Katrin Eismann

August 4, 2009

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Step X Step: Katrin Eismann

How the processing power of Smart Objects helped the Photoshop Diva turn a bundle of massive image files into vibrant, collaged prints.

June 16, 2009

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alt text© Katrin Eismann

Ping-Pong Pop Art
As Eismann surveyed the Tasmanian landscape, she noticed how clean everything was. She began to wonder what citizens did with their garbage—and that curiosity led her to the Hobart City Dump.

Before the garbage is dumped into a landfill, paid workers sort through it and take out anything usable. This material—wood, furniture, flowerpots and the objects that became Eismann’s photographic subjects—is sold in an improvised “Tip Shop” near the dump’s entrance. All types of people go there—artists, low-income citizens, crafts people—to buy materials for projects on the cheap.

During the day she spent working on-site at the dump, Eismann donned a bright orange safety vest and set up a mini studio with a medium-format camera and portable strobes. Working quickly with an old white sheet as a backdrop, she photographed groups of recycled objects that caught her eye, like these colorfully patchworked Ping-Pong paddles.

The file size of Eismann’s 16-bit, RAW captures was too hefty to easily manipulate on the fly, so after importing the images into Lightroom 2, making selections and processing the images, she exported them as Smart Objects from Lightroom into Photoshop. Once the images were in Photoshop, she doubled-clicked on the Smart Object icon in the layers panel, which launched Adobe Camera Raw, where she could select a much smaller size to work with.

“Open the Smart Objects at the smallest resolution possible,” Eismann suggests. “This lets you work with 8 MB files rather than 128 MB—a meaningful difference. You can open a file as a Smart Object directly from Lightroom, but you can’t determine the size,” she adds. “That’s not very helpful when you’re dealing with six or eight 128 MB files that need to be masked and moved around fluidly.”

Step X Step: Katrin Eismann

How the processing power of Smart Objects helped the Photoshop Diva turn a bundle of massive image files into vibrant, collaged prints.

June 16, 2009

By Jill Waterman

pdn/photos/stylus/89158-Eismann_Paddles_CMYK.jpg

During a whirlwind junket with the Adobe Lightroom 2 Adventure book team, Photoshop Diva Katrin Eismann enlisted Smart Objects to recycle Tasmanian roadkill and cast-off possessions from the city dump as vibrant objects of art. “With only 13 days to explore Tasmania and produce images, the creative pressure was on,” she says.

Looking to get beyond PC (postcard) pictures, Eismann noticed how much the Tassies (not a derogatory term) loved nature and their country. About 40 percent of the island is a national park with very strict access regulations.

“I was trying to find a new point of view,” she adds. “I wanted to understand how the people related to nature—that became the hook.”

alt text
© Katrin Eismann

Tassie Roadkill
Each day before the Lightroom Adventure team left the hotel for a shoot, Tourism Tasmania group leaders would warn everyone about the wildlife and cars in the evening. There was a lot of roadkill—dead animals along the side of the road. Eismann was aware of an Australian photographer with images on this theme, and she began to think about a series on the subject herself. One day she took a stroll along the side of a country road, thinking she would find a lot of dead animals—but what she discovered instead were dozens of flattened cans of beer and alcoholic beverages.

Apparently the Tassies are a thirsty folk, since she gathered 30 different cans within about 25 yards. After transporting them back to the hotel for a rinse, she set up a studio under an awning in the hotel driveway to keep out of the rain. Using a macro lens and extension tube to get in close to her subject, Eismann shot the front and back of each can in a style reminiscent of Walker Evans and Irving Penn. She photographed the cans straight down on the pavement, which she wet down in a slick trick she heard about from L.A. car shooters.

In this situation, focus was a crucial concern, since the shallow depth of field made corner-to-corner sharpness a challenge if the camera and can weren’t exactly aligned. In order to confirm that the images were sharp throughout, Eismann shot tethered and inspected the files in Lightroom while everything was still set up. After she had captured all the acceptable images, she exported TIFs out of Lightroom and used Photoshop CS4 to align the cans into a grid.

alt text
© Katrin Eismann

Ping-Pong Pop Art
As Eismann surveyed the Tasmanian landscape, she noticed how clean everything was. She began to wonder what citizens did with their garbage—and that curiosity led her to the Hobart City Dump.

Before the garbage is dumped into a landfill, paid workers sort through it and take out anything usable. This material—wood, furniture, flowerpots and the objects that became Eismann’s photographic subjects—is sold in an improvised “Tip Shop” near the dump’s entrance. All types of people go there—artists, low-income citizens, crafts people—to buy materials for projects on the cheap.

During the day she spent working on-site at the dump, Eismann donned a bright orange safety vest and set up a mini studio with a medium-format camera and portable strobes. Working quickly with an old white sheet as a backdrop, she photographed groups of recycled objects that caught her eye, like these colorfully patchworked Ping-Pong paddles.

The file size of Eismann’s 16-bit, RAW captures was too hefty to easily manipulate on the fly, so after importing the images into Lightroom 2, making selections and processing the images, she exported them as Smart Objects from Lightroom into Photoshop. Once the images were in Photoshop, she doubled-clicked on the Smart Object icon in the layers panel, which launched Adobe Camera Raw, where she could select a much smaller size to work with.

“Open the Smart Objects at the smallest resolution possible,” Eismann suggests. “This lets you work with 8 MB files rather than 128 MB—a meaningful difference. You can open a file as a Smart Object directly from Lightroom, but you can’t determine the size,” she adds. “That’s not very helpful when you’re dealing with six or eight 128 MB files that need to be masked and moved around fluidly.”


alt text

© Katrin Eismann

Bathroom Beauties
In between her photographic setups, Eismann fielded questions from visitors who, due to the required vest, thought she was an employee. She left her portable studio intact while helping to carry things to people’s cars. At one point, a man noticed her camera and asked if she had found it there, thinking he could claim it for himself.

Eismann was fascinated by the connection between the objects she found and the stories of people who had used them in the past. “They looked like faces,” she says in describing her intent to picture these recycled objects as art. “When I was working with the bathroom scales, I imagined the women who had stood on them in their bathrooms, looking down at their weight in the little dials. Each object told me a story about the person who lived with it.”

After shooting the scales, Eismann processed them in Lightroom and then opened them as Smart Objects, as in the previous series. Then she created a new canvas in Photoshop to generously fit the files and positioned each file on the canvas.

“Lightroom is really good at single images, but it can’t do a grid,” she says. “That’s what Photoshop is good at.” In her scale grid, the top middle object was darker than the rest, so once in Photoshop, she used adjustment layers, paths and Curves to tweak each image against the others and balance issues of contrast. After making overall adjustments, she went in and sharpened each scale’s readout dial to bring added emphasis to her vision of the objects’ past lives.

Eismann’s last step was to scale the final grids to create the desired prints sizes. She sized her prints at 13″ x 19″, 17″ x 22″, and 24″ x 30″.

“When working with Smart Objects, the software has the image information and a memory of the original file,” she sums up. “It still has the embedded high-res data, but Photoshop thinks it’s working with a 10 MB file, instead of 128 MBs. When you resize the image, it goes back to the original image data, which saves a lot of time and, most importantly, maintains the image quality I captured in the RAW file.”

alt text
© Katrin Eismann

On set at the city dump: Eismann donned an orange security vest, set up a portable studio and photographed people’s discarded possessions. In between setups she lent a hand to visitor sseeking to reclaim objects for themselves.

TECH BOX
NikonCamera
Medium format with digital back

Lenses
120 mm macro with 8x and 32x extension tubes

Lighting
Hensel Porty 1200 Flash Kit with umbrellas and two 1200 watt second heads

Computers
15-inch Apple Macbook Pro with 4 GB of RAM and duplicate 250 GB external Firewire 800 hard drives

Software
Adobe Lightroom 2.0
Adobe Camera Raw
Adobe Photoshop CS4

For more on Eismann’s work and to learn about the graduate program she heads at New York’s School of Visual Arts, visit the following links:

www.katrineeismann.com
www.sva.edu/digitalphoto

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