I’ve gotten over my thing about missing the snow and am now thinking about getting back to the Texas coast. My 7-year old son brings it up constantly so we’re just going to have to set a date and do it. The shot above was taken on our last big trip which was during Sharkfest at Padre Island National Seashore. When we scheduled our trip we weren’t aware of Sharkfest and on arrival were very surprised by the crowds. This 63-mile stretch of beach has one way in and out (via land) as is mostly limited to 4×4 vehicles so it’s generally rather empty. Of course “crowded” is a relative thing and even with 10x the normal crowd there were still plenty of places along the seashore to fish and play in the water without crowding anyone out. Normally you can pick a place where you have at *least* 1/2 mile between you and your nearest neighbor. We had to settle for 1/8 – 1/4 mile this trip (once we made it 30 or 40 miles)…first-world problems. Unfortunately we saw no sharks being caught. On our “normal” trips we often see them and thought that with all these shark fishermen we’d see several. No luck.
For those of you not familiar with shark fishing in the surf, here’s the very rough description of how it works. Gear consists of short-ish, stiff rods with reels capable of holding hundreds of yards of approximately 100# test line. At the terminal end there are leader rigs made out of materials ranging from 400# test monofilament to stainless steel cable. Hanging from those are huge hooks (the size of your hand). For bait something like a big chunk (even half) of a jack crevalle is used. Once the rig is ready, the bait is generally paddled out with a kayak and placed beyond the third sand bar. Then you wait, and wait, and wait. When you get a decent sized shark on the line the fight often lasts well over an hour. It’s pretty amazing to watch. On a side note, it’s extremely interesting to witness the various vehicular rigs that people come up with for their shark fishing — giant platforms on top of trucks, etc. If I’d known how unsuccessful our fishing was going to be on this trip I might have just spent time photographing the shark rigs.
I processed the image to make it appear a bit like an old print from film. Kept the colors reasonably saturated (via the vibrance slider in Lightroom) and made the image warm like prints in the “old” days. In Lightroom I added grain to taste. I rarely use additional grain in images but really like it for this beach scene and if it weren’t for the vehicles it could pass for a pic from the ’70s. I wasn’t “into” photography in my film days so I can’t wax nostalgic about this film or that film or tell you that I mimicked a certain film. I bought whatever was cheap.
Many of these pictures are reruns but I thought I’d post them in honor of Pearl Harbor Day. The aircraft carrier in the top image is the USS Lexington (CV-16) which was in service from 1943 through 1991 and now sits as a (very cool) museum in Corpus Christi, TX. This image is a 3-exposure HDR. I’m getting some odd pixelization on export from Lightroom which I can’t figure out but the point of posting this is not for the image’s sake itself anyway.
My grandfather joined the Navy during WWII (sometime after Pearl Harbor due to his age) and went through training to become a Navy pilot. I am very fortunate to have a 90-minute recording of him recounting his Navy experiences. My favorite quote: “I graduated from flight school on August 14th, 1945. The Japanese heard I was coming and surrendered the next day.” This is the most recent snapshot I have of him.
Hope you enjoy the rest of these photos from various air shows I’ve attended.
As we were headed down Padre Island National Seashore to fish early Saturday morning, my older son and I were intently looking for bait fish activity, holes/cuts in the sandbars, etc. with the intent to find the best fishing spot — didn’t even notice the sun. My seven-year old piped up in a matter-of-fact voice, “Hey, Dad…you’re going to want to get a picture of this.” He’s in tune with my photography habit.
I hopped out of the truck and snapped off a few pictures. It’s amazing how quickly the sun rises in the sky at this point in the day.
Last summer I took my 6 year old son camping for the weekend at Padre Island National Seashore (PINS…see this post, and this post). I didn’t do a lot of photography but managed a few shots to document the weekend.
The night shot that I recently posted from Big Bend National Park brought to mind some of the pictures I took at night at PINS. The shot above had some really cool clouds and it looked to me like an angel with its wings spread across the ocean (kind of sappy I know). The surf is always pounding down there but I like how the long exposure gives the Gulf a smooth look.
I can’t explain why, but the view of the stars from the beach is every bit as clear and amazing as the view in the middle of west Texas (which has some of the darkest skies in the US). Depending where you are on the beach you may be as close as 15 miles from Corpus Christi — a decently-sized metro area of about 430,000 people according to wikipedia. There’s a lot of glow from the city but on a cloudless night the Milky Way is as clear as ever (looks like clouds in the sky). Obviously this picture was taken with a bright moon which kills much of the view of the stars so there were no Milky Way pictures that night.
My goal was to make this image rather dramatic given the cloud formation and the processing steps to get there were rather simple. In Lightroom I removed a couple of stars within the angel shape with the spot removal tool. They detracted from the aesthetics of the overall image because they were too bright. [My opinion is that one is free to do this kind of thing as long as they don't dishonestly portray the final result as 100% accurate]. Then in Photoshop I used the channel mixer to tone the image to a blue-ish monochrome — I didn’t want a straight black and white image. [David Nightingale's tutorials have inspired a lot of experimentation with things like the channel mixer and with "dramatic" images in general]. I used a vibrance adjustment to back off on the blue a bit (couldn’t quite figure out the channel mixer settings to get the color just how I wanted it). I added one general s-curve and then another curve masked in to provide a touch of vignette. Some noise reduction and sharpening for the stars topped that off the Photoshop work. Once I was back in Lightroom I tweaked the color a tiny bit more because I wasn’t quite satisfied upon a second look.
This past weekend was the first time in five weekends that I was in town. I was going to get all sorts of work done around the house, etc and catch up on things. Photography was still going to be relegated to the wish list — no time for that. Well, Thursday night I started to feel a bit under the weather and by Friday morning I was out-and-out ill. I ended up in bed throughout this weekend and one of the things I did (when not in a complete fog) was watch a few videos on kelbytraining.com. I got to do *something* related to photography at least.
Being the geek that I am, I watched a few videos on the Lab color space done by a guy named Dan Margulis. Lab is a color space (like RGB for example) which uses three channels: ‘L’ for luminosity, ‘a’ for green/magenta, and ‘b’ for blue/yellow. I won’t even try to explain when and why one might want to use the Lab color space but I will attempt a poor-man’s explanation of one use I’ve already found for Lab with the help of Mr. Margulis.
The portrait above-left was taken on a bright, sunny day in Vancouver’s Stanley Park. Note the blown-out highlights on the forehead and nose. No amount of curves, saturation, or other adjustments would bring the proper color back to those spots. The only real option is to paint color in if you really want the color back. The way you’d generally do this is to sample a nearby color in the skin (option-click when you have the paintbrush tool open in Photoshop) and paint over the area. The main problem with this is that your “paint” covers every pixel — better make sure you don’t paint over any of the areas you want to keep (those areas with non-blown-out colors and textures). One way to prevent this is to paint on another layer and use the ‘color’ blend mode which will add color but keep the existing texture. The problem with this? In RGB, adding color to something already blown-out will simply remain blown-out.
If you convert your layer to Lab (I’m not going to attempt to explain the exact mechanics because I’ll surely leave out something important), you can paint while using color blend mode and the color “sticks”. This is essentially because Lab has a much larger color gamut than RGB. One way of saying it is that in Lab space there exists a color which is blown-out (from a luminosity standpoint) but still has a color value. Your first thought might be, “Don’t you lose that color when you convert back to RGB eventually?”. Nope. And that’s just the way it works — Photoshop doesn’t know that the Lab colors you painted in were blown-out highlights. It just sees a color that it has to make a best guess about converting back to RGB.
It’s very subtle, but in the above-right image you can see that I added a touch of color to the blown-out spots on the forehead and nose, and to the right ear and forehead above the right eye. There are still highlights, but they are no longer brilliant white.
Here’s another example. In this sunset silhouette taken in Corpus Christi, TX there’s a huge blown-out area in the sky. In RGB you could paint some color in very carefully — being sure to avoid the buildings, etc. In Lab, I simply painted in color using the ‘color’ blend mode and the image is much-improved IMO. There’s now a touch of color in the whole sky and in the water and the edit took about one minute. [You'll note that the overall color cast is slightly different on the right and I simply don't remember if I touched some other setting -- Just trust that the color in the previously blown-out areas is due to painting in the Lab color space.]
I have no doubt that there are 20 other ways to tackle the problem of blown-out highlights in post, but I wanted to share this one that I learned. If you’re geeky enough to find this interesting, I hope I’ve whet your appetite enough to go figure it out with the help of a book or video. If you’re not geeky enough then I won’t be able to explain it well enough to help you anyway.