Archive for the ‘Lightroom’ Category

Google Nik Collection: HDR Efex Pro 2

April 11, 2016

Google announced recently that Google Nik Collection is available for free. Pundits speculate this almost certainly means there will be no further development of these popular popular photo editing plug-ins for Apple Aperture, Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, etc. Who knows? I downloaded and installed the software anyway.

The following semi-photorealistic composite image is the output of a quick-and-dirty test of “HDR Efex Pro 2,” one of eight plug-ins in the collection. I opened a set of three bracketed exposures (+/- two stops of exposure) in Adobe Lightroom CC 2015. Then I used the Nik plug-in to stack and tone map the image; I saved the output and cropped it slightly using Lightroom.

P1330734_HDR

23 MAR 2016 | Meadowood Recreation Area | Hidden Pond

The result is fairly good for my first foray into using one the plug-ins featured in the Google Nik Collection. There’s a little strangeness in the rendering of some of the clouds that are visible among the trees, near the upper-center of the image. I’m guessing there’s a way to fix that problem using “control points,” where the real magical power of Nik happens. There’s always more to learn, time permitting.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Answer key, The “Bridge to Nowhere”

April 1, 2016

In The “Bridge to Nowhere” — the last post in my photoblog — readers were challenged to guess the location in Huntley Meadows Park where the following photograph was taken.

The "Bridge to Nowhere," located along an informal trail at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The following interactive map shows the exact location of the bridge as well as several associated waypoints. Click on the icon that looks like a stylized picture frame (located in the upper-right corner of the map) in order to “View larger map.” Zoom in on the map; click-and-drag to reposition the map. Click on the colored balloons for more information. The bridge is marked by a red balloon.

The following sign is posted near the bridge. The sign is brown and white although the colors look weird in the light of my camera flash, probably due to reflective paint used to make the sign.

A sign posted near the "Bridge to Nowhere," located along an informal trail at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Believe me when I tell you every word on the sign is true. The trail, such as it is, leads to the northern boundary of the park. In  my opinion, there’s relatively little if anything to see that’s worth the effort required to walk this trail — you know, there’s a reason I nicknamed this bridge the “Bridge to Nowhere!” The following quote from my journal of field notes, dated 09 March 2016, further illustrates the point.

I was determined to thoroughly explore the part of HMP referred to as the “northern wetland” (NW) or “upper wetland.” I checked it out on 23 September 2015, albeit quickly rather than thoroughly. I decided to explore the “informal trail” beyond the “Bridge to Nowhere”/NW. I walked and walked until I had only the sketchiest idea of where I was. Eventually, I came to one of the park boundaries: there were houses along the property line; one house has chickens in the backyard! Anyway, I had no clear idea how to get back to the NW without retracing my steps so I decided to wing it. A long slog later — featuring lots of mud bogs and thorny vines — I made it to the side of the NW I didn’t explore last year. I renamed the location: Instead of Northern Marsh, I now refer to it as the “Northern Mush” because of the sucking mud that seems to be everywhere. I thought the location might be a good habitat for dragonflies and damselflies. Let’s just say I’m over it. Don’t waste your time — not much to see there! Source Credit: Walter Sanford, Photowalking Field Notes.

Associated Waypoints

The following photorealistic 32-bit HDR image of the “Northern Wetland” is a composite of three bracketed exposures, +/- two stops of exposure.

P1330495-Edit

09 MAR 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Northern Wetland

The last photo shows the view looking upstream (toward the “Northern Wetland”) along an unnamed creek that crosses the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park. For more information about the stream, click on the waypoint marker in the interactive Google Map (shown above). See also Snowy scenes along the Hike-Bike Trail, posted in the aftermath of the “Blizzard of 2016.”

Looking upstream along an unnamed creek that crosses the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

01 FEB 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Unnamed creek

Tech Tips: I used Google Maps to create the custom map that is embedded in this post. The following resources were helpful in figuring out how to customize- and share the map.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Aperture versus Lightroom

March 4, 2016

Apple introduced “Aperture” in 2005, promoted as “the first all-in-one post production tool for photographers”; at the time, Adobe “Lightroom” did not exist. When I was ready to move from Apple “iPhoto” to a professional grade photo-editing application, I decided to stay within the Apple ecosystem and migrated to Aperture. As I gained experience with Aperture, I developed an efficient image processing workflow that produced excellent results consistently.

Fast forward to Summer 2014, when Apple announced plans to cease development of Aperture. At that point it was obvious that I would have to migrate from Aperture to Lightroom, sooner or later. As long as Aperture still works — its days are numbered by the next iteration of the Apple operating system — it is/was easier to continue using Aperture, an application with which I am familiar and comfortable. But the doomsday countdown clock is ticking, so I recently started working on a project to create a new “recipe” for a typical workflow using Lightroom CC that is similar to my tried-and-true recipe for Aperture.

The new recipe is almost finished. The heavy lifting is complete; I’m currently working to refine the process. As a test, I decided to use both recipes, old and new, to edit the same image, in this case a male Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) spotted on 20 May 2015 near a vernal pool in a remote location in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park.

Apple Aperture

A Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

Apple Aperture | standard recipe

Aperture features several options for “Auto” adjusting White Balance: “Natural Gray”; “Skin Tone”; and “Temperature & Tint.” In my experience, Natural Gray works better for vegetation; Temperature & Tint works better for wood surfaces such as trees, the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park, etc. I like the lush greens that result when Natural Gray is selected.

Abobe Lightroom CC

In contrast, after making comparable settings in Lightroom, I think the greens that result are too bright and too yellow.

A Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

Adobe Lightroom CC | Edit 1

In Edit 2, shown below, I tweaked the “Tone Curve” for “Darks.” In my opinion, Edit 2 looks better than Edit 1, although I think the greens are still a little too bright and yellow, more noticeable in a head-to-head match-up with the Aperture version.

A Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

Adobe Lightroom CC | Edit 2

Lightroom is similar to Photoshop in that there are many ways to do the same task. In Edit 3, I reset the Tone Curve adjustments in Edit 2 and tweaked “Luminance” (brightness) for “Green.” I like the results, although I might have decreased Luminance a little too much. Which version do you prefer, Lightroom Edit 1, 2, or 3?

A Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

Adobe Lightroom CC | Edit 3

Lessons Learned

What are some of the take-aways from my experimentation? First, both Aperture and Lightroom produce good results. In fact, if I had never seen the results from Aperture, I’m guessing I would have been satisfied with Lightroom Edit 1.

More steps are required in Lightroom in order to create an image that has the same “look” as I get using Aperture. And it’s worth pointing out that because I think Photoshop does a better job of noise reduction and image sharpening than Lightroom, the extra steps involved in “round-tripping” between Lightroom and Photoshop are added to my typical workflow.

All of that being said, Lightroom is the way forward, so I am divorcing Aperture and marrying Lightroom, for better or worse. I’m still working on refining the workflow I use in Lightroom. At some point in the near future, I will publish my new “recipe.”

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Ground truth

March 2, 2016

Scouting odonate habitat using Google Earth is quicker and simpler than a site visit, but when you think a new location has potential you still need to “ground truth” what is shown in the remotely-sensed imagery.

For example, the following Google Earth image suggests it should be relatively easy to reach the banks of two tributaries that flow into Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve.

DM_RTC

Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve | interactive image on Google Earth

In contrast, look at the following photorealistic 32-bit HDR composite image of Dyke Marsh as viewed facing southeast from River Towers Condominiums. The banks of one of the streams are choked with dead vegetation, flattened by a recent flooding rain event. In mid-summer, the same location is likely to be a tough slog due to waist-high vegetation!

A 32-bit HDR composite image created from three photos of Dyke Marsh as viewed from River Towers Condominiums, Fairfax County, Virginia USA, +/- two stops of exposure.

29 FEB 2016 | River Towers Condominiums | Dyke Marsh

Look closely at the preceding composite image. Did you notice the beaver lodge? The George Washington Memorial Parkway appears along the base of the tree line shown in the background. You can see a white vehicle that seems to be driving through the marshland, near the center of the image.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Pole Road Park

February 29, 2016

Pole Road Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Pole Road Park is located along Dogue Creek, downstream from Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge.

Pole Road Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The Backstory: On Saturday, 20 February 2016, I spent a few hours searching for easier access to Dogue Creek than is afforded by Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. Along the way, I discovered Pole Road Park. This location looks like it provides ideal habitat for some species of odonates. More later after further exploration.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Mulligan Pond

February 27, 2016

The following photorealistic 32-bit HDR image of Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, is a composite of three bracketed exposures, +/- two stops of exposure.

A 32-bit HDR composite image created from three photos of Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA, +/- two stops of exposure.

20 FEB 2016 | Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge | Mulligan Pond

Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge is located along Dogue Creek, downstream from the southeastern boundary of Huntley Meadows Park.

The wetland refuge is open to the public, although signs such as the one shown below are a sobering reminder that the property belongs to the U.S. Army. The danger is real, according to John Pilcicki, Natural Resource Specialist, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Belvoir, and visitors should stay on the marked trail.

Signage at Jackson Mile Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

20 FEB 2016 | Jackson Mile Abbott Wetland Refuge | Signage

Tech Tips: I used my Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS150 superzoom camera to shoot three bracketed exposures of the same landscape. The camera was set for manual focus at the hyperfocal distance for an aperture of f/4, based upon the instructions provided in the excellent video tutorial by Graham Houghton, “Panasonic Lumix FZ camera easier manual focus method — super point-and-shoot tip.” I used Adobe Photoshop CC (2015) and Lightroom CC (2015) to create and edit a 32-bit HDR composite image of the three exposures: Photoshop was used to create the HDR image; Lightroom was used to adjust the composite image. The final version was exported from Lightroom as a 16-bit TIFF and imported into Aperture for some finishing touches.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Chesapeake Explorer

July 18, 2015

It is an honor to announce two of my photographs are featured in “Chesapeake Explorer,” a recently updated National Park Service Web site.

The first photo is featured on two pages: PLACES TO GO features a cropped thumbnail version of the photo; and ACCOTINK BAY WILDLIFE REFUGE features a full-size version of the photo.

Fishermen on Accotink Bay, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Fishermen on Accotink Bay

The photo was taken with a handheld Panasonic DMC-FZ150 superzoom bridge camera, using the following settings: ISO 100; 4.5mm (25mm, 35mm equivalent); 0 ev; f/3.6 plus manual focus, for maximum depth-of-field; 1/1000s.

The second photo is featured on three pages: HUNTLEY MEADOWS’ WETLANDS ATTRACT A VARIETY OF SPECIES, INCLUDING HUMANS features a thumbnail version of the photo; HUNTLEY MEADOWS PARK features a full-size version of the photo; and PHOTOGRAPHING NATURE AND WILDLIFE features a thumbnail version of the photo.

The observation tower located along the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Three generations of nature appreciation

The photo was taken with a tripod-mounted Canon EOS 5D Mark II and Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II lens, using the following settings: ISO 100; 35mm; 0 ev; f/16; 1/50s.

Tech Tip: The point-of-contact at the National Park Service was able to find me as a result of the EXIF and IPTC information embedded in both photos. So what’s the take-away from this positive experience? Adding metadata to your photos is time well-spent!

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Landscape

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies: Best of 2013 at Huntley Meadows Park

November 16, 2014

 

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum)
2013 | Huntley Meadows Park

Walter Sanford
Educator | Naturalist | Photographer

 

Adobe Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CC 2014 were used to create a companion poster (20″ x 24″) for this blog post; the poster was entered in the 2014 Friends of Huntley Meadows Park Annual Photo Contest. The photo exhibit will be open to the public beginning on 06 December 2014 at the Huntley Meadows Park Visitor Center and runs through February 2015.

Tech Tips: The companion poster was adapted from Lightroom Tutorial: Creating a Poster from the Audi R8 Shoot, a tutorial video by Scott Kelby.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Vernal pool

November 12, 2014

2014 is the “Year of the Vernal Pool.” Unofficially, that is. 2014 is the year I discovered that many animals — many habitat-specific odonates in particular — prefer vernal pools. In fact, a quick look at my blog posts tagged with the phrase “vernal pool” shows the oldest post is dated April 2014.

What is a vernal pool?

Vernal pools, also known as ephemeral wetlands, prairie potholes, whale wallows, sinks, and kettles are rain-filled depressions that amphibians use for breeding and laying egg masses. These pools can be as small as a puddle. They fill with water in the spring and are usually dried up by June or July. The reason some amphibians use these areas for breeding and laying egg masses is simple — they lack predators (fish) that eat their larvae. Source Credit: Amphibians and Vernal Pools, National Park Service.

Although the preceding quotation is focused on the reason amphibians prefer vernal pools, many odonates prefer fishless pools for the same reason as amphibians.

What does a vernal pool look like?

Many recent posts in my photoblog feature the phrase, “spotted near a vernal pool in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park.” The following photos show one of my favorite vernal pools at the park, as it appeared on 04 November 2014. This vernal pool is located in a small meadow in the forest — it isn’t very big and it’s not very deep, but it has proven to be a location favored by many uncommon odonates.

Vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park

Vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park

Vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park

Related Resources:

Tech Tips: I used my Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS150 superzoom camera to shoot the three preceding photos. The camera was set for manual focus and aperture priority; the lens was focused at the hyperfocal distance for an aperture of f/4, based upon the instructions provided in the excellent video tutorial by Graham Houghton, “Panasonic Lumix FZ camera easier manual focus method — super point-and-shoot tip.” Focusing at the hyperfocal distance is a technique used in landscape photography that maximizes depth-of-field. For example, when my camera is set for maximum wide angle at an aperture of f/4, everything is in focus from approximately three feet to infinity — that’s DEEP depth-of-field!

Look closely at the upper part of the full-size version of all three photos. The purple fringing that appears along the edges of some tree limbs is called chromatic aberration; color fringing occurs sometimes in photographs of high contrast subjects such as the dark tree limbs against a bright sky. Adobe Lightroom 5 features several photo editing tools that work well for removing chromatic aberration. If the images featured in this post were fine-art landscape photos, then I would edit the images to remove the chromatic aberration. In this case, the photos are intended to show what a vernal pool looks like, and they are good enough for that purpose, warts and all.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Top 10 Photos of 2013 (plus 10)

January 1, 2014

The following gallery shows my “Top 10 Photos of 2013,” plus 10 Honorable Mentions. I leave it to the viewer to decide which photos are my 10 best shots. Comments are invited and welcome.

The photos are presented in reverse-chronological order beginning in December and ending in January. All of the photos were taken using my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom camera and post-processed using Apple Aperture 3, Adobe Lightroom 4, and Adobe Photoshop CS5.

Eastern Gartersnake (pre-molting) and fly (Family Muscidae)

27 SEP 2013 | HMP | Eastern Gartersnake (pre-molting/shedding)

Viceroy butterflies (mating pair)

26 SEP 2013 | HMP | Viceroy butterflies (mating pair)

Northern Watersnake eating a frog

06 SEP 2013 | HMP | Northern Watersnake eating a frog

Fishermen on Accotink Bay

16 AUG 2013 | ABWR | Fishermen on Accotink Bay

Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (immature male, eating a Yellow Fly)

29 MAY 2013 | MRA | Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly eating a Yellow Fly

Hollin Hall (side view)

06 JAN 2013 | Mount Vernon Unitarian Church | Hollin Hall (HDR)

Hollin Hall (HDR panorama)

06 JAN 2013 | Mount Vernon Unitarian Church | Hollin Hall (panorama)

Editor’s Note: The following location codes are used in some photo captions.

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2013-2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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