Category Archives: Underwater Photography Techniques and Post Processing

Techniques to capture great underwater photographs of sharks, whales, dolphins, and manatees. Creative post processing and digital asset management.

Using Lightroom with Underwater Images: Exploring the new Dehaze Tool

Introduction

The newest release of Adobe Lightroom CC 2015  has a new tool called Dehaze which is stated to “dramatically improve images by removing haze”.  I have been wondering if this tool is applicable to underwater situations that mimic haze (scatter and low vis).

In this demonstration I take a pretty good underwater image that feels a little “hazy” or “Milky” and apply the Dehaze tool like a secret weapon to see if it improves the sharpness of the image.  I also compare it and combine it with the Clarity tool – another finishing touch secret weapon.

The Original Image

(click on photos to enlarge)

starting image of a whale shark
The image before I begin

The Image with some Exposure, Curve, and Color adjustments

 

Exposure corrected image
The image after apply some exposure, curve, and color correction

 

Adding the Clarity Adjustment

image with Clarity added
The image with a Clarity adjustment

As per my usual method, I add the Clarity adjustment to the image right at the end of my process.  The Clarity slider adds mid tone contrast, lending a sharpness to the image.   I don’t normally Sharpen beyond the default setting unless I am presenting elsewhere besides on screen.  If it is to be viewed very large or printed I get serious and sharpen in Photoshop.

Clarity settings
The Clarity setting – also shows my exposure adjustments done previous

I used a fair amount of Clarity to pop out details on the whale sharks face.  It is a good effect and I am happy with the results.

Also you can see my Exposure settings from the beginning of my processing which back off the bright highlights (the white upper lip near the surface) and boosts some contrast in the mid tones on the body by separating Shadows and Whites, and adding darkest tones by decreasing the blacks.  Not seen here are further adjustments to the Curves to manage the Highlights,  but that is a different topic.

Using the Curves Tool in Lightroom

Color Correcting beyond the White Balance

Trying a Dehaze Adjustment

dehaze setting

With a just a Dehaze adjustment – clarity set back to zero

Adobe Dehaze adjustment
The Dehaze setting

Dehaze was a bolder effect, but similar to a Clarity, but I see a slight “enriching” of the colors as if the smarts behind this tool also effect a certain color range.  I like the effect, but might have to follow it with a small color shift and a brightening of the water to maintain the contrast between water and shark.

A Similar Tool that does the Opposite – Luminance Noise

noise in the water
Detail of the water showing noise

Getting rid of Luminance noise is effectively doing the opposite of what the Clarity and Haze are trying to do: add contrast vs remove contrast.

Luminance Noise is common in images taken in the dark. Underwater photos have scatter which in many cases can be treated like Luminance noise.  There is also Color Noise,  which can also happen in (commonly green) water, it is harder to fix.  I applied a pretty heavy Luminance correction to “smooth” the water and remove what manifested as grain in the water.

apply Luminance noise adjustment
Water detail with Luminance Noise adjusted
Luminance noise adjustment
Luminance Noise adjustment settings

The Luminance Slider is the amount of effect to apply

Detail is like telling what size of speck you want the tool to act on

Contrast is telling the tool how different the luminance of the speck has to be in order for the tool to act on it.

These tools take some trial and error to get it smoothed to your taste without going overboard and making it look smeared.

It will not work on all photos unfortunately and in extreme cases you will have to resort to blurring, masking, and advanced tools in PhotoShop.

You can also try the Adjustment brush to a specific area with the Clarity set to a negative value – anti clarity which can work like a gauze effect.  I may explore this in another post one day.

full image noise
The full image with just the Luminance Noise adjustment – Clarity and dehaze off

 

End Results – Luminance Noise Adjusted Water plus Clarity only

full image with clarity and noise adjusted
The full image with noise adjustment and Clarity

 

End Results – Luminance Noise Adjusted Water plus Clarity & Dehaze

noise, dehaze and clarity
Image with Luminance noise adjusted, with Clarity and Dehaze added

End Results – Luminance Noise Adjusted Water plus Clarity & Dehaze and a brightening of the water

Final Result
The final result – I added a small increase in Luminance in the Blue channel to brighten the water

To put back some brilliance in the water that the Dehaze took away,  I brightened the water only in the Blue color channel.  Any adjustment including just midtone adjustment would have effected the results of Clarity and Dehaze on the  black, white, and grey colored whale shark which is where I wanted it.  I dont need the technique on the water and it is uniquely blue compared to the whale shark, so using the Blue Luminance on the color channels allows brightening just in the water.

My conclusion is that i will use the Dehaze tool  and further explore situations where I can use it.

Also See:

Guide to Photographing Whale Sharks

Manta Trust Launches Mexican Caribbean Project

The Manta Trust works to conserve manta rays through research, awareness and education.

They work all over the world to study and identify manta ray populations

Anyone who has photographed a manta anywhere in the world  can contribute directly to their global research and conservation by submitting images and sighting encounters though a portal on their website:  Contribute your Manta Images

They need images that best show the spots on the underside of the manta ray – this is how they identify individuals.  With a growing database of individuals it is becoming possible to give you feedback about your sighting and a history of the individual.

The Manta Trust recently contacted me about a video compilation I posted featuring whale sharks and manta rays filmed off Isla Mujeres,  Mexico.  This lead to me submitting several dozen images  of mantas from my collect to add to their research and database.

manta id card close up of giant manta ray

Karen Fuentes, Project Leader for Mexico, was so pleased with my images that she awarded me a Manta Certificate.  I get to name one of the mantas I encountered in Mexico.

 

My manta is a Male and I chose the name Atarau – the New Zealand Maori word for Moonlight

mantas swimming

manta Trust database file
Atarau the manta is now in the Manta Trust Database

Here is information about their project in Mexico:

http://www.mantatrust.org/in-the-field/mexico-caribbean/

I will be encouraging  my guests on the whale shark trip to take manta id photos if we are so lucky as to find them again this year!

I will be posting my results from Mexico starting July 13th  so please follow my social media

photographing manta rays GS_4796_130727-Edit

More of my manta and whale shark images  Image Gallery

manta ray dance

Related Posts

Magical Mantas and Whale Sharks

Swim with Whales Sharks and Giant Manta Rays in Mexico 2015

Using Lightroom Metadata to Research Best Settings

I use Lightroom  primarily for organization and secondly for quick to medium difficulty adjustments.  My advanced work and preparation for print are still done in PS.  Many times LR  is all I need to select photos, prep them for use on the web, and export them.

With all of these features and with more integration tools, added image adjustment capabilities, and printing options going into the program, it is easy to forget that LR is a database. Like all databases, it is only as good as the data is complete and detailed, but if you manage the detail you can create a powerful learning and efficiency tool.

I am a wildlife photographer and a habitual photographer who photographs in the same location over and over and with the same subjects.  The conditions and sometimes fast action do not leave much time to fuss with settings and adjust.  I do get some chances to experiment, but I want to be in the ball park when I enter the water or get in the game vehicle.  This is where a little extra time in LR  provides me with a valuable learning tool.  I consult it before each trip and keep charts for each camera and lens as a quick cheat sheet based on real data.

Settings, time of image, flash use, and equipment are all recorded in the metadata automatically (make sure you adjust the time on your camera for time zones and daylight savings!) but I also enforce the discipline of  recording the location in detail  (for example: north corner or in canal), the sky and lighting conditions, and for underwater – the visibility.  Next I will try to add tides to that.  I also rate each photo before I do much adjusting to it and I keep all but the really embarrassing shots – at least until my disk gets full.

I have learned some surprising things such as all of my best manatee photographs happened between 9am and 9:30am.  There was a significant drop off in number of quality shots before and after this time and the golden time ranges later as it gets later in the season. This makes sense due to the lengthening of days and the sunrise getting later.  Knowing this, I no longer have to get up before dawn!

Using the Library Filter panel in LR I can use it like a query tool to see a count of images with the keywords I have chosen and combinations of the ISO, flash, rating, etc that I choose.  The tool is not a perfectly flexible query tool but you can be clever with your keywords and how you record data to get it to track and measure what you are interested in.  Maybe improvements to this will make it into a future release.

When I have my manatee workshop next week I will be able to look at the time, weather, and water conditions and recommend settings.  I prepared the following chart using meta data in LR.

7am to 9 am
Cloudy and/or  low visibility ISO 640 F2.8 1/80 – 1/100
Bright and clear visibility ISO 320 F3.2 – f5.0 1/60 – 1/80
9 am – 10 am
Cloudy and/or  low visibility ISO 640 F6.3 1/100
Bright and clear visibility ISO 400 F4.0 – 6.3 1/80 – 1/125
10 am – 11:30 Cloudy and/or  low visibility ISO 500 – 320 F6.3 – 8.0 1/80
Bright and clear visibility ISO 160ISO 250 F7.1 – f8.0F6.3 1/601/250

For use on my safaris, I am using the  data to come up with animal specific settings given lighting conditions.  Of course you can use the histogram on the camera screen and your experience to do the same thing, but many times I cant take the time to analyze and adjust in the field (while cageless with sharks or at a lion hunt) Thus is the nature of wildlife and sports photography.

If you needed another reason to keep you photos organized and properly loaded, taking this “big picture” look at a collection of images of your favorite subject  is very rewarding.