Tag Archives: jpeg

More on my FZ1000

It’s been a while since my last post.  And in that time I’ve been able to use my Panasonic FZ1000 on more than one occasion.  I’m going to share some of my thoughts about the FZ1000, but try not to bore you with a lot of techno stuff.  If you want that kind of info, there are other websites available.

The FZ1000 is by no means small.  It’s close in size to my Canon 60D DSLR, although somewhat lighter.  The advantage the FZ1000 has over a camera like the 60D is versatility.  The built-in lens is of high quality (Leica) and has a very usable range, 25-400mm (image stabilized).  This means that with a single camera I can quickly change focal length to suit the situation, rather than carry a bag full of lenses and fumble around changing them.  I’m able to keep the FZ1000 in a small messenger bag that isn’t a pain to carry around.

During a recent outing to the Planes of Fame Air Museum I was able to make good use of the FZ1000.  In fact, it was the only camera I brought to the event.  Packed nicely in the messenger bag, along with a couple of accessories, it was quick and easy to access and grab a shot or two when needed.  The nice thing about the air museum is the variety of subjects and lighting.  Sometimes the light is just right, but mostly it’s challenging.  Dark interior hangars and harsh afternoon light pouring in from open hangar doors, can be fun and frustrating at the same time!

Speaking of a variety of subjects, I was able to work with both static and moving examples.  The event was titled “Little Friends” and was about the role of the P-51 Mustang as a bomber escort during WWII.  There are a couple of P-51s at the museum, and the P-51D Wee Willy II, provided a flight demonstration.  I found the FZ1000 more than capable for the static displays, but not quite up to snuff with the flight demo this time.  There’s a difference between an air show where the planes fly much closer to the crowd and other events such as this one.  The P-51D did make several passes, but was at a much higher elevation.  The FZ1000 can stretch out to 400mm, but that wasn’t quite enough for this event.  There is a feature in the FZ1000 to increase the range of the lens by using the digital zoom, but at the cost of resolution.  This is something I’ll investigate later and share if it proves useful.  To be fair, I’ve used my Canon 60D with Tamron 200-500mm lens at similar events and found it wanting as well.

There are 2 modes that I used during my time at the air museum.  For the static displays, I selected aperture priority.  Aperture priority is generally my preferred mode for most things such as landscapes, portraits, and most things that don’t move too fast.  When the subject is moving, I tend to shift to shutter priority.  When the shutter speed is set, the camera adjusts the aperture to match.  Because I was shooting WWII propeller planes, I used a slower shutter speed to blur the prop (usually 1/200th second).  Although the camera has the ability to be set for Auto ISO (sensitivity to light), I prefer to make the necessary changes myself.  When the light was bright and in abundance, I used ISO 125, for darker interiors I set it at ISO 1600.  There was some noise at 1600, but nothing that couldn’t be cleaned up in post.  I also shoot everything in RAW rather than jpeg.  I find RAW much more flexible for post processing.

So, with all of the stuff mentioned above, what about image quality?  As far as I’m concerned it’s more than adequate.  I’ve mentioned in previous posts (and elsewhere) that I won’t get caught up in endless debates about pixel depth, sensor size and other technical details.  Personally, I’m more interested in how a camera performs the task I’ve given it, how it feels in my hands, and the RAW image that I can spend time with in post.  I’m sure there are those who will not find the FZ1000 good enough, but I’m not among them.  There’s more to the art and craft of photography than pixels!

Here are some recent examples from my FZ1000:

There’s one more thing the FZ1000 does, and that is video. Not just video, but 4K. In case you didn’t know, 4K has twice the resolution of HD. Video isn’t something that I do much of, but with the 4K ability of the FZ1000, I couldn’t resist. My video skills aren’t that good, but the one thing that I am able to do with a video clip is what’s called a frame grab. Using Adobe Lightroom, I’m able to not only view a video, but break it down frame by frame, and grab one (copy and extract it from the actual video). The resulting image is a jpeg, and has 5 megapixel resolution. Here’s a frame that I grabbed. Other than a little cropping and resizing, I applied no other processing.

So, you may be wondering if the FZ1000 is for you. Maybe, maybe not. It depends on what you want to do with it. For some, it may be too big. It most definitely will not fit in your pocket. If that’s what you want, then you may want to look at a camera like the Sony RX100. The RX100 has a sensor of similar size and quality as the FZ1000, but in a much smaller package. The RX100 will fit in your pocket, or purse! Want to know my solution? I have them both!

That’s it for this post, until next time – Happy Shooting!

Evolving HDR Techniques

I’d like to think that I’m not too old or set in my ways to learn new things.  Especially when it comes to photography.  Although I’ve been at it for quite awhile, I admit that  there’s a lot I don’t know.

I find this especially true when it comes to HDR.  When I first discovered it, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  The images were so detailed, and has such a huge range of color and contrast.  I knew this was something I wanted to learn.  Searching online led me to Trey Ratcliff’s website – Stuck in Customs.  Not only were his images beautiful and inspiring, but he was giving away his techniques!

More searching on the web led me to other folk’s HDR work.  Most of it was pretty grungy.  And, I have to admit that I kind of liked the grunge, especially when used on old cars or machinery.  That was when I was trying to come up with my own HDR workflow,  and got caught up in the grunge.

Time has passed, and I continue in my quest to produce very clean and less “overcooked” HDR images.  The old saying that “less is more” certainly seems to be true here.  Lately I’ve been revisiting some of my previous images, and in some cases cringing.  Some of my HDR attempts were really pretty lousy.

One of the smart things I started doing is to shoot just about everything in RAW.  This has allowed me to go back and work with the original image files, and being RAW, there’s so much more adjustment latitude available.  While Jpegs are ok, they aren’t as flexible as RAW files because they are preprocessed by the camera.  That’s one reason why Jpegs look better straight out of the camera compared to a RAW file.  RAW files are meant to be post processed!  Unfortunately, I also discovered that all of the images from my Sony NEX3 were set to Jpeg.  Oh well, that’ll teach me to pay more attention to detail!

As the title of this post suggests, my techniques are evolving.  I’ve gone back to basics and worked on single image RAW files (no HDR), just to make sure that I actually had something worthy of all the processing time.  After all, if I was making nothing but crap images and tried to make them masterpieces with HDR, I was wasting a lot of time.  One of the things I discovered by doing this was some of my images really didn’t need the HDR treatment, while others would benefit with a more subtle or restrained approach.

My point to all of this is to keep learning.  Keep refining your techniques whether it’s HDR or a more traditional approach.  There are a lot of great free resources out there, and I have shared them in previous posts.  I’ll mention one of them again – HDR One.  There’s a wealth of HDR knowledge on this site and it’s worth the investment of time.

To illustrate my point, I’m going to share some of my dirty laundry, before and after processed images.  Hopefully you’ll agree that the after images are improvements.  Don’t be bashful with your comments, I can take it!

Carson Peak

Above – Before.  Over processed, poorly processed.

Carson Peak, HDR

Above – After.  In addition to a more subtle HDR approach, this image was cropped slightly differently.

Silver Lake

Above –  Before.  I’m almost ashamed to share this one. It’s hideously overcooked.

Silver Lake, HDR

Above – After.  I think this one is much better.  While it retains its wonderful detail and contrast, the colors are more natural.

Hopefully I was able to help you see what I meant by evolving techniques.  For me, it seems that I’m never quite done with processing an image.  I’m reminded of this quote – “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” ~ Ansel Adams.

Don’t be afraid to revisit some of your pictures and apply new or refined techniques to them.  You may be surprised at what you get.

Until next time – Happy Shooting!

Before and After

Before and After

It’s been too long since my last post!  Starting a new position (same Company) and the time change, and-and-and….  The extra time has allowed me to think this post through and hopefully it will help those interested in HDR.

The images above are of the same old truck, they were just processed differently and at different times.  The photo was taken at Bodie, a Ghost Town in California.  The only changes to the original below was to convert it from RAW to Jpeg and resizing.

Old Truck, Original, Sony NEX3

Overall, it’s not bad!  I used my Sony NEX3 for this and I think it handled the overhead harsh light quite nicely.  The settings I used were Aperture Priority, f/5.0, 1/500 sec., ISO 200.  I exaggerated the angle of the truck to give it a low to high perspective and a unique non-traditional point of view.

At the time I made this image, I was just getting interested in HDR photography, but didn’t really know much about it.  My thoughts were to make things as “grungy” as possible.  So, I really worked this old truck.  Since this was a single RAW file, I need to use it as a base to create the extra exposures needed for processing (Pseudo HDR).  It’s actually pretty easy to do, using programs such as Adobe’s Camera RAW or Lightroom (or several others).  Below is a screenshot of the Old Truck in Camera RAW:

Old Truck in Camera RAW

As you can see in the image above, there are quite a few adjustments you can make prior to exporting the image to your photo editor (Photoshop in my case).  The most important one to the Pseudo HDR process is the “Exposure” slider.  The exposure is currently “0”, meaning this is exactly as it was recorded in the camera.  The beauty of using RAW is being able to make adjustments to previous camera settings.  The RAW file could be considered a Digital Negative.  Click on this link to read more about RAW files.

Change the exposure in any increment you’d like + or – up to 2 stops, saving each increment as another image file.  I like to use Tiff files at this stage of the game.  You can create as many as you’d like, but for me I usually do them 1 stop apart both + and -, with 5 total images to work with.

Next, import all of your images into Photomatix or your favorite HDR processing program.  Below is a screenshot of the images merged for tone mapping in Photomatix:

Tone Mapping in Photomatix

If you compare the original RAW image to the one being tone mapped in Photomatix, you’ll already notice improvements in color, clarity, and shadow detail.  And another area of improvement is the white puffy clouds.  They seem to have more pronounced detail without being over done.

Another thing to notice in the Photomatix screen shot are all of the adjustment slider on the left and some of the presets on the right.  This is where you can either keep it real or in some cases, over-cook an image.  Since this isn’t a tutorial on using Photomatix, I’ll keep it short and say that I now stay away from the presets, and simply adjust the sliders until I get close to what I’m looking for.  Once the tone mapping process is done, you can save your newly merged and tone mapped image and bring it into your favorite photo editor for some final tweaks.

The image below is what the truck looked like after some heavy handed Photoshop adjustments:

Old Truck in Photoshop

Is there anything really wrong with this version of the Old Truck?  No, not really.  It boils down to personal taste.  While I was pleased with it at the time, I’m no longer interested in over doing the HDR, preferring instead to keep things somewhat real.

Here’s a short run-down of my “keeping it real” process.  I imported a version of the Old Truck into Photoshop that had some of the original features I wanted to retain, in this case it would be the sky.

Next, I copied that image, and pasted it into my work-in-progress as another layer.  Finally, I added a layer mask, picked a paint brush from the tools and painted away the parts of the image I wanted to keep the HDR look and left out the parts I wanted to keep real.  Here’s a screenshot of what that looked like in Photoshop:

Old Truck, Layers and Masks

There are already a lot of great tutorials on-line so I’m not going to go into specific detail.      If you like to actually see someone demonstrating this technique, I suggest going to Youtube and doing a search.  You’ll find more short videos on this subject than you may care to watch.

The main thing to know about using layers and masks is that you have the ability to blend in any part of one image with any other part of a separate image.  The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

And finally, here’s my newly re-processed version of the Old Truck:

Old Truck, Final version

Personally, I like this version much more than my original attempt.  It has both HDR elements that add some great texture and detail in the shadow areas, and just a touch of grunge without over doing it.  The other thing I like is the sky.  It’s much more real than my 1st version.  The clouds are puffy and slightly dreamy looking, not harsh and over done.

That’s it for this post!  Don’t be bashful, share your thoughts, questions, or comments.

Until next time, Happy Shooting!