Processing… will it ever end?

I’ve been reading about and experimenting with several techniques for photo processing.  My goal is to make files that look good to me.  Having the images look good to Dianne is second most important.  She was with me much of the time that images of consequence were taken.  I rely on her for candid and quick feedback.  She doesn’t let me get away with too many grievous errors.

To advance my skills while processing images I’ve been reading about “photograph presence”… a term used by Ansel Adams when describing a fine print.  I’ve also been learning my way around Luminosity Masks in Photoshop as a means to exert fine control on changes made to an image.  Presence and masking… two things that I would have never dreamed about using 5 years ago.  I’ve also been doing a fair amount of long exposure work when I have the time and inclination.  That opens a whole different arena for developing “presence” and value in a photo.  Sounds kinda geeky, eh?  Still with me?  Thanks.

To test my efforts I’ve been putting images out on Google+ to see how they are received by tens of thousands of people.  It’s interesting.  While it is not a reliable measure, increased numbers of +1’s or comments ought to indicate that people enjoy an image.  Personally, I scroll through thousands of images each day on Google+ and stop to look at ones that capture me as they float by on the screen.  If I like the image I give it a +1.  If I really like it I will make a comment to the creator of the image.  I try to tell them “why” I like the image.  It doesn’t take long to scroll through and +1 (that’s a verb) an image.  But you have to stop to do it.  Commenting takes more time and, to me, means more since the person has given some their personal time to construct the comment.  My efforts have been rewarded on a scale that is consistent with the number of people who follow me on Google+.  I don’t get the same level of feedback that the big guys on G+ do since there are only a few hundred people who watch me (ie, have me in their “circles”).  The big guys might have a million followers.  These are the power brokers of Google+.  I don’t ever expect to be anywhere in that league but it is valuable to know the my personal audience found me, marked me and, occassionally, give me feedback.

Here’s my summary of results so far.  Images that follow well known principles of composition and backgrounds do much better than poorly composed images with cluttered backgrounds (duh!).  This is particularly true for bird photography.  Black and white images tend to do better than color images.  Long exposure, black and white images do the best in terms of proportional response.  It could be that long exposure images are still novel enough to grab a viewer pretty quickly.  But in the community of long exposure enthusiasts on Google+ I find that some of my images get a lot more comments and +1’s than images by others.  It’s fun to track the patterns over time.  I know what grabs me… high contrast, strong geometric lines, minimalism.

So I put another one out to Google+ today and in the first hour it has over 40 +1’s and 3 comments.  We’ll see where it ends up compared to others.  This is the very first image I’ve processed with clear goals for “presence” and using luminosity masks to adjust portions of the image.  There is so much to learn but it feels like I am moving closer to making images of merit… to me mostly but, rewardingly, to others it seems.

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This image was taken at a location about 5 kilometers downstream from the famous Gulfoss waterfall in Iceland.  Standing at Gulfoss one is impressed with the “Niagra-like” flow and dynamics.  This channel contains all the water coming over Gulfoss if one can believe the mapping of streams in the area.  It’s a 30 second exposure taken at lunch time… the brightest part of the day.  I hope you find it pleasing.

 

Vigorous and fresh landscapes

I came away from Iceland humbled and amazed.  Iceland is a fairly small country geographically but it is very large in terms of landscape.  We hiked uphill into Eyjafjallajökull – the volcano that disrupted international air travel in 2010.  All around us was 2 year old lava. The edges of the rock are sharp and spiny.  Holding a rock, the youngest volcanics I’ve ever held, left small indentations on my skin and caught on the mesh of my jacket pocket.   Mist rose from the lava flow as the rain made its way into the cracks.  The graphic quality of the scene overwhelmed me and I paused to register the view in my mind and in the camera.  The group walked ahead of me to climb the central vent site of this volcano.  It was cold, wet and fresh.  The land, the wind, the rain and the small hikers on the mid-ground ridge all asserted themselves on my senses.  People invest their energy to explore Iceland but the landscape swallows them.  I felt small in the context of this mountain but large in appreciation for the experience. Iceland can be stark, raw, mysterious and beautiful within one view.  Many more to come.

Iceland – Day 7

After camping at the base of the “E volcano”… the one that disrupted international flights in 2010…. and hiking into the crater to put hands on warm/hot lava, we are now the Hengill hotel and just finished a delightful dinner.  The laughter continues.  The spirits of the group are high even though the forecast for tomorrow is forcing a change to plans.  Heavy rain and high winds that prevent travel with a trailer means that we will be heading back to Reykevich tomorrow morning and will not have another 7 hour hike.  Honestly, some feet and joints are grateful.  If I said this was a cake walk tour I’d be joking.  We have all done things that give us pride along with the weary bodies.  Steep climbs and long days, landscapes that continue to amaze, landscape diversity that I never dreamed of… it goes on.  Dianne has proven to be quite a mountain goat and I see her at break points in the trail and at meals.  On top of her climbing and endurance she is also taking some wonderful photos as she goes.

We return to Portland in 2 days.  For now, take these photos as teasers of things to come.

Our guides… Oliver (right, lead guide) and Haffi

Day 3 – July 16

Once again.  No photos to post.  It is looking like we will return with some amazing images but the signal strength and time with energy to process and post images are limited.

Yesterday was a long day.  We hiked 8 hours and about 17 kilometers some of which was quite steep and scree piles.  Amazing views of a huge ice cap and expansive glaciers.  Great hiking weather for the first 7 hours and then light drizzle for the last hour.  Everyone is doing well but we expect to see some dragging bodies today.

We are well and moving to the Highlands today.  Every time you turn a corner you are startled by new beauty.  We are seeing a pattern of some landforms but always see new and wonderful things with each mile.

Our guides are fun and doing a good job of herding the cats safely through each day.  Good food and lots of laughter.  Great scenery and hiking experiences.

More to come.

July 15 – day 2

No photos today. Trust me, there are photos but it is late and the images are downloading as we eat dinner. T’was another great day with mild temps this AM and a bit of light rain in the afternoon. We started the day with a visit to a wonder natural basalt arch with distant puffins. No close up shots of puffins. Great black beach, clean water, brilliant greens and blue skies. We ate lunch in a natural cave and our Icelandic hosts are going all out to cater to a diverse group.

This afternoon we drove through a massive lava field and over terminal moraines. We ended the day with a 2 hour hike across a moraine to a glacial lagoon with many icebergs. After the hike we boarded an amphibious vehicle and went for a 35 minute tour of the lagoon and tasted 1000 year old ice. We are staying in a new hotel with a view of a massive ice field and glaciers.

Tomorrow is our biggest day of hiking…. 9 hours with 3000 ft. gain. The promise is for epic glacial views and waterfalls.

We’ll do our best to get images up as we can

Be well, all.

July 14 – Day 1

We made it to Iceland without any problems….. and without any sleep.  It’s interesting how you can see your plane’s location on the little GPS display screen on the seat in front of you.  I watched a display of daylight/night and watched the plane skirt the edge of darkness but never enter.  I sat on the sun side of the plane and had the shade down almost all the time just to keep from frying.  Long and short though is that we did not sleep due to the situation and some rather “all about me” types behind us who talked at playground levels throughout the 7 hour flight.  When we landed we cleared customs and got our bags, migrated out to the lobby and met Oliver, our guide.  We hung around for 2 others on our tour and one showed up.  The other decided to cancel and never told anyone here in Iceland.  We loaded up and drove the 30 minutes into Reykjavik to meet the rest of our group.  We all loaded into the bus and headed out.

BANG.  Iceland hit me in the eyes.  Different lava features than I am used to.  Light and clouds jumping around.  Vast views and occasional peaks.  We stopped at some hot spring/mud pot features and then made our way to Skogarfoss waterfall.  This is a falls that I have seen photographs of for years and knew what I wanted when got out of the bus.  Di and the rest of the group headed to the top and I headed for the river.

So, here are a few prelim shots from our fist day.  Dinner awaits and then the pleasure of a down comforter and what we hope will be a good night sleep.  We are at an old farm that has been converted into a hotel.  The view out our window is of a bay and cliffs where we hope to find puffins tomorrow.

Be well, all.  Thanks for traveling with us.