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September 2, 2011

Shoot More Creatively: A Four-step Process

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Image ©Karen Carey

By Karen Carey

Conceptualize. When you start out with a concept, the results will be rewarding. Be adventurous and bold. Let the concept evolve and grow. Don't be afraid to take risks or to be vulnerable. Think it out, write it down, put yourself there. What do you want to say, show, reveal? What does it look like, feel like? What's the mood, texture, tone?

Materialize. Be prepared. With tools you already have, what can you develop? Don't just gather tools, be thoughtful; add tools as needed to grow. As you master a new skill or new technique, go out and play with it. Use it or lose it. Don't try to be an expert at everything. Know your areas of expertise and build on them.

Personalize. Be guided by your intuition. Recognize your strengths and capitalize on them. Use what is naturally yours. When you pay attention to yourself, you find out what your strengths are, and you become in tune with your divinity. Every person is naturally gifted with characteristics uniquely his or her own. Know your gifts. Know your weaknesses, but don't focus on them unless it’s to help bring a concept to life.

Release. Be inspired by the power of the divine spirit within. You’ve done the homework in the first three steps, now it’s time to turn it over to the universe and let the work come through you. Trust the plan to unfold perfectly with grace and divine timing.

The final results may look completely different from your initial concept, or exactly as planned. Either way, your satisfaction is guaranteed because you’ve become part of the process. Rather than taking what you can get, you become connected to the outcome. You begin to understand the power you have within to create your own destiny.

We’re always somewhere between where we’ve been and where we’re going. Start where you are and make a plan for where you want to go. Add the tools you need to get there, to bring yourself into the vision. Decide how and when to make it happen, then release it to the universe to bring it to life.

Look for our interview with Karen Carey in the October, 2011, issue of Professional Photographer. The September THRIVE Workshop, led by Karen Carey and Lena Hyde, has sold out, but you can get more information and sign up for the waiting list at karencareyphoto.com. See more of Karen Carey’s work at karencareyphotography.com.

September 6, 2011

Italian Design Meets Practical Function: B-grip EVO Camera Belt System

By Stan Sholik

From fashion to high-performance sports cars, Italian companies create some of the most beautifully designed and skillfully manufactured products in the world. CPtech of Bologna brings Italian design and manufacturing to photography with the introduction of the b-grip EVO camera belt grip system.

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The b-grip EVO system rides comfortably and securely at belt
level without hindering your movements. Image ©Stan Sholik

The b-grip system consists of a belt worn at the waist. The belt threads through the b-grip base plate, and a quick-release plate connects the base plate to the camera tripod socket. The b-grip securely supports still or video equipment up to 17.6 pounds. This frees you from neckstraps with cameras banging against your body and from aching shoulders at the end of the day. It also frees you from reaching into your camera bag, backpack or beltpack to retrieve your camera, lens, flash, or your video equipment.

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The b-grip EVO system consists of the b-grip camera plate, base plate and belt. ©Stan Sholik

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The b-grip base plate removed from the belt with the camera plate attached and locked. ©Stan Sholik

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The b-grip base plate removed from the belt with the camera plate removed. ©Stan Sholik

The two b-grip plates are high-tech injection-molded plastic resin that is impregnated with fiberglass fibers and glass microspheres. The woven belt is heavy duty enough for the SWAT team, yet the complete system is light and comfortable to wear. And not only is the system functional, its style is unobtrusive, and it incorporates several well-designed features that add to its usefulness.

One security feature is a rubber stopper in the quick-release plate. You must remove it to attach the plate to the camera’s tripod socket. Once you've reinstalled it, it locks the screw to prevent the screw from loosening. And if your tripod head accepts the square German DIN plate (Velbon, Bilora, Cullman and other heads), you never need to remove the b-grip camera plate. My Arca-Swiss head holds the b-grip camera plate securely, but there is a little play in it.

Continue reading "Italian Design Meets Practical Function: B-grip EVO Camera Belt System" »

Image Adjustment Gets Better: DxO Optics Pro v6.6

By Marianne Drenthe

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DxO Labs recently came out with updates to its award-winning optical correction and raw conversion software, DxO Optics Pro v6.6. DxO Optics Pro functions like a digital photo lab, improving the quality of straight out of camera (SOOC) raw or SOOC jpeg images. It's image enhancement addresses optical corrections, noise removal, exposure optimization, keystoning correctionn, color control and dust removal.

In this review I opted to use the standalone version of DxO Optics Pro v6.6. The program is easy to use within recent editions of Photoshop and Lightroom or as a standalone appplication.

When I first opened DxO Optics Pro, a pop up window appeared with tips on how to utilize the program. I found it helpful, and you can turn it off once you’ve learned the ins and outs of the program. The wizard took me step by step through the image correction process. You can select one or many images to work on at one time, and when you make corrections, you can have them apply all at once to a batch of images—a real time saver.

When you first open original images from your camera, the software will detect its EXIF metadata. If it detects that an Optics Module exists for your camera and lens combination, the software will automatically download camera profiles from the DxO website for your camera. There is no guesswork, no worrying about where to install these profiles—the software does it automatically. I like that my computer isn’t storing useless profiles camera and lens combos that I will never use. The ease of use is much appreciated in that regard.

For automated processing and speeding workflow, professionals and advanced amateurs are likely find DxO Optics Pro preferable to usual go-to options simply because of the personalized Optics Modules and presets. What might take hours converting and adjusting takes mere minutes in DxO Optics Pro v6.6, which is an impressive feat. The processing automation enabled by the camera/lens-specific modules is amazing, though, as you’ll see after the jump, it’s not a miracle worker in every case.

Continue reading "Image Adjustment Gets Better: DxO Optics Pro v6.6" »

Kubota RPG Speedkeys v2 Expands On Shortcuts and Customization

By Kim Larson

In 2009 we wrote about using Kubota RPG Speedkeys as a tool to speed up the Lightroom workflow process. Kubota RPG Speedkeys is a small wireless keyboard that is pre-programmed to run time-saving adjustments and shortcuts in Lightroom such as increasing or decreasing exposure and picking/rejecting photos. The original review of Kubota RBG Speedkeys is still accurate—it's still important that you remove the USB receiver when restarting your computer, it still comes with Kubota's handy lightroom presets, and it’s still a great workflow tool. But with Kubota RGB Speedkeys 2 for Adobe Lightroom, there are noteworthy updates to the original version that have now taken this workflow tool from good to great, and it’s available to all present and new users of the Speedkeys keyboard.

The original version of RPG Speedkeys provided you with Kubota's Lightroom Presets, but you were limited to only being able to run the Kubota presets from the keyboard. This is no longer the case. Now you can run any preset installed in Lightroom from the Speedkeys keyboard. You’re no longer confined to the original shortcuts provided by Kubota Image Tools either; they now provide a multitude of shortcuts to choose from. And instead of having the key positions set for you, you can customize the shortcuts and presets to any key you choose.

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The upgrade starts with a new version of the Kubota RPG Speedkeys software. The software is intuitive enough that you probably will not need to read any instructions. The interface shows a graphical keyboard, and you simply drag and drop keys onto it. Selecting a key will allow you to pick a preset that the key should apply. Once you have your keyboard setup in the software, you can match your physical keyboard to it by matching the keys.

Setting up the physical keyboard is simple, but If you’re the type of person who doesn’t usually read instructions, this is where you’ll need to pay attention. The new keys that come with the upgraded keyboard look like they are complete panels that should be put into the keyboard. But don’t go taking apart the keyboard yet. They are not meant to be used as complete panels, but as as individual keys. There is a small pick included to pop the keys off both the original keyboard and the replacement key panels. (Don't worry, it’s completely safe, and once you pop a few keys off, you’ll find it’s pretty fun!) Replace the keys on the Speedkeys keyboard one-by-one to match your software setup, and you are ready to go!

If you own the original version of Kubota RPG Speedkeys, this upgrade is available to you by contacting Kubota Image Tools at kubotaimagetools.com. If you're looking for a complete tool to speed up your Lightroom workflow, the Kubota RPG Speedkeys for Lightroom retails for $349 and can be purchased at kubotaimagetools.com.

Studio Lighting and Portraiture DVDs Deliver Great Foundation Skills

By Betsy Finn, Cr.Photog., CPP

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A fun and educational package recently arrived in my mailbox for review—a pair of instructional DVDs by Don Chick, M.Photog.,Cr., CPP, from his The Confident Photographer instructional series:

• Studio Lighting (with a 4x6 soft box)
• Studio Portraiture (Basic – Intermediate)

Being familiar with Chick’s lighting and teaching styles, I was looking forward to watching these DVDs, and I think you will be, too. While there is some crossover content, I didn’t find it to be too overdone, and considered it more like a review, or introduction, before the meat of the lesson. I think it will be rare that someone will plan to watch both back to back, as I did.  It’s more likely that you’ll refer to one or the other at a given point, and in that situation, the brief review will be helpful.

The Studio Lighting DVD covered white balancing methods, lens selection (distortion), and two basic light setups. In contrast, the Studio Portraiture DVD focused on the different light setups that Chick relies on— three-light and six-light setups, and the use of accent lighting. In the second DVD, Chick also discusses how he creates his signature character study portraits (lighting, clothing, accessories, etc).

On both DVDs, Chick talks you through the lighting setup, explains why he does things a specific way, and then lets you watch him interact with his subject as he creates a series of images. Final images are also shown throughout the DVD, where appropriate. While not a new concept to me, I appreciated that Chick took the time to show the effects of his lights by using each unit’s modeling lamp. This is a particularly useful teaching tool for those who are new to studio lighting.

Some of the techniques that Chick teaches are basic building blocks of studio photography, such as broad vs. short light, but he also includes more advanced techniques. I enjoyed seeing how he uses a handheld reflector to add a little something extra to the lighting setup, and appreciated his discussion of gobos and when they can be effectively used for a studio portrait (your clients with thinning hair or bald spots will thank you).

Continue reading "Studio Lighting and Portraiture DVDs Deliver Great Foundation Skills" »

September 7, 2011

From Click to Quiet: Silence Your Shutter with AquaTech Sound Blimp

By Stan Sholik

When most photographers think of a sound blimp it’s usually in connection with shooting on a movie or television set when sound is being recorded. A sound blimp with a lens tube connected effectively silences the sound of a SLR anywhere beyond a couple of feet from it.

Using a sound blimp isn’t limited to shooting film or television stills. I have used a sound blimp for more than 20 years and have never been on a movie or TV set. I use a sound blimp to photograph symphonic, choral and dance productions, as well as theatrical plays. Other photographers use a sound blimp for surveillance, courtroom, wildlife and even sports, such as golf, photography. Sound blimps also provide environmental protection in harsh sand and dust environments.

After 20 years, the foam in my blimp has had it, and I was ready to send it to the manufacturer for refitting when I discovered a new source for sound blimps, AquaTech, located in Orange County, Calif. AquaTech is best known for their waterproof sport and surf housings and their line of environmental shields for cameras and lenses. I contacted AquaTech and received a sound blimp for a Nikon D3X/D3S/D3 to test. Other models are available for Nikon D700, D300s/D300 and Canon 5D Mark II cameras.

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The external controls straddle the viewfinder eyepiece. The ribbed soft rubber pads on the hand grips and the shape of the body make holding the AquaTech blimp with both hands solid and comfortable. There are D-rings on the hand grips for attaching an accessory shoulder strap.

The AquaTech sound blimp is a far cry from the Jacobson blimp that I own. Rather than a squarish box, the AquaTech looks more like an underwater housing. And although it is less than 1/2-pound lighter, the ribbed rubber hand straps and the contoured grip built into the body make it far easier to carry and hold. The entire back surface of the AquaTech blimp is hard clear plastic, covered on the inside with sound-deadening foam. A window cut into the foam allows you to see the LCD screen and through the viewfinder.

But the biggest advantage to the AquaTech is borrowed from their sport and surf housings. There are three controls on the back of the blimp (see above) that mate with controls on the rear of the camera. Pressing one allows you to review the last image. Pressing another allows you to activate the autoexposure/autofocus (AE-L/AF-L) lock button on the camera to perform whatever function you have programmed for it in the Custom settings.

Continue reading "From Click to Quiet: Silence Your Shutter with AquaTech Sound Blimp " »

As Good As It Gets: Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f/1.4 ZF.2 Lens

By Stan Sholik

For five years, Carl Zeiss has produced single focal length, manual focus lenses for camera bodies that accept Nikon, Canon, Sony, K-mount, and M-42 screw-mount lenses. These lenses are highly regarded by landscape, closeup and portrait still photographers, for both film and digital cameras. Videographers have also become a major market.

The latest in the series is the Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f/1.4, presently available with Nikon and Canon mounts. I tested the Nikon ZF.2 model.

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The Zeiss lens (left) is larger and heavier than my older 35mm f/1.4 Nikkor (right). Image quality of the Zeiss is also greater. The Zeiss ZF.2 series of lenses for Nikon don’t include the metering prong of classic Nikkors and of the Zeiss ZF lenses, but do include Nikon’s auto-indexing (AI) ring and tiny secondary aperture scale. Zeiss ZF.2 lenses include an internal CPU and external contacts that transmit EXIF information to the camera body as well as allow the use of all metering functions. ©Stan Sholik

Zeiss incorporates an improved T* anti-reflection coating and a nine-blade aperture for a nearly circular diaphragm. If you’ve ever wondered about the pleasing bokeh effect, you’ll instantly know it when you view images shot at f/1.4 with this lens.

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I needed a high shutter speed to capture this model making jewelry lit only by window light. Shot at f/1.4, vignetting is visible at the edges of the frame, but more important to me is the beautiful soft look of the out-of-focus model in the background. ©Stan Sholik

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This assignment photo for a dog-friendly vintage clothing store was a perfect opportunity to use the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4. I needed to use available light in a dark area of the store to stop the action of the dogs and show the models enjoying the shopping experience. Shooting wide open also allowed me to focus attention on the model. ©Stan Sholik

The silky smooth focusing ring on the 35mm f/1.4 rotates through about 150 degrees from minimum focusing distance to infinity, for extremely accurate focusing. At an aperture of f/1.4, the image is four times brighter than one shot with an f/2.8 lens, making focusing easy, even with the viewfinder screens in modern digital SLR cameras. The focusing ring stops when you turn it to infinity or the minimum focusing distance, so you always know where those points are. These attributes are what endear Zeiss lenses to videographers.

The aperture ring includes half-stop detents that click firmly into place between the marked aperture settings. The extensive use of metal in the lens construction gives it the look, feel and weight of classic Nikkors. The 35mm f/1.4 is a monster compared to my 35mm f/1.4 Nikkor. The Zeiss weighs more than twice as much, is twice the length, and requires 72mm filters rather than the Nikkor’s 52mm filters. Having tested other Zeiss lenses, I wasn’t surprised to find the 35mm f/1.4 superior to my old Nikkor 35mm f/1.4, but it’s surprising how far more superior it is.

Even at maximum aperture, the Zeiss shows superb sharpness in the center of the lens. Sharpness falls off somewhat to the edges of the frame if you ever place the subject near the edge of the frame when shooting wide open. By f/2, sharpness is excellent everywhere. There’s a hint of barrel distortion at f/1.4 on a full-frame camera, but that too disappears by f/2. Distortion is non-existent on a DX-format camera.

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Sharpness is superb at the center of the image at all apertures and also at the edges by f/2. In this image shot at f/8, the tiny hairs on the stem of the weed are perfectly sharp against the sky. ©Stan Sholik

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In image after image with this lens I am impressed with its sharpness and its ability to render color so accurately. Despite it being moderately wide angle, there is no hint of distortion. ©Stan Sholik

Continue reading "As Good As It Gets: Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f/1.4 ZF.2 Lens" »

September 13, 2011

Hot Stuff: Bad Sass Backdrops

By Robyn L. Pollman

Bad Sass Backdrops are printed on quality 100% canvas by Pixel2Canvas. Bad Sass Backdrops offer “split” and “tri-split” backdrop options, which allows the customer to decide how they want to split an 8-foot or 10-foot canvas backdrop. Photographers can select a background design for one half of the canvas, and a faux-flooring option for the other half using the “split” option. Or with the “tri-split” option, use a background design on both ends of the canvas, and a faux-flooring option in the center. By turning the 10-foot canvas around, photographers have two background options in one. 

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 ©Robyn L. Pollman

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Professional Photographer readers can take advantage of the following promotion: 30% off any backdrop order using code PPA30 (code not valid on Sassafrass Magnetic Moulding). The coupon code is valid until October 31, 2011.

See more from Robyn L. Pollman at paperieboutique.com and buttonsandbowsphotography.com.

September 29, 2011

An HDMI Cable That Ditches the Bulk

By Stan Sholik

When you need to do a presentation, bigger is better for the screen that you'll use to show your work, but smaller is better for the equipment you need to bring with you. On a location assignment, showing your portfolio to an ad agency, or selling your services to a couple looking for a wedding photographer—the less you need to carry, the happier you’ll be.

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An active HDMI cable lets you show a wedding portfolio
on your iPad 2 to an engaged couple in their own home
without toting a bulky cable. ©Stan Sholik

RedMere cables are roughly 1/4 of the diameter of standard HDMI cables and will coil into a diameter of less than one inch. Yet the cables are guaranteed to deliver full 1080p HD picture quality while you control the show from as far away as 10 feet. Most 10-foot HDMI cables are heavy and bulky and won’t coil comfortably in your pocket, camera bag or iPad case. That is the problem that RedMere has solved with their RedMere HDMI cables.

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The availability of an HDMI output on most digital SLRs gives traveling photographers the option to leave the laptop at home and take along a compatible HDMI cable to preview photos and videos in any hotel room with an HDTV that has an HDMI input. For photographers showing their portfolio to prospective clients, the iPad 2 is becoming the device of choice. With a Digital AV Adapter and an HDMI cable, you can connect an iPad to an HDTV and make the presentation even more impressive. 

RedMere’s technology is based on a tiny, self-powered chip built into the HDMI cable connector. The RedMere chip boosts the signal so that the cable can be even thinner than an iPad USB cable and still handle the 10.2 GB/s data rate. Cables with RedMere technology, also known as “active” cables, are the world’s thinnest, lightest, and most flexible cables for products that connect using HDMI technology, according to the company.

Continue reading "An HDMI Cable That Ditches the Bulk" »

About September 2011

This page contains all entries posted to Professional Photographer Magazine Web Exclusives in September 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

August 2011 is the previous archive.

October 2011 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.


 
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