Bikini Cocktail Lounge in HDR

I’m posting a little early today since I was up until about 3AM this morning working on this shot.  We went to dinner last night at a great new (to us) restaurant, and I ordered decaf coffee with my dessert.  My hubby ordered regular coffee.  I’m pretty sure that they switched them up because I was wired all night long and he slept like a baby.  I even commented to the waiter about how rich and flavorful the coffee was, while Andy said his tasted a little weak.  Yep, they switched them all right.

Since I was wide awake, I decided to go ahead and post my shot for Sliders Sunday at 3AM.  So, what is “Sliders Sunday”?  I belong to a Flickr group called “Sliders Sunday” in which you are encouraged to post one photo per week, on Sunday, in which you used whatever processing tools you want, to whatever extreme suits your fancy.  All those sliders in Photomatix and Topaz get put to use in this group.

This is an HDR image from three bracketed photos that I took on our photowalk on Grand Avenue in Phoenix, AZ.  The challenge with this image was trying to deal with the flags in the upper left corner.  It was a windy day, and the flags were in a different position in each of the three bracketed photos.  I used the de-ghosting tool in Photomatix to clean up most of it, but it still didn’t work like I wanted it to.  It left some of the flag lines in disconnected pieces, and there was a lot of haloing that was unattractive.

So I finally bit the bullet and decided to try some masking and layering.

  • In Paintshop Pro, I opened the raw file of the single image that was shot at normal exposure and saved it as a JPG file (probably should have saved it as a TIFF file, but…)
  • I opened the HDR image in Paintshop Pro and duplicated the background layer.
  • I copied the JPG file and pasted it as a new layer in the HDR image.
  • I moved the JPG layer under the duplicated HDR layer (so it was sandwiched between the background and the duplicated layer).
  • On the duplicated HDR layer (the top layer), I used the Eraser tool to erase the top left area where the sky and flags were located, being careful to stop at the edge of the buildings.  This allowed the sky and flags from the JPG image to show through.
  • I then merged all the layers and proceeded with my normal processing.

I’m sure others could do a much better job with this HDR and masking/layering exercise, but I don’t think it turned out too badly for a newbie.

So, here is the Bikini Cocktail Lounge, a landmark on Grand Avenue:

Bikini Cocktail Lounge

And, oh yeah, Happy Sliders Sunday!!  Now I think I’ll take a nap.

Roadside Snow On the Rocks – Working with Layers

I’m finally starting to slow down a little bit and try to concentrate on learning more about the software that I use to process my photos.  Rather than cranking out a lot of so-so shots, I’m trying to pick one shot (or one set of brackets) and play around with the various options in Paintshop Pro to compare the results of various techniques.  Tonight I started trying to figure out how to use adjustment levels in my processing.

I ran across a great blog called HDR Cookbook that is authored by Klaus Herrmann, who turns out some of the most beautiful HDR images I’ve seen. The HDR Cookbook is filled with some very useful information that is very helpful to beginners like myself. One of the first chapters discusses workflow, and I found some extremely helpful information in there about using levels to separate each tweak to the image so that the original image is untouched. The tutorial is written for the Photoshop products (including Adobe Camera Raw), which I don’t own, but I was able to translate a lot of the information to Paintshop Photo Pro with no difficulty.

One thing that the Cookbook talks about at the very beginning is a phenomenon called “chromatic aberration” (CA). This is the purple fringe that sometimes shows up when there are areas of high contrast in a photo. I hadn’t had to deal with that problem until I started processing HDR’s from the snow shots from this past weekend. The Cookbook recommends using Adobe Camera Raw to remove the CA. Since that software isn’t in my arsenal, I tried using the Photomatix option “Reduce Chromatic Aberration” during the HDR process, but it didn’t appear to have much of an effect…the purple was still there. Of course, you have to zoom in close to see it, but now that I know it’s there, it will haunt me.

Anyway, I did the best I could with this shot, playing with separate layers for Topaz Adjust, DeNoise, Curves, and Saturation. I couldn’t figure out how to create a separate layer for sharpening, so I applied that step after I merged the layers. The great thing is, I still have all the original image files and I can go back and try this over and over until I get it right as I learn more about the process.

So, here’s my shot for today…snow on the roadside rocks. Enjoy!

Roadside Snow and Stone

Downtown Phoenix – City Hall, the Orpheum and HFPC

This will probably be my last post of the shots of downtown Phoenix that I took last weekend, although I have a few more that I’ll play around with for my own enjoyment and practice. I spent a little more time on processing tonight, trying to get the best results for this shot:

Downtown Phoenix 013

This is Phoenix’s City Hall building.  On the afternoon that I took these pictures there was just enough breeze to cause the flags to be waving slightly.  When I combined the three bracketed images together in Photomatix, I checked the option to have it attempt to reduce ghosting, but there was still some noticeable ghosting around the flags when the image was processed.  I made an attempt to use layers in Paintshop Pro X3 to clean it up, and it didn’t turn out too badly as long as you don’t blow it up to 200% and really start looking for the evidence.  This is an area that I need a lot more practice in.  I just bought a book “PaintShop Photo Pro X3 for Photographers” by Ken McMahon, and I’m hoping to get some good instructions on how to use some of the advanced features of PSP to improve all my photographs, not just the HDR’s.

The next two shots were a little easier since they didn’t have anything waving around in front of them. 🙂

This is the Orpheum Theatre, which just happens to be right next to the City Hall building (that’s it in the background).  I really like the juxtaposition of the two entirely different styles of architecture in this shot:

Downtown Phoenix 012

And finally, this is the bell tower on the Historic First Presbyterian Church (yes, “Historic” is part of the church’s name).  This church just happens to be located next door to the shell of the First Baptist Church that I’ve featured in my last two posts.  However, this church is still active….in fact, as we were standing across the street setting up the tripod for pictures, one of the ministers invited us to their afternoon service:

Downtown Phoenix 011

So, this ends our photo tour of the architecture of downtown Phoenix, Arizona. At least until the next time I decide to spend a Sunday afternoon in the city!