In Focus, Bangkok Photography Blog October 24th, 2009

Wat Pa Yiah, Chiang Rai/Distortion Correction

Turkey Hotel Guide
Dedeman Hotel Sile
Usta Park Hotel
Zorlu Grand Hotel
Kaya Hotel Uchisar

Thank you for your generous contributions. We're slowly collecting enough images to make the mosaics. I realize I'm posting the same paragraph each week, but I assure you we're on top of this project and doing our best to collect enough of the proper type of images to make the best possible set of mosaics. This is proving difficult so please help if you can.

We are still accepting (and pleading for) images of children from SEA. No matter how terrible you think they are, please send them in anyway. These images will be used to complete a set of 3 high quality mosaics which will be sold to benefit the Karen and Burmese Orphans living in the orphanages and refugee camps. The more images the better, I can use all you have. Please take the time to go through your images for anything you think might help. If you missed the "No Place to Call Home" special, you can click on the link and read more about this. Thank you! [email protected]

Feature Photograph

1900 Double Eagle $20 Gold Piece

Now that's an odd feature photograph! I know.. but this is an example of my latest photography and I wanted to explain to you how this came about and what I learned. Discussion among some friends on a forum centered on what a certain Double Eagle was worth. This particular Double Eagle was one of a few dozen or so in a bag.. that I traded for over a decade before. At the time I figured their worth about $30 or so each and traded accordingly. Already you can sense I was profoundly ignorant on such matters and it doesn't stop there!

During this period of my life I was hand crafting custom 1911 .45 caliber handguns, which were presented in a nice birdseye maple presentation case. I'd shine up one of these gold coins on one of the shops buffers, tape it on a target, shoot a hole through it at 25 yards, and then enclose it in the case with a certificate of accuracy. It went over well.

The last time I visited my storage site I opened the safe and grabbed one of these coins from the bag. It was in an inconvenient plastic case which I cracked open, and then put the coin in my pocket. My thought was that when I returned to Bangkok I'd have it valued or weighed for gold content. Then I'd know what the others were worth. During this trip and for about a month later I carried this coin in my pocket. It thought it was cool, how many people can say they've carried a gold coin in their 501's? I stopped doing this when one day I forgot to take it out of my pocket and I heard it going "thunk thunk thunk" in the washing machine. Folks, you can't make this stuff up. My friends on the forum were aghast and told me with the current value of gold being over $1000 USD's that the minimum value of these coins is $900 each! Maybe more, depending on the condition.

So.. I set out to EBay and other on-line coin dealers looking for these coins to compare their value. Immediately I notice I can't really 'see' the coin because the pictures are a very low resolution and poor quality. I can do better than that! I also notice some of these coins are valued in excess of $5000. I gather my Canon DSLR, a 1ds Mark II, a Canon 90mm Tilt shift manual focus lens, a light source, and in no time at all I have a beautifully detailed image of my coin. Zooming in on the computer I'm shocked to see a ton of scratches and marks I couldn't see with the naked eye. Look at the crop below. Notice all the scratches and marks? Do you also notice all the detail? At one time, probably before I took it from the plastic case, this was a coin in extremely good condition. It 'was' probably worth a lot.

100% Crop

I suppose this makes a great case for not carrying around a gold coin in your pocket in 2009. It makes a better case when you learn you actually have to pay someone to grade the coin and put it in that case with their seal. This would be a good time to check out for the definition of "profoundly ignorant." The washing machine probably wasn't good either.

Now that we've established that I'm an idiot, lets go back to those low resolution images I saw on eBay and coin sites. I'm thinking if I was in the business of selling such coins on the internet I could at least manage to buy a $200 point and shoot with a macro mode and post some detailed pictures for potential customers to check out. Unless.. yes, you guessed it. There is a very good reason there's a dearth of high resolution well focused and lit images of these coins. They don't benefit the sellers, only the buyers. Most of them are graded, but grading varies and without being able to see it, how can you compare two like graded coins? Fishy business, but the internet is full of people selling these coins and people buying.

As a seller, the trick seems to be to find a way to mess up taking a quality image and make it seem innocent. Okay, but what if you wanted to be more directly involved in being dishonest and actually alter a coin, is it possible? With Photoshop most anything is possible. Check this out.

Digitally Altered

Same coin. Different look. Even at high resolution this coin would appear to have much less damage than the 'un-doctored' coin. Do you think there are people out there doing this? I wouldn't be surprised. And I wouldn't be surprised if there are buyers more ignorant than myself out there buying them. You've been warned…

Wat Pa Yiah, Chiang Rai

Canon 5D, 70-300mm F4 IS DO @300mm F5.6 1/15th ISO 200 Handheld

Emerald Buddha History

The Emerald Buddha has a colorful history. Currently residing in Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok, the Emerald Buddha has been well traveled throughout the centuries and has called many temples home.

According to the Ratna Phimwong chronicle the Emerald Buddha was sculpted in 235 B.C. by gods as a gift to Nagasen Thera of Patalputra. Later the sculpted image was moved to Sri Lanka. Kinda Anurudha of Burma asked that the Tripaka and Emerald Buddha be moved from Sri Lanka to him in Burma. On the boat voyage a storm struck and the Emerald Buddha was washed ashore in Cambodia. The image was then moved to Angkor, Sri Ayudhaya, and later Kampaeng Phet.

Canon 1ds Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS @70mm F8, 1/100th ISO 100

Around 1390 A.D. King Mahabhrom of Chiang Rai, fearing invasion, took the Emerald Buddha from Kampaeng Phet and hid it under layers of stucco inside the pagoda of Wat Pa Yiah Chiang Rai. It remained hidden in this pagoda until 1434 when a bolt of lightening hit the Pagoda revealing the sacred image. Since, the Emerald Buddha has been moved from Chiang Rai to Lampang to Chiang Mai to Laos, and finally to Bangkok in 1778 where it remains today located on the grounds of the main palace in the Royal Chapel of Wat Phra Kaew. It is said the Emerald Buddha watches over and protects Thailand.

Canon 1ds Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4 @13mm F11, 1/200th, ISO 100

Wat Pa Yiah, Chiang Rai

Front Entrance

My trip to Wat Pa Yiah was over three years ago and much of this is coming from memory, so there might be some inaccuracies. I was in the Chiang Rai area with my assistant and her grandmother playing the gracious host, driving them from place to place in an order motivated by the grandmother. The grandmother has lived in the Chiang Rai area her entire life, and during her life had visited and had knowledge of places she considered special. Only once, when much younger, had she been to Wat Pa Yiah. Her desire to go once again was strong. At the time I had no idea what this particular temple was about.

Inside the entrance of the small temple structure you can catch a glimpse of a golden reflection, a mere hint on what can be found inside. Dutifully I followed along behind my assistant and her grandma, snapping the occasional picture as we walked.

Canon 1ds Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm @24mm F8, 1/20th, ISO 800

Once my eyes adjusted I was greeted by the site of this Buddha image. At first glance the image looks quite ordinary, nothing special at all. That is until the size registers.

Canon 1ds Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm @24mm, F8, 1/10th, ISO 800

From this view you still can't tell how the size. My eyes by now had fully adjusted and I was taken aback by the beauty of the image as the sunlight streamed in the entrance and bathed the image in a sort of enhanced light.

Canon 1ds Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm @12mm F11, 1/10th, ISO 400

The front of the temple is deceiving, hiding the cavernous interior within. Stepping further back I take another image. My eyes are peering through the viewfinder, then to the LCD screen. It takes me a few moments to realize the only way to convey the apparent size of this subject is to have something in the frame for scale. I offer to take my assistants picture with her grandma. She smiles in appreciation at my thoughtfulness.

Canon 1ds Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm @24mm F11, 10th, ISO 400

NOW we can get a feel for the true size of this giant Buddha image! Scaling a subject is often vital for perspective.

Canon 1ds Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm @24mm F11, 1/200th, ISO 200

As we walk around the compound I see a pagoda almost overgrown with trees and shrubs, ordinary in stature I wouldn't have thought much of it until I saw grandma stop and wai the pagoda and then tell us the story. Long ago the King of Chiang Rai fearing marauders had the sacred Emerald Buddha encased in stucco, and then hidden away inside this very same pagoda. It wasn't until a lightening strike nearly 50 years later revealed the interior of the pagoda was the Emerald Buddha rediscovered. 50 years back then for the sake of history, was a much longer time than 50 years is today. Have you ever wondered what's inside all the pagodas and temple structures you see all over Thailand? Big on the outside, there is no apparent way to enter them. It's like they've been purposely sealed for all time. I can't help but wonder what's inside each one I come across.

Canon 1ds Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm @24mm F8, 1/25th ISO 200

There wasn't much more to this particular temple complex, so we walked around with grandma slowly as she demanded, and took in as much as there was.

Canon 1ds Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS @70mm F8, 1/30th ISO 200

Small shrines and Buddha images were numerous, but I've since misplaced my notebook and I don't even want to guess their significance. I remember this area had a lot of shade and seating, and many people where taking the opportunity to take photographs, eat lunch, and visit.

Temple Monastery

Canon 1ds Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS @F11 1/80th ISO 200

This is certainly piss poor journalism, because I've forgotten the names and other details and misplaced my notes. Years gone by tend to do this. Near the wat (verified by image exfil data), is this monastery for young monks. It's really quite beautiful there, but for some reason, probably the great RAID crash of some years back, most of these images are scrambled and unusable. A few images remain and they were nice enough to share.

Canon 1ds Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS @73mm F8 1/320th ISO 200

Most of the monks here are young and students. There were many traditional style classrooms and they taught the regular Thai topics and lessons.

Canon 1ds Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm @24mm F8 1/20th ISO 200

The younger monks appeared to be of Burmese descent. It was nice to see them holding classes outdoors under the trees and on benches which seems to be everywhere. This was a really well equipped monastery.

Canon 1ds Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS @78mm F18 1/30th ISO 200

As the boys attended lessons indoors and in the park like setting outdoors, visitors roamed around freely taking pictures

Canon 1ds Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm @24mm F11 1/25th ISO 200

Distortion Correction

A Request From A Reader

Steve———How about discussing the ins and outs (pun intended) of wide angle lenses tendency to distort vertical lines. Example in this weeks article would be KVWs nice shots of the church in Holland and the very noticeable cant inward, yes, I realize the camera is pointed upward. The shots taken in the front/living room show none of the typical "bending" I see in some interior shots. Lenses or technique. Answer back if this is too simplistic to discuss in the column. Thanx, Car le

Car Le –

Properly explaining this is well beyond the scope of a "Readers Question" so I thought I'd turn it into a learning topic and answer it more completely than I would have otherwise. This is a common question, yet it's in the realm of "advanced techniques" in Photoshop so I'll try and keep it as simple, yet meaningful, as possible.


The images in question are a nice shot of a church in Norway by a frequent contributor KVW.

KVW's Church Shot from Norway

You can see several types of distortion in this image, even though it's not shot at a very wide angle. I'm guessing under 30mm equivalent. KVW shoots with a Canon 40D and a 17-85mm IS lens and this is probably at the wider end of that lens. Since it's a APS-C sensor camera, the 17mm is a 27.2mm equivalent.

The next images were some I shot of my living room after a recent remodeling.

Canon 1ds Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm @12mm F11 15secs ISO 100

Canon 1ds Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm @12mm F11 5.6secs ISO 100

Both of these images were shot with a full frame 12mm rectangular lens. Distortion is always more obvious the more wide you go. 12mm's leaves open the possibility for a great amount of distortion so careful setup during the capture process is mandatory. Both of these images exhibit minimal distortion, less than came from the camera. Both images required software manipulation to correct for both lens and perspective distortion.

Types of distortion

There are two main types of distortion photographers have to deal with.

  1. Lens Distortion
  2. Perspective Distortion

Lens Distortion

Lens distortion comes in two types.

  1. Pincushioning Distortion
  2. Barrel Distortion

Canon 1ds Mark II, 85mm F1.2 F2, 1/80th ISO 3200

We'll use the image above to induce distortion for the purpose of examples.

Barrel Distortion

Graphic Representation of Barrel Distortion

Barrel distortion is most commonly associated with wide angle lenses. The more wide, the more pronounced will be the distortion. Barrel distortion is represented in the image above by an image the protrudes towards you, gently bending the outer edges outwards as you'd see it on a screen or print. It's important to understand that the image is 3 dimensional, that its coming out towards you as if someone is pushing the back of the print out towards you. If there was a subject in the image it would appear distorted much the same was as the image below

Canon 1ds Mark II, 85mm F1.2 F2, 1/80th ISO 3200

The image above has greatly exaggerated barrel distortion, almost a fisheye effect. Notice how the edges of the subject unnaturally bend outwards and the center of the image comes out towards you?

Photoshop CS4 Transform Module, Warp Function

This is a graphical representation in Photoshop CS4 showing how you can use the Transform Warp function to hand correct for barrel distortion. Notice how I used the image above, brought the outer edges inwards, and how the lines going through the center represent pushing the center back inwards as the out part of the frame corrects? This can be very hard to visualize so stick with me. It also helps if you follow along in Photoshop and make these corrections yourself, while watching the changes happen in real time.

Pincushion Distortion

Graphic Representation of Pincushion Distortion

Pincushion distortion is most often associated with telephoto lenses. The image above represents pincushion distortion and it's much the opposite of barrel distortion. The edges of the subject pull in towards the center, and if you could see the third dimension it would be protruding from the center of the image AWAY from you, as if you were pushing the print in the center away from you.

Canon 1ds Mark II, 85mm F1.2 F2, 1/80th ISO 3200

Again, the example image above is greatly exaggerated so you can easily see the outer edges bend inwards and the center of the frame push inwards.

Photoshop CS4 Transform Module, Warp Function

And again, using the Transform Warp function we can pull the outer edges of the frame outwards which prompts the center of the frame to move out towards you as represented by the lines. Open up Photoshop and play with this and watch the image distort as you move the controls.

I should also mention that correcting for any sort of distortion is almost an art, and not a "click to happen" function. You need to gain experience with your eyes so you can tell what you're seeing, and experience with many images so you can get used to gently manipulating the controls to move the image back into shape.

Photoshop Workflow, Correcting Lens and Perspective Distortion

There are several ways to correct for lens distortion. Barrel and Pincushion distortion can be corrected using the Photoshop tool, PTlens (my personal favorite, a review to follow in the coming weeks), and some raw processing software will have this capability. A few weeks back we reviewedHelicon Filter , which was a complete software geared towards entry level to intermediate photographers that did everything you'd want to do to an image, and included very easy to use distortion correction features.

Today we're going to demonstrate the use of the lens correction tool in Photoshop. In CS3/4 select Filters/Distort/Lens Correction. Once in the lens correction module you'll be able to make corrections ranging from distortion, to Chromatic Aberration, to Vignetting. We're only going to discuss the distortion controls today.

Basically you need to know where the distortion controls are, and what they do to an image. Below, are individual frames from inside the Lens Correction module showing an example of each type of image manipulation possible. A red star will be centered over the control used, and a blue title will tell you what kind of distortion is being induced. Of course you should release we don't want to induce distortion, we want to decrease it. So while a control will induce a certain type of distortion to a non-distorted image, know that the same control will have the opposite effect on a distorted image. For instance to reduce barrel distortion, slide the "Remove Distortion" slider to the right. Again, it will be very helpful if you can follow along in Photoshop.

Examples from Photoshop CS4 Lens Correction Module

In the image above you were able to clearly see how the controls of the Lens Correction module manipulated distortion. Now we'll use these controls in concert with the Transform Warp functions to correct some sample images.

Example 1

Canon 1ds Mark II, Sigma 20mm F1.8 @F11

Lets discuss this image. Most people are going to look at it and not see any distortion, at least not anything objectionable. After all, this entire structure is an exercise in distortion. However, if we look closely we can see that the small adjoining structure on the left (with the orange colored faces) is leaning towards the center of the frame, and the entire structure appears to be leaning back some. Also, if you look along the bottom of the structure, along the baseline, you can see it's not level.

This image was captured with a 20mm lens on a full frame DSLR, so it's an actual 20mm. This is great for getting a lot into the frame, especially when standing fairly close to the subject (30 feet away from a structure hundreds of feet in width). A very common problem with architectural photography is that the photographer is almost always stuck on the ground level shooting upwards. This creates all sorts of inherent distortion issues with the image, and while we can correct them to a degree with software, it's much better to capture them correctly in the first place by using the proper lens and being on the proper plane. How?

I know the man who was the main photographer for the new international airport and I remember discussing this issue. As you know the airport has many large and tall structures and simply standing in front of them with your camera on a tripod isn't the professional way to make these captures without distortion. What did he do? He had a 40 meter lift modified to go every higher, and many of his captures were made while on this lift suspended far into the air. To do this took a great amount of coordination and resources, but as a professional photographer you put these details and requirements into your bid and hope the person approving the bid understands photography.

Since as tourists and hobbyists we can't tow around a 40+ meter lift to photograph temples and other structures we have to make do. We often can't get far enough away from the subject to use a normal perspective lens (60-100mm would be appropriate for this subject), and even if we could get that far way we might then have to deal with haze, people, and other issues that affect the image. So, we have our wide angle lenses, a tripod, and we stand in front of the structure and capture an image like. Later we correct it in Photoshop like we're going to do now.

Photoshop CS4 Lens Correction Module

In the image above we're in the Lens Correction module in Photoshop CS4. Filters/Distortion/Lens Correction. Using the "keyhole" perspective control we've "tilted forward" the structure. The top of the structure is now closer to us, and the bottom further away.

Photoshop CS4 Lens Correction Module

Above you can see how we now use the pincushion/barrel slider to induce a pincushioning effect thereby sharply reducing the barrel distortion common with wide angle lenses.

Photoshop CS4, Transform Warp function

In the above image we've finished with the Lens Correction module and we're now in "Free Transform" in the Warp module. We've pulled the bottom of the image straight reducing the look of pincushioning, pulled out the sides a bit to correct the inward tilt, and straightened the very top part of the structure. There is no 'right' way of doing this, no set workflow to follow. You look at it, decide how you want it to look, and then use the controls to achieve that effect and you usually end up balancing other aspects of the image as you adjust another.

Canon 1ds Mark II, Sigma 20mm F1.8 @F11 Corrected

And here is the finished image. What, you can't see any difference? Subtle differences are often hard to see without a side by side comparison..


In this side by side comparison you can more easily see the corrections. The top of the structure is definitely more towards you, and the bottom further away. The small structure with orange faces on the left is not leaning in as much as before. In today's blog entry we discuss the adage "the enemy of good is better" and this would apply here. Don't over do your corrections. Often you'll need to make small changes, look at it for a while, and then decide if you want to go further.

Example 2

Canon 1ds Mark II, Sigma 20mm F1.8 @F11

This is a more extreme example which you should be able to see easier. Notice how strongly the top of the image leans away? How the edges barrel outwards? I was right on top of this image, just 10 feet or so away from the structure with a 20mm lens. Distortion was unavoidable.

Photoshop CS4 Lens Correction Module

We bring it into Photoshop's Lens Correction module. Filters/Distort/Lens Correction. Immediately we use the keyhole perspective correction slider to tilt the top of the structure towards us. We can't make it perfect because the shooting position was just way to close, but we can make it better.

Photoshop CS4 Lens Correction Module

Next we reduce some but not all of the barrel distortion by using the pincushion/barrel slider. Again, we can't remove it all because this is an extreme example, but we remove a lot of it.

Photoshop CS4, Transform Warp function

Now we bring it into Photoshop's Free Transform tool and select the "Warp" function. Ever so carefully we straighten out the bottom, bring the sides down some, and align the top of the image. This is a matter of degrees.. and again it is not possible to make full corrections. We're merely trying to make it look good. Good is often preferred over "better" if better causes more issues and upsets the balance.

Canon 1ds Mark II, Sigma 20mm F1.8 @F11 Corrected

And above we have the finished image. Can you see the differences? You should be able to, but if not look below.


Side by side comparisons reveal profound differences. Which do you like better? I think there's little doubt the "after" image looks more natural and less distorted.

Example 3

Lets go back to KVW's church shot which prompted the question on wide angle induced distortion. It's a small 600 pixel image but we'll work with it anyway.

KVW's Church Shot from Norway

Notice the outer tower leaning in? How about the heavy barrel distortion? The left side of the building not straight up/down?

Photoshop CS4 Lens Correction Module

We bring it into Photoshop's Lens Correction Module. Filters/Distortion/Lens Correction. Immediately we remove some of the keyhole distortion and a bit of the barrel distortion.

Photoshop CS4, Transform Warp function

Now we bring it into Photoshop CS4's Free Transform module and select the "Warp" function. We bring pull at the upper side a bit and straighten the tower, and then we do what we can on the left side. Because of the tree and different planes we can't do much, but we can do a little.


How about that? Not perfect, but a lot better. We might have brought the tower over too far. Perhaps we did.

These examples illustrate how to make the corrections you'll require most often. The same controls and techniques can be used to make any type of distortion correction(s). I could have covered every type of distortion and made example images to follow.. but it would have ended up being a book more than an article.

You now have some very good knowledge and techniques to employ during your processing phase. Give them a try and if you're happy with any of them, or have questions, send them in and I'll post them in this column.

Photography News of Interest

Dateline October 20th, 0001 GMT. The announcement Canon fans have been waiting for. The announcement of the new Canon 1d Mark IV professional DSLR geared towards sports and journalism. In a matter of minutes many sites who have signed NDA's with Canon went live with loads of information about this new model. And as Canon fans know, the 1d Mark IV specifications and new features/systems, is very telling of the even bigger announcement we expect sometime next spring, the announcement of the Canon 1ds Mark IV. Looking over the specifications and features of the new 1d Mark IV I can tell you that while Canon has caught up to Nikon and in some areas surpassed them, they certainly haven't leapfrogged over them. The Canon 1d Mark IV and the Nikon D3s are closely matched, both very capable cameras for sports and journalism. You can read about it here. Canon explains their new AutoFocus systemhere. And you can see a PDF of all the specifications here. And read about their just announced new wireless controllershere.

The Panasonic Lumix GF1 is the newest entry into the Micro 4/3's market and to me remains the most appealing of them all. The Micro 4/3's sensor is marginally smaller than the APS-C 1.5x/1.6x sensors used in the Nikon and Canon DSLRs, yet it's part of a camera no bigger than many point and shoot compacts. This is a sensor that enables the GF1 to shoot low light scenes with the same low noise as APS-C sensor DSLRs, nearly the same great image quality, and with a lot less size and weight. We're talking a only 10 ounces, 15 with a battery and the great 20mm F1.7 lens. And it fits in a small pocket! If you're interested in a high quality small camera that fits in a medium size pocket, travels easily, and has high image quality, then you should take a look at the GF1. I'm seriously debating getting one myself. The camera with the 20mm (40mm in 35mm equiv terms) F1.7 ASP lens has tested to be very good and is included as a kit lens making the deal even better. Read a full review of the Panasonic Lumix GF1here.

A few weeks ago I reported in this section the impending release of the Carl Zeiss Distagon 21mm F2.8 lens in the Canon EF mount. This week Zeiss is announcing their Distagon 28mm F2 lens also in the Canon EF mount. Zeiss has already released a number of their great lenses for Nikon and now we can look forward to the same series for Canon. Look for more release notices in the near future. You can read about the Distagon 28mm F2 in the EF mount here.

This will be of interest to Canon EOS Rebel XS/1000D owners. Canon is distributing a firmware update that addresses the "Err 99" message and some other minor issues. You can find firmware version 1.0.6 here.

Nikon announces what looks to be a cool new macro lens for the DX format (APS-C sensor size). The Nikon AF-S DX Micro Nikkor 85mm F3.5G VR. Nikon called macro lenses "micro" for whatever reason so don't let the designator confuse you. The ability to close focus for a 1:1 magnification at 28cm's with VR will appeal to many. The price in the UK is 499 pounds.. no price yet for the US or the rest of Europe. You can read more about this special little lens here.

After two years on the market Nikon re-releases their hot rod D3 with the even newer D3s. The camera remains virtually unchanged with two key exceptions. A redesigned sensor allowing a jaw dropping 102,400 ISO!!! And a 720p HD video mode. This 11fps hot rod DSLR is already a favorite of sports photographers and journalist and this newer version keeps the same great recipe with the addition of a couple new cool tools to your photographic toolbox. Read about it here. Read a brief hands on experience here.

Readers Submissions

Hi Steve, here is my latest attempt with HDR using Photomatix Pro 3.2.

Your were right, this is a much better program than Dynamic-Photo HDR.

The photo was taken at Koh Mak about 1 week ago, it was very overcast and I could get the photo I wanted using just a normal shot so took a HDR instead.
The sun was in the background so the sky would blowout to white when I tried to get the foreground light up.


Hi Charles.

I like this one. Curious what the different shots look like. If you want, send them in and I'll post them in the readers subs. It might help encourage others.



Here are the files that I used.

Now that you've seen the photos I had to work with, what do you think of the final image?



Looking at the photos and your resulting image I might process it a bit differently. I in the lesser exposed image all the detail in the sky, but in the resulting image there are still some holes. I'd try to get the full sky if possible.

If you like, upload the original files to the FTP with the children's pics and I'll give it a try and we can compare the differences.


Hi Steve,

I had another go at the HDR image from Koh Mak and I have attached a copy to this email.


Charles –

The exposure on this is all around much better, and you fixed those lost highlights in the cloud cover. The saturation is a bit much for my taste, but saturation is purely an individual taste issue. I'd say you're well on your way to honing your HDR skills to a very usable level!


I suspect the readers submissions will be a highly anticipated section of this column and I encourage anyone with photographs and travel accounts theyd like to share to please send them to me at: [email protected]

Readers Questions



Was referred to your site by a long-time Bangkok fan.
Really good. I'll hop on every week.

But – what is "bokeh" – It's not in the Merriam-Webster on line dictionary, and needless to say I've never heard it used before, nor have i read it anywhere but in your column.
hanks again for your wonderful instructions.
Best Wishes Always, –

Allen T

Allen –

First, thank you for reading my column. I try to make it fun and interesting to a variety of skill levels so if you don't see anything of interest one week, perhaps you will the next.

Bokeh is a Japanese term referring to the quality of the defocused area of an image. It is now in common usage in the English language with virtually everything photographic. Any defocused area is called 'bokeh', and the quality of the bokeh is a subjective evaluation. Ideally if you zoom in on the defocused area of an image, the perfect bokeh character will be as rounded as possible. This gives a smooth and creamy appearance vs. a rough appearance.

You can find it in:

I hope this helps.


Steve –


well i bought another display (sorry to say but it was a 24" mac as I like them.

I also bough a eye-one to calibrate them, but I think they look different colors on both screens.

My question is should i be using the same profile for both displays or calibrating both monitors individually.???

Ive tried both options and they still look different to my eyes, maybe ive got bad eyes , but the wife confirms it different.


I got the 14-24 2.8 and the 24-70 2.8 very nice , just no time to play yet!!!



Hi Paul –

Let me get this right. You have your 24 inch IMac and now have added a 24 inch external Mac monitor?

This goes to what we talked about before, because your Imac only has one GPU (graphic processing unit) it will only have one LUT (look up table), which means it can only hold one color profile.

Because it can only hold one color profile, this profile will be what's used on both monitors. However, it will only show the right colors on the monitor you calibrated with the Eye One 2.

To answer your question, pick the monitor you want to be color accurate and profile it. When completed, it will be properly profiled (provided you did it correctly) and the monitor you didn't profile will look off.. because it will also be using this color profile you made that is suitable only for the monitor you profiled.

So now your question is.. how do you get both monitors properly profiled on your IMac? You cannot. The IMac doesn't have the capability. It only has one GPU therefore only one LUT.

If you want to use a Mac with two monitors which are profiled, you'll need to upgrade from the Imac.. and Mac makes an awesome model called the Mac Pro.. You can order this with two video cards or a dual video card with two GPU's. Either way it will work for what you want.

Keep in mind that the Mac Pro is a high end unit and most are using it with high-end monitors (not Apple/Mac monitors).

I've ordered two NEC 24" monitors to mount in my dual display stand.. here in Thailand the only place that sells NEC's requires a 30-45 day waiting to get the better models in. So I wait.

Hope all is well with you in Germany!



well with new mac os i can run 2 and have 2 displays with 2 profiles see below.

So thats odd.


Paul –

Windows XP was the first to come out with a software workaround, they called it the Color Applet and it's still available on their site. Then Vista came out with an integrated color manager that looks almost identical to your Mac OS.. and there was no need for the Applet any more.

What this does is assign a color profile to 'available' hardware LUT's, and in the best of cases when everything is working right lets you switch back and forth from one monitor to the other with a single LUT constantly updating the table as you do.. but it rarely works right.

What it doesn't do is allow you to display two different color profiles to two different monitors at the same time without two hardware LUT's.

So your question is now.. "Why is this option active in the OS when it's not supported by hardware?" Good question. It's because some of the top end monitors have built in hardware LUT's. The Eizo's and very expensive top end monitors, if you look at the specs carefully will have their own hardware LUT. Frankly I'm not that up on these as I've never used them personally, I've only read about them.

By far the most common way to solve this issue is to have two graphic cards which gives you two CPU's and two LUT's.. profile you're monitors in Eye One 2, and then make sure those profiles are assigned in the OS part that you're looking at now.

Btw – This is probably the most difficult to understand/manage aspect of digital photography. Everyone wants it to work (two monitors with two separate profiles) with only one graphics card.. but it won't..

I hope this helps.


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A Snapshot of Bangkok Images Week in Review

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Personal obligations have kept me trapped in Bangkok for a while now and I haven't been out to find new material. I hope to change this before the end of this month. For me, there is nothing worse than not being abel to travel.

Infocus Blog

The Enemy of Good is Better

I have a new dentist and he's a perfectionist. Extremely skilled he's earned that right. Recently while having a veneer repaired he had me stand in front of the mirror, out of the chair, and asked me "can you see the slight color difference?" I looked and looked, but I couldn't see anything but perfect work. During the finishing stages of the restoration he continued to fret over the color and fit and I'm thinking "dude, it's only a tooth.."

The last customer of the day, he finished my new veneer and we moved out into the lobby area to make an appointment for further work. We sat there talking about his work and my work and he asks "You've heard the old adage" "the enemy of good is better" haven't you?" Indeed I have and its an enemy almost every professional deals with at some point in their career.

I mentioned to him that if he hadn't asked me about the color, or showed me where to look, I would have never seen any difference at all. But by him calling this to my attention, depending on my personality, I could complain or in some way express dissatisfaction with his work which otherwise I would have been perfectly happy with. He's a perfectionist and it bothered him, and he wanted me to have the best quality work.

We can appreciate this. He knew where to look, how to tell if there were slight differences in color, and the intricacies of fit and finish. By sharing this knowledge with me, he opened himself up to criticism and perhaps having to redo the entire job. He was concerned enough about his work to risk a possible loss in profit and time. Yet, we both immediately recognized the "condition" because I'm much the same way with my images.

The theory is that there's a point of quality or correctness where you should be prepared mentally, as a professional, to stop and call it a finished and well done job. Most often your dental or other professional won't care enough to get to this point. This is the type of person you have to remind, plead, or threaten to get the quality of work you paid for.

Sometimes though you get a different sort of personality. We push the quality of work right up to the edge of perfection. The risk of doing this is that there's a very fine edge where the work is perfect, and you ruin the work because you went too far. An example would be cutting a board to length. Many board cutters would cut it close to the right length and perhaps leave it a little long. A perfectionist board cutter would strive to cut that board EXACTLY the right measurement, but all too often this quest for perfection ends up with cutting the board too short and having to throw it away and start over again.

How does this apply to images? Sharpening would be the most obvious example. Sharpening is very beneficial and approves an image quite a bit.. up to a certain point. Past that point not only can you tell it was over sharpened, but you also start exhibiting halos and sharpening artifacts. I don't mind going on record saying it is ALWAYS preferable to under sharpen than risk over sharpening.

Exposure? Bump it up a bit and it looks better. A bit more in small increments and all of a sudden you realize it's too much Saturation? Sure, color is great. Vibrant bold colors look wonderful in print. Go to far however and the entire image looks "processed" and fake. This point of "just enough" is often very small. But the effect is very real.

My grandfather was a carpenter. And not just any carpenter. He was a carpenter who worked almost exclusively in Bel-Air, Beverly Hills, Pacific Palisades, and other expensive west side enclaves. He was successful enough to buy five lots in Bel-Air and build a Frank Lloyd Wright inspired home in which my 95 year old grandmother still lives today. He became this successful because he constantly pushed the edge of "the enemy of good is better" and his work was second to none.

This is where we all should strive to be, yet we all aren't born with the type of personality that allows us to walk this fine line and remain sane at the same time. Most of us need to remind ourselves that "good enough" as a philosophy will benefit not only our work, but our mind.

For me personally I've divided my work into different areas. I have images I share with friends and family about my life and the such, and I rarely do anything at all with these images. The point of these is to share memories, not make perfect images.

The images I prepare for a client are a different story. Even if it's a low end client on a low end bid, I'll strive to make those images as close to perfect as I possibly can. Why?

Because clients who are happy with you recommend you to others, and in the example of photography they'll also send over a sample image along with their recommendation. When they see this sample image I want it to reflect as close to possible my best work.

High end clients get my best work not only in image processing, but set setup and preparation as well. A low end client might only be paying for me to bring an on-camera flash, a high-end client might be paying significantly more which allows me to bring lights, light modifiers, and assistants to help set them up and keep them under control.

And yes, I can think of several examples.. okay many examples.. where in the past I was reviewing my work with a client and fretting over small imperfections or things that might have been done better, and at the same time driving my client nuts with my obsessionism because "dude, it's only a picture.."

We can probably all think of several examples where "the enemy of good is better" in our personal and professional lives, and it's a good concept to ponder from time to time. But where it comes to photography this adage probably most applies to post processing and applying sharpening, color saturation, exposure, and any enhancement process. Don't add too much, and when it doubt make it the lesser amount.

Perfectionism.. it's a double edged sword. It's bad and it's good. It has advantages, and disadvantages. It can make you appear on top of your game, or insane. Every now and then give the concept some thought. You'll be glad you did.

Until next time..