About Me

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Spofford, New Hampshire, United States
Jeff Newcomer had been a physician practicing in New Hampshire and Vermont for over 30 years. Over that time, as a member of the Conservation Commission in his home of Chesterfield New Hampshire, he has used his photography to promote the protection and appreciation of the town's wild lands. In recent years he has been transitioning his focus from medicine to photography, writing and teaching. Jeff enjoys photographing throughout New England, but has concentrated on the Monadnock Region and southern Vermont and has had a long term artistic relationship with Mount Monadnock. He is a featured artist in a number of local galleries and his work is often seen in regional print, web publications and in business installations throughout the country. For years Jeff has published a calendar celebrating the beauty of The New England country-side in all seasons. All of the proceeds from his New England Reflections Calendar have gone to support the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at the Cheshire Medical Center. Jeff has a strong commitment to sharing his excitement about the special beauty of our region and publishes a blog about photography in New England.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Enriching Foliage Photography

It's not easy being green

Susan and I are rushing around getting ready to head out a trip to Yellowstone, the Tetons, and Columbia River Gorge, so this week's blog will, hopefully, be short. Just a couple of techniques, one in the camera and one during processing, to improve your images of our most abundant natural attraction, foliage. 

If there is one thing that we have in abundance in New England, it is leaves. In the spring, they explode with every imaginable shade of green, and mature during the summer to a lush, swaying umbrella, deflecting the summer heat. Of course the fall provides our all-to fleeting, riotous, celebration of color initially in the trees and then as a luxurious carpet until the winter snows allows us to catch our breath. Leaves contribute a limitless palate of colors and shades to landscape photography, but their brilliance is opposed by one pernicious factor, reflection.

When light reflects off the surface of the leaves the brilliant colors
become muted and dull. The problem is magnified when moisture coats the foliage after rain or in the morning dew. This is why the color of fall foliage is generally best captured on overcast days, and why normal people look upon photographers as crazy when they curse the "beautiful sunny weather". The muting effects of reflection can't always be illuminated, but there are a couple of techniques that can help control the problem.

You Must Have a Polarizer 

Polarized, Unprocessed
A polarizer is designed to cut through reflection and is the landscape photographer's most essential filter. Direct sunlight reflecting off most surfaces becomes polarized to a specific angle which can be filtered by rotating the polarizing filter to block that angle. The degree to which a polarizer can filter out the
glare is related to the direction of the light, being most effective when it is at 90 degrees to the subject. On the other hand, when the
Polarized Processed
light is coming from behind or in front of the camera, the effect is essentially nonexistent. But when the illumination is in the right direction a polarizer can do a wonderful job cutting through the glare. The filter is great for darkening skies, seeing beyond reflection into the depths of lakes and streams and improving the color saturation of foliage. It is often noted that the ability of a polarizer to block reflection is one of the few filter effects that can not be duplicated by digital editing and it is for that reason that it is considered THE essential filter, but there are Photoshop techniques that can enhance foliage and among these my favorite is the Shadow / Highlight filter.

Shadow / Highlight

The Shadow/Highlight function (H/S) is found in newer versions of

Unpolarized processed with Shadow/Highlight
Photoshop in the "edit menu, under adjustments. It is a remarkable tool for salvaging detail in both bright and dark parts of images, but It is also great for enhancing saturation in brightly illuminated foliage. Unlike a polarizing filter its effect is the same regardless of the direction of the light.  In these situations I concentrate on the Highlight sliders adjusting the Amount to get richer color off the reflecting foliage. I then adjust the Tonal Width
Shadow / Highlight Tool
to limit the effect to the desired range of brightness and the Radius to avoid obvious halos. The effects of this filter could be duplicated with a complicated manipulation in curves, but the ease and control of Highlight / Shadow makes it one of my favorite tools and one of the features that makes upgrading worthwhile if your version of PS doesn't have it. If you already have this in your toolbox, give it a try. The best way to understand the power of H/S is to play. Although it will never be able to do all that a polarizer can do, with a little experience I would guess that, like me, you will think of H/S as a frequent early piece of your editing process, especially when it's not easy being green. 

Now back to packing.  I will try to post some images over the next couple of weeks as our travel allows.


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