art, culture, history, seasons, world

The countdown is started!

dsc_3080-ec_wToday is Sunday, November 29th.

In christian tradition Sundays are the most important day of the week, when all faithful people are supposed to go to church for attending the service. Last Sunday we have had Eternity Sunday as the last Sunday of the religious year. So, today is the first day of the religious year: The first of Advent (Sunday).

(btw. in another past post, I’ve written a bit more about the special holidays before Advent).

The time surrounding the 4 Sundays before Christmas are called Advent, meaning preparation, pleasant anticipation and expectation.

Back in the first half of the 19th century a protestant pastor got the idea to visualize these 4 Sundays until Christmas each with a candle mounted on a wreath made of fir twigs. Each Advent Sunday one of these candles is inflamed, while the candles of the past Sundays are still burning. So, you have one candle burning on the first Advent, two candles on the second Advent, three on the Third and all four candles on the fourth Advent. The christmas tree won’t be erected before Christmas Eve on December 24th (although many families do this earlier nowadays and don’t wait until December 24th).

Over the next years the idea spread over Germany and became about 100 years later common even in catholic regions. Nowadays you can find Advent Wreath in nearly every home, church and even many shops.

It’s also quite common, to put a few pine twigs with some decorations in the homes. The traditional colors of this time are green, red and yellow.

The green stands for live and hope, even in this dark and unfriendly time, when nature seems dead. Only firs and pines are green in this time of the year, so they are also a symbol. The burning candles are a symbol for Jesus, the light of the world. The other parts, like the color of the candles, the further decoration or the order for the inflammation of the candles are part of regional different rules. The shape of the wreath stands for eternity, because a ring has no end.

So, I wish you a happy, peaceful and joyful Advent time wherever you are and whatever tradition, country, religions or ethical group you belong to.

Take care!

culture, landscape, nature, travel, world

Between two continents

600_9759_wDid I mention, Iceland is a land of fire? Sure, I did. Many volcanos can be found here, because of its location right on the crack of the north-american earth plate and the european earth-plate. The gap between these two plates become wider each year, thus the distance between Europe and North-America increases. Hey, North-America flees Europe 🙂

Most of the gap is below the atlantic ocean. But, here, in Iceland, you have the option to have your feet on both continents at the same time 🙂

In the image above, I’m standing on a small bridge right above the crack. It’s a quite funny feeling.

In the gallery below, you can find a map and an info board locate beside the bridge as well.

Take care!

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art, Computer, photography, postprocessing, software, technic

A new kid in the block: Aurora HDR

20150729_204950-610_1948_hdr_wIn my previous post on HDR images I already mentioned this new software by MacPhun: Aurora HDR.

I got the opportunity to test it. As I mentioned in that post, I use HDR sometimes to enhance some of my images. Until now, I worked with Photomatix HDR, Luminance HDR, HDR Efex, Oloneo PhotoEngine and the build-in HDR function of Photoshop. All of these are great. So, why another software?

First of all, Aurora HDR can open RAW files. The other tools only work with TIF or JPG files (never try HDR with a bundle of JPG files!!). Next, it will align your images if necessary and remove ghost artifacts as well as chromatic aberrations. It also works great with a single image, although this is not the common situation when it comes to HDR 🙂

The image alignment and ghost artifacts removal functions work really great. The above image consists of 3 single images +/- 1EV and were all shot hand-held, because it was an unplanned shot. Thus, I didn’t have had a tripod with me. While the alignment function shifts the images in layers in a manner, so that all lines are in the exact same positions, the ghost artifact removal function tries the same with moving elements. You know, taking a few images in a row, moving elements (i.e. the people in the above image) are moving further and the software hast to estimate, which parts to keep for the final image and which parts to skip.

The GUI is very similar to the other MacPhun tools, like Tonality, Intensify and so on. In the lower right corner you get a collection of presets grouped in categories as a starting point. At to bottom of your screen, you can see a small preview of a the pre-sets applied to you current image. You can suppress this area, once you have chosen a preset. Now, you work with the sliders on the right of your screen to adjust the settings inherited from the chosen preset. Each change is displayed at once. So, you can see, what you get when changing a setting. An other similarity to the other MacPhun products is, you can work with layers. This is, you can paint an enhancement in parts of the image, while having a different setting for other parts of your image. So, you can work in layers without Photoshop. On the other hand, Aurora HDR will also work as a plugin for Photoshop (just like the other MacPhun products, too)

Although it comes with many presets, I miss some of the typical HDR presets available in the other tools. Those, with the over the top colorful output. OK, I won’t ever use them, but I guess, some guys out there will complain about it. In my opinion, there are enough presets. Finally, you will end up using only a few of them on a regular basis, those fitting most to your personal style. And, you have the option to save your own presets and eventually exchange them with your friends.

Jump over to MacPhun and get your trial. You can also apply for a free seat and attend a webinar to see this software in action. Currently there’s a Black Friday Promo running ’till December 1st.

 

3255-240600

 

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art, photography, technic

High Dynamic Range Images

dsc_1194-h3e_wA few days ago, I got another interesting kind of photo software from MacPhun: Aurora HDR

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. Before I start a review of this new software, I want to explain the basics in this concept first.

Dynamic is the variance from brightest to darkest parts of a natural scene, which is visible lossless when looking on it or capturing it in a single frame. Comparing the capabilities of the human eye and a modern digital sensor, you’ll find a huge difference. According to (Source), the human eye (although not the best in nature!) has a dynamic range of about 20 f-stops (out of 23 – a range from starlight lit scenes to white snow in full high standing sun at noon without clouds in the sky). So, you can see details in the dark, even when the surrounding scene is very bright – or vice vera. The sensor of your camera has a dynamic range of 6 – 8 f-stops in jpg files (depending on the quality of your camera). In raw files you’re able to capture dynamic ranges of about 10 – 12 f-stops (also depending of the quality of your camera) . Why jpg-files are so bad and why you should use raw files instead, was the topic for a past post.

But back to our todays topic: HDR. To cope with the reduced dynamic range compared to our natural experience through our own eyes someone invented a technique to capture more information for an image. Therefore you have to take more than one shot of a scene by using several shots of an identical frame, but modify the exposure slightly by shifting the exposure time without changing anything else. You take one correct exposed shot balanced for the mid-tones. Next, you take an under-exposed image (i.e. -1 f-stop) and next an over-exposed image (i.e. +1 f-stop). The under-exposed image represents the highlights, so you should be able to see all the details in the bright partes of the image. In this image all dark parts might be black, but that’s fine for now. The over-exposed image is the opposite of the under-exposed image. Here, you get the details in the dark parts, while the bright parts are blown out and nearly white.

Don’t try to simply adjust your aperture, by changing the f-stop. Although, this results in a modified exposure-time, it also changes the characteristics of the image: the field of depth is changed, while the exposure balance stays the same 😦 That’s not our intention!

You have to use the “+/-“-key on your camera or switch to manual mode, to dial in the corresponding exposure times manually. Keep in mind, +1 f-stop means doubling the exposure time twice (.i.e. 1/100s -> 1/50 -> 1/25s) and -1 f-stop means dividing the time in halves twice  (i.e. 10s -> 5s -> 2.5s).

Just in case, the +/- 1 f-stop images aren’t enough to bring back details in the dark and / or bright parts, try +/- 2 f-stops or come up with a row of five more images (-2, -1, 0, +1, +2). You could also end up with even more than 5 image for a single series. Expand the series as long as you have any black or white parts in you image. Many cameras assist you in here, while marking these parts blinking (the mode is called ‘highlights’ in my camera menu and works only on the small screen on the back of my camera – the image is ok, only the in-camera playback is marked this way). By using this, you can shift the EV in each direction, as long as all of the blinking parts vanish in that direction. I.e. you increase +EV to get the dark details, but in the same moment, you’ll loose more and more highlights. As I said above, that’s ok. Next you increase your series -EV to capture the details in the highlights, by loosing the darks. That’s also ok. You have to increase +EV as long, as there are no blinking dark parts left and you increase -EV as long, as there are no blinking highlights left. You don’t need to increase in thirds, as your camera might step up and down. It’s enough to use the whole numbers as I mentioned earlier. As you might imagine, all of these requires an unchanged camera position! Always use a tripod for this and disable your image stabilizer while the camera is mounted on top of a tripod!

Back at home, take your series of images (usually 3 or more), make your usual corrections (i.e. shifting the horizon) for all images of that series exactly the same way and pay attention to get correct aligned images at this stage. All of them should show exactly the same cutting and the same orientation, convert them to tiff (for preserving all information – never use jpg in this stage) and use a HDR software, just like Aurora HDR from MacPhun (there are more software products available for creating HDR images) to fuse these files to a single balanced image with details in all parts of the image. Croping should be done at the very last step on the final image! And, that’s the point where I’m continuing soon!

For now, I’ve assembled a small gallery of some of my HDR images. Although, there are some photographers out there, who love very intense colors for their HDR images, I don’t do so! I use this technique very mild to get natural looking images.

Take care!

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