Small changes to photos can yield Big results

Small changes to photos and yield Big results.

Sunset image Final by E.L. Ayres

Sunset image Final by E.L. Ayres

We often return from the field, anxious to verify what we were able to capture from an exciting shoot – only to discover that we also managed to pick up some distractions in an otherwise strong image. Either we missed it in the excitement of that special moment or had to include some things we normally would avoid. In either event, technology provides many ways to improve our work.

And sometimes, just applying some basic elements of composition can change an otherwise effective image. One of the common distractions often occurs in the fringe areas of the frame. It use to be that the image was destined for the trash heap. Not so much anymore.

The above super image send in by Lens Lugger E.L. Ayres had a distraction that, in this case, was necessary to make the image at all.

Here’s the original …

E.L.Ayres Image of sun over Stormy

E.L.Ayres Image of Sunset during Storm

This striking image certainly tells the story, and has been well composed – low horizon and good exposure. Looking more closely however. You’ll notice a white piece of sky peaking through at the top of the image. As the eye will naturally go to the lightest part of the scene, in this image it also watered down its intended message.

Returning the image to the post production computer program, there are a number of tools available to rectify this distraction. Cropping, cloning techniques, brushes, even an erasure tool that can help us.  Every computer program has some of those problem solvers, whether it be Adobe Lightroom. Adobe Photoshop, Elements, Nikon’s Aperture, Nikon’s Capture NX2, or Google’s Picasa. Have I missed any?

In Ayres case, he chose to crop across the top to eliminated the distraction. And while it eliminated part of the frame, turning the image into more of a panoramic scene, I think it saved the day

Comments invited…

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When is an Image not an Image?

You talk'n to me…? Bob Gryttebn photo

You talk’n to me…? Bob Grytten photo

When is an image not really an image?

In this issue we will explore that question…

My first reaction would be to say, never. But perhaps the real question should be… When does an image not communicate.

We’ve learned that a photograph means communicating with light and I believe that light is a major factor in making an image.

Alfred Stieglitz “Wherever there is light, one can photograph.”

Wikipedia defines “images” this way…An image (from Latin: imago) is an artifact that depicts or records visual perception, for example a two-dimensional picture, that has a similar appearance to some subject – usually a physical object or a person, thus providing a depiction of it.

For our purpose; however, before we get too far afield right now, let’s stay with the communication part of the discussion. At the same time we will recognize that some images have less communication impact than others. They’re just as worthy. Some images merely describe a subject like a butterfly or dog or person – documenting what the subject looks like. For that we often rely on Technical Skills to make the image as sharp as possible, with as few distractions as possible, good exposure etc., — so there will be no question as to what the purpose of the image is.

Let’s move to the next level; however, to explore a photo as a way to illustrate an event or story — communicate, if you will.

I solicited a random subject and Lens Lugger Beverly Slone sent in an image she took of two people and a dog. It is an excellent example of technique – sharp image, good depth of field, and effective exposure.


What can we do to guide us in the making of an image? Bryan Peterson, in his book Learning to See Creatively discusses Design, Color and Composition of Images, and I think now were beginning to approach what makes that WOW image? — the visual show stopper.

He discusses shape, form, texture, pattern, lines, and color. I think the more images we make, the better we become – but in steps.

First, we become familiar with our camera, then we begin to see things once the equipment becomes more automatic. Next, we begin to see a little differently. Then once we understand the elements of design we begin to incorporate them in our images — and all of a sudden our work magically improves. One instructor called it “practiced intuition.”

The Human Mind Seeks Order

Knowing that the mind seeks order helps us design or make effective images out of chaos. The strongest images seem to incorporate design elements. Our example above incorporates a bunch of them. Color – red and green are complimentary colors (go well together). The eye goes to the lightest color first – that would be the dog. The dog’s leash, while it isn’t strong visually  (the mind fills that in – because of the way the person sitting has his arms) and the other person is looking down which actually draws our eyes toward the dog.

However, while I liked the image, I felt there was a lot going on; but, it couldn’t be avoided. It was there. Then I employed a technique I use to help define elements where a lot of different colors exist. Convert to B&W.  This is what resulted…

Street Scene by Beverly slone

Street Scene by Beverly Slone

Suddenly order came to the image within the shades of grey and white. The doggie really popped out, and the arms of both persons seemed to point toward the dog. Three images also appeared – the dog, and the two heads – each contributing to the story. Isn’t this computer stuff great!!

Stepping out of the box…

Beverly also sent along three other images that are effective. Normally, Beverly shoots nature; however, she was interested in “branching out a bit,” she said. Nature is a great place to develop skills. Applying them to anything can be a automatic transition.

Think non distracting background. And getting closer

Alley Art by Baverly Slone

Alley Art by Baverly Slone

This is the first image Beverly sent…

Notice how much order there is in this image. Probably the first thing is the fire escape on the diagonal. It helps to hold the viewers eye in the frame.

The three trash cans are also repetitive  and the stairs give the viewer a idea about walking through the door, even including the hint of a hand rail.

No caption is required – the elements in the scene are suggestive. And of course once the viewer can’t escape out of the scene, the treat is the stuff written on the wall. A+

Iron on Wall by Beverly Slone

Iron on Wall by Beverly Slone

The next example is simple and all eye candy. The effective graphic here is repetion. It could have been any element – a subject itself does not make an effect image.

Tan Man by Beverly Slone

Tan Man by Beverly Slone

Our third and final image speaks for itself. Clean background, subject, symbol, involvement. All the elements of a first rate Photo Illustration.

Also notice – the photographer placed the eyes in the rule of thirds upper right quadrant, as well as the hand in the lower left quadrant.

Something to think about  next time we have a person to photograph.

No caption required. all visual communication.

Thank you, Beverly.

PS. To develop the eye to recognize images that will work, one simply has to look at a lot of effective images. Consider looking at the works of Master Painters. Let the information flow in. At some point that buildup of knowledge comes out. At some point knowing what ones sees becomes automatic. Called practiced intuition.

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Cataloochee Valley Elk – the Rut

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Lens Luggers in the Spotlight – Beverly Slone and Diane Jettinghoff

Lens Luggers in the Spotlight – Beverly Slone and Diane Jettinghoff

Waxy Caps. Besst of Show Award at 2014 County Fair by Beverly Slone

Waxy Caps. Best of Show Award at 2014 County Fair by Beverly Slone

Photo by Bob Grytten

Photo by Bob Grytten

Waxy Caps by Beverly Slone receives Best in Show at 2014 Haywood County Fair, NC USA

Zebra Breath, 2nd Best of Show, by Beverly Slone

Zebra Breath, 2nd Best of Show, by Beverly Slone


Zebra Breath by Beverly Slone receives Second Best of Show, ’14 County Fair

Bee on Dalhia Blue Ribbon Award 2014 County Fair by Beverly Slone

Bee on Dalhia Blue Ribbon Award 2014 County Fair by Beverly Slone


Bee on Dalhia by Beverly Slone receives Blue Ribbon, ’14 Haywood County Fair

Mountain Layers by Beverly Slone - Blue Ribbon

Mountain Layers by Beverly Slone – Blue Ribbon

Mountain Layers by Beverly Slone – Blue Ribbon ’14 County Fair

Lone Tree by Beverly Slone - Blue Ribbon winner

Lone Tree by Beverly Slone – Blue Ribbon winner




Lone Tree – Blue Ribbon winner by Beverly Slone, ’14 County Fair



Photo by Bob Grytten

Photo by Bob Grytten

Special Showing…

Diane Jettinghoff to hold one person show at City Lights in Sylva NC. Reception to be held Friday, September 12 from 6pm to 8pm. Light appetizers will be served. Jettinghoff’s work ranges from landscape to abstract to small studio to close-up. The theme of this show is “Close-up” and represents both North Carolina and Florida. City Lights Bookstore and Cafe is located downtown Sylva on Spring Street, one block up the hill from Main Street.



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Close to home, Looking Glass Falls – by Charles Coburn

Looking Glass Falls by Charles Coburn

Looking Glass Falls by Charles Coburn

Looking Glass Falls is a very popular falls for photographers and the general public as well, just outside of Brevard, NC on US 276, so going on a Wednesday provided a minimal invasion to disrupt capturing some images.  Working from the platform required careful composing of the image and only slight cropping in post production.  Image was made with a Nikon d300, set at f/22, ISO 200, 2.5 sec, and a focal length of 35mm, with a circular polarizer. The lens is a Tamron 18-200mm, f 3.5-6.3. Post processing was done in Lightroom.

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Close to home by Chuck Dayton – How he did it…

get-attachmentWe live on a small lake in MN near the Canadian Border in the summer. I often shoot loons early in the morning, especially when the air gets cooler and the mists are rising.

I also have a wonderful peddle kayak, works like a bicycle, so my hands are free for the camera, and it is less disturbing to wildlife.

I saw a gull on the water and was hoping to get it in flight. I wanted a shutter speed of at least 1/1000, so I had to set the ISO at 800 and the f stop at 4. Then I set the shutter at high speed firing and when the gull, flew, I let’er rip. Got the lucky curve of the wing/legs/water.

Usually, in trying to shoot flying birds, I would try to have the f stop higher because its hard to focus and the greater depth helps.

Lens Lugger Chuck Dayton

See other Photography Tips at Lens Lugger World.

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HDR saves problem Waterfall Photo… by Susan Lawrence

Connestee Falls by Susan L. Lawrence

Connestee Falls by Susan L. Lawrence

Woo-hoo!  I got 4 or 5 HDR shots in Brevard that made me happy—my first HDR successes.  The compositions themselves are not world class, but the HDR at 1 full stop +/- gave me a pleasing dynamic range. What do you think?









I forgot to turn off HDR when I turned around to shoot bees—processing bracketed bee shots in HDR gave an

Bee on Flower by Susan L. Lawrence

Bee on Flower by Susan L. Lawrence

interesting quality to them that I can’t quite describe.  Not what I am used to seeing from my camera but has creative possibilities as a technique…

See!  I really did learn something!  Thanks

Susan B


Here’s how I did it…

The Connestee Falls HDR image was created using 3 bracketed exposures,  +/- 1 stop, shot Aperture Priority, fully stopped down, at ISO 320 with a focal length of 425mm. The 3 exposures were at 1/8, 1/15 and 1/30 sec. HDR post-processing was done in Photoshop with HDR Efex Pro2, a NIK plug-in filter.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200.

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Wild potato vine to work or art by Susan Lawrence – How she did it…

From Photgraph to Painting by Susan L. Lawrence

From Photgraph to Painting by Susan L. Lawrence

 by Susan L. Lawrence

The Wild Potato Vine – How I Did It

I really liked the low-angle shot of the Wild Potato Vine taken along the Blue Ridge Parkway but I thought it lacked pizzazz —even after tweaking it in Lightroom.  So I opened the photo in Photoshop and started experimenting with various filters, looking for a way to go from a “blah” photo to an “eye-catching” flower illustration or painting.  Nothing seemed right until I realized that what I REALLY needed was a big ole bumble bee in the picture. After extracting a bee from a old photo,  I placed it on a Photoshop layer above the flower. 

Original Wild Potatoe Vine, Blue Ridge Parkway by Susan L Lawrence

Original Wild Potatoe Vine, Blue Ridge Parkway by Susan L Lawrence

What a difference that made!  Once the bee was in place to complete the composition, everything seemed to come together effortlessly.  It only took a few passes through various Topaz plug-in filters to pump up the color, reduce the photographic details, and add illustrative elements to the image to create the final colorful, eye-catching painting. 


Camera is a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200.






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Chuck Dayton contributes his photography talents… “Listening Point Foundation”

Listening Point talk: “Nature as Oracle: Sigurd Olson’s Never-ending search for spirituality in WIlderness”

Nature as Oracle: Sigurd Olson’s Never-Ending Search for Spirituality in Wilderness  

By Charles Dayton

Sigurd Olson: the very name conjures up visions-the North Woods, the deafening silence of the deep winter, campfire light flickering on a leathery face, the long low wail of the loon at sunset, a lone canoe slipping silently through the mist. His lyrical word pictures of the beauty of the North Country expressed the feelings of those fortunate enough to have been there and made it live for others who had not. But Sigurd Olson went far beyond nature’s beauty, in order to seek its meaning for the human spirit, and therein lies


Dipping Dipper  \

his greatness. Sig’s experiences as a guide, a naturalist and a teacher had filled him with a great love that demanded release and expression. He described the process this way: “As time went on there was a certain fullness within me, more than mere pleasure or memory, a sort of welling up of powerful emotions that somehow must be used and directed. And so began a groping for a way of satisfying the urge to do something with what I had felt and seen,  (something) that would give life and substance to thoughts and memories, a way of recapturing, and sharing again the experiences that were mine.” IMG_0300.JPG He had a peak experience while viewing a simple and beautiful scene: “The little raft of ducks floating out in the open were caught that very instant in a single ray of light, and as the somber brown hills were brushed with it, the glow was around and within me.  Sigs-Ducks- “Then the sun dropped behind a cloud and the hills were dark as before, the ducks black spots against the water. But for a time, I saw them as they were in the glow, and knew nothing could ever be the same again.”IMG_7241   In that flash of insight he knew: he must write.spider web.041 “Suddenly the whole purpose of my roaming was clear to me, the miles of paddling and portaging, the years of listening, watching, and studying. I would capture it all, campsites and vistas down wild waterways, the crashing waves of storms and the roar of rapids,IMG_7769.JPG   sparkling mornings to the calling of the loons sunsets and evenings, whitethroats and thrushes making music.Nights when the milky way was close enough to touch I would remember laughter and the good feeling after a long portage, and friendships on the trail.” IMG_7162 - Version 2 But, the editors of Sig’s earliest stories wanted only simple descriptions of adventure in the woods, and they slashed away “bits of philosophy or personal conviction.” Finally, the editors accepted an article with a philosophical tone, and encouraged him in his belief that the sense of awe and mystery that he felt for the wild, his belief that humans could sense the meaning of life from the timeless cycles of nature, should be expressed.  In that article entitled “Search for the Wild,” Sig took issue with John Burroughs, a nature essayist.  Burroughs  had written that Thoreau viewed nature as an oracle questioning her as a naturalist and poet. While  Sig agreed with Burroughs’ characterization, he disagreed strongly with Burroughs conclusion  that Thoreau did not find what he was looking for.  Convinced that the “lifetime search of Thoreau had been fruitful and what he sought and found in the woods and fields around Concord, Walden Pond, and the Merrimack River was what we all seek when we go into the bush, . . .  I tried to prove that the never ending search for the essence of the wild was the underlying motive of all trips and expeditions…. I had dared speak of my deepest convictions, and for once there were no deletions. Read more …

<<FYI, I did have a chance to share my photos this spring when  I gave a talk to the “Listening Point Foundation” in Minnesota, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. Here’s the link to my blog.>>

Inspirational! Thanks, Chuck . Perhaps other Lens Luggers will find a way to share their work. –Bob

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Photos close to home – Soco Falls

Soco Falls, NC near Maggie Valley by Berverly Slone

Soco Falls, NC near Maggie Valley by Berverly Slone

“This image was taken from below the platform at Soco Falls while balancing on a rock and holding onto a rope that had been put up to get to the bottom of the falls.  This was made more difficult by folks going up and down and vibrating the rope.”  — Beverly Slone Lens Lugger World

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