Archive for January, 2008

Bad Weather

January 28th, 2008 1 comment

“Bad Weather Makes Good Pictures.” I don’t know who to credit for this quote, but I find to be very true. I’ve been taking a nature walk with my Canon G9 every morning, and I find the pictures I like the best are usually from the days that are wet, frosty, icy, snowy, or foggy. Generally the nastier the weather, the better the pictures.

I’m not saying that warm raking light, sunsets, blue skies, and puffy clouds don’t make for great photography; they do, but these visual elements are very usual in photography. I believe we are visually attracted to the unusual; beautiful sunrises and sunsets are unusual unusual in life, BUT they are very usual in photography. Bad weather is a usual occurrence in life, but it’s unusual in photographs because photographers tend to stay inside and protect their gear from the elements.

The artist must sometimes suffer!

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January 27th, 2008 Comments off

This ringflash from Flaghead Photographic Limited uses prisms to evenly distribute light from a Canon 585EX or SB-800 flash. It’s not available in the US that we could find, but we are looking into it. Ringflashes like this one have the ability to light without shadows and produce a unique look. They also make interesting looking catch lights in eyes. Most of the AA battery operated models are low power units designed for macro photography, so this flaghead adapter fills a gap.

In 2006 several notable high powered models came on the market and a lot more ringflash photography started showing up in advertising and editorial photography. I use the Lumedyne 1600 watt second ringflash with a Hensel Octa Sun Softbox, but if I was going to buy one today, I would get the ABR800 AlienBees Ringflash.

Home built fluorescent models are easy to build and do offer some advantages. With today’s camera bodies shooting higher ISO’s with lower noise levels, a couple of 32 watt circular fluorescent are sufficiently bright. Here are some Flicker Samples.

You can order it here:

Please feel free to post some ring flash photography links.

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Spherical Quicktime VR

January 19th, 2008 Comments off

I’ve helped several photographers get started making Quicktime VR panos. The learning curve is steep, but it’s really not that complicated. This 10 minute movie on creating a spherical Quicktime VR is a great place to start. Photoshop CS3 has very sophisticated stitching, aligning, and blending tools, which makes it very easy to create panos. The movie shows the use of a nodal point tripod and Panotools (PTGui for Windows or PTMac) . This is the classic way of creating a pano and important lessons can be learned, however nodal point tripods and specialized stitching software are no longer necessary for simple panos. Photoshop CS3 has PhotoMerge, Auto-Align Layers, and Auto-Blend Layers. These Photoshop tools do an amazing job of stitching and blending images that do not precisely match. Enjoy the movie and feel free to post some VR links and comments.

Categories: Digital Photography Tutorials Tags:

Upgrading Photo Technology

January 11th, 2008 Comments off

I’ve been working out some theories on the most practical way to upgrade technology. Cameras, computer hardware, and software technology move at an alarming rate. The question is: when does it make financial and practical sense to upgrade? There are considerations of implementation and cost involved. Here I will outline these considerations and my theories and strategies.
Moore’s Law describes a long-term trend in computer hardware where capacity of circuitry doubles every 24 months. These same principles can be applied to almost all technologies, though the timing is different for every technology and situation. Technology upgrade theory is all about cost, implementation, and gain. Developing a good strategy is dependent on the nature of the technology and that must be studied carefully.

Know the Technology and know the habits and schedules of the manufacturers of that technology.
Example #1 Adobe is on an 18Month upgrade cycle: they allow you to skip versions and still get upgrade pricing: and their upgrades are usually major.
Example #2 Nikon usually upgrades the flagship models six-nine months before the top prosumer models. The top of the line prosumer cameras usually have many of the desirable features of the Flagship model at 40% of the price. Nikon is notoriously slow in getting their announced cameras to market.
FYI: Nikon is making a major comeback; the D3X with the 14-24, WOW.
Example #3 Intel Processors are updated very often. The updates usually amount to only small gains (6-15%), but sometimes there is a major leap in the technology. These leaps usually require a new Motherboard with a new chipset. We are currently seeing a technology leap in processors that has captured my attention (probably ancient history by the time you read this). The Intel i7 processors and the X58 chipsets that are currently available on Windows will be coming to a Mac near you soon.

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It This is very true if it does not interrupt a progression of upgrades, workflow, or resale.
Example #1: The new version of the software doesn’t help me, but the companies upgrade path requires progressive upgrades. It will save me money in the end to upgrade rather than buy a complete license in 18Months.
Example #2 I need to learn how to use this because I’ll need it eventually and I won’t have time to learn it on the spot.
Example #3 Mac computers hold their value through one upgrade cycle, but the resale value takes a huge drop after that. People remember the most recent model info, but have short memories and aren’t willing to pay much after that. An Apple employee taught me this principle of Apple hardware.
Example #4 I’m still running XP on a portable workstation. This is an 11 pound laptop with three hard drives. I tether it to a Canon 1DS Mark III or a Canon 5D on location using Adobe Lightroom. There were software and driver issues with Vista at the time I implemented this mobile workstation. Vista 64Bit could now be installed on this machine, but it works extremely well in its current configuration, so I’m not touching it. Actually, it’s one of the zippiest computers I own, which really helps on location. Also, XP is a solid and mature OS. Read more…

Mailwasher and Password Plus

January 5th, 2008 1 comment

There are two simple programs that I can’t live without: Mailwasher and Password Plus. Mailwasher is Windows only, but Password Plus also works on a Mac. These applications are very simple and inexpensive, yet absolutely vital to my computer life.

Click on the images for a better look.

Mailwasher is a spam filtering tool that works in a very different way than most. It allows you to view and filter e-mail BEFORE downloading it from the mail server. I don’t want to download spam, virus attachments, and garbage to my local machine. It’s especially useful on a slow connection, like my At&t mobile card. There is a free version and a “Pro” version for $37. I find Mailwasher to be very simple and powerful; a must have weapon in the battle against spam.

Password Plus ($30) by DataViz is a is a database to keep passwords and account numbers organized and protected. It’s one of the simplest programs imaginable, but it’s so useful. The information is encrypted and can be exported in a as a comma delimited file for import into other programs like Excel. Password Plus also comes in a version for the Palm OS if you need to take all those logins with you.

I’ve used both of these programs for many years. Trust me you can’t go wrong with Mailwasher and Password Plus.

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