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Posts Tagged ‘aperture’

 

Festive masks for the season.

Festive masks for the season.

 

A week ago I finally received my belated birthday gift (belated as it was not released yet) a LenBaby Composer. A Lensbaby is a prime camera lens that rotates in a ball socket, instead of having a plane of focus there is a movable spot (sweet spot). Because of the rotating and unusual focus it is a manual lens without a CPU. The lack of a CPU translates to manually setting the exposure (no exposure metering in the camera).

After a week I find that it is a fun lens. While certain subject appear dull with a normal lens my Lensbaby allows for a new take on the same subject. What’s more it brings out a higher degree of creativity. My particular lens is 50mm so aside from the unique ball socket and manual exposure it is the same as my loved f/1.8 50mm lens. Except that the Lensbaby has a maximum of f/2.0. 

Aside from finding the “sweet spot” choosing the aperture is also unique. Normally a lens has a small computer inside allowing for the lens aperture to be set by the camera or going furtyher back there is a ring to set the aperture. This lens has neither. Instead the aperture is set by physically changing out the aperture ring. The rings are made from a semi-soft magnetic material that is held above the lens by three magnets. The lens comes with a small tool that holds the rings with a magnet on the back switch them out.

This may seem like an inconvenience and it would be if you were shooting in continually changing lighting conditions or fast subjects. However I feel that for the most part this type of shooting is not the target of a Lensbaby. What it does allow is for custom apertures. The background blur of a photo is caused by the focus but the shape of the blur is determined by the aperture. That is why some lens produce certain pointed stars. Kits are sold allowing for custom made aperture disks, but I thought it can’t be that hard.

 

My simple aperture alteration tools.

My simple aperture alteration tools.

With tools at my disposal I took some post-it notes and a knife and jury-rigged some test apertures to see what would happen. Because I used purple notes that did not block all light a slight purple tint invaded my test photos. Here is how my purposefully out of focus Christmas tree came out:

 

First attempt.

First attempt.

A bit more creative second attempt.

A bit more creative second attempt.

 

So far I like the lens. I am not yet fully versed in how to use it, that will come with practice. I still find it funny that my lens acquisitions are in a way slowly regressing in ease of use. First I had autofocus VR lens, then a prime non-VR manual lens and now a Lensbaby that lacks exposure metering (with my camera at least). And yet it is the simple lens that are spending the time on my camera.

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The rusted foundation on Campus Point

The rusted foundation on Campus Point

In the end I don’t think I am ready to use Aperture full time. While there are some features in it that I would love to have on a daily basis I am hampered by performance. On my Powerbook G4 it does not run as smoothly as iPhoto 7, if I had a newer computer and speed was not an issue I think I would move all of my photos over to Aperture.

I could switch back and forth between the two depending on task, but I prefer having all of my photos in one nice location instead of worrying about which library the photo is in.

Price is not an issue since I can buy a student version of Aperture 2 from my campus bookstore for $89 instead of the $189 on the Apple store. I will continue using it until the trial runs out and then I will make the final decision. Speed may not be an issue in day to day usage and it may just be slow when doing photo editing or manipulation.

I suppose I should try Lightroom to give an even perspective but I feel that many of the issues (like speed) would be the same.

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UCSB's Campus Point

UCSB's Campus Point

Aperture has features that just do not exist in iPhoto, I already talked about Loupe. Three others are comparison, light table and stacks. There are many more feature but these are the ones I found while trolling around the interface.

Comparison does what it says it does, it lets you compare two photos and choose the better. I tried using it for some photos but my processor was either too slow or I just did not understand how it works. It would also serve me better if I took, say, six photos of a particular subject and wanted to the best of the six. And I am just not there yet.

Light table is a really neat feature without any designated purpose. It allows one to pull photos out onto a virtual table and move them around as if they were on a table. They can be resized, rotated and pulled forward or back. I think the initial purpose was to do mock-ups of publications, I think it would work great in designing posters. The results can be printed (on a home printer) or saved to a PDF and sent to a poster printer service. Once I get the inspiration I plan on using it to design a poster for my dorm lounge.

I now desire a much larger screen.

Stacks are a feature that would make HDR processing in iPhoto so much easier. Stacks gathers up the selected photos and presents them as a single photo. The photo shown on top can be selected from the group. For HDR this would let me stack together the photos to process, export the component RAW files to Photomatix, process them and send the result back to the top of the stack. So in one Stack I could have the result and the source RAW files. 

This is compared to iPhoto where I have the final HDR image amid a sea of slightly varying RAWs.

There are more features of Aperture that I probably missed. If I missed them it is because I don’t feel that I need their function or I am blindly unaware that they exist.

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"You show me a capitalist & I'll show you a blood-sucker" on the side of the lagoon outflow box.

"You show me a capitalist & I'll show you a blood-sucker" on the side of the lagoon outflow box.

I like importing and managing files in iPhoto much better then Aperture. Likely this is due to using iPhoto for the past two years compared to the week with Aperture. It is also highly dependent on personal preference.

When importing new photos (or any photos really) into Aperture they can be placed into any ‘Project’ or into a new Projects. Projects contain the all of the photos and under the project heading are a list of different organizational structures. These can be albums, folders, print projects, light tables or web galleries. Also photos imported from iPhoto are placed within the albums (which are created) in which they resided in iPhoto. If they are in multiple albums all of them are recreated.

For example if I imported my entire iPhoto library into a project called “iPhoto Library import” all of the photos would reside within the project and be placed (actually referenced and not stored) in the same album structure they had before. If a iPhoto folder contained two albums and a smart album, the normal albums would be recreated while the smart album photos would be placed into the folder without a folder of their own.

While projects exist on their own all of the photos are still listed under Library. In the library the projects are viewed in the same way Events are viewed in the iPhoto library. Or photos can all be viewed en masse without dividing them by project.

iPhoto pictures (or any non-Aperture photo) can also be referenced into the Aperture library instead of imported. If this is done the photos can be added and moved like a normal Aperture photo except they cannot be modified. This is useful if there is a particular photo (or set of photos) that you want to use in an Aperture project but want to be kept in their original location.

Ratings and keywords transfer happily when importing from iPhoto. I found only two keywords were added upon import from iPhoto: iPhoto Original and if they were flagged iPhoto Flagged. However when photos are imported into iPhoto from Aperture (done through an easy pop up window in iPhoto) the file names become all capitals. 

So moving between the two is not particularly difficult, especially in the iPhoto -> Aperture direction, which is a good thing because I prefer the keyword tagging system of iPhoto over Aperture. In Aperture I could not find a way to add keywords directly under the photos in the same way as iPhoto, and that is my preferred method. Aperture does allow for keyword groups to be made with custom buttons. 

Everyone loves custom buttons.

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Spot and Patch removed the major lens flares.

Spot and Patch removed the major lens flares.

Continuing with Apple Aperture:

Next up I had two photos with lens flares. I knew that Aperture had a spot and patch tool, it just took me a few seconds to find it. My first photo had two major lens flares near the moon in a starry sky. The spot tool eliminated the lens flare leaving behind a uniform pool of obvious. I then tried the patch tool. 

Allow me to make a diversion here into a key aspect of aperture. The loupe tool. The zoom it provides is very convenient for examining edits or just getting close into details (very nice for macro shots), however the behavior of the loupe itself is just not right. In my mind it should allow one to zoom in on a specific site, move the loupe out of the way, still zoomed on the initial site, and then edit the site either at normal zoom or within the loupe itself. The closest I could get was letting the loupe be off-center, except even with this I could not edit the louped area.

Eventually I found out how to zoom the entire photo and this did what I wanted.

So the patch tool. I had trouble selection and moving around the patch selection, I will talk more about this in the performance section. Once I found the patch of the right area of sky it was easy to rotate to align the gradient in the sky as well as feather out the edges to blend. Without in depth viewing or knowing they were there I could not readily tell that the lens flares were patched out.

Once the sky was patched and I found out about the zoom tool my second lens flare patch was trivially easy. Especially since it was a small flare on the side of a building. No circular gradients in that photo. 

There are still some lens flares within foliage or hiding between tree branches that I would like to eliminate. But the payoff compared to time required makes them easy to overlook.

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The first photo I edited with Aperture.

The first photo I edited with Aperture.

I downloaded the Aperture trial to try out something more professional then iPhoto. 

Instead of starting by importing a new batch of photos I took a set of five photos from iPhoto that needed editing beyond iPhoto’s capabilities. 

Importing from iPhoto ran into two challenges. The first was that Aperture cannot import or even view iPhoto smart albums, what I wanted to import was a smart album of photos with the “edit” tag. So I had to go back and create an actual album and drag the photos over. The second import issue was where they went. I expected a dialogue to ask where to put them. Instead the photos were placed into a, what I believe to be, a project. Since this is the demo and I not bothering really reading anything I am still unclear on the file structure.

Once the photos were in Aperture my first task was too correct white balance. I had obvious ways to do this. First there are two sliders for temperature and tint, the second option is to select the neutral gray of the photo. I did not know where a neutral gray resided so I just used the sliders to get the right color cast. I must say that I am satisfied with the result with the first white balanced photo, the second one did not turn out as well. Though that might have been inherent in the photo itself.

I will keep posting my impressions as I delve farther into Aperture.

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