Friday, June 24, 2011

"The Photographer's Eye" - Now available as an iPad app!

Back in 2009, I wrote a brief review at this link of one of my favorite photography books called "The Photographer's Eye" by Michael Freeman.  I've read this book twice now and it stands up well to repeated readings, and in fact I discovered new things the second time around that perhaps I didn't quite fully absorb the first time.

This is one book that I consider essential reading for any photography enthusiast.  Considering that, I was pretty excited to hear that this book has now been converted and enhanced for release as an iPad app!  A very well selling iPad app, at that.  You can read the details about the new app at this link.

Even though I already own this book, I enjoyed it so much that I plan to purchase the iPad app as well.  I'm intrigued at the thought of the extra multimedia content in the app that goes above and beyond the book, and I consider the price small relative to the amount of value that I've gotten out of all of Michael Freeman's books.

If you buy the app, I would like to hear your feedback on it.  Please add a comment to this post with your thoughts.  Thanks!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Review: Incase Book Jacket for iPad 2

I occasionally put reviews up here on my blog about products that I think are well designed and that will probably be useful for a lot of people to read.  Since millions of people own iPads, and many of them probably want a good case for their shiny new purchase, I thought this would be a good topic for a review.

We recently got an iPad 2, and with the swapping from person to person and location to location that this great device is going to end up seeing because everyone wants to use it all the time, my thoughts turned to getting a good case for it right after I walked out of the Apple store.

You'll discover that the Apple Smart Cover is really quite silly after you spend some time checking it out.  First, it offers very little actual protection for the iPad.  If you drop your iPad with a Smart Cover on, the iPad is going to get damaged.  It's as simple as that.  Second, it's clumsy.  It flops around when it's open, it unfolds when you're trying to use it as a stand, etc.  Third, it scratches the back of the iPad in the spot where the magnets attach, if you care about such things.  Fourth, the price of $40 is a complete rip-off.

So...After eliminating the Apple Smart Cover, I went to the local giant electronics store (near me, that's Best Buy) to check out the myriad of iPad 2 cases they have.  I was in the market for:
  1. A case made of high quality material
  2. A case that's compact
  3. A case that would protect the iPad well but also give access to all of the buttons
  4. A case that's comfortable to hold.  I didn't want to have to take the iPad in and out of the case just to use it.
I quickly eliminated most of the cases at the store because after brief examination it was clear that they didn't meet the four essential criteria above.  Some of them were flimsy pieces of junk, others protected the back but not the front, others were far too bulky, etc.

Then I saw the Incase Book Jacket for iPad 2.  Perfect!  This case is priced around $50, but that seems to be about average for the better quality book-style cases for the iPad.  The Book Jacket completely protects the front, back, and edges of the iPad.  The iPad securely fits into the right side of the case and a velcro tab holds it very securely in place.  Perfect.

More than offering simple protection though, the case is also versatile.  It can be opened and held like a book, or the cover can be folded back to make it easier to hold.  Depending on how you fold the cover, you also get some other different functionality.  You can fold it and use the handy built-in strap to create a working angle to type on.  You can flip the cover over the other way and prop the iPad up at one of three different viewing angles for movies, TV shows, or reading.  Photos of all of these positions are available at this link on the Incase website.

This is all contained in a thin, well built, suede lined book jacket that adds (relatively speaking) very little additional thickness to the iPad for what this case is.

After owning this case for several months, it still looks as good as new and I still think it's great......and that's the sign of a good product.  If you're shopping for a case for your iPad and you want a nice book style design, definitely check out the Incase Book Jacket.  If you don't like this case, they also make lots of other cases for the full line of Apple products.  Good luck with your shopping!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pathways #3: I've had a photographic epiphany!

Unfortunately, I haven't posted much over the past two weeks.  I think I've been somewhat jinxed.  Many things have been going wrong around the house and fixing those things (including my newly dislocated knee!) have taken priority over everything else for a while.

But now I'm back...and returning to my Pathways series for a quick post.

My previous posts focused on learning more about your camera so that you can take it off full automatic mode to take control of the photographic process, and how to manage your in-camera exposures to get punchier and livelier photos straight out of your camera without editing them afterward on your computer.  This post is a bit of a divergence from those topics, and I hope you find it a valuable change of course....

I had an interesting discussion with another photographer recently.  We were discussing the fact that your photography will usually improve by leaps and bounds when you have a strong passion for what you're photographing.  If you're walking around not really caring too much about what you're taking photos of then you won't strive to improve your photography and how you represent your subjects.  But if you have passion for your subject and really want to do it justice, then you'll find a way to do it better.

Another topic we discussed is how I have an interest in many different types of subjects (old architecture, decaying objects, storms, odd things, etc) and that I don't focus on just one with excessive passion.  He proposed to me that I should try to focus my attention on one subject area for a while to try to hone my skills when dealing with just that subject matter.

As I thought about his point last night, I can't say that I disagree....but the problem is that I'm not interested in dialing in on one specific subject matter for any period of time.  It's just not my thing to restrict myself that way.  Then I thought a little more about the subjects that I shoot and how I shoot them, and I had a photographic epiphany.

Photographically speaking, one of the primary things that interests me is extreme lighting.  It doesn't really matter what the subject is, but extreme lighting on a scene (either light or darkness) almost always catches my attention right away.

When I look back at some of my best photos, they fall into the category of having extreme lighting.  I have photos of children in extreme light, landscapes in extreme light, even photos of barns, other random objects, and flowers in extreme light.  But for sure, extreme lighting is the single common denominator that runs through my better images.

Two simple images from my library that show what I'm talking about are below.  I went against conventional wisdom in the first photo and shot directly into the setting sun for a nice effect.  In the second photo, I carefully metered the scene to get my daughter's face right and then I let almost everything else go dark.  They're two simple examples of how to use extreme lighting for nice results.

Shooting directly into the sun to silhouette the playing children....

My daughter cleaning up her spilled cereal in a shaft of sunlight....

If you want to read a great book that discusses the type of lighting and shooting situations that I'm referring to in this post, check out the above book by Duncan Evans called "Extreme Lighting Conditions in Digital Photography".   This book has many samples of exactly what I like and how to achieve success with shooting in these types of lighting conditions.

Moral of the story:  I don't necessarily have a single subject that I'm passionate about, but I do have a single style that I'm passionate about....which is extreme lighting.  Now that I've realized this after doing it unconsciously for years, I can hopefully make a big jump in my photographic portfolio by trying to use my passion for this type of lighting to create better photos.  I'm looking forward to the challenge!

Try to spend some time finding the subject or style that you're passionate about, and work to improve your skills in that area.  It's a great way to jump-start your creativity and improve your skills.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

This is why we should have let GM fail

This article is the epitome of why the U.S. government should have let GM fail.

Dan Akerson is a clueless moron, as are the American auto industry executives in general.  I can’t even imagine that an executive would come up with this idea, let alone back it with his company’s name in tow. 

One thing is for sure....You would never hear the executives of Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai, or Kia making this type of idiotic embarrassing recommendation.  They found a way to clobber the U.S. auto makers at their own game decades ago, and still do.  They don't need to mess with gas prices to succeed.  I can only imagine them laughing when they saw this headline.....

I resent the fact that I would need to pay higher gas prices to make up for the mistakes of the stupid GM executives that have been in place over the decades.  I also resent the fact that my tax dollars went to helping with the GM bailout in the first place, which will eventually's only a matter of time.  Historically, auto company bailouts have not worked here or in other countries.

This has nothing to do with the U.S. auto workers.  I whole-heartedly support the American auto workers and what they do, I just don't support the stupid companies they work for.

Do you want to rescue the American auto industry and save the auto workers' jobs at the same time?  Do it this way:
  1. Let GM fail.
  2. Provide labor and financial incentives for the Japanese and Korean manufacturers to come over to the U.S. (more than they already are).
  3. Lease them our auto factories so that we can keep American jobs here.
  4. Have the U.S. auto workers building high quality efficient foreign cars that don't need artificially inflated gas prices to survive.
  5. Everyone ends up happy.
The American auto industry executives are completely clueless.  Utterly and completely clueless.  This is why I will always have foreign cars parked in my driveway.  Period.