Sneak Peek - ON1 Photo RAW 2020 by John Clark

The Browse Module of ON1 Photo Raw 2020 showing some of the new features you’ll notice when installing for the first time

Recently I’ve had an opportunity to spend some time with a Beta version of the soon-to-be-released ON1 Photo RAW 2020 software. 

And my verdict is… So far, I’m liking what I see! While the ON1 development team is quite small (especially compared to the Adobe Lightroom team they are primarily targeting with this program) they continue to make big strides forward with each version of the program since it first came out in 2017.

Under the hood PR 2020 adds several new features, quite a few small tweaks, and a variety of related adjustments made, just as you would expect with any software major version update.

First, let’s address the speed of the program, one area that most people ask about first. I’m using an aging 2014 MacBook Pro laptop (running MacOS Mojave 10.14.6 as of this writing) with 8mb RAM and it seems reasonably quick to me. It’s not instantaneous when changing modules (for example, between Browse and Develop), but things get quicker once the photos are cached. Using an Olympus M43 body also means my RAW file sizes are considerably smaller (16-20mb) than those cameras generating 40-50mb files, which also helps the speed.

Bottom line is that your mileage may vary, at least in terms of performance. There are so many variables affecting the program speed (ranging from your computer specs and drivers right through the size of your RAW images). For some users PR 2020 will be snappy, while others may still complain that it takes “a few seconds” to complete a task. But speed is a primary concern with the ON1 programming team and one they work hard to continually improve. 

Now on to the exciting new additions! There are quite a few new goodies, so here are just some that caught my attention.

In the Develop panel, sharp eyes will spot a new “AI Match” button at the top of the sliders. In a nutshell, what this does is pull the embedded JPG image that is baked into a RAW file and automatically tweak the settings to come close to matching that image. If you ever looked at the back of the camera and liked that image while out in the field, then basically the software will attempt to recreate that look from your RAW file (which normally has considerably less color and contrast). ON1 says that if your camera allows shooting different styles (such as monochrome, Pop Art, Soft Focus or the myriad of others) the AI Match button will apply those settings to the RAW file (with my Olympus body they are only applied to the JPG when shooting in RAW+JPG).

So far, honestly I would say that this button is hit and miss with my images. There are many times when I don’t notice much difference, and others when it really does a nice job on a base image but I have not yet tried it with the in-camera styles mentioned above. It’s one that you might want try out first, but be ready to hit Command-Z (or Ctrl-Z on a PC) to quickly undo if you don’t like the adjustments. Another minor complaint is that “AI Match” is actually quite confusing nomenclature; perhaps it should be renamed to something like “Camera Match” or “JPG Match” before the final release to avoid some confusion. Like with our next topic, the “Auto” button in Develop…

Editing in process, showing the new “AI Match” button near the top of the Tone & Color module

The “regular” Auto button in the Develop area (the one that has been there since Day 1) has also been enhanced and ON1 says that they now use AI to power the changes it automatically makes to an image (they say in development they ran thousands of photos through the system to help train the AI on how to improve the auto toning process). And, I must say it seems like it does work much better than before, and really does a good “one click” job of giving a solid starting point for developing your images. 

In fact, I rarely used the Auto button before (preferring to make my own manual adjustments) but I might save some time and try this as a starting point moving forward with my own processing. And, if I was in charge, I think this is the button that should have AI in the name!

Snow in the desert? Yes, it really did snow this year, but when I was out shooting the flakes had stopped. Fortunately, with the new Weather Effect itit takes just a couple of clicks to add them back in.

There are a couple of new Effects added, and one will probably cause some people to label it a gimmick, though I can see a use. The new “Weather” Effect allows you to quickly add atmospheric conditions such as rain, snow or fog to your image. Of course, to make this look natural you’ll need to have realistic conditions at the time of the shooting, and I recommend a light touch when it comes to opacity or you risk turning your photo into “fake” territory. 

On the other hand, the new “Sun Flare” filter will be invaluable to a great many photographers, including myself. It allows you to add a variety of new sun-based effects, such as a sun star, flare or bokeh. This will be sure to be a hit with the Instagram crowd who tends to toss in that bright yellow sun flare in the corner, but like with the “Weather” effect mentioned above I recommend a deft touch to create a natural look and not push your image into comic book levels. You’ll also want to make note of the actual light direction on the images and position the effect accordingly for a natural look! 

The new Print Module showing quick, one-click creation of contact sheets

Those who frequently print their photos will really appreciate the new Print Module, and the ability to quickly build out multiple prints on a single sheet (for example: one 8x10, two 5x7s, four 4x5s). You can also create custom print templates, as well as automatically build a contact sheet for those professionals needing to help clients quickly see and choose their favorites from a session.  

PR 2020 also includes a brand new map view. You can see your image locations pinned on a map if they include the GPS data in the metadata, or easily search and add a location to manually pin your shots. 

When activated, the Focus Overlay adds green highlighting to the areas of the image that are sharply in focus, handy for determine the best images among portraits, macro and other subjects where determining the best focal point is critical

Another handy new feature is the Focus Overlay, also added for the first time. This adds a green overlay on the image showing the area(s) in focus, much like the Peaking function for those cameras that have offer that feature while in the field. For many photographers this will be a quick way to choose the best shot between multiple images with very close differences between focus points. 

Finally, a great many photographers enjoy using Presets for quick, one-click processing. PR 2020 not only includes a batch of new presets mimicking the hot photo processing trends of the moment, but for the first time you can actually fade them down and choose an opacity level from zero to 100 percent. 

There are quite a few other additions and changes that I won’t cover here, but this gives you a quick overview of a handful that initially caught my attention. PR 2020 is scheduled to officially drop sometime in October, 2019 so expect some additional tweaks to be made by the ON1 development team as they work hard to put on the finishing touches before the official TBD launch date.

Interested in learning more? You can see what they have to say about the new version over at and even download a fully-functional Beta version of PR 2020 to try out for yourself and your workflow.

Guaranteed* Bighorn Sighting in Las Vegas by John Clark

You’ll be able to test your creative boundaries trying to take Bighorn images that don’t look like they were taken in a city park!

Shhh… Don’t tell anyone, but there is a spot close to Las Vegas where you are guaranteed* to spot wild Bighorn Sheep. And it’s only about a half hour drive from the bright lights of the Strip!

Many people head out to the Valley of Fire State Park to see the amazing rock formations and search for Bighorn, and of course you can often spot them there. But you’ll have no guarantee* of a sighting, like at most of the locations around Nevada where they roam. But at “Bighorn Park,” you are (almost) guaranteed* a chance to not just see Bighorn, but actually get quite near the animals!

OK, so technically, “Bighorn Park” is my personal, unofficial name! The official location is Hemenway Valley Park, and since we are getting technical, it’s actually located in Boulder City, Nevada, not Las Vegas (fun fact: Boulder City is just one of two cities in Nevada that bans gambling!). Like most city parks it has large trees, shaded grassy areas and covered gazebos to enjoy a picnic. There is a playground for the children, and basketball and tennis courts nearby. And it boasts a wonderful view overlooking Lake Mead. 

But for wildlife photographers, or anyone wanting to spot Bighorn Sheep, it’s definitely worth a visit.

A quick iPhone snap showing just how close humans and wildlife get to each other

Shade trees and cool grass… Definitely a Bighorn vacation spot!

There is a large herd of Bighorn that comes out of the desert and lays in the cool grass and the shade of the large trees. It’s a perfect spot for them to cool off and enjoy a break from the desert heat. While you may get lucky and catch some of the Bighorn roaming the natural desert at the edges of the park or munching on the bushes, most of the time you’ll find them lounging in the grass which means you’ll need to get creative if you want to try and make your photos look like they were not taken in the middle of a city park! 

Usually wildlife photographers will be shooting the herd in the shade, but this can fool a light meter as the bright desert sunshine at the edges of the frame can overexpose the image. Try spot metering so you don’t blow out background while shooting in the shadows from the trees.

There are natural areas at the edges of the park, and if you are lucky you might spot the Bighorn posing in a more natural setting

I find it best to use a longer lens to allow more reach for more intimate, portrait style shots of the heads and horns, something you might not be able to capture if you see a herd far away in the desert. A 70-200mm type lens will work great, and if you have a teleconverter or even longer lens don’t be afraid to bring it. Parking is just steps away so you will have easy and quick access to your gear without any long hikes.

It can also be handy to have a medium wide angle or standard lens in the kit as well, something in the 28mm to 50mm range. This will allow wider shots that might include people sitting on a park bench with the Bighorn nearby. Of course, these shots will show more of the grass and park features, but it’s definitely an unusual image to capture and one that you won’t get in many other locations.

But please, remember, these are wild animals and not Disney characters. While the Bighorn are used to humans being nearby, they can still be unpredictable in their behavior towards people. For your safety, and theirs, don’t approach too closely or too quickly. Never try and pet one, or feed them. When taking a selfie, keep a safe distance away. Watch younger children and make sure they don’t run around and frighten the Bighorn. As with all wild animals, use common sense and watch your surroundings when taking photos so you, or a Bighorn, don’t get too close together. 

As a side trip, because photographing wildlife can build up an appetite, I recommend a stop for food at the Coffee Cup, a fun diner once featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive Ins and Dives” television program. The restaurant is located in the heart of the historic Boulder City district, and is a great place to grab breakfast or lunch! It’s less than a 10-minute drive from “Bighorn Park,” and well worth a stop.

The Coffee Cup has a fun atmosphere and a menu sure to please a hungry wildlife photographer

*This is not a 100% guarantee of sighting Bighorn Sheep, though I have yet to visit the park and not see some. However, this is not a zoo, these are wild animals, and therefore subject to moving around on their own accord. But I will say that the odds of spotting Bighorn here are better than hitting it big on one of the nearby Las Vegas slot machines! 

Review - ICE 72mm Solid Neutral Density Filter Set by John Clark

All this for less than $60? How good can these filters be? Read on to find out!

Even using today’s most advanced post-processing technology such as Adobe PhotoShop, Lightroom or ON1 Photo RAW 2019, there are still a handful of photo filters that you simply can’t duplicate well on the computer. The Polarizer is one, of course. And while you technically could mimic a ND filter in post-processing, it’s extremely time consuming and an extreme challenge to achieve the same natural results that you will in-camera.

The ND, or Neutral Density, Filter blocks the light coming into the camera and allows for slower shutter speeds that you can normally dial in, especially in bright light situations. These slower shutter speeds result in that lovely, milky white waterfall with smooth water, beach waves flattened out, clouds streaking across the sky and even a shot taken in New York City at midday where no people show in the image! I’m sure you’ve seen a number of photos like this online and wondered “how did they do that?”

So when I wanted to get a 72mm ND filter for an Olympus 12-100/F4 PRO lens I started to do a little research. Many companies offer a variable ND which is nice since you can “dial in” the exact exposure needed, but I have one for a 62mm lens and find that it doesn’t get quite as dark as I wanted (typically around a maximum of 6 stops of exposure). Often I’ve found that a longer exposure time was needed to capture what I had in mind, especially in very bright, sunny situations.

So, I began researching options. And while many of the name brands offered individual, solid ND filters that would do the job, one interesting option stood out. 

It was the ICE 72mm ND8 (3 stop), ND64 (6 stop), and ND1000 (10 stop) Solid Neutral Density Filter Kit (available from B&H Photo and Amazon, among other several retailers). As a side note, this kit is also offered in a variety of sizes from 49mm to 95mm. 

The first thing that caught my attention was the price. Less than $60 for a set of three! How good can they be for that price, honestly?

So, I did a bit more sleuthing… First, this is a set of three filters that reduce the light by three, six or 10 stops. Nice! You can also stack them to fine tune the needed exposure or go super dark to really slow down time.

Next, these are made of glass which is important for optical clarity. Excellent! Some filters are made from resin or polycarbonate plastics, especially those with lower price points. Personally, I prefer glass for the best possible image, though typically you pay more for a glass filter.  

Slim, but strong bezel

Another nice feature is these have slim filter rings help prevent vignetting which is important when you shoot at wide angles (this lens has a full-frame equivalent of 24mm). 

Finally, this set also comes with a custom nylon filter pouch with three padded, fitted and non-abrasive pockets to store and transport this filter kit.

OK, so this filter set really sounds too good to be true, right? I thought so too, and could only find limited reviews and additional information online which didn’t exactly help to put my mind at ease. But, B&H has a great return policy so I figured,  “Why not?” With the filters in my cart, I checked out and in a couple of days they showed up on my doorstep! 

The unboxing seemed positive… All the features I mentioned above seemed as good in my hand as they did on paper, so to speak. The quality and edge-to-edge darkness of the glass appeared high, based on looks alone. The aluminum frame was thick enough to prevent bending or twisting, yet narrow in width as promised. Even the nylon case seemed quite high quality!

But the real test would come in the field, and with a trip scheduled to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula I was eager to try them out. 

A few days later I found myself at Whitefish Point standing in front of a set of pier pilings near the lighthouse that clearly begged for a long exposure photo. But, even as the fog rolled in, there was still too much midday light to capture the waves splashing around the posts and really show off the fog as I envisioned in my mind. This was a perfect first test for the ICE ND filters!

I grabbed the ND64 (6-stop) and the real test began. I won’t bore you with the technical details of the image, but I will say that it threaded on smoothly to the lens, and came off easily. This is often a problem with inexpensive filters so that’s a positive sign.

There didn’t appear to be much loss of sharpness either, a testament to the quality of the glass used by ICE. 

As shot, straight from the camera. There seems to be very little color shift!

Additionally, I also didn’t notice much, if any, color shift when using this filter. One major complaint against other ND filters is that they introduce a color cast to the image, often bluish. While typically an easy fix in post-processing, it’s still annoying. Another positive sign was that I noticed no vignetting, even at the widest angle of this lens.

So far I’ve only used this set one time, but first impressions are very good (and you know you only get one chance at a first impression!). I look forward to more situations where I can give them a whirl and really see how well they stand up to multiple uses and things like stacking.

But, if you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you’ll certainly be able to tell when I post a new photo that used these ND filters! 

The final image, processed with ON1 Photo RAW 2019. It’s quickly become one of my most favorited of the year on Instagram.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.