Joe and Mary Ann McDonald's

Wildlife Photography

March 2007

Question of the Month

What is Reality - A Digital Interpretation or an Optical Capture?

There are two components to this answer, so hang in there. In our various digital courses, like the Digital Complete Nature Photo Course or any of our Adobe Photoshop Courses, I often cite examples where the optical 'truth' is a distortion of reality. For example, in a previous Tip of the Month I showed how apertures like f16, f22, and f32 actually degrade the quality of a macro image, although using f11 provides a very sharp image but with limited depth of field. If you use f11 on a 1:1 macro image, the depth of field is poor, and only a minute portion of your subject, assuming it is not a flat stamp but is 3 dimensional, will be in focus and sharp. At f22 or 32, the depth increases but the sharpness decreases. Either way, then, a great macro image, with edge-to-edge subject sharpness, is virtually impossible to achieve. However, the Helicon Focus Filter, a software package that combines multiple images, much as a panorama stitch program does, can combine the sharp portions of several images into one sharp composite. That's a digital interpretation, a multi-image composite, but it results in an image that is true, much as you'd see with your naked eye or through a magnifying lens. Question is, which is the reality? I'd say it is the composite.

You have the same issues with telephotos, where limited depth of field can reduce a background to a soft blur, which isolates the subject. This can be pleasing, but also untrue, especially if a background has interest but optically cannot be shown. Again, a composite can address this, and this is digital interpretation. We've been schooled that what we see through a lens, with the limitations of physics, is true, is it? I'd say no, although a digital composition might not be either.

But here's the Second Component ...

I just received my copy of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, whose RAW converter is absolutely incredible. The new version of Photoshop, CS3, will have a similar converter, and either one truly will change how we will or can look at photography. If you are familiar with the RAW converter of CS2, you have no idea how different, and how powerful, this new converter is. There are at least 38 different color tweaking controls, including 8 basic controls for exposure, 4 for adjust contrast with Curves, and 16 for either Hue or Saturation.

So what do all these controls do? A RAW image, in the past, represented a certain truth, because a RAW converter could only do so much. True, an underexposure or overexposure could be rescued, within limits, and color temperature, contrast, and saturation could be adjusted to taste in a rather global (or entire image) treatment. The new RAW is so much more powerful, and functions so specifically upon colors, brightnesses, and exposures, that it makes one wonder, what is reality? what is truth? The new RAW converter will redefine photography and how we look at the medium, and I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but it is so different there will be new questions and controversies.

Lightroom looks terribly exciting, and I'm anxious to explore it in all its facets. With my Photoshop instructor, Rick Holt, we'll be offering an introduction to ADOBE LIGHTROOM July 22-28, 2007, and I'd urge anyone thinking about ordering Lightroom, or perplexed by this powerful program, take this course! It will change your life!





Previous Questions of the Month




 Camera Techniques

 In the Field

Do You Need a
Big Printer?

Can a Wimberley Head be used with small lenses?

Is a Trip to Antarctica
Worth it?

 Film or Digital?
Why you should shoot film!

What is the best shutter speed for panning running mammals?

 Is there an easy way to level a camera for panorama shots?

 Why is Yellowstone the best for wildlife photography in the US?

Apertures for Macro

 Why must you have
at least 2 digital backups

 Wildlife Models
Is there anything new
to shoot?

 Is the New Wimberley head worth having?

  What is our Digital Workflow in the Lab?

 Who should go Digital,
and when?

 What is our initial Digital Workflow?

Is Shooting in the RAW format worthwhile?

 Can you match the Histograms?
 How do I keep track of Digital Files?

  Is Digital Manipulation - a benign alternative to interacting in the natural world?

What is DEC? 

How can you capture a sharp image and angel hair on a windy day?  

 Is the Mark II the ultimate wildlife digital camera?

  Does the Visibledust cleaning system really work?

What do we really think about digital photography?

 What do we think of the Canon D30 digital camera?

How long will film be around? 

  The Sunny 16 rule -- is it worth knowing today?

 What is the Difference?

 How do we meter White?

 How can you save your shoulders?

  How do you shoot silhouettes?

 How would you meter these challenging images?

Why should you know Manual Mode? 

How would you meter these images?

 What is the best season to do a photo safari in East Africa?

Which Mountain Park is better for wildlife - Denali or Torres del Paine?

What is the best Car Window Mount? 

  How do you make things happen in wildlife photography?

 What are our Five Favorite Shooting Locales?

 What is the Big Lie?
Tfhe truth about Kenya's Tourism--it is SAFE!

 Which binoculars do we just love to use?

 What is the best
Game Caller?

 What is our Favorite bird-shooting location?

 How Easy is Whale Photography?

  How do we carry our film when traveling?

What Film Lab do we use, and why? 

 How can you attract insectivorous birds to your feeding stations and bait sites? 

How can you reduce contrast and the effect of wind for flower and macro photography?

 Is an L-Shaped Camera Bracket worth the Money?
You bet it is!

 Using Zoom lenses with tele-converters and extension tubes -- can you use both together?

 What the heck is the Scheimpflug Law?

  Reciprocity Failure

 What is the Best Composition?

 Are Image Stabilization Lenses Worth the Money?

 Hyperfocal Distance

  How do you determine distances?

 Should you have a depth of field Preview button on your camera?

 Flash and Tele-flash Techniques

 What is the most versatile remote release camera firing system?

 What the heck is a Plamp?

 What is the best flash for closeup and
macro photography?

 How do you shoot high-speed action images?
 How did I photograph that flying wasp?

 What is the Fotronix's
Flash System?

What is the Most Important thing you can do before a Workshop?

How did I shoot the gliding Sugar Glider?
 Is NANPA for you?  What is NANPA and how will it benefit me?

 Is it time for a summer NANPA Summit?

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