Category Archives: Photo Processing

Geometry and The Moon

Please do not run away. We are about to use adult language here. For example we will be using the word trigonometry. Still here? Good.  Here is a very pedestrian looking lunar eclipse photo taken with a 280mm lens*, cropped.

Near and Distant Neighbors

Very Ordinary Photo of the Lunar Eclipse with the planet Uranus in the lower left.

This past lunar eclipse several of us put our heads together to try to come up with a more creative photo than the one above. We had a trigonometry problem, however. On the West Coast the last moment of totality occurred at 4:24 AM PDT. We were brave enough to be out at any time of night – even if it meant extreme sleepiness in our day jobs but our problem was that the lowest the moon would be in the sky at the last bit of totality was 32.6 degrees above the horizon. We determined that angle using Stellarium, by the way. Unfortunately there is pretty much nowhere to go to get a nice large moon near an interesting object when the moon is almost 33 degrees high.

Wait: Why do we want the moon and the object to be similarly sized? Here is why… we want the moon to be noticeable like the Fantasy version below, not merely “present” like the real photo on the right. Even bigger would be better, right!?

N_281-608714+C_281-8150

Notice above right (Reality) and below how tiny the moon is compared to the building in the foreground?  Indeed, if you see a photo taken from anywhere on the West Coast where the eclipsed moon is significantly lower in the sky or larger than shown against foreground, you know it has been “photoshopped“.

Plan C: San Jose City Hall Eclipse Sequence

In short, it is nigh impossible to get the large moon effect with an altitude (angle) of 32 degrees here is why:

Calculating the Angles

Calculating the Angles

Just how far away do we need to be in order to get the moon the same size as an object of interest:

114.6 x object size

In other words, an object that is one foot tall, requires us to stand 114.6 feet away to make the 1/2 a degree angular size of the moon the same angular size as that 1 foot tall object.  The number “114.6” is from this calculation:

1 / TAN (0.5 degrees)

Yeah, that is trigonometry. Using still more trigonometry it is possible to calculate how high above the horizon a 9 inch tall object has to be so that it is “moon sized”.  We did that for you in the “Calculating the Angles” diagram above. Once you calculate the distance from the camera of 85.9, you can multiply that by the sine of the angle to calculate a height of about 46 feet! Here is the trigonometry:

Height = 85.9′ * SIN (32 deg)

You can go one step farther and calculate the distance from the object with ‘distance = 85.9 * COS(32 deg)’.

Of course after all that calculating you will still need to find a location, have contingency plans for weather and so on. At StarCircleAcademy we have built some tools and put together materials to help in all these endeavors.  We teach these things in our NP111 Catching the Moon Webinar.

The Road To The Temple

Below is where we ended up. This image is from our friend and co-conspirator Andy Morris.

Lunar Eclipse over Temple by Andy Morris of PhotoshopScaresMe

Four of us plotted and schemed to get an interesting shot. Above is Andy Morris’ result.  Click the image and you can read a great article about how he created the shot using Photoshop Skills at his site: PhotoshopScaresMe.com. In fact, it’s a great article which we strongly encourage you to read. You’ll learn how he composited the images together in Photoshop as layers.

The Long Conversation to Pick a Location

Andy has more details including how alcohol played a part in the process. Mostly I, Steven, was the wet blanket explaining why the geometry was all wrong.

  • The Stanford (Hoover) Tower looks like it is shrouded in trees from the needed angle
  • Bank of Italy (formerly BofA) in SJC doesn’t work
  • The main problem with the wind turbines is that the angle to the top of them is something around 12 degrees above the horizon which is 40 moon diameters below the eclipse.
  • Here is why the GG Bridge doesn’t work…
  • This seems to be the best solution I could find: the Coit Tower…
  • Darn. It would appear the coast is out. Forecast calls for Fog from SF to HMB
  • This might make an interesting foreground (see below)… Somebody want to check if they will mind us being on their property in the wee hours?

*Ok, we lied, it was actually a 70-200mm lens with a 1.4 TC on a full frame camera, but the net is the same: 280 effective mm focal length.

Where did you go and what did you get in your planning efforts?  Post a comment and link below… we’d love to see what you came up with!

Bad Bridge Behavior (2014)

This discussion applies to Windows machines in particular. We welcome your comments on whether the same problem occurs on Macs.

In Summary

Installing Photoshop CC 2014 on a Windows machine may have unpleasant side effects and one of those side effects is being forced to use ONLY Photoshop CC 2014 from Adobe Bridge.

The Details

Adobe Bridge is a rather powerful tool. In fact, we recommend it when using the Advanced Stacker PLUS. However during a live webinar recently Bridge stymied us.

Despite the release of many CC 2014 versions, there is currently no Adobe Bridge CC 2014 – the latest available is CC. Within Adobe Bridge CC a double click of a JPG or RAW file opens the file clicked in the most recently installed version of Photoshop EXCEPT if there is already a version of Photoshop running. If, for example you have Photoshop CS5 running and the most recent install is CC, then a double click would open the file in CS5 rather than CC. Adobe Bridge default file open still behaves the same way even after upgrading to Photoshop CC 2014. However other parts of Adobe Bridge do not behave the same.

The Tools -> Photoshop -> Batch operation previously worked just as described. No matter what the default version of Photoshop, using the Tools -> option would kick the currently running Photoshop and elicit Photoshop’s Batch menu. UNFORTUNATELY, The “Tools -> Photoshop -> Batch” operation does NOT work the same way once you install Photoshop 2014 CC.  With Photoshop CC 2014 installed, Tools -> Photoshop -> Batch will ONLY open Photoshop CC 2014. If you have another version of Photoshop already running, the Tools operation effort silently fails.

You can determine what version of Photoshop will be invoked by the Bridge -> Tools menu by selecting a file and doing  a “right click” and inspecting what is listed in the Open With list.

Default association

Default association

 

Also particularly unpleasant is the fact that only ONE of the Photoshop CS versions is listed as a choice in the Open With dialog even though on our windows machine we have 4 versions of Photoshop installed (CS5, CS6, CC and CC 2014). We’d love it if we could choose which Photoshop to open, but Photoshop CC 2014 confuses Windows into thinking that ALL versions of Photoshop are CS 2014. Normally in the the windows file browser you can right-click a file and “choose a default” program to open it.

Windows_ChooseDefaultPgm

Here we’ve chosen to associate a default to a PNG file.

Window_FileAssociation_Step1 The next step is to navigate to the program we want to open with by default… Here we will select the Photoshop CS5 folder, and next the photoshop.exe
Windows_SelectAssociation

After selecting photoshop.exe in the CS5 directory, we are disappointed to see the result look like this:WindowsPSCC2014_Confused

To Change Associations For Different File Types

While Photoshop does continue to make useful improvements, not all of those improvements are as easy to navigate. If you would prefer that Adobe Bridge open a different default version of Photoshop you can change the file associations within Adobe Bridge as shown. (Select Edit -> Preferences or Ctl-K).

Changing File Association

Changing File Association – click for a larger view

Look What You Did!

First we really appreciate the mastery of Matt Molloy who has been using the Advanced Stacker PLUS to reach creative new heights in “TimeStacks”.  This is one of his images below in which he stacks part of the image with Comet mode, and the rest with lighten mode. Click the image to read more.

Reach for the Clouds by Matt Molloy

Reach for the Clouds by Matt Molloy

We invited users of the Advanced Stacker PLUS to give us feedback on their experiences with our Photoshop Add-in. We asked folks is if they had an image that they made with the software that they’d like us to see. Wow. We are impressed! Take a look for yourself. We used the links provided so none of the images shown are on our server. In other words, if an image does not load properly, there is nothing we at StarCircleAcademy can do to fix the issue.  Where possible, clicking the image will take you to the photographer’s site.

Version 14E is available now, by the way.

If your image appears here and you’d rather it did not, let us know and we’ll remove it.

Exit Criteria

Exit Criteria by Steven Christenson (channeling Matt Molloy)

Rocky Mtns

Rocky Mountains by Bob Gibbon

The Chalice by John Mu

The Chalice by John Mumaw

Church by Bob Edwards

Church by Bob Edwards

Lassen Campfire Pano 1

Lassen Campfire Pano 1

Red River Camping Spot Star Trails by Jeff Stephens

Red River Camping Spot Star Trails by Jeff Stephens


Starflight over Pointy Land

Starflight over Pointy Land by Steven Christenson

Chapel in Starlight by Keith Doucet

Chapel in Starlight by Keith Doucet

The 5 Most Used Photo Enhancement Techniques – Part 3

Out Darn Spots – Cropping

Beware cropping too soon. It is an easy way to get rid of problematic areas of the frame, but might bite back!

One obvious way to remove encumbrances is to crop them out. As tempting as it seems to crop the photo first, we generally leave cropping to the end of the effort for several reasons which we enumerate here:

  1. Sometimes clients (i.e. you) want an image in a different format. Instead of 14×11 you may want it in 20×16. If we crop it first, we are deciding the display format without thinking it through. Sometimes the ratio will be obvious due to the subject, but usually there is some room to play. We prefer to keep our options open until the end.
  2. By cropping out edges, we may be throwing away good sources for cloning out defects, or making cloning and healing harder because operations at the edge of the frame are not as neat.
  3. Care should be taken to not have details at the edge of the frame. What happens, for example, if you are asked to make a canvas wrap of your image (in our Half Dome example, the hiker would be perilously wrapped at the edge).
  4. More than once we have discovered that a portrait mode image worked better in landscape and vice-versa.

It IS true that if we do not crop early we may end up wasting effort on portions of the image we ultimately will discard. Sometimes it is obvious that a portion of the image is unusable and will be cropped. Once we cropped out two figures at the summit of Half Dome to focus attention on the landscape. We later discovered that a tiny figure at the edge of the scene provided both scale and human interest. The California Wine Institute probably would not have been interested in the person-less scene.

Dawn sky atop Half Dome [9753]

Closely related to the cropping problem, is the compositional decision when the photo is taken. We have learned the hard way that its good to leave room around the edges of the frame – one never knows how much space will be needed after cropping to a specific size.

We will not spend much time on cropping, except to restate our premise that cropping is something you should NOT do until you are ready to print or display your image. Secondly, you will find it advantageous to crop in a STANDARD ratio if you expect to frame or mount your images.

In Lightroom, the crop tool is found just to the left of the Spot Healing tool (see below). In both Lightroom and Photoshop the crop tool is overloaded. It can crop, rotate and straighten (and in Photoshop the crop tool also resizes!). Perhaps the best advice we have is to use a pre-set Aspect ratio. You can also add your own ratio(s).

LR_Croptool

Our next bit of advice with respect to cropping: in Photoshop we do not recommend cropping and resizing as one operation. Crop using a “ratio” and only later should you resize, that is, keep as much of the image intact as possible for as long as possible.

Our last bit of advice on cropping: if you DO crop an image in Photoshop, when you save it, include the image pixel dimensions.  Nothing is quite as frustrating as saving a cropped image and destroying the original! Our practice is to always save cropped images in a subfolder named “Exported”.

We could conduct a diatribe about “DPI” and “PPI” and explain why those are pretty useless things in most contexts, but we will not!

Healing Out Dust Spots, Hot Spots and Unwanted Things

Perhaps one of the easiest tools to use in Lightroom (and Photoshop) is the Clone/Healing tool. Unfortunately, you need Lightroom 5 to get the features shown here.

LR_CloneHealTool

The “Spot Removal Tool” in Lightroom can Clone or Heal

Most of the time you will want to HEAL rather than clone.  Clone, as it sounds makes a copy of the source over the destination.  To heal or clone you click the spot healing tool, adjust the size and then click the area of the image with the problem. Lightroom will select what it thinks is a similar area from somewhere else in the photo. You can drag the “similar area” selection somewhere else if the selected area does not make sense (such as picking a fence to replace a grassy spot).  Generally it is best to make the brush only as large as needed. If a line is to be healed out clicking and dragging often works.

Heal out A Satellite Streak in Lightroom

Heal out A Satellite Streak in Lightroom

After dragging along the unwanted satellite trail in the photo above, Lightroom finds a matching area of the sky. In this case the area Lightroom chose will duplicate stars, so we drag the handle of the chosen area to a blank sky.  Note that the blob at the upper left indicates the area used to heal the area at the end of the white arrow.

Heal a segment, Lightroom

Heal a segment, Lightroom

Done Healing

After dragging the source area click Done to complete the healing

And when done, click “Done”. If the healing looks bad, you can delete and try again. Healing out spots in Lightroom is a little more tedious than doing so in Photoshop in part because having overlapping healing areas is difficult in Lightroom. (The only way to overlap healing/spot correct areas in Lightroom is to create a new spot and drag the source and destinations so they overlap a previous heal.  In Photoshop, we strongly recommend creating a separate layer to do healing on – but wait until near the end of your processing to do so!  The easiest way to create the layer to heal on is with the magic key sequence Control-Alt-Shift-E  (Command-Option-Shift-E on the Mac). That key sequence effectively does a “merge visible layers” but creates a new layer as a result.  If there is only one layer use Control-J (Command-J) instead.

Healing In Photoshop

Photoshop Spot Healing Tool

Photoshop Spot Healing Tool

There are MANY tools for “healing” in Photoshop.  There are also two flavors of the “Clone” stamp tool found under a separate palette. To choose the spot healing tool, click J (Shift-j) until it looks like a bandage with a dotted selection behind it.  You can also right-click the tool and select as shown above.  If you use the OTHER version of the bandage (healing tool) you must first select the area to use as the source using alt-click (Option-click on a Mac). In our experience it is seldom necessary to select the source so that extra step is wasted effort.  To heal in a straight line in Photoshop, click the first location then hold down the shift key and click the second region.  The shift-key trick works for most Photoshop operations like brush strokes, too. The shift trick does not work in Lightroom 5.2

There are some settings for the healing tool so if things get weird, double-check the tool bar at the top – make sure it is Normal mode.

Photoshop (CC) Healing Tool Settings

Photoshop (CC) Spot Healing Tool Settings

As a final step we regularly “heal” out hot pixels from our final night image. The Photoshop spot healing tool is very easy to use even if there are a hundred spots to fix. While it might be tempting to rely on noise reduction to solve the hot pixel problem, significant blurring occurs.

If you have a particularly difficult healing problem there are yet more advanced techniques, for example you can use the Clone or the Patch tool. Generally you will use the healing tool when you want to make the area being fixed look like the rest of the image and you will use the clone tool when you need to duplicate a texture or remove a larger hindrance.  For example I found it was easier to clone out the glowing orange highway safety cone that someone (or something) had cast into the brush just above where my name is in the image below.

Dream Highway [C_071601]

 

If there is interest we can cover how we handled a severely over exposed area in this image by using the patch healing tool.

The area at the left was over exposed so I used the "bump" rock in the right hand third to fix it. This is "rough"

The area at the left was over exposed so I used the boulder in the right hand third to fix it. This is “rough”

Looking for the prior two articles? Check Part 1 and Part 2.