Four Edit Friday 4 – Cave Point

In this episode, we work on a picture I took at Cave Point County Park, in Door County, WI. As usual, the edits are done in Capture One Pro 10.

The initial edit is a standard edit

The second edit has exaggerated color and clarity.

Black and white. This is a higher contrast edit, which I prefer for this image.

Selective reduced clarity for a soft focus effect. The picture takes on a more dreamy quality with the softer focus and muted colors.

Which do you prefer? I think on this one I like the second photo. I would probably not use the soft focus effect much, but it is something interesting to play with.

Which do you prefer, or what would you have done differently? Please leave a comment below.

Four Edit Friday 3 – Bridge

In this Four Edit Friday, we look at a picture of a foot bridge.

The first edit, as usual, is a fairly standard edit, mainly highlight recovery for the sky, and warming the color temperature. The photo is also cropped to 4×5, because I like that aspect ratio, and think it works for this image.

The second is a black and white, adding some contrast to the previous version.

The third one is just a sepia tone of the second, with a couple small tweaks.

The last one goes back to the original crop, and has some tone curve tweaks to give it an old film look.

I think I like the black and white edits, not sure whether I prefer the straight or toned version.

Which one do you like? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Four Edit Friday 1 – Dead Flowers

This is an idea for a series of videos doing 4 edits of the same photograph.

 

Here are the final photos:

Edit 1, lower contrast and saturation
Edit 2 – Color grading
Edit 3 – Higher contrast and saturation
Edit 4 – Black and White

Which do you like, or how would you have edited it differently? Please leave a comment below.

Do you like this format for videos? Would you like to see more?

Life Lessons From a Photograph

Looking at a photograph from a recent trip, I realized something. The photograph shows the Lake Michigan shoreline, and looks very peaceful. As is often the case, looks can be deceiving, as the waves were crashing to the point that I was getting splashed regularly standing 10-15 feet above the water. But a 2 minute exposure smoothed the waves to the point that they look like little more than haze around the base of the cliffs. As big as any wave was, it made only a faint impression, that over time averaged into something serene and beautiful.


In life, we are often battered by the waves of adversity. Problems at work, school, or home can seem insurmountable at the time, but we usually find that with the passage of time the insurmountable becomes a distant memory, and usually even weaves into the beauty that is our life. Just like the photograph, things that look huge in the moment look small and dim in the context of our lives. Looking at your problems in the light of this longer time frame can reduce stress and get you through the challenges of life.

So if you are faced with problems, or are looking at taking a risky step, look at it in the context of this year, or better yet this decade, or your lifetime, and you will realize that problems are almost never as big as they seem, and that risks that won’t kill you.

But as I was thinking about the first part of this, another observation hit me. It may seem contradictory, but I think they are complimentary, and work well together. 

In today’s celebrity culture, it is easy to compare ourselves to TV and movies stars or the latest social media sensation, or even the most popular kid a school or someone at work. Their lives looks so perfect that we can never compete. Just remember that we are seeing photographs separated from reality by plenty of time and distance (and probably some retouching.) The waves are there, too. Don’t ever think that someone famous has it so perfect that your life can never compare. They have struggles too, but the distance masks that. Don’t punish yourself by trying to match something even they can’t. 

10 Capture One Editing Tips

After using Phase One’s Capture One for most of my photo editing, I have come up with a few tips to help get the best results. Hopefully these can help you, too.

1: Setting Black and White points.

If you use Lightroom, or watch any tutorials, you have probably seen the tip to hold down the Alt/Option key while setting the white and black points. You can use the Exposure warnings in C1 the same way, but make sure that Shadow Warnings are enabled (Preferences > Exposure > “Enable Shadow Warnings” checkbox”).

I normally don’t use the warnings much, I start by setting the points to edge of the histogram, and adjusting by sight from there. When you are setting the black and white points, don’t be afraid to have some areas that are in warnings. The sun, specular highlights, and lights will often be entirely washed out, and will look wrong if they aren’t, and some shadow areas should probably wind up black.

levels

2: Dodging and Burning.

When using local adjustments to selectively lighten dark areas, or darken light areas, using highlight or shadow recovery can render more natural and pleasing results than using the exposure slider.

If the section is too far into the mid tones, or it does not work for some other reason, you can use the HDR tools to soften the effect.

3: Overdoing Effects

Ever need just a little more shadow recovery or something? Applying a selective adjustment mask to the whole picture allows you to add more of many maxed-out adjustments.

4: Customizing Your Tools.

This one isn’t really a secret, but C1 lets you create custom tool tabs. I have one that contains Base Characteristics, Rotation & Flip, Exposure, Levels, White Balance, High Dynamic Range, Clarity, Sharpening, and Black & White. I spend 90+% of my time in the browser tab and my custom one.

5: White balance in Black & White?
Yes! Adjusting the white balance in B&W photos can drastically alter the look. The white balance is applied before the B&W conversion, so adjusting it can act a lot like the sliders in the B&W tool to adjust the levels of individual colors. It is less predictable, but can sometimes make adjustments that are difficult with just the color sliders. Setting the white balance can also add separation for some colors, so I would recommend setting white balance before you do the B&W conversion in any case.

6: Try some non-conventional adjustments

Highlight recovery not looking quite right? Try lowering overall exposure, then using shadow recovery to lighten the shadows. There are a number of maybe counterintuitive things like this to try. It can seem weird, but like they say in audio “if is sounds (looks) right, it is right.”

7: Smoothing Colors

The skin tone color editor tool has additional tools to smooth out colors, however, the tool is by no means limited to skin tones. You can use it to smooth any tones in the image, and since it is available as a Local Adjustment, it can be applied to multiple tones in an image.

8:  Enlarge tools

Some tools, like the Color Balance tool, can be difficult to use at the size it is on tool palate. If you click and drag the top of the tool off the palate, it becomes a floating window, and can be resized. Just drag it back onto the palate to dock it again.

curves-popout

9: The many ways to adjust contrast

There are several ways to adjust contrast in an image, including the contrast slider, Levels tool, High Dynamic Range tools, curve tool, and even the Color Balance tool. Play around with them all, and learn their strengths and weaknesses.

  • Contrast: Very easy, but little control. Prior to version 9, it effected the saturation of the image too much to make very large adjustments. With the engine updates in 9, you can use it a lot more, but may need to add some saturation.
  • Levels: This sets your black and white points. I usually start by dragging the bottoms of the bars to the ends of the histogram, and a little past if it looks good. Once you pass the ends of the histogram, the image starts clipping.
  • High Dynamic Range: These only reduce contrast, but you can “overdo” some of the other tools, then soften it with the HDR tools.
  • Curve: The most control, and the easiest to mess up. An “S” increases contrast, the reverse can be used to bring out highlight or shadow detail. Use the Luma curve for less impact on saturation and color.
  • Color Balance: I haven’t used this much, but you can adjust the brightness of highlights, midtones, and shadows.

10: Selective saturation adjustments.

One of my biggest uses for the Color Editor is to tame the saturation of greens in an outdoor image. To do this, I increase the overall image saturation, then bring the greens down. You could also select the greens, invert the selection, and increase the contrast.

One thing to be aware of is that the overall saturation is applied before the Local Adjustments, so if you desaturated the image, you may not be able to add saturation back in.

I hope these give you some ideas to improve your editing.

Do you have any tips or tricks? Please leave them in the comments.

Thank You

Over the last 240 or so years, many thousands of young men and women have decided that there was something out there that mattered more than themselves. More than their hopes and dreams, more than life itself. They left behind home, family, friends, and the familiar to fight for their country. From the American Revolution, The War of 1812, the American Civil War, two world wars, Korea, Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm, through the current global war on terror, and countless smaller operations throughout the world, they have fought and died so that Americans and others can enjoy the freedoms we have. 

They left behind mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, husbands, wives, girlfriends, boyfriends and children in the hope that they and their loved ones could have a better country and World to live in. Although many of them came home to enjoy that life, many others gave the ultimate sacrifice for us. They forever rest in cemeteries throughout the world, or in the fields or seas where they fell. 

My family has been blessed, the nearest relative I have lost is one of my grandfather’s cousins, Harry Peter Holdmann, killed in action in the Second World War, 36 years before I was born. I thank the Lord that we can remember the service of many other family members and friends on November 11th, instead of today. But that thankfulness is tinged with sadness, knowing that many families have lost loved ones. 


So this weekend, take a few minutes away from the barbecues and family gatherings to remember those who can’t be here, and to be grateful to them, and those who loved them. 

iPad Pro 9.7 First Impressions

My days of being an iPad hold out are over. I picked up an iPad Pro 9.7″ an hour or two after they became available. I also picked up the Pencil, but missed the last keyboard by minutes (maybe seconds). 

 
I have some experience with my wife’s iPad Mini, but not owning my own, so keep that in mind. Also, any too big, too small or too anything else are for me, maybe not for you.

Why now?

I was looking at picking up an iPad a couple years ago, and decided that they were too much of a consumption device, and not enough of a creative one, and ended up with a MacBook Pro. I believe that has changed over the last couple years, with the continued introduction and perfecting of creative apps. Adobe has released  several great apps, as have many other developers. Apple built on this with the release of the Pencil, which is a very solid product. 

Adobe has a mobile version of Lightroom, and a couple Photoshop based apps, which make for a powerful option for editing on the go, which is increasingly important to feed the beast that is social media. 

The other creative field the iPad has made great inroads in is music, with Garage Band, a couple other DAWs, and may instruments. I have played with Garage Band, Propellerheads Figure, iMaschine, and some others on my iPhone, which is fun,  but rather cramped. On the iPad, they are much more useful. While I am not a great musician, I expect to be able to use these tools to create soundtracks for timelapses, etc. The music for this was created with GB on my Mac, and while it is not going to win any awards, I think it adds to the video:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=m9HIazbbwCA

Do I see the iPad replacing my Mac? No. Well, not completely. I do most of my RAW processing in Capture One, and at this point there is no mobile option for that. Lightroom mobile is also an option, but that is designed more to augment the desktop version than to replace it. RAW images cannot be directly imported into LRM, and the ones imported into the desktop and synced are stored as “Smart Previews” and the edits synced back to the desktop, rather than as real RAW files.

What I can potentially see is moving to a desktop computer, due to the increased storage and processing power, and letting the iPad take over mobile duties.

It has been working quite well for writing this, reading e-books, etc. and I can certainly see it continuing to take over desktop duties. 

Do I regret not getting it earlier? Yes and no. In a world with all the money I could need, I would have bought it earlier. However, I think the money has been better spent on my D610, MacBook, etc, and there is not anything I would change taking that into consideration.

Thoughts on the Pro Specifically

So why the iPad Pro 9.7, and what do I think of it?

I liked the look of the original iPad Pro, especially the Pencil. However, the size was too big for me. I figured that the Pencil, and some of the other tech, would soon come to the smaller profile devices, and I kept an eye on the rumor mill, and since late last year it has been widely rumored that this was correct. Some people have said that it would cannibalize business from the larger iPad Pro, and while there may be some of that, I think that people are going to buy the size that works for them, and buy other styluses, etc if the Pencil is not available. Also, the price is not that far different, especially when you subtract out the cost of production, and this may get people who already own the 9.7″ devices to upgrade.

When the announcement came out, there were two big things the rumor mill hadn’t gotten: the 256 Gig model, and the TrueTone screen. Personally, when the original Pro came out, I was surprised they had not released at least a 256 Gig, or even a 512, so as far as I was concerned, it only made sense to do it now. 

The True Tone display is great, it makes the screen much easier on the eyes, especially after dark. The only concern I have is photo editing, I will have to do some testing to see if it throws me off setting color balance. 

   

The pencil is pretty much what I expected, no surprises good or bad. The one bad thing is that since there is no way to store the pencil in or on the iPad, it is easy to lose track of. There are some aftermarket options which I may end up looking into. The pressure and tilt sensitivity work as expected, but the experience can vary greatly depending on the app you are using. 

So has Apple gone back on Steve Jobs saying that your finger is the only stylus you need? I don’t really think so. The iPad experience is still very much optimized for fingertip use, and the Pencil probably detracts from user experience when doing most tasks. If you are not planning on drawing or doing photo retouching, the Pencil is probably not a good investment, but if those things interest you, it works quite well.

The Apple Store did not have the keyboard, but the had some demos, so I got to play a little bit, and it seemed alright, but a little tight, which is only to be expected. The key movement is also very short, which may be a little hard to work with. I am planning to get one once they are in stock, and maybe I can give some more feedback later. 

3D Touch, or lack thereof. I have heard two reasons for the lack of 3D Touch, either supply chain issues, or not being compatible with the Pencil. To me it is too bad it doesn’t have 3D Touch, but not a big deal. There are some good applications with it, like after touch in Garage Band, but so far I don’t think it is really making that big a difference. 

The speakers are definitely good. They lose it a little as you get to the top of the volume range, but most speakers are going to do that.

Cameras: the one on the back is the same as the camera in the iPhone 6S, and is a pretty solid camera for a phone/tablet. Apple finally upgraded the “selfie” camera  from 1.2 to 5 megapixel, but is still only 720P video. Hopefully they are able to update it for 1080P in a future update, which would be great for video blogging or live streaming on Periscope or the like. With th popularity of those applications, and selfies, I find it a little odd that this hasn’t been done long ago. 

Split-screen multitasking: not really iPad Pro specific, but still fairly new. For the most part I find it very useful, especially when writing. I can be typing in the WordPress app, and have Twitter or a browser open next to it, or be reading, and taking notes along side. However, not all apps support this feature, which can be a serious limitation. For instance, the Bible app I use on my MacBook and iPhone does not, so it is more difficult either taking notes on what I am reading, or using it for reference while writing something. 

The other fairly serious limitation is that you cannot have the same app in both windows, for instance to compare documents, or have two browsers open. The brain browser one can be worked around by downloading chrome or Firefox, and running different browsers.

All in all, I think it was a good purchase, and look forward to using it more. 

What are your must-have apps? Let us know in the comments.

Why I Shoot RAW

The other night I took a little detour on the way home to photograph a small church near my office.

It was sunset, and the church was silhouetted against an interesting sky. The photo below is default off the camera. Capture One makes a couple changes by default, so it’s a little different than a camera JPEG would be. This is pretty much the photo I saw, and wanted to capture.

The image was captured at 1/400th of a second, I think at f/11. The camera was a Nikon D610 on a tripod, with a PC-Nikkor 28mm F4. The lens does not record aperture information, thus the “I think” on f/11.

church-yard-no-changes-DSC_5509
The original

I used Highlight recovery to bring out more detail in the sky.

church-yard-highlights-DSC_5509
Highlight recovery

Using shadow recovery, we are able to bring a lot of detail into the foreground. In the original, almost everything below the skyline is black, with the shadow recovery, we have a lot of detail that was hidden before.

church-yard-highlights-shadow-DSC_5509
Highlight and shadow.

For a comparison, I created a highest quality JPEG with Nikon NX-D, using the vivid picture control, which is probably what I would have used for this image shooting JPEG. As is, it looks fine, pretty much the same as we got out of the default settings in Capture One.

church-yard-jpg-original-DSC_5509
The original JPEG export

But as we start to bring the shadow and highlight recovery in, you can see how much is missing in the shadows. The blown out area around the sun is also larger than edited RAW. This is with the same settings as the RAW, with highlight and shadow recovery both at 100.

Initial JPEG edit
Initial JPEG edit

I tried to replicate the results with curves, and that ended up with some more shadow detail, but killed the sky.

church-yard-jpg-conversion-DSC_5509
Adjustments on a JPEG

Here’s the final version of the RAW, with some punch clarity added. Some comparison points: the color in the sky, the chimney is “eaten away” by the blown highlight of the sun. You can also see fairly severe posterizing in the shadows on the JPEG edits at full size.

church-yard-highlights-shadow-clarity-DSC_5509
Adding Clarity to the RAW conversion.

In this image, I might leave the foreground in silhouette anyways, but I wanted to demonstrate how you can squeeze a lot more dynamic range out of a photograph. For a scene like this, there really isn’t a “proper” exposure that would include the whole image. But with a few minutes of RAW editing you can have very good images with an extended dynamic range, without having to use HDR stacking techniques or the like. Using the dynamic range built into the RAW file avoids having to keep the camera still through multiple exposures and the problem of moving objects in an image. I have also run into situations where light washed into the darker areas of an image on stacked HDR that looked very unnatural. This, on the other hand, captures an image very like what I saw when I was standing there. Using JPEG, on the other hand, throws away a lot of image data that it deems unnecessary, and while some recovery is possible, it is much more limited.