Category Archives: technique

Staring at an Escalator

I was waiting for some visitors at the airport.  At SeaTac, you stand at the top of the escalator waiting for people to come out from the shuttle station.  I was starting at the escalator for quite some time and decided to see just how slow a shot I could take with the cellphone.  Using ProShot, I have a lot of shutter speed control but the brightness does eventually overwhelm things a bit.  However, it was still possible to play with some interesting effects with the steps blurring out along with anyone standing on them!

HDR Tech Comparison – What’s Up Lightroom?

A while back I saw a Scott Kelby video on YouTube about the HDR functionality in Lightroom and that in Photoshop.  I had assumed that they were the same prior to seeing his video but he showed that the Photoshop version of the HDR was significantly cleaner than that in Lightroom.  I was interested in how this could be but I wasn’t too concerned.  The Lightroom version was so easy to use I figured the impact was not so much that it would show up in my shots.

Then, I found out I was wrong.  I was in the cockpit of the Comet at the Museum of Flight’s restoration facility at Paine Field.  I took a sequence for HDR because the cockpit is very dark but the view out of the windows is much brighter.  It isn’t particularly important since the view outside is nothing special but I did it anyway since I was there.  The lighter shot had quite a bit of shadow noise and, when I created the HDR in Lightroom, the noise was very conspicuous on the finished version.  I decided to try it in Photoshop to see what happened.  The difference was significant.  I include both of the full shots as processed along with the section of cockpit shadow so you can see the impact.

Recovering a Crashed Card

I was downloading shots from two cards into Lightroom when one of the downloads seemed to hang.  I have seen this before and on those occasions, removing the card and starting again did the trick.  This time it didn’t and, when I reinserted the card, the computer said I needed to reformat it.  I thought I would try it back in the camera to see if that was okay but no joy.  Time for RescuePro Deluxe again.  I wrote about using this previously.  I had an issue with it one time when I tried a recovery and the same thing happened this time.  The card drive letter doesn’t show up (nor do any of the others).

There is a simple fix to see them all which is to press the H key.  However, I hadn’t made a note of that previously and couldn’t remember.  Fortunately, their help desk gave me the code and the pictures were all swiftly recovered.  (I jest.  The program works well but recovering everything it can find on a 64Gb card and then working through that to find the files you really want rather than something from months previously is a bit of a slow process.  Still, it is a lot better than the alternative of having no shots!)

Negative Lab Pro

In previous posts I have described my efforts at scanning old negatives using a digital camera, macro lens and a light table.  I have had mixed success with the process for converting the negatives into positives with some films responding better than others.  I was okay with the output but thought things could be better.  A YouTube video showed up on my page that was about scanning negatives with a digital camera and I decided to watch to see if they did anything different to me.  The technique for shooting the negatives was similar enough but they introduced me to a Lightroom plugin called Negative Lab Pro.

I downloaded a trial of the software and gave it a go.  I was sufficiently impressed with the output that I stumped up the cash for the full version.  It isn’t cheap but, given that I can now use it on several thousand images, I figured it was worth the investment.  The plugin requires a small amount of effort.  I revert the images back to a normal San without any of my previous edits and conversions.  The first thing to do after that is to take a white balance reading from some of the visible edge of the film to neutralize any color shift.  Then you crop in on the image.  Apparently, it is important to avoid getting any unexposed edges in shot as this messes with the algorithm.

Then you open up the dialog box.  It analyses the image and does a conversion.  You then get some basic sliders to tweak the settings such as exposure and color balance.  There are some auto setting check boxes but I haven’t found them to be too helpful so far.  Then you click okay and the image is ready to do further editing in Lightroom.  You can also do batch conversions of images if you want although I think it is probably better to focus on individual processing.  I have been playing with this on a range of images so far and I like the results.  My old negatives are not that great and this is not going to suddenly make them amazing but I am impressed how much more I can get out of some of the scans using this software.

Video Editing With DaVinci Resolve

While it is not what it was designed for, I have been using Adobe Photoshop for my video editing for quite a while now.  It did enough for my purposes so I couldn’t see the point in investing in new software purely for video.  However, I was talking to someone hat was starting to play with video creation and they wanted something to work with, so I looked around at what was available.  I saw that DaVinci Resolve, while available as a full feature video editor commercially, came also with a free version that seemed to have a lot of the features that the basic user could want.

Since I was potentially going to recommend this, I figured I ought to try it out myself first to see how it worked.  I have to say I have been very pleased with it.  There are clearly plenty of features in even the free version that I am unlikely to take advantage of.  It is also a lot more user friendly than Photoshop when editing video (which is hardly surprising given that is what it is designed to do).  I have played with a few edits now and I am starting to get the hang of it.  One lesson I have learned so far is to choose the continuous save option.  I spent a lot of time on an edit and the software locked up after lots of work.  The whole thing was lost.  Now it keeps a running save going (although I haven’t tested that properly as it hasn’t crashed since).  This looks like it is my new go to for video work.

Lightroom 8.2 Detail Enhancer

Updates to Lightroom come along relatively regularly and they tend to include new features along with fixes and performance tweaks.  The latest update, Lightroom 8.2, includes a new addition called Detail Enhancer.  This is a feature that is designed to provide some better small-scale detail as part of the raw conversion process.  It creates a new DNG file based on a more complex calculation of the demosaicing of the sensor data.

I saw some videos about it and figured it wasn’t going to be of much use for the type of thing I am working on.  However, it did trigger one possible area of interest.  The algorithms are supposed to be designed to make better calculations around the different color pixels that sensors have.  Sensors are set up in a Bayer Pattern where different color sensitive sensors occupy different pixel spaces.  They each record in one color and then software interpolates between them to create colors for each pixel irrespective of which color was originally recorded at that location.

In a post from a while back, I mused on the way in which the colors of the Southwest Livery and the registration clashed and seemed to provide a distorted image even when everything around them was sharp.  I was pondering whether this was artifacting caused by the different colors and the way the sensor was recording the data.  If this was the case, maybe this new functionality would change the way things were rendered.  I dug out a few of the shots that had previously demonstrated this effect and ran the process on them.  These shots show the wide shot, the original rendering of the close up and the revised rendering using Detail Enhancer.

As you can see from the comparisons, Detail Enhancer does not suddenly render a perfect registration for the aircraft.  However, to my eye at least, it does appear as if the results are noticeably better then they were with the original rendering.  For completeness, the original rendering is done with the latest process version of Adobe’s raw converter to make things as fair as possible.  It does appear to make a difference.  This makes me think my theory about whiny things looked wrong might have some merit, even if this update has not fully resolved things.

Focus Stack Animation

In some previous posts I showed the results of experimenting with focus stacking.  In those posts, I would combine one of the individual shots with the finished effort to show how shallow the depth of field could be on individual shots and how deep the focus was on the final image.  I was pondering whether this was an effective way of communicating the concept to someone when it occurred to me that animation might be a better way.  I created a new stack of images for a different subject but this time I used Photoshop to animate the movement of the point of focus through the shot and then show the final image.  This can then be an animated GIF.  I wonder, does this provide a better demonstration?

Seattle Pano from West Seattle


With our visitors, we took a trip to West Seattle.  The afternoon light on the city looked nice and a pano seemed to be in order.  Here is a Zoomify version of it so you can look around the city at your leisure.

Learning a Better Way to Blend in Photoshop

I occasionally use the Statistics function in Photoshop to blend multiple images in order to get rid of the distractions that I don’t want like people or vehicles.  Up until now, this has been a real pain to do.  I would identify the images in Lightroom but would have to open Photoshop, go into the Statistics function, use the browse function in there to select the images and then it would run everything in one go.  This was not a convenient way to go and the output image then needed to be manually added to Lightroom which is not handy.

It turns out that there is a better way.  This may have been in Photoshop all along and I never knew or it could have been a recent addition.  Either way, it is there and I shall now use it for future projects.  I have even created a Photoshop action to cover the process and assigned a function key so it will now do the heavy lifting without my intervention.  It all starts out in Lightroom.  Select all the images that will be used for the blend.  Then use Edit>Open As Layers and a new document will open in Photoshop with all shots as layers.

If everything has been shot on a tripod, things will be properly aligned by default but I often do these things on the spur of the moment so they are hand held.  Consequently, while my efforts to keep pointing in the same direction are not bad, the first task is to select all layers and Auto Align layers to tidy things up.  Next, go into the Layer tab and, under Smart Object, convert to a Smart Object.  This may take a little while.

Next step is to go back into Layers>Smart Objects>Stack Mode.  This brings up the same options as you get through the Statistics function.  Select Mean and send it on its way and you end up with a shot that, depending on the number of shots taken and the clear space in enough of them, results in a clear shot.  Usually I find that I haven’t got enough shots of the right type to get everything to disappear so some ghostly elements may remain but they are certainly less distracting than the figures in the original shots.  I have no idea what the other modes will achieve and the descriptions Adobe provides in their help files are so obscure as to be virtually useless. Instead I shall have to experiment with them to see what happens.  Thankfully, now I have this new method, I can undo the last step easily to try each option which would not have been possible using the Statistics dialog.  Another win!

Lightroom Issues Update

In quite a few previous posts, I have mentioned the troubles I have had with Lightroom recently.  This was all triggered by an update a while back and subsequent updates have not solved any issues.  The problems just continued and I was unable to get anything to address the sluggish behavior.  The program would respond better when I was working in the Develop module but it was very difficult in Library and when importing.

I recently had a bit more success.  I contacted someone who, while not working for Adobe, does have a business based around Lightroom and has good connections with the company.  I was able to send this individual a copy of my catalog.  They had a play with it and had similar issues with memory overuse so it wasn’t a hardware issue.  They were able to pass on the catalog to an Adobe engineer to investigate further.  I feared there was some corruption in the catalog and hoped they would find a solution.

It transpires that there is not any corruption.  Instead, it is in the nature of the catalogs that I have created that the problem lies.  A long time ago I posted about my approach to processing a shoot.  I would use a Collection Set for each shoot in which I would use smart collections to take shots with the right combination of keywords and dates.  They would split out rejects from non-rejects and put HDR, panorama shots and videos in separate smart collections.  This made processing the shoot more efficient.

As a result of this approach, I have, over the years, accumulated a large number of these collection sets with smart collections in them.  This is what is causing the trouble.  The program is getting bogged down with all of them.  This leaves two ways forward.  In the short term, I am going to go through these smart collections and turn them into simple collections.  Hopefully this will reduce the processing burden.  I don’t need the smart functionality any longer so I can just take the selected images and make simple collections out of them.

The longer term action is that Adobe is now aware of this issue.  Hopefully they can investigate a way to address this in a future update so that it isn’t constrained in the same way.  It happened suddenly so there was something in the coding that changed to cause the issue so maybe it can be similarly quickly fixed.  In the early days of Lightroom, it was limited in the number of images it could have before things got sluggish and that was resolved so hopefully this can be too.  We shall see.  If it is, you’re welcome!