Categories
Featured Photography Profiles

Profile: James Philip Pegg – Artist

::: Artist Name::: James Philip Pegg

::: Media::: Illustrator, painting, art photography.

::: Website:::

http://philpegg.multiply.com/

http://gallery.passion4art.com/members/artnacogdoches/homepage.html

::: 1 ::: When did you first realize you were an artist? Did you draw as a kid? Color outside the lines?

Being the son of an artist, I had my drawing table next to my dad’s. I think that I was four years old then. Later, on at my tenth birthday, I was given my first camera and that started me in photography.

::: 2 ::: Could you tell us some more about your art and how your life has influenced your art? Where did you get your art training?

Someone once said, "A life’s journey begins and ends with a single breathe bound by the limitations of each man’s intellect, while expanded by the scope of their imagination and compassion. During this journey, accomplishments are judged as either fleeting moments or lasting imprints. Nonetheless, no one escapes the angst of his or her future – no one has been promised his or her tomorrow."

Fortunately, I learned early in life that happiness is found in the complexity of life’s journey; that champions conquer through perseverance and passion they pose the unanswerable questions, and understand others through empathy.

With a little flexibility in our thought processes, we have the power to make the journey one of little regret and much reward. Thus, there is no reason why one’s life should not leave an imprint.

::: 3 :::Does your work have a narrative? Do you use yourself as the subject for your work? Why is that? What are you trying to express with your art?

My inspiration comes from nature itself. I am enamoured with nature, and that admiration has only increased as I age. If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing comes together.

::: 4 ::: What famous artists have influenced you, and how?

My favourite people in the arts are: Victor Hugo, C.S Lewis, (writers). John Waterhouse, Erik James Pegg, Carl Larsson, John Hitsman (painters), Isadora Duncan (dancer), Two of my faviourite ballets are The Red Shoes, and The Tales Of Hoffmann. Rod Mckuen (poet), Fritz Henle , Andriete Le Secq & Julia Margaret Cameron (photographers). Music, I Love it!, Aysegul Yesilnil, Lila Downs, Gloria Estefan, Carmine D’amico, Bebel Gilberto, Fernando Ortega, Eliane Elias, Norah Jones, Stan Getz , and the list goes on.

::: 5 ::: What other interests do you have (besides painting and computer art)?

I love the sea and anything to do with the sea. Sailing, traveling, and nature.

::: 6 ::: How have you handled the business side of being an artist

Like most artists, the business side of being an artist is my least favorite thing to do.

I let my galleries,and publishers handle the business side.

::: 7 ::: What hardware (computer, scanner, printer, etc) do you use?

MacBook, plus a 20"monitor, a Wacom pen and tablet, Canon scanner & printer.

What software?

Photoshop CS, Comic Life Deluxe, Corel Painter X, and a old fashion Drawing board.

::: 8 ::: Has the Internet helped your career as an artist? Do you participate in many Internet groups or galleries?If so, which ones drawn the most responses?

James Philip Pegg on Deviant Art: http://philpegg.deviantart.com/

James Philip Pegg on Photo Net: http://photo.net/photos/philpegg

::: 9 ::: What’s the best and worst parts of being a full time, working artist?

The best part of being a full time artist, is choosing my own projects, making my own schedule and being totally in control of my life, and enjoying doing what I like. The worst part is keeping my mind and spirit fresh, 90 % of my art is created in my head and 10 % is in the finish work.

::: 10 ::: What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?

My advice for any young person would be that they should practice, practice, practice; just as with any skill practice makes perfect and the harder you work to brush up on your skill the more it will pay off in your work. Art is a pleasurable act and that sensation will fuel you with creativity and dedication late into the night. It is hard work to be an artist and it helps a great deal if you surround yourself with stimulating, like-minded people who are supportive and sharing.Have business cards, and a website as soon as you can to promote your art.

 

Categories
Featured Photography Photoshop Reviews Tutorials

Topaz Labs DeNoise: Another Winning Photoshop Plugin

UPDATE: Dr. Roach reviews the latest release of DeNoise here

A few weeks back I wrote about TopazLabs application TopazAdjust3, and I liked it so well that it obviously influenced me to take a look at its sister (brother?) application DeNoise.  Topaz Labs makes applications for both still and video imaging, and it is the digital still imaging area that have my interest because Photoshop from Adobe is the center of my workflow and I like things that plug-in to Photoshop.  I thought if noise control in its own plug-in could be any better than the noise suppression panel in TopazAdjust3, then it might be extremely useful.  So I decided to give it a try.  DeNoise is a bit more expensive than TopazAdjust3.  Where the latter is priced at US $49.95, DeNoise comes in at US $79.95.  All of TopazLabs software has a 30-day trial key which allows you to try it out thoroughly to see whether you like it or not.

So here is one I tried DeNoise with; it was shot with a 3.1 megapixel point-and-shoot camera in Morocco in the summer of 2000. Look at the color artifacts in the shadow under the palm leaves and in the shadow on the floor on the right.

Going to Filter > Topaz > DeNoise we get the panel below.

The default in the Main>Noise Suppression is 1.0 when it opens.  You can use the Reset button on the bottom right to force Noise Suppression to open at 0 if you choose.  We’ll take a look at all the adjustments possible before we make corrections.

The Advanced panel allows us to make adjustments in (1) Color Noise, (2) JPEG Fixer, (3) Smoothness, and (4) Add Grain.  It opened with a default of 0.05 in Color Noise.

The third panel, Presets, gives us the options of settings for (1) SRAW Normal, (2) JEPG High Quality, (3) Large Grain Noise, and (4) Supersmooth. Choosing and Applying one of these presets will make adjustments in the Main and Advanced panels.

Finally, the About panel will allow us to reach (1) Tech Support, (2) On-Line Resources, (3) Check for an update, and (4) enter our registration Key if we have not already done so.

Now, we’ll go back to the original image and the noise in the shadow and brick areas.

In the following image the Noise Suppression was set at 2.88.  Remember, the default was 1.0.

A slight amount of curves was applied to lighten the shadow area.

Now, here’s the detail close-up so you can see the original grain in all its gruesome glory.

Here’s the example with the Noise Suppression at 2.88.

Now here is a completely different means of removing the Color Noise.

Pretend you ignored all the steps under the Main  panel and went directly to the Advanced Panel and chose to make your corrections through the Color Noise and Smoothness adjustments. You will get results similar to the ones below, which are not identical to the answer you received working with the Main panel and Smoothness.  But this simply shows that there are more than one way to reach an acceptable answer to the noise problem.

On the left side we can see an area corrected only by Color Noise and Smoothness sliders.  The original, grainy, image is the right side of the image.

Here we have the image totally corrected by using the Advanced panel and the Color Noise and Smoothness sliders.

I think we have another winner here. I’m going to use Topaz BeNoise to save many of the photographs I took with the 3.1 Megapixel  point-and-shoot camera while we were traveling in Morocco.

Check out DeNoise at http://topazlabs.com where it is priced at US $79.95 as a download.  A CD with the program can be ordered at extra charge, but saving the download with a copy of the key which is emailed to you after purchase can be done in only a few minutes.  After all, the DMG file is only 5.2 megabytes and is a quick download even on dial-up.  DeNoise is another good additon to your toolkit and workflow.

Categories
Featured Photography Photoshop

Photoshop Plugin: Topaz Adjust

I don’t know how many hours I have put in writing actions to allow me to produce some of the currently popular photoshop effects; really more than I want to admit.  By the time I’ve worked my way through reading tutorials, performing the action(s), refining the effect(s), redoing the action(s) and getting client feedback, I have quite a bit of time committed to some projects.  Not that I don’t think some of the techniques aren’t pretty cool and I admire the developers of the concepts; some are dynamic visual improvements that will be around for quite a while and a few will be temporary trends or fads and soon be ignored.
But as a photographer I have often wished that Photoshop had a particular plug- in that would simplify some of the things I want to do.  Photoshop has a number of built-in filters and plug-ins but it also has the ability to add third-party plug-ins either under the filter menu or sometimes under the automate menu. You can spend as much money for Photoshop plug-ins as for Photoshop itself.

Categories
Books Featured Photography Reviews

PHOTOGRAPHIC MULTISHOT TECHNIQUES by Juergen Gulbins & Rainer Gulbins

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

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

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

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

The most common multishot techniques are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Featured Media Photography

Enable ICC Profiles in Firefox 3.x

The folks at Mozilla have quietly trumped all the other browsers (with a notable exception) in the area of more correctly displaying colors in photos. So quietly,in fact, they aren’t enabling it in their browser without a minor hack of the registry.  Firefox by default in NOT color manged!

That aforementioned notable exception? Safari, of course. Cross-platform (OS X AND Windows), Safari just works – no registry hacking required.

icc profiles - safari v. firefox- it's easy to overlook that the letters that spell out green are actually red

 

Turning on Firefox is very easy. Follow the instructions in this article by Datacolor, the maker of the popular color profiling Spyder tools and software, to exploit the new feature. You won’t be disappointed.

Should photographers start tagging their website photos with icc profiles and recommending Firefox, or serving content based on browsers? Great question. When you decide the answer to that, please login and add your comments.

Categories
Art Commentary Digital Lifestyles Featured Photography

A Photographer’s Frame of Mind: Why Artists Should Read Scott McCloud

While laid up with the flu and not venturing outdoors in the cold, I decided to reread one of my favorite authors.  Scott McCloud is a literate cartoonist who has produced three of the most analytical and concise looks at comics as art in our society. His UNDERSTANDING COMICS—THE INVISIBLE ART in 1993, REINVENTING COMICS—HOW IMAGINATION AND TECHNOLOGY ARE REVOLUTIONIZING AN ART FORM, in 2000, and MAKING COMICS in 2006 give an incredibly articulate voice to the communication process as it is used by the story-telling industry.

McClouds 5 aspects of Clarity & COmmunication:Choice of Moment Choice of Frame Choice of Image Choice of Word Choice of Flow

SCOTT MCCLOUD’S IMAGE QUESTIONS

Scott McCloud begins with Clarity and Communication as the primary goals of the artist and how we get there is defined under five areas he wants us to look at. While he aims his analytic eye at the comic book, I have found that the first three of his five aspects of story-telling apply to the photographer in every sense of the word.

When a photographer gets ready to take an image he or she should ask themselves, "What do I have in Mind?"  That’s where the process and the experience should begin.

mcCloud's Choice of moment, choice of frame, choice of image

CHOICE OF MOMENT?

I know when I do a photographic student portfolio review that the first thing that comes to mind are questions to the student, "Why did you choose this moment to shoot the picture?"  What is it about this moment that made you snap the shutter? What are you trying to say?  What message are you trying to convey or capture? There’s even more to this first question and we haven’t gotten to design aesthetics quite yet, but let’s go ahead and look at the second aspect Scott McCloud mentions, and ask the student even more.

CHOICE OF FRAME?

What made you choose the edges of this picture in this way?  What drove the composition to look like this and what made you choose this lens focal length and particular depth of field to produce the window that encloses the composition and the depth of sharpness in the image? The artist chooses to draw the image within a window that establishes either a wide angle scene-setting view, a mid-range view, or a close-up of detail, and somehow all of these are story-telling views.  Granted, each of these images should be necessary to the story-telling process and they are part of a greater group or sequence of images, but each one should be necessary.

CHOICE OF IMAGE?

Finally, I ask the student a question related to the first one.  Why this Choice of Image? Digital is cheap, the photographer can shoot literally hundreds of images (usually, with a subject with fast-breaking news being an exception).  This is when I want them to talk to me about aesthetics and design.  This is when all of those words like line, shape, form, texture, space, balance, continuity, emphasis, and unity (plus a few others) are all supposed to come out.  Now usually, this is what I hear when I talk about Choice of Moment in the beginning.  But choice of moment goes back to the question of simply "What is the statement you are trying to make with this photograph?" Frame and Design Aesthetics are HOW you achieve the STATEMENT, not WHAT you are saying.

Put it another way, Scott McCloud is more subtle is his questing, but I simply want to ask the student "Where’s the hook?  What is it about this image that makes you want to capture and to save it?"  The Photojournalist can answer this one a lot quicker than the Fine Arts photographer or the Educational Photographer, but all of them should be able to give a reason as to why they made a particular image.

Let’s break it down.

I dug out my old (like more than forty years old) psychology notes from a couple of classes on learning theory and came up with these points to ask the photographer, or maybe the photographer should ask themselves before they click the shutter.

THE PHOTOGRAPHERS ASK THEMSELVES WHAT THEY ARE TRYING TO DO?

What are you trying to do? What do you want to say?

Is it:

  1. Attention Getting?
  2. Teaching a Skill?
  3. Influencing An Attitude?
  4. Capturing a Moment for History,
  5. or Producing an Aesthetic Experience?

I think there are really three kinds of photographers outside of the home photographer who simply wants to record a personal moment.  These three kinds fall into the category of the:

  • Educational Photographers, who seek to communicate strongly the essence of their subject in the most pleasing light.   Advertising photographer are included in this group because they are trying to show a product and convince the consumer that product is superior for its purpose. 
  • The Photojournalist is recording history and reporting the news of the immediate moment. 
  • The Fine Arts Photographer is trying to capture a visual aesthetic experience in such a way that a viewer would choose to look at the image for the emotional satisfaction alone.

Now the Fine Arts photographer usually chooses the first, fourth or last of these questions about what he is trying to do. The Educator chooses the second or third and just maybe the fourth), and the Photojournalist answers the third or fourth.  But then I try to get a bit more specific:

OK, what did you really have in mind?  Here’s all that psych talk from long ago. (There’s a bunch of reasons to make photographs.)

  1. Identification/naming object/observing details
  2. Characterization
  3. Evaluation
  4. Prescribing
  5. Relating/import/conveying facts/relating to experience
  6. Motivation
  7. Perceptual Skill
  8. Recall Experiences
  9. Add Detailed Study
  10. Correct Misconceptions
  11. Prevent Misconceptions
  12. Compare and Contrast
  13. Build New Experiences
  14. Give Meaning to Word Symbols
  15. Demonstrate a Process
  16. Form Value Judgments
  17. Create An Atmosphere
  18. Prepare for Experience
  19. Motivate Learning
  20. Publicize Events
  21. Develop Insight and Appreciation
  22. Dramatize A Point
  23. Raise Questions/Problems
  24. Stimulate Reading
  25. Foster Individual Interest
  26. Provide A Setting
  27. Complete Research
  28. Provide Reference
  29. Enrich And Enliven An Experience
  30. Invite Participation
  31. Help Learner Understand Self
  32. Build Background
  33. Create Center of Interest
  34. Develop Critical Judgment
  35. Stimulate Creative Effort
  36. Introduce A Topic Of Study
  37. Review And Summarize
  38. Test Learning

Now usually the Educational Photographer (and in that I include Travel Photographers to some extent by their goals to show us far-off places) could say that they are trying to do the majority of those choices at one time or another.  The Photojournalist may have a bit more limited goals, and the Fine Arts Photographer probably seeks to enrich and enliven an experience as their most often chosen goal.  The Fine Arts Photographer has the hardest job and has to do it with the most elegant of technique and aesthetic skill because to the Educator or Journalist a picture of less aesthetic quality may still be the superior image if it conveys the most pertinent information to the viewer.

So the Fine Arts photographer has a lot tougher job justifying their image when they are trying to make a statement with the display of their photographic skill and craft, and catch a moment to be shared in contemplation purely for the aesthetic experience.  

The Educational photographer is trying for an aesthetic answer even though they really have other goals in mind. Advertising photographers, whom I class as Educational Photographers are trying to produce an aesthetic moment, but there are times when the product itself is utterly prosaic—perhaps the photographer can produce a symbolic image of the process but the product is never seen.  A photograph of a handsome man and beautiful lady enraptured with one another may sell perfume even if we don’t see the perfume bottle.

The Photojournalist seeks equally to produce an aesthetic moment as they report the news, but both can succeed without answering to the aesthetic moment.

What about my student in the portfolio review?  What do they need to do before they set out to trip the shutter?  First, they have to define the statement they are trying to make, and then to make the image with the most craft and skill that they can bring to the subject.  The choice of lens, the focal length, the framing of the image all these should come as they explore the image they are trying to create.  Finally, they select the one image that best defines the epitome of their craft and their vision, and with time they will produce an image that both achieves the statement they wanted to make and presents it with a truly aesthetic vision.

It doesn’t come easy, but the more they think about it and analyze the failures the better the student becomes.

After fifty years I am still trying to come to terms with all that is involved in becoming a Fine Arts photographer.

 

 

 

Categories
Featured Gadgets Hardware Photography Reviews

Lensbaby Composer: A Selective Focus SLR Camera Lens (pt 3)

A Three Part Series  Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Pt. 3 of 3: Be My Lens, Baby…always

Another improvement over my Lensbaby 2.0 is the lens cap – the 2.0 shipped with a nice, heavy solid metal lens cap that screwed in place… unfortunately, it was kind of slippery and difficult to get off sometimes. The Composer ships with a new squeeze-type lens cap (the style that lets your fingers get inside a lens hood, hmm, what a handy accessory that would be?). Easy on and easy off, but not so easy that you can lose it. In fact, the lens cap is flush with the front of the lens only when focused at the closest possible distance, so the style of the lens cap has something to do with getting the cap on and off when the lens is focused at a further distance and the front element is recessed into the front of the lens housing. The size is compact, about the same physical length as my Nikkor 50mm lens.

The Composer I received fit nicely on my Nikon, but you can also order Canon EF, Sony Alpha / Minolta Maxxum, Pentax K or Olympus 4/3. That covers most of the current digital SLR’s… of course, you could mount the Nikon version on your trusty Nikon F from 1965, and mount the Canon version on any autofocus Canon body ever made, including those that shoot (shudder), film. Pentax K mount may have had more bodies and lenses manufactured for it than all others combined. On my Nikon D3, I found that the website is essentially correct in that you need to shoot in manual mode and check your exposure via the histogram. I found it easy to get my exposure set for a scene, and then I set the bracketing to 3 shots (first exposure normal, 2nd exposure one stop underexposed, and the 3rd exposure is one stop overexposed). Most of the time, the normal or one stop underexposed produced the best images.

The first weekend I had the Composer, I visited my mother and grandmother. I got my mom interested in photography in the early 1980’s, and she has shot Nikon film bodies for 25 years now. At my gentle prodding, this year she upgraded to a Nikon D200, which she is never without. I showed her the Composer, and let her put it on her body… I almost didn’t get it back. I had to promise to order her one that very night to get it off her camera.

My shooting was sporadic over the time I had the Composer, but I did get to try it on a variety of subjects. Things, landscapes, people. I shot over 1,000 images with the lens… in other words, I barely scratched the creative surface. Having used many of the possible configurations, I have a starting suggestion for you: start with the Composer. It is not a huge investment by the standards of lenses made by camera manufacturers. Please check the Lensbaby website for current pricing at   http://www.Lensbaby.com/shop/ — there are some special pricing options there if you buy the Composer and Optic Kit and/or Accessory Kit at the same time. All told, you can get the entire system for the Composer and all the optics and accessories for well under $500.

A new feature I noticed as this article goes to press is the photo gallery on the Lensbaby website. There are many images to view with captions to tell you which lens optic made the image  http://www.lensbaby.com/gallery-photo.php . Every time you refresh the page, new images come up.


But Britt, surely there has to be something not perfect with the Lensbaby? Are you selling out? Well, no, I am not selling out. There are a couple of picky little things. When Craig Strong first developed the Lensbaby, my understanding is that he did it to fill a niche for his digital SLR. When he was first doing this, there weren’t too many full-frame digital SLR’s in the world. Certainly, I didn’t have one. So my original Lensbaby 2.0 looked and felt like a 75mm lens on my Nikon D2X (still half the focal length of the Sima, which translated to a 150mm). Now I have the D3… with the Composer (I have not tested the Muse or Control Freak), it is possible to skew the image to the point of cutting off or vignetting the image circle. Once I saw this and realized what was happening, it was no big deal. There is plenty of movement available without vignetting. I didn’t see vignetting with the D200 or D2X, which are both 2/3 frame sensors. Second, I wish the directions for removing and replacing lens elements were a little more detailed. Maybe I’m just not too bright. Are either of my minor gripes deal breakers? Not even close. One accessory I would like to see is a lens hood made to screw into the lens threads, although it would be funny shaped or maybe not possible because of the way the lens optic group moves into the body as you focus to infinity.

So, the bottom-line? Get one. I didn’t test the Muse, but it is essentially the Lensbaby 2.0 upgraded to use the interchangeable optics. In my opinion the Muse is best for fast, on-the-go photography.  Or, step up to the Composer (my recommendation). To me this is the most versatile lens in the series. If you shoot little toy soldiers in dioramas or architectural elements and want the ultimate in precision control, go for the Control Freak. Get more detail on all of these lenses and accessories at  http://www.Lensbaby.com/ . Any prices noted are current as of the time this article goes to the webmistress, but check the website for current pricing and availability… the Composer is currently in stock and shipping in about 3 weeks. The one that I ordered for my mom arrived in about four weeks, which was early by two weeks of the estimated shipping time on the website at the time it was ordered.

Lens Baby SLR Lenses

$150-270

Free Shipping Via USPS

For more information or to purchase, visit

www.lensbaby.com

The Lens Baby Composer – A Selective Focus SLR Camera Lens : A Review in 3 Parts

Part 1 |   Part 2 |   Part 3

Categories
Featured Gadgets Hardware Photography Reviews

Lensbaby Composer: Selective Focus SLR Camera Lens (pt 2)

A Three Part Series Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Pt. 2 of 3:  Be My Lens, Baby…again

Remember our fun with the Sima? The Lensbaby Composer (and all the Lensbaby line, since they use interchangeable elements) is 50mm in focal length compared with the Sima’s 100mm. That gets into the usable range for many landscape opportunities, and makes a decent average focal length for portraits and details. Need wider? They can do that… it’s that system concept I love so much. Offered as additional accessories are a 0.6x Wide Angle lens adapter and a 1.6x Telephoto lens adapter (in a set). That makes the 50mm equate to a 30mm or a 80mm lens via the front-threaded lenses. Yep, there is a macro kit as well, which would be really handy for those of us who shoot close details of things.

Instead of being happy with f/2, f/4 and f/5.6 with the Sima lens, we can now get down to f/22. Why would you want to shoot a “soft focus” image at f/22? Well, what the Sima didn’t do was skew the plane of focus… the Lensbaby skews the “sweet spot” of focus to the point you choose. Want the whole left side of the image to go completely out of focus? We can do that.



When the folks at Lensbaby shipped me the demo unit, I was very excited to open the box and find (first) a Lensbaby Composer (yes!) and a thoughtfully included set of lens elements. The Composer shipped with the double glass element in it, with the f/4 aperture. That seemed like a good starting point, so for the first several hundred shots I did with it, I left this configuration in place.

As I first handled the Composer, I was satisfied with the obvious build quality… it isn’t heavy, but feels solid. It is made of metal and composite materials, with a metal lens mount. The lens has a locking collar at the rear – if you want to lock the lens in position, simply turn the locking collar to lock it in place… since the lens doesn’t move easily on its own, I would think that most people would use the locking ring when on a tripod. Inside the lens optic, there is a magnetic arrangement that holds the f/stop apertures in place. With a little practice it is easy to drop the f/stop aperture in to the front of the lens, but if you have trouble, you can always use the handy magnetic tool provided for the task.

As previously noted, the Composer does away with the hard but flexible rubber bellows of the Lensbaby and Lensbaby 2.0. A composite ball-and-socket allows the front of the lens to move independently of the rear, creating changes in the plane of focus that the lens throws. This shifting of the plane of focus is what gives the Lensbaby its signature look.

Examples- Pt. 2


Lens Baby SLR Lenses

$150-270
Free Shipping Via USPS
For more information or to purchase, visit
www.lensbaby.com

The Lens Baby Composer – A Selective Focus SLR Camera Lens: a 3-part series

Part 1 |   Part 2 |   Part 3

Categories
Featured Hardware Photography Reviews

Lensbaby Composer: A Selective Focus SLR Camera Lens (pt 1)

A Three Part Series Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Pt. 1 of 3:  Be My Lens, Baby!

Soon after receiving my first 35mm camera, I found that photography was a little more difficult than it had first looked. Ok, it was a lot more difficult. After mastering the learning curve on how make a sharp, well-exposed photo, I saw some photography by David Hamilton and Robert Farber. I was back to square one. Suddenly, I wanted to shoot soft focus images. But, how to do it?

Shortly after graduating college, I got my first dedicated soft focus lens. I had tried all different ways of getting that beautiful soft focus look… shooting through cigarette package cellophane, smearing petroleum jelly on the filter, shooting through other materials like hose, netting, window screen, almost anything you can think of. Then came the Sima soft focus lens… 100mm at f/2 wide open, a simple single lens plastic element, push and pull focusing, it made beautiful images. It worked great… as long as you had your subject perfectly centered. The lens was sharper in the center than at the edges, so if you put your subject off center it would suffer degradation beyond the intent of soft focus. You could manipulate it slightly with an f/4 and an f/5.6 disk, plus there was a neutral density disk in the box that I never really used. The other limitation I immediately realized was the focal length; it was too long to use for most landscape situations. I moved on and tried other specialty lenses, mostly with less success than the Sima.

Then something wonderful happened… a guy like me who liked soft focus made a lens with an integral hard rubber-ish bellows to focus and bend all over the place to skew the plane of focus. Let me be clear – I experimented but never really built anything. I was content to use what others had made before me. Not so for photographer Craig Strong. He too had been unhappy with the soft focus options available to him, so he decided to do something about it, and the first Lensbaby was born. That was 2004; I found it in 2005 at PhotoExpo in New York City… when I saw the booth I went in and bought a Lensbaby 2.0.

The Lensbaby 2.0 creates beautiful images, but it has limitations for me. First, if I wanted to shoot a bracketed exposure, sometimes I found it difficult to hold the lens exactly on the focus point with the skew for a 3 or 5 shot bracket. I also had some difficulty focusing and bending the lens exactly the right way to throw the focus off a certain way. Using it on a tripod gave similar results. Forget trying to do a perfect long bracket for rendering an HDR scene… the original and version 2.0 Lensbabies were great for quick, on the move photography, but not for more studied compositions.

Jump forward to 2008. Apparently nobody mentioned to Craig Strong that he had created a great product and that he should rest on his laurels. He continued to improve the Lensbaby design, and introduced the new Lensbaby Composer. Instead of a bellows, it has a rotating ball-n-socket joint. Focus is achieved in a much more conventional fashion (to us old-school folks who were already used to focusing the lens themselves) with a rotating collar that moves the element assembly closer or farther from the sensor plane. But lo and behold, this wasn’t just an improvement on a single lens… the Lensbaby Composer had crossed over to… the system side. I remember one of the early literature pieces I saw from Nikon – it was titled the “Nikon System”. Need a right angle viewer that magnifies? Got it. How about a high-point action/sports finder? Ditto. Motor drive with 250-exposure cassette (yeah, film was somewhat precious, but what was really precious was time… like the time spent reloading your camera while the shot gets away). They can do that. Not to mention little things like the Noct Nikkor (look it up if you don’t know).

The Lensbaby and Lensbaby 2.0 had some attachments, but weren’t what I would call a system. The Lensbaby Optic Swap System is the heart of a new system of lenses that cover the spectrum of soft focus possibilities. Start with the sharpest, a double element glass lens. Second, a single glass element, followed by a single plastic element (if you have experience with a Diana or Holga, you’ll know this look). Apertures… we have apertures! Wide open the Composer is pretty soft with any of the lens optics. In the compact storage case/aperture tool housing (Lensbaby calls this the “Magnetic Aperture Set” and is included in with your first Lensbaby), you will find apertures from f/2.8 to f/22. If you are looking for f/4 in there, it is probably already in the lens. Finally, there is a fourth (and fifth?) element that thoughtfully combines a pinhole and zone plate in one housing. But wait… there’s more! All of these lens elements fit neatly into the newly redesigned Lensbaby Muse (replacing the Lensbaby original and 2.0 lenses), Control Freak (if precision soft focus, which seems something of an oxymoron, is your gig, this is the lens for you), and the Composer.

Ok, let’s do our math now. 5 lens types (double glass, single glass, plastic, zone plate and pinhole), 9 possible apertures including those in the creative aperture kit (without making your own), wide angle and telephoto converters, macro close-up kit… Without creating your own apertures from the blanks in the creative kit, there are well over one hundred different possible system configurations. Of course, you can also get there 3 different ways – the Muse, Composer or Control Freak. For those artsy readers that aren’t system oriented, don’t be alarmed… on the Lensbaby website you can preview the effects of many of the combinations… just browse to  http://www.Lensbaby.com/optic-comparison.php and use your mouse to create the combinations. This handy preview tool will get you started toward the look you desire.

Examples

Lens Baby SLR Lenses

$150-270

Free Shipping Via USPS

For more information or to purchase, visit

www.lensbaby.com

The Lens Baby Composer – A Selective Focus SLR Camera Lens : A Review in 3 Parts

Part 1 |   Part 2 |   Part 3

Categories
Books Featured Photography Reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Featured Photography Photoshop Software

Photoshop Basics: Make Color Image B&W and Sepia

While advanced versions of Photoshop (CS3 and CS4) have the option to produce a black and white print from a color image, older versions of Photoshop and some other programs depend upon other methods of converting the color image to black and white.

Desaturate:

Obviously, the simplest method of converting a color image to black and white is to desaturate it.  This will produce a black and white image that seldom has truly good blacks, so it is often necessary to use contrast controls to increase the overall contrast of the image, or it may be necessary to adjust levels to beef up the blacks and whites.  Try both methods, they produce similar results, but not identical.  Choose the best one for your purpose.

Categories
Art Commentary Photography

Infrared Photography

The switch from film to digital photography has benefited people who desire to shoot images in infrared.  Infrared photography was born in the First World War as an aid to aerial photography that was used to film troops and equipment on the ground.  Where infrared photography aids in this is due to the fact that when tree leaves or grass is photographed through a deep red (visually black) filter on infrared film, it is plainly different (lighter) than buildings, metal vehicles or camouflage nets that appear to our eyes to be the same green as the foliage.  This difference in tone makes it relatively easy to visually separate real foliage from artificial camouflage as used by the military.  Military intelligence specialists love it.

Following the First World War and up to recent times, non-military film users who sought to use infrared film for design or aesthetic reasons had to use an appropriate filter, and a tripod with their camera to shoot (mostly landscapes) with long exposures.  The filter used is very dense in order to cut out the visible light while permitting infrared light waves to pass through it. It is necessary to focus the camera first because the photographer cannot see through the filter, then to attach the filter to the lens before making the exposure.  Because of the density of the filter and the low sensitivity of the film, the exposures were quite long‚ hence the tripod and usually non-moving landscape subjects.

In a digital camera the sensor, the "chip" that receives the image, has a much higher sensitivity to infrared light than has film.  In fact, that sensitivity is so high that the camera manufacturer must add an infrared-subtracting filter inside the camera body in order to remove the effects of infrared on the visual subject.  Photographers who desire to photograph subjects in infrared have camera repairmen remove the infrared-subtracting filter and dedicate the camera to infrared shooting alone.  Once modified, the camera is suitable only for producing black and white infrared images, it would no longer be possible to use it for normal images.

Britt Stokes is a corporate photographer who uses the unique quality of infrared cameras to bring his personal work an otherworldly and fantasy-like quality.  Using the characteristics of infrared-modified digital cameras, he utilizes controlled aspects of the infrared process to give us a different view of the everyday world.
In infrared, greens appear light in tone, blues become black, and reds and yellows appear as various shades of gray.  It is not a negative image but rather a curious combination of positive and negative that occurs.  Skin seems to glow, blonde hair produces halos in the air and an apparent graininess overlays almost everything.
Britt Stokes brings his perceptive and selective vision to landscape and portrait images, and gives us his somewhat different view of everyday things.