bracketing, Camera Raw, curiosity, editing tips, Grand Canyon, HDR, high dynamic range, Lightroom 4, Nik Adjust, Nikon D700, Nikon D7000, photo editing, photography, Photomatix, Photoshop CS6, Tetons, tone mapping, travel
When I received my invitation to try CS6 beta, my first reaction was, why would I want to tease myself like that. But, I got curious, did some sniffing around and watched a video about some of the new features, such as content-aware move and more control over adjustments in Camera Raw. Just the new interface is so much more appealing but then add easier crop and straighten features and faster editing times and the question becomes, why not? After a few hours working in Lightroom 4 and CS6, I can’t live without this upgrade. My curiosity just cost me $200 sometime in the near future, which I can hopefully prolong with a 30 day trial once the new version of Photoshop is released.
First of all, the crop, straighten and content-aware filter worked perfectly.
The image below, of me standing on a ledge on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, was dark and my face melted into the background. I used the new slider adjustments in Camera Raw to bring back the high lights and create more contrast with the shadows, and then bumped up the vibrancy until some life came back into the image and finished off with just a touch of saturation. I then opened the image in Lightroom 4 and did some tonal adjustments, using the Nik adjust 4 plug in. But not before downloading the newest version of Nik, which works with the new Lightroom.
After finishing with the tonal adjustment I opened the image in CS6, checked the levels and did a minor adjustment. I then used the patch bandaid to take out the dirt spots and was very pleased with the performance. All ready to save, except that the horizon was slightly crooked. I tried the straighten tool but couldn’t figure it out and so chose crop and the grid pattern quickly leveled the image. Instead of the crop box moving, the image moves. But the crop was a problem because my foot is too close the bottom of the image and so I had to crop outside of the lines, leaving a white triangle in the bottom left-hand corner. I then selected the area with the lasso, expanded it by 5 and then selected content-aware. The space filled in perfectly in a matter of seconds.
No more adjustments or tweaking was needed! This was easy. I upsized the image to about 50M, give or take, saved one version for my file and another one saved at 72 ppi. Below is the original.
I received my third Nikon D7000 this afternoon and immediately took it out for a test drive on the focusing, choosing the hummingbirds as my target. More about D7000 #3 later. I found a shot that was sharp enough to crop but had to first bring out some light and color in the bird. In the two images below the first one is the original and the second is edited.
The image itself is not all that great – high noise at 800 ISO but I wanted to test out the content-aware move tool on the feeder. After cropping I selected the feeder, expanded by about 10 and then moved it almost all of the way off of the image. The background magically filled in and I used the clone tool to take out a small corner. Pretty nice for getting the gist of this new feature but it will be interesting to see it used on a more complex background.
Finally, I was curious about HDR edits using CS6. I have been unhappy with CS5 HDR images, which is the reason I broke down and purchased Photomatix a few months back. But, Photomatix has its problems also, although the latest version does a great job of matching up images but the presets are different nearly every time I open the program, which is aggravating. The main concern with Photomatix is that while it brings out the high dynamic range of the images that are brought together, the sky halo effect often ruins an otherwise great photograph and is hard to impossible to fix.
Well, let me back up. HDR stands for high dynamic range and is a set of techniques that allows a higher dynamic range between the darkest and lightest areas of a photo. Normally 3 to as many 9 images are taken of the same shot but all are at different exposures, usually 1/3 EV on each step. The number of images that I take with my D700 on auto bracketing settings depends on the light range of the scene. The bigger the range, the more photos I take but that doesn’t mean all of them have to be used to make the single HDR image. Tone mapping tries to reduce the dynamic range to bring about more realistic color and contrast.
Single images can be tone mapped but the results are mixed, as in the image below, which I am not happy with.
While the tone mapping brought this image to life with detail, I am not fond of the tones and would like to seem more contrast. I liked the image for a few days and then it began to wear on my nerves but further attempts to edit proved useless.
The next two photographs originated from three bracketed photos at 1/3 EV and then processed using CS6 in the first one and Photomatix in the second.
Using CS6, once the three images were merged, the photo was bland and uninteresting. Before saving I adjusted the exposure, brightness, luminance and saturation until it was more to my liking but with a realistic look. I then opened it in Lightroom 4 and used Nik adjust 4 to contrast the tones, which brought out more detail and made the sky less bland.
Which one do you prefer?
In both instances, once the HDR image was created it was opened into Lightroom 4 and then edited in Nik Adjust 4, using the tonal contrast preset. Afterwards they were re-opened in CS6 where I checked the levels, used the clone patch to get rid of dirt spots, increased the pixels on the long side to 5200 and then saved a large file and a “Flickr” file at 72 ppi. Total editing time less than five minutes.
What pleases my eye may not please someone else but the journey of photography is largely an exercise of finding my own vision and with being comfortable with it. While I love the detail, sky and light in the tree in the second image, the first one most likely has more realistic tones. But, I am partial to the second, which luckily didn’t have problems with the halo effect in the sky. I’ll live with it for a few days and see if it still appeals to me later on.
Life is all about the journey and has nothing to do with the destination…