Wednesday, December 08, 2004

First Snowfall

It's been a little while since I updated here. I've been busy caring for a family member for much of the last week, and when I wasn't busy doing that I was trying to catch up on everything else I was falling behind on. But that all has very little to do with photography (other than that it was taking away my photography time), so it's really not important to this blog.

What I've been meaning to post here are some of my snow photos. Thanksgiving day brought our first snowfall of the season here in Michigan. The snow fell overnight, but by the time morning rolled around, the snow here in the city was pretty much already melted away. However, as luck would have it, we were going to my sister's house further north, and they happened to get about 6 inches of snow overnight, so it had not yet melted. I was sure to bring my camera, and my niece and I went out for a little bit of snow photography. This was my first chance ever to get out and shoot some snowy pics, and while several of the pics didn't come out quite like I was hoping, I managed to snag a fair number of keeper shots. Here are a few of my favorites:

I also took a stab at converting a few pics to black and white. I've done this a few times in the past, and have always been a bit disappointed with the results. The shading just doesn't come out right (some things I'd expect to be light come out dark, and vice versa), and there is an overall lack of contrast (things end up more toward middle grey tones rather than black or white). While using a simple grayscale conversion or desaturate seems like the obvious thing to do, I leaves much to be desired.

So I decided to put a little more work into my grayscale conversions. I've read for quite some time about people using the channel mixer to do grayscale conversions, but I've never tried it myself. This seemed like as good a time as any. I've yet to develop any real technique for doing so...mostly I just played around with the channels at random until I found something I liked. I was really pleased with the results from this pics. They were considerably better than a simple convert to grayscale or desaturate.

Another technique I played around with was hue adjustment. In mixing the channels, sometimes you find a mix where everything looks good, except maybe one thing looks out of place...perhaps the sky. One trick for fixing this can be to add a Hue adjustment layer to change only that one color (such as blue) into a different color (green, red, orange, or whatever). While this would look silly in a color image, once you apply the channel mixer it can look ever better if you shift the color of concern to another color that is better or worse represented in the channel mix, making it brighter or darker.

I also played around with using local contrast enhancement. This technique involves applying an unsharp mask to the image with settings of roughly amount=20, radius=50, threshold=0. This gives you better contrast in small and medium sized areas (where you notice it most) without significantly affecting the larger areas. For example, if you have a large section of sky and want to increase the contrast in the rest of the picture, using a regular contrast adjustment will brighten or darken your sky at the same time as everything else. Local contrast enhancement (on the other hand) will leave your sky mostly untouched. You will get a little bit of lightening at the edges of the large areas, but with an amount of only 20%, it shouldn't even be noticeable.

After working with all 3 of these techniques, here is what I ended up with:

Finally, after I was already finished with these shots, a few days later I discovered another possibility for B&W conversion. First convert the image to LAB mode, then select only the L (lightness) channel, and THEN do a conversion to grayscale. This will drop the A & B channels and leave you with the grayscale L channel. While it generally wont give you as good of a blend as the channel mixer, it does give pretty decent results without any fuss. If you are in a hurry, this is probably a better bet than using a convert to grayscale or a desaturate...a decent balance of simple/quick vs. nice looking.

As I get to practicing this some more, I'll try to throw together a little walkthrough of the process. here to read more!