Posts in Category "Photography"

February 20, 2018

The Role of Personal Projects for Professional Photographers

I had the pleasure of being a guest on “This Conversation with Jed Taufer” where we discussed the role of personal projects for professional photographers. A big thanks to Jed for asking such great questions and to WHCC for making this possible!

And here is a link to the book that we reference in the conversation:  Passenger Seat – Creating a Photographic Project from Conception through Execution in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom


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February 6, 2018

Why People Photograph (Or, How I Lost the Plot)

 When I first started making photographs on my iPhone, I found it incredibly liberating. I didn’t take my images very “seriously” and that gave me the freedom to play and try new things. In fact, for a number of years, I deliberately used the camera phone as a way to  exercise my “creative vision”, posting three images of a single scene, theme, or idea on Instagram on an (almost) daily basis. Looking back, I know that my photography improved significantly as a result of this exercise. 

Six photographs taken in Amsterdam and posted to Instagram, 2012.

When Instagram changed the way images were displayed (and my three images no longer posted sequentially), I made the conscientious choice to only post only a single image a day. This, it turned out, wasn’t as subtle of a shift as just changing the “number” of images posted. I became more competitive when I switched to sharing only my “best” image of the three. And you know what it killed? My sense of play. My willingness to experiment. My enjoyment of posting smaller moments that were significant to me –  trading them instead, for images that I thought other people would like. 

Six individual images from Tasmania posted to Instagram, 2017.

By the end of last year, I came to the realization that I was thinking more about the number of likes I was hoping to get when posting an image, than the actual content and the meaning of the image. It turns out that my change in mindset altered not only the photographs I was making, but also the photographs I chose to share (and which I held back). I decided to do a quick experiment. I posted three images that I had recently taken in Singapore – they were very different from my typical landscapes.  They were made with a tilt shift lens. They included people. The viewer would have to look at them more closely to see the details. And, (as I’m sure you guessed), they didn’t get many likes. I even wondered if should I take them down —even though the images worked for me on several levels.This didn’t seem like the place I wanted to be.

Two of the three images from Singapore that I posted as an experiment.

I decided it was time to revisit my motivation for making photographs. I decided I make images for the following five reasons: 
• To record everyday experiences that I would otherwise forget.
• To slow down, be present, and get lost in the moment.
• To explore new technologies and discover new ways of seeing.
• To share with others the small part of the world as I experience it, though my eyes.
• To connect with others on a cognitive and an emotional level.
I’m sure that you have your own reasons that you could add to that list – especially those of you who earn your livelihood from photography. And I understand that your use of Instagram (and the larger umbrella that includes social media in general) may be completely different than mine – which is fine! If your intent is to  reinforce your business or personal brand, then certainly you may need to cultivate a carefully curated feed. But in my case, I believe that using Instagram to share my experiments and photographic journey will be more valuable for me (and hopefully anyone that is interested in joining me) at this time.  
So, in 2018, I’m giving myself permission to play, experiment, take risks and post images that matter to me – even if I don’t understand them, and even if no one else “likes” them. Certainly, I hope that my photographs resonate with other people but, more importantly, I want to try new things and have the freedom to experiment so that I continue to grow as a photographer and as a person that shares their most authentic self. 
So, here we go. The photographs below were made as a part of a self-directed challenge along a short stretch of road between Farmington and Manteca (in Northern California), which I find stunningly beautiful. To me, the area represents the cyclical nature of life (and death) that are so evident in agriculture.  I enjoyed the process of confining myself to a small area in order to look for images that I otherwise would have missed.
 If I can record an “everyday” experience, see something in a new light, and share my small part of the world with someone (even if the image is an enormous pile of manure (correction – the giant piles are COW FEED (generally chopped corn), NOT manure. It is piled, packed and sealed air tight to ferment for a short time to improve the stability and nutrient availability. It is then fed out over the ensuing several months, having been preserved by the fermentation process.), covered with white plastic, held down by recycled tires), then I call my challenge a success. And now it’s even more of a success because I learned something new by sharing the images! : )
Photographs are light and time and memories. —Keith Carter
All of the images were made with a canon 5Ds with a Tilt Shift E-45 f2.8.
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January 23, 2018

I Spoke in Pictures Because There Were No Words

In remembrance of Winston Hendrickson, vice president of digital imaging at Adobe.

I spoke in pictures because there were no words.


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January 18, 2018

If You Want to Take More Interesting Pictures…

Over the holiday break, I happened to be looking through my journal, thinking about the goals and objectives that I want to achieve this year when I came across this note that I had taken in a seminar with Jay Maisel:

“If you want to make more interesting pictures, become a more interesting person.”

Jay’s words proved to be the motivation I was looking for. The day before, I had noticed a barren tree across a river that I thought would make an interesting photograph. But at the time, we were in a hurry to get where we were going, so we kept on driving. The following day was really cold and I was very content to stay warm and cozy in the house. However, while I would have enjoyed reading a book or watching a movie, it would have meant consuming someone else’s content instead of taking the opportunity to create my own. So, with Jay’s words refusing to leave my mind, we grabbed our boots, coats, and hats and drove back in search of that tree.

We found the location easily enough, and to my surprise, the river had frozen over during the night creating beautiful patterns on the ice – it was even better than I had imagined from the previous day’s “drive-by”.

One of the things that I like to do when I photograph, is make sure that I don’t stop with “one and done” especially as I don’t feel I’m as good at capturing wide-angle scenes. Instead, I prefer to focus instead on smaller, tighter subjects where the scale of the photograph maybe seem slightly mysterious for the viewer. I find that if I’m patient and stand in the same spot for a few moments, images start to reveal themselves and, sure enough, interesting patterns in the ice began to catch my eye.

Next, I moved in for some close-ups to see if I could capture the details in the ice.

Growing up in California, I have to admit that I’ve always thought of snow as something that you “go to” in order to ski. Turns out, ice is slipperier than it looks. One misstep along an icy riverbank and you can quickly find yourself in the water. Instead of foolishly tempting fate by trying to get out on the ice, I opted to changed my perspective by walking along a bridge and photographing the frozen river from above.

At the end of the day, I found the images of the ice to be much more interesting than the photographs I made of the tree. And hopefully my adventure made me a more interesting person as well. : )

Serendipity. Look for something, find something else, and  realize that what you’ve found is more suited to your needs than what you thought you thought you were looking for. —Lawerence Block

Here’s to a life filled with less consuming and more creating.

(By the way, if you ever have a chance to listen to Jay speak about photography, do it! His work is iconic, he calls it like it he sees it, and he’s (most likely) influenced your photography- even without you knowing it!)

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December 29, 2017

Continuum —2017 The Year in Review

For the past 7 years, I’ve created a slideshow as a simple way to review the images I’ve posted using Lightroom mobile to my Instagram account ( I find this yearly exercise yields interesting insights about where I am in my life and allows me to reflect upon the places that I’ve gone and the experiences that I’ve had. I would strongly encourage you to create a collection of your own images for the year to see the path that you followed in 2017.

If you are interested in viewing the previous years, they can be found here.

Happy New Year and best wishes to everyone in 2018!

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December 7, 2017

 Tasmania – Three Photos Before and After

I had time over the weekend to sit down and retouch some images from Tasmania and thought it might be interesting to write up a quick overview of the workflow. In a nutshell, the majority of edits were done in Lightroom Classic CC with a bit of retouching done in Photoshop CC. On the left are the original raw captures, the final images on the right.

First, for all three of the photographs, I used the Lens Correction panel to Remove Chromatic Aberration and Enable Profile Corrections. In fact I change Lightroom’s default settings to enable Lightroom to apply these setting on import (this post will tell you how). Then, I cropped as needed. From there on, each image needed slightly different settings, so I will walk through each image separately.

My experience of photographing the dead trees along the waterline at Lake Gordon, felt far more dramatic when I was there, so my intent was to impart that same dramatic feeling through post processing. Below is the original, raw capture.

I made the following “global” changes using the Basic, Effects, and Details panels:

  • Increased the Temperature value to add warmth to the image.
  • Set new white and black points to extend the dynamic range of the original “flat” photograph.
  • Increase Clarity to exaggerate edge contrast in the midtones.
  • Increased the Dehaze value, however this pushed some of the shadow areas too dark, so I returned to the Basic panel to refine the black point.
  • Increased the amount of  Luminance and Color Noise Reduction in the Details panel.

Moving to the local adjustment tools, I started by adding three separate Graduated Filters:

  • The first one (starting in  the upper left, and reaching almost into the center of the photo), decreases exposure and shifts the Temperature towards yellow.
  • The second one (starting in the lower left and moving slightly into the image), “burns” the edge by lowering the Exposure value.
  • And infamy, the last one (starting at the bottom and moving upwards towards the center pf the photograph), adds Contrast and lightens Highlights (helping to separate the tree trunks from the background).

Finally, I selected the Adjustment Brush and made several small local adjustments:

  • The first one decreases the Exposure to darken the top left corner.
  • The second emphasizes the rays of light using Dehaze and Contrast.
  • The third increases Exposure the shadows in the tree area on the right.
  • And the fourth and final one shifts the temperature slider towards yellow in the center of the photograph.

When photographing the second location, I was impressed by the patterns made by the water flowing over the  sandbar. At the time, there was a bird singing nearby, and I remember wondering what the bird’s audio waves would look like if we could see them in the water. Regardless, my goal was to  accentuate the waves and patterns in Lightroom.The original raw capture below, was admittedly underexposed .

After applying Lens Corrections, cropping, and setting new black and white points, I  decreased the Highlights (to retain detail in the sand), add a bit of Dehaze, and decreased Saturation. I find that when using Dehaze on an image such as this one (when I’m using it more “creatively” and not necessarily to remove atmospheric haze), the image becomes overly saturated so I tend to lower the Saturation – but of course it’s a personal choice.

Then, I added two local adjustments using the Adjustment Brush:

  • The first darkens the  top right area of the water by decreasing Exposure.
  • The second adds additional Dehaze to the sandbar.

I then opened the file into Photoshop (16-bit, Adobe RGB, PSD file at 300 PPI). Using a combination of the Healing Brush and the Clone Stamp tool, I proceeded to remove the distracting flecks of sand as well as the plant in the lower right of the image.

Before and after retouching the sand in Photoshop.

I prefer to work with the Healing Brush as it’s typically faster when removing small elements. However if  the edges of the “healed” area soften the grain/noise pattern in the image (or make it “mushy”), I’ll switch to the Clone Stamp tool (even though in some instances it may take longer to match the colors/tone in the photograph).

The third photograph was taken from the passenger seat of a car. While I know that this isn’t optimal, if we stopped every time we saw a opportunity for a photograph, we would never have made it to our final destination! In this image, I wanted to accentuate the clouds over the mountains, the sunlight on the trees and, and mooo-ve a cow to higher ground. Below is the the original, raw capture.

After using the Lens Correction panel to remove distortions, cropping, and setting black and white points, I adjusted the White Balance – increasing the Temperature and decreasing the Tint sliders to remove the colder, blue cast. Then, I decreased the Highlights (to bring back detail in the clouds) and increased the Shadows (to reveal details in the trees). I refined the midtones by decreasing Exposure and increasing Contrast and added a slight increase in Clarity, while decreasing Saturation.

Then, I added two local adjustments:

  • Using the Adjustment Brush with an increased Exposure value, I lightened the front view of the trees.
  • I also used the graduated filter over the mountains and clouds  (set to increase Dehaze and reduce Saturation), however this adjustment also amplified the reflection from the car window (above the mountain –  center frame).

In Photoshop, I copied, pasted, and repositioned a “good” area of cloud to cover the reflection and used a Curves Adjustment layer to match the tonal values of the surrounding clouds (to restrict the effects of the Curves Adjustment Layer, I selected it and chose Layer > Create Clipping Mask). I then removed the distracting fence posts and, because the lonely cow at the bottom of the image was so close to the edge, I repositioned it a bit higher in the frame.

Please check out my additional images from Tasmania, on Behance, as well as my Portfolio page, in an Adobe Spark.

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October 5, 2017

Publish to Adobe Portfolio from Lightroom Mobile

JK: Updated 10-18-2017: Collections have been renamed Album.

You can quickly pull in Albums of images from Lightroom Mobile to post in a photo grid in Adobe Portfolio. Here’s how:

In the portfolio editor (, click the plus icon to add content.

Choose Lightroom Album.


Select your collection and choose Import Selected to import the images into a grid.

To make edits to the grid (such as reordering the images), click the pencil icon and choose Edit Page Content.

You can also add collections by clicking the Manage Content icon.

Under Mange Content, click Integrations, then click Add Albums.

Of course you can always use the on-screen remote to add additional images from Lightroom to your project, but this new ability to add an entire Collection from Lightroom Mobile to a single grid in just a few clicks should save some users a lot of time.

Note: Portfolio has also updated the concept of what a “Page” contains. Now, a page is simply a page. There isn’t a difference between a page that has an artist statement and a page that contains images.  And the concept of a project no longer exists (don’t worry, all of your projects have automagically been converted to pages for you!).

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September 21, 2017

Adobe Spark – Branded Stories

You can now brand your Spark Pages with your own logos, colors, and fonts. If you are a paid Creative Cloud user, this premium feature is automatically included in your plan. I can’t wait to try it on my next Spark Page! (Customizing branded assets are also available for Spark Posts and Spark Videos).

For more information,  this article (How to Create Branded Stories in Adobe Spark), takes you through how these premium features work.


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September 7, 2017

Tasmania – Island of Inspiration

I had the opportunity to visit Tasmania last month and spent the last weekend creating an Adobe Spark Page.

I really appreciate how easy it is to create a collection of photographs in Lightroom, sync it across my mobile devices, and use a beautifully designed Spark theme (template) to tell my story.

Click on the image below to view the images – I hope you enjoy the journey!

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August 31, 2017

Instinct and Intent – a Self Assignment

I found myself in Singapore last week with an afternoon free to make photographs. It’s a beautiful city, and I was staying near the Marina Bay – an area filled with modern architecture. Although this isn’t my typical subject matter, I decided to follow my own advice and give myself an assignment to photograph the surrounding buildings.

So, I started with the obvious – the prominent, glass high-rises. (The objective is to get out and start making images, which will, in turn, spark another idea and keep the momentum moving forward.)

Then, I started noticing interesting reflections in the surrounding buildings.

As I passed the ArtScience museum, I couldn’t help but stop to photograph some details of the building.

And the roof of the durian fruit-shaped building – The Esplanade, was quite interesting.

Then, I decided to change perspective (literally) by stepping into one of the buildings and taking the elevator to higher ground.

I found the port too interesting to pass up.

“I try not to limit myself too strictly to an assignment when I go out and photograph, because I never know what images might resonate at some point in the future. I might not understand the images that I make today, and it’s only in hindsight that I can discover their meaning and their relationship to my life at the time that I made them.”

FYI – the little white dots in the first image are cars!

On the walk back to the hotel, I decided to branch out and try to include some people in my images. I have enjoyed playing with my tilt-shift lens, and liked the way that I could include people yet hide their identity.

All in all, it was a great afternoon and the assignment enabled me to practice my passion and exercise my creativity.

Have a great weekend.  : )

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July 13, 2017

Viewing the Unseen with the Help of a Camera

One of my favorite things to do it make photographs of things that are invisible to the naked eye. Whether it’s capturing a split-second, or compressing multiple seconds into a single photograph, the camera can help us to see what, under normal circumstances, we can not observe.

Last week, I was driving over Independence Pass in Colorado,when I pulled over at a little spot in the road to stretch my legs and have a picnic. Here is a short clip I took to document the “reality” of the river.

While the video certainly portrays the power and frenzie of the recent snow-melt, my internal experience was a sense of calm. To capture an image that was more in tune with my feelings, I set up a tripod and put on my neutral density filters in order to slow my shutter speed  and capture the “cotton candy” images below.

Camera settings: shutter speed 1/3 of a second, F/11, ISO 100

Camera settings: shutter speed 1/2 of a second, F/11, ISO 100

In situations such as this, I will typically capture several exposure of the same scene using slightly different shutter speeds in order to select the one that best recreates my experience. Below are three examples of different shutter speeds. The images on the left were captured with relatively faster shutter speeds (revealing a bit more turbulent motion) than the images on the right.

Once I decide on my camera settings, I will be sure to take multiple exposures as the volume of water and path of the river will make each capture unique. As you can see in the images below, even though my camera settings were the same for the pairs of images, the results are quite different.

Because I tend to crop my photographs tight (in an attempt to minimize the chaos),  I also try to remind myself to include images with a wider field of view in order to show context.

Because its not possible to accurately predict what the final image will look like, I often photograph scenes just to make sure that the camera isn’t able to see thing that I can’t. In the images below for example, as the slow shutter speed smooths the water,  the positive and negative space in the image becomes more pronounced making the rocks and water more interesting than how my eyes interpreted them.

Finally, I made sure to capture a few vertical images and even played with shadows when the sun would peak out from behind the clouds.


Each of us is an ongoing product of the world within us, the world between us, and the world around us—and their hidden capacity to shape our every thought, feeling, and behavior. —Adam Alter, Drunk Tank Pink


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June 22, 2017

Photography, the Best Kind of Project Creep

Project creep gets me every time.

1) I broke a pot that had a succulent in it.

2) I went to the nursery to replace the pot.

3) I ended up buying 12 more succulents (I mean seriously, how do you decide on just one, when they’re all so unique!)

4) I decided that they were so beautiful that I had to photograph them before I planted them.

5) So I did.

See what I did there? I took a 30 minute project and turned it into an all day event. But it was worth it. Ha!

I used my Canon 5Ds with a 45mm tilt-shift lens with a closeup filter on it. Because I wanted a very shallow depth of filed, I shot tethered, directly into Lightroom CC in order to quickly check focus. It was fun to use my tripod/lights etc. and shoot in the studio – well, ok, in the enclosed porch, I don’t have a studio — we do what we can with what we have, right?

I pulled one of the images into Photoshop and added a texture.

If you want to know how to add a texture like this, here is a free video (Adding a texture to a photo) from Photoshop CC 2017 Essential Training: Photography on

I hope to do more with the individual photos at some point, but with all of my other project creep, well, I don’t know when that might happen. : )

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June 15, 2017

Make a lot of Photographs, and Make them Often

I often hear people complain that photographers with digital cameras tend to overshoot their subjects. While that might be true if you’re taking fifty image of the same subject without changing anything, I’ve always been one to make a lot of photographs, and make them often.

If you’ve seen my instagram feed, then you know that I enjoy posting triptychs – and for good reason. Posting more than one image forces me to explore my subject (rather than simply capturing the first “grab-shot” and walking away), while the constraint of posting three related images, limits the possibilities yet somehow, simultaneously increases my creativity.

Some days I choose a specific subject like the corner of the convention center or the sunflowers in the images below and change my perspective to create three unique images of that subject.

Other times, I choose a theme, concept, or word and then make images based on that idea.  In the images below I chose “texture” and “architecture”. My goals is to make the images work well together so I look for visual similarities such as quality and direction of light, color, and tone.

I also look for graphic shapes or lines. In the first set of examples below, the “parking” theme as well as my angle of view helps tie the images together whereas the strong lines and reflections in the buildings help tie the second set together.

I often use techniques such as long exposures/slow shutter speeds with the camera on a tripod or panning the camera while in a moving car to explore what is invisible to the naked eye.

I find photographing through an object (the window of a plane or a car for example), is another interesting way to create a relationship between images that might otherwise be of differing subject matter.

And, knowing what’s possible when processing images in Lightroom and Photoshop can also help unify a series of images. Processing the photographs of the wires below as high-key, black and white images enabled me to match the sky across the images while refining white balance helped strengthen the color palette across the aerial images.

So while it’s true that it might take more time to edit the larger number of photographs that I make, the freedom to explore the subject and increase my skills (at such little cost), is just too good of an opportunity to pass up. I can almost guaranty that without making a lot of images (and making them often), I would never have seen – nor made – the last image of the Golden Gate Bridge below.

Have a great weekend!

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June 8, 2017

Joshua Tree – An Afternoon in Solitude

I have finally embraced the fact that I’m an introvert. Not only do I like spending time alone, I need to spend time alone. If you surround me with people day after day, eventually, I will run out of “nice”.

I enjoy nature. And silence. Put the two together and that’s when I do my best creative work. So, when I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon driving through a national park by myself, I packed my camera gear, jumped in the car, and off I went.

I used Adobe Spark Page to assemble my favorite images from the afternoon and limited my editing to the “more traditional” photographic editing/toning workflow in Lightroom. (I find that setting limitations (as well as deadlines) enables me to actually publish the work in a timely manner!)

“I believe loneliness is a door you have to go through—a passage leading you to solitude. Solitude is what I’m after. The kind of tranquility that allows you access to your own imagination. Solitude helps you differentiate, define the borders of the self. Solitude helps you figure out where everybody else stops and you begin. Solitude is quite different from being alone. Solitude is the state of being alone without losing your mind.” ­­—Jeanne Marie Laskas


Below are some images from the project. The original, raw captures are on the left and the toned images are on the right. I used the Basic panel to set white balance, black and white points, increase shadows, decrease highlights, and increase Clarity. I used the Targeted Adjustment tool (in the HSL panel) to desaturate and darken the luminance of the sky.

In the next set of images, I used the Adjustment Brush to selectively dodge and burn the tips of the cacti and the pink flowers, and the Radial Filter to lighten the edges in the image of the cacti and darken the edges of the flower image.

For this last group of images (top images are original captures, bottom images are edited), working in Reference View (in the Develop module) made it much easier to compare images while adjusting HSL to unify the sky across the images. I really appreciate that I can create a collection in Lightroom CC, sync it to the cloud, and then access those files to quickly assemble my Spark Page.  Click here for a video that demonstrates how to create your own Adobe Spark Page.

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May 26, 2017

Salton Sea – Unifying Photographs in Lightroom CC

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to take a day trip around the Salton Sea area in California. Knowing that I would only have a single afternoon to photograph, my goal was to return with 8-10 images that would work together to convey not only what I saw, but what I felt as I drove through the area.

I limited myself to one lens – a 45mm tilt-shift. By using using the tilt control on the lens I was able to throw large portions of the image out of focus as well as create the illusion of making elements in the scene appear miniature. I was hoping that this “miniature” effect would make the images appear more mysterious and surreal, while the limited focus would help guide the viewers eye through the scene that might otherwise be thought of as a “image of nothing”. Because even in nothing, there is always something – even if it’s the lack of something that tells the story.

Limiting my equipment would help save time (no lugging of equipment), ease the decission making process (finite options), and ultimately allow my mind to focus more on the image (content and composition) and less on the technical. As I drove down the east coast of the Salton Sea and then back north and south again to see the west side, the clouds came and went, changing the quality and direction of light, making the original raw captures seem a bit disjointed. While using the tilt-shift lens, limiting the depth of field, and photographing similar subject matter, were three great techniques for creating a cohesive body of work, there were a number of refinements that I could make in post to further unify the images.

In Lightroom, I used the Temperature and Tint sliders in the Basic panel to equalize white balance across the series of images. I used the Tone sliders to set black and white points (extending the dynamic range for the images that were taken when cloudy), refine exposure and contrast, and shift shadow and highlight values. Increasing the Clarity slider added add a bit more “snap” to the images by amplifying edge contrast in the midtones. I also relied heavily on the HSL sliders to make a continuum of changes in different color ranges (desaturating the blue sky and lightening the green foliage. I switched to the selective adjustment tools to remove color or change tone in specific areas. Finally, I added a post crop vignette to round the corners (making the images look a bit more retro).

Below are three examples of these global and selective changes. The images on the left are the raw captures, the images on the right are post-processing in Lightroom.


I have published the finished images as diptychs here, to my Behance page.

Next time I visit (because I definitely want to return), I’d like to venture into Bombay Beach. There was police activity when I drove past and to be honest, I got a little spooked and left. : (

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