Tag Archives: Lightroom

Creating composite images using 4K photo mode on the Lumix GX8

I recently got a Lumix GX8 mirrorless camera, which I have been really impressed with. I’ll write about various other aspects of it in due course, but today I did my first serious test of its 4K photo mode, which is a new feature on several recent Lumix cameras. And I’ll explain how I used this to create cool composite images like the one above.

4K photo mode takes a 4K video (roughly 4K x 2K pixels), but using settings that are suitable for extracting good quality photos from the video, rather than settings that are suitable for smooth video, which would typically be a 1/60s shutter speed for a 30 frame per second video. You can set whatever setting you like for each frame, for example setting a fast shutter speed to freeze action, which is what I did in this case.

This enables you to take 8 megapixel JPEG images (not RAW, unfortunately) at a rate of 30 frames per second, which is a great option for fast moving action.

I went to a raptor photo workshop today organized by Rob Palmer. I’ve been to several of these before and highly recommend them. Apart from using 4K photo mode to get individual photos, I thought beforehand that it would be interesting to capture images that would be suitable for combining into composite images, like I did with my lightning photo a few months back.

The workshop gave you lots of opportunities to picture flying birds – in general they would fly from a perch to one of their owners/ handlers, like this:

Barn owl flying

So what I did was to set my camera up on a tripod and focus on the woman who the bird was flying to, then I switched to manual focus to keep the focus at that same distance, and I rotated the camera slightly to the right so I just had the trees in the background. I used shutter priority mode, as I didn’t have a bright background so I figured I didn’t need to use manual mode. I set a high shutter speed, 1/2000s, to freeze the action, and ISO 400, which gave me an aperture setting of F/2.8. I was using my Olympus Pro 40-150mm lens (80-300mm equivalent), at 40mm to get a wide enough field of view to fit several owl images into one frame. Then I captured an eleven second 4K photo video, which looked like this:

Barn owl 4K photo video from Peter Batty on Vimeo.

You can extract images from the video in the camera, but I prefer to do it in Lightroom. You can play movies in Library mode only, not Develop mode, and the screen looks like this.

Lightroom movie example

The control at the bottom of the video looks like this by default …

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 5.03.14 PM

… and you can click on the gear icon at the right to expand it to look like this …

Lightroom move control expanded

You can play the video in the obvious way, though your computer may struggle to play 4K video smoothly. I can play it reasonably well on my iMac, but not on my MacBook Air. If you want to capture a frame from the video, you just pause at the right point and click the screen icon to the bottom right, and choose “Capture frame” – this will create a new jpeg image right after the video in your current Lightroom folder. The arrow icons either side of the play icon let you move forward or backwards one frame at a time, which is very useful for this type of work.

I created a JPEG image for (almost) all the frames that featured the owl flying through. I then selected all of them and exported them from Lightroom to Photoshop, using “Photo -> Edit in … -> Open as Layers in Photoshop”. I’m no Photoshop expert, I use Lightroom for nearly everything, but with a bit of trial and error I did the following (any advice on better approaches welcome!).

I put a layer mask around the owl on each layer. I did this by clicking on the Quick Selection Tool icon on the left hand side, and dragging this over the owl to select its outline. You can remove areas from the selection by holding option and dragging. Once I had the selection outline as I wanted it, I chose Layer -> Layer Mask -> Reveal Selection, which gave me a layer that looks something like the following:
Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 5.33.31 PM

I left the layer with the owl closest to the left hand side as a complete image, including the background, and ordered the other images so that an owl to the right would appear above an owl to its left. With all 17 layers turned on, this gave me this image:

Owl composite 17

I tried a couple more variants, just by turning some of the layers off. This one used 6 images, with some of the owls still having a little overlap:

Owl composite 6

And this one just uses 4 images, with no owl overlap:

Owl composite 4

I’d be interested to hear which image you prefer! I will probably take a little more time and remove the rope from the owl’s legs, which should be easy enough to do, either by removing it from the masks in Photoshop, or by cloning in Lightroom, or a combination of the two.

Here’s a final composite image, for now, using the same technique, but from a different photo sequence:

Owl composite 3

Overall I was impressed with the quality of the images I got using 4K photo mode. While I like to shoot RAW images normally, to have more flexibility in image editing, I will definitely use the 4K mode as an option in situations where I want to capture very fast moving action. Here is a single image from the sequence, cropped and with a little tweaking of exposure and color, and some quick cloning to remove the rope.

Flying barn owl

Panoramas in Lightroom

One of my favorite new features in Lightroom 6, the most recent edition, is the ability to stitch multiple photos together into a panorama. Both of my Lumix cameras have the ability to create panoramas on the fly while panning with your camera, but that approach only creates JPEG files and you have much less control. With Lightroom you can merge multiple RAW images and then continue to edit the merged panorama as a RAW image.

Above is an example of elk grazing in front of Wilson Peak, taken from Last Dollar Road just outside Telluride as the sun was setting. The light was very challenging on this one – the elk in the foreground were in the shade and there was a bright light on the mountains and sky at the back. So I had to do a lot of raw processing to get the image looking reasonable, and wouldn’t have been able to do this if I’d just had a JPEG panorama from the camera. This one was created from two images and is 7301×2879 pixels, about 21 megapixels.

This one is taken in the same general area, a little further up Last Dollar Road, and shows a wider panorama of Wilson Peak and its neighbors, made from 5 overlapping RAW images. This one is 14270×2851 pixels, or 41 megapixels. Another important thing to remember when taking a panorama is that you want to make sure you have a consistent exposure across all the pictures. The easiest way to do this is to press and hold the exposure lock button while you take all the pictures. The exact details of how to do this will vary depending on your camera.

P1490623

The picture above is actually one I tried taking using the camera’s built in panorama function at the same location as the previous image, and it was not very successful at all in this case. There are a couple of places where the stitching just didn’t work and there’s an obvious discontinuity in the image, and there are several more places where the exposure doesn’t match and you see bands in the image (in the sky in particular). Usually the in camera function works better than this, but in this case in particular the one created in Lightroom was hugely better.

The basic panorama functionality in Lightroom is very easy to use – just select the images you want to combine into a panorama, and choose Photo -> Photo Merge -> Panorama, and choose the default settings. Adobe has a nice 8 minute video tutorial if you want to understand more detail about the capabilities and various options. I even found out from this that you can do HDR panoramas, which is pretty cool! I have an HDR panorama version of the top image here, made from 3 different exposures on both the left and the right side, but the end results looked pretty similar in this case. However, this could be useful in some situations.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

This final example, of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado, is a little different from the others in that it’s not a wide panorama. In this case it’s a combination of 3 pictures taken with a portrait orientation, which let me better capture the full height of the canyon. Its full dimensions are 6297×4024 pixels, or about 25 megapixels, compared to 16 megapixels for a single image from my camera.