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Author Topic: Last gasp of the Romantic Landscape  (Read 5699 times)
bill t.
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« on: June 01, 2011, 09:43:46 PM »
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Woohoo, just sold this baby and a few others for boardroom use.  This is a PS mockup of the 50 x 114 inch framed centerpiece.  Iconic local landscape features + recognizable genre + the right framing + a bit of schmoozing = SALES!  Stitched/focus-stacked/HDR image.

Makes a much nicer print than a web reduction, it's toned down a bit because of the scale.  Edgy it is not, but I have to admit I have some old, mid 20th century synapses hardwired to like this stuff and I find it enjoyable making this kind of imagery.

The mockups themselves are great selling tools.  If you're not pitching to clients this way, you should be.

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Justan
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« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2011, 08:04:58 AM »
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I dunno about the thread title but what a striking work! Panos demand scale and the image shows how to do it.

My key question is about focus stacking. I've had the hardest time nailing this. How do you blend the images?
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bill t.
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« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2011, 12:32:11 PM »
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Helicon Focus stacks landscape images just as well as bug images.

http://www.heliconsoft.com/heliconfocus.html

So can Photoshop using the Blend feature applied to stacked focus layers, but not nearly as well as Helicon.

The basic problem with focus stacking is that as you change focus you also change focal length, so the scale of the various stacked images varies.  That usually precludes just layering the images in Photoshop and masking, especially when you have some layers very close and others very far.  Helicon corrects for the magnification changes quite nicely and knocks out pretty decent looking images in about a minute for deep stacks.  It also lets you do a form of masked editing to correct areas that confuse it, like moving clouds and plants flailing in the wind.  Sometimes you need to experiment with parameters to get the sharpest possible result, so it's not a 100% free lunch, only about 90% free.

IMHO a focus blended stack shot at f8 looks much better than a badly diffracted depth-of-field try at f16+.  Properly used focus stacking allows you exploit texture as a subject in ways that are not very satisfactory with just depth of field.

There are several programs that can do this.  Helicon happens to be my main focus squeeze just right now.  The 64bit version is worth it if you do a lot of this stuff.

Of course you can also get a tilt-shift lens.  But focus stacking has a slight advantage in that you are not restricted to a single focus plane.  For instance, you can easily keep not just a receding ground plane in focus, but also nearby branches at the top of the scene.

And wind is your enemy.  As with many types of landscape photography you will often find yourself cursing the wind, and even more so with the added complications of focus stacks and HDR.  So sometimes you should take the blinkin' shot in a single frame and go home.

As general it takes about 4 or 5 stacked images to really, really hold perfect focus 4 feet to infinity with a 50mm lens at f8.  Bring that down a foot and you need around 9 or 10.  For the image I posted I arrived late on the scene and had to abbreviate the focus stack to just 2 deep with an 85mm lens.  Even so, the results looks much better with just those 2 compared to just the near-infinity shot by itself.
« Last Edit: June 02, 2011, 12:40:16 PM by bill t. » Logged
Justan
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« Reply #3 on: June 03, 2011, 11:32:46 AM »
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The Helicon software looks like a very good and efficient application.

Sharpness and dof are an age old struggle. I love how digital technology lets us push the limits of what can reasonably be accomplished with some effort. The software produces awesome results! The illustrations at Helicon’s site shows clear examples of how focus stacking works. It appears to be an evolved tool in a genre of tools that decisively change the rules of this struggle.

I agree that for hd/stacked/stitched works, wind is a major nemesis of otherwise perfect opportunities. A sight breeze can be the reason for hours of careful editing so that the work looks okay……until it’s printed to scale the first time…….

The romantic landscape wont go out of favor. As illustrated by your fine example, the technical level of achievement has certainly increased dramatically in recent years, and people will always delight at this kind of art.
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tived
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« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2011, 08:50:24 PM »
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Hi Bill,

A really impressive image and congratulation on the sale!! thats always good!!!

I hope you don't mind me asking, but it this a pano and if it is of how many images? It looks like you did focus stacking and HDR?

I am very interested in your workflow here, as I am struggling with this a bit, in particular combining pano, focus and hdr in one image ;-)

thanks

Henrik
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bill t.
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« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2011, 11:36:25 PM »
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Hello Henrik!

Here is a schematic view of the 42 images I used for the pano in the first post.

Columns A through F show the various panels.  Rows 1 to 3, rows 3 to 6, and rows 7 to 9 represent HDR bracket sets shot at different focus planes.

So for panels A to D I shot 2 focus planes.  For panels E and F I shot 3 focus planes.  Rows 1 to 3 is the nearby focus plane, rows below those are more distant.  Each focus plane consists of a set of 3 bracketed images.  On E and F I added a third focus plane to guarantee a sharp bush image, it was rather close.

I would have preferred 4 or 5 focus planes for this shot, but there was not enough time in this case, the sunset was fading fast.

The basic workflow was to import rows 4, 5 and 6, A to F into Lightroom as a sort of "average" HDR set.  Those are the HDR bracket sets exposed for infinity.

I developed the single image at row 4, column D as best I could, then sync'd those development settings to its bracket set below in column D, rows 5 and 6.  There was a lot of back and forth here with exporting the bracket sets to Photomatix to optimize the settings for a good HDR image.  And I did a lot of exporting of just row 4, A to F to Photoshop's Photomerge to test for color and tonal consistency from panel to panel.

Then I imported the rest of the images into Lightroom and applied the finalized row 4 development settings vertically up and down the columns using Lightroom's Sync function.  Row 4D had the brightest areas, that's why I picked it as the standard.

Then I exported all the images to a folder as 16 bit TIFs.  I used the batch function in Photomatix to process all the HDR images, taking three at a time.

When Photomatix was done, things were crunched down to HDR composites, 2 images each for columns A through D, and 3 images each for columns E to F.  All the HDR images represented different focus planes.

Then I manually processed each of the column A through F focus stacks in Helicon Focus.  That was a lot of work!  Manual mode was OK because so I had the opportunity to correct issues with moving clouds and plants using Helicon's built in layer masking functions.  Note that AFAIK only the Professional and 64bit versions of Helicon have the masked editing feature, and it's worth it.

Then it was just a matter of stitching and a bit of post processing.  Piece o' cake!

If anybody notices that I am missing useful automation steps, please let me know!  There are a few steps above where Lightroom has export and automation features that would be very useful...except they don't work in batch mode!

PS.  Biggest newbie mistake is to try to stitch the individual focus planes and bracket sets, THEN do the HDR and focus blending steps on the stitches.  That usually generates very interesting moire patterns.  Always stitch last.
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Peter McLennan
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« Reply #6 on: June 05, 2011, 09:27:27 AM »
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Superb, Bill.  It's a ton of work just to post the workflow! : )  Thanks!

By the way, why "the last gasp"?  Seems to me what you've done here is the leading edge, not the last gasp.  Am I misunderstanding something?
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kikashi
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« Reply #7 on: June 05, 2011, 01:42:59 PM »
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Bill,

That's both fascinating and impressive!

When you say that you developed frame 4D, which settings in LR did you vary? I had the impression from somewhere that the Photomatix people say you shouldn't fiddle with exposure or in particular black point settings before letting it loose. Or did you just adjust sharpening?

Jeremy
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bill t.
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« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2011, 03:54:32 PM »
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While processing 4D, the middle exposure bracket,  I didn't try to rescue highlights with Recovery or pull up the shadows, but I made other adjustments so that the tones that were within the normal range of exposure had the right contrast.  I let the brightest areas and the darkest areas of 4D clip, I was only interested in good tonality in the parts that were not clipped.  Then I synced those adjustments to the over and under exposed bracket images, checking only to see that I still had unclipped highlights in the underexposed bracket image.

My take is that for images to be processed by Photomatix etc you want to keep the tones as linear as possible, and especially avoid crushing bright areas in the middle exposure image using (for instance) the Recovery slider.  But it's still a good idea to drag the overall exposure around a bit so that the middle exposure image has roughly the right density and contrast for the midtones you want to see in the HDR composite.
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kikashi
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« Reply #9 on: June 06, 2011, 12:24:23 PM »
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While processing 4D, the middle exposure bracket,  I didn't try to rescue highlights with Recovery or pull up the shadows, but I made other adjustments so that the tones that were within the normal range of exposure had the right contrast.  I let the brightest areas and the darkest areas of 4D clip, I was only interested in good tonality in the parts that were not clipped.  Then I synced those adjustments to the over and under exposed bracket images, checking only to see that I still had unclipped highlights in the underexposed bracket image.

My take is that for images to be processed by Photomatix etc you want to keep the tones as linear as possible, and especially avoid crushing bright areas in the middle exposure image using (for instance) the Recovery slider.  But it's still a good idea to drag the overall exposure around a bit so that the middle exposure image has roughly the right density and contrast for the midtones you want to see in the HDR composite.
Thanks. That's clear. I have just the image to try.

I'm finding Photomatix hard to use, I confess. I'm tending to use H&S Adjust. Are there any general recommended settings to get more-or-less natural results? I tend to use three frames at two-stop intervals.

Jeremy
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bill t.
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« Reply #10 on: June 06, 2011, 01:14:41 PM »
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It's hard to give specific Photomatix procedures, since every stack has different requirements.  But in the interest of naturalistic results I usually use Exposure Fusion rather than Tone Mapping.

I start with all the sliders to the left, except Blending Point and Color Saturation are centered at 0.0.  Most importantly, Accentuation is at -10.

I then try to get the best possible result using only Blending Point and White Clip, keeping an eye on the histogram.  If that doesn't do it, it probably means I have a poorly processed stack.  But to push ahead anyway, I would then see what Midtone, Shadows, and Accentuation could do for me, in that order.  Best to leave Color Saturation alone, or at least well out of the positive numbers.

I have fiddled around a bit with the Oloneo Photoengine HDR software and it looks pretty promising for naturalistic results.  I think they have a free trial.  SNS-HDR is also a very capable program that allows very wide ranging results, but sometimes at the expense of image harshness and granularity.  Photomatix can feel frustrating, at least in Exposure Fusion mode it tends to keep you within a range where naturalistic results are possible without going places you probably wouldn't want to go anyway.
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kikashi
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« Reply #11 on: June 06, 2011, 04:39:00 PM »
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Thanks again, Bill. I'm more than happy to play rather than to take anyone's pre-defined recipes, but it's helpful to have some hints on where to start.

Jeremy
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tived
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« Reply #12 on: June 06, 2011, 09:22:01 PM »
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Thanks Bill

Great advise and insight. I am going to find a suitable subject and give it a run for my money ;-)

Nothing like a challenge!

Henrik
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