Does JPEG Make More Sense?

Over the past month or so I have been considering my general absence from dSLR photography. And during the course of pondering, considering and talking to myself…outloud…which can be rather disconcerting to those around me….I have further honed a thought that I have had and shared on numerous other occasions:

I really like being behind the camera, but not in front of the computer.

I mean, I don’t particularly care for the process of going through my photos, picking keepers from dumpers, and then editing them to turn them into something better or even tweaking them for upload to Flickr.

I had, for a while, dismissed my lack of interest in such matters as being a reaction to the complexities of Photoshop and Lightroom. To address this particular issue I have undergone a metamorphosis, if you will, by reading, watching and listening to any number of websites, podcasts and online videos related to the proper and creative use of Photoshop and Lightroom.

And while this information collecting has left me feeling more comfortable and confident about the use of these fine pieces of software it has done nothing to dissuade me from the general sense of apathy I have about using them.

So what does one do?

I mean, there’s little reason to continue to hang on to my cameras, lenses, flash and other assorted photography-related items if I have no intention of putting them to use, right?

But that’s absurd as well because I desperately want to put them to work. Because I really enjoy being behind the camera. So you can see the problem.

And then just today, while watching some lovely red cardinals soar from tree to tree in our back garden, I thought to myself “How could I mitigate the amount of time I spend in front of the computer?” in regards to the whole process and what-not as related to this photography caper?

Shoot in JPEG.

Okay….shooting in JPEG doesn’t mean I don’t have to sift through my shoots and sort keepers from flushers, but as the amount of processing that can be reasonably done to a JPEG is monumentally smaller than that which can be done to a RAW file….well….you get the picture. (pun completely and utterly intended)

And by processing I don’t mean the creative sort of stuff one typically does in Photoshop, but the more basic sort of processing at which software like Lightroom excels. The sort of processing I have been doing, but do not particularly enjoy.

As an added bonus I wonder if the switch to shooting in JPEG would force me to become a better photographer? I mean, without the ability to make monumental and wholesale changes to my image file I would have to learn to shoot better pictures to begin with, wouldn’t I?

And certainly there is no correlation between excellent photography and file type, right? A quick look around Flickr convinces me that the skills, knowledge and creativity needed to make exceptional images has little if nothing to do with whether or not one shoots in JPEG or RAW.

But I don’t know….it’s a major paradigm shift, isn’t it? And what about the ability to save a picture shot in RAW that might otherwise be for the trash bin if shoot in JPEG? The way I shoot I need every saving grace I can get both hands upon.

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Really? Has It Been A Month?

Where does the time go, eh?

But I guess it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that I haven’t been posting to this blog about photography when I haven’t really been taking pictures. But that isn’t completely true. I actually have a pretty large catalogue of unprocessed/edited photos sitting on my computer. I have the intent to boot-up the machine and sit down and go through them all, etc., but I just don’t seem to make it to the chair. I wish I understood why the trepidation. But for now I refuse to get too worked up about it. I figure that like many of my creative moments in life it will come to me when it comes to me and there is no point in pushing it upon myself.

That or I’m simply a lazy sod.

I think I’ll go with lazy sod.

But all this laziness doesn’t mean I haven’t been something of a shutter bug. Please note:

Charleston Falls

I have found myself making no small use of my somewhat recently acquired iPhone and its camera. My previous mobile blowers also had cameras, but neither (the Motorola RAZR and Palm Centro) were of any particular use for taking pictures that one might wish to share in a forum such as the Internet. But the iPhone does a pretty reasonable job all things considered. And there is a wealth of iPhone apps dedicated to photo editing and I have downloaded a fistful and make good use of each on almost a daily basis. The above picture was captured with the iPhone while I was hiking and then edited using an app named Camera Bag.

A worthwhile moment to mention here, on WordPress, is that I both entered a local photography contest and walked away with second place within the category I entered. I haven’t entered an actual contest until this one popped up so I’m quite surprised and excited that I actually won something! The contest was via Woodland Cemetery in Dayton and winners were announced last weekend on the 11th. I had entered this picture:

Winning Picture

It is actually a Photoshop Elements processed picture I took back in February (I think). It’s one of the first pictures I ever fiddled with in Elements, but oddly enough and as much as I liked it, I never posted it to Flickr. Probably part of being a lazy sod, you know? But still….second place. Awesome.

Here is a picture of me, looking rather rumbled and weird, next to my winning entry:
Contest Winner

After the winners were announced it became known to me that the cemetery was offering one of those walk-about type things where a guided tour is provided of some of the more important or interesting characters buried within the cemetery. At each of the graves of said folks there is an actor/actress who talks about the person as if they were the dearly deceased. Since I was already there I opted to stick around and take the tour, which lasted about two hours. During this time I snapped some pics with my handy Canon Rebel/400, but also clicked away here and there with the iPhone, thus obtaining this picture:

Cemetery Walk

It is actually a crop of the original (I removed the others on the tour) and I know…I know…he really should be in the left of the picture for a better sense of balance, but this was all done on the fly and from within the crowd of folks. The wasn’t a whole lot of time for getting the best angle, etc. so I’m lucky to have what I have. I made use of the iPhone app Photogene to perform the crop and conversion to something akin to sepia. I’m pleased enough with the results considering all things.

Lastly, the other day I was going through some pictures my cousin had uploaded to Facebook of a day trip she and her son took to some park near where they live. Some of the pictures were taken around the shoreline of a small lake and included lily pads. Lily pads always remind me of Monet, which always reminds me of the work of Impressionists. Wheels slowing clicking I emailed my cousin and asked for a full-sized copy of a particular picture, which included my nephew on a dock, laying, while playing with some of the lily pads in the water. Opened in Photoshop Elements (cuz I don’t have the grown-up version of Photoshop) I played around with it all morning to create an Impressionistic version of the image with the end result being thus:

Noel Upload

I actually created two versions and I still haven’t decided which one I prefer, but it was a somewhat fun way to spend a few hours this morning. I say “somewhat fun” because I really didn’t obtain quite the result for which I was looking. Both versions are close, but not quite there and I eventually grew both tired and a bit aggravated as my hoped-for results were alluding me. This might explain why I don’t particularly care to do this sort of photo editing, you know?

Fear and loathing in Adobe…

It feels as if it has been an age since I posted anything to this WordPress blog. I guess it has been seeing how I usually post every week and yet have only posted twice since 18 March (some 25 days ago). But it’s not my fault….really. Events have conspired against me. Truly. My little side job requires that I finish off the bits and pieces I have before I take my work back to my client in about 10 days. The daughter and her emergency appendectomy. Waiting for the new photo-editing software to arrive. Waiting to find the courage to install said software. Yep. Courage to install software. Sounds pretty lame doesn’t it? Well suck on this for a minute before I explain…

daffodils-at-home

I have discussed this before, but it begs for repeating: I’m afraid of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop Elements. Believe me…no one is more surprised than I. I’ve always been one to jump head-first into new software. Always anxious to grab it by the neck and throttle it for all it’s worth. But for some reason I have been experiencing this incredible sense of trepidation when it comes to both Lightroom and Elements.

I’ve been using other photo editing software in the likes of Phase One’s Capture One 4 which I received for free with the purchase of a high end media card. It really is a nice bit of software: resource light, intuitive (for the most part), covers the basics well, and has an user’s guide one could read in an hour on a Sunday afternoon. Lightroom? The first hint it might be a powerful programme is one looks at the retail price of USD300. The second hint is the pdf of the user’s guide, which weighs in at 175 pages. The third hint can be found at the Adobe website, where one can find what seems like a million or more web pages dedicated just to using Lightroom. Yet, why should this cause me any hesitancy? I’ve used other applications that have large user’s guides and the like, but for whatever reason, this is different.

father-daughter

And then there is Elements! At least Lightroom only took a minute or two to install on the new iMac. Elements took something akin to ten minutes! And talk about intimidating! Over 300 pages can be found stuffed into the user’s guide. THREE HUNDRED! And, of course, there are tonnes of pages dedicated to Elements on the Adobe site, etc.

In a way I think part of the problem is that I don’t even know where to begin. Sure, one can open the user’s guide pdf and start plowing through, but that is, unfortunately, boring. Capture One 4 was so light and basic in comparison that it was difficult to go wrong. And even though one can fix “wrong” with Lightroom or Elements, it just feels far more intimidating to begin with.

Regardless, I finally took the plunge and installed both applications to the new iMac. I also took the liberty of watching a fistful of introductory videos on the Adobe site in relation to Lightroom. Just the first few so that I would have a clearer idea of how to import, catalogue, and develop pictures so that I could clear my camera’s media card and get some shit uploaded to Flickr.

mallard

So my first experience with Lightroom went reasonably well. Everything imported just fine. I was able to make the changes I wished without too much difficulty or fussing about. I was even able to make use of the Graduated Filter feature without much difficulty….at least on two images. A third one never worked correctly and so I abandoned the effect. Oh well. On the whole I will consider this to have been a reasonable success what with me just dabbing my toes into the waters of Lightroom. So to speak.

stamen-up-close

But now comes the really hard part…integrating pictures into Elements and getting creative!

I’m so fucked.

Too many damn choices

The moment struck me like a ton of bricks. I guess I really knew it all along, but I really hadn’t thought much about it. Sure, the camera has a bazillion settings and options, but what would I do with them all? And who needs them when photo editing software does so very many cool things? But is that really the story?

IMG_4035

The answer is no. Or at least that is the conclusion to which I am arriving. I hadn’t really considered the meaningful differences between the various photo-editing software that are available and that come with the purchase of a digital camera (whether the camera is a point-n-shoot or dSLR). Since acquiring my Canon 40D dSLR I have been primarily using one bit of software by which to work on the RAW image files and that software has been Capture One 4. It was free with the purchase of some higher-end Compact Flash cards from SanDisk (my trusted name in flash media) and I can say that I have very much enjoyed using it. It’s not resource hungry. It’s rather intuitive. It does a lot of things, but isn’t as robust as Photoshop Elements (or any of the even more robust suites like Lightroom or CS3). What it does and does well is let me tweak (as one of my Flickr mates likes to say) my RAW image to get from it what I want. But I didn’t fully understand its own limitations until just the other day.

IMG_4008

It was after my Woodland Cemetery photo shoot that I came across something I hadn’t anticipated. The shots I had taken with the in-camera monochromatic setting were showing up as colour images in Capture One 4. Huh? I opened the resource-hungry Photoshop Elements 6 and found the same odd results. More huh. Baffled I elected to do something I hadn’t done yet, not in the almost 11-months I had owned my Canon 40D: try using the supplied Canon software.

Result!

When I opened what I knew were monochromatic images (that is, shot in monochromatic) in the Canon software, monochromatic images appeared on my computer monitor. As a matter-of-fact, not only did the images appear as I thought they should I found that the software had editing tools that matched the in-camera settings (at least in regards to the various Picture Styles, filters and tones). I could, for example, now take my shot-in-monochromatic images and change the Picture Style from monochrome to Standard, Portrait, Landscape, etc. and suddenly I was looking at a colour version of my formerly monochromatic image. It was at this moment I realized the true potential of the Canon-supplied software: what it may lack in other photo-editing abilities it made up for in the ability to alter the image at a very fundamental level. I really should have realized this all along, but I hadn’t.

In part my lack of understanding comes from not having played with the Canon-supplied software. But there is also at play a misconception in my own mind as to what software could do with a RAW image file and I think that this misconception is more at the heart of my misunderstanding than anything else.

This entire incident has really left me in a mild state of anxiety. Suddenly I’m confronted with a whole host of issues directly related to how to use the various software suites in my possession as well as which suites to use based upon what outcome for which I’m looking. Suddenly just tweaking images can effectively be done in either Capture One 4 or the Canon-supplied software, but with neither having a clear advantage over the other, yet both having what I perceive to be advantages when compared to Elements, LR, CS3, etc. (at least in regards to tweaking).

Between the host of in-camera settings (which are, in no small part, meaningless seeing how I can change damn near most things with the Canon-supplied software, short of shutter speed and aperture), the Canon software, and a bevy of third-party software suites it’s too much to ponder.

Suddenly that lovely JPEG-only-shooting Canon A630 point-n-shoot is beginning to look pretty sweet…..