Posted by on Nov 12, 2012 in Blog | 0 comments

Like my first kiss, I remember the date when and the place where I became serious about digital photography: September 10, 2010, Pacifica, California.  Acting on the recommendation of Mike Collette, founder and CEO of Better Light, Inc. (www.betterlight.com), whom I had met in February 2010 at a Better Light user’s workshop in San Carlos, California, I signed up for a two-day Photoshop and Photography class with photographer Stephen Johnson at his studio in Pacifica, California.  Stephen asked that we bring examples of our photographic work, preferably in RAW image format.  That meant I would have to change the image format setting on my Canon Digital Rebel from “JPEG” to “RAW” and shoot some pictures, something I had read about but never done.  This was definitely new territory for me.

I arrived in Pacifica on the afternoon of the day before the workshop was to begin and had some time to walk the beach and bluffs along the beautiful Pacifica coast.  After settling comfortably on a rock above the crashing surf, I took a deep breath, changed the image setting to “RAW,” and took several shots, the first of which appears below.

The beach and bluffs at Pacifica, California

 To my amazement, the camera did not suffer a meltdown or erase the contents of its compact flash card, but I had no idea what I needed to do to make anything out of these RAW images.  That is what I expected to learn during the workshop.  Stephen is an excellent instructor, and over the course of two days, I learned a great deal about RAW image processing.  I have never reverted to JPEG since.  During the workshop, after listening to Stephen and observing what the other participants were using, I also decided to upgrade my camera, lenses, and image processing software.  This was a big financial investment, but I knew it was the right thing to do.  I bought a Canon 5D Mk II, a couple of “L” series lens, a heavy-duty tripod, and an upgrade to Photoshop.  I also decided to use Adobe Lightroom to process and manage RAW files.

After the workshop, I purchased a copy of Stephen Johnson, On Digital Photography, (O’Reilly, 2006) and read it cover-to-cover.  I recommend this book and his workshops highly.  Information can be found on his web site, www.sjphoto.com.

Eight months would pass before I took the leap from “fully automatic” to “manual” on the camera’s shooting mode dial.  The date was May 10, 2011, and the place was the National Mall, Washington, DC.  I was there because I had signed up for a Washington Photo Safari workshop led by E. David Luria entitled “The Monuments at Night.”  As the sun was setting, the workshop leader began the session by saying, “Please rotate the mode dial on your camera to M.”  To put this request into perspective, I must point out that my father was an avid photographer, and as a child I frequently overheard him muttering “a 30th of a second at f/8” to himself after using a light meter.  So, I was aware of the concept of proper exposure setting, but having relied on automated 35mm “point and shoot” cameras up to that point in my life, I had never been forced to master the concept experientially.  I felt as if I was being told to remove the training wheels from my bicycle, but I did it, and within a few minutes, I became comfortable operating in manual mode.  More importantly, I felt as though I was now in control of the camera, rather than the camera being in control of me.  Not only did I master the trade-off choices for aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings to achieve an optimal exposure, but I also learned where the controls are on the camera body and how to find them in the dark.  Since that night, my camera’s mode dial has remained set on “M.”  One of the first shots taken that evening is shown below.

World War II Memorial at sunset on the National Mall

 Another important step in my transition to serious photographic work was to master the processing and organizing of RAW image files.  I liked Adobe Lightroom well enough that I decided to master it as I had learned to master the controls on the camera.  I took a couple of local one-day courses in the use of Lightroom, and then I purchased The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 Book by Martin Evening (copyright 2010, published by Peachpit) and read it carefully cover-to-cover.  When finished, Lightroom made sense to me, and I have relied on it ever since as the tool for processing and organizing RAW image files.

My goal is to present examples of my photographic work that are likely to be of interest to the general public as a result of their intrinsic beauty or subject matter.  Having commissioned the creation of this web site as a place to display my photographs, I was faced with the task of choosing which photos to post from several years worth of digital photos stored on my computer’s hard drive.  I decided that the best way to organize the photos on the web site is as a gallery containing several collections, where each collection contains photos that are related in some meaningful way.  I also decided that I would be highly selective in the photos displayed on the web site, with each collection containing somewhere between 10 and 50 photos.  With my original photos organized in a Lightroom catalog, it was an easy matter to open a collection for a particular subject, review the photos in the collection and tag the best using Lightroom’s “star” rating feature, and then export the tagged photos into a file folder with the file output parameters optimized for web viewing.  It was a simple matter to transfer the image files in the export folder to the web site, post them for viewing, and give each an appropriate caption.

I hope that you enjoy the finished product.

 

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