Life is such a drag

Life is such a drag

From behind the shutter

On Sunday February 20th, 2010, I went on a field trip with a group of photographers from the Palo Alto Camera Club organized by Hilari. We started at the Farmers Market in San Francisco at 10:00am and left the city later in the afternoon.

Photo field trips are an amazing opportunity to learn and extend photography skills. Spending 6 to 8 hours with a group of people who share the same passion, challenge each other, and share tips and tricks ranging from artistic considerations to advanced technical techniques.

Also, don’t let the focus of the field trip fool you… I pretty much never get a good image out of the actual topic of the trip. For example, I didn’t get any interesting shots of the Farmers Market, but came back with a rich collection of unexpected views of the life in the city. The dog pictured here is part of that collection.

New technical workflow

This trip is also for me the start of my new workflow. Until now, I was shooting in JPEG, managing my collection in Google Picasa (and doing some rapid edits), and editing in Adobe Photoshop.

My new workflow is now more professional. I finally shoot in RAW, still manage the collection in Google Picasa, do some global edits in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2, and still end-up in Adobe Photoshop.

I know I’m late to the party, but new workflow and tools take time to disappear to let the focus be the artistic conversation with the graphical matter. Anyway, toys are fun.

Post processing

The original picture was taken almost by accident. We were getting back to the meeting point to go to lunch and I noticed that dog who was trying to get to us. I quickly laid down on the ground, very close to the dog and used a wide 18mm angle to give as much as focus on the subject.

Original: Nikon D90 • Nikkor 18-70mm
18mm • 1/2000s • f/5.6
2.20.2010 12:04PM

The expression of the dog, her position and energy have a good potential, but I was annoyed by the distracting parts all around. I wanted to increase the attention to the main subject and explore different ways to do so.

Opening the image in Adobe Lightroom:

Lightroom allows to apply in realtime a large array of image controls as well as some local effects. Like with Photoshop, I’m using here only a very small fraction of the features and will explore more options later.

Exploring different cropping options:

Exploring some pre-sets

Vivid preset

Sepia preset

Vignette effect

I then added some vignetting. I like the vignetting controls in Lightroom.

Final from Lightroom

Going into Photoshop

Well, I was starting to feel constrained in Lightroom, probably because of years of experience in Photoshop… So, I exported the image from Lightroom and opened it into Photoshop. I’m sure that several of those edits can be done in Lightroom though. Lightroom experts, please don’t laugh.. 😉

In Photoshop, I added the following effects and masks:

– Increased the overall contrast to focus on the rough character of the subject
– Mask some bright spots in the background and in the foreground of the pavement
– Highlight some areas of the dog that are underexposed
– Increase the density of the sepia color to make the scene more dramatic

The precision of the masks in Photoshop allows a pixel-level control of both the amount of effect applied as well as the exact area where the effects are applied. Here is a view of the combined masks for this Photoshop file. The brush effects in Lightroom don’t give me the same level of precision at least for the same amount of time spent.

Combined masks used in the Photoshop file

Some comments regarding the composition

I tried to understand what was making up the tension in the picture and the sens of motion. I drew some construction lines and here are some thoughts:

– Most of the construction lines point to the section where the leash and the dog have opposite forces (green lines below)
– The empty space in the bottom third of the image creates a space for the dog to go
– The head points to that space


Here is the final image out of Photoshop:

Final: Life is such a drag

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Oh!! Great reference!!! Those paintings and photos from back then depict indeed the difficult labor of those workers hauling the barges. Thanks Denis!


Like the doggy? Leave me your comments and suggestions...