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December 5, 2009
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I can't believe another year is nearly over. I was about to call this "November Update", I'm running that far behind ;). Although here in Northern Ireland we seem to have had one of the wettest Novembers on record, I was still glad I had the opportunity to get out and about when it wasn't pouring from the heavens.

Several of my recent deviations show the excess amount of water in places where it doesn't normally gather. This led me to some interesting "reflection" photographs, especially Scrabo Reflections which has gone down quite well. It was certainly a case of finding a reflection somewhere unexpected (like the top of a hill)!  What I love about reflection shots is the "photo within a photo". Not only do you worry about composing the main shot, but also extra effort is needed to make the reflection look good. From a hardware perspective, this is where a circular polarizer is indespensible. I've mentioned this before, but it is certainly worth the investment and the time spent rotating this amazing piece of glass to make the most of the reflections available. Before I move on from reflection photos, I can't not shamelessly mention Lagan Rainbow. Apart from the luck of being in the right place at the right time, the polarizer was crucial to achieving the final result.

The Nikon D300s is going well so far. It's solid camera which produces high quality results in the right hands (not necessarily mine! :) ). I recently bought a 16GB card, as my previous cards were a bit on the small side for a couple of hours of shooting. With all this space, I've set my camera up to shoot both JPEG and RAW (rather than just RAW). The JPEG might give a good reference shot when it comes to adjusting the RAW. I haven't yet used it as such however ;) .

Still on the subject of shooting RAW - I am pleased to have upgraded to V6 of DXO Optics. This is a RAW processor I have mentioned before, which seems to work magic in giving superior results (if treated with care of course!) I had missed this software since upgrading to the D300s. Now, my most recent deviations are making use of this program for RAW processing. It also seems to have simplified my workflow.

Speaking of workflow, it is slightly embarassing to look back on the cumbersome workflow journals I wrote previously. There is no doubt that with RAW, some post-processing is required. I have been trying to reduce my workflow to a minimum. Hopefully my more recent photos do not have that "overworked" (or "underworked"!) feel about them. In short, I do some RAW processing in DXO, then some noise reduction, some colour tweaks and finally some sharpening in Photoshop. It seems to produce results I'm happy with. No doubt some of this simplification comes down to the improved features of the D300s - mainly less noise, a higher quality shot, and a higher dynamic range in the RAW (essentially the ability to squeeze some extra detais out of the shadows and highlights).

However, no matter how simple or complex the workflow is, or how many megapixels or noise reduction the camera has, the most important thing is try to get a good composition, exposure and lighting. This is still my biggest challenge, and something I hope will improve as I gather more experience through viewing other works on dA, reading books and magazines, and most crucially getting outside and actually taking the shots.

Finally, a couple of milestones: I have submitted my 250th Deviation (not necessarily something to be proud of, as there are a few in there which in hindsight I'm not so pleased with), and also - at the time of writing, and after 9 happy months on dA - I am only a few views away from the magic 5000. Thank you everyone who has visited, commented on my work, faved or anything else! I do really appreciate it. I wish I had time to reply to every comment and view every deviation, but I'd have to spend every minute of every day on here - and then some - to keep up with it all. I'm sure a lot of people know what I mean, and will understand :) However, I will try to do as much as time allows. Until next time...
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