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    Photomatix: Review

    2011 - 09.02

    As mentioned earlier we bought Photomatix to do some High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography.  We decided to do that after we tried it out a little bit and posted some pictures to Flickr as mentioned before.

    The trial version of Photomatix is the same as the full version except that it adds watermarks to the final version of the image, which effectively renders it useless, unless you really want to advertise the fact that you used the trial version.

    Anyway, when doing the original HDR photos of the arbutus trees and foliage I planned ahead a little bit.  When you are saving a file in Photomatix you also get the option of saving the settings that you used to manipulate or perhaps more appropriately combine the multiple exposures into a single exposure.  The end result is an XMP file.

    “Ok, good.” I think to myself, now if I buy the software later I’ll be able to remake these same HDR photos without the watermarks, as I have saved the settings I used to make them in the first place!

    1. So you’ve bought the software
    2. You previously saved the settings used to make the HDR photo as an XMP file
    3. You open Photomatix
    4. Now what?

    I spent a lot of time on number 4.  I thought, I’ll just go to “Open” and select the file, and automagically things will just happen.  Well that fantasy didn’t last very long, as the “Open” dialog doesn’t allow you to open .xmp files.  Huh!?!?  That’s helpful.

    Drag and drop the file into Photomatix?  Nope, doesn’t work either.

    I probably tried a few other things too, it turns out what you need to do is go through the same process of loading the original source files (I guess that what they were is not stored int he .xmp file, or Photomatix simply isn’t set up to make use of it) into Photomatix as though you were making a completely different HDR image.

    After it has loaded the bracketed photos into the HDR image for you to manipulate prior to processing it, you’re hoping that somehow you’re going to be able to make use of the .xmp file that your past self thought was pretty smart of it for having the forethought to create.

    Well it turns out that you can use it, but it’s still not anywhere near as simple as it should be.  There are a few different types of HDR image within Photomatix: Tone Mapping and Exposure Fusion and within those there can be a couple of different sub-types as well.  The downside is that you need to select the appropriate mode and sub-type and then go to a drop down box and select “load settings” before you can load the settings you’ve previously saved.

    It works, but it’s cumbersome and clunky.  Realistically I should be able to include the .xmp at the beginning when I’m loading the bracketed photos, so that it would default to that settings file and the type of HDR composition used in the settings file when presenting the intermediary HDR for manipulation.  Of course that’s only assuming that you couldn’t use the ideal method of just loading the .xmp file and having it load the bracketed photos used for the HDR automagically based on the values in the .xmp file.  But really there’s no excuse for having to pre-select the appropriate type and sub-type of settings before it will let you load the settings file (it literally has a pop-up that tells you that the settings file doesn’t contain settings for that type/sub-type).  On some level it’s good for you to know, but even if they really thought that was important, why couldn’t they instead add to that pop-up: “These settings are for type/sub-type and not the currently selected other type/other sub-type, would you like to load these settings which will result in a change to the type/sub-type or would you like to load a different settings file for the currently selected other type/other sub-type?  [Do it anyway] [Load other] [Cancel]”

    Of course if you never save the settings with the intention of using them to recreate the same image, or to use for other images to apply identical settings, well then you’ll never encounter this issue.

    Is it annoying?  Yes.  Is it bad design?  I’d say so.  Is it a show stopper which makes the software not worth using?  No, I don’t think so.  Especially if you know what to expect, which obviously I didn’t, and came in with unrealistic expectations of how easy it would be to recreate those previous HDR images.

    The final result of all this is actually that I’ve redone all those earlier HDR images so that they no longer have the watermarks, which means I can order prints of them now.  You can see the updated images on Flickr.

    Sooke Sparklers

    2011 - 07.26

    Sooke Sparklers, a set on Flickr.

    We brought our tripod to Sooke with us, our hosts had sparklers, and they were kind enough to do the sparklers with the backdrop of the ocean. I think they turned out pretty well.

    Christopher is in the top left, Keegan is top right and wee Kyler is at the bottom.

    CHOW-DAH! (photos)

    2011 - 07.20

    Clam Chowder, a set on Flickr.

    So since Karin was cooking I got to take the pictures, except for the final couple after the chow-dah had been plated.

    Check out the earlier posts for more details.

    Chowder Update

    2011 - 07.19

    I finally got into the clams that we had in our freezer from our trip to Sooke.  I was a little nervous about making chowder *, as I don’t think I’ve really made any cream soups before.  Overall, it was pretty easy, thanks to my prep cook, The Dave.  I had everything measured out for me and put into little bowls…I felt like a TV chef! :) I was surprised at how easy it actually was.

    1. Take clams out of freezer and put in fridge to defrost.
    2. Two days later, start chopping clams.
    3. Cook some bacon in a pot and reserve drippings (I didn’t do this first, so I did it after and added some drippings)
    4. Cook herbs, clam juice, onions ** and potatoes in pot.
    5. Add cream, milk and flour.  Let cook for a bit.
    6. Rinse off clams because of panic that they’re going to taste too strong.
    7. Add clams.
    8. Cook a little bit.
    9. Nom with sourdough rolls
    10. Realise I forgot to put bacon in.
    11. Decide it’s pretty delicious and doesn’t matter.
    12. Eat more the next day and forget bacon again.  Decide it’s ok because it tastes even better the next day.
    13. Give some to a friend and wait impatiently until he gets home and lets me know how it tasted. ;)
    14. Consider doing it again with the rest of the clams in the freezer.
    15. Write blog post and put up pictures on Flickr.

    * or, as Dave and I call it “CHOW-DAH!”

    ** I used onion powder…or as I say in my head “POW-DAH!”

    HDR Source (East Sooke)

    2011 - 07.18

    HDR Source, a set on Flickr.

    If you checked out the 11 HDR images from East Sooke, then these 33 other images might be of interest, they are the separate correct, under and over exposed images which were combined to make each of the 11 HDR images.

    If you’re curious about which one is which, I haven’t as of yet anyway relabeled them, so in each sequence the files are numbered (image title) and the lowest of the three numbers is the correct exposure, followed by the under-exposed and then the over-exposed.

    Anyway, only the curious need look at them, on some level if you looked at the HDR images, you will have seen all of these before.

    Trailing blackberry stalk

    2011 - 07.17
    Trailing blackberry stalk by dcowley
    Trailing blackberry stalk, a photo by dcowley on Flickr.

    Trailing blackberry stalk in East Sooke. Although this may look heavily doctored, the stalks look very blue and the thorns very pink/red before any post-processing.

    Combination of three exposures -2, 0, 2 (Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB)) using Photomatix. No tripod was used.


    Personally this is one of my favourites, when we were walking around Christopher’s family property in East Sooke we found some trailing blackberries, and the stalks were such a surprising colour, looking far more blue than green and the thorns very pink/red.  Some of that colouring is lost in the high dynamic range (HDR) composition, but the striking contrast between the stalk, the leaves and the thorns is emphasized.

    Woodcocks Arbutus – HDR

    2011 - 07.16
    Woodcocks Arbutus - HDR by dcowley
    Woodcocks Arbutus – HDR, a photo by dcowley on Flickr.

    So this was my first experiment with making an High Dynamic Range (HDR) photo, using an Arbutus tree in East Sooke. I’m reasonably pleased with the results.

    It is a combination of 3 jpegs using Photomatix Pro (trial version; hence the Photomatix watermark).

    Anyway, I think it looks pretty cool, feel free to offer your comments.

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