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Shoot the Outdoors Indoors

Friday, May 14, 2010

Every season seems to have an excuse to keep photographers from getting out into the world. Summer’s heat can be oppressive, winter’s cold can make you miserable, and even within the pleasant confines of springtime rainy days can sideline adventure plans. So what do you do when you can’t get outside to shoot the nature you love? Bring the nature indoors. Mike Moats recently wrote on the Tamron blog about photographing macro subjects like brightly colored feathers arranged in a home studio. He used an extension tube and a wide aperture to get close and shorten the depth of field, and the resulting photographs are great examples of staving off cabin fever by bringing your favorite subjects to you when you can’t get to them.


Better Photos Through Math

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Wired magazine’s Jordan Ellenberg recently published an interesting piece about math. (So far, this does not pertain to photography, I know, but trust me—it will.) The story was based on the sparsity principle, which is a mathematical concept that states… well, I don’t exactly understand what it states. But some other smart people do, and this sparsity thingamajig led to the scientific field of compressed sensing. Again, some stuff I don’t understand happens here involving magnetic resonance imaging and… voila, higher-resolution photographs. Okay, I know I skipped some crucial details. Let me try to fill in the blanks in laymen’s terms. Actually, “filling in the blanks” might be a good way to explain what this process does.

The smart math and science and computer people who work in this field implement an algorithm to fill in the gaps in a low resolution “data set” (a digital image file, a low-quality audio recording, etc) by making better guesses (based on the scarcity principle) at what data should fill in the holes. It’s like interpolation, but without the stigma. And it apparently works really, really well.

This breakthrough does not mean that tomorrow you’ll be able to go out and get your Scarcity Principle plug-in for Photoshop, but perhaps in the coming years you’ll be able to up-res your image files in a much cleaner, higher quality way. Perhaps even someday you’ll be able to enlarge low-resolution video and still images the way they do in movies and TV shows—you know, when the cops are cleaning up surveillance footage to see in crystal clear detail who the bad guy really is. Maybe that will remain the stuff of science fiction, but it will still be great if we will just be able to make really big, really beautiful prints. Either way it’s a technology to keep an eye on, even if you don’t understand exactly how it works. (Once you’ve read the Wired story, for a little more insight into what photographers with a bit of math aptitude think about the concept as it applies to digital imaging, head over to photo.net and check out the scarcity principle discussion forum.)



Serious D-SLR Moviemaking Gear

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Are you considering turning your D-SLR into an HD-movie-making machine? You need help—the kind of help you can get from the folks at Zacuto. The company may be unknown to many still photographers, but for motion picture types, Zacuto is familiar as a supplier of motion picture camera equipment. What does this have to do with photography? Because more and more photographers these days are using their HD-ready D-SLRs for movie-making, and Zacuto offers a whole line of D-SLR Cinema Kits. These are the parts and accessories that help you turn your still camera’s quirky video controls into real-life pro video systems, things like eyepiece viewfinders and shoulder mount supports. While you’re browsing Zacuto’s web site be sure check out their series of videos about D-SLR video shooting. The Great Camera Shootout series compares digital still cameras to film—but not in the way most of us still shooters are used to. This is a comparison of HD-video capture from D-SLRs pitted against “legendary” 35mm film movie cameras. I wonder how these newfangled devices stack up?


zacuto.com: shootout

How Photography Connects Us

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Are you looking for a little more inspiration in your life? Do you struggle with the search for meaning in photography? If so, take a few minutes to watch this great TED talk from National Geographic photography director David Griffin. Not only is Griffin's presentation full of valuable insights into how photography connects us and how we all utilize photography to tell our stories, he illustrates it with iconic imagery from the Geographic’s archives too. The photographs alone make it worth a look, but it’s the invaluable insights—like the realization that we all think and talk in pictures—that make it downright inspiring.


Learning HDR

Monday, May 10, 2010

High-Dynamic Range processing, known popularly as “HDR,” is a bit of a controversial topic. Many photographers love it for its visceral, hyper-real grabbing power. When you see an HDR image, it epitomizes “eye candy.” That’s also part of the problem if you’re on the other side of the fence, the side which says HDR is too over the top, too unreal, too much of a post-processing effect—too much eye candy. Whatever your opinion about HDR, there’s little argument that the effect is extremely popular. Many photographers on the fence want to understand how to create HDR effects, from super-subtle to over the top. That’s where a good education comes in, and Rick Sammon’s new book, HDR Secrets for Digital Photographers, is not only a valuable teaching tool it’s a fun read too. Sammon delves into great detail, explaining 200 techniques with more than 150 of his own HDR images. Whether if you’re brand new to the technique or if you’re an HDR master, you’re bound to learn from these pages.


HDR In Photoshop CS5

Friday, May 7, 2010

Unless you've been hanging out in Antarctica (without an internet connection), you probably know that Adobe has been developing Photoshop CS5 for quite some time. They released this upgrade on April 30th, and one of the most anticipated new features is the program's revamped HDR processing, now called Merge to HDR Pro. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, and involves combining three or more exposures of the same scene in order to extend the dynamic range of a photo. While a single exposure can capture detail in a dynamic range of 4 to 6 stops, you can extend this range by shooting the same scene at different exposures and then combining the images into one using HDR processing. Prior to CS5, the Merge to HDR feature was cumbersome and lagged behind the more popular Photomatix Pro in its ability to blend exposures together.

In CS5, Merge to HDR Pro is a much simpler process and in my mind can do just as good a job as Photomatix. That said, if you are used to the controls in Photomatix, you will find CS5 a challenge at first, as the controls are different. However, with practice you will find it to be just as easy to use.

Incentive for Emerging Documentary Photographers

Friday, May 7, 2010

Are you a young (or at least aspiring) documentary photographer? Whatever your specialty, whether it’s travel or wildlife or landscape or something else entirely, if you could use an extra $10,000 you should consider applying for the Pictures of the Year International organization’s Emerging Incentive Program. Though it’s not a photo contest or even a grant, the “incentive” will certainly go a long way toward funding an aspiring documentarian’s planned project. Additional assistance by way of an exhibition of your work and professional career development serve to sweeten the deal. Find out more and download an application form and guide at the POYI web site, www.poyi.org.

Landscape Tips from a Photoshop Insider

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Photoshop Insider blogger Matt Kloskowski usually provides great tips about post processing and digital imaging with Photoshop and Lightroom. He’s a great photographer, too, and he just wrote about five lessons he learned on a recent landscape photography assignment. He was teaching a workshop in Moab where he enlightened himself a little bit too. He shares tips—from simple ones like “get up earlier than you think” to more philosophical advice on how to increase your opportunities to benefit from good luck—as well as a series of great photos from the workshop at Scott Kelby’s Photoshop Insider blog.


Thirty Years of BAD Pictures

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Photographer Bruce Dale’s work is familiar to many OP and National Geographic readers. For 30 years he’s been making “BAD” pictures (Bruce Albert Dale) for the Geographic, and now he’s compiled some of his favorites into a nine-minute video slideshow at Vimeo.com. It’s worth watching both for the beautiful photographs as well as for Dale’s insightful comments about his photography. He’s got more great videos on Vimeo as well, or you can cut to the chase and visit his own web site to see exactly what he’s been up to. While you’re there, check out his great tutorials—like an in-depth explanation of how he makes perfect stitched panorama photographs.



Custom Lens Profiles

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Many photographers use Photoshop’s lens correction tool to eliminate aberrations and distortions (such as the curvature from barrel distortion in some wide angle lenses) during post processing. Now Adobe has released a new tool for use with Photoshop CS5 to make correcting lens distortion easier and more precise. It’s the Lens Profiler utility that allows you to create custom profiles for each of your lenses. The profiles will be usable with the upcoming versions of Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom too. Read more and find links to the free downloads—as well as to other Adobe apps in development—at Rob Galbraith’s blog.


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