July 23, 2014

Alien Skin Exposure 6

By Betsy Finn, M.Photog.Cr., CPP

If you've been around long enough to appreciate the subtleties of film photographs, you will probably be interested in Alien Skin Exposure 6, which allows you to apply a variety of film exposure effects to your digital images. And if you're looking to convert images to black and white, its capabilities are definitely superior to the defaults in many image editing applications.  

The interface is fairly intuitive. In the middle you’ll find the image you’re editing, as well as thumbnails of the other images simultaneously open in Exposure. To the left are the presets, both color and black-and-white options. You can choose to replicate the look of certain films (e.g. Kodak T-Max 100), enhance the focus (sharpen), add bokeh effects, or cross-process your image. Here’s a view of the Exposure 6 interface.

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There are a variety of views for the preset panel, and you can display by preset name only or show thumbnails of each preset applied to your selected image (two different thumbnail sizes). 

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The presets panel has subtabs to allow easier location of specific presets: all, color, B&W, favorite, user, recent, and search. You can apply presets to multiple images by selecting more than one in the thumbnail scroll. If you find yourself going back to the same presets over and over, there is an option to add your most-used presets to the Favorite tab, and there's a Recent tab as well. You can save presets for later access from the User tab.To save a preset, click the + button and a window will open for saving your preset. 

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The right panel contains a navigator window, overall intensity slider, and all the different aspects of the image that you can tweak (or that the presets adjust for you): basic, color, tone curve, vignette, overlays, focus, grain, IR, bokeh. Each can be turned on or off for a given image (click on the green button) or reset to defaults (the circling arrow icon). 

Basic: Here you can select color or black and white and adjust standard image settings. There are setting sliders for exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, clarity, vibrance, and saturation. You can also type in a positive or negative number value to the right of a given slider.

Color: There are two sections: color filter and color sensitivity. The color filter has several presets (warming, cooling, etc.), or you can create your own with the option to preserve luminosity or not. Color sensitivity can be adjusted through equal weighted presets (RGB or RYGCBM), or presets weighted toward a specific color range, such as reds. There are also sliders for each color if you want to manually adjust the color sensitivity. Both sections of the color panel have an option to save your adjustments as a user preset.

Tone Curve: You can adjust the tone or apply split toning here. Presets for the tone include brighten highlights, crush blacks, shadow recovery, and more. You can use eyedroppers for white, gray, and black points, or adjust sliders for contrast, shadows, midtones, and highlights. If you want to apply split toning, there is an expansive range of options, including platinum, selenium, and sepia. Again, these sections have options to save your settings as a preset.

Vignette: Apply a preset (subtle, distortion, etc.) to create either a black or white vignette on your image. You can adjust the amount, size, roundness, softness, distortion, and even select the vignette location on the image. Saving presets is an option here, too. 

Overlays: A variety of overlays can be applied to your image, including a border, light effect, or texture. You can also select an area of the image to protect from the overlays. The border effect can be zoomed in, and it can be inverted from black to white. Light effects add sun flare or corner light leakage to the print (zoom and opacity can be adjusted). Finally, you can add dust, paper, or scratch textures to the image (zoom, opacity, and black/white inversion are options).

Focus: Adjust the image’s clarity with sharpen and blur. Sharpen sliders include amount, radius, and threshold; blur sliders include opacity, radius, and lens warp. There are a number of presets to choose from (glamour, sharpen, soften), or save your own.

Grain: Create or use an existing preset, and adjust overall grain strength here.  You can fine tune amount (shadow, midtone, highlight), type (roughness, push processing), and size (automatic, film format, etc.).

IR: Adjust color contrast, halation opacity, and halation spread. You can save presets, or use existing ones (glow, IR, no halation).

Bokeh: Choose a focus region (show mask if you want), then adjust lens settings or use a preset (amount, zoom, twist, creamy, curvature, shape, and rotation). There are creative and traditional apertures, including hearts, plus signs, stars, etc. Highlight adjustment sliders include threshold and boost; grain matching sliders are for strength and size.

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Overall, I’ve enjoyed using Exposure 6 with my client images. I appreciated the black-and-white conversions, which definitely have more oomph than the standard desaturation options. One of my other favorite aspects of Exposure 6 is the batch editing feature. This is essential for any photographer looking to efficiently edit images or apply exposure presets. The only shortcoming, as I see it, is that you have to open the images in Exposure 6 to access all the neat presets. But, if that’s something you’re willing to integrate into your workflow, go for it. 

Pros:
Exposure 6 is a standalone software with many presets, allowing you to quickly create and apply a variety of film effects to your digital images. You can save presets, edit images in batches, and tweak settings to your liking. 

Cons:
You may not need many of the presets, and may not want to use a separate interface when editing. Depending on your workflow and image processing style, it may be difficult to integrate Exposure 6 smoothly.

Exposure 6 is $149. For more information, or to download a free trial, visit http://www.alienskin.com/exposure/.

Betsy Finn, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, is a portrait artist in Michigan.

July 21, 2014

Announcing Photoshop CC 2014

by Stan Sholik

With the announcement of Photoshop CC 2014, Adobe has ended speculation about the update cycle of Photoshop. While Creative Cloud members have enjoyed two updates (14.1 and 14.2) since the release of Photoshop CC, Photoshop CC 2014 appears as a new release, equivalent to Photoshop 15.0. But Adobe has abandoned the previous numbering convention and 18-month release cycle. We can now expect yearly releases with the new naming convention, Photoshop CC RELEASE YEAR.

For photographers, the Photoshop CC 2014 release adds some tweaks to the Brush Presets and Color Panel, improved Smart Guides, enhanced Sync Settings, a new Content and Color Aware Fill option, and other changes. But the features of greater interest are additions to the Select and the Filter > Blur Gallery menus.

The Select drop-down menu contains a new Focus Area option. Selecting it opens the Focus Area dialog box while Photoshop automatically makes a selection of the out of focus area in the image. For portraits or other subjects with large differences in sharpness between the in-focus foreground and out of focus background, the selection works extremely well. The dialog box includes brushes for adding or subtracting areas that were not automatically included. Also included in the dialog box is a button that opens the Refine Edges dialog box if you need to more carefully mask a subject’s hair or perform other refinements.

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Because of the similar tonality of the hair, skin, and background, this portrait used to be tricky to outline. Using the new Focus Area tool in the Select menu, the job is much easier.

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When you select Focus Area, Photoshop automatically looks for areas in focus and makes a rough selection. Brushes are available to add to or delete from the selection, as well as a slider to adjust the range of in-focus areas.

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The Focus Area tool, even with the parameter adjustments available only does a rough job. But a button is included in the dialog box to open Refine Edges.

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Using Refine Edges you can complete the outline and send the image back to Photoshop.

The updated Blur Gallery includes two new motion blurs: Spin Blur and Path Blur. Spin Blur creates a circular (or elliptical) motion blur, allowing you to spin the wheels of a stationary vehicle, or make a stopped Ferris wheel appear to be turning. The spin blur overlay on the image allows multiple options to adjust the effect and the Blur Angle slider controls the “speed” of the blur. You can also create strobe effects that “stop” the spinning as many as 100 times within the blur.

The Path Blur tool is even more interesting. With it you can create motion blurs along a Bezier path that you create. Path Blur operates on the entire image or a selection, but masks are not implemented for Path or Spin Blur. With only a short time to play with the path blur, I see a multitude of creative possibilities—how about the wedding party jumping in the air with motion streaks? With the right slider settings, you can also use Path Blur to simulate rear-curtain flash synchronization.

Along with the release of Photoshop CC 2014, Adobe announced other new releases of interest to photographers. Lightroom is upgraded to version 5.5, with a few new features, and remains a standalone as well as Creative Cloud program. With Lightroom 5.5 you are able to use Lightroom Mobile on iPhones as well as iPads, synchronize star ratings as well as flag ratings, and view and sort images with a custom sort order.

The new Photoshop Mix app will be of interest to photographers who can’t stand being separated from Photoshop. Adobe Photoshop Mix focuses on transferring Photoshop’s ability to make non-destructive selections, create masks, and perform compositing to the iPhone and iPad. The mobile app includes Photoshop functionality such as upright, shake reduction, and content-aware fill. All actions are done by touch on the mobile device.

Photoshop Mix is a free download from the Apple App Store, but you must have an Adobe ID to use it. You can use the features in Photoshop Mix on any image in your camera roll, including those taken with the mobile device, or on images you upload to the Creative Cloud. When you are finished using Photoshop Mix on images, the app saves them back to Photoshop CC with the changes in layers for further refinement. Adobe is offering true cloud computing with Photoshop Mix, and it will be exciting to see where this leads.

Stan Sholik is a commercial/advertising photographer in Santa Ana, California. His latest book, “Shoot Macro: Techniques for Photography Up Close” (Amherst Media), is available this fall.

July 8, 2014

Phase One IQ250 High ISO Milky Way Capture

Find the complete review of the Phase One IQ250 in an upcoming issue of Professional Photographer magazine.

By Stan Sholik

Through the years, Phase One has advanced the technology of charge-coupled device (CCD) sensors, but the needs of some photographers are incompatible with the CCD technology itself. To address those needs, Phase One is introducing the IQ250 back.

The IQ250 sensor is based on complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) technology rather than CCD, which was abandoned by the makers of professional digital SLR cameras years ago. Phase One is retaining its CCDbased backs and adding to its line with this, and presumably other, CMOS-based backs.

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Although the time of year wasn’t optimum and there were distant city lights glowing over the horizon, I was able to capture the Milky Way using an ISO of 6400 and an exposure of 8 seconds at f/2.8 with the Phase One IQ250 and Schneider Kreuznach 55mm f/2.8 lens. [Click for high-resolution image; use arrow keys to navigate around the image.]

The most welcomed feature of the IQ250 for most photographers is its ability to shoot at high ISOs. While the lowest ISO on the IQ250 is 100, the highest is now 6400. Every ISO setting up to and including ISO 1600 is completely usable for all subjects. ISO 1600 seems to deliver about the same tight luminance noise and lack of chrominance noise as my Nikon D700 at ISO 800. At ISO 3200, noise is visible, but Capture One software can easily remove it with minimal sharpness loss. By ISO 6400 it is still possible to eliminate the chrominance noise, but luminance noise is present unless you really crank up the noise reduction. However, in order to shoot the Milky Way with the Schneider Kreuznach 55mm f/2.8 at 8 seconds (to eliminate star trails), I needed ISO 6400, and the result (above) is totally acceptable to me until I enlarge the 8,200x6,208-pixel image to 1:1 on a high-end monitor.

July 3, 2014

Master Class: Tracks Not Worth the Risk

Train track sessions are both dangerous and illegal

By Robert A. Howard, M.Photog.Cr., CPP

Holders of the PPA Master of Photography degree share essays and ideas in service to the industry.

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As a professional photographer with more than 30 years of experience, I can truly say I’ve seen it all and in many cases done it all. Staying on the cutting edge of the photography profession requires dedication, creativity, and the ability push the limits.

I’ve photographed nearly every type of subject during my career, but nothing challenges my creativity more than capturing the personalities of high school seniors. Their outside-the-box ideas, while sometimes frustrating, are always fascinating. I’ve seen many trends come and go and just as many recycled with a unique spin, but one of the most common requests I’ve received in the past five years is for train track sessions.

Teenagers nationwide are fascinated with those parallel lines of steel, which they see as a symbol of transition in their young lives. Some teens pose between the rails, with the vanishing point of perspective representing their journey into the future. Others walk the tracks strumming a guitar, mimicking musicians they admire.

I admit I’ve done dozens of these sessions, never really taking into account the danger or the potential legal consequences associated with my actions. Yes, that’s correct. Train track sessions are illegal. Hard to believe, given that a Google search for “train track session” churns up hundreds of images of children, families, brides, and high school seniors taken all over the United States. It demonstrates the serious lack of knowledge that these extremely popular sessions can actually get you arrested and fined. Nearly every image I took on or near the tracks was not only very dangerous but involved me breaking the law. At a minimum, I could have been cited for trespassing.

KNOW THE DANGERS

These days, when I’m asked to provide this type of session I am quick to say no and here’s why: First and foremost, it’s dangerous. The railroading industry spends a great deal of time and effort teaching employees safety measures when working around the tracks. In spite of all this training, the industry has hundreds of accidents annually. And it’s not just the risk of being hit by an oncoming train; posing in and around the steel rails and wooden ties can cause physical injury from slips and falls.

If you think you’re safe because you never pose in an area with heavy train traffic—or that you’d see or hear a train long before you’re in danger—you’re wrong. The railroad typically builds tracks in as straight a line as possible between points A and B. However, every track has turns or bends that were designed to avoid an object or an area. Add to this the often dense growth of trees and bushes that line the track, and the train crew’s line of sight is dramatically reduced.

The danger is compounded by the fact that trains are large, heavy, fast-moving objects that don’t stop on a dime. The average freight train engine travels 50 mph, weighs over 120 tons, and requires more than a mile to come to a complete stop. Roughly every three hours in the United States, a person or vehicle is hit by a train.

If those statistics alone don’t put an end to your quest for this type of photography, there are several additional reasons to avoid train tracks cited by the Federal Railroad Administration and Operation Lifesaver, a national nonprofit organization devoted to railroad safety education:

• Trains can’t stop quickly to avoid people or vehicles on the tracks.

• An optical illusion makes it hard to determine a train’s distance from you and its speed.

• The average train overhangs the track by at least 3 feet.

• Railroad tracks, trestles, yards, and rights-of-way are private property.

• No tracks should be assumed to be abandoned or inactive.

• People in your community mimic your behavior.

Some photographers argue that these issues don’t apply to them because they conduct train track sessions only on old or abandoned tracks. But the Federal Railroad Administration notes that all tracks, live or dead, whether owned by private freight or public transit, are dangerous. Nearly all of these tracks are private property, and you’re trespassing by doing anything other than legally crossing them via a marked roadway, grade crossing, or other safely posted location. The bottom line is this: If you’re still considering a train tracks session, think again, because in addition to the safety issues, both you and your client could be fined up to $10,000 or even face arrest.

TRACKS ARE POLICED

Yes, enforcement is real. Every time I did one of these sessions I risked that a police officer or railroad employee would see me engaged in this illegal activity. Most modern locomotives are equipped with cameras, so the chance of being caught and identified is more real than ever. And if you’re still thinking It’ll never happen to me, allow me to add one last deterrent: Nationwide there are hundreds of thousands of “rail fans”—train lovers with cameras. They are trackside nearly every hour of every day. While engaging in their hobby, many are also participating in Protect the Line, a program that asks these individuals to keep a watchful eye out for anything that is unsafe around the tracks. Many of these rail fans have photographed pro photographers and their clients as they engage in this illegal activity. Their images along with license plate numbers are shared with authorities on a regular basis.

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Posing young clients on train tracks is dangerous,
illegal, and not very creative. Steer them toward
more interesting and original settings.
©Robert A. Howard

Up to this point, most of us have been lucky. In many cases, if caught, you may receive a warning, but sooner or later you will have to pay the piper, and that could be a huge check to write. We need to ask ourselves whether taking such a big risk for such an unoriginal style of portrait is really worth jeopardizing the safety of all the people involved.

Safety needs to be a top priority for professional photographers; we need to set the best example. We all need to educate fellow professionals, amateur image-makers, and clients about the real risks associated with train track sessions.

Robert Howard has been a PPA member since 1987. He is the owner of Howard Studios in Lebanon, Pa. howardstudios.com

Related article: "'Midnight Rider' director, producers charged with involuntary manslaughter"

June 25, 2014

Domke Chronicle Is A Rugged Descendent

By Joan Sherwood

The Domke Chronicle, part the Next Generation Journalist series, has to be one of my favorites of the many camera bags I’ve tried in recent years. I’ll admit, though, that my love for the bag is based largely on aesthetics and my partiality for rugged canvas material that will age and soften over the years. There’s a romance to its texture that ripstop nylon just doesn’t deliver.

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Domke bills the Chronicle as the grandchild of the F-2, the bag that Jim Domke had custom made for his own use in 1976 and which is still one of Domke’s most popular bags. The Next Generation Chronicle inherits the side pockets, non-slip Gripper Strap made of durable cotton webbing, and the steel snap hooks from the F-2.

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The current Domke F-2

Modern modifications include double-zipper top access, expandable zippered side pockets, expandable snap front pockets, a web strap across the back for mounting on a rolling cart handle, a padded zippered tablet sleeve that fits devices up to 11x8 inches, side rain hoods, and the removable padded shell and three dividers from the Domke GearProtex Insert System.

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The GearProtex shell is actually five separate rectangles of padding that attach to each other and to the interior of the canvas, so you can use the whole thing or just the panels you want or remove it entirely. It also comes with a .5-inch-thick bottom-stiffening foam pad that adds a layer of impact protection for your gear.

I’m very impressed with the divider system. Even though the attachment surface is only along the edge of the divider instead of the half-inch flap most bags use, it’s extremely secure. It’s so grippy, in fact, that it can be difficult to place the divider exactly where you want it. Try folding a piece of paper around it until you get it in the right spot and then remove the paper barrier between the hook-faced edge and the padded wall.

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Each of the pocket flap hook and loop fasteners come with a Quiet tab that you can fold back, which eliminates the fastening element, but also does away with the riiiiipp noise also associated with hook and loop closure systems. The side pocket flaps can also easily tuck into the pockets for easier access to those compartments. I use one of them with the flap tucked in and the zipper expansion unzipped to hold a large 24-ounce water bottle, but it could just as easily hold a lens that you wanted fast access to during a shoot.

I can’t say I think the side rain flaps would be impervious to foul weather, but they are definitely better than not having them.  The non-slip Gripper shoulder strap is my favorite so far of the non-slip strap designs I’ve tried. It’s grippy enough to stay on one shoulder, but not so grippy that it rips the hair off the back of my neck if I decide to wear it in a cross-body configuration. However, the plastic attachments for the shoulder and grip straps are substandard in comparison with the rest of the bag’s materials, construction, and design. I would happily pay more to have these swapped out with metal hardware. Twice when I’ve used the grab strap, the plastic clip has come undone on one side, and this without even a moderately full load of gear in the bag. That could be disastrous if you weren’t paying attention right in that moment of lifting. The problem is that the thinner plastic of the clip can easily move to the side and slip off the attachment ring. The shoulder strap clip is more beefy and doesn’t have this problem, but I’d still rather have metal than plastic.

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This is a rugged, functional bag that has just enough compartments and features to make it cool but not overly complex. Granted, at a $349.95 street price, I believe you’re paying a little more for some status and style on top of that functionality. You’ll have to decide if it’s worth the investment for you. The Chronicle comes in Canvas Khaki/Black, Cordura Black, RuggedWear black, and RuggedWear military.

Review: FathomFocus In-Person Sales App

By Betsy Finn, M.Photog.Cr., CPP

These days, projection sales are the norm, but is your software limiting your sales experience for your client or even you? Being able to use today’s technology to offer a stress-free sales experience is important, and FathomFocus is a software solution that does just that. It’s an in-person sales app that allows you to use your iPad (2+) in conjunction with your projector to conduct ordering appointments, and it has a number of promising features.

Getting started is pretty easy. You install the app on your iPad, and the correlating desktop software to the computer you will have connected to your projector. There’s also a way to use Apple TV with the iPad directly, but I don’t have the hardware to try out that technology, so I’m going to cover the more standard method.

Once I had software installed on both devices, I went to the desktop interface to set up my first client.  FathomFocus has you first select the screen that it will display the previews on (top dialog box), and then create a new session (or select an existing one). Enter a session name and navigate to an image directory. Note that the browser (in Windows at least) will not display any image files—only folders—because you are supposed to select the folder you want FathomFocus to pull images from rather than the images themselves.  

Windows Firewall did block some features, so I had to allow access via the dialog box that opened after I clicked save on the new session (bottom dialog box). If you’re reopening a session, you’ll be prompted to browse to the *.ffs file that FathomFocus created within the image folder.

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At this point, your desktop should be ready and waiting to receive input from the iPad, so it’s time to switch devices. Select a session to get started. Assuming your computer and iPad can communicate via your network, you’ll be able to select the session you just created. I ran into some problems here; my devices couldn’t see each other, and I couldn’t determine a reason despite referring to FathomFocus’s support page on the subject. After some on-the-phone problem-solving with FathomFocus tech, we determined that the cause was twofold. First, my firewall or antivirus software had prevented something from installing completely on the desktop; second, the mobile hotspot I was using for Wi-Fi connectivity was causing some delays in initial loading. Once we got those two things straightened out, everything worked like a charm.

Continue reading "Review: FathomFocus In-Person Sales App" »

A Guide to Wireless Flash Triggers

A complementary supplement to "Trigger Happy," our July issue technical breakdown of optical and radio flash triggers

By Stan Sholik

It’s a daunting task to sort through and evaluate the more than 60 models of wireless triggers for electronic flash that currently exist on the market. Despite the large number, they all can be categorized into one of two types: optical triggers or radio frequency triggers. Each has advantages and disadvantages. The majority are radio frequency based. Still, there is no shortage of optical triggers available. Prices quoted are approximate street prices.

Speedlight and hot shoe TTL optical flash triggers

Both Canon and Nikon offer powerful speedlights and non-speedlight hot shoe IR triggers. From Canon the Speedlite 430EX II ($259) and Speedlite Transmitter ST-E2 ($220) provide these capabilities. Comparable Nikon offerings are the SB-910 AF Speedlight ($550) and the SU-800 Wireless Speedlight Commander ($250). Other camera manufacturers offer similar models for their cameras.

There are also speedlights with built-in IR wireless capabilities from third party manufacturers for Canon and Nikon bodies. Examples of these would be Metz mecablitz AF 44-1 ($190) and the Sigma EF-610 DG Super Flash ($135).

Non-TTL hot shoe trigger

If your need is for a simple IR trigger for studio flash units with optical slaves, the Wein Sync-Link Universal IR Flash Trigger ($70) may fit your needs. It will also trigger remote speedlights, but does not provide TTL exposure capability.

For Broncolor users, the IRX-2 transmitter ($530) attaches to the camera hotshoe and triggers Broncolor packs, including the Minipuls C, with built-in IR slaves.

Basic radio triggers

Basic radio triggers do not provide TTL exposure control, but can trigger both speedlights and studio flash. The RadioPopper Nano System that operates on four channels consists of two separate units, the Nano transmitter ($70) and the Nano receiver ($70). The system is compatible with other RadioPopper speedlight triggers as well as non-speedlight flash units. The PocketWizard PlusX ($99) is a transceiver capable of operating on 10 channels. 

Radio triggers with separate zones

By assigning remote flash units to separate zones you can test the output of each zone to ensure it is firing, and turn off zones to quickly change the lighting. With the PocketWizard Plus III Transceiver ($150) you can manage four zones, but without TTL capability. The PocketWizard MultiMax 32 Channel Transceiver ($295) also provides this capability along with other advanced capabilities.

TTL radio triggers with separate zones

The ability to assign remote flash units to separate zones gives you the capability to set and adjust light levels in each zone independently of other zones. The speedlights mentioned above provide this capability with IR signals. The PocketWizard FlexTT5 Transceiver ($220) with the PocketWizard AC3 Zone Controller ($80) provides this capability with radio signals.

The Quantum Instruments FreeXwire Radio TTL system separately controls several zones of flash, giving you control of flash exposure ratios from each.  Various FreeXwire components coordinate wireless TTL exposures with Qflash 5, Trio, Pilot, CoPilot, and even Nikon and Canon speedlights. The FreeXwire FW89 Transmitter/Receiver Set ($390) provides eight independent channels and, with the appropriate set of accessories, full TTL exposure control with Quantum flashes as well as speedlights.

Hybrid radio trigger

The RadioPopper PX system consists of a separate transmitter and receiver for Nikon and Canon speedlights and provides wireless radio TTL exposure control. The transmitter ($190) attaches to an on-camera speedlight or hot shoe IR transmitter and converts the IR signal from the unit to a radio signal that it transmits to the receiver attached to a remote speedlight. The receiver ($190) converts the radio signal back to an IR signal to trigger the remote flash.

Semi-proprietary and proprietary radio triggers

A trigger system such as the Elinchrom EL-Skyport Trigger Set ($305) consisting of a transmitter and two receivers is semi-proprietary. Used with select Elinchrom flash units you can change the flash output and control the modeling light and flash synchronization from the on-camera transmitter. With an appropriate flash cable you can also use the Skyport to trigger non-Elinchrom flash units attached to the receivers.

The Paul C. Buff Cyber Commander ($180) is the transmitter for another semi-proprietary radio trigger system. The Cyber Commander controls up to 16 lights on 16 channels. The transmitter controls all of the Paul C. Buff flashes as well as speedlights and flash units from other manufacturers. Each remote unit must be connected to a Paul C. Buff receiver ($90).

A system such as the Profoto Air Remote Transceiver ($300) is proprietary to Profoto Pro-8AAir packs and D-1 Air monoblocs. You can use it to control power and modeling light output of the Profoto flash units. Used in conjunction with the Air Sync Transceiver ($225), the Air Remote can trigger non-Profoto packs. The new Air Remote TTL transmitter ($395), for Canon at present but with a Nikon unit available soon, provides TTL exposure when triggering Profoto B1 500 AirTTL flash units.

Broncolor offers a similar system. The Broncolor RFS 2.1 transmitter ($167) provides wireless triggering and power output control of Broncolor Senso and Move as well as Scoro flash units equipped with RFS 2. When non-Broncolor flash units are connected to a RFS 2.1 receiver ($200) the transmitter operates as a trigger to fire them.

The Bowens Pulsar Tx Rx Set ($210) is available only for Bowens moonlights and only those units with a Pulsar Control slot on the back. The tiny receiver mounts into the Pulsar Control slot and the small transmitter onto the camera hot shoe. The system provides 24 channels. Paired with the Gemini R and Pro Remote Control ($90), you have complete control over power, test flash, modeling lights, and channel setting.

May 21, 2014

Cecilia Camera Straps Put Strength in Style

By Amanda Picone

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©Amanda Picone

As a female photographer, it can be hard to find camera straps that are both stylish and functional. Our choices often involve ruffles and shades of pink and purple, which just aren’t always practical. So when I was given the opportunity to review Cecilia camera straps, I was absolutely delighted. These straps are fashionable without being overwhelming. They fit a range of current styles, from boho-chic to more modern trends. The first thing I noticed when I opened the box was the pleasant smell of the leather; the second thing I noticed was the quality. The third thing? My husband, also known as my second shooter, who owns a wardrobe consisting only of black clothing, wouldn’t be embarrassed holding onto my camera with these straps attached. These straps aren’t just universally appealing, they’re also tough, and I was excited to put them through the wringer.  


I was sent two straps; one brown leather with charcoal baby alpaca wool, and one black leather with the Challaypu pattern alpaca wool. Both are absolutely beautiful. The leather is clearly very high quality. It is very soft and wore easily the first time, but I believe that as it breaks in over time, it will become even more comfortable. The hardware is a sturdy metal, and complements the coloring of each strap. A variety of style options are available, with a couple of patterns, several solid colors (the sandy baby alpaca wool looks gorgeous!) and full leather versions.

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©Amanda Picone

One thing I really liked is that the straps came with information about the construction of the straps, as well as a bit of history about the wool and leather sources and treatment, and there’s even more information on their website. The straps are constructed with durability and strength in mind, and though I haven’t been using them that long, I truly feel they will stand up to the test of time.



Gorgeous workmanship and materials aside, I tend to abuse my straps a bit, and I needed to know that these weren’t just all looks. My first impression was that the Cecilia strap was quite comfortable. It distributes the weight of the camera nicely and doesn’t pull in any areas or become snagged on clothing.  It can be worn comfortably both slung over one shoulder or around the neck, and the softness of the leather means it doesn’t irritate bare skin. The straps perfectly supported my Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a variety of lenses, without any noticeable strain. The length is perfect for me at 5'4", and it can be adjusted a bit. I asked my husband, who is about seven inches taller, and a couple of girlfriends who are a few inches shorter to try it out, and everyone was happy with the fit. The adjustable section of the strap is quite generous, so you can always change it to suit your personal preference.  



Overall, I was very impressed with the Cecilia straps, and very happy to learn about this brand. The straps are beautifully made, functional, and perfect for anyone who prefers a more toned down but still stylish strap. With the high-quality materials and much of the process done by hand, these straps are $80 to $100, but I feel the price tag is justified. It’s not just a high-end price, these straps are high end. While Cecilia straps are great for anyone, I truly feel they will have a specific appeal to those who are more fashion conscious and interested in keeping up with the current trends.  If shops like Anthropologie and Free People sold camera straps, I’m pretty sure they would be made by Cecilia.


 
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