Friday, January 10, 2014

Multishot Imaging: Another step forward

Those of you that read my ramblings will have spotted a theme: that is I like exploring multishot techniques to overcome the limitations of the current generation of camera systems. For example, even with a Canon 5DMkIII, I sometimes hit scenes where the sensor, or the lens I have with me, can't cope.

For example, if a scene has more dynamic range, ie photon contrast, than my sensor can capture without saturating, I will consider exposure bracketing and using either tone-mapping or fusion (HDR) software to create an exposure merge image.

If I need to extend the focus limitation imposed by the lens and aperture settings that I need for a (non-macro) scene, I will consider focus bracketing and using Photoshop, Helicon or Zerene to focus stack the scene.

If I wish to capture a larger scene than my lens is able to do, I will consider spatial bracketing. That is taking overlapping images and merging/stitching them together in, say, Photoshop or some other stitching software. A panoramic capture is one example of spatial bracketing.

Finally, if the scene requires it, and I have the time, I may even consider using two or more of the above bracketing strategies at the same time. For example, an HDR timelpase, or an HDR and focused merged image.

Finally, if I wish to convey a more temporally dynamic sense of a place, rather than ‘just’ using video, I might consider doing a (RAW) timelapse, where I can undertake temporal compression, ie take hours down to minutes – great for sunsets or sunrises. In this case I would use LRTimelapse, which is fully integrated into my Lightroom workflow.

Now we have another bracketing tool: and it’s fun!

Microsoft introduced its Photosynth technology some time ago. This allowed the photographer, using anything from a iPhone to a DSLR, to spatial bracket a scene, upload the brackets to the Photosynth website, where the propriety Microsoft software would do its magic. The resultant image, if accessed through the Photosynth site, allowed the viewer to ‘interact’ with the image, eg by moving the PC mouse, one could move around in the scene and look into ‘every corner’ of the image.

Recently Microsoft have extended the Photosynth technology into ‘4D space’, that is movement and spatial appreciation of a scene. The process is simple and great fun:
  • Decide on the capture format. There currently are four capture strategies – walk, spin around an object looking in, create a pano or  capture a wall by walking parallel to it;
  • Capture your images, typically no more than 20-30 as a max. Note this is a factor of 10-100 less than timelapse so don’t worry about shutter burn out
  • Carry out any initial corrections in, say, LR, for example white balance and exposure etc;
  • Upload to the Photosynth site and wait about 5 mins for an email to be sent to you;
  • View your Photosynth using Photosynth technology and share with friends.

As a (poor) example I attach an HDR Photosynth I took in our home (note this should work fine on a PC, but I have not tested it on a Mac). I simply walked around a room and took three exposure brackets every step. The total number of images captured was 69, ie 3 x 23. I batched processed the exposure brackets, using interior fusion setting, in Photomatix, did a few corrections in LR and exported 23 JPEGs to Photosynth. I didn’t take any special time with the capture. It was handheld HDR bracketing.

You will see that Photosynths have a ‘look about them’, ie they are not videos. You get a sense of 3D but, in places, the result looks like a David Hockney inspired collage. When you see ‘artifacts’ this is where there wasn’t enough overlap to create a ‘smooth’ transition between scenes. I personally think these artifacts add to the unique feel of a Photosynth.

Bottom line: I believe the new Microsoft Photosynth technology provides another option for the multishot enthusiast. For those that wish to provide a greater sense of presence, you can let friends actually interact with the scene you saw. We now have a more dynamic way to present our photography: and it’s fun and free!


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