Every last Sunday in March we move our clocks forward one hour in the UK (some countries in the southern hemisphere go back an hour at a similar time of year). And on the last Sunday in October we go back to GMT (and vice versa for the southern hemisphere countries). Of course, many people diligently go round their house changing all the clocks and watches they can get their hands on in a time-honoured ritual, but there are some clocks that often go neglected, like the one in your camera.
I realised this morning (only 2 months late) that my cameras were both still on GMT, so I promptly changed them. However, what about all the photos I had taken since March 31st? I have no fewer than 3,152 photos with incorrect metadata, surely it’s too late to fix that now?
Thankfully, Adobe Lightroom has the answer. In the Library module, select all the photos that are affected (if you’re in the UK, this will be all photos taken on or after 31st March 2013) and from the Metadata menu, select ‘Edit Capture Time…’
This brings up the following dialog:
Check the second radio button (‘Shift by a set number of hours (time zone adjust)’). If you’re moving from winter to summer (as we are here in the north, not that you’d know it from recent weather) then select ‘+1’ in the drop-down menu (‘spring forward’, as the saying goes). For transition to winter time, select ‘-1’ (‘fall back’, which only works if you don’t use the word ‘autumn’ for the time of year that follows summer). Click ‘Change’ and let Lightroom do its thing. Now go and change the clocks on your cameras, and remember to include them next time the clocks are changed.
If you live in Iceland, you can disregard this post, and smugly enjoy your year-round GMT.
Apple’s iPad, with its Retina display, is a great way to carry a high-quality portfolio around with you in a small package without having to pay for prints. Keeping the portfolio up to date is not as complicated as it might seem, if you use Lightroom and iTunes in combination to set a folder on your computer to be synchronised with your iPad.
The first thing you need to do, in Lightroom, is create a Hard Drive Publish Service, called iPad. In the Library module, down at the bottom of the left-hand column, right click the ‘Hard Drive’ bar and select ‘Edit Settings’. This will display the following window:
Since mine has already been set up, the folder location can’t be changed, but under the ‘Export Location’ heading you can define the location of the folder which will contain all your iPad photos.
You can use the same settings I have picked, or something else (if you are using the iPad 1 or 2, for example, you may want to use 1024 pixels for the image sizing instead of 2048). The resolution figure is irrelevant, of course, for display on digital devices. The sharpening, metadata and watermaking I’ll leave to your discretion.
Once you’ve created the publishing service, it will be listed in the Library side bar as follows:
You can then add sub-folders according to your needs, thus:
Add photos to these folders and publish as you would any other publishing service in Lightroom. Once they are all published, switch to iTunes and ensure your iPad is connected.
Select the iPad from the list of devices, and choose ‘Photos’ in the top bar. Select ‘Choose folder’ from the drop-down menu next to ‘Sync photos from:’
Then navigate to the top-level folder your Lightroom Publish Service is connected to, and select ‘Open’. The next time you synchronise your iPad, the photos will all be copied across and will be visible in the Photos app under the headings defined in your Lightroom Publish Service:
Adobe finally released Lightroom 3 today, after an extensive beta testing period during which we were shown tantalising glimpses of the new features. However, by far the most impressive of the added goodies is the improved noise reduction. I’ve included some examples below.
This photo was taken at ISO 3200 on my Canon EOS 5D Mark II, shortly after I bought it, as part of a series of photos of Borough Market in London. All the photos in the set were taken at the same ISO, which allowed me to capture much of the activity and goods on sale without having to use flash.
Here is a 100% crop of the same shot with no noise reduction applied (all sliders set to zero); for ISO 3200 it’s pretty good, showing off the low-light capabilities the 5DII is famous for.
After applying noise reduction, the chroma noise has all but vanished, and only a hint of luminance noise remains, with (in my opinion) suggestions of film grain.
The full photo, after noise reduction has been applied. It’s hard to tell the difference at this size, so here’s an example of an ISO 6400 shot that has been adjusted with Lightroom 3:
The chroma noise, even at this smaller size, is obvious, especially in the cloud and on the right-hand illuminated tree at the bottom of the picture.
The difference here is plain. A huge improvement over the original.
I now feel I can more confidently use ISO 6400 more on my camera now; technically it does go up to ISO 25,600 but I would have to try that out in Lightroom before deciding whether it’s a realistic option.
Apple today announced the release of version three of their pro photo editing and cataloguing tool, Aperture. As ever there is an option to try the product for 30 days, so I availed myself of the offer and had a quick play with it. Of course there is only so much you can work out from an hour or so using something as richly featured as Aperture, however it was enough to give me a feel for the software and to compare it at a very high level with Photoshop Lightroom 2, my current workflow software of choice.
As you’d expect from Apple, the user interface has some very nice touches and it didn’t take me long to find my way around the software. Of the headlining new features, I don’t really expect to have much use for the Faces tool, as I don’t take family snapshots, nor for Places as there is no GPS device attached to my SLR. However Brushes is a local adjustment tool that matches Lightroom’s adjustment brushes pretty much feature-for-feature. The various presets for Brushes include ‘skin-smoothing’ (not available in Lightroom), which will be very useful for people who make a living from portrait photography, though I suspect more advanced users would use their own settings rather than trust it to the software. Disappointingly there is still no option to tint the highlights and shadows in a monochrome image, which is not the biggest let-down in the grand scheme of things, but it is a feature I use in Lightroom a lot for my black-and-white work.
I also have a beta version of Lightroom 3 which I haven’t really used much. If I get the opportunity I’ll spend some time working with both Aperture 3 and Lightroom 3 beta over the next few weeks to see if I can make some more detailed observations on the various features available, and may even be able to decide whether my next step will be to upgrade to LR3 when it is released officially, or whether Apple have done enough to help me to switch.
Update: prompted by the comments from Mark below, I went back to see if there was a graduated filter tool in Aperture 3. I couldn’t find it.
It’s a little late in coming, but I did promise a lesson in how to use graduated filters. It follows on nicely from what I spoke about in my post about the Zone System, so please familiarise yourself with that one before reading this if you haven’t already; this one will make more sense that way.
I mentioned that the range of brightness that a camera can ‘see’ is much narrower than that of the human eye. In most cases, you can isolate an interesting part of an image and bring out the detail where it’s relevant, however there are many situations where this simply doesn’t work. For example, if you are taking a landscape photograph that includes a lot of sky, especially late in the day, the foreground will generally be three or four stops darker than the sky. By metering for the foreground, the sky will be blown out, but if you stop down to increase detail in the sky, the foreground will usually become too dark.
Of course, with RAW files and sophisticated post-processing tools such as Adobe’s Photoshop Lightroom, it can be easy to fix such photographs afterwards, but this won’t always work, as often the sky is so overexposed that the highlights end up edged with grey as colour detail is lost. HDR is another option, but is time consuming, and the effect is not to everyone’s taste (myself included). It is far preferable, I believe, to achieve the effect you want in-camera. So how do you do this?
Take the following picture of the church at Prestbakki in northern Iceland as an example:
There is some great detail in the foreground, with the gravel and the weeds among the flagstones clearly discernible, but the sky is almost pure white. I could stop down by 2 stops to bring the clouds into detail, but then we lose the interesting textures on the ground:
However, by applying a 2 stop neutral density graduated filter (usually referred to as an ND grad) with the dark half placed so that it covers the sky, I can keep strong detail in both halves of the picture:
This is a particularly strong setting, mainly for illustration. The best use of ND grads is when you can’t tell it’s been used. Compare the next two photos of the river Lagan in Belfast:
The first was taken as is, and for the second I used an ND grad to drop the sky down 2 stops so that it was the same brightness as the river. The contrast between reflective surfaces (such as water) and sky will always be less than that between, say, grass and sky, so it’s possible to make the whole picture appear more uniform. This is another common use for ND grads where you won’t necessarily get the same loss of detail caused by excessive differences in brightness.
Finally, an example of where an ND grad really comes into its own:
This was taken at Thirlmere reservoir in the Lake District. The sky was turning some beautiful colours, but the bracken was a lovely shade of orange/brown and the drystone wall provided a nice way to draw the eye into the picture, so I placed my usual 2-stop ND grad on so that I was able to capture the lot.
Note that there are many types of ND grad filters. They vary from 1- to 4- stops, and in the degree of gradation, with a hard edge for clearly defined horizons, and softer edges for when foreground detail (e.g. trees, tall buildings) intrude on the sky and would be spoiled by excessive darkening. It’s a good idea to have more than one to hand, but you can vary the softening effect by using the aperture. A narrower aperture (higher ‘f’ number) will harden the boundary between dark and light halves, so open up as wide as you can if you want a softer edge without changing filters. You can also buy screw-on ND grads which rotate independently of the lens, but you can’t move the horizon up or down with these, so it’s better to get the rectangular acetate filters in the Cokin or Lee series.
I hope this lesson has also been helpful. Please use the comments below to let me know if I’m striking the right tone. I’d also like to see any photos you take using ND grads; you can link to flickr if you have any you’d like to share.