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


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© 2016 Ludwig Keck

Hawk

The making of my hawk photo-paintings

Hawk

We keep a bird bath low in bushes in our front yard. It attracts visitors large and small. Our chipmunks and squirrels join all kinds of birds. When the weather is dry even deer come around for a drink and a nibble on the liriope. As can be expected predators are attracted too. Our neighborhood hawks usually sit high in the trees and are hard to photograph, especially in the warm part of the year when the leaves make a dense canopy.

So when my wife noticed a hawk low and close to the house I saw a chance. My first shot was through a dirty window – better to get a poor photo than none at all. Then I gingerly stepped out the front door. The hawk was cautious but tolerant. I moved closer and around for better light. In all I got 15 exposures.

HAWK-LK8-2550-64

Hawk

One of the shots seemed quite suitable for a close, “portrait”, crop.

Hawk

A nice enough bird photo, and the one that got the most “plusses” on Google+. Folks are just drawn to close-ups.

I wanted more out of this photo and it became the basis for my first manipulation. PaintShop Pro is my preferred tool since it offers a vast array of utilities, layers and layers of selected portions. This allows using plug-ins in a very customizable ways. Topaz plug-ins, especially the recent Impression and Glow are amazing tools. Here are a couple of intermediates leading to my final version that primarily uses Topaz Glow.

Hawk Hawk

You can see the evolution of the image. The PaintShop Pro cloning tool came in handy for removing some extraneous elements and for the final vignetting. This version made it to my  Fine Art America portfolio.

Hawk

The photos of the upright hawk appealed to me. The “good” ones are flawed by small twigs in front of the bird. The clearest shot was the first one through the dirty window. The problem with screens and dirty windows in front of your camera lens has been the topic here a long time ago. Much of the effect is a haze that results in no deep blacks in the photo. This can be quite effectively eliminated with the histogram sliders and the other exposure adjustments available in editing tools. I like to use Photo Gallery as my primary management and quick-edit tool. Here are views of the original frame and the first enhancements.

Hawk

 Hawk

So next a tight crop and a journey through the effects tools.

LK8_2550-F7-1024

Hawk

The final version is here, this too made it to my for-sale print collection.

Hawk 2 

The original “sitting” of the hawk was just four minutes, first to last exposure. The photo editing, manipulations, and “photopainting” was more like four days.

.:.

© 2014 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

The Runt

The Runt of the Take

The day was a pretty good one for me, 102 photos. There is still that old “Kodachrome habit” in me – be frugal with exposures and make every one count. So this was a lot of exposures for me. Of course, it was a special day, a trip the the Botanical Garden of Georgia, in Athens, Georgia, U.S.A. There is always a lot to enjoy there and it is a gorgeous and rich environment for photography.

But back to the subject: Runt – smallest, weakest, least likely to succeed. Every “take” of photos has these, some get thrown out without another thought, some just form the detritus in the archives. Every so often I take another look and ask myself, “is there something in that photo?”

The “subject of this post” is one of those “runts”. Sometimes I do a lot of fancy processing, sometimes I take them into “art effects” tools, sometimes, when I have time on my hands, I try all of these.

OK, here is one of the results. I post this first so it will show in the links to this post in the various social places. If I showed the original first, you, my dear reader would most likely have passed it by.

Opium Poppy

This is a photo of an opium poppy from the International Gardens. This one taken from the side, slightly below the flower. I liked the light on it at the time. The result didn’t impress me nearly as much. So it landed in my “make art of this” corner when I came around to it.

I needed to run some tests on the latest improvements to Windows 8.1. I have it in a VMware virtual machine. Drag and drop works beautifully in this system. I opened Microsoft Word 13 in the guest machine and dragged over the thumbnail from Photo Gallery that I had open in the host system. A bit of manipulation and I had a pleasant image. Yes, the Photo Tools work nicely in the current version of Microsoft Office.

Opium Poppy

Then I took the image into PaintShop Pro to work on it. After some of my ideas did not work well, I wondered if maybe a black and white version could bring out the lively, light, and vibrant aspects of this blossom. Making a B&W of such rich and intense red seemed like sacrilege unless I could retain the feeling of purity of the color. I decided that “purity” is best evoked by white, so I used full red filtration for the conversion and make it into a high key image. Some sharpening and a bit of contrast adjustment and I was satisfied that I was doing justice to the flower.

Opium Poppy

Opium PoppyThe images above are three of my attempts to give this runt of a photo a chance. I guess I would be amiss if I did not show what I was starting with. The original photo here is shown smaller than the others to allow it cower shyly in the corner. It gets its chance of limelight in the costumes of “artistic effects” above.

.:.

© 2014 Ludwig Keck

Dramatic B&W Photos

Create dramatic dark skies with simple tools

In black and white photography it is all about the light, shapes and lines. Such images offer a totally different appeal from their color photo counterparts. Dramatic dark skies are a hallmark tool for stunning images. Here are some tips for getting the most from your color originals using simple tools.

Let me start with a demonstration.

Men of Steel

This delightful sculpture showing workers taking a break on a steel beam gleams in this photo. The dark sky and deep shadows bring life to this image.

It was derived from a rather ordinary color photo. The normal process is to use a color-filter conversion when making it into a B&W image. Pretty much all the photo editors provide such tools.

In PaintShop Pro you can pick the exact filter color from a color wheel as illustrated below. PaintShop Pro - Black & White Film tool

Similarly, Picasa has a “Filtered B&W” effect and the filter color is picked from a palette. Picasa - Filtered B&W

 

Windows Photo Gallery offers a selection of B&W effects with several filter colors. Windows Photo Gallery - Effects

With all of these tools the reddest filter does not provide that dramatically dark, almost black, sky for a normal blue sky in a photo. There is an added trick to achieve the deep dark sky: Adjust the color saturation to a very high level. The image below shows the results. The outside (left and right) portions show the normal photo with the normal result through a red filter.

The inside pair shows a deeply saturated sky and the the resulting dark black and white image.

Lunch break

One note of caution: The resulting black and white image will show a good deal of mottling in the formerly blue areas. A uniform sky will make this even more noticeable. So make the conversion in the largest image that you have. Make any size reductions afterwards to maintain a clean sky.

This post was also published at Photography Notes and Tips.

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© 2013 Ludwig Keck

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