As the links keep coming for the tourist removal tutorial, I noticed one of them coming from gadling.com which is not so much a travel blog as it is a blog about travel. First glance suggests that it’s a worthwhile source for travel information and news, so go get reading up on all the places you want to go! And thanks to them for the link.
I should also say a big thank you to stumbleupon and lifehacker for their generous contributions to my site’s traffic. And thanks to all the other folks who though the piece was worth a link. Much appreciated!
The National Association of Photoshop Professionals has a good, first look at some of the new features that will be in Photoshop CS3. Among the highlights are the improved functionality of Camera RAW and a big upgrade to the Bridge application.
There appears to be a lot of other potentially-useful functionality appearing in CS3, so hurry up and have a look!
Every notable landmark seems to have one thing in common: visitors, and lots of them. But if you want that postcard shot or that image that shows how the location may have once appeared, you have a challenge ahead of you. This digital photography and PhotoShop tutorial will provide a means to remove the tourist throngs from your vacation images.
Taking the Photos
The technique I will describe here applies to photos you have yet to take. Unfortunately, there is no single easy way to get rid of people in the shots you already have. But instead of agonizing over long clone-stamping sessions, you can take shots that will yield vacant sites with only minimal PhotoShop work.
To start, you’ll want to be taking your photos with a tripod. A remote release or timer will also help (it will minimize the possibility that you may inadvertently move your camera between shots). You will also want to shoot using manual settings. As the scene changes, your camera meter may change your exposure values and that will make your PhotoShop work more difficult.
At busy sites, once you have composed your shot, you will find there is no end of tourist flow through your frame. You may find yourself quickly giving up on an image because you know that as soon as one group of visitors starts leaving, another will soon take its place. You might get lucky and everyone will flee the scene, but if you are short on time and/or patience, you may not be able to hold out forever.
The trick is, with your tripod-mounted camera, you can take your shot with people in it. Then, once people have moved a bit, you can take a second photo.
As an example, look at this photo I took at the ruins of Ta Prohm in Cambodia near Angkor Wat:
A lot of tourists loitering in the scene don’t make for such a great photo of a place that evokes imagery of explorers discovering a long-lost ruin. But with a little patience, I was able to get another shot of the scene with fewer people:
What’s important to note in this scene is where the tourists are and where they are not:
Make a mental note of the parts of the scene that were occupied by people. Then, as those parts of the scene empty, take a shot. The rest of the scene doesn’t need to be vacant, just the parts that were previously full:
Now, while still thinking of our mental note of what areas need to be vacated, we can still see one man occupying part of the photo. When he moves, we can take our final shot.
Putting it Together in PhotoShop
Once you have your sequence of shots you will want to open all of them up in Photoshop then copy and paste all of them into a single document as separate layers with your first shot as the bottom layer in the document. If you are shooting in RAW format, make sure that if you change settings for one of the images, you make the same changes to all of the images so that their exposures, white balance and other settings match.
If there are small differences between the alignment of your images, select the Move Tool and use the arrow keys to nudge the layers into alignment. A handy trick for this is to change the blending mode of the top layer to “Difference,” then nudge the layer using the arrow keys. The closer the resulting image is to black, the better the alignment. Once you have finished the alignment, change the blending mode of the top layer back to “Normal.”
For now, we will make the top layer invisible (click the eye icon next to the Photo 3 layer). Next with the Photo 2 layer selected, create an empty mask for that layer, by clicking the mask icon while holding down OPTION on the Mac and ALT on the PC. Your mask should now be black and the entire layer is hidden.
Now it’s time to get rid of the people in your photo. Select the brush tool and use a brush with a feathered edge. Make sure the foreground colour is white, then Start painting into the mask of the Photo 2 layer in the places occupied by tourists. You will see the people magically disappear from the image!
Once you have removed as many people as you can by painting on the Photo 2 layer, make the Photo 3 layer visible, create an empty mask for it and paint out the remaining person. If you have to take more than three photos, keep repeating the process to erase any remaining stragglers.
You now have a landmark free of people!
While shooting, if you waiting for any appreciable period of time between shots, the light in the scene may have changed. Once you have completed your masking and removed the people, you may be able to discern differences in lighting in the areas where the people were and where they now are not.
If the difference isn’t too off, you can correct this by making active the layer where the people are not present. Then, you can either any of PhotoShop’s tools in the “Image > Adjustments” menu to correct the change in light between the shots.
I have just posted my article on photographing the temples of Angkor in Cambodia that was originally published by Travel Photographers Network.
Angkor was truly a joy to shoot and I could have spent far longer there than I did. All the major temples merited repeat visits. Different lighting conditions and times of day would have delivered wonderful new photographic opportunities and challenges each time.
It was one of my favourite locations in Southeast Asia, so if you are in the area, do yourself and take at least a few days to make the trip into Cambodia.
Angkor is one of Southeast Asia’s top-rated destinations, yet it’s still vastly underrated. The ancient group of temples most accessible from the Cambodian city of Siem Reap is unforgettable, jaw-dropping and worth every second and penny you might spend to get there. Before reading any further, I suggest you start planning your trip.
Okay, got your tickets? Good. Now get ready to view one of the most impressive sights on earth. The immense stone temples of the Angkorian era were built between the 9th and 13th centuries and thanks to the work of dedicated archaeologists and conservation efforts, many of them still stand today in good condition.
Angkor is a temple hopper’s dream come true. Dozens of massive stone sites stand toe to toe with the jungle and sometimes overlap with it. Intricate architecture reflects the spiritual pursuits of the Khmer empire that built the temples and multiple levels of meaning seem to permeate every stone.
In days past, elephants would have formed the convoy hauling those stones in and out of the various temples. Today, the elephants have been replaced by steady streams of tour buses. Their presence in Angkor is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, the influx of tourist dollars is a boon to the long-suffering Cambodian people, on the other, the temples often resemble something more like Cambodia Disneyland than the spiritual sanctuaries their builders intended.
Avoiding the tourist hordes can be an irritation particularly for a photographer hoping to recapture some of the splendour of the past days when the temples stood silently in the jungle. But crowded conditions and the area’s other potential dangers should not be enough to keep you away. That said, it is important to be aware of some of the hazards in the areas so you can best avoid them.
Top of the list of pitfalls is the presence of landmines in the area. For the most part, the temples of Angkor have been de-mined and wandering off the path should cause you no anxiety. Only at some of the further reaching temples like Kbal Spean and Phnom Kulen should you strictly stick to the paths outlined for visitors. There are still mines in these areas and you don’t want to be the person to find them.
Much less serious, but important to note are factors such as malaria, (less of a presence in Angkor than in the rest of Cambodia, but still worth researching prevention), dehydration, and some practically non-existent safety standards on the roads. You may find yourself exploring the area on the back of a motorbike while dodging gaping potholes and wearing no helmet. If you’re not comfortable with this, the cheapest option, you’ll have to pay more for every step up on the safety ladder from tuk-tuks (motorcycle drawn-carriages) to cars and buses.
Visiting the temples of Angkor costs $20 USD for a one-day pass, $40 for three days and $60 for the best-value seven day pass. To give yourself the best opportunities to catch the better light, consider the seven-day pass. Unless you have a low-tolerance for temple hopping, you likely won’t find yourself bored and with a number of temples further away from Siem Reap, you can easily fill your schedule for the full seven days. That said, if you are pressed for time, a three-day pass will allow you to see a good number of the sights and perhaps even give you the chance to revisit a your favourite site along the way.
The vine-entangled Ta Prohm, the mysteriously-carved Bayon, and the mighty Angkor Wat can each captivate you for at least a half day, but if you have budgeted the time, you are likely to want to make more than one stop at each. While these are probably the three must-see temples in the area, don’t think for a second that you should ignore the others that didn’t make this top trio. At the smaller or more remote locations, you may occasionally find some peace away from the tour busses and a better opportunity to photograph the sights without having pesky tourists in the way.
Plan to come in the dry season. One guide told me that Cambodia only has two seasons: hot and hotter. Keep in mind that the hotter season is accompanied by more rain than you’re likely to want on a day of shooting. December to April are the driest months with December and January being the coolest time of the year by a degree or two.
A few general points on the light conditions include that both sunrise and sunset are fruitful – the light was sometimes spectacular and the skies lit up in gorgeous, textured fire on a high percentage of days. However, during the times when the sun is low in the sky, you may have to contend with shadows from the trees at more forested temples. And of course, midday was harsh especially at the more forested temples.
The following temple guides give more information about the lighting conditions at some of my favourite temples:
Angkor Wat is a good deal more spectacular than descriptions can portray. It is considered to be the largest religious structure in the world and each stone is another opportunity to be dazzled. Detailed carvings and statues litter the walls surrounding the sprawling grounds.
Sunrise and sunset are both popular times and the tour buses descend on the site in swarms. With good reason – both times can be spectacular at the expansive temple. Few trees surround the area so the sun’s light progresses uninterrupted to the stones and the orange/yellow glow of the low sun gives additional life to the already impressive masonry.
Midday is one of the less crowded times at Angkor Wat, so if you’re looking to dodge the masses, consider this as an option.
Sunrise is perhaps best viewed from West of one of the Royal Pools, with the North one being the more popular option. Here, the sun will rise directly behind the temple’s towers and the sky’s colours will be reflected in the still waters of the pools.
Sunset may yield a glow on the main complex of the temple and again, a location behind the royal pools may be your best bet to capture the illuminated towers. However, once the light has faded, don’t immediately pack up and head for the exit. If you’re lucky, a few wispy clouds may remain in the sky and they may transform into a myriad of reds and yellows before you’ve left.
Also of note is that in the late afternoon, Buddhist monks are likely to be found wandering the grounds of Angkor Wat in search of a friendly companion with whom they can practice English. Don’t miss this opportunity to speak with some of the most kind and soft-spoken people you are ever likely to meet. And if they are willing to have their photo taken, their brilliant orange robes create a spectacular contrast with the dark grey stones of Angkor Wat.
On your first day, consider going to Phnom Beking for sunset. When you purchase a ticket to the temples at around 5:00 pm, your pass starts the next day, but you are free to enter for that evening’s sunset.
These days Phnom Beking is a zoo at sunset. You may feel like you’re at Cambodia Disneyland instead of a centuries old temple. The crowd of tourists jockeying for the best view of the descending sun can be a sight in itself. Of course, they are there for a reason. One of the few elevated points in the area, Phnom Beking provides one of the best views of a sunset that you will find in the Angkor area.
The vine and tree root constricted temple can be challenging to shoot on a sunny day because the forest throws patchy shadows on every surface. Such is the price you pay for having trees growing directly from the roofs of the temple. Instead of trying to fight the sun and the harsh shadows, try going on a cloudy or even a rainy day. The softer light is a lot more flattering in photos. If the weather forecast is clear for your whole stay in the area, try making it to Ta Prohm before sunrise. At least then you won’t have to contend with the crowds.
The mysterious faces of Bayon are well suited to the early and late glows or sunrise and sunset. But morning at Bayon can be an especially popular time for the tour groups, so consider the late afternoon. The light can be fantastic and most of the crowds have already started to make their way to Angkor Wat or Phnom Beking. While the sun descends, take note of when it will hit the treeline. Leave a few minutes before the sun finds itself behind the leaves to head to Angkor Way where you can still catch some of the sunset at the more open temple.
Perhaps even more than Ta Prohm, there is no especially good time to visit Beng Mealea. The temple is entirely overgrown and sunny days will produce highlights and shadows that your camera meter will just refuse to judge correctly.
Again, try to find a cloudy day to make the long trip out to Beng Mealea. It is well worth the distance. Ruined towers and strangling vines will truly make you feel like an adventurer. Few tour groups reach this far-flung destination, so you may have the temple much to yourself. At which point, few people are likely to look at you funny when you start humming the Indiana Jones theme song to yourself.
Bring along your preferred landscape lens to Angkor. A good wide-angle zoom will serve you well. A telephoto zoom may come in handy at some temples like Bayon if you’re looking to get shots tight to the stone faces. Bring along your tripod for early morning, evening and indoor shots of the temples. Consider rain protection for your gear as well. Wet conditions will drive away the tourists, so you may have little company at the temples – just make sure you can keep your camera dry!
And lastly, check out my photos from Cambodia.
Just in time for both the Fourth of July and Canada comes a guide from Digital Photography School on how to photograph fireworks. In addition to the tips mentioned in the article, I would add that finding a good vantage point before the show starts is what will make your photographs truly stand out. If possible, find out from where the photographs will be launched, then do some scouting in the area to see how you might best frame the fireworks in your shots.
Photographers of Getty Images have been busy at the World Cup and have been posting their photos and experiences on the Getty Images Sports Blog. The page provides some interesting insight into what it’s like to shoot such a major event and also features the occasional useful tip from some of the better sports photographers in the world.
DSLRBlog.com has a guide to DSLR lenses that’s worth a look for anyone in the market for some new glass.
If you are going to be shopping, before making your purchase, I would recommend making a stop at Fred Miranda’s review section where you can get multiple reviews on each product (lenses and camera bodies) from users who have already made the purchase.
In an effort to deter photography of sensitive subjects and copyrighted material, researchers at Georgia tech have begun the development of a device that will cripple the use of digital video and still cameras. The system works by scanning the area using infrared beams for the reflection produced by digital camera sensors then beaming light into the camera to blind it. The light is out of the visible spectrum and also said to be harmless to human beings.
Notably, however, this system is incapable of disabling DSLR cameras. The mirror on DSLRs blocks the scan from seeing the sensor, so the more professional cameras are safe from this device.
In addition to its limitations with DLSRs, the system seems as though it would be easy to circumvent. A one-way mirror, an infrared filter or perhaps even a polarizing filter would conceivably block the sensor from being detected.
One of the main purposes of the camera blocker is to help prevent movie piracy by disabling video cameras in movie theatres. It has a host of other potential applications such as defending high-security areas and keeping trades secrets safe at trade shows.
My hope is that this does not become an over-used or abused technology. Would the world have ever known about Abu Ghraib had such devices been installed there? And if it had been mounted to the police car of the officers who beat Rodney King?
If this technology comes to fruition, I can only hope its use is strictly regulated.
Yes, the 111-megapixel sensor I mentioned yesterday has been bested, but not by a single image. Instead Andre Gunther has created this 222-Megapixel photo of Machu Picchu the slightly-more-old-fashined way: by piecing together multiple photos in photo-stitching software. The fantastic detail is well worth a look as is the tutorial on creating ultra-high-resolution images.
Due to all the traffic Gunther’s image has received, the original site may be unavailable. If so, try this mirror.
Though consumers can’t expect to see this kind of resolution in their cameras anytime soon, the new 111 megapixel sensor developed by DALSA Semiconductor lets the imagination run wild for photo enthusiasts. It’s the first digital photo sensor to break the 100 million pixel barrier and will ultimately be used for mapping the motions and locations of celestial objects.
The sensor is approximately four inches by four inches, so no amount of cramming will get it into today’s DSLRs. Besides, the power of the computer you would need to process the images is well beyond most people’s means. I think my powerbook might choke to death if I tried to manipulate a 10,560 x 10,560 pixel image in PhotoShop.
The Orlando Sentinel has an interview with Carl Purcell that explores the life of the 77-year-old travel photographer. He has visited 99 countries and been published in just about every major travel publication and has earned my respect for the knowledge he has gained and subsequently shared with his peers.
If you have a free afternoon and you’re looking to practice both your portraiture and your people skills, you may consider having a look at photojojo’s guide to impromptu street photos. Just grab some poster board and a handful of small rewards for your subjects and you are on your way to meeting new people and getting some fun shots.
With the summer season upon us, you may be lucky enough to have an air show appearing somewhere in your region in the near future. Digitaldarell.com has a detailed guide to shooting air shows that will help you to capture all the action. The only thing I would add is that you shouldn’t forget to point your camera at the events on the ground from time to time. You may find yourself able to get some interesting shots of the planes or their pilots when you take a break from craning your neck upwards.
The gravity-defying MonsterPod looks like it would not only be a fun toy but also a practical addition to the camera bag of anyone looking to support their compact camera or external flash in a bizarre location. This small, red camera support has a strange, morphing underside that allows it to stick to most surfaces and hold a 10 ounce camera or flash. Weird, but potentially-useful stuff. For $30, it might be worth it just to see how the thing works.
Lastly, iView has updated its MediaPro photo management software to version 3.1.1.
Harald Heim has an exhaustive article up at luminous-landscape.com on shooting dance performances. This guide covers all sides of a potentially-difficult subject to photograph, so read up before you head to the stage.
Six photographers in California are poised to set two new world records: the world’s largest photograph and the world’s largest camera. Constructed using an air hangar, this gargantuan pinhole camera will be used to produce a panoramic image of the landscape on the outside of the hangar.
The photographers are using a nearly 31-by-111 foot piece of white fabric covered in 20 gallons of light-sensitive emulsion as the “negative.”
I’m genuinely curious to see how the photo will look when completed. It will take ten days for the exposure to be completed, so the results will surely be unique for more than just their size.
To follow up on the previous post, computers.net has one of the many early reviews of Google’s Picasa Web Albums that are bound to pop up in the coming days. Check out their review complete with screenshots here.
And because I forgot to mention it before, Mac users have a little less to get excited about with Google’s recent news – the Picasa application is still only available for Windows. Google has stated that a Mac release is an option in the future, but they have not given any firm release dates.
Google has announced the launch of their Picasa Web Albums service. Google’s photo sharing site is currently only available by invite. The launch of this test version of the site coincides with the new version of the Picasa photo software.
Another front on which the search engine wars are being waged, the Picasa service will serve as Google’s weapon in the battle against Yahoo’s popular Flickr photo sharing site. With a firmly-established community of Flickr users, Picasa has an uphill battle. If nothing else, a little competition will serve the users of both sites well.
Adobe has just released Adobe Lightroom Beta 3, their RAW image processing solution currently only for Mac OS X. Download and try this public beta release at the above link.
For extensive coverage of the functions in this release, read photoshopnews.com’s article on Lightroom Beta 3.
Edit: I just had a quick look at the program and I personally find that it’s still far too slow for my purposes. I’m running a 1.5 GHz Powerbook with 1.5 GB RAM, so I am above the system requirements, but operations that happen quickly in Adobe Camera RAW just take too long with Lightroom. I hope that the program speeds up in future releases because a number of the features are attractive and it could be a good addition to my workflow.
What do you do when you have to shoot, process and capture images of 18 tennis matches in one day with no list of players to guide you? This post on Blue Pixel has a detailed look at how Reed Hoffman overcame the tight deadline for this hectic day with an efficient digital workflow.
One of the many reasons I love the Japanese is for their sometimes incomparable sense of invention. The Flash Helmet is a fine example of this creative spirit. Too bad it’s so ridiculous.
This portable lighting system is designed to produce a soft light as it’s bounced from an umbrella. A head-mounted umbrella. Yes, a flash unit and umbrella are mounted to a helmet, synced to the camera and used to produce a rather nice light. But unless you’re used to taking pictures while wearing a clown suit, the absurd appearance of this device might not be for you.
A lot of new buyers of Digital SLRs are surprised to learn that the sensor on their camera can become the home to irritating dust particles that will pollute images.
If moving from a film SLR to digital, people sometimes wonder why they never had to clean their film camera with such regularity. The simple reason is because with each new photo, you are working with a new ‘sensor’ as the film advances. Combine this with the fact that there is no static electricity roaming around the film plane and you generally don’t have to worry about dust showing up in photos.
Owners of compact digital cameras may be similarly irked by the dust problem inherent to DSLRs. But what these potentially-perplexed new DSLR owners forget is that there is little chance for dust to enter the compact, sealed up digital cameras. With the ability to switch lenses comes the potential for the sensor to be exposed to the dusty outside world.
Happily, there are ways of managing your sensor’s exposure to dust and methods of cleaning it when you do have the problem. Michelle Jones’s article on dust management will help you shoot spotless images.
The International Herald Tribune has an optimistic article at the future of digital cameras. They take a look at the rapid development that has occurred during the rise of the digital camera and examine what’s possible if a similar rate of development continues.
I agree with the article that much development is yet to come with digital camera technology, but perhaps the optimism in the piece might be a little too enthusiastic. While I do believe that megapixels will continue to multiply inside cameras, I suspect sensor developers will shift their focus away from higher megapixel numbers. After all, the smaller photo sites required for additional pixels have the tendency to reduce image quality. Though I do believe we will continue to see the numbers rise, I just wouldn’t put too much faith in them rises as quickly as the author suggests.
Instead, I believe camera manufacturers will shift more of their focus to improving the quality of the images. The article does discuss this as well, but I do think this is where the immediate future in camera development lies. Professional photographers now seem relatively content with the size of their images – they now strive for ever greater quality. Higher dynamic range and better high ISO performance are a couple of the refinements that are at the top of photographers’ wish lists.
As for me, I think one of the refinements they should work on is cutting the prices of this new technology. I want to play with these fun toys too!
The Strobist has deviated slightly from the usual tasty buffet of good lighting articles and served up a delicious article that discusses layers of interest in photographs
From the article:
“Top to bottom, left to right, front to back,” The Washington Post’s Mike Williamson told me once. That’s the standard. Fill the frame. Make it work. Make someone want to stay there a while.
Usually, the more layers of interest I can pull off in a photo – and still have it “work” – the happier I am.
The layers of interest discussed here are the elements of a photo that tell a story. They are the details in a photo that make viewers step in closer to have a better look at what you have captured.
Creating a depth of interest, however, a tricky balance. There is a temptation to include more compositional elements in the hopes that they may create additional interest in the photo, but this can often lead to clutter. This is why creating such images is so difficult: the details must compliment and add to the subject, not compete with it.