Monthly Archives: November 2008

Link Roundup 11-29-2008

For those of you in the US, I hope the rest of you had a great holiday! I know I certainly spent too little time working and too much time eating! But hey, I managed to snap a few rolls of photos, so not all is lost.

Two Announcements for PhotoNetCast

As many of you know, I participate in a group photography podcast with three other individuals. This week, we have a couple of important announcements that I’d like to bring up.

1. PRODUCT GIVEAWAY (FREE STUFF!)

In our last episode, we talked with the folks from ATP Electronics about their “Photofinder Mini” GPS tagging unit. It looks like a great little product for anybody interested in geotagging, and we’re giving one away for free! We’re also giving away 8 SD memory cards! If you want in on the action, head over to Episode 17 and check it out before December 7, 2008.

2. LIGHTROOM QUESTIONS

In early December, we’ll be talking with a product manager for Lightroom, Tom Hogarty. But before we speak with him, we’d like to give all of you the opportunity to post some questions for Tom. So if you have anything you’d like to ask about Lightroom (and have it answered by Adobe), be sure to head over to the “Ask Your Questions” post at PhotoNetCast. Oh, and if you’d like to hear your own voice on the podcast, you can send us a pre-recorded Lightroom question as an MP3 and we’ll play it during the show.

2009 Nature Calendar for the WWF

One of our fellow community members, Mathew Ballard, proudly pointed out that one of his photos was selected (from thousands of entries) to be included in a calendar with a great cause. The calendar is a creation from a DeviantArt member which includes photos from other members.

All of the proceeds from this calendar go directly to the World Wildlife Fund, certainly supporting a good cause. The calendar costs $19.95 plus shipping and handling. This is a great deal for all the nature lovers — you get an awesome calendar and you get to help save the world.

And congratulations to Mathew for being included in this calendar!

Purchase the 2009 Nature Calendar
Visit the World Wildlife Fund
Visit Mathew Ballard on his Blog
Visit Mathew Ballard on DeviantArt

Book Review: Fundamentals of Photography

Photography is such an expansive subject and it’s quite impossible to cover everything in a single book. Some books focus on very specific topics, but contain in-depth information. Other books are broad, but just skim the surface. Regardless of the style, many informational photography books drone on page after page, leaving the reader in a haze of technobabble and jargon.

I received a copy of the Fundamentals of Photography by Tom Ang, and I must admit that I was skeptical of the book before I opened it. I assumed it would be one of those “talk about everything” books with a very shallow offering of knowledge. I was wrong.

I don’t know how he did it, but Tom Ang managed to pack an incredible amount of information into this small handbook. Not only is the information valuable, it’s extremely concise and well laid out. The book would be great as a front-to-back read or as a reference book for the occasional information search. Oh, and it covers both film and digital photography!

Be sure to read on, we’re giving away a couple copies of the book for free.

Fundamentals of Photography (ISBN 978-0375711572) can be purchased directly from the publisher or through Amazon.com.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Fundamentals of Photography, the Essential Handbook for Both Digital and Film Cameras, by Tom Ang is 352 pages long with a soft cover. The book contains 11 chapters filled with information and sample photos to demonstrate the topics covered. The chapters include a General Introduction, Fundamentals of Light, The Camera, Capturing Light, Using the Lens, Manipulating Light, Working with Color, Processing the Image, Digitizing the Image, Outputting the Image, and References.

Each chapter is broken up into bite-sized sections covering a very specific topic (as the sample above shows). Most of the sections span two pages (across the fold), so the topic can be studied without flipping through page after page — it’s all right there in front of your eyes. Certain sections are also marked as “advanced topics” aimed at the photographers with some amount of learning under their belt. And finally, there are a couple of “Analysis” sections in some of the chapters that present a full image across the two pages with many notes pointing out things that were talked about in previous sections of the chapter — kind of a “hands-on” lesson.

The really cool thing about this book is the fact that it presents material for both digital and film photography. In some cases, similar concepts between the two mediums will be in high contrast. In other cases, the same exact concepts apply to both. This type of content is useful for those wanting to explore the medium they’re not familiar with. It’s also useful as a digital photographer to understand film concepts and how those concepts have transcended into digital.

For me, the book showed up at a great time (I just got my darkroom set up and running), and I found myself reading heavily into the darkroom sections along with the deeply technical subject of film in general.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Ang is a seasoned photographer and educator, not to mention an avid writer with nearly 20 books published. His work has been exhibited internationally, and for 12 years he was a Senior Lecturer in Photographic Practice at the University of Westminster, London. He was also the presenter for two six-part BBC programs on digital photography.

You can find Tom on the web at his main website and his photography blog. This man has a wealth of knowledge, and I’d suggest you check out his blog articles and any of his books.

ABOUT THE FREE BOOKS

Knopf Publishing Group is giving away two free copies of the book. All you have to do is leave a comment and let us know you’d like one of them. In one week (December 1, 2008), I’ll choose two random entries and we’ll send the books along.

If you don’t see your comment show up immediately, it probably just needs to be moderated. If you don’t see it show up after two days, it probably got attacked by the spam filter. If you want to be sure it doesn’t get eaten, just include the word “fundamental” in your comment and I’ll search the spam box for that word.

UPDATE: The winners have been chosen!

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

I like it, definitely. I’m not typically a fan of photography-information books because it’s not usually done well, but I like this one. My main reason for liking the book is because it gets to the point and doesn’t fool around — very concise layout. The other reason I like it is because of the diversity of the subject matter (film, digital, illustrations, examples, technical, non-technical, etc). The book is easy enough for a beginner, but interesting and useful enough for advanced photographers.

I don’t really have anything bad to say about the book. Some people might not like the soft-cover, but I think it suits this book just fine (plus it helps keep the price to a ridiculously low number). I could complain that it doesn’t go to extreme depths on every topic presented, but that would defeat the purpose of the book (plus it would be really boring).

I would definitely recommend the book to beginners wanting to jump-start their education. I’d also recommend it to the more advanced photographers as a reference. And if you’re interested in learning the ropes of film photography, this book is a good start.

Fundamentals of Photography (ISBN 978-0375711572) can be purchased directly from the publisher or through Amazon.com.

Link Roundup 11-22-2008

This week was pretty busy, lots of new things to read out there. Here are some that caught my eye.

  • Geotagging with the Photofinder Mini
    PhotoNetCast
    This week on PhotoNetCast we talk with a couple of guys from ATP Electronics about their new geotagger. We’re also giving away a complete geotagging unit (worth $150!) plus a handful of SD memory cards.
  • Two Ways To Get Background Circles
    DIYPhotography.net
    Udi gives us the scoop on how to create interesting backgrounds using some simple lighting equipment.
  • 45 Beautiful Motion Blur Photos
    Smashing Magazine
    A great collection of photos exhibiting various motion blur effects. Awesome inspiration.
  • Creating black and white cutouts
    Photodoto
    John brings us a nice screencast on how to create black and white photos with color cutouts — he goes over two methods plus a combination of the two methods in his examples.
  • Printing Basics
    Beyond Megapixels
    A good overview on printing photos from formats, to finish, and mounting.
  • LIFE photo archive hosted by Google
    Google
    Search millions of photographs from the LIFE photo archive, stretching from the 1750s to today. Most were never published and are now available for the first time through the joint work of LIFE and Google.
  • 5 Tips for super macro photography
    Random Equations
    Want to go beyond macro photography? This article lays out the equipment needed and some important tips for setting up your shots.
  • Wear Good Shoes: Advice to young photographers
    Magnum Blog
    If you want some advice from seasoned photographers, this article features tips from 35 experts.
  • Luring your Child into the World of Photography!
    Photojojo
    Introducing kids to photography is such an awesome thing. Here are some tips including which cameras to use, how to handle the camera, what to teach them, and how to teach them.
  • 10 Astounding Astrophotos by Phil Hart
    digital Photography School
    Examples of astro-photography done right! Here are some great photos to check out.
  • The nuts and bolts of off-camera flash
    F/1.0
    Here’s a collection of 4 articles covering the topic of off-camera flash. I’ve read through them all as they were published, and they’re very much worth a read.

Book Review: Odysseys and Photographs

The books from National Geographic never cease to amaze me, and this book is no exception. Beautifully bound and hard-covered, Odysseys and Photographs is another example of book publishing done right. At 10×11″ there’s plenty of room for big brilliant photographs.

And the content of this book is something special. It’s a collection of amazing photographs from four historic storytellers, and many of the images have rarely been seen outside of the National Geographic archives. The four photographers featured in this book exhibit a collective work spanning most of the 20th century. Not only is the work extremely artistic, it’s also historic and serves as a permanent record of the World’s past.

Odysseys and Photographs (ISBN 978-1426201721) can be purchased directly from National Geographic or through Amazon.com.

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a paid review, nor has it been reviewed or edited by the book’s author or publisher. The book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge. I am in no way affiliated with the book or the publisher of the book.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Odysseys and Photographs is a hard cover 10×11 inch publication with 224 pages containing 200 photos in both black & white and color. There are four main sections of the book, each covering a written introduction and a set of photos from the four photographers featured (see below). In addition, there’s an overall introduction by Gilbert Grosvenor and an Epilogue by Sam Abell.

The photos contained within the book take us through a journey of time and history across the globe. Although the imagery may seem foreign to us as present-day viewers, we have to realize that many of these are photos of real life and regular people. I often forget that every corner of the world is so different from my own, and this book is an awesome reminder of how diverse and rich our planet really is.

The locations and subjects photographed in this book are too numerous to list. But a few of my favorites include: Williams’ photos from India, Greenland, Syria, and Afghanistan; Marden’s photos from St. Lucia, Nicaragua, Argentina, Tahiti, and the United States; Wentzel’s photos from the Eastern United States, India, and Italy; and Abercrombie’s photos from Alaska, Japan, Egypt, and much of the Middle East (in stunning color too).

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHERS

The four men featured in the book were more than photographers — they were pioneers, teachers, and friends of the world. The legacy that each of them has left behind is truly awesome.

Maynard Owen Williams (1888-1963) was a National Geographic field correspondent from 1919 to 1953. Williams is often attributed with being a part of the group of photographers who invented the personality of National Geographic. He had a way of becoming intimate with his subjects, and this is apparent by looking at the people in his photos.

Luis Marden (1913-2003) was a National Geographic field correspondent from 1934 to 1976. Marden was a true explorer and a world scholar, devouring everything his adventures brought to him and masterfully documenting his experience with the camera. Maynard Owen Williams dubbed him “the Michelangelo of the Geographic.”

Volkmar Wentzel (1915-2006) was a National Geographic field correspondent from 1937 to 1985. Wentzel extensively photographed Asia and Africa as well as many other parts of the world. He had a strong passion for the preservation of historic photographs.

Thomas Abercrombie (1930-2006) was a National Geographic field correspondent from 1956 to 1994. His charm and charisma gained him access to much of the Middle East and gave him the ability to share the stunning culture with the Western World. Sam Abell (in the epilogue) gives an account of his character: “This is it. A man from Minnesota reading Muslim prayers in French to a Belgian family in a Spanish castle.”

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

Odysseys and Photographs is a wonderful collection of photos from an equally wonderful collection of photographers. The book is a tribute to these four men and all the passion they put into their work. Each page offers something new and exciting, with a mere 200 photos covering so much of the globe. The book is also a piece of history, and some of the places photographed have either been permanently changed or completely destroyed since the photos were taken.

It’s hard to come up with any negative thoughts on the book. I typically enjoy a little more information or background on the photos in these types of books, but such a thing would be understandably difficult due to the circumstances. Nonetheless, the brief biographies prepare the reader for the photos that follow.

This is another fine photography book from National Geographic, and I would recommend it to those who love photography, art, history, and world culture.

Odysseys and Photographs (ISBN 978-1426201721) can be purchased directly from National Geographic or through Amazon.com.

DVD Photo Backup… Again

Information Superhighway
Creative Commons License photo credit: nickwheeleroz

After posting the Photo Backup: DVD and Photo Backup on DVD: Love or Hate articles, we had a lot of reader comments and discussion about this medium. I realize many of the readers don’t check on the comments section days or weeks after the article is published, so I wanted to follow up the two articles with some new thoughts and insights on DVD backups.

FOLLOW THIS SERIES OF ARTICLES!
TOC — PHOTO BACKUP GUIDE
BACK — PHOTO BACKUP ON DVD: LOVE OR HATE?
NEXT — ONLINE SERVICES

I would also encourage you to read through the comments in each of these articles. They are filled with stories on both sides of the line — users who have had nothing but problems with DVDs, and those who use them currently.

INTEGRITY OF DATA

The problem with any digital storage media is that it has a relatively short lifespan. Hard drives and DVDs alike, won’t last forever. DVDs seem to have a wide range of results when it comes to data integrity. You could potentially burn a disc and have the data be bad right from the start. Or you could burn a good copy and have the data go bad after a very short time (on the order of a year or two). You could also have discs that are 10 years old and still working fine.

The point is that you shouldn’t expect DVDs (or any other storage media) to last forever. Construction, quality, materials, formats, process, handling, storage, and temperature all have an effect on the integrity of your data. I’ll cover a few tips on ensuring good data at the end of this article.

DVD FORMAT WARS

Several people brought up some good points about the various DVD formats. I had stated that the “R” (record once) discs are best to use because they’re inexpensive and you won’t run the risk of overwriting data.

It turns out that “R” discs are less archival than other formats due to their construction. These “R” discs use an organic dye that reacts with the laser. The dye can break down over time and cause data to be lost.

The “RW” discs, on the other hand, use a metal alloy as the recording medium rather than an organic dye. The material is more robust and it gives the disc a better chance of retaining data over longer periods of time.

The “RAM” discs are also good candidates for archiving photos. Their construction is similar to the “RW” discs (metal alloy rather than a dye) and they have built-in error control and a defect management system (don’t ask me how though).

TIPS FOR DVD BACKUPS

Regardless of which format you decide to use, there are a few things you can do to increase the life expectancy of your DVD backups.

  • BUY HIGH QUALITY DISCS
    Like many things out there, you get what you pay for. Higher priced discs generally have better construction than the bargain discs. I personally use Sony discs, and I’ve never had a problem with them in over 5 years of use.
  • BURN AT LESS THAN FULL SPEED
    I don’t know if this one is myth or fact, but I’ve always burned at half of the fastest setting on the drive and/or media. I’ve heard that writing at super-speed can give you a poor burn, but I don’t know how much truth there is to this. I typically use 8X for my DVDs even though my drive and discs are capable of 16X.
  • STORE DISCS PROPERLY
    Once you burn the disc, put it away and leave it alone. Get a sleeve book or use jewel cases — you don’t want your discs sliding around and getting scratched up. Also be sure to store them in a relatively cool dry place. Heat and humidity accelerate the aging process on most materials.
  • REPLACE OLDER DISCS
    If you aren’t using archive quality discs, you might consider replacing old ones after five years (which is why it’s good to indicate the burn date on the disc). If you’re really confident or if you want to risk it, you might be able to push it out to ten years. RW and RAM discs might last a bit longer, but I’d still replace these after around ten years. Regardless, it’s a good idea to check on your older discs every few months to see if everything is still there.
  • DON’T USE AS YOUR ONLY BACKUP
    No matter what you’re using for a backup solution, only having one backup is risky. I would suggest to keep at least two backups, one of which should be off-site. I use DVDs as my secondary backup and I keep them off-site. My primary is an external hard drive that I keep in a fireproof safe on-site.

What other tips or suggestions do you have for backing up on DVD? And I promise, this is the last one on DVD backups.

The Watchman


Brian Auer | 09/20/2008 | San Diego, CA | 20mm * f/5.6 * 1/160s * ISO200
[Purchase a Print] [See it at Flickr]

This photo was taken at a location very close to my home, and I’ve shot there many times. It’s a gliderport near Torrey Pines State Park, sitting atop a 300-foot sand cliff overlooking Black’s Beach. Just to the side of the gliderport, there’s an area where you can walk right up to the point of steep decsent. This scary little lifeguard station sits perched right near the edge.

I shot using my wide angle lens to capture the vast openness of the scenery. The lifeguard was unaware that I was taking a photo of him, so his pose is quite natural. The lighting really sucked because it was heavy overcast and the sun was setting, but it worked out just fine.

The Watchman Post-Processing

All of the post-processing on this photo was done with Adobe Camera Raw 5. The intent wasn’t to use extreme processing or fancy tricks to get an interesting outcome — it was only to make small adjustments where necessary to convey a true lifelike scene.

  1. UNPROCESSED RAW
    Being very overcast and slightly dim, the original image doesn’t show much of the detail and color that was present in the scene.
  2. BASIC
    Temperature = 6050; Tint = +3; Exposure = 0; Fill Light = 10; Blacks = 8; Brightness = +24; Contrast = +50; Clarity = 0; Vibrance = +30; Saturation = +10;
    So I basically filled in some of the shadows, deepened the blacks, brightened up the whole image, added some contrast, and boosted the overall colors.
  3. TONE CURVE
    Highlights = 0; Lights = +25; Darks = -10; Shadows = 0;
    Here, I’ve just added some contrast to the mid-tones while maintaining my extremes.
  4. DETAIL
    Amount = 50; Radius = 1.5; Detail = 25; Masking = 0; Luminance = 35; Color = 25;
    These are pretty typical sharpening values that I use with my Sony a700, but I’ve bumped up the Luminance Noise Reduction a bit more than usual because I was seeing some junk up in the clouds and the water (blues suck for noise).
  5. HSL
    Aquas (Hue) = -30; Aquas (Saturation) = +15; Blues (Saturation) = +30; Aquas (Luminance) = +16; Blues (Luminance) = -5;
    This is where a lot of the magic happens with this photo. I love utilizing these controls in colorful scenes to pinpoint the look for each specific color. By lowering the Hue of the Aqua, it turned more green. Bumping up the saturation on Aqua and Blue made them stand out more. Boosting the luminance of the Aqua made it separate better from the rest of the water, as did lowering the luminance of the blues — and it gave the sky a better tone. I would have dropped the blues even further, but the noise really started to kick up.

So that’s it really — no Photoshop or local adjustments. Just a few small changes with the raw processor.