I am not a fan of altering images in post processing by adding or removing objects in the image. Adobe Photoshop recently added a Sky replacement feature. This feature is quite interesting to learn. I was taking some couple photos outside and it is raining all day this week, so the sky is grey all the time. Sky replacement helps to add some colorful skies into the images quite easily in some simple clicks. I have heard about some expensive plugins that uses the socalled Artificial Intelligence to do sky replacement in single click. Photoshop does this pretty fast compared to third party plugin. It was fun to learn sky replacement in Photoshop. You could add your own sky to replace or pick one from the free images provided by Photoshop.
The steps to replace sky:
You can pick one sky from the available options, or you can upload your own.
You can make several adjustment after selecting the sky. Shift edge, adjust temperature and brightness, Change scale, color adjustment, move the sky position etc. are some of them. The dialog that provides all these options is easy to learn, it is all sliders and pop down menu selections.
What can we do if there is water in the foreground ? If there is water and if the sky is colorful, then naturally there will be a reflection in the water if the water is calm. Photoshop do not have the capability to create a reflection, so we have to make our own. I created my own reflection.
Here are the steps for making a reflection of the sky in the water.
Voila, you are done with the adjustments.
You can now continue with your usual post processing of a landscape image by changing Saturation, Sharpness, Noise etc. to your taste.
I always enjoy watching the time lapse of clouds and Sun moving in videos showed on TV during the weather news. My initial thinking was that it is probably a normal video fast forwarded 100 times to show several hours of dynamically changing scenery in just a few seconds. It became even more interesting to me once I learned how to do it with still images crated by a camera. I thought of scribbling what I learned in the past two years while making time lapse of beautiful scenes. I have created time lapse videos showing fast moving clouds, dancing Aurora ( also known as Northern Lights ) and Milkyway.
We need to have a scene where there is moving objects in the frame. An intersection with busy traffic is a good example. Moving clouds make good subject too for time lapse. A busy railway station with trains and people, fireworks, Milkyway, starry sky etc. are all good examples for making time lapse. Make sure to have more than 50% of the area dynamically changing in the frame. If only a small portion of the frame is changing, then that may not make a good time lapse.
You can shoot a sequence of images to make time lapse video using any camera. You can even shoot the images with a phone, you will need an app to do this though - the conventional camera apps that come with the camera may not support this feature. What you need to do is to shoot a sequence of images at frequent intervals. You need a tripod to setup the camera. If there is any stable surface like a wall or car hood, then that is good enough too. Make sure the camera does not move while the images are photographed. Setup the tripod and camera in such a way that no objects ( like people or car ) move immediately in front of the camera and block shooting in the middle. If you are on a trail or a road, make sure to setup the camera a few feet away from the path so that it is not touched or obstructed by people. You will need a intervalometer to setup the camera to shoot images at frequent interval. Many digital cameras come with built in intervalometer. If your camera does not support this feature, you will need a cable release or wireless remote that support the intervalometer. Make sure the battery has enough charge left and also the memory card has enough space to store a few hundred images.
Setup the camera exposure in manual mode. Aperture priority is another way of setting it up if the light changes dynamically in the scene. Take test shots and make sure you get what you expect in the image, setup the exposure in manual or aperture priority mode. It is good to set the lens in manual focus mode. If there is large moving objects in the frame, the camera may struggle in auto focus mode, and you may lose some frames. The easy thing to do is to take a test shot in auto focus mode, and then change the lens/camera to manual focus mode. Or, you can lock the focus in many cameras. In either case, don’t let the lens do auto focus during the shoot. If you are shooting in a busy intersection, an interval of 1 to 5 seconds will give a good video at the end. If you are shooting clouds, 5 - 10 seconds interval is good, consider the speed of the wind. If the wind is heavy, chose short interval like 2-5 seconds. The interval between shots must be larger than your shutter speed. This is relevant if you are shooting in the night. For example, if the shutter speed is 5 seconds, the interval should be 5 seconds or larger. You can lower the ISO and use a wide aperture to get faster shutter speeds in the night. We will need 30 frames per second to make the video, means every 30 images will make one second long video. If you are shooting at 2 seconds interval, then you will get 30 images per minute. If you shoot for 30 minutes, then you will get 30 x 30 = 900 images in 30 minutes, which means the time lapse will have 900/30 = 30 seconds of video. If you are planning to setup the camera in your balcony and plan to shot the whole afternoon or evening to show the change in weather, then use larger intervals like 1 minute.
Post processing :
We will use Lightroom for processing the mages and Photoshop to create the video. Import all the images into Lightroom and do basic editing for the first image. I don't spend much time processing the images. Add some Vibrance and Saturation, adjust whites & blacks, lower the highlights and brighten up the shadows, and add some contrast, apply some dehaze +/-. This should give a reasonably good effect in the video. After editing the first image to your taste, sync all the images with this change. Select all images and export to JPG format. A resolution of 1920 on the longer side is good enough for 1080p video. Make sure to select 'Custom Name - Sequence' in the Lightroom export dialog.
We will now use Photoshop to create the video. In Photoshop, go to File menu and select Open. When the open dialog comes up, browse to the folder where the exported JPG files reside, then select the very first image. Check the 'Image Sequence' option at the bottom right corner of the open dialog. Click 'Open'.
Photoshop will now show another dialog box asking frame rate. Chose 30 as the frame rate. You can also choose 24 for slower video, it is up to you. I chose the standard 30 frames per second usually.
Click OK and Photoshop now will open the files and show a video group for editing, this will take only a couple of seconds. The layers panel will show a video group that you can now edit.
Go to Window menu in Photoshop and select 'Timeline', this will open the video time line at the bottom of the edit window.
Select the 'Audio track' option at the bottom of the Timeline to add an audio file so that you can add music to the video.
Voila, you are done with a basic editing of your time lapse video. Export and enjoy. Go to file menu, and select Export and then "Render Video. . . ' to export the video.
Use your video editing skills to make the video more pretty by adding effects.
Here is some Time lapse videos.
Milkyway and Mount rainier Milkyway and Mount rainier
Milkyway at Palouse falls state parkMilkyway at Palouse falls state park
Dancing of Aurora Borealis, aka Northern LightsThis time lapse video was shot at Gold Creek Pond, near Snoqualmie pass.
Clouds at gold creek pondThis was shot while waiting for Aurora to show up.
Fireworks at KirklandView from heritage park
July 4th is just two days away and it is time to enjoy some fireworks. I have seen that almost every city in and around Seattle has fireworks show on the night of July 4th. When I started learning Photography, fireworks was one of my favorite subjects. I have photographed fireworks in Kirkland Marina for about 4 times in the past. It is one interesting place on the East side of Seattle. I will talk about directions and where to park etc. at the end of this page. Are you ready to photograph the fireworks ? When we think about photographing a show like this, I like to do it in two different approaches (1) Use a fast shutter speed to get the bursts sharp and crisp (2) Another approach is to use a long exposure to get the light trails of the fire going up and exploding in the air. Let us look at both of these in detail. What kind of camera and lens you will need ? You can use almost any camera and lens for this, it is a display of lights and that is what any camera can capture for you. I had good results with a 50mm lens in the past. You can use a telephoto lens of a prime lens, it does not matter. The thing that matters is, how close to the fireworks are you standing. If you are standing close to it, you will need a wide angle lens, if not a prime. You will need a tripod and a remote shutter release. Just in case if you do not have any of these, use self-timer.
Use a fast shutter speed if you want to get just the bursts sharp. Use a high ISO like 800 or higher and set your aperture to F5.6 or wider, if possible. Turn your camera in aperture priority mode and use auto focus to aim at a burst and just shoot. Voila, you will most likely get a shutter speed of 1/100 or faster, and that is good enough to get a sharp image hand holding the camera. It is display of lights, so sharpness does not really matter much. The image below is an example of such an image. I actually added bursts from 4 different images to create this composite image, to make it more interesting and also to have a symmetric balance.
Fireworks at Kirkland View from heritage park
Photographs taken with faster shutter speeds is loved by many people. I have seen such images in most newspapers I read. I love to use long shutter speed to get the light trails from the time the tartar leaves the ground until it finish a burst in the sky. Setup your camera on tripod, and use manual exposure, and set the camera to bulb mode. Set the ISO to 200 and F-stop to F11. Use a cable release or wireless shutter to release the shutter. Watch the ground or barge from where the rockets go up. Click the shutter when you see a rocket leaving the ground. Watch it till it get to the sky and finish a burst. This may take a few seconds. Click remote again to close the shutter when a burst is finished. If bursts are happening one after another, keep the shutter open for up to 30 seconds or more, so you will have bunch of bursts in the same image. Look at the preview of an image on LCD and see how bright is the foreground. Increase or decrease the ISO accordingly to adjust the brightness of the foreground elements in the image. Make sure to turn OFF the 'long exposure noise reduction' feature in your camera, if not the camera will spend same time as your exposure to remove the noise generated by the long exposure. The camera is doing a dark frame subtraction, and we lose time to shoot the next burst. The following image was shot at 30 sec, F11, ISO 200.
Fireworks at Kirkland View from heritage park
Focusing at night can be a problem. There are a few options to think about.
(1) If you are standing relatively close to the fireworks, say 100 meters or so, then auto focus is good enough. One of the auto focus points will lock focus on the brightest location in the frame. Some lenses can make this troublesome if it keeps hunting for focus while the bursts create moving light trails fast, and you can lose frames.
(2) Manual focus is the best friend in this situation. Use the first few seconds after the show starts to find the focus. Set the camera and lens to auto focus mode and try to focus at a burst. Once focus is locked, when you see the green dot staying still in the view finder, change lens to manual focus. You can shoot in manual focus mode for the rest of the show.
(3) We could try manual focus and setup the lens before the show starts. Find a bright object where the fireworks is setup, like a street light or a boat. You can find police boats patrolling in the waters if you are in Kirkland. Use live view and do manual focus on the bright object. Take a picture and test sharpness using the LCD. Once you have found the focus, then you need to lock the focus ring of the lens do that you do not change it accidentally. I use a tape to secure the manual focus ring so that it does not move until you remove the take. If your lens has a distance scale on it, then you can mostly remember the location on the lens, so no need to tape it. Focusing at infinity can help if the bursts are far away from you, not a good idea if you are standing close to the fireworks.
Where to photograph fireworks in Kirkland, on July 4th ? The Heritage park in Kirkland is one good place to see the fireworks in Kirkland. You may have to reach there around 6 pm to find a good spot to setup your tripod. I generally park on the road side near Waverly park, and walk for 1/4 of a mile to the marina or Heritage park. It is easier to walk back to the car and drive away without getting stuck on traffic on the main streets in the city. Fireworks displays are generally short, it happens for only about 15-20 minutes. Shoot fast, apply what ever method you use effectively and fast enough so that you get some keeper images at the end. If you have any questions on the topics discussed in this blog, send me a message, and I will be more than happy to answer them. Hope you will find time to photograph fireworks on July 4th this time, happy shooting.
Fireworks at Kirkland View from heritage park
I visit Yakima valley once of two times every year. You drive south east form Seattle for about two and a half hours and you reach this beautiful valley. If you ask GPS for driving directions, it will take you along I-90 East and then to I-82 East from Ellensburg. This is where you need to make a detour. Before you hit I-82 east, take the Yakima canyon road exit from I-90 and then drive along Yakima river, it is Exit 109 on I-90. The canyon road, the Yakima river and a railway line are almost parallel to each other for several miles, about 20 minutes' drive. It is a pretty interesting drive. I was able to see a slow train, and we followed the train for a few minutes and got some nice views along the way. If it is summer, you cans people enjoying boat or float ride in the river. There is a tour company who does float ride for tourists, it is fun to do. End of summer is the best time to go to Yakima valley if you are interested in wine tasking. Summer is a good time if you enjoy doing vegetable picking or fruit picking. I enjoy visiting the vineyards in the valley and also do wine tasting in one of the several wineries in the region. It is a good place for spending a weekend, and it is not too far from Seattle.
What is interesting about this picture ? I like curves and other geometric shapes in images, and this is one such situation where I could get the long train in the frame that created a beautiful curve. The mountains in the foreground also has a couple of curves, and so is the river. The sky wasn't that great because this was taken during middle of the day. The partly cloudy sky would have created majestic colors if it was early in the morning or late in the evening, I will try that probably during my next trip to Yakima.
Exposure : 24 mm, ISO 100, 1/125 sec, F11
Link to the picture gallery : http://www.muraleephotos.com/p923807171
Curves, geometric shapes.
Have you ever been to Winthrop, Washington on the North cascades ? It is a beautiful little town on the cascade mountains, East of the cascade range. There is a Hot Air Balloon festival that happens during the first weekend in March every year. Around 40 to 50 balloons take off in the morning and it is a colorful scene to watch. It is cold up there and the ground is generally covered in snow and ice during this time, of the year. I have been to this festival last year and witnessed the event. They plan this an year ahead, but several climatic conditions needs to be satisfied in order for them to fly. The sky should be clear with no or little clouds, the wind speed must be less than 5 miles. They inflate the balloons before the sunrise and they go up in the air around the time when Sun comes up in the horizon. They fly for around one to two hours and come back to the ground when the sun becomes hot. You could drive along north cascade highway ( WA 20 ) to reach there from Seattle. But, that highway is closed in winter, and it is not open until end of march. So you have to drive through Lake Chelan along a long route, from Seattle -> Leavenworth -> Lake Chelan -> Winthrop. It is a long ride, but it is worth the effort.
What is interesting about the picture showcased here ? It is the perspective, you look at the same balloon from different angles and at different distances, you get different images. I find the balloons very colorful with contract n colors a nice object to photograph.
Exposure : 105 mm, ISO 400, 1/500 sec, F8, -1/3 exposure compensation
Link to the picture gallery : http://www.muraleephotos.com/p680439742/h6d617763#h6d617763
Contrast, colors, perspective.