Archive for March, 2009

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A stocking stuffer in March…

March 26, 2009

If you’re like me it’s hard to find the perfect gift for your parents.  Seriously!  What could my mother want that she doesn’t already have or could go out and get?  The answer for me, and I’ll assume many of the photographers/creative folks in the audience, is found in my childhood.  I make something.  No, I’m not talking about setting my hands in plaster or yet another clay ashtray/paperweight/blob, but something that she’ll treasure.  Yesterday, FedEx dropped it off at my door!

Yeah, I know it’s kind of late to be talking about Christmas (or whatever your late-in-the-year holiday festival is called) gifts, but I didn’t want to rush this one.  Plus… I simply forgot.  Anyway, I received a hardbound book from Apple created using Aperture with the pictures I took of my family throughout the year.  I think she’ll love it.

There are many places online and brick-and-mortar stores that will print a book for you.  I’m looking at some of these services as I evaluate books and related products to sell to my clients.  What brought me to Apple is my work flow with Aperture.  Yeah, you all know my love-fest with the Aperture product, but it’s not unfounded.  But let’s focus on the actual book.

Like many services, Apple allows you to choose from a variety of products from small, soft-cover books, to large coffee-table tomes with beautiful dust jackets and embossed type.  Layout of the pages was as simple as drag-and-drop from various photo projects.  Aperture provides standard layouts which you can modify to your creative tastes or you can develop a layout from scratch.  When complete, a PDF file is created of the finished product.  This is the standard format used by most book-printing services allowing you to take the book to whatever service suits you best.  I decided to send it to Apple.

Upon arrival I was impressed with the product packaging.  There was a large solid box in front of my door that could have stood up to the impending rain storm (I didn’t test my theory!).  Inside was another Apple-branded box suitable as a gift box containing the printed book.

Package

The book I ordered was a 26-page, hardbound book with a dustcover.  The book was nicely packaged inside a plastic bag with adhesive at the top.  It felt very “hardbound” without any flexing or other “cheap” feel.  This was a nice product.

Inside

Book

Taking off the dust jacket revealed the hard-cover with a silver-embossed title.  Very cool!

Book Cover

Inside, the printing was exceptional.  All the pictures had fantastic color and brightness and the paper was a good quality – not cheap and flimsy.

Overall, I think this is an exception product.  My 26-page hardcover book cost $46.56 including tax and shipping and it took a little over a week to receive.  For clients requiring a nice product without the expense of the higher-end photo albums, this looks perfect.  I’m adding it to the selection of products for my clients.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments!

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An HDR and Silver Efex Pro weekend…

March 23, 2009

What a fun weekend!  Late Friday, I got word that two photo-friends, Eric Lawton and Bob Lott, were heading to Longwood Gardens Saturday morning.  I met these two fantastic photographers on my first trip to the Tetons and Yellowstone with the Nikonians Photo-Adventure Trip.  If was fantastic to catch up, meet Eric’s family and hear about Bob’s latest adventures, especially his work with high dynamic range (HDR) photography.

HDR photography is a somewhat new and certainly interesting form of photography.  The concept is to increase the total range of light that an image contains through the use of multiple images at different exposures.  Huh?  Okay, it’s not as complicated as I just made it sound.

Let me present an oversimplified example.  Let’s begin by stating your camera’s sensor can capture 100 levels of light at a certain exposure (yeah, I know you spent a lot of money on your camera, but for this example, it’s only capturing 100 levels of light.  It’s only an example!).  For many images this range is fine because there are only 100 or less light-levels in the image and you’ll capture them all.  (Okay, this is waaay oversimplified, but bear with me).  Some high-contrast subjects, however, have many more levels of light than the 100 your camera is able to record – let’s say 500 levels of light.  So what do you do?  You decide on an exposure of 1/125th of a second, f8 and ISO 200.  Let’s assign this exposure the value of 250.  This means your camera has recorded everything from light-level 200 – 300 or half the light below the exposure and half above.  Anything over 300 is lost in blown highlights and anything below 200 is pure black.

So how do you fix this?  Simple!  Take five photographs each at different exposures.  The first records the 200 – 300 range, the second from 100 – 200 the third from 300 – 400, the fourth from 0 – 100 and the fifth and final from 400 – 500.  The beauty of this is most cameras will do this bracketing automatically (read your manual under bracketing)!  Last, you combine the images and create your final image.

Here’s an example from Saturday.  Walking in to the main conservatory of Longwood Gardens is a stunning, glass-roofed building with an ever-changing display of plants and flowers.  Photographically, the problem is the amount of light from the glass ceiling and the darker areas towards the bottom of the room.  Here’s an example of a “normal” shot of the room.  In it, I selected 1/80 sec, ISO 200 and f11.

Conservatory

As you can see the ceiling is washed out due to the amount of light and there are numerous dark areas towards the bottom of the room.  To combat, I used a nine image series of images each with a difference of 1 stop.  In the end I had four “overexposed” images, four “underexposed” images and one “properly” exposed image.  I fed those into HDRSoft’s Photomatix software and it blends these together to give you the following HDR image:

Conservatory HDR

HDR photography can also bring out enhanced detail in an image.  Take these two images.  The first is “normally” exposed while the second is an HDR using five exposures of 1 stop difference each.

Normal exposure

HDR version

The difference is subtle, but the HDR shows more detail especially in the darker areas of the image.

I hope that gives you some insight into this interesting area of photography.  Give it a shot.  It’s interesting stuff.

Here are a few other non-HDR shots from Saturday that I really liked:

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longwoodgardens0021

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Sunday, Jen and I decided to take a trip to the Philadelphia Zoo.  Without children it was a great time to focus on taking some pictures.  When I got back to process some images, I decided to make a few black and white images.

At the last camera club meeting, I was asked if I would give a presentation on B&W post-processing.  “Sure”, I replied, “It’s two minutes in Silver Efex Pro!”  That’s all I know!

Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro is an award winning and highly recommended B&W conversion software.  Seriously, it’s all I use and I just use the default settings.  I’m using it from inside Aperture.  For me, I right-click my image, select Edit With and Silver Efex Pro and after it starts take the default settings with the click of the Save button.  I’m done!

Here’s a couple from today’s zoo shoot:

Diamond Back

Queen of the Jungle

If you’re looking for some additional software, I’d highly commend the Nik Software Complete set.  It imcludes Silver Efex Pro along with the other Nik Software tools – Color Efex Pro, Dfine, Sharpen and Viveza.  I’ll post more about these cools packages in a later entry.

I hope you enjoyed this entry.  Check back often…

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Your mobile portfolio…

March 3, 2009

Okay, I have to admit that the last few trip-posts had me struggling to finish.  While I know some folks enjoy hearing about my travels, I view the last few posts as sitting with your parents as they break out the photo albums – really boring! 🙂  I wanted to make this blog informative and not a bunch of loosely fitting images.  So, I’m getting back to what I originally intended – providing information.  Enough said…

One of my favorite gadgets is my iPhone.  For me, it’s a fantastic tool for communications, business and entertainment.  I’m addicted to the iPhone Store where I’m constantly browsing and looking for new and exciting applications and I won’t hesitate to purchase if they’re below $10.00 (many are).  From Facebook to Scrabble and many, many more, I’m an App Store junkie!

One feature of the iPhone that’s helping my business is the ability to show my portfolio.  Let’s face it.  As soon as someone hears you’re a photographer they want to see your photos.  Many times they’ll ask, but if you have to ask, they’re not going to say no.  Out pops my iPhone, I open my images and they’re flipping through the many photos I have stored.  Often, the act of flipping through them is entertaining in and of itself!  Plus, the iPhone’s screen is great for showing photos.  It’s beautiful.

iPhone Galleries

iPhone Photos

iPhone Race

iPhone Flower

If you’re using Aperture or iPhoto, it gets even easier to import your favorites automatically.  With your iPhone connected, select it in iTunes and click the Photos tab.  The first check box allows you to sync photos directly from your Aperture or iPhoto libraries.  In the example below, I only sync with my three star or greater libraries, but you can select Smart Albums and/or individual albums.  It’s up to you.

iTunes

Once I set my iPhone to sync with a Smart Album, everything is automatic.  Whenever I rank a photo three stars or greater during my workflow in Aperture, I know it’s appearing on the iPhone.  At the next sync, the images are copied to the iPhone and you’re ready to impress!

I’m only familiar with the iPhone, but I know many other phones/PDAs can do the same thing.  Check it out.  It’s a fast and convenient way to show your photos!

Coming up!
I have an interesting post coming on a recent pinup workshop.  Besides having two great models to shoot, the instructor, Paul Pruit, led an interesting workshop on lighting.  Stay tuned.  This was a good one!