Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My Photography Work Flow...Post #1

I was recently giving a photo lesson to a few people and the conversation came up about my work flow. What happens after a photo shoot? What does the flow look from putting my images on my computer, to the final product. This will take a few posts to accomplish since different styles of photos have different work flows for me, but I'll give it my best shot.

Today, I'll start with people shots.

Capturing images in the camera is definitely an important part of the work flow process. You must learn how to tell your camera what to do. Learn how to get that thing out of the "Auto" mode. Once you do that, you still need to learn about composition and some other things. For those, check my previous blog posts.

Now comes the second part...software editing. Here is a list of the software I use. I use different combos of each product depending on the genre of the image I'm trying to create.

Adobe Lightroom 3.0
Photoshop Elements 9 (No I don't use the big boy version)
Neat Image noise reduction (Photoshop plugin version)
Photomatix Pro (Stand alone version for HDR)
Portrait Professional
Nik Software Complete Suite (Lightroom plugin version)

For people shots I almost exclusively use Adobe Lightroom 3.0. I first import all my photos into Lightroom. Once in Lightroom, I look through all my images in the "Library" mode and flag the ones I want to edit. This helps me weed out similar shots and ones where people have strange looks on their faces, or blink...etc.

Once I flag the images, I filter so I just see the flagged images. From there I switch to "Develop" mode and pretty much follow the work flow on the toolbar on the right. I work from the top of the toolbar to the bottom. First I adjust the White Balance. This is super important, something you can't do in free versions of software like "Picasa". From there I usually adjust exposure, primarily focusing on contrast, blacks, and vibrance.

I may do some spot editing after that...a powerful feature of Lightroom.

Quite honestly, that's about it for people shots. If I really want to give that air-brushed, magazine look, I use a program called Portrait Professional. Click on this link to see the homepage for this website. There is an impressive demo on the home page. This software is AMAZING for getting that magazine look. It takes a few minutes for each shot, but I've never known anyone who doesn't like the results. It's super user friendly too. It will shave 10 years and 20lbs off anyone. :)

In my next post, I'll walk you through my workflow on a regular landscape photo. Then in my last post, I'll walk you through my HDR workflow...the kind of photos that look like "paintings".

Leave a comment if this is something that will be helpful to you.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Newbreak Softball...Planet Shakers!

Tonight was our second softball game of the season. Monday nights at the Santee Sportsplex is the place to be for Newbreak softball. I'm playing with mostly the youngsters, but there are a couple of us in the 50+ club holding it down. 2 for 3 with a 14-3 win...not a bad night.

I've got to say, 50 is not too bad. I definitely need to stretch more, but the arm still feels good and so far I haven't pulled or broken anything. LOL!

On a different note...today I was encouraged by 2 different people talking about our Planet Shakers teaching series at Newbreak. I can't remember a series when I've had so much positive feedback. I can't wait to see how God activates a whole bunch of new planet shakers at Newbreak! It's a great leap of faith, but it IS the key to a blessed life. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you should check out Pastor Mike's version of Planet Shakers right here.

Who has a great Planet Shakers story this week?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Weather - blessing with perspective

I am so torn with the beautiful weather we're having in San Diego. I'm blessed to live in one of the most consistently beautiful places in the world. I mean...it's January 28th and it's 80 degrees and sunny out right now. My wife is at our condo pool. Crazy!

With the great weather, there are tons of great photo opportunities. I shot this at Harbor Island in San Diego. This will give you an idea of what I'm talking about with nice weather.

As I speak of all this, I'm also very mindful of others around our country and around the world who are not experiencing great weather right now. Everything is put into perspective when I think of those suffering around the world.

This past week, my good friend Paul Abraham and his wife Angela, had a terrible event occur in Fiji. Paul is the Country Director in Fiji for Give Clean Water. Fiji experienced a flash flood this week that devastated much of the Western side of the big island. The flooding was fast and furious and Paul and Angela lost everything. Here are a couple of photos from the damage to Paul's house and office. In a matter of minutes, they were under 5 feet of water.

Even as I type these words, I am deeply troubled by this event. Paul and Angie are not alone in this world. Suffering and injustice are happening all over the world as we speak. Once again, we who are blessed are called to be a blessing. Pray for Paul, Angela, and the people of Fiji. I will pray, but I must also act and be the blessing. Who will join me?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

It's house building time in Mexico!

This afternoon, I had the privilege of being a part of Amor Ministries' National Advisory Board meeting. About 40 of us from all over the US, Canada, and Great Britain boarded a bus and headed down to the Amor Ministries campground on the East side of Tijuana, Mexico. When we arrived, we met up with the Amor staff, and Amor's Mexican pastor's board for a time of worship and prayer to dedicate the season of building houses in Mexico. It was an amazing experience!

Amor's Dedication of the Season - Tijuana, Mexico
We got to hear a testimony from one of Amor's pastors...Pastor Mere. He grew up in a poor community in Tijuana and didn't really like God or the church. 24 years ago, Amor and a team of volunteers from the US, built his family a house. It was given to them as an outreach of the local church in his community. Their family couldn't believe this amazing expression of God's love! Their whole family gave their lives to Jesus as a result and years later, Pastor Mere is now ministering to the same communities in Mexico as a Pastor!

What a cool story of what happens when God's love is displayed to the world!

Over President's day weekend, I'll be leading a team of volunteers from Newbreak Church to build a house for a family who doesn't have one. I've built hundreds of these houses over the years and it never gets old! I can't wait to see how God will not only change a Mexican family's life that weekend, but how He will change ours!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Elementary School Help & House Building in Mexico

After a early morning of study, I got to meet with the principal of Hage elementary school to discuss all the different ways our church is partnering with the school this year. Mr. T is one of the best principals I've ever met! Hage is such a great learning environment for the kids!

Newbreak Scripps Mesa is hosting a free movie night for the parents and kids next month, as well as a free digital photography class, and school clean up in March. I love to see our church loving on the Hage community!

After meeting with Mr. T, I headed over to our newest church campus in Ocean Beach. That will be our 6th church campus and it's where my new office is located. I spent much of the afternoon planning for our President's day weekend house build in Mexico. I'm leading a team that will build a house for an impoverished, homeless family in Mexico. In just 3 days, we'll build a complete house from scratch, complete with a stucco finish, changing a family's life forever! I LOVE these trips!

I love it that our church is BEING the church! We're taking God's love to the streets and around the world...super fun!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Victory at the Rescue Mission

Tonight was one of my favorite events...graduation ceremonies at the San Diego Rescue Mission. One of my buddies, Mike McNeil...Big Mike, graduated from the one year program. I love seeing the change in people from the time they enter the Rescue Mission, to the time they graduate. From homeless and addicted, to clean, sober, a new job, and a new place to live!

Mike is the second graduate in the past 3 months who was part of my life group at Newbreak Church Scripps Mesa. Mike started attending Newbreak and was in my 101 group last quarter. He just moved out of the mission last week and has a new place to live! What a success story!

Kids of the graduates sing for the crowd.
When graduation started tonight, several kids got up to sing a song. They were children of the graduates! They were so cute, but the even greater thing is...they are going to have their parents back...clean and sober, with a fresh start to life! The kids were so proud of their parents!

Two of the graduates gave their testimonies. One guy had his master's degree, but got caught up in alcohol and cocaine. Life spiraled out of control. One year ago, he began his new start at the Rescue Mission, and tonight...he is a graduate!

It just doesn't get any better than this! Next Friday night is my night to visit the Rescue Mission and speak to the guys. We'll bring a worship team, then teach a life application lesson from God's word. The forth Friday of the month is a big highlight for me!

I'm blessed to watch God change lives!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Planet Shakers, Dentist, Tech Support, Blessed!

Today our Newbreak teaching team did our critical run through of our new series...Planet Shakers! This is where we do the message out loud, in front of our teaching team to get critiqued and get better. We do this every week. I can't wait for this weekend and this series as we talk about the blessings of God!

I was reminded of my blessings all day in some strange ways. This afternoon, I had to go to the dentist. I hate the dentist, but found out my teeth were in better shape than I thought...blessing!...and the x-rays and cleaning were FREE!...another huge blessing!

Tonight, I switched over our internet service to ATT DSL. We've been long time Time Warner subscribers, but their rates just keep going up. We were able to save $60 per month off our cable bill with our new switch....Blessing!

As I was switching over, I had to hook up a modem and wireless router to my new DSL jack. I had 2 different installation jacks and wasn't quite sure which order to go in, so I called ATT. This is the 2nd ATT rep I've spoken with during this transfer. Both of them were customer service ROCK STARS!...Blessing!

The rep from ATT was so patient and totally got me hooked up with everything...no glitches...Blessing! You know that could have gone really bad.

I'm going to bed right now in a nice comfortable bed, in a warm condo...Blessing! My wife and I were healthy enough to go to the gym tonight for a workout...Blessing!

I am loved and blessed by God! I am blessed, so I must be a blessing! That's how it works. We put him first... He blesses...we bless others...we build the Kingdom of God!

Do you want to be more blessed? Do you want to find out how to be a Planet Shaker? Then tune in to www.newbreak.org this weekend, or visit one of our 12 weekend worship services at 5 different Newbreak campuses to find out how!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Favorite Book of 2011

I love reading a good book. Especially one that is motivating and builds up my faith in God! My favorite book read of 2011 was definitely "Sun Stand Still" by Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Church. I've read it twice, and I'm sure a third time is coming soon.

Here is the quote on the back cover of the book.

"If you are not daring to believe God for the impossible, you may be sleeping through some of the best parts of your Christian life."

"This book is not a Snuggie. The words on these pages will not go down like Ambien. I am not writing to calm or coddle you. With God's help, I intend to incite a riot in your mind. Trip your breakers and turn out the lights in your favorite hiding places of insecurity and fear. Then flip the switch back on so that God's truth can illuminate the divine destiny that my have been lying dormant inside you for years."

"In short, I'm out to activate your audacious faith. To inspire you to ask God for the impossible. An in the process, to reconnect you with your God-sized purpose and potential." - Pastor Steven Furtick

Want to be inspired? Read this book!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Going through old photo shoots

I must have 10's of thousands of images I've taken over the years. Usually, I import them all, choose a few to work on, then don't do much with the others except keep them archived. Tonight, I decided to take a fresh look at just one previous photo shoot.

After looking, I discovered a few more little gems I decided to edit. They were all bracketed RAW shots, so I took them into Photomatix Pro and processed an HDR image. Once I adjusted it to my taste, I exported it into a jpg file. From there it was processed lightly in Photoshop Elements. Yes Elements! That's all I need for my photos. I sharpened, slightly cropped, took out a little noise, and BAM...another shot!

I guess I'd better do this more often. How many hidden gems are on my hard drives? Maybe it's time to re-look at some of your shots. Any hidden gems on your hard drive?

For more photos, visit my website at www.tropicalphotosbylarson.com.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Lots of goodness!

I had a great day at Newbreak Church today! We had our Life Group fair and I always love seeing people getting into new Life Groups. We were never created to run solo, and Life Groups are a great way to grow closer to God, while living life in community. It's how we encourage and support each other. I can't wait for my group to start up next Tuesday night!

The Scripps Mesa campus was rockin' today and so was the 5pm Tierrasanta service. I think it's so cool that we have 12 church services to choose from on a weekend! I love how Newbreak is impacting our city and world for Jesus!

Newbreak Ocean Beach - Coming March 2012
Friday was a fun day to visit our newest campus in Ocean Beach. We're set for opening this campus up in March. I took a few shots of the remodel. Things are coming along well. It's all ready for the drywall crew to come in and make the magic happen. My office has moved to OB. It's pretty cool being only a few blocks from the beach. I think I'm going to like it!

After a little handyman job tonight, I'm ready to kick back for a couple of hours before bed. Life is good!

Newbreak Ocean Beach - Coming March 2012
My wife is on the phone right now talking to her sister in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her family goes to one of the most awesome churches in the country...Elevation Church. If you are looking for a good mid-week booster, check out Elevation's Code Orange Revival. There are 7 more days left in this 12 day event. For another daily booster check out one of my favorite blogs from Pastor Steven Furtick.

Now don't forget if you missed a Newbreak Church service this weekend, you can always catch Pastor Mike bringing it online! Week in and week out, he's one of the best speaking pastors you'll ever hear!

Have a great Monday! Check back for more of the things I like this week!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Photography Class

Today I got to teach a "hands-on" photography class at La Jolla Cove. Ever wish you could get your camera out of the "Auto" mode and be able to tell your camera what to do? Do you wish you knew what all those buttons do? Do you wish you could learn how to take better pictures in low light without a flash? Do you wish you could take a picture of a person and a sunset at the same time, with the person and the sunset properly exposed? These are just some of the things we learned today in our 2 hour photo shoot.

I love helping people learn how to use their cameras. If you are like me, I'm more of a "hands-on" learner. I actually don't mind reading the manual, but really...just show me and I do a lot better.

Anyone else interested? Email me at tropicalphotosbylarson@gmail.com

Friday, January 13, 2012

It's been a long time

I cracked up laughing that my last post was...Stuck in a rut! Then...no more posts! LOL! I've missed you blog! Since my last post I've been busy at Newbreak church and Give Clean Water, while still trying to get out and capture some photos. 2012 is looking like an awesome year for all three!

I recently updated my photo website. You still get there at www.tropicalphotosbylarson.com . I transferred over to SmugMug as it was way more user friendly to update, and had a better shopping and print service option. My prints come directly from Bay Photo now. I ordered a print the other day and it turned out AWESOME! I'm excited to keep the website way more up to date with my new photos.

Tomorrow, I'm taking a group out for a photo lesson. We'll meet at La Jolla Cove at 8am and learn how to get those cameras out of the "Auto" mode! It's time to start telling their camera what to do. It's not really that smart anyway. :) Check out my website and stay tuned for more photo tips, and updates on all the other stuff going on in my world.