DxO OpticsPro 10: I’m Sticking With Adobe

Version 10 didn’t support my Fuji camera. That was one big strike against keeping it.

I had been trying DxO Labs’ OpticsPro (version 10) for a while now. I say ‘had’ because yesterday I deleted the trial version from my computer. I’m sticking with Lightroom (I also have Nikon’s Capture NX-D installed. It was free, and I use it sometimes on my Nikon captures). Lightroom and/or Adobe’s Camera Raw are doing the job for me; I just can’t see adding another raw convertor at this time.

Now, I don’t have anything against owning multiple software programs to process my images. Many times I find one has a feature or two that is just what I need for the particular photo in front of me. Photoshop is my go-to processing program, but onOne’s Perfect Photo Suite sometimes is what I find most handy. I own a couple of HDR programs, even though I find myself relying on Photomatix most of the time. I own all kinds of different texture collections. It’s not sinful to own a variety of programs, so long as you actually learn the strengths and weaknesses of each (and how to effectively use each). No, DxO’s latest version simply didn’t add anything I felt I needed to my processing arsenal.

Most importantly, it didn’t process files from my Fuji X-T1. I own two camera systems (and love both of them). Any program I have to pay for needs to work for both. Sorry, DxO.

The program ran slower than did the Adobe products. It was advertised to be up to two times faster than older versions. It was … but the earlier versions were slow. Each time you make a move in DxO it re-draws the screen (Topaz does this, also). It’s maddening to me to be moving a slider just a tiny bit here or there to get just the look I want, only to sit there watching the screen re-draw. And re-draw. It’s as if there is no real time action going on. I’m not swamped with work, nor is my time all that valuable in the great scheme of things. But the slow screen refresh isn’t something I want to pay for.

DxO seemed a bit fussy compared to the Adobe convertors. I always was opening a sub-module or closing one or going from one task to another, as if there was no whole to what I was doing. It was a series of small changes all the time that seemed disconnected from the whole of what I was seeing. It gets back to the time thing a little bit, but it was more than that. Fussy is the best description of what I was feeling.

I could get some nice images out of version 10; don’t get me wrong. It’s just that I was already doing that with what I already use … faster and with less fuss. So, why would I pick up another program that I had to fool around with more than I really liked? The answer was that I wouldn’t. And didn’t.

DxO makes some good stuff. Version 10 of OpticsPro is a program capable of some of that good stuff. It just doesn’t do it as quickly or easily as the Adobe products I already own. I used the free trial to do my comparisons. There is a lesson in that. If you are able, use the trials before buying. Thirty days is plenty of time to determine is a program is right for you and the way you work.

Thanks, DxO. Maybe next time.

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Coupon Suggestion For onOne Perfect Photo Suite 9

onOne 9

Yesterday I purchased and downloaded onOne’s Perfect Photo Suite 9. It was an upgrade for me; I have used this processing suite for a couple of years now. And I have found it quite useful as another tool, one that complements Lightroom and Photoshop. Before purchasing I watched a lot of videos on new features and improvements. I found them convincing. And I spoke with my very good friend Richard Small; he advised he had purchased the full suite earlier in the week. Richard is an incredible photographer, and he knows his way around the processing world. That tipped the scales for me. When Richard gives thumbs up to a product I take notice.

Click here to visit the onOne site if you have yet to do so (keep in mind that having more than one set of tools in your processing arsenal is no sin). Somewhere on that site you will find answers to any possible questions you might have. And you can download a free, fully-functioning trial of version 9, if you prefer to proceed a bit more slowly. There are some pretty cool features in this version, and the suite always has worked well for me. You may find it will do the same for you.

If you decide to make a purchase, especially those of you looking for a Photoshop alternative, use this code from Trey Ratcliff for a 10% discount (STUCKINCUSTOMS). This code always works – it never has failed me. And 10% off is much appreciated, especially if you were going to make a purchase anyway. Now, onOne already is discounting the current offer from what is listed as the regular price. But if you use the code Trey has provided you receive the 10% off on top of the offered discount. And that is most appreciated!

I will be trying out the program as much as possible this weekend. I hope to have some before and after shots for you next week, along with some thoughts on the features I like the most. If you are interested at all, use some of your time this weekend to at least check out this new offering. You just may find it fills a void in your processing workflow.

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The Richard Siggins Philosophy: Gimme Just A Little More Time

Richard and June Siggins, dear friends and wonderful people.

I’ve spent a great deal of most enjoyable time around my dear friend Bill Fortney. He has taught (still is trying to teach me) to see the world in graphic terms – line, form, color and texture. Also rubbing off on me is seeing the world in terms of 60’s and 70’s song titles. They are always popping up in Bill’s conversations, and todays post title just did the same with me when I read Richard Siggins’ most-educational article on developing your shooting skills. It boils down to taking a bit of time.

Richard and his lovely wife June are dear friends, wonderful examples of caring and generous Christians. They also make up a formidable shooting team – Richard is a most accomplished photographer and June is his extra set of eyes (pointing out possible shots that the rest of us have overlooked). Richard also has a blog, a place where he often passes on information designed to make the entire shooting experience richer and more satisfying. I have urged you in the past to check in with him on a regular basis. Today certainly is one of those days.

Click here to visit Richard’s site and read up on taking your time to make sure you get everything out of a scene. He has a couple of images that are great shots, ones that illustrate his point completely (and rather beautifully). I won’t give the entire article away … Richard makes his point far better than I could hope to. Just know that keeping it in mind, practicing it in the field, will serve to make each of us a better photographer.

Thank you, Richard!

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Jeff Cable Giveaway: Win A Canon 70D, A Drone, And Lots Of Other Stuff

Jeff Cable

Talk about holiday giveaways! Move over, Oprah … ’cause Jeff Cable is giving away more than $10,000 worth of photo gear to 32 lucky people. And all you have to do is sign up using your email. I have – and no pesky virtual salespeople have shown up on my virtual door. This is a real giveaway in the holiday spirit. Thank you, Jeff!

Click here to visit Jeff’s photography site. Scroll down past the big list of prizes to where it reads “sign up here for a chance to win”. Do so. Then sit back and wait for the UPS truck to pull up in your drive. It’s that simple. And that good.

Happy Holidays! And good luck!

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Gallery 406 And The Bloomington Photography Club: A Holiday Show

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This is one of the photos that will be on display during our holiday show.

Saturday was enjoyable, entertaining, educational … and a bit tense for a while. Kendall and Stephanie Reeves, owners of Gallery 406 here in Bloomington, are sponsoring a holiday photo show. The images all will be from those entered, juried, and selected Saturday morning. And, trust me, it is going to be a fine, fine show. There were lots of photos submitted, so many that even some of those not selected were worthy of being exhibited. If you live anywhere near the Bloomington area make plans to attend an opening reception during Downtown Bloomington’s December Gallery Walk (December 5th from 5 pm until 8 pm). It promises to be a glorious event.

Bloomington will have its downtown square brightly lit (the Canopy of Lights means thousands of holiday lights and lots of decorated store fronts). All the downtown galleries will be open late, featuring refreshments and holiday cheer. There will lots and lots of special items to peruse and appreciate and possibly take home with you. Our show will be up from December through the end of January, but the opening will be a special event (including the chance to meet the various artists). We are approaching a very special time of year; this is your chance to usher it in with an equally special event.

We had quite a few members of the Bloomington Photography Club present at Kendall’s studio Saturday morning. Each photographer was allowed to enter up to three images. There was no fee to do so, and there was no limit on how many of each shooter’s photos could be selected. The educational part was that this was an open jurying; Kendall’s critique of each photo was open to each of us. He was honest and open during the process, trying to point out what the strong points were for each image, and how each possibly could have been made stronger. After the critiques were finished, we all filed out and left Kendall to decide on which images were in (and which were out). That’s when the tension began to mount.

After about a half hour the process was complete. We were allowed back inside the gallery, given the news we hoped for (or wanted to avoid). Let me just repeat – this is going to be a fine, fine show. The photos cover a wide range of subjects and styles and presentations. There are traditional looks and more modern presentations. There are images large and small. We have some very fine photographers in our club; their talents were on display Saturday morning. Many, many thanks are owed to Kendall. He and Stephanie are good (and generous) friends.

Cabin life

‘Cabin life’ is the second image of mine selected for the show.

My lovely wife submitted three images, and two were selected for the show. I submitted two, and I was most fortunate to have both selected. And I do mean ‘fortunate’. The quality of this show is outstanding. You really do need to make plans to visit Gallery 406 at some time during the holiday season.

Thanks to Kendall and Stephanie for their efforts to support our club. And thanks to all the members of the Bloomington Photography Club for the friendship and fellowship that make this passion of ours something other than a solitary pursuit. Saturday was a good day. Life is so good.

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New Fuji X-System Guide From Bill Fortney

Bill tripod-2

Bill and his Fuji X-system gear. Stay tuned for his forthcoming guide.

This is a heads up for the ever-increasing numbers of Fuji X-system photographers. My dear friend and mentor, the legendary Bill Fortney is close to releasing his latest e-book. The working title is The Fuji X-System User’s Guide, and it will be a working photographer’s guide to making great photos. Bill promises not just another buttons-and-dials book on Fuji gear, but a real roadmap to how to put all those buttons and dials to their best uses. And Bill knows Fuji … and Bill knows photography. When he speaks, we all would do well to listen.

Now, when these types of books are released we are smart to look at the background and abilities of the author … and their motivations. It is a fact of life in photography, as with the rest of life, that some authors have an ax to grind or a partner to massage. Not Bill. Any of us who have followed him and His Light for even a short period of time know his character and integrity. And we also are aware of his legendary status as a photographer and instructor. But let Bill speak for himself, as he writes in the preface to the new book:

The next question should be, “Why are you the guy to write this book?” Well let me start with what I am not. I’m not officially affiliated with Fuji, as an advisor, X-Shooter, or in any official way. I was offered the opportunity to be an X-Shooter and while honored I declined for two reasons, I want to remain independent so that my opinions and comments will be accepted as just that, uncolored, un-influenced opinions. I also still have great respect for my former friends and the Nikon company, and feel I’ve been a representative of a photo industry company once, and think it is time to remain unbiased and independent. I do not get special deals from Fuji, or have not been sent equipment to evaluate. I have sold images to Fuji for their marketing use, but I’ve done that for a lot of other photo industry companies as well. My relationship with Fuji is as an admirer of how they do business, respect for the products they design and build, and the customer care they exhibit! I’m a consumer just like you. I think this gives me a unique position to share from.

Further, I’m a full time photographer with over 45 years experience in the field and as an educator have had the chance to use and see many cameras models and brands, and I think I know my way around the industry as well as most anyone. I am not trying to sell cameras and lenses, just enthusiastically enjoying sharing my, new found, photographic love! The Fuji X-System is a perfect fit for some photographers, and if you’re one of them, this book is for you!

Click here to visit Bill’s site and his notes on the new guide. Keep visiting his site to make sure you are ready to place an order upon its release. And while you are there click on the My E-Books at the top of his homepage. Bill has a series of books available for download, books suited for photographers of all ages and abilities. Check out the offerings to see if anything is just right for your reference library. They are receiving great reviews since the downloads became available. See what you think.

It is cold and snowy here … not what we expect in Bloomington at this time of year. But, no matter the weather, it’s a great weekend for photography. Like all the other weekends, let’s go enjoy it.

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FREE Peter Hurley Photo Lesson

Jamie fashion-Edit-Edit-4-Edit

Peter Hurley is a master of the head shot. Read on to download a free lesson from him.

I have a great FREE offer today for all portrait photographers. Well, actually it is Profoto that has the great offer; I am pleased to pass the information on to you.

Peter Hurley is well-known for taking portraits, almost all headshots. He has a style and a look that many photographers have been trying to emulate. He has generously passed on a great deal of information on his methods, especially his techniques in coaching expression from his clients. I have seen videos on some of what he has been teaching, and I always was left wondering just a bit more about the physical techniques of his lighting. I liked the results very much; I understood how he was trying to coax a certain expression; the lighting seemed to be an afterthought in the videos. Now there is a new video series that aims to rectify that part of the shoot.

Now, Profoto and Peter aren’t teaming up to give away the entire video series. But they are offering us one of the lessons that makes up the series. And that is most appreciated. He is good; his portraits are goals for the rest of us to shoot for. Thank you, Profoto.

Click here to visit the Profoto blog. The first entry that should come up is a tutorial by Peter Hurley (if it isn’t, just scroll down until you come to it). Click on the signup line in the body of text (you don’t have to start an account or anything like that), and Profoto will email you a link to the tutorial. It is worth your time if you have any interest at all in taking people shots. Thank you, Peter Hurley.

This is an entirely FREE offer … and a good one. Download the video and watch it at your leisure. They will want you to consider purchasing the entire series. After watching this lesson, you just may be tempted.

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Mpix Aluminum Prints: A Review

Vibrant colors make for vibrant prints on aluminum.

Yesterday I suggested you visit Mpix to sign up for their FREE camera giveaway (click here for that post if you missed it. And if you did? Shame on you). And I mentioned yesterday that I have ordered prints many times from those good folks, finding them to be most reliable. Now, to be honest, I get most of prints from my good friend Kendall Reeves here in Bloomington these days. But that doesn’t stop me from using Mpix for products I don’t obtain from Kendall. And yesterday was one of those times.

Kendall is sponsoring a holiday show at his downtown Bloomington gallery and the jurying for that show is coming up quickly. I spent a lot of time considering images for possible submission, trying to balance what I liked with subject matter and sizes and what might be popular with those attending (and purchasing). Then I looked at how those photos might be presented, looking for something a bit different from everything else that might be submitted. It is my contention that the public is attracted to photos that make an emotional connection to something in their life, followed by the technical excellence of the image. Finally, the public considers the presentation – how an image is framed (or not). Modern or traditional? Something really new and different? Or something more comfortable and usual? And my thought was that it is time for something a bit different than the usual.

I decided to go aluminum, no frame or faux matte, with a contemporary floating mount. Modern, vibrant, rather sleek and clean-looking. Now, I may be way off with my thinking. But my ace-in-the-hole is that I know where these images will go in my own home (selected for the show or not, purchased by the public or not). And this style of aluminum print will look just the way I want here at home. And isn’t the first general rule to shoot for yourself? That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Yesterday I received the prints from Mpix. Nice. Vibrant colors. Colors the way they looked on my monitor. More of a 3-D effect than prints on paper. They don’t jump off the paper, but they do have some extra depth to them. The resolution and detail are what I expect from Mpix (or any printer). There is not this absolutely-different look from paper, but there is a clean, sleek look. It looks contemporary, if you will.

Things to consider if thinking aluminum: Mpix has some standard sizes … 8×10, 8×12, 11×14, 12×18, 16×24, and 20×30 (click here for their products page). Your prints have to conform to their specs – no trimming or free-lancing. For best results keep the sizes in mind when framing in the camera. Aluminum will not magically make your prints more sharp or more detailed than what you send in. I had to resize (up) for mine, and I wish I had sharpened just a touch more when processing. A rule of thumb is to sharpen to the point on your screen where the photo looks just a tad crunchy (over sharpened). The printing process, no matter what it is, will knock the edge off. And try not to make the mistake we photographers do so often … viewing the image with our respective noses pressed right up against the photo. View your images at the distance they should be seen, relative to their size. Everything will fall into place then.

Mpix is quite reasonable in their prices for aluminum prints. My good friends Richard Small and Raymond Jabola have aluminum prints from Imaging Wizards. They rave about them. And, frankly, Imaging Wizards probably is the industry leader. And you can do custom sizes. But .. a rather large, but … Mpix gives you a quality product at a much more affordable price. And Mpix has a fast turnaround time (a couple of days); Imaging Wizards does not. If you are just starting out with aluminum (as am I), Mpix is the place I recommend you begin.

I look up to Richard and Raymond (both as good friends and photographers) as much as anyone I ever have met. Raymond used Mpix for some of his recent prints and recommended them to me. And he was exceedingly kind in sending us an aluminum print of an image he made this summer from Story. It occupies a special place in our home. And if Raymond likes it (and he does) – it’s good. Really good. Another recommendation for Mpix and their aluminum prints.

Mpix. Aluminum prints. Recommended. Try ‘em. You’ll like ‘em.

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Camera Giveaway At Mpix. Get Your Hope Haven 2015 Calendar Today.

I have ordered a fair number of prints from Mpix. They do good work, and they are able to do it quickly. Mpix is popular with lots and lots of photographers, and they have earned that popularity. I get most of my prints from my good friend Kendall Reeves here in Bloomington these days, but I have no qualms in recommending the good folks at Mpix, also. And today they are giving me yet another good reason to do so.

Click here go over to the Mpix site. They are giving away a Samsung Galaxy 2 camera and $500 in products to one lucky winner on November 25th. And two other lucky winners will each receive $250 gift certificates on the same day. And all we have to do is enter our email into the mix to become eligible. No spam; no pesky salespersons ringing your virtual doorbell. Mpix is a very fine company, and now they are giving something back to at least three lucky photographers. Who knows? One of them could be you ….

Thank you, Mpix.

And I want to ask you to support a good cause (and do a nice thing for yourself at the same time) one more time. My good friend Richard Siggins has in hand his 2015 calendars for sale. Now, I’m not just selling calendars for Richard and his lovely wife June – no matter how inspiring his photos are. No, Richard and June are wonderful, caring friends who are using the proceeds of the calendar sales to support a very worthy cause in their hometown in Kingsport, TN. The cause is called Hope Haven, a place where those who are in need are served by those who care. We have talked about Richard’s effort before in these pages, but this is such a good cause (and the calendars are so good) that it is worthy of a second mention. My calendar is in the mail. I’m going to suggest that yours should be, also.

Just in case you have forgotten, Richard has given us a preview of this inspiring calendar. Oh, and let’s address this issue – “Why should I give money to a community other than my own? We have our own needy folks right here at home.” I’m sure you do; in fact, we all do. But our hearts and our calling allow us to reach out to our brothers and sisters when they are engaged in a worthy activity, when they are called to do good works. That is the case with Richard and June. We all can find $15 to support them in that calling. And receive the enjoyment of beautiful images from Richard all year long, also.

If helping a worthy cause like Hope Haven isn’t enough, this calendar preview should be. Richard and June have calendars in hand, right now. Click here to visit his site and place your order. You and we will be glad you did.

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Roberts Camera In Indianapolis … Great new Store!

The store visit Saturday may even end up in a new His Light workshop for 2015.

Kendall Reeves and I drove up to Indianapolis Saturday morning for the third day of the Roberts Camera grand re-opening. We weren’t there all that long before we spotted six more members of the Bloomington Photography Club; Roberts doesn’t serve just Indianapolis anymore. The store was pretty much filled the entire time we were there, and we wandered around and looked and talked to various reps (and, of course, did some shopping) for the better part of a couple of hours. No doubt about it – the new store is a big success.

If you didn’t make the opening, don’t fear. Roberts is going anywhere for a long time to come (they were in their old location more than 44 years). But do plan a trip to check out what’s new. You will enjoy the experience. I promise. And they promise.

First, the parking. The old Roberts had almost none. And what they did have was close by, but tricky to maneuver. The new store has plenty of convenient parking right behind the store. A trip there just got easier. And don’t worry about finding the new location. It’s only a little bit north of the old store, and right off the main drags (still an easy drive).

The new store is big, really big. There is room to wander and look without getting in anyone’s way, no matter what product you might be interested in. It’s not quite the intimate setting of the old store, but you still feel like you are in a camera store and not in a big department store. It’s clean and fresh and well-lit. There are large new signs indicating where the major brands are located, so narrowing down your search is fast and easy. The used camera and equipment department has lots and lots of new space. You can see more inventory than ever, and the stuff that used to be in a separate warehouse is now right there in the back, right at hand. We didn’t even get upstairs to the new education area on the second floor, but I gather is a whole lot of new space up there, also. Roberts has grown … in a good way.

There were quite a few reps from the various manufacturers there Saturday doing demonstrations or providing information. Roberts also had some areas set up to do camera sensor cleanings and lens calibrations. But nothing seemed crowded, even with the extra stations and the large crowd. That bodes well for future events there. And all of this was pretty difficult at the old place. Good job, Roberts.

One thing did not change for sure on Saturday, no matter the size of the crowd or the increased activity – Roberts’ great service. Kendall and I spent considerable time with the Profoto people and with Jeff Moore over in the used department. They were attentive and helpful and most gracious no matter the time we took up or the questions we had. I saw other staff escorting customers all over the store and spending time with them to demonstrate equipment or answer questions the entire time we were there. And no one acted rushed or impatient or bored or any of the things that can signal poor customer service. Roberts is just a good place in which to do business (and you can call online whenever you have a question and get the same great attention). Sometimes you kind of wonder if a new, larger location can change the best things about an older, small locale. No need to worry about that here.

On another note, I made contact with a couple of reps (Fuji and Profoto) that were absolutely great to speak with and spend some time with. Sometimes we may get the feeling that if we are just the ‘little’ guy (or gal) that these reps don’t want to spend time with us (always looking past us for someone else in the crowd). Not so on Saturday. I even have a line on a possible His Light workshop in conjunction with Fuji to discuss this week with dear friend Bill Fortney (perhaps more on that in the very near future). I came home with a few nice little giveaways that I didn’t expect; people just were very nice and attentive to all of us. That was noted both then and now … and very much appreciated.

Saturday was a most rewarding day (made so by Kendall’s companionship and a stop at Shapiro’s Deli, also). Roberts Camera has gotten better, and they were very good before. If you didn’t make the new store opening, plan a trip soon to check out the new location. It’s a winner. And spend some time with the staff, winners in their own right. My only wish? That we had the old Roberts Camera back in Bloomington (they, unfortunately, have been gone for about five years now). Other than that? Thank you, Roberts, for being my local camera store. Here’s wishing you another 44 years of successful business in the new location.

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Roberts Camera: Grand Opening Through Saturday

Click on the Roberts logo to check out the new store opening.

I really like the good folks at Roberts Camera up in nearby Indianapolis. They always are friendly and knowledgeable and gracious and helpful to me, in person or on the phone. They have a huge array of products, new and used, for sale. Their online business is growing by leaps and bounds, so you can take advantage of their experience and expertise no matter where you live. And now they have moved to a new, larger location in Indy (with a lot more parking). There is a celebration beginning today and running through Saturday of that new store, a grand re-opening.

The new address is 221 E. St. Clair Street in Indianapolis if you live in this area. It’s not far apparently from the old store, so don’t worry about finding it. And there are specials and special presentations going on through Saturday. This will be more for you viewers who live in my part of the woods, but there are a couple of specials that are active online, also. Roberts has a flyer that explains all this; you can read about the new store and the opening by clicking here. Check out the events (several of which are, unfortunately, filled), and see if there is anything of interest to you. I am planning on getting there to at least see the new layout and register for the (impressive) door prizes with my good friend, Kendall Reeves. I will let you know next week on the new location if you can’t make it yourself.

Roberts had been in business at their old location for 44 years. Now, you don’t stay active in the camera/photo world for that long without doing a whole lot of things right – especially when it comes to customer service. And now they are in a location to physically make that service, in store and online, even better. If you haven’t checked out their offering (their used department is always worth checking before making a new purchase), take this opportunity to do. And what I find great is to just pick up the phone and talk to them when I have a question or need information about a product. No strings attached; no short answers or impatient attitudes at Roberts. They are friendly and helpful and extremely knowledgeable. These are good folks, and we all wish them the very best at the new store.

If you live in my area take some time in the next two days to travel up to Indy and visit Roberts. If you are too far away for that, check out the online store. I think you will find it an enjoyable experience. And you might even find a bargain or two in the process.

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onOne Perfect Photo Suite 9 Available. Worth The Upgrade.

Make room for a new graphic … version 9 is here!

It has been a busy couple of days, with plenty going on here at home and with our faith family. And yesterday made for a very long day (a Bloomington Photo Club meeting and late night election news going on into the early morning hours). But busy hands are happy hands as my parents used to say with all-too-often regularity. Life is so good.

There is just enough time to remind you that onOne Software now has their Perfect Photo Suite 9 available for purchase and download. I have been following the new features closely for a while now – this is an upgrade worth your resources (and worth serious consideration if you are a first-time user). None of us gains by doing our processing the hard way, re-inventing the wheel. Plugins such as this new version from onOne, Nik’s collection, and the Topaz programs make processing faster and more efficient. And if you are one of the hold-outs who never made peace with Adobe over their subscription-only Photoshop deal? Perfect Photo Suite 9 may be the program you have been waiting for as an Adobe replacement.

My recommendation for all of us is to take advantage of the 30-day free trial onOne offers. Click here to check out the new version; familiarize yourself with all the features this program offers. I guarantee you will be interested. Then download the free trial and give the software a thorough vetting. Peruse it; use it; abuse it. Find out if it’s right for you. I am ready to pull the trigger. And I already have the Nik collection. There is no rule against owning and using more than one set of processing tools. In fact, I recommend we do – the bigger the tool belt, the more options we have to get the job done.

onOne makes a really good product. I have the previous version. And the version before that one. Version 9 is on the horizon for me. Take a good look and consider coming on board.

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f/11 Magazine: A Perspective On Art And Cameras


We have made this point in various ways in the past (or at least tried to). I tell myself this fact over and over. We all talk about it periodically at workshops and camera club meetings and field trips. Yet most of us fall prey every so often to the urge to conflate new equipment with better photos. We know better; we fight it; we struggle. Blame it on the marketers who have made a science of knowing which of our buttons to push. Blame it on human nature. Blame it on the fact that every so often manufacturers do in fact come up with equipment that represents a breakthrough in photography. But let’s state the fact one more time – great technique will beat new equipment every time. As long as the gear you own will allow you to physically produce the images you desire to make, you don’t need new equipment! There … I’ve said it again.

I have recommended f/11 Magazine to you many times in the past. It is a monthly e-magazine with great content, great production values coming to us out of New Zealand. You can sign up for your own free subscription (no strings of any kind attached) by clicking here. I have yet not to find something of interest, something of value in each new issue. And that is the case for the current issue, the one recently released.

Open the current issue and check out the article on Doc Ross (London Calling). Check out which camera he used for this series – a camera that he rightly characterizes as one pretty much panned by the critics (and most of the camera-buying public). But he didn’t care; he selected the camera right for him, no matter if it is considered relatively unsophisticated or not. And check out the kit lens he used throughout. In the end, the equipment he used didn’t count for anything. When you study the end results, does the equipment matter to you? Doc produced eye-catching images without bankroll-busting gear. You can do the same.

Then go on to examine the provocative work of Glen Howey (I bet you find it holds your attention). And as you read don’t miss the fact that it all was done with a Nikon D90 – a DLSR considered old and outdated by now. Glen should long ago have fallen under the spell of newer and better and faster and more everything. His work is a shining example of what we tell ourselves (and know) so often and so well. We don’t need the latest and greatest (and most expensive) to produce fine art. Need we say more?

So take a little bit of time today to read f/11’s latest issue (you will enjoy it. I promise). And then consider again what we all get caught up in all too often. We don’t need more and more camera gear to produce great images. We do, however, need to study and learn and practice. We need a clear vision of what we love to shoot and produce. We need a passion to capture what we see in our minds and hearts as much as what we see through the camera’s lens. Doesn’t it make a lot more sense to shoot what we love, and love what we shoot than to merely collect what we buy, and buy what we collect?

It’s Monday; we have an entire week of shooting possibilities ahead of us. Let’s put them to good use.

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Unified Color’s HDR Express 3: First Impressions

Express 3
I’ve been checking out a new HDR program. Stay tuned for more thoughts.

I started out doing HDR processing with Photomatix. Then I used Nik’s HDR Efex Pro for a bit, and I upgraded to version 2 of that program when it came out. But I ended up back with Photomatix (now on version 5), and I currently use and recommend it for HDR results. But I always am on the lookout for improvements, software that simplifies and/or improves processing (I don’t believe in re-inventing the wheel each time I sit down with an image). Oh, I forgot to add that I dabbled with Unified Color’s HDR Expose back in the day, also. That program I found to be a bit nit-picky for my tastes; too much dialing in with too many sliders too often. And I find now that the advances Adobe has made with Lightroom and Photoshop make HDR processing less and less necessary (the dynamic range you can recover from raw images is amazing these days). So I don’t process in HDR as much as I used to – no need. But I still do on the occasion, and I still pay attention to advances in that software genre. Hence, today’s post.

Unified Color sent me an email touting their latest version of HDR Express. It promised faster merging, new alignment and de-ghosting algorithms that were state-of-the art, and professional results with increased simplicity of use. Sounded pretty good. And since I still own my old version I could upgrade at a decent price (after I checked out the free 30-day trial, of course. I recommend that highly to get a feel for any software before buying). So I have downloaded the trial version (fully featured, no different than what you will buy) and played around with it. These are first impressions; I will continue to use it and report on it as time permits. But I have a pretty good feel for how I process and what I am comfortable with, all compared to the current version of Photomatix.

HDR Express 3 is easy to use; it has a simple interface that is well-laid out and easy-to-navigate. It integrates with Lightroom really well, using raw images out of your Folders to process files with the most information possible (a couple of short videos are available to explain that reasoning). It re-imports the finished photos back into Lightroom so you know exactly where to find them, something that confuses lots of people using other software. I don’t find it especially fast at merging images or processing compared to Photomatix, but the wait to do either isn’t prohibitive, either. It’s not really speedy, but it’s not really a turtle, either.

There are a few presets included for you to get faster to a look you might prefer. These are really basic in nature, not much here in the way of artistic interpretation or variety. You pretty much get lighter or darker or more detail or more contrast. The other programs out there give you a lot more choices, which can come in handy at times as sort of a shortcut to get you where you want to be faster. This is an express program, remember.

The rendering is effective in that the histogram gives you a very clear picture of where the shadows and highlights are in your image outside of the usual histogram. That is, it shows you how far the shadows clip, not just that they clip. The same with highlights, which is a nice touch. You really can tell how much work is going on, whether you want all that compression to take place, and an easy way to dial in exactly what you want. It seems to me that this program is designed to pretty much do what we all say we want in HDR … give us the complete tonal range of an image that otherwise wouldn’t have it and little more. We all realize by now that the real work and finishing magic of an HDR image takes place after we finish compressing our image. It is Photoshop (for me) that finishes the image; the HDR program just gets me what I need to effectively do that. HDR Express does that just fine … and seems content to pretty much just do that.

So, after processing several images (but not finishing them in Photoshop), I was left for now wondering if Photomatix doesn’t also do that just fine for me? And if it didn’t have a few more bells and whistles thrown in (think presets and some sharpening tools) to boot? I was left looking for something a lot simpler and a lot faster than what I currently use (with equal or better results) if I could be lured into switching (or adding onto) my software collection. Not yet. Not today by any means.

I’m going to use this program and Photomatix together, in competition, for a while to see if HDR Express grows on me for some reason (final results being the biggie). Take today’s post for what it is – first impressions. But when you find something that works for you (Photomatix), it takes a WOW! of some kind to impress and get you to consider another purchase. HDR Express has a ways to go to do that, I can tell.

The program is new and is worth looking at if you do HDR images and appreciate simplicity of use. You can check it out (and download your own trial if you like) by clicking here. I would be most interested in your first (and second) impressions. Drop me a line and let me know what you think.

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A Little Macro Practice: Fall Colors

Home macro
Click on the close up to see more fall leaves.

Yesterday was a rainy day in Bloomington; it made for a quiet time at home. And what could be better than to get in a little bit of photo practice? Between showers I gathered some leaves in the back yard from the trees and shrubs that still have plenty of color. I was able to choose from dogwoods, hydrangeas, the gingko, and a Japanese maple. It made for a colorful display, one that pretty much arranged itself for some close up practice. I tried to put into practice some of what we learned from Mike Moats at our macro workshop earlier this month. It was a most enjoyable afternoon.

Click on the image at the top of this post to see the other photos I processed. Or you always can just click here. It has been a beautiful fall this year in southern Indiana. These images will help me hang on to it a bit longer.

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