Tuesday, October 26, 2010

To Photoshop or not to Photoshop

I recently read about a controversy over Photoshopped NASA images. A conspiracy theorist accused NASA of "tampering" with a photo of Saturn's moons. But what was done was nothing more than a basic clean-up of the image. Because of the type of camera that was used, some alignment of red, green and blue was needed. In my experience, digital images are rarely usable for publication straight from the camera.

Photojournalists have strict guidelines as to what is acceptable use of Photoshop. The program is a powerful image manipulation tool, but we only use a fraction of its capabilities. REUTERS has their guidelines spelled out very clearly. I'm sure NASA has similar guidelines in place to assure that no one is mislead by photos they publish but they still get the spectacular images that are expected.

For us at The Catholic Spirit and the other papers we publish, at the very minimum, images need to be toned to printer specifications, light and dark areas of the image need to be at certain levels so they don't get too much ink (in the shadows) or no ink at all (in the highlight areas). And often there are dust spots that need to be removed (I have this problem a lot!).

As far as color goes, there are many reasons why the image you get out of the camera doesn't look exactly like what you saw when you were taking the picture. Maybe it is under exposed, or more commonly the white-balance was set wrong. There is nothing wrong with tweaking the color to make it look more like the scene actually looked.

What we don't want to do is alter the image to be something other than the scene that was photographed. No taking people out, removing unwanted items like poles, cars, etc...

Here's an example of a photo I shot recently that needed a little work:

Original, untouched:

A usable version:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Must-see landscape and architectural photos

I just wanted to write a quick entry to share some awesome photography with everyone. Chuck Kimmerle was a staff photographer at the St. Cloud Times and the Grand Forks Herald before turning his lens to the landscape of western Minnesota and the eastern North Dakota. He has a long list of awards and exhibits.  His current exhibit, The Unapologetic Landscape, is on an 18-month tour around North Dakota. The schedule is on his website. Click here to see his work.

  Copyrighted © 2006-2010 Chuck Kimmerle. All rights reserved.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Great tips for photographing cities

I've always admired the photographers for National Geographic magazine. They have produced some of the most spectacular photography in print and on the Web. A lot of their work is documenting life in cities around the world. Check out their photo gallery: How to Take Photos of Cities. Each photo has a great tip, click on the photo to see the tip. We might not all be magazine photographers, but we can still get great photos of cities we visit! Here are a couple of favorites from my travels. The first one is The Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls from a trip to Rome and the second is the Cathedral in Ulm, Germany.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Princess Kay of the Milky Way

Yesterday I was at the Minnesota State Fair on an assignment for The Catholic Spirit. I know! I love my job.

The 57th Princess Kay of the Milky Way, Katie Miron, is an active member of St. John the Baptist parish in Hugo, so I set out to get a photo while her likeness was carved in butter, a tradition at the fair.

I found her sitting in a 40-degree rotating glass booth near the back of the Dairy Building, where she was bundled in a winter coat and snow pants while butter sculptor Linda Christensen worked on her masterpiece.

Christensen has been carving butter statues of the princesses for the past 39 years. She has done more than 500 of them. The sculptures take 6 to 8 hours to complete, and she will do the 11 finalists, too, completing one each day of the fair.

When the fair is over, Miron and the other finalists will take their sculptures home.

But what do you do with a butter head?

During a short question-and-answer session with spectators in the afternoon, Miron said she will keep it until her reign as Princess Kay is over next year and then she will use it for cooking and baking. Past princesses have used them for cooking, kept them in the freezer and donated them to Catholic schools. One is even on display at the Minnesota History Center, according to a story today in the Wall Street Journal.

Monday, August 23, 2010

An Ecuadorian celebration

While on assignment for The Catholic Spirit Sunday, Aug.15, I got to experience a traditional Ecuadorian celebration. The Ecuadorian community at Sagrado Corazón de Jesús parish in Minneapolis took part in the traditional celebration in honor of La Virgen del Cisne, or the Virgin of the Swan.

The celebration  began with Mass and the changing of the "Manto," the robe of the statue of La Virgen del Cisne. Then a procession.

The celebration continued with musical groups, dancing and Ecuadorian food at the parish.

On Saturday, Aug. 14, Sagrado Corazón hosted a celebration with Ecuadorian games and family activities in a park near the church. 
Devotion to La Virgen del Cisne began more than four centuries  ago and is celebrated on August 15 every year in El Cisne, a small town in Ecuador's Southern Andes. The celebration there begins with a 74 kilometer procession to Loja, another city in Ecuador. Thankfully, the celebration in Minneapolis included a much shorter trek, three blocks around the neighborhood of the church.

The story of  La Virgen del Cisne says that the indigenous people of El Cisne commissioned a statue of the Virgin Mary in 1594. Shortly after it was finished, there was a severe drought and the people were evacuated and they took the statue with them.

Then a strong storm hit that destroyed homes and uprooted trees. The people thought it was a curse for taking the staue away from where it belonged. So they returned to their homes and in the end realized that it was not a curse and that the statue could be moved. Hence the annual procession.

They built a shrine that same year and the current shrine, erected in 1934, is under the care of the Oblate Mission Fathers.

More information about the Ecuadoran celebration and its history is available here.