1958 – Swan Song

The sun is setting right now, it will be spectacular again, but I won’t take images.

I went out at noon, to the center of Villach, and I took some images of swans on the river and of modern architecture along the shore.

In the end I processed five images, and I have decided to save the two architecture shots for another day. I like all of them and I wouldn’t want to bury either.

For all of you considering the new Olympus OM-D E-M5, I’d like to recommend a blog that I recently found, of someone who currently has the chance to actually hold and use this new camera. Yesterday Pekka Potka from Finland made some tests of the new 5-axis image stabilization (finding it impressive), and today he looks into dynamic range (with equally promising results).

I suspect he is still under NDA regarding image quality, but maybe not. In any case I’m eager to follow his blog. It makes waiting a tad easier πŸ™‚

By the way, the OM-D’s user manual is already available for download, for instance from Olympus’ US site, although it does not look entirely finished. Bracketing specs are still dubious, but seemingly it will be possible to change aspect ratio with one of the function buttons. That’s good news, because I miss it on the E-P2.

The Song of the Day is “Swan Song” from Marc Almond’s 2010 album “VarietΓ©”. Hear it on YouTube.

8 thoughts on “1958 – Swan Song”

  1. I guess a white swan padding around in water is a cliche image but you’ve created a striking image here! The white reflections in the water almost blinding … did you emphasize this aspect during post?

    1. Oh yes, I did πŸ™‚

      The problem is, that I wanted to capture the swans while swimming through the reflections of the sun. This makes for interesting, metallic water, but it also makes for extreme contrasts. What you get out of the camera is an image with nice water and a mid-to-dark gray swan. Obviously that’s not what you want πŸ™‚

      Basically you need all the dynamic range you can get, which means you need to work in RAW. In Adobe Camera RAW I first set exposure values to automatic, and then I turn the blacks pretty down to zero, contrast very low, sometimes in the negative values, and instead I increase brightness. I also use a flat contrast curve. The idea is to get the swan as bright as possible and to have as much of the recorded tonal values in the histogram.

      I don’t do any noise reduction or sharpening in ACR. For noise reduction I always use Topaz Denoise, for sharpening a Luminance layer with Unsharp Mask 0.3px, 500 strength and zero threshold. Normally I blend it softly between 128 or 192 and 255 (sharpness layer) and between 0 and 63 or 128 (layer below). The effect is, that the sharpening is reduced in originally darker regions and that extreme highlights in the sharpening layer are blended in softly.

      From here I may add highlights with an exposure layer (for instance 0.5 EV on all or parts of the swan), add back saturation and contrast, but layer by layer, mostly using masks.

      I may also blend in photo filters where the extreme highlights gave the image an unwanted cast. You may find that half of your image has a yellowish cast that you want to correct. Extreme sunlight tends to make color pretty random.

      There’s no fixed formula, but most of the time it’s something like that. It sounds complicated and tedious, but when you know what you’re doing, it takes maybe 15 minutes for an image.

      1. OK, thanks for the explanation … I thought I detected a little “Andreas” magic in the images πŸ˜‰

        BTW: re EM-5, Kirk Tuck has been singing the praises of the Pany G3. I’ve been surprised the Panasonic m43 cameras lack IBIS but now I know why: they’ve been stalling until the EM-5. But then again the EM-5 lacks a built in flash πŸ™

        1. The EM-5 has no built-in flash, but you get a small flash with the camera, and that will even be able to act as a commander for off-camera flashes. Not a bad deal and a good compromise.

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