Saturday, June 22, 2013

News, news and more news!

There's a lot of stuff going on in the FACzen photography world. I'm making good progress in certain areas, still spinning the wheels in others but we'll get there! In the meantime, here's the news of the day!

New PHOTOGRAPHY.TO website launched

Maybe that's not entirely accurate. Let's just say, "updated". Most of the links to the active stuff have been changed or updated, and I've added new pages for new projects. Check it out!

Maintaining a website is an ongoing task. It never ends, there's always something to fix, to add, to change. I'm no expert (I don't think I'd even call myself an "intermediate") so I probably do things the hard way, but my goal is to make it easy to navigate and attractive to my web visitors.
The greeting page has been changed to make it easier to navigate. If you know what you're looking for, there are big buttons to guide you. Or you can browse more easily.

■ The "Workshops" button will now take you to a list of different workshops. You can access the calendar from there, and you can sign up online for any session we have scheduled (and some we don't!).

■ There's now a direct link to my Smugmug gallery, where you can browse through all of my art prints and choose which one(s) you'd like to see gracing your walls. New images are also in a featured gallery. Although I haven't enabled a pure e-commerce site, you can easily get in touch to order or discuss anything you're interested in.

■ I need to work on the eBooks section. My goal is to make most of these publications free and available to subscribers to my Newsletter. And of course, there are new eBooks in the works.
■ Speaking of the Newsletter, I'm working on revising the format so that it becomes a simple weekly HTML email with highlights from this blog and other news, plus special offers for my loyal readers. My goal is to add a "0" to the number of subscribers before the end of the year. If I do get there, I'm actually going to have to start paying MailChimp for their services instead of using their free account!
■ Tips. Let's make "Tips" the heading for the next announcement, shall we? 
By the way, if you think the buttons up there are neat, here's the link to the tutorial I posted last year on how to make them in Photoshop in case you missed it. After you set it up, it takes 2 minutes to make a new button!

In fact, here's a timesaver: here's the actual PSD file I created to make my buttons. Feel free to download it and to share it, but if you do, I'd ask you to subscribe to my newsletter and ask anyone you passed it on to, to do the same. Fair?

I'm about to become a published columnist!

I've been published before, but the local newspaper has agreed to publish my "Behind the Shutter" photography tips articles as a bi-weekly column! The first one will appear in Haliburton County Living on June 27th (I hope I'm not jumping the gun with this announcement, but I'm excited and wanted to tell everyone about it!). You can access a virtual copy of this publication here.

A copy of this publication is distributed to every household in the Highlands, so it's the widest circulation paper up here! If you live in the Highlands and you're reading this, watch your mailbox!

Along with each article, I'm creating a "Tips" web page. It will contain additional information, example pictures, eventually a comments dialogue (as soon as I figure out how!) and of course links back to my other projects and programs.

You can access the Tips pages from the main website. I could put the link here, but in fairness, I won't since you might be reading this before the initial publication date. Eventually, I plan to create ePub versions of these columns and combine them into an ongoing series of eBooks.

If that isn't enough news...

Ten of my images are on display (and for sale) at the Rail's End Gallery & Arts Centre in Haliburton. A couple more are going in next week, requested by the curator. The only bad part is that my framing isn't good enough, so they're in a rack in clear bags.

The Rail's End is responsible for the annual arts festival in Haliburton. Unfortunately, it was too late to participate this year (fourth weekend in July, FWIW), but my application will go in for next summer. This is a juried show but I'm hopeful I can get in. I have to work on my framing.

Spreading the Word

You will find advertisements for my workshops every week in the Haliburton Highlander. In addition, a bare-bones schedule of DSLR workshop dates is in the Haliburton County Summer/Fall Guide 2013 (I had to give them the dates long before I got things finalized!).

Courses & Workshops

I've finished the curricula (or curriculums. Or agendas. Whatever word you prefer) for three new courses. My program now contains the following, in addition to custom courses for more advanced photographers.
Basic Skills, a 3-hour workshop for new shooters regardless of what kind of digital camera they have,
Introduction to Photoediting, which is another 3-hour session designed to introduce people to programs like Lightroom™ or Photoshop™,
DSLR workshop, for new and not-so-new owners of DSLR cameras. This venerable 2-day session will take the newer photographer to the next level, and
Mini-tours where I take participants to exceptional venues, such as dawn, dusk and whitewater sites and give them tips on how to achieve better images in the field.
What's next? Full weekend or even longer field trips. High on my priority list of things to develop and I'm really hopeful of having something for the peak Fall Colours season up here this autumn.

So I've been a busy boy. There's more stuff in the works, but I can't announce it yet, so watch for it!

Creative Cloud

Not for me at this time. As usual, Adobé has come up with some neat new stuff, but not enough to be a game changer for me. Ditto Lightroom 5. I think I'm going to pass and wait and see.

A big issue for me is the concept of ongoing rental. If they would come up with some sort of acceptable solution that would allow you to keep the last version you paid for in perpetuity if you decided to stop, then maybe. But I can't see being hung out to dry if you can't afford to keep paying them sometime in the future.

It's been out for two days and I heard it's already been cracked. I'd rather use CS6 that I bought and paid for than pirate CC.

The bad part is, all the technical blogs I read talk about nothing other than the new fancy features in CC or LR5. No great new tutorials on CS6 or LR4. That said, Glyn Dewis just did one on the liquify filter (here's the link to the YouTube) and although it was about CC, most of it works in CS6.

*update: it looks as though Adobé may have been listening. The rumour mill says that they've covered most of what I mentioned. I read in a article:

In an accompanying article, they also said,

“In the event that Adobe decides to discontinue any of the products in Creative Cloud, we will make the most recent version of the product available for download free of charge to active Creative Cloud members for a period of no less than 90 days. Such downloads will not require a subscription and will be licensed on an as-is, no warranty basis …”

What's missing is "what happens if *I* decide to discontinue my membership in CC...". Can I buy a download of the as-is version of the software. If they do that, I'm in.

Speaking of Software...

I don't post a lot of these, but this is a goodie. Here's a deal for you. I use different plugins in Photoshop, but the one I go to when I want to tweak an image or spice it up is Topaz. Mostly I use Topaz Adjust, but lately I've started using Clarity as well and I love them both.

Topaz Labs has just announced a huge promotion, starting June 24 through July 7. The complete Topaz Bundle is being reduced from $299 to $199 — that's $100 off — and worth every penny.

Click this image to go to the Topaz site. To get the discount, your promo code is 'july4' (without the quote marks). Disclosure: they pay me a little affiliate fee if you click the link and end up buying the software.
Topaz Clarity is not in the bundle, it's $49.95 and I'd be buying it at that price if I didn't already have it. In the bundle, you get Topaz Adjust, DeNoise, B&W Effects, ReMask, Lens Effects, Detail, Simplify, Clean, InFocus, DeJPEG and Fusion Express. That last one lets you access all of the Topaz Plug-ins directly in Aperture, Lightroom and iPhoto. There's a 30 day free trial, so go for it. Give it a shot and see if you like it as much as I do.

Time for some pictures

You know I don't do a blog post without current pictures. So here goes.

My grandson, Ryan Davenport. His graduation was Thursday night. You know I don't go anywhere without a camera... 

When I originally wrote this, I said...

Believe it or not, this was the very first frame, the very first picture of the night. I took a shot just to test the lighting. 100% natural light from a window. Minimal Photoshop, just to retouch the skin a little. 120mm focal length at f/8, ISO 1000, exposure compensation -2ev. This is precisely the shot I had in mind, I planned it while I was driving there. It's very satisfying when the first shutter release worked.
All true, except I now changed the picture. In the first one he was serious, here I got a good natural smile. This is actually 6 frames later, same values except 82mm instead of 120mm, so it's cropped a bit.

The reason I'm posting this is, well, look at the fantastic grandson I have! OK, well actually, I wanted to point out that I used Topaz Clarity on this image, after the basic retouching. It made some very subtle but changes to the image. Not being a portrait photographer, I'm not sure what's good and bad, but I really like this image.

I was going to add some kayakers, but I figured you've suffered enough. Maybe next time. Instead, I'll show you last night's dinner

Both are HDR's, but processed differently. The infrared element and rotisserie on my new BBQ do a fine job on chicken! I threw the asparagus and peppers right on the grill after the chicken was done, a little olive oil and teriyaki seasoning, 3 or 4 minutes, that's it. Great dinner!

So I guess that'll do for today! A lot going on.

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