Wednesday, April 11, 2012
I take a lot of truck pictures. My house is a 3 block walk from the section of the Trans Canada Highway that runs across the narrow neck of land between New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, and with trucking replacing rail as the preferred means of moving freight around Canada, this provides me ample opportunity to capture the big rigs at speed. On average, there are now two trucks per minute crossing this link of the TCH.
Last evening, I went out with a plan to take some more truck pictures (it never seems to get boring). This time I used a Meyer-Optik Gorlitz Domiplan 50mm/f2.8 lens on my 40D. If you think this sounds impressive, it isn't. The Domiplan is a very cheap, plastic bodied old lens that was made in East Germany, typically sold as the "entry level" lens on Practika SLR's in the 1970's. I paid $10.00 for it in a second hand shop, and most would think I paid too much. In some ways it's comparable in design to the Industar 50-2, but in my opinion it's not nearly as sharp as the Russian Industar (which BTW was the "entry level" lens sold with Zenit SLR's in the 1970's). Bottom line, this is definitely the worst lens in my kit, which shows that I'm still in the mood for screwing up my photos with the new-normal Lo-Fi Aesthetic.
My plan this time was to do it the hard way, and this crappy lens was a big part of the plan. I wanted to simulate Lomography totally by hand, instead of using the quick and easy filters offered by GIMP, or the various Phone Camera Web Apps. My plan was to use Photivo, a great Open Source RAW Processor for Windows and Linux. I'd like to turn this into a "Tip of the Day" of course, so let me digress a bit with a short explanation of what a RAW Processor is.
When you shoot RAW, that doesn't mean you're taking pictures in the nude. Some cameras (all DSLR's and some high end compacts) have a RAW mode, which is simply a way the camera allows you to get at the digital data that makes up your picture before it actually turns it into a standard picture format (like Jpeg or Tiff). A RAW file isn't really a digital photo; rather it is all the data which the camera's built-in computer needs to create and store a digital photo. By having access to this data (the RAW file) before the camera transforms it allows you to manipulate the data outside the camera, on your Computer, using specialized software, and then convert it into a real picture yourself, again on your computer. This has an advantage of allowing a much greater degree of manipulation than you would normally get from a Jpeg file created by the camera itself. The biggest disadvantage of RAW is that you absolutely must take the time to make the conversion from RAW to Jpeg yourself, because RAW files are not printable or able to be shared; they can only be viewed on a computer screen using the special software that is built to work with the RAW file. So, as a general rule, unless you want to do anything fancy, especially in adjusting exposure values, or really "work something up from scratch" in Photoshop (which recognizes all popular camera RAW formats), it's best to stick to your camera's internal Jpeg mode. So ends the Tip of the Day.
My plan here was to do something fancy - to make a series of Fake Lomo truck pictures by processing RAW files using Photivo. Starting with a cheap lens, and a half stop of overexposure, and not wanting to have to worry about focussing the lens for each shot, I set the lens to f11 and focussed at the "hyper-focal distance for that f-stop" (meaning simply that I turned my very complicated DSLR into the most simple press and forget el-cheapo camera - the equivalent of a disposable film camera really). Then, using Photivo, I set up the theme for my first RAW file, turning this:
I then saved all the settings I had used in Photivo and simply re-applied them to all the photos.
Here is a set of all of the truck pictures I have done, including last evening's series, which are the last nine in the set.