Saturday, 30 June 2012

Droplets

Droplets macro
Click on the photo to view it in large size on black background.
I'm still processing my recent macro shots and here is one more. I really like the background here being blurry and colorful (and providing nice definition for the subject). I think that also the light is interesting.

EXIF data:
Camera: Canon 5D MK II
Lens: Canon 100 f/2.8 L IS USM Macro
Focal length: 100
Aperture: f/10
Exposure time: 1/30
ISO: 100
Flash used: yes, Nissin MF16 Macro ring flash
Tripod: yes

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Friday, 29 June 2012

Photomatix Pro presets for lakes

I took this HDR photo from tripod using 7 exposures spaced at 1.5 EV to cover whole dynamic range of this very contrasty scene. To use longer exposures and thus to make water look calmer I used Hoya ND8 neutral density filter.
Today I decided to share Photomatix Pro presets I used during my recent landscape shoot in Masuria, Poland. One of the photos processed with this presets is above. This time there are 4 presets you can download from here.

It's not the first time I share my Photomatix Pro presets. For much more you can view this and this post.

To install the presets*:
  1. Download the presets and extract them on your disk.
  2. Start Photomatix Pro 4.2. If you haven't updated to 4.2 visit HDRsoft homepage and download your upgrade (in case you're eligible to it).
  3. Open any image and tonemap it to go to the tonemapping preview mode.
  4. In the Presets window change tab from "Built-In" to "My Presets".
  5. In the combo-box in the upper part of the Presets window select "Import Presets..." item.
  6. Navigate to the directory where you extracted presets and select all the files you want to import. You might also want to specify category for the imported presets (eg. "Downloaded"). To do this just fill in the text field at the bottom of the Import window.
  7. Accept the selection and wait for the thumbnails to appear. Voila!
Hope you like it!
* In case of older versions than 4.2 you can follow instructions I posted here.

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Thursday, 28 June 2012

Canon 100 f/2.8 L Macro lens review

As I mentioned some time ago I recently got Canon 100 f/2.8 L Macro IS USM lens. After taking a few test shots during last weekend I can finally write a few words about it.

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Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The Grass Blades


This time another photo taken with Canon 100 L Macro lens (expect short review of this lens tomorrow). I decided to go with very shallow depth of field to create this amazing bokeh.

I uploaded this photo to the Wallpapers section because I believe it fits desktop wallpaper pretty well :)

EXIF data:
Camera: Canon 5D MK II
Lens: Canon 100 f/2.8 L IS USM Macro
Focal length: 100
Aperture: f/3.5
Exposure time: 1/320
ISO: 160
Flash used: yes, Nissin MF16 Macro ring flash
Tripod: yes

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Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Tutorial: Introduction to Infrared Photography


During the last weekend I finally managed to play with infrared photography. So I decided to share some thoughts on it. I'm a beginner in terms of IR but I think I'll love it. And I think many of you will love it too.

First thing is preparing your camera to capture infrared light. As the camera sensors filter out infrared rays you have to either:
  1. Modify your camera so it allows entering infrared rays. It includes removing special filter "protecting" camera sensor from capturing IR. After this modification you will be able to use your camera normally, view the world in IR even in Live View mode, use fast shutter speeds etc... but you won't be able to capture normal (non-IR) photos anymore.
  2. Buy special filter which allows only infrared light to go through. You loose many benefits of the modified camera but you can still capture normal photos.
As modifying the camera didn't sound like a good idea to me (as it would mean that "normal" photography won't be possible) I decided to get the IR filter. I chose Hoya Infrared R72 filter. The R72 means that only rays with lengths longer than 720nm will go through. There are other filters allowing other ray lengths (like 900nm or 660nm) to pass. 720nm is the border of the visible spectrum (i.e. light our eyes can see) and the beginning of the infrared range.

Taking shots in IR doesn't differ much from taking regular shots apart from a few difficulties - you don't see anything through the viewfinder (unless you have modified camera)! Only complete blackness (because the filter is almost completely black and doesn't allow visible light). So it's even more difficult than in night photography albeit a bit similar.
  1. You have to compose the image prior to putting on the IR filter. Otherwise you won't see anything. It's a great benefit of the modified camera because you would be able to see everything through a viewfinder in that case.
  2. You have to focus manually. You can either focus prior to putting on a filter or focus on infinity.
  3. It is necessary to use longer exposure times so the IR rays will get "recorded" (remember about the filter over the camera sensor). Eg. photo above was taken with 13s exposure at ISO 800 and f/10.0.
  4. Another thing is white balance. You have to use custom settings if you don't want to get completely red photo. Take a photo of a sunlit grass (because green grass reflects IR pretty well so it is white in terms of infrared) and set it as your custom white balance setting.
After taking a shot even with correct white balance you might have issues with your photo after opening it in Lightroom or Photoshop but this I will cover in a few days.

All this might sound a bit difficult at first but believe me the end result is worth it. Let's look at another IR photo I took.


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Monday, 25 June 2012

Masurian Mirror

I've spent great weekend in Masuria, Poland. As this is great spot for landscape photography I took several landscape HDR photos like the one above. I was also testing my new Canon 100L macro lens so expect my review this week.

A few notes about the above photo. I took as many as 7 exposures with 1.5 EV step. This was required because it was very high contrast scene with bright sun, darker water and very dark forest. I used Magic Lantern to capture those 7 exposures. Also to make exposure time a bit longer I used Hoya Neutral Density filter (ND8).

EXIF data:
Camera: Canon 50D
Lens: Canon 10-22 f/3.5-4.5 USM
Focal length: 10
Aperture: f/22
Exposure time: 1/13 s ("middle" exposure)
ISO: 100
Number of exposures: 7
Step: 1.5 EV

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Thursday, 21 June 2012

Arches in Sepia

Praca do Comercio in Lisbon
Click on the photo to view it in large size on black background.
Another HDR photo from Lisbon. This time sepia-look.

EXIF data:
Camera: Canon 5D Mark II
Lens: Canon 24-105 L f/4 IS USM
Focal length: 24 mm
Aperture: f/6.3
Exposure time: 1/320 s ("middle" exposure)
ISO: 400
Number of exposures: 3

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Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Golden Fields

I'm a bit short of time today so without further ado here is a shot I took last year in Masuria, Poland. Tone mapped in Photomatix Pro 4.1.

EXIF data:
Camera: Canon 50D
Lens: Canon 24-105 L f/4 IS USM
Focal length: 105 mm
Aperture: f/18
Exposure time: 1/25 s ("middle" exposure)
ISO: 100
Number of exposures: 5

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Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Against the Flow




This time one of my favourite HDR photos taken in Berlin.

BTW Photomatix Pro 4.2.2 for Windows has been released just a few days ago. It doesn't add any new functionality but fixes a few bugs so you still might want to update. Just go do Photomatix download page.

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Monday, 18 June 2012

Canon 100 L f/2.8 IS USM Macro - first photos

Recently I've bought Canon 100L f/2.8 IS USM Macro lens (uff these names get longer and longer...). Although I will be heavily testing it in a few days (and after that I'll write my review) I would like to share some photos and short thoughts today.

I can already say one thing - this lens is ultra-sharp. I used very small amount of sharpening in post - more simply wasn't required. Also it is unbelievable how much detail you can capture with it. This make it also quite difficult with some subject because you can capture dirt you don't see with your eyes.



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Sunday, 17 June 2012

Going Back in Time

This HDR photo was taken in the Piazza dei Mercanti (Square of the Merchants), Milan, Italy. This place situated near famous Piazza Duomo and Cathedral was Milan's main market square for a few ages starting from medieval times. Surrounded by beautiful buildings, it is in my opinion one of the most interesting places in Milan.

EXIF data:
Camera: Canon 50D
Lens: Canon 10-22 f/3.5-4.5 USM
Focal length: 10 mm
Aperture: f/5.6
ISO: 400
Number of exposures: 3

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Saturday, 16 June 2012

Black & white photo from Milan

This time black & white HDR photo from Milan.

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Friday, 15 June 2012

Little gems

I took this photo 2yrs ago. I don't take many macro photos but will probably take more as I've just bought Canon 100L f/2.8 IS USM Macro lens (I plan to review it in a few days).

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Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The Columns

Another HDR photo from Rome today.

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Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Tutorial: Sepia in Photomatix

This HDR photo was taken in the Vatican Museums in Rome. I really like the light in the left side and on the angel.
I would like to share a simple trick with you today - how to achieve sepia like look directly in Photomatix Pro. It might be useful for those of you who don't use Photoshop/Gimp/Lightroom. But also sometimes the approach presented here might be also useful for the rest of you.

To achieve this look follow the steps below:
  1. Open your photo (photos) in Photomatix Pro and click on the Tone Mapping/Fusion button.
  2. Decrease Saturation to 0.
  3. Click on the Process button. At this stage you will have black & white image.
  4. Click Tone Mapping button again.
  5. Now the fun begins:
    1. Move the Saturation slider to 100. You might also want to reduce Strength and White Point to 0.
    2. Now play with the Temperature slider. Moving it to the right will make your image sepia like. You can also use Saturation slider to make effect weaker if you like.
This way of processing photos can be called "multiple tone mapping". It can be sometimes useful to get specific look or if there are parts of the photo which require a bit different processing than other parts.

Here is the final photo:

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Monday, 11 June 2012

The Branderburg Gate

This time HDR photo of the Branderburg Gate (Branderburger Tor) in Berlin.

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Sunday, 10 June 2012

Desert Lightroom 4 presets

HDR photo taken in Milan. Processed in Photomatix Pro.


Today I decided to share some of my Lightroom 4 presets which I used for my most recent photos from Dahab. Here is the download link. The ZIP archive contains 4 presets which are shown below. I used this presets for photos taken during the day. I plan to release some which I used when shooting sunsets soon. Below you can find images showing how each of the presets look in action.


Original file
Desert Vivid
Desert Vignette
Desert B&W
Desert Again

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Saturday, 9 June 2012

Reflection in Royal Baths

Pałac na Wodzie
Click on the photo to view it in large size on black background.
Another one from Royal Baths Park in Warsaw.

Here is EXIF data:
Camera: Canon 50D
Lens: Canon 24-105 f/4 L IS USM
Focal length: 28 mm
Aperture: f/7.0
Shutter speed: 1/128 s ("normal" exposure)
ISO: 1000
Number of exposures: 3

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Friday, 8 June 2012

Another one from Warsaw


Another HDR shot from Warsaw. I planned to write something more but today I mostly watch Euro 2012 matches :) hope to write something tomorrow.

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Thursday, 7 June 2012

Tutorial: Restoring highlights & shadows

Today I will write a few words about common issue with photos, i.e. shadows are too dark or highlights are too bright. It happens especially when editing a single RAW/JPEG photo but sometimes it might also happen when fine tuning tone mapped photo.

One of the solutions is to apply curves (or exposure or brightness & contrast) adjustment layer and mask out some regions of the photo. Another solution, in case of tone mapped photos, is to blend tone mapped photo with original bracketed shots. However, in Photoshop CS there is one more adjustment which is a lot easier and faster to work with: Shadows/Highlights adjustment tool. It doesn't work well always but sometimes it can save us a lot of time and work. I often use it as the first tool to restore some detail in shadows or highlights.

Ok, without further ado - to the example. Here is original photo. I couldn't get it right in Photomatix Pro (it was taken a few years ago so my skills were lower than they are now) what resulted in a way too dark shadows and a bit too bright highlights.

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Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Dadaj Lake in Black & White

This HDR photo shows Dadaj Lake in black & white.

BTW do you have any topics which you would like me to write about?

Here is EXIF data:
Camera: Canon 50D
Lens: Canon 10-22 USM f/3.5-4.5
Focal length: 10 mm
Aperture: f/18
Shutter speed: 1/5 s ("normal" exposure)
ISO: 100
Number of exposures: 5

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Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Tutorial: Sharpening - Part 3: Sharpening HDR photos

I don't often do selective coloring but I wanted to try this technique. With the chain hidden in the grass it was really time consuming and difficult task but as you can see I succeeded :) The original photo was HDR from 3 exposures taken in Masuria, Poland.
It's the third part of my tutorial about sharpening. Previously I wrote about unsharp mask and high-pass filter sharpening. Today I won't describe another method of sharpening (I plan to write about selective sharpening but a bit later). I will instead describe how to approach sharpening of HDR photos.
Why such a topic? I've heard and read many times users complaining on various forums that output from their HDR software isn't that sharp as preview or that output photo needs additional sharpening before considering a photo as finished.

The reason for this is that to asses sharpness of a photo we would need to view it at 100% magnification about what many users don't know or forget. Why? If the magnification is smaller then pixels in the image don't directly correspond (i.e. 1 to 1) to the pixels of our monitor what makes some of them interpolated. It is why in general it is recommended to do sharpening at 100% magnification. Depending on the interpolation algorithms used by the photo editing software you can also sometimes do sharpening at other magnifications, eg. in Photoshop you can use 100%, 50%, 25% to get believable results but not for instance 53,11% (you can do a test to see how differently the image looks at 50% and 53,11% despite very small difference in zoom).

Ok, so here is the procedure which should be used when doing HDRs:
  1. If you're developing your RAWs (eg. in Lightroom) prior to loading them to HDR software (as always I use Photomatix as an example) you shouldn't apply any sharpening prior to merging to HDR or tone mapping. The reason for this is that sharpening algorithms are about increasing local contrast - the same what local tone mapping operators like Details Enhancer are. So you might get slightly different results.
  2. Tone map your image as always. To assess sharpening of your image you can use loupe in Photomatix Pro. Just click on the image region and another window will appear. Note that for this to work you can't be in the selection replacement mode (i.e. make sure Selection Mode checkbox is unchecked). Take a look at this screenshot. I opened loupe window on a Jeep. Although preview image might look sharp enough loupe reveals that some further sharpening might be necessary.
  3. Process your image.
  4. (Optional) At this stage you might apply sharpening directly from Photomatix (at least when you use version 4.2 or newer). The small window which appears after processed image appears allows you to do that. Switch to sharpening tab and click on the "Show Options" button. The controls you will see are nothing else but controls controlling unsharp mask. You can also choose preset (Mild, Medium and Strong).
  5. Save tone mapped image. 
  6. If you skipped step 4 you can now open your image in Photoshop/Lightroom and apply sharpening there either by using High Pass Filter or Unsharp Mask. 
Important note: always check how areas of uniform color look in Photomatix at 100% (using loupe). It might be often the case that after applying tone mapping a lot of noise will appear there what will make sharpening in post processing more difficult. To reduce amount of noise you can try to decrease Detail Contrast setting or increase Smooth Highlights or Micro-smoothing.

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Monday, 4 June 2012

One old autumn shot

This is quite old HDR shot taken in autumn in Royal Baths Park in Warsaw.

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Sunday, 3 June 2012

Castello Sforzesco - different perspective

Castello Sforzesco in Milan
Click on the photo to view it in large size on black background.
This is just another HDR photo from Castello Sforzesco in Milan.

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Saturday, 2 June 2012

Tutorial: What makes HDR photo look unrealistic?

This is another version of Just walking HDR photo taken in Cabo da Roca, Portugal. This version was in fact more popular on 500px portal.
Today I would like to briefly discuss a few factors which make tone mapped photo unrealistic. I'm trying to achieve realistic HDR look with my photos and although I don't always manage to I think I now more less know how to do this. I will show samples of the issues (these won't be my 'real' photos but rather some extremes I produced to show the problems) and write a few words on how to fix this in Photomatix, Lightroom or Photoshop. For additional information read my HDR tutorial.

  • Halo artifacts: it's the most common mistake, made especially by beginners. It's about leaving halo artifacts around the edges. It's visible mostly on the boundary of two regions with very differencing brightness (eg. between sky and forest). You can fix this in many ways: decrease Strength, decrease Lighting Adjustments setting to Natural or Natural+, increase Smooth Highlights. You might also want to use combination of these to achieve halo-free results. Another fix is to use burn and dodge tools in Photoshop but I always try to fix it in Photomatix.
    Here is example of this issue created when using Surreal preset from Photomatix Pro 4.2:
  • Oversaturated photos: One of the common mistakes is that Saturation setting in Photomatix Pro is set to relatively high value. This makes colors to have this grunge or surreal look - they scream HDR! I usually don't go beyond 80 with this setting and most of the time I keep it around 40 or 50. Also you have to be aware that this slider is a bit different than Saturation in eg. Lightroom or Photoshop in a sense that other settings affect its behaviour, eg. using lower value for Strength allows you to use higher values for Saturation. Using higher values for Strength in turn requires reducing Saturation to keep the realistic look.
    Another thing is that particular colors (especially reds and greens) might still look oversaturated despite using rather low Saturation value in Photomatix. The fix is easy. You can use Finishing Touch in Photomatix or Saturation sliders in Lightroom (or Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer in Photoshop CS) to decrease saturation of these particular colors. Another fix is to use Vibrancy slider in Lightroom.
    Here is example photo. The blues in the sky and reds of the tram are very unnatural in this case.
  • Unrealistic shadows: Another common mistake is to restore all detail in shadows in case of very contrasty scenes (eg. sunsets). Normally our eyes don't see all the detail in the shadows and highlights. So when we look at the photo with all details restored we perceive it as fake. The solution is to make shadows a bit darker. You can play with the Luminosity setting or fix the brightness in post eg. using curves tool in Photoshop.
  • Leaving ghosts not fixed: Many photographers leave ghosts in their images. Ghosts are subjects which moved between photos of a bracketed sequence. They can be people, cars, water or blades of grass. Sometimes photographers leave them by accident (because ghosts are relatively small and hard to notice), sometimes they don't know how to fix them or the software they use doesn't do this well. One of the most interesting cases, however, is when photographer fixes the ghost but forgets to fix its shadow or reflection :)
    Photo posted above has one more issue. Zoom in and see what happened to people and also car. They are semi-transparent and also there are several copies of each of them - hence the name - ghosts:
  • Sky looking as copied from another image: this is another common mistake making sky look as if it is copied from another image. It's often because Lighting Adjustment setting wasn't set correctly. Another fix is to increase Smooth Highlights setting.
    Take a look at this example:
  • Incorrect White Balance setting: setting white balance to correct value is always important. When you don't do this prior to merging your photos to HDR you might get unpleasant and unrealistic look (either too cold or too warm depending on your settings). You should always fix white balance prior to merging photos to HDR. But in case you can't do this you can increase/decrease Temperature in Photomatix or play with Color Balance or Hue/Saturation adjustment layers in Photoshop.
    Here is example of this issue (note the blue color of the shadows):

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Friday, 1 June 2012

Bear portrait


One more photo from the Warsaw ZOO, this time portrait of a bear.

Here is EXIF data:
Camera: Canon 5D MK II
Lens: Canon 70-300L IS USM
Focal length: 300 mm
Aperture: f/5.6
Shutter speed: 1/250 s
ISO: 1000

Location:

View Larger Map

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