Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Adobe Shoot It and Retouch It Contest - WINNER

I am so excited and honored to share that I recently won an Adobe contest!

I was at Photoshop World Orlando 2013 a couple of weeks ago. Adobe had a large booth in the Expo. For this conference, they set up some lights (that you could arrange how you want them) and some models for the Expo attendees to take pictures of. The models followed with the theme of the conference which was Top Gun. Then, Adobe wanted you to use their PC and Mac computers they had set up to edit the photos you took of the models. Then, you could choose from Photoshop and Lightroom to do your edits.

There would only be three winners... Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3! All three winners received a free year subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud! An awesome prize!

I have to say that I was a bit intimidated on Day 1, since I had not worked in Photoshop CS6, yet. I did not want people to watch me fumble around this new interface. However, I did like the model set up with the Tom Cruise look-alike on a motorcycle with a very pretty female model... I guess the Kelly McGillis look-alike. On Day 2, I was feeling a little braver, but the female model was not drawing me in. So, on Day 3, feeling a bit more confident about CS6 from my sessions and the Tom Cruise look-alike was back by himself... I decided to go for it!

There was a huge crowd trying to take photos at one time. I got some really nice shots, but I could not stand very far back. I even shot in Shutter Priority Mode to tone down the really bright lights. (My friends that give me a hard time about shooting in Auto Mode on my Nikon D7000 will appreciate this!)

However, when I turned to use one of the computers, they were all taken. At that time, I only saw one person's work files and she actually inspired me. To be honest, I did not care for her edit, but she had cleverly shot just the background without the model and was trying to incorporate it somehow into her design. At this point, I was really thankful that I had decided to take my camera out of the bag on the way from the hotel to the Convention Center that morning. I had also taken some photos at the Opening Keynote Ceremony on the first day.

My new friend, Robin, asked me if I wanted to go to the Adobe booth after our sessions and hear the last presentation about the Creative Cloud. I was running late... awesome session with Scott Kelby, RC Concepcion, and Glyn Dewis about Social Media for Photographers (kind of inspirational to get my blog going in full swing). I get down to the Expo and right as I sit down on the floor for a booked Expo Session, I see there is an open computer to edit and submit for the contest. I thought to myself... I can multitask and listen to Terry White and make my edits. Well, this was wishful thinking... the speakers were not turned toward the computers and with the noise of the Expo Hall, I could hardly hear anything at all. I decided Robin can fill me in and I went over and inserted my camera's memory card.

I took the inspiration from the other entrant and I decided to use four of my photos for the edit. It was kind of funny when I had only pulled up the three background photos (not the model, yet) that an Adobe person monitoring the computers came over and reminded me that I was supposed to take a picture of the model for the contest. I laughed and promised him that I was getting to that! So, I chose a photo of the conference logo, a photo of a red light with a fog machine effect, a photo of the metal texture ceiling from the Convention Center, and a photo of the Tom Cruise look-alike. Here are the original (non-edited) photos:

I literally had 20 minutes to edit this photo! So, I quickly clean up each photo in Camera Raw and bring them all into one Photoshop file. I blended the red light and the metal texture photos together and added the conference logo. Now, to add the model with the cut off arms... thank goodness I used one of the darker photos where the light was falling off near his arms, anyway!

So, I have all of my photos placed and manipulated where I want them, but something is just not right. If the red light was really over his shoulder, then a red tint of light would be spilling over his head and shoulder. I think to myself (and, this really happened) that I needed to channel Bert Monroy. He is one of the most talented artists to ever use Photoshop! Literally, the next thing I know, Bert is standing right behind me! I turned and said, "Bert, I cannot believe you are standing right there, I just thought that I needed to channel you to figure out how to incorporate one of my elements. That is so TRIPPY!" He then laughed and said that he had not heard that word in a long time. I said I was older than I looked, and he said "So am I!" I did not think it would be fare to ask him for design help during a contest. However, I was having some trouble with the Refine Edge/Extract tool in CS6 (I thought since this was a public computer something had been set incorrectly), so he did take a look at it. He suggested that I just zoom in some more and continue to use the method I was already using. So, I promise, I did not receive any artistic help from the master. I then, started to play with a red brush for my light effect.

The next thing I know, an Expo attendee (yes, a stranger without a button - sorry, conference humor) steps up from behind me and tells me quietly that I am going to win the contest. I was blown away. Obviously, he had been watching the other entries and really liked mine.

I, of course, ran out of time! I wanted to edit the blemish on the model's face and work on the cut off arms some more. But, the Expo closed at 1:00 pm and I had to submit my final file. Here is the end result:

At this time, I was told that the winners would receive an email and that the three winners would be shown at the closing ceremony.

I am sitting at the closing ceremony and Larry Becker starts to talk about the Adobe Contest winners. The next thing I know, my image comes up on the screen. I am a bit disappointed that they did not call out names, and since I was the Day 3 winner and they showed mine first, I was a bit thrown off... I missed seeing the other winners in my excitement. I am hoping that they will be posted by Adobe or Photoshop World at some point and time.

So, I guess it was worth missing the session on the Creative Cloud... although it would have been helpful now that I won a free year of it, too!

After the closing ceremony, I went up to Scott Kelby. I told him that this was my eighth Photoshop World. He seemed impressed and said that was a lot. I told him that I was super excited that I had won the Adobe Contest for that day. He asked me which one was mine. The only thing I told him was that mine was the first one that they showed. He immediately responded with, "I do not remember there being a red light in the booth!" This made my day! First of all, I was so impressed that he knew which one was the first one shown and secondly, the fact that he thought the red light was real, was amazing! One of my ultimate Photoshop mentors/gurus has just given me the best compliment... I guess my red light effect and channeling Bert Monroy really did the trick!

I am still trying to find out from Adobe how many entries there were on Day 3 and if I can obtain a model release for this model.

I cannot wait to get my computer fixed at home so I can start my free year of the most awesome products on the planet!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

My First Attempt at Astro Photography

I have had a fascination with Astro Photography since a trip to Arizona about six years ago. My company hired someone with a very powerful telescope for a company event. One look at Saturn and all of its rings, and I was hooked! However, I did not want to just see the galaxy, I wanted to capture it with my camera. So, I have been building up to buying a telescope of my own to give this a try.

At first, I purchased an expensive telescope and a t-mount for my Nikon camera, but I never took the telescope out of the box. It was really an impulse buy and I thought I needed to do more research. So, I took that one back and started to investigate more.

I finally talked to a guy at B&H Photo Video that actually started the telescope department there. He was very knowledgeable and very helpful. The research I did on my own was pretty good, but he finalized what I truly needed.

Here is a list of my purchases:
  • T-Mount for Nikon (already owned this one)
  • RS-N2 II Wired Remote Switch for Nikon D7000
  • 1000mm Computerized Telescope 114LCM
  • Night Vision Red LED Flashlight (came with telescope)
  • AC to DC Power Adapter
  • SLR Camera Adapter with Integral 2x Barlow Lens
So, the first thing I learned about, after setting it all up, is that the computer has to be aligned each time to find three major stars, planets, or the moon. The second thing that I learned is that the best laid plans go out the window with weather... it is slightly cloudy a lot of the time! The third thing that I learned is that the camera attached to the barlow is not as sharp and clear (or as magnified) as looking through the stronger eye piece. The fourth thing that I learned about is that the closer you get to objects in the sky, the quicker they move out of your view finder!
I did get to see Jupiter and its four moons! That was the only thing I was able to see with this particular telescope and strong eye piece, other than what I can see with my naked eye. It was fun seeing sooooo many stars at one time, too!

Here is the only successful picture, and it is of the moon, that I was able to take:

I did try to take a picture with my iPhone through the eye piece, which was much sharper and closer, too:

These two photos are actually from the same date/time... however, I did not purchase the inverter for looking through the eye piece. If there was an attachment for the iPhone with a telescope eye piece, then this might have turned out great.

Never the less, I decided that all of this equipment was too expensive for just taking photos of the moon. I returned the telescope and accessories. So, my one successful photo cost me a whopping $24... the return shipping cost!

Here is a photo that I took shortly there after with my Nikon D7000, 18-200 mm lens on a tripod:

Can you see Jupiter up in the upper right corner?

So, I have not given up... just decided to change my approach. I thought that it would be better to invest in a cheaper lens that has a far range and I can shoot other pictures with. I found a Tokina 80-400 mm lens on Craigs List and I have purchased that. Here is a photo that I took one morning with the new lens:

My intent is to purchase a 2x Tele Converter and try my hand at 800 mm! I have already taken this lens to a local park and gotten some great water fowl photos, too.

I guess I am going to have to just admire the photos from the really, really large telescopes around the world for other celestial objects like Saturn!

I might not have completed my mission, but I had an awful lot of fun trying... and, isn't that what it is all about?

Thursday, January 31, 2013


Welcome to my first blog post!

I decided a while back ago that I should try out this blog phenomenon... but, I was not sure how to tackle it. Of course, I wanted to control the look-and-feel, but I am not a code person. Without taking a class on it, Wordpress is either so simple or so difficult, that I was not able to figure it out.

So, after I finished reading a friend's blog the other day, I clicked on "Create a Blog." This particular blog does allow for design control. I now will have to figure out how to re-direct the blog site on my website to this page... I am sure that will help me figure that out.

I am planning to use this as a forum to talk about photography. This may range in topics from equipment, subject matter, mobile photography, apps, locations, experiments (failed and successful), meetup groups, etc.

This image has no particular significance...
just wanted to use one of my B&W texture shots!

I will not be posting every day, so please check back occassionally. You may even be able to subscribe. Please leave comments, topic suggestions, or let me know if there are any issues with this blog site!