"Elephant Profile" Deconstructed

The past couple of months I have really spent a lot of time on Google+. I have certainly engaged more there than on any other "social platform". One reason for that is the audience. Obviously, you have the tech crowd. But, surprisingly, photographers seem to have really taken to the site in a big way.

I mention Google+ because not only do you get to see great photos, but many photographers are also sharing how they create their works. One of my favorite ways that they do this is a "Before and After" shot. I thought I would follow their example.

So above you will see one of my recent photographs, "Elephant Profile". The "before" shot is a little dull, in my opinion. Dull and flat. Although you do see quite a bit of texture. That texture is what I really wanted to emphasize.

Well, I didn't intend to get too detailed in what I did, but I guess I got a little carried away when I started capturing screenshot. What follows is the progression:

ImageAdjustment Notes
RAW adjustments made in Lightroom 3. Mainly increased the Recovery value to bring some detail back into the blown out tusk.
Cleaned up some noise using Topaz DeNoise 5.

Lightened up the wall in the background.
Copied merged and pasted into a new layer.

Set the blend mode for that layer to Overlay at 60% Opacity.

Masked out areas that I felt were made too dark or too light.
Used Photoshop CS5's Sharpen Tool to pull a little more detail out of the trunk, forehead, the edge of his ear and his flank.
Added a Curves Adjustment Layer to tweak the white balance a bit.

(Color-blind people like me making white balance adjustments is almost slapstick humor at its best.)
I really liked the contrast that I was seeing in the Blue Channel, so I added a Black & White Adjustment Layer with the Blue Filter selected and set the blend mode to Luminosity.

The tusk started clipping the highlights so I masked it and the eye out.
Up to this point I've been making adjustments to what is actually there. Now I start taking some artistic license.

Because I thought things were still looking a little flat, I decided to add some dimensionality by adding highlights to a layer with a blend mode of Soft Light.

Added highlights to the trunk, the area above the trunk and some of the ear wrinkles.
I then added some shadows to a layer with a blend mode of Multiply.

Shadows were applied to the side of the trunk (a nose job), under the cheek bone and on his chest and leg right under his ear.
Using the clone stamp tool, I got rid of the texture in the background wall.
I probably over-use vignettes, but I tried to keep things fairly restrained this time and masked out areas that I did not want too dark or dark at all.
Once again, I copied merged and pasted that into a new layer. I then applied a Gaussian Blur with a radius of ~15 pixels.

The blend mode of the layer was changed to Overlay at a 22% Opacity.
A Curves Adjustment Layer was added to bump up the highlights.

The tusk was, once again, masked out to protect it from clipping.
And finally a Vibrance Adjustment Layer where the Vibrance was set to +46 and the Saturation was set to -23.

And there you go. Many of these changes were pretty subtle. Particularly when seen in a step-by-step progression like this. But at least you get a general feeling for what I did and why I did it whether or not you like the final version or not.

Hopefully this was somewhat educational, entertaining or at least marginally interesting. If you would like to comment on what you've seen, maybe point out something that you might have done differently or maybe you just want to say "hi", hit me up on Twitter (@tomgehrke) or come find me on Google+ (https://profiles.google.com/tomgehrke).

Elephant Profile - Desktop Background

Elephants are so interesting. Not sure that I think they are "pretty", but I do find the textures to be... well... they're not boring. :)

Things I post in my Wallpapers album are usually spare pictures that I just had laying around. Things that might have ended up on the cutting room floor in another time. This one, however, I actually like. It just happened to work out that the crop I wanted makes it suitable for a desktop background.

So if you want this guy staring at you while you do your work (and I'm sure you're working), grab the 2560x1600 version here.

Temperature Gauge - Desktop Background

I'm a sucker for dials and gauges and all kinds of old-timey doo-dads and gadgets. That is why I take pictures like this.

Of course, I'm not sure that most people are that into these things so the pictures end up sitting around on my drives for a while.

However, every now and then I go through them looking for images that might make decent backgrounds. Interesting enough with enough space for desktop shortcuts and not so interesting that you feel badly about covering it up with program windows.

This is one of those shots. I hope you like it.

(If not, no doubt I will have something else for you shortly.)

Hanging In There

Hanging In There by Thomas Gehrke
Hanging In There, a photo by Thomas Gehrke on Flickr.

While carrying groceries up the stairs, I walked by my front door. The door has windows on each side. I was well past the door and half way to the kitchen when I though, "Hey... That looked a lot like a very small praying mantis hovering upside-down right outside." After putting down my bags, I went back for a second look.

I was right.

Although "hovering" is not entirely accurate. The little guy was stuck in a spider web. Since he wasn't going anywhere anytime soon, I went for my camera and started snapping away. As you can see, I don't think he appreciated this by the way he is eye-balling me.

Or maybe that should be eye-stalking?

At any rate, I took a few pictures and then let him go. Half-eaten insects are really not a great way to welcome visitors to my front door.


I just transferred my last three domains (including this one) from GoDaddy and when I did, I failed to notice a DNS issue. I just thought it was taking a while for the dust to settle. So 24 hours later, I finally decided that something was buggered up and... what do you know? It was.

But it was easily fixed and a minute later, we're back! I'm sorry you had to do without the site all day (all 3 of you).

Google Releases iOS Blogger App (And I Don't Like It)

Google released an app for managing Blogger posts today. I am using it now. It seems to target the iPhone/iPod Touch with very basic functionality.

Grab it from iTunes here.

Just to confirm the lack of native iPad support...

There also seems to be no graphical way to place images. The seem to get attached to the post and then placed at the end of the article.

You can go back and edit an article that has been published or is in draft, but rather than any sort of WYSIWYG editing you are instead greeted by markup. Like so...

I just added the image from my photo library. It should show up right before this paragraph.

[It didn't. I ended up editing things after the fact through my desktop browser.]

Something else that is missing is very basic text editing tools such as the ability to bold and italicize text or create links. If, however, images are displayed as markup when editing a post, it stnds to reason that I should be able to manually mark things up myself.

If that is the case then the previous paragraph should be italicized. (After fighting with autocorrect, that is.)

[That did, indeed, work. So get your HTML-Fu on and enjoy. Or not.]

Another annoyance is that the darn button for dismissing the keyboard keeps getting in the way.

OK. I try to be positive about these things. This app is really not very good for much but the most basic of tasks.

I am not really clear on why this is a native app instead of an HTML5 app that would scale nicely depending on the device used as well as providing equivalent functionality. That bar is set pretty low, in my opinion.

Craving Clover Desktop Background

Craving Clover by Thomas Gehrke
Craving Clover, a photo by Thomas Gehrke on Flickr.
I have been going through many older photos that I've had squirreled away. In many cases, they didn't turn out as well as I had hoped. (If at first you don't succeed....)

But some of them are reasonably decent. Maybe not what I consider "fine art" by any stretch of the imagination, but possibly something that one might not mind looking at as a desktop background image.

I chased this guy and his brothers around the back yard last year. I'm sure the neighbors were entertained as I crawled through the grass. Unfortunately, they just don't hold still for very long.