Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Shooting with Gene

A couple Friday's ago, photo-bud-Gene and I went shooting. We started at the Edmonds ferry terminal and waterfront. It was raining the whole time so we eventually gave up and went to Pike's Place Market.

Snowflake Lane

At the Bellevue Square Mall on Bellevue Way in Bellevue, WA, there's an interesting 'show' that happens on the sidewalk most nights in December. It's called Snowflake Lane. They blast holiday music and dress up a bunch of 'young people' that either give you candy canes (whether you want them or not) walk around on stilts, or bang on drums along with the music. Kids seem to love it.
Anyway, I found out I know one of the drummers so I shot him. Twice. On a Monday and a Tuesday.

Winter in Issaquah- 2008

I spent a couple hours walking around at night (between midnight and 5am) in the rare Issaquah snow trying to stay awake. More comments under each photo...

I got 'lucky' and had a car trip the lights during a 10 sec exposure, but not show up in the photo.

The neighbors appear to have moved away and left a light on.

Someone trying to get out of the parking lot.

My version of a self-portrait.

A treacherous looking path.

The view down Dogwood St. from Newport Way.

I swear I've lived here for years and never seen that sign.

Someone put a collar on that streelight to keep it from shining in their windows. I thought it made a nice spot light on the street for another self-portrait. And then I thought it looked better in mostly red.

In the middle of the night an 8 sec exposure shows quite a bit. But white stuff on the ground and in the sky helps too.

Lights on the roof melting snow.

This tree is huge. I have no idea how they got all those lights up there. I was tempted to sit on the bench for this photo.

Metal sculpture horse across from the theater.

The old train station under an almost dramatic sky.

Sidewalk lights at the hatchery are interesting.

A 15 second exposure just before dawn at the fish hatchery.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Mukilteo Shipwreck

I was browsing google maps a few months ago and saw something interesting along the Washington coast. from the satellite photo, it looked just like a shipwreck, but I couldn't believe it was real, so I checked it out.

First I googled "Mukilteo shipwreck" and found two helpful things. The first is that the property was/is an old salvage yard for ships. And looking at the satellite photos again I saw what look like a few more boat carcases underwater near the shore. The second is that Microsoft's live maps' birds eye view of the area is an excellent resource and the best looking picture of it.

I found a public park a mile south of the shipwreck called Picnic Point. From there I could see that there really was something there. So I drove the tiny road out to the property but stopped when I saw thousands of no tresspassing signs at the driveway entrance. From there the trees are too thick to see anything so I went home. After more google mapping I found a road and some houses about a half mile north of the wreck that looked like they may have a good view. I parked at the large office building outside of the development and walked the trail along the perimeter to the edge of the cliff. There may also be a trail that goes through the dense valley of trees to the beach? At the lookout point a hundred or so feet above the beach I could only see trees. But as I inched closer to the cliff I saw a rope tied around a tree and a steep path down the cliff. Eventually the steep path turned into stairs carved into the cliff. It's not as treacherous as it sounds. From the beach the view was very clear and the wreck looked less interesting than the aerial view. There were enough no tresspassing signs stuck to the ship to make it less photogenic than I'd hoped. getting any closer would require walking along or beside the train tracks. No trains came through while I was there but those tracks are used heavily. If a train comes from the north there would be very little warning. From the south there would be just enough time to get out of the way. There's water on one side and a cliff on the other so it would not be a pleasant experience.
If I felt like getting any closer, which I don't because it's not as interesting or photogenic as I'd hoped, I'd take a boat and stay offshore.
It does look interesting in infrared with some stormy clouds. But most things would.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Part 4: Canon 50D sRAW Noise and High ISO test

This sRAW thing is fascinating.

I can't reproduce sRAW results from full RAW files. Not even close. I wish I could though.

On the left is a 50D RAW file at ISO 1600, 200mm f/2.8.
On the right is a 50D sRAW2 file at ISO 3200, 400mm f/5.6 (200mm @ f/2.8 + EF-2x)
Both were cropped to the middle 600 pixels with no resizing necessary.

I thought the higher ISO and EF-2x should have ruined the one on the right, but sRAW overcame that. I'll have to try that test again with smaller apertures to be sure.

It seems to me that sRAW should be valuable to bird photographers who can't get very close to small birds in low light and wonder if they should crop a raw file or use an extender and trade the stop or two of light for higher ISOs. And indoor or night sports photographers where high ISOs and fast shutter speeds are necessary and will either crop use the extenders and don't need huge prints anyway.

sRAW is NOT for saving space on a memory card. The files are extremely bloated for their small resolution. And they don't relieve the buffer much at all. Probably because sRAW is generated from the RAW file, but that would slow the camera down (and it doesn't)?

I now tend to use sRAW1 when at ISO 6400 and sRAW2 when at ISO 12800.

Here's an example of an indoor low light sports photo. sRAW2, ISO 12800, 1/1000, f/2.5, 85mm, cropped not resized. Exposed to the right, corrected and heavily processed in Lightroom.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Part 3: Canon 50D sRAW Noise and High ISO Test

I shot three sets of black frames for these comparisons. I went from ISO 1600 to 12800 for RAW, sRAW1, and sRAW2. I cropped all photos to 200x200 pixels then resized 200%.

1st set: exposure +4 (max) in Lightroom.
2nd set: exposure 0 + Lightroom noise reduction at 100 (max).
3rd set: exposure at -1.5 with noise reduction at 100 again.

The first set is totally exaggerated and not very useful.
In the second, it looks like ISO 3200 on the 50D is fine and 6400 might be useful.
The 3rd is a good example of how I try to use high ISOs; overexpose by a stop or two and darken in Lightroom. In this 3rd example I'd say 6400 is fine and 12800 might be useful.

sRAW modes seem to improve the sharpness and decrease the noise (more testing to do). I was expecting to see more of a difference between sRAW1 and sRAW2.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Part 2: Canon sRAW Noise and High ISO Test ( 40D reference for the 50D )

The previous test was quick and had a lot of variables I didn't bother to think about. This time I did, so I eliminated what I could.

I'm trying to figure out if the sRAW mode on Canon's recently announced 50D will be useful to me. So I'm testing the sRAW mode on the 40D and here are my next round comparison shots...

I decided to eliminate the resizing variable by changing my focal length so the same number of pixels are covering the same parts of the scene (I just cropped the RAW file to the sRAW dimensions and get the same view). The first pair is underexposed and shows the noise differences well, the middle pair is a normal exposure and shows sharpness differences well, and the 3rd pair doesn't change the focal length so the RAW file had to be re-sized to match the same view.

The previous test proved to me that noise was lower using sRAW. This one agrees. The previous test also made me wonder if sRAW was sharper too. This one seems to agree, but makes me realize that the question is more complicated than that. Yes, 4 sRAW pixels are sharper than 1 RAW pixel. The middle pair shows this very well. But that's not how I'd use the camera. I'd use it like the 3rd pair, and after resizing, they are similar.

This does lead me to a valuable conclusion: I expect that canon's 50D in sRAW mode at 7mp will be sharper, and have significantly less noise than an 8mp 30D. I already expected that, but now I'm convinced the difference will be drastic and worthwhile to me.

That means it's time to upgrade! YESSSS!

Other interesting conclusions: The sRAW file size is typically half the full RAW file size, which is unfortunate because the resolution is 1/4. Also, burst mode did last a little longer. I got about 17 RAW files out at 6.5fps, but could get over 20 sRAW files at 6.5fps and the buffer cleared faster. So sRAW mode isn't so much for when you want smaller files, but for fast action bursts at high ISOs.

Details: 24-70 2.8L at 35mm and 70mm and f/8, 70-200 2.8 L IS at 200mm and f/8, 40D, manual focus with live view, on tripod, using mirror lock up and cable release. RAW and sRAW files processed in Lightroom with everything zeroed. Jpegs at highest quality while cropping and bi-cubic resizing. 40D's high ISO noise reduction was OFF this time.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Canon sRAW Noise and High ISO Test ( 40D reference for the 50D )

When Canon announced the 50D, the specs that caught my attention were the sRAW modes. I liked the idea of sRAW mode on the 40D but couldn't manufacture a reason to shoot a 10mp sensor at 2.5mp. It looks like the 50D will shoot it's 15mp sensor at 7mp. For some of the things I shoot that sounds worthwhile. Then I wondered if those sRAW files would be less noisy at high ISO and just had to test it...

At first I shot a variety of exposures of the same scene and cropped the full size files to match the sRAW size. A noise difference didn't jump out at me at all. What did was how much sharper the sRAW files were. It looks like I either had image stabilization on in one shot and off in the other (which I didn't), or I used a much smaller aperture to get more depth of field (which I didn't). I'll have to try this again with a tripod and manual focusing.

Then I shot black frames (lens cap on at normally fast shutter speed) at ISO 1600 and 3200 in RAW and sRAW. That's where I see a huge difference in noise. Here's the ISO 3200 comparison. I see blatant noise reduction in sRAW. The noise in sRAw seems to be all luminance and no chroma too (someone please explain that to me). I also see more noise in the 40D at 3200 than the 30D at 3200 which is not what I expected (or was advertised). And I should mention that I had to beat the heck out of these black frames to get them to look this bad/obvious.

I did this test in 5 minutes. Please leave comments if you have suggestions for improving the method.
AWB, Manual Mode, ISO 3200 and 1600, 24-70 f/2.8 @ 70mm & f/4.5 on the 40D, 70-200 f/2.8 IS @ 70mm & f/4.5 on the 30D, handheld, autofocus on middle point at closest flower, raw files 'barely processed' in Lightroom, no manipulation (everything zeroed) on the flower shots, for the black frames only exposure slider set to +4, output was full jpg at max quality.
jpgs from sRAW files cropped to 800x800 near middle of frame. 300x300 corner for black frames.
jpgs from RAW files bicubic downsized to match sRAW dimensions (1944x1296) then cropped to 800x800 near middle of frame.
for exaggerating black frame noise: cropped 300x300 bottom right corner (because noise appeared strongest there in the 40D) then up rezed 200%, brightness +50 and contrast +25 to exaggerate for visibility.

I have high hopes for the 50D and its sRAW modes now.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cannon Beach, OR

Cannon Beach is on the north west coast of Oregon. And it's really cool. C and I went there for a weekend to relax. The main attraction at Cannon Beach is a massive sea stack called Haystack Rock. The view from Ecola park is by far the best because, at least when we were there, there were way fewer people. I was surprised how many people try to surf there?
I got to use my newest lens (70-200 2.8 L IS) for the first time and absolutely love it. The garden at our B&B ( St. Bernard's Arch Cape House) was where I shot all the flowers (and the snake). The crazy red and white photos are my infrared shots that I thought looked better without converting to black and white.

Click here to see the rest of the pictures