Friday, July 25, 2014

Black and White Weekend - 7/25/14: "Symmetry"

asks us to post a black and white photo. No spot colors. No sepia. Black and white, only.

The Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh, may be the only Gothic-style skyscraper in the world, rising to 42 stories of classrooms and administrative offices.

The first floor, with its high vaulted arches and columns resembles a cathedral. When construction began in the 1920's, Pittsburgh was still basically a mill town. Even though I've lived in this area most of my life, it still amazes me that one can find something this beautiful in Pittsburgh.

As I looked through the photos I have taken there, I found dozens I could have posted.  But there are more weekends to come, so you'll probably be seeing additional images from the Cathedral of Learning.

(Note: My photo is NOT a double photo creating a mirror image. This entire photo is what came out of my camera with some cropping to center it and a little contrast adjustment.)

I rather like the idea that an educational building is called the "Cathedral of Learning" because I am devoted to learning.

I was a teacher of English (as a foreign language) in Brazil and an art teacher in public schools in the U.S. for more than 30 years. In addition, I have taught art and writing courses at community colleges, conducted creativity workshops for Western PA Mensa, and have done presentations on Mark Twain and his writing.

I have always been an avid reader and enjoy watching documentaries. I rarely listen to music because I'd rather be learning from an audio book or listening to NPR. (For me, the idea of being able to "read" an audio book while doing something else is downright glorious.)

I have reached the age when I can take free classes (for seniors) at my local community college, although I'm not pursuing another degree. I enroll in one class per semester in a subject that I think will interest me ---and nearly everything does.  I completed a n  Adobe Illustrator course and others in speech, art history, literature, and digital photography (that wasn't very good, so I plan to take it again with a different instructor.) I plan on taking classes in poetry writing, criminal justice, history, philosophy, graphic design, biology, geography, and more.

If I worship at any cathedral, it is a Cathedral of Learning.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Good Fences - 7/24/14: "Bearizona"

Good Fences Thursday challenges us to post an image of a fence or gate each week.

Today I'm taking you to Williams, Arizona (near Flagstaff.) The famous Route 66 runs through the town and Bearizona is just outside of it.

Bearizona has two parts. One is a drive-through zoo where one has to keep the windows closed and drive slowly so as not to run into bears, buffalo, wild goats, rams, deer or wolves.

 The other part is a walk-through zoo surrounded by a substantial fence with a carved bear guarding the entrance. In that area we saw porcupines, raccoons, more bears, some small wild cats (maybe lynx), foxes and enjoyed a demonstration of birds of prey. There were a few peacocks running about loose. And they had a cage of money-grubbing Ravens. If you slipped the end of a dollar into the cage, one of them would take it and place it into a donation box.

 I have mixed feelings about zoos. I am an animal lover who enjoys seeing live animals that I would never see in the wild, yet I hate to see them locked up. I know that keeping some endangered species in captivity is the only way to preserve them, but I don't think we're short of bears or rams, yet.  These animals seemed to be well cared for and they live in settings as natural as they can be without being in the wild.

Bearizona, near Williams, AZ

Close-up of bear sculpture.
Raven, trained to grab money
and place it in a plexiglas donation box.
Young bears are kept in a
special section inside the
large fenced area.  I think this
fellow is climbing a fake tree.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Abstract Photo - 7/23/14: "Screened In" 2 versions

NF Photography prompt: Abstract Photo


After an evening event at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh,
I noticed a new, large, screened structure behind the museum.  With lights on
inside the structure, which appeared to be a storage area for large equipment,
I liked the designs created by the dark lines, screens, and lights, so I snapped
a few photos.  I wondered why some of the structure (black pieces) were
closer together and why there was a diagonal piece and a very thin one with a
curved corner. But that made the design more interesting than if the black
lines had been the same width, all vertical and horizontal and evenly spaced. 

I decided this image made a great abstract without any
enhancement at all. But, of course, I decided to have a bit of fun with it.

á la Mondrian
Because of the geometric design created by black lines in the original photo,
I decided to make this image resemble a Mondrian painting using primary
colors, black and white.  After making the image more vertical and horizontal
with Photoshop's distort tool (to undistorted it) I created 4 new layers above
the original photo, one for each color and white. On the red, blue, and
yellow layers, I changed the mode from normal to color. I selected
the sections I wanted red and filled them with red and did the
same for blue and yellow.  I left the fourth layer in normal mode
and filled in the sections I wanted to be white, then made the layer
transparent enough to see some of the texture of the screen. Using color
mode doesn't allow very light or very dark areas to accept color, so for the
very lightest spots, I used 3 more normal mode layers for the primary
colors, colored each and then made them transparent so a hint of
color would be visible on those very light areas.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Black and White Weekend - 7/18/14: Conrail Bridge

asks us to post a black and white photo. No spot colors. No sepia. Black and white, only.

Railroad bridge across the Allegheny River
Pittsburgh, PA

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Good Fences - 7/17/14 "Early Evening Farm" using fake HDR

Good Fences Thursday challenges us to post an image of a fence or gate each week.

I've been experimenting with trying to make my images look like HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography. The way HDR is usually done is by using a tripod to take 3 photos, setting one to be slightly overexposed, one underexposed, and one exposed normally. Some cameras can take those three photos and pull the details from the lightest, darkest, and mid-range areas to give you one image with dynamic detail. If your camera can't do that, then some software can do it for you using your 3 photos.

Frankly, I hate carrying a tripod around with me and I just don't have the patience to change settings and take three shots.

Luckily for me, there are ways to "fake" HDR in Photoshop by using only one photo. 
If you want to try it yourself, use the instructions below.

"Early Evening Farm"
Dairy Farm in Western PA
created by using "fake" HDR

After doing the last step (adding Ink Outlines) I erased them from
the sky (I didn't like the tiny black lines there) and then I slightly lightened the sky.
(click on image for larger view)
I prefer this method.
Follow these steps to try it yourself:

Note: the slider levels I used worked well on my photo. You can change those to look best on your image.
•Make your normal enhancements to correct levels, color, etc.
•Make a duplicate of that image
•On the duplicate: Go to Image> Adjustments> Shadows/Highlights
•Make sure Preview is checked so you will be able to see the changes on your screen
•Move the slider bars as follows:
        Shadows, Amount: somewhere between 80 and 100%
        Highlights, Amount: make it the same as Shadows
        Midtone Contrast: Move to where you think it looks good, again 80-100%.
        Tonal Width: 30% on both Shadows and Highlights 
(You can try moving Tonal Width either up or down ---they don't have to be the same, but I find about 30% works for me.)
Note: when you move the Shadows slider it will look terrible until you move the highlight slider an equal amount.  And the same is true for the tonal width, although they don't have to be exactly the same.
•Hit OK when satisfied, then make more adjustments (lightness, saturation, etc.) if needed.
Optional step:
•Make a duplicate of that layer.
•Make sure black is your foreground color (perhaps not necessary, but I chose white for background color)
•Go to Filter Gallery
•Choose Brush strokes, then Ink Outlines.
You can play with the settings. I set mine at - Stroke length: 4, Dark intensity: 20, Light intensity: 10
•After hitting OK, change the opacity on that layer (I suggest 40 to 60%) and make other adjustments, if needed. 
For example, if your photo has a sky, you might want to erase the Ink Outlines from it ---they give the sky a lined texture that I don't like. Or if you don't like the ink outlines, just delete that layer  or click on control Z to undo.

Alternate method: In the latest version (Photoshop CC) you can go to Image> Adjustment> HDR toning and play with the possibilities there. (I'm not sure which was the first Photoshop version with this option. If your version doesn't have it, try using the instructions for the method I prefer, above.)

This is what my image looked like on the
layer where I worked with Shadows/Highlights.
You may chose to leave your image like this,
but I wanted to bring out more details and
make it a bit darker, so I went on to create
a layer using Ink Outlines (the image above)

but erased them from the sky.
This is what my original looked like after
a few 
enhancements.  I like this normal

photo image, but I'm always trying to
learn new techniques ---and pass them on.