Mar 31, 2009

Pushin’ the Envelope…

Lightroom 2, CS4, Photoshop, Mapsource, Google Earth, red rock country, arches

Training Route and Climb

Navajo Angel
Several years ago, I high centered a car in a sand patch then, dumbly, dug it in till there was no way it would move.  About four clock with late fall temperatures due to drop 15° in three hours, I really needed help.
I hadn't seen a house for miles.  When I got to the main road, I decided to go downhill - betting on chance.  In a few miles, I met a Navajo walking with a dog.  Rather, perhaps I should say _hobbling - he was club footed...
Long story short; he led me to a four-wheel-drive and they pulled me out before sundown!

If You Have Faith the Size of a Mustard Seed...
I've got a spring shoot planned in Arches Red Rock country.  One particular shoot is going to require a rather late afternoon shoot, then coming out just before dark.  That's the good news; the bad - at the end of a 4 mile hike under pack, there’s a 200 foot climb and sand.
In worrying at the perceived difficulty, I erred - thinking like a flatlander.  I wondered about an arch sunset shot; but how was I going to get back in the dark and make that hard climb?  In a recent benevolence, I inherited a Garmin GPS unit which would let me see a 'track' at night.  So at least I can see where to go to get out.  Then I tried to use it near the Sandias - to find out it could have a 300 foot error.  Besides, I was going to be deep in a canyon.  Still, there was that after dark climb out...
Then I realized, canyon walls were going to just shadow the arch for a more dramatic image before sunset.  So, I perhaps could get back to the climb before dark and still see.  Enter GPS technology...
The most recent version of Google Earth, tightly integrated with Garmin topography maps, has a new feature 'Show Sunlight across Terrain'.  In effect, software will show me a rough guess at where shadows are as the Sun goes down behind high canyon wall cliffs.
Now, I know how to guess when to shoot, what the Sun angle is going to be, and how much time is left before sunset.

So, What's the Big Deal?
Training for this trek means leaving the house, walking to the base of the Sandias, and coming home.  Total hiking distance - about the same between training and spring shoot.  Total relief - about the same.  And, the training route is paved...
But, when I actually took another look at a local route I worked a year ago I realized, "You can leave your house, climb to the base of the Sandias, and come back home.  Your local hike is about the same length as your planned hike.  Best of all - the last part of that training climb is within a few feet of climbing out of the Canyon near days end!"
Now, just ask for 'Vasque’ safety - a delightful new pair of hiking boots and a steady foot during the climb!

And Now, the Rest of the Story...
... about the mustard seed goes this way - Jesus said,
"If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'move from here to there' and it will move.  Nothing is impossible for you!"  Matthew 17:20

Between an ancient Navajo Angel and a mustard seed, this thing's going to happen... but, I've got some difficult training ahead!  At the very least, it is quite clear ~ faith and perseverance are key.

Mar 30, 2009

1st Impressions ~ Raw Workflow - P II

Bridge, Lightroom 2, CS4, Photoshop, Adjustments Panel, Masks Panel, Color Range Masking, Sharpening Martin Evening, Adobe Photoshop CS4 for Photographers, 90% faster

Adjustments panel with favorite Curves, Vibrance, HSL, Gradient, and Adjustment Layer Clipping Mode controls underlined.  These controls perform 90% of my raw workflow.

We continue our examination of Adobe Photoshop CS4 for Photographers by Martin Evening.

Why Shoot Raw?
In Real World Camera Raw for CS4, Fraser and Schewe ask and answer this important question.  When shooting raw, you get to control scene interpretation.  With raw, the only on-camera settings that have an effect on captured pixels are ISO speed, shutter speed, and aperture.
Everything else is under your control when you convert the raw file.  You can reinterpret the white balance, color metric rendering, tonal response, and detail rendition (sharpening and noise reduction) with a great deal of freedom.  Within limits of exposure and linear capture, you can even reinterpret the basic exposure itself, resetting white and black points.
In essence, you’ve captured everything the camera can deliver.  So, you have much greater freedom in shaping overall tone and contrast for the final image.  For me, this freedom translates to a big question,
"What is an optimum workflow to properly Tone Map the final product... be it HDR, panorama, or just a single provocative image."

Adjustment Panel
Camera Raw 4.6, commonly associated with Photoshop CS3, has eight sub panels in the Adjustment panel.  These workhorse panels are Basic, Tone Curve, Detail, and HSL.  You can mess with everything from white balance to sharpening and noise reduction - such adjustments become the heart of your workflow.  The same panel is available in Camera Raw 5.3 for CS4; its in Camera Raw’s tools and the new Adjustments Panel where Tone Mapping really becomes exciting and your workflow really takes off...  I explicitly refer to non-destructive local tools Adjustment Brush and Graduated Filter.

Kelby's Lightroom 2 Develop Module Workflow
The Develop panel in Lightroom 2 has several major elements.  Basic, Tone Curve, HSL/Color/Grayscale, Split Toning, Detail, Vignettes, and Camera Calibration comprise the most commonly used sequence of major development elements.  This particular order is specified in Lightroom 2’s Develop Module.  Kelby reviews each successive element in The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 book for digital photographers in a sequential workflow.
I find Basic, Tone Curve, HSL/Color/Grayscale, Detail (Sharpening and Noise Reduction), and Camera Calibration my workhorses for raw development, converting me to the more standard pro’s view that some 80% of my development work can be done in Lightroom.  Kelby advocates 90% or more...

From this viewpoint, I approached Evening’s Adobe Photoshop CS4 for Photographers seeking the simplest workflow to quickly enhance my already full plate.  What additional factors do I need to learn to make CS4 quickly a part of an already more encompassing workflow?

Evening’s CS4 Raw Workflow Editing
During capture, image sharpness can be loss to optic quality, image resolving ability of camera sensor, and the anti-aliasing filter which covers the sensor.  Captured images can be less sharp than they should be.
Capture sharpening is one of the first things you do to an image before you start retouching.  If you shoot raw, capture sharpening must be done either in the raw processing program (Lightroom 2, Bridge CS4) or afterwards in Photoshop.  With advent of Camera Raw 4.1 (CS3), new sharpening controls rewrote the rules completely.  Now, it makes sense to do capture sharpening at the raw processing stage before you open images in Photoshop.
The Detail panel springs from work of Bruce Fraser in Real World Image Sharpening with Adobe Photoshop CS2.  With its inclusion, both Lightroom 2 and Adobe Camera Raw 5.3 are at the forefront of sharpening.
Take note - most of the rest of the workflow we describe is in Photoshop in the Adjustments panel.  In order to proceed from sharpening to tone mapping, one needs to involve Bridge and Photoshop.  This is not the most efficient workflow method.
In Camera Raw 5.3, Bridge CS4 nests Sharpening and Noise Reduction in a separate Detail panel.  Since I usually shoot landscapes, I will apply the sharpening landscapes preset to the raw file in Lightroom 2.

Adjustments Panel controls
There are several advantages to the adjustment layer approach:
1.    Adjustment layers are not permanent.  If you want to undo an adjustment or readjust settings, you can do so at any time!
2.    Adjustments remain 'dynamic'.
3.    Adjustments can be masked; apply the associated layer mask and refine using the Masking Panel.
4.    Best of all, adjustment layers are no longer restricted to a modal state (you have to double-click the layer first to access adjustment controls).
You have the potential to quickly access adjustment layer settings anytime you wish.  If you click on an adjustment layer, you can paint on the layer mask, adjust layer opacity and blending options, with full access to adjustment controls.
Immediately beneath iconic options, the Adjustments Presets list can be quite helpful.

Are Curves ALL You Need?
"I'm a firm believer in trying to make Photoshop as simple as possible.  With 22 items listed in the Image Adjustments Menu, you can achieve almost all image adjustments you need by using just Curves and Hue/Saturation."

Bridge, Lightroom 2, CS4, Photoshop, Adjustments Panel, Masks Panel, Color Range Masking, Sharpening Martin Evening, Adobe Photoshop CS4 for Photographers, 90% faster

A. Sample image to set black point. B. Sample image to set gray point. C. Sample image to set white point. D. Edit points to modify curve. E. Draw to modify curve. F. Curves type drop-down menu. G. Set black point. H. Set gray point. I. Set white point. J. Show clipping. (See the Finger; it’s our elusive Targeted Adjustment Tool.)

Masks Panel controls

Bridge, Lightroom 2, CS4, Photoshop, Adjustments Panel, Masks Panel, Color Range Masking, Sharpening Martin Evening, Adobe Photoshop CS4 for Photographers, 90% faster

Mask Preview, Density Slider, Feather Slider, Convert Master Selection, Apply Mask the Layer, Enable/Disable Mask, Pixel Mask Mode, Vector Mask Mode, Refine Mask Edges, Make a Color Range Selection, and Invert the Mask.

Adjustment layers are added to the layer stack with a pixel mask attached.  The density slider adjusts the mask density (opacity).  The feather slider softens the mask edges.  The color range button let you make selections based on colors in your image.  You can select colors to add or subtract from color range selection and see results applied directly as a mask.  The faint circle on the bottom left converts a mask to a selection.  The triangle applies a mask to the layer. 
Last, but not least, the vector mask button (upper right) provides surprising strength.  A vector mask is just like an image layer mask, except the mask is described using a vector path.  The mask can be edited using the pen path or shape tools.  It is resolution independent.  It can be transformed or scaled in size without any loss in quality. 
Color Range - when I was a boy, CS Forester wrote the Hornblower series.  Horatio Hornblower entered the British Navy as midshipmen, finally mustering out as Commodore of the Fleet.  In days of sailing frigates and ships of the line, many a cold dawn watch occurred at the fore top mask.
I'm reminded of this vivid history when I watch Martin Evening take a picture of a sailing ship, use Color Range to select the delicate intricacies of mast and rigging, make a Color Range mask, then skillfully change the azure sky background to a more passionate, cloudy sky.  This particularly striking example shows that a Color Range mask can handle incredibly complex images, create a superb mask, and elevate your photography to a new plane.

The big advances in CS4 are the Adjustments and Masks panels!  It's like one-stop shopping; instead of going to many dialog boxes, these panels immensely speed your workflow.  Unfortunately, if you prefer sharpening and don't have Lightroom 2, the combination of Bridge and CS4 put sharpening tools in Adobe Camera Raw whereas the rest of this workflow is in CS4.
Evening does touch on Lightroom.  But, he wants to present Bridge and CS4 as a package.  Yet, he also uses Lightroom 2 as his search database for all photos. I do find his examples to offer additional insight into CS4 image processing.  And, I anticipate the Schewe and Evening Adobe Photoshop CS4 for Photographers – Ultimate Workshop will emphasize advanced workflow solutions.

As for me, I plan to use Lightroom to for pre-development, then use the Adjustments and Masks panel in CS4 for the fine, intricate steps to finalize my images.
My apologies for a longer than normal blog entry; it seemed important to illustrate the pros and cons, then reduce workflow to its simplest elements...

Mar 28, 2009

1st Impressions ~ Photoshop CS4 for Photographers

CS4, Photoshop, Adjustments Panel, Mask Panel, Color Range Masking, Martin Evening, Adobe Photoshop CS4 for Photographers, 90% faster

Pixel Genius is a company I have direct involvement with and is thus mentioned several times in the book.  Pixel Genius was the brain child of Jeff Schewe, Bruce Fraser, Mike Skurski, Andrew Rodney, Seth Resnick and myself - we produced plugins for Adobe Photoshop and Photoshop Elements.”  
Martin Evening, Oct., 2008.

Now, that’s truly walkin’ in tall cotton… and it’s clearly shown in Martin’s exciting new book!

How Have I Learned Photoshop?
Real-World Adobe Photoshop Camera Raw CS2 & CS3 (Fraser and Schewe) were very important for my learning steps in Photoshop.  I also bought Photokit Sharpener from Pixel Genius.
With advent of CS4, I questioned the need to get RWAPCR CS4.  With Evening's new CS4 book (it's been in my library ~ 36 hours; I’m scoping out image sequences), I hoped it would contain most of what I could've learned from RWAPCR CS4.  However, Evening only discusses changes through ACR 5.0. 

Evening’s New Book
For me, its 2 hours of movies about new features which emphasize why CS4 is a significant upgrade.  After acclimating to Kelby’s well-written Lightroom 2 book, these movies quickly show me what I need and where to go in the book for continued growth into CS4.  To hedge slightly, examples where Evening might use 7 curve adjustments with associated masks are rare.  I'm betting that an in-depth, penetrating, and more informative 'pixel mafia’s' influence will also continue to dominate, step-by-step, in Adobe Photoshop CS4 for Photographers - Ultimate Workshop, Schewe and Evening.
With Lightroom 2 experience, I purchased CS4 to use Adobe Camera Raw’s 5.X local adjustment brushes, content aware scaling, and advanced masking.  I'd read early but limited reviews of What's New in CS4.  Last night's brief perusal of the Adjustment Panel convinced me Evening is entitled to be among 'pixel mafia'. 
Adjustment layers are now managed via an Adjustments Panel. This new setup is a huge deal!  Doing away with modality of Adjustments dialogs really sings… modality means the seemingly prolonged series of keystrokes to make a CS3 curve change occur.  Now, you can now add adjustment layers with immediate access to adjustment settings.  Imagine you have three different adjustment layers applied to an image. As you tweak adjustments for an adjustment layer you can also go directly to Layers panel and adjust layer blending mode. The scope to work faster and more efficiently will definitely enhance your workflow, leaving more time to be out shooting.

Hot Stuff
For me, some of the meat of this book lies from pages 292-310 in Image Editing Essentials.  Evening covers Curves Adjustment Layers, Choose a Larger Sample Size, and Targeted Adjustment Tool.
When you click on the targeted adjustment tool and move the cursor to the document window, you can parametrically modify the curve.  What does that mean?
If you drag the mouse pointer up-and-down, it will simultaneously move the newly added curve point up and down.  So, you can easily make specific tonal areas lighter or darker.  When you've increased the sample size, this makes an incredible slider application for adding local, nondestructive contrast right on your image. 

Mask Panel
Now, for some of the potatoes!  Pages 330-337 provide a brief introduction.  Although there are eight controls on the mask panel, for fine masking of windblown hair, etc., the newly enhanced Color Range is perhaps most important.  While not as powerful in CS3, a reinvigorated color range now enhances your capabilities.  Evening shows a challenging long exposure of light reflection on a picture of tunnels.  The color range mask creates a very good control.
A sailing ship mast against the azure sky, with its complex guylines and halyards, is way more interesting!  On the video and pages 440-443, Evening takes Color Range masking to a limit.  By compositing two images, he places dramatic clouds behind the mast - leading you to wonder at the seeming simplicity of such a complicated composition.

Attention to Lightroom 2
"Ever since Adobe Photoshop Lightroom made its first appearance as a beta product, I've been using Lightroom in studio and on location.  I now use it all the time to import images from cards as well as when shooting in tethered mode.  I've stopped using Bridge completely at the import stage.  Lightroom cataloging features allow me to search and navigate master original files." 
After making this statement, Evening then describes an import workflow for Lightroom in 4 pages.  Otherwise, he devotes many pages to Bridge, which he admits was klunky for CS3.

There Are Always Cons...
I like to scan a book before I start diving in to read.  To do that, I always want an accurate Table of Contents.
While searching for Targeted Adjustment Tool, let me put this in a simple way, "Martin, you and your guys didn't put a lot of attention to a really up-to-date Grade A table of contents.  I spent a couple of hours waffling around before I finally settled down to just read the book - rather than quickly going to the new areas which would enhance my growth."
At 677 pages – this book’s like a 2nd hand 5# weight (actual – 3.5#).  So, while inculcating exciting insightful tidbits, you’re also strengthening that throwin’ arm.
BTW – better have a rectangular magnification glass; some of the images from Photoshop are difficult to read.

Pathways of Light contains a section called Brain Food.  Brain Food is inspired by a simple fact; without a good book describing how to use it, new software can really be a real p__ i__ t__ a__ to learn.

Adobe Photoshop CS4 for Photographers has become my choice to learn CS4... there is a lot of in-depth information I did not cover.

Mar 26, 2009

Outback and Google Earth...

Grand Staircase-Escalante, Google Earth, GPS, Garmin, route, track, trackback

Google Earth view of Ridge (A), Canyon (B), and Arch (C)

I've always liked the word Outback; legendary Crocodile Dundee certainly had that old outback spirit. 
When I studied geology in archaic days, it was boots on the ground and a metal Brunton compass - before the day of satellites.  Now, it's still boots on the ground if you want a provocative HDR image of the second largest arch on our planet.  But, it's also using a GPS receiver and Google Earth satellite data.
A GPS receiver works from multiple satellites circling overhead.  With receiver turned on in your pocket, you can know within a 20 foot radius where you are on the planet - and more loosely, your elevation. 
You can also tell the receiver you want to remember every little trail you took to get to that arch.  But, there's a hiccup; if you're down in a canyon with 200 to 400 foot sub vertical walls, the only satellites that receiver can see are along the course of the canyon in the particular direction it points just then (if that)!  Bingo - isn't that a great way to get very lost?
But, there is a satisfying workaround...

GPS Applications
With a Garmin GPS, you have access to topography using Mapsource.  This software lets you manage waypoints, routes, tracks, as well as Sun and Moon positions... a waypoint is a latitude/longitude expression (decimal degrees) of precisely where you want to be.  A route is a series of waypoints - getting from point A to point B. 
Within Mapsource, when you've laid out a route, you can ask to see that precise route on a satellite map using Google Earth.  This step provides an interesting way to update your actual waypoints.
You can also decide where the sun is with respect to shot point location.  For simplicity, I show sun position for when I wrote this blog.  For accuracy, I'll want to know the exact position on the day I plan to be in this mystical canyon.

Grand Staircase-Escalante, Mapsource, GPS, Garmin, celestial information, sun angle, sunrise, moonrise, sunset, moonset

Sun and Moon orientation near 5 p.m. 26 March.

GPS Receivers
Most GPS receivers come with map sets like Mapsource.  What's a map set?  A track is the actual series of waypoints where you are on the ground.  A TrackBack is returning precisely along the path from which you came.  The Garmin will even light the screen (backlight) to show where you’re coming out after dark.
It's the ability to use topography to create a visual image of the shape of the land (a geologist would say geomorphology).  If you know how to read a topo map, you place a waypoint as precisely as you can to determine where you are on that exciting photography trip.  I have access to a 165 foot contour interval topo map; that's a rather coarse contour for very detailed canyoneering navigation.
So what do you do to enhance precision?
Enter Google Earth...

Google Earth
More precisely, good satellite data will let you see every significant detail water cut in that ancient twisting, turning canyon bottom. 
If you know the arch orientation, orientation of enclosing canyon walls, and position of the sun, you can plan several things:
1.    What's the most effective shadow orientation from the Sun and best timing from nearby topography?
2.    Best shot location to enhance HDR image capture?
3.    What's the return route so you safely get out of that canyon before dark?
4.    What's the vertical climb out of the canyon near the trek's end?
5.    How do you negotiate sand above the canyons edge back to the car near dark?
6.    Unfortunately, it's not going to tell you how really wasted you're going to be...

Evocative Digital Photography
OK!  You've done all the pre-planning.  You know route, descent, trail, objective location, weather, and shot location.  What can you learn about the best time to set up your tripod for that exclusive and difficult to attain HDR image?
In a way, Google's even thought of that...
In Google Earth’s menu bar, there's a button that shows the Sun with rays radiating away.  It's called, "Show sunlight across the landscape.  Use Time slider to set time of day."  If you click on that button, you get a daily 24-hour schedule.  If you want to know when the shadows are going to be quite near the arch, you just run the slider forward into the afternoon.  Now, I've got to admit ~ while those are not the best shadow projections I've ever seen, they do give me a coarse spatial estimate of what's going to be in shadow and what's not.  I'll just need to be there to refine details.
Man... isn't that way cool!
I can guess where to set up my tripod, guess when shadows are going to give me the best scene illumination based, all from the armchair Internet, then shoot my HDR real time ground images rather carefully.

Grand Staircase-Escalante, Google Earth, GPS, Garmin, route, track, trackback, sun shadows, shadows, shot location

Google Earth shadows at 5:16 p.m. 26 March.

But... that's not all!
Looks like shadows are optimal about 1715 (5:15 p.m. for you landlubbers). 

Here, I've been worrying about going back up canyon and climbing that last 150 feet under full pack after dark.  I am used to thinking from a flatlander's view about sunset from a long distance away. 
Now, I should be out before dark.
Google Earth even provides me with a seemingly never-ending, continuing education from space...
Boy, does that make me happy!  As Al Pacino said in Scent of a Woman"HOWAH...!"

Grand Staircase-Escalante, Mapsource, GPS, Garmin, show profile, vertical relief

Last three canyon climb waypoints on return, coming out of the canyon.

My thanks to Sonny Lane, Geocacher, and Larry Stroup, Admiral of the Bounding Seas, my GPS gurus and brothers in Christ...

Mar 25, 2009


My thanks to Al Toepfer – the last blog entry CS4’s Adjustment Panel – a Cross Road contained web site references which were erroneous. I corrected those references, systematically went to each page from the correction, and apologize for this lack of detail…
Blog readers should be able to access those pages from the original blog…

Mar 23, 2009

CS4’s Adjustment Panel – a Cross Road

LR2, CS4, Adjustment Panel, 90% faster

Cross Roads
©Joe Bridwell
Symbolically, two planes cross.   On another plane, CS4 has also reached a cross road.  Its new Adjustment Panel allows up to some 90% less mouse motion to get the job done right…

It's the end of a long day.  I've been working through CS3 for hours, perfecting an image.  Make an adjustment layer, create image enhancements, choose a blend mode, modify the opacity, click OK... and I'm one tired old dawg.

For about a week now, John Nack, Adobe, has been following the theme Adjustments and the Future of the Photoshop UI.  This morning, Bryan Hughes dug a little deeper:
"Adjustment Layers are non-destructive and re-editable (think history that lives with your file); they offer unparalleled creative control with 25 blending modes and 100 levels of opacity; and they can be easily shared, duplicated and repurposed. The problem: in order to enjoy benefits of adjustment layers, you need to know where they are, how they work _and_ a series of secret handshakes to leverage their power.
"Moving from one’s image to an Adjustment panel beside it is far faster than combing through various menus and dialogues - the Adjustment panel experience uses up to 89% less mouse travel than the old, menu-driven, modal method.
"For CS4 we took a page out of Lightroom’s book and brought on-image editing to Curves, Hue and Saturation in the new Adjustment Panel. Talk about fast and easy ~ you just click on the desired area and pull (up and down for Curves, left and right for Saturation, add the Command modifier for Hue)."

Now I've got more time to be out shooting...

Mar 21, 2009

Ancient Outdoor Museums…

LR2, CS4, Merge to Panorama, Tone Mapping, Basic, Tone Curves, Detail (Landscape Sharpen, Mask), snapshots, Cedar Mesa, Utah

A Pueblo III Anasazi Ruin
©Joe Bridwell
The Anasazi knew an end was near; this lonely, hard-to-access ruin is one of the most protected of final days. Almost hidden in a lonely, canyon-cut mesa, the setting Sun will quickly remove warmth as night's cold arrows waft up from the canyon below.

Seeking such surreal loneliness of red rock beauty suggests the Anasazi were truly world-class climbers. Somehow, they explored some of the most distant southwestern places in a never ending quest for food and safety. When a haven was found, they built isolated rooms which provided warmth and protection - always as if their concern for a right angle wall was at odds with nearby cliffs. Such ruins are now their only enduring legacy.
Some of the most scenic ruins and arches occur in southern Utah backcountry. One, the second largest arch on the planet, requires a 5 mile round-trip, sunset's direct light to be South 20° West, standing in the middle of a creek for the optimum shot, and trekking 2 miles back before 300 feet of climb (part of it sandy) to arrive at the car after dark.
Most of these often rather quaint sites aren't on any main thoroughfare. Rather, they're down some long dirt road where you park your car, put on your pack, and trek even farther into nature's wilderness. Gear, wading shoes, layers of clothing, batteries, water, protein... all contribute to a distinct sense of excitement and energy expenditure.

Yesterday's Landscape Photography
In the 70s, 80s, and 90s, landscape photography flourished albeit with huge heavy cameras and Velvia film. With less restriction on where you could set up the camera, several professional reputations were made as incredible images later adorned impeccable coffee table books of the Southwest.

Today's Digital Photography
In the last few years, digital cameras and high dynamic range imaging are transforming landscape photography to a more highly defined color range.
To capture the full range of enchanting dawn or dusk light which can illuminate ruins, arches, and other provocative landscape features, digital photography needs additional technical capability. High dynamic range imaging (HDR), automatic exposure bracketing (some cameras can provide nine bracketed shots), a panoramic head, and a sturdy tripod creates such a venue.
If we marry a digital camera and a GPS device, which can tell you where you are to within 10 feet anywhere on the planet's surface 24x7, you can essentially trek to any distant site to capture dusk, then return after dark.

One Way to Capture and Evaluate Provocative Landscape Images
But still, it takes several more definitive steps to begin to approach impeccable books... An expedition, to create successful images, needs several attributes:
1. A low noise, high ISO digital camera with sturdy tripod.
2. Software such as Garmin's Mapsource to pre-construct routes into the difficult-to-attain sites.
3. An intelligent GPS unit to carefully help secure an after-dark return.
4. Software such as Lightroom 2 to process multiple HDR images in the same orientation (and sets of images if a panorama).
5. Software such as Photoshop CS4 to:
    a. Build HDR images
    b. Merge results to panorama

And Then, Naturally, There's the Light...
Lest we forget... the most enchanting light is usually near sunset. So, you trek to the scene mid-afternoon, scope the best place for creating an exotic shot, then wait for just the right light. For a busy few minutes, you shoot landscape and portrait images in HDR, rotating your camera on the panoramic head if required.
In the end, you return to the studio. All those carefully captured images are processed, breathtaking results are finalized... Sometimes you still can't even believe the inspiring beauty both captured then carefully revealed - although you really were just there yourself!
Such incredulous 'open museums', ancient venues, silence, and beauty... bring them back to share with those who can't make such treks!

Mar 13, 2009

Retouching in LR2 using Snapshots

HDR, LR2, CS3, local adaptation, Merge to HDR, Tone Mapping, Basic, Tone Curves, Detail (Landscape Sharpen, Mask), Chromatic Abberation, snapshots

Blue Mountain- Revisited
©Joe Bridwell
I love it… you never know when something new is to be learned! Last night, we discussed retouching in our Lightroom 2 class; at one point, Bob Weber asked why I used Virtual Copy v Snapshots for retouch steps? Retouching is a repetitive process – later, you realize a Develop mode step created an image change which took your image toward a ‘final’, yet, on later review, not final point. You want to go back to the particular step, make a different change, then continue working to a new final image. So, what did I learn?

What About Snapshots
Immediately, I went to Kelby’s Lightroom 2 book; pages 188-189 discussed snapshots – somehow, I missed them. When using Ctrl-‘, I was doing retouch on different copies while retaining the same name. But, I was not able to rename these copies to indicate each important step change.
In the Develop mode, Snapshots is the 3rd region from the top on the left panel. Plus (+) means add Snapshot. A dialog box comes up asking you to name that particular snapshot. In what follows, Bruce Fraser’s Real World Adobe Camera Raw for Photoshop CS4; Basic, Tone Curves, Sharpen, and then Final provides a workflow… I would give each snapshot an image name followed by which panel step was applied to that image (eg, BlueMountain-Basic, etc.). Then, I would apply appropriate sliders to work my way through to the final step. Snapshots will create a more ordered environment among the thousands of images and snapshots/copies which seem to permeate each digital shooter’s many drives…

Bruce Fraser's Adobe Camera Raw Workflow, LR2, Basic, Tone Curves, Sharpen, HDr

What Use Is Photomatix
Our 2nd discussion point was Photomatix v Lightroom 2 and CS4. When I began HDR 2 years ago, Photomatix was touted as the way to go. After working with it, I realized:
1. Photomatix only allows global Tone Mapping.
2. Photomatix defaults to Details Enhancer (DE) for Tone Mapping; DE can rebuild a Magic Hour bimodal histogram, making a histogram unlike the original. So, you loose the dawn dusk bright sky-dark foreground effect in such histograms.
3. Enhancing 32 bit HDR images in Photomatix usually creates very noticeable halo’s between sky and ground.

HDR in Lightroom 2 and CS4
John Doogan’s hour long videos on Landscapes and HDR were put together showing careful steps using LR2 and CS4. In essence,
1. Merge to HDR from LR2,
2. Perform Local Adaptation in CS4, then
3. Finalize Tone Mapping in LR2 with local, non-destructive brushes.
May I suggest you take time to carefully view Doogan’s excellent video presentations! A thorough review will create a definite elevation of your HDR workflow…

Why You Must Tone map Photomatix

Retouched Blue Mountain Final
Our interim Blue Mountain sunset was presented a few days ago; on further examination, it was created too hastily – highlights above the mountain were actually partially blown out.
We show a Before and After for 16 bit Development from Photomatix thru CS3 to LR2 above. The final result is shown at bigger scale as our entry image in this blog.

Mar 7, 2009

The Future of HDR – III

HDR, LR2, CS3, local adaptation, Merge to HDR, Tone Mapping, Basic, Tone Curves, Detail (Landscape Sharpen, Mask), Chromatic Abberation

Blue Mountain
©Joe Bridwell
The direct sunset already gave a splendid HDR ~ two planes crossed above the clouds. But, simply by turning south, the sky was in half tones. The almost shimmering distant mountain reminds one of scenes in the movie Cold Mountain.

HDR (high dynamic range) Has Been on My Mind Lately...
There's controversy over how your workflow should go when you put together an HDR image. There are different amounts of EV range to capture, there's the choice of which photos to use for the best 32-bit HDR image, there's the choice of which software to use to create that 32-bit image, and, then there is the choice of how you tone map for the final image to please your emotional palette.
You ask, "Well, isn't there one simple way?"
Not really; for various reasons, neither your eye nor your camera can see the full range of color available. While it's clear the camera doesn't have the range of your eye, there are some questions about what your brain automatically does to a scene before/as it stores it in your memory. Without getting into all the biophysical reasons for that statement, let's just discuss limitations from software's viewpoint.

HDR Approaches
Let me take three photographers, John Doogan, Matt Kloskowski, and Tom Till, and highlight differences in their HDR approaches.
Doogan (Fellow New Zealand Institute of Professional Photographers and Adobe Ambassador) uses Lightroom 2 and CS4. John selects images in Lightroom, performs emerge to HDR, then tone maps in CS4. John addresses some of the subtleties an HDR image can capture while showing advanced workflow in CS4. Some of his efforts suggest other intriguing ways one may think of additional steps to really enhance the tone map image. John’s example shows an EV range of -2.64, 0, +2.64 (Calculated by CS4).
Kloskowski (NAPP) uses Photomatix Pro. Matt selects images in Lightroom, uses the Lightroom/Photomatix plug-in to create the 32-bit image, then tone maps in Capture NX2. Photomatix converts the 32-bit to the 16 bit image. Matt will do a little bit of correction in Lightroom but prefers capture NX2 for his final tone mapping. Matt shot 5 images, then just used -2, 0, +2. I think Matt is a bit overzealous when he decries, "Everybody uses Photomatix..."
Till (Till Galleries, Moab) has only recently begun HDR and promises more discussions on his presently in frequent blog. Tom prefers 0 and -2, -4,\ EV images, but has been known to use a 4EV ND filter as well. At present, Tom has not given a full-blown blog indication of his preferred HDR workflow. However, Tom is well known around our planet for some of his incredibly splendid Four Corners sunrise/sunset shots.

I've used both Photomatix Pro, Lightroom 2, CS3, and (for me, soon to be) CS4 for my HDR imaging. At present, I'm using Lightroom 2 and CS3. With the enhanced flexibility of nondestructive local adjustment brushes in Lightroom (and CS4), I can let LR2 and CS3 create the 16 bit image, then do some processing in Lightroom. Because I spent the time and energy to learn CS3, I can instinctively appreciate superior advantages of the coveted CS4. Clearly, that's the reason to elevate to the level of CS4...

About Blue Mountain…
The image above is a sample -1, 0, +2 EV range, brought into LR2, Merge to HDR in CS3, return 16 bit tif to LR2, and successively tone map with local adjustment brushes. I followed the basic Adobe Camera Raw workflow advocated by Bruce Fraser in Real World Adobe Camera Raw for Photoshop CS3. In essence, Bruce said, ”Go down the Develop module ~ tweaking sliders in Basic, Tone Curves, Detail (Landscape Sharpening using preset [particularly using the Masking] and Chromatic Abberation), before finalizing more subtle changes in HSL (Hue, Saturation, and Luminosity).
What are the advantages of this approach?
This approach does away with some of the superfluous histograms produced by Detail Enhancer in Photomatix Pro. Superfluous; DE will take a normal bimodal distribution for your sunset histogram then create its own shape - creating an 'overblown' HDR effect. It often creates sky halos.
The LRx/CSx approach lets you work with raw files, PSDs, and ultimately JPEG's in Lightroom. It does away with major histogram redistribution. It lets you take serious advantage of a much deeper range of brush capabilities provided by Photoshop for some serious, yet subtle tone mapping.

Mar 3, 2009

Lightroom 2.3

Lightroom 2.3 Release

Adobe has just released Lightroom 2.3!

Bug Fixes
• In Windows 64-bit version of Lightroom an sFTP upload process could cause Lightroom to crash.
• Slideshows could return to first image randomly during playback.
• A memory leak could cause Lightroom to crash while attempting to process files with local adjustments.
• Canon EOS 5D Mk II sRAW files could process with artifacts in Lightroom 2.2.
• Lightroom 2.2 could cause disc burning to fail for Windows customers.
• Attempting to undo (CTRL-Z) a single step in Lightroom 2.2 on Windows could cause a series of previous actions to be undone.

Mar 2, 2009


Three Musketeers - Gene Kelley = Planeteers

Gene Kelly, Lana Turner, and Janet Leigh starred in The Three Musketeers (1948), a lavish adaptation of Alexandre Dumas' classic swashbuckler.

Gene Kelly (’48), Michael York (’74)… the Gascon, D’Artangnan, that 17th century clever and courageous chevalier who joined the Musketeers… ah, such memories from the old Paramount theater of yester year!

Digital photography, gear, wilderness treks, captivating nature images, internet, blogs, recognition – only some of many hurdles awaiting diligent photographers who establish an internet presence to sell their wares.  Dramatic images are a piece of fine art reflecting the change and growth in one’s passion.  Getting nature’s images before the buying public is quite a chore – yet it seems 2009 is Blog Explosion Year.
What’s a blog?  It’s a method of maintaining a daily diary on the web, complete with images, feelings, workshops, and event notices for individual (or groups of) photographers. 
At first, this blog explosion was subliminal.  Reading blogs, searching for a new reality in troubling times, I finally began to notice blogs whose first post was only in January, 2009.  Yes, several good blogs were out there before.  But, there is a strong move from web sites and static galleries to daily blog posts, new points of view, and an expanding nature photographer’s gallery and very active blogosphere.

Let’s call a new blog movement – in this case, searching for marvelous fine art nature images - Planeteers!  After all, The Three Musketeers fought for liberty, equality, fraternity… If you like to see beautiful nature photography – why not find a way to watch nature photographer’s daily growth.  Your elevating reward – a daily dose of classic beauty from all parts of our planet.  If you have WiFi, it’s simply like traversing our planet in seconds. 

Nature Photographers Online publishes 1-2 page short essays with nature photos from field contributors – here are the archives.  Read those essays, search out each contributor’s gallery, then take a look at the blogrolls for those who have blogs.  A blogroll is a list of ‘buddies’ – those guys or gals (eminent or otherwise) who pique your continuing interest in nature.
Pretty soon – you’ve become a Planeteer; beyond that, you’ve begun to accumulate your own list of nature experiences.  You can do this whenever – a few minutes at a time or simply emerge yourself in beauty.
If you want to follow Pathway’s method – become a Planeteer - surf nature by taking a look at our dynamic Around Our Planet in 80 ms

Our next blog will illustrate how Planeteering has already provided a new, early spring nature sunset arch venue for dramatic shots to replace people-filled, jaded shots of Mesa Arch at Canyonlands…

Mar 1, 2009

Around Our Planet in 80 ms…

Around the World in 80 Days (80ms)

Michael Todd’s Around the World in 80 Days (1956) was truly an epic… it portrayed David Niven, as Jules Verne’s imperturbable Phineas Fogg, traveling the world in a balloon.  Did you see it…?  Catch the trailer

Nowadays, half a century later, a laptop can take one around the planet to beautiful scenes wherever one's fancy might roam, 24x7… almost instantaneously!  Satellite cafĂ©, VIP airport lounge, fancy yacht in the British Virgin Islands, the Louve, the American Museum of Natural History, or, even just your own backyard! My, how technology has changed…

Digital photographers capture gorgeous scenes, put them on the web, and provide you your own balloon a.k.a. Time Machine.  The nice thing about this new balloon technology; it lets you go where ever you want, whenever you want.  For me, this incredible technical process really stirs my imagination. 
For example, the other morning, waking up to the challenging scent of juniper, I spent an hour in Copenhagen trying to absorb tantalizing photography of Kenny Weng.  Yesterday morning, Michael Frye, who's been documenting winter in Yosemite, captured amazingly colorful poppies along the Merced River.  A month before that, Michael shot the elusive Horsetail Fall, trying to emulate Galen Rowell's incredible shot in Mountain Light.  And, of course, there's William Neill – I particularly like his Half Dome and elm tree, winter, Yosemite National Park, California  1990.  Mind you, that classic image, fĂȘted at the Ansel Adams Gallery Friday, and laboriously captured on film just 20 years ago, was another milestone of this path from Around the World in 80 Days to Around the Planet in 80 ms...
And, mind you, you can create your own Planet; a computer, the Web, a few favorites, a little time, a topic that really captures your fancy, and the never ending spate of new technologies!  For some of you, the name Phineas Fogg may be arcane; the nice thing about this new planet is: you're revitalized, you get to choose your own name, and, clearly, you get to play your own game...

Whether it's art, fine art, landscapes, nature, laptops, technology, blogs, WiFi, iPhone, Kindle 2, or what ever new creation will come about in the next half-century... you have the opportunity to get to know your planet ~ both intimately and rapidly. 
As for me, microphone on my head trying to capture a spate of thoughts, dictate them on a screen in front of me (can you recall when Thomas Jefferson used a quill pen to write the Declaration of Independence on papyrus?), occasionally even around my own images, and share a moment of true rapture ... it seems that so many deeply awesome things come together.