Borneo Orangutan with a homemade umbrella, Tanjung National Park, Kalimantan, Indonesia. Image copyright 2010: Paul Mckenzie
Conversations with Paul; Photoshop Info and Philosophies & Gear
First off, I need to say that folks who read the comments with each post are getting some great educational and photographic/philosophical info. For example, take a moment to scroll down and read the comments on the original Paul Mckenzie post here. The comments include a nice note from Paul.
In any case, I would like to share Paul’s response to an e-mail question that I sent him. The question (Can you shoot me a paragraph on your approach to image optimization, what you will do, what you won’t do, and what you’ve done?) was generated by a reader’s comment.
Here is Paul’s reply:
Raw conversion is done with Adobe DNG. In Adobe raw, I’ll adjust temperature, exposure, recovery, fill light and clarity (pretty much as you recommend in your Digital Basics File). Then I open in CS3, crop if necessary and fix colour casts (I’m fine if there are blacks and whites in the image, but admit that I often struggle otherwise). Sometimes I will use levels and curves but increasingly I find myself gravitating to Nik’s tonal contrast in Colour EFEX pro and Nik’s Viveza 2 for selective lightening & darkening. I regularly use Nik’s Define 2.0 for noise reduction – sometimes selectively brushed on. On occasion I’ll go back to CS3 and use quick masks for lightening irises. I use an actions command for resizing and sharpening (i.e; pretty much all sharpening is done generically).
On rare occasions I may remove a blade of grass or for example an out of focus raindrop (usually using a combination of Quick Masks, and the Patch and Clone Stamp tools. I do not introduce elements into an image and never change the natural history of the image.
I would add that I still consider my image processing skills as being no more than adequate. I still have lots to learn. Pretty much everything I know about post processing I have learned from your publications as well as those from Robert O’Toole.
Hope this helps. Paul
My comments on the above: CS-3 cannot convert the RAW images from the Mark IV. To avoid having to purchase CS-5, Paul converts his CR.2 RAW files to DNG files using Adobe DNG Converter. Once this is done, he is then able to convert his DNG RAW files using Adobe Camera RAW (just as I have been doing for the past few years). This is a great tip for folks with newer cameras (both Canon and Nikon I believe) who have not upgraded to CS-5.
I’d suggest to Paul that he try Robert O’Toole’s Average Blur Color Balance Trick (as detailed in the last Digital Basics File update. If that fails (as it does on occasion) you can work the RGB Curves (pulling down the BLUE curve is great for removing a BLUE color cast), you can reduce the saturation of individual colors in Hue Saturation, or you can play around with Selective Color.
As I said in a comment on the original post, Paul’s digital philosophy is quite similar to like mine though I am surely a bit more aggressive when it comes to removing distracting background elements and repairing wing-tips. As regular readers and Bulletin subscribers know, I always let folks know when I have done anything beyond ordinary image optimization and our images are captioned to indicate same. Both Paul and I believe in keeping our images true to the natural history of the situation.
For those who missed the original post, you can see more great images and read the complete story of his amazing trip–hordes of mosquitoes and all, by checking out Paul’s blog here.
Below is Paul’s Indonesia Gear Bag (with selected comments). (Note: the links will take you to the latest gear if the older version is no longer in production.)
Canon 1D MK 4
Canon 5D MK 2
Canon 16-35mm II f2.8 lens – always with the 5D MK 2 as I want a full frame body with this lens
Canon 70-200mm IS f2.8 lens
Canon 1.4x extender (version II)
Canon 300mm IS f/2.8 lens (version I)– I ended using this only once so wasn’t necessary
Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens (version 1)
Canon 580 EX II speedlight
Canon Macro Twin Lite MT-24 EX flash (for use with macro subjects)
LumiQuest Soft Box – a plastic softbox that you attach to the front of the 580 EX speedlight with velcro. I used this with all wide angle shots of the Orangutans whenever I used flash. The idea being to dampen the flash and spread it as wide as possible. Most of the time I was very close to the Orangutans when I used the wide angle lens and I never went above minus 3 for flash compensation. The low flash output in conjunction with the softbox was also aimed at minimising disturbance of the Orangutans.
Juvenile Borneo Orangutan swinging from tree branches (mothers hand in the right foreground, Tanjung National Park, Kalimantan, Indonesia. Image copyright 2010: Paul Mckenzie
Thanks a ton to Paul for sharing both his wonderful images and his thoughts with us. Safe travels my friend.