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F Stop For Creativity

If you're familiar with camera gear, most of us know that the aperture of the lens is one of the factors that controls the amount of light entering the camera. It operates like the pupil of your eye. When you walk into a dark room, your pupil opens up to allow more light in. In contrast, when going from a dark area to a bright area, the pupil becomes smaller to reduce the amount of light. The same thing is happening with the aperture of the lens. The photographer opens up the aperture in dark situations to allow more light to enter the camera and strike the film or digital sensor. 

But there's another aspect of aperture that we should take into consideration with every image. It helps control how much of our image is in focus, and this is a major decision in the artistic process. Changing the depth of field can greatly alter the way an image feels and, at times, can make or break your photo. Take these two images for instance. Same composition, same lens, but I changed the aperture to create two images that are quite different from one another.

With this first image, I chose an aperture of f/4 for "shallow" depth of field or not much in sharp focus. 


For this next image, I chose an aperture of f/40 for a lot of depth of field/lots in focus. Notice how the background is no longer out of focus and has even become distracting. Is either wrong or right? just depends on the look you are going for. 

Ultimately, I went for the softer look simply because I liked it better. I processed the image with Lightroom and Color Efex Pro4 with the "pastel" filter. Experiment with your depth of field. Keep the images and make your creative decisions back on the computer. And have fun!




Lightroom's Dehaze Feature

I've been a huge Photoshop user for over a decade. My colleagues have been twisting my arm for the past few years to use Lightroom. Well, they succeeded. I now use BOTH! I organize, keyword, and do basic adjustments in Lightroom and do the bulk of my editing in Photoshop along with the use of plug-ins like NIK and Topaz. 

However, the new release of Lightroom CC has me using the program more often. I have to say I love the new HDR and Panorama features of Lightroom. Those are talked about quite a bit and I won't delve into them today. But there's a feature that most folks overlook and I think it's worth demonstrating. It's the DeHaze feature located in the "Effects" panel. I rarely use this panel but I'll definitely be using it now when the situation calls for it.

This image was taken along the Blue Ridge Parkway at dawn. The distant fog obscured the hilltops and the image lacks detail. Some images look fine that way but I felt this one needed a little work. Previously, I might reach for the Clarity slider to bring out some contrast but I'll give the new DeHaze a try.

Here's the image with the Dehaze at about 40%. You can see enhanced contrast and detail. Also notice that it also brought out some blue/cyan undertones.

Take care, however, in how much you push this slider. Each image will react differently. This next image shows the slider at 100%. That blue tone has come out quite a bit and my originally warm photo now looks very cool. Easy fix with the white balance slider though.

I settled on a dehaze value of about 50% before bringing the photo into Photoshop to finish it off. I used Google/NIK's Color Efex Pro4's "skylight" filter to warm the photo and the "tonal contrast" filter to bring out more overall contrast to the mid-tones. 

The final image is representative of what I saw and felt when I stood on the parkway as the sun rose higher in the sky. What a beautiful morning!