Why we Post Process

From lousy weather, scaffolding, and dissappointment to something worthwhile.  I travel a lot and enjoy taking pictures on the road.  I don’t have the luxury of waiting for the perfect time of day, or weather, and it seems a standard joke that every time I get to some landmark location, there is almost certainly going to be scaffolding around my target.  I take pictures anyways, and try to turn those dogs into something at home.  This is a good example.

I was in Munich, Germany recently, and decided to get up early to beat the crowds.  I made my way out to the Marienplatz on a dull looking morning, hoping for the best….didn’t get it.  Scaffolding in front of the building, and some patches of blue peaking out around the clouds.  The plaza was a little smaller than I remembered, and my wide angle lense (10-24, on a cropped sensor Nikon D7000), couldn’t capture the entire building without tilting the camera up considerably. As I said…take the picture anyways.  I bracketed a number of shots to combate, what was now a bright sky behind the dark towers. The “before” image is one of those brackets, and illustrates well the leaning back building, due tot he camera tilt.

Considerable post processing, corrected the leaning building, worked the dynamic range issue, and got rid of the scaffolding.  In order to fix the front main entry, partially hidden by scaffolding, I had to take a separate picture of it, and blend it into the final image,  the hidden arches were copied from those on the right side, flipped horizontally, and paste/blended.

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I’m including a few more heavily edited before-and-afters. I make no excuses for the heavy edits. I’m not a professional, don’t have someone paying me to stay and wait for the perfect moment. I get what I get, while I’m there. I do make an effort to get out early before crowds, or if I can, stay through the golden hour. Even with that, on occasion, such as the picture I took at 6am in a Munich square…the day way drizzly, and it must have been garbage day, since there were garbage containers everywhere!

Garbage day on the platz.. I straightened, removed the cans, and made the street look wet, as it was when I was there. Ok, I also turned on the street light, and made the window lights brighter. Getting rid of the cans here was actually tough. 

People will always stand around…don’t blame them really, so this was all I could do. At times there were entire tour groups standing in front of me. I waited, and waited…and waited, then removed the stragglers in post. I did add a little sun beam coming from the top right…subtle, I didn’t want it to look ridiculous. 


Trying something new

     There is always something different to try in photography.  I purchased a Hoya Infrared filter and got busy trying to figure out how to take interesting IR images.  I’ve got an old Nikon D70, that works (sort of, except when its not working), and I had read that the D70 was suitable for IR photography.  My two newer cameras, the D7000, and D810, were not supposed to be as good.

I’ve taken quite a few pictures over the past week with all three cameras, and can confirm that the D70 is a lot better using the Filter than either the D810 or D7000.  The two newer cameras aren’t complete busts with the filter, and I still feel that if I can figure out the Post Processing with those two cameras, they may be good.  The D70, on the other hand, works great.  Here are some images with the D70.

My post processing with the D70 is not too complicated;

1) Import into Lightroom

2) Lens correction, and then White balance using the dropper, clicking on what should be green, like grass or tree leaves.  Auto white balance is usually ok also.

3) Into Photoshop, and then

4) Auto tone (Image/Auto Tone)

5) Then reverse the Red and Blue channels by using the Image/Adjustments/Channel Mixer

6) Back to Adobe Camera Raw, and Auto White balance again, then desaturate the reds.oranges, and magentas in ACR, HSL.  I’ll frequently also go way down on the highlights slider, to bring back some detail in the white areas.

7) Done…except for maybe some dodging and burning.

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Learning While Teaching

I’ve always found that the best way to become an expert is to teach other people!  That may sound strange.  Arn’t you supposed to become an expert first, then teach others?  Normally I guess I’d agree, except its a matter of definition.  You’re an expert when you know more than someone else, so as long as you teach people who know less than you do, your the expert.  Now if you’re an honest “expert”, and I hope I am, you still work hard to provide value to those you are teaching, even if you are not THE worldwide expert on the topic.  I hope I never pass myself off as a worldwide expert in anything.

A case in point.  I consider myself pretty good at image post processing.  By no means do I put myself in the same universe as others I see and follow out there like Jimmy McIntyre, and the Kelby Crew, or others listed on my site.  I am however relatively good in the local-guy-in-the-neighborhood way.  I want to become much better, and I’ve been extremely fortunate to be chosen as President of our local Photoclub.  A  “modest” little club with close to 100 members.  I say “modest” see this post.  We have a Post Processing Special Interest group as part of the club activities, and we meet once per month.  The folks in this group are great, and as eager to learn, as am I.  Working with this group has given me several opportunities to present Post Processing topics.  I’ve made it a habit to work really hard preparing for the sessions, as a way of teaching myself as much as I can about the topic, and after the meeting I write up a detailed summary of what we discussed, as a way of reinforcing the learning…For myself.  Of course I hope the learning gets through to the rest of those attending, and is reinforced by the subsequent write-up, but one of the really Maine-Kennebunk-105-Editpowerful things about teaching like this is that I probably learn more than anyone else!  I’ve even used this argument with others in the group to cajole them into presenting.

Our subject last night was Exposure Blending.  Before the meeting I listed as may ways to do this as I could come up with.  I found videos and articles online, testing them out until I could do them well, and then taught them.  Of course I didn’t start from scratch.  I knew and had been using most of the techniques prior to having to teach them, but teaching makes one go much further.  It makes you try to really understand what is going on, and why…after all, you are the “expert”.  Here’s my post meeting write up.

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Sometimes Nature Just Does Not Cooperate

I got itchy to take some pictures last night.  We’ve got a trip coming up to New England to take Fall pictures (Leaf Peepers we are).  In dreaming about that trip I just couldn’t wait, so off I went to our local river walk.  I sometimes can get good sunsets there, but its no Fall paradise.  We seem to get some Fall color here in Houston around mid to late November.  I’ll have to go back to this spot.  Driving over well before sunset I could tell it wasn’t going to be great.  There were no real clouds, but I wanted to try my 10-stop ND filter again so I went anyways.

River Grove Park(click on picture to enlarge) Anticipating mosquitos, I had long pants and a jacket on, in spite of it being 85 degrees and muggy.  I’m glad I did.  There were mosquitos.  Great Fall scene; standing there alongside a mosquito infested swamp, sweating in long pants and a jacket, taking pictures of dark green trees, a brown river, and barely any sunset…oh well., isn’t photography fun?

I ended up taking 50 or so shots, most of which I deleted as soon as I saw them on the big screen, because I had failed to clean off the filters I was using before starting.  I began shooting with two three-stop ND filters stacked.  That wasn’t working, especially with the dirty filters.  When will I ever learn to slow down?

I switched to the 10 stop filter and began experimenting.  Using an app on my iphone I was able to calculate shutter speed.  Shooting at f16, I was getting about 1/20 of a second without the filter, so the app was good at getting me about 1minute with the filter.  I decided to try for a long exposure “bracket” series so I could blend them back home in Photoshop.  I never was very successful.  I’ll need to play around some more.  What I did do, however was grab a bracket without the filter to blend in the trees and walkway, while using the long exposure for the water.  It seems to have worked out pretty well.

While taking the pictures there were two muscovy ducks swimming back and forth in the frame about 15-20 yards out from the pier I was on.  They showed up as blurs in most of the shots, except for the real long exposures, where they completely disappeared.

This picture is actually a blend of three shots.

one – No Filter, exposed for the walkway and trees

two – No FIlter, exposed for the clouds and sky

three – A long exposure for the water

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