Desktop Theatre

Desktop Theatre, Sc. 2: Pondering


Desktop Theatre

Desktop Theatre, Sc. 1: The Plan



Digital Lifestyles

Lessons Learned Along The Way

While I do not know all there is to know about graphic design or running a small business, I am grateful for this fact.  Learning new things everyday is what keeps this business fun for me.  However along the way I have learned some hard lessons, and to me very big ones.  They have shaped who I am and how I run my studio on a daily basis.  I feel like they have made me more successful and I can only hope the education continues.  Some of you who are already freelance designers may have learned these same lessons, but if you are just starting out, let me make things a little easier for you!

1) The Customer is Always Right
Well almost! We have all had a boss or customer who thinks they have mastered the art of Graphic Design by dabbling with their free Corel Draw or Painter Pro programs. I’ve had worse, a boss that bought all the professional applications, and then automatically titled himself “Creative Director” Whew!  That was fun.  Anyway, there are those customers/employers who don’t have one ounce of creativity in their body, yet know “exactly” what they want in a design.

Hear me now – GIVE IT TO THEM

Because in some cases nothing but their concept will ever do and if they want to pay you to create their vision, great! On the other hand here is where the “almost” comes in… Give them options. Even though there is a chance that they will choose their original idea, you are a designer and it is your job to concept and create.  If you are not giving your customer more creative options than their own, then you should not call yourself a designer. From my experience, nine times out of ten they see your design and never look back, often wondering why they didn’t think of that. The last thing you want to do is become a production artist for someone with a real estate degree calling themselves a creative director!

2) PCs are not COMPLETELY useless…
I was extremely blessed to attend a college that was predominantly Mac based.  I was also blessed to have parents who bought my first Apple computer my sophomore year in college.  Before this, I had no experience on a computer other than looking up the Dewy Decimal System on PC in high school.  So I was spoiled from the beginning! My experience in the field was lovely too as I was provided with the latest in Apple technology at each job.  I never had to face the evils of trying to design on a PC.  UNTIL – I accepted an in-house job as an art director – my last job before starting out on my own.  The art department there was new, and our new G4s were on order.  In the meantime there was still work to be done, so I was provided with a wonderful Dell for the first few weeks. I really had no idea what a blessing in disguise this was.  Even though it took me twice as long to accomplish something, I became accustomed to what my co-workers and customers were using. Unfortunately, since Apple has not taken over the world of technology, it is important as a designer to know how our designs (especially web) are viewed on other platforms. There is always that one thing on a site that re-flows on a PC, yet looks beautiful on a Mac.

Your customers don’t want to hear “well it looks fine here”  …really, they don’t! They want it to be right when they see it. Believe it or not, this could also help you to become a Hero or Heroine in the eyes of your customer.  Being well versed on both platforms, as painful as it might be, may come in handy when your PC based customer is trying to export a file for you or complete a task that may be a little different on Mac.  Telling them that you have no idea how to work a PC doesn’t sound good to them either. So this hard lesson has brought me to a point in my life where I admit that my next purchase will be the new cross platform IMac.  Not only is it beautiful, but it will also allow me to test all my sites on a PC platform without actually adding to the value of Dell’s stock!

Digital Lifestyles Photography

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. is my first dose of photography of the day and sometimes the way I end the day as well. 

Books Photography Reviews Workflow

Managing Your Photographic Workflow with Photoshop Lightroom

Rocky Nook was founded in 2006 in Santa Barbara, California, and is closely associated with dpunkt.verlag in Germany. Rocky Nook is associated with, and releases books, through O’Reilly Media Company, hence the distribution through the O’Reilly address.

Rocky Nook specializes in books on digital photography, imaging, and workflow. Their stated goal is "to support creativity, and improve the quality and efficiency of photographic work".

The writers chosen by Rocky Nook are photographers with serious experience and a thorough understanding of the technical nature of the subject matter. I must also add, their writers have an ability to communicate clearly and logically the sequences of events they wish to explore, and equally clearly explain the reasons they chose those sequences.

In the case of MANAGING YOUR PHOTOGRAPHIC WORKFLOW WITH PHOTOSHOP LIGHTROOM, their authors bring serious practical experience packaged in an extremely attractive format. It is a pleasure to me to hold a book in my hands that is beautifully printed, laid out in a manner that lends itself to lying open on a table (so that I can work from it without having to nail down the corners to keep it from curling), and finally is bound in such a manner that it will survive continual handling. Combine careful packaging with good writing and quality illustrations and you receive a full service for your money.

Books Photography Reviews

The HDRI Handbook: High Dynamic Range Imaging for Photographers and CG Artists by Christian Bloch

Film has never been able to capture the dynamic range of reality, and trying to achieve that result has been the goal of photographers and chemists, and then later lens and film designers, since the early beginnings of the photographic process. But digital imaging has brought us to the possibility of producing images that contain a higher dynamic range than is possible with any type of film. With digital imaging and the proper techniques it is now possible to produce a dynamic range in an image that fast approaches that which the human eye perceives.


The press release from Rocky Nook says it quite neatly:

"Once Hollywood’s best kept secret, this cutting-edge imaging technology is a method to digitally capture and edit all light in a scene. It represents a quantum leap in imaging technology, as revolutionary as the leap from black and white to color imaging. HDRI is the final step that places digital ahead of analog.

With this technology now available to everyone, the only problem was that it was poorly documented…until now. THE HDRI HANDBOOK is the manual that was missing."

As a photographer, having given up film for a digital camera, I have struggled and read forums, kept up with journals, and exchanged notes with other photographers as I have attempted to master the fundamentals of High Dynamic Range Imaging (let’s call it HDRI for short). But I have not until now found a complete WHAT, WHY, and HOW in one package until now. THE HDRI HANDBOOK by Christian Bloch will take you from understanding the concept of HDRI to the production of quality images."

"Who is Christian Bloch?" I had to ask when I started reading THE HDRI Handbook. Somehow I had missed out on his name as a reference in regard to HDRI. I like to think that I am at least familiar with most of the names of those who are photographers and who write about photography, but I had been reading in the art business and the photography industry rather than the cinematography, television, and computer graphics areas.

Christian Bloch is a highly acclaimed German visual effects artist who works and lives in Hollywood, California. During his professional career, he has created effects for several TV shows; StarTrek:Enterprise, Smallville, Invasion, Lost, 24, and Studio 60, as well as a number of commercials.

His work has been rewarded with an Emmy Award, and a nomination for the Visual Effects Society Award. He has been a pioneer in the practical application of HDRI in postproduction, specifically under the budgetary and time constraints of the television industry.

I have to quote Rocky Nook publications again:

" Bloch earned a degree in multimedia technology. Years of research and development went into his diploma thesis about HDRI, which was honored with the achievement award of the University of Applied Sciences Leipzig. Since his thesis was published online in July 2004, it has been downloaded more than 15,000 times, and it has been established as the primary source of information on HDR in Germany."

THE HDRI HANDBOOK is the successor to Bloch’s diploma thesis. It has been rewritten completely from the ground up in English, and it has been heavily expanded and updated through May 2007. Continuing updates are available from the HDRI Community Forum website ( Careful illustrations and step-by-step procedures are outlined in a wonderfully logical manner. They take you from a basic understanding of the image formats used to define imaging software, through the structure of the camera’s imaging hardware, to the final assembly and production of an HDRI end product. Literally, hundreds of high quality samples and precise screen shots leave no question of the author’s intent to convey—most specifically—the ideas and procedures that he discusses in the text. The overall feeling of the book is one of loving preparation that is evident in the page layouts and quality of the printing. There is a definite "class act" feeling to the volume when you hold it in your hands.

Contributing to the updating and information are other writers as well. Dieter Bethke (with more than 17 years media production and artistic photography), Bernhard Vogl (one of Vienna’s finest panoramic photographers), and Uwe Steinmuller (owner and chief editor of all add their contributions to the overall package.

Included on the accompanying CD are trial versions of Photosphere (Mac), FDRtools (Mac and PC), PTGui Pro (Mac and PC), Photomatix (Mac and PC), and Picturenaut (PC). Also included are all the tutorial images you need to follow along with the chapter examples.

THE HDRI HANDBOOK topics include:

  • Understanding the foundation of HDRI (What it really is and why it works that way).
  • Tools for a high dynamic range workflow (The available software as of the present time, and the imaging chip which records the data)
  • How to capture HDR images: today and tomorrow (The "how it all works"—the chip and the software—and how to set up the digital camera properly)
  • Tone mapping to create superior prints (Setting up the range of exposures for the optimum result)
  • HDR image processing and compositing (Processing and assembling the exposures)
  • Shooting and stitching HDR panoramas (The problems that arise in panoramic shooting and how toovercome them)
  • Image based lighting and CG rendering (Understanding lighting for Computer Graphics creations)
  • World premiere of Picturenaut and Smart IBL (New software to play with)
  • Creative uses and unconventional applications (A lot of things you never thought of)

I read the HDRI HANDBOOK from cover to cover in six days, but this was without working out the samples and seeing for myself each provided software demonstrated and examined. From the academic standpoint I look at the HDRI HANDBOOK as a semester’s worth of work…or longer. But having finished it overall on the one reading I can say that I now have a volume with a couple of hundred small, colored, annotated sticky tabs scattered around three sides of the book which refer me to specifics that seemed important on the first reading. Maybe I understand 10% or 20% of the hard data—perhaps more—but I can say that I no longer feel as though I had been working strictly hit-or-miss at the idea of High Dynamic Range Imaging without understanding so much of the limitations or possibilities; now I feel that I know where I am and how to systematically explore the pros and cons of each software and to open up the unexplored vistas of the creative aspects of the whole concept of HDRI. Now it is up to me to tackle each concept that Mr. Bloch and his colleagues have demonstrated, and work out an appropriate workflow of my own. Sometimes that will mean listing workflow steps that he has given to define the order that certain processes should follow, and other times it may mean camera and software settings to try as base lines. Only when I understand the basics will I be able to logically experiment and seek creative and aesthetic solutions. Lots of practice will be in order; but now I have a much better understanding of the "rules of the game" in HDRI. The rest is up to me.

I recommend it totally.

Graphics Photography Reviews Software Tutorials Workflow

Adobe Bridge

Wow, what a great title for my first article on Adobe CS3 Bridge. Really, I came up with it myself. Me, you ask? Well, I’m kind of a manual/mechanical guy. I’m a photographer, and somewhat of a computer geek. I have always preferred cameras that can work without batteries, and have all the shutter speeds and f/stops work. I capture images in digital format almost exclusively for both my commercial photography and my personal work. So far I haven’t found any of the new-fangled digital gear that is mechanical, but the manual settings are all available. Just keep lots of batteries handy to power the sensor.