It’s funny how one discovery can cause a paradigm shift in our thinking, leading to new insights and creative possibilities. My ‘discovery’ of the DigiKam/showFoto refocus plug-in I wrote about last week is a perfect example. I chose a trio of photographs taken on a wonderfully sunny morning in mid-June, 2010 to illuminate (pun intended) my findings. To get the full impact of the photos below, please click to enlarge each of them in turn.
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This photo (and the others in this series) was taken along the Chestnut Branch inside Ceres Park. This was a day when the light came out to play, celebrate, sparkle on the foliage, reflections in the stream — a dance of light and shadow.
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I simply turned the camera from portrait to landscape to change the feel of this second image, from the vertical reach of the trees to the horizontal sweep of Chestnut Branch as it slips around the curve.
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This last photo was taken further upstream after crossing a homemade bridge christened tongue in cheek as the Commodore Barry Bridge by the mountain bikers who built it. It’s a lovely secluded spot with marvelous lighting.
All of the images were taken hand held with my Nikon N8008s, 35mm AF lens and Neopan 400 film rated at ISO 640. I’m sure I published these photos in the past but this time with improved post processing, I got much better results.
I experimented with curves in DigiKam/showFoto but in the end, I returned to the sheer power of the brightness curve transformation in PWP. If you want to get the best out of your images, you must learn how to work with curves and PWP is the best tool in my arsenal.
Rich, textured shadows and brilliant (but not blown) highlights are important but the real key to good B&W printing is in the mid-tones. I didn’t have to do much with these images because I had decent exposures and good scans. I pulled the mid-tones down and to the right.
I liked the platinum tones I got with DigiKam/showFoto but that’s a no choice one click transformation. PWP has a more sophisticated tint transformation that gives me complete control. All I wanted here was to warm my photos just a bit.
All my original scans are large enough for high quality 4 x 6 prints but too large for web display so the next step is to resize. I’ve standardized on 800 pixels for the long dimension for digital display. Any time you downsize an image, you lose sharpness and you must re-sharpen. The trick is to get your images sharp without introducing crunchy over-sharpening. Here’s where PWP and I part company. After downsizing, I converted the 16 bit image to 8 bit and saved it as a new tiff file and exited PWP.
As I mentioned last week, I ‘discovered’ refocus sharpening in DigiKam/showFoto so I loaded each image into showFoto, ran the refocus sharpening, added my watermark and saved the result as a jpeg file. Photos #1 and #2 were re-sharpened with refocus in showFoto.
I learned that the refocus plug-in used in showFoto was ported from the refocus plug-in in the Gimp. Who knew? So I used the Gimp refocus on the final image.
I think the refocus sharpening is superior for re-sharpening after downsizing for web display. From the manual: “The FIR Wiener filter is frequently better
in restoring small details” which is precisely what I needed here. The images are sharp and don’t exhibit any evidence of over sharpening. The photos have that pop that can be so elusive. You need to enlarge the images to see and appreciate what I’m talking about.
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