Tag Archives: Banff

Happy New Year – the year of the SHEEP

L1013809 Cropped2014 was the year of the horse and I got some good luck from my horse images. I received several awards, including a photographic artist of the year. Now new year has come! The year 2015 is the year of the SHEEP. So I made a card with Japanese style. It says “Happy New Year” and “wishing joy in the new spring”.

 

 

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Presentiaon by Olivier Du Tre about Black & White, and my case

I am helping organizing speakers for a small camera club in Calgary. I invited multiple award wining photographer, Olivier Du Tre as a speaker for the club meeting in May. Oli is landscape/fine art photographer, residing in Cochrane, Alberta. He shoots only black and white, and furthermore, he totally switched to film recently. He mentions “zone” while others are referring Nike Silver Efex. He will cover many aspects of B&W photography in the presentation. Please check his website. Also the info about his presentation is here.

So about my story how I started B&W and why I like B&W. When I became interested in photography about 20 years ago, I was suggested to try color slide film because it was considered to be more advanced compared to negative print film. One day, I took BEAUTIFUL sun rise shot on my trip. I thought it was glorious shot and showed to everybody at work. But one person said the photo was not remarkable. His reasoning was “Color dominates the image too much. Besides color, nothing to see”. And he recommended B&W film. I was pissed off, but anyway, I tried B&W. My first roll…I quite like images. But 2nd and 3rd rolls…I didn’t get good images. Usually, I got quite interesting or so disappointing images. Not so much between. Then eventually, I realized good composition made difference in photography. Color comes next to composition.

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Then I started printing by myself. I read many books about printing in darkroom. I could obtain prints by following text book. But I could not tell if they were good prints or not. I found a kind of the mentor and I showed my prints. I kept visiting him. I gradually learned “tone” or tonality was really important in prints and each master photographer had signature tone in his/her prints. Photography is picture by light. I realized light comes always first, even before composition.

This is an image from Vermilion Lake in Banff in snowy day. I knew I could not expect gorgeous scenery including well-photographed Mt. Randal since the sky was still so grey. But I tried and I found this composition. All elements were line up vertically. When I grabbed my camera, the sun was a little off from the center so I waited about 20 min for the sun moving to the center.

Actually, now I found I could apply more burning and dodging to this image to enhance the story I saw at the scene. No wonder many B&W photographer stay in a darkroom for months.

Anyway, please check out, Oli’s amazing B&W photography in his website. You will see what I was talking about.

Black and White conversion to the image “Island” (3) – Technique from wet darkroom

In my last blog, each parts of the image were looked after and vignetting was applied. It is getting close to what I imagined. But I felt the island, the woods at the center, was somewhat still weak as a main subject. So I need to spice up a little bit. I used “Curve” layers to modify contrast and brightness. But it did not give delicate control over the intricate patterns of the woods. So I used a different technique.

Before showing the process, please allow me to talk about a little bit about conventional dark room process. In darkroom processing, can contrast be adjusted LOCALLY, like I did in my previous post? Originally, contrast was determined by a GRADE of the paper (#1 to 5, #1 is lowest contrast and #5 is highest) so the contrast can’t be adjusted locally. Then Multigrade paper was developed. With the MG paper, contrast was determined by different density of filters, placed between enlarging lens and the paper. The darker filter, the more contrast. By applying different density of the filter to particular part of the image, contrast can be adjusted locally. This is same as I have done in my previous post. As a more advanced technique, different densities of filters are applied to the SAME part. The principle of enlargement is same as shooting with a camera. It requires certain exposure time; it is just longer than shooting. Now please imagine you need 30sec to get proper exposure to a particular part of the image. With a moderate contrast filter, you get a result with lack of punch. Now, you need more contrast but you don’t want to lose gradation of the tone. So what you can do is divide the exposure time (30 sec) to different filters. E.g, High contrast filter for 8sec, medium one for 15 sec and low contrast one for 7 sec to preserve the gradation. I use this technique for the wood part in digital processing.

Step 1. Create a mask on the woods as precise as possible.

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 Step 2. Create a Curve layer for high contrast. Please take a look a curve and the image below.

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Step 3.  Create a Curve layer for low contrast.    

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Step 4. Change opacity of the each curve layer. The high contrast curve adds edges of lines but it will sacrifice tonal gradation. The low contrast will recover the tonal gradation. I find this technique is effective to clouds or hair.

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It is done. I saw bluish toning would suit this image so I added selenium toning by Nik SilverEfex. This is finally competed image.

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Black and White conversion to the image “Island” (2)

In the last post, my photo, “Island” was converted to B&W by B&W conversion software, TrueGrain. This time, I will share how I edited the converted image. As I mentioned in the previous post, my inner vision I imagined was that the woods at the center was floating in the air, like floating Island. Now I have to make changes to achieve the concept.

At first, short grasses are growing around the island. I brightened this area to separate from the outer part (photo 1).  By the way, I used “Curve” layers of Photoshop for this type of changes.

Photo 1

Photo 1

Next, I looked at the forest at the other side of the river. The forest on right side of the island is brighter than left one so I darken the right side to make even (photo 2). It is a subtle change.

photo 2

photo 2

Then although the river is visible, it is too white and not noticeable. So I darkened the river (photo 3).

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Although the Island is main subject (center of interest) in this photo, the summits of the mountains are also an important element since they are acting as a complement of the main subject. So I wanted to enhance the edge (snow line) of the mountains. In this case, the brightness of the snow line was kept at same level, and the rocky aprt around the snow line was darkened (photo 4). It is subtle change but it is significant on print.

photo 4

photo 4

 Lastly, a tree was too white so it was darkened.

Let’s leave dodging and burning process at this point and see what will happen if I apply vignetting (Darkening or whiting corners). Before this process, I usually crop an image to appropriate composition and aspect ratio. For portrait works, I often use automatic vignetting tool equipped in Adobe Lightroom or Nik Color efex. But for landscapes, especially this case, I manually added vinetting. This is the original just after cropped.

L1050414-2 HP5 cropped copy

1.       Left bottom corner.

2.       Right bottom corner.

3.       Right top corner.

4.       I felt still not quite effective, so I darkened about 1/12 of the entire image from top edge.

5.       I see texture on a mountain on the left side. I Do Not want to see the detail. So the area was whitened.

6.       More vinetting on right top corner.

7.       Then mild vignetting was applied at all corners by Nik Color Efex to add retro mood.

8.       Still I did not see the impact of my inner vision so I added gradual neutral density digitally to darken the sky. Vignetting looks okay now. This is the result.

L1050414-2 HP5 cropped copy 08

Hmmm…it is getting closer but I still the Island is not standing out as I imagine.

So I tried another trick. It will be next time.  Stay Tuned.

Related posts

Black and White conversion to the image “Island” (1)

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I will share how I edited the black and white photo, “Island” posted in the previous blog.  First of all, I should talk about B&W conversion software I am using. Many photographers use software to convert a color image to monochrome image. It is very convenient since the software allows adding an effect of the color filter, (such as red filter for darkening sky or green filter for pleasant skin tone), mimicking many different types of B&W film, controlling grain level and adding toning such as sepia or selenium. Currently, I am using following three B&W converters.

Nik Silver Efex is the most popular B&W converter. It has many functions and some parameters can be locally adjusted by NIk’s famous “control points” method. Many types of film are listed for film mimicking. But I see “digital flavor” still remains. I would say It gives contemporary B&W image so I use the Silver Efex predominantly for my portrait works.

Topaz B&W effect doesn’t have film mimicking but is has many fancy toning so I occasionally use the software for toning at the end of process.

TrueGrain is very simple B&W converter; only I can do with the software are selecting a film type, adding an effect of the color filter, and controlling grain level. It allows modifying characteristic contrast curve of the selected film. It doesn’t have local adjustment or toning. Possibly, this is why nobody use (or knows) this software. But its film mimicking is very close to real film; it gives a kind of Lo-fi feel of the film. I use TrueGrain for my landscape photography since I would like keep natural feel to the images.

The original image was taken in foggy morning so the contrast of the entire image is somewhat low for B&W image.  I tried the B&W conversion with TrueGrain and I applied red filter but the sky is not dark enough and the “Island”, woods in the center of image was not standing out well. (photo 1)

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Photo 1

So I had to apply some preparation to the color image before the conversion. Now I should explain how the color filter works for B&W photography. When a color is mixed with a particular different color, the mixed color will be black (or white but ignore at this point). This is called complementary color. For example, the complementary color of blue is yellow; that is why a yellow filter darkens the sky. On the other hand, when the same color of the filter exists in an image, that part will be brightened. I use this idea to enhance certain parts of the image. This time, I planned using orange filter, complementary color of the orange is between blue and cyan.

First of all, I needed to darken the sky. So I have to select (mask) the sky and change its color to more blue / cyan (photo 2). Please click the image for larger view.

Photo 2

Photo 2

Next, I wanted to add a little more contrast to the trees in the island to enhance the drama and separate the island from its surroundings. Again I applied mask to the trees (Photo 3). Then the color of the trees were change to blue/cyan but the intensity of the change was not as high as the sky since I expected a little more subtle changes of the contrast (photo 4)

Photo 3

Photo 3

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Photo 4

At the same time, I felt trunks of the trees needed to be more distinctive, so orange (yellow and red) was added the trunks to lighten them (Photo 4).

Photo 5

Photo 5

Lastly, I brightened the whole island by “Curves” (photo 5).

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Now all preparation is done. Save the file as Tiff and convert the image with TrueGrain. I chose Ilford HP5 as film mimicking and applied orange filter. I added grain as well.L1050414-2 HP5

So this is the result. Please compare to the photo 1. Now the B&W image has more contrast and drama. Getting closer to the concept when I shot the image at the scene.

Actually, this is not done; real cooking will be done on the B&W image. It will be shared in the next post. Stay tuned.

Related post: Black and white photo – “Island”

A swamp in Banff

When I went Bow lake mentioned in my previous blog, it was snowing, but next day, I could see stars in the morning. I woke up at 04:30 AM and drove up to the location I had found the day before. I wanted to try a new location in Banff. In Banff, Vermilion lake is the most photographed location by photographers. But I have found that many other places have potentials. Banff may be my hit this year.

Swamp in Banff by Hiroaki  Kobayashi (Hiro-K)) on 500px.com
Swamp in Banff by Hiroaki Kobayashi

Please click the image for larger size.

This photo is HDR image.  It looks still natural, doesn’t it? I used Oloneo HDRengine for this image.

Snowy afternoon in MAY – Bow Lake

I visited Banff, Alberta at the end of May. Unfortunately, I had a very cloudy morning, which is considered to be not ideal for landscape photography. But I believed I still can capture something. Then while I was driving to Lake Louise, snow started hitting the window shield of my car. When I reached to Icefield park way, I found a sign saying “The load is winter condition”. Again it was the end of MAY. Anyway, I decided driving up to Bow Lake, about 30 min drive from Lake, Louise. Snow was getting harder and actually trees covered by snow were pretty beautiful.

When I get to Bow Lake, the lake was re-frozen. obviously, I could not expect big shots. I was walking around the lake shore and looking for something to come to eyes. This photo is the one I found interesting.

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Please click the image for the larger size.

I used TrueGrain for B&W convertion and added structure and toning by Nik Silverefex. I would like to talk about my waorflow for B&W process in the future.

I really think my landscape photos are getting more subtle. How does this photo appeal to you?