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Old 10-20-2006, 12:46 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, 01:28 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, 01:59 AM   #3
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Quote:
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, 01:09 PM   #4
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There are plenty of museums and government buildings here in the USA where photograpy is not allowed. I was allowed to keep my digital camera in the money exhibit of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia today, but not to take photographs.
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Old 10-23-2006, 01:53 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by dthomsen8 View Post
There are plenty of museums and government buildings here in the USA where photograpy is not allowed. I was allowed to keep my digital camera in the money exhibit of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia today, but not to take photographs.
Generally, there are two main reasons why museums may not allow photography. The first is a kind of copyright protection: they want to control the 'copyright' of the exhibits - evenm if there is no copyright involved with the exhibits themselves - and more specifically of any reproductions of the exhibits; the better (and richer) of these museums will often have reproductions or slides on sale though, with a quality that's hard to attain with a consumer-level camera, even with a tripod. I've actually also seen tripods explicitly not allowed - take your own pics, as long as they're never as good as ours...

Another (quite understandable) reason is that the harsh light of a flash may actually damage the exhibits - old dyes and pigments in paintings and fabrics, for instance. In this case, you're often allowed to take pictures, provided you do not use a flash. I have the feeling that - where protection of the actual exhibits is the actual issue - this is becoming more common than outright banning of cameras, now that even simple point-and-shoot cameras often have a function to block the flash.

I was recently at an exhibition (Tibet and the 14 Dalai Lamas) where the latter rule was applied: photography allowed, no flashes. The reason was obvious: there were some very old paintings and tapestries - they were lighted, of course, but actually with rather muted light - they were obviously fragile.
With a good digital with adjustable ISO (especially like my new digicam that goes up to 3200) it's possible to take decent pictures without any flash. I didn't have a tripod with me (not prohibited) but with one I could have gotten even better pictures. The only real problem was the reflection in the glass cages, but I have a nice series anyway. (One sample - one of the best - attached: 1/13.0, F 2.80, ISO 1600, cropped and edited to get rid of the last bits of reflection, and sharpened; definitely not professional quality, but quite good enough as a take-home souvenir. It's a Buddha statuette portraying the 13th Dalai Lama.)

I also remember a Buddhist temple complex we visited on this last trip where photography was prohibited inside some of the buildings, but not all - this was also obviously to protect the paintings etc. themselves. At another (in China) all photography inside was prohibited. No one stopped me when I stood outside a door or window and took an picture from there. And what you could see from there was normally sufficiently lighted by daylight to not need a flash anyway (at ISO 400 or 800 or so).
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Last edited by iamback; 10-23-2006 at 01:26 PM.
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Old 10-23-2006, 04:12 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by LoisWakeman View Post
one of the greatest ceramics producers in Mediaeval times, ...
As promised, here's a sample.

(Auto-mode, using flash, ISO 800; background slightly blurred, subject slightly sharpened, one reflection edited out, minor retouches)
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Old 10-23-2006, 05:02 AM   #7
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I guess these are modern from the figures on the teapot (?) left? But the pale green glaze and subtle inlaid or painted decorations are very typical.

PS I meant to say many thanks for the postcard, which arrived a few days ago.
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Old 10-23-2006, 05:58 AM   #8
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I guess these are modern from the figures on the teapot (?) left? But the pale green glaze and subtle inlaid or painted decorations are very typical.
No, definitely not modern! They only had old things in the museum - I didn't get individual years (I'm not even sure the local guide mentioned any because I hung back a bit to be able to take pictures), but these were from the (late?) middle ages. This was in the Koryo museum in Kaesong, with all the exhibits from the time of the Koryo Kingdom (918-1392) - apart from some instructional materials that were of course recently made, like architectural models of palaces and tombs from the Koryo kings; Kaesong was the capital of this kingdom - see for instance this page and this one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LoisWakeman
PS I meant to say many thanks for the postcard, which arrived a few days ago.
You're welcome! But only a few days ago? weird... Most people got theirs weeks ago by now.

   
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Old 10-20-2006, 02:42 AM   #9
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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 02:59 AM.
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Old 10-20-2006, 05:18 AM   #10
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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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