29. April 2015 · Comments Off on Color Balance · Categories: Fall Colors · Tags:

“The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts” by Marcus Aurelius

I was talking with my cousin at the family Easter get together, and he wanted to know about color balance.  There are a number of related topics that really needed to covered so as not give a mechanistic answer  for color balance including:

  • Color space
  • How the eye sees color
  • Color correction
  • Color profiles

What is color balance?  I’m sure that you have seen an interior shot where everything is yellow orange and not what it appears to the eye?  Or even worse, it is this awful green tint.  incandescent lighting produces light that is very orange yellow in color, while florescent lighting produces that green tint light. The eye sees the light as white in both cases, but it is not.  Similarly clouds and shade tend to produce blueish tinted light. The photo below was taken in shadow, color correcting leads to the image above.   Balancing color is the process of converting the tinted light to an an un-tinted light.

Where does color space come into this? sRGB  is typically the color space of the web, but it is much smaller than other color spaces, and this becomes important if you want to print photos. Here is a link to comparative color spaces.  It is easy to reduce color by moving to a smaller color space, but it is difficult to make up what should be the color in going to a larger color space.  The reasons for shooting in sRGB would be it is quicker for post processing, or it will only go to the web.  If those are not your reasons, ask yourself, why am I shooting in such a restrictive color space.

What are color profiles? There are two types of answers:

  • First, if you have ever tried to print a photo on your own printer, you know how hard it is to get the image to print correctly.
  • Second, color profiles are set of color characteristics that map a device’s color to a standard color model (typically LAB).  So, you can have a profile for your camera, screen, printer, or anything else that works with color images.  All the color profiles map the device to a norm, so that it is always the same red, blue, yellow that is used across devices.  This is what allows printers to match the screen.

For more information on color, Luminous-Landscape has a number of good articles in its Understanding Series, including the eye and color.

As shot color balance

As shot color balance


24. April 2015 · Comments Off on Mystery Meat? — JPEG vs RAW · Categories: Philosophy, Photography, processing photos · Tags: , ,


SPAM - Mystery Meat

SPAM – Mystery Meat

“Mystery Meat = Any type of processed meat whose source indistinguishable.”

No this post is not really about mystery meat… LOL

It is however, about something like mystery meat.  Imagine going into a diner and ordering stew.  It arrives you eat it, it is not bad, it filled your stomach even if not gourmet cooking, and you would go back and have it again.  A friend asks you what was in it, and all you can answer is ‘mystery meat’.   If on the other hand, you went to the market, selected the ingredients, and then took it home, you could make a gourmet dish.   This however would take more time, and maybe it is enough to just fill the stomach with unknown stew.


So what does stew have to do with Photography?  Well if you are shooting in JPEG rather than raw, your pictures are mystery meat stew.  It seems to do the job, but not superbly. JPEG drastically reduces the amount of detailed information in a photo (diner stew).  The Red, Green, and Blue Channels of a RAW photo are each 8 to 14 bits of information (i.e. each channel holds between 255 and ~16 000 color values).   Each of the however many mega (millions) of pixels has this information.  JPEG typically does 3 types of reductions.  One is that it examines the photo and takes the top 250 or so most common colors in the photo and maps the whole photo into this reduced  color space.  This leads to groups of pixels all having the same color value.  This then allows for an optimization of storing one pixel and then a count of near by cells that have the same value.  You can sometimes see this in low res photos as little square  spots of the same color.  Then JPEG typically will reduce the pixel count as well (why have 9 pixels of the same value when 1 would do?).  The result of all of this is mystery meat, it is usually good enough to satisfy the stomach of Facebook, but it is not good enough to print or make a 3 day soup.   If you want fast food with mystery meat that is fine for posting on the web, then choose mystery meat (aka JPEG), but if you want a gourmet meal  then shoot with Raw and take the time in the kitchen.


Below is a medium resolution version (all that makes sense on the web) of the whole image.

Medium Res JPG

Medium Res JPG

Here are  two blow ups of the above image, one as high res Jpeg, and the other as low res.  You choose.

Low Res JPEG

Low Res JPEG


Blowup of higher res image

Blowup of higher res image

22. April 2015 · Comments Off on Sad Demise, The King is Dead, Long Live the King · Categories: Philosophy, Photography, Practice · Tags: , , ,
Babies without a mom

Elephant Seals,Piedras Blancas

“One of my greatest fears is not being able to change, to be caught in a never-ending cycle sameness.  Growth is so important” Matt Dilon


I sad to report the demise of Photosig, a site that I have recommended for a decade.  I have watched numerous students’ photos improve dramatically as they developed a photographer’s eye.  The idea was simple;

  1. Someone post a photo of theirs.
  2. Others would write critiques of the photo.  And this is where the learning takes place.
  3. And if still others found the critiques to be useful they were rate with thumbs up.  The critique writes then earned points that allowed them to post photos.

Learning to give a useful critique is important in several ways.  First, you have to learn to articulate what works and doesn’t work with a photo.  This requires engaging the photo and finding words to your reactions and figuring out what caused it.  This is critical to becoming a good photographer. Second, because it was someone else’s photo, there is much more detachment than if it were your own photo.  We tend to be our own worst critic; either too harsh or too lenient.   Third, because the critique has to be useful.

Photosig provided the structure that led us to learning. I am sad with the demise of Photosig.

The King is Dead, Long Live the King.  A toast to the cycle of kings.  Can we do no less?  Who is the new king? 500px seems to be the new king.  If you haven’t already looked at 500px you should check it out.


In my opinion, the quality of the images is better at  500px than it was at photosig, both from a clarity perspective, and from composition.  Critiques though are less structured and don’t lead people to grow as much as photosig did.   If you can learn to figure out why you like an image, then 500px  has more good images to look at and learn from.



15. April 2015 · Comments Off on A stronger Picture · Categories: Composition · Tags:
The Bridge

The Bridge

Go to the truth beyond the bridge- Patrick Lynch

Once again, I have fallen prey to the belief that a ‘new’ camera/toy will make better pictures !   While it is true that the quality of these images is beyond comparison to the point and shoot.  I have not been struck  wonderful as the worlds best photographer.

Being a good photographer is beyond the camera, and is also in the eye of seeing the photo.  What does that mean, the ‘eye of the photographer’ ?  There are several things that go into developing the ‘eye of the photographer’.

  • Recognizing the emotional appeal of a photo or a scene.  Or you can think of this as seeing the beauty of a scene
  • Technical craft: turning the camera  on, holding the camera still (usually),  getting the right exposure
  • Thinking about what makes  the picture the strongest picture possible. This includes composition, deciding if you want the distance to be blurred or sharp and choosing the picture you want.

Here Is another image, not as strong;

Different angle on the bridge - developing the eye of the photographer

Different angle on the bridge – developing the eye of the photographer

The top image could be made stronger by taking out the telephone pole and line which are distracting.


Part of the learning the craft, is to go beyond recognizing what would make a nice photo (the bridge) but also how to make it the strongest statement as possible. In this case, I was having to contend with cars, changing fog bank, no visibility to traffic.

In this case, being in the center of the road leads to a rather static feeling photo, whereas on the edge, there are diagonal lines which liven the photo. Having practice enough there wasn’t conscious thinking, but rather just knew, felt, intuited that the diagonals inherent in taking the photo from the side would make it more appealing.

What can you do to go beyond the recognition of a scene, to making it a stronger picture?

What I have found that works very well for anyone, novice through expert is looking at someone else’s photos (get rid of the ego – all my photos are good) and having to give useful reviews.  I particularly like  PhotoSig for this. It is free or pay (pay you can post more of your own photos).  People post photos, and other people who want can write reviews (very good practice), and the remainder of us can rate both the photos and the reviews.  Writing reviews that others find helpful forces you to examine the photo and give gentle feedback, which is the skill we need to learn for ourselves.


08. April 2015 · Comments Off on Down Memory Lane · Categories: memory · Tags: , , ,
vista: Is there a memory lane lurking in your photos?

vista: Is there a memory lane lurking in your photos?


“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.” Ansel Adams

Why am I a photographer?  One of the family values growing up was appreciating outdoor beauty.  The family traveled to National and state parks, we would stop along the way and appreciate the views.  From my very first box Kodak Brownie camera I tried to capture the beauty that I saw in nature.  I am still trying.  Photography, for me is the opportunity to capture and hold the beauty that I see in the world.  There is always more beauty, more opportunity to improve making what I capture match the beauty seen in the minds eye.

My father, Ed introduced me to the outdoors.  I spent my early summers  with my Aunt & Uncle Dale Hall in the mountains playing and learning my way around.


I am proud that I have passed on to my sons the love of the outdoors, photography, and beauty.  On their first backpacking trip, we were above timber line looking at the Western Divide when my son said, ‘Dad, I had no idea that there was a place like this on earth’ . I don’t have memories of what I might have said to my Dad, I hope that the words were as moving as my son’s were to me.

Do you, or do your photos reflect a memory of a time before?

If you love photography, then you might find it interesting to take some moments of introspection and go down memory lane and find out  what is it about photography calls on you to keep taking pictures?  This may not make your photos any better, but it will likely bring greater enjoyment of the photos you do take.

01. April 2015 · Comments Off on Photo Technology – Computational Photography · Categories: Photography · Tags: ,

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Thanks to evolving photo technology. Stitched panorama

Thanks to evolving photo technology. Stitched panorama

Where is photo technology going? Computational Photography is changing the nature of photography.  Instagram has made computational photography acceptable and brought it to the masses what was once limited to Photoshop.  Photoshop can compute what should be in a region through computation, it can bend, spindle and mutilate pixels beyond imagination of a decade ago.

Photo technology can warp pictures and calculate color blending to allow stitching of photos to generate large hi resolution composites.  Photo Technology can turn un usable pixels that were too dark or too light in pleasant images.  This is now all accepted photo technology, so much that if we it was missing we could comment on the lackluster nature of the photo.

3-D printing is now all the rage and the forefront of printing.  Imagine a photo technology that generates a 3-D color relief  (bas relief) of an image.   Cameras can now take holographic images, why not?  This is not really much of a leap as all the technology is here today.

I’m a Harry Potter fan.  One of the nifty things are the moving photos in newspapers and on walls.

Ready to print type of photo

The type of Photo I like – ready to print

Imagine this pre dawn image slowly or not so slowly changing and ending up at sunset.  Is this unrealistic? Maybe not… We already have picture in frames that are really LCD screens showing slide shows that sit on a desk.  How much more is really needed? Higher resolution, maybe different display technology so that the image is reflected light rather than transmitted, but we have the photo technology to do this today.

Today is April first, or April Fools, but where does the dreamer end and the fool begin?