I’ve been shooting with the Nikon D4s this week and wanted to see how its dynamic range holds up against the D800/D810. To do a quick test, I pointed the camera towards a high contrast scene that included dark forest, clearing fog and the bright sun.
To process the image, I opened up the shadows and brought down the highlights in the Lightroom 5 develop module. Next I added a bit of clarity and vibrance to restore the contrast and color in the scene. My final step in Lightroom 5 was to fix the leaning trees using the Lens Correction panel. Finally, I sent the image out to Nik Color Efex Pro 4 to add a little bit of a polarization effect for the clouds.
Overall, I’m very pleased with the D4s dynamic range. I was able to pull out a lot of detail from a single 14-bit NEF (RAW) file. However, as you can see above, the image isn’t perfect. There’s some CA (chromatic aberration) and some muddiness in the shadows. That said, considering the luminance values of the shadows were extremely low to begin with (i.e. 3% to 9%), I’m happy with the result.
DXO Mark rates the Nikon D4s dynamic range at 13.3 EV (DXO Mark D4s Test) compared to the D810 at 14.8 EV. 13.3 stops of dynamic range is still excellent and I wouldn’t be afraid to use the D4s for professional photographs in high contrast situations.
Here’s the before/after so you can see for yourself how much data is recoverable in a Nikon D4s RAW file.
Always take your camera with you. Always.
Such has been my mantra for years now and I’m happy I had one with me yesterday for a 30-minute ferry boat ride between Port Townsend, WA and Whidbey Island, WA. My wife, kids and I had just finished up a couple days visiting friends and family on Whidbey and were returning home in the late afternoon. The sky was a bit hazy, but the light was perfect for beautiful shots of maritime traffic in the Puget Sound.
The Whidbey Island ferry (the Kennewick) crosses the main channel of water leading to the shipping ports of Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia. Each day, you’ll see traffic ranging from cruise ships to container ships to tugs to everything else in between. Our ferry boat captain was on an intersection course with the cargo ship Mariner (above), so he slowed down and crossed behind to let the Mariner pass by. I was standing on the fourth deck of the ferry, which helped produce a great photo of the cargo ship from a higher perspective. I processed the image in Photoshop, then brought it into Nik Color Efex Pro 4 to bring out the micro details in the clouds. Finally, I converted the image to black and white in Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.
For this image of the Port Townsend Paper Corporation paper mill (below), I photographed it with a Nikon D800, 70-200mm f2.8, and a Nikon 1.4x TC. Behind the paper mill, you’ll see the lower snow-capped peaks of the Olympic Mountain Range. I was drawn to the texture of the steam and the detail in the clouds. The image looked much better in black and white, so I processed the shot using the same method as the Mariner cargo ship (above).
For the final image below, I wanted to convey a simple NW scene involving a fishing vessel and a sail boat. Behind the two is the subtle outline of Whidbey Island, giving a sense of scale and perspective to the photograph. For this image, I used a Nikon D800, 70-200mm f2.8, and a 1.4x TC. Again, processing was the same as before.
Keep shooting my friends.
One of the hardest things to do in photography is take compelling shots at mid-day. Last week, I was traveling from Mono Lake California through Yosemite National Park, and we crested Tioga Pass right around 12pm. The weather was “severe clear,” which means there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Terrible for landscape photography.
At this viewpoint of Half Dome, I felt compelled to take a photo, even though the lighting was difficult. In order to make the shot somewhat useable, I perfumed a bit of post-processing in software. My first step was to open the image in Lightroom 4 and increase detail in the shadows. Next, was to send the photo to Nik Color Efex Pro 4 using the Detail Extractor filter. Finally, I sent the photo to Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 and applied this slight sepia coloring to the image.
The moral of the story is that when the weather is severe clear, the solution just might be black and white!
I’ve been using the Nikon D800 for less than a week now and wanted to create some large prints from the camera to assess its overall quality. I sent off four different files to a large-format Epson inkjet printer and was very impressed with the resulting images. They are truly beautiful and are giving my best efforts from my other cameras a run for the money. The more I work with this camera, the more I feel it is truly a game-changer.
Here’s a short video I produced today showing off the prints and comparing some black & whites, color, and panoramas from the D800 and the D7000.
More Nikon D800 fun. Just to see how far I could take a Nikon D800 image, I processed this black and white from a single dramatically underexposed shot. The processed photo is above and the unprocessed, underexposed shot below.
Nikon D800, 14-24mm f2.8. Processed in Adobe Camera Raw, then Nik Color Efex Pro 4 using Detail Extractor. Then, converted to Black and White in Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.
Location: Purdy Bridge, Purdy, Washington, USA.
One of the things I’m loving about the Nikon D800 is the ability to frame the photo relatively loosely and then crop to what I need. I went out last evening to photograph the Tacoma Narrows Bridge at dusk. I shot the image at a wide-angle and then cropped it in Photoshop to a 12″ x 36″ panorama at 240ppi.
After this, I brought it into Nik Color Efex Pro 4 to add a graduated filter effect to the sky and then a filter called Monday Morning to give it a bit of an old-school effect.
I love converting my images to black and white. There is a timeless quality and a sense of abstraction that we just can’t see with traditional color photography. Many black and white images are greatly improved by having areas of dense black in the composition. These solid black areas anchor the photo and can add drama to otherwise boring images.
For this blog post, I want to show you how to create a strong monochrome image while still keeping solid black areas in the composition. In this example of a small cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains NP, my initial image (below) didn’t have much detail in the interior walls. I knew that I wanted to brighten up the interior, but I also knew that this would cause the image to lose drama.
My first step was to brighten up these walls and bring out detail. One of my favorite tools for this is a plug-in called Detail Extractor, found in Nik Color Efex Pro 4 (CEP4). Since my image was already opened in Photoshop, I activated the CEP 4 plugin called Detail Extractor and moved the sliders until I was happy with the amount of detail in the wood and the brightness of the interior. The shot below demonstrates the enhanced image after Detail Extractor.
The next step was to convert the image to black and white. There are as many ways to convert an image to black and white as there are photographers in the world! One of my favorite software packages is Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. I really enjoy the wide range of adjustments in this tool, especially a slider adjustment called “Amplify Blacks” found in the Contrast area. This slider allows you to maintain the tonalities (brightness) of the mid tones and highlights, while adding a significant amount of density in the blacks. It is similar to adjusting the “shadows” slider down in Lightroom/Aperture, but it is even more targeted to the very darkest tones in the image.
My final two steps were to add a border and do a bit of noise reduction. I used the border creation tool in Silver Efex Pro 2 to get the look I was after. To reduce the noise, I used the Nik Dfine plugin for Photoshop. The final image is shown below.
For your next black and white conversion, I encourage you to add areas of solid black in order to create a sense of drama. This approach doesn’t work for every image, but it can breathe life into an otherwise boring shot.
Nik Software has just announced Color Efex Pro 4 and it is a fantastic upgrade to an already excellent program. The software works as a plug-in for Photoshop, Lightroom, and Aperture while also working as a standalone program for JPGs and TIFFs. I’ve been testing the software for the last month or so and have truly enjoyed using it in my digital darkroom.
The list of upgrades in this new version is significant. here are a few of my favorites:
- Ability to add more than one filter at a time. This allows you to stay in the plug in to make all your changes rather than having to save the change, go back to Photoshop and then open Color Efex Pro again to perform the next change.
- Nik included a border tool that is the same as Silver Efex Pro 2. Now, you can create excellent borders without having to use a separate plugin.
- History browser that allows you to compare previous edits and different looks.
- Visual presets that allow you to quickly explore creative options very quickly.
- New filters such as Detail Extractor, Dark Contrast and Vintage Film.
- GPU processing and multi-core optimization to speed up image rendering.
- Recipes that allow you to save your own combination of filters or download other photographer’s recipes.
You’ll be able to buy Nik Color Efex Pro 4 very soon at this link:
Nik just announced the new version of Color Efex Pro 4.0. It is a wonderful upgrade to their current software and allows using multiple filters at one time.
Here’s the link: http://www.niksoftware.com/colorefexpro/usa/index.php?