Tonemapping in Central Park

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The best thing (for me) that came out of the hdr experiments, was the tonemapping tool in Photomatix.  I have created a monochrome preset that seems to work very well for converting raw images to b&w.  The shot above is an old one – done with the Rebel something or other in 2004.  If I were making corrections in Lightroom, there would be a bunch of gradients, and other techniques for dodge / burning areas.

This comes straight out of the tonemapping program.  Yes, you could then use it as a starting point and fine-tune this and that in Lightroom or Photoshop.  But essentially, the tonemapping (and I did two prints for customers today using it) gives this excellent control over both overall contrast and tonality, as well as “micro” areas of the image.

You can setup presets to give different effects depending on the source image and what you want to do with it.

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Original “flat” version “zeroed out”

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Default Settings in Tonemap (Photomatix)

Let me try this again because I wasn’t clear about the whole workflow to do this shot.

1. In Lightroom, I have a preset.  It sets the curve to linear.  It zeros out all the attributes.  And it uses the calibration that I like, which is faithful.  This produces a very flat image.  Next to no contrast.  Nothing dropping off the edges of the histogram.

2. Then I created a preset for this type of input image in Tonemapping.  It brings up different areas at different contrast levels etc.  I call it Monochrome 1.  I have two other presets, one for images that are coming in too contrasty, and one for images that are just too flat.  But I am not fusing three images together, though the preset will work as well with them.  And I am not creating two virtual images.  It is one image.

The problem that I have with multiple images is that if anything is moving – tree branches, ducks, etc. the result is not pleasing to me, i.e. not the normal blur you get from using one image.  On the other hand – if the initial scene really is contrasty, and nothing much is moving, or your shutter speed is fast enough, then fine – combine them and then tonemap them.

Here are the tonemapping settings for this monochrome image.

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I’m not saying that this will work for all images, or that I will always use it as is, but it is a good start for both my 5d raw images that I want to go to monochrome with, and my 40D and whatever the early Rebel was called.  The idea is to try and give the tonemapping program all the data you can.  You may be able to make all the changes you need with tonemapping, or it may be an intermediate step and you’ll import it back into Lightroom or Photoshop.  But the point is, it surprised me how well the program works for dealing with both flat, and high contrast images.  And of course – it’s another reason why you always want to shoot raw if you care about what you’re shooting.  It’s just that you never know what piece of software is in the pipeline, or how a new converter may be able to pull more detail from the highlights than your current one.

Anyway, I don’t mean to do a commercial for Photomatix.  I haven’t compared it with other programs as it works.  And you can download it and like most software try it for free.  Tonemapping is just one part of the program.  Obviously the main parts are for creating HDR images.

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Reflection in Oil Slick

Greenpoint Brooklyn.

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One of the things that you can do with oil slicks if you are shooting digital raw, and have something like Lightroom – is individually tune the brightness of each color, which is what I did here to try and make it as contrasty as possible.  No can do with b&w film.  No can do if you are shooting b&w jpg.  The ability to tune the intensity / hue etc. of colors in a black and white photograph is one of my favorite Lightroom “tricks.”
In this shot I just wanted to accentuate the swirl effect, but in other digital shots I will use it to fine tune the brightness say of someone’s shirt in an image.  It has to be used with care because you can remove too much color information and get more noise than you had in the original raw file.  But so what – just hit reset and start over again.

I Want New York – Ogden Nash

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I’ve been looking for some time for a poem about New York that I really liked.  I found several, one by Whitman – but this is one that made me chuckle, besides capturing the spirit of the city.

I WANT NEW YORK by Ogden Nash

I think those people are utterly unreliable
Who say they’d be happy on a desert island with a copy of the Biable
And Hamlet (by Shakespeare) and Don Quixote (by Cervantes)
And poems by Homer and Virgil and perhaps a thing or two of Dante’s.
And furthermore, I have a feeling that if they were marooned till the
millennium’s dawn
Very few of us would notice that they were gone.
Continue reading I Want New York – Ogden Nash

Dog Portrait

In terms of favorite animal subjects, I’d probably like to photograph cats, dogs and horses.  Horses I haven’t done at all, but I have my plans…

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When I have nothing better to do, I stop by the place on second avenue where they babysit the neighborhood dogs during the day while the owners are off making money.  Sometimes I can hang out by the window for a half-hour before I’m chased away.  Sometimes less.  For the most part, whether I’m photographing buildings, people, or just about anything where I’m hanging around for a while, I am always chased away by someone.  On the other hand, if all I’m doing is taking quick snaps as I roam around, then I generally don’t have a problem.

Well what the hell, I’m going to file this under street portraits. Who says portraits are only of homo sapiens. Frankly, after a bunch of stuff that’s been going on with the family – and how it effects me in terms of worrying about the future, and dwelling on the past, I think we can learn a lot from these critters. Probably more than we can learn from our own ancients in terms of living in the present.