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Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Best Noise Reduction Software

These days one of the thing most of us photographers obsess about is the noise performance. Whenever a new camera comes out the first thing we want to know is how good is it with high iso levels, it is one of the first test we want to see. However, there is another factor that could have an equally large impact on the amount of noise you will have in your final image, that factor is "post-processing".

A lot of photographers might be unaware, or just haven't got around to trying several software out there designed specifically for reducing noise in an image, but I have to say that many of them can produce superior results to just using the noise reducing function in a general image processing software.

So I have made a short list of programs here that might be useful to anyone out there interested in trying, or looking for such programs.

Noise Ninja

Neat Image


These three are probably the best such softwares available right now. I think all of them offer a free demo, so you can try them all out if you want to see which one works best for you.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Samui Island Photos From The Mountains - Carl Zeiss 16-35mm f2.8 ZA

Samui Island Sony a900 Carl Zeiss 16-35mm f2.8 ZA

Samui Island is just one of those places I never seem tired of visiting. As soon as you set foot on the island you can just feel the laid back vibe taking you over. The island itself is just the right size, large enough to offer plenty of beaches but small enough so that you can easily get around. The other great thing about Samui is the diversity of the people that call it home. Apart from the local Thai population you will find plenty of Europeans, Americans, Russians and many more, each of them bringing with them their own cultures...and more importantly FOOD. Honestly, I have had some of the best burgers, pizzas and spaghetti in restaurants here opened by expatriates who came over to settle.

If you are wondering whether the photo above was taken from the balcony of my super deluxe villa, no the place is not a hotel or a rentla villa but a house, and no it's not mine. I was lucky enough however, to be able to wander around and take some photos.

Samui Island Sony a900 Carl Zeiss 16-35mm f2.8 ZA

I love going to the beach and love being right by the sea, but having seen this place I must admit being on the mountain is not so bad either, well with views like this how could it not be :).

Samui Island Sony a900 Carl Zeiss 16-35mm f2.8 ZA

Before if someone had asked me if I can have a place on Samui, would it be on the beach or on the mountain? I would have said on the beach without hesitation, but now I don't think I can actually choose...can I have both?

Samui Island Sony a900 Carl Zeiss 16-35mm f2.8 ZA
So in keeping with that train of thought, I will be posting pictures from a higher and probably less seen perspective of Samui Island in this post.

Samui Island Sony a900 Carl Zeiss 16-35mm f2.8 ZA

Samui Island Sony a900 Carl Zeiss 16-35mm f2.8 ZA

Samui Island Sony a900 Carl Zeiss 16-35mm f2.8 ZA

Samui Island Sony a900 Carl Zeiss 16-35mm f2.8 ZA

Samui Island Sony a900 Carl Zeiss 16-35mm f2.8 ZA

Samui Island Sony a900 Carl Zeiss 16-35mm f2.8 ZA

Samui Island Sony a900 Carl Zeiss 16-35mm f2.8 ZA

Samui Island Sony a900 Carl Zeiss 16-35mm f2.8 ZA

Samui Island Sony a900 Carl Zeiss 16-35mm f2.8 ZA

Samui Island Sony a900 Carl Zeiss 16-35mm f2.8 ZA

Friday, October 12, 2012

Camera Raw 7.2 Manual File Download

As we have all probably noticed, not only has Adobe made their newest Camera Raw update only compatible with CS6, they have said that in order to get it you will need to use the in-program auto updater. This has been creating some problems for some people, whose updater doesn't seem to be working properly, or for those people using Photoshop on a machine without Internet connection.

Well do not despair, it is actually possible to download the file manually like previous versions, below are the links

Simply download the files, extract it and run the application. It will then update automatically.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

How to open Sony a99 RAW files

If you are using Photoshop CS6, a patch has been released that enables it to open the a99 RAW files, you can simply open the program and use the auto update function and you're set. If you are using Lightroom 4.2 an update has also been released for both the Windows and Mac versions, sadly the Windows version is only available for 7 or Vista and not XP.

For the rest of us processing the Sony a99 RAW files requires more effort, because Adobe will not provide Camera Raw support for older versions of their software (obviously trying to get people to pay to upgrade to the latest versions), instead we will need to use additional programs open or convert the files first. I think the best program available right now is the DNG Converter 7.2, which is made freely available to download by Adobe (how nice of them), you can download it by following the links below

Windows version (the program will also run on Windows XP)

This program will convert the RAW files into DNG files, which can then be open by pretty much any programs. The only hassle is that converting does take sometime, but since it will convert a whole folder at once you can leave it to do it's thing while you go grab a cup of coffee or something. Another downside is you will need extra storage space for both the original RAW files and the converted DNG files.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Bangkok New Year's Eve Fairground Rides 2011 Minolta 35mm f1.4 G

Following the previous post about the photos I took on New Year's Eve of 2010 I realized that I also had photos I took on New Year's Eve of 2011.

Armed with a 30 year old Minolta 35mm f1.4 G lens attached to the Sony a900, I once again find myself in central Bangkok, and once again the atmosphere was just as vibrant and colorful as ever, maybe even more colorful than the previous year considering I spent the night walking around a fairground.

There was an empty plot of land right in the heart of Bangkok that has been cleared and was in the process of being develop into yet another department store. Before the construction work starts however, someone had the brilliant idea of plonking down a fairground for people to enjoy during the Christmas and New Year.

I got dizzy just photographing the thing...can't imagine what those people on are feeling

One thing that I didn't have with me this time is a tripod :(, which is a real shame with all the rides with spinning colored lights presenting some great opportunities for long exposure shots. I tired my best to do them handheld, but there are still some blurring in the images.

I never win anything at these fairground games

The New Year excitement seems to be lost on this particular guard

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sony RX100 Image Samples Part 2

The first post "Sony RX100 Image Samples" was becoming a bit slow to load, so I have created a second post to upload more photos from the camera here

falling leaves Sony RX100 iso 160 f6.3 100mm

falling leaves 2 Sony RX100 iso 125 f6.3 92mm

Centara hotel Bangkok Sony RX100 iso 125 f4.9 100mm

floating flowers Sony RX100 iso 160 f5 28mm

raining flowers 2 Sony RX100 iso 125 f5 43mm

riding solo Sony RX100 iso 125 f5 28mm

shooting fountain Sony RX100 iso 125 f4.9 100mm

25 degrees burger Sony RX100 iso 1250 f2.2 28mm

25 degrees onion ring Sony RX100 iso 800 f2.2 28mm

toy car front Sony RX100 iso 1600 f4.5 28mm

toy car side Sony RX100 iso 1600 f2.2 56mm

table football Sony RX100 iso 1600 f4.5 28mm

6 monkies Sony RX100 iso 125 f4 28mm

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bangkok New Year's Eve : Sony a55 Tamron 17-50mm f2.8

After the previous post that I talked about the picture I took of the Rama VI monument in the first hours of the New Year. Some people have asked about the photos that I mentioned I was taking before, on New Year's Eve of 2010.

So I have decided to put some of the photos in this post. Before continuing any further I must give you a quick warning,

people with allergies to heavily processed HDR photography should leave the post immediately, excess consumption can be fatal

Although I like HDR, I am usually not a fan of heavy handed HDR processing. In this particular case though I thought it represented what I was trying to capture more accurately than if I had processed the photos normally. I was trying to capture a very vibrant and colorful atmosphere of New Year's Eve in Bangkok. The city actually blocked off one of it's main road and created a walking street, with lights put up all along it. Shops and hotels on both sides also do their part in creating beautiful decorations. It really feels like everyone in Bangkok have converged on the center of the city, and are having one big party.

front courtyard of the Amarin department store in central Bangkok

I really like all the little details in the large print of the picture above, sadly they are not possible to see on the monitor.

a zoomed in portion of the above photo, so you could see some of the details I was talking about

For each photo I used three different exposures with the shutter speed ranging from about 1 to 15 seconds. I was really surprised and happy with how the moving parts of the photographs came out. I loved how the shots was clear enough to be able to clearly capture the form of the people in the scene, but blurry enough so that you can't really make out individual faces.

view from the Skywalk showing part of the walking street in Bangkok

I usually feel very self-conscious walking around with a DSLR attached to a large tripod, and am always too embarrassed to do it in busy public places. So I was hesitant at first, but luckily tonight there are loads of photographers around, most with bigger cameras and even bigger tripods :).

Sunday, September 16, 2012

King Rama VI Monument Lumphini Park Bangkok Thailand

It was about 01.30 am on the 1st of January 2011, less than two hours into the new year. I had just been walking around the center of Bangkok for the last three hours capturing the sights and sounds of people celebrating new year's eve. Now, at the end of the night, I find myself standing in front of King Rama VI's monument situated in Lumphini Park (a large park in the middle of Bangkok). This time of year they actually decorate the monument with lots of lights so I thought I would take one more shot before calling it a night. I was setting up for a straight on, landscape long exposure shot of the monument, just as I pressed the shutter for my first test shot, a motorcycle drove by right in front of the monument.

"Oh for !#@$@!..."

Just before I could finish cursing I saw the sirens on the bike and realized that it was a policeman. Oups, now I was just hoping he didn't hear me as I continued the cursing inside my mind. As I went back to the camera to take another shot I realized my torment was not over. The policeman had parked his bike next to the monument, and is now walking towards the front of it.

"Oh what now?", I thought to myself.

He started taking off his boots (as you can see in the picture), and walked up to pay his respect.

"Oh man, we are going to be here all night"

I was standing there with a long face waiting for him to finish, when a friend who was with me said, "this is nice, why don't you take a picture of it?". It was like a light bulb went on, I suddenly realized that, oh yeah, this would make a really nice shot. The first thing this policeman did for the new year is to pay his respect to King Rama VI for good karma (all the credits for this photo should go to my friend).

Now I was in a frantic race against time to reset everything on my camera for the shot you see above. Pretty much every setting needed is the complete opposite as for the long exposure shot. Whereas before I was counting the seconds until he finished, now I was hoping he took his time.

1. Took the camera off the tripod...check

2. Increase the iso from 100 to 1600...check

3. Change the aperture from f11 to f5...check

4. Change the drive mode from mirror lock to normal single shot...check

Hoping I haven't forgotten anything I lined up the shot and pressed the shutter. Click...Nooooooo, I forgot the change the shutter speed and it was still at 12 seconds. Now I was stuck cursing myself as I waited for what seems like 12 minutes, hoping I would get another chance. Finally the exposure finished and I quickly changed the mode to aperture priority. Just in time I got off a couple of shots before the policeman got up and walked away before riding off on his bike.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Samui Island HDR Without Tripod

These photos are actually from a trip I took to Samui island a couple of years ago, I just never got around to processing it. No excuses really, just too lazy as usual :). For this trip I took along my newly acquired Sony a55 (just shows how long ago it was) coupled with the Tamron 17-50 f2.8. Since I was traveling with quite a large group, I had to balance my desire for taking photographs with being a good travel companion, so I couldn't really waste their time by stopping at each location to setup my tripod.

Samui Island View Sea Tree Cliff : it was so windy from the incoming storm I almost got blown off the cliff

I still wanted to do some HDR photography though, so that meant I had to take exposure bracketed shots handheld. Luckily the advantages of the new STL technology really helped in this regard. Having no jolt from the mirror flipping up and down during each shots meant that I could hold the camera pretty still, and being able to take them at 10fps helped minimize any camera movement between shots even further.

I can never decide how to process my images so I always end up with many different versions
As usual I am very indecisive when it comes to deciding how I want to process my images. I actually have many versions of the same shots, but I had to force myself to chose at most two versions for each, one color and another black and white.

maybe just one more step to the right...
I nearly got killed trying to get the composition I wanted for the picture above. I wanted both islands to be in the center between the two trees. So I was looking through the view finder as I was shifting sideways to the right. I was getting closer and closer to the angle I wanted, but just as I was about to take one more step I had a glance my horror I was standing right at the edge of a sheer 30 foot drop. Since I am no Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon martial arts master that can levitate in the air, I just decided to take the best shot I could and live to shoot another day.

this is not a car commercial...honest
Although it might look like this shot was setup it actually wasn't. I just got out of the car to walk around and enjoy the view at the top of this cliff, when I looked around the car was just parked in a typical "ad pose" and the light coming through the crowd was just perfect so I fired off a few shots. If I actually set this shot up I probably wouldn't have the tree sticking out from behind the car like that.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Samui Island Seaview Thailand

Samui Island Seaview Thailand Sony a900 CZ 16-35mm f2.8

I think some photos are even better viewed when they are developed into large prints. Like the one above for example, there are lots of little details in the sea and the area near the pier on the bottom left that just can't be seen on a monitor, even if you enlarge it to full screen on a 21 inch monitor. With an A0 size print you can actually see lots of little boats, some just lying in anchor, and some are sailing along creating a wake trail.

Samui Island Seaview Thailand 2 Sony a900 CZ 16-35mm f2.8
The ease of which you can process an infinite variation of a single image today always give me a real headache, I can never decide which one to use as the final version. One day I will like one better, and the next I will prefer the other :(.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Man vs Nature with Carl Zeiss 16-35mm f2.8 and a900

Man vs Nature

About a year ago, I took a few days to escape the hectic city of Bangkok to the relative calm of the countryside. While I was taking a short hike on a nearby hill to where I was staying, I came across this scene that I thought perfectly summed up the current balance between Man and Nature in the world.

At first glance it seemed just like yet another example of the destruction of nature by humans, a hillside along with the trees on it being carved out to make way for a local road. From the angle I was standing however, the small remaining mound of rock and trees was casting a very interesting shadow on the bare hillside.

The shadow looked like some sort of creature or deity of nature squaring up against the bulldozer representing the destructive force of man. It's kind of like the current state of the world, with first man's constant destruction of nature creating an imbalance in the climate which in turn is coming back to hurt man, like a constant struggle for balance.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Cheap Packshot with Sony RX100 Compact ($17 including light source)

The other day while playing around with the Sony RX100, a crazy idea just popped into my head for some reason, that idea was "why not try to take some packshots with it". The idea was crazy because prior to this I have only "attempted" to do packshot photography, but after a very short time of having to try and move a large and heavy DSLR around a small set, I soon gave up. I have always thought it might be more convenient doing it with a compact, but until now I haven't had a compact with a good enough image quality to be worth trying, and equally important, one that takes RAW images, so I can white balance the image properly.

looking pretty good for a 30 year old

You can see the image I got from the RX100 above. Not bad for a first attempt ever if I say so myself :). The lens in the picture is the Minolta 35mm f1.4, and I think it's looking pretty good considering it is about 30 years old. The little white specks you see aren't scratches either, they are dusts, note to self "don't forget to clean the product next time". In case you are wondering how I setup the shot, please carry on reading below.

the cheapest lamps I could find
I didn't set myself a challenge to do the cheapest packshot possible, but with the state of the economy (and more importantly me being pretty cheap), I just wanted to spend as little money as possible. I knew I needed light sources for the shoot, and I figure using lamps would be the cheapest option. I just didn't realize how expensive lamps are these days, everywhere I looked they were costing at least 10-12 dollars each. So I kept searching and hoping, and my efforts were not in vain, eventually I found some at a discount store that costs $5 each, and so I bought a couple.

what? the bulbs cost almost as much as the lamp?
Sadly the lamps did not come with light bulbs included, so that meant more money. I bought a 100 watt to use as the main, and a 25 watt to use as fill and it was $5 for the two. It could have cost even less had I bought a regular filament, but I decided to keep with the time and be conscience of the environment and so I went with the more expensive energy saving bulbs.

I also used a torch I had lying around as another extra fill light.

A $2 piece of future board will have to do as the stage.

For the subject I chose an old Minolta 35mm f1.4 lens, since it took great pictures maybe it will take a great picture as well...get it :).

The China Rig

Above is my rough setup, with the 100 watt bulb in front of the lens (on the near side of the photo) and the 25 watt bulb as fill from behind (far side of the photo). The flashlight was used as an extra soft fill to light the shadow area right below the lens, to help make the shadow less harsh.

I call it the China Rig, since pretty much everything is made in China except for the lens.