A Blue So Blue Corel’s Lawyers Are Knocking

August 16th, 2005  |  Published in old and busted

Regular visitors to the flickr gallery may notice a profusion of photos uploaded tonight that are neither pictures of things better photographers have taken with nicer cameras before selling them to a calendar company or Ben. That’d be because, while on business down near Clackamas Town Center this afternoon, I stopped in at the camera shop and finally got around to buying a 58mm circular polarizer to fit on the end of the Powershot’s lens adapter.

Smoke Shop ParkingYou don’t need to know a ton about taking pictures to know that if you’ve ever looked back on the shade people refer to as “WordPerfect blue” with fondness, a circular polarizer is exactly the tool you need to make the sky look exactly that color, except without the column/line indicator down in the lower left.

So it became necessary to see what would happen if I made that smoke shop parking sign really pop. And I was compelled to investigate the reflection/glare-removing properties of the filter on the claw game baby. Shopping carts, a rusty barrel (sorry … didn’t make the cut), a weathervane … all fair game because I needed to see the polarizer in action.

Now that I’ve had my afternoon, I’m feeling a little better and I’ll put it away until it’s time to shoot another picture of something that occurs in nature that might benefit from glare reduction.

A few other quick notes from today’s adventures in photography:

Claw Game BabyFirst, I bought a one gig memory card for the camera after getting really, really fired up about shooting pictures in RAW format. A gig is about what I need to take 200+ shots with the Powershot in full resolution RAW, or about 400 shots in highest resolution, least compression JPEG. My average shooting for a two day trip hovers around 130-150 exposures, so it’s plenty of space and a little extra left over.

The big drawback of RAW is that it could entail a really complex workflow. By default, a RAW image is free of the niceties inflicted on it by the camera’s firmware like white balance, saturation and bumped sharpness. So you can’t just squirt a RAW image up onto Flickr or whatever … you’ve gotta work on it a little.

So I spent some time lining up a bunch of tools to make a RAW workflow happen, took a few experimental shots, plugged in the camera, and discovered that iPhoto reads RAW off the camera then converts the file to JPEG on the spot. The advanced RAW management tools aren’t available, but iPhoto makes a decent best guess for the basic settings, and you can bring the rest in for a decent print pretty quickly. The original RAW file is kept in the album, so it’s archived in case you ever want your digital negative. It even puts a friendly little “RAW” badge under the photo and in the margin of the edit window.

Had I bothered to read Derrick Story’s useful overview of iPhoto 5 in advance I would have known all this and calmed down a lot.

Kitchen ChairsAnother iPhoto option for managing a RAW picture directly include dragging the thumbnail into Photoshop or Elements to bring up their built-in RAW plugin (not bad), but not double-clicking, because your external editor just opens the JPEG proxy file. And, I just figured out, not dragging the thumbnail into Elements once you’ve edited the file in iPhoto, because while the RAW photo is still there, the JPEG proxy becomes the official iPhoto representation of that picture.

Only one of those pictures from today got processed using the RAW plugin … the one of the chairs up there. I’m not positive I couldn’t have gotten the same light and shade with the plain old iPhoto warming/saturation tools, but that picture presented an interesting white balance challenge and I wanted to see what it would be like to be able to choose from several in that kind of situation.

I did look at a few other pictures in the Elements RAW editor, and I noticed one other useful doohickey: It includes a “Color Noise Reduction” slider. The Canon Powershot line (up, at least, through the G5) has an unfortunate tendency to introduce a purple fringe around bright and reflective areas in certain shooting situations (people report it most with wide apertures). It’s an ugly thing Canon left unfixed for years. The “Color Noise Reduction” tool, however, goes a long way to cleaning it out. It turned up a bit in the picture of shopping carts I took (reflective metal all over the place), the reduction tool cut it by a good bit, though I need to work on getting a touch with it: It did deplete the reds in that picture more than I liked.

My first-day impression of RAW shooting, then, is sort of like this:

With iPhoto, it’s a can’t-lose proposition if you’ve got the space on the camera’s storage. iPhoto spits out a presentable image based (I suppose) on what your camera thought you’d probably want, even though the RAW format means it doesn’t have a final opinion on the matter. If iPhoto guesses wrong, you can just open up the original RAW “negative” in Elements or Photoshop and make things right. So, instant gratification for most snapshots taken in simple, unchallenging conditions and a ton of flexibility for pictures taken in tougher ones or ones that need to have the dreaded purple fringe sucked out of them.

One last bit of fetishism (and the reason for this camera splurge has a ton to do with my unfortunately thick ankles and a heartbreaking encounter with the ideal sandal that I may never wear) today: I ordered a Hoodman for the Powershot, because shooting outdoors and cupping my hand over the little display made me crazy. Cheap.

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