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Saturday 20 July 2013

To streamline things, I have moved my WordPress.com blog over to my own website – so have a look at http://www.luxborealis.com/blog/. It is still powered by WordPress, but having it local will make it easer to update.

If you are currently subscribing to my blog, you will need to re-subscribe to the new blog location. There is a form in the side panel for doing so.

Thanks for continuing to read and support my blog. With this new set-up, I will endeavour to keep things a little more fresh!

Terry McDonald – www.luxborealis.com’s photostream

Wednesday 16 October 2013
Lake Fog at DawnBark Lake at SunriseDetail: Branches at DawnNorthern ShoreTwo Trees, Autumn DawnGolden Drops
Lakeside at DawnYellowMaple Leaf on Bed of MossMaple Leaves on BirchMorning Sun VIIMorning Sun VI
Morning Sun VMorning Sun IVMorning Sun IIIMorning Sun IIMorning Sun ISentry at Dawn
Sentry at DawnBeaver Pond at DawnEarly Dawn, Bark LakeNew Dawn, Bark lakeShelf Fungus, AutumnAutumn Colour

Terry McDonald – www.luxborealis.com’s photostream on Flickr.

More autumn photos from Bark Lake, Ontario – I’ve just uploaded the last group. Enjoy!

Lightroom 5 Public Beta Announced

Tuesday 16 April 2013

Last night I downloaded and started to “play” with LR5 Public Beta. It has some wonderful updates that will cause me to use Photoshop even less than I do now (about 1% of shots).

  • Advanced Healing Brush – Yaaaaaaah! Finally a brush rather than a spotting tool. This will greatly speed up the clean up of unsightly branches, grasses, power lines, jet trails, etc. It’s not quite as effective as content aware fill, but that’s not what I’m after as a nature and outdoor photographer;
  • Radial Graduated filter – a very helpful addition for when straight lines just don’t cut it
  • Upright – now, when shooting building, perspective control has become much easier – it really works!
  • Smart Previews – I keep all but my most recent files on an external HD. So if I am doing Develop module updates, I don’t need the external HD plugged in. Not earth-shattering, but helpful nonetheless.
  • Faster? – I’m finding Previews are much faster at loading and when zooming in but my fan runs more and switching modules is not quite as fast

There are a few more minor changes that you may or may not find helpful, but these are the major updates. In fact, this seems like more of an update than a new version.

I am looking forward to the final release as who knows what else Adobe might include. For now though – DO NOT DOWNLOAD THE LR5 PUBLIC BETA unless you are willing to create a new, separate catalogue with a few folders of images for testing. Tis is essential – you do not want to be working on your original copies as the changes may not translate exactly from the Public Beta to the Final release.

If you want to play around with the public beta…

  • read the Adobe release on the Lightroom Journal
  • download the LR5 Public Beta from the Adobe Labs page
  • create a new catalogue; I called mine LR5 Beta and put it in with my other LR catalogues in “Pictures” (WIN: My Pictures)
  • LR5 will copy your preferences from LR4 although it may not pick up your ID Plate;
  • when importing photos to this catalogue, be sure to COPY them (top middle) from folders that already exist in an LR4 catalogue with the Destination set to “Pictures > LR5 Beta”. I put them in a subfolder named for the year (e.g. 2013) and instruct LR5 to Organize “by original folders”

By following these instructions, you will now have a second copy of the original files: the original file is still in LR4; the second in the LR5 Beta folder. Tis protects your original just incase LR5 decides to hiccup or belch or worse.

To walk you through the updates, Julienne Kost has produced a few nice videos for Adobe. I can recommend them as great starting points.

Good luck and have fun!

April Art Show celebrating the Niagara Escarpment

Sunday 7 April 2013

For the month of April, I will be showing fine art photographs depicting various locations and scenes along the Niagara Escarpment in a show called Singular Moments. I have a number of 20×28″ and 16×20″ framed works, a folio of 12 photographs as well as ArtCards. All works are original, signed photographs numbered in Open Editions. Each is individually printed using pigment ink on the finest museum-quality natural rag watercolour paper.

Invite2

 

Hope to see you there!

Speed River Trail off Niska Road

Monday 19 November 2012

I had a holiday today – woo-boo – so Laurie and I went hiking on a stretch of trail we have never been on, despite living in Guelph for 20 years! Beautiful – and great photographic potential. In fact, I decided on this trail because I had seen the work of other photographers along the trail. It did not disappoint. Here are two from today. What started as a thrilling foggy day began to turn blah, but still had enough light for a couple of photographs…here they are.

Both are shot with a AF-D Micro-Nikkor ƒ2.8 on a tripod-mounted Nikon D800E and were post-capture processed in Lightroom 4. The Milkweed suffered from too much background at ƒ16, so it was aligned in Photoshop with the same shot at ƒ5.6 to provide a soft background, then the ƒ16 background was laboriously erased. As Lightroom is my workhorse and does just about everything except cook meals, this is my first instance of using Photoshop this year.

AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm ƒ3.4-4.5 VRII Lens Test on a D800E

Sunday 18 November 2012

I love my prime lenses and I love the whole approach to using primes: choosing specific focal lengths to capture specific perspectives then moving to carefully compose the photograph to make best use of the film or sensor perspectives. The alternative is a zoom lens.

Zooms have their place too. While travelling around Africa, Europe and the UK, I found my two zooms, which covered the complete focal length range from 24mm to 400mm, ideal for quick hand-held shots in a rapidly changing environment. They were both Zuiko Digital zooms and simply the best combination out there. In fact, the only reason I moved away from them was Olympus’ reticence (or lack of R&D) in coming out with a sensor with enough pixels to emulate the detail I enjoy with 6×7 and 4×5 photography.

However, since switching to the Nikon D800E and prime lenses, I have, on a few occasions, missed having the flexibility of a zoom lens, especially when shooting family snaps and shots around the school. Now, the D800E is definite overkill for snaps – quite often I have it set to capture 9MP jpegs. And, perhaps buying a zoom lens for this camera is a bit dumb as I could buy a decent point and shoot that has greater range for less than the cost of a good zoom. However, it’s also nice to have the flexibility of an excellent auto-focus, zero shutter delay and, if needed, 36mp (which, by the way, is great for cropping sports photos when the action is on the other side of the field – even when using a300mm lens!).

So what did I do? I have a wonderful family who generously assisted with my purchase of the newest Nikkor zoom, an AF-S 24-85mm ƒ3.5-4.5 VRII. The focal range is almost ideal. I would have preferred stretching it to at least 100mm as my previous zoom was a 24-120 Zuiko Digital and it was ideal. The Nikkor is also a bit slow, but when you put it in perspective, this lens covers four times the sensor size as the Zuiko 4:3s lenses, so losing half a stop and 1/3 in focal length isn’t really a big deal. If 85mm isn’t quite long enough, I can always crop with plenty of pixels “to spare”.

But how is the lens quality. I always fell that when you choose a zoom lens, it’s not for quality, but rather for convenience, so I always expect to give up some lens quality. That being said, my primes are not necessarily Nikon’s best: they are all AF-D (older designs) and cheaper builds than the newer ones. I have a 24mm ƒ2.8, a 28mm ƒ2.8, a 50mm ƒ1.8 and a 105 Micro ƒ2.8. So it was against these lenses that I would test the new zoom.

This afternoon, I set up the tripod and electronic release, set the camera to ISO 100 with Mirror Lock-up and full frame raw capture and shot a series with each lens at wide open, ƒ11 (my most-used aperture) and closed down. It was really ƒ11 that is most important to me. I know lenses are a bit mushy at larger apertures and go soft at smaller apertures due to refraction, so those are the details I will show here.

Observations

I’ll not go into a detailed account of each focal length and aperture. You can see for yourself, the differences between the primes and the 24-85mm zoom as I have included a small gallery of comparisons at each focal length at ƒ11, showing the corners only. In the gallery are comparisons at 100% of the top right corner in Lightroom’s “Compare” mode. The files have had no additional processing or sharpening. NOTE: When you look at the gallery images, be sure to click on “View Full Size” in the bottom right of the window that opens.

Needless to say, the centre of each frame is quite good and not significantly different at comparable focal lengths and apertures. What is most important to me are the corners as that is where a lens falls apart. The 24-85mm zoom didn’t disappoint, but it didn’t match the quality of the primes, either. As expected, the zoom showed more light fall-off in the corners, but quite unexpectedly, it did rather well up against the 105mm Micro-Nikkor. I also didn’t expect the 50mm ƒ1.8 to perform as well as it did – it looks great in the corners.

One unexpected difference was in colour saturation and exposure. While the primes had slightly higher contrast (as expected), the zoom has slightly richer colours which may be a result of exposures from the zoom being 1/3 to 3/4 of a stop darker. Not a big problem, but unexpected. Perhaps the stated maximum aperture of the zoom is not as wide as claimed meaning the ƒ3.5 is really a ƒ4 or 4.5. That is one real bonus of prime lenses – they are generally faster than zooms in the sae relative price range and primes are of higher quality at maximum aperture.

So, is the AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm VRII lens good enough to walk around with? Yes it is – just. I am well aware of its shortcomings – which are not too serious, really – and plan to make good use of this lens. However, I will not be using it for my dedicated landscape and nature shots. I will forego the convenience of having a range of focal lengths in one lens and will gladly switch primes when I feel the shot really deserves the kind of quality I can get from prime lenses.

Autumn is here!

Sunday 30 September 2012

It’s been a busy September for me – too busy to even write a post.

For the past week, I’ve been up at Bark Lake Leadership Centre with a group of Grade 10s from St. John’s-Kilmarnock School. It is the first of two intensive weeks of a locally designed Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecosystems science course. We have the students working outdoors and in right from our 7:30am microclimate data gathering session to the end of evening case studies at 10pm – which, for me, leaves precious little time to capture the spectacular beauty around Bark Lake.

Each morning I had about 40 minutes of light prior to the microclimate study I supervise. With sunrise around 7am, that meant most of my dawn shooting was before sunrise. I also got out one evening for some night photography plus another morning of landscapes. However the beauty and accessibility of spectacular views more than made up for the limited time I had. Below you’ll find a small gallery of images from the week. I think the over-riding factors for success this week was the wonderful lighting and the almost complete lack of wind. There’s nothing that spoils a great landscape like wind and having consistently beautiful mornings made the few minutes of photography I had a complete pleasure. In fact, I probably had more minutes of  ideal conditions in this week than I had all year long!

All images are shot with a Nikon D800e with Nikkor primes and are processed in Lightroom 4. The D800e performed magnificently – especially with the night photos. Combined with Lightroom 4, I was surprised with what could be brought out of the shadows with virtually no grain or noise, just a few hot pixels after 4 to 8 minutes of exposure. I will work some more on this to determine if it is better to have a shorter exposure with higher ISO (more grain) or a longer exposure at a lower ISO to reduce grain.

The new adjustments of LR4 were really stretched as I often used -100 Highlights with +100 Shadows to reduce the contrast of the bright autumn sunshine. I am continually amazed at what LR can do with images to tweak them to what I pre-visualized in the field.

My 24mm was the workhorse with the Micro-Nikkor 105mm also a favourite. Less-used were the 20mm, 50mm and 300mm. Although all were needed at some point, I could have lived with only the 24 and 105.

Here’s the gallery – Enjoy!