Sunday, August 30, 2015

Improving your photographic knowledge

As I mentioned in Composition, learning how to use your camera is just one part of photography, learning how to take photos is the next step.

When I bought my first DSLR I didn't have a clue how to use it other than to stick to Auto.  Out of frustration, I put my camera away for over a year because I lacked motivation and encouragement so felt I was just wasting my time.

After following a few photographers and their work, I decided to pick up my camera again and start teaching myself as best I could.  I couldn't afford a workshop, didn't have transport to move around to clubs and Youtube chowed my bandwidth.  So I stuck to books.  Unlike some other photographers who progressed within a year, I took longer.  Without direction, guidance and so on, I was floundering a bit from one place to another and learning erratically.

But what made me improve was taking the time and dedication to learn.  I wish that I could have gone to a workshop because there at least you have a proper starting point, someone to help you, motivate you and keep you going.

Some photographers don't need a workshop, they are able to focus well enough to work on their own. But for someone like me with waaaay too much going on in my mind and my life, I couldn't focus the way I used to so a little backup was always needed.

I have been following a very inspiration photographer called Christina Greve.  I would suggest reading her bio on how she started on her FAQ page under the question: Did you study photography in school or are you self-taught?

She provides workshops in photography and is also a Life Coach.  Christina's photos are at times light and delicate and others times slightly moody, which will appeal to many photographers of different genres.  She is currently offering a workshop, which starts in September 2015.  More info can be found here Workshop.

Enjoy!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Samsung NX300: Video

I'm not the best one to come to for video because my knowledge is limited to just the basics and I prefer photos to video.  But I figured that since this blog was helping others to learn I can learn along with you.  This did take me longer to put together so apologies for taking so long.

While playing around with the Video feature I found out, to my surprise, that I could add the Picture Wizard feature and Smart Filters to my videos in camera (although not both at the same time).

I won't discuss anything in the videos, but will give the descriptions and so on here.  Just a quick note, you can start recording a video at any point by pressing the red record button top right of the camera (red circled surrounded by silver).  To stop recording, press the red button again.

Samsung NX300 Video

To start, the settings:

PAL or NTSC?

NTSC stands for National Television Standards Committee and the standard format for DVD players and in broadcast television in America and Japan.

PAL stands for Phase Alternating Line used for broadcasting and DVD players in Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

PAL DVD players are said to play both PAL and NTSC while NTSC DVD players can't play PAL.

Choosing either will depend on your region and your audience e.g. I'm in South Africa so my region's format would be PAL and wouldn't be able to play on a DVD player in America.  So check what your region's format is and go according to that.

Movie Size - I used the highest for my region which would be 1920 x 1080 (50p) PAL to play around with.

I thought that visually, this example might be easier to understand regarding frames per second: Frames per second

The more frames per second the smoother the movement in the video.  24p is considered the "film mode".  The less fps the more choppy the video will look, as if you took multiple photos and put them side by side in a fast slideshow.  It can lead to a creative video so don't overlook it.

Take a look at this article and examples: FPS

The size 1920 x 1080 is 1920 pixels wide by 1080 pixels tall and provides more definition than say 640 x 480. The smaller size you select, the more pixelated (blocky) the video will be when you try to view it on a bigger screen.  But, a bigger size will also depend on the screen or TV you will be viewing it on as older and/smaller screens and TVs might not be big enough to view the entire video at 1920 x 1080.

The 1920 x 1080 resolution just fits on my computer monitor.  So when taking a video keep in mind the resolution of the screen.

Here is an article on resolution.

A quick note here, in your manual you may have noted that some Smart Filters can only be used at 1920 x 1080 (15p) but the settings under movie quality don't go lower than 1920 x 1080 (24p) in NTSC and PAL.

In order to use the Smart Filters with quality 1920 x 1080 (15p) you will need to activate the Smart Filters under the camera icon under Menu.  If Smart Filters is greyed out then you need to change your photo Quality (under the camera icon) to JPEG (I chose Super Fine) and Drive to Single.

Smart Filters won't work if RAW and Continuous Drive is selected.  You can get more details on Smart Filters here.

I will get back to using Smart Filters with videos shortly.  For now we will carry on with normal videos.

Movie Quality - I have 16GB memory cards so prefer to use the best settings and set HQ (High Quality).

Multi Motion - This setting....well I was laughing all the time.  Sounds is cut off when anything higher or lower than x1 is selected.  I can just see this feature being used in a comedy (attaching a music file in a video software) as the video speeds up so when using Multi Motion, make sure to take at least 15 seconds of video for 5x and longer for anything higher than the speed.

For slow action you can go lower than x1 but only if Movie Size is set to 640 x 480 or 320 x 240 for x0.25 (really slow and funny) or x0.5 when set to 1280 x 720 (30p), 640 x 480 and 320 x 240.  x1 is for normal recording and is the only one where you will have sound.

Fader - handy feature for a gently fade in, out or both.  I have this on off but examples will be below.

Voice - enables or disables sound, I left mine on.

Wind cut - cuts down on wind noise.  I left mine off.

Mic level - how sensitive the microphone is, I left mine on high although the sound can be a bit tinny.

Aperture and ISO work in the same way as photo but Shutter Speed is calculated according to degrees or angle.  Working with this principle helps to create a realistic looking video.  But unless you intend creating videos for sale etc then it might appear complicated to you.

If you want to take video recording more seriously, here's an explanation of how the 180 degree works: 180 Degree.

But if all you want to do is just take some videos, whether it's a family event, something funny your pet got up to etc, then take a look at this article/video example: Understanding shutter speed.

The slower your shutter speed the more blur you have.  But, the shutter speed usually won't go lower than the frames per rate selected e.g. if I chose 1920 x 1080 (24p) the frames per rate would be 24.

But since the shutter speed doesn't allow for 1/24 the shutter speed will be 1/30 and won't allow you to go lower.  There is an option for 1/25 but the camera chose 1/30 instead (the shutter closest to the frames per rate is usually selected).

This low shutter speed will cause quite a blur with any moving object e.g. propellers of a plane. You can increase the shutter speed as high as you want (I went up to 1/6000) but this is going to make your video darker to a point that you won't be able to see anything unless you have a large amount of light available.

A faster shutter speed will also "freeze" the movement so instead of a blur of propellers you will be able to the see the movement of the blades clearly.

While taking video I will admit I was oblivious to all of this, and yet, the video came out pretty good lol.  So if I can play around and not make a total mess up without any knowledge, you shouldn't have a problem lol.

Now let's go through the video tests.  I tried to keep it fairly short just to give you an idea.  You can also view a video of the Annual Zwartkops Airshow used with the Samsung NX300 and 18-55mm lens here: Airshow

Samsung NX300 video examples

I tried out different light settings to see how the video handled noise.  As the video says, all but the waterfall (in the video examples of the movie) was recorded handheld.  Throughout the rest of the video, recordings were handheld.

The Aquarium: there was backlighting in the aquarium but I had zoomed in to 55mm which wouldn't let me open my aperture further than f5.6, so less light allowed in and I because of my video settings I couldn't go lower than 1/50 shutter speed.  I had increased my ISO to 3200-6400 and could have increased further for more light but as you can see, the noise was becoming pretty evident.

The video of the fish in a smaller tank meant the lighting was stronger so I could get a brighter video.

Now in video software like Premiere Elements (not free) you can lighten the video, add more saturation etc.  There is also a free program called MPEG Streamclip where you can to basic editing.  I created the videos in Premiere Elements 10.

Movement is good, maybe a little slow at times and if you noticed, the camera kept adjusting the focus.  I haven't yet found a way to stop the Continuous Focus other than to go to Manual Focus.

Zooming in and manual focus created a very feint sound, which might not be evident at an event where there is plenty of sound but with something quiet it might present a problem.  If sound isn't needed then it's better to turn off the sound.  Turning the Jog Dial (for changing aperture/shutter speed etc) while shooting a video is picked up by the mic and you can definitely hear it.

You could try an external mic to reduce the noise but as I don't have one I can't comment further.

Zoo - Full Sunlight

Not the most exciting of videos but here the ISO was at 100 because of the amount of light, I could also increased my shutter speed and aperture without having to worry about light issues.

Waterfall - Shadow

The waterfall was in the shadow of a mountain, but there was a decent amount of light although I had to increase my ISO to about 400 but I could also increase my shutter speed enough to capture the movement.  As I zoomed in you couldn't hear the mechanism (but some wind as I didn't have the Wind Cut feature on).  I used a tripod for this, could have used handheld or leaned on the wooden railing but there were too many people moving around and bumping the railing that it was easier to grab my ground with a tripod.  You know, a sign to say to them, "my space".

The light was consistent even when I zoomed in so I didn't have to change anything while zooming.
I used the Manfrotto, which I discussed here: Tripod

Fader Feature

This is pretty much self explanatory, the Fade In feature fades the video in at the beginning when you press the record button (red button near top right) but doesn't fade out when you press the button again to stop recording.  The Fade Out feature is the opposite, doesn't fade in at the beginning but fades out when you press the record button to stop recording.

With the Fade Out feature there was a very slight fade in at the beginning of recording, almost unnoticeable. The Fade In feature was a bit hard with the fade in whereas the Fade Out was softer.

Fade In and Fade Out is where both features are used, so your video fades when you start recording and fades out when you stop recording.

Oh and if you notice the slight shifting now and then, that's me bumping the camera accidentally or pressing the stop button.

Picture Wizard

I chose 3 features (but all work fine), Retro, Classic and Landscape.  In Video Picture Wizard can work in RAW, Drive set to Continuous High etc.  I.e. if you use these camera settings for taking photos, they won't prevent you from using Picture Wizard, unlike Smart Filter where certain setting need to be turned off.

Retro

I like the Retro feeling, especially for the Airshow showcasing some very old planes.  As you will notice, Little Anne didn't come into focus immediately until the plane had reached the area I had selected as my focus point.  Now, the cool thing about the touch screen on the Samsung NX300 is that you can can place your focus anywhere you want while recording, just touch the area.

I didn't do that with the plane but later in the video I show an example of changing focus while recording.

Retro is nice and clear, no banding (those lines you see when blending isn't done well).  It also kept up fine with the speed and unlike Smart Filter I wasn't limited to 15fps.

Classic

Classic is basically Black and White.  Even though the jet was fast, it passed an area of sky that was blue and all colour is removed from this feature.  Also, no restriction on frames per rate and this could be used very nicely for an old black and white film, but with a lower frames per rate (e.g. 24p) for a more authentic look.  Adding a little more contrast in software would bring out the Black and White better as it looked a little bland.

Landscape

Landscape, as with photos, is used more for scenes with blue and green. I chose to use Landscape because of the blue in the sky.  The blue wasn't enhanced greatly, just very gently and if you wanted something with more punch then Vivid would be better.

As said above, Picture Wizard doesn't restrict the same way Smart Filter does, so you have a little more freedom for creativity here.

Smart Filters

Smart Filters can be interesting to use and the effects they produce are fun although I'm not certain how often a video with these effects would be created.

Take a look at my post about Smart Filters here: Smart Filters

Smart Filters will be greyed out unless Picture Wizard is set to Off, Drive is set to Single and Quality set to JPEG.  So you need to make those changes in order to use this feature in video in the same way as with photos.

Some of the Smart Filters are also limited to 15 frames per second (15p) whether it's 1920x1080 or 640x480.  You may have seen that when selecting Movie Size under the Video Menu, 25p (if you are using PAL) or 30p (if using NTSC) will show up as an option. Even if you select 25p/30p, the camera will change to 15p for certain filters.  Below are the filters I've tested and which work with 25p/30p and which with 15p.  Note, I tested out in PAL but the same applies to NTSC.

Vignetting - 25p
Miniature - 15p
Coloured Pencil - 25p
Watercolour - 15p
Wash Drawing - 15p
Oil Sketch - 15p
Ink Sketch - 25p
Acryl - 15p
Negative - 25p
Red - 25p
Green - 25p
Blue - 25p
Yellow - 25p

Vignetting

Corners are darkened, this is meant to bring attention to the subject in the center.  Slight banding (in a circular way) with frames per rate being 25p.  Not too bad.  The reason the video took so long to upload is because I wanted to use the highest quality save in order to show the original videos instead of degrading the quality for a smaller file.

Oil Sketch

Colourful, different but slow and creates a lot of banding.  It almost looks as if the jet was mirrored towards the end.  Speed 15p.

But I didn't want to give it a bad rap because I don't think it works well with fast objects.  Still life on the other hand looks pretty good which is why I added in a video example of a little house and a flower.  The more detail and definition there is, the better this feature seems to work.  If you look at the house, colours are well defined, lines easily visible but with the flower contrast is lost.

Negative

Heavy, visible banding here.  Speed is 25p.  Another interesting effect which can be cool, but might be best used with objects that are dark in colour to be more visible in the video.

Colour: Yellow, Blue, Red and Green

These filters are meant to filter out the said colours.  Sorry for the fast movement, didn't realise until afterwards how fast I was moving around.  Speed for these filters is 25p.

Colours showed up well and stood out clearly.  Shades closest to the said colours (e.g. pink showed up in the red filter) also showed up but while the colours in these videos were clear and defined, when I played with a desk (with different grains of wood) in low light, the filters struggled.  It looks like light plays a part in whether or not the filters in Smart Filters can pick up the colours clearly else they will be patchy and continuously shift over the area if you move your camera.

Out of the filters, Blue seemed the lightest in the video but I had adjusted my settings and set the exposure a little too high.  I didn't seen any banding here.

The banding in the features of Smart Filter seem to affect areas where there is differnt shades of colour blending into one another.

Multi-Motion

Ah, now here is a good feature to have a laugh with.  x1 speed is normal and you will have sound but decrease it to x0.5 or x0.25, or increase higher than x1 and sound will be turned off.

While recording, everything will look normal but when you playback the video it will speed up or slow down according to the setting.  For x0.5 and x0.25, you don't need to record for long (even 5 seconds is good enough) but for x5 and up, don't go below 10 seconds because the playback is so fast it will be over before you can blink.

Here your only restriction for frames per rate is when you want to use x0.5 and x0.25 where you can only select the highest of 1280x720 (25p/30p) for x0.5 and highest of 640x480 (25p) for x0.25.

You can also use Picture Wizard or Smart Filters with Multi-Motion. I only played with Retro and Watercolour just to test it out.  I also changed the aperture and shutter speed while recording.  Because sound is turned off when higher or lower than x1 you won't hear the dial turning.

There was a bit of banding evident in the slower video, you don't really have time to see it in the faster speed.

Changing Focus during recording

If you find that your focus area isn't where you want it to be and have already started recording, simply touch the screen over the area you want in focus and the camera places the focus point there.  It's pretty efficient, quiet and doesn't create that much disturbance as the camera refocuses.

For now that's it on video.  I'm still going through info so will add more as I go along.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Samsung NX300: Video sample

Okay, okay, I have been so behind this.  I did make a video, two actually.  One is already on Youtube, which I will post below.  The other still needs to be loaded and contains examples of the different features but it's rather big and will take time to upload (I use my night time gigs and will take a few hours depending on my server).

I also have a post about the whole process but as video isn't my area of expertise I'm still doing some research to better help you and me.

In the meantime, here is the link to the Youtube video.  It was taken at the Annual Airshow 2015 at Zwartkops SAAF Museum and contains some features like Picture Wizard's Retro, Classic and Landscape including Multi-Motion.  The Multi-Motion is really something funny to look at and can make for some interesting videos.  I show both fast and slow speeds in the second video (hopefully up soon).

The videos were shot with the Samsung NX300 and 18-55mm lens (I don't have a Samsung telephoto and want to have a wide angle option besides my telephoto on my Canon).

Enjoy and I'll get back to you soon!

Samsung NX300 with 18-55mm lens

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Samsung NX300 and Tutankhamun

Before all the hullabaloo I was able to get to the Tutankhamun Exhibition at Silverstar Casino recently and it is truly an amazing experience.  The exhibition has been extended to 12 April 2015.

The rules of the exhibition state that you are allowed to take photos but ONLY for personal use and if you do not interfere with the viewing of others.  Also no tripods, flashes or backpacks allowed.

So naturally I took along two cameras lol.  I took my Canon 650D with 50mm (low light lens) and my Samsung NX300 with 18-55mm kit lens (I wanted a wider angle as the 50mm doesn't having zooming capabilities).  Both fit into my small shoulder bag.

The photos posted here have been taken with the Samsung NX300 and 18-55mm.  A member of my photographic community will be working with my one photo (the same composition taken with the NX300 will be posted here) and when available on his site I will post the link here.  He's the reason I started playing a little more with Lightroom 4.

I'll admit I'm not an expert where LR4 is concerned because I have been working with PSE the entire time.  But thought I'd give it a try.  Other than adding my watermark in PSE, all other editing has been done in Lightroom 4 (including using the Cloning Brush).

You will see that with some photos the ISO was 3200, which is quite high but working with the Luminance and Detail slider under Noise Reduction helps to reduce the noise greatly.  Just go easy with the Luminance slider as it will start to soften the details the higher you go.  Work with the Detail and the Contrast slider to bring back more detail.

Also, most of the photos were taken using the Smart Shooting Mode. Although I won't remember which feature (EXIF data shows these features as Normal) I think I used the Rich Tones feature the most.

ISO 3200, 1/25 seconds, f4.5


ISO 1600, 1/50, f4


ISO 3200, 1/20, f5


ISO 3200, 1/30, f5.6


ISO 3200, 1/30, f5.6, here the statue was on a stand which I cloned out in LR4. A very common image but still an experience.  See below for settings in LR4.


ISO 3200 1/40, f3.5


ISO 3200, 1/30, f4.5 - taken in Manual Mode, RAW, no tripod or flash


ISO 3200, 1/50, f4

Learn to use your Lightroom 4 software that came with your Samsung NX300 because it's a pretty powerful program that gives far more flexibility with exposure, shadows, colour etc than Photoshop Elements (but does not allow for layers and composites).

Settings used for the Tutankhamun Head Statue:

The colour on my screen, which has been calibrated, is more golden and darker than it may appear in your browser.

Under Basic:
Temp: +2
Tint: 0
Exposure: +12
Contrast: 0
Highlights: 0
Shadows: -40
White: 0
Blacks: -52
Clarity: +7
Vibrance: +10
Saturation: 0

Tone Curve was left on Linear and customised:



HSL/Color/B&W:

Color was selected with the following adjustments:

Red - no adjustment
Orange - Saturation -9, Luminance +13
Yellow: Saturation -13, Luminance +4
Green to Magenta - no adjustment

Split Toning

Highlights - Hue was set to 60 and the Saturation set to 21
Shadows - Hue 43, Saturation 27
Balance was set to +10

I like to add some blue to some images that have an orange hue to take away some of the warmth.

Detail

I don't really like to add sharpening unless I work with Topaz Clarity as sharpening can increase the noise in a photo.  As it is the ISO is quite high in this photo so noise is also increased.  But under Detail I prefer to use the Luminance and Detail Slider.

Sharpening amount is set to 0.  Don't worry about the greyed out settings beneath it.

Noise reduction settings:
Luminance: 32
Detail: 56
Contrast: 0
Colour: 0, greyed out Detail is also 0

I didn't use Lens Correction, Effects, or Camera Calibration settings.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A hiccup..or two...or a few

Oookay, so my plans for the night features went awry.  Had a little issue with the car engine blowing and the neighbours being robbed so my original idea has gone out the window.  Sigh, it would have worked beautifully.  Ah well I have to get creative.

I am also thinking of a video although I'm not very knowledgeable about video but will work it out.  If you have any questions ask away and I will help you as best I can.

In the meantime, thought to share a photographer's website who creates such beautiful photos that I find inspiration on days when I feel so bleh that nothing looks appealing to me.

Everyone started somewhere, that's not a myth.  So when looking at the work of others, don't see your lack of matching skill, see a chance to improve and learn more.

And all that jazz.

Chasing Light Actions

Monday, December 29, 2014

Composition - The next step

Learning how to use your camera is just the first part, the next is learning how to take a photo.

There are rules to taking photos, but the rules are more guidelines and don't always work in every photo opportunity.  I have read numerous books, searched the internet and watched videos but still find that many of the examples photographers use are pretty useless to me.

I just don't see their photo composition the way they do.  Maybe that's because many photographers are a little too strict with the rules...and maybe those rules only exist to me once it's been pointed out in the photo.

So I'm adding two Youtube links to this post that I found very interesting.  Note, you do need quite a bit of bandwidth to play with but I am also including article links for those who can't Youtube for an hour or more in one go.

With the digital age people don't think about the photo they are taking, it's more a case of snapping away to get as many photos as you can.  While many readers here just want to enjoy taking a photo, you will get to a point where just taking a photo isn't enough if you carry on with photography.  You may even start to feel that your photos are uninteresting, maybe even crappy and wonder whether or not you should even bother.

You should, because, as you can see in Scott Kelby's video, it just takes a few adjustments like changing the angle to get better composition.  You will also see that no matter how good someone is at photography, they will still take crappy photos at some point.

Look at it this way, if you could only take film photos and the film was extremely expensive, you would think more about your composition and what the photo was about.  You could even try this out with a Fujifilm Instax Camera, which uses film and does need some thinking over before pressing the button as each photo is fairly expensive (but a very cool gadget on my wishlist).

If you feel that your photos are just not getting there, use the tools in the videos e.g. think about why you were drawn to that scene, what sparked your interest and work on that.  Photographers gets days where inspiration is non-existent and nothing seems to work, almost like a Writer's Block.

If you seem to be stuck with that block, frustrated that no matter what you take a photo of nothing seems to work, then just sit and look around you.  Forget about taking photos for a job, an assignment or to impress someone.  Forget about taking photos because you think you must.  Just look around you and if you see anything interesting, don't take your camera and take a photo.  Think about how you would frame the photo and why, what's interesting about that scene, does it get you excited about taking a photo etc?  Naturally, if it's an action photo, go for it :-D.

It's so easy to press the shutter button that you can get bored just as easily.  If you actually pay attention to your surroundings, see where your eye follows and if it makes you itch to take a photo, then photography will be more interesting and the inspiration greater.

Here's hoping you have a great photographic experience with the Samsung NX300 (or any other camera you may have) in 2015.

Article on composition
Youtube - Scott Kelby on Composition
Youtube - B&H

I'm working on an opportunity to use the Night modes in Auto Mode, let's hope that pans out soon lol.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Samsung NX300: Dynamic Range

Dynamic Range can get very technical but basically is the difference between brightest and the darkest areas of the photo.  Some details are "lost" in photos so using other options like HDR can bring back that information (HDR brings back highlight details).

For a better understanding that is a little less technical than some sites, go to Dynamic Range.

On the Samsung NX300 under Menu < Camera Settings < Dynamic Range you have three choices: Off, Smart Range + and HDR.

Now you may have noticed that the HDR function is greyed out.  There are two things you need to set in order to make use of the feature.

First, HDR will only work in JPEG so you need to change your Quality setting under Camera settings to JPEG (Super Fine is the best quality but takes up more space on the memory card).

Second, HDR will not work with Continuous Drive.  So you need to change your Drive (either by clicking Menu < Camera settings < Drive or the navigation button to the left of the OK button) to Single Drive.

So to use HDR, make certain the following is checked:
Menu < Camera Settings < Quality < Super Fine (JPEG)
Menu < Camera Settings < Drive < Single
Menu < Camera Settings < Dynamic Range < HDR

Using Smart Range+ is a little less complicated.  Menu < Camera Settings < Dynamic Range < Smart Range+.  Drive can be set to Single or Continuous, Quality can be RAW and/or JPEG, ISO will only start from 200 up and whereas HDR takes 2 photos Smart Range+ will only take one.

HDR can't go higher than 3200 and the 2 photos taken are automatically merged. I use Manual and the HDR takes photos based on those settings.

HDR and Smart Range+ work in P, A, S, M but remember to keep an eye on your aperture, ISO and and shutter speed

Ok, before I get into the photos below, just a quick note.

I used the 18-55mm lens because I was at the Voortrekker Monument and I needed a wide angle.  As I have said in the past the Samsung 18-55mm is a very good lens and currently outshines my Canon's 18-55mm (I don't have the STM lens).

Next, HDR is a technique that needs to be used wisely as people starting out tend go a little wild and create photos that are...well, garish to look at.  While the HDR function on the Samsung NX300 combines the photos for you (unlike AE Bracketing) the photo will mostly likely need a lot of tweaking.

Smart Range+ is far more subtle than HDR as you will see in the photos below. Photos below are all SOOC (straight out of camera) with downsizing for the net.  I only included Smart Range+ in a few photos because the difference is so small compared to OFF.

Not every photo will have the settings as each comparison of No HDR, Smart Range+ and With HDR share the same settings.


This was taken inside the monument, near the entrance.  The walls have a slight cream colour look and the HDR increased that to give a orangy/yellowish tint.  Smart Range+ did a better job by correcting the loss of bright details (compared to OFF which is the first photo).



Can you believe that this was taken handheld at 1/4?  ISO was pushed to 1600.  I used the flash without HDR (setting OFF for Dynamic Range), no flash with the HDR as that option isn't available.  Again, a yellowish cast.  When taking photos, note the lighting and what it's bouncing off of, if anything.  The colour of whatever it's bouncing off can give a cast on your photo.  This is easy enough to fix by specifically working with the yellow and orange colours in Lightroom.



I chose objects that had texture and depth so that I could test out the HDR feature.  The problem with built in HDR is that you can lose quite a bit of shadows and blacks, creating an almost washed out look.  Here the HDR didn't do too badly, I like the lightened detail in the windows but would want to bring back more shadow in the crevices of the wall.  



Landscapes seem to benefit more with the HDR as it lightened the green more.  But some shadow detail was lost in the clouds and the building.  



You can see that the sky is almost blown out but the grass is lighter.  I would use masking to bring back detail in the clouds and the city, but very slightly decrease the brightness of the green.



Here, the HDR failed.  It was a cloudy, rainy day but somehow the HDR found a bit of blue.  The statue is washed out, shadow detail is gone and it almost starts to blend into the building behind.  In the Smart Range+ there is less yellow, light areas are slightly brighter but shadows are kept and the statue stands out from the building.

HDR technique is not a one click and done setup.  Nice to have a tool that can bring out the highlights more but not when the result is a washed out photo.  As you can see, HDR works in some situations and not others e.g. the landscape photos worked better than the building photos but the criss-cross stone design with windows as well as the wagon were fairly good.

Smart Range+ worked better but had results that were very close to a normal photo (Dynamic Range on OFF) that it didn't stand out enough for me to rely on Dynamic Range instead of my usual settings.

And, just for the fun of it this photo was taken with HDR, at the very top of the monument looking down to the bottom (but not the bottom most level).



Sunday, November 30, 2014

Samsung NX300: Brackets - AE, WB and P Wizard

Once again, delayed in uploading a post so please accept my apologies.  That's what happens when you go to SA's biggest photo expo, the Photo & Film Expo.  Always enjoy the show and get so wrapped in the events I forget everything else lol.

So, today's post is about Bracketing.  Unlike the HDR option, the bracketing feature doesn't combine the photos for you but instead takes a set of 3 photos based on the settings. It's then your choice to combine if you want using software.

I used a tripod for all the experiments below so that when merging, photos would be properly aligned. I also took these photos in manual mode but the features will also work in P, A and S.

To make this easier on yourself, make certain that you get correct exposure first before taking the photos because the camera will take exposure points based on what exposure you selected.  E.g. if I had my exposure at -1 instead of 0 (correctly exposed), then the exposure settings will start with -1 as the "correctly exposed" photo and place the exposed points from there.

Auto Exposure Bracketing allows for RAW format whereas White Balance Bracketing and Picture Wizard Bracketing doesn't.  As you will need to set AE, WB and PW bracketing using the drive button, you can't use Continuous Drive or the Timer.  The features will each take 3 photos based on your settings.

Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB)

Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) is meant to provide you with 3 different exposures (some more advanced cameras allow more than 3 photos), one underexposed, one correctly exposed and one over exposed. The idea is that you get 3 options to choose from later on if you are not certain what exposure to use in a specific lighting.  You can decide on how many stops e.g. -2, 0, +2. The negative and positive will be the same number.

The AE Bracket feature is favoured for HDR (High Dynamic Range) which records more detail in shadows and highlights when 3 or more different exposure photos are combined.  You do require software for this and while Lightroom 4 is a powerful product you still need photoshop to merge the photos into an HDR image.  There are also other programs for merging, I use Photomatix but Photoshop Elements might be a cheaper option.

I played with Auto Exposure Bracket photos in Photoshop 11 Photomerge-Exposure feature.  The initial result given lost shadow detail, highlights and was oversaturated but under Smart Blending I was able to bring back more detail.

To use the AE Bracketing exposure feature, click on the Drive button (to the left of the middle OK button on the camera body) and scroll to your right and select AE Bracketing.  Once selected you now need to select the exposure points.

Click the Menu button and scroll down and select the User Settings (where the red arrow is pointing).


Now scroll down to Bracket Set and Select AE Bracket set.  A side menu will pop up and give you a selection of exposure points with -/+3 being the highest (+3) and the lowest (-3).  For example, if you select -/+3 the camera will take 3 photos, one underexposed by -3 points, one perfectly exposed by 0.0 and one overexposed by +3 points.

The lower the number selected e.g. -/+0.7EV, the less of a change in exposure (light and dark) you will see.  The higher the number, the bigger the difference. 

You can't use the timer (as it's under the Drive feature and you can't select both Bracketing and Timer) to prevent camera shake when touching the camera (even when using a tripod) so I found that the easiest way was to changing my shooting option to One Touch Shot.

Menu<Camera Settings<Touch AF<One Touch Shot

This way, you touch the screen where you want to place the focus and it will immediately take a shot for you without having to touch any other part of the camera, accidentally causing camera shake.

In the photos below you see the difference in exposure points and a comparison to an un-merged and two merged exposure points. Only the merged have been edited, everything else is Straight out of camera (SOOC).  Notice how the shutter speed changes (why a tripod or stable surface should be used) but the Aperture stays the same in Manual?

In Manual you can change the Shutter Speed and Aperture but as you have to press a button to change the Shutter Speed, the camera keeps the Aperture you selected and changes the Shutter Speed.  You can still change the shutter speed and the exposure points will adjust from there.

Aperture Priority Mode does the same, keeps the Aperture you want and changes the Shutter Speed but you can't adjust the shutter speed individually.

In Shutter Priority, the camera keeps the shutter speed you select and changes the Aperture.

Program Mode seems to favour the Aperture, so this you can set while the mode changes the Shutter Speed.

In Auto, Smart Auto mode and Lens Priority mode Brackets are not available.




Here the exposure points -/+3 selection was used.  Note that the over exposed photo is far more brighter than the +2 below.  The underexposed photo is also darker than the -2 below.  


The -/+2 selection was chosen here.  You could work with the darker -2 exposed photo as it contains more detail than the -3 (which could be more difficult to recover).


The top photo is correct exposure without bracketing using Auto White Balance.  The two photos below show a loss of shadows with the -2 exposure setting losing more than -3. The bracket merges could be tweaked more with better software and produce a fairly nice photo.

AE Bracketing is great for trying different exposures quickly and effortlessly.  If you want to go HDR out of camera then that is an entirely different technique that needs to be done well to look good. But it's achievable based on your skills, the Samsung NX300 will help with the first part.

I will be working a post about the HDR function in camera on the Samsung NX300 after this posting.


White Balance Bracketing (WBB)

White Balance Bracketing follows basically the same idea as AEB in that you use it to quickly get photos with different results.  But in this case, instead of changing the light and dark, you are changing coolness and the warmth of the photo.

RAW is not available here, only JPEG.

What if you took a photo and it came out too cool or too warm?  Instead of fiddling with settings, you change the Bracket settings (see above for changing the settings to AEB) and instead of AE Bracket set select WB Bracket set.

Now similar to AEB in changing the points, here you will change by how many points cooler or warmer the photos.  AB is Amber value (yellow, orange) and MG is Magenta value (red, pinkish).

So if you choose AB -/+2 you will have one photo with Auto White Balance (AWB or the white balance you selected), one photo with a warmer, more yellow/orange cast (colour) and one with less yellow/orange.

If you choose MG-/+2, one photo will be AWB, one with more red/pink and one with less red/pink. Unlike AE Bracketing, in White Balance Bracketing you can only change by increments of 1.

Photos below are SOOC.  Note that with WB Bracketing, Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO don't change at all.  You can use other White Balance options under the Camera Settings<White Balance or by pressing the Fn button and scrolling to White Balance and choosing a setting e.g. Cloudy.

The camera will use that setting as the starting point and base the bracketing on that.


Amber value (AB) -/+3.  More yellow in +3 photo and less yellow in -3 photo.



Magenta value (MG) -/+3.

If you not certain about what white balance to use, first choose the one you think is closest e.g. Cloudy Day or go with Auto and let the camera choose.  If you are more knowledgeable about White Balance you can use a custom white balance (uses a Grey Card to get the correct balance) and bracket from there.


Picture Wizard Bracketing

The Picture Wizard Bracketing feature is more fun orientated and for those who want a photo in different styles e.g. Vivid, Retro etc.  This is a very quick method for trying out those styles but you are limited to 3 at a time from a selection of 9.

RAW is not available, only JPEG.  To select the P Bracket feature, press the Drive button (to the left of the OK button) and scroll until you get to P Bracket and select.  To change the styles, go to Menu<User Settings<Bracket Set<P Wiz Bracket Set and select 3 styles.

Your aperture, shutter speed and ISO don't change, only the styles.  To get an idea of how each of the styles look, go to: Smart Filters and Picture Wizard.


f.4, 1/80, ISO 100.  The settings stayed the same, only the styles changed. 

There isn't much else to add about Picture Wizard Bracketing, it's a very simple and straightforward method and one you will most likely use more than the AE Bracketing and WB Bracketing.

Just for the fun of it I Photomerged with Exposure in PSE 11 (breaking the rules lol).  I merged the Vivid (for the red and yellow colours), Forest (for the intense green) and Retro (for the brown).  This is the result: 


The colour here is far more rich than with a single Auto White Balance photo.  

So you have an idea of what a little bit of imagination can do and help you create a photo with the colour elements you want by using the Picture Wizard Styles.  You are not restricted to 3 styles in Photoshop Elements, so you can take as many selections of 3's as you want, then choose how many, if not all to merge and see what happens.

Next up, and hopefully soon, Dynamic Range using the Smart Range + and HDR.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Samsung NX300: Tracking and Continuous AF

Tracking allows you to keep a moving object/subject in focus.  One you have placed the focus point (touched the screen over the area where you want the focus to be) the camera will start tracking the object/subject under that focus point even if there is movement.

To activate got to Menu then Camera Settings (camera icon at top), selected Touch AF then select Tracking AF.

The tracking shows up as a white border box and will track the subject/object as long as it's in view of the camera i.e. if you remain still as the action moves past.  If you pan (move the camera by following the action) then the tracking will remain on the object/subject as long as it's in view.

If the camera loses focus while tracking, a red box will show and focus will be reset.

I did find that sometimes the tracking wanted to wander and track something else (in this case I used a heavy wind and flowers for this experiment).  When it did I had to touch the screen to refocus.

Tracking is available in Auto Mode, Program, Aperture, Shutter, Manual and Lens Priority Mode.  In Smart Mode Tracking is only available in Beauty Face, Best Face and Creative Shot.  It's not available in Action Freeze.

The thing about the Tracking feature is that it will carry on tracking (while object/subject is in view) until you press the shutter button half way down.  This then locks the focus in and as long as the subject/object remains on the same focal plane (distance from the camera) it will remain in focus.  If the object/subject moves out of the focal plane after locking (pressing the shutter half way down) in the focus then it will be out of focus as the camera is no longer tracking it.

Annoying if you want to keep the moving object/subject in focus.  So what do you do?  If you want to rely on the camera's help you need to change the AF Mode to Continuous Auto Focus.  You also need to keep the Tracking feature activated (Menu<Camera settings<Touch AF<Tracking AF)

Select Menu on the camera, make sure the Camera Settings is selected (top sub menu with camera icon) and scroll down to AF Mode, then select CAF (Continuous AF).

What this does is continuously refocus on the moving subject/object even when the shutter is pressed half way down.

If you don't want to use the Tracking and would rather pan and track the movement yourself, then select Touch AF under the Touch AF menu while leaving Continuous AF selected under AF Mode. Wherever you touch the screen to place focus, CAF will continuously focus on the area but will not track.

So to manually track you will need to pan (move the camera with the action) and keep the subject/object under that focus area.  It doesn't matter if you move closer (don't forget what the closest focusing distance is of your lens) or further away.  As long as the subject/object is under that focuses area it will remain in focus.

For the AF Area under Camera Settings you can use Multi AF and touch the screen to place the focus where you want it if you are not happy with the camera's placement.  But, each time you release the shutter button and press half way again your selected focus will be lost (unless you press half way quickly).  The camera will choose the focus points so you would then need to touch the screen again and place the focus where you want.

For something a little more accurate, Change the AF Area to Selection AF.  Each time you release the shutter button and press down again, the area you chose to focus will remain there (the camera doesn't have control here, you do).

The downside of Tracking and Continuous AF is that it's not always fast.  Lighting conditions can affect how fast the lens focuses but I found it lagging a bit behind which could mean lost shots.

Another issue I had (besides the camera crashing on me once or twice) was that the camera just wouldn't focus.  It's happened a few times on my normal settings where the camera wouldn't focus. As for crashing, I had to remove the battery as the camera wouldn't turn off even when the switch was on Off.  Don't know why this happened.

Personally I don't favour the Tracking feature all that much and prefer to use Continuous with Selection AF for moving objects.  Panning and following the action takes some practice so play around.  Anticipating where the object/subject is going to be can aid in getting a sharp shot.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Christmas Drive for Animal Sanctuaries

I could grovel for forgiveness being late with posts, especially posts about the Samsung NX300 but you know, life happens lol.

I am working on a post about Tracking with the NX300 as it seems to be done in a round about way and hope to have it up soon.

In the meantime, something very close to my heart, animal sanctuaries.  It's almost Christmas again, time seems to fly by so fast and the animal sanctuaries could always use a little help.

One group of very dedicated people started an initiative last Christmas to organise a drive to collect the equivalent of a Christmas Shoe Box, but for animals shelters.  Not only did they achieve their goal but they were also able to collect extra donations and help even more.

They didn't stop there, throughout the year they ran smaller drives and have been helping various different animal shelters with donations from the public.  Kind members of the public and businesses have also donated different items which were auctioned off and the money added to the donations.

The work that these people have done is phenomenal and once again they are gearing up for the Santa Cause for Paw Christmas Drive.

If you would like to help out, you can find information on their Facebook page: Santa Cause for Paws.

Pledging opens on 20 September 2014 where the public can pledge one or more boxes for a cat, kitten, puppy or dog (the choice is yours and you can donate how many boxes you want).  Get your school involved, family, friends, your work, community. Even if you can only donate one box, it will make Christmas something special for a shelter animal.

Keep an eye out on the site and the Facebook page for drop off areas.

Follow the links below for more information on what to pack per box:

What to pack
What to pack: Something fun
What to pack: Something useful
What to pack: Something warm
What to pack: Something yum (tin of food AND treats)

The list of beneficiaries has grown this year, extending further than before:

Beneficiaries Cape Town
Beneficiaries Gauteng
Beneficiaries Durban KZN

A kind gesture when putting your boxes together would be to also add a little gift for the staff at the sanctuaries e.g. a packet of sweets.  Just something to let them know they are appreciated.

NOTE!!!  Keep in mind that kitten and puppy boxes require extra care as they will need food, treats and toys specific to their age group i.e. don't add adult cat food to a kitten box, a tin of kitten food is what is required.

Also, don't add hooves or bones for dogs as they may swallow sharp pieces.  For soft toys, avoid any toys with loose parts, buttons, plastic eyes and mouth.  This too can be torn off and swallowed causing implications.

This is, in my opinion, one of the first to ever extend help to as many different sanctuaries as possible.  They have also helped sanctuaries for rabbits and chickens because each and every life deserves a chance. With the help of the public, more and more sanctuaries are getting the support they need.

My hats off to the wonderful people who have worked tirelessly to make this initiative successful and my greatest thanks to every donation from businesses and individuals of the public.


Monkey Helpline Shoe Boxes


Monkey Helpline works to rescue and rehabilitate monkeys who have been injured in some way whether it's from a fight with another monkey, bites from dogs, knocked over by passing cars or the ever growing pellet gun shootings.

A volunteer group, Monkey Helpline also educates the public, school and businesses on the behaviours of monkeys, how to avoid conflict and how to respect our wildlife.  See a detailed description of who Monkey Helpline is here:

About Us

Monkey Helpline works tirelessly 24/7 and relies on donations from the public to keep going and any thing you can help them with is greatly appreciated.  The perseverance and dedication of Monkey Helpline is an inspiration in determination to save our wildlife and many could learn from them.

Donations of the following items are welcome anytime of the year but Christmas is coming up so if you would like to help see the following link:

Shoe Boxes

For other donations, including international please see the link below:

Donations
Monkey Helpline Web page

I will always be for the health and wellbeing of animals because they are the ones who are usually forgotten.