Sunday, August 23, 2015

Turning down the Tone

Like many photographers I jumped on the ‘HDR band wagon’ a couple of years ago. Since those early tone mapping days, which tended to end up in rather ‘over processed’ images, the algorithms have matured and, today, one can use most tone-mapping software with confidence.

In addition, fusion-based blending is now readily available and offers a ‘softer’ approach to bringing together bracketed captures.

The ‘third-way’ to handle bracketed images is by ‘hand blending’ via, for example, luminosity masks in, say, Photoshop.

As I have mentioned before, TK-Actions are, in my humbly opinion, some of the best luminosity tools. However, TK-Actions are not the only tool. Another set of actions I use is called Raya-Pro by Jimmy McIntyre:

The British summer showed itself at its best today: great skies and summer scenery. Because of the sun shinning through the clouds, the scene was beyond a single capture, even with my 5DIII.

This image was captured with Magic Lantern auto-bracketing. I focused in Liveview, using the ML diffraction corrected DoF display, and used the RAW spotmeter to establish the base image. In post I used Raya-Pro to blend the brackets, ie no tone mapping this time.

If you have not tried Raya-Pro, I can recommend this very affordable Photoshop Plug-in.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Hidden Detail

Sometimes full detail in an image can be a distraction: overpowering the eyes and not allowing the viewer to naturally find their way through the scene.

Then again, sometimes, detail has a impact of its own.

I’m still experimenting with infra-red photography, but one early conclusion is that there is a lot of detail that can be extracted. As with colour digital images, but I believe more so with IR, post processing is essential and critical.

Here is a RAW IR of a trip I did to Utah in 2014. I was attracted to this dead tree as I thought its bark would result in a distinctive contrast differentiation against the sky. However, I didn’t want a simple silhouette, with the bark ‘blocked up’.

Processing was pretty straight forward: starting in Lightroom with a colour cast correction, based on a profile I created in Adobe DNG Profiler. I next carried a basic tonal adjustment and applied a little dehaze adjust, which I find works well with IR images.

I also used Piccure+ to mazimise the ‘sharpness’ and address some noise. B&W creation on this occasion was limited to LR, rather than Silver Efex Pro II. I finally applied a little edge burning to create a separation for the image. I tried black, but preferred white on this occasion.

For those that have yet to experiment with IR, I think you will be surprised at the detail you can extract. From my experience, visible and IR sunlight present radically different photographic challenges.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

An Evening with Will

“Well, God give them wisdom that have it; and those that are fools, let them use their talents.”

― William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

In the last post I talked about our local National Trust property: The Vyne. On the day I last visited it never stopped raining: so I was a little apprehensive this Saturday as we had tickets for the outdoor production of Twelfth Night at The Vyne: put on by the (modern) Lord Chamberlain Men. William Shakespeare worked as actor and playwright for nearly a third of his career for the original company.

The Lord Chamberlain’s Men’s web site ( says the original all male company was formed at the end of a period of flux in the theatrical world of London, it had become, by 1603, one of the two leading companies of the city and was subsequently patronized by James I and renamed The King’s Men.

The company was founded during the reign of Queen Elizabeth in 1594, under the patronage of Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon, the then Lord Chamberlain, who was in charge of court entertainments. After its patron's death in 1596, the company came under the patronage of his son, George Carey, 2nd Baron Hunsdon, for whom it was briefly known as Lord Hunsdon's Men until he in turn became Lord Chamberlain in 1597, whereupon it reverted to its previous name.

For most of its life, the company was one of the most prominent of its day, favoured by commoners and aristocracy alike – indeed The Lord Chamberlain’s Men was often invited to perform at Court, and records show that Queen Elizabeth I preferred them above all other companies. Such was the enthusiasm of the next monarch, James I, he even agreed to grant the company Royal Patronage.

The original company began life at a playhouse called The Theatre, northeast of the City of London. The owner of that land, however, had become firmly opposed to letting plays continue at The Theatre, and thus the company entered the late 1590s without a regular playhouse, though records indicate that they performed at the Curtain Theatre in Shoreditch while planning a permanent home. This situation changed when the company leased land in Southwark and, taking the framing timbers from The Theatre, constructed the now world-renowned Globe Theatre.

Luckily the rain held off and we were rewarded with a great production and a great sunset. Although I limited my photography, for obvious reasons, it was an opportunity to snatch a few shots of the actual performance, using my Sony 6000, without flash :-)

This first image is a handheld , three image, pano, taken at 18mm, f/6.3 and 1/100s. Processing was initiated in Lightroom, and I used the LR new pano feature. I have more to do in post to correct the 'pano distortion'.

Although this next image can hardly be could ‘sharp’, as a record of the evening I am happy with it, as it was taken handheld at 200mm, 1/200s, f/6.3 and ISO 3200.

And of course you must have a shot of Malvolio in prison.

Finally, in addition to the play, we were rewarded by a lovely sunset.

Overall I remain impressed with the Sony A6000. It has good low light capability and a ‘low profile’, that doesn’t shout ‘professional camera’, so it can pass scrutiny in certain venues that would not look kindly on a ‘larger’ DSLR.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sometimes detail and colour matters

In a previous post I talked about The Vyne, near Basingstoke. The beauty of The Vyne, and in fact any other National Trust property, is the chance to photograph detail.

Sometimes in an image you wish to differentiate between elements of an image by using selective focus; other times you want things tack sharp throughout the image. For instance, classically, one seeks out great depth of fields in landscapes, but ‘indoor landscapes’ can also be a challenge; especially when hand holding in a dark and old house like The Vyne.

The following is a RAW, hand-held image from my recent Vyne trip. The image was captured with my 24-105mm F/4L at 24mm and at 1/30s, F/5, using Magic Lantern at a dual ISO with a base 3200, ie not the ideal dual-ISO setting.

As for processing: I started, as usual, in Lightroom, by converting the dual-ISO to a 16-bit TIFF. This TIFF was then adjusted in LR for basic exposure balance and exported to Photoshop. In PS I corrected for WB using a neat little trick that I’ll talk about in a future post. I then used Piccure+ and ACLE to give the image a detail ‘punch’, because I simply wanted to ‘show off’ the detail in The Vyne’s ceiling.

As usual, I would welcome feedback on whether this level of detail is ‘justified’.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Going Square

As all photographers know, compositional ‘theory’ is one thing we need to be very aware of. However, with so many so-called ‘rules’, one question is what fits best with what scene?

As a photographer who is still learning, I admit to finding composition the most difficult aspect of photography. My eye/brain simply doesn’t yet ‘see’ the final image format: so my approach is to capture the scene with enough ‘space’ so that I can simply experiment with different ‘looks’, which is very easy in LR/PS.

Cropping is my friend at the moment, but this means I ‘waste’ data: which I don’t like doing. I need to get ‘better’ at compositional theory.

As an example, take this recent dual-ISO image, which will look weird as a jpg as it is unprocessed, ie being an interlaced mixture of two images: an ISO 400 and ISO 800 image.

My thinking, when looking at the image in LR, was to eliminate the ‘dead’ foreground, which automatically led me to think square.

As I looked into the square format, I found out that the square format camera was first made by Rollei in 1929. Also, Hasselblad, used the square format in its film cameras from 1948 to 2002. I don’t believe there are any digital cameras that have a square sensor. But, as we know, digital photography makes it easy to crop your images to any aspect ratio you want.

So what does the above dual-ISO RAW look like in a square format: well I will let you decide.