Longwood Gardens Part 2

As I talked about in an entry a couple days ago, our visit to Longwood Gardens was most enjoyable. I ran out of steam that night so I didn’t post as many photos as I had wanted.

NIKON D200 @ 50mm — ¹/500 sec, ƒ/2.5, ISO 100 | zoom in
Beautiful Colors
NIKON D200 @ 50mm — ¹/500 sec, ƒ/4.5, ISO 100 | zoom in
Red and Yellow

As beautiful as the conservatory was, I really want to go back in the summer. Some of the outdoor paths, though a bit bleak this early in the year, looked like they would be beautiful.

NIKON D200 @ 50mm — ¹/100 sec, ƒ/8, ISO 100 | zoom in
Outdoor Path
NIKON D50 @ 31mm — ¹/200 sec, ƒ/7.1, ISO 200 | zoom in
Bush Sculptures

Overall, we had a great time and there were lots of good photo opportunities.

Nikon D200 with SB-600 using Nikon CLS

The other night, I decided that it was about time for me to attempt to improve my still life or “stock” type skills. A while back, I had built a home made studio light box out of some PVC pipe and some white muslin cloth. For an idea of what it looks like, you can take a look at this one for sale. Mine may not look as nice, but it cost less than $15 to build, so I’ll take it! I also purchased a piece of black velvet as a backdrop as well as two inexpensive desk lights somewhat like these. I chose to use compact fluorescent (the curly energy saving bulbs) in the desk lamps and when aimed at the sides of the muslin, I get a reasonably bright light box.

This works great for taking images of still object, such as this banana.

NIKON D200 @ 50mm — ¹/250 sec, ƒ/5.6, ISO 100 | zoom in
Banana Shot in Homemade Lightbox

In case you’re wondering, the reflections on a piece of glass which is just from an old picture frame. Simple, cheap and effective. This setup works great as long as you ensure that the background (in this case a piece of white poster board) slopes gently up and out of the shot. I do this much like the poster board in the link to the commercial variety — by attaching one end of the poster board to the back of the light box at the top. It naturally curves / slopes down on the table. It’s actually much easier than I thought it would be.

As exciting as a banana is, I decided to get really ambitious and attempt to capture some water drops / splashes. I immediately realized that there were two problems with my setup.

  1. The two desk lamps (with 100W equivalent bulbs in each) were not nearly enough light to get adequate shutter speeds necessary to stop a drop of water.
  2. Auto focus of the lens wasn’t allowing the camera to take the picture the instant I pressed the shutter. For that matter, pressing the shutter button while trying to drip water was a bit difficult.

The second problem was actually the easier one to fix. First, I set the camera to manual focus and second, I got out my cable release. Problem solved (or so I thought).

The first problem seemed easy. Get out my Nikon SB-600 Speedlight. My Nikon D200 has the ability to trigger this speedlight remotely and so I set it in the included stand and placed it to the front left of the bowl where I was going to create the water splashes. The first couple shots showed that this was way too much light so I grabbed the flash to turn down the compensation and realized that while in CLS (Nikon’s Creative Lighting System mode which allows the D200 to remotely trigger the flash), you can’t adjust the output power of the flash unit on the speedlight itself. Hmm… Actually, you can adjust the flash unit from the camera itself. But you have to go through a decent amount of menus to get there.

After a little trial and error, I got to the point where the bowl was in focus and properly lit (something like 1/32 power on the flash with it bounced off the top of the light box).

I then realized that my focus fix, wasn’t actually working. With the Nikon 50mm f/1.4D lens, the depth of field at f/5.6 is only about half an inch at the 15 inch working distance I had. Choosing even f/11 only brings that distance up to about an inch. Therefore, it was crucial that I focus exactly on the middle of the bowl. I came up with a solution. Place some object (I used a fork) across the bowl at the center (or wherever you plan to drop the water drops). Focus on that and call it good.

NIKON D200 @ 50mm — ¹/250 sec, ƒ/5.6, ISO 100 | zoom in
Focus on the Fork

From here, it was just a matter of dripping water from a small squeeze bottle into the bowl while catching the drops just as they hit the water. Easy, right?

NIKON D200 @ 50mm — ¹/250 sec, ƒ/5.6, ISO 100 | zoom in
Too Early
NIKON D200 @ 50mm — ¹/250 sec, ƒ/5.6, ISO 100 | zoom in
Water Piller

Out of all the shots I took, I think I the one titled Water Piller the best. However, in all of these, the front of the speedlight is visible in the bowl as a reflection. Actually, there are multiple bright spots from this. In the future, I’ll have to play with blocking the direct light by putting a piece of paper or something in front of it.

After taking about 30 shots like this with only about half of them coming out due to timing the drops, I decided to try adding food coloring to the water I was dripping into the bowl. Since we had a reddish brown food coloring and green, those where what I used. After all, I was pretty much just playing around.

NIKON D200 @ 50mm — ¹/250 sec, ƒ/5.6, ISO 100 | zoom in
Orange Drops

Overall, this was pretty much successful. I am a bit disappointed that the SB-600 does not allow manual settings while in slave mode. While I can set the flash power in-camera, and probably would for most shots, it is still a bit inconvenient when working in this way.

Spotted Fawn in my Yard!

I woke up this morning and as I stumbled into the kitchen to start breakfast, I looked out the window at the bird feeders to see if there were any birds. Lo and behold, there was a White-tailed deer about 30 feet off my deck. As I opened the window to get the camera pointed at it, it bounded off and across the street into the neighbors corn field. Oh well. Then, about 10 seconds later, a small spotted fawn pranced out from our field! Since I already had the camera on the tripod for the birds at the feeder, and I had already opened the window, I was able to get a few pictures of this little guy.

NIKON D200 @ 165mm — ¹/80 sec, ƒ/5.6, ISO 100 | zoom in
Spotted Fawn in my Lawn

He didn’t seem to agitated but I think was more concerned about where the mother had run off to. As it turns out, she was standing next to the road waiting for him so I think he calmed down and started trying to figure out what the noise of my camera shutter was.

NIKON D200 @ 300mm — ¹/80 sec, ƒ/5.6, ISO 100 | zoom in
Spotted Fawn with Ears Back

Here, his tail is not twitching (not afraid) and his ears are back. Pretty soon, he turned around to look at me.

NIKON D200 @ 300mm — ¹/80 sec, ƒ/5.6, ISO 100 | zoom in
Looking for the Camera

After staring for a while, he hopped off to his mother and they both disappeared in the corn field.

It’s mornings like this that I love living in the country!

Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania

Back in March of this year, we took a trip down to Longwood Gardens near Kennett Square PA. This garden is over 1,050 acres and contains over 11,000 different varieties of plants — a staggering figure! While it was a bit cold to walk around the outdoor gardens, we visited a enormous orchid display in the Conservatory on site. The Conservatory is a mere 4.5 acres — small compared to the rest of the gardens, but still worthy of an entire afternoon of wandering and photographing!

NIKON D200 @ 50mm — ¹/90 sec, ƒ/6.3, ISO 100 | zoom in
Interior of the Conservatory
NIKON D200 @ 50mm — ¹/40 sec, ƒ/8, ISO 100 | zoom in
Indoor Trees and More Lawn

These were taken just inside one of the entrances (the main entrance I believe) and I was truly impressed with the well manicured lawn — indoors!

Since this was an orchid display, the better part of the conservatory was filled with hundreds of different varieties of orchid. I have no idea how they switch from the orchid display to their next headline display. Perhaps it just follows the seasons. Regardless, some of these flowers were truly amazing!

I had just acquired the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 prime lens at the time and I was spending a good deal of my efforts experimenting with the very shallow depth of field.

NIKON D200 @ 50mm — ¹/1250 sec, ƒ/1.6, ISO 100 | zoom in
Unknown Orchid

I’m really kicking myself for not being more dillagent writing down names for all these plants. I got so caught up in taking the photos, I just never thought about it.

NIKON D200 @ 50mm — ¹/640 sec, ƒ/1.8, ISO 100 | zoom in
White and Pink
NIKON D200 @ 50mm — ¹/60 sec, ƒ/2.5, ISO 100 | zoom in
Water Droplet on Orchid
NIKON D200 @ 50mm — ¹/1250 sec, ƒ/2.8, ISO 100 | zoom in
Bright Orange

While the orange looks almost too bright, I’m really not exaggerating the colors — they were that vivid in person too! In fact, after a whole day of walking around inside, leaving to the somewhat somber march landscape seemed almost drab in comparison.

Unfortunately, being that this was one of my first tries at using the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4, many of the photos are either shot with too large an aperture or simply not all that they could have been. However, I still think I got a pretty good selection — in fact, this is only the first chunk of the images I took that day. I’ll probably have to write a part 2 with more images.

Using Lightroom 2 with the New Adobe Camera Profiles

Adobe’s announcement of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 coincided with their release of Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) 4.5. Both ACR 4.5 and Lightroom 2.0 were touted as being able to use the also new Camera Profiles (still in Beta – see the full writeup here). According to Adobe Labs, there are multiple improvements with these new Camera profiles.

  • Updated Adobe Standard profiles which are supposed to improve color rendering in the reds, oranges and yellows
  • Camera Matching which is supposed include profiles for popular manufacturers allowing better matching of what the camera’s natively produce
  • The DNG Profile Editor which allows users to manually edit camera profiles
  • The new DNG version 1.2 standard

How do Adobe ACR Profiles Affect Me?

Of most importance to me are the first two. My understanding with the Camera Matching is that these profiles should better match the JPG output of the cameras internal RAW to JPG converters with no customization of the settings. If you have messed around with your in-camera settings, these profiles will not match them. They will match the settings as if they had all default values. I also noticed on the Adobe FAQ page, they make mention that the Camera Matching profiles work with Canon and Nikon cameras. In fact, there are five profiles for Canon designed to match the Canon Picture Styles Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, and Faithful with their default settings. There are 8 profiles for Nikon cameras designed to match the Nikon Picture Controls for Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Landscape, Portrait, D2X Mode 1, D2X Mode 2, D2X Mode 3.

Installing Adobe ACR Profiles

The installation is outlined pretty well on the Adobe Labs page. They do make mention to close Photoshop and Lightroom if they are open. The installation is quick and when I opened Lightroom again, in the Develop module under the “Camera Calibration” section on the right side under the Camera Calibration panel, there are additional options for ACR.

The first two options (ACR 4.4 and ACR 3.3) were there before installing the update. All the rest are new. I don’t have any Canon images, so I really can’t speak for how they will work or what would appear.

Using the Adobe ACR Profiles

One thing I particularly like about this setup is that I can change these profiles after the import of the RAW image. This makes perfect sense as these profiles are used to tell Lightroom how to display the RAW image. Therefore, the profile isn’t really part of the image and therefore, switching it around really just changes how Lightroom interprets the color bits contained in the actual RAW file. Cycling through each of the presets does indeed show different results. In fact, the new Adobe Standard beta 1 profiles does exactly what they say — better rendition of reds, oranges and yellows.

NIKON D200 @ 220mm — ¹/80 sec, ƒ/5.3, ISO 100 | zoom in
ACR 4.4 vs. Adobe Standard Beta 1

Clearly, the image I chose had strong orange / red tones to it to start with. But to my eye, the difference is very noticeable and I really think the new Adobe Standard is far better. The colors look much richer and less washed out.

Comparing the Profiles

In order to give a good idea of what each profile does to a raw image out of my Nikon D200 with no adjustment except for resizing / cropping. I omitted the “Camera Portrait beta 1” on purpose since the lily in the photo really doesn’t lend itself to skin tones. Perhaps I’ll do another post which deals more with portraits. I also omitted all the D2X profiles. Feel free to experiment with all of them.

Also, the following photos will show everything compared against the new Adobe Standard Beta 1 profile. I chose to do this for a couple reasons. First, it’s the new standard Adobe profile. Second, if I were to compare everything to multiple profiles (such as the old standard ACR 4.4), the images of this post would become difficult to examine due to sheer numbers. Finally, I really think I’m going to pretty much stop using the ACR 4.4 profile as the new profiles are that much better. Your mileage may vary.

The easiest way to view the following images for me is to click on one and let the lightbox open. If you move your mouse to either edge of the image, a ‘Next’ or ‘Previous’ button will appear. This will let you cycle through each image.  Also, I’m viewing all of these on a color calibrated monitor.  Please understand that if your monitor isn’t calibrated these may look very different.

NIKON D200 @ 220mm — ¹/80 sec, ƒ/5.3, ISO 100 | zoom in
Adobe Standard Beta 1 vs. Camera Landscape Beta 1

The Camera Landscape profile gives a bolder look. For the above photo, it makes the oranges more vivid and the greens less brown. For this photo, that works well, but for some others I’ve tried it gave an almost over processed look to the image.

NIKON D200 @ 220mm — ¹/80 sec, ƒ/5.3, ISO 100 | zoom in
Adobe Standard Beta 1 vs. Camera Neutral Beta 1

The Camera Neutral profile seems to give everything a more yellowish tint. For this photo, I really don’t think it works. Everything looks a bit washed out. This could be perfect for other images though. It’s all about flexibility!

NIKON D200 @ 220mm — ¹/80 sec, ƒ/5.3, ISO 100 | zoom in
Adobe Standard Beta 1 vs. Camera Standard Beta 1

The Camera Standard is my favorite for this particular image. To me, it gives the most accurate representation of the colors in the image without making them look ‘too vivid’ or over processed.

NIKON D200 @ 220mm — ¹/80 sec, ƒ/5.3, ISO 100 | zoom in
Adobe Standard Beta 1 vs. Camera Vivid Beta 1

The Camera Vivid profile is just that. For those sunsets that just need more color, this might work perfectly. For this photo, it’s too much in my opinion. Either way, it’s a great way to bump up the colors without having to do any adjustments.

Conclusion

There are many opinions about which RAW format converter gave the best colors. For me, I think Adobe handled this in a fantastic way — letting the user choose what profile works the best for them. And since you don’t have to just pick one and stick with it, this whole system affords a ton of flexibility.

If you’re like me and decide that there is a better default setting for your camera, you can save the default develop settings. This is a little tricky as there are a few options. Please note: I have tested these instructions on a Mac. I have not tested them for a PC. First, go to Preferences and select the ‘Presets’ tab. Under the Default Develop Settings heading there are two check boxes we’re concerned with — ‘Make defaults specific to camera serial number’ and ‘Make defaults specific to camera ISO setting’. This allows the user to select if they want to use different default profiles for different cameras and even different ISO values.

Once you’ve this choice has been made, view a RAW file in the Develop module. Select the profile you want to set as default and from the Develop menu, select Develop->Set Default Settings. This will save your default profile as well as any adjustments which were made to it using the sliders in the Camera Calibration section.