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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Landscapes Are Alive!


Landscapes Don’t Move? • B&W Printers • Specialty Cameras For Unique Results • RAW Or JPEG, Once More

Labels: How-ToColumnTech Tips
Specialty Cameras For Unique Results
Q Is it still necessary to have a completely separate camera to take infrared pictures? Is there any possibility of having the EOS 5D Mark II customized with a switch that will enable you to flip between visible light and infrared modes? If one is shooting primarily landscapes, is there enough advantage to moving into medium-format digital to make it worth it (a subjective question, I know)? Pentax recently released the 40 MP 645D for about $9,400. It might eliminate some of the need to stitch panoramas together and give one the flexibility of capturing everything on a single frame. It's a BIG investment—although much less than comparable Hasselblads, and really not much more than the top-end Canons and Nikons.
J. Lemke
Via the Internet

A Converting a camera to IR capture isn't simple. The IR cut-off filter (also known as the hot mirror filter) needs to be removed and replaced with an IR-only filter. To accomplish this by way of a switch is an interesting idea, but that camera doesn't exist. If you want to use the same camera for IR and traditional color photography, you can place an IR filter over the lens, allowing only IR light to get to the sensor. Two available external IR filters are the Hoya R72 and the Singh-Ray I-Ray. The problem is that over time the cut-off filters in the cameras have been improved to the extent that very little IR light gets through to the sensor (this is necessary for improved digital color). So even with an external IR filter in place, very little IR light gets through to make an image, and the exposures are excessively long. A converted IR camera like the ones I've had done by LifePixel (www.lifepixel.com) usually will give an excellent exposure at 1⁄125 sec. at ƒ/11 using ISO 400. Using a normal camera with an IR filter in front of the lens, the same image would require approximately 2 sec. at ƒ/11. You need the small ƒ-stop to compensate for the slight focus shift found in IR light. No handholding of the camera here. Also keep in mind that you won't be able to see through the DSLR camera when the external filter is in place due to its density. So while it's possible to use an IR filter on a regular DSLR camera, it sure isn't ideal.

Choosing a cost-effective digital camera format for landscape photography depends on how you plan to use the images. If you have the need, and I presume the market, for very high-resolution landscapes, medium format might be the ticket. As you note, the investment (more than just dollars) is high for these cameras. The lenses are expensive, as well as other accessories. The available lenses and accessories are limited compared to DSLR cameras, the weight of the system is greater, and the amount of resolution gained isn't in proportion to the cost and other factors compared to the high-end cameras from Canon, Nikon and Sony. Keep in mind that this is my opinion based on mainly using the DSLRs vs. medium-format digital cameras. One of the solutions for those having DSLRs and wanting more resolution is to do composites. They can be as simple as capturing a series from the tripod to going all out using a GigaPan system. The end result is far more resolution than even a large-format digital capture can offer.

RAW or JPEG, Once More
I continue to get a lot of questions about RAW vs. JPEG shooting. Common concerns are whether to shoot RAW + JPEG, whether JPEG is limited to 8 bits per channel, how large are full-resolution RAW files, and how many will fit on a memory card. These are good questions, and they merit revisiting as technology evolves and new gear emerges.

The decision of which format to save images in your DSLR at capture depends upon how you plan to use the images. Most pros use the RAW format so that all options are available for postprocessing in Photoshop. The 12- or 16-bit RAW file contains a lot more data when you later need to pull info out of the shadows. Those who don't want to spend a lot of time in front of a computer might choose JPEG capture, which allows you to preset some of the processing in the camera. You can automatically apply a little internal sharpening, and possibly additional saturation and contrast, and the resulting image is processed before you ever see it. An obvious advantage of JPEG capture is that the image files take up very little space on the capture media. I use JPEG files when I'm doing time-lapse photography because the file doesn't need to be large (as it would for a big print or for my agencies) and I need to put a lot of images on a single card.

Some photographers who have the capability will photograph using both RAW and JPEG at the same time. The RAW file is used to process the best image possible in Photoshop, while the JPEG is available for immediate use in slideshows or web applications without any needed conversion. A number of newspapers and news magazines have their photographers use the RAW + JPEG settings so their photo editors can quickly edit a large group of photographs from their JPEGs, and then they use the RAW files to get the best possible image for publication.

How many RAW files on a 16 GB CF card? It depends on the images, as each will vary a bit, and different cameras have different compression rates on their RAW formats. My Canon EOS 5D Mark II says that I can get approximately 568 RAW images on a 16 GB card.

For information about upcoming seminars and digital-imaging workshops, visit www.georgelepp.com. If you have any tips or questions, address them to: OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHER, Dept. TT, George Lepp, 12121 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1200, Los Angeles, CA 90025-1176 or online at www.georgelepp.com.

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