I went for another walk last week at Orlando Wetlands Park with Tom M. It was a pretty morning and in addition to the normal bird suspects, we also saw Soras, Purple Gallinules, and heard reports of Bald Eagles and many Black Crowned Night Herons.
“Compositing is the combining of visual elements from separate sources into single images, often to create the illusion that all those elements are parts of the same scene.”
Multiple exposures are a subset of compositing, and are much easier to produce in today’s world of digital photography. In addition to creating an illusion, they can be used to show things that are difficult for a camera to capture in a single frame and better show reality. Examples are panoramas, focus stacking, HDR, etc.
There’s a lovely Pink Trumpet tree on the west side of the main path into the park. It’s in bloom and that morning the moon was setting behind the tree. This snap from my iPhone shows how the tree looked against the sky and moon.
I wanted to isolate one bloom with the moon and clouds behind it, but the depth of field with my telephoto lens was too shallow to show both in the same frame. So I made two, with one focused on the flower and the second on the clouds / moon. Then in Photoshop it was relatively easy to combine the two frames to show what I wanted.
Moon, clouds, and flower
Here’s a second example:
Ibis flight sequence
This one is from a sequence of a single White Ibis flying by in a little under 2 seconds. I brought all 25 frames into Photoshop on separate layers and aligned them. Then I used the focus select function to mask the birds from each layer into a single composite. I ended up having to omit every other frame to avoid overlapping birds.
If you’re willing to dive into Photoshop or any other image editing software that offers layers and masking, you can do the same sort of work. Think about techniques like these when you’re out photographing. If you capture the source frames you need when you’re out, then when you get back to your computer you can use them to solve problems and enhance your creativity.
Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some multiple exposure photos!
Do you have a favorite photo that you made a while ago? Perhaps with an older camera? If so, you may want to see what new versions of software and your revised tastes and improved skills can do differently.
I had a request for a print of this image. It’s from way back in 2007, made with my first DSLR – a Nikon D80:
Littleton, Colo. cabin
I like this photo. A lot, and not just because of the subject. It reminds me of driving along the road between where my Mom used to live and my Sister’s house, and visiting them both. It’s been on the blog before: here and here. If you’re interested, please take a look at these two posts to see earlier versions.
Fortunately, I was saving my digital files in RAW format even back then, so I can take full advantage of any improvements in photo software. I decided to run this through my current imaging workflow before printing. Using DxO Optics Pro, Photoshop, and Lightroom, I was able to reduce noise, improve shadow and highlight detail, and tweak color, contrast, and brightness. I feel the new version is better.
Using current software on an image made with 10-year-old technology can be amazing. I even see a spider web hanging from the near door that I never noticed before.
What do you think? Do you ever reprocess your older images?
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make and / or reprocess some photos!
Let’s go fishing! Two fishermen head out before dawn.
I’ve made this kind of photo before – you can see some examples in this set on Flickr. I think this one turned out better than my earlier tries. I used a different approach and because it’s been a while since I’ve written a “behind the scenes / how-to post”, I thought I’d fill you in on how I made this.
The boat ramp at this little park where SR 520 crosses the St. Johns River is pretty busy around dawn. It seems to be a popular place for fishermen to put in. I waited several times while they cleared my frame and the water calmed down before I could make my next exposure. So I decided to make an image that included a boat.
It’s a challenging shot. I wanted to capture the intense sunrise colors so I had to be careful not to over expose and blow out the sky. I also wanted some detail in the boat, so I needed to over expose there a bit, but still minimize motion blur. At sunrise, I normally use a low ISO for the best quality image, and a small aperture for good depth of field. This results in a long shutter speed, which is bad for photographing moving boats. And if I want to bracket and use multiple frame HDR to capture the huge contrast range in the scene – that’s even worse for moving boat photography. So how did I make this image? Glad you asked!
The secret is to carefully capture two frames and blend them together by hand. The first frame is exposed for the boat: I used a high ISO and a wide open aperture to get my shutter speed as fast as possible, and I overexposed slightly to capture a little shadow detail in the boat and in the vegetation on the shore. With my camera set and on a tripod, I composed and waited for the next boat to get to the right point in the frame. Here’s that RAW file:
The second frame was my main exposure and I wanted it to be the best quality possible. I also wanted to slightly under expose to capture color and detail in the sky. I waited until the boat was gone and the water was calm again and then made this exposure:
When I got home, I preprocessed the two raw files using identical color balance and paying careful attention to noise reduction (especially on the higher ISO frame with the boat). I’ve used DxO Optics Pro lately when I want the best RAW conversion. It does a wonderful job on both lens corrections and noise reduction for supported equipment. After a few tweaks to exposure in each file, I brought them into Photoshop on separate layers.
The next thing to deal with was the boat. Even though I’d pushed my shutter speed as high as I thought I could, 1/20 second still left a little motion blur visible. The “Filters / Sharpen / Smart Sharpen” command in Photoshop has a “Remove Motion Blur” option and I’ve found that it works well in situations like this where the direction of motion is known. I used it selectively on a duplicate layer to enhance detail in the boat. Here are before and after crops at 200%. I think it’s a nice improvement:
Next I used layer masks to blend the multiple frames together. I worked carefully around the boat and painted it into the main / second frame. I like a little detail in my shadows instead of a straight silhouette. Since I’d slightly overexposed the first frame (and was careful with noise reduction) I painted some of that into the vegetation. Here’s the first merged result:
The only filter I used on this was Topaz Clarity – I like the way it increases mid-tone contrast without adding halos.
After selective sharpening on a separate layer, I returned to Lightroom for final adjustments (black and white points, vignette, etc) to get the first image in this post.
I struggled some with the cropping. I tried a 16×9 aspect ratio, but because I wanted to keep all the sky, I thought the horizon ended up too close to the center. I decided to keep the original composition since the dark water at the bottom holds my eye in the frame. I might play with it some more.
I like how it turned out and I hope you do too. I also hope the info helps with your photography. If you have any questions on details or other photography related things, let me know in the comments.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos!
Topaz released a new plug-in recently, called ReStyle. You can download any of their products for a free thirty-day trial, so I thought I’d give it a go. This isn’t a full review or tutorial (I haven’t used it long enough for either of those). But I have used it a bit so I’ll try to introduce you to some possibilities with three examples I’ve played with. If you want to see the “before” versions, I’ve included them towards the end of the post.
I had trouble with the white balance in this photo of Marineland beach at dawn. I could have separately adjusted the color balance on the sky and ground using layer masks in Photoshop or gradients in Lightroom. Instead, it was easy to pick out this version from the grid displayed inside ReStyle. It’s interesting how remapping changed the color in the beach and rocks differently from the sky.
Down on the beach at dawn (afterTopaz ReStyle).
ReStyle maps color and tone statistics from a selected style to a target image. It seems like Photoshop’s “Image/Adjustments/Match Color” command. When you do this in Photoshop, you have to supply an image with the colors you’re trying to match. ReSyle comes with over 1000 presets and provides control / adjustment of the results that aren’t easily available in Photoshop. There are so many presets that they’re overwhelming, but ReStyle breaks them down into collections (e.g. “Landscape”), and you can mark your favorites. You can show a collection or your favorites as a grid applied to your photo, which makes choosing one very simple. You can also search for similar styles by color or by name. Within each style, you can further adjust the hue, saturation, and luminance of the five colors in each style, as well as the opacity, original image “Texture” strength, and others variables. It also includes mask / selections controls to apply the effects selectively. There’s a lot more info available in the manual at this link.
In this photo of some struggling trees on a small rocky island near Haulover Canal, I wanted a more dramatic color palette. Once again, it was easy to pick out this version from a grid of possibilities.
Survivors (after Topaz ReStyle)
For this infra-red photo of sea oats on the beach that I made in Fred Howard Park near Tampa , I wanted a different look from a typical IR false color image. I like this color mapping I found in ReStyle .
Sea oats – False color infra-red (After Topaz ReStyle)
There are so many presets, options and adjustments that ReStyle can be a little overwhelming. It’s not hard to use, but it is hard to grasp all the possibilities and decide what to do. It’ll take a bit more time for me to get comfortable with it, so I’ll have to play with it some more.
For comparison purposes, here are versions of the photos before I applied Topaz ReStyle:
Before: Down on the beach at dawn.
Before: Sea oats – False color infra-red processing.
Summary: Do you have to use plug-ins? Of course not, but they’re useful and save time. And ReStyle seems to offer something I haven’t seen elsewhere. It’ll definitely make your images look different. Are they better? I think ReStyle improved these three images, but only you can decide for your photos. Will this fix all of your problems and should you use it on every photo? Definitely not – I’m new to the tool, but on several photos I tried, I couldn’t get anything that I thought looked good. But it does look like something that’ll be good to have in your bag of tricks.
Off topic public service announcement: I’m always telling you to get out and enjoy nature. I also need to remind you to protect yourself from the sun. I had two skin cancers removed last week. I’m fine – but it’s not the most pleasant thing to go through. And it can be much, much worse than mine were. So when you’re out in the sun enjoying nature, please protect yourself. Use sunscreen, wear a hat and long sleeves, stay in the shade as much as possible, etc. The sun is brutal, especially in Florida. And no one wants to suffer the consequences of too much exposure ten or twenty years down the road.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos! And use sunscreen!
I had a question recently about how I process panoramas – so I thought I’d document my workflow using a recent image as an example. This will be a bit geeky. Next week I should have a more normal post after I finish selecting / editing photos from a visit to St. Augustine.
I was up on Mount Evans near Denver, Colorado with an Olympus E-PL5 camera and a 24-100mm equivalent lens. This is a 16MP camera and the mountains and valley were just too large to fit through that lens and onto that sensor. I really wanted to capture something that would give viewers a sense of the scene. So how did I make a 46MP (9608×4804) wide-angle panorama with the gear I had? Read on.
Mount Evans panorama – the completed 46MP image (click to see larger on Flickr)
This is a multi-photo panorama. Many cameras have a panorama capability built-in. I’m not sure if the E-PL5 has it, because I never use it. Why? I like the flexibility, control, and quality I can achieve with a manual process. I don’t like letting the camera decide everything automatically. And I like the result – huge, rich files that I can print large, or even crop to yield several different compositions.
In this post, I’ll write about using the software that I have (Lightroom V5 and Photoshop CS6) but the concepts are similar no matter what software you have. You’ll need to interpret / apply this info to your own tools and workflow. There’s four main phases: 1) Capture, 2) Initial Adjustments in Lightroom, 3) Photoshop stitching and processing, and 4) Final Lightroom tweaks. I’ll give you some hints about each.
Carefully capturing the input frames is extremely important to the end result. Input variations can be hard for software to handle, so try to minimize differences. You should use manual white balance, exposure, and focus.
For horizontal panoramas, shoot vertical frames and overlap them by thirty to fifty percent but not more. Too many frames means more seams, and this could add problems you’ll have to fix. If this happens, try removing a frame – it might not impact the final image.
I shoot either on my tripod or handheld. If there’s enough light, I’ve had good luck shooting handheld. I’m careful to keep the camera level and use a grid line or focus mark in the view finder aligned with the horizon as a guide.
I always shoot in RAW format, but the stitching will of course work with JPG input frames. It’s best to use a camera / lens supported by Lightroom so that you can correct lens distortions. If you don’t, the distortions can build up across the stitched images and look especially bad when there are straight lines in the scene.
Initial Adjustments in Lightroom:
I load the images into Lightroom and adjust them all identically. I aim for a neutral, low contrast setting across all images. I enable distortion correction and usually turn off sharpening / noise reduction (and deal with them in later steps).
Be conservative with the highlights – I’ve found that stitch software may blow out parts of the image when attempting to blend between frames. I’ll dial down highlights if I have any concern. If I didn’t use manual exposure, I may also try to match white and black points in all the histograms.
The seven source images in Lightroom after the initial adjustments
Photoshop stitching and processing:
Once I’ve got the frames adjusted in Lightroom, I open them as layers in Photoshop. This allows me to try different auto align algorithms (under the Edit / Auto-Align menu), undo them, and try again if there are issues. For the wide-angle shots I usually make, the cylindrical alignment method seems to work best. I check the result at 100%. Sometimes the software doesn’t line up the most important parts of the image perfectly and I’ll use the move tool to make small adjustments.
Seven source images opened as layers in Photoshop and auto aligned.
Next I’ll do the blending (Edit / Auto-Blend). Then I look for variations across the image (most often in smooth sky). You can see the leftmost frame above is a bit darker. If the auto blend hasn’t worked well enough, I’ll undo it and tweak the levels or curves in each layer and then re-blend.
Once I’m happy with the blend, I’ll flatten the layers, and then rotate and crop the image. I don’t do final cropping at this point – I save that for the later in Lightroom. It’s OK to leave a bit of white around the edges. In CS6, content aware fill can fix those for you. If you do use Content Aware Fill, review those areas at 100% for flaws. You might need to touch them up with the clone tool. This is also the time to do any other cloning the image needs.
In Photoshop after auto blend, merge layers and initial crop / straighten
Now do your noise reduction on a new layer. I use Topaz DeNoise 5, but other software works well too. I just like the user interface in this plug-in. Check the result at 100% again and decide whether to apply it to the whole image or selectively. Most of the time I add a layer mask to the noise layer and apply it to the sky and / or smoother parts of the image only. This preserves detail where the noise isn’t obvious (ground, trees, etc.).
Final Photoshop edit after content aware fill, noise reduction on the sky and a dose of Topaz Clarity
I’ll then merge the layers (shift-alt-command-E) and play around with various filters (Nik Color Effects Pro or HDR Efx, Topaz Clarity, etc.) to get to something close to what I want. Then I return to Lightroom.
Final Lightroom tweaks:
Final steps in Lightroom are sharpening, any tweaks to white balance, exposure, white and black points, cropping, etc.
Output in Lightroom after final adjustments (White Balance, exposure, sharpening, cropping, etc)
This workflow takes time. Is every scene worth all this? Nope – I only go through it if I think the final image will be worth it. Even so, sometimes I’ll start the process and stop when I realize that the composition didn’t turn out. You’ll have to decide whether it’s worth the time and effort to you.
I hope I’ve given you some insight. Try it yourself and please let me know how it turns out. Even if you don’t go through the whole thing, some of the info might be useful. I’d be happy to answer your questions. The best place to ask them is in the comments for this post so they’ll help others.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some really big photos!