Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Basic Black

Good Morning!
We'll get to the topic of the day in a few minutes, but first, these other messages!

Im starting to enjoy the spring up here. There's a period of time where I don't: when it's brown and grey out, chilly and damp... but we're coming to the end of that and the world is starting to look green. Also colourful: the flowers are coming out too. I was scouting yesterday and saw a huge patch of trilliums already opened. There are some people coming up to shoot some pictures up here in about 10 days (the weekend of May 12th) so if anyone is interested in coming up for the day or tagging along, drop me a note.

Software Updates
There's all kinds of stuff going on in the photo software world right now. When Adobe released Lightroom 4, and then Photoshop CS6 (still pre-order as I write this, but supposed to deliver next week), all of the plug-in manufacturers had to scramble to catch up, to make sure their products were compatible.

Coincidentally (ya think?), HDRsoft released their updated version of Photomatix Pro 4.2. It's a free update for registered users of Pro (I think from version 3-up) and you can download it here. If you don't have Photomatix, you can go to their site and download a free trial before buying it. The bad news is, their free trial puts a watermark on the image so you can't really use it for anything until you buy it.

There are 3 commonly used programs for HDR generation/tone mapping: Photomatix, Nik HDR Efex Pro and Photoshop CSx (where "x" is "5" or "6"). I haven't seen CS6 in action yet, but I heard that Adobe has updated the already excellent HDR generating engine in CS5. Topaz Adjust 5 doesn't generate HDR's but it's right up there as a tone mapping utility!

Speaking of Adobe, they've released Adobe Camera Raw 6.7 which supports Process Version 2012 (Lightroom 4 users are tired of seeing the incompatibility warning when they try to open an image in Photoshop) and it also supports new cameras like the D4, the D800, the V1, the 5DMkIII. If you use Photoshop, all you have to do is open it, click Help→Updates and follow the bouncing ball.

The ongoing problems with Lightroom 4 haven't been resolved yet. Some users have no difficulty but some (and there's no clear correlation who: Mac or PC, high end or not...) still have issues with the software being slow. Sometimes it uses up TONS of resources. When generating previews, for instance, it uses up 100% of all four CPUs that I have in the system, plus up to 80% of my 8Gb of memory. And sometimes it doesn't. I hope they solve it soon.

Beginner's workshops and course material
Just an update on the workshops and books I'm working on. If I said I was halfway through it now, I'd probably be exaggerating. But the hard part is done: all the concepts are in place, it's just about getting words on digital paper.

The reason I'm mentioning it is: who's interested in having a preview of it when the time comes? The first thing that will be ready is the Instructor's Workbook, so if you're interested in teaching beginners to use DSLR's, you will be interested in this. Email me and I'll put your name on the list for a free copy of the workbook.

Business Cards
Do you have any idea how cheap business cards are these days? You can get 1000 full-colour business cards, printed on both sides and UV coated for about $20. I'm about to reorder some and at that price, I'll make more than one design.

I have a dealer account with BossLogo, so if anyone is interested in making up some cards, drop me a note and I'll fill you in on what's needed to make it happen.

Let's get on to some pictures, shall we?

I was at my favourite spot a couple of days ago: the Minden Wild Water Preserve. It wasn't a beautiful day, and the dam was blocked up (they insert 12" wooden ties to limit the water flow) so the white water was particularly low. Nevertheless, there were a couple of kayakers on the water.


Got him looking right at me! Notice the cold weather gear: especially the glove/grips on the paddle.

These guys were just working on their techniques. As I said, the water level was really low which made it difficult to navigate in spots.

White water Quacker. Then there was this guy. He fought the current to swim across just above where I shot the other Kayakers (see the play on words? Huh? I posted this picure on the NAPP site and someone said it "quacked him up"!). Too bad I couldn't get more white water in the shot. I looked away to adjust the camera settings for a second, and he was gone!

Multiple Exposure. Remember I mentioned Photomatix 4.2? After I installed it, I wanted to test it in Lightroom 4 so I clicked on 5 images and ran it with ghosting turned OFF. I don't know if anyone's thought about using Photomatix this way: these were all equally exposed images, not bracketed. Had he been moving across the scene it also would have been interesting. Also if I had used a tripod. I'll try this again another day, but I kind of like this image!
Basic Black

Dogwood Leaves. I brought my black cloth with me and set up this shot in the woods at the Preserve. There was too much sunlight on both the leaves and the background, so I shaded them by standing between the sun and the leaves.


Baby Trillium. This is the pièce de résistance. Again it was shot with the black background and shaded. I enhanced the textures but the colours were just as you see them, including the highly saturated green leaves!

Both of these black pictures were shot with my Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8 VR lens. I don't have a macro lens (really should get one!). I had to do some work to get rid of stuff in the background, including making it really really black. Photoshop and Lightroom were really helpful, especially the black slider in the new Lightroom 4. And I added a black vignette.

By the way, as a technique trick: when trying to get an even, solid black background, sometimes you have to clone out stuff or use the content-aware spot healing brush. They aren't perfect. So what I do is to add a levels adjustment layer, and crank the right slider way over to the left to see anything that isn't black, then I can paint or clone it out. I delete the adjustment layer before saving the image.

More to come...

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