Tag Archives: digital darkroom

A Photo Impressionistic Approach to the Cactus Garden at the Phoenician

Sometimes you just know how a picture is going to turn out; sometimes the joy is in the surprise. This image is a perfect example.

I saw this scene while walking through the cactus garden at the Phoenician Hotel in Scottsdale . What caught my attention was the repetition in the receding saguaro and the strong vertical elements. Creating depth in an impressionistic images has been a challenge for me.

photo impressionistic photograph of cactus
The cactus garden at the Phoenician. © Stephen D’Agostino

To create the photo impressionistic effect I used the high-speed montage approach I am developing. I shot a burst at 60 fps while panning,  The images were then brought  together in Photoshop using an opacity blend. I could have created the same effect using a dark neutral density filter and a slow shutter speed but composition would have been an issue for me. The high-speed montage approach is more suited for  photo impressionism on the fly.

The result was better than I had hoped. The vertical elements created a texture I had not seen in the viewfinder adding to the scene’s depth.

Flickr selected this image for its Explore page yesterday; about 9,500 views in 24 hours. Thanks to the curator at Flickr who championed this image.

Time Stacked Waves

I am just back from a 2 week recharge in St Lucia and used the break to experiment with wave time stacks. If you follow The Photo Impressionism Project  you will be familiar with Matt Molloy’s fabulous cloud time stacks. Basically the technique relies on a time lapse series that is then brought together using  Photoshop’s lighten mode opacity blend to create a sense of movement.

Waves breaking on the beach at Body Holiday in St Lucia. A 10 image time stack. © Stephen D'Agostino
Waves breaking on the beach at Body Holiday in St Lucia. A 10 image time stack. © Stephen D’Agostino

I have adapted Molly’s technique to faster moving subjects using high speed shutter bursts. In this case 10 images of a breaking wave shot at 60 fps using Nikon’s N1 V3. The image then has to be colour balanced using the usual tools. I tend to rely on the white\black point method and NIK’s contrast filter.

I really like the feeling of the curl here and the pallet knife textures produced by the time stack. If I had just used an opacity blend the image would have been pleasing but much softer.

If I can brag, Flickr featured this image on Explore this morning; 2,700 views in the past 8 hours. You can see the Flickr version here https://www.flickr.com/photos/photo-impressionism/15997036038/.

Iphone to Lightroom

It isn’t often that you read a blog post that changes your approach to things that matter.  Adam Portilla’s post describing how to auto import your iPhone photostream into Lightroom is one of those exceptions. Its easy to follow and it works for me.

Check out his technique on  Google+. It has made a big difference to my approach to photo impressionism on the iphone because my images can be archived my way.

Useful Photoshop Tools For Impressionistic Images


The big technical challenge in producing photo impressionistic images as a montage (as opposed to an in camera multiple exposure) is working with large numbers of images and huge file sizes. Some of my recent experiments (Washington Square in the round for example) have used close to 40 images, resulting in file sizes over Apple’s 2 gig file limit.

Even in camera multiple exposures have issues. I find then to be inherently soft and, depending on the camera, suffer from from a red cast.

Here are a couple of tools I have found to be useful time savers:

Creating A Layer Stack In Photoshop

Adobe Lightroom is my first choice to produce a layer stack in Photoshop because I already use it to manage my images. Select your images then right click for the menu choice.

Dr Brown’s Stackomatic. A great script you launch from Adobe Bridge to create a layer stack.

Opacity Control

Layer Stack Opacity Blending Script. A great script from Digital Outback Photography based on some thinking by Tony Sweet. The script calculates opacity and merges layers into a multiple exposure style image. There are no controls but the result is nice.

Mike Hale’s Stack Mode Panels. I use this panel often to test the effect of changing the blend mode.

File Size Reduction

Perfect Resize makes file sizing, in both directions, a snap. This is important for me because Adobe Lightroom is an important part of my workflow and it does not recognize files saved in large image format (.psb). Often my working files are much larger than Apple’s 2 gig file size limit.

Basic Digital Darkroom

In camera multiple exposures bring their own challenges. My fuji S2 adds a pronounced red shift which is significantly reduced in the S5. As well there is a softness associated with multiple exposures that may have to be addressed.

Vincent Versace has produced some great actions (associated with his books and DVD courses) for correcting white/black point and mid tone contouring.

NIK has a great tonal contrast filter.

A Great Black and White Read: Vincent Versace’s Oz to Kansas

I just started reading Vincent Vesace’s new book From Oz to Kansas: Almost Every Black and White Conversion Technique Known to Man. I am just a couple of chapters in but can see this book won’t disappoint. The book is written the same style as Welcome to Oz which was a bit of a watershed for me; lots of inspiration, lots of philosophy and great techniques which leave enough room for creativity.

I have used Vesace’s channel mixer for my infrared black and white conversions for a while now and am really looking forward to seeing how his technique and thinking has matured.


One bit of confusion in the Kindle version you need to be aware of. Even though the text in several locations directs you to the “Last Words” chapter for access to the on-line resources needed for the exercises, it isn’t there. Instead look in the index under the letter “O”. I expect this issue to be picked up quickly as the book has only been out for a week. The paperback should be out around the 20th of August. You can buy a copy on Amazon or through the author’s website.

Vincent Versace’s website can be found at http://www.versacephotography.com