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Don't shoot outdoor scenes using ISO 400 for starters. Also optimum aperture to get the best depth of field for most lenses is f/8 not f/14. You are working with an image with too much noise due to shooting ISO 400.
It's not ACR's problem.
the small image you linked to is horrendeous for sure, but not due to ACR. Please upload the raw file via yousendit.com and explain better, what "not blanding smoothly" means. Do you mean posterization? Noise?
Btw, it's time to clean the sensor (but that has nothing to do with the "blanding" problem).
The Posterization is terrible on these photos. This particular shot is .jpg but i've also had trouble with NEF's doing this same thing. I've had the same problem with other people's photographs as well.
I see noise, but no banding. Create a blue to white gradient in Photoshop
or Elements and see if you get similar banding. If you do, post back here
for suggestions on how to set up your monitor.
>Don't shoot outdoor scenes using ISO 400 for starters. Also optimum aperture to get the best depth of field for most lenses is f/8 not f/14. You are working with an image with too much noise due to shooting ISO 400.
As Tom said, it is better to avoid noise than to deal with it later. However, the noise in the sky is easily taken care of with NoiseWare or a similar program. To restrict the NR to the sky and not affect detail elsewere in the image, you can use a mask.
Now that I'm seeing it on a computer at work I don't see the posterization at all, just a bit of noise. it must be my monitor. any suggestions for that?
Liz, what kind of monitor do you have at home and how is it calibrated / profiled?
It's likely that the LUT for your video board has a bend in it. If you are
able, start by changing your monitor profile to a generic profile from the
monitor, or if one is not available, sRGB. If that improves the
appearance, you probably need to use a different profile.
In the interests of speeding things along, I'll guess that you are
calibrating your monitor with a device like the Spyder or i1.
One likely cause for banding would calibrating the monitor to a non-native
white point. Do another calibration, specifying native white point.
If you are seeing a purple band in the blue sky, I have another suggestion.