Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Canon 5D ISO Test

image courtasy of www.dpreview.com

Last week I got my hands on Canon's newest full-frame SLR the 5Dmk II. There are several givens with a camera of this type. It is expected that the camera will have a HUGE viewfinder, solid construction and better ISO than it's competitors. I want to take a look at a few minor impressions prior to diving in to my ISO tests. The first thing I notice at un-boxing was a new battery.
image courtasy of www.dcresource.com

There are two new pins that offer better communication with the camera giving the user line-of-site to battery health and more accurately displays remaining battery capacity. Unfortunately, the previous generation battery will not fit in the mk II so toss any old batteries and place an order for new batteries. Not a huge deal, but something to be aware of. The second thing I noticed was the backlight key. If you look at the top of a 10D, 20D, 30D, 40D, 50D, 5D the button that turns on the backlight for the LCD on the top of the camera is the one closest to the hot-shoe. On the 5Dmk II the button has transposed to the position clossest to the shutter release. Kinda frustrating if you are used to button placement on your camera. Beyond that everything seemed in order. The menu has some additional features - most notably the ability to adjust the custome settings for the 430ex II and 580ex II flashes directly from the camera with decriptions. Not essential, but can be helpful.

I preformed my standard ISO test. Mountin the camera to a tripod and photographing a keyboard. I then crop the image at 100% and produce the image below in photoshop. No noise reduction is used, the images are large jpg files directly out of the camera. The camera is set in aperture priority at f/5.6 using the Canon 17-40mm USM L lens.

click on the image for full size image
As would be expted ISO preformance is superb on this camera. The full frame means that the pixels are less densly packed therefore they gather light more efectivly - this translates into greater ISO preformance simply due the physics of the device. Little difference can be seen from ISO 50 through ISO 800. A litle texture shows up once you hit ISO 16oo; however, I noticed little difference between 800 and 1600. ISO 6400 does show grain - but it is important to note that the noise is not overly visable in a print and can be easily removed in an application like Noise Ninja. ISO 6400 preformes better than the Canon 20D and 30D at ISO 800 which changes everything. The high ISO preformance if the camera is not quite as good as the Nikon D700; however, it is so close I don't know it is a substantial diferentiating factor. Other features like built in wireless flash control, or ergonomics would be better features to focus on.

One final note - the higher megapixels of the 5Dmk II do concearn me. I have no interest in 21 mega-pixels. The camera could have easily destroyed the D700 if Canon had used a lower megapixel sensor. Image to noise ratio is the key factor in image quality - not mega-pixels. I am not sure I am happy with Canon's decision to go the direction they are going. Only time and continued exposure to the camera will tell. I photographed a midnight relase of The Dark Kniht with the camera so look for images and commentary from that in the next few days.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

hands on with drobo

A great video I found online that walks through the benefits of Drobo - check it out and Enjoy!

another one bitest the dust ... almost

You don't have to read the blog long to pick up on how I feel about backup. I am a HUGE advocate for redundant data. I have known too many who have lost precious data because of drive corruption, drive crashes, and or simple carelessness. I have personally experienced the latter two in the past.

Today I started my final stage of moving into my MacBook pro by transferring my "documents" folder that I have maintained since about 1996 onto my system. Notes from High School, College, and my Master's all reside ... on one drive. Are you kidding me?!? Seriously - could I be that stupid ... wait it gets better. The drive is the original notebook drive I replaced in my 5 year old Powerbook because it had overheating issues. I need serious help. So I plug the drive in and I get a format error message asking if I would like to format the drive for use ... um NO! MY DATA!!!!!!! I fished out the Data Rescue II disks hunkering down for a long day of painful data recovery. I rebooted the machine and holy cow, the drive showed up on the desktop as if nothing was wrong. Counting my blessings and the great mercy that was poured out upon my drive I immediatly began transfering the data to a safe place - still in progress by the way.

Why do we do such things? We commit our data to places that it should never be stored. We place our data on drives that have been mass produced as quickly and inexpensivly as possible with no form of backup or redundancy. I am asking everyone who reads this to STOP! Stop what you are doing right now and check you data. If your data is not stored in more that one location go buy a drive on sale or something and get it secure! Don't go buy a camera or a new lens - make this your first priority.

Next step: automation. No one wants to manage redundant storeage - that's why we don't do it. Set yourself up with a drive to manage the storage for you. Either set up a RAID or pick up a Drobo. I am going for the latter of the two. If you are on a Mac Time Machine will handle the backup for you. If you are on a Windows machine check out Argentum Backup.

Please - don't leave you data un-protected.

Friday, November 14, 2008

transforming scanned text

Today we take a quick look at converting scanned documents so that the white background is gone leaving the text or logo on it's own layer. It is a pretty basic process but not a lot of people use it. Check it out - it will save you some time and make you layouts look GREAT!

the first page...

In the same way an individual only gets one first impression - there is only one first page of a wedding album. When you open the first page of your album it should grab you. That one page should represent the entire day with all the emotion, preparation, and satisfaction. The tone of the entire album is set from that first page. When your client shows off the album to friends - what will they say when the cover is opened? If you haven't thought about it - you should. The album is crucial because it is portable. It is the only part of the wedding they will take to the office, take to family functions, and share with friends. I can't speak for all wedding photographers; however, over 80% of my business comes from referral. The way I see it - the album has a lot to do with that. Earlier today when I was taking a break for lunch my wife called the studio and asked how my day was going. When I told her I had finished the first page of the album she understood what a big deal it was - "That's the hardest page - that's great honey." This principal holds true for anything you give to a client - first impressions are everything.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

efficient editing

There are few things more frustrating and discouraging than getting weighted down and consequently progressively uninspired as you edit a client's photos. What is a photographer to do? For me it all comes down to efficiency. The longer I work on a project the more likely it is that I will become frustrated and uninspired. About mid-way through this year I took a serious look at my production to find ways to make it faster and more efficient. I was editing on a 5-year-old Apple Powerbook. I didn't realize how slow the editing process was going until I spent 10 hours editing 250 photos on my laptop. The next day I worked on a friend's MacBook Pro and was finished with the remaining 900 images in about 4 hours. I was so excited! I was beginning to question whether I was cut out for photography because ever time I sat down to exit I quickly lost my inspiration and more times that I would like to count I just got up and did something else. In my situation it was all about the gear. My computer was slowing me down substantially.

There are two important implications here. First and foremost - staying fresh and excited about what you are working on is essential for producing the best content possible for your client. Secondly, most photographers work on contract basis. Translation - you get paid the same no matter how long it takes you to finish the job. This means that the faster you work the more you make. The faster you work also translates into time for more family time and or the ability to take on additional clients.

We all need to sit down and take a look at our work flows and determine if we are being totally efficient. This isn't' the time for flattery - this is the time for blunt honesty. Only through honest feedback and disclosure will efficiency show up. There is nothing more satisfying and inspiring that sitting back to look at a finished job - a job well done.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

VMWare Fusion + FotoFusion

Today we take a second look at Lumapix FotoFusion. This time it is through the magic of VMWare Fusion. This application allows a user to run Windows (or any operating system for that matter) as a virtual machine on your sustem. If you are a Boot Camp person - VMWare will work for you aswell; allowing you to access the BootCamp partition and run it within the virtual enviroment. I walk through an album I just completed and show how to use some of the BEST features in the program - I will be doing more in the future. ENJOY!

Monday, November 10, 2008

why wait - shoot thethered

I originally intended to do today's post as a video; however, my body decided to fly right past the "getting sick" stage to arrive directly at head feels so huge it will explode, throat is scratchy, and nose is sniff ...sniff ...snif. So, for everyone's sake, today's tutorial will be text and photo based. Last night I did my second Reward Zone Event DSLR Demo and as I was setting up the laptop to the LCD TV and hooking the camera up to the laptop I thought - this would be great to blog! Tethered shooting is something that not everyone has exposure to so I figured it would be a good topic.

First things first - what is tethered shooting and why should we care? Tethered shooting allows a camera to transmit its photos directly to a computer rather than (or in addition) to a memory card. Once on the computer the image is displayed full screen. A lot of studio and portrait photographers use this technique to see the images on a higher quality, larger display real time. So why should we care? I have found it invaluable when teaching. Rather than having a group huddle around a small screen - everyone can enjoy the image on a TV or large monitor. The technique is also useful for any studio photography because the image is instantly viewable at 100% on a large display which more accurately represents the photo than the LCD on the back of the camera chiefly because of its size.

So, how do you set it up? There are two ways to set up tethered shooting: 1)wired 2)wireless. We are going to focus on wired tethering because it generally doesn't require you to buy anything (if you are a Canon shooter). You will need a few things:
  1. A camera that supports tethered shooting (most mainstream dSLRs and high end ultra-zooms
  2. USB cable for the camera (probably came in the box)
  3. A computer (doesn't need to be a super fast system)
  4. Tethering Software (this is where Nikon shooters have to pay)
The first thing you need to do is load the tethering software. Canon includes it on the software disk in their SLR cameras, it is called EOS Utility. Nikon users will need to download the software from Nikon's site. Nikon's tethering software can be used free for 30 days - so it won't cost you anything to try things out; however, if you add it to your workflow it will run you around $180. Once loaded plug the camera into the computer using the USB cable that probably came with your camera when you purchased it. I also add a few 6' USB extensions to give me freedom to wanter around but this is not required.

At this point go ahead and launch the capture program and connect the camera to the computer. The first time you set up the software you need to go into the preferences to tell the software where to save the images. Once this is done you are now set up to shoot tethered. I go one step further by sending the images into Lightroom. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom has the ability to automatically import photos froma "watched folder" which I setup as the same folder I set the capture software to save to. Now I can see images full screen and edit them on the fly as well.

The other option I mentioned was wireless. Wireless works the same way as wired; however, you need a wireless transmitter on you camera. Those are generally a little expensive. Most instances I have found the cable works just fine; however, if you want to cut the wires and be free go right ahead.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Highlight & Shadow Recovery in RAW

Today we take a quick look at how to recover detail from areas in a photo that have blown out highlights or dark shadows that need to be normalized. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

sync with foxmarks

This morning I want to share a great utility / plug-in that has been a life-saver for me on so many levels. If you read the blog regularly you will know that I have been a bit of a computer nomad the past month and a half. I have moved from computer to computer, trying to find a place to settle down. One thing we pour so much time into is our collection of bookmarks in our web browser. There have been too many times when I have formatted a system only to realize a few days later that I forgot to backup my bookmarks. Enter Foxmarks.

Foxmarks is platform independent - so as long as you can put Firefox on the computer you can get a copy of Foxmarks. Setting up an account is free and easy - two tings that I appreciate after a HUGE laptop purchase. Once you are setup Foxmarks backs up all your bookmarks (both from the bookmarks menu and the bookmarks bar). You can also choose to have Foxmarks backup your passwords aswell. Foxmarks periodically re-syncs with your computer to make sure if you add or remove any bookmarks that it has the most up-t0-date info on line.

Another strength of this plug-in is it's ability to sync with multiple computers. For my weekly workflow I have two Apple laptops and one PC desktop that I work on. Firefox and Foxmarks are installed on all three systems. As I work on my laptop and change bookmarks thorughout the week, the other two systems are automatically updated every few hours.

I am not a huge plug-in fanatic like some. I only use a handfull; however, I have found Foxmarks to be irriplacable and invaluble in my daily workflow.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

canon 50D ISO review

Click on image for full sized 3200 ISO image

I got my hands on a 50D a few weeks ago and did some image testing. I'm going to focus on ISO performance because almost everything else is identical to the 40D. In response to Nikon's crazy awesome ISO performance in its D300, D700 & D7 camera systems Canon released the 50D with a DiGiC IV processor. I am a bit surprised Canon chose to call this the 50D - it is more accurately the 40D mkII. After spending a substantial amount of time with the 40D I was instantly at home with the 50D as the menu and button configuration is exactly the same. Many focus on megapixel preformance and build quality. I expect high standards in both from any Canon camera so I dove straight into the ISO preformance.

Great image-to-noise ratio is the most influencing factor in my mind that determines a camera's worth. Before I purchase a camera I need to know how far I can push the ISO while maintaining a usable print.

Click on photo for full size version
The images above are 100% crops made with the camera using its kit lens and all standard defaults within the camera shooting large JPG files. I imported the images into Lightroom and cropped them 1:1. The white ballance was set to auto which is why the top photos are warmer than the last few - I overlooked that when testing the camera but chose to leave them as-is. At 100% crop you can see some image noise at 800. However, I was plesently surprised that the noise doesn't get much worse as you progress to 1600. There is a significant amount of noise at ISO 3200 when viewed at 1:1; however, it is tough to pick out any noise when looking at an image full screen. If ran through noise ninja ISO 3200 images look like ISO 800 images! I feel that the images produced by the 50D are on par with Nikon's D300. As expected they aren't as good as the D700 or 7D as these cameras have full-frame sensors so one should expect the images to be better. We will take a look at ISO preformance on the Canon 5D mkII when it releases next month.

If you are still sporting a 20D or 30D the 50D offers enough of a preformance boost that I would reccomend picking one up. If you are sporting a 40D the difference is nominal so I would probably sit tight until the 60D a year or two down the road.

Monday, November 3, 2008

photographer call out - GET OFF YOUR BUTT

Last weekend I spent a few days in St. Louis visiting family and seeing the sights. Saturday we spent the bulk of the day in Forest Park. I could spend the rest of my life finding amazing photographs in that place. The Forest Park was the site for the 1904 World's Fair and has been turned into a great public park since. The pano above was just a quick hand-held photo that I snapped very quickly. Even in the middle of the day awful light it is clear that this park is built on a grand scale that changes every few minutes as the light shifts throughout the day and into the evening. As I stated above, we were in the park on a Saturday so it is not tough to imagine that this is a popular location to have wedding and engagement photos taken. Just a few seconds after I captured this image, a bus-limo pulled up behind me with a wedding party and their photographer. I walked off a little ways and observed for a few minutes...

Two shooters using Nikon gear with the flash bolted to the top of their cameras shooting through a sto-fen style defuser. It amazes me how lazy wedding photographers are with lighting. Especially with Nikon's built in wireless flash system they have no excuse! A few hours later we were on the main pavilion area (photo below). TONS of repeating arch patterns, expansive greens, a sun low on the horizon. I was soaking it all in. When we got in to the building pictured below there was a lady photographer shooting a couple's engagement photo against one of the stucco walls inside (strike 1), shooting with flash on camera through a Fary fong dong thingie (strike 2), and wearing high heels (strike three). Of course I guess strike one is ok ... we are in the expansive beautiful place with natural light and amazing archetechure ... but they probably wanted a stucco wall as their backdrop anyways.
photo courtisy of http://www.explorestlouis.com

As photographers we need to look past the gadgets and what is easy to become image crafters. When shooting a wedding 99.9% of all my images are shot with off camera flash through a 36" shoot through umbrella for a softer more pleasing light. When I shoot alone my flash is attached to a 2' off camera shoe cord held by my left hand. It isn't easy and it isn't fun but for goodness sake people - any joe cool can walk into a Best Buy and purchase a camera and a flash that sits on the camera.

If this is you - I am callin' you out. Stop being lazy and learn how to use a flash like a professional. Serious images require serious light. You will never get dramatic or serious light off the top of your camera. If you are a professional photographer who makes a living with your camera you are doing your clients a disservice by not using off camera flash.

If you are interested in learning more about off camera flash - look through some of my older posts - I go over some equipment I use. Stay tuned - I will also be producing online video tutorials showing you how to get more from your flash on location. My goal today was two fold. Honestly, I wanted to vent a little frustration. I also wanted to offer a way out - training and technique from this site. There are better ways to do things - so lets go over them together in the weeks to come.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

back in the saddle again

Thank you so much for your gracious patience with past three weeks that have seen no blogging on my part. So much has been going on just with my computers at the studio alone that I just needed to get away from them at the "end" of the day. Things are looking up. I have made some great transitions and have some GREAT stories to tell. For those of you who don't follow me on twitter, I have replaced my studio production system with a MacBook Pro. I am still condensing info on to this machine and slowly migrating data from my main serer over to the laptop as needed. I have the system setup with VM Ware Fusion so I can run FotoFusion so I can continue to produce great albums and great tutorials for you guys on that program. I won't be able to pick up iShowU (system for screen capture) for a few weeks, so don't expect a video tutorial in the interum; however, I have several in the works.

I am so excited to be back and even more excited that the readership has stuck around. Starting Monday we will be back into the swing of things - see you then!

Friday, October 3, 2008

first steps - color correction

A few weeks ago I was approached by a local business to do some client color correction of before-after images taken at different times. Last week I began preliminary work around designing a work flow that would maximize productivity while giving a consistent result. The biggest hurtle I have found is white balance. Color temperature will drive you batty if you aren't careful. Ideally one would like to have a 50% gray card in every image (or at least a reference image ... but let's keep on dreaming) Adjusting white balance within Camera Raw, Lightroom, Aperture, etc is easy enough; however, without a common gray tone what is a color corrector to do? Assuming you are working with two images designed to be similar - like my before and after photos the subject should have a comon tone in the image somewhere. For example - if you have a headshot with before after on a makeover find an area of skin that is simiularly lit and similar in tone - skin is a great starting point. In Lightroom I simply use the eye-dropper tool to sample the area I want to set as my grey point. The image looks WAY off - but the cool thing is that both images look the same ... very odd looking but none the less the same. I record the two white balance settings from the adjustment, noting the delta between the two numerical results (Camera Raw and Lightroom have two WB sliders that have a numerical value of +/- 100). I take the one that is closer to 0 and shift one slider until the result is desierable which is then followed by the same numerical adjustment on the secondary image. Let me clerify. If I have two images who's adjusted WB is -15/-3 and -10/-6 and I have determined on the second image that -6 needs to be moved to 0 that means the first image will change from -3 to +3. The top numbers are adjusted in the same way. The result differes per-image and you may have to try a few times to get it down pat; however, wether your color correction ends with WB correction or not - it is something that will make the rest of your adjustments easier.

As soon as my production machine is back up and running I will have a video tutorial on this - because I know it can be confusing. If you have any questions or color correction tips please feel free to post them in the comments.

Friday, September 19, 2008

protect your tech

As photographers, as tech addicts, as gadget guys - we love the latest and greatest. If you are anything like me you are also quite rough on your tech. It could be described as a right of passage. A journey of selective destruction through which only the strong survive. So what happens if there is a piece of tech that you really like but can tell it will become disfigured with scratches, dents, scuffs and the like? Working in the field of Retail Consumer Electronics, I see a lot of damaged product - especially in the area of phones, PDAs, iPods, iPhones, laptops, etc.

I recently was introduced to a company named ZAGG who produces a product called the invisible shield. They offer a unique protective covering for tons of consumer products. I have used a screen protector of some kind on just about every PDA I have ever owned and they were all a compromise. When I purchased my iPod touch earlier this year I was concerned about the touch surface and wanted to protect it. I was immediately intrigued when I opened the invisible shield box to find not only the shield and applicator - but a bottle of solution. I was a bit puzzled.

Applying the shield is a little odd the first time around; however, I have been using it for about 2 months now and no scratches and no optical distortion like most screen protectors. They are guaranteed not to scratch or peel off for the life of the device - so go nuts! Use you device the way you want to use it. If you are looking for a protective solution for your laptop, phone, iPod, etc - take a look at the invisible shield - you will be glad you did.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Blame IKE

Hey guys - Louisville got hit HARD with IKE which no one was expecting.  300,000 without power and something like 70% of the trafic lights down things have been a bit nuts here.  Internet has been so flaky that I have had major issues getting the blog up.  I appreciate your patience and I hope to get back into the swing of things in the next day or so.

Canon 5D MkII Announced Today!

Yes indeed - I can not wait to get my hands on the new 5D mk II.  It looks very nice.  Only concern I have is the slow 3.9 frames per second ARGH!!!!!!!!   We should have one in the store before too long so until then take a look at DPReview's Preview of the camera.

Friday, September 12, 2008

round two - then and now

This second round video ad Microsoft has released has me thinking. Again, they don't talk about Vista or any other services. Instead, it appears the Microsoft is using Seinfeld and Gates as two characters to overhaul Microsoft's image as a whole. Vista defiantly has shaken people's foundation in Windows as an operating system. I talk to people every day who ask "Is there any way I can get a computer without that vista?" In most cases people don't know what Vista is - they just know "people" say that they should steer clear of it. In the past week I have focused on asking customers a few questions around Vista perception. I lead with statements like "just in my own curiosity - what has given you a bad experience with Vista?" Yesterday I had a gentleman who told me his brother has a Vista machine and he hates it. I asked when he purchased the machine and he revealed that his brother was an early adopter who purchased one of the initial release Vista computers. I talked with the customer a bit about some of the problems (mostly hardware based) around computer running a new operating system. I explained that the early Vista computers were essentially Windows XP systems with Vista installed instead. They were massively underpowered and not setup with Vista in mind. Today, a year and a half after Vista's release, we have systems that are fine tuned to run Vista correctly. Take a snapshot of then vs now:

(THEN) Mostly 1.4 - 1.6ghz processors
(NOW) Mostly 2.0+ ghz processors
(THEN) Average 512mb ddr2 ram
(NOW) Average 30=-4gb ddr2 ram
(THEN) Integrated Intel graphics chip
(NOW) Integrated ATI or GeForce chip
(THEN) 80GB-120GB storage
(NOW) 160-250GB storage

The list goes on and on. I am not trying to champion Vista here - most of you should know that I prefer to use a Macintosh computer. What I have experienced with vista systems is that most of the discomfort today is due to unfamiliararity with the operating system. People just don't know and because they don't know they listen to rumors and take them at face value. I am all for people switching to the Macintosh side of things - but let's talk about supeority of the UNIX based operating system - not prey on the fears of an uneducated public. Microsofts ads are designed to get people tinking about them in a different light - not sure if it will work but I think it is a step in the right direction.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

canon evolution


oh canon how you continue to tease us

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

teaser banner online

A friend of mine shot me an email this morning with this story. On Canon's UK website they are running a banner teaser that screams 5DmkII.

Looks like they still have a little something up their sleeve for Photokina this month. If it is the 5DmkII one interesting thing to note - it looks like it would have a popup flash. Anyways - I will keep my eye on it and try to keep everyone posted on the developments

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

hands on with nikon D90

I spent quite a while playing with Nikon's newest release today and want to take a few minutes to put in my two cents. When holding the camera it is noticeably heavier (more solid) than the D80. The D80 always felt a little cheap in it
s construction epically if you compared it to the D70 & D70s which were built like tanks. The feel of the camera is more substantial. I am not sure if this is due to a redesign of the grip ergonomics, building material or some mixture of both.

Button placement and configuration is the same as on the D80 with few changes. There is a LV for Live View mode on the back which is how you get to the video mode (more on that later) and the AF lock switch is crafted similarly to the D300 series camera AF lock. The most noticeable change is the d-pad. Nikon seems to be moving all their new cameras in this direction. The center or set button is separate from the d-pad. This makes it much easier to select the center button in pressing situations - no pun intended.

Overall button placement makes sense - though not accessible as the D200,300,700 series cameras but one shouldn't expect that in a camera of this level. There were two things that peeked my interest when approaching this camera: Image noise and the new video mode. The D300 & D700 boast excellent image to noise ratio that has Canon shooters everywhere considering a switch. How does the D90 measure up? Let's take a look:

ISO-800 Great clarity - almost no noise at 100% crop

ISO-1600 A little detail is lost due to the noise reduction software but you have to look at 100x and really be looking to see it.

ISO-3200 About what 800 looks like on my Canon 20D. If you zoom in to 100X noise reduction is noticeable but not bad - very usable and super crisp all things considered.

ISO-6400 Significant image noise. However, it is still less than my 20D gives me at 1600 ISO. Large prints would be no problem with this.

Is the image to noise ratio as good a the D700 - Absolutely not! Not even close - but you could buy three of these bodies for what one D700 costs so keep that in mind. Here is the thing to consider. Looking at the images full screen on my 22" monitor I didn't see ANY image noise until I zoomed in to 100X on any of these images - not to shabby! When taking these images I set the camera on Aperture priority and set it to about f/5.3. The camera was in Large Fine JPG mode set to the default color and sharpness settings. I didn't do anything to these images except crop them in Lightroom - no manipulation or correction. Now on to the Video...

The video looks good but you loose Auto Focus so in my mind ... it is kinda useless. Take a look for yourself.

right click to download video

That's all my insight and what not - I like the camera and I think it gives the Rebel's a run for their money. Can't say how it stacks up against the 50D because they haven't arrived yet. However, you can bet I will have a compair contrast post in a week or so once we have those in stock!

Stock Images Courtasy of www.dcresouce.com

Monday, September 8, 2008

quick look - google chrome

Today we take a look at Google Chrome. Lots of great features that blow away the competition. As we move into a web 2.0 world this is the next evolution in browser technology. Let the browser wars begin!

Friday, September 5, 2008

microsoft enters the ad game?

The ad campaign by Microsoft using Jerry Seinfeld is very similar to their internal videos. They show the softer, lighter side of Microsoft; however, they have nothing to do with Vista! I found myself scratching my head at the end of the 1min 30sec commercial. In what world do commercials run longer than 30 sec? Just a thought. If these are to be the combat to the Get a Mac campaign they are more than a bit lacking - feel free to chime in.

will continue tomorrow...

Hey folks - I appreciate your patience this week with no posts. A combination of craziness a work and STILL being in a restoration process on my main production machine has made for no time to blog this week. I will be putting together a set of posts for this weekend like I did a few weeks back. Monday I will jump right back into the thick of things and have daily posts for your enjoyment.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Photoshop Essentials

Today we take a look at Photoshop Express. Having my system crash last week has been a perspective changer. What happens if you are on a system without Photoshop? What if your computer is issued to you by your company and they will not allow you to install applications? What if your on the road and don't have your copy of Photoshop with you? There are so many situations where a web 2.0 application like Photoshop Express can be a life saver.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

murphy taunts me

It can only be described as ironic justice that on the week I post the virtue of my Vista setup that it crashes into oblivion. NO WARNING - simple, quiet, dead. I didn't even get the courtesy of a blue screen of death. Not sure if it is a case of simple file corruption or if there is a drive issue. Fortunately my essential data is backed up on a redundant drive. Doesn't make the next week fun - just means I'm not playing in traffic. SpinRite is doing its thing tonight as I sleep to try and salvage the drive and it's data ... not holding my breath. Until I get things back up and running please have patience with my posts as I am frantically trying to get my production machine back into a usable state. The machine boots up to a black screen with my mouse still visible ... but that is it. A bit odd. I am not sure if were able to fix the issue if I would trust the install. Perhaps this would be a good time to do an Ultimate install? I will have to think on that for the evening.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

image continuity

Today we take a quick look at the importance of preserving image continuity. Any time we modify an image it is super important to retain the context of the image. This is especially true when we remove objects from the image - check it out and enjoy!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Windows Vista Essentials PART 3 of 3

PART 3 Applications

Before I dive into this final portion of Vista Essentials I want to provide a disclaimer: What follows is not intended to be an in-depth review of software titles. Instead, it is designed to be an overview of software functionality as it relates to the Vista Experience. Anyone who reads this blog knows I use Photoshop and Lightroom as well as Office and other production pieces of software - I won't be talking about those today because they don't have anything to do with Vista or enhancing the Vista experience.

Edison - Verdiem Sofware - www.verdiem.com/edison/ - FREE

Go green with your PC. Edison is a great application I was recently turned on to by Paul Thurrott. Edison overrides your computer's energy center with a more user-friendly system that will save you on energy by managing more closely when and how your system goes to sleep. If you only have one machine the savings won't be that drastic; however, it becomes drastic when you manage multiple computers.

SnagIt - Tech Smith Products - www.techsmith.com/screen-capture.asp - $49.95

From the same folks who produce Camtasia (the software I use to record my video tutorials), TechSmith offers a product that is indispensable to me. On the Mac it is so easy to do selective screen captures with built in tools. Upon shifting production to the PC I immediately felt the growing pains of being limited to the "print screen" utility built into Windows. Snagit allows for capturing a window, the entire screen or a selection of the screen and is directly exportable to a jpg. Super great and absolutely necessary for me. I keep a catalog of other photographer's work that I often have to screen capture off of their websites. When I am looking for some inspiration I flip through the photos I have collected. SnagIt also makes the screen grabs you see on this site possible.

ISO Recorder - Alex Feinman - http://isorecorder.alexfeinman.com/isorecorder.htm - FREE

Again - this is a feature built into OSX that isn't standard on Windows. I have several peices of software that are ISO images. I have to be able to burn those ISO images to a DVD or CD - this is a VERY basic utility that does just that. No frills, no fancy UI - just integrates into the built in Vista burning window.

Argentum Backup - Argentum - www.argentuma.com/backup.html - $25.00

BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP! There are tons of backup solutions out there. I use Argentum because it doesn't create a closed file. A lot of backup software backs up the data to a database driven system that require the backup program be re-installed before the files are unpacked. The backup Argentum creates is just a mirror of the folders it is backing up. This means that if my computer crashes I can grab that drive - toss it in a SATA enclosure and grab any needed data on my other system. It's fast and in a pinch if the worst were to happen I would be back up and running faster than having to re-install my operating system.

When windows XP offered basic compression utilities for ZIP creation I figured I would never need WinZIP again ... enter the RAR. If you are looking for a great compression utility that smokes what XP and Vista have built in - or find the need to open a RAR compresses file WinRAR is the way to go.

IrfanView - http://www.irfanview.com/ - FREE

The ULTIMATE image viewer. I have TONS of RAW, PSD, PNG, JPG, etc files that I hate having to open photoshop or bridge to open - enter IrfanView. It's fast and that is why I use it. I wish I could say I use it to 10% of it's potential; however, I just use it to view material. This application can view, batch process, resize, convert file tyes, act as an interface for your scanner, and so much more. For me - I needed a way to open my images on the fly very quickly - IrfanView allows me to do that.

FireFox 3.0- Mozilla - www.mozilla.com - FREE

Last but not least - Mozilla Firefox 3.0. I have talked about this browser in the past so this will be brief. I aplaud Microsoft for the phenominal work on IE 7 - it is an amazing browser. I aplaud Apple for bringing Safari to the windows side - it handles RSS like none else. Both these browsers are installed on my system; however, I rarely use them. Firefox is my principal browser. Great tabbed browsing experience, the best password manager I have EVER been exposed to. I LOVE using it. It seems that Firefox is like Michael Phelps - so far ahead will anyone catch it?

There you have it - we have reached the end FINALLY Three days - three pieces to the puzzel. These posts have been my journey to a great Vista experience. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to email me or post in the comments. If there is another piece of software you feel I would enjoy taking a look at please shoot me a link and I will take a look - see. This final portion of Windows Vista Essentials will be Monday's post so look for the Video tomorrow.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Windows Vista Essentials PART 2 of 3

PART 2 Configuration & Tweaks

Two Facts:
  1. Everyone is different and we all like our icons in a certain place or like the interface to look a certain way. No matter what operating system you use one shapes it and molds it into something unique and personal.
  2. Computer manufacturers load their computers with unnecessary, bloated and annoying demo, trial, or marginally functional software. This is unfortunate; however, it is a fact of life. When paired with the lack of a CD or DVD containing the operating system means removing said software isn't as simple as it used to be.
Everyone is Different
How you choose to customize the windows interface is up to you. There isn't realy a wrong way to make your OS look - just make sure it is efficient for your work flow. For me that means making my taskbar thicker to accomodate "large" size quick launch buttons. The applications I live by day in and day out reside in the quicklaunch. The utilities and programs I use ocassionally are relegated to the start menu. I go into the settings and turn off the audo fill feature for the start menu because I want to choose what is in the list - not let Vista (or XP for that matter) pick what is in the list.
Possibly the most preformance impactfull change is the removal of the Widnows Sidebar. I've never realy had a use for it (but hey - I disable dashboard via terminal on my mac too so I guess I am an odd one). The sidebar eats up processor cycles, available RAM and screen space - three things I am not willing to part with. I don't have Windows hide my innactive taskbar items because I want to see what is running - and out of sight out of mind often means lost preformance to fluff tasks runing in the background. Finally - I clear the desktop. I use the desktop for my files I am currently working with and at the end of the day or week they are either deleted or filed in an appropriate folder.

Loose The Bloat
The easiest way I know of to remove the junk that comes loaded on a machine is to have it optimized by your local Geek Squad. Optimization usually takes 15-45 minutes (depending if the unit has a long first boot up process) and will only set you back $29.99. If you are more of a do-it-yourselfer you can remove the extra bloat-ware and tweak the operating system with any number of utilities; however, I have found the Geek Squad does a great job and all their work is backed for 30 days - so if they screw something up they will make it right. In the old days one would simply pop the operating system disk in the computer and install just the Operating System and ONLY the software desired. Presto - clean fast copy of the operating system. Unfortunatly, Toshiba and Gateway are the only manufacturers on the Windows side still offering disks. Dell just stoped including them; however, one can request a set for free - you just have to ask. Even companies like HP who give users the ability to burn recovery disks don't give the user a way to JUST instal the OS apart from the bundled software. I am sure there are some great tweaking utilities out there that do a great job; however, my unit was optimized before I took it home and I have no complaints. I did my Virus / Spyware installs and other configurations - but OS tweaking is somthing that I wanted Geek Squad to take care of for me.

The final peice of the puzzle are the applications which I will cover tomorrow. I have a few applications for enhancing the Vista Experience but I won't get into those here - I'll save that for tomorrow.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Windows Vista Essentials PART 1 of 3

Four months ago I took the plunge. I picked up a Vista based Windows machine after 4 years of exclusively owning a Mac. When I dropped my Dell on eBay Windows XP was just finding its feet in the world. Now all my old tricks and applications are either out-dated or just flat out don't work. I'm a new fish in the pond. I had HUGE reservations about living in a dual operating system home - I was very comfortable in OS X; however, my 4 year old PowerBook was struggling to keep up with my RAW work flow. I needed a production machine badly and I was blessed with an amazing machine that should have cost me immeasurably more than I paid for it:
HP Pavilion M9040N
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 2.4Ghz
3GB DDR2 667 RAM
3x 320 GB HD
TV Tuner Card
NVIDIA GeForce 8400 GS 256GB Video Ram
Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit
(hopeing to upgrade to Ultimate 64 in the not to distant future)
My initial reservations around Windows Vista were not dissimilar to the general public's distaste for Microsofts current operating system; however, the deal was too good so I dropped the green and picked up the machine listed above. I wish I could tell you that my first few weeks were an amazing experience but it wasn't. I had USB driver issues that caused my computer to blue screen all over the place (since patched) and stuff wasn't where I was used to it being from XP. I was cranky and frustrated and so after putting up with it for about 2 months I installed XP on one of the 3 drives in the computer so that I could give it a try to sooth my woes. After a few weeks in XP I found that Vista actually ran things like Photoshop and Lightroom better. GASP! The past month has been a journey for me a journey of acceptance and tweaking. Surrendering to the superiority of Vista over XP (not OS X) I decided that if I was going to live with Vista I had better get it set up to do what I wanted. This weekend I will be posting a 3 part post windows vista essentials. I will be sharing some of the software, websites, and configuration utilities that have transformed my Vista experience into one of the BEST Windows experiences I have ever had. We live in a Vista world - lets make the best of it!

this week in photography

Any time I run across a great resource I try to pass it along to you. If you haven't taken a listen to TWiP (This Week in Photography) you need to do so. It is a very enjoyable podcast. I ran across it a few weeks ago and now I am listening to back catalog episodes. They talk about everything from news to recommendations on gear. The episode I just finished talked extensively about inkjet printers (something I plan on purchasing sometime this coming year). Give the podcast a listen - I think you will enjoy the photo banter.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

patience ...

Considering buying a camera? Looking into replacing that old body for a "new" model? Any time one purchase a camera there are a few things to consider. What do you need/want that your current camera does not offer, How much are you willing to spend, and how soon will the "new" camera be replaced? I don't intend to address the first two in this post - though I plan on addressing it in depth down the road. Today we look at the third question. Before I say anything else I must start with this: If you need a camera today buy a camera today. However, if you can hold on for a few weeks (possibly borrowing or renting a camera) your patience might be rewarded. Every two years there is a HUGE photo show (photokina)where vendors always display new product. I am not so sure that anything new in the Nikon SLR field will be presented; however, it is almost certain that Canon will have a few new bodies in response to Nikon's D300 & D700.

This is relevant for two reasons:
  1. If you want to save a few bucks, new cameras mean the current models will go clearance which means same camera less bank
  2. If you wan the best of the best - latest and greatest, you will be getting the cameras right off the assembly line.
Either way - I think it would be wise to wait and see what comes out next month. Besides - most vendors don't wait till photokina to announce the product in an effort to one-up the competition. Only disclaimer... Just because a camera is announced does not mean it will be immediately available. If a 5D replacement is in the pipes it will probably be October / November before it hits the shelves. These are just some things to consider. If you want to get a greater sense for what is coming you can check out 1001 Noisy Cameras for the latest rumors and speculation. I don't post it here because they are just that ... rumors.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Lightroom HELP!!!

Every now and then I need a little help - this would be one of those times. I am having some trouble with Lightroom 2.0 and Photoshop and I need your help! Check out the video - it explains better than typing it out.

Friday, August 15, 2008

flower power

Camera: Canon 20D 1/250 f/5.6 -2/3EV Aperture Priority Lens: Canon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 with macro attachment

This is an image I captured on my photo walk Wednesday. The image was taken on a hiking trail within Cherokee Park in Louisville Kentucky. No surprise - the color is what drew me in. The surrounding plant life was dominantly green and brown while the plant here simply stood out. I pulled out my cobbled together macro lens and started playing with focus priority and depth of field. I made about 11 exposures of this image - this one was right in the middle. This is the image that I liked the best. I've made some minor brightness adjustments and applied a light vignette within Lightroom to spotlight the central focal point. I don't claim to be a nature photographer - but I was very happy with this exposure. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

a better image

This is a perfect example of why I love blogging. You the reader! Mike emailed me this today as a better photo than what I posted originally. I LOVE IT! Great use of Photoshop. About fell off my chair (and since I use a Yoga ball for a chair that would be bad) when I saw this image. Mad props Mike - thanks so much.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

out shooting

I'm off work today - the weather is AMAZING. I am dropping everything and I'm goin' shooting! I'm grabbing my camera bag and hitting the streets to shoot. If you have the opportunity I would encourage you to do the same. When was the last time you just went out and took some pictures? I think it is about time to head out - I'll see you guys tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

virtual horizon - useful or waste?

In August of 2007 Nikon announced the now "king of the hill" the D3. Touting image-to-noise ratio that blew away the competition with a full frame image sensor able to resolve more efficiently than any other DSLR on the market, The D3 dropped into the world and changed the game forever. One feature that was a big press piece early on was the virtual horizon. Utilizing the internal gyroscope as more than just an orientation reading, the D3 built in a really cool piece of technology. Early hands on reviews and commentary by Moose Peterson and Joe McNally sorta killed the feature as a - it's cool but I don't find myself using it all that much.

The virtual horizon is a feature that the Nikon D700 inherited from it's older brother. Shortly after geting my hands on one I hunted that feature down (not super easy) within the tools menu. When selected the LCD gives you an image like the two at the top of the photo above. While this is a neat feature I realy don't see a real-world practical use for this other than setting up a tripod. I did a little digging - I wasn't ready to let this potentially amazing feature go without a fight. If you have used a Nikon D80, D200, D300, D700, D2x, D3, etc you are familiar with the function (fn) button next to the depth of field preview button.

Several functions can be set to this button. It is designed to give photographers quick access to features that normally one's eye out of the viewfinder. Different camera models allow for different features. I was excited and hopeful to see the Virtual Horizon as an option in the list. When bound to the fn button this feature transfors a bit. While depressed the exposure meeter becomes a level both in the viewfinder and on the top LCD display. This means while framing an image for capture you can note your level settings within the image capture process without taking your eye from what is important - subject.

In a world where we can straighten images in just about every editing application it is refreshing to see a feature that assists photographers in taking the image correctly in the camera. The virtual horizon is a HUGE feature when paired with the fn button and should not be overlooked when considering your next camera.