What to do with your camera

Did you get a digital camera for Christmas?

If so, you’re not alone. But after you’ve shot the Christmas tree and the shots of the family then what?

Well you can wait until you go on your next vacation. (I’ve got a buddy in Mexico right now who is shooting is brains out and creating really nice images of Mexican sunsets and beach life.)

But if you’re not going on vacation, here’s an example of how to create your own assignment. It’s called The Girl In The Red Dress and right now the video of the guy with the camera and the pretty girl doing yoga in the streets of New York City is making the You Tube rounds.

Right now it’s got under 10,000 hits but wonder if it will go viral?

I’ve put a link up on my coaching site to the five-minute video and made additional comments at my social media site at The West Agency.


Best Workshop of 2012

Vincent Versace’s Oz to Kansas workshop using NIK’s Silver Efex Pro and co-sponsored by X-Rite was amazing.

If you’re reading this post in real time, the seminar will be repeated in an hour.

So what’s the big deal? Well for the first half an hour Versace showed us the difference between how film (which is linear) and digital (which is digital – duh!) differs when it comes to rendering a black and white image.

The explanation is way too technical for me to reproduce here (and besides I’d probably screw it up) but it comes down to this: You can’t just turn down the saturation in your editing software and expect a digital image to be capable of reproducing all the 16,000 levels of grey found in a film-based image which is using all three channels (red, green, blue) of information differently.

Now if that doesn’t confuse you I don’t know what will. Here’s what Vincent did: Using simple images he showed how digital editing software can treat different colours exactly the same when desaturating while NIK’s Silver Efex Pro recreates (I hope I’m describing this properly.) the tonal spread from real black to real with all the shades of grey not just in luminance (brightness) but in the three colour channels as well.

Remember when you (or maybe your dad) shot black and white. If he was shooting landscapes or portraits he might have used red, yellow, green or blue filters to modify the black and white image. That’s a lot like what Silver Efex Pro does in software.

If you’re serious about shooting in black and white this workshop is terrific and so is Silver Efex Pro. Versace also has a new book coming out called “Oz to Kansas” (I’ve got the DVD set.) which explains this black and white conversion a whole lot better than I just did.

Lightroom 4 Looks Amazing

Adobe has issued a beta version of Lightroom 4.

It’s free and you don’t need to have had a previous version of Lightroom to make it work.


And there’s always a but, this version will expire sometime in March when Adobe issues the commercial version.

Also anytime you work with anything called “beta” it means all bets are off when it comes to manufacturer’s guarantees. So if you do download Lightroom 4 make sure your original files are safe and you’re working with copies. Why? Some beta software has been known to crash without warning and you don’t want to be working on unsaved images if this happens.

So why I am so excited about Lightroom 4?

While this is a conditional excitement (I’m still waiting for the big guys to weigh in) the videos from Adobe TV that walk you through the changes suggest that LR4 might be a way better product than LR3 which is the industry standard for working photographers. (Photoshop is still the big daddy of RAW editors but Lightroom does everything a working pro needs done quickly and at less than half the cost at $300 and less for an upgrade from a previous version.)

You don’t need to be a pro to appreciate and use LR3 or 4. What it’s really good for is quickly processing large numbers of RAW files and creating top-quality JPGs for viewing, printing or selling. If you shoot weddings or special events or even hundreds of images at Aunt Sally’s birthday party you’ll love Lightroom.

If you shoot a few dozen images and just want to send them via email them to Aunt Sally or post them on a Flickr site then IPhoto (free on the Mac) or Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 (available for PC or Mac at under $100 is more than adequate.) For example, my wife who won’t call herself an amateur photographer took our Olympus Pen with her on a couple of trips with her mom, sister, sister-in-law and niece and came back with a few hundred images that were actually pretty good. Using IPhoto she cropped and edited the RAW images and created enough JPGs that she made a photo book as a Christmas gift. That’s our niece doing her Sophia Loren thing.

So there you have it. If you’re looking for some new RAW editing software try out LR4 and the rest of us better start saving up to but the upgrade.

Photos on this post by Marion West.


Nikon Solves My NX2 Issue

Only fair to report that after a few days Nikon has agreed that yes I do own legitimate copies of Capture NX and Capture NX2 and I’ve been supplied with a product key that works.

Yeah and thanks Nikon.

Why am I so happy? After all I own legitimate copies of Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS 4. It’s because Capture NX2 is a wonderfully clever RAW converter that’s dedicated to Nikon’s NEF RAW images.

At half the price of Lightroom and quarter the price of CS 5, NX2 is a steal at $200 or so.

But, it’s not for the amateur who just wants to convert RAW files to JPGs. For that, I’d recommend Adobe Photoshop Elements which at $90 is perfect. IPhoto which comes with MAC is very good as well. I use IPhoto for almost all of my work that appears on the web.

However when it comes to my fine art photography, its Capture NX2 all the way.

The U-Point technology (which allows you to drag a point from a menu bar right onto the image and adjust whatever you want without creating additional layers) is amazing.

Anyway thanks Nikon.

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 26,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 10 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.