Peter Aitken Photographs
 

Technical Information

 

I don't think the technical details of digital photography are particularly interesting. One must master them, to be sure, but I feel that many photographers spend way too much time and energy fretting about pixel counts, lens sharpness, and printing papers, and too little working on their vision and aesthetic sensibilities. Just think of all the technically perfect but dull-as-dirt photos you see out there! Technical skill is a means to an end and should never be the end itself.

That being said, it is perfectly legitimate for one photographer to be interested in the tools and techniques used by another. In the off chance that anyone is interested, here is a rundown of the equipment and software I use and a brief overview of my workflow.

Cameras

Nikon D600
Panasonic G3
Olympus E-M1

Lenses

For the Nikon:Sigma 35mm f/1.4, Nikkor AF-S 70-200mm f/4 ED; Nikkor AF-S 105mm f/2.8 ED macro; Sigma 24-105mm f/4.0

For the Panasonic G3: 7-14mm, 14-42mm, 45-200mm, and 100-300mm Lumix zooms.

For the Olympus E-M1: 12-60mm Olympus, 50-200mm Olympus, 50 mm Olympus f/2 macro

Tripod Hakuba HG540mx with Acratech Ultimate ballhead
Computer Dell Studio-XP with i7 2.9 GHz CPU, 24GB RAM, Windows 7/64 bit.
Primary disk (boot and programs): 2x500GB in RAID 0.
Image storage: 2x1.5 TB disks in external eSATA RAID 0.
Backup: 4x1TB disks in network RAID 5.
Monitors

NEC MultiSync PA301w and 2690wuxi.

Scanner Epson Perfection V750 Pro
Printer Epson 7900
Primary software Lightroom 5, Photoshop CS5
Monitor calibration NEC Spectraview with X-Rite i1 "puck"
Color space viewing/comparing Color Think Pro
Printing Q-Image Ultimate (although I print from Photoshop or Lightroom most of the time)
Sharpening PK Sharpener
Upsampling and creating canvas wrap borders Perfect Resize (used to be called Genuine Fractals)
Noise reduction Noise Ninja
B&W conversion Silver Efex Pro (rarely used)
High dynamic range HDR Expose 3
Panorama stitching PT GUI
Focus correction Focus Magic

Note: My primary kit used to be the full-frame Nikon D700, but I found that hauling the heavy camera and 3 or 4 heavy lenses was taking a lot of the fun out of photography. I decided to try the 12 MP Panasonic G2 and was very impressed, moving up to the 16MP G3 when it became available. Lens quality is excellent (they are Leica optics, after all), with an effective focal length equal to twice the full-frame equivalent (due to the half-full-frame size "four-thirds" sensor). At low ISOs I was hard-pressed to find even a subtle superiority of D700 images over the G2/G3 (the D700 had a definite advantage for high ISO work). With my 4 Lumix lenses I covered a 14-600mm equivalent range in a kit that fits into a medium-sized backpack and does not require a donkey to carry. My D700 kit collected more and more dust until I finally sold it. See for yourself; all the images in my Alaska portfolio were taken with the G2 and those in the Nicaragua portfolio with the G3, using the Lumix lenses listed above.

When Nikon released the D800 and D600, however, temptation got the better of me. I opted for the 24 MP D600 because it is lighter. And, at more than double the pixel count of the D700, it offered a noticeable improvement in image quality. The Utah portfolio was taken with this camera.

Most recently, the Olympus E-M1 caught my eye. This is an advanced and sophisticated micro 4/3 camera that is head and shoulders above the G3 (although they have the same pixel count at 16MP), with the added attraction of Olympus's extensive line of highest quality 4/3 lenses (which can be used on a M4/3 camera with an adapter). My Japan portfolio was created using the E-M1.

My Workflow

This is a general outline of my workflow. Specifics will, of course, change from image to image.

The first steps, and sometimes all steps, are done in Lightroom. I find the LR Raw converter to be fine for 98% of my photos. Once in a while I will try the Nikon, Panasonic, or Olympus converters that came with my cameras, and occasionally this will provide a subtly better conversion than LR.

I then make the various image adjustments that LR does so well: crop/rotate, white balance, exposure, vibrance, blacks, spot correction, and clarity are the ones I use most often. As LR has evolved over the years it has become more and more of a "one stop" tool, particularly now that it has soft proofing. Thus, most of my images receive all their processing in LR, from where I can print, upload, or export them as needed.

There are some things I can't, or prefer not to, do in LR. These include using content-aware fill, working in LaB color mode, using complex masks, and printing canvas wraps. In these situations I open the image in Photoshop. Opening as a SmartObject is a nice idea because all of your edits are non-destructive, but some of the tools and techniques I use will not work with a SmartObject, so this is not an option for me. For learning LR you can't do better than the video tutorials available at The Luminous Landscape web site. The site's forums are also a great source of information.

 

 

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