Tuesday, January 5, 2010

RAW, ISO, landscapes, Part 2

So, I tried everything on my list from the last post except for experimenting with DOF.

1. Shooting in RAW: This was an adventure. I realized that when I opened the images after they had downloaded to my computer, that automatically triggered the opening of DPP (Digital Photo Professional), where I could edit the RAW images and convert them to JPEGs. DPP lacks some of the editing tools that I commonly use, especially the "straighten" tool, so I had to also open the photos in my beta version of Lightroom that I got a couple of weeks ago to finish up the editing. Had a heck of a time figuring out how to convert the edited RAW images from DPP to Lightroom to JPEGs in a folder on my desktop, but I think I get it now.

In shooting RAW, I noticed that my images were rougher around the edges (literally and figuratively) than I'm used to. I am still figuring out which setting to tweak (& how much) to get a smoother, less noisy image. However, I think I'll continue to shoot in RAW and learn how to manipulate the images to get a good final product.

2. Higher ISOs: I shot a few landscapes in ISO 1600 without meaning to, but it ended up being a good experiment (photos posted below). I also shot a series of J inside the house on ISO 100 through 1600. You won't really be able to tell a difference at the size they post to on this site, but zoomed to 100% you can definitely see a difference in the smoothness of the bokeh. I shot them with my 50mm. Unfortunately, with my XT, the images get fairly noisy at ISO 400, and pretty noisy at 800. So that's definitely on the top of my list for my next body upgrade.

3. Landscapes, large apertures: So, I slapped on my old kit lens and tried out a few landscapes. All of them were taken at my widest angle, 18mm, which is actually 28 on my crop body. For this one, I set the f-stop at 7.1 and ISO 800:

I think I maybe should have tried an even higher f-stop number. Here's another that I converted to black and white. Also f/7.1, but at ISO 400:

There was an intense fog that passed through the area in the late morning. I was technically working remotely via my laptop that day, but I had to take a break for a few minutes and try to get some shots. The fog was so unreal.

Another interesting fact about the above photo was the straightening I applied to it. As I took it, the photo was actually pretty straight (vertical) when looking at the tree on the left side of the frame. However, the horizon was really off, tilted up on the right side. So, I tried to straighten the horizon, but then the tree looked like it was leaning to the right, in toward the middle of the frame. So I tried to strike a balance, but I'm wondering what landscape photographers usually do in that situation. What should be straight, if only one element can be?

Here's one last one. F/7.1, ISO 400:

It was a challenge messing with the colors in post-processing. The fog really threw me off, and I wasn't sure how saturated to make them -- how "colorful" to make them -- considering the intensity of the fog. I don't want the photos to look unnatural.

It was pretty fun shooting landscape, and I think I have a fairly good eye for its composition. I think finding interesting locales where I live (big city) would be more challenging than anything!

Look for an updated "Wish List" to come (it's getting more expensive).


  1. DPP and Lightroom are both RAW converters so you shouldn't need to use both. Lightroom offers many more facilities, but is expensive. However many photographers find it offers all they need and they often don't need to use an image editor. A classic workflow would be to do your basic exposure, white balance, shadow/highlight adjustments in RAW software, and then export as 16 bit TIFs for any final specific edits within an image editor such as Photoshop.

    It's important to export as 16 bit TIFs as working on 8 bit files can generate unwanted artefacts. Once you have finished editing store the images as 16 bit TIFs to ensure maximum image quality. Note that any sharpening (beyond minimal sharpening settings via the RAW software) should be done last and should only be done according to the specific use of the exported file. A reduced size image for web will require different sharpening to a larger file for print.

    In terms of apertures, use something like the Depth of Field calculator to give you some idea of how apertures and focal lengths effect DOF:


    Using any sort of wideangle on a crop or full frame camera will generally require no smaller aperture than f8 or f11 to get everything in focus.

    In terms of bendy verticals, there are two issues to be aware of. First lens distortion. Wide angle lenses used wide can display barrel distortion, causing verticals to appear bendy. DPP offers the facility to correct lens distortion for Canon lenses. You can also do it through Photoshop using the PT Lens plug-in. Secondly, perspective distortion can lead to converging verticals. A classic situation being a photo looking upwards at tall buildings with a wideangle lens. This can be corrected in Photoshop.

    Finally, out of the three photos, I like the 3rd one with the swing the best. The empty swing is a poignant motif and gives the shot an element of narrative. Such an element can lift an ordinary landscape to a more impactful level.

    Hope all this helps in some way.

  2. Simon, thank you so much for your in-depth comments.

    I will definitely experiment with TIF files. Also, where do most people resize their images? Is that done in editing software as well? I am not computer-illiterate, but I do have a lot to learn about working with digital photos.

    Where can you find the tool that corrects lens distortion in DPP? (I find that program kind of confusing to use, but I've really just begun.)

    Thanks again!

  3. Generally any cropping or resizing would be done with the image editor, after RAW processing. Ideally you would frame your shot correctly when shooting, but of course in practice some cropping is necessary. Once you have your final full size image you should save it as a 16 bit TIF - this serves as your master file. If using a 500D this would ideally be very close to 4752 by 3168 - unless you have cropped heavily.

    You then export from that as necessary. So for example, if you need a 900 by 600 pixel image for web display you resize a copy of the file to those dimensions and export as a JPG. A tiny bit of sharpening might be in order just after the resize and before the save.

    The lens distortion correction in DPP is accessed via the NR/Lens tab on the tool palette. You will see a 'Tune' button that brings up adjustments for Peripheral Illumination, Distortion and Chromatic Aberration. You can correct up to 100% as desired. How much you need to use these tools will depend on the lens, focal length and aperture used. Lenses with big zoom ranges are likely to distort more at full wide and zoom. Shooting lenses wide open and at wider apertures generally may result in vignetting and chromatic aberration which may benefit from correction. You will soon get a feel for how each of your lenses performs in this regard.

    Hope this is useful.