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Archive for September, 2008

Don’t expect any NY Times award winning review here. The Times fired me after my Spinal Tap review of ‘Shark Sandwich.” At any rate, I digress into it.

I had the full intention of adding Scott Kelby’s Lightroom 2 book to my book collection but it was mailed to me as a reward for hosting the NAPP photowalk. That being said I still may go pick up another copy and I’ll explain why in the end.

The Lightroom 2 book is full of updates from the Lightroom 1 book, and no surprise here that’s because of all the improvements Adobe made to the program. Keep in mind I’ve been a Lightroom user since the original Beta, thus I know my way around the program. So as a test I had my lovely fiance read the first chapter of the book and tested her by having her import some photo’s and organize. I’m ashamed to say it, but she’s a better importer and organizer than I am. Like the impatient chimp that I am, I’m more concerned about “oo-ing” and “ah-ing” the photography than I am about organizing them (we all have our vices). For a person who never touched Lightroom to read the first chapter and then was able to import hundreds photo’s and organize them with ratings, keywords and rejections should speak volumes about how well this book explains lightroom.  I have since gone back and reviewed importing to improve my workflow.

The section of the book talking about the develop module was very in-depth and to the point, much like other Kelby books. I would compare this book to his Digital Photographers  books, instead of lecturing you why you should change the exposure in the camera so you don’t have to in Lightroom because that’s the “proper way a photographer does it,” Kelby simply tells you to start your digital development with Exposure and work your way down because that’s what makes sense. The new lightroom two book, besides talking about development workflow, also gives a great deal of information about the new gradient filter and adjustment brush. I will admit I didn’t think much of the gradient filter at first, mainly because I just didn’t like the way it was affecting my photo’s, then after reading up on it in the Lightroom 2 book I looked at the tool with new eyes and now over use it (it’s kind of like when a kid gets a toy on christmas, it’s in his hands for about 72 hours then he moves on to other toys).

I’m not a huge fan of slideshows so I will admit I didn’t read this section as close as I should have, but I have the book for life so I can look back. Yes I know, awful reviewer. It’s not that I have anything personal against the Lightroom slideshow module, I just import my photo’s into Motion 3 to give them the burns effect and export out to quicktime, I’ve been doing it for years and it’s just part of the workflow.

Printing – my old nemesis. I will be honest because of Mpix I send out 94% of my photo’s to print. But for the few times I will  do a print at home, this Lightroom 2 book was a very in-depth refresher on the steps to print a decent print at home. I will likely test the fiance on this chapter next, I mean since she loved importing so much, she’s BOUND to love printing…..

Like I had mentioned, I’ve been using Lightroom for awhile, that being said the develop module, web module and export function are my best friends. Seeing as I knew many of the tricks to the sections I didn’t take much away. What I did take away though is how I will teach these sections to a class. I was hired to teach a father/photo hobbyist about lightroom and I had a little trouble explaining a few things (more or less why he doesn’t need to go into photoshop). After reviewing these three sections in the Lightroom 2 book I have a better sense on how to talk about issues people would have with these modules.

Conclusion: If you want to learn about Lightroom, or need to  enhance your Lightroom workflow, buy the book. It’s that simple. If you’re a NAPP member I believe you get a discount, so NAPP folks have no reason not to buy it. I’m contemplating “pimping my Kelby” much like others pimped their McNally books. If I do that I’ll have to pick up another copy as a backup, so you’ll get my royalty after all Scott.  As much as I love the job the bookmakers did, it is easier to turn this into a spiral bound reference book with tabs so I can flip to a section with ease. Perhaps one snowy weekend in Buffalo I will do that. Kidding aside, the Kelby Lightroom 2 book is a fantastic resource for students, first time Lightroom users, and professionals looking to enhance their workflow. When I teach Lightroom this fall and spring, this will be the required reading.

Until next time,

-Nb

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After finally getting healthy over the weekend, I had to get out and shoot. So the Mrs, Griffin the dog and I packed up the Scion and headed a 1/2hr down to Chestnut Ridge park, just outside of Orchard Park NY. Specifically I wanted to check out the Eternal Flame Falls. The falls are a 30′ fall that has a tiny cave, in fact so tiny it likely isn’t called a cave b/c you can probably only fit your head in it, but in this cave is a pocket of natural gas and given the right water conditions you’re able to ignite it and, well see for yourself:

I find this a spectacular act of nature. You just don’t see this everyday. However to get to this act of nature was absolutely miserable. It was raining and the hiking trail was up and down and rocky and slippery. It did wonders for my glutes though. Here’s a few samples from the hike:

That’s it for today, expect a review of Scott Kelby’s new Lightroom book tomorrow morning,

-Nb

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It’s been over a week for me blogging. Between my logic board frying and a sinus infection I didn’t feel like doing the blog thing. But I did a quite a bit of photo-editing and reading last week, specifically I was reading Scott Kelby’s Lightroom 2 book, which I will be reviewing tomorrow.

Speaking of Kelby, there’s something he blogged about this morning that I was planning on touching on; and that is the Lightroom 2/CS4 conspiracy theory. So what’s the deal?

Last week Adobe announced the CS4 suite, due out in October. They’ve upgraded all their suite apps, some substantial upgrades, others just cool add-ons. From what I’ve read, the folks over at Adobe have made a significant upgrade to Photoshop Camera Raw (the raw processor for Photoshop), which I think is good, because camera raw was due for an overhaul. So what’s the problem?

Apparently, judging from blog comments, people are upset because the new camera is identical to the develop module in Lightroom 2. And my response? So…? Why wouldn’t they be the same? Doesn’t it make sense to be able to do the same digital development in the same programs? If Adobe left out a handful of tools in Camera Raw that the develop module in Lightroom had there would be an uproar. I tend to agree with the theory that the people upset about this are people who only use Lightroom to develop their photo’s and don’t use it for the dozens of other reasons they should be using it. If you are a Lightroom power user then camera raw being updated still shouldn’t have any effect on your workflow. Realistically, you use camera raw to do a little editing two a couple of photo’s. I haven’t met many people out there who use camera raw as their be all end all Raw editing tool. And for the group of people that use camera raw reguarly, Adobe merely brought camera raw to the lightroom level. Where’s the conspiracy in that?

So why will I still use lightroom over Camera Raw 93% of the time? Think about what exactly Lightroom is? Lightroom is iTunes for photo’s, it’s a database of your work. With camera raw you have to go from bridge to this to that, and it’s just a headache.  Since I’ve been using lightroom I’ve hardly used photoshop for my photo correcting and that wont change with the advent of the new camera raw. While Lightroom 2 has improved their integration with CS3 immensely, it’s still a headache to go to Photoshop now for photo correction.

In conclusion, there’s nothing to be in a .tif about. Lightroom and Camera Raw are distant cousins, twice removed. They are entirely different beasts. If anything, you should be all upset about CS4 coming out 17 months after CS3. While many people will easily be able to pay off the upgrade by selling to prints, many people wont. In my opinion adobe needs let people soak in CS4 for at least two years. Between the way the economy has been, the way the photography/design industry has been cranking out new gear, I really think Adobe needs to give people a chance to maximize the power of CS4 before they rush out CS5, which is rumored to be already slated for a Q4 release next year.

CS4 is just enough to make people “kinda sorta” want to upgrade. There is no slam dunk like CS3 to make people go and by it. One of the photoshop guys was talking about how they can’t live without the clone stamp prieview feature, but hindsight being 20/20 – I live without it now, and is it worth X amount of dollars to upgrade for a feature that I “can’t live without” but already do?

Something to think about.

-Nb

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No, it wasn’t me who danced. Are you kidding? I haven’t danced since I was three, and even then it was just to win a beauty pagent. The past is the past.

Over the weekend, the dance company I work for had their home season premiere in Buffalo. They performed a stellar show that recieved a great review in the Buffalo news and performed in front of two sell out audiences. But what is really important here? The photo’s, here’s a few samples then I’ll ramble

Okay, first things first: There’s no photoshopping. You’ll likely think I’m full of it, especially with the image of Marideth jumping in front of the red cyc. They are merely imported into Lightroom and minor exposure and recovery adjustments and thats it, export out. That’s one of the beautiful things about stage lighting, and why I prefer it to a studio, the possibilities are unfathomable. You’re able to create moods on the fly that would take you hours in a studio or even more hours in photoshop.

These are also live run-through shots. By that I mean, I didn’t pose them, the choreographer and I didn’t say “Manny get on Matt’s back and fly like a bat.” While they were performing the run through I was on stage in the orchestra pit firing shots off while they were running as if it were a performance. It takes a lot of patience to shoot this way. One of the biggest issues is that because they are performing and a lighting cue may be dark, you’re shooting a slower shutter speed and will likely get a blurry shot, which is unusable in the dance photography world. Fortunately, and this is another reason to shoot in raw, even though your meter reading for stage will generally read 1/20-1/40, you’ll need to shoot in the upper 1/80-1/120 range to get a crisp shot. While it will be under exposed if you’re shooting raw you’ll be able to adjust the exposure without any artifacts popping up in your image.

For shooting on stages you’re going to need more light than what is likely cued for the show. By that I mean I was working with cues from the actually show that they were running through. You’ll need to speak with the Lighting or production to to have them bump the lights up a tad so you’re not in the dark. For the above photo’s I didn’t have to because I was right up on stage with them and a mere 8 feet from them. If you have the ability to be on the stage while there dancing I suggest using a wider lens. For the above shots I switched between a 17-55m and a 28-135mm (yes the new one). The bottom shot of Manny on Matt’s back is one of those lucky shots that I was just fortunate to get, erm…I mean, I totally planned it and knew what I was doing. I was in the lighting booth during the actual performance and was firing shots during that piece (and running the video camera at the same time). I was shooting with my 75-300mm and I knew it was a very white lit piece so I would be able to be that far away and shoot at a decent speed to get what I needed. However not all the pieces are like that so I the rest of the show I just focused on video.

One last tip for shooting dance in general, spend time with the company you’re working for/with. You’d imagine I was just firing my camera in burst mode but actually most of those were done with one shot, sometimes two. I’ve spent a year working with this company and have gotten very aware of their pieces and the timing of everything. I’ve learned that shooting in burst mode for dance (unless you have a high end d-slr that shoots 30 frame bursts) it’s best to just get a feel for the piece and fire once to try and get your shot.

That’s all for now, I need to get inspired to go out and shoot…still working on it

-Nb

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After an angry call from my mother after reading my previous post. The term ‘shots’ as used in my previous post was in terms of photographic shots, and not shots of illegal cuban liquor or any other import. Moreover, the term recover does not refer to a forthcoming hangover, it refers to a good nights rest after taking  (today along) over 600 ‘shots’.

Nothing like getting ten phone calls from your mother and finally picking up and being yelled at and broadcasting about a non-existant drinking binge.

Sorry Ma.

Since I’m blogging and importing today’s shots at 11:50pm on a Saturday I should report that today’s (saturday) shoot went very well. Nothing too formal, but finally got a shot I’ve been trying to get for about 6 months. The thing about dance photography, and I will blog about this later on, is that you have to be perrsistant and patient. I’ve been working with this company for a year and have photographed their show about 5 times under stage lighting (which IMHO is the only way to shoot dance). As some photographers studio photography work is quite good, nothing beats the raw power and emotion of live dance photography.

But more on that this week. The import is done and I must be a good worker bee.

-Nb

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Away for the weekend

The dance company I work for has their home season premiere tonight in Buffalo, thus I will be gone for the next two days working. I’ll have lots of shots and stories to share when I recover on Monday.

Until then, something to wet your pallette:

-Nb

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On a whim, when I purchased my Canon 28mm-135mm lens I also ordered a Phoenix 2x Teleconverter as well. I’ve had a chance to play with it and so I thought I’d share my thoughts. However I must warn you, it’s not very pretty.

In a nutshell, if I could have my $79.99 back, I’d take it in two shakes of a lambs tail. It had a decent review after I did a bit of digging on the internet, therefore I went with it and bought it. I didn’t really need it, I bought it mainly just to see if it would be usefull. I will admit it does a decent job of extending my 70-300mm out to about 400mm, after that it’s pretty uselesss. One of the big downfalls, and this may be with all teleconverters, is that it doesnt auto-focus when racked out. It’s not a super big deal because I am able to manually focus pretty fast, but the intent of the teleconverter is to double your length, and for wildlife or sports photographers the ability to not quickly auto-focus can be a detriment.

One of the problems with teleconverters, as far as I can tell by reviews, is that many of them destroy your image quality when racked out with a higher focal length lens. I experience this problem with my 70-300mm, which the teleconverter made into a 600mm. The frame was practically un-focusable and the resulting image looks like my newborn nephew took a photo with his fisher-price digital toddler camera.

I can’t say many good things about this. But I’ll let the test photo’s speak for themselves:

As you can see, far from anything decent. These were both shot with a 70-300mm with the phoenix 2x attached. Focused out to a total of 600mm.

So on to the pro’s and cons.

Pro’s:

• $79.99 paperweight

• $79.99 new toy for the puppy

• Decent for doubling the minimal focal length of a lens (turning a 70mm into a 140mm) withouth zooming.

Con’s:

• Terrible resolution when racked out

• Disables autofocus capability of lens (may be teleconverter specific)

• Practically unfocusable when racked out to full focal length (when handheld)

• $79.99 paperweight (yes its a pro, but who needs a $79.99 paperweight?

So the moral of the story, don’t buy with your gut. This is what happens when you buy things on a whim. I should know better. It’s one of the things that will drive my future wife up a wall.

-Nb

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