Fix The Shake

By Roger (22 January 2015)

Have you ever been in this situation? You are being pressed by a crowd at an event; the window light is a little iffy; you open the lens wide; up the ISO a skosch; and slow down the shutter speed a tick. You know you're near your limit, with that heavy 70-200 lens on the camera. But, hey you know what you're doing, right? You take the shot, and it works! Yeah, there is a little bit of motion blur, on her right hand, but it is acceptable in this scenario.

Sewing in old New Orleans

Sewing in old New Orleans

Man, you think, I've got this down. I'm in manual mode, making adjustments on the fly. But, since I have my lens open to f2.8, and I hate to move the ISO higher, I have only one control available to adjust if I need more light – my shutter speed. Then, another subject

comes into the room, further from the window light, and you adjust down one stop to 1/25 of a second to compensate. You twist your body to get the shot, so you're not as steady as you should be, either. Click goes the shutter. Have you ever been in this situation? Um, me neither. (Cough, cough) Well, maybe once. ;-)

Sharp dressed man who isn't sharp

Sharp dressed man who isn't sharp

What happens to your photo, when you push too far in those situations, is motion blur that isn't acceptable. You may not be able to see it in this photo, so let's zoom in a bit.

A closer look

A closer look

It's a portrait, so look at the eyes. Trouble. Look at the brim of his hat; the strands of hair in beard. Ouch! There is definitely motion blur present. I used too slow a shutter speed for the 70-200, and the photo is a good copy of the look on my face. Except, his mouth is closed, and mine is using words that would get me a bite of soap 45 years ago. I know better than to push this far. Before you hit the DELETE key on this photo, give Photoshop a chance to save you.

Let me be the first to warn you that this particular tool, nestled under the Filter menu, won't always fix your problem. It can also give you some strange artifacting, even when it does work. However, I only got two photos of this man, and the second shot is beyond repair. So, with second shot deleted, I jumped into Photoshop to try to salvage my mistake. Under Filter, Sharpen, you'll find the Shake Reduction tool. It opens a window, with a couple of controls on the right.

Shake Reduction Menu

Shake Reduction Menu

When the tool opens, it will draw a Blur Estimation Region (gotta love the engineer's use of the language, huh?) and make it's first attempt to fix your problem. You can add another BER, but I have never found this effective. I always check the Artifact Suppression box, at the top of the menu. The software does a pretty good job, so I rarely move the sliders much. You'll need to try them a little to see if they favorably impact your photo. I click the Preview box (top of menu) on and off to see the difference. If you're lucky, this is the new zoom.

Ahh! That's better.

Ahh! That's better.

I've used no other tricks or tools on this example. The feather, hat brim, and eyes are much better. It still isn't as good as if I had used the proper settings, but this photo can be used, especially if the subject doesn't want a 20x30.

There aren't any weird artifacts on this photo. The two I've seen most frequently are haloing around high contrast areas (like the edge around his coat and hat in this photo) or a “crunchiness” in the finer details. The crunchiness looks like you've grossly over-sharpened that part of the photo.

The key move is to use appropriate settings for the situation. A good rule of thumb is to keep your shutter speed as high, or higher, than your lens' longest focal length. My 70-200 was being used at 1/25 – rather far from 1/200. In addition, whenever possible, leave yourself room to move all your settings to get the correct exposure. At f2.8, I had no room to move there. My shutter speed was already too slow. I should have changed my ISO to keep my shutter speed higher. But, when you need some help, give the Shake Reduction tool a try, as a last resort. It worked for me on this photo.

At the Chalmette Plantation, New Orleans

At the Chalmette Plantation, New Orleans

Color Calibration Part II

(By Mark)

Last week we talked about the first half of the process, calibrating our monitors.  The next step is getting it out of your computer and on to your output device or service.  One of the key things to remember is that printed images are seen with reflected light and not backlight as they are on your monitors.  It seems obvious, but it is the number one reason, why the images seem “darker” when they get printed.  Luckily, adjusting for this has gotten much easier in Lightroom.  That being said, it still requires some thought and adjustment.   If you print your own images than you will want to understand which colors your printer can reproduce and how they relate to what you see on screen.   These days printer manufacturers include an ICC profile with their installation software.  The International Color Consortium (ICC) has developed a standardized data set which describes how that device works with different color spaces and outputs.   If you are using even moderate quality photo papers they too have their own ICC profiles tailored specifically for most major printer models.  

Hannemuehle 

Hannemuehle 

For high end papers such as Hannemuele or Red River, you can be very specific.  If you want the color profile for Red River 64lb Aurora Art Natural Fine Art paper, you can, and should download them.  

Hannemuehle Fine Art   http://harman.hahnemuehle.com/site/en/821/icc-profiles.html

These days I rarely print my own images.  Mostly because printers able to print 20 x 24 and larger are very, very expensive.   I use and love www.mpix.com.    They too have a downloadable set of icc profiles.  

While I am not a huge fan, lots of people claim to get good results from their local Costcos.  You can even download their icc profiles from Dry Creek Photo http://www.drycreekphoto.com/icc/

Fortunately, Windows and Apple have finally made managing these invisible in the operating system.  When you download and unzip them, the OS will ask if you want to install them, and then will do so without fuss.

Having the profiles available is only the beginning.  You have to think about using them in your workflow.   There are 2 locations in LR where you need to think about the profiles.  The first logically is in the print module. 

In the Print Job panel, you can select both your output device and your Color Management selection.  If you click on the up/down arrows in Profile, it will open a window showing all of the profiles you have downloaded. 

Two IMPORTANT reminders; One, if you don’t change your profile, it will stay set at that for all future jobs; two, LR embeds your color management profile as part of the metadata for your photo.   This means when you send the file somewhere it will contain the data needed to print it.   Have you spotted the flaw in this process yet?  Well, it’s not obvious, but the print module display doesn’t change to reflect the profile you selected.  

You have to go back to the Develop Module, where they added an important and underused feature called “Soft Proofing”.   

Down in the bottom left hand corner of the image window in the module is a check box.  Selecting it changes the background around the image to white, which better shows how it will look when printed, and it opens up a new Soft Proofing panel.  

Again, you have the opportunity to select the icc profile you intend to use and you can see how it changes the appearance of your image.  If you need to make changes, a dialog box opens up and asks if you want to “Create virtual copy for soft proofing?”  

This keeps the adjustments you need for printing separate from your master copy.   Now when you go back to the Print Module, use the virtual copy and you are good to go.  If you select “Make This a Proof”, it will make this the master version.  Most often you should choose “Create Proof Copy”.  There are a lot more things to learn, but they get really technical quickly.  If you have questions, send us a note and we will try and answer them. 

If you are in the Northern VA area, this will be the topic of this week’s Fauquier Viewfinder Camera Club meeting on Thursday evening at 7PM at the Hospital.   All are welcome to come and join us.  

Battle of New Orleans Bicentennial

By Roger (15 January 2015)

I'm back from my first road trip of 2015. I went down to the bicentennial celebration of the Battle of New Orleans. This battle was, actually, a series of skirmishes, culminating in an all-out British assault on 8 January 1814.

The War of 1812 had not been going well for our new nation – the Capitol had been torched, and our victories, though strategically significant, had been few. The attacking British forces were over-confident; had some bad luck; and were slaughtered by a small group of regular soldiers, in conjunction with freed black men, Choctaw warriors, some pirates, and some locals looking for adventure.

The final battle was over in a few hours with more than 2,000 British casualties to about 70 Americans. The American commanding general, Andrew Jackson, rode his fame from this battle into the White House, becoming our seventh President in 1829.

I'll try to hold back on the history lessons, but that was really what this trip was all about.

Musket fire at Chalmette Battlefield

Musket fire at Chalmette Battlefield

The organizers did a great job with the re-creation of the battlefield (you don't do re-enactments on the real battlefield) and lots of living history displays at the actual Chalmette battlefield. There were shuttle buses to take you between the two sites, about a mile and a half away from each other. The re-enactors were as varied as the forces that participated in the real battle. It was a people photographer's dream.

I met dozens of people at the Chalmette displays. Barbara was talking about the history of the tignon, a scarf-like head covering, worn by women of color. It was required by a law passed in 1786, under Governor Esteban Miro, as a mark of inferiority. It had the opposite effect, as the women used the finest materials available and decorated them with jewels and ribbons. Barbara practically demanded that I take her portrait. I was happy to oblige.

Barbara's tignon

Barbara's tignon

Several members of the Choctaw Nation came in from Oklahoma and set up a display and performed dances. The Choctaws were enemies of the pro-British Creek, and many fought on the American side.

One of the Choctaw participants

One of the Choctaw participants

The American soldiers were a motley mix of regulars and militia. The favorites for the re-enactors tended to be the frontiersmen. They told me portraying these men allowed them to get a little more inventive with their “uniforms.”

USS Carolina crew

USS Carolina crew

Tennessee Long-Rifle

Tennessee Long-Rifle

French Trader

French Trader

And, of course, there were the folks portraying the British troops. They came from England, Scotland, and Canada. (It always amazes me how far some of these re-enactors travel for their hobby.) Several had ancestors who fought in the battle. They were in the uniforms of the units they portrayed, so there were many variations in their army, too.

Enemy battle flags

Enemy battle flags

Part of the British formation

Part of the British formation

British sergeant at the Chalmette plantation house

British sergeant at the Chalmette plantation house

All in all, there were about 700 re-enactors, but it seemed like there were many more. As you walked around both sites, there was always something going on. As I said at the beginning, the organizers put on a good show, with something for everyone. At one camp, there were women preparing food in the camps, in a huge kettle. There were talking about the problems of preparing enough food for the soldiers while they were wrestling with the kettle, fire, and big, wooden spoon.

Cooking in the camp

Cooking in the camp

When the battle began, the smoke from the muskets and cannons quickly obscured the battlefield. The British formations kept getting closer to the American hastily-constructed breastworks, but they were decimated before they could create any major breech.

The British advance

The British advance

I planned this trip last year when I saw that the bicentennial was approaching and almost cancelled it a few times. I wasn't sure it would be worth the time. You may find yourself thinking this way, too, from time to time. Don't give in to that feeling; get out there and use your camera. You started down this photography road because you wanted to make some interesting pictures. You can't do that when you're sitting on the couch. It's more fun to go explore.

I always need a cannon shot with flames

I always need a cannon shot with flames

Color Calibration

Don’t you hate it when the pictures you get back from your print service or from your printer just don’t look like what you saw on your screen?   Understanding color calibration still remains one of the most frequent questions we get.

Colors are very perceptually driven.  What you and I mean when we think of a red car may vary between the bright red of a Porsche and the wine red of a Dodge minivan.   Last year we talked about the difference in “color spaces”, as hopefully you will recall.   sRGB, AdobeRGB and ProPhoto RGB are all attempts to map the larger range of colors our eyes can see into electronic instructions our monitors and printers can display or reproduce.  We know that making sure your camera accurately records the colors depends on having your white balance correctly set in camera or by correcting it through the use of something like the xrite Passport, which Roger and I both use.  

When you are sitting in front of your monitor(s) looking at an image, there are a lot of factors which influence how it looks.  First, is the ambient light; if you are sitting in a brightly lit room it takes more power on your monitor to make the image stand out.  Ideally, you should work in a room with controlled and consistent light, and it should be fairly dim.   Second, you need to consider what color are your walls?  Seriously, the reflected light will influence the colors you see on your screen. Finally, we get to your monitor.  Hopefully by now you have upgraded to LED monitors.  They have much more even light and it provides much finer controls.  Additionally, they don’t require warm up time to settle in.  One of the first things you should do, is turn down the brightness level of your screens.  Remember, prints are seen in reflected light not in the backlight glory of electronics.  Next it is important to actually calibrate your monitors.  It’s important to do this regularly; I try and do it every two weeks.  Now the new very high end monitors come with built-in calibration sensors which automatically communicate with the controls.  Since I don’t have $3K hanging around for those kinds of monitors, I take a much more practical approach. 

Tools such as the Spyder line, range from monitor only, to monitor and printing devices.   The lens hangs over the screen and the software generates color commands. The sensor reads the screen and helps you adjust the monitors RGB values.    Lots of people ask about calibrating their laptop monitors.    In my opinion, it is almost a waste of time.  Laptop screens are far less accurate just because of the additional stresses inherent in their design.  First, your color perception depends on viewing angle, second screen brightness is subject to power stability and often is impacted by how much power the computer is using elsewhere in the system.  Next week we will discuss Part 2 of this topic; calibrating your printing devices or the digital equivalent if you send your images out for printing.