Friday, December 31, 2010

IPS Monitors on Sale at Dell.CA

IPS monitors are at the top of the food chain where color and tone accuracy is concerned. These monitors can be calibrated to very close tolerances and will allow you process your images very accurately. Your prints will turn out exactly as you see them if you calibrate correctly. (Hint: get a Huey Pro.)

I just purchased a Dell U2311H 23” HD monitor, which is part of Dell’s IPS line of monitors. I got a great deal, but the monitor has just gone on sale for even less cash than I forked out.


At these prices, these two monitors are a real steal. Note that these are not equivalent to Apple’s Cinema displays. Those are in a class by themselves. But these are still excellent, and they have an anti-glare coating that works very well. I am very pleased with mine.

A word to the wise: Dell sales are generally very short lived. If you have been pining for one of these now, don’t wait. Of course, the sales come around every month on one or another monitor, so if you are not in a rush, just keep these monitors in mind.

A detailed review of the 23” monitor is here:

That review also contains an excellent set of setup and calibration instructions. Please use these as the monitor is otherwise much too bright for processing images.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

D700 – A walk in the woods …

This is actually the same walk in the woods as I posted yesterday from the perspective of the F300EXR. I went there to walk the loop and to see how many Chickadees I could photograph in the waning light.

It was a sunny afternoon, but as my luck always falls it turned cloudy literally as I was driving there. By the time I arrived, we were socked in. The late time also made for some fairly low light. I shot the F300EXR at 400 ISO as much as possible, but it suffered from blur too often and I eventually tried higher ISOs. You can look at that post to see how well it went.

The D7000 has few issues with high ISO, so I shot at 2500 through 4000 most of the time. I shot 14bit RAW as well, and processed everything through ACR6.3 and CS5. I use Topaz Denoise quite a bit, and I use Topaz Adjust to pull detail on many of the Chickadee shots. I used Topaz InFocus a few times to help improve sharpness or the original capture.

The very first Chickadee I tried to shoot took off as I pressed the shutter. I happen to love the look of flying birds with slow shutter, so this one actually pleases me a great deal. But at 800 ISO, I knew I was going to get some blur.


This is still within 100 feet of the cars, as that is where the people often congregate with their kids to drop the seeds to attract a bunch of birds. The kids often hold seeds in their hands, hoping for the birds to lite. I published a fun group of images of birds doing exactly that last winter.

Anyway, I tried 1600 ISO next. The result was fine. But I was still in relatively open space and it was still somewhat bright out.


I decided to bump my aperture from f/8 to f/11, which is the sweet spot for the 70-300VR at 300mm. This necessitated a bump of ISO to 2500 to maintain decent shutter speeds.


Not sure why that fellow is whipping around like that, but I like the pose. I caught the next one below me, just launching himself from the ground …


This one is just looking at me in what I have come to think of as their “plump pose” … I can get both eyes in the image, which is kind of cool …


This shot is a bit unique in that we see the legs extended a bit. He looks like he is walking on stilts. The presence of the leaf and the impression in the snow add interest.


Here’s one channeling Superman or Batman … faster than a speeding bullet:


And when the Chickadees left for a while, I continued on my walk. The woods and weather are a bit dull today, but it’s still a pretty area.


This trail has a lot of fallen trees. It is not called Beaver Trail accidentally.


I noticed a pair of nests high in the trees … there are Hawks around here, and I saw a pair flying around, but they did not come to clear air at any point, so I never got a shot.


More evidence of the trail’s name sake.


A knot.


Another fallen branch … itself branched. Y? I don’t know.


A huge log with many short branches spiking from it.


I arrive at the swamp and succumb to the need to try to capture the bull rush field. I showed that in the F300EXR article as well. It’s not easy to get a decent image that tames the extremely busy foreground and background.


Can’t say that I succeeded here. One day. But I do love bark of all kinds, and here is a nice shot of Birch Bark.


And a bull rush isolation shot.


Some shrooms that are toughing out the winter attached to a tree.


Near the Beaver Swamp, there were seeds scattered and more Chickadees. The first one again gave me an interesting shot … the takeoff building but not really started:


Another one just sitting, contemplating the seed he has taken I suppose.


This one took off and the head seems to have folded over. No idea whether that is normal or whether it is simply a trick of the slow motion blur. It’s cool though, as the legs are clearly trailing with the tail.


I walked up onto the lookout over the lake and captured the Beaver Dam with both cameras. If you read the previous article, you’ve already seen it. But here are a couple of shots from the D700.


I walked on and entered the meadow, where the big tree stands. I shot a wide image of it with the F300EXR, published yesterday. Today, I show what it looks like at 70mm, the widest the D700 can go with this lens.


I stop later to shoot some cool branches, which you again saw in the last article. Here, I take a different interpretation with the help of Topaz Adjust and its pseudo HDR look.



I am now about 100 feet from the Wild Bird Center, which is about 100 feet from the parking area and what do I see? A couple of deer crossing the path in front of me. This is the very first time I’ve seen this and I’ve walked these trails since the kids were young (20 years) … but, by now it is dark and perhaps that is the trick as they start to move around a bit.

Anyway, I grabbed one shot of them before they vanished into the dense trees.


I walked to where they had crossed and peered into the woods for 10 minutes but saw nothing more of them.

I passed the Wild Bird Center and arrived back at the area where the Chickadees congregate for seeds and tried my hand at shooting them in the dark. Two blurry shots is all I could get. But they are both interesting. (I shot others but they were a total mess.)

First, a strange image of a launch straight up …. looks like retro-rockets pushing this bird into the air:


That one is aided by the leaf behind the bird … gives the apparition some shape and color.

The last image is a Chickadee eating a seed. Very cool as you can clearly see that he has pinned the seed to the branch with one toe on each claw and then is pecking at it to eat the seed slowly. It takes a minute or two to finish a seed for them.


And that’s it. Challenging because of the poor light, but a nice place to walk and look around.

One last thing … I mentioned Topaz InFocus a couple of times. I’ve posted an example of it previously, but it worked so well on another image in this group that I thought it worth posting a pair of crops.


Not too shabby … it was certainly worth the intro price they had … I hope you took advantage when I posted it (DPReview posted it the next day as well.)

BVR – Barrhaven Vietnamese Restaurant

I stopped by the other evening when Jon was out and grabbed a bowl of one of my favorite soups (might be tied with Heinnezup, Laksa and Goulash Soup.) Anyway, the whole place has been redecorated and has a fairly elegant look now … with a lot more separation of the patrons from each other as there are short walls and fabric panels everywhere. It’s a really comfortable atmosphere now … and it was not bad before.

Here’s how the F300EXR renders that …



Nice place, and the decorations for the holidays really add to it. One of the better attempts I’ve seen at a restaurant this year.

I had not eaten all day and I had spent the afternoon walking the Beaver Trail (now that connection I had not yet made … BVR is pronounced Beaver by everyone I know.) So I ordered my absolute favorite crispy spring rolls …. the Vietnamese do this better than any other cuisine in my opinion.


While I waited for the spring rolls, I performed a simple test. I shot a macro image of the paper place mat in P mode at 1600ISO and in Pro Low Light mode at 1600 ISO. Just for fun, I will link the originals … click through to compare them. Remember that these cams are not for pixel-peepers, so if your eyes are traumatized, don’t complain to me :-) 

P mode


Pro Low Light


Pro Low Light crops a bit to perform its magic of combining four images into one. It has slightly less noise, but the P mode image is not overrun with noise either. The P mode image seems to resolve slightly less detail as well.

Anyway … eventually the main event arrived … I added a dollop of hot sauce and then enjoyed a wonderfully salty beef broth with thin beef slices, onions and lots of rice noodles.


Crappy composition … sorry about that.

F300EXR – A walk in the woods …

There’s a trail that was once called Stony Swamp that I often walked with the boys when they were younger. They have since renamed it to Beaver Trail, probably because Stony Swamp was not all that appetizing a name for a place to walk with your kids.

I walk it now and again just to see what has been changing and to see what I can photograph. I did this late in the day two days ago, and the conditions were very nice. Not too much snow, and people had left enough seeds lying around for me to catch a few Chickadees.

The F300EXR is a pretty nice camera for shooting in low light, and especially if you tend to publish at web sizes or in small prints. But this kind of light stimulates the EXR camera’s tendency to smear like-colored foliage in the distance, so if you are a raging pixel-peeper, I encourage you to look elsewhere. Canon perhaps …

I brought the D700 along to shoot the Chickadees, and only remembered to take the F300EXR out of my pocket about half way around the loop, Just before I reached the swamp itself. Note that these are all processed. The cam does a nice job, but I prefer a warmer presentation (the woods were dark this late on a cloudy day, and no cam can really give the warmth I like.)

I noticed a tree stump chewed off and of course thought it appropriate to capture the evidence as to why this is called the Beaver Trail.


I always try to get a decent image of the vast swamp and its thousands of bull rushes, but I never really manage to get something I like. Here’s what the F300EXR was able to do.


I’m a sucker for tree bark in all its flavors. Birch trees peeling away make for a great subject. Especially set against the woods …


I also like the texture of dried Oak leaves. I missed the perfect shot here by clipping the bottom left corner, but I like it enough to publish anyway.


More leaves, and if you can identify them in this state, let me know.


Fungi tend to grow on fallen logs, but I don’t get to see a standing tree hosting that often …



The inevitable Chickadee shot … but I had the cam on 400 ISO and the shutter speeds were too slow. I got one that I was able, with heavy processing, to coax some detail from …


Sometimes the slow shutter makes for an interesting image …


As I arrived at the meadow, I remembered how much I like the tree that dominates it.


And finally, I came upon a really cool tree that defines gnarly … a couple of shots of its branches …



And as I passed the Wild Bird Center, I noticed that someone had lost a scarf somewhere and a good Samaritan had left it hung from the fence near the center. Nice person …


Stay tuned for the D700 images in a separate post.