Hiking in Andorra

Andorra is a small country in the Pyrenees, a mountain range between France and Spain. It is a paradise for both skiers and hikers.
One hike took us to the north-western side of Andorra (Arcalis). Before starting I turned on the Komoot app on my iPhone to register my hike. I do this also to keep track of the the location where I took my pictures (see below). First we took a ski lift to take us all the way to the border between France and Andorra (the straight line on the map below).

After getting of the ski lift the first thing you see is this small lake, called Étang de Caraussans, surrounded by mountains in France. 

Lake on border Andorra-France
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

From there we walked to the highest point of our hike: 2690 meters. There you could see three lakes, called Estany de Més Amunt, in Andorra. As you can see, all very impressive. 

Lakes in Andorra
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

After taking some more pictures I walked all the way down to the starting point of the ski lift at 2220 meter. To be honest, I was glad I had taken the ski lift to get up.
Back at home I ingest my pictures in Photo Mechanic, I first throw away the bad pictures. Using the trail information from Komoot, Photo Mechanic figures out where I took the pictures (synchronisation is done based on time). Then I make a backup of the NEF-pictures on my NAS.  
The next step is to open the pictures in Lightroom to process them. Although it was sunny, I really had to add quite a bit of  liveliness and contrast to the pictures.
After saving them as DNG-pictures, I decide which pictures I will upload to Dreamstime. Within a couple of days I heard that all of my pictures were accepted. To give the buyers the opportunity to buy a DNG format of the picture, I also upload these. Furthermore, I do a bit of advertisement on Facebook. 

Here you see all of the pictures I took during several hikes in Andorra (made with jAlbum). Enjoy!

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Use Face Recognition for searching

Face Recognition

In whatever way we store our pictures we are always faced with a very troublesome search if we are looking for a pictures of a particular person, or of several persons combined in one picture. In the past we had to tag all the pictures by hand to indicate which relevant persons were in the picture. In practice, this was too cumbersome. So, especially when we are busy, this is often not done.
However, a couple of years ago Face Recognition (FR) became feasible; it is becoming more and more popular, with many different applications. Also, the quality is improving although it is still far from perfect. FR software extracts special features from a picture or part of a picture. Based on these features it decided whether the picture contains a face and it can also distinguish different faces. 
The algorithms that are used are very good to distinguish the various faces in the pictures. And at the same time they have to be very fast, to process a lot of pictures in a short time. On the surface, you might think that these algorithms are very intelligent, however, they just do mathematical computations on the pixels. Human beings use their intelligence to design these algorithms. Also, giving the faces the name of the corresponding person has to be done by hand. 
Only one face is recognized

If I look at the results, on the one hand, I am very impressed. With sometimes little information FR recognizes faces and is even able to identify that faces belong to the same person at different ages. On the other hand, there are also quite a bit of false hits: wrong person,  no face detection when there is a person, or face detection when there is no face. 
There are no faces

For picture handling I use Photo Mechanic and for image processing I use Adobe Lightroom. In Photo Mechanic I want to be able to search for persons, however, it does not have FR. Lightroom, on the other hand, has this facility. So, in practice, when processing images I let Lightroom identify the faces. It does this very fast. When exporting the pictures to DNG, the persons recognized are included in the DNG files. Allowing Photo Mechanic to search for persons. They are listed under Persons shown). 
So, now I can search for a person or persons appearing together in a picture.  I am very pleased with this set up. It saves me a lot of time.
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Posts generate traffic to my albums

Homepage Dreamstime
Homepage Dreamstime

The posts on Peter Apers Photoblog have two purposes: on the one hand, I like to share my knowledge and experience of photography and, on the other hand, I like to share the beauty of my pictures. To do so, I always include a link to a relevant album in my post. I have been doing this now for more than a year.
Via Google Analytics I have noticed that, besides supporting family members, only every now and then somebody looks at my posts and albums. To increase the traffic to both of them I started a Facebook page Peter Apers Photography and started to write posts on the blog of Dreamstime.
As it turns out both are quite popular. My latest post at Dreamstime about Machu Picchu ended up on the homepage of Dreamstime for more than a week (see picture above). More than 870 people looked at it, genetaring a lot of traffic to my albums on my NAS. Also, the posts on Facebook are doing quite well. The last one on my visit to Yellow Mountain reached more than 160 people.
My albums on my NAS are produced using jAlbum. From such an album I can directly generate a post on Facebook. To also create a link to the relevant post on my photoblog, I include a few lines and a link to the post on the front page of the album. To attract people to my collection at Werk aan de Muur I also make posts on Facebook based on the pictures I have there.
The result is that my albums are viewed by a handful of people on a daily basis. The blogs on my Photoblog still attract only a few people. All in all, the sales have not gone up substantially yet, despite the increase of traffic to my collections at Dreamstime and at Werk aan de Muur. I guess I have to invest more time in this.
Here you find my pictures at Dreamstime and here at Werk aan de Muur. Enjoy!

My Workflow: an update

In the previous blog on my workflow, I mentioned that I was not too enthusiastic about View NX2, because it sometimes freezes. So, since half a year I use Lightroom 6. Here is an update of my workflow.
Ingest  For managing the pictures I use Photomechanic 5. With its IPTC Stationary I fill in the Photographer’s field including copyright,  and I give a short description of the topic and the location. Furthermore,  I change the name of the picture into yyyymmdd_xxxx. The xxxx stand for a four digit counter. I expect not to make more than 9999 pictures per day. They are temporarily stored in the map Workspace with a submap with the date of the ingest.
Backup The next step is to make a copy of the NEF files to an external harddisk using Photomechanic 5. Sync Pro copies all of pictures (NEF and jpg) that are changed the last hour to my NAS.  Once a week a backup of this year’s NEFs from my Synology NAS to Amazon Glacier in Ireland is made. After the initial backup everything is automated. Once a month I make an incremental backup on an external harddisk that I take to my office at the university.
GPS If the location of the pictures is important I use my own GPS. Before using it I check the time of the GPS and of the camera (especially in another time zone this is important and saves a lot of time). I then use Photomechanic 5 to determine the location based on time matching between the exposure time and the times of the track. This is done in one command for a whole set of pictures.
5-star scan Depending on the number of pictures and the goal I use different strategies. For a photoshoot or a special trip abroad (a lot of pictures) I tried to identify as quickly as possible the 5-star pictures to submit to Dreamstime. For an album of myself of less important trips the storyline might me more important so I also include some pictures that did not make it to the 5-star category. Sometimes I do this before importing in Lightroom, sometimes after exporting DNG.
Importing in LR After the import in Lightroom 6 I set — in Library mode — the White Balance to the right WB, and some presets (LR or user defined) dependent on the kind of pictures. I do this for all pictures at once.
Processing in LR Then I look at the individual pictures and adjust, for example, Exposure, Contrast etc. In Lightroom 6 I can also do some more advanced processing such as: remove dust spots, brighten or darken specific parts of the picture, crop etc. It has many more tools to finetune the picture. Except for the import I am quite happy with Lightroom 6. After going through all the pictures, I export them as DNG. Lightroom 6 is a very powerful tool, so I hardly use Photoshop anymore.
Photoshop For very advanced processing, like for pictures of a photoshoot, I use Photoshop to do some magic with layers. It is a perfect tool that can do everything in often too many ways. Most of the time I search Youtube for finding the right tutorial, for example, for brightening the white of the eyes.
Producing JPG With Photomechanic 5 I produce the final JPG files. For pictures that are submitted to Dreamstime I use its FTP-facility for immediate upload.
Galleries For galeries I use jAlbum. It is a very convenient tool for making simple or very advanced galeries. Many skins are available.
Final storage Most recent pictures are on the internal harddisk of my Apple iMac (others are on an external G-drive). Within the map Pictures I make submaps like Trips, Photoshoots, Happenings, Family etc. Within those maps I make submaps with a name and a date (in that order; I like pictures on the same topic to be grouped). Knowing from experience there is no best way to store files, therefore I very much rely on the search facility of Photomechanic 5. A very fast software tool.
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Lighting: studio lighting setup – several lights

4-light setup
4-light setup

In the previous blog in the series on Understanding Lighting: from physics to moods, we discussed studio lighting using only one light (the main light). The essence of lighting is to play with light and shadow. The same is of course true if we use more than one light.
Using one bare light produces harsh shadows. This can be overcome by making the light bigger by using an umbrella or a softbox. However, this does not change the darkness of the shadows, it only softens the edges.
To get rid of the darkness of the shadows we need an additional light source. This might be another light, or it might also be a reflector. Note, in a sense a reflector is another source of light, however, a reflector does not produce more light than the light source of the incoming light. So, we cannot fully control it.
Besides the main light there are the following additional lights:

  • Fill light These are used to lighten up the shadows. Do not make them too strong otherwise the shadows completely disappear, making the picture flat.
  • Background light To create more depth we need to separate the subject from the background. This is done by placing a light behind the subject directed towards the background. If the backdrop is white it is better to use a color, if it is black a white light can be used.
  • Rim light To highlight the subject we use a rim light. It is placed behind the subject directed towards the subject. It gives a halo effect around the head and shoulders.
  • Hair light Sometimes it is nice to highlight a specific spot of the hair. This is done by placing a small, focussed light at a high position directed towards the hair.
  • Kickers They are very similar as hair light, however, they are directed towards a specific part of the subject.

The picture at the top shows a 4-light step bringing most of the above together. One main light on the left, a fill light on the right, a rim light in the rear, and a hair light on the far right. I again used the Virtual Lighting Studio by Oliver Prat of Zvork.

Main light, reflector, and background light (blue)
Main light (left), reflector (right), and background light (rear, blue)

My own experience with a studio lighting setup until now is limited to a main light and several fills, lights and reflectors. In the near future I hope to experiment with the full setup.
This series of blogs on understanding lighting is inspired by Light: Science and Magic by Hunter, Biver, and Fuqua and Sculpting with Light by Earnest.
In the next blog we will discuss the right lighting setup for specific moods.
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Lighting: studio lighting setup – one light

Self-Portrait, 1658
Self-Portrait, 1658

In the previous blog in the series on  Understanding Lighting: from physics to moods the physics of light was discussed, now the focus is on the various lighting setups for portrait photography. Again, inspired by Light: Science and Magic by Hunter, Biver, and Fuqua and Sculpting with Light by Earnest and many blogs and tutorials I try to focus on the essence. Here is one link to an explanation I really liked, it is simple and clear: several basic lighting patterns by Darlene Hildebrandt.
The essence in my opinion is to get the right balance between light and shadows for what we have in mind. See these drawings of Palle Schmidt to understand the interplay between light and shadows.
Let me start with one light and vary the position relative to the person. Note below I used a bare light (so no soft box), this explains the harsh shadows. This gives the following lighting patterns (I used the Virtual Lighting Studio by Oliver Prat of Zvork so simulate the various patterns) :

  • frontal lighting This is the situation where the flash is in or on the camera and the person is facing the camera. The result is a picture with no shadows in the face. It looks flat. Most snapshots are like this.frontal
  • butterfly lighting If we lift the light up a small shadow appears under the nose and sometimes also under the cheeks. butterfly
  • split lighting If I now move the light to the side of the person (90 degrees), the result is a split face: one side lighted and the other one dark.split
  • Rembrandt lighting If I move the light back to 45 degrees off the camera and up a bit, we get something called Rembrandt lighting (see the self-portrait of Rembrandt). Typical is the light triangle on the cheek on the other side of the light. The sides of the triangle are: the eyebrow, the shadow of the nose and the shadow of the cheek. It can be smaller or larger depending on the position of the light.Rembrandt
  • loop lighting If I place the light a little closer to the the camera (30 degrees), the triangle opens up, this means that the shadow of the nose does not touch the shadow of the cheek anymore.loop

For all of these lighting patterns (except the frontal one) I can use broad and short lighting. Broad lighting means that the visible ear is lighted and short lighting is that the visible ear is in the shade.
Here is a nice YouTube video by Ed Verosky that explains the various lighting patterns with one light.
In the next blog I will continue the studio lighting setup with several lights and reflectors.

Showing pictures using map tools

Usually, we present our pictures on the internet by means of a digital album. In a previous blog I mentioned jAlbum, a perfect software tool with many skins to  customize the album. For nature pictures that I take during a hike I was looking for something that would give a better impression of the surroundings.
During a short hike near Laguna Llanganuco (also discussed in this blog) I took my GPS to keep track of the trail. If the time in the camera is well-synchronized with the time given by the GPS it is quite easy to assign geo-coordinates to the individual pictures. I did so with Photo Mechanics.
The nice thing about Laguna Llanganuco is that it is in a rather small valley surrounded by mountains being part of the Cordillera Negra (no snow because of the influence of the ocean) and that during the hike I could see Huascarán, the highest mountain of Peru. It is part of the Cordillera Blanca (eternal snow). It would be nice to show the terrain combined with the picture to better enjoy the experience I had.
After looking around for some time I found this nice WordPress plugin called WP GPX Maps. The viewer can choose between different types of maps (top left icon): regular map, satelite, map with altitude lines (OCM) etc, in many different languages. To get a better view of the map click on the white icon (top right, left icon) to go to full screen mode. It is also possible to zoom in or out to see more detail or more of the surrounding area. Of course, it also shows the hike.
NextGen Galleries is another WordPress plugin that nicely integrates with WP GPX Maps. It allows for uploading the geotagged pictures in a gallery (which is not made visible). With a simple command this gallery is easily integrated into the map with the hike (as you can see at the top).
In full screen mode it is easy to see where the 3 pictures where taken (it only misses the direction in which they were taken). Combined with the satelite image it gives a much better impression of what I experienced during the hike than a traditional album. Enjoy.
Update: licenses of all three pictures of Laguna Llanganuco have been sold.

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Sharing photo albums and jAlbum

Market at Chinchero, sacred valley of the Incas, Cuzco
Market at Chinchero, sacred valley of the Incas, Cuzco

After the photoshoot, selecting the high quality pictures, and processing them it is time to share them. In the past there was only one way to share: printing on paper. Although this is still a fascinating way of sharing, nowadays, in the digital era, there are many places to digitally share your pictures with everybody: social media, photo websites, microstock websites, your own NAS etc.
Here I will explain my own setup, hardware and software. At home I have a Synology DS412+. It is a NAS, which stands for Network-Attached Storage. It runs 24/7 and allows me to access my pictures from wherever I am. For convenience, it has its own domain name peterapers.synology.me. It allows me to share pictures with specific (groups of) people, for example family, the models I work with, or with everybody on the internet.
For sharing albums I use jAlbum. It is a very convenient software tool to easily create and maintain photo and video albums. I just drop the pictures in a specific folder on my iMAC, decide about the order, select the album cover, select a particular skin, make and finetune the album, and finally upload the album to my NAS or my jAlbum account. Currently, I use Photoblogger as a skin because the albums look nice both on a computer as well as on an iPad. It has a lot of nice and convenient options, one of them is that it gives a slide show in a tiny window as a preview of the album. Another one is that it makes search based on keywords possible, and it also supports selling pictures. I have not used that yet.
Every time I write a blog about a recent photoshoot I make a small photo album to accompany that. With jAlbum it is just a matter of minutes to make one.
Enjoy looking at the photo album of my Dreamstime pictures. At the top is a crop of a picture taken during my last trip to Peru.
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Monastery hike and Komoot

Near my home town there is a small village called Zenderen. It has a rich history of monasteries and churches. So, I decided to take the Monastery hike. Without actually noticing, I took the 9 km hike instead of the 13 km one.
On occasions like this I take my GPS with me for two reasons:

  • to know where I took my pictures
  • to create a gpx file, so I can share it with others

I normally take my Garmin GPSmap 60CSx, a very versatile and accurate gps, and download the track to my iMac using Garmin BaseCamp. Then I make some corrections (I often forget to switch it off when getting back to my car), and export a gpx-file. This can easily be imported in Photo Mechanics to assign the GPS-coordinates to the individual pictures.
Recently, I discovered Komoot, an iPhone app (also available for Android). It is mainly intended to plan routes for hiking or biking, and share it with others. However, it also allows me to record a hike, to store it in the cloud, to share it with the Komoot community, and to export a gpx-file. It has many nice features, among which giving directions on my Apple Watch. So, there is no need to take my iPhone out of my pocket to find out where I should go. Check it out, I am really impressed.
To come back to my Monastery hike, here are my pictures. The hike took me along De Zwanenhof, Karmelietenklooster, Carmelitessenklooster, Het Seminar, and the Mariakapel. Nice buildings to see. Enjoy hiking and shooting pictures.

Post-processing: quite a difference

Before

Above you see  the original NEF and the processed JPG of a picture taken in Peru that is submitted to Dreamstime.
After coming home of a very inspiring trip to Peru I was really looking forward to seeing the results on my 27″ iMAC. Of course, I had a first glimp during the trip with the HyperDrive ColorSpace UDMA2, however, this was just to make sure that the backup worked.
Seeing the NEFs, I was quite disappointed. They lacked vibrance, I missed all the nice colors I remembered. Apparently, the very strong, unfiltered sun makes the colors bleak. Luckily, Adobe LightRoom can help.
Here are the steps I used to post-process the picture in Adobe LightRoom 6.1.1 (apologies for the Dutch):
Schermafbeelding 2015-08-23 om 11.36.58

  • Set the White Balance to Daytime
  • Sharpen the picture a bit
  • Set the Lens Correction for the specific lens I used (Nikon 28-300mm); this removes the dark corners which are mainly visible in the blue sky.
  • Reduce Highlights to get more balance between the highlights and the shadows
  • Increase Shadows to open up the dark areas
  • Get more colors by increasing Vibrance and Saturation
  • Increase Contrast to make the picture more vivid
  • Highlight the snow on the mountains by increasing Whites
  • Increase or decrease the Lightning to finalize the picture

Of course, for most of them there is no specific order. You change the settings a bit to get the result you have in mind. Below you see the result.

After

For more pictures of Peru accepted by Dreamstime, click here. Enjoy!
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