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Update: August 10, 2011

From forums around the web Lion looks like it is creating much trouble for some folks. I have not upgraded yet and yes, work files are all backed up twice over. I just don’t want to be on the other end of unnecessary Apple trouble. The best way to avoid the ongoing Lion upgrade fiasco is to wait and see if Apple does anything. By far the worst problems I’ve read are the SMART errors on hard drives that many Mac users are getting before even installing Lion.

More links for your reading pleasure.

  1. SMART error-Apple support forums
  2. Michael Willems- Is Lion Really A Chihuahau?
  3. Lion Recovery Disk Assistant

Week Ender 88

Roar… Mac OS X Lion 10.7.0 has finally been released. Since July 20 it has already sold over 1 million copies and one of the biggest upgrades for Mac users. Is it worth the trouble of downloading a 3.5 GB file from the App store at USD39.99 (PHP1720.00) with some third-party software compatability is still question?

Based on many reviews already populating the net, Lion, is a good but not a necessary update. Photographers running on Snow Leopard with hundred if not thousands of dollars worth of post processing software should have a look first if installed software are compatible. On a personal note, can not imagine the mess an update like this would do to a photography work flow with incompatible software installed. Though it is safe to assume that all major software giants have updated their software with downloadable packs waiting a few weeks for bug fixes isn’t a bad idea. Adobe has already updated CS5 (an easy to do update that was under 3 hours for me). Canon DSLR and related software also works with the Lion. If your Mac purchase was after June 6, 2011 you are eliggable for a free upgrade to Lion with OS X Lion Up to Date program.

A compilation of links below to make sure that you have updated all software before upgrade to Lion.

  1. Apple: How to upgrade
  2. Adobe
  3. Bootable copy DVD
  4. Bootable copy USB
  5. Canon DSLR
  6. Canon Australia
  7. Canon Printers
  8. DxO Labs
  9. List from Go-DSLR.com
  10. List from Photographybay.com
  11. Mac Rumors
  12. Nikon
  13. Photomatix
  14. Rob Galbraith: Canon Testing Software For Lion
  15. Various Printers

The best way to ensure a painless upgrade to roar… Lion would be to first update whatever software you have. If you don’t want to download, Apple will be releasing a flash drive version of Lion for US$69.99 in the coming months.

6 Exposure Panorama

It was a beautiful sunset scene that would not even fit into the field of view of a 10-22mm ultra wide angle lens. The next best thing is shoot a series of vertical frames and stitch them.

The image below was stitched in Photoshop from 6 verticals in 24mm. Originally captured in camera RAW file and converted to tif file in Canon DPP. Post processing was kept to minimal adjustments- brightness and boosting colors a tad. A final edge sharpening was applied upon saving to jpeg for posting.

Read on about HDR and manual blending how-to here and here.

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Click to view LARGE

 

Disadvantages & Advantages

This post is by no means a thorough technical investigation on the usage of camera RAW file format on the DSLR. It is simply a real world look at the disadvantages and advantages of shooting RAW.

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Canon EOS 50D menu selection for RAW/jpeg files.

Camera RAW files are the data captured by the image sensor and left unprocessed and uncompressed by the DSLR’s processors. Unlike jpeg files, where the DSLR’s chips processes and shrinks the image accordingly to the selected jpeg size thereby permanently compressing the RAW file. A computer software (RAW converter) is needed to process into RAW files into an actual viewable and printable image file. RAW files are the norm for many pro photographers. Unfortunately, not all. Those that do can attest to and live by the standard. Many even make a good living in shooting RAW files. Just do a quick look at any of the reputable stock image companies and all their inventory are from RAW format.

Disadvantages of Shooting RAW File Format
1. Typical file size more than 15mb. Takes up a lot of space on the cf /sd card and hard drive of computer- it becomes more expensive as external back up drives are also needed.
2. Camera RAW files not usable right out of the DSLR. RAW files will need to be post processed to some extent in software (but RAW conversion softwares are bountiful).
3. Camera RAW files need time to edit and process. Unlike jpegs that can be used immediately after shutter is pressed and uploaded to any social media of choice.
4. A fast computer is recommended for processing RAW. With 18 mega pixels as norm today on DSLR models the files get bigger and require newer computers with up to date hardware/software combo. It can become more expensive but there are some free software available.

Advantages of Shooting RAW File Format
1. RAW files are like film negatives where in all the information captured (sort of a loss-less file, if you will) from the sensor are stored on the cf/sd card unprocessed by the DSLR thereby preserving the original exposure in all it’s mega pixel glory (usually 16bit colors).
2. An otherwise unusable shot on jpeg file goes to the trash bin while if an image captured in Camera RAW format can be ‘rescued’ in post processing softwares.
3. RAW files are significantly better in dynamic range than jpeg where blown out highlights and shadows can be brought out to a certain degree.
4. Lens distortion can be corrected, chromatic aberration can be lessened and noise can be reduced without loosing too much sharpness.
7. If Canon user, RAW converter (Digital Professional Photographer) is FREE and included in box. Don’t put your hard earned DSLR to waste.

The original image below was captured using a Canon EOS 50D with a 22 year old Canon EF 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 (1989). The 1 RAW file was then processed into the many versions with a few minutes time using Canon’s Digital Professional Photographer on an iMac.

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Original RAW out of camera shot without any post processing work.

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Post processed using RAW conversion to highlight silhouetted DSLR & lens.

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Same image as above. HDR rendered with Photomatix pro directly from RAW file.

The next set of images were from the dslr pictured above captured on the same day. Images were captured in RAW format with a Canon EOS 7D with EF 24-70mm f/2.8. All processed to jpeg with Canon’s DPP.

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Original RAW out of camera shot without any post processing work.

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RAW file post processed using Canon

If these shots were captured using jpegs, undoubtedly, post processing them to be upload standard would have been a time consuming and tedious chore. But, there is really nothing wrong with jpegs as long as the images won’t be intended for scrutiny or large print somewhere down the line.

With RAW camera files, they can be stored on external drives for a very long time. While most RAW converters are upgraded eventually with better algorithm and features stored RAW files may be reprocessed again for future use.

It is highly recommended to start shooting in RAW. Much of the advantages of using RAW far outweigh the disadvantages. One day a magazine might call and ask for an image. With RAW, the options are all within a few mouse clicks.

Week-Ender #77

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Original out of the camera shot. A total waste if shot in jpeg.

I’ve always wanted to write about reasons to shoot RAW file format but never really had the perfect example of a photo as reference. Well, I finally got the shot in a once in a lifetime situation.

Awhile back the wife and I went out for a nice walk in chilly about to rain weather. Fifteen minutes into the walk, straight ahead in our path, a photographer stood by concentrating on a scene about to drive by with non other than a Rolliflex TLR rangefinder on a tripod with remote shutter attached. The thought of taking a photo of him crossed my mind that instant but the ultra wide EF-S 10-22 f/4-5.6 mounted on the DSLR wouldn’t make much of an exposure without flash in that dark sidewalk. After a few steps of passing the waiting photographer I changed my mind. Gently tapped him on the shoulder and asked politely to take his photo. He agreed and smiled. At 22mm (equivalent of 35mm on x1.6 crop sensor), I took a total of 3 frames in RAW and thanked him for the opportunity.

Waiting Photographer: What you are most likely interested in is the camera, aren’t you? Me: A little of both, actually (photographer and camera).

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Waiting photographer back as the hero after post processing. Original captured in RAW file format.

I gave him my card so he could contact me for a copy of the photo. My wife and I walked away and WP continued to wait for his shot. But in the back of my mind, the exposure was bothering me to no end. Should have used the on camera flash-nah, that would’ve made WP look like a deer caught in the headlights of a big bus. I had an extra lens with me but that would have taken too long to change and mount.

As the original shot shows, if it was jpeg-trash bin here I come. My only saving grace, I always shoot in Canon’s native RAW-CR2. Increased the exposure level 2 whole stops for WP. Then doing a bit of white balance gave it a more realistic look versus the yellow cast from the building’s lighting to camera right. With the RAW file converted and saved as tiff file I opened it in Photoshop for some magic. Boom-it’s the scene almost from my memory except a tad brighter (thank you curves tool).

Now, wouldn’t you all agree that it was a ‘little of both’?

If anyone knows who the WP (waiting photographer) is please let me know so I can send him a copy.

Next post: Advantages and Disadvantages of Shooting RAW

A Simple How to Technique

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Photo-realistic High Dynamic Range image do click on the photo for the larger view. A recent post: Subtle HDR-No Whacked Out Colors Here details a how to for a simple HDR. This post will deal mostly with manually blending or stitching 2 sets of HDR’s in Photoshop.

Always have the DSLR on a sturdy tripod and have the remote switch shutter release plugged into the DSLR (after DSLR is on the tripod to avoid tangled up wires). From the top LCD on the DSLR, dial in for AEB (Auto Exposure Bracketing). For Canon shooters that is just 3 exposures: -1, 0, +1. Try -2, 0, +2 for different results and choose high speed shooting mode again from the top menu so the 3 exposures will fire off without a hitch.

Now shoot the heck out of the landscape but on’t take too much time fiddling with the next 3 exposures. When the sun sets into the horizon color ranges vary greatly within a few minutes. Shooting fast can still get you different colors from the first set of exposures but they can be corrected in RAW to get the same tones.

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Shoot 3 exposure of bottom half first as color and light will affect this part of the photo more than the sky. It is also easier to deal with the colors in the sky later on in post if colors do not match the bottom half.

Next, gently adjust your tripod and shift up-this is where live view (EOS 50D, 60D, 7D, 5D) comes in handy. Shoot the next 3 exposures to overlap the first set of exposures. Just include about 10-20% of what is on the horizon to keep as guide when manually stitching later on and for reference to color changes.

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Now that the 2 sets of 3 exposures are finished, grab a cup of coffee, a piece of pie and relax. Take in the beautiful view at hand and remember no 2 sunset scenes are ever alike.

Next put each set of exposures into your favorite HDR processing software (I use either Photomatix or Photoshop CS5) and process the 2 sets separately. Then save them as TIF files to be worked on later. Once the 2 sets of HDR images are ready open them up in Photoshop, stack them in separate layers, add a masking layer (to sky set) and align the sky layer to the bottom layer. The most accurate way to do this is set opacity on the top image at 50% and align using the selection tool (use the horizon/buildings as reference). Zoom in at 100% to make sure the buildings and horizon are aligned.

Once the 2 HDR layers are aligned carefully brush away the part of the horizon on the sky set to show the bottom (city shot) photo. The 2 layers will look seamless if a soft brush preset at 50% preset is used. Brush strokes should start from one end of the image to the next (left to right-right to left). This technique is easy to do once a few trial and error brush strokes are done. Don’t be disappointed by the first try. I had to work my way through this process all on my lonesome in 2007-as evident in the many holes in the wall punched through out of frustration-ok, this part isn’t true but that’s sort of how it felt.

One of the most important features in Photoshop is control Z. This shortcut is an ‘undo’ if a mistake is made.

Capturing the 3 exposures are the easiest part of this exercise. The manual blending brush strokes are the most labor intensive of the process (depending on detail of the horizon). Once you achieve your desired look all it takes is some adjustments in overall color to bring the 2 sets together.

Twilight at 6:30 pm captured on Canon EOS 50D at 24mm, ISO 125, tripod with ball head and Canon RS-80N3 Remote Switch (cheapest of the bunch).

Photo Realistic HDR

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The 5 (-2, -1, 0, +1, +2) exposures used to achieve a subtle High Dynamic Range through AEB mode (Auto Exposure Bracketing) with Canon gear. My preferred software either Photoshop or Photomatix but now a days post processing work has become less painful with Adobe’s much improved Photoshop CS5. Do refer to the supplied DSLR manual on how to set AEB.

Put the DSLR on a sturdy tripod and attach the remote shutter release. Best results if your DSLR have live view-saving a stiff neck and a trip to the masseuse. To make this technique less painful use AV mode and dial in an f-stop of 6.3. Auto focus on an object near the location of the setting sun. After achieving focus switch the lens focus mode to MF (manual focus)-to prevent lens from focusing on another object throughout the 2 sets of AEB exposures.

Two sets of AEB’s must be achieved. Since Canons can only do 3 consecutive exposures (AEB -,0,+) the first set of 3: -1, 0, +1 should be shot first. Then the next 3 exposures at -2,0,+2 will require you to dial in manually through the menu. Do this as quick as possible while keeping the DSLR on the tripod. Colors change every second as the sun sets further into the horizon faster than selecting a song on the iPod.

Once the initial 6 exposures are captured try the same process again after a few minutes to get different colors in the sky. Or just to do some practice runs in getting used to fiddling around with the AEB settings.

Upload the images unto your comp and start the HDR process. Use 5 out of the 6 exposures and since there are 2 identical -/+0 exposures in the 2 sets just choose one. Process the five exposures in HDR software and save as TIF. Don’t get trigger happy on the sliders in the HDR software. HDR brings out the high light and shadow details but keep it as realistic as possible. Open another window with -/+0 exposure to make sure the adjustments aren’t too far from the original (use artistic judgement here. There is no right or wrong just too much and too subtle)

Have fun and the best part is when your viewers don’t know a photo is actually an HDR. Twilight at 5:45 pm captured on Canon EOS 50D, EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM, ISO 125 with Benro tripod and Canon RS-80N3 Remote Switch.

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Looking Back at September 2010

Various storm clouds captured with the most complicated setup being a sturdy tripod, DSLR, wide-angle lens and remote shutter. The DSLR was either an EOS 50D or EOS 7D (whatever was on hand) and lens used was mostly an EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 kit lens. The landscape were all captured in RAW then initially converted to workable file in Digital Photo Professional (Canon’s native software). All images were then put through various adjustments in Photoshop CS5 to get the final versions posted. Some of the photos were slightly HDR’ed to even out the scene. Can you guess which ones?

Some past post on storm clouds here, here, here and some lightning here.

Here’s a tip: the real secret to getting a good sunset/storm/night sky is not an expensive DSLR (here’s lightning from a Canon G7 point and shoot) used but the post processing work done (RAW+Photoshop). For starters do a search on a good screw on CPL filters (B+W) or for shooters with some extra moolah- Cokin or Lee drop in filters.

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Sept. 5, 2010, EOS 7D, 17mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/10 sec.

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Sept. 12, 2010, EOS 7D, 17mm, ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/200 sec. Originally shot in color but it was very muted and it was decided to convert to b&w. Always shoot in color and convert in post.

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Aug. 24, 2010, EOS 50D, 70mm, ISO 100, f/8.0, 36 secs, this frame was part of a series of lightning shoots that night.

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Sept. 12, 2010, EOS 7D, 17mm, ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/200 sec

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Sept. 21, 2010, EOS 50D, 17mm, ISO 400, f/6.3, 1/13 sec. This photos has a sunset(left), lightning glow(upper center), rain storm(directly below lightning glow) and an almost twilight scene(right). No elements of this photo was edited in PS. Captured as is.

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Sept. 6, 2010, EOS 7D, 17mm, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/15 sec. A dramatic sunset right after heavy monsoon rains with the clouds reflecting whats left of the suns glow. This was captured right after the sun has just gone below the horizon.

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Sept. 19, 2010, EOS 7D, 85mm, ISO 100, f/14, 1/50 sec. Smog and the rainy atmosphere brings a dramatic dimension to the photo. The brighness of the sun is actually filtered by the thick pollution in Manila skies.

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Total Lunar Eclipse: June 16, 2011

Total Lunar Eclipse: June 16, 2011

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Mac_3482x Mt Pinatubo Crater Lake

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