Thursday, August 14, 2014

An Excuse to Remember (thanks to Robin Williams and Woody Allen)

I never saw Woody Allen's Deconstructing Harry, in which the late Robin Williams has a small part as Mel, an actor whose life is such a blur that he himself literally goes out of focus. I didn't hear good things about the movie but this idea is pretty funny.

This is an excuse to remember. No, ma'am, there wasn't anything wrong with my camera or my technique. It was you. You were blurry that day. Come back in and we'll reshoot. In the meantime, get some rest and sharpen up a little.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Independence Day!

My wife and I enjoyed the morning in the company of our two younger daughters, but the oldest daughter (in her second year as a resident in obstetrics and gynecology) had to answer the call of duty: she is working all day at the hospital. The younger sisters wanted to let Big Sis know they were missing her, and they thought of a patriotic way to do it, by standing in front of the flag on our porch and striking the "I want you!" pose.

We'll all be together for pizza tonight. What's more American than Friday night pizza?

Here I am in Texas, in the United States of America. As my late mother-in-law used to say, "How lucky can you be?"

Happy Independence Day to you all!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Aperture's out to pasture. Life goes on.

A year ago, I wrote a post here explaining "Why I switched from Lightroom to Aperture." I outlined some of the relative advantages of Aperture, as I saw them at the time. But even then, I knew that it was an iffy decision. Indeed, already a year or more ago it seemed likely that Apple had lost interest in Aperture and the product had no future.

So it wasn't much of a surprise last week when Apple made it official: no more updates for Aperture. They set out to make a the best raw workflow app for pros. In the eyes of many, for a while, that's just was Aperture was. And then Apple got bored with it.

Maybe it wasn't just boredom. One old observation about Apple is that it's a hardware company, not a software company. Its software is created to sell its hardware. I have no inside info, but my guess is, the decision-markers at Apple felt that Aperture wasn't selling enough Macs.

What's for certain is that Aperture wasn't selling any iPhones or iPads, and that's what Apple really wants to sell these days. Apple knows that it's now one of the biggest marketers of cameras in the world, since every iPhone and iPad is also a camera. Rather that continue to develop pro-level software that manages and processes photos taken by the small number of photographers using high-end third-party cameras, Apple has apparently decided it wants to concentrate on supporting the users of its own mobile device cameras. The money is where the mass of iPhone snappers are.

On a related note, see this earlier post: "Is it a great time for photography?"

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Four ways to test a lens

This is what photography is all about: lens testing! Good news: As this photo demonstrates, the Olympus 25 f1.8 is an excellent lens. Bad news: I need a new vacuum cleaner. (View at 100% to see why.)

There are four ways to test a lens.

  1. Look at the price you paid for it. If you paid over US $600, it's a good lens. Over $800, it's a very good lens. Below $300, it's okay. Between $300 and $600 is a gray area and you might have to go one of the more advanced tests that follow. 
  2. Look it up on DxO Mark. They'll tell you if it's any good or not. Favored by the pros!
  3. Obtain or make for yourself a test chart, and try to replicate DxO Mark-style tests, taking measurements. If you can't find a chart, a brick wall will also work. Be sure to view all the photos only at 100% or you might miss something important. (The popularity of this test keeps the makers of tripods in business.)
  4. Take a number of photos with the lens: different subjects, different shooting situations and types of light. Look at the photos on a good computer display, or better yet, make prints. If you have a similar lens or lenses, make comparisons based on various photos. Does the lens seem to do what you want it to do?

Test #3 will help you find defects in the lens. In fact, if you do it right, it's nearly guaranteed to find defects. On the up side, once you find the defects you went looking for, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that you have incredibly high standards.

Test #4 is deprecated in nearly every internet forum, for several reasons. First, it's not scientific. Second, in order to answer the question "Does the lens do what I want it to do?" you have to know what you want it to do, and that's not covered in this lesson. And third, because there's too high a risk that you'll accidentally take a photo that you really like, which will only lead to unhappiness, since you know from test #3 that the lens is crap and you have to return it.

Originally posted 24 June 2014 over at DPReview, in response to a question about how to test a lens.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Sun goes down, moon comes up

I find sunsets depressing. They go by so quickly. On my recent vacation in Colorado, I got lucky with a couple.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Here's a shot taken at the aptly named Sunset Point, at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Three versions of the same shot follow.

This first one was created with the help of the Google/Nik apps.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison at sunset. Olympus E-M1 + Olympus 25 f1.8 lens.

Unfortunately the Google/Nik apps create a border that eats into the picture's margins, and this photo didn't have enough of a margin. That open bit of sky at the top got cut too much. So I reprocessed in DxO Optics Pro 9, twice — creating the following two versions. The main difference between them is obvious: white balance.

I'm not sure, but I think I actually prefer the darker or "colder" of these two images. In the second image, the reddish glow that fills the picture gives the entire canyon a warm, fuzzy feeling. But that's not the way it really was or is. It's a deep, forbidding whole in the ground. That's why I like the first, more austere image of these two — with that little kiss of red glow of the setting sun on the walls of the canyon.

But as I said, I'm not sure.

Rocky Mountain National Park

The key to happiness at Rocky — as at so many national parks — is to get into the park either very early in the day or very late in the day. That's when the animals are most likely to be out. It's also when the light in the park is most beautiful. On our recent visit to Rocky, we drove up to the top of the park at the end of the day. We were rewarded at around 11,000 feet with a show by a pika, a marmot and a weasel. And on our way down, we saw these beautiful sunsets. It didn't hurt that the moon was almost full.

These shots were all processed in Lightroom with the help of the Google/Nik add-ons.

Above the clouds at Rocky. Panasonic LX7.

Sunset and moonrise at Rocky. Panasonic LX7.

Sunset at Rocky. Panasonic LX7.

Moonrise at Rocky. Olympus E-M1 + Olympus 70-300 lens @ 70mm.

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