Glenn Hubbers » Photographer. Adventurer. Explorer. Artist.

Like so many other photographers, particularly those who follow photography related blogs, podcasts and social media, I was aware of The Arcanum since it’s (not so) humble beginnings a couple of years ago.  The Arcanum is, for lack of a better description, a guided / self driven photography education experience created by Trey Ratcliff, Peter Giordano and Curtis Simmons.

For those of you that don’t know about it, the Arcanum follows the master and apprentice model, with approximately 20 apprentices grouped into cohorts being guided and encouraged by a master. The master sets up various tasks and challenges designed to assist to apprentices along a path of improvement. Of course, the subject matter and direction of your photography and what areas you feel need improvement are mostly driven by the apprentice, as is the pace of your progress.

Cohort members post images, questions, information and comments on a private Google+ page, and are required to review and comments on the work of others so that the group as a whole helps each other along. Apprentices also frequently participate in live Google+ hangouts to discuss whatever comes up and review a few images together.

Approximately every 5 levels, each apprentice also has a one on one critique session with the master to discuss a small selection of hand picked images in the Best Work and Needs Improvement categories. The discussion is a recorded Google+ hangout which is later loaded into the Grand Library for others to watch.

The Grand Library (Can you tell these guys played Dungeons & Dragons in their younger years? Who knows? Perhaps they still do!) is a treasure trove filled with recorded videos of all those critiques, along with other submitted informational and educational videos. You could spend many hours absorbing information here without ever paying any fees, as the fees for the Arcanum start after you are selected / invited by a master to join his / her cohort. You spend your first 20 levels within that cohort, so getting an invitation is a great time to go watch some critique videos posted by the master to decide whether to accept.

I joined the Arcanum in April of 2015 and am currently at level 14 in Wes Hardaker’s cohort. Since the first 20 levels are anticipated to take 3 to 6 months, I’d say my progress has been rather slow. It was interrupted somewhat by my preparations to pack and move, then getting our feet under us on our big road trip adventure along with intermittent wifi.

Even though it’s a late start, I’ve decided to post my Arcanum images here in a series of posts with the tag #Arcanum so you can all see them, since the cohort is a closed community. The attached are images from my critique at level 5 and 10. I hope you enjoy them, and I’d be happy to get your comments as well. Hopefully my growth as a photographer is obvious.

Some of these images have been (or will be) re-edited and can be found at my portfolio site linked above.

Arcanum Level 5 Critique

Lake Erie, 2013. I ventured out after a lightning storm to try to capture the receding flashes in the clouds.

Lake Erie, 2013. I ventured out after a lightning storm to try to capture the receding flashes in the clouds.

 

Cayo Coco, Cuba, 2015. I had spent a couple of hours hiking some steep and sharp rocks only to be unsuccessful with night sky images. On my walk back for breakfast this scene made me stop for more.

Cayo Coco, Cuba, 2015. I had spent a couple of hours hiking some steep and sharp rocks only to be unsuccessful with night sky images. On my walk back for breakfast this scene made me stop for more.

 

Huron County, 2014. It was -24C as I spent an hour studying the hunting pattern of this female snowy owl. Once I knew where she would fly next I positioned myself to get the profile image I wanted and waited. I think the look was her way of saying it was time for me to go!

Huron County, 2014. It was -24C as I spent an hour studying the hunting pattern of this female snowy owl. Once I knew where she would fly next I positioned myself to get the profile image I wanted and waited. I think the look was her way of saying it was time for me to go!

 

Bruce National Park, 2014. On a trip to Tobermory, Ontario and the Bruce Peninsula National Park, I had hiked in the wee hours to work in night sky images. Those were ok, but the sunrise over Georgian Bay was spectacular!

Bruce National Park, 2014. On a trip to Tobermory, Ontario and the Bruce Peninsula National Park, I had hiked in the wee hours to work in night sky images. Those were ok, but the sunrise over Georgian Bay was spectacular!

 

Farquhar Lake, 2014. The mist was thick over the lake obscuring the view until the sun rose enough and the fall colours could be seen shining through.

Farquhar Lake, 2014. The mist was thick over the lake obscuring the view until the sun rose enough and the fall colours could be seen shining through.

 

Arcanum Level 10 Critique

This image was taken with my new Sigma 150-600 lens, tracking the birds in flight at Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina.

This image was taken with my new Sigma 150-600 lens, tracking the birds in flight at Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina.

 

At Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina, the Egrets and Herons have great success hunting for their lunch.

At Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina, the Egrets and Herons have great success hunting for their lunch.

 

This image was converted to B&W using Nik Silver Efex Pro after some extensive editing in PS.

This image was converted to B&W using Nik Silver Efex Pro after some extensive editing in PS.

 

At Huntin Island State Park, South Carolina, many species of birds spend their winters at the sea shore.

At Huntin Island State Park, South Carolina, many species of birds spend their winters at the sea shore.

 

At Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina, herds of White Tailed Deer wander the campground and have developed a small level of trust toward the people they encounter.

At Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina, herds of White Tailed Deer wander the campground and have developed a small level of trust toward the people they encounter.

It’s been over a year, a very eventful year actually, since I’ve posted here, all the while trying to decide the nature, purpose and future for my personal blog.

I created this site back in 2005 (previous to that I had a Movable Type blog which went the way of the Dodo bird) and used it mainly as a platform for my short political life, and then morphed into a photography blog later on including a photo challenge blog where a group of friends were trying to improve our work together.

I’ve decided that I won’t delete all of those older posts as they are a part of my history. You can still read many entries filed under Political category, though I suspect that most/all of the included images won’t have carried through the rebuild and I’m not prepared to go fix them. The Photo Challenge was moved over to a new site years ago, so I’m deleting any of those remaining here.

Over the past year my wife and I have been busy planning, prepping, and beginning an epic travel journey around North America. There’s a blog for that here.

Going forward this site will be dedicated exclusively to my photography work, images, learnings, teachings, showcasing the work of others I find particularly inspiring and other related items.

I’ll be happy if you continue to follow along as I rebuild.

Glenn

We had a bit of a mishap over the holidays as I was informed by my web hosting service that my account had suffered from a malware attack.  This caused the deletion of this blog, my camera club blog and Mollie’s blog.

After about 4 weeks of trial and error, tears and fears, and much help from the hosting service, I’m back online.

The upside is that the I was able to save the posts and comments for the two older blogs at least.  None of the images carried over so I’ll have to upload those over time.  I think I’ll need to schedule four or five posts a day to get up to speed, and it’ll still take some months!

Anyway, more changes are coming so I’m hoping this mishap has not caused me to lose anyone.  Thanks for your patience.

In the process of evaluating my choices in a recent Photo Challenge on the Camera Club page, I found that quite a few of my comments were about issues that could relatively easily be fixed in Lightroom rather than about the capturing of the image itself.

With that in mind, I’ve tried editing a few of the images that I had comments on to illustrate my points.

Perhaps it’s just a matter of taste and subjective opinion?

Or perhaps it’s actually easier to review and edit the work of others than it is to edit our own?

What do you think?

And please let me know in the comments whether you think these do or do not achieve the improvement I was suggesting.

(Please note that I am working with source images that are 1200 px wide jpeg’s. These edits would be vastly more successful starting with the RAW file.)

Arctic Exposure – Bill Hiemstra

[beforeafter] Arctic Exposure - Bill Hiemstra Arctic Exposure - Bill Hiemstra - GTH Edit[/beforeafter]

I thought Bill’s capture of the dog was excellent but suffered from a slanted horizon which took it out of the running. I also thought that Bill captured this using an Auto Exposure mode on his camera which, for snowy scenes, has the tendency to make snow white.

My edits include a recrop, increasing exposure for the whole image, a graduated filter for the sky to decrease the exposure back down as well as adding to the cloud texture using the highlight and shadow sliders, and finally adding a very slight exposure increase and clarity to the dogs face. While I tend to like a slight vignette, I normally do not add that to snowy images and did not do so here. Lastly I warmed the colour temp slightly to get rid of the blue cast in the snow.

As a hint, when I am shooting on bright snowy days, I normally set my camera to Manual and choose a combination of settings that allow the snow to appear as white as possible without being blown out. Everything darker than the snow will then work out. I only need to change settings then if the light changes.

Gliding on Air – Jacci Hunter

[beforeafter] Gliding on Air - Jacci Gliding on Air - Jacci - GTH Edit[/beforeafter]

Jacci’s image may have been the same issues as above. (Or possibly, knowing Jacci, she was totally focussed on the horse and didn’t really care about the rider! LOL!)

My edits in this case included an overall significant exposure increase to reveal the rider and then adjusting the highlights slider to get texture back in the horse. I also increased clarity slightly. Lastly I added a significant amount of vignette which I think adds well to this B&W image.

On the Run – Wendy Taylor

[beforeafter] On the Run - Wendy Taylor On the Run - Wendy Taylor - GTH Edit[/beforeafter]

This one was an excellent submission from Wendy, but I though the evenness of the exposure across the dog and field left the eye to wandering. I bumped the overall exposure so the dog was where I wanted it and then added a circular filter to decrease the background exposure with quite a bit of feathering. I then added a vignette as well, and played with these last two for a bit trying for a very gradual transition from the dogs face to the edges of the image.

Squirrel Hunting – Bonnie Bailey

[beforeafter] Squirrel Hunting - Bonnie Bailey Squirrel Hunting - Bonnie Bailey - GTH Edit[/beforeafter]

In my opinion, this images suffered from a white balance problem. Using a daylight setting can render the snow more bluish than you would like and switching to an overcast or shadow setting might help. However in this image I suspect that the camera WB was set to an artificial light source. (I can’t recall which one gives results like this.)

At any rate, I was unable to change it the way I wanted to because of the degree of tint and the fact that I was working with a jpeg instead of the RAW file. Instead I relied on a B&W conversion to get the results I wanted and played with exposure, black and shadow sliders till it was good as I could do.

Stalker in the Snow – Jeannie Gane

[beforeafter] Stalker in the Snow - Jeannie Gane Stalker in the Snow - Jeannie Gane - GTH Edit[/beforeafter]

This image from Jeannie took first place in my votes, and I only thought that the snow had a slight magenta cast. I did nothing other than shift the tint toward the green. One must be VERY careful doing this as you might end up with a slight green cast, which is hardly better! I got as close as I could that way, since it seems to go from magenta to green without actually getting to white. Lastly I decreased the Hue of the magenta in the image which seemed to get it the rest of the way with no noticeable change in the Cat’s colouring at least to my eyes.

At times in life there are things that make you go “hmmm”.  At other times there are things that make you want to take a small fork to various sensitive body parts as this would be less painful than the current experience.

Case in point: Figuring out the Photoshop CC / Camera Raw interface.

As I’ve been working on astro photography lately I’ve been spending a great deal of time looking up courses and quick tutorials to work with Photoshop and other editing tools to accomplish my goals.  These can be numerous, but challenging to find the really good ones.  Lynda.com (which I’m subscribed to this year) and Kelby One (which I was subscribed to last year) are both excellent choices for online education, but for the quick fix while I’m in the middle of editing there are literally millions of tutorials on specific topics on YouTube.

That’s all well and good until the instruction you find does not bear any resemblance to the interface you are looking at.

My latest example is trying to work with Adobe Camera Raw.  I’m a Photoshop CC subscriber so I’m using the latest version at all times.  Most tutorials I’ve found have simply stated “open your file in Camera Raw and then…” with no explanation as to how you actually do that.  Hmmm…

After much searching, most of which merely states that Photoshop recognizes RAW files and automagically opens the Camera Raw interface (which it does not actually do) I found that I could open the file in Photoshop and then apply a Camera Raw Filter, which appears to be the same thing.  I’m not sure if it is but I can find no other way to get to Camera Raw so it’s all I’ve got.

Once I have the interface open, the next step is typically adjusting the colour temperature in the white balance section of the Basic tab.  Ok, this seems reasonable enough.  Wait.  I see a problem. My tutorial says to adjust the temp to somewhere in the 3500-4000 K range, but the interface starts at 0 with an adjustment range from -100 to +100.  Hmmm…

Back to Google where a search for 90 minutes has revealed no way to change this interface to read the actual colour temp, nor any web page anywhere that even acknowledges this as a problem. Every page I found either states that the temp is in K or is a -100 to +100 scale, with no page anywhere stating that the other way might even exist.  Very helpful.

At this point I find myself returning to Lightroom with the sinking feeling that I have failed to overcome even the most basic use of Photoshop.  It’s like they purposely make this software unintuitive and complicated in order to demoralize users.  I just can’t believe that’s true despite all the evidence leading me to that conclusion.

With that thought I am shutting down so I can head out for a weekend photo road trip.  Curious?  Details next week!

In the meantime, if anyone can shed any light on the interface problem I’ll be most grateful.  Cheers!