Posts tagged “photoshop

Kauai Silhouette

Image

I was experimenting with silhouettes early one morning in Kauai, HI.  The camera was triggered with a wireless shutter release (was thankful I didn’t have to scramble back and forth through the sand and rocks using the self-timer).  I’m sure that someone thinks that there’s only one right way to shoot silhouettes but my preference is to error on the side of slightly overexposing relative to a completely black silhouette.  This varies based on the background but I want to make sure to get enough detail in the non-silhouetted portions of the photo.  Of course I could composite multiple exposures but I find it simpler to use Lightroom and/or Photoshop to reduce the exposure in the appropriate areas to get a complete silhouette if that’s what I’m after.  Often there’s no need for this extra work though — I usually can get I what I want in-camera (I did with this one).  Shooting brackets isn’t a bad idea either if you’re unsure.  The textures were added via OnOne Perfect Photo Suite.


Lady Cougars 2012

For the second year in a row I’ve taken pictures for my daughters’ volleyball team.  The individual shots were pretty much a piece of cake and they turned out great.  The set up for those involved spreading a neutral-colored paint tarp on the floor to eliminate the red glow on the girls’ skin, standing the girls on a stool, setting up one speedlight (triggered with Elinchrom Skyports) shooting through a white umbrella for the key light, a strobe flashing the gym behind the girls to add light to the background, posing them with a volleyball, and firing away.  These went very quickly as there was no change in setup between each girl.  The gym is horrible for pictures but was workable for these individual shots.

We also goofed with some dramatic shots with the girls looking serious and got the shot above.  The main light is the same speedlight-thru-umbrella held nearly on axis with the camera (slightly toward high camera left).  The back light is simply a speedlight plopped on the floor.  These took longer to get the girls set and posed, and as you see above, we never got the posing or the spacing quite right.  We didn’t have all day so I had to take what I could get as they say.  There are lots of photographic flaws but the girls and parents are plenty happy with the pic, which is what really counts.

I did some basic processing in Lightroom then headed to Photoshop to grunge out and darken the background (mostly with curves), do some very minor edits and retouching, noise reduction, and add the text.


Storm Panorama

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/7579390824/in/photostream

Storm Panorama 70mm, f/5.6, 1/180s, ISO 200, 10 frames

It’s pouring rain again tonight.  Lots of lightning and thunder too…awesome.  Last night after the rain I noticed some clouds to the east so I shot about 20 handheld frames along the horizon.  The above image was cropped from the resulting stitched panorama (probably about 10 frames worth).  I did some basic contrast adjustments in Photoshop after the stitch then went back into Lightroom.  I’d recently seen a very cool cloud/lightning image done in black and white and decided to go that route with this one.  I used the channel mixer in Lightroom to adjust the image to taste.  In very rough terms that meant darkening the blues and brightening the reds.


Take Me Out To The Ballgame

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/7162405578/in/photostream

Fenway Park in HDR, 17mm, f/13, 3-exp, ISO 100

Here’s another view of Fenway Park which I processed as an HDR.  I took a bunch of pictures around the place a few weeks ago and am only now getting around to looking at most of them.  The back of the scoreboard provides a nice main subject IMO.  Ideally I would have gotten the foreground people at full height (i.e. head-to-toe) in these shots but my lens wasn’t capable of that at this tripod height (and I didn’t like the perspective with the tripod all the way down near the ground). I took lots of exposures (range of 7-9 stops…can’t remember) but only used three of them for this image.  Why only three?  Because I don’t mind a few blown-out highlights where “appropriate” and I certainly don’t mind shadows without detail.  In fact, my number one criticism of HDRs is that many people process them in a way which brings out far too much detail in the shadows and eliminates too many of the blacks.

Processing…After running the three exposures through Nik HDR Efex Pro I brought the image into Photoshop with the three original exposures.  I only ended up using two exposures: One for partially blending in the sky to help keep the colors reasonable-ish and the other one was masked in for the street and people (after an exposure tweak).  As always I used several masked curves adjustment layers (in luminosity blend mode because this image had plenty of color saturation already).  The jet contrail bugs me but I’d make a mess of it if I tried to clone it out.  Since I was standing below the sign and using a wide-angle lens the perspective (tilt on the sides) was rather extreme.  A quick free transform was used to stretch out the top corners of the image somewhat.  I didn’t attempt to eliminate all the distortion of course.  After this type of stretching with a free transform, the height of things (the people in particular) gets a bit squashed so I used a reverse crop and another free transform to stretch the image vertically and bring the people back to normal.  Maybe I’ll do a poor-man’s tutorial (the only kind I have the skills for) showing those steps in an upcoming post.


Boston Skyline…Blue Hour

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/7116298547/in/photostream

Boston Skyline At Blue Hour 23mm, f/8, 6 exp, ISO 100

Last weekend, after spending the day touring Boston, I walked across the pedestrian bridge (near the left side of the above image) next to Seaport Blvd which connects downtown to the old seaport district.  The bridge is part of the South Bay Harbor Trail.  I stopped for dinner and waited for the sun to set behind the city.  As I neared this photo spot I found that four photographers were already sitting there — tripods and cameras already set up.  I walked toward them and without a word stopped 10′ in front of them and pretended to set up my tripod.  Silence.  After a few seconds I turned and said I was just kidding and relieved laughter set in.  I asked if it was OK to set up just behind them and they were nice enough to extend an offer to make room in the middle of them if I wanted (I just set up behind and above them).

My intent was to bracket a bunch of exposures as it got darker using f/22 to get a starburst effect.  I switched to f/8 because (1) I really wasn’t getting much of that effect, (2) f/8 is good and sharp, and (3) my exposures were getting longer than 30 seconds and I was too lazy to start timing the exposures manually even though I was using a remote 🙂  White balance was set to daylight.  That’s somewhat arbitrary since I always shoot in RAW but it helps keep things consistent when viewed in the LCD.  I included a couple of straight-out-of-the-camera exposures below so you can see a sample of what I was working with.

On my flight home I plugged six exposures into Nik HDR Efex Pro.  My personal default is to use the realistic-subtle preset as a starting point 99% of the time and I tweak a bit in Nik.  Tweaking and saving complete, I took the Nik output into Photoshop along with a couple of the darker exposures and masked in a few spots which were still over-exposed after the HDR junk.  I toned down the colors in the water and burned the sidewalk darker a bit (more on the dodging and burning below).  Relative to colors, I did want an “HDR look” to this image but I sometimes find the reflections and colors on the water to be a bit overdone for my taste in these skyline shots.  I also dropped the overall saturation by 20 points to bring it back to realistic colors as tools like Nik HDR Efex Pro and Photomatix tend to saturate everything a lot.

Finally, since the perspective wasn’t too bad I decided to fix it by stretching out the top corners a bit and aligning the buildings with rulers to make them more upright on the edges (the SOOC images above do not have that correction).  If you do too big of an edit like this it can degrade the image but it’s fine for this one.  The final image turned out crisp and sharp at high resolution.

This screenshot shows my dodging and burning layer.  A trick I learned watching a Joe Brady video (something about Photoshop for landscapes sponsored by Xrite) is to create a new layer, fill it with 50% gray, then dodge and burn on that with black/white.  There’s no real need for that but the layer gives you a visual to show where you’re doing your adjustments.


Multiples

The shot above didn’t turn out quite as cool as I’d hoped but it’s fun nonetheless.  While out on a photo walk on the University of Texas campus I set up my camera on my tripod as the photographer crowd gathered on the steps of the UT Tower.  As people milled around I captured shots in a semi-regular cadence.  My idea was to capture people in different positions and mask them together in Photoshop.  When I uploaded my photos to my computer it turned out that I really didn’t capture enough frames.  For example, look at the guy in the red jacket.  He probably wandered all around the scene but in reality I only capture him in a few spots.  There are a couple of people who did appear in widely varied positions around the scene.

The photo above was captured at the base of the UT Tower, a prominent 307-foot building on the University of Texas campus.  A couple other views of the UT Tower are shown below.


Filters And Layers

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/6967631567/in/photostream/

Twirl

Another post written on a plane between Austin and Seattle the other night…I like this WordPress post scheduling thing…

A few months ago I tried out a new “technique” (for lack of a better word) to create the image above.  I used — with some tweaks along the way — this tutorial at Digital Darkroom Techniques.  You may or may not find the actual image interesting (I only like *some* things about it) but the method to create it may be of interest to you — and you can tweak/customize it to your heart’s content.  It came to mind to post about this when I saw a similar image last week.  The creator of that image didn’t mention where they got their inspiration but I immediately thought of my image above.

My starting image was the one below, which happened to be sitting around on my desktop when I decided to try out the steps laid out in the tutorial.  You can read about how I made the starting image HERE.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/6821511114/in/photostream

Blue Hour Baseball

I won’t go into any details on the steps involved since the tutorial does a fine job of explaining it.  Try it out, try changing things up with respect to which filters/angles/layers you use, and if you don’t mind, put a link to your results in the comments.


Two of My Boys: Bokeh Panorama

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/6772922676/in/photostream/lightbox/

Two of My Boys: Bokeh Panorama 50mm, f/1.4, 1/640s, ISO 100,14 frames...sort of

[Update: Here’s another try at it]

This evening I photographed my youngest boys in the backyard with the goal of trying out something called the Brenizer Method, or bokeh panorama.  I first heard of it in a post by Brandon Brasseaux. The goal of the Brenizer Method is to create an image with extremely shallow depth of field.  If I were to take the shot above using a single frame I would either (1) use a very wide-angle lens or (2) use a “normal” lens and stand far back from the scene.  In either case it would be difficult to get much bokeh in the image.  I’ll let you consult a depth-of-field calculator for the exact details but suffice it to say that the wide-angle lens — even at an aperture of f/1.8 — doesn’t result in much bokeh when focused at any reasonable distance.  A lens like I was using in this shot — a 50mm f/1.4 — would require such a long focus distance (i.e. I’d have to stand so far back) that the depth of field would large enough to eliminate a lot of bokeh.  The Brenizer Method uses multiple frames to form the image — using a much shorter focus distance resulting in much shallower depth of field than if you shot one frame standing further from the subject.

The process goes as follows: Instead of standing far away, stand close (I roughly filled the frame with the two boys).  I used an aperture of f/1.4 to get the shallowest depth of field and set a shutter speed in manual mode to keep the exposure consistent in all the frames (I also set the camera to daylight white balance).  I prefocused on the boys and switched the lens to manual focus.  The first frame I took was the one with the boys in it (took many tries to get something decent).  I then let them run off and proceeded to shoot overlapping frames (with the camera in the same location) of the rest of the scene you see above.  I used 14 straight-out-of-the-camera frames to stitch the panorama in Photoshop but in the end I cropped the image quite a bit. It took all of two minutes to shoot the frames, even with the boys’ goofing off.  Since my goal was to try out the method itself, I didn’t stress about background, lens flare, etc.

After stitching I warmed the image a bit, added vignette, tweaked the exposure/clarity on the boys, and removed some of the color fringing on the branches so it wasn’t *so* prominent.  Pretty simple stuff.  I want to try more of these but next time I’ll find a prettier background.  I believe I’ve given enough info for one to start playing with it but if not, an internet search will turn up a lot more information in a hurry.

Here’s a link to posts by the man behind it all: http://www.ryanbrenizer.com/category/brenizer-method/


Shattered Reflections…and Curves Adjustment Layers

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/6907108389/in/photostream

Shattered Reflection 50mm, f/5.6, 1/25s, ISO 400

My daughter and I were on a walk in downtown Austin today and ran across this shattered glass in a door.  I snapped a shot of my reflected portrait.  I had a mind to see what I could bring out of it using Photoshop’s curves layers.  I knew from past experience that curves could do some cool stuff to images like this.

The images at the bottom of the post were taken inside the decommissioned Seaholm Power Plant in Austin (posts about that here and here and here).  The blown-out spots in the original image are from bright daylight coming in through windows on the opposite side of the building.  Inspired by David Nightingale’s tutorials on creating dramatic images, I experimented with all sorts of wacky curves and masks.  With some of those wacky curves adjustments the blown-out spots really created problems so in the end I just cropped them out.  The final image is rather abstract — the hand is obvious but the camera, tripod, and my body are there but not completely obvious.  There are a few issues (knuckles on the hand for example) but it’s fun nonetheless.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/6900307241/in/photostream

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/6900304467/in/photostream/

Seaholm Power Plant Door, after curves adjustments

Back to the images at the top of the post.  You may already know that curves adjustments can cause a color shift depending on the blend mode of the layer.  I took advantage of this to bring out a bunch of color in this image.  It would have been nice if I’d been wearing something other than a black jacket but I didn’t exactly plan this in advance.  The adjustments on this image were just a strong s-curve and a combination of curves which lightened/darkened the midtones — all in normal blend mode and masked a bit here and there.  Some selective sharpening, noise reduction, and a small bit of overall saturation were added.


Fire Dancer…Capturing Motion

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/6833628735/in/photostream/

Fire Dancer 50mm, f/7.1, 1/15s, ISO 1600

My wife and I (and several in her family) attended a luau while in Hawaii last week.  I have no idea what an old traditional luau was like or how authentic the festivities were but in any case it was immensely enjoyable.  Knowing that the main show would be after dark, I fitted my camera with my 50mm f/1.4 lens.  Night photography has never been something I’ve been good at (maybe that can be said about all my photography 🙂 ).  I’m always going back and forth with myself on the best combination for getting good exposures — shutter/aperture/ISO.  Noise is always a consideration (not so much now that one of my bodies is a 5D Mkii).

For much of this show I wanted to mostly freeze the motion (like in the second shot above) so I shot in manual mode with an aperture between 1.4 and 2.8, shutter speed in the 1/500s – 1/640s range, and ISO 1600-3200 (the stage lighting varied from act to act and I tweaked settings accordingly).  Depth of field wasn’t much of an issue because my focus point was quite far.  However, I also spent time trying to capture some of the motion in the dances.  I was shooting handheld so I did have to consider that when deciding how long to open the shutter.  I played around with various shutter speeds and came out with some fun shots.  For the fire shots I had hoped to be able to reduce the exposure enough to avoid blowing out the highlights of the flames completely but in doing so I ended up underexposing everything else much more than I liked.  In the shot above I like the balance between capturing motion in the flame yet keeping some clarity in the dancer.  Some shots blurred things more (see image below) and that’s interesting in its own right but I prefer the balance in the shot at the top of the post.

Processing was quite simple for all these shots.  I shot with daylight white balance so that I effectively captured the colors consistently.  The color turned out rather well.  I used a bit of clarity and sometimes bumped the exposure up a hair in Lightroom.  Finally, I exported from Lightroom with a preset that ran the images through a noise reduction action (using Noiseware) in Photoshop.


Squished Portrait

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/6738817263/in/photostream

Squished Portrait 20mm, f/6.7, 1/20s, ISO 200

Another quick one in this post…still really busy.  The Cloud Gate sculpture in Chicago (aka “The Bean”) is just like a fun house mirror with infinite possibilities as far as my children are concerned.  We took a lot of group/self portraits on our last visit to Millennium Park and I’m sure this won’t be the last one I post.  I put this one through all sorts of tweaks in Lightroom in an attempt to highlight the subjects (us) and to bring out the various fingerprints, dirt, streaks, and distortion on the sculpture.  I pulled the image into Photoshop and tweaked some colors here and there (to mute them a bit).  I used Topaz Adjust to do some wild-ish things on a duplicate layer and blended that into most of the image at about 30% opacity.  Finally I used selective (via masks) sharpening and noise reduction to touch it up.


Borrowed Brackets

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/6720634945/in/photostream

St. Charles Church, Vienna

Remember Google Buzz? A few years ago a guy named Leo Teles shared some bracketed shots for folks to process into an HDR. I don’t have a link to the original images despite trying an image search on google but I linked to his photoblog above.

On my flight to San Francisco Monday I processed Leo’s brackets just for grins while taking a break from reading The Red Badge of Courage on my little iPhone screen…didn’t spend a ton of time on it.  I did go for the ominous look — dark sky, deep shadows in the little nooks and crannies of the building.

Processing was started in Photomatix, then I did a series of curves adjustments in Photoshop to tweak “this and that”.  Noise reduction was done on the sky and I selectively sharpened many areas.  With more time (maybe on my flight back to Austin later this week???) I would spend time getting the whole sky to a more homogenous blue hue (making the whole sky dark).  I would also balance out the exposure of the building — Photomatix makes the building itself rather “blotchy” for lack of a better word.


Replacing Color In Photoshop

Portrait, Color Replaced

Portrait, Color Replaced

I recently posted our Thanksgiving Day family portrait and today wanted to show how I modified it.  The only direction I gave to the family for the picture was “wear something solid-ish on top, and something denim on the bottom”.  As you see in the picture at this link, we all ended up in rather muted colors except my youngest son who had a bright yellow shirt on.  I was busy thinking about how to add fill to the shot, position us reasonably without taking all day to do it, etc. (I should have spent a bit more time on the positioning).  So, when the bright yellow shirt was pointed out to me I thought to myself, “Whatever…it won’t matter”.  Of course, when editing the photos it bugged me to death and I wished I had changed it.

The solution?  Photoshop’s “Replace Color” adjustment.  I used the tutorial linked below as a starting point to learn about it and experimented from there.  Other than choosing the new color, the key setting for me was the “fuzziness”.  This determines how aggressive the automatic selection is.  What I found is that because of the variation in saturation throughout the shirt I had to slide the fuzziness way up which causes other parts of the image to also be selected (trying to automatically select the shirt’s colors reveals how much variation is really there).  I thought the checkbox for ‘Localized Color Clusters” (not shown in the tutorial but exists in CS5 at least) would help minimize the selection but I didn’t see a lot of difference once the the fuzziness was increased much. I also used the +/- eye droppers to add/subtract from the selection. Finally I needed a bit of manual masking to only change the shirt and not other areas of the image.  Something which is more solid in color would far easier to use this tool with.  The resulting photo is above — a 5-minute edit.  I will probably do another version and use a color picked from someone else’s shirt so that it matches even better with the rest of us.  When I look at the new image I kind of think it doesn’t look right because *I* know that I made the edit but in my brief survey of people who didn’t know about it, not a single person noticed anything.

Here’s the link to the tutorial I started with.


Old Tractor, Montana Ranch

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/6012655655/in/photostream/

Old Tractor, Montana Ranch 25mm, f/13, 7 exposures

My wife and I just enjoyed a four-day weekend in Montana’s Stillwater County with four other couples (I’ll post a picture of this fantastically good-looking group soon).  While out wandering among the ranches early one morning I spotted this rusty old tractor just off the highway.  Dramatic skies + rusty tractor + twisted barbed wire + broken fence  posts = great HDR scene.

I shot seven exposures to capture the entire dynamic range.  Since I generally like to leave some deep shadows in my HDRs I probably could have done without the brightest exposure.  Likewise with the darkest exposure…not *sure* that I needed it but I shot it anyway.

After tonemapping in Photomatix I fired up Photoshop with the intent of doing the usual blending with the original exposures and adjusting with curves.  The image had a bit too much color saturation for my taste and as I tried different methods to tone that down I got the idea to turn this into an antique-ish photo.  So, I used a channel mixer adjustment layer and tweaked to take almost all the color out, my new goal being to make it look like a photo that had been sitting under the glass on someone’s desk for fifty years.  Five curves layers/masks were used and noise was reduced in the sky.  All it needs IMO is a leather-skinned farmer leaning on the wheel with a blade of grass stuck in his mouth.


Sotol Vista Overlook, Big Bend National Park

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/5813729402/in/photostream

Sotol Vista Overlook, Big Bend National Park 24mm, f/22, (bracketed shutter speed), ISO 100

Photographers wish they could take all their pictures during the golden light of sunrise and sunset but for those of us far south of the polar circle (in the northern hemisphere of course) those are very brief moments in time.  During my recent trip I wanted to make the most of my available time so I photographed what interested me regardless of the quality of light.  Even the “poor” pictures make for good memories.  Adding to the problem of harsh sunlight was a very thick haze.  I don’t know if was related to the heat or possibly due to smoke from wildfires, but it was a problem for pictures.

One afternoon we stopped at the Sotol Vista Overlook to take some pictures.  This desert overlook is roughly halfway between the Chisos Mountains and the Rio Grande along Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive.  The small gap in the horizon is Santa Elena Canyon — 14 miles as the crow flies according to a sign posted here.  Looks tiny but the canyon walls rise up to 1500′ above the river per the park service’s website.  I bracketed a bunch of scenes and hoped for the best.  I came up with this 6-exposure HDR (the first HDR I’ve done in quite a while) and I rather like it, especially considering the harsh light and haze.  I made attempts at processing single frames but the dynamic range was way too large (I don’t own an ND graduated filter — yet — else I would have made use of it here).

Processing consisted of tonemapping in Photomatix, an s-curve, sharpening, noise reduction, and a slight color tweak with the channel mixer in Photoshop.  I didn’t do any blending with the original exposures.


Cloud Angel In The Night Sky

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/5810101541/in/photostream

Could Angel In The Night Sky 10mm, f/3.5, 30s, ISO 400

Last summer I took my 6 year old son camping for the weekend at Padre Island National Seashore (PINS…see this post, and this post).  I didn’t do a lot of photography but managed a few shots to document the weekend.

The night shot that I recently posted from Big Bend National Park brought to mind some of the pictures I took at night at PINS.  The shot above had some really cool clouds and it looked to me like an angel with its wings spread across the ocean (kind of sappy I know).  The surf is always pounding down there but I like how the long exposure gives the Gulf a smooth look.

I can’t explain why, but the view of the stars from the beach is every bit as clear and amazing as the view in the middle of west Texas (which has some of the darkest skies in the US).  Depending where you are on the beach you may be as close as 15 miles from Corpus Christi — a decently-sized metro area of about 430,000 people according to wikipedia.  There’s a lot of glow from the city but on a cloudless night the Milky Way is as clear as ever (looks like clouds in the sky).  Obviously this picture was taken with a bright moon which kills much of the view of the stars so there were no Milky Way pictures that night.

My goal was to make this image rather dramatic given the cloud formation and the processing steps to get there were rather simple.  In Lightroom I removed a couple of stars within the angel shape with the spot removal tool.  They detracted from the aesthetics of the overall image because they were too bright. [My opinion is that one is free to do this kind of thing as long as they don’t dishonestly portray the final result as 100% accurate].  Then in Photoshop I used the channel mixer to tone the image to a blue-ish monochrome — I didn’t want a straight black and white image.  [David Nightingale’s tutorials have inspired a lot of experimentation with things like the channel mixer and with “dramatic” images in general]. I used a vibrance adjustment to back off on the blue a bit (couldn’t quite figure out the channel mixer settings to get the color just how I wanted it).  I added one general s-curve and then another curve masked in to provide a touch of vignette.  Some noise reduction and sharpening for the stars topped that off the Photoshop work.  Once I was back in Lightroom I tweaked the color a tiny bit more because I wasn’t quite satisfied upon a second look.


Playing Jack-in-the-Box

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/5682099125/in/photostream/

Playing Jack-in-the-Box 50mm, f/2.5, 1/200s, ISO 400

My daughter watched someone’s children at our house tonight and while we were all playing around with them I decided to get the camera out and see if I could capture a few cute pictures for this girl’s mother.  This little girl was entertaining me with the jack-in-the-box while I laid on my belly in front of her snapping pictures.  This was a really cute shot but I ran into one problem.  I was shooting with 50mm lens and an on-camera flash with a 1/4 CTO gel bounced up and slightly behind me.  That setup was producing great images until I ended up in a spot on the floor near our (very) red recliners.  The back of the recliner sloped back such that when I rolled up against it the flash pointed directly up into the red cloth.  Well, that made for a VERY pink child — no recovering from that without a lot of work in post and I doubt that I could have actually pulled it off.

So, I decided to go B+W with the image and ended up finding a great Lightroom preset called “WOW Glow 10” which produced a grayscale image that was very pleasing.  It was certainly better than I was coming up with doing my own B+W conversion with the channel mixer in Photoshop.  I added some sharpening around the eyes, boosted contrast in the eyes with an s-curve, added a heavy vignette, a slight crop, and that was it.  I have some ideas for improvement (I’ve been going through David Nightingale’s tutorials and have all sorts of ideas now) but IMO this is a great result for a 5-minute photo shoot and 5-minute edit.  I’ll probably play around with some toning via curves when I get the chance but otherwise might just call this one done.


Shells and Curves

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/5669314279/in/photostream

Shells (right side shows post-curves adjustment) 70mm, f/6.7, 1/500s ISO 100

[Update: The photo above is a single photo were I masked in the original on the left side then drew lines as boundaries]

Padre Island National Seashore (PINS) is a favorite place for me and my sons.  There are over 60 miles worth of beach on which to camp, fish, and explore.  At the south end — 63 miles from the nearest paved road — the beach dead ends at the jetty protecting the Port Mansfield channel.  On the other side of the channel is South Padre Island.  The fact that 90% of this beach is only accessible by 4-wheel drive vehicles keeps it relatively unpopulated and generally one can set up a camp site which is out of view of any campers to the north and the south.  You get a couple miles of empty beach to play on.  One sad note is that there tends to be a lot of trash due to this being sort of a focal point for the Gulf currents.  On the bright side, some of the huge items which wash up would make for cool HDR.  Can’t wait to go back soon.

One of my younger son’s favorite stretches of beach consists of more shells than sand (pictured above).  There are sections of beach referred to as “Little Shell” and “Big Shell” because of this fact.  A shell hunter’s dream.  That son spends hours picking up shells and deciding which to add to his collection.

On the photo front I’ve been experimenting with curves more and I decided to play with some old shots taken along PINS.  The picture of the shells was processed in Photoshop with a single s-shaped curves layer in normal mode — no other adjustments.  Amazing how significant the change is.  It’s not that I didn’t already know what an s-curve would do in general but I didn’t expect that much improvement from such a simple thing.  I would probably tweak the final image a bit further to expose it and saturate colors slightly more but I show it as-is here to illustrate the effect of that one simple curves adjustment.  Sometimes a simple, unheralded type of edit works as well or better as our expensive Topaz/Nik/Whatever software packages.

Experiment for yourself.  Check out David Nightingale’s work and free basic curves tutorial too — he does amazing things with curves.


Locked Door, Seaholm Power Plant

Posting a couple HDRs from the recent HDR Mafia photo shoot at Seaholm Power Plant.  This door was at the top of a stairwell where I had hoped to gain access to the crane in the main turbine room.  The crane door was locked as was this door which would have provided roof access.  Fortunately we had access to the roof via other means but we never did get access to the crane.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/5620133772/

Locked Door, Color, Seaholm Power Plant 14mm, f/22, ???s, ISO 100

Both images were tonemapped in Photomatix (6-7 exposures…don’t remember) then processed mostly via curves in Photoshop.  I probably could have used only two exposures and gotten all the image information but I didn’t bother playing with that.  The black and white version was simply a matter of adding a B+W adjustment layer to the image and tweaking the red and yellow adjustment.  The color image used a series of masked curves, some of which were only applied to the red and/or blue channels.  The lighting was actually relatively flat in the original exposures and I used curves to bring out the shadows more.  The starburst in the keyhole was obtained by using an aperture of f/22.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/5620126644/in/photostream

Locked Door, B+W, Seaholm Power Plant 14mm, f/22, ???s, ISO 100

I’m not sure whether I like the color or B+W version better.


Trying Out the Lab Color Space

This past weekend was the first time in five weekends that I was in town.  I was going to get all sorts of work done around the house, etc and catch up on things.  Photography was still going to be relegated to the wish list — no time for that.  Well, Thursday night I started to feel a bit under the weather and by Friday morning I was out-and-out ill.  I ended up in bed throughout this weekend and one of the things I did (when not in a complete fog) was watch a few videos on kelbytraining.com.  I got to do *something* related to photography at least.

Being the geek that I am, I watched a few videos on the Lab color space done by a guy named Dan Margulis.  Lab is a color space (like RGB for example) which uses three channels:  ‘L’ for luminosity, ‘a’ for green/magenta, and ‘b’ for blue/yellow.  I won’t even try to explain when and why one might want to use the Lab color space but I will attempt a poor-man’s explanation of one use I’ve already found for Lab with the help of Mr. Margulis.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/5111031593/

Touching Up Highlights in the Lab Color Space

The portrait above-left was taken on a bright, sunny day in Vancouver’s Stanley Park.  Note the blown-out highlights on the forehead and nose.  No amount of curves, saturation, or other adjustments would bring the proper color back to those spots.  The only real option is to paint color in if you really want the color back.  The way you’d generally do this is to sample a nearby color in the skin (option-click when you have the paintbrush tool open in Photoshop) and paint over the area.  The main problem with this is that your “paint” covers every pixel — better make sure you don’t paint over any of the areas you want to keep (those areas with non-blown-out colors and textures).  One way to prevent this is to paint on another layer and use the ‘color’ blend mode which will add color but keep the existing texture.  The problem with this?  In RGB, adding color to something already blown-out will simply remain blown-out.

If you convert your layer to Lab (I’m not going to attempt to explain the exact mechanics because I’ll surely leave out something important), you can paint while using color blend mode and the color “sticks”.  This is essentially because Lab has a much larger color gamut than RGB.  One way of saying it is that in Lab space there exists a color which is blown-out (from a luminosity standpoint) but still has a color value.  Your first thought might be, “Don’t you lose that color when you convert back to RGB eventually?”.  Nope.  And that’s just the way it works — Photoshop doesn’t know that the Lab colors you painted in were blown-out highlights.  It just sees a color that it has to make a best guess about converting back to RGB.

It’s very subtle, but in the above-right image you can see that I added a touch of color to the blown-out spots on the forehead and nose, and to the right ear and forehead above the right eye.  There are still highlights, but they are no longer brilliant white.

Here’s another example.  In this sunset silhouette taken in Corpus Christi, TX there’s a huge blown-out area in the sky.  In RGB you could paint some color in very carefully — being sure to avoid the buildings, etc.  In Lab, I simply painted in color using the ‘color’ blend mode and the image is much-improved IMO.  There’s now a touch of color in the whole sky and in the water and the edit took about one minute.  [You’ll note that the overall color cast is slightly different on the right and I simply don’t remember if I touched some other setting — Just trust that the color in the previously blown-out areas is due to painting in the Lab color space.]

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/5111032327/

Fixing a Blown-out Sky in the Lab Color Space

I have no doubt that there are 20 other ways to tackle the problem of blown-out highlights in post, but I wanted to share this one that I learned.  If you’re geeky enough to find this interesting, I hope I’ve whet your appetite enough to go figure it out with the help of a book or video.  If you’re not geeky enough then I won’t be able to explain it well enough to help you anyway.