How was your weekend?

A common polite refrain heard on return to work on a Monday morning. Mostly just polite chitter-chatter with little interest in what really happened. It’s the Monday-morning equivalent of weather talk.

Mine was busy, consumed by the kids and family stuff. Building bunk beds. Taking the girls to swimming lessons and parties. So Sunday afternoon rolled around and I fancied just lying on the sofa, but Lauren wanted to go to the park. And we were mildly curious about some new houses built near the high school, down by the canal. So we went for a drive and a walk in the park afterwards.

I wasn’t even going to bring the camera, but it’s an X100 and it will not be left at home. It weighs nothing. And it’s hardly warm out, but 15 degrees warmer than it was 10 days ago. So what the heck.

Down by the Grand Union Canal and in Boston Manor Park. Lovely sunshine. Amazing family. Clinging to a tiny little rock for a tiny fraction of time in an unbelievably vast and uncaring universe. Scared, but not alone; a life given purpose in little feet and sparkling eyes. So very grateful to simply live and experience this joy, trying to savour every minute of my brief time with them.

They tried to sneak up on a rabbit (twice). They ran across the grass and up and down hills. Strolled along the canalside. Demanded to be carried when they got tired, and then soon were off again running.

“To be the father of growing daughters is to understand something of what Yeats evokes with his imperishable phrase ‘terrible beauty.’ Nothing can make one so happily exhilarated or so frightened: it’s a solid lesson in the limitations of self to realize that your heart is running around inside someone else’s body. It also makes me quite astonishingly calm at the thought of death: I know whom I would die to protect and I also understand that nobody but a lugubrious serf can possibly wish for a father who never goes away?”

Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22

A few frosty pics from 2012

I sometimes think that it will be nice when the girls are older and my shots are not snatched while carrying my camera around my neck, shooting one handed as I trudge through the snow pulling a sled with a 3-year-old on it.

But then I think that I’m mad. How can a day get any better?

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize

3rd Prize Winner

The run is now coming to an end at the National Portrait Gallery.

A good year I think. Better than the last few; which to my mind have been too in-crowd, with no chance of anyone not on the art circuit making a showing.

The actual top 5 were not my favorites, except for the 3rd-place image by Dona Schwartz. Overall though some really good stuff this year. Well done to the judges and the photographers.

For the first time in many years I bought the catalogue – only £15, so the reproductions are not of the highest quality, but still a worthy purchase.

Power

The Tate Modern building is an old power station. X100 at night in the dark. Cropped square. I can feel the power.

Occupy St Pauls

I have a lot of sympathy for the sentiment, if not the solutions on offer. I will revisit the location soon. Hopefully the protest will continue for some time.

DXO Optics v7 X100 user review.

Upgrade costs for previous users are very reasonable.

The LR integration looks a lot better too. It can open a LR catalogue and export files straight back into the catalogue as DNG. You then end up with a RAF file and DNG side by side.

If I didn’t have LR at all, it might be that DXO would be a good enough way of organising and ranking files. It doesn’t have the keywording and collection abilities, it doesn’t have local corrections. It doesn’t have LR’s great print engine. But apart from that… you can create projects which can work as proxy for collections, you can just browse the file system. So it’s missing a lot of the cool stuff that LR has. But DXO + Photoshop… maybe.

So for me at this point DXO is not really a replacement for LR. But what about just as a plain old RAW converter alongside LR, doing a LR RAF plus DXO DNG side-by-side in LR? Well that looks pretty good. Only downside is storage and processing time, but storage is cheap.

But it would all be pointless unless DXO showed a significant advantage when it comes to RAW conversion. And I think it does, in most cases.

A couple of examples:
Example 1 @ ISO 200
LR processing is Auto exposure correction, Auto lens correction with the X100 corrections applied, sharpening at 75, Clarity 25, Vibrance 25, Saturation 5. Blue saturation on DXO boosted slightly in LR to give a similar look.

What I see – definitely an edge to DXO, sharper, more detail, better colour, more pop.

Example 2 @ ISO 3200
More less the same treatment as above, but with RAF file sharpening up to 80 and Luminance NR at 40.

What I see – unclear. DXO sharper with more detail, less noise, but more artifacts. LR noise retains more of a film-like grain. It would probably depend on the image, and of course treatment can be adjusted in DXO and LR to improve matters. I’d call this one even.




Conclusion:

I am not an expert in digital image manipulation, but not a complete novice either.

What I’m generally looking to do is get the best IQ possible with the least effort possible. I won’t be getting rid of LR and using DXO instead. But I certainly will be dual-processing some or all of my images from now on in both LR and DXO. At my level of competence with these tools DXO definitely has an edge in the processing of RAW files from the X100, and I see pretty much the same thing with my 5D2 as well.

I would say though that with some images from both the 5D2 and the X100 the LR ACR conversion is just more pleasing. DXO is always a little bit “crunchy”, and that doesn’t suit every image. I wouldn’t completely drop ACR for DXO. DXO = oils, ACR = watercolor if you like.

I found DXO v5 & v6 unconvincing. But my recommendation is that there’s enough in DXO v7 that you might be interested. Certainly worth downloading a trial version and giving it a go. And I do think LR and DXO sit nicely alongside each other.

Amazon – Salgado at Somerset House

Extended until December 18th.

Sky is sponsoring a save the rainforest thing with pictures by Salgado and Per Anders Petterson.

There is a free mini-catalogue with a couple of Salgado’s pictures. He is as good as ever. Lots of pictures of the very disturbing Zo’e rainforest tribe who shove these huge bones through their lower lips. I really couldn’t get used to it at all. There’s nowt as queer as folk.

Free entry, great venue – with an ice rink, free mini-catalogue. Interesting pictures including a few stunners by Salgado.

Get yourself down there.