Saturday, December 29, 2012

DPREVIEW on the Lightroom Catalog

DPREVIEW on the Lightroom Catalog.  Good stuff if you are not already up to speed.  Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Canon 6D DSLR - Wow!

Canon has introduced the 6D.  I held it in my hand the other day and it is the coolest thing since sliced bread.  Full Frame Sensor for less than $2100 at B&H.

It has 20MP resolution, GPS and WI FI.  Say goodbye to tethering via cable. Magnesium body, but unfortunately, it only has an SD card.  CF is going the way of the flood.  FYI, you cannot buy a CF EYE FI card and EYE FI does not support the adapters that physically accommodate the cards.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Canon Refurbished Lens and Speedlite Site

Last time, we wrote about the availability of Canon Refurbished cameras.  This time I found the Refurbished Lens and Speedlite site.

As before, you need to ask yourself if you really "need" a "new" lens.  Canon lenses tend to be very durable.  There are deals to be had in this secondary market, and they come with a limited 90 Canon warranty.   The selection is dynamic, but a good place look.

Here is an example: the very fine Canon EF-S 10-22 was being offered for $688.   The B&H price is currently $859.  "You decide."

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Canon Refurbished Cameras

Much of the time, you may not "need" a "new" camera.  Perhaps you need a backup body to your current main camera, or a backup to one you have in an underwater housing.  Or you want to upgrade without having to pay the current price.

Sure there is e-bay, but you may be rolling the dice.

Here is an alternative:  Canon Refurbished Cameras

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Photo Plus Expo and Canon EOS-M

Went to PHOTO PLUS EXPO on Friday at the Javitz Convention Center.  This reports to be the largest Pro/Am Photo event in the country.  Seemed to me to be less than in the past.  Seems to be a reflection on the economy.

Did not see a bunch of folks participate.  Apple and Adobe used to be major anchors of the event.  I will not call out the others I missed.  

While I still lust for a Leica M9, that is strictly arm candy.  The biggest innovation for me is the new Canon EOS-M.  APS-C size sensor.  Being a dyed-in-the-wool Canon guy, this may prove to be a game changer for the UNDERWATER MARKET.  Compact and has a bright 3" screen.  Here is the deal breaker.  With a $200 adapter, it can use the entire line of your existing Canon EF and EF-S lenses.  

The biggest problem for UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHERS (other than maintenance and flooding) has been brightness of the viewfinder.  When the old Canon F-1 went away with their interchangeable Speedfinders, I have been railing against the gods.  The problem may be solved with this new model.

This has SLR quality in a P&S SIZE, using your existing suite of lenses.  I am not going to rush out and buy it, have no need, but if I were starting out today, this would be a STRONG consideration.  Now if someone adapts the Nikonos 15mm's we have in our attics.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Speaking of photographing animals, check out my FUN STUFF BLOG POST.   A humorous visual tribute to Kleban, the cartoonist.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Here is the link to the new Photographing Animals book.  Click Here.

The Birds and The Bees and the Bears.

This is the e-book that accompanies the presentation given at the Alice Austen House Museum.

Monday, July 30, 2012

JA QUICKIE: Photoshop CS 6 Seminar

Just took the Kelby Photoshop CS 6.0 Seminar at Javitzs in NYC today.

More new stuff than I thought.  Best news is that there is a new rudimentary video editor geared toward PHOTOGRAPHERS.  It is not as Hollywood geared as Final Cut or endlessly re-engineered as iMovie.

Have not tried it but it looks like what Freud would say "What do Photographers Want?"

Other items were improvements geared toward retouching for my portrait business, a great intro to CAMERA RAW, its cross pollination with Lightroom 4.0 and other commercial and illustrator applications.  You KNOW you cannot put off upgrading too long.

HINT: With more and more skin smoothing techniques and HDR, there are fewer and fewer reasons for plugins.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


How does the quote go. "I will gladly pay you today with PHOTO CREDITS for a Hamburger." Maybe not, but it is close. David Sanger gave me this years ago in a quote from the late great Stock Artists Alliance newletter. Photographers are always expected to be grateful for requests and be given PHOTO CREDITS. 
Check out David's site, he is VERY GOOD.

FOLKS, WE CAN'T EAT THOSE PHOTO CREDITS or PAY THE RENT!  Here is the text of a mail sent to him by a friend that was asked for free photography (naturally) for a church.  These days it is likey to be a freelance author or a 501(c)3 NGO Non-profit with highly paid CEOs.

"Just a question ... are you paying for printing of the brochures and bulletins? Do you pay someone to host (and/or set up) your website? We photographers often are asked for the free use of our work. Non- profit organizations generally view it as normal to pay printers or software developers or web hosts, and yet at the same time expect that photographers should bear the cost of producing images and donate their images without compensation. Photography incurs costs, just as printing and other services do. I'm the owner of a business and businesses that don't produce income don't stay in business. Being acknowledged as the producer of an image doesn't pay my bills, although it remains a necessary condition for copyright protection.

I appreciate what you're doing and that you need to keep your costs at a minimum. If all of the above are being donated for you, then I'm willing to donate the use of my image without a fee, as well. If not, then the use of my image requires us to negotiate a license fee, which I can keep to a minimum."

I think I am going to start carrying copies of this for aspiring authors who approach requesting free images. Remember: If it can be downloaded, it is worthless.

Visit the Cat Gallery.  Too damn adorable.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens

I was afraid this would happen.   Been living with my new Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens and I don't want to take it off the camera.  Except to use the "bird lens," the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS.

It took me so long because my old SIGMA 18-200 performed so well in so many circumstances that I was reluctant to give up the convenience having the 18mm instantly available.  It was when the lens locked up my camera last year that I began to have this sickening feeling my stomach that the lens was flawed, and indeed Error 99 was fixed by mounting a Canon brand lens.

So here are the results of the comparison tests.  The first under not so challenging conditions:
At 24mm for The Canon:

At 24mm for The Sigma:

No real differences in sharpness or contrast.  This is why it took me so long.

Now at 105mm for the Canon:

105mm for the Sigma:

Same Story  No real differences in sharpness or contrast.

So I tried under challenging conditions simulating a sunset or a concert with bright light coming straight into the lenses.

The Canon at 24mm.  Some flare, some loss of contrast around the timer.

The Sigma at 24mm - noticeable ghosts, flare and loss of contrast over a larger part of the image.

The Canon at 105.  Some loss of contrast and flare.

The Sigma at 105:  Not acceptable.  Contrast and flare are awful.

Check your credit card balance and expectations.  Draw your own conclusions.

Here the link to my UK Gallery where I used lenses including the 24-105, and the 70-200.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Herbert Keppler

Herbert Keppler was an early influence.  I started photography at an early age.   He was with a magazine called Modern Photography.  He went over to Popular Photography in later years.

My recent lens testing reminded me of his precise testing measurements.  My upcoming post will not be as precise but very obvious.  Thanks to Herbert.

“It seems impossible to turn out a camera free of all idiosyncrasies. Cameras are obviously like people — which is, I suppose, one reason why they make such a good combination.”
- HK 

RIP Herbert Keppler.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

First Look: Canon 24-105 L F/4 IS

Took the plunge.  Canon did not hand this to me in return for a favorable review.   Got the Canon 24-105 L F/4 IS as a replacement for the workhorse Sigma 18-200  3.5/5.6.   There were many reasons to do this.  Image quality was the least.  Sigma is a fine manufacturer and makes some good stuff. But for top of the line results, I needed something better.

Rick Sammon has enthusiastically recommended this Canon lens for portraits which is my intended use (see book below).  This new lens affords the following advantages.

1. No lens sag.  The Sigma lens when hanging around your neck, changes focal length due to gravity.  It gets longer until you hit 200mm.  The Canon does not.  The Sigma offers a lock but only works at 18mm.  Not effective when working with a client and shooting at 70mm.

2. Image Stabilization (IS).  I can now handhold at 1/15th shutter speed at 105mm and produce sharp results.  This is compensation for the lack of an F/2.8 L offering in this focal length range.  I had been debating over the 24 to 70 F/2.8 L for quite a while.

3. Consistent F/ 4.0.  The Sigma goes from a slightly faster 3.5 to full stop less at 5.6 at far end of 200mm.  I know that with the Canon, I am dealing with F/ 4.0 the entire time.

4.  Better Macro.  You can get down to 1.5 feet from the subject but at 105 can get a nice view of a model, a praying mantis or glass of Sam Adams.  Truth is that the 1.5' is from the focal plane.  Actual distance is 9" from the front of the lens hood.

5. Compatibility.  My Sigma concked out the camera last year giving me another ERROR 99 message.  Error 99 effectively shuts down the camera.  Fortunately, I was not on assignment at the time.  Never got this bad chip message with a Canon lens.  Could be difficult and embarrassing in front of a client.  Sigma did replace a chip on a prior lens for $100, but tsk-tsk, should NEVER be needed.  Sorry.  A slap in the face to charge to fix a clear defect even if several years down the line.  SORRY, WE MARRY THE LENSES AND DATE THE CAMERA BODIES!

Anticipated benefits:
6. Contrast / Sharpness / Less flare.  To be tested in the coming weeks.  Stay Tuned.  No disappointment in the first card or the Sam Adams.  Now to use under challenging conditions.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012


SNOOTS are a classic photographic light modifier used to narrow a beam of light and is first cousin to the GRID and BARN DOORS.  It creates directional lighting that essentially increases contrast and can better define a subject.  Yousuf Karsh used all kinds of light modifiers and Rembrandt lighting.

Underwater photographers have been adopting the technique in recent years.  While they can be effective, you can sometimes add a "snoot effect" to a photo AFTERWARDS, when you are back in the digital darkroom.

I shot this nudibranch (pronounced nude-ih-brank), Nembrotha chamberlaini in the Philippines a couple months ago.  It is "nice" but that is an awful word to describe a photograph.  You are looking for WOW!  The photo is colorful but flat against the sand bottom.  Rembrandt Lighting with a soft fill make for a potentially compelling photo.   Here's how to improve it.

We want to add a darkening effect that replicates the same effect as a light modifier had I used one.  I use a number of software packages in the digital darkroom.  I have found that the best tool for this effect is the ADJUSTMENT BRUSH using Adobe Lightroom.  Lightroom 4 is a recent upgrade and corrects Adjustment Brush significantly.  Prior versions spewed horrible, grainy artifacts liberally when you used higher levels of correction.

To start Adjustment brush from the Library Module, hit the K key.  Click on the icon from the development module.  It toggles to turn on or off.

Start using a COPY of one of your files.  This is automatic in Lightroom if you are shooting RAW.

In the Adjustment brush panel, you will want to set the following parameters.
1. Brush size, start around "25"

2. Click off the Check box Auto Mask if it is on.  You are looking for smooth blending.

3. Exposure.  Start at minus -20.  Using this value, you can adjust the darkening effect later.   Improved in Version 4, there used to be two sliders, Exposure and brightness.  The latter is gone as the distinctions were overcomplicating. Draw around the perimeter of where you want to see a classic vignette.  Since the eye is attracted to brightness, you are aiming to darken the corners and draw the viewers eyes to the most important part of the photo.

4. Adjust the Exposure value until it "looks plausible."  Turn off the Adjustment Brush to 'Keep the Setting."

5. If it needs more correction, Turn on Adjustment Brush again and go back and add another layer.  Adjust exposure and brush size as needed. Turn off Adjustment brush again.

6. Repeat as many times as you need until you are happy with the result.  You can always delete History if needed.  Lightroom uses non-destructive editing.

This will not replace the snoot or other light modifiers, it's not the Ken Burns effect,  but the "John Ares effect" will enhance many photographs that might have been overlooked.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

LIGHTROOM 4 - First Impressions

Upgraded to Lightroom 4 this weekend.  So far, so good.  Here is a first look.


Seems as if there are two notable fixes.  First, the Adjustment Brush SEEMS as if it is throwing fewer artifacts at the photo when you use the tool to darken.  In a future post I will do a thorough comparison.   Second, the File Counter is working again.  In the last version, the root folders had counts of "0."

We now have the ability to directly e-mail from Lightroom.  This is time and mind saver.  No longer do you have to Export, switch to mail, remember the file name and search for its location.  On my Mac, Lightroom 4 defaults to going to Apple mail.  I configured it to go to my Gmail account and it seems to work with Firefox.  Chrome did not display the photos!  One downside is that Lightroom 4 does not connect with the Apple Address book so addresses need to be typed in manually.

There is a new BOOK assembly Main Menu pick that allows you format for self publishing.  I don't do this frequently, so it is a nice to have.

I still want features like displaying my existing Folder Color Labels coding and similar keystrokes as Bridge when doing common tasks like going to Photoshop to edit, and using the L keystroke to go back to Library, Autosynch for the Catalog, and auto default Import Presets.

You get a 15% discount this year if you are a NAPP member and purchase through the NAPP Website.


Saturday, March 31, 2012

Ernie Brooks - B&W Master

Beneath the Sea is the country's largest consumer dive show.  Last weekend, we had the good fortune to meet this year's "Legend of the Sea."

He is a sincere gentleman with a quick wit and great eye for light, especially underwater, and the atmosphere as he is now photographing clouds.  We caught his presentation "Adrift with Penguins."  What a departure from the usual in a great way. 

As a photographer, he has a philosophy of sharing that most of us feel on an intutive level, but he shared by giving out many archival prints to the audience that were hand signed and embossed.  Free.  Wow.   We just had to promise to frame them and give them a place of honor.

Check out the preview for his new book SILVER SEAS here.

Buy the book here.