Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Post-processing: Color vs. Black and White vs. Lightroom Preset

Inside the Standard Mill at Bodie, single exposure

Upon arriving at this part of the Standard Mill it was clear that the range of the light of the scene would exceed the dynamic range of the sensor. The highlights would be blown out to white, and shadows would be excessively dark... not at all like what we perceive onsite. So I set my camera to capture 5 exposures.

To recapture the highlight and shadow detail, I decided to try HDR processing.  I pre-processed for color adjustment and noise reduction in Lightroom, transferred the 5 files in TIFF format to Photomatix (using its direct interface from the Lightroom File menu), and tried to pick the most realistic HDR mode and make adjustments.

Trial 1: Lightroom -> Photomatix -> Lightroom
Trial 1: Lightroom -> Photomatix -> Lightroom, HDR in color

When done in Photomatix the save operation transferred the result in TIFF format back to Lightroom.  I post-processed the HDR result in Lightroom again to get the best possible result. It was hard to balance the blue light coming in through the windows and the warm tones from the overhead incandescent lights.

Not satisfied with the colors in the color HDR result, I then tried a similar workflow but instead tried a black and white conversion in that middle Photomatix step.

Trial 2: Lightroom -> Photomatix B&W -> Lightroom
Trial 2: Lightroom -> Photomatix Black &White -> Lightroom, HDR in Black & White

The black and white result from Photomatix was saved in TIFF format back to Adobe Lightroom 5. Shadow detail is great, but even having captured 5 exposures in two different exposure ranges (using exposure compensation in addition to exposure bracketing) the highlights didn't recover well, and there's some lens flare from the windows as well. I did a little dodging and burning, but I wasn't feeling that the electrical equipment was appropriately ending up as the subject, what a viewers eyes would be drawn to.

I don't tend to shoot a lot of architectural subjects, but when a natural color result wasn't turning out and the lens flare and the composition didn't favor a black and white treatment, I decided to try creative filter processing presets in Lightroom.

Given the historical nature of the site, the result from Color Presets -> Aged Photo seems to fit the subject well. I'm normally not a big fan of sepia type effects, they tend to be overused and the tones tend to be a little monotonous, but Aged Photo left enough color and black in the photo that I felt the effect didn't entirely steal the show like many treatments, and the focus on the electrical equipment was restored (compared to a monochrome treatment such as black and white for example).

Having given this a rest for a week or two and looking at it with "fresh eyes", I would be curious to go back and mess with the exposure, contrast and black levels on the three pieces of equipment and see if I can get them to stand out more, in a subtle and not overly flashy or gimmicky way. Our eyes are drawn to areas of brightness and/or high contrast, so it may be possible to pull off using radial cursors on the equipment in Lightroom.

Here's the outcome of adding some spot edits on the three pieces of electrical equipment using the new radial cursor in Lightroom 5:

The difference is subtle, but I think in each case the electrical equipment serves as more effective subject matter in the overall scene.  Which one is "best" is really a subjective decision and there's no right answer, but I do feel that all three edited results produced using bracketed exposures turned out as a more interesting and usable result than the individual exposure, and a little extra post-processing in Adobe Lightroom to focus on making the equipment stand out helped them each even more.

If you haven't tried Photomatix, a 30 day evaluation is available through the software's publisher at www.HDRsoft.com.  Several of the many processing modes offered place watermarks on the results, but if you do license the software, the watermarks can be easily removed.  You can get a 15% discount by using the coupon code JeffSullivan when you by it from HDRsoft: http://www.hdrsoft.com/order.php

Friday, October 18, 2013

Eastern Sierra Fall Colors Workshop

I'm heading out this weekend... anyone care to join me?

Last call for Eastern Sierra FalLcolors!Sierra GoldIn the Pre-Dawn MistEastern Sierra Fall Colors 2012Star Trails Over Fall ColorsEvening Light over Eastern Sierra Fall Colors
Fall's SplendorColorful Mono CountyColorful Aspen in MotionSunlight on the Sierra CrestNorth Fork Bishop Creek BasinApsen and Grass by Gull Lake
June Lake 8 x 10Autumn's Last StandSilver Lining LakeLone CottonwoodNorth Lake Fall, Clouds and ShadowsSouth Lake Road
Parker Lake Fall Colors ReflectionYellow Aspen ReflectionFall FishingAutumn in the Eastern SierraLundy Lake FallFall Shower
Eastern Sierra Fall Colors, a set on Flickr.

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Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Landscape Photography Show Episode #20 - Moon Photography

Here's the recorded tutorial on YouTube:  http://youtu.be/Wgb_r9JlKRM

I can't wait for the next full moon, but +PhotoPills will also tell you what alignments are coming up with any moon phase!
The app PhotoPills is available here:

Tutorial on Moon Photography Planning

Moon in lunar eclipse, perched on San Francisco's Transamerica Building
Tonight I'll be broadcasting a live tutorial on how to determine exactly where to stand to place the moon on top of a natural or man-made landmark.  Here's a link to the event if you'd like to join us: http://goo.gl/DSXu8Z

In this example, I predicted where to catch the full moon during a lunar eclipse so its path would pass the tip of the Transamerica Building in San Francisco.  Using eclipse predictions, lunar elevation angle and compass direction, I used the height of the tower to predict how far away I'd need to stand and in what compass direction.  I mapped that point on Google Earth, showed up a little early to start shooting hundreds of photos to created the time-lapse sequence, and it turned out that I pretty much nailed it!  The center of the moon passed right across the tip of the tower.

New tools make this sort of planning easier than ever! We'll be demonstrating the PhotoPills app.  If you'd like to purchase the app to follow along on your smartphone as we show the features, follow this link to buy it: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/photopills/id596026805?mt=8&uo=4&at=10ldnC

Here's a time-lapse video I created of the moon as it approached and passed the Transamerica Building:

This video was featured on Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy blog on Discover Magazine:
Lunar eclipse time lapse : Bad Astronomy
Moon Over Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

Update August 2014: Thanks to the +Royal Observatory Greenwich in London for including my moon rise image in your video about the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2104 competition!

Read my 2012 blog post about my pursuit of this image:
Moon Rise over Half Dome in Yosemite

See my notes below for tutorial blog posts and a copy of the demonstration/tutorial video described in this post.  Here's the Royal Observatory's new video on the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition:

Here are some of my lunar photography and astronomical alignment examples for you to enjoy:

Moon Rise Between Half Dome and El CapitanEclipse Moon Set Under Belt of VenusMoon Rise Behind Half DomeVane AttemptSunrise Sunspot ViewJoin Me In Yosemite This November
Mono Lake Sunset Moon Rise SaturdaySunset Full Moon Rise over Mono LakeLunar Eclipse, Landing on the Transamerica PyramidMono Lake Sunset DreamFull Moon over Bay BridgeMono Lake Moonrise (Re-edit)
Crescent Moon Setting Behind Auburn CourthouseSolar Rainbow in Yosemite ValleyTree and MoonSouthern California SunsetBorrego Badlands MoonriseYosemite Moonrise
Monitor Pass Sunset Sun RaysMoonrise by Half DomeDawn Full Moon Set in AuburnMorro Rock MoonsetSunset at Pfeiffer RockHappy Thanksgiving!
Moon and Sun, a set on Flickr.

I've been teaching people for years how to pursue lunar photography.  I wrote a blog post back in 2006 on anticipating shots like these: 

     Plan Ahead for Great Full Moon Rise and Set Shots!

That planning got even easier with the creation of apps like +The Photographer's Ephemeris (TPE), as I describe in this 2011 update blog post:
     Put Sunset Full Moon Rise Dates on Your Calendar

These days in addition to +The Photographer's Ephemeris I also use +PhotoPills, StarWalk and Sky Safari+ to plan my shots:
Here's our recorded broadcast of the +Landscape Photography Show, when the developers of the PhotoPills app were kind enough to join me to provide a tutorial demonstration for their software:


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