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PIXelations 10

lab’s rat

by fotofinish , 11-22-2005 at 10:50 PM (252 Views)

I had my panorama

printed by this lab. I asked for 6”x25” glossy. I was unclear from reading through their site as to whether to sharpen or not, or to ask them not to color manage. As a result, I received exactly for what I did not ask. You know what happens when you assume? Besides the rest of the saying, you get an unsharp, double-color managed mess. This was the only lab I found that explicitly would print panoramas. Besides the obvious, I also learned that I should have printed a 12” high photo instead. 6” does not make the impression I would have wanted.

However, a friend of mine expressed a desire to have a copy of one of my photos from last year.

I decided I would make her a copy and frame it for her for Christmas. So I dug out the photo from my DVD raw archive, and reprocessed it from scratch, with my growing Photoshop experience. This time I opted for a full-frame 8”x12” mat finish from this lab. This time I told them not to color manage. And this time I provided full contone sharpening. We’ll see if I was right in a week or so.

More pictures from this shoot are here.

christmas cheer

by fotofinish , 12-03-2005 at 05:32 PM (250 Views)

A friend of mine asked me to do a shoot for him since he had a conflicting commitment. I was to go to the town green and take team photos of the local high school cheerleaders as they sang Christmas carols as part of the town tree-lighting evening. The team sang carols seated on the rails of a gazebo on the town green. They arrived 35 minutes late, and had an abbreviated appearance as a result, since they were then late to their next scheduled stop at a nearby nursing home.

The Shoot
I thought I would be able to use my tripod and 100-400mm L but there was not enough time. Instead, I used my 50mm, then switched to my 18-55mm for some wider shots, as well as the group photo at the end. I had my 550ex flash with LightsphereII . I alternated between using the flash with and without the Lightsphere, depending on how close I was to the gazebo. I tried different lighting effects, sometimes without flash in order to capture the ambient light. I shot with Shade whitebalance since I like the warmer color it produces, and an ISO of 1600 in shutter priority.

Post Processing
This is the first time I have used my newly-acquired Noise Ninja, and I must say that I now see why it is touted as one of the three must-have Photoshop plugins. It truly did a remarkable job of cleaning up the luminance noise, better than what I was using Define 1.0 with 20D camera profile. Here is an interesting article comparing noise reduction plugins.

Overall, I felt the shoot came out OK, considering I did not have a lot of time. It really wasn’t creative, but the results were good. But my friend, the customer here, will have the final say.

Here is a sample:

tangled web

by fotofinish , 12-12-2005 at 08:45 PM (354 Views)

I have been researching various ideas regarding the building of a new website. I am looking to create something more professional-looking, perhaps with some flash multimedia parts. I don’t think I want an entirely flash site due to performance and loading issues. So perhaps a blend of HTML with flash menu option functionality might be the solution. I have built a fully functional website for the department I work in, several years ago. But I am not a graphics artist. I have no idea what to create to make my site stand out from all of the other sites on the internet.

I have visited a lot of websites, with and without flash. I have also visited a few websites that offer website templates I can buy, like this one. But nothing I have seen jumps out at me. I have a design idea I am prototyping now in the interim until I find something that says “me” when I look at it.

There is just something about a flash site that says “professional here” to me…

In the meantime, since I have Noise Ninja, I re-processed a photo I took last year at this time, a seasonal, night shot that I posted on my current website:

Luminous Journals

by fotofinish , 12-18-2005 at 12:48 PM (223 Views)

Thanks to a wealthy friend of mine, I have borrowed his collection of Luminous Landscape Video Journals. This is similar to the Epson Online Experience seminars I took several years ago. Michael Reichmann is of course a master at fine art landscape photography. Each DVD includes exotic shoots from around the world. What is interesting is that he tells you where these non-mainstream sights are located, usually how to get there, which side of the location to shoot from, etc. Some of these sights I have on my list of places I want to visit someday. Also on the DVD’s are valuable post processing tips, equipment discussions, and interviews with some of the landscape masters. It is very enjoyable to sit back and accompany Michael on-location as he captures some incredible scenes.

I found it interesting when at various points Michael discusses some of his photos and describes them as “record” shots, “not quite fine art”. If I had the fortune to capture some of these “record” shots, I would have considered it a major highlight of my art. So what does he consider to be fine art images? Well, as I view the series, I am beginning to see what that means to be considered at the “final level” of achievement. Certainly those images that capture the struggle between nature and weather are part of this. There are of course many other factors involved. Also, I found it interesting that he and others he interviews all admit to laboring hours in Photoshop “bringing out the detail” in their award-winning shots. For some reason, I had this fantasy that the pros always captured the perfectly exposed picture and spent little time in Photoshop. Really, the most important thing is just to capture the photo. If you can capture it with perfect technique, all the better, but capture the photo! Guess there is still hope for me…

On another topic, I found a great lab link, thanks to forum members. PhotoShelter seems like the perfect website to handle customer portraits or sportsshots. All you have to do is upload your photos, set your price, and the site, through PayPal, can forward money to you. Your customers then can decide how they would like to have it printed, framed, delivered. This article reviews the site.


by fotofinish , 12-20-2005 at 09:03 PM (239 Views)

Mrs. Claus stopped by early to deliver me a new Epson R2400 printer! And here is the Luminous Landscape review. This printer prefers the firewire setup, so I put in a 3-port Belkin adapter card. Over the holidays, I will spend time with my new tool; take her for a spin to see what she can do. Merry Christmas to all!


by fotofinish , 12-30-2005 at 01:35 PM (322 Views)

This holiday week has been more about housekeeping odds and ends than photography. I was forced to upgrade my DVD burner because it was frequently not writing successfully. This would waste a lot of DVD’s, not to mention that I rely on this as my photo and data backup/archiving. I then was able to clean out my photo directories once archived so I have room for a new year of projects. I think I’ll have to watch for a deal on a 250 gb internal hard drive. I need the room. I have an external drive but I don’t like the speed. It is OK for archiving too, but that is about all I can use it for. The transfer rates are too slow to use as a scratch drive for PSCS.

I did some printing with my new Epson R2400. This is a truly amazing printer. It’s fast, especially since I am using what it likes best: firewire. I made the decision to print on matte finish only. This way I won’t have to worry about changing inks and wasting ink in the changeover.

A frient of mine at work asked me to print a couple of photos he took recently. Although these were low-res, scanned pictures from film, they still came out OK as 8×10’s. I did have a heck of a time setting up the defaults. The first time print was fine but came out darker than on my semi-calibrated monitor. I expected as much. The second print took three prints and actually turning off PSCS and turning on printer-driver color management to get the picture. Print-preview is a great thing to see how close you get to WYSIWYG.

I want to print some of my stuff using the Adobe 1998 colorspace. I set my 20D already to this colorspace. I will also use the Epson paper profiles as well. However, since I got an Amazon gift certificate, I applied this toward this monitor calibrator (yeah, I know, FINALLY!). I didn’t want to spend a lot on one till I see exactly if it helps. I just have to remember to do a convert-to-profile for sRGB when I want to upload to the web or let CVS print out my snapshots. Knowing how my memory is, I better record a PSCS action for this…

I did manage to get behind the camera for some practice though, besides the usual family gatherings Christmas snapshots. I took a walk at Session Woods again, although it was overcast. I was bored and I just wanted to practice to try and keep sharp with my equipment. At my age (53) I struggle to remember all this tech stuff. There was no wildlife activity. The pond was frozen so I settled for some attempted “artsy” ice shots. I took about 30 pictures, but only the one below was even remotely worthy. So I processed this as black and white in duotone:

Oh, and Happy New Year to everyone!

spyder calibrations

by fotofinish , 01-05-2006 at 08:06 PM (225 Views)

I finally have a properly calibrated screen, using the Pantone Colorvision Spyder2 Plus product. I elected to get just the simple version, not the pro version. When I am ready for that leap, I will get something else.

The first thing the manual tells you is to disable any other profiles or calibrations, and then reset your screen to its factory defaults. This requires that you be familiar with the tuning buttons for your screen. Also, be sure your screen has been turned on for about an hour, so that the electronics are at operating temperatures.

You also MUST not have any direct light shining onto your screen during this process since this will give a false reading. The manual recommends that you have an established preferred ambient lighting set and that you always use this same lighting set from that point forward.

One thing you might want to do before you start calibrating, is have a printed photo. Compare this to the original on the screen. This will give you a mental starting point and a base level of comparison when you are done. In my case, the printed photo was fairly darker than what my screen showed.

As you start through the calibration steps, the first thing it will ask you for is your screen’s default gamma setting. If you don’t know what it is, then go to your screen’s web site or just accept the default, or experiment in subsequent calibrations, taking note of the differences.

Once the spyder is in position on your screen (the steps will provide you a template location), put a piece of tape onto the wire on the top of your screen to anchor the spyder’s location. If your screen is anything like mine, as you play with its tuning buttons, you may have to lift the spyder out of the way, just enough for you to see what you are doing as you adjust the buttons. This does not disrupt the calibration. The steps wait for you to click update or next.

This initial phase involves some trial and error button adjusting, since changing one color’s level often affects the level for another color. The goal is to get the levels of the three colors (red, green, blue) into the optimal staging area in the shown step.

Once the colors are adjusted, the spyder will take over and perform the calibration process automatically for about five minutes or so. Once complete, it will ask you to name the new ICC profile. But what is amazing is that it will allow you to click the before and after button on the screen to see the result, using some test photo thumbnails which the software provides.

I was impressed with the before and after. But mostly, I was really impressed with the printed result. It was dead on with what I saw on my screen! Of course, with the R2400, it is hard to miss. I will do additional print testing to determine the final value of this calibration. Understand, though, that there will still be a minor difference, depending on how sensitive your eye is. Also, the screen’s electronics do age, requiring repeat calibrations on some regular defined basis, perhaps monthly.

Here is the photo I printed:

I wanted something with some detail…

for the birds

by fotofinish , 01-10-2006 at 07:28 PM (344 Views)

Inspite of the cold temperatures and the basic boredom that the winter can bring to photographers, I have spent my time, mostly on weekends, photographing the birds which have been visiting our backyard arborvitae. We bought a suet feeder during the summer, and my son bought me a seed feeder for Christmas. I have hung both from the clothes line we have that stretches from the back slider to a tree on our property. This has become a great excuse to practice with the 100-400mm and 1.4 extender. I have positioned the feeders to be just within closeup reach of my lens. This way, I can shoot from our upstairs bedroom window which looks down on the feeders, or I can go out onto the deck and shoot from there.

Since the snow comes and goes, I have been shooting in various lighting conditions, from early morning to late afternoon. So far, I have not bothered processing any of the pictures. All I do is view them. It is always the same four or five kinds of birds. The point is not to make art but practice various combinations of aperture, shutter, and ISO. This is also helping me to properly handhold the lens. With the snow, this past weekend I explored exposure compensation and the histogram in order to properly expose some squirrels in the snow.

To Do
Switch to continuous shot, AI Servo or more likely AI Focus, and I will switch my custom function 4 from AE lock/AF (1) to AE/AF, no AE lock (3). I won’t use the extender since this defeats the autofocus. This will allow me to practice photo capture with activity, which the birds are only too happy to accommodate while they all play tag at the feeders.

Here is an example, one I took during the summer, of activity at one of the feeders:

he’s got style…

by fotofinish , 01-18-2006 at 08:19 PM (371 Views)

I have spent a few weeks reading and thinking about photographic style and how a photographer develops his own unique one. This one by Alain Briot is what started it all. In the article, Alain describes what style is not. He goes on to describe how personal style is the result of a combination of choices, and fine-tuning those choices to fit our own personality. Numerous examples are given along with sample images which illustrate some of his points. He finishes his article with some photographic exercises.

I soon found that I was trying to force a style onto myself. This becamevery frustrating. I did however find this forum thread which made me feel better about my quest. In it, several people stipulated that each of us has a unique and consistent way of looking at the world, as a by-product of our personality, and that this way, as we develop our craft, will eventually become our style.

Armed with these divergent viewpoints, I at least have the right questions I should be asking myself, which is better than not even knowing what questions to ask in the first place. Does this scene really inspire me or raise some emotional level in me? Why? Is there something I am trying to say through this image? If so, what is it?

Alain’s website has many similar articles worth exploring.

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