It’s been a very long, hard two weeks. Right after the funeral on Monday I drove straight down to Charleston for PowerSchool University – an intense training session on our new student database system. I learned some neat things I’m going to try when I get back to the office, but it was almost information overload. I did manage to sneak out for a couple of hours one evening to do some photography, and was keen to try out the new image-stacking techniques, as well as the content-aware fill tool in Photoshop CS5.
My friend Ken had given me the idea to use image stacking with crowd scenes. The idea was that there would be a blur of activity around a few static individuals. Since I was staying in the heart of Charleston’s tourist area, I figured I’d have ample opportunity to give this a try. Turns out it was a nice idea, but the process in Photoshop probably wasn’t the best choice of tools.
The Charleston Place Hotel is right across from the Old Slave Market. I set up my camera on a tripod and shot several images with a small aperture and slow shutter speed. I took ten of those images and combined them using Photoshop’s image stacking. Here’s the result…
If you click on the image for a larger view, you can see some cool activity blurring and a few static focal points. On the surface it looks like this worked. However, what you DON’T see are all the disembodied feet trying to cross the road. I cropped those out. I’m not sure why, but just about every attempt to create a shot like this using image stacking resulted in disembodied body parts. It’s hard to predict which parts of the images the process is going to preserve for the final image, and the results can be unusual.
I had the same problem with the B&W image at the top of this post. I had tipped the guitarist a few bucks to be in the photo, and set up the camera on a low tripod. Again, the intent was to capture a swirl of activity as the guitarist remained fairly static. I took one shot at a fairly fast speed just to make sure the guitarist himself wasn’t blurred, then reduced the shutter speed to continue the series. When I tried image stacking I got lots of disembodied body parts, including some from the guitarist. I wound up selecting just one shot that had some motion blur and masking the static shot of the guitarist on to that for the final image.
St. Michaels Church presented a similar problem. The church is located at a traffic light at Charleston’s famous “Four Corners of Law.” I set up the tripod across from the church and started taking long exposure shots. The intent was to image stack, and with luck the cars that passed in front of the image would be removed through that process. Unfortunately, cars that were stopped at the light were captured. That wouldn’t be too bad, but they also inched forward. So, the final result was an image that showed weird vehicles with multiple axles. I didn’t even bother to upload the results to Flickr.
Where the process did work well was when I set out to intentionally capture light blur from automobiles. Here are a couple of scenes from Broad Street…
One of the techniques that did work well was Photoshop’s new content-aware fill tool. The French Congregational Church has several telephone lines running in front of it. I was able to use the new fill tool to completely remove the lines from the image. It was extremely easy to do.
I took some more long exposure shots and some normal ones. Here are a few more of my favorites from the trip…
While it was fun taking photos in Charleston, it was also miserably hot. By the time I got back to the hotel I was soaking with perspiration, and ready to be back in air conditioning.
I haven’t completely give up the idea of image stacking with crowds. I think this would work best with very large crowds such as Artisphere or some other festival. The large quantity should remove some of the random body parts. I’ll have to look for another opportunity.