Friday, 22 August 2014

Variations on a Theme

Here's a short article looking at what you can do with iPhone and iPad apps to create images that really pop and leave an impression.

First, we have the original image captured by ProCamera 7, because I use that app to separate Exposure and Focus Point which allows me to expose for the sky and let the shadows go.

Next, I run it through a series of processes in Snapseed to bring back all the detail, texture, colour and light that I saw at the scene. The camera, or rather, the file, actually has all these details, but we have to coax it out of the file and back into view.

So the above, is the benchmark image that then spawned what you see below as it is run through a different app (each time starting with this "pristine" image).

First up is a bizarre little app called Percolator. It's hard to describe exactly how the controls work, and it's best simply played-with. Sometimes ya get something, and sometimes ya don't.

Monokrom is my new favorite B&W conversion app. It's intuitive to use, easy to get results, and the flexibility outdoes all the others.

Moku Hanga recreates the image as a Japanese-style woodcut.

This one uses AutoPainter 3 to render the image as an oil painting in the style of Val d'Orsia.

Tiny Planets folds the image into a planetoid.

Or, conversely, produces a "rabbithole view".

The Seurrat app does a not-really-convincing pointilist version.

Craze is a oil / acrylic media type app.

And the very fun duo of AlienSky and LensFlare yielded this classic:

One of my favorite apps is Painteresque. Here, I've used it to show the image as a lithograph.

I think, though, that this simple, delicate watercolor by Waterlogue is the nicest variation on the theme.

Variety is the spice of life!

Saturday, 26 July 2014

In Search of the Holy Grail: Good iOS B&W

With over fifty-years of photography experience, I have a great fondness for black and white images. I grew up shooting, developing and printing B&W, and now with digital, it is even simpler to produce stunning results. Well, on a desktop computer it is, but I've been struggling to get comparable results when processing my iPhone images on my iPhone / iPad using iOS apps.

The above image, shot with the ProCamera 7 app on my iPhone 4S, was processed on my iMac using Photoshop and Nik's Color Efex Pro 4 and Silver Efex Pro 2 software. My workflow starts with Adobe Camera RAW, then entails using Color Efex Pro to prepare the color image using a custom preset I created using the Detail Extractor, Polarization and Pro Contrast filters to bring out detail and contrast. (I like dramatic B&W images, with lots of detail and contrast.) This gives me a file that is then brought into Silver Efex Pro and again, using a custom preset, converted to B&W with a slight Selenium tone. It is this look that I have been trying to recreate in iOS.

I've tried any number of dedicated B&W conversion apps, and they all fall short of what I'm trying to accomplish, so I looked at apps that were more capable, such as Snapseed (which I use for all my colour work), and a new app called Filterstorm Neue. (I have had Filterstorm HD since it became available and it is very capable, but the UI never appealed to me. Filterstorm Neue's new UI solves this issue and it is a very powerful app.) So, with the above image in mind as my goal, here is the workflow for the two apps and the results:

Here is the original iPhone image:

First, we'll look at Filterstorm Neue and follow the flow. Filterstorm Neue's UI consists of menu choices that allow you to easily choose and execute functions.

My first step is the Edit / Tone Map function to bring out texture and "tooth" in the image so that I have a wider range of tones to use for B&W conversion.

Next, I used Levels to help darken down some of the midtones.

Next, a touch of sharpening to bring out more detail.

Now I convert to B&W, using 100% red, 0% green and blue.

Curves are next to increase the drama a bit more.

Finally, using the Color function, I chose a bluish-grey tone and used the Soft Light blend mode to try to recreate the selenium tone I like so much.

Here is the result.
While I do like the result, it doesn't have the delicate detail that the Silver Efex Pro version does, nor is the toning correct. So, on to Snapseed...

In Snapseed, I first use the HDR Scape function at 100% to create a tone mapped image.

Next, I used the Ambiance function in Tune Image to bring out some extra toning to increase the palette before conversion.

Then, in the Details tab, I use Structure and Sharpen to increase detail.

Finally, in the Black & White tab, I chose the Dark preset and added a Red filter.

Here is the result:

This method allows me to retain the delicate detail that I was looking for, but again, does not allow me to match the selenium toning look. I am, however, much more pleased with the results than what I get with any of the other apps that tout "the best B&W conversion".

I think more experimentation is called for, and since these methods show potential, especially the Snapseed one, it may simply be a matter of persevering to get a closer result to what I can achieve so easily on my desktop.

EDIT 20140727
I just tried a new (to me) app for B&W processing called Monokrom, which has a really easy to use interface that allows you to specify a tone within your image to use as a base and then adjust contrast and colour tone. I used Snapseed as shown above to prepare the image and then Monokrom to do the conversion and toning. I like the results quite a bit. See what you think:

I think that Monokrom will allow me to get closer to my desktop results, so I'm very happy!

Monday, 23 June 2014

Postcards from the Past: From Russia With Love

A few years ago, in May of 2004, a business trip took me to Moscow, and I was fortunate enough to have some time to get out and wander around. At that time, I was shooting with a Leica Digilux 2 camera that had a 28-90mm f2 - f2.4 zoom lens and was capable of some fairly nice 5MP files.

Recently, I re-processed a number of the files using Photoshop and Nik software and then used an iPad app called Vintage FX to create the look of old picture postcards. I hope you will find them enjoyable.













That's all for now, hope you found them interesting.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Equipment Adoration or Camera Porn

Most photographers - and other artists and workers who use tools - are often quite proud of their equipment. Indeed although some photogs eschew a particular camera or type of camera, you also get many that form an attachment to this same equipment. And when you're proud of something and you're a photographer, well Hell, ya take pictures of it.
In reality, what we're talking about is product photography, where the treasured camera/lens is portrayed lovingly and tastefully.

In my case, the cameras I've been blissfully happy with for ages now are a pair of Sony NEX 7 bodies that I just love to pair up with some nice Voigtländer rangefinder lenses.

These tiny 24MP APC-sized sensor bodies are light, solid, and although hindered by Sony's astonishingly bad menu design, they have remarkable capability.

My favorite trio of Voigtländer lenses includes the 12mm f5.6 Aspherical Ultra Wide-Heliar that gives me a 35EQ FOV of 18mm... still nice and wide.

The 28mm f2 Ultron is equivalent to 42mm in 35mm camera terms. A good middle range normal lens.

At the high end of the rangefinder lenses, I have the 90mm f3.5 APO-Lanthar for a 35EQ view of 135mm.

You may note that I use electrical tape to cover camera product names and logos so there's little to draw the eye. Upon purchase, I immediately applied Invisible Shield to the LCDs and then electrical tape to also cover the top surface and all controls. I do this as I often wear both bodies one-above-the-other and this preclude any scratches from a whack or a graze from the Kirk QR plates. The flash shoe is simply taped over as I never use flash (although tape over the internal pop-up flash is cut to allow operation).

(Images 2 and 3 from NEX 7 / Sony 50mm f1.8, all others from Lumix LX5 / Leica f2)

Well, this was a gratifying rainy day project. I was happy, the Bear was happy. You be happy!