Algorithmic and Computational Photography

I have a long time interest in photography and a degree in Electrical Engineering.  I’ve also worked for many years in digital design, software engineering, and system engineering.  The changes happening in photography fascinate me.  Here’s an example:

TranquilityTranquility – An exceptionally calm morning in the marsh (On Black Point Wildlife Drive in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.)

I made this image yesterday using the high-resolution mode available in the Olympus OM-D E-M5II.  It’s a two frame panorama, but this discussion applies to single frame images too.  The camera comes with a 16 Mega-Pixel sensor and can generate images 4 times larger (~64 Mega Pixels) using some very clever built-in technology and processing.  I won’t go into how it does it (if you’re curious, here’s a good explanation).  If you’re careful and the conditions are right (no motion) the results are outstanding.  I’m also seeing  lower noise and better color results compared to normal resolution images.  Heres a small crop that’ll give you an idea of the detail captured.

An exceptionally calm morning in the marsh; On Black Point Wildlife Drive in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
A 1:1 crop from the photo above showing the detail captured

Each new model of camera adds more capability:  High Dynamic Range, Panoramas, Lens distortion / aberration correction, 3-D / post shot focusing (Lytro), face recognition, image stabilization, Live Composite, and many more algorithms are all being done now in camera.

Most of these (and more) can also be done with software on your computer or phone.  In fact, the computation capabilities inside your phone are one reason they’re replacing point and shoot cameras.  Algorithms / computation  can overcome many of the limitations of the relatively simple camera in your phone.  Look at the Hydra app for an example of this.

Photography started as an analog activity.  Capture the light via optics, film, chemicals, and sometimes (for experts) manipulation / fine tuning of the chemical process.  Create prints with more chemistry and manipulation of light during printing.

Photography today still involves capturing light using optics.  Instead of chemistry, most people use digital sensors.  And capturing the light as digital information allows us to apply algorithms using computers in many places in the process – either in camera like the E-M5II or in post processing.

I think the pace of change in the camera industry is slowing down at least with regard to sensors.  For instance, the E-M5II sensor is said to be identical to the first model (from three years ago).  But the rate of change in algorithms and processing is speeding up.  The new model has a faster processor with added capabilities.

Where’s all this going?  I don’t really know.  As they say:  “It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future”.  I do know it’s a very interesting time to be a photographer.  And if you’re a photographer, I don’t think you should ignore the algorithmic and computational side of things.  Some of the processing tools can provide exciting capabilities.


On a different subject, there’s a Clyde Butcher exhibition in town at the Maitland Art Center until May 16th, 2015.  If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend that you go.  The subjects / compositions / technique are wonderful and the prints are large and masterfully done.  Lynn and I went last Thursday and as we were leaving, Clyde Butcher walked in.  I very much enjoyed meeting him.

He achieves beautiful results with an analog, large format, black and white approach which would be very difficult to reproduce with a digital workflow.  That won’t be true forever.  What will most likely be true forever is that his kind of artistic inspiration and results will be extremely difficult to reproduce with an algorithm.


Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Climate Change

We had a wonderful visit with Mike and Sara last week in Wisconsin.  We waited until April to go so the weather would have time to warm up.  And it did – but it was still a change for Lynn and I.  We’re used to Florida’s climate.

On one day, we drove up into Door County and had a good time tasting local wines.  The area’s scenic, although not quite thawed out yet.  It was just above freezing with a strong wind – nice and brisk!  This photo is from Fish Creek Harbor.

Spring is on the waySpring is on the way – Door County, Wisconsin

By way of contrast,  yesterday in Florida looked like this.  When I made the photo, it was in the mid-70s and on the way up to 90 degrees F.

No one watching?No one watching? – Just south of Rotary Riverfront Park in Titusville, Florida

We did find patches of color while we were in Wisconsin.  Here’s one scene we all enjoyed on another morning.

S.A.L.T. Restauranct in De Pere, Wisconsin
S.A.L.T. Restaurant in De Pere, Wisconsin

So that’s our version of personal climate change over the last week.  It was chilly in Wisconsin, but we got a very warm welcome.  And if you clicked on this hoping for a debate about global warming, sorry.  Maybe another day.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go spend time with your family – and make some photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Explore and discover – then react

Some photographers plan their photo ops in detail.  In many cases that’s a good approach. Portrait and wedding photography are genres that need advanced planning.  And if you’re going on a once in a lifetime trip, planning is prudent.  Other genres are more reactive (e.g. photo journalism).

I try to do research and planning if I’m going somewhere I haven’t been, but I don’t plan most of my photography.  Especially if I’ve been to a place before, my approach is to explore and discover, and then react to what I find.  Often, I end up with photos that I never imagine when I start out.  Which is loads of fun!

A few weeks ago, I went over to the Sanford Marina to make sunrise photos.  I arrived early and discovered very calm conditions in the harbor.  I reacted with this photo.  It’s nothing like the sunrise I originally went looking for.

Still water, sailboats, and starsStill water, sailboats, and stars – Very early and very calm at the Sanford marina

Last week, I took a ride here in Central Florida along Maytown Road between Osteen and Oak Hill.  It goes through some very undeveloped areas and ends at Seminole Rest, a small park in the Canaveral National Seashore.  In this case, I hadn’t really planned for any photos.  I was just driving to see what’s there.  I was glad to discover this gnarled old tree, although I wish I’d found a little better light to go with it.

Weathered TreeWeathered Tree – Seminole Rest, Canaveral National Seashore in Oak Hill, Florida

This last photo is from back in 2013.  It sat in my archives until this week when I discovered it again and processed it.  It took a while for me to complete my reaction to the scene.

Sun and shadowsSun and shadows – Long exposure under the pier at Cocoa Beach

The photo and video in last week’s post also resulted from the “explore, discover, react” approach.

So what’s the moral of this story?  I suppose it’s this:  If you approach photography like I do, you’d better be ready to react to a scene when you see it.  Know your equipment so you can capture what you need when you discover something.  Even in the dark or in rapidly changing situations.  Know your software capabilities too, so you understand what you need to capture.  Be ready for the opportunities that you find, and the ones that find you.


On a different subject, I realized after I published last week’s blog that embedded video isn’t included in the email.  The Jetpack plugin software that I use doesn’t even put in a link to it.  So if you read the blog only via email and wondered what the video was about, you can click here to view it on YouTube.   And you can always click on the title of the post inside the email to view it on the web.  Sorry for any confusion.


Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go exploring – and make some photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

A few minutes with a Reddish Egret

Reddish Egrets aren’t as common in Florida as some of our other wading birds.  I seem to see them fairly reliably over on Black Point Wildlife Drive in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  They’re handsome birds and they also have some interesting behaviors.  They  dance along in shallow water and wave / flap their wings while they’re fishing.  I made a video this morning as I watched one catch minnows in the canal along the drive.

Reddish Egret fishing for minnows (~40 seconds)

Perhaps you noticed the splash at the beginning and the brief shadow on the right after the egret catches the minnow.  I was trying to figure out what those were and stayed a little longer.  Here’s a “big reveal” still shot that I managed to get.

Redish Egret and large fishRedish Egret and large fish

That fish is about as large as the bird. It seemed to follow the egret around – maybe it was trying to steal the minnows that the bird scared up?  Anyway, it was a very interesting time  with the Egret – and the fish!

I never really know what I’ll see when I head out and look around.  That’s one big reason it’s so much fun.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos! Or a video!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

A couple of photo hints and a Gatorland update

It’s been a while since I’ve discussed any photo techniques, so I thought I’d share two hints that you might not have tried recently.  I also wanted to let you know what’s going on at Gatorland now that breeding season is in full swing.

Photo Hints:

#1 – Focus stacking:  I’ve written about this before. You can read the posts here:

Both of those were macro-photography related.  But the technique can also be used for other situations such as landscapes.

Beneath the bridge, by the rocksBeneath the bridge, by the rocks – Parish Park in Titusville, about a half hour before sunrise

I was at Parish Park in Titusville one morning, looking for a new view point and discovered this area where I could place these rocks in the scene as a foreground for the bridge and far shore.  My problem was that without a tilt-shift lens, using the Scheimpflug principle, it’s  hard to get the entire composition in focus.

I decided to make three exposures, changing the focus point in each.  In the first, I focused on the rocks in the foreground, in the second on the nearest portion of the bridge, and the last was on the far shore.  At home, I did some initial processing (the same for all three) and brought them into Photoshop on separate layers.  Then I aligned the layers and manually blended them together using masks.  I could have used Photoshop’s focus stacking capability, but doing this myself with layers gave me more control.  The resulting depth of field is just how I wanted it.  What do you think?

#2 – Fill flash:  I often carry my flash and use it to add fill light or catch lights in eyes.  It helps and doesn’t seem to bother the animals.  I’ve also used fill flash for sunrise or sunset portraits of people.  It can do a good job of balancing the exposure of your subject against a bright background.

When I saw this Tri-colored Heron posing in the bush, I made a few photos.  But then I thought about adding flash.  When I got home, the photos with the flash looked much better.  The bright, ambient sunrise was balanced with the fill flash on the nearby bird.  There’s a better detail in the bird when I used the flash.

Early birdEarly bird – Tri-colored Heron at dawn (ISO 800, f/5.0, 1/320 sec, on camera flash in auto slow sync mode, -1 stop flash exposure compensation).

If you try this, you’ll need to practice a bit before you use it in a pressure situation.  Make sure you know how to adjust exposure compensation (on both the flash and the camera), shutter speed, and aperture to get the best results.  And if your camera has it, try enabling high-speed sync.  This lets you shoot with flash at higher shutter speeds without getting any black bands on your photos (at the expense of a lower light output).

Gatorland Update:

I went by Gatorland again last week.  The Great Egrets continue to breed and their hatched chicks are growing fast.  There are Snowy Egrets and Cormorants on eggs now and I saw  Tri-colored Herons, Anhingas, and Wood Storks gathering nesting material although I didn’t spot their nest or eggs yet.  A few cattle egrets have also arrived and are courting.  And the gators are getting more active too.

Just before I left, I spotted this large turtle there – I’ve never seen one before.  It looks quite intimidating and I wouldn’t want to be too close to it in the water.

Alligator Snapping Turtle (?)Alligator Snapping Turtle

For a better idea of what you can photograph at Gatorland, you can look through my album on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Breeding blue and hatching chicks

Thursday night, Tom M. invited me to meet him at Gatorland.  We both showed up at 7:30 Friday morning to see what’s changed from our visit on February 20th.  The answer is a lot!  Last time, it was mostly the Great Egrets starting to breed.  This time several more species are dressed up in their fancy colors and plumage and building nests.  And the Great Egret chicks are starting to hatch.  Here are some photos from the trip.

I saw this male Anhinga getting ready to take off and managed to make a frame  just as it left the tree.  You can see the breeding season blue around his eye as well as some of the crest on his head.

Anhinga close upAnhinga close up

Cormorant eyes are always pretty in the right light.  They add a striking blue mouth during nesting season.  Some of the Cormorants are already on nests.  This pair looked like they were just about to “get busy”.

Cormorant couple 2 Cormorant couple

Tri-colored Herons also add a dash of blue for breeding season.  They’re starting to show off with courting behaviors and poses to attract mates.

Tri-colored Heron displayingTri-colored Heron displaying

And here’s a couple of Great Egret siblings huddled up close to Mama in the nest.  I’m not sure you can call these young chicks without a full set of feathers beautiful, but they are cute.

Mama and two chicksMama and two chicks

Snowy Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Wood Storks and other species usually also nest in the this rookery – so we still have those to look forward to.  It’s a wonderful time to visit Gatorland, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, or your local bird rookery.  Don’t miss this chance to see nature in action!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Fisheye, fog, and Flower

Wow – it’s been over a year since I’ve posted any fisheye photos on the blog. So one day last week, I mounted my Rokinon 7.5mm Micro Four Thirds lens and went out looking for some photos.  I ended up at Central Winds Park in Winter Springs.  It was very foggy and the light was a bit dim – it was a good thing I brought a tripod with me.  I noticed several kinds of wildflowers blooming and decided they might be good subjects..

Fog and mist can blur detail unless you get close.  Fog in the background can also help isolate your subject.  Getting close with a wide-angle lens (especially a fisheye) will emphasize close in objects and make them stand out.  So I got close to this flower.  It was off to the side of the path and I was able to frame it against the dead leaves so colors also helped it stand out.

Flowers in the forest by the footpath in the fog

Flowers in the forest by the footpath in the fog

Using an approach like this can give your image an almost 3d look. I stopped down to f/8 which made my depth of field large enough to cover the flower, but shallow enough to blur the background a little.  At base ISO (200) my exposure was 1/50 second.  I used -1 stop of exposure compensation so the sky in the background didn’t blow out, and this also helped with saturation.  The Rokinon is manual focus.  Since focus was critical, I carefully used magnified live view to get it just right.   I like how this turned out, but looking at it now maybe I should have gotten even closer.

You can see more of my fisheye photos in this set on Flickr.


A note about the blog:  I’m working to add Gallery / Portfolio pages to my site.  I’ve posted two so far.  You can get to them from the pull down menu at the top of the page, or by clicking these links:  Florida Landscapes,  Florida Wildlife.  Please take a look and let me know what you think.


Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.