I posted my finished “book” project for the Solo Photo Book Month (aka SoFoBoMo) a few weeks ago but with work and vacations I never got around to mentioning it on this blog.
From the web site - “SoFoBoMo is short for Solo Photo Book Month - a group event where a bunch of photographers all make solo photo books start to finish, in 31 days, at more or less the same time. It’s modeled loosely on NaNoWriMo, where participating writers all write novels in a month, and NaSoAlMo, where musicians write and record solo albums in a month.”
Since this was the first time I’ve done such a project, I decided keep it simple and to use my favorite iPhone photography/camera - Shake It Photo - to produce all the images for the book. I’m primarily a night photographer and I didn’t want to commit to something I may never finish so I decided not to attempt 35+ night images within a single month…something that is way out of my normal range. The simplicity of the Shake It Photo app, which is similar to a digital Polaroid, seemed perfect for this project.
In any case, here is the finished “book”…
As I mentioned on flickr, I completely forgot that for exposures of this length it’s really important to use in-camera noise reduction (dark frame subtraction) and so I was left with an image that had a significant amount of the white speckly noise that’s really difficult, if not impossible, to effectively remove using normal noise reduction software (which I don’t have or use anyway). I’ve been to Yachats many times now but it’s rare to have 90 minutes of clear skies at night on a weekend so I was reluctant to give up on this image. And so I spent quite a few hours trying everything I thought might work to reduce the noise to a level I would be comfortable making a large print from. With only limited success I posted the image to flickr anyway…
Brent Pearson - who has somehow managed to publish a great ebook for night photographers and light painters while working on the Free Photo Guides site and also continuing to post new images on flickr! - suggested I just take a dark frame and do the dark frame subtraction I should have done in camera instead in Photoshop. Normally with dark frame subtraction you need to take the dark frame in similar conditions to which the original image was taken which normally means immediately preceding or following the “real” exposure but since I’d spent so many hours already an extra 30 minutes couldn’t hurt (a single dark frame which I would use to do the dark frame subtraction on all three images.) Here are the results…
The images were processed using DPP and then transfered to Photoshop CS3. For those who are interested, in my opinion, ACR doesn’t perform as well on high ISO images and it just made the speckly problem worse in this case. All samples posted are 100% crops and no sharpening has been applied.
The first image is straight from DPP without the dark frame subtraction. Immediately following it is the same image with the dark frame subtraction performed in Photoshop. I should mention here that while the camera seems to be able to do it all in one shot, it doesn’t seem to be that way in post processing. I had to use several layers and masks to adjust the opacity of the dark frame layer to get good results. The darker the area of the image, the higher the opacity should be set. Set the opacity too high and you’ll see black pitting all over the image. But back to the images…
30 minute exposure, ISO 400, no in-camera noise reduction
30 minute exposure, ISO 400, no in-camera noise reduction, dark frame subtraction in Photoshop
There is a significant amount of blotchy/speckly noise in the first image but it’s reduced drastically by the dark frame subtraction! Finally, getting somewhere! The problem with the first image becomes much more apparent after some normal post processing adjustments.
This next set is the same pair but with a local contrast adjustment using the Unsharp Mask tool with a radius of 80 and amount 60. I commonly use this technique to enhance star trails but obviously it has an equally undesirable effect on any noise that’s in the image.
30 minute exposure, ISO 400, no in-camera noise reduction, local contrast adjustment
30 minute exposure, ISO 400, no in-camera noise reduction, dark frame subtraction in Photoshop, local contrast enhancement
The last set after the local contrast adjustment as well as the remaining adjustment layers I used to finish the image.
30 minute exposure, ISO 400, no in-camera noise reduction, local contrast adjustment, black and white conversion, final adjustments
30 minute exposure, ISO 400, no in-camera noise reduction, dark frame subtraction in Photoshop, local contrast enhancement, black and white conversion, final adjustments
I don’t think I need to point out how much better the second image in each pair is.
To be sure, this is not a critique of the 5DII noise performance. Considering the circumstances (30 minute sequential exposures at ISO 400) it’s really quite good, however, it’s good to know it’s possible (sometimes) to recover from mistakes made at the time of exposure…although it would be better not to make them in the first place!
This image from Yachats, Oregon, was included in the Collective Visions 2009 show in Bremerton, Washington. The show is up now and runs through Feb 27.
The print is 12×12 inches mounted to 16×20. The print was made on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Baryta paper at Custom Digital. For those of you on the never ending quest for the best paper for inkjet prints this should be at the top of your list to try.
In any case, stop by if you’re in the area or are in the mood for a beautiful ferry ride to Bremerton. The gallery is just a short walk from the ferry terminal.
A couple of night photographer friends and extreme light painters are putting on a weekend workshop in the California desert at the Pearsonville Junk Yard on March 7th and 8th so if you’re interested in learning about light painting be sure to check it out. If you’re wondering why I say “extreme” just ask Troy to tell you about some of the abandoned brothel’s in the Nevada desert and you’ll probably think I was watering down my description.
I met Joe and Troy at the Nocturnes Night Photography Conference in 2006 at Mono Lake and I have no doubt this workshop will be a great experience for anyone who attends. Troy Paiva has published two well received books about light painting, Lost America and Night Vision, so if you’re not familiar they’re definitely worth a read.
If you’re interested you can find more information about the workshop on Troy’s web site: http://www.lostamerica.com/workshop.html.