Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sunsets - When Light Gets Dramatic

Sunsets are one of the favorite scenes.  They have been known throughout the ages to be both beatiful and romantic, and stir many emotions.  For a photographer, sunsets are also known as the magic time (when the light is at its best).  I will admit that in the past, I had to work hard to get sunsets to come out really nice.  This was both in camera when taking the picture, and even some post processing.  Seems it was difficult to get the proper exposure on the sky (exposing on the sky properly, at the expense of the ground is the secret to getting good sunset pictures).  Even with all this fiddling, the colors in the picture never matched what i was looking at in real life.  However, this is no longer the case.  The little SX210 in auto mode (yes auto mode) gets great pictures.  I wish I could take more credit for this, but seems this camera is able to capture the colors and not let the extreme wide contrast (from a bright sun down to dark) get in the way.

Though these pictures all had some post processing work, most of it was to change the size up the contrast a little on some (so the ground was less hazy) maybe some lightening (again only 1 or 2) and finally a little sharpening (again mostly for the ground).  I spent under 2 minutes on each picture in post processing (so this is what it looked like coming out of the camera).

My first comment is timing is crucial.  Though you can get good pictures separated even by a few minutes, they will look very different.  Even with this, a few minutes can mean the difference between a great picture and a really bad picture.  I was trying to get a picture of a sunset over a farmhouse, but was not able to get setup in time (it was close though), and missed it (and that picture is not worth showing - all for about 2 minutes).  Remember as always, click the image to get a larger view.

To show you what I mean I have a few pictures taken a few minutes apart.  Though I like all of these (so the wait did not ruin the picture), you will see how different they really came out.  I will start out at the beach in Ocean City, MD.

It was a little hazy when this was taken.  This caused the colors really to bounce, but also left the sun more as a circle (the haze reduced the glare etc).  The colors are nice on this picture, but really that is all.  Other than that, this picture is not that fascinating.  Normally something a little more (clouds or foreground) is a nice offset.  Now, lets wait a minute.

A few minutes later, and all of a sudden the sun is under the haze a little bit more.  This causes us to lose a little of the nice orange, but adds other elements.  We get the halo around the sun (well the haze lit up).  We get the reflection in the water as the sun has moved down (and this has lit the water more so the waves are more visible).  This picture adds some elements to the sunset that improve the picture.  Though both these pictures are nice, the wait of a few minutes might have lost some richness in color, but added other elements to the picture. 

The next pair show even a bigger difference.  These were taken out of a hotel window in Ottawa (just outside the city, looking over the city (though not the center of the city)).  Here a few minutes really changed everything, but again I like both pictures. 

Here is the first picture. it was cloudy, but there was a break below the clouds.  The sky was lit a vivid orange.  This is a nice scene, very different from the natural setting of the beach above.  here we have the steel and cement of civilization with a colorful backdrop.  However, in just a few minutes, this picture also changes, but in his case, the change is much more dramatic.

Just letting the sun set a little more just totally darkened the clouds.  With this different color, the view also needed to be adjusted to take advantage.  The prior image was zoomed in fairly strongly (remember the SX210 has a 14x zoom).  The building from the above picture is off to the left center here.  However to capture the dramatic black and orange sky, and offset it with the lights from below, for this picture we needed to zoom back out and capture the total scene.  In the first Ottawa picture, we wanted to zoom in so we could capture the buildings and close ups of the clouds lit with the brilliant orange sunset.  Below, we did not want to focus on any small details, but zoom back out so we can show the entire dramatic scene.

So as you can see, timing is very important in sunsets.  A few minutes really changes the picture and tells a whole different story.  When you get out and take pictures of the sunset, make sure you are there early enough, and keep clicking (digital is nice that way).  Keep an eye out to make sure you are capturing the elements that really stand out.  You may surprise yourself and end up with multiple good pictures (though they are widely different).

So with that out of the way, lets look at a few other examples of sunset type pictures.  The first does not include the sun at all, but is just the sky just after the sun went down.

This sky was visible upon exiting the local grocery store.  As noted above, I did not have much time, so I pulled out the camera, made sure it was set to auto, and took the picture.  I snapped three pictures, but really this one came out best (as above, timing is critical, and it changes quickly).  I liked the way the sky turned pink, and the texture of the clouds.  The hill in the foreground added some nice contrast.

The next picture reminds me of an old west scene, but the actual taking of it was quite difficult.

We were driving on the highway, and saw this nice multi colored sky  You can still see some of the blue through the clouds, the yellow glow and the clouds all caught different colors.  Again the trees add a nice foreground element.  I really wanted this picture, but did not have time to pull over.  So I flipped the camera to my daughter in the back of the van, and asked her to start shooting (auto mode works - so yes these were taken while we were traveling at ~60mph on the highway).  Note, because it metered on the sky, it was releatively fast, so we only see a little motion in the foreground.  It really pays to keep looking around (and carry the camera), never sure when a good picture will jump out.

Some nights, the sunset just isn't going to pop.  Not to fear, even on those nights there might be something to shoot.  The next two are examples of them.  Though we are not really getting a good sunset, by changing the angle of the light, we do get some interesting light patterns in the clouds.

Normally we see the streams of light coming through the clouds going downward.  However, as the sun
gets lower, this can change (if the opening in the clouds is such that the light can get through).  The above is a good example of this.  It makes for an interesting picture.  However, even when not getting a good sunset, timing is still important (that sun moves faster than you think).

A few minutes later, this is the picture we get (we about 14 minutes later, the sun has further to move, so you get a little more time here opposed to a direct sunset).  Though this picture lacks the streams, it is nice the way the sun is streaming below the clouds, hitting them in lines (making them glow).

So what do you do if you miss the sunset totally:

Look for the moon.  This is the moon through a tree and some clouds.  I had to lighten this one a little bit.  Did not really fit in, but I thought it was a nice dramatic picture, and was a nice ending.  Interestingly, this was taken handheld.  It is good to practice holding the camera steady (anti shake only helps so much).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Close Ups of a Train Set

I have not updated this in awhile as I have been busy (both work and personal).  This has forced me to change my plans for this blog for the short term.  One of the events was the passing of my father in law.  One of my first memories of my father in law was the great train setup he had in the back room of his house.  I had never seen a train setup this large privately owned before (and it was as large as most commercial setups I had seen).  Over the years, as his children moved out, and there needs changed, they downsized (as many do), making it impossible to maintain a set of this side.  Even with less space, he still enjoyed his trains (as did his grand kids at this point), so I figured I would show some close up work and display some pictures of the set he had at the time of his passing.

As always, if you want to see a larger image, just click the picture.

Before we get into some close ups, I figured I would show it from above (to give some context for the other pictures).  Trains are running (it is a loop within a loop setup).  The smoke in the middle is coming out of the diner (smoke comes out the chimney).

This is an example of a bad picture (I will fix it in a minute).  When shooting minatures, you want the camera low to get better perspective.  Once you do this, you really have to pay attention to angles.  This picture just looks like a mess (though the reason for this was the trains are moving, and I was trying to avoid them). 

By changing the angle so the view was more along the lines, the picture sharpens up greatly.  More scale is seen, the size of the tracks.  Also by timing the trains to be further away, they stay in focus better.  The smoke from the diner is a bit much, but it is part of the set.

For completeness, I took a similar shot down the back of the inner track to show the street view.  Though this setup was much smaller than the previous one that I had known, his personality really shines through in it.  The scene is Christmas time (we will see a Santa later), his favorite holiday (he had the decorations to prove it).  Additionally, it was an old time scene with old cars and buildings, and he enjoyed antiques (and old toys).

This is a picture of the far corner (so it was what you could not see before - with a train speeding by behind the buildings).  Once again to get the look, the camera has to be low to get a good view (this would be how it would look from the train window on the outer track).  Alot of attention to detail in this section and others (people out and about, the dog, christmas decorations etc).  Though the ice cream truck seems a little out of place ;-). 

Here is a close up of the diner (with all the smoke).  The smoke was turned off at this point (to help with the pictures).  The stack is up on the left side of the sign (looking from here).  What would a train set be without a train car diner?  Notice the sharpness throughout the frame.  None of these were shot in macro mode.  Macro mode would leave to small of an area as the focus point (leaving too much out of focus).  They were also all handheld with no flash (that would make the lighting look unreal).  The stabilization in the SX210 did a good job, and allowed me to get sharp pictures holding the camera at weird angles (this exposure was 1/60 sec long). 

Here we have a nice full service gas station, with an attendant waiting to service your car.  Here you get a nice view of the gas station, the platform a bus in the street behind and the buildings behind that.  Once again in macro mode, this would not have been possible (and the "boca" would have been beyond believable). 

However, if this is supposed to be an old time scene, we need more than just gas stations.  We need an Esso station (is that Esso as in Standard Oil - oops).  Now that is a gas station.

I left this picture in here as I liked the angle and to show some issues.  This is a platform.  There are taxis waiting to pick up the travelers.  The tracks are around the other side of the platform.  Looks like Santa on the platform, but it is hard to see.  This picture was not really in good focus, but repaired to this level through sharpening.  That gives the halo look around the lines that are seen here.  Not a bad picture, but could have been better.

I wanted to make sure Santa got seen.  However, this shot also shows another problem (one that I did not have the time or setup myself to work around).  The shadows on the platform are a bit too dark (trust me the flash does not help, but makes it much worse).  Taking pictures of minatures really requires that lighting be taken into account.  I fixed this one a little by using the shadow highlight feature in photoshop (to lighten only the dark areas).  It is not bad, but a small light (or using softer ones above at mulitple anges) would have helped greatly.

I figured I would close this out with the church.  More evidence of the Christmas theme (Christmas mass is advertised on the sign).  The pastor is waiting on the steps to greet the traveler. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Goodbye Jack.....We'll Keep Looking Up (and get better)!!!!!

I remember staying up late and watching Dr Who on PBS (yes, we sponsored them just for the Dr Who, and they cancelled it after that season).  After Dr Who, Jack Horkheimer would come on with his short spot on interesting events in space.  These were short blurps about what you could find interesting in space (with a small telescope or even the naked eye).  I always enjoyed his spots, and even looked for them often on the internet.  Unfortunately Jack passed away on August 20.

I figured the fact that Jupiter was as close as it would be for a long time, I would take advantage of the event to get some space pictures as sort of my memorial.  Well, good thing Jack was good natured, and always encouraging (after my attempt it would be necessary).  I commented that I would post the pictures good or bad, and go over my struggles.

First the struggles.  I ended up with only one shot at it.  Weather and travel worked against me, and I was unable to get out for a second night.  Well, I setup the telescope and snapped a few pictures of the moon to get started.  Obviously a full telescope is not really needed for the moon, but it was more of a checkout.  A picture is below.  Note, I was not really as interested in a moon shot as Jupiter was my real target.

Even with just a quick take, I was able to get some reasonable detail.  This was with the wider lens (as the longer lense was too long and the moon was too big to fit in).  Additionally the moon is really bright (so it was a quick exposure).  The combination of the wider lens and the bright moon made this possible.

Now we discuss Jupiter.  Sure it is alot bigger than the moon, but it is also a lot further away.  In order to get any visibility of it, I had to use the longer lens.  What this means is that the image moves across the field of view much quicker (the longer lens has a smaller field of few, and since the earth turns at a constant rate, items move quicker in the smaller space).  Making matters worse is the fact that Jupiter is not nearly as bright as the moon (much smaller and furter away, so less reflected light).  This means a longer exposure is needed.  Dark and movement are the bane of the photographer. 

Additionally, a camera is very different from an eye.  An eye can look sideways more into the lens to find objects.  The camera sort faces forward (it is mounted to do that).  It can not look around, so the object you want the picture of needs to be near the middle of the view (easy for the moon, not so much for a smaller object). 

Now some of you are saying, I need a better telescope.  There are telescopes that will track objects in space to help overcome this.  Well, my telescope is capable of this, but unfortunately the callibration process is manual.  You start by pointing it flat towards the north.  Then it will find an object that is bright, and ask you to center the object in the frame.  It does this a few times, then wholla, it knows where it is, and can find and track anything in the sky.  My problem is not so much the telescope, but my location.  Living in the woods is nice, but has its drawbacks.  I tried multiple times unsuccesfully to calibrate.  My problem is that the horizon is so high for me that all I could see were trees (except straight up, which did not help with the calibration).  I wanted to try going out to a field or something, but never got the chance. 

So with no further belly aching, I will go with my poor pictures.

Note, it did look a bit better through the telescope without the camera.  Not as much color as we see in the pictures from Nasa, but you could see the lines etc (just more gray and white than the pictures).  Did not come out well in pictures.  However, I am not giving up, I will give this another go in the future (just probably not Jupiter).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fall Fair Season

I was hoping to do a post on some stellar pictures in memory of Jack Horkhiemer (who recently passed on).  However, so far my results are laughable at best, so I am going to take a few more shots (yes I will go over my problems as well, might as well see the problems).  So in order to not leave this blog un-updated for too long, I decided to show some pictures of one of the things we all like about fall and that is the fairs. 

These pictures were all taken at the GDS fair.  A fair is a great place for color and contrast.  Every ride has its color and the flags and decorations.  These make for some great pictures.  In order to really make the colors pop, you will see that I bumped up the saturation (and vibrance) on each of these pictures. 

Another thing to keep in mind while taking fair pictures is to look up.  For example, look at the picture below.

There are alot of rigging and rides that stick up into the sky (which if the weather is nice, gives a nice background itself).  This was taken from a corner of the fair, to try and get alot of the high rides.  The jumper is in the foreground with the ferris wheel, zipper and slide in the background (I could have gottne the round up and the pharohs ride, but would have lost the slide, and not gotten the jumper in the foreground (with the nice colored flags).  I liked this picture better.

In addition to the randomness of a bunch of rides, also try and isolate some (as in below).

Here is the Ferris wheel (always a nice choice).  This really stands out because we have a nice blue sky.  Clouds would break up the image, but as it stands we get the Ferris wheel by itself.  It would have been nicer to get a few more colors in the Ferris wheel (and maybe not as much blue).  However, you have to take what you get.

There are other things at the fair, not just rides.  I like the old machines.  They do not run them all at once, but they all get going.  They actually had an old mixer setup and making ice cream (which they were giving away).

Instead of the normal picture in the front of the tent, I decided to take one from the back.  It is a different perspective of the equipment.  I sorta liked the pile of equipment in the wagon.  All waiting its chance to get out front to be shown off and operated. 

Oh, there is another fair tradition.  Not always the most photogenic, but definitely a popular event.

What would a fair be without the metal bending of a smash up derby.  This was the first one the little guy watched (we normally do not attend, but enjoy the mostly empty fair while others cram in).  It was fun.  They did 4 rounds, they had a truck round.  3 of the trucks got hung up or stalled and came back at the end to bend some metal.

Well, after the derby it starts to get dark.  No need to put the camera away, fairs are normally well lit, and offer alot of good picture opportunities.  This one below was actually not night (but dusk).  I ran out to the car between heats at the derby (get some jackets it was getting cool).  The entrance offered a nice picture so I stopped and took one.

I like the lights and the color.  And some broken clouds add a nice background.  I probably should have tried to move around to the other side a bit, and taken a longer photo (with a few other rides on the side).  This would have reduced the sky a bit and added more color and light.  Next time.

Well, as I said, try it at night as well.  Here is an example of a night picture.
The Fair Princesses Palace is right in the middle (looks like a barn - but hold the negative thoughts, lets keep it nice).  I took a few pictures, but liked this one the best.  Another interesting one had the zipper as a blur in motion, but I preferred the defined structure.  Still alot of colors, now offset by the black sky.  You can see that there is plenty of light (some of those rides are moving - you can see if you look closely).  The picture was taken at an ISO of 400 appeture at f/4 and the exposure time was 1/8 of a second (I did brace the camera against a rail to ensure it was steady).  Another trick for long exposures is to set the delay to 2 or 10 seconds.  This way you can steady from the act of pushing the button before the picture is taken.

Fairs are bright, colorful and offer alot of picture opportunities.  So next time you go to the fair, take your camera, and dont forget to just look for some interesting shots.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Infrared Walk Through

Much like I did with the church, I thought it might be nice to go through an infrared project and my work flow with it.  Note, the fun thing about this is that you can really make your own changes, and come up with something nice, but at least this will be how I go about it (and experiment to see what I will get).  You can follow these steps and get reasonable results (or deviate and use your own settings as I will point out to get results that really appeal to you).  I am picking a subject that has not been on the blog before, and one that I think I would stop early on (and not take to completion as the next to last step actually looks the best). 

The picture was taken during the more recent trip (with the family) to Mohonk Mt House.  With the girls at the spa, I was able to take the little guy up the mountain to the tower.  Though I got some nice pictures from up there, the best infrared picture was actually of the tower itself. 

Before we begin, a note about setup.  I used the Canon SX210 for this picture (it is the only one I have setup to do Infrared).  I use a HOYA Infrared (R72) filter attached to an Adorama camera/filter adapter (allows us of standard filters that are 52mm thread type).  The adapter holds the camera and the filter in front of it, and can be mounted onto tripod (and I use the larger DSLR sized gorilla flexible tripod as it is easy to carry and stable with all this weight).  For processing I am using Photoshop CS4.  With that out of the way, lets get started.  Remember clicking on a picture will bring up a larger version of the picture.

Here is the picture as captured by the camera.  Notice the red shift.  Seems most of the cameras I have tested with the filter seem to shift to the red (though all a bit differently).  With the Hoya R72, there is a little normal light that gets through (but very little, looks black to me when I look through it).  This little light seems to mess with the white balance and shift the color to red.  Note, I say this because of some research I have done, it appears that changing the white balance can change the image (and other cameras do shift differently).  However, I have not experimented with it, because in the end, this image is not what I want to show (yeah even though I posted it here).

So here is the image converted to black and white.  For this I do not do anything too fancy (I just de-saturate).  I do bump up the contrast and the sharpening (as it helps with the look).  This image is much better than the above, and did not require any real effort.  So normally I save off a copy of the black and white version (to have it for comparison etc) then undo this step (go back to the first image above as I want access to that little bit of color information).

Now I play with the coloring a bit (for this example I used the auto settings in Photoshop CS4 - to show how that works, you can change the results quite a bit by using the sliders and coming up with your own settings).  Step one is auto color.  That cleans it up quite a bit. Step 2 is auto tone.  That leaves the image above.  I like this image, I think the sky is really nice.  If I were going for an image to publish, I would probably stop here.  Instead of using the auto functions above, I would use the sliders and pull out a bit of the darker red (not in the sky, but tinting in the building). I might even select just the building and perform the next step.

So some people really like the sky to shift back to the blue.  Doing this is easy.  Just go into Adjustments - Channel mixer.  Once in that pop up, select the red output channel.  Set red to 0, and blue to 100%.  Then select the blue output channel.  Set the blue to 0 and the red to 100% (basically flopping the blue and red collors).  Doing that yields the picture above.  Note, using someting other than 100% can change the hue a bit (and it is good to experiment, I was using the normal full swap for illustration). 

So it is possible for relatively little money to get some very artsy options in your picture taking (really changes people as well as landscapes, I will continue to play with this).  So go ahead, point the TV remote at your camera (hit any button) and see if it lights up in the screen (if it is good an bright, your camera lets alot of infrared through and you are almost there).  Then purchase a simple filter and a way to attach it and you are good to go.  Note, this can be done with better results on a DSLR, but it is not as simple, nor as cheap, so I am holding off on it (your DSLR will be permanently converted, and not do regular pictures anymore).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

TIme for some animals

Looking at the blog, I feel I have left out the animals.  I tend to take quite a few animal pictures, so they seemed to be missing here (living in the woods provides alot of chances to get some animal pictures).  I figured I would post a few here.  No little squirrels or chimpmunks this time (but I am sure I will get some in the future).   I have a good archive of pictures of animals, and if I go any period without getting any new ones, I will go back to it (I have some baby foxes, bear, and of course the squirrel and chimpmunk pictures).  Thinking about it, I do not get alot of birds (maybe I should focus on that for awhile).

As before, just click the picture to get a bigger view.

Well hear some crashing on the porch and what do you get.  This little guy (actually he was one of two, but the other ran off first and stayed further away).  Here he is with his ill gotten goodies (or at least the little bag it was in).  Forget to take a little gabage down just once and leave it on the porch and look what happens.  Well, at least he let me get this picture of him.  The little Sx210 did pretty good considering it was dark (the big light is behind him, notice the light in the porch). 

Here is a Deer resting itself in the shade.  This is actually in our front yard under an evergreen tree (I put the rock pile there as they will eventually be a small wall around a garden).  Deer often sit in the yard under the trees during the heat of the day.  They are used to humans, so you can get close, but not too close (they will run away if you get too close).  However, with 14x zoom, I do not need to get too close.

So obviously if you wait, big deer with end up having little deer.  So here is an example.  We get a handful of these each year.  They are normally more skitish than the older ones, but sometimes when they are sitting, the just do not like to get up (so you can get close).  It is fun watching them run around. 

Well, I might not get birds, but I do get butterflies.  I liked thie picture mostly due to the colors.  The butterfly blended very well with the middle of the flower.  Nice picture, was hard to get the butterfly to stand still for me (but obviously I worked it out).

Here is another butterfly (also hard to get to stand still).  I thought both pictrures worked out well with the surrounding colors.  Unlike the last one where the butterfly matched the center of the flower so wekk, here we get a bit of a contrast.  Still looks nice.

Well, for my final picture I have picked a strange one.  We have been having frogs in the pool (and need to figure out a way to stop it).  Here is the first one (the water was not cleaned yet).  First, what is a water frog (or 8) doing this far from the water (the lake is way down the hill).  Last year I dug a 6 ft hole in the yard, and 6 frogs moved in when it filled with water.  We carried him out far into the woods many times, and he kept coming back.  Finally we located him down to the lake (so hopefully he has a better home).  This picture was taken early when we could get close (after capturing him a couple of times he started to jump and swim away as soon as we approached).

Those were some animals.  I am actually looking at some lunar pictrures as well as some more examples of infrared for my next posts.  I am learning alot taking pictures through the telescope, also getting better seeing the infrared before processing it on the computer.  Both will be fun, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Some Fireworks for the Fourth (well not exactly)

I figured with the recent Holiday (the 4th of July), I figured I would post some fireworks.  However, I did not get these from any Independence celebration.  These came a little late as I attended a baseball game with our church on the 16th (so not really holiday material) and the game ended with fireworks.  I used the SX214 (see I knew that camera would be useful, I think all the pictures I have posted so far are from that camera).  It has a fireworks mode (that worked out well).  As our seats were quite high in the stadium, we had good views of the fireworks).  The anti shake really showed its stuff in these shots as I was quite impressed with the quality.  Below are some of my favorites (I took about 30).

Obviously I did not know what to expect when I pressed the shutter.  I pointed to where the fireworks were going, and then seen what came of it.  I did time (with reasonable success) when I saw the rockets going up, but did not know what type of firework I was going to get etc.  But you know, when in doubt keep clicking you are bound to get some good pictures (and that is what is nice about digital, easy to delete).  As a side note, I was sucessful enough in timing it that out of the 30+ picutres I only deleted 2.

Remember to get a larger image, click on the picture.

This one is nice as I was able to capture two going off next to each other.  Colors are a little bland (at least got some colors on the one on the right), however the alignment is really cool.  Notice a 3rd coming up from below.

A little more color here.  I really like this one as it shows the multiple stages of the firework.  We see 2 shooting up.  One just exploding and one fading away.  Nice timing, nice shot.

This is a nice single shot. The streams outward, with the changing colors. I liked how this came out so cleanly (nothing else in the frame, a little smoke glowing off to the right, but really a nice lone colorful firework on a black background.

The color and shapes really grabbed me on this one.  The blues with the gold.  The cross in the middle was a bit poetic (considering I was there with the church).  Another nice single shot with a clean background (but this one shifted to blue opposed to the redder one above).

I liked this one because it is very divergent.  On the right we have what looks like some sinister mace (with dark tips on the spikes).  Were the one next to it looks like a soft dandelion (a simple breath can send it flowing). 
I hope that you liked my fireworks show.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Infrared (well not exactly)

Well, I am finally going to publish some infrared pictures.  We spent a long weekend over at Mohonk Mt house awhile back, and there are some great picture possibilities there.  With Infrared, it is nice to get some water and the sky in a single picture.  Well there is a nice quiet lake that fits that bill really nicely.  As I did not put the money into upgrading the rebel (I did not want it single purpose), I am taking these pictures with the SX210.  The noise from the SX210 is a concern as these are long exposures (I can not see any light through the filter, so takes awhile).  I have just purchased noise ninja plug in for photo shop to work around this.  It was not used for these pictures, but shows some real promise (you will see some of that soon).

Note, most of these are not true infrared, as a true infrared picture would have no color.  Most of these are false color images (basically I needed to do some swapping to get the blue sky etc).  I thikn the false color images look nicer so that is what I am working with (not true infrared).  Let me show you what I mean.  Both images below are of the Mohonk Mt House from across the lake.  You will also see a little hut on the rock, there are many of these little huts scattered around the lake.

The image above is a true infrared image as it has no color (note that is not exactly accurate either as some color does get through the filter, but it is a truer infrared image than what follows).   Notice how the water in the forground is black and the foliage is white.  These are characteristics of a true infrared image.  Notice how the infrared really gives this image an old "antiqued" type of look.  It really works for this picture.

This is the same image, but I kept some color information.  Notice that the sky still has some blue to it.  In the original image, the sky is red.  In order to get the sky blue, I needed to swap the red and blue colors.  So now we have a picture that is peculiar to the eye.  The sky is blue, so that looks right, the water is still black  and the leaves white (well I picked a little pinkish for these, you will see that I can target different tones).  Though the above image does have its charm (and in this example, I find both almost equally as pleasing, which is why I used this image).  In general,  I think the false color image holds a bit more interest.

This picture is more full on for the house (it is still much longer in both directions, it would be difficult to get the enitre house and still have reasonable detail).  I was able to make the sky a bit lighter blue here.  The reflections in the lake steal from the blackness of it a bit.  Though there is a bit more color, and the house is shown off nicely, I prefer the first image.  Everything was just more striking.

I posted this one to show some of the problems.  I really struggled with the coloring on this one.  Though I liked the little yellow in the trees, getting the red out of the rocks was tough.  The only way to do this right would have been to start singling out areas and specific colors.  I did not want to go there, as it takes longer, and really takes away from the fun.  I do not mind moving colors around, but I do it for the entire image, so the image is still as it was (just moving some sliders would put it back).  If I did too much, almost not worth starting with the infrared (could start with any image).  However, with those rules, this image just did not work out.

This one is taken from above the hill down onto the boat docks (you can rent (free for guests) row boats, canoes or peddle boats).  This worked out as the water really held its black.  Though the reflections are obvious, it looks like ebony.  You can see that the evergreen type trees are darker than the ones with full leaves.  This is natrual as the leaves really reflect the infrared light, and whiten up much more.  Adds some nice contrast (especially with the dock).  The lines in this one go every direction (tree line up to the right, dock down to the left etc - adds to the peculiarity of the infrared image, but do not pull the eye to an interesting subject). 

Portraits are a specailty of infrared photography.  It adds a nice glow to the skin, removes all the imperfections and really adds some nice affects.  This is really not a good portrait, as it is not a close up, and really captures the person in the surroundings more.  I could not quite get the colors right in this one either.  However, I found a nice attractive young lady willing to let me snap her picture, so I took the picture.  You can see a hint of what I was talking about with the skin in this picture.

The good news for infrared photography is time of day.  Most photos taken with the sun overhead do not look good.  They look too harsh.  Really want to snap most photos at dawn or dusk when colors are in the air, and the lighting and shadows are not that harsh.  Infrared is the opposite.  You really want a bright sun (so you can get some infrared light to shoot).  So if you decide to try, buy that filter.  Leave it off in the morning, put it back on during the middle of the day, and take it back off as the evening approaches.  It will keep you taking some nice nature photos all day long.

Though I liked the results, I am not ready to upgrade a DSLR and take the full plunge.  I want to play with infrared some more with my less expensive setup (just the 210 point and shoot and the Hoya R72 infrared filter (and a mount I got from Adorama to hold the filter in front of the camera)).  It is hard to make sure you get a good picture, but sometimes you get surprised.  You can see from above, not counting the portrait, the first picture is really nice and the one with the dock not bad, other than that a bit of a struggle to get something nice.  There are a handful of other so so pictures that I did not publish.  I want to see if I can get the average up a bit better and I also want to play with some better portraits.  So some more to come.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Work Flow on a Church

I was going through creating some of the IR photos for a future post, and thought it would be a good idea to give you the type of work flow I am more used to.  Taking some sky pictures helped drive this home (you will see).  I do not do this for alot of pictures (just those I make special projects).  I started this one quite awhile back (and am only finishing it now) as I stopped in the middle for a project for the county fair, and scanning many old slides I got from my parents, and putting together a set of better pictures (scans need some cleaning) into a digital frame for there 50th anniversary.

Remember - click on any of the images to see a larger version.

So, the goal was to get a picture of the church.  Actually on this day, I took alot of pictures around the church, not alot of the whole church (this was a mistake).  After looking at the pictures, I though that grabbing an entire view would be best (but was limited).  Below is the initial picture.

This is really a bad picture.  Even with my wide angle lense (I used the Canon 10-22 for the Digital Rebel) it was hard to get the entire church.  Biggest problem was that as I was at ground level, it was hard to get the entire steeple in the picture (you can see that I tipped the camera up, which caused the lines to slant making the church look like it was leaning).  So problems with this picture included:

  • The Crop was bad (easily fixed)

  • Phone and power lines in the way (we love power and phone except the cables in pictures)

  • The building is distorted (so it looks to be leaning over)

  • The sky is bland (and this happens alot - its hard to expose for everything).
So even with all of this, I decided this picture was actually not that bad, and I could fix everything in Photoshop (and I did).  There was alot of good in this picture.  It was the right angle for this church.  We got the sign out front.  The entire steeple was included.  Coloring was not bad, but could use some punch.  Finally, taking a new picture would probably not yield any better results (in order to straighten the lines, I would need to get higher so I could point straight at the church and capture the steeple straight on, not pointing up).

However, the point, as I was saying above, I was taking some sky pictures, and they come especially useful in cases like this.  I do not normally show my sky pictures, but I use them.  Even with the first 3 bullets above fixed, the best this would ever be is a bland picture (with no real sky).  So the sky needs to be added.  Note, some of the pictures were mine, others were skies I found on the internet.  Note, I am leaning towards the more regular skies (but included a few for fun - note I had some real crazy ones but left them out as they are not even in the running).  Once a sky is picked for the final picture, I will adjust the rest of the picture so the coloring looks more natural.

Different skies do change the tone of the picture greatly, but also look at the fixed crop, the straightened building and the removal of junk (power lines).  These pictures are all far better than the one above.  The foreground is still in a neutral state, once I decide on a direction, I will make changes to that which will better match the sky.

So lets look at some of the outputs:

This one is sorta my favorite.  I like the streaks of sun and the colors over the church.  Also it is really easy as the coloring is about right already (no need to change the tone of the image).  The sky is light enough not to take away from the church (which is the subjet).  Maybe the cloud in the bottom left should be moved as it looks weird down so low, but clouds could be anywhere, and it adds to the streaks hitting it).

The sky is nice here, but maybe a bit to blue.  The clouds are really realistic and it all looks much more normal.  However, the coloring in the sky seems to take the view from the church (not enhance the church).  If I keep this one, I will probably go to the cloud layer in photoshop and reduce the saturation a bit (and not touch the forground).

This one is nice, but the light directions do not quite line up.  Also, the blue being darker here seems to pull away from color in the building.  The sky seems to just cover the church (which is no good).  If I decide to keep this one, I will probably lighten the sky to reduce this effect.

This was more of a fun one.  Maybe we did something wrong or something (who knows).  However, it is a neat effect, and one that would not require any changing to the forground.  Sort of the opposite of my favorite on top (with the colored sun streaks).

Here is a nice sunset.  Fortunately, the sun is setting to the left (so the hills on the right still look ok).  You can see how the very different shade of sky makes the church and foreground seem wrong.  If I chose this sky, I woul have to apply a filter to this in order to make it look more like it was lit from a red sky.

Similar to above, but not so deep (a bit more purple).  Nice sunset with the sun on the left side of the picture (matching the foreground).  However, I just think the sky is too different for this one. 

All the abover are examples of how a picture can be improved.  First thing I worked was perspective.  I straightened up the building then got the crop I wanted.  After the perspective was close, I cleaned up the unwanted stuff (phone lines).  In this case, I also erased out the sky (even between the leaves).  Finally I fixed up the lighting, coloring and then sharpened.  Then I had a nice forground that I could use with any sky.

So if you see a nice sky, even if it has no context, get a picture of it (exposing for the sky to capture it nicely).  You might find some other picture in your life crying out for an improved sky (and you can use it there).