Aqua Green

Written 2020-10-18

Back before Disqus shut down the "picture this" forum along with all the others they were hosting, a person identified as hnddvn gave us an introduction to Rawtherapee and he posted pictures that had been processed by his "Aqua Green" profile. I think this might have been one of them:

Well, I was really impressed with the way he brought out the glistening water drops and the waxy sheen on the green leaves. It inspired me to spray some water on plants and and take pictures. Here is one straight from the camera. Try as I might I couldn't get the image processing to make the droplets look more like water.

Why the water drops look like waxy blobs

Click to open the full size original then zoom in to see it looks slightly out of focus. I had stopped the aperture right down to f/32, thinking that would avoid shallow focus plane issues. That could have resulted in diffraction, but I suspect the auto-focus of the a-mount 100mm Sony macro lens using a semi-translucent mirror adapter for my mirrorless (e-mount) camera was just not performing accurately.

That a mount lens had been a big mistake caused by Amazon "auto-correcting" the lens type number for my search and me not noticing the wrong type number. It's poor performance with the adapter persuaded me eventually to splash out on the 90mm Sony e-mount macro lens that I had wanted in the first place. Note: Today I prefer manual focus for macro photography because the autofocus rarely focuses exactly where I want it and so after that new lens got stolen I got an ancient Pentax 6x7 macro lens with a tilt-shift adapter but more about that some other time.

Alas, as U can see, my water drops don't quite have that same crystal clear aquaeous quality to them. Hoping to learn more, I asked hnddvn if they would share their processing profile, but they explained patiently that it was specifically for leafy greens and not for red cactus flowers. It didn't deter me and I experimented with leafy greens...

DSC03539-hsv

... as well as colorful flowers with real rain drops on them, rather than from a sprayer.

DSC03723-punchy2

I decided to revisit it. I really want my water drops to look less waxy and my greenery to look more greeny.

What my camera saw
What my profile sees in it

The profile I created is just those parameters I thought relevant so one can super impose it on other profiles with other pictures and it won't disturb unrelated settings. You still may have to adjust a few things like exposure and black level that can vary from one picture to the next, but basically just cut this text to your clipboard then paste it in the raw therapy profile of your "aqueous green" picture.

rawtherapee settings
[Exposure]
 Auto=false
 Clip=0.02
 Compensation=2
 Brightness=0
 Contrast=54
 Saturation=-13
 Black=8312
 HighlightCompr=0
 HighlightComprThreshold=0
 ShadowCompr=50
 HistogramMatching=false
 CurveFromHistogramMatching=false
 ClampOOG=true
 CurveMode=FilmLike
 CurveMode2=Standard
 Curve=3;0;0;0.28661087866108798;0.41004184100418367;0.91631799163179894;0.68410041841004188;1;1;
 Curve2=3;0;0;0.70711297071129697;0.42887029288702916;1;1;
 [HLRecovery]
 Enabled=true
 Method=Blend
 [Luminance Curve]
 Enabled=true
 Brightness=-20
 Contrast=-4
 Chromaticity=35
 AvoidColorShift=false
 RedAndSkinTonesProtection=0
 LCredsk=true
 LCurve=0;
 aCurve=0;
 bCurve=0;
 ccCurve=0;
 chCurve=0;
 lhCurve=0;
 hhCurve=0;
 LcCurve=0;
 ClCurve=0;
 [Sharpening]
 Enabled=true
 Contrast=65
 Method=usm
 Radius=1.3999999999999999
 BlurRadius=0.53000000000000003
 Amount=312
 Threshold=20;80;2000;1200;
 OnlyEdges=false
 EdgedetectionRadius=1.8999999999999999
 EdgeTolerance=1800
 HalocontrolEnabled=false
 HalocontrolAmount=85
 DeconvRadius=0.75
 DeconvAmount=100
 DeconvDamping=0
 DeconvIterations=30
 [White Balance]
 Enabled=true
 Setting=Camera
 Temperature=5384
 Green=0.88300000000000001
 Equal=1
 TemperatureBias=0
 [Color Management]
 InputProfile=(cameraICC)
 ToneCurve=false
 ApplyLookTable=true
 ApplyBaselineExposureOffset=true
 ApplyHueSatMap=true
 DCPIlluminant=0
 WorkingProfile=ProPhoto
 WorkingTRC=none
 WorkingTRCGamma=2.3999999999999999
 WorkingTRCSlope=12.92
 OutputProfile=RTv4_sRGB
 OutputProfileIntent=Relative
 OutputBPC=true
 [RAW]
 DarkFrame=/szeva
 DarkFrameAuto=false
 FlatFieldFile=/szeva
 FlatFieldAutoSelect=false
 FlatFieldBlurRadius=32
 FlatFieldBlurType=Area Flatfield
 FlatFieldAutoClipControl=false
 FlatFieldClipControl=0
 CA=true
 CAAvoidColourshift=true
 CAAutoIterations=2
 CARed=0
 CABlue=0
 HotPixelFilter=false
 DeadPixelFilter=false
 HotDeadPixelThresh=100
 PreExposure=1
 [RAW Bayer]
 Method=amaze
 Border=4
 ImageNum=1
 CcSteps=0
 PreBlack0=0
 PreBlack1=0
 PreBlack2=0
 PreBlack3=0
 PreTwoGreen=true
 LineDenoise=0
 LineDenoiseDirection=3
 GreenEqThreshold=0
 DCBIterations=2
 DCBEnhance=true
 LMMSEIterations=2
 DualDemosaicAutoContrast=true
 DualDemosaicContrast=20
 PixelShiftMotionCorrectionMethod=1
 PixelShiftEperIso=0
 PixelShiftSigma=1
 PixelShiftShowMotion=false
 PixelShiftShowMotionMaskOnly=false
 pixelShiftHoleFill=true
 pixelShiftMedian=false
 pixelShiftGreen=true
 pixelShiftBlur=true
 pixelShiftSmoothFactor=0.69999999999999996
 pixelShiftEqualBright=false
 pixelShiftEqualBrightChannel=false
 pixelShiftNonGreenCross=true
 pixelShiftDemosaicMethod=amaze
 PDAFLinesFilter=false
 [RAW X-Trans]
 Method=3-pass (best)
 DualDemosaicAutoContrast=true
 DualDemosaicContrast=20
 Border=7
 CcSteps=0
 PreBlackRed=0
 PreBlackGreen=0
 PreBlackBlue=0
 [MetaData]
 Mode=0

So how does that work in practice I wondered and here I try it on my cactus picture:

Well... it's different, but I think the droplets still look waxy rather than crystal clear and I think what it needs is specular reflections on the drops so they look shiny as opposed to just brigher and that, I suspect depends on the lighting at the time the photo was taken and whether the light source is reflected back at the camera.

A more recent one with an antique Pentax Macro lens

From the camera
Using my "wet-green" profile

I think the profile does help to bring out that glistening wet feeling, but no doubt it could be improved.

A different camera, same profile

Olympus Air Camera
wet-green profile, zero exposure bias

Oly' Air has a much higher auto exposure so my wet-green profile totally saturated where the sun is shining. Keeping all the other parameters I reduced that back down to zero to get the second image.