My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Left brain, right brain, staying balanced

First of all, I’d like to thank every one for the condolences that you sent after my mother passed away. At the time, I was too busy with other things to respond appropriately, so I’d like to thank all of you again for your thoughts and prayers, I appreciated them more than I can say.

The poll results from my last post about post-processing images are in, 8 people voted no, post-processing isn’t cheating, 3 said it was okay if not taken to extremes, and 1 said yes, it is cheating.

I never thought that this day would come, but I’m going over to the dark side, and at least for some of my photos, I will be using software to overcome the limits of my camera. Here’s why.

Cloudy day

Cloudy day

First of all, I learned never to put a leading line dead center in the frame! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Okay, but beyond that, notice that the sky is an almost solid grey, there’s no definition to the clouds at all. The leaves of many of the trees look almost black, that’s not the way they looked to my eye when I shot that photo.

So, I did another HDR photo using Photomatix, and here’s the result.

Cloudy day, HDR rendering

Cloudy day, HDR rendering

Again, I hate to say it, but the HDR version is very close to what I saw at the time, much closer than the first photo. There’s definition to the clouds, and the leaves of the trees are green. I’m not sure why, but that image came out quite soft, I guess that I have a lot more to learn about doing HDR photos.

A few days later, we had a nice partly cloudy day for a change, rather than the hazy days that we had for almost a full week. I thought that I wouldn’t see much, if any improvement by doing a HDR over what I could get out of the camera.

Creekside Park

Creekside Park

I was wrong, again!

Creekside Park, HDR

Creekside Park, HDR

Here’s two more before and after images.

Creekside Park, south

Creekside Park, south

Creekside Park, south, HDR

Creekside Park, south, HDR

Creekside Park, east

Creekside Park, east

Creekside Park, east, HDR

Creekside Park, east, HDR

Quite frankly, I’m stunned! I have shot both of the last two views multiple times, and I’ve never been happy with the images that I got no matter how I composed them, or the exposure settings that I used.

At first, I thought that the clouds in the HDR versions looked fake, but then I realized that it was only because I’m used to seeing flat images from my camera, and that part of the reason that I liked those views was because of the sense of space that I saw in real life. Using the HDR software brought out that sense of space in my images, and you can see the lush green fields and woods, along with the clouds.

So, how does the software do on a nearly cloudless day?

Creekside Park, north, no HDR

Creekside Park, north, no HDR

This time, I went down on the exposure compensation for several series of photos, not worrying about the non-HDR versions, but to see what the final product would be. The image above was no exposure compensation, but for the HDR version, I’m using the seriesย shot at -2/3 stop. It’s funny, here I am using software to blend three exposures together to create one image, yet I still can’t bring myself to correct the exposure of that resulting image in the software used to create it. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Old habits are hard to break!

Creekside Park, north, HDR

Creekside Park, north, HDR

Okay, I’m sold, after the first of the month I will purchase the Photomatix software, the beginner version. I’ve been using the free trial version so far. I think that eventually I’ll spring for the pro version. Photomatix makes it easy to do that, If you purchase the beginner version, they credit that amount to the pro version when you upgrade. That will allow me to learn the software better, as I’m not completely happy with the photos that I’ve processed so far, they are slightly overexposed and also a bit soft to my eyes. But, all that I’ve done is to do the HDR process, and nothing else. I still need to play around with the software more so that the final image comes out more to my liking, but I can see the potential.

If you’re worried that I’ve gone completely over to the dark side of post-processing, there’s no need to worry, as I can’t see any reason to do a HDR version of birds, bugs, or blooms. Not to brag, but I think that I do quite well with them just as the images come out of the camera, with just cropping the images if I have to. I’ll be taking a balanced approach to post-processing, saving it for landscapes.

Speaking of a balanced approach, I had a difficult time staying balanced for this shot.

Cherry sap eruption

Cherry tree sap

That’s sap from a cherry tree, and I’m not completely happy with that photo. However, the tree the sap was oozing from is on a steep bank and slightly over my head. I had to put my left hand on the tree to hold myself from slipping down the bank, then lay the barrel of the Tokina macro lens across my left arm to get that shot. I would have liked to have stopped the lens down further to get a larger depth of field, but I was already at ISO 3200 and 1/200 second. By the way, the sunlight was coming from the left in that photo if you can believe it.

One of the great things about taking the same walk everyday during the week is that if I mess up a shot, I have the ability to try again the next day.

Cherry tree sap

Cherry tree sap

Cherry tree sap

Cherry tree sap

Still not what I want, but these will have to do for now.

Okay, so you may be wondering where the left brain, right brain part of the title for this post comes in. Our brains are made of many parts that I’m not going to go into, but basically, the brain has two halves. The left side of our brain is the analytical side, which when it comes to photography, is where we decide the technical aspects of photography. The right side of our brains are the artistic, creative side of our brains.

Up to this point, most of the photos that I have posted since I began my blog were shot with the left side of my brain, trying to get the technical side of photography correct, such as in these photos.

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

Woodpeckers always close their eyes as they hammer away at the wood, so I have to wait for them to pause to catch them with their eyes open, if they don’t turn their heads as this one did.

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

Here’s a critter with a few “extra” eyes, making it easy to catch it with its eyes open. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Spider

Spider

Grasshopper

Grasshopper

The insects here were shot with the Tokina macro lens, and every once in a while, I find a bug that will sit still and let me get really close to it.

Grasshopper

Grasshopper

That wasn’t cropped at all, and neither were these.

Praying mantis

Praying mantis

Praying mantis

Praying mantis

I don’t know if the mantis turned away because I was so close, or if it was looking at the small black beetle below it.

Praying mantis

Praying mantis

Whenever I can, I try to shoot portraits of birds, I suppose that’s somewhat right-brained, although it involves mostly the left side of the brain, getting the technical side correct.

Female American goldfinch

Female American goldfinch

Female American goldfinch

Female American goldfinch

Female American goldfinch

Female American goldfinch

Female American goldfinch

Female American goldfinch

Okay then, with all the new photo gear that I’ve acquired over the past year, I’d like to branch out and do more artistic photography, sticking mainly with nature, but also trying other subjects as well.

Part of that urge comes from having shot some really good photos of most of the common species of birds, flowers, and other nature subjects with my new stuff as I’ve learned to use it to its full advantage. For example, I don’t have to go very far back through my archives to find a good close-up of a turkey.

Turkey

Turkey

While I am sure that I’ll get even better portraits of turkeys in the future, I no longer feel compelled to try to come up with an excellent portrait style photo every time that I see a turkey, which will lead me to shot more photos like this next one.

Turkey

Turkey

I almost didn’t shoot that last one, I knew the turkey was too far away to make a good portrait style image of, even if I had cropped it. But, I like that last image, as much for the trees in the background as the turkey being in the frame. Here’s another example, a red squirrel.

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

I have a few good photos of red squirrels, so I almost didn’t shoot that one either, but the scene said “peaceful” to me, with the squirrel sitting there in the shade eating lunch.

I shot another one from a bit closer, even though I knew that it wasn’t going to be a great photo.

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

I still like it, maybe that’s because it isn’t my usual style of photo. Up until the past month or so, this is what I’ve been trying for most of the time.

Red-tailed hawk, slight crop

Red-tailed hawk, slight crop

That’s a left side of the brain photo, and I’m very proud of it, and most of the others that I have been shooting lately. I like the images of the squirrel and turkey just as much, even though the critter is secondary to the scene overall. But, without the critter for some visual interest, those photos would be rather ho-hum.

Okay, the truth is that I’ve always wanted to express my artistic side more often, and I’ve slipped a few of those photos in here from time to time, but I think that it will happen more often from now on.

But, you don’t have to worry about over-processed images taking over my blog, and to prove it, here’s a few of my other photos from the past week. The light has been horrible most days, as it has been hot, humid, and hazy most days. It’s been so humid that fog has formed most nights, and there have been traces of the fog left when I’ve first started my walk most mornings. Some of these could have used a little post-processing. ๐Ÿ˜‰

There have been several days when there was a flock of waxwings working the fields of the park, much like swallows do, here’s my best shot of one of them.

Cedar waxwing in flight

Cedar waxwing in flight

There was also a flock of flickers around for a few days.

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

I caught one of the waxwings taking a break.

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

This dove was showing yellow on its neck, when they typically show pink, I shot this one too quickly.

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

I settled down and got a better shot, but by then, the dove had stopped displaying the yellow.

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Some one identified these flowers for me last year (probably Allen), but for the life of me, I can’t remember what they are. I looked through two months worth of my posts from last year, but couldn’t find these to jog my memory.

???

???

???

???

And to wrap this one up, a dragonfly.

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

It may be silly of me to start moving towards more artistic photos before I’ve totally mastered the technical side of photography, but I’m hoping that I can continue to learn as I go. Besides, I’m not sure than any one ever totally masters the technical side. ย One thing I do know though, is that most of my photos will still be much as they have been, with just a few artsy ones from time to time.

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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22 responses

  1. Not only are your pictures splendid but the information you give is very interesting.

    August 29, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    • Thank you very much Susan!

      August 30, 2014 at 3:13 am

  2. The insect photos are incredible and although I’m not normally a fan of the subject, your captures are awesome. I haven’t played around with HDR yet but I probably will in the future. Interesting comparisons ๐Ÿ™‚

    August 29, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    • Thanks Ingrid! For as many landscapes as you shoot, I would have thought that you had tried HDR.

      August 30, 2014 at 3:13 am

  3. I have PhotoMatix Pro and only use on landscapes. Impossible to use on birds or animals because to get three images absolutely in line with each other very difficult. I have and use Topaz Adjust with my birds and as I have shown, it is excellent. You only need to use one image.
    I love your photo of the Cooper’s Hawk.

    August 29, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    • Thanks Bob! For right now all I’m looking for is something to help out my landscapes. Maybe once I get better with them, then I can play with other software.

      August 30, 2014 at 3:15 am

  4. I think you’ll get comfortable with post processing quickly Jerry. It has saved a few shots for me that I wouldn’t have used otherwise.
    I think your unknown flower is an Asiatic dayflower (Commelina communis.)
    I like all the critter shots, especially the grasshopper and hawk, but I think my favorite is the tree sap.

    August 29, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    • Thanks Allen! I thought the flower was a Japanese something or other, at least I had the right part of the world for a change. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      For right now I’m planning on processing just landscapes. I need a newer computer to tackle most of the good photo editors.

      August 30, 2014 at 3:18 am

  5. You are such a good photographer and the love you have for your subject shines through in every shot. The technical ones are great, so useful for identification purposes and you make them ‘artistic’ because you compose them properly. The ‘artistic’ ones are lovely to look at and capture the moment. Carry on doing what you’re doing.

    August 29, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    • Thank you Clare! I’ll still continue to do the shots I’ve always done, I’m just looking to branch out a bit.

      August 30, 2014 at 3:19 am

  6. I think that there is a lot to be said for allowing your artistic side to get out from time to time. Having said that, the insect pictures were wonderful.

    August 29, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    • Thanks Tom! I finally got a spider, which was one thing that I have wanted to shoot since I bought the macro lens.

      August 30, 2014 at 3:21 am

  7. Tome, the HDR photos were amazing mostly for the amount of detail they displayed in the distant tree groves, which were mostly darkish shapes in the non-HDR versions. Colorwise, I’m not so sure. It’s so hard to remember what the color really WAS at any time, for me. I’ve played around with the HDR settings in my camera, but it produced such huge files, that I’ve pretty much abandoned the thought. Love the goldfinch/thistle series. Please keep it up.

    August 29, 2014 at 6:35 pm

    • Thank you Judy! All that I’ve done so far is merge the photos, and I know that the exposure and color were off a bit. I haven’t had much time to play, and I have only the trial version. Maybe this weekend I’ll have more time, if I don’t spend all my time shooting photos. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      August 30, 2014 at 3:23 am

  8. Welcome to the Dark Side! ๐Ÿ˜€ Might I suggest you try out some other software before paying for PhotoMatix? I personally like having a bit more control without having to do multiple exposures using Lightroom (same folks who do Photoshop). They also have a trial version and LOTS of online tutorials. It’s actually loads of fun and a fairly easy learning curve. I know you’ve commented favorably on some of the results I get.

    Getting back to the topic of going to the Dark Side…. I suspect that some of the negative feelings so many folks had about using software in post-processing was that too many people went a bit bonkers and overdid it. As you so rightly pointed out in this post, it’s really a matter of getting the image that you actually saw or envisioned when you snapped the shutter. Even with today’s advanced camera technology, that isn’t always possible. I think it’s wonderful that you’re experimenting!

    August 30, 2014 at 2:55 am

    • Thanks for the input! Right now, my poor old computer won’t handle Lightroom or Photoshop. All I’m looking for at this timme is to get better landscapes, closer to what I see in real life.

      August 30, 2014 at 3:26 am

  9. Oh my goodness there is so much pop to this series Jerry. Thrilled that you’re exploring the world of the digital darkroom. It makes the world of a difference. You’ve done a wonderful job with explaining your process in getting here.

    I second the Lightroom recommendation and the Nik pro package plug in.

    On a much more serious note. As a terrible friend I missed the news of your mother’s passing. I am so sorry to hear that she is no longer with you and it is always a difficult loss.

    May time ease your heart. Hugs, Em

    August 30, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    • Thank you very much, both for the tips on software and for sending your condolences! I really need a new computer before I go any farther with software.

      August 30, 2014 at 6:06 pm

  10. Blissful pictures.

    August 30, 2014 at 11:27 pm

    • Thank you very much!

      August 31, 2014 at 12:16 am

  11. Well, this left brain/right brain thing explains why I struggle so much with the technical aspects of photography because the left side of my brain doesn’t function all that well, LOL!

    I just loved the goldfinch on the thistle photos and your insects just get more and more incredible.

    I think your artistic side has been creeping out for awhile now, Jerry. ๐Ÿ™‚ It shows in your flower photos, especially.

    September 3, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    • Thanks Amy! It takes a lot of practice, but I’m sure that you’ll pick up on the technical aspects soon enough.

      September 3, 2014 at 2:53 pm