Saturday, September 10, 2005

A great tool for digital photographers

I have just discovered a great new tool for digital photographers. It is called DxO Optics and it is available from www.dxo.com.

As we all know, no camera or lens is perfect. Some combinations are better than others. What DxO does is to investigate the weaknesses of each camara/lens combo and then tries to correct them. It is extremely easy to use and works well as long as you shoot in RAW mode and use DxO before doing any other processing. Here are some examples:

This shot was taken with a Nikon D70 with the 18-70 kit lens:


Original


After using DxO


This shot was taken with a Nikon D70 with a Sigma 70-200 2.8 HSM DG lens


Original


After using DxO

Note the extra detail on the tail fin.

DxO fixes sharpness, exposure, colour, etc... There are no settings, it simply fixes what it considers to be a weakness with the lens and camera combination. You choose the pictures you want to 'fix' and hit the go button. It takes a while with RAW images, so have a cup of coffee while you wait.

A downside is the cost. The standard version is $159. The Elite version which is for 'pro' cameras and lenses, costs $249. In each case you are paying for only one camera and one lens. Extra lenses are between $39 and $79 each!!!! So for me with a Nikon D70, Nikon 18-70 and a Sigma 70-200 2.8 the cost will be $159 + $39 = $198. There is no support for my Sigma 50-500 as yet.

This looks like a lot of money, but if you consider how long it can take do sort out a couple of 1gb compact flash cards manually using Photoshop, DxO seems worth it.

What do you think?

Friday, September 09, 2005

A weekend at Kleinmond




A few weeks ago we needed to getaway and ended up at the Beach House in Kleinmond about an hour up the east coast from Cape Town on the way to Hermanus. What a wonderful location.

Kleinmond lies at a small lagoon on the narrow coastal belt between fynbos-covered mountains and the Atlantic sea and forms part of the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, the first and only Biosphere in South Africa to be proclaimed by United Nations' Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). This means that the whole Hangklip - Kleinmond area is to be managed according to international principles which aim to combine conservation, sustainable use of natural resources and wise development.

Kleinmond has been a favourite summer-holiday destination for many farmers since 1860. Farmers from Caledon and nearby areas began making this annual pilgrimage to camp near the Palmiet lagoon and the Klein Botriver mouth, near to where the Hotel stands today. Church services were held near the Kleinmond lagoon from as early as 1902. The tree which stands there has earned the name of 'die Preek Boom' (the sermon tree). Church services are still performed there during the festive season.

Of special interest are the wild horses, roaming free in the marshlands surrounding Kleinmond. Believed to be South Africa's only herd of wild horses in a wetland habitat, they roam the Bot River Lagoon area, next to Rooisands Nature Reserve.

Then there is the rare Strawberry Frog, the endangered Cape Plantanna and the micro frog. Whales are easily visible from May to December along the magnificent Hangklip - Kleinmond coast. Any inlet or small sheltered bay allows some of the best views.

The sea was a bit rough when we went, so not too many whales in sight. Below are some photos we took.


The coastal road to Kleinmond


The Beach House Hotel


Our room


View from the room


The Whale Crier blows a horn when whales are in sight


The lagoon


Leaden skies

Thursday, September 08, 2005

An unusual sight over Cape Town

Today I saw an unusual sight over Cape Town. As I had just taken delivery of my new Sigma 70-200 2.8 HSM DG lens, I decided to shoot myself a Zeppelin.

The German-built airship or Zeppelin arrived on Monday in South Africa where it has been chartered by diamond producer De Beers for use as a platform for diamond exploration in southern Africa.

Astonished onlookers noticed the vessel floating near Cape Town's landmark Table Mountain after it was unloaded at the city's dock and took off for the Ysterplaat military base about 30km away.

The airship, a prototype Zeppelin-NT of the Friederichshafen-based Luftschifftechnik GmbH and one of only three of its kind in the world, was flown from the factory near Lake Constance to Amsterdam and shipped to South Africa.

De Beers spokesperson Tom Tweedy confirmed on Monday that the company chartered the 75m long German airship that will be fitted with measuring equipment to enable the study of geological formations that indicated the presence of diamonds in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana.

The company plans to send the airship, named "Friedrichshafen" by its manufacturers, on its first mission in mid September.