The Only Harley Davidson in Madang – The Coastwatchers Monument

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on February 5th, 2010 by MadDog
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Some of you may have already seen the image below of me sitting on my Harley Davidson 883 Sportster with the famous Madang Coastwatchers Monument in the background. I put it up on my Facebook page a couple of days ago. Even if you have seen it, you may want to have a read or two of excellent articles about the Coastwatchers here and here. Take a few minutes to contemplate the raw courage of those who sacrificed themselves daily to protect others.

MadDog at home in Madang on the Harley:

Now, if only I had the time to ride it.

Okay, okay, I’ll tell the truth. Yes, it is me on my Harley, but the real subject of the post today is yet another blah, blah, blah about camera esoterica. That’s right – yet another geek attack.

As I am hopelessly addicted to natural light photography, passionately hating flashy lights, I have a natural interest in cameras, cheap ones, which can take good pictures in very low light levels. These are rare beasts. Since I refuse to pay more than about US$500 for a camera (I give a camera a hard life!), my options are quite limited. That’s why I was anxious to get my hands on a Canon G11.

There’s no way that you’re going to cram even a modest 11 megapixels onto a sensor the size of your pinky nail and not  get a bunch of noise when you push it to high sensitivity in low light. The question is how much  and what kind  of noise. There’s noise and then there’s noise. Have a look at this (you’ll have to click to enlarge – you’re looking for speckles):

Keep in mind that the image was taken by the light coming from my computer screen – nothing else. That’s pretty dim. The image looks fine as long as you don’t make it so big that you can see the speckles.

Now have a look at this shot, again clicking to enlarge:

Much better, eh? You can see the little drops of condensation on the can. You can even make out the weave of the beer cozy.

What happened? Well, I ran it through a filter in Photohop called Noise Ninja Pro. I have used the filter for years; it’s the best noise management system that I know. However it seems to be able to handle the noise from the G11 sensor much better than the noise from my previous G series Canons, the G9 (noisy) and the G10 (very noisy). This all has to do, I’m sure, with some fancy math such as cubic splines and other tomfoolery which I forgot within nanoseconds of passing my exams. Hey, it’s somebody else’s job!

Anyway, the G11 is capable of producing images shot in very low light at ISO 3200 which, while noisy, can be used as-is for small formats and cleaned up with a good noise filter for larger presentations. Have a look at this beautiful fish woman artefact taken by the twilight coming in through the window of our house:

Above is the noisy, but still useable RAW image reduced and converted to JPG.

This is the same exposure treated with Noise Ninja Pro (no, I’m not getting paid for this):

A very nice image.

At the risk of putting you out cold, here is a final sample pair. I took this shot at mid telephoto off of our veranda at first light when I could barely read the numbers on the camera knobs and the plant itself was in even deeper shade. I could barely see it:

Again, it’s noisy, but look at how nicely it cleaned up:
Okay, you can wake up now. It’s over.

I’ll try to do better tomorrow.

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