For those of you who don’t know, I was a backcountry ranger in Yosemite several years ago and have been trying to get back ever since! So I used scouting as an excuse; I continue to try to convince Joel that a Sierra workshop would be amazing! If you’d be interested, let us know… The Sierra Nevada are as beautiful as I remember- it’s no wonder Ansel Adams spent so much time there. I spent most of my time in the high country so all of these locations are 10,000 ft (3050 m) or higher. I hiked about 35 miles in 3 days and my maximum elevation was a mountain pass at just over 12,000 ft (3700 m).
Photo Tech Notes:
I used a Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 for all of these, a small light weight camera with a lot of control. I used a polarizing filter on all but the night shot. I carried the Pedco Ultrapod Mini (tripod) with me in my backpack- small and light weight is a necessity! I used Lightroom 3 to process my color photos and Joel helped me use Photoshop, Nik Silver Efex Pro, Topaz Adjust and Topaz B&W Effects to process the black and whites. NOTE: For a 15 percent discount on Nik or Topaz products, use the links here and when you check out use the code JWOLFSON.
This time the photographer, instead of his wife, is writing this post. I’m very excited to announce a newly formed relationship with Topaz Labs. Who’s that? The company that makes some of my favorite and essential software tools which I use to improve my images prior to printing them. As many of you know I do all my own printing so preparing my images is a critical process that is the modern equivalent of my old wet darkroom, only way cooler! I also set up a discount with Topaz (use code JWOLFSON for 15% off any products and/or the code GETADJUSTED for 25% off Adjust) for any of you out there who are photographers and want to try their awesome plug-ins.
Here’s a quick behind-the-scenes example with some brief explanations:
Step 1: My original image (left side), shot in the Fall is this curvy aspen that looks like it’s dancing.
My first step, using Topaz Adjust, is to bring the slightly washed out leaves and sky in the background back to the way they looked (the camera often lies). I do this using the Adjust’s Adaptive Saturation to make them more vivid. I also use the Detail controls to bring out the detail in the bark. These are fairly subtle changes but look closely at the two images and you can see the differences. The adjusted image is on the right.
Step 2: Next I use Topaz ReMask to isolate the foreground tree. The funky colored image you see is what it looks like within the software when you create a “mask”. A mask is a cutout where you can block everything out except what you want to work on- in this case the foreground tree. Everything with a reddish cast gets blocked out, the blue outline tells the software what you are isolating, and the green area is what will show through the mask. The righthand image is the mask itself.
Final Step: Now with the tree isolated by the mask I just created, I can lighten it up which draws more attention to it. Voila! Here’s the final image (some of you may have noticed a black and white version of this in a previous post but that process I’ll save for another day…)
That’s the nutshell version of preparing this image!
If you are interested in trying these plug-ins you can take advantage of some discounts through my affiliation with Topaz- Use code JWOLFSON for 15% off all Topaz Products and the code GETADJUSTED for 25% off Adjust (Adjust ends August 1st, JWOLFSON discount is ongoing.)
Here are a couple shots we took in Firenze (Florence). Generally, Italian police don’t like photos so you have to be a little sneaky about it! There are several different types of police with varying responsibilities in Italy but I won’t begin to try to explain what I only barely understand myself… The two men pictured at the top are with the Polizia Municipiale (municipal or city police), and the man in the navy blue uniform below is with the Carabinieri (national or military police).
Joel always has fun shooting photos of people in Italy. And the people are definitely a large part of what makes Italy so great! Here’s a link with some of his favorite people shots from this trip.
A reminder- coming up June 11th, we’re doing another Digital Photo Basics Workshop through Flagstaff Cultural Partners. Part of the fee is a donation to a great organization! Please contact us or visit the website for more info!
We made it back home in about 30 hours… Wow! Very tiring, but happy to be back.
The day before we left, a local gave us a tour of a private castello (castle) that dates back to the 10th century. Parts of it were destroyed and/or damaged and reconstructed over the centuries and it was at the center of a farming community. It sits on the highest point between Florence and Siena, which made it a strategic location throughout history. One can see for miles in all directions from the top of the high tower. The current owners’ family purchased the property in the late 1800s. They make their own wine, olive oil and honey. Also on the grounds was a Romanesque church from the same time period- I thought the old wooden doors and stone walls were beautiful with the dappled light coming through the adjacent oak forest.
Today, we were lucky enough to be part of the “crowd” during a national cycling race. Watching how excited the people were was just as fun as the race itself. All the locals were posted at their windows to watch it, a better view than from the street I think.
After the racers left on their 150km journey, we noticed the trophy tent… Only in Italy do athletes get wine as part of their prize!
A local told us that this race is the last qualifier before riders go pro. I have to say, it was very exciting- especially the finish! It was really close at the end. Of course it was a great place to take photos too. All in all, a fun and pretty relaxing day. Once the race started, we couldn’t go anywhere anyway- everything was fenced up. And we didn’t mind at all.
I snapped the poppies with beautiful background on my way back to our hotel after lunch yesterday… if only this was my view at home! The sepia tone below is inside an ancient abbey that just begs to be shot in black and white!
Today we were actually in Siena- I hope to get a shot or two from our participants for my next post! Siena is one of my favorite days on our trip… We have a terrific guide to take us to some of the most important sites and tell us all about the history of Siena.
In Siena, the Palio is their most important “festa” all year long and occurs twice, once in July and once in August. The city becomes a different place during these two events and the rest of the year revolves around the Palio. We are looking into basing a photography workshop at the Palio for 2012… Very exciting!
Ciao for now.
In Siena, everyone hangs their laundry on dry sunny days. Today was absolutely gorgeous and there was laundry everywhere!
It is very early in the year for the farmers to cut hay, but this was freshly cut… amazing scenery, but not a lot of color. I thought it made for a nice black and white.
Gelati today in Siena and a delicious zuppa di farro e fagioli (bean and wheat berry soup), and pici al aglioni (fresh local pasta with garlic tomato sauce) for dinner… Mmmmm!
Here in Italy, old Fiats are prize possessions… at least the ones that are still running anyway! We’ve seen red ones, white ones, black ones, even an orange one. It seems every village has at least one old Fiat. Of course there is a back seat, but I can’t imagine who could fit inside it!
Right now there are flowers every where. The roses are blooming and smell wonderful. Italians are all about presentation in every aspect of life, and flowers are often their finishing touch on the beautiful old houses.
We arrived yesterday afternoon and fought the jet lag to stay up late enough in the evening to “reset” ourselves. We had a light dinner of fresh pasta and salad at one of our favorite restaurants and a good night’s sleep.
Today we spent the day driving some of the back roads to scout our shooting locations. Although the Tuscan scenery changes little, it is always beautiful and amazes us so! The sheep are not so smart, but very cute! And their milk makes very tasty local cheese…
For dinner this evening, we cooked fresh ravioli tartufo (truffle filled ravioli) and asparagi (asparagus) from the local market… Mmmm! Tomorrow, Montepulciano and Montalcino.
Ciao for now!
Take a workshop with a friend and share 40 percent off! This summer, for our two local shooting workshops, Light Painting in Northern Arizona (June 17-19) and Creative Black & White Part I (August 12-14), we’re offering 40% off the fee for the second person. For example, you and your friend sign up for the black and white workshop and we charge $495 for one of you and $297 for the other. You split the savings with your buddy and you can each save about 100 dollars!
It’s a great deal so sign up soon!
We leave for Italy in 1 week- we arrive several days early to scout our favorite locations and find some new ones… as well as get a little extra food and wine before the group arrives!