Thursday, April 17, 2014

Photography: Post Production

If shooting were though complex, the mere number of options post processing presents would be overwhelming for the beginner, saved by perhaps one thing: time. That unlike grabbing a shot, there is no imposed limit beyond patience, no mistake that cannot be reclaimed. Post allows an exploration of human personality through a computer screen, though I'd still caution against any early overzealous remarks as in almost all cases, these tone down shortly.

Quantity of option could be the culprit as the paradox gets further hectic: how do you learn if not by mimicry, all while developing yourself as an own? For I'd imagine people would prefer to contribute rather than replicate, though replication is the more attractive shortcut to success - see trends.

Though because I'd hate to quash anyone's creative process or prevent someone from discovering something better I hesitate to share my 'methods', there's nothing really special to it anyway, meaning that perhaps to your stark dissapointment there isn't much to spoil.

As always, make sure your initial capture excels. I load up all my images into Lightroom (other programs work fine). On import I build 100% previews, a taxing process where I take the liberty of doing something else. Once the image previews are fully generated, I run through each image at 100%, looking for any inconsistancies, ugliness, out of focus. A second run through is done using the A/B compare tool of similar images, helping pick the one to go public. Though sharpness is something I care not too much for, focus is absolutely paramount - a careful distinction.

Then post-production begins: learn how to use the program. There are no secret settings, only that which is in front of you, and the best way to learn is possibly to do what I did: I sat and moved every slider back and forth image after image to get a better understanding for each. Learn when you'd use brightness, exposure, highlights, shadows, tone curves, and contrast. You're a creative, right? Don't let definitions dictate how you can use these tools - I'm pretty sure I've come up with a few ways to use some settings that wasn't intended.

Also realize that though there is no replacement for shooting an image well, no amount will allow you to shoot perfect JPEGs. The camera might let you adjust for color temperature but hardly tint, and exposure moves in 1/3 and 1/2 stop increments, not near the 0.05 desk-side. The difference? Night and day, friend.

I work with the Adobe camera Raw engine. Other programs are fine, but things might be in different places and under different names.

The main tab is what gets the bulk of my attention - color correction and lighting. Messing with color beyond that: vibrance, saturations, and hues don't get much play in people photos, though product photography lives there. Lens corrections are a vacation. And the others...spite. I might use the brushes and gradients in order to apply localized adjustments, but be careful not to go overboard - it has to be done well, and an overly balanced image looks...odd.

I'll say here that this in retrospect isn't a perfectly edited photo, though I'll excuse myself in saying it only needs probably small touchups, and that I was more concerned with grabbing screenshots than editing. I also don't feel like going and doing the whole screenshot thing all over again. Nonetheless, those who'd like to know my exact numerical settings changes, here they are.

They say the final step of the equation should be sharpening (and noise reduction, which I don't really do), as the rending for these takes the longest. Lightroom supposedly has a very well attuned export sharpening algorithm, but I prefer still to do these things by hand. It adds some grain to the photo, but I don't mind.

In the end the final product is going to determined by skill rather than technique, as there are a number of ways to achieve essentially the same exact thing. Minute tuning and consistency are probably what separates the stars; my main caution would be to stay away from trends, instead choosing to define your own visual personality - something that will last more than just a few months or years.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Roy Yamaguchi's

The newly remodeled Roy Yamaguchi's dining room

My previous visit to Roy's left me largely unimpressed with their Happy Hour appetizers (and behaviors including a bartender reshaking a drink for a customer who had already consumed half of it, only to immediately use that same shaker for someone else, without cleaning) - I'd pretty much resolved not to return.  Considering how Roy's felt the need to rebrand itself into Roy Yamaguchi's, I'd say my feelings may have been rather commonplace.

It was only at a San Diego event did I get insight into their shaken up menu - the most amazing scallops were provided straight off the grill, perhaps the secret to its deliciousness.  The all important question was then: is Roy's truly as new and improved as their rebranding, or is it all just a marketing gimmick?

Toasted Garlic Calamari
Watercress, toasted sesame seeds, scallion Purée 11.95

I'd had the pre-rebranding calamari, and this proved a marked improvement in recipe and texture.  Unfortunately the flavoring wasn't much - a bit on the bland side, as was the scallion purée.  A special shame considering my love for garlic, calamari, and scallions, each.

Next course up?  Canoe Appetizer for Two - Shrimp Dim Sum, Vegetable Spring Roll, Szechuan Spiced Pork Ribs, spicy Tuna Roll, Charred Shishito Peppers 26.95

Shrimp Dim Sum - Out of the canoe appetizer it was probably the favorite but a little undercooked, resulting in a shrimp flavor that doesn't entirely come through.

Spicy Tuna Roll - Crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside, those are the two distinct flavor profiles, the tempura dough being more powerful than anything else.  Unfortunately, that also means there's not too much of a tuna flavoring.

Szechuan Pork Ribs - They tasted a bit more American Barbeque than Chinese in style.

Vegetable Spring Roll

Charred Shishito Peppers - Shishito peppers are generally sweeter than others, a random one in ten of these spicy.  It's become a trendy restaurant pick as of late, its gentle skin turning red upon being ripened for harvest though they're usually picked before then.  These were all not of the spicy variant and more flavored on the outside than inside, though despite the salt, pepper, and char, it still had a bland taste.

Now about the service: from top to bottom I felt fairly marginalized here, as if a restaurant named Yamaguchi's had never seen an Asian before or something (we were probably the only ones in the restaurant).  I got the nagging feeling straight from the hostess that I shouldn't really be there, and everyone walked around that night with a grumpy look on their face.  Someone I assume could be the manager walked around and asked people how their food and evening was, but again that nagging feeling approached saying he really doesn't care.

With that said, our server, Alisa W., was probably the only person who made an effort with us that night.  She smiled, didn't give us attitude (unlike everyone else), and was nice and considerate.  I'd wanted to order or tip more if the money would only go straight to her, but since that's not how tips work and how lacking the food was, I just couldn't bring myself to.

Private dining room

In conclusion, there's still a ways to go before I'd willingly spend money here again - just too many good happy hours (and actual restaurants too) light up the area.  If you can, stay off the Yamaguchi's general menu and stick with the local chef's recipes, but even then it's better to find other places to spend your money and patience.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Maturity of Men

I was in the process of writing something about gender on this blog, a critique on the matter, but realized I didn't care to have a debate of egos, nor would I benefit from the number of click-throughs or page-views as I don't run ads nor do I desire outsider traffic. So I'll leave it to this:

There's a fair amount of male-bashing in church culture now: people are saying men aren't growing up, that men aren't trying, that men aren't leading or praying or even getting jobs. And I say that's anecdotal nonsense, entirely unsupported by facts.

Church leadership and prayer meetings and mission fields might lack men, but probably because American churches as a whole lack men. And don't make the conclusion that men aren't in church because they're immature - that's heresy. We are saved by grace and nothing else.

As for the whole 'there are more women than men in college now', that may be true in liberal arts schools, but specialty and military academies continue to be male dominated, and even in liberal arts schools, the "practical" majors like computer sciences, business, engineering are still overwhelmingly skewed. Toward men.

So let's quit the storytelling and realize that sure, men might not be what you want them to be, but neither is anyone else. And it's just too Christian to bash a group of people while everyone else is, isn't it?

Saturday, April 5, 2014


Have you ever thought about doing an entire photoshoot without saying an entire word, but instead only using gestures?  Here's one time where I had to.  Presenting: Michelle.  

Thanks for being such a great sport, Michelle.  I really appreciate it =]

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Friday, March 28, 2014

Nichol: Experimentation/Night

And since my early experimentation were largely during the night, here's more from then.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Photography: Focus (and focus!)

If I nitpicked one thing beyond all else, this would be it. And it's far too ignored in popular photography despite its monumental importance - in cinema, some people's sole jobs are to do this; it's your ability to focus.

Literally I mean, and not just of the mind, though of course that's quite necessarily as well. But of the lens, of the alignment of the elements, of clarity, of a perfect plane of acuity. Where depth of field is a choice, and its character, and even diffraction, manipulate perception.

Let me be clear: I don't at all think expensive fast lenses make one 'pro', or that lens sharpness is even remotely high priority. But your inability to hit perfect focus consistently will greatly impact your storytelling, nearly as much as your ability to release the shutter at an exact moment. And in many ways, they're both highly predictive.

I don't care how nicely blurred your background is. If you've failed to hit focus where needed, you've failed to capture. I see far too many out of focus pictures online from aspiring photographers peddled as "professional", a class they fail to achieve despite the best in emotion, post-production, and lighting - unless you have a damn good reason for it artistically. For those complaining about the "weird" things Facebook does when you upload photos: it only exaggerates your errors, punishing you for your flaws.

I'll let you in on a big secret: phase detection just sucks at wide apertures and under unideal light. So if you want that someone in focus with a nicely blurred background, it's time to practice going full manual - it might take longer, but you'll shoot less while keeping more.

An example: to many this might look like a picture focused on the young lady, complimented by a very nicely blurred background.

Closer inspection proves the image to be minorly out of focus. Most examples I see on Facebook fare worse, but I did not want to highlight the errors of others nor use their images without permission. Note the lack of clarity on her face and eyes yet the sharpness on the front of the umbrella: if in doubt, chromatic aberration is often a good tell. This misfocus is perhaps unnoticeable at a distance, but compression or close-up inspection will yield error.