The Unplanned Pano

Panoramas are fun, even unplanned ones

This old, long “retired”, gasoline station intrigued me. We were driving along in the rural part of Georgia, up in the northern part, when we came upon this sight. We stopped and I took a number of photos. Only when I was doing my post-processing back home did I realize that I had not taken a overall photo that showed the whole place.

Well, that what the “Create” tab in Photo Gallery is for. The first photo showed the building nicely, the third one included the fuel island, there were a number of other views as I walked around the place, and by the tenth photo I had gotten back close to the starting point and showed the pumps, including the ancient one.

Here are the two shots that together cover the whole place.

You can clearly see that I had not taken these photos from the same spot. Making a pano from these would be asking a great deal from Photo Gallery. And indeed it was asking too much. Here is what it could do. Amazing as it is, but the top left of the marque sign just didn’t match.

Old Gas Station - Pano

Old Gas Station – Pano

So on to the nest better tool, in fact the best there is, Microsoft Image Composite Editor. It too had problems, I tried the different planar motion settings and rotating motion. There were still disturbing stitching artifacts. So I did some perspective correction on each image and tried again. That was better.

Old Gas Station - ICE pano

Old Gas Station – ICE pano

A fairly good stitch but the building was way too distorted. Some more fiddling and this was more acceptable. There is a bend in the fuel island base, but I thinks it is not too bad.

Old Gas Station

Old Gas Station

Now with some cropping we have a pretty good photo of the whole place. It still amazes me what Image Composite Editor can do, even with images that clearly were not taken with stitching in mind.

Old Gas Station

Old Gas Station

 

Also see my post at Two Cameras – Two ViewsArtifacts: Fuel Pump


.:.

© 2016 Ludwig Keck

Advertisements

Shadows in flash pictures

Bring out what’s hiding in the shadows

Pictures taken indoors with on-camera-flash usually have dingy, dark backgrounds. There is little that can be done about the behavior of light. An object at twice the distance from the flash will get only a quarter as much light. That means it will be darker in the picture.

There is no need to live with that problem. Post-processing, just a little bit of adjustments, can substantially enhance such photos. That is what the Shadows slider in Photo Gallery can correct substantially. With some judicious use of the Hightlights slider, and maybe a bit of adjustments with the others, a flash photo can be made to look quite good.

Here are a couple of screen shots to illustrate what can be done with a flash picture.

Shadows-01

This is the oroginal photograph, just the way it came from the camera. It looks like what you expect from a flash picture, the objects close to the camera, the table and chairs here, are properly exposed, things farther away look progressively darker.

Next the picture with some enhancements.

shadows-06

The Shadows slider was moved all the way to the right to make darker areas of the photo lighter. Sometimes such a drastic adjustment may turn out to be way too much, but for this picture it worked well. The Highlights slider is moved a little to the left to make the lightes areas a bit darker. The Contrast slider was also moved to the right jut a little bit to increase contrast.  Note how much lighter the far wall is, it looks almost normal they way you would see it.

Other photo editors have similar tools. Sometimes they have different names. In Picasa the Fill Light slider brings the details out of the shadows. The Shadows slider makes intermediate toned areas darker. Careful use and a little trial and error will help you get the best pictures out of your flash photos.

shadows-05

.:.

© 2016 Ludwig Keck

Stitching Fun

Panoramas with People

There was a time when making a panorama was a tedious task. Taking the pictures had to be done just so and the assembly of different shots into a finished panorama was arduous. Having people in the panorama was difficult and mostly a no-no. Of course, that was a long time ago. Nowadays you just shoot a number of exposures moving the camera some to get overlapping pictures and the rest is just a few clicks away.

My favorite picture handling tool is Photo Gallery. I use it to import and manage my photos and to do the primary touch-ups and enhancements. But Photo Gallery is a powerful tool even though it is “long in tooth”, not having had an update in three years. It has a panorama tool right on the Create bar. You just select the photos to be combined and it does the rest.

I had a group of six shots taken on a busy street with food trucks. There were people all over the road including some children on the sidewalk in front of me. The photos were taken in rapid succession but the kids moved along quite a ways in the few seconds between the frames. I had planned to make a panorama of this scene. I just selected the photos the way they came out of the camera and sent them to Create > Panorama.

Photo Gallery uses the “engine” from the Microsoft Image Composite Editor to make panoramas. It overlaps the photos and makes alignments, warping each frame to achieve its ends. It even adjusts the exposures as necessary. Here is what it looked like before cropping:

LK8_4936-41-S1-1280

With cropping and some enhancing my panorama looked like this:

LK8_4936-41-S3-1280

If you look really hard you will notice the running boy on the sidewalk is also pictured a little farther along. Cute. I checked my originals and indeed the boy appears in all six, but the panorama tool only shows him twice. Here is a portion of that panorama done as “café art”:

Food Truck Alley

Photo Gallery also incorporates a link to ICE, the Microsoft Image Composite Editor (if installed). Now this program has been updated recently and has powerful ways of controlling the image. So I passed the six photos, now a bit enhanced but not cropped, to ICE. It assembled the parts a bit differently. The boy is still duplicated, along with his companion, and another passerby has been cloned. In the default assembly ICE did make a noticeable stitching error but it is minor. Here the uncropped version:

Christmas in the Corners 2015

ICE can save the assembled composite to your computer of upload it directly to Photosynth. I did that. If you click on the image above you will be taken to the panorama in Photosynth.

Here are enlargements of the sections with cloned pedestrians:

Christmas in the Corners 2015

Christmas in the Corners 2015

Note how nice the “clones” fit into the crowd. They look like regular people. You might even miss them on first glance.

There is more fun that can be made out of these six photos, but that is for another time. Here are the six photos, click on them any you can see them in Photosynth. Note: If you are running Windows 10 and using the Edge browser, you probably will not be able to see this display in Photosynth. Switch to Firefox or Opera and the presentation will run. (Hey Microsoft, do you get the message?)

Christmas in the Corners 2015

.:.

© 2015 Ludwig Keck

ExtremeBW

 

Extreme Black and White

When we talk about black and white photography we really understand it as covering the full range of shades of gray from totally black to fully white. The monitor screen on which you are most likely to read this shows just 256 distinct shades. For this article I am presenting some extremes that cover a much more limited range.

The absolute extreme, of just black and white, is normally called “silhouettes”, showing a form totally black or white against an opposite background. My “Bird on a Fence” here is an example of that.

LJK_8676-X3-2000 

Another genre is “low key”, photos that are predominantly black. My “Two Glasses” is of that type. In fact, this is a color photo.

Two Glasses

There is much that can be done with “extreme black and white” that fits into and outside these categories. Here are some examples.

Musician - Members Only Band 

LJK_8430-P2P2P2-2048

Seagull

'Lion in the Clover

Birch

As you can see, many of my images here are strongly manipulated to take the image to the “extreme”.

And now just a little help here to get you started making silhouettes and similar “extreme black and white” images. Start with a photo that has strong shapes and contrast. The example here uses leaves against the sky. I will use my favorite tool, Photo Gallery, here. Of course, more powerful editing software will allow you much more creative control.

ExtremeBW-01

An ideal photo will have a lot off light areas and a lot of dark areas and few middle tones. You can see this in the histogram that shows the tonal values from black to white. There is a “hole” in the middle of the data showing the scarcity of mid-tone values.

The first step is turning the image into a B&W. Photo Gallery has tools for that in the Effects area of the Edit ribbon.

The slider under the histogram can be used to turn this into an “extreme black and white” image. Move the white slider, on the right under the histogram, to the left until all parts of the image that are light in color are now fully white.

ExtremeBW-03B 

Then bring the black slider up to turn what remains black, or mostly so.

ExtremeBW-03A

LK_000490-X2If you put the black slider right up and over the white slider you will have a pretty good silhouette. If you stopped short, you have a pretty extreme black and white image.

Some photos lend themselves to being turned into such graphic black and white images, but it is best if you have that idea in mind when taking the picture so you can make sure you have the contrast and strong figures to start with.

Have fun!

.:.

© 2015 Ludwig Keck

ICE-2 Distortion and Correction

This is my second look at ICE 2.o, the Microsoft Research Image Composite Editor version 2.0. In this article we will take a look at distorting and correcting images and more.

ICE-2-D C-11

If you just open ICE you get mostly advertising. This front page is the only one soliciting. Microsoft Research has fallen on hard times, but at least they are still there and turning out superb tools.

The way I operate, I never get to see this opening screen, but I am getting ahead of my story. ICE-2-D C-05First some very good news. ICE 2.0 work perfectly in Windows 10, that is in the Technical Preview, but tit should work just as well in the final version. It does require a C++ Runtime Library. It tells you that and the installation is just a matter of clicking along.

Once installed, it can be called right from Photo Gallery. Yes, Photo Gallery, although now three years since the last update, works quite well in Windows 10. Not perfectly and not as smoothly as in Windows 7, but I have hope.

ICE-2-D C-07In this article I want to touch on how a composite image can be distorted, or more importantly, corrected in various ways. For perspective correction, straightening “falling” buildings, I have always preferred ICE. No ICE does not work on a single image, it requires at least two to generate a composite. It can easily be tricked by supplying it with two copies of the same image. When ICE is installed you can find it and pass images to it right from inside Photo Gallery. Click the Create tab, then More tools and it is right there.

ICE-2-D C-09

When ICE opens the images selected in Photo Gallery will be right there. Under Camera motion, select Rotating motion in order for ICE to provide the various projection options.

ICE-2-D C-12

The new version has a richer collection of projection tools: Cylindrical, Transverse Cylindrical, Mercator, Transverse Mercator, Spherical, Transverse Spherical, Orthographic, Fisheye, Stereographic, and Perspective.

It is real fun playing with these projection tools. For this article, with just the single image, I will just mention perspective correction. The image is manipulated by dragging it up or down, right or left, or dragging a corner to rotate it.  It is much easier to demonstrate than to explain, take a look at this short video (just a couple of minutes).

Click on the image or the link, whichever shows in your browser.

//player.vimeo.com/video/120834937

ICE-2-D+C-V

In the video you noticed that after I settled on the correction I also employed the new Auto complete option. This feature is called “content aware fill” in some other editing tools. In ICE it works to fill in the “dark” corners in a composite.

The screen shots here and the video are from ICE working in Windows 10 Technical Preview Build 9926. The video is shown unedited (except for the addition of titles front and back).

You can get an idea what a smooth working tool ICE is.

Here is the perspective corrected photo with some additional post processing done. Note how nicely the trees on either side were filled in. And of course, there is also a “café art” art version as well.

.:.

© 2015 Ludwig Keck