Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Back in Cali

Great to be back home after a somewhat wet, windy, and no electrical power trip out east.  The school has been busy working the California Photo Festival and I am very impressed with the work the staff has done.  Should be another killer week of fun, photography, and learning. 

Even though Irene let loose with an unreal amount of rain I was able to make some interesting images over the four days I was in New York.

The following images are from a little indoor HDR trip just down the road from Rick's place.

3 Shot HDR with Nik's HDR Efex Pro

Same 3 Shot HDR with HDR Soft's Photomatix Pro

I often use multiple methods to process my HDR and then pick the best option.  Of course, there are times I pick and choose different parts to use from different finished images.  Whether using Layer Blend Modes or Layers/Masks, there is no limit to what you can do.

The B&W Effects conversion, for giggles.

All shots are from a Canon 7D and an EF 14mm f/2.8L.  I processed initially in Lightroom and then sent to the respective plug-ins.

Fiat Lux!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Topaz B&W Effects Available Tomorrow

Topaz will release B&W Effects tomorrow.  It has been fun as part of their beta test group.  What has been even better is they made quite a few changes based on input we submitted.

I think this is a strong entry into the black and white conversion market.  There are some good features you will not find other places.  I am a big fan of the brushes for local adjustment to tone, detail, smoothness, and color.

I should have some tutorials up soon and hopefully a webinar on B&W Effects in September. 

Baby humpack having fun.

The day was very muted so with little color to begin with
black and white seemed a natural option.

B&W effects will be on the page tomorrow.
Fiat Lux!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Slow Shutter/Waterfall Tips with Rick Sammon

New Croton Dam, NY
I am in New York this weekend with Rick Sammon.  Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene just passed through the area.  My discussion in NYC was cancelled so we spent the day shooting around Croton-on-Hudson. 

We recorded a quick video discussing the top slow shutter speed and waterfall photography tips.  Rick and I, along with Juan Pons and Jennifer Wu, did a battle of the sunset photo tips last year at the California Photo Festival (2011 California Photo Fest) so we thought we would do a smaller version.

The top tips on the video, and one or two more, were:

1.  Use a tripod for stability.  When shooting slow a tripod allows you to keep everything solid except for the moving water.

2.  Use your cable release or camera's timer.

3.  Bring a neutral density filter or polarizers.

4.  Use live view.

A small "stream" that had popped up as a result of Irene.

5.  Reference live view's magnification frame to act as an expanded spot meter for perfect exposure.  I normally place the frame over the brightest area of the water I am trying to blur.  This area is normally (but not always) the shot's highlight and drives the overall exposure.

6.  After the shot reference your histogram to make sure the exposure is tight.

7.  Target half a second as your shutter speed.  As water speed changes you may need more or less.

8.  Keep a lens cloth and absorbent cloth nearby to wipe your lens and LCD.

9.  Maintain your SA (situational awareness,) always look behind you to make sure you are not missing a great shot.

Those were just a few we thought of on the spot in beautiful Croton-on-Hudson, NY.

 Same as above but with "enhancement." Took the image to Silver Efex and then blended the result using the Luminosity blend mode in Photoshop.

Check out a bunch of cool tips at Rick Sammon's blog here.

Fiat Lux and see you at the California Photo Festival!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

First Conversion with Topaz BW Effects

I began playing with and testing the soon-to-be-released Topaz B&W Effects plug-in today.  There is some serious power in the program.

My first take is the black and white conversion is very good.  In addition, the plug-in gives me access to Topaz Adjust-like effects and control over exposure and contrast transition.  There is so much in the program it will take me a couple days to give a full report.  Another great tool to have in the kit.

 B&W from Topaz B&W Effects

Color from Canon and Lightroom

Should be fun testing this one out.

Fiat Lux!

Monday, August 22, 2011

The California Photo Festival- Don't miss the biggest photography event on the Central Coast!

Get your pass now to the 2nd annual California Photo Festival, October 12-16, 2011!

This year will be better than ever with 17 world class instructors, awesome hands-on learning, and the beauty of the Central Coast.

Our incredible line-up of instructors includes Rick Sammon, Hanson Fong, Rob Sheppard, Jennifer Wu,  David H. Wells and Hal Schmitt. Click here to see the full line-up of instructors.

With 170+ events during the week we have something for every level of photographer, from shooting horses on the beach at sunset to mastering indoor lighting techniques. Click here to see the full schedule of events!

Get your pass before August 30th and pay only $449 for all 5 days of the festival with our Early Bird discount. Use discount code "earlybird2011" to take advantage of this killer deal.

Visit or call the office 805-528-7385 for more details.

Fiat Lux!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Recent Topaz Webinar is Up for Review

Topaz Labs just posted the webinar I did with them a couple weeks ago.  Enjoy and, as always, send me any questions, comments, or concerns.

Fiat Lux!


A Shooting Tip from Jennifer Wu!

Photographing Water in Motion
by Jennifer Wu (Canon Explorer of Light)

Vertical water f/16,
Shutter speed .6, ISO 100.
I used a polarizing filter. 

Photographing moving water at varying shutter speeds will offer different looks, from the silky to having detail and texture. When photographing the ocean surf, waterfalls, streams or any moving water, I would consider bracketing the shutter speeds for a variety of results.

In the vertical photographic example of a waterfall in Iceland provided, the water features a smooth, silky looks. In the horizontal image of the same waterfall, the water presents more detail. I like both effects, so I vary the shutter speed to get more or less detail. I recommend bracketing the shutter speed and reviewing the image on view screen to judge the results. If you see silky water with no detail where it is all white, then use a faster shutter speed. If there is too much detail, use a slower shutter to create the velvety water effect.

Horizontal waterfall: f/16,
Shutter speed 1/10, ISO 100.
I used a polarizing filter.

Shutter Speed Choice: The water flow will be fast with a large waterfall and slow with little stream, so the shutter speed will vary for each scene. In addition, depending on the focal length of the lens, it will provide less motion (wide angle) or more motion (telephoto).

I photographed the waterfall in Iceland while leading a photography tour in the horizontal image has a .6 second shutter speed for a satiny effect, while the vertical has a 1/10 shutter speed to get more detail.
In another example, the ocean images have a 10 second exposure to create the smooth look of the ocean surf.

In Yosemite, I use around 1/125 of a second for having some detail in the powerful, fast moving waterfalls yet 1/15 to 1/30 of a second for smooth streams in the valley.

Tripod: Using a STURDY tripod will be necessary for the slow shutter speeds. It is still a good idea for higher shutter speeds, as it will help with fine-tuning the final composition. Keep in mind it is often windy at the base of a waterfall or around the ocean surf.

Exposure: when taking a photograph, I decide whether the shutter speed or f/stop is the most important and set that first. Normally, I use manual mode and set the shutter speed then set the f/stop I want for the scene when photographing moving body of water as that is the most important. Next I would set ISO. I would use the native ISO for the camera, such as ISO 100 for Canon, or 200 for Nikon. If the shutter speed is too slow, I would raise the ISO to the proper exposure. Finally, I would use a filter, as discussed below.

Shutter Speed: In order to get slow shutter speeds for the satiny effect, try photographing in low light conditions as full sun maybe to too strong for slow motion. For example: photograph at low light near sunrise or sunset on sunny days, with the subject it by the first or last rays of light or when the water is in the shade. That can be on an overcast day or after sunset or before sunrise.

Filters: Using a polarizer will reduce your shutter speed time by about two f-stops. Turn the polarizer to see the effect on shinny rock surfaces. Be careful when using a polarizer so as not to take out desired colorful reflections. Neutral density filters, grey in color, will reduce the light to the sensor, allowing for a slower shutter speed.

Ideas: Some ideas include waterfalls, streams, cascades, ocean surf or a lake in stormy weather. I like photographing streams in the shade with green leaves reflected onto streams in the afternoon (Yosemite’s Fern Spring is good for that). I like to photograph along Yosemite’s Merced River at sunrise to get the warm reflections of the mountains in the river. Fall colors are another good one to look for.
Morro Bay rocks and surf, F/16, 10 seconds, ISO 100. I used a 3-stop neutral density filter and a polarizer.
The ocean examples were photographed during a Light Photographic Workshop I lead earlier this year. I will be going out to the same location, leading field workshops for the festival. I can’t wait! Hope you have fun photographing moving water and creating inspiring images!
Morro Bay sunset, F/16, 13 seconds, ISO 100. I used a 5-stop neutral density filter.

We are proud to have Jennifer returning to the California Photo Festival October 12-16, 2011!
Jennifer will be joined by fellow Explorers of Light Rick Sammon, Hanson Fong, Parish Kohanim and more!

See all of our 170 + events by visiting!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Top Ten Creative Imaging Tips by Jeff Greene

Have you ever returned from a prime photo location, reviewed your images, and realized that most of them look exactly the same? It’s quite common for photographers to become awestruck by the scenic wonders before them and then overwhelmed to the degree that they forsake their creative vision and robotically capture the same scene repeatedly. Not only is this an editing chore, but it also produces significant disappointment about the great images we should have captured, but didn’t.

To avoid “Shooter’s Regret”, I always carry along a creative cheat sheet in my camera bag. It’s a simple list of all the different techniques I like to use when shooting on location and it ensures that I come home with a collection of images that employ a diverse range of styles, formats, and techniques.
Here’s a list of my top ten creative imaging tips.

1.) Vary your focal lengths. Start out wide, move to medium, and finish with a telephoto and/or macro. This is a basic storytelling technique that sets the scene then provides more detail and intimacy with each successive image.

2.) Shoot horizontal AND vertical. Even when it doesn’t seem logical. Try a few. I promise it won’t break your camera.

3.) Try different angles. Avoid the “human-pod”, that is, always shooting a scene from a standing position. Mix in a few extreme angles; from a very low “bugs-eye” view, to a “Hail-Mary” overhead shot for an aerial effect.

4.) Shift shutter speeds. Obviously fast shutter speeds freeze action, but try using a tripod and slow shutter speeds to record motion blur. Especially effective on wind blown grass, water, and other moving objects…

5.) Filters. I only carry three types… Polarizing filters that reduce glare and reflection to enhance natural color, an R79 infrared filter, and a set of neutral density filters to slow down shutter speeds or accommodate wide open apertures.

6.) See the Black & White. An incredible advantage of digital imaging is the ability to capture in color AND create a fine art black & white image. Take a moment to “see” just the tones and texture; key elements for black & white photos.

7.) Panoramas. Almost every outdoor scene offers an opportunity for a panoramic image, a unique perspective that exceeds our normal field of view. A level tripod and a level camera with manual settings will result in the best quality, but I have successfully created many hand-held panoramas by just carefully composing each panel within the viewfinder. Create vertical panels for maximum field of view and try the occasional vertical panorama of tall objects. Panoramas can be created with a variety of software applications such as Canon Photostitch or the Photoshop Auto-Merge tool.

8.) Harris Shutter Effect. A very cool special effect that combines three similar images in the red, green, and blue color channels. Static elements are rendered normally, but anything that moves will be rendered separately in red, green, or blue. Great for water fountains.

9.) 3D Anaglyphs. Although twin cameras on a 3D mount produce the best results, a single camera can also create a 3D image by simply capturing a “left” and “right” image and combining them in Photoshop or Callipygian ( ), a shareware application.

10.) Capture some video. Since all digital cameras now capture video, take some time out to record a couple of minutes of video and make a short movie. Try to limit each capture to 10-15 seconds and then use Windows Movie Maker or Apple iMovie to create your masterpiece.
These are some of the techniques I use to keep the creative juices flowing when I’m out in the field and need some inspiration. Feel free to print this list, or create your own, and put a copy in your bag. It’s the most valuable piece of gear I have in mine…

Jeff Greene will be at Light Workshops August 25-28, 2011 for his "Photoshop for Photographers" workshop as well as his "Small Flash, Big Light" September 22-25, 2011.

Register or call the office at 805-528-7385

Fiat Lux!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

$600/lb. Prawns?

Proof of why I should not quit my day job.  With the cost of fishing licenses and a really small catch, our prawns were effectively $600 per pound.  Tasty, tasty spotted prawns but somewhat pricey.

This was onboard the Alaskan Legend last month during a killer photo tour. 

Thanks to Dr. Kevin Keating for shooting this embarrassing image.

Fiat Lux!