Screens and dirty windows in front of your camera lens

Sometimes the conditions for taking pictures are very marginal but the photo is a must. Such was the situation recently for me. We have not had any rain lately and even the deer that live around our neighborhood were getting desperate. It was after dinner when a doe wandered to the bowl of water I have sitting our for the chipmunks and small birds. It was unusual and I wanted a photo. The only view was from a window with a heavy screen. There was a good deal of light falling on the screen from a window behind me.

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Here is the result. The exposure was 1/15 sec , f/5.6 at ISO 1600. Marginal at best. Note the histogram, nothing on the black end as the illuminated screen provided glare and nothing on the high end as it was dark and there was not enough light for a hand-held exposure. My lens was as open as it goes at the zoom setting I used.

Those little controls on the histogram are the salvation for shots like this. I moved the bottom one up to just were the histogram curve starts and the top one down enough to brighten up the photo. A little bit of added contrast and a small boost of  color saturation was all, I did not crop the photo.

Deer

DeerMuch more acceptable, don’t you think? As a record of the event it will serve just fine. I only managed a few exposures. Our guest only stayed for a long drink and then scampered back into the woods. Maybe I should have told you, this drinking bowl is in our front yard! You can see a little more of the lawn in the parting shot.

The moral of this story is this: Don’t let screens, veils, or dirty windows stop you. Even in impossible situations, take the photo. Then use a bit of processing magic to bring out the picture.

 

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© 2011 Ludwig Keck

Vertical Panoramas

No, that is not an oxymoron. In fact, vertical panoramas are quite common. Most of us think of panoramas as wide views of spectacular landscapes, but they can be wide, or high, or just large and detailed images. Vertical panoramas have the nice advantage of fitting well into web pages as you can see here.LJK_2619-30-Stitch - Copy (270x1000)

The panorama here is of a huge tulip poplar tree at McDaniel Farm Park in Duluth, Georgia, just starting to leaf out this spring. This image was composed of twelve individual photos.

So how does one make a vertical panorama?

The technique is the same as for a “normal”, horizontal, panorama. You start by taking overlapping pictures of the subject. I like to overlap quite generously so I don’t accidentally come up short. Here is one of the photos that make up this composite.

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You can see the others by clicking on the photo (above), the link leads you to my Photosynth of the set.

To make a  composite set use Windows Live Photo Gallery. Select the image thumbnails you want to combine, click the Create tab then Panorama. The photos do not need to be in order, they do need to overlap. There is no need to tell Live Photo Gallery what kind of composite you want, it analyzes the images and combines them in the correct way. The panorama at the right was made that way and then cropped.

My favorite tool for complex composites is Microsoft Image Composite Editor. Click on the photo at right to see the uncropped output from “ICE” – also as a Photosynth.

I have already illustrated one way to show of a large composite with Photosynth. There is another way I like using Zoom.it:

Zoom.it of Giant Tulip Poplar Tree

The zoomit image is based on the WLPG panorama made as a full resolution JPG (100% quality setting). This made the image 48.4 MB – close to the SkyDrive upload limit of 50 MB. The image size is 4534 pixels wide by 11639 pixels high (this includes the black areas illustrating how the photos overlap).

 

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Panoramas of things that are straight

Panoramas are popular for showing all that you can see around you. But what if you want to show something that is straight? Consider a street. You are standing on one side and want to show everything on the other side up and down the street. Your camera lens is likely not wide enough to take in everything from full left to full right. A set of photos can be stitched together into a panorama. Windows Live Photo Gallery has a Create > Panorama feature that works quite well. I like to use Microsoft Composite Editor because it offers more adjustment features and is very easy to use.

All it takes is a set of photos that show the scene step by step. The content of the photos has to overlap about a third to help the stitching program do its job. Here is a panorama of a street scene.

LJK_2125-31-ICE

The left end of the photo shows the street looking down to the left, and the right edge looks to the right. The street looks like it bends. The individual pictures were taken from one position – that is the normal way to make panoramas.

Here, to explain what happens in more detail, is a set of photos showing a straight wall of Fort Pulaski.

LJK_2262 (3872x2592) (100x67)LJK_2263 (3872x2592) (100x67)LJK_2264 (3872x2592) (100x67)LJK_2265 (3872x2592) (100x67)LJK_2267 (3872x2592) (100x67)LJK_2268 (3872x2592) (100x67)

Six photos were taken from the same place. That’s what they look like. When you look to the left or the right the farther end of the wall looks smaller. That is normal, the way we see the world. Combining them into a panorama results in an image that has the same characteristics as the one of the street.

LJK_2262 (3872x2592)_stitch_thumb

It doesn’t look straight. Can something be done? Yes. Instead of taking the pictures from one position, I took a set from six different positions. Each photo looks directly at the wall. I moved from one end to the other. Carefully staying the same distance from the wall. Here is my set:

LJK_2269 (3872x2592) (100x67)LJK_2270 (3872x2592) (100x67)LJK_2271 (3872x2592) (100x67)LJK_2272 (3872x2592) (100x67)LJK_2273 (3872x2592) (100x67)LJK_2274 (3872x2592) (100x67)

Doing this is a bit tricky. Do not use a wide-angle lens setting. The best results are obtained when you are as far from the subject as possible. If you are very careful, and the subject is quite flat, the pictures can be stitched nicely. See, I didn’t use the street, I used a wall! I am never all that careful and my resulting panorama has some flaws, but it is not bad:

LJK_2269 (3872x2592)_stitch_thumb

Now it looks like the wall that it really is. This was done using Image Composite Editor with the StitchCamera motion control set to Planar Motion 3. The default setting is Rotating Motion – for the “normal” panoramas that are taken from one point.

If you have not already discovered the links, each of the panoramas above can be seen larger by clicking on the images. The tool for that is “Zoom.it” – and that is another story.

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Sourcing content for your WordPress Gallery Page

In another post, Setup and Maintain a Photo Gallery Page with Live Writer, I discussed setting up a static page on a WordPress blog as a photo showplace gallery. Here I want to present some of the methods for sourcing and displaying images using Windows Live Writer with a WordPress blog. For illustrations here I will use my blog named  “Gallery Ludwig”.

Using Windows Live Writer makes the “curating” job easy and straight-forward. Inserting pictures from your local computer offers the most options. Writer has some photo editing tools that present some interesting features. I wrote about the Writer photo edit tools in Photo Edit Tools in Live Writer.

In another post I talked about Sourcing blog post images from SkyDrive. There are some additional features that I did not mention there.

A reminder: Stick to sources on the web that are under your control and that you have the right to use!

 

Pictures, albums and slide shows from SkyDrive

Many of my photos are in the Photos section of my SkyDrive, so I would like to show those on my gallery page. The prettiest and easiest is to insert a “photo album”. So to demonstrate the methods, I will start by adding a link to an album:

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One of the nice features of Writer is that it lets you connect to a SkyDrive album and presents it with pretty art. This is only available for SkyDrive albums or newly set up albums with pictures from your computer. Now to the details of adding a SkyDrive album.

Click Insert on the Ribbon. Click Photo album. Click Add online album. This is illustrated above.image_thumb7

A dialog window opens with a sign in request to your Windows Live service. Sign in. Writer connects to your SkyDrive albums and shows them after a short interval. Here is what mine looks like (in part, I have removed some information and albums):

Just select one of the albums and click Insert. Writer downloads the images to prepare a nice display.

A new tab on the Ribbon opens, “Photo Album Tools”.

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The default album layout is called “Squares”, it can show as many as 41 thumbnails. What is especially appealing, each thumbnail when clicked shows a full-browser presentation of that picture. image

Other layouts are “Grid left” and Grid right”. Those later two only show seven thumbnails like this:

Three other layouts show overlapping thumbnails. These are called “Spread”, “Fan”, and “Scatter”.

All but the first-mentioned layout connect to a full-browser SkyDrive slide show when any part of the image (any thumbnail) is clicked. Unfortunately the slide show does not work in all browsers (as of January 2011) . The various layouts are all illustrated on my gallery page, Gallery 1.

Showing an individual photo sourced from SkyDrive is a little more complicated.

Image from SkyDrive

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The command in the Insert tab PictureFrom the web opens a dialog that requests the web address of the picture. When you go to your Photos section on Windows Live and click to view a photo there is information about the picture (on the right, below an ad – here removed). The information includes “Web address” and “Embed” code.

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The web address is the address of the that page – that may not be what you want. The embed code works well enough (you can paste it in on the source view of Writer) and shows a thumbnail of the image. However, with that code the picture tools are not available. image

To get the actual address of the image on the SkyDrive server, click on the image so that it is displayed full-browser without any other material. The rather-long address then in the browser address bar provides the link to the full-size image. Get it by clicking in the address bar so all the text is highlighted, press Ctrl+C to copy it. That is the address to enter into the Insert Web Image dialog (Ctrl+V to paste it). Shortly (after download) the dialog window will show a thumbnail of the image and you will know that you got the correct one. Clicking Insert places it into the page. Now with Picture Tools (click the image to bring up the tab on the Ribbon) you can modify the size and placement of the picture. You will not be able to crop, rotate, or use any of the effects, the frame options will be very limited.

You can assign a hyperlink to a picture to take the viewer to another page. Above I have linked the “Insert Web Dialog” image to the slide show of that small album. Here is how to do that: On the page showing the picture find the “Slide show” command (above the picture). Click Slide show. When the show starts, copy the address from the browser address bar. In Writer click on the image, click Hyperlink on the Home tab or the Insert tab or Link to: Web address… on the Picture Tools tab. Insert the address into the dialog. You can similarly install a hyperlink to the SkyDrive album page.

 

Pictures, slide shows from Flickr

You can show pictures from your account hosted by Flickr. The Flickr guidelines contain the following restriction:

  • Do link back to Flickr when you post your Flickr content elsewhere.
    The Flickr service makes it possible to post content hosted on Flickr to outside web sites. However, pages on other web sites that display content hosted on flickr.com must provide a link from each photo or video back to its page on Flickr.

Bringing pictures from your Flickr account is similar to the way it works with images from SkyDrive. You need the web address of the picture to enter into the Insert Web Image dialog. The primary page in Flickr is the “photostream” – that is where you get to with the “flickr.com/photos/yourname” address. imagePhotos there are all shown in the “photostream” – photos can also be assigned to “sets” – equivalent to “albums”. When you click on a photo it opens up on its own page with a variety of information on the page. Right above the photo is a “Share this” link. Click this to get several options. One of them is “Grab the link”. This is the link to this page, not to the individual image. This is the address that Flickr wants you to link back to. So copy this address to use in the hyperlink for the image on your page. You still need the address to the actual image that you want to show.

imageThere is another option “Grab the HTML…” – as with the similar code from SkyDrive, this code does contain the address, but is this is not the way to insert an image in your posts or pages. An easier way is by way of the “Action” link. Here there is a “View all sizes” option. This leads to a page with size options. Clicking on a size option places a image of that size on that page.

image

Click the size that you wish to use on you page. Then right-click on the image and click Copy image address. If there is no such option, select Properties and find the address there. Use that address in the “Insert Web Image” dialog. Note: If the thumbnail image does not show up there, you did not get a valid address.

Be sure to select the inserted image and assign a hyperlink to it using the address from the “Share this” – “Grab the link” – to allow the viewer to get to your Flickr page (and to satisfy your obligation).

Neat hint: Append “lightbox” after the terminal slash – so that the address looks like this:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ludwigkeck/4147958113/lightbox

This shows your Flickr photo full-browser in a black “lightbox” – very nice.

Slide show from Flickrimage

You can link back to a slide show of a set (or the whole photostream). On your photostream page click on one of your sets. Click Slide show (near upper right). The show will start. Grab the address from the browser address bar. Use this address as the hyperlink for the slide show. Here I have assigned a slide show hyperlink to the illustration at the right.

Flickr slide shows work in most browsers.

 

Pictures, slide shows from Picasa Web Albums

Picasa Web Albums has a landing page with albums. That is the page you reach by your address of this imageform: “picasaweb.google.com/yourname”. Click on an album icon to go to that album page. Click on a thumbnail to go to the page for that photo. Right-click to get the web address of the image (you may have to select Properties first). The address so obtained is the address to use in the “Insert Web Image” dialog. If there is no thumbnail image in that dialog, you did not get a valid address. Note the image size you get with that address is the same as on the Picasa site. That should be fine for a gallery page.

 

Slide show from Picasa Web Albums

To get the address for slide show of an album on Picasa Web Albums go to the album page. imageIn the upper left there is a “Slideshow” link. Click this to start the slide show. The browser address bar shows the address for the photo being displayed at the time. You can copy this address. It is easier with the slide show stopped (controls on the bottom of the image). If you use this address the show will display with this image first. Remove the numbers at the end so the address has the form:

http://picasaweb.google.com/LudwigKeck/MementosFromTheCoast#slideshow/

Of course, it will have your name, not mine in it, and the name of your album. I show this address here so you can try it. Compare what to get by clicking the address above and the image above.

 

This should get you well underway in building your gallery page with images from your various photo sharing sites. Enjoy!

 

 

Making a photo greeting card – image editing and manipulating

Over on the other side of Café Ludwig you can see my Happy Holidays greeting post. Here I would like to tell about the process and tools I used to transform a photo into an abstract image. This also gives me the opportunity to introduce some newcomers to the concept of layers in photo editing. Layers is a powerful feature found in image editing programs. These programs can be intimidating because there is so much to learn to master them. For this project I did not use a photo editor at all, I used Microsoft Office Word 2010. This “text editor” has some great “Picture tools” that are simple and easy to use.

I started with a nice enough photo, but wanted to make the picture to be more like a painting. The “Artistic effects” tool called “Cutout” reduces the continuous tones into just a few shades. After trying several settings I liked the effect best with six shades. The resulting images was nice enough for me to use on greeting cards. For this project I wanted to do a little more. Here are close-ups of the candle in the photo. The first (left) image is the original photo, the second (middle) picture is the results from the “Cutouts” effect transformation. More about the third image a bit farther down.

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I wanted to add a glow and light “spikes” around the candle flame. The glow should go behind the flame. When using terms like behind or above we come to “layers”. In Word it is quite easy to place one image over another one. That’s all there is to layers, one image over another. In “Picture tools” there are also tools for setting “transparency”. The first one I used was picking one color to be transparent. The third image (on right) shows the result when I picked the black color to be transparent. In this case the “white paper” is seen wherever the image had been black. stack

Now I could put this image over another and see the layer underneath wherever the picture had been black. Let me describe what I did in a little more detail. The picture on the right here will explain the steps and the layers.

I used the drawing tools to make a black rectangle. This would serve as replacement for the black that I had made transparent in the photo.

I made a smaller black rectangle and placed a blue radial gradient on it. You can see it at the right. I put this rectangle, or “layer” over the large black one in place so the center of the blue glow would wind up behind the candle flame. I then positioned the image layer over both of these.

The glow behind the candle was now in place.

I used drawing tools again to make a small four-pointed star. In Word you can freely rotate an image, so I set the angle to an orientation that looked good to me. The star was also filled with a gradient of yellow color. It is pretty hard to see in the “stack” illustration here. Placing that over the flame completely hid the details behind the star. This is where the “transparency” setting comes in. This setting is for the whole image, not for a single color as I used before. A transparency of 100% means that the image is like a sheet of glass with nothing on it. Set to 0% means that the image blocks everything behind it. At intermediate settings the image is more or less faded and allows details from a lower layer to shine through.

There was a little problem once I had the transparency just right for the spikes. The center of the flame was now covered with the star which showed detail. So I made a small oval shape, the size of the flame part that I wanted to be completely white. I placed this shape over the flame. That was a bit hard to do with a white oval – it was hard to see. So I made the oval red. You can see it just barely in the stack illustration. Once it was in the correct place I reset the color to white.

This completed the picture part of my project. I had made the black rectangle a bit smaller than the photo so the two candy decorations would hang out of the “frame”.

Word, of course, is great for text and text effects, so the “Happy Holidays!” message was easily added. Here is a view of the finished project.

HappyHolidays

I enjoyed preparing this image to wish you the best for this holiday season and for the year to come. Maybe my explanations also gave you some insight and ideas for your own enjoyment.