Friday, May 27, 2016

Williamsburg: The Boathouse

When one thinks of Williamsburg, VA - one tends to think colonial.  And in most cases, one would be correct.  But not this one time.
Just outside of the colonial village, there is Bassett Hall Nature Trail.  It's a 2 mile walk between two golf courses.  Being that it splits two golf courses, there is a lake/reservoir between the two golf courses, and the walk goes along the water for some time.  Along the walk, and in this body of water there is what looks to be a boat house.  It has all the qualifying marks, basically in the water and a larger enough door on the water to let a water vehicle transit.
This scene has all my favorite elements, water, wood, reflections and a story.
The particulars:  3 Shot HDR, 400 ISO, Aperture Priority, Focal length 50 mm, f/11, speeds 1/200, 1/1600, 1/25.
I used Photomatix to get my base image.  I was planning to just set the colors, but it turns out I really liked one of the preset effects.  Wow - I didn't have to go too much further on this one.  This is my base image.

There isn't too much to do for the color levels, although I might make it just a bit darker.  The sun was out full, but I see this as a bit darker.  i will crop it closer to the building to really see the wood and reflections.  I need to cop out the grass in the foreground and maybe remove a stray blade or two.  I'll work on some effect to age the building more than it is.  But the first thing I want to do is sharpen the image.  At the club meeting last night, we started talking about the Nik sharpening programs.  I applied the pre-sharpener to this image before I 'aged' the building - and then used the post sharpening at the end.  In the preview pane, you can see some action going on.
So in the end, after the effects, sharpening and a 5x7 crop, this is what I get.

I really like the end product doors.  I usually favor a deeper yellow - but this is right on.  I thought I'd be spending more time on this project but this fell right into place.  After the picture of the Inn (Williamsburg Inn Morning), this is more my speed.

Williamsburg: The Inn - Morning

Last week I spent a wonderful few days with the family.  Williamsburg, VA was the chosen location.  We had lots of time to visit (no kids).  We were there at the not quite tourist season and the weather was most comfortable.
On the photography side, I stayed mostly with HDR instead of focus stacking for my adventures.  I did try the stack on one outdoor flower and there was just too much movement in the air to get a good shot.  So I worked on my HDR technique.
One of the best changes I made was to utilize the camera timer.  I set it up to delay 1 second  after the shutter button was released to fire three shots with a half second in between each shot.  At first the one second delay was awkward - but I found after releasing the release, I could focus on steadying the camera.  Worked out quite nicely.
I also worked on my back button focus.  I like the configuration and have been using it for a few months.  I just have not used it enough to be second nature comfortable with the process.  I did work on this quite a bit and am getting much faster in getting to the picture.
I did get one photo request - that was to get a frontal picture of the Inn where we were staying.
I was able to get two shots of the Inn.  One at night and one early morning.
This is the early morning shot.  The particulars:  ISO 100, f/Stop f/8, focal length 18mm.  There were three shots: 1/60, 1/500 and 1/8.  Mode is Aperture priority.  Shots were taken hand held.
I put the three shots through Photomatix and chose one of the Smooth settings.  I did this to keep the halo between the roof of the building and the sky to a minimum.  For the most part, All i want is to set the colors and shadows.  i also upped the shadows a bit to bring out some of the red in the shutters.  This is what I came out with - and is my starting point.

I know from past experience when this gets to a 5x7 format I will lose quite a bit.  I'm not happy with the almost what area on the left in the trees.  I have options for removing that area, but I think it will be best to just make that part of the crop.  I will also do what I can to get most of the roadway out of the shot as well.  The light blue sky is not really what I like, needs to be deeper - and I can do that.  Last, being shot at 18mm there is a lot of camera distortion that needs to be corrected.
Working in Photoshop, I will be using the Smart Layer function with the RAW editor.
To darken out the sky a bit, I used the Adjustment brush to mask in a cooler color.  Very targeted cooler cast on the sky is just enough.  And I don't have to deal with a halo.

Didn't take much, just enough to get the haze look out.
All I need to do now is address the camera distortion before I do a final sizing adjustment.  To tackle the camera distortion, I will use the Camera Raw filter again - but this time on a separate layer.
Using the Camera Raw Filter, select the Lens Correction tab.  In this tab you will find the tool to correct level, horizontal and vertical perspective corrections.

When this filter is applied, the building with straighten out - and look like a building.

And you would be correct in saying that some of the photo is removed and unusable.  But I'm going to crop to a 5x7 format and I need to lose the sky issues on the left.  I'm looking at this as a win.
One of the issues I have not yet solved with Photoshop is when an image is re-sized, it re-sizes the entire process, not just the layer.  To bypass that problem I will save the layer as a TIFF and open it for editing in a new window.
On this file I will do my final crop/sizing and other final processing.

I think the crop worked out well.  I wanted to keep the barrel by the signpost.  And I wanted to get rid of the white sky.  The right side of the building is cut a bit close, but if that's all that is wrong - I'm good with the picture.

Since this was a request, I didn't go overboard on the effects - this may be the first 'conventional' photo I've every published.  Maybe I'll add my version later?

Sunday, May 15, 2016

DMRRC: Waiting at the Station

With all the photos I've done at the DMRRC, I'm now experimenting more with processing.   I've very comfortable with Photoshop - except when it comes to masking.  Hands down, On One is much easier.   Realistically, I can't say On One is better because I'm struggling with Photoshop in that area.
So, last night's efforts I pretty much cropped out any area I needed to mask.  (Cluck - Cluck)
This is eight shot photostack.  I probably should had made smaller increments on this, that is take more shots.  As I was looking at the photo really close up, I could see areas that were out of focus, if ever so slight.  Think of going to the TV store, seeing the HD TV surrounded by the newer Ultra HD units.  You can tell what doesn't belong.
After the stacking process - this is what I have to start.

Lots of track in the foreground and at the top of the ridge, I'd need to put in some form of sky.  Plain ridge lines are easy to mask, but this one has some trees which takes time to separate.  Clearly this screams to go lazy and get more creative with the crop.
As with previous shots, I really like playing with grounds and trees.  The rocks in the rail bed have so much potential.  The cut rock and trees have so many options.  The power plant building has such great detail.  (Need to go back for more...)
I can focus on the left side of the image, removing the top area above the ridge and removing some of the track in the foreground.
I'll add some HDR effect, because that's what I do.

Its a little on the dark side.  If I do much more with this, I'd start by upping the light a bit first.  But for now, I like this.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

DMRRC: Three Lights

In this photo, the train engines were not my initial focus.  Of course, I still wanted to do them justice.  But as I worked on this, I wanted to really bring out the rock colors and formations.
This is a seven shot stack.  I didn't need to do too much more, rally at the rock face that's all.

I don't know what the blue map on the left is.  It looks like something for the layout.  Another lesson learned - scope out your entire field.  Way too much to remove.
To crop this in a meaningful way, I'll lose the engine on the right.  The ridge on the upper right will have to go as well.  It's not bad, but the size is just enough to distract the eye.
For the rocks I added some tone or HDR effects to pullout some definition and split the colors.  I also removed some of the structure to the right of the small building.  The cropping will cut out most - and at that point it doesn't add to the photo.  I used the clone stamp to do the removal.

I really like the surprising effect on the loader building.  It is somewhat darker, but the soot marking in the center really come out.
As to the rock, I like what has happened.  Doesn't look to overdone.

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Updated Workflow (Thoughts)

As I've moved to new (to me) software, I'm working to find the best workflow.  The other sticky wicket is if I'm using stacking instead of HDR, I need to introduce some form of color to enhance the RAW images.  I don't want to stray from HDR - but it doesn't work so well with stacking.
Through working the photos of the DMRRC I've had plenty of time to try, delete and try again different paths from RAW image to publish.  About the only goal was to not retreat to Elements.
On the real positive side, I've watched hours of YouTube instructional videos.  Every package of software I use has multiple authors of videos, from software company sponsored productions to amateurs with interesting tips and tricks.  I have learned so much - and a lot I can't remember but have plenty of links for review.
What I've worked to is a two step process.  The first step takes the RAW images and either stacks them or follows a image merge for HDR with a default setting.  The second step takes that output and manipulates in a way I like.
If I'm doing HDR, I'm still working with Photomatix.  I continue to think Photomatix does the best job with the HDR merge.  At this stage I'm looking to mostly set the color.  There will be a little  HDR tone effect and that's OK.  At the end of this process all I'm trying to do is get a good tone mapped file.  The final file is a loss-less TIFF file.
If I'm doing a photo stack, I'm using Lightroom to add the photos as layers into Photoshop.  Lightroom is part of the software packing I'm using and this is Adobe's method for adding the photos into Photoshop as layers.  Once the photos have been added to Photoshop, the layers are aligned then merged/stacked.  Again, the final output file is a loss-less TIFF file.
From here, if there is any masking work to be done, I'll use On One.  I find their masking processes to be easy than Photoshop.
Once I have the photo from the first steps, I'm now comfortable with Photoshop.  In most cases, I take the photo and create a smart layer.  In this smart layer I'll do any camera corrections first followed by the Camera Raw filter.  In this step, I'll really work on the lighting and balances.  To finish, I'll add an effects layer to the smart layer.  I'm really liking the Nik HDR filters as a starting point.  if that hasn't worked, I'll use Photomatix.
Generally I don't do a lot of sharpening, if I do the Effects part right, it is not necessary.
My web presentation size is usually 5x7 at 150 PPI.  I usually save the JPG at around 60%.

Monday, May 2, 2016

DMRRC: Cabooses (?)

What is the plural for two caboose?  Guess what, if you Google the term, there are plenty of opinions with no definitive answers.  Ah, the world of Wikipedia.
Looking for more of the photos from the DMRRC to work.  And looking for something I don't have to mask in a sky or fill in a person.  My eyes need a break!
I like this shot for the textures and colors of the cabooses (?) and the water tower.  To be sure, I enhanced it a bit  with some HDR effects and sharpening.
This is a five shot stack.  Not a lot of distance from the front point to the back wall of rock.  I didn't find too many out of focus spots in this one.
This is the stacked shot.

The trick for me is to pull out some real definition from the background rocks and the cabeeses (?).  I also need a crop job, remove the right side of the water tower and some of the tracks in the foreground.  It also looks like it is not level to me.  I put a grid on it and the cabeese (?) roofs and the vertical supports on the water tower are where they should be.
And this is what we wind up with.

Mission accomplished.  Good definition in just about everything.  Still looks tilted.