Delvelop a Portrait of Your Little Joker
Deke takes a scarily washed out iPhone photo of a clever Halloween costume and renders it properly sinister in Photoshop

My Romantic Epiphany

Tonight I was driving back from lynda.com to Room 101 at my beloved Blue Iguana after a long but uneventful evening of recording the final Photoshop Top 40 videos. And I had an epiphany. We needed a Thursday post. (Colleen and I got confused and posted Martini Hour on Wednesday--I can't believe none of you noticed!) So I thought I'd put pen to screen and see what you think:

Imagine you die and not only do you get to be reincarnated, but you also get to choose who and when. I would come back as a Plains Indian in the 16th century, before the Train Demons came with their superior technology.

I don't actually know much about the Plains People. According to my dim recollection of "Dances with Wolves," their ranks included a cross-dresser, so they must have been an open-minded race. Better, they had a ready and reliable food source: bison. Here's my off-the-wall (ha!) rendering of me as a bison hunter.

(Click the image for high-res with narrative. The original photo is #419301 from Jean-Michel Alibaud over at Fotolia.) Read more » 

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Martini Hour 048, In Which Colleen Joins the Ranks of Jaded Tech Book Authors with Naïve Enthusiasm

This week, Deke and I ditch the guests (fabulous as they are) and return to our secret, undisclosed San Francisco location to talk about . . . our new book: Photoshop Elements 8 One-on-One. The existence of this book comes as no surprise to anyone who's heard me whining about writing it all summer. In its honor, and happily ensconced in our comfy home turf, we brought back that old favorite, the Shameless Plug, because whose plugs are more important to us than our very own?

In a matter of minutes, the conversation veers away from the book and dangerously toward the product itself, Adobe Photoshop Elements 8. After all, what other application offers you half of Photoshop's power for about one-tenth the price? Read more » 

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Photoshop Top 40, Feature #14: Gaussian Blur

Feature #14: Gaussian Blur

Hello, friends. I just today set down in the relatively warm embrace of Southern California. (Relative by comparison to Colorado, which has been anywhere from brisk to cheek-freezing cold.) Which means that after a lovely string of trips to such faraway places as Avignon, Amsterdam, and Big Sky, Montana, I have arrived--rested and restored--with the intent to record more videos for my beloved online training provider, lynda.com. Although the nature of those videos is Top Secret, I can assure you: They will be authoritative, comprehensive, and multitudinous.

While you await those flicks (they won't be available for months), I have this one for you. It falls under the heading Photoshop Top 40 and goes by the name Gaussian Blur. Someone new to Photoshop might be tempted to dismiss Gaussian Blur as something that makes stuff blurry. But the stalwart GBlur goes to the heart of what makes Photoshop Photoshop. The term Gaussian might be best described as the thing that makes another thing drift eventually and incrementally into oblivion. Gaussian Blur underlies the Feather command, the Drop Shadow layer effect, and even Unsharp Mask. Simply put, it is the heart of detail-, depth-, and focus-enhancement in Photoshop. Read more » 

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The Big and Gritty Black-and-White Sky

I celebrated the New Year with a winter sports vacation through Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Big Sky, Montana. Folks call it Big Sky Country, but between you and me, the tall mountains leave a narrower-than-average glimpse of the sky. (Pancake-flat Nebraska, now that's some big sky.) But the land is huge. Vast and sparse. Peopled but underpopulated. Earth on an almost antique and undeniably humbling scale. And the sky aside, ultimately enormous.

In this post, I present you with 13 black-and-white images, all but one captured with an Olympus E-30 or Stylus 1030. Some might call it a travelogue, but I see it more as an experimental portrait of space. I say “experimental” because many of these images exhibit flaws. Beautiful and purposeful flaws. My idea is that a digital image, like a painting, tells a story beyond that of its subject matter. A story of process and approach, one of development and media, a documentation of the power and limitations of tools.

Consider the Grand Tetons below. Comprising 11 vertically oriented telephoto photographs, this 500MB composition is a testament to the power of Photoshop’s Photomerge command. But the moment I attacked the image with the Color Range command--with the sole intention of enhancing that big sky--I revealed a series of striations across the clouds and foreground snow. (Click the thumbnail below to reveal the image in detail.) Normally, I would retry the effect to avoid these artifacts, but this time, I added Levels, Black & White, and Smart Sharpen with an eye toward exaggerating the effect. I did everything with layers--nondestructively, as it were--and yet plainly the image is stressed.

That said, I for one like the results. Read more » 

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Martini Hour 047, In Which Deke Displays His International Interviewing Skills

What does it take for Deke and I to float outside our Design Premium Suite comfort zone? Well, transport us to another country, give us a new product, and hook us up with a couple of gracious Adobe evangelists. Last month, while still at the Netherlands User Group meeting in Amsterdam (Adobe User Group XL, aka #augxl) we caught up with the two keynote speakers from the conference, Serge Jespers and Jason Levine, both of whom have multi-syllabic titles at Adobe that they reveal during the show. Fortified with Jenever, Deke and I forayed into uncharted waters with our two stalwart and generous guides (who also graciously put up with the scent of raw herring wafting through dekeLounge Amsterdam).

Our first port of call was Adobe's upcoming new application, Flash Catalyst. What, exactly, is Catalyst you ask? (Have I been reading Jr. High School newsletters you ask?) Well it's a program that lets you, our beloved creative types, control the design of your web pages and AIR widgets, and then hand off your hard work in pixels in the form of live code for your favorite developer. And you can currently download said product in beta form from Adobe Labs. Pretty cool. 

Serge (left) and Jason, as captured by photographer and all-around great guy Hans Frederiks

But wait, there's more.

Read more » 

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