News and Views from Dave Wilson

Chromasia Workshop Debrief

by on Feb.13, 2011, under Photography


Last weekend saw the culmination of about 5 months work for me with the arrival of David Nightingale in Austin to give two workshops at Dragonfly Gallery. David is author of the popular “Practical HDR” and is widely known for the gorgeous, subtle images he publishes on his photoblog at He spent a week in Austin and taught two workshops, a one day “HDR Crash Course” and a two day “Creating Dramatic Images.”

Despite the weather trying its hardest to thwart our plans – the temperatures dropped into the teens the day after David arrived and sat there rather stubbornly until the afternoon of his first workshop four days later, resulting in a couple of weather-related cancellations and us having to put the class start time back two hours – things ran smoothly and the students, myself included, got a great deal out of the weekend.

I didn’t learn a great deal during the “HDR Crash Course” though it was interesting to see how someone else goes about teaching the topic since this is a class I have taught at the gallery in the past. David’s approach was very much more “hands on” than mine with the emphasis on the behaviour of all the Photomatix tone mapping settings and with plenty of time for people to process the images shot during the outdoor portion of the class. Due to the late start, we abandoned plans to visit the State Capitol and, instead, shot exercises in the vicinity of the gallery. This worked beautifully since we saved at least 40 minutes that would otherwise be taken up in travel yet we had no shortage of great subjects in the architecture around the area and the park behind Central Market on the opposite side of Lamar Boulevard. The upshot of this was that everyone had a lot more time to process pictures and I’m pretty sure I’ll carry this forward to my own classes in future.

The highlight of the weekend for me was the “Creating Dramatic Images” class taught on Saturday and Sunday. David’s approach to post-processing is dominated by the use of Photoshop’s Curves adjustment layers so much of the first day was spent explaining the potential of using Curves and illustrating how they can be used for global and local contrast adjustments. The second day expanded on this, with Curves-based colour adjustment and correction introduced and moved on to consider various other tools that can be used for colour control – the Channel Mixer, Black and White, Hue/Saturation and Selective Color adjustment layers. We also spent some time working in LAB colour mode and explored the possibilities offered via the Curves layer here for saturation control and hue alteration. Although I’ve been using Curves for several years, I’ve been rather conservative and tended to use it solely for local contrast adjustment so this class really opened my eyes to a lot of new uses and left me with plenty of new tricks to play with!

Overall, then, I would rate the visit a great success and I very much hope that David will return next year to teach a few more classes at the gallery. That said, I’m hopelessly biased but perhaps some of the folks who attended the class will comment and offer some independent opinions.

Wrecked Fire Engine, Johnson City, Texas

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