Monday, 28 March 2011

Sepia Sunset

087/365, originally uploaded by craigand.


The old debate of shooting JPEG vs RAW will never go away, I think. There are extremes to each argument, with the JPEG proponents wanting results SOOC (Straight Out Of Camera) and consider anything else not being "true" to the photograph as you took it. RAW extremists, on the other hand, consider doing that the equivalent of spending £5000 on kit and getting the pictures developed at a 1hr automated photo shop instead of in your own darkroom. You won't have anywhere near the level of control, although most won't ever need or use it. Rational people are somewhere between those two extremes.

Of course, there are advantages to each. Raw files are massive, for a start. I can fit between 300 and 350 on an 8Gb SD card. I can fit between 1200 and 1500 JPEGs in the same space. And they take an age to faff with. You can't just get them off the card and show people. There is a load of grunt work to do, even if you don't actually manipulate them in any way at all.

And yet I always shoot RAW. Why is that? Am I just a glutton for punishment when I run out of space while the JPEG shooters are only just warming up? Do I really spend enough time processing the pictures to warrant the extra power afforded me by RAW?

Well, no, not really. I don't shoot RAW because I use it all the time. I shoot RAW because I would hate to take a potentially great picture that can't be salvaged because I'm stuck in a lossy 8bit format. I do a reasonable amount of post-processing, so it makes sense.

I've prepared a few little samples to indicate why I prefer RAW. To demonstrate exactly what 14 bits per channel actually gives you. First consider these two pictures, RAW on the left, JPEG on the right, SOOC.


At first glance, the JPEG is clearly superior. And if that's the shot you were after, then job done. The RAW file is muddy and low contrast and the sky looks terrible. So next I let Aperture (my "digital darkroom" of choice) do some basic default manipulation to try and give me a starting point. Again, RAW on the left, JPEG on the right.

Well, that levels the playing field a bit. Now I just have the import, processing and export time (up to 30 seconds per picture, which is a lot if you've shot 300) to worry about. But now I get to decide what I'm going to do with them. Maybe I should try and bring out the shadow detail a bit?

At this point it starts to become obvious where JPEG is missing out. While it has certainly brightened the darker part of the image, it's all turned into a muddy green mush. The RAW file, on the other hand, has plenty of information to spare and gives me a nice, sharp image with proper colours.

That's because, in the shadow portion of this image, the RAW has about 64 times more colour information than the JPEG. With that much raw data at its disposal, the RAW file can get bring out colours previously invisible to the naked eye rather than having to approximate them from what's already on screen.

The sky is a little plain, though. Maybe increasing the detail in the sky by darkening and increasing contrast in the highlights?

Oh dear. The poor JPEG is having a hard time of it. The sky has turned a sort of muddy blue/beige. The RAW file is loving it, though, and bits of cloud detail and contrails start to show through.

Of course, it's possible to push it too far. Let's increase the sliders to boost the shadows and highlights as far as possible and manipulate the contrast, exposure and sharpness while we're at it.

Oh dear. Notice the strange brightness halos where the software hasn't known what to do around complex edges? The grass has started turning a bit flourescent, too. The problem with that it all starts to look unreal. This effect can be "enhanced" by using multiple bracketed exposures to squeeze an even greater range of brightnesses into a single picture. Search Google Images for "bad HDR" for an idea of what happens when it's pushed to its nonsensical limits.

So that's proven that RAW files can do things like manipulate the exposure of the image in different ways to bring out or hide parts of it. Increasing contrast and bringing out detail in blown out highlights or blocked out shadows. Anywhere that 8bit JPEGs struggle to have enough information to be easily manipulated.

In this case, though, I think I prefer the image with a darker foreground and higher contrast. Maybe I will make it sepia:

The JPEG didn't fare too badly here. Note the sky detail in the RAW version, though.

Maybe I'll go completely bonkers with the saturation slider?

Again, the RAW version has a load more detail in the sky where the JPEG has just gone sort of smudgy. Obviously the slight crop has some effect, but not so much that it would affect sharpness and clarity this much. Also note that the pink on the horizon is just not there for the JPEG version. There just isn't enough red in the image for it to register and boosting it would have unwanted effects on the rest of the picture.

Finally, I'm going to push the boat out and just go all orange and vignetted. This one is probably the most overprocessed of the lot so the JPEG should just about keep up with the RAW file.

Again, not bad, but it still looks a bit flat in comparison. Where is the subtle dappling of the clouds? The sharp edges of the silhouetted twigs and branches? Also note that it's actually a slightly different colour even though I used exactly the same settings. Not entirely sure why that is ...

So there we go. I shoot RAW because when I want to be a bit more creative in the (digital) darkroom, I can do so without sacrificing anything from my image. Of course, there are other reasons, such as RAW processing being a selection of filters rather than actual applied effects. When manipulating a RAW file, I can add, remove or modify the filters at will until it's just right, bring out the very best in the information provided by my camera's 14bit-per-pixel, 15 megapixel sensor,  and only then commit it to JPEG or PNG as a finished photograph.

Sunday, 27 March 2011


086/365, originally uploaded by craigand.
With all the electronics, interactive toys and big brands being pushed about these days, it's nice to know that kids still like playing with a stripped down old tractor.

Shot with my little toy Holga lens, with which I am still amazed, and faffed with in Aperture for the olde style feel.

Lone daffodil

085/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

In colour this time, by special request.

Took this by holding the flower up to the sun so it's back-lit.

Saturday, 26 March 2011


084/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

Gasometer and the Don

083/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

Crusty B&W taken far too late after a trip to the Gardener's Rest.

Thursday, 24 March 2011


082/365, originally uploaded by craigand.
I picked up this silly bit of kit from Four Corner Store, a stockist of toy cameras from years gone by, for no particularly good reason. It just seemed like a laugh. It's the 60mm, f/8 fixed aperture lens from a Holga plastic camera.

The lens itself is entirely plastic. Even the "glass" is clear plastic. Focussing is achieved by turning the front plastic bit and a plastic thread turns and moves another plastic bit. It's very, very tacky and I must be careful not to just rip it apart by accident.

It's an anachronistic thing. Designed for 120 film with its 56mm square sensor size, using it on an APS-C digital sensor loses many of the characteristic effects. For example, the strong vignetting of Holga images is simply not present because the bit that would be vignetted is cropped away by the much smaller imaging area. It does feel really rather strange to be manipulating a 25MB, 15 megapixel RAW image shot through a piece of plastic.

A typical sunny daylight image might look something like this:

Only a tiny amount of vignetting, barely visible if at all, and actually a pretty clear and sharp image. Well, the bits more than 1 metre away are, which appears to be the lens's minimum focussing distance.

To make it feel more "old fashioned" you can, of course, mess with post-processing effects. Like fake cross-processing:

Or maybe a spot of "toy camera" preset, with very heavy vignetting and boosted saturation:

How about going a little 70s retro and fading it out?

It's surprising how sharp the images from such a strange little thing can be. Consider this, taken indoors with flash:

Pretty decent, actually. Especially if you pixel-peep and have a look at the 100% crop.

I'd go so far as to say that the image is far better than any compact sensor produces. Which is bonkers. Maybe the producers of bridge or superzoom cameras need to spend less time faffing with optics and more time getting their sensors to not suck?

It is raining!

081/365, originally uploaded by craigand.
This is a card game we picked up in Prague. Ostensibly a traditional game, it's pretty much a variant of any number of standard card games played with a 52 card deck, but with its own oddities.

There are 32 cards, with 8 cards in each suit. The suits are acorns, bells, hearts and leaves. Each contains 4 picture cards (king, queen, jack and serf, I think) and 4 number cards. The number cards, bizarrely, are the 7, 8, 9 and 10.

I used a spot of OCR and Google Translate magic to translate the instruction card from Czech to English. I don't think it worked very well. Here they are:

It's Raining

Number of players; 2-5
Goal of the game: the winner the player who first gets rid of all cards.

The course of the game, each will receive 4 cards. The rest remains on the table as a talon. The top card kitty turns and puts the middle stoiu, where a basis swap package. The game begins the player to the left of the dealer. Its task is to attach odio · woman card sheet of the same value or color. We do not have a corresponding tab, you can take advantage of special properties of the upper to change color. So he Earth as green nine trump Heart uppers. Then, you need to report the color of a superstructure. And even if we do not have any opportunity, we must gain a card from the talon. Then comes the next player. Exceptional cards: If someone Plot seven, then the next player must immediately take on two cards (but no one was allowed to drop from their cards). However, if the player is also seven, and can be used to force the opponent to take the next four cards at once. If you follow all four of the seven in a row, the last player to collect 8 cards. Another unique card is an ace in the game. If someone earns, the player has left after one round left out. The player who first gets rid of all the cards, announces it is raining.

So there you go. From what we can decipher, playing a 7 means pick up 2 cards, and playing an ace (which we decided meant the serf, although it's not clear) means miss a go. Otherwise, matching suit or value until you have none left. For such a simple game, it can last for ages!

Monday, 21 March 2011

First Signs of Spring

080/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

Sunday, 20 March 2011


079/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

Saturday, 19 March 2011


078/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

Apparently we have a perigree moon. This means that it appears 14% larger than usual. Unfortunately my longest telephoto is a mere 135mm, which is rubbish. Give me a 300mm and a 2x extender! Anyway, this is my rather lacklustre attempt.

Also, "supermoon" is a stupid word and people should stop using it.

A Drive In The Country

077/365, originally uploaded by craigand.
Taken through the window of a moving vehicle at approximately 50mph. Not bad, considering.


076/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Good Understandings

075/365, originally uploaded by craigand.


074/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

Cheese and carrot muffins. Interesting!

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Low Light

073/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

21st Century Foss

072/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

Some jigsaws I bought off eBay.


071/365, originally uploaded by craigand.
We went to see Epica and ReVamp at Corporation the other night. I really struggled to decide which of the pics from this amazing gig to choose. This one was picked, ultimately, by Emma because I just couldn't make my mind up. The full set is available on Flickr, and the runners up are here:

Monday, 14 March 2011

Stunning View

070/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

The view from our room in Travelodge Leeds Central.


069/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Dusk over the Don

068/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Frosted Mirror

067/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

Monday, 7 March 2011


066/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

Oakwood Beer Festival

065/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

Assume the position ...