iPad Pro 9.7 First Impressions

My days of being an iPad hold out are over. I picked up an iPad Pro 9.7″ an hour or two after they became available. I also picked up the Pencil, but missed the last keyboard by minutes (maybe seconds). 

 
I have some experience with my wife’s iPad Mini, but not owning my own, so keep that in mind. Also, any too big, too small or too anything else are for me, maybe not for you.

Why now?

I was looking at picking up an iPad a couple years ago, and decided that they were too much of a consumption device, and not enough of a creative one, and ended up with a MacBook Pro. I believe that has changed over the last couple years, with the continued introduction and perfecting of creative apps. Adobe has released  several great apps, as have many other developers. Apple built on this with the release of the Pencil, which is a very solid product. 

Adobe has a mobile version of Lightroom, and a couple Photoshop based apps, which make for a powerful option for editing on the go, which is increasingly important to feed the beast that is social media. 

The other creative field the iPad has made great inroads in is music, with Garage Band, a couple other DAWs, and may instruments. I have played with Garage Band, Propellerheads Figure, iMaschine, and some others on my iPhone, which is fun,  but rather cramped. On the iPad, they are much more useful. While I am not a great musician, I expect to be able to use these tools to create soundtracks for timelapses, etc. The music for this was created with GB on my Mac, and while it is not going to win any awards, I think it adds to the video:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=m9HIazbbwCA

Do I see the iPad replacing my Mac? No. Well, not completely. I do most of my RAW processing in Capture One, and at this point there is no mobile option for that. Lightroom mobile is also an option, but that is designed more to augment the desktop version than to replace it. RAW images cannot be directly imported into LRM, and the ones imported into the desktop and synced are stored as “Smart Previews” and the edits synced back to the desktop, rather than as real RAW files.

What I can potentially see is moving to a desktop computer, due to the increased storage and processing power, and letting the iPad take over mobile duties.

It has been working quite well for writing this, reading e-books, etc. and I can certainly see it continuing to take over desktop duties. 

Do I regret not getting it earlier? Yes and no. In a world with all the money I could need, I would have bought it earlier. However, I think the money has been better spent on my D610, MacBook, etc, and there is not anything I would change taking that into consideration.

Thoughts on the Pro Specifically

So why the iPad Pro 9.7, and what do I think of it?

I liked the look of the original iPad Pro, especially the Pencil. However, the size was too big for me. I figured that the Pencil, and some of the other tech, would soon come to the smaller profile devices, and I kept an eye on the rumor mill, and since late last year it has been widely rumored that this was correct. Some people have said that it would cannibalize business from the larger iPad Pro, and while there may be some of that, I think that people are going to buy the size that works for them, and buy other styluses, etc if the Pencil is not available. Also, the price is not that far different, especially when you subtract out the cost of production, and this may get people who already own the 9.7″ devices to upgrade.

When the announcement came out, there were two big things the rumor mill hadn’t gotten: the 256 Gig model, and the TrueTone screen. Personally, when the original Pro came out, I was surprised they had not released at least a 256 Gig, or even a 512, so as far as I was concerned, it only made sense to do it now. 

The True Tone display is great, it makes the screen much easier on the eyes, especially after dark. The only concern I have is photo editing, I will have to do some testing to see if it throws me off setting color balance. 

   

The pencil is pretty much what I expected, no surprises good or bad. The one bad thing is that since there is no way to store the pencil in or on the iPad, it is easy to lose track of. There are some aftermarket options which I may end up looking into. The pressure and tilt sensitivity work as expected, but the experience can vary greatly depending on the app you are using. 

So has Apple gone back on Steve Jobs saying that your finger is the only stylus you need? I don’t really think so. The iPad experience is still very much optimized for fingertip use, and the Pencil probably detracts from user experience when doing most tasks. If you are not planning on drawing or doing photo retouching, the Pencil is probably not a good investment, but if those things interest you, it works quite well.

The Apple Store did not have the keyboard, but the had some demos, so I got to play a little bit, and it seemed alright, but a little tight, which is only to be expected. The key movement is also very short, which may be a little hard to work with. I am planning to get one once they are in stock, and maybe I can give some more feedback later. 

3D Touch, or lack thereof. I have heard two reasons for the lack of 3D Touch, either supply chain issues, or not being compatible with the Pencil. To me it is too bad it doesn’t have 3D Touch, but not a big deal. There are some good applications with it, like after touch in Garage Band, but so far I don’t think it is really making that big a difference. 

The speakers are definitely good. They lose it a little as you get to the top of the volume range, but most speakers are going to do that.

Cameras: the one on the back is the same as the camera in the iPhone 6S, and is a pretty solid camera for a phone/tablet. Apple finally upgraded the “selfie” camera  from 1.2 to 5 megapixel, but is still only 720P video. Hopefully they are able to update it for 1080P in a future update, which would be great for video blogging or live streaming on Periscope or the like. With th popularity of those applications, and selfies, I find it a little odd that this hasn’t been done long ago. 

Split-screen multitasking: not really iPad Pro specific, but still fairly new. For the most part I find it very useful, especially when writing. I can be typing in the WordPress app, and have Twitter or a browser open next to it, or be reading, and taking notes along side. However, not all apps support this feature, which can be a serious limitation. For instance, the Bible app I use on my MacBook and iPhone does not, so it is more difficult either taking notes on what I am reading, or using it for reference while writing something. 

The other fairly serious limitation is that you cannot have the same app in both windows, for instance to compare documents, or have two browsers open. The brain browser one can be worked around by downloading chrome or Firefox, and running different browsers.

All in all, I think it was a good purchase, and look forward to using it more. 

What are your must-have apps? Let us know in the comments.

Why I Shoot RAW

The other night I took a little detour on the way home to photograph a small church near my office.

It was sunset, and the church was silhouetted against an interesting sky. The photo below is default off the camera. Capture One makes a couple changes by default, so it’s a little different than a camera JPEG would be. This is pretty much the photo I saw, and wanted to capture.

The image was captured at 1/400th of a second, I think at f/11. The camera was a Nikon D610 on a tripod, with a PC-Nikkor 28mm F4. The lens does not record aperture information, thus the “I think” on f/11.

The original

I used Highlight recovery to bring out more detail in the sky.

Highlight recovery

Using shadow recovery, we are able to bring a lot of detail into the foreground. In the original, almost everything below the skyline is black, with the shadow recovery, we have a lot of detail that was hidden before.

Highlight and shadow.

For a comparison, I created a highest quality JPEG with Nikon NX-D, using the vivid picture control, which is probably what I would have used for this image shooting JPEG. As is, it looks fine, pretty much the same as we got out of the default settings in Capture One.

The original JPEG export

But as we start to bring the shadow and highlight recovery in, you can see how much is missing in the shadows. The blown out area around the sun is also larger than edited RAW. This is with the same settings as the RAW, with highlight and shadow recovery both at 100.

Initial JPEG edit

I tried to replicate the results with curves, and that ended up with some more shadow detail, but killed the sky.

Adjustments on a JPEG

Here’s the final version of the RAW, with some punch clarity added. Some comparison points: the color in the sky, the chimney is “eaten away” by the blown highlight of the sun. You can also see fairly severe posterizing in the shadows on the JPEG edits at full size.

Adding Clarity to the RAW conversion.

In this image, I might leave the foreground in silhouette anyways, but I wanted to demonstrate how you can squeeze a lot more dynamic range out of a photograph. For a scene like this, there really isn’t a “proper” exposure that would include the whole image. But with a few minutes of RAW editing you can have very good images with an extended dynamic range, without having to use HDR stacking techniques or the like. Using the dynamic range built into the RAW file avoids having to keep the camera still through multiple exposures and the problem of moving objects in an image. I have also run into situations where light washed into the darker areas of an image on stacked HDR that looked very unnatural. This, on the other hand, captures an image very like what I saw when I was standing there. Using JPEG, on the other hand, throws away a lot of image data that it deems unnecessary, and while some recovery is possible, it is much more limited.

Shooting the Blood Moon

Here is a little bit of the story of how I took the picture of the Blood Moon on 8 Oct 2014.

The eclipse was full around 5:30 – 6:30, and I happened to be awake at that time, so I headed over to the parking lot of a church near us, where I figured I could get a good view. I took the D610, and swapped between a Nikkor 70-300 4-5.6d and a Vivitar Series 1 600mm catadioptric (mirror) lens. The Vivtar is a fixed f8 aperture, and is pretty hard to focus when it is that dark out, so I did most of the shooting with the 70-300.

While I was out there, one of the people from the church came out to see what I was doing, since there was a random car in a back corner of the parking lot. Once he saw I was photographing the moon, he was really cool about it, and left me to it.

Listening to a Martin Bailey podcast recently, photographer David Kingham talked about the “500 rule” for shooting the night sky. Basically, the rule says that to avoid motion blur in celestial bodies, your maximum shutter speed should be 500/(your focal length), or in this case, 500/300, or less than 2 seconds. If I was shooting with my 28mm lens, I can drag the exposure out to 500/28, or about 17 seconds, before you start to get star trails. This image was right at 2 seconds, and did not seem to get the motion blur, but anything I shot longer than that quickly did. That also means that the 600mm lens has to have an exposure of less than 1 second at f8, which means pushing the ISOs really high.

This was set up on a tripod (I use a Manfrotto 190CXPRO4 4-Section Carbon Fiber Tripod with a ball head) and fired with a Nikon Wireless Remote to minimize camera shake.

Once I had the images, I imported them into Capture One Pro 8,  brought the white and black points in and added “punch” clarity to the image, and added some positive vignetting to correct the vignetting in the lens.

 

 

First look at Capture One Pro 8

Phase One released version 8 of their Capture One software. I downloaded a copy, so let’s take a look at some of the new features, and some thoughts on the new version. This is a first impression, I reserve the right to amend my opinions with more time working with the software!

New and notable:

Film grain emulation

I don’t normally add grain to my images, but Capture One’s new film grain might tempt me to use it more. There are 6 options: fine, silver rich, soft, cubic, tabular, and harsh. The following are examples of each, 100% crop and 60% grain added. I like the fine and silver grain, it adds a little depth and character to the image without being overpowering. The others seem good, but would probably see less usage in my work.

Fine Grain
Silver grain
Soft grain
Cubic grain
Tabular grain
Harsh grain

Clarity

Phase One added a Natural option to the clarity tool, which seems to mess with colors a lot less than punch, more in line with the classic and neutral options. Which one you use would depend on the image and the effect you are looking for. The images below are cropped to 100%, and have 60% clarity applied, more than you would with most images.

No Clarity Enhancement
Punch Clarity
Classic Clarity
Natural Clarity
Neutral Clarity

Clone and Heal Layers

These add a lot of power for retouching images. This isn’t a Photoshop beater for the professional retoucher, but can probably let you avoid going to Photoshop for a lot of the lighter blemish removal type tasks. The clone layers are similar to the stamp tool in Photoshop, copying one part of the image to another. The Heal layers also work similar to the Photoshop healing brush, adding additional processing to blend the cloned area with the area you are covering.

The biggest limitation I see is that the relation from the healed spot to the area it is cloning from is fixed for each layer, and you are limited to ten layers. So if you take a sample a little below your fix, each spot you retouch will take a sample the same distance below the fix. So the layer might work great on the top of someone’s forehead, but lower down you would catch the eyebrows, necessitating another layer. This limits some of the larger retouching jobs, but it is an important feature, and executed pretty well.

Also improved:

Phase One also lists improvements in the processing engine, black and white processing, keyword tagging (more on that later), adjustment layers, scripting (Mac only) and other areas.

Keywords are defiantly better, but I want to be able to select a range of photos, type in a keyword, and have it apply to them all. As far as I was able to tell, it only applied to the first one. However, it is easier to copy and paste them, so there is that, which is nice.

Rants:

No map-based geotagging like Lightroom. I don’t use it that much, but it is something I would like to do more of.

Hue sliders should show the colors, and they don’t. Edit: Fixed in 8.0.1

Could just be the images I tried it on, but the Incandescent white balance setting seems way too cool. Haven’t done extensive testing, though.

Vignetting still lags Lightroom by a significant amount. Not that big a deal in most of my work, though.

No Express version, except for one for Sony cameras. I have been using Express, and was planning to upgrade anyways, but it is hard to recommend a $300 piece of software to less serious photographers.

The subscription option is too expensive (in my humble opinion.) Subscriptions are $15/month, with in introductory offer of $10/month. So regular price is $180 a year, or buying the software +$60 every two years. Subscription pricing should be slightly less expensive than buying the software and upgrades, not 20% more, and that’s just the first version. If you figure a 2 year upgrade cycle, which is what C1 seems to be on, purchase the full version + 1 upgrade (4 years of current product) costs $400 ($300 for the initial full version, $100 upgrade,) 4 years of subscription (at $15/month) = $720. Even $10/month lands you at $480, and it gets worse the longer you run it. Adobe is offering Photoshop and Lightroom for $10/month, for about 2.5 times the original cost for software ($300 for C1, ~$750 for LR+PS). Not even counting the cost of upgrades, it takes over 6 years to equal the cost of buying it outright. I think $7-10/month would be more reasonable, with a $5 intro.

Raves:

Film grain I would actually use.

The clone and healing layers will replace a lot, but not all, of my trips to Photoshop.

Summary:

While the list of raves is shorter than the rants, it’s only because I am skipping the stuff that was already great, like B&W, highlight/shadow recovery, and (for me, anyways) a better user interface.

I am planning to purchase the upgrade (running the demo now) and probably remove Lightroom from most of my workflow.

All in all a solid upgrade to a great product.

Have you upgraded? What did you think? Please comment below.

Devil’s Lake Hike

Last weekend I drove out to Devil’s Lake State Park, a popular state park north-west of Madison, WI. I originally wanted to get out there for sunrise, but it is a two hour drive out there, and I ended up getting up around sunrise, rather than two hours earlier. It was still a good trip, since it let me scout for another one I hope to take in a few weeks, as the leaves start to turn. I’ll take a little more time to plan that one, and make sure I get on the road in time for sunrise.

I parked on the south side of the lake, so it was a new area for me, basically turning around at the same point I normally do, but in the opposite direction.

Balancing Rock

This image really captures why I shoot raw and like Capture One. This image is the lowest exposure I took to create an HDR, so the majority of the image was a couple stops underexposed. I ended up just bringing the exposure up by .7 of a stop, and added a lot of highlight and shadow recovery in Capture One, giving me an image that I think works as well as a traditional composite HDR image.

I didn’t take a closer picture of the balancing rock, because climbers were using it to anchor ropes, which kind of messed up the shot.

Devil’s Doorway

Another shot of The Devil’s Doorway. I think I like the lower angle in my previous shot, but this is a cool place to come and try some new angles and new ideas. It is often worth going back and revisiting places and subjects you have photographed before, and see how the changing conditions, seasons, or your own evolution as a photographer effects your images.

While I was here, a couple came up, and the woman was going to take a picture of the man with her iPhone. I offered to take one for them, so they could both be in it. She looked at me, with a DSLR, camera bag and tripod, and said “I don’t know, it doesn’t look like you know what you are doing.” I took a couple pictures for them, which they were very grateful for.

One of the Potholes

Devil’s Lake’s Potholes were probably formed by water sometime around the last ice age. Very different to see the smooth, flowing shapes in the normally very angular quartzite.

Sunlight on a plant

The sun was catching just the sprig at the end of this plant. It ends up losing some of the context it had in real life, but I think the picture worked.

Playing with off camera flash for close-up photography

I saw this little plant, and decided to try to use my flash off-camera. Fun little exercise.

Road America Trip

My wife’s family has been involved in auto racing for many years, but we have not been at the track for the last few years. She wanted to go up to Road America to watch the IMSA Tudor United SportsCar Championship races, so we went up for the festivities Saturday, August 9th. Most of the day was practice and qualifying for the main events Sunday.

One of the most interesting cars there was the Deltawing car, one of the prototype division cars. The front wheels are quite close together, and very narrow.

The Deltawing Prototype in practice
The Deltawing team working on the car in the paddock.

The tires on the left are for the front wheels, the right for the rear wheels. I am a little surprised it performs as well as it does, with such narrow wheels, and it’s almost tricycle layout.

The Deltawing’s tires, showing the difference between the front and rear tires.

Yes, I am an Aston Martin fan. They are (in my opinion) the most beautiful cars in production today. And James Bond drives them.

Nose of the Mantella Autosport Grand Sport division Aston Martin V8 Vantage.
The TRG-AMR Grand Sport Aston Martin V8 Vantage
For more power, the TRG-AMR Aston Martin V12 Vantage

And who doesn’t like a Ferrari?

Ferrari F458 Italia engine
Cleaning the nose of the Ferrari

And what is racing without a few crashes? Not something you want to see happen to a driver, but it is part of racing.

Spin
I Fought the Wall, and the Wall Won
One of the great things about open cockpit cars, at least from the perspective of the wrecker drivers.

 

EAA Airventure 2014

For the second year in a row, my wife and I went the EAA AirVenture airshow in Oshkosh. For anyone unfamiliar with it, the AirVenture is about a week long event that brings in pilots and airplanes from all over the world. During that week, Whittman Regional Airport claims to be the busiest airport in the world, based on airplane movements.

The show is a great chance to see a wide variety of aircraft, from home-builts to some of the largest planes in the world, to current and historic warbirds, and see them both up close and personal, and flying.

They also have some other things around, like this Morgan 3-wheeler. The Morgan was driven by Richard Hammond in one of the episodes of Top Gear, and happens to be powered by an engine made by S&S Performance, here in Wisconsin.

A Morgan Three Wheeler. The engine is made by Wisconsin based S&S Performance.

Speaking of the biggest planes in the world, the size of the C-17 is incredible. This shot captures the scale of the tail over the crowd waiting to tour it. (Corrected, previously said C-5)

The massive tail of a C17

The first performer at the air show itself was Sean D. Tucker, in the Oracle sponsored Challenger III biplane.

Sean D. Tucker’s Challenger III Biplane

Sean after his performance.

Sean D. Tucker after his show

An aerobatic rated Beechcraft Bonanza, a 6-seat general aviation aircraft. Doing aerobatics in this is kind of like entering your minivan in a drifting competition. While it can’t do some of the crazy stuff purpose built aircraft like the Challenger III can, it is definitely a  high performance aircraft.

An Aerobatic rated Beechcraft Bonanza

The B-24 Liberator “Diamond Lil,” one of the earliest B-24 still flying. It is one of the aircraft owned and flown by the Commemorative Airforce. As a bit of history buff, especially interested in the World War II era, I love seeing these old planes fly, and even get a little choked up seeing them, knowing what they, and the crews that flew them, have seen in combat.

B-24 “Diamond Lil” in flight

The US Coast Guard came and ran a demonstration of water rescue techniques, except the swimmer couldn’t dive from the helicopter, since it was over ground. This is the swimmer initially being lowered from the helicopter, after which the helicopter moved off, to allow the swimmer to do his work, then circled around and picked the swimmer, and would have picked up the victim with one of a number of options, such as slings or stretchers.

The Coast Guard demonstrating rescue techniques.

A V-22 Osprey shortly after takeoff. The Osprey has a pair of tilting nacelles with turbo-prop driven rotors. The aircraft can either take off vertically, or with a short takeoff roll, which allows for an increased capacity. Once the aircraft is in the air, the rotors are slowly rotated forward, and the plane transitions into fixed-wing flight.

Osprey shortly after takeoff
The engine nacelle on an Osprey VTOL/STOL plane.

The final show was the Air Force Thunderbirds. They were not flying last year for the airshow due to budget cuts, but were back in the air this year.

The Thunderbirds were a great show. They seem to like scaring the audience by getting you to look at part of the team, and then another plane come and buzz the crowd, traveling fast enough to almost outrun their own sound, so you don’t hear them until they are right on top of you.

The Thunderbird Arrowhead Formation
All 6 Thunderbirds flying in a Delta Formation
Thunderbirds solo planes perform a Reflection Pass

The EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) was founded in 1953, and it’s first permanent home, after the founder’s basement, was in the Milwaukee suburb of Franklin, where I live now. They moved to their current location in Oshkosh, WI in 1983. The facility includes the EAA Museum, which houses over 200 aircraft.

I joined the EAA while we were there, since it was only $10 more to join and use the member discount than just getting tickets, and it will allow me free admission to the AirVenture museum, and a subscription to Sport Aviation magazine.

I am looking forward to visiting the museum, and more visits to the Fly In in the coming years.

Like what you see? Follow me on Twitter for updates.

Milwaukee Art Museum

The Milwaukee Art Museum at night.

One of the first photos with my new D610. 28mm f/4 PC-Nikkor, 30 seconds, f/11 (I think, no EXIF data from this lens).

For the long exposure, I am using a Manfrotto tripod and ball head, then using an ML-L3 wireless remote, setting the camera in Remote mirror-up (Menu > Shooting Menu > Remote Control Mode > Remote Mirror Lockup) were the first press of the shutter button locks the mirror up, and the second fires the shutter.

Comparing Capture One Pro and Express

I have been using Capture One Express as my primary RAW processing program for a while now. The workflow works well for me, and I like the results. After looking at some of the videos on Phase One’s youtube channel, I started thinking about upgrading. I currently have a demo version of Pro set up on another computer, and thought I would post a comparison of the two versions.

Disclaimer: This is a comparison of the main features, there are other options and features not covered here. Phase One offers a 60 day trial, and when you start the program it asks which version you want to run. Download the eval version, and use this as a guide to the available features.

Screenshots are from Mac for C1 Express or Lightroom, Windows for Pro.

Common Features:

A lot of the features are common across both Pro and Express, including: Continue reading “Comparing Capture One Pro and Express”