Categories
Art Commentary Digital Lifestyles Hardware Photography Software Workflow

The Computer, Slow Food and Stone

When Goethe suggests that the artist is a universal character, writer, painter, musician, philosopher and general good citizen, it’s a pity he didn’t have a Mac to organize his production.  Garage Band keeps my music in order and progressing, emails and the Internet help me communicating and stay in touch, Photoshop helps experimentation with images and iMovie looks to give an introduction to the world of moving images. We have the orchestra at our fingertips‚Äînow what can we build from this?

I’m writing from a small village in the Ardeche in southern France. Having just returned from my morning walk up the hill behind my house, I began thinking about a subject  that has been on my mind a lot lately:  How to integrate work and life into a harmonious whole where the work, the place, the people,  time available and the entire natural world hum. It just occurred to me, half way through my coffee that the computer is the tool that can link these elements together. In a way, this seems obvious, but how now, in our troubled times does it work and what can it mean and what can a computer do in this context of ‘going back to Nature’ particularly as it relates to the arts? Apple seems to have  understood this new concept the best, indeed has made it possible.  And here is some background to my thinking.

Categories
Photography Software Workflow

Technique: One Version of Composite Art

Nature is the greatest teacher of mankind. In it we find ourselves revealed. To humbly read its lessons and thereby transform ones’ self is to give birth to the deeper soul. My montages are my meditations within this often fragile, yet persistent, living realm where our own impact is so palpable. Indeed, we are a part of nature itself, not separate from it, and our interaction within this world determines our own identity and substance. Hopefully my montages will trigger a realization of the importance of that powerful relationship.

Categories
Digital Lifestyles Hardware Photography Workflow

Musings on Washing Machines and CompactFlash cards

If you have read any of my previous articles, you will already know that as a writer I tend to ramble, and that I am a photographer and computer geek. I like cameras more than computers, but use both every day.

One personality trait I have not shared in the past is my hang-up about things working… I like objects to work the way I want, when I want, every time. Yes, I will spend more money on an object if I believe that it will perform the way I want over a lower priced version of the same object. I spent more money on a clothes washer about two years ago than I really wanted to… I got a nicer front loader that had some features I wanted, and uses far less water than top loaders.

Categories
Digital Lifestyles Photography

Photographing Bears- Summer 2008

We are in Katmai National Park, a road-less area.  Hallo Bay is one of a number of bays on the Alaskan Peninsula, a special protected place for bears, a place to live in harmony with bears. These bears are coastal brown bears, grizzly bears, Ursus arctos.  They occur in very high densities in Katmai NP due to good habitat, plentiful salmon, and lack of competing human activities.  During the clean up after the EXXON Valdez oil spill it was realized that these bears became tolerant of the humans cleaning the beaches.  The bears were tolerant of humans in much the same way as they tolerate one another while fishing a plentiful food supply such as spawning salmon.  This is how bear viewing, living on a boat that moves from bay to bay, began.


These pictures were taken with a Canon 30D w/ 70-200mm f/2.8L IS lens and 2X extender.  At times the bears may pass quite close just to check us out.  Sometimes all that is in the viewfinder is bear hair; sometimes you just have to do the details.  The bears are doing whatever they want including grazing on special sedges that grow here due to the nutrient richness provided by the Hallo Glacier, digging for razor clams, fishing or napping.  The salmon are just beginning to arrive in late July.



The weather can be cold, windy and rainy.  The seas can be rough.  It is glorious when the sun shines giving views of surrounding mountains and glaciers.  I am flown from Kodiak, 2 days delayed due to weather, out to the boat on a Dehavilland Beaver floatplane (1+hour). For 4 days I live on the R/V Kittiwake, a retired crab fishing vessel.  The Captain takes us towards shore in a skiff until it is shallow enough to get out and wade through the surf in hip boots.

We view from a distance for a time, 1-2-3 hours.  In the Katmai NP there are bear viewing ethics that basically say if your viewing activities cause the bears to change their behavior, change your behavior.  The bears rule here.  We are in a tight group of maybe 6 to 9 people, not sneaking up on them, respecting their space. No guns are carried. Our guide/naturalist is very aware of bear communication, visual cues that indicate the level of comfort or discomfort a particular bear may be feeling.  Sitting down is an easy way for us to put an approaching bear at ease with our group’s presence.  Should there be a need to discourage a bear’s approach, human words are used first, with pepper spray and hand held flares ready.  Careful attention to bear communication is a more successful way to avoid confrontation.

This mother and her 1.5-year-old cub are grazing in the rich sedge, kind of like a really good spinach salad.  She is noted as one of the best fishermen and passes this skill onto her male cub.  This is my third year of viewing her. The second year I saw this same mother with her then 2.5-year-old cub, a lanky spoiled teenage boy.  This third summer he may still be with his mom, still learning all that he must know to be an adult male bear in the real world.

The fishing twin moves around the bay at low tide, deciding to come by us for a closer look, passing very close – remember bear hair – then off to fishing with her sibling.  I love the opportunity to view the bottom of her beautiful hind foot.  And all that is left in the sand bar is her footprints and the memory of the special encounter.


We turn a corner and see this sleeping bear, stop and let her know we are here with human words “Hey bear, hey bear”.  She lifts her head as if to ask if we had heard a weather forecast, hoping for some relief from the drizzling rain.  She looks around, returns to sleep covering her eyes, moves through dog/cat like stretches, rises in a series of yoga poses – her sunsalutation, and then walks off for some lunch perhaps.




Imagine we are babysitters for a mother bear with 6-month-old triplets.  She spends the afternoon grazing in our proximity, allowing us to view them uninterrupted for a couple of hours. Perhaps she thinks the trouble-making males will stay away since we are there.  The cubs romp back and forth, each as if on a rubber band attached to their mother.  One cub is definitely more adventurous than the other two, getting out of sight, being called back with motherly grunts.  The cubs are curious about us, beginning to learn that there is a point that is too close to approach humans, an important lesson if they are going to coexist without problems later in their lives.



This is a special place for bears; this is a place where bears can be bears without being hunted; this is a place where humans can appreciate a glimpse into the lives of the coastal brown bears of the Katmai coast.




Possible next installments:  Paws/Claws & Teddy Bear Ears, Baby food, Fishing Lesson, Fish Stealing, Dancing Bears, Dominant Males & Rules of Dating, Alaska Landscapes?


Categories
Commerce Digital Lifestyles Photography Workflow

Recession Proofing Your Studio- Pt. 1

Whether you believe we are in a recession or you are simply seeing a slow down in your business, are you going to kick back and hope the phone starts ringing or wait for our government to help you out? The governments plan of course is to stimulate the economy by pouring money into it by issuing tax rebates to all US taxpayers, most of which have been delivered by now. Whether you agree with this philosophy or not, if you have been losing sleep wondering where your next job is coming from, you need to do more than sit by the mailbox waiting for a $600 check from Uncle Sam.

It never ceases to amaze me every time I am at a gathering with another group of photographers, whether at a convention, an association meeting or just the local camera store, the news is almost always the same–”I’m so slow.” “The phone is just not ringing.” “The economy sucks.” “Nobody wants to spend any money.”

Categories
Books Graphics Photography Software

LAYERS: The Complete Guide To Photoshop’s Most Powerful Feature

When I pick up a book to read it I have an almost overwhelming desire to know something about the person writing the book before I even flip the pages of that book.  I want a connection between that person and myself in order to justify committing myself to their momentary care. I look first at book forwards or introductions or at least the author’s brief inside the front cover.  This is true whether the book is a work of fiction or a technical manual.  Without this beginning I have a hard time relating myself to the author; I have this need to know something about them.

Some almost 50 years ago when I was a beginning college student I always avoided classes taught by "staff" or "to be announced" if there was an option, and when there was a name listed for a course I got out my college catalogue and looked up the faculty member teaching the course and tried to find out as much about them as possible before I committed myself and my hard-earned tuition money to their care.

Now it’s easy; just crank up your laptop and Google the author’s name, and since bookstores so often have a wireless connection, now you can do it right from the bookshelf while holding the book in your hands.  But to save your having to break off and Google Matt Kloskowski’s name right now, I’ll go ahead and fill you in on his background.  I’ll give you a brief quote off the middle of the page from the first Google entry:

"Matt Kloskowski is the Education and Curriculum Developer for the National Association of Photoshop Professionals. He has authored and co-authored 3 books on Photoshop or Illustrator and teaches an advanced Photoshop course for Sessions.edu. In addition to being an Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop, Matt is a regular contributor to Photoshop User Magazine and writes weekly columns for several digital imaging websites".

He is one of the co-hosts for Photoshop User TV where with Scott Kelby and Dave Cross  he teaches Photoshop and Photoshop Lightroom.  Their easy-going, informative, and sometimes humorous teaching methods makes learning easy.

That ought to tell you enough to take him seriously, especially if you are a reader of PHOTOSHOP USER magazine because then you will already be familiar with his name and teaching methods, and you will be ready to commit yourself to his care for a couple of days while you do some serious learning.  While the book is written primarily for Photoshop CS3 a number of the techniques and steps work equally well in Photoshop CS2.

First of all, here’s where to locate the images to follow along with the lessons; I put them in just in case you’re the type not to read the introduction where Matt tells you about them, and without them you’re lost.

Now let’s look at the chapters and the material each contains.  This list will take you through a thorough understanding of layers from the beginning to the powerful professional image correcting steps of the Photoshop user professional.
 

Chapter 1.    Layer Basics; Using Multiple Layers; Everything Else About Layers; Summary.

Chapter 2.    Blending Layers; The Three Blend Modes You Need Most; (Multiply Blend Mode; Screen Blend Mode; Soft Light Blend Mode); A Closer Look At Blend Mode; Layer Blend Modes for Photographers; Advanced Layer Blending; Summary.

Chapter 3.    Adjustment Layers; Adjustment Layer Basics; Making Selective Adjustments; Super Flexible Adjustments; Some More Adjustment Layer Ideas; Fix One Photo-Fix ‘Em All; The Adjustment Layer Blend Mode Trick; Summary.

Chapter 4.    Layer Masks; (read this intro Matt says, even if you don’t read any other-  I’ve warned you); Layer Mask Basics; Automatically Creating Layer Masks; The Only Layer Mask "Gotcha"; Combining Multiple Images; A Deeper Look Into Layer Masks; Making One Layer Fit Into Another; Summary.

Chapter 5.    Type and Shape Layers; All About Shape Layers; Summary.

Chapter 6.    Enhancing Photos With Layers; Combining Multiple Exposures; Painting With Light; Selective Sharpening; Dodging and Burning Done Right; Boosting Specific Colors; Enhancing Depth of Field; Creating Soft Focus; Summary

Chapter 7.    Retouching With Layers; Removing Blemishes and Wrinkles; Smoothing and Enhancing Skin; Making Eyes and Teeth Whiter; Removing Distractions; How Do I…

Chapter 8.    Layer Styles; Designing With Layer Styles; Creating a Watermark; Creating Reusable Photo Effects; Some More Layer Style Ideas; How Do I…

Chapter 9.
    Smart Layers; Four Reasons Why Smart Objects Rock!; Designing Templates With Smart Objects; Layers and the Creative Suite; How Do I Learn More From Matt?; How Do I…

There you have nine chapters in 248 pages of well written and easy to follow tutorials.  Matt tells you in the beginning that you can open the book and start anywhere.  If you discover you are in over your head you can back up a chapter or two and start again and see if you are up to speed.

As a photographer, Chapters 6, 7, and 8 were of particular interest to me and either confirmed my own working procedures or suggested an alternate method that I’ll have to experiment with a bit to see if that method might replace what I have been doing.  I’m never too old to learn; that’s why I bought the book.

One of the things I particularly liked about the book was that each chapter ended with either a summary or a page answering specific questions related to the procedures that had been covered in that chapter.  I like this approach very much because it provides a review when I come back to the book after a period of time and need to review to get up to speed again.  Let’s face it, seldom does an individual sit down a go through a book from the front to the back in one sitting; dealing with chapters is more like it where in our busy lives we manage to fit in one or two chapters at a time.  We all need review and summary pages.

A couple of the chapters covered subjects that I have never previously had the need to work with, but were nonetheless interesting.  I tend to put small, colored, plastic tags on pages in any book I intend to keep so that I can return to the pertinent pages at a later time.  I’ve tagged up a number of pages in Matt Kloskowski’s book so that it will be easy to return to the specific tutorials if the need arises.  Knowing the state of the photography business and the part post-production plays in the field today, I suspect I will have to update my techniques and work-flow to later accommodate some subjects or techniques that I have previously not needed to know.

When that time comes, my well stocked, and well-marked bookshelf will be there to provide the refresher I need.

I recommend  Matt Kloskowski’s Layers: The Complete Guide to Photoshop’s Most Powerful Feature to the beginner and intermediate Photoshop user with a nod to a couple of chapters that might be useful to the very advanced Photoshop user.  It explains in plain and simple language and in specific step-by-step illustrations a thorough feeling for the use of layers as an extremely powerful tool in Photoshop CS3.

Categories
Photography

Whatever Happened To The “Decisive Moment”?

Photography has been evolving constantly from its birth in 1839. There have been many different kinds of photographs and processes through the years, including the daguerreotype, calotype, ambrotype, tintype, prints from sheet film, prints from roll film, and now images from digital capture. Each process had its advantages and disadvantages but most of us would agree that generally advances in technology have made life easier and better. But in this “Instantaneous, quantity over quality,  throw-away world,” have we also lost the ability to think?

Categories
Books Photography Workflow

Seven Key Techniques For Taking Your Images From Flat To Fantastic

I used the sub-title as the title because I think it makes the subject clearer. I think that describes why Scott Kelby’s book is not just another Photoshop book even if you don’t know who Scott Kelby actually is. If you don’t know, then I suggest you crank up GOOGLE and pick a couple of dozen of the 999,000 entries it says it pinged up for your perusal when you punch in his name. I’ll give you the summation—he knows Photoshop. He knows it very well!

I secretly think he is at least a sextuple version of Superman in disguise. How else could he produce more than 40 books and be editor and publisher of Photoshop User and Layers magazines as well as be president and co-founder of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) with its 75,000 plus members? (If you are not aware of NAAP and you are at all interested in Photoshop, then you should be a member. Check it out). He’s also president of the Kelby Media Group, which is a software training, education, and publishing firm. Oh, he does video too.

He even does a lot more than that and keep a family as well, but I’ll let you go read up on his varied life and interests elsewhere, and we’ll talk about the he’s offered to us currently.

His premise is that no matter what picture you are trying to correct, the odds are that there are only seven (or less) real steps that are involved in that correction. He breaks the steps down for you to follow in twenty-one lessons (you shouldn’t call them chapters) that you are supposed to follow through as he solves a varied series of problems. That way you understand how to use the seven steps (and their variations) in the best order for the nature of the problem you face. Do this often enough and the rote practice should brand itself into your consciousness until the procedures are a second-nature process.

Should you have a short-term memory problem and come back to your need for corrections after a lay-off of several weeks, there is a refresher lesson to bring back the tricks and procedures. In the review he goes back to lengthier explanations of the procedures again so that you will have your memory refreshed.

In order to follow along with his lessons, all the images that are needed may be downloaded from his website http:// HYPERLINK "http://www.kelbytraining" www.kelbytraining com/7pointphotos.

Here’s the workflow order as Scott Kelby sees it:

Adobe Camera Raw Processing
Curves Adjustments
Shadow/Highlight Adjustments
Painting with Light
Channels Adjustments
Layer Blend Modes & Layer Masks
Sharpening Techniques

On page 255 there is an elaboration that tells you what you should do in each of those steps through a thorough paragraph of WHAT to do, but not including the HOW to do it; for those you will have to work through each of the lessons.

I like to think that I am a very competent photographer and am equally good at post-processing my photography, but I can honesty say I am now better at both for having done the lessons. I either learned alternate ways to do things I had previously been doing, or else learned better ways. Also quite honestly, there were a couple of moments of pure epiphany when my inner self exclaimed "would you look at that!" where I had to erase old procedures in my mind and accept the much better way of solving a problem I thought I already knew how to do.

I did the twenty-one lessons over a four day period of doing other things as well and can tell you it is a bit like going to school on a Monday through Thursday schedule of two or three hour-long classes. Each lesson introduces you to a new problem and takes you through it step-by-step introducing new ideas and new sets of key commands each lesson. The idea is that through repetition you will learn the location of the particular menus and the key commands that activate them. Each lesson is intended to present a different kind of retouch problem and train the user into recognizing the best way to solve each type of problem.

As the lessons progress Scott Kelby tells you less and less HOW to do something only that you SHOULD do a specific thing. The intent is that you learn the key commands and menu positions and procedures as you go along. My only complaint or comment is that because I did the lessons over several days that I would liked to have had a summary of the menus, procedures, and key commands for the end of each lesson to be able to refresh my memory as I "came back to class" so to speak. Several times I simply had to go back a lesson or two and refresh my memory of how to do something that I knew needed doing but couldn’t remember the precise steps of how to do it.

The twenty-first lesson is a review lesson intended to use as many of the steps you have previously learned as possible.

In addition to the summary I already wished each lesson had, I also wish that there were a page or comprehensive list of all key commands or shortcuts that were introduced in the lessons because there were a number presented that I had never previously encountered in any Photoshop book and I have quite a large bookshelf of Photoshop books collected over the past few years, and yes, a large number of them are on Photoshop CS3 (version 10).

I can easily and happily recommend this volume to anyone interested in Photoshop CS3—but particularly to digital photographers—who want an excellent workflow to guide them in their post processing of images. It made me better at what I do, and it will make any user who diligently follows the lessons much better at their own digital image post processing.
 

Categories
Commerce Digital Lifestyles Hardware Photography Workflow

The Nikon D3

I was always an F kind of guy. My first Nikon pro camera was the original F – a 1971 black body FTN. It supplemented my FM2 and I had it until just a couple of years ago when I sold it to a close friend, who bought it with the understanding that I might occasionally need to fondle it… call it conjugal visits.

A few years later I found a really nice F2 that I still have… I skipped the F3 and F4 entirely

Categories
Digital Lifestyles Photography

EXPLORING DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY & GROUP THERAPY, TOGETHER

When I studied traditional photography over twenty years ago I did not see how much the art would shift for me in the way I executed it and what it meant for me.   I believed like many of us that the silver halide was a thing of exacting beauty that could never be replaced.

Categories
Books Digital Lifestyles Photography Workflow

Exposure & Lighting for Digital Photographers Only

I recently encountered a relatively new book by Michael Meadhra and Charlotte K. Lowrie entitled Exposure and Lighting for Digital Photographers Only published by Wiley Press in 2007. 

Categories
Digital Lifestyles Photography Workflow

The Nikon D300 Camera at Work

My job as a Still Photographer in the motion picture industry requires me to get the best possible images for publicity purposes. This requires me to constantly update my equipment when new and better technology is developed.

Such is the case with the Nikon D300 camera which hit the market in Dec 2007 and is now available without the waiting list that it had for several months. I had been using the Nikon D2x and the Nikon D200 cameras for several years, and a Nikon D100 and D1x prior to that.