fmalan

How to photograph the Aurora Borealis

This year (2013-2014) is a good time for seeing the Aurora Borealis (and its lesser-known Southern twin, the Aurora Australis) – commonly known as the Northern- and Southern Lights. I have my heart set on seeing the Lights with my own eyes in the coming year, so in this post I’d like to talk about how one can best prepare for capturing this natural wonder.

A friend, Bart Vastenhouw, travelled to the region of Varanger in Norway to see and photograph the lights. Here is one of the photographs he came back with:Aurora at Varanger

Bart captured this beautiful scene using a Canon 40D and Canon 10-22mm F3.5-4.5 wide-angle lens. The 40D was a good camera, but these days there are better ones to choose from. The lens is decent too, but for best results you’d want a wide angle with larger aperture (F2.8 or faster).

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New firmware fixes D600 HDMI output. (Also, updates for almost all of Nikon’s current other DSLRs)

Yesterday, Nikon released new firmware for almost all of its current DSLR line-up, namely for the D4, D800, D600, D3, D3s, D3x, D7000 and D3200. Most of these updates only add full compatibility to the exotic new 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR lens – a lens very few people will ever see or use.

D600Bits

The highlight, for me, is the fact that Nikon has now finally addressed the uncompressed HDMI bug that frustrated D600 videographers. This issue used to be a reason for DSLR videographers to get the more expensive D800, and seemed like a lame up-selling scam on Nikon’s part. No more, it seems!

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How to batch separate & crop multiple scanned photos

In this post I’ll show you two ways in which you can automatically split a (collection of) scanned pages, each containing several photos, into individual image files. My experience is that for this GIMP works better than Photoshop, and as an added bonus: it’s free!

Caveat: The GIMP script will work only on Windows computers due to its dependence on deskew.exe. If an Apple user can suggest a workaround, I’ll be happy to hear it!

[2013-05-16 Update: the GIMP script can now handle TIF files as well]
[2014-10-02 Handles reading .tiff and .jpeg extensions too. Output dpi set to 600.]

AutoSplit_Gimp_Photoshop

Just like you, I also have old photo albums at home. Albums with family photographs, glued to paperboard pages. And you also probably want to have them in digital format – e.g. to share with family members, to protect them from degradation and loss, or just for your digital library.

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Adobe Lightroom 4.2 is released; supports new cameras incl. Nikon D600

Work these last few weeks was crazy, and I have yet to tell you about my experiences with the Nikon D600, of which I am now a very satisfied owner.

But since I got this camera, two weeks ago, a major thorn in my side was the official lack of support for it in Adobe Lightroom, my main photo editing / workflow software. It was possible to get around this by tricking Lightroom into thinking the images came from a D800, but this was a schlep and no ideal way to deal with it.

Since yesterday, Lightroom 4.2 is available, and adds supports for 22 new cameras, including the following important mainstream models such as:

  • Canon EOS 650D / Rebel T4i
  • Canon EOS M
  • Nikon 1 J2
  • Nikon D600*
  • Panasonic DMC-LX7
  • Pentax K-30
  • Sony Alpha NEX-5R
  • Sony Alpha NEX-6
  • Sony Alpha SLT-A99V

* Nikon claims that D600 support is preliminary, meaning that there might be small inaccuracies in e.g. white balance that need to be corrected manually.

Endorsement:
If you’re still undecided and know that you could use it, yes: I can definitely recommend buying Lightroom. The amount of time it has saved me is worth much more than its cost. Currently retailing at $130 it is cheaper than almost any DSLR lens, and it will add more to the quality of your photo’s than a lens of that price. There are freeware alternatives out there, and I’ve used many of them. In the end I prefer using a single and reliable piece of software over many loose and vendor-specific tools.
You can support this site by ordering it now via this link:
Adobe Lightroom 4 for $129.95 (via B&H)

(c) Usain Bolt

Not only is Usain Bolt the fastest man alive, but he is also a budding photographer! :)

Usain Bolt shooting some after-action snapshots with Swedish photographer Jimmy Wixtröm's camera. Image (c) Reuters

Usain Bolt shooting some after-action snapshots with Swedish photographer Jimmy Wixtröm’s camera. Image (c) Reuters

Immediately after making history by defending his 200m Olympic crown, Usain walked over to the photographer booth and took Swedish photographer Jimmy Wixtröm’s camera.
Bolt then proceeded to take several photos from his unique point of view. Pretty good photos, too! Now the question may be asked who has copyright of these photos.

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Make 3D models from your photographs with Autodesk 123D Catch

Autodesk’s 123D Catch software enables anyone to make a 3D model from a set of photographs. The model can then be manipulated or printed on a rapid prototyping machine (Image source: Autodesk)

A friend of mine recently told me about Autodesk 123D catch – new software with which one can create impressive 3D models of any object by just analyzing a set of photographs taken at different angles.

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Find your stolen camera online!

If you ever had a digital camera stolen (I have) you know how disruptive and frustrating it is. And in the worst case you may lose valuable photographs, making the loss all the more upsetting!

Did you know that most modern digital cameras store the camera’s serial number in every photo? This digital fingerprint is called the EXIF data, and accompanies every RAW or JPG file that comes out of your camera. While easy to modify or remove, most people don’t ever tamper with this data. Not even camera thieves.

Today I came across a website that can examine a photo taken with your camera before it was stolen, and then search the internet for photo’s taken with it. So if the camera thief or an unsuspecting new owner uploaded any photos with your camera you might be able to track it down!

Visit stolencamerafinder (http://www.stolencamerafinder.com/) to see for yourself. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find any photos taken with either my or my girlfriend’s stolen cameras online, but maybe your results will be better. Give it a try!

Anti-alias or Moiré? (buy the Nikon D800 instead of the D800E)

Bottom line: the D800E misses a proper anti-aliasing filter. This probably does more harm than good, so buy the D800 instead, unless you absolutely need maximum per-pixel resolution and know how to avoid Moiré artefacts.
Disclaimer: The D800/D800E are great cameras that differ in subtle ways. Making a purchasing decision based on these differences will necessarily involve “splitting hairs”, but that is probably why you are reading this blog entry, so let’s do that.
I started writing this post before D800E reviews were available online. 
Now that it’s been tested by dpreview and DxO I have to admit that the D800E is less prone to Moiré than I expected it to be. Yet I stand by what I wrote in this post and I still advise you to get the D800 instead of the D800E unless you know exactly what you’re doing. Read on.

The D800 and the D800E

When Nikon announced their brand new D800 and D800E full frame (FX) DSLRs a few months ago, it was a breakthrough. These cameras push the limits in resolution beyond anything previously seen on 35mm and set new benchmarks in DSLR video capabilities. This is great news, because whether or not competitors come up with even better models, you (the consumer) still win. So, we know that they are excellent. All he reviews tell us so. The big question in photographers’ minds is probably whether to get the D800 or the D800E. The “E” sounds somehow more Exotic and Exclusive, and promises even sharper photos. Given this, the D800E’s 10% higher ($3300 vs $3000) price sounds justified. Sort of like a D800 “de luxe” edition, right? Not necessarily.

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Which DSLR camera brand is the best?

J.D. Power and Associates, a company best known for their car satisfaction surveys, have recently published a buyer satisfaction comparison for the major DSLR manufacturers. In the car world we know that Japanese cars tend to be the most reliable/satisfying, but in the camera world we deal almost exclusively with Japanese brands – so who is going to win?

Since bars speak louder than words, I'll skip to the results:*Note that the term "DSLR" excludes mirrorless and compact cameras. 
Olympus and Panasonic are leaders in mirrorless system cameras, 
at the expense of their DSLR product lines.
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Canon 7D firmware update 2.0.X

Update (7 Aug 2012): Canon has just released firmware 2.0.0 (click here for official site)

It is always a good idea to keep your camera’s firmware updated. In Sony’s NEX series, for example, updates resulted in major usability improvements. For the Nikon D800/D4, updates fixed bugs that made it past quality control. No matter what brand you own, you win by getting the latest firmware.

Now Canon 7D owners really have reason to rejoice since firmware update 2.0.X adds a lot of performance and usability improvements to what is already a very good camera. It is almost like upgrading to an even better and more expensive camera, only it’s free!

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