Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Image Making Post Processing with Topaz Impressions

By John D. Roach

During the past few months, I have been experimenting with more and more post processing techniques.  One of those techniques involves the use of Topaz Impression a software created by Topaz Labs that offers photographers the opportunity to create images that go beyond the usual camera capture and tonal renderings achieved within the camera or in more traditional post processing techniques.  

Topaz Impressions gives the photographer an opportunity to make painterly images with a set of adjustable presets that can make an image look like a pencil sketch, water color, pastel or a variation of a famous master such as Cezanne, Turner, Hopper, O'Keefe, Degas, and many more.   Sometimes I see an opportunity to create a "new" and creative look from an image I have previously created as a quite good traditional photograph.  Additionally, I have also found Topaz a useful post processing tool to occasionally create an alternative image for an image that had rather lackluster exposure or tonality into a photographic work of art.

Here are some examples:

Afternoon at the Lagoon (Original Infrared Image)

Afternoon at the Lagoon (in the Style of Van Gogh)

Chicago (HDR)

Chicago (Pencil Sketch)

Chicago (Original Exposure)

Chicago (Watercolor)

Hyacinth and Lily (Original)

Hyacinth and Lily (Watercolor)

Driftwood (Original)

Diftwood (Pastel)

There are option!  It is fun to discover possibilities and create something new.  So grab your camera, capture some images and then take a look at software options to create your digital dark room!

Copyright August, 2015

John D. Roach

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Summer Evening Light at Milwaukee's Lakefront

The Coalition of Photographic Arts held its annual picnic at Cupertino Park at the Milwaukee lakefront in the Bayview area on Tuesday, August 11, 2015.  There were many CoPA members there who shared great conversation on a beautiful summer evening.  In addition to the schmoozing everyone enjoyed eating their favorite picnic food including grilled burgers, hot dogs, brats, and even a steak.  

Some conversation was about not only what and how folks were doing, but also their cameras and their latest adventures in capturing the light.  iPads and smart phones were sometimes launched to show image captures of the members work as they talked about their latest photographic adventures.  

Additionally, some of the members walked down to the lakefront to capture some the golden light at sunset.  

This was an evening of great fun catching up with friends and acquaintances as well as meeting new folks.  I know that I had a chance to talk to some CoPA members I had not met before.  

Isn’t that what happens at picnics?  We get a chance to meet and connect more with those we already know as well as meet new members and share our common interest in photography as the fine art form it is and further nurture CoPA and its membership.

To learn more about CoPA visit their website at  http://www.copamilwaukee.com.

Copyright August 12, 2015, 

John D. Roach

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

My First Steps into the world of Infrared (IR) Photography

Today, I will offer you a little information that I have learned in my new adventure with IR Photography.  First, what is IR Photography?  It is for the most part light we can not see.  There is however some portion of the light spectrum which we can call "near IR" which is slightly visible to the naked eye.  Infrared is a portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that is just above visible light.

The chart that you can see below shows the range of the electromagnetic spectrum.  The wave lengths in the electromagnetic spectrum consists of numerous waves that fall in to one of the ranges in the spectrum – radio, microwaves, infrared, visible, ultraviolet or gamma rays waves. The distance between two waves is called the wavelength and is measured in (NM) nanometers (a millionth of a meter). Using light’s wavelength, we can tell what color it is and which range of the electromagnetic spectrum it is in.

Humans can only see light with wavelengths of between 400nm and 700nm, as shown on the chart above. This range is called visible light. Humans cannot see any light with wavelengths above or below this range without special equipment.  
Ultraviolet light
Ultraviolet light has a frequency of 10nm to 400nm, meaning that it is not visible to the human eye. Its wavelength is longer than that of X-Rays, but shorter than visible light. Ultraviolet has a large number of uses at various wavelengths. Bug zappers use UV at 350-370nm because flies are most attracted to ultraviolet light at 365nm, whereas 250-300nm UV is used for forensic analysis and drug detection.
Ultraviolet is also heavily used for security purposes such as card readers. Many sensitive documents, such as passports or credit cards, include watermarks or images that can only be seen under UV light. 
Visible light
A typical human eye can see light from 400nm to 700nm on the electromagnetic spectrum. This range is called ‘visible light’.  Not all colors that humans can distinguish are in the visible spectrum; for example, pink is not included as it is a mix of multiple visible spectrum colors.
Some species can see light that is not in the visible spectrum. Bees can see ultraviolet light this helps them navigate to seek out nectar in flowers, many other insects and birds can also see ultraviolet light.

Near infrared light

Near infrared light is in the range of 700nm-1400nm on the electromagnetic spectrum and has wavelengths that are longer than those of visible light, meaning that humans can’t see it. Infrared photography most commonly uses near infrared light.   That area of the light spectrum overlaps visible light and infrared light in the 590nm to 920nm range.
A common misconception is that near infrared light is used for thermal imaging, but you actually need far infrared light that.  Near infrared light, is also used in in medicine for a technique named photo-biomodulation for the treatment of oral ulcers caused by chemotherapy and wound healing. 

Far infrared light

Far infrared light is in the 15μm-1mm region of the electromagnetic spectrum. Unlike near infrared, which can only detect reflected infrared light, far infrared can ‘see’ sources of heat. This makes it useful for thermal imaging. An example use of this would be for fire fighters to seek out bodies in smoky, dark conditions.  NOTE:  Everyday infrared photography does not use far infrared light, as it would be too expensive for most people to afford. However, specialised equipment is available for use by businesses and authorities.
In Infrared Photography we want we want to block visible light and only pass infrared light or some quantity of infrared light in order to remove much of the visible color we normally see when light is  reflected on the camera sensor.
My Adventure

My adventure in IR Photography began by purchasing a standard IR Filter rated at 720nm.  This filter was screwed onto the front end of my camera lens.  The images were created by first focusing without the 720 IR Filter and then attaching the filter (which blocked almost all light) and without changing any setting, focus, etc. on the camera and lens, hit the shutter release to capture an image which the Digital camera saw as primarily RED.  I then had to download that strange looking image and adjust it using software to change the RGB (Red, Green and Blue) relationships so that I could create an artistic image that could show unique color or be converted to Black & White for an artistic Monochrome look.

Subsequently, I purchased a filter rated at 590nm which blocked less IR light and experimented the same way.  It was only then that I decided it was worth getting one of my cameras converted to IR.  In that way, I didn't have to mess with putting a filter on the lens because the filter would be after the lens directly on top of the camera light sensor.  In this way, I can see the scene I want to photography and then the image is created with the same results of color removal that I would get with the IR filter attached to the lens.

Sometime in the future when I learn more I will write more about IR Photography for now here are 
some examples of images I have created with lens filters as well as the newly converted camera.

Taken with a standard 720nm lens filter

Taken with a 590nm lens filter

Taken with 590nm converted camera
with color manipulation

Taken with 590nm converted camera
with conversion to monochrome for effect

Taken with 590nm converted camera
with color adjusted for effect

Taken with 590nm converted camera
with color enhanced effects

Taken with 590nm converted camera
converted to monochrome

I see lots of possibilities with this art form.  One very special feature is that I can shoot in any type of light, even harsh mid-day light, and create fine artistic images.

More will following in another blog in the near future.


1.  http://www.lifepixel.com
2.  https://infraredatelier.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/understanding-590nm-goldie-issues/
3.  http://www.digitalcameraworld.com/2012/07/09/how-to-shoot-haunting-digital-infrared-photography/
4.  http://photography.tutsplus.com/tutorials/an-in-depth-guide-to-infrared-photography-processing--photo-9540
5.  http://dpanswers.com/content/irphoto.php

By John D. Roach
Copyright July, 2015

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Me and Street Photography

by John D. Roach

I consider myself a nature, flower, weather, landscape (both intimate as well expansive landscapes) photographer with some amount of cityscape and architecture thrown in.  I have never developed comfort or a lot of interest in most street photography although I admire the work of many others.  There are some photographers who make magic with their efforts.   And, yet, I have found myself starting to walk the streets when out for a good exercise with my camera and seeing what I can find. 

I have found that street photographers fit a number of categories.  Many create images that are nicely done compositions that generate a lot of interest, demonstrate tension, and even truly spark our imagination.  Yet, there is an equal number, (dare I say), images I see in that genre which lack interest, are humdrum, lack tension and fail to spark the imagination.

I suspect that might be true for all of photography, but for me it bothers me more when I see cluttered street images of rather mundane people doing mundane thinks or photos of very ordinary things (often decaying things) with ho hum lighting and terrible composition.  While there are many fine images with fine lighting and great composition there are just as many that are just are plain, in my opinion, and that do not take us to another level.  This thing called photography which is about capturing light around us in the city, in my opinion, should always lift us up and excite us about life.

With that said and off my chest, I will now share a few images that I recently captured as I attempt to discover street photography.  I just hope I don't fall in the negative ho hum side of my comments above.

Two Place of Worship?

Ok...the image above might not be street photography in the sense of many.  It might be argued that it is a ho hum street scene.  Indeed, it was taken with my camera through the windshield of my car when I pulled over to the curb to ponder what my eye saw!  What I saw though was a temple built to God (St. John's Cathedral in Milwaukee) framed next to and in front of a temple to finance (US Bank Building).  How does that grab you.  It did me.

Well, that image was selected to be in a Juried Art show through CoPA (Coalition of Photographic Artists) here in Milwaukee at the Art Bar.  The Exhibit is titled Reflections - A Place Called Milwaukee.  The Exhibits extends from July 31 through September 10 this year at Art Bar Riverwest, 722 E. Burleigh, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.   There is a reception from 7 pm to midnight on July 31, 2015

The next image was also accepted for the exhibit.  It is a billboard I found on Farwell and Ogden Avenue in Milwaukee that lets you ponder a little about life, direction, purpose and a host of other things.

What is Your Mission in Life?

Now this next image was when I was out walking and decided to stop at the small boutique hotel (The Plaza) with my wife for some breakfast at its little lunch counter.  I think it says something about labor and the world of the kitchen as seen from my lunch counter seat.

The Breakfast Cooks

Finally, for the sake of some humor, here are two images that where found on Brady Street which is a quirky, honky tonk street with quaint shops, saloons, etc.  One has a bar with an interesting name next to a Milwaukee Fire Department Station and the other is one of those quaint shops with such a very interesting name.  I hope you enjoy.

Hosed on Brady

Art Smart's Dart Emporium

Copyright 2015, John D. Roach

Monday, June 1, 2015

The $10.00 Orchid

By John D. Roach

There are those days when you would rather be outside enjoying warm weather while capturing the light and making images.  Last week, I had one of those days, but knew that I had to stay indoors from 8am to 3pm to await the delivery of a new outdoor cooking grill.  So in preparation for that, I went to the store and purchased for $10 a small orchid (the instructions are give it one ice cube per week and keep it in decent light!).

The following are a series of processed images taken with my D700 with both a 28-300mm lens as well as one with my 90mm Tamron Macro Lens with flash and/or natural light and my 24x24 inch light tent and processed in Lightroom as well as some other post processing tools such Nik Silver Efex, One Perfect Effects and Topaz Impressions.  

There are so very many possibilities for capturing the essence of a orchid....I hope you enjoy!

80mm, Natural Light (Lightroom)

78mm, Flash (Lightroom)

90mm, Flash (Lightroom)

82mm, Flash (Lightroom Preset)

70mm, Natural Lightroom (Lightroom & Nik Silver Efex)

90mm, Flash, (Lightroom and Topaz O'Keefe Style)

70mm, Natural Light (Lightroom and onOne Perfect Effects)

My other work can be found at www.jdroachphotography.com

Note:  The second image above received a 2nd place award for Flower Photography at www.BetterPhoto.com May 2015 Contest.

Copyright John D. Roach
June 1, 2015 (Updated June 7, 2015)

Friday, May 22, 2015

Early Morning
(There is great power as well as peace in a Sun Rise)

Recently, I spent a week in Mexico for some relaxing resort vacation that was especially needed by my wife; a break from her hard work in corporate America in an ever changing healthcare company.

I rose early one morning and photographed the sunrise along the beach.  The first light of the day is almost alway wonderful from blue light to full sunlight.  On this occasion I missed the blue light, but captured the gradual unfolding of Dawn's Gold Orb as the day springs to life across the Caribbean.

I hope you enjoy this glimpse into what I saw that morning through the lens of my Fuji camera.  Pure flashes of gold and magenta as the sea rolled to shore, a ferry passes by and the birds fly...enjoy.  

To capture such light is a blessing for a photographer and all who view it.

John D. Roach
May 22, 2015

Copyright 2015

Friday, February 27, 2015

Architectural Photography

Architectural Photography 
by John D. Roach
February 27, 2015

A few months ago I was to asked give a talk and share some of my architectural photography images to a Milwaukee photography group.  I do not pretend for a moment to be an expert in architectural photography and so, while I was pleased to have been asked, I really found this opportunity forced me to learn more.  I already knew a tiny bit through some reading and practice.  Now I have learned a lot of new things while preparing for the talk that I will give next week.  This is not in-depth, but simply an overview.

What is Architectural Photography —

An architect is an artist that paints with brick, steel, wood, and glass.  His canvas is space and he is one whose designs involve structure, shape, and volume.  The architect seeks to have his art both perform a function as well as fulfill an artistic vision within the environmental space selected, as well as structural and financial limits.

An architectural photographer reproduces the architect’s three-dimensional creation on a sheet of two-dimensional photography media.  Such a photographer strives to communicate one of two things.  First, he may seek to record the original intent of the architect, particularly if he is commissioned by the architect or owner, of the outward appearance and proportions of the building with a proper perspective that include capturing the mood and presence that the architect intended regarding the buildings relation to its surrounds.  Second, the photographer may have no reference point to the original designer or owners and just seeks to capture the presence of the building within its environment to satisfy a personal vision choosing lighting and some unique angles to capture a mood for that purpose.

All through history, humans have had an interest in presenting and communicating the “hand of man” building structures through art such as tapestries, paintings, and more recently through photography.

Photographers who are successful in architectural photography have a love of architecture and attempt to be attuned to its nuances and details.  Particularly, a photographer must understand how to use a camera to achieve and maintain proper geometrical perspective.  This includes in our digital age the use of software to assist if the photographer needs to adjust that perspective.

A Little History through Images —

Before Photography, tapestries and paintings often were used to share artistically human interest in architectural spaces.  Usually these forms of artistic expression of man-made structures are far more artistic in nature and included many elements that were exclusively about the personal vision the artist or the person who commissioned the artist to present a work that included architectural elements.  

Here are some examples of both tapestries and paintings:

A Museum with a Collection of Tapestries

A Botticelli Tapestry

Rafael's School of Athens Painting

An Unknown Renaissance Painting

Bartholomeus Van Bassen - The Parable (Painting)

Jaykayt - A Modern Building (Painting)

Photography, while not replacing paintings, has certainly begun with its discovery and through the present become a most popular way to document structures as well as express an artistic vision.  Here are some interesting photographs created during the first century of photography (all in black & white).

A London Street Scene around 1845

Unknown Assembly House circa 1870s

A Scen of the Eiffel Tower circa 1888

Scene of New York City by Andreas Meininger circa 1940

Brooklyn Bridge by Andreas Meininger circa 1940

Brooklyn Army Base Warehouse Depot by Andreas Meininger 1949

View Camera

View Camera Details

The View Cameras were usually large format cameras that allowed the photographer to adjust both the front (lens) plane as well as the rear plane to achieve the best geometric perspective.  With the advent of the 35mm cameras and then the equivalent digital camera came the Tilt-Shift Lens to achieve the same goal.  This allowed the photographer to adjust the relationship of the lens elements with the sensor to correct for distortion, reducing converging lines and straighten lines to make a building look real, straight and similar to what the human eye sees.  

Canon 24mm Tilt-Shift Lens

Without lens tilt, the plain of the sensor cause image to fall off

It is definitely not necessary to have an expensive tilt-shift lens.  Quality wide-angle as well as telephoto lenses can achieve a fine image.  However, the photographer must be very careful about where he stands in relation to the the scene he wishes to capture to avoid fall off, tilting backing or to the side of the structure as well as getting lines that do not converge offensively.

With digital cameras and suitable lenses, even when this occurs, the photographer can resort to software to adjust for distortion, vertical and/or horizontal line irregularities and other aspects of the image to get a true representation. Sometimes the photographer may elect to let the digital camera and lens combination fulfill his or her vision by letting the angles seem unrealistic for artistic reasons.

Wide-angle lenses can, when used properly, give the photographer all the room he or she needs to fit the structure in the frame.  This is particularly necessary when adjustments in perspective need to occur during post processing.

Typical Wide Angle Lenses

Typical Telephoto Lenses

Software such as Lightroom and/or Photoshop have built-in adjustment tools (sliders on the right of each image) that allow the photographer to make adjustments for positional distortion such as vertical tilt, horizontal shift, lens distortion, scale, level and straitening of lines, and aspect ratio:

Lightroom Above & Photoshop Below

Now that we have achieved a historical overview all the way to the prsent, what next?

First - Several Tips for architectural Photography:

  1. Choose your focal length — go wide to capture all of the structure and desired surrounds.
  2. Stabilize your camera — use a tripod, cable release and appropriate filters.
  3. Shoot Low ISO — when ever possible to keep noise at a minimum.
  4. Close the Aperture — There is less distortion and lens errors if stopped down to at least f8.
  5. Avoid converging lines — be prepared to move and post process to correct for this.
  6. Get the most desirable camera position to achieve the desired effect.
  7. Be careful about where you photograph…know local laws against photography.
  8. Use the right lenses — wide-angle, fish-eye for getting it all.
  9. Use the right lenses — telephoto lens may be great for getting details.
  10. Pay attention to the weather….great images occur in a variety of weather conditions.
  11. Be open to reflections in glass…that can add a real wow factor.
  12. Research what you photograph before and after so that you can properly promote it.
  13. Let the image be dynamic…remember lines and symmetry draw the viewer into the image.
  14. Fine images can be created without a view camera or shift tilt lens.
  15. Practice on all types of architecture and then pick the genera that works for you.
  16. Put your Architecture Images in context with surrounding to add impact.
  17. Capture images in morning and evening light…recognize images may be flat at mid-day.
  18. Avoid hazy days when possible and definitely photography at night.
  19. Pick out interesting details and look for unusual perspectives.
  20. It is not just about buildings — remember bridges, towers, monuments and even lamp post.

Second - A Primer in Perspective Lens (and keeping room for lens correction post processing):

  1. Keeping the camera level with an ordinary lens captures only the bottom of the building.
  2. Tilting the camera results in vertical perspective.
  3. Shifting the lens upwards results in a picture of the interior subject.
  4. Without a Tilt-Shift Lens leave plenty of room at the top to adjust vertical in post processing.
  5. Remember that shift the lens right or left will change the angle of vertical lines.
  6. Rent a Perspective Tilt-Shift Lens to learn about them…that can be fun.

Third - Use the tools you have learned in all other photography:

  1. HDR is sometimes very powerful in Architectural Photography.
  2. Use people or other elements to great a sense of dimension.
  3. Use leading lines to the guide the viewer into the image.
  4. Pay attention to rule of thirds, use of negative space, and other elements of composition.
  5. Use Polarizer filters and/or Neutral Density filters.
  6. Consider time last for construction projects.
  7. Look for cityscapes, too.  Look for foreground elements when appropriate.
  8. Consider panoramic either stitched images or cropped single images.
  9. Do not be afraid to experiment to figure out what works and what doesn’t work.
  10. Photography the same scene at different times of the year.
  11. Let shadows work for you.
  12. Do it.
Examples of My Architectural Photography

Milwaukee Center - Taken with 24mm Tilt-Shift Lens

Condos on the Milwaukee Lake Front
taken with 24mm Tilt-Shift Lens

Chicago Skyscapers - Artistic View captured from sun roof of my car

Chicago Cityscape - Panorama (HDR)

Chicago Board of Trade on La Salle Street

Chicago's Picasso in the City


South Loop Chicago

Luminous Sky over Chicago

Hot & Hazy Day in July at Chicago's Ohio Street Beach

The Skyscraper Church - First Methodist Chicago

Milwaukee at Night

Milwaukee Art Museum's Burke Brise Soleil by Calatrava

A Milwaukee View from Veterans Park

Architectural Contrasts - in Milwaukee

Milwaukee at Night

Milwaukee view from 6th Street Bridge

Balconies - Taken with Lensbaby with its tilt-shift effect

Milwaukee at Twilight

The Adobe - Taos Pueblo, New Mexico

The Columns, somewhere in Rome, Italy

The Baha'i Temple

Unity Temple, Oak Park, Illinois by Frank Lloyd Wright

Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church by Frank Lloyd Wright (above/below)

Spiral Stair Case in Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church - Milwaukee

US Bank Building - Milwaukee

Details of the Baha'i Temple

Duomo - Florence Italy

Presbyterian Church - Oak Park, Illinois

St. Peters - Vatican City

Two Condominium Skyscrapers - Milwaukee

The Light over Chicago

Copyright February 27, 2015 by John D. Roach