Saturday, 30 June 2012

Focus Stacking Technique

Focus stacking could change your life. Especially if you are trying to shoot a subject that just won't all get everything in the frame into sharp focus.

Why is this? All lenses have a focussing limit - either because their design prevents it from attaining truly deep focus characteristics (like a telephoto lens) or because, once stopped down to the smallest aperture (to get the benefit of depth of field) the image loses some clarity.
The answer to this sharpness dilemma is to make several shots of the same subject (obviously using a tripod) then assembling a 'master' image, deleting the out of focus bits from the three shots while retaining only the sharpest bits. The result? An image that looks like it was shot at f128! Another obvious advantage is that you can shoot the three sections using the lens' sweet spot - which is likely to be f11 - so you capture the frames at the sharpest possible aperture setting and only use the the 'good' bits from each frame. Easy to post process? With Elements, it's a no-brainer. With CS it's just a little more fiddly but I think you'll agree, the results are amazing...                                                                                                                                                                 

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Destination: Broken Hill

Mine head by Glyn Patrick
Nine friends, including six lugging cameras and tripods, set out for Broken Hill in western NSW. It's a two day drive, with an overnight at Nyngan and stops in Cobar and Wilcannia. Arriving in time for ANZAC Day, the first 'assignment' was the dawn service, with following days seeing visits to the old mining town of Silverton, the Menindee Lakes and Kinchega National Park, and Mutawintji National Park. Broken Hill itself offers museums, old mine heads and shafts, galleries and parks - in short, lots of history and art. The Miners' Memorial stands against the skyline on top of the huge slag heap which dwarfs the city. As everyone knows, the past three years have provided unusually good rains, so the landscapes of this trip are not typical, but rather what counts for lush in the outback. After a week, the group dispersed to take different routes back to Sydney, one couple continuing on down the Darling River, another catching up with friends along the way. Robin's students, the photographers: Fay Burdon, Fraser Burdon, Carolyn Grattan, Lucie Loane, Glyn Patrick, Alan Stern.
Container train, Broken Hill by Glyn Patrick

Murray River reflections by Glyn Patrick

Open cut at Broken Hill, Lucie Loane

Sheep shearing shed HDR by Lucie Loane

Before the storm by Lucie Loane

River gums by Lucie Loane

Sculpture with magpie. Pic by Lucie Loane

Shearing shed by Fay Burdon

Mining gear by Fraser Burdon

Old rail tracks, Broken Hill by Fay Burdon.

Minehead by Fraser Burdon

Digger on parade, Alan Stern

Hubcup Lake sunset, Alan Stern

Kinchega woolshed by Alan Stern

Miner's memorial, Carolyn Grattan
Mutawintji National Park. Carolyn Grattan.

Nyngan Sunset. Alan Stern

On the road to Silverton. Fay Burdon.

Young Aboriginal soldier, Fraser Burdon

Silverton Memorial. Pic by Carolyn Grattan.

Silverton Window. Pic by Alan Stern.

Silverton car. Pic by Carolyn Grattan.

Miner - pic by Fraser Burdon

Friday, 1 June 2012

Using a Custom Profile for best DSLR Video Results

One of the oddities involved in shooting video with a DSLR is that there's no obvious RAW file format. For this reason, shooting using a default mode creates all sorts of contrast and dynamic range problems - highlights blow out and noise plagues the shadows.

For the best results you can load a special colour profile that drops the contrast, sharpness and colour values captured in the raw clip dramatically. This profile produces what initially appears to be a fairly useless looking result - the contrast is dead flat and colour almost non-existent. BUT, it gives you nearly two added stops in dynamic range, and because of this, there's less need to crank the ISO values through the roof. And less need to worry unduly about contrast (although this is always relevant when shooting video).

Where do I get one of these special profiles? From the Technicolor website.

So this is what the Cinestyle profile looks link once loaded into the Canon's firmware. You can have up to three different shooting styles should you wish. You can also reduce the sharpness, colour and contrast in the settings - as seen here, to give an even flatter looking tonal response. This then requires the addition of an S-Curve in post-production to add contrast and brightness to bring the visuals back into line with what we want from the image file.

Although this is not a true RAW file for video, it's close to it. Cinestyle is a colour profile designed specifically for Canon DSLR cameras. To use this profile, first download off the Site then follow the instructions. This has to be copied onto a memory card and uploaded into the DSLR - once done it appears in one of the free User Defined Picture Style slots (Canon DSLRs have three spare slots). From this point you can further adjust the contrast and sharpness and colour settings to produce a truly flat looking result.

This is then edited in the normal way using any of the video editing applications on the market. I use Adobe Premiere Pro because it does everything. The clips have to be graded (a video term meaning editing). You can use tools such as Curves to add a slight S-curve back into the clip to boost the highlights and shadows. Doing this turns your not-so-interesting-looking clips to something a lot more visual.