Jud Dagnall Photography Blog

Photography, technology and occasional rants!

Using unsharp mask in ImageMagick

Posted on September 19th, 2005 in , , , by jud || No Comment

ImageMagick is an open source, free, cross-platform set of image processing command-line tools. I use IM to process some of my images for presenation on the web. The sharpening functionality (unsharp mask) is not very well documented, and I found a pretty thorough explanation of
how to use unsharp mask in ImageMagick.

New Camera: Canon 20D 8MP DSLR

Posted on January 12th, 2005 in , by jud || No Comment

This Christmas I decided it was time to upgrade my canon D60 camera. It’s nearly two years old, positively ancient! I briefly experimented with the Canon Powershot G6, and although I liked the video feature, I simply found it too limiting to use a non-DLSR. I have a nice variety of canon lenses for the D60 which give me much more flexibility, and although the small point and shoot would be handy, it wasn’t truly small enough to put it in my pocket and forget about it. So as someone described it, it was the “worst of both worlds.” That being said, I had many great experiences with the G1 before I got into more “serious” cameras, and the G6 would be a good camera for someone not willing to go the full monty with a DSLR.

All that is just preamble for the main event– I decided to get the new Canon 20D, and keep the D60 as a backup. I’m very pleased with it so far, and for me the best improvements are as follows: It’s FAST (5 frames per second)!, has better flexibilty with the raw/jpeg/both shooting formats, has a sensor that autorotates pictures taking in portrait mode (a HUGE annoyance with the D60!), has much better low light shooting (low noise and better focusing). I’ve shot a few hundred pictures with it, and I’m very pleased overall. It’s a significant but not monumental step forward, and I feel very comfortable knowing that I have a capable backup camera. I got the 18-55 kit lens which was a mistake (I misread the specs, and thought it had image stabilization. That’s the 17-85 IS for about $500 more!). I purchased the camera from www.buydig.com, the same place I got the G6. Excellent price, speedy delivery, and no problems.

If you’re interested, dpreview has a nice review that I found to be helpful in making my decision.

Redundant equipment for photographers

Posted on December 23rd, 2004 in , , by jud || No Comment

One of the things that I stress to people who want to invest their time (and perhaps money) on photography trips is the importance of redundant equipment. Two years ago, I discovered first hand how devasting this can be. I had 5 days off, and had planned a trip to Mono Lake. Getting there during the winter took almost 2 days, since I drove up through Reno and then down 395 (I’ll be trying a new route this Christmas, along HW 88). I arrived just as night was falling, jumped out of my car, ran through the deep snow and snapped a few test pictures. The next morning, I got up nearly 3 hours before daybreak. It was nearly an hour hike through thigh-deep snow in the dark to get to the edge of the lake, where I settled in to await the sunrise. About 15 minutes later, my camera died. I should say, my ONLY camera died. Completely. Banging and cursing didn’t help. Power cycling. New batteries. Fervent prayers. Incantations. Sacrifices of small snow creatures. All to no avail.

At least I got to enjoy a spectacularsunrise.

And since I had no camera, the rest of the “photography trip” was shot, and I left for home that afternoon. Fortunately, one of my test shots turned out ok, and so the trip wasn’t a complete photographic disaster.

Now, with the purchase of the 20D, I finally have 2 cameras that I am happy using. Of course, I wouldn’t recommend buying two new cameras to get started (unless of course you have the budget). That’s why I got the Canon G6 last month, as a smaller, cheaper backup camera. (However, as I noted, I am upgrading already!)

Because my cameras are DSLRs, I have a variety of lenses that I can use. In fact, becuase I have a mix of prime lenses and zooms, plus a teleconverter, in a pinch I could get very close to the same focal coverage losing any one lens.

I have 3 memory cards (2 x 1GB, and 1 256). Again, I can lose 1 without any problem.

I keep my images on a laptop, and on a portable hardrive (mindstor by minds@work, now out of business). One dropped/crashed piece of equipment, and I’m still ok.

I have 4 batteries and 2 chargers (car and wall)

There is no single point of failure (except the photographer!), and so if I’m going to spend a fair amount of money on a 4-7 day photography trip, I can be sure that
it isn’t my equipment that stops me.

Canon 20D on its way

Posted on December 23rd, 2004 in , , by jud || No Comment

I ordered a canon 20d from [buydig.com](http://buydig.com) yesterday. Actually, I puchased one from San Jose camera too, got back to the office, and then Andrei found it for $275 cheaper online. Even with 2 day shipping it was still almost $250 in savings. I couldn’t pass that up. I’m selling the Canon G6 that I got last month as a backup– although it’s a nice camera, using the Canon D60 DSLR for the last two years has spoiled me. My trusty D60 will become a backup, and I will take advantage of the slightly higher resolution, and better low-light functionality for the 20D. Also, I’m really looking forward to having a camera the can autorotate vertical images!

Gift Ideas For Photographers

Posted on December 8th, 2004 in , by jud || No Comment

I just got an email from a friend who wanted some gift suggestions for a photographer friend. The friend is getting a new digital camera, and so here’s my list of recommended accessories (really doesn’t matter which brand of camera. The books are tailored more towards my [specific interests](/photo), but the other accessories should apply to almost anyone who is a serious digital camera enthusiast.)

### Gadgets

* Extra battery (extended life – check out the batterybarn.com).
IMO this is the single most important accessory, because when your battery runs out, you have an expensive brick slung around your neck for the rest of the day

* high-capacity memory cards (1GB is fine. Get more than one if you want more
capacity. 2 or 3). Otherwise, there’s too much risk of losing ALL your pictures
on a trip if the card goes bad/gets lost. It takes only seconds to change a

* additional flash. I have the canon speedlight 550, which is a high-end
model (and only for canon!) but any external flash can make a huge difference
when taking indoor (or outdoor) pictures.

* Camera bag (lowprowe or tamarac) These can be somewhat difficult to
select, since there’s a huge variety and it depends greatly on what you will be
doing. I have the lowprowe photo trekker, which I got because I wanted space
for camera gear + space for lunch and other stuff. It works well when I need to
be hiking, but I wish I’d gotten the all-weather model. It does not work as well for in-city use or anywhere where the distance between stops is short and I need to repeatedly get access to various lenses and/or equipment.

* battery charger that will work in car/home. Sometimes these come with the
camera. I have the lenmar mach 1, which is a rapid charger and I just keep it
in the car.

* USB2/firewire card reader (+ usb/firewire card if your computer doesn’t
have it already)

* Photographer’s vest. I’ve used a number of these and am not super excited about any of them, but they are VERY helpful for outdoor photography.

* Tripod (these are somewhat difficult to buy, so let me know if you get
down this far and I’ll tell you more :) I now use the Slik 400X pro

### Photography Books

* National Geographic Photography Field Guides (various topics)

* John Shaw’s books (landscape and nature)

* Kodak Guide to Shooting Great Travel Pictures

* [Seeing Landscapes: The Creative Process Behind Great Photographs](http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/081745831X/qid=1103186130/sr=8-2/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i2_xgl14/102-8358822-0451332?v=glance&s=books&n=507846)

* Learning to See Creatively by Bryan Peterson

### Photoshop Books

* The Photoshop bible – BIG but good

* Photoshop CS Artistry (advanced techniques, very dense and dry)

I really can’t recommend any short photoshop books. The Adobe classroom in a book series, and studio techniques series are both very good,
but they are pretty dry.

UPDATE 2004-12-23

After some consideration, an extra memory card is probably the most important
extra item, since cameras typically come with a tiny memory card (or none at all).
The amount of space on your cards directly limits how many pictures you can take without
access to a computer to offload your images. This is especially critical on longer trips where
you might not have access to power (or your laptop). Most modern cameras have file sizes
between 0.75 and 3 MB for highest quality jpeg, and larger if your camera has a RAW

If you’re using anything but the maximum settings, you should be taking pictures that
you really don’t care about or potentially want to blow up to large sizes.
So if you get a 32 MB card with your camera, that’s a max of about 50 pictures.
Not so great for your 3 day trip to that *amazing
place*. That’s why I recommend a 512MB – 1GB card.

I purchased a portable
hard drive (10GB model) from a company (minds@work) that is now out of business.
That is very useful in the field since I can copy the images from my CF card to the
mindstor. The mindstore is small enough to keep in my camera bag, unlike a laptop,
and very simple to use. For anyone who wants to go on long trips, and doesn’t want to
carry a laptop, I’d recommend something similar. (In my case, I use both the mindstor
AND a laptop so I have two copies of my images, just in case) Belkin and a number of
other companies make these portable storage devices, some of which are quite advanced
with color displays for previewing your images, etc… However, with the price of memory
cards dropping, it might make more sense (particularly if you already have a laptop) to
just get 3 or 4 GB of memory cards instead. Although you don’t get as much storage for
your money, it’s a lot easier to switch cards than to download your card into the device, plus
you have a backup if one of your cards dies.