Tuesday, March 27, 2012

step-by-step, from a sidewalk in Insadong

I've been meaning to post a complete, beginning-to-end, 'snapseeding' of a photo. Earlier today, I finally sat down in a coffee-shop, capturing step-by-step screen-shots on my iPhone: follow these shots and you'll get a step-by-step description of what you can do with snapseed.

Last summer, I spent a couple of days in Insadong (a historic neighborhood in central Seoul), and here's one of the snapshots I took with my iPhone--a 'haraboji' (respectful Korean term for 'grandfather') painting fans on the sidewalk:
From the snapseed app, you can open a photo directly from your phone's camera roll to begin editing.
(You also have the option of taking a photo directly from within the app.) One of the things that caught my eye in this scene was the expression on the young girl's face, her fascination as she watched the old artist using bamboo brushes to paint landscapes and calligraphy on the fan. In the middle of this frenetic smart-phone-crazed city, it was nice to see a parent and child enjoying traditional craftsmanship from the past...

Using the "tilt & shift" filter on the lower right, I wanted to narrow the focus so that only her face and the artist's hand would be in the same 'zone of clarity.' When you tap on the 'tilt & shift' icon, you immediately get this:
Whoa. A bit much. 
So, you can 'temper it'...
I use the elliptical option instead of the full linear option; you can use your fingers to determine exactly what you want to include in the clearly-focused area, how much blur you want, and where you want it to start--the 'transition zone:' 

Including the girl's face down to the artist's hand working on the fan, I also up the saturation a bit: 

 And so this is the result:

Wanting to have a bit of an old-fashioned vignette effect (darker corners), I then choose the 'center focus' filter. When that comes up, the photo seems instantly overly blurred. No worries--you can control that--note how I change the 'center size' (see the bottom of the shot) from "+20%"...

...to "77%," and also how I can shift the center (the blue dot) over:

So, now you can see the image with the corners slightly darkened:

Next, using the 'selective adjust' filter, I can pinpoint spots where I want to play with the brightness, color, and saturation. The "B"-circle in the shot below shows that I've chosen to bring out the artist's hand...
 ...by brightening it a bit...
 ...and now the girl's face, also brightened a bit:
 ...and then finally, saturating the colors on the 
landscape painting on the fan a bit more:
Finally, a bit of tweaking with exposure and contrast--
using the 'ambiance' feature of the "tune image" filter:

And this is the final result,
focusing on the old-young, observer-creator axis,
'in the eyes of a younger fan:'

However, knowing that photos showing the recognizable face of a minor aren't always 'publishable,' (I didn't think about asking 'formal permission' of the girl and her mother to take their photo; it was just a candid phone-shot on a busy street), I thought another possibility from this scene would be to blur the edges some more, to zero in on the artist only instead of focusing on him and his admirer.

I go back to the 'tilt & shift' filter,
this time using the elliptical selection tool to focus on the artist's hand and his fans: 
 But seeing all the blurred faces at the top of the scene seems
distracting to me--makes me want to rub my eyes,
put in some eye-drops, check my contacts, etc...
too much blur.

 But I still want to focus only on the artist and his work. Time to crop:

...and then back to the 'ambiance' feature
in the 'tune image' filter:

...and finally,
why not?--let's frame it: 

 voilà, fini:
With so much manufactured now for the souvenir trade, it was refreshing to see this 'haraboji' painting his fans, one by one, inkstone at his feet, painting slowly in the shade...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

first and recent; too much and then none

No postings last week--getting food-poisoning while on an out-of-town trip--not fun.
Back home now.

I was going through my iPhone's camera roll, and thought I would post one of the very first photos that I 'snapseeded' back in December:
...kinda went crazy with the tilt-shift filter.
It was my 'flavor-of-the-month' I suppose, and I wasn't as judicious.
Still, it's a fun way to focus on a person, 
with shapes rather than details of architecture in the background.
Also, the flat rainy sky--boring--so, saturation and blur
focus on the person, while still allowing the atmosphere of the place
to color the scene--
definitely a snapshot of a memory
rather than architectural documentation...

Here's the original photo, taken last summer:
It's a downtown scene in central Seoul, showing some of the skyscrapers in the background of the Deoksugung Palace. Originally built as a prince's villa in the late 1400's, this complex became the final residence of the last king of the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910). It's one of the best spots in the city to photograph the juxtaposition of old/new, east/west, ancient/modern...

And with anything historical, the temptation to 'go sepia' is great:
Snapseed doesn't have a dedicated 'sepia' filter,
but using the black-&-white filter,
and then using the 'white balance' function
within the 'tune image' filter,
you can get the same effect.

So, two different snapseeded versions of the same photo.

Now--a recent photo, close to home:--from the quirky mile-high mining town of Bisbee, in the Mule Mountains near the Mexican border in Cochise County, AZ:
225 Tombstone Canyon Rd.
Someone likes RED, eh? 
A façade of found objects...

No tilt-shift here--just some cropping and then warming up the color temperature a bit:
Gotta love the etch-a-sketch interspersed with the firemen's caps...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

desert, jungle, palace, mountain...and 'bokeh'

I was flipping through the British magazine "Digital Photographer" the other day in the bookstore, and an article caught my eye: "Smartphones with shutters" (p. 58) In it, writer and photographer Dylan Baker highlighted these statistics (and the italics are mine): 

"Of the estimated 600 billion digital photos taken annually, over 60 per cent are taken on cameraphones--and the market for point-and-shoot cameras themselves remains flat. It seems that the point-and-shoot may eventually be replaced by the smartphone, with compact system cameras and DSLRs remaining the ideal choices for enthusiasts." He goes on to write:  "Since the launch of Apple's App store in 2008, and subsequent offerings such as Android's Marketplace, there have been more and more reasons to use a smartphone as your primary everyday camera. Apps have transformed the experience with everything from basic editing tools to programs that will emulate the look and feel of vintage cameras and film..." Also, there is the convenience: "The fact that you'll always have your phone on you is one of the greatest benefits of shooting with a smartphone."

So...on to some more snapseeding from the past week.

First, from last weekend's wildflower hike in Catalina State Park, just NW of Tucson. Last fall and winter gave us well-timed rains, and so the poppies, lupine, and paintbrush are putting on a welcome display in the desert--nice to see after last spring's drought-and-late-freeze-induced no-show.

I took this shot with my Canon, but then thought it would be fun to snapseed it, so I e-mailed it to my iPhone. (This was before I found out that Nik software just released snapseed for desktop--both OS X and Windows...but I still prefer the intuitive--and portable!--'swiping' on my iPhone.)

So, with a bit of tilt-and-shift, as well as the center-focus filter for the vignette effect,
voilà, a 'transplanted' and snapseeded desert wildflower scene:
I posted the photo, and immediately got a comment: "Nice Bokeh!" Well, thanks...except that it's not really 'bokeh.'  This photo effect (taken from a Japanese word), has always been reliant on lens and aperture settings...but now, with digital darkrooms, you can do a pretty good job of simulating it. It's amazing how easy it is to do with snapseed.


Now...on to Guatemala. Several years ago my wife and I were fortunate enough to be able to visit the Mayan ruins in Tikal National Park, in the NE of the country, in the Petén region of the Yucatán peninsula. The temple pyramids in the jungle are among the tallest stone structures ever built in the Americas; not until skyscrapers arose in New York in the 20th century did construction reach higher! I had just bought my first digital camera--a 5 MP Canon point-and-shoot...still learning how to use it while trekking beneath the howler monkeys and strangler fig vines...From the top of Temple IV (about the height of a 25-story building), I took this view of the tops of the Jaguar Temple and the Mask Temple:

I've always had fun with 'my-feet-in-the-scene-shots,' but ACK!--the flash went off! 
Blurry feet and everything washed-out...
So--a fun 'remember-that?' shot, but not really anything to 'show'...
So, I thought I'd snapseed it:
some cropping,
more saturation in the sky, (using the 'drama filter'),
and a bit of tilt-and-shift around the temple-tops peeking above the forest canopy:
The sky's not perfect--but this 'transplanted' photo is a much better travel snapshot than the original, no?

Now, for the palace.
Covering 78 acres of hilly forest in the heart of Seoul, "Huweon," the 'rear garden' of Changdeok-gung Palace is better known by the city's millions as 'Biweon'--'the Secret Garden.'

Once exclusively for the Royal family, today it's a favorite spot for local couples and foreign visitors alike. In the early 19th century, the Joseon dynasty kings built, in the middle of this wooded enclave, a 'country-villa,' (part of which you see below), as a rustic respite from the duties of governing. Even royalty needed an oasis from the fishbowl of the palace, it seems.

I spent an afternoon alone here, contmplating history and family...a few weeks later, it was a joy to show my wife, on her first visit to Korea, these lush grounds, strolling in the summer rain.
I took this doorway shot quickly; my Canon's battery had died,
and all I had was my iPhone...
Months later--flipping back through my phone's photos,
this scene was crying out for some tweaking:
a bit of cropping,
some tilt-shifting to get the focus through the doorway,
then converting to black and white,
and then 'warming up' the 'white balance' in the 'tune image' filter,
I got this semi-sepia scene:
...walk into the past...


And finally, tonight, a scene from what was home for us during the last year we lived in Seattle,
when we returned from living in Nicaragua. On an early autumn morning, this scene of Mt. Rainier looming over the fog, from our apartment balcony:
This was taken with the same Canon 5-megapixel point-and-shoot 
that took the original Guatemalan scene above. 
So--another 'snapseed-transplant:'
I didn't tweak this one too much--
just some cropping
and a little bit of 'tilt-and-shift'
so that the trees in the foreground would blur,
setting off the distant fog and mountain in clearer focus:
When "The Mountain is out," as Puget Sound residents say, everything else pales...
This glacier-covered volcanic giant presides over the entire landscape.
When the fog blankets the valleys, urban and suburban sprawl disappear--
enjoy the feeling of being alone with sky and mountain, 
on top of the world, even if only for a morning.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

a 'delicious' shot..and local wildflowers

For week number two of the afar.com travel highlight competition, these were the themes:

WEEK 2 February 23rd – 29th
DELICIOUS. Everyone talks about food; we want to hear the real details. A perfect ramen discovery in the middle of Paris. The best place for avocados at your local farmers market.
ARE WE THERE YET? Embarking on your daily commute or navigating the Japanese subway. What surprises have you uncovered while getting from point A to point B that AFAR travelers would want to hear about?

I submitted a few for both themes, and...I won again!

above, on the home page,
below, the 'highlight' itself:

Two weeks in a row, now, in which iPhone photos won--not shots from a 'fancy' camera!
All edited in the palm of my hand--
more proof that it's not necessarily the length of the zoom
of the number of megapixels;
it's what you see, what you choose to to frame--
all in your eyes and your hands...


Last Sunday, we went out to Saguaro National Park West to see some of the wildflowers; spring's arrived early this year, and with the decent winter rains, the poppies are putting on a show--a nice display after last year's drought-and-late-freeze-induced floral no-show:
I submitted the above photo to the local newspaper, and it was published a few days ago here.

A few more shots from that day:
 --playing with the 'center focus'  filter in order to bring out the 'yellow flower road' in the center

--some 'tilt and shift' and 'drama' work to make the lupine pop a bit; the mid-day lighting was harsh 

--a field of low poppies really lends itself to the 'tilt-and-shift' filter 

--and some more 'tilt-and-shift' filtering for the prickly-pear amidst the poppies

It's a beautiful spring in the Sonoran Desert this year; I went for another wildflower hike today--the season doesn't last long--both with the big camera and with my iPhone...will find some time to upload those scenes from Catalina State Park later this week.

AND--head to your local Starbucks if you want to get snapseed for FREE right now; it's their freebie 'pick of the week' app! Start snapseeding!