Tagged: Image

Clarity of Purpose

The dictionary definition of clarity is:  “clearness or lucidity as to perception or understanding; freedom from indistinctness or ambiguity.”  I think that the above images fit that definition in displaying the effects of the fog.

But, in photography we use the word differently.  For example, in Adobe Lightroom they use the clarity control as a “detail enhancer.”  Some people feel that it enhances the sharpness of images though it really doesn’t.  It just helps support the illusion of sharper.  I often use some positive “clarity” on my images, but not on these.  For these I used a little negative clarity to help support the emotion and feeling of the fog.

Another issue is the so-called “Depth-of-Field (DoF)”.  This is another issue in that it isn’t real, it is just a matter of how much blur you are willing to except in an image and what appears to be in focus and what doesn’t.  There is little DoF in the above pictures but it is due to the fog, not what was in focus and what wasn’t according to what aperture I used or what I focused on.  If you wish to understand more about DoF click here.

In addition there is the issue of digital noise or grain if added.  Does grain or noise add to clarity of the message being expressed or does it distract?

None of the above issues really matter other than how they support the emotion or feeling that you wish to present with your image.  There is no “right” amount of any of them, but photographers use them both positively and negatively to establish how they want you to see, or interpret the image.

Best Settings for Fujifilm X-E1 with the 27mm Lens

I have tested my Fujifilm X-E1 with the 27mm lens as much as the weather allows, and I have learned a few things which I thought I would share.  Those who know about the Fuji X cameras know that they have a different sensor from all other cameras and that there has been a lot of discussion about processing the raw files with different programs.  You probably are aware that the cameras are noted for the excellent quality, color, etc. of their jpeg files, but that not everybody is happy with processing the raw files.  Since I take raw files I have learned how to process them so that they are pleasing to me.

The first comment I wish to make is that these are my perceptions and they are not based on scientific measurements.  In my opinion, the combination of the camera’s file character and Adobe basic settings in LR5 produces pictures which tend to be on the cool side; i.e. are a little too blue … at least outdoors in bright sunlight as seen in the following pictures.  I adjust for this by setting the WB in LR5 to daylight which warms them up just a bit to get images like the following.

Another feature that some tend to complain about is the flatness and slight lack of saturation of the images.  I compensate for that by setting clarity to +21 and set the tone curve to medium contrast.

Those are the only general settings that I change and they are generally enough to get more realistic images like the following, but they are different from the jpegs.


There is one other feature of the 27mm lens that I think I am seeing.  In the above picture, the sun was over my left shoulder and the camera chose f/14 with 1/350 sec.  While I was on this walk I kept the aperture and shutter in auto mode so I could learn how the camera performs.  The following picture was slightly different.  The sun was to my front left, but other than the shadows, clouds, etc. being different, the camera chose f/9 and 1/420 sec.

If you look closely at the two pictures, you should notice that the above, at f/14, isn’t as sharp, especially in the distance.  The following picture, at f/9, is sharper.  Look at the crows on top of the spires.  I attribute this change in sharpness to diffraction.


I’m only using these two pictures to show the effect.  It was also evident in other pictures.  While I know most people select their own aperture and shutter speeds when using this camera, I wanted to learn how well it performs in auto mode since that is my usual mode of shooting when traveling or touring.  The lesson that I learned is that if I wish to crop-zoom, I am better off to use the aperture mode and keep my apertures at or larger than f/9 … better at around f/5.6, at least for distant landscapes.

It will take some more experience to verify and refine these impressions, but I don’t expect them to change much based on my research on the web.  If they do I’ll let you know.  These pictures are from some recent images that I made while walking the streets of Hanover, PA.  I’ll probably put some more up later.

Morning Colors … Images, Pictures or Art?

The above images were taken right before sunrise on 8 Aug.  They were all made within minutes of each other looking in different directions … some zoomed, some wide.

There seems to always be a discussion somewhere on the web about processing pictures.  Should they be displayed as close to how they actually looked or should they be enhanced?  The above are as close to how I saw them as it is possible to show them.  One of the biggest issues is that we all perceive colors, etc. slightly differently.  Another issue is that how they look depends on how they are displayed.  Monitors are different so even though these look perfect on my monitor, I am positive that they look slightly different on yours.  Have you ever looked at the same picture in the same room with the same lighting, but on different monitors side-by-side?  I have, and they didn’t look the same even though they were both connected to my computer.  And I won’t even go into printed images.  They will vary all over the place.

The bigger differences might be due to our perceptions.  Unfortunately, corporations have had a strong influence on us.  They display products for sale in an unnatural way.  Photoshop, and other programs have enabled them to totally distort reality to the extent that they are not pictures.  They are graphic art.  Those models displaying hair products, clothes, etc. never look that way when they go out on the street to do their own shopping.  They are so different that you probably wouldn’t recognize them.  Since we are so used to seeing them and their products in a super saturated, flawless, well-lit manner, some have come to expect all of our images to look that way.

But don’t forget that photography can be art.  Many photographers process their images to achieve special looks, to emphasize certain aspects, and to eliminate or add features.  They create art-works for display on the wall or screen … not pictures.

Is that the difference?  Are images that look totally natural really pictures while everything else are art work?  Should we refer to our images as art work if they have been enhanced with saturation, contrast, tints, clarity, changes in exposures, and on and on … even if it is “poor” art?  What about B&W?  We don’t see naturally in B&W.  Should all B&W, or monochrome, images now be classified as art work?  By now you should probably be recognizing that it isn’t a “black and white”, “either or”, issue.  Whether it is a picture, or image, or art work depends upon how you perceive it.  It makes no difference as to the color, or treatment, or subject.  Call it whatever you prefer.

Crop-Zoom Effects


One of the schemes that I have in mind, if necessary, is to do a lot more crop-zooming when using just prime lenses.  I took the above picture with the Sony NEX-6 camera and the Sony 35mm f/1.8 lens.  This picture was taken at close to optimum conditions for a hand-held picture … ISO = 100, f/9, and 1/400 sec.

I then used this picture for a one-time, single-condition test.  The original picture above was 4912 x 3264 pixels.  For this demonstration, I then down-sized it to 2000 x 1329 at 96 pixels per inch with LR5 software.  That is a standard downsizing that I almost always use for displaying pictures in this blog.  You can click on the picture to get it into a stand-alone image and then click on 2000 x 1329 above the image, and then click on it again if necessary with your monitor, to see it at the 2000 x 1329 size.  So far, you are looking at an image like I always show.

For the next step I made a virtual copy of the picture and then crop-zoomed it down to a tad above 100%.  That image ended up being 1214 x 807 pixels which is smaller than I normally go.  That is equivalent to reducing a 16 MP image to about 1 MP.  In the past when I crop-zoomed, I normally never went down any smaller than 2000 x whatever.  I limit the longest edge of my pictures to no smaller than 2000 pixels for display in my blog.

For today’s test I then up-sized the close-to 100% crop using LR5 to increase it to a dimension of 2000 x  1329 pixels.  You are looking at the result below.  As mentioned above, you can click on it and then select to show it on your screen in that 2000 x 1329 size.  What do you think?  It’s not as good but is surprisingly good considering what I did to the image.


I hope not to do this often in the future but I wanted to see what would happen if I had to do it to get the picture I wanted to show.

My desire is to finally end up with a good camera with more megapixels so I don’t have to torture them as much.  I will also investigate some better software for re-sizing if it is necessary.  Being able to re-size in this fashion is dependent upon having a good lens and that is always an unknown until you try to use it in this manner.  I think that both the Sony 35mm f/1.8 and the Sony 50mm f/1.8 lenses, in an E-mount for NEX cameras, are probably good enough for web use.

New Vision Necessary

The above picture is representative of my biggest problem when it comes to photography … lack of ideas and creativity when it comes to finding scenes to photograph.  I got interested in photography while traveling in foreign countries and since I have cut way back on my travels, I am having a hard time coming up with interesting and different pictures.

My problem, and I have noticed it in other blogs as well, is not my camera or lenses.  My problem is not being creative enough to make interesting pictures, or at least not enough of them, around my home.  I have taken snapshots of most of the “scenery”, have “shot” just about all the local wildlife, and have pulled in tighter on the existing subjects in-order to get different perspectives.  I’m also running out of different, or unique sunrises, sunsets, and clouds.  I have also tried about every minor change of style that I can think of while revisiting older pictures … cropping them differently, converting them to B&W, etc.

One possibility is to travel to new and exotic places but that would only be a short term fix and isn’t likely to happen for other reasons.  I’m hoping that the change of seasons will present me with more opportunities in two different ways.  First the changing leaves, and later no leaves, will present me new views; and second, the cooler weather will encourage me to get out and about more to take some different kind of pictures.  But that isn’t going to be enough.

If I don’t pull something out of the “well” soon I’m going to have to cut back on the number and frequency of my postings … and that is the last thing I want to do.  Therefore, I’m going to dig deeper and renew my search … both for new ideas by reading other photography blogs and books, and by going out more often, and by trying to change my vision … the way I see things.  Hopefully this means that I’ll be coming up with some new stuff in the coming months … and some of it might look a lot different … in fact it has to look a lot different since I have run out of ideas using my old vision.  I now need to find a new vision, but I keep having this voice in my head, something about “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” … but I must try.

Color or B&W?

I have spent some time lately thinking some more about whether I prefer to make Black & White (B&W) or color pictures.  This is also related to some of my previous thoughts about which format I prefer and in both cases I have shown some B&W pictures and I have used square, 4×3, and 16×9 formats at various times.  While there will always be special cases that require a different format or color or B&W or some two-tone processing, I am trying to establish a style for the bulk of my pictures.  I have already decided that for my travel pictures, which are used primarily in slide/video shows, that I prefer color pictures displayed in the 16×9 format; but what about for my other pictures?

Today, I decided to take a simple shot that could easily go either way … color or B&W.  It is a simple picture of the sky as seen through a tree out in the front of my house.  The following is the color version with minimal processing in LR4.

I next wanted to see what it looked like in B&W so I used LR4 to convert it, again with minimal processing.

What do you think?  I can see myself using either picture depending on the mood, etc. that I’m trying to display.

In addition to using LR4 to convert to B&W, I also have Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2 software for creating B&W pictures.  Lately I have tried to create a B&W picture using only LR4 to see if I could match the effects that I had previously generated with Silver Efex Pro 2 and so far I haven’t been able to do it.  That might be the subject of another article.  That software can create some wondrous effects either by using the presets alone, or by modifying the presets, or by just using the sliders to tune the picture anyway you like.  So far, I’m of the belief that its adjustments go way beyond what can be accomplished with only LR4. 

Based on the above, I wanted to try a different version of the above picture that had been processed with Silver Efex Pro 2.  The following is just one of many styles that can be created.  As you will note, I tried to pull out the finer wisps of cloud in this version to create more details … very easily done with this software.

Setting aside the issue of modifying a picture to establish a specific mood, which of these do you find more pleasing?  I’m still seeking an answer to whether there is a style that I prefer.  I’m leaning towards using square formats and B&W for more of my pictures but I haven’t yet found a style of B&W that I prefer.

When I search the web to see what others are doing, I still find lots of B&W pictures.  Mostly I find them used for fine art photography and for street photography.  Many of the old masters in this art displayed all of their work in B&W.  One of the better web sites in which I like the use of B&W can be found here.  Unfortunately, it is a Leica site and the particular style of B&W pictures might be, probably is, a function of the camera  & lens and the use of the Leica B&W jpeg rendering.  Hmmm, many of the old masters also used Leica cameras … is the answer the camera?  I hope the answer isn’t totally the camera.  I still have other techniques to pursue while I seek my answer.