Category Archives: technique

Experimenting With Avoiding Heat Haze

Summer weather means lots of sunny days but also means lots of heat haze.  I was at Boeing Field one sunny afternoon and there were two jets parked across the field that I wanted shots of – one was an Illinois ANG KC-135R and the other was a Falcon 20.  Looking through the viewfinder, both of the were shimmering in the heat haze that a warm and reasonably humid day brings.  This is the downside of summer in the Pacific Northwest.

Not long before I had watched a video on YouTube about photographing Saturn through a telescope.  The image of Saturn was all over the shop but they were using a software technique to take multiple images and build a more stable and sharper final image.  It worked reasonably well and this got me thinking about how to do something similar.  In the past I have used Photoshop to blend together multiple images to remove the moving elements of a shot like people or traffic.  I wrote about it in this post.

I thought I would see if something similar could be done.  I put the frame rate on to high and steadied myself before firing off a few seconds of shots.  I wanted a lot of images to provide the best opportunity for the statistical analysis to find the right solution.  Importing this in to Photoshop as layers and then auto aligning them allowed the analysis tool to do its thing.  I don’t think the result is quite what I want and I may experiment with different analysis methods – median versus mean for example – to see which ones are most effective.  However, there is clearly a smoothing out of the distortion and, if I needed to get a shot on a hazy day when there wouldn’t be another chance, I would definitely fall back on this approach to see whether it produced something more usable.

Variations in HDR Processing

While scanning through some images, one of the shots that showed up in my catalog was an HDR processing of some shots of a US Army Chinook.  It had been processed with a plugin that I had previously experimented with.  I thought it looked over vibrant but I was impressed with the way the dark interior of the helicopter had shown up while the outside was also well lit.  I decided to have another go at processing the images.

I used Lightroom initially to do the processing.  It came out surprisingly well and looked not unlike the outcome from the plugin.  However, there was some ghosting on people in the shot and there was a lot of chromatic aberration.  I have noticed issues with Lightroom making a worse job of it than Photoshop so I decided to try HDR Pro in Photoshop as well and use Camera Raw for tone mapping.  The outcome was very similar from an overall perspective.  However, the ghosting was virtually eliminated and the aberration was not apparent either.  It clearly is still a better bet than Lightroom.

Facial Symmetry

After four months of no hair cut, I finally managed to get some clippers and set about cleaning up my head.  I won’t share the awful look that I had developed (and the current look might not be that great either) but I did have Nancy take some pictures before and after.  While she was taking the after shots, I asked her to take a couple that were directly head on.  I was interested in facial symmetry.

I had seen articles in the past about how some people have quite symmetric faces while others didn’t and I had been meaning to try this out for myself.  I got a shot that was nice and head on so took it in to Photoshop.  There I duplicated the layer and flipped it horizontally.  Aligning it centrally was a bit of a choice because you can move it around a little and just widen or narrow the face.  I got it to a place that seemed about right.  The fact my face is asymmetric means that there isn’t an exact center to align against.

I then added a layer mask to two versions of the image to blank one side or the other out.  The result is two versions of my face using either the left or the right side.  The difference between them is quite stark.  My jaw is slightly lopsided as is my nose and so one version has a far broader look to it while the other is a lot thinner.  It’s like two different people.

When You are Locked Down, It’s Got to be Macro Time

Not being able to go anywhere means you can only photograph things close to home.  Why not dig out the macro lens.  I have no doubt that many photographers have been doing the same thing when stuck at home too.  I initially didn’t have any obvious plan for this.  I just decided to photograph anything around me to see what it looked like when seen up very close.  Textures on the surface become apparent in a way that aren’t normally.  I also discovered just how much dust on on somethings that I never noticed until looking at the images.

Spider Hiding Out

My effort at shooting macro images of bees in our front yard (this post) also yielded a surprised.  While I was waiting on a flower for the bee to come to me, I noticed the flower already had a resident.  A little white spider was hanging out in there.  I am not sure what its intended prey was.  It seemed a bit small to take on a bee but I have no idea if that could happen.  Maybe it wanted something smaller.  I got a couple of shots of it that interested me.  The prime shots show its “face” in detail.  Macro shots have a very shallow depth of field so I missed with plenty of shots but one or two had the end of the legs in focus.  The detail of the hairs on the legs was so cool so I include that too even if it looks like I missed focus on the shot (which obviously I did!).

Bees at Work

The Puget Sound area is currently abloom.  Everywhere you look there are flowers.  It is quite beautiful.  We haven’t seen too many hummingbirds on our feeder recently and it’s not hard to see why when they have so many places to feed right now.  We have some blooms in our front yard too and this means the bees are visiting. I decided to try and use the macro lens to get some shots of them.  My lens is a Tokina unit.  I bought it for the negative scanning process for which it worked well.  However, the focusing drive is not fantastic and it hunts a bit when I use it for things other than manual mode.  However, it is still worth a shot.  Here are a couple of bee shots from the yard.  I can’t go anywhere so I may as well shoot at home!

Printing Things While Stuck At Home

I got lucky on the timing for one thing during this whole adventure.  I was sitting at home playing around with some images and decided I wanted to create a couple of prints.  One was a print of the hummingbirds from the back yard and the other was a poster I decided to make of a bunch of lifeboat shots from our visit to the UK last year.  My usual print outlet is Mpix so I created the files, uploaded them and sent the order.  A few days later a large package arrived on the porch.  Shortly before it arrived, I got a message from Mpix saying that they were suspending work as a result of the virus.  They are based in Kansas so I guess it took a while to get to them.  I am really happy with the prints and it reminded me of how much a physical print is better than looking at something on a screen.  I will have to print more when they are back up and running.

Changing the Blog Template

If you are a regular reader of the blog, firstly, thank you.  Second, you will have noticed that the style has changed a bit.  I have been using the same WordPress theme since starting the blog.  I wasn’t desperate for a change but I was motivated to do something by a Facebook issue.  It used to be that I could put the link to a blog post in to Facebook and it would include the link and an image from the post – usually the first one.  The first image is usually my favorite for illustrating the topic so it gets the prime slot on the post.  However, something happened in the Facebook algorithms.  I would put in the link, the page would auto populate beneath the text with the right image and then I would hit post and it defaulted to the banner image from the theme rather than my actual image.

As a result of this, I had taken to deleting the link after it auto populated and then pasted in the main image manually.  This was a pin and it also seemed to reduce the number of people actually clicking on the post rather than just looking at the picture on Facebook.  I decided to try going to a more recent theme design to see if this fixed the issue.  I looked at a variety of them.  Some seemed okay but others were more business focused.  I selected a slightly newer theme but it still had a simple look to it which I liked.  I tested the change over and configured it as I wanted before switching.  I like the look and it now behaves better with Facebook so the whole exercise seems to have been worthwhile.

Air to Air With United Jets – Or Is It?

When putting together some images for a group online that I am involved with, a dug out a couple of shots of jets departing O’Hare I shot years back.  When coming off 22L, some of the jets make an early turn to the south and you can get a view of them that is either quite level with the wing line or slightly above.  When shooting them, they are climbing so it is obvious what you were shooting.  However, as I looked at these shots, it occurred to me that they looked a lot like an air to air position except the angles were wrong because of the climb.  Since I had shot quite tightly, re-cropping the shot required some Photoshop work.

Taking the image out of Lightroom and in to Photoshop, I selected the crop tool and rotated the image to be the sort of angle that an air to air shot might be.  Doing this crops off the nose and tail of the jet.  However, one feature of the crop tool in Photoshop is that, if you then drag the edges of the tool back out, you can expand the canvas size.  You now have the whole plane in shot but have added some white space in each corner where no image previously existed.

It is a simple task to then use Content Aware Fill to add sky back in to these areas.  The result is a shot that looks almost as if you had been flying in formation at altitude.  Would you have spotted it?  Having done it with an A320, I then had a go with a 757.  The light angle makes it look a bit like we are flying along towards a setting sun.  I was rather pleased with the trick.

Focus Stacking Issues

There was a meeting of the IPMS northwest branch at the Museum of Flight recently.  My friend Jim had given me a heads up about it taking place and, with a day free, I figured I would pop along.  The display as a whole gets its own post but this one was about my experimenting with focus stacking.  I went to this a previous year and took some focus stacking shots handheld to see how it would go.  This time I went prepared and took a bunch of shots.

I took a tripod and my macro f/2.8 lens to try and get detailed shots while isolating the background.  There were lots of models on display, some of which were really good.  However, they didn’t all make good subjects since many were displayed in amongst lots of other models.  I picked the ones I liked as a wandered around and them went back to shoot them.  Many of the stacks worked out just fine and I include an example or two of what worked well.  However, some of them just confused the software.

I use Photoshop to do my focus stacks.  However, on one of the shots that I really wanted to work well – the FW190 which had a diorama – things didn’t work well.  I decided to Google other software solutions and came up with two other applications for focus stacking.  I downloaded trials of both but neither managed to do a good job of it.  I guess this combination of shots just made it too hard for the software to make it work.  I can see the rear fuselage markings of the FW190 showing through the wing of the aircraft.  Maybe this is a function of the narrow depth of field of the f/2.8 shots.  The wing gets blurred out a lot when the rear fuselage is in focus and it decides to take that area as the one to give preference too.

All of this is to say, I have found a new aspect of this technique that needs further investigation.  My earlier experiments with focus stacking probably made it easier on the software.  I have now started to make it a bit harder.  Maybe I need to control the aperture to get things to behave the way I want.  That might have to be tailored to make sure I don’t get the background coming in to focus too much since that separation is something that I want to preserve.  If you have experience with this, I would welcome advice.