Joe Carr
Photography
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How I started with photography

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Conventional darkroom

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Digital photography

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Nikon Coolpix digital cameras

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Nikon Super Coolscan 4000ED transparency scanner

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Digital darkroom

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Digital photography links

 

How I started with photography

When I was a kid, my parents and I took a bus tour through British Columbia, and ended up at the construction site of the Bennett hydro-electric dam in Northern BC. I had a Grace 126  snapshot camera with me, and took a couple of dozen pictures. The photography bug bit, and as of today, I have well over 3,000 slides and negatives. My current film-based camera gear includes two Minolta XD-11 35mm SLR camera bodies, various lenses from wide angle to zoom, a Vivitar 285 electronic flash, various filters and special effects devices, and a tripod. I shoot mostly colour slide film (Fuji 100 ASA), so I also have a good quality projection screen, as well as a Zeiss Pradolux RT-300 slide projector. This combo gives superb images, due to the precise Zeiss optics in the projector and the matte finish on the screen.

Conventional Darkroom

In the 1970's and 1980's I equipped myself with a decent darkroom, including enlarger and Cibachrome positive-to-positive chemicals and papers for colour work. In the ensuing years, I did many colour enlargements of my slides using this setup, as well as some black and white work. In many ways, the black and white was much more enjoyable, since you can see what you are doing while the print develops in the trays before your eyes. Cibachrome (and the other colour processes) all require more of a cookbook approach to print development - consistency is the key. In any case, I became quite proficient in darkroom work, and took good advantage of my formal darkroom training that I received from BCIT in the Photogrammetry lab. Today, I have many enlargements hanging on my walls and in my files which are the result of this darkroom work, however I eventually lost interest in conventional darkroom, sold my gear, and moved on...

Digital Photography

I purchased a Microtek ScanMaker 35t Plus slide scanner in late 1996. My first choice was to purchase a digital camera, however the market (at the time) was still developing new technology for these devices. I therefore decided to continue to use my 35mm camera setup, and scan slides and negatives where needed. A digital camera which delivered equivalent quality to my slide scanner cost tens of thousands of dollars (at the time). While I waited for the market to catch up to my demands, I developed my skills in working with digital photos on my computer system using this setup.

Nikon Coolpix digital cameras

Nikon Coolpix 4500 digital cameraI finally decided to take the plunge and purchased a digital camera in October of 1998 - a SVmini-209.  I had so much fun with this (fairly limited) digital camera, that in July of 1999 I purchased a much more capable digital camera - the Nikon Coolpix 950My 950 became my workhorse camera, traveling with me everywhere.  I ended up taking over 3,000 photos with this camera between 1999 and 2002.  In 2002 I decided to upgrade to another digital camera from Nikon, the Coolpix 4500. The 4500's systems were completely redesigned by Nikon, and offered me some features I could make use of for my interest in Astronomy and astrophotography.

The Nikon 950 was a best-rated 2 mega-pixel digital camera with a 3x optical zoom, and the Nikon 4500 was a best-rated 4 megapixel digital camera with a 4x optical zoom.

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Nikon 950 camera review by Steve's Digicams.

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Some sample shots I took with the Nikon 950.

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Trip to Vancouver in 1999 - features some dramatic shots of the cityscape I took using the Nikon 950.  I used a Tiffen Circular Polarizer filter.  The deep blue skies, luxuriant green foliage, and lack of spectral reflections off the glass and metal enhances the look of the images by increasing the colour saturation.

At the time I purchased the Coolpix 950, I thought it was time to retire my two Minolta XD-11 35mm SLR film-based cameras  Virtually all the photos I took since getting the two digital cameras have been digital photos, so it appeared the trend was set.  The Nikon Coolpix cameras opened up my creative side, since they were such capable digital camera systems.  It was so liberating to not have to worry about film.  Images load directly onto my computer's hard drives from the digital camera.  This feature become very attractive to me, and being able to post images to my website the very same day that they were taken is an intangible benefit of digital photography I hadn't fully appreciated previously.

Nikon Coolpix 4500 digital camera built on my experience with the older 950.  I found several features in the 4500 that lent themselves to astrophotography:

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noise reduction (aka dark frame).  This was one of the first consumer digital cameras with this feature. 

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CCD sensitivity can be set to a choice of ISO 100, 200, 400 or 800.

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long exposures of up to 5 minutes.

After performing some Dark Frame Tests using the 4500, I realized this camera was indeed very useful for astrophotography.  Of course, it is was also a very capable camera for normal photography as well. The Nikon Coolpix 5400 is a very nice point-and-shoot digital camera, with many improvements over the design of its predecessors, the 950 and 4500.  I took this camera with me when small size was required, or when I just wanted to take some snapshots.  This camera's design didn't lend itself to astrophotography, however I had that covered with my other Imaging Hardware.My Nikon Coolpix 4500 digital camera was stolen from my checked bag while I was on a flight from Auckland, New Zealand to Victoria, BC, Canada on May 21, 2004.

The Canon EOS 300D Digital Rebel digital SLRCanon EOS 300D Digital Rebel digital SLR camera was my first Canon camera, but it came highly recommended by astrophotographers around the world since Canon used the best low noise CMOS sensor available for this camera and its bigger brother the 10D.  I also used this camera for normal terrestrial use.  Having used point-and-shoot digital cameras for the previous few years, I hadn't realized how much I missed using an SLR.  They have fewer limitations and design compromises as compared with point-and-shoot cameras, providing the photographer with so much more flexibility and ease of use.

I sold my Digital Rebel after a few years and purchased a Canon 30D, which was an amazing workhorse both for conventional and astronomy photography.  I still have this camera after it taking thousands of frames for me.  I next purchased a Canon XTi which was specially modified by Hutech Corporation in California to be more sensitive to the infrared spectrum that is so common with emission nebulae with my work in astrophotography.  A quantum leap in technology by Canon convinced me to purchase a Canon 50D dSLR, which is the current winner in my eyes for offering the best features to meet my needs for conventional photography.  It is also an outstanding instrument for taking astronomy photographs despite it not being modified to be more sensitive to infrared like my XTi is.

Canon dSLRs are one of my main imaging sources for my Astrophotographs.  Please refer to my Imaging Hardware page for more details about how I acquire my astronomy images.

Despite being firmly in the digital imaging camp, I still have thousands of slides and other transparencies I want to digitize.  I replaced the ScanMaker 35t+ film scanner (with its rather limited resolution and dynamic range) with the Nikon Super Coolscan 4000ED and quickly found new uses for my existing archive of film images.

Nikon Super Coolscan 4000ED film scanner features

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Dynamic Range of 4.2 -  means this scanner "sees" more of the subtle detail to be found in the film emulsion.  This is especially apparent in deep shadows and highlights.  The 14-bit A/D conversion input and 16-bit output is a primary reason for this achievement, although obviously the lenses used, the LED lighting, and other scanner subsystems all contribute to a superb result.

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4,000 dpi maximum resolution -  I make use of this resolution for astronomical photos, but really don't need this high resolution for photos of regular subject matter.  I purchased the scanner based on its Dynamic Range more than the high resolution.

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Digital ICE3 (cubed) - software technology (developed by Applied Science Fiction Inc.), which improves the final results of film scans in three ways:
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Digital ICE (Image Correction & Enhancement) - this feature is simply awesome, and is almost worth the premium price for this scanner all by itself.  Using an infrared scan built into the scanner hardware, this software detects any "dirt" (dust, scratches, fingerprints, etc.) in the film being scanned, then masks them out of the final image scan.  This feature saves hours and hours of hand spotting scanned images, or running complicated filters over images that are not always successful.

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Digital ROC (Reconstruction of Colour) - again, quite amazing what this technology can do to restore faded colours from old film, or correcting strange hues caused by underwater photography or processing chemical stains.

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Digital GEM (Grain Equalization & Management) - I haven't made use of this technology very much, but at high resolution scans, Digital GEM will "smooth" the results, since individual grains of film are apparent at high resolutions.

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SCANNER NIKKOR ED high-resolution/high-performance lens - Nikon has a well-deserved reputation for producing some of the best lenses for their cameras as well as their scanners.  This 7 element lens is specially-optimized for high resolution scanning, and is key to the success of this scanner in dealing with images other scanners simply give up on.

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Scanning speed throughput - when scanning at these high resolutions, it can take some scanners five minutes or more to deliver an image to the computer.  Nikon's claim that this scanner will scan a full frame 35mm film in 38 seconds is very close to what I am achieving.

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Firewire Interface - this interface to the computer is the fastest technology around, and is considerably faster than either SCSI or USB1.x, both of which are used by other scanner manufacturers.  The 4000ED even comes with a Firewire (IEEE1394) adapter and cable right in the box.

 

Digital Darkroom

So, now we're back to the darkroom...but a digital version this time:

Image Acquisition

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Canon 50D dSLR camera

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Hutech-modified Canon XTi dSLR

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Olympus Stylus 770 SW ruggedized point-and-shoot digital camera

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Nikon Super Coolscan 4000ED slide/transparency scanner

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HP 2200C flatbed scanner

Image Processing & Storage

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Pentium D 3.2GHz computer with 4Gb memory

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Dell 24" monitor

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2 Tb hard drive storage

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2 8Gb DVD read/write drives

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Minolta/QMS magicolor 2200 DeskLaser colour laser printer

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HP Laserjet 1200 printer (gray scale, B&W prints)

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Various graphics software packages (ACDSee Pro, Corel Photopaint, ImagesPlus, NeatImage, Canon FileViewer & ZoomBrowser).

 

Digital photography links

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photo.net - this website offers it all - great photos, good advice, free web-based services, photo technique.  Both film-based and digital photography are covered.  This used to be Phil Greenspun's photo.net, but now it is much larger than Phil.

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Travel with photo.net - Phil Greenspun's Phil Greenspun's Travels with Samantha is on this site - but this famous story isn't the only gem to be found here. Stunning photos and entertaining narratives are written by many contributors. I use this site to motivate me to strive for excellence in photography.

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Terra Galleria - travel, adventure, landscape, and nature photography - over 20,000 photographs online - by Quang-Tuan Luong

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Photography @ nationalgeographic.com - Who better to seek advice from than the masters of photography - National Geographic?  Lots of links to other websites.  Or just browse their National Geographic Photography--galleries, postcards, tips page for inspiration.

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From the Darkroom to the Desktop - Canon's Powershot website - the tutorials are worth reading, irrespective of what brand of digital camera you are using or plan to buy.

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Short Courses in Digital Photography - by Dennis Curtin

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mdiusa.com - good price and feature comparisons (in US$)

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Steve's Digicams - reviews of digital cameras, lots of specs, sample photos

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Digital Cameras - Unbiased reviews, prices and advice from Digital Camera HQ

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If you have any comments about these pages, or just wish to chat, please Contact me

Revised: January 06, 2014

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