10 posts categorized "Photography"

February 22, 2008

Favorite Series: Hensel Porty Premium

Hensel Porty PremiumThe Hensel Porty Premium is a portable studio lighting power pack. This baby supplies a whopping 1200 watt/second of asymmetric power in a compact, water resistant pack. Add to that a built-in wireless receiver and quick change battery cartridge and you are set to bring high quality studio lights anywhere you can imagine. Want to do a photo shoot on the beach, or in the middle of the desert? This is the answer. No more worrying about if there will be power available at your location or having to lug around a generator.

A portable power pack has always been one of my objects-of-desire and I just recently had an opportunity to finally pick one up at a great deal (and I mean a really great deal). You wouldn't think a battery pack would be all that expensive. But these things retail for an amazing $2,600 without any lights OR A CHARGER! That's right, it doesn't come with a charger. That will set you back another $350 plus $500-1000 for each light. Definitely not for the faint of heart. But when your photography requires powerful studio lights in remote locations, the porty is the answer. There are other cheaper solutions out there like pure sine-wave inverters strapped to car batteries, but I prefer a unit that won't blow up when something goes wrong. Never a good thing to burn down a clients home or melt the fur off their dog. And who wants to carry around a car battery?

February 19, 2008

Favorite Series: Nikon D3

NikonSince the day my high school photography teacher showed me his Nikon F4, I knew I was going to own a bunch of Nikons. Even before high school, my dad had a Nikon FG. He wouldn't let me touch it, but I still would admire it from afar and dream about the day I could spin the dials and click the buttons. How ironic that the FG ended up on my desk as a paperweight. I never got to use it because it sat so long in my dad's closest that the shutter froze shut. I never got to take a single picture with it.

Even today, I am not only a Nikon shooter, but I am totally addicted with killer gear. I like buttons, dials, switches, lights, metal alloy bodies and let's not forget little LCD screens. What gadget is complete without a cool LCD screen?

Enter the Nikon D3. Hands down the most incredible digital camera ever produced. A 12.1 megapixel, 9 frames a second, ultra low noise picture taking machine that must have come from the mythical god of light capture. Take one look at the 3", high resolution VGA display on the back of the camera and you are hooked. This is one of those gadgets that dreams are made of.

I'm not going to go off on some crazy review about the camera. Reviews on the D3 are a dime a dozen on the web. I'm just going to say that this camera produces the most incredible RAW images I have ever processed. They have a quality to them that I have never seen before, and I've seen a lot of image files. If you are in the market for a professional level camera and you have a lot of money to spend (the body with no lens is $5K), this is the camera to get.

The Nikon D3 if my favorite camera ever. Period. Well done Nikon.

February 18, 2008

More custom toning using Aperture 2.0

Here are the results of more custom toning using Aperture 2.0. I'm surprised how much fun it is to do. When I finished creating the images, I looked at them and the first thing I thought of was the name I gave the tone.

Boardwalk Download Settings (103.3K)

Cool Sea
Sea Foam Download Settings (85.6K)

Antique Download Settings (93.9K)

Urban Slime
Urban Slime Download Settings (86.8K)

Leather Wallet
Leather Wallet Download Settings (105.3K)

I'm so excited


Today I couldn't wait to get back home and try to do some more toning in Aperture. I don't know why I have been so against this in the past. I think the reason is my style has always been, use natural light and add minimal processing. I've tried numerous Photoshop plug-ins and crazy 100 layer, selective masking, layer blending, curves adjusting techniques throughout the years, but to me, it all seems like a fad. What matters most is the content of the image. Too many photographers think a plug-in or a preset is going to make their bad images, good. The web is filled with images that have tons of crazy Photoshop and such out-of-this-world processing that it makes you want to stop and look. Lightroom makes it so easy to create and share ways of toning images that you almost forget what a real image looks like. When these techniques were done in the darkroom, many times they were time consuming, one-off, artistic experiments that created something magical. The photographers certainly didn't just pick any old image to try special toning techniques on. These days you can just click a single button and 10 nanoseconds later, poof! A masterpiece is born (at least to many of the thousands of people who might find it on the web). Rarely will the image be printed, framed and hung on a wall. It's all a matter of taste.

So why am I going off on some rant about silly over-processing techniques that probably don't make images any better? Well, I think I'm going through a new phase in my photography. I'm trying to break my old mold and challenge myself to create "something" else than what I am used to. I'm starting to work with studio lights (in and out of the studio). I'm learning new post-processing techniques. I'm reading through more photography books and seeking out websites of people I believe are exceptional photographers. I'm trying to do something different. I've developed over a thousand images in the darkroom and who knows how many I've processed on my Mac. I've been there, done that. Time to to just let loose, learn something new, discover something cool, give back to the photo community and have some fun.

Stay tuned and you will get to see some of the crazy things I do. I have so many ideas.

February 17, 2008

How to do custom toning in Aperture 2.0

A reader asked how exactly I did the toning I mentioned in a previous post. Here are the settings I used.

February 16, 2008

For the love of puppies

Who doesn't love puppies? Their cute, cuddly, clumsy and they have puppy breath. I love taking pictures of puppies. If I could, I would do it everyday of my life (ok, maybe a few days off).

Toning in Aperture

One thing that I love about Lightroom is the ability to do split toning. LR makes it so easy, a monkey could do it (sorry monkeys). While I was hoping Aperture 2.0 would add split toning as a feature, they did not. That didn't stop me from trying a bunch of magic to match the toning in LR. It sure wasn't as easy, but the results are close. I'm sure if I spent another 15 minutes I could match the outputs of both applications.

Here is the original, as shot, directly out of Aperture

Here is the toned version using Lightroom

And finally, here is the toned version from Aperture

Just to see what the Aperture settings would do to a totally different type of image
Not bad at all...

Aperture 2.0 and Lightroom

Contentfooter_trial20080206 Face it, I'm a mac guy. Always have been, always will be. I'm also an Adobe guy, they make great software. When both companies came out with their professional image management and RAW processing packages, I was beside myself. I dove straight into both products and in the end, my choice was Aperture.

Aperture and Lightroom both have their pros and cons, but Aperture just seemed to fit into my work flow better. It just felt so good to work in. Lightroom on the other hand had amazing image controls, but for some reason it all just didn't seem natural to work in. When working with 100K+ image, things have to feel natural, and Aperture was awesome.

Now, I'm not saying Aperture is perfect. Far from it. Apple is ungodly slow at updating the software to support new camera RAW formats. This is just unacceptable for a professional software package. I had to wait over a year for them to add support for the Leica D-Lux 2. Then comes Nikon's newest most incredible professional cameras ever (Nov 07) and it took Apple nearly 3 months to add support (Feb 08). On top of that slap in the face, support for the Nikon D3 and D300 is only available if you purchase their $99 upgrade to Aperture 2.0. Granted I would have updated my software anyway, it just felt a bit sleazy to wait 3 months and then be told it would cost $99. Many other RAW converters (including Lightroom) had support for the cameras the day they were released.

During those 3 months of waiting for Apple to update Aperture, I got much more comfortable with Lightroom. So much so that I almost ditched Aperture all together and went 100% LR. I would have made the switch if not for 1 feature that Apple added to Aperture 2.0. Third party plug-in support. This is huge. Now, the application can be extended to do virtually anything to an image. Think selective dodge and burn, split toning, lighting effects, noise reduction, better sharpening and film simulators. If Apple did it right, anything should be possible. The downside is they have yet to release the SDK so no one really knows how great the plug-in architecture is going to be.

Besides the plug-in support, Apple has made some amazing changes to Aperture 2.0. I have always experienced great performance from Aperture. I run it on a 4 processor Intel Mac with 8 gigs of RAM, a kick ass video card, 30" cinema display and all my images are stored on a 6 terabyte Apple RAID array connected via fiber optic cable. Needless to say, most things are blazing fast on my machine. Then comes 2.0 and performance is just stunning. Everything I do in Aperture is instant. Way to go Apple!

The new image controls like Recovery, Vibrancy, Definition and the ability to choose specific colors to modify in the color pane are excellent additions. While they made Aperture come closer to Lightroom's controls, LR is still the champ when it comes to the image editing controls. Hopefully this will change soon as developers start to release plug-ins to add features that Aperture is missing and Lightroom already has. Can someone please make a split toning plug-in?

In the end, while both products are great, Aperture is my choice (for now). If I run into another few months of not being able to use it because of lack of support for a new camera, I will probably jump ship. It is just unacceptable. I also look forward to the next major release of Lightroom. Add plug-in support and the ability to use masks to edit only specific areas of an image, and I might be swayed to leave Aperture.

May 27, 2006

Canon Prograf iPF5000

I've been keeping an eye on the inkjet industry looking for something to replace my Epson 7600. While I love the prints from my Epson, I find myself rarely needing the full 24" width that the 7600 can handle and I really would rather have the ability to load a stack of cut paper instead of using a roll (or manually feeding a single sheet at a time). Canon just recently released the new Prograf iPF5000 but finding any useful reviews has been difficult. Finally today I came across a new review of the printer from Red River Paper and I think I may be staying with Epson. Before I make my decision I will need to see some side-by-side results with own images and some more reviews.

I'm sure Michael at The Luminous Landscape will have a review of the Canon iPF5000 sometime in the future. That is one review that will hold a lot of merit for me. Hurry up Michael!!

May 12, 2006

Murphy Dog Studios - Pet Photography

While I love doing my action sports photography, it has some serious downsides. The major issue is that it is impossible to make enough money shooting the sports that I do shoot and continue to live in the Bay Area (unless I wanted to share a house with 15 other people). Another type of photography that I love to do is Pet Photography. Up until this point, I have only done it for fun. A few months ago it hit me that this might be a way for me to make a decent living doing my photography. I'm in the process of doing extensive research about the market for pet photography and should have a business plan completed soon. I figure I will test the waters for a year or so and then decide if it is going to be a viable business. In the meantime I have already begun setting up a new website for the business and I invite you to take a look. The business name was inspired by my dog, Murphy.

Murphy Dog Studios