Archive for the ‘Images’ Category

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OBX Vacation…

August 31, 2011

It’s been a while since we’ve posted anything to the blog, so to re-kick things off I wanted to post a few from our “vacation” last week. If you’ve been in a coma for the last 10 days you’re probably unfamiliar with the words Hurricane Irene. Yeah, after two full days of vacationing with the family, we got word that a mandatory evacuation was declared and we needed to pack up and get out! I didn’t get a chance to shoot very much, but I wanted to share a few I found interesting.

The day before the evacuation we took a ride down to see (and climb) the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. This icon of the Outer Banks of North Carolina is a must-have shot if you spend any time in the area. What started as a beautiful sunny day quickly turned overcast as the outer bands of Irene made their way into the area. This three-shot HDR image processed in Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro 2.0 and Apple’s Aperture shows the ominous skies only a couple days before the storm made landfall.

As the kids and I walked to the entrance to climb 12 stories to the top of the lighthouse, I shot this…

This is a single exposure processed in Aperture and converted to black and white with Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2.0. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better black and white conversion package.

On the way back from the lighthouse, Jen spotted one of the smallest buildings on the island. I turned around to take a look and found one of the smallest post office buildings in the United States.

The Salvo Post Office was one of the smallest in the country. Established in 1901, the original post office was destroyed by an arsonist in 1992. This is the replacement building! I love the little plastic mailbox in the foreground. This image was created from five images and processed in HDR Efex Pro.

Although our time in OBX was short, we had a great time and hope to return next year (probably a bit earlier in the season to avoid future storms).

Hurricane Irene caused significant damage all over the East Coast. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the people affected by the storm.

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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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It’s not the camera…

June 15, 2009

Sorry for the lack of communication, but I’ve been working on changes to the main site.  I’m keeping the look and feel right now, but adding sections for wedding photography.  Stay tuned for the site updates later this week.

In the meantime I wanted to discuss a new little addiction I have – iPhone photography.  Since getting the iPhone, I’ve used the device for everything from phone calls to showing my photo gallery.  I love it, but would I use it over my big, beautiful Nikon with a giant, high-speed lens for photography?  Ummm, yes!

Having a pro-level DSLR camera is fantastic, but it’s not always practical to carry everywhere.  After some nudging from some photo-friends, I started using my iPhone for more and more photography – mostly snapshots.  Now, I’m addicted!  Since the iPhone is always with me, I’m shooting with it all the time.  Snap, snap, snap!  I use it to remember prices of products to shooting the kids doing something unexpected.

What I really enjoy is making the iPhone snaps look different from my standard images.  In steps the application Camera Bag.  This app allows me to take a picture on the iPhone and save it using various presets.  I’ve been using the Instant setting which makes my photos reminiscent of Polaroid snaps.  Neat stuff and it’s always with me!

Flying home

Home Improvement

Shopping

Jen

So remember, it’s not the camera that makes the photographer…

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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:

longwoodgardens0018

longwoodgardens0021

longwoodgardens0088

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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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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A big step forward…

November 2, 2008

It’s been a good few days since the last update so I wanted to give you a quick update.  First, the interview with Derrick Story at Inside Aperture went extremely well.  Derrick is a first-class guy and extremely knowledgeable about all things photography.  His blog and podcast, Inside Aperture, plus his other podcast The Digital Story are very good sources of photography information.  It sounds like my interview with him will be in this Tuesday’s Inside Aperture podcast.  Have a listen and let me know what you think.

I finally made a big step in the advancement of Robert Trueman Photography.  After much thought, I chose a provider for the new website, paid my initial start up fees and I’m ready to start building the site.  I explored a number of providers for flash-based photography sites – Into The Darkroom, PhotoBiz, Big Folio, and Livebooks among others.  All looked really good, with easy-to-use Flash-based templates to quickly build professional looking websites for photographers.  For me, PhotoBiz offered exactly what I’m looking for – easy-to-use templates, good looking templates and an ordering system I can tied to either a pro lab or print on my own.  Currently, they’re having a 50% off start up fees offer that I used.  I chose the flash website and client ordering site.  This will allow me to display and sell my fine art photography and have a place for clients to see, select and order the proofs from a shoot.  Ultimately, I can split the site into multiple sites each for a photographic style.  There’s a lot to learn here, but I’m hoping to have something up and running by the end of the week.

Lastly, I need to step it up when it comes to portraits.  I’m very critical of photography and know what I like when I see it.  Today, I had the opportunity to photography my girlfriend’s nephew, Christopher, an adorable 5 month old.  The shoot went well.  With really young kids, you have to focus fast as they move quickly and without warning.  While I was pleased with the digital negatives I shot, I was really blown away by the final processed images.  I’ll let them speak for themselves, but I like what I see.  As always, feel free to comment!