Friday, February 26, 2010

Playing with Photoshop

I think my Photography class is finally going to get serious. So far we have just been more or less reading about important aspects of photography, shutter speed, aperture size, depth of field, focus, and trying to learn about our personal cameras and how those aspects affect our photographs. Next week we have an assignment to photograph textures, and print a contact sheet of about 20 photo's. The following week we will print in a larger format 4 of those photos and create an artist statement to go with them as to what we were trying to show in our images - I may not have what is to be in the statement quite correct but... close. Should be interesting.

So far we have not spent much time learning or using Photoshop, we have opened it up and done some playing around to see what certain features are, but no real work with it. One of the things we were doing was to use Photoshop to create a HDR photo. A HDR photo is a composite image that combines 4 different photo's into one image. It is used in certain lighting situations, such as an interior where the interior is lit but you can't see anything outside the window. The photographer takes (usually) 4 pictures with different exposures see my examples below.

As you can see the first one is overexposed, the 2nd slightly overexposed, the third I would consider a normal exposure, and the last is underexposed. Note in the underexposed image the sky is blue and you can see the tip of a tree out the window. Below is the HDR image as I adjusted it. I am sure that someone with more experience could get a better result, but hopefully you will get the idea of what this technique can do.

This last photo of the jade plant was taken with a flash. Note that there is no detail outside the window and the yellow curtains are very washed out.

None of the first four photos used a flash. I had the camera mounted on a tripod so I could have longer exposures without shake. For those with Photoshop who would like to try this the menu options are FILE - AUTOMATE - MERGE TO HDR, you get a screen where you have to select the photos to be merged, it is easier if you have them already open in Photoshop. After Photoshop does the merge, you can make adjustments to the image, when you are happy you can save it.

I have 3 more photos to show, first one is of some trees at what I would consider a normal exposure, the 2nd is a rather overexposed image, but with the snow on the trees I though made an interesting pattern. I brought that photo into Photoshop, did some cropping, then using the Image, Adjustments, Hue and Saturation sliders I changed the colors of the trees, making them green, blue, and a purple. I keep thinking there should be a way for me to use this in a quilt, I know print it on fabric first - but it is what I do with it afterwards that I am still pondering. 


Any suggestions will be welcomed. That is it for this post. I Will hopefully have some more drawings next week.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Graphic Design Brochure Finished

Today I handed in my first Graphic Design II project. This project was to create a brochure for the non-profit organization that I created the logo for back in Intro to Graphic Design (almost a year ago). My non-profit is the Mass Audubon Society. So when the brochure was assigned I went out to their web site to see what event I could create a brochure for. The event I selected was their Annual Birders meeting to be held on March 6, 2010. I downloaded all of the information from the Mass Audubon site and used that to create the text information for my Brochure. The second image shows the brochure opened out, with the actual front where it would be addressed for mailing. The next image is the inside as it would look as you first open it up. 

This last image is the opened out brochure. 

I am fairly pleased with how this came out. I was originally going to make it 8 inches square, but Friday when I was working on the final layouts I did a printing where I accidentally printed the document at full size (accidentally because I can't print Ledger paper which I needed to use to fit the 16 inch length of my document). I was able to see enough of the document on the legal paper that I had in the printer that I went - ACK, this won't work. So I decided to reduce the brochure to 6 inches square. That meant a fair amount of rework and fiddling with the text. That basically blew my Friday and nothing else really got done. On the plus side, reducing the size meant that I didn't have to take it out to be printed so could fiddle with it at home and get it just the way I wanted it.  It is printed on 4 sheets of legal paper, then I trimmed the sheets, and using spray glue assembled the brochure. For once I did a pretty good job with the spray glue, and it is hard to tell how I assembled the piece. The brochure was designed using Adobe Photoshop (for the photo editing) and In-Design, Adobe's publishing program. Oh, before I forget the birds are, a Great Blue Heron, a Green Heron and a Kestrel. I used two different images of Kestrels. All are birds that nest in MA.

Our next project is to do an Informational poster or multi media layout. I am planning on doing something regarding directions for using my new camera. Right now I am tending toward doing a multi-media document such as what you see on some web sites, using rollovers and fly outs, but still have to do more thinking before I commit. 

I have one last image, this is my latest mandala that I have been working on while watching the Winter Olympics. I am not sure what to call this one, no images of plants or animals, it is sort of based on Celtic designs but not entirely. I am open to suggestions, and also interested in any other comments. 


I have some photo's that I have been taking for photography but think I will wait until later in the week to post those. I am also hoping to get a good impression/print of my second plate in Intaglio for my next update. 


Monday, February 15, 2010

February Holidays

Today is Presidents Day here in the States, that compromise holiday that doesn't quite actually celebrate either of the two President Birthdays that used to be celebrated, Washington or Lincoln. Most of the country used to take Washington's actual birthday (February 22) off as a holiday. When I was young we lived in Illinois and there it was Lincoln's (February 12) birthday that was celebrated. George Washington was somewhat out of favor as I grew older and the holiday seemed to become more a day off then a celebration of an early patriot. Which I think is too bad, if Washington had been a different person, would we have the country we have today? Maybe learning those old Latin classics isn't such a bad thing, I am sure that most would say they aren't relevant to today's society, but I don't think today's society would be able to put together the Constitution and get it ratified. A sobering thought. Anyway I have the day off from school so have had a long weekend to work on other things. Like the pencil study below.

  The final work is going to be a colored pencil drawing. Well that is the current intention. So far I haven't gotten much further then purchasing the paper, cutting it to size, and getting the basic outlines of the above drawing transferred down. I have done just a little pencil work but need to get brave and work on it some more. The 3 chickens are a composite composition created from 3 different reference photos. I have no clue which breeds these birds represent, I suppose I should try to figure it out simply so I can label the drawing correctly. I will say that I believe they are 3 different breeds. The rooster sort of looks like a Jungle Fowl, but I don't think he is, the hen to the right is buff/brown/white, and the hen to the rear is black. If anyone has any breed suggestions for me leave a comment.

My other images for you today are from my Photography class. The instructor had us do studies with our camera changing various settings. The 4 photos below were done with my changing shutter speed and nothing else. 
My new camera which is a basic SLR (Single lens reflex) can be totally automatic or totally manual. There are 4 basic settings that I can control and change, focus (usually I will use auto focus much easier) aperture (how wide the shutter opens), shutter speed (how long the shutter stays open during a photo), and ISO (light conditions). I believe controlling ISO is a feature of Digital cameras, with old film cameras it would be the speed of the film or filters on the lens that would control the amount of light that film would react to. With my digital camera I can set the level of light that the sensor should be sensitive to, but I think now that I have been messing around with it, that I will probably leave it on auto.  Anyway the images above were taken by changing the shutter speed, you can see how shortening the time the shutter is open reduces the amount of light that hits the sensor and makes the image darker. The images were shot at the following shutter speeds (lightest to darkest) 125, 250, 1000, 3200. The idea is to learn how controlling shutter speed and aperture can allow me to control the image I am taking a picture of.
My assignment for this week is to take pictures using different focal lengths to see how depth of field works for my camera. I have one last image for you that shows depth of field - which briefly is the area in an image that the objects are in focus. This is a photo of some red berries, the berries are in focus but the background is blurry and out of focus. Photos for my assignment probably won't be quite so dramatic but we will see. Let me know if you want to see/hear more about my photography class. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

February More from my Print Class

Above is my pen and ink sketch for my first etching print. Size is 5 inches X 7 inches a standard size for printing plates. Today in class we prepped our plates with what they call a hard ground. I used the old fashion solid type that you use a hot plate to heat the plate, then melt some of the ground on it by rubbing the ball of ground over the plate and smooth it out with a roller. Once the ground has been spread evenly over the surface of the plate the plate is taken off of the hot plate and allowed to cool. Most of the students used a liquid hard ground, and the preferred ground was one that was brushed on the plate surface. Once my plate had cooled, I transferred my drawing to the plate using tracing paper and my white chalk transfer sheet. I spent most of the rest of the class re-drawing my tree in the ground on the plate with one of my double pointed etching tools.  I did get my plate into the acid bath for a couple of sessions but don't think it is quite ready to be printed - in other words I still didn't get enough bite on the plate - or the grooves aren't yet deep enough to really hold ink. Next class I should be able to finish at least the first round and do a proofing print. I will probably need to add more lines so I will probably reapply the ground and do some more drawing which will mean back into the acid bath.

I did manage to make 2 more prints of my bug today, but I still need to do at least two more of it to have 4 good prints, only one of the 2 I did today was very good. I really need to remember to use the small press, I get much better results on it.

In Graphic Design I have to have my brochure design in computer format for tomorrow's class. I did most of the work on that over the weekend as I knew I would be exhausted after today's printing class but I need to do a bit more work on it this evening. So far so good with that one. For photography I have spent a couple of sessions in parks getting used to my new camera. I decided that my old Canon wasn't going to be good enough so I splurged and purchased a Canon EOS Rebel XSI. More camera then I have been used to, and I think it is going to take a few more sessions for me to become familiar with the manual settings that I can use on this camera. Thank heavens it has a completely auto mode, but I think once I get used to them the manual modes will be useful.

One last image for you today, this is the photo I used for the pen and ink tree drawing above. I took it last spring in one of the Mass Audubon sites, it wasn't exactly winter when I took this picture, but it was early march and there wasn't a lot leafing out at that point background green is mainly pine trees, though I am not sure that you can tell that from this image.

As usual comments are welcome.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Intaglio Flea Beetle


I am sure you are going to ask - what is it? It happens to be a dry point Intaglio print of a flea beetle

Our first assignment for my Intaglio class was to pick an insect and draw it.  I found a book with pictures of flying/hopping insects in the library and chose the flea beetle as being interesting without being too complex. If you didn't check out the link, Flea beetles are small winged insects that can hop or fly away from trouble. They eat holes in leaves and are somewhat of a garden and agricultural pest. Though the site I found that seems to best describe them says that they are only really harmful to small plants. 

Below is what my drawing looked like, I had to scan it and make it smaller so it would fit on my plate.

Our instructor provided small copper plates (approx 2.25 inches square) that we were then to incise our insect into after transferring it by using tracing paper. I had no luck when I just used pencil on the tracing paper so ended up using my transfer paper that I had created in Illustration class. Still it created only a faint image so scribing the outline with a sharp double pointed twisted needle wasn't easy. Not to mention that you need to use a fair amount of force, that caused my hand to cramp so I would have to shake and rest it every 10 to 15 minutes.  One student still hadn't finished his plate (he had a larger zinc plate) by the end of class. He chose to do a spider, and it should be really good, as he was taking his time and putting in a lot of detail. But I am just as happy that I decided to stay with the smaller plate for my piece. 

Dry point is a method of marking a plate using only a sharp tool. You cut a groove in the copper surface with the tool, but more importantly you create a ridge that holds ink. Once the image is cut you then ink the plate and print it. Well, there is a bit more then that to the process, but I won't bore you with the details, unless you have a large printing press handy this isn't something you can do at home. I will mention that the prints are done on damp linen paper. My first print/proof was very faint, partly because the plate needed to be seasoned, and partly because we didn't have the press pressure set correctly and partly that my paper was a bit too dry. Later prints came out better, and I would say that the above print is my best. I need to make 3 more just like it next week as we are supposed to have a series of 4 prints for each plate. But we are also going to start working on our 2nd plate next week. The next technique we will learn is etching using a hard ground and an acid bath. It is much easier to draw your design into a hard ground so the results should be more interesting. The image for our next assignment is supposed to be a winter landscape. I need to go and take some photographs, I have pictures for spring/summer and fall but very few winter photos. Guess I don't like going out in the cold to take pictures. 

One last item. I finished the small flower mandala, here is the final version: 


Let me know what you think of it. I haven't started anything new just yet because I am finding myself busy with the 3 classes, and I  have another project I am working on for someone else that I am trying to fit in. This coming weekend I need to spend more time on my Graphic Design project. So far I am not thrilled with how it is coming and really need to spend time thinking of various ways I can approach the brochure. I also want to get started on the computer version, even though we are supposed to still be working with just tracing paper. Oh well, I get to a point where I have to do it my way regardless of what my instructor recommends. That's it for this post. Do feel free to post comments, or questions if you have any.