415 – Living In The Fast Lane

Welcome back to the fourth day of my Nikon D300 user report. You missed the third? Nope, yesterday I had nothing to report 🙂

Let’s look at “Active D-Lighting” today. “D-Lighting” is a term that Nikon used in Capture NX for their variant of Photoshop’s “Shadow / Highlights”. Actually I always liked it better than the Photoshop filter, because it is much less prone to halos. Beginning with the D80 (I think), Nikon introduced a similar functionality in their cameras. I had never seen it before, but of course the D300 has it, and I had to try it out.

“Active D-Lighting” can be activated under the shooting menu, and there are four levels to choose from: “High”, “Normal”, “Low” and “Off”. The default is “Off”, because this function does not come for free. It lowers your maximum burst rate, so, sports shooters, beware!

So far I have it on “Normal” all the time. Images shot in low-contrast situations are not affected, so there is no risk other than lowering a burst rate that I don’t need anyway. OK, but what does it do? Simple. When contrasts are high, it automatically tries to preserve detail in highlights as well as in shadows. The effect on “Normal” is subtle, but I like it.

Today, in clear but slightly hazy weather, I have made a test shot from our garden down the valley, a landscape shot including the bright sun. The result is not bad. Tons of detail in the sky, only the actual sun disc being burnt out, and still detail on the trees in the garden. When I look closely at this ISO 200 shot, I see substantial noise in the shadow areas. Nasty? No. Much better than it would have gone black.

If you have a camera capable of it, and if you have Nikon Capture NX (for the time being, a license coupon comes with the D300), you can try the effects of these settings under the “RAW Adjustments” menu.

To my eyes, the look of the D300 images is very natural, and “Active D-Lighting” is probably the biggest contributing factor. The human eye has a much larger contrast range than any camera’s sensor, and shots made in bright sunlight frequently suffer. Mind, this is no magic, but it works reasonably well, can be switched off after the fact if need be, and it gives me images that simply look “right” to me.

That’s about gear for today. There is more is to come another day.

What’s new on the art front? Oh Goodness, I had a completely uninspired day. When I sat in the taxi from home to Velden‘s railway station, I still had no Image of the Day, thus I used the opportunity of not having to drive myself, and shot some 30+ images through the windshield, mostly with Auto-ISO set to “Off”, giving me shutter speeds in the range of one or two seconds. The Image of the Day is a composite of four images that were shot in Velden.

I prepared the image on the train, but when I arrived in Vienna, I felt a little insecure. Was it really enough for an Image of the Day? I decided to get the camera out and make a backup shot, just in case. The image of the escalators in the underground station finally made me confident that I would not have to resort to my archives. In the end, I still took the composite.

The Song of the Day is “Living In The Fast Lane” from Hans Theessink’s 1989 album “Johnny and the Devil“.

4 thoughts on “415 – Living In The Fast Lane”

  1. Whatever the technicalities, that photo is really, really speedy! The somewhat empty parts in the foreground really convey that feeling to me. Weird, I always thought that empty, nearly uniform parts don’t do that. Maybe it’s the combination with the blurred light and the backlights of the car.

    BTW, did blogger change something with the way comments are handled, or was that you? I don’t seem to be able to put in my name/home-url any more…?

  2. @thomas: no, I did nothing. Hmm … you can always add it in HTML to your comment. I won’t mind 🙂

    @deb: no, I didn’t drive. On Sundays I always take a taxi to the railway station.

  3. Terrific composite – at first I was a little taken aback as the car appear to be driving on the median!

    I hope this fed your need for speed…

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