The Seed and I

I might have mentioned (once or twice) I like sitting out back, under the covered porch, camera in hand, coffee by my side.

A few days ago, I was joined by a seed. A Milkweed seed, as best as I can tell. Side note: Milkweed plants are essential for the Monarch Butterfly (HERE, HERE, HERE). Well, this gave me the perfect opportunity to try out a piece of wood I’ve been preparing for use in macro photography.

That’s a curved decorative piece of wood (about 8″ x 8″) I bought at a garage sale for about $1 (or maybe less)

It was in poor shape before I repaired a few scratches, removed a few stains, sanded it as smooth as I could, and sprayed with six coats of matte black paint. The idea was (is) to provide a curved surface for photography so as to minimize reflections, seams, and other background distractions when shooting macros.

Unfortunately, when it comes to paint, matte is not the same as flat so there’s still more sheen than what I want. Also, despite the visual inspection, photographically the surface is neither as smooth or unblemished as it looks, as we shall see.

Anyway, here’s the seed as captured with my 105mm f/2.8 macro lens, D7500 camera, center-weighted matrix metering, ISO 100, 2.0 sec exposure at f/22, on a tripod (VR off), and sunshine from an open window.

As shot

A few interesting points: when I moved, walked away, or walked toward the set-up, I did so very slowly as the air movement caused by my moving was enough to move the seed. Second point: almost immediately, I noticed the sunlight refracted into something like a rainbows on the silky strand’s surfaces.

I wanted to bring that out so I tried various adjustments:

Single photo adjusted in Lightroom.

As usual, you can click on the photos and a larger version will open in a new window.

Because I shot multiple frames, I tried another conversion from a single frame.

Single photo adjusted in Lightroom.

When I have a difficult subject, my go-to program is Photo Lab by DxO. This is the output from the program (not a canned processing; this is from my tweaks in DxO).

Output from DxO Photo Lab 2.0

Next, the same photo punched up a bit using Lightroom:

Output from DxO Photo Lab 2.0 with a few tweaks in Lightroom

Did I mention this will be a boring post about photos closely (but not exactly) resembling each other? No? Well, this will be a boring post about photos closely (but not exactly) resembling each other.

So, because the subject was difficult to shoot, I did a few bracketed series (five shots at EV -2.0, -1.0, 0.0, +1.0, +2.0 for a couple of series, and a few more series at EV -1.3, -0.7. 0.0, +0.7, +1.3).

The idea was to use Aurora HDR 2019 but then I thought, “Wait! That’s not nearly boring enough! Why not compare all my HDR programs?”

For the record, those are: Lightroom’s own native HDR processor, Aurora HDR, Nik Tools HDR Efex Pro 2, HDR Express, and Photoshop’s native HDR processing.

But, wait! . . . that’s also not boring enough, so in each instance, I’ll do a number of versions and my own adjustments. Sadly, I only managed to generate a shade uunder forty versions, or thereabouts.

Anyway, here’s the Lightroom gallery:

Just out of curiosity, I took one of the HDR frames (the EV 0.0 frame) and did my own editing on it:

ejd processing from the EV 0.0 frame of the bracketed shots.

Really, all of these begin to look awfully alike after a while . . . which is why I know readers are glad to hear there are lots more examples to enjoy.

Next up, Nik Tools HDR Efex Pro 2. I admit to being surprised at this. I don’t think I’ve ever used it with properly bracketed and exposed frames.

Here’s the gallery of one series:

Here’s a shorter gallery of another series:

I hardly ever use HDR Express because I’ve not had much luck in the past. It also lacks comprehensive adjustments; aside from a few presets, there’s not much you can do to tweak the output. Other than the first shot, all of the variants were further processed in Lightroom.

Finally, we have Photoshop’s native HDR. This is another module that disappointed in the past. This time — be it the subject or improvements in the software — it didn’t do too bad. Again, other than the initial shot, all others were modified in Lightroom.

Of all the B&W versions, this last one is close to being my favorite.

Side Note: it looks like I need to do a better job of polishing the surface of that piece because I can see a lot of imperfections, spots, bumps, etc.

I also need flat paint if I hope to eliminate all of the reflections and all of the glare.

By far, the biggest pain in preparing the surface is getting it mirror-smooth. I don’t have a sander or a sanding mechanism to buff the concave surface spotless and doing it by hand — no matter how fine the sandpaper or stainless steel scouring pad I use, there are always marks and bits of stuff left behind.

Wait . . . this seems over too quickly . . . OF COURSE!

I forgot Aurora HDR 2019! Ironic, isn’t it? Those are the only versions I originally was going to share and now I’ve gone and forgotten it. I’m sure that means something to some mysticism-prone person but, to me, it means I’m getting more forgetful in my old age.

Anyway, here’s Aurora HDR 2019’s gallery:

Some of the photo versions (outputs from each program) have various degrees of ghosting on the outer fringes. That’s because despite my standing perfectly still and nothing around the setup moving, the sun was beating down on the black surface and the rising heat was enough to move the single strands of the silky material encasing the seed. Those ghosts can be removed by more aggressive deghosting but I kind of liked the look.

Well, that’s it . . .

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.


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