Nine Years

Anniversary!

I had not checked my WordPress Reader over the busy weekend, so it wasn’t until this morning that I saw the congratulatory message from WordPress on my ninth anniversary here.

Nine years ago I came over here on the behest of Microsoft when they were shutting down Spaces, their blogging service. It seems like just a short time, but in the cyber world it is eons. So much has changed, so many products, services, companies have come and gone. Just looking other at my categories I can see names that are now mostly memories: Image Composite Editor, Live Writer, Movie Maker, Photo Gallery, Photosynth, Picasa, Spaces, Live Services, Windows Phone. All of them supremely good tools or services, some are not completely gone and are still used by dedicated and enthusiastic users.

This blog, too has had its glory days. Early on I did most of my blogging here with tips and other technical articles. Then I specialized and spread out over many other blogs.

For me it has been a fun ride. I got to meet many other bloggers, some have become personal friends, I even met some in person. Yes, they are all real great people.

Maybe the time has come to re-awaken This ‘n That and share more here. I hope you, my friends and readers, will continue to stick with me, give me an occasional Like, and most precious of all, a Comment. I will try to do likewise.

 

Oh, and don’t forget my other blogs and websites.

Thank you all!


.:. © 2019 Ludwig Keck

Posted in Blogging, WordPress | 3 Comments

Copying blog to blog

Copying text and images from one blog to another

Quite often I want to copy portions of one of my blog post and use it in another. The migration of WordPress to their new “block editor” had presented some problems for doing that. I can now report happily that copying from one blog to another works smoothly.

My objective was to move some old material that I posted five tears ago to one of my sites to organize the information better. This gave me a chance to see how, and how well, the process works now.

With the article displayed in a browser I just selected the text and images in the normal way and clicked Ctrl-C to copy everything.

Then I went over to an open post draft, clicked the top location and Ctrl-V to bring in the copied material. It inserted without any problems. As you might expect, there were some differences in formatting.

The new site uses the Twenty-Nineteen theme which is designed for the new block editor. Each paragraph and each image were converted to blocks.

Let’s look behind the curtain a bit. When you select text and images in the browser and copy the selected material you get some HTML code that looks like this:

Fairly standard HTML. The text is all there. The images, of course, are described by their URLs somewhere in the internet universe. In this case some Google site as the post was from a Blogger blog.

In the new block editor the HTML code looks like this (first three blocks):

Note that the copied code has been wrapped, paragraph by paragraph, with the block editor identifiers.

The images have not been transferred. The links still point to the original URLs. For my article I will upload my original images to the new site to make sure all the material stays together.

What I tried to point out here is that the new block editor now handles copied material pretty much as you expect it should.

.:. © 2019 Ludwig Keck

Posted in Blogging, WordPress | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Monday Window – July 29, 2019

Restarting my Monday Window challenge and weekly postings. Come join in!

Monday Window

Monday Window

On the Road in Georgia – Ludwig Keck (c) 2019

Monday Window is a weekly blog post featuring one or more photos of windows prominently or as the main subject.

The posts are tagged “Monday Window” and are published every Monday.

You are invited to join this challenge and post your “Monday Window” photos on your blog. Tag your post Monday Window and add #MondayWindow in your text.

To see Monday Window posts from other bloggers, go to your WordPress Reader and look for the Monday Window tag.

See Monday Window posts

.:.© 2019 Ludwig Keck

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Post-Processing Fireworks Photos

Making the best of your fireworks photos

Tradition is that fireworks are presented one or a few rockets at a time followed at the end with a frenzy of fire in the sky. If you followed my suggestions in my article Fireworks Photography, you came up with a collection of great, but “thin” photos and maybe an unimpressive light glob. A collection maybe like this:

Had you exposed for longer periods, there would be more bursts in each photo. They may overlap like the finale photo and not be too impressive. Combining several photos to achieve more balanced images is the trick to impressive fireworks photos.

Let’s get started. I will suggest three approaches. Two good ones and one not good at all. I will explain as we go along.

Blending Fireworks Photos

Blending is the classic way for fireworks photos. This implies, of course, that your image editor supports layers. My tool is PaintShop Pro from Corel, I have used it for many years, so I will use it here as well.

Load the images you wish to combine into your editor. Pick one as the base and load the other photos as layers. Now adjust the opacity of each layer to around 50%. This works best with just two or three images. You can reposition the individual layers to give you a pleasing composition. The result will be a subdued combination, something like this:

It looks dingy, but that can be easily corrected later. See:

Fireworks PC Town Center

Using Selection Masks

When you paste a selection from one image to another the selection comes in without being dimmed. You might think that is a good way to combine fireworks photos. Well, selecting around the individual streamers is not exactly an easy task. Fortunately image editors provide a number of ways. This is where masks come in. You can create a mask from a photo.

Again load your photos as layers over a base image. Here I use a full black area as the base for demonstrating.

Select a layer. PaintShop Pro shows a little icon that looks like a Mardi-Gras mask. We want to make a mask from the image. The last menu offers three ways of doing this. I selected “Any non-zero value”.

Since the sky is black the mask, the part that will be visible, will be any value that is not black. That should select just the burst of light. Well, it doesn’t quite work that way. The sky is rarely totally black even in fireworks photos.

Now you can see why I added a colored layer over my black base. Where the mask is black the colored background shows up.

My expectation was to see the fireworks streamers on an orange background. Amazing what few zero-value, full black, areas there really are in this photo. The tree are partially illuminated, even though they don’t show up in the normal photo. There is smoke in the sky and that too interferes. You can fix that by setting part of the bottom end of the histogram to all black.

Much better.

Now just a few smoky areas will block anything below and the streamers will show up nicely.

You can see where I am going. This doesn’t really work too well. When you overlay two bursts the one on top will completely block the fireworks below. It will look artificial and unpleasant.

This is not the way to do it. Let’s go on to my third approach.

Luminosity Masking

There, “luminosity masking” that magic approach the pros keep touting. Some illustration farther back you can see an option for making a mask from the “Source luminance”. This makes a mask that is just a gray-scale image. Each pixel value defines how much of the underlying image to show. Where the mask is all black, 0%, nothing of the image will show and the background is seen. Where it is white, 100%, all of the image shows. Intermediate values will show just some of the image, that is, those pixels will be partially transparent. Just what we want for fireworks. There is a downside, of course. Where the luminance was say 50%, now just 50% of that will show and the image value will be just 25%. So dark parts will be much darker, or might hardly show at all. We can take care of that just as we did in using blend modes.

I do like this approach best. Before making masks, I enhance each photo quite a bit. Fireworks can take a lot of “enhancement abuse”, brightness, shadows, saturation, etc., can all be adjusted aggressively. After making the luminosity mask I will boost the brightness of the underlying image some more.

With this approach the darkest parts, the sky, are essentially completely hidden, that is transparent. The individual masked layers can be easily dragged about for composition.

The streamers will be transparent except in the brightest areas. The fireworks look realistic. Take a look.

Fireworks PC Town Center

And here we have fireworks in the sky where there were none.

Fireworks

 

.:.

© 2019 Ludwig Keck

Posted in Digital Photos, Photo Editing, Photography | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A bit of nostalgia

Once upon a time, a long, long, time ago, I was an avid blogger. My technical advice and information brought hundreds of readers daily. I was “syndicated” and that  brought more. Then other activities needed my attention and time, and recently my blogging was next to none.

I glanced at my Dashboard today and saw this:

It almost brought a tear to my eyes. Let me explain. On the chart there is a small peak. You can see that there were 15 visits to my post Fireworks Photography. This coincided with the Weekly Roundup over at Blogging Meetup which linked to this post. Getting the word out works!

But what really touched me was that third item in my Top Posts, Wicker Chairs on Aircraft … . That was my first post when I moved this blog over to WordPress here. That was more than ten, yes 10, years ago.

So my most recent and my ancient, first post both rank in the Top Posts. Makes you cry, doesn’t it.

It is true that there is very little information on the internet about wicker chairs on aircraft. My post is one source and ranks high in any search for that topic. This proves the truism that what matters in blogging is content, and unique content is tops. That is the real key to SEO, “search engine optimization”.

That post looks crude nowadays. The illustrations are small and the page layout is not pleasing. The themes have changed many times since those days. Maybe I should go back and bring that old, but still popular, post up to date.

That was long before “featured image” support. So I will add a photo from my next post. I have the follow-on post about post-processing fireworks photos in draft. It still needs a few edits before publication. Please check back for my views on that.

Fireworks Peachtree Corners Town Center

.:.

© 2019 Ludwig Keck

Posted in Blogging | Leave a comment

Fireworks Photography

Photographing Fireworks

Fireworks are always a thrill to watch, they are also fun to photograph. This article presents some tips to consider when you prepare and when you take pictures of fireworks.

Getting ready early is important. Fireworks are presented when it is dark and that makes some of the steps a little more difficult. Planning ahead is crucial.

Exposure time 15 seconds, f/8, ISO 100

Equipment

  • Camera with batteries charged and sufficient storage space available.
  • Remote trigger or “cable release” – This is not a mandatory item but a very helpful one. It will make your work much easier and also avoid camera shake when pressing the release.
  • Lens – depends on location, how far you will be from the display – a zoom lens is probably your best option.
  • Flashlight with fresh batteries – Don’t forget a flashlight. It will help when you need to make adjustments, and will be most useful to light your path after the presentation.
  • Tripod – Fireworks requires time exposure and a tripod is essential for that.
  • Gaffer tape or Band-Aid – to prevent focus ring from being accidentally moved.

Getting ready

Check your camera setting well ahead of time, before you set out for the evening. That avoids any last moment pressure.

  • Image format – shoot RAW
  • White balance – leave it on AUTO it doesn’t matter if you shoot RAW
  • Flash off
  • Noise reduction – off

Very likely you will want to take photos of the happenings before the fireworks, so you will make the final settings just before the show in the sky begins. It will be dark by then. That’s why you bring a flashlight.

Best location

My own option is to be at the back of the crowd. That way you have a more interesting foreground – the crowd. It also gets you out of the way and reduces the risk of somebody bumping into your tripod. The fireworks will subtend a smaller part of the sky and fit easier into your frame.

Another consideration: Up front the fireworks may be almost overhead, and might well be out of reach of your widest lens setting. Being in back is also safer. I still have a old blanket with burn holes from wayward fireworks pieces that fell on me when I was way too close.

Camera settings

  • Image stabilization – off – not needed when using a tripod.
  • Camera Mode – Manual
  • ISO 100 – The fireworks are bright fire, low ISO will be just fine.
  • Auto-ISO OFF – some cameras also have an auto-ISO on/off option. Be sure that auto-ISO is set to off.
  • Shutter speed to Bulb. if you don’t have a Bulb setting, set the shutter for several seconds.
  • Aperture – f/8 – see if that gives you color in the first exposure, don’t overexpose unless you want all white fireworks.
  • Framing – focal length setting – you won’t know how high the fireworks will go, start with wide angle setting, adjust as show goes on.
  • Focus mode – set to manual. More on focusing momentarily.

These setting should get you going. You will want to make some adjustments as the show proceeds. More on that shortly.

But first you need to focus. It will be dark, the fireworks haven’t started yet, so there is nothing to focus on. My recommendation is manual focus so the camera won’t hunt to find something.

Most modern lenses allow the focus setting to go beyond the infinity mark. That allows the auto-focus system to work well, but it is a pain for manual focus, especially in the dark.

You can set the focus distance manually, but it is tricky in the dark.

Manual Night Focus – set shy of ꝏ – tape down

Remember about depth of field and the hyper-focal distance. That is the distance, unique for each aperture and focal length setting, that will give you maximum depth of field. Everything from half that distance to infinity will be adequately sharp. Setting the lens anywhere in the range from the hyper-focal distance to infinity will work well for fireworks. When using a full-frame camera with the lens at 50mm focal length and the aperture at f/8 the hyper-focal distance is about 34 feet. Most lenses do not have markings past 10 feet or so. Set the lens just short of the infinity, , mark. Then use a bit of gaffer tape to prevent the focus ring from being moved off that setting. I haven’t always done that to my great regret. It is very easy to shoot a whole series with the focus misadjusted. Use that tape!

Start the shoot

With these settings made, the camera on the tripod and aimed toward the expected fireworks area, take the first shot when the show starts. Inspect the results. Look at the image. Is it sharp? Did you get the focus right or do you need to make an adjustment? Is there color in the light trails? If they are all white, the image is overexposed. Try a smaller aperture, maybe f/11 or f/16.

Fireworks are made of small burning pellets shot into the sky. They will burn at a color depending on the chemical formulation. They will be blasted apart and fall toward the earth, so they are in constant motion giving you the light trails. Sometimes they move towards you and the apparent motion is less. For a given sensor pixel the exposure depends on how long a burning pellet was in view and how many others crossed. Exposure will vary. Don’t worry, just make sure that most of the trails show color. If they are overexposed they will be white.

Also check the coverage in the frame. Adjust the zoom as needed, but keep in mind that some rockets will go high, others less so. Some will explode into a wide blossom or shape. Make sure you get the field reasonably right.

Exposure time 10 seconds, f/8, ISO 100

For my illustrations here I went back to photos I took back in 2013. The fireworks display was behind the city hall in Duluth, Georgia. There were lights on the building and there is an illuminated clock. I chose this set of photos because it shows foreground. Having context for the fireworks can make your photos more interesting. The exposure time will define how light or dark the foreground is. In the photo above the building is well rendered, but the fireworks trails ( and the clock) are overexposed. Remember, the fireworks are the important part. Expose for them.

Exposure time 15 seconds, f/16, ISO 100

In this next shot the aperture was closed to f/16. The exposure time was at 15 seconds. The fireworks look much better. The building is darker as you would expect, but it is the show in the sky we are after!

Exposure time 10 seconds, f/16, ISO 100
Exposure time 20 seconds, f/22, ISO 100

Of course you can zoom in. And at f/22 the colors were even better.

Fireworks shows always end with a finale burst. This is when the sky is filled continuously with wonderful explosions. They overlap, there may be a lot of smoke. Photos of the finale are often the least appealing. Just a mass of light.

Exposure time 13 seconds, f/22, ISO 100

You may want to stop way down for the finale.

You may find that many photos show just one rocket and it would be more impressive to have the frame full of fireworks. In another post I show how to combine and overlap several exposures for making the fireworks show just as you like it.

Don’t forget to enjoy the show!

.:.

© 2019 Ludwig Keck

Posted in Photography | Tagged , | 7 Comments