September 24, 2015 • Leave a Comment
Local pro photographers never miss these locations during the fabulous fall color extravaganza around Crested Butte, Colorado. You won’t want to miss these spots either!
March 20, 2014 • Leave a Comment
Colorful homes and buildings of Crested Butte, Colorado below the towering peaks of Paradise Divide.
Technology makes achieving old-time techniques easy
The earliest forms of color photography involved applying oil paints to traditional black and white images. There are lots of examples of these hand-tinted photographs still around. Most of them were tinted using less-vibrant colors and ended up looking like pastel-colored soft, romantic images. The effect was really popular with portraits but still somewhat acceptable with landscapes and architectural studies.
When I first opened my studio I was constantly searching for ways to set myself apart from the other photographers in town. I tried my hand at hand-tinting photographs that I had created. I could never get the technique down. I guess my hand-eye coordination was a little lacking because I spent more time trying to take the paint off places than I did putting it on. I still liked the effect but I just didn’t have the skill or patience for creating this type of art.
Twenty years and lots of digital technology later, achieving a hand-tinted photo look is amazingly simple to achieve. By using traditional digital printing techniques we only have to “paint” the first copy making the technique a cost-effective way of creating a unique piece of art that we can re-sell over and over again.
Here’s how it’s done. Using Adobe Photoshop open your color photograph and do your usual edit/enhancement work. Use “save as” and save your edited photo as a .psd or .tif file with a different name or just add “bw” to the file name. If you were using layers to achieve your edits (as you should) you should flatten your photo before saving. Don’t close the image.
At this point you want to duplicate your background layer giving you two identical copies of your photo on two layers. Create a layer mask on the top layer. Now, using your favorite method of converting a color image into a black and white image, turn the top layer into a black and white version of your photo. At this point you will have a black and white photo on your monitor with a color version hidden underneath.
Now click on the layer mask you created, highlighting the mask. Using the paintbrush tool with the foreground color set to black, paint the black and white layer allowing the color of the layer below to show through. You can adjust the opacity of your brush as you paint on the mask to allow more or less color to show through as you paint although on the image above I used 100% opacity since I wanted more-vibrant colors. I usually start with a big, soft-edged brush for larger areas, then clean-up the edges with a small, hard-edged brush.
Once you return the color to the parts of your image that you want to be in color, you can adjust the saturation and hue of the colors by making those adjustments to the bottom (color) layer. You can play around with soft and hard-edged brushes of different sizes to get the effect you like best. Now save your layered photograph so you can continue to refine your edited version.
“Playing” is my favorite approach to learning new techniques because it takes all the pressure of “creating a work of art” off of the photographer. With a little practice this technique can be added to your toolbox and can provide an “old-time” look to some of your favorite images. You may even find that this technique can “save” a photo that you like but just isn’t hitting a home run. Have fun!
You can always see more of my photography at www.ImagesColorado.com
The post Using Adobe Photoshop to Achieve a Hand-Tinted Effect appeared first on Dusty Demerson - Crested Butte Photographer.
February 09, 2014 • Leave a Comment
Breaking the Rules to Create Photographs With Feelings
by Dusty Demerson
Way back when I was learning photography in school the concept of a white point and a black point in a finished print could not be expressed strongly enough. It’s a concept that Ansel Adams writes about in his materials and most other photographic educators, myself included, tend to agree with.
The principal states that there should be some area within the image that should fall on pure white and an area that should represent the darkest black within the image. If this approach is followed the print will contain a full range of tones and thus will be a “perfect” print. It will also be visually pleasing since a full tonal range is presented. This concept more-strongly practiced in black and white photography but still holds true in fine color print-making as well. How many landscape images have you seen where the area below the horizon looks great but the clouds are “blown out” and pure white? Where does your eye go when you look at such a print? It goes to the sky. Our eyes tend to fall on the brightest areas of a scene first. If that area has no detail or texture, we have created a weak print that pulls our eyes away from the subject and into the sky. While having both an area of black and area of white represented in the print, we need to be careful how much area within the print represents these tones.
While this approach is not the worst way to teach print-making to new photographers it falls far-short of providing good guidance in making expressive prints. While most great photographs will have a black point or a white point within their edges, not every scene offers a tonal range that broad. The scene above is a great example. I could have stretched the tonal range of the image so there was a black area in the loft of the barn. I could have also made the snow pure white. The photograph would have been technically excellent since a full tonal range would have been represented. The photograph would have also looked garish and unnatural. The finished image would not have created the emotional response of a barn in a snow storm. Creating an emotional response by our viewers is the whole point of professional photography. Ideally, we can evoke the same emotional response we had when we stopped to make the photo. Sometimes our photographs will contain a full tonal range. Sometimes we must be willing to bend the rules to create an emotional photograph.
The next time you sit down at your computer to prepare an image for print, step back for a moment and look at your screen. Does your photograph recreate the feeling that caused you to pick up the camera or have you edited the “life” out of your image? Rules and guidelines are a great place to start learning a craft but at some point we have to be willing to move beyond rules and create images with feeling and emotion.
See more of my photography at www.imagescolorado.com
January 28, 2014 • Leave a Comment
The past several years have been difficult for artists. Many brick-and-mortar galleries have closed and that trend seems to be continuing into 2014. Even very successful galleries in art destinations like Santa Fe, New Mexico are closing their doors and “going private”.
Difficult times for art galleries mean difficult times for artists too. Several galleries that were quite successful selling my work a few years ago have dropped to zero sales in the past year or so. Sales of art through the traditional gallery model have been challenging, to say the least, for the past several years now. It’s not just photography either. Sales of all types of art have been declining since the economy turned south. Only the extremely high-priced collectible and rare works have been able to hold their value.
That being said, 2013 was my best year ever for selling my landscape photography. Since I live in rural Colorado where there are relatively few gallery opportunities and even less potential buyers, I had decided a long time ago that gallery representation would have to be supported by a strong online presence and other opportunities. Art fairs have provided great opportunities to find new collectors in the past few years. Another growing niche for landscape photographs is stock photography. While the stock photography market in general is a challenging place to earn any real income, unique local images can still demand good money from clients wanting a strong geographic presence on their websites and in their brochures and advertising.
As an artist that loves most aspects of his craft, I also enjoy creating lifestyle family portraits and a few portfolios for high school seniors. While the family portrait and wedding photography business used to be my “bread and butter” only the family portrait side of the business provides significant income today. While many photographers are complaining that the iPhone is putting them out of business, I would maintain that if they are competing with iPhone users they aren’t really photographers at all. Real photography clients are still investing in adequately sized and beautifully presented images of landscapes and their families. However, 2013 marked the first time in my history that my landscape photography income eclipsed my portrait and wedding income.
With all the diverse ways to turn photography into income-producing work I have to say that as artists, we have it pretty easy. Painters, sculptors and other artists don’t have nearly the variety of outlets for their artwork as photographers do. Even though photography, in general, doesn’t command the same prices, our costs are generally much lower and our opportunities are greater than any other medium. Art belongs on the walls and in the halls of homes, offices and public spaces but photography, like no other medium, can also be used on web pages, note cards, brochures and anywhere else an image can tell a story or support a concept.
It’s time to get back behind the camera!
January 20, 2014 • Leave a Comment
The Business of Being an Artist
We’ve all heard the term “Starving Artist” and we probably all know friends who fit the description. I’m sure there are many reasons why artists tend not to be prosperous financially. Of course, there are a few great exceptions to this statement but I’ll bet there are more that are struggling than prospering. I’ll use a personal situation as an example.
I’m involved with a local co-op gallery of wonderful artists. We have a good (but not great) location on the main street of my small, tourist – oriented town. Our rent is partially subsidized by another organization that uses the back of our location for their offices. Each artist pays rent of $80 per month and works an 8 hour shift in the gallery each week. Let’s assume that any of the artists could get another job for $8 an hour which is the low-end of the pay scale in my town. If you crunch the math the monthly cost of participating in the gallery is $80 in rent plus 32 hours at $8 each, or $336. Typically we only pay rent for the 4 months of the season so our seasonal cost would be $1344. The gallery keeps a 20% commission for its operating expenses so each artist needs to sell $1,680 in art each season to break even….sort of. Put another way, we each need to sell $420 worth of art each month.
Let’s say I do sell $420 this month. Great! Well, not really. First of all, I’m doing this calculation using a minimum wage formula that would still qualify me for food stamps and other social bail-outs. It’s also an affront to my college education, not to mention grad school. But let’s move on. So I sold $420 worth of my art this month giving me $336 in take-home pay. To achieve those sales I also have had to invest time and materials. Let’s say it took me 5 hours to create the art I sold for $420. Again, at $8 per hour I must subtract $40 as an expense. I also had the work printed, matted and framed for $100 bringing my total expenses to $140. I have invested $140 to create $420 worth of art which now provides me a net income of $196.
Artwork sale $420
Gallery commission -$ 84 $336
Materials cost -$100 $236
Labor cost -$40 $196
I think you can see where this is headed. My 8 hours in the gallery and 5 hours creating my art has made me $196 or roughly $25.50 per hour invested. That sounds great until April 15th. On tax day I will pay self employment tax of about 14% on all of my income. I owe $27.44 on this month’s art sales. But I will also end up in the 15% income tax bracket so I owe $29.40 in federal income tax. Here’s the silver lining! This income level will probably help me avoid any state income taxes and I’ll have $139.16 left over after these expenses to buy food, insurance, gas, my car, tools, etc. I’m essentially working for $10.70 per hour after taxes.
What seems like a decent deal in a co-op gallery really doesn’t count for much at the end of the month unless my art is selling like hotcakes. $420 in gross sales provides a net of $139.16 after taxes for 13 hours of work.
The reason there are so many starving artists is not because they are bad at their craft. It’s because they don’t crunch the numbers. There are a few solutions. Raise prices, cut expenses, shift to being a part-time artist or just enjoy a great hobby and forget trying to make a living at art. What will you do with this information?
By Dusty Demerson
November 11, 2013 • Leave a Comment
by Dusty Demerson, photographer
I love photographing fall colors. It’s my favorite time of year. The vibrancy of yellow aspen leaves against a “robins-egg-blue” Colorado sky is tough to beat. Majestic snow-covered mountain peaks add a sense of drama to subjects that are already pretty awesome. The colors of fall added to my reduced workload from portraits and weddings team up to make me a very happy photographer.
When it starts getting colder and the windy storms start blowing through the high country, the beautiful colors can quickly fall and fade to a variety of browns and tans. The contrast changes from vibrant to subtle almost over night. The catharsis of this situation is enough to make a photographer put the camera away until snow covers the once-colorful earth. While I believe it’s more difficult to create strong compositions with a monochrome landscape dotted with snow, it’s not impossible. When the scenery reminds me of a Bev Doolittle painting I love trying to replicate her hidden subjects in the landscape.
I don’t think that happens with the photograph above but it was a warm late-autumn day and the clouds were providing an amazing dance in the sky. I couldn’t just sit by and watch. Trying to find a good foreground was a challenge. This frozen beaver pond and dam wasn’t too bad. I like how the swirls in the ice seem to mirror the shapes of the clouds. And those clouds! They were changing pretty quickly but I got lucky and caught this scene with a subtle line leading into the image toward the towering peaks of Paradise Divide. The direction of the stream helps support the line of the clouds pulling the viewer’s eye into the center of the photograph.
Our eyes are naturally drawn to the brightest portion of a scene or areas of highest contrast. I want that area to be well-inside the frame, not anywhere near the edge of the photograph. Having bright areas near the edge of the image can create confusion to the viewer and allow their view to exit the photograph too quickly. The brightest area of this image is the snow-covered mountains in the middle of the frame. They are smaller and less-dominant than I would prefer but changing to a longer lens would have destroyed the perspective of the frozen pond. Life is full of compromises. The clouds were also pretty bright and their location and shapes tended to pull the view away from the peaks. Some subtle vignette allowed me to darken the edges and corners of the photograph to retain the viewer’s attention toward the snow-covered peaks. My camera is inadequate when it comes to capturing my perception of the warmer values of a scene. I frequently need to lighten and increase saturation of the reds, oranges and yellows to recreate my perception of the colors of photograph. I also removed the vapor trails from two jets and a couple of houses and driveways on the hillside to the right. That’s about it for this image. I hope you like it.
You can always see more of my images at www.ImagesColorado.com. If you visit, be sure to check out my “Print of the Month” gallery were I present new images every month at discounted prices.
November 04, 2013 • Leave a Comment
Most of my photography students hate using a tripod. I hated them too, when I was learning photography. Over time, I’ve learned to love this indispensable piece of equipment however. They are a pain to learn and slow to use in the beginning. Here are a few reasons that I cannot live without my tripod.
Tripods hold the camera still
The first function of a tripod is to hold the camera still when the chosen shutter speed is too slow for successful hand-held photographs. Using a good tripod during long exposures can insure sharp photos during photos from seconds to hours long. They are also necessary for images using long telephoto lenses since any motion by the photographer is greatly magnified by the telephoto lens. This is the most-obvious reason to use a tripod.
The tripod makes panoramic photos possible
I shoot lots of panoramic images. I love the format and they are great solutions to decorating long, skinny spaces like over a sofa. To create a successful panorama it is necessary to take multiple, overlapping images and to stitch them together in software. The best way to accomplish this is to use a tripod with a camera platform that can pivot around the axis of the camera. To keep the finished image from running up or downhill, the camera platform must be level. It must remain level for all the photographs needed for the panorama. The tripod is a necessity for good panorama photography like the image above.
The tripod helps you think about composition
The third and most important reason to use a tripod is to aid in artistic composition of your photographs. By allowing you to let go of the camera without your initial composition changing you can take time to fine-tune your images. This seems unimportant on the surface but most professional photographers will adjust their initial composition during a sequence of images. By being able to step away from the camera and refine the composition we are able to create tighter, more compelling images which highlight the necessary elements of the photograph and eliminate those that don’t enhance or strengthen the story we’re trying to tell with the image. Tripods help you think. Thinking about what to include or exclude from a photograph is absolutely critical for great images.
I’m not trying to say that good photographs cannot be created without a tripod. I’ve made many myself. All things considered, however, I would rather use a tripod if I have the opportunity.
Tripods help you get perfect light
The images in my last post “Waiting for the Light” are a perfect example of how the tripod was used to retain a strong composition while waiting for better light in the scene. Over the course of 45 minutes I was able to create numerous exposures without changing the composition of the photograph. The only change was the light and shadows moving across the scene. Without the tripod I probably would have abandoned the scene before the light got great, thus coming home with a mediocre image instead of a really strong, compelling landscape. The tripod made the image possible and was a necessary part of the gear required for the final photo.
Those are a few of my favorite reasons for using a tripod. I know there are others. What are your reasons?
October 21, 2013 • Leave a Comment
I have no idea how many times I’ve been really excited about photographing a fabulous landscape to only be unhappy once I began editing or selecting an image to print or share. I think it’s because I let the excitement get the better of me in the field. When I’m “on my game” I try to slow down, analyze the scene, and figure out what combination of light, timing and technique will best replicate what captured my initial excitement about the subject.
The image at left is a great example. East Beckwith Mountain, just below the west side of Kebler Pass in western Colorado, offers many great viewpoints. This view is one I usually ignore but this autumn provided a great reason to stop and make photos. The sky was beautiful with very photogenic clouds. The light on the mountain was great. The colorful foliage was beautiful. There were several other photographers at the overlook, justifying my excitement.
I set up the tripod, chose my “standard” lens (Nikon 28-70 f2.8) and popped on the Moose Peterson Warming Polarizing filter to pop the sky just a touch. I don’t often us a polarizing filter but since a lot of the fore and middle ground was yellow I thought a strong blue sky would add a little color-contrast and some detail to the clouds. When using the polarizing filter I rarely use it at its strongest rotation.
Anyway, I shot this frame. Not bad. Not great. What would make the image better? (I talk to myself when I photograph. Don’t you?) Well the light on the foreground and middle ground had fallen off due to the clouds and they were too dark and uninteresting. A little light there might be better. So I waited for the clouds to move.
After a bit of time the middle ground lit up nicely so I made another exposure. The foreground was still in deep shade and now the light on the mountain was failing. Since our eyes are naturally attracted to brighter areas and areas of higher contrast this scene really wasn’t working at all. The interest in the mountain was being replaced by the aspens in the middle ground which were now competing with the clouds. What is the subject here? So I waited some more. The other photographers have left. Yay!
While I’m waiting for the clouds to move and the good light to come back I have some time to really think about what I want this scene to look like. There’s enough conifer forest to provide depth and texture if the scene is completely sun-lit without any shadow from clouds at all. Although that scenario is not likely to happen, I could live with it. The shadows moving across the valley are providing interest, depth and texture when they cooperate. The sky would be pretty boring without the clouds. If the sky was clear I probably would compose the scene with less sky and get the mountain out of the center of the frame. Having a clear sky on this day was not going to be an option. It was supposed to snow in the afternoon so the clouds were going to become a problem rather than a blessing.
Slowly the sky began to cooperate with my plan for a beautiful photograph. The light returned to the mountain. Middle ground was illuminated nicely. Shadows from the clouds were still interesting. The foreground though is just not that great. I usually like to employ a darker foreground to keep my viewer’s eye from leaving the images. If clouds don’t cooperate I can use a split neutral density filter or vignette to darken it. That work is usually done in post-processing via Photoshop or Lightroom.
I didn’t really want the foreground in this scene to be very dark though. There are these colorful aspens placed against the dark conifer trees creating a beautiful and interesting contrast. There’s also a cool little pond in the lower left that I wanted to keep in the scene. Everything but the foreground is coming together nicely. I could live with this image. Being in no hurry, I decided to wait for the “Wow”.
More photographers show up. It was a pretty compelling scene but I think seeing a truck parked on the side of the road with “Photographer” written on the side makes people stop even if they don’t know what to look at. Really! I’ve done this experiment with my classes. We stand at the side of a road with our cameras all pointed at “nothing”. Cars drive by, slow down, and cameras pop out the windows taking photos of the “nothing”. It’s a good thing they’re not Lemmings. They’d be jumping over a cliff.
So eventually patience prevailed and I got what I was waiting for. Beautiful light illuminated a striking mountain peak. Great, puffy clouds floated in a deep blue sky. A golden aspen forest filled the valley floor with color, contrast and texture. The illuminated foreground provided additional interest and texture. Life was good!
My Mom always accused me of being a perfectionist. I thought it was a compliment. Good things are worth waiting for. The trick in photography is being able to figure out what the “good things” are. Having a little voice in your head saying “How can this be better?” is a really good thing too.
August 22, 2013 • Leave a Comment
The Custom Photoshop Computer is Up and Running
A few months ago I shared some specs. here regarding a PC designed to run Adobe Photoshop perfectly. Today I would like to announce that computer is up and running. It’s very fast!
Before readers begin to berate me for building a PC instead of a MAC let me say that you can still get a lot more computer for your money with a PC. The computer I build is not available at any price from MAC but a Power MAC G5 with 12 gigs of ram and a 1tb hard drive is just under $4000. I built my system which includes a Core i7 quad core processor, two 1tb hard drives, a 500gb hard drive and 16gigs of ram for under $1400. I chose Windows 7 as my OS since I really don’t like Windows 8 at all. Who wants their desktop computer to act like their phone?
Originally I had planned on using an MSI motherboard but several consultants and numerous forum posts convinced me to choose an Intel DZ77GA-70K board instead. That was a great choice even though it was more than twice the cost of the MSI board. Installation instructions couldn’t have been any easier to follow. That was a good thing since I had never built a computer from the ground up before. I had added some drives and expansion cards but that was the extent of my computer-building experience.
I chose to load Windows on a separate hard disk from my Adobe Photoshop program so the computer could read from both places at the same time. I have also chosen to place all the data on another separate drive for faster access. That being said, my current workflow involves keeping all my photos on external Raid hard drives so access to the images is slowed through the Firewire 800 ports. For larger files I can easily copy them to the internal data drive and work more quickly from there. Once I completely abandon my old PC I’ll take one of its drives and install it as a dedicated “Scratch” disk for Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop doesn’t like to share its scratch disk with programs or data from what I’ve read. Even though it should never get used, I’ll have 320 gigs of scratch disk available if I need it. The new drives are all Western Digital Black drives because I appreciate the 3 year warranty and they make no sound at all.
I also chose two 8 gigabite sticks of Crucial Ballistix RAM. These will function as dual-channel fast memory leaving me room to double that number in the future if I choose. If I become even more concerned about speed, all the components will handle “Overclocking” of the processor but I doubt I’ll never feel that need.
I’m still tweaking stuff so I haven’t put this computer to a stress test yet. Once all the programs are loaded (brutal!) and the network settings are correct I’ll see how my new tool handles some heavy-duty bit-crunching. If you want to see the rest of the components they’re listed on my June blog post below.
So, you’re probably wondering what the photo above has to do with this blog post. Absolutely nothing. But check back soon for more thoughts on the images.
August 10, 2013 • Leave a Comment
On Playing Nice and Getting Lucky
A few years ago I visited my uncle in southern California to celebrate his 80th birthday. He celebrates on Halloween so it becomes quite a lavish costume party and tons of fun with family and friends. For a lot of the family, it’s the only time we get together so most of us make an effort to get to LA for this event.
Since I don’t get to visit the west coast very often I decided to make a trip up to Yosemite on my way back to Colorado. It’s not really on the way but Yosemite is my favorite national park to photograph so somehow I found the time. I decided to travel north along the historic coastal highway and head east from beautiful Carmel. The weather was terrible for photography on my drive up the coast so I didn’t make a single stop for photos. After a warm bead and great dinner in Carmel I turned east the next morning and enjoyed the easy drive to Yosemite National Park.
Being late autumn in the mountains I really didn’t know what to expect in the park. Finding places to stay was unusually easy. Upon my arrival I discovered that the park had received some early snow and all the leaves were off the trees. The valley was brown and not all that photogenic so I decided to try the Tioga Pass Road for a higher vantage point. It was closed!
A simple saw-horse-like barricade was set across the road and there I was with another photographer from Colorado looking at the signs and wondering if we should just move the barricade or turn back. We talked about our options for a while. After 20 or 30 minutes of contemplation a park ranger approached us. She told us the road was closed because there were a few patches of ice on the road and that California drivers had no idea how to handle a car on ice. After checking our Colorado plates she suggested we meet her at the barricade the following morning at 8 am.
The next morning the ranger pulled back the barricade and allowed us to pass, closing the road behind us. I’m not sure about the other driver but I enjoyed an awesome day on Tioga Pass Road high above Yosemite valley making photos and just being in nature. That evening I caught up with the other photographer at an overlook across the valley from “Cloud’s Rest”. The sun had set and the sky was turning orange. We hurried to set up. A different ranger showed and told us that we must leave. We took turns distracting the ranger while the other took photos of an incredible sunset on Half Dome. The ranger must see this view all the time because he was only interested in us packing up and getting behind the barricade before dark. We didn’t quite make it but we did get some unique photos. At least they were unique to two photographers from Colorado. The ranger wasn’t terribly upset.
If I can find a moral to this story it would be this. You’ll get more cooperation from authority figures if you’re willing to play by the rules even if you’d rather not. We got some great photos because we treated the rangers with respect. We never begged or put up any kind of fight or argument.
Respect. It’s just another tool you should keep in your camera bag.
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Recent Posts5 Must-See Places for Crested Butte Fall Color Using Adobe Photoshop to Achieve a Hand-Tinted Effect Creating Emotional Photographs It’s Easier to Earn a Living as a Photographer Why Artists are Starving Photographing Transitional Seasons Why Use a Tripod Waiting for the Light The Photoshop Computer Half Dome From the Other Side