Sunday, February 22, 2009

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Master captured the 'decisive moment'

Credit the BBC television series "The Genius of Photography" for today's post, which I hope to be the first in a periodic series of looks at "master" photographers.

"The Genius of Photography" is a series I stumbled upon by chance late last year on Ovation TV (Channel 157 on Dish satellite and Channel 274 on DIRECTV; for cable, check your local service provider's channel list).

Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to record the six installments so I can revisit them. Unfortunately, while the series has aired periodically on Ovation TV since its BBC debut in October 2007 and aired most recently this past December and January, I cannot find any indication at Ovation TV's Web site that it will re-run anytime soon. The Luminous Landscape Forum provides a handy description of all six installments.

According to the BBC series, Frenchman Henri Cartier-Bresson is one of the world's first known photojournalists and was instrumental in developing the style of "street photography" that many photographers today enjoy.

Cartier-Bresson, who himself preferred to shun the camera (the accompanying portrait is a rarity), was known for capturing so many of his photographic subjects at their so-called "decisive moment" -- the dramatic climax of a picture at which everything falls perfectly into place. Appropriately enough, "The Decisive Moment" was the title of the English version of his 1952 book of images taken during his many travels.

I lifted and compiled the following from several biographical synopses I found on the Internet:

Cartier-Bresson's passion for photography evolved from his love, at a very young age, of motion pictures and how they captured "real life." For an outlet, he first turned to painting. But he wasn't capturing the vision he wanted with paint and often would toss out his work.

Then one day he became inspired by a 1930 photograph by Hungarian photojournalist Martin Munkacsi showing three naked young African boys, caught in near-silhouette, running into the surf of Lake Tanganyika. He was struck by how the image captured the freedom, grace and spontaneity of their movement and their joy at being alive. "I couldn't believe such a thing could be caught with the camera," he said.

The photograph inspired him to stop painting and to take up photography seriously. "I suddenly understood that a photograph could fix eternity in an instant." He acquired a Leica camera with a 50 millimeter lens (pictured above) in Marseilles that would accompany him for many years. He described the Leica as an extension of his eye.

The BBC series installment featuring Cartier-Bresson spent considerable time on a single photograph, titled Behind the Gare St. Lazare The image depicts a man caught in mid-air leaping over a puddle –- the so-called "decisive moment" –- at the Gare St. Lazare train station in Paris. The image may appear to most people as pretty simple, but to photographers, it is the equivalent of a Picasso or Rembrandt; prints of the image cannot be acquired for less than five figure sums.

Said Cartier-Besson of that picture: "There was a plank fence around some repairs behind the Gare Saint-Lazare train station. I happened to be peeking through a gap in the fence with my camera at the moment the man jumped."

Behind the Gare St. Lazare, taken in 1932, shows the leaper blurred because of motion. It's not raining in the photo, but it's obvious it has rained recently due to the reflective puddle the man is trying to hurdle. There is evidence of renovation going on -- the pile of rocks and the wheelbarrow in the background and the ladder and metal rings lying in the foreground. In the background, a man stands by the gate looking away from the camera but toward the train station, and beside him are several posters on the fence. One of those posters presents an interesting juxtaposition and a balancing element in the image.

The circus-promotion poster shows a leaping dancer, almost parroting the puddle-jumping subject in the foreground, and the less obvious leaping of the clock hand seen faintly above.

As for his photojournalism, Wikipedia's entry for Cartier-Bresson chronicles the following:

Cartier-Bresson achieved international recognition for his coverage of Gandhi's funeral in India in 1948 and the last (1949) stage of the Chinese Civil War. He covered the last six months of the Kuomintang administration and the first six months of the Maoist People's Republic.

He also photographed the last surviving Imperial eunuchs in Beijing, as the city was falling to the communists. From China, he went on to Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), where he documented the gaining of independence from the Dutch.

In 1952, Cartier-Bresson published his book "Images à la sauvette," whose English edition was titled "The Decisive Moment." It included a portfolio of 126 of his photos from the East and the West. The book's cover was drawn by well-known French painter Henri Matisse.

Cartier-Bresson died on Aug. 3, 2004, at the age of 95.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

3rd in a series of neighborhood profiles

Garfield Park-South



Today, I officially introduce the Garfield Park-South neighborhood as the third in a series of aesthetic photographic profiles of Indianapolis neighborhoods at my online photo gallery at Fototime.

Above is a slide show of the 150 images that make up the newest -- and, by far, largest and most well-rounded -- profile in the series. For the first time in the series, the images are organized, roughly, in sequential seasonal order, beginning with spring. It is the most well-rounded of the three neighborhood profiles largely because it is my home neighborhood.

Images depict the neighborhood's homes, landscapes, Garfield Park, churches, businesses and people.

Indianapolis neighborhoods featured in previous photographic profiles were Lockerbie Square and Irvington. Galleries of all three profiled neighborhoods -- as well as other photo collections of mine that I have organized online -- can be viewed at my Fototime Web site.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Making it easier to comment

Hello, everyone. A quick note to mention that, effective yesterday, restrictions on making comments on individual posts here have been eased so that people may now post comments without having to register first with Google and/or blogger.com. In fact, you can even leave comments anonymously, although I would prefer if you could identify yourself(selves) somehow.

I decided to do this in light of how some folks were having some difficulty with the comments area. Either they were having trouble finding the spot where comments could be made (it does seem to get lost at the bottom of each post right along with the post tags) or they had reservations about having to register first with Google/blogger.com before leaving comments. The latter I certainly understand; I wasn't a strong fan of forcing people to register, but I didn't realize I had the authority to ease that restriction until just this week. I'm still somewhat of a rookie at this blogging stuff!

Allowing anonymous comments could open the door to objectionable and offensive remarks, I suppose, but I'm hoping visitors here -- at least for the short term (and hopefully, the long term) -- are civil and respectful sorts. Besides, this blog still is in its infancy stage and we probably don't have many mean-spirited sorts doing drop-bys. I reserve the right to revisit this decision if I prove to be wrong!

I hope this makes things easier for all of you who have been kind enough to stop by and appreciate what I've been trying to do with this still relatively new venture.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

PP's Photographer in the Spotlight:

Tony Hadley


I can't remember exactly which image of Tony Hadley's first caught my eye at Photo.net, an online global community of photographers of all levels and styles. But I do remember that, it seemed, one after another, after another, of his images that he would add to his portfolio reflected an eye for detail, composition, thought and creativity. In particular, his mathematical abstracts -- like the one above and another elsewhere in this interview -- I found intriguing -- detailed and, often, masterfully colorful while at the same time artful.

Tony, a Canadian citizen, is this month's Photo Potpourri "Photographer in the Spotlight." Born in St. Vincent, West Indies, he was adopted as an only child in infancy. Tony studied classical piano for many years but gave it up when he moved to Canada to attend college. At an early age, he says, he had a fascination for "the magic" of photography.

"My parents had enough resources to build me a basic darkroom in the basement area of our home," Tony says. "I started the first photography club at my high school, where there was no lab or equipment, so our meetings were held on the front steps of the school." He started shooting weddings on the side but eventually got out of it, joined Lakeshore Camera club in Quebec and was an active member for a brief period. "I did not have the confidence or the material to submit anything for the competitions, but I learned a fair amount. It is through this club that I was able to benefit from a Freeman Patterson seminar.

"Most of my photography for a number of years was very casual -- and mostly when I went on vacation. I became part of the Photo.net community in mid-2006, and it is here that I better focused on image-making," weathering the disappointment shared by many member photographers -- low ratings from anonymous critics without comments on photos submitted for evaluation. Nevertheless, he said, "I feel that my growth was exponential since that time."

And I agree. As mentioned at the very top, Tony's work caught my eye immediately, and I count several of his images among "my favorites" that each photo.net member can designate in a sort of personal, member gallery. In a recent interview, I was able to get Tony to answer a few questions about his craft.

When did you first get into photography, and did your interest develop gradually or did you jump into it 100% from the beginning?

It all started when I was about 7 years old when my neighbor photographed me. Hours later, he magically emerged from a closed room with a dripping black-and-white print, and I truly knew that I had to perform the same magic. This happened in the Caribbean nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Later, and in my teens, I completed a Bachelor of Commerce degree with a major in quantitative methods in a Montreal university, after which I became a Canadian citizen. As a consequence, my photography really reflects the North American and Caribbean world.

Are there any photographers you can cite as influences, or favorites?

In the early stages of my photography, I was taught black-and-white darkroom work by the late Michael Odlum (not a well-known photographer), who gave me great tips about low-speed B&W film like Agfa ISOPAN 25, the use of Agfa Rodinal film developer, and how agitation could affect the development stage. In addition, I greatly admired the B&W work of Ansel Adams. Later on in my development, I also attended a one-day seminar put on by Freeman Patterson – a Canadian nature photographer, and it is here that I learned a great deal about color, composition and the "art of seeing." I cannot emphasize enough about the "art of seeing," since no amount of technical competence can make up for the lack of seeing something worthwhile photographing that may appeal to others. I have developed a sort of workflow to "seeing," and it is to stop and wonder what it was that first attracted my attention. Once I have identified it, this becomes the center of interest. I must now decide what the foreground and background will look like, and if it does not "add" value, then it must be "subtracted." This sometimes leads to visiting that "center of interest" many times to see what different light or different times of the year will offer.

What gives you the most pleasure, satisfaction or fulfillment about your photography? Do you have one or two favorites from your entire portfolio?

When I accomplish a high level of artistic expression and technical competence in an image, I think that gives me a great deal of satisfaction on one level. On another level, I simply love finding, admiring and capturing something exquisite that Mother Nature has to offer. On the few occasions when that happens, I feel a great amount of excitement and trepidation at the same time: excitement, because I am experiencing something in nature that may never repeat itself, trepidation, because I fear that I will not be able to capture it adequately.

I am so fascinated by the world in which we live. Sometimes I feel like I am in Pandora’s box because I think I see beauty where others might walk right by it. It is difficult to choose favorites, but there are a couple that I like, but like music, depending on my frame of mind, on another day I might like something else.

To paraphrase another photographer: "The most important asset I can now claim as a photographer is that I was simply there. While this seems obvious to most, I believe it to be significant, considering all I have forsaken just to make sure I did not miss the fall" colors and other photographic experiences. Other than self-satisfaction and the possibility of an odd sale here and there, my images may be remembered to live for a short while after my "station" has arrived.

You do some fascinating geometric abstracts (like the one at the very top of this post). Is that the phrase you use to describe them, or ... do you term it something else? Do you have a strong math background to help you appreciate these or know what you're going after from the onset of a particular project?

My mathematical or geometric abstracts ... (are) something quite dormant in my current stage of photography. At one point, for a few months, I was totally addicted to producing these images. I literally had to tear myself away from it simply because I knew I wanted to explore and develop myself in other areas of image-making. Even though I have a strong mathematical background, I am not sure how my brain processes these images. However, I look for form, color and in the case of these abstracts, I aim to try and find something to which a viewer can relate, even at a subliminal level.

How difficult, or time-consuming, is it to set up/arrange, shoot and post-process these abstracts?

I use several different programs, including Photoshop CS2. These non-CS2 programs require a disciplined approach to acquiring these special images, and it is very time-consuming, but in the end, I find something that appeals to me. When I use Photoshop CS2, I mostly start with an original photograph, and it is then very much a trial and error with a goal in mind, but never having it all mapped out. Here again, I will try and keep the criteria of form, color and something recognizable that can attract a viewer’s attention.

Are those abstracts the images that fetch the most comments and/or interest from those who see them? Do you display your work online at a site other than photo.net? If so, where?

Most of my online images are on Photo.net, and I get a sense that the people who enjoy these geometric and other abstracts are in the minority. I get ecstatic responses from this minority, but the images are probably not everyone’s "cup of tea." The evidence of that is when I get a question like "What is it?" or “What does it represent?” I wonder if those people that cannot appreciate the abstract image feel that I am trying to put something over on them and calling it "abstract art." Perhaps they see it as art, but spelled with a silent and non-visible "F” preceding it. I was invited by a photo.net member to display my abstracts at another site, but as of now, I have not gone that route.

In addition to abstracts, you do some fabulous landscapes and vistas, and I read in your photo.net biography that you truly enjoy shooting outdoors in the fall. How do you avoid making those types of photographs or shoots stale or redundant? Do you try different places, maybe?

Since I am in awe of the fall season, it is quite easy for my images to become redundant. However, there are so many things that can help you to avoid this, and changing location is a very good start, and even visiting the same location on different days may yield something different. On a different day, you might see something that you missed on a previous day. In addition, one has compositional aspects, camera techniques (in camera zoom during exposure, multiple-exposure, in-camera images, etc.), choice of lens (wide-angle, macro and telephoto), plus use of post-processing, and all of the tools provided in Photoshop. One is limited only by one’s imagination and creativity.

Do you have a favorite type of shot to do? The abstracts? Or sunsets? Or autumnal vistas? Does it depend on how challenging it is, or does it strictly have to do with how it makes you feel?

One must know one’s self to answer this question, and the fact that I could not pin this down to a single category will probably lead me to the answer. I have quite a varied portfolio on photo.net, and I conclude the following, supported by comments from others: "Color" is an important part of my work. If I can find color, form, and good light, then I am a happy camper. I am probably in that category of "how it makes me feel." There have been a few times where I was in complete awe and had to remember that I should be photographing the scene.

Have you ever had any of your work published or displayed publicly at a gallery or at arts/crafts fairs? Do you sell your work? If not, would you like to?

The first and only time my work was published was in a high-gloss Taiwanese magazine called Unique Image. They spotted my images at photo.net, selected nine of them, and made me September 2008 Photographer of the Month with all images printed as full or double-page sized. In addition, they asked me to write an article.

This is also the first time that I am mentioning in a public forum the details about being published. I have kept a fairly low profile on Photo.net because I wanted my images to speak for themselves and not try and enhance them with talk about being published.

With that commercial success, it has given me confidence that I could approach other magazines and perhaps have some luck in getting other publications to feature my images. I am starting to fantasize about doing a book, but I am a long way from that.

At present I don’t do galleries or exhibitions, but that may be an essential step in generating some sales. I have had a few requests for prints, but I probably need a new Web site to promote that kind of activity and other further commercial promotion.

I am concerned with the life balance of proceeding commercially too far, compared with my ability to continuing to create images. For personal reasons, I would rather lean on the side of making images.

Is there any type of photography, or any particular subjects, you've done little of or have never done that you would like to explore more?

How about scantily clad women on Caribbean beaches or mountain streams with a waterfall in the background with tropical birds chirping away and rays of light shining on the center of attraction? (smile). No, I don’t think so. I think I would like to continue to find nature’s gems from a landscape perspective with a new, not-yet-purchased wide-angle lens (10-20mm) and close-up macro photography of natural objects.

Whenever I pick up my macro lens and start looking at a subject, it opens up a new and hidden world because the way a macro lens sees the world is quite different. I recently uploaded some "bokeh" (noticeable depth-of-field with smooth, out-of-focus background elements) images with the macro lens, and thus far they are like my other abstracts – keenly admired by a few, but not by the majority.

Click on the following link to see more Tony Hadley's photographs:

Tony Hadley Photo Gallery at Photo.net

Monday, February 9, 2009

FinePix F200EXR: a dream compact?

While I shoot the vast majority of my images with one of two digital single-lens reflex cameras, for months I've been trying to sift through the glut of compact (point-and-shoot) cameras on the market to find a quality piece of equipment that I can carry around conveniently when either I'm in a hurry or don't want to be lugging a heavy camera bag. Something to use, for example, at informal social functions, a simple walk through the park, or one of those "gotta get it quick or it'll get away" moments.

Six months ago, I acquired a Pentax Optio Z10, lured by the attractive 7X built-in (no lens protrusion) optical zoom and the promise of image stablization. The zoom is splendid, and I got some nice images in daytime available light. But the image stablization is limited to certain shots and I don't have a lot of control of when it's engaged.

But the most disappointing aspect is that I found out quickly what I'd heard and seen with images taken with so many point-and-shoots: They don't have nearly the ISO sensitivity that you'd like or want. In a batch of photos I shot with the Z10 inside Lucas Oil Stadium for a Colts NFL game last fall, for example, I took a couple dozen shots using available light, and I'd estimate that 70% of those were of inferior quality (at least to my standards).

Comes now Fujifilm with the possible answer to my dilemma. The cameramaker announced last week that it would be releasing, at the end of this month, a high-octaine compact -- the 12-megapixel FinePix F200EXR with a 5X optical zoom and 3-inch LCD monitor -- that will go a long way toward addressing the ISO sensitivity issue and do much more. It has my attention, and if it does everything the early writeups say it will do, it will come very close to being my "dream" compact.

The two most interesting features of the F200EXR:

1) The high ISO senstivity and low noise mode: The EXR technology, when engaged, will be able to "read" low-light situations, and instead of using all 12 million single pixels to capture fragmented light to render an inferior image, it will merge pairs of pixels to form 6 million much-larger photodiodes, which in turn will capture more light and promise an image featuring less noise. Basically, many more "keepers."

The phrase "when engaged" above is key. The shooter will have the option of setting the mode manually to take advantage of the low-light ISO sensitivity EXR technology, or the shooter can use an automatic mode that assigns the camera the authority to determine when to engage it.

2) A "Dual Capture" wide dynamic range mode. Using the same concept of halving the 12MP as described above, Dual Capture will record two different light exposures of the same image using two sets of 6 million pixels, which, when combined, promise to provide an excellent level of detail in highlights and lowlights that would otherwise be lost.

This appears to be a modified way of handling what many photographers now do with DSLRs in a technique called high dynamic range. In seeking to extract optimum detail and quality from a particular photograph, photographers will take two, three, four or even five versions of the same image -- each with a slightly different exposure (a process called bracketing). Later, in editing the pictures, they merge two or more of those bracketed versions into one, the result being a much more crisp, detailed and color-dynamic image than they would have had in just a single-frame capture.

The FinePix F200EXR portends to capture two such exposures, or versions, for the photographer in Dual Capture mode. To be sure, this isn't the same thing a shooter can attain with classic HDR as described in the previous paragraph, but for a compact, it's the most innovating and intriguing step in that direction I've seen, thanks in large part to the EXR pixel halving and pairing technology.

Fujifilm says the camera will debut at the end of this month at a retail price of $399.95, and already amazon.com is accepting preorders at that price. I expected the cost to be more than the average pocket-sized compact, so I guess I'm not surprised by that pricetag. I want to wait to read more reviews before I take the plunge, but if you saw me right now, you'd notice me listing in that direction!

To read up on the FinePix F200EXR, follow the following links:

Fujifilm's official announcement of the F200EXR

The dpreview.com review of the F200EXR

The price listing for pre-orders at amazon.com

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Road to cul-de-sac

With the snow virtually melted, I thought I'd pull another fast one ... and drop in here a photo from my Jan. 8, 2005, shoot. I initially inserted an image reflecting a black-and-white conversion of this image with a texturizing filter applied, but I've since gone another direction.

This is the original color image, with the saturation curves boosted to bring out the yellow road stripe to hopefully create a more pronounced visual guide down the road. It's also added a hint of lavender to the tree branches flanking the road.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Changing gears and thinking t-h-a-w ...

After three consecutive days of snow photographs, I thought it might be a good idea to change gears here. Radically.

Yes, I know we're still more than a month away from the official change of seasons. And yes, I know Punxsutawney Phil (the groundhog, for you who weren't aware he had a name) allegedly saw his shadow Monday. And yes, yes ... I know that's supposed to mean six more weeks of winter.

But hey, I'm going to be the contrarian here. Besides, I slaved over putting together the collage above, I felt like we needed the good vibes, and I decided this might be a sortkinda OK time to do an advance (granted, a "way, way" in advance) on the annual spring bulb flower show at the Garfield Park Conservatory in Indianapolis. That's where the above photos were taken in 2007 and 2008. This year's show, by the way, will be March 27 through April 3. On April 4, the conservatory will have a sale of the all the tulips, crocus, hyacinths and other spring flora from the displays on a first-come, first serve basis.

And if you really like flowers, consider returning to the conservatory two weeks later for the annual orchid show, April 18-19.

One more reason to at least think spring: It's 53 degrees outside -- and this, coming only two (2) days removed from an overnight low of minus 3!! It's reason to cheer, I say!

Finally, speaking of Punxsutawney Phil ... did you realize he has his own Web site? I kid you not. PunxsutawneyPhil.com. Click on the link in the first sentence of this paragraph, and away you'll go!

Think spring.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Snow motion ... in the neighborhood


Early on during my neighborhood snow shoot Tuesday, I came across two folks, on a residential street, driving motor-powered vehicles that I wasn't sure what to call.

They bore down on me (left) as I managed to take several pictures using my burst mechanism (formerly referred to as "motor drive"). Once past me, they came upon a stop sign (middle) -- and a vehicle of a more traditional sort, headed in the opposite direction. All three motorists stopped at the intersection to check for traffic.

With the path clear, the duo pulled away (right), tires kicking up road snow in their wake.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The snowstorm was so bad ...

... that even He couldn't dig out from under it."

So goes one funny line that came to mind when I shot this yesterday. The front license plate on this vehicle made me do it. Um, the plate is what make me take the picture, I mean ... not try to come up a with quip for a caption.

Anyway, maybe you can think of a few of your own.

Or not. This being a free country and all, you always have the "or not" option ...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Guardian of the snowcovered alley


Above documents a brief encounter of the feline species I had in an alley not far from my house this afternoon, my first opportunity to get out and document the recent snow blitz that came through Central Indiana.

Actually, I've seen the stray before, but it doesn't usually hang around very long. The moment after I snapped this photo and made a step toward it in hopes of getting a closer shot (not to mention it was on the way to my house!), it high-tailed it out of there in the direction of the open snowpath behind it. I shot this with my Canon Rebel 300D equipped with an EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS telephoto lens, at maximum focal length, with image stabilization engaged.

I'll be posting a few other frames from today's shoot in the days ahead.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Lincoln portrait plate gets cleanup
to mark his 200th birthday

In observance of our 16th president's 200th birthday Feb. 12, the George Eastman House Museum of Photography and Film embarked on a project to restore the original transparency plate used to print Abraham Lincoln's favorite portrait of himself (above).

The project actually began in 2006, when the owner of a duplicate of the plate -- a collector who for years didn't realize he owned source material for the treasured 1860 portrait (and who wished to remain anonymous) -- sent the duplicate transparency to the Eastman museum, according to a story by the Associated Press.

The profile of a beardless, bow-tie-wearing Lincoln -- one of two frames available from that shoot -- was taken on June 3, 1860, in Springfield, Ill., not long after Lincoln announced his candidacy for the presidency.

Photographer Alexander Hesler recorded the images on a wet-plate collodion negative. It later was transferred to a high-resolution silver-gelatin interpositive glass plate (top left), then a new technology from which several thousand prints were made and sold in the late 19th century (top right).

Portions of the plate and the duplicate, however, were accidentally shattered during a shipment to St. Louis by parcel post in 1933.

The original glass plate and fragments ended up as an artifact in a Smithsonian Institution vault, but the duplicate disappeared mysteriously, only to end up years later in possession of the anonymous collector. It's the 8"x10" duplicate that was sent to the Eastman museum for repair and restoration.

"That looks better and expresses me better than any I have ever seen,'' Lincoln said of the Hesler portrait in a letter to the photographer. "If it pleases the people, I am satisfied.''

Other portraits of Lincoln are included here as well. The clean-shaven Lincoln (framed in oval above) also was taken in 1860.

The first bearded shot of Lincoln was taken on Nov. 8, 1863, by Alexander Gardner. While waiting for the shot to be set up, the president read a newspaper account of the speech that famed orator Edward Everett would make at the dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg. Lincoln would also speak at Gettysburg, of course, but he had yet to compose his remarks, promising only that they would be “short, short, short.”

The second bearded image was taken in February 1865, two months before his death. The negative was cracked after it was developed.

For the full AP story on the plate restortation project, visit the Bloomington (Ill.) Pantagraph Web site by clicking on the link in this sentence. For more reading on the Lincoln portraits, visit these sites:

National Portrait Gallery: The Many Faces of Lincoln

Smithsonian Institution research on Lincoln portraits

Millikin University collection of two frames from the Hesler 1860 sitting

Nikon heads laboratory's list
of top RAW-sensor performers

Nikon holds the top three positions in a criteria-based laboratory evaluation of the RAW-sensor performances of current-market digital cameras.

Dxomark.com, a Web site created and developed by DxO Labs, claims its ratings provide the first publicly accessible database of objective and in-depth RAW sensor image quality measurements.

Not only do Nikon bodies -- led by the 2-month-old D3x (a curiously virtual clone of the D3 but costing quite a bit more money) -- hold the top three positions on the DxO Labs' rankings of cameras' RAW-sensor performance, but they also claim four positions in the Top Ten and eight of the Top 25. Canon, led by the 1Ds Mark III at No. 4, claims five spots in the Top Ten and 13 total in the Top 25 -- but also positions 26, 27 and 28.

DxO evaluates RAW-sensor performance on the basis of color depth, dynamic range and low-light ISO. Using those criteria, here are DxO's Top Ten rankings and ratings (with 100 being perfect) of digital cameras -- almost all of which are single-lens reflex -- on the basis of their RAW-sensor peformance:

1. Nikon D3x -- 88

2. Nikon D3 -- 80.6

3. Nikon D700 - 80.5

4. Canon 1Ds Mark III - 80.3

5. Canon 5D Mark II - 79

6. Sony A900 - 78.9

7. Canon 1Ds Mark II - 74

8. Nikon D90 - 72.6

9. Canon 1D Mark III - 71

10. Canon 5D - 70.9

RAW-sensor performance is important for many pro-level photographers; RAW is the image format many shooters choose (instead of jpegs) when taking their pictures because it contains more pixel data and information (12 to 14 bits, usually) than the more-compressed jpeg (8 bits). Therefore, such things as brightness, contrast, tone, color and dynamic range can be more easily, precisely and effectively manipulated in RAW format after shooting than a jpeg can be modified with post-processing software.

The tradeoff of RAW images is that they use up a significantly greater amount of space on memory cards than jpegs and, in some cases, require special software to move from the camera to a post-processing platform. However, once a photographer has worked with a RAW image to perfect its final version, the RAW image can be converted to the smaller jpeg format.

Pentax's top performer in DxO Labs' evaluations is the K10D, ranked No. 12 with a rating of 66.9; Samsung's GX 20 slips in just ahead of the K10D at No. 11 with a rating of 68.7.

The only other non-Canon or Nikon camera appearing in the Top 25 is the Fujifilm FinePix S5 Pro, which is No. 19 with a rating of 65.3.

Click here to see a full list of the top 50+ RAW-sensor performance ratings by DxO.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

More fun: 'Fern for brains'


A simple fun shot -- "Fern for Brains" -- captured July 24, 2007, in the Lockerbie Square neighborhood of Indianapolis, Ind.

To see other images from this shoot, visit my Lockerbie Square neighborhood folders at either my Fototime or Photo.net galleries.