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

Looking into Shadows

There are many occasions when an outdoor photo with the sun at your back is just not right, and with the sun in front the shadows are inky dark. It is especially troublesome when you have friends or relatives in the photo and can hardly discern their faces. There is not much you can to when taking such photos. When you are close to a subject fill-in flash will help, but with a larger scene you just can’t compete with the sun. This is when we turn to post-processing tools.

This article looks at several tools for bringing out the detail in the shadows. My illustrations here are meant to illustrate the effect of the tools that I investigated. They do not show how additional tweaks can make such photos even more appealing.

Let me start with a full frame photo of a street scene from the Norcross Art Fest 2014.

Original - straight from the camera

histogramA pleasant scene but all you can see is sky and pavement. The histogram shows that the exposure was as good as you can get. Just a tiny bit of the cloud at the right top is “blown out”, completely overexposed. With the sun in back of the people their features and faces are totally shadowed. The tent shadows at the right make it hard to discern that there are people there.

My first tool is Photo Gallery. I use it to import my photos to my computer, to organize the photos, and to make many of my enhancement adjustments. To help with the shadows the “Shadows” slider is the primary tool. For this next illustration I moved the Shadows slider all the way to the right (maximum shadow lightening) and also set the Highlights slider to the left, minimum, setting. This made for a photo that is acceptable even without any other adjustments.

Photo Gallery - Shadows and Hightlight adjusted

When using Picasa there is a “Fill Light” slider. The effect of this control is more aggressive than the Shadows slider in Photo Gallery. For the next image I set the Fill Light slider half way up. Any more and the photo gets washed out. Picasa has a Highlight slider but it can’t reduce the highlights, it can only increase them – not what is needed here.

LK8_2008-P3-P-FLhu-1024

The third tool I want to illustrate here is really my favorite, onOne Perfect Effects. The HDR Effects tool has a number of presets. I really like the Surreal effect. There is a Compression slider that can adjust the effect to your liking. This effect not only brings out the details in the shadows it also brings out details in the highlights. Note the beautiful sky here. Also note that the pavement has been darkened yet the people appear very pleasant. There is not the “HDR look” with those cartoonish enhanced edges that is the bane of HDR over processing.

onOne Perfect Effects HDR

The remaining illustrations are all done in PaintShop Pro. The next one is one of the HDR presets in the PaintShop Pro “HDR – Single Raw Photo” tool set. Here too, there is a great deal of control available to modify and adjust the effect. I just used one of the presets without further adjustments. It might be just a wee bit too much. The sky has some unpleasant drama in it and the edge lightening of HDR processing is becoming way too obvious.

PaintShop Pro HDR

I have two more illustrations. These are here to show the effects that can be pretty much accomplished by any good photo editor and will be pretty much the same regardless of tool.

The next one merely adjust the “gamma”, the tonal compression, of the image to a value of 2.5. This does lift the detail out of the shadows but does nothing for the highlights.

PSP - Gamma 2.5

Lastly, still in PaintShop Pro, I used the “Fill Light” control, set to 100, and the “Clarity” control at 50. 

PSP - Fill Light

None of these images completely satisfy me. Normally I would make additional adjustments to bring the image to what I like best. I just wanted to illustrate here that there are many tools and numerous approaches available to “bring light to the shadows”. Don’t be afraid to shoot into the sun. Just make sure that the camera exposure does not allow many over-exposed details or yields overall under exposure. There is a price to be paid when the shadows are lightened in post-processing: there will be increased noise. It may not be apparent in photos from some of the more capable cameras, and in most cases it will be quite tolerable.

.:.

© 2014 Ludwig Keck

Nikon NEF Codec and Photo Gallery

Microsoft Live Photo Gallery is a most useful and versatile tool for managing your photos. I have used it enthusiastically for many years. Like other photo handling programs, it needs to translate the image files to viewable images. For photos stored in the camera manufacturer’s RAW file format it needs a “codec” to do the translation. Microsoft provides the “Microsoft Camera Codec Pack” for use with Windows 7 (and earlier). That works well but does not allow appending or changing the file properties, “EXIF” data, for the RAW files. My recommendation has been to use the manufacturer’s codec instead, and for Nikon users that is the “Nikon NEF Codec”. That has worked well for me in the past. It allows adding meta data, such as comments or tags, to the RAW files, “NEF” extension files, and does all other things well.

Some months back I noticed that there were problems with files coming from Nikon D800 cameras, I did not check with files from other Nikon cameras. Since then Nikon has updated the codec a couple of times, for the D810 and more recently for the D750. Unfortunately the problems have persisted.

What happens is that any NEF photo files that have tags or other metadata added get hopelessly mangled in Photo Gallery when they are changed to JPG format. Here is what thumbnails look like:

WL-thumbnails-NC-1

Viewed large they look the same. Take one of those files to another application and it either looks the same or even more psychedelic like here:

WL-thumbnails-NC-2

Files that did not have metadata changed work perfectly well. There are probably all sorts of other conditions under which all is well. I have not explored the possibilities.

Since adding metadata was my objective for using the Nikon codec in the first place, not being able to do so successfully defeats the use. Nikon is aware of problems with Photo Gallery and says so in their release notes. I just wish they would fix the problems.

This article is also published on my This ‘n That blog.

.:.

© 2014 Ludwig Keck

Museum Photography 2

Visit to the Delta Flight Museum

Delta Airlines recently opened the Delta Flight Museum to the public. The museum is located in two historic hangars, now on the Delta Airline corporate campus. A most interesting place to visit. My visit there also provided me with some additional thoughts and tips on museum photography to go along with my earlier article, Museum Photography.

The Delta Flight Museum is housed in two connected maintenance hangars dating from the 1940s. These historic hangars are now located on the Delta corporate campus adjoining the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. When you visit, be prepared to show ids at the security gate.

LK_000966-S2-2000

Two historic aircraft maintenance hangers house the Delta Flight Museum
This very wide-angle photo is stitched together from two smartphone photos

Unlike most museum artifact, aircraft are rather large. This makes getting them into pictures difficult unless you have a very wide-angle lens. I stitch photos together. Photo Gallery does a fine job of that. Microsoft Image Composite Editor (ICE) does a superb job. I use both. ICE is especially handy when some perspective correction also needs to be done.

LJK13060-Q5-2000

Delta’s first 767 aircraft is now a museum inside the museum 

The largest item inside the museum is a Boing 767 aircraft. LJK13046-P4-2000Inside the rear portion has been converted into an exhibit area with display cases along the sides.

LJK13045-P3-1600

LJK13055-Q4-2000

The Spirit of Delta – Boing 767 aircraft purchased for Delta by its employees, retirees, and friends in the financially difficult times in 1982.

A number of items, like luggage carts, have been turned into display cases and there are numerous interactive displays giving information about the artifacts and the history of flight.

LJK13036-P3 -1280

LJK13048-P3-1600

The Delta Flight Museum, like other museums, is illuminated for a pleasant experince by visitors not for cameras. The light requires high ISO settings and the techniques of noise reduction described in the earlier article. The high contrast range, illustrated here by the view into the “business end” of an aircraft engine and the cockpit, requires HDR processing. That technique was also covered in the prior post. For the images here I used primarily the “shadows” slider in Photo Gallery and the HDR effect in onOne Perfect Effects 8.

The many historical items take the visitor back to the early days of Delta, indeed to the early days of passenger flight. There are many interesting artifacts like the early “amenity kit”. Yes, indeed, there was a time when smoking was common in airplanes.

LJK13024-P3-1600

LJK13026-P3-1600

LJK13019-P4-2000

Early day customer being assisted in boarding flight.
Tableau at the Delta Flight Museum.
Atlanta, Georgia

When we look at what flying was like some 85 years ago when Delta got started in the passenger business, we smile at how plain and  simple it all was. The equipment was outright crude, and so was the merchandising and the service.

LJK13025-P4-2000

LJK13028-P3-2000

Even I remember those simple days of flying. On my first flight on a DC-3 when we arrived at our destination the pilot hopped out, unlocked the door to the terminal and came back and unloaded the luggage. The Delta Flight Museum has the first Delta DC-3, now beautifully restored.

Douglas DC-3 aircraft at the Delta Flight Museum

Douglas DC-3 aircraft at the Delta Flight Museum

Of course, I couldn’t resist this opportunity for a “selfie” in the polished metal of the DC-3.

LJK13034-P5-1280

The Delta Flight Museum is still a work in progress. There are several aircraft outside the hangars that have not (yet) been integrated into the museum experience for visitors. Photography is permitted “for personal use”. There is a museum shop, of course. Be sure to pick up a memento there.

.:.

© 2014 Ludwig Keck