The value of photo editing

I’ve been going back over old collections of photos I’ve taken. I certainly use a few for Facebook and also, if they’re travel pics, to illustrate my travel blogs. But they represent just a handful of the photos I’ve actually taken. Some of the others are pretty good, too – in fact, better with time to dull my expectations.

Why am I trawling through old pictures? I’m glad you asked.

Since I take photos with a digital camera, I have software to edit said images. Most professionals use Lightroom and Photoshop for their image artistry. I used to, but these days Adobe has changed its model so you can’t buy the apps anymore. You have to pay a monthly fee, for which you get all upgrades and some online space to store images. But I can’t justify the cost, which is presently $180pa. So I bought Photoshop Elements, which is a cut-down version of Photoshop CC (the online version). Elements does all the standard processing, but CC has additional features that I admit I sometimes miss. Lightroom is a powerful photo processor which is only available online. So I bought Luminar, a stand-alone app which does pretty much what Lightroom does. Skylum has released a new version of Luminar which addressed some of the app’s shortcomings, so I invested in that as a kind of birthday present. (18th November – in case you missed it 😉)

And that is why I’ve been trawling through old photos.

You could say photo editing is cheating and I suppose it is in a way. But especially when you’re travelling, the weather is what it is. If you’re lucky, you have nice days and bright light. If you’re not – with photo editing you can make things a bit better. Especially if you save your files in RAW format – which you should if you want to do this sort of processing.

Here’s an example.

Earlier this year we went on a trip to the South Island of New Zealand. The weather was often positively miserable, even though the scenery was spectacular.  This is a photo I took through a window on the Transalpine train, which was, of course, moving. Given the circumstances, it’s not too bad. I suppose.

This is the same photo, brightened up a bit

And in this one I’ve used Luminar’s sky replacement feature, using a photo of birds flying at the beach. Hey – why not? I’m just mucking about.

It’s a much more interesting picture.

Here’s another example. We were in Europe doing the Rhine-Main-Danube river cruise. Evening was approaching – and so was a barge. I was on a moving boat and the barge was also moving – and the light was fading. As a result, my lovely Autumn picture has a decidedly washed out sky.

In this one, I used Luminar to pick up a sky I took around the same time, just focused on the sky. If I’d known how, I could have bracketed the exposures to get all the elements in different shots which could then be merged – but I didn’t. Anyway, I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a much better picture.

Of course, quite often I just want to tweak exposure or something. It’s much easier to do sitting at your desk than messing around with camera settings out in the world – especially if you and/or the subject are moving.

You also get to crop images and do some judicious removal of distracting bits of stuff.Here’s a good example.

This was taken from a moving boat (again) with fading light. It’s a dramatic picture of a black kite shouting at his rivals but all those branches get in the way.

So I did this.

Here’s one more, taken in fading light from a moving boat (same trip as the one above).

The Jabiru stork is feeding in the shallows, right next to the mangroves.

I brightened it up a bit.

Editing is almost as much fun as taking the photo in the first place.

Autumn has arrived

Autumn in the botanic gardens in Christchurch, I haven of serenity in this beleaguered city

The world’s been a pretty awful place lately, what with drought, floods, and terrorism. But I’ve said enough about that stuff, so I thought I’d talk about the weather.

Here in Australia our weather woes are continuing. Two large cyclones are active in the northern parts of the continent – TC Veronica on the west coast and TC Trevor on the east coast. Veronica is set to hit Whim Creek, between Karratha and Port Hedland. Trevor has crossed Cape York into the Gulf of Carpentaria, and is going to make landfall in the Northern Territory. Both storms will wreak havoc – and bring much-needed rain to the interior. If we’re lucky, Trevor will start to move south-east and we might get something from its tail. We have had some rain here, enough to revitalise our garden, but we’d like a bit more.

Majestically ignoring the concerns of its inhabitants, the world has continued its dance around the sun. The equinox has passed, so now the days in Australia are becoming shorter. Autumn, or Fall as many call it, is my favourite time of the year. In cooler climates the trees put on a spectacular show. In warmer places like ours the temperatures are warm and calm. So here are some of my favourite Autumn photos taken over the years.

I’ll start with the botanic garden at Christchurch, a beautiful haven in that beleaguered  city.

I took this in Christchurch’s botanic garden when I visited the city last year

One of my favourite Autmn photos. Autumn finery reflected in the Rhine

Autumn in the Wachau Valley October 2015

Autumn colours and sunrise tints at Durnstein on the Danube

Autumn from the deck at our house in Greendale. The evergreen eucalyptus forest is behind our exotic deciduous trees

Silver birches preparing for the winter chill at Greendale

Golden light and calm seas are what Autumn’s all about

The sun’s just up and the rupples sparkle like silver paper

Calm seas, clear skies, bright ripples

I must be getting better at this

Melbourne Southbank

Like it says on the header – writer, photographer, animal lover, space nut. It has been a little while since I addressed the commercial part of ‘photographer’, so recently I decided to divert my procrastination in the writing arena into offering a few photos to the stock photo sites I use to sell my wares.

Most of the pictures I’ve had online have been of birds, insects, or whales. To be honest, I’d found Dreamstime (which is a large stock photo site used by a LOT of designers) wasn’t very interested in my landscapes and sunset/sunrise shots, so I stopped sending them. Then I figured, all they can do is refuse. They didn’t (!). There are millions of photos on these sites, many of the same place. I had a lot of excellent photos of our Rhine cruises refused because, “we’ve already got lots of the same subject and this photo isn’t better.” Which is fair enough. But it seems the Australian landscape category isn’t quite so full.

I’ve even added a few quite old pictures to my collection. That said, I can certainly see how the quality has improved over the years. What I might once have thought was an OK photo is these days relegated to the ‘meh’ basket. Or even deleted.

Dreamstime accepted all the pictures I posted – except one. That very nice (if I do say so myself) picture of Southbank in Melbourne was refused. I knew not to show any logos, and carefully removed the few that were visible. But even that was not enough. I would have had to obtain property releases (permission to use their building in a photo) for Dreamstime to accept the picture. I expect the main culprit for that one would be Crown Casino – but – it’s not that important to me.

Buildings can be copyrighted. You can’t sell a photo of the Sydney Opera House without permission, and that’s just one I know about, Here’s what Dreamstime has to say about these matters.

check carefully for copyright issues such as labels, logos, characters from cartoons or movies etc. Note that some buildings are protected by a trademark (such as new sculptures), cars like Ferrari and Porsche, Harley Davidson motorcycles, the Coca-Cola bottle, the Olympic logo circles.

Bright spinnakers contrast with the storm clouds in a yacht race near Fraser Island

This photo (above) was refused because of the spinnakers. There are no logos on those sails – just standard bought-from-the-shop colour. But as we all know, many racing boats have sponsorship. I might have tried explaining the issue didn’t exist for my picture, but honestly, I couldn’t be bothered.

And I suppose all this makes sense. If a designer bought an image with a logo on it, then used it to sell something which would impact that logo, the owner of the logo would have every right to be annoyed. For example, a BMW bike ad showing a broken down Harley-Davidson (or something), I’m sure you can think of others. Any photos with recognisable people in them need a model release for the same reason, if the photo is for commercial use. You may think that’s not really an issue for me. I don’t take pictures of people – but it’s a consideration even if the people are in there by accident. For example, a photo of a whale spy-hopping. It’s nice to include people in those scenes, but I’d need a model release if the people could be identified, even from the back, like in the photo below.

Whale spy-hopping

Before you ask, I don’t sell many images. My best sellers (ha ha) are whale shots. So why do I do it? Well, quite a few people asked me if I sold photos when I posted pictures on Facebook. That encouraged me to try a stock photo site, where I quickly discovered that the quality required was quite a few notches above ‘looks good on Facebook’. And in the end, that’s why I do it. I get a silly little buzz when stock sites accept my photos simply because it means they’re technically good enough to make the cut.

And while you might think that ‘technically good enough’ is the same for all sites, it’s not. I’ve had photos accepted at Canstock and not Dreamstime and vice versa. So I guess there’s an element of subjectivity in the process.

Of course, you can see most of these online at Dreamstime. But I thought I’d share some, anyway. And one that didn’t make the grade.

Late afternoon sun lights up the cliffs at Geikie Gorge

A contrail catches the hidden sun as the horizon lightens

Sunlight strikes the rocks around Wilpena Pound

A moss-covered tree in temperate rain forest

Millaa-Millaa Falls is the highest waterfall in the Atherton Tablelands. I took out the people in the image before I sent this.

3 lorikeets fighting for position. This one wasn’t accepted by any of the stock sites – too much noise, too much out of focus. But there you go – those aspects are what gives the image its sparkle (IMO)