I am a man of some habit, and one of those habits is to surf a couple of websites each morning even before I select the News site. It has something to do with drinking the first cup of coffee and deciding to wake up with pleasant or interesting (to me) information before I have to grit my teeth at the foolishness of Man when I select World and National News.
One of my morning websites is photography-related and gives you the option of Canon, Nikon, or everybody else camera questions and comments. FredMiranda.com is my first dose of photography of the day and sometimes the way I end the day as well. If you aren’t registered on the site, you can view the last sixty posts in the forums or if you register (it’s free) you can pick your forum categories of interest from a variety of selections.
Under Presentation you can select from:
• Nature and Wildlife (two of my real favorites)
• Landscape Photographer
• City, Still Life & Abstract
• Black & White Vision
• Macro World
• Sports Corner
• Wedding Photographer
• Photo Illustration & Digital Art
Under Assignments and critique there are:
• Weekly Assignments
• Monthly Assignments
• Photo Critique
Here’s where I often start my day; it’s called Gear Talk:
• Canon-mount SLRs
• Nikon-mount SLRs
• Alternative Gear & Lenses
• General Gear-Talk
• PRO digital corner
• Lighting and Studio techniques
• Post Processing and Printing
• Forum and miscellaneous
• Member meetings and events
• Buy & Sell
My first addictive web-site hit of the day includes stops in the Nature and Wildlife, Landscape, and Photo Illustration and Digital Art categories. Then I drop down to the Nikon-mount SLR category to get the latest news, examples and general discussions about the latest Nikon D3 and D300 cameras. I stop here to gather ammunition for my continuing discussions with my Chief Financial Officer (otherwise known as my wife) as to why I should have a new Nikon D3 camera. General Gear-talk and the Pro digital corner catch a few moments of my time, but Post-processing and Printing is the second-most time consuming category for me, because that forum has some incredibly well-informed and sharing individuals on it who have provided me with hours of free education in the care and feeding of my large-format printer, and made me a much better fine-art printing professional.
If you want to post images in any of the categories—whether to simply show or to ask for critique–posting rights will cost you $45.00 US a year or a bit more if you want to pay it by the month. The right to buy and sell will cost you $24.90 a year but is included with the post-image category. But to look and to comment or critique is free. I have no idea how many photographers are signed up with FredMiranda.com, but when I log in most mornings there are always 2000 + photographers on line. That is a healthy community!
Along with the opportunity to view hundreds and even thousands of images over the year, FredMiranda.com has a number of photographic plug-ins for sale. These are available for both Mac and PC and some are specific to Nikon or Canon Cameras, but all are worth a stop to look at, and several are in my day-to-day imaging processing toolkit. There are at least seventy plug-ins available if my counting is right, but there are four that I have found steady use for and want to comment upon.
In the interests of disclosure, I have no relationship with FredMiranda.com other than as a happy user of both the services and the software. I pay for my copies of the software just as you would. My only relationship is that I am a consumer who pays for services and products supplied and I am happy with what I receive.
While FredMiranda.com is in the process of updating its software to run on Intel Macs and with CS3, only a few of the plug-ins have as yet been rewritten. Consequently, I am running both CS2 and CS3 on my laptop (MacBook Pro 2.33 C2D). Remember, the plug-ins are available in both Mac and PC versions.
I am currently using four of the plug-ins; these are: (1) DRI Pro-high dynamic range, ($19.90), (2) Nikon D2X CSpro—a sharpening plug-in ($19.90), (3) D2X RESIZEpro-a resizing plug-in specifically tailored to the Nikon D2X camera ($29.90), and (4) SIPro2—a resizing and sharpening plug-in (stair interpolation) that can be used with any camera and is not specific to any model or brand of digital camera ($24.90).
Properly loaded, FredMiranda.com’s plug-ins will be accessed from the Photoshop file>automate>menu. The image below is from Adobe Photoshop CS2.
When you access DRI Pro you are asked to find your two images to blend; one should be underexposed and the other overexposed. This varies from some other HDR processes that will allow you to blend five to seven or more images. However, I have found that if these two images are one-and-a-half to two f-stops apart (shutter speed, not aperture) then very good results occur. YMMV, of course.
Nikon D2x CSpro
Nikon D2X CSpro for specific sharpening with the Nikon D2x and D2xs cameras first allows you to choose between low ISO and high ISO files, then it allows you to select from five levels of sharpening—six, if you include fine detail–with 3 being the default level. It is possible to name and save the settings for reuse at a later time. The halo can be controlled and color noise can be reduced. Finally, levels and sharpening can be tweaked as well as the intensity.
Nikon D2x Resize Pro
Nikon D2x Resize Pro first presents you with this warning in order to avoid over-sharpening your image.
Once you have passed the warning window, you are presented with the choice of selecting either a low ISO or high ISO for your image. You are then presented with three levels of sharpening and the choice to resize for a specific paper size or for a size in inches that you choose. The pixels per inch (PPI) may also be defined.
Like the Nikon D2x RESIZEpro plug-in, previously described, the SI Pro2 plug-in allows both sharpening and resizing to take place in the same adjustment. However, SI Pro 2 is an all camera plug-in intended for general use and is not tailored to the nature of a specific camera like the Nikon D2x RESIZEpro plug-in just mentioned.
The sharpening options are more limited in the SI Pro2 version, but the resizing function remains similar.
If you were paying attention, you realize that I had a number of other resizing and sharpening apps in my file>automate menu. Genuine Fractals and Photokit Sharpener also are visible. In the unending quest for perfection I have them as well as the plug-ins from FredMiranda.com. When I am processing particularly difficult or important images I have been known to process the same image through each of the different software choices and select the result that I feel is superior in that instance. However, it is only rarely that one of the other choices outperforms the plug-ins from FredMiranda.com and I feel that I most often advise my colleagues that the lesser dollar investment in the FredMiranda.com plug-ins often produce equal or better results than the more expensive choices. It is this recommendation that I make to students in my classes and workshops. It doesn’t matter whether you are on a Mac or a PC. For the Mac people it will be even better as many of the plug-ins are updated for CS3 and the Intel processor.
So my morning stop in the FredMiranda.com forums starts my day with the stimulus of looking at some very nice images, news and comments on Nikon cameras (my serious interest), general photographic questions, and comments on equipment, with sometimes professional problems and ethics questions in the Pro forum, and I end up checking on the latest news on successes and problems with printers, ink and post-processing in Photoshop, Lightroom, and Aperture.
Only after this am I ready for the daily news.
If you are a serious photographer who likes to look at high-quality images for inspiration and admiration, check out http://www.fredmiranda.com. Frankly, it inspires me, and combining it with my first cup of coffee in the morning gives me a lot better attitude to face the day.