I watched a video on YouTube about a way to process shots taken in low light with high ISOs to improve the noise performance. I wasn’t particularly interested in the approach until I was down on the shore as the sun was going down and I was using a long lens. I figured this might be a good time to try it out. The approach is to shoot a lot of shots. You can’t have anything moving in the shots for this to work but, if it is a static scene, the approach can be used.
Shoot as many shots as you can. Then import them in to Photoshop as layers. Use the align function to make sure that they are all perfectly aligned and then use the statistics function to do a mean calculation of the image. You can do this a couple of ways in Photoshop. You can make a smart object and then process it or you can process through Statistics. The averaging function takes a lot of the noise out of the shot. If you have lots of images, you can make it effectively disappear. I wasn’t prepared to make that many shots but I tried it with a reasonable number of images. The whole image isn’t really of interest. Instead, I include one of the images cropped in and the processed image similarly cropped to allow you to compare.
Richard Whitcomb was an aerodynamicist at NASA who pioneered a number of technologies that benefit the aviation world today. One of those was his development of winglets. These are the wingtip treatments that improve lift to drag ratio and climb performance without significantly extending the wing. While his work was clear, it took a while for them to be implemented widely. Now, most aircraft involve some sort of wingtip extension. However, the first aircraft to replicate his design approach was the MD-11.
The MD-11 had a split winglet with a larger extension upwards and a smaller one downwards. This reflected some of Whitcomb’s original drawings. Strangely, after this, the focus was on upward winglets only (although the Airbus approach for a while was what they called a fence on the wingtip which was something more in keeping with the Whitcomb approach). Recently, there has been a return to the original with APB introducing the Split Scimitar and Boeing producing their own Split Winglet design (not as elegant as the APB approach in my mind.
Most airliners and many business jets now incorporate a tweaked wing tip configuration. Maximizing the aerodynamic performance requires squeezing as much as you can out of the design within the space constraints you have. The following pictures are examples of the different types used.
Aviation Partners Boeing has been very effective over the years in getting their technology into mainline airline service. The winglets they developed for the Boeing 737 have been very widely adopted with installations on 300 Series, 700 Series, 800 Series and 900 Series jets around the world. The BBJs have also had them extensively. I don’t think any new 737s are delivered without them. The programs for the 757 and 767 have also been well adopted.
The 737 Max is going to have a new winglet design that Boeing have created. However, it is a way from flying. Meanwhile, APB has not stood still and they have created a new winglet design that has a downward portion mated to an updated winglet under the name scimitar. This is now making an appearance on a lot of jets as a retrofit. Southwest, United and Alaska have all started rolling the installation out.
I like the look of the new design. The tip seems to be a bit of a styling effort. The downward facing portion is well aligned to avoid creating a drag inducing choke area at the root. The configuration is actually quite reminiscent of the original winglet designs in the paper Richard Whitcomb wrote when first proposing the concept. I suspect we shall be seeing a lot more of them in the future.
While a lot of people have been quite vexed by the introduction of a subscription based approach to the Adobe software suite including Photoshop, I decided to get over it and upgrade to Photoshop CC. One of the features introduced in CC is Shake Reduction. This is an effort at dealing with motion blur in images. It isn’t going to rescue a crappy shot but it is potentially able to to take an almost good shot and rescue it. I decided to experiment with it on an image I recently took.
The image above is a combination of the original image without sharpening and the filtered version. (It is recommended that you turn off sharpening before running the filter or it will make things break up more.) The effect actually seems to be quite useful. I should note that I tried it on several shots and they didn’t all respond as well to the filter. However, it did make quite a good upgrade to this image. I shall potentially use this again if there is an image I really like that is not quite as sharp as I would like. Another tool to potentially use but not one I think I can rely on.
One of the biggest developments that there has been in digital imaging in recent years has been the improvement of performance in low light. A few years ago, it was hard to get a decent image at above ISO400 and much post processing work was required to try and make the images workable. Plug-ins for noise reduction were very popular. However, the camera manufacturers have been very aggressive in developing chips and processors that allow shooting at ISO levels that would have been unthinkable a while back. You hear of cameras being perfectly acceptable at ISO6400 and above.
My cameras are not the newest on the market but there are certainly not slouches in low light. However, I have never been terribly happy with the performance at high ISO settings with the image breaking up a bit when viewed up close. This is where I have to admit that I can be a complete idiot sometimes.
I shoot RAW all of the time and then process the images in Lightroom. I have created some presets of development settings that I apply each time I import an image and which then acts as the starting point for any additional editing. This is where my problem lies and why it has taken me so long to realize it I can’t imagine. Anyway, enough of the self-flagellation and on with the topic.
The problem lies in the Detail section of the Develop module. This is where sharpening and noise reduction are applied. I have some basic settings I start with here and, when I was importing shots taken at high ISO settings, I was not changing them. I would play with the noise reduction but things still didn’t look right. The problem was, of course, the sharpening. The basic setting I had entered was sharpening far too much for the ISO setting and was causing some odd breakup of the image. I finally realized this one morning while lying in bed – I have no idea why I was thinking of this but it suddenly came to me.
I got up and opened some high ISO images and went to the detail area. I zeroed out the sharpening and the noise reduction. Everything looked awful. Then I brought back the noise reduction and things suddenly started looking a lot better. When I was happy with the noise, it was time to bring back some sharpening. Things were a little soft after the noise was taken out so the sharpening brought back a bit of punch to the image. A tweak on the amount and opening up the radius a bit made things look good. Then a more aggressive level of masking of the sharpening and suddenly the image was looking way better than before.
When I was happy with things, I saved a new preset that was just sharpening and noise reduction and labeled it as High ISO Detail. Now I can apply it to any images that need it and be in a far better starting position for further processing. Each image will require its own approach if I am going to make more effort on post processing but I will now be starting from a far cleaner place. The samples above are comparison of approximately 100% crops with my original settings and the revised approach. Hopefully you can see the difference. It might be annoying to realize you have been missing something for so long but at least I finally worked it out!