Archive for the General Photography Category

Lightroom Dynamic Range with LR/Enfuse

Posted in DSLR, General Photography, HDR, Review, technique with tags , , , , , on July 24, 2011 by Jim
Bok Tower

Bok Tower processed with LR/Enfuse

HDR without using HDR software?

  Well, not exactly. HDR is the abbreviation for High Dynamic Range images.  True HDR images are 32 bit, floating point files that are ultimately scaled back to ‘normal’ 8 bit images that can be displayed on a standard video monitor or printed on  printing paper.  The photographer takes a series of bracketed exposures and specialized software is required in order to ‘tone map’ the high dynamic range 32 bit file by a nearly pixel by pixel basis which can be somewhat controlled by the photographer.  However, tonemapped HDR images have garnered a reputation, whether deserved or not, of being overly saturated, over-the-top photos.  Sometimes these images are really cool, and sometimes they are just, well… over-the-top!

  However, long before the ability of photographers to create HDR images, there is a long-standing technique of using masks for the various exposed images to produce an image that contains a tonal range that is not possible to capture in a single image.  The first recorded attempt to use several exposures to cover an extreme range of exposure values was Gustave La Gray back in 1850 to photograph a seascape and retain detail in the sky and the sea.  He used one negative for the sky and another for the ocean and combined them later into one print. It is actually easier today to combine multiple images with masks in software such as Photoshop, but it still takes  a certain level of skill in order to accomplish this.

  So, some clever photographer/programmers have come up with an open source program called Enfuse.  This software is free and runs on a number of platforms, but isn’t easy too use due to it’s command line interface.  It also does not align the bracketed images.

  However, some other clever photographer/programmers took Enfuse and incorporated alignment routines and a GUI interface and even better, made it into a plug-in for Lightroom (as well as a stand alone version)!  That’s correct, you can now blend exposure bracketed images together inside of Lightroom without even using Photoshop.  The program doesn’t stop there, however, for you macro photographers, LR/Enfuse  will blend focus bracketed images together to produce a final image with a greater depth of field.  But wait, there’s more!  For you star gazers, LR/Enfuse will also blend a series of night photography images of star trails together!  Imagine being able to produce great star trails by taking a series of shorter time-exposures so that the foreground isn’t over exposed.

  Well, this sounds great, but how much would you expect to pay for all this ability?  Would you believe, it’s up to you?  LR/Enfuse is ‘donationware’ which means you pay what you think it’s worth to you (payment is accepted via PayPal in British pounds).  The trial version of the program will be limited to an output of 500 x 500 pixels, but once you donate, you will immediately receive an unlock key.

  LR/Enfuse is available at http://www.photographers-toolbox.com. I recommend giving it a try and check out the tutorials and examples on the website.  While the final images aren’t really ‘true’ HDR, I was really impressed with the realism that is achieved and the ease in which to create them.

  On my upcoming trip to Mongolia, I’m planning to use LR/Enfuse to do startrail images on the Mongolian Steppes.  Check with the Fotobug Facebook fanpage or my Flickr account to see how they turn out!

HDR – Bad?

Posted in General Photography, Photography General, technique with tags , , , , , on January 12, 2011 by Jim

The Music Lesson

The Music Lesson by Johannes Vermeer


Since I have been shooting HDR (High Dynamic Range) images, I constantly hear and read some rather nasty comments against this technique. Trey Ratcliff told me he takes the attitude just to ignore them, but I wonder just what it is that these individuals find so distasteful? Yes, I have seen some really over-the-top HDR images, but I have also seen a lot of over-the-top non-HDR images. It would be a very big stretch to conclude that all photography is bad just because one particular image isn’t the best. However, there are those who apply that logic to HDR!

The image at the top of this article is the famous painting “The Music Lesson” by the Dutch master, Johannes Vermeer, painted around 1662. I recommend trying to find a larger version of the image and study it carefully. Please note, that this image was produced long before photography. Do you note that it is an HDR image! Note the detail that is contained in the shadows as well as the highlights. Had Vermeer been a 17th century digital photographer, this image would have darker shadows with little detail and those windows would be white blobs (unless he was using a number of strobes to match these values – just another way to deal with dynamic range!).

Yet, the canvas was just as incapable of containing this full range of values as modern photo paper. The tone of the raw canvas is the brightest value that can be represented and the choice of inks limit the darkest values. So, the genius of Vermeer was being able to “tone map” the room into the dynamic limits of the canvas he painted on. Just like photographers have to tone map the series of images for final presentation.

Since Vermeer didn’t have a Nikon DIV or Canon VIID, nor could he even imagine the dynamic limits of film or digital sensors. He painted what he saw. Like it or not, we see in HDR. Our eyes are amazing and can constantly adjust for changes in light levels as we scan a room or landscape. Check other paintings – particularly those before the invention of photography and notice that paintings capture an apparent range of light values, because that is the way our eyes see the world.

Perhaps that is why people often exclaim when they look at an HDR image – “why, that looks like a painting”!

Indeed.

Lightworks

Posted in DSLR, General Photography, Review, Video with tags , , , , , , , on January 6, 2011 by Jim

Lightworks Open Source

Video capability for professional level DSLR cameras is here to stay, so anyone wishing to get the most of that new camera should have some knowledge and ability to shoot and edit video. However, that means more expensive software such as Adobe Premiere, Apple’s Final Cut Pro or even Avid. Until now, that is.

Editshare has just released their Academy and Emmy award-winning professional-grade editor, Lightworks, into open source. That means it is free!!! Just a simple download! Lightworks is no slouch, having cut hundreds of films such as Pulp Fiction, The Departed, Centurion and Shutter Island. It includes a full feature set of editorial tools and is being used by many top Hollywood professional editors. It even has stereoscopic support and realtime effects including multiple secondary colour correctors. Lightworks has an advanced effects pipeline, utilizing the power of your GPU. And with support for up to 2K workflows with realtime effects, it is the most advanced editing application available. It even accepts Premiere plug-ins.

Head on over to LIGHTWORKS to download and try it out for yourself. Currently it is only available for Windows 32 and 64 bit systems, but support for Linux and Mac OSX is coming later in 2011.

Want to become a better photographer?

Posted in General Photography, Photography General, technique on January 4, 2011 by Jim

I have been fortunate to be able to spend some time and talk with some outstanding photographers on my podcast (The Fotobug), and although their approach and interests may differ, the one thing that they all have in common is the fact they all get out there and make the magic happen! I really encourage reading photo magazines and photography books, but the only way you are really going to improve is to go grab your camera and use it. The more you use your camera, the more comfortable you will feel with it and before you know it, the camera becomes an extension of yourself and you are going to find that you will be able to spend more time concentrating on the image you see in your viewfinder and less time fumbling with camera controls and worry about shutter speeds, aperture settings, etc.

I also encourage you to consider workshops and seminars in order to interact with other photographers to learn new techniques and to help keep up your inspiration. C’mon, what are you doing sitting there reading this blog? Get out there and make some great images!! (Don’t forget to share!).

Black Rapid Straps

Posted in General Photography, Review with tags , , , on September 26, 2010 by Jim

RS 7 Black Rapid strap

Frequently I have been stopped by other photographers and asked about – my camera strap? Yes – the strap! I purchased my first Black Rapid RS7 a few months ago after researching for a comfortable, practical camera strap, I decided on the Black Rapid. In fact, I liked it so much, I purchased a second for my other camera.
These straps are comfortable, quick to attach and remove and keep the camera at a comfortable position by your side. Yet, you can quickly pull the camera up into shooting position. I also find that the two RS7 straps work great, even though Black Rapid makes a dual strap.
Check them out – highly recommended!

Give us a Listen!

Posted in DSLR, General Photography, Podcast, Video on July 16, 2010 by Jim

microphone

Fotobug - Elusive Image Podcasts

I just posted the Fotobug podcast number 4 and the next one will be ready in a week or so. If you are interested in nature, travel or even general photography – give us a listen! The podcast is available at PODBEAN and is also available on iTunes and Zune. I recommend you subscribe so you don’t miss any episodes!

In addition to the previous episodes featuring interviews with Clyde Butcher and Trey Ratcliff, the new podcasts feature a tour of Clyde Butcher’s darkroom facility and Clyde’s “backyard” in the Big Cypress Swamp, as well as an interview with writer, director, producer, cameraman, Richard Clabaugh and a sneak preview of his latest film, EYEBORGS. Rick discusses the use of DSLR video capable cameras being used on professional Hollywood style films.

We also feature discussions on the latest news in photography and new equipment, such as the iPad. Upcoming episodes will feature more interviews, software reviews, techniques, and a series of training videos hosted by photographer Jason Hahn. The first video is about wading techniques based upon Jason’s article in the August issue of Popular Photography. Last, but not least, we will be discussing our latest photo tours and workshops (Everglades workshop in November and Costa Rica in March for Outdoor Photo Workshops, as well as my tour to Mongolia in August, 2011).

So, now you know why I’ve been lax in my postings here!! Please check out our Fotobug Podcasts, don’t forget to rate us, (I recommend subscribing) and we want to hear from you about your photo tours, workshops, questions, complaints, etc.

64bit Raw Viewers?

Posted in General Photography, Photography General, Review with tags , , , , on April 15, 2010 by Jim

Rufous-tailed hummingbird

I just put together a new computer to edit my podcasts (PODCAST) and to edit the new HD formats, I decided on Windows 7 64bit OS along with the new Intel 930 processor and 6Gb memory. Great machine – but there was one small problem: I loaded up the Canon raw codec to view my RAW image files and discovered Canon doesn’t support 64bit – neither does Nikon! That’s a real problem – although I use Lightroom, sometimes I just want to do a quick look at the RAW images using the Windows viewer.

However, I discovered that all is not lost! Axel Rietschin Software Developments to the rescue! Axel has developed a complete set of raw codecs for all the major manufacturers that will work in 64bit (and 32bit) operating systems and is currently selling the codecs at the bargain price of only $5.99! He also has an image view that sounds quite interesting and I may download the trial version and check it out. Go to HERE and check out the codecs and his image viewer!

His codecs and viewer work on regular 32bit systems as well and I recommend you check it out!