Lightroom 5: A First Look

It's been a little over a year since we got our hands on Lightroom 4 and now Adobe is fast at work on the new version called Lightroom 5.

The public beta of Lightroom 5 is now available to download and test. Adobe wants the feedback so go ahead and start playing with it. Lightroom is quickly becoming the only photo editing tool I use and the new features might keep me from visiting Photoshop much anymore. Of course I need Photoshop for layers work but just take a look at these new features:

  • Advanced Healing Brush is remarkable and allows customers to heal imperfections and remove distracting elements
  • Upright tool analyzes an image to automatically level horizons and straighten objects like buildings to correct a keystone effect
  • Radial Gradient tool is a Photoshop favorite and creates off-center or multiple vignette effects and now it's in Lightroom
  • Smart Previews allow customers to edit images without needing the original raw file and is seems to be a really great way to share photos while on the go
  • Video slideshow enables customers to combine still images, video clips and music in a creative HD slideshow
  • Upgrades to the Book module enhancing the ability to create, customize and order elegant photo books using a variety of tailored templates

ou can grab the free download here and use it for a few months until it expires.

Photography Tips: Getting Started Photographing Landscapes

Landscape photography is an enthralling experience for any budding photographer. I couldn't wait to get out there and try to become the next Ansel Adams. There's a ton of lovely scenes and natural landscapes all around us waiting to be captured in a vivid, alluring picture. It takes skill, knowledge and practice to master the art of shooting landscapes. I quickly discovered that Ansel knew more in his pinky than I did in my whole body. Never fear! Here are several helpful tips to help you start to create impressive landscape photos.

1. Bring the right equipment.

The primary equipment that you need to shoot landscapes include wide-angle lenses, a tripod, and a spare battery. Having a wide angle is essential in landscape photography so wide-angle lenses are great to use. Telephoto lenses are also handy, particularly if you need to shoot from a far distance. On my recent New Zealand trip I primarily used my 14-24mm and 28-300mm lenses. Certain times required me to zoom in tight to a mountain peak or a jumping dolphin.

Remember to use filters sparingly since too much polarization can result in odd shots that appear unnatural. Plus I don't like carrying that extra gear up the side of a mountain.

2. Find the best light.

To take photos with impact, you have to pick the best light setting. Shooting in the middle of the day is not advisable as the light is typically harsh and unappealing. But you can get lucky if the clouds are big and puffy like a Monet painting.

The best hours to shoot landscapes occur during sunrise and sunset. At these moments, the sun has a low angle hence creating long shadows that make interesting textures and details. This low warm lighting gives the subject better scale and depth. Make sure to stay AFTER sunset for a little while because you'll find some beautiful reds that might just show up.

3. Know the weather.

The weather condition on the day of your shoot will greatly affect the type of impression that you seek to create with your audience so always check weather forecasts before heading out. Clear, blue skies with various cloud shapes can add interest to your photos. Bad weather can also be worked to your advantage. Storms with dark, somber skies and ominous clouds can make for an engaging, eye-catching image. With a tinge of creativity, you can capture just the right scenic view that you're looking for.

4. Decide which element to favor.

The viewer's eye has to rest on something in the photo. You can add a strong point of interest like a tree, a mountain, a cloud in the sky or simply a bunch of colorful flowers. You can include an attractive object in the foreground like a fence or a branch. It will improve the depth of your image. You can also position the point of interest off the center for a more interesting composition, use lines and shapes to lead the viewer's eye, or include people for an awe-inspiring picture.

Try to tell a story in the landscape. With an interesting road or fence post you can craft the composition to relay a story. The best photos tell a story and a boring mountain is just a boring mountain.

Don't be easily discouraged when the images don't turn into something as wonderful as you imagined. Patience is the key. Some of my early landscapes are just awful. Keep in mind that practice makes perfect so just keep on shooting landscapes that pique your interest, continue to experiment and, of course, learn from your mistakes. Above all, enjoy your hobby and you'll see great results in time.


Post-Processing an Old Photo

Here's a little story I like to tell about martial arts and the way our brains work.

hen you're starting out in martial arts you're a white belt and this means you have no formal training. Then you get attacked! Someone jumped out to try and attack you you'd probably know what to do to defend yourself. You'd kick and punch and do the best to protect yourself.

hen you begin studying martial arts and you begin to over think everything. You start trying to remember everything you've learned in class and you rely less on instinct and more on schooling. 

nd then eventually you hope to become a black belt. And a black belt doesn't think anymore he's almost back to becoming a white belt again. Does that make sense? 

My point in telling you this story is based on something my friend Trey Ratcliff told me about beauty. He explained that the human brain is hardwired to recognize beauty. We know what colors work, we know what lines draw the eye, we know that beautiful water. We just know.

I found this old photo that I shot many moons ago before I knew anything about photography. I always loved this photo for some reason. I've learned quite a bit about photography over the past year and this photo falls into the sweet spot for beauty. The two old folks are right on the line of Phi and symmetry is also very nice.

I decided to take this old photo and turn it into black and white. Go ahead and dig through some of your old photos and I'll bet you'll find some beauty in your old shots.


Photo of the Day: Boat on the Lake

Jumped on Trey's google hangout the other night and realized I didn't have many photos to share on the show. So I grabbed my Sony NEX-7 with a 14-24mm lens and headed out to the lake to snap a few quick sunset photos. There's not too much green yet from the harsh Winter so I felt like this deserved a black and white treatment.


Photos of the Day: Fooling Around

We had a beautiful Spring day around here with the windows open, a Phillies game on the TV, and a few steaks on the grill. I decided to snap a few photos of the kids playing around. I used my Sony NEX-7 with a 50mm lens to grab these. I tried to use as much natural window light as possible. It always looks better.