My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

The real learning begins

I’ve had some time now to get used to using my new 27 inch iMac, and all I can do is to rave about it! It’s fast, stable as a rock, and best of all, easy to learn.

That should come as no surprise, after all, the Windows operating system has been Microsoft’s attempt at duplicating what Apple got right in the first place. The biggest thing that I have to learn is navigating the keyboard shortcuts, as the iMac keyboard is slightly different from a Window’s keyboard.

I’m so glad that I got the 27 inch display over the 21.5 inch display, there’s lots of room for me to work now. Not only that, but I can’t believe how much detail that I see in my old photos versus what I saw while using the old Gateway computer, my photos were better than I thought that they were. I do have to be careful when cropping photos though, as when I view them on this huge monitor, they tend to lose their sharpness when blown up all the way that I can on this display. A 100% crop just isn’t going to look good blown up to the size that I can blow them up to. 😉

Overall, Lightroom has been easy to work with as well, since I had watched a number of tutorials on how to use it. I’m sure glad that I found and watched the tutorials though, as there was zero documentation with the software, and I’m not sure if there was even any of the help loaded with the software onto my computer.

There is one thing that has been vexing me so far though, Lightroom adds two sub folders to my intended location every time that I go to import new photos to the catalog that I created. No matter what I specify when setting up to do an import, Lightroom adds a sub folder for the year, and then a second one under that for the date. Oh well, I’m sure that I’ll figure out how to stop that eventually. The extra sub folders aren’t that big of a deal, but it still bugs me that I can’t get the folder structure exactly as I want it to be.

Other than the sub folder “problem”, organizing my photos is rather easy now. I’m adding keywords and star ratings to every photo that I keep, so if I want to find a particular species of bird for example, I’ll be able to do so. That’s relatively easy to do in Lightroom, as I can add the same keywords to multiple photos as I view them. I just have to be careful when I select the photos when adding keywords. I can see why people love the way that you can organize your images and find a particular one when you want to.

As I wrote in my earlier post on making a fresh start, I spent some time learning to correct the distortion from my lenses, and making perspective corrections to some of my images of lighthouses. Since then, I have been playing with some of the other adjustments available in Lightroom. That, and learning to use the Photomatix HDR software as a plug-in to Lightroom.

It’s really great to be able to choose the three images to use in a HDR image in Lightroom, then click in the menu to send them to Photomatix to perform the creation of the HDR image, then have the final product of Photomatix sent right back into Lightroom for any finishing touches if needed. It’s even better that this new iMac handles that task so quickly that I don’t have time to do anything else while the process is happening. I couldn’t even run Lightroom on my old computer, so I can’t compare times as far as that. But, just processing three photos in Photomatix took so long that I would do dishes or change a load of laundry while the old computer did its thing. I haven’t done any large batch conversions of RAW images to jpeg yet, but the smaller ones that I have done go reasonably quick as Lightroom does the processing. And, I can do other things as that is happening, whereas my old computer was tied up with that process and I could make and eat dinner while it was working. 🙂

Anyway, I went back to the photos that I shot of the fall foliage while up north last fall. I’m still leery of working on my better images, even though neither Lightroom nor Photomatix are supposed to change the original photos in any way. So, I chose this one to work on.

Testing Photomatix and Lightroom

Testing Photomatix and Lightroom

The HDR image that I got out of Photomatix was okay, but then, I darkened the sky to better match what I saw, and also darkened the grass in the field also, as it came out too bright for the conditions under which I shot that photo. I accomplished those things by “painting in” one-third of a stop of under exposure to the sky and grassy field, using the correction brush.

Who knew that there was so much work involved in getting an image from a fairly good camera to match what my eyes saw that day?

I was feeling like a pro after seeing that final version of the image, but then it hit me what a jerk I’ve been. I’d made fun of people who do post-processing, and shoot in RAW. Now, I wish that I had been shooting in RAW from day one after I purchased my new Canon 60D.

Okay, most people go overboard in their post-processing, I hope that it doesn’t happen to me. I don’t think so, the natural world is beautiful enough to me the way my eyes see it, now I can match what I see in my photos. If I do start going too far, I hope that some one will tell me.

I’m still getting used to this display, in some of my photos, the colors seem over saturated. But then, some of the colors in everything that I see on this display seem over saturated. So for right now, I’ll keep going the way that I have unless some one tells me otherwise.

I had forgotten to save the original HDR image to show you the before and after Lightroom versions of that image. I did the same thing with a photo of a wood duck that I played with, but the good thing there was that I had shot a number of photos of the wood duck at the same time. So, here’s a photo as it came straight out of the camera.

Wood duck, no post-processing

Wood duck, no post-processing

Not bad for the horrible light that day, but, here’s where Lightroom really helps. First of all, I toned down the highlights and lowered the overall exposure slightly to get rid of the glare from the water. Then, I brought up the shadow detail to bring out the details and colors of the duck’s plumage. Since Lightroom can adjust the hue, saturation, and luminance (brightness) of individual colors, I brought up the luminance of the colors in the duck’s feathers as well. Then, a little noise reduction, and this is my post-processed version of the same duck, shot seconds after the first one.

Wood duck, post-processed in Lightroom

Wood duck, post-processed in Lightroom

If I had shot that photo so that the water was exposed correctly in the first place, then the duck would have come out close to solid black. If I had exposed the duck perfectly, then the glare off the water would have been even worse than in the first photo.  Darned camera sensors, they can’t handle the lighting conditions that we photographers run into. 😉 And to think that I used to make fun of people who shot in RAW and post-processed their images. Live and learn, it wasn’t until I realized the short-comings of a digital camera that the need for post-processing was made clear to me.

While that image still isn’t as good as I could get with good light, it’s much better than the original, as you can tell. Also, with each image I work on, I’m feeling less of a need to upgrade my camera to the new 7D Mark II. As I said in an earlier post, the sensor in my 60D is the same as the one in the original 7D, the difference in image quality between the two cameras was due to the software programmed into the camera by Canon. I can’t get over how well Lightroom does, and I’m just getting started with it.

My 60D may not have the more solidly built magnesium frame of the 7D, or the weather sealing, or the better auto-focus, but for now, I can wait until Canon offers discounts on a 7D before upgrading. With Lightroom, I can match the image quality produced by the original 7D, and come very close to that of the 7D Mk II.

Okay, next up, I’m going to whine about the weather here. Even on days when I’ve had the time to go for a walk, I haven’t, as it’s been too darned cold to go out and shoot photos. On Sunday, I had to wait until afternoon for the temperature here to rise above 0 F (-17.8 C) and the high was only 8 degrees. On Monday, I drove to the park rather than walking, as the temps weren’t much warmer. Yesterday, I slept most of the day away, catching up on the sleep that I missed due to my work schedule. Today, Wednesday, isn’t much warmer, although the temperature is in double digits above zero for a change, a whopping 11 degrees F. But to go with the slightly warmer air, the wind has kicked up make it feel even colder than it has been. Then, there’s the snow and ice. It’s been snowing on and off for days, but I have made it out between the snow squalls a few times. Those may end soon, as the Great Lakes are freezing over at an incredible rate with all this cold air in place.

Last winter, we set a record for the amount of ice coverage on the Great Lakes, and we were lagging a bit behind the pace of the ice coverage for most of this winter. No more, as with the extreme cold, the ice has been forming on the lakes at a pace never seen before. As more of the open water of the lakes freezes over, there will be less lake effect snow here. That would be a good thing, as the terminal of the company where I work got over 8 inches of snow in less than 4 hours last night.

Supposedly, there’s about a month left before spring officially gets here, but I’m afraid that spring’s arrival is going to be delayed again this year. That thought is hard enough to deal with, but these brutally cold and snowy winters usually come in threes around here, meaning next winter will probably be just as bad.

Oh well, on to more pleasant thoughts, although it’s hard to do so when I view the few photos that I’ve shot the past two weeks. I’ll start with this one, although many people will probably find it boring.

Snow fence

Snow fence

That was shot as an artistic type of photo, practicing composition, depth of field, and patterns. I like it for those reasons, although the subject isn’t very special at all. I tried a B&W version, but I liked the weathered look of the wood, so color won out.

News flash!

It’s early Thursday afternoon as I’m working on this, and I’ll be going into work at 2 AM tomorrow to do an overnight run to Columbus, Ohio and back. So, I’m going to rush through the rest of this in hopes that I’ll be able to post it before I leave. I could go for a walk instead, but the temperature is still in the single digits above zero F, too cold for my old bones. I may not be able to reply to any comments for a day or two, since I won’t be home until sometime on Saturday. I’m also planning on going to the Airzoo in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Sunday, as the weather won’t be any better then. I’ll decide if I’m going to the Airzoo on Sunday, when I see how I feel after this overnight run. If I don’t make it this weekend, there’s always next weekend, as this extreme cold is forecast to last through the end of February at least.

Please don’t be offended if I don’t replay to your comments right away.

These overnight runs aren’t my favorite thing to do, but they do pay extremely well. not only is the pay per mile great, but the company pays $88 for a driver’s expenses on an overnight run no matter what, to pay for the motel and food.  So, if I find a motel for less than the $88 that the company pays, which isn’t hard to do, then anything left over, I get to keep.

So anyway, I’m going to throw in a few of the photos that I shot the past two weeks rather quickly here, and not prattle on at length about them. They really aren’t that special anyway, as cold as the weather has been, I’ve been hesitant to chase the birds, what few I’ve seen. This winter is hard on the wildlife, I don’t need to add to their stress by trying for photos.

I’ll start with a few of the snow scenes from around here. I tried doing a HDR image of several of these, but the HDR versions weren’t that different from what I got straight from the camera. I also tried converting a few of these to black and white, but decided that I liked the color versions better.

Snowy field

Snowy field

Almost frozen creek

Almost frozen creek

Snow scene

Snow scene

Holly in the snow

Holly in the snow

On one particularly cold day, I found that it was so cold that even the ice covering the creek was forming ice crystals, so I shot a few photos of that. I should have found a way to get closer, and use the macro lens, but I didn’t feel like falling into the creek if I slipped on the snowy bank. I’ll only go so far to get a photo. 😉

Ice crystals on ice

Ice crystals on ice

Ice crystals on ice

Ice crystals on ice

Ice crystals on ice

Ice crystals on ice

And, despite the cold, this lichen looked almost cheery to me, at least it had some color to it.

Unidentified lichens

Unidentified lichens

Speaking of cheery and color, here’s another shot that cheered me up despite the cold.

Red bow on a cold day

Red bow on a cold day

I believe that the captions alone will do for this next batch.

Maple buds waiting for spring

Maple buds waiting for spring

Fiber streetlight pole

Fiber street light pole

Oak leaf "bouquet"

Oak leaf “bouquet”

Douglas Fir cone

Douglas Fir cone

Okay then, on to the few bird photos that I shot.

Male house finch

Male house finch

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Blue jay in flight

Blue jay in flight

I had intended on cropping that last one down at least a little, but it wasn’t as sharp as I had hoped it would be. I hate to go on and on about the cold, but I’ve been having trouble getting any of the lenses that I’ve used to focus well in this cold that we’ve been dealing with. That’s been the worst with the 300 mm prime L series lens, the lens that is supposedly best suited for cold weather. However, no lens or camera is rated for the cold that we’ve been having around here, at least not any that I know of.

I did make good use of that photo of the blue jay though, one of the features in Lightroom is finding and fixing spots in photos as a result of dust spots on your camera’s sensor. I also shot a few other snow scenes with the other camera body that I haven’t included here, that allowed me to check the second body for sensor dust spots as well. I am happy to report that due to the great care that I take while changing lenses, and/or the sensor cleaning feature of the Canon cameras, I had zero dust spots on both bodies. I did get a dust speck on the Tamron tele-converter once, but I noticed it right away, and was able to clean the dust off before it showed up in many photos.

So, other than the weather, things are going well around here. I’m loving this new iMac more every day, as it’s fast, and I’m really glad that I bought the model with the larger display. I’m getting on well with Lightroom, other than getting the file structure exactly as I would like it to be, but I know that I’ll get that fixed soon. My work schedule leaves a little to be desired, but the way that the weather is, that doesn’t matter right now, and I’ve been raking in the money the past three weeks, far more than at my old job. This overnight run will mess up my weekend a bit, but that’s my choice. Overnighters are always voluntary at this new job. I could have turned it down if I had wanted, but for right now, I’ll take the extra cash in my bank account.

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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17 responses

  1. Hey, I thought you said you couldn’t get shots of wind carved snow. Must be that Lightroom gave you a hand! The shots of the ducks say it all-what an amazing difference!
    You pointed out that Lightroom has a thing about the way it sets up folders and you’re right, and I’ve never been able to stop it from doing just what it wants to do in that regard. I’ve also never had it overwrite a single photo either, so I don’t think you have to worry about that. I’m glad you’ve had a chance to try fixing exposures with the painting tool. That really comes in handy sometimes, especially in winter.
    I like the shot of the snow fence. I’ve been looking for some around here but haven’t found any yet. I used to see it all over the place.
    That shot of the yellow lichen is just about perfect. It looks like it might be a powdery sunburst lichen (Xanthomendoza ulophyllodes)
    Have fun!

    February 19, 2015 at 5:05 pm

    • Thanks again Allen! I got the shot of the wind carved snow using the vary-angle display of my camera. I had the camera very low, and rather than kneel in the snow, I used live view to compose that shot.

      Yes, Lightroom is amazing! I’ve tried the software that came with my camera, but it seems to adjust the contrast, not change the shadows or highlights as Lightroom does.

      But, it is funny that I watch the tutorial of how to set-up Lightroom, and the guy doing it has no trouble with Lightroom adding folders on its own, it sets them up the way he wanted them. I may have to watch that one again, but I’ve already seen it several times now, it’s getting old. 😉

      I love anything with color this time of the year, that lichen really caught my eye.

      February 19, 2015 at 5:19 pm

  2. Well I’m glad that the new kit is working out well. I’ll have to start shooting in RAW again when the light gets better. There is no doubt it is worth if you have the patience. You have some really lovely pictures in this post.

    February 19, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    • Thanks Tom! I’m finding it more important to shoot in RAW when the light is poor, but I don’t shoot as many photos as you do.

      February 19, 2015 at 5:21 pm

  3. Your wood duck totally won me over for the post-processing argument. Think I’m as eager as you are to see what you come up with next. Seeing all of your gorgeous shots (almost) makes me wish I had a real camera, and took photographs with more of a purpose.

    Sure hope you reply to this comment right away, because I’m the kind of person who really is offended easily if you don’t. 😉

    Hope it warms up a bit soon. It gets pretty old after awhile, doesn’t it?

    February 19, 2015 at 6:22 pm

    • Thank you Judy! I got to your comment as soon as I had a cup of coffee after waking up. 😉

      Two things changed my mind about post-processing, one was seeing that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make my camera capture what I saw. The other thing was seeing photos that another blogger shot of the UP just days after I had been to the same locations. His photos looked great, mine weren’t bad, but they were more of a snapshot. That’s when I learned that you can post-process, but not go overboard.

      It’s now -3 on the way down to -10 in town. It’s going to be the same all of next week. Be glad that you are where you are!

      February 19, 2015 at 11:06 pm

  4. Hi Jerry,
    I am disappointed about the horrible weather you are having. It does sound bitterly cold and miserable. Do take care when you do get out for a walk and when driving. I can’t imagine there would be too many birds out there to photograph at the moment. I’d be tucked up warm inside.
    I’m extremely interested in this whole raw shooting and post-processing thing after seeing what can be done with the wood duck shot. You’re very good at explaining the whole process. If only you wrote my camera manuals, I may have a better chance at learning the technical side of things. Now I can understand what is happening with the sensors and how the shots become a compromise of sorts. Thank you for explaining this in a way I can understand it! I am learning many new things.
    I did enjoy all the ice crystal shots as well as all the abstract artsy ones. The fallen fence one is interesting and draws my eye in. That yellow fungus is startling. Most of the ones I see here are quite dull.
    Have a safe trip and I look forward to more lessons and photographs. 🙂

    February 19, 2015 at 6:29 pm

    • Thank you Jane! Unfortunately, the birds have no place warm to go, they have to make do the best that they can. So, this time of year, I try not to bother them. At least when it’s very hot, one can find a shady spot to sit outside and observe nature, in this cold, there’s no way to get outside and be comfortable. But, it won’t last forever, even if it seems as though it will.

      If I wrote camera manuals, I’d still be working on one from the 1990’s, I’m no speed demon when it comes to writing. 😉 But, I’m glad that you’re finding the information useful.

      February 19, 2015 at 11:20 pm

  5. I’m glad you’re enjoying using your new computer and Lightroom. The results are very good. Hope you have a safe journey Take care and keep warm.

    February 19, 2015 at 8:17 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare!

      February 19, 2015 at 11:06 pm

  6. Lightroom seems to do wonderful things to your already excellent pictures. I liked that one of the fence in the snow, I am glad you included it. Sorry about your awful weather though.

    February 20, 2015 at 3:30 am

    • Thank you Susan! Unfortunately, there seems to be no change foreseen in the weather here, it may be a while before I do another post.

      February 21, 2015 at 1:43 pm

  7. I know we are all tired of snow, but I still enjoyed your snow captures, really like the fence shot. For some reason, I’m always drawn to an old or broken fence. 🙂 Congrats on enjoying your new equipment, I can tell you’re having a blast!

    February 20, 2015 at 9:55 pm

    • Thanks Donna! Fences often make good subjects for a photo, I finally got one right.

      February 21, 2015 at 1:44 pm

      • You certainly did!! 🙂

        February 22, 2015 at 4:32 pm

  8. I remember Lightroom doing what you described when I first got it. Wish I could remember how I fixed it. Perhaps when my brain has had a chance to rest after a long, but amazing trip. I’ll poke around a bit to help. Your photos just keep on getting better all the time. Can’t wait to see what you come up with given the new software and ‘puter. I think I’d rather cut off an arm (or, at least a finger) than give up my iMac. 😉

    February 21, 2015 at 1:18 am

    • Thanks Gunta! I know that I’ll figure out the Lightroom problem eventually. As far as not giving up the iMac, I’ve come up with a new saying, “You’ll never go back once you’ve gone iMac!!”.

      February 21, 2015 at 1:46 pm