My Favorite Tools

These are great tools, amazingly accurate and completely mechanical – nothing digital here. The micrometer (on the left) is supposed to be accurate to 1/10,000th of an inch! But, I digress.
The “favorite tools” I’m talking about are photography tools. Of course, my true favorites are whatever camera and lens I’m using, but this changes about as often as the weather, so I’ll talk about processing tools.
For me, the “Big Dog” is Adobe Lightroom. It’s where I do all of my organizing, placing images in appropriate folders and tagging them with keywords. But more importantly, it is just an amazingly powerful image editor. It is often where I start and finish my post processing.
However, another feature of Lightroom that I love is it’s ability to easily export an image to something like Nik Silver Efex Pro (used for this image) and then automatically reimport the changes when you finish.
And, Nik Silver Efex Pro is another of my favorite tools, but only one of several in the Nik stable of editors: Color Efex Pro, HDR Efex Pro, and Viveza are also incredibly useful programs and I use them all frequently.
They are a bit expensive, but for me, well worth it.

Bar Lighting, Sony, Lightroom 4

I know – what do those things all have in common? Well, not much but I’ll get to that later.

It’s not only common, but almost universal that the lighting in bars will be soft and low. I don’t know if it’s for ambience, privacy (maybe you won’t be recognized), or just to make us all look a little better than we really do. 🙂
Another constant in bar lighting is found behind the bar – the liquor is brightly lit and glowing as if to say, “drink me”. It must work because I’ve always heard that most restaurants survive on their bar revenue, not food sales.

Whatever the reasons for these lighting contrasts, it worked well for me, giving me another chance to test the capabilities of the Sony A65 with the Sony 16-50mm lens.

This was shot with the camera in Sony’s “hand-held twilight” mode, in which the camera sets the ISO (up to 6400) at a high enough level to allow a faster shutter speed. Then, when the shutter is released, it automatically takes 6 exposures and combines them to reduce high ISO noise. So far, it seems to me that sharpness is mainly a function of how still you can hold the camera.

This image was shot at an ISO of 1,000 and came out very sharp with very low noise, too. I’m also happy to report that after just a few images with the 16-50mm lens, I am very pleased – it is producing extremely sharp images with great color and contrast.

Finally, I lightly processed the image in Lightroom 4 (beta). There’s still much to learn about the new LR4, but the sliders just seem to make more sense and work better, the map function is a great addition, you can email images directly from within LR, and of course they’ve now fully integrated the Blurb book making service. There are many other improvements, but these are the ones I noticed on day 1.

Check it out – I think you’ll like it, too.

Fiery Dawn on Snowy Pines

A while back, I was treated to a spectacular, fiery sunrise the morning after a few inches of fresh snow softly coated the pines near home.

Here was a golden opportunity to try out some HDR (High Dynamic Range), using the Nikon D7000.  So far I’ve been thrilled with the results from this camera, finding it to produce very clean images with low noise at reasonable ISO’s.

One of the things I’m really liking is the ability to save settings to two of the positions on the mode dial:  U1 and U2.  I haven’t tried everything but I’m happy to report that you can save your AEB (bracketing) settings and even other positions on the mode dial.  For instance, when I select U1 now, the camera is set to the Aperture Mode and is ready to shoot 3 bracketed images with 2 EV spacing – quick and easy!

Once the images were downloaded, I used Nik’s HDR Efex Pro to create this image. In this case, I was only able to use two of my bracketed images and was surprised and pleased with the result.  HDR Efex Pro is a great addition to the software possibilities available for HDR work and gives you a good number of presets to choose from, plus it has Nik’s proprietary U-Point technology as one of it’s tools.

The Hacker

Looks can be so deceiving – just look at her. She looks like the sweetest, most innocent dog on the planet. Well, she sure had me fooled, too.

I’ve been suspecting that someone has been using my computer but couldn’t imagine who it could be – we haven’t had company in over a week. Then, today I walked into my office and caught the culprit, red-handed – my dog, Bella! I was just in time, too. She was about to place a HUGE order with the online pet store: dog treats, dog toys, new bedding, a cat (someone to torment, I suppose), and misc. other “goodies”!

Man, if you can’t trust your dog, who can you trust? 🙂

Old Ford F600

I found this old Ford tow truck in Sedalia, Colorado. I couldn’t tell for sure, but it looks like it may still be in service.

Taken with the Sony A77 w/Sony-Zeiss 16-80mm, In-Camera HDR.
Processed with Topaz Adjust, using the Spicify filter.