjustment layer: BLACK AND WHITE (in Photoshop Elements, you'll want to use a background copy then go to Enhance>Convert to Black and White). I created a custom black and white by playing with the sliders and adding a tint. I also lowered the opacity to 15%.
  • Adjusted my brightness/contrast and levels adjustment layers for a little more drama.
  • Finally, I applied Totally Rad's Lux action at 50%. For a similar effect...you can create a new fill layer - fill it with a shade of cream or light pink, set the blending mode to screen and lower the opacity.
IMG_1268 lux
For my black and white edit, I simply increased my black and white adjustment layer back to 100%.
IMG_1268 BW
So, hopefully that all made sense and you've learned a trick or two. If you want to know more about basic editing techniques, feel free to pop over to my blog. I offer a new editing tutorial every Thursday.

repost by ashley of Ramblings and Photos

Join us every weekend for a new muse university post! 
If you would like to provide a post for this series, please contact kat [at] kateyeview.com

Saturday, April 30, 2011

muse university - capture the sky

exploring with a camera: capture the sky
a repost by kat of The Kat Eye View of the World

Welcome to Exploring with a Camera! Today I'm going to talk about capturing the sky. The sky is a subject that I've  been fascinated with over the last few months, and I wanted to share what I've learned through observation. 

What is it about the sky that is so fascinating to me? I think because it is always changing, it is always interesting. The sky is never the same. The weather and clouds, the change in light from the time of day and season, and where you are located all have a dramatic impact on how the sky looks. Not only that, compositional choices, camera settings for exposure and post processing can have a big impact on the final appearance of the sky.

Here are a few things I've noticed...

Big Sky

The image leading this post off is an example of what I call a "big sky" image. Captured on the Oregon Coast in 2008, this wonderful sky has stuck in my mind. Why does the sky feel so big in this image? First, the photo was taken with a wide angle (short focal length), which enables the capture of a lot of space. Second, the horizon is positioned low in the image, so the the sky is dominant. Finally, you can't ignore the effect of the cloud formation. The formation itself leads you into the distance and gives more depth. I want to mention that I did boost the color in this image, to emphasize the blue of the sky.

Here's another big sky image, from the Amalfi Coast of Italy. This image is similar to the Oregon Coast image, not only in subject, but in the focal length, placement of horizon, and interesting cloud formations.

Big sky images don't have to be of nature, they don't even have to have blue sky in them. This image of London is a great example of a big sky in an urban environment. The same elements, wide angle and low horizon, apply to this image as well.

You don't have to have clouds to capture a big sky, that just seems to be what I am drawn to when I capture the sky. I hope some of you will share some cloudless skies in the link tool to provide examples.


How you choose to compose your image, horizontal (landscape) or vertical (portrait) orientation, has an impact on the feel of the sky. The image below, of the sky above Mt. Vesuvius in the Bay of Pompeii, emphasizes the height of the sky, rather than the width or expanse as seen in the previous images. The vertical format compresses the depth of the clouds coming toward the viewer to create height.

Here is another vertical example, above the Swiss Alps. I find it interesting how both of these images make the sky and the clouds seem so large compared to the massive mountains. Note that both also use a low horizon, to emphasize the sky.


When capturing the sky, I like to have something to provide contrast to the sky itself, something to ground the image and provide a frame of reference. I find I ground my images with a piece of something real, even if I don't include the horizon. The tree in this image of sky from Madrid grounds the image, giving a little bit of context without changing the focal point.

And if you can have an interesting object help ground your sky, why not? This ancient Greek temple in Paestum, on the Amalfi Coast south of Naples, both grounds and provides a point of interest to the fabulous sky on this day.

Contrast that with a slightly wider angle crop, below, and you can see the difference in the focal point of sky versus temple. The sky is still an important feature, but the temple becomes the primary focal point.

Slice of Sky

You don't always have the luxury of having a broad view of the sky to capture. You can create equally interesting sky images by catching a slice of the sky. These images are trickier for exposure, since you have a bright sky behind often significantly darker surroundings. My camera light meter will always choose an exposure in this situation that results in an overexposed sky, so I deliberately underexpose. This will make the foreground darker, but the correct exposure on the sky will make it the focal point.

Here is an image from an early morning walk in Parco di Monza. The slice of sky is the dominant feature in the image, but there is context in the foreground.

The image below comes from an especially frustrating evening walk in Lisbon. I could tell the sky was gorgeous with the clouds and golden light, but I couldn't get anywhere I could capture the broad vista I wanted. There were buildings all around, everywhere I walked. Instead of the big sky, I focused on a slice of sky. I like this image for the subtle details of the city in contrast with that gorgeous sky.

This slice of sky, the view when exiting from a Paris Metro station, gives me an interesting feeling of emerging. The looking-up perspective and escalator provide the context that changes the image from a standard sky shot to something more unique.


The sky in reflection is gorgeous. Water reflections are a great tool to expand the impact of the sky in an image. In this image of the Venetian Lagoon, the reflected rays of light and colors of the sky continue the effect of the sky through more of the image. 

Using selective color processing on a reflection of the sky can completely change an image. In this image of my son from 2007, I loved how revealing only the sky in color gave me a feeling of springtime hope and moved the focal point to the sky in reflection.

I like this sky reflection from a modern Vespa for a couple of reasons. First, you can see that it has just rained from the drops on the mirror but the sky is reflected blue - things are clearing up. Second, a modern silver Vespa, while unique if you are from the US, is not all that interesting on its own. This sky reflection provides significantly more interest to the photo.


Finally, I want to explore the sky as a backdrop. Sometimes an image just doesn't work without the backdrop of the sky. It may not be the focal point, but an interesting sky in concert with other elements make a great image. This Parco di Monza sunset image needs both the sky and the tree in silhouette to work.

The focal point in this image is the life boat on the Ferry from Italy to Croatia, but the light in the sky is what makes it interesting. Can you imagine this without that light? I can, and it's not anything special in my mind's eye.

I have taken lots of images of church steeples and domes and monuments, and I can tell you this: the sky makes or breaks the shot. This evening sky in Split, Croatia makes all the difference between a ho-hum church steeple and a marvelous evening shot.

So, what skies attract you? Is it cloudless skies of blue? Stormy, threatening skies? Whatever the sky, go capture it!


Join us every weekend for a new muse university post! 
If you would like to provide a post for this series, please contact kat [at] kateyeview.com

Saturday, April 23, 2011

muse university - spirals

exploring with a camera: reflections in glass
a repost by kat of The Kat Eye View of the World

Spirals are a beautiful shape. They have marvelous curves and convey energy and motion. Not only that, they are a truly efficient form used in nature, and we see them so many places in our every day lives!

While I have captured spirals with my camera countless times, the first place I truly became aware of the spiral form explicitly was in the Barcelona Science Museum. The exhibit on forms found in nature had this to say:
The spiral is a circumference that twists away on the plane that contains it. It is the best way of growing without occupying too much space. It is frequently found in animals when there exists the contradictory need for something massive, voluminous, broad or long that does not affect mobility (horns, tails, tongues, trunks, shells, etc.) and in plants to grow something that will subsequently be unrolled. If we unrolled all the spirals we have at home (kitchen and toilet paper, audio and video tapes, adhesive tape, records, springs....) we would be forced to leave the house, as we would not all fit.
Wow! I had never thought of it that way. The typical form in nature that comes to mind for me is the shell (above, from Barcelona Science Museum), but there are so many other places you will see it. Take this photo of a gardenia, for example, from my online friend Barbara:

So gorgeous! Mother nature really knows what she is doing in these things (and so does Barbara). :)

Our man-made world copies nature to use the function of spirals. I don't personally have any photos of toilet paper, but the common spiral staircase, like this one in Verona, is a good example.

And I will spare you the countless spiral staircase photos I have of lighthouses on the Oregon coast! I can't step into one without capturing the wonderful curves and lines of them. (In prepping for this post I learned that technically, this is not a spiral because it is not all on the same plane - it's a helix. But you'll forgive me if I claim artistic license here, won't you?)

Even more than function, humans copy the form of spirals in our everyday world. The Romans used them, as I discovered in this floor mosaic in the British Museum:

The Greeks used them, in their ionic columns. (Thanks to my 9-year-old son, I've relearned which columns are Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. Ionic have the spirals.) These columns are used all over in architecture, here's just one example I caught in Bath:

And they are used all the time in wrought iron work, as I've noticed here in my travels in Europe. Here's a light post in Bath:

My favorite wrought iron spiral of all time is this railing in Amsterdam. Talk about function following form! What graceful curves...

An architect who used spirals over and over in his work was Antoni Gaudí, in Barcelona. He took much of his inspiration from nature, and this ceiling detail is but one example.

We see spirals every day, even if you haven't noticed it lately. I captured these two images of bus shelter advertisements in different cities on our recent trip to England. Spirals are used in graphic arts to denote natural beauty and to convey energy. They catch your eye and draw you in.

Keep your eye out for spirals around you. Here are a few ideas:

1. Look at home. All of those rolls of paper! And then there are spiral notebooks, springs, even toys (hello, Slinky!). What is there with spirals, sitting right next to you?

2. Look at nature. Flowers, ferns, vines, shells all show spirals. Water moves in spirals, think whirlpools and breaking waves. How can you capture them? What else can you find?

3. Look at architecture. Staircases and wrought iron are two I've mentioned, what others do you see?

4. Look at art and design. Artist have used spirals in their work for thousands of years, and the golden spiral or golden ratio is a fundamental compositional principle (see a short and helpful explanation here). What traditional and modern uses of spirals can you find?

repost by kat

Join us every weekend for a new muse university post! 
If you would like to provide a post for this series, please contact kat [at] kateyeview.com