Saturday, October 27, 2012

Digital post-processing for competition

In my observation, all the images entered for high level competitions in photography have been post-processed in one way or another. Gradually, I have come to accept that SOOC (straight out of camera) images are simply not going to cut it for competition. There are many arguments "for" and "against" post-processing, but the fact remains that even during films days, the best images have always been manipulated in the darkroom. That is why we have photoshop terms like dodge, burn, unsharpen mask, etc.

If you can't beat them, join them; so they say. My quest to discover the secrets to successful post processing techniques was finally rewarded after attending a talk on this topic in the camera club. Here, a long-time photographer showed his images and introduced the software that he used. I installed Nik Software and Topaz, ran through the online guides and tutorials, then tried them out for a few days.

Below are some before and after post-processing images I did yesterday. No heavy lifting with Photoshop was required. By applying appropriate presets and using minor adjustments in a combination of Lightroom, Nik Software, Topaz, and Photoshop, I was able to get the result in a cinch. Voila!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ararat Masonic Centre

 This is a drive-by shot of the Masonic Centre in Ararat. As we were driving through on the way to Adelaide,  I took a number of shots from my moving car (I was a passenger). By chance, I shot this building almost square on. The first picture is "as shot", while the second picture has been post-processed. The post-processing took just a couple of minutes but a lot of software firepower: Lightroom, Photoshop, and Nik Software plug-in.This is the first time I am using the Nik Software and it is great!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Wilson's Promontory images

Here are some pictures I took at Wilson's Prom last weekend on the club outing. It was an opportunity to test out my newly acquired D700. Needless to say, the camera has a lot more "oomph" than my D90.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Wilson's Prom weekend away

The greatest lesson in photography I have learned in a long time is not about tips on one of the many aspects of photography (lighting, composition, lens settings, etc). It is about the power of visualization.

Last weekend I went to Wilson's Prom for a photography workshop with Peter Walton. There were about 20 of us there from our camera club. Peter did not actually conduct any sit-down lectures, unlike Ian Rolfe when we were in Mt Buller last time. Instead we just went out to shoot with him and talk to him as we shot our images. At the end of the day, Peter showed 4 images that he took. What I saw took my breath away because I was there with him on each of the 4 shootings and my images were nothing compared to his. Below are my images.

Thus I have learned one of the most useful lessons in my photography journey: the power of visualization. To put it another way, the lesson I learned was how little I knew about visualization.

 Many people say you cannot take a good photo in mid afternoon. They say the light is too contrasty. I thought this image wasn't too bad, but Peter's image really had the "wow" factor.
 I asked Peter what to aim for in this rather ordinary looking sunset. Peter took one shot, and then he told me to do the same and shoot. This shot doesn't look like much. Wait till you see what Peter did with his.
With the sunlight almost gone, and as I was ready to leave, I turned around and shot this silhouette. I was surprised to see later that Peter also took a similar shot. Only his was a better composition.

I shot this image of Mark after Peter had done the shooting. Peter managed to get a much sharper image and a more suitable background. (This image had more to do with technique than with visualization)

Notes to myself: starburst effect and rainforest

 Just a couple of tips I picked up from the Wilson's Prom weekend with the camera club.

To create a starburst effect, set the aperture to f16 or f22. Wait till the sun is just peeping out. The pattern of the starburst depends on the lens in use.

The other useful tip was getting the white balance right while shooting in a rainforest. I recall several years ago I tried all sorts of ways to get the white balance right in the camera. I even used an Expodisc to try and calibrate the white balance setting, but was not successful. The right way is to use a polarizer and turn it until the setting is right. Images below are without and with polarizer.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

An alternative to the Android camera

I recently wrote about the Android cameras which have just been announced - the Samsung Galaxy Camera and the Nikon S800C. I was so smitten by the idea then that I couldn't wait to get one of them. I must say my enthusiasm has diminished by now. It is a mistake for companies to announce products without being able to sell them immediately. In my case, the longer I wait, the less likely I am to make an impulse purchase.

I ask myself why I thought I needed an Android camera. Well, it seems to be a great way to play with all the camera-related apps out there, and it is much easier to share photos on a social website. But realistically speaking, all I ever wanted was to be able to selectively upload some photos after a shoot.

So here is Panasonic's answer to the challenge of providing connectivity to the camera. The newly announced SZ5 features wifi connectivity. It costs about $200 and is designed for the casual shooter. By installing a free app called Lumix Link on your iOS or Android device, you can view, control, and shoot wirelessly with your tablet or smartphone.

I believe it is also possible to shoot first with the SZ5, and then use your mobile device to view the pictures and upload to your tablet, or your computer or straight to one of the popular social websites.I prefer this wifi feature to having a full-blown Android on my camera. Really.

I hope more camera manufactures will equip their cameras with wifi. It will be so useful. Imagine being able to immediately email off an image straight from the camera, or simply post it on Facebook. It should not add a lot of cost, and it will make the camera a more connected device. Will there still be a market for an Android camera? Maybe not, if there are more wifi cameras around.

Unfortunately for the SZ5, the reviews on its image quality are not too good, although this camera is packed with quite the latest features in low end point-and-shoot cameras. I hope to see some higher-end cameras touting this wifi.