Wednesday, February 27, 2008

How good are the Auto-Fix Tools?

I guess everyone with a camera knows the disappointment of a greatOriginal photo (unedited) moment that slipped away into a very average photo. The weather was changing to rain and this cormorant turned into the breeze to dry his wings before the rain squall arrived by the time I had fumbled in my camera bag and change my lens the little light left was disappearing fast and I was way to far away anyway, but I hit the shutter button anyway. The result was low key grayness and not quiet what I hoped, but very understandable given the conditions. So maybe it is a worthy candidate to use to compare all those auto-fix tools popping up in most software these days

live gallery auto adjust tool First I tried out Live Gallery (which is free to download), it doesn't have so many "correction" features but top of the menu of fix tools is the auto adjust. The nice thing is, it does its job quickly but then gives you a set of sliders (which I didn't use) that can enhance the shadows or highlights separately to general brightness and contrast. You can see all this happen in the histogram at the bottom. You can also stretch the tone directly by setting the lightest and darkest tones with the little sliders below the histogram.

picasaI'm feeling lucky Next it used my favourite photo manager Picasa (also free to download). In a very googlesque touch they have called their autofix tool "I'm feeling lucky". I am not sure what exactly the tools does, but in addition to the contrast and tone stretch it also does some colour adjustment. If you want more control you can find the shadow, highlights, contrast and brightness under the Tuning Tab.

corel auto equalize tools Another old favourite or mine is Corel Photo (now incorporated into Jasco Paintshop Pro) it has a no magic single click fix button just lots of option under the image/ adjust section of the menu. The auto equalize does the tone stretching an important part of the auto-fix process. Its definitely old fashioned but does the job.

olympus fix Next  I moved onto the camera bundled software I got with my cameras. First Olympus Camedia which does have have a auto fix, which gets on and makes a preview that you must accept. There are individual controls in are there in other tools. I also have the Pentax Photo  Browser, which gives a slight pentax fix toolversus strong adjustment options under auto image fix. I found I needed the strong adjustment, and perhaps wanted more.


paint net tool Last of all I thought I should try out Paint.Net (also free to download) which is promoting itself as photo editor as well as a paint tool. Like Corel photo its Auto-level just addresses the tone stretch, but there are the other individual brightness, contrast etc controls as well.

So how do the results stack up. Judge for yourself. (move your mouse across the photos below and see which software was used)

live gallery Olympus Camedia

picasa fix Corel Photo

pentax Paint Net

I don't think any of these are now wonderful pictures, but they are all "lifted" in different ways, the top four at least did produce a clearer print. I still feel the best place to do your adjustments is in the view finder and dials and/or buttons on your camera.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Static Vibrancy

Ripple in Time Wallpaper
Originally uploaded by imageo
This screen wallpaper started out as an exercise in trying to capture things that repeat over time and then post process them using the HDRi technique into a single image (ie I was taking three photos at different exposures, then using dynamic photo to merge the images with an extended dynamic range. I expected to see the ripples moving across the image (at subtlety different exposures). The subject was the incoming tide flooding over a current cut small pool in the sand. Normally when using HDRi you must have a subject that is static across the three exposures so the images cab be matched exactly, but I like to find out what happens when you break the rules.
+1.0 EV (Overexposed) 0.0 EV (Light meter's choice) -1.0 EV (Underexposed)
The individual images, showed the ripples patterns nicely, especially the +1.0 EV. (Validating my view that it is often wise to use EV bracketing when photographing low and direct light, because in those conditions the built in light meter in your camera may make the wrong decision about exposure.) The surprise was how "dynamic" and vibrant the HDR image was, even with the smooth compression (a more naturalist) tone mapping. I think this is because the image has been broken into a strong pattern of lights and darks in close proximity and your eye is constantly assessing how to interpret them. The pointillist painter realised this long before me, and made painted surfaces of tiny coloured dots trying to create this vibrancy. If you have an LCD screen try downloading the wallpaper (click on the top image and it will take you back to flickr and click on the all sizes item to get the full screen sized version).  Now look at it as you move your head around. Can you see the surface shimmer? Does the pool appear deeper?
21-feb ripples in time-compress-small

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Moon rise over Jell's Park Lake. Yet another experiment with the HDRi technique, trying to match the dynamic range as seen with a human eye.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Painting with Photo mosaics

I have been making large multi-panel photo mosaics of the bird of South Gippsland, using South Gippsland scenes as the tiles for a while now. Whilst Mosaic Creator seems to do a reasonable job whatever you throw at it, I have the overwhelming view that Andrea Mosaic gives me more creative control (but alas with that comes the ability to really ruin images as well) and I got top thinking I should treated making mosaics more like painting an image. Then the penny dropped I needed to get a better palette of colours, from which to mix my new Mosaic, just like an artist selects his tubes of paint and makes up his colour scheme. fd's Flickr Toys has a neat palette generator, I think it is really meant for web designers or homegull palette decoration projects. It is so easy to use I don't need to explain that here. All you need to do is upload a photo and a palette of colours based on the colours in the photo will be generated automatically. 


So next I looked through my picasa library of photos (many 1000s) using the tools/experimental/search for.../blue, etc which shortened the search tyime considerably and exported those images I thought best matched the palette. In this export I also reduced the size to 800 by 600. Then I fired up andrea mosaic created a new library of tiles with the photos I had selected, which reduced the tile size further. Now I used picasa again, to make a 200% poster, which blew up the image and made it into four parts. Finally I created mosaics out of the four image pieces using andrea mosaic. I am very pleased with the outcome.


0-0-IMGP1837 Mosaic 1-0-IMGP1837 Mosaic 0-1-IMGP1837 Mosaic 1-1-IMGP1837 Mosaic

Monday, February 18, 2008

Join the one legged club

At first I was worried about the sudden increase in one legged seagulls. Then I noticed they like to balance on one leg when they are facing a slight breeze

Correcting a few details

If you found your way to this blog from the article in the Leongatha Star, there are a couple of details that need to be cleared up

Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams was most defintely not a digital photographer, he died, aged 82, back in 1984. One of his great contributions to photography was the zone system (his wikipedia entry says he was a co-inventor of it) but I am not so sure about that. He ceratinly developed it and other techniques to capture the fullest detail across all ranges of tone in his black and white photos and his landscapes in particular are just outstanding.

The panoramic photo published in the star was a very recent one, not the panorama from my participation in the One Horizon project on flickr.
This is the panorama exhibitted in the New York Exhibition in 2006
what a great day for the beach
And to keep you up to date, this was taken yesterday, at the same wonderful beach.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Another great day for the beach

HDRi using Auto adaptive tone mapping

Original Photo (taken with polarizing filter) Up till now I had been trying out the HDRi techniques in low light, a theme that seems to be the favourite place to start, at least in the Flickr My first HDR (beginners)group. It has been a magnificnt weekend so it was off to do my usual breachcoming photography ramble and I though I should start with a HDR test in the full glorious light of an australia summer day (a subject most digital photographer soon find out returns a very contrasty washed out image. OK I have been using a polarizing filter for such situations and that helps resort a more natural image, particulary helping to keep the sky blue , not a washed out white) and the three EV bracketed photo used in the HDR image above where taken with that polarizing filter. In dynamic photo I have been movind down hwn tone mapping, avoiding the eye catching and Ultra Contrat setting and i tend to like the smmoth compression, or human eye setting, but in the HDR photo above I used the Auto Adaptive seting because it most closelt captured my memeory the colour of the water and wet sand.

So my conclusion is HDR can be used in the "heat" of the day to help capture the gorgeous colours of an Asutralian summer at the beach.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Crystal illusion

The beach at venus bay faces west, so on a late summer evening if there is an off shore breeze the waves get a beautiful aqua transparency.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Understanding HDR (High Dynamic Range)

You may have notice I have been playing a lot with the HDR (High Dynamic Range) technique later. I offer no excuse, I am playing, I just need to figure out how it works and how I might be able to use it. So here is my simple explanation of the general process. Note I am using FDRTools in this example because it is easier to show what is going on (I already prefer dynamic photo, see my previous post why)

IMGP4642 IMGP4640 IMGP4641
  1. Step 1, Take a set of bracketed photos, (three is a good number but you can take more) at different EV exposures.
  2. Step 2, Load those photos into software that can analyse the exposure range of each photo, it is normally necessary to align the individual photos, if you use a tripod this will not be necessary. I actually rested the camera on a wall to keep it steady so i have jumped over this step.
  3. Step 3 now create a virtual photo space with a widerFDRtools_Exposure histograms range of exposure range, using a composite of all intensity recorded (ie the darks from the darkest photos, tone range from the normal exposure and detail in the light from the lightest photo). the display in FDRtool shows this nicely, you can see histograms of the exposure intensity beside each photo. At the top of tjos display you can also see the expanded range of tones in the "virtual" composite space is usually called the HDR image
  4. Step4, you finally need to tone map the virtual exposure space into the FDRtools_tone map dynamic range that your output device can handle. Yes computer display and even printers have a limited range that they can display compared with what the human eye is capable of seeing. i FDRTools the main control is the silders under the histogram, moving the left hand slider sets that tone to the darkest setting (in simple terms the blackest part of the photo)  and moving the right hand slider sets the lighten tone (in simple terms whitest part). there are also sliders for gamma (which i ;like to think of as colour contrast) and saturation (intesity of colour).
14-feb hdr garden wall  fdrtools Providing you don't go overboard with the gamma and saturation sliders (if you do, you might get pretty radical over coloured images) to should end up with an photo to looks much closer to what you saw when you took the photo, compared with any of the actual exposures (compare the image above with any or all of the three original photos at the top of this post).

HDRi Brissy skyline

14-feb hdr brissy skyline
Originally uploaded by imageo
Using Dynamic photo again. I was without a tripod and this sceene needed a very long exposure for the EV bracketed set, but luckily there were trust round topped bollards along the waterfront.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What a difference a day makes?

sunset Overcast
The same tree in two different HDR photos taken just one day apart at roughly the same time.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Bird's in Flight

it was only a day or so ago that I complained that these guys [Onychoprion fuscatus] where hard to capture in flight against a bright sky. Well this guy, at least, must have heard me and staged his own close range fly by. Thanks mate!

The "Picture Grid" collage was created with picasa

Friday, February 08, 2008

Extreme-sports version of fishing

These are not great photos, but just capturing these was a feat! These little sooty terns (Onychoprion fuscatus) dive fast and from on high, they seldom miss a their catch. However they are a real challenge just to keep the little guy in the frame while panning my telephoto lens, not to mention the low light of dusk and focusing on the fast action