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February 17, 2008

Busy day down in the Minnesota river valley. Working backwards thru my day, the monthly photo hike at the Refuge went pretty well. This time around it was a night hike, and it did not disappoint. A few steps onto the trail and we heard a dysfunctional raccoon family having a domestic squabble. Something about "that lout" never getting off his lazy arse to provide food for the family but him being sick and tired of being branded as a thief every time they visit relatives. We quickly moved on, and I took some flash+time exposure shots at the floodplain observation deck.

Time exposure+an off-camera flash at the sloughs. All that orange light-pollution insidiously collects on your CCD chip as the seconds tick by. When you look at the scene at the start, it's barely perceptible, but after a 30 second exposure it looks like everything is preserved in a block of amber. Even my +2 EV pre-flash couldn't kill it.

We saw at least one owl, a Barred, not wanting to give up his hunting area to a bunch of low-life stinky humans that can barely see in the dark. So it hung out for awhile, allowing itself to be photographed from multiple angles. Later we saw another, or maybe the same owl blast out of the cedars farther upland, but this time he wasn't up for hanging around for idle chatter.
It is said that if you were to stick a newspaper to the goalpost of a standard football field, an owl could read the newsprint from the other goalpost. What is not known however, is if they normally skip straight to the comics.

Regressing back to this morning, here we have some of the major players from the Sierra Club Wetlands Stewards cleaning out, counting hatched / unhatched eggs, logging and putting in the new cedar bedding for our wood duck friends. The results were far better than anticipated. Only one house out of 8 had no signs of inhabitation. The other houses all having eggs, duck down, or fragments to clue together last year's lovely Minnesota timeshare getaway. Okay Mark, tell us who our lucky winner is....Not these guys, unfortunately. They are kinda pretty tho. Well, better luck next season!


buthidae said...

As for the orange snow: do you shoot RAW or jpg or both?

dignature said...

Oh, I thought you were going to ask me if I make it fresh or mix from concentrate.
My standard practice is to shoot JPEG-fine, it seems to be quality enough for 98% of my shooting, doesn't take up tons of disk space (not so much a problem on the camera cards, more of a problem for computer storage), and has decent loading and data-transmission speeds.
I WILL shoot RAW if: someone requests it, I am shooting a gig that I know will be used for some size or quality critical output - such as making a composite or poster or an experiment that I know will require more flexibility.
I know the D200 will let you save simultaenously to both formats, I think it can even save to two separate cards, but as far as I remember, the D80 doesn't let you. I will have to go back to the manual on that one tho.
What I SHOULD do is just set it to RAW, shoot it for a week and see if it is how I think it will be. I have some ideas for experimentation that would be best started as RAW.
Another option is the next Photo Hike on March 23rd: It is at the "Bass Ponds" (the fish, not the instrument) and the theme is about how the Bass Ponds will have changed by then (the last pond is currently having a major makeover to provide more stormwater carrying and filtration capacity for the Mega-Mall and airport uphill from there, nicely sugar-coated by the powers that be into a "Water Quality Improvement Project".) What was my point again? Oh yeah, that maybe I should shoot RAW for that as we will be playing with doing panoramas off tripods and it may help with the matching and stitching in post-production.
Plus, it would be a good opportunity to explain the different file formats and their advantages / disadvantages.
Thanks for asking. And yourself?

buthidae said...

I ask only because for this sort of exposure, it would be a useful exercise to compare the .jpg straight out of the camera with post-production amberectomized .jpg and RAW files. I suspect you could get close to what you saw in a doctored .jpg. I've just started playing in RAW, so maybe I know not what of I speak, but this seems exactly like what it is meant to cure completely.

(The D-80 will save to both formats simultaneously, and hard drive storage has gotten sooo cheap, so no more of those excuses.)

After your local powers finish "improving" the water quality, can you count the tumors on the fish, like we can around here?

dignature said...

Mmmm, I don't think I understand your drift. There really isn't any post-processing done on that image. It's the light pollution that is providing the key light for the exposure (the orange glow), and my strobe is highlighting the foreground. It was taken in "Night Photo Mode" which fires the flash and then meters the remaining light of the scene for the exposure, in this case about 30 sec. All I did to the image was resize, I don't even think I adjusted brightness/contrast which I usually do a little.

Count the fish? They took out the whole pond. It looks like a miniature open pit mine up on the Iron Range.
One day last year in that same place we saw a giant snapping turtle, a river otter, and two kingfishers fighting over the same fish, all in the same spotting scope view.
I hope they know what they are doing...