Tag Archives: processing

Air Canada Special Early Sunday Departure And Lightroom Masking Options

Air Canada brings a pair of A220-300s in to SEA each evening – one from Toronto and one from Montreal.  They leave the following morning with the Toronto flight heading out early and the Montreal flight following a couple of hours later.  The Toronto flight one weekend was the TCA special aircraft so I decided to head out and catch it departing.

The day started very overcast and gloomy but there was a sign that things were going to get better.  This did happen but things were still not great when the jet departed.  The light had improved a bit but the cloud was still there.  When looking at the shots, I figured it was time to make use of the masking options that Lightroom offers.  The latest update has improved their usability somewhat.  First I drop the exposure of the shot overall to get the sky looking roughly how I want it.  Then I select the aircraft suing the Subject option.  It does a pretty reasonable job but I do then refine it with an addition brush to bring in the bits it has missed and a subtract brush to take out the detail areas where the mask has overlapped.

The new option is the click on this mask and choose the Duplicate and Invert option.  This gives me a sky selection that matches what I have got for the aircraft.  For the sky, I can work on the white balance to bring it back to something more cool which suits the overall look of the shot.  I can similarly work on the white balance for the jet to make the reds pop more in the livery.  The exposure can be brought up a bit with the shadows helping a little while bringing the blacks down while improve the contrast.

All of this is pretty straightforward.  One nice feature of the latest update is that you can actually apply the same settings to multiple images.  The brush adjustments are not going to work well for this so it is best to do the overall selections and sync to the various images and then, if a shot is worthy of further work, the refining of the mask can be done afterwards.  If you know which shot is the best, you can just focus on that one.

Focus Stacking – Photoshop Versus Helicon

I have played around with focus stacking a lot in recent years.  Having a macro lens and a pandemic has given me plenty to opportunity to try stuff out.  I was reading something along about stacking and it mentioned software call Helicon which is said was the standard for stacking software.  I have been using Photoshop to date and, while it does a pretty good job, you do get some odd artifacts sometimes.  I decided to download a trial of Helicon and see how it does.

I waited to use the trial until I had a bit of time available.  The trial last 30 days but I wanted to make good use of it.  Once I had installed it, I went through all of my focus stacks and ran through the software.  It has a Lightroom plugin which made it easy enough to use.  I found it was not so happy with some of my handheld stacks where alignment became an issue.  Photoshop coped with that well.  For the better planned shots, it worked a lot better.  Overall, it seemed to do pretty well.

However, there was something that it struggled with.  I had been playing with some shots of a memory card holder that I had shot when I had nothing better to do.  Photoshop stacked them without any problem.  The shots were in color but everything was either black or white.  When Helicon tried stacking them, it introduced some strange purple coloration.  I have no idea why it did this.  It was almost like a chromatic aberration filter in reverse.  I suspect there is a way to understand the more detailed settings and fix this but it was a weird outcome.  Since I want something simple that basically works, this made me decide that buying the full version wasn’t worth it.  I have already paid for Photoshop so I shall stick with that.

DxO PureRAW2 Review

This post might look like it is an aviation post but, while the examples I am using are planes, this is about software.  A while back I downloaded the trial of DxO’s PureRAW product.  I liked it but didn’t see enough use for me to justify buying the full version.  I was also a little put off by the lack of integration with Lightroom.  You had to start in the app and then the output DNG file would be exported to Lightroom.

PureRAW2 has been released so I downloaded the trial version of that to see how well it works.  I was interested not only in the processing capabilities but also the new Lightroom integration.  Now it is possible to use the application as a plugin so I can go to a file in Lightroom and take it out to PureRAW before the DNG returns.

First, what is my experience of the integration?  It is okay but not great.  Taking the file out works well and you can get the processing sorted out.  The return to Lightroom is not ideal.  First, it gives you the option to either put the new files in a DxO folder or to go to a specific folder you choose.  I would rather it went to the same folder as the original.  That is not available.  The second issue is that the re-import process takes a very long time.  It was a couple of minutes after closing the file that it showed up in Lightroom.  No idea why it takes so long.

Now for the processing.  It is very impressive.  I was working with some shots from very dark conditions with B-1s taking off.  The exposure was heavily driven by the afterburner plumes so the rest of the airframe was very dark.  When I tried to bump up the exposure in Lightroom to get something that showed the bare outline of the fuselage, the noise was really bad.  The PureRAW DNG was so much cleaner and allowed me to move the exposure around quite a bit.  For an ISO 51,2000 shot, this was very impressive.  I think the processing is not massively changed from before but it clearly works well.

However, as before, the number of times I would want to use this are not many.  The full version is now $129 which is a step up from where the original was priced when I reviewed it.  I am still not sure I need it enough to justify the investment.  No question, though, that it is a significantly improved tool from the original version.

Trouble Printing Due to Color Management

The number of emails I get each day telling me about amazing offers is substantial and they almost never survive more than a cursory glance.  However, Walgreens were doing 60% off poster prints and I had been reworking an image I had done a while back of the Bembridge lifeboat.  I had changed the titling, added a logo and repositioned the images slightly and wanted to reprint it.  The original print was done by MPix but I figured the Walgreens print was so cheap, why not give it a go.

I tried to upload the jpeg that I had exported from Lightroom but they said its dimensions were too large.  I went in to Photoshop, resized it, changed the color space to sRGB and saved as a jpeg.  This I uploaded to Walgreens without any trouble.  I should have been worried at the time that the screen thumbnail looked a little muddy but I ordered the print.  Later that day I went and got it.  Sure enough, it was dull.  (Another print I got at the same time was fine so I figured it wasn’t just their printing being poor.)

I went back to the image in Photoshop and it was set to sRGB as I expected.  Poor colors are most likely to be a color management issue.  I then went to the properties of the files in Windows Explorer and, for some reason, the color space of the Photoshop created file was not defined.  It was on me and not Walgreens.  I took the original image and exported it from Lightroom with a limit on the long edge and uploaded that one.  It looked fine this time and the resulting print – another offer came up fortunately – was exactly as I wanted.  In these comparisons, while taken with my phone, hopefully you can see how different the colors are.  The oranges are particularly harmed on the boats and even the rust dust thrown up from the slipway.  I thought I had done it right but still had an error creep in.  Lesson learned.

Getting Rid of the Visitors at Exotics@RTC

This was not something I really made a proper effort at during a visit to Exotics@RTC but I did have a brief go just to see how things might work out.  With all of the lovely looking cars on show, there are plenty of people checking them out all of the time.  This does mean the chances of getting a shot without someone in it are limited.  I figured I might play around with using a bunch of shots and Photoshop to blend out the people and get left with the cars.

To do a good job of this I really could use a tripod to keep the shot identical and take way more photos than I did to give the algorithms something to work with.  However, I didn’t have the tripod and wasn’t too keen on staying in exactly the same position for ages trying to hold the camera in place, so this was always destined to be a feeble effort.  With limited data, people aren’t going to vanish but become ghostly.  Added to that is that a few people were chatting with friends for ages so didn’t move much at all during the time I was shooting.  They clearly were not going to disappear.  Still, it was a good thing to play with and might encourage a more planned approach next time.

DxO PureRAW Testing

Whenever you suddenly see a bunch of YouTube videos on a similar topic, you wonder whether a company has been sending out copies of its product to people to get them talking about it.  I think this must be the case with DxO Mark since I have come across a lot of videos about their new raw convertor, PureRAW.  Having watched a couple of the videos – the technique clearly works – I was curious about the capabilities of the product.  Since they provide a 30 day free trial, I decided to give it a go.

One of the topics which seems to get people really worked up if they are too focused on the products and less on the photos you take with them is Raw conversions.  You can shoot JPEGs in camera but, if you shoot Raw, you tend to have a lot more flexibility with post processing.  (For those not in to this stuff – and I am amazed you are still reading this if that is the case – a Raw file is the data that comes off the sensor with very little processing applied.). Software developers come up with their own ways of converting this data into an image.  Camera manufacturers provide their own raw converters but they don’t share the detailed understanding with the software manufacturers so they have to create their own.

The most widespread software provider is Adobe with their Camera Raw convertor built in to Photoshop and Lightroom.  There are others with their own software and you can come across some quite heated discussions online about which is the best.  Hyperbole abounds in these discussions with anyone getting in to the debate almost always dismissing Camera Raw as terrible.  It’s clearly not terrible but it might have its limitations.

PureRAW is a convertor which doesn’t really give you much control.  Instead, it takes the Raw file, does its magic and then creates a new DNG raw file which you can them import direct in to Lightroom (if you choose – which I do) to continue to edit in much the same way you would have previously.  Watching the reviews, they seemed to suggest that for normal shots at normal ISO settings, there was not much in it.  However, for high ISO images, they showed significant differences with reduced noise, sharper images and clearer detail.  Some reviewers thought it might even be a bit oversharpened.

I figured I would try out my own experimentation with some really high ISO images.  I have some shots at ridiculously high ISO settings that I took at night or in poorly lit environments.  These seemed like a good place to start.  The workflow is not ideal – this would not be something I do for all images but only for some that seemed like they would need it – because I have to select the shot from Windows Explorer (getting there by right clicking on the image in Lightroom) and then drag in to PureRAW.  I can drag a whole bunch of shots over there before having to do anything to them.

The program will download profiles for the camera and lens combinations if it doesn’t already have them and you have to agree to this.  Not sure why it doesn’t do it automatically to be honest but I guess there is a reason.  When you have all of the shots of interest selected, you click Process and off it goes.  It isn’t terribly fast but I wasn’t dealing with a huge number of shots.  Interestingly, I took a look at Task Manager to see how much resource it was using and the processor was barely ticking over so it wasn’t stressing the machine at all.  At a later stage, for reasons I shall explain in a while, I did deactivate the use of the graphics card and things got considerably slower.

When the processing is finished, you have the option to export them to Lightroom.  It saves them in a sub folder for the original folder and they all import together.  Since I have Lightroom sort by capture time, the new files arrive alongside the original which makes comparing them pretty simple.  For the 204,000 ISO shot (an extended range ISO for that camera), things were slightly better but still really noisy.  For the 51,000 ISO shots, things actually did appear to be pretty impressive.  I have a normal profile for the camera that I use for the raw conversion and a preset for high ISO conversions and the comparison is not dramatic but it is definitely a sharper, more detailed and slightly cleaner result.

I have put pairs of shots in the post with crops in on each image to give a comparison of the output so you can judge for yourself.  Will I buy the software?  I don’t know.  It is currently $90.  That is quite a bit for software that does one thing only.  The interface with my workflow is a bit clunky and it has benefit in a relatively limited set of circumstances from what I have seen so far.

Now for some further feedback as my experimentation has progressed.  I did try the tool out on some more normal shots.  There are some minor differences from a conversion of the raw within Lightroom but they don’t seem to be significant enough to justify the investment.  I played with some shots that had very contrasty scenes and it was slightly less noisy but, again, not that big a deal.  They also felt over sharpened.

I have had some problems with the program.  After a while, I got conversions where the new DNG file was just black.  This happened on a few occasions.  I found switching to CPU only solved the issue but only after I deleted the DNGs that had been created.  Interestingly, once I went back to Auto mode, it continued to work.  A weird bug and not one unique to me apparently.  I have also had erratic results when it exports to Lightroom with it failing to do so on a number of occasions.  This is really laborious to deal with and, combined with the fact that the drag from Lightroom to PrimeRAW only works on a Mac and not on Windows, the lack of integration is really enough to put me off.

So far, I will let the trial expire.  It is a tool that is capable of some interesting improvements in more extreme situations but the integration is poor and the benefits are limited for me so, with that in mind, it just isn’t worth the expenditure.  If it made more of a difference to normal shots, I might consider it but it currently doesn’t offer enough to justify the cost or the process slowdown.

Commercial Vessels on Lake Union

Lake Union is a real mix of boat types.  We were crossing it on a pontoon rental that my friend Torger had access to.  We got to see a lot of different stuff out there.  There is plenty of cash in Seattle so there were a lot of the large boats that are owned by those with a touch more cash than me.  However, while the leisure market is a big deal these days, Seattle is still a commercial port.  Fishing boats abound in Salmon Bay and out towards Lake Union.  There are dry docks for the work that big vessels need including floating dry docks.

Towing operations are aplenty.  Tugs to pull barges up the coast to Alaska are there as are tugs for more local duties.  Fishing vessels also mean fish processing vessels.  These boats take the catch from the smaller boats and process and freeze it for transport back to the distribution facilities ashore.  These fishing vessels look pretty substantial when you see them alongside in Seattle.  However, I imagine when you are out in the Bearing Straits, they suddenly seem a lot smaller as the big swells of the northern Pacific are heading in their direction.  Not a job for the faint of heart.

Super Resolution

The most recent update for Adobe Photoshop includes a function called Super Resolution.  Many of the third party plugins and stand alone image processing tools come with tools to increase the resolution of images.  In Photoshop you used to have a basic way to increase resolution but it wasn’t that clever and could introduce odd artifacts.  I had been advised to use it in small increments rather than one big increase to reduce the problems but I hardly ever used it.

The new addition to Photoshop is apparently based from machine learning.  If the PR is to be believed, they took loads of high res images and low res versions of the same image and the machine learning came to recognize what might be there in the small shot from what it knew was in the large shot.  I don’t know what the other packages aim to achieve but this new tool in Photoshop has been doubling the resolution of the shots I have played with.  You end up with a file four times the size as a result of this doubling of dimensions.

I have tried it out on a couple of different shots where the resolution was okay but not terribly large and where a higher res shot might prove useful.  So far the tool is available through Camera Raw in Photoshop – not Lightroom.  You need to update Lightroom in order to import the DNG files it produces.  There is a suggestion that Lightroom will get this capability in time which would be more user friendly from my perspective.

My computer is not cutting edge so it takes a little while to process the images.  It forecasts five minutes but seemed to complete the task way faster than that.  In the examples here, I attach a 200% version of the original shot and a 100% version of the new file.  There seems to be a definite benefit to the output file.  I wouldn’t describe this as earth shattering but it is useful if the original file is sharp enough and I might have a need for this for a few items over time.

HDR Processing on a Slide

I decided to try a little experiment with my slide scanning.  Having scanned a bunch of slides and negatives using a DSLR and macro lens set up, I had come across a few slides where the image just didn’t seem to work out very well.  A big part of this is that the original slides were not very well exposed so I was starting from a less than ideal place.  However, when editing the raw file, I found I wasn’t able to get a balance of exposures that I liked, despite slides supposedly having a very narrow dynamic range.

Since I could see some detail in the original slide, I figured an HDR approach might be of use.  I took three shots of the slide with differing exposure – an inconvenient thing to do when tethered since the AEB function didn’t seem to work on the 40D in that mode – and then ran the HDR function in Lightroom on the three exposures.  Despite the borders possibly confusing the algorithm, it seemed to do a pretty reasonable job of getting more of the image in a usable exposure range.  This is not a great image and would not normally be making it to the blog but, as an example of getting something more out of a problem shot, I thought it might be of interest to someone.

High ISO Shooting and Processing Technique

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.