Month: December 2015

Focus Stacking

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Focus stacked image in Helicon Focus. Two Images combined. Both shot at F/8.0 on an Olympus EM5. One image was focussed on infinity whilst the other was focussed on the foreground.
Focus stacked image in Helicon Focus. Two Images combined. Both shot at F/8.0 on an Olympus EM5. One image was focussed on infinity whilst the other was focussed on the foreground.

 

One of the great advantages of small sensor cameras for the Landscape photographer is the increased depth of field that can be achieved, even at relatively wide apertures. For example, I shoot most of my landscapes with the Olympus EM5 set to f/8.0 where the image quality is still excellent and depth of field is front to back. Or is it?

Take a look at this example (all images are at 100% magnification and haven’t been sharpened).

This first example is the very bottom left of the image on this page which was shot at f/8.0. The point of focus is on the near foreground.

Bottom left corner with focus in the foreground.
Bottom left corner with focus in the foreground.

The heather in the image is blowing in the wind but you can see the grass is very sharp.

In this next image you can see the distant horizon for the same image.

Distant hills with point of focus on the foreground
Distant hills with point of focus on the foreground

This is actually quite soft and not as sharp as if we had focussed at infinity. In this next shot you can see what happens when we do focus on infinity.

Distant hills with focus on infinity
Distant hills with focus on infinity

This second version of the distance is substantially sharper but look what’s happened to the foreground in the bottom left corner.

Bottom left corner when the focus is on infinity
Bottom left corner when the focus is on infinity

It is possible to be a little more careful with the point of focus selection and achieve a better balance but this doesn’t give us the ultimate sharpness and depth of field. What we really need to do is combine the two images into a single image which gives a full depth of field. That’s where focus stacking software can help.

I have been a long time user of Helicon Focus for focus stacking but I have to admit that I stopped using it for a while when I switched over to Micro 43. That’s because I thought I could achieve the depth of field I wanted and also the interface was a little clunky. Recently though I decided to update my version of the software (I have a lifetime license) to version 6. What a pleasant surprise. The interface is a joy to use and the software is very fast.

The software offers three methods of blending and all do a good job. My preferred option is B (something called a depth map) where I can set the Radius and Smoothing. I have found that sometimes the default settings leave small areas which don’t blend perfectly. But by adjusting these options a little it’s usually possible to achieve a perfect blend. Another nice feature of the software is that it has retouching brushes. Just pick the source image and paint an area onto the finished image, it’s that simple.

If you haven’t tried Helicon Focus before and you want to achieve the ultimate depth of field, you will find it quite a remarkable tool.

That’s probably it for this year. Have a great Christmas and New Year everyone.

Friday Image No.76

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Olympus EM5, 0.6 ND Grad filter. 17mm, f/7.1 1/400" at ISO200.
Olympus EM5, 0.6 ND Grad filter. 17mm, f/7.1 1/400″ at ISO200.

I thought for this week’s Friday Image I would share a photo I shot during a recent holiday in Dorset. This is the beach just outside Bournemouth and was one of the few times that it stopped raining. The wind however was ferocious pretty much the entire time.

I have decided to share both the colour image and the black and white as I’m not sure which I prefer. The colour image has some lovely colours in the sea but the lacks a little in contrast. What I like about the black and white image is the bite that it has as well as being able to add grain.

Olympus EM5, 0.6 ND Grad filter. 17mm, f/7.1 1/400" at ISO200.
Olympus EM5, 0.6 ND Grad filter. 17mm, f/7.1 1/400″ at ISO200.

I think I will probably return to the image in the future to see if I can produce I could version that I prefer.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Gamut Warnings in Photoshop and Vivez

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Sunrise on Twistleton Scar. Olympus EM5, Olympus 9-18 lens at 10mm, 0.6ND Grad filter. ISO200, 1/60" at f/8.0
Sunrise on Twistleton Scar. Olympus EM5, Olympus 9-18 lens at 10mm, 0.6ND Grad filter. ISO200, 1/60″ at f/8.0

I was recently editing an image with Nik Viveza when I noticed some silvery dots appearing. When I zoomed in to 100% magnification I could see these dots a little larger and they seemed to be covering areas of very saturated colour. The Gamut warning feature was back, or perhaps it never went away.

Gamut warnings seem to cause a lot of confusion so I will try to simplify the situation. When you edit an image it will have a colour space associated with it. Colour spaces determine the range of colours that can be reproduced. Some are quite small such as sRGB and some are very large such as Pro Photo RGB. When a point in an image is changed so that it moves outside the images colour space, it’s said to be out of gamut.

Display and print equipment also have their own colour spaces which reflect the colours they can reproduce. If you have an image edited in a large space such as Pro Photo RGB, it’s quite possible some of the colours in the image will fall outside the colour space of the monitor or printer. These colours are again said to be out of gamut.

A gamut warning shows you where these colours are in the image and can be turned on in software editing tools such as Photoshop. They also used to show up in Nik Viveza which was quite useful and now they seem to be back (although it might be that they have always been here and I didn’t notice). Here’s how to see them when editing from Photoshop.

  1. Open your image in Photoshop
  2. Set up the proofing option. This tells Photoshop which colour space you want to check your image against for Gamut problems. To set the proofing colour space select “View | Proof setup | Custom” from the menu. This will display the “Customize Proof Conditions” dialog as shown below. Here you can select the colour space to proof the image against. For this example, I have selected “sRGB” as its likely to show some warnings.

    Customize Proof Conditions
    Customize Proof Conditions
  3. With the proofing profile set you can now turn on Gamut Warnings in Photoshop by selecting “View | Gamut warning” from the menu. Once you have done this you will see any warnings on the image preview as shown below.

    Image showing Gamut Warning in Photoshop
    Image showing Gamut Warning in Photoshop
  4. It I now edit the image using Nik Viveza whilst I have the Gamut warnings turned on, they also appear in Viveza preview as shown below. I have also chosen to make the warnings more obvious by enhancing saturation and warmth in Viveza.

    Image showing Gamut Warning in Nik Viveza
    Image showing Gamut Warning in Nik Viveza

In summary, the Gamut Warning only seems to display when you have this turned on. It’s a nice feature but unfortunately I haven’t seen it in the other Nik tools.

Shameless Self-Promotion Warning

If you would like to know more about the confusing world of colour management, take a look at my book on Amazon.

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Alternatively search for “Essential Colour Management” on the Amazon website.

Friday Image No.75

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Olympus EM5 with Olympus 9-18 lens at 12mm. ISO200, f/8.0, 1/30". Tripod mounted with 0.6 ND Grad
Olympus EM5 with Olympus 9-18 lens at 12mm. ISO200, f/8.0, 1/30″. Tripod mounted with 0.6 ND Grad

I have been very pleasantly surprised recently, at just how well the Merge to Panorama feature is working in Lightroom. The image you see above is three vertical shots taken on the Olympus EM5 at 12mm. When I first tried the stitch I used Photoshop, which made a complete mess. This version though was done in Lightroom using the Cylindrical panarama blening option. Look at the boat mast and rigging. The software has done a great job.

I shot the image almost 2 years back but had largely ignored it due to the stitching problems. I think I might revisit some of my other images now.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Plaiting Fog

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Early morning mist on Ullswater in the Lake District.
Early morning mist on Ullswater in the Lake District.

Here in the UK there is a term “plaiting fog”, used when something is very difficult to do. One example of this is photographing and enhancing fog and mist. In a previous post I mentioned that I had been processing a number of images that featured mist, or at least they had when I had shot the image but once processed, the mist seemed to vanish. What follows is a simple example of how I go about trying to enhance the mist in a believable way.

Here is the starting image in Lightroom.

Fig01

Notice that the image already has some mist on the water which we are going to enhance. Trying to reproduce mist in Lightroom for an image that doesn’t have any already is like trying to plat fog.

The first thing that I want to do is boost the contrast in the image as the trees and reflection are lacking a true black. The problem if I try to do this using the global contrast adjustment is that the fog seems to vanish. I therefore add gradients with which to select the sky and water and adjust the contrast, without affecting the mist.

Fig02

The next step is to select the area of mist that I want to adjust so that I can work on that in isolation. For this I use the brush tool with the settings shown here.

Fig03

Key points to notice are that I am using the Auto Mask option to help with the selection of the mist. I have a small feather so that the selection is soft and any adjustments will blend believably. Equally the feathering isn’t so large that the adjustments contaminates surrounding areas. Finally notice that the Flow is at 35 so that I need to use multiple brush strokes to build up the selection, which should help make it more believable.

Using this brush, I work along the top edge of the mist to select it. So that I can see what I am doing, I use the option to display the selection as a mask. You can see the selection being made here.

Fig04

Having made the selection along the top edge, I soften the feather on the brush and select the remaining area of mist. For this I increase the feather on the brush and reduce the flow still further. This allows me to lessen the effect along the lower edge.

Fig05

You can see the resulting selection below.

Fig06

Now I can uncheck the option to display the mask, allowing me to work on the mist.

To increase the appearance of mist you typically need to reduce the contrast and increase the exposure for the brush selection you have made. Once you have done this try out the Clarity slider. Moving this left to a negative value can often blur and soften detail. But in the case of the mist in this image I want to emphasise the mist as it floats off the surface. To do this I actually increase the Clarity setting, being careful not to move the slider too far as it will start to hide the mist effect.

Here are the settings I use.

Fig07

Notice that I have also fine-tuned the highlights and whites sliders. The unfortunate effect of this is to remove some of the colour from the mist which I did like and therefore I have also added some further saturation. You can see the resulting image below.

Fig08

A further enhancement you can try is if the version of Lightroom you are using has the Dehaze adjustment. The most recent release of Lightroom CC has added the Dehaze adjustment as a Brush option so I was able to set this to a negative value to enhance the effect even further. You can see a side by side comparison below.

Fig09

The trick to enhancing mist is to work with the characteristics of the image to make the changes appear real. Not every image will suit the same adjustments.

New Book Launch – Black & White Mastery

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BW-Mastery-Lightroom-book

I’m pleased to announce the launch of my new book “Black & White Mastery: Adobe Lightroom Edition”. The book is aimed at the beginning and intermediate black and white photographer, who wants to get the most from Lightroom. No other plug-in’s, software or filters are involved; everything is done in Lightroom.

As with all my books there are three, full length, worked examples that demonstrate the techniques discussed in the book. The RAW files to accompany the examples are available for free download from the members’ area of Lenscraft.

The book is over 200 pages in length and contains 161 illustrations. You can purchase a copy from any of the amazon stores and I have included links to the UK and US sites below. The book is priced at what I think is a very reasonable £3.99 in the UK, $4.99 in the US, or similar in other countries.

Link to UK store

Link to US store

For all other amazon stores please search for “Black and White Mastery: Adobe Lightroom Edition”.

Friday Image No.74

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Looking across a calm Ullswater at dawn. Olympus EM5.
Looking across a calm Ullswater at dawn. Olympus EM5.

After a long layoff from producing Stock & Calendar Photography, I decided that it’s time to work through my huge back catalogue of image. I have been busy picking those I like in order to process and keyword the images. I have to admit that I have surprised myself with how much I like some of the images.

The other thing that surprised me was how easy it now is to enhance your images. Yes I know I enhance my images all the time but that’s to my artistic taste. When you’re trying to edit an image to appeal to a mass audience the approach is a little different.

Take this image for example. It was nice but the mist was a little lacking. But with a few brush strokes and slider tweaks the mist becomes a central part of the image. Next week I will share how easy it is to do this in Lightroom.

Have a great weekend everyone.