Categories
Featured Photography

Lensbaby Fisheye Optic

A long time ago, in a world that only used film, a lens was developed to see the whole sky. Cloud studies for meteorological use prompted the invention of the fisheye lens. It wasn’t long until the keen eye of the “art” photographer saw one and decided to use it to make images that could not otherwise be made. Fisheye images aren’t like rectilinear images, where straight lines mostly stay straight… fisheye lenses give you a convex rendering with curved straight lines, and encompass a huge area into a single image. Imagine if you will the end of a dog’s nose about six inches from the front of the lens… yep, you’ve seen photos with fisheye lenses before.

There are two basic types of fisheye lenses, circular and full-frame. The full-frame lens covers the full 35mm or FX sensor size frame with image – no cut-off corners. The circular fisheye is designed to project a circular image slightly smaller than the height of a 35mm or FX sensor, with vignetted corners. The second type is now available for your Lensbaby Composer (or any of the other Lensbaby models that accept the optic swap system with a special adapter).

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Featured Photography

Lensbaby New Soft Focus Lens Optic

Want a great lens with the look of a $1,000 Rodenstock Imagon for your digital SLR? Look no further than the newest lens addition to the Lensbaby line. Lensbaby, the brain child of photographer and inventor Craig Strong, brought soft focus and skewed focus planes to cameras that normally produce sharp results. The current generation lenses offer interchangeable elements, and that is where this article comes in. I recently obtained a Lensbaby Soft Focus element, and wow, is it cool!

My 3 part review of the Lensbaby Composer can be found here… Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3. I tested this new Soft Focus lens element with the Lensbaby Composer that is always in my camera bag.

I got my first soft focus lens in the early 1980’s, a Sima Soft Focus 100mm f/2 lens. It came with three aperture disks (f/4, f/5.6 and f/8) that you could install as desired. I played with the idea of creating a Imagon-style aperture disk for the Sima, but I never got around to it. Craig Strong played with the idea, and built the Soft Focus element for the Lensbaby line. No “woulda, shoulda, coulda” for Craig… he just does it.

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Featured Photography

Photographing the Waterfalls of the Havasupai

The Havasupai Indian Reservation is home to some of the most spectacular waterfalls you’ll ever encounter. Roughly 40 miles west as-the-crow-flies of the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park is a side canyon called Supai Canyon. It’s about as dry and arid as any high-desert environment you’ll encounter. Massive, sandstone canyon walls surround a sandy desert floor decorated with cottonwood trees and prickly-pear cactus. What makes it so unique, however, is a brilliantly, bold turquoise creek that actually flows more like a river cutting through the desert, creating a true desert oasis as unique as any sight on Earth.

People of Blue-Green Water

Havasu Creek gets its name from the Native-American tribe that’s inhabited the land for hundreds of years. The word Havasu means ‘blue-green water’ and Havasupai means ‘people of blue-green water.’ The water gets its unique, tropical color from various minerals found in the water that are deposited much higher up before it heads into the canyon. Because of the amount of minerals found in the water, the creek erodes its surroundings much faster than traditional spring water. In its wake it leaves travertine deposits all along its path whether it borders pools or adds to the drama on the cliffs that the waterfalls pour over.

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Turquoise Water & Red Canyon Walls

Havasu Falls is definitely the most recognizable and visited of the falls, achieving the status of being one of the most photographed waterfalls in the world, despite requiring a 10-mile backpacking trip in. It’s a 100-foot spectacle with cascading pools at its base, the turquoise water creating an unparalleled beauty contrasting against the red canyon walls. With the water at a year-round temperature in the upper 60s, it can be a bit chilly at first, but warm enough to get used to, which people are quick to take advantage of in this desert oasis.

Following the downstream from Havasu Falls is the Havasupai Campground. For roughly one mile along the creek is a primitive campground where you’re completely free to set up your tent anywhere. Whether you want to be right next to the water or up against the canyon cliffs, there’s always space available, even in the busiest time of the year — the spring season.

Mooney Falls

Just beyond the campground is Mooney Falls. While not as widely recognized as its counterpart just upstream, Mooney Falls is certainly just as, if not more dramatic than Havasu Falls. Mooney Falls pours over an immense 200-foot cliff into an even deeper part of the canyon. To reach the bottom, a hike down the cliff is required. This is definitely not a hike for anyone with a fear of heights. Mist from the falls dampens the cliffs that you’re scaling down adding to the intensity of climbing down. After climbing through a couple of steep tunnels, there are a couple of ladders that descend straight down before reaching the floor where you can stand in amazement at the turquoise waters falling 200 feet into a large pool at your feet.

An optional day trip involves going about three miles downstream from Mooney Falls to a small set of cascading falls called Beaver Falls. Beaver Falls cascades down 30 feet of smaller cliffs just outside the Grand Canyon National Park boundary. The hike there brings you through natural grapevines, up and down steep, sandstone cliffs and even through an almost tropical grove where you think almost for a few seconds, that you’ve accidentally stepped into Hawaii.

Changing Landscape

Photographing these amazing treasures in a new way can be difficult. Roughly every ten years a catastrophic flood winds up completely changing the landscape, so you could always wait for that and then be the first there afterward. That’s not very practical, however, and so you might want a better tactic. The waterfalls of Havasupai are very high on peoples’ bucket lists and thus, receive a lot of attention. They appear in magazines all the time, making photos of the falls with people in them in high demand as well. It’s very tempting when seeing a sight like this to get it in its purest and undisturbed form, leaving people out of every frame. The downside to this, though, is that it’s extremely difficult to accurately capture a sense of scale of the grandness of the falls. Having a person or a few people in there can help to capture the drama and scale of the falls.

Also keep in mind that while Havasu Falls may be one of the most photographed waterfalls in the world, easily 99% of those shots are taken in the middle of the day. Try a different time of day, or even not during the day at all! One of my most successful shots was capturing Havasu Falls after dark. It’s something nobody had ever seen, a fact I was just as surprised to discover.

Photographing the falls is a great reason to spend more than one night down there. It’s almost impossible to not want to get the pristine, natural shots upon first seeing the falls because of the impact of seeing them for the first time. Once you’ve let it all sink in though by the end of that second day, then your creativity can begin to flow. You start to see people as helping the scene out rather than interfering. You’ve most likely already captured the quintessential shots during the day, so you’re a bit more ambitious in capturing more unique shots. Both of my trips were for two nights and it was a perfect getaway to a land that still ranks as one of my favorite places on Earth. There’s literally nothing like it anywhere!


Mike Cavaroc shoots with a Canon 5d.

“I love (the 5D) but I’m also going to upgrade to a 7D soon.”

Categories
Featured Gadgets Media Software

Ironman Central by Zumobi

Have a little thing for the “Man in Red”? Wait no longer, die hard Marvel fans, with a little help from Zumobi, there’s an APP for that!

Although there are members of my household, dying to get their hands on this bad boy, I have not yet had the pleasure of testing it out. However, I was able to get a little sneak peak into the highly anticipated game and we are definitely looking forward to it’s release. Here’s what Zumobi has to say about it…

Marvel Launches Iron Man Central, the New iPhone and iPod Touch Application on The Zumobi Network

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Zumobi, a leading mobile media company, and Marvel Entertainment recently announced the launch of Iron Man Central, the official Iron Man application for the iPhone and iPod touch. In anticipation of the biggest movie release of the year, IRON MAN 2, the Iron Man Central app provides fans new and old with an immersive experience into the world of the Super Hero everyone’s talking about.

“The first IRON MAN film was extremely successful due to the incredibly loyal and passionate fan base. In anticipation of IRON MAN 2, we wanted to bring additional content to Iron Man fans and moviegoers, and could think of no better way than to bring it to a mobile app,” said Ira Rubenstein, Executive Vice President of Marvel’s Global Digital Media Group. “We believe this app gives users an even more complete Iron Man experience by delivering news, videos and exclusive wallpapers, as well as special character profiles. And if you want to find show times for IRON MAN 2, this app will do that for you, as well.”

Using Iron Man Central, fans have access to all things Iron Man from his origin, to current news, exclusive wallpapers, video content, direct links to Iron Man content on iTunes and more. With a stunning user interface modeled after the hologram interface inside Iron Man’s suit, fans discovering Iron Man Central will be blown away by ease of use and navigation. The app also allows fans to purchase movie tickets through the app itself, so no fan misses a single showing of IRON MAN 2. The app also arrives with two free wallpapers and additional wallpapers are $.99.

Iron Man Central seamlessly integrates with users’ e-mail, Twitter and Facebook accounts, allowing them to share exciting new Iron Man content with friends and family.

“Marvel is a forward-looking organization that is well positioned to take advantage of the amazing new possibilities available in the mobile channel,” said Ken Willner, CEO of Zumobi. “By combining Marvel’s bold and unique visuals with the iconic character of Iron Man and Zumobi’s content-rich app format, we have the opportunity to offer moviegoers and fans an extension of the film experience. We’re thrilled to expand the Zumobi Network’s entertainment channel with this highly valuable property.”

Iron Man Central is available for free on Apple’s App Store and as a part of The Zumobi Network, the leading publishing partner for top media companies. It can be downloaded HERE.

Categories
Featured Gadgets Photography

Digital Camera Infrared Conversion- Part 2

I recently wrote about my newly converted Nikon D200 body. I have since been on a trip to Acapulco, Mexico, and have shot over 1,500 images with the new body. Here are my impressions so far.

First, this conversion by Isaac Szabo uses an excellent filter (the infrared filter replaces the high-pass filter over the sensor inside the camera). The infrared images are wonderful, far better than any I got with my previously converted SLR. There is more color in evident in some of the images. With Isaac’s provided Photoshop action, the red and blue channels are swapped making very interesting images that retain the infrared look, but with more conventional looking skies in many cases. The action also has provided an excellent black and white conversion as well, you just have to activate the layer.

Skin tones are rendered very nicely. I shot a lot of candid portraits that look great. I shot most of my images at ISO 200 and got hand-holdable exposures, where I almost always had to shoot at ISO 500 to ISO 800 on my old conversion. The D200 has great characteristics to start with, and its current price point on the used market makes it a perfect infrared conversion choice… 10 megapixels makes a great 13×19 or larger print!

I recommend Isaac’s conversion… look at my images, and the images on his website. Then, decide which camera you want to convert, and start making infrared images!

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Want to see these images bigger?  Click here. Its worth the bandwidth…

Categories
Featured Gadgets Software

Evernote for your iPad

Okay Mac addicts, if you’re still debating the necessity of Apple’s new iPad, I know how you feel. Heart telling you “GO GET IT”, head asking “DO YOU REALLY NEED THIS?”

Well, playing for the heart team, Evernote, has given you just one more reason the iPad can be handy for just about everyone. Here is what the iPad and Evernote, together, can to do keep your life organized on the go…

Evernote for the iPad

Categories
Featured Photoshop Software

First Look At CS5

Creative Suite 5 is out, and it’s got bells and whistles.  I am hesitant to call it a game changer.  Just better bells and whistles.  Here are some highlights that immediately jumped out at me:

Photoshop, Premiere, and Aftereffects are now 64 bit.  Snow Leopard users should see an improvement in performance as a result, especially in video preview and playback.

Photoshop junkies…the content awareness capability is actually “all that“.  I can’t wait to try it.  Of equal importance is the new Refine Edge command which will allow you to further tweak your Quick Selection Tool grabs.  The new overused graphic tool? Repousse.  It turns a selected 2d graphic into a 3d one.  Do not get me wrong, it’s nice.  But if not used properly, it is going to be the new lens flare.  Brushes now have a natural media Natural Media Bristle Tip along with a Mixer Brush tool.  This allows you to control the bristle size/shape/rotation of the brush tip.  The mixer gives a variance to multiple colors, transparency, and rotation.  To me, this looks like a challenge to Corel’s Painter, and it will be interesting to compare.  For photographers (although anyone who likes good file management should appreciate this) is the incorporation of a Mini Bridge palette.  An overly quick demo was made of Puppet Warp which looks like a more intelligent mesh warp.  General improvement tweaks were made to sharpness, noise reduction, and mosaic filters.

For Illustrator, of particular interest to myself was the Variable Width Stroke tool, which allows you to manipulate the width of a line by doing a pass over it.  This should be a hit among those in the comics community for digital inking.  InDesign now has an animation palette for Flash content and video (which can be scrubbed through.)  For web designers, Adobe has created a Browser Lab application which is a godsend.  It allows for a full preview in various browsers via a dropdown menu.  More than one window can be opened so you can compare a page generated in Safari v. one in Firefox.  You can also overlay them with an onion skin to see the minute differences.  Aftereffects has better compositing tools that take advantage of Photoshops content awareness and greatly simplifies rotoscoping.

Also announced was the purchase of Omniture which will integrate business tools into the CS5 suite which will make your management/sales section happy in generating some content analysis.  Of particular interest to DAJ’ers may be Business Catalyst which will provide some ecommerce capability for small businesses.

One thing to keep in mind when they talk about creating content for all “smart phone and media devices” is Apple’s recent iPhone SDK 3.3.1 announcement, which states that all apps for the iPhone must be written in C/C++/Objective-C.  This flies in the face of Flash development.  If you’ll notice there is no iPhone or iPad pictured or in use during the presentation.

The demo today was fast and furious, and I recommend researching further online for details as they come up.  Watch it yourself and draw your own conclusions at http://cs5launch.adobe.com/

Categories
Featured Gadgets Parallel Desktops

The Accidental iPad and How I Use It

When Steve Jobs announced the iPad a few months ago I didn’t think “Wow, I gotta have me one of those…”. Though I was intrigued by the form factor and slightly motivated by Steve Jobs’ demonstration of the device, it didn’t scream out at me as something I needed. I was actually more amused with all the criticism surrounding the choice of iPad as the name for the device.

I yawned and went on with my life.

Nearly a month ago I walked in to our local Apple store with my family. We weren’t looking for anything in particular, just letting my kids fawn over the Mac hardware as we thought about buying a MacBook for my son before he heads off to college. I asked one of the Apple store employees if they had an iPad I could take a look at. He handed me an 8 x 6 inch card with a picture of one on it. The device was far thinner and lighter than I expected.

He then asked if I would like to reserve one.

Categories
Featured Gadgets Photography

Digital Camera Infrared Conversion

Since the 1930’s, photographers have enjoyed the use of infrared films for both scientific and pictorial use. The infrared spectrum is beyond the ability of the human eye to see, and objects viewed in light from the infrared spectrum often look quite different from visible light. Most living foliage will appear light or white in a final print shot with infrared film, and human skin can be almost translucent, with veins showing through the skin like magic. But with the advent of digital capture, most infrared emulsions have been discontinued. I know of only one infrared emulsion easily available now.

An initially unintended consequence of the digital photography revolution was that many digital sensors were very sensitive to infrared, to the point manufacturers put a filter over the sensor to block infrared light. With that filter removed and an infrared-passing filter put in its place, a new world was opened to digital photographers.

One of the main problems with doing infrared film photography was that there was no way to meter the level of infrared in a given scene. Exposure was a series of trials and errors (mostly errors for me). Many photographers bracketed exposures heavily, over and under exposing frames around what they thought was the proper exposure. There were a lot of other problems with infrared film that just made it difficult to work with. Handling was only in total darkness, the film was very heat sensitive, and it was very easy to fog the film.

I first became aware of digital infrared around the year 2000, at a workshop on Photoshop. The lecturer displayed a few images in their presentation that had been shot with a Minolta DiMage 7 camera. I was intrigued. I immediately bought a DiMage 7 and a deep infrared filter, and started on the road to digital infrared. One thing that immediately struck me was that I could see the infrared image – no more guessing if I got the exposure right. No more shooting six stop brackets to insure a good exposure. No more wondering how the scene will look – if the model’s clothing will render the way the eye sees it or not. Wow!

Fast forward 10 years. I’ve been shooting a converted Nikon D100 for over 5 years now. I had a showing in 2008 of my infrared work at Angelina College. The infrared world has been very good… but now, I wanted more. More megapixels, and with the now greater selection of infrared filters available for camera conversions, greater variance on infrared vs. visible light captured, and more color.

Yep, color. The only way previous to digital to do color, or “false color” infrared, was to shoot one of Kodak’s emulsions like Kodak EIR Ektachrome Infrared. Green plants turn shades of red, and Caucasian skin tones turn shades of yellow. Images with this film were stunning… but you still had the problems of difficulty in handling and exposure. With the current crop of sensors and filters, some rendering of color is found in the images captured.

I recently had a second camera converted to infrared by Isaac Szabo, a Fayetteville, Arkansas photographer (http://www.isaacszabophotography.com/). Isaac shoots a wide variety of photographic subjects, and does all of them well. His infrared work is great. I found him while doing an eBay search for “infrared conversion” – I was pleasantly surprised to see his price for a conversion. So after thinking about it for a few moments, I clicked “buy it now” and shipped Isaac my Nikon D200 body.

Not only did the camera get converted, but Isaac set the focus for the lens I supplied with the body. Infrared light focuses at a slightly different distance from the lens than visible light, so this can make some real difference.

My D200 came back converted in about 10 days. I opened the package and immediately shot an image through the window of my office. I was pleasantly surprised to find that at ISO 100, I was able to get a hand-holdable shutter speed. Surprised because my converted D100 would have had to be on ISO 400 or ISO 800 to get the same image. I took the camera to lunch that day (it didn’t eat much…) and shot a palm tree in front of a restaurant… and was again pleasantly surprised. There were shades of color in the obviously infrared image. Back at the studio, I opened the image in Photoshop, and ran Isaac’s action (I forgot to mention that Isaac provides this action and instructions to customers who purchase a conversion) to switch the red and blue channels. The result was stunning… blue sky in an infrared image.

If this sounds like it is for you, check out eBay… do a search for “infrared conversion” and look for the infrared photo of the lone tree  – the auction will be titled “Infrared IR Conversion Service for Digital Cameras” and is currently priced at $200.  (or click on the image of the ebay listing)

And, look for a follow-up article in a few weeks – I plan on shooting my newly converted D200 heavily on an upcoming trip to Mexico.

Categories
Books Featured Photography Reviews

Build A Better Photograph: A Disciplined Approach To Creativity by Michael E. Stern

Build A Better Photograph: A Disciplined Approach To Creativity - Rocky NookRocky Nook Press recently sent me a review copy of Michael E. Stern’s new book Build A Better Photograph: A Disciplined Approach To Creativity, and since I am always interested in the creative process (especially when it involves disciplined thought), I was happy to sit down with it for some quality time.

I gravitate towards that word “disciplined” because I am an analytical and systematic individual. My trusty Mac computer dictionary provided the following:

With that in mind, I have to add I also like insights into the actual step-by-step thoughts in the designing process for a photographer, and I look for good illustrations and well-written tutorials done by an enthusiastic photographer. All of these are well covered in Build A Better Photograph: A Disciplined Approach to Creativity. Add a DVD with additional images, 360 degree panoramas of studio shots in progress, some short videos of photographic sessions, references, and tutorials and you have a concise and worthwhile package.

Mr. Stern writes in an easy-going style that makes the reader feel that they are in the presence of an out-going teacher who enjoys sharing his techniques and learning experiences‚ both the good and the bad‚ and he is not ashamed to admit to mistakes made in that they provide part of the lessons learned that he would share with the student. It is no wonder that he has had a wide and varied teaching career in addition to his studio work. Among the places that he has taught are Los Angeles Trade Technical College, Art Center College of Design, Glendale Community College, Burbank Unified School District, Julia Dean Photographic Workshops, Studio Arts, Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, and Brooks Institute.

Mr. Stern’s professional career involves some seventeen years working for the Disney Studios, extensive architectural, product, and portrait photography. He cites a deeply committed relationship to Adobe Photoshop and its importance to the digital studio of today.

Build A Better Photograph: A Disciplined Approach To Creativity (ISBN: 978-1-933952-18-5, US $34.95 CAN $41.95) covers four major areas.

The first is environmental portraiture, and in it he delves deeply into the process of designing the portrait and how to load the image’s environment with telling clues that give insight to the depth of the personality of the subject. Along with that he gives serious tips about controlling and predicting color output. Workflows on the computer with an emphasis on organization (remember that word “Disciplined” in the book title?) are considered in depth as well.

The second major area that Mr. Stern discusses is involved in compositing techniques using the computer and Adobe Photoshop. How to light and shoot a myriad of different images and to bring them together in a final composite is painsakingly described with a variety of tutorial screen shots showing the multiple layers and layer masks necessary to produce the final image result.

The third area that is discussed gives lessons on using the scanner in place of the camera and takes a trip into personal style and creativity. It attempts to open up the student to looking at shape and form in the small world in order to sharpen the student’s design skills and to realize that not all images have to come via the camera lens.

The final section of the book looks at product photography and how to light a product in such a way that it is easy to vary background and key colors and to composite separate product images into final images.

Throughout the entire book several ideas continue to travel side by side with the craft and techniques of both photography and Adobe Photoshop as skills. One of those ideas is that the photographer must sell himself or herself continually to the client. This is necessary because there are many photographers who are skillful as photographers but who do not maintain a pleasant working relationship with the client. The job of the photographer is to satisfy the client with both the product and a pleasant personal working relationship. A photographer walks a thin line as he or she trys to promote their own ideas and creativity, and at the same time to deal with the preconceived ideas that the client may bring to the conference table. Satisfying the client in part means that the client must feel that they have contributed to the design concept greatly even if the photographer has promoted his or her own creative design successfully. Each photographer must know when to listen and when to speak (and how to do it tactfully) as the photographer and client come to terms with the final design.

Dealt with indirectly, but explained well, is the difficulty in dealing with the chain of command in large organizations. The filtering process between the ultimate client in the chain and the photographer is a delicate one because each individual in the chain of command feels the necessity of placing their own mark on the final product‚ else they cannot justify their own position in the hierachy. Putting it bluntly, this is hell on the creative process and can lead to difficulties.

I found Build A Better Photograph: A Disciplined Approach To Creativity a good read; it will provide a great deal of insight to the creative process and the day-to-day managerial skills and personality  necessary. Definitely a must read for the aspiring photographer who feels that mastering photographic and computer skills are all there is to the photography business.

His book has been published by Rocky Nook Press. Their books are printed on acid-free paper and the color in their books will survive long after the technical skills described in each volume will be replaced by the advances in our technology. Sometimes we get so caught up in the latest information that we forget how we receive that information. The “how” in this case is also important and should be acknowledged.

Build A Better Photograph: A Disciplined Approach To Creativity
by Michael E. Stern
ISBN: 978-1-933952-18-5
US $34.95 CAN $41.95

Michael Stern around the web:
His website CyberStern.com
His blog is  DigitalBeast.Wordpress.com
Find some excellent tutorials are at  SlideShare.net/Mr_Pixel
Michael Stern at The Brooks Insititute

Categories
Digital Lifestyles Featured Photography

Robbie Lacomb at The Alpha & Omega Fine Art Photography Gallery

The work of artist-photographer Robbie Lacomb is currently on display at Alpha & Omega Fine Art Photography Gallery in Austin TX.  The exhibition will remain on show through the end of January 2010.

Photographer, digital artist and printmaker Robbie Lacomb resides and works in East Texas and teaches art and art history at Angelina College in Lufkin. She exhibits her prints and photographs in the U.S. and abroad, including Morocco, Ireland, Russia and Paris, France. In the year 2000 she served as Artist in Residence to the Tangier American Legation Museum in Morocco. In 2006 she lectured at Oxford University, England, in a Science and Art round-table. At Angelina College, she received the 2007-08 nomination for Piper Foundation Award for teaching and academic achievement. Lacomb’s artwork is most influenced by nature and mankind’s place in the natural world. Her work reflects this relationship, which is sometimes adversarial, sometimes symbiotic. Revealing the miracles of nature, which are often perceived by humans to be ugly or dirty, is a goal of the artist in her work.

Robbie Lacomb's work is on display  at the Alpha & Omega Fine Art Photography Gallery in Austin, Tx. through the end of January 2010.
For more information, visit the gallery's meet-up page.
 

Categories
Featured Photoshop Software

Tablet Draw By MooSoftware.com

I just found a Shareware program that had me reaching for my credit card within fifteen minutes of first downloading it to try out. From mooSoftware.com is TABLETDRAW® a simple drawing program that uses the pressure sensitivity of the various Wacom tablets to allow you to draw freely. It’s a sketching and drawing program with the look of pencil, pen, or felt marker. It runs on Intel-based or PowerPC Macs and requires Mac OS X version 10.4 or later. Sorry, PC users, this one is Mac only.

What makes it different than some other pressure-sensitive drawing programs is

  1. cost—it’s only $35.00 US
  2. given most modern computers, it will have no trouble staying up with the freely-drawn variations in curving lines.

The MENU BAR has most of the things that you would normally expect, but there are a couple that should be noted. Under the FILE MENU is an EXPORT FOR PHOTOSHOP function that exports an image as a .psd file. Under the MODE menu the increase and decrease pen size do not require a modifier key and are simply “[ “(decrease) and “]” (increase). The VIEW menu allows you to access a COLOR PICKER to pick intermediate colors rather than simply BLACK, RED, BLUE and YELLOW, and the HELP menu has the SHOW KEYS function that brings up a complete listing of the key combinations available. I include the SHOW KEYS listing further along in the tutorial.

“Finally, a drawing program for artists,” that’s what mooSoftware calls their program. Here’s the TOOLBAR outlined in red below. The first row has the pencil tool that allows you to select a Pencil, Pen, or Marker from the TOOL PRESETS column. New is the Eraser which allows selection of the Small Soft Eraser or Big Firm Eraser.

The second row gives us a Lasso to select a portion of an image, and next to it is the Move tool that allows you to move the selection.

The tird row gives us a Marquee Rectangle or Oval to select an area in an image, and there’s also a Hand tool that, like in ADOBE PHOTOSHOP® allows us to move the whole image within its frame.

Last row is a bit different in zooming in and out of an image. Select the mangifying glass and then while holding shift and spacebar use your pen and draw a line upward on your image. This will zoom in an image view. Holding the shift and spacebar and drawing the line downward will zoom out the image view. Finally, that circle with the arrows allows you to rotate the image to allow you to work on the image as though it were a sheet of paper that you rotated to allow your pen to make strokes that are natural to your hand.

I’ll insert all the keyboard shortcuts here to get you thinking about your shortcut keys.

If you are drawing a freehand image then the screen size can be chosen beforehand and is a matter of choice. Obviously, if you are opening another image it will determine the screen size because the image will try to open at the native size of the image which may be much too large for the computer screen and it may be necessary to zoom out on the image to bring the size down to a workable view. I’ll explain how to zoom a bit later.

If you are drawing a feehand image the height and width of your image can be set in Inches…

…or Centimeters, Millimeters, Picas, or Points.

The tool presets give us a PENCIL (very light in tone) a THIN BLACK LINE or a THICK BLACK LINE or the effect of a MARKER. Remember changing the size of the selected tool is simply a matter of using the “[“and “] “keys for decreasing on increasing the tool size by 1 pixel. Adding the shift key decreases or increases by 5 pixels.

BLACK is the default color of the PEN tools while the MARKER can be BLUE, RED, or YELLOW. The ERASERS can be decreased or enlarged in size as well. If BLACK is not your choice to draw with, go to the VIEW MENU of TABLETDRAW® and choose COLOR PICKER; it will appear above your working image and will allow you to point and click on a new color choice.

Notice that in the TOOL PRESETS that there is a small arrow to the left of each tool. If you check that arrow you will find that there is an adjustment set that allows you to adjust the minimum and maximum size of the tool, the color of the tool, opaciy and an ink mode.

The LAYERS menu can create an infinite number of LAYERS which can be manipulated in all the customary forms for anyone familiar with ADOBE PHOTOSHOP®. NEW layer, COPY, MERGE, FLATTEN and DELETE are possible…

…and the LAYER BLEND MODE allows BLEND MODES similar to other programs which use LAYERS.

Here’s a picture of myself sitting in a coffee shop. This image was made with the camera in my 17″ MacBook Pro notebook computer. Let’s take it through the drawing process so we can get a look at the way the tools work in TABLETDRAW®. Remember, we have a WACOM® TABLET attached to our computer.

Here’s the same image processed with Akvis SKETCH®. Remember Akvis SKETCH®? I wrote a review and brief tutorial for it only a few weeks ago. For my purposes there is too much background visible in the image and the lines tend to be the same in weight in too many places. There is not enough variety to the lines to give the image the kind of “life” that is commonly associated with a hand-drawn image. But, it’s somewhere we can start.

In the image below, which I have opened in mooSoftware’s TABLETDRAW® I have begun to erase the background with the BIG FIRM ERASER chosen from TABLETDRAW®’S tool presets.

Now I continue to erase the background of the image. Like a real eraser, the BIG FIRM ERASER does not erase everthing in one pass; it takes several passes to erase the majority of the background, and we don’t have all of it yet. We’ll get all the rest as we clean up later. Right now, we’ll just lighten up the overall background so we can concentrate on my head and shoulders.

OK, I didn’t quite stop erasing above; I decided to remove the figure who was behind my shoulder on the right.

Now I’ve added a blank layer above the image and selected the MEDIUM BLACK PEN from the tool presets and using the presure-sensitive quality of my pen with my WACOM® tablet, I have begun to draw on the blank layer on top of the image, and by varying the pressure with which I push down with the pen I begin to try to add character to the lines that represent the most dynamic parts of the image.

Now I start to pick out the most important parts of the image that I want to emphasize. I’m trying to find parts of the image that represent stresses in the fabric of the shirt and vest and places that represent bumps and creases in my skull, mouth, neck and ears. The glasses get some work as well.

More bumps and creases in the skull follow; and then some defining of the beard line. Finally a touch or two in the shirt will give it a bit more form.

Look closely at the diagonal strokes done in the beard using the light touch and pressure sensitivity of the WACOM® pen.; there are a few strokes on the neck and in the shirt collar starting to show up now. We’re closed to finished; there are only a few more things to do.

To finish up our transition from a stylized and somewhat artificial shetch-looking image to something closer to a hand-drawn one, I went back with a smaller eraser–the SMALL SOFT ERASER from the tool presets–and lightened places in the vest and shirt on the lower layer, and I also finished erasing the background. I had to lighten the area seen through the eyeglasses on the left where the background had produced a dark area, and a few diagonal swipes were made through the face and beard to increase the hand-drawn look. Oh, and I lightened the bump in the top of the skull.

If desired there are still two things I could have done. One, would have been to “turn off” or make invisible the original image. REMEMBER, we are working with two layers at the moment. Turning off the original image layer would have left a black-lined image with very little of the gray tones showing through. That was not what I wanted, but it could have been done. Secondly, I can export this image to ADOBE PHOTOSHOP® if I wanted to. That is an option that can be selected from the FILE MENU in TABLETDRAW)r). I haven’t chosen to do that either, so we’ll simply stop here with a drawing that looks much more hand-drawn and natural than we had where we started. You can’t do this with a mouse; only with the pressure-sensitivity of a pen and tablet can you achieve this effect.

Granted, you could have done this same effect using the LAYERS in ADOBE PHOTOSHOP® with a pressure-sensitive WACOM® TABLET and PEN.

But, and here’s the “Big But…”.TABLETDRAW® only cost $35.00 US and ADOBE PHOTOSHOP® costs hundreds. Take a look at mooSoftware.com and download the trial version; it works completely correctly except LAYERS are limited to two instead of unlimited, and undo’s are limited to five instead of unlimited.

How’s that for a chance to see what you could do with it? I could have done this image with the trial version, but at $35.00 Shareware, it is too good to pass up, so in the interest of the new Federal Regulations about disclosure I BOUGHT IT for myself; so go try it out for yourself; I suspect you’ll have to buy yourself a copy.