Using LAB color to bring out the magic

Fire in the Sky

This photo really came to life, when I used the color space Lab Color as a tool.

Teaser: Last in this post, you can see the before version of this image of the Eiffel Tower.

Recently I have been working a lot on understanding colors and color spaces. It has been coming to me, from two different angles. It’s funny how things sometimes converge from different places and situations into the same realization, at the same time.

I have been working on understanding why some of my prints went haywire color wise, even at a professional printing house. It turned out, it had to do with color spaces or more correctly the gamut of a color space. A gamut is the range of colors a color space can produce. Gamut is a strange word, but I will try to exemplify in a simple way. I will discuss this in more detail in a later post.

At the same time, as I was working on getting my prints looking right, on another track in my life, in my eternal search for new cool processing ways, I came across the Lab color space as a processing technique. It was introduced to me, by Robin Griggs Woods, and I was completely blown by it.

What is a color space anyway?

Before getting deeper into the Lab Color color space, let’s talk a bit about the color spaces in general. Color spaces are quite complicated, and I will try to make an easier-to-digest description.

Continue reading “Using LAB color to bring out the magic”

The Ever Searching Eiffel Tower

The Ever Searching Eiffel Tower

The Ever Searching Eiffel Tower.

It’s been a while since my last post. I have been doing a lot exciting other stuff, that I will tell you about in some posts. I have been exhibiting in France, USA and UK, and I am preparing a solo exhibition too. It does take some time. I have learned quite a lot recently, on printing photos and getting a good result, and I will tell you all about it soon.

I have also learned some new fancy techniques, one I have used in this photo. I will tell you about this too.

I already had left the roof of the Arc of the Triumph in Paris, when I decided to go back up. I am glad I did because I got this shot. I did one with a similar angle with my iPhone, earlier, and when I saw it on the phone, I went straight back to the roof, to do a version with a proper camera.

–Jacob Surland

National Natural History Museum in Paris

Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle in Paris is worth a visit, alone because of the building. I had some expectations but I was still completely blown away when I got there. So incredibly beautiful and dynamic lighting for a fantastic room. I only had 1,5 hours before it closed, and I didn't even get time to see the exhibition.--Jacob Surlandwww.caughtinpixels.comArt sale as limited prints. Photo by Jacob Surland, Licensed Creative Commons non-commercial v4.0. No Derivative Work. Protected by Pixsy.com.

The colors of the roof and walls keep changing colors, to simulate day, night and the weather.

I knew that the ‘Muséum national d’Histoire Naturelle’  would be something special, but I was still blown completely away with the beauty of this enormous old room.

I arrived in the midst of a tropical thunderstorm. The roof changes colors, along with the one wall, to simulate the weather. It can show lightning, day and night, and a rainbow … at least that was what I saw, during my 1,5 hours I had there until it closed. I didn’t even get much time to look at the exhibition, but that looked really awesome too. This place I would require a day, to do it full justice I think.

I could just squeeze in visiting the Museum between I hung up my artwork at Carousel du Louvre, and the VIP grand opening later in the evening.

About the processing of this photo

This photo is shot with a Sony A7R using my metabones Nikon adapter attached with my 16mm Nikon Fisheye lens. The fisheye is obvious. I used a fisheye in this location, to got something out of the ordinary classic shot from this museum, and I think I managed to get that. At least, I have never seen anything like this before.

It is an HDR shot bracketed -2, 0 and +2.  The Sony A7R is somewhat limited regarding shooting bracketed HDR photos. I need at least 1 stop between each shot, and prefer 2 stops. When choosing this option, the A7R can only shoot 3 bracketed photos. If I shoot less than 1 stop between each stop, it can shoot 5 shot, a ridiculous limitation.

I shot it at an f/stop somewhere in the middle. One of the drawbacks from using the Metabones adapter for Nikon is, that no EXIF information is transferred from the lens. But I know I had the f-stop somewhere in the middle, my guess is f/8-f/11. And then I had the camera at ISO 100 and the longest shutter speed was 5 seconds. This allows me to blur most of the people fairly much away.

I used my standard processing workflow for this image. I processed it in Photomatix (you might want to see my tutorial here), and afterwards i took the three originals along with the output from Photomatix into Photoshop and blended it to this final result. These are my three original unprocessed photos:

Paris - Natural History Museum

One of the important things, when you shoot a photo symmetric like this one, is that symmetry is as exact as possible. I could spend a long time while shooting, to get it exactly right in the camera, by shooting, checking and re-shooting. I work in a different way. I need to be ‘close enough’ to the final framing, but I do not mind, doing a final more exact crop at home on the computer. This way I get more time, to do more shots, instead of working one composition into death. This might be a different way, than others work, but I like it that way. Of course I sometimes get stuck, if I can’t get a “good enough” result quickly. I hate getting home with something, that I cannot use.

I am far from puritan about ‘getting it right in the camera house’. I see no point in doing that, it would only require more time, at each location, giving me less to time, to do more compositions.

In Photoshop I first got an “overall” good blend of the tonemapped output from Photomatix, and the three original images. Then I added some effect, by using Topaz Adjust. Afterwards i used two of the original shots ones more to fix or improve very specific areas.

Paris - Natural History Museum - Photoshop layers

How do I determine what ‘needs to be fixed’ in an image? What I get out of Photomatix is next to NEVER a final image. This I know, and I just have to look for the ‘problems’ with the image from Photomatix. There is always something, that doesn’t look too good. Something that is too extreme, a nasty halo or a to hard contrast. How do I spot that? I look closely at the image, both in a smaller thumbnail seized image, and in a closer to 1:1 version. But in the end it comes down to a mix of taste and experience/practice. The more images you have processed, the better you get at doing this. In the beginning, this was pretty much a lot of guessing work and less qualified work. Most of this early work, I have withdrawn from my public stream. The more images you process, the better you get at it, and some of the ‘problems’ gets so obvious to fix, that you hardly think about it.

In this particular image, I first got the ‘basic’ image, by blending the Photomatix version, with the three originals. Then I made some effect using, Topaz Adjust, and afterwards I fine tuned the image, by picking some very specific areas from the original images, to fix some problems.

–Jacob Surland

Paris seen from the rooftop of the Arch of Triumph

A grand view of Paris seen from the top of the Arch of Triumph. The weather was not very good for photography, but it was the only chance I had to get up there, so I stayed stubbornly and covered my camera from the rain. And I am happy that I did, I got many good shots from up there. This one is one of my favorites.--Jacob Surlandwww.caughtinpixels.comArt sale as limited prints. Photo by Jacob Surland, Licensed Creative Commons non-commercial v4.0. No Derivative Work. Protected by Pixsy.com.

Paris seen from the top of the Arch of Triumph in bad weather.

I was in Paris last week to exhibit at Art Shopping at Carrousel du Louvre 2015. A pretty exciting thing. As a photographer, I, of course, could not go to Paris, and not shoot photos, and I carefully planned what to photograph, and when, while not exhibiting.

I did a very careful planning of what I want to shoot mornings and evenings, and what to shoot while driving down there, and back again. It’s the first time I have been the so prepared – and yet you can still meet obstacles.

I will only have one blue hour evening, and where did I want to go? In the end, I decided for the rooftop of the Arch of Triumph. There is a magnificent view of Paris from up there. I got there in good time and waited in the line. After waiting 30 minutes in the line, I got so close to the ticket office and saw a sign which said ‘no bags larger than 40cm’ mine is 53cm and my hope sank. What a stupid mistake to make. I knew that I could not use tripods up there, but no big bags? I took a deep breath, and went took a shot at it, anyway, and I slipped through. The security guard just received a large group to pay his attention to and did not pay attention to the size of my bag. Lucky me.

I thought I was home free from there, but noo… There was a more specific security check, before going up to the top of the roof. The security lady started saying something about the size of the bag, but I just opened it and showed her my camera equipment. She said ‘no tripods’, but I knew that and had prepared for that, and she let me through.

I got to the roof, after climing a small narrow winding staircase. It really was taller than I expected, and when I got up there, the view was magnificent. I had taken no chances and was there almost two hours ahead of the sunset. So I had to wait.

Instead of a tripod, I had brought my Manfrotto Super Clamp which I bought at Amazons. This really is one of the best pieces of photo equipment I have, and especially if you compare it to the price. All photo equipment is insanely expensive, except for this one. It allows me to screw a ball head on, and then I can screw the Super Clamp onto my tripod, and have two cameras or as I had planned for the rooftop. It looks like this:

The Super Clamp is really made for filming equipment, but it works with cameras too.

Because I knew tripods wasn’t allowed, I had researched the nature of the roof and had seen from photos, that there was a spiked fence, which the Super Clamp would be super easy to attach to. And that was my plan. But I had not considered that the fence might be wobbly, and it certainly was. It turned out, that people leaned against it, while taking selfies, and children yanked in it. My camera would fly back and forth on long exposures.

While I waited, I searched for my compositions. This one I liked particularly well because it is different from the classic shot from up here. I also got the classic one, but this one I liked rather much. And guess what? It’s shot with a fisheye lens. You can hardly even tell!

While I waited, bad weather came. La Defense in the distance disappeared completely, and it got closer. At this time I did not feel very lucky at all, but in the end we only got a small portion of the bad weather; enough to have minor problems with rain, but not enough to ruin the photos.

Back to the wobbly fence. When it was time, and the exposures got longer, I waited until the fence was still, or if didn’t stay still, I held my breath and I put my full weight against the fence (hoping it would hold). I shot a lot of photos of the same composition and hoped that enough would be sharp enough to work with. As it turned out, it was not so bad at all. I got a lot useable photos.

So this photo I am quite happy with, not only because I like it, but also because I went through a lot of trouble to get it.