Sarah here.

This will be a familiar problem for anyone who’s done much photography (especially event photography), and I can’t promise that I have any brilliant advice, but I’m juuuuuuust starting to feel like I’m getting a handle on it: what to do when you’re drowning in images from a particular event/vacation/photoshoot.

I have photo batches from past events that I’ve barely touched because I was so overwhelmed by the sheer number of images. Since my favorite part is Photoshop, and Photoshop work can take… well… a while, the number of hours it would take to properly edit everything is beyond daunting.

So, scrap that.

Besides photography, I dance, and I drag Andrew along to our shows. While it’s certainly not his favorite type of photography, he often photographs our performances. We’ve reached an arrangement: he shoots, then hands over the RAW files for me to edit (while he goes back to taking pictures of waterfalls and bugs and the aurora borealis). For one recent show, that was 436 pictures, which is actually pretty few compared to other events (there’s one show I’ve yet to tackle where we took 1591 images between us… I still need to go through those).

Here’s the process I came up with:

1) Chunk it: I’m too indecisive to look over aaaaaaaaall the hundreds of images at once and pick out the best ones. But if I broke it up into smaller chunks, it wasn’t so scary. Andrew did this with his Iceland pictures: one day at a time, or if a day was particularly full of activities, one event at a time. The dance show had 12 performances. For each dance, I made a Lightroom collection so I was ONLY looking at those pictures. It was very calming to only see ~30 pictures at a time instead of 400+.

2) Lightroom first!: Since I started working with Photoshop, my time spent in Lightroom has dropped, but I’m starting to really appreciate it as a triage and quick edit tool. I didn’t let myself even open Photoshop until I’d gone through everything in Lightroom, selected the best pictures, and did a quick Lightroom edit to all of them. That way I could get the pictures out to the other performers promptly, then take my time and enjoy the pieces I want to play with.

3) Presets: This was a chance to play with all the neglected Lightroom presets I’ve collected. Presets are a fast way to get 90% (or more) to a cool looking image, and you can tweak them to taste for the finishing touches. Sometimes I used the same preset on a batch of images with similar lighting and mood, and sometimes I played with different looks. Fun and easy. They also gave me some ideas for what I might want to do in Photoshop later.

The fairy picture in this post is one of those quick Lightroom edits with a preset. And now I can pull this one into Photoshop and play, guilt-free. I’ve got a few ideas, so you’ll probably see her again…

Iceland Teaser

Andrew here.  I just got back from a week in Iceland, so take a look back here soon for some observations about gear performance in hurricane force winds, snow and rain in one of the coolest places on earth.  Spoiler alert — My support gear worked impressively well, a piece of my tripod head disappeared into an icy waterfall, and my camera stopped working on Day 2 of 7.  Yep, it was an interesting trip.

I did get some images at least, and I’m working through those now to see if I can salvage a few shots.  This one’s from Gljúfrabúi, the “Hidden Falls” behind Seljalandsfoss in the south of the island.  As with most of the island, it feels like a magical movie set.

More to come.

Gear Reviews: A Preface


Andrew here.

Let me start with a confession: I love bad weather. If it’s sleeting sideways, I want to be out in it. The reasons why may be a topic for a later date (or a visit to the Shrink), but a side effect is that I’ve developed a taste for good, reliable “support gear.” What is support gear? That’s all the non-camera-gear stuff that lets you get out there and make the picture. It’s boots, jackets, packs, poles, ropes or whatever else it takes to get out there and get the shot, safely and comfortably enough that you’re willing and able to do it again someday.

Having good gear gives you a certain freedom. It means you can go with confidence, knowing that you can handle the rain, sleet, or challenges of terrain. Of course, you have to stay cognizant of your physical or skill limitations if you’re really pushing that envelope, but that’s a separate topic. I’m not into gear for gear’s sake, but I do love what opportunities the right gear opens up for you. For me, that’s the draw of good kit.

The best gear becomes invisible to you. For example, a good hardshell keeps you dry without getting in the way. After a while you don’t notice the hardshell; your attention is on whatever it was you were outside to do, and you happen to be dry and comfortable when otherwise your attention would have been on being wet and miserable.

If a piece of gear is worth having, it’s probably worth having in high quality. There are exceptions, of course, for niche items that will not be relied on heavily, or cases where there really is no difference between the bargain one and the designer one. But in general, I’m a believer in getting the right tool for the job, once, rather than incrementally buying my way up, burning money along that path. You’ve probably heard this argument when it comes to tripod purchases. I believe it there too.

Of course, good gear tends to be expensive. As someone who gets huge buyer’s remorse when something doesn’t live up to expectations, I end up doing a ton of research before I buy anything more complex than a pair of socks. Unless they’re socks for a specific task — then those too. After the research stage is knowing how and when to find good deals on good stuff. That’s my Scottish side showing, I suppose.

As we go along our photographic journey, I will be adding mini-reviews on some of the support gear I use to get there, or have discovered along the way. Hopefully this gives you some context for where I come from when it comes to all that.

Making Magic

Sarah here!

The thing I love about compositing is that it gives me an excuse to take pictures of just about anything, anywhere. I’m not a landscape or nature photographer (I leave that to Andrew), but you never know when you might want a particular scene as a background. Thus when we went on vacation to the Olympic Peninsula last year, I found plenty to keep me busy while Andrew and his brother were shooting waterfalls and epic forest scenes.

Alas, the rainforest was not as cool and lush and rainy as we’d hoped… in fact, it was hot and dry. We were also hoping for overcast skies, but we got sun with hardly a cloud in sight. Most of our photographs were taken in the middle of the day, since we had more places we wanted to visit during our brief stay than we had golden hours (and it was a vacation, so I admit, we were often lazy in the mornings).

In summary, we had hoped to capture magical green rainforests, but we ended up with a lot of brown and some very harsh light. It was still lovely, but it wasn’t quite what we’d been dreaming of. Below is one of my better straight-out-of-camera shots… I spent a lot of time at this bend in the path because that mossy lump next to the trail looked like some kind of beastie, and I knew I’d want to play with it later.

A scene from the Olympic Peninsula, straight out of the camera.

The out-of-camera background looks pretty flat, but it has good bones. With a lovely and interesting subject, some Orton glow, color toning, and a little straight-up magic, it turned into something that makes me smile to look at. Goes to show that saving pictures comes in handy sometimes, even you don’t quite know what to do with them at the time.

Happy Photoshopaversary!

2015 Photoshopaversary 1

Sarah here. Today is a very special day for me… it’s my first Photoshopaversary! One year ago today, I downloaded Photoshop and took my first wobbly steps on the path of composite images and digital art.

I was already a pretty competent Lightroom user, and I’d used Gimp occasionally for simple things. Andrew had given me a Wacom tablet, which I now consider pretty much indispensable for Photoshop. I’d been playing with photography for about a year and a half and enjoyed it, but hadn’t really found that spark of inspiration… until I watched this SmugMug video on Benjamin Von Wong, and realized that photography doesn’t just have to be about capturing the real world. It can be about bringing the unreal to life. Picking up Photoshop was a step into a new world where anything was possible, limited only by imagination and skill level… and both of those can always be pushed further. I still have a very long way to go, but I’ve come a long way, and this is a journey without a destination. The journey IS the destination.

A quick shout-out to my Photoshop/photography heroes (more detail on them to come in later posts), in the order I discovered them: Benjamin Von Wong, Renee Robyn, Corey Barker, Aaron Nace of Phlearn, and Roy Korpel. I am awed by all of these artists, and their work regularly makes me say, “I want to do THAT!”

A million thanks to each of them for filling my head with amazing and beautiful images, and opening up new worlds of possibility and potential.

(I’m going to try to make an annual tradition of making a Photoshopaversary doodle, and I figured I’d set the bar pretty low on my first –last minute, wildly procrastinated– effort. It was a good chance to play with 3D, at least, which I haven’t done enough of yet.)

Misty Forest – Mt. Rainier

Andrew here.

“Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” – John Muir

The dense evergreen forests on the slopes of Mt. Rainier come alive when it rains. The immersiveness of a forest rainstorm leaves me with a feeling as if I have traveled back in time. The rain seems to separate you from the outside world and you realize that this forest is as it was millennia ago, and will be millennia from now, if we protect it. This is the Earth as it really is; and out here, you’re just another part of it, not the master of it.

This shot was taken along the Lower Lakes Trail in Paradise Valley on Mt. Rainier, Washington. We hiked up from Paradise Lodge along the Skyline Trail, followed the Mazama Ridge trail down the south side of Rainier, and decided to cut back in the general direction of Paradise Inn when a storm rolled in, taking the High Lakes Trail back West. It was hard to resist shooting scenes like this along the way, as the streams swelled from the rainfall and the forest took on an otherworldly feel with the clouds settled in the trees.

Hello internets!

Hello, peoples of the interwebs!  Sarah here, and I’m one half of Unnatural Imagery.  I’m a photographer and digital artist based in the Washington, D.C. area.  I’m a geek, and my work is usually influenced by fantasy, sci-fi, comic books, and video games.

The other half of our duo is… well…. my other half, Andrew.  He’s the intrepid adventurer, a.k.a. nature, landscape, and macro photographer.  He’ll be weighing in here from time to time, too.

This blog will be a work in progress (what isn’t, really?), since we don’t know who will be stumbling over our little corner of the net, but we’re thinking we’ll use this space to share what we’ve been up to, show some behind-the-scenes, and introduce you to our sources of inspiration.

If you’ve managed to find this post, thanks for reading!  Let us know if there’s anything you’d like to see here, and we’re looking forward to sharing our images with you!

Washington, D.C.-based photography and digital art, natural and unnatural.