Recently I have been using the Photoshop CS6 adaptive wide angle on images that i thought were not usable due to the barrel distortion. The new Adaptive Wide Angle filter in Photoshop CS6 has fixed a some old images and been able to transform into images that would otherwise never see the light of day.
Here is a shot that I took recently of the Northern lights in Iceland, however the weather station is suffering from barrel distortion and isn’t straight. Normally I would correct the straightness in the camera and make sure everything is lined up in the frame, unfortunately it was so dark & cold, it was impossible to do so (at the end of this article i will talk about photographing the Northern Lights as well and some in camera settings to capture this phenomenal activity).
To use the Adaptive Wide Angle filter to re-work this image, choose the menu item Filter / Adaptive wide angle .
Firstly the horizon needs to be pinned to the horizontal plane of the scene, otherwise, when the weather station is corrected the image will try to re-position itself and the horizon will move.
The cursor is placed within the black section of the scene, then dragged to the other side of the image to align the horizon (see below)
This will correct any barrel distortion at the base of the image based on the type of camera and lens combination used to take the photograph. To pin this part of the image to the Horizontal (now that the barrel distortion has been corrected), hold the shift key at the same time as clicking the blue correction line, then choose Horizontal.
This will make sure that any other modifications to the image won’t pull the image off the base horizontal plane.
To correct the weather station or any other vertical object/plane, it is best to look for a vertical point of the object, but sometimes not possible. The middle post of the weather station is ideal in this image. Holding the Shift key down and drawing a line from the bottom of the post, all the way to the top will automatically correct the post to the Vertical axis.
(Notice the colour of the line is now different to the previous one, as we have corrected both barrel distortion and the vertical axis). The same thing is performed to the other side of the image ,just to make sure the image is still in perspective once we have finished.
Press OK on this Filter.
Notice that when Photoshop CS6 corrects the image, the canvas is automatically extended, this provides more creative options. This scene is not to complex, therefore the image does not need to be cropped. Photoshop CS5 introduced a way to create new pixels using the Content Aware Fill technology feature to rebuild the areas of the scene that are empty.
Take the Magic Wand tool and select an empty space, then choose the menu option Select/Similar, Photoshop will select other areas of the scene that are also empty. As we want Photoshop to rebuild pixels, texture and tone we need to give it some more information to work on (remember that Photoshop will use parts of what we have selected to gather information about the missing pixels, so we will expand the selected areas using the menu option Select/ Modify/ Expand and use a value of 2 pixels.
Then choose menu option Edit / Fill / and make sure that Content Aware is selected in the combo box
Sometimes Content Aware Fill can bring in unwanted items into the newly generated areas or can create repeating patterns. One way to remove this unwanted pixel data is to use the Clone tool and clone other pixels in from similar areas of the image.
When taking photographs of the Northern lights here are a few things to consider and experiment with.
1. Find a very dark area with no ambient light sneaking in the sky (between mountains is a good start). Near a road can be interesting as you have front and rear light trails to play with. Also, lakes can be amazing as the lights are caught in the reflections.
2. Use a sturdy tripod, if it’s windy you may need to weigh your tripod down to keep it stable.
3. Choose your lens (wide angle is good as the Lights can be all over the sky). Set the focal length of the lens to where you need it (i used an 18mm (24mm) on the Fuji xPro-1 above). Also, set the F-stop of the lens to as wide as possible to let as much light in a possible in any one second (F4 or below is ideal), then manually set the focus on your lens to infinity (usually represented by the infitinity symbol (to small circles joined in the middle).
4. Set the ISO to 100 or 200.
5. The exposure will be between 30 and 50 seconds, your camera may support Tv (time priority), however you may need to use the BULB setting to go over 30 seconds.
6. I would strongly recommend a locking cable release to start and hold the exposure, or use a 2 second delay with or without mirror lockup mode enabled to reduce the amount of vibration and shake.
7. You may not be able to see anything through the view finder so you will have to guess on what you are shooting (hence why the adaptive angle is a great tool to use in post).
8. Don’t forget to look around the sky, the Northen Lights are very unpredictable, if there is nothing going on in the front of you, there maybe something going on behind you. Also, if the lights are white in the sky (i.e. not very active (maybe a 2 on the activity scale),don’t panic, the camera will see the vivid colours and will record the different appropriately.
9. For a different effect and breaking rules, try hand holding the camera and go for something shaky….
Here in my final image, which I have converted to Black and White as opposed to colour to show the form of the lights.