Saturday, 20 July 2013

Sunset reflection

I took this photo last year in Masuria, Poland. This shot would be impossible to take without HDR (or other techniques of extending dynamic range) because this scene had very high dynamic range. The was both very bright sun and dark forest in the frame.

Technical details:
Camera: Canon 50D
Lens: Canon 10-22 f/3.5-4.5 USM
Focal length: 10 mm
Aperture: f/18.0
Exposure time: 1/25 s ("middle" exposure)
ISO: 100
Number of exposures: 7
E.V. Step: 1 EV
Flash used: no
Tripod: yes
Filters: no
Software: Magic Lantern 2.3, Photomatix Pro 4.2.7 (Details Enhancer), Lightroom 5.0, Photoshop CC

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Friday, 19 July 2013

Street in Barcelona

Barcelona. One of the most beautiful cities I've ever been to. I'd love to go there one more time in the future. Especially as by the time I was there I was just starting with photography and HDR photography (many of my HDR photos from that time have that nice grungy feel to them :) ) so I don't have many good shots. And ones which are quite good were probably taken by accident.

Here is one of the very few photos from Barcelona that I quite like. I'm happy with the textures in this shot and with overall composition. The road leads the eye and so does the light. Dark at sides the image becomes much brighter in the center what attracts viewer attention.

Unfortunately no EXIF data today... this photo is from times where I didn't care about preserving metadata and often accidentally stripped it. I didn't feel as this data was useful :)

BTW I'd like to recommend a great article written by one of my favorite travel photographers +Jim Nix . In his article Jim talks about an interesting phenomenon each of us faces at some point (I do quite often in fact ;) ). Not all photos we love, will be loved by our viewers. Photos which we find breathtaking mind be considered "nothing special" by others. But it is also opposite - photos we ourselves find poor or boring sometimes might get a lot of attention and affection. For me the main reason why it is this way is that apart from the photo itself, its author has memories, impressions and feelings regarding situation in which the photo was taken. They can affect opinion on the photo (remember that beautiful sound of roaring waves during sunrise? You get the idea). What I also found out is that many of my popular photos were taken in my home town. I find them quite boring because I see those things everyday. But for someone who hasn't been to Warsaw (I really recommend it BTW!) it might be more interesting.

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Thursday, 18 July 2013

Thoughts: Reality is boring

Reality is boring. It might be controversial but that's the way it is. Let's face it. It can be beautiful (and often is!), I don't deny it, but at the same time we're so used to it that in many cases we, photographers, have to cheat to make it more appealing to the viewers. Otherwise many (or even majority!) of our photos would be mediocre, boring, lifeless.

For that reason we shoot long exposure (or ultra fast exposure) like in the image above to show motion of water and thus to make the image more dynamic than the scene really was. Moreover we use shallow depth of field to blur background and isolate the subject which wasn't really isolated, we use ultra wide angle lenses to show more than eye can see, use black & white treatment to add more drama and mood to otherwise fairly calm scene. Also for that very reason we use polarizing filters to boost colors, or increase saturation in post. For the same reason we photograph subjects from different perspective than we see normally: flowers from the ground level, mountains from above clouds level and boats from underwater.

Technical details:
Camera: Canon 5D MK II
Lens: Canon 24-105 f/4 L IS USM
Focal length: 24 mm
Aperture: f/13.0
Exposure time: 4 s ("middle" exposure)
ISO: 100
Number of exposures: 7
E.V. Step: 1 EV
Flash used: no
Tripod: yes
Filters: ND8 neutral density filter
Software: Magic Lantern 2.3, Photomatix Pro 4.2.7 (Details Enhancer), Lightroom 5.0, Photoshop CC

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Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Hot news from Magic Lantern - improved Dynamic Range!

I didn't have a chance to test this update from Magic Lantern yet so instead of a test photo I'm posting one that is hot :) Literally.
I'm normally not sharing any news from the photography world but I think this one deserves breaking the rules. Guys at Magic Lantern team have just managed to improve dynamic range of 2 cameras: 5D MK III and 7D! First one is now capable of capturing 14 stops of light (that's right - 14 EV, like Nikon D800!) instead of its standard 10 - 11 stops. Huge improvement. What's more you can use this feature both for stills and video in case of 5D MK III (only for stills in case of 7D though). I can't wait to test it out.

You can read whole discussion on the Magic Lantern forum. There are a few samples showing the difference there. There is also a whitepaper detailing how all this was done. You can read this PDF here.

But as there is no rose without a thorn, there is a price to pay for this:
  • half resolution in highlights and shadows,
  • aliasing and moire artifacts,
For me reduced resolution might be a problem but I have to check the build to tell if it's really that bad. Also I'm pretty sure Alex and the rest will finally manage to get over it somehow.

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Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Park Guell in Barcelona

Park Guell (in Catalan - Parc Güell, in Spanish - Parque Güell) in Barcelona. This park designed by famous Catalan architect, Antonio Gaudi, for his friend Eusebio Guell is the most amazing and incredible park I've ever been to. Full of fantastic and surreal structures, dream-like buildings, with fantastic view of the city of Barcelona it's really one of a kind.

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Monday, 15 July 2013

Late walk in the ruins

I haven't uploaded anything from Lisbon for some time and I still have some photos from there. So today I decided to share a photo taken during golden hour inside ruins of Carmo Convent. I shared similar photos earlier but this one is a bit different.

Technical details:
Camera: Canon 50D
Lens: Canon 10-22 f/3.5-4.5 USM
Focal length: 10 mm
Aperture: f/9.0
Exposure time: 1/125 s ("middle" exposure)
ISO: 100
Number of exposures: 3
E.V. Step: 2 EV
Flash used: no
Tripod: no
Filters: no
Software: Magic Lantern 2.3, Photomatix Pro 4.2.7 (Details Enhancer), Lightroom 5.0, Photoshop CC

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Sunday, 14 July 2013

Reflection of a palace

Water Palace in Warsaw
Click on the photo to view it in large size on black background.
This is not the best summer for landscape photographers in Warsaw (and tourists too) as many of the main attractions are completely, or partially, closed due to revitalization, eg. parts of Old Town, Pilsudski Square, parts of Royal Baths Park with Water Palace from the image above, west bank of Vistula River. Good thing is that most of them will be opened again in a few months and they will look much better. I wait for that moment impatiently because I have some ideas for photos which I can't really execute right now...

Technical details:
Camera: Canon 5D MK II
Lens: Canon 24-105 f/4 L IS USM
Focal length: 24 mm
Aperture: f/4.5
Exposure time: 1/50 s ("middle" exposure)
ISO: 100
Number of exposures: 3
E.V. Step: 2 EV
Flash used: no
Tripod: no
Filters: no
Software: Magic Lantern 2.3, Photomatix Pro 4.2.7 (Details Enhancer), Lightroom 5.0, Photoshop CC

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Saturday, 13 July 2013

Macro photo and 2 new HD wallpapers

I realized that I hadn't added any new wallpaper for quite a long time so today I uploaded 2 new images to the Wallpapers section. You can find their thumbnails below. I hope you'll enjoy them!



Technical details:
Camera: Canon 5D MK II
Lens: Canon 100 f/2.8 L IS USM Macro
Focal length: 100 mm
Aperture: f/10.0
Exposure time: 1/30 s
ISO: 100
Number of exposures: 1
E.V. Step: n/a
Flash used: yes, macro flash
Tripod: yes
Filters: no
Software: Magic Lantern 2.3, Lightroom 5.0, Photoshop CC

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Friday, 12 July 2013

Twilight

Royal Palace in Madrid
Click on the photo to view it in large size on black background.
I took this photo in Madrid from the gardens in front of Royal Palace. One of the huge benefits of blue hour is that light looks really magical, almost surreal. You could think that I made this image oversaturated but the truth is blues in the original shots were even more vibrant and I had to reduce their saturation.

Technical details:
Camera: Canon 5D MK II
Lens: Canon 24-105 f/4 L IS USM
Focal length: 67 mm
Aperture: f/16.0
Exposure time: 3.2 s ("middle" exposure)
ISO: 200
Number of exposures: 7
E.V. Step: 1 EV
Flash used: no
Tripod: yes
Filters: no
Software: Magic Lantern 2.3, Photomatix Pro, Lightroom 5.0, Photoshop CC

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Thursday, 11 July 2013

Magic Lantern - beyond 2.3... what's new?

Magic Lantern nightly builds
This photo shows a small port in the town of El Cotillo on Fuerteventura Island.
If you're a user of Magic Lantern (and if you're a Canon shooter like me I really recommend that) you might wonder when there will be new version as last stable version (that is 2.3) was released quite some time ago. In fact new version is here... everyday. You can get it here. These are so called "nightly builds" meaning that they are built everyday. Of course one of the drawbacks is that they aren't tested very well so they might have stability issues as well as other bugs.

However, list of new features added since 2.3 should really make you consider installing it (and new features are added daily). Also many users install it and bugs are fixed quite fast after they are discovered.

If you're into recording videos you probably already heard that guys at Magic Lantern managed to enable 14-bit RAW video recording at Full HD resolution (even for 50D which didn't support video recording at all!). This is huge for sure but as I'm not really interested in movie making I find other features more important and useful for my type of work.

Here are my favourite features added after 2.3 release:
  • RAW histogram and RAW zebras - did you know that Canon firmware shows histograms based on JPG preview of a photo? The problem is that although JPG histogram might show clipping, there might still be some room when shooting RAW. Magic Lantern now overcomes this limitation by enabling RAW histograms and zebras (which shows clipping).
  • Auto ETTR (Expose To The Right) - Expose To The Right is a well-known technique which in short is about making sure the histogram is right aligned (that is the image is slightly overexposed). Due to various reasons I won't describe here (like signal to noise ratio) this results in a higher quality image with lower noise than by "properly" exposing photos. Auto ETTR feature finds right exposure automatically. You just press a button and you get optimal exposure parameters.
  • Automatic AF micro adjustment using DotTune method - when lens and camera bodies are manufactured there is always a margin for AF to be slightly "off". This means that lens might produce back- or front-focused images. To make it easy to get rid of this issue, Canon added a microadjustment feature to their cameras allowing user to correct for this. However, fixing this is still tedious and rather difficult task. Fortunately this feature make it much easier to set AF micro adjustments. You mount your camera on a tripod, focus manually on a high contrast subject and start DotTune command from Magic Lantern menu. After about 2 minutes micro adjustment is found.
  • New GUI - Magic Lantern also got a new look & feel. I find it clearer and more intuitive. You might think GUI is not that important but it makes working with ML much easier and effective.
  • Audio notes - does it often happen to you that you forget some details about the shoot when you're back at home? Your thoughts, impressions, feelings, names of places or people in the photos? Now you can record them. Take a picture, hold a SET button and add your Audio Note. Unfortunately this feature doesn't seem to be supported by 5D MK III :(
There are tons of other improvements and fixes like eg. Warnings when you shoot JPEGs instead of RAWs, DOF and Flash bracketing, and much much more.

If you're brave enough to try nightly build, head to Magic Lantern website and discover all other features yourself.

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Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Hippo

Today photo of hippo from Warsaw zoo.

Technical details:
Camera: Canon 5D MK III
Lens: Canon 70-300 f/4-5.6 L IS USM
Focal length: 155 mm
Aperture: f/7.1
Exposure time: 1/160 s
ISO: 500
Number of exposures: 1
E.V. Step: n/a
Flash used: no
Tripod: no
Filters: circular polarizing filter
Software: Lightroom 5.0, Photoshop CC

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Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Relaxing on the grass

This beautiful gorilla was enjoying his free time by relaxing on the grass and eating some leaves he found there. He was crowded by a large group of people but fortunately I was able to stick my 70-300 between them and take a few portraits of him.

BTW after processing a few more photos taken with 5D MK III I have some further observations. The colour reproduction is slightly better than with 5D MK II (the colours are more natural to me). Also noise tends to be lower despite what some lab tests show (it's always good to compare not only test photos but also real life ones).

Technical details:
Camera: Canon 5D MK III
Lens: Canon 70-300 f/4-5.6 L IS USM
Focal length: 300 mm
Aperture: f/5.6
Exposure time: 1/250 s
ISO: 800
Number of exposures: 1
E.V. Step: n/a
Flash used: no
Tripod: no
Filters: circular polarizing filter
Software: Lightroom 5.0, Photoshop CC

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Sunday, 7 July 2013

Playful tigers

This scene might look like a fight but in fact those two beautiful tigers from Warsaw Zoo were only playing together. Have you ever watched kittens (or at least young cats)? If so it looked exactly the same. Some sort of wrestling but without desire to hurt the other side.

Yesterday I mentioned fantastic continuous AF of 5D MK III. Another great feature is fast burst mode with 6 frames per second. These two features made it really easy to capture photo like above. I focused once and then followed the action having shutter release pressed for a few seconds.

Technical details:
Camera: Canon 5D MK III
Lens: Canon 70-300 f/4-5.6 L IS USM
Focal length: 252 mm
Aperture: f/8.0
Exposure time: 1/250 s
ISO: 250
Number of exposures: 1
E.V. Step: n/a
Flash used: no
Tripod: no
Filters: circular polarizing filter
Software: Lightroom 5.0, Photoshop CC

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Saturday, 6 July 2013

Switch to 5D MK III

As some of you already know I recently switched from 5D MK II to 5D MK III after more than a year of using the first. Although you will have to wait for a complete review a couple of days I can already say that this camera is really amazing and a really big improvement over its predecessor. New AF system is fantastic. I was photographing some quickly moving animals with continuous focus and most of them turned out properly focused. With 5D MK II it would be very difficult.

For now I upload one photo which I took today in Warsaw Zoo.

Technical details:
Camera: Canon 5D MK III
Lens: Canon 70-300 f/4-5.6 L IS USM
Focal length: 300 mm
Aperture: f/8.0
Exposure time: 1/320 s
ISO: 320
Number of exposures: 1
E.V. Step: n/a
Flash used: no
Tripod: no
Filters: circular polarizing filter
Software: Lightroom 5.0, Photoshop CC

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Friday, 5 July 2013

Reflection of sunset

Nothing spectacular today - just a photo of a sunset I took in Madrid. It was raining earlier that day so there were a lot of puddles. As there was no interesting view really I decided to use reflection as a foreground element.

Technical details:
Camera: Canon 5D MK II
Lens: Canon 24-105 f/4 L IS USM
Focal length: 67 mm
Aperture: f/18.0
Exposure time: 2.5 s ("middle" exposure)
ISO: 100
Number of exposures: 7
E.V. Step: 1 EV
Flash used: no
Tripod: yes
Filters: ND8 neutral density filter
Software: Magic Lantern 2.3, Photomatix Pro, Lightroom 5.0, Photoshop CC

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Thursday, 4 July 2013

Water Palace

Today I would like to share a HDR photo of Water Palace in Royal Baths Park in Warsaw.

Technical details:
Camera: Canon 5D MK II
Lens: Canon 24-105 f/4 L IS USM
Focal length: 24 mm
Aperture: f/5.0
Exposure time: 1/125 s ("middle" exposure)
ISO: 400
Number of exposures: 3
E.V. Step: 2
Flash used: no
Tripod: no
Filters: no
Software: Magic Lantern 2.3, Photomatix Pro 4.2.7 (Details Enhancer), Lightroom 5, Photoshop CC

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Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Montpellier Cathedral

I really liked cathedral in Montpellier - it's quite monumental, especially the entrance with very tall columns (you can see them in the photo above). And what's interesting on the left to it (in what seems to be extension of cathedral building) is situated medical university.

I used UWA (ultra wide-angle) lens because there wasn't much space and I wanted to fit cathedral and its surrounding in a frame.

Technical details:
Camera: Canon 50D
Lens: Canon 10-22 f/3.5-4.5 USM
Focal length: 10 mm
Aperture: f/7.1
Exposure time: 1/250 s ("middle" exposure)
ISO: 100
Number of exposures: 3
E.V. Step: 2
Flash used: no
Tripod: no
Filters: no
Software: Magic Lantern 2.3, Photomatix Pro 4.2.7 (Details Enhancer), Lightroom 5, Photoshop CC
Photomatix Pro settings: download

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Monday, 1 July 2013

Tutorial: how to save disk space

You probably know this issue - you take thousands of photographs on each of your photo shoots. You shoot mainly RAW. You don't have time to delete all bad photos after copying them to disk. You quickly end up with a few TB disk being completely full. You know this, don't you?

It's what happens to me every few weeks or months so I would like to share some tips with you what you can do to minimize this (or at least to slow this process down a little bit):
  • If you use Lightroom, always import your photos as DNGs from memory cards instead of RAWs. One of the huge benefits of DNG files is that they are by 15% or more smaller than original RAWs! For 100 GB of RAWs you can save 15 GB of memory or more this way. But for 1 TB it becomes as much as 150 GB! Big difference. You can make DNGs even smaller by using compression but as this is related to loss of quality I'm not doing this myself.
  • Convert existing RAW photos to DNGs. If you're like me, you probably still have a lot of RAWs on your disk. You can convert them from Library module in Lightroom at any time by invoking Library -> Convert Photo to DNG command. Bear in mind that any adjustments made to original RAWs would be impossible to revert after doing so. So you might consider resetting adjustments and only then convert to DNG.
  • In Photoshop never ever save your intermediary results as TIFF. Use PSD (or PSB for very large photos) instead. TIFF files, especially those not compressed, can be even a few times larger than PSD files.
  • In Photoshop remove any unused layers or channels before saving. They can greatly increase image size.
  • In Photoshop you can also consider flattening your layers or merging visible layers. In my case I hardly ever make adjustments to an already edited photo in PSD files. More frequently I apply sharpening to an already processed photo (but for this I need only final image without any other layers) or start processing my photo from scratch. As PSDs still can be quite large (1 GB or more), you can save a lot of space this way.
  • Constantly go through your TODO folders and remove photos you don't like. Otherwise you'll end up with 100k of unprocessed shots most of which you don't like at all (and for that reason will never process them). I usually take from 4000 to 8000 photos during 1 week trip. Quite a lot. As soon as I'm home I start to remove photos I don't like. At this stage I remove technically bad photos like the ones with focusing issues or much too noisy. When I start to process my photos several weeks later I remove more photos and more and more. Eventually I end up with only 100 to 400 photos left. Usually these are the best ones.
  • Use cloud services. Cloud storage became very cheap these days and one of its benefits is that it's quite safe. It's more probable than your local hard drive will crash than you will loose data stored in the cloud. Another benefit is that this way your data is accessible from all over the world - you don't need to carry disks with you.

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