Robben Ford in Hong Kong // Learning Photoshop

Guitarist Robben Ford appeared at the Sha Tin Town Hall in Hong Kong on April 29th.  Ford is a “guitarist’s guitarist,” a true master of his instrument. He first came to fame as a member of Tom Scott’s L.A. Express in the 1970s, backing up Joni Mitchell and others. I saw him live and became a fan when he was a member of Miles Davis’s band in the 80’s.  It’s kind of indicative of the Hong Kong music scene that Ford just sold out several nights at the Blue Note in Tokyo and then followed that with just a single night in Hong Kong – in an out-of-the-way-for-most venue, no sponsors, and probably only 50% sold out.

To be honest, as much of a fan as I am of Ford’s playing, his music leaves me kind of cold. He had a great band – Ricky Peterson on the Hammond B3, Brian Allen on acoustic and electric bass, Wes Little on drums, fantastic musicians all, and all given plenty of space during the course of the show to stretch out.  But I find Ford to be an average singer and his material rather bland. The solos were great and he talked enough with the audience but I didn’t get any feeling of emotional involvement with what the musicians were playing, nor did I find the show to have any sort of pacing that might lead to a rousing climax. Given the reviews I read of his shows in Tokyo, it could well be that they were feeling dispirited by the meager turn-out in Hong Kong; it’s difficult for me to say.

Anyway, here’s one shot from the show (more to follow):

Robben Ford in Hong Kong

Robben Ford in Hong Kong

Let me veer off from a concert review into a somewhat related topic – learning Photoshop.

I’ve had Photoshop sitting on my computer for a long time. Mostly I load the program and look at all of the tools and palettes and windows and think to myself, “Where do I even start?” It’s daunting to the novice. And there’s so much educational material out there that I couldn’t figure out how to even start learning this program.

And then I came across this video by photographer/instruction Terry White on YouTube. It’s called How to Get Started With Adobe Photoshop CC – 10 Things Beginners Want to Know How To Do.  Catchy title, eh? But this 46 minute video really does show you how to do the ten things photographers might most often want to do, and while the lessons are obviously going to be brief, they are good enough to get you started.

The point being, once I stopped crying “Photoshop is hard, I can never learn it” and actually sat down and started using it, I found that I could pick up the basic stuff easily. Becoming a master at Photoshop – that’s something else, that will take weeks and months of actual usage. But for the first time, I actually feel as if it is something I can – and will – accomplish.

So I started off with something a bit simpler – this photo in which I liked keeping his vintage-looking Fender amp in the photo.

SHS_1974-2

But that bit of the mike stand in the upper right is annoying, right? Of course, taking out a small thing like that, against a black background, is super easy to do.

SHS_1974

I wanted to challenge myself a bit more.

So, back to the first photo in this blog poast.  Here’s a tiny bit of my workflow on that photo, starting with the original photo.

 

SHS_2071-2

This was shot with my Nikon D800 and my Nikon 70-200mm F2.8 lens at 130mm, 6400 ISO, 1/200th of a second, F2.8.  Of course I’m shooting RAW, and here’s the original photo, unretouched except for exporting out of Lightroom as a jpeg.

I was shooting with white balance set to auto, as I almost always do, but that’s pretty easy to correct in Lightroom when you’re shooting RAW. And then I crop pretty ruthlessly, as I tend to do. A few more adjustments here and there left me with this:

SHS_2071

Now the “old me” would consider that photo as finished.  But I looked at it and found the blue band on the right hand side distracting.  With my newly acquired Photoshop skills, it was a simple matter to get rid of that. Simple, except that there are about 20 different ways to do each common task in Photoshop and different people have different paths to similar results. So in my case I tried 2 or 3 different things – finally settling on something that would also allow me to get rid of those distracting green water bottles in the bottom left of the photo.

The key was in figuring out how to properly use the Quick Selection Tool.  But what I didn’t know about until this week was that after one has gotten the selection one wants, there’s that little button up top labelled “Refine Edge” – and that’s where the magic comes in.

Oh, by the way, a lot of stuff in Photoshop gets easier when you are doing things with a tablet and pen rather that with a mouse. The medium size Wacom Intuos tablet costs around US$200, is incredibly quick and easy to set up and just gives you so much better control when you’re doing things. I highly recommend it.

I’m not convinced this was my best shot of the night, but it was definitely one that gave me room to stretch and improve my post-processing skills. I’ll be going through the rest of the shots in the next few days and will add a gallery page soon.

 

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