Reprocessing old RAW Files

I wrenched my lower back this past week.  I wasn’t trying to lift a car or anything, just bending over in a chair to tie my shoe.  I was greeted with the awful muted pop!  I knew what happened as soon as I felt it.  I’ve had the problem with my lower back for a long time.  I won’t bore you with all the whys etc.  It all  comes down to sitting….. too long!  Sitting too long at the computer processing photographs and writing….another book.   Any orthopedist will tell you, sitting is never good for the back. Ever!

I had to stop sitting so much.  It required some lifestyle changes.  I got my old oak, adjustable drafting table out of the barn here on the farm and refinished it.  It now serves as my desk.  And,  I bought one of those standing pads and a good  pair of walking shoes with a large “toe box.”  Mine are New Balance 877’s. They are working wonders for me.  ( I am not paid by New Balance to endorse their shoes.)   I wear a back brace often during the day and I am doing lower lumbar exercises every morning and afternoon and my wife and I bought a new firm mattress.  I have good days and bad days but overall, I get the idea things are improving.

I know this is a photography blog.  Stay with me.  I’m getting to it.

So what to do when you can’t go roaming for that perfect shot?  You work on old files.  Since I converted to digital photography in 2009, I have shot everything in RAW.  Nikon’s version of that is called NEF. Raw is, for lack of a better term, a digital negative.  It captures everything the camera sees.  It does not condense or compress any of the data.  The downside is, shooting and keeping raw files requires an enormous amount of space.  These files are BIG.  I have five external drives devoted to storing these things as well as on line storage in the so-called cloud.  These files require processing or conversion before posting or printing.  It’s sort of like developing  film in the old days.  I use the conversion program in Photoshop Elements.

Going back and reworking old gems allowed me to take advantage of software tools that either were not around or I did not know about about at the time of the original conversion.  This past week, I’ve been reprocessing shots are from the summer of 2011 taken on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, one of my favorite places for photography.

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Sea Oates at Duck Posted to Flickr August 9, 2014  Blogged. Facebook

My reason for going back and reworking these shots was to remove camera shake (I had taken these handheld with no tripod. Now I know better) and to use the haze reduction tool.  You’ll have to take my word for it that the sharpness and clarity of these two views are remarkable improvements over the originals.

So if you don’t shoot your images in the RAW format your camera has, think about it.  External drives and on-line storage are  pretty cheap. Flickr is free!   You’ll have the benefit of seeing just about everything your camera has recorded and, you’ll have something to take your mind off an aching back….for a while.   Thanks for the read, have a good week and stop sitting so much!

Photo Of The Day: Christmas Rose

11 28 15_4970_edited-2Actually a scarlet red camellia bloom photographed in late afternoon light here on the Farm. Nikon D800E.

Well, when we last met, I had decided to give Paint Shop Pro 8X a whirl as my photo organizer with an eye toward  replacing Photoshop Elements 12 as my primary editing software.  Elements, you might recall me saying, had been giving me acute migraines with its constant freeze ups and crashes.  There’s more to report on that side of the story but first, some  Initial thoughts on Paint Shop Pro 8X.

I shelled out 49 bucks for PSP8X and have been trying ever since to negotiate the mother of all learning curves to use it.  The instruction manual is just as daunting.  It’s another one of those “missing manuals,” as David Pogue titles his books on the Windows operating systems which are, by the way, fabulous. I have every edition from Windows 98 on.   David, please do one for Paint Shop Pro!    The only manual now is a PDF File.  Of course you can print the whole thing out but be warned, it is more than 800 pages.  Having spent a “kings ransom” on printer ink, I decided to go with the PDF.  A book would have been better but I’m old and not into reading ebooks.

No doubt my calcifying brain has a lot to do with my difficulty.  Perhaps I am a 70 year old suffering from ADHD and need a dose of whatever they’re feeding the kids these days.  Frankly, I just got totally lost in the maze of brushes, graphics and so on.  Perhaps if they had made the graphics part of it another section or something, it would have been easier to grasp.

I did, however, find my way to and through the RAW Conversion Panel and it is quite good though I think Elements is more thorough and easier to use…..that’s probably a cheap shot because I am so used to Elements.

Suffice to say, I’m still messing with it and will, from time to time, give further progress reports on my schooling.

In the midst of all this, my 4 year old desktop began sending distinct warning signals of hard drive failure: Constant pleas to run “Check Disc” to repair damaged sectors and repeated messages that windows “has stopped working” etc and etc.  So I did a little cyber monday shopping and picked up a Lenovo H-30-50 desktop machine with 16 gigs of ram, a 2 TB hard drive and an Intel I-7  processor at a reasonable price.    The Windows 10 Operating system is a big improvement over Windows 8 but then anything would be an improvement and best of all, the learning curve isn’t as steep as Paint Shop.

I also reloaded my Elements software and so far, knock on wood, its working swimmingly. Perhaps I gave Adobe a bad wrap. Old guys can get crabby.

Now that I am back in cyber space, I will try to be a bit more productive blog wise.  Keep the Faith everybody. See you next time.

A Foray into HDR

Like everything else, there is excellent  HDR (High Dynamic Range) Photography and there is horrible HDR Photography.    I have several contacts on flickr who are absolute masters at it.  Their images leave me positively awestruck.   But a lot of  the HDR  I see on flickr and elsewhere on the net is simply not my cup of tea.  The color is often flat, like the colored Sunday Comic Pages.  It’s dull and frankly it just doesn’t look real.   I suppose that’s the idea.   As they say in Maine, “whatever floats your boat”!   I had never dabbled in HDR.  For one thing,  the magazines I freelance for now and then will not accept HDR or composite images.  It’s single shot 300dpi or forget about it.  And the floral concerns I regularly shoot for want natural looking prints.  Their preference is high gloss.

After  walking into one of the most light challenging situations I have ever encountered in more than 40 years of photography,  I found myself downloading a trial version of  Photomatix Pro,  one of the more popular and user friendly HDR Software Programs on the market.    It was either that or go spend an awful lot of hard earned bucks for some high tech lighting gear which I would  seldom have use for.  The problem was a dark church with a huge, very bright,  circular plain glass window right behind the alter.  I was trying to take a wide shot from the rear of the almost pitch dark sanctuary so as to capture two very large set piece arrangements behind the alter on either side of this window.  After working for hours in Photoshop Elements 10, I managed to come up with a decent shot.   It was that experience which sent me to Photomatix Pro.  My first actual use of it was this morning.  I waited until the sun was just starting to blast into our our otherwise dark great room just after 5 am.   I took five shots with a Nikon D700.  Exposures were -4, -3, -0-, +3 and +4.  This is the result:

Not

The Photomatix watermark is there because this is a free trial version.  It’s not a shot I would write home about but I figure it wasn’t bad for a first go at it.  It certainly fixed the almost blinding light coming through the foyer (to the right) that was blowing everything out.  It did a very nice job of reproducing the colors in the artwork my wife and I have in our house  (My sister and my father were both artists)   I’ll do more trial runs with the trial software to polish up my technique but I’m pretty confident that the next time I run into another one of those shots from hell,  I’ll have something in my hip pocket  to  bail me out of a tight spot.  I’d say Photomatix is about to get another new customer.  Peace, Love and Soul everybody…Thanks for the look and the read and….have a Great Weekend.

Paying Respects

The last of the Azaleas,  a very large Pride of Mobile variety, has finally given up its blooms, much to the dismay of the Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies.  I saw a small squad of them fluttering around the dropped blooms seemingly frustrated at their earlier than normal departure.   Perhaps they were paying last respects.   Needless to say, Spring came very early this year.  We had Azaleas in full bloom in the middle of March.   Not to worry though, the butterflies  have since discovered the bright red and orange Lantana which will bloom into the fall here.  Somehow though, I think they, like me, are eagerly awaiting the Sunflowers.  Several acres have been planted.  We’re hoping they will also bloom ahead of their usual schedule allowing us to make a second planting before September.

Black and White Photography with Digital Cameras.

Most digital cameras allow the user to take shots in monochrome which is to say, black and white.  And of course just about every piece of processing software on the market lets one convert color shots to black and white.  There is one school of thought that says that makes for an impressive black and white image.  I just finished shooting a roll of Kodak Tri-X film this past week (Yes they still make it and its readily available)   and I have to say, no matter how accomplished one is in processing images on a computer, there is no way anyone will ever reproduce digitally the tonality and contrast one can get from top  quality pan film like Tri-X.  If you’re really into black and white images,  pick up a  used film slr, they’re dirt cheap these days, and shoot a roll of Tri-X 400.  I think you will agree and you might have a whale of a time doing it.   See you next time.