Month: January 2016

Friday Image No.79

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Snow covered trees in the Lake District. Sony A7r, ISO100, f/14.0, 1/40".
Snow covered trees in the Lake District. Sony A7r, ISO100, f/14.0, 1/40″.

I shot this a couple of weeks back when I was lucky enough for a visit to the Lake District to coincide with a good snow fall. This isn’t though one of your grand, well known scenes but just a small layby along the road from Ambleside to Coniston, about 2 miles out of Ambleside.

I have driven past this location hundreds of times, sometimes catching a glimpse of a nice scene, but never sufficient to try to pull over and shoot it. The road is narrow and the layby often has a car in it. This time the photography gods must have been smiling on me as the layby was clear and the scene worth stopping for.

Funny how snow transforms the landscape

Pulling Shadow Detail from RAW Files

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Sony A7r, ISO50, 5" f/14.0.
Sony A7r, ISO50, 5″ f/14.0.

A couple of weeks back I showed a post of Lulworth cove shot at sunrise and passed comment about how easy it now seems to be able to lift detail from extreme shadows with the Sony A7r. Someone mentioned that it would help if rather than me talking about seeming blacks in the RAW file, I were to post a before and after comparison. This short post is my attempt to share a little more on the subject.

Take a look at this starting image.

Starting image showing heavy shadows with little detail in these areas.
Starting image showing heavy shadows with little detail in these areas.

The image was captured using the Sony A7r with Canon 24-70 L series lens. As you can see, the scene is quite high contrast as I was shooting from an area of shade towards the sunrise. At the time I only had a 0.6 ND Grad filter with me, although had I used a stronger filter I would still have encountered problems with the rocks.

As the image was shot in RAW format, I hope to extract much more detail from the dark areas using the Lightroom. Here is how I processed it.

  1. I increased the exposure to +1.6 and also reduced the contrast to -70. This has the effect of opening up the shadow areas and revealing the detail as can be seen in the screenshot below.
Increasing the exposure setting and reducing the contrast reveals how much detail the camera has captured in the shadows.
Increasing the exposure setting and reducing the contrast reveals how much detail the camera has captured in the shadows.
  1. Although this makes the image look very flat and too light, we will be able to correct these problems shortly. The key thing is that the details hidden in the shadow areas has been revealled. If you take a look at some of these areas at 100%, you can see just how good a job the Sony A7r has done at capturing this information.
Shadow area following recovery, magnified to 100%.
Shadow area following recovery, magnified to 100%.
  1. Next I reduce the Highlights and Whites to -65 each. This helps to recover some of the lost highlights that were blowing out to pure white as a result of my increasing the Exposure slider so much.
Global adjustments to the highlights
Global adjustments to the highlights
  1. A few problems are now quite evident. The rocks in the foreground are appearing too light, there is a complete lack of saturation and the sky is lacking the impact we previously had. We can address some of these points using the Gradient filter. I add one to the sky and one to the rocks in the foreground.
  2. In the next shot you can see the selection for the foreground rocks. Here the exposure was reduced to -1.0, Contrast set to -10 and Highlights to +20. These adjustments were to darken the area but avoid losing too much contrast. I then increased the Clarity, Dehaze and Saturation to +15 each.
Selective darkening to the foreground rocks.
Selective darkening to the foreground rocks.
  1. Next the selection was made to the sky area and applied adjustments to reduce the brightness and add in more structure and saturation to the clouds. You can see the selection with adjustment applied below. The Exposure has been reduced by -0.70 as well as contrast by -20. Additionally, the Highlights have been reduced to -20 and Shadows increased to +20. Finally, there was an increase to the Dehaze and Saturation of +15.
Selective adjustment to the sky.
Selective adjustment to the sky.
  1. The image is starting to look acceptable but requires more work. It still doesn’t suggest an early morning shot as much as I would like it to. I would like the colours to be more a little more vibrant and I want to focus the attention away from the edges of the frame by applying a darkening vignette. In the following screenshot you can see the result of these changes.
Nearing completion.
Nearing completion.
  1. Finally, I added a tone curve adjustment to slightly emphasise the feeling of daybreak and tweaked the saturation levels using the HSL tool to arrive at the finished image. If you zoom in to 100% magnification on some of the areas that were previously shadows, you can see how much detail is present and how little noise. The next screenshot demonstrates this. And by the way, the only noise adjustment was +10 on colour noise.
Another shadow area magnified to 100%.
Another shadow area magnified to 100%.

I hope that you like the transformation and what can be achieved with Lightroom and a RAW file. I may turn this into an extended course with supporting video if there is interest. I have skipped over quite a few things that I am assuming Lightroom users will already be familiar with.

Friday Image No. 78

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Winter Trees. Canon G7X, ISO125, f/5.6, 1/160".
Winter Trees. Canon G7X, ISO125, f/5.6, 1/160″.

I’m sure that any readers currently residing in the UK will agree we have been having some rather odd weather of late. Today it was some 11 or 12 degrees (Celsius) in Manchester which is ridiculously warm for this time of year. Yet only last weekend we had sub-zero temperatures and snow.

But the snow is ideal for Landscape Photographer and last weekend I drove up to the Lake District. Trees and fields were covered with a beautiful blanket of snow. The weather was overcast but this was perfect for capturing minimalist scenes without lots of glare.

Whilst it was my intention to use the Sony A7r exclusively, I ended up turning to my pocket Canon G7X again. I intended to use the compact only for sizing up compositions before unpacking the larger camera. In the end I shot quite a lot of scenes with the Canon and it performed very well.

The image here makes a rather nice A3 print. It was also not the ideal location to be trying to set up the Sony on a tripod. The perfect scenario for the compact pocket camera.

Topaz Texture Effects Discount

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Topaz Texture Effects. You can do much mor than simply work with textures.
Topaz Texture Effects. You can do much mor than simply work with textures.

Topaz have just contacted me to say they are offering a discount on their new software Texture Effects until the end of January. Rather than the usual $69.99, its discounted down to $49.99 when you use the discount code EASYTEXTURE. Here’s the link

www.topazlabs.com

If you’re not familiar with Texture Effects, it’s well worth trying out. Whilst it makes blending textures with images easy, it can be used to create many other effects that can be used to move your photography towards art. I’m also busy work on a book to explain and demonstrate the software in detail so watch out for this over the coming months.

Washing Your Colours

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Lake Windermere, Ambleside, the Lake District. Sony A7r + 70-300 Canon lens. ISO100, 1/100" at f/14.0
Lake Windermere, Ambleside, the Lake District. Sony A7r + 70-300 Canon lens. ISO100, 1/100″ at f/14.0

I’m sure you have experienced it. You shoot a nice image but when you come to process it, you just can’t seem to achieve a good colour balance. The image above is one such example. No matter how much I tried to adjust the Colour Temperature and Tint in Lightroom, I couldn’t get it to look the way that I wanted. The more I tried, the less certain I became about what I was trying to achieve. In the end I reset the sliders to what the camera captured (it was set to AWB at the time) and produced the following image.

Example conversion from Lightroom
Example conversion from Lightroom

This was shot about an hour after sunrise yesterday and whilst it was quite a colourful scene, it doesn’t give the impression of being very cold. Despite this, I pushed on and processed the image with Topaz Clarity to produce the following.

Example following further work in Topaz Clarity
Example following further work in Topaz Clarity

Whilst I like the effect the Clarity adjustment has on the image, it made me even more certain that I wanted to change the colour balance. That’s when I turned to ColorWasher, one of the plug-in’s I recently mentioned as having purchased over Christmas.

The software is intended to correct colour cast and contrast problems and appears very effective at this. What has really impressed me is the very natural results that are produced.

It can be set to operate in two modes Easy and Expert. So far, I have only been using the Easy Mode in which much of the adjustment is automated. Whilst I’m not normally a fan of automated adjustments, it is very effective. You can see a screenshot of the interface below.

ColorWasher Interface in Easy Mode
ColorWasher Interface in Easy Mode

When using the Easy mode three colour corrections are possible, each giving a different feel to the image. I tried all three but settled on the one that retained some of the scenes warmth whilst also allowing the more distant trees to take on a cooler blue hue. The other other two (one neutral and one cool) were both appealing but I preferred one with some warmth as its how I remembered the scene.

The other correction I made was to Autofix the Exposure. The final result is the one that you see at the top of the page.

If you would like to try out the software, it’s produced by PhotoWiz and is available from the Plugin Store website. A trial version is available for download which places a watermark on the image. Whilst this prevents you from using the finished image, it does allow you to evaluate the software.

I’m looking forward to exploring its capabilities in much greater detail.

Friday Image No.77

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Lulworth Cove, Dorset. Three image stich with a Sony A7r. Canon 16-35mm lens at 20mm. 1" exposure using f/14.0 and ISO50.
Lulworth Cove, Dorset. Three image stich with a Sony A7r. Canon 16-35mm lens at 20mm. 1″ exposure using f/14.0 and ISO50.

When I look at this image it’s easy to forget how difficult the conditions were. This is a three image stitch using the Sony A7r with a Canon 16-35 L series lens. One shot, even with the wide angle of the 16mm wasn’t sufficient to catch the entire scene.

Metering was another problem. The contrast difference across the scene was huge and the headland on the far side of the cove as well as to the right of the image was in deep shadow. It actually looks black on the RAW file. But selective adjustment has opened up these dark shadows, showing just how much detail can be recovered from the A7r RAW file.

Finally, the wind was blowing, the rain was lashing down and the sunrise was rather brief. I managed to set up for this series of images and repeated the shot three times. By the end of this the sunrise had faded. Of the images I shot, I struggled to find sufficient that were pin sharp. The wind had caused a lot of vibration and was no doubt catching on my filters.

The life of a Landscape Photographer is never an easy one. What makes it more painful is when someone looks at the images and says that’s nice, it must have been lovely to see that. Actually, it was uncomfortable and taxing.

The Rain Has Stopped

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The Peak District towards Kinder Scout. Panasonic GM1 + 12-32mm lens. 0.3 ND Grad on the sky. All processing in Lightroom.
The Peak District towards Kinder Scout. Panasonic GM1 + 12-32mm lens. 0.3 ND Grad on the sky. All processing in Lightroom.

Today there was a break in the rain so I took the opportunity to go for a walk. Ordinarily I would take the RX10 for such outings as I don’t need to worry about leaving anything behind. It’s a great all in one camera. Today though I decided to take the Panasonic GM1 with its 12-32 lens (24-64mm equivalent) and a 35-100mm lens (70-200mm equivalent).

Before Christmas I was selling off old (and some quite new) camera equipment. I had just too much choice and needed to free up some of the cash tied up. Much of the equipment I had accumulated was lying around not being used and the GM1 was an example of this. I had it up for auction on ebay (with both lenses) and it just wasn’t gaining any interest.

In the end I decided to pull it from the auction and keep the camera and I’m quite pleased that I did. Today I remembered why I liked this camera so much. I bought it as a pocket camera and pocket it is. It’s smaller than the LX7 yet has a Micro 43 format sensor. The images are 16MPixels and the quality is very good. Only the corners of the 12-32mm lens let it down a little but they are perfectly acceptable and print well.

I think I will be taking this little gem out a little more often now.