Archive for January, 2009

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There’s nothing better than a photo trip…

January 23, 2009

So why do I hate packing so much?¬† ūüėȬ† I’m getting ready to travel to Miami for a wedding shoot and then hopping on board the Norwegian Pearl for a Western Caribbean cruise.¬† Yep, some rest and relaxation while earning a living.¬† Not too bad for a week of work!¬† Clearly, the focus of the trip is the wedding.¬† The couple is very laid back and really looking for a good time – not a stuffy wedding to say the least!¬† The type of pictures they want is, of course, photo journalistic.¬† That is the term in wedding photography and has been for a long time.¬† Basically, keep your posed pictures to a minimum and focus on capturing the spontaneous events of the day. As a photographer you don’t want anyone to know you’re there as this will allow you to capture the “real” expressions and moments throughout the day.¬† I’ll post some of my images (with the couple’s approval) when I get back.

Besides the wedding, my partner Jen and I will be looking to beef up RTP’s stock image portfolio with landscapes, wildlife and anything else we can capture.¬† The ship stops in Roatan, Honduras, Belize, Cozumel and the cruise line’s private island.¬† Most of the excursions we’re taking allow us to maximize our photographic potential and we’re looking forward to capturing some amazing scenes.

I received an interesting email the other day from one of the stock agencies I use.¬† They were letting me know one of my images, a picture of a stethoscope in the shape of a heart, was used in a design contest submission.¬† A little legwork and I found the image is being used on the front cover of a French novel, Un Cancer, mon amour by Biliki publishers.¬† My French is a little rusty terrible so I’m not exactly sure what the novel is about besides someone’s fight against cancer, but it’s interesting to learn where some of my stock images are used.¬† I haven’t found a good way to discover more of my images in the “real world”.¬† If anyone knows how, I’d love to hear about it.

Another bit of news I somehow missed came from a fellow Nikonian, Tom Trujillo.  On October 8th, 2008 he was with a group of fellow Nikon photographers in Curry Village in Yosemite National Park when a landslide occurred destroying cabins and tents in the village and causing minor injuries to some folks.  Tom, instead of running away with everyone else, ran into the chaos and was able to pull a few children from the area.  Check out his interview with FoxNews, an article in the LA Times and the writeup in the Nikonians eZine.  His images were picked up by the Associated Press and published nationally.  Way to go, Tom, not for the images (although national publication is very sweet!), but for your reaction to people in need.  Nice work!

My suitcase is still open and unpacked with many of my clothes in the dryer.¬† It’s going to be a long night.¬† Stay tuned for some pictures when I return.

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Raw vs. JPEG…

January 14, 2009

A good friend of mine sent me a Facebook message asking about the differences between shooting raw files and shooting JPEG.¬† She just made the jump to digital (it’s about time!) when she received a Nikon D90 for Christmas from her (awesome) husband.¬† Talk about a great gift!¬† Most new digital photographers, including those with digital SLRs, start shooting JPEG because it’s easy to use and allows for more shots per memory card.¬† But I’m getting ahead of myself…

JPEG files are one of the many file formats used to represent images on a computer.¬† The JPEG standard was developed in the early 90s and was made a true “standard” in 1994.¬† One of the main features of a JPEG file is that it’s compressible and that the compression amount can be determined by the user.¬† Compression allows JPEGs to take up less space than other file formats.¬† This is why you’re often asked the quality of the JPEG when you save a file to your computer or in your camera.¬† Of course, once a JPEG is written at a quality less than 100%, that information is gone and you’re not able to recover.¬† JPEGs take up less space than other formats depending on the amount of quality/compression¬† you select.¬† JPEGs are common across most computer systems, in web browsers, picture frames, etc. and probably the most common image format today.

Raw files, on the other hand, are specific to each camera manufacturer.¬† Actually, there is at least one company, Adobe, makers of Photoshop and other applications, that created a standard raw file (the DNG file), but this is somewhat beyond the scope of this discussion.¬† The camera manufacturers create the file format and provide portions or all of the format to the software developers that create the processing software.¬† Raw files contain the raw data coming straight from the camera sensor (among other tidbits of information).¬† With raw files, you need more specialized software to read and “develop” these images into a standard format.

So, why would you shoot raw if it uses more space and is more difficult to use after downloading from the camera?¬† It all depends on the type of shooting you do.¬† Simply, raw files contain much more data than JPEG files.¬† Since raw files contain the actual information from the sensor, the images can be developed on the computer using different techniques and different settings.¬† JPEGs are developed in the camera.¬† They are created using the settings on the camera.¬† Settings like white balance, saturation, sharpening, etc. are used when the JPEG is created (developed) in the camera.¬† While some of the impact the setting has on the image can be adjusted after the file is created, you can never recreate the file from scratch using a JPEG.¬† The information simply isn’t there.¬† With a raw file, you can reprocess with different settings until you get the desired image.

Also, raw files contain a significant amount of extra information.¬† This gets a little more technical, but a JPEG file by definition contains 256 brightness levels.¬† A typical raw file at 12-bits of data will contain 4,096 brightness levels while a 14-bit raw file (more prevalent in higher-end cameras) will contain 16,384 brightness levels.¬† There’s a lot more information that can be used to create your image with a raw file.

So, what does that all mean?¬† Even with the settings “baked in” and “only” 256 levels of brightness, JPEG images can look amazing.¬† The difference is in the development process.¬† Here is an example:

You’re shooting a wedding.¬† It’s a bright sunny day and you’re shooting the bride and groom, along with the wedding party, outside.¬† These are your “bread-and-butter” shots from the wedding.¬† Later, when you pull the images from the camera you notice all the outside photos have a yellow cast to them.¬† It’s then you realize you never changed the white balance after shooting indoors with a flash.¬† Now, if you’re using JPEG files, you have a long day in front of you as changing the color cast is not a trivial task.¬† If you have raw files, you simply change the setting for white balance to the correct setting and the image is reprocessed on your computer and the color cast is removed.

There are downsides to shooting raw files.¬† For the most part, you’re going to need special software to develop a raw file.¬† So instead of popping out your memory card and sending the files¬† to Facebook or Flickr like you can with a JPEG, you need to develop the images.¬† This will take time and computing power.¬† Some folks simply don’t want to be bothered or don’t have the time.¬† Imagine shooting the NCF Championship game this weekend between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Arizona Cardinals.¬† You’re taking picture after picture of Donovan McNabb scrambling and completing pass after pass to Westbrook, Jackson and Smith (sorry, I couldn’t help myself!).¬† Your publisher needs images fast.¬† There’s no time to sit down and process images.¬† You need to send them off ASAP so they can be ready for publication.

To wrap this up, I shoot raw.¬† Why?¬† It fits my work flow.¬† I know I’m going to spend time and energy making my photos look the best they can be.¬† I know I’m not going to get everything right in the camera, so I like having the flexibility of shooting raw.¬† The choice is really up to you.¬† There is no right or wrong.¬† I’d suggest, though, that unless you have a specific reason to shoot JPEG (don’t have the software to develop raws, don’t want to spend the time, etc.), shoot raw.¬† You’ll get a lot more flexibility after you download the images.

Let me know your thoughts!

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Goodbye 2008, Hello 2009…

January 2, 2009

Ahhh, the invigorating feeling of the beginning of a new year.¬† In the last week I’ve thrown out bags and bags of great stuff junk I’ve held on to for way too long.¬† My scanner has been furiously scanning the mounds of paperwork my inner-pack rat deemed too important to throw away and the shredder is making confetti from the hard copy.¬† Yes, it’s the beginning of a new year.

To many, 2008 was tough.  The terrible economy, housing-market issues and unemployment have contributed to an economic year without parallel since the time of the Great Depression.  The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to take young lives and seem to have no end.  On a personal note, 2008 was a year that brought too much sorrow, fear and anger and is one I want to quickly put behind me.  This is one New Year I looked forward to watching the crystal ball fall in Times Square ushering in the promise of better times to come.

But 2008 wasn’t all doom and gloom.¬† Because of the exponential rise in the price of oil, the country was forced to look at alternative methods of energy and the reduction of our reliance on foreign oil.¬† (Hopefully, the recent collapse of oil prices won’t change this!)¬† Although certainly controversal to many, our government leaders passed bills to shore-up the banking and auto industries (hey, at least they acted!).¬† Most of all we saw the historic election of our first African-American president.¬† Regardless of politic affiliation or view of party policy and objectives, we all must recognize the significance of this historic event.

For me, it was a year of significant changes in my photography.¬† After winning a spot in the first Aperture Nature Photography Workshop, I journeyed back to lovely Jackson Hole, WY to shoot with the pros and learn about Aperture.¬† The experience was the photographic-highlight of the year (darn near the overall highlight of the year) as I met some extraordinary people and made some fantastic friendships.¬† Since, Aperture is the go-to program for cataloging, key-wording, importing, exporting and development (plus a host of other features).¬† Quite simply, it’s changed my entire work flow and I’m loving it.

I have a lot of high-hopes for 2009.¬† In January, I’m shooting a wedding at the amazing Doral Country Club in Miami for a good buddy and his beautiful wife.¬† After, we’re on a cruise to the Western Caribbean.¬† I’m hoping to post many new images from that trip.¬† In early Feb, I’m heading back to Miami to help shoot a 500+ person martial arts competition.¬† I’m hoping to get back out West later in the year and potentially a trip to Bosque del Apache National Park.¬† I’m also now shooting for America’s first zoo, the Philadelphia Zoo, for special events and stock photos.¬† It should give me an excellent opportunity to develop my wildlife techniques while staying local.

On the teaching front, I’ll continue to present at the Lansdale Camera Club from time to time.¬† Stay tuned for my upcoming class schedule.¬† I’ve got the location secured and I’m developing the coursework.¬† Feel free to email or comment about the subjects you’d be interested in learning about.¬† Of course I’ll continue to post here.¬† In fact, I’m shooting for at least a post per week.

To everyone, I thank you for your support and wish you a very Happy, Healthly and Prosperous New Year!