Archive for the ‘Software / Technology’ Category

Shooting HDR sets if you don’t have an AEB (Automatic Exposure Bracketing) setting on your camera

02 Nov 2011

Not every camera has an AEB (Automatic Exposure Bracketing) setting. Here’s the technique that I was using before I realized that my camera’s had an AEB setting…

You can still capture bracketed photos with any camera that has an Av (Aperture Priority), Tv (Exposure Priority), or Manual mode, and with a very small amount of practice, you can get it pretty quickly.

Here’s how to collect your set of three shots with no AEB setting:

  1. Put the Camera into AV mode
  2. Put the aperture setting somewhere in the middle (4-5.6 range)
  3. Press the shutter or shoot a shot to see what the settings are that the camera chooses for you.
  4. You will use this information to adjust your aperture in preparation for the shot.

Here’s how: Your two constraints are:

      1.  You want your slowest shutter time (brightest picture) to be no slower than 1/60th  of a second
      2.  You don’t want to run out of contrast when you have a very fast shutter speed at the limit of the camera (meaning you want a shutter speed slower than 1/1000 or 1/1600).

The adjustment is pretty easy, with a couple of rules of thumb:

      – Start with the aperture at f4.0. Shoot a test photo, or get the camera to display the settings for you (the images in the manual are too small to see whether the appropriate info displays as you shoot. If not, go into playback mode, and hit the “disp” button).
      – If the shooting time is faster than 1/400, then move your aperture to f5.6
      – If the shooting time is slower than 1/240th, move your aperture to f3.2
  • NOTE: these are my guesstimates – after you’ve shot a few “brackets”, you will get a feel for what 3 bracketed photos look like, and you can adjust manually…
      • – With the new aperture setting, shoot a test photo, or get the camera to display the settings for you.
        – You now have the info you need to take the photo. Switch into “manual” mode, and set the aperture to the number you decided upon. You will not touch aperture again for this series of shots
        – Set your timing to be (approximately) 4x as fast as the speed the camera “suggested” and displayed. i.e. if it suggested 1/200th, set it for 1/800th. If it suggested 1/250th, set it for 1/1000th.
        – Frame your photo, lining up landmarks so that you know your approximate framing. Take your first shot
        – Adjust the timing to be the suggested timing. Re-frame to line up your landmarks. Take your second shot.
        – Adjust your timing to be (approximately) ¼ the speed the camera suggested. If it suggest 1/250th, set it for 1/60th. If it suggested 1/400th, set it for 1/100th. Frame your photo, lining up landmarks so that you know your approximate framing. Take your final shot

    You now have your 3 photos (plus possibly 1 or 2 “junk” photos). Now’s when you get to use PSP to have
    some fun with them.

    Creating your own HDR (High Dynamic Range) photos

    01 Nov 2011

    I’ve had a few inquiries about some photos I’ve posted to Facebook, photos like this one:
    Thailand - Islands off Phuket (HDR Image)

    The photos were shot using a technique called “High Dynamic Range” imaging (Wikipedia Article). HDR Imaging is not a new technique, but what is new is how easy it is to produce HDR images thanks to software such as  Corel’s PaintShop Pro X4.

    Quick HDR Overview:

    The concept behind HDR imaging is pretty straight forward: three shots are taken of any given scene – one at “normal” exposure, one under-exposed, and one over-exposed, and the three shots are combined to pull out details that are not visible in a typical photograph.

    Here’s an example set:

    Shot at normal exposure Shot Over-Exposed Shot Under-Exposed
    Normal
    Exposure: 1/160 sec.
    Over-Exposed
    Exposure: 1/40 sec.
    Under-Exposed
    Exposure: 1/640 sec.

    If you check out the over-exposed version of the shot, you’ll notice the extra colour that gets pulled out from the foliage, and the colour of the tiles in the pool. The under-exposed version of the same shot pulls out the details in the clouds that are washed out in the two other versions of the photo.

    Here’s what the combined photo looks like:

    High Dynamic Range version of the same scene

    High Dynamic Range version of the same scene

    You can see that the HDR version of the image shows both the details of the cloud, and the colours and details of the pool and foliage.

    So how do you create HDR images yourself?

    On the camera

    1. Check in your camera manual for a setting called “Automatic Exposure Bracketing”. If available, and not indexed separately in the camera’s manual, it will likely be listed under the Av (Aperture Priority) or Tv (Exposure Priority) sections.
    2. Follow the instructions in the manual to set up Automatic Exposure Bracketing mode.
    3. Depending upon the camera model, this may involve needing to press the shutter only once (most point ‘n shoots), or you may have to press it three separate times (more typical for D-SLR’s). Check to confirm you have 3 shots of the same image by going into “playback” mode.

    In PaintShop Pro X4

    1. Under the “file” menu, hover over “HDR” until another menu appears
    2. Select “Exposure Merge…”:
      This opens up another window in the application that is 100% focused on HDR photography. It looks like this:
      HDR Edit Mode in PaintShop Pro X4

      You now need to load up your bracketed photos into the program. To do so, click on the “+” sign near the bottom of the window, and select the bracketed photos

    3. Align your photos:
          – In the area at the left of your screen, you will see the Alignment Method is set by default to “Edge-based”. Click on “Edge-based”, and select “Feature-based” instead – it does a better job.
          – Select “Auto Crop”, then press the “Align” button
          – Once the process finishes, you should be able to select your three thumbnails at the bottom and see that the view on the main screen is now fully aligned, even if you didn’t use a tripod to do create your photo set.
    4. Remove the ghosts:
      Use the tools at the bottom to “Paint In” or “Paint Out” portions of the image, such as in the case of a moving person or vehicle in the image, or foliage blowing in the wind. I’ll let you experiment with this part, but here are a few hints:

          – when you paint something in on one of the images, you are also painting it “out” on other images
          – do your alignment before your painting, or else it will erase the painting
          – use a bigger brush for defining the areas, then correct with the “eraser”
          – don’t forget to include the shadows in the areas painted in or out!
    5. Hit the Process button to move on to the next stage of editing
    6. At this point, you can just hit the next “Process” button at the bottom of the screen, and you have a merged photo which much better displays the richness of the scene you captured. Alternatively, you can apply some of the effects available (either as presets, or as individual settings) to create a photo you find is pleasing. One thing to note: If you try some of the effects, you can always get back to the “plain” merged image by clicking on the reset button at the bottom of the left panel – but you may have to scroll down using the scroll bar to the right of the photos to make that button visible!
    7. On the final page, you get the option to “Fine-Tune” your image – with tools at the top for straightening and cropping the image, as well as some other basic image editing options. After any such adjustments, just hit “Save and close” to save your finished work.

    If you can, please let me know any areas where you hit problems, so that I can update the post for others.

    A couple of final notes:

      – The software is available as a 30 day trial here, so you can try this out at no cost!
      – If you start to shoot larger numbers of photos, you may want to consider using the “batch” mode – it will create the basic merged file for you for all of your sets of images, then you can decide which shots to revisit for further editing.

    – Enjoy –

    The Future of Flight: Changes in the Air

    21 Sep 2011

    Very interesting read on near-term and longer-term innovation in commercial flight – a few of which have been borrowed from “best practises” in the soaring community. http://www.economist.com/node/21527035

    Selectivley Colouring Photographs

    08 Sep 2011

    A colleague asked me recently about how to do selective colouring of photographs.  While I can enjoy some of the selectively coloured photos, it wasn’t something I was inspired enough by to look up how to do it before.

    Here’s my test image – a small backyard shrine, shot as we travelled along one of Bangkok’s canal’s.

    For those of you that can’t picture what I mean by “Selectively Colouring Photograhps”, here’s the sample I created while learning the technique myself:

    Selective Colouring of a photo using PaintShop Pro

    Click on image for full resolution version

    However, with the question asked, I searched, found a few tutorials, and recommended the one I found the easiest to use. It actually dates back to version X2 of PaintShop Pro, but the instructions still work, as the tools have not changed locations.

    Here’s the tutorial:  http://dmgdigital.hubpages.com/hub/DMG-Digital-Corner

    Note that in the tutorial, it says you can do either step 6 or step 7 – that they are two different ways of achieving the same thing.  In my experience, I found it far easier to get good results using the method suggested using step 7 (eraser tool) than step 6 (lassoo select). Mainly because if you keep your edits small, and you screw up, it is easier to just undo the latest edit.  For me at least, reducing the lost work every time I screw up is key.

    A couple of other observations that helped me be as productive as I could be while using the tools:

    • The zoom tool is your friend – the more zoomed in you are, the easier it is to avoid colour leakage, or under-colouring
    • Reduce your brush size as you get to the edges of the objects, then again, then again…
    • Consider turning off visibility for the coloured version of the image. To do so:
      • Look at the “layers” display towards the right edge of the screen (if you’ve adjusted the layout of your screen, you may need to make the layers control visible again).
      • You should see a little “eyeball” icon. Clicking it will turn off or on the visibility of the layer
      • If you turn off the coloured layer, you will see a grey and white checkerbox where you’ve erased.
      • I found using this mode, it was easier to see where I hadn’t erased enough (or had erased too much, and needed to undo).

    Try it out, and if you produce a photo you’re proud of, post a link to it back to here as a comment!

    HP-24 Project

    31 Aug 2011

    I have mentioned this to most of my flying friends, but for those of you who are “makers” not “aviators”, you may want to check out this facebook page and site which documents the creation of a high-performance homebuilt carbon fibre sailplane.

    Older updates can be found at: http://www.hpaircraft.com/hp-24/

    More recent updates are available on Facebook, at https://www.facebook.com/pages/HP-24-Sailplane-Project/200931354951

    The amount of design work (both low and high-tech) is mind-boggling.  As a bonus, the guy that is creating the design is a genuinely nice guy who has been of assistance to countless owners of previous “HP” aircraft, including my RHJ-8. Have fun!

    MS FINALLY adds RAW file support…

    29 Jul 2011

    For the photographers out there, a Codec pack is now available for native RAW support in Windows Explorer and MS Photo Gallery for Windows 7 & Vista – about friggin’ time…http://www.microsoft.com/downl​oad/en/details.aspx?id=26829

    McCready and Speed-to-fly resources (Aviation)

    28 Jun 2011

    Gliding is all about flying efficiently, and one of the main things we try to do is minimze the amount of time we are spending in sinking air.  These links are probalby not worth reading unless you’re into aviation in general, and have at least some interest in how we glider pilots maximize our time aloft. 

    These articles both give much more clear explanations of speed-to-fly than I’ve ever managed to do, so I thought it worth bookmarking them for future consideration.

    http://www.5c1.net/Glider%20Performance%20Airspeeds.htm

    http://www.dartmoorgliding.co.uk/Cross_Country_Training_Module_5.pdf  (part of a series of 7 articles at http://www.dartmoorgliding.co.uk/html/cross_country.html)

    A framework for code optimization decisions

    17 Jun 2011

    AMD Fusion Developer Summit  I was a keynote speaker at the AMD Fusion 11 Developer Summit yesterday, and AMD had this blog post timed to hit at the same time:

    http://blogs.amd.com/fusion/2011/06/15/corel-takes-a-look-at-an-opencl-decision-framework/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+amd%2Fall+%28All+of+AMD%29#

    A less-techy version was cross-posted on the Corel WordPress site, here:

    http://corelblogs.wordpress.com/2011/06/16/what%e2%80%99s-opencl-and-what-does-it-mean-for-you/

    AMD will also be posting an archive version of the webcast of the keynote, and of the presentation itself. I’ll add links here once they becomes available. The AMD folks I worked with at the summit were all great people, and their support helped make it a very low-stress situation. What a difference working with great people can make. (Thanks, Trish!)

    Probably the most popular part of the presentation was a stop-motion animation created using PaintShop Pro with video effects added using Video Studio. Here are links to that video.

    Corel Stop Motion Video: Treasure Hunters:

    http://vimeo.com/20610210 or http://youtu.be/xFDs-_CJHm8.

    If you are interested in doing your own stop-motion animation, there is an interview with the creator (John Huang) at

    http://vimeo.com/20066276 or http://youtu.be/6zwO8Pp–WQ.

    The same capabilities can also produce some amazing results with time-lapse photography, there is some very impressive footage at

    http://vimeo.com/20068138 or http://youtu.be/hHvmiLpIsIY.

    If you are willing to go a little lower definition, “The Rescue” (http://www.truedimensions.com/timesage/rescue.htm) won an award for stop motion video at “Bricks West”, a lego-based stop motion animation festival. That short was created years ago by a couple of Corel project leaders, Jason Allemann and Deane Van Luven. Some of their other shorts can be found at http://www.truedimensions.com/timesage/movies.htm

    Finally, to keep the presentation on time I cut out a reference to a book that I wanted to recommend. “The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement” by Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox.

    http://www.amazon.com/Goal-Process-Ongoing-Improvement/dp/0884271781/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1308273701&sr=8-1

    This book really resonated with my own experiences regarding process optimization, and has helped make me far more lucid when trying to discuss optimization with others. It is written as a story (in the same style as “Fish!” or any of the Patrick Lencioni books)   so it is a very quick and easy read, despite its size looking a bit intimidating. Over the last 10 years I’ve bought, loaned out, and lost at least 5 copies of this book – but with no regrets.  I re-read it every couple of years, and now have my own “permanent” copy on my Kindle – but I’m pretty sure I’ll still end up buying the physical version again in the future just so that I can loan it out, again!

    If you read it, let me know your thoughts on it!

    When commitment isn’t enough…

    24 Feb 2011

    I just coached one of the managers under me through a situation where, despite the best of intentions, he & his team let another team down. There was a crisis going on, and the team neglected to let another team know an interim release of a product was delayed.

    Not a usual occurence for the team, but the net result was the same – an upset customer. The promise by the manager was to “try harder” – but it was clear the team was already trying hard. The approach I suggested for him was introduced to me a group called “Legacy Transformational Consulting” – I’m not sure where it originated.  Legacy called it “Structure for Fulfillment”, but I’ve always found it a struggle to introduce the concept using their terms. I find it easier to talk to others about it in terms of “Systemizing our Commitment”. When we are truly committed to doing something, but we are still failing at it, we need to create a system that help us to meet our commitments.

    Here’s a very simple example:  I need my phone for work every day. However, I used to find that every now and then, I’d end up leaving my phone at home. I’d feel bad (and somewhat stupid) on the days when I left my phone at home – until the day that I moved my phone charger from my home office to the font hallway – and I don’t  think I’ve forgotten the phone since I made that change. Low tech solution, but effective!

    The problem the manager I mentioned earlier faced was that the team was very good about remembering to notify other teams about changes to the schedule, but they would forget about doing so in times of crisis. Unfortunately, this is the worst time to do so – it usually ended up making us look twice as bad in front of our customers. 

    Here’s the list of suggestions I gave him – along with an invite to brainstorm with his team for other systems to support his commitments.

    • Low tech: Put up a whiteboard in a location near you / the team that can be used to track all the commitments to other teams. Make checking the board part of the daily routine.
    • Low tech: set up a buddy system so that two people are managing each task.
    • Keep the same sort of list, and make it a routine part of the team’s daily “sync up” meeting.
    • Keep the list in Sharepoint, and refer to it each day. Use a sharepoint task manager that marks overdue tasks in red.
    • Get an old PC, and put the display in a place near your team. Set it up so the list of deliverables refreshes automatically.
    • Ask the team to donate a dollar every time another team member catches them forgetting to update the list for more than 4 hours. At the end of the year (or quarter), donate the collected funds to a charity, or buy a treat for the team.
    • Make the “due date” for all tasks four hours earlier than they are actually due, so they become “critical” sooner

    I’m sure when the team brainstorms, they’ll find 14 other ways of supporting their commitments that are better than any of the ways I’ve suggested – but the key is to create a system that works for the situation, and doesn’t get dropped when we get busy, or sick, or have a team member leave.

    A couple of other thoughts:

    • If the commitment we are making is critical, as this one was, put in place not just a single system to help support us – put in several, parallel systems. Usually, with some creative thinking, you can find something that works without adding too much overhead.
    • Put in place a system that helps you to remember the technique.  For me, the biggest thing I do that helps me to use this technique is to tell others about it – and every now and then, I get a message saying “Hey, that really worked”.  It triggers me to go back and look at places where I’ve let people down, and put in place a system to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

    If this works for you, let me know – and help me meet my commitments!

    Response to Kris on “How do we ensure product quality”

    22 Feb 2010

    I got asked by our CEO “How can you benchmark product quality?” This is a pretty broad topic, but these are my central thoughts on how I’ve been able to establish and maintain quality in our products.

    • The way a consumer tells if a product is high quality is if it does what they want it to do without crashes or unexpected results
      • Only a user can tell you what result is unexpected
      • Therefore to measure the quality of the product, you need to use it the same way a user uses it
      • Startup time, snappy performance both get seen by the users as quality
      • “Work Product” is also seen as quality – if the product works as designed, but lets the user put dark blue text over a black background, the quality will be seen as “low quality”
      • The Setup is the “first impression” for the product as a whole – therefore it must be flawless and fast, and preferably value-add.
      • Documentation, Localization, box quality, icons, and the registration process all form a users impression of “quality”
      • User Experience Designers are critical, as they represent the user throughout the development process – and ensure the product does what the user expects.

     

    • Quality needs to be owned by the development team. The QA team can report on the quality of the product as they measure it, but they cannot change the quality.
      • The development team needs to feel that high quality is THE most important “feature”, rather than something that is done at a minimal level to get QA of their backs
      • Time needs to be specifically allocated for bug fixing throughout the entire development cycle, rather than just at the end of the cycle
      • Developers need to understand that most of our users are not “dumb”
      • Quality can’t be added at the end of the release
    • Focus on quality has to be at every milestone
      • “Fake” milestones can / should be added to give extra opportunities to focus on quality
      • Executive leadership has to be focused on quality at EVERY interaction – not on the cool features at the start of the release, and only on quality at the end. A really cool demo that crashes / fails 10% of the time should get equal bad press on the quality as it gets good press on the good features.
      • Metrics can be useful indicators of quality, if the teams using them are committed to delivering quality products
      • The minute people’s performance start to be measured by the metrics, the metrics become useless
      • To be useful, they provide an extra source of information to a team that is already committed to producing good results

     

    • The most useful indication of quality is project-based testing – using the products as our users do – from end to end – with a wide variety of PC & Peripheral hardware
      • Having the developers take part in this process helps to anchor that quality does matter
      • Your own experience highlights how much this can expose (Kris had just tried to use one of our products for a real-life task, and found an issue)
      • Don’t leave it up to the developers to “create” the scenarios, however – have the PMs, or UEDs, or QA leaders create the scenarios – but ensure they are real-world scenarios. (For video, for example – Don’t pull imagery off the web of a wedding – capture people walking into an office building (as entering a church), speaking at a meeting (to emulate the minister), leaving a meeting room (coming out the church), etc – then pull together a “wedding video” complete with DVD chapters, etc.

    There is a ton more that can be said – but if you’re doing the above right, you’ve got a pretty solid foundation upon which to build.