Monday, 28 March 2011

Before and After Exercise

Another project from our travels is for students to take an image that they really like and give it to another to improve in post-production where possible. No restriction was placed on how this could be achieved, nor on the software used - although most used Photoshop Elements, Photoshop and NIK Silver EFEX to get what was required.
Overall the results were really good, considering that the editing was done mostly in the bus as we travelled from Fes to Chefchouen. Here are some of the best examples. Bear in mind also that because of the time restrictions most have not been fully finished. But you'll get the idea...

Olive shop, shot in the Fes souk. Background is too dark and the wrong colour. Pic by Glyn Patrick.
Edited by Alan Stern. Much improved version with a lighter foreground and cropped exterior. In my opinion this can be further improved. A little bit lighter perhaps but then a more balanced colour in the upper portion of the frame - you might do this using a mask to limit the spread of the tone change, either in Camera RAW or Photoshop
Coke display in the breakfast bar at our Marakesh Riad. Pic by Robin N.
Edited by Sue Caldwell, she cropped the edges slightly, ramped up the contrast and added a High Pass sharpen filter effect to add a bit more impact. My opinion is that this has done the job nicely.

This is a real doozy from Fraser Burdon for Glyn to edit. We were on the point of rekjecting this entirly when it was suggested to try to convert it to black-and-white.
Under the watchful eye of yours truly, Glyn converted the image to monochrome in Lightroom then added a whizz-bang color effect using Nik Silver EFEX - to great effect I think. We liked the halo effect round the 'burning bush'. And might have removed the light patch in the upper roof section - if there was the time. An impressive rescue job. Fraser was suitably impressed (at least for a Deity).
Image supplied by Ian Caldwell for fixing by Lucie Loane...
So, Lucie did a great job of fixing this in quite a subtle way. A tiny edge crop, black-and-white conversion adn a few bits removed. Simple but effective...
Fraser took this shot of Lucie's and heavily darkened the upper section - just to emphasise the gull sitting on the boat. We all thought this was not quite enough - it needs that line of lighter tone running up to the bird's eye removed/Cloned out.
Not to be outdone, Fraser then added a shot of an owl he had seen in the day.
As I have said on other trips, some things should just be left alone!
Carolyn G's shot taken among the ruins at Volublis. Underexposed and very dark.
Here's the improved version: slightly lighter with an extended sky up top and a seriously blurred foreground. Excellent diagnostics - needs a little more time to get the feathering better and the blurring more under control - but the concept is fine.
Shot of Volublis by Fay Burdon. Not bad but it needs rotating to get it level.
It needs to be lighter and there's precious little foreground interest.
Here is my improved version.I cloned out some of the mess along the bottom right-hand side. I also copied the right-hand column and pasted it back into the image, far left, behind the 'sacrificial altar'. To boost the foreground interest I then added a bit of rock from a picture I made in Baalbeck (Lebanon) a year ago, desaturated and toned it to fit the host image.
Not the best job I have ever done but certainly a bit more interesting than the original.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

North African Landscapes

The following pictures are landscapes gleaned from our second travelling slideshow session. This time I placed a bit more of an emphasis on the landscape side of things. Sensible, considering we had spent the afternoon flogging through the wide open wastes of the Sahara. Actually it was only 2 or three hours on a camel, but most of us ended up being very sore in the inner thigh region!
On the trip into the desert we made the mistake of heading directly to the appointed sunset viewpoint. As it happened there wasn't a sunset as the sun sank behind a bank of cloud. Next time I'd get off the camel at the half-way point and shoot the desert from there. Interestingly, this is Morocco's only section of sandy desert - most of the desert in the southern Atlas region is stony, and not very picturesque. Aside from these desert scenes, you'll find a number of great panoramas from the drive over the High Atlas and a vertical panorama taken in the Dades Gorge. This really looked just like a lot of the scenery seen in central Australia (apart from the dozens of blanket salesmen lining the roadside).The vertical panorama in this example was a great way of capturing an otherwise very hard-to-get scene.

Sahara by RN
Overnight camp by RN
Camel trekking silhouette by Ian Caldwell
Before the ride by Sue Caldwell
Big sand dunes by Robin Nichols
Desert Kasbah. Sue Caldwell
Todra Gorge switchback by Sue Caldwell
Heading back to camp by Robin Nichols
Desert encampment by Carolyn Grattan
Dades Gorge, vertical panorama by Fay Burdon
Mountain pass by Fraser Burdon
Desert rockscape by Janice G
Desert closeup, by Janice G

A Postcard From...

The brief was to try to create a postcard that was better than the dozens of cards seen for sale around Morocco - before long we were creating illustrations that were tackier than anything we had seen before. Here are some of the results...
By Alan Stern
By Lucie Loane
Left field from Fraser Burdon
PC from Fay Burdon
By Janice G
By Carolyn Grattan
Ian Caldwell
Robin Nichols
By Sue Caldwell

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Moon Shot

There we were, standing in the desert ready to get the new moon shot of the day. Only problem was too much cloud cover so we reverted to a group shot using a long, four second exposure and the illumination from everyone's speedlight.

Outside Boumaine Dades, Morocco...

Landscapes of North Africa: Session ONE

Tischka Pass, HDR by Alan Stern
Here we are in North Africa shooting everything, but especially landscapes, on our CCE trip for Sydeny Uni. The landscape around Casablanca stretching thru to Marrakesh is nothing special - it's essentially the breadbasket for the rest of the country - in March it's very lush and green. You have to pinch yourself to be reminded that this is North Africa, not provincal France. Over the Atlas things are totally different. Massive valleys, deep, deep gorges and ochre-coloured earth stretching south into the sub sahara.
African musician, Marakesh, pic by Fay Burdon
Detail, water seller, by Ian Caldwell
Harbour gulls, Essouaria, by Sue Caldwell
Portrait, Marrakesh, by Fraser Burdon
Marrakesh dawn, Koutoubia and satellite dishes, Lucie Loane
Kebab seller, Jemaa el Fnaa square, by Janice G.
In the Marrakesh souks, pic by Carolyn G.
Door detail, King's palace, Casablanca. Glyn Patrick.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Jigsaw Panorama Technique

I call it the JIGSAW panorama technique - it's not strictly a jigsaw but the net result can be quite impressive. This is the kasbah at Ait Ben Haddu in-sub saharan Morrocco. It's an impressive place and has been used in several blockbuster films, like Jewel on the Nile and Gladiator, among others.
Problem is it's very BIG. Answer, set the camera to shoot in medium or low resolution (that's not a typo) then zoom in. Probably to 50mm, or more. 
Then, once zoomed in, shoot sections of the main subject as you would a regular panorama - but double, or triple deck the panorama sections so you get two, three, or more 'layers' composed of 5 or more individual sections each. Reason for shooting low resolution is so the computer can handle the stitching process. This example is made from 21 sections. Shooting at 18Mp creates a file that's 1.5Gb+ - it took more than 20 mins to finish on my laptop. Choose a lower resolution and you still end up with a big 200Mb final file.

- Use Photomerge in Photoshop Elements 8/9 or CS 4/5 to stitch the segments
- Shoot from left to right, or vice versa. Photomerge will identify what fits with what.
- Flatten and then crop if needed.
- If there are edges/areas missing you can choose to clone the bits back in or leave them to give a 'missing piece' effect...

Sheik Zayeed Mosque in Abu Dhabi

If you are ever lost for something to do in the Middle East (in itself, nearly impossible!), this is one unmissable location. The Sheik Zayeed Grand Mosque is certainly very accessible and incredibly impressive. Good news is, like many of the more important mosques in the Middle East, this is fully accesible to Westerners. Women do have to be covered (a jelabi can be borrowed for the visit) but otherwise it is OK to photograph in all the mosque areas, inside and out. And you can use a tripod. Same for the Hassan II mosque in Casablanca, and the Umayaad Mosque in Damascus. Try doing that in Sydney Cathedral and see how long it takes to get thrown out.
Here are a few HDR shots from our first visit to the mosque.