You may have noticed (I hope you have) that I haven’t posted to the blog this week. That’s because I’m feeling sorry for myself. I shot the picture above at the weekend from the summit of Cat Bells in the Lake District. The mountains ahead are one side of the Newlands Horseshoe which was my target for the day. It’s a wonderful circuit that I have done many times and the recent snow flurries made me all the more excited.
On this occasion it wasn’t to be however as my wife started to feel unwell. Turns out she had the flu which I then caught. I thought I could work through it on Monday but I couldn’t and I have spent the last few days laid up in bed feeling dreadful (I can’t remember ever having felt worse). I will have to cut this post short as I need to get some rest again. I can’t wait to feel better and get out with the camera.
I have been trying to create a new camera profile for my Sony RX100 in Lightroom for a few weeks but had been unable to get the software for my Passport Color Checker to work properly. I have now traced the problem to the new version of DNG files that Lightroom 4.3 creates (Lightroom 4.2 seemed to work fine). I resolved the problem by saving my DNG files in the old DNG version 6.6 format.
Don’t worry if the above doesn’t mean much to you, if you have a Sony RX100 and use Lightroom you might want to download and try the profile I created. I found the profile improves the reds and blues (particularly) over the standard Adobe profile.
You can download my profile for free from the Members Area of my Lenscraft. You will need to have signed up as a member but that gives you free access to everything on the site and I don’t pester people with emails other than a quarterly newsletter and the odd announcement.
If you use Lightroom and have an LX5 or GX1 you will also find my profiles for these cameras in the same location.
I have just answered a question posted on yesterdays blog and it made me realise I am missing the obvious again. This time it was that most people reading my blog have probably never seen a direct conversion from a RAW infrared file. Neither will you probably know what all this problem is with white balance and why I was so concerned. Here then are some examples that hopefully will put this right. All are created from the same RAW file used for the image at the top of the page and I have done no other adjustments to the files beyond what I explain below.
This first example is what you get in Lightroom when you set the camera white balance to AWB and all the other sliders are at 0.
The next example shows what you get in Lightroom when you set the camera white balance correctly for infrared light. Better but still not correct.
Here is the same RAW file in SilkyPix using the correct Infrared white balance. Notice the difference in colour from the Lightroom image. In this image there is much more information in all three colour channels and it makes for a better conversion to black and white.
The next example shows what happens in SilkyPix when you set the white balance using the white balance picker on the grass near to the castle. This is how the file should look before converting to black and white. This gives a nice spread of information in all the channels and makes for a high quality conversion. Even though a lot of the information in the B and G channels is probably interpolated by the RAW converter, it still appears to be a better conversion and that’s what I am interested in.
In this final example, I have done a channel swap between the Red and Blue channels to create a false colour. Not to everyone’s taste but it can be quite effective.
I am always on the hunt for new ways to do things that can improve my photography. You only need to achieve a few small quality improvements and it can quickly add up to dramatic improvements in your work. One area that I had been exploring was RAW converters and some of you might have seen an earlier post I made about Photo Ninja which looked very promising but was quite expensive. My decision was therefore to stick with Lightroom which performs well.
More recently with my new found passion for Infrared photography, I have identified that Lightroom isn’t good for processing RAW files from my converted GX1. The quick explanation of this is that Lightroom can’t set a white point for the infrared image and you end up with an image which is red. This then prevents you from using a technique called channel swapping to produce false colour but it also appears to detract from the quality of the final image when working in black and white. My search was on then for a RAW converter to use with my infrared images.
I returned initially to Photo Ninja which did a good job and allowed me to set a correct white balance. Unfortunately the cost put me off although I did come close to making a purchase and probably would have if it wasn’t for RAW Therapee. This is a free RAW converter which performs well and has some nice features such as allowing me to do a channel swap during the RAW conversion. The only problem is that it’s tricky to use.
I moved on to search for another free RAW converter “Bibble” which it seems has been purchased by Corel and is now sold as Corel Aftershot. This works well enough and is good price. I just had a niggling feeling that I shouldn’t make a purchase just yet.
After a lot of searching and experimentation I remembered that Panasonic Cameras capable of shooting RAW images are packaged with a special version of the SilkyPix RAW converter. This is version 3 of the SilkyPix Developer Studio that has been limited to only working with Panasonic cameras. Whilst it won’t convert my Canon and Sony files it will process my GX1 and LX5 images fine.
After initial experimentation with the latest version I found the images to be super quality, containing lots of detail, appearing nice and sharp, with good colour and being free from noise. They are in my opinion better than those from Lightroom (both traditional and infrared images). Here is a section of the image above at 100% (click the image to zoom in).
The real decision maker for me is when I received an email the day after offering an upgrade to version 5 developer Studio (still limited to Panasonic cameras) for JPY3800 (about £24). Decision made!
I am now therefore using SilkyPix for my infrared RAW conversions and am extremely pleased with the results.
Not a lengthy discussion this time as I have such a backlog of work and more importantly things I want to experiment with. I thought however that I would share the above image with you. This is Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland.
I took the shot on the GX1 I had converted to Infrared and used an Olympus 9-18 lens. I processed the image into the familiar black and white from RAW, using SilkyPix (more on that in a future blog). Initially however it looked to be lacking something. I couldn’t put my finger on the problem but the image just didn’t have appeal.
It was then I realised a problem with digital IR. It doesn’t have either the grain or the glow of the traditional infrared films which is in fact for me a large part of the appeal from IR images. My solution was to add a new layer to the image in Photoshop and then add a glow to this with a filter. A mask was then used to restrict the glow to the lightest parts of the image.
This last weekend was an interesting one as I was back in Northumberland photographing. I didn’t sleep much the night before which is often the case when making an early morning start, however this time it wasn’t the early start causing this; it was the howling wind. All night long the wind continued and well into the next day.
In the morning we sat in the car just before daybreak watching the huge wave’s role in, creating huge plumes of spray from the top of each wave. It was at this point that I realised my lightweight tripod just wasn’t going to support my Canon 5D with filters; at least not without showing signs of vibration. In the end I decided I had to use my old Manfrotto 055 tripod which is much heavier and was in the car as a backup.
Most of the results from the dawn shoot using the Manfrotto were vibration free and very crisp. Later in the day I switched back to my lightweight Velbon tripod which although still windy, t performed very well given I had a large DSLR mounted on it.
The following morning was pretty much a repeat of the day before except the winds were even stronger. So strong in fact that I struggled to use the Manfrotto tripod with the 5D and ended up trying to shield the camera whilst holding down the tripod. I did manage a few wide angle shots with the smallest of my lenses but I wanted to use a long lens and in the strong wind I couldn’t.
My solution was to switch the 5D for a Panasonic GX1 with 45-200mm lens. This gave the equivalent of a 90-400mm lens on the 5D. Interestingly the smaller profile and weight of the camera allowed it to sit solidly on the Manfrotto tripod. So, although the Lightweight Velbon tripod suffered in the strong winds, so did the 5D and best of all, the lightweight GX1 solved the problem.
A little while back I reported that I was struggling to get my Infrared images from my GX1 to meet my expectations. I was experiencing difficulties with depth of field, focus and my images seemed grainy and soft. And whilst I did achieve some improvements to the quality I wasn’t entirely satisfied the results. The real problem however is that I have nothing to compare my results against so it might be that all Infrared images are soft and grainy. Well, I have had something of a revelation over the weekend and have achieved some very high quality images with which I am delighted.
The source of my problem was identified after a friend sent his Nikon camera for conversion. When returned the lens had the UV filter removed and this had been carefully packaged with a note saying “DON’T USE WITH INFRARED”. When he spoke to the company they said they had encountered a number of problems in the past when these filters are used on converted cameras. Whilst all filters are not the same, there is no way of telling which cause a problem so he was recommended to buy a clear glass lens protector instead.
As soon as I heard this I searched the internet but couldn’t find anything about this problem. I decided to do some quick tests by simply removing my UV filters (expensive B&W ones) and the results were amazing. The areas that had been very soft were now much sharper. The graininess that had been apparent in images had now cleared. The images were now significantly sharper with fine details appearing crisp. And the distortion appearing towards the edge of the frame (especially in the corners) was reduced significantly, down to levels expected with these lenses.
Now you might recall that I mentioned my 45-200 lens didn’t display such strong problems as my 9-18 lens and that my 18-45 lens was worse than the others. Well checking the filters, the one attached to the 45-200 was a cheap 7 Day Shop UV filter which appears to have much less effect than the B&W filters. When I checked the B&W filters I found one of them caused more problems than the other.
I am now on the lookout for clear glass 52mm filters that do no filtering at all. Until I find them I will be shooting with the front lens element exposed.