Archive for the ‘General’ Category

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Site revisions launched and Topaz Fusion Express…

July 14, 2009

Well, it’s done.  The revisions to the website have been published.  I really wanted to update more of the style, but I needed to get this finished for the upcoming wedding season.  I can’t really talk about weddings to clients if my website doesn’t reflect them.  Take a look and let me know what you think.  I’m sure I’ll tweak it over the next few days, but I like what’s there.  As they say in golf (not me, I was always in the rough), “That’ll play!”

Topaz Labs has a great set of inexpensive Photoshop plug ins allowing you to get crazy with adjusting the image (Topaz Adjust), reduce noise (DeNoise), etc.  They recently released Topaz Fusion Express allowing you to use these Photoshop plug ins with Aperture.  Yep!  It’s really cool.  Just right click on your image in Aperture and select Edit…  Topaz Fusion is in the list of editing tools.  Select it and you’ll be prompted for the Topaz plug in you’re looking for.  When done editing, you’re dropped back in to Aperture with a new version of the file.  Pretty slick.

I think the Adjust tool is the most interesting.  With it you can create wild adjustments to your images giving them an unreal look.  I’ve just started playing with it so don’t criticize my images too much! 🙂  Here’s a quick example:

Beach shot

Topaz Adjusted shot

For the second shot, I just went wild with exposure adjustments and noise reduction.  I also cranked up on the detail tab.  It’s interesting, but some of their sample images are much nicer.  I’ll keep learning the tool and post something again after I get some practice.

The Topaz Fusion tool is free and there’s a 15% off coupon for their Topaz Suite.  Use coupon code “NEWFUSION” at checkout.  I’d love to see some images so feel free to leave links in the comments below.

That’s it for now!

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Catching up…

May 15, 2009

Well, a month between posts is not what I had in mind for this blog, but it’s been a pretty busy month.  I’ve done a few commercial jobs, shot a wedding with a friend and moved into a new house.  I’d say it has been busy!

Settling in to the new place has been exciting.  We’ve moved to Skippack, PA, a nice little artsy town with many small shops and restaurants.  Skippack also has the propensity to draw large crowds to stroll its streets during the many festivals it hosts throughout the year.  Surprisingly, there’s only one photographer in town with a shop on the main walk.  Perhaps the town could stand another… 🙂

The more weddings I shoot the more I like them.  Sure, it’s really hard work, but there’s something about the atmosphere – nervous energy and excitement.  I have another one or two this month (waiting for confirmation on the second) and I’m looking forward to them.  I’m very much a people person and if you get a fun group for the wedding, the day is a real joy.

[EDIT: Wow, did I post the wrong picture!  Not sure what happened, but the image I posted did NOT look like I expected – completely my fault!  I’m replacing with two of my favorites from that day.]

First Dance

Daddy's little girl...

I’ve done a significant amount of printing over the last month both in house and outsourced.  I’m still extremely impressed with the color and quality my Epson 3800 provides.  It’s just a dream printer for the type of printing I’m doing.  The problem came in when I needed to print multiple size prints.  I use QImage to print.  This software arranges multiple size images on paper in a way that optimally uses the print media.  The prints look great, but my paper cutter destroyed the prints.  Ughhhh.  After a little research I found that the best paper cutters are made by Rotatrim and they’re not cheap! 🙂  Now what?

With a bad paper cutter and a short delivery time on the prints, I went to a new online friend – White House Custom Color.  WHCC prints everything from proofs to books to posters all at reasonable prices and with fantastic results.  After a quick couple of test prints (they deliver second day mail!) I was able to reprint my entire order, package in a beautiful box and receive in just two days.  I was really impressed and, best of all, so was my client.  From now on, WHCC gets my printing business.  I still love my 3800, but for multiple size orders this is going to save a lot of time and money.

On a technical note, I recently converted my Mac Book Pro to dual boot with Windows 7.  “Dual booting” allows me to choose which operating system my Mac Book uses upon start up – Mac OS X or Windows 7.  For those of you that aren’t familiar, Windows 7 is the next version of the Microsoft Windows operating system after Vista.  Microsoft has provided a pre-release copy on their website for free download.  You’re able to use this “release candidate” until July 2010.  Be warned!!! After the expiration of the release candidate you need to reinstall Windows 7.  There is no upgrade from this to the released version.

Suffice it to say, I’m LOVING the dual boot option.  While I’ve totally mostly converted to OS X, there are still some tasks with which I need Windows.  While my experience with VMWare Fusion for running Windows virtually has been nothing but positive, sometimes you need all the horsepower a real machine provides.  I’m really exited that my Mac hardware supports Windows 7 extremely well.  If you find yourself a Mac user with a need to run Windows from time-to-time I really like the Boot Camp option for a true Windows environment.

Lastly, I’m working on better defining my communication.  Currently, I have one Facebook and Twitter profile.  I’m going to divide this into a person profile and a photography profile.  I’ll provide more information via Twitter and my Facebook fan page as soon as the changes are complete…

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A little music goes a long way…

April 14, 2009

Often, when creating presentations of my photos, I love to include music.  You can add another dimension to your art by including a track that compliments the style of your presentation, especially when you just want to show images without any voice-over content.  When you find the perfect musical compliment it can heighten the appeal of the presentation.

Like the images we display, music is a copyrighted work and can’t be included in a presentation without the appropriate licensing.  Using music without permission is like having someone use your photos in a presentation, ad, or other work without your permission.  I do not allow my images to be used without license or permission so I don’t use copyrighted music.

But that’s hard!  It’s so easy to go to iTunes and find an MP3 from my collection of thousands of songs to use in a presentation.  Since I can’t do that, what do I do?  There are a number of online resources that offer royalty-free music.  I sell some of my work through stock agencies and noticed that iStockPhoto is now offering royalty-free music.  Doing a Google or similar search will find a number of places offering this type of music licensing.

I recently became aware of a new site – Stock20.com.  Stock20 has broadcast-quality music of all types available with royalty-free licensing – you buy a song and you can use it over and over again in your presentations, PowerPoint, broadcasts, websites, etc.  You simply can’t resell, sub license or remix any of the songs.  The pricing is straightforward too – $20 a song.  That’s even a little inaccurate as you get multiple versions of the song in various lengths.  That makes it a lot easier to fit into your work without needing to edit down the length of the song.  In fact, most “songs” contain 10 – 15 versions of the same piece.  Their stuff is good too!

If you’re looking for something like this use this referral link and you’ll get a free song when you sign up (a $20 value!).  There’s no credit card or purchase required to get the free song and there’s no commitment.  There’s also no telling when they’re going to end this promotion!  For full disclosure, I get a free song too when you sign up.  Even without this, I’d recommend the site.

Let me know what you think!

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Back from Moab…

April 14, 2009

Wow, what a trip!  After a delayed start due to weather and getting through a significant snowstorm around Vail, CO, my good friend John Clark and I made it to Moab, UT on Saturday, April 4th.  What a place.

If you’re a landscape photographer and haven’t been to the national parks in the Western United States then make it a priority.  The beautiful rock formations, soaring peaks and big skies are worth every penny you spend to get and stay there.  Utah is especially interesting as it is home to five national parks – Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Capitol Reef National Park.  Utah also claims the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, since it is best accessed through southern Utah. In addition, Mesa Verde National Park is just across the border in Colorado, Great Basin National Park hugs the Nevada border and Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park straddles the Utah/Arizona border.  It’s easy to see why Utah is one of the premier places to explore some of the amazing natural resources of this country.

I am lucky to have a good friend in John Clark.  John has logged many hours in the national parks making stunning images and acquiring a deep knowledge to the best places and times for shooting these landmarks.  Up before sunrise and out until after dark, we cruised the roads of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and Dead Horse Point, a Utah state park.  At each turn, John knew exactly what was ahead, where the best vantage points were and how to make the “classic” shot.  I couldn’t ask for a better guide!

Here are a few of my favorites from the trip:

Sunrise from Dead Horse Point - Utah State Park

Sunrise from Dead Horse Point – Utah State Park

Mesa Arch - Canyonlands National Park

Mesa Arch – Canyonlands National Park

Green River Overlook - Canyonlands

Green River Overlook – Canyonlands National Park

Tree Near Mesa Arch - Canyonlands National Park

Tree Near Mesa Arch – Canyonlands National Park

Skyline Arch - Arches National Park

Skyline Arch – Arches National Park

Courthouse Towers - Arches National ParkCourthouse Towers – Arches National Park

Shooting the Moon Through North Window - Arches National ParkShooting the Moon Through North Window – Arches National Park

Hopefully, this gives you a feel for the type of photography that is so prolific in this part of the world.  I’m already thinking about taking a couple weeks to explore this area and the rest of Southern Utah in the near future!

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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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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!

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The next two ports of call – Roatán, Honduras and Belize City, Belize…

February 24, 2009

Tuesday, January 27th – Roatán, Honduras

Our first port of call was Roatán, Honduras.  Roatán is a less widely traveled destination for cruise ships, but one that is becoming more and more popular.  Roatán is a small island that is part of a chain of five islands known as the Bay Islands of Honduras.

Approaching Roatan

My previous visit to this island was in 2005 and a great deal of new infrastructure was apparent, including a complete renovation of the Port of Roatán.  Actually, the day after our visit, the Honduran President was coming to officially dedicate the new port.

Port of Roatan

Unfortunately, this was still the rainy season and the skies were overcast (okay, the picture above is from later in the day!).  Our shore excursion was a trip to Gumbalimba Park and the Tabayana Beach Party.  Gumbalimba is a small park where you can see various parrots including the military and red macaws and interact with monkeys.  Of course, upon arrival we were greeted with a downpour.  This was the first time I’d used the belt system from ThinkTank (I’ll do a mini review in the next few days) and they have built-in rain cover for their pouches.  A nice feature that was very useful this morning!

When the rain stopped we had a short walk to see the macaws.  I’ve always been a fan of parrots.  Their intelligence and beauty are fascinating.  When looking in the eyes of these birds, you can sense their intelligence.  After a couple quick shots, it was off to see the monkeys.

Milatary Macaw

In this area, there were a number of monkeys freely jumping from tree to tree, but also a few “naughty” ones on leashes.  Peter, a capuchin monkey and the baby of the group, was also on a leash.  Some guests were given hyacinths to feed the monkeys.   Peter, not shy at all, ran from guest to guest, pausing only long enough to eat the flowers.

I’d never been close to monkeys before and this was a neat experience.  The little hands were very soft and gentle, not what I expected.  Photographing these little fellows wasn’t easy as they constantly ran around grabbing treats from people.  Yes, I could have a number of shots with a monkey on someone’s shoulder, but I wanted pictures of just the monkeys, not the guests.  I was able to grab a few.  This one was my favorite.

Peter

The rest of this park was a short history of the island and walk through the grounds before boarding a bus for the beach party.  To my surprise, the sun was shining with bright blue skies and white puffy clouds.

Tabayana Beach is a private beach attraction where most of the private tours end up.  Hundreds of folks were at the beach, but it never appeared crowed or difficult to get food, drink or rent any of the equipment available.  It was a nice day to swim, soak up the sun and relax.

Tabayana Beach

I did take a short walk down the beach and found a few marine iguanas.  These small, black iguanas live in the old coral walls that are now part of the landscape.  When it’s sunny, you can almost always find them basking in the sun.

Marine Iguana

Of course, I couldn’t just end this section without a quick mention about my good friend Tim.  Tim decided he wanted to sing with the reggae band and they were more than willing to have him!  Great job, Tim!

Tim and the band

It was back to the ship and a slow trip to our next port.

Wednesday, January 28th – Belize City, Belize

In Belize, our ship needed to anchor a good way out and we had to tender into the port.  You’d think this would take a lot longer than walking off, but you’d be amazed at the number of boats coming to take passengers into the city.  Once arriving in port, I thought about stocking up on various pharmaceuticals before our excursion.  It’s amazing what you can buy!

Need anything?

In Belize we signed up for a cave exploration, a Land Rover tour through the jungle and a boat ride down the Sabun River.  What sounded like a fun day turned out to be a most excellent adventure!

An hour school bus ride through Belize City and into the surrounding jungle was narrated by our guide giving us a history of the island and overusing the phrase “Seeing is Belize-In!”.  Nevertheless, it was informative and entertaining.  When my butt had just about had enough of the bouncing down dirt roads, we came to a stop in the jungle camp.

Strapping back on the ThinkTank belt system, we showered in bug spray before heading off to the caves.  Fortunately, we weren’t lite on the spray as we were quickly covered in mosquito’s.  Hundreds if not thousands.  It was nasty.

Now I’ve been in caves before.  In fact my gallery contains a nice picture of an underground lake from Indian Echo Caverns in Pennsylvania.  I’ve been to at least two other PA attractions with caves.  This was nothing like I’ve ever seen and something that would never have been allowed in the states.  Pictures aren’t going to do this justice.

Suffice it to say, I’m not a small guy.  At 6’1″ and… well, a couple pounds more than the most liberal weight charts, this was going to be a test of my ability to fit into tight places.  Entering the caves meant squeezing though a narrow entrance and through small crevices.  At one point, I removed the ThinkTank and camera, slid them through to Jen and, on my hands and knees, crawled through to the next section of the cave.  It was very cool!  Here’s a shot of Jen entering the cave.

Entering the cave

The Land Rover tour was even more of an adventure.  The previous few days had spilled a lot of rain on Belize.  After boarding the Rover with another couple and heading into the jungle we realized this wasn’t the best day to be on these trails.  With mud over the front bumpers of the vehicles we bounced, bopped, jumped and nearly flipped our way through the jungle.  In this shot, you can see one of the Rovers stuck in the mud.  Definitely, an extreme trip!

Stuck in the mud

At this point I think we were running a little behind on the schedule as we were supposed to break for lunch hours previous.  I finally got one of the guides to admit (with a laugh) that it was probably a good day to have canceled the Rover part of the trip.  They didn’t know how bad the trails were until it was too late.  Hey, it was a blast!

After a short respite with a traditional lunch of chicken, beans and rice (and a few glasses of rum punch) we got ready to board the boat for our trip down the river.

Down the river

I love boats so I was looking forward to this cruise down the river looking for wildlife.  While we were traveling too fast and furious for shooting the egrets and other birds taking off from the riverbanks, we did stop to see some of the larger iguanas living in the trees.  The large male iguanas were orange in color and fairly easy to spot in the green treetops.  The green females took a little longer to spot.

Male iguana

A few minutes later, we stopped to check out another denizen of the river – a crocodile.

Crocodile

The rest of the trip was pretty quick.  In fact, we were so behind schedule that we were almost too late to board the ship.  So, our guides decided it was easiest to run straight back to the ship instead of to the port for a tender.  So out of the river and straight into the ocean we shot making a beeline for the Pearl.  It was the perfect end to a blast of a day…

Wait for us!