Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

Death Valley Warm Up

I recently returned from a workshop photographing in Nevada's Valley of Fire State Park and Death Valley in California. The workshop was run by John Barclay, Dan Sniffin, and featured black and white 'specialist' Chuck Kimmerlee.  Needless to say, it was absolutely fantastic from start to finish, from the instructors and the arrangements they made, the teaching they gave,  to the terrific like minded people I met.

The title of this post has nothing to do with global warming or the temperature in Death Valley (though it was a VERY pleasant 70-80 degrees during the afternoons, compared to my returning to sub-zero temps here in Western Pennsylvania) and everything to do with how I start warming up to begin processing images after a workshop.  Right or wrong, I generally don't jump right in the moment I get home.  Instead I do all my downloading, keywording, and stacking similar images and any HDR or panorama sets together.  I do this for three reasons. First, things have a way of not getting done if you don't do can quote me on that. Second, I forget things.  If I don't get them keyworded by location fairly soon after my return I have a tendency to forget where they were shot.  Thirdly, when I come back from a trip like this I am 'hyped up' and there is a tendency to think that things are a lot better than they truly are. So I like the idea of mellowing out a bit and letting the excitement wear off so that I can approach sorting the keepers more objectively.

One thing that we did, which turned out to be an incredible amount of just plain fun, was to go out right after we all arrived in Las Vegas to photograph the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, a building designed by architect Frank Gehry. If you don't know that building....don't worry, I will display images of it in coming posts. It truly is an amazing structure and to me looks like something Dr,. Suess would dream up!

But first, I needed to jump into processing with something a little simpler. So I looked at the images I took when I turned around after starting to shoot the Ruvo building. Across the street from Ruvo is the World Market Center. What I saw wasn't so much a building as abstract shapes and color contrasts.  It seemed a good place to start my post-trip processing:

World Market Center, Las Vegas      ©Howard Grill

I mentioned some posts back that I was going to try to write more about how I process my photos.  To me, the type of image above is all about the lines.  If they weren't straight and they didn't line up then the message is lost.  Needless to say, this photo could not have been taken with the lines aligned properly in camera. First of all, this was not a composition that appeared on the first floor of the building where the camera could have been kept parallel to the market.  It was something I visualized higher up, so the camera had to be tilted up which immediately throws the straight lines out of whack.  I had a 90mm tilt shift lens, but that would not suffice because this photo was made at a focal length of 170mm using my 70-200mm lens.  So to get the lines straight, after making some basic exposure and contrast adjustments in Lightroom, I took the image into Photoshop (yes, I know Lightroom has some straightening adjustments but it was going into PS anyway).  I then duplicated the background layer and used the "Skew" command to pull and push the lines as close to pure horizontal and vertical as I could get them, using guides to help me out.

By the way, when doing capture sharpening in Lightroom I used the "Mask" slider quite heavily (it was all the way up to 40) because, again, I wanted the attention to be drawn to the lines and there really is no detail worth emphasizing on the white tiles. It was really just the edges that needed sharpening and not much was needed on the flat tiles. I also used some creative sharpening in Photoshop to further subtly enhance the horizontal and vertical lines in order to draw the eye there.

Finally, I made a selection of the brown portion of the wall and a selection of the white portion and using curves and hue/saturation made adjustments to contrast and saturation as needed for both segments.

Oh, and there was a special focus on black and white imagery on this workshop.  So here is the black and white version.

World Markey Center, Las Vegas  © Howard Grill