Friday, August 27, 2010

Texas Capitol Dome Refurbishment and Photoshop Auto-Blend

Texas Capitol Restoration

Yawn, ho-hum. Or, in the words of the late, great Chris Farley, "Whoop-dee-friggin'-do!!"  It's another shot of the capitol.  But, I've found a new vantage point to shoot from during my little self-imposed parking garage excursions.  From the Chase Bank garage at 9th and Lavaca you get the view seen above.  It's an angle I haven't seen yet.  And, with the scaffolding around the dome, it makes the shot a tad more interesting, even if it is another boring shot of the capitol.

Something else about this shot that I wanted to point out is in its processing.  I did the usual hdr stuff; I made two merged shots, one in Photoshop CS4 and one in Photomatix. Then I tone-mapped them both in Photomatix to see which ones I liked better.  I wasn't particularly pleased with the results of either so I thought a LOT of masking was going to be needed, especially for the sky.  So, I brought in the one from Photomatix and layered in one of the brackets to start on the sky.  But when I was fiddling with the menu in Photoshop, I found something called "Auto-blend".  I thought, "I wonder what that does?" and kicked it off.  It started cranking out all kinds of wild masks and things and what I ended up with was basically what you see above.  I did a little noise reduction, sharpening and color corrections in a couple of spots, but for the most part this is what came out.  I'm rather impressed as this was better than what I had from my tone-mapped shots.  The sky came out really nice especially around the scaffolding and the flagpoles.  Those types of things can be problems during the tone-mapping process as you HDR guys out there know.  I guess auto-blend has been around since CS3 but it isn't something I've messed with. From what I've read on the web, it's meant to be used in conjunction with "Auto-align" for stitching photos into a panorama, but it seems to work well for combining shots in layers as well. The following is from Adobe's website regarding auto-blend:

"Use the Auto-Blend Layers command to stitch or combine images with smooth transitions in the final composite image. Auto-Blend Layers applies layer masks as needed to each layer to mask out over‑ or underexposed areas or content differences. Auto-Blend layers is only available for RGB or Grayscale images. It does not work with Smart Objects, video layers, 3D layers, or background layers.

Among the many uses of the Auto-Blend Layers command, you can blend multiple images of a scene with different areas in focus to achieve a composite image with an extended depth of field. Similarly, you can create a composite by blending multiple images of a scene with different illuminations. In addition to combining images of a scene, you can stitch together images into a panorama. (Although, it might be better to use the Photomerge command to produce panoramas from multiple images.) 

Auto-Blend Layers applies layer masks as needed to each layer to mask out over‑ or underexposed areas or content differences and create a seamless composite."

It's a pleasant surprise and something I will have to remember as I process stuff in the future. Another thing to play with!

Other settings include:

Camera: Nikon D90
Lens: Nikkor AF-S DX 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR
ISO: 200
Aperture: f11
Exposure Bias: -0.00
Shutter: 2
Focal Length: 75mm
Mode: Aperture Priority
Bracketing: 5 exposures with EVs ranging from -2 to +2 at 1 stop intervals
White Balance: Auto
Tripod: Induro AB0
Nikon MC-DC2 Remote Release Cord

From the blog at

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