Old Tractor, Before After

After being inspired by the latest Perfect Inspiration video by Brian Matiash, I remembered a shot I took of an old rusting tractor in 1999. I thought I’d go back and re-visit post processing to enhance the shot further.

I loosely followed the steps on epsiode 16, getting lost, but changed a few things to better suit the tractor photo.

I think you’ll agree, it’s a decent improvement. As I do more, I’ll continue to post more before and after shots.

I used Lightroom 4 to make the initial minor adjustments, then OnOne’s Perfect Photo Suite 6.1 to add the gritty feel, vibrance and selective focus. I created several layers with various blending effects to bring out the rusty decay in the photo. By adding the focal-point, selective blur effect to the background, it brought out the tractor, adding dimension.

Below is the before-and-after. Drag the slider left or right to see the comparison.

Much thanks to OnOne software’s Brian Matiash, for his terrific series of videos that inspire and teach at the same time. It’s helped me learn to use their software.

Thanks for visiting!

Canon 7D firmware upgrade

Canon’s EOS 7D firmware v2 upgrade.

The release will be coming in August. Here’s the list of new features:

• Improved maximum burst for RAW images (up to 25)
• In-camera RAW image editing
• In-camera Image Rating
• In-camera JPEG resizing
• Maximum Auto ISO setting (ISO 400-6400)
• Manual audio level adjustment in movie recording
• GPS compatibility
• File name customization
• Time zone settings
• Faster scrolling of magnified images
• Quick control screen during playback

Here’ my take:
Great! Having new functionality added by way of firmware is always welcome.

However, they missed the mark. It would have been easy (i think) to add more Auto Exposure Bracketing stops, extending the current limitation. Nikon’s D4 can shoot up to 9, with 1/3, 1/2 or 1 stop increments.

I want this for HDR photography. Doing so manually is a pain, and can’t be done as quickly as an automated mode.

As for the other features, I find most of them will be useless to me.

• I don’t need in-camera RAW image editing. All my editing is done using Lightroom or Photoshop.
• I don’t need to re-name files in camera.
• Manual audio level adjustment – Nice, if you shoot video and need it, but most people I know that shoot video, use a separate recording device and sync it in post. So, this is nice, but not a necessity.
• Time Zone settings – should have been there in before, so nice to finally have it for travelling.
• GPS compatibity – nice, but not a necessity.
• Faster scrolling of magnified images – was never an issue for me before.
• Quick control screen during playback – I never found not having this to be an issue before.
• Still no voice memo! At 8 frames per second in continuous shooting mode and with it’s fast focus tracking, this is a sports shooters camera. The need to record a voice memo for an important sports play, would’ve been nice. Why they left this out is beyond me.

This is supposed to be a significant upgrade. Canon will certainly sell more GPS units, but for the average user like myself, this upgrade falls short of what I really wanted.

More details on the Canon Rumors website.

Before After

My first post in a series that show some of my photography, before and after processing. This shot was taken last year in October. It was a cold, dreary day, and we decided to drive to Brooklyn and take some shots of the bridges by DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). This is an iconic place with an amazing, panoramic view of the east side of New York City in between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges.

The original (before) photo was shot in the camera RAW format. As you can see, there’s no detail in the sky, and the shadow areas are too dark. Although you can’t see the detail in the sky, it’s not lost, but is contained in the 16 bit file. By using Adobe Lightroom 4 to process the photo, I brought out the missing detail in the sky, and brightened the shadow areas of the bridge, this is a perfect example of how much information you can pull out of a RAW file.

Photographing a show

The King and I

I enjoy the privilege of photographing performances produced by Bergen County Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts, in Hackensack New Jersey. BCA is a magnet school where my eldest daughter, Alexandra attended and graduated in 2008. The most recent show the school produced was Rogers and Hammerstein’s The King and I.

It was magnificent. From the amazing, acting, singing, choreography, custom made costumes, set design, hair and makeup, to the stage craft, lighting and orchestral arrangements, this was a feast for the eyes and ears. Every bit as professional as any Broadway show I’ve seen. Congratulations to all the students, faculty, parents and volunteers that pulled off this show.

My job of photographing a show is very challenging, to say the least. The actors move quickly, lighting and sets change frequently, and stopping the action in such low light is difficult. Thank goodness for modern photography equipment, that enables me to capture imagery I never could have done so before.

My current gear can capture images at a rate of approx. 3.5 frames per second, which is not the speediest available today. However, I find for my needs, sufficient. I manage to push it to the limits at times when I need it, and I do well. Yes, I will upgrade to faster technology in the future, but for now this suits fine. It forces me to take my time and find the best moments. When they occur, I fire 2 or 3 bursts and I’m assured one of them will be sharp and clean.

Now the tougher part is lighting conditions, metering the scene and adjusting exposure compensation in real time. To know the camera’s controls without looking is imperative, and must be instinctual. Moving EV (exposure values) plus or minus as needed, as much as 3 or 4 stops, in an instant. This is in part, how I’ve been able to achieve success. There are plenty of missus still, which is normal for any photographer. The answer is to shoot a lot. I shoot as much as 3,000 images over the course of three shows! Coming back to shoot additional shows, from three performances, enables me to capture images I may have missed. And, coming back for the other shows, allows me to shoot from other vantage points. It’s amazing how a scene can change, just by moving your body to different shooting angle.

I limit my posts to only hundreds from the thousands I shoot, which is still a significant amount of photos, but I must do so. The reason for this is to cover the entire event. But more importantly, to provide at least one photo of someone’s son or daughter. Hopefully, a keepsake or image that can be used to help them advance to the next level of their education or career. I wish them all the very best.

All of this is volunteer work that I thoroughly enjoy, and hope helps the community!

See some of the photos here:  “The King and I”

PDN and Photowalk with RC Concepcion

October 27 -29, 2011 was the PDN PhotoPlus expo at the Javits center, in New York City.

On Thursday, Oct., 27th, I went on a photowalk with by RC Concepcion and the founders of 500px. RC is one of the “Photoshop” guys from Kelby training, a great photographer and all around good guy. Evgeny Cheboterev, Andrey Tochilin, Jen Tse, and several others from 500px were there from Toronto and it was great meeting them. Well known wedding photographer and blogger Lisa Bettany (Mostly Lisa), was also there.

RC took the lead for our walk. We met at the Intrepid air space museum, where I shot a decent and impromptu HDR of the Intrepid. For those who are unfamiliar, HDR is a High Dynamic Range photo that combines three or more bracketed exposure to expand the dyanmic range.

From there, we walked to Times Square, stopping for shots along the way. RC got excited when he saw an opportunity to break out his Speedlights, to shoot a ATM near a corrugated steel door. I assisted by holding one of them as his VAL (voice activated light stand). Here’s the scene, but I don’t have a link to RC’s shot.

Here’s my shots from the photowalk.

Canon’s new flagship! Canon EOS-1D X

Just announced this morning, October 18, 2011, Canon announced their new flagship DSLR, the EOS-1D X. Based on rumors, I new there would be a new hi-end DSLR announcement today, and this one did not disappoint.

I’ve been hoping that Canon would finally step up with a body that can compete with Nikon’s amazing D3 and D3x. If the image quality and performance lives up to the specifications, I think we’ll have a phenomenal camera. It comes at a steep price of $6,800, but for many, such as sports and photojournalists, it will be well worth the expense. For the rest of us, we’ll have to wait and see what happens in 2012 for the more affordable highly anticipated camera as the 5D Mark III or whatever they plan on naming it. My guess… it’ll have a lot of megapixels (39?) to compete with Nikon’s soon-to-be announced D800. So for those hoping for medium format-amount of megapixels, Nikon will have a solution, and I think Canon will to! It’s a great time to enjoy being a photographer. The technological advances are amazing..

Specs:
Magnesium body, with integrated vertical grip and battery compartment
18 megapixels, Full Frame 35mm Sensor
(2) Digic 5+ processors (17x faster then Digic 4s)
(1) Digic 4 processor dedicated for metering sensor and AF
100 – 51,200 ISO Range
ISO expansion 50 – 204,800 (wow!)
Carbon Fiber Shutter (rated 400,000 lifespan)
12 FPS continuous shooting
14 FPS continuous, with mirror lockup and JPEG only
X-Sync speed of 1/250
Twin CF Card Slots
Ethernet 1,000 Base-T port
100% Viewfinder – electronic overlay of AF points, level
Optional GPS Receiver and Wirless File Transmitter
Improvements to ergonomics – buttons and dials repeated for vertical grip and placed in easy reach of thumb and forefinger.
Multiple Exposure – you can combine up to (9) exposures to a single frame.
61 high-density AF points. Most advanced yet for superior AF precision and low light sensitivity.
New AF, intelligent tracking and recognition enhancements.
New metering and exposure control using dedicated Digic 4 processor
1080p video with new HD video formats and new compression.
Selectable frame rates of 24p, 25p, 30p, and 720p HD or SD at 50p or 60p, NTSC or PAL. Can exceed (4) GB file capacity, and continuous recording up to 1/2 hour. Audio has manual level control, and wind filter, through internal mic or optional external stereo mic input.

Release date is said to be March, 2012, with an expected manufacturing rate of 7,000 per month.

My take
This is an awesome speed demon. An upgrade that combines the previous top two Canon DSLR’s, the 1Ds Mark III and the 1D Mark IV into a single, impressive, pro body. Realizing that pixel quality is more important than pixel amount, at 18 high-quality, extremely low-noise megapixels, this camera looks to be amazing!

An able competitor that may actually exceed Nikon’s D3 and D3x flagship. It’s too early to tell, since no image samples have been posted yet, and no camera bodies released for reviewers to test.

 

Nikon on Facebook

Catherine Hall, a pro photographer, blogger, and host of the TWIT Photo podcast, commented on Google+ about a post by Nikon on Facebook recently. The post said “The photographer is only as good as his equipment”.  Nikon, Seriously? What’s weirder, there are over 1,600 people that “liked” this on the Facebook post!

There’s some speculation that this was the work of a hacker. Who would do such a thing? And if so, why? To discredit Nikon? That’s not going to happen. If true and a Nikon rep wrote it, Nikon will surely handle it appropriately.

Catherine has over 120 comments on this post so far, and there are over 2,750 comments on the errant post as well.

Feel free to add yours!

Click here to see Catherine Hall’s post on Google+

Click here to see Nikon’s Facebook post

 

 

 

"Nikon, are you serious?"
Nikon, are you serious?

Professional Portrait Retouching

I’ve been retouching photos for many years, and always found retouching portraits to be tedious and difficult.

I found that my old habits die hard. I easily fall back on methods that work, but take forever to accomplish.

Photoshop has evolved and keeping up with all the new tools can be daunting, unless you take the time to learn.

I finally decided it was time to improve my skills, and Joined NAPP and Kelby Training.

As a creative director, it’s important to be up-to-date with computer skills, and as a part-time weekend-warrior photographer, I began to feel the pressure to improve quickly.

I purchased Scott Kelby’s Professional Portrait Retouching Techniques book, and was thrilled with how much material there is jam-packed into his book.

I put many of the exercises through their paces, and began practicing.

I was thrilled with how much time I saved, and how great the results are.

The results are subtle, but you’ll see Samantha’s skin is smoother, her eyes are brighter and sharper, I added color to her lips, and highlights to her hair. Removed blemishes and stray hairs, and cleaned-up a rough edge of clothing on her shoulder.

Here’s the results:

Before

After

Let me know what you think!

Cheers, Ivan

Decoration or Design

Thinking about all my years as a creative director and a photographer, design is embedded in me. I may not always succeed, but I know when it’s right and why. By definition, design means problem solving. Communicating an idea through visual means. Not to be confused with art. Art is self expression.

As a fan of Paul Rand, the legendary designer, I’m reminded of how he loathed the direction design had taken when the personal computer took the world by storm in the early 90’s.

Rand was teaching at Yale when he wrote several papers on this very topic. Young designers took to the new medium and began to explore it’s potential. The outset of that exploration was a lot of bad design, still happening today unfortunately. The principles were quickly forgotten in lieu of a filter that would produce “a cool effect”.

Design became less of a problem solving discipline and was turning into mere decoration. Colors, textures, swirls, mixtures of fonts, various sizes and weights… the list goes on. In a short time, trends would develop, and various filter effects and styles would come and go.

The designer was becoming a decorator. Little thought on how, why or for what purpose, just merely to choose a font or apply a filter, was good enough. Worst yet, clients bought it. Design standards lowered.

Paul Rand so eloquently expressed his displeasure with this new direction in a piece that I recommend all creatives should read:

Confusion and Chaos
http://www.paul-rand.com/index.php/site/thoughts_confusionChaos/

More about Paul Rand here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Rand

In recent years, I have re-invigorated my passion for photography. I have observed some parallels in photography with design. Brought about by the advances in computer technology today, things like high dynamic range (HDR), tilt shift, and pre-sets and filters to achieve painterly effects, are all employed.

I understand the need to explore and try new ways of self expression. But I can’t help feeling that we are entering the trap of becoming decorators again.

At what point is it art? I suppose if there’s a large enough audience that appreciates the aesthetics, you could call it art.

But, is it? I have some thoughts I’d like to share.

A good composition, to me, is far more important than any decoration or filter applied to it.

When the filter or effect becomes the dominant focal point, it detracts from the composition.

As for originality –

The French painter, Claude Monet invented a new style that was never done before. Called Impressionism, Monet was an original. No painter had ever expressed their work in this way before. However, despite his new technique, Monet’s compositions were spectacular.

Pablo Picasso used Cubism. Another original.

Georges Seurat was famous for Pointillism. His technique, composition and style are unmistakable.

These painters did something new. Not always liked by the masses at the time, but new and evocative.

All these painters developed forms of self expression we know as original art. But make no mistake, their compositions were exceptional.

That brings us to today. I find it hard to imagine what Georges Seurat would have thought of the Pointilist filter in Photoshop.

The styles and techniques were original. I suppose if someone creates a style or filter that is truly original for a particular photo application, that can be considered art.

Absolutely.

I’ve seen some astonishing work by some young, and original artists/photographers. Just visit the galleries in Chelsie, NYC, and you’ll see for yourself.

But one must be so careful not to get caught in trends, filters, effects, and and lose sight of overpowering a beautiful composition with mere decoration.

Go ahead and experiment, and explore. It’s fun and it’s how we discover new things.

Just remember what Paul Rand said about mere decoration.

Don’t let the effects over power. The original intent will be lost.

Cheers,
Ivan