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July 3, 2013

July 2013 Issue

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July 10, 2013

Tutorial: Nikon R1C1 Close-up Speedlight System

By Stan Sholik

The field of photography encompasses many disciplines, and each has its niche. Manufacturers support those niches with products to simplify the technical side of photography and allow the photographer to concentrate on the creative side. For close-up and macro photographers with Nikons, Nikon created the R1C1 Close-up Speedlight System.

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The R1C1 with two SB-R200 Speedlights with ultra close-up diffusers and the SU-800 Commander attached. Product photo courtesy of Nikon

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I captured this female Monarch butterfly with a 3:1 ratio and the camera hand held. I pointed the flash unit on camera right as far as I could to the left to feather it off the wing, and set its power the lowest. ©Stan Sholik

At first glance, the 30-plus pieces in the kit seem impossible to sort out, even when placed in the case supplied with the kit. But all you need to do in order to start taking beautifully lit close-up and macro photos is screw the adapter ring onto your lens, screw the attachment ring to the adapter, attach the two SB-R200 Remote Speedlights, slide the SU-800 Wireless Speedlight Commander into your hot shoe, make a few simple settings, and shoot.

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For most of the photos I took this day I used a 3:1
lighting ratio. But for this photo of an adult and
juvenile milkweed beetle on an open milkweed pod,
I dropped the ratio to 2:1 to better see the juvenile.
 
©Stan Sholik

You can use the R1C1 with any Nikon that triggers through its hot shoe, but camera models that do not support the Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS), my N100 film camera for example, require additional connection cords and manual operation. The system takes advantage of Nikon’s i-TTL through the lens metering system in CLS-compatible cameras and requires no connection cables. The SU-800 is not needed for cameras with a Wireless Commander built into the camera’s onboard Speedlight system, and Nikon offers the R1 system for those cameras.

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With a ringlight, this monarch butterfly pupa would
be flat and dimensionless. With a 3:1 lighting ratio,
the shape is defined and the texture of the pupa is
accentuated.
 ©Stan Sholik

The R1C1 adapter, attachment ring and two flash units add surprisingly little weight to the lens, about 6 ounces. With these attached to the lens and the subject framed, you position the flash heads where needed on the attachment ring. They securely lock into place, and tilt forward through 60 degrees with click stops every 15 degrees.

Now you power on the flash units, your camera, and the SU-800 in your hot shoe. The SU-800 display shows you are in wireless close-up mode with a CLS compatible camera. The Select (SEL) button on the SU-800 is the main control button. You press this until the channel number flashes if you want to set the wireless channel to a channel other than channel 1, the default. Set the channel on each flash unit to the same channel you set on the SU-800.

The SU-800 can control multiple flash units in three groups. With just two flash heads, set the rotary switch on one head to A and on the other head to B. Press the SEL button on the SU-800 and the display of the output ratio of group A and group B flashes. Pressing the left-facing arrow to the left of the SEL button changes the lighting ratio from the 1:1 default. The options are 1.5:1, 2:1, 3:1, 4:1, 6:1, and 8:1 ratios, with the A flash unit increasingly more powerful than the B. Pressing the right-facing arrow to the right of the SEL button, changes the lighting ratio in the same way, with the B flash gaining the power. Optionally, by pressing the A – B button above the SEL button, you can set the lighting ratio using exposure values (EV), from -3.0 EV to +3.0 EV in 1/3 EV steps.

r1c1_group_800v.jpg 

(1.) With the camera, Speedlights, and Commander powered on, the Commander LCD screen confirms wireless close-up i-TTL operation on channel 1 with the speedlights set to a 1:1 ratio. (2.) Pressing the Mode button switches the Commander from i-TTL mode to Manual mode. In Manual, you can adjust the power of each group from full power to 1/64 power. (3.) With a third group, you can adjust the power of speedlights in that group from full to 1/64 also. (4.) By pressing the left arrow button, you adjust the lighting ratio. Here the speedlights are set to a 3:1 ratio. The bars show which group has the higher power. (5.) The lighting ratio are adjustable from 1:1 to 8:1, with either flash unit having the greater power. (6.) Each SB-R200s must be set to a group, and all of them must be set to the same channel number.  ©Stan Sholik

And that’s all there is to it. Take pictures. Adjust the lighting ratio at will for different looks. It’s that simple.

But the creative capabilities of the R1C1 system only begin here. There are diffusers in the kit, filters the for the SB-R200 flash units, and stand mounts for using the flash units off the attachment ring. And by pressing the Mode button of the SU-800, you can control the power level of each flash unit from full power to 1/64 power. Since the SU-800 controls other Nikon Speedlights such as the SB-910, these can be added into the lighting for additional effects. The creative possibilities are endless, but the simplicity of its basic use, two light sources with easy ratio control, makes it the ideal tool for close-up and macro photography.

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 ©Stan Sholik

Street price of the Nikon R1C1 Close-up Speedlight System is about $720. 

Stan Sholik is a commercial/advertising photographer in Santa Ana, Calif., specializing in still life and macro photography. He is currently working on his second book about close-up and macro photography for Amherst Media.

July 11, 2013

Organize, Share, and Collaborate with Moxtra

By Marianne Drenthe 

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The world of project-based applications continues to evolve and one of the newest additions to this genre is called Moxtra. At first glance you may think “Oh look, it’s another Pinterest,” but Moxtra is capable of so much more than just being a virtual place to collect virtual things.

Moxtra is an iOS, Android, PC & Mac-based productivity application that allows interactive editing and communication between collaborators during management of any project. Its main objective is to increase productivity and enhance sharing with others. You can access Moxtra via the app on your iPad, iPhone, Android, or use the web to access your Moxtra Cloud-based binders from your desktop computer.

What You Can Do With Moxtra

Working with Moxtra begins with creating a binder for a project. You can use multiple binders to collect and organize your pages for multiple projects. The list of what and how you can potentially grab items for binder inclusion is extensive: you can grab images or videos from your iOS or Android device, PC, or Mac; you can take a photo with your mobile device to go directly into your binder; you can use the Moxtra desktop app to communicate with your computer to grab a file from your desktop or laptop; and you can even link your DropBox with your Moxtra.

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Once you have your binder set up you can choose to keep it private or you can share it with others: a client, an employee, a second shooter, a designer you’re working with, really the list of potential shares is endless. You can even edit the level of access a user has after you have started your collaboration. You can allow those other members to edit, to manage or simply to view your binder. When you share your binder you can choose to allow binder members to edit any page within your binder via voice, text annotation or any of the other cool tools Moxtra has available for revising your pages within your binder. 

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If someone on your team edits a page within your binder you can quickly view the details of those changes by looking at the binder’s activity stream. The binder activity stream updates any changes made to your binder in real time. The activity stream displays a clickable thumbnail of the media that has been added or edited by any of the members of your binder. Your binders can be shared via the web so any participating members of your binder do not need to have Moxtra to collaborate with you.

Of course there is also a meeting tool to allow you to instantly set up a conference right from your iPhone or iPad. This feature is beneficial for real time collaboration on a project. This is a welcome feature when coordinating project efforts in a professional setting. 

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Practical Uses for Photographers 

While trialing Moxtra I was trying to think of ways in which it would be relevant to the working professional photographer. Here is my short list of uses for Moxtra:

Communication for sales of wall displays. Engage your portrait client by mocking up and sharing wall display options. The ability to add in members to your binder for collaboration purposes makes changes easy to discuss right within the binder. For example, your client could take a photo of their space, type in wall measurements, and send it to you. You can quickly import the images you took from your photo library, resize them and move them around on your client's wall photo and create an example wall gallery, sharing your ideas with your client via the binder, doing all the back and forth of planning wall displays within your binder rather than through email or phone.

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Cutting edge communication with tech savvy clients. High school senior photographers have a tech savvy client base and could demonstrate their work by scheduling a Moxtra slideshow demo with a potential client and a Moxtra meeting afterward to discuss. The photographer could create a quick slideshow with a few images and include voiceover (via the Voice Recorder) prompts to discuss poses or their thoughts on the image in question. It would be a great way to differentiate your studio as cutting edge while putting your images front and center.
High touch communication. You could create a binder specific to the bride and groom for planning poses for their formal images and other photography for their big day. Moxtra could take the place of back and forth email exchanges and provide a more high touch experience and cultivates your relationship with your clients.
Use of the recording feature. The record feature records both audio and what's on the screen on your iPad. Imagine assembling a dozen or so photos from a wedding ceremony in a binder, handing it to Mom and Dad in a quiet spot before the reception, and pressing the Record button. Moxtra would record their voices as they remark on the couple and the day along with the visual action of them viewing the photos. Once you stop the recording you can e-mail a link to it. Once the e-mail recipient (yourself or the client or whoever) views the link, they can download the slideshow as an mp4 file. With the right equipment you could project it at the reception. There are even more options for saving and sharing the file: save it to your device's album, text the link, post on Facebook, or YouTube. It may not be a sellable product, but it would generate a lot of emotion and buzz.

I’m impressed by the versatility that Moxtra affords the user, the potential uses for the professional photographer are only limited by the users needs and imagination. As apps sometimes do, it can chew up some memory in your iPad. If it starts to act a little buggy, a hard restart will clear up memory and it's fine. The iPad interface seems to be most versatile and practical with the ability to use pinch gestures for resizing on a comfortably sized surface.  

You can download Moxtra for your iPhone or iPad through the Apple iTunes store, or from Google Play for Android; it is free. Take a look and explore what Moxtra has to offer.

July 15, 2013

July 2013 Issue

 

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July 2013 Issue

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July 16, 2013

July 2013 Issue

 

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June 2013 Issue

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June 2013 Issue

 

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July 23, 2013

Expose 3 Brings Amazing Alignment and De-ghosting to HDR

By Stan Sholik

HDR Expose 3 box

High dynamic range (HDR) photography seems to have passed through its early years of excess and taken on its role as another powerful tool for controlling scene contrast, both globally and locally. Its use is far from universal, however, even among photographers comfortable with HDR imaging, because of three limiting factors: the inability to batch process multiple files from a shoot to create HDR images; the need to use a tripod while shooting to ensure absolute alignment of the original images; and the need to have no or at least minimal movement in the scene during captures.

Several HDR software solutions have addressed some of these issues with reasonable success, but HDR Expose 3 from Unified Color is the first to solve all three successfully in a single product.

Previous versions of HDR Expose are renowned for their ability to create natural-looking HDR images with minimal artifacts and without the grungy HDR “look.” The interface and workflow were a bit unusual however. Version 3 of HDR Expose retains the ability to create natural-looking HDR images, but with completely rewritten algorithms for many operations, along with a clean, modern interface and a rearranged, logical workflow.

Expose 3 installs as a standalone program, with plug-ins for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Apple Aperture. If you are only processing a single image sequence to an HDR image, using Lightroom or Aperture makes some sense, but part of the power of Expose 3 is its ability as a standalone program to work with multiple sequences of images.

HDR Expose 3 open dialog

The opening screen give three options for opening images in Expose 3:
open a single image, open a single sequence of images to merge to an
HDR image, and batch process a folder of images.

There are three options for opening images on the initial Expose 3 standalone program screen. You can open a single image saved in a variety of 8-, 16-, and 32-bit file formats. This option is especially useful if you have previously used HDR Expose batch processing and saved a number of files as 32-bit HDR images for further processing. A second option is to open a single sequence of images in a folder of images. Expose 3 uniquely stacks image sequences in groups so that you can visually choose what sequence to process, and what images in the sequence to use or discard. There are other options for this choice, including the amazing new automatic and manual alignment and ghost removal functions, which I'll address later.

HDR Expose 3 sequence

When you choose to open a sequence of images to create a single HDR image, HDR Expose 3 stacks all of the sequences in the folder you select and displays thumbnails to make it easy to choose the sequence you want. Buttons are available for automatic or manual alignment and de-ghosting. If your camera was tripod mounted and there was no subject motion during image capture, selecting the Merge Static Photos checkbox speeds the merge process.

HDR Expose 3 batch process 

Photographers doing high volumes of HDR can choose to batch process an entire folder of images. The files can be saved to a 32-bit HDR file for later individual adjustment, or to a final TIFF or JPEG using a prebuilt or custom preset.

The third option is batch processing. Photographers doing high-volume HDR photography, such as real estate interiors and exteriors, can use the batch processing to process entire photo shoots to separate 32-bit files in common formats for later adjustment, or to a final JPEG or 8/16-bit TIFF using a pre-built or custom preset, and save the resulting files to a folder automatically.

Using the first option or the second with automatic alignment and de-ghosting, the image opens in the Expose 3 interface. Presets are available in the filmstrip below the preview window, and the HDR tools are available in panels on the right. While there is a Grunge preset, the result is far less than what is routinely available in Photomatix or even Nik HDR Efex Pro.

The histogram at the top of the tools panel displays the full dynamic range of the HDR image while a shaded overlay indicates the dynamic range that you can display on your monitor. As you use the tools in the Operations panels, the histogram and overlay adjust accordingly. Between the histogram and the Operations panels is a navigator window.

Unlike in previous versions, the seven available operations are now all performed in Unified Color’s 32-bit Beyond RGB color space. No longer do you exit their proprietary color space to perform Veiling Glare or Geometry operations. With Expose 3, the preview image retains its look for Veiling Glare and Geometry, and Geometry is now moved to the final Operation where it logically belongs. The Operations panels are definitely designed to keep the image looking on the natural side of the HDR spectrum. The major shortcoming that I find with the overall processing in Expose 3 is the difficulty the algorithms have in dealing with the sun or other overly bright areas in the HDR image. With nearly every sequence I process with the sun present, the sun and the areas surrounding are too contrasty and look decidedly unnatural.

While I never experienced in Expose 3 the haloing created around areas of high contrast by other HDR software, you can create other artifacts by pushing some of the Expose 3 operations to their maximum. The Color Settings operation allows you to selectively change the color balance of an area, to make the sky a deeper blue for example. But push it too far, and you create a black border at the edge of the blue areas. Similarly, using the Dodge and Burn tools too aggressively also creates black borders around corrected areas. But these are minor annoyances that you can live with in order to take advantage of two of the strengths of Expose 3: the ability to align images that you shoot hand held, and the ability to de-ghost movement that occurred within the frame during the taking of the image sequence.

HDR Expose 3 manual alignment 

With Expose 3 you can manually align images that you captured if your camera was not mounted on a tripod. After choosing a position in the image, thumbnails below the preview show where that position is in each image in the sequence. You simply drag the images in the thumbnails until the positions are identical and apply the correction before merging the sequence. You can set up to eight different positions for alignment. For this image I needed two. ©Stan Sholik

You can use the tools to correct both alignment and de-ghosting automatically or manually while merging an image sequence from the second option of the initial Expose 3 screen as mentioned earlier. By selecting Manual for Merge Align and Deghost, then clicking Preview, you are shown a preview of the merged and aligned image. If each image is not precisely aligned with others, you can manually set up to eight alignment points, and Expose 3 will realign the images based on those points. I never needed more than three points, even for my sloppiest handheld sequence. It works perfectly.

HDR Expose 3 de-ghosting

If there is movement of elements in the images in the sequence, you can manually select the frame with the moving objects in the position you want them, and set that as the key frame, indicated with a “key” icon in the image list. A slider lets you set the amount of weight to give to that frame in the merged HDR image. ©Stan Sholik

But even more amazing is the de-ghosting function. The previous Expose 2 did an excellent job freezing a flag that was blowing around in one of my HDR sequences. But neither it nor any other HDR software was ever able to automatically de-ghost a handheld sequence with people moving through it. Expose 3 accomplished this easily. All I needed to do was manually choose the image where the people were positioned where I wanted them, the “key frame,” and set the relative importance I wanted to give to that image in processing. The preview redraws, and Expose 3 automatically eliminates the ghosts of those people from the image. Once you have aligned and de-ghosted the source images, clicking Merge performs the actual merging and the HDR image opens in Expose 3 ready for adjustment operations.

HDR Expose 3 example image

I selected as the key frame the one image with the seagull in the sky and built the HDR around it. The images in the sequence were hand held, but Expose 3 had no problem automatically aligning them. While I had problems with other images in Expose 3 where the sun or an over bright area is in the frame, here the area around the sun wasn’t a problem. ©Stan Sholik

HDR Expose 3 example image 

Of all the HDR software I have tested, Expose 3 does the best job of aligning and de-ghosting this handheld image sequence with people moving through the various frames. It was less successful with the bright area in the sky. ©Stan Sholik

Concurrent with the release of HDR Expose 3, Unified Color is also releasing 32 Float 3, a new version of its Photoshop HDR plug-in. While the interface and operations tools in 32 Float 3 are identical to those in Expose 3, the workflow is significantly different. You must merge your image sequence using Photoshop’s Merge to HDR Pro, eliminating the alignment and de-ghosting tools found in Expose 3. For optimum results you save the resulting 32-bit HDR image in Unified Color’s BEF file format. 32 Float adds the BEF file format into Photoshop when it installs. You then open the BEF file in Photoshop, select 32 Float from the Filter menu, and proceed with the adjustment operations as you do with Expose 3. You can also open any 32-bit source image saved in file formats other than BEF and perform adjustments with 32 Float.

While this workflow is fine for sequences with your camera mounted on a tripod and no movement in the frames during capture, Photoshop’s merge function is only usable in the most static image-capturing conditions. The advantage to 32 Float is that the final 8- or 16-bit image is now available on a layer for further processing or compositing in Photoshop.

Whether you choose HDR Expose 3 or 32 Float 3, you will find that you have the ability to easily create natural-looking images no matter what the original contrast range of the scene. While HDR is most often used to decrease scene dynamic range, you can also use it to expand dynamic range of scenes. HDR Expose does an excellent job of cutting through the Los Angeles haze, and I have seen it bring back the color and contrast of a friend’s hazy Grand Canyon scene. HDR is an excellent tool for many purposes, and the Unified Color products are interesting options for creating natural-looking images under less than ideal shooting conditions.

The Unified Color website offers many excellent video tutorials on Expose 3, 32 Float 3, and Express 2, a “lite” version of Expose 3. There are also 30-day trial versions of all products. MSRP for HDR Expose 3 is $119, with upgrades from previous versions purchased prior to April 23, 2013 for $59. Upgrades for purchases after April 23, 2013 are free. MSRP of 32 Float 3 is $89, with upgrades from previous versions purchased prior to April 23, 2013 for $49. Upgrades for purchases after April 23, 2013 are free.

Discounts are available when the two products are purchase together. Combination price is $149, with upgrades from Combo Suite 2 purchased prior to April 23, 2013 for $79. Upgrades for purchases after April 23, 2013 are free.

Stan Sholik is a commercial/advertising photographer in Santa Ana, Calif, specializing in still life and macro photography. He is the author of "Nik Software HDR Efex Pro," published by Wiley Publishing.

System Requirements:

HDR Expose 3
OS: Intel-based Mac OS 10.6 (Snow Leopard), 10.7 (Lion), Mac OS 10.8.x (Mountain Lion)
32-bit or 64-bit (recommended) Windows (XP, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8)
CPU: Dual-core 2.0GHz minimum; quad-core, 2.8GHz is recommended for best performance
RAM: 2GB minimum, recommend 4GB
Video: Recommend 256M video memory minimum

32 Float 3
OS: Intel-based Mac OS 10.6 (Snow Leopard), 10.7 (Lion), Mac OS 10.8.x (Mountain Lion)
32-bit or 64-bit Windows (XP, Vista, Windows 7)
Adobe Photoshop: Requires CS4, CS 5, CS 6 or Photoshop CC (Note: 32 Float will not work with Photoshop Elements)
CPU: Dual-core 2.0GHz minimum; quad-core, 2.8GHz is recommended for best performance
RAM: 2GB minimum, recommend 4GB
Video: Recommend 256M video memory minimum

About July 2013

This page contains all entries posted to Professional Photographer Magazine Web Exclusives in July 2013. They are listed from oldest to newest.

June 2013 is the previous archive.

August 2013 is the next archive.

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


 
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