Even Christian Could Nail Focus With this!

24 06 2011

Hey check this out… this is very interesting.  A camera that doesn’t rely on focus.  Doesn’t sound like a scam, sounds like the real deal.  If this is the case, it’s one of the biggest leaps forward in photography in a long time.

http://mashable.com/2011/06/22/lytro/

Brent





Playing About With Macro

16 06 2011

We have had about a week of pretty constant rain here in Sydney, so that drove me into the bowels of my photographic cupboard to dust of my macro lens.  I haven’t shot any macro for ages, but was reading an interesting article in Better Photography about a new utility from the folks that make Helicon Focus (the focus stacking software).  The new utility is called Helicon Remote, and it is very cool.   Helicon Remote fully remote controls your camera and automatically performs all of the focus bracketing that you need to do to create macro images with large depth-of-field.  Its a wonderful piece of software.  You really need to click on these images to view them at full size to appreciate the detail in the images.

The images that you see posted in this post were typically stacks of about 20 separate images that have been combined to create the high dof images shown here.

To create these images I used a single off camera flash.  I used a straight reflector on the studio light to create the reasonably directional shadow.s

Once the images were merged in Helicon Focus, I then just processed them using Nik Silver Effex Pro 2.  I’ve printed a couple of these out large and they look pretty cool.

What started off as a wet weather experiment has turned out pretty well for a first set of macro images in several years.

the Helicon Focus sofware can be licensed for $50/year and includes the Helicon Remote utility.  You can find the Helicon software here.





This one is for Wacom Tablet Users – 3 Great Tips!

12 01 2011

If you have been to any of my workshops, then you know that I utterly encourage the use of pressure-sensitive tablets like the Wacoms for post processing.   If your not using one, chances are you haven’t been shown how to use them properly.

I thought I was reasonably decent with the tablet, but a few days ago I watched a Kelby training movie by Corey Barker on “Using the Wacom Tablet With Photoshop”.  Boy did I learn some very cool tricks.  Here’s just a few tricks that will turbo-charge your tablet-driven post production effectiveness.

Tip 1 – This was my favorite tip.  Program the button on the pen to adjust brush size and hardness.

If you are like me, you probably left the button on the pen to the default of launching the brushes menu.  It used to piss me off everytime I bumped it, and I never changed my brush sizes via the menu, always with the bracket keys (or touchstrip).    However Corey showed me a way better way of adjusting your brush size and hardness in Photoshop (works in CS4 and CS5).

Try this out…..

Open Photoshop and open any document.

Select the brush tool,  now hold down the <Cntrl>+<Option> keys down on your Mac (if you have a PC, list it on eBay and go and buy yourself a Mac now)

While you holding down <Cntrl>+<Option>  move your pen (or mouse) left and right….. This adjusts your brush size!

Cool eh?  Now move it up and down…. this adjusts your brush hardness…. Is that not WAY COOL!!!!

Now, here’s what you want to do.  Program that annoying little button on your pen to be <Cntrl>+<Option>, and then you can adjust your brush properties by clicking it, and dragging your mouse around.

To program this on your Pen do the following.

a) Open up the Wacom tablet driver  from your System Preferences.

b) Make sure that your tablet is selected in the first row,  Your pen is selected in the tool row, and Photoshop is selected in the Application row

c) Select the pen button to bring up the programming for the pen

d) I adjust the bottom part of the pen button and disable the top part of the button.  Select “Modifier” for the bottom part of the pen button

e) select <Cntrl>  <Option> and <Click> Check boxes

Thats it, give it a try.

Tip 2 – Make the Eraser Useful

I never use the eraser (because I’m typically painting on layer masks with white and black brushes),  so I never used it, but Corey showed me a great tip to make this useful.  I am often toggling between Photoshop and Lightroom,  so what I did was to program the eraser to be a toggle straight back into Lightroom (would also work for Bridge etc.).  To do this click on the Eraser button  and select “Open Run” from the menu choices and then browse to your Lightroom (or Bridge) application.

Tip 3 – Program up your Express Keys and your Touch strips.

I’ve been programming up my touch strips (left zooms in and out,  right cycles through blend modes), and also my Express keys (lots of goodies on there that I use regularly like Space Bar, B for brush, X to toggle Black and White, Option key, etc.   Don’t be lazy, use them thoughtfully.

Not using a Wacom tablet?

You don’t know what you are missing.  Seriously, I can not process images properly with just the mouse anymore,  it DRAMATICALLY speeds up your effeciency and effectiveness in post production.  The tablet is not a substitute for the mouse (I still use the mouse), but the secret lies in unlocking the pressure sensitivity along with Layer Masks.

Enjoy

Brent





Cool New Research Addition – Predict Cloud Cover

22 08 2010

Hey Folks

Somebody showed me a very cool site for predicting cloud cover.   It’s a tool for astronomers, but obviously it has great uses to Landscape photographers.   You can zoom in on specific parts of Australia (and other parts of the world too) and it gives you cloud cover predictions for several days in the future.  now I don’t know about you, but I reckon that is very cool.

To check it out just go to http://www.skippysky.com.au/

Thanks to Bill Owens for this great research site.  I’ll be including this as part of my standard research now.

Brent





Photoshop CS5 First Impressions

4 05 2010

I just upgraded to CS5 yesterday, thought I’d give you my first impressions.

Coexistence

For those of you worried about compatibility etc.  the first thing to understand is that the installation of CS5 doesn’t replace earlier versions of Photoshop (or at least not my version of CS4).  So you can continue to run both versions in parrallel until such time that you are fully migrated to CS5.

Speed

Because CS5 runs in 64bit mode it is fast… really fast.  There is one filter that I use for an effect called the Surface Blur.  In CS4 this filter would take forever to run, however in CS5 it runs in just a few seconds which is way cool.  I haven’t tested out other aspects of the speed, but it certainly does run faster.

Plug-in compatibility

I did get a bit of a shock when I copied my major plug-ins (Nik Sharpener, Nik Silver Effex Pro and Noise Ninja) to the plug-ins folder and then re-started Photoshop only to discover that they didn’t appear in the drop-down list for filters.    I read the FAQ on Nik’s site and they clearly state that their plug-ins are NOT yet 64bit compatible but that they were working on it.

My plan tonight is to run CS5 in 32bit mode (just tick the box on the Cmd+I screen on the mac).   That should give me access to all my Plug-ins.

However I did get a chance to play with the new content aware fill and it is freaking awesome!!!!

More later as I start getting used to it.

Brent





A Great Tool For Photographers!

18 04 2010

Hey folks

Somebody recently pointed me to a new tool for landscape and urban photography…. so of course I was pretty interested and checked it out.  In the first week that I have been using the software it has already helped me immensely and I urge you all to check it out.

It is called The Photographers Ephemeris… Now I don’t know about you but I didn’t know what the hell an Ephemeris was (but I do now)…. It’s basically tables of astronomical movements (sun, moon etc.)  Now while I was relying on various other sites to give me information about sun and moon positions, what I like about this tool is the integration to Google Maps.  You can simply put in an address or location, and you see a placemark appear on the Google Maps screen showing sunrise, sunset, sun & moon position at any point int the day overlayed over the Google Maps!!!  It’s Awesome.

The thin orange line shows the direction of the Sun at the time I was shooting. On the right hand side you can see the elevation of the sun at that time is < 30degrees

A Recce shot at the Old Dunlop Factory

Let me relay a real case study of how this has helped me on a shoot that I am planning later today.  Last Saturday I went to the abandoned Dunlop Factory in Alexandria for a scouting trip in preparation for a shoot that I am planning today.  I took this photograph of my son as a scouting shot.   I rang the model and set a time of 3PM on Sunday for the shoot figuring that as the sun sets the ambient light will be lower and I’ll have more control with my strobes.   Now yesterday I was playing with The Photographers Ephemeris and I typed in the address to the search box at the bottom and my location came up.  I then adjusted the calendar to todays date and moved the time slider to 3PM.  It immediately showed me that the angle and elevation of the sun was wrong for my shoot.  The old warehouse has big open sides on the second story, and I didn’t realise that they were facing due West.  This would mean that the setting sun would shine right into the factory and give me too much ambient light.  So I called the model and re-scheduled the shoot for 90 minutes earlier when the elevation of the sun would be higher (about 40 degrees).

This is a great tool, it’s available free for Mac & Windows platforms, and you can buy it for your iPhone as well.   I have bought it as well as downloading it on my Mac at home and I have also made a donation to the developer of this great bit of software.

Head on over to the developer’s website where you can download the application and also watch a couple of quick tutorials on how to use it.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Brent





Photoshop Upgrade – This is AMAZING!!!

25 03 2010

I came across an incredible video demonstration of a new Adobe Photoshop feature called “Content Aware Fill”.

In the words of my kids… “This is Sick”.

You have to go check out the demo!!!

If this is in CS5… I’m upgrading straight away for this feature alone.

Brent