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Books Photography Reviews

Review: The Traveling Photographer

The-Traveling-PhotographerI’d finished reading The Traveling Photographer by Sandra Petrowitz but I had not yet begun to write about it when I was sitting in a coffee shop with friends when one pulled out his phone to pass to me to show me the pictures of the weather he had encountered the previous weekend on a shopping trip out of town. Snow, ice, cars off the road and broken trees abounded.  My second friend reciprocated with a quick draw of his phone to show pictures of his son’s wedding done just the week previous to that one when the weather was sunshine and sparkling and in the mid 80’s.

I was thinking—first that this is Texas where the weather can change in the blink of an eye, and second that it seems that everyone is a photographer today with their phones and tablets with cameras—even if they left their point-and-shoot or more potent DSLR at home. The camera is everywhere. The snapshot is ubiquitous. The final thought that came to me was that as a somewhat aesthetically judgmental photographer, maybe I could pass out copies of The Traveling Photographer to upgrade the quality of my friends images. Having been a photographer for much more than forty years and a photography teacher for thirty three of them I well know that the possession of a camera does not guarantee the aesthetic quality of an image.  The cameras today are smart enough to correctly expose most of the time, but none yet have a button or menu item to guarantee a well-designed image with a real story-telling quality. The snapshot is still very much with us.

The old days of spending the evening at a neighbor’s house looking at slides of a vacation are long gone by almost twenty years; now everyone is ready  to show their pictures of vacations or the new baby in the blink of an eye and the whipping out of their phone or tablet. Most of the  images haven’t gotten better, just smaller, and design has suffered more in the transition.

Rocky Nook Publishing sent me a review copy of The Traveling Photographer by Sandra Petrowitz. Sandra is a journalist and editor who specializes in nature, travel, environmental, and other photraphy-related topics. As a passionate traveler who has made journeys from the Sahara to the Himalayas, and from Patagonia to the Okavango Delta she has produced a beautifully illustrated volume that is full of wonderfully story-telling images of far off places and then loaded that same book with comments and information to improve the images made by the beginning and intermediate photographer who chooses to seek to improve the quality of their travel photography.

The professional photographer will admire her images and respond to her commentary with “…yes, that’s the way to do it,” but the casual photographer and traveler will respond with “…that makes sense; why haven’t I done that to make stronger images?” Her logical and clear cut advice on such things as concentrating on details and looking for the graphic qualities of a scene (and giving and showing examples), will lead the traveler to a more elegant and story-telling approach and move well beyond the simple “I was there” image. Camera height and camera angle and the basics of eye movement and good design are explored to move the traveler beyond the mundane, flat, lined-against-the wall approach of the two dimensional image. This can show the depth and richness of the world when seen with an eye to intriguing the viewer and making that viewer aware of the scale and richness potential of a scene.

Hints on composition, suitable equipment (by characteristics rather than by particular brand), storing of camera gear and the protection and transport of image files are all subjects she introduces with a sufficent depth to get the traveling photographer more comfortable with the idea that they can bring home quality images from their travels and move beyond the snapshot stage.

I have two friends who are about to receive copies of The Traveling Photographer as gifts, so it’s obvious that I recommend it.

[amazon_image id=”1937538338″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ][/amazon_image]

The Traveling Photographer 
by Sandra Petrowitz
Rocky Nook Press
ISBN 978-1-937538-33-0
US $32.95 and CAN $34.95
Amazon Kindle Editon $16.95 ; Paperback $24.38

[amazon_enhanced asin=”1937538338″ /]

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Books Graphics Photoshop Reviews Workflow

Review: Gimp 2.8 for Photographers

GIMP WITH PICTUREWith Adobe’s Photoshop moving to the cloud and a subscription basis, there has been a strong movement of hobbysists and amateur photographers to seek an alternative image editing software that is less expensive and unthethered.

I have been teaching workshops on Image Editing for the past thirteen years and in the past few months the inquiries and requests that I teach a workshop with alternative image editing software have increased. I had absolutely no skills in any image editing software other than Photoshop and so I began to look into other ways to edit images to see what was available.

Right on time for my needs Rocky Nook sent me a review copy of Klaus Goelker’s new book Gimp 2.8 for Photographers: Image Editing with Open Source Software, and I immediately opened the back of the book and removed the DVD that is attached there and loaded Gimp 2.8 onto my computer.

Since Gimp 2.8 is an open source software, it is designed to run versions on Mac, Windows, and Linux. Though the screen shots of the application may look slightly different on each platform the essential elements and tools remain in the same menu places in each version.

The DVD explains how to install the application, and in addition to the application itself, the DVD contains a PDF version of the book. I immediately downloaded a copy of the PDF to my Dropbox account and then retrieved the PDF on my iPad mini so that I could read the book where ever I was and that it would lie flat (as an iPad is wont to do) and would not entail fighting the tendency of book pages to flip themselves out of position.

It took a while for the PDF to upload to Dropbox, and an a slightly less equal time for it to be retrieved by my iPad.  Transferring the PDF to a reader as my iPad mini gave me choices of iBooks, Notability, GoodReader, NoteTaker HD, Skitch, FileApp, and FileApp Pro, Bluefire Reader and Kindle as these were all reader applications I had loaded on my iPad mini. I chose IBooks for no other reason than it was the first of my options. I downloaded it first to my iPad mini but found the diagrams a bit small for my old eyes so I dug out my older iPad 2 and downloaded it again, and again opened it in iBooks. My old eyes appreciated this larger display of the screen shots that are used continuously throughout the book.    

As an aside here, I think that including a PDF version of the book along with the printed copy is a fantastic benefit. One of the things that I have always hated when I am trying to follow a step-by-step procedure in a printed book is the usual need to put weights on opposite sides of the book to hold the pages down to keep the book open while I work on the computer. The ability to use an iPad or similar reader to lie nicely flat beside my computer while I am working is of great value to me.  This keeps me from having to break the spine of the book so badly in order to lie flat that the pages start to break away from the binding. Damaging the book seems like a real waste when it is printed on acid free paper and of really excellent printing quality. OK, that’s my $.02 on that subject. On to Klaus Goelker’s excellent instruction book itself.

He begins his instruction with an introduction to the GIMP program itself and a general look at the arrangement of the windows and menus encountered in beginning to work with the program. This is followed with a discussion on printing and the drivers necessary for GIMP to work with various makes of printers.

Scanning and image calculation for scanning follows, along with the usual problems encountered in scanning. This includes moire effect and unsquare scanning that requires rotation to solve the unsquare image. This is done in a step by step manner that the newcomer to GIMP should practice. Moving on,  the author picks up correction in levels and color and exposure. (I should mention here that all the images that the author uses as examples are available on the DVD that accompanies the book and it is suggested that the student new to GIMP download the images and follow the step by step procedures as Klaus Goelker demonstrates them.)

Curves and the placement of control points (as well as how to remove them) are next demonstrated. Hue and saturation adjustments are next. Then there’s an overview of the functions from the Colors Menu. Saving an image for the Internet is next.

As demonstrations contine, Touchup work is the next topic. This includes Color Casts, then we move on to removing spots, dust, and scratches. Cloning  for retouching and rebuilding damaged images is shown. 

(While not all key commands are the same between the Mac and the PC and while it seems that most of these commands are demonstrated in the Windows versions, translating each to the Mac is relatively easy with a little experimentation –using only a single button mouse on the Mac is the culprit.)

Healing, filters, sharpening, noise reduction, Gaussian blur, Non Linear, Edge Enhancement, Simulating Film Grain, are all demonstrated in step by step procedures which use the sample images provided on the DVD which accompanies the book.

Part 3 of the volume introduces us to Masks and Layers and the corresponding painting, filling, and color tools. Selections and edit menus give us means of modifying our selections. Red eye removal is demonstrated along with suggestions as to how to avoid it in the first place. The seemingly magic abilities of layers and how they work is explored. Correcting over and under-exposed images can be corrected in layers. Using Perspective Correction shows how to eliminate out of parallel appearing lines in images taken at less than optimum camera angles.  Removing Lens Distortion, Making Perspective Corrections, and Reducing Vingetting are next.

Freshening a Dull Sky gives us another eleven pages of step by step procedures, and this is followed by adding a sun and sunlight modifications. Now the author introduces the procedures of adding text to an image; this includes creating three-dimensional text and drop shadows. Creating Vignettes and picture frames are next, followed by Lighting Effects and Shadow Layers.

Next in the step by step procedures is Extracting Image Objects with Select and Masking Tools. Using the Paths Tool to create Vector Forms and Selections is followed by the use of Filters for Light Effects.

Paths and Text are demonstrated, aligning images with the alignment tool, and the Cage Transform Tool are defined and demonstrated step by step. Cross-Fading with Masks and Selections are followed by ways to modify the canvas size.  This is well explained in nine pages of diagrams and screen shots.

One of the more interesting tools is the Foreground Select Tool and it is thoroughly explained over another seven pages. Then another six pages cover how to do the same masking technique with brushes. It’s complex, but the illustrations are more than adequate to grasp the technique. My only complaint up to this point is to wish that the author had at times used an annotation program to draw a square or circle around a particular menu so it was easier to more quickly follow just where an item was located.

HDR (High Dynamic Range) imaging is defined. HDR imaging is beyond the standard download of GIMP until a number of add-ons on plug ins are added, but the author tells you where to go on the Internet to find the appropriate PC and Mac software to add HDR techniques.

Layer Masks are introduced with five pages of step by step instructions, and will work slightly differently than what the Photoshop user will expect. However, following the steps that are demonstrated will siffice for the novice user of GIMP.

Section 4 of the book concerns Working With Black and White and Color Images and is broken down into a number of exercises. It begins with Converting Color Images Partly or Entirely Into Grayscale Images. Using the Channel Mixer begins the discussion of converting color images to black and white, and using the GEGL techniques are briefly discussed. But GEGL techniques are an as yet incomplete part of GIMP 2.8 and leave much yet to another discussion when completed. Threshold, Desaturation, and simulated Infrared techniques are discussed and shown as exercises. The tricky techniques of using the Threshold function to separate hair from a background is demonstrated. It’s followed by the method of using Channels to extract an object from the background, and that section was followed by methods of Coloring Grayscale Images. That took another fourteen pages so you can see that it covered a number of techniques.

Section 5, looks at working with Other File Formats. Raw, Gimp and UFRaw (a user installed addition to the basic GIMP 2.8.0 but not the 2.8.2 version, but UFRaw can be operated as a stand-alone program), and RawTherapee take twenty five pages of discussion and explanation.

Finally, the use of PDF Formatting to Share Print Layouts begins to end the book. How to use GIMP to produce PDFs and a discussion of the available free alternative PDF Creation and Viewing Software. Open Office, Libre Office, and the PDF Import Plug-in for Open Office are introduced. NitroPDFReader includes PDF editing tools—available in both PC and Mac versions. Exporting and reading Photoshop’s PSD files with GIMP are not 100% compatible as so functions of PSD files fail to make the translation. A chart shows which functions are compatible.

An Appendix gives a couple of “Easter Eggs”—almost hidden gems of wisdom and a THANK YOU to the translator (Mr. Jeremy Cloot) who took the original text and translated it into English, and who did a very good job of it in my opinion.

It’s taken me 1,600 words or so to cover this review, as well as a solid week of following the exercises on my computer. I’ve taken the time because I honestly wanted to learn GIMP as an alternative Graphic Editing Program. A week is not enough time to become totally proficient with GIMP, but it is enough time to decide that Klaus Goelker’s book is an excellent one. It will most certainly be read again as I try to become competent with GIMP, and I can recommend it whole-heartedly to the beginning photographer or graphic designer who cannot enter into the long term contract with Adobe in the company’s new approach to renting their software as opposed to selling it. I wanted to itemize the contents of Mr. Goelker’s book so the reader can have a full idea of what the book covers. It’s 400 pages (in paperback) of thorough instruction, with a DVD of GIMP and a number of Plug-Ins or add-ons, as well as practice images. It’s a good buy!

GIMP 2.8 for Photographers: Image Editing with Open Source Software by Klaus Goelker, Rocky Nook Press, ISBN 978-1-937538-26-2, US$ 39.95, CAN$ 41.95 and $24.65 from Amazon. Amazon can also deliver a Kindle version alone for $16.95 and if you have good eyes and a larger screen iPad or Kindle device that $16.95 is a real deal; it might even convince you to buy the full sized book version just for the ease of reference usage.

Categories
Gadgets Photography Reviews

Review: Mastering the Nikon D600 by Darrell Young

Mastering-the-Nikon-D600_250pxIf you follow our website, you may remember that I really liked Darrell’s book on the D800. I have now purchased a D600, and read the new Mastering the Nikon D600 with a certain sense of déjà vu. the  D600 book is also a real winner! 

One of the things most people do when they get a new camera is… run out and take photos. Darrell is careful to point out that the first thing you should do is setup the camera to make sure it is going to function they way you want. Chapter 1 covers basic camera setup, and is a few minutes well spent going over the chapter with your camera in hand. Darrell then launches into all the menus of the camera… the playback menu, shooting menu, custom setting menu, and setup menu.

There is some real substance in every chapter, but I particularly like the explanations and depth in the shooting menu. Nikon has created user setting with U1 and U2 settings on the mode dial, and they can be tailored to your particular shooting needs. Also, a discussion of the D600’s ability to shoot smaller images than the native 24.2 megapixels… FX settings for shooting at 13.6 megapixels, or even 6.0 megapixels. This is something the D800 doesn’t do, and I’m happy that my D600 does. Are you shooting some images for eBay? You might well want to choose the small DX setting of a 2.6 megapixel image. Darrell points out that you’ll get the best images from the native sensor setting, but for special applications, you have the tools in your belt to shoot smaller images.

camera menusEver wanted to do time-lapse photography because you didn’t have an expensive intervalometer? Well, just flip to page 144 in the book and read all about how to do it with the D600 with no accessories required.

The retouch menu is geared for folks who want to create as much as possible “in camera” and minimize computer editing. There are a number of pretty cool editing effects available in the D600, and I still am a fan for certain images of the miniature effect. Follow the directions and you can make a cool image. Did you know you can even compare frames side by side to see the retouch filter effects? Yep. 

The “my menu” is something that is a boon to photographers – different from user settings, it allows you to store frequently used settings in a special menu section so you don’t have to wade through page after page of items – the shooting menu is vast! Darrell talks about using the my menu to the fullest in chapter 7. On my D600 in my menu, I have set up the top two items to be clean image sensor and virtual horizon. Have you ever tried the virtual horizon? It is most usable when the camera is mounted on a tripod, and the virtual horizon shows you which directions to move the camera to make it level. I loved my old Nikon F5 – great film camera, but Nikon decided to make the hot shoe tilt down 15 degrees, thus foiling any attempts to use a bubble level with it. So you can imagine how much I use this feature when shooting architecture.

Yes, there are more chapters covering metering, histograms, white balance, and autofocus modes and use. There are brief discussions on live view and a little more in depth discussion of the movie modes of the D600. Finally, one of the all-time greatest assets to a photographer is covered, in the chapter on using Nikon speedlights. Indeed, as Darrell says, “Light is a Photographer’s Friend!”…

The age of digital has made our tool sets so much greater than ever they were in film days. With the introduction of the Nikon D600, pros and amateurs alike have a tool that simply begs to make images. The perfect compliment for the D600 is Mastering the Nikon D600 by Darrell Young. Once again, Darrell has hit a home run. For a list price of $40, although quite a bit less on Amazon, you can have the ultimate reference work for your new camera. I highly recommend this book to you, Nikon D600 owner!

Mastering the Nikon D600
by Darrell Young
Rocky Nook / Nikonians Press
ISBN 978-1937538194 (pbk.)
Available on Amazon.comfor about $23,Kindle edition about $17.

Categories
Books Photography Reviews

Review: Mastering the Nikon D800 by Darrell Young

Darrell Young has written the definitive book on the Nikon D800. If it isn’t covered in this book, you probably don’t need it. Seriously, this book is a long look inside the digital candy box for Nikon geeks and other photographers who actually (gasp!) read the manual. Unfortunately for me, reading the manual sometimes leaves a little to be desired. Darrell explains what the manual really is trying to say… and even provides the page numbers for the content in the Nikon manual. That’s what I call thorough.  I only wish the Nikon manual provided the page numbers for Mastering the Nikon D800. 

Heard of the Nikonians? I quote: “Nikonians® (www.nikonians.org) is a user community and reference site for Nikon photographers. Found in April 2000 it helps digital and film photographers to shorten their learning curve. The members and visitors improve their photography skills and results while making long lasting friendships across borders and often continents.” The page before the foreword has a 50% discount voucher for a Nikonians Gold Membership. That makes Darrell’s book actually cost nothing with the savings in membership cost.

Mastering the Nikon D800 is over 500 pages of reference. The layout is easy to understand, and it’s easy to find the chapter you are looking for, with chapter markings on the edge of pages – nice visual reference. There are many, many illustrations of menus, illustrative real-world images, and technical notes on where to find that overview in the Nikon manual. The back of the book has a… you guessed it… a nicely fleshed out index. Thoughtful suggestions are included in almost every section, including the great resource of setting up your new Nikon D800 – first chapter. Included in this chapter is a broad overview of all the Nikon D800 menus… whetting your appetite for the full chapter covering that particular area. Darrell ends each chapter with his conclusions on what he takes away from the section – and primes you for the next chapter.

Subsequent chapters cover all the menus – playback, shooting, custom settings, setup, retouch, and the powerful my menu and recent settings. I was already using my menu to house just a couple of items, but that list has grown now that I’m aware of more of the powerful back-features you might not find in the menus, or might not understand. 

Darrell then launches into the meaty chapters on metering and exposure modes, histogram use (which one and why), and the demon of digital photography, white balance. How and why white balance behaves the way it does is nicely explained, and should help a shooter who might usually shoot auto white balance be more comfortable creating a custom white balance to lessen post-processing. Also, if you shoot with a consistent light setup, like strobes in a portrait setup, you can create and fine tune a custom white balance just for that setup, and use it over and over. How to do it is all here. Final chapters cover autofocus, how the autofocus areas are determined, and release modes, plus a short section on the live view feature.

How do you setup the D800 to include your copyright statement and embed it in every image? Chapter 5. How do you accomplish in-camera perspective control (like having a PC or TS/E lens)? Chapter 6. How do you control and correct in-camera the vignetting caused by some very wide angle lenses? Chapter 3.

But wait, doesn’t the D800 shoot video? That is covered briefly along with a short chapter on speedlight usage, including the Nikon Creative Lighting System technology. Read about setting up the D800 pop-up flash as a commander for wireless TTL photography with Nikon speedlights… I read a few derisive comments on the web about having a pop-up flash on a pro camera, but it makes perfect sense to me, as I occasionally use wireless TTL, and having a built-in commander just makes that even easier.

I’m more and more impressed with the image and handling qualities of my Nikon D800’s, and Darrell’s book Mastering the Nikon D800 has granted me huge new insights on what the engineers at Nikon have created. Keep up the good work, Darrell.

Mastering the Nikon D800
by Darrell Young
Rocky Nook / Nikonians Press
ISBN 978-1-937538-05-7 (pbk.)
Available on Amazon.comfor about $23,Kindle edition about $17.

Categories
Books Photography Reviews Workflow

Review: Create Your Own Photo Book by Petra Vogt

[amazon_link id=”193395292X” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Create Your Own Photo Book: Design a Stunning Portfolio, Make a Bookstore-Quality Book[/amazon_link]

Several times I’ve thought about making a photo book. Since I’ve been in numerous countries across the world in the last fifteen years and assembled several terrabytes—well, many more than several—of saved images it seems like I would be a prime candidate to produce more than one photo book. But the moment never seemed to be right, and I couldn’t bring myself to do the research into the procedures and techniques of producing a good book. I’d see the ads for companies that made books and even had friends that showed me books that they had made, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do the research to get started.

But Rocky Nook sent me a review copy of Petra Vogt’s Create Your Own Photo Book and the idea and ability to create a book was dropped into my lap. The thing about reading books to do a review is that you learn things. Education never stops and even at my age new ideas are welcomed.

Petra Vogt is an author who spells out the steps in the most logical and linear manner. This is something that I appreciate as I am a linear thinker who prefers a step by step approach. One of the things that was evident very early on and which was more and more obvious as I read was the fact that Petra Vogt can effectively use (and has used) all of the programs and companies mentioned. The writing is not just making comparisons from spec sheets; major insights and comparisons appear on nearly every page.

Imagining Vogt’s writing process as the book was written I envision some huge wall covered with 3″ x 5″ cards—each containing a tidbit of data about specific programs—and the author laborously fitting the cards into a mosaic of comparisons and procedures.

However the book was written, the author has the abilty to make a complex set of choices fall into patterns through which the reader can work their way from step to step based on tons of available information.

Companies that make books and the software to make them are discussed without bias so that the reader can easily decide what to do when, and have sufficient information to justify their decisions.

Vogt begins by examining the purpose of the book, discusses many book producers and their requirements and restrictions; then examines layout and discusses why text should be written before you start to layout images. Then the author discusses why previewing, and checking for errors and saving and saving is necessary. With some producers your file disappears when you place your order. Oh, and don’t forget that there should be no spaces in file-names as most producers don’t accept them.

[amazon_link id=”193395292X” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ][/amazon_link]

With that for a start you have to realize that the producer determines the software you use, and that has to be in place before you begin. Some software is proprietary specific and some is producer independent. By selecting a company to print your book you have set up the software you most likely will use.

From the professional standpoint, both Adobe Photoshop and InDesign can produce a photo book, but there are both downloadable and online softwares provided by specific companies that are free to the user. Just remember, you are always working on a double page spread no matter what software you are using.

The Service Provider Options Overview that appears on pages 29-31 is worth the price of the book alone to me in that all the pertinent decisions of selecting a supplier can be compared for the major established book producers. Some suppliers simply do not produce books of certain sizes. Certain papers are available only from specific companies. Choices of Fonts? Check the list to see what a company allows or rejects. Got a specific cover type in mind? You had best check the tables to see if the producer you had in mind will provide it. The tables are invaluable.

But reading onward, Vogt discusses the kinds of pictures that seem to work best in different types of books. Portfolios are different from travel collections, and the intent of the book determines the look and the use of white space and borders, and frames.

Organizing images and keywording them with software makes the editing process easier when you are selecting images for a project, and the size of images is discussed. Some companies limit image sizes to 15 or 25 megapixels with the maximum pixel dimensions being 4,000 pixels. The companies are named and it’s a good thing as these items are not mentioned in the Service Provider Options Overview.

Most book producers work in sRGB color space and require the designer to either work in that space or the company switches to that space when producing the book. As an artist who usually works in Adobe1998 color space that came as a surprise since sRGB is a less dynamic color space than Adobe1998.

Oh, and saddle stitch binding limits your book to 100 pages; so keep your final look in mind before you start laying out your pages.

Story boarding your book before you start layout is discussed and suggestions are made on the procedures, which range from sketches to laying out small prints of all the work you hope to include. Start with a big empty table and a stack of drugstore prints and begin the layout procedure; it will save you time and enhance your publication. Working on the gestalt of your combined images is much easier this way.

Do you like to use guides when laying out your pages? InDesign and Scribus offer smart guides.

Process your images prior to layout; do not depend on the layout software to have adjustment capabilities for your images. Borders, frames, transparency, image masks and corners all should happen in your image editing software, not on the layout page. Which company handles spell checking in their software? The answer is in the text, not in the Service Provider Options Overview.

Quality control issues are discussed, and preview procedures and problem checklists are provided. That’s on page 168. Two pages of troubleshooting tips help keep you from going wrong.

Finally, save a local copy of your work. I’ve already mentioned, some work disappears with some companies when you order—especially if you are working with online software. Some companies allow the production of a ebook readable on an iPad and for a small fee you can get both a physical book and an ebook for the same project.

To end the book, a series of five real-world projects are examined step by step and the reader can follow the thinking process of the production of some actual books.

As a testament to my own learning process, while reading I found myself with five pages of closely written notes and ten pages of copied tables and check lists for easy reference later. If you ever considered producing a picture book, I heartily recommend Petra Vogt’s Create Your Own Photo Book. I think I am finally going to delve into my stack of hard drives and see what I can produce.

[amazon_link id=”193395292X” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Create Your Own Photo Book: 
Design a Stunning Portfolio, Make a Bookstore-Quality Book By Petra Vogt
Rocky Nook, Publisher
ISBN: 978-1-933952-92-5
US $39.95
CAN $41.95 [/amazon_link]

Categories
Photography Photoshop Reviews

Review: Adobe Photoshop CS6

Adobe Photoshop CS6 is here.

I’d been working with the Beta version of Adobe Photoshop CS6 since it came out as I prepared a tutorial version with which to teach workshops, and I was excited when I received a review copy of Photoshop CS6.

I’d prepared a tutorial version of an App for the Apple Store on the CS5 Photoshop and its had a good run and has been well received. I was looking forward to getting a CS6 version ready to coincide with the launch of Photoshop CS6, but I got a little behind and Adobe released first the Beta version and then the completed version of Photoshop CS6 before my tutorial was finished. As I write this my new tutorial is in the pipeline for approval in Apple’s App Store; look for it soon as Adobe Photoshop CS6: A Tutorial for Beginners. The CS5 version is already in the Apple Store as almost the same name, Adobe Photoshop CS5: A Tutorial for Beginners.

So, now that I’ve had the release copy of Photoshop CS6 in my hands for a couple of weeks this is what I can say about it.

It’s fast!

It’s really fast!

The first time you load Photoshop CS6, the application has to spend a little bit of time extra while it finds all of its parts. The second time you open it, you will be suitably impressed.

On my three year old Mac Pro I barely have time to note the splash page before the application is open, and only a few seconds later the image I’ve selected is showing itself in the Camera Raw window. I feel almost the same way when it opens on my equally old 17″ MacBook Pro. I can only imagine what it must be like on a new computer. Admittedly, that’s not very scientific with no stopwatch involved, but the speed is noticeable.

This new version of Photoshop is not a big, splashy rewrite where you feel like it’s a completely new program that you are learning. Rather, it is a polishing and honing process that enhances speed, ease of use, and efficiency. It’s a bit like a gem cutter taking a sparkling stone and cutting those facets onto it that turns it in a fiery diamond.

The number of new features that are first noticeable are varied but not so much so that an older user of CS5 won’t be right at home. In fact, many of the new features are not instantly noticeable; instead, they are hidden in menu columns that we think we already know.

But the overall look of Photoshop has changed to a dark  gray background with white lettering and light gray symbols as the default—you actually have a choice of four colors ranging from near black to pale gray.

The first thing that I noted was that a window appeared on the top right of the adjustments pane that allowed you to select between: Essentials, New in CS6, 3D, Motion, Painting, Photography, and Typography.

When you select one of those options the open tools which usually appear to the right of the open image are automatically opened to the relevant tools for the procedure you have chosen to perform. I find this a great time saver and convenience. Once the tools are selected, a previous user of CS5 will feel right at home.

The graphics acceleration that I already mentioned shows itself in things like the liquify filter which previously was a slow and sluggish movement and is now a real-time tool. If you have processor enough in your computer and enough ram, most of Photoshop’s filters and adjustments run in real time.

Camera Raw now begins its adjustments with a “0” as the center number, thus adjustments can be “-” or negative numbers as well as the traditional “+” or positive numbers; this makes it much more intuitive.

The cropping tool now shows a overlay of a rule of thirds, a grid, a diagonal, a triangle, Golden Ratio, and Golden Spiral to aid in determining composition. About 50 years ago in college I had a course called “Structural Analysis of Masterpieces” where we laborously drew analyses of paintings on transparent acetate taped over photocopies of famous paintings. Looking at the options that Photoshop can bring up to analyze a composition as it is cropped brings back fond classroom memories and makes me aware of how far technology has come and how much the current Photoshop user can take (and use) for granted.

Oh, you’ll still have to buy the Extended version of Photoshop CS6 if you want to use the 3D tools. Since my primary use of Photoshop is in teaching the basics of the program itself with an emphasis on retouching, I have limited experience with the 3D tools and video editing which are the main the differences between the regular and extended editions of Photoshop CS6.

The blur tools bring new options with the Field Blur, Iris Blur, and the Tilt-Shift blur. Each of these duplicates the effects often seen with the popular adjustable tilt-shift effects lenses that can be had in various camera mountings.

 

Background Save means that you can hit the SAVE button and keep on working without having to worry about how long those PSD files used to save as you worked.  Auto save can be set in Preferences > File Handling and can be set to save in as short a time as 5 minutes behind your working moment. If I had a wish, it would follow as close as one minute behind me—well, maybe Adobe will do that someday.  But as stable as the program is in reality there is not much of a gamble involved.

People sometimes send me images that are the exact size where they have forgotten to set up a bleed on the edges. The Content Aware tool has become a welcome additon as it has two modes. Move (where it will seamlessly remove and replace equally seamlessly) and extend (where it will copy and replace seamlessly) thus it can extend the edges of an image without your having to clone and repair. It’s a wonder.

I almost forgot the Adaptive Wide Angle filter with which you can make corrections from the distortions of various lenses.  Barrel and pin-cushion as well as straightening are all readily available from this filter.

There are some other things that probably should be considered and will be by other reviewers, but each reviewer goes after those points that influence their own work, and I’m no exception. I’ve picked out the things that seem the most important to me, and those are the ones I’ve emphasized. For me, the speeded up workflow and the acceleration of the graphics have made a great deal of difference and probably allowed me to get an additional six months or more out of both a desktop and a laptop that I thought had become too slow for my purposes and that I felt needed to be replaced; and like a lot of artists, the replacement equipment budget is always under consideration.  But I heartily recommend the upgrade as it should pay for itself in time saved in increased graphics performance and improved workflow alone and all the new features are almost whipped cream on top of the dessert… Am I excited; in a word YES!

Adobe’s Photoshop CS6 (US $699.00) and CS6 Extended (US $999.00) are available in single user units that can be installed on one laptop and one desktop machine. Photoshop is also available as part of the CS6 Design and Web Premium (US $1899.00), CS6 Design Standard (US $1299.00 to $1899.00), CS6 Production Standard (US $1299.00 to $1899.00) and the Master Collection (US $2,599.00).  Too, it is available as a part of The Cloud subscription structure and in Education and Institutional Pricing. Upgrade versions are also available.

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Books Photography Reviews Workflow

Review: Architectural Photography by Adrian Schulz

Rocky Nook’s new book Architectural Photography by Adrian Schulz provides a comprehensive update to architectural photography techniques in a digital age. My original introduction to this subject was a book by Norman McGrath called Photographing Buildings Inside and Out. Norman in years past had reservations about calling his craft “architectural photography” – but not Schulz. His 2nd Edition (2012) of his original 2009 printing of Architectural Photography leaves no one in doubt that he has mastered his craft, his tools and his ability to convey this mastery in the written word

Schulz starts out with a review of modern architectural photography, starting with a very brief history of photography, then a definition of the types of architectural photography. My only reservation about the entire book is that I believe he left out one key type of architectural photography, but I admit my bias in this statement. He lists documentary, postcard, vacation, advertising and artistic types… but the omission I see is the type of architectural photography I do – photographing building products in architecture with the specific idea of representing the products to architects for inclusion in their future projects. Maybe this will be covered in the 3rd edition.

The chapter on camera technology is about as up to date as you can make a printed book – and is current as of the first months of 2012. Many different camera systems are discussed rationally, and with strengths and weaknesses noted. Most architectural photographers fall into two categories today: first, those still shooting view cameras and film; and second, those who are shooting high-resolution digital cameras. The first group is declining quickly, as film gets harder to come by and less easily processed. The second group is quickly growing, as camera sensors get larger megapixel counts, and lens technology for D-SLR’s improves.

Shooting techniques is discussed with the desired result being to redirect the eye of the photographer in ways of seeing… after all, photography is really about seeing what others pass by or miss entirely. It talks about light, and shadows, and how a photographer will craft his image to use both to his (and the building’s) best advantage. I picked up a couple of new ways of thinking about architectural photography that I had never quantified. One was Schulz’s statement about focal length of lens: “A good rule of thumb for choosing focal length is: As short as necessary but as long as possible.” (page 129) 

In post-processing, the author discusses ways in which to maximize the digital image through the use of software. Many examples are given with clear illustrations. The discussion on why architectural photographers should be shooting RAW captures is nicely laid out. A few specific software tools are mentioned, but most of the techniques can be done with any professional level editing program

For anyone in the field of architectural photography, this is probably a “must-read” book. For anyone not in the field but wanting to break in, read this book and find a mentor working in the field. Preferably, Adrian Schulz.

Architectural Photography, 2nd Edition
by Adrian Schulz
Published by Rock Nook
ISBN: 978-1-933952-88-8 (paperback)

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Books Photography Reviews Workflow

Review: The Art of Photographic Lighting By Eib Eibelshaeuser

Rocky Nook Press recently sent me a review copy of Eib Eibelshaeuser’s new book, The Art of Photographic Lighting.  It took me a little longer to write this review than it normally does for two reasons: I kept re-reading paragraphs that seemed particularly significant, and I found myself taking notes.  Both of these slowed me down as I am usually a fast reader.

I think I was expecting a book with drawings of how to arrange lights, but instead I found that it was much more involved than that. Instead, it began with the use of light in classic painting and then moved into the basis of human perception.

Light sources and shadow design came next along with ideas about directional lighting and lighting design principles.  Add to this a history of photographic lighting design and post-exposure techniques, and  accompany all of it with a multitude of illustrations, diagrams and samples and you have a thorough examination of light and how a photograph works in terms of conveying information, design, and mood.

Ask any experienced photographer what they photograph and they will answer not with places or people but will say that they photograph light. It is light that gives us shape, form, and texture and defines space and volume. It is the quantity of light that allows us to select f-stop and shutter speed and it is the quality of light that defines the mood,  the shape and form of objects or people, and the crispness or softness of the image.

Mr. Eibelshaeuser begins with the idea that the the awareness of light direction has an innate “right” or “wrongness” to it because we have been exposed to the sun as a light source for as long as mankind has existed, and we have been programmed by evolution to accept light from above as being “normal”.

Photography began as a substitute for, or an adjunct to, painting and thus depended upon natural light to define what was “right”. But the development of artificial light and now of digital lighting in images has begun to allow light from any direction to be accepted in an image. What is “acceptable” may very well change in the future.

Illustrations of the shape of the bulb and wiring element within it allow the easy identification of the kind of light source that is available to the photographer, and the light output colors are shown (pp. 72-75) to allow the photographer of visualize the results of using different kinds of light sources.

The book uses a model of a rectangular pillar topped with a round ball and the whole thing within a room-like box to illustrate the quality and “look” of each type of lighting source, bulb, bulb-color, or reflector and it is this series of examples that carry on throught out the book. I found this an invaluable “show and tell” type device. (As an aside, I’d love to see all this as an APP for the iPad along with all the shapes and element configurations of the light bulbs). Photographers would love it.

Classic photo lights, light brush, electronic flash, and energy saving lamps are all discussed and the “look” of each lighting type is shown in example images. Additive and subtractive color systems are defined and examples of how images are created and reproduced are covered.

Mr. Eibelshaeuser shows how shaping light with softboxes, reflectors, or mattes is done, and gives us examples of how we can control light through reflection, transmission, absorbtion, refraction and interference. “Hard” and “soft” light‚Äîsome of the qualities of light‚Äîare discussed and illustrated. Night, dusk, air, and light polution are all “looks” that can be used by the photographer to convey mood as well as literal information.

The wonder of RAW Processing in our digital world allows us to capture images that film could not achieve, and combining RAW processing with HDRI (high dynamic range imaging) allow is to capture images that cover some 26 f-stops rather than the 4 f-stops more commonly associated with film.

Choosing to reproduce an image in black and white instead of color is discussed as the black and white image depends upon value rather than color for its differentation of shape and form as well as mood.

The illustrations are excellent and prolific and arranged where it is easy to see the relationship between text and illustration.

Finally, remember that Rocky Nook Press produces its books upon acid-free paper and the owner can expect to have sharp, crisp, unfaded images for years to come. The beginning as well as the advanced photographer will learn a lot from this volume and it is well worth adding to your library. It’s 330 pages and a paperback.

The Art of Photographic Lighting (English and English Edition)
by Eib Eibelshaeuser
Rocky Nook Press
ISBN: 978-1-933952-75-8

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apps Digital Lifestyles Gadgets iOS SDK iPad Reviews Workflow

(Review) ASKetch for the iPad

OK, I’m still playing with my iPad and loving it, and I found another software App that is a lot of fun. ASKetch by Andrew Kern is supposed to work with finger motions and strokes alone, and not be used with a stylus or pen tool.

I’ll tell you what it is supposed to do (and it does it very well). Let’s look at ASKetch as Mr. Kern meant it to be.

First, I’ll quote:

ASKetch is a simple black & white procedural sketching program for drawing with your fingers. It is designed from the ground up to take advantage of the multi-touch interface of the iPad and the iPhone, allowing you to forget about the tools and concentrate on your art. It stays out of your way so you can simply draw. It is perfect for both beginners and advanced artists; from figure drawing to cartoons to abstract masterpieces; easy to pick up and hard to put down.

Absolutely true.

Get on your iPad and run to the App store and read all about it, bearing in mind that it is NOT optimized for a stylus,, but sometimes I use one anyway when I want a very thin line and less shading. You have to use a stylus that is optimized for the iPad. Wacom makes one, and so does several other companies.  They’re priced from $13 to $30 on Amazon. The Wacom one is the most expensive of the choices at $30; but so far all that I have tried have worked properly.

But your finger does it as well. The controls are brought up by a two finger tap on the blank page of the app. The first line below is the normal “drawing page” which has five squares visible, and the drawing line (extreme left) active. The second line below is when the eraser is active.

Beginning with the pen tools facing to the left you will get a hard line; if you stroke across the pen tool to the left you will switch from a hard line to a soft, furry tone and the pen will face to the right as it appears in the second line of tools.. The rest of both lines of tools are pretty self-explanatory. There are some more subtitles so read all the instructions and see the demo video. But below is the short form.

Now, let’s draw a little bit. I’m using it for gesture drawing which is a kind of rapid sketching where the artist is supposed to capture the “feel” and proportions of a model or figure and do it in less than 15 seconds. Here’s some examples. Some of these are drawn with just a finger tip, and some are done with a stylus even though Mr. Kern wants you to work just with finger tips‚Äîand yes, you do get better tonality when you use only your finger.

Sketching with Fingers vs. Stylus

I said I wasn’t going to tell you, but here I am doing it. The drawing on the left was done strictly with the fingertip, and the drawing on the right was done with a Wacom Bamboo Stylus..

Here’s another drawing done with fingertips…

…particularly rolling the finger in the hair areas.

Now here’s one more drawing…

…remember each drawing is saved automatically into the total set of drawings each time you go to the saved area (the two mountains square) and select a new blank page. This drawing was done with my fingertip in less than 15 seconds. Its intent is to capture the essence and proportions of the figure.

Remember, the square that looks like two mountains hides the strip of saved images and gives you access to a new blank page each time you go to it. Once you have images saved into the sketchbook, all you have to do is hold a finger down on an image for a few seconds and this window will appear.

Saving the image selected into the photo album allows it to be reselected and emailed where-ever you want to send it.

Here’s three more sketches that Mr. Kern supplied me that I think are really worth showing that give you a look at what the App can do in the way of toning.

 

Read all the instructions to get all the strengths of the App under control because I have only touched on the surface of its possibilities; but I’m having so much fun I had to share the joy, and hope you’ll take a look at the app. Check ASKetch out on the App store for the iPad.

 

ASKetch by Andrew Kern

This app is designed for both iPhone and iPad

$1.99

Website & Support: http://akernsoft.com/ASKetch/index.php

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Books Digital Lifestyles Photography Reviews

Review: Marketing Fine Art Photography By Alain Briot

Rocky Nook Press Press sent me a review copy of Alain Briot’s new book, Marketing Fine Art Photography, and I was delighted for two reasons. First, Rocky Nook’s volumes are beautifully bound and printed on acid-free paper and are a delight to hold and work from because they stay flat and open as you read or work from them. The second reason is that Alain Briot is a learned and articulate photographer and writer who shares his expertise in a relaxed and candid manner as though his reader is a fast friend with whom he is willing to share his most cherished knowledge. The book itself will stay bright and crisp on my bookshelf for years, and the information gives me a good look at Briot’s thinking, experience, and expertise.

Throughout the book Briot shows his own work on various pages and certainly establishes himself as a prolific and gifted photographer as well as a successful salesman. Any regular visitor to Luminous Landscape.com will be familiar with Alain Briot’s photographs and writings where he has produced a copious amount of material regarding aesthetics and design. His other volumes from Rocky Nook include Mastering Photographic Composition, Creativity, and Personal Style, and Mastering Landscape Photography.

Briot begins this book with the premise that it takes marketing to sell even the finest photograph. He feels that, “A poor photograph well-marketed will outsell a great photograph poorly marketed.”

He begins, “most photographers who sell their work spend far too much time and money on equipment and far too little on marketing.” Briot begins by explaining what marketing is in the Fine Arts world, the goal of marketing, and why marketing is indispensible. He asks the photographers to define themselves and feels that photography must be a full time career in order for the photographer to succeed.

In order to sell fine art photography it is necessary to define what is Fine Art photography. What makes it art and not just a photograph? It is the skill (technique) and insight (creative vision) that makes the difference in photographs and photographers. It is the ability of the photographer to find and incorporate a metaphor in the image that can be seen, felt, or understood by the viewer so that a linkage between the photograph and the viewer (purchaser) can be established.

For the beginning Fine Arts photographer, Briot discusses the problems of wholesale, consignment, or retail sales, and the decision of whether to go for quantity or quality of work. Where to find a marketplace? Where Fine Art Prints can be sold and the potential profit margins of each are discussed. In Part Three, Briot approaches the fundamentals and principles of successful marketing and introduces us to the seven fundamentals of successful businesses, and emphasizes how to sell your work at Art Shows and emphasizes how credit card and PayPal sales reach the customer and actually make impulse sales (on the part of the customer) so much easier.

Visual examples of show booth setups and displays greatly enhance Briot’s marketing advice and make it evident that he practices what he advocates. His advice to avoid the “fly trap” booth is telling and convincing as he describes the psychology of the potential client. Placement of spare inventory, desk for receipts, and the way to greet every visitor are all bits of extremely helpful information that bears careful rereading. The ability to pack and ship photographs?and the willingness to do so?are also strong selling points as so many potential clients are on vacation and are not prepared to carry the photograph (framed or rolled) away with them. Having a sheet with fixed shipping costs assure the client that you are not “winging it” on shipping and handling. All of these elements contribute to the professional appearance of the booth and the photographer.

After all the discussion about how to produce work, how to display and present it, and how to package and ship it, Briot takes 38 pages to discuss the combination of skills that it takes to make a Fine Arts photographer. Technical, artistic, marketing, and personal skills are discussed and expounded upon in such a manner that any reader should be able to follow the structure with which Briot established himself to rise from a non-native speaker newly come to the United States into a successful businessman and photographer.

As a teacher and Fine Arts photographer myself, I find that Briot has articulated and demonstrated so many of the facts that face the Fine Arts photographer that I truly wish that I could have read his book fifty years ago when I first moved into the teaching and Fine Arts fields and choose teaching rather than attempting to be a full-time Fine Arts Photographer. So much of my own experiences mirror or verify his own that I cannot help but recommend, strongly recommend, this book to any photographer who contemplates attempting to make a living in the Fine Arts photography field.

I hope you’ll pick up a copy of Alian Briot’s Marketing Fine Art Photography, Rocky Nook Press, ISBN-13: 978-1-933952-55-0. US $44.95 CAN $51.95, and if you have not looked at his other two excellent volumes, I recommend them as well. You might as well have the entire experience.

 

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Digital Lifestyles Gadgets Reviews

I’m Loving My Magpul iPhone Field Case!

DigitalAppleJuice.com is a great place to talk about all things Apple. And, digital imaging. And how you create artwork in the digital age. And… well, you get the point. So I decided to devote a few paragraphs to a new product I found for the iPhone.

Photo by Britt Stokes

I recently ordered some items from a retailer in California. While on their website, a new item caught my eye – a Magpul brand case for my iPhone 3G (they also make a case for the iPhone 4). I was intrigued… Magpul is famous in the military community for making tough, reliable products. I decided to try one out.

I had been carrying my phone in a disappointing “carbon” case from the Apple store… two piece slip-over design to protect the back and front edges (around the glass) of the iPhone. This set me back $34.95. Within two weeks of getting it, the “chrome” topstrap was already broken. Your mileage may vary, but I was pretty disappointed.

So yesterday I got my package from the brown truck of happiness… and there was my new Magpul phone case. I immediately threw the old case in the trash, and slipped my phone it the new case. It fits perfectly. Really. No slop, no soft rubbery-stuff to start loosening up in a few days. The military-grade synthetic rubber cushions the phone. It has button covers for the volume control and top control switch (on-off). The camera lens has a nice little window, the headphone jack is easily accessed, and the ring/mute button is uncovered. The standard Apple charger I use at my bedside clicked right into place.

Photo by Britt Stokes

Today I realized that carrying the phone in my pocket is easier with this new case – the old case was very slick, and shifted around in my pocket constantly. Also, it was so slick on the sides that I dropped the phone a few times. The new Magpul case is tactile enough to be very easy to hold, and has a few strategically placed ridges on the sides and back to aid in grip.

The case colors available are black, flat dark earth, olive drab green, foliage, orange and pink. And now, for the very best part… the case is designed and manufactured in the USA, and suggested retail price is just $9.95.

All in all, I think I’m in love.

You can see more at www.magpul.com under Miscellaneous Accessories  or go directly to the product page. I bought mine at www.botachtactical.com, or find it at other merchants.

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Reviews Software

Review: Disc Cover by BeLight Software

Even though CD’s are becoming less used, DVDs for data storage are still going strong, and personal projects such as iMovie and iPhoto still have a strong usage of labeling  for stored material.

Disc Cover 3 is a delightful software that allows you to print DVD labels and covers and case booklets for music, archives, and anything you are saving to disc.  Jewel case inserts can be made easily and cleanly from a tremendous number of pre-designed templates with layouts and art importable from iTunes, iPhoto, Aperture, and iDVD. It’s easy. The hardest thing for you to do is decide which design and layout you intend to use because the options are immense. This is a Mac only software.  Sorry Windows users—you’re missing out on a good thing.