Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Fourth of July is right around the corner.  With the advent of digital photography, photographing fireworks has become easy and fun, just by following some basic steps. With a little planning and a bit a practice you can get some truly spectacular and creative images

Here's how to do it:
A little planning goes a long way.
Take a little time before the show to scout the location. Determine where the fireworks will be launched and then try to find a clear, unobstructed view. You don't want to be in the middle of a crowd, with people wandering in front of the camera or bumping into your tripod. Avoid any other light sources such as streetlights to avoid the possibility of light flare. Watch out for tree branches and electrical wires that can sneak into your composition.

Be aware of smoke. If you can figure out which direction the wind will be blowing then try to position yourself upwind so the smoke will blow away from you. Smoke will really light up with the bursts, and if it’s between you and the fireworks then your photos will suffer and look...well smokey!.
The new Dehaze slider in Lightroom CC does a great job of mitigating the smoke in the images!

Put the camera on tripod. Use a cable release or remote control so there will be no movement when you open the shutter. You want your camera to be as solid as a rock during the long exposures necessary for fireworks photography otherwise the smooth paths of light the fireworks create will appear jagged blurrey and messy.
Orient the camera on the tripod vertically as opposed the horizontal landscape orientation as this gives a better composition as the fireworks soar vertically into the sky.
Set the lens to manual focus and set it to the ∞ (infinity) mark. (Take a small flashlight with you so you can see your camera controls after dark)
Set the camera on "B" or "Bulb." When you press the shutter, or cable release the camera opens to light, and stays open until you release it.  You have full control over how long an exposure you get.
Shoot at the lowest ISO for the best results. 100 for Canon, 200 for Nikon. (Turn off ISO AUTO if you have it) you want a nice long exposure with as little digital noise as possible.
Start with an aperture opening of f8 or f11 and f 16.  These seem to work well for fireworks photography. The type of lens you choose will depend on your proximity to the show but generally a good telephoto zoom will give you the most flexibility.  I use a 70 – 200mm. However, if you are really close to the action a wider angled lens can work beautifully. 
All set up and ready to go…take some test shots of the first fireworks. Open the shutter at the first burst. Hold it open several seconds, until that burst is finished.  See how it looks.  Try different lengths of time and find the speed that you like best. Then hold it open longer and allow several bursts to appear in one shot. Leaving the shutter open for multiple bursts makes it look like they all went off at the same time and can look spectacular.  However, there’s a limit, leaving the shutter open for too long and too many bursts may end up in overexposed areas and too much confusion so strike a happy medium.
Another trick is to have a small piece of black cardboard with you.  Take an exposure through one burst, cover up the front of your lens with the black cardboard then take it off when the next one goes off. You can get some amazing “multiple exposures” with this method.
Look at your shots in the LCD and check your histogram.  You may need to open up or close down your f stop or increase or decrease how long you leave the shutter open.  Try different lengths of exposures throughout the evening.  There will be lots of busts and plenty of opportunities to get it just right.
If the fireworks aren’t bright enough open up you f stop (f8 instead of f11) the brightness of the burst does not vary by the amount of time the shutter is open.  If the Sky is looking too bright then decrease the amount of time the shutter is open.  The sky or ambient light is what is affected by shutter speed. Although this is very easy fix in postprocessing (photoshop or Elements) by increasing the Darks or changing the black point in your image.
Now you have the shots you want , get creative and think outside the box. Add foreground elements to your composition.  People, a bridge, children staring skyward.  Silhouettes of the onlookers to give a sense of location to your picture. Look for reflections in buildings or in lakes or pools. Look for the little details that make this day memorable. Now you can also throw out the “rules” Move your camera during the shot for an interesting effect.  Zoom in or out as the fireworks go off. Use flash to light up the foreground. Turn your camera horizontally. Be creative, experiment and most of all have fun!

Now you can really get carried away and play with FOCUS ROLLING

This is a technique of changing the focus while the shutter is open as the fireworks go off.  It takes a little practice and a lot of trial and error but the results are spectacular and so unusual.

ISO - 100-400
F Stop - 2.8 - 7
Shutter speeds 1 -2 seconds or more

Start with your lens out of focus, release the shutter and with the shutter open refocus to infinity .

Once you're at the furthest focus point.... end the exposure.  As you see the results are amazing and end up looking like flowers.

Check your results in the LCD and refine you focus rolling about and speed.

By changing the aperture the width of the "arms" will change - A larger aperture 2.8 will give you thick, large arms and a smaller aperture f7 or 8 will give a thinner, sharper look.

If you find f2.8 if producing images that are too bright use a neutral density filter or even a polarizer to reduce the amount of light in your exposure.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


Last night Adobe released a new update for Lightroom CC 2015.1, Lightroom 6.1, and Lightroom mobile 1.5 for iPad and iPhone and Photoshop
In the effects panel we now have a new slider called DeHaze.  This will allow you to quickly and effectively remove haze from an image or actually ADD haze for that dreamy ethereal look. Dehaze, eliminates fog and haze from photos, including underwater shots, for startlingly clear images.Dehaze

How to use: 
Set a proper white balance first.  The DeHaze slider can increase saturation just as Contrast does so you may need to reduce Saturation or Vibrance after applying.

Lightroom CC on the desktop
  • Dehaze*
    • Many outdoor scenes have some amount of haze due to atmospheric conditions. Dehaze is a new feature for removing/adding haze and fog from pictures.
    • The user can control how much haze to remove by adjusting a new slider in the Effects panel in the Dehaze section. This feature can also be used in the other direction to increase the amount of haze.
    • Recommended Workflow – Adjust the white balance of the image before applying the Dehaze control.
  • Local White and Black Adjustment Sliders*
    • Available with all 3 local adjustment tools:  Gradient Filter, Radial Filter and Local adjustment brush
    • Useful for fine-tuning tonality near the brightest and darkest parts of the picture. For instance, they can be used to increase the contrast of highlights.
    • Recommended Workflow – Make your global adjustments first and then use the local adjustments to fine tune.  Use the clip warning indicator to help avoid clipping highlights and shadows.
* Please note that these features are not available in the standalone version of Lightroom 6.1.
Whites and Blacks sliders have been added to the adjustment brush, graduated filter and radial filter. Use these to fine tune the brightest and darkest tones in local areas of your photos.

How to Update to Lightroom CC 2015.1 or Lightroom 6
Open Lightroom, it should prompt you for the update.  If not go to Help>Check for Updates to download the update. After the file downloads, double-click on it to launch the update. 
If you are a Creative Cloud user just open the CC app and update from there.  If the updates aren't showing, log out of CC and back in and they should appear. 

Lightroom CC 2015.1, an update to the Creative Cloud subscription version, for subscribers only, also includes new features: a "Dehaze" slider to remove or add haze, and local Blacks and Whites sliders.
Lightroom 6.1, an update to the stand-alone Lightroom 6 program, includes bug fixes, new camera support, tethering for the Canon 70D, and new lens profiles.
Lightroom CC 2015.1, an update to the Creative Cloud subscription version, for subscribers only, also includes new features: a "Dehaze" slider to remove or add haze, and local Blacks and Whites sliders.
Lightroom mobile 1.5 for iPad and iPhone adds video importing, and Color/BW, Tone Curve and Vignetting adjustments. 
More Details on the Lightroom CC Subscription and 6 Stand-Alone Updates
New Camera Support
  • Lightroom can now import photos from the following new cameras: Fuji X-T1-, Nikon 1 J5, Nikon D810A, Panasonic DMC-G7, Pentax K-S2, Pentax K3 II (preliminary support for the K3 II – the multi-shot Pixel Shift Resolution and HDR features are still under investigation)
New Lens Profile Support
Mount / Name
Canon / Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM
Canon / Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM
Canon / Tokina AT­X 11­20mm f/2.8 PRO DX
Leica / Voigtlander VM 15mm f4.5 Super Wide Heliar III Aspherical
Nikon / Nikon 1 NIKKOR VR 10­100mm f/4­5.6
Nikon / Nikon 1 NIKKOR VR PD­Zoom 10­100mm f/4.5­5.6
Nikon / Nikon AF NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4D IF
Nikon / Tokina AT­X 11­20mm f/2.8 PRO DX
Pentax / HD PENTAX­DA 18­50mm f/4­5.6 DC WR RE
Pentax / HD PENTAX­DA L 18­50mm f/4­5.6 DC WR RE
Pentax  / HD PENTAX­D FA 150­450mm f/4.5­5.6ED DC AW
Sony Alpha / Sony 16­35mm f/2.8 ZA SSM II
Sony Alpha / Sony 24­70mm f/2.8 ZA SSM II
Sony Alpha / Sony 70­300mm f/4.5­5.6 G SSM II
GPU Acceleration
GPU Acceleration has been turned off in Preferences for some Mac graphics cards, based on frequent crash reports. Read more here.
Bugs Fixed

  • Local adjustment brush did not properly use the pressure sensitivity information from a Wacom tablet (Windows) Develop adjustments are lost after Edit In while auto­write XMP is turned on
  • Entering name with trailing space while face tagging changes case of keyword
  • Keyword hierarchies are not displayed when naming face regions
  • Keywords get erroneously renamed when using hierarchical keywords in face tagging
  • Keyboard shortcuts for Merge don’t work in German or French
  • Improved quality of display color management on some widegamut displays when Use Graphics Processor is enabled
  • Card reader not automatically found (Windows Autoplay registry issue)
  • Crash when Android device is mounted (Windows)
  • Closing the crop tool or cycling Full Screen modes with Lights Out mode makes entire screen go black
  • Cannot enter negative values in Develop in some languages
  • Mouse wheel changes brush size and scrolls image
  • Import from Photoshop Elements now allows you to include People keywords.
  • Reduced “color blur” artifacts when processing Fujifilm XTrans raw images – In collaboration with Fujifilm, we are still investigating methods to improve fine detail rendering and overall edge definition
  • The “Remove Chromatic Aberration” checkbox is now enabled by default for all Fujifilm cameras.
  • HDR and Pano Merge: Cleared in­camera crop before merging rather than destructively applying it prior to merging.
  • Pano Merge: Fixed a Pano blending issue specific to Leica M9.
  • Fixed a bug with Panasonic LX100 – extended ISO 100 was too bright and Magenta Highlights have been fixed.
  • Fixed a bug with Nikon Coolpix P7800 NRW raw files that showed only Matrix as camera profile.
  • Fixed crash when reading some JPEG images
  • When enabling “Before/After” preview in the Develop module, the screen flickered before showing the Before preview. This only occurred when GPU was enabled Lightroom starts slowly, any attempt to do something results in the blue spinning­wheel and “Not Responding” when connect to LAN without LAN/internet connection
  • If a catalog is too large, the zipped backup can’t be unzipped
  • Export creates erroneous Invalid Constraint Size Error

Sunday, June 14, 2015

INVERT tone curve in Lightroom

While teaching Creative Techniques yesterday in Phoenix I was demonstrating INVERT as a method of interesting way to get some  unusual effects.  In essence we are making a negative image - reversing the colors. 

How its done in LIGHTROOM

Step 1 - Locate the Tone Curve panel on the right hand side while being in the Develop tab. Make sure that the Point Curve button is selected in the lower right hand corner. Next to it on the left, make sure Linear is selected in the drop down.
Step 2 - Drag the top right hand pont down, and then drag the bottom left hand point to the top. So you are reversing the tone curve.

Save this setting as a new Tone Curve preset

Click on the custom drop down box and SAVE this as a preset - I called mine REVERSE

This is what you get - a negative.  Really interesting and creative effects can be achieved

Thursday, June 4, 2015


Cubicle Canyon

Today being "Throwback Thursday" it reminded me that 5 years ago this week I escaped from the mind numbing, backstabbing, good old boy network of corporate life.  Left the drab, monotonous, grey, flat and fluorescent lit walls of the soulless box that housed all the workers.  Windowless rooms, endless inane meetings that endured while my heart and soul yearned to be outside, feeling the wind, getting dirty and learning and exploring something I actually cared about. 
Suzanne Mathia, CISR, CPCU

Don't get me wrong..it wasn't all bad all the time. That nice little paycheck helped me raise 2 fine boys as a single Mom and for that I am thankful. Once the boys were off on their own and it was just me I really began to analyze what I was doing and why I was doing it

In April of 2010 I took my second, 14 day trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.  I looked at those canyon walls and realized I was working in the wrong place.


After spending those wonderful, emotional, fulfilling days of exploration, hard work, camaraderie, and sheer peace and joy I decided to cut the cord....jump into the deep end...and quit the torture of corporate life and pursue my photography obsession with fervor!
Glen Canyon

To be honest, the plan for this decision had been building slowly but purposefully for the last year or more.

Canyon X

I had a big new MAC computer built that would last me for many years to come.  I worked tirelessly on my photographic portfolio.  Honed my skills, explored my vision, learned as much technical information as I could.  I absorbed, books and webinars, classes and workshops.  I travelled alone, I travelled with other photographers that I admired.  During the day in those grey souless canyons of cubicles I dreamt of the day that I could truly live my life. It became harder and harder to put on the corporate mask.  I would hang prints of my images on those drab walls in an effort to take me back to the places that I loved so much.  It only served to remind me that I was further away.

Antelope Canyon

Although I have been a photographer for most of my life, the decesion to try and do it for a living did not present itself till now.  I sometimes wish I had made this jump 20 year earlier...but as all things in life, there is a season, as now this was mine. 

I had a lot of support along the way.  Editors and Photographers who had made this journey themselves. My boys, who never questioned my decision.  It was "go for it Mom!" which was such a boost to me then and continues to this day.  My friends and former colleagues in corporate world watched my escape and growth with joy and envy. I sometimes felt as if I was doing this for them too!

Has it all been easy.  NO!  Do it ever regret my decision..NO! I had to re access my priorities.  A big house? Pool? Manicures? Fancy clothes? None on these were necessary now and were standing in the way of my progress.  Once I let go...I was free.