Here are the stories behind this Salon’s highest rated images:

Assignment – Climbing structure – Jay Olson-Goude

I purchased a drone late last year and have been enjoying the new perspectives of the world that it offers me. I am particularly infatuated with the opportunity of seeing my surroundings in plan view. It was a mild and mostly overcast day, so I thought I’d go out and try to make some aerial images. I stopped at the school complex in Pepin, WI thinking the baseball field might offer some possibilities. Adjacent to the field is the playground, which has been closed due to the pandemic. The ball field was a bit of a bust, but many pieces of playground equipment lent themselves to some interesting images, especially against the undisturbed snow. I was about to bring the camera down, when the low winter sun momentarily broke through the cloud cover and cast this amazing shadow across the snow. I quickly got the camera into position and grabbed this shot. I wanted to fine tune the positioning, but the sun disappeared as quickly as it had appeared and took the shadow with it. I would have preferred that there be a little more space at the right side of the image, but there was some other stuff just out of the frame that I had to crop out. I got a kick out of the judge’s comment that this only loosely fit the category of ‘Architecture’. I initially sort of felt the same way, but later changed my mind and justified that change by the fact that I had spent my entire career in architecture, so I should be qualified to judge that definition.

DJI Mavic 2 Pro
ISO 100
1/3200 @ f 3.5
Altitude 39 ft.

Assignment – The Little Green Church – Melissa Anderson

I captured this image while on vacation in Hawaii on the island of Kauai. Given that I was with friends, this was not a trip specifically for photography.  It was one of those travel around and do your best to grab some decent pictures trips.

The original photo was shot with an Olympus E-MI-MarkII camera and an Olympus M12-100mm f/4.0 lens.  The settings were 1/125sec at f/8.0, ISO 400. 

This little church was certainly appealing, and I loved being able to photograph it, but it was missing the drama I would have hoped for. 

Post processing in Photoshop fixed that for me!  It was an overcast day, and the original sky was a grey-white color.  So, the first thing I did was use the sky replacement tool to replace the sky with something more dramatic from my collection of sky images.  That helped, but it still was not dramatic enough for me.  Next, I applied a preset from the Topaz Restyle Collection.  That added the drama I was looking for, plus it gave the image a moody and painterly feel.  The final and finishing touch was a frame from the On One Frame Collection.

Creative – Zoom-Zoom – Terry Butler

The original photo was shot with a 24 mm lens at ISO 800 and f/6.3.  I got low and close to the car to exaggerate the front end.  In Photoshop I selected the vehicle using the pen tool, including removing what was seen though the rear window.  Using a Wacom pen and tablet helped to make this more precise. I used the Topaz simplify filter to help smooth out a lot of the reflections on the body and to simplify. The zoom effect was done on a copy of the car using the motion blur filter.  This was done creating the filter as a smart filter so that I could try different angles and distances.  There were still some reflections that I painted out with a low opacity brush, using colors picked up from various places on the car.  The “smoke” underneath the side of the car was painted in using a soft white brush in a layer below the car.  I increased the canvas size so the car had a place to move into.  The background was created with the gradient tool going from black to dark grey.  At this point I sharpened the car in Photoshop.  In Lightroom, I cropped the image, added saturation and used the tone curve to achieve contrast.  This took a lot of time, but it was fun trying new things.

Nature – Hummingbird on Perch – Diane Herman

I love taking pictures of hummingbirds.  It’s always a challenge to try to capture an image because they are small and typically moving fast.  The iridescence on their feathers is beautiful – and it’s fun to play with different shutter speeds to either freeze the wings – or capture the blur of motion.  In late August and September, I try to get to Longfellow Gardens in Minneapolis and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chanhassen to add more hummingbird images and enjoy the last days of summer.  In 2020, I made over 3,000 new images of hummingbirds, but this image was by far my favorite.  I loved that she landed on the plant and stuck her tongue out in the shadows as the sun was getting lower in the sky – and that the blue malva and leaves in the background created a wash of color.

The image was made in early September 2020 at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum with a Nikon D500 camera using the Nikon PF 500 lens; shutter speed 1/1000; aperture was f/5.6.  The image was processed primarily in Lightroom with basic edits and some noise reduction was added using Topaz DeNoise AI.

Pictorial – El Poder de Tus Manos (The Power of Your Hands) – Fred Sobottka 

I was excited to be presented with the opportunity to shoot a Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) celebration in St. Paul in November. I love face painting and traditions, so was really looking forward to it. I was asked to shoot portraits of all the participants along with the actual event. The event was at the Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts Center in St. Paul. Maricella Herrera is an extremely talented artist and did all the face painting for the participants in the event. I set up a portable background with a grey muslin sheet. For lighting I used 2 Godox AD600pro strobes, each had an SMDV A100 Octabox. The octaboxes where positioned at the right and left of camera, about 8 feet high. I shot with a Canon R5 in Manual mode, ISO 200, f4.0, 1/125 37mm with a Canon RF 28 – 70 f2.0L lens. When the individual portraits were done, we shot a few group photos. Near the end of the posed group shots, a woman walked into the shooting area with a small baby. I asked the woman to position herself and her baby in the center of the group. I thought this would be a great shot representing death vs new life and the celebration of each. One of the participants suggested putting their hands on the baby, an idea which I really liked, those who previously died looking over and guarding life vs death trying to take the new life. I talked to Maricella afterwards regarding my thoughts and what she thought about my ideas and a possible title for the photo. Maricella thought the photo showcased the power of Love & Light within Motherhood, while death battles the power of LIFE we give our offspring. A Mother’s Love is like no other and she will fight to the death, if needed. She suggested “The Power of Your Hands”, since many hands are involved in the protection and raising of a new life. In post processing I really didn’t do much – color balancing, raising shadows, decreasing highlights. I did think the image needed a stronger background than a grey background. So, I used a fisheye lens and shot some leafless trees at night and substituted the background, which I felt gave it a darker, creepier feel. It was a great experience learning more about the tradition of the Día de los Muertos celebration and actually experiencing the event and I just love the photo and what it represents.

Pictorial – Lights – Fred Sobottka

It was late December and I wanted to shoot a model in colorful clothes with snow in the background. Then later get some shots with Christmas lights in the background. It was getting dark and cold and the model had cold feet and was getting tired after shooting for a few hours. I had some battery-operated Christmas lights that I wanted to use as a primary light to light her face and try to get some blurred Christmas lights in the background. I managed to convince her to shoot one more shot with the lights, but it had to be quick. So, in a small park in Monticello near the parking lot I had the model stand in the darkest area by the cars. She was cold, her nose was running, her cheeks were red and she was shivering from the cold. But she got shot ready and hung in despite the temps nearing zero. I shot with a Canon R5 in Manual mode, ISO 5000, f3.2, 1/80 58mm with a Canon RF 28 – 70 f2.0L lens, using the battery-operated Christmas lights as the primary light. I set the exposure using her face and took a couple of quick shots and then she ran for her car. I wasn’t sure if they were in focus, or lite correctly, but loved them when I reviewed them in the car. In post processing using lightroom, I increased noise reduction, increased the exposure a half stop and warmed up the temperature a bit. I had intended to spend a lot more time composing the shot and adjusting settings on site, but was forced to do the best I could in the moment and really liked the results.

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