Friday, December 3, 2010

Why We Live Here

Here's one of the reasons we live out here, despite the winters that seem like one long cold drizzle interrupted by the occasional blizzard. On nice days, at just the right time and place, you can see sights like this:

Image credit: All images by Cujo359

One of the things I really don't like about digital cameras is the lack of contrast. You'd think that with 24 bits of color information per pixel, there'd be plenty - that's over 16 million colors. That's probably true, as long as you're not looking for contrast between, say, light blue and white, or between pink and white, as is the case here. In those cases, there are only 256 levels of color possible, and if the camera over-corrects a little, it can be really off. Unfortunately, photos of scenes like this almost never seem to look the way I see them. Photographing Mt. Rainier is like that. By way of illustration, here's a photo I took from the same spot a few seconds later, using some slightly different light settings:

It's a lower resolution image than the previous one, but trust me, it makes this one look better. You can barely see the mountain, yet it was much more visible to my eyes than anything I caught on the camera.

Mine's a cheap camera, but some rather expensive ones don't do a heck of a lot better.

So, one of the secrets to using a digital camera is to play with the settings, and be persistent. Or, you can just walk a few feet away and take a picture like this:

Click on the images to enlarge. Enjoy your weekend.


One Fly said...

Exactly-play around and you will get good ones. I really like the wires against the sunset! It's fun.

Cujo359 said...

That's the advantage of digital cameras - the image might not be as good as you get with good film, but you can take lots of them and get one that works pretty well. Images don't cost anything but some memory space with this technology.

David Evans said...

There are several things you can do to improve color quality:

Expose a series with slightly different exposures - maybe +/- half a stop or 1 stop. Most cameras will do this for you. I often find a sunset looks better underexposed.

Adjust the contrast or color in software. Google's Picasa is free and does quite a good job of this.

Save your pictures in RAW format. That gives you much more control in software. Unfortunately you will need a new camera. And preferably some software such as Photoshop Elements. Not free. But one must make sacrifices for one's art, no?

Cujo359 said...

Yes, the old Kodak has a variable +/- exposure setting. In fact, I think that was one of the things I experimented with while taking these pictures. It sometimes helps as, strangely, does using the "backlight" scene mode.

Cameras that do RAW images are way beyond my pay grade, I'm afraid. I'd looked at the most recent Canon S series point-and-shooters, and it still just looked like more than I could justify to myself.

I use GIMP to process images now. It can do a lot of things, but providing contrast that isn't there to begin with isn't one of them. It does have several different contrast correction modes, though, and I use them whenever the image seems wanting.

Thanks for commenting.

Cujo359 said...

P.S. I'll have to try out Picassa's software. Didn't even know there was any, to tell you the truth...

One Fly said...

I like Picasa as well but generally use what came with my Pentax called ACD. I can do more with Picasa for sure. Picasa is able to enhance not so good pictures so they become viewable and actually look decent. If you have a good picture generally they don't need anything. Try Picasa -you will like it.