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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.

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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]

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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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Books Photography Reviews

Review: THE ART OF PHOTOGRAPHY: An Approach to Personal Expression

I always enjoy receiving a review copy of any book from Rocky Nook Press because I know two things about it in advance: (1) the book itself will be printed on Acid-Free paper, and will still show its illustrations with brilliance and clarity for years to come, and (2) the book will be bound in such a manner that it will behave itself and lie open beside my computer without the necessity of putting weights on each side of the open volume in order to make it lie down quietly and allow me to enjoy the content rather than having to fight the pages as though they were reluctant to allow me to read. Actually there’s a third thing I can count on as well; the book design will never be written so far into the gutter that I have to break the book’s spine to read all of the page contents.

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Review- Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom 3: A Photographer’s Handbook

I recently received a review copy of Rocky Nook’s Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom 3: A Photographer’s Handbook by Stephen Laskevitch. I always enjoy receiving a book from Rocky Nook to review because they print their books on acid-free paper and the reproduction quality is as outstanding as the content.

As a workshop teacher I am always interested in another teacher’s approach and quite admire the methodical, logical, and easily-understood approach that Stephen Laskevitch uses in Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom 3: A Photographer’s Handbook.

Steven Laskevitch is an Adobe Certified Instructor who uses his comprehensive knowledge of Photoshop and Lightroom to introduce the two as a working pair rather than use the more usual approach of dealing with each application seperately. This approach caused me to rearrange my computer room while reviewing this book (more on that in a moment).

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Books Featured Photography Reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.