The second greatest joy

While this blog and most especially that even more geekily weird one involving plastic dinosaurs continue to languish in appropriate obscurity – it is with great mirth that I watch the stats on my humble flickr account. From time to time I think of leaving it to go to smugmug or another service… but you just can’t beat landing on page one for a Google Search for “dust cloth” with images like this:

Improvised Dust Cloth _Improvised Dust Cloth: I had to dust the cabinets today. Never let an engineer get the bright idea to do this. _

There’s real funny, and there’s just funny, and questionably funny, and lastly my own funny, and my own crazy jokes are joy – at least to me, and that’s what it’s all about.

Come on feel the noise

So… after a little more than a year with my first digital SLR – I decided the take the plunge and go from a camera that was just beyond my ability to one that is WAY beyond my ability. Hopefully I’ll give this one a bit more time to catch up to it.

There were a lot of reasons I went from the D80 to the D300, most of centers on being able to take continuous pictures faster. I take a lot of pictures of the dogs – and a lot of pictures of my wife’s horse jumping (she’s an eventer) – and I wanted something that would focus better, take more continuous frames, and did better at higher ISOs. I’m pretty happy with all of that so far (and the D300 meters in tough situations a lot better).

One thing though, that I have been more than a bit mystified by though is the noise at ISO 800. Everyone review I read about the D300 was that the noise difference (vs. the D200, D80, and others) was spectacular. I can see a difference – but it’s a lot less pronounced than the reviews seemed to make it out to be.

And the jury’s still out on this, but I’m not all that sure that what I’m seeing isn’t due to Adobe Lightroom (which is my raw processor and image organization tool of choice).

So I took this image:

Pull

The exposure is 1/640sec, f5.6 (basically as wide open as my 18-200mm will go at 150mm), ISO800 image. 0EV adjustment. NR “in camera” is set to normal. Output is 12-bit Raw (Nikon Compressed)

And decided to spend some time in all the raw processors and see how they handled the noise. Profiled is Lightroom (Adobe Camera Raw 4.4), Aperture (Trial Version), Capture NX 1.3 (License included with D300), and iPhoto. I didn’t do ACR+Bridge+PS3, ACR and Lightroom are from my understanding, the same.

Here’s Lightroom’s defaults (25% Color NR, 0% Luminance NR):

Aperture:

Capture NX:

For the record, Capture NX has a “Faster” or “Better Quality” setting. The differences for this image were really to subtle to include.

iPhoto’s default seems a lot like Aperture.

Now – what about some adjustments? I really didn’t spend much time playing with Capture NX, one, because it’s incredibly slow to preview anything (which may be cause of Leopard, I don’t know), and two, doing anything seems to radically change things (moving the slider all the way really changes the image). So here’s Lightroom, and Aperture cranked up.

Lightroom:

(luminance only, increased Color NR, didn’t make much difference)

Aperture:

Here’s an iPhoto adjustment (radical effect at 50%, a lot like Capture NX)

In case you are wondering about the “No Noise Reduction” case, here’s Lightroom, and Capture NX (turning off NR for Aperture didn’t appear to do anything for me, so it looks like some kind of default NR is always applied).

Lightroom: (you can really see the effect of the 25% Color NR here)

Capture NX:

The Verdict

Noise reduction, like beauty, is probably all in the eye of the beholder.   But my eye really prefers how Capture NX handles the noise by default.    I know that Lightroom is trying to preserve edge detail, and it’s a “different” kind of NR – but I think that the default leaves a bit to be desired compared to the defaults for both Capture NX and Aperture.

Cranked up, it’s hard to say.   It’s good, but I’d still leave the edge to Aperture here – and certainly Capture is powerful (too powerful) – and iPhoto leaves all semblance of subtlety behind with it’s modifications.

I’m still a bigger fan of how Lightroom handles my photo library.  (though I haven’t given the Aperture trial a full and fair shake with Library handling).  Although I despise how Aperture handles zooming, I really like Lightroom’s handling here.    Capture NX, is well, just weird.  I’d only see myself using it when there’s an image that I really, really like and want to see if it will do things with it that the others can’t.

This is a really interesting software space right now, everything’s different, and good in it’s on way.   It will be fascinating to keep watching these packages battle it out in the future.

(p.s.  I did try out the Lightroom 2.0 beta, it’s NR handling doesn’t seem different.  There are differences with other defaults, but NR seems the same.)

Great Cosmic Question

I took this picture a few weeks ago (along with this one) had originally marked this photo as rejected – but I hadn’t deleted it yet – and in the process of showing some of the features in Lightroom –

Great Cosmic Question

we spotted this cloud formation:

Question

It’s no Mother Theresa in a sticky bun or anything – but hey – you take what you can get.

Lightroom Direct Positive, redux

About a month ago I wrote about Adobe Lightroom’s Direct Positive effect and the dramatic effects it had on several of the pictures I had taken.

Well, I should have been shooting in raw. Applying the Direct Positive settings to Raw photographs has a much more understated impact – at least for some of the raw shots I was taking today. For example, the skybox complex for the NCSU football stadium (click to go to Flickr and see the larger sizes)

Before:

Vaugh Towers

After:

Vaughn Towers - Lightroom Direct Positive

It’s still a little dramatic here – but it’s very, very different from the effects that it had on the jpg’s I was shooting before.

It’s even better with pictures of cows with holes in their sides (I was too far away to get a good picture, so I’m just showing the effect):

adobe-lightroomscreensnapz003

This effect really works well, and gives this image a much better color contrast.

I really think I’ll be shooting predominately in raw from now on, Lightroom also seems a bit snappier with the NEF images – believe or not (you can choose “not” – I’m still not completely convinced myself)

Reminder of the Day

Set the correct time on your cameras. Which I unfortunately failed to do for a bunch of pictures taken today.

But chalk one up for yet more things I don’t understand – my D80 knows about time zones and DST – why the heck doesn’t it automatically change?

(unless of course I had the setting wrong to begin with… hmmmm)

The training wheels come off

I took the training wheels off my Nikon D80 yesterday.

You see, I’m a graduate of the point and shoot camera. I’ve had decent P&S digitals to this point, and my entire photographic way of being has consisted of having a sometimes decent eye for composition, and hoping that the camera would get everything else correct. I’ve spent my photographic life in “Automatic” mode.

Most of the pictures I’ve taken to date with the D80 have all been in ‘P’ mode – which is just ‘A’ mode with choices. To this point, I’ve had the camera auto choose focus areas (I felt like a complete dummy when I realized I had a dyamic and single point AutoFocus option and yes, I could actually pick my focus area), and had it largely choose all my shutter speeds and apertures. Even when I was using shutter-priority or aperture-priority modes – I still had the camera in auto-iso.

Well, I’ve been going through Bryan Peterson’s Understanding Exposure and I decided it was time to take the training wheels off. Go to manual mode, pick my aperture, pick my shutter, set my iso speed, pick my focus area.

Boy did that suck.

I got one picture I liked:

Chancellor's Front Porch

And that one not even that much.

I know the end result is going to be better one day, but for now it’s like moving on to legion baseball and having to undo every bad habit you learned in little league. I was dial-turning and button-pushin until the cows came home.