Crystal Ball and Holiday Lights

Magical Winter Lights KAC1394_1
Holiday lights reflected in a 4.2-inch crystal ball.  The ball is placed on a tripod.  The photo is flipped in Adobe Camera Raw.
Magical Winter Lights KAC1422
The same 4.2-inch crystal ball held in a hand.  No need to flip the photo.
Magical Winter Lights KAC1405
Shallow f/stop, f/4.5, to soften the lights in the background.

F/stop from 4.5 to 22 to change the background.

Where do you get a crystal ball?  Amazon, of course.


Holiday Lights — Make a Sequence GIF

My friend, Patti Edens, and I spent the evening at Magical Winter Lights in LaMarque, Texas, last week.

The lighted displays were a lot of fun to photograph.  As you see from the slideshow below, there were huge and amazing lighted objects to photograph.  We had our cameras on a tripod and used an f/22 most of the time.

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A different display was a lighted cube.  It was pink, red, and purple outside but filled with disorienting colors inside.

Outside the cube was a huge silhouette of a potbellied man.  The words “In the city where beauty and pain integrate, I am the most perfect stain,” by Fan J.

How funny to see a huge pink cube in the middle of a lighted holiday display.  Yet the cube captivated our eyes.

Magical Winter Lights KAC1327
Patti silhouetted against the pink wall.
Magical Winter Lights KAC1329
Me against the giant pink wall.

Camera settings were pretty basic.  Camera on a tripod, set at Aperture Priority, f/22, and ISO in a moderate range like 400 or 500.  For the silhouette photos, we just stood pretty still.


For this GIF, though, we used a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the walking.  That meant changing the f/stop to a f/4.5 giving a shutter speed of 1/40th.  The shutter speed gave us a bit of blur but not too much.

Fun playing with lights and our cameras.

(Instructions how to make a GIF are in December 6, 2017 blog post on this site.)

Holiday Lights — Make a GIF


A lot of holiday light displays are using lights that simulate motion.  I visited the Magical Winter Lights display in LaMarque Texas with my friend Patti Edens.  We found lots of fun lights to photograph but also a lot of light that could make GIFs.




If you shoot RAW, then make JPGs from the images you want to use in your GIF.

Here’s how to do it:

  1.  Open Photoshop and click on Files>Scripts>Load Files Into Stack….
  2. Select Browse and select the photos for your GIF.  Then click OK. Photoshop will open the images in a series of layers.
  3. Click on Window>Timeline.  The Timeline window opens along the bottom of your screen.
  4. In the Timeline window, select Create Frame Animation.  One photo appears on the left side of the Timeline window.
  5. Click Select>All Layers
  6. Click the little, tiny dropdown menu at the top right of the Timeline window.  (It’s really tiny.  Look for it in the corner.) Select Create New Layer For Each New Frame.
  7. Click the same menu again and select Make Frames From Layers
  8. Under each frame select how long you want that frame to be visible.
  9. At the bottom of the toolbar, you can select how many times you want to the GIF to loop.  The options are once, three times, or forever.
  10. Push the play button to preview the GIF.  The play button is a sideways triangle.
  11. When ready, click File>Export>Save for Web (Legecy)
  12. Your save options include dithered GIF.  That prevents banding in solid colors.
  13. Then upload your GIF to the web or use in a Powerpoint presentation.
Be sure to load our photos in the right sequence.  These photos were loaded backwards.


Why We Travel

As photographers we often say we travel to create incredible images.  In reality, though, I think we travel to learn.

I had the wonderful opportunity to lead a photo tour to Andalusia and Barcelona Spain this past October.  We arrived in the country right as Barcelona was scheduled to have a vote to secede from Spain.  The vote took place and the majority of people who went to the polls voted to leave.  (I’ve selected my words carefully because this was a very complicated election.)

When my group arrived in Barcelona days later the voting was over but the politics remained.  People in Barcelona showed their side in the debate by hanging a flag from their balcony.  Flags for Spain, secession, or Catalonia seemed to be everywhere.  Neighbors were divided and we could see the division by the flags hanging from apartment balconies and across narrow street.

Yet, as we walked the streets of the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona we got a glimpse of Spanish history.

I saw those 80-year old bullet holes and it reminded me that ideological divisions between neighbors can eventually lead to armed conflict.  Our guide told us that the bullet holes have been left in this church as a reminder to what happens when neighbor goes against neighbor.

I was reminded once again that we travel to learn — not just to take photos.





Fun Photographing with Crystal Ball

I took my crystal ball to Spain and we had fun photographing through it at the historic bullring in Rhonda.

My photos show an interesting progression.  It’s hard sometimes to find “the shot” through the crystal ball.

Watch as I try to find the best angle and background.

Crystal ball, Ronda, Spain,
It’s a reflection through the crystal ball but it’s not an interesting photo.
Crystal ball, Ronda, Spain,
Better image in the crystal ball and the background is getting better. 
Crystal ball, Ronda, Spain,
Change to f/22 and the background becomes a bit clearer.  The post on the right is in the way, though.
Crystal ball, Ronda, Spain,
Getting better!  Now the viewer knows we’re in a bullring.  The post in the crystal ball is in the wrong place in my opinion.
Crystal ball, Ronda, Spain,
Much better!  That the shot!
Crystal ball, Ronda, Spain,
Mix it up a bit by changing the f/stop.  

It really helps to work a subject to find “the shot”.  Hope you enjoyed.

P.S. — The crystal ball fell and broke in Barcelona.  Luckily, the accident happened at the end of the trip.  I have another one on order.

Transform Tool on Travel Photos

I’m working through the thousands of photos I took in Spain during my recent photo tour to Andalusia and Barcelona.

Buildings were our most common subject.  Often it was hard to get right in front of the building.  Many times we were shooting straight up when we really needed to be higher  like on the second floor of the building across the street.

The Transform tool in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom is really coming in handy.

Take a look at this before and after:

Screen Shot 2017-10-24 at 12.05.25 PM
Here’s the original photo Iglesia del Salvador.  It’s a lovely church in the Seville’s Santa Cruz neighborhood near the hotel where we stayed.  I included a lot of sky and a lot the building because I knew I’d use the Transform tool in processing.  

The Transform tool is activated in the photo above and ready to go.

Screen Shot 2017-10-24 at 12.04.51 PM
Here’s the finished photo.  I put a vertical Transform guide on the left and right white column.  Then I put a horizontal Transform guide on the two main horizontal lines.  I finished with a bit of vertical tweaking with the slider to bring the building a bit more upright.

Transform tool to the rescue.

Have you used the Transform tool?  Does it work well for you?

Use The Shadow Slider

When traveling, we don’t always get to choose when we can be at a location.  Harsh light can get in the way of a good photo.  That’s why I suggest you make friends with the Shadow slider in Adobe Camera Raw, Lightroom, or Elements.

Spain; Seville; Plaza de Espana
Well exposed image with no highlights blown out.  The area on the right is in deep shadows, though.
Spain; Seville; Plaza de Espana
Same image with basic processing in Adobe Camera Raw. The shadows on the right have been opened thanks to the Shadow slider in Adobe Camera Raw.  Same slider is in Lightroom and Elements.

Have you used the Shadow slider?  Does it work?