chardine photography: Blog en-us (C) chardine photography (chardine photography) Thu, 05 Sep 2013 17:28:00 GMT Thu, 05 Sep 2013 17:28:00 GMT chardine photography: Blog 120 96 Photoshop Photography Program I just got through speaking to three different agents at Adobe regarding Creative Cloud (CC) promotions that are in effect right now. You may have seen a deal whereby you could obtain Photoshop CC for $9.99 US/mo for the first year, with no indication as far as I could see about how much it would cost after that. That offer ended 31 August/13. I got different answers from each salesperson but have got to the bottom of what is happening.

If you missed the 31 Aug deadline, all is not lost if you want to jump on the CC bandwagon rather than staying with an earlier CS version of Photoshop. Adobe has announced their "Photoshop Photography Program". See the link here. This is Adobe's answer to the barrage of criticism they received from disgruntled photographers, many of whom do not need the Creative Cloud and all it entails. What they do need is Photoshop and Lightroom. So, in this new plan tailored specifically to photographers, Adobe is offering Photoshop CC and Lightroom 5, software updates, 20GB online storage and a couple of other items for $9.99 US/mo in perpetuity (i.e., not for just the first year, although I am sure the price will creep up over time). The link I give above says the offer starts today but this I was told was a "typo". The offer will be available starting 17 September and will run until 31 December. The number to call to order this is 800-585-0774.

So why would you want to do this? If you are the sort of person who always has to have the latest and greatest then in the old model you would be spending several hundred $$ every time a new version of Photoshop came out. With the new monthly subscription model you pay basically $120 US per year or $600 US for 5 years- the new subscription plan could be cheaper for you. Another reason to move to CC is that Adobe have a nasty habit of adding RAW decoders for new camera bodies to new Adobe Camera Raw versions, but the new versions of ACR eventually lose backward compatibility with older Photoshop versions. The solution to this is to use another RAW converter, of which there are many good ones out there, including the proprietary ones engineered by your camera manufacturer. Finally, as operating systems are upgraded, you will lose compatibility with your older version of Photoshop. So it seems Adobe has you behind the 8-ball on this one.

On a personal note, I really like Photoshop but do not harbour much of a warm fuzzy feeling about Adobe. I think Apple should buy Adobe and offer the full version of Photoshop on the App Store for 50 bucks! That would end all this nonsense!

]]> (chardine photography) Adobe Photography Photoshop Program Thu, 05 Sep 2013 15:51:49 GMT
Bonaventure gannets NOGA 7345 I just made my third trip for the year to beautiful Bonaventure Island, near Percé on the eastern end of the Gaspé Peninsula. For the past 20 years give or take, I've been working on this Northern Gannet colony and the one at Cape St. Mary's in Newfoundland. Based on this work, I recently published a paper on the population dynamics of Northern Gannets in North America over the past 25 years, with two other colleagues. A pdf of the paper can be found here.

Since 2010 I've been part of a team working annually on various gannet colonies in North America. Our goal is to try to determine if the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, which occurred in the summer of 2010, affected individual gannets or their population. We know about 25% of our gannets overwinter in the area the spill occurred, and they were commonly found oiled on gulf beaches during the summer of 2010. We think the young from 2009 were probably the most affected and as gannets take 5 years to start to breed, we do not expect to see an effect, if any, at the population level until next year. Since 2009, North American gannet populations have declined after a long and sustained increase but this occurred too early to be attributed to the spill. The decline seems to be linked to several years of below-average breeding success. We are currently looking at environmental and ecological variables such as weather or food availability that may explain this. To give you an idea of how bad the situation was last year, only 8% of the eggs laid in the colony at Bonaventure Island produced chicks that survived until September.

In between work visits I return to Bonaventure to photograph these magnificent birds. I can't think of a better photographic subject!

NOGA 7799 NOGA 1764 NOGA 7462

NOGA 9070

]]> (chardine photography) Thu, 22 Aug 2013 02:16:11 GMT
Heat shimmer, the image killer An important factor in photographic image quality is how stable the air is between your lens and your subject. Variation in air temperature with pockets of cool and warm air cause the light to be refracted as it passes through the less dense or more dense air masses and as these pockets move, they cause unstable air. On a warm day, the familiar heat shimmer rising off a warm road is an everyday example. The effect of this instability on image quality depends on its severity and how much air you are shooting through- the more distant your subject, the worse the problem. This the effects of heat-shimmer are particularly noticeable when using a telephoto lens on a subject in the distance.

Here in the Maritime provinces we quite often experience "heat shimmer". A typical scenario would be a beach with coolish water on a hot sunny day with little wind. As the water cools the air above it, the air mixes with the air being heated by the sun hitting the beach material, whether it be rocks, pebbles or sand. The shimmer is generally worse in the zone about10-20 cm above the beach- exactly where those shorebirds are standing. However, it can also affect the whole column of air above the ground to a significant height. The result of heat-shimmer is out-of-focus, blurry images. This is hard to detect through the viewfinder of the camera but if you suspect you might be suffering from shimmer, take a look at a few images on your LCD. Zoom in on them and you will instantly notice the poor image quality. Another way to tell that heat-shimmer is occurring is to but your camera on a tripod, switch on live view, zoom in using live view and focus on a static subject. As you view the LCD screen you will notice the image going in and out of focus.

Short of going home, one way to combat heat shimmer is to attempt to get as close as possible to your subject without disturbing it. Also, simply avoid the conditions that cause the problem in the first place. You need a heat source to cause the problem so avoiding sunny conditions kills two birds with one stone: no heat shimmer and beautiful, soft light.

Over the past week, I have experienced problems with heat shimmer while photographing the Semipalmated Sandpipers at Johnson's Mills. Here are some examples.

This is from the centre of an image made with Canon's 500mm F4L IS USM version II and the Canon 1D Mark IV. This should be pin-sharp!

If you see repeating lines around out of focus elements in your image it's a good bet you are suffering from heat-shimmer:

The clincher is shown here. Notice the out of focus specular highlights- they should be smooth and untextured. Not like this:

]]> (chardine photography) heat shimmer image quality Fri, 09 Aug 2013 19:39:01 GMT
The hunter and the hunted Predator-prey relationships abound in the natural world. We tend to think of large charismatic animals such the wolf or tiger when "predator" comes to mind but swallows are predators of flying insects and cod are predators of capelin in just the same way as a wolf is a predator of a moose. Perhaps more akin to tigers than a swallows, the Peregrine Falcon is a bird predator, and its large size and power allow it to take quite large prey such as ducks and gulls. Indeed, the old North American name for the Peregrine Falcon was the "Duck Hawk". However, they take small birds too and when the Semipalmated Sandpipers flock on the shores of the upper Bay of Fundy at this time of year, local Peregrines take advantage of this food source. 

Semipalmated Sandpiper and Peregrine Falcon (1981) Peregrines don't have it all their own way though. The sandpipers have well developed any-predator behaviours such as flocking and fast, erratic flying in large flocks. This provides individual sandpipers with safety in numbers and also confuses the predator. The success rate of a hunting Peregrine on flocking sandpipers is surprisingly low, but it clearly must be worth their while (in other words, the energy and nutrients expended in capturing a sandpiper must be less than the what a sandpiper provides).

At the top of the food web, predators tend to be relatively rare in ecosystems, relying on a large base of prey below them in the food web. A few decades ago Peregrines were even rarer than normal likely because of low breeding success associated with thin-eggshells caused by DDT in the environment. These days, DDT levels are much lower and with the help of captive breeding programs, the species is returning to normal numbers. This is putting more pressure on populations of their prey both through direct predation and the disturbance that it inevitably causes.

]]> (chardine photography) Mon, 05 Aug 2013 17:48:54 GMT
Diagnosing and fixing colour casts in LAB colour mode A while ago I published a 3-part tutorial on diagnosing and correcting colour casts in digital images using the LAB colour mode, on I thought it would be worthwhile reposting the parts here. By way of background, Lance Peters had posted an image of a stone-curlew, which had a blueish colour cast. I mentioned how I would correct this and was invited to detail the method. So, here goes:

Part 1:
First, there are various colour spaces or modes within which you can work in Photoshop. The common one is RGB which has a Red, Green, and Blue channel and various combinations of each make up the gamut of colours available in the colour space. Digital cameras have sensors made up of RGB sensor sites and computer monitors have RGB pixels so RGB is a convenient place to work. In RGB, the detail in an image and the colour information are encoded in each of the colour channels- each one looks like a different black and white version of the image. Check this out by opening an image and going to the Layers palette and clicking the Channels tab, then click in turn the red, green and blue channels.

The LAB (pronounced El Eh Be) colour space has three channels also- L for Luminance, A for a colour range from Magenta to Green, and B for a colour range from Yellow to Blue. This is the toughest part of LAB- getting your head around these two colour ranges. What does blue and yellow have to do with each other anyway? Amazingly, even though there are only two colour channels in LAB, the LAB colour gamut is a lot wider than in RGB. The big difference between LAB and RGB is that in LAB the detail of an image is contained in one channel only- L, and the colour information is contained in A and B. So detail is separated from colour and can therefore be adjusted separately. The attached image shows Lance's beautiful photograph as it looks in the three LAB channels. Note that the A and B channels don't seem to have much contrast or detail but the L channel is full of detail. Separating detail from colour is why LAB is so powerful for correcting colour casts, sharpening (the L channel), removing noise (in the A and B channels), enhancing and separating colours in an image, making selections, and so on.

To work in LAB mode, open an image and select Image->Mode->Lab color. Then take a look at the channels and have some fun with it. Try adjusting the Curves of each channel (more on this later).

I'm going to leave it there for now and recommend that you do some reading about LAB on the web. Wiki has a good article but it's too technical for me. I also highly recommend Dan Margulis' book "Photoshop LAB Color: The Canyon Conundrum and Other Adventures in the Most Powerful Colorspace", published by Peachpit. Some say it's the most ground-breaking book ever written about Photoshop, and there's been lots!

Part 2:

So I want to quickly get into diagnosing a colour cast using the LAB colour space.

Every colour in the LAB space can be defined by three numbers, one for L, one for A and one for B. This is the same as RGB where for example a tone of red might be R=238, G= 13, B=13. In LAB, the L-value gives the brightness or Luminance of the pixel from 0 (black) to 100 (white). The A-value gives a colour from Magenta to Green, and the B-value gives a colour from Yellow to Blue. Neutral tones (i.e., those with no colour) are coded A=0, B=0. That goes for black, white and all the neutral gray tones in between. Numbers on the plus side of A code for increasing Magenta (a warm colour), and on the minus side code for increasing Green (a cool colour). Numbers on the plus side of B code for increasing Yellow (a warm colour), and on the minus side code for increasing Blue (a cool colour). So that same red I mentioned above in LAB works out to be L=59, A=86, B=73. This means it's made up of lots of Magenta and lots of Yellow. A Blue I looked at in LAB worked out to be 56,-19,-52 for L, A, and B, so in this case some Green and lots of blue.


So again neutral tones in LAB get values of A=0, B=0. This is the basis of diagnosing a colour cast in LAB. To look at LAB values in parts of an image, open up the Info panel and pull down the small menu, top right and choose Panel options, and select LAB color for the Second color readout. Then mouse around an image and see how the LAB values change. In the attachment I show Lance's original image. I've placed the cursor over a portion of the image that I judge should be neutral- in this case some white feathers in the shade. The Info panel shows that the pixels under the cursor have values of A=4 and B=-20, which means a little on the Magenta side of neutral in A and heavily Blue in B. Again, if those feathers were truly neutral they should be reading close to A=0, B=0.

So that's how you diagnose a colour cast in the LAB colour space. The process is somewhat subjective because you have to decide what parts of the image "should" be neutral and then proceed from there. In warm, evening or morning light the whites and greys are going to look warm and the A and B values in LAB will both be positive. You would not necessarily want to correct for this because you would remove the very effect you are trying to achieve by going out early or staying up late.

Part 3:

We have reached the stage where we can actually correct a colour cast in the LAB colour space.

Step 1: Convert your image temporarily to the LAB colour space or mode. Choose Image->Mode->Lab color. Photoshop does a pretty good job of converting and you will not see any difference in the image at this stage.

Step 2: Open up the Info panel so you can see the LAB colour readout as you move the eyedropper over the image.

Step 3: Now here's the fun part- chose Image->Adjustments-> Curves or cmd/crl-m to bring up the Curves window. Drag the window around the screen so that you can see it, the image and the Info panel all at once.

Step 4. You will notice that the Curves window has a pull-down menu called Channel and because you have converted your image to LAB, you have Lightness (L, Luminance), a and b channels (Adobe insists on calling the channels this instead of just L, A, and B). Our diagnosis of Lance's image suggested that neutral tones were running about -20 in b and about +4 in a, so we know b is farther away from 0 than a is. Let's correct b first.

Step 5. Choose the b channel from the pull-down menu in Curves. Click and hold the mouse while moving over the image and you will see a small circle moving over the histogram which shows you where the pixels under the eyedropper are found. Mouse over the neutral-tone we previously diagnosed on the neck of the bird and check out where that is on the histogram. To correct the colour cast caused by the B channel, click and hold the diagonal line running through the histogram at the point where the neutral tone pixels reside and pull the line up or down. The direction depends on the direction of the colour shift in B (+ or -) and if you have set the histogram to show white on the right or the left. Don't worry, just pull the line up or down, let it go and check out the Info panel as you mouse over the neutral tone of interest. Have a look at the attached. Here, I've pulled the line down and it has changed the neutral tone from -20 to -1, so down was the right direction. If I had pulled the line up I would have made the problem worse (say -20 to -30). The Info panel is neat because it shows you the before and after values for the part of the image under the eyedropper. Pull down a little bit more to get B as close to 0 as possible for the neutral tone. Repeat for the A channel and there you have it, your image is corrected so that neutral tones really are neutral, that is no colour, A=0, B=0. It's quite alright to have neutral tones running -2, -1, 1, 2 etc so don't get too hung up on 0,0.



]]> (chardine photography) Mon, 05 Aug 2013 13:15:48 GMT
More young-uns The American Robin is one of the most widespread and successful species of birds in North America. It's a prolific breeder having up to four broods of chicks in a single breeding season. Here we are in late July and our local robins are probably on their third brood with enough time for a fourth this year. A few days ago, we discovered two very young robin chicks on our back lawn. Both parents were in the area, feeding the chicks but I was worried about local cats so moved the younger of the two chicks to a more sheltered location. Normally I would have left them alone- and you should too if you find young birds on the ground. The worse thing you can do is bring them in and try to feed them yourself. As I handled the chick it let out a squeal and both parents reacted very strongly, which was good to see. Clearly the chicks were being well looked-after by attentive parents! By the way, it's a myth that if you touch an egg or chick, the parents will abandon.

Both chicks maintained a head-up posture while on the ground, ready for a feeding at any time. I managed to catch the younger of the two with gape wide open in anticipation of food.

American Robin (8792) American Robin (8808)


]]> (chardine photography) Fri, 26 Jul 2013 14:28:09 GMT
They are back Well, you know summer is basically over when the shorebirds start migrating through the Maritimes. And it only just began, summer that is. Although our region is important for several species of shorebirds as a place to refuel, build up resources, fat and body condition, in preparation for their southward migration, our signature species is the Semipalmated Sandpiper. Hundreds of thousands migrate from the Arctic to the head of the Bay of Fundy to feed on mud shrimp- Corophium volutator. These little crustaceans are packed with fat and other nutrients which allow the sandpipers to double their body mass from about 20g to 40g+ in three weeks. The sandpipers then set off on a non-stop migration to northern South America, which takes them about four days. Think about that- a bird about half the size of an American Robin flies non-stop for four days to another continent!

So much for biology, it turns out the Semipalmated Sandpipers are fabulous subjects for wildlife photography and as a result I lead workshops in early-mid August to teach you how to photograph this world-class wildlife spectacle. The location is Dorchester Cape, New Brunswick. For more information click here.

Here are a few images from today, when I estimate there were about 60,000 birds in the area. Many more will be arriving in the next three weeks!

Semipalmated Sandpiper (9464) Semipalmated Sandpiper (9067)

Semipalmated Sandpiper (9401)

Semipalmated Sandpiper (9474)

]]> (chardine photography) Thu, 25 Jul 2013 21:05:01 GMT
Hopewell Rocks Peregrine Falcon chick hanging in there!  

I've been visiting the Peregrine Falcon nest at Hopewell Rocks for the past month or more. It's been an absolute treat to first photograph a Peregrine Falcon nest in natural conditions, and then to follow the single chick which has managed to survive for about 45 days as of today.

Here are a few images of the chick and adult from previous visits (the smaller of the two chicks died after falling off the cliff).

]]> (chardine photography) Thu, 25 Jul 2013 20:42:29 GMT