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REVIEW: MICHAEL FRYE’S “LANDSCAPES IN LIGHTROOM 5: A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE”

LR5-CoverSpread.jpgCalifornia landscape photographer Michael Frye recently published his latest ebook, “Landscapes in Lightroom 5: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide“, and it’s a good one. I mean, really good. I’ve been using Lightroom for seven years and I’ve read countless books and online tutorials, all of which have contributed significantly to my proficiency with the software. Michael’s ebook is as good as they come. In a nutshell, here’s why I think it’s well worth the $15 investment:

An ebook is no good if it isn’t easy to buy, download and use. ”Landscapes in Lightroom 5: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide” was easy to purchase on Michael’s website and is delivered as a PDF that downloaded to my iPad without any hiccups. Most importantly, it is laid out in a logical, easy to use and attractive format.

There’s a lot of content here, folks. Really, really good content. Some “how-to” books are too basic while others cater to those who are experienced users of the software. Michael strikes a good balance of both and as a result, you’ll find value in the ebook regardless of your proficiency with Lightroom.

To many, myself included, the tools in Lightroom’s “Develop” module are a bit of a mystery. Sure, we may have a pretty good idea of what they are and how to use them, but each new version of Lightroom brings new tools and updates to old ones, some of which are significant. Michael did his research and is able to explain each tool in depth, but in a way that the average person can easily understand. I learned things about several of the tools that I use daily, and I think having that knowledge will make me more adept at using each tool.

We’re all unique and we each learn best in different ways. For some of us, just reading about a new technique is sufficient while others may pick it up quicker by watching a video. Michael recognizes this and has included several video tutorials that cover some of the more complex topics. I found the video tutorials to be very helpful.

Yet another way people learn is by doing. Michael has included sample workflows wherein he walks you through step-by-step as he processes six unique images, each with different challenges. He even provides a link to the actual DNG files for each image so you can download the unprocessed RAW files and import them into Lightroom so you can edit them yourself. This is huge. It’s almost like getting a one-on-one Lightroom workshop with Michael. This alone would make the ebook worth $15 (or more, actually).

Landscapes in Lightroom 5: A Step-by-Step Guide” is an excellent ebook for all photographers. If you’ve never used Lightroom I recommend you start with another book, Nat Coalson’s excellent “Photoshop Lightroom 5: Streamlining Your Digital Photography Process“. Nat’s book begins at the ground level with importing and organizing your images in Lightroom and then delves into the editing and other features of the software. Once you’re comfortable with the basics, “Landscapes in Lightroom 5: A Step-by-Step Guide” will be a great supplement to your library that will help you fine tune your processing skills.

lens cap
bret-edgeBret Edge is a nature and adventure photographer in Moab, Utah. His interest in photography evolved as an extension of his life long passion for the outdoors. He is an avid hiker, backpacker, mountain biker and canyoneer. A visit in 1999 to an exhibit featuring photographs by Ansel Adams, Jack Dykinga and David Muench stoked Bret’s creative fire such that he immediately purchased his first SLR camera, a Canon Rebel. In the years since, he has traveled extensively throughout the American West creating a diverse portfolio of dynamic images.

Bret’s work has appeared in magazines, calendars, travel guides and advertising campaigns. His clients include Backpacker magazine, Popular Photography, the Utah Office of Tourism, Charles Schwab & Co. and Jackson Hole Mountain Guides.

While Bret enjoys seeing his work in print, he receives the most satisfaction by helping others realize their potential as photographers. He accomplishes this by leading several group workshops each year and guiding photographers on private photo excursions. For information about his workshops and guided excursions, visit www.moabphotoworkshops.com. To view a collection of Bret’s images, visit www.bretedge.com. Bret lives in Moab with his wife, Melissa, their son Jackson, and two All-Terrain Pugs named Bierstadt and Petunia.

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Managing Light

Recently another photographer was kind enough to rework one of my photographs. I learned through him that Photoshop CS6, specifically ACR, was a game-changer.  Why? Because one can manage light much more effectively when opening a RAW file.

Soon thereafter, I upgraded from CS5 to CS6. I am glad I did!

One of the single most difficult issues in processing digital images is the continuing issue of highlights and shadows. If one exposes for highlights, shadows overpower the photograph. If one exposes for shadows, highlights are almost always blown out.

Photoshop CS6, specifically when working with ACR, one gets the following options, which differ dramatically from what one sees in CS5.

image001

Note the “Highlights” and “Shadows” sliders. These differ from CS5 where one has options for “Recovery” and “Fill Light.” The new sliders in CS6 make a world of difference in containing highlights and pulling details out of darks.

Here are some examples, click on any one of them to see a larger image:

Cheetah in Grass

In the original image of the Cheetah, the whites were very bright as were the highlights in its body. Using CS6 I was able to save the details of the whites while pulling out more detail in the Cheetah’s body.

A Different Point of View

In the image of the four Giraffes, the lone Giraffe was blown out and when trying to compensate by changing the exposure the details in the foreground Giraffes were lost. Now both are saved.

Two Cheetahs

In the above photograph, the Cheetah on the left was overexposed as were the highlights on the Cheetah on the right. Using CS6, I was able to recover the whites and pull out more of the details in the shadow areas.

Grazing Cape Buffalo

In the last example, I was able to pull out more details of the Cape Buffalo’s dark skin yet keep the highlights of the grasses in check.

OK Bill, show me an original shot and how CS6 changed it.  Here we go:

Original Shot

Original

After Editing in CS6 ACR

After, Edited With CS6

Kinda cool huh?

What has me excited is that I can now go back to old photographs I shot years ago and pull out details I never thought were possible. As in this shot of a Big Horn Ram, photographed in Glacier National Park.

Eyes on Me

In sum, as software continues to improve, many of our older photographs can be revisited because what was not possible two years ago is today.

If you haven’t bought or upgraded to Photoshop CS6, I highly recommend that you do so. Please note that I do not use the Creative Cloud, I simply upgraded CS5 to CS6 for $200. It was well worth the price. Hopefully, Adobe will allow users like myself to upgrade from time to time without getting into the Creative Cloud concept. I detest the new Adobe business model, but I do have a great deal of respect for Adobe’s engineers, they are the best in the world. Too bad Adobe does not match its engineers with good managers – I know, that is too much to ask.

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 MEET THE AUTHOR

Bill LockhartBill is a retired Courts Administrator of one of the largest trial courts in the United States. He is also a retired Lieutenant Colonel, US Army National Guard, in which he served for 30 years.  He holds a BSJ from the University of Florida School of Journalism, is a Fellow of the Institute for Court Management, a graduate of the US Army Command and General Staff College, and the US Army Inspector General School.  His photographic experience spans four decades; his photographic awards are too numerous to list, but include well over 100 photographs of the day, photographs of the week, and photographs of the month, at many Internet forums.  He travels extensively throughout the world, his most recent trips include journeys to South Africa, Tanzania, Alaska, Scotland, the Farne Islands, Poland, the American North West, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, Slovenia, and Orkney.  From the jungles of Panama and Honduras, to the mountains of Europe, to the awesome islands of Scotland, to the islands of the Galapagos, from the coastal regions of Alaska,  to the intense heat of tropical Africa, Bill constantly searches for the “light that dances.”

Click here to visit Bill’s website. 

All photos and content Copyright © 2013 Bill Lockhart Photography, all rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication of photos and content is strictly prohibited.

 

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A Bird’s Eye View of My Workflow with Lightroom 4, Nik Software Plug-Ins & Photoshop CS5

Shafer CanyonA few weeks ago I was asked a question about my digital darkroom workflow by one of my private photography tour clients.  He enjoyed making digital images but admitted that he wasn’t sure what to do with them once they landed on his computer.  I asked if he was using Lightroom and learned that he wasn’t.  I explained a few of the major advantages in using Lightroom to process RAW images and he was instantly sold on it.  I also explained that I make extensive use of Nik Software plug-ins from within Lightroom.  My client went home and purchased Lightroom 4 as well as the Nik Complete Collection.   Soon thereafter I received an email from him asking me to describe how I use Lightroom, the Nik plug-ins and Photoshop within my workflow.  He didn’t need a tutorial on how to use each product.  Rather, he was curious what part each one played in the overall scope of my workflow.

I’ve been using Photoshop since 2002 and Lightroom since it launched in 2007.  I discovered the Nik plug-ins about two years ago.  Though I don’t consider myself an expert with any of them, I do admit that I take for granted my ability to use them to accomplish my artistic goals.  I hadn’t given much thought to how each piece of the image processing puzzle fits together until my client asked me to define how I use each one in my own workflow.  It occurred to me that I figured it all out on my own, through a process of trial and error.  Surely there is a more efficient way to learn how and when to use each tool.  With that in mind, I decided to share a macro look at my workflow with the hope that it will help other photographers who may be struggling to put the puzzle pieces together.

The first thing you should know is that the process I’ll describe is not the right way.  It’s not the wrong way, either.  It’s justmy way.   It’s what works for me and it’s taken a number of years to get here.  I’m offering this as a jumping off point.  It’ll give you the boost to get started and when you’re up and running, you’ll develop your own way of doing things.  If your way works for you, it’s the right way.  Find what works and run with it.  Now, let’s get on to the good stuff…

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4

Lightroom 4 is the workhorse of my workflow.  It does all the heavy lifting.  Lightroom 4 is the very first step in my workflow.  I import my RAW images from the CF card directly into Lightroom 4 using a folder hierarchy organized by state.  One of the biggest timesavers in Lightroom 4 is the ability to apply a keyword set to all imported images, which is a step I never, ever skip.  Once the RAW files are imported I embark upon the tedious and time consuming task of weeding through them to separate the keepers from the trash.

Once I’ve identified images that make the cut the next step is to add more specific keywords and titles.  I do this before I start processing the images simply to ensure that I don’t get so excited about the final image that I forget to update the metadata.  Hey, I’ve got a short attention span!  Now that the digital asset management crap is out of the way, the fun begins – processing those RAW files.

Lightroom was designed in such a way that, for the most part, you start at the top of the adjustment panel and work your way to the bottom.  This is not a “how to use Lightroom” tutorial and I’m not going to go into detail about each and every tool.  If that’s what you’re looking for I highly recommend Piet van Den Eynde’s excellent e-book, “Lightroom 4 Unmasked“.   Here’s a partial list of the adjustments available in Lightroom 4: dust spot removal, white balance, exposure, highlight and shadow recovery, white and black point, vibrance, saturation, contrast, curves adjustments, HSL (hue, saturation, luminance) color channel adjustments, sharpening, noise reduction and more.  Lots more.  After making these global adjustments I’ll move on to fine tuning the image with local adjustments using the adjustment brush and/or graduated filter.  Global adjustments are those that affect the entire image as a whole.  Local adjustments target specific areas of the image.  Dodging and burning (selective darkening and lightening) are classic examples of local adjustments.

When I’m done making local adjustments the image is getting very close to final form.  For those of you who like percentages, let’s call it 75% to 85% complete.  Next up: Nik Software plug-ins.  I use these plug-ins on every single imageI process.

Nik Software Complete Collection

I prefer to make most of my creative edits using Nik Software plug-ins, primarily Viveza 2 and Color Efex Pro 4.  Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 shoulders the load for all of my black and white conversions.  The best analogy I can relate is this: I use Lightroom 4 as a broad brush would be used to paint an entire wall while the Nik plug-ins are akin to using a detail brush for trim pieces.  Ever notice how much more impact a door has when the trim is painted a contrasting color?  I find that my images are much more impactful when I use the Nik Complete Collection to make small creative edits.

Every image pays a visit to Viveza 2, where I often use Nik Control Points to make precise selections that allow me to make highly targeted adjustments to brightness, saturation, contrast, structure (very fine detail enhancement) and more.  I commonly use Viveza 2 to easily resolve white balance conflicts.  I also use Viveza 2 for more precise dodging and burning than is possible with Lightroom 4.  One of the major advantages in using Viveza 2 for this lies in the power of Nik’s Control Points, which allow you to select a certain color or tone with ease and without having to create complicated masks.  I don’t know what kind of insane algorithms are at work behind the scenes but the whole process is simple, powerful and very clean.

After Viveza 2 I’ll often bring an image into Color Efex Pro 4 for final creative edits.  Color Efex Pro 4 is essentially a collection of digital photo filters, some of which mimic the effects of their analog brethren like circular polarizers or graduated neutral density filters, while others exist only in the digital darkroom.  Contained within this amazing plug-in are filters that give foliage extra zing, landscapes more warmth and clouds more definition.  Every once in a while I’ll find myself flummoxed by an image with an odd color cast.  Luckily, there’s a Color Efex Pro 4 filter that zaps color casts in about 4 seconds flat.

In most cases, this trip through Nik Software plug-ins is the end of the line for my processing workflow and always takes place inside Lightroom.  When working with the Nik plug-ins you have the option to use them as a Lightroom or Photoshop plug-in.  The major advantage to using them inside Photoshop is the ability to save a layered file that allows you to go back and re-edit the image at any time.  This is not something that interests me.  It’s a personal choice and if you’re new to using the Nik plug-ins I encourage you to try both ways to gain an appreciation for your own workflow preference.

Adobe Photoshop CS5

Why not CS6 or CC?  Because I’m cheap, that’s why.  I work so infrequently in Photoshop that I see no need to upgrade to the latest and greatest version when the one I have now does everything I need it to do.  So, what do I need Photoshop to do?  If I’m working with multiple images to increase dynamic range or depth of field (exposure blending or focus stacking), Photoshop is the only way to get it done.  Very rarely do I ever have a need to do any kind of complicated cloning but when I do, it’s in Photoshop.  As I write this, I just learned that Lightroom 5 was released tonight and it now offers a more advanced heal/clone brush than has been included in any prior version.  I haven’t used it but I suspect it is still rudimentary when compared to Photoshop’s Content Aware Fill capabilities.  Lastly, I still use Photoshop for printing.  Yes, you can print from within Lightroom 4 (and now, 5) and as I understand, it’s a pretty fluid process, but Photoshop still has its hooks in me when it comes to printing.

So, there it is.  A birds eye view of my digital darkroom workflow.  Remember: this is not the right workflow, nor is it the only workflow.  It’s a starting point for those of you who are just digging into Lightroom, Nik Software Complete Collection and/or Photoshop.  Try it out for a while and you’ll soon find yourself falling face first into your very own workflow.  It may be similar to mine or it could be completely different.  Either way, it’s not better or worse – just different. The most important thing is that you take that first step and allow yourself the freedom to experiment and create. Have fun!

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Bret Edge is a nature and adventure photographer in Moab, Utah. His interest in photography evolved as an extension of his life long passion for the outdoors. He is an avid hiker, backpacker, mountain biker and canyoneer. A visit in 1999 to an exhibit featuring photographs by Ansel Adams, Jack Dykinga and David Muench stoked Bret’s creative fire such that he immediately purchased his first SLR camera, a Canon Rebel. In the years since, he has traveled extensively throughout the American West creating a diverse portfolio of dynamic images.

Bret’s work has appeared in magazines, calendars, travel guides and advertising campaigns. His clients include Backpacker magazine, Popular Photography, the Utah Office of Tourism, Charles Schwab & Co. and Jackson Hole Mountain Guides.

While Bret enjoys seeing his work in print, he receives the most satisfaction by helping others realize their potential as photographers. He accomplishes this by leading several group workshops each year and guiding photographers on private photo excursions. For information about his workshops and guided excursions, visit www.moabphotoworkshops.com. To view a collection of Bret’s images, visit www.bretedge.com.

Bret lives in Moab with his wife, Melissa, their son Jackson, and two All-Terrain Pugs named Bierstadt and Petunia.

 

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