16 January, 2006

D70S landscapes

Trees, Trees
Originally uploaded by mjm1138.

Got some good light up on Switzerland Trail today. Mist and clouds rushing past made for some interesting mixed lighting. I think this shot ends up looking almost like a diorama.

Okay, so I'm having a very good time with the digital camera. It shoots very quick and produces lovely color at its default settings. I'm hoping to pick out a couple of images I can test BW conversion on, but for now I'm just appreciating what this camera can do with virtually no effort.

First Attempt at HDR

Switzerland Trail Looking East - hdr
Originally uploaded by mjm1138.

Here's a composite image created with Photomatix Basic. If you click the image and go to my flickr account, you can see the underexposed and overexposed images from which this "HDR" image was created. I like the results, though it's notable that even using a tripod to do the bracketing, I was forced to do a little judicious cropping in photoshop to get the two shots to line up, and even then it wasn't quite perfect. So while you pick up a lot of color detail, it seems that you're likely to lose some image sharpness using this technique. I suggest using a cable release or self-timer to minimize camera movement. Not much to say about the image composition; it's not very exciting. I did take quite a few pictures on this trip however, so I hope to find one or two worthy of posting.


Dragon mask
Originally uploaded by mjm1138.

Well, I'm shooting with a DSLR now. So far I haven't gotten out to do any actual creative work, I've just been getting accustomed to the controls and getting a feel for how it shoots. This dragon mask hangs in the hallway of my friend Chris's house; this is really just a snapshot. But it does good justice to the sharpness of the lens and the quality of the output from the camera.

There are three primary challenges to digital photography, now that I've been doing some research, resolution, noise and the lack of dynamic range. Resolution just means that, at the present time, you're not going to get as many pixels of information out of a digital image shot with a consumer SLR than you can get with a 35mm negative (shot in ideal conditions). For that, it is simply to wait until improvements in technology make superior resolution more affordable.

Turns out that you can do something about the noise and dynamic range situations today though. There are lots of good products out there for reducing sensor noise on shots taken at high ISO, or long exposures. Noise Ninja seems to do the trick, and is likely what I'll use when I find myself needing that. Since I prefer to shoot with available light whenever possible, I expect this to be quite a bit.

For dynamic range, the emerging technique is to make multiple exposures using the camera's auto-bracketing function, and combine the images in such a way that you're rendering the shadow detail from the longer exposure and the highlight detail from the shorter exposure. There are various techniques for doing this, and software to automate the process. I'm hoping to shoot for HDR this weekend and try out Photomatix for this. They have a free edition of their product that can do some of the simpler techniques. More posts to come.

05 January, 2006

Marshall County Iowa - December 28, 2005

20051228 - marshall county - 2
Originally uploaded by mjm1138.

This was taken as Sarah and I drove through Iowa a few days ago. We were visiting family for the holidays. When we're there, we enjoy driving on the back roads as we travel from city to city. Rural Iowa in the winter can seem desolate, but here the land is almost entirely domesticated, so it's not the same kind of desolate as when you're out in the desert. There's always human development surrounding you, it's just very tranquil and expansive. Click the photo to see my flickr account, where there's another from this day.

01 January, 2006

Woodman Headstone

Woodman Headstone
Originally uploaded by mjm1138.

Spending the holidays with our families in central Iowa, my wife and I stopped in Woodland Cemetary in Des Moines for a bit of shooting on Christmas Day. Two days later there was a thick fog over the whole city, so we returned for a few more shots. Follow the link and I think you'll be able to see the whole set. The conditions were lovely, and this cemetary is incredibly rich in local history and contains some unique and beautiful monuments. Notably, there were several like the one pictured here, forming a tree stump (sometimes with smaller stones resembling logs on the ground surrounding.

This was shot with our little Sony P/S digital, which did a fine job. Turns out the optical viewfinder is wildly inaccurate, so if you want to use the full frame, you have to compose on the LCD monitor.

It is with some trepidation and (admittedly) a great deal of excitement that I've decided to shelve my stodgy old complaints against digital and purchase a digital SLR. I've ordered a Nikon D70S with a Nikon 28-70mm zoom. We have a trip to Italy coming up in April and I decided I'd ultimately be much more productive with a digital outfit. With the included memory card I'll be able to shoot 800 frames or more before filling it up, and download everything to an ipod at the end of the day. That's a lot of images, many orders of magnitude over what I could hope to shoot with any kind of film technology. It's also an acknowledgement that my film workflow is hopelessly cumbersome, slow and low quality, and the key to improving my technique right now is to shoot frames, and not back myself into corners with doctrinaire attitudes concerning medium. It's a fair investment to get into a digital SLR outfit, but I expect it to quickly recouped in savings on film, chemicals, processing and printing. We'll see.