Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Embedded video from smugmug

Smugmug now offers simple embed tags for their video too. Very nice and high quality and doesn't stutter as much as flickr's video. Here is the embedded version of my sunset timelapse.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Unwrapping a fisheye image

One of the fun features of using a fisheye lens is its enormous distortion that disproportionally enlarges foreground elements. I own the Nikon 10.5 mm fisheye for DX cameras. After my wideangle was destroyed because of a car that drove over my backpack recently, I was forced to use it more often with my camera that had a defunctive commanddial because of the same incident. Also, since my new D300 included a license for Capture NX, I can now easily unwrap fisheye images. You can do this too for free with hugin, but this is much easier - just a single click. As an example here is my daughter taking a picture of me in Arizona with the fisheye:

I'm always amazed at the beautiful creamy skintones that this program and the in-camera jpeg engine gives. You have to work on this in other RAW converters (not just Lightroom). Anyway, here is the rectilinear projection.

Pretty cool. In this case, I think I prefer the fisheye image anyway, but it is a good illustration.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

High ISO noise in Lightroom and Capture NX

Together with the new D300 came a free copy of Capture NX, Nikon's dedicated RAW converter software. Apparently Nikon wants to push the use of this program. First, after trying it a little let me say that this program still has by far the worst user interface of anything I have ever encountered. In its current form it is a major disaster. The side panels are horribly designed and the way everything works is designed as an 80's X-windows program. Horrifying to say the least. What Nikon does know very well is how to deal with the data coming from their cameras. By default it gives great color and contrast. One other thing it does well is high-ISO noise. I shot the following image at ISO 6400 with the D300 and loaded it as a .NEF in both Lightroom (2.0 beta) and Capture NX. This is the default conversion (the camera was set to Vivid picture style and Capture picks that up, Vivid adds some saturation some sharpening and some contrast)

You see this camera is usable at this ISO. There is a little noise in the dark blue sky but pretty nice. Amazing how far this has come, the image is better than film at ISO 800. Now for some 100% comparisons. This is Capture default conversion

Pretty amazing if you ask me. The noise is very grain like as if it is film.
Now Lightroom. Left, default Lightroom conversion, right optimized noise reduction (about 50/50 in both luminance and chroma)

As you see, Lightroom's conversion is far noisier by default and it is typical digital noise. The more optimized conversion is still noisy and becomes splotchy. Not very good. You also see strange speckling around the lights in both images that is not present in the Capture conversion.

Conclusion: Not surprising since the software comes from the camera maker, Capture NX deals very well with high ISO noise. If only the program were not so horrible in its use that I dread opening it every time, I would use it all the time and import tiffs or jpegs into Lightroom from it.

EDIT: because of a request below, I added the Mac OS X (i.e. identical to Aperture - my trial license for Ap 2 expired) default system RAW library conversion. It looks like this:

Very similar to Lightroom default version but not as good as Capture NX's. Somehow the noise seems to be a little more even than in the Lightroom conversion, so perhaps it would be easier to deal with, but I digress.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tires on the mesa

I came across this scene of some tires on top of the mesa while doing a little lunch hike. This pile of tires is visible from all around the mesa which is a beautiful open space area. There is more trash around (old oil cans, car parts, mining remnants, etc.) from an era when people did not really care, but most are not as visible as this, especially with a little hiking trail leading right next to it. This is on a training area of the Colorado State Patrol. They must test tires there. Anyway, I like the scene for its visual qualities, but dislike the dumping of stuff in this beautiful place. I converted to black and white because of the added drama.

Also check out this photo's page on flickr

Monday, April 14, 2008

TImelapse of me staining our deck

I did another timelapse of me painting the deck (see the older one of a sunset in our neighborhood park here). Unfortunately, I forgot to turn off the autofocus, causing the slight zooming effect you see. This is due to the focal length slightly changing when the focus distance changes. Esther thought this movie was just hilarious.

Check out a slightly higher resolution version here.

Some more images from Arches NP

I was in Arches with my family a little while ago and took some nice images that I did not expect to be able to take. This is with the old camera still as it was before it was driven over by a car. See also my flickr set on Arches with these and more images in it.

This is broken arch. The image was created by stitching several shots together. Some post treatment using the localized brushes in Lightroom 2.0 to bring out the arch itself.

Shadow of some trees:

Purples, yellow, green and red

Jabba the hut:

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Faster framerate

The stop motion effect in the previous version of the movie was caused by me using a slow framerate (15 fps). I sped it up to 30 fps and the motion is far nicer. Here is the low-res flickr version:

And here is the high def version (click the image):

Flickr video

Here is the same timelapse that you can see in glorious HD on my smugmug page but in a little flash movie generated by flickr. Much lower quality indeed, but I can at least embed it! It's stuttery the first time around so just hit play again to see it smooth.

Timelapse movie

I created a little timelapse using the interval feature on the D300 of the sunset in the park around the corner from where we live. The sunset was not very spectacular but it works. I think I'll do this more often. Check it out in full H264 High-Def glory by clicking on the link below:

I'll write down sometime how this can be done.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

New camera

A recent mishap where somebody drove their car over my backpack containing my camera, breaking the lens out of the mount (luckily a plastic lens) and breaking the command dial (making the camera rather useless) made me realize I need a second camera. I usually borrow or rent a second camera for events but otherwise have been very happy with what I had, even if it was only a 6 MP machine. For landscapes I would often use film anyway or stitch multiple images together and the very sharp 6MP allowed for surprisingly large blowups (I've gone to 20x30 and they still look great and surprisingly sharp). Anyway, since there is a great deal from Nikon that is active on Adorama, B&H, ritz, etc, where you get $300 instant rebate on the D300 together with the 18-200VR, I went for it. Note that Adorama has already run out of them in just a few days! This camera is astonishing. I used the D200 and Canon equivalents, but this camera beats most of them in use and feel. I wonder what a D3 would be like? Next to being great in use (the AF system is a dream), it is sharp to the pixel (at least in RAW) and that screen is superb. Also, its jpeg engine is astonishing. I was playing around with it yesterday and shot this mêh scene of a child's slide on our deck. I am astounded by the color. Especially since this was pretty boring hard light.


That's straight (except for scaling and sharpening for the web at a larger size than you see here (follow the link) by LR2 beta) out of the camera. Some more here:




Now you have seen a lot of the silly stuff in our garden ;-)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Points about copyright

James Duncan Davidson in his blog makes some good points about copyright protection for your photographs in the US. While copyright is automatic for everyone in the US that creates original works, it is far from automatic that you will get reimbursed for any infringement of your copyright. We have seen now many times big media companies lifting photos from flickr and using them without permission and flaunting the holder to do anything about it. If you have never registered for copyright with the copyright office, you might not be able to get more than a pittance back that won't even cover your legal costs! This is a sad state of affairs especially in the age of social networks and "sharing" of your photos online.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Lightroom 2.0 beta

Adobe made available a beta of 2.0. All current lightroom customers can use it for the duration of the beta. I've been playing with it and from what I can see, quite a few MAJOR improvements and not just in the RAW detail. Non-destructive dodging and burning using live masking, 64-bit support, multi monitor support! and much more. Read Tom Hogarty's blog that I link to above for more. It also includes updated profiles for many older cameras.

Update: A great overview of the new features from Ian Lyons can be found here.