Monthly Archives: August 2008

PhotoDump 08-31-2008

More great stuff this week from the Epic Edits Flickr Pool! I always find it fascinating how there tends to be one or two themes that are popular each week. This time I noticed a lot of TTV shots and interesting portraits.

Rescue BoardFive to Four by Zozman. by ojoyous1day311: autumn wind by what_milkGrace (Senior Portrait) by mark.mortensenGone by Marcus LibäckCirque de Troumouse - panorama by Stina Stockholmthe nightmare on christmas by lettertwelveVeronica by Digital Kloc PhotographyFun & SafetyPensive by lilahpopsThe note I left, the day she left (2008-08-28_30D_101-6078) by akhater by anthonyskeltonDay 189: 21 days by vandyll.net by TyCTaj Mahal (2) by tyt2000On Point by Chris Nixon20080530_151335_San Francisco SFMoMO Yerba Buena Gardens_IMG_0963 by topfloorfake young lovers by xysmas (Aaron)p rail by agruve96 by ChamplooNo Swim(ming)Crown by the_wolf_brigade's GAS is incurableSunset at Salt Creek by gavinjensenKick back and enjoy by bestgrampsNo Worries (2008-08-26_30D_101-6051) by akhaterCathedral of Santa Eulalia, Barcelona, Spain by tysonwilliams.com by TyCCuriosity by brdavidsBound by jrodgersartA magnificent display by bryanvillarinPort-127 by s-t-r-a-n-g-elipstick and buns by poopooramaJump by Salvatore FalconeReflections of you by essjaytDan by Tasha || As The Picture FadesClose Face by /charlenehello kitty girl by xysmas (Aaron)Virginia Bluebell by Bernie KasperViewfinder by JanneMBiker Scout by MemnochspVintage Cowboy Boots by David A G WilsonBlinds by Andre BlythFlagsMuke - Juice by Auzigogpetals by pragnyanLike sand through your hands by henrikjLorne by bassqee

Link Roundup 08-30-2008

Good stuff all around, with lots of exciting news this week.

  • Before I Die I Want To…
    A Polaroid Project
    What an amazing project — Polaroid photos of people from all over the place, and they write down what they want to do before they die on the Polaroid. Entertaining and inspirational.
  • RAW vs. JPEG: Part 1 – What are they?
    RAW vs. JPEG: Part 2 – Pros and Cons
    Hyperphocal
    A discussion of the merits of both raw and jpeg formats, giving you a better ability to choose which format is right for you. Part 2 talks about the pros and cons of each format and why you might choose one over the other.
  • Light Modifiers 101
    Beyond Megapixels
    Barn door, cookie, flag, gel, gobo, grid, softbox, snoot, and umbrella — all lighting equipment modifiers, and all explained in this article.
  • Moving Toward Manual Settings: Understanding ISO (a beginner’s guide)
    digital Photography School
    A basic introductory guide to ISO settings and how they affect your photos.
  • How to Split Tone a Photo in 30 Seconds or Less
    Andrew S Gibson
    Photoshop CS does away with messy darkroom chemicals and lets you split tone black & white prints with just a few clicks of the mouse.
  • I Started a $2 Portraits Group on Flickr
    Thomas Hawk’s Digital Connection
    Thomas Hawk has been pursuing a project where he offers people asking for money $2 in exchange for their portrait. Now he’s even started a Flickr group so others can join him.
  • Advance Testing the Nikon D90
    Chase Jarvis
    Chase Jarvis runs us through the features of the new Nikon D90 dSLR camera. He’s got a great video and a bunch of stuff to say about this camera.

3 Reasons Why I Refuse to Use Lightroom

Sure, try haggling here.
Creative Commons License photo credit: gak

Ok, ok, now before you Lightroom fans get all twisted up, read this and read it carefully. This post isn’t intended to stir things up. I’m not a Lightroom user, but I’m a Photoshop user. Those who know me also know that I’m a big fan of using Adobe Bridge and Adobe Camera Raw to organize and process my photos.

But in no way am I trying to give Lightroom and Adobe a bad name or put the software (or it’s users) down — it’s a great tool, and I know a lot of photographers who swear by it. On that same note, I’ve also had a lot of photographers baffled at my decision to avoid Lightroom. So here they are… the top three reasons why I refuse to use Lightroom:

1. DEPENDENT ON A DATABASE

MNFTIU
Creative Commons License photo credit: [.i.c.e.]

I’m sorry, but I’ve already been hit with database issues in the past. I’m sure Adobe has things nailed down pretty tight, but I don’t like the idea of having to rely on those things to keep track of my photos. Call me old fashioned, but I like to place my photos on my hard drive in the folder hierarchy that I’m comfortable with, use sidecar files to store extra information, and only rely on my organization software to view the photos and place/utilize metadata.

Why am I so against a database? Doesn’t it make things faster and more organized? Sure, but what happens when you get new hard drives, upgrade operating systems or entire computers, or decide to use a different photo organization software at some point? You may find yourself out of luck.

2. REDUNDANT WITH BRIDGE/ACR

Redundancy
Creative Commons License photo credit: Will Pate

I’ve already made the decision that I utilize Photoshop enough to justify paying for it. Yes, Photoshop is a totally different beast from Lightroom, but the software bundled with it isn’t. Lightroom is basically a combination of Adobe Bridge and Adobe Camera Raw — they share many features and they use the same Raw processor.

Lightroom does have a few extra features and conveniences, but is it worth the extra cost if I’m already investing money in Photoshop? I think not. Lightroom and Bridge/ACR are so similar in nature that I’m willing to bet Adobe will leapfrog the two software packages with each new release. Meaning, you can probably expect to see many Lightroom 2 features in the next Bridge/ACR bundle, in addition to some new stuff that Lightroom doesn’t have. Then Lightroom 3 will probably have many of those new features plus some new stuff. And so on, and so on… (note that this is all just speculative rambling on my part, I could be totally off)

3. MOB MENTALITY

Since the introduction of Lightroom, there’s been somewhat of a cult following. I understand that it’s a useful piece of software, but I’ve seen more than one avid Photoshop user jump ship (or decide that they need both Photoshop and Lightroom). I’ve also had several fellow photographers urge me to get on board with Lightroom as if it were the greatest thing since sliced bread.

I tend to ignore the preference of the masses, and make my decisions based on my own needs. I’m the same way with the whole digital vs. film thing — I rather enjoy shooting film, no matter how many times ex-film photographers tell me how terrible the stuff is and how digital is the only way to go. Cool, if it works for you and it makes your life easier, I’m not going to stop you from following that path. I feel the same way about camera brands — I made the decision to shoot Minolta/Sony because it suited my needs best, not because they’re the most popular name brand.

YOUR TURN!

Ok, go ahead and let ‘er rip in the comments. Shred me to pieces. Preach your Lightroom gospel you users of Lightroom. Tell me why I’m wrong, and convince me to change my mind.

Actually… I’m hoping for a healthy conversation about the benefits of Lightroom from all of you using it. There are quite a few non-Lightroom-using photographers out there who could get a lot from such a conversation. I think it’s a great (and cheap) alternative option to Photoshop for a majority of hobbyist photographers.

This post is also part of Problogger’s Killer Titles group writing project.

UPDATE: Here’s a follow-up response from the readers!

PhotoNetCast to Interview Zoriah Miller


In the near future, a special guest will be joining the discussion on the PhotoNetCast. Zoriah is an independent war photographer and photojournalist who was recently embedded in Iraq. For more background on Zoriah, see my recent article about him.

We’re taking questions over at PhotoNetCast, and we’ll bring up those questions when we talk with him (since we won’t be broadcasting live). If you have anything you’d like to ask Zoriah about his work, travels, experiences, etc., be sure to leave a comment on the PhotoNetCast announcement post:

Ask Zoriah a Question

Diana+ Camera Review

There’s something to be said for the latest camera bodies and professional grade lenses — it certainly seems to be the focus of many photographers. But there’s also something to be said for a cheap plastic camera body and an equally cheap plastic lens. Meet the Diana+ from Lomography.

This review is my own entry to my $50 Film Camera Project. With a price tag of $50, the Diana+ fits right in to the project requirements. This also happens to be the camera that Lomography is giving away to three lucky winners (along with 10 rolls of film from Ilford Photo). I purchased this camera (and yes, I bought it), not because it’s a prize for the project, but because I’ve been wanting one for a while now. So let’s get into this review…

THE TECHNICAL STUFF

The Diana+ camera is almost completely made of plastic, lens and all. It is a medium format camera that takes standard 120 rolls of film. It can produce 5.2cm x 5.2cm shots at 12 per roll, 4.2cm x 4.2cm shots at 16 per roll, or panoramic images. These different formats are achieved by using a specific mask in the camera body.

The shutter speed on the Diana+ has two settings: “Normal” and “Bulb”. The normal setting gives you about 1/60 seconds of exposure, while the bulb exposes for as long as you hold the shutter. The shutter release is located on the lens barrel along with the shutter mode adjustment. Bulb is intended to be used for pinhole photos or dimly lit situations (or whatever other reason you may want to use it for).

The aperture has four settings: “Sunny”, “Overcast”, “Cloudy”, and “Pinhole”. This setting can be adjusted on the bottom of the lens barrel. The indicated apertures are intended to be used with ISO400 film. Using a slower or faster film means that you’ll have to compensate for the difference in exposure. The pinhole setting will require the use of the bulb shutter setting.

The focus is controlled by twisting the actual lens. It’s kind of a guess, and the lens has three indicators: 1-2M, 2-4M, and 4M+. Since the camera is a viewfinder, you don’t actually “see” the focus — just the framing. And speaking of framing, just watch out for that parallax error!

Other than that, there are a few other technical aspects to operating the camera: lens removal for pinhole photos, double exposures, panoramic exposures, setting bulb exposures for pinhole shots, etc. But in general, the camera is very easy to use because of the minimalistic approach to the camera controls. Watch out though — just because it’s considered a “toy camera”, this doesn’t mean that you don’t have to think about what you’re doing from time to time. You still have to set the exposure, compensate for lighting conditions and film speeds, watch out for parallax error, remember to wind the film, set your focus, and so on.

And the best part of this camera… no batteries! I’ve really come to embrace a camera that can operate without electricity. It’s so liberating!

THE INTERESTING STUFF

The most interesting aspect of the Diana+, to me, is the fact that it’s so basic. Once you open it up to load the film, you basically see a big empty space. You think to yourself “where’s all the… stuff?” I mean, there’s really nothing to it. You’ve got a piece of plastic as a lens, then a plate with a few holes in it for the aperture, then a simple little mechanism for the shutter. Other than that, you’ve got a couple of spots to hold the film spools, and a little window to look through.

This is all very interesting because the camera also uses medium format film, which is typically used in higher-end cameras. But this coupling of simple technology with medium format film goes back to the days of the original Diana camera. Back then, 120 film was more of a standard than it is today because 35mm film hadn’t become popular until the late 1960′s. Prior to that, most cameras used 120 film or other formats that have basically been phased out.

THE QUIRKY STUFF

For as basic as this camera is, you have to expect things to be a little different than your shiny new digital camera. Most of the stuff is easy to get adjusted to, but there are a few things that come off as a little quirky. Nothing that would prevent me from using the camera though.

My biggest issue with the Diana+ is the film loading procedure. 120 film is sort of painful to load, but this camera doesn’t make it any easier. The spool holders are pretty flimsy and don’t really hold the spools in place before the back is placed on the camera. The spools have a tendency to pop out of place and thwart your efforts to get the film started. I’m sure this will get easier with experience, but it’s pretty frustrating when you spend 5 to 10 minutes loading a roll of film.

The other thing that got me was the viewfinder. Yes, I totally forgot about the parallax error. But I was also under the assumption that the viewfinder showed less of the scene than would be captured on the film. The opposite was true with my particular camera, and this caused me to crop out a few things on a couple of photos.

THE INSPIRATIONAL STUFF

This camera is such a kick in the creativity, I can’t even fully describe it with words. When the Diana+ is in your hands, you see things differently. You act differently. You take photos differently.

There’s a certain amount of “letting loose” that occurs with this camera. Some of it probably results from the photos that most of us have seen from these cameras (or similar cameras such as the Holga). If you let it, the camera will allow you to take the mindset of “don’t think, just shoot” — which is one of the mantras of Lomography (and I suggest you take a look at the 10 golden rules of Lomography to get a better feel for this stuff). This is also probably a result of knowing that you don’t exactly have a Hasselblad in your hands — if your framing or focus is slightly wrong, who cares?!

I found myself “shooting from the hip”, trying double exposures, taking long exposures without a tripod, and not giving a crap about straight horizons. The photos won’t come out completely perfect, so why shoot for perfection? You end up with heavy vignette, occasional light leaks, lens flare, and motion blur — and all this stuff adds to the mood of the photos produced. Without these things, Lomography just wouldn’t be Lomography.

In conclusion, the Diana+ is a really awesome camera! It’s so different than your typical digital camera, and it can really open your eyes to a completely new world. For $50, you can’t beat it. I would definitely suggest this camera to any photographer wanting to get a little crazy with their stuff.

MY TEST PHOTOS

So here it is. I shot 3 rolls of film in my Diana+ one day after I got it in the mail. The project only calls for one roll of film to be posted, but I wanted to show how different the results could be with different types of film. I shot a roll of black and white (Ilford HP5 Plus, ISO400), a roll of color slide film cross processed (Kodak Ektachrome E100VS, ISO100), and a roll of color negative film (Expired Konica Centuria 100, ISO100 that The_Wolf_Brigade sent me). You can see the entire set on Flickr. Here are two of the best shots from each roll:

Ocean Breeze GeneratorMerry-Go-RoundFlying and FloatingPurple DressMy HeiferChit Chat

And here are the rest of the shots from each roll:

Back Seat DriverBoat ParkingFilm NoobSailboats SailingKickin BackFerry LandingJust Another Brick in the WallBeach GhostsTwo Middle Aged Bald Guys With No Shirts Riding Beach Cruisers Down The StreetMain Street DrugIt's All Just A Blur To MeNewport Beach PierBinocular ExcitementThis Way and ThatCabo CantinaBad AimWorkin On The BoatCommodoreMr. Two Camera GuyThe Brave Little PigeonUS Post OfficeFunny Little CarWindow SaleSt. John Vianney ChapelA Colorful SoulI've Lost My HeadFlagsSticker ScooterBikini SaleThrough These Eyes

If you’re still contemplating whether or not to participate in this project, think long and hard about what you might be passing up. Like I said, we’re giving away one of these cameras plus ten rolls of film to three winners. And be sure to look back at the project announcement — I’ve added links to five project entries as good examples of what I’m looking for.

And you know what? The hardest part of shooting film… is deciding to shoot film. Once you get over that little hump, a whole new world opens up for you.

PhotoDump 08-24-2008

More great stuff this week from the Epic Edits Flickr Pool! I’m really amazed at the fact that we’ve had steady growth week after week, and the quality of photos in the pool is ever increasing.

Bicycle Race by Christian KahlbomEagle Graphic by BrightonJelhutterite boys by kelly hoferBalloons over Chatfield by piston9Muke - Summer Haze by AuzigogMy HeiferThe calling.... by AIA GUY..RwoodStag by rockhoppermediaLake Norman Wedding Photographer by Neil CowleyFlying and Floating.henna bokeh by ojoyous1Repeating Products by Daniel HellermanUntitled Party by MerkinzYeagarup by /charleneSwingers by Gary SimmonsYaron at Glendalough by tcmmanAlejandra by Digital Kloc Photographyforgotten love by vandyll.netbest friends. by robinn.Merry-Go-Round by PfenyaPhonebooths still exist? by Tasha || As The Picture FadesBengong by Indra SatrianiAngelic ashley by AIA GUY..RwoodFleur No. 5 by kerry okraleafy face by orange tuesdayKindness Is As Far As The Sun by Colour VoidGothic by Tasha || As The Picture Fadesas still as it gets.... by vandyll.netLine & Light by ergatesHistory. by the_wolf_brigade is contagiousDucky  by mcvejaTeaTime by javiyGraves at Glendalough by tcmmanLife n Death by Chica-XBig sky by ergatesSlice it UpTiptoe by rh89I don't like clubs anyway by bryanvillarinBalloons...OK by javiyThe Dead Flag Blues by Andre BlythPure by analox

Link Roundup 08-23-2008

Great stuff this week — check it out!

Giving JPG Magazine a Shot

I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now. The concept of JPG Magazine is quite appealing to me — a magazine full of photos and stories created with the content of regular photographers like you and I. So I finally got around to signing up and submitting a few photos for the next issue. If you’re also on there and you want to add me as a contact, you can find my profile here. And if you’re not on there, you might check it out and see if it interests you — just make sure you fully read the terms of service (as with any online program). As for the photos that I’ve submitted for the next issue, here they are:

\"Light in the Night\" for the Nighttime theme
“Light in the Night” for the Nighttime Theme


“Simply Religious” for the Faith Theme


“Cabbabe” for the Delectable Theme

Graffiti Artists

Graffiti Artists

Brian Auer | 03/08/2008 | Venice Beach, CA | 105mm * f/2.8 * 1/1000s * ISO200
[See it at Flickr]

I’ve been so tied up with film lately, so I wanted to take a look back at a digital photo that had quite a bit of post-processing done to it. This photo was taken at the graffiti walls in Venice Beach, California. I’ve always been attracted to graffiti as an art form, and being able to capture one of these artists at work was a treat. This area is designated for graffiti artists, so there’s no vandalism happening here.

Graffiti Artists Post-Processing

I wanted this image to really pop with color and intensity, while having an “edgy” look to enhance the mood. The photo was shot in RAW and processed entirely through the Adobe Camera Raw software (so no Photoshop). Here’s the process:

  1. Unprocessed RAW
    The RAW file looks pretty bad. It’s too cold, the contrast sucks, and the colors are dull.
  2. White Balance
    First things first, I corrected the white balance issue. The camera was set to “Auto WB”, but it made a really bad decision. So I bumped the temperature from 5500 to 7500 and the tint from +3 to +10 by setting the image to the “Shade” preset (since this was taken in the shade).
  3. Exposure
    I set the exposure to -.20, recovery to 36, fill light to 24, blacks to 17, brightness to +59, and contrast to +34. Not a huge change in the appearance of the photo, but it got my tones and histogram where I wanted them.
  4. Saturation
    I set the clarity to +85, vibrance to +33, and saturation to +11. Again, not a huge difference in the appearance of the photo, but these changes would be amplified in the next step.
  5. Curves
    I set the point curve to “strong contrast” and the values of the parametric curve as: highlights +32, lights +43, darks -49, and shadows -8. This really super-saturated the image and boosted the contrast way up. This wasn’t a linear one shot adjustment either — there was a lot of back and forth between the curves and the exposure/saturation values.
  6. Vignette
    I added some lens vignette with an amount of -75 and a midpoint of 60. This darkened the near and far edges while toning down the super-saturation — which helps to draw attention to the center portion of the photo.

This may be a bit extreme for your tastes, but I wanted to push the photo until it was alive with color.

Don’t Forget About Parallax Error

Film Noob

If you happen to venture away from the security blanket of digital point & shoots or SLR cameras, try to remember that not all cameras allow you to “look” through the lens and see what the camera “sees”. Twin Lens Reflex (TLR), Viewfinder, and Rangefinder cameras all have this problem at close range, called Parallax Error.

Parallax Error occurs in these non-SLR cameras because you’re not actually looking through the lens. With a TLR, Viewfinder, or Rangefinder, you’re often seeing a perspective that’s slightly higher than where the photo will be taken. This error is most apparent at short distances, tapering off to no noticeable difference with subjects at a greater distance.

I fell victim to the dreaded Parallax Error just recently when I took my Diana+ out for her first shoot. With the wide angle of view on this camera, it’s easy to want to get up close to your subjects. I typically shoot with SLR cameras (and a TLR occasionally), so I wasn’t thinking about the fact that I wasn’t looking through the lens. Needless to say, a lot of my close-up shots (from 3 rolls) were way off on the framing. You can spot these oversights by the chopped heads in portraits (as shown in my photo above).

Oh well, I guess trial and error is one way to learn a lesson.

And by the way, in the photo above, that’s our buddy Bryan Villarin testing the waters on this film thing with one of my cameras (Yay Bryan!). Hey, at least I didn’t put him on a viewfinder his first time out — we’d probably both have head-chopped portraits.