Tag Archives: post

Controlling Highlights (A Napkin Drawing)

Earlier this month some friends and I got together in San Francisco, as we do every month, to share prints and talk photography. One friend shared prints of some beautiful night photographs he had made of a San Francisco subject. As we looked for little things that could make excellent prints even better we got to talking about highlights and how to control them. There are quite a few ways to do this, and I drew a little picture on a napkin to illustrate one technique I sometimes use to get a bit more detail out of areas that appear to be nearly pure white. The drawing looked a lot like the following.

Drawing on a napkin

It doesn’t look like much here, but trust me when I say that it made sense at the time. My friend picked up the napkin and took it with him as a reminder… and then a few days later contacted me to say he had lost the “napkin notes” from our conversation. He asked if I would mind describing the technique again. I said I’d do it — and three weeks later I finally got around to writing it up in this article!

Photographers using digital cameras have to watch out for over-exposing highlights. While we can recover a lot of detail from dark shadows, especially with current digital cameras, there is much less headroom at the bright end of the spectrum. When the exposure is too bright it is easy to end up with lost details in high luminosity areas. Go a little too far and you end up with that bane of digital photography, blown highlights, where the bright areas are simply pure white, leaving little or no hope of recovering the lost details. Continue reading Controlling Highlights (A Napkin Drawing)

Sharpening Basics: A Primer

Sharpening is a very important step for optimizing digital photograph files. If you let your camera save images in the common .jpg format (a compressed image format that is often used on the web) the camera is applying sharpening to the image produced by the camera sensor. If you use the raw format (a high quality format that retains the original sensor data of the exposure) you will find that the photograph looks soft until you apply sharpening during the post production phase.

Sharpening optimizes the visibility of details that are already in your photograph. It is a matter of more clearly revealing what is in the photograph than  a matter of creating detail where there was none. Most sharpening works by increasing the contrast between light and dark areas in the image — that’s right, what we call sharpening (which makes sense subjectively) as actually more about adjusting the brightness of portions of the photograph.

Typical sharpening

The image above is an example of a small section of a photograph.[1] It is a “100% magnification crop” of a tiny area from a much larger photograph made with a high megapixel DSLR camera. A “100% magnification crop” is an image displayed so that each pixel — or individual picture element — of the original photograph is displayed using a single pixel on the screen. (Things are a bit more complicated than that when using modern high-resolution monitors, though I’ll let that description stand for now.) 100% magnification crops let us look very closely at what is going on in photographas “at the pixel level.” In this case, the original full image from which these examples were taken would be equivalent to prints at a width of roughly 10-12 feet.

The right side of the example shows this tiny section of the photograph before sharpening. The left side shows the results of fairly typical sharpening. Continue reading Sharpening Basics: A Primer

A Photograph Exposed: Technique and Interpretation in Post

(“A Photograph Exposed”  is a series exploring some of my photographs in greater detail.)

Island and Trees, Tuolumne River
Trees grow on a small, rocky island in the Tuolumne River, Yosemite National Park

If you follow this website you may have seen this photograph before — it is one of two that were the subjects of an earlier article (“A Photograph Exposed: One Subject, Two Compositions“) focusing on compositional decisions I made when I photographed this Sierra Nevada subject. In this companion article I want to look at the next step — going from that original exposure to the final (at least for now!) interpretation of the subject that you see above, and the how and why of post-processing the image.

For me, post-processing is as much a part of the creative process of photography as is composing and making the exposure. In fact, many of the decisions that I make at the time of exposure anticipate what I may do during the post-processing stage. These decisions recognize that the camera does not “see” the same way that we do, and that simply trying to produce an exposure that looks the exactly like the actual scene is often both hopeless and counterproductive. Continue reading A Photograph Exposed: Technique and Interpretation in Post

Post and Grant, Night

san francisco, california, usa, urban, street, photography, night, post, grant, streets, corner, intersection, black and white, monochrome, people, sidewalk
Friday night at the corner of Post and Grant, San Francisco

Post and Grant, Night. San Francisco, California. July 25, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Friday night at the corner of Post and Grant, San Francisco

This is (yet another) photograph from my fruitful nighttime wanderings in an area of urban San Francisco in late July, when I joined a small group of fellow photographers to do some night street photography. They started with dinner, but I arrived a bit late and finally met up with them between my starting point (near Union Square) and their location in North Beach. We first photographed in the less-touristy areas of Chinatown, then wandered into tourist central, the well-known Grant Avenue area, where we knew we would find people and interesting lighting.

Eventually we wandered on down beyond Chinatown and ended up in the Union Square vicinity, where the group began to split up — it was getting late, some had been photographing for many hours, and their cars were a distance away. I continued on down Grant a bit further, where I made this photograph at the intersection with Post Street. You might detect one or two odd compositional choices in this photograph — why is that car poking into the right side of the frame?


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books and Amazon.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email


All media © Copyright G Dan Mitchell and others as indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

What’s With the Daily Photographs? (Morning Musings 9/28/14)

Mo's Cloud
Mo’s Cloud. Sierra wave cloud over the Long Valley California. May 28, 2005. © 2008 Copyright G Dan Mitchell — all rights reserved. (posted on my blog in July 2005)

Owens Valley near Mammoth, California. May 28, 2005. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved..

It occurs to me that many people are probably aware that I post a new photograph every day — but that few know how long I’ve been doing this nor my reasons for this seemingly obsessive task. Today I’m sharing a bit of the back story.

I’ve been building and operating websites since about 1995.  I’ll skip over a bunch of other interesting (to me) steps in the previous millennium and my first adventures with weblogs (now known as “blogs”) in the 1990s — though this could be a story for another day. Early on I created a blog about backpacking and other outdoor subjects called “Dan’s Outside,” and it gradually came to hold more and more photographs. At some point — likely around the time I acquired my first DSLR in the early 2000s — the photographs began to be the primary focus, and in 2005 I created a photography blog. The photograph at the top of this post was one of the earliest I shared, back in July of 2005.

Although I have not kept careful records, it looks like the daily photograph posts probably began to appear about a month later in August 2005, and they have continued mostly without a break since that time. That’s a lot of photographs! I haven’t actually counted, but it must be getting close to 3000 or more.

It would be reasonable to ask why I have done this. Continue reading What’s With the Daily Photographs? (Morning Musings 9/28/14)

Looking for Eastern Sierra Aspen Color?

Since this is the season of aspen color along the east slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains, it seems like a good time to share a link to my article on where and how to find and photograph these beautiful trees: Sierra Nevada Fall Color Season – Coming Sooner Than You Think

Fallen Aspen Branch, Snow - A small aspen tree branch blown down by an early fall storm rests on snow, North Lake, California.
Fallen Aspen Branch, Snow – A small aspen tree branch blown down by an early fall storm rests on snow, North Lake, California.

“Fallen Aspen Branch, Snow” Sierra Nevada Range, California. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

I originally wrote this article four years ago, in response to a lot of questions about this seasonal change, and I have updated it regularly since then. The short story is that the aspens begin to change near the end of September in a typical year, and if you know where to look you can find aspen color for the next three weeks or perhaps just a bit longer. The change starts in the highest groves of trees and then works its way down to lower elevations as the transformation progresses, with later potential down along the base of the range and in some of the east side canyons.

I have not (yet) been up to photograph the trees this season – though I plan to rectify that situation very soon! – but everything I’m hearing right now suggests that the change came earlier than usual this year. In a more typical year I would expect to see the best color perhaps starting right about now and continuing for another week or longer – but this year there are a lot of reports of high elevation trees already dropping leaves and of lower elevation areas already in peak form. If you are going this year, I would make it sooner rather than later!

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email

Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Pedestrian, Steps

Pedestrian, Steps
Pedestrian, Steps

Pedestrian, Steps. Seattle, Washington. August 14, 2013. © Copyright 2013 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Sidewalk steps lead to a lower roadway, where a pedestrian crosses the street

This is another of the photographs done street photography style in Seattle in August, when we had a free day between some other events that took us to that city. On this morning we had started at Pike Place Market, the well-known tourist spot, and then walked south into the more central downtown area and eventually towards the south side of downtown.

I recall that the first time I visited downtown Seattle many years ago I was surprised by the multiple levels in some parts of the city, especially along the waterfront. Across the street from the water, a major highway runs high above on a viaduct. Between the viaduct and the main downtown there is a very short, steep hill (almost a cliff in some spots) leading up to the next level of streets above. (The multiple level effect is seen elsewhere, too, such as near the convention center.) As we walked along one of those upper streets, this steep staircase led to a lower level street and some parking, and a pedestrian continuing on toward the waterfront walks through the light coming down the cross street.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email

Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.