Tuesday, March 10, 2009

DPReview Challenges

Recently, I submitted a photo to the DPReview challenge for faceless portraits. I placed 126th out of 427 entries. Not bad, considering my subject material was neither nude, nor female. :)

I still have a lot to learn about this whole digital photography thing. Lately I've been playing with different programs for converting the raw image the camera takes. Usually I use UFRaw (gotta download the latest version of that shortly) which is a free open source utility. I've also used Adobe Lightroom, DXO, and Capture One (version 4) on an evaluation basis, and I have a copy of Capture One LE that's pretty good too.

What this means in practical terms is that I don't just process each image once, but often once per raw converter, and then compare the results. So far, none of the commercial packages have been substantially better than UFRaw. Capture One LE came with some of the memory cards I purchased. The package from DXO purports to correct barrel distortion and chromatic aberration. My Pentax 16-50 lens does exhibit some barrel distortion wide open at 16 when shooting square subjects (like paintings) but as you can see below, that's easily fixed by zooming in a bit.....Keeping track of all these pictures isn't easy, but I'm slowly developing some semblance of a system.....Now, if GIMP would hurry up and release version 3, which is supposed to have support for 16 bit TIFF images, my toolbox would be close to complete...... :)

A Walk, My Favorite Thing!

Shauna and I decided to take advantage of the awesome weather on Saturday and go for a walk. The temperature was above zero, it was sunny, not a lot of wind......the only thing we forgot to take into account was the amount of snow and ice still on the trails. We didn't get far, I think we were out for maybe 20 minutes tops, and I spent a good chunk of that time taking a few pictures.

These are a couple of shots of the trails we were on. You can get a sense of how icy the they were.

I'm inordinately pleased with this picture, the subject isn't very remarkable, though it does give you a sense of how thick the ice was on the trail. The reason I'm pleased with it is that I've been learning a bit about what's referred to as 'exposing to the right', and I did that in this shot. It isn't always possible, and I won't bore you with the details (you can look those up if you're interested) but its a way to reduce the signal to noise ratio in a digital image. The caveat of course is that you don't want to shift the image histogram too far to the right, or you'll overexpose the highlights.

I've had this camera for a couple of years now. It assigns each image a sequential number. I'm pretty sure you can reset that, but also pretty sure I never have. I find it useful for tracking image. Recently (not sure when exactly) I passed 2000. That means, over the last couple of years, I've shot over 2000 photos. If that sounds like a lot, keep in mind that years ago during one two week trip in Europe I shot about the same number, and I was being very choosy.... :)

More interesting (at least to me) is the fact that before my first trip to Stockholm in Dec. I was at around 650 images taken with this camera.

Below is a video I thought folks would enjoy. Probably want to watch this when the small kiddies aren't around..... :)

Saturday, March 07, 2009

You Lookin' At Me?

We had a wicked ice storm here Monday morning. I looked out the window and saw first one, then two, then three deer out in the back yard. Eventually, they made their way to the upper part of the yard, where I shot this picture through my sliding glass back door. They were originally facing away from me, so I made a few quiet clicking noises. This one turned around, stamped its foot and snorted at me a couple of times. He knew something was there, but since I didn't move, and being inside, he couldn't smell me, he didn't know what it was. Too funny.This was shot through the glass door and at least two windows, on an angle from the same position. Not bad, all things considered. They ambled off to the lower backyard after this, and met up with their third compatriot.
A short while later I walked out of the kitchen into the living room. All three of them were helping themselves to the bushes at the front of my house. They were about 4 feet away from me, and kinda startled me.

My neighbor said he's seen as many as 8 gathered around the shrubs in my frontyard. No wonder they look a little chewed up....They seemed to be focusing on the shrubs, and any maple twigs they could reach. They must be a bit hungry, but don't look like they're starving.

Once the snow melts, and the grass comes out, they'll probably enjoy that. So far, I still have to mow. :)

By the time I made it back with my camera to the living room they were long gone, unfortunately.

Going for a hike today, its supposed to be sunny and plus 8, and so far looks like it might live up to that promise.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Eagles Flock

Back in Nova Scotia, for a bit at least. I'm slowly getting caught up on my pictures and my posts. More on that in my next post.

You've probably heard the phrase, Eagles don't flock, they soar. They do soar, but if you throw a bunch of chicken scraps out as food in the winter time, they flock to them. I counted about 60 of them in this set of trees on a recent trip to Sheffield Mills. If you don't know the place, it is near Canning, in the Annapolis Valley. Every winter, barring bird flu concerns, the locals throw spare chicken parts from the local chicken processing factories out in the snow to feed the eagles. Its only advertised for about three weeks out of the year, but they feed them every day.

As a consequence, I think every bald eagle with a brain in the province over winters here..... :)

Eagles in flight are very difficult to photograph. I usually end up with a small eagle, or two, surrounded by a large portion of empty bluish film. With my new Pentax K10D, and my 50-135 zoom lens however, I took some of the best pics of them I've ever gotten. This has me thinking about either the 200mm or 300mm DA* lenses, or both.... :)
I like all of them, though the above is particularly nice, the one below is pretty much my all time favorite.

Relax, he didn't take out the crow. It just looks like he's about to...... :)

So, next time you hear 'they don't flock, they soar' remember......eagles do both...maybe I should use the Despair website (one of my favs FYI) to create a poster that says something like "Eagles don't read..." :)

Next time you have chicken, keep this in mind: http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/discoveries/2007-04-12-trex-protein_N.htm