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Customizing Bridge

 Even though I am an avid Lightroom user there are still some tasks I preform in Bridge. But the default workspace Adobe assigns Bridge is very busy, cumbersome and does not work well with my workflow. Fortunately you can customize the Bridge workspace to something that suits your needs!

 
  - Adobe default of Essentials workspace
 
In fact I have several different workspaces that I use depending on my editing tasks. My basic space is one I call LK1, where I place the Content tab on the right side of the screen with 4 thumbnails per row and have my Preview tab in the middle, my Favorites and Folders tabs in the upper right and all my other tabs (Filter, Metadata, Keywords, Collections, etc) in the lower left. This way when I look in a folder of images I can see 20 images at time and quickly look at a group of images or scroll through a folder. When I select on of the thumbnails I get a very big preview of the image in the center and I can quickly judge the quality of the image. 
 
  -LK1 workspace
 
Another workspace I have created is the one I call Quick Edit. It is similar to the one above but the preview space is even larger and I only see one thumbnail on the right hand side. I use this when I want to go through a folder of new images to quickly rate and review them. Since there is only one thumbnail, I can quickly just type the down arrow key and go through the whole folder seeing a very large preview. If I like an image I can pause and add a star rating to that image. With this method I can quickly go through any folder with very little effort.
 
  - Quick Edit
 
Once you create a workspace to your liking don’t forget to save it! Go to the disclosure triangle (see screen shot) in the upper right next to the Workspace listings in the menu bar and select New Workspace and give your workspace a name that will mean something to you. It’s that easy to make Bridge much more useful for your customized workflow! 
 
- Saving your workspace

 

HDR Panoramics

 

Last month I took a family vacation to the United Kingdom, we visited England and Scotland. It was a lot of fun and we saw lots of good things but for most of the trip we were on a tour (a Harry Potter fan trip!), which meant I could not do the serious photography I would have liked. But I did manage to get a few good images. We stayed at a nice hotel in a beautiful location on Loch Leven. Fortunately we were here for 3 nights so I got up early each morning and took images while the rest of the group was still in bed.
 
 
 
 
For this trip I borrowed a 5D from Canon because I didn’t want to carry my big 1Ds camera around on the tour. The good thing was it was lighter, the bad thing was I restricted with the number of shots I could automatically bracket and all the buttons were in the wrong place! So instead of my normal one stop sequence of bracketing for my HDR images, I had to bracket in two stops and was limited to 3 images. 
 
Here is an HDR panorama I did taking 9 vertical images using my 24-105 L lens and stitching them together. I shot 3 frames of each of the nine segments, making 27 images to create the image. I used PhotomatixPro HDR software, which I accessed with the Lightroom plug-in, thus allowing me all the great raw processing controls of Lightroom and the HDR capabilities of PhotomatixPro. I processed each HDR segment first and then did the pano stitching in Photoshop to merge the final image. Instead of cropping the image after the stitching I used Content Aware Fill to fill in the gaps that occurred from me not being totally level.
 
Those three mornings made me glad I lugged my Feisol 3372 tripod across the Atlantic!

 

Don't get burned!

 

I hate tragic stories and one just happened to very good friend of mine. I received a call last night from my friend Russ that he was most probably going to have to cancel our trip to Denali because he was on his way home after hearing his house burned down! Turns out lightning hit his house with his office inside. His house was destroyed. Like most of us Russ backed up his hard drives so that his year of irreplaceable video footage would be safe in case of a hard drive failure, but like most of us all his backups and originals were in one location, his in home office.
 
As Russ laments on his devastating loss it reminds me how important it is not only to have multiple copies of your work, but to have them in different physical locations as well. While there are as many different backup scenarios as there are photographers, I will share what I do to prevent this loss.
 
Besides having a Raid system in my office that protects my originals, I copy all my original raw files to bare external drives off my Raid and keep those drives in my home. It is a simple process, I have a cradle (mine is the Kingwin EZ Dock purchased at Fry’s Electronics for around $30. I then buy 2TB bare drives and just copy my files from the Raid to the bare drives and carry those drives home from work. I usually just wait until the end of the day and drag the folders from the raid to the external drive and leave the computer on and go home.   When I get back in the morning all the copying is done! I must admit, I don’t back up after every shoot, usually I wait for a big trip or do it every few months but by having all my originals (and I also back up my “master files”) then I can start over in case of a catastrophic loss. Unfortunately Russ didn’t do this and now he is devastated by his loss. 
 
So whether you do something as simple as my plan or as sophisticated as online storage think about how you would feel if you were faced with Russ’ predicament. As the sergeant used to say, on every episode of one of my favorite TV shows, Hill Street Blues, “Let's be careful out there”

 

Fair Fun!

One of the best parts of a Sacramento summer is the California State Fair. I have been going to fair regularly for at least 12 years, but it is always a family experience. I never take my camera. This year I saw that one of the local Meet Up groups was having a night to the fair so I decided to go since it would give me the opportunity to photograph the fair and not disrupt our family visit to the fair.

 
You should see the looks a group of twenty photographers, most with tripods gets when you walk around a fair! There was so much to photograph! I concentrated on the colors of the fair but I could se it being a bonanza for people photographer and a real gem for those working on all the small details of the fair. I wish I had more time to play with my Lensbaby and just do details but I could only concentrate on one aspect at a time! 
 
I decided to play with different shutter speeds and experiment with zooming the lens and moving the camera during exposures to see what effects I would get with all the colorful lights. I made all my images with my Canon 1Ds Mark 3 and 24-105 L series lens, on my Feisol 3372 tripod with the leveling base and my Really Right Stuff BH-55 ball head. For convenience I wore my Cotton Carrier for walking around and entering and leaving the fair. I just had one Lexar 32GB 600x card, which was more than sufficient for one night’s shooting.
 
I created on short 8 sec time lapse, which is a lot of fun to watch, and had a great time experimenting and “playing”
 
I have created a gallery of images with exposure data for you!  To view click here
 
Here is the time lapse
 
 

 

Lens Calibration

I received a call from two clients this past week complaining about getting good focus on their images. After viewing some images it became apparent to me the camera was not focusing accurately on the focus points, on one particular camera it seemed to focus a little before the desired plane. So I just spent the last two days calibrating lenses for clients. It made me realize I never did the lens calibration when I got my 1D Mark4. I had done the test for my 1D Mark 3 and my 1Ds Mark 3.  I found the test made a difference in the sharpness of my pictures. So after working on my client’s cameras, I decided to do mine!

 
To do my current tests and those for my clients I used the Spyder Lenscal by Datacolor. This is a well made plastic target that folds up small for storage and opens up to give you both an angled target for judging whether you have a front or back focus problem, and a vertical target that is made up of black and white squares with a lot of contrast for the AF system to easily focus.
 
Not every camera lens combination will give you perfect focus every time, but if you calibrate your lenses to your camera bodies you get a much better chance for super sharp images! I set up the Lenscal on a tripod and made sure it was level with the built in level. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Spyder Lenscal
 
 

I then set my camera on another tripod with the lens I wanted to test, in this case my 100-400mmL lens. I stood back far enough so that target only filled the center circle area of my viewfinder. Canon recommend you are 50x the focal length of the lens in distance. I didn’t really measure, I wanted to make sure the camera could see enough of the target to focus, and be as far as I could and still achieve this. Then I went to the Micro Adjustment settings in my Custom Functions in the Autofocus/Drive Group. And shot with a -5, 0 and +5 setting to get an idea which way the lens was focusing. I then found it was sharper with the minus setting so I shot more tests at -20, -15, -10 and -5. For a good description on how to run the test go to: http://bit.ly/kUJ4oE to see how Chuck Westfall from Canon recommends the test is done.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Use “Same amount for all lenses” when conducting the test
 
 
 
Once you determine how much correction is needed to get your lens to focus perfectly then you set that for that particular camera body/lens combination by selecting “Adjust by lens”.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Setting the correction for this particular lens and body combination.
 
 
 
Now when I use this correction I get great focus out of my lens!
 
 
 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Set to -15
 
 
If you may be questioning the sharpness of a lens or your ability to get a lens to focus exactly where you want it to focus then I recommend you do this test and calibrate your lenses to each camera body you own. It will make a difference!

 

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Time Lapse Fun!

As I mentioned in my last blog entry I photograph my son’s swim meets. This week I decided to try something different. In addition to the “normal” pictures I shoot every week I decided to do a time-lapse of the whole meet from set up to take down.

 
I set a camera on the roof of the club overlooking the pool and the lawn. I had to arrive early, around 6 AM to set up before all the people began arriving. I calculated that I wanted to take one picture every 5 seconds and that I was going to be shooting for between 8 – 9 hours. That came out to 720 pictures an hour so I knew I would need to be able to capture between 5,760 and 6,480 images! My biggest concern was memory cards since the biggest CF cards I own are 16GB and I knew that would not be enough. Fortunately the Canon 1Ds Mark3 has two card slots, one CF and one SD, so I took the 16GB Lexar SD card from my son’s Rebel camera and put it alongside my Lexar 16GB CF card and I knew I would have enough storage!
 
I set the camera with a 24mm 1.8 L lens up on the roof anchored to my Feisol 3372 tripod and set the Canon TC 80N3 intervalometer timer to record one frame every 5 seconds until the cards were full or I turned it off.
 
When I was done I had 6,233 images. Next I placed them all into one folder and used image processor in Photoshop CS5 on my MacPro to resize them to 1080 x 720 so they would fit a “normal” HD movie format. Then using Quicktime Pro I turned then into a time lapse movie that gets saved as a .mov file format. I choose to output at 50 frames per second because the time-lapse will be incorporated into an end of the year slideshow and I didn’t want it to go too long! Next I used Wondershare Video Converter to export the .mov file and convert it to .mp4 format that will share between platforms easier. While this sounds complicated it is very easy. Quicktime took just 3-4 minutes to create the time lapse and that is a one click process, converting it to mp4 took another 3-4 minutes! I also experimented and tried outputting the time lapse at different frame rates to see how they looked. Personally I like the one at 30 frames a second the best because you have more time to see the action and it does not move so fast but that time lapse is 3 minutes and 30 seconds long and I knew it would be too long to use in the slideshow. But if you do your own time lapse sequences, I recommend you experiment with different frame rates to see what looks best to you.
 
Now I am excited about trying other time lapse sequences, I am envisioning capturing a great sunrise, sunset, or the night sky! There are so many possibilities!
 
 

 

50 Frames Per Second

 

 

30 Frames Per Second

 

Hone your Skills

 

It’s not everyday you can go on safari or head to one of the great wildlife regions of the world but you can always practice the techniques you will need in these areas to keep your photographic skills sharp and in tune. To be a good wildlife photographer you need to have fast reflexes, know your camera and gear, know when to use fill flash and when not, be able to follow focus and capture the peak of the action. I hone my skills by photographing my son’s swim team. Photographing swimmers allows me to practice all the skill I need to photograph animals. 

 
While you may not have a child on a sport team, there are plenty of sports teams in your areas that would welcome a photographer as long as you make your images available to the parents and kids. I post mine on Snapfish.com and let them view and order whatever prints they want. I don’t make any money for this but if you want you may be able to turn your circumstances into a money making venture with a little creative marketing!
 
Typically I shoot 2500-3500 images at a swim meet! This gives me lots of practice with my camera and my flash. When I shoot my landscape images, I typically shoot in Aperture Priority and use a tripod and natural light. When I shoot swim, I shoot in manual and quite frequently use fill flash, all hand held. I have learned I want to shoot at a shutter speed of 1/640 sec and an aperture of f/11. I manually set the camera to these settings and use auto ISO to handle any changing lighting situations. I vary the flash from a -2/3 to -1 ½ depending on how sunny it is and far my subjects are from the camera.  These skills also helped me on my recent trip to Tibet where I was photographing people and using fill flash, so the skills I practice at swim meets translate to many other types of photography.
 
At swim I shoot with a Canon 1D Mark IV and both my 24-105mm and my 100-400mm, for certain events and depending on the pools, I use fill flash to eliminate the harsh shadows on the sunny days. With an average of 3,000 images I meet I shoot about 18,000 images in a season, this more than most people shoot in years, so I get lots of concentrated practice! I recommend you find something similar you can do to hone your own skills. Here are some swim pictures and some images where I have benefited from the skills I learned at swim meets.
 
 
     

 

Weather or not!

I had a very interesting week dealing with weather.  I was in the Smoky Mountains doing a program and workshop for the Southern Appalachian Nature Photographer’s (http://www.sanp.net).  I had planned to spend the week in the Smokies photographing before heading to Texas to give a presentation for the Plano Photography Club (http://www.planophotographyclub.com/).  But the weather forecast was for four days of rain.  That didn’t sounds like ideal conditions for photography so at the last minute I changed my plans and decided to go to somewhere I had never photographed before, the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas.  I had planned a trip to the Ozarks years before but had to cancel so I always wanted to visit this region. I was hoping a springtime visit would be rewarding. 

 

Before my earlier planned trip to the region I did a little research.  I found that Tim Ernst (http://www.timernst.com) had taken some beautiful images of the area and produced several books including coffee table portfolios and guide books to the regions waterfalls and natural attractions.  I purchased several of these books and contacted Tim at the time for information.  With his “Arkansas Waterfall Guidebook” in hand I set out to photograph the Ozarks.  Little did I know (I should have read the whole intro of the book!) that most of the waterfalls in the Ozarks only flow during and immediately following a rain.  So I left the Smokies because it was raining and got to the Ozarks and hoped for rain!  Unfortunately the rains never came while I was there. But I did have the fortune of meeting up with a local photographer that I had also contacted years before when I was planning my trip.  Glenn Wheeler (http://www.glennwheeler.com/) is an excellent photographic guide, instructor, photographer and all around great guy.  If you ever plan a trip to this region you have to contact Glenn and better yet if you hire him as a guide he will take you to the best locations for any given season!  Navigating all the paved and dirt roads in the region can be daunting for any first timer to the area, but Glenn’s guidance will insure you get where you need to go when you need to be there.  And to top it off Glenn used to be in law enforcement so make sure you get him to tell you some of his amazing stories of his past life!

 

I spent 4 days in the Ozarks and each day they promised rain would come and then reneged on the promise.  So while most of the rivers still had a good flow, the myriad of streams and creeks that fill Tim’s book where either a trickle or not flowing at all. But with Glenn’s guidance and recommendations I was still able to come away with some nice images from an amazing sunrise over the “Grand Canyon” of Arkansas to the splendor of King’s River Falls.  Of course with my luck it poured as I was leaving the Ozarks and heading to the airport to go to Plano!  At least I knew that Tim and Glenn would be out getting some amazing pictures!

 

And wouldn’t you know it when I landed in Dallas there were torrential thunderstorms, and they came everyday!  Watching the severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings on the TV I realized that every nature photographer is at the mercy of the weather.  And sometimes when you want sun you get rain and when you want rain you get sun!  Of course the best day to take pictures was the day I spent indoors giving my “Digital Day” workshop for the camera club! Needless to say the best pictures I took in the Dallas area were indoors at the Dallas World Aquarium!  A photographer does what he needs to do!

 

 

 

A Bad Day Fishing...

 

A Bad Day Fishing
 
You have all heard the old saying “ A bad day fishing is better than a good day at the office.” The same holds true for photography. Some days you go out to shoot hoping to take that great image that inspires you and satisfies that creative itch inside, but it doesn’t happen. But as a nature photographer when that happens you just have to step back and realize where you are and what you are getting to see and do. Appreciate your surroundings and realize it isn’t everyday you create a masterpiece. Ansel Adams used to say if he got 12 good pictures a year it was a good year! Now Ansel was shooting 4 x 5 and maybe only took hundreds of pictures a year. Nowadays we shoot hundreds of pictures a day because its digital and we can, but getting quality from the quantity is still the problem.
 
On workshops I can see the people who are so concerned about making the great image that they don’t appreciate where they are and what they are doing. And then there are the folks that are just so happy to be out in nature that the great image is the bonus not the measure of the success of the day.
 
I recently had a day like this. I met some friends (seriously good photographers) in the Everglades this week for a day of shooting. We spent from early morning to sunset trying to find that great image. I don’t think it ever happened (at least not for me) that day but I had such a nice time exploring a different environment, watching the ebb and flow of life in the glades, realizing that we have such a diversity of natural landscape in this country and while some may feel more at home in the mountains, others may enjoy the “sea of grass” that makes up the Everglades.
 
For me I didn’t find that one image that makes your heart beat faster, makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up, and gives you pleasure for years to come whenever you look at it but I did find peace and happiness being in an amazing habitat with some wonderful people, talking about those feeling and searching hoping today would be the day!
 
Thanks for a good day Mark, Rachel and John!

 

 

A Firehouse, an Art Museum, the State Archives Building and a Hotel!

 

A Firehouse, an Art Museum, the State Archives Building and a Hotel!
 
I spent last week giving four different presentations around the country. It was a week filled with many firsts for me!  I started in Salem, CT giving my “Digital Day” presentation that covers the digital camera and the digital darkroom. It was the first time I've ever given a presentation at a firehouse! But there were 160 people coming from Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island to learn how to get the most out of their camera, and to pick up some Photoshop tips. From there I went to Newport, Rhode Island to do a presentation on Light and Composition, and to show my Tibet slideshow. That was the first time I ever gave a presentation in an art museum! Then I flew down to Louisiana and did a "Digital Day" in Baton Rouge.  Several people came from as far away as Oklahoma for the presentation! That marked the first time I ever gave a presentation at the State Archives Building! I was even introduced by Tom Schedler, the Louisiana Secretary of State! Finally,  I flew back to California and gave a presentation for the East Bay SMUGMUG group. The venue for this event wasn't quite as exciting, it was done in a hotel, and I've done that many times before.
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