Categories
Books Photography Reviews

Mastering Photographic Composition, Creativity, and Personal Style by Alain Briot

For those of you who follow The Luminous Landscape web site, Alain Briot's name will be a familiar one from his informative and insightful writings for the photographer. If you are new to his writings you will be in for a treat in his second book published by Rocky Nook (his first was Mastering Landscape Photography).

Rocky Nook produces beautiful volumes printed on acid-free paper that reproduce the dynamic tonalities of the fine-art prints that they showcase, and the long-term viability of their volumes mean that they will be as visually dynamic a number of years from now as they are today. This is particularly valuable when examining Mastering Photographic Composition, Creativity, and Personal Style because the beauty of this book almost makes it a coffee-table volume as well as a thought-provoking intellectual examination of the mind of the creative photographer. This is a blending of art and technique in that the artistic concepts more often used in the discussion of paintings are combined with the technology and craft of the camera, lens, and printing processes.

Briot says it best:

"…you can control the colors in your photographs as if you were a painter in contol of your color palette rather than a photographer at the mercy of the camera."

It is the point where the photographer has added his style, viewpoint, and emotion to a photograph that the photograph moves from merely factual to artistic. An artistic photograph is actually more about the photographer and their viewpoint than it is about the actual subject of the photograph.

An examination of the way Briot has arranged the book will give you insight into his thought process and his philosophy of art.

He begins with the differences between what we see and what the camera sees. In order to understand how he produces art with his camera you first have to learn that the camera has limitations as a tool and it is the control of those limitations that separates forensic or scientific photography from Art photography. What the camera sees is a version of reality, not necessarily the exact reality. That reality is certainly not the emotional state that comes from the photographer who shapes reality into Art though the use of the camera as only one of their tools. The other tools are composition in both color and in shape; in other words the selective and designing eye that first "sees" and selects and then manipulates color and value to load the composition with emotion, and not simply to accept what the camera saw as a machine subject to the limitations of the sensor and lens.

Briot discusses the differences between composing with light, composing with color, and composing in black and white. He considers the elements of a strong composition and the creative process, and he gives us insight into finding inspiration. By examining a series of images he leads us through exercises in creativity and developing a unique vision for each individual photographer. That vision becomes a personal style.

A well-developed personal style is a saleable commodity if the photographer analyzes their audience and matches their style and the audience. How to deal with the practical aspects of print numbering, presenting images, and the art show circuit are considered.

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Finally, Briot gives us a technical and creative checklist that will help develop a skill level that defines the difference between a good photographer and an Artist. This comes about when technical competence has reached a level that allows the photographer to devote most of their energy to design and creativy and the technical is merely a palette that the Artist draws upon to produce an emotional translation of what they saw when they first approached the subject of their photograph. The technical takes place in the field and should result in shooting to the photographer's hearts' content. Then, in the studio at the computer, comes the analytical time where images are selected, comtemplated and modified. Early on, Briot suggested that the photographer keep a written notebook with both technical, compositional, and emotional descriptions of the scenes being photographed. In the studio the photographer can then attempt to modify the image that the camera made within the limitations of lens and sensor to bring to life what the photographer "saw" at the moment the photograph was made.

I, personally, sometimes wonder when looking at files what it was that I saw when I shot an image? Written notes would alleviate that sense of negative wonderment that comes in the studio days or weeks after a particular exposure was made. Briot has explained some pithy things about color, camera sensors, the printing device, the human eye, and the creative process that have given me some serious thoughts on the creative process as it applies to myself. While the goal of every photographer is to get out and shoot images, simply shooting without thinking seriously about the technology limitations and the goal of the images is a waste of time. I consider the time spent reading Alain Briot's Mastering Photographic Composition, Creativy, and Personal Style as being time very well spent to improve a photographer's understanding of both themselves and their technology. It is this understanding that allows the development of the full potential of any image, and that full potential is the difference between mere representation and Art.

 

Alain Briot
Mastering Photographic Composition, Creativity, and Personal Style
Rocky Nook
ISBN: 978-1-933952-22-2
352 pages, paperback
US $44.95, CAN $ 53.95.
This volume was provided for review by Rocky Nook, Inc.
Read (PDF) Excerpts:
TOC
Sample Chapter
Preface

 

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Books Featured Photography Reviews

PHOTOGRAPHIC MULTISHOT TECHNIQUES by Juergen Gulbins & Rainer Gulbins

I've been neglecting a new book that's been on my desk for a month.  When I first glanced at Juergen Gulbins and Rainer Gulbins new book PHOTOGRAPHIC MULTISHOT TECHNIQUES  I realized that several of the techniques discussed involved the new Adobe Photoshop CS4, and at the time I hadn't upgraded yet.  I put PHOTOGRAPHIC MULTISHOT TECHNIQUES aside until I had upgraded to Photoshop CS4 and become comfortable with the new interface and some of the new tools. Now I've had time to become familiar with the new CS4 in general, I'm ready to tackle some new specifics and new ideas.

I've always felt that there were two kinds of information that I find relevant.  One of those is information that I know so well that I can quote pages verbatim and live with everyday.  The second type is reference that I know where to find and I can refer to when needed, and that I have on hand for the moment I need it.  This second type is the sort of thing that interests me on occasion and I have need of for special moments.  I want it available, concise, coherent—and comprehensive. All of those requirements are met in PHOTOGRAPHIC MULTISHOT TECHNIQUES, and for long-term use without a loss of picture quality I love to see the notice that the book is printed on acid-free paper.  That means that the beautifully reproduced sample images will still look fine even a number of years from now.

Multiimage techniques are not new.  A number of photographers as early as Henry Peach Robinson (1830-1901) and Oscar Rejlander (1813-1875) began to produce composite images in the 1850's made from several different images.  Rejlander's THE TWO WAYS OF LIFE" in 1857 combined over 30 negatives into one compositon with remarkable realism. The inability of daguerreotypes, wet plate processes, and early films to record the long dynamic range of both sky and subject produced the necessity of combing sky and subject images into one image until the 1930's. A multitude of photographers mastered this process.

However, it has been the advent of digital imaging and the computer's role in post processing the image(s) that has brought the possibilities of (relatively easily) using multishot techniques into everyday photograhy.  Though still requiring careful and meticulous work, it is not uncommon to daily see photographs that have been produced through multishot techniques.

The most common multishot techniques are:

  1. high dynamic range images that produce detail in both the highlights and the shadows far beyond the range of common films,
  2. super-resolution images consisting of thousands of megabytes—or even gigabytes–of data when contrasted to normal digital images that consist of perhaps 50 to 100 maximum megabytes of data,
  3. extended depth of field which defys to laws of optics when compared to the results of normal photography, and finally
  4. stitching images together to take pictures (often panoramas) that cannot be produced by conventional means.

Juergen Gulbins and Rainer Gulpins should be familiar to the readers of Rocky Nook books in that Juergen was the co-author with Uwe Steinmuller of FINE ART PRINTING FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS, and the author of DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY FROM THE GROUND UP. Rainer Gulpins is a well-known photographer whose work has ranged from the Sahara to the Canadian wilderness as he has illustrated his travels. He has translated photography books for German publishers and acts as a consultant for many photographic projects.

What we have with PHOTOGRAPHIC MULTISHOT TECHNIQUES is a careful explanation of the theories behind making miltishot images and the step-by-step processes by which we use the currently relevant software programs (both PC and Mac) that are available.  The step-by-step procedures contain settings that can only have been arrived at by copius amounts of hands-on experimentation.  There are lots of little asides and commentary that could only be produed by experience, and paying attention to them will help the photographer to avoid a world of inconvenience and frustration.

Some of the software described and given as step-by-step procedures are:

  • Photoshop "Merge to HDR" and "PhotoMerge" commands;
  • PhotoAcute;
  • FDR Tools;
  • Photomatix Pro;
  • Combine ZM;
  • Helicon Focus; and
  • DOP Detail Extractor.

Following the tutorials (most of the software is available for download as free limited-time or limited-functionality versions which allow you to try them out) will make the photographer familiar with the strengths and limits of each software.

Super resolution and how to prepare to take and finally make the images is the first multishot technique that is described.  Focus Stacking is the next technique described.  This allows the photographer to produce an image with deeper depth of field than that which can be captured with conventional camera and lenses.  Stitching, which increases image coverage, is followed by HDRI, high-dynamic-range-imaging, where the finished images shows detail in both the highlight and shadow areas far beyond what can be captured with either conventional film or digital imaging sensors. Finally, Enhancing Microcontrast is defined and examined.

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Actually, there is one more aspect that follows Microcontrast; actually it is the post processing that follows all of the techniques previously given.

It's all together in one neat package: Juergen Gulbins and Rainer Gulpins, PHOTOGRAPHIC MULTISHOT TECHNIQUES, Rocky Nook, ISBN:978-1-933952-38-3, US $34.95 CAN $34.95.  Oh yes, it's paperback, 227 beautifully printed pages in a book that actually stays open when I'm following the techniques on my own computer in a step-by-step manner.  I highly recommend it to any photographers whether just beginning or experienced, who are interested in any of the forms of multishot photography.

Categories
Books Featured Photography Reviews

The Nikon Creative Lighting System: Using the SB-600, SB 800, SB 900 & RiCi Flashes

As a landscape, architectural, and product photographer I seldom actually photograph people, and most of my artificial lighting is done with "hot light", that is, continuous lighting done with Lowell or similar tungsten-balanced equipment. Therefore, flash units for me are usually confined to snapshots and general family pictures. My experience with on-camera flash has been limited to the level of advanced amateur if I'm being completely honest with myself. However, a couple of years ago when I bought a Nikon D2x to replace an aging D100, I felt compelled to purchase three Nikon SB-800 flash units with the goal of becoming more familiar with them. My best of intentions was defeated by lack of time and the Nikon manuals which I have ranted about before as being written by engineers who want to tell the reader about all the things their product will do but only tell in the most cursory manner the HOW to do something. It's an organization approach that makes the customer read separate accounts from a half dozen widely separated categories. For a mind that has no trouble selecting information from column A, then column B (thirty pages later on) and then from column C another forty pages later…well. That's not me. I want to get all my information in linear manner from one source in one place in the manual.

Because of that I really ended up letting two of those new SB-800's sit and pretty much limited myself to using one SB-800 mounted on camera unless I got really daring and used an SB-29 cable to let me shoot with the flash off camera (by a couple of feet) for family gathering shots if I couldn't do them by available light. I stuck to my hot lights and usual way of professional working and ignored the wonderful wireless capabilities of the SB-800 flash units. Two things finally created a change in my working habits. The first was a former student who uses six or eight SB-800's at the same time who shamed me into rethinking what I usually did. The second was the arrival of a new book from Rocky Nook that made it possible to throw away Nikon's manuals. Between the two of these events I gained the incentive to charge up a ton of AA rechargeable batteries and get to playing with the flash units. 
 

The book that made the difference is Mike Hagen's THE NIKON CREATIVE LIGHTING SYSTEM: USING THE SB-600, SB-800, SB-900, AND R1C1 FLASHES.

If you are a Nikon Camera user then you are familiar with Mike Hagen from the Nikonians website or if you've had an opportunity you may have participated in one of Mike's workshops. His workshops range from African safaris to Montana game ranches and to Hawaiian trips. In between his workshops he somehow writes books and articles. Good ones!

THE NIKON CREATIVE LIGHTING SYSTEM, as a manual, shines in that it is a step-by-step HOW TO manual that takes each of Nikon's SB series flash units, matches the unit with a particular camera or cameras and spells out the step-by-step sequences necessary to make the units (notice the plural) work together wirelessly. Along the way, he teaches you everything you need to know about Nikon's iTTL flash system.

He does it by listing the steps one at a time in such a way that I fired up my copier and copied each set-up as he described them and then laminated the sheets into cards that will slip into my camera bag. I did this for the Nikon D2x, D300, and the wife's D80 so that I could refresh my memory after a spell of not shooting family pictures—and yes, I've begun to shoot some of my architecture interiors and products with flash as well.

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Mike starts with the SB-600 and moves on to the SB-800 and Nikon's newest SB-900 and R1C1 flashes as well. The book is set up so that he repeats himself where necessary regarding each flash so that you do not have to jump ahead or back to find something that is already taken for granted.

I have to mention Rocky Nook's book quality at least in passing. It pleases me so much to see on an inside page of the book the information that tells me that the book is printed on archival paper. That means that the pictures won't fade and the manual will be vibrant for years to come. I still have a couple of film Nikons (F2's) and manual lenses that are still operational after 30 years; so why can't I expect a book to last equally well and continue to perform as well? This one will.

Categories
Books Photography Reviews

Mastering the Nikon D300 By Darrell Young

I didn't really need a Nikon D300. I already had a perfectly  wonderful Nikon D2x with only about 15,000 actuations on it, plus a great Nikon D80 with about 12,000 actuations. But, when a friend upgraded to a Nikon D700 and decided to sell his two D300's with only about 7,000 actuations on one of them, I bought the latter. I already knew the operations of the D2x pretty thoroughly so I figured I'd breeze right through the D300 set up. In a way, I did, but there were a few distinct differences.

As luck would have it, a new book from Rocky Nook fortuitously appeared just in the nick of time. Darrell Young's Mastering the Nikon D300 is a 219 page  paperback that takes the pain out of setting up your new Nikon in a friendly and informative manner, that, to quote the  book blurb, "…makes the reader feel as if a friend dropped in to  share his experience and knowledge while explaining the hows and whys  in simple terminology." I have to agree with the blurb. That's exactly the way it reads. I just wish that the engineers who write Nikon's camera manuals would write for photographers instead of other engineers, and try produce a readable camera manual.

And speaking of camera manuals, how about a manual that would remain open on my desktop when I put it down? Such a simple request. The manual that comes with a Nikon (and just about everyone else's cameras as well) is bound tighter than a virgin in a volcano and barely stays open with a brick simutaneously placed on each opposing page.

While Rocky Nook's books won't quite stay open by themselves, they  have come a bit closer toward that goal, having only to anchor down  one side of the dual pages while you handle the camera. (How they managed that I'll never quite understand.) It always pleases me to open one of Rocky Nook's books and see the line "printed on acid-free paper" somewhere around the introduction or  table-of-contents pages.  It gives me a feeling that the book is an  investment for continued use and enjoyment rather than an expendable pile of paper that will fade and crack and become birdcage liner. My wife and  I both retain most of our books. The shelves in our house  overflow with volumes that, like true friends, remain long after their initial  introductions have past. Colleagues often come to me to when they seek outdated reference volumes that still contain just the information that they need to  know. I have a feeling that this volume will attain that status in a  few years, but right now it will prove invaluable to the new owner of  a Nikon D300.

Darrell Young (that's Digital Darrell if you hang around  www.Nikonians.org) presents you with not only the what when setting  up your D300, but also the why and how behind the information. He  does it in nine well-organized chapters, beginning with

  • Chapter 1,  Using the Nikon D300, in which he gives us the background on the Nikon  D100, D200, and finally the third generation—the camera that  interests us—the D300. 
  • Chapter 2 – Exposure Metering, Exposure Modes, and Histogram  gives us the background on both the photographic techniques involved  and the way the camera delivers, and at the same time tells us what  we can expect from the system that drives the D300.
  • Chapter 3 – Multi-CAM 3500DX Autofocus explains how the focus  works in the Nikon D300 and the various ways it can be configured to  work for the photographer.
  • Chapter 4 – White Balance begins with the explanation of what  white balance really is and how it effects photograpic images and  then continues with the ways to control white balance in everyday  shooting.
  • Chapter 5 – Shooting Menu Banks explains the variety of ways  that the camera can be customized to perform exactly what the  photographer wants under a variety of conditions.
  • Chapter 6 – Custom Setting Banks gives us the ability to program  the camera to respond in different ways by simply switching from one  of five preprogrammed banks to another. This makes it easy to have  settings stored and ready to access for a number of potentially  changing shooting environments.
  • Chapter 7 – Playback Menu allows you to control the way(s) that  images can be previewed, hidden, deleted, rotated, shown as a slide  show, or sent to a printer.
  • Chapter 8 – Setup Menu, Retouch Menu, and My Menu covers how the  look and the feel of the camera can be controlled.  Formatting the  compact flash card, setting LCD brightness, controlling the loudness  of the camera "beep" and the time and language your computer uses as  well as other functions are controlled by the setup menu.  The amount  of in-camera retouching can be controlled via menu choices as well.   Finally, menus that need to be changed often can be grouped in a  readilly available spot in the My Menu category.
  • Chapter 9 – Nikon Creative Lighting System, the last chapter,  while not directly D300 controls oriented, is rather about what the  D300 can do when it is teamed up with additonal accessories such as  the Nikon SB-600 and SB-800 speedlights and the SU-800 Wireless  Speedlight Commander Unit.

Tips and tricks are not given a chapter all to themselves but are  spread nicely throughout the volume when appropriate. One of the real  advantages of  Darrell Young's approach to writing is that as he  discusses each characteristic of the menus and settings he gives you  the relevant pages in the Nikon manual itself. This way, you can  check Nikon's version against Darrell's explanations. When you do  this I think you will find Darrell Young's version as the better of  the two.

Since I had previously set up my Nikon D2x and it uses a similar menu  system I thought I would have minimal changes to implement; however,  Darrell Young's explanations and tips caused me to rethink a few of  my settings. The improvement in my image exposures proves this out.

For me, the bonus in the book was the chaper on Nikon's Creative  Lighting System. I had a Nikon SB-800 flash unit, but on the advice  of another photographer friend of mine, I purchased two more to make  up a rather complete system of SB-800s.

My usual shooting is with available light or around continuous  lighting situations such as is found in film and television work. The  only real flash work I have needed to do is with on-camera flash or  an off-camera hand-held unit attached via a remote cord. In the case  of the continuous lighting—"hot light" as it is sometimes called, the only real adjustments that I've needed to make were with the color  balance of the light and proper exposure.

With the new wireless set up and the three Nikon SB-800 flash units,  I first checked out Nikon's manuals that accompanied the SB-800 flash  units and found that they were apparently written by the same people  that did Nikon camera manuals.  That meant that they were quite close  to being incomprehensible, as usual.  It's a case of, way more information  than you need, spread over too many different sections of the manual.

Back to Darrell Young's chapter on the Nikon Creative Lighting System  and I found clear, concise, and precise set up instructions to get  the SB-800s into the configurations that I wanted.  So off I went to  my wife's work studio to set up some test shots with a few figure  manequins, some drapes, and a wig or two that are all items in her  vast repository of art items.  It's going to take a little work to  get this all figured out, but it's too cold to go outside and I have  time and a good mentor in Mastering the Nikon D300.

Rocky Nook and Darrell Young ("Digital Darrell") have produced a well- written and helpful book for the new owner of a Nikon D300.  I find  that I have several dozens of paper tags attached to pages that I  want to be able to find easily again.  It's a reference that will go  in the bag with the camera (I forgot to tell you they physical size  is such that it will fit down the back slot of any medium or larger  camera bag).  In paperback, and 219 pages, and at 6" x 9" in size  it's bigger than the manuals that come with the camera or flash, but  not the full 8.5" x 11" or larger that comes with the usual full-size  book.

If you have a new Nikon D300 and are pondering over the accompanying  manuals you need Darrell Young's Mastering the Nikon D300.

Mastering the Nikon D300 by Darrell Young, Rocky Nook Press, ISBN:  978-1-933952-34-5, US $39.95 CAN $39.95.

Categories
Books Photography Reviews

PRACTICAL HDRI: High Dynamic Range Imaging For Photographers

Jack Howard should be a familiar name to many of you photographers as he is the Editor of PopPhoto.com/Popular Photography & Imaging where he tests and reviews cameras, lenses, software and a multitude of camera gadgets. 

HDRI photography (high dynamic range photography) is a growing phenomenon of interest in the photography field.  Simply put, it is a method by which the photographer produces an image that has more dynamic range than that which is possible with normal film or digital processes.  In extreme, it produces a surreal image; however, used judiciously it opens up the shadows and recovers highlight detail in an image.  Briefly, the process involves taking a series of images at varying exposures while keeping the f-stop and focus constant and varying only the shutter speeds.  This procedure produces a range of exposures that at some point expose correctly for the shadows but not the highlights, a “normal” exposure, and at another point exposures for detail in the highlights but not the shadows.  Once done, the selected software chooses the correct exposure for each area in the image and mixes the areas to produce an image that has a wider dynamic range than is possible with a single exposure. Finally, tone-mapping pulls the assorted areas back into a luminance range our eyes and our perceptions consider to be more normal.

Obviously, this normally involves using a tripod and having a stationary subject, as any movement between each exposure can only contribute to blurring and the failure of the image.  Surrealism is easily achieved in HDRI photography through a number of software and procedural choices.  Making the photograph look “right” with tone-mapping is where a discerning eye and more than a bit of art comes in.

Getting a new book from Rocky Nook Press is always a joy to me because of the high quality of the reproduction of images in their volumes.  As a photographer, the quality with which a book image is reproduced is extremely important to me.  First comes the quality of the original reproduction, and then I’m concerned with the lifespan of the paper it is printed on.  With these volumes printed on acid-free paper I am comforted by the thought that if I return to one of their publications in a year or three or more I can expect to see and handle pages and images that will be as fresh in reproduction as they were on my first look.

Jack Howard begins by explaining that on our regular computer screen or on the printed pages of a book, we cannot actually see the full scope of high dynamic range imaging.  Very few individuals possess the quality of computer screen to actually take advantage of the total product of HDRI; instead, we view a tone-mapped version that attempts to cram or compress all the brightness (luminance) into a smaller space that can be managed by either the screen or the printed image.

With that in mind he explains that even with the most basic DSLR equipment it is possible to do HDRI work.  Even basic DSLR’s have the manual capability to set exposure in such a way that the f-stop and focus can remain fixed while adjusting the shutter speed which provides the variables in the exposure range from under to over exposure of the subject.  Most point-and-shoot cameras lack this capability.  In addition, because the process of HDRI photography depends upon several images being in the same position or focus, then a tripod becomes a necessity, and bracketing burst capability in the DSLR a highly desirable function.

With the tools explained and in hand, he devotes a bit of time to the basics of photographic composition, and then discusses the best lens types for HDRI work.  Each lens type produces a distinct “look” to the photographic image and choosing that “look” can very well be part of the developing style of the photographer.

The subject of whether to shoot in RAW or .jpeg is covered. Each has it’s advantages and disadvantages, so the basic recommendation is that if the photographer’s camera has the capability, the basic images in the exposure bracket should be made with both simultaneously.  Metering for an HDRI bracket can be tricky and Jack Howard discusses the various methods of metering and the advantages and disadvantages of each type.

Download sites for a number of HDRI software programs are given, but the programs are not included as a CD with the book.  The reasoning is that based on the length of time it usually takes to produce a book, the software will have been revised during the production period.  Having the photographer download the software guarantees that the latest version is what the photographer works with.  A number of software types are mentioned and demonstrated. They include Photoshop CS3, Photomatix Pro 3.0, FDRTools Advanced 2.2, and Dynamic Photo HDR 3.x.  Not all of these are available in both Mac and PC versions, so the appropriate software should be chosen to match the photographer’s computer platform.

Once the photographer has created an HDRI version of their selected image, then tone-mapping should be applied to their product.  This is necessary to make it possible to handle the image with conventional viewing and printing media because the image will otherwise have problems with over-saturation, hyper-vividness, and out-of-gamut warnings.

Of particular interest to me were the set-up procedures for Photoshop, Bridge, and Adobe Camera Raw as the easiest methods for correcting tone-mapped images that have an initial flat appearance and lack either a real black point starting or white point ending.  This legitimatized the process I had worked out for myself while using an earlier version of PhotoMatix Pro while previously experimenting with HDRI photography.  It also encouraged me to update my PhotoMatix Pro 2.4.1 to version 3.0.3.

If you are looking for a straightforward introduction to HDRI photography–and can do it without the necessity of a precise-step-by-step procedure where both you and the instructor have identical sets of variably exposed copies of the same image to work with–then Jack Howard’s book is an excellent choice. As an author, Jack Howard seldom applies an aesthetic judgmental qualification to the result of a decision you might make in the adjustments of the software.  Rather, his approach is that “if you do A, then B is going to happen, and that may or may not be what you want.”  He demonstrates HDRI techniques on a multitude of different images producing results from surreal to extended-normal.  He allows the photographer to decide which approaches best fit their philosophy of imaging. He encourages the photographer to experiment and to apply his or her own aesthetic judgment to the product.  This volume is 170 pages, well illustrated, beautifully printed, and is in paperback format; it is a good addition to the bookshelf of both the beginning and intermediate photographer.

 

Categories
Books Photography Software Workflow

Digital Infrared Photography by Cyrill Harnischmacher

One of my colleagues is an architectural photographer who shoots digital infrared images a great deal of the time.  Unfortunately, he lives several hundred miles from me and when we are together (which actually is seldom) we spend our time talking about our lives and clients–and lately, hurricanes (since we both live in areas that are affected by storms).  That means that we don’t spend a lot of time talking about infrared photography, which I would really like to do.  For me, that’s unfortunate because I am actually very interested in the “look” of the infrared photograph, and years ago in my film days I actually spent some time experimenting with black and white infrared film and the appropriate filters.  So the theory is not unknown to me, but the practical aspects of digital infrared photography is very new to me.

But a new book crossed my desk.  It is Digital Infrared Photography by Cyrill Harnischmacher,published by Rocky Nook Press.

The author, (as I quote the book cover) is Cyrill Harnischmacher a photographer and designer who lives and works in southern Germany.  His first book, “lowbudgetshooting” won the prestigious Fotobuch-award of the German Booksellers Association in 2005.  He is a studio photographer by profession and a nature and infrared photographer by passion.

It has been my previous experience that picking up a book from Rocky Nook press is to experience a book-lovers joy.  Digital Infrared Photography is printed on acid-free paper and laid out with clean, uncluttered, linear design and printed with wonderful concern for the accuracy of color and the depth of the black and white illustrations, so it certainly does not disappoint.

While the volume is attractive enough to simply be a small coffee-table book; its content filled me in on the state of the art with modern digital cameras and had enough theory to refresh my memory and probably enough to satisfy the casual reader. Mr. Harnischmacher begins with the basic theory of infrared photography and then discusses the specialty cameras that make the process of digital infrared photography possible.

He introduces us to modified cameras that have had their infrared cut-off filters removed and to cameras like the Canon 20D and Fuji SLR S3Pro UVIR models which are specifically designed for areas such as scientific use by astrophotographers.

The clip filter system for the Canon EOS system cameras is quite interesting in that in selected EOS models (300D, 350D, 400D, 10D, 20D, and 30D) which have had their IR filters removed, a clip filter can be inserted into the camera body to enable the body to perform specific scientific functions.  The insert filters are manufactured by Astronomik (www.astronomik.com).

The Sigma SD14 camera is capable of infrared photography right out of the box but has some specialized problems of its own.

Astrophotography is a field with its unique problems, specialized equipment, and equally unique rewards if the reader is willing to commit to the learning experience.

The practical aspects of infrared photography are discussed through the introduction of While Balance, Exposure, and Settings.  This is followed by some very practical thoughts on Composing and Setting up shots.

Tabletop and Still Life photography as well as the use of an infrared lightbrush (suitable flashlight) can produce suitable images in infrared when patience and experimentation are utilized.  Macro photography and the suitable filters for infrared as well as using on board camera flash and external flash units are discussed briefly.

The Digital Darkroom is the key to the processing of digital infrared images because it is extremely seldom that digital infrared images do not require specialized post-processing.  Photoshop or similar processing software is needed. One of the techniques described in converting infrared into a black and white image is through the use of the LAB color space. Grayscale conversion via the channel mixer is also demonstrated.

I think the book examples for adjusting the color levels with gradient curves produce some of the richest and most striking images in the book.  The use of layers and layer masks, techniques that should be familiar to the usual Photoshop artist, are of real use for infrared photography. Partial Colorization with the Channel Mixer, Color Effects via the Channel Mixer, Channel Swap Variations, Colorization, Duotone Effects, and Soft Lens Effects round out the offerings.

A last page gives you access to the sources for information to modify digital cameras for infrared work, where to find infrared filter information, and the Clip filter system.

While almost any of these effects are worth prolonged study by the interested digital infrared photographer, the brief overview presented by Mr. Harnischmacher will get the viewer started and provide the basis for understanding the possibilities of these effects.  At 105 pages, it’s not a large book, but the information is good, the illustrations are rich and varied. This book is a nice addition to the photographers’ bookshelf and a good introduction to digital infrared photography.

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Books Digital Lifestyles Photography Reviews Software

Complete Guide To The Nikon D300 By Thom Hogan

On User Manuals, Digital Books, Travel, The Importance of eBooks and The Foresight of Thom Hogan

I like physical books.  By that I mean I like a book I can hold in my hand, feel the texture, and maybe even revel in the smell of the paper and the ink.  I like to consume well-done images that inspire or instruct.  I like books that open themselves flat and allow me to look at them without having to hold down both sides of the tight binding of a signature in the book without being afraid that the book would snap closed if I turned lose with one or both hands.

But then I have to say that there is a “but” that goes with all of that.  The bigger a book gets the less likely I am to have it along when I want it.  Big books in heavy bindings don’t fit easily into the weight requirements of modern-day air travel.  They’re, well, “big” and “big” and “ease of travel” are oxymorons.  They just don’t work interchangeably.

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Books Digital Lifestyles

Adobe Photoshop CS3 for Digital Photographers

In my professional life I have attended many seminars and workshops. Some of those seminars or workshops have been funded by my employer, and others I have paid for myself. Looking back over some forty plus years of classes—let’s go ahead and call these seminars and workshops that—I think that the average price of any of these half day classes has to have averaged at least a hundred dollars per session; perhaps it has been even more. In some cases, it has been definitely more.
 
What is a good seminar or class worth if you really need the information? Would you consider 205 minutes—that’s about three hours and twenty-five minutes—a good morning or afternoon—of vital information worth about $75 or $80 dollars if there was a guarantee that you could "retake" the class at a later date at no charge? You can do that here easily enough, and I consider it a dirt-cheap price for the product.

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
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
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
Books Photography Reviews Workflow

Managing Your Photographic Workflow with Photoshop Lightroom

Rocky Nook was founded in 2006 in Santa Barbara, California, and is closely associated with dpunkt.verlag in Germany. Rocky Nook is associated with, and releases books, through O’Reilly Media Company, hence the distribution through the O’Reilly address.

Rocky Nook specializes in books on digital photography, imaging, and workflow. Their stated goal is "to support creativity, and improve the quality and efficiency of photographic work".

The writers chosen by Rocky Nook are photographers with serious experience and a thorough understanding of the technical nature of the subject matter. I must also add, their writers have an ability to communicate clearly and logically the sequences of events they wish to explore, and equally clearly explain the reasons they chose those sequences.

In the case of MANAGING YOUR PHOTOGRAPHIC WORKFLOW WITH PHOTOSHOP LIGHTROOM, their authors bring serious practical experience packaged in an extremely attractive format. It is a pleasure to me to hold a book in my hands that is beautifully printed, laid out in a manner that lends itself to lying open on a table (so that I can work from it without having to nail down the corners to keep it from curling), and finally is bound in such a manner that it will survive continual handling. Combine careful packaging with good writing and quality illustrations and you receive a full service for your money.