RAW. Just shoot it!

Not too long ago, I had a conversation with someone who had some nice new mirrorless camera gear.

I asked them if they were shooting RAW format and jpeg format, just RAW format, or just jpegs.  They answer was “just jpegs.”

To which I replied: “RAW.  Just shoot it!”


Many of us have digital cameras that will capture images in RAW format in addition to jpeg.  RAW is somewhat of a generic term for a “raw” image file that stores everything that the camera sensor captured when you clicked the shutter.  Some cameras only capture the jpeg, which is compressed and processed for optimal results according to the camera manufacturer’s software.  The jpeg images are also smaller than RAW files – sometimes by as much as 75%.

So, why shoot RAW (which in reality has many different filename extensions – .nef, .raf, etc. – it’s whatever the manufacturer wants to call it) if you have to process it and it’s a bigger file?

In simple terms, it presents a wider range of editing and processing options, particularly if the jpeg is overexposed or underexposed.  You might be really unhappy with your jpeg – but you can probably make a winner out of the RAW file in your editing software.  RAW images can have an exposure latitude of +/- 2 stops or more – that’s really a wide margin for error.  You can also work to bring out the shadow detail in a RAW file, or tone down the highlights to even out an image.

I have to admit that when I first got a camera that was capable of shooting RAW images (a Fuji S-9000 9MP all-in-one) – I didn’t shoot RAW.

Confession time: I was intimidated by the notion of digital processing more so than anything else, and was under the (mistaken) impression that the jpegs my camera put out were the best that could be done with the image.  One word: WRONG!

I started to play around with RAW, and as I got comfortable with processing images, actually reached the point where now I only shoot RAW.  It started to get to be too much to organize and keep straight. Most of my processed images are saved as jpegs (although some are saved as lossless .tif files if I really had to do some work on them – and then saved as jpegs) for posting.  You can always convert the RAW image to whatever file format you’d like, but you can never work backwards to the original information and quality of the RAW file.

You can use the software that came with your camera, or download free software such as Picasa by Google or Gimp, or buy software (Acdsee, Adobe, Corel, onOne, etc.) to process your RAW files.  It might take some time to learn the software, and you might actually have to read the instructions, but it’s well worth it!

So, in case you missed my point…  RAW.  Just shoot it!

Weekend in New Hampshire

This itinerary is based on a trip to (1) photograph fall foliage, (2) eat well, and (3) relax, but it can work any time! It is a busy itinerary, so you can take it for what it is, or for some ideas for your own itinerary. You might decide this is a good week-long trip instead of a weekend.  Depending on where you live and how flexible your schedule is, there’s as much luck involved as there is planning to catch the leaves in their prime.

Starting point: Boston on a Friday morning (you can also start this trip in Portsmouth, NH instead of Boston – this gives you another hour or so to photograph on the first day of the trip).  Take Route 1 north and head to breakfast in Salem, MA at Red’s Sandwich Shop (insert website). If you’re lucky, you’ll find the lobster omelet on the menu. It’s decadent, and you’ve got to do it at least once in your life.  From there, make your way via Route 114 to I-95 and head north. You’ll be on 95 until you reach the Spaulding Turnpike / Route 16 in New Hampshire – and you’ll head north/northwest on that as well to Conway, NH.  You’ll soon enter the White Mountain National Forest.

Your next turn is a left on the Kancamangus Highway a.k.a. Route 112. There will be numerous photo opportunities on your right as you follow the Swift River. There are places where you can safely pull off the highway and make your way to the river’s edge for photos.  Three must do locations are: Albany Covered Bridge, Rocky Gorge Park (don’t think about swimming) and the Lower Falls Scenic Area . There’s also a scenic view near the summit that provides a broad vista.  Once your cross the summit, there aren’t as many opportunities, as the views tend to shift to the south side of the road, which would have you shooting into the sun.

DSCF4997~1 blog

As you head into Lincoln, it might be time for lunch. While there are probably other great places to eat, we’ve had some great meals at Gordi’s.  If you’re into trains as well as leaves, the Hobo Railroad is in Lincoln.

Your next run is going to be a right: I-93 north.  Consider the following:  Clark’s Trading Post, which has a bear show and the White Mountain Central Railroad, The Flume Gorge (easy hike and well worth it), and the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway if the weather is cooperating.

Take I-93 North to Littleton, NH.  The Frog has been staying at Thayer’s Inn in Littleton for over 20 years.  Thayer’s has been there since before the Civil War.  There’s probably not a square corner or a level floor in the place.  It’s neat, it’s quirky, it’s got stories, history, and some say, ghosts.  Baliwick’s Fine Restaurant features great food and an extensive Martini Menu! Dinner and a beverage followed by a short walk to your room are a great way to end the day.

Saturday morning can be spent wandering through Littleton. One can head to Chutters (world’s longest candy counter) or Fresh Salon and Day Spa for a massage – but start your morning at the Littleton Diner – their corned beef hash is without peer.  Last we heard, the Littleton Grist Mill store had closed (lost their lease) but they still have their website.  Littleton is a great, friendly small town, and a reminder that there is life outside the city.

Once you’ve decided that it’s time to move on, it’s time to head north and east to Lancaster via Route 116 and Route 3 where you can stop in at Fuller’s Sugar House where you can sample maple sugar in the same manner as some do wine! Hint: don’t look down your nose at Grade B maple syrup. Our first perception was it couldn’t be as good as Grade A if for no other reason than it was called “Grade B.” Well, we were wrong, and we left with a half-gallon of Grade B to prove it. It’s thicker, darker, and more dense, and preferred by many for cooking and baking purposes. And, a spoonful once in a while will cure any sweet tooth!

From Lancaster, it time to head southeast to Gorham via Route 2. Along the way, there will be several photo opportunities to capture the Presidential Range. You might even see Mount Washington in snow in early October!

The destination in Gorham is Libby’s Bistro (check days and hours first!) – a fantastic restaurant that you might expect to find in a trendy neighborhood in any major metropolitan area – but not necessarily in Gorham, NH.  Go, enjoy, and indulge. You’ll probably want to stay in Gorham, as driving will not be high on your list of things to do after your dinner.  We don’t have any specific recommendations for where to stay in Gorham, but after our first visit to Libby’s we learned that we didn’t want to have to drive back to Littleton after dinner!  There’s also a railroad display and museum at the old Grand Trunk depot in Gorham.

Next morning, you might want to eat breakfast in Gorham, especially if it is a nice day, as you can spend a lot of time photographing your way south along Route 16 as you head south to Conway to finish your circle trip.

Along the way, you’ll pass the Mount Washington Auto Road on your right – a drive of your life if you’re up to it. If you don’t want to drive, you can be driven up in a van. Either way – a trip to the top of Mount Washington is well worth it!  It’s the highest peak in the northeast, it’s got some of the worst weather in the world, and chances are, the weather will be different up top!

On your left will be the Glen Ellis Falls on the Ellis River in Pinkham Notch.  Well worth the stop and short and sometimes steep hike to the bottom of the falls. If you don’t want to head down to the base of the falls, there are photo opportunities along the river and at the top of the falls. If you do head down, be prepared for both you and your gear to get wet from the spray.

Continuing south, you’ll come to Glen, NH. Make a quick right and head to Glen Junction Family Restaurant for lunch. If they’re still serving breakfast, the pumpkin pancakes with maple cream are well worth the calories, whatever they may be.

From there, check the clock and figure out where you have to be and when.  You’ll continue south on Route 16 to Conway to complete the circle, and head back to your reality.  If you have time, the Conway Scenic Railroad in North Conway is worth the stop if time permits.

And that’s an example of a weekend in New Hampshire.  We’ve done it.  It’s busy, and it’s fun.  If you have never explored New Hampshire and the North Country, you could spend a week there.  But… that’s a separate post.

And, if you can’t make it – you can check out the image galleries and get a picture, a mug, a phone case, or an aluminum print from Laughing Frog Images and tell everyone what a great time you had in New Hampshire (but we’d appreciate you fessing up and referring your friends to the Frog!).

All-in-One versus Prime Camera Lenses

Over the years, lens technology has improved and lens size has decreased.   Following on our post about buying a DSLR, we’re going to talk about camera lenses – specifically All-in-One versus Prime Lenses.

Way back when, if you wanted to cover the range from 28mm to 200mm when shooting film, you were probably carrying a 28mm lens, a 50mm lens, a 28-70mm and a 70-210mm lens.  Most high-quality zoom lenses were in the 3X range – that is a range of three times their base number.  Examples include 28-70mm and 70-200 or 70-210mm.  Yes, there were “superzooms” out there with 5X and 10X in those days, but they were known to be compromised in their quality – and if you wanted serious quality, you were carrying around prime lenses.

A prime lens is a lens with a fixed focal length – 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, etc.  Most of the time, they are going to give you better results than a zoom lens or a superzoom lens.  I have 35mm and 50mm prime lenses that I carry on a regular basis – they are fast (f1.8), small, and light.  They are relatively “cheap” – some call them “fantastic plastic”, and can’t be beat for interior or low-light photography.

Today – it’s common to see lenses in the 10X to 15X range, such as 18-200mm and 18-270mm or 18-300mm.  These lenses typically have an optical stabilization or vibration reduction feature as well.  Their quality has improved to the point where they give good to great results throughout their zoom range – and, if you’re not trying to make 30″x40″ prints, they’re great lenses.  In general, the longer the zoom range, the more compromises (vignetting, pin-cushioning, distortion) you’ll need to be aware of to deal with.

Today, many cameras at retail stores are sold as “kits” – you get the body plus an 18-55mm zoom and a 55-200mm or 55-300mm zoom.  Most everyone will find these kits more than adequate for their purposes and needs.  If you go to your local camera shop or one of the big camera retailer website, you might find a choice in kits to the point where you might find it’s the camera plus an 18-200 lens.

  • If you’re going down the all in one path – do your research.  Think about what you want to do.  Check out the manufacturer’s websites to see what’s out there: Canon, Nikon, Sigma, Pentax, Tamron, Tokina,
  • Check out reviews on the manufacturer’s websites and on the web.
  • Talk to your local camera store.
  • Check out reviews on the web: Ken Rockwell, Digital Photography Review, B&H, Adorama
  • And, once you’ve made your choice, enjoy it!

I can’t deny or argue the convenience factor of just carrying a body and one lens.  It’s something that years ago many of us dreamed of, but the quality just wasn’t there.

And now, I enjoy the guilty pleasure of carrying one body and one lens and being able to accomplish most anything.