A High Contrast How-To

I've always really enjoyed black & white photography where the subject (usually an animal) was in high contrast against a completely white or completely black background. My recent "Cow Lick" photograph was my first attempt at that style. Apparently some of you liked the result because you asked me how I did it.

Here you go...

I'm not going to be too detailed because you may have different tools/methods. Feel free to make this process your own.

This is what we started with.

Using Viveza 2 by Nik Software, I made some adjustments to darken the background and increase the contrast of the giraffes. You don't have to use Viveza. You can accomplish the same result using masked adjustment layers in Photoshop. Viveza just saves us some time.

Then i did a little cleanup. There was one piece of hay on the calf's forehead. It needed to go away.

Now to convert things to black and white by using a Black & White adjustment layer...

...increase the contrast...

...and do a little dodging and burning.

There are several ways to do this. I went with an Exposure adjustment layer, adjusted the Gamma Correction and started "painting in" the effect by using a white brush on the black adjustment mask.

I did largely the same for the "burning" adjustment.

It was finally time to finish getting rid of that background. Depending on the photo and how things went with the contrast adjustments, this step doesn't have to be particularly exact.

And voila'!

I made a few other adjustments after this step. Things like a curve adjustment, some selective sharpening, a crop and some vignetting at the base of each neck bring us, at last, to the final piece.

Cow Lick

Having been way too busy lately to go out and shoot new photographs, I continue to dive into the archives for photos that seemed like a good idea at the time but needed just a bit more TLC than I had time for. This was one of those photos.

This was taken on a hot day in May of 2010 at the Memphis Zoo. I thought that a mother giraffe grooming her calf would be a cute shot. It was, but I was off on the exposure.

Note: Haste makes waste. I'm always trying to get out of the way of others when I'm shooting in a  public place so I tend to rush. Don't do that.

Fortunately, I was able to pull in some detail in the overexposed areas and then art things up to get rid of the ugly background. By "ugly" I mean "non-natural". I love zoos. There are many photo opportunities there. However, I really like to make it less obvious that these are animals in captivity. (Or that I'm not actually on safari.)

As always, here is the obligatory before & after comparison.

I'm pretty pleased with the results.

If you like, you may buy a print from my stores on either Imagekind or Redbubble.

Sandhill Crane Paintography

I was playing around the other night and just trying to get the creative juices flowing. This is what I came up with.

By request, here is the obligatory "before and after" shot. You're welcome, Jamie.

Reddit Theming - Part 1: The Stylesheet

I've had several people ask me how I did some things on the theme I put together for the Tech News Today subreddit. Since that was pretty much the first reddit theme I ever played around with, I know that finding how-to's can be challenging. I am going to try to help by publishing a series of articles on the topic.

Before one can walk, one must first learn to crawl. If you want to create a reddit theme/stylesheet/css, you need to know where you are going to be spending most of your time. Assuming that you have created your subreddit you will see something that looks a little like this:

I've sprinkled in a few posts just to have something to look at, but you get the idea. This is pretty much the default look. Plain, simple and to the point. There is nothing wrong with this.

However, you would not be here if you were fine with plain, simple and to the point.

On the right side of the page you will find a box labeled "Moderation Tools".  Click the link for "community settings".

You will then see your subreddit's settings. All the way at the bottom in the "look and feel" section there is a link to "edit the stylesheet". Remember where that is because you will be clicking it. A lot.

Great. A blank slate. As you would expect, your first time in things are pretty sparse.

If you click the link to "show the default stylesheet", you will get an idea of what it is you are getting yourself into.

That is reddit's starting point. Our job is to override that cascading stylesheet (CSS) with a stylesheet of our own.

For instance, the page body has the following style applied by default:

body {
  font:normal x-small verdana, arial, helvetica, sans-serif;

If we want, we can do something crazy like make the background yellow. We could enter the following in the stylesheet textbox and hit the preview button:

body {

What you should see is this:

That is not at all attractive, but for the sake of illustration, it works.

In my next post, I will show you how I deconstruct the page and start making changes.