Jul 30, 2010

Why the Silence?

Monsoons and all – we come to the very earliest possible beginnings of fall. Once Abq rains started, we just begin to sort of cool off here.
Not so – our intrepid knowledge quest! While Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom 3 are already on our desktop, it has been a period of hack-your-way thru new stuff, hoping videos gave you enough grounding – because books are JUST beginning to come out. Fortunately, it’s frosting on the cake vice new learning. Thank goodness for in depth CS3 and CS4 training. Same goes for LR2…

Full Range HDR Panos
With a penchant for full range HDR panos, its been a learning experience to get images into LR3, develop them through HDR Pro in CS5, HDR Tone them in the change from 32 to 16 bit formats…
The big bugaboo – its actually several fold. First, my Nikon D300 can Automatically Exposure Bracket up to 9 images. If I’ve slacked off and simply used the automaton approach, there are times when including too many images on the +EV side will create unwanted high lights. Second, settings in HDR Toning, particularly Edge Glow, can over emphasize high lights. Third, not properly using Corner Points near the blown high lights (BHL) can be a major pain…

Nevertheless, I can speak to a number of HDR Pano fine art images from several trips to Utah and Arizona.

Google Earth
GE 5.2 is full of new, exciting twists-and-turns. One is making Tours which convey a fine art viewpoint using digital photography. Another is creating unique views, timelines, and including your own precious HDR images.
While the learning curve can be steep for some, I am beginning to think perhaps I am on the right track. Now – with God’s help, maybe I can get over the hump rather soon… clearly, its been blocking my writing capacity!

Jul 9, 2010

High Dynamic Range Toning (HDRT) - CS5

High Dynamic Range Toning, HDRT, Photoshop CS5

Anyone who uses Photoshop CS5 for HDR must master HDR Toning. If you submit n images at constant aperture and white balance but different shutter speeds, CS5 will create a 32 bit file called Untitled_HDR2.hdr. I always save that file so I can try more conversions later.
This 32 bit file should under go multiple3 transformations before it becomes web-ready.
1. Save as .hdr
2. Convert to 16 bit using HDRT.
3. Tone Map in LR3 with active Histogram; careful 200% scan.
4. Spot Heal (content Aware Fill – CAF) all blown highlights (BHL).
5. Sharpen region where you applied Spot Healing.
6. Save final tif and jpg.
7. Make jpg Keeper in Smart Collection.
Most monitors won’t let you see 32 bit files in true color. Hence, CS5 created HDR Toning. HDRT is a dialog box to ‘help’ you estimate what that 32 bit file should look like as a 16 bit tif.

What Does HDRT Do?
HDR Toning considers 4 functions; Edge Glow, Tone and Detail, Color, and Toning Curve and Histogram. Rather than repeat dry information from your help file, I want to talk about important aspects of creating landscape HDR fine art.
Clearly, my emphasis about Presets and Corner Points provides a starting place for an HDR conversion.

HDR Toning transforms a 32 bit hdr file to a 16 bit tif file so LR3 and CS5 can perform tone mapping to create a fine art piece.

Click here to download a tutorial on in-depth intricacies and tips on HDRT…

When you’ve carefully read our tutorial, practiced on several HDR Pro images, then got one tone mapped to your liking - you’re done, save the final image as a tif file, then make a jpg as well using LR3’s Export command. You can save that final jpg in a Smart Collection. I usually put keywords in this image, including setting Keywords to kpr for each image I’ve labored over to create another fine art piece.

There’s an example of success in Spot Healing in a prior blog…


Jul 7, 2010

CS5 - Spot Healing Blown High Lights with Content Aware Fill

Winged Marvels, Bisti Badlands, New Mexico

Winged Marvels, Bisti Badlands, New Mexico

These magnificent hoodoos stand resplendent against sun’s golden rays in late evening. If my imagination takes a flight of fancy – I would say these hoodoos resemble large winged B 52’s seeking safe landing. Or, pterodactyls circling ancient marsh lands beside a Cretaceous Seaway - these rocks were created just before dinosaur’s demise…
The combination of ancient shapes, bas relief of sunset emphasizing the quaint hoodoo caps, and richness of color – full range HDR helps, but our magic lies in capturing evening’s aura of emphatic golden light!
I never cease to be amazed at the incredible panoply of landscapes scenes our Bisti Badlands provides enterprising digital photographers…

Setting the Stage…
This composite panoramic image was processed with Adobe Camera Raw (ACR), LR3, and CS5. Individual tone mapping controls in LR3 are built on ACR (as is CS5). But, only HDR Toning and Spot Healing (w Content Aware Fill) occur in CS5.
LR3 does early processing (Merge to HDR Pro, Merge to Panorama, and global tone mapping of 16 bit tif files from HDR2). For more sophisticated handling of 32 bit HDR files in CS5, you start with HDR Toning; Warning, it is not a universal panacea. In other words, HDRT takes some getting used to; you need to fiddle around with it to learn the range of options which fit your shooting style. Finally, if your files seem to have persistent blown high lights (BHL), you will want to zero in on offending regions using Spot Healing.
We try to give a general workflow for this series of activities; you can try one or you can go the whole gamut. What ever works…

Development of HDR Panorama
Two full range HDR image sets (9 images each) were Merged to HDR Pro from LR3 to CS5. Each file was processed with Local Adaptation by varying all parameters to convert the 32 bit HDR2 file (saves as HDR) to a 16 bit tif. Resulting 16 bit tif files were Merged to Panorama (same route). Then Lightroom 3 provided basic, curves, noise reduction, dust spot removal, and sharpening, before some final HSL adjustments on the 16 bit tif.

BHL – Blown HiLites (Blown High Lights)
A recent full range HDR landscape capture created that pesky old problem “Blown HiLites (Yes, I know: Blown High Lights [BHL])”…
On close inspection at 100% zoom, some sun reflections were blown out where direct sunlight hit hoodoo underbellies. Can we do to reduce this problem? We Merged to HDR Pro in LR3, converted 32 bit HDR2 files to 16 bit files using HDR Toning in CS5, Merged to Pano, attempted to reduce blown high lights, then ultimately, resorted to Spot Healing in CS5.

Merge to HDR Pro
Using CS5’s Merge to HDR Pro, 1st step – ALWAYS put White Point Slider on max – as far right as possible. Then, Remove Ghosts, choosing 0EV shot (presumes you shot manual - no blown hilites). Hit OK to convert 32 bit HDR2 file to 16 bits.

HDR Toning
But big changes come when addressing HDR Toning. Re-open 16 bit tif in LR3, choose Edit in Photoshop (Ctrl E), then choose Image > Adjustments > HDR Toning. Don’t forget: 32 bit HDR Toning will be out of visual range of your screen, so you will want to ‘learn’ how to read/sense significant color and tonal variations… BHLs usually ‘glow’.
Immediately reduce Edge Glow – pixels <30, detail <0.22 (reduces high light size). This helps reduce BHL, but NOT completely. I usually reduce Gamma to 0.89, modify Shadows and Highlights, add Vibrance, reduce Saturation, etc…
Now for some subtle, but gigantic changes.
Curves shows the original tif histogram (does not change as you modify working file [arrggghhhh… c’mon LR3]). Scale image to 100%, use Home and Page Down keys to scan whole file, looking for BHL and chromatic aberration.
When you find one, play with pixels and details in Edge Glow – can you reduce this irritating low-quality image situation?

Corner Points
Click on BHL with cursor; this places a mark on Curves section of Local Adaptation. The manual’s Corner Point description sucks (any surprises here?) But, that does not stop you from playing around with nonlinearity corner point creates. For example, set the curve point, then make it a corner point. If you move it to the left, you darken the BHL. Neat, eh? Just don’t overdo it…
You can also lighten some shadows and darks by simply clicking the curve and moving that point up. I find it pays to click where I have a particularly pesky dark; that adds more control to the lightening process (and does it with nonlinear curves control since HDR Toning is 32 bits).
BTW, although CS5 has been out 2 months, there are very few, if any, tutorials which talk about the process of converting a 32 bit file to 16 bits. I have not found any dealing with corner points, although I have been experimenting and find them quite useful.

When ALL Else Fails – Use Spot Healing with Content Aware Fill
Simply zoom to 600% (you can see individual pixels), choose Spot Healing, turn on Content Aware Fill, sample all layers, then go to town…
Simply add an adjustment layer above the background, then, holding down Alt key, choose a representative area near, but not on HBL, and begin Spot Healing. Representative area – a region whose color and saturation is slightly below that of your HBL. The [ and ] bracket keys let you quickly change brush size. I usually choose a small spot for my healing region, then increase brush size during the healing process. A Wacom pen tablet, with its more delicately controlled brush placement using the pen, comes in extremely handy for this step…
I am amazed at the awesome power of Content Aware Healing – one quick way to reduce those pesky HBLs so your images will pass state fair judge critiques with flying colors.
AT 600%, some of BHL consists of a few pixels of different colors with high intensity (local specular highlights). I chose Spot Healing, a background color not in direct light as my source, then carefully penned Content Aware Fill changes onto blown high lights. Occasionally, I found a few strokes would reduce the region to a more appetizing gold without specular effects. Truly, it was as if I was painting with a magic brush…

Photoshop CS5, HDR Pro, Lightroom 3, Spot Healing, Content Aware Fill, Fixing Blown HDR Highlights

This composite image shows before and after Spot Healing… while I could not control BHL w LR3, CS% did a superb job!


Jul 5, 2010

Lava Falls from Toroweap, Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon, Toroweap, Lava Falls, HDR Pro, Lightroom 3

OF Equality—As if it harm’d me, giving others the same chances and rights as myself — As if it were not indispensable to my own rights that others possess the same.
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 1900

When standing on imperious ramparts,
Breathing clean, fresh air,
Letting your soul fly free,
As your eye simply tries
Encompassing all piquant visions...

There are precious times when freedom and equality transcend mundane daily life. One such time occurred for me as evening’s light reached probative arms deep into the Grand Canyon, gliding down ancient lava flows, bouncing off vertically sculptured cliffs, with one gorgeous ray illuminating river and green of life at Lava Falls, as if a blessing.
Except for three photographers, Toroweap Point was devoid of people. Not so beauty! Subtle intermingling of light and shadow strategically emphasized the river and this particular falls – to transcend an ephemeral moment.
Yet, my eye flattened some points and de-emphasized some marked piquancy light’s tricks played, whether direct or reflected. I would need a steady tripod and full range capture in HDR mode to ingest full beauty.

Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom 3
Technology, created by humans, is not all equal.
When I began addressing Lava Falls, I had Photomatix, Bridge, and HDR Pro. Let me go on record - I'm not a devotee of Bridge. It's simply too cumbersome and rather limited, although I can use a less fluid version of Adobe Camera Raw. Nevertheless, I tried both HDR Pro and Photomatix paths for HDR. Unfortunately, I couldn't get what my eye recalled.
With Lightroom 3 and new Adobe Camera Raw 6.1, not only will the tools add range more conveniently, they let me clearly delineate Lava Falls in this awesome fine art image.

Dust Spots and Four Corners Capture
For just a moment, I'm going to rail against equality...
It's hard to shoot in Western United States deserts without getting dust spots on your sensor. When using Bridge, to try to remove dust spots, I found it difficult to recall exactly where that spot was after processing several tens of photos (Yep, the old brain was tired).
It's hard to shoot full range HDR without collecting noise in negative EV shots.
Yet LR3 provides a simple although not so straightforward path to quickly resolve multiple issues such as noise reduction, spot removal, and sharpening.

LR3, Noise Reduction, Sharpening, and Spot Removal – All in One
In a recent blog, I commented on Tom Hogarty's view regarding the new noise reduction algorithms in LR3. Under Detail, Sharpening and Noise Reduction have associated panels.
Here's my preferred LR3 workflow...
1. Zoom image to 200% [repeated Ctrl +).
2. Click Home key (takes you to upper left corner).
3. Check out Luminance Noise (move the slider right until noise goes away).
4. Under Presets, choose Sharpening-Narrow Edges (Scenics).
5. Zoom image to Fill [repeated Ctrl -).
6. Hold down Alt key.
7. Move Masking slider right to a value of about 5.
8. Check out the sky for round dust spots
9. Click Spot Removal Tool, size properly, and place over a dust spot.
10. Click to remove dust spot (repeat at will until you have a clean sky).
11. Repeat the 200% zoom, carefully examining all aspects of your photo before you leave (you may find chromatic aberration or fringing as well).

Light’s Freedom
While light is not evenly spread across Lava Falls, subtle slashes of light bounce off near lava crests, pointing to the southern cliff. Some of that light bounces across the river, giving a reddish cast to the reflecting northern cliff mid-ground.
But, it's the combination of light and shadows on the river which makes this shot. At the falls, a few light ridges (right) lead the eye to the fall, but the dark cliff beyond makes the eye bounce to the river below the falls.
The combination of light and dark cliffs, bisected by direct and reflected light on the tantalizing river, creates an equality in this image.
In essence, it’s lights freedom to go where it can and as it wishes which creates depth, power, and piquancy for Lava Falls...

Jul 4, 2010

Canyon’s Sentinel

4th of July, Grand Canyon, Toroweap, Canyon's Sentinel

“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal…”
T. Jefferson, 1776.

With dawn’s quiet panoply of color done, the silent canyon was coming alive. Sitting on the Grand Canyon’s edge before dawn, still silence brought deep peace. Only a faint ribbon of light faintly reflected from the Colorado River far below.
The freedom to wander, to seek beauty at one’s choosing, to revel in a national treasure as another day’s light began its subtle, yet seemingly too rapid changes – these freedoms are almost a self evident tone poem of inordinate beauty.

With the sun up, back to Toroweap’s camp. Collapse tripod, stow camera, begin trek. Away from the canyon edge, dawn’s silence was no longer. A lizard here, scurrying for perceived safety. A couple of deer there, disappearing over the nearby ridge as hooves clacked on rock.

Not quite at the edge, yet standing in nearby majesty – the rare yucca. A dash of yellow, a sharp tincture of green, a stately form – with gear out again, the yucca strategically bisected distant, shadowed canyon walls adding a simple elegance. Click, click, click …HDR images quickly buffered home. A moment of time freely captured…

Whether subtle yet full color, symbolic majesty, or just fine art – Canyon’s Sentinel signifies our 4th of July celebration of freedom and the many indelible honors time has awarded our country. To walk freely; to shoot without censure; to revel at will in such natural beauty _even to be able to blog your feelings on such a historic day_ all are inalienable rights we fight and stand for.
Perhaps Canyon’s Sentinel is a wonderful fulfillment of Jefferson’s memorable words, “…all men are created equal!”

May you always walk in such freedoms…

Jul 3, 2010

Lightroom 3 Podcast - Worth a 2nd Listen

Lightroom 3 Release, Hogarty Podcast, Camera Dojo

Yesterday, returning along twisty Jemez Mountain roads, I was listening to Tom Hogarty discuss LR3 roll out. Granted – this podcast was taped the day of LR3 release; but it’s worth a couple listens if you want to use LR3 to its fullest potential.
What impressed me was how well Hogarty communicated the Lightroom crew's excitement about this new release. Though I had listened once before, I found it refreshing to hear these points clarified once again. Particularly, since I just installed LR3 on the studio PC this morning and need to play ‘catch up’!

Having just used Bridge CS5 for a few weeks, I am really looking forward to easy work flow in LR3. It will help me get some remaining Arizona/Utah images tuned and then on to my granddaughter’s shots. She was acting as intrepid back country explorer and fearless mountain lion challenger yesterday (fortunately, none appeared – although they were reported in the region)…


Jul 1, 2010

Lightroom 3 and Booksmart - Integrating Technology

Adobe Lightroom 3 and Blurb Booksmart 2.8

It’s a blog called Blurberati – you can translate it with a new advanced technology sense.
Image left – a Mac screen with LR3 image being developed.  Image right – a Blurb hard cover book with images produced by LR3.

In between – a video which covers
1.    Getting Started w Booksmart
2.    Book Creation Guide
3.    Design Tips and Techniques

That’s about an hour of free video training.  I have not watched the video yet. 
But, since video training is the big trend with CS5, LR3, and Booksmart, I expect it to be another step up on my ladder of photographic learning.

The Result
Simpler, more direct connection between companies who are hooking different software packages together to allow users to simplify workflow.  My first pass at Booksmart was 3 years ago.  I got LR2 2 years ago.  I just loaded LR3 yesterday.
Seems destiny and demand are pointing to solutions which allow intelligent users to simplify, simplify, simplify – rather than charge headlong into a piece of software which has not quite reached minimum maturity.  I’m 3 computers beyond that initial Blurb experience and don’t have present access to those ‘ancient’ files stored on an inactive 2tb backup device.

Here’s the link

Photography Book Now
It’s all part of promoting Photography Book Now – a contest which closes July 15.  Two jurors, Fahey and Smith, exalt their favorite photography books.  On 22 June, Bluberaqti posted 10 advanced tricks for using Blurb to create your own award-winning book…

You can get Booksmart here...