Monday, January 21, 2013

National Western Stock Show 2013 and Shooting in Raw File Format

The 107th National Western Stock show kicked off in Denver in the bitter cold of Saturday, January 12th.  This year's show featured a small but important change that made visiting the show easier.  For the first time parking was free!!!  The monumental pain in a butt of finding a parking space was no longer an issue.  Arriving a little bit early guaranteed you excellent parking.  Given the size and very sprawling nature of the National Western Complex in North Denver - this was a very positive change!

OK - I digress from the main points of today's blog entry!  I was just so surprised and thrilled with the changes in parking - which is normally a very difficult situation that I had to wax poetic about it!

Our first visit to this year's National Western Stock Show took place on Sunday, January 13th.  Had we gone on Saturday the 12th we would have had the place much to ourselves as all of Denver was occupied watching the Broncos lose their playoff game.  I say our first visit as I am hoping that Zack and I will make a return visit to see some additional animals and the Evening of Dancing Horses program.  The Stock Show runs through this coming Sunday which makes it likely we will have the opportunity for a return visit.

For our trip on the 13th, Zack brought his friend James.  I was very glad that James came with Zack as it gave me the opportunity to roam the dark corridors of the livestock pens underneath the exhibit hall and the acres upon acres of outdoor stockyards searching for interesting photo opportunities without Zack in tow, complaining every inch of the way.

In addition to looking for some great photo opportunities, my other goal was to spend time looking at llamas and talking to llama breeders.  I am still very determined to buy a llama!  With all the problems I have had with my back over the last 2 years it is difficult for me to resume something I love - backpacking.  It is hard enough to carry a 70 pound pack on your back even when you haven't had 3 different back surgeries.  To allow me to resume this activity I love, I am going to require a beast of burden to carry the burden for me!  It is always thrilling to see the llama and spend time talking to the breeders.  However the number of llamas on display this year seemed to be quite fewer than in past years.

For my photo shooting at the National Western I was decided to make a clean break from shooting in the .JPG file format and shoot exclusively in the "RAW" format.  Unlike JPGs, RAW files are not universally readable.  A RAW file is a much larger file than a JPG and it contains hundreds of times more information and detail of the image captured than a JPG file.  My Digital SLR camera is a Canon Mark II 5D and when shooting in RAW mode it shoots a file that is specific to Canon cameras. The files cannot be viewed on a typical computer unless there are specific programs or Codec extensions in place.

A more formal definition of the RAW image format is provided by Wikipedia.  It states, "A camera raw image file contains minimally processed data from the image sensor of either a digital camera, image scanner, or motion picture film scanner. Raw files are so named because they are not yet processed and therefore are not ready to be printed or edited with a bitmap graphics editor. Normally, the image is processed by a raw converter in a wide-gamut internal color space where precise adjustments can be made before conversion to a "positive" file format such as TIFF or JPEG for storage, printing, or further manipulation, which often encodes the image in a device-dependent color space. There are dozens if not hundreds of raw formats in use by different models of digital equipment (like cameras or film scanners).[1]

Raw image files are sometimes called digital negatives, as they fulfill the same role as negatives in film photography: that is, the negative is not directly usable as an image, but has all of the information needed to create an image. Likewise, the process of converting a raw image file into a viewable format is sometimes called developing a raw image, by analogy with the film development process used to convert photographic film into viewable prints. The selection of the final choice of image rendering is part of the process of white balancing and color grading."**

** From Wikipedia article "Raw Image Format".

In the past I have experimented with RAW files but I have not done an extensive amount of photography in that format.  As I seek to take my photography to the next level I have decided that I will mainly shoot pictures in the RAW format from now.  The exception being is if I am taking a picture with my iPhone or a little point and shoot camera.

The great thing about pictures in a RAW format is that you can "digitally" develop them, just like photographers used to do with film images in their darkrooms.  The work is now done on a computer and it can be done with any number of different programs, from ones supplied by the camera manufacturers to the popular Abode Lightroom.  I am using Abode Lightroom V4.1.  The power of this software to improve an image when you have that picture in the RAW format is truly amazing!  For some of the shots I took in the basement pens of the Western National Events Center the lighting was exceedingly poor.  Yet I was able to salvage these shots by using Lightroom to adjust the light balance, exposure, color saturation and many other variables.

It's taken me a while to get these photos processed and in a state in which I can display them, but the time and effort was worth it to me.  I hope to continue to learn many things about digitally developing pictures and share some of my work on this blog.  Attached are a bunch of the pictures I took at the Stock Show.

(These were some beautiful llamas!)

(This guy had quite the attitude.)

(This scene just really caught my eye.  The steer in the center looks so proud.  Good reason he had quite the blood line to put on display.)

(Watching the ranchers get the cows ready for their moment in the ring shows the true heart of what goes on at the National Western as people work for years to get their animals bred right and looking perfect.)

(I always wonder what the animals think of this event.  Most of them will be sold for stud purposes as they are the best of the best.  Some of course are immediately destined for the slaughterhouse, but that is the purpose of this show - highlight the best animals and send the rest to become steaks and burgers.)

(Another day-to-day scene of preparing the cows for show.)

(The two teenagers - always looking to eat and get in trouble.  Its funny to look at Zack as he has gotten so big in the last year.  He's only about 1.5 inches shorter than me!)

(This ole boy isn't going anywhere!  He's been at the stock show for at least the last 3 years.  He is fan favorite and his owners make a ton of money by letting kids get on his back and having their parents take their picture.  He's huge but he's gentle!)

(Auction time!  These guys aren't going to any slaughterhouse soon.  Most of these steers are being sold for breeding purposes.)

(This one sold for something like $18,000!  That's some big money!)

(He's a beautiful animal!)

(This group was being sold one-by-one.  The auctioneer definitely thought they would be good for breeding.  His comment during a break in the bidding was "If you like testicles, these boys are a packing."  Needless to say, I had a hard time suppressing my laughter.  You could tell I was the non-rancher in the crowd as no one else was laughing!)

(Out in the stockyards it was COLD.  High temperature that day was only 18 degrees.  Even the cows were cold!)

(Didn't see too many pure white cows like these two.  I wasn't sure what breed they were.)

(I got some good shots of the cows breathing in the cold air and steam rising above their faces.)

That's it for today folks.  It has been a very long day as my work started at the wonderfully pleasant hour of 4:30AM.  On top of that Zack was off of school for MLK day.  He and I were in a state of war regarding his efforts to complete a massive amount of homework.  Sometimes he just doesn't want to put in the amount of time and effort that is required to properly complete his work.  Needless to say, between my conference calls he and I argued just a little bit.

Hope all of your week's are off to a good start so far!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

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