Welcome to (The Occasional) Photo Tip of the Day! Please also visit my main site jeffwignall.com. Text and photographs Copyright 2016 Jeff Wignall.

“The best way out is always through.”

Friday, March 22, 2013

Train-Hopping Photographer Mike Brodie and His 50,000-Mile Odessey

If you’ve always fantasized about chucking it all and hopping a fast freight but just didn’t have the nerve, not to worry—you can still sample this gritty lifestyle through the eyes of an incredibly gifted and brave shooter: photographer Mike Brodie. Brodie hopped his first freight train when he was just 17 and rode it from his home in Pensacola, Florida to Jacksonville and then home again. Seems innocent enough. But that trip ignited something in Brodie’s imagination and what started as a whim turned into an all-out passion. Between 2002 and 2012 he rode on more than 170 freight trains in 46 states and logged more than 50,000 miles. In 2004 he started recording his journeys, at first with an old Polaroid and then in 35mm. His pictures are an amazing record of a lifestyle most of us have only seen through Hollywood's eyes and they have now been collected and published in a hardcover book called A Period of Juvenile Prosperity published by Twin Palms Publishers. A non-signed casebound first edition is available immediately and there is a signed version on back order. The latter should be available on March 25, 2013. A fascinating book, the photos are incredible--I'm sure the first edition will sell out quickly. (Photos courtesy of Mike Brodie.)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

For Spring: A Poem by Pamela Starland

Winter holds on
With claws tight 
Around rooted trees
Flakes fall to remind us

Spring is gaining strength
As migrations ride
The southern wind's
Warm currents

They chase the chill
Of bitter cold 
Off the clouds
To fall into the ocean

Father sun and Mother Earth
Grow closer
As their union melts
The frozen terrain

Their tears of happiness
fall in the freezing breeze
Seasons transition
As crocus emerge

A bittersweet visit
Each year - winter and Spring
To win the season

              --Pamela Starland

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Simple Photoshop Softening Technique

We had a warm day in Connecticut today, it reached the mid 50s and I'm not sure how they know how warm it is outside, but the kitties requested that I let them out to the porch first thing. Later I took a break from a retouching assignment to go and check on them and found them in this sweet pose. I had to run and grab a camera, change lenses and hope they were still cuddled up when I got back. Thankfully they were.

The porch had plenty of light, but I wanted to use flash to brighten it up a bit more. I put the flash of my D90 into the "slow sync" mode so as to catch some of the daylight around them but the flash was still a bit too harsh. Normally I might just toss a Gaussian blur on to soften the look a bit, but lately I've been experimenting with the median filter (Filters>Noise>Median) and that's what I used for this shot. Prior to playing with the median, I did my basic adjustments: crop, a curves correction and some minor color corrections (using hue/saturation mainly). Then I applied the median filter, as follows:

  1. Duplicate the background layer (Command J on a Mac).
  2. Apply the Median filter (again, Filters>Noise>Median) and choose an amount. In this case it was arbitrary, but I used a pretty heavy setting of around 25. At this setting the image is barely recognizable but don't worry about that. You're going to use the opacity setting to bring back detail from the original background layer.
  3. I then adjusted the opacity of background copy to about 40%.
  4. I made some tweaks to color balance and saturation and that's it.
 I think this would be a nice technique to use for portraits, too. The effect kind of reminds me of some more complex softening methods, but this is so fast you can do it in a few seconds.