Nov 25, 2009

RTM ~ Stupid!!!

Mapsource, Ship_Rock

I had a math teacher long ago who said, “RTP (Read the Problem)!” He was referring to nerves; some of us blew up on tests. In particular, he would knock 10 points off if you misspelled YOUR name…
Well, I got by that one.
Then I wanted to become a geologist. Maps are big for geologists; they told me where I was in the wilds before GPS. So, I learned to read maps.
Thought I was by that one as well…

This week I got a letter from New Mexico Magazine. An award certificate said I Won the Landscape Category for their 9th Annual Photo Contest. Huzzah!
As I gazed in admiration at the certificate, I noticed a small blip – they spelled the title of my winning image Ship Rock. I thought, “Idiota…!” I submitted Shiprock for that marvelous image’s name…

This map is an inset from Mapsource of the western US. It’s based on US Geological Survey place names. I pulled up northern New Mexico and asked it who was the idiot; me or NM Mag?
Clearly, the map said, “RTM (Read the Map) ~ Stupid!!!”

Well, I’ve corrected hundreds of spelling errors on the laptop. Here’s one more - a public confession…

Ship_Rock, 3AEB, HDR, Winner, Landscapes, New Mexico Magazine, 9th Annual Photo Contest

And just to drive the old stake through my old heart…

BAH, Humbug!

Nov 14, 2009

How WE See!

Take a Good Look!
I read a provocative article at dpBestflow. In a subsection dealing with HDR, dpBestflow touched on how our eyes see in one of the simplest explanations I've found. Immediately, something clicked; I understood why I like subtle tone mapping instead of some slightly more garish responses created by Photomatix.
In simple terms, nonlinear local adaptation will 'smooth' colors you see. As an example, compare your working 60 W bulb with Magic Hour sunset out the window. Everyone's brain is uniquely filtering what they see to their visual appreciation mode - inside and outside light turns out to be white. WOW!!!
Here's a pictorial definition:
On the left, Photomatix’ Detail Enhancer (Pde) pushed beyond limits my psyche can endure. On the right, added range of light and color from a ‘typical’ 5EV HDR (5EV).

Photomatix, Detail Enhancer, 5AEB, HDR

For my brain, added color Tone Compressed (default) HDR appeals more. When carefully tone mapped in Lightroom and Photoshop - each picture is rich, textured, and lustrous.
But, my brain balks when it sees images where Detail Enhancer, following someone else's visual appreciation, takes me from 'real world' to 'off-world sci-fi'!

How Do Judges React During Competitions?
I’ve spent 4 years watching judges evaluate digital images in competition. The majority will opt for careful tone mapping – voting their opinion through high scores and ribbons. Conversely, lower scores and no ribbons typify more brassy HDR tone mapping conditions.

Here are key vision points from dpBestflow on vision...

In human vision, adaptation is our ability to adjust to dramatically different lighting conditions. Our brains can adjust so we are able to see clearly on the brightest summer day and in a candlelit room. It’s a much more complicated, unconscious, and organic version of ISO.

Local Adaptation
Local adaptation is our ability to adjust different areas of our field of vision to accommodate different levels of brightness, different color temperatures, color casts, etc,. Think of sitting at your desk and looking out a window at Magic Hour. You probably have a 60w incandescent (orange) light bulb over your desk. Late-evening daylight out the window is much brighter and much, much bluer. You aren’t aware of it, but there might be as many as 12 EVs difference between light at your keyboard and light outside, both of which your brain perceives as white light.

Nonlinear Response
Nonlinear response is our ability to accommodate drastic changes in sensory input without overloading our brains. In terms of light, this means - if you double brightness, it doesn’t double your perception. Bright highlights or light sources might be 5,000-10,000 times brighter than their surroundings, but our excellent brains compress that to fit within our ability to perceive.

dpBestflow is a joint venture between Library of Congress and American Society of Media Photographers. Their byline is "dpBestflow is the new guide for every aspect of digital imaging technology from ASMP, the leader in education for the professional photographer."
You might want to take a look at what they have to offer...

Nov 9, 2009

Mind Your Histogram…

Bad Histograms
Hard Work Blunted…
Recent review of many Google and Bing images created a technical quandary. When I found a Magic Hour landscape image I sort of liked, it often had 'unbalanced' histograms with 'blown out' shadows or highlights – or both.
How do you know?
If the histogram touches or runs up either vertical axis, you’ve blown your histogram and may loose valuable data.
The shooter might take several shots of the same composition; thoughtfully evaluating each histogram. Several shots are a heuristic way of assuring captured data fit within the histogram - creating a well-balanced image.
We won’t touch on Expose to the Right – use Goolge to find valuable tutorials to enhance your digital growth.

Magic Hour is that time around dawn and dusk when light is soft and lustrous...
Now, if you consider I like deep wilderness shots, the shooter really took some extraordinary pains to get to that hard-to-find place where a particular image was captured. Yet, finding a balanced histogram from my image search was an exception - rather than the rule. So, why not apply the right technical steps in camera to assure a 'well-balanced image'?

Histogram Fundamentals
Back in the digital studio…
When histograms violate black and white points, the shooter doesn't always apply the first rule of capture - don't blow out shadows or highlights. Your primary step in color balance is to choose that fitting black and/or white point.
Little spikes at each end of the histogram indicate clipping – rather important markers. If spikes are black, you're okay. If not, you need to practice eliminating blown out areas in your histogram.

Reading Histograms
The underexposed histogram tells you 2 essential things: somewhere on the image, the red channel is blown, and, on the linear sensor distribution you're missing about half your highlights.
In the overexposed histogram, red, green, and blue channels are blown and you're missing about half your shadows. If you see yellow, cyan, or magenta, you have a combination of 2 blown channels.
Needless to say, when you get into high dynamic range photography, histogram interpretation gets much more complicated...

If you're shooting raw and you've blown a highlight or shadow (or heaven forbid, both), when you open the file in Lightroom or Photoshop, Adobe Camera Raw lets you make immediate corrections to black-and-white points. Simply move Exposure or Blacks sliders until vertical triangles go black.
If you want to learn more about histogram fundamentals, get a hold of one of Bruce Fraser's books Real World Adobe Camera Raw. Details may vary from book to book, but what you need is the well-written overview and how-to examples.

DSLR, Linear Sensor, nonlinear Eye, balanced histogram

Sensor Technacrati…
Bear in mind - digital cameras have a linear sensor. If you think of your eye as being a sensor, it's not linear; it's nonlinear! In other words, you and your camera clearly do not see the same way. So, it may help to learn to think like a camera - you get better images.
Here’s a diagram comparing important camera and human qualities. The big deal; where are most pixels in an image from a linear sensor? Upper 50% of the histogram…

Although there are other sequences of advanced steps which color balance and tone map your images to fine art perfection, our discussion is a pretty basic start!
So I urge - think like a camera, learn and use its remarkable capacity to your advantage, and you'll simply get better pictures...

Nov 8, 2009

Lightroom 3 Promotes Creative Writing

Lightroom 3 beta, Folders Panel

Did you know LR3 can make your writing more creative?
Windows folder and Lightroom catalog after writing an article for a new project. aWhitePocket contains images. DinosaurDanceFloor and LocalFlowCells are primary folders with relevant geology. Time’sIndelibleFootprint hosts articles evolving from this project.
PictureWindows hosts the final article…

Creative Writing
Any writing, fiction, poetry, or non-fiction, that goes beyond bounds of normal professional, journalistic, academic, and technical forms of literature _Wikipedia.

Lightroom 3 significantly lowers writing’s technical bar. For me, creativity has two parts. First, I need to take that perfect picture. Second, looking at the picture creates a swift channel to the part of my brain where easy writing happens.
Now, I must say – Windows folders, available for nearly 15 years, have been unfriendly to this process; for the right image _too much search; _too little find. Yet, they are indelibly engraved in my finger tip consciousness. In creative mode, folders seem to grow with each new idea. There are image folders (full-size images for printing; small size images from manuscripts); writing folders; backup folders - pretty soon, old, tired ~ your mind sorta folds up and says 'enough of that…'!

Enter Lightroom 3!
With the new Folders Panel, photographers quickly create thumbnails of all images in evolving working folders. This works whether you’ve got one folder or several nested subfolder levels. Several nested folders are the inevitable result of creative writing.
But, Lightroom’s for Photographers, not Storytellers. So, it doesn't see Word documents, PDF files, anything else I create with Photoshop outside Lightroom, or all things created when you write and edit a story. I wish it did not take 6-10 diligent efforts to get feelings into good English…
Fortunately, Lightroom engineers got two very important steps right in Version 3. First, they automated bringing new images in, while ignoring dupes. Simply choose your working folder, press the Import button; Lightroom comes back with just those images you need to import, giving full view of only new images. Now choose Import again; bring them into Lightroom where you see them... Second, right click on working folder. When the dialog pops up, choose Show in Explorer. Bingo... now you in the correct Windows creative writing folder panel - working on all your other files.
You've gone from the left side of your brain, which sees images, to the right side, which writes English… Now, I really call that Creative Writing.

Lightroom let’s me see, has smoothed my technical obstacles path, and increased my productivity about 30%!
Don’t forget to tidy your Collections before archiving…

HUZZAH, Adobe Lightroom 3 Engineers!