11 November 2010

Post-Processing Experiments

Sandhill cranes, Bosque del Apache NWR, Feb. 2007/Nov. 2010 (postprocessing), (c) Anne C. Lear

I'm not sure why I've been so quiet (well, entirely absent) here lately, though I must admit that coursework is kicking my butt this quarter, with assignments (as well as the usual discussion posts) due every week. And the cooler weather has slowed down my hiking, hence my photography.... But I'm getting back into the swing of things now that I have Photoshop CS5 and Photomatix (thanks to huge student discounts... so I guess I should stop kvetching about coursework) and am learning new ways to process my photos.

The shots above, from the 2010 Magdalena Old Timers Parade, have both been Photoshopped, but I used a cool technique I just learned on the Digital Photography School web site to enhance the photo on the right, then ran it through Photomatix for tone-mapping (which means something but I'm not sure what; I just know it does something that Photoshop doesn't). VERY nice. I can get really fancy and add all kinds of artistic effects (I especially like the "painterly" setting, which I used in to top image of the dancing cranes) but I do prefer realistic images.... So that's it for now; tomorrow I hope to go to the Bosque del Apache around dusk for some cool bird shots that I'll have fun with in post-processing.

Here's another set... you know, I've wanted a Palomino since I was 6 years old. This one will do.... Anyhoo, again, the left image has been Photoshopped, and the right one is that same image, put through Photomatix.

I spent about 15 minutes playing around with the slider thingies (yes, I'm such a techie) and resetting the image and playing some more, and am very pleased with how much more texture comes out in the second image. So, yes, I'm sold. And I haven't even tried the software's HDR features yet; HDR stands for high dynamic range and refers to a process that combines images to select the best features from each level of exposure and provide good detail in both highlights and shadows. Or something like that. It requires bracketing -- taking multiple exposures of the same shot (underexposed, proper exposure, and overexposed) -- which really requires a tripod, which I don't have right now because it's in the back of my car that is STILL at an Albuquerque repair shop one month after a minor accident. So, yeah, HDR will have to wait. I'd love to see how the crane shot above might turn out with HDR processing, but this version, put through the Photomatix "painterly" tone-mapping process and then Photoshopped with the technique mentioned above, is still pretty cool.


Steve Bodio said...

I like those cranes-- but they are a bit spooky too.

More please!

Anonymous said...

I like the cranes too, though I don't know about the red/green fringing (looks like a lens effect, should be pretty easy to correct in PS). I haven't personally used Photomatix, but I'm not sure it's done anything here that Photoshop couldn't, though if it streamlined the process that's definitely worth something. Nice shots, by the way!

My only real HDR experiments were this shot of sunrise on the Yampa River and this one of night in Lodore Canyon, definitely both scenes where a single exposure would not have handled it. I blended these manually in PS. I do have some other sets of shots I want to try blending. Be careful with HDR: it's easy to get some pretty perverse results, though I understand that the programs are getting better all the time.

For post-processing techniques, a really fantastic resource is Tony Kuyper's tutorials. Start with his luminosity masks and luminosity painting. Once you've played with those, you'll understand an awful lot more about what Photoshop can do for photographs. You can read about a lot on his site and play with a lot of techniques for free, but his full set of tutorials and actions is about the best $25 I ever spent.