Back in Stanford’s Memorial Court – 2011

Memorial Court - Stanford - 2011

Last night I was walking to my Stanford Continuing Studies photography workshop as the skies were beginning to clear from our first of the season rainstorm. The clouds were richly textured and with the sunset glow reflecting off a portion. As I walked to class, my mind was still reeling from the news of Steve Jobs’ death that I had heard just a bit before. Somehow this image brought me back into focus.

This image is a 3-shot handheld HDR taken with my Canon PowerShot S95. It was post-processed in Photomatix Pro and Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 (details enhancer and tonal contrast) with the final tweaks, noise reduction, vignette, etc. applied in Lightroom 3.5.

A Different Kind of Tunnel View – Mare Island – 2011

Tunnel View - Building 680 - Mare Island - 2011

We all know about the famous tunnel view shot of Yosemite. As I was editing this image last night, I realized this was a different kind of tunnel view – peeking inside the door windows of Building 680 at Mare Island. Taken on a Sunday afternoon photo walk with Doug Kaye, I shot this as a 3 image HDR sequence using my tiny Canon PowerShot S95 with the lens flush against the window to minimize glare from the glass.

I post-processed the image using Nik’s Color Efex Pro 3 and Silver Efex Pro 2 – adding a bit of blue toning and a selective color treatment to pick up the beautiful light coming through those windows up high.

Here’s another view with a different treatment of Building 680 – zoomed in on the far end of the building.

Single RAW HDR Processing with the Canon PowerShot S95

[Update: These same techniques apply to the Canon PowerShot S100 and, I believe, to the Canon PowerShot S110 as well as the Canon PowerShot S95.]

Recently, I’ve begun doing more HDR post-processing of single-shot RAW images I’ve shot using my always handy Canon PowerShot S95. This is the camera that goes almost everywhere I do – it’s in my backpack!

Canon PowerShot S95It’s capable of producing some beautiful single RAW HDR images – see this example that I shot last weekend in San Francisco.

Cable Car - San Francisco - 2011

Oh, by the way, I didn’t worry about lens barrel distortion when I post-processed that shot of a San Francisco Muni Cable Car!

One of the things to beware of when doing single RAW processing – particularly with compact cameras like the S95 – is just how much lens barrel distortion exists in the RAW file output by the camera. This distortion can be surprisingly significant – but it takes just a couple of additional steps in the post-processing workflow to deal with it – when required.

Note that some images, while having the distortion, look fine to the human eye without any of this additional post-processing. You’ll have to be the judge as to when to tweak further and when to accept the initial result instead.

As described in my recent photography workflow article, my S95 images all come first into Lightroom where they’re stored in my photo masters directory on an external hard drive. I use a Smart Collection in Lightroom to highlight all of the RAW images in my collection. When I’m interested in doing some post-processing, I’ll browse that collection of RAW images and then use the Show in Finder menu item to open a Finder window with that image selection. I’ll then drag that image onto Photomatix in my dock and begin the HDR post-processing. Once that’s complete, I’ll save the resulting JPEG and import that into Lightroom. It’s then that I apply Lightroom’s adjustments to deal with the barrel distortion problems – as well as dealing with any chromatic aberrations that might have cropped up along the way.

Below you can see two images that illustrate the problem – the first is the output from Photomatix following single image HDR processing. The second is the final result following post-processing in Lightroom to remove the distortion and chromatic aberration. In between, I used Lightroom’s Lens Correction adjustments to perfect the image.

First image – following single image HDR processing in Photomatix Pro:


Notice the geometric distortion in the rectangle around the Dairy’s logo. That’s the lens barrel distortion that hasn’t (yet) been corrected.

If you look closely at the right border of the logo, you can see some chromatic aberration – a bit of red that’s seeping in next to the tight border. We’ll fix that too in Lightroom!

Second image – following the use of Lightroom’s Lens Correction/Manual (mostly using the Distortion, Vertical and Horizontal sliders) and using the Red/Cyan slider in that same Chromatic Aberration section. It’s like magic how it moves those pixels around at your command!


These tiny compact cameras are wonderful for shooting RAW images on the go – but sometimes you’ll need to further refine the resulting images to square things up and correct the lens distortion when using their RAW images for single-image HDR. In an ideal world, Photomatix would be able to do this automatically when importing a single-image RAW – maybe that will come along sometime?

PS: Are you curious where I took this shot? Here’s the spot – the corner of Mission St. and Ocean Ave. in Carmel, CA. You can see the Carmel Dairy logo on the wall – presumably long protected from paint over by citizens of Carmel!

Carmel Dairy

Planes at Stanford – The David Packard EE Building

David Packard Electrical Engineering Building at Stanford University (HDR) by Scott Loftesness

Perhaps my tricky title fooled you? No, I’m not thinking of airplanes – but of flat surfaces – those kinds of planes.

We had some interesting weather and skies in the San Francisco area this afternoon – so I headed over for a walk around the north side of the Stanford University campus – and came upon this scene. It’s the David Packard Electrical Engineering building – shot as a single image RAW using my little Canon PowerShot S95 and post-processed using PhotoMatix Pro. This is a more realistic HDR – where the effects are more subtle and photorealistic.

The sun was behind the clouds over to the left side of the image – so there were no dark contrasty shadows but, instead, some beautiful light. When I look at this image, it flips back and forth around the centerline in my mind – fascinating effect! Do you see that too? Click here to see a larger version on a black background.

Hope you like it! If you do, let me know in the comments!

By the way, this image makes an incredible desktop image for your Mac – use the “Stretch to Fill Screen” setting to widen it out – beautiful!

The Palace of Fine Arts – San Francisco

The Palace of Fine Arts - San Francisco - 2010

This photo was taken last June at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. The Palace was originally constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition – and these few buildings are all that remain. It was a typical San Francisco blue sky morning – with lovely lighting adding a hint of shadows. The Palace is another one of my favorite San Francisco venues – a place I love to visit and photograph in all seasons.

The Canon PowerShot S90 (and its successor, the Canon PowerShot S95) are delightful little cameras that can take some amazing photographs. Because of the quality of the 10 megapixel image sensor and the auto-bracketing feature that’s built-in, you can easily shoot HDR (high dynamic range) photos with either of these cameras. Ideally, you’ll use a tripod – but I’ve had great success doing handheld HDR images – just be sure to find something to steady yourself against if you can while firing off the three shots! (Here’s a picture of me walking with Trey Ratcliff and others at Stanford last spring – that’s me on the right with the tiny camera (S90!) on top of the tripod!)

For more background on how I shoot HDR using these compact Canon point-and-shoot cameras, see this post (some tweaks) and this post (original).

Tree Canyon – Fitzgerald Marine Preserve

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve (HDR) by Scott Loftesness

A year ago today, I was over in Half Moon Bay on one of those amazing mornings – where the fog and the sun are almost dancing in the sky.

The Fitzgerald Marine Preserve has this amazing cypress tree canyon (no better word for it!) the someone planted and tended many years ago. You feel like you’re in a tunnel walking this lane – and, usually, there’s no one else around to spoil the natural beauty.

This particular image was shot in HDR using my Canon PowerShot S90 mounted on a tripod. The sun had just started shining through from above those trees on the left while the rest of the trees were still below foggy skies. Just seeing this image brings back vivid memories for me of having been there – just a year ago.

It’s time to get back over there again!

Continue reading “Tree Canyon – Fitzgerald Marine Preserve”