Dancing with the Clouds [Warning: 9 colorful images]

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sfoxjohn said:
I agree with the other poster who suggests that blending is better than using a filter. It isn't often that the break is a straight line.
Hmm, apologies for barging in, even though this was not addressed to me, my humble 2 cents.

I used to think that GND filters are obsolete and not needed anymore. This was until I read Galen Rowell's Mountain Light and Inner Game (and Thom Hogan's filter recommendation and Ken Rockwell's filter recommendation).

I bought a 2 stop soft GND filter and I am pretty much stunned. I used to muck with the two photo, blend digitally mode and never got anything as close to the GND filters yet. [Yes, I suck in photoshop, but then I have tried everything under the sun, better masking techniques, FM's DRI plugin, upgraded to PS CS2 and bracket 7 shots 1 stop apart and so on].

With my limited experience, I can say if one is careful with the way they use soft GND filters, the straight edge horzions don't matter. Shahed, Mahesh Thapa [http://www.starvingphotographer.com], Mike Soo [http://www.soocool.com], three landscape photographers I have grown to respect a lot continuously prove this to me via their photos.

Yes, you can avoid the use of GND filters if you are very good with photoshop and are willing to spend the time in front of the computer. But after spending hundreds of hours in front of the computer, I am a convert. I would rather buy those GND filters and try to spend the time during sunset :)

Sorry for the long rant.
 
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sfoxjohn said:
Shahad,

As for the ND filter the pictures looks great as they are. Maybe when you print them you could have a problem with range? Is that why you regret not having the ND?

I agree with the other poster who suggests that blending is better than using a filter. It isn't often that the break is a straight line.

John
Hi John,
I appreciate your comment and suggestion. I don't have a problem with not having the right ND until I go for a larger print, it’ll show noise and the lack of range.

I agree with Anand that using the ND filter is much better and easier than blending in PS. I have tried both but I liked the ND route.

Thanks again.

Shahed.
:D
 
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TR_Fox said:
Shahed,

Very nice. I wonder why I am in the office after looking at those. Very, very nice.

I would like to know more about the custom curve, if you would like to share. I love those colors.

Keep up the great work.
Hi Tim,
Thanks for the kind word. I like all my landscape photography to be saturated and vividly contrasting and in order to do that I use the following pointers: I use a custom-curve (i.e. EV4, sReala version 2) not to get the correct expose, but rather to reduce noise (expose to the right) 99% of the time I lock my expose from a highlight/midtone. It may sound odd, but I get my expose right @ post-process (I always shoot RAW)

Shahed :D
 
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d_ip said:
I agree with Anand that using the ND filter is much better and easier than blending in PS. I have tried both but I liked the ND route.
Shahed

Any luck with HDR? I absolutely hate it at this point. It is a waste of my precious $ :(

I saw one good shot with HDR so far, just about every thing else is crap. I still think I don't know how to use it, but I have tried all I can, 5 to 7 shots with 1 stop increments to 0.3 increments between each (and everything in between) and did not get one useful blend so far.

anand
 
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Hi Shahad and Anand

When I said I liked blending better, I had in mind scenes like this. It was taken back in 1996 on medium format and I can't tell you how many hours I spent in the darkroom with masks, etc. and never got anything but frustration. When I quit the darkroom and started to use PS exclusively, one of the first pictures I played with was this one. I now have about 5 versions that almost satisfy. Here are two. The darker one was done just using shadows/highlights, curves etc. The lighter one was done using blending. All of them are from one scanned negative.

Do you think a ND filter could have even been used when this was taken? In darkroom printing, the difference between the sky and the rest was 4-5 stops.

John

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sfoxjohn said:
Hi Shahad and Anand

When I said I liked blending better, I had in mind scenes like this. It was taken back in 1996 on medium format and I can't tell you how many hours I spent in the darkroom with masks, etc. and never got anything but frustration. When I quit the darkroom and started to use PS exclusively, one of the first pictures I played with was this one. I now have about 5 versions that almost satisfy. Here are two. The darker one was done just using shadows/highlights, curves etc. The lighter one was done using blending. All of them are from one scanned negative.

Do you think a ND filter could have even been used when this was taken? In darkroom printing, the difference between the sky and the rest was 4-5 stops.

John
John

Point taken, sure for this scene, you need to do masking. GND would not have helped. Never worked with film, so pardon my ignorance.

My experience with masking has been for photos like these mostly:

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You will immediately catch the mistakes in blending :(

I might have got away with a soft GND filter in both these shots, I think.
 
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RomanJohnston said:
A technique I have started using (see my AZ shots here in the forum) is to shoot shoved all the way to the right (histogram) in raw and then use PSCS2 to "develop" two identical shots...one for the highlights (clouds) and one for the foreground...and overlay them...pop on a layer mask and use the gradient tool to clear most of the blending ....then just go back in with a paint brush and paint the edges along the horizon at like 300% to get the edges just right....this gives you the best of both worlds....and reduces the need for an ND filter in the field....(although somtimes I still play with one) When you use a paint brush....reduce the hardness of the edge to give a featherd effect on the ridge line.

I'm still perfecting the technique, but is working quite well for me...

Your shots are so wonderful, and that little edge of the clouds highlights not being blown would put that little but oh so important ooommmph into your already amazing shots.

Nice work as always!!!

Roman
Hmm, Roman, Thanks.

So the final painting, I assume you do it on the mask. My GND simulation workflow is very similar to yours, but I run into two issues when printing large (and I mean 20x30ish).

- The edges look very fake. I muck with the edges, but a very picky eye find issues in a fraction of a time.

- The single NEF development into two photos, I can safely push to +1EV and -1EV, but thats about it. Any thing beyond it, I run into shadow noise issues and / or artificial color cast in the highlights. What is your experience? Blending more than 1 *real* photo almost never really works since the clouds really move fast and there is always wind.
 
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Roman,

Hmm, I never enlarge photos, the printer I use does an excellent job of enlarging them. Until I invest in a good tool like Genuine Fractals, I would keep away from upsizing myself. [But you have given me enough food for thought]

Yes, I understand the expose-to-the-right part. My only peeve is with the histogram in D70 seems so weighted towards the green channel. I easily blow reds if I watch only the histogram :(

In particular, in any red country, like Grand Canyon, I would avoid going above 240 on the histogram :(

We need 3 color histograms, D90 / D200 might be it :)
 
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Roman

Thanks for the tip on the FM enlargement thing. I will take a look.

But remember that with a 10MP camera, we are going to put in another $2000 at least for the next generation computer and at least a terrabyte of storage to start with and then RAID arrays for backup and all.

More trouble than worth.
 
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Roman

Congrats on the home. I now have 1/2 a Terrabyte of storage. My primary PC is a P4 3 GHz with 2 GB RAM (maxed out the slots and capacity). I am pretty much at a dead end. Next stop would have to be a quad CPU Xeon with at least 4GB of RAM or upwards.

I am sure in 2 years, I will read this post and will roll over the floor with laughter :D
 
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Very beautiful immages Shahed!

You certainly took advantage of the sun when it finally came out. Great reflections! Calgary sure got dumped on. We had the third rainiest June on record here in Kamloops and we only had the fringes of the storms that you guys got in Southern Alberta.
 

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