Sunday, June 30, 2013

Alberta Sunset

Alberta Sunset - Fuji XE-1, 14mm, f/22, ISO 200
I made this image a couple of days ago on the first evening of crossing into Alberta.  There was an area that I had scouted on the drive up that I figured might be a good sunset spot.  Since the sun sets at ~9:45, after dinner I drove out to that area.  Along the way, I saw this scene and knew immediately I wanted to try to make an HDR shooting directly into the sun.  This was opportunity to also see how the new Fuji 14mm lens would perform with regards to flare.  I captured the frames for this hand held and chose f/22 to try and increase my chances for a nice sunburst.  I think the flare is well controlled here and what little there is (it really is little since this is the result of an HDR that includes flare from the most exposed image), is almost pleasing rather than obnoxious.

I've also been testing out and experimenting with Irident Developer, a RAW image converter made by what appears to be a one man shop in Pacific Grove, California.  I've been comparing it to Capture One, Lightroom and even Aperture (even though I'm not at all a fan), looking at both image detail and color reproduction across a variety of cameras.  Its near impossible to find a single RAW converter that can excel at everything and there's reasons to choose any of these.  For this image, I used Irident, which  seems to do a better job with XE-1 demosiac and the sharpening tools are impressive; but its hard to get away from the organization abilities of Lightroom.  After Irident put out TIFFs, I used Nik HDR Efex Pro to combine and do the tone mapping, trying to find the most natural settings.  A sprinkle of Color Efex Pro to touch up the contrast (I find that I prefer to keep the image a little flat in HDR Efex Pro, and then correct contrast using Pro Contrast in CEP) and finish with a little bit of Smart Sharpen in Photoshop CC.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Toronto Skyline

Toronto Skyline - Sony NEX-7, 18-200 @ 98mm, f/5.6, 1/60s, ISO 100
Next up in the series of images made with a modest camera is this of the Toronto skyline made with a Sony NEX-7 and the 18-200 superzoom.  One of the things I miss living in silicon valley is the variety in weather that one can see even in a single day.  I just arrived in Alberta and in the last 24 hours, I have seen all kinds of wacky, photogenic clouds (pictures tomorrow).

Friday, June 28, 2013


Sun-kissed - OM-D EM-5, 7-14 @ 7mm, f/7.1, ISO 200
Continuing my recent theme of images made with more modest cameras, I used a micro four thirds camera for this image.  This was taken at the Petrified National Forest in Arizona and it was the last light of the day.  When I happened upon this spot, the sun was at precisely the correct angle to illuminate the shrub in the foreground while leaving the rocks it was growing out of in shade.  This was  just asking to be photographed and I love stumbling across stuff like this.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Chains - RX100 Love

Chains - RX100, 17.18mm, f/5, 1/50s, ISO 160
Sony just announced the RX100MII yesterday, an improvement of what I consider to be the best compact digital camera out there.  I've had the RX100 for about a year and it fits in my jeans pocket, yet gives me decent image quality.  Looking forward to the improvements in the RX100MII, in particular I am excited about the ability to connect it to my phone (either via NFC or wifi).

On another note, the last few images I've posted have been taken with (what I would call) modest equipment and its something I'm going to continue for the next few days.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Snow, Trees and Rock

Snow, Trees and Rock - Fuji XE-1, 18-55 @ 24.3mm, f/6.4, 1/150s, ISO 200
This is another image made using the Fuji XE-1 last Christmas.  I purposely underexposed this image by a fair bit to retain highlight detail in the sky above.  Then the lower portion was brought up in Lightroom and finally some love from Color Efex Pro and Smart Sharpen.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Superstition Chola

Superstition Chola - Fuji XE-1, 18-55 @ 20.5mm, f/5.6, 1/120s, ISO 200
The previous road trip I dd was last christmas for nearly 2 weeks and included a visit to the Phoenix, Arizona area.  I spent a lot of time shooting with a Fuji XE-1 along with a couple of other mirrorless cameras on that trip.   At the time, Lightroom's support for the Fuji X-Trans was somewhat suboptimal and so even though I was extremely impressed with the JPEGs produced by the camera, I wasn't blown away with the results from RAW.

Its now 7 months later, and I started looking at some of the XE-1 files from that trip in Lightroom 5 (I also have Capture One Pro for my IQ180 files, but I find Lightroom's catalog and bulk editing too useful for higher volume shooting).  I'm starting to like the RAW files from this camera a lot more.  There's a lot malleability at base ISO and the grain at high ISO looks very natural.  The color bleeding artifacts from before are gone and more detail seems to be present.  Combined with the improved "smart sharpen" in Photoshop CC, I am getting results from RAW with the XE-1 that I'm pleased with.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Lavafall - M240, 35 Summilux, ~f/2.8, 1/180s, ISO 200
Another lava image, this time a "lavafall".  Seeing this sight from the water was incredible but next time I will definitely try and hike out to the flow.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Lava Meets Ocean

Lava Meets Ocean - M240, 21 SEM, ~f/9.5, 1/25s, ISO 1000
What happens with super hot molten rock meets the pacific ocean right in the middle of peak sunset color?  This. :)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Keck at Sunset

Keck at Sunset - M240 75 Summicron, ~f/5.6, 1/25s, ISO 200.
Being a space nerd, I couldn't come all the way to the Big Island and not visit the summit of Mauna Kea, so last night I went on a sunset and star gazing tour.  This is an image of the Keck Observatory which is made up of two, 10 meter telescopes.  The neat thing about the gigantic mirrors in these scopes is that each is made up of 36 hexagonal smaller mirrors which are controlled by actuators.  Using adaptive optics and a computer controlled system these mirrors all work together to form the larger optical surface.

The conditions for the tour was perfect, it was dry, calm and relatively warm making for a pleasant experience.  There was also a mini star party afterwards down near the visitor center (a mere 9300ft vs. the 13800ft at the summit).  The moon was out so the seeing was ok but not spectacular.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Cauldron of Fire

Cauldron of Fire - M240, 35 'lux.
We went on an all day trip to the other side of the island (Hilo) yesterday, including visiting the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.  One interesting image to make in this area is after the sun has set; the glow of the lava lights up the smoke.  It is however extremely challenging to photograph.  The light is slow, the smoke is moving and the dynamic range is insane.  I played around for a bit with a longer focal length but just before leaving decided to experiment with capturing frames for an HDR.  I figured it wouldn't work out well since the smoke is moving.  I tried to keep the exposure times from being crazy by changing the aperture instead as well as the shutter speed.  In the end, it worked; I got the detail of the rim of the crater as well as in the smoke and as a bonus even got some constellations in the sky.

Saturday, June 15, 2013


M240, 75, ~f/3.4, 1/180s, ISO 200
Aloha from the Big Island.  Yesterday was spent mostly shopping for supplies and one point we walked through a market and though I've seen my share of pineapples, I liked the way these were lined up.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

My Favorite Lightroom 5 Feature

Adobe started shipping Lightroom 5 yesterday and though the public beta has been available for a while, I didn't use it that much for my day to day images.  However, now that its official, it was time to switch and there are two features that are going to be very useful to me.  First is "Upright" which automatically applies rotation correction as well as horizontal and vertical distortion correction.  Second and arguably even more powerful is radial local adjustments.  I've been waiting to use something like this on the image above because I wanted a vignette which didn't apply to the Penguins but did to the ocean and the beach below.  Here's what the image looks like without the adjustment.

What I really like about this new tool is that its very simple, yet extremely powerful.  With just a few clicks you can specify an ellipse, orient it and then apply whatever local adjustments either to the region covered by the ellipse or its inverse.  Only one slider option, "feather, and nothing else to make it complicated.  Yet with the ability to define an ellipse and orient it arbitrarily and stack multiples non-destructively, for the many this becomes a really powerful tool.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Sea Arch and Flowers

Sea Arch and Flowers - Alpa STC, IQ 180, 32 HR, ~f/13, 2s, ISO 35.  ~11mm rise, 2 degrees tilt.
Ah that rugged Northern California coast, I just don't think I can get tired of it.  Yesterday, I drove out to Monterey to meet friend and follow photographer +Greg Mitchell for a sunset shoot.  This was an area that both of us knew about and Greg had scouted the area in the morning identifying this as the image to make for sunset.  We had lots of time on our hands so we spent a couple of hours hiking around various spots to see if we could find something better; we didn't.  There was good overhead cloud but there was also a dense layer of clouds in the distance to the west.  This usually means the sun goes behind those clouds and there is no color.  We did end up getting some beautiful colors once the sun had set, but my favorite image on the evening was this one, moments before the sun sunk below the horizon.  There was still enough warm light to highlight the flowers in the foreground and just a hint of color in the sky.  I still had to use lots of filtration to bring the sky under control and pull up the shadows in the foreground, but I got away without resorting to HDR and all the work that goes with it.