As raw as your eye

Dave here for another #TravelTuesday post, and I’m glad to see this week’s news of progress with vaccines because I’m so over this now!

Let’s begin with an update from my world: –

This is far from the first cancellation I’ve had this year as those who follow me are aware, but this is the fourth attempt at one particular trip and it’s a rather time-sensitive one. I’m off to record a new class in northern Norway and if I can’t get it done really soon, the arctic will plunge into Polar Night and I simply won’t be able to do it. I watched a movie last night, which had a song in it with the following lyrics: –

Where the northern lights burst out in colors
And the magic nights surpass all others
Það eina sem ég þrái er, að vera
[All I want is to be]

The movie was Eurovision, and it just made me want to be back on the road again. For now, I can’t do anything about it aside from hope my fourth rescheduled flight to Norway is not cancelled and I can get there to shoot in isolation. Fingers crossed!

As for today’s insight into what I find important in photography, however, I want to talk about eyes. The heading suggests something about shooting RAW, and what I want to do is touch on comparisons between these two things.

I’m lost for sources right now, but I specifically recall hearing that our eyes see 13 stops of light, which is an incredible range. When we talk about light in photography we often talk about “dynamic range.” The range-of-light levels perceptible in our image is what we’re interested in. The “dynamic” element to this is how the level moves up and down a scale of light levels. Having the ability to absorb light from a broader range of this spectrum allows us far more creative control in post-process, as well as having richer tones in our image. Our eye is the ultimate tool for this, but camera sensors have developed in their abilities from being able to only see one stop of light, through to artificially seeing perhaps two or three, all the way to the incredible tech that is now packed into our sensors affording us a far greater range.

I was blown away recently with my Nikon sensor being able to capture the moonless night sky and unlit background, the faint, dancing aurora, and the insanely stark contrast of the light of civilisation all in one frame with no clipping (that being the loss of detail in highlights or shadows), and it serves as a reminder that we should always shoot in RAW.

Each camera brand gives the RAW file format a different name. In Nikon, it’s NEF, in Canon it’s CRW, in Sony it’s ARW, with plenty of other names to boot. But here’s the point: –

If we shoot in RAW, we are able to manipulate that information far better than if we shoot in JPEG. Where a JPEG compresses our file to save space it also lacks the detail we need in order to make comprehensive adjustments. A RAW file doesn’t compress our image and, as such, each individual pixel is a true representation of the colour and tone of the photon that passed through our lens and hit our sensor the moment we pressed the shutter button. With that information available, we are given far greater control when it comes to making adjustments because Adobe can look at the pixel and know exactly what to do with it, rather than looking at a comparable JPEG file and making a guess. It’s a no brainer. For those who post on Facebook groups asking about shooting RAW and those who simply aren’t able to make their mind up, I can tell you this with confidence. Of the world’s professional photographers, it’s fair to say that 99.9% of those who shoot outside of sports and journalism, that being those who don’t retouch their images and simply upload them and wire them to a news agency, are shooting RAW.

Shot raw

If you aren’t shooting RAW, I offer you the following piece of life-changing advice: – Shoot RAW!

Much love

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