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!

Podcast now live!

Posted in Photographers to inspire, Photography General with tags on April 4, 2010 by Jim

Clyde Butcher

Our long awaited podcast is now live! The first podcast features an interview by James Shadle with Clyde Butcher and an interview I conducted in Tampa with HDR guru, Trey Ratcliff.
The podcast is also available on iTunes, Zune, etc. and I hope you will subscribe and consider commenting. In the mean time, go here – http://fotobug.podbean.com/ – to watch the Elusive Image Podcast!

HDR Workflow

Posted in technique with tags , , , , , on February 23, 2010 by Jim

Monk and Begger in Lhasa, Tibet.


HDR is rapidly becoming more mainstream. I recently met Trey Ratcliff (http://www.stuckincustoms.com) in Tampa and I’m seeing more and more articles on the technique in mainstream photo magazines. For Canon shooters (sorry Nikon folks, but these techniques may likely work for you too!), I am going to post my workflow for taking and processing HDR images.

First of all, on most of the Canon models except for the 1D and 1Ds, the camera is limited to 3 exposures for AEB (automatic exposure bracketing). While this is good for most images, there are times where a wider range might be desirable. So, I pre-set and register a -2 stop (plus on shot right on the proper exposure!) AEB on the C1 setting of my 5D and 7D and a +3 stop AEB on C2. I do this by setting up the camera for ISO 100, AV mode, f/8 on the lens and then AEB setting the highest bracketed shot at the 0 setting on the dial by adjusting the exposure compensation. I also set the camera for rapid fire. I then use the menu to register this to Custom setting 1 (the C1 on the mode dial on the top left of the camera). I change the AEB range by changing the exposure compensation dial to begin at 1 stop over the 0 point and register this setting to C2. If I need more or less aperature, it is easy to quickly change these settings on the fly and re-register them.

When shooting, I line up my shot, turn the dial to C1 and use a wireless remote to fire off three shots, then turn the dial to C2 and fire 3 more – voila! a 6 exposure range! I may adjust this range to favor underexposing instead of more shots overexposing, depending upon the scene I’m photographing.

Once I return home, I transfer the RAW images into my computer backup drives (of course I’m shooting RAW!). I then use Lightroom to select the range of RAW images for each shot (and may even do some minor white balance correcting), then I select Export and export the range of images into Photomatix or HDRShop – more often than not, I transfer them as JPGs, but TIFs are fine too!

Once in the HDR software – I tonemap the image to my liking, then process it and save it. Now, I go back into Lightroom and transfer the original RAW images into Photoshop by selecting Edit in Photoshop in layers. This will transfer the images into one project as individual layers. I then bring in the tonemapped image, copy and paste it on top of the layers. Finally, I apply layer maps and selectively adjust the tonemapped image as appropriate from the original RAW images – generally light and darker areas, and remove subject movement, if necessary. At this stage, the adjustments are very subjective.

Once I am done adjusting and flattening the image, I may bring it into a plugin such as Topaz Adjust or Phototools, or apply a curve to the final image, sharpen, size and convert it to an sRGB if it is destined for the web. Again, at this point it is highly subjective and often I will try different processes on it until I get something that I like.

Finally, RAW images alone also contain more dynamic range than can be displayed on a normal monitor or in print and sometimes a single RAW image processed in Photomatix or other software can benefit and that is how the image on this article was done!

Travels Beyond the Edge

Posted in Photographers to inspire with tags on February 10, 2010 by Jim
Art Wofle

Abstract man gallery - Art Wolfe

Like many artists, photographers tend to find a comfort zone and therefore become classified according to a particular style or subject. However, I find it very refreshing when a photographer steps out of that zone and looks at a subject in a new way or attempts a new style.

I’m sure that many of you are familiar with the work of Art Wolfe. He has a PBS series running called Travels to the Edge where a video crew follows him to remote locations as he photographs the amazing cultures, landscapes and wildlife from around the world. While I have never met Art, I have spoken to him on the phone and have many of his books, including Migrations which he sent me an autographed copy.

I always thought of Art as a wildlife/travel photographer, that is until recently! A fellow co-worker told me that her son was hired by Art to pose in his Seattle studio for a new series he was working on called The Abstract Man Exhibit. When some of his images were finally displayed on his website, I was blown away. His amazing black and white studies were totally outside of my concept of an Art Wolfe image.

Yet, when I returned to look at his Migrations book, or at the fine images in his online gallery, there is an element of his new work that was really there all along and I just never noticed. In the Migrations book he has wonderfully abstract images of thousands, or tens of thousands animals or birds that lose their individual identities and instead become wonderful patterns of colors and forms. In fact, very much like the extension of the fantastic new Abstract Man images.

I recommend going to Art’s gallery (Art’s Gallery) and then go and pick up your camera and try something new as well.

A World in HDR – review

Posted in Review with tags on January 29, 2010 by Jim

World in HDR

World in HDR

I finally got around to reading Trey Ratcliff’s new book, A World in HDR. In a blog post a few days ago, I mentioned that I recently met Trey and was fortunate to attend his HDR (high dynamic range) image workshop in Tampa. I had already pre-purchased his book, but I confess I just now got around to reading it! Not just pursuing his amazing images, but actually reading it (quite a concept, no?).

First of all, the image quality of his pictures in the book are good, but you really need to go to his website to get the full impact. I’m afraid the printing quality is unable to do justice to the tones and colors in the digital versions. It occurred to me as I flipped through the book how amazing these images would be once enlarged to poster size prints.

However, there is one section of the book that I really want to comment on. Although the book does contain a tutorial for creating HDR images in the end, Trey urges the reader to use that merely as a foundation to build on. He does describe briefly the thought process and software he used on each individual image, which is likely more important than the step by step process that he uses.

Trey goes on to explain that he really doesn’t believe in giving out a step by step process. He believes that doing so (such as in most of our education systems) demonstrates the ‘how’ but never addresses the ‘why’. In other words, if you follow a recipe, you will end up with the same results every time, but if everyone did that, there would be no innovation or creativity and there would be no new recipes! He presents examples such as the early French impressionist painters such as Monet, Pissarro, and Renoir whose work was really discovered and approved by the public and not the artistic community at the time. The work of these impressionists was just too radical and different for the prevailing art community.

His comments go right to the heart of the problem I see with a lot of workshops. What good is it to adopt someone else’s style and methods without adapting and building upon that work? After all, the workshop presenter is already creating his/her images that way, so what good is it for the attendees to go and create the identical type of images? Where is the creativity and innovation?

Trey urges the reader to take the essence of what he is doing, then add a big dash of yourself and go create something new and wonderful as well! I couldn’t agree more.

I recommend grabbing a copy of A World in HDR, and don’t just look at the pretty pictures –read it, then go out and be creative!

Feather Detail

Posted in technique with tags , on January 27, 2010 by Jim

I have searched for a technique to enhance feather detail in white birds. I think I may have found one! Simply increasing contrast doesn’t work as that tends to muddy up the whites. I also tried copying the white areas to a new layer in Photoshop and using various layer modes with limited success. I found that using linear burn was best, but still didn’t give me quite what I wanted. The gull picture at left (click for a larger view) was one such image. I liked the position of the gull, but the whites of the feathers lacked detail and the picture fell flat. I knew the detail was contained in the RAW image, but how to pull it out?

Some time ago I purchased LucisArt and really hadn’t done much with it. I remember it wasn’t an inexpensive program, but the newer Lucis Pro is $595! However, I created a new layer from the original and applied the LucisArt plugin to it to increase the contrast. The plugin dramatically increased the feather detail without turning the whites into a muddy gray. I then reduced the opacity of this layer and used a layer mask to further blend it into the original to my liking – and voila! I finally achieved the look I was after!

I also began to wonder if I could do the same thing using Photomatix as a single RAW image (pseudo) HDR? I didn’t have time last night to try this, but that might work as well. I will attempt this and will post an update. Essentially, I plan to bring the original RAW image into Photomatix and process it so that it brings out the contrast in the bird’s feathers, ignoring the sky. I will then bring this image into Photshop and layer it with the original and then use masking and opacity to see if I can get a simliar result.

Please don’t hesitate to post your comments or techniques that you may have discovered to achieve the same or maybe even better results!

More HDR!

Posted in Photography General on January 26, 2010 by Jim

HDR Panther

HDR Panther from Ecuador


OK, I’ve received a few emails asking more about HDR (High Dynamic Range) – I highly recommend checking Stuck in Customs for tutorials on how to process these images. The image to the left is a captive panther I photographed during one of the Photo tours I conducted to Baños, Ecuador. I then processed the single RAW file using Photomatix and then finished up with some masking techniques in Photoshop. I really like the way it turned out! I have a number of images from my Photo tour to Turkey from last year on my gallery and on my Flickr account HERE. I’ll be happy to post more information by request! Although the panther image isn’t a “true” HDR image since it was created from a single RAW exposure, some images can benefit from processing in a similar manner and programs such as Photomatix can sometimes draw out more range from the RAW file than a ‘normal’ RAW processor.

By the way – I’ll be doing more HDR images on my upcoming Costa Rica photo tour (currently full), but if you are interested, we still need photographers for the Mongolia Photo Tour for August 2011! Still plenty of time to sign up – check HERE for more information on this tour! Should be lots of opportunities to try this technique in Mongolia!

Trey Ratcliff

Posted in Photographers to inspire with tags on January 25, 2010 by Jim

Trey Ratcliff HDR image - Savanah Ga.

There are some photographers with massive egos. Trey Ratcliff is not one of them. However, dogone it, the guy is good! If anyone should have an ego it should be Trey!

I first ran across Trey’s website, stuckincustoms.com, while surfing the net for workshops and photo tours. I generally quickly browse these sites, take some notes and move on – but the images on Trey’s site not only kept me looking, I had to bookmark it and return again and again. About the time I discovered Trey and his work, he was just about to come out with a new book on HDR titled  A World in HDR  which quickly sold out on Amazon in the UK and then in the USA when first released! I felt fortunate to have had the forethought to pre-order a signed copy from Trey prior to the initial release.Then I found out Trey was going to do a workshop in Tampa – I signed up immediately and asked if he would grant an interview for my upcoming podcast. The answer was, “yes”!

It is very interesting meeting someone with so much talent and yet so humble. Especially for someone who picked up his first camera and became intersted in photography only three years ago. He even has one of his prints hanging in the Smithsonian. Not bad!

Like a lot of photographers who are pursuing HDR (high dynamic range) images, he has received more than his fair share of criticism – but most of that is coming from other photographers who just don’t get it. However, his fan base is growing wider by the minute thanks to the social networks and public galleries such as Flickr. I believe a lot of his success is also due to his willingness to share his techniques including all the tutorials he has posted on his website. He did tell me during the interview that he does not plan on conducting additional workshops, but he is very accessible on Facebook and has begun to include video tutorials on his website.

If you are not familiar with HDR (high dynamic range images), it is essentially a technique of shooting multiple exposures of a scene and then later combining them into a special format that covers a much wider range of exposures than a standard photograph. This image cannot be displayed on regular monitors and so the image needs to be tonemapped to narrow the range for ordinary display or for printing – and this is where the magic occurs.

Finally, anyone who travels as much as Trey does is OK in my book! I just don’t see where he finds the time to post one of his fine HDR images every day. I recommend you check out his book and bookmark his website. Even if you believe you don’t care for HDR, prepare to be inspired!

Kayaks and Cameras

Posted in General Photography with tags , , , , on January 4, 2010 by Jim

kayak

Cameras and kayaks


Perhaps I’m just tired of walking.

Last year, on a visit to Myakka State Park, I rented a kayak to get closer to the hundreds of roseate spoonbills feeding along the river bank. Now, I have rented kayaks and even canoes there before, but somehow this time it was different. I don’t exactly know why – but the bug bit me. Perhaps it was the large groups of shore and wading birds – black necked-stilts, wood storks, great egrets, plovers, etc. – all along the banks of the Myakka presenting marvelous photo opportunities. I don’t really know why – but within two months I bought my own kayak and one for Carolyn.

Suddenly, a whole new world of photo opportunities has opened up. I’m no longer limited to the trails and side roads, but now can explore the marshes and spoil islands off the coast. Now if the weather will just cooperate a bit, I’m ready to go paddling again!

PS – just in case you are wondering, I purchased a Native Ultimate 12 – great, stable craft for photography!

DIY Intervalometer for Canon & Nikon

Posted in Review with tags , , , , on December 29, 2009 by Jim
Intervalometer

Completed Intervalometer from Otter Creek

This is an unusual item that Canon and Nikon photographers might find useful – an intervalometer! An intervalometer is a device that will permit the photographer to set the camera to take a series of images for a set interval. A common use is for time-lapse images of flowers opening, etc. Well, you can do the same thing with you DSLR from Canon or Nikon (others too, with the right adapter). This intervalometer is actually a kit which is available from Amazon.com created by Otter Creek (www.ottercreekdesign.com).
Features of the CT-1 intervalometer include:
– Optically isolated interface to the camera
– Standard intervalometer function with options for setting delay time and exposure time.
– Built-in optical sensor for triggering camera with light/shadow.
– External port allows for easy integration of alternate trigger circuits (sound, light, …)
– Manual mode for simple trigger and bulb mode exposures.
– Two position pushbutton for trigger – focus/shutter, just like on the camera.
– 2′ cable terminated with Canon &reg E3 plug (2.5mm stereo)
– Optional cables for connecting with other cameras

For only $60 – and an evening of soldering – this might make a fun addition to your photo toys!!