Tagged: Raw image format

Fujifilm X-E1 JPEGs

I am trying something different for a while.  I took these images in the evening after a cold front went through with the X-E1 and the XF 35 mm lens as jpeg images with no additional tweaking in LR5.  Recording jpeg vs. raw files certainly speeds up my workflow and cuts down on computer memory.  I have tried a few test cases where I compared the jpeg image with the raw image and I can see why so many are making images in jpeg mode with the Fujifilm cameras.  They are pretty much identical when using LR5.

The only differences I have noted are in the white and black points on the histogram and in noise level at higher ISO settings; but, after adding noise reduction and adjusting the white and black points in the raw file with LR5, I didn’t see much of a difference, even at ISO 6400.  I will probably continue using jpegs … at least until I find a better reason to shoot raw files.

Seeing in the Dark at Dobbin House Tavern

If you ever go to the Dobbin House Tavern in Gettysburg, PA to eat (which I highly recommend), make sure you either take a flashlight or a Fujifilm X-E1 camera so that you can read the menu.  The lighting is very low and the following is about all that you see with the naked eye.  It takes a while until your eyes adjust enough that you can barely read the menu by candle light; but only if you have good eyes.


If you have ever been there you know what I mean.  Knowing that it was a very dark place, I took my X-E1 camera to see if it were possible to get any pictures.  I am pleased to say you can, as you can see below.  These pictures were taken at ISO’s of 5000 and 6400 using the 18 – 55 mm zoom lens, all at wide open apertures.  I took them in raw format and then used LR5 to develop them with luminance noise reduction set at 70.  You can view the results below.  The camera literally sees and focuses in the dark.  I should also note that I was shooting in the silent mode without any focusing aids.

Storybook Interpretation

Photography is all about interpretation to fit the mood of the story you wish to portray.  It starts when we pick up a particular camera and lens and continues when the picture has been developed and displayed, but never ends.  Since I have had a few questions about how I prepare my pictures I thought I’d take a few moments and tell you some more about the process I used to create this picture.


The picture below was taken while I was at the recent Hanover Reenactment.  The story first starts before I left the house.  It was cloudy and threatening rain so I decided that I would take my Pentax K-5 camera with the 18 – 135mm lens.  This wasn’t the lens I had planned on using but this camera and lens combination was the best I had for light rain since they are weather resistant.  Yes, it did rain lightly and I did get the camera slightly wet so I had picked the best combination.

While we were sitting and waiting for the reenactment to start, in between occasional sprinkles, I noticed two young ladies dressed in period dresses walking behind us.  I turned around and quickly got one picture when no one was between us, but I couldn’t avoid also getting the couple sitting under the trees in the picture.  It wasn’t the picture I wanted, but it was all I could get.


When I got around to working on the picture my first step was using Lightroom 5 to process the raw files to get the above image.  I then cropped the picture to eliminate the sitting couple.  I also de-saturated the image some to get the following picture.


At this point I played with various effects, including converting it to a monochrome, but finally decided upon the following approach for this story.  I used Color Efex Pro 2 to further de-saturate the image, add a tint and a vignette, etc. to make it look like an older faded picture as shown below and at the top.


It’s probably not fair to do this to two such lovely young ladies, but hopefully, since they had dressed in period costumes, they won’t mind too much.

I still have more pictures that I took that day and I’ll probably be developing them in various styles throughout the coming year.  That is one of my favorite things about photography … taking my pictures in raw format and then being able to develop them over and over in different styles.  Lightroom is a non-destructive process.  When using it you don’t actually change the original picture and can always go back and do it differently at any time.

Empty Chair


Poipu, Kauai, Hawaii

Since I have the time and it is 32 degrees F. with occasional mist or drizzle outside my window at the moment, I have been thinking about the most critical factors for making a good picture.  I think that being at the right place at the right time is the most critical element.  The most important variable is the composition.  Another important variable is having the vision to recognize it and record it.  The third is having the right camera and lens with you at the time, and finally, recording the image with the best settings of the camera’s controls.  Most people seem to stop with those, but I think they are missing what is becoming one of the most important factors … having and using the correct software to develop the image.  If they didn’t record their image in the raw format and then use programs on their computer to develop it, they have missed what is becoming one of the most critical factors for making a good image.

While reminiscing and longing for the warm days with bright sunshine during my last trip to Hawaii, I ran across the above image.  My first reaction was that it wasn’t much … just a lot of blue water and blue sky, an empty chair, and two kayakers too far away for the lens I had with me (close to the horizon in the middle).  I’m not sure why I took the picture but probably just so that I could crop-zoom in to get a better view of the kayakers.

Since I have tried to use my time to improve my use of my software for developing my images, I decided to take this not so good picture and see what I could do with it as a B&W image.  Yes, I know what you are thinking … B&W has no place in bright sunny Hawaii, but after playing with this image I’m not so sure.  By switching to B&W I was able to take all the monotonous blue out of the image and force myself to look at the details.  As it ended up above, I like it better in B&W than the original color.  The more I stare at it, the more I remember how hot and bright it was.

In case you are wondering, I used Adobe Light Room (LR4) for the basic development of the color image and then used Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 to convert it to B&W as you see it above.  The most important thing for you to remember is that with software you can go back and change the picture at any time.  You can’t change the composition, lens, etc. other than to crop-zoom, but you can change the way the original digital image is interpreted.  By saving your images as raw images you will find that you can go back years later with improved software and do a lot more with your old images.  If you are still shooting just jpegs, your chair is empty and you are missing the view the second time around.

Making a Picture

Some of you who know me or have read my blog have noticed that I have referred more and more to my photography as “making pictures” rather than “taking pictures”.  In addition, some have remarked how great my pictures are and wonder how they can also take such pictures.  Well, the purpose of this article is to discuss “making” versus “taking” pictures.   All pictures are made, or developed; but, there is a difference between allowing the camera’s computer to interpret the data or doing it on your computer which is more capable, and with better software gives you more latitude in the development.  Those more experienced photographers who might be reading this can probably skip this article since I am going to address it to those close to the novice end of the spectrum.

Before I get into explaining what I do, I want to make a few things clear.  These are my opinions and are not the only things to consider and it isn’t the cameras that I use.  Yes, there is a basic level of camera that is necessary, but once you move up to cameras around $500 – $600, and up, almost any of the current cameras will do.  Primarily, it takes a camera that allows you to take your pictures in a raw rather than jpeg format.  Basic point & shoot cameras all save their pictures as jpeg files.  This is a compressed format in which the computer in the camera processes the digital data from the sensor and interprets how they should look and then throws out a lot of the data as it compresses them down to smaller files so that you don’t get alarmed about how few pictures you can store on your memory card.  Some top-end point & shoot cameras also allow you to save all the data as raw files and let you process, or develop, the files on your computer to make a picture.  All of the more advanced cameras give you the option as to whether to shoot jpegs or raw files.  I always shoot and process my own raw files.  Another basic requirement is having enough pixels to be able to crop if necessary.

I crop to refine the composition and/or to crop-zoom.  You will see below an example of that feature.  My current cameras have 12 or 16 MP but usually 12 MP is sufficient to allow for reasonable crop-zooming but it depends on the end use of the picture; i.e. whether or not, and how large, you print your pictures.  If you only present them on digital devices, which I do, you have a lot more latitude for zoom-cropping.

Other basics that I am not covering in this article are your vision, composition, camera ergonomics, etc., etc.  Those may be subjects for another day.

Getting back to the purpose for this article, look at the following picture.  I took it in Hawaii on the island of Kauai while visiting Waimea Canyon.  As we went up in altitude and could see further, the air became more noticeably hazy.  The following picture is as I first saw it after downloading it to my computer, and this was after my software (Lightroom 4) had done some basic processing so that I could recognise what I saw when I took the picture.  If I had taken the picture as a jpeg, it would look like this or slightly better depending on the camera’s settings and processing capability.

The above picture is rather flat and isn’t all that good, but is close to what you might have seen after you had a  drugstore print your jpeg pictures.  In order to improve it, I used a software program called Adobe Lightroom 4 (LR4).  The first thing I did was crop the picture.  The concept of taking a vertical picture didn’t work as well as I hoped so I cropped off the bottom of the picture.  I then changed the exposure and made other changes to increase the contrast, clarity, etc. of the picture.  I’m not going to go into all of those details in this article.  Today I just want to show you what is capable of being accomplished if you shoot raw files and use LR4 to process them.

I liked the above picture better, but it still didn’t satisfy me.  It still didn’t look as I remember it looking.  I then made some more changes to the cropping of the scene as well as some more adjustments.  You can primarily see the differences in the sky and the enriched character of the rocks and that I cropped out more of the foreground.

One of the major advantages with doing the development of the picture yourself is that you can keep going back and make other changes.  There is never an end.  LR4 is a nondestructive program.  You never destroy the basic picture and you can always go back and do it over, or you can develop multiple versions of the picture; i.e. you can “make” the picture to fit your vision, or the mood of the scene, or to fit the requirements of a particular blog article. 🙂

Prime Lenses Work Well for Light-Weight Travel

Low tide, Ireland:  Olympus E-PL2, 20mm Panasonic lens, converted to B&W using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2

During my last trip, which was to Ireland, I experimented with using prime lenses to keep the weight and volume to a minimum while still hopefully getting good pictures.  From my perspective it was a resounding success.  I only used a zoom a couple of days just for reference.  I have waited for my fellow travelers to review my pictures ( the 12 previous postings) to see how they reacted before I finally wrote this posting.  Since all the comments and e-mails were very favorable, I’m now ready to deem the experiment a complete success.

For the experiment, I was using a micro 4/3 camera, the Olympus E-PL2, along with two fast prime lenses:  the Panasonic 14 mm, f/2.5 and the 20 mm, f/1.7.  My primary choice was the 20 mm, f/1.7.  It was great for shooting inside dark castles and churches and has great resolution which enabled zoom-cropping if necessary. I generally used one lens per outing and did not change lenses in the field.  I labeled each day’s shootings with the lens combination that I used on the cover slide of each video so you can evaluate any differences.

The micro 4/3 camera-prime lens combination is quite light and small, and I never had any problems always carrying it.  Since these lenses and the camera were not weather resistant, I was able to carry the camera on a strap around my neck and keep it under my rain jacket for protection … and whip it out and take pictures quickly when it wasn’t raining or blowing too hard.  It also enabled me to discreetly take many pictures using just one hand.

My only concern was the limited dynamic range of the micro 4/3 camera.  My first reaction when I looked at the pictures was that they were better than from a smaller sensor camera but not as good as many DSLR’s produced; but, this was before I worked on them with LightRoom 3.4.1.  After I started working on “developing” the pictures, and learned how to best “fine-tune” them I was quite pleased.  I did not take jpeg pictures.  I took all the pictures in the RAW format and thus had greater range to develop and adjust the images.  It takes a little longer than allowing the camera to make the decisions for you, but the quality of the final pictures is greater when you have the time to individually “fine-tune” each shot.  This turned out to be a blessing while taking pictures in Ireland under the widely varying lighting and weather conditions.  But, if you prefer to take your pictures as jpeg files it still works quite well under good lighting conditions.  To check this out, take a look at my Tunisia pictures where I took all of them as jpegs using the Olympus E-P1 camera.

From now on I will probably travel with just a micro 4/3 camera with the 14 and 20 mm Panasonic lenses whenever I need to travel light and am touring towns and country sides with lots of cities, churches, markets, castles, etc.  Basically this is whenever I’m traveling internationally with just my carry-on bag, don’t plan on taking any wildlife pictures, and don’t have room for a larger DSLR camera.