f/11 Magazine: A Perspective On Art And Cameras

f11

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 And as you read don’t miss the fact that it all was done with a Nikon D90 – a DLSR considered old and outdated by now.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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New Harmony Photos: Color And Texture

NH house
Click on the historic New Harmony home to see more photos.

Today features a few more images from our trip to beautiful and charming New Harmony in Southern Indiana. We shot throughout the mornings and afternoons, looking for good light. There was plenty of color to capture, plenty of details that caught and held the eye. It was a wonderful visit to a most photo-friendly little town. If you ever find yourself traveling in the area, be sure to plan to spend some time in New Harmony.

Click here to see the rest of the images I selected. Or you always can click on the photo at the top of the post. Enjoy your visit.

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Charming New Harmony, Indiana: Photos

Hydrangea-2
Click on the Oakleaf hydrangeas to see this fall color in a larger size.

We spent Friday and most of Saturday in the charming Southern Indiana town of New Harmony. It is a beautiful town, filled with historic buildings and homes. New Harmony is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year, a history going back to the Utopian philosophy dreams and plans of Robert Owens. We were treated royally at the New Harmony Inn, and we dined in style at the Red Geranium. If you plan your own trip to New Harmony (and I urge you to consider doing so), these two locations are great starting points. We had a great time, and we came home with some promising images.

Yesterday was our church’s annual Trunk ‘n Treat for the kids, preceded by an all-congregation chili supper. It has been a busy couple of days, and the photo processing had to take a back seat to our other activities. But I did have time to process one, one that caught my eye both out in the field and when I got home. I don’t say this too often – but I really like this one. Others will follow; they have some possibilities. But I thought this one showed off New Harmony’s fall colors perfectly.

Click on the image at the top of the post to see it in a larger size (this thumbnail doesn’t do New Harmony justice). And come back to see more images as we catch up on our chores around the house. It’s Monday for all of us … welcome back.

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Free Halloween Textures. Two Glyn Dewis Videos: How To Make Snow.

Halloween
Check out the good folks at Shadowhouse Creations for this FREE set of papers.

Halloween is fast approaching. Maybe you have a project in mind; maybe you just on-the-edge textures. In either case, the good folks over at Shadowhouse Creations have some most interesting paper patterns for you … for FREE! They look cool, no matter if you have a current project in mind or not. I have used textures and brushes from this site in the past; they uniformly have been high quality. They don’t take up much room, and they just might be what you are looking for sometime down the road.

Click here to visit Shadowhouse Creations and download this FREE set of papers. At least check them out; they are guaranteed to put you in the holiday spirit.

Then I urge you to watch a couple of recent videos from one of my favorite retouchers, Glyn Dewis. He is generous and talented and quite the effective instructor. And my dear friend Bill Fortney had a chance to hang out a bit with Glyn at this year’s Photoshop World. Bill assures me Glyn also is very fine man. ‘Nuff said.

How cool is that, friends? I live in what can be snowy and cold Indiana; many of you don’t have that pleasure (you are stuck in those always-sunny places like California or Florida). This video may be just the ticket for creating the look you need in a season that doesn’t really exist. Thank you, Glyn!

And then one other real gem from Glyn. I do a fair amount of compositing, and I always struggle with trying to get my subject to look natural in a new environment. Glyn has a technique for creating a dust effect when you are blending your subject into an uneven surface, a place where some dust or smoke might be kicked up. I don’t know how he comes up with these techniques, but he regularly does. And he is generous enough to share them with us. Check this one out.

Is Glyn good, or what? And generous to boot. Okay, that should keep all of us busy for the coming weekend. And if not with camera in hand, at least with Photoshop in mind. See you back here Monday.

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His Light Brown County: Model A Photos

Ford
Click on the Model A to see a few more photos.

My good friend Chris Easton brought his beautiful Model A Ford over to Story while we were there shooting. It fit perfectly into the fall scene, looking as if we all had been transported magically back in time. Everyone enjoyed taking photos of the car parked in several different positions near the inn. We gave Chris the best of what everyone shot; he was most appreciative … almost as appreciative as we were for his generosity in meeting with us.

I have a couple of more photos today from Camp Palawopec, the last of what I shot there last week. And I have just a few images of Chris’ Ford. I hope you enjoy them even a small bit as much as I enjoyed spending time in Story and shooting this fantastic car. Just click on the car at the top of this post to see them. Or you always can just click here.

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His Light Brown County: Color Photos

Kelley Hill barn
Click on this quintessential Hoosier barn to see a few more colorful images.

I didn’t shoot very much during last week’s His Light workshop. Our His Light family members deserved to see the best we had to offer in Brown County, and we were busy making sure they did. And I was having such a great time making new friends and catching up with old ones that the shooting just wasn’t a priority. It was a great time.

But I did take a few shots, mostly those that had so much color in them that they were hard to ignore. Brown County just exploded in color while we were there, the most in quite a few years. My photos tend to reflect that fact; the color you see is the color we saw.

Click on the image of the quintessential red barn to see the images I took. And plan on a Brown County visit of your own sometime.

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His Light Brown County People: Family Photos

Bill tripod-2
Click on the photo of Bill to meet more His Light family members.

Yesterday you saw the group photo from our Brown County His Light workshop. The group is even more impressive up close and personal. They were warm and generous and kind and fun … and extremely talented as photographers. Today you can see them as individuals. And I hope that they get to meet all of you (and you, them) at a future workshop. You’ll recognize each other. You’ll be the ones with the cameras around your necks.

Click on the image of Bill at the top of this post to meet our His Light family. Or just click here.

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His Light Brown County: A Successful Workshop

BEST Group
We are home from our Brown County workshop … and what a great time it was!

What a rewarding experience we have had the past five days. Wednesday night through Sunday morning Sue and I spent most of our time with some of the warmest, most generous, most delightful photographers we have been privileged to meet. We shared prayers and laughs and meals and classroom time and field trips with those new (and in many cases, old) friends. And it was Bill Fortney, master photographer and teacher and dear friend, who was the cherry on top (now, that is a vision!). He even introduced us to another Nikon legend, the near-comparable Fred Sisson. What a great group to spend time with and learn with!

And what another great group of people we were privileged to spend time with – the many hosts we had throughout Brown County. From all those at the Abe Martin Lodge in the park to the warm owner and staff at the Story Inn to Mike and Syd Nickles at Camp Palawopec and Jan Ellis at the Convention and Visitor’s Center … thank you! And a very special thank you to my good friend, Chris Easton. He drove his Model A over to Story Thursday morning and spent time with us. He and his beautiful car made that a very special photo session. We were treated more as family than visitors throughout our stay; it was a great experience.

Now, the Lord blessed us with weather almost perfect for a photo workshop. He furnished us with a park glowing in color, a peak season that only comes around every few years. The training from Bill made each of us a better, more complete photographer. We had all we needed in the way of conditions and accommodations and locations in order to succeed. But it always is the people that make (or break) a workshop event. Our people are not just participants; they now are friends, members of our His Light family.

I didn’t shoot but a few photos last week. But I enjoyed much more than that spending time with old friends and new. I will post what I did shoot later on. But trust me … what a talented group of shooters I was with! I wish I could post some of the images they shared at the end of the week – you would want to sell your own gear (I am tempted). I think we spent the week learning from one another.

I’ve said this many times before … tune in to Bill Fortney’s website regularly; watch for a His Light workshop in your area (or in a location you have been wanting to photograph); sign up; learn; enjoy. Take a look at the handsome group at the top of this post – a family. Join us. You’ll be glad you did.

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Dancing In Brown County: A Slideshow

Wish you were going to be us in beautiful Brown County, Indiana for Bill Fortney’s His Light workshop. Brown County is a delightful place to visit no matter the time of year, but this season adds in the eye-catching colors of the changing leaves. There are rustic charms throughout the county, including the village of Nashville (a must-see destination for artists and shoppers from all over the country).

But if you can’t be with us you still can take a (very quick) look at some of the places our guests will be visiting. Just click on the image of the Bean Blossom covered bridge to take a fast tour. What’s that old postcard saying … “Wish you were here”? We wish you were.

And a big and sincere thank you to my lovely wife and to one of my best friends, Raymond Jabola, for many of the images. You make Brown County proud.

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Mastering Important Photo Skills: Bill Fortney’s New E-Books

His Light
Join Bill Fortney today for an amazing free book offer.

Regular readers probably keep up with the doings of my dear friend and mentor Bill Fortney. You already are up-to-date then with Bill’s latest achievement, his e-book series on the skills and techniques all of us need to succeed in our photographic endeavors. There is no one more qualified, no one more capable than Bill to pass on some 45 years worth of photo knowledge to the rest of us. His books cover the gamut of what we need to learn … basics like exposure and composition to the advanced functions of today’s best cameras. These books have been a long time coming; we all can celebrate their arrival.

And you regular readers also know how thoughtful and kind and generous Bill is as a man and a friend and a mentor. To kick off the opening of his e-store Bill has a special offer for all of us … a free book just for visiting his store. That’s right – free! Just for visiting and exploring the other valuable works he has to offer. Thank you, Bill!

Click here to visit the new Bill Fortney e-store. Order and download your free book by adding The 7 Steps For Taking It To The Next Level to your cart; enter the code FREE4ME in the coupon code box, and finish checking out. Voila! And while you are there be sure to examine the entire lineup of books (and how they may improve your own photography). This is a most generous offer from one of our finest photographers and instructors. Don’t neglect to order your own free book today.

Bill has promised to add to his series on a regular basis. We can look forward to more advanced subjects as time passes – and to more information gleaned from Bill’s 45+ years of photographic experience. Think of it as sort of a perpetual Christmas gift … a gift that just keeps on giving. Thank you again, Bill!

I find inspiration in Bill’s writings about photography. I find even more inspiration in his encouragement about living our faith, a faith that sustains us in this many times discouraging world of ours. Bill Fortney’s website is one to bookmark and check in with daily. You can do so here. Trust me; you will so often be glad you did.

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Ready For The 2014 His Light Brown County Workshop: Some Photos

Ducks
We have our ducks in a row for Brown County. Click on them for more images.

We spent a good part of the day last Friday over in Brown County, site of an upcoming Bill Fortney His Light workshop. The colors are changing daily; the cooler nights and a bit of rain have turned on the color gene. There is change in the air; you feel it and see it wherever you go in the park and around Nashville. Warm days. Cool nights. Color. God’s creation is on display for our appreciation and His glory.

I took a few photos while we drove routes to shooting locations and finalized some details for the workshop. And we re-discovered the Farmhouse Café, a great little place for lunch on the grounds of the Flower and Herb Barn. The food is fresh and tasty; the ambiance just right for fall. And on the grounds there are flowers and plants and antiques and collectibles for the photographer in all of us (take a look at the café by clicking here). It definitely went on the list of shooting locations and eating places for our workshop. It made for one more place to show off the beauty of Brown County for all our guests.

We look forward to seeing old friends and new workshop guests quite soon. His Light shines on all of us. What’s that old postcard saying, “Wish you were here”? Wish all of you were joining us in Brown County. Life is so good.

Click here to see a few photos I took Friday, attempting to show some of what the Herb Farm offers. Or you always can click on the image at the top of this post. Welcome to Monday!

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Boost Your Fall Photo Colors: Free Matt Kloskowski Lightroom Presets

We are putting the finishing touches on Bill Fortney’s His Light Brown County workshop. The leaves are turning; fall definitely has arrived in Indiana. That put me in mind of shooting fall landscapes, especially those colorful leaves. And shooting them means processing them. So, I was heartened to find out I wasn’t the only one thinking in that direction. My friend Matt Kloskowski, one of the original Photoshop Guys, also turned his attention to fall shooting (brushing up on things we have talked about in the past but don’t use every day). Great minds and all that …. (lol).

I will give you links to a couple of Matt articles. One is brushing up on shooting fall foliage, exactly what we will be doing soon in beautiful Brown County. The other is a freebie – FREE Lightroom presets for processing that same fall landscape. First the article – 7 Tips for Gorgeous Photos This Season (click here for that link). There is some very good advice contained in a quite short article. It never hurts to do a quick refresher before heading out for a shoot. The other link (click here) is for the three FREE presets. They very likely will give you a nice start to your leafy fall shots when processing in Lightroom; you add the finishing touches and Voila!

The fall season is upon us. Brush up on your landscape shooting and head out the door this weekend. Camera in hand. And … thank you, Matt.

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Valuable Lindsay Adler Posing Guide: Half Price

Adler guide
PhotoWhoa and Lindsay Adler have teamed up with a valuable deal for you (and me).

You have 24 days from today (until the end of October) to take advantage of a real-deal deal on posing couples from one of my favorite fashion shooters, Lindsay Adler. Cut to the chase – Lindsay sells this downloadable guide on her website for $30 ($29.99). PhotoWhoa, a website I have recommended in the past, is offering the guide for half that price. Half! That is a deal, folks, a really good deal.

Click here to visit PhotoWhoa and read more details on Lindsay Adler and this product. The guide is downloadable to your computer and/or to your iPad. You can carry it with you to your next shoot and never be without proven poses to make your couple look their best. I recently took advantage of a similar offer from PhotoWhoa to purchase an Adler guide to fashion poses. I know that those poses, fashion shoot or not, will make my subject look her best (that offer, unfortunately, has ended. Sorry). This current guide, advertised for posing bridal couples, will also work on any other couple. Our goal is to pose couples; if you can pose brides and grooms you can pose anyone (just like if you can shoot weddings you literally can shoot anything else). Lindsay knows her stuff. Now you can know it, too.

I have the fashion posing guide, and I also now own the bridal couple posing guide. I can look up a pose for my couple in the field on my iPad and direct them just the way I need to. If I want or need to, I could even show the couple the pose on my iPad so they see exactly the look we are after. I can do the same thing with the fashion guide, posing individuals. How neat (and convenient) is that! The guides also include lighting diagrams and camera settings. Even more handy when you need a bit of a refresher or some bit of assistance while out in the field. And all for $15 (each).

Ever find yourself on a shoot and feeling a bit nervous because you have run out of ideas? Ever find yourself searching for that next pose or look? These guides will fill in the gaps for you. And if you are not familiar with Lindsay’s work, just take a quick look at her website (use this link). She is featured on quite a few teaching videos on KelbyOne. She shoots for all the big fashion magazines. She is a recognized leader in the fashion field. Her guides pass on all the knowledge she has developed to the rest of us. This is not fly-by-night deal; it is a valuable resource for any of us who shoot people.

I am pleased with both my purchases (I’m sorry you missed the fashion posing deal). PhotoWhoa is legitimate and reliable (your download is available upon checking out). If you don’t have a PhotoWhoa account you can sign up for free. They send out offers a few times a month. No twisting of arms or hard sell – if you want the deal, you place an order (don’t want the deal? Just ignore it). In fact, after I was able to purchase the fashion guide at a discount I made sure to wait when I saw Lindsay had a new couples guide published. I thought PhotoWhoa might make it available cheaper … and they did.

As I said at the beginning today, this is a real-deal deal. It is valuable, useful and bargain-priced. If you shoot people, I highly recommend it to you. Thank you, Lindsay Adler. Thank you, PhotoWhoa.

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