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As you probably know, this site is on hold for now until I figure out what to do with it. You would’ve noticed I haven’t made any updates in a couple of months. However, there’s a lot happening over at DISTURBANCES IN THE WASH.

Here are a few of the highlights of the last few weeks:

Plus a lot more! I’ve written reviews of some apps and lots of stuff about Apple Aperture, technology, and photography.

Go check it out and subscribe to the RSS feed or via email.

Upcoming changes to this site

For a long time, I’ve kept 2 websites with semi-regular updates on both. This site has been exclusively for my photography, while disturbancesinthewash.net is where I write about “everything else” that interests me, namely technology, Apple stuff, marketing.

Over the course of this year, I’ve noticed the topics have tended to merge a bit and I haven’t been sure where to post certain articles since they seemed to be relevant to both sites. For example, I wrote about my backup strategy that involved how I backup my Aperture library. I also wrote about issues with the intergration between Aperture and Pixelmator. Or how about a mini review of Pixelmator?

All of the above could’ve been posted here as well and, I think, would’ve been relevant. Unfortunately I had to choose only one place to publish them and the readers here missed out.

So, from today, I’m consolidating all my writing and photography over at Disturbances in the Wash. I’ll slowly move the content from this site over there and all new articles and links will be published there.

Please head over to disturbancesinthewash.net and subscribe.

Those that have subscribed to receive email updates will be migrated automatically. I hope you stick around, but if you’re not happy with this every email I send has an easy unsubscribe link. No hard feelings if you decide to click on it.

Another reason I’m consolidating is focus. I just don’t want to split my time and brain power more than necessary.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with this site in the future. I’m thinking it’ll be an entry point to other places where I’m hanging around online, but not sure yet. For the short term, it’ll stay up as is while I transition the content across.

If you want to get in touch with me, send me a message on Twitter or emails me through the Contact form in Disturbances in the Wash.

Colour processing Madam Tussauds photographs in Aperture

Yesterday I published several photos from Madam Tussauds, Sydney and mentioned the lighting at the museum was challenging. I briefly explained that I’d done the post-processing in Aperture by using a Portra preset and a lot of fiddling with white balance.

A few people contacted me asking if they could see the before and after photos. I think it’s a great idea, so here we go. Let me explain the process in a bit more detail.

Taking the photographs

As I mentioned yesterday, the photographs were shot in RAW with a Fuji X100S. I kept the aperture wide open at f2 for the most part and even with that the ISO was hovering between 1600 and 3200.

The lighting was extremely varied and obviously I couldn’t influence it much. Flash is not allowed in the museum, and it probably would’ve killed the atmosphere anyway. Obviously, I couldn’t change any lights either. All I could do was use my body to reflect a little bit of light off my light coloured shirt.

The overall ambient light was almost red and not bright enough. Some sculptures had blue and violet lights coming from the sides which made them look really cool in the museum, but a pain to photograph.

Post-processing the photographs

As soon as I got back home, I imported all 211 photographs into Aperture. I did a quick edit to pick my favourites and from there did a second pass to select the ones I published yesterday. Most of the photos are of my daughter playing with the props and interacting with the sculptures. The museum is very kid-friendly and they encourage people to touch and experiment with things.

Once I had narrowed it down to about 20 photos of sculptures, I went in to the Adjustments pane in Aperture and tried to colour correct the photos.

This is what they look like straight out of the camera:

Aperture Presets Before

The first thing I tried was the Skin Tone control in the White Balance brick. It often works really well. Just click on the eye dropper icon and then click somewhere on the skin. I find selecting the cheeks works best.

That instantly made it a lot better. It removed the redness and brought out other colours. But it still wasn’t right.

Right, of course, being subjective. What looks right for you might not be what looks right for me. And since I don’t know what Einstein’s skin looked like in real life, I’ll just have to pick what looks good to me.

After toying around with the Skin Tone slider a bit I decided to try the Neutral Grey control. I clicked on his shirt, which is supposedly white, but that didn’t work. Then I clicked on the grey line behind him on the left side of the photo and that got me really close. A little fiddling with the slider got me 95% there.

I then put the Black Point down to zero in the Exposure brick. The default was 3.

After that, I applied the beta version of the Portra preset for Aperture from Rob Boyer that I mentioned yesterday. It’s very subtle but does an amazing job. As a side note, I haven’t had time to experiment with the final version, but going by the beta I’m sure it’ll be awesome.

I honestly never used Portra in the film days, so I have no idea what it looked like. What I do know is that this preset makes the images come alive in a very natural way.

For most of the photos, that was it:

  • Fiddle with White Balance
  • Reduce Black Point
  • Apply Portra preset

Here’s what Einstein looks like after the tweaks above.

Aperture Presets After

Some photographs had mixed light and weren’t as straightforward. For example, Bruce Willis was under red-orange ambient light but had purple, pink, and blue lights around him.

For these, I followed the same process except I manipulated the colour a bit more with a Curves adjustment. I went into the RGB channels and adjusted them until it looked right. For some, I also reduced Saturation a tad.

A day at Madame Tussauds

Albert Einstein at the Madame Tussauds, Sydney

Yesterday I spent the day at the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in Sydney. It had been years since I’d been to any wax museum. I think the last time I was at one was the Museo de Cera in Mexico City probably over 5 years ago and before that I vaguely remember the Madame Tussauds in Amsterdam maybe 15 years ago.

I have no idea why I left it until today, but I’m glad I went. I had a great time and I was pretty impressed by the quality of the was sculptures. The guys that do them sure are talented. Some figures are so life-like it almost feels like they’re looking into your eyes.

Look at Albert Einstein above. Doesn’t he look real? I can even sense some emotion in his eyes. Weird.

I had a blast shooting them, although as with most museums, the light is awful for photography. It’s mostly pretty harsh and coming directly from above, which casts horrible shadows below the nose and the eyes. Mix that with other lights of a million different colours coming from every angle and it sure gets challenging. Colour correcting is a major pain, but I think they came out ok.

As you’d expect from a Madame Tussauds in Sydney, several of the sculptures are of Australian celebrities and local prominent figures. I actually enjoyed that and thought it was a great idea. It gives it a local flavour and I’m sure sets each museum apart.

For those interested, they were all shot with the Fuji X100S and post-processed in Apple Aperture using a beta version of Rob Boyer’s Portra Presets For Aperture and a lot of manual white balance and curves tweaks to correct colour.

Perfect Photo Suite 8 available in November 2013

onOne software recently announced Perfect Photo Suite 8, the new version of their flagship photo editing product available in November 2013. Although honestly, calling it a product is misleading. It’s actually several different ones rolled up into one. They call them modules but each one is a full fledged application with amazing capabilities, and they all work together seamlessly.

The new version includes:

  1. Effects
  2. Portrait
  3. Black & White
  4. Layers
  5. Mask
  6. Resize
  7. Enhance and Browse

I’ve been using Perfect Photo Suite 7 for a few months now and I’ve been impressed. It works as a stand alone applicaton or as a plugin for Apple Aperture, which is the way I use it. It also works with Lightroom and Photoshop of course.

Since I started using Perfect Photo Suite, I haven’t opened Photoshop much. In fact, I’m pretty sure that these days I only open PS for the Liquefy tool once in a while. Other than that, everything I want to do I can do with Aperture and Perfect Photo Suite.

The Portrait module has a pretty impressive skin smoothing feature. The B&W module has so many options that it’s easy to get the exact look you want. Masking is super easy with their “masking bug” and it’s great to have layers without having to open Photoshop. And if you want to print a huge image, the Resize module can upsize a photograph with minimal loss in quality. It’s truly impressive.

I can only imagine what the new version will do and I’m eager to try it out.

A few new features from Perfect Photo Suite 8:

  • The Perfect Eraser with content-fill technology
  • A re-engineered Effects module that performs better and is built on adjustable filters and presets that you have ultimate control over
  • New filters (there will be more than twice as many!) that let you add popular looks and effects—including HDR, Dynamic Contrast, Vintage, Antique, and Grunge
  • FocalPoint technology more seamlessly integrated with the rest of the Suite
  • An easier to use Masking Bug
  • A more flexible and powerful batch processing options

They’re offering a discount during the pre-sale period if you order before 19 September. There’s also a live webinar where they’ll show a sneak-peek of what’s new in Perfect Photo Suite 8.

David duChemin’s “Ten” is free

David duChemin has made his first eBook, titled Ten free. He describes it as:

The premise is simple, if photographers could cut through the noise and work on their craft without being bombarded with the need to buy more gear, and the newest and shiniest, we’d become better at our craft and create more compelling images. TEN is exactly what it says it is, an exploration of ten techniques and ideas that can improve any photographer’s work.

It’s a great book and a great introduction to Craft & Vision for those that haven’t purchased an eBook from them before.

Here’s hoping Aperture X is next!

Hoping Apple Aperture X is next

Yesterday, Apple released Logic Pro X featuring what looks like several new features specifically designed for pros. The feedback from people that use Logic Pro has been generally favourable. It seems Apple did a good job with this one. It’s certainly been much more positive than when Final Cut X came out.

Whilst I don’t use Logic, the fact that such an update to a pro app came out gives me hope that Apple hasn’t forgotten their pro applications, including Aperture. In fact, I think it’s pretty obvious that the next version of Aperture will be called Aperture X and not Aperture 4.

Apple’s pro apps include Final Cut, Logic, Aperture and Motion. The first 2 are out with an X version. Here’s hoping Aperture X is next!

On supporting photographers you admire

CJ Chilvers over at A Lesser Photographer:

I’m a member at several websites and I buy self-published books from others, because I believe in what they do and I want to support them.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a great tradition of doing this at popular photography sites, because most readers are used to the intrusive ads and over-the-top affiliate sales techniques.