Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Environmental Photography: Snow and Streetlights

A friend at work had a couple of questions about how to take good pictures of streetlight lit snow covered trees, specifically in terms of white balance. Not saying that these are the best examples in the world or anything, but for an exercise.....

These were both taken at 1/4 at f/4.0, ISO800. I initially selected the Tungsten white balance setting on camera (even though I shoot RAW). This gave a not bad rendition, but still fairly yellow. In Lightroom tungsten WB shows up as a color temperature of 2850k. Playing with the sliders and presets it seemed that the lower the color temperature setting was the more white and less yellow/amber the overall color was, which made sense. I ended up with a setting almost at the lowest limit (2000k) of 2100k range which gave the very white look I have above.

Reading through this post on understanding white balance, they suggest (obviously, don't see why I didn't think of this) using the snow itself to set white balance (should your camera allow it). Using the WB dropper in lightroom on the snow it sets color temperature to 2150, which is pretty much what my manual setting was.

So basically, if your camera has a custom white balance setting, use it and use the snow as your guide. Even if it's flooded with that orange streetlight color the camera will set itself to consider that white, giving you nice white snow in your final image.

If your camera doesn't have a custom white balance, make sure you know about what color temperatures the different settings on your camera use, and use the lowest one you can. On the K20D this is Tungsten at around 2850k (according to page 160 in the manual).

Note of course that this is for this particular situation, snow lit by orange streetlights. The exact situation you have will vary, and heck, cameras these days even have a "snow mode" preset anyway! Some more snow tips are here at

Don't forget that white snow will fool your sensor into thinking it's brighter than it is, so you need to manually set (about) -1EV on the camera to get a nice bright image and not a grey muddy one. Also experiment, find out what settings work best by taking lots of pictures to find what looks best to you!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Thinking About a Pocket P&S

While I love love love my DSLR, it's large enough that it's not reasonable to take it with me all the time, to work every day on the train or to family or work gatherings, and because of that I find myself taking less and less pictures lately. I'm sure I could take it with me, but it is definitely not convenient.

So lately I've been thinking about a "pro" point-and-shoot camera... something that is pocket sized, but gives me the options image quality and flexibility that I've become accustomed to with a DSLR. Specifically I've been looking at the Canon G10 and the Panasonic LX3. These two seem to be "the" pro-point-and-shoot cameras, and the G10's predecessor the G9 and the LX3 are well reviewed and loved by the guys on the This Week in Photography podcast.

Here's my issue. Both cameras have both pros and cons, and I'm not sure if the pros of one outweigh the pros of the other. For example:


  • RAW mode
  • Full manual controls and good fine grained control
  • Large high resolution screen
  • Crappy at higher resolutions easily attained by DSLRs (no surprise)
  • Just larger than pocket size... neither would fit nicely in a jeans pocket it seems (still way better than a DSLR of course!)
  • Have built in optical image stabilization
Canon G10
  • I really love the manual dials for mode, EV, and ISO control
  • Canon is kinda well known for making good cameras
  • Optical viewfinder
  • 5x Zoom
Panasonic LX3
  • Slightly smaller than the G10
  • Unique 16:10 / 3:2 / 4:3 aspect ratio selector
  • High quality 2.0-2.8 Leica lens
  • Wide angle lens (24mm vs the G10s 28mm, so equivalent to the wide angle on my DA16-45)
  • 720p movie mode (I don't use movie mode, but having something better than 640x480 might inspire me to)

Feature Canon G10 Panasonic LX3 Angst
Lens 28-140mm f/2.8-4.5 5x Zoom 24-60mm f/2.0-2.8 2.5x Zoom I keep on coming back to the lens quality of the LX3, which from all accounts is absolutely fantastic, and best of all, fast.
Manual Controls Very sexy manual dials on top Some dials, other stuff still in the menus (but hotkeys are assignable). I really like the look and rangefinder feel of the dials on the G10.
Physical Glitches Has a lenscap on a chord Built in lens cover A silly thing, but my wife has the Canon S1 which has the lens cap on-a-string and it sucks to have to deal with.
Megapixels 14mp 10mp Higher MP = more croppabilty, but also means less image quality sometimes
High(er) ISO Preforms well at base ISO, munges image at higher ISO, losing any megapixel advantage Appears to be quasi-usable to 1600 ISO I know that higher ISO use on a P&S isn't really reasonable, but while the G10 beats the LX3 at base ISO, that the advantage appears to be gone by ISO400 or so is bad :( While the image stabilization would deal with a lot of this, the LX3s faster lens is attractive here as well, as I invariably will always end up needing higher ISO.
Viewfinder Has one (but is crappy for coverage) None (optional expensive one available) I do like the idea of a viewfinder, for that rangefinder feel. Not sure if it's 100% needed though. Also the DPR review notes that use of the G10 viewfinder just smudges the LCD more.
Image Notes Has issues with white balance I'd probably use RAW most of the time, but it would be nice to export right out of the camera sometimes. Not sure how much of an issue this really is though.

So you can see my frustration. The LX3 seems to have the edge on image quality (lens, noise) but the G10 has the edge with ergonomics (dials, viewfinder). There are more than a couple of G10 owning bloggers who are condemning the DPReview review as bullocks, and at least one that claims that the G10 can rival a medium format digital (though note he's only using ISO80). I tend to discount these and take the DPReview opinion a bit more seriously though as their silly formalized testing is there to compare cameras in a controlled condition, regardless of how well it performs for you.

So is a nicer lens and slightly higher ISO performance worth it over good(er) ergonomics? The whole idea of me getting this camera is to go out and shoot with it, so I'd almost lean towards the G10's ergonomics, but I'm worried that the pictures I'll now be taking will end up being disappointing when downloaded to the camera.

That said I also know that I'll be perfectly happy with either and both will be out of date and a model or two out to pasture before whatever I end up buying has even been unwrapped :)

Any opinions from folks out there? Thoughts? Help on making a decision for myself :)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Pentax Flash Options

Just found this page via the Pentax Forums at DPReview. It has a very nice roundup of the Pentax options for flashes from Pentax and third party manufacturers.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Summer Classic Cars

So I realize I've been completely slacking in my photography and posting lately (or still, depending on how you look at it), so when I opened up the new version of Lightroom and noticed I had a batch of shots from the Father's Day Classic Car Show in my quick collection, I figured I'd finish a bit of processing and post them, and get back in a roll.

Dodge Viper Classic T-Bird Classic Car Classic Fin
Hood Ornament

This was done on a bright summer day, so the colors are fairly accurate I believe. The only two images that got much attention are the purple fin (which got a hit of +100 clarity) and the red hood (which got a -60 clarity via a local adjustment on the the red hood to smooth out a few little scratches and polishing marks, like a beauty filter for cars).

As a side note, the new Camera RAW DNG profiles support the K20D very nicely (see how I worked in some actual K20D news?). I haven't had a chance to do any extensive testing, or comparisons to see how colors and skin tones react, so I guess that's what I can write about next.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

An Evening with Joe McNally

[Cross posted from my blog]
So thanks to a tip from a friend taking a course from him, I found out that The Joe McNally is in Vancouver and was doing a lecture downtown. Being that I've read and pimped his book before, and he's done picture for oodles of places, including National Geographic, it was a pretty good idea to give it a listen, especially a the low low price of $45.

The talk included a session of talking and then some lighting setup and demo. The talk itself wasn't completely new material to anyone who has read The Moment It Clicks or seen his Authors@Google talk. Basically he's a great talker, funny, and with good stories and better pictures.

The lighting setup was also very cool, starting with a straight on camera flash and a model (a dancer) and moving to a softbox, hair light, background light, eye "zapper", and shoot-through diffuser all configured from his D3 with some magic do-everything flash configuration system, it was very cool to see the quality of pics on the screen change with each iteration and go from "ugh" to "wow" and then to "holy balls wow".

Course now it's a matter of getting my ass off the couch and to taking pictures so when the course is offered next year I'm worthy of taking it :)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wireless Flash With Pentax

Lately I've been getting really interested in Strobist stuff, and was getting ready to write an article on my experiences getting wireless flash going on my K20D, however, looks like Michael already has! Well worth the read, and fixes a lot of the "gotchas" that I found in my struggles. I'll probably still let you know how it an my first strobist shoot went last weekend though!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Best Moon Yet!

I'm sure I've said it before, and I'm sure I'll say it again...

Tonight the moon was halved and bright, so my trust 300mm sigma came out again and I started shooting away. This time I was a bit more methodical, going from f5.6 up to f11 with shutter speeds from 1/60th to 1/15th. Seems the Sigma 70-300 I have performs best around f8.0 and I got this baby (which stood out even in the LCD display of my K20D in terms of detail) at 1/20th @ f8.0. I convinced a bit more detail to come out with a bit of sharpening in lightroom, but other than that it's as shot (outside of the crop of course). Check it out... clicky clicky on the image to blow it up to full size!

Amazing to see what a bit of careful picture taking will do for you eh?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Moon Photography Tips

Digital Photography School posts a great set of tips to make moon photography simple.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Photokina 2008 Is Upon Us! Pentax Has New Toys

So here's a slew of links from DPReview, as Photokina 2008 is now upon us. Pentax has delivered a few new items, according to the newsfeed, here are some of the more interesting ones:

  • The K-m (AKA K2000), an entry level, 10mp system which is probably based on a stripped down K10D. The hands on notes how it's engineered to be lightweight, has newly engineered "DA L" lenses (24g lighter). Compared to the K200D it's got a lower end AF system (5 vs 11 areas), goes to ISO 3200 vs 1600, and has slightly faster FPS. It is also 2.3oz lighter.
  • The new Pentax smc DA-L lenses got their own entry as well, showing off the new DA-L 18-55 and 50-200. Super lightweight blah blah (7.1oz and 8.3oz respectively). Not particularly exciting, though I'm interested in seeing some IQ tests comparing the DA-L lenses to their DA counterparts.
  • Along with the DA-L lenses comes Two New DA* Lenses, a 60-250/f4 and a 55/f1.4. The 60-250 would be the complement to the 16-50 (though it'd be nice to fill in that missing 10mm in the middle). The 55/f1.4 will turn into a 75mm(ish) at 35mm, making it a nice portrait lens, but this doesn't excite me that much, but I like that Pentax if fleshing out their DA* lineup.
  • Last and definitely not least is the ultra-wide lens and 1.4TC announcement. Is a 15mm/f4 confuses me a bit, they have a 12-24/f4 already and the 10-17mm fisheye. I suppose this is case of ensuring that they have the DA* line in each of the "areas" already hit by the rest of the DA line.

So all in all not bad! I'm still happy with my K20D (even though my posting lately is proportional to my shooting lately), but seeing Pentax up the specs on their entry level models is nice. I can't quite afford any of the DA* lenses yet so I can't comment on the other ones (other than "donations accepted" :)

One thing I do note is that they are putting a lot of investment into the DA[*] line, which says to me that Pentax is not working on some imminent full frame camera. If they were, I would guess we'd see less of the DA format (APS style) lenses and more of the "F" series full frame ones appearing.

Who knows though, really what they have up their sleeves. Wonder what the rest of Photokina will bring?!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Tweaking nVidia Cards for Lightroom 2.0

Yea, so I've had a bit of a downtime photography wise lately, I've been searching for inspiration and am working on getting back in the saddle as it were. Still browsing the blogs for nifty bits of info to share though, which is where I found some nVidia tweaks for Lightroom 2.0 which are supposed to speed up the adjustment brush and previews. I'll be playing with this tonight to see how well it works, as right now Lightroom 2.0 feels way slower than it should :\

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Lightroom 2.0 Released

Just a few days ago I was wondering when Lightroom 2.0 was going to show up with a second beta or a full release, and today, like magic, I see the announcement of Lightroom 2.0! The press release doesn't have a lot of details (like what has changed since the beta) beyond the standard groundbreaking blah blah most accurate blah blah.

Here's some links with more information and news of the announcement.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

DPReview Reviews (Properly) the K20D

Yup, they finally got it out, the full K20D review over at DPReview. Mostly as expected I think, for anyone whose been using one of these bad boys. Mostly good, couple of less than great points. I am a bit disappointed in the length of time it took to get this out, DPReview was instrumental for me in my last couple of camera purchases, and releasing a review 6 months after a camera is put out isn't helping.... especially when it seems the second a Canon or Nikon camera is released a full review is up.

However, as a Pentax user I'm sort of used to being the un-loved step-child :) Many thanks for the in depth and well done (IMHO) review (and the "Highly Recommended" rating of course :)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

K20D Extended Preview on DPReview

Finally! The K20D "extended preview" is up on DPReview. At first I thought it was a real review, but after looking into the forums people seem less than pleased with the polish and accuracy of the preview (and question the need for an extended preview at this point instead of a proper full review. There really isn't a huge amount of new information here, outside of specs and screenshots of menus, LCD, viewfinder, etc.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

New Shutterspeed Episode

Looks like the MS guys have finally posted episode 2 of Shutter Speed. Looking forward to catching this on the train home tonight.

Monday, June 16, 2008

K20D Firmware 1.01 Released

According to the DPReview notes, this is a fix for hot pixels on the 2 second self timer. I haven't noticed these myself, but good to hear. The download is here.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Ned Posts 17-70 Samples

Ned Bunnell has posted samples of the DA 17-70 on his blog. Look real good, not a lot of overly visible distortion or vignetting.... Dammit, I'm getting excited about this lens again! Would love to see some comparison to the Sigma 17-70 as well though.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Official DA17-70SDM Announcement

Just saw this morning on that the DA 17-70/F4 SDM has been officially announced. I'm glad this is finally "out" as this is the ultimate walkaround lens I've been waiting for. That is, if it's as sharp and good end-to-end as my DA 16-45/F4. Some of the preview comments that I've seen have been "ok" in my opinion, having distortion at the wide end, and having to stop down at the wide and long end to avoid vigneting and lots of CA :(

However, those notes are from a random french magazine using a (possibly) pre-production unit, so I'll wait for the official reviews to come out.

The actual notes don't show anything hugely revealing over the specs and Pentax press release. The lens is almost the same size as the 16-45 which is great (17-70 is 75 mm × 93.5 mm and 485g, the 16-45 is 72 mm × 92 mm and 356G) and just a bit heavier. Course, if this means I don't have to carry two lenses in my bag to get walk-around coverage, that's great. Sucks to lose that tiny bit on the wide end (especially if there's vignetting) but it's really only 1.5mm in reality.

One other interesting bit is that because of the SDM auto-focus mount (the * part of DA*) if the lens is used on a non-SDM enabled lens (ie: other than the k10/20 range) it will default back to manual focus. This is a bit sucky, but I suppose compromises have to be made (and as I have a K20, this doesn't bother me much at all :)

No word on availability yet :(

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Microsoft "Shutter Speed" Podcast

So today on the train home I finally got a chance to watch the first (and only currently) episode of Shutter Speed, a new podcast from Microsoft and their imaging team. I was actually pleasantly surprised at it... expected a that everyone involved would be using Microsoft cameras, Vista as their OS and proclaiming that the new Vista Photo Gallery software (and the Live Photo Gallery online addon) as the next coming of imaging, all the while complaining that camera makers don't support the new Microsoft version of JPEG.

Luckily though, there was none of this. Other than a couple of references to Microsoft services, the 4 guys doing the show talked about everything from P&S choices to flickr to lens choice. The best part was (IMHO) the interview with Phil Borges, an absolutely amazing portrait photographer who took you through what's in his bag, what he does for lighting, some DIY bits he uses, how he frames, what makes a good portrait... lots of really good info in there.

Sadly the first part of the podcast dragged a bit and wasn't as easy going as my other favorite, TWiP. Of course, this was also the first podcast these guys were doing, so this is easily forgiven. Some of the content was a bit remidial in my eyes, but for newbies it was pretty good. The fact that they all agreed that the current state of megapixels was just fine for 90% of the folks out there, and the advice to immediately turn off digital zoom warmed the cochals of my heart!

It took me a long time to get to it and I'm glad I did. Now it's the wait for the next episode... I hope that this isn't like many other Microsoft endeavors that comes out really strong as the initial push is there, and falls flat immediately after (*cough* Ultimate Extras anyone?)

So to the Shutter Speed guys, keep up the good work and hurry up with posting episode 2!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Experiments with the Orton Effect in Photoshop

After my post a couple of days ago about discovering the Orton Technique I found a couple of shots I thought were good candidates to play around with it on. I did the first image, liked it so much I immediately recorded the action and then applied it to a couple of other images. It's a bit gimmicky yes, but if you've got a bit of a "meh" shot, maybe something like this can take it up a notch and give the right scene that dreamy quality.

This first image was "Ok", a shot of the edge of Whonnock Lake. It's got a bit of an S-curve, follows the rule of thirds fairly well, and has something off on the right (the floating dock). I'd have liked something a bit more in the foreground, but hey, I'm still learning. The main issue with this image I think is it's fairly flat (though feel free to tell me how it'd have been improved).

Orton Experiment 1 (Before)

Running it through the orton action gave me what's below.

Orton Experiment 1 (After)

While still not a winner compositionally, note how things pop out, especially the green, and how the right hand side is filled in with reflections from the trees. The sky in the lower part of the image also doesn't seem to get as lost with a bit of contrast between it and the green of the tree reflections in the water.

A second test is below. Before image:

Orton Experiment 2 (Before)

And after:

Orton Experiment 2 (After)

Again the after image still needs "something" (maybe a different color, or object of focus), but it's gone from a boring picture of green, to a mash of all shakes of green and black. Note that the method of using screen and multiply blend methods left the lower left of this image fairly "hot" so I toned it down with a levels adjustment restricted with a layer mask to only the very bright areas.

To do this on your own images, just hit this great tutorial page on and follow it as written, works great!

Comments or suggestions appreciated as always (assuming I have more than 3 readers of course)!

Monday, May 26, 2008

A (Decent) HDR

Well, I think so anyway. This is one of the few HDR images that I've done that I've liked, with a half decent composition and a good candidate for HDR-ness. This was taken from a dock at the bottom of the new bridge construction from Maple Ridge over to Langley.

Boat and Bridge HDR

This was taken handheld in a series of 5 bracketed images at +/- 1.5EV (so -3, -1.5, 0, +1.5, +3). Probably overkill, but for playing around it worked fine. The images were combined in Photomatix and some minor post processing (removing the boat's serial number) was done in Photoshop.

The Orton Technique

This is something I hadn't heard of before, I saw it in the comments of this article, asking the question of the best photography tip you ever received. The two links I found about it that seemed to show it very nicely were:

Of course there's more out there, along with the flickr search for all images tagged with orton. I saw this originally at the Abbotsford Photography club done with slide film. Not a technique for all images, but very very cool looking.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Photowalks - Gastown

First in a couple to be posted over the next few days. These images were from a photowalk I did with a coworker through Gastown in downtown Vancouver. Hit the image to get the flickr page with a description and larger views. They are both fairly large panoramas created from 9 and 12 images shot handheld and assembled with PTGui.

Gastown Panorama

Gastown Tree

I'm very impressed with what PTGui can deal with. Both images had minor tweaks after the fact, the first one had a power line removed and the license plates blurred, the second a minor levels tweak. I'm very impressed with the size of the first one as well, about 45mp when put together!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Wedding Photo Advice

Digital Photography has a good article and images regarding using the one location technique for wedding photography. The gist of it all comes down to this:

Too often novice wedding photographers operate on the idea that varied shots are captured only by varied locations. This is simply not true! Don’t fall into this trap! One well-lit window can provide a plethora of beautifully varied shots to satisfy both you and the bride.

The rest of the article is good and has lots of good info for wedding photographers, and in fact, anyone doing portrait shoots. If I'd known this doing my sweet 16 shoot, I wouldn't have been running around the property as much as I was.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

My First "Sweet 16" Portrait Shoot

A while back an ex-coworker from a job ago emailed me to ask if I'd take portraits of her daughter's "Sweet 16" party. The description was fairly vauge.... "fun shots of the kids dressed up". Since this was a friend of mine, and because my experience with portraiture is practically nil, I of course immediately said "let me get back to you" :) After a while I of course agreed, and this afternoon I went out to their country home to "shoot the kids".

First the good stuff. The kids were awesome, patient and willing to go along with this weird guy taking pictures of them, and I'm glad that their mom was there as she was able to corral everyone nicely and move from place to place... lets just say she knew what she wanted and dammit her daughter's sweet 16 was going to be perfect! The environment was great as well, their yard is beautiful, and being spring had flowers and blooms everywhere.

However, for lighting, the conditions couldn't have been worse, especially for a newbie like me. First of all it was overcast, and as I chose to shoot with a flash this meant that these shots had a dark background. The kids were nicely exposed, but they were sitting in a pool of light with bladk behind them.

Speaking of kids, they were about as contrasty as you can get, 4 white kids in black tuxes and dresses... also one of them didn't have a tux jacket so he just had a white shirt on.... about the same challenge that a wedding photographer has with a black tux next to a white wedding dress.

My flash (the AF360FGZ) did it's best, but either it or it's operator seemed to manage to underexpose about every image by about 2.2 stops :( Maybe it was the black tuxes, operator error.... It just seemed that the shots were all really dark, or they had white blobs of overexposed faces on top of darkness. I'm really glad I shot in RAW, as that combined with Lightroom's excellent exposure controls has allowed me to recover most of the shots, it seems the dark ones respond fairly nicely to exposure of +1.8-2.2 and a hit of fill light around +19 to bring out some of the background and the details in the suites.

Not a huge loss after all thank goodness :) The first pass on the images I've been making shows that most are recoverable, and some are actually not bad.

Things to remember for next time.

  • Consider not using a flash. Better yet, remember how to set it to only do fill flash mode, instead of just on P-TTL or the high speed sync mode.
  • Take test shots first to get the lighting and exposure right. The LCD will not give you the full story. Luckily I had the over/under exposure warning set, so I could see when the really-dark turned into pure-black, but the rest of the images were for the most part, still too dark.
  • Taking the time to zoom in and check the histogram would have avoided some stress.
  • Scope out the area ahead of time if possible. They have a gorgeous yard that I wasn't able to take full advantage of.
  • Get closer, get closer, get closer! Then get a bit closer. I'm so glad I have 14mp to work with!
  • I have to learn to know what looks good and how to get people to do it for me. Again, thank goodness that her mom was there and had an idea of what she wanted.
  • Remember to look for / fix the oven mitt hands.
  • Details, details, details.... I avoided trees growing out of heads for the most part, but little things like one person having their feet or hands pointed in a different direction than everyone else can take a picture down a notch.
  • Get more lines to get people to relax.... I think I used "pretend you like each other" about 30 times. First time good, 30th probably just annoying. I'll have to get a set of billy bob teeth to get a laugh.
  • Will HDR work to fix the white shirt / black dress issue? Hmm....
Will update when all the post-processing is done and will post some results when/if I get permission from parents in the form of a model release.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Squamish Favorites

A couple of months ago I went up to Squamish (click link for google map of the area) for a photo-walk. A couple of friends up there took me around to various spots that you might not find if you're not from around there. Here are a few of my favorite shots.

Shannon Falls:

The Squamish Chief and the Squamish Yacht Club:

The Squamish Chief from Magnolia Drive (or thereabouts):

The Chief and surrounding area from the peninsula:

Comments and critisism always welcome. Hope you enjoyed the pictures. You can see these and more on my flickr squamish feed.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Huge Moon With Mirror Lens and 2x Teleconverter

At the photography swap meet the other day I was lucky enough to pick up a Sigma 70-300 macro (to replace my 70-200, or so I tell myself (and my wife)) and my prize, a 500mm Mirror Lens and T-to-K mount converter so it would fit on my K20D. The mirror lens is great, huge reach, tiny price, weight, and length. The thing is about the length of the DA16-45 and a third the weight.

Of course, it's got it's bad sides. Fixed aperture at f-8.0, hard to stabilize without a tripod (though a big "yay" in the K20D shake reduction column), distinctive donut bokeh, and not the best image quality. Mine is a Japanese version that I doubt is anywhere near the quality of the Tarmon in th elink above. However, it's my first long lens and I'm having a blast playing with it! And what's the first thing you do with a long telephoto? Yup, take pictures of the moon! In my case I was a masochist and put a 2x teleconvert on the body first, so I had that to contend with.

However the results are worth it. The moon, low on the horizon appears huge in the viewfinder. Below is a shot straight out of the camera with no cropping. Minor whitebalance and converted from RAW, but that's it.

1/90th @ f-8.0, ISO 3200 1500mm equiv

The most amazing thing to me is the zoom. Whenever I see a great moon shot I generally ask how much cropping was done, and mostly it's a fair amount, like 60%. The shot above, 0% cropping. Sorry for the shadow in front, that's a branch from the neighbors tree which I did my best to avoid, but as this was a quick and dirty run-out-before-bed session, this has less foliage than some of the other ones :) Click on the image to see a larger version. Zoomed all the way in it's not great, yet it still shows nicely full size on the monitor. A bit of noise-ninja helps for the 100% view as well, however I think you're only going to get so far with a less than stellar lens and a less than stellar teleconverter!

Now I have to get to bed if I want my 5 hours of sleep tonight...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Tips From The Manual (Or Not!): Quick ISO Setting

Long time no post, it's been a rough couple of weeks in The Real World(tm) but I wanted to come back and provide a couple of K20D tips that you may or may not know, depending on whether you read the manual or not (always highly recommended!).

First one is for quick access to the ISO setting. On my *ist-D the only way to change the ISO setting was to put the camera down, set the left top dial to ISO, adjust it with the right e-dial, set the left top dial back, and return the camera to your eye (and it never was shown in the viewfinder!). On the K20D I thought that the procedure was a bit more streamlined... you hit the function button, hit the right arrow, select the ISO, and hit OK. Not bad, but not great.

What you'll find on page 79 of the manual is that if you hold down the "OK" button and adjust the front e-dial, you can adjust the ISO setting. No taking the camera from your eye, and the ISO shows up (at least temporarily, depending on what your custom fuction for ISO in the viewfinder is set to). Nice and quick!

Now there are a couple of caveats to this. If you have the custom functions for your e-dials set to adjust ISO via the custom functions (Page 74) in Sv/Tv/Av mode the OK+e-dial shortcut won't work in these modes, you'll only be able to use the e-dial you set via the custom menu.

Hope this little tip helps you out!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Lightroom 1.4.1 Update

Looks like Adobe has released a new Lightroom update... 1.4.1 which fixes issues with DNG conversion and the timestamp issues they had with the previous update. This will bring a working copy of Lightroom which supports the new K20D RAW format (.PEF) into the world. Various blogs around the net have full(er) coverage of what is fixed and improved.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A Lightroom 2.0 Beta Review

I was going to write up a pretty Lightroom 2.0 Beta review, however there are so many out there already, it doesn't make sense! Check out this one over at Computer-Darkroom to start with.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Patrick Smith Photography Inspiration

Shepherdpics posted about their photographer of the month and posted a link to Patrick Smith Photography, which I spent some time going through, and must say it's fantastic work. Patrick's methods page is of particular note, as he has lots of examples of what makes and doesn't make a fantastic landscape image.

The Joys of Old Lenses


One of the things I loved about my *ist-D and which has translated over to the K20D is the fact that I can use any Pentax lens. This was one of the selling points when I was first looking at the 'D' in that dad had given me a couple of lenses with my first SLR (a Pentax P30T) so the cost of the 'D' body was around the same cost as buying the Canon Rebel (the other body I was considering) and an uber image stabalized lens. The size and feel of the Pentax won out in the end obviously.

With the K20D not only can I use any of these lenses still, and they are now all magically image stabilized! Of course, the benefits of in-body stabilization vs. lens only stabilization is a discussion that can go on for hours, mostly it seems that those with it in their chosen brand say it's great, those without it rail against it and talk about the benefits of lens-only.

I will continue to ignore all this of course, and shoot as much as I can with the benefits of image stabilization on random 20+ year old lenses :)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Squamish Chief Teaser

Squamish Chief

Just a quick teaser until I finish the images from my walkaround in Squamish today. Got lots of potentially usable shots from Shannon Falls as well as a couple of other locations. Weather wasn't great, mostly grey and "bleah" (the technical term) and raining for a fair amount of the time. The mood can be helped in some of the shots with a black and white conversion and a bit of high-contrast "Ansel Adams"-y treatment.

I have to say that the K20D is a monster in the file size department! Some of the panoramas I'm stitching together are 400mb .psd files! I've had to reduce some as Lightroom will only accept 10,000 x 10,000 as the maximum size for importing as well. It's glorious to know that I could zoom to 1:1 and see amazing detail in the rocks and trees.

Anyway, I hope to finish off some more processing tomorrow and shall post more then.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Mix of Assorted Links

Just a few quick links that have fallen on my lap in the last while that I figured I'd share.

That's about it for today. The shot above is a stitch of three shots at 16mm on my DA16-45 taken on my *ist-D lastJanuary in port in Mexico.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Photography Podcasts To Watch

To get better at photography I've found that listening to those around me, and surrounding myself with people who know more than me, and one of the resources I've found for this is podcasts.

On the top of the list, mostly due to it's more "conversational" feel, and the fact that I'm familiar with some of the hosts from other Podcasts on the TWiT network, is This Week In Photography. I was fairly impressed with the guys on this podcast as they have a varied background, and are covering all angles, with audio and video podcasts, forums on Flickr, photo contests, and so on. I also like that the "main" podcast is audio only, so it's easier to listen to while driving, walking, etc.

And before you ask, no, this isn't due to their call for help in getting the word out (I'm in Canada and not eligible for any of their prizes or promotions) :)

Lightroom Killer Tips is another good one, focused (obviously) on Lightroom and varies from both advanced and novice usage.

The Beautiful Landscape podcast. This is the newest one I've subscribed to, and have only seen one episode so far (a photo review). I quite enjoyed the review of an image that was done, and was fairly impressed as to the detail that was gone into. If you want to understand more what goes into making a good image (and they also have tech information as well) this is one to check out.

Do you have any favorites that you'd like to add?

Understanding Exposure As A Water Faucet

One of the best explanations of exposure I heard (or perhaps read) was to think of it like letting water through a faucet into the sink. If light is represented by water coming out of a faucet, then a properly exposed image would have a definitive (for the purposes of this write-up anyway) amount of water that is needed. An over-exposed image would have too much water, an under-exposed image would have too little.

Now to get that needed amount of water, there are two factors in effect in your water faucet. The first is the length of time you let the water run for (shutter speed), the second is how much water you let through, ie: the size of the pipe (aperture).

So it doesn't matter how you manipulate these two factors, as long as the correct amount of water ends up in the sink when you're done. So a properly exposed image can be made by opening up the faucet really wide and letting a quick burst of water through, or opening up the faucet just a tiny bit, and letting it run a long time. Either way you get the same amount of water in the sink, and your image is properly exposed.

The beauty is, for the most part, your camera will calculate the amount of water itself and you can use either the "Tv" or "Av" (sometimes called just "A" and "T") to control the shutter speed (time the water runs) or aperture (amount of water let through) respectively.

Now there are a few obvious things I'm completely ignoring here. The first is ISO, or the sensitivity of your film. For the purposes of this beginner info though, we're going to assume that the camera is dealing with the ISO, and that while you can set this, this is something that the camera factors in when you ask it to calculate what the proper exposure is. I'm also assuming that the camera is calculating the exposure correctly. As you'll begin to realize as you learn more, your camera does make mistakes, and often. They are getting better every year, but there are lots of scenes that will completely confuse modern sensors. Strong backlighting, snow, white on a black background or black on a white background will more often than not confuse your camera and produce images that are grey and muddy, too dark, or too bright.

So hopefully the simple idea of a faucet and a predetermined amount of water that needs to end up in the sink will help to understand exposure.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Black and White in Minnekhada Regional Park

Minnekhada Park Tree Roots Cropped

This was taken today in Minnekhada Regional Park where my wife and I went for a walk after a (very) late breakfast out in PoCo with some friends of ours. The original shot out of the camera (below) I wasn't at all impressed with. The colors were off, the sky was blown out and it looked almost under-exposed. My K20D seems to be doing a bit of underexposing lately, I'm not sure if it's me or the camera yet though.

Minnekhada Park Tree Roots Original
However, I knew there was potential there with the gnarled roots grasping the stones along the path. A bit of poking and prodding in lightroom in the form of a conversion to greyscale and a popping up of the purple, blue and aqua channels, and a bit of cropping to fill the frame more with the roots, and I ended up with what I considered a fairly nice shot! Exposure was 1/30, F4 @ ISO 200 with my DA16-45.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Pentax Lens Roadmap Updated

Pentax has updated their lens roadmap. Future lenses look pretty exciting. The abbreviated version is:

  • 17-70/F4 SDM
  • 55-300/F4-5.8
  • 60-250/F4 SDM
The 17-70 is probably the most exciting to me, as long as it's not too huge to lug around. My 16-45 is awesome, but sometimes just a wee bit too short. The 70mm end would give 105mm at 35mm equivalent and I don't think losing the 1mm at the wide end would be that bad. I've never used an SDM (the in-lens motor drive system for smoother and faster focusing) but I'm sure it's awesome :) The 17-70 and 55-300 in your bag would give pretty nice range and flexibility for walking around or holidaying I think.

In the prime category:
  • 15mm Limited
  • 30mm SDM
  • 55/F1.4 SDM
  • 300/F4 SDM
Also nice choices. Still no Canon-like super-long-super-fast lenses, but I certainly wouldn't turn down a 300/F4 if someone gave it to me :) Combine F4 and the decent high ISO performance and you probably have a decent wildlife lens (though the pics posted from the 500mm BIGMA lens from Sigma are pretty impressive).

I'd love to buy/play with some of the pancake or limited lenses, to see just what the difference in quality is! Also having a fast and high quality prime of "portrait" length would be cool to have for when I become "noted fashion photographer Alan" :)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

K20D Review in Wired

Found somewhere on the net, Wired has a review of the K20D in their list of Prosumer DSLR cameras. I like that they note that us Pentaxians (is it ok to call oneself that, or do you have to be "recognized" by Pentax in some way first?) are the unloved stepchild in a Canon/Nikon world, and they noted some goods and bads that I hadn't seen before. I've never had complaints about the noisy shutter or AF, while the shutter sound is different from the *ist-D, I never thought of it as loud. It's also interesting that the things that made their "wired" list were items that I hadn't seen bubble to the top of the list before (though they certainly aren't ignored). From the article:

Often overshadowed by the bigger, more boisterous brands, the Pentax K20D distinguishes itself as "the little camera that could" with the leanest form factor, an easily adopted user interface, internal dust removal and image stabilization, bomber construction and weather sealing, the highest resolution (14.6-megapixels) in the group and the lowest price point.
For other reviews and to see what folks are saying, hit the Pentax SLR DPReview forum where folks are generally well behaved and often post links to other reviews.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Inspiring Video - Celebrate What's Right with the World

Found a very cool video posted in one of the DPReview forums called Celebrate What's Right With The World. This is a 22 minute video from Dewitt Jones (of National Geographic) on how to get perhaps a new perspective on creating photographs. A bit cheesy and "Self-Improvement Seminar"-ish yes, still worth a look I think.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Nature Photos From Hayward Lake

Last weekend I had a nice bit of a photowalk around Hayward Lake, out in the boonies between Maple Ridge and Mission. Below are a few of the shots that I got on that day.

This shot is of a small waterfall (read: drainage creek) along the road to get to the parking lot. This combined two of the features in the K20D that are new to me coming from the *ist-D. The first is Live-View, which let me hold the camera down at my feet, right next to the water and still see the composition.

My biggest complaint with Live-View is that I am using it and the "optical" preview, which is the standard lens stop-down as you're looking through the viewfinder to determine depth of field, and there's no way to switch between the two! To change from one to the other you have to go into the menu, select custom functions, page down five pages, and change "preview mode". Ugh.

The second nice thing about the above shot is it's handheld at 3/10 of a second. A very slow speed, lets all give a "w00t!" for in body stabilization! Heck, for any stabilization for all you Nikon and Canon shooters out there :)

This is taken off the bridge separating Hayward and Stave lakes. Not much to say, boosted the contrast a bit in lightroom, and did a bit of highlight recovery to bring back some detail in the clouds.

The east end of Hayward Lake, taken off the end of a walking bridge.

Lightroom 1.4 Update Buggy

Just a word of warning, the new 1.4 update for Lightroom appears to be buggy, with the main error that I've seen is when converting to DNG under windows. The symptoms appear as an error when viewing images (converted to DNG under windows) when zoomed in and getting "an unknown error has occurred" displayed on screen.

I've seen no errors importing images as straight PEFs, though. Might be an idea to hold off on the update until either 1.4.1 or a similar fix has been issued.

Adobe has issued a statement regarding the update, via

Friday, March 14, 2008

Lightroom Updated to Support K20D and K200D

Just a quick note to say that I just saw in the forums that Adobe Lightroom has been updated with a few tweaks, including support for the K200D and the K20D. Downloads for Windows and Macintosh. Also for the Photoshop users out there you can check out the standalone Adobe Camera Raw 4.4 download.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Moon Shots

It's been a while since I've taken pictures of the moon, I've had bad luck in the past with it never looking quite right or as impressive as with other people posting. Tonight's foray was a bit of an improvement, mostly due to the sun's position I think. Having only a quarter moon meant that there was more crater detail to be seen, instead of the full moons I've photographed previously where it seems flat and uninteresting, similar to using on-camera flash for portraits!

(Click image for larger size)

This is about a 50% crop from a shot using a FA 70-200mm at 200mm, exposure is F8.0/1.0s, mounted on tripod using the 2s mirror lock-up function.

I took a few images with a 2x teleconverter I bought from a friend a while back, with very disappointing results. Not only was the moon the same size in the final images (odd when it should be the equivelant of a 600mm lens (200mm x 1.5 sensor conversion x 2 teleconverter)), but it was also blurry (though this was to be expected as you lose image quality with teleconverters).

There was also a challenge in finding the moon with it on! There was so much light fall-off with the teleconverter and the 70-200 that the relatively dim moon was impossible to find. I ended up putting the 70-200 back on without the converter, found the moon, locked down the tripod and ever so carefully took the lens off, converter back on, and lens back on.

Notes for next time:

  • Ditch the teleconverter....
  • Keep the ISO as low as possible (there were some reasonable shots taken at ISO 800 that seemed to have bad CA)
  • Alternatively, bump up the ISO to get faster shutter speed
  • Wear a jacket!

Monday, March 10, 2008

New File Size Table Up

I've put up a new filesize table with what I hope is a bit clearer view of the image file sizes. I've updated it with a new column ("tested") which has number I've actually tested in camera. I've only done DNG/PEF and JPG 14mp **** so far, simply due to the fact I don't want to wear down my shutter shooting the 54,000+ images required to test each file format. Of course, as I'm not shooting exactly the same scene as I did last time the image file sizes are a bit different (mostly due to compression, etc) so the numbers aren't exact, and depending on what you or I shoot there will always be "wiggle room".

Hope this helps!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

My Image Import Workflow

Currently my import workflow goes something like this:

  • Put 4GB SDHC card in card reader
  • Open up Pentax Photo Browser, find card in the file browser
  • Select all images
  • Right click and select 'Save as DNG'
  • Select a save destination of a folder on my desktop called 'dng'
  • Wait a while as it churns away
  • When it completes, open up Adobe DNG Converter
  • Select the 'dng' folder for the input
  • Select another folder called 'dng-out' for the output
  • Click 'convert'
  • Wait some more
  • Now open up Lightroom
  • Select 'Import Photos from Disk'
  • Browse to the 'dng-out' folder and select all
  • Continue with a normal Lightroom import

This is a long and tedious process unfortunately :(

After doing all the filesize tests in the last post though, it looks like the difference of 10mb per image doesn't add up. Shooting PEF gives me 169 images on a 4GB card, shooting DNG gives me 168. What's up with that?

I think next time I go out shooting I'll do DNG and convert to the smaller Adobe DNG in the Lightroom import... eliminating everything above between "put card in reader" and "open Lightroom". I think that any differences in download speed would be negated by the fact it's one step and not 15! :)

K20D File Sizes and Formats

I wanted to do a bit of a comparison of the filesizes that are created by this new 14 mega pixel monster. My testing was pretty simple. Tripod setup, facing a dull and boring corner of the office, set to the first image quality setting, take a shot, next setting, etc. Then take out the card and put the filesizes into a chart that I can then share with you. There will no doubt be minor differences in filesize if other people look at this test due to the image contents, type of SD card, etc etc.

First, a bit about the different settings. The K20D has the following capture options:

  • JPEG
  • RAW
  • RAW+
And each of those have options.
  • JPEGs can be captured at 2 MP, 6 MP, 10 MP and 14 MP, and at each of those settings you can have different detail qualities, *, **, ***, and ****.
  • RAW can capture in PEF (the Pentax RAW format) or DNG (the adobe designed open standard for RAW data capture. All RAW data is captured at 14 mega pixels.
  • RAW+ (ie: RAW and JPEG together) can be either PEF or DNG, as well as having all the JPEG options available (2mp to 14mp and * to ****).

That's a lot of options when you put them all down in a grid!

Update: Please note that according to this thread the methodology I used (trusting the camera's image remaining calculation) is innaccurate. I'll be testing again tonight by actually taking pictures to hopefully get some "real" data.

Update #2: Updated the pure RAW DNG/PEF numbers... DNG was the same, PEF gives you almost double what it predicts. I'm not going to shoot the tens of thousands of shots to calculate out all the options, I don't want to wear down the shutter! However, I'm going to add another column with the math based on the average image size based on a 4GB card giving you 4,094,855 (approx) KB.

on 4GB Card

FormatSize (KB)PredictedCalculatedTested


















RAW DNG23,605170173170



































A few thoughts and notes.

First of all, as of now, the K20D PEF format is not recognized by Adobe Camera Raw, so programs like Photoshop and Lightroom are unable to open the PEF files. The DNG files can be opened of course, but at the expense of almost 10mb per image file. Also, the K20D created DNG files can be opened directly with the Adobe DNG converter, and they can be converted down to 13mb from the 23mb they come from. They are probably stored uncompressed for speed.

Also, the K20D DNG files can be converted to compressed (or at least smaller) DNG in Lightroom if you select the 'convert to DNG' option when doing an import.

New Strap - Lowe Pro Voyager

After lugging the K20D around for a bit yesterday I found that it's slightly bigger bulk, combined with the DA16-45/F4.0 lens was a bit chunky. To that end I stopped by Lens & Shutter in Abbotsford and picked up a Lowepro Voyager neck strap. I'm still not 100% convinced about it as I have yet to take it out for a test drive, but it does seem to have a fair amount of neck padding available. It has a system where you can disconnect the strap from the camera, which worries me a bit in case it somehow gets disconnected, but as I said, I'll have to see. My plan is to take some shots after work tomorrow in Vancouver, so we'll see how that goes.


My name is Alan Bailward, and I'm a photographer. Well, a wannabe photographer anyway. In the early 2000s my father gave me a an old SLR of his, a Pentax P30T and a couple of lenses and I immediately went to town, carrying the thing around with me all the time and no doubt looking like a complete dork!

Time passed, and the age of the digital camera moved into it's own. I got myself a little Canon A60 point and shot, then after a while with that, and while consuming photography books and websites at a voracious rate, hit towards the upper limit I could do in terms of ISO noise and aperture restrictions. About this time (early 2004) the age of the "affordable" DSLR was coming into it's own. The original Canon Digital Rebel, the Pentax *ist-D, and the Nikon D70 were the main contenders. All were 6 megapixel, had similar features, and for all intents and purposes were equivelant.

After much deliberation and a lot of after hours consulting work, I purchased the *ist-D because it was smaller and more solid feeling than the others (to me anyway), and could use any Pentax lens, which meant that I didn't have to buy any, which meant that the cost of the body and kit lens (yea, I broke down and bought it) was the same as if I had gotten the cheaper Canon body and nice lens (which a friend of mine had).

Fast forward four years and 30,000 images later, and I decided to take the next step and purchase the Pentax K20D, and after three days with it, have no regrets!

I figured that it'd be interesting to blog some of this journey, maybe put out some hints and tips, and share what I'm up to. I have to give full kudos to The K10D Blog for inspiring me to do this, and I hope not to step on Bruce's toes in terms of content or ideas.

Really, this is just an excuse for me to completely geek out photography wise and hopfully people will find some interest in it!

Look here soon for new info!