Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ian Plant - Dreamscapes

I read a great article in Outdoor Photographer today called "Dreamscapes" about the photographer Ian Plant.

There are two quotes in the article that really resonated with me about what he's trying to achieve with his photography:

1) "I strive to create images that move beyond the literal, transforming subjects into something unexpected for the viewer by rendering the familiar in an unfamiliar way".

2) "Artists should impose their vision on the scene, not the other way around. I’m always looking for ways to create an image, rather than just record one".

Great thoughts! Particularly the one about "creating" instead of just "recording". This is precisely what I was getting at in my post on this site called Active Photography.

This guy has a great portfolio. Check out his web site.

Friday, October 23, 2009

PhotoPlus Expo - New York City

Today, I attended the PhotoPlus Expo photography conference in New York City for the first time. I've had free passes for this event for many of the years it's been in New York, but something always came up the week of the show that prevented me from attending. This year, I made the time and went.

You can click the link above to read all about the show, but suffice to say that all of the major camera manufacturers were there as well as a large selection of photographic industry supporting businesses (i.e., manufacturers of flash units, papers, books, accessories, tripods, camera cases, lighting equipment, wedding albums, printing services, photography schools, photo services, etc).

It was great to see all of the current photography wares under one roof at the Javits Convention Center. It was also good to see a major presence from companies like Sony, which is trying to make a major push into the DSLR industry. Competition is a good thing!

I left with four distinct impressions:

1) The newest mid-range DSLR's (i.e., Canon 7D, Nikon D300s) are fantastic and far superior to their siblings from just 2-3 years ago. The features and performance of the new Canon 7D makes my Canon 30D seem like 20-year old technology, when in reality it's only three years old. The new pro level Canon and Nikons are also certainly very impressive machines.

2) Inkjet printers have become so sophisticated that their output is almost unbelievable. You have to see if for yourself to believe it. I'm planning to buy the new Canon Pixma Pro9000 Mark II printer, and the prints that this machine was printing out were nothing short of stunning in quality. No printer artifacts whatsoever like the earlier photo printers. Just clean, smooth, sharp prints on any paper size from small 4x6" prints to massive posters printed on paper rolls. Incredible!

3) The Gary Fong Lightsphere Collapsible Flash Diffuser is one of the greatest (and cheapest) flash accessories that I've seen in a long time. When attached to an accessory flash it produces a nice, even, soft flash effect without the harsh shadows associated with shooting bare straight-on flash. Great tool for softening up the harsh light from your flash unit.

4) The internet has made it possible for a photographer to run a full blown photography business with comparative ease versus five years ago. You can buy or find a service for anything to do with the photographic industry online. Print houses, photo album and book printers, media companies, marketing assistance, specialty photography web site hosting, software to do almost anything, etc. Everything is just a few clicks away. A truly fantastic use for the internet, and a great benefit for photographers!

Click the image below to see a few pictures from this year's show...
PhotoPlus Expo - New York City

Saturday, October 17, 2009


I've been reading an interesting book lately called "Transit" by the photographer Uwe Ommer.

This is not just another photography book. It's part photography book, part scrapbook, part cultural sampler, and part epic journey. It's also giant in size, not only physically, but in page number as well (720!).

The genesis of "Transit" was another book by Ommer called "1,000 Families" in which he traveled around the world for years to photograph portraits of 1,000 families showing life and values in different countries.

The "1,000 Families" book was the expected outcome of that major effort, but it seems that "Transit" was the unexpected outcome. You know how some DVD packages come with the movie and then an extra DVD about the making of the movie? Well, "Transit" is about the making of "1,000 Families".

I find this book interesting because of it's massive scope of travel, the storytelling approach of the the narratives, and the funny anecdotes that can only come from a modern day around-the-world adventure into sometimes not-so-modern-day places. And that's what this trip adventure!

But more than anything else, it clearly shows the importance of the family unit in every corner of the world. Every family and culture is different (which this book clearly points out), but in the end everyone just wants to be happy, to enjoy life, to give something back, and to be with their family in their environment. It's a compelling story...

If you're interested in travel, family, culture, photography (or all of these things), I would suggest checking out this book.

I'll end my part of this post by putting up the description of "Transit" from Amazon's web site:

"Around the world in 1424 days: the epic voyage behind the making of the book 1000 Families. Part travel journal, part scrapbook, "Transit" is a unique book that traces the four-year, 250,000-km journey of photographer Uwe Ommer during the making of TASCHEN’s 1000 Families. Called a "family album of planet earth," 1000 Families is a vast collection of portraits taken by Ommer in over 130 countries in all corners of the world. Naturally, a voyage of such epic proportions bears its fair share of anecdotes, adventures, mishaps, and souvenirs, and Transit traces the experience via stories and images. From closed borders and broken bridges to late rainy seasons, curious customs officers, thieves, coups d’├ętat, raging fevers, and a far from "unbreakable" Land Rover, Ommer found truth in the maxim "just about everything that can go wrong, will."

This amusing and original compilation paints a vivid picture of what it’s like to travel to the most remote corners of the globe for four years, meeting countless people and observing the great cultural and social similarities and differences that mark the human race".

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Canon 7D

Canon Professional Network has posted a lengthy overview of the new Canon 7D on their web site.

In my opinion, this is the first truly innovative camera to come from Canon in quite a while. The 20D, 30D, 40D, and 50D DSLR's were just minor steps up from each other. The 7D is a major revision and unleashes a fury of new and truly creatively useful technology.

The one thing I disagree with is the continuation of Canon and Nikon's race to cram increasing numbers of megapixels on APS-C sensors. I keep wondering when the megapixel marketing race will end and Canon and Nikon will figure out that most photographers would probably prefer to have 12-14 really clean megapixels at high ISO with no noise over a 19 megapixel APS-C sensor with noise and tons of noise control. I personally don't give a darn about having 19 megapixels. Just give me a clean shooting camera...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Life blogs

Sometimes life or work (or both!) beat the ever-living crap out of you. You're totally worn down, you lose perspective, and the smallest things become a big deal. You're off balance.

Those are the times to reset, pursue one of your hobbies, take a breather....and/or check out one of the better blogs about living a simpler life and focusing on what really matters.

That's all the introduction I need to give to these three great blogs. Check them out and you'll get the drift real fast. Good reading!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Autumn arrives!


A distinct chill is in the air in the northeastern U.S. as autumn comes sliding in...

The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting colder. You need a jacket in the morning and an extra blanket at night. Our baseboard water heat turned on for the first time the other day and you can "smell the warmth" of it. The kids say "I smell heat". They're has a certain comforting smell the first time it comes on for the season. Makes me want to take a nap on the couch!

I always like how autumn sneaks up on you. Everyone is always rushing to do their last fun activities of the summer, then the kids go back to school, then a few weeks pass and you suddenly realize that the leaves are changing color! Fall is here!

I remember the morning I took the picture above. It was about 6:30am and the grass was heavily frosted from overnight. I had just cut it the day before so it was all clear of leaves except for this one red leaf that fell right in the middle. I thought the contrast against the frosted grass would look nice. I was right! :-)

Take some time to enjoy this season. Take a long meandering drive through some mountains to see the scenery. Watch how the sun cuts through the trees in the afternoon to make them explode with color. Go to a local farm to pick a pumpkin, have some apple cider and a donut. Make a fire and just relax and watch it burn with a glass of merlot. Listen to the wind as it blows the leaves from the trees. And take some pictures!

Autumn is a season for the senses. The first taste of the holidays will soon be in the air. Enjoy it!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Adobe TV

Adobe has updated and improved their Adobe TV section of their web site, which offers good video tutorials on many topics related to photography. Check it out.

The use of video has really changed this area of online support and education. It's often much more effective to watch someone do something than to read about it. A picture (or video) is worth a thousand words!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Photo books

Here is a good article from called "Self-Publish Your Photo Book" that summarizes the most recent state of the art web sites for publishing your own photo books. The prices have come down considerably, and now most serious photographers have good self-publishing options within their grasp.

One book printer left out of this article is Photo Book Press, so I figured I would include them here.

ACDSee Pro 3 - No!

I've been using ACDSee Pro for quite a few years to manage my photos because it's fast, easy to use, and helpful. However, even as I've remained a fan of this software for years, I've also always thought in the back of my head that it just wasn't as good as it could be in the areas of functionality, organization, features, workflow, etc.

I stuck with ACDSee Pro through various upgrades primarily because Adobe Bridge CS4 is such a dog on my older machine. It's so slow that I just can't use it on a regular basis for photo management. I return to Bridge periodically only because it has implemented keywording in a great way. So I keyword each new month of photos that I take, and then don't return to Bridge again until the next month.

So....Out comes the new version of ACDSee, which is Pro 3. This version of the software seemed to correct almost every complaint I ever had about it, but after using it for a few days I discovered that the 'Process' mode workflow is so deeply flawed that it's almost unbelievable. Seeing how this mode functions (even when editing simple JPEGs) , I would have to say that people need to take a careful look at this software before deciding if its workflow scheme would suit your needs. It's a great photo browser, but in my opinion, the editing capabilities have been ruined due to the workflow it forces you into.

The new interface is constructed around modes named Manage, View, Process, and Publish. These modes structure you into an organized workflow when you want to manage and edit images. Much the same way Lightroom does...

But more importantly than the new structure of the application is the vast suite of editing tools that it now contains that are all-encompassing, easy to use, more efficiently organized, etc.

The problem with all of this is the Process mode. This is the area of the software that you enter when you're ready to edit a photo. Process mode is broken into two halves; Develop and Edit. Each of these two subsections has a logically grouped set of editing capabilities within it. So far, so good. The major problem is that if you make some edits in the Develop mode, and then move to Edit mode to continue with the next set of tools, you can't go back to Develop mode again to tweak what you originally did there without losing everything you did in Edit mode. This is so unbelievably silly that I triple-checked to ensure I was seeing this right. This is indeed the way it works. Terrible!

The other problem with Pro 3 is its implementation of keywording. You can keyword photos, but the interface to do it is cumbersome and outdated. It's a sadly overlooked part of this software and has been since the first version. All ACDSee has to do is implement templated keywording like Bridge has and this would be a huge improvement. It's a shame that they still can't get this aspect of their software right.

Maybe I can overlook the outdated implementation of keywording, but the Process mode is so fundamentally wrong (especially for JPEGs) that it immediately turned me off to this software.

Try the free demo version of Pro 3 to see what you think.