August 8th, 2330

A member contacted me today, mostly tongue in cheek, letting me know it's "easy" to post good images of good captures.. but what can "processing" to do an image you'd normally cull.  Fair question.  I maintain that skill level of the ididividal has 'everything' to do with the results.. and not only the skill, but the experieince.

The image below was the absolute worst in the bunch when using the Sony NEX-5 and 16mm F2.8.  I wouldn't post it as a "good imge" to save my life, thereby making it the perfect image for this experience.  Lets take a look at it:


Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8 @F5.6  1/400th  ISO 200


Obiously the image sucks on many fronts.  The tonal ranges are way too compressed,. the sky is blown, and the structure has all sort of perspective issues that will take forever in CS5 to straighten out.  More, it's not properly focused, the DOF (depth of field) wasn't sufficient, and it's a waste.   We should cull it!  But we need it to compare if I can save an image this far gone.

Here goes:


Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8  @F5.6 1/4000th  ISO 200

The firs thing you notice it he building has severe perspective distortion which required four layers and four techniques to get it straight.    Second, we needed to fill in the mid tone to better see the structure itself, while darking the skys and other blown out areas.. and tnen localize sharpen individiual each individiual portion of the structure for maximum effect.  Finally, a needed to split tone that not only provides an old time look, but hides a tone of mistakes and inperfections.  A finaly cycle through the noise reducer being careful to not lose detail in the structure and we're done.

Yes, not perfect by any means.. but usuable nad an image we saved.  Tons of intricate very sharp detail, great light graduations, and perfect perspective.   Even images you'd normally cull have a solid value.


August 7th, 0330

New content will go live at 1900 tonight and includes a trip to Wat Ratchaburana in Ayutthuya, testing Hoya's new Spro1 Digital Filter series, and of course we have a couple readers questions and a short musing of my own.

Have you noticed the small green Benz mini-buses, the ones that spew thick black diesel smoke, have largely disappeared from the Bangkok landscape?  Yep, they've being replaced with new, bigger, more comfortable, and NGV burning buses all throughout the city.  Have you ever wondered if they're private or public?  Who drives them and how much they make?  Where they live?  How much the buses cost?  There's really a lot to how these buses are run and much more about how the people who drive and work the buses live.  Next Saturday, August 14th, we'll be putting up a special taking a close look at the owners and operators of Bus 11.  Look for it.



August 5th, 2010  0152

I realized something today.  I've been to Ayutthaya's ruins over 50 times in the last 3 - 4 years and have yet to come up with a enough images to upload a decent gallery.  The problem is ruins are more than a bit boring, the colors often look unattractive and muddy, and the light is almost always flat and very bright.  FINALLY I was there on a day when I managed to make enough captures for a small gallery.  Ironically these images were captured with an inexpensive Sony NEX-5 and the 16mm F2.8 pancake lens with straight jpegs.  I can't wait for Lightroom 3, Adobe Camera Raw, or Capture One Pro to update their software to support this cameras raw files.

With this image I used an extreme depth of field (DOF) showing the very steep staircase up the jedi, and then I split toned it to give it that feeling of old.  What do you think?  You'll see this and about 20 more when this weeks new articles go live this Saturday at 1900 sharp!


Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8  @F8


August 4th, 2010   0100

The other day a friend and I visited Ayutthaya's new floating market and afterwards we stopped by the ruins of a wat and walked around for an hour or so making captures.  As we left the truck I grabbed my new Sony NEX-5 with it's even newer 16mm F2.8 choosing to leave my Canon 5d Mark II behind.  Why would I take an obviously inferior camera when I had already gone to the trouble of bringing along a much better one?

First, my friend also had a 5d Mark II and second I wanted to play with the little Sony a bit.  AND we both wanted to see how our images compared.  This guy is no slacker with a DSLR and routinely turns out some really nice images.  There's an old saying that goes something like this "It's better to master one weapon, then to be medicore with ten weapons."  My friend has pretty much mastered his Canon 35mm F1.4L  I had the 16mm on an APC-S body which means 24mm (35mm effective).  10mm's is actually quite significant, but for this site not as much as you'd think.

So.. we wandered around the site snapping image after image.  After a while I noticed something.  We were both having fun, but I was almost being silly.  I was having such a good time with the tiny Sony that I started balancing it on rocks, sticking inside crevices, making pano's, movies, auto HDR's, turning it sideways, shooting from the hip.. I was having a blast taking advantage of the Sony's small size and light weight and it's 16mm pancake.

Since I've had a chance to go through my images and I think I'll share a few of them in the column this week.  My friend was worried it was going to rain and storm so I made this image as a sort of spoof to his fears of a big storm breaking out.. :)  Oh.. and btw.. you guys on the net saying the 16mm lens has "ugly soft corners.."  Just what the heck are you talking about?  These corners look as sharp as you'd expect from a $300 lens and sharper than many costing 5x as much.


Sony NEX-5, 16mm F2.8 @F8


August 3rd, 2010   0030

Don't forget JTG will take on all cultural questions in our Cultural Corner.  Do you have a question about language, how to take a Thai's photo, how to approach a girl to pose for you, any cultural question.. she's ready and willing to answer.  ASK THE PROFESSOR!!!  What an opportunity!


August 2nd, 2010   2130

Today was quite the enjoyable day to the new Ayuttaya Floating Market which appears to be built by Thai's for Thai's, very "storybook" and still under construction on many levels.  Accompanied by a good friend we were trying each others lenses and equipment and the subject of perspective came up and I submit the following image as an example of using a 12-24mm rectangular lens on a full frame body.


Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4  @F11  1/320th   15mm  ISO 100

What do you see?  From a 15mm perspective the scene leads you down a green water klong lined by a fence and grass with 'something' at the end.  Only with a 24x30 inch print could we see the attractions at the far end of the composition.   During our outing we talked about the important of cropping and processing, even including sharpening, for each individual size print to get the most out of our compositions.  What more could we get out of this image?


Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4  @F11  1/320th   15mm  ISO 100


It's almost shocking, and certainly significant to realize that by cropping the very image above, we have no created a much different composition with totally different compositional elements.  Which do you prefer?  Where would you crop this image and what size would you make the print to hang on your wall?  Another individual choice, a choice we make each time we compose an image in our minds eye, and sometimes later once we've had a chance to reflect and perhaps change that image. 

It's also important to note that if we train ourselves to know these perspective differences are a choice of every composition, then we wouldn't try and make a great print from a crop of a 15mm image.  Instead, we'd take our 15mm capture, change to say a 70-200mm F2.8L IS lens and make a much better quality second capture.

There is no right answer, no golden rule to recite, it's only significance is to understand such differences exist in most every  image we process and that we as photographers hold the artistic control in our hands.  Can a crop define a composition?  Certainly.  Can a crop define an artist?  Perhaps.


August 1st, 2010   0950

Last week I was down in Pattaya with my son and I took him to the Sanctuary of Truth, and like any first timer there he was floored by the visual impact of such a large wooden temple on the very edge of the sea.  As he wandered around with my favorite guide I snapped a few new carvings they'd put up since my last vist.  I came across this one that cried out for HDR processing.



Not so bad.  But do you notice anything a bit strange about it?  Usually if you get the exposure correct for the inside of a dark temple the outside orfices (windows, port holes, cracks in the structure, etc) are totally blown out if no blinding.  Not with the very wide dynamic range of the Canon 5d Mark II and proper HDR (high dynamic range) processing..  Look again at this crop..



Its a bit surprising to clearly see the workers out in the sunshine!  In the full view (not full size, the full size image is 10x larger than what you see here) image you don't even notice them, but a closer look clearly reveals their presence.  Not so bad when you consider the dynamic range necessary to pull this off!