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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.

Categories
Books Photography Workflow

Review: Tabletop Photography Using Compact Flashes and Low-Cost Tricks to Create Professional-Looking Studio Shots

Cyrill Harnischmacher’s new book “Tabletop Photography” is a further sign of the digital revolution in photography… virtually all of the techniques he teaches in this new book are techniques that will only work with digital. I’m not a digital native, but I got here as quick as I could; my experimentation with digital imaging began in the mid-1990’s. The flash techniques I learned relied on an antiquated system known as “Polaroid” – using a sheet or pack Polaroid holder on the medium or large format camera to test your lighting setups. Polaroid was great, but I wouldn’t be satisfied with it now that I have that magic histogram on the back of all my cameras.

Today, we simply shoot a test in-camera, look at the image and histogram, and adjust. Repeat as needed. Polaroids used to cost around $2.00 for a pack film sheet… today, the preview is free. I like free, but I’m also enamored with cheap… I mean, low cost. Cyrill has developed a style of studio shooting that uses inexpensive, last generation flash units, all set on manual control. Setting up a studio with three last-generation flash units, triggering units, and a small infinity tabletop could be done for well under $1,000 US dollars, maybe half that. Early in the book Cyrill states that the reader should expect to learn and become expert on using manual modes with these small flashes… he states, “This is easier than you might expect.”

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And, he’s right. Remember that test shot and histogram? Today, it is easier (and less expensive) than ever to master manual flash levels with multiple flash units. He specifically mentions buying last-generation gear like the venerable Nikon SB-24 flash (truly a pro flash, rugged, dependable, and nowadays, cheap on eBay). It’s younger brothers the SB-25 and SB-26, are also readily available. This isn’t to say that your SB-800’s and SB-900’s won’t work – just that the gear doesn’t need to be current generation.

The hardest part of the whole studio photography with small flash units boils down to this: how do I make them fire? There is an excellent discussion on sync cables, wireless infrared, radio control, and even some on the newest wireless TTL control. This is the nuts and bolts of the book – how to actually make the gear work. Shooting directly into a laptop or desktop computer is also briefly discussed.

Next the reader learns about light shaping tools, reflectors, and how to set up a tabletop studio… really, you can do this on your dining room table. Shooting with white and black backgrounds is covered, as well as how to select a backdrop. When you see the shot Cyrill did of an egg in a glass flute, you’ll be pleasantly surprised that it was done with small flashes. Then, near the back of the book, you find the chapter on shooting products for eBay. I figured out a long time ago that there are really two secrets to selling on eBay… writing a great description, and providing really pro-quality photos of the item, especially when the item is photography related.

The final chapter is the do-it-yourself chapter on building your own accessories. From simple platforms to hold multiple flashes to shoot through a softbox, to small flash honeycomb filters, this chapter has several ideas I’m going to steal… I mean, use.

Cyrill states in the preface that “This book is intended primarily for amateurs who are making their first foray into tabletop photography and who don’t already own studio lighting systems.” He hits the mark, having written a book that meets this goal admirably. After reading the entire book, the only slightly negative thing I can say is that I would wish to add a few more lighting diagrams. The size and coverage of the book is really just right, and there are a number of topics I didn’t even hit on. Now, if I can just find a super cool crystal guitar like Cyrill shot for the book cover..

Tabletop Photography
Using Compact Flashes and Low-Cost Tricks to Create Professional-Looking Studio Shots
by Cyrill Harnischmacher
2012 1st Edition Rocky Nook, Inc.
ISBN 978-3981229318

Available Editions:
Hardcover
Kindle

 
Categories
Books Photography Reviews Workflow

Review: Architectural Photography by Adrian Schulz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
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.

Categories
Digital Lifestyles Media Photography

Ansel Adams: Analog Photography and the Creative Process Revisited

I recently visited the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, to view an exhibit of Ansel Adams works titled Ansel Adams: Eloquent Light. The show ran from May 29 through November 7, 2010. In total, I made four trips to the museum to see this exhibit.

Ansel Easton Adams was born in early 1902 to parents Charles and Olive Adams in San Francisco, California. As a boy, his family traveled to Yosemite (which had become a national park in 1890) when he was about 14 years old, an experience which provided life-long inspiration. As a young man he studied to become a concert pianist, but was hampered by arthritis in his hands.

Adams first acknowledged photograph is an image dating to 1927. His formative photography years were in a period of photographic innovation;

Categories
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.

Categories
Books Reviews Workflow

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).

Categories
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).

Categories
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.

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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 (www.danpoyourow.com).

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.”

Categories
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!

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

Categories
Multimedia Tutorials

Photographs by Britt Stokes

These Files sizes are large. Please be patient.

Taken in 2010 with The Infrared Conversion Digital Camera


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