There are 3 parts to this section
- (a) Image processing
- (b) Cheating!
- (c) Panoramas
(a) IMAGE PROCESSING
Whole books are written about this, and there are now many good tutorials available on You Tube, Vimeo and elsewhere. All I can do is express my personal choices. The most important thing is to use the photo processor with which you feel comfortable, and which delivers what you need. For years, I have used Serif PhotoPlus, and improved my skills as the product has evolved. But when I started shooting raw images, I was advised to switch to Photoshop Elements. It was a successful move and I am still using the Organiser to store and catalogue my photos, now numbering more than 10,000.
More recently I have switched to using Serif’s new flagship products – Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer. I think this is a world beating piece of software and it is not expensive. (There is more discussion of Affinity under the media tab at the top of this page)
Affinity Photo and Designer are available for Windows and Apple Mac computers, and there is a fully featured version available on high end versions of iPad Pro. All files are interchangeable between platforms.
Affinity Publisher came out in Beta form in time for me to use it for my 2018 text Log, but the Data Asset Manager is still further down the pipeline. That is a pity because Photoshop Organiser will not accept Affinity files, which I have to keep separately. This is causing some chaos!
Whichever image processor you choose to use, there are some basic steps that need to be observed. These are well described in the ‘taster’ video by Simon Foster for one of his courses on Udemy. The courses are good value, and I have found them very helpful in improving my photo processing skills.
Here is another static example. This sequence is based on a photo of my boat Teal taken by a friend, who was sailing his own boat single handed on a grey say in the Solent – far from ideal circumstances,
This is the photo as shot. The original was in RAW format, so it has been given minimum processing to generate a jpeg that can be uploaded..
Step 1 Rotate and Crop
Rotate and Crop
The human eye will pick out a slanted horizon, even if the angle is only 1 or 2 degrees (You can get away with a slope of 20 degrees if it is there to produce a special effect!). So step 1 is to straighten the horizon and crop the picture to bring out the subject.
At this stage, it can be useful to change the aspect ratio to 16:9 which is probably the most likely screen ratio to be used. However, the minimum crop should be used because you do not know at this point how the image will be used. It could be just a picture, or an inset on a chart, or even part of a panorama. So it will be cropped and reshaped again later.
Light and Dark
Step 2: Light and Dark
This is done using standard tools such as Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, Lightness, and a common but powerful tool called levels. These are commonly called adjustments and in the best image editors, each adjustment has its own layer, so you can go back and tweak things till you get things right,
Step 3: Adjust Colour.
This can be where things start to get tr icky. In the case of this photo, the camera did not pick up much colour on the grey day. Only a powerful image editor such as Affinity Photo or Photoshop/Lightroom (and some others) have the ability to select an area to recolour. (Selection and masking an area are discussed later). In this case, a rather tricky selective colour adjustment was needed to pull out the blue in the Hardy stripe along the hull. A little green was added to the shoreline vegetation There was a little white balance, and a slight tint was put into the see, using a layer mask (consult your software supplier to learn about such features. Here I can only deal with the sequence).
Sharpen and reduce noise
Step 4: Sharpen and reduce noise
Most digital images require sharpening, but there can be a price to pay. Sharpening can increase ,noise (that nasty speckled effect you can get, especially with images taken in poor light or at high ISO values); over-sharpening can cause a colour fringe round edges; and an oversharpened image looks terrible. I like to reduce the noise first (your software tutorials will show you how), but you cannot overdo that because you will lose detail in the image. So sharpening and noise reduction go together and the best combination only comes with practice.
There are several ways of sharpening. Using widely accepted industry terms, the most common is called, strangely, “unsharp mask”. You can control the “radius” or width of the sharpened edge and the severity, commonly called “range” or “Factor”. There is often another adjustment called “clarity”. This increases the clarity in the mid tones. I use it a lot in landscapes, but beware of using it if the main feature of a photo is faces. It can bring our all the wrinkles and spots! My favourie methos is known as “High Pass filter”. This uses blend modes, a common feature in digital photography, but explaining itis beyond the scope of this note. However, it is a technique well worth researching in your image processing software.
Also, remember that different parts of the photograph require different types of sharpening. In this exampke, clarity was used for the overall scene. Then the water was sharpened using a high pass filter. For the boat itself I used two further techniques that only work on some type of objects, including engineered objects such as the boat or strongly defined features such as rocks or buildings. Firstly I applied some “tone mapping”, a technique usually associated with HDR (“High Dynamic Range”) photography. Overdone, it can look dreadful, but if applied to a duplicated layer, then softened by reducing opacity, it can add punch. There are also numerous techniques to make an image ‘pop’. I like one suggested by Affinity in which an extreme unsharp mask is applied with a “lighten” blend mode. This has the effect of bringing out and brightening edges in an otherwise dull area.
Teal- Eddystone composite
In his video (above) Simon Foster defines corrections as actions such as removing spote and blemishes, red-eye correction, and he mention removing ‘unwanted’ objects from the image. But there is another type of correction. It happens when we want to include a picture of our boat but there was no one there to take it – it is very difficult to get good images of your boat at sea. So we have to use another picture taken at a different time and place, with different weather, sea conditions, and background (coast, or open sea). We have to CHEAT!. This is discussed in a separate section below. In the meantime, here is an image that I used in my 2018 Log. The only genuine part is the improbable looking sea. It really was like that. The sky, and the lighthouse have been added, and the picture of Teal was taken on the same grey day as our sample image, which is rebuilt in the next section.
The key to cheating is selection. Every good image editor will have extensive tutorials on this subject, and there are a variety of tools that can be used. What I describe here is based on Affinity Photo, but can apply in most cases to Photoshop, Lightroom and Elements and no doubt others too. Boats are a special case because the rigging is fine, often with little contrast to the sails or sky behind. So fast selection processes such as flood fill, or colour selection do not work well. A “refine” process which is used for jumbled areas such an untidy hair or leaves on trees can work, but not on a boat;s rig and sails. However, the technique for enhancingthe contrast whiule selecting as described in the video below can be helpful.
Cutout (black background added)
I am still developing my technique for dealing with masts and sails, but I have found the following steps are quite good.
- make sure the horizon is very straight
- use the rectangular marquee to remove sky above a clear horizon
- use a “quick select” process which produces a colour wash over the image so you can paint in the bits you want to keep. You have to zoom in so close that you can see the individual pixels. It is slow, but worth it to create a good template that you can used several times with different skies or backgrounds.
- touch up any missing lines by adding straight lines to the image after cutting out.
In the example here, I have added a black background to highlight the rig,
The final step is to find a sky image that matches the weather on the day you want to portray. It is then pasted into your cutout image, resized or stretched till it fills the sky, then moved behind the layers so that it acts as a background. Commonly the sky and sea colours will not blend well, so it may be neccessary to adjust one or the other. Typically changing the saturation and/or hue with an HSL adjustment will do the trick. However, the adjustment must be applied to the right layer (e.g. sky or sea or boat) Typically this selection will be done using a layer mask. This important technique is described in numerous tutorials.
Some of the techniques referred to may seem obscure. This link (click here) takes you to a useful independent listing of the official Affinity tutorials that I use regularly. Go to the Selections and Masking Group if you want to know more.
Recently I have developed my own procedure for getting the best out of a picture that may have been taken in less than ideal conditions, and then applying a sequential process for getting the best selection. This is an advanced technique, not for the faint hearted!.
The enhancement and selection technique is demonstrated in this video
This video is about using a photo taken by a friend, taken from a moving platform(another boat) under less than ideal weather conditions. We take the image and transform it so it can be used in an entirely different context.
I have used three techniques described in official Serif Affinity videos by James Ritson. They are
“Bringing Out Water Detail” https://vimeo.com/202899215
“HDR from one exposure” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ar6CZvfyFvk&feature=youtu.be
“Making Images Pop” https://vimeo.com/178575803
The first part of the video deals with enhancing the basic image, including two different applications of tone mapping.
The second part deals with four different approaches to selection, to deal with different aspects of the image and how to combine them.
I have not seen the use of the pen tool to create fine detail precise selections before, but maybe I did not look far enough. So far as I know, it is a first.
The same problems apply to a lot of outdoor activities including windsurfing, climbing, motocross, horse riding. Wherever there is equipment, wild background, fine details (such as reins or ropes) then complex selection may be needed so you can blag an exciting picture.
Sailing is essentially “panoramic” – we like “wide horizons” These images can be used as banners at the head of a page, converted to video ‘pan’ shots (much steadier than panning hand held from a boat), or just inserted into the body of a text Log
There are two basic ways to create a panorama
– Crop a panoramic image from a standard photo. This requires a fairly high resolution image to start from
– Join a series of carefully overlapped images using ‘stitching software . There are standalone panorama stitching programs, but in recent years, the capability has been integrated into the better photo processing packages.
Long thin panoramas can be used to create a video pan shot using software such as Cyberlink Power Director
The option of taking a burst of photos while panning only works if high shutter speeds are available. A more considered approach taking carefully overlapped images is better. BUT be sure to lock aperture and shutter speed
Once you have the set of images, the process of stitching them together may vary a little from one photo editing program to another, but here are the steps using Affinity Photo.