Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Jamaica - before & after photo editing

As much as I love to have my camera in my hands while exploring somewhere, I equally enjoy the digital darkroom part of the process. I will usually do my best to get the best shot possible right from my camera but I find that I can always find something to add in Lightroom and/or Photoshop (and/or many plug-ins that I have).

The majority of my editing is basic corrections or enhancements... Exposure or slight color correction, cropping, sharpening,etc. I can always tell the difference after my edits but I do recognize that I'm more picky than the average person. The editing that really gets me excited is the really dramatic differences. I love to take an average (or even a bad) photo and make it look amazing, or at least somewhat cool.

Today I watched part of a class on the Kelby Training website and I decided to follow along with a really cropped version of an "ok" photo I took of the pool at Couples Tower Island. The tutorial used a Photoshop plug-in called Adobe Pixel Bender that is available for free in Adobe Labs. I was very interested because I have never even heard of this plug-in and it was quite fun to play with it. The goal is to make the photo look painterly, an affect that I don't use often (I really do prefer a natural look most of the time) but when I do I usually have fun with it.

So, here is the before & after:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Jamaica - Part 2

I purchased my first SLR, the Canon xsi back at the end of December 2008. Since then, I've looked at the world in a completely different way. One thing I've noticed about myself during these last 3 years is that I look at the sky a LOT more than I used to. I wonder how I didn't notice the incredible colors and cloud variations more regularly before.

One thing I definitely notice (nearly every single day) is the sunset. The colors of everything outside changes for that very small period of time that starts right before sunset and ends about 1/2 hour after sunset. Of course, here in Florida, sunrise tends to be even better, especially when I am motivated enough to wake up at 5:30 and drive 1/2 hour to the beach.

Down in Jamaica, I was lucky enough to see both the sunrise & sunset more than once. Maybe it wasn't really luck, since I planned my evenings around that time. I also somehow managed to get myself up early enough to walk down to the beach with my camera & tripod and I ended up with some really pretty shots one morning.

During the week we were there, we had some really amazing sunsets. I feel like my pictures came out pretty good but they still don't really tell the story of the amazing wonder we saw. The timing did work out pretty well because we ended up going downstairs for dinner right before the sun went down.

Even the night shots were fun. At home, I don't take my camera out at night too often since the view from my house is usually pretty boring so night photography is still pretty exciting for me.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Jamaica - Part 1

On July 11, 2006, Gregg and I got married at Couples Tower Island in Ocho Rios Jamaica.

During our week there we met many great couples and in the five years since then, we've stayed in touch with some of them. Our plan back then was to meet at the same resort every five years and I'm happy to say that three of the couples made it in July of 2011.

This time around was a lot different for me because instead of bringing my $250 point-and-shoot camera, I had my new Canon 60D and three of my favorite lenses: my 18-200 everyday lens, my 10-22 wide angle and my newest lens addition, the 50mm 1.4.

As usual, the wide angle shot was just perfect for the big landscape type shots. Specifically, I couldn't stop taking pictures of the resort and the island (Tower Island).

Clearly the resort is gorgeous, but what makes it so special are the people there... Both guests and staff. By the time we left after a week, I think it's safe to say we were pretty good friends with at least 12 couples (and Gregg knew everyone's name, where they live, what they do for a living and how many kids the have). Five years ago we met two of the three other couples in the picture below (from left to right, Kevin & Denise and Bryan & Alicia) and the other couple (Terry & Kurt) know Kevin & Denise from a different trip. The goal is that we're going to try to all meet up at the same resort every five years. Seems we'll pick up new Couples friends along the way to add to this plan.

We met Kevin & Denise a few days before our actual wedding. Since we didn't bring anyone else with us on our wedding trip we needed witnesses to sign or marriage license. Kevin & Denise were nice to agree to do this for us so we didn't have to ask staff to be our witnesses.

It was very exciting to find out that our new friends, Debbie & Jeff, got engaged at Couples pretty much right before we met them. I'm pretty sure I haven't seen a more excited bride-to-be. :) I was more than happy to take some engagement pictures for them.

Bryan & Alicia got married right before they went to Jamaica 5 years ago & so they were fellow honeymooners. This year, we were all celebrating our 5th anniversary. Their present to each other was an escape from their two young children... both born after we met them. Their first child can be considered a Jamaican. ;)

This was Terry, my favorite bartender this trip. Of course, they're all really friendly (and make great tropical drinks) but on my first day there, I told Terry what I was in the mood for and he made me a really great drink that he called Terry's Ting. I'm sure I drank at least 30 of those over the course of the week. Ting is a Jamaican lightly carbonated citrus drink that goes REALLY well with Vodka, lime juice and a little seltzer water. Really well. It's super light and extremely refreshing on a hot day. This picture was taken on our last night there, as he was making me one last Terry's Ting.

It's fair to say that everyone we encountered at the resort was very nice and accommodating and it's easy to see why couples go back year after year (I think Terry & Kurt said they were there 7 times in the last 4 years!).

This guy was definitely a curiosity. He had this big surfboard and would come floating over early in the morning & he'd pretty much hang out all day near the beach selling his shells. I tried to get a good picture of him all week and finally I got the nerve to ask him to pose for me.

My plan was to post just one blog on our trip to Jamaica but just now I decided to split it up. So... stay tuned.