Archive for Review

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!

PluralEyes Coming to a PC near you!

Posted in Review, technique, Video with tags , , , , , on August 9, 2010 by Jim
Taping training videos

Video guy - yeah, that

If you make videos, or use your DSLR to make videos, and use a separate device to record your audio, unless you are editing with Final Cut Pro on a Mac, you could go crazy trying to sync up your video and audio. I’ve been jealous of the Mac video editors for a long time, as they had some magic software called PluralEyes that would do all the syncing work for them.

Well, finally, they must heard my cries of anguish and took pity on me, because now Singular Software is releasing PluralEyes for Premiere CS4 and CS5 on the PC platform!! Also note that it is available for Sony Vegas.

Skeptic that I am, I decided to really issue PluralEyes a challenge. Even though the software is currently in beta for the PC, I shot 42 clips, no clap stick or sync marker of any kind, and the video was recorded on a Zoom H4N. I brought the whole mess back to my PC, loaded up Premiere Pro CS5, loaded up the video clips on the sequence line and below it, I loaded up the recorded audio from the Zoom. I exported the project as a FCP project file, loaded that file up into PluralEyes – left all the options at their default values, then walked away.

When I returned, PluralEyes indicated it was done. So (still a skeptic!), I loaded up my original project, then imported the new synced project that PluralEyes created – and to my utter amazement and astonishment – all clips were synced to the audio! This HAS to be magic!! Actually – I’m lying. There was one clip that didn’t sync (since there were only a couple spoken words), but they were placed next to each other on the timeline and I was easily able to sync that one. I didn’t try, but I’m sure if I had applied some of the more advanced sync options, PluralEyes would have synced that one as well. (I REALLY like the name of the sync option “Try Really Hard”!!!).

I cannot even describe how much time this is going to save me from performing a mundane task that I absolutely detested. Plus, I don’t have to urge the talent to clap their hands or mess with a clap-stick. In fact, as long as the audio recorder is running, I can start and stop the cameras as I please and PluralEyes will still synchronize them! I can even shoot with both my 5D and 7D at the same time and PluralEyes will even sync the overlaps so that I can use the multi-camera edit feature in Premiere.

Best of all – PluralEyes is currently in beta release, so Singular is offering it as a FREE beta download! If this is the beta, I can’t wait to use the final version. At a price point of only $149, I have placed it on my “Must Have” list.

Highly recommended!!

http://www.singularsoftware.com to download the trial version!

Click Here to BUY! Special Introductory Price!

Orbis Ring Flash

Posted in Review with tags , , on September 24, 2008 by Jim
Orbis Ring Flash
Orbis Ring Flash

Every now and then something comes along that has one intended purpose, but I see more potential for other uses!  One such product is the new, as yet to be released, Orbis Ring Flash.  The Orbis is made to work with your current strobe unit to soften and direct the light directly from the lens axis.  It is actually a type of ‘beauty light’.  However, it would appear to me that this unit might also be a subsitute for the more expensive macro ring flash units – and it would be more universal!  Best of all, the unit is suppose to cost less than $200, which makes it considerably less expensive than dedicated macro flash units.

  The unit is suppose to be released in the next month or so and you can sign up for their newsletter (and a chance to win one!) at http://www.orbisflash.com/.  I’ll be posting updates here after it has been released along with a review as to how well it might work as a macro flash unit.
 

While I don’t have a unit at the moment for testing and review, I thought it was worth bringing this to everyone’s attention.  As soon as I get a unit, I will post a complete review!