Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ahead of Better Days

Ahead of Better Days

Saturday night was a little bit of a slow night in the Gearing household and I was itching for some picture taking, but I lacked any ideas. Eileen, my wife, said, "Why don't you try heading up to Belton and see if there's anything up there?" So, that's what I did. I jumped on I-35 and headed north. It's only about a 30 minute drive from Georgetown. Pretty close to Belton, I saw a salvage yard on the southbound side and I thought that might make for some interesting stuff. Old rusted cars and such make really good HDRs IMO. Regretfully, I didn't get the name of this particular one, but the old-timer hanging out in front had no problem with me shooting up his yard. That's where I found this shot. It's one of the better ones. I can't really remember what kind of car it was, but I think it's the inside of an old Chevy. Maybe some of you car buffs out there can help me out on this one. Gotta love rusty, crusty stuff in HDR.

I processed this the usual way, but I did give an extra push with the bleach bypass filter in Nik Color Efex to give it a more dated, washed out look.  I think I pushed that layer to about 40% opacity or so.

Other settings include:

Camera: Nikon D90
Lens: Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6D EX DC HSM Autofocus Zoom
ISO: 200
Aperture: f11
Exposure Bias: -0.00
Shutter: 1/25
Focal Length: 13mm
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 http://egearingphoto.blogspot.com

Monday, August 30, 2010

Horny Toad Harley, Temple, Texas

Entrance to "Horny Toad"

A great American icon, Harley Davidson! It doesn't get any better than that! There was a day when I owned a 2005 1100 Sportster Custom, all black with the Skull accessories. Oh, it was great!! 2005 was a year or two after Harley came out with the rubber-mounted engine to cut down on the vibration that earlier sportsters had. Man, that was fun to ride. But alas, an unfortunate mishap while riding to work curtailed my use of the bike as a viable commuter option. So, I sold it. However, I still miss riding it and maybe some day I'll get another.

Anyway, this is the entrance to the "Horny Toad" Harley Davidson dealer up in Temple, Texas. It's a relatively new building that they are in now and the place has the look of a factory. This is the long entrance in front.

I did my standard processing on this.

Other settings include:

Camera: Nikon D90
Lens: Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6D EX DC HSM Autofocus Zoom
ISO: 200
Aperture: f11
Exposure Bias: -0.00
Shutter: 0.5
Focal Length: 10mm
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 http://egearingphoto.blogspot.com

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Old Pickup at City Garage, Salado, Texas

Pickup at Night

I love making HDR images, but sometimes it's nice to shake things up a bit. I drove through Salado last night after trying to get some pictures in Belton and Temple and the old City Garage was lit up and begged to have its picture taken. Right next to the garage sits this old pickup truck underneath a lamp.  I thought the light and the way the truck sat there would work for a nice black and white. I took my usual brackets for an HDR thinking I would convert it to BW after the processing was complete, but instead I used one single exposure and converted it. I liked how the background disappears in BW and I just like the overall look.  I'm not sure about the composition though.  It's close to my vision on how it should look, but it seems like it could use something else.  Just not sure what that would be.

Believe it or not, I did not use any Nik Software in this image.  I converted it in Photoshop CS4 and also used Topaz Clean to, yes, clean it up.  I thought it needed a little bit of that.

Any opinions/comments would be appreciated.

Other settings include:

Camera: Nikon D90
Lens: Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6D EX DC HSM Autofocus Zoom
ISO: 640
Aperture: f11
Exposure Bias: -0.00
Shutter: 2.5
Focal Length: 12mm
Mode: Aperture Priority
Bracketing: none
White Balance: Auto
Tripod: Induro AB0
Nikon MC-DC2 Remote Release Cord

From the blog at http://egearingphoto.blogspot.com

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 http://egearingphoto.blogspot.com

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Moon Over the Monarch in Austin

Moon Over the Monarch

My little project of getting shots from different garages around town has been pretty fun.  It was cool this week too, since the moon was full during one of my expeditions.  This is a shot of the Monarch building with a full moon right next to it.  If you aren't familiar with Austin too much, the Monarch is the one with the arch at the top that is lit with blue lights.  I think the lighting up there changes color every few minutes to give the place a different look.  That seems to be a fad these days because not only does the Monarch do that, but so does the Austonian as well several others downtown.  The Monarch as well as the Austonian is one of the new new-fangled condos springing up like weeds around here.  I'm not sure if it is considered a luxury condo building like the Four Seasons Residences, but I have a feeling it is.

I got this shot at the Chase Bank parking garage at 9th and Lavaca.  That one also has elevators that make getting to the top quite easy and sweat-free.  Very nice for getting to work without smelling like I just got in from the gym.  The co-workers appreciate it.

I processed it the usual way, but I did mask in the sky from the 0.00 EV bracket and masked in the moon from the -2.00 EV bracket.  I also adjusted the moon's color with Nik Viveza 2 to give it a more natural color than the ugly yellow that came out during the processing.

Other settings include:

Camera: Nikon D90
Lens: Nikkor AF-S DX 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR
ISO: 400
Aperture: f11
Exposure Bias: -0.00
Shutter: 5
Focal Length: 99mm
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 http://egearingphoto.blogspot.com

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

HDR Efex by Nik Software Release Announcement

Just got this from Nik Software (if it's anywhere as good as the rest of their stuff, it might be worth it!):



Nik Software
Pure. Unlimited. HDR.

Experience all the power, control, and creative expression your camera has to offer with HDR Efex Pro, the essential new High Dynamic Range imaging standard with a complete all-in-one toolset. Whether you are an HDR pro looking for a fast, powerful workflow for quality realistic and uniquely artistic images, or a casual photographer who hasn't yet tried out this new style of photography, HDR Efex Pro is for you!
Be among the first to check out Nik Software's latest creation, HDR Efex Pro. Watch a video, register for informative online webinars, or pre-order your copy today.

Key Features:
  • Complete all-in-one HDR imaging toolkit with intuitive, fast, and easy operation
  • U Point technology powered selection tools for fast precise enhancements of contrast, shadow, structure and saturation adjustments permit localized fine-tuning for a completely finished look
  • Multiple proprietary tone mapping algorithms with powerful adjustment controls yield a wide variety of HDR styles and superior results
  • Scores of style presets organized into categories enable amazing one-click HDR image processing
  • Able to create both multiple and single shot HDR images
  • Advanced technology for automatic image alignment and reduction of subject motion artifacts known as "ghosts"
  • Written and video-based help system covers how to use the software and education on HDR photography techniques
HDR Efex Pro will ship in October 2010 at a retail price of $159.95. Purchasers of the Complete Collection after July 25, 2010 will receive HDR Efex Pro free of charge when it is available. If you have further questions or need further assistance, please contact Nik Software Customer Service at 888.284.4085 (Intl. 619.725.3150), Monday through Friday, 8:30am - 5:00pm, PST.

Thank you for your interest!
The Nik Software Team

For up-to-date news on HDR Efex Pro and all of our products, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube.
















 
  What is HDR?
High dynamic range photography is a process in which multiple exposures are captured, aligned and merged to generate a single image that enables a much wider range of colors and tonality. HDR techniques are typically used to enhance landscape, architectural, nighttime, and artistic photography.

 


Nik Software

Church and Capitol

Capitol and Church

The garage at 12th and Lavaca and Guadalupe provided this view of the capitol with the First Methodist Church below. It's another in my quest to find different angles from some of the parking garages in Austin.  Luckily with this garage, I found the elevators so I didn't have to climb 7 or 8 flights of stairs.  That makes things a little easier and also makes getting the shots a little faster so I don't get to work late. ;-)  At the Capitol, you can see they are doing some restoration on the dome, so someday I may have to go back and get a shot from here when that stuff is gone.

I processed this the usual way, but I did figure out something that helps a little.  Usually I merge 5 brackets inside Photoshop CS4 and then tonemap the result in Photomatix.  I think CS4 aligns the shots better than Photomatix and I like the result it gets.  However, it doesn't seem to work as well for the skies, especially if the sky is cloudless like this one here. I end up getting lines in the sky instead of a gradual, smooth change in color from the top to the horizon.  So, I did another merge in Photomatix and then masked in the sky from the Photomatix-merged result with the rest of the one from the Photoshop CS4.  It's a bit more time-consuming, but I think the result is worth it.

Other settings include:

Camera: Nikon D90
Lens: Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6D EX DC HSM Autofocus Zoom
ISO: 200
Aperture: f11
Exposure Bias: -0.00
Shutter: 5
Focal Length: 18mm
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 http://egearingphoto.blogspot.com

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Purple Hazy SRV

Purple Hazy SRV

One month ago today, I took a trip to Auditorium Shores to see what I might get.  It wasn't the best of ideas, though, because the light at that time of day was getting bad.  Plus, the humidity of that morning really made it quite hazy.  But, since I was there, I tried to take a few shots anyway and see if I could do something with them. 

Initially, I didn't like this shot, but the more I worked with it, the more it grew on me.  I processed it the usual way, but I tweaked the sky to give it a purple hue and warmed up the ground with a sort of orange-ish color.  I think I used the bi-color filter in Nik Color Efex to achieve this.  My goal was to sort of pay homage to Stevie and his idol, Jimi Hendrix.  SRV used Hendrix as his inspiration and he played "Voodoo Chile" better than Hendrix, IMHO.  However, Jimi's version was a little more raw which gave it a less polished, but still excellent sound.  But, I digress.  I thought with the "purple hazy" sky and the statue of SRV, it kind of pays tribute to both. 

One thing I've noticed about this shot that I wish I would've done better was frame his head and hat better between the buildings in the skyline.  Always have to think about composition down to the last detail.  That's one thing I'm not talented enough to do in post-processing!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this shot and thanks for visiting!

Other settings include:

Camera: Nikon D90
Lens: Nikkor AF-S DX 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR
ISO: 200
Aperture: f16
Exposure Bias: -0.00
Shutter: 1/50
Focal Length: 38mm
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 http://egearingphoto.blogspot.com

Friday, August 20, 2010

Four Seasons Residences Building

Four Seasons Residences Building

Well, I began my quest to scale the parking garages in downtown Austin to see what kind of views I could get.  My first stop was the garage on the corner of Brazos and Cesar Chavez.  There are actually two garages sitting right next to each other.  I found the first one across from the Hampton Inn to be a little difficult to find any access to the upper level by stairs or elevator, so I made my way to the next one and had a little more luck.  I found the stairwell and hauled up 9 flights of stairs in record time.  You see, I did all this on my way to work so time was of the essence. Oh, and even though it was morning, it was still hot due to the humidity, even if it was a crisp 84 degrees out. ;-)  So, I worked up a pretty good lather during my trek.  Good for the co-workers when getting to work. Hehe.  At the top, there are some pretty good views.  One I thought particularly striking was the view of the new Four Seasons Residences Building on Cesar Chavez seen here.  These are luxury condos that have gone up recently and look rather, um, luxurious.  There are so many of these places springing up in Austin now but I'm not sure how well they are selling.  They started before the economy took a sh-- so it could be a little dicey for the developers now.  Anyway, I liked the view of the building just before the sun came up.  It worked out well.  The only thing I'm sorry about is I didn't have enough time to get a good exposure for some decent light trails in the traffic below.  But, this isn't too bad I guess.  Oh, and lastly, once I shot this, I had to haul ass to my car.  Luckily I found an elevator to help expedite the ass hauling.  I did get to work 5 minutes late, but no one needs to know that.

I did my standard processing on this one with a little Nik Viveza 2 on the building to brighten the windows and the brick color facade in the middle.

Other settings include:

Camera: Nikon D90
Lens: Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6D EX DC HSM Autofocus Zoom
ISO: 200
Aperture: f11 Exposure Bias: -0.00
Shutter: 1
Focal Length: 13mm
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 http://egearingphoto.blogspot.com

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Warehouse District Alley

Warehouse District Alley

It's getting to be that time again where I try to get some shots in the morning while on my way to work.  However, with only a few minutes to spare, I find it hard to think of where to go to get something interesting.  The warehouse district in Austin is an area I've thought about, but a lot of that area is made up of bars and clubs which of course are closed.  But, behind those places are alleys that provide an interesting perspective of the city.  I may try to work in that area little more to see if anything else strikes me as interesting. 

Another thing I thought about trying is to scope out some of the parking garages downtown and see what kind of view of the city they may have.  I've been pretty lucky with the view at the parking garage at Brackenridge Hospital, except for the rent-a-cop that tried to show me who was boss.  Obviously he was, so I didn't give any lip on that matter.  Hopefully I won't run into those sorts of problems at other garages.  The Littlefield garage across from the Driskill was another nice one, but I never did go all the way to the top on that one.  Maybe that will be a good place to start.  Anyway, it's something to try since I would like try some unique angles of the city here.

This shot is an alley behind Fado's Irish pub and other bars in the warehouse district with the Frost Bank building in the background.  To me that building looks like a giant nose-hair trimmer.  It's still a nice looking building.

I used my standard processing for this shot.  Other settings include:

Camera: Nikon D90
Lens: Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6D EX DC HSM Autofocus Zoom
ISO: 200
Aperture: f14
Exposure Bias: -0.00
Shutter: 3
Focal Length: 10mm
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

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Focus and Breathe Austin

Focus and Breathe Austin

Like my previous three posts or so, this shot was taken during a photowalk with good friends Van Sutherland and Mike Connell. It's the Austin, Texas skyline from the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge taken just after sunset.Just after sunset is a great time for photography, but the light goes quickly. There's only a 15 minute window or so from when the sun dips beneath the horizon to when the glow on the buildings disappear. We had to hurry to get the shots off in time. Van wrote about it much better than I could and he has an even better shot of the skyline than this one if you wish to check it out. Check it out if you have a moment.

This shot use my standard processing with a Viveza 2 tweak on the sky to darken it a tad.

Camera: Nikon D90
Lens: Nikkor AF-S DX 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR
ISO: 200
Aperture: f8
Exposure Bias: -0.67
Shutter: 2.5
Focal Length: 92mm
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

Monday, August 9, 2010

Dog Walkin' on the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge

Dog Walking

I'm really starting to like black and white shots, but not due to the subject matter of this particular one, contrary to what you might think. ;-) Like the 'Bongo Bangin'' shot I posted, black and white shots seem to have a timeless feel. At least they do to me. They also add an element of mystery that makes the shot a little more interesting.

However, one thing I've found is that they are much more difficult to process. I use the bw converter in Nik Color Efex. Funny thing is, to change the tones in a black and white picture, you change the color filter that the converter uses. Different color filters used in the processing of a black and white shot changes whether things in the original color picture that you've converted end up dark or light. It's weird, but it's fun playing around with it. I find myself going back to a picture time again because it looks good one way, but better yet another. It can drive you crazy!!! Anyway, I finally got to a point with this one that I think looks good.

Sometime I will have to publish the settings in Nik Color Efex that I use when I convert one. I just know that there's no simple answer or workflow that will work with each shot because every shot will be so much different each time you convert.

This shot here was another one of my attempts at 'street photography' and as such, it is just a single raw that I converted in Nik. It's not HDR.

This was taken on the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge in Austin, Texas.

Other settings include:

Camera: Nikon D90
Lens: Nikkor AF-S DX 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR
ISO: 200
Aperture: f5.6
Exposure Bias: -0.67
Shutter: 1/800
Focal Length: 92mm
Mode: Aperture Priority
Bracketing: None
White Balance: Auto


From the blog at http://egearingphoto.blogspot.com

Graffiti is a 'Must'

Graffiti is a 'Must'

Across the tracks from the old Amtrak station in Austin lies this abandoned building which appears to have been some sort of warehouse or something at one time. Now it is covered with some very impressive graffiti, if one is impressed by that sort of thing. This is a shot of that building as the sun begins to set. It's the side that faces the old station. I think the word shown is "Must", but I don't translate graffiti too well.  On a side note, what is the deal with graffiti 'artists' anyway?  I mean, do they all go to the same place to learn their particular fonts they use while spraying whatever it is they spray onto the side of a building?  It looks like everywhere you go, the same style is either used in marker or spray paint, whether it's on a wall or a street sign.  Not to mention, it's the same in any part of the country! I guess they all go to "Street U. - Gangsta" or someplace like that.  Well, I don't get it.  But, I digress.

While wandering around this place, I found an outbuilding that had broken windows in it. I peered through and found what appeared to be a residence of some of the local homeless population. There was an old mattress, blankets, an ashtray full of cigarette butts and other things strewn about. it was pretty nasty in there to say the least. I figured there must of been someone close by however, because there were a couple of half-filled Ozarka water bottles in there that looked pretty new. Needless to say, I tipped the heck out of there.

This was shot was taken during Saturday's photowalk with friends Van Sutherland and Mike Connell, two very good photographers in there own right.  Check out their blogs if you get a chance.

This HDR used the same workflow I always use, but I switched it up a little here.  I tone-mapped it in Photonmatix once using the 'high' light mode setting and saved it as a tiff, and then tone-mapped it again using the max setting and saved it as another tiff.  Then, in CS4 I masked in the sky from the max tiff to the tiff with the high tone-mapping.  Then I did the usual after that.  I think the sky looked a little better that way.

Other camera settings include:

Camera: Nikon D90
Lens: Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6D EX DC HSM Autofocus Zoom
ISO: 200
Aperture: f22
Exposure Bias: -0.67
Shutter: 1/80
Focal Length: 10mm
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 http://egearingphoto.blogspot.com

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Bongo Bangin'

Bongo Bangin'

Sunset on a Saturday night in Austin, Texas can be an interesting time.  Over Lady Bird Lake (aka Town Lake) one can see kids jumping into the water from the underside of the Lamar Blvd bridge, kayakers out for an evening row down on the lake, or a bongo player pounding away on the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge.  This gentleman here was kind enough to let me take a couple of pictures while he banged, but I don't think he was real happy about it.  He said it was OK though.  So I snapped away and I think this was the best of the bunch.  This shot is not an HDR though.  It's straight from the camera, raw of course, and converted to black and white in Photoshop CS4 with the NIk Color Efex bw conversion filter.  I also did a little brightness adjustment with Nik Viveza 2.  I took this while on a photowalk with Van Sutherland (Exile Imaging) and Mike Connell (TX Shooter).  It was a nice time and it gave me chance to hone my street photog skills, which I realize still need a lot of work.  But, it's nice to do something a little different for a change.

From the blog at http://egearingphoto.blogspot.com

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Driftwood and the Poor Man's "Content Aware Fill" Alternative

Old Driftwood Texaco

This is another shot I took while in Driftwood, Texas a few weeks ago. It's an old Texaco gas station and what used to be a country store that is now - from what I've heard - someone's actual home. It certainly would make a unique home to say the least. In a way, I'm kind of sorry that it's no longer a store because it would've been fun to go inside and take a look around. But, it was not to be.

Another reason I posted this shot is to bring attention to a little tool I've discovered recently. A few months back, Adobe released Photoshop CS5. I currently own CS4 and am very happy with it. However, CS5 has one thing that I would like to have that CS4 does not have.  It is the new "Content Aware Fill" tool. It lets one remove watermarks and other unwanted items from a photo with relative ease. Below is a little video of what content aware fill can do:


Isn't that cool? Man I would love to have that. However, to upgrade to CS5 costs about $200. So, I went looking for an alternative and sure enough, I found one that works with the Gimp program.

If you haven't heard of the Gimp, it's basically a free program that does a lot of similar stuff that Photoshop can do, but mainly just the basics. It's like Microsoft's 'Paint' on steroids. It's actually a pretty good program for the price... free! With the Gimp, there are oodles of plug-ins you can download from various sites to do certain things, all of which are free as well. One of the plug-ins I found was something called 'Resynthesizer' written by Dr. Paul Harrison.  It is basically the content aware fill that CS5 has, but, again I like to talk about price, it's free! Check out the next video of what Resynthesizer with the Gimp can do below:


Very nice, huh?

I used it for the Driftwood photo above. In that photo, there were powerlines that went across the top portion of the shot and distracted from the photo. So, I used the Gimp with Resythesizer the get rid of those from the sky and from the building. A caveat with the Resynthesizer tool is that it seems to work best when removing small objects from an area that has a solid color background, like a piece of trash from the grass or stuff from the solid sky like in the video above.  Removing powerlines from in front of the brick or the "Texaco" sign did not work well at all.  Resynthesizer could not recreate the structure of something with distinct lines or geometric shapes once the offending portion of the shot was removed.  It did work OK when removing the powerlines from the cloudy sky, however.  But, I did need to go back with the healing tool in CS4 and make the clouds where the powerlines were a little more natural.  After using Resynthesizer to remove the lines from the front of the building, I had to go into CS4 and use the clone stamp tool to make the brick look a little less discombobulated.  Anyway, the original shot with the powerlines in it is below:

Driftwood03

So as you can see, it's not too bad for free.  It's not perfect, but it might work for you if you want to move that leaf from an otherwise pristine lawn or remove that unsightly piece of trash from an untouched sandy beach.  I'm not sure how it compares to CS5's tool, but I'm pretty sure it's probably not as good.  If the Gimp's clone tool is any indication as to how other tools are, CS5 is probably much better.  But for the price, I'm not complaining and it worked OK in this little test.

If you would like to try it, here's what you need to do to get it (this is for Windows users, but I'm sure you Mac users out there will be able to "translate" these instructions to get it to work on your machines):

1. Download and install the Gimp from http://www.gimp.org/.  I'm running the current stable release version 2.6.10.

2. Get the Resynthesizer plug-in from http://registry.gimp.org/node/9148.  The files inside the zip file will go into your profile in Windows, and into the .gimp-2.6 folder.  For Windows7 users, the path would be c:/users/your_username/.gimp-2.6.  For XP users, I think it's c:/documents and settings/your_username/.gimp-2.6.  Inside that folder are two folders, 'plug-ins' and 'scripts'.  Put the resynth.exe from the zip file into the plug-ins folder and put the smart-enlarge.scm file into the scripts folder.  There is one other file in the zip file called smart-remove.scm, but that does not work right and needs to be replaced. 


3. Get the correct smart-remove.scm script from http://registry.gimp.org/node/15118.  Put the file into the scripts folder mentioned in step two.

If you had the Gimp open while installing the plug-in or the scripts, close it and open it back up again and everything should be there.


That's it!  Now just follow along with the second video above and you should be on your way to removing stuff from your photos for free!!!


I do ask a favor; if you try it out, let me know your results.  I'm curious to hear other opinions.  Thanks!


From the blog at http://egearingphoto.blogspot.com.

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