Balancing Act

There was a big, bright full moon on Feb. 7th, so I hoped to get a great photo, but the clouds intervened. So, I did the next best thing…I took a daylight shot and made it look like a moonlight shot!

The next morning after the sun was well up, about 9:30 a.m., I took this photo. Then the fun started.

I almost always shoot in RAW because it gives me a few more options “after” I get the image on the computer and this was one of those cases. In Lightroom (4 beta), I just changed the white balance setting from “as shot” (which was daylight) to “tungsten”, which resulted in this bluish hue. I think it makes it look like it was taken at night under a bright moon instead of during a bright, mid-morning daytime.

We all know that colors can be manipulated, even with a jpg. However, this can sometimes result in added noise in the image. The big benefit of using a raw file and adjusting the color temp/white balance is that it is non-destructive and introduces no noise into the image.

Another thing I’ve learned is that with the newer Sonys (and many other cameras, I’m sure), is that you can actually preview this effect in the viewfinder before you even take the shot…nice!

Sony a65 w/Sony 16-50mm

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Having Options

I’m always a bit nervous when I’m in the car while my wife drives … I have to be REALLY tired to sleep. 🙂 And I shouldn’t be that way because she really is an excellent driver (well, mostly).

Today, I was looking at my computer keyboard and it occurred to me why I might be like that. I flew airplanes for 33 years and for about half that time, I was the guy in charge. Many times in the Air Force, I would be the leader of a flight of four F-4’s. Then, with Delta, I was the Captain for the last 12 years. I made the decisions.

So the keyboard made me think, “Having options is a function of being in command, i.e. in control of your situation.”

So, “Honey”, please don’t get mad – it’s just a lifelong habit. I really do trust you . . . really. 🙂

Perfect Photo

No, of course this isn’t the perfect photo. However, it was processed with onOne Software’s Perfect Photo Suite 6.

I’ve had the software installed for a couple of months, but this is the first time I’ve taken a close look at some of it’s capabilities. Still, I only used one of the six modules, the Perfect Effects.

This is a perfectly white pitcher with no defects in the finish. So, using the Perfect Effects module, I selected the Textures tab and picked the “Cracked Paint” preset. The beauty of Perfect Effects is that it not only has over 300 presets available to you, but those presets are very flexible with options to change several of the settings.

As the name implies, Perfect Photo Suite 6 is a suite of six modules:

  • Perfect Portrait
  • Perfect Layers
  • Perfect Effects
  • Perfect Mask
  • Perfect Resize
  • Focal Point
These various modules give us photographers some terrific tools for solving some of the processing problems we face with different images, plus a huge variety of creative effects to take those photos in new directions.
Check it out – I think you’ll like it!
Sony a65 w/Sony 16-50mm

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.

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? 🙂