Mastering Lightroom for Outdoor and Nature Photographers
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What would you give to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Ansel Adams in the darkroom? To watch him wave his hand beneath focused beams of light as a reverse image of Full Moon over Half Dome burned into the paper's silver surface. No two prints would ever be precisely the same. He was as much an artist here, in the darkroom, as he was in the field.
As much as I love to keep my teaching focused on in-the-field technique and creative inspiration, at some point you have to address the other HALF of the art form. This is a course for wilderness photography enthusiasts dedicated to that other half of the craft. I hope this course is as much like that experience next to Ansel might have been. Except that in the place of a darkroom, we have a lightroom. Instead of Ansel, you have me.
I have been shooting as a professional wilderness photographer for the past 15 years. I've been published in Time/Life, National Parks, Nature's Best, and National Wildlife.
I'm a purist. I started my first decade in photography shooting with slide film. Photo clubs made sure you followed rules!
So, if you want the guy who will give 200,000 Lightroom presets to make your images look just like his (over saturated and artificial as they may be) then I advise you look elsewhere.
This is for aspiring outdoor photographers who wish to train their eye (and hand) at editing their RAW images with ease and joy. For those who wish to truly be artists in the room of light. And to do so with as much simplicity and organization as possible, so that you can get back outside taking pictures, since that's what caused you to fall in love with this in the first place.
I believe you will see that it isn't about having profuse knowledge of every possible trick in the book, it is about acquiring a skilled hand with just a few essential tools.
100-level 1st hour - The essential stuff you MUST know so that your digital life doesn't become a monster and try to eat you in your sleep.
200-level 2nd hour - This is the fun part. I walk you through recent images of mine made in the American Southwest demonstrating tasteful use of the essential tools you MUST know in Lightroom. I intentionally leave out plenty of tools for two reasons. One, I only USE the ones that we cover here. Two, it does you no service to waste your time teaching you things you don't need to know.
This is everything you need to know and none of the other shenanigans.
See you inside the Museum of Art!
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|Section 1: 101|
Fasten your seat belts. You are in for a wild ride in the Room of Light!
I discuss JPEG vs RAW and why we will be working with RAW images during this course. If you have never worked with RAW images, I recommend setting your DSLR to capture JPEG + RAW images simultaneously. You can do so easily in your DSLR camera's MENU / Settings.
Organization is Key in the digital age. I find that most people think they are organized… right up until the moment that something goes wrong. And typically this is discovered when they need to access a specific image quickly. Or when their hard drive crashes. Both of those will happen. Yes, I said, "WILL happen." So tune in and take notes. Then get down to establishing an organized system as I teach it here.
Notice the simple, practical shortcuts Paul sets up so that you can find your images quickly and intuitively for years to come. This has worked for me for more than a decade and counting.
DON'T LET Lightroom, Aperture, iPhoto, or any other piece of software do this part FOR YOU. Those pieces of software will become obsolete soon enough. (Trust me, I've been through 3 already in the last 10 years). You need your own system, independent of software. And this one works!
Now, it's time to import those RAW images into Lightroom.
I show you how to Keyword your images in a practical way (that you can do quickly) and how to create Stacks for visual organization.
Pay attention as I repeat the entire process a couple of times. It takes seeing this a few times, then doing it yourself a couple of times, and you've got it! If you forget a few weeks from now just come back to this lesson and review it.
This is the fun part! I give you a tour of the various sliders at your disposal under the DEVELOP module.
Begin to see color and understand white balance as I walk you through it.
Pay attention as I introduce to you the single most powerful feature of Lightroom. Copy/Paste a set of changes from one image to an entire batch of images in one click. This will make you smile. Ahh, easy editing bliss!
This is the nerdy (but essential) part that far too few people understand. You've now finished your basic editing and you're ready to export your RAW image as a JPEG for printing or posting to Facebook. Where do I “send” it? What size do I make it for various uses? How do I name it? Watch and learn.
Under IMAGE SIZING:
For Facebook: I recommend selecting 90% quality JPEG at 1620px wide on the LONG EDGE at 72 pixels per inch.
For Printing: In general, I recommend unselecting the “resize to fit” box and simply entering 300 for your pixels per inch. This will be the largest size JPEG you can achieve from that original RAW file. This will keep your printing company (or your own home printer) happy.
Now that you're up to speed on the basics, be sure to continue to the really fun stuff in the 200-level course “Be an Artist in the Room of Light!”...
|Section 2: 201|
BE SURE THE “HD” BUTTON IS SELECTED…
Learn how to read a histogram. This matters in-camera, and it matters here, in post-processing too. I makes it really easy to understand. We also cover the basic exposure tools like Highlights and Shadows and more.
Do not be extreme with these changes!
I like to say, "Don't be a 6th grade girl doing makeup." Edit subtly enough that nobody notices. Your goal is to polish what is there, not create something that never was there to begin with.
We conclude this lecture with a discussion of appropriate use of "selective saturation adjustments" using the individual color channels.
In this lecture, I provide an introduction to the virtual Graduated Neutral Density Filter. I prove why you no longer need to lug around all those pieces of delicate glass in the field. This takes a little practice, but in a short while, you'll get the hang of it.
There is no Lightroom tool more useful for you as a nature photographer. Ansel Adams had to spend hours dodging and burning in the darkroom. He would have loved to have it this easy!
I share how to use this tool with an artistic eye. Also, pay attention to each of the time-saving keyboard shortcuts I use during this lecture.
We discuss paying careful attention to what drew your eye to the scene in the first place. Then we apply that understanding to the precise adjustments you will make in post-processing. My eye was drawn to the yellow leaves in the foreground here in Zion National Park. So, here is what I do about that in Lightroom once I get home…
We also begin to use multiple ND GRAD FILTERS. This isn't as tricky as it sounds.
Pay close attention to the subtle changes made. It's all about subtlety!
I am all for getting things "right" in-camera, but sometimes digital capture (compared to our precious slide film) just comes in too flat, too monotone, and drab. And you just KNEW it wasn't that way in the field. You are right!
In this lecture, we recover an otherwise “throw-away” image using multiple ND GRAD FILTERS. PLEASE don't go too far with these powerful tools. Enter at your own risk!
We start with the finished image this time of the beautiful earth shadow in the background of a hoodoo of the Escalante region in the American Southwest. We dissect every adjustment made. You'll learn a lot.
Artists don't like rules, and I'm no exception, but it can be helpful to have a starting point. So, here I harp on a proper “order of operations” for making adjustments to your image. How far to pull the filter down (or up), and which ones to apply what adjustments to.
If it made you say, “Wow!” when you were there, it should make you say that later too. It takes a bit of play, a bit of trial-and-error in the room of light. Watch and learn.
You'll notice it always comes back to remembering the details and the feeling of the original experience. It's that “noticing” in the original moment that makes all the difference later in the room of light.
We dissect another image, one that has a strong story.
The new tool I introduce in this lecture is the ADJUSTMENT BRUSH.
We implement all of the tools that we have learned thus far. This time, as we progress in our adjustments, pay close attention to the process, especially the questions asked by Paul as we go. These questions are ones you must ask aloud as you edit. Later on they will become intuitive and you won't have to say them out loud anymore. Lucky for your loved ones who will think you've lost it!
The tools you now have in your possession are the answers to those questions.
I explain the squinting technique for noticing contrast values, rather than being fooled by colors. Ansel Adams would be quite proud of you doing this.
Don't forget selective saturation adjustments. When you're ready, continue to the final lecture #7…
One more time, we use every tool in our kit. Multiple ND GRAD FILTERS, and more.
Paul shares the intricate “noticing” of the quality and color of the light in the sky. That same density of light should be projecting on the rim-light of the rock three feet from the lens. This is the stuff the pros notice.
Welcome to the elite club of those who I call "Artists in the Room of Light."
Paul has been published in National Parks Magazine, Time-Life, and Nature's Best. He has shot wilderness photography professionally for more than 15 years. For nearly a decade, he has instructed beginner and intermediate photographers on-location in Patagonia, Alaska, Africa and beyond, leading them quickly through the fundamentals of outdoor photography and launching them into the exploration of their own creative vision.
Paul found what makes him tick and organized his life around that calling. He designed his own major at The University of TN: Freelance Photography and Writing for the Natural Environment. That's a mouthful. He's a member of NANPA, SANP, and NSA, but the credentials matter less to him than sharing the profound experience. He points the way to a bigger truth and deeper reality.
Paul is the proud owner of Light Finds, Inc.