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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Calibrating Your Photography

Calibrations - Some say you have to calibrate your monitor.  Why?  No, really, why?  There are a lot more reasons why you don't need to than why you do.  If you are a professional photographer working on an ad campaign or for a magazine, then you would probably need to, although I know of one photographer who said she never does...and she is one of the top photographers in her field.  And photo labs need to calibrate their equipment to give their customers consistent results.  But for an individual photographer, calibration would add time and cost...and most likely not make a bit of difference in the end result.  He or she would need a much more expensive monitor, plus the calibration software.

If you send your photos to a lab, with proper instructions, after a few times they will learn how you like your images printed.  If you do them yourself, you will also learn how to get them to look the way you want.  Everyone has a different monitor, so unless everyone calibrates theirs, if you send them your images they will look different on their computer, tablet, or cell phone monitors anyway.  Also, everyone's color vision is not the same.  Once you have a print that you like, then all you have to do is lighten or darken the monitor to match, perhaps change a few other settings.  And from then on, what you see on your screen and the print output should be the same.  Actually, I suppose you could call that a calibration of sorts, but not the calibration photographers are talking about.

Back in the film days, when I used to make prints in the darkroom, I would make a test prints with several different exposures on strips of photo paper, and then look at them in the light to see which was best.  The same can be done now if needed.  If you're having a large print made (say 24x30 or larger), crop the most important part of the photo (say into a 4x5 of the same part of the image) and ask the lab for a few sample prints.  Then you can tell them which one you prefer.  You may also want to know what kind of light it will be viewed under (daylight, tungsten, how light or dark the environment, etc.) as that will affect how it will appear.  And finally, it may also depend on what material the image is printed on - paper, metal, canvas, wood, etc.

How you shoot the photo in your camera can also make a difference.  This is why I shoot in RAW - I can then adjust the white balance (color balance) in Lightroom if needed, along with any other adjustments without worrying about artifacts showing up (artifact, as used here, means any feature that is not naturally present but is a product of an extrinsic agent, method, or the like) fine-tuning it.  If I shot in jpg and had the wrong white balance set, and saved it multiple times trying to get the color balance correct, it might result in unwanted artifacts showing - perhaps banding, noise, etc. (see photos below).  You'll know when you see them.  Eliminate the variables.  White balance is one of them.  You don't need to think about camera calibration when you shoot in RAW, although you still need correct exposure, and once you know how your camera renders the images, you can set Lightroom (or whatever program you use) to adjust for color/white balance and exposure during import, and then

This is how I shoot and edit - it works very well for portraits, headshots, street photography, natural beauty, nature, or whatever else I shoot.  The important thing is that people love the final photos.

The photo above taken at the Santa Monica Pier is the original with some minor adjustments and saved once.

This second photo has been saved multiple times, resulting in more noise and artifacts, which is pretty obvious in the sky and the wooden pier.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

GMO's & Glyphosate, and Vaccines

I always thought GMO's were bad for you, and that glyphosate (and Roundup) were probably carcinogens.  The reason was that I wondered how our bodies could possibly use "food" that it never before encountered.  It may be made of the same basic ingredients, but in forms that it wouldn't recognize.  Sort of like changing a key and expecting it to open the same lock, even though the key is still made of the same metal.  After watching GMO's Revealed over the last nine days (yes, all nine episodes, each around 2 hours in length), I've discovered that GMO's are infinitely worse than I had thought.  I am so glad I've avoided them as much as I have, which is almost 100%, except perhaps by accident or if eating out, which I seldom do.

What has happened over the last 40 years?  Fertility rates have dropped 50%, autism has gone from around 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 48 (1 in 25 for boys), diabetes has skyrocketed, cancer is skyrocketing (and at younger ages) as have many other health problems.  Even sports injuries have been rising.  If you were to draw graphs of all these changes and compare it to graphs of glyphosate and Roundup usage, GMO production, and vaccinations, you would see parallel slopes.  The GMO's Revealed went into details into how this is happening and how they interact with our bodies, and after watching it I have no doubt these, as well as vaccines, are responsible for our current state of health in this country.

Occasionally, something I've eaten may have had hidden GMO's - like anything with soy, corn, or canola.  They even put canola in trail mixes.  Fructose is from corn, but even from organic corn it is still bad for you, but worse if from regular corn (GMO).

How do you go non-GMO?  By going organic or non-GMO certified.  If you are experiencing health problems and no one knows why, do what I did 40 years ago - go to a healthy diet, which means no GMO's and preferably organic.  Eliminate chemicals, artificial ingredients, sugars, added natural flavors (which may not be so natural), and do this for at least 6 - 12 months.  Then see how you feel at the end of that time.

What else should you do?  Look around you.  Talk to your friends and neighbors and those who are not well, find out what kind of food they eat - most likely fast foods, processed foods, and junk foods - all of which probably contain GMO's.  And see who never gets sick and find out what they eat.  I've lived both ways, and before age 30 I was sick several times a year and had many other health problems.  I got sick and tired of being sick and tired and changed my diet, then added supplements to it, and now no longer get sick and got rid of the other health problems.  It has made a huge difference in the quality of my life.

One more piece of food for thought - they claim GMO foods are the same as regular foods.  If they are the same they couldn't patent them, could they?  So they are not the same.  When the body sees something it doesn't recognize, the immune system attacks it.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Terrorism vs Vaccines (and GMO's?)

NOTE:  I've been writing more about photography recently as this is a photography blog; however, vaccines and GMO's are an extremely important topic, as they affect your health and your life.  Therefore, it is important to be aware of the dangers and spread the word and do your own research from independent sources.

From CNN:  "According to the US State Department, the number of US citizens killed overseas as a result of incidents of terrorism from 2001 to 2014 was 369.  In addition, we compiled all terrorism incidents inside the United States and found that between 2001 and 2014, there were 3,043 people killed in domestic acts of terrorism.* This brings the total to 3,412."  Keep in mind that these numbers include 9/11.

From VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System):  Deaths from vaccines from 2000 - 2015 that were reported to VAERS:  6,571.  Keep in mind that the CDC has said only 1 in 10 adverse events and injuries actually get reported to VAERS, and others have said it may be only 1 in 100 or less.  But let's say 1 in 10 - that would mean 65,710 deaths from vaccines.  To see the injuries found in VAERS, here is a Link to that information.  Don't forget to multiply all the totals by at least 10, or you could try different multiples of 10 which would probably be more accurate.

In the same time period, almost no one has died as a result of these diseases.  If I remember, it was between 1-3 that were attributed to measles, but it could have also been underlying factors (perhaps poor nutrition or weakened immune system, etc.?).  Note that all the information about vaccines is from the U.S.  In third world and other countries where poor nutrition, famine, poor or no sanitation, contaminated drinking water, etc. exist, these same diseases will kill exponentially more than in the U.S.  Almost forgot, there is a series going on right now called Vaccines Revealed (this is a link to it).

I added GMO's (and the link) because I have been watching the series, "The Truth About GMO's" and although it's too early to know what all the effects may be, they have the potential to be catastrophic.  There are nine episodes in all to the series, but only 5 left at this time, although they usually have a replay of all of the series at some point in time.  I hope you'll watch at least parts of it and draw your own conclusions.  Keep in mind that when we talk about GMO's, we need to include glyphosate and Roundup.  Unlike with drugs and vaccines, GMO's, once released, can't be recalled.

Why should you be concerned?  For starters, cancer is on the rise, diabetes is on the rise, autism has risen exponentially and is continuing on the rise, other neurological problems are on the rise, gut problems are on the rise, obesity is on the rise, and in the last 40 years, fertility rates have dropped 50%.  What has happened or changed in the last 40 years?  The amount of vaccines given has increased many times over, and GMO's have started being produced in what might be called Frankenstein methods.  Both of these events have happened with no long term studies.

You've probably heard of the Precautionary Principle - where actual long term studies are done before releasing the experiment on the population.  Hasn't happened with vaccines or GMO's.

In medicine, they say, "First, do no harm."  Yet doctors are aware that vaccines can kill and injure.  How are they allowed to give them?

And, of course, there's the Nuremberg Code - which basically said people cannot be experimented upon without their consent.  Vaccines and GMO's are an experiment.

Seems like when there is money involved, the wisdom of the ages goes out the window.  The only way to stop these things is to get educated, to boycott GMO's, demand safe and effective vaccines or refuse them if that doesn't happen, and to spread the word.

This may not be the most well-organized blog post, LOL, but wanted to get it out so you can catch the remaining episodes about GMO's.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Camera and Lens Sharpness

Do you Google lens and camera reviews before buying them?  Do you look at some sample photos from the camera and lens you are interested in buying?  There are many things to consider.  How will you use the camera and lens (portraits, family, travel, sports, etc.)?  Will you want the camera to have a fixed lens or interchangeable one?  Do you want a zoom or fixed focal length lens?  What's the smallest or largest f stop that you would want? How much do you want to spend (there can be a huge difference in price between "professional" and "consumer lenses, perhaps thousands of dollars)?  There are some of the questions you may have.

Showing the results with one lens and camera may help give some insight into some of the above questions.  I'll be using the Nikon 28-300 f3.5-5.6 VR (Vibration Reduction to reduce or eliminate camera shake) lens, which is rated as a consumer lens - as opposed to a "professional" lens.  It is meant for full frame Nikon cameras, such as the Nikon D600/610, which has a larger sensor than cropped frame sensor cameras.  A full frame sensor generally means that you'll be able to shoot in lower light levels (higher ISO's) for better results and less noise.

So, how good or bad is this lens?  It is a bit subjective.  According to one reviewer, "Contrast is quite poor wide open, but gets better at f/5.6 and beyond. During field tests, I shot over 1000 images at various apertures and shutter speeds and overall, the lens is not bad, but certainly nowhere close to the sharpness and contrast of pro-level lenses like Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G or Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II."  If you shoot in RAW and use editing software, contrast should be no problem.  How about sharpness?  This is why I said it depends on how you will use it.  As I am always available to pose for myself, ha ha, I shot the following using this lens.  The photo on the left is the full image from the camera, the one on the right is from that photo, cropped.  It was shot at f10 at 48mm, 1/3 second with the camera on a tripod with window light.  If there is any unsharpness, it's probably because of the slow shutter speed, although I think I stayed pretty motionless.  As always, if you click on a photo, you can see them all in a larger size.

The next 3 photos are full-size followed by two crops from that photo to show the sharpness.  These were shot at f5.6, 82mm, 1/60 second with flash on camera, just as a test.  Are these sharp enough?  Does it matter that with a zoom lens the corners will be a little less sharp?  Not at all - in fact, you would probably want the edges to be less sharp to focus on the subject more.

And now that you're tired of looking at me, here is a scene from the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook.
It was shot at f10, 100mm, 1/1600 second.  

One last photo at Ballona Creek of a Sea Lion, shot at f10, 300mm, 1/1250 second.  

And a crop of the above photo to show that it is sharp.

All things considered, I'm very happy with the sharpness of this lens and the quality of the photos.  In the lens reviews, they talk about distortion (can easily be fixed with post processing software), lack of sharpness (perhaps at some f stops), it's not a "professional" lens, it loses quality over 200mm (which is why I included the sea lion), etc.  The photos posted here show what this lens can do depending on what settings are used.  

I had been looking at two lenses.  After reading the reviews, I took a chance with this one.  I had a 24-85 Nikon lens that I wasn't happy with, so sold it on Amazon.  Normally I wouldn't buy a used lens from a private listing, but through Amazon or Ebay I've had good luck in the past.  When I saw the lens advertised for a lot less than all the other listings, ordered it immediately.  When I received it, it looked new, plus had a filter covering the lens.  It is a bit of a gamble to order this way, but it can save a lot of money.  It does exactly what I wanted it to do - better images than the 24-85 lens, and much better than my Panasonic FZ200, which I also sold on Amazon.

Does it have limitations?  Of course.  I wouldn't be able to get the below results (background out of focus by that much), which I had shot between f1.4 - 2.8.  For those, I shot with a prime lens, probably the Nikon 50mm f1.4 on my old Nikon FTn.

Hope you found something useful here.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Is It a Professional, Prosumer, or Consumer Camera?

Does it matter?  First, what is meant by those terms?  Generally, a professional camera would be used by photographers who are considered professional photographers - ones who earn their living by doing photography.  Those who use a prosumer camera would be for those who are more advanced than a beginner, but not yet a professional - they can be used in fully automatic to fully manual.  And a consumer camera (aka point and shoot) would be used by those who take photos just for fun and want the camera to do all the thinking as far as focus and exposure (fully automatic).

For now, we're just talking about cameras and not lenses.  There are a lot of gray areas and overlap between all three.  Cameras that several years ago were considered the top of the line professional cameras are now considered "prosumer."  But they still take the same quality photos they always did.  So does it matter?  A lot depends on what kind of photography you do as a professional as well as what kind of environments you might be shooting in (in harsh environments you would want a weather sealed camera).  Most important is whether your camera will give you the photos you want, and if you have clients,  will it give your clients the results they want.

Years ago I bought my first professional camera, the one that many other professional photographers were using - a Nikon FTn film camera, with built in light meter.  Everything was manual - no auto focus, no auto exposure.  People loved the results.  Today, using a prosumer camera, the results are better and more accurate.  Why is it called a prosumer camera?  Is it a marketing gimmick?  Cameras labeled as professional are a lot more expensive.  For fun, I did a comparison on Google for my camera and the one they label as a professional camera (Nikon D800) - mine scored 99 out of 100, the Nikon D800 scored 100.  The biggest differences were in megapixels (36 vs 24) and battery life (1200 exposures vs 900 exposures per charge).

Some sample photos from the Nikon D800 (I did not take the Nikon D800 photos) - the top photo was full size, the one underneath it is a crop of that photo.  As can be seen, because of the extra megapixels, it can be cropped a bit larger.

The next two photos were self portraits (aka selfies) shot with a Nikon D600.  First the full-size photo, and then the cropped one.

There are a few differences between the two sets of photos (besides the subjects, ha ha!) - the top one was shot with a 24-105 f4 Nikon lens and an umbrella flash off camera, and the bottom one with a 28-300 f3.5-5.6 lens with the on camera flash.  As far as the results with each one, I would think she would have been happy with her portrait, and same for me, although had I used different lighting the results would have been better (either outdoor natural light, professional indoor flash, or perhaps window light - always experiment).

The following photo was shot on Aug 6, 2017 at the Festival of Chariots at Venice Beach, California with the "prosumer" Nikon.  The one on top is the photo out of the camera, reduced in size for this article.  The cropped section is at about 100% of the original size.

The camera setting for this photo was 135mm, f10, ISO 1600, 1/800 second, hand held.  Would this have been better with what is considered a "professional" camera?

This article is only comparing camera bodies.  Lenses can be even more important, depending on the which camera they are on.  For portraits, prime lenses will usually give better results, although whether someone will notice the difference is something else to think about.  After all, all photos above were taken with zoom lenses, and not top of the line ones.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Making Art from Your Photography

Editing software can be used for more than just fixing photos.  What you can do to the photo is almost infinite.  The following image was shot the other day at Venice Beach.  It was shot in camera RAW mode, meaning the camera made no adjustments to anything - this is how it came out of the camera.  If you shoot JPG format, the camera will make some adjustments and it will look a bit different, and a lot of information will be discarded by the camera.  If you're camera settings were wrong, then you may not be able to get the best possible image.

Aside from RAW vs JPG, below are just of the few variations from the above photo.  You can do a lot less or a lot more, depending on what you like.  I used Lightroom and Photoshop.  There are many others.

Hope you enjoyed this and start experimenting with some your photos.  Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

RAW & Well Done

You may ask yourself, "How can something be RAW and well done?"  In this case, we're talking about photography (although I guess we could be talking about food, too, especially smoothies, but that's a topic for another day).

Specifically, I'm talking about all those images posted to social media that would have looked great if they had been exposed properly (you know....well done!).  And even if not exposed properly, but were shot in your camera's RAW mode, they might be recoverable with editing software.  Of course, much better if exposed properly to start with.

How can you do that if you're shooting in the midday sun?  One way is to move to the shade of a building or tree or any other object that will block the sun.  If that is not possible, you can use a fill flash to fill in the harsh shadows, if you have it available and you are close enough for it to work.  If none of the above is an option, get a close-up light reading of the subjects, and shoot in manual mode with those settings.  What will also help if you don't have a manual mode is getting much closer to your subjects to eliminate as much background as possible.  If you are aiming your camera directly at the subject, then changing your metering mode to spot or center weighted will give you more accurate results.

Why are you getting all those dark faces to begin with?  Your camera's metering mode is set to average so everything in the photos is being averaged for the light.  For example, in the photos below, the first one was shot with the camera aimed at the clouds, and the people are too dark.

If I had aimed at the people the clouds would be too light.

In the bottom two photos, I briefly played around with the editing software (Lightroom) to balance the two.  The photo was originally shot in RAW mode.  

The same kinds of things happen with focus - if you're not aiming at the subject, the subject will be out of focus.  Unless you first focused on the subject and kept the shutter release button pressed halfway down.  Or you used a wide angle lens with a small f-stop (then almost everything will be in focus).

For the above photo, I exposed for the players and didn't worry about the sky, so it was pretty blown out.  I had the sun behind them to avoid harsh shadows on their faces and also so they wouldn't be squinting more than they are.  Even though the sky still affected the exposure a little, I shot in RAW and fixed that with editing software.

The moral of this post is that if you understand why your photos are coming out too dark or light or out of focus, you can make adjustments and get some nice photos.

NOTE:  There are a lot of things I didn't cover here, but hopefully enough to you can get better results.