Sunday, March 19, 2017

First reflections from Iceland



It’s now about a month since my return from Iceland and although the trip was a little disappointing at one level, ie the weather, which was wet, cloudy and warm, rather than dry, snowy and cold; overall my Icelandic experience set me up for a return trip.

Because I wanted to be with like-minded people, I chose to use an Icelandic professional photographer called Daniel Bergmann (http://www.danielbergmann.com/), who ran the trip with another professional called Peter Cox (https://www.petercox.ie).

For me, the banter between Daniel and Peter, together with their sarcasm and wit, made up for the wet days. In addition, Daniel has one of the most impressive ‘buses’ you will ever ride in.



I plan to write more about my Iceland experience, so I restrict this post to simply saying to anyone who has not been to Iceland: go!

Before ending this post: what about an image. Well, as readers know, I use Magic Lantern a lot, as I find it helps me get ‘quality data’. To be clear, I’m not saying it helps me get great images: just the best quality (tonal) data you can get, eg RAW-based ETTR capture.

The image I’ve selected was taken at GPS coordinates: 64°2'15" N 16°11'23" W, at the Jökulsárlón Ice Beach. I know this because I was using my Bad Elf GPS tracker and my Camera’s time was synced to this. Here are a couple of images from the Lightroom Map module showing the shoot that day:



 Here is a RAW, ETTRed and Dual-ISO base capture after ingestion into Lightroom.


Pretty awful looking. However, after Dual-ISO processing and a bit of LR and Photoshop post processing the image looks like this: which, overall, I’m happy with.


Over the next month or so I’ll be writing more about Iceland, but for now I’ll end by simply saying:Megi allir ljóseindir þín að vera góðar


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Plan Ahead

In previous posts I have spoken of the value of Apps in preparing for a photo trip. For example TPE and PlanIt!.

Some time ago another great App slipped in under the radar and, I believe, all landscape photographers should consider getting it. It is called The Photographer's Transit, or TPT: a digital shot planning tool.

TPT is published by the same team that created the great TPE App.


You can make you own mind up by visiting the TPT website or looking at some of their training videos

While we're on the subject of TPE, do you know you can now use TPE to help you predict sunset of sunrise 'hot spots' using Skyfire. Once again, rather than reading my words, pop over to the TPE site.

Skyfire uses multiple weather models and analyses numerous factors that affect sunrise and sunset color including:
  • Cloud type determination
  • Cloud height predictions
  • Gap light
  • Complex system behavior
  • Satellite weather information
  • Topography
The Skyfire algorithm is run against the latest weather data multiple times per day. Forecasts for both sunrise and sunset are generated for the next four days. Each forecast is refined using the latest input data when the algorithm is re-run.


TPE displays Skyfire as a colourful map overlay, alongside the critical time and light angle information. A spot-check API allows TPE to display the latest forecasts for your favorite locations all in one place.

Coverage is CONUS, 'bits' of Canada and most of Europe, including Iceland :-)


The developers say that their goal is to maintain an accuracy of 80% or better. And they say they're committed to keep improving that over time. In recent testing, they have been exceeding the 80% goal based on qualitative assessment of field reports and web-cam feeds.

Bottom line: If you have not tried a photography planning App: try one. From my perspective I can recommend PlanIt! as a standalone tool. Or if you what a larger toolbox then TPE with Skyfire and TPT (you can buy these as a deal from the Apple store) are not only great Apps, but great entertainment, as you sit on your sofa planning a future photography trip.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Script Update

Just a short post to say that I've updated the Auto Landscape Bracketing script: simplifying it; making a little bit more robust; and adding some error checking and user feedback.

Download it from the link on the right or from here.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

A killer Combination

In preparation for my Icelandic trip, I’ve been honing my timelapse knowledge and skills.

From a camera perspective I’ve decided to use my EOSMs (I have two) as my ‘dedicated’ timelapse platforms, leaving my 5D3 and my IR-50D for stills photography.

This week I took delivery of a new timelapse gadget: the Radian 2


The guys at Alpine Labs (https://alpinelaboratories.com/products/radian-2) have been a pleasure to buy from and have answered all my follow-up questions.

I bought the Radian to increase the drama in my timelapses by adding motion panning. The Radian controls the camera via a USB cable, in my case a 5D3, and allows you to control shutter and aperture etc. The Radian 2 'speaks' to a control/setting App that runs on my iPad.

I had also worked out that I should be able to trigger my EOSM as well: despite noting that the Alpine Labs site says that the EOSM can’t be used with the Radian. The ‘secret’ to getting the EOSM to work with the Radian is, of course, Magic Lantern.

Magic Lantern has an audio trigger mode and the Radian has a 2.5mm audio plug shutter output. Thus all I needed to buy was a 2.5mm (Radian shutter trigger) to 3.5mm (EOSM mic socket) audio cable.

My first attempts, however, didn’t work, as there appeared (sic) to be noise on the line that was randomly triggering the camera.

Thanks to some advice from one of the ML community (thank you Dan) I was educated into some camera settings that I had never looked at, ie in the Movie menu; namely audio gain: which was defaulting to auto. Once I had selected manual and adjusted a few (Canon) settings, the Radian now triggers the EOSM at the correct time.

I’ll be posting more about the EOSM-Radian combination in future posts. For now, it’s worth saying that Magic Lantern enabled EOSM and the Radian 2 are a killer combination for those looking to do motion and Holy Grail timelapses, eg via the ML Auto ETTR feature.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Start of an Adventure

As I’m just under a month away from, what I hope, will become a ‘trip to remember’, over a week in Iceland with a group of photographers, I thought it was timely to start posting.

From my perspective this is an exciting event in my life, and, at the same time, a little bit daunting; as there is so much to think about.

So, in the spirit of ‘learning from others’, I’ve decided to try and write regular posts about my preparation for the trip, as well as about the trip itself. Hopefully others will pick up on my ‘mistakes and experiences’.

The trip, which is in February, will obviously be challenging simply from a personal ‘survival’ perspective, ie it will likely be cold and windy beyond the normal UK weather. Another difference, which brings many positives, is the latitudinal difference between the South of England and Iceland.

In this post, I’ll be restricting myself to saying a few words about clothing, location and weather. In a subsequent posts I’ll talk about some of the photography equipment I will take with me and, just an importantly, not take with me!

In addition to topping up my wardrobe, ie more layers, hand warmers, waterproof over trousers etc etc, I was alerted to the need to prepare for walking on ice: where standard boot soles will not suffice.

There seems to be two basic styles, one with spikes and one with helical wire. As I don’t intend to go mountain climbing I have taken a gamble on the Yaktrax Pro helical wire technology, hoping they won’t ‘clog up’:



As a photographer, the weather means drama in the clouds, which impacts the quality of light; or, because it is Iceland, the quality of the darkness, eg for photographing the Aurora…I hope!

So I reached for a book I have had for a while and will be (re)educating myself on clouds! The book is called The Cloudspotter's Guide  and is written by GavinPretor-Pinney of the Cloud Appreciation Society: https://cloudappreciationsociety.org/
 


As for location, I have various (iPad/IPhone) Apps that, in the past have helped me prepare for photography trips, some I have mentioned in previous posts, for example: PlanIt! for Photographers and TPE.

The one I will talk about in this post is PhotoPills: http://www.photopills.com/

PhotoPils is one of those Apps that, at first sight, can look overwhelming. However, it is an App I can recommend to all photographers. Like other Apps, it allows you to plan/envision your trip from the comfort of your armchair.: as well as do many other things As an example, take sunrise in the South of England; when I am in Iceland.

As photographers know, as the sun sets and rises, the quality of light changes. Not only because of your location, but also because of the local weather, which will affect the passage of light through the atmosphere.

As photographers we know why the sky is blue, eg Rayleigh scattering, and know that the quality of light cannot be predicted with absolute certainty. Thus the weather is usually something you have to assess closer to your shooting date: so I’ll say no more about Icelandic weather for now.

The one thing you can guarantee will not change, and you can look ahead years in advance and be sure things won’t change, is the timing of the local sunset and sunrise. For convenience, the sun’s elevation/declination is talked about in zones, eg Civil Twilight, Nautical Twilight and Astronautically Twilight.



All these zones, including Golden (0 to +6 degrees) and Blue ‘Hour’ (-4 to -6 degrees), that attract photographers, are, of course, part of the sunset (or sunrise) continuum, ie the above ‘zones’ merge into each other and don’t have ‘hard’ interfaces.

So what would these ‘photographic magical times’ look like if I stayed at home, rather than travelled to Iceland. Well PhotoPills allows me to see this in a very graphical way eg let’s take sunset in the UK on the 10th February 2017:


So how will this change when I’m in Iceland?

Well dramatically I would say, as can be seen from this PhotoPills map of Iceland’s sunset on the 10th February 2017:
 


At home I would usually be limited in my Golden Hour or Blue Hour shooting time. When I’m in Iceland, at first sight, it looks like a relative photography paradise, ie ‘lots’ of time to capture images.

But, as usual, I’m sure I will run out of time. It also looks like I should move up to Greenland for a full day's Golden Hour photography :-)

As this is the first post I intend to publish on my ‘Icelandic Adventure’, I will draw a line under this one at this point; reflecting that, even before a photographic trip, you have the opportunity to prepare and envision things, especially if you are going to a location you have never been to before.

One final thought: if anyone reading this has any insight/advice for shooting in Iceland, I would welcome you sharing in a comment below ;-)

Monday, January 2, 2017

Further experiments in Super Resolution Photography

In a previous post I wrote about how to use a Magic Lantern Lua script (on the right) to create auto super resolution brackets. In this post, I offer some insight into why SR photography may be of interest to you, and a Photoshop action to automate PS-CC post processing: well at least for a four layer SR stack.

As usual my test image is a view in our house.

I first used the SR Lua script to create a four bracket SR set, using the jiggle and move option.

After ingesting into LR, I simply exported as layers into Photoshop.

I had previously created a script that took the four layers, scalled up by 200%, aligned the layers, reduced the opacity according the usual recipe for SR processing (100%, 50%, 33%, 25%), flattened the layers, and reduced the image scale back down, ie by 50%. For those interested here are the script commands:

Action: 4 Layer SR

Select back layer

Without Make Visible

3

Select front layer

Modification: Add Continuous

Without Make Visible

1, 3, 4, 5

Image Size

Width: 200%

With Scale Styles

With Constrain Proportions

Interpolation: nearest neighbor

Align current layer

Using: content

Apply: automatic

Without Vignetting Removal

Without Geometric Distortion Correction

Select back layer

Without Make Visible

6

Select forward layer

Without Make Visible

3

Set current layer

To: layer

Opacity: 50%

Select forward layer

Without Make Visible

4

Set current layer

To: layer

Opacity: 33%

Select forward layer

Without Make Visible

5

Set current layer

To: layer

Opacity: 25%

Flatten Image

Image Size

Width: 50%

With Scale Styles

With Constrain Proportions

Interpolation: nearest neighbor


As for a comparison, I made good use of the new LR-CC compare mode (in the Library module).

First, here is the base (RAW) image:


Here is the LR comparison after processing both the a single RAW .CR2 and the PS-CC processed SR image with the same settings, ie lens correction and detail sharpening.


I hope you agree, that if you are interested in getting the maximum image quality and detail out of an image, a simple 4-layer SR approach appears to have real benefits (accepting the subject shouldn't be moving). 

The SR (on the left) clearly exhibits detail and the single RAW is softer and lacking the detail in the SR version.

As usual I welcome any feedback on this approach to SR photography, ie using an ML script and a PS-CC script (at least for a four image bracket set).




Friday, December 30, 2016

How far can you push things?



As I prepare for a photography trip in Feb (more about this soon), I’ve used the Christmas break to reset my Magic Lantern configuration. Up until now I’ve been using the Canon 5D3-113 firmware, as, in ML, this is the ‘best’; but only if you are a videographer - which I’m not.

The downside of using the 113 Canon firmware is that it doesn’t support F/8 AF.

Why is this important? Because my 70-200 F/4L with a x2 extender means that the minimum (widest) aperture is F/8. So I took the decision to move the 123 ML version.

Moving back and forth between 113 and 123 is a simple matter for loading thee appropriate Canon firmware, doing and in-camera update and then following this with the appropriate in-camera ML update.

Having assured myself that all my ‘go to’ scripts work, ie: Auto Bracketing, Auto HFD, LE Simulation and Super Resolution bracketing (see on the right), I’ve spent a few hours testing the F/8 AF capability.

As I’ve been on a Christmas (garden) safari for a week [:-)], I had lots of willing subjects: as long as I fed them!

As many will be aware, unless you have a camera with an ISO invariant sensor (and I don’t), then you need to appreciate the ‘limitations’ of the sensor as you set exposure. For example, recognising you may need to prioritise something, eg shutter speed; use ETTR for the case where the camera electronics limit things, eg below about 1600 for my 5DIII, and simply push whatever image comes out of the camera in the ISO invariant zone, eg about 1600 for my 5DIII. I’ve used this chart for a 5DII from here before: http://www.clarkvision.com/articles/iso/
So my ‘test case’ from my garden safari, on a foggy, dull, sunless days, was a real extreme shot. I was aiming to handhold with the 70-200 at F/8 with a x2 Extender, to achieve a very fast shutter of 1/1600. This resulted in an ISO of 12800, ie 7 stops from ISO 100.

I processed the image in LR and used Piccure+ as well. The resulting image would not win me any prizes, but it does show what an ISO 12800 image looks like on the 5DIII.


Next step: more testing :-)