Behind the Scenes: How This Image was Captured and Processed

Final Image, with 100% Scale Detail Inset

Final Image, with 100% Scale Detail Inset (Click for 100% View)

At 6AM this morning, the marine fog layer was thicker than usual in the California Central Coast. There was a diffused glow hinting at a sunrise to come, or that might never come, given the fog layer. So the tripod and camera at hand were grabbed immediately, as sunrise shots can fade quickly. This was shot using a Canon 5D Mark lll, with the L-series 24-105 f:4 lens.

Stepping out onto the balcony, the palmetto tree in the image was the best choice of foreground subjects, so the camera was set up to capture that, plus the sky to one side of it. A five second exposure at f:4 and ISO 200 seemed to offer a good balance, but five seconds was long enough to let the lightest of breezes blur all the palm frond tips. The camera was set to “two squeeze mode” where pressing the shutter the first time raises the mirror, eliminating mirror shake in the actual exposure, and the shot does not occur until the second time the shutter is squeezed. A remote trigger tool would have been appropriate, but there was not one available, so a light touch was used, along with many exposures. The multiple exposures were also shot in an attempt to catch a frame between breaths of wind. Of all the frames taken, there was one where nearly all the tips were still.

The sunrise gradient is from rather unusual lighting circumstances. The lights from the town are below where this shot was taken. The gradient is caused by the sunrise colors diffused through the fog above, with the town lights glowing below, and adding a yellow tint. There is no “sky” involved anywhere, its all gradated colored mist. To the naked eye, the scene was a black silhouetted palmetto with no detail, against a dim tinted mist.

The capture was processed in Lightroom 4, which offers significantly improved functionality for adjusting dynamic range in the various elements of an image over earlier versions. The global saturation was increased considerably, but the hues were not changed, and no type of artificial gradient was applied to the image.

This shot was a challenge for the 24-105 lens on a full frame sensor, given the very diffuse, even light field involved, which made the darkening at the corners of the frame very apparent. Even after applying Lightroom’s lens corrections for the lens, and increasing the vignette removal amount, it was still necessary to clone the very corners, just slightly, to keep them from being dark. It required very subtle work, with reduced opacity, heavy feathering, and just a tiny move, to keep from showing further out. Corner correction was the only localized adjustment performed; all other adjustments were global LR4 corrections.

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012.   Website:   Return to Blog’s Main Page

Color Comparison: Canon 5D Mark lll and Nikon D800

This article compares the uncalibrated and calibrated color from Canon and Nikon’s recently released pro camera bodies: the Canon 5D Mark lll, and the Nikon D800. I recently spent two weeks in Tuscany shooting with other photographers. One of those was Kevin O’Connor, who was carrying the new Nikon D800, while I was carrying the Canon 5D Mark lll. It was interesting to compare the two cameras in terms of various types of shooting from sports to glamour, from food to landscape, not to mention low light and long lenses. But this article focusses on one factor of each camera: its native color, and its calibrated color.

The calibration tool used was Datacolor’s SpyderCheckr, which (in addition to the SpyderCube) we had with us on the trip. The SpyderCheckr target was shot with each body, and the resulting RAW file was cropped, white balanced, and exposure compensated in Lightroom before export to the SpyderCheckr utility, where a colorimetric calibration correction set was built for each. The image below shows the each of eight color channels, and the corrections to Hue, Saturation, and Lightness made to these channels for both bodies, with the 5D Mark lll on the left, and the D8oo on the right.

SpyderCheckr corrections for Canon 5D Mark lll (left) and Nikon D800 (right)

The first thing to notice in these corrections is that they are quite similar to one another. The 5D Hue adjustments tend to be a bit smaller than those for the D800, while the D800 Saturation are larger. The D800 Luminance adjustments are significantly larger than those for the 5D Mark lll. There is some variation in which colors need correction, but typically it is for a similar set of colors, and in a similar direction, for both cameras.

Shooting the same event with both Canon and Nikon bodies tends to produce images that are recognizably different, especially in bright reds and in sky blues. So the two sample images I have selected for comparison are ones containing those colors. First, lets look at similar shots of a musician from above. Here are the two images at Lightroom default import values, with exposure corrected for as close a match as possible.

Uncalibrated Image at Lightroom Defaults, Canon 5D Mark lll

Uncalibrated Image at Lightroom Defaults, Nnikon D800

Keep in mind that these images have been converted to sRGB for the web, and are viewed on your display; only you know how good your display is, whether it is calibrated, or how reasonable your ambient lighting conditions are. But the relative difference between the files should still be visible, unless your ambient lightings is so bright you can’t see the screen well. Both cameras produce a bright red for the shirt that the experienced eye sees as oversaturated, as well as problematic to print. Lets see what the files look like once the SpyderCheckr calibration has been applied to them.

SpyderCheckr Calibrated Image at Lightroom Defaults, Canon 5D Mark lll

SpyderCheckr Calibrated Image at Lightroom Defaults, Nikon D800

Both reds are now more believable, and more printable. There is still a minor white balance difference between the images, which ideally would be corrected with a SpyderCube, but once that is adjusted, it would be difficult to tell the calibrated results from the two cameras apart.

Now for the blue sky example. This is the most common Canon/Nikon mismatch issue, since the sky is such a common image element. First, the uncalibrated output from both cameras.

Uncalibrated Image at Lightroom Defaults, Canon 5D Mark lll

Uncalibrated Image at Lightroom Defaults, Nikon D800

Even on the web, its possible to spot the difference, with the Nikon producing a greener result, while the Canon produces a darker result. On a calibrated monitor I would say the Nikon hue is off, and the Canon luminance may be a bit dark; but its difficult to make a judgement on the web. Now the corrected versions.

SpyderCheckr Calibrated Image at Lightroom Defaults, Canon 5D Mark lll

SpyderCheckr Calibrated Image at Lightroom Defaults, Nikon D800

Here we are looking at an even smaller variation in camera white balance, and an even better match between the two cameras. I have complete confidence that, with these sets of HSL color corrections for each camera body, plus SpyderCube shots to adjust white balance and exposure for each lighting condition, that these two cameras would produce images with indistinguishable color, allowing them to be used side by side for even the most important of events.

All Nikon D800 images: Copyright Kevin O’Connor. Thanks Kevin, for your assistance in the preparation for this article.

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012. Website: Return to Blog’s Main Page

Using the SpyderCube with Lightroom 4

I’ve been working on the necessary directions for using the Datacolor SpyderCube with the new controls in Lightroom 4’s Process 2012. I’d appreciate any feedback from photographers who try this out. You don’t need to take a new shot of the Cube to test this, you can take a previous image with the Cube in it, reset it in Develop (which will automatically update it to Process 2012), then use these directions for making your adjustments with the new controls.

1. Go to the Lightroom Develop Mode. Set the White Balance by using the eyedropper to sample from the center of the lighter of the two gray faces, which represents the primary light source’s color temperature and tint.

2. View RGB values in the Histogram Section. Set the Exposure control so that the lighter gray face has RGB values of 50%, or your preferred card gray value.

3. Set the Whites control so that the lighter white face has RGB values of 90%, or your preferred card white value.

4. Turn on White Clipping Indicator. Check that Specular Highlights in Chrome Ball reach 100% and trigger White Clipping Indicator. If not, increase Whites level to achieve Specular Highlights, and adjust white face back to 90% using Highlights control. Optimize relation between Specular Highlights and Card Whites with Whites and Highlights controls.

5. Turn on the Black Clipping Warning. Adjust the Blacks control until the SpyderCube’s black trap is mostly or entirely to the Black Warning color; RGB values of 1% or less.

6. Adjust the Shadows control until the black face shows RGB values of 5% to 10%, depending on the amount of “bounce light” illuminating the black face. Turn Black Clipping off for visual check that black trap can be easily distinguished from black face.

7. Recheck the card white and card gray RGB values again, as each adjustment can effect the adjustments made before it. Retune until optimal.

8. Apply this set of adjustments to all other images shot under these lighting conditions by using Previous button, or by saving as a Preset.

This method now has five controls, instead of the three used in earlier Processes, offering finer control of shadow-to-black ratios and black clipping, and highlight-to-whites ratios and white clipping.

I tested this process on a number of my own files, and this example was a compelling argument for using the Cube. We often think such assistance isn’t needed outdoors under  good sunlight, and even less important with a lens such as a Lensbaby. But the shots below show the SpyderCube used under just such conditions, and a related image before and after applying the resulting SpyderCube corrections. It produces a noticeable improvement in white balance, turning the sky a more appropriate sky blue, the shingles a more accurate shade, shows more saturation in the flowers, opens the shadows on the porch, increasing shingle detail under the porch roof, while improving the punch of the dark windows.

So while its tempting to show the radical improvements that using the Cube provides to difficult situations, instead I’m showing what it does in a situation where even I wasn’t sure it was really necessary…

Could  I have made similar adjustments without the Cube? Perhaps, but how does one know just what corrections to make, without a reference? The Cube manages to pack several references into one device, and captures side lighting of the type in this photo in a way that a flat target does not; a flat target would captured much less sun, and much more blue sky bounce, and given a significantly cooler white balance.

This is the shot with the SpyderCube in it, after adjustments.

Here’s what the next frame looked like, at default settings in Lightroom.

Here are the subtle, but excellent, adjustments the Cube settings provide.

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012. Website: Return to Blog’s Main Page

Datacolor Photoshop CS6 & Lightroom 4 Webinar, Wednesday May 16, at 3PM EDT

Wednesday’s Datacolor Webinar will cover color management, and particularly soft proofing, using Photoshop CS6, plus the new soft proofing functions of Lightroom 4. Don’t miss this opportunity to get familiar with these new functions and how to use them, with David Saffir and myself.

You can register for this webinar here.

There will be a Datacolor Spyder4Pro given away to a webinar participant, and there are likely to be some excellent specials as well.

Sign up now to reserve a space.

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012. Website: Return to Blog’s Main Page

Canon 5D Mark lll, Lightroom 4 Shadow Detail at 100%

Following yesterday’s post on 5D Mark lll shadow detail I’ve had numerous requests for a pair of shadow detail images, one of the full shot, the other of a 100% detail from the same image. The image below was shot in direct sunlight, with deep shadows in the seaweed, and highlights in the barnacles for a broad dynamic range in the image. (For the geeks, this was shot at ISO 100,  f/11, 100th of a second, at 65mm with a Canon 24-105 f/4L IS USM lens). Here’s a jpg reduction of the full image, cropped in height for the subject, but the full width (minor direction) of the original file:

Mermaid's Wigstand

Below is a crop from the center of the image, at 100%, so its showing the individual pixels, with minimal jpg compression in this version of the image. The image was opened into Lightroom 4.1. Three adjustments were made, all of them lens-specific. A sharp prime lens would probably require less, if any, adjustment for all three of these controls. They  were: an increase to Shadows, and increase to Clarity, and an increase to Saturation. Your mileage (and lenses) may vary. Please click on the detail below for a 100% view. For more articles on the 5D Mark lll, and on Lightroom 4, please consult the right column.

Mermaid's Wigstand Detail at 100%

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012. Website: Return to Blog’s Main Page

Canon 5D Mark lll, Lightroom 4 Shadow Detail

The shot below was taken the day after Easter, with the Canon 5D Mark lll. Two things we are always looking for from a new camera is more resolution, and more dynamic range. In this case the shot was time-sensitive, so switching to the 70-200mm lens which was in the camera case in the back of the car would have cost me the shot. Instead I stepped out of the car door, to remove the windshield from the photo, zoomed the current lens (24-105mm) to its longest throw, and shot just in time to capture this frame, before the crow flew away with his prize Easter egg.

Crow with Easter Egg; 5D Mark lll crop, Lightroom 4.1 processing

So the question is: what would have been more useful here, more resolution, so that I’d have more pixels in this heavy crop, or more dynamic range, which allowed me to open up the shadows to bring definition to the crow? For those of you not yet reading between the lines, I’m asking if Canon’s choice in the 5D Mark lll in favor or not increasing resolution, and using that capacity to improve dynamic range instead, offered more to this shot; or if I would have been better off with Nikon’s new 800d, which would have produced half again as many pixels, but without an equivalent boost to the dynamic range.

Given the amount of character the detail in the feathers, and especially the eye, provide to the image, I’m not sorry it was the 5D used. And credit is due to Lightroom 4.1 as well, since the ability to bring out such shadow detail without undue noise and artifacts is something that previous versions of Lightroom could not have managed.

Another factor I should note is autofocus: I have used all my previous DSLR cameras almost exclusively in manual focus mode. The 5D Mark lll has such amazing autofocus I find I am using it more and more. Here, the time to manually focus was lacking, and it was only the fact that the camera was already in autofocus mode that saved the day. Picking the crow, tiny in the original image, out from the array of other highly detailed elements in the center of the frame was little short of amazing.

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012. Website: Return to Blog’s Main Page

Using Datacolor’s SpyderCube with Lightroom 4’s Process 2012

Datacolor’s SpyderCube can be used to set white balance and exposure settings by shooting it in an initial image under a given lighting condition, correcting basic settings in RAW converters such as Adobe Lightroom, and then applying those corrections to all other images shot under the same conditions. Adobe’s new Lightroom 4 defaults to a new set of RAW import controls called Process 2012, which function differently than previous Lightroom controls. This article outlines the differences between the previous Process 2010 and the new Process 2012, and how to achieve similar results from the two different processes when adjusting images using the SpyderCube.

The controls and their default settings for the Basic tools in the Develop Mode of Lightroom under Process 2010 are shown below on the left, with the Process 2012 equivalent controls, also at default settings on the right.

Process 2010 and Process 2012 default settings for the Basic controls

Images which were previously imported through Lightroom 3 will appear in Lightroom 4 using Process 2010; older images imported using Lightroom versions 1 or 2 will show as Process 2003. New imports in Lightroom 4 will appear as Process 2012 images. This brings two questions to mind; can images be converted from Process 2003 and 2010 to Process 2012 without visible changes? Not automatically, as explained in an earlier article. But with careful tweaking, the results can be very close, as we will demonstrate here.

Below are the copies of the same RAW file, one opened at defaults in Process 2010, the other opened at the default settings in Process 2012. Clipping warnings or white and black ends are turned on in both images, to show the relative clipping the two defaults produce.

Image opened using Process 2010 and Process 2012 defaults, with black and white clipping warnings

There are some differences in the densities and clipping, due to the differences in the defaults, and the different default Tone Curves in the two Processes. Next I use the SpyderCube to correct the p2010 image in the manner that the Cube has been used to correct images with Lightroom previously. The resulting adjustments are shown on the left below. I then adjusted the p2012 version of the file to as close to identical as the rather different controls in p2012 allowed. These adjustments are on the right below.

Process 2010 and Process 2012 adjusted settings

These adjustments resulted in the pair of corrected images shown below. As you can see, there is not much difference to the eye. However, the new controls in Process 2012 have other advantages not apparent here that are well worth the upgrade.

Images adjusted in Process 2010 and Process 2012

Below are the same two corrected images, with black and white clipping warnings turned on.

Adjusted images with black and white clipping warnings turned on

As you can see, the black clipping areas are nearly identical. The white clipping is somewhat reduced under Process 2012, due to changes in how the controls function.

Under any Process, the first adjustment is to set the White Balance by using its eyedropper to sample from the center of the lighter of the two gray faces, which represents the primary light source’s color temperature and tint. Under Process 2003 and 2010, the lighter white face was then adjusted to a value of about 90%, using the Exposure control. Then the lighter gray face was adjusted to a value ranging from 50% for shots in direct sunlight to higher values in lower light conditions. This was done with the Brightness control. Further fine tuning of Exposure and Brightness are often necessary, to compensate for each other, until the target percents are shown in both the primary gray and primary white samples. Finally the blacks were adjusted until an appropriate visual distinction was visible on a calibrated monitor in proper editing conditions (dim ambient lighting), resulting in a black value usually in the range of 10%, if there was splash lighting hitting the black face, or as low as 5% if there was not. White and gray values are rechecked if there is significant adjustment for the blacks, and adjusted if necessary.

Under Process 2012, it would seem that the nearest equivalent to this method would use Exposure to set whites, Whites to set grays, and Blacks to set blacks. But this does not produce the expected results with the new controls.

Instead a significantly different method can be used to obtain similar results. Once the image is white balanced, the Exposure control is used next to set the lighter gray face to the desired level. Then the Whites control is used to set the lighter white face to the appropriate level, with minor adjustments to the Highlights control if needed for optimal results. Again, these are tuned until gray and white levels are appropriate. Now the Blacks control can be adjusted to control black clipping in the SpyderCube’s black trap, while the black face surrounding the trap can be adjusted using the Shadows control. Finally, checks of white and gray are done again, once black adjustments are complete. This method now has five controls which can be brought into play, instead of the three used in earlier Processes, offering finer control of shadow to black ratios and black clipping, and highlight to whites ratios and white clipping.

Notice in the adjusted settings image above that Process 2010 editing increased the Exposure significantly, while reducing the Brightness (which started at a default of +50). Under Process 2012, Exposure is increased only fractionally, while Whites are increased significantly. Lightening an image using the Whites control increases the brightness of the dark areas less than the Exposure control, so effects the grays of the SpyderCube less, for a similar change in the Cube’s whites than the Exposure control. It is the differential between these two controls that is being used to control highlight values versus midtone values, and produce some, but not too much, white clipping in the chrome ball on top of the Cube to assure specular highlights are correctly set. Similarly the Blacks control, which clips, and the Shadows control, which does not, are played against one another for clean blacks in the black trap, and appropriate shadow detail in the black face.

Opposing Adjustments to Blacks and Shadows can be used under Process 2012

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012. Website: Return to Blog’s Main Page