Cool sites

Looking for something to do this weekend?

Here’s a link to 70 cool digital photography sites thanks to Pixel Curse.

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How to shoot HDR

High-dynamc range photos are all the rage right now. HDR images are easy to produce thanks to software like NIK’s HDR Efex Pro. Back in the early days photographers shot three or five images and combined them as layers in Photoshop. Some guys like Trey Ratcliff shoot HDR almost exclusively and are consider experts in this field.

So how do you shoot HDR? (Here’s Trey’s online tutorial.)

The secret is of course putting the camera on a tripod because you want absolutely perfectly registered images. Second secret is to shoot in manual mode and change the shutter speed (so the aperture stays the same so that the depth of field remains constant) one stop at a time ranging from two stops under, normal exposure, and two stops over.

Take the five images and throw them into Nik’s HDR Pro which is my preferred software package and I highly recommend it and all the NIK software tools.

The third secret, and maybe the most important, is go out there and shoot a lot of images.

Litebook illuminates lighting

Bowens, the folks who make some pretty nice studio flashes (I’d love to get my hands on a set of their Gemini series) and continuous flash sources has a new (well at least to me) marketing concept called Litebook.

Litebook magazine comes as a downloadable free PDF document that’s full of great ideas about lighting using flash and continuos light sources and I highly recommend it. (One caveat: It took me a minute to get the size and definition right for my screen so experiment a little until you get the document where you find it most readable and clear.)

Here in parts of Canada you can buy Bowens equipment through Henry’s Cameras.

Thanks Oakville Camera Club

I think almost 100 people show attended last night’s session on Manual_Mode_Workshop at the Oakville Camera Club. (Thanks Spring for posing during the hands-on session.)

I want to thank everyone who attended and I want to say how gracious and supportive are the members of this club.

It was very gratifying and satisfying for me to have one of the members come up after my presentation and thank me for the presentation by saying it had helped him feel a lot better about what he was doing with his new digital camera.

You see I told the story about how difficult I found the transition from film to digital photography. Back in my day 🙂 I started shooting with a Nikon Nikkormat and graduated to a Nikon F2. These cameras were bullet-proof and manual everything. I’ve still got a Nikon FM-2 (used to have a matching FE-2) with a case full of original lenses (including a 35mm f/1.8 and the legendary 105mm f/2.5 portrait lens).

I was a working photojournalist back in the 70s and 80s and I was pretty good 🙂 If the editor sent me out to get a photo, I could be counted on to always return with something publishable. And then, after years as an editor myself, I went digital and “Oh Boy!”

Using my new digital Nikon D-300 my failure rate soared. Nothing seemed in focus (What’s with all those focusing spots?) I couldn’t seem to get the exposure right unless I was shooting in Program mode (A sin for any professional photographer or so I thought at the time not know about Joe Buissink who shoots in P mode!). And what’s with this RAW and JPG thing? So I read a lot. I talked to other photographers.

And I shot a lot of images of my cat Buffy. (That’s Buffy on the right.)

Anyway I got it figured out. I set the D-300 to manual mode and went back to the basics. I now shoot a lot in Program mode with one focusing spot in the centre of the screen active. Depending on the job I shoot RAW when I want to work on individual images and JPG when I’m doing special event photography and want to get the images up online fast.

Now I can shoot in any mode. I’ve figured out the Nikon CLS flash system and I actually own a couple of tripods. My digital darkroom focuses on LR3 and CS4 along with NX2 and NIK software products.

Shooting with the new DSLR cameras requires us to either shoot in Program or Auto mode and let the camera manufacturer do the thinking or start experimenting with the camera in one hand and the manual in the other. It doesn’t take long to come to an understanding of what’s happening inside the camera and the best news of all, once you know how to shoot with one DSLR, you’re going to be pretty good (with some variations on the theme) with all DSLRs.

And remember, if you get really stuck with most DSLRs you  can always go back to manual.

Thanks again to the Oakville Camera Club.

Don’t Be Scared of Manual Mode

I’m doing a workshop tonight at the Oakville Camera Club on how to shoot in manual mode.

I’m calling it “Don’t Be Scared of Manual” and we’re going to look at the difference between shooting in “Auto” modes (automatic, program, shutter and aperture priority modes) plus why manual focus and shooting studio portraits in manual.

Best of all the workshop is scheduled for an hour and we’re going to conclude with a hands-on shoot right in the meeting room.

Should be fun and hope to see you there.

Just in case you can’t make it, Manual_Mode_Workshop.

NOTE: One slide is duplicated as that’s how it will be used tonight during the workshop.

I guess Shutterfly doesn’t care

Shutterfly, the online book, card and photo print company, has done a deal with Twitter that just plain puts me off.

I run Tweetdeck and one of my columns is #photography where all things marked #photography scroll down one of a half dozen columns of tweets on my screen. The only problem is now Twitter is allowing companies like Shutterfly to publish an ad at the top of the column which just sits there. This is amazingly dumb so when I sent Shutterfly an email to complain I got this reply:

Dear Shutterfly Customer,

Thank you for contacting Shutterfly.

The recent comment added by the members will appear in the first. When other members comment, the one you are referring will be moved down.

Please let me know if I can be of any more help.

Sincerely,

Vishnu P.
Shutterfly Customer Service

Now I don’t want to sound unduly racist but based on Vishnu P’s fractured English do you think there’s a chance that he’s not from around here (as in North America) and hasn’t got a clue about what I’m complaining about? So what does this say about Shutterfly?

First their social media marketing sucks. Two their customer service is worse. Third I can’t recommend anyone do business with them. This is terrible.

And Tweetdeck….you’re next to be banished from the home screen 😦

Working with a master

NIK Software isn’t the cheapest in the world but when you factor in the amount of webinar time they offer freely it’s a bargain.

Take today’s workshop with Janice Wendt. She works at NIK but doesn’t seem to have an online gallery or website of her own which is a real shame as she is a master retoucher. Here’s a link to her profile along with some before and after images from the Florida Professional Photographers website.

For an hour I got to sit and watch a master artist show me how to use brushes and NIK software and lots lots more. This is so cool.

Thanks NIK and thanks Janice.