Archive for the ‘Software’ 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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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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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!

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PhotoPlus Expo…

October 24, 2008

The PhotoPlus Expo is a huge show with hundreds of vendors, both big and small.  There are also a number of different educational classes and hands-on labs (for an additional fee) with some of the best photographers in the business presenting.  If you enjoy photography, this New York City show is a must-see.

My plan for tackling the show floor was to make strategic visits to the vendors I was most interested in before exploring the rest of the floor.  Drobo (Data Robotics), Nikon, Epson, Nik Software, B&H Photo and ThinkTank Photo were my first-visit choices.  The big ones, Nikon and Epson, were quick trips to see what was going on and to check out their latest offerings.  Nikon was a huge booth with all types of equipment to check out.  From the D3 to the Coolpix line and 600mm f4s to 10mm fish eyes Nikon’s booth had it all to see.  Since most of their announcements were made a few months back, there was nothing brand new to see.  Epson was the same way (and no paper samples!).  Both were interesting with lots of hands on equipment and short-subject presentations.

At Data Robotics I really enjoyed speaking to Mark Fuccio, the VP of Sales.  Mark is an interesting guy.  A true engineer at heart, Mark’s sense of the market and how to grow Drobo’s was an interesting discussion.  Drobo has made fantastic inroads in the photography market.  It’s simple to set up, easy to use and provides data protection and expandability that any photographer, or anyone with substantial data storage needs, would find useful.  With the introduction of Drobo-specific applications (for instance limiting the amount of space Time Machine uses) and the introduction of cheaper and larger hard disks, this company is in a great position to take off.

Nik Software is the company behind great products like Viveza, Color Efex Pro and Capture NX.  I won’t go into detail on all their products – you can go to their website for that.  I’ve looked at their software and played with the demos for some time and was interested in seeing what show specials they offered.  While certainly not “must-have” software for the casual photographer, the “extra touch” their products provide make your images really stand out.  Sure enough, there was a “new” collection for Aperture – a complete collection of all their products as plug ins for Aperture.  With very little hesitation, I made the jump.  I’m very anxious to use these products.  I’ll be sure to post my thoughts as I use each tool.

ThinkTank is another company with fantastic products.  They’re known for their great line of bags and their belt system that allows you to attach various pouches and storage pieces to store lenses, extra batteries, filters, etc.  It allows a photographer to walk around with a number of extra pieces while keeping their hands free to take pictures.  Again, see their website for a list of all the attachments.  Of course there was another show special – a set of five attachments and a free belt.  Yep, I made the jump.  I can’t wait to use them!

I’ll talk about the classes in another post.  I’m very pleased with my choices and the information I’ve learned.  Tomorrow, I’m meeting with Derrick Story for an interview for Inside Aperture.  I’m excited.

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The Microsoft Juggernaut…

October 21, 2008

Since moving to a Mac environment, I’ve attempted to do everything on the Macintosh.  From email and web browsing to photo editing and finance I was getting most of my work complete, although was using a Windows virtual machine for Quicken.  Simply, the Mac version of Quicken stinks and, using the VMWare Fusion product, the Windows version of Quicken runs really well.  I still returned to the PC for a number of tasks including filing email, most office documents and scanning documents – basically MS Office tasks and Adobe Acrobat.

I use Acrobat for scanning all my documents to PDF.  While I can complete this on the Mac using the software that came with my scanner/printer/fax, the Acrobat product does it better.  Since I own the Windows version of Acrobat, I scan on my PC and save my documents to the Mac.  I’ll update to the Mac version of Acrobat when I upgrade to CS4 suite.

Being in the “Windows” work environment all of my career, I’ve always used MS Office.  Quite frankly, I really like the product and wasn’t looking to change.  I recently download the latest Open Office 3 product and, while impressed, still didn’t get the results I needed from converting Word and Excel documents.  Plus, I still wasn’t able to file email in the folder structure I’ve used for years.  So a couple of days ago, I broke down and purchased Office 2008 for the Mac.

Arriving today, I quickly installed Mac Office 2008.  Of course, the first app I need is Entourage (Outlook’s Mac Office counterpart).  What’s the first thing I find?  There’s no support for my Outlook PST files.  They all need to be converted to Entourage.  Okay, let’s get started… What?  There’s no built in support for this!  Sigh.  Out to the web I run looking for a solution.  It turns out there’s a company, Little Machines, that sells a program that converts PST to Entourage.  It’s $10 – a great price if it works.  I’m currently moving all my PC files, including my PSTs, to the Mac.  Then I’ll start my conversion.

So I have to ask… Why no Outlook, or Outlook support in Mac Office?  That’s crazy.  It’s the same product (Office for the Mac/Office for Windows) and all other formats are supported.  What happened to Outlook?  Oh well.  I guess it’s another way to keep you on Windows.  I’ll let you know what happens with my conversion.  I’m holding my breath! 🙂

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My New Workflow…

October 12, 2008

It’s been a couple weeks since I returned from the ANPW trip (far too long since the last update) and I wanted to thank everyone’s well wishes via email and blog comments.  It was a blast having you read of our adventures during the ANPW.  I’d also like to give major thanks to Scott Bourne for putting together the sponsors, prizes and pros for the first ANPW.  It was truly a fantastic experience and one I’m not soon to forget.  Also, to Martin, thank you for your friendship, Aperture instruction and for making me a better photographer.  He’s truly an amazing photographer and all around good guy.  To Steve and Scott, I really enjoyed the time we spent talking and shooting together.  I really did learn a lot from both of you from photojournalism to portraits.  It was a fantastic experience and I hope to meet up with everyone again in the future.  Don’t think twice – ENTER THE NEXT ANPW CONTEST!  I never thought I’d win and it’s well worth the entry fee ($0.00!!!).

Probably the biggest change to my photography in the post-ANPW world is my workflow.  I really liked my previous workflow, but it’s a whole new ballgame now.  Previously, I was using a Windows Vista machine.  I’m a fan of Vista and haven’t had the bad experiences I’ve heard about.  The machine was a Sony Viao with a 2.2GHz processor, 4 GB of RAM and plenty of disk.  All around a good machine.  After shooting, I would download my images using Nikon Transfer, a free, yet decent, transfer utility.  Using this, I’d set my IPTC data and keywords.  Once complete, I would fire up IMatch to catalog and take a look at the images.  I’d start rating my images and delete those that were unusable.  To “develop” my images, I’d start up Nikon Capture NX 2.  Again, many folks have complained about NX, but I really like the app.  The non-destructive edits and uPoint technology was really fantastic and I didn’t have too much of an issue getting great results.  Finally, to print, I’d fire up QImage, a Windows-only, fantastic utility for printing images.  What I love about QImage are the fantastic results coming from my Epson 3800.  Simply stunning.

Now, things are a little different.  I’ve purchased a decent 20″ iMac with a 2.0 GHz processor, 4 GB RAM and, with the firewire Drobo attached, virtually unlimited disk space.  To download my images, set my IPTC and keyword my images, I fire up Aperture.  When complete, they’re already cataloged and I’m looking through the images rating and deleting the rejected ones.  When I find one to “develop”, I simply click the adjustments tab and I’m off.  I find that adjustments are, overall, much less complicated with Aperture.  Generally, a few tweaks and I’m satisfied.  Now, I don’t have the amazing uPoint technology allowing for adjustments to specific areas of the image, but I’m finding that I don’t miss it… too much.  The Nik Software Viveza will give me this ability as an Aperture plug in.  Finally, I can print right through Aperture.  Now printing is an art form and I’m still learning, but my initial results are quite good.  Plus, with Aperture I can make books, upload to my MobileMe account, export using preset export parameters (really cool), etc.  It’s a complete gamechanger.

Overall, I’m extremely pleased with the new workflow.  It’s definitely saving me a lot of time processing my images.  With the combination of the Drobo, I have all 35,000+ images right at my fingertips and it’s still very fast.  I’m impressed.

Also, the images simply look a lot better in Aperture.  I know there’s significant proprietary tweaks the software is doing (non-destructively) to my images and it pays off.  While I can’t put into words the difference, you have to trust me that they look better.  I’m very pleased with my results.

One last thing, during the upcoming PhotoPlus Expo in NYC, I’m being interviewed by Derrick Short of Inside Aperture website and podcast.  They’re interested in my thoughts going from my old to new workflow.  I’m really looking forward to this experience.  I’ll post more information when I know more.

Since I have to post something before I go, how about an image from Indian Echo Caverns in Hummelstown Pennsylvania (near Hershey).  We took a trip there this summer.  This was my favorite shot from the trip.  Enjoy!