Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Recovering Lost Detail in Dark Areas of a Photo

Disappointed By Lose of Detail 

Recently, I was playing with long exposure shots on a rocky beach near where I live. One of the photos had great potential but it was dark and the darker areas had no detail in them at all. I liked the photo but it really lacked detail and it really had no vibrancy. I decide to have a play with it.

Original Photo-Long exposure of Rocks
Original Photo

There was a load of detail captured in every shot that just needs to be enhanced. This is the process I used to recover the lost detail in the dark areas of this photo using a piece of software called Intensify Pro. 

The Process

After opening the RAW image in Intensify Pro I adjusted the Exposure, Contrast and Shadows on layer 0 in the Basic Tune area. I lifted the shadows quite a bit at this stage.


Basic Adjustments on Layer 0 Screen shot
Basic Adjustments on Layer 0
I then added a new layer and created a mask on the areas I wanted to work on in more detail.

Mask on New Layer Screen shot
Mask on New Layer
On this mask I've increased the Exposure, warmed it up a little with Temperature Adjustment, Increased the Vibrance and I've increased the Pro Contrast Adjustment in the Shadows. 

Adjustments to the Mask Layer Screen Shot
Adjustments to the Mask Layer
 I then wanted to created a bit of mood so I added a Gradient Mask to the sky area, on a new layer.

Sky Gradient Screen Shot
Sky Gradient

I made a few adjustments to the Exposure, Vibrance, Pro Contrast (Highlights and Mid Tones) as well as Structure (Global Midtones)

Sky Gradient Adjustments Screen Shot
Sky Gradient Adjustments
Up until now I have been making manual adjustments but Intensify Pro has a lot of really good Presets and at this point I applied one of my favorites called Pro Quality to a new Layer. This just sharpens the image and adds a little depth.

Pro Contrast Preset Screen Shot
Pro Contrast Preset
 Just for fun I added another Layer with a Mask on the sky and made some adjustments to the Pro Contrast area.

Some Tweaks to the Sky Screen Shot
Some Tweaks to the Sky

From here I exported the image to SnapHeal, which is another app/add-on to Intensify Pro to straighten up the horizon and to deal to a few hot pixels. Hot pixels can show up with long exposure shots.

This is the final result.

The Final Result Photo
The Final Result

Original Photo
Original Photo
You can see the photo has been transformed and it only took me about 20 minutes using Intensify Pro. One of the things I really like about this software is you can adjust the opacity of each layer independently. On this photo I decided to lessen the effect on the rocks mask so I decreased the Opacity of Layer 1 to 43%.

I've pushed this image pretty hard to demonstrate my point but how much or how little adjustment you make are entirely up to you and the look you're trying to achieve.


Layer 1 Opacity Screen Shot
Layer 1 Opacity



I really like Intensify Pro, it is very easy to use and it can make an enormous difference to your photos, it can be run both as a standalone app or as a plug-in for Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, Photoshop Elements and Apple Aperture.

Form more information and a free 14 day free trial click here

Happy Shooting
John Barrow - E-Star TV  


Saturday, 1 March 2014

The Thing About DSLR's

My DSLR Takes Photos!

Isn't it funny, I have been so caught up in shooting video with my DSLR that I forgot it takes photos!
A little while ago we decided to move to a small town by the sea, it's quite remote and very wild. I've been out walking every day and I always take my camera but I've been taking photos and shooting very little video.
A Bruising Sky, photo of dark clouds over the ocean
A Bruising Sky
I will be making videos around this area but for the moment I'm enjoying the photography so much, I'm just going to run with it.

Photo Editing

One of the things I was getting really frustrated with was why my photos looked good but not great! I knew I could frame a good shot and I knew how to expose correctly but other peoples photos would sparkle and stand out. I tried different software and spent hours tweeking and playing with shots, it took a while but I started getting pretty good results.

Faded Glory

 Then I Found Something

Quite by accident I found a the piece of software that changed everything for me, it gave me the sort of control of my photos that I didn't believe possible.
I'm going to be exploring this software and how to use it in future posts.
So say tuned...
On The Rocks

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Panasonic and Fuji's New Sensor Boasts 29.2 Stop Dynamic Range


 Panasonic and Fuji's New Sensor



Panasonic and Fuji's New Sensor illustration of sensor


Fujifilm and Panasonic have teamed up and developed an image sensor that leaves anything already for sale in the dust. Using Fuji's patented "organic photoelectric conversion material" to gather light rather than the conventional silicon photodiode, they have produced a sensor that pretty much doubles the dynamic range of leading sensors now in the marketplace.
 

Hard to believe?

As mentioning by Fujifilm/Panasonic's news release, the new sensor will capture 88dB signal-to-noise ratio, which converts close to 14.6 stops of dynamic range in each direction or 29.2 stops EV. Compare this to, the most effective sensor at present, arguably found in the Nikon D800E, and gets only 46dB or approximately 7.7 stops in each direction or 15.3 stops EV. Along with the recently introduced noise-cancelling circuit also installed, the sensor has been said to; 
[prevent] highlight clipping in bright scenes and captur [e] a vivid and texture-rich image in low light.


Panasonic and Fuji's New Sensor graphic comparison of sensors



The enhancements don't stop there!


Aside from the big jump in dynamic range, the organic layer will also detect light from a bigger angle due to how thin it is (1/7th of the traditional silicon layer). Typical sensors detect light between 30 and 40-degrees of incidence, this sensor can increase it to 60-degrees.

This would mean a more exact color reproduction, no color mixing, expanded lens-design options, and the prospect of creating smaller sized cameras.

Each pixel in the new sensor supplies 1.2-times the sensitivity of standard pixels. In a conventional sensor, some of the light-detecting surface is used up by the connections around pixels, but those "metal interconnects" have been coated in the Fuji's organic material in this sensor. All the pixel's surface is able to be used:
Panasonic and Fuji's New Sensor graphic comparison of sensor surface


This is an impressive innovation. The organic sensor has cleared reliability tests, paving the way for the use of the organic CMOS image sensor in a wide range of applications.
So we might be finding these sensors on the marketplace inside a few sensor generations.

To get the full technical overview, here's the full press release on Fujifilm's website.

I can't wait to to get my hands on this, very cool!

John Barrow - Cameraman

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Camera Techniques For Professional Results

By John Barrow E-StarTV

 

Your New Camera

 

Ok, so you have a few days off work, you’ve got your new camera and you have decided to make a movie of your trip to the mountains.! Don't jump in the car just yet, I may be able to help you out with a few simple filming techniques.

Film making has become very popular and the quantity of videos being produced is increasing. The quality of the video is getting better. But the quality of the shooting is not getting better.
The difference between a badly shot video and a one that is shot well is just a matter of attention. By paying attention to a few simple camera techniques you can shoot like a pro in no time.
Camera - Photo of my old camera
My Old Camera, Still Makes Beautiful Videos!

 

Read The Manual

 

People have a tendency to pull the camera out of the box and start shooting. The manual is only looked at when you run into a problem. This may work for a new TV or alarm clock. But trying to figure out how to work the camera when there is great action happening is a downer!

A great camera operator knows the camera instinctively, the camera becomes a part of you! Being able to change setting without taking your eye from the viewfinder will improve your ability to capture any moment. This can take a bit of time but knowing your camera inside and out really helps. So read the manual then read it again! 

 

Some Helpful Accessories

 

There are times when a problem can send you home before the job is done. Preparing for a shoot can make the difference between a great movie and no movie. Before hitting the road make sure you have;
  •     All your batteries fully charged, knowing how many you need helps.
  •     Enough recordable media. As soon as your SD card or tape if full, thats it!
  •     Lens cleaning equipment.
  •     A tripod. Do not leave this behind.
  •     Battery charger/power supply.
  •     An extension cord for the power supply.
    camera - Photo of a Lens Pen Pro Kit
    Click to Purchase
Lens cleaning is essential and you can't go past the Lens  Pen. They are the best, easiest and most effective device on the market. I use one every time I get my camera out! They're not expensive and Amazon have them!
 
I also make sure I have a portable monitor handy, especially if I’m shooting with a DSLR. Most video cameras have an adjustable viewfinder, shooting low angle shots or in tight spots isn’t much of a problem. DSLR cameras can be a bit tricky in these situations because the viewfinder is fixed to the back of the camera. A small monitor is really handy!

Some of the newer DSLR cameras have addressed this problem with swiveling viewfinders.

Take everything - microphones, filters, lenses, remote shutters, reflectors etc. If you have it, take it! It seems to be a law that if you don’t take something you will end up needing it.

 

A Tripod is More Than You Think

 

Camera - Photo of old Manfrotto tripdo
My Old Tripod

You can get away with a bit of shake in a video but if every shot is shaky your audience will lose interest real fast. Those big panoramic vista shots should be rock solid and the only way to achieve it is with a tripod.

I have always found the humble Tripod to be a most versatile tool. With the legs together it can be used fast like a monopod. Leaving the Tripod attached to the camera and holding it just below the head makes for a pretty effective steady cam. Being able to pan and tilt the camera is also a nice feature of a tripod.

Some lenses have stabilizing technology that works well. It can help take out those long lens jitters you can get even on a tripod. I cannot recommend digital stabilizing. I would prefer to use editing software stabilization in post production and have a bit more control of the outcome.
I have a small Manfrotto Tripod its 25 years old but its light and very rugged. The one device I added to it is a leveling device. This allows me to quickly level the camera without having to adjust the legs  

Camera - Photo of my leveling device
Leveling Attachment for My Tripod
If you have to shoot without a tripod try and brace yourself against a solid object.

The old beta-cams I used for television were heavier, they sat on your shoulder and you hand was strapped to the lens, you could even brace it against your head. Modern cameras are much lighter and a lot harder to hold steady.

There are some really cool rigs made for smaller cameras. Check this one out!

 

Lighting

 

Lighting is a topic that could take up volumes so I’m only going to touch on the basics here. Cameras are getting better at low light shooting all the time. But you will always get a drop in quality as the light level drops.

I have used tradesman’s lights to great effect and I have also used camera mounted lights. Having the lights offset from the camera always looks better. Don’t be afraid of having pools of light instead of blanket lighting. But remember to manually expose your subject and let dark areas be dark.

As the light drops, your depth-of-field will decrease so watch your focus and don’t use auto focus as it may hunt a bit.

Outdoors you pretty much get what you get. You can use reflectors or camera lights if the light is a bit flat. The golden hours just after sunrise and just before sunset are great times for interesting lighting. We would always shoot our pretty landscapes and moody shots during these hours when possible.

Experiment with strong backlighting but make sure you shield any direct light from the front element of your lens. You may need to reflect a bit of light in to add detail to a heavily backlit subject.

Play around with lighting , it's a lot of fun!

 

Camera - Rode Camera Mic PhotoAudio Can Make Your Movie

 

Camera Mics Suck! Get yourself a camera mounted shotgun style mic. They are not expensive and will make all the difference. Get a mate to hold the mic and point it at the sound source but watch handling noise. There some great stand alone mics that can record surround sound as well as stereo, you can also set the record angle for live recording of groups and multiple sound sources.

Get Buzz Tracks! These are audio atmosphere tracks of the environment you in. They are incredibly valuable when editing and they can cover a multitude of sins. Make sure you get nice long buzz tracks, several minutes minimum.

If you don’t have a microphone jack on your camera, don’t be put off just make sure you get some good buzz tracks with the onboard mic.

 

Framing Your Shots

 

Camera - Photo of me shooting an sequence
Me Hard at Work!
I started out behind a studio camera and on occasion we would have open days where the public could have a go on a studio camera. It was interesting to watch who had a natural instinct for framing and who would have to work at it.

There is a tendency for some people to frame things in the center of the frame. This just doesn’t look that great. There is a guideline called the “Rule of Thirds”. I don’t like rules but it pays the learn this one before you start breaking it.

I found this video that explains this the “Rule of Thirds”.

The frame should feel comfortable and well proportioned. Of course, if you're feeling creative, you can always throw this rule out the window.

 

Features To Leave Alone

 

Some handy-cams come with a load of digital features. Digital zoom, film effects, camera fades and digital stabilizer to name a few. DO NOT USE THEM! All these things can be done with editing software and you will still have clean footage. But if you shoot with a film effect it will always be that way!

 

Setting Your DSLR For Video

DSLR cameras are designed for taking still photos. The presets are also set for still photography and they don’t work well for video.

You need to get rid of digital sharpening, lower the contrast and lower the saturation. I posted a really good video by Philip Bloom and Andrea Allen in my post Setting up your DSLR for shooting movies.

The other thing to consider when using your DSLR to shoot movies is keeping the shutter speed constant. But this limits your ability to decrease the amount of light hitting the sensor. The way to fix this is using a variable ND filter. For more information on on this check out my post “Constant shutter speed on your DSLR camera”

 

One More Trick You Should Know

 

We called them “Cut Aways”. When you shoot live action or an interview or anything really you are going to need shorten the sequence. Quite often you will need to cut away from the action and you will need something to cut too.

Interviews are easy, while the journalist is chatting to the interviewee, pre recording, you can grab all sorts of shots like a close up of the interviewees hands or an over shoulder 2 shot from behind the interviewee. Any shot where you can’t see lips moving can get you out of trouble when editing.

The classic is the Noddy. Its the shot of the interviewer reacting to what is being said. The noddy works best when shot at the end of the interview, you will know the range of reactions required. You will want to match the shot size of the Noddy and the person being interviewed, for this to work well work well.

Big wide shots, closeups, crowd shots, extreme close ups, all come in handy when editing. Along with your buzz tracks to cover any holes in the sound and your production will have the polish of a professional production.

Its a lot to think about but as you start editing you will soon find out why these things can make life a lot easier!

Good Luck Have Fun And Enjoy The Process!

John Barrow E-Star TV

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Hard Drive Failure not the end of the world

Hard Drive Failure

Its enough to horrify even the most hardened computer user. Hard drive failure could take place rather suddenly and can easily have a few major complications for people who do not prepare for such an event. You can loose all of your files like images, e-mails, videos and also any paid software applications you might have installed, it could be a problem!

 Reasons why Hard Drives Go wrong?

Hard Drive Failure - picture of a hard driveAlmost all Disk drives are mechanical , very much like a CD or DVD player other than they don't have a completely removable disc. Being mechanical appliances means they have moving elements that will sooner or later wear. Unexpected mechanical shock can also harm the disc itself like a scratch on a record. A lot of new devices for example ipads and other mobile devices contain solid state drives that are not as vulnerable to wear and mechanical shock.

Just what are the indicators of a Failing Hard Drive

A failing drive will begin giving indicators and these might be anything from constant freezing, slowing down of the computer system, funny sounds emerging from the hard drive and the feared blue screen of death. I just had a drive fail in my iMac and it began displaying the little beach ball on the cursor whenever I did anything, it was slowing down and was essentially doing some very strange things. When you start seeing things that just isn't usual for your computer, don't hesitate, react as soon as possible.

What is to be done ?

Hard drive failure - Picture of a distressed woman
Right after I recognized things just weren't right I ran the Time Machine function in my Mac. This backed up all my documents! I then ran a program called Carbon Copy Cloner, which produces an exact replica of your computer on an external hard drive and in many cases you can boot your computer from this duplicate. You might then have the chance to repair any bad sectors on your disk then copy the duplicate back to your hard drive, this is only a short-term measure that could perhaps keep you going for a little while. If a drive is beginning to fail you are much better off replacing it!

There is a variety of assorted back up programs for both PC and Mac, some are free, I would recommend you do a bit of research into one that satisfies you and gets excellent user ratings.

Conclusion

The main reason I'm writing this post is due to my drive failing suddenly. It was at a quite inconvenient time naturally but I managed to get a brand-new drive and have my computer working within a couple of hours and I did not loose any data. I decided not to drop the clone back onto the new drive but decided to start from the beginning. I now have an extremely tidy computer and am able to instal only the applications I need and get the documents I want from Time Machine. I did get in touch with a number of software providers and explain what happened so I could get installation Keys reset, some actually provided me free upgrades. One company gave me the download link to the version I was utilizing and my Key functioned fine.

At first I was irked by the drive failing but now I'm pleased it occurred, I have a much larger drive and a fresh, clean computer to work with. Ensure that you don't get caught out, back up your device and keep an eye out for those tell tale warnings that your drive is not well !

The Cameraman

Friday, 10 May 2013

RIP Stuart Wilde You Will Be Greatly Missed

Stuart Wilde

Today I heard the news that a very special man died, his name was Stuart Wilde. He was only 66 years old and he died of a fatal heart attack.

StuartStuart was an Author and a Teacher of the metaphysical. He taught about freedom, love and respect for humanity and nature.

Although I didn't know Stuart Wilde he was like one of our family, I have read most of his books including Silent Power, The Infinite Self, The Quickening, Sixth Sense and one of my favourites The Trick To Money Is Having Some.
These are just a few his quirky, beautiful, funny and very very inspiring books. You can find his books on his stuartwilde.com website.
stuart_wilde
I have explored previously unexplored dimensions with you, I have explored myself with you, I have laughed with you and cried with you but I never thought I would have to say goodbye to you so soon.


This news has made me sad beyond belief and I can only wish you swift travel, love and light.

Goodbye my friend, you will be missed!

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Website Video Gallery

My New Video Gallery


After a lot of time and frustration we have finally got my Video Gallery working. I wanted to be able to scroll through my Vimeo movies without leaving my site. The finished Gallery has a horizontal scroll bar on desk top computers and finger swipe for mobile devices.

You can scroll video thumbnails, that when moused over, will reveal the movie title. When you click on a thumbnail the movie will load in the bottom pane,

I was very impressed with my new video gallery, I asked my son to make me a whole website to display my Vimeo Channels.

He made a really good job of it, Click the picture to open the gallery!


The Back End Genius

My biggest fear when we make something like this is that it will take too much time updating the gallery which I do regularly.

So the boy set to and made an admin area.  I can now easily add and remove videos using a password protected, Gallery Admin Area.



Check it out and let me know what you think;

E-Star TV Gallery page - Click Here

Vimeo Channel Viewer - Click Here

This is the coolest way to display videos, we're looking to integrate it so YouTube videos can be displayed on it as well!

John Barrow - E-Star TV