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Archive 2012 · Kelso Dunes by Moonlight
  
 
Camperjim
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Kelso Dunes by Moonlight


I was inspired by Ben's recent thread and blog on moonlight shots. I remembered taking a few moonlight shots and found one taken at the Kelso dunes. Many of my moonlight shots are not very interesting and look more like poor quality daylight images. This image was taken well after sunset but there was still some red glow in the sky. Most of the illumination is from the full moon which was behind me to the right.





Kelso Dunes - Mojave National Preserve

  Canon EOS REBEL T3i    46mm    f/11.0    1s    200 ISO  




Nov 14, 2012 at 03:21 AM
RustyBug
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Kelso Dunes by Moonlight


Took a stab at it.

Cranked up the contrast (to offset the ultra-soft moonlight) along with some sharpening using opposing gradients.







Nov 14, 2012 at 04:33 AM
Camperjim
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Kelso Dunes by Moonlight


"...sharpening using opposing gradients." ?? I am not sure I understand the technique you used.


Nov 14, 2012 at 05:13 AM
RustyBug
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Kelso Dunes by Moonlight


Opposing Gradients ... one for contrast, one for sharpening.

Poorly worded, sorry 'bout that.







Nov 14, 2012 at 12:48 PM
Camperjim
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Kelso Dunes by Moonlight


I am so confused about contrast and sharpening that I don't know what I am doing anymore. I used to have a simple workflow and then read about different options and cannot decide on the best techniques and tools.

To bring out details, I have tried sharpening in ACR, using ACR clarity, Photoshop USM, Photoshop sharpening and high pass filter and the sharpening brush. In addition, I have Topaz filters such as Photo Pop which intensify details. Sharpness is also related to contrast so I have also tried the contrast slider, the high contrast paint brush. I have also used layer copies with overlay or other blending modes. I have tried creating a very high sharpness layer and blending that into the background layer by changing the opacity and blending mode. Then I have tried the Kelby technique of creating a vivid blend layer, then inverting, desaturating, blurring and then blending in a copy of that layer. I often use "local contrast enhancement" or "haze buster" with the USM set at 20 and 50. Of course I have used most of these techniques with layers so the effect can be varied and masks can be used for selective sharpening and contrast enhancement. I am sure there are other techniques I have tried.

At this point I could really use some help. I am not sure what works best for sharpness and/or contrast enhancement without generating halos and other artifacts. I need a simple workflow with standard settings that will work well for most images.



Nov 14, 2012 at 01:52 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Kelso Dunes by Moonlight


Yikes ... I feel your pain ... just from reading it.

A person could probably spend the rest of their lifetime on sharpening alone, but here's a few of my thoughts on the subject.

First, understanding that "sharpness" is all about about the apparent perception of contrast.
Second, "sharpening" is all about changing the amount of contrast between pixels.

Hold that thought for a moment.



Lighting can range from very low contrast, diffuse (moonlight, heavy overcast, etc.) to high contrast, direct (sunlight, artificial equivalents, etc.) lighting.


People who say ... "Do this" or "Do that" are not accounting for the variance in what your scene started with to begin with. As such, imo, there is no "one way fits all".

While that's not what you are wanting to hear ... all is not lost.

For the vast majority of the images I work on around here, I simply apply two rounds of USM.

Round 1:
Similar to Karen's 16,60,0 (et al) at HIgh RAdius, LOw AMplitude (HIRALOAM), I use it as well. My approach though is a bit different, in that I do not have a "set" number. Depending on the scene, I may have a 25,90,12 or a 35,35,6, but the principle of more aggressive sharpening with more masking is part of my approach. I rarely ever sharpen with a mask value of "0".

Round 2:
Detail sharpening is followed up with something like a .3,140,8 (jpg reworks) or .7, 350, 2 (original RAW conversion)... again, this is variable depending on the scene. But, I also make sure to sharpen on a layer that I can use with a mask. That way, if I need to sharpen one area differently than the other I can sharpen for the max needed area and "paint" back the sharpening on the mask.

While the number vary to taste ... the approach / workflow is the same. The numbers will vary if I'm working on my own RAW file vs. jpg sooc vs. doing a rework from something here ... but my process remains the same.

Essentially, all sharpening is like driving a wedge between pixels. How big of a wedge do you want to split them with is going to be a subjective call based upon how close they are together vs. how far apart you want them.

I'm not a sharpening guru by any means, but I'm pretty comfortable with my approach. I spent some time making up a test block/grid of black/gray/white squares and then ran a series of tests ... mostly to get a feel for what happens with HIRALOAM settings vs. detail settings, and to get a feel for how the mask setting comes into play.

Also ... depending on what camera & lens combination you are using ... it will vary.

When I made the switch from my D70s, to my 1D MK II ... all my pics were soft. I finally was referred to Chuck Westfall with Canon and he reviewed my images and I was simply under sharpening them. The reason ... different algorithms from the cameras meant different sharpening needs.

I play with a lot of different lenses ... my Oly lenses are very sharp, yet lower contrast. So, I need to use a different sharpening level (same approach) for them, than I do for my Zeiss that are contrasty to begin with.

That being said ... I don't have a "standard" setting, but rather have a baseline approach for applying my "sledgehammer", followed by my "chisel". How big a hammer and how hard I swing my will be a judgment call based on where the scene is to begin with ... and where I want to take it.

There are many ways to push the pixels farther apart ... but USM is a fundamental tool ... essentially where I begin my PP (after color correction). Contrast is usually my last for a light dose of S&P to taste.

As an ambient shooter ... our lighting is so highly variable ... the inherently variable contrast of our captures is not well suited for a single sharpening regime. Rather, I'd suggest that you will want to develop a different strategy for low, mid & high contrast lighting. Not exactly a "one size fits all" approach, but not anything that is too overwhelming either.

That, coupled with the use of layers, opacity, masks, etc. ... keeps things as a "standard" workflow for my sharpening.

Here is the rough order of my workflow regarding sharpening:
RAW Conversion sharpening (or sooc jpg)
Color correction to remove casts, thereby providing max clarity
HIRALOAM
Detail
All other stuff (i.e. sat, curves, etc.)
Contrast (most often, very last layer requiring nominal amounts)

Each round of sharpening is driving another wedge between pixels. So, how much to use for HIRALOAM will be in part based on how much you used @ RAW conversion import. Me, I use 0,0,0 at RAW conversion, so I can focus mostly on the interplay @ HIRALOAM & Detail. You can use a different import value (which is totally fine), but recognize that the HIRALOAM and Detail that follow, will be effected as well. I just try to narrow it down to the two that carry the brunt of the load for me.


HTH



Nov 14, 2012 at 03:14 PM
ben egbert
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Kelso Dunes by Moonlight


Hi Jim. I like the first one. Moonlight is soft flat light. The one issue I find is too much noise with current cameras.

But I asked in my post a couple days ago if the style was worth doing and it got zero replies so I assume the answer is no. I will probably keep at it however.

I hate sharpening more than any other single aspect of post processing. This is one thing the camera ought to get right other than that blasted AA filter. But the AA filter smears everything equally and constantly so a global correction should work. I sharpen in ACR and that's the end of it. If its not sharp, it means I was out of focus, or something moved. If it was because of a lens, that lens is history.






Nov 14, 2012 at 03:44 PM
Camperjim
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Kelso Dunes by Moonlight


Rusty, thanks for the detailed explanation.

I have started to apply a heavy dose of ACR clarity. I am not sure how that works but it seems to add detail without sharpening artifacts and with minimal changes in contrast. For Photoshop sharpening, I usually hit USM at 20,50. For hazy images I might apply this twice but that is a worry because it can introduce halos and noise. For standard sharpening, I use a radius of about 0.5, a threshold of 0 and then vary the amount to taste, usually about 175. I have tried different thresholds and radius amounts and none seem to work better. The amount slider seems to be about all I can handle. I might be as low as 100 and rarely exceed 225.

This image should have been resharpened after downsizing. To do that I usually reapply sharpening at about 75-100 and leave the radius at about 0.5. I forgot to do that on this image...actually I did not see the need for the additional sharpening.



Nov 14, 2012 at 03:57 PM
 

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RustyBug
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Kelso Dunes by Moonlight


Camperjim wrote:
.actually I did not see the need for the additional sharpening.


No worries.

Contrast can be used for sharpening ... sharpening can be used for contrast.

We are drawn to contrast ... S&P to taste.



Nov 14, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Camperjim
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Kelso Dunes by Moonlight


ben egbert wrote:
Hi Jim. I like the first one. Moonlight is soft flat light. The one issue I find is too much noise with current cameras.

But I asked in my post a couple days ago if the style was worth doing and it got zero replies so I assume the answer is no. I will probably keep at it however.

I hate sharpening more than any other single aspect of post processing. This is one thing the camera ought to get right other than that blasted AA filter. But the AA filter smears everything equally and constantly so a global correction should
...Show more

Even on this forum it seems common to post and get few replies. I think your experiments are worth the effort.

I am not sure about noise issues. Mine was only a 1 second exposure so noise should not be an issue. I tried a different sharpening workflow. I hope this one works a bit better. I hope it is sharp without being overly crisp





  Canon EOS REBEL T3i    46mm    f/11.0    1s    200 ISO  




Nov 15, 2012 at 01:12 AM
ben egbert
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Kelso Dunes by Moonlight


Thanks Jim, Your new version looks great to me. I think you must have had much more light however, see below.

I find myself shooting at ISO800 or 1600 even 3200 for 15-30 seconds and at f2.8. It is often so dark I can't see the ground without a headlamp. That's noisy on my camera. I could have my camera astro modified for some improvement. They add a cooler for the sensor.

I added some new stuff to my blog from my Zion trip.



Nov 15, 2012 at 01:19 AM
sixFPS
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Kelso Dunes by Moonlight


Great capture CamperJim. The timing is great to get some of the sunset colors in as well.

I haven't been to the Kelso Dunes for a few years or so but seems like there's more shrubs growing on the dunes now?



Nov 21, 2012 at 01:03 AM
sbeme
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Kelso Dunes by Moonlight


Jim,
The bad news first. I can not offer any constructive advice. Why?
The good news. Beautiful as is. I like the soft tones throughout and in particular in the sky. I cannot see any flaws. Just a beautifully composed scene captured and presented right.
So sorry

Scott



Nov 21, 2012 at 01:42 AM
Camperjim
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Kelso Dunes by Moonlight


Scott, thanks. I was in need of something positive today.

Six... Yes the dunes are pretty heavily covered with shrubs and grasses. I was initially trying to duplicate some of the classic sand dune images like I got from Mesquite Dunes in Death Valley. Those sorts of images are hard to find at the Kelso dunes. Of course the Kelso dunes have their special characteristics including being much larger than the Mesquite dunes.



Nov 21, 2012 at 03:23 AM
AuntiPode
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Kelso Dunes by Moonlight


Have you inspected the image at 100%? One of the problems with long exposures is fine movement. Unless the air is very still I would expect fine detail sharpness to be limited by motion. If that's the case, don't knock yourself over the head about your sharpening technique.

My sharpening techniques are nothing to brag about, but as I improve my PP, I find myself doing selections and applying different sharpening to different parts of the image, finding one-size-fits-all sharpening sometimes as poor a fit as one-size-fits-all underwear. Whether that's the right or best way, I can't pretend to say.



Nov 21, 2012 at 06:17 AM
Camperjim
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Kelso Dunes by Moonlight


I think the image quality is pretty good. Exposure was only 1 second with no wind. Of course I was on a tripod with a cable release and manual mirror lockup.


Nov 21, 2012 at 06:25 AM





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