Greetings, my friends.
I love living in the Pacific Northwest, but the weather in the winter—mostly gray and rainy, with little snow—presents a bit of photographic challenge for me. The grayness of the skies and the green of the moss and trees reduce contrast to the point of blandness, and the rain is a constant impediment, especially for those times when I want to wander around, set up a tripod, and wait for the shot. I’ve always known that inclement weather can provide a dramatic lift to a photograph, but I’ll be the first to admit that I prefer the comfort of a beautiful day over constant rain and gray.
For that reason, I often spend the winter months shooting indoors, generally grabbing the camera only when the weather clears and I can find some time to get out into the Columbia River Gorge or along the coast. I also spend time working on projects, cleaning up my image libraries, and poring over photo books for inspiration, but that doesn’t help me grow anywhere near as much as getting out in the field. (This winter and spring, I have been shooting our kitchen remodel, and hope to have a slideshow done at some point soon on the process, which has been fascinating.)
Over the last month, however, I’ve been finding myself out quite a bit in the rain. Our friend Matt Kloskowski was in town for a few days, and we had a grand time dodging the rain along the Willamette River one evening in downtown Portland (shot: Under the Bridge). A week later, Vincent Versace was in town for a video shoot, and we spent the week working in the (torrential) rain out by Multnomah and Latourell Falls. I had a blast being out with both photographers—and with my photo buddy Brian Matiash, who always keeps things fun—and I learned more than I ever thought I would.
I would love nothing better these days than to improve as a photographer, and I do realize that I can’t just wait for the moment that seems right. I need to be ready all the time, and I need to do a better job of visualizing my shots, regardless of the conditions.
No matter what type of photographer you are, there are so many amazing reasons to pick up a camera today. You don’t have to be crazy like me; you can improve your skills without trekking in the rain or buying fancy gear. Digital cameras—even the cameras in our phones—are so much more capable than film (although I still love shooting film), and there are so many great ways to share your photos with family, friends and communities large and small. In the end, we all want to create compelling photos, no matter what the subject, and all it really takes is a little bit of forethought and the simple press of the shutter button, regardless of the conditions.
New site feature: Get emails on comments and posts
We’ve had many subscribers ask us if there was a way to get an email when we posted a new video, blog post or comment on the website. It’s something we’ve wanted to add for a while, and I’m happy to say that it’s now live on the PET website. To see it—and sign up—just go to most pages on the site (our home page is a good place to start), and, in the column on the right side, you’ll see a new box (our site guy calls it a ‘widget’) for entering your email address to receive site updates.
Once you set this up, you’ll receive an email when we post a video, blog item, download or magazine article (we generally add one to two items a week, so it shouldn’t be overwhelming). There will be a direct link to the post, and you’ll have the option to turn the service off from within any email, if it’s too much for you, or you don’t want to receive any more notifications.
What’s also cool about this feature is that you can also follow comments on a favorite article or video. If you look at the bottom of any post on the site, you’ll see two new checkboxes:
If you check the first box (“Notify me of follow-up comments by email”), you’ll get an email every time there’s a follow-up comment posted. It’s on an article-by-article basis, so you won’t get inundated with email about every comment. And, as there will be for the article notifications, there will be instructions in every email on how to stop getting emails for that article’s comments. However, to follow the comments on a specific post, you do have to post a comment; just checking the box won’t work.
As much as I’d like to say that this was some big initiative that we’ve been working on, it’s actually a new feature implemented inside WordPress, the system that powers the PET site. We’ve been testing this on the sly for a couple of months, just to make sure it works the way we’d expect (which it seems to have been). We think it’s a pretty valuable feature to have, so let us know how it works for you.
Perfect Effects Free (and free preset pack)
Our sister company, onOne Software, just released a free version of its Perfect Effects plug-in for Photoshop Elements, Lightroom and other photo-editing apps. It’s the newest incarnation of the PhotoTools Photoshop plug-in, and it’s also what Photo Essentials’ Make It Cool module is based on. Inside Perfect Effects Free, there are more than two dozen effects, borders and textures that you can use to enhance your images, and you can stack multiple effects, with full masking and blending options. (The full version of Perfect Effects, which sells for $100, has hundreds of effects, and lets you create your own effects from scratch, but otherwise, the programs are identical.)
Perfect Effects shows up as a plug-in accessible from the File > Automation Tools menu inside Photoshop Elements, and the interface should be familiar to any Elements user. You can stack effects together easily, and the effect comes back into Elements as a new layer, so your existing image remains untouched. Once you're back in Elements, you can use layer masks, blending modes and opacity levels to adjust the location and intensity of an effect.
In addition to the presets that ship with Perfect Effects, onOne has published a number of preset packs for creating additional looks, which are available (generally for less than $10 each) from the onOne Marketplace. However, we wanted to offer a free set of presets exclusively to PET subscribers, so we’ve added Nicole Young’s Instant Film pack to the PET site as a download, with our compliments. Enjoy!
Photo Challenge update
Kelly’s on a bit of an adventure right now, so we’re a bit behind on posting the results of the last Photo Challenge. We should get them up early next month, but remember that there are still a few days left to get your entries in for April’s Animals challenge.
For May, the challenge theme is Architecture. Look around you at the buildings, monuments, houses, and other structures. Stretch a bit, and try to come up with something other than the standard snapshot of a pretty (or not so pretty, if that’s your thing) place. Try a different perspective or angle, or go inside, and shoot from within.
Here are some articles from around the Web that might help give you some ideas for capturing compelling architectural shots:
If you want to know how to submit images for the Photo Challenge or Subscriber Showcase, we’ve added a Contests page to the PET site, which outlines the process for uploading images to either the PET or the Elements Village galleries.
More fun from the web
Here are a few fun things I’ve been enjoying out on the Internet over the past few weeks:
Magazine mailing update
The May/June issue has just started mailing, and most US subscribers should receive their copies by May 9 or 10. Canadian subscribers should receive their copies by May 15, and delivery worldwide should be complete by May 22. The magazine extras are already online, and we’ll post the issue as a PDF for everyone by May 1 (I promise, Ron!).
Here’s the mailing schedule for the rest of the year, with US, Canadian and International delivery dates. Things can always slip one way or another, but we try hard to make sure that we do our part so that the mailing goes smoothly:
We’ll also do our best to make sure that the PDF of the magazine (and all the extras) is posted on the website on the first of the month, so everyone can enjoy it without having to wait forever.
Follow us online
In addition to the new notifications feature mentioned above, remember that you can follow our site updates via the Photoshop Elements Techniques Facebook page, or by following PSE_Techniques on Twitter. (You can also follow the blog via our RSS feed.)
This is the fourth email newsletter for 2012; you can find all previous editions on the “From the Editor” home page, which can be found under the Magazine link in the PET website header.