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Old 10-20-2006, 01:46 AM   #1
iamback
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Default Through the window

The first exercise...

So, I have all these pictures from North Korea taken through the bus window, bluish tinted glass. Why? Well, with one single exception we could never do a "photostop" (I asked, wanting to photograph the landscape, but we couldn't or were not allowed). Some of the bus windows had little sliding window at the top (but not all, and we didn't claim places), but you couldn't hang out of that little window all the time either. And apart from landscapes, there were townscapes, or people - I just wanted to capture "normal scenes", not great photography, simply "what it was like".

So I have all these bluish pictures (quite a few of them blurred as well, but sometimes that doesn't even matter!). I just kept taking them because in my mind I was convinced it would be possible to edit them back to more normal-looking pictures, somehow filtering out the blue.

I just picked one typical example (not too blurry - many are worse - but typically bluish); looking closely, the window also has the effect of reducing contrast a great deal - so just filtering out the blue would probably not be enough. I have not installed any external filters yet, just tried to use some of the tools in Paint Shop Pro - and I'm quite pleased with the result of my first exercise (I saved presets for the settings I used).

What I did was:
  • Duplicate the "background" layer (that's because not all of the steps can be done in an adjustment layer - this leaves the original untouched); so continue working with the duplicate
  • Adjust the color temperature (in PSP called "Grey world color balance"): set to 6000; this effectively already filters out most of the blue - but leaves a dull-looking image
  • Adjust black and white points; I picked the lightest blue in the sky and set it to a lighter blue - not white -; and the darkest shadow I could find and set it to darker (subtracting 10 from each color in hex)
  • Adjust gamma to 0.85 (all channels linked) to crank up the contrast; some of the shadows still look too bluish, but other colors now look ok
  • Final step (and the only one I can use an adjustment layer for): a "curves" layer; in the blue channel only make the curve "steeper" with two points (input -> output): 216 -> 229 and 52 -> 21
It can probably be fine-tuned or made more efficient; I also used just a single picture, I have yet to test whether my approach has an equally good result for all similar ones. (Angle of light on the glass may make a difference?) At least I proved to myself it's quite possible - and if I can standardize it, I could make a script for it, too.

Before-and-after samples attached; no sharpening or other editing applied, just the steps described above (plus reducing to a width of 800 and saving as a new JPG of course).

Comments and ideas for other approaches are welcome of course!
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Old 10-20-2006, 02:28 AM   #2
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Very impressive! I assume you already tried the colour temperature correction and it wasn't as good?

I am not surprised you were unable to take outside photos though: I imagine that the powers that be don't want you to see what life is really like for ordinary people (this is a generalisation based on the only recent non-official TV documentary I have seen on N. Korea)?

I must visit your travel blog when I have some spare time (hah!) and see what your impressions were of this fascinating society: from one of the greatest ceramics producers in Mediaeval times, to atomic tests now.
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Old 10-20-2006, 02:59 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by LoisWakeman View Post
Very impressive! I assume you already tried the colour temperature correction and it wasn't as good?
Thanks! No, I had not tried anything yet... My first trial on this picture I started with black & white point and found I didn't get close enough, so the second round I hit on the idea of color temperature which clearly got me in the right direction so I took it from there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LoisWakeman
I am not surprised you were unable to take outside photos though: I imagine that the powers that be don't want you to see what life is really like for ordinary people (this is a generalisation based on the only recent non-official TV documentary I have seen on N. Korea)?
It wasn't quite impossible, but you do get a quite "filtered" view (But you get that on television as well - only "the other way around"!). But they didn't stop us taking pictures through the window either (I read stories from others where this wasn't allowed). And possibly the time I asked to stop it wasn't allowed for traffic rules either. But there were "extra" occasions as well, a flat tire, so we all got off the bus, and took pictures of the repairs as well as the road and passing traffic (not allowed if it was military, but otherwise they let us); and another time there was a long line waiting on a narrow mountain road - we got a little enthousiastic taking pictures there, so after a while they asked us to stop. In general, people are often afraid of looking "backward" - doing things manually, instead of using machines, for instance - when to people in our group, having all traveled more, they didn't look backward at all and we rather admired how they were coping!

A lot of my "through the window" shots are actually pretty blurry (try to get a sharp picture through the window of a fast-moving bus!) but adding it all up I got enough of a collection to have some typical landscapes, townscapes and street scenes, so it wasn't all for nothing. Especially since I now know at least the color can be corrected. Harder will be the ones that have reflections in the window (most of those are from the train), but some of those may be "correctible" as well. I'll just have to figure out techniques for these types of editing. I'll try to get advice on the Corel photography newsgroup - some knowledgeable people there. But I'm quite encouraged after my first test!

Quote:
Originally Posted by LoisWakeman
I must visit your travel blog when I have some spare time (hah!) and see what your impressions were of this fascinating society: from one of the greatest ceramics producers in Mediaeval times, to atomic tests now.
There's only a start there, I could not update it from NK, so I caught up a little in Beijing but obviously didn't spend all my time there sitting in Internet cafes. When I got home, I started to concentrate on importing my pictures in the database - and I'm not done with that! It's not just that it's a lot of work, but I'm still on a rather steep learning curve for IMatch. (I'll be off for the weekend to show some pictures to my parents, hopefully I can import most of the rest - Beijing - next week.) Once all the importing is done I'll work on pictures as well as updating my blog - so much to write about!

Talking about ceramics, I have some decent pictures I took in one museum (where that was allowed - in another we visited it wasn't); very impressive and refined stuff! Actually, I think they're still ceramics producers, and export that, too. (Now where did I read that?) I'll post a picture when I have time to prepare one!

   
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Old 10-20-2006, 03:42 AM   #4
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Another example ("after" only), as a quick test whether I can use the same settings. I found they didn't quite work, but I could still use the same approach, at least. It's done rather quickly, I'm sure it can be a little better. (I also straightened and sharpened it just a bit.)

City scape from P'yongyang: the square in front of the main train station.

(Blue window? what blue window? )
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Last edited by iamback; 10-20-2006 at 03:59 AM.
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Old 10-20-2006, 06:18 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iamback View Post
Another example ("after" only), as a quick test whether I can use the same settings. I found they didn't quite work, but I could still use the same approach, at least. It's done rather quickly, I'm sure it can be a little better. (I also straightened and sharpened it just a bit.)
This is much better, I think that the previous one is lacking a little punch - a bit like a print from an old transparancy. Of course you know what it looked like in real life and need to use that as a reference point.

If if was going to be particular, I would lighten the area beneath the sign a little so you could see the people better, but I'm nit-picking now...

   
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Old 10-20-2006, 06:51 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iamback View Post
City scape from P'yongyang: the square in front of the main train station.

(Blue window? what blue window? )
Looks good to me (agree with Bo about the shadow, but I figure you’ll get to that).

And what a great poster!

   
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Old 10-20-2006, 07:33 AM   #7
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This is much better, I think that the previous one is lacking a little punch - a bit like a print from an old transparancy. Of course you know what it looked like in real life and need to use that as a reference point.
Indeed - it's more of a proof of concept (and I chose a relatively "easy" one). The technique will need a lot of refinement. But none of these will ever be perfect, teh bus was moving (sometimes fast), so there was no time to choose best settings, and the filtered light means exposure isn't optimal anyway.

But what I'll try to do is find a picture that was taken out of the open window (or in the open air) with similar subjects and/or lighting - not easy but it may help to have a reference. I did none of that now.

Quote:
If if was going to be particular, I would lighten the area beneath the sign a little so you could see the people better, but I'm nit-picking now...
Afgreed, it was precisely that area that "closed up" a little when I was manipulating the image; more gentle, careful treatment should help. It really was a quick test whether my saved settings would work here - and I found they didn't.

But the aim with these is not to get perfect pictures, just "natural" looking ones that capture landscape types, people, city scapes. I can hardly wait to get started on all of them!

   
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Old 10-20-2006, 07:37 AM   #8
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And what a great poster!
We saw great art, actualy. Socialist-realist, but very, very good. Great sculpture, too that I really liked. Many more of these types of posters, but they always flashed by... this was a lucky strike: on our last day, on the way to the train to China, the bus was slowing down to let us out at the station - and I saw this. Very quick shot, too. Just lucky, but I'm glad to have it!

   
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Old 10-20-2006, 09:09 AM   #9
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We saw great art, actualy. Socialist-realist, but very, very good.
Not sure you need the “but” there — but I am a fan of socialist realism, in most of its flavors.

   
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Old 10-20-2006, 09:54 AM   #10
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Not sure you need the “but” there — but I am a fan of socialist realism, in most of its flavors.
Heh, I'm not sure either, and actually dithered over that... I have seen bad socialist realism as well though - but not in North Korea. There were some "echos" from Turkmkenistan for me at first - but in contemporary art there's really no comparison; I wasn't the only one in our group to admire their art - especially the sculpture - either.

   
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