The Azaleas in the Isabella – Richmond Park

Finally, after missing an entire season. The Azaleas in the Isabella were glorious for all to see. For those of you not in the UK, we have been subject to a very strict COVID19 lockdown and the whole season was lost during 2020, but in 2021 we were able to visit The Isabella once again to see this wonderful annual spectacle. If you are lucky enough to live in London my advice is to visit the Isabella when you can.

I hope you enjoy the images - Colin

PS. This article has some useful information for newbie photographers who are wondering why they should shoot in RAW format. This information can be found in the Pixel Peepers' Notes below the images. If you not interested I hope you enjoy the images smile.

If you have any questions or comments on either the images or RAW development do feel free add them below. You can also add you own image examples of how shooting RAW files has improved your images...

Azaleas in The Isabella - Richmond Park

Azaleas - Isabella - Richmond Park

Azaleas bordering Silent Pond in the Isabella - Richmond Park

Azaleas bordering Silent Pond - The Isabella - Richmond Park

"The Isabella Plantation is a 40 acre woodland garden set within a Victorian woodland plantation planted in the 1830's. First opened to the public in 1953, it is best known for its evergreen azaleas, which line the ponds and streams and at their peak of flower in late April and early May."

Richmond Park Website

The Royal Parks

Pixel Peepers' Notes & Newbie Hints & Tips:

Camera: Sony A7R III - Lens: Sony FE24-70 2.8 G Master Lens @ f 8 - 1/250 - ISO100
Making a RAW point with Azaleas

I was on some Sony Groups on Facebook last week and the debate about RAW files rages on...

I wanted to give newbies a couple of examples of the major advantage of shooting in RAW.

These 2 images are perfect examples of the flexibility that shooting RAW offers all photographers. But firstly, I should mention that most objections to shooting RAW that I have read have nothing to do with RAW files at all. If you look at the objections they are quite often issues and comments surrounding "Process".

"The files are too big"... "My computer struggles to open the files"... "I need a bigger hard drive to store the files"... "I can't afford to buy the SD or CF Express Cards to store that many images"... "It takes too long to post process the files afterwards"

All of the comments above are matter of process. Clearly some of them are "real world" issues if budgets are tight, however, with minimum investment I would still encourage every photographer to shoot everything RAW.

The reason is simple... "Process" is something that photographers have to deal with every day. That's our problem, not the clients.

Other photographers make claims like:

"Learn you craft... Get the exposure right in camera, and then you don't have to shoot RAW" and "If you know what your doing JPG is fine"

This, of course, is total nonsense and should always be ignored.

Received wisdom purvades in the groups on Facebook, and bad advice swirls around like eddies of mud to resurface every few days, as another newbie falls foul of poor advice. Confusion abounds and the old adage of "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing" rears its ugly head time and again.
So called experts often use terms like "Dynamic Range" when they mean "Bit Depth" and vice versa.

The fact is that there is usually no simple answer, and this is why we often follow rules of thumb.

Remember this:

"Image quality is everything" and it has always been so.

Nothing has changed since Fox Talbot got the ball rolling. Digital photography affords us the priviledge of RAW and we should grab it with both hands.

Even if you cannot afford the kit to process the RAW files, shoot them alongside the JPGs and store them for later in your photography journey, when you can afford the kit to process them. Storage is cheap. Get as much as you can, and fill it up with your images. If you can't afford cloud storage get a cheap DVD burner and store your files on writable DVDs. By doing it that way you only pay for what you store and you can buy them as you need them. Not shooting RAW is the modern equivelent to throwing away film negatives and relying on the client accepting the prints you made from the negatives.

Don't forget, it's not a binary choice. Your camera can shoot both RAW and JPG at the same time. Why would you not do this as a minimum?

The expensive part of a photographic shoot is usually getting to the location, not storing a few files. The cost of that trip to Hawaii, or the Grand Canyon or Stonehenge will always be higher than the cost of a cheap hard drive to store your files. Personally, when I travel, I work with 4 x 32GB Sony SD cards. These are not expensive. I also carry a cheap ASUS laptop with a Fast SD card reader and and 2x 4TB WD portable drives. When travelling this affords me more space than I could ever need, and for security, 2 copies of all of the files. One in my hand luggage and one in the assistant's hand luggage. If it's just you, put one HDD in your pocket and one HDD in your hand luggage.

FYI: I have my Sony A7R III set up to record both RAW and JPG. It's set to record the RAWs on the fast slot and the JPGs on the standard slot. So if I get a card failure I will always have a set of high quality JPGs as a worst case scenario.

Here's some useful information that you should bear in mind when choosing to shoot JPG only: The JPG format is a "final file format". It is intended to be created and used "as is". When shot by a camera, it was shot as a RAW file, and it has been processed, by the camera, and saved as a lossy, compressed JPG file.

All of the information that your camera had about the image has been sifted through, and the camera has decided to keep what "it" thinks is best to keep, and the rest has been thrown away. And that, is masses of information and detail. You can never get that back. There will be very little post processing to speak of, as all of the non visible shadow and highlight detail has been removed in the pursuit of a smaller size "final" file. And after all of this, photographers place these files in Photoshop or Lightroom and expect to be able to improve them. This is not a realistic, or even a sensible approach. Sure, we can make some improvements that will hold up in a social media environment but is this good enough for you?

Author's Note: There are very few exceptions in 2021. Reportage being one of them, and at a stretch some wildlife photographers claim that shooting RAW isn't for them, and whilst this may be true, it still comes down to "process". If they had a camera that shot RAW at 30FPS and had a buffer that never filled up they too would shoot RAW. So in the end, once again, as always, it's down to "process".

Always remember that "Post Processing" should not be confused with "RAW Development". This is another common error people make when discussing these issues.

Although Raw Development happens in software, outside of the camera, it should not be considered as "Post Processing", or confused with retouching. The RAW file needs to be "processed" to make it into a useable "final" file format. So you need to process the file instead of the camera processing it. That's why it's called a RAW file after all.

The advantage of this is that "you make the decisions" without throwing away any information. In addition to this you should be aware that you can't adjust the RAW file. You make "intermediate" files and "final" files from the RAW file (.PSDs, TIFFs and JPGs). This means that you can go back to the RAW file time and time again to make changes to the image and save it "as a copy". So you can make lighter versions, darker versions, black and white versions etc.

Anyway, Enough, Already!

Below, I have added comparison images in a before and after format. I deliberately shot these frames to demonstrate what can be achieved when "processing" a RAW file.
Remember, these files have no "retouching" or "post processing" at all. I have not adjusted one single pixel. All I have done is process (sometimes called grade) them in Adobe Camera RAW (ACR)

If you are not sure what Adobe Camera RAW is, it comes with Adobe Photoshop CC. It is the processing software to process RAW files before they go into Photoshop for "Post Processing". The same toolset is available in Lightroom and there are many other applications that do the same thing. I make no claims on behalf of Adobe Applications. As they say "Other RAW processors are available"

RAW image processed and graded using Adobe Camera RAW - before & after

Clearly, I have taken this to quite an extreme length to demonstrate a point about how much information can be retreived from a RAW file.

Remember, I have not adjusted pixels, this is merely using sliders to control, highlights and shadows, black and whites, upping the saturation and control exposure in specific areas. The file above was what opened in Photoshop. I exported it as a JPG immediately without any retouching or "Post Processing". For those of you who have a technical knowledge all of the work is in the .XMP file only.

Silent Pond - Richmond Park - Photo Compare
before grading
Silent Pond - Richmond Park  - Photo Comparek - Before
after grading
Silent Pond - Richmond Park  - Photo Compare - After
Azaleas - Richmond Park
before grading
Azaleas - Richmond Park - Before
after grading
Azaleas - Richmond Park - After

RAW image processed and graded using Adobe Camera RAW - before & after

In this case shooting RAW has allowed me to add atmosphere to the shot. ALL of the information and colour that you see is right there in the data, but RAW has allowing me to choose what to emphasise. Once again, I have taken this to quite an extreme length to demonstrate a point about how much information can be reteived from a RAW file. Remember, I have not adjusted pixels, this is merely sliders to control, highlights and shadows, black and whites, upping the saturation and control exposure in specific areas. Once again the file above was what opened in Photoshop. I exported it as a JPG immediately, without any retouching or "Post Processing".

If you have any comments, or maybe you have an "image compare" you'd like me to include in this article, you can add your comments and images below...

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