#679. Monday Post (18 Dec 2017) – Loose Ends?

#679. Monday Post (18 Dec 2017) – Loose Ends?

Dawn, Kruger National Park

Dawn, Kruger National Park

 

December. Christmas is already the elephant in the room and as I’ve been out of the DearSusan loop for a couple of weeks road tripping, my thoughts turn to the penultimate Monday Post and what I can contribute.

 

 

A quick check to ensure my facilities remain largely in place – on seeing this, there’s no doubt. My gagometer is still functioning. Despite a palpably better business year, Leica keep doing this and given that a few enthusiasts will buy any crap with a red dot, I can’t help but wonder if someone isn’t extracting the Michael.

 

So, it seems to be a slow news period and the major photography sites across the Interwebs are emblazoned with daily special offers, discounts, rebates and give aways on cameras and lenses. Really? Is the retail channel so overstocked or are the manufacturers having a major stock clear out to make their year-end financials look better?

 

Page after page. Special deals. Discounts. As long as you live in the US or Canada, then you’re good to go. But, I’m guessing that it’s a bitch if you live in Turkmenistan, or Iceland. Then, your special deal evaporates as shipping, import duties and (usually) VAT add back what you’d have saved if you lived in Bumfuck, TX.

 

For those readers living in B&H or Adorama’s duty-free zone(s), I suppose that if you haven’t succumbed to GAS yet in 2017, now is probably a good time to put your year-end bonus to good use.

 

And, if you couldn’t wait and did buy a D850, or an A7R3, you can’t really process the files until RAW converters are released. It’s not a new question, but why don’t Nikon, Canon, Sony et al work with the software developers to ensure you can enjoy your new technology the day it ships?

 

Beats me.

 

My recent road trip gave me lots of thinking time (5000km in 10 days), got me much closer to a post Lightroom post processing solution. Or so I thought.

 

Leopard tortoises drinking from puddles caused by a recent rain shower.

Leopard tortoises drinking from puddles caused by a recent rain shower.

 

It also gave me a chance to put the new Fuji 100-400 zoom to good use. Mounted on the rangefinder-styleX-Pro2, it worked brilliantly. The OIS worked a treat and my only real issue with it was the difficulty of driving in the bush with the camera/lens on my lap and then finding sufficient space to use this photographic bazooka, between the steering wheel, window and me, all squashed into a usually excellent driving position. Fortunately, there are no photographs available and for the same reason, no soundtrack, which is just as well.

 

Meanwhile, my plan to use Photo Mechanic (PM) as a browsing, selection, keyword and workspace hub hasn’t been as successful as I’d hoped. Used to piecemeal keywording in Aperture and Lightroom, PM automates many of these time consuming tasks, but in so doing, adds a level of complexity I found hard to condone in this new age of sympathetic user interfaces and simplicity.

 

Pano - Karoo National Park

Pano – Karoo National Park

 

Sunrise in the bush, Mabalingwe

Sunrise in the bush, Mabalingwe

 

Sunrise in the bush, Mabalingwe

Sunrise in the bush, Mabalingwe

 

Dusk, Kruger National Park

Dusk, Kruger National Park

 

And please, don’t get me started with Structured Keywords. It took me four days of reading appallingly poor user documentation, searching the Web for clues and ideas, YouTube videos and and an eventual reverse engineering of PM’s own Structured Keyword file. It still doesn’t work as PM seems to suggest and I have no idea what the nomenclature they use in the interface is all about. But I think I can now apply keywords to one or more images without pulling down a menu and doing it keyword by keyword.

 

The easy bit was configuring PM to permit me to round trip my images into one of three or four editing packages, as much to try them out in real-world conditions as for their abilities. I’m finding about those all too quickly.

 

In the editing options list is:

PixelmatorPro
On1 RAW
Luminar
RAW Power

 

PixelmatorPro is new and this morning, sent me a fifth update (bug fix) in the little over two weeks since it was released. I want to like it – it’s full of interesting ideas and seems to fit the bill pretty well when it’s working as expected, which so far, isn’t very often.

 

On1 RAW has been around couple of months now and pretty impressive. It’s crammed with functionality, most of which works. Aside from it’s kitchen sink feature list, my only issue has been cropping, which it doesn’t seem be able to do without crashing my entire system – quite an achievement given the way Apple has written MacOS to prevent such occurrences.

 

I like Luminar. It’s good at what it does, but is still glacially slow in comparison to it’s peers and doesn’t (yet) offer a file browser. Still, I have PM for that and the images I’ve driven through the PM/Luminar/PM round trip have been satisfying alternatives to Lightroom. The AI (Boost) slider offers some interesting insights to my images that I might not have thought of myself.

 

RAWPower is a RAW converter, with its roots in Apple’s Aperture (some members of the development team worked at Apple in previous lifetime). It’s pretty good with Fuji’s RAW files and delivers a functionality close to Camera Raw, without the tithe. On the occasions I’ve needed it’s specific capabilities, it’s come through pretty well.

 

All of that said, I’m still not where I want to be. I feel a bit like a hitchhiker in sight of my house, but stubbornly being refused the final ride home. To quote Zappa; “…soon baby.”

 

Juvenile elephants - Shingwedzi

Juvenile elephants – Shingwedzi

 

Dam denizens, Kruger National Park

Dam denizens, Kruger National Park

 

Sunrise, Kruger National Park - this is just extraordinary light, not HDR

Sunrise, Kruger National Park – this is just extraordinary light, not HDR

 

Bourke's Luck Potholes, Mpumulanga

Bourke’s Luck Potholes, Mpumulanga

 

When I started this post on Saturday, I was concerned that I had nothing to write about and so, was ready to acclaim a non-photographic friend of decades, who sent me this link, thinking I might be interested. He’s right.

 

What an idea. If you haven’t read and responded to Pascal’s post #678. Begining DearSusan’s first collaborative project : “Let there be Light”, now might be a good time. You’ll find my buddy’s viewing recommendation here.

 

So, that’s this week’s Post. The final Post of the year will ooze out on Christmas Day. It might be a good idea for you to not have too many pre-conceived ideas about its content.

 

YHBW 😉

 

God's Window, Mpumulanga

God’s Window, Mpumulanga

 

Sunset, Tsitsikamma (Storm's River mouth)

Sunset, Tsitsikamma (Storm’s River mouth)

 

Morning, Tsitsikamma (Storm's River mouth)

Morning, Tsitsikamma (Storm’s River mouth)

12 Comments

  1. Avatar
    jean pierre (pete) guaron December 18, 2017

    How can this possibly be a time zone thing? How come I always seem to be the first to comment? It’s embarrassing me! Maybe I shouldn’t comment, and just sit back to see what happens!

    Let’s see – heaps of great photos – that red Leica has to be some kind of bad taste joke, right? – I agree with your views on gear (see below) – and I’ve been wallowing in post processing software for a while, to test them out, as I drift away from Adobe’s stuff.

    Coming down the page, your second shot of “Sunrise in the bush, Mabalingwe” stopped me dead – I love it. Elephants have always been one of my favourite creatures, so I also had to stop and stare at that shot. The sunrise at Kruger is fabulous – I’ve seen a several sunsets that’d beat it, but NEVER in 75 years have I ever seen a sunrise as powerful as that (don’t you love it when some idiot attributes the genius of your photo to the powers of nature? 🙂 ) And God’s window practically blew me over backwards!

    I don’t catalogue by keywords – that’s how Google’s search engine “works” and of course we all know it doesn’t work. I have developed my own system, which suits me.

    Cropping – easiest for me is PSE14, which I jagged before Adobe closed off copies you could buy. I also use it to resize images, and to send them to the printer. Doing that stuff all in one place is a convenience thing, for me.

    Otherwise, I’ve all but lost interest in Light Room & Photoshop. My actual post processing is done in various programs. One that I love (and use just before sending shots to PSE) is DxO’s ViewPoint – it’s the best for my purposes, for sorting out perspectives (too much – too little – up, down or sideways), horizon lines and verticals. And I generally use ViewPoint to convert files from RAW, just before printing them through PSE14.

    For the other techniques required, whatever pushes your buttons. I’m still searching for Eldorado – none of the various programs seem “perfect” to me, so far – and most of them are useful in varying degrees (some more than others, of course).

    As to equipment purchases. That’s a purely personal thing, too. I recoil when I bump up against someone with a bad attack of GAS – I can feel sorry for them, but we cannot live other people’s lives for them, and it’s everyone’s right to choose their path, make their mistakes (if indeed their choices ARE mistakes), and live with the consequences. If they end up with consequences that don’t suit, perhaps they’ll choose more carefully next time – or perhaps they’re recidivists, and keep repeating the process.

    I’ve been having dialogue on a related issue recently, with another photographer. And here’s how I finished my contribution to the discussion.

    Changing gear in an automobile is a lifestyle – changing camera gear isn’t, and shouldn’t be, because it comes at a hell of a cost and in many cases doesn’t achieve a thing.

    When I bought my D810 it was “simply the greatest” – and the same company a few short years later is singing the same tune about its latest offering, the D850. While I have no doubt that the D850 has features the D810 doesn’t, my response is threefold.

    One – when your whatever-it-is, is as close to perfection as most of the top of the range cameras are (and HAVE been, for quite a while), any “further improvement” in performance is going to be so marginal that you’ll never see it. (I bet that one causes a few screams!)

    Two – until I’ve exhausted the possibilities of improving my photography, using the gear I already have, there’s little point in buying more. Gear doesn’t make the photograph – I’M the one who has to do that.

    Three – the upgrade is a lot of money, I wouldn’t get much for the D810 on trade in, and I can make far better use of that cash buying other gear that I don’t have right now.

    Just to bash any trolls over the head before they do it to me – in terms of image quality, to see any dramatic improvements over the performance of my D810 now, I’d have to move up to medium format. The pros have been saying as much for years, and I think it’s quite true. A recent article showed how the MF format captures detail in the highlights that’s simply beyond the reach of any of the FF or smaller gear. And it doesn’t stop there.

    It may not be much good for camera sales to say so. But if someone feels their photography isn’t as good as they want it to be, joining a camera club might be a better solution than buying another camera.

    • Avatar
      paulperton December 18, 2017

      Thanks Pete, those are some serious compliments – like getting a seriously impressive Xmas gift.

      And yes, it is time zones – I posted this before 10:00 Central African Time, which is the same as Paris, Berlin etc. Plus nine hours and you’d have been reading late afternoon on Aussies’ east coast. Makes sense to me.

      Anyway, it’s nice to be fist, unless you end up having to be last 😉

  2. Avatar
    Georg December 18, 2017

    I’m part of a group currently running direct comparisons of six different RAW converters. Our results vary considerable depending on each member’s needs and at this point they are very preliminary. Here are some of my one findings.
    Luminar: Crashed numerous times and would not open .awr files. Assembled by former members of NIK so we will hold off on the final verdict.
    DxO Photolab: The acquisition of NIK from Google and subsequent inclusion of U Point technology. Good WB, local adjustments, perspective control and output (uses .dng sidecars).
    ON1 RAW 2018: Probably the best mix of local adjustments, layers, ease of use. Extensive preset library is a bonus. Currently best converter for landscape.
    Photo Ninja: Very competent, efficient,,easy to use. Good highlight recovery and chromatic controls. RAW files only. No spot remover.
    Topaz Studio: Fully integrates Topaz plugins into a RAW converter. Good approach if processing centers around presets. Excellent B&W converter.
    Capture One Pro: Most professional interface. Excellent chromatic control. Catalog system only works if all images remain in folders.
    ACR Photoshop: Stable and reliable. But not keeping up in the current horse race which is highly competitive. Maybe simply fall back on CS6/ACR rather than pay subscriptions (until there is actually a step forward).
    My money right now is on ON1 and DxO, depending on the subject type and challenges of a particular shoot. If I were doing only studio work as a business, my choice might be Capture One Pro, whose tethering capabilities are top notch.
    I do feel that at this particular time it is a very useful exercise to run the new players through various types of images, so that one gets a good feel for the capabilities of each. IMO, this has nothing to do with one’s ability as a photographer. It’s about enabling an artistic vision and embracing new technologies.

    • Avatar
      paulperton December 18, 2017

      We’d be delighted to publish this with you – can we keep in touch after Xmas?

      Best,

  3. Avatar
    Georg December 18, 2017

    Hi Pete. You may find the comments by Lloyd Chambers (diglloyd.com) interesting. He has done a lot of testing on the D850 and the Fujifilm MF. Chambers has pushed it to the limit and says that it’s competitive with MF, from a noise basis in low light. He also is not a big fan of Sony’s last 2 offerings. He makes a point about the D850 focus shift feature are interesting as he says there only a handful of Nikon AF lenses that can match doing it manually with good Zeiss glass. (However he does not test it on macro photo subjects.)
    Note that the sensor in the D850 is not from Sony but designed by Nikon and manufactured by another sensor company. It may be a bigger upgrade than simply a step up from 36 to 45MP.
    Having said that, unless someone is planning to print larger than 20×30 inches (50×75 cms), I sense that the D810 will do as good a job in all but a few situations. It’s a darn good camera. One might wait until DXO Mark publishes results of D850/Otus glass combinations, to see how big a jump in performance there is. It would not be a surprise to me if the performance is more than the 1/1.25 jump from 36 to 45MP.
    Personally, I am hoping the D850 saves Nikon. I believe that what may be at stake there.

    • Avatar
      jean pierre (pete) guaron December 20, 2017

      Thanks, George – I think – oh dear – if Nikon goes under, what on earth happens to my Otus lenses? Doesn’t bear thinking about!
      I suppose there would be a fire sale of remaining stock and I could pick up another camera body – that would probably see me out, I’m 75 already.
      Nikon was actually picking up before the D850 hit the shelves. The D850 isn’t doing their sales figures any harm, either. So let’s hope they’ve been through the worst of it and are making a comeback. I’m not knocking the D850 – I have a suspicion there’s going to be a D860 after it’s field tested, just as the D810 followed the D800 & D880E.
      For the moment, though, it’s not for me – I’m perfectly happy with the gear I’ve got, and I want to explore it a great deal longer, to learn all I can from it, before moving on to the next cam.
      Personally I never print larger than A3. And the detail in shots taken with the D810/either of the Otus lenses are to drool over – the detail is astounding.
      Where FF cams fail, as I understand it, is in the depth of detail in the highlights. MF cams have it all over them, there, according to an article I read recently. But some of this ends up being rather nonsensical. The acid test is not how much this or that – it’s “is this a good photograph”? And you don’t need the best, the greatest, the most expensive, or whatever, to hit that target.
      To me, discussions that hare off in that direction simply reek of GAS. I don’t see the point. Few among us can afford to buy anything & everything.
      Actually I don’t use the D810/Otus combination all the time. My daily workhorse is a Canon PowerShot, and I have a great deal of fun with it. It can turn out duds, but it’s actually capable of producing some damn good photos – it all depends what I’m shooting. I don’t want to imply that the “better” cams can’t beat it – just that it’s convenient, it’s fun, and it DOES take good shots.
      If sharpness is all we are worried about, the best I ever took were with a 4×5 Linhof studio camera – but I’m certainly not prepared to lug a thing like that half way round the world.

  4. Avatar
    Georg December 18, 2017

    An update. Luminar just sent an updated version which addresses a lot of concerns. I guess we need to keep the faith. Have purchased Aurora HDR from them to do single file HDR. Has a lot of promise. Seems to be better than Photoshop. Will check how it stacks up against Photomatix HDR.

  5. Avatar
    georg December 18, 2017

    Thanx, Kristian. Northlight gives thorough and favorable review for DxO Optics 11. Will check petapixel later.

    • Avatar
      jean pierre (pete) guaron December 20, 2017

      DxO have moved on from OP11 to (now) PhotoLab2, Georg. And like you, I’ve just downloaded the latest Luminar and Aurora HDR. Some people seem to swear by Corel, but I haven’t tried it.
      How are the mighty fallen! Since I decided I didn’t want to follow the path that Adobe has taken, I’ve virtually stopped using LR and am mostly using COP at the moment. PS is still useful for some things, but those things are more house keeping (crops, etc – image sizing – printing – things like that) than retouching. Maybe I’ll have another period with LR’s last stand alone. I can’t say I was grateful to COP for trying to sell me an upgrade for 120 Euros, or whatever, less than 3 months after I paid them twice that amount to buy COP. That’s rather greedy and I’m refusing to consider it – why should I, when the COP I DID buy does all I want anyway?

  6. Avatar
    Adrian December 19, 2017

    I mostly regard the M system as an anachronistic irrelevance that is only of interest to well-heeled collectors and those who fail to adapt. Most of the other Leica systems don’t seem to have longevity, and are priced to sell in tiny numbers to those who don’t know better or who are dazzled by the power of brand. If anyone believes their “made in Germany” marketing for their electronic cameras, they should consider whether Leica actually have the electronic engineering ability to actually design and manufacture these products – I think “assembled in Germany” might be a more accurate description, in the same way that some Japanese car makers assemble their Japanese designed cars in Eastern Europe, from kits with complete engines shipped from Japan.

    Some of the light in some of the landscapes is beautiful, really stunning. Alas, the close focus and shallow depth of field photos with the Fuji 100-400mm show that close focus rendering is not it’s strength – hard edged rings from bright points, and a rather nervous character. I’ve come across other lenses whose character isn’t very good at close focus and whose bokeh tends to fall apart, but in fairness to a 100-400mm tele-zoom, shallow depth of field and close focus aren’t really what it’s designed for.

  7. Avatar
    Steffen Kamprath December 21, 2017

    Mmh … I need to talk to my wife again about the family trip to Namibia. Such exciting places …

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