h1

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…

h1

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…

h1

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!

h1

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!

h1

Off again…

April 2, 2009

Tomorrow morning I’m heading to Denver to meet with fellow photographer, John Clark.  From there, we’re driving five and a half hours to Moab, UT and Arches National Park.  Later in the weekend we’re heading over to Canyonlands.  I’ve always wanted to shoot Arches.  It’s kind of a “have-to” shoot for landscape and nature photographers.  So, I’m grabbing that “hat” as I head out tomorrow to see what I can capture.

I’m taking my standard gear, nothing long this time – my 70-200 f2.8 will have to do.  I just purchased the Pixel Racing Harness for my ThinkTank belt system to place more of the load on my shoulders instead of pulling my pants down.  That’s the only disadvantage I see to this fantastic system. Actually, maybe it’s my waistline that causes the problem.  Anyway…

As usual, I’ll attempt to blog and post pictures as I travel.  I can’t promise we’re staying anywhere “fancy”, you know, with wi-fi.  If we do, I’ll be sure to post.

In the mean time send me some suggestions on things to shoot in the comments.  Since I’m new to the area, I haven’t a clue to the things to shoot (John is the expert so I’m following his lead).  Anything unusual or different is always cool.  Send them along!

Be back soon!

h1

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!

h1

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…