New Tools

When we fix images, as we do daily in the store (www.michaelwillemsphoto.com) sometimes it is easy – and sometimes we need a lot more effort. Like in this before/after example:

White balance isn’t enough – not even close. For these colours I needed to use Lightroom’s white balance, extensive HSL, and especially the new excellent “Color Grading” tool. If you haven’t needed it yet – you will. And then a coloured local adjustment brush to add some skin colour, quite often – this is an art as much as it is a craft and a science.

But then there’s also Photoshop to remove the small imperfections, and an AI-based de-noise tool to lower noise. (“AI” stands for “Artificial Intelligence” – it’s not the name “AL”…)

In the end, it is always worth it. Memories preserved. Because when the photos fade, the memory itself fades.

Gels for correction (Repeat from 2015)

You can use some gels (colour filters) for correction, Here, from 2015, is a post with an example.

Take this: I am lit pretty much OK by my flash, and with the camera set to FLASH white balance,, but the background is a tungsten light, so it looks red. I happen to like that, but what if I want that background to look normal, white, the way it looks to me?

Well…  can I not just set the white balance to Tungsten?

No, because then, while the background would look good, the parts lit by the flash would look all blue, like this:

Part 1 of the solution: make the light on me come from a tungsten light source too, so we both look red. We do this by adding a CTO (colour Temperature Orange) to the flash.

Part 2 of the solution: Now you can set the white balance on your camera to “Tungsten”, and both I and the background will look neutral:

Done. Now we both look normal.

So, in summary:  when you are dealing with a colour-cast ambient light, gel your flash to that same colour cast, and then adjust your white balance setting to that colour cast.

Travel Photo Trick!

Today, a repeat of a 2015 post that is particularly useful for travel photographers.

With the camera on a tripod and exposure set to manual, I can take pictures like these, one by one:

…and on on. As said, I am using a tripod, so the only thing that varies is me (I used a self timer).

And then I can use Photoshop or the GIMP (the latter is a free equivalent) to do things like this very easily:

Or even this:

OK.. so a cool trick. You do this with layers and masks. Hellishly complicated user interface, but once you know the silly UI, the process itself is very simple. It’s the only thing I have the GIMP for.

So. Why would I think this is useful, other than for fun?

Well…. think. You can also use it the other way. Instead of replacing the wall by me, replace me by the wall. And now you can perhaps see a benefit looming.

No? Think on. You are at the Eiffel Tower. Or the Grand Canyon lookout point. Or whatever tourist attraction you can think of. What do you see? Tourists. Right. It attracts them: that’s why it is a tourist attraction.

But not in the same spot all the time. So all you need to do is the same I did here: take a bunch of pictures. Say 10-20 of them. So that you have each spot of attraction at least once without a covering tourist. Then you put them into layers—one each—in PS. And then you manually remove tourists. One by one, poof.. they disappear.

Or you go one further: depending on your version, you can use function File > Scripts > Statistics.  Now choose “median” and select the photos. And you end up automatically with an Eiffel tower without tourists, a Grand Canyone without other onlookers, and so on.

Cool? Yes, very.

So there.

Kai Tak

A few photos I took at Kai Tak airport, Hong Kong, around 1985. These were slides, and they are well preserved. Still, of course after scanning I had to so some touchups and restoration.

The famous checker board:

Pretty steep tun at very low altitude. An adventure, landing at Kai Tak.

And the large aircraft were amazing. I was at the Hong Kong aviation club, at the foot of Rwy 13. I was learning to fly Cessnas at the time. And afterward we’d drink in the bar and see htis:

Anyone who has been there will recognize this – and feel the humidity, small the smells, and feel like they’re there again. That is the power of photography.

Click to see larger. Ektachrome; touched up with Lightroom and de-noised with Avast De-noise AI.

Deep Dreaming

Google DeepDream is the neural network technology Google developed to see what a deep neural network is seeing when it is looking in a given image. Now, the algorithm has become a new form of psychedelic and abstract art.

Often, the “dreams” are pretty disturbing. Like this pretty well known “Dog Spaghetti” image:

Scary, but then… that is the stuff dreams are made of, right?

And here’s one of mine – two images together, tulips and a frog, and how the AI, after crunching away at them for a while, makes sense of them:

Awesome, no?

You can read more about DeepDream here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DeepDream.

Magic.

That’s the only word I can use. Magic.

I am talking about Topaz Sharpen AI. Software that uses AI to sharpen blurry or out of focus images.

Dreadfully slow, but that’s fine. Look what it does. View these images full size and look at the cat in the background “before” and “after”.

Need I say any more? This kind of AI sharpening was, until recently, impossible.

This is one reason, by the way, why I have always said “don’t delete your bad images”. Who knows what the future brings.

Recommended.

Apollo 13

Sometimes I feel like an Apollo 13 engineer. Everything is going wrong – but you use ingenuity (and duct tape) to make it work again.

Yesterday afternoon, suddenly:

  • My Mac has unrecoverable disk errors
  • My external drive, where my photos live, spontaneously lost all of 2020!

Fortunately:

I make backups.

…and as it happens I had made a backup that very morning. So after a quick restore, all is well again.

And now I need to find a day where I do not need the Mac, so that I can reformat the drive and start over…