Photography by J.D. Magers

The Adjustable Gradient Experiment, Part I

Added on by J.D. Magers.

One aspect of my processing that I want to improve at is the use of adjustable gradients, whether it be in Photoshop, Lightroom, or On1.  Yesterday morning I was up early, so I thought I would take some time and start playing around in On1 and the Adjustable Gradient Filter.

The first thing that I'm doing to really learn how these filters work is to not open a photo at all. Instead I created a blank white .jpg that I can open within any program.  When the white photo is opened in On1, we can see what kind of impact any individual preset or filter is going to have when a real photo is opened.  This is a great teaching tool, and it's a lot like experimenting with layers in Photoshop.  This is going to be a really powerful exercise for me, and I encourage everyone to create some simple base documents that are white, black and 50% gray to start learning your processing strategies.

Anyway, I opened my white image in the Adjustable Gradients Filter and selected Lighten.  Right away it hit me that I wasn't going to be able to see anything because how can you lighten an already white image?  That's okay though, as I took the opportunity to look around the window and see what is there with this particular filter.

When the white image was first opened, the main area had the typical adjustable gradient pattern on it.  From here, we can adjust the height and tilt of the areas to be lightened. I'm going to experiment more with this in a real photograph in the coming days.

Moving over to the adjustments panel, I noticed there are five different filters that we can select from (Lighten, Darken, Detail, Vibrance, and Glow).  These same gradients are also selectable in the main list of filters over on the left.  I'm going to have to experiment in a real photo to see what happens when I select a type from the right, if it has the same effect as selecting it initially.

Beyond that, right below the slider for Glow, there is another dropdown menu where we can select five different layers (Screen, Overlay, Overlay Strong, Softlight, and Softlight Strong).  Off the top of my head, I know Screen and Overlay are layers types in Photoshop and Lightroom, so I assume Softlight is as well.  

There are also several shapes that we can create an adjustable gradient with as well.  On the top tool bar, there is the following drop down list.  

Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 6.50.48 AM.png

The Gradient selection is the default setting when you first select this filter.  Center and Edges both give us an oval, and I suspect they are opposites of each other.  I can probably use this to create a vignette.  At this time I don't know what the Reflected Gradient is or what it does, but we'll figure it out.  A topic for another day.

The last thing I took note of is the Preset dropdown to the left of the Shape Gradient drop down.  Underneath this drop down are immediate selections for applying an adjustable vignette (both black and white), and then hard linear gradients from the four sides of the image.  These appear to work together with the Shape Gradient dropdown.  For example, when I select the Vignette Preset, if my shape is on Gradient, the program will automatically change to the Center selection.  But when you have one of the Presets selected first, and then try to change the shape, the preset defaults back to none.  So I think these two are intertwined.

This exercise has taught me a lot about the selections that are available with the Adjustable Gradient Filter.  Since I originally selected the Lighten Filter on a white image though, it wasn't really that informative.  I need to do this exercise on gray or black to really start digging in to what this filter type can do.  That and get it on a real image.  We'll get to that in the coming days. We have lots of work left to do with this filter.  

I hope this exercise has been valuable to you as well.  As I mentioned, I think looking at presets on a blank white, black, and gray image will teach you a lot about how that particular preset works. As such, we're going to be doing a lot of this in the future.  Please let me know what you think of this strategy in the comments, or shoot me an email.  Thank you for reading today.  More later...

San Juan Rainbow

Added on by J.D. Magers.

While I was writing yesterdays post on my first impressions of On1 10, I came across this image from 2010 of a sunset rainbow down in Great Sand Dunes National Park near Alamosa, Colorado.  This photo is significant to me, as it is one of the only times I have been able to get my wife to go hiking.  Anyway, I started to play around with some of the filters and presets in the On1 Effects suite, and I really liked the end results that I came up with.  Unfortunately, I didn't write down which filters I used, so I can't share that info.  I realize I need to get better at this, and I apologize.  Regardless though, I hope you like the picture.  Please let me know what you think in the comments below.  Enjoy...

Sunset rainbow outside of Great Sand Dunes National Park, near Alamosa, Colorado.

Sunset rainbow outside of Great Sand Dunes National Park, near Alamosa, Colorado.

First Impressions of On1 10

Added on by J.D. Magers.

I have been a user of the On1 suite of plugins for the past couple of years.  I first started around OnOne Perfect Suite 8.  Overall, I like this set of plugins very much.  I think it is a really powerful program that does a lot of really cool things.  I like how it makes my photographs look, and it's generally easy to use.  Late last month, the suite was relaunched again as On1 10.  Below are my first impressions of this upgraded software package.

This is the interface below as it looks when first opened.

The One1 10 Perfect Effects interface when you first open an image.

The One1 10 Perfect Effects interface when you first open an image.

I like the clean, simple black background look.  Everything is much easier to see on a black background.  The integration of all the different programs within the creative suite is much nicer too.  I like how you can seamlessly switch back and forth between Perfect Effects and Perfect Enhance without having to open the photo up in Perfect Layers.  This is a much needed improvement in my opinion, as I never really was comfortable opening an image up in Layers first.  That probably has more to do with not practicing enough, but that is my fault.  

Anyway, over on the left are the tabs for Presets and Filters.  Part of me likes the way they are separated, and part of me doesn't (sometimes I wish it was just a giant list - I don't want to have to think about whether the filter I want is a preset or a filter).  I do like however when you click on one, we are presented with a view within that panel that shows us what all the different filters are going to look like if they are chosen.  This is actually extremely helpful in showing me what all the potentials are so I can make a decision more quickly.

All the potential applications of the Haze Reducing Preset.

All the potential applications of the Haze Reducing Preset.

All the adjustment sliders are over on the right hand side.  Their functionality is pretty much the same.  I will say that I am still a little confused by how you add a layer to the photo.  Before, there used to be a little + sign that would add a layer to whatever preset you were working with.  Now when you select a layer, it brings up the menu which has the list of presets.  If you select one, and then go to add another layer on top of it, the layer looks like it disappears.  Before if you didn’t like a layer, you could just drag it down to the trash.  This doesn’t appear to be the case anymore.   Maybe I’m doing something wrong, but I’m still getting used to this design change. 

One other thing that I for sure don’t like is that when I right click on an image in Lightroom, and select it for opening in the On1 suite, it doesn’t open right away.  On1 opens, but the picture doesn’t.  I end up having to open it twice.  I’m not sure if this is a bug in the system or not, but it previously didn’t operate this way.  If I was processing more than an hour a night, the program would likely already be open and not really a problem.  My nightly processing is time limited though, and the extra time needed to reopen an image is not ideal.

Some people will hate even the smallest of changes.  The new On1 10 suite has some pretty drastic changes to the way it looks and the way it functions.  Overall, my first impression is that this is still the same awesome program that I have been using for the past couple of years.  Does it look different?  Sure, but that shouldn’t really matter because it still is able to take my photos and do some pretty awesome stuff with them.  That’s good enough for me.

I would love to hear what you think about the new On1 suite.  Please feel free to discuss in the comments section below.  Have a great day.  See you tomorrow…

Sports Authority Field

Added on by J.D. Magers.

While I was on the Scott Kelby Photowalk back in October, our walk leader took us to a parking garage where the roof looks West with an unobstructed view to the mountains.  What I saw in the middle ground was Sports Authority Field, home of our Denver Broncos.  What I also saw, was a shot of the stadium at sunset with the lights on.  The question was when I could make that happen, since the football season was already half over.  I had to check the calendar and what would work for my family.

The other question was safety. I did not want to be on a roof of a parking garage in downtown Denver with my back turned towards the entrance.  So I enlisted the help of a very good friend to go stand with me and guard the door if you will.  We choose yesterday to head down, and boy am I glad we did.  

The game certainly stank from the Broncos perspective, but I don't care.  I got what you see below.  And many others.  I shot vertical and horizontal panoramas, both HDR and not HDR.  And then the sun went down and the sky absolutely lit up.  There are many shots to choose from, and the processing has just begun.  If you can't tell, I'm excited and it's gonna be fun.  It feels awesome to see a shot in your mind's eye, plan it, and make it happen.  I'll show more of the images to you as I get them processed, so if you're a Broncos fan (and even if you're not), come back often.

Sports Authority Field at Mile High.  Home of the Denver Broncos.

Sports Authority Field at Mile High.  Home of the Denver Broncos.

Who inspires me photographically?

Added on by J.D. Magers.

As I really begin to buckle down and get back in to writing here on Focus The Frame, I have been thinking a lot about inspiration and what moves me photographically.  I just counted, I have 52 photography books, 7.5 years of Outdoor Photographer magazine, 7 years of Photoshop User magazine and 2 years of National Geographic on the book case shelves in my office.  Wow, lucky for me my wife supports my book buying wishes, as I'm sure that's quite a bit of cash.  I guess it's not bad though when you consider I have been shooting since that family trip to Thailand in 2006.  That's only six per year, so that isn't that bad right?  

Anyway, I love books for many reasons.  I have a nice mix of teaching books and coffee table books, and everything in between.  If I am feeling unmotivated, I will sometimes open up one of the coffee table books and just start looking at the photographs.  Usually that's all I need to become inspired.  So speaking of inspiration, here are the top ten photographers who I currently get the most inspiration from.

10.  Art Wolfe - Art Wolfe is a legendary photographer.  I had read his work as a contributor to Outdoor Photographer, but I really started to follow him after accidentally catching an episode of his public television TV show, Travels to the Edge.  I found myself transfixed.  And I couldn't turn it off.  The images that I was seeing were stunning.  Last year, Art put 40 years of his best work into a gorgeous book called Earth is my Witness: The Photography of Art Wolfe.  It's admittedly a little pricey, but what could I expect from 400 pages of some of the most beautiful photographs you'll ever see.  I bought if for myself for Christmas, and I don't regret it for a second.  

9.  Colby Brown - I'm a big fan of Boulder, Colorado based photographer Colby Brown.  He is a landscape, travel, and humanitarian photographer.  I recall first finding Colby through that humanitarian work, when I found some of the photographs he took after the Haiti earthquake.  I remember being moved by the photos, and was interested in learning more about the plight of most Haitians.  I always knew it was a poor country, but I didn't know it was that poor.  After seeing these images, I started following his career a little more closely.  He is one of the foremost experts on social media marketing on photography and building your brand.  In full disclosure, I am using some of the techniques I have learned by following Colby's career in how I am approaching this blog and finally trying to launch my photography business.  Colby Brown is definitely someone to follow.  The fact that he is in Boulder, and I work in Boulder means I should probably contact him and offer to buy him lunch, maybe see if he has ever thought about mentoring.  You can see more of Colby's work here:

8.  Moose Peterson -  Up until a couple of years ago, Moose Peterson was THE photographer to follow if you wanted to be a Nature Photographer (which I did).  With over 30 years of experience shooting "critters", Moose does an extraordinary job of being able to translate his knowledge into inspirational images on his website, and classes on KelbyOne.  Part of what really drew me in is his ability to identify birds.  I am also interested in birding, but trying to learn to identify species can be downright frustrating at times. Moose makes it look so easy.  Today Moose is after a new challenge.  The majority of his photography these days is geared towards vintage aircraft in flight.  

7.  Tom Till - Growing up in Western Colorado means I spent a lot of my youth in Eastern Utah.  I often comment on pictures from the Moab area that Utah is my mistress.  I love Utah.  Particularly Arches, Canyonlands and Lake Powell.  When I think of photographs from Utah, I immediately think of Moab based landscape photographer, Tom Till.  His compositions are stunning, and he has been shooting long enough that he instinctively knows how to deal with that famous Utah color: red.  The best part of living in Moab is it is so close to Arches and Canyonlands.  Tom has an innate ability to be able to predict a glorious sunset, and he knows the parks well enough that he can get to a location with a composition already in mind so he can make the shot at just the right moment.  Truly awesome.  Check out his gallery here.

6.  Joe McNally - The master of flash himself.  Joe McNally is the ultimate freelance photographer.  He has shot for National Geographic for over 30 years.  He has books that are very easy reads.  He has training videos on KelbyOne which are some of the best and most informative on the entire site.  And I have seen him live in person twice.  These seminars taught me more about off camera flash in one day than I could get in weeks of watching youtube videos.  I think you would be hard pressed to find a more passionate photographer and teacher.  The only thing I wish Joe did more of is post to his blog.  But when you travel 200+ days a year, I can see how that would be more a little bit lower on the priority list.

5.  Shawn Reeder - I first learned about Shawn Reeder while reading about him in the October 2012 issue of Outdoor Photographer.  After reading that article, I just had to find the video that was being written about and see it for myself.  It absolutely floored me.  This video is absolutely gorgeous, and I still watch it whenever I find I need a little bit of inspiration.  Check it out yourself below:

4.  Chris Burkard - Another photographer learned about in Outdoor Photographer, this time October of 2013 (Hey, maybe I should check the October 2014 issue to see if there's a theme!).  From the moment I read that article, I could tell that Chris Burkard is the absolute real deal.  If you go to his website (, you'll see picture after picture of extremely dedicated people.  That's an understatement, because that's what you have to be to go surfing in the coldest oceans on the planet.  The cold water doesn't faze Chris though (just watch the TED talk below).  He manages to pull off image after image.  I enjoy viewing his work a great deal, and come back often to both his website and his Google + page.

3.  Zack Arias - These next two photographers are really 2a and 2b.  I find myself inspired by both of them a great deal.  I'm convinced that Atlanta based photographer Zack Arias is one of the coolest people on the planet.  He is brutally honest with who he is, and where he's at as a photographer.  If you want proof, just Google Zack Arias "Transform" and see for yourself.  This video is so very humbling, and I actually have a reminder on my phone to watch it at the first of every month.  Over the last couple of months, as I have been planning for the rejuvenation of the blog, I have been watching this video a lot.  It's a monthly kick in the butt to get going, to just start, and to see where we can take this thing.  Zack's not much of a blogger, but his book is a great read, and he also has a training class on KelbyOne.

2.  David DuChemin -  David DuChemin's photography is just wonderful.  But it's his writing style that I find myself coming back to.  David's blog is a weekly read for me, and I have two of his books.  David is really big on listening to your muse (which is another way of saying to follow your heart) and living the creative life that we all so desperately want.  Photography is so much more than taking photographs.  It's about the ability to See, and to Experience, and to be a Living part of this World.  David helped to craft these ideas, and when I read his words, I can't helped but be moved by them.  Seriously, check David out.  You won't be sorry.

1.  Scott Kelby - Scott Kelby has been mine and a whole lot of other people's main source of inspiration for a number of years.  He is the #1 selling author on Amazon for photography books for something like 10 years in a row.  The books are great, and as you can guess I own a lot of them.  But it's the business this man has built that I really admire.  The first few issues of Photoshop User magazine were distributed to only a few people within a 30 mile radius of his home in Tampa.  To take those beginnings, and transform them into the the business he runs today is awe inspiring to me.  He does it all, from portraits, to fashion, to sports, to the occasional landscape.  The foundation of everything about KelbyOne though, is the emphasis on teaching.  Without that, there would be no training videos for people to watch, no books for people to read, and no training seminars for thousands of people to attend.  Scott Kelby is a teacher (and one heck of a business man).  Plain and simple.

There you have it.  These are the 10 photographers and visual artists who are most influencing to me right now at this moment in time.  The one thing I noticed as I was writing is that the list is all men.  That is in no way intentional, and I'm not sure why there are no women on it.  I think it has a lot to do with the books that I have purchased over the years and the magazines I read.  I don't own many books written by women, and there aren't many magazine articles in OP, Photoshop User or my other magazines that are written by women either.  I think I'll take it as a challenge for another post to find some influential women photographer's and start to follow their work.  If you know any that I should look into, please leave a comment below.

That's all for today.  Thank you for reading.  More later...


3 Uses for the White Vignette Filter

Added on by J.D. Magers.

When is the last time you used a White Vignette to round out one of your photographs?  Yesterday?  I doubt it.  The white vignette usually looks awful, and I doubt anyone really uses it on a regular basis in their workflow.  But working in On1 a few weeks back, I accidentally clicked on it while working on a photo from the Adams County museum.  The white vignette made the photo look good to me.  What was this crazy notion?

We all know that a vignette is used to either darken or lighten the edges of the frame.  With a dark vignette, the viewers eye is contained within the photograph and naturally moves back to the subject.  But the eye is naturally drawn to the brightest item in the scene.  If the white vignette is the brightest part of the photograph, I think the eye will automatically move towards it.  Since there is nothing to block the eye (like in a dark vignette), the eye drifts out of the borders and off the photograph.  This sends a signal to our brain that the white vignette looks awful and the photograph isn't worth viewing.  We want to move on.  This is exactly what we don't want.

So why then did my eye resonate with the image from the museum.  When I think back of all the photographs I've seen, the ones that have a white vignette were all old photographs with a vintage feel.  As this was the type of photo I was working on in On1, it made sense to me that the white looked good.  The image below of The Sheriff was taken at the Colorado Railroad Museum during one of their daily reenactments.  Working in On1 Effects 10, I used a preset within the program under the Colleen Scott Texas header.  The preset I used was Austin City Limits.  This gave the original the vintage look that I wanted.  The only thing left to do was add the white vignette filter under the Vignette Filters menu.  I liked it, but the white overlay was too bright for my taste, so I lowered the opacity of that particular layer down to what you see below.  

The Sheriff

So that was one image where a white vignette looks pretty good.  I started searching through my archives to see other potential candidates that may work as well.  The company this cheesecake came from is sadly no longer in business (We miss you Cheesecake Therapy!).  This photograph is single serve cheesecake sitting on a white plate on a glass table next to an East facing window.  There is nothing but natural light here.  What made me want to experiment here is all the open white space already in the corners.  Working solely in Lightroom on this one, I processed the photo to get a little more detail in the dark crust, and then do a little bit in curves until the white plate looked correct.  The white vignette then went on top.  When I darkened my screen in Lightroom (the L key), my eye didn't escape the photo.  The white vignette was keeping me focused on the subject, which is exactly what I wanted.  Speaking of wants, now I want cheesecake again...


I now had a second image that looked great with a White Vignette.  Could there be a third?  Continuing to scan for a photo, I saw this one from 2013 where the candy canes were shot on a white chair (we have a lot of white furniture in my house if you couldn't tell).  After seeing what the white vignette could do on the predominately white background of the food photograph, I wanted to confirm that while seeing what it could do for the rest of the image.  

Working in On1 10 Effects again, I applied the White Edges filter.  They're the same type of filter, just with a different feathering and size.  When I first saw it, I immediately got the feeling that Christmas was right around the corner.  Or maybe that was my four year old coming around the corner and asking me if this photo meant Christmas was tomorrow.  This image works for me too.  The really shallow depth of field helps make this photo look kind of dreamy to me, and the white edges vignette helps to accentuate that.  Ironically though, I tried to make this photo look even more dreamy by working in the glow module, but I didn't like it.  I thought it was too much.

Candy Canes

There you have it.  Maybe the white vignette filter doesn't look so awful after all.  I think it can be useful in images taken in broad daylight that have been processed with a vintage feel, or food images in natural light, or when you are going for a dreamy, I'm wishing for something I want kind of image.  I wasn't sure if it could be done, but next time I won't be so dismissive of the white vignette filter.  You should give it a try too...

That's all for today.  As always, thank you for reading.  Come back tomorrow when I reveal who my current top 10 sources of photographic inspiration are...

October Metrics

Added on by J.D. Magers.

I have been listening to a lot of podcasts about how I can make this a better blog.  I listen to them on my way to and from work, which is actually a great time to listen to podcasts.  I have at least 45 minutes each way to listen and learn.  It's not like there's anything worth listening to on the radio these days anyway.  

The podcasts I'm particularly interested in right now don't even have to do with photography.  One is at (which ironically is run by Darren Rowse, whose other blog is Digital Photography School), while the other is run by Pat Flynn at  I think if you are interested at all about writing a better blog, monetizing your blog, or trying to make a little extra cash on the side, you should check these guys out.  Their podcasts are great. 

Both of the men who run these podcasts started off by blogging, and both feel it is very important to be very transparent with your audience.  Pat at SPI even goes so far as to have his monthly income reports as pages on the website.  While I am definitely not there yet, I do feel that it is important to track and measure my progress, so I can achieve my goals.  One way I can do this is to measure my readership.  I've had Google Analytics set up since I started this thing, but I've never really paid attention to it.  I think along with my monthly goal posts I mentioned yesterday, I should also do a post that shows and tracks my monthly readership to see how much the blog is growing.  I think it's best if this metrics post is something quick, and it probably shouldn't be something that gets in the way of regular content from now on.  I'm going to put them in a new archive section that I am trying to build as soon as I can figure that part out.

So, without further ado, here are October's Metrics (01 Oct 2015 - 31 Oct 2015).  I promise I'll try to clean this up next time,  but all information is taken from Google Analytics.

October Metrics

One thing I noticed, is that most of these readers bounced immediately and didn't spend any time at all reading, which I expect as I get going.  After all, you need to have interesting things to say if you want people to stick around and come back.  Something else to note is that of the 27 Colorado readers, only four of them are new, which means a lot of the other visits are probably being registered as me.  If anyone knows how to not show up in your own analytics reports, please leave me a comment and let me know.  I really appreciate it.

That's all for today.  I promise these not very photographic posts will end soon.  I am doing them to help me build momentum as I brainstorm ideas on what to write about.  I also am hoping that they will help me to establish a kind of style or identity.  I'm just a regular guy who wants to share his photographic experiences with you, and try to convince you that photography is what you make of it.  It can be just a hobby, but it can also be a heck of a lot more.  I want to share those experiences.  

Thanks for reading today.  Don't forget to check out Darren's podcast at and Pat's podcast at  See you soon...

November Goals

Added on by J.D. Magers.

On the first business day of each month, I intend to post 3-5 goals to accomplish in that month.  Goals are very important in helping us to achieve what we want to achieve, and announcing them publicly will help keep me on track.  I'm hoping that you all will help to keep me accountable.  Goals have to be SMART (that is: Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic and Time-Based).  Following this formula usually leads to success, as long as you have given yourself enough time, and the goal is realistic. 

We'll reconcile the goals at the end of the month to see how I did.  So, real simple, here is what I would like to get done by November 30 (see how I threw the deadline in there?):

  1. Rick Sammon suggested in one of his recent Kelby One training classes to read the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.  The book has been purchased, and will be read by the end of the month.
  2. I will write a post detailing what I currently know about curves in Photoshop.
  3. I will finish reprocessing the bison image and the Double Arch image that will go into my portfolio book I talked about last spring, and send the book out for publishing.
  4. I will write blog posts every business day in November.  That's five days a week!

Another stretch goal I would like to accomplish is to get Adsense set up here on the blog.  I know I don't have much traffic here, but I have to start somewhere.  If I get to a point where I don't need to run ads that's great, but I also need to start having the blog pay for itself.  Ads will be one way to make that happen.

So there you have it.  This is what I will accomplish in the month of November.  I sure hope you remember to come back at the end of the month to see how I did.  Maybe you should set a reminder on your phone.  Thank you for reading today.  More later...

I need some help please

Added on by J.D. Magers.

My wife has told me that I can pick out a new tripod for my Christmas gift.  Cha-ching!  What I have currently is a Slik 9000 Aluminum tripod that my brother in law gave me when I was first starting out.  That was back in 2006.  It doesn't have a ball head on it, so when I use it I have to screw the camera onto the 1/4" screw on the head plate.  Not the best scenario I know, but it has worked until now.  But the thing is heavy, and because it is made of aluminum it gets really cold in the winter time.  So cold in fact it hurts to pick it up.  Basically I'm tired of this thing, and I want a new one.

However, I'm not sure what I should be looking for.  This article from Adorama wasn't very useful.  I know I want it to be made of carbon fiber and come with a ball head, and I know I want it cost less than $500.00.  I will be using it for landscape work, and portrait/still life work in my basement.  It needs to be fully adaptable to either situation.  Basically what I am thinking though, is the tripod needs to be stable as low as possible to the ground (like 18 inches close to the ground).  I'm wondering if more or fewer leg sections is what is needed for this type of shooting, and does the center column need to not be there?  I've read varying opinions on the usefulness of the center column.  Weight is a consideration, but it is lower on the priority list, as well as folded length.  Although if I am going to take it with me on trips, maybe those should be considerations.

Does anyone have any opinions on manufacturer?  What about the number of leg sections, and like I mentioned, center columns?  I want to hear varying opinions on this topic to not only inform me (because as you can tell, I'm kind of confused), but to inform anyone else that might be in the market.  

Could you do me a favor please, and leave a comment on this post telling me about your experiences with tripods, and what you looked for when you purchased yours?  I would really appreciate it.  Thank you so much...

The Kelby Submitted Photo

Added on by J.D. Magers.

On Monday I showed everyone an image from the recent Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk.  I really had a hard time choosing which of my photos I thought was best.  The other couple of times I had participated, I only was able to get one or two images that I liked, and when I saw the others that were submitted, I would quickly lose confidence.  Now though, I have a couple of more years of experience.  I was pleasantly surprised with how many photos I took that I liked.  I also came to realize that street photography is fun, and asking people for permission to take their photograph is not as hard as it seems.  The worst that can happen is they say no.  You just have to project confidence and be friendly.  I even want to photograph complete strangers again.  It's not scary at all.  

As I said, choosing which photo to submit was difficult.  To be honest, I'm not even done processing all the images that I liked.  I think I have 2-3 more.  One of the photos that I gave pretty strong consideration to submitting is the one below.

The Cigar

This dude and his buddy were standing outside on the sidewalk.  Both of them were smoking these whopping huge cigars.  When I first saw the hat on this guy, I knew I wanted to get a portrait.  I didn't want to just take any old sneaky shot though, I kinda wanted to act like a real photographer.  I had successfully asked a couple of women earlier in the evening if I could take their picture, so with my new found confidence I walked up to the two guys and broke the ice with a straight simple you guys look awesome.  We talked for a moment about why there were so many photographers downtown, and then asked if I could take their picture.  They said sure right away, and asked if I wanted them to pose or anything.  I told them I just wanted them to continue having their conversation and puffing on the cigars.  I took about ten frames total of the two guys, the last of which was my profile portrait of the guy in the white hat.

Later on in the evening, standing on a corner near the world famous Comedy Works, I saw this guy just standing on the sidewalk staring into his phone and lighting a cigarette.  Since I was on the other side of the street, I walked to a point where I could photograph him head on.  I got lucky when the woman walked into my frame from behind.  When I look at this picture, my eye goes from him, to her and back again.  I think there is a lot of visual interest in this photo.  My processing for this photo was a kind of a cinnamon matte look.  I feel like there is a sort of nostalgia to this frame, and I intentionally processed it to be kind of an old school look.

Where am I?

Ultimately though, the image that I submitted to the contest is this one down here.  This young couple was sitting at the bar of a restaurant whose windows were open to the sidewalk.  The place was empty except for these two.  I love that he has his body turned to her, giving his date his undivided attention.  They're relaxed, which is how a date should be.  I also like the brightness of the background, with all those bottles back there.  I think that holds a little bit of interest too.  Does this place stock the cheap stuff, or are they high end?  It makes me wonder.  

(I did just think of a couple of other images I could have made from this scene if I had thought about them.  What if I had waited a couple of more minutes and watched them interact?  What if he made her laugh right after I left?  That would have been awesome.  The other idea is to zoom in on all those liquor bottles, and try to isolate them.  They are so well lit that it would probably be a really cool image.  Mental notes for next time I guess.)

The Date

Anyway, that's the photo that was submitted.  I like how simple it is.  I have no idea if I won or not, but like I said on Monday, it doesn't matter.  I would love to hear what you think of them as well.  How do you like my processing?  Please tell me in the comments section of this post.  I greatly appreciate it, and will respond to any comment that is left.  Now I am off to process some more photos.  Thank you for reading today.  More later...

Success! Screen Shot on a Mac

Added on by J.D. Magers.

In a surprisingly easy turn of events, I was able to find how to take a screen shot on a Mac.  It's even on an Apple support page!  Anyway, in case you too are interested, to capture a partial screen shot, you press Command + Shift + 4.  The cursor then turns into a cross, from which you select what you want to capture.  The file gets saved to the desktop as a .png file that you can open in any photo editor.  More information is at the link above from Apple if you're curious.  Yesterday's post had information on how I processed the woman at the bus stop photo.  That screen grab is below if you want a visual see at how I did it.  Knowing how to do this will make it much easier to show all of you how I process my photos.

Thank you for reading today.  More later...

Waiting for the Bus

Added on by J.D. Magers.

October 3 was the 8th Annual Scott Kelby Photowalk.  I love doing this event even though for some reason it always seems to conflict with something else I have going on.  I've only made three of the eight, but it seems like I have known about the walk since the beginning.  Anyway, this year's walk was organized to take place in the early evening along the 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver.  To be honest, I waffled a bit before signing up because I wasn't sure if I wanted to go downtown.  I asked a coworker if he wanted to go with me, and when he said he would, I signed up too.  One of over 21,000 people to participate on the day!

Unedited (but cropped apparently) version of a woman waiting for the bus in downtown Denver during the Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk.

Unedited (but cropped apparently) version of a woman waiting for the bus in downtown Denver during the Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk.

Unfortunately, the weather that we had that day was really crappy and overcast.  Not good for walking around in the early evening.  Of course I should've taken the tripod, but it's old and crappy and I want a new one, and I just didn't bother.  Once the sun set behind the clouds, I had to put my camera in Auto ISO mode and started shooting at ISO 12800.  Boy are those photos noisy.  Anyway, before I lost the light completely, I spotted this bright orange color across the street.  I know street compositions like this are pretty commonly chosen as winners during the contest phase of the photowalk, and I have been wanting to make more images like this so I took the opportunity to make the photograph.  You can actually see me in the window behind her.  

So let's look at how I processed this image.  After importing into Lightroom, the first think I did was do a lens correction and straighten the image.  I figured the crack in the cement in front of her was probably a straight line, so I drew my level indicator line over that.  After adjusting the point curve to Medium Contrast, I adjusted the saturation levels of her orange sari, and her green pants just to see how that would make the photo look.  What I noticed was that when I increased the reds, it made the light in the shops in the background appear warmer.  This started to make the shot look really nice, so I went with it.  Some more global adjustments were made in Clarity, Vibrance, Saturation and the red channel Hue and I had close to my final image.  I warmed it up just a little bit more with the temperature slider, and added a medium vignette from Matt Kloskowski to complete the frame.

A completed street image from the 8th Annual Scott Kelby Photowalk in Denver, Colorado.

A completed street image from the 8th Annual Scott Kelby Photowalk in Denver, Colorado.

Ultimately, I decided to submit another image to the photowalk contest.  I haven't heard if I won or not.  It doesn't matter, as I was just happy to get out.  I'll post more images too in the coming days.  These photowalks are really fun, but it kind of surprises me that there aren't more organized in the Denver area.  There isn't one in Boulder for example.  Pearl Street would be an awesome photowalk.  I decided while working on these images that next year I am going to lead a walk along Pearl.  I just need to find the route.  Hopefully you can join me.

I know the above processing steps are kind of hard to read.  I need to figure out how to do a screen capture on a Mac.  Perhaps a subject for another post.

Thank you for reading.  More later...

The Plan

Added on by J.D. Magers.

So how am going to do this?  That's a great question, and one that is still evolving in my head.  I know that I want my business to include a variety of options.  Basically, I'm going to be generating a lot of content.  There will be general posts containing photos I've taken, and there will be reviews of equipment that I have used.  I'm going to learn and write about creating my own presets too.  Eventually there will be ads, and an affiliate program (but I want to generate traffic first).  

The most important aspect though is that my blog posts are going to be informative.  What that means is open for debate.  I will be writing about my photo walks, whether they take place on a hike, in my basement, or on the streets.  I will be talking about how I process photos, and the plugins that I use.  I'm going to explain how I think those plugins work.  I am by no means an expert on Lightroom, Photoshop, On1 software, or the Nik Collection by Google, but I use them all.  I think explaining the small details of my methods could be valuable for somebody.  

I'm going to make mistakes in how I shoot and what I write about.  That's okay.  I want those mistakes to be visible for anyone to see, because it will make all of us a better photographer and blogger.  I'm not worried about mistakes, and I never have been.  I'm human trying to improve myself.

There is going to be openness and humility in how this blog operates.  If I have an idea, I'm going to share it.  That way, any one who reads this blog and keeps reading this blog can help keep me on track with accomplishing that goal.  For example, I'm going to spend a lot of weekends next spring and summer up in Rocky Mountain National Park photographing the lakes.  I've asked my wife if I can do this already.  Luckily she is onboard.  By late next year, I want to create and sell an ebook about those experiences.  I think it will be fun, and it's something I have wanted to learn how to do for quite awhile. 

I do want to make money with my photography.  But this will not be my primary means of income as I really like what I do in the Biotech industry.  Because of this, I do want to also use my photography and this blog as a means of making the world a better place.  I have posted before about birding and my overwhelming desire to be outside.  I want to preserve that for my two girls.  So any money that I make blogging, I am going to donate 10% of it to the Nature Conservancy.  When I make those donations, I'll post about it on the side bar.

There is a lot more to come.  Hopefully you like what you see, and will come back often.  Make sure you find me on Google+ (please connect with me through the side bar) and Flickr.  The Facebook page is coming soon as well.


Focus The Frame is Back!

Added on by J.D. Magers.

Where have you been?  Welcome back.  After an extended, unintentional yet intentional layoff from writing on the blog, I am back.  I have energy, and I'm raring to go to get this thing fired up again.  So where have I been?  Well, this happened:

Me and my new daughter.  Image captured with my camera by my good friend Brett Kurowski.

Me and my new daughter.  Image captured with my camera by my good friend Brett Kurowski.


So as you can imagine, things got pretty crazy around my house.  The four year old is acting as four year olds do when they suddenly have competition for mommy and daddy's attention.  Things are settling down now though, and my mind has returned to my muse.  Photography is calling.  I'm interested in shooting at all waking hours of the day.  I'm interested in trying to make some cash from my photography so I can afford to put these two through school!

So I've been listening to a bunch of podcasts on my way to work.  Mostly having to do with how to be a better blogger, whether it's through generating copy that people want to read, to monetizing the blog through smart passive income.  I also listen to This Week in Photo, which is a progressive, this is what's coming down the road to be aware of in photography type program.  So I have a lot of things to think about, and I have lots of ideas on how I can transform this blog to something that can help inspire other photographers to follow their dreams and learn.  I know there are thousands of similar blogs, but I don't care.  I think I have something to offer so I'm going to give it a shot.  Hopefully you'll find what I have to say interesting and keep coming back for more.


Added on by J.D. Magers.

I need some help please.  If you go back a few posts, you can read about the slow process I'm undergoing to get a book printed of my best shots.  I am considering this image that I recently processed to be a part of that book, either as a part of the collection, or to take the place of another shot.  What do you think?  Is it worthy?  Thanks.

Mullein at Sunset.  Barr Lake State Park, Adams County, Colorado

Western Grebe

Added on by J.D. Magers.

As promised, here is the other new (to me anyway) bird species I was lucky enough to photograph last Friday at Barr Lake State Park.  This is a Western Grebe:

This guy was maybe fifteen feet from the shore.  He almost caught me off guard, but I was able to duck down and watch for a couple of minutes.  He would dive below the water and then come up maybe 10 or so seconds later.  Looking for fish no doubt.  A much more experienced birder than I happened to walk by as I was watching two similar birds.  I asked him what I was looking at, and he told me the name.  He also mentioned there have been reports of Clark's Grebes also roosting at Barr Lake.  

When I got home, I looked up these two birds on my ID app.  They are very similar species.  See how the black bank goes beneath the eye here on the Western?  Yeah, it goes above the eye on the Clark's.  Otherwise, they look exactly the same.  I'm going to have to remember that...

House Wren

Added on by J.D. Magers.

Last Friday was my Birthday.  I took the day off.  I needed it.  A few hours of me time is a must have.  What better way to spend the day then to go to Barr Lake and do a little birding.  I didn't have any preconceived notions of what I wanted, instead just wanting to mosey in whatever direction my feet took me, and taking my time.  I was in no hurry, not needing to come home to run errands or go to the store to get something for lunch.  

Anyway, I was hoping to have great light in order for me to practice my bird ID skills.  I didn't get it, as Friday morning was very overcast. Everything I saw through the binoculars, and everything I shot with my camera was gray.  Like more than 18% gray.  I kept walking though, hoping the sun would manage to burn through the clouds.  As you can see, sometime patience and perseverance pays off.  I had seen three (previously unknown to me) birds flying around a next near the beginning of the trail.  I got some decent images of them, but I'm going to need to lighten all of them.  A little later, I happened to spot this guy not ten feet in front of me.  I got one shot off before he flew away.  Lucky indeed.  Then it took me a day and a half of trying to figure out what he was.  You can tell, there aren't many identifying features on these birds.  I finally found an image on my ID app that sort of made me think this is a House Wren, which is very common in Colorado.  My ID was confirmed by a fellow birder in the Front Range Wildlife Photographer's group on Facebook.

House Wren, Barr Lake State Park, Adams County, Colorado.

Overall, I managed to identify and report to 17 different bird species.  This isn't bad, considering I am still very much a beginner.  I even got another up close image a little later on.  It was a new species to me as well.  I'll post that image on Wednesday.  Until then, Happy BIrding.


Added on by J.D. Magers.

I love it when we get a lot of rain in a short period of time.  It results in the overflow/retention pond right next to my house being filled up with runoff.  It usually sits around for a couple of days.  Invariably, it also attracts some wildlife.  Last year we had an American Avocet camp out for a couple of weeks (the pond was clogged and didn't empty).  It has been very, very rainy in Denver the last few days, and after finally clearing out on Friday, I looked out the kitchen window to see two male and one female Cinnamon Teal had flown in for a little relaxation.  There was also a Blue-WInged Teal, but I haven't processed those pictures yet.  One of the male Cinnamon's was still there on Saturday morning, but I decided to leave them alone.  I wonder what we'll attract next.  Kind of makes me want to leave on land with a permanent pond...

Two male and a female Cinnamon Teal rest in a retention pond full of rain water.

Santa Fe

Added on by J.D. Magers.

Last summer after I was informed I was going to get laid off, my family and I drove down to Santa Fe and Taos to use one of my six weeks of saved vacation that I had been saving for some silly reason instead of taking it.  We went down there to relax, look at some art, eat good food, and basically relax for a little bit.  The mission was accomplished, as I figured out what my next step was going to be.  

Anyway, Santa Fe and Taos are really cool cities.  Just hard to navigate around when you have a toddler in a stroller.  The sidewalks are not stroller friendly.  Anyway, there is art everywhere.  There is food everywhere.  There is culture everywhere.  These are some of the images I took on this trip that aren't family related (though I have some of those that are really good too).

Artisan Bread waits to be sold at the Santa Fe Artisan Market.

Santa Fe has a daily Artisan Market where local merchants can sell their goods.  You could tell this bread was very fresh.  

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

This church was built just after the Civil War ended.  It is Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi.   It was very beautiful inside, as you can see below.  That tapestry behind the alter was beautiful.  Masses in this church are still held to this day.

Inside Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Contrasting the church is a War Memorial dedicated to the large contingent of New Mexican National Guard who died while being forced to endure the Bataan Death March after the Japanese conquered the Philippines in World War II.  The history of World War II is very important to me, and I had no idea that so many of the soldiers this Memorial is dedicated to were from New Mexico.

Bataan Death March War Memorial, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

All in all, we spent four days in the company of our Southern neighbor.  Two days in Santa Fe, and two in Taos.  The majority of pictures were taken were of family, and thus off limits here.  But if you're interested in getting a little culture, you can't go wrong with Northern New Mexico.


Added on by J.D. Magers.

There is a different version of these Ferns in my Black and White page.  I just bought some new pre-sets though from photographer David DuChemin.  Hands down I like this version better.  The tonality here is way better.

As far as how this was processed, it was given a mocha filter, a very strong vignette, and warmed up a little bit.  I also desaturated some of the green.  Try that combo out, you might like it...