Snitz visits Croatia & Slovinia
These Slavic countries offer some wonderful unspoiled scenery, a little like the Italian Dolomites. Punctuated with historic (I mean 500+ years old) small towns they’re inhabited by a friendly populace that likes American tourists! Plus, you can walk anywhere at night and feel safe. The price to stay in great lodging and enjoy bomber dining is substantially less than in the States—a comparative bargain.
So what’s there to see? Let’s start with one of the craziest massive waterfalls on the planet, Veliki Slap which falls 300ft. (Plitvice Lake National Park, Croatia). Why they call waterfalls Slaps is beyond me.
Yes, the fishermen are getting wet.
Sibenik, a coastal town (also in Croatia).
And the very old City of Dubrovnik. How old? Like 7th Century.
As we drive North we enter the nation of Slovenia. Lake Bled reminds me of the Sound of Music. Some fun shots taken from the footpath that circles the lake. The Church of Mary the Queen dates back to 1534.
Ok, time to fire up the Spritzler drone. Pictured immediately below is Bled Castle (circa 1011).
High above the church. I’m getting a nose bleed.
And Bohinjsko, Slovinia
Continuing to head North we reach the Soca River Valley.
What a cool place to Kayak!
Link below to high res gallery of photos
Snitz hits Zion, Death Valley & a Martian Desert.
Wondering how to get the full moon to show up on cue? Ans. you need to be a tech geek. I use a program called the Photographer’s Ephemeris to figure out when the moon will be full and, more importantly, when it will be setting to the West around sunrise (sky not too bright or dark). Ergo, I want the sun coming up behind me and the moon in front of me. I also, need to figure out how to get the angle of the moon just right (in relation to what I’m photographing). I told you this requires a photo geek!
Zion’s Canyon Overlook lined up just perfectly a few weeks ago!
The next morning I tried another Zion spot (just behind the Human History Museum) and BAM.
Not done yet. Hopped in the car and made the 5 hour drive to Death Valley. The next morning I’m chasing that moon again, this time at an the iconic Zabriskie Point.
Death Valley, of course, has a bunch more to offer! Portions of the desert floor flooded last August causing the mud bottom to dry into a mosaic of fantastic shapes.
There are also miles of cool looking sand dunes, bracketed in the rear by the Cottonwood Mountains. One of my buddies shown below to put things into perspective.
If you look hard enough, you can even find water in America’s hottest place.
The pictures above are literally taken at sea level. Parts of the park sit almost 5,000 ft higher, offering spectacular views.
About 90 minutes West of the Park lies California’s Alabama Hills. At the base of Mount Whitney, this area was home to hundreds of westerns. Pictured below is the iconic Mobius Arch.
Hey, gotta keep moving. Time to start heading back. On route is an other worldly place called Goblin Valley. The early morning sun creates some long shadows across the desert floor. Those funny looking sculptures down there are called “hoodoos”.
Last stop, a Martian landscape in the Utah Badlands. Ironically at ground level the scenery looks very uninteresting. Boring in fact! But fly a drone 1,600 feet above and you see some incredible patterns.
Coming in for a landing we angle the camera up a little to see the surrounding neighborhood.
There’s plenty more to see! Click the link below to check out the entire gallery:
Topaz Sharpen AI vs Lightroom
If you’ve tried sharpening an image in Lightroom or Photoshop, you’ve probably realized that the improvement is pretty marginal. The two images below are both blurry and identical. FYI, the one on the right is sharpened by Lightroom.
Check out the improvement after we sharpen with Topaz (image on the left)!
Zooming you can see the bracelet is tack sharp on the Topaz version (left) and way out of focus on the original (right).
For more info on how to use Topaz Sharpen AI check the link. You can purchase with a free 30 day trial. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPhKz4qpOdI
They also have a great denoise product as well. Click here for the Topaz website: https://www.topazlabs.com/
The new Sony A7r V vs. A7r IV vs. A1
The new A7r V ($3,800) uses the exact same sensor (61MP) as it’s predecessor, the A7r IV ($3,000). Still worth upgrading to the latest and greatest? What’s new.
- Onboard image stabilization goes up from 5 stops to 8 stops. Three stops is a massive jump and allows handheld shots that previously would have required a tripod.
- Full articulating “flip up” (either horiz or vertical) LCD screen with much greater resolution. I shoot low (2-6″ off the ground) all the time. With A7r IV, I can’t flip the mirror to take vertical shots. A big problem when I’m composing. The A7r V solves this.
- Vastly superior object tracking and detection. If you’re a wildlife shooter, this will make a big difference. One minor problem. The camera shoots at 10 frames/sec or 6/FPS if shooting lossless RAW. On the other hand, who will be shooting lossless RAW with 61MP files.
- Massive buffer allows over 500 continuous shots at 10FPS. Run and gun.
- Improved camera menu. Easier to navigate.
- Option to have shutter close and protect sensor when changing lens. Helps keep dust off sensor!
How’s this compare to Sony flagship A1 (50MP,$6,500)?
- The A1 has slightly superior image tracking than the A7r V. It also offers 30 frames/sec, vs 10/6 for the A7. It’s the penultimate choice for wildlife. As for in-flight bird photography, the A1 is the obvious choice, whereas the A7r V is certainly solid.
- The A1 doesn’t have a flip-out LCD that allows vertical shooting. Plus, it provides only 1440k dots of resolution vs the A7r V’s 2095. Eckkk.
- The A1 only offers 5.5 stops of image stabilization.
- If you’re a nature photographer who likes wildlife (& shoots birds occasionally), the choice is easy. Save $2,700 and get the A7r V. Better camera for your purposes.
- If you’re a hardcore birder, a serious sports shooter, go with the A1.
How does this compare to Canon’s R5 (the other powerhouse choice)
- Canon doesn’t feature the flip up LCD for composing vertical shots down low. For me that’s a deal breaker.
- Canon is 45 MP vs 61 MP for Sony.
- Canon has the edge at 20 FPS vs 10 FPS for Sony.
- Canon’s lenses are wonderful but insanely expensive & they don’t really offer many third party lens choices.
- Otherwise both cameras have identical dynamic range, ISO invariance, image stabilization, image tracking/focus.
- Canon’s great, but I still believe Sony still comes up on top by a hair.
Apple 13Pro vs Sony A7r IV in difficult light
So how good is an iPhone against state-of-the-art 61MP Sony? Also, while we’re at it, which produces the best results for the Sony? HDR processing or exposure blending in Photoshop?
I took three bracketed shots (2 stops apart) in difficult light. The foreground is quite dark against the brilliant morning sky. The photo on the left was produced by exposure blending the darkest and lightest exposures in Photoshop. I used the “select sky” tool to quickly create a mask to insert the darker sky into the brighter foreground photo. On the right is the HDR image created in Lightroom. Zoomed out they look pretty similar (although the Photoshop version has a bit more snap/cleaner).
However, when you zoom way way in at 300% the HDR photo (on left) looks pretty weird. The leaves have some funny ghosting on them and we’ve lost some sharpness. HDR software can have a hard time with fine details against brightly colored skies. The Photoshop image on the right is much cleaner.
Even more noticeable when we zoom in to 800%.
Another portion of the photo. The Photoshop version on the right looks superior.
So while HDR is a great (quick/easy) tool in Lightroom it’s not fullproof. I usually try HDR first and if it begins looking wonky, I dive into photoshop to exposure blend. More work, but in tough conditions better results.
Now let’s compare the Iphone shot to our Photoshop masterpiece. Note: The Iphone 13Pro on left has a taller aspect ratio. For a quick phone shot (one frame in RAW mode, processed using Apple ProRaw profile in Lightroom) it’s fricken magnificent. The Sony shot on the right looks a little more natural, less contrasty, but both photos are pretty good! In fact, the Apple captured a little more of the color in the sky.
Of course that’s easily corrected with a small tweak in Photoshop. The Sony high res files allow me to tweak and adjust the sky in a way that the Apple HDR photo can’t match.
Let’s take a closer look at our IPhone shot at 300%. Nuts! We have that funny ghosting again. The IPhones Apple ProRaw IA algorithym has combined several shots and applied HDR processing. Same problem we had with our Lightroom HDR.
The Photoshop exposure blend is super clean. Great detail, no ghosting.
Conclusion: The Iphone does a terrific job and can produce professional looking work (especially the new IPhone 14 Pro with the 48 MP sensor vs the 13’s 12MP). That said, a top end mirrorless camera w exposure blending is probably the way to go under extreme lighting conditions when you plan to publish your work. Otherwise your phone is pretty darn good for social media posts and such.
PS. Want to know the best way to post process your IPhone photos? Click here: https://snitzerphotography.com/education/apple-proraw-best-for-iphone-photos-lightroom-editing/
Apple ProRaw best for IPhone photos? Lightroom editing?
Love taking pics with your iPhone? You have several options which produce varying degrees of image quality.
- By default, your phone takes Jpeg photos. These are great for amateur shooters (also sport small file sizes/about 2-3 MBs).
- For serious photographers there are better options that take RAW images. RAW images have a wider dynamic range (for capturing sunsets, sunrises & difficult lighting) and more adjustability to modify/edit the image in post-processing programs (Lightroom being my favorite). The only downside is they produce much larger files. Therefore, they’re good only for important shots you really want to keep!
- Apple’s new ProRaw format (30 MBs iPhone 13 Pro/70MB iPhone 14 Pro*)
- Third-party apps that also take raw images (10/20 MBs iPhone Pro13/14) with your iPhone (Pro Camera being one of the best)?
How do these RAW apps compare? Let’s find out by taking some photos in difficult light (wide dynamic range, the room is quite dark whereas the exterior views through the windows are very bright) with three options:
- Apple ProRaw image
- Third Party Raw image using the Pro Camera Ap.
- Three bracketed shots were taken in Pro Camera (2 stops apart) & processed using Lightroom’s HDR software.
Below left is the single Third Party Raw Image and right is the HDR merged version. Both look quite similar. The HDR processing hasn’t improved the image much.
Below left is the Apple ProRaw image and on the right the HDR finished product from Pro Camera. They look also pretty similar when you’re zoomed out.
But zoomed in at 300% tells another story! The HDR ProCamera image (below) has tons of noise! See all the colored dots inside the green column?
The Apple ProRaw version below is much sharper and practically noiseless. Much better!
Likewise, in the dark areas of the photo, the Pro Camera isn’t very sharp and has lots of noisy artifacts in the dark areas. Check out the chairs.
Not so with Apple ProRaw.
Some thoughts on optimal work flow:
- As mentioned before, using Apple ProRaw produces large files. Use Apple ProRaw only for IMP images you may want to keep.
- IMP note: The new Apple 14 Pro has a whopping 48MP sensor which produces amazing resolution compared to the 12MB that’s on the IPhone 12Pro & 13Pro, plus superior color rendition. The Apple ProRaw images from this phone will be approx 70MB. Can eat up memory quickly if you don’t delete your “duds”.
- The Apple ProRaw file is hybrid Raw file. If the the scene being photographed has a great deal of dynamic range, the IPhone will automatically take multiple bracketed shots and combine into one HDR image.
- How to turn on Apple ProRaw on your IPhone 12, 13 or 14. Earlier versions don’t allow. Click link for instructions. https://www.youtube.com/shorts/gFDgUC1mah4
- For Lightroom users, when you process the Apple ProRaw file into Lightroom remember to select the Apple ProRaw color option in the Basic menu section. Your image will look much much better.
Final thought. How does the Apple IPhone 14 Pro stack up against the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra or Pixel 7 Pro? Below is a great overview. Bottom line. If you’re a muggle and don’t shoot in Raw model the S22 is a great camera. On the other hand, for serious photographers, the Apple product using ProRaw software is clearly the winner. Personally, I’ve used both Android and Apple devices and prefer the latter.
Olympus vs Sony: Lighter? Better?
OMG, the Olympus camera is so fricken light! A game changer! Right? Err, not exactly.
The Olympus OM 1 (their flagship) outfitted with the pro 12-100mm F4 lens (4.59″ long) weighs a total of 2.5 lbs. The Sony A7Rr V paired with a Sony 24-105mm lens (4.46″ long) weighs 2.9 lbs.
Both brands generally weigh the same and are similarly compact.
Do they perform the same?
- Sony provides 15 stops of dynamic range (DR) and can recover approx five stops of underexposed content. The Olympus has only 12.7 stops of dynamic range and 2.5 of recovery. The DR of the Sony is four times that of the Olympus (each stop doubles the range).
- Sony delivers over three times the resolution. 62 MP vs. 20MP. Sharper photos, easier to crop, blow up large.
- Sony has vastly superior low-light performance (given its full-frame sensor) and color rendition.
- Olympus OM-1 $2,200, 12-100mm F4 lens $1,200
- Sony A7R V $3,900, Sony A7 IV $2,500, 24-105mm F4 lens $1,300
Note: If the Sony A7R V is too expensive for your tastes, the Sony A7 IV (33MP) is a great lower-cost choice.
Ozarks vs Smokies for fall color?
About 700 miles separate the Ozark and Smoky Mountains. Both are spectacular places to leaf peep, bike and hike. Two differences:
- The Smokies are a little more vertical & perhaps contain a slight edge on iconic trails/views.
- Smoky Mntn NP is the most visited park in the US! It’s more crowded. Don’t even think about staying in the popular park destinations of Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg. They’re grossly, overbuilt resort towns. Townsend, Tn, is the place to be (quiet, gorgeous).
My time in the Ozarks centered around Buffalo River River NP. The park was the first national river to be designated by the Park Service and flows for over 135 miles. With that extended shoreline the possibilities seem endless.
The river is also home to a sh-t ton of spider webs. They literally glow when warmed by the morning sun.
The cold fall nights and humid air allow for fog to frequently roll in each morning. Makes for some moody photog ops!
My Drone provided the means to capture the fog from above.
There are also a host of great hikes just outside the park. Pictured below is your fearless leader doing a self portrait atop Whitaker Point. Yep, that red backpack is my trusty camera bag.
After several days exploring the Ozarks, I started the 10 hour drive to the Smokies, stopping along the way to hike out to Machine Falls, just outside of Tullahoma, Tn. Yep, out in the boonies. Zero crowds!
Drone shot above a nearby lake. The white cottonballs in the blue water are actually the sky being reflected. Wooo!
Day one in the Smokies and I’m treated once again to fog blanketing the valley & beams of light breaking through!
The area is also full great rivers to explore. BTW, the spiral brown formation in the lower right section of the photo actually consists of leafs stuck in a whirlpool. I took a long 10 second exposure which blurred those bad boys.
Lots more fun photos to see. Click the link: Click for more!
Your sunrises/sunsets stink? I can fix that! HDR Ninja to the rescue.
Frustrated by HDR lighting? The sky looks incredible in person but your photos suck? Don’t worry, read this and you’ll never miss a big shot again?
The camera vs your eyes. We can see 20 stops of dynamic range( DR). DR meaning the difference between the lightest and darkest parts of an image. Ergo you can detect something 500,000 times brighter than something else. Cameras can’t do that (at least without a few tricks).
- Shoot in RAW. This provides 3 more stops than a typical JPEG image. Note: each stop represents of doubling of DR (exponential function. 3 stops means 8 times the range)!
- Lower your ISO. For example, turning ISO down from 800 to 100 provides a whooping 2-3 stops of additional DR depending on the camera.
Camera brands do matter.
- Most Nikon, Sony and Medium format cameras (Hasselblad X2D, Fuji GFX 100) currently offer 15 stops of DR. They can also recover almost five stops of under-exposed data (ISO invariance), meaning even if you underexpose, you can save in post-processing.
- Canons, on the other hand, generally offer only about 12 stops (except the 5d Mk IV & R6 at 13 and their R5 and R3 at 15). BUMMER! Except for the latter two cameras, Canons can only recover about 2.5 stops of under-exposed data.
- Olympus? Not much better; their current mirrorless model offer about 12.8 stops and 2.5 stops of ISO invariance. (Source DXO Mark)
How ISO invariance REALLY works.
The first image is taken at an iso of 3,200.
We under expose (ISO 100) by 5 stops and it’s practically black.
The miracle. We take that underexposed photo into Photoshop and boost the exposure by 5 stops. Image fixed! Sharp, no noise or loss of detail.
One thing to remember: Better to underexpose, NEVER overexpose (even 1 stop renders your image area white with no chance of recovery).
How to get the exposure right:
- Shoot in manual made. Use your histogram and highlight warning indicator. Turn up your exposure till you first see the highlight warning come on. Note: Your camera’s histogram is reading a Jpeg image. The RAW image you’ll be processing will have 1.5 additional stops of higher range. Meaning you can turn up the exposure 1.5 stops after you see the warning come on.
- For red/orange skies be careful. Your black & white histogram and warning indicator will typically not show clipping of your red channel. Make sure to watch this (using your red, blue green histogram) and reduce your exposure if the red channel is pushing up against it’s upper limit.
Bring back highlights in post: Ex.
First photo is set to maximize exposure without losing the bright elements of the sky.
Then I use the “shadows” slider and a selective brush to add exposure to the foreground area and recover under exposed areas. Mission accomplished.
What if I can’t get the exposure right in one shot? Occasionally (a super bright sky) you will shoot at the optimal exposure and still see your histogram slammed up against the left side. That means there is additional data you’re losing in the dark areas. You have three basic options to get this data back.
Old School (Grads): Essentially a tinted windshield for your camera. These rectangular filters (graduated neutral density-Grads) slid up/down on a holder that screws onto your lens. You adjust the darkened portion of the filter to line up with the horizon of your shot.
Pictured left no grad, pictured right with grad.
How you set up on your camera.
- Filters come in various strengths. I own a 2 and 3 stop Grad.
- They have either soft or hard transition areas(dark to clear). I usually use a hard filter.
- They can be combined in the holder with a solid grad (6 or 10 stop) to create very long exposures (good for coastal shots).
- Cost: Lots of good manufs (Lee being a popular choice). Cost for 2 Grads, 1 solid ND, holder and 2 lense attachment rings is about $500-600. Note: Stay away from Cokin (cheap but with a terrible color cast).
Photoshop exposure blending:
- Take one shot exposed for the sky. Take a second one exposed for the dark foreground.
- Combine using layer masks in Photoshop. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msIOb7Sg_Gc
HDR software: Take between 3 and 5 (in extreme DR situations) photos bracketing 2 stops apart. Photo below 2 stops under exposed. Sky is perfect, but the foreground is much too dark.
Next shot neutral exposure. Sky is a bit overexposed, foregrounds still too dark.
Final shot 2 stops over exposed. Sky completely blown out, foreground perfect!
Then combine using HDR software to produce an image with huge DR! Many choices available (Photomatix, Aurora HDR). They’re all similar in quality. The best choice ironically is free, Lightroom(use auto-align feature, turn off auto settings). It keeps the resulting image in RAW format (the others return an inferior TIFF image). You’ll need to use clarity, dehaze, clarity black point and other sliders to tweak the final image.
Lightroom HDR photo. Needs additional tweaking.
After edits. looking awesome!
Which method best?
- Grads require almost no work in post processing. They are expensive however, a pain to set up and don’t work well with complex site lines (like mountains). Great option for beginners who aren’t yet comfortable behind a computer.
- HDR software. Works great in most situations, except brilliantly colored sunrises/sunsets (tends to get wonky look skies).
- Exposure blending in Photoshop. The only way to go for red skies. Also a great option for coastal shots with exploding waves. Take on shot for the sky another to capture the perfect wave explding over a rock.
Now go out there and get some bomber images! Wooooooo.
Fall foliage in the Rockies!
People frequently ask me “how” do I get “those shots.” Some inside scoop, specifically for leaf peeping, follows.
Basically, to get good fall color, you first gotta get there “at the right time.” Unfortunately, in the Rockies, it’s almost impossible to predict when the fall color will explode. You’re typically looking for that crazy 7-day period when the lights go “on.”
Unfortunately, the variability of summer rain, fall temps, and big wind storms (that can strip the trees bare) all make predicting pretty much impossible. Meaning I plan very last minute and start driving in when it’s “just right”.
So getting there is half the battle. The other half is catching great light and even better, an overnight snowstorm before the leaves disappear. You want just the right amount of clouds to catch the early morning rays or sunset. Clear blue skies suck!
Every once in a while, I get lucky. Got up early to catch this shot after it snowed all nite. Was this view visible from the road? Nope. That’s where the drone comes in.
Drones have become a leading edge tool to grab unique shots from vantage points previously requiring a helicopter. Kind of the new frontier for adventure photography.
Some other shots taken in flight. BTW, I use a DJI Mavic 3 Cine as my UFO.
That’s not to say, I’m not willing to go low. This photo was taken about 2 inches off the ground. For our photobugs out there, it’s actually two images blending together. One focused in on the nearby leaves, the other focused on the further away trees. I used a small aperture (F22) to create the Sunstar.
I used the same technique below (focus stacking) to get the nearby leaves in sharp focus (shot 1) and then focus out long for the mountain (shot 2).
Ok, now for getting rainbows. When I see it raining, but there’s a clear sun sky behind me, I start looking around!
What makes a great woodland shot? Occasionally, you chance upon some very white, large-diameter Aspens with the foreground covered in ferns. Yellow fever!
Let’s not forget the wildlife!
No, not the moose, the Holstein(or whatever). I was standing about 8 ft from that girl. Actually taken with my iPhone. BTW, I was not close to the moose. Don’t have a death wish. Taken with a big telephone lens.
Finally, it doesn’t hurt to be tenacious. I’ve been trying to get a great shot of Mount Crumpet (Rabbit Ears) for years. Some Steamboat buddies, helped me find the right vantage point (thanks to the Clarks!). Finally got all the elements together. Great sky, changing trees & hint of sunlight on the mountain.
Oh, yes…how to get a good photo of a lake? Two things really help. Go when it’s dead still, so the lake becomes a mirror. II: Have a great sky. The sky becomes the main event!
Check out the link below to see the full gallery. https://www.snitzerphotos.com/Other/Galleries/Fall-in-the-west-2022/n-rrc2QX/