Light is Everything!

Archive for January, 2013

HDR Frozen Car

20130129HDRCarI saw this old car the other day and new I had to come back and grab an image. I wanted to try some HDR stuff with the D800. This was a composite of 5 RAW files in Nik Software’s HDR eFex Pro 2. It’s a bit of a grunt with 5 giant files, but it came together well. I was hoping for a more dramatic sunset, but I’ll take the sunburst instead. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m not a car guy, but I think this is a 1948 Chevy Fleetmaster.

Those were the days!

Here is a 100% crop of the badge on the side:ย fleetmaster



Yard Pals

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When the weather gets bloody cold, the deer come to town. Even if you don’t see them, you see their tracks in the snow. But lately in the cold snaps we’ve been having, we’re getting deer coming through the yard right in the middle of the day! But predictably, they start to come in right about sunset. I feed the birds and they help themselves to whatever the birds don’t eat. It’s a whitetail bonanza and it’s great for getting the deer to come in close to the camera. I shot all these photos from our little deck that sits up high above the back yard. It works great because deer don’t have any natural predators in trees, meaning, they don’t look up much. ๐Ÿ˜Ž This doe is letting me know she’s putting her foot down! hehehehhe… ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Where food comes from

Since Canada has been undergoing it’s wide scale urbanization over the past several decades, people have gotten further away from the land. By that I mean, it is widely held that food comes from a grocery store, packaged in plastic. It’s clear that there is a veil of cellophane over many peoples’ eyes about the truth. Our food doesn’t come from a grocery store. It is produced on the land, be it meat, grains, dairy or vegetables. There are still a select few who live closer to the land than many of our urbanized counterparts. I include myself in the former group. ๐Ÿ™‚ I admire many of the elderly people I know (I’m talking 90+) who lived growing up on the farm. Having chicken for supper meant walking down to the chicken coop, axe in hand. A far cry from today’s styrofoam container experience!

I decided to put together this little photo-essay documentary about the “organic” experience that hunters still have with the land, the animals they hunt and/or farm, and the end result of that labour: food for the table. More specifically, smoked sausage made from deer, moose, elk and pork.

The images are real life – they contain scenes of life, death and blood. Be advised. But, in living and operating this way, we know exactly where our food comes from, and what’s in it. Our people have been living this way for generations. “100 mile challenges” weren’t pithy movements, they were everyday life! And, thankfully for some of us, they still are. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

All the shots here were taken on either a cellphone camera, iPod camera or Nikon V1.ย 

More Camera Nerdery

Hanky @ 6400 ISO

Hanky @ 6400 ISO f/4 1/60 50mm

There was some question about RAW conversion when it comes to the camera manufacturers software vs. third party stuff. I decided to take a look and do a quick head to head comparison. Here’s the results, 50% crop/screen capture.


Aperture 3 RAWConclusion: to my eye, no difference. But let me know what you think. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

New Stuff!

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I got some new stuff that I’m stoked about! I’ll begin first with my new website (again). I’ve gone through a couple of different portfolio websites over the past couple years. I first had a Flash site which was great, but in our mobile device world, it sucked. It couldn’t be viewed on iPods/iPads etc. Seeing how most people consume the digital world via smart phones, compatibility was a must. So, I got an HTML5 site and it worked OK but was tedious for adding images as you had to do your own coding and generating of images and thumbnails, blah blah blah. It was cumbersome. So I bought another HTML5 theme which was far worse than the one I was using. Not being a coder in the least, I decided to give up on that theme that looked great but was a total pain the u know. So, after many gong show days of searching, I decided to go with WordPress. I’ve been using it since the beginning for this blog and I’ve loved it. But it lacked simplicity for galleries. Photocrati to the rescue! Now, I’ve got the ease of use I’ve been looking for in a very clean, minimalist style that also displays perfectly no matter which device is used to view the site. Boo ya! ๐Ÿ˜Ž Check it out:ย

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And, I got some new gear. I’ve been struggling for a long time with my old tripod that has been a real trooper. I had an old aluminum Manfrotto cheapy and it worked good but wasn’t hearty enough for my last camera, let alone the D800. Especially for macro, it really sucked. The ball head wasn’t strong enough to support the hefty 105mm macro and would slip. A real pain. So, I splurged and got a new carbon fibre 055CXPRO3 tripod and an MH055M0-RC4 head. It’s quite nice. ๐Ÿ˜€ The ball head weighs more than the tripod! At first, the carbon fibre seems like it’s cheap and flimsy, but I know from shooting carbon arrows, they are super strong and light – perfect for hauling around on landscapes. One other gimmickย feature of the tripod is that it has the Q90 quick column thing that allows the tripod to go flat to the ground by moving the centre column parallel to the ground. It’s slick, but I can also see this being used for overhead macro work too, like flowers and such. The tripod has a built in hook so you can add weight and sturdy it up too.

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And I also got a Manfrotto monopod. Just a cheapo mainly to be used as a light weight, compact, go anywhere light stick for flash stuff. Slap a flash directly on it and have your assistant pretend she is Gandolf. What could be better!? “You shall not pass!”

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And, I finally joined the cool kids club and bought a black rapid camera strap (RS-7). After struggling through life using Nikon’s straps, I decided enough was enough. I always have the camera strung over one shoulder, never in the around the neck tourist mode, so it was always slipping. I always have to mess with lights on a shoot and was forever putting the camera on the ground to do so. Now, I just drop it to the side. It’s great! And it came with a sticker. Bonus!ย Who doesn’t like stickers?! ๐Ÿ˜€

Plus, you get to feel like Doc Holiday when you draw the camera up. “I’m your huckleberry.”Screen Shot 2013-01-13 at 7.40.00 AM

Ultimate Photo Editing Computer Setup

Lately in computing there have been a couple pretty major technology jumps. By that I mean, we’ve got USB 3.0, Thunderbolt, and SSD technology all becoming more and more available. The speed upgrades are a big improvement over USB 2.0, FireWire and normal hard drives. I remember when Mac first brought out USB in their blueberry iMacs. Nobody used USB!ย  And then, it became standard for like 10+ years. hehheeheh… ๐Ÿ˜‰ And now, we’ve had another big tech jump offering never before seen speeds which really help the overall computing experience, especially when it comes to editing photos. I was blown away by the performance of my i5 MacBook Air with 128GB SSD, especially in comparison to my aging Core Duo iMac. So before going to sleep last night I started wondering about the ultimate photo editing computer. Could it be done on the cheap?

Ideally, when you say “ultimate” everyone thinks MacPro tower. But they are 1) expensive, 2) seldom updated, 3) physically huge. So what other options exist in the Mac realm for maximum grunt computers? The new iMacs are nice ย but a 27″ i5 1TB old school HD with 8GB of RAM is 2 grand. You could always nab a MacBook Pro too. But you’ll be spending the mad scratch getting a pimped out model with all the bells and whistles too. What’s left? MacBook Air. Yep, doable. But if you want a desktop option, all that’s left is the Mac Mini. Is it a contender?

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Check it out. You can buy the best Mac Mini with 2.6 GHz quad core i7 processor with 4GB RAM and 1TB of old school HD for $899. Canadian. Not too overwhelming. BUT, the ability to kick the mini up a notch is pure awesome. RAM is cheap. You can get 16GB of RAM for the 2012 MacMini from CanadaRAM for $137 bones. But what about the old slow HD? You can pull it out of there and replace it with an 256GB SSD for $219.99. It will require a bit of hacking on your part, but there’s tonnes of good tutorials on YouTube about how to make the switch.ย So, you get a smoking fast chip, blistering SSD hard drive and a fat 16GB of RAM for a grand total of: $1255.99 before tax and monitor. Not too shabby!

You can buy Apple’s Premium $999.99 monitor or, wait until an updated Retina versions come out. In the mean time, you can nab a sufficient 24″ ASUS HDMI connection monitor for $199.99! ๐Ÿ˜Ž So, for the complete cost of $1455.98 before tax, you are well ahead of the top iMac for $600 less, minus 3 inches of screen real estate. Not bad!

Maybe in retrospect, this little Mac Mini build isn’t the “ultimate” setup. But it’s pretty darn close for a whole pile less money! Who doesn’t like that?! ๐Ÿ˜€ I think the performance of this little suped-up setup would sizzle for photo editing. The integrated intel 4000 graphics will be fine for Photoshop/Lightroom/Aperture apps. Plus, you get scads of ports for external storage solutions from promise pegasus to drobo to g-technology in one tiny little footprint. I think it’s a killer setup!

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More Insane D800 Stuff

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Deer from the deck

OK, OK. I’ve nearly got this camera nerdery out of my system. But check this out. The deer were coming by the yard to freeload and eat the bird seed. I waited until it was very dark outside with barely any light, save what was spilling through our living room window. I had my 70-300 lens on the camera, 300mm 1/25 f/5.6 (bleh, I know) but I nabbed these deer shots at 25600 ISO or H2.0 in Nikon speak. The files are heinously, cell-phone-esque noisy, but a) the camera nailed the focus in utter darkness and b) when down sampled they are nearly usable! All that resolution really helps make a purse from a pig’s ear. ๐Ÿ˜Ž I didn’t edit the shots except for watermark and the one crop. They are all SOOC RAW conversion.

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Welcome to the buffet, you fat lard!

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50% Crop! 25600 ISO

And, here’s one more I shot earlier at 6400 ISO which is totally usable. ๐Ÿ˜€ I heart the D800!


The Crops

At lunch today I went out back and nabbed a few shots of some chickadees and redpolls that were coming to my black sunflower seed bonanza. I wanted to see how much you can crop a D800 RAW file. As a rule, I don’t crop anything. I like to fill the frame and have the shot exact in camera. But for this challenge, I wanted to see how the detail would hold up as we crop in on an image. Chickadees and other small song birds have loads of fine feather detail and I couldn’t wait to see how the D800 would do. Truly it is amazing how much information is there in these files. You can see in these shots, one at full size, one at 50% and the third at 100%.

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50% Crop

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100% Crop

Isn’t that wild? It’s unbelievable! But, all that resolution beats the living tar out of your lenses too. I shot this with a 70-300, Nikon’s el-cheapo telephoto and it shows. The fine details quickly turn to mush-mush. It would be nice to see what a 300 f/2.8 would be like. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

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D800: The Mad Skittles

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I’ve had my D800 for exactly a week and all I can say is “boy howdy!” This camera is a beast and I love it. I am so glad that I made the choice to get it over the D600. The fit and finish is just like my D300s. In fact, the D300s actually feels more bulky and tankish than the D800 does. Regardless, it’s a perfect fit for what I love to do. I’m blown away by the image quality and detail with every single shot I take. And, I’m blown away that when I put a 32GB card in it, I get roughly 400 RAW photos. Gulp. Dear Santa, please bring me a billion hard drives for Christmas next year. . .

MyD800 2The resolution of this camera just doesn’t quit. You can zoom in and zoom in and zoom in. Nothing can hide from the sensor. Which can be a little unnerving too. It will change how I do post production for sure. That said, when you make edits, they are easily seen. You have to tread lightly over those 36 megapixels.

MyD8006The Internet is ripe with people who have reported left autofocus point problems with the D800. I was very nervous about my camera being affected. But I did the tests and it looks like clear sailing for my copy which is a big sigh of relief. I setup the siemens stars and did a live view focus test followed up by an autofocus test at f/1.4 on a 50mm AF-S lens. Everything looked the same when I viewed the files on the computer (they all looked pretty crappy as my 50mm lens copy isn’t ย very good at f/1.4).

MyD800 1I was able to take some test shots with off camera flash over new years too which worked seamlessly. The metering is pretty much bang on which is nice. And, the camera can accurately autofocus in absolute darkness! Unbelievable! ๐Ÿ˜Ž

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Ruby at f/2.5 in window light

I was up in Moose Jaw visiting the family too and Dad and I decided to put the D800 to the test. We did a high ISO test between it and the Canon EOS 1D-X, an amazing low light wonder camera. I wanted to test the idea that because the D800 has double the resolution of the 1DX, it should perform comparable if not better at the same ISO. We put both cameras at 6400 ISO and took them to a old train station which has since become the liquor store. ๐Ÿ˜€ Check out our vid to see the real world print results of downsampling.