Saturday, September 29, 2007

Moving beyond Picasa

Picasa, the free photo editing program from the kind (yet sometimes somewhat misguided) folks at Google is the tool I use to improve many of the photos posted here on the blog. It is quick and easy to use to edit the framing of the picture (or 'cropping' in the vernacular), remove unwanted haze, brighten up or darken the overall picture, etc. It's that last feature that I use a lot; many of my pictures seem too dark when viewed on the screen, so I lighten them up in Picasa before posting. The weakness of Picasa as compared to more sophisticated (yet pricey - there's always a trade-off) tools like Photoshop is that it lightens the entire image. Every now and then, I have an image that I'd like to lighten only part of.

Consider this picture that I shot at Vinton County:

I want to lighten up the instrument panel, but I don't want to wash out the nice blue sky. Tonight I decided to see if I could doi just that using a very complex, yet still free, photo editing package called The GIMP. Here's the result:

Can you see the difference? It's actually too light now, which comes from having done the editing on my ancient beater PC which has an old worn out monitor on it. The monitor is perennially too dark and not very useful for that kind of work, but the concept seems sound. You can also see what looks like a high water line on the struts; that comes from having the image magnified beyond the confines of the small-ish 17" screen of the monitor.

The clock, having finally made the inarguable case that it is, in fact, Co-pilot Egg's bedtime, and thus taking my side in the eternal "whose turn is it to use the good computer" battle, I took another quick shot at it. I didn't take a lot of time in making the selection absolutely perfect, mostly because my bedtime isn't all that far removed from Egg's. You can see the sloppiness in where I selected the region to lighten if you click for the larger version and look closely at the left edge of the second strut from the right:

The original:

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