Saturday, September 24, 2022

DALL-E 2 Showcase: NYC Skyline

For these I simply prompted: "View of New York City skyline at dawn with the sky beginning to turn pink behind the tall skyscrapers.  Photorealistic digital art."

Friday, September 23, 2022

DALL-E 2 Showcase: Camel Caravan

 For these images I wrote the following prompt:

"Beside the ruins of an ancient African city a camel caravan and Arab traders plod through the Sahara Desert sand dunes under a blazing hot sky.  Digital art in style of French painter Gerome."

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Nikon Announces Power Zoom DX Lens

One of the reasons I recently purchased my Nikon Zfc camera was for possible use in vlogging.  I was happy to learn then that Nikon, when publishing its updated lens roadmap, indicated that a power zoom 12-28 DX lens is in the works.  The advantage to the power zoom, of course, is that it has much smoother operation than can be achieved with my 16-50 kit lens and additionally can be controlled by remote.  The wide angle focal length is also a perfect fit for vlogging uses.  I haven't had any word on pricing yet, but hopefully it will be affordable.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

DALL-E 2 Now Allows Human Face Editing

As those who've been following this blog are well aware, I've been working intensively for the past few weeks with DALL-E 2 AI imaging.  One of the drawbacks to working with it, however, was that in the past the app, though it allowed images to be uploaded so that variations could be generated, forbade the use of human likenesses, presumably from privacy concerns and worries over deepfakes.  Open AI has now apparently resolved these issues to its satisfaction with updates to its safety filters.  Accordingly I hope to soon post here variations on portraits and likenesses from photographs I've shot myself and am legally entitled to edit.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

DALL-E 2 Showcase: Nighthawks

In these images I was hoping to recreate something of the mood of Edward Hopper's famous Nighthawks and wrote:

"A late night diner with neon sign overhead on empty street.  Through the large window a few lonely customers can be seen seated at counter drinking coffee.  Digital art in the style of Edward Hopper's Nighthawks."

Unfortunately, I didn't think the results were all that successful.


Monday, September 19, 2022

DxO Updates and Synchs Camera and Lens Modules

According to an article in Digital Camera World DxO has not only updated its library of camera/lens modules but has also synched them so that they are all available across the range of its apps.  Since I use not only PhotoLab 5 but FilmPack 6 and Viewpoint 3 as well this is particularly welcome news.  It's always been a revelation to me how improved images appear when chromatic aberration and other distortions are automatically corrected in PhotoLab 5 and other DxO apps.  I would hope that the enlarged database now contains modules for the MFT Lensbaby lenses I use on my Lumix G9.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Topaz Labs Releases Photo AI

Topaz Labs has announced the release of Topaz Photo AI, a new app that effectively combines the developer's three adjustment filters - Sharpen, DeNoise, and Gigapixel - into a single AI powered piece of software that promises to analyze any image opened within it using the new Autopilot feature and then automatically make the necessary corrections to it, though these can be manually overridden if the user wishes full control of the adjustments. In theory, photos can be processed with a single click.

Simply from the point of convenience the app would be a great step forward if it worked as advertised since it would now no longer necessary to move an image from one app to the next in order to make necessary changes as I had routinely done in the past.  Everything could be accomplished in a single step and the user, if satisfied with the AI's recommendations, would need only save the processed image.  

Unfortunately, unless I am doing something wrong, the Autopilot does not appear to work as promised.  In most of the photos I opened in Photo AI the Autopilot, after scanning the image, only reduced the image noise (a green dot appeared next to Remove Noise), which wasn't that much of a problem anyway since the images had all been shot at ISO 800.  I had to manually click on the Sharpen, Recover Faces, and Enhance Resolution tabs - without, however, inputting any manual adjustments - to prompt the app to make corrections in those areas.  (When I then clicked on Reset to Autopilot Settings the image discarded these additional corrections and was noticeably inferior to that on which the prompted adjustments had been made.)  The entire procedure is not particularly cumbersome if one is processing only one or two images; but it is unwieldy, to say the least, if one is attempting to batch process a large number of photos.

Topaz Labs controversially began charging for upgrades to its filters several years ago, and I'm not sure it had all that much luck in convincing users to sign on for the extra payments.  Photo AI is most likely a way of sidestepping the problem by offering customers a new app that essentially does the same work as the three old filters but in a new and streamlined package.  The final images, after following the steps noted in the above paragraph (i..e., clicking on each tab individually), were certainly of excellent quality and decidedly better than I could have attained using the three adjustment filters individually, for which I have to admit I'd never purchased the upgrades.

The introductory price of Photo AI is $159 through October 7th, a savings of $40 off the regular price of $199.  One has to look very closely at the fine print to discover that current users of Topaz products are entitled to an even greater discount.  In any event, the purchase price entitles the user to a year of free upgrades.

Friday, September 16, 2022

DALL-E 2: Beautiful Woman in Alpine Meadow


For these images I gave DALL-E 2 the following detailed prompt:

"Alpine summer meadow filled with flowers.  Beautiful woman dressed all in white clutches handpicked bouquet as she walks slowly in the background.  Light mist floats above meadow as dawn sky behind high mountains turns pink.  Photorealistic."

I thought these images were among the most successful I obtained with DALL-E 2, perhaps because my instructions were more detailed than I usually provide.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

GoPro Announces Hero 11

I received an email from B&H yesterday announcing the that the new GoPro Hero 11 is now available for preorder and detailing the camera's specs.  

If the image above looks familiar it's because the new camera looks almost exactly the same as the Hero 10 and my own Hero 9.  And when one studies the specs it becomes even more apparent that there are no revolutionary changes, only improvements and refinements.  The most important of these is the new 27mp sensor, improved image stabilization, optional 8 or 10-bit color, and a HyperView ultra-wide digital lens that "optimizes the 8:7 sensor image to a cinematic 16:9 aspect ratio."

As far as I'm concerned, just as last year, there's not really enough here to make me want to upgrade from my Hero 9.  It's nice to know, though, that if I should change my mind and go for the upgrade all my Hero 9 accessories, at least as far as I can see, will still work with the Hero 11.

GoPro has also introduced the Hero 11 Mini that, as far as I can tell, is intended primarily for those who wish to attach the camera to helmets or other devices.  For most, the normal size Hero 11 will be small enough to fill their needs.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

DALL-E 2: Japanese Ukiyo-e

 The description I entered into DALL-E 2 was:

"Beautiful Japanese woman wearing colorful kimono and obi surrounded by peacocks in lush summer garden beside ancient 5-story Japanese pagoda.  Digital art in style of Japanese ukiyo-e print."

These were the images the app generated.  I'm not sure it understood the meaning of "ukiyo-e," or for that matter of "kimono."

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

DALL-E 2: Symbolist Art


I asked DALL-E2 to come up with something along the lines of Arnold Bocklin's Isle of the Dead and received these images.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Japanese Street Festival

I had a lot of fun recently photographing at a Japanese Street Festival downtown on Fourth Avenue.  It was a great chance to shoot with my Nikon Zfc.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

DALL-E 2: Post-Apocalyptic NYC

When I asked DALL-E 2 to render a post-apocalyptic vision of NYC these are the images it came up with.

Friday, September 9, 2022

DALL-E 2: John Sloan's New York

My first attempt at using DALL-E 2 was to imagine a bustling early 20th century New York City street scene in the style of John Sloan, a member of the Eight and the Ashcan School and always one of my favorite painters.  I thought the app came up with some truly interesting images and I was definitely pleased with the results.

I've decided this blog, with its emphasis on AI, is a perfect vehicle for displaying the images I've created through the use of DALL-E 2 and similar apps, and I'll hopefully be posting them here regularly alongside the digital photos I take with my cameras.  For me, the appeal of AI is this: While with my camera I'm limited to capturing what I see before me, with AI my only limit is the extent of my imagination.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

DALL-E Invitation

As readers of this blog are well aware, I've become increasingly intrigued by the ways in which AI has transformed digital photography.  Recently, it's reached the point where a camera is no longer necessary.  Several apps have appeared that can generate photorealistic imagery solely from verbal prompts.  The two leaders in the field, at this point at least, are Stability AI's Dream Studio and Open AI's DALL-E 2.

I've already logged on as a user of Dream Studio and last Thursday signed up for the wait list for DALL-E 2.  Yesterday I received an email from Open AI inviting me to begin using the latter app to create imagery.

I had originally intended to wait until winter arrived to begin creating with these AI apps, intending to use what was left of the warm weather to continue photographing outdoors as long as possible.  This decision was reinforced by my recent purchase of a Nikon Zfc which I've had a lot of fun working with in recent weeks.  There are few things more enjoyable for a photographer than shooting with a new camera.  On the other hand, now that I have access to these two AI apps I really can't wait to begin experimenting with them.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

On 1 Announces Photo Raw 2023


I received an email from On 1 yesterday announcing that the newest version of its RAW processor, Photo RAW 2023, will be released in October.  I had purchased the 2022 version of the company's plug-ins late last year and so as a current user have regularly been receiving "sneak peek" emails with videos demonstrating the app's new features and I have to admit they're interesting enough to entice me to purchase the upgrade.  In particular, I was intrigued by the sharpening/noise removal tool and the masking and selection tools, not to mention the Liquify tool already included in the 2022 version.  The videos themselves, or at least those released so far, can be viewed on the app's What's New page.  And then there's the promise of 125 new skies available through On 1's partnership with Ocudrone.

The last version of Photo RAW I purchased was the 2019, but I wasn't particularly thrilled by it.  It was one of those apps that looked better on paper than it proved to be in actual use.  And even now I will most likely continue to use DxO PhotoLab 5 as my default RAW processor, especially as I have no real need of Photo RAW's cataloging features.  Still there's more than enough in Photo RAW to make it worth the purchase price.

Photo RAW 2023 is currently available for preorder, and the offer includes a number of bonuses including the use of the 2022 version until 2023 is actually released.  In addition, two packs of adaptive presets (landscape and portrait) as well as a Mask AI video course will be given to those who preorder.  The cost for new users is $99.99 while the upgrade is priced at $79.99.  There are also subscription models available.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Nikon Zfc

Earlier this month, while picking up an order at B&H's store on 34th Street and Ninth Avenue, I stopped by the Nikon counter in the upstairs camera department to take a look at the Zfc.  I'd become interested in the camera after learning of Nikon's release of the Z30 which it was promoting heavily as the ideal vlogging camera.  The problem with the Z30, for me at least, was that it didn't have a viewfinder, which meant I'd have to compose on the rear LCD screen just as I would with a smartphone or point & shoot camera.  For me, that was a dealbreaker.  At the same time, however, I became intrigued with the idea of using a Nikon for vlogging, for which I'm currently using my GoPro 9.

I was very impressed with what I saw of the Zfc.  The camera has a 20.9 DX-format CMOS sensor, an EXPEED 6 image processor, a 2.36m-dot OLED electronic viewfinder, and UHD 4K and full HD video recording capabilities.  At the same time, its fully articulated rear LCD screen that can be used as a forward-facing display monitor makes it an excellent choice for vlogging.  While the Zfc's recording limit of 30 minutes is substantially shorter than that of the Z30, I didn't feel this would present any great problem.  (Even if I did need a video of greater length, which isn't very likely, I could always stitch shorter segments together in Corel Video Studio.)  And most of the accessories available for the Z30, such as stereo mic, handheld tripod mount, and remote, also had equivalents for use with the Zfc.

I had no idea of purchasing the Zfc anytime soon when I first looked at it, but last week a used kit with the camera and 16-50mm lens was advertised at B&H.  Its condition was rated as a 10, which is basically "open box," and the price was 12% less than the cost of a new package.  This was too good to pass up, and I immediately went down to the store, checked it out, and bought it on the spot.

In general, I'm very happy with my purchase - the image quality of the stills is excellent and the video all I need - but there are two problems of which prospective buyers should be aware.  First, when I shot in RAW + JPG mode the camera in one instance failed to save the RAW NEF file.  I thought this was a fluke until I read a B&H user review for a DX lens in which the user claimed this happened regularly when using that particular lens with the Zfc.  That being said, the JPG quality of the photos I shot was almost equal the that of the RAW images I processed myself.

The second problem, which was minor but really ticked me off, was that Nikon, for all the money it charges for its cameras, does not include with the Zfc a simple 50-cent USB cable with which to download photos.  Luckily, in searching through the USB cables I already have on hand, I discovered the Zfc uses the same cable as my GoPro.  That was fine, but if I had had to go all the way back to the store the next day for no other reason than to buy a USB cable I would have been a very unhappy customer.

Finally, it should be emphasized that the Zfc is not a professional camera suitable for assignments or even travel to once-in-a-lifetime destinations, though I might very well toss it in my bag for either of those two purposes as a lightweight backup camera.  On the other hand, the Zfc is eminently suitable for vlogging, for day trips, and for carrying in my newly purchased Rofozzi camera bag as I move about NYC.