Category Archives: How I Did It

Picture of the Moment—Meet Robyn Gordon Grevilla

Picture of the Moment

My new macro lens is a 90mm lens, which means that I can capture things that are a fairly good distance away.

Couple that with the fact that my camera takes pictures that are 6000 pixels by 4000 pixels, add in the ability to crop in Photoshop, and the following two pictures show what is possible.

Original Picture
Original picture

Doesn’t look like much, does it? But look at the cropped picture:

Cropped Picture
Cropped picture

Apparently its name is Robyn Gordon Grevilla.

I’m really liking my new macro lens.

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post


How I Did It—There’s no such thing as a throwaway picture

How I Did It

My wise old grandmother took a lot of pictures and never threw any away. If a picture overall was bad, she’d look for the good parts, cut them out, and put them in her scrapbooks.

I learned from her, and even in the digital world, I don’t delete photos. Instead, I take bad photos to Photoshop, Paintshop Pro, Photo-Paint, Dynamic Auto-Painter, and many others to see what I can do with them.

Following is one that most photographers would call a throwaway. It had so many things wrong with it. Here it makes a nice sunset silhouette with those surfers in the lower right trying to get away from that nuclear explosion in the upper left. I have included the original for comparison purposes.

OriginalOriginal bad sunset picture

Altered sunset picture

At first glance, I thought I’d simply put a different sun in there because I really wanted to save the silhouette and the surfers. However, replacing parts of pictures isn’t a walk in the park, so I always try the Photoshop slider controls first.

The first thing I always do to pictures in Photoshop is take the Highlights slider all the way down to -100. That always allows for more beautiful clouds, and in this case, it took out much of the overexposed sun.

Then I took the Shadows slider all the way down to -100. That got rid of 95% of the red lens flare. That red lens flare was bouncing around the whole inside of the camera which is what gave the whole picture that reddish tint.

Next, I took the Blacks slider down to -60. That got rid of the rest of the lens flare.

Lastly, I took the Clarity slider all the way to +100. That allowed for the water directly behind the surfers, in the little cover, to come out of the shadows.

A lot easier than I thought it was going to be, and it created a nice picture.

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

How I Did It—Works for me

How I Did It

I pretty much try to abide by the rule of thirds when I take pictures. I think it creates more aesthetically pleasing photographs.

The rule of thirds might be the most well-known rule of photographic composition since it is one of the first things one learns in photography class.

Of course, rules are meant to be broken, but if you’re going to break a rule, make sure you know it very well so that breaking it is even more effective.

The basic principle behind the rule of thirds is to imagine breaking an image down into thirds (both horizontally and vertically) so that you have 9 parts:

Rule of thirds

The exact center rarely is a good place to put your focal point unless your intent is to show symmetry. Too high, too low, too far left, or too far right is kind of like dissonance in music; it just doesn’t feel right/sound right/look right. The grid, then, identifies four areas of the image—where the lines intersect—where you should consider placing points of interest in your picture.

Along with the four intersections, the rule of thirds also gives you four lines along which to place elements in your picture.

Rule of thirds lines

The theory behind the rule of thirds is that placing points of interest at the intersections or along the lines provides a more balanced picture with which the viewer can interact more naturally. Apparently, research shows that when looking at a picture, your eyes go naturally to one of the intersections much more naturally than to the center of the image.

I don’t know if the rule of thirds comes naturally to me or whether fifty years of photography has simply made it a habit. Maybe I’ll intentionally break the rule to see what happens.

If your picture looks or feels awkward, don’t hesitate to take it into a digital photo editing program like Photoshop and crop it to give it a better feel or look.

Following is a panorama of the Music Building at San Diego State University that illustrates the rule of thirds. This panorama was created by taking 8 separate pictures into Photoshop and then using the Photomerge function to stitch them together. Afterwards I cropped the panorama to get this:

Music Building at San Diego State University

My landscape-oriented pictures often use the top, middle, and bottom thirds, as I have done that picture. I really like this picture, first and foremost because it’s the Music Building and connects with my 60 years of music (violin, piano, and voice). Additionally, though, I really like the dominant but different colors in the thirds—blue in the upper third, white in the middle, and green in the lower. Notice, however, that the transitions are not too sharp or abrupt. The white clouds in the blue sky lead one’s eyes to the white building. The green trees against the white building then lead one’s eyes to the green grass in the lower third. In every sense, this picture works for me.

Thanks for stopping by! See you next time!

This post approved by
This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Beware of photographers bearing alternative pictures

How I Did It

I don’t have much respect for photographers who spout that their pictures are straight out of the camera. All that tells me is that they haven’t explored all that their cameras can do.

In today’s world, even cameras are photoshoppers. For example, on all my Canon cameras (XSi, T2i, T6s), I can change the in-camera settings. I push the Menu button, scroll to Picture Style, choose it, and then I can choose Auto, Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful, Monochrome, User Def. 1, User Def. 2, and User Def. 3.
For each of those choices, I can then set the Sharpness (0 to 7), Contrast (-4 to +4), Saturation (-4 to +4), and Color tone (-4 to +4). Other settings on the camera allow me to modify exposure compensation, white balance, ISO, shutter speed, aperture, or even add creative filters (Grainy B/W, Soft focus, Fish-eye effect, Art bold effect, Water painting effect, Toy camera effect, Miniature effect), crop the picture, and change the brightness.

One also should realize that the little computers that power our cameras are more powerful than the 1960’s computers that sent man to the moon and brought him back safely. Why not use that power? In order to use that power, though, computers require software to make them run. Just like I prefer Photoshop over Photo-Paint and PaintShop Pro, I prefer the Canon software engineers’ programming over the programming from the engineers at Nikon, Sony, and the others. It’s not always about price. But that doesn’t mean that I’m going to let the Canon software engineers, who may or may not be photographers themselves, decide for me how I want my pictures to look. Ain’t gonna happen. What they have given me in their software programming is just the basics with which to start.

One of the best reasons for joining a photography club is to see what cameras other people are using and what their cameras can do. One of the little ol’ ladies in my camera club, 77 years old, uses no post-camera processing software. However, she has a Canon 70D. You should see her “post process” in her camera, both before and after she takes the picture, looking at and changing the histogram, the noise, the brightness, and anything else that suits her fancy for a particular picture or time. She knows every setting on her camera, and she knows how to use those settings, too. But she had always claimed that her pictures are “straight out of the camera.”

I pointed out to her one day that “post processing” really meant “after you take the picture,” not after the picture leaves the camera, and not necessarily using Photoshop on the computer back at home. I explained to her using her own camera and actions. She now understands, and since she has higher power connections in the camera club, the president asked me to do a “post processing” seminar for the camera club. We had around 200 people that morning; very few of them had ever explored their camera settings, preferring to think that they were expert photographers because they knew what P, A, ISO, Av, Tv, and M meant.

One of our younger male members loves sunrise and sunset pictures, but he doesn’t like getting up before noon, and by the time sunset arrives, he’s too busy with the wine & women. I showed him how to use the settings on his camera to get a sunrise/sunset picture at 2:00 p.m. any day of the year using his in-camera settings. Now he’s the happiest guy on Earth.

I enjoy post processing on my computer using Photoshop since I have a big computer screen, a fast computer, music to listen to, a cat in my lap, and a margarita on the desk. Trying to do post processing on a little 3-inch LCD screen with little buttons, out in the wild, is not my idea of fun.

So as I said, I don’t have much respect for someone who spouts that their pictures are straight out of the camera. All that tells me is that they haven’t explored all that their cameras can do or that their command of the English language is not yet sufficient to understand what “post processing” means.

Here are a couple of sunrise/sunset pictures of mine. Can you tell whether or not they are sunrise or sunset?

Sunrise in La Mesa, California

Sunrise from the top of Mount Helix in La Mesa, California

Those two are fairly easy because you have a 50% chance of being correct since the sun is in the picture. As long as I didn’t actually put the sun in the picture (which I can do with Photoshop), you know they are either sunrise or sunset. But what do you do if the sun is not in the picture, like these three:

Sunrise in La Mesa, California

Sunset in La Mesa, California on December 10, 2016, looking east

La Mesa sunset

Those pictures are mid-afternoon pictures. The clouds and whatever was happening behind them were creating some interesting effects with the sun. I used some in-camera settings to accentuate the effect and then completed the process at home in Photoshop.

So beware of photographers bearing alternative pictures in this new world order of alternative facts.

This post approved by
This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Here a mural, there a mural

Out & About

It would be fun just to drive around San Diego County all day and take pictures of the billions and billions and billions of murals.

Here is one that is two stories tall and many, many parking spaces long:

img_2345 panorama solana beach mural

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I had to take 32 pictures to get the complete mural and then have Photoshop merge them together to get the panorama. You can click on the picture to see a larger version.

The wonderful people who created the mural:

img_2377 solana beach mural stampPictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

And its location:

mural location

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

IMG_2316 zoey the cool cat happy july

Need a unique gift?
Anniversary? Birthday? Graduation? Marriage?
Choose Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America.

Photographic Art logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Need for speed

How I Did It

As I was cataloging pictures this morning, I came across this one:

img_0103 van and kayak ocean beach original stamp


It’s a pretty lousy picture because it was taken through a windshield in the rain. Ooogy colors, ooogy sky, just ooogy all the way around. However, I thought it had potential so I put it in my “See-if-you-can-do-something-with-this” folder.

The kayak looks rather fast, but I don’t think it can go as fast as that van. Nonetheless, I wanted to see if I could do something that portrayed speed. Here’s what I came up with:

img_0103 van and kayak ocean beach stamp


First I took the original file to Photoshop to see if I could do something with Photoshop’s filters. I didn’t find anything I liked so I went to my Topaz Labs plug-ins. After working my way through several of them, I found a setting in Topaz Glow that I liked, and that’s what you see.

Time required to find the right filter: About 4 hours.

Time required to create the picture after finding the right filter: About 4 seconds.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Need a unique gift? Anniversary? Birthday? Graduation? Marriage? Choose Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America.

Photographic Art logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

What comes out of the camera….

My wise old grandmother

When I was living in Utah with my mom, stepdad, and six other children, we rarely ate as a family at the table. In fact, in thinking back on those three years, I can’t ever remember us eating together as a family. That might explain why I stole so much food from the Food King right across the street. My friends were stealing toys; I was stealing food.

When my wise old grandmother adopted me, my youngest uncle (we’ll call him Doug since that was his name) was still living at home. Although he was in college, he knew that if he wanted to eat, supper was served at the dining room table at 6:00 p.m. Breakfast and lunch usually were served at the kitchen bar since everyone had different schedules for the day. But if you missed supper at the dining room table at 6:00 p.m., you pretty much starved until the next morning. It only took twice to realize that my wise old grandmother was serious….

After breakfast and through mid-afternoon, the dining room table belonged to my wise old grandmother. She would cut out patterns for the clothes she made, write letters to family and friends, read the newspaper, and, most important to her, put together her scrapbooks and photo albums.

Doug always found it funny how my wise old grandmother would create her scrapbooks and photo albums because there wasn’t a full-size picture in any of them. All of her pictures got cropped to meet a specific purpose that she had in mind. Cropping back in those days meant using the scissors to cut away parts that weren’t needed, and sometimes to cut out a person, a car, or a building.

Doug constantly was making fun of her but she never backed down. She knew what she wanted, she knew what she had to do to create what she wanted, and that was that!

Probably my favorite words of wisdom from my wise old grandmother are words that I have been using and practicing for at least forty years:

What comes out of the camera is just the basics to start with.

In today’s world, Photoshop is our scissors and our lightroom. No need to make a mess on the dining room table or get sick inhaling all the chemical smells in the lightroom. Just make a plate of nachos, grab a beer, put the cat on your lap, open Photoshop, and get started.

I am always after better or more time-saving ways to work in Photoshop, so I check out new software that comes on the market. Recently one of my favorite software companies, Topaz Labs, released a new plug-in for Photoshop, Topaz Restyle.

Following is a picture of the La Casa Estudillo Museum in Old Town. You’ll see and read more about it in an upcoming blog post, probably Saturday.

Casa de Estudillo Museum in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

That actually is a panorama comprised of six individual pictures, photomerged in Photoshop. I find it perfectly acceptable, but then I remembered the new Topaz Restyle software that I had just bought and had to go mess around some. I got a lot of interesting pictures but I liked this one the best:

Casa de Estudillo Museum in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The original picture was taken at 8:14 AM on December 13, 2014. The Topaz Restyle picture also was taken at 8:14 AM on December 13, 2014, since they are the same picture!

The second picture certainly looks like it was taken at dusk the way the sunlight is reflected in the clouds, on the ground, in that left window, off the museum sign in the lower left, and off the exterior walls. Even to the right of the museum, it looks like the sun is shining a little more brightly over there, maybe because there were no trees providing any shade.

I love the Topaz rendition. I think it adds depth to the picture—look at the clouds through the arches in the bell tower—and a great deal more interest.

The Topaz Restyle plugin normally is $59.99 but you can get a $20 discount on it through the end of February by using the discount code FEBRESTYLE at checkout.

Topaz Labs is here.

All Topaz software has a free 30-day fully functional trial, so hop on over there, check out what they have, and let me know what you think.

Sadly, Topaz has not paid me for this testimonial….

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Need a unique gift?
Anniversary? Birthday? Graduation? Marriage?
Choose Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America.

Photographic Art logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post