Monthly Archives: December 2015

Dust Spots!

Dust spots and artifacts are my pet peeve… cannot stand them because they are so easy to fix. However, they can be hard to find! They are definitely the bane of any landscape photographer’s existence, but they can show up in any image and they never show up until you have published or printed an image! It is like magic. As soon as your friends, family, and world can see the image, the dust spots/artifacts miraculously appears and of course, you are at best, the second person to see it. :-/

Even those folks with great eyesight miss them. But here is where we can look to technology for a solution. Lightroom Develop and Photoshop Camera Raw both have dust spot removal tools. But for real success, you have to “visualize spots” to get the most of these tools. Let’s take a look at how this one little checkbox can make a world of difference.

Take this image… unprocessed, right out of the camera. We can see some spots (red arrows) right off the bat. So those can be easily fixed. But the real question will be…. have we missed any? So at a glance, we would like to say we haven’t, but how can we be sure?

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 1.41.20 PM


As I mentioned, the best tools for the identification of dust spots/artifacts that I have found are the spot removal tools in Lightroom Develop (the icon shown to the right) ,Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 2.20.38 PMand in Photoshop Camera Raw (icon shown to the right).  Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 11.48.12 AMAs these programs are the same, these spot removal tools are also the same. The only difference is the icon used to access them.

Now the tools themselves are great and do an amazing job (most of the time) of identifying the pixels from which to clone the dust spot. But the true beauty of these tools is their ability to identify spots and artifacts in images that we simply cannot see with the naked eye.

Here is how this works. Take the image noted above, we identified 5 dust spots/artifacts that need correction. Let’s see what the spot removal tool finds. To make this a bit easier, I have drawn arrows to re-identify the spots we found in the above image and then circled the additional dust spots/artifacts identified by the software. Take a minute to look back at the color image. Those spots in the sky do not stand out and could easily be missed if it wasn’t for the spot removal tool. So how do we get this masked image, show below? In both Lightroom Develop and Photoshop Camera Raw spot removal tools, there is a checkbox that says “visualize spots”.

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 1.41.46 PM



In Lightroom, the Visualize Spots can be found to the bottom left of the center panel: Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 12.03.43 PM.

In Photoshop, the Visualize Spots can be found at the bottom of the right hand panel: Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 12.03.26 PM

To emphasize the spots, check the box and then drag the slider bar to the right. This tool will even identify spots in the middle of clouds! In fact, it will identify spots anywhere in an image. Dust spots stand right out, as they have distinct round edges. Notice the dust spots in the sky above, they are hollow round spots and very noticeable. Now you can use the cloning feature (in both programs) to clone out the dust spots.

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 1.42.05 PM


In a few minutes, hundreds (which can happen) of dust spots/artifacts can be removed!

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 1.43.02 PM


Now, you can finish processing the image! I suggest removing dust spots first, so that whatever processing you do to the image doesn’t exaggerate or further emphasize spots that need to be removed. It is simply easier to fix the spots before their edges are more pronounced with contrast or clarity.

For this image, here is the final result:



Happy Holidays and Creative New Year!!

Panoramas aren’t just for Landscapes


Panoramas are often an effective way to showcase the grandeur of a vast landscape. A photographer can often show more in a wide aspect panorama, instead of just stepping backward or using a wide angle lens. I love shooting panoramas in the great outdoors but I also find ways to use this technique on other types of photography as well. In the image above I shot 5 vertical frames of the lobby inside the former Women’s Auxiliary Building at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. I used a Nikon 14-24mm lens at 14mm on a full frame sensor. While that lens has a very wide field of view, it was not wide enough for me to capture the entire scene in one shot.

Back in the film days you would use a special camera such as the X-Pan. This was a camera that used 35mm film and would expose the image at 24mm x 65mm, instead of the traditional 24mm x35mm that is typical for 35mm cameras. Ten years ago I dreamed of owning an X-Pan, but the price of the bodies and lenses was prohibitive. Many used 35mm film cameras have become fairly inexpensive but if you look around a used X-Pan is not one of them. The only advantage I can think of today where a film camera such as an X-Pan would have the advantage over digital is with a fast moving subject. Slow moving subjects such as clouds and water work just fine for digital panoramas.

So if you want to start shooting panoramas with your digital camera you will need to learn a little about Parallax. Really Right Stuff has a great tutorial on their site. My panorama rig is from Really Right Stuff and while not inexpensive, in my opinion the quality is the best and worth the investment. There are less expensive options for a Nodal Slide and other assorted gear if cost is a factor.

Years ago I had two or three programs I used for assembling panoramas, because when one program failed to properly stitch the panorama, another program would often do the job. But in the last few years Photoshop has gotten so good at this feature I have not needed the other programs when I switched my processing from a PC to Mac. So today all my panoramas are assembled in Photoshop.

Some cameras (including my Fuji XT-1) will shoot handheld panoramas, but the results are not always precise and in the case of my Fuji, it saves the result as a Jpg file instead of a RAW file. I occasionally use the panorama feature on my Fuji, but when the shot really counts I use my tripod and panorama rig to get it right.