Sunday, October 27, 2013

Fall Leaves, Catch Em While You Can

I wandered around the garden yesterday, photographing with both the D800E and my Nex-7 - adaptor and the Nikon fit 35 mm. Lensbaby Composer. I then extended my search to the back lane and found this interesting plant across the alley. Timing was everything as there was no wind at all and I was able to use the D800E, tripod, base ISO and a relatively small f-stop.

In processing the image, I duplicated the image and then used field blur to add a a little more background blur, left upper corner and left lower corner and upper centre - each controlled to taste. Then I masked it black and used the paint brush to apply the effect just where I wanted (and to the degree I wanted) to give this natural look (better than gaussian blur that I have used in the past.

Today the wind is blowing, there's several inches of snow on the ground and more coming down, and zero change of making an image like this, possibly for the next year or more.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

EBooks and Ipad Ready Image Purchases

I've been asked to make an ebook of my images, and given the cost and marketing issues for a printed book, I'm starting to seriously think this is a good idea. This further raises the question of whether there is a market for fine art images at size to go full resolution on the latest iPads with their retina screens - 2048X1536.

This raises all manner of issues since this is a big enough file to make a great 8.5X11 image and probably a pretty decent 13X19 - so any photographer releasing those files is more or less eliminating any print purchases from that image - for the purchaser, and possibly for many others if the file gets shared despite best precautions (pirating is going to happen, we just have to live with it and remind ourselves the people who pirate were never going to pay anyway so it's not really lost money.

Despite this, I am tempted to make a few test fine art images available in this format, for $1 each.

So I'm asking - is there a market for a) an ebook of images, probably at the resolution of the original iPad, with text and voice, price $5 and b) for individual images at the resolution of the Retina screen iPad, price 1$ and you could make your own prints from this, for personal and family use only?

If I were to release a few test images this way, what images would you particularly like to have at high res or to be able to make yourself a print from?

You can respond with a comment to the blog entry, or you can send me an email to george dot barr at shaw dot ca. If the latter I'll let you know if and when it becomes available and promise not to abuse your email address with a bunch of promotions, and absolutely not release it to anyone else.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Thoughts On Camera Systems

I've been asked to comment on the merits of the various systems and how resolution compares.

Nikon D800e

remember that I use live view 95% of the time, tripod mounted, low ISO, manual focus, manual exposure, and if I forget the remote, then the self timer.

- I bought the 85 1.4 Nikkor because of its superb resolution, then used it wide open with an extension tube for dreamy soft garden photographs - go figure. haven't taken a single image where it's resolution would be important. I now have the 24-70 so whether I'll keep the lens remains to be seen.
- the 70-200 is excellent - I stopped carrying alternatives like the 180 sigma macro and the 200 micro nikkor as there was little to be gained. Its sharp up close and that is important to me.
Zeiss 15 - damn this thing is sharp.
- focusing live view at f11 is challenging, f16 impossible so I tend to open the lens part way to focus, then stop back down for the shot - wish it was easier but I also recognize that this eliminates focus shift errors with fast lenses.
- the self timer makes no noise and the only indication is at the front of the camera, which you can`t see from behind - come on guys. I normally use a radio remote but it wasn`t in the case yesterday.
- I like the definite controls for iso and self timer and so on and switching from Canon wasn`t difficult - but why do lens caps screw on the wrong way?
- battery life isn't great - I can run out of juice in a couple of hours - so now have 3 batteries and was beginning to think I might need four - don't remember that ever being a problem with Canon
- with focusing live view stopped down, the noise on screen in low light and even normal room light is a significant issue - not enough to switch cameras, but sure wish it weren't so.
-  image quality is stellar - 100% with judicious sharpening looks like you are looking at the whole image, not a tiny corner. High ISO is excellent but base ISO is definitely best.

Canon 5D3

Didn't have it long but it's a lovely camera and had the 36 MP high dynamic range Nikon not been available, and had I not run into some very noisy shadows I was opening up, I wouldn't have switched and of course live view is terrific - I spent a year deciding against the Nikon, only to eventually decide that sensor quality trumped good live view.


Damn but I like the small size and light weight and canvas camera bag combination. A general zoom would be nice though that 60 mm. Sigma is absolutely stellar and resolution with this camera and lens combination is excellent - yes there is some noise even at base ISO - rather like film grain, but overall image quality is top notch and the camera at ISO 1600 is entirely function for any purpose, making the camera versatile. Image stabilization on the 60 would have been nice and I will be inteterested to see just how decent the new Zeiss 16-70 turns out to be. I have been known to change ISO accidentally and so have learned to check on a regular basis. I have never! accidentally shot a video or even got the message to come up asking if I want to - they must have done something more than just software = perhaps a harder spring in the video button. Although I set up the camera so a centre button push brings up the PSAM screen, I do wish I had a simple dial so I'd always know instantly what I had.

The viewfinder is contrasty and therein lies a problem - you can't see into shadows and highlights both through the EVF, fine for pointing the camera, less than ideal for assessing an image. I can live with it but since the sensor records good dynamic range, I don't see why I can't see that in the EVF - surely something could be done.

Will I keep the Nex -7? Of course things have been complicated by the recent announcement of the Alpha 7 and 7R, the latter a 36 megapixel full frame camera. The good is it has a separate PSAM control, a newer sensor, the capability of putting on all my Nikon lenses and use at full frame (even my 15 Zeiss) so its a great backup body. It will even take my current Nex-7 lenses, albeit cropped to 16 megapixel. So the question is, do I want a high megapixel backup to the Nikon, or do I want the small lenses of the apsc size, either at 24 megapixel current Nex-7 or 16 on the Alpha 7R?

I really don't want another large lens system with 20+ pound camera bag so I'm not sure that I will rush out and get the 7R, never mind the expense. I might just work with the Nex-7, the 10-18 (that I have) and the Zeiss 16-70 that has already been ordered, and maybe the Sigma 60 because it's so darn sharp to the corners. But then again... A matter of do I want a backup for my Nikon lenses (ie. a second body) or do I want a backup system weighing a fraction of the Nikon gear.

Image quality wise, the Nex-7 is terrific. Had I made Saturday's image with the Sigma 30 (I did) but with tripod and base ISO I wouldn't have thought to return for a reshoot - after all 36 just isn't a lot bigger print than 24 MP.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Oven Edited, Then Reshot

So I was very happy with the last version of the image, but... I'd shot it hand held, with the Nex-7 and 30 mm. lens, ei. 800, and hadn't quite got it as sharp as I might, and fairly grainy by the time I did sharpen it and with some luminous noise suppression which didn't help detail.

So, since the conditions on-scene shouldn't be any different, I called Bob and asked a big favour - could he get me back into the church kitchen, for a reshoot - more pixels, iso 100, tripod and even more careful alignmnet parallel to the back of the oven. I even donned yesterdays bright red shirt thinking that had added colour to the image.

It was impossible to exactly reproduce the image despite trying to duplicate everything as closely as possible  - even minor changes in position made a huge difference to the reflections. Actually the closest copy of the original image wasn't quite parallel and the top is blurred, so I worked with one of the later images and a bit of editing. I actually resized the original image and placed it on top of my new version so it could be turned on and off to gradually work towards the previous version.

In the end the colour is quite different and is simply what I like today.

Oven Edited

This is the same image, without me removing the green hues with the colour temperature sliders in Lightroom.

Editing consists of a series of curve adjustment layers masked,  image duplication  and application of Akvis Enhancer, applied locally via masking, then image duplication and some highlight dodging (set at 5% dodge) for subtle highlight brightening. A couple of white splotches were removed with the healing tool, and the large blob of baked on  food on the left lightened with a masked curve.  Finally the image was brightened a tad with an s shaped (albeit subtle) curve before printing and converting for the internet, oh yeh, and it was sharpened for printing.

Saturday, October 19, 2013


This rather surreal image is actually of the back wall of a gas stove pudding cooker - a six box, steam filled device for mass producing Christmas pudding and other steamed foods.

I found it in a church basement where we were holding our annual model railway auction. To me it looks like a cross beween Encounters Of The Third Kind and something the Hubble Telescope would have photographed.

I'll probably trim a bit off the bottom once I have had a chance to think about it but in the mean time I think this is the best I have done in some time.

Hand held with the Nex-7, 30 mm. Sigma lens.

There's a message here - both about the oddest subjects making interesting images, but also about curiosity and the recognition of potential.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Turtle Mountain

To the far left of the image is the start of Frank Slide in which a large section of Turtle mountain broke free and buried part of the town of Frank to a depth of 50 feet. Even 110 years later the size of the debris field remains impressive, the train track at the base of the debris dwarfed by its size.

Monday, October 14, 2013

More From Waterton Trip

The first image is from the canyon wall at Lundbreck Falls, shot from the base, the middle image from Driftwood Beach in Waterton and the last is at the Leitch Colliery in the Crowsnest Pass. The first and third are stitches, the second a focus blend.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Back Yard, Lensbaby Composer Pro

Both images are somewhat cropped, and both have the lens tilted down the way, more in the second image. The goal was to produce a dreamy effect without the classic "lensbaby" look or almost normal centre and radically stretched and blurred borders. Note the stretching of the image opposite to the direction of the lens tilt.


That time of year. We don't have the maples to add red, but we do have Cotoneasters that look like they are on fire. Shot with the Lensbaby Pro. I can't remember if this particular image was the 35 or 50, but def.  not the 80.

I'd gone to the Camera Store to get a replacement 50 double glass, in Nikon mount (I already had the Canon one, but no more Canon to mount it to. They were out of the 50, but turns out my 50 mounts just fine on the Pro, so I now have the 35, 50 and 80. Not really sure what role the 80 will play as it doesn't have the lens distortions of the others, but probably isn't good enough to act as a true tiltable normal use lens - something to be tested though.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Round The Corner

We've been in Waterton National Park for the last week. At the base of Red Rock Canyon, a second stream joins up, and following that upstream a hundred yards takes one to this interesting rock formation. The shot was made with my Zeiss 15 mm. lens and a series of five images for focus blending (the bottom left corner is inches from the lens). The furthest focused image was used for the water (focus blending does odd things to moving water). Why blend with such a wide lens? Well, even f16 would not have covered the bottom left corner to infinity and the lens is sharper at f10 as shot here.

This really is an amazing lens and while I could have used the flexibility of the 14-24, I think I made the right decision.

Interestingly, I'm not sure that I made the same right decision to go with primes for my 35, 50 and 85 mm. lenses. Yes, they are unquestionably better than Nikon's 24-70, but the flexibility for framing would have been very handy.

In many shots in this area, I was standing at the top of a small cliff and had little opportunity to change position, or there was one best position compositionally, and none of the lenses quite had the right coverage.  I think I might be willing to sacrifice resolution for perfect framing.

The Last Two Weeks

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Light Weight Tripod

Let me recommend to you this Slik tripod, the  PRO 340 DX leg (really tripod minus ball head), combined with the BH 25 lever ball head from really right stuff

This combination is both lightweight and quite sturdy for its weight.

The legs are foam covered for warm soft carrying, the centre column is in two well fitted sections so you can get low to the ground without reversing the centre column, the legs sufficiently long that usually I don't need the centre column extended, and the legs have three positions including really low to the ground (about five inches for the camera).

Yes, it's not carbon fibre, but it's a third of the price and it's worked very well for me, both for the D800E as a travel tripod, and more often for the Nex-7. I've had no reason to regret the purchase which is more than I can say for many of my previous tripods. It`s so light I can`t imagine carbon fibre being lighter - stronger probably, but this works well and holds my cameras steady.

Do remember that if you don`t have L brackets on your cameras, you need to lean the camera body over to the side and the tripod is both less steady and more likely to just plain tip over so a heavier tripod is needed.