Curve Ahead

Curve Ahead, originally uploaded by Thomas Gehrke.

I went to visit the parents this past November and Dad took us driving around the county with the express purpose of finding some interesting photographs. This was a happy accident and another in my "Through the Windshield" series. (OK, it's not a real series. But it does seem to be a trend.)

I love roads and driving so I personally enjoy the feeling of this shot. Your milage may vary.

A bit of work went into this, believe it or not. The image was rotated a bit clockwise and then cropped to focus on the road and avoid some power lines. I removed some distracting elements, made some targeted exposure adjustments, curves adjustments and then sharpened with Topaz Detail 2.

The End Of The Year 2010

Well another year has passed and the things many of us wanted to do at the beginning of the year have either been completed, are partially done or have been completely forgotten about.

One of my personal goals was to get my online presence more firmly established.  I am a geek after all, and one would assume I have the "street cred" to back that up.  No blog?  No Twitter?  No way!  So I think I've done an adequate job working towards that end.

My goal for 2011 is to kick things into a higher gear with more personally created content like editorials and tutorials.  Maybe even include some video.  And maybe some merch.  Who's up for some digital monkey love?  (Don't answer that!)

Regardless, if you read the blog as either a regular or someone who just happened upon it, I thank you and would love to hear more from you either through the blog comments system or via @tomgehrke on Twitter.

Except for you (and you know who you are).

So even though this is a little early...

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

My Dizzy iPod App

I admit that I am an Apple fan. I'm neither proud nor ashamed of the fact. It is what it is. Frankly, I'm an equal opportunity geek. As such I see a lot of pros and cons in technology from lots of sources. That said, this is going to be a gripe about the iPod app that Apple puts on their iDevices.

My first complaint is that after several years, the iPod app still does not have a landscape mode. Granted, portrait is a better orientation for the vertical way that the menus/listings are laid out, but reformatting for landscape navigation should not be that difficult.

This, however, is relatively minor. I've gotten pretty good at navigating with everything rotated 90 degrees. It's a little silly, but not rant-worthy.

The big problem I have is this.  My iPhone is on a stand, in landscape.  Presumably it knows that it is horizontal.  It is a smartphone, right? So when a video starts to play, why-oh-why does it play as if the phone is standing vertically?

This is what I see:


So what do I have to do? I must tilt the iPhone back on its stand until it is flat and then roll it back forwards as if to say, "Here, boy! Roll over. Yes. That's it. Who's a good boy?" That's not the experience I want. If it were, I would hit the animal shelter after work.

I guess it is pretty clever of Apple in a way. Since the UI is designed vertically, my guess is that they assume that nobody would be stupid enough to navigate horizontally. If we have to navigate to a video in portrait it just stands to reason that starting the video in portrait makes sense.

Well guess what? I am exactly that stupid.

Now I'll just go listen to the Sword and Laser podcast where there is no video. (And, yes. I'm obviously a Tom Merritt fan.)

My Blackberry Is Not Working! [BBC]

On the off chance you have not seen this video yet. It's smart and funny and, of course, from the BBC.

Pensive Pachyderm

Pensive Pachyderm, originally uploaded by Thomas Gehrke.

I really love the texture and coloring on this elephant I photographed at the Memphis Zoo this past year. So when processing the image, I really wanted to bring out the roughness of skin and gradation of color. I used Photomatix, Topaz Adjust and several adjustment layers in Photoshop to come up with the final image.

What's Next For Delicious?

I went to see what Yahoo! had in store for Delicious.  The expectation was that the link would pull up an announcement on  a possible sale.  Instead, I got this.


This does not bode well.

Tron: Legacy Soundtrack Deal at Amazon.com



I am listening to this right now and so far so good.  I've been looking forward to the movie for quite a while and this has to hold me over for another 10 days or so.

You can grab the entire album as an MP3 download for just $3.99 in the Amazon store.

Hop on your light-cycle and go get it!

Adobe Updates Photoshop CS5, Lightroom 3 and Camera Raw



I woke up today to an update alert.  Apparently Adobe has a little pre-Christmas present for everyone who owns Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom 3.  Here is the breakdown:

Adobe Photoshop CS5 (12.0.2)

  • A number of potential security vulnerabilities have been addressed
  • Top type and font crashers found in the field have been addressed
  • A number of performance issues have been addressed
  • Crash opening 3D layers has been addressed
  • Color Engine crash has been resolved
  • Intermittent file format issues addressed
  • Shift scrolling bug fixed
  • Sharpen crasher fixed
  • Marching ants not seen at certain zoom levels fixed
  • Metadata focus distance issue addressed
  • File info bug addressed for Orphea Studio jpg's
  • TWAIN crashers fixed
  • Brush cursor bug fixed
  • Histogram progress bar issue fixed
  • Droplet issues addressed

Lightroom (3.3)


  • Additional camera support for several new camera models including the Canon PowerShot 95, Nikon D7000, Olympus E-5.
  • Corrections for issues introduced in previous versions of Lightroom 3
If your updater isn't working, you can grab the updates at the link below.

Space Battleship Yamato Clip

This clip from the Japanese movie "Space Battleship Yamato" (based on the anime of the same name) looks... AWESOME!  Granted, it's in Japanese.  But you don't need to understand the language in order to appreciate the coolness.

This clip shows the initial launch of the Yamato and the initiation of the firing sequence for the Wave Motion Gun.


For comparison, here is the scene from the original.

Coming Home

Coming Home, originally uploaded by Thomas Gehrke.

I took this photo on my way home from visiting the parents this past Thanksgiving. It is an HDR image that started as four separate exposures shot with my iPhone 4, cropped and then processed in Photomatix Pro 4, Topaz Denoise, Adjust and Detail.

It all started as an iPhone HDR experiment that I blogged about the other day. As I played around in Photomatix with the non-HDR original exposures that the iPhone keeps, the scene really started to grow on me.

The Cars of James Bond Infographic

I love cars, James Bond (in a manly way, of course) and infographics. CarInsurance.org has just the thing for that. Trifecta!

History of Bond Cars

Two Great Tastes....

I use LastPass and I've always been intrigued by Xmarks, but never made the jump because I was primarily using Firefox/Weave at the time. When I started spending more time in Chrome, Xmarks was on the way out.

Looks like I may have a second chance.

LastPass Acquires Xmarks, Keeping Free Bookmark-Syncing Plans Available

Exposing for the Best iPhone HDR Results

I realize that iPhone HDR is old news, but since my original iPhone HDR article is the most viewed posting, I thought I might take another stab at things.  This time with a little more of a serious look.

The point of my original post was to say that while HDR is a useful built-in option, it still requires some basic understanding to use effectively.  I want to follow that up by taking a look at one way to improve your in camera HDR photo taking: Exposure.

Exposure is key to HDR photography.  Multiple shots are taken at different exposures and then merged in a way that results in an image with more detail than the individual pictures have.  When done manually, one might target the exposure for each image to capture detail in a specific area.  For instance, with one image you might underexpose the image to pull out the details in what would normally be an overexposed sky and with another you might overexpose to pull out detail in a rock formation seen in deep shadow.  Unfortunately, because the iPhone completely automates the over/underexposed captures, all you have control over is the "normal/middle" exposure.

The question I had is whether or not the iPhone's autoexposure was the best starting point for a good HDR result.

The Exposure Test

iPhone HDR Exposure Test


Photo 3 is pretty close to where the iPhone set the exposure and the HDR result is not horrible.  As I mentioned in my previous article, iOS HDR works well to correct some common exposure problems.  But can we do better?

The exposure point for Photo 1 was set to the brightest area.  This, not surprisingly, underexposes the rest of the frame.  The iPhone does a decent job at pulling back some detail.

For Photo 2, I set the exposure point to a darker area of the sky.  The result is a dark original and pretty good detail in the HDR.  The foreground might be a little darker than I would like, but there is detail there that you don't get in any of the other HDR images.

Photo 4 was exposed based on the extreme foreground area.  The sky in the original is completely washed out.  Again, very much like Photo 1 (except at the other end of the light range), iOS HDR pulled back some of the detail in the sky, but could not get it all.

Photos 2 and 3 are obviously the best of the bunch.  Just eyeballing, my preference was leaning more towards the manually exposed Photo 2 versus the auto exposed Photo 3.  This was due in part to the amount of perceived detail as well as the white balance.

Clipping Results

While this was all somewhat interesting, I was also curious about how much clipping was occurring at both the low and high ends.  Keep in mind that the iPhone spits out an 8-bit JPG so you are not getting the full range of values.  Clipped pixels represent image data that is gone forever.

iPhone HDR Exposure Test - Clipping


The iPhone seems to do a pretty good job at avoiding clipping at the low end.  Surprisingly so (at least to me).

In Photo 1, I expected deeper blacks considering the original was so underexposed to start with.  I suspect that the iPhone did not use it at all.

Photo 4 obviously has heavy clipping at the high end.

I was a little surprised at the difference between Photos 2 and 3.  I actually expected more high-end clipping in Photo 2.  So I am still partial to Photo 2.  Opinions will vary for numerous reasons and I could be convinced otherwise with a good argument.  Feel free to leave comments with your thoughts.

Conclusions

It appears that auto exposed images can result in a reasonable final product.  Not surprising given Apple's "it just works" reputation.  However, I have seen nothing to change my opinion that understanding how Apple has implemented their in camera HDR is important to getting the best results possible.

The fact that low end clipping is minimal in all of these leads me to think that I might start edging more towards underexposing to make sure I get as much detail in the high end as possible.

Epilogue

On a whim, I grabbed all of the original images and had Photomatix handle the HDR.  I did very little tweaking other than adjusting for some ghosting due to some cloud movement.  It's an interesting comparison.

iPhone HDR Exposure Test - Originals

Update 12/3/2010:

I did a little more tweaking on the Photomatix processed version.  Check out the results.