Another Christmas in the bosom of the family; we got all of Jean Bray’s children, their spouses, and her grandchildren together, which we don’t manage often enough, in Calgary. Like many others, I find with every year that passes that the people seem more important, the eating and drinking and so on less; but I got an outstanding present.

Turkey · Let’s not diss the eating and drinking; my brother Rob Bray produced this superb turkey. He explained that getting the dark meat done just right without drying out the light meat is really hard; his solution involves wrapping the bird in foil and using a higher heat. We also experienced the infamous nuclear garlic paste, which is best enjoyed in moderation.

Rob Bray’s Christmas turkey

Camera Progress: Flash · That picture is unusual, in that I took it with the camera’s flash but it looks OK. I’ve never come close to mastering flash.

One afternoon my brother Don Bray, a fine photographer, pulled out his camera to take a shot of our baby; he shoots with a Pentax DSLR too and was holding a plain piece of white paper in front of the flash. The picture was great and I turned green with envy. He gave me a little seminar and I tried it and it works! He pointed me at ABetterBounceCard.com, check it out.

Camera Progress: Manual · I got three items from my Amazon wish-list; none of them were bought at Amazon and one was Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. His Web site gets no linkage because it doesn’t seem to work for me in either Camino or Safari, but I heartily recommend the book.

It gave me the courage to run the camera in fully-manual mode, which turns out to be easier than you’d think. Having said that, I’ll probably stick to Pentax’s “SuperProgram” mode, which lets you switch back and forth between aperture and shutter priority instantly. Below, full manual.

Sunlit winter trees in Calgary

Evergreens behind winter-bare birch behind something with red berries.

Camera Progress: RAW · Back when I got the Pentax, I considered shooting RAW vs. JPEG and ended up with JPEG because I couldn’t see the difference, and downloading the huge RAW files was a pain, and because the tools for loading the RAWs were shaky.

Brother Don to the rescue, once again. One of his Christmas presents was a fast card reader. I’d never seen the point, always plugging my camera into the computer, but I hadn’t realized how fast these puppies can be, gulping cards-full of big RAW shots in seconds.

Finally, he showed me Adobe Camera Raw, a Photoshop plug-in that works fine with Elements and has no trouble with the Pentax’s .NEF files. When I saw him fine-tuning the White Balance, I was hooked.

With the combination of the new flash technique and the RAW wrangling, I got a bunch of pleasing Christmas pictures, but they mostly feature the children whom we don’t publish here. But I cropped the audience out of a picture of Mom reading a bedtime story.

Jean Bray reading Grimm’s Fairy Tales

Yeah, there’s not too much to it. But it’s the first time I’ve taken a flash picture of a human being that didn’t make me puke and resort to heavy remedial Photoshopping.

I hope you and yours had a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year to all!



Contributions

Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Fabrizio Giudici (Dec 28 2006, at 01:49)

If you like PhotoShop + Adobe Camera Raw, I suggest you to take a look at Adobe Lightroom (presently in beta and free). If you don't change pixels in your photos but only levels, colors, crop, etc... it's a really faster way to go (the RAW concepts are still the same as Adobe Camera Raw).

PS Maybe in some months you could also look at blueMarine (bluemarine.tidalwave.it ;-)

[link]

From: Tim Bray (Dec 28 2006, at 14:32)

Hey Fabrizio, somehow my comment system failed to notice that bluemarine was a URL, so here it is: http://bluemarine.tidalwave.it/

Your email addrss isn't that easy to turn up, so: Send me a note when you have a beta and I'll have a look. If I have some spare cycles maybe I'll see about a Pentax NEF reader.

[link]

From: Jan Moren (Dec 28 2006, at 17:13)

If you're getting interested in flash photography and flash techniques, the Strobist blog, tutorial site and Flickr group is a good place to go to:

http://strobist.blogspot.com/

Reading through the tutorials and how-to's really makes you want to get that off-camera flash...

[link]

From: Blaine (Dec 31 2006, at 22:13)

Not sure if you're quite ready to upgrade, but the new Pentax K10D is really fantastic, and is (apparently) one of the first DSLRs to support Adobe's DNG format natively. I got one a few weeks ago (upgrading from a Pentax Super Program!), and really love it. I took it out to to the Lynn Headwaters Regional Park yesterday, and it was simply glorious to be shooting Adobe RAW with snow melting off of the trees onto the camera without a worry in my heart. Okay, I'm way too much a geek, and I'll stop now.

[link]

From: Bruce Sharpe (Jan 02 2007, at 23:01)

Hey Tim, I took a decent picture using a flash for the first time in my life after reading this. The technique described on ABetterFlashCard.com sounds great but wouldn't work for my built-in flash because I can't tilt it up. But it inspired a quick-and-dirty alternative: I held a rectangular hand mirror at a 45-degree angle in front of my flash so that the light was reflected up the ceiling. Sounds incredibly kludgy, but the results were surprisingly good.

[link]

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