Technical Image?

On Technical Image Quality

There are few photographers who don’t like the look of film. Because film was the primary medium used to photograph for nearly a century, it became the expectation. What people like about film can vary. Some will say the grain or highlight detail, while others will just know that there is something about it that makes their eyes feel good. Neither is right or wrong.

Today we have digital camera that are getting better and better in regard to technical image quality (iq). So much is made of a sensors ability to garner detail and render color that there is an entire website devoted to ranking sensors. DXOmark is a resource used by many to get baseline information. They measure two key components to discuss here: dynamic range and color bit rate depth. In the past three years remarkable progress has been made on these fronts. Nikon has improved color depth on average by about 10-15%. Likewise dynamic range is now above 13 stops on average and above 14 stops for high end cameras.

Anyone who has worked with Canon and Nikon knows that generally Nikons have more color richness and dynamic range. However, Canon offers a better variety of lenses and often has more front facing features in their machines. Thus, the classic battle continues. Whatever. After doing a little research there are some interesting discoveries to share that I had not seen in one place. Maybe this will help some people.

Dynamic range is tricky. It is believed that the average person in moderate light can discern detail over 9-11 stops of range. Remember, we are looking at the bulk of a bell curve. When I learned this, it explained several things I had noticed about images in my own library created on the two different major systems. Canon created images seem more realistic (in my words) and Nikon images were more hyper-realistic (in my words).

The same seemingly holds true for color depth. According to what I could find. The average human eye is not capable of 24 bit color determination. Apparently, the 24 bit number represents the human color spectrum. So some people will not discern shades that another will. In fact, color spectrum discernment that is only 20 bits is still within the normal spectrum and would not be considered color blindness. Again, this explains what a friend told me after seeing an image taken on a full-frame Nikon in dim light. He described it as “better than reality.”

Hold Nikon shooters, don’t mob. That just means it is a difference, not better or worse. Back to film which, according to what I could find, film COULD capture about 14 stops of dynamic range. Film also evenly captured across the dynamic range. But remember that pushing or pulling film (which had to be done depending on light) could reduce the range by up to 5 stops. That explains the muted look of film when shot in extreme dark or extreme sunlight.

My point possibly comes from the number of filters I see in use on digital images. Most of them seem to mute some part of the dynamic range or color spectrum. I am finding myself reducing saturation and using filters when human subjects are involved. Is this a trend or compensation for what naturally appeals to the human eye?

Part II coming160069

The Nikon D750 – Review after Use

58797The Nikon D750 is the camera that brought me fully back to the Nikon fold. All the specs have been covered in other places. Here is Nikon’s direct link to all of that http://www.nikonusa.com/en/Nikon-Products/Product/dslr-cameras/D750.html.  The point of the specs is to give you an idea of what the gear can do. From reading the sheets back in November, it looked as though the D750 might be the do-it-all photo tool a pro can use for all gigs. The low-light promise, autofocus capability, compact size, and adaptability spoke to me. In addition, the preliminary reviews were positive.

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Coming back to Nikon was like returning home. The dials and menus make more sense to me. Putting the D750 into service was immediate. I used the camera for several late season races in miserably cold weather. In January, it was the instrument of choice for a wedding in Colorado Springs. Throw in a few events and a volleyball tournament, the sampling is broad enough to give a fair picture of how the Nikon D750 performs. The low light performance is stellar. Noise and color accuracy hold well up to ISO 6400. Images created at the 12,800 range are not just useable, but at professional standards with just a little work in Lightroom. The jpeg files out of camera are extremely smooth. They may be a little too much so for some, but okay. DSC_5455

So, why jpegs? Sports images often need to be spot on out of camera. Raw/NEF is not an options when the card goes directly to an editor, and published digitally within an hour. Therefore, the jpeg algorithms are important. The addition of the “flat” setting provides a nicely muted color spectrum while giving that wide dynamic range which Nikon does so well. These are just things to keep in mind. So much RAW speak is out there, and you can do more in post with those files. However, the reality for many pro photographers is “jpegs please.” In that case, the D750 is very impressive.

My choices came down to a used D3s, stretching far for a D4, a D810, or the D750. The main factors of decision for me were cost to useable features. The newer CAM focusing module in the D750 made it a better overall choice than even a D4. The better low light focusing capabilities allow me to capture events with ease. The D4 is a sports shooting monster that functions nearly as well in low-light, but the extra cost was not justifiable over the potential of being able to purchase lenses that would help with the work. The D3s would be a great choice if outdoor events were the focus. In addition, the D750 has some amazing video potential to meet the increasing demands on photographers to provide some video coverage on occasion.

There has been an issue with the sensor placement in the D750 and a recall/repair is in effect. The real world implications of the flare that occurs have been limited in my experience. The only time this happened was on a snowshoeing trip to Mt. Evans, at midday, directly shooting into the sun with a 28-85mm kit lens. I should not have triggered those five exposures anyway. It was a confluence of bad elements. From what I hear from others, the fix from Nikon mitigates the issue. I will post more when I send mine in for service.

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While we transition into Spring, the camera will see more usage. I use it alongside of a D7100, and it easy to match the images from the two. The color depth and dynamic range send a tingle down my spine when RAW images are examined on a computer. You could easily print images the size of a door. For a $2300 investment, I feel as thought the D750 is D4-light and a D810-light combined into one package, giving all around pros a great tool that does so many things very well. Combined with some of the newer Nikon lenses, the focusing performance is blazing and astounding.

Useful resources: http://www.rossharvey.com/reviews/nikon-d750-review

http://ryanbrenizer.com/2014/10/review-nikon-d750-and-d810/?doing_wp_cron=1426435168.5547831058502197265625

What We DO

Down the slope, back up the hill

you’re just a cog in their mill

it’s not about how well you do

it’s knowing your place, you righteous fool

This is what they want from you

to make you think that you chose

This is how they grind you down

and build up this one horse town

The horse that died, because he tried

Old Boxer lives inside our minds

but do we know that we are him

it’s we who pay for Napoleon’s sins

The master lives without a mind

Creation – No Myth in The New Craft Culture

Over the past half-year, I have been fortunate enough to document, with my photography, the process of creation as practiced by wonderful people across Denver. This journey has revitalized my understanding of modern life, and made me very hopeful. What I think we are seeing is really a resurgence of creation. In a world seemingly predominated by violence and destruction, we tend to migrate toward pessimism and cynical thoughts. Perhaps this gallery can act as a starting point for overcoming some of that.

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This gazebo was reconstructed the morning of the ceremony. It was built with two tents, rolls of duct tape, twigs from the yard, and love from friends and family members. It had blown down the night before by freak gusts. This ceremony was beautiful and authentic.

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From Ecuador to Denver with Love: Aside a roaster in a coffee shop that is poised to help revitalize a neighborhood in Northern Denver, the roaster meets an old friend. He actually volunteered at the coop that produced the beans he prepares to serve. That’s a full cycle worth taking a minute to appreciate.

One very nice thing that is easily noticed at Huckleberry Coffee is that connection and care that each person injects to the whole process. From selection of beans, to roasting, to brewing and packaging. The entire operation demonstrates a concern that can not come from a corporate overlord. The dictates of quality at this level are created by community values, not as byproducts of company values or operational manuals. The new craft culture embraces this internal motivational model. It’s an approach that elevates the quality of the product. It creates an environment that demonstrates the values. The atmosphere (to quote Keaton from “Usual Suspects”) “isn’t painted on the walls.” Even the packaging is well-created. It is homey and new at the same time. You could hug this bag of coffee.
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Many of the people I meet creating wonderful things at a high level are younger. They exhibit an enthusiasm that existed in our society at different times, for sure. It used to be referred to as “counter culture” at one time. In my experiences, it was really at a peak when cycling was nascent in the United States. The guys who worked on bikes road bikes. They sought out others who wanted to be part of a small group and nerd out bikes. That group naturally embraced the craft beer set. The two merged, and provided the base for today’s craft culture.

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“DIY” is yet another name that may fit this groove. In my earlier days, I was exposed to the odd thinkings of a man who did his own plumbing, repaired his own cars, grew his own vegetables, and applied for federal grants to provide sewer and streets in underprivileged neighborhoods. This DIY’er is still putting down his own tracks in this world of easy, off-the-shelf items. He has grown kale in his backyard for the past 30 years, stating the potency of it for sustaining life all the while. He’s my dad. To me, it was totally normal to go out in pouring rain to dig a rain relief for a neighbor, or spend a Saturday picking vegetables, and then return to school on Monday as a covert suburbanite. I remember a pet phrase of his (one of many) that eschewed the value of creation over destruction. It has lingered in my mind since I was small.

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 Over one winter, we got a winemaking kit. We attempted to make wine from grape juice. The results were not vintner quality but good enough for making fruit cake. The experience led back to my grandfather who lived in Tennessee. I came to find out that his own winemaking experience was fairly vast. From dandelions to muscadines, he made wine from any plant available.

This is another one of my recent cyclical experiences. At Bookstone Winery, I met a young man who spends his mornings tending to Colorado wines in the making. His tutelage was as exceptional as his demeanor was affable. In one hour on site so many holes in my winemaking knowledge were filled that I now feel confident that I could make wine, by combining what I learned many years ago from Big Daddy in combination with my new-found knowledge acquired from this young man. Another circuit is completed.

more to come . . .  let’s talk about music and art