Thursday, June 30, 2011

RAW Fighter...

I've noticed that I've made a lot of typos in previous posts, so in this case if you are really reading what I'm typing here and found a typo, just skip it and laugh. I laugh myself for doing those!
A draining week. I could barely move around my own home and preferred to be in bed as much as I can, specially in morning time. Well, that's natural anyway I guess. I barely felt like touching my camera and do all the things I wanted to do. I've finished reading all my books, so I don't have something to fill the gap for the time being but hopefully I will fill it (at home) by working more on Ayvarith. I'm losing the touch with my own invention. I need to go through the dictionary again just to refresh my memory of some words. I think it would be awesome to speak it even with myself!

Despite the idle time, I've been working on some images from Ireland, from Co. Tipperary, and most of them this time were adjusted in RAW. Well, most, and not all. This said, the seventh album is ready to be sent by email as I used to do, but I'm delaying this a bit till I send some other mass email with pictures that are not from Ireland. I feel lazy to do this even.

Back to Ireland, I've discovered that there is a little panorama that I've done handheld and totally forgot about it. Maybe I didn't care about it much before because of its simplicity and my short-sighting about its potential, but now I can say it is one of the favorites on MostPhotos. The thing that pushed me to stitch this panorama (in HDR of course) is the curves. After reading some books now, I guess I've built up a sense of appreciation for some curves and lines in some abstract way. However, that was not the only thing about this panorama...

Moody Morning

The thing here is that I had to edit the HDR (in Photoshop) before tone-mapping in Photomatix. Not only for cropping which normal by now but also to set the tones myself before tone-mapping. As much as I wanted to add drama and an eye-catch, I wanted as well to make it look normal to some extent. My main concern was the sky which had some details that might not show properly when tone-mapped directly. Thus I had to add adjustment layers to divide the exposures of various areas of the image (generally the sky and the ground). Other adjustments were made later on after tone-mapping the HDR in Photomatix, like contrast and tones. This image is for the drive way of Thornbrook House where I stayed in Co. Tipperary, in Cashel town. The shape of the curve was of interest for me here though it might appear a bit tilted and not perfectly horizontal. It's twisted anyway.

It is for such details in a cloudy day that I tend to like HDR technique the most. It makes you see what you don't see with your own eyes on location even. Sorry HDR-haters, but you can't do such a compromise with a proper metering. However, with my love to this technique I'm still trying to manipulate single RAW files (even when I do take bracketed images). I would advise to always take bracketed images even if you don't tend to use the HDR technique. Maybe if you are a professional so far and so confident of yourself, maybe then you wouldn't need such an advice after all!

Editing images in RAW only is a challenge by itself. I've always used HDR to emphasize my own feelings about a picture (specially when doing some dramatic effect), simply because the HDR technique "memorizes" or "saves" all or a big portion of the luminance information of the scene, but in RAW you don't have such a capability even though RAW files do have some flexibility with all the data saved within.

Drama on Rock
Adding drama to the scene with single RAW.

The clouds in the picture above were not as they look after editing this single RAW file. It was but a play with Fill, Blacks, and Contrast that made much of the difference, and later on some adjustment in the Hue and Saturation. Aberration also is an issue that I had to check for specially using a Fisheye lens here. Not always perfect with that adjustment! I have a problem here and that is my 15mm Fisheye Canon lens is not enrolled in many profiles of programs that do adjustments for aberrations and distortions. Even DPP (Digital Photo Professional) that comes from Canon itself, as the new version (v3.8.0 so far I think) includes a list of profiles to automatically adjust noise, distortion and/or aberrations of the lens in a pre-calculated manner. Yet this list do not include the 15mm Fisheye lens. I feel like I'm taking care of an orphan here that needs a special care. Such a sweet baby!

Coelum Cashel (Cashel Heaven)

Although I was saying that HDR has the capability of saving a big amount of information about luminance, yet sometimes it is a problem when shooting with sun in the sky. Only a tough tone-mapping would put down the sun to somehow a dull level. However, this might not be in your interest at all, as the sun do add some disturbance into the histogram after all. The picture above was done from single RAW too, keeping the brightness of the sun as it is, trying to merge it into the composition as it is by keeping it in the corner (later I did some tricks trying to mimic the beams from the sun to the ground). The other thing here is using the Filters capabilities in the RAW editor itself.
The Filters effect in the RAW editor seems to be different than doing it in Photoshop, because in RAW -as stated before- you do have more data available at your hands and adding a Filter effect would somehow mimic more closely the effect of the real gel filter. In the image above, I tried to add more blue and more contrast to the upper half for the sky keeping the ground as it is. Later, some magenta was added to whole, making the horizon a bit pinkish.

What makes my work easier now with RAW and slowing my pace with HDR a bit, is the fact that I can work in ProPhoto space (more vivid colors) and then convert (and not assign) the space keeping the visual looks. One of the images that were already tended to be in HDR tone-mapping list, was done simply in RAW, and I'm satisfied with its "normal" look. Maybe if I wanted to go a bit extreme, then HDR comes in, but for the time being I'm quite pleased with what can be done from a single RAW for this scene...


Some contrast and saturation was needed to fix this image (maybe some of Fill as well). I think as a normal venture is desired, this will do fine for the time being. The only thing that I'm not satisfied with maybe is the composition itself. I guess I should have pulled the pillar to the left more a bit (of course not going to get a ticket right away and go there to fix such a tiny problem!). Yet, working with a single RAW like this, it is now a must for me to shoot bracketed images always. Sometimes, the desired amount of exposure might be on the negative side and not at 0EV, and adjusting the Fill and Exposure, with the RAW editor, starts from there.

Maybe you've read the first lines in this post (or most probably not, or even you are bored already reading all this crap!). Well, it is proved now that not only my typing that goes wrong, but even my life itself. I think I'm living a comedy show with a black tint. This is exactly what happened on Wednesday, when I picked my camera to work to catch something that captured my eyes.
I spent a day roaming around my work place after 12:00 p.m., and please don't get me started talking about the heat, when I've noticed some shadows play and some other features that I thought they would be good for some abstract imaging. Wednesday, my comedy started with bringing my camera and forgetting the tripod, as I was bringing the VR-head to take some vertical panoramas. The second comedy started when the weather suddenly changed severe with dust and wind by 12:00 p.m., as this time was essential because of the sun movement and the shadows that to be made by such movement across the sky. Anyway, I would miss the chance because of such mistake and misfortune (I hate mis- words!).

Leaning Shadows

Even with HDR and adjustment layers, I couldn't match the brightness and the hard shadows that would be made in a regular sunny day without the dust in the air. Anyway, the composition itself is not what I like. I think this shot is better taken from the top, but I can't go up there in my work place. Hmm, I might try! I cropped the image here and there to remove more distractions (though it includes some already here).
My VR-head was supposed to help me with some vertical panoramas that I was planning to do in such a tiny place. In the image above you can see an arch formed by branches at the end of the path; this was the desired place for the panorama. Tried to take it handheld and leaning my back up and down, but that didn't work probably because of my left-handedness and my tendency to make a curve rather than a straight line.
Another panorama, however, which gave me hard time stitching despite the simplicity, was done handheld, and in HDR.

Brick Lines
Stare on the vertical groove.
You can notice still some broken lines in the image above because of the bad stitching, however this is natural with handheld panoramas with no precision at all mostly, and with a shaky hand like mine. The black comedy begins when you stare at your VR-head yet you don't have a tripod to mount it on.
I was lucky though here because despite the heavy cropping in the image, but it is a panorama after all, and the image (originally) kept a resolution of around 21MP despite the cropping on all sides. Staring on the vertical groove gives me an illusion as this edge might be to the outside sometimes, and to the inside sometimes. However, originally it is to the inside.

Speaking of cropping again, I was going back to some of my images from Failaka taken last year, and I was going to crop freely to adjust some images but I realized that these were taken with my old Canon 350D, with 8MP only. Cropping can lead to less than 6MP resolution and lot of websites won't accept such a small size! I have to cope with small images (small to my usual size of images now!) without cropping as much as possible. Visiting old photos is always good, either for reflecting or for re-discovery...

Haunted Grace

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