Sunday, February 21, 2010

Alexander 6, V1.

Somehow, it was a tiresome and busy weekend. I didn't post anything yesterday (Saturday) as I promised myself but anyway, it was not much of importance I believe, except to put on with the first verse of Alexander VI.
I made some experiments again with my beloved golden turtle, and this time I used the FEB (Flash Exposure Bracketing) as a substitute, since I can't use it in a completely dark room;

Turtle (FEB, manual, 3/3)
The blue background is actually black. But with some fixes and because of the flash light striking it, it turned bright and blue. Combining the three shots was done with Photomatix (and some values of exposures were adjusted since softwares use certain numbers in the EXIF of the image, i.e. data attached to the image). Yet, tone-mapping was done manually with Photoshop (and also fixes) because the Photomatix version was hard to smooth out and equalize the proportions of light. The image you see was actually like split horizontally in the middle, with bright portion being up and the dark shadow being down. Such thing cannot be done with Photomatix, but rather done easily with Photoshop's adjustment layers and brushes. Hue and Saturation were also fixed to some extent and voila! here you go. As for the time being, I've been using Photomatix to merge the images together and save it as EXR, and then edit them (mostly) with Photoshop. Sometimes, I get them back to Photomatix after adjusting them and saving back again in EXR, because my skills with manual tone-mapping are just novice!
This is some of my summary about using Photoshop and Photomatix in HDR making and Tone-mapping; of course people who read some books don't need it, as these are just my thoughts after working a with them, and there are plenty of softwares out there that are good for things and bad for other things maybe and so on:


 - Good stuff:
  • Gives you the ability to adjust the HDR image in various ways with adjustment layers.
  • When joining into HDR, a dialogue box appears with calculated exposure values and gives you a choice to tick-out any unwanted images into the sequence.
  • Got instant 32-bit slider to view the image in various exposure settings instantly.
  • For those who like to use their own hands with baking the HDR, tone-mapping here with Adaptive settings (and others) are fine.
  • Plugins capability makes it easier to do noise reduction after tone-mapping directly, if needed.
 - Bad stuff:
  • Memory consumer.
  • Exposure values cannot be changed manually (only if the file is stripped out of its EXIF data).
  • Does not have a tool to view a HDR historgram.
  • Aligning, while processing the images to HDR is not, compared to Photomatix, good enough.

- Good stuff:
  • Does not consume much memory.
  • Exposure values can be fixed in case of some problems with calculations (and you get a dialog box even when the brackets of the exposures are not even or normal let's say).
  • Got Exposure Fusion capability (which is not an HDR merging but useful at times).
  • Can view a HDR histogram (and this is extremely important for me to check that there are no cut-offs in the exposures sequence; at tails mainly).
  • Saves the HDR image in major formats as Radiance (.HDR) and OpenEXR (.EXR, ZIP and PIZ).
  • Tone-mapping is semi-automatic, with pre-fixed schemes and the ability to adjust the sliders. This is good for none-experienced manual workers like me!
  • Has 2 aligning algorithms embedded and can be used in two modes: normal and high (in case your tripod moves much because of the air or something). It is far better than Photoshop's.

- Bad Stuff:
  • Once the sequence of the images is made, and when an error pops-up for some problems in the exposure values, you cannot tick-out some images, but only fix the exposure values.
  • Generally, it is not an image editing program, thus, you can't do much to your HDR image before baking.
  • Personally, I don't trust the "noise reduction" option that is applied to the images before being combined. After all, noise reduction is a must after tone-mapping.
  • No plugins capability, thus, you can't work with plugins embedded in it like Photoshop; plugins like NeatImage are deemed useful.
  • No instant 32-bit viewer or slider to move and check the various exposures. There is however an option for going up and down with exposure (F11 and F12 keys) which isn't exactly as flexible as in Photoshop.

The term "bake" and "baking" I'm using here, is a term that adapted (and I like it by the way) from Christian Bloch's book, in which he explains how to fix HDR images before tone-mapping, i.e. baking. I think he was hungry when he was writing that section but anyway, it works fine with me... 'cos I'm always hungry.

With points from here and there, it is, at least for me, hard to work with one program alone. I do have to work with both here and there. Yet, my main first step in the workflow, would begin with combining the images in Photomaix first and saving the HDR file. Sometimes, but not often, I do combine the images into HDR in Photoshop but it is rather to check if there is any difference or any enhancement, since the two softwares tend to give me different calculated exposures' values for the same set of images.
I've been trying to do the same FEB trials on my old censer as before, and this time with a black background (from the papers I purchased last week). I did not design a black box yet, but so far I'm putting the paper freely and bend it softly to make a background. In my experiment with the censer (which I did not make up images for it yet), I used the diffuser on the flash head. I did not use it before because, I just thought it is designed mainly for the wide-lens apparatus (as mentioned in the manual) and to avoid vignetting (darkening of edges) when using wide-lens with normal flash. The flash tends to concentrate in one spot then. However, I used it with my 18-55mm lens and it works fine on spreading the flash to a wider area and softening the strike on the body of the censer itself. Why I didn't think of this before? Damn it!
When the diffuser is pulled out, the flash automatically sets the zoom level to that of a wide-lens, and maybe that's why I didn't try to use it in that condition.
Everything was going fine, until it was the time for the third shot which is supposed to have a relative exposure value of +3, when it turned out with a level of "0". This is bad for combining the images later on, even if I fixed the values manually in Photomatix. I made other shots changing from Av (aperture priority) mode to Tv (time priority), but here, the results were not exactly what I want, with the flames of the candle inside were almost turned off and the aperture was set to f5 making a shallow depth and no sparkles (like in the image of the turtle above). It is hard to combine elements from the 2 experiments, but I'm trying still, or I should conduct a new experiment today, completely.
1. thus Alexander decided to leave his people
2. and head to where he never been before
3. alone without any companions
4. weak without any weapons
5. except of his Charnagút
6. and he walked with his torn clothes
7. amid the deserts and mounts and valleys
8. and he stopped at the ruins of Taghlút
9. the capital of the khanate of Ghutan
10. where he crushed some idolaters
11. just like a grain of salt in the wind
12. and he stood upon the ruins of the tower
13. of the mighty castle he wrecked with iron and fire
14. and he meditated and remembered his golden age
15. and the tears could not be kept in his eyes long
16. and he raised his harsh hands up to heaven
17. and praised God and His mercy
18. then he knew for sure deep inside him
19. that nothing in this life remains
20. and like you take, you shall be taken
21. and like you own, you are owned
22. while this life is nothing for sure
23. but like a grain of salt or sand
24. to the wind shall fly away

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