Getting down to the last few days — three — of the Alphabet Challenge “T” Stories voting round. We’re on our way to another pretty good turnout, as far as votes go.

It still looks like there are lots of visitors who abstain from voting (and probably from reading), but, overall, the writers are pleased that after twenty rounds, we’re still getting a decent turnout, especially considering all the stuff that’s going on and the fact it’s a holiday week.  

If you are a reader of our stories and someone who votes, thank you in advance for casting a vote for your favorite of the three. Links to the stories and the poll for voting for “Alphabet Challenge T-Stories” are HERE(link) Votes will be accepted until noon, Chicago time, on November 27th.

Today, I want to do something different. Let’s begin by looking at this photo . . .

As shot

That’s an unaltered photo of our 2010 Tahoe (which we sold when we moved to Hawaiʻi). What’s so special about the photo? Nothing. It’s basically a prop.

This is the second day of the Alphabet Challenge “T” Stories voting round. Yes, we still have days. It may seem like the world has gone bonkers, but we still have days . . . and we still have stories for them readers who, you know, like to read.

The voting has been surprisingly brisk for this early in the round, and one can only hope we’ll crack 100 votes. Wouldn’t that be something!  

If you are a reader of our stories and someone who votes, thank you in advance for casting a vote for your favorite of the three. Links to the stories and the poll for voting for “Alphabet Challenge T-Stories” are HERE(link) Votes will be accepted until noon, Chicago time, on November 27th.

As usual, let me know if something goes wrong with the voting . . . and now a preview of stuff that may — or may not — be showcased on the blog (soonish).

Vultures feasting on a deer carcass

Ain’t that the metaphor of the moment? . . . two kinds of vultures (Democrats and Republicans) feasting on a deer (the U. S. of  A.) . . . . I tell you, it ain’t looking good no matter who “wins”.

Because the Alphabet Challenge “S” Stories voting round is off to a very slow start, I decided I’d do a few more reminders. I suppose it’s to be expected, what with the Big Scary Day approaching . . . and just a few days before that, Halloween.   

If you are a reader of our stories and someone who votes, thank you in advance for casting a vote for your favorite of the three despite all that’s probably occupying your mind. Links to the stories and the poll for voting for “Alphabet Challenge S-Stories” are HERE.<<<Link Votes will be accepted until noon on November 8th.

I redid the voting post so that it looks more like what it used to look like. Perhaps that was the problem and not the possibility we might suck as writers.

And now, a horse . . .

That’s a photo captured on the first day I owned my Nikon D200.

Anyway, in case no one noticed, the fonts in the blog are different. Until last week, the Adobe toolkit was available to us bloggers . . . specifically, we could set what fonts to use on the title of the blog (above the header photo), what fonts to use for the menu and post titles, and what font to use for the body of the post. Now . . .

This is the second day of the Alphabet Challenge “S” Stories voting round. Given all that’s going on in the world, I’ll be happy to get any readers and voters at all to stop by.  

If you are a reader of our stories and someone who votes, thank you in advance for casting a vote for your favorite of the three. Links to the stories and the poll for voting for “Alphabet Challenge S-Stories” are HERE.<<<Link Votes will be accepted until noon on November 8th.

I know the voting post is a bit of a mess, what will all the warnings and colors and stuff . . . but, the poll works (as far as I know) and a few votes have been cast.

And now, onto a few photos that were processed using Luminar 4 . . .

John Deere Model "B" TractorThat’s a John Deere Model “B” tractor<<link that has graced these digital pages before.

So, you might wonder what’s so special about using Luminar 4. I mean, it’s not like that post-processing has made the shot amazing . . . well, I’ll have the original in the gallery at the end, but . . . .

For them not interested in reading, you can see the photos in THIS SmugMug Gallery.  

For a SmugMug slideshow click HERE. When you click the link, it will open in a new window and you have two options:
1) Manually scroll through the photos by clicking the “<” and “>” symbols to the left or right of the photos.
2) There’s a PLAY/PAUSE button at the bottom-left of the screen with the transition set at about 5 seconds. Note: clicking the PLAY arrow will run a full-screen slideshow. You can then still use the”<” and “>” symbols to the left or right of the photos as this will pause the slideshow.

If you want the full experience, keep reading.

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For them not interested in reading, you can see the photos in THIS SmugMug Gallery.  

For a SmugMug slideshow click HERE. When you click the link, it will open in a new window and you have two options:
1) Manually scroll through the photos by clicking the “<” and “>” symbols to the left or right of the photos.
2) There’s a PLAY/PAUSE button at the bottom-left of the screen with the transition set at about 5 seconds. Note: clicking the PLAY arrow will run a full-screen slideshow. You can then still use the”<” and “>” symbols to the left or right of the photos as this will pause the slideshow.

If you want the full experience, keep reading.

~ 0 ~ 0 ~ 0 ~

For them not interested in reading, you can see the photos in THIS SmugMug Gallery.  

For a SmugMug slideshow click HERE. Note: this is what I recommend. When you click the link, it will open in a new window and you have two options:
1) Manually scroll through the photos by clicking the “<” and “>” symbols to the left or right of the photos.
2) There’s a PLAY/PAUSE button near the top-left side of the screen with the transition set at about 5 seconds. Note: clicking the PLAY arrow will run a full-screen slideshow. You can then still use the”<” and “>” symbols to the left or right of the photos as this will pause the slideshow.

If you want the full experience, keep reading.

I’ve resolved to be more proactive in my Black & Gray & White conversions. Meaning, no taking canned settings; instead, I will move sliders and stuff with the goal to improve what is usually an already decent conversion. 

Aurora HDr does great with bracketed shots and my last post showed it capably handles single photos . . . but, what about Luminar 3 by the same company?

OK, OK, I’m probably burning out my few readers with these comparisons. This will be the last one (for now), I promise.

Anyway, in THIS post I explored what Luminar 3 can do.  Well, “explored” is a bit strong; I processed a few photos with it. But, I got to thinking (a dangerous thing that, I’m told); it seems to me both programs do similar things.

If you had to choose just one, which would you pick? Luminar’s advantage over Aurora is the file handling and catalog function it offers; it’s both an editor and a photo organizer. If you don’t need that (and if you shot bracketed series) Aurora processes photos very capably.

Well, I took the photos from the last post and ran a batch job using Luminar 3; I processed them using their Essentials Module and their AI Enhancer setting. So, here’s a gallery showing the original, the Aurora output, and the Luminar 3 output, in that order.

Not many words in this post . . . just photos.

OK, if you don’t know about Aurora HDR 2019 by now, it means you’re not reading my posts. That means it’s no use for me to review what these posts are about.

If you have been reading, then I can tell you this post is all about single photos being run through the Aurora HDR engine with one of the canned presets in the program. What I show below is one original and its version output from Aurora presented in gallery form.

A few of the photos will have multiple versions and these will all be in their own galleries for easy comparisons. 

For instance:

Not many words in this post . . . just photos.

In case anyone forgot or didn’t read Part 1 or Part 2, this and the two previous posts are about software (Aurora HDR 2019) geared toward processing scenes shot with bracketed exposures. The software is by Skylum and some might remember they also offer Luminar, which I discussed in THIS post.

“Bracketed exposures . . . what’s that?” ask readers who haven’t read any of my linked posts.

Before I answer that, a quick warning: this is not a short post and it’s repetitive. Meaning, I take three photos, merge them, and marvel about the output. If you’re interested in the performance of Aurora at the hands of an amateur, read on. If not — and you still want to see the Alaska photos — you’re better off clicking on the link two paragraphs below this one.
Very brief HDR explanation: you have a chess board; you take a photo and while the white pieces show up really nice, the black pieces are too dark (underexposed) to show any details. You take another photo, this time with the flash. Now, the black show up nicely, all the fine details visible . . . but the white pieces are washed out (overexposed), with no details visible. If only you could take the two photos and merge them, keeping all the portions that show details but getting rid of the stuff that’s either too dark or too light. Basically, that’s what HDR programs do.

You need to plan such shooting and you need a camera that can bracket exposures. In 2012, when we went on our Alaska Cruise, I encountered many instances where I thought it prudent taking three photos (EV -1.0, EV 0.0, EV 1.0). Mind you, I didn’t have much hope for the practice because a) I didn’t have a good HDR program to take advantage of the bracketed shots, and b) I was shooting hand-held so I knew aligning the photos would be difficult. Because of both a) and b), I skipped merging HDR shots for my posts.

Mind you, I didn’t do too bad just editing what I had.

But, take a look at this series of shots . . .

Quick Note: My typical reader either doesn’t care about this stuff or they already know it, so who are these posts for? Well, they are for a tiny portion of humanity; they are for people who just developed (developed; get it? . . . nevermind) an interest in photography and stuff relating to photography. Also, people who are photography enthusiasts and are looking for information on software that might interest them. Finally, they are for my benefit. Everyone else . . . sorry.

With that in mind, if you just landed here from a search and are so inclined, click HERE for Part 1.

Aurora HDR processing of three bracketed exposures taken with the Samsung Note II. More about phone camera HDR processing below.

I’ll step back for a moment . . . all the way back to THIS post. The post was prompted by my HDR failures in THIS post covering our passage through Tracy Arms during our 2012 Alaska Cruise.

Them be a lot of links and most people won’t click on them but, no worries. I’m here to cover the gist of all that.

You see, encountering difficult scenes during the 2012 Alaska Cruise, I made an effort to bracket exposure for scenes I deemed it might be useful doing so. The whole transit through Tracy Arms was plagued by contrasty scenes; bright reflective water, dark and steep shorelines, and bright cloudy skies behind the steep shorelines; all of the shots I took were bracketed as were many other shots during that cruise.

That’s why, on the last post, there are a couple of examples from that cruise; it’s because I have many, many bracketed shots from that cruise. I’m talking multiple hundreds. The plan was a good one . . . except for a few minor flaws.

HDR (High Dynamic Range) processing was all the rage some time ago. Impossibly lit and detailed photos with overly-saturated colors were showing up everywhere . . . for a while. Some people hated them, some loved them.

For me, it’s just another tool I’d like to master. Not to create over-the-top images — although sometimes that can be fun — but as another weapon in my arsenal of photo-processing tools.

Briefly for them who want to know something but not much; if you know it, skip it:
while your eyes have a wide dynamic range as far as resolving details, cameras (film or digital) are limited in what they can resolve. By resolve I mean distinguish details and structures. Too dark a scene, and everything blends into a shadowy blob. Too light a scene, and you get a bright blob. We compensate — by we, I mean photographers — deal with extremes by adjusting the ISO (the response of the film or sensor), shutter speed (controls how much light is allowed to hit the film or sensor), and aperture (controlling how much light the lens lets in by controlling the size of the opening). Some or all of those tools used in conjunction with each other will let us take a photo of a very dark scene or a very bright scene and still get something that shows details and structure and texture. All well and good if it’s either or. A problem arises when a scene contains very dark areas and very bright areas. You can either compensate for one or the other or accept limitations in what you can show . . . OR . . . you can snap multiple photos — some showing what’s in the shadows and some showing what’s brightly lit — and blend them. 

Hmm . . . lots of words. Let me show you.

That’s a photo I took on our 2012 Alaska Cruise and processed for the blog.

It looks nice and all, but here’s another version . . .

In the previous post, I showed this photo that was generated by taking a small photo, enlarging it using Topaz A. I. GigaPixel, and then cropping it to what you see. 

4X enlargement (cropped) and output full size (1156 by 1315 pixels – click for larger size)

I was sufficiently impressed that I wanted to try it on a few other photos. 

Understand, some of Topaz Labs A. I. programs do amazing stuff but they don’t always work the way I want them to . . . and other times, they work much better than I thought possible. 

As a reminder, the above crop came from this photo which was itself a crop of a larger photo.

Generally, when you enlarge a photo you quickly hit a limit . . . a data limit; basically, there’s not enough data to fill in the additional area created by the enlargement.

Enlarging algorithms rely on various means to “fill in” the missing data, mostly by guessing at what goes between two pixels which used to be adjacent but are now separated by “new” pixels.  

Topaz makes some bold claims about GigaPixel . . . read on to see if I agree with them. 

Yes, another post exploring stuff I think about when evaluating what photographic equipment I should buy. As such, this might is probably only of interest to photographers and only photographers who know less than I do (so, like five people).

As shot; full size (5568×3712), unprocessed

That’s a photo taken with my new D7500 at f/6.3, ISO 200, 1/1000 sec, at 300mm zoom. I would normally process this but since I’m only interested in resolution, I’ll leave it as is. 

For comparison, this is the actual crop of that photo as it appeared in a previous post. 

A comment by OneOwner on my last post is responsible for this post. I started answering his comment and before I knew it, I was at 1,000 words worth of answer and I wasn’t done . . . so, this is the resultant post.

See what you get if you interact with me? . . . hmm . . . not sure if that’s an incentive or a detractor.

Also, it may seem at times I’m making the case for the P1000. I’m not. I’m just pointing out what the camera is suited for. Were money not an object, I would be shooting with $70,000 worth of photography equipment . . . when just fooling around. And, when serious, I would fall back to my $150,000 worth of equipment. But money is a consideration as well as what I plan to do with the photos