Thursday, October 12, 2017

More Windows 10 Update Angst

IMAG1165I was starting to relax about Windows 10 and got a late night HP Service center request that I needed to reboot my little HP spectre. The on/off setting had an update and restart message (I’ve seem plenty before it was a microsoft windows 10 update I thought. Ok restart and the expected cycles of updating percentage displayed on the screen in fits and starts and the don’t turn your computer off warning. Then a restart and similar update message BUT then a final message that the update could not be installed and it was undoing changes. Not the time of day to investigate so I did a shut down, more updating messages.

IMAG1167In the light of day I restarted and went through the same cycle. I had to restarts twice and go through the updating and undoing changes charade two more time efore I could finally log in. nothing seems wrong (ie I am back where I was. However trying to shut down I still see the Update and restart warning! Am I destined for an endless loop of annoyance?

But why?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Sketching before taking the photo

Field tray of "soft" sketching stuffI had made up of couple of small plastic trays for a selection of my pastel  to use in the field on my trip through the Kimberleys. I only used them a couple of times, and not so successfully. The little plastics trays where fine, a great size for portability. As well as the pastels I made up a “soft” sketching kit with charcoal, compressed graphite, woodless pencil and conte. These are traditional sketching media but somewhat fragile, so not exactly field friendly.

example of notan/compositional sketches However because the kit is nice and small, I’ve been trying it out as a way to prepare composition/notan sketches for my pathway project. My intention is to make quick composition sketches and possibly a few alternatives that incorporate the tonal balance BEFORE I take any photos. So I am thinking/seeing more like a “plein air” painter preparing a new canvas. The charcoal is quick and gives a strong contrast but it smudges easily, the compressed graphite is good but delivers a very pencil draw tonal range (its hard to get the deep darks). The woodless pencils seemed ideal, I have two hardnesses HB and 4B. They gave me the fast loose sketching of the main shapes and a decent spread from light to dark.

The set of bracketed photo submitted to Aurora HDRThe composition was fine and I wanted to emphasise the lead in of the pathway in the lightest tonesand the contrast of the intersecting but hidden path and bush behind it. The strong dark blocks of the bush on the right hand side blocks this in a balanced sort of way. The lacy effect if the overhanging tree had some potential so I went to a wider angle and took a series of vertical (portrait orientation) bracketed images going from –2.0 EV to +2.0 EV. I have just recently purchase Aurora HDR 2018 and wanted to test it out. The default result was pleasing but having a notan sketch beside me when I did the post processing guided me to set the tonal balance to better match with what I saw. It also prompted to do a crop closer to the original framing of my sketches.

Final post processed photo from Aurora HDR

Sunday, October 08, 2017

#AIart and using Hashtags

I haven’t been as active on Instagram this past month, no real help from Alvin, just a lot going on. I did notice a massive drop in followers while I was off the net in the Kimberley's, and I have seen a more gradual return recently, and I probably attribute that to a bit more of a focus on using specific hashtags. The “fame” of a good image on Instagram is a fleeting thing, last a day or so at most. For am image to be found it has to be searched (either by your name, and not so many folk know me by the weird Instagram names I have, or via hashtags). Using hashtags is however a double edge sword. Some tags are so generic there are hundreds of competing images and often conflicting themes, for example #FollowTheSun is used a lot but more importantly it is used by the folks promoting bikinis and beach wear or travel services. My project of following the sun around Australia and my sketches don’t get notice beside a pretty girl or a dreamy location. Also the folk that follow the sun are more likely to be the fair weather followers (they want more and more beauty each day, if you don’t post it seems its the unfollow button for you).

#AIart serach on instagram

A better strategy for me has been to focus down on more specific Hashtags. The good example here is the #AIart tag I started using it in Flickr & twitter late last year, and from about April this year on Instagram, to describe using neural networks trained to recognized a given style (or content) with a regular photo to produce a hybrid work somewhere between the photo and the art work. The real trick here is to get at least one of your images displayed in the opening nine. Instagram has a algorithm, no idea what it weights to include photos in this opening nine, but they probably represent the better and/or more popular images within this hashtag group. In the case of #AIart I am fortunate to currently have 5 of the top 9, within some 1410 post.  It is probably easy to have a hashtag only you use and you will be in that top 9 for sure, The magic happens when you encourage or inspire others to use the hashtags as well. Alternatively construct  composite tag so it shows up in more general searches (eg AI + art)  or the little related topics that often appears that the top of a search include it because it is similar. Now many more people might see your work.

Its not only Instagram posts that I tag with the same hashtags, I use them in twitter (where photos have a much shorter life, and without so many followers virtually no general exposure for me) but a hashtag means they can be found. (eg #janesweather, which means several have been on the TV weather report) I must admit I’m not a twitter fan, have had very little feedback/engagement and probably will abandon it soon. Finally tags, without the hash symbol have always been a good tool for finding things in flickr, they still are.

Keep on (hash) tagging. Just not with spray cans or a Posca on walls, landposts & postboxes.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Single Image HDR

Ibis against dark clouds

The new Aurora HDR 2018 for Windows can perform all its normal tone mapping on a single photo.The original for this was a bit over exposed (as you might expect for a largely white bird high in the sky). The default "HDR" was in fact very realistic, yes the clouds where that dark and threatening rain. So I only changes a few of the basic tonal slider and smoothed down the noise in the sky. Since this was only the fourth image I had processed in Aurora HDR 2018 so I'm impressed already, just a bit more to work out on defringing.

Monday, October 02, 2017

INKtober and now for something completely different

Day 1 pencil sketch of wacom tablet

October seems to be the month for Sketching, flickr are running INKtober (so expect my photofeed there to suddenly become drawings), the YouTube SketchBookSkool are running monthly sketching themes on Instagram (some background on @oz_endless_summer) and pastel artist Marla Baggetta is also recommending a month long sketchbook challenge.

Given that I was unable to keep up a year long daily sketch routine last year I figured I should at least give a one month of drawing & posting a reasonable chance. So expect less photos and more drawings, wish me luck and get drawing yourself.

Day2 the strawberry with watercolour washpreliminary pencil & ink

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Does Exposing to the Right make a difference?

Exposing to the right, isn’t magic and it not applicable everywhere.  Its a relative simple method (“trick” is not the right word) to help capture more light and reduce the underlying signal to noise ratio issues in lower tonal ranges. Whilst it can be applied in jpeg format, with lesser success, it really needs photos to be taken in RAW format, which records more detail and  give the capacity to adjust tones with suitable post processing software for the “finished” photo. It also helps to have a digital camera that can display a histogram (of the light illumination levels) on the back of the camera.

Just a word of warning there is a lot of rubbish written about exposing to the right that will come up early in google searches. If you read this post and try it out for yourself you will realise that it isn’t a hoax or a myth (they are just BS, Fake news)

The other requirement before you can exploit exposing to the right, is having an image with some “head room” in the histogram to increase the exposure without hitting the dreaded white clipping. Once your sensor fills with photons to its maximum, no extra detail can be captures. in 8-bit RGB terms you have reach 255 level in each colour channel. The histogram will be hard up against the right hand edge (see lower right of the examples below). If your camera has the settings you can turn on the feature to show this clipping. They are frequently displayed by blinking zones of colour usually referred to as the “blinkies”.

Originial Exposure Exposing to the right +1 EV Blinkies, opps too far +2EV
Originial Exposure Exposing to the right +1 EV Blinkies, opps too far +2EV

I took this series of photo on the way home, trying to beat a storm, the new growth on the oak trees looks photo worthy so I stopped for a quick shot. The sky was darkening and the trees largely in shadow so I got a typical result (photo above left) with what appeared to be an reasonably exposed sky and most of the foreground in deep shadow. Looking at the histogram the exposure is probably ok in terms of average illumination. There is very little  bright light recorded on the right hand side of the histogram. The photo on the left is just not what the scene looked like, it appears darker than what I saw. This is the type of situation where exposing to the right can help achieve a better image.

In my series I am using the exposure compensation to try letting in more light, but if your are shooting on a DSLR you can use any combination of ISO, F-stop or Shutter speed. Just changing f-stop by one stop doubles the light, change to +1.0 EV achieves the same. I have taken +1 Ev (the middle photo above) and +2 EV (The photo on the right above). Immediately I can see that the +2 EV option is too much I am clipping the sky and no matter how much darkening I try to perform it will remain pure white. The histogram for the center photo looks better the histogram is just touching the upper edge but now a lot of the illumination has moved to the upper right, This is what exposing to the right is trying to do. The trouble is, the photo looks overexposed, particularly in the sky.image

The important next step in the exposing to the right method is to post process (the center photo) to “pull back the tones”, particularly the whites & highlights, the sky in this case. I’m using lightroom and just the basic tonal sliders. I’ve moved the exposure slider back –1 (one stop),  highlights most of all, white & shadows less and blacks hardly at all. I have moved all slider to the left, darkening the tones. Essentially I’m reversing the lightening step I deliberately took in the camera, when using the +EV compensation. Avoid pressing Auto (tone) here because it will take you photo back to essentially the same as your first exposure. Just experiment with the sliders and remember “less is more”, be gentle don’ try and over do it.

The result (shown below) better captures both the sky and the shadow detail, with the important side benefit of reducing noise in the dark tones and making the colours and mid tones a little clearer (without having to use the clarity of vibrance sliders). It is definitely closer to what I saw.

Afternoon walk in Jells Park (before the storm)

It is also worth looking at a bit of the detail

Detail from original photo

An insert from the original photo shows some noise in the shadows and flatness in the mid tone details.

detail from tonally adjusted final photo

Similar insert of the tonally adjusted Photo that was originally exposed to the right, showing less noise in the darks and also better detail in mid tones and slightly richer colours.

With RAW it is also possible to also lift the tonal range, (ie lighten the darks/shadows) of the original but this will only increase the obvious noise.

Exposing to the right can be a rewarding approach if your shoot in RAW, and have access to good software for post processing. Try it out next time you see a photo with the “head room” in your histogram to up the exposure (and collect more light).

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Matching GPS Log Files to Photos

When first trying out the GPS match up in photo mechanic from GPS wayfiles and my photos I was out of internet accessible areas and could not look at the result on a map. When I finally did get a chance to check things where out all over the place. A real mess. Since I had had massive issues trying to synch my phone and camera I figure that was the issue. And it was … just not a matter of synching the current time.

The real issue was the fact the google my tracks app which I use on my phones, actually stored the time stamp in UTC (univeral coordinated time) which most people know as Greenwich Mean Time or GMT. This is for the simple reason that satellite position is reference to this time standard. At the moment its 11 hours behind our local time here on the eastern side of Australia. Once I realise this (its not documented anywhere I could find) everything else about loading the GPS wayfile (in gpx format) and merging the coordinates to my photos in photo mechanic was easy.


I’m doing the gps merge straight after the ingest step. I have to export the gps wayfile from My Tracks app in .gpx format (and despite what the app says it does not reliably export to my google drive anymore), so this is now a two step dance, export to the card in the phone, connect the phone to my computer and up load the .gpx file into the same directory as the photos. I then run File/Import GPS coordinates… from the main drop down menu. Which starts the dialogue show above. There are just four things to do/check.

1) Press the little add button in the GPS log file dialogue up on the top left, and use the normal file browse to select the .gpx file. Then press the plot GPS logs (you can have several files being processed together) and this will display a map of your path on the right hand panel.

2) the next important place to set up and/or check is the GMT Offset of photos panel on the right below the Map panel. First time you use it either enter the difference in your local time to GMT (11 hours in my case). You can also try using the Auto, but it seems to match your first photo with the first way point, and often I start the gps tracking well before I photograph. So there can be a mismatch (as I discovered the hard way)

3) The small panel on the right will show the first photo and coordinates. If the photo is miss located because of time difference you can make those changes easily by clicking on the small + and – button over under the map. Each time you press the button it moves onto the next way point (the ++ give you bigger steps). You just need to move the blue pin along the way path till it reaches the correct spot. you will also notice that the time offset is being changed in accordance with the shift. You can also step through the photos using the -> arrow keys below the photo in the panel on the lower right. Despite my best efforts to synchronise everything one camera is 4 minutes 30 slow the other 1 minute 25 seconds fast. These time difference make a difference even at m walking speeds. The time differences are “sticky” and show up next time you import more coordinates. So after a few ingest the small shifts are usually not required.

4) The last step is to click the Import GPS coordinates button in the lower right hand panel.

The whole process usually only takes less than a minute.

In the past I found picasa a reasonable way to review photo location for .jpeg files. Even Microsoft photo will display a map for an individual photo once it has lat and log coordinates. However I have had very mixed results trying to use Lightroom (it will read the coordinates from the way files and do a merge with photos but very often refuses to display map backgrounds so it a bit impossible to check and got it wrong more often than not. I had used a special apps such as geotag and geo tracker to do the merge but that was also tedious and error prone, so I had got used to only occasionally bothering to geotag a sample batch. Just manually locating a few photo in Flickr, when appropriate.

The new approach with photo mechanic is so quick and easy I am doing it routinely again. I’m even going back and redoing a few of those batches of the photos in the past for which I still do have gps wayfiles. Geotagging is back on my agenda