Digital Lifestyles Gadgets Photography Workflow

Awesome Iphone Real World Application

[vimeo clip_id=”15091562″]

Homemade Spacecraft from Luke Geissbuhler on Vimeo.

Video from an iphone attached to a weather balloon that rose into the
upper stratosphere and recorded the blackness of space.

Visit for all the info.

Digital Lifestyles Photography Profiles

Mike Cavaroc’s Top 5 Images of Summer 2010

It’s never easy to narrow down a season’s worth of images to just five, but here are the five that either I liked the best, or that you liked the best, taking Google Analytics stats into account. Most of them came from Grand Teton National Park, with the exception being the grizzly bear with four cubs up in Yellowstone National Park. Now that the crowds are dying down as well, I’m thinking about heading back up there and seeing if I can find them one more time before they head in for the winter. All of these shots were the ones that had both sentimental value for me, as well as creating a striking image that created a great response. Some were simply being in the right place at the right time, others took a bit of extra work to be able to capture properly. I was at more of a disadvantage than normal throughout the course of the season, leaving me struggling to capture all the shots I actually wanted to get.

Digital Lifestyles Photography Workflow

Another sunny day in digital paradise

Ah, the wonderful rays of summer sun falling on beatific scenes. The sweet smell of fragrant flowers, the gentle hum of bees busy about their work. The sudden sound of a camera motor whirring to re-cock the shutter. And perhaps the one I like best… the sound of not having to reload my camera with film. Kind of like the sound of one hand clapping, isn’t it?

Yep, I like digital. I’m thoroughly entrenched in the world of CMOS and CCD, compact flash and lithium ion batteries. Bigger hard drives, better image sensors, faster motor drives, more options.

Ten years ago I was doing this with film. Ugh. Set it up, shoot a Polaroid proof, load film, shoot, unload film, put it in a cooler, repeat.

Last summer I was doing all this digitally, but with an Arca Swiss 6×9 F Line camera delicately connected to a Sinar eMotion 22 megapixel back via a Kapture Group sliding back adapter. Mounted on the front was a Nikkor 65mm view lens, and on the back was a 90 degree Hasselblad prism finder. With my reasonably lightweight tripod, this was a 19.5 pound rig… a serious pain in the… shoulder. (Shoulder 0, gravity 1.)

THIS summer… however… I’m traveling a little lighter (over 6 pounds lighter!) and shooting the new Nikon flagship D3X with the Nikkor 24mm Tilt/Shift. The key phrase here is lighter, folks, not light. When I pick up the tripod and sling it over my shoulder, I still know it is there and there is a small anvil on the end, but I have significantly decreased the size of the anvil. (Shoulder 1, gravity 1.)

Surely, you say, I can’t expect to get those great architectural images with a mere SLR? You must use a view camera for that!

Well, I have to say that I am very favorably impressed with the D3X. It is a pretty smart camera (lucky for me), and the sensor is where all the money is. That jump from my D3 (which I still love) to the D3X was tremendous. Image quality is fabulous. Color balance and rendering of the buildings I shoot is superb. And FAST. I’ve spoken before in previous articles about shooting quickly on site. This is commercial photography, not art… time is money. Shooting quicker gives more opportunities to shoot more views in a day. More views in a day can translate into getting my traveling done quicker. Getting the traveling done quicker can mean that I get to go home sooner and spend time with my vaguely neurotic cat.

[slidepress gallery=’nikon-d3x-sunny-day’]

I don’t shoot the D3X handheld much – probably less than 10% of the shots so far with it were not on a tripod. Pretty reversed from the D3, which I shoot over 80% of the time handheld. Of course, I’m shooting at ISO 100 on the D3X and ISO 200 on the D3, so that helps a little. Probably the real difference is that I’m shooting mostly with the shift lenses on the D3X, and I’m just not able to shoot a shift lens straight when it is shifted unless the camera is firmly locked down to something. When I do, I seem to feel drunk, nothing is straight.

OK, so I can’t reverse the effects of gravity. Lightening my load is an important consideration now for me, with knee ailments getting in the way of easy mobility. But weight is only one consideration… a second is that I can work faster in the field. Finally, a solution from Nikon for the professional architectural photographer – the D3X with the appropriate tilt/shift lens is the package for me!

Postscript: Since I finished this article, I got lucky at a tradeshow this week and picked up a carbon fiber tripod. The legs weigh 3 lbs 7 oz. Sweet. I put an older Bogen 410 head (all geared for us picky architectural shooters). With this setup and the D3X and 24mm T/S lens, the whole package comes in at 11 pounds 11 ounces. (Shoulder 2, Gravity 1. Big smile on the face of the guy who has to lug it.)

Digital Lifestyles Gadgets Photography

Review: Lens Baby Control Freak

Serendipity” is the way to describe a recent interaction between myself and a colleague of mine. It produced several interesting photographic days for me.
You know:

ser·en·dip·i·ty [ser-uhn-dip-i-tee]
n. pl. ser·en·dip·i·ties
the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way: a fortunate stroke of serendipity | a series of small serendipities.

I had just written to Britt Stokes to comment upon the Lensbaby article that he had written and his response was to inform me that he had just dropped my name to the Marketing Manager of the Lensbaby company to suggest that I might enjoy reviewing one of their specialty lenses. He knew me too well; of course I would enjoy it.

Featured Photography

Lensbaby Fisheye Optic

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

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

Featured Photography

Lensbaby New Soft Focus Lens Optic

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

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

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

Art Commentary ArtWorks Digital Lifestyles Headline Photography

What Makes a Photographer?

I got an interesting e-mail today… a promotion e-mail from an architectural photographer named Dan Poyourow (

Dan is based in Maryland, and his work is well worth looking at. At the bottom of his e-mail, he included this tidbit…

“Photography thought for the week:

Contrary to what some creatives may tell you; shooting digital and reading a book on Adobe Photoshop does not make someone a professional photographer. There is still no substitute for experience, proper lighting techniques, good composition and all the other skills pro photographers use/used when shooting film. Digital is simply a new way to record the image; not an end in itself.”

Featured Photography

Photographing the Waterfalls of the Havasupai

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

People of Blue-Green Water

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

[slidepress gallery=’mcaravac1′]

Turquoise Water & Red Canyon Walls

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

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

Mooney Falls

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

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

Changing Landscape

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

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

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

Mike Cavaroc shoots with a Canon 5d.

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

Featured Gadgets Photography

Digital Camera Infrared Conversion- Part 2

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

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

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

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

[slidepress gallery=’infrared-sm’]

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

Featured Gadgets Photography

Digital Camera Infrared Conversion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Digital Lifestyles Photography

Best Camera for Budding Wedding Photographer

MTaylor816 (who recently became a DigitalAppleJuice follower) twittered :

Ok photogs… what is the best DSLR to buy for starting out as a wedding photographer? Googling this made my head explode.

We have a distinguished group of working photographers associated with DigitalAppleJuice, so  I emailed our band of merry  with this question.

Van Redin (Stills Photographer for the movie industry) said:

Hi Madbadcat
It depends on how much you can spend.
As usual you get what you pay for!
If you want the best and can afford it,
the Nikon D3x is as good as they get.
One step down is the Nikon D3.
If you want a really good camera while paying less the D700 is still a full size sensor and around $2700.
A good model which is not a full size sensor and also does HD video is the Nikon D90 or the D5000.
For my money if I was starting out I would try and get the D700 if I could afford it.
All can be found @
Hope this helps!

Read Van’s resume on IMDB.
Visit Van’s Website.

Read Van’s Articles.


Britt Stokes (Architectural Photographer) said:

For my money, I would get the Nikon D700. If I was a Canon shooter, I would get the EOS 5D Mark III.


Britt’s Infrared Photography.
Read Britt’s Articles.


I’ll post more as they write back.

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
His blog is
Find some excellent tutorials are at
Michael Stern at The Brooks Insititute