Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Nice ICE, but is it nice enough

I heard Paul Thurrott, in his Windows Weekly podcast, recommend Microsoft Research’s ICE Image Composite Editor. Sounded like I should try it out again.

image ICE is very easy to use. There is only one main item on the pull down menu, File. With all its sub-function functions having their own little dialogues also displayed under the photo workspace as well. It just as simple one two three working your way across the bottom

My first attemptsimage created a curved horizon. This happens in many panorama stichers when you don’t have the rotation horizontal and centered on the horizon as well. There are some neat projection settings and adjustments, including a great perspective projection. I do have a couple of worries. The Automatic Exposureimage Blend doesn’t seem to always work (see example) and I was left with a number of poor stitch offsets lines, and some unfortunate ghosting in some areas of overlap. This set of photos was take handheld in a strong wind (not on a tripod) and it was on automatic (so camera was changing the exposure was each photo). Even with those limits compare the ICE results with those obtained with Autimageostitch. ICE will only stitch a single sweep of photos. However it does let you create massive files (with all the detail available.  So My conclusion is it is great for really larger single sweep panoramas but you must use a tripod and constant exposure settings.

Having being a bit harsh up till now, I think the Photosythn export is pretty amazing and should get a lot of folks excited. It is slow but the results are worth it. See for yourself below

You will probably need to upgrade your photosythn and install HD view browser addons to get the full benefit of ICE. Both are free to download. Again MAC users look away, nothing for you here.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

White Balance

White balance is one of those items well down in the setup menu and in an even more obscure corner of the manual. Few digital photographers have probably even given the setting a second thought.

In simple terms white balance is an adjustment to the colour of an image so that white objects appear white. In older cameras there where a few setting option

  • Shade, when subject mainly in shade , it reduces bluish tones of the photo
  • Cloudy, for cloudy days
  • Fluorescent Light
  • Artificial Light, (Tungsten light)

More recently cameras will have -

  • Flash, when using the built in flash
  • Daylight, for taking photos in strong direct daylight
  • AWB (Auto White balance), the camera tries to automatically adjust the white balance. This is the softest default setting to leave your camera on

Higher end cameras may even have setting like -

  • Manual
  • Fine Tuning, the basic settings like shade
  • K (colour temperature)

But don’t panic about always getting imagethe perfect setting. The colour temperature of your photo can always be adjusted as a post process. The Tuning tab in Picasa has a neutral Colour picker, which lets you select a neutral gray or white part of your photo to remove any colour cast. Alternatively the little light blub beside this is a one click  fix for colour. Most advanced packages will have a similar tool.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Good advice from the wildlife experts


Those who have followed the random wanderings of this blog should have noticed by now that I have found birds in flight a great subject for my photography. Early on I was told it was too hard for digital photography but I think that just made more determined to work out how to do it. Working it out yourself, about panning, setting focus & exposure manually before hand and whole raft of strategies to capture the fleeting moment, and the dozens of not so magic images, can be fun and informative, albeit tedious as well. So being able to get expert advice is also a sound way to expand your photographic techniques. The BBC’s wildlife magazine has published a series of materclasses in wildlife photography on the net, (for free download). Even one with great advice on getting outstanding photos of birds in flight.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Head in the clouds

HDRi Cloud Series-1

picturenaut 01picturenaut 02I have still been playing around with HDRi and tone mapping as a way to extended the dynamic range that can be captured very realistic photos, without the process verging on the surreal. I have also recently been using my updated Picturenaut 3 and using 5 photos in ±1 EV Steps. This time I was investigating what could be achieved with interesting cloud effects. Individual photos just didn’t capture the full “depth” of the whips of clouds in the intense afternoon deep blue sky. Rather that trying to force the tone mapping into over the top visual effects, i just wanted to retain the underlying colour of the sky and fluff up the whiteness of the cloud but reserving detail. I was pleased with the result, and like any good clouds I can see many interesting things hiding with the shapes, a superhero, a monster or is it a phoenix?clouds hdri

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sometimes the Photoshop Crop Tool is all you need?

You’ve probably already seen this photo photo with the caption "no, I did not photoshop this" but gizmodo, the bible for those with the must have shiny toys, give proof that it was photoshoped. Which brings me to the point that the easiest way to improve your digital photos is via cropping and you don’t need expensive photo editing software, like photoshop, to be able to achieve that.

Picasa from google is free to download, and works on both windows & apple mac, has an easy to use and nicely visual crop tools. So does Windows Live Photogallery and  gimp. So no need to fork out a small fortune to start improving your photos.

There are also now many on-line photo editors,like Picnik, which is available to edit within flickr & facebook. A new kid on the block is Aviary, which is written in flash and thus a little slower. The cropping is part of the Phoenix image editor. However it is an amazing full featured suite for a free on-line tool. So go get creative.

Monday, March 15, 2010

VACS Exhibition 2010 as a virtual tour

I have a few works in this Years Venus Artists Contemporary Showcase. So I have decided to try and create a virtual tour. It may not be anywhere close to visiting the exhibitio0n yourself but I hope you can get to appreciate the works.

You can use seadragon (above) to click on the panoramam and zoom in and out or pan along using just your mouse. If you are accessing this on a microsoft windows based machine, you can enjoy an "almost" 3D virtual tour through the exhibition by clicking on the photosynth below.

The exhibition is open daily 10:00am to 4:00pm until Sunday 21st. At The Venus Bay Community Centre, 27 Canterbury Road. Venus Bay

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

After the heavy rains

Using your mouse you should be able to zoom in and pan along this river scene.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Searching for your supper

Seagulls [Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae]and hooded plovers [Thinornis rubricollis] searching for their supper.
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The little penguin

IMGP1816 I was not surprised to see the little penguin [Eudyptula minor] ashore on the Venus Bay beach at first. They come onto the beach often enough to rest, in fact a variety of migrating shore birds and seals often seek refuge on this beach over the coming months and particularly in stormy weather. However the sea was very calm and then I noticed he/she was bowled over by the tiniest of waves. I realized his/her flippers where firmly held in the soft sand (quick sand style).

bowled over, how embarrasingstuck in the sandPhoto By Pam Morris
It was easy to dig him/her out and encourage him/her along the beach a little to firmer sand. He/she was shivering and bedraggled but otherwise healthy. You guessed it. I’m not good at sexing penguins.
wet & cold but on dry land
preeningHe/she stayed on the beach for another hour or so and had a chance to preen and tidy up. However the attention of beach goers was clearly a bit stressful but nothing like the handling received from a passing parks ranger. Hopefully he/she got the opportunity to rest further down the beach before returning home (presumably Phillip Island).

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Picasa 3.6 now available Most digital camera, even the inexpensive ones, come with their own bundled software. These bundles usually include some way to upload from your camera to a computer, a photo manager to browse photos on your computer and at least some rudimentary photo editing facilities. Often there are a few fancy add-ons like making calendars, posters, cards. At its simplest Picasa does all the same basic tasks as you camera bundled software, it doesn’t have the fancy bits. However what it does do, it does well and without fuss. It has been my preferred photo manager for a long time down. It free to download from google, so it you haven’t tried it yet, try it now.’

The best new features relates to the Collaborative Web Albums, which allow you to upload  to a friend's album right from Picasa. Before you freak out about internet security you have to invite collaborators to your own albums. So far I have found Picasa’s web album type of security good, and I do suggest family photos should not be made public. Uploading, sharing and the automatic face recognition can also become part of your single photo import step. All nice but of little interest to me. What pleased me most, in version 3.6, was a simple imagechange that I have been waiting for for a long time. The ability to have a custom size crop. You could always do a manual crop (to any size you wanted)but if you wanted a specific aspect ratio it was fiddly trial and error exercise. I used to resort to

Monday, March 01, 2010

Self-Portrait 2010

There are no special tricks here, everything is real, exactly as it was. Well I did actually use a remote control to set off my Pentax on a tripod and my phone was being held backwards while taking a very close up of my eye. That left eye has become something of a trade mark/icon for my on-line photographic presence. Also if you want to look deeply into the eyes of the girl behind me on the left you will also see me several years ago when I took that photo.

For PhotoFriday's topic Self-Portrait 2010
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Picturenaut 3.0 to the Rescue

I was taking photos of some of my artwork, bas-relief style sculptures, for the upcoming Venus Artists Contemporary Showcase. I have found it is quiet a challenge to get the colours “accurate” and at the same time getting the whole surface in focus & distortion free (maybe more on that later). The “best” exposures are all too often “flat”, albeit with slightly bleached colours but nicely exposure to that average 50% grey tone. So I got the thinking maybe HDRi could do it better. I liked what it achieved, do you?
Original Photo, as exposed HDRi using Picturenaut & Exposure Tone Mapping I had recently updated Picturenaut, now in version 3.0. It is nice piece of software for doing HDRI fairly automatically (not lots of fiddling with sliders and adjustments). Best it works perfectly as a Portable App off a USB key, so I have it in my camera bag at all times.
picturenaut 1 The new version does a better job at guessing the EV setting than previous versions and now behaves when I used 5 photos in my bracketed set. It now has a neat feature ghost removal (some things inevitably move and a distracting ghost outline can be left is parts of the image). The  automatic image alignment (which does a good job realigning and adjusting handheld photos) is improved. Both these take time but free you from a lot of unnecessary fiddling. The real time save is in the tone mapping, which may fewer options and controls than other systems, but the four methods provided should cover most needs. You will be able to avoid those lurid colours and unnatural if some what surreal lighting that many other HDRi packages conjure up for unsuspecting new users.
Bilateral Tone Mapping Exposure Tone Mapping, with automatic contrast Adaptive Logarithmic Tone Mapping Photoreceptor Tone Mappping