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Always shoot in RAW

I hear this one all the time. “You should never shoot in jpeg mode.” The tone this is said in usually makes one think that jpeg mode is some dirty mode better left for use by those producing porn or some such thing.

The truth is jpeg mode is just fine. If you understand your camera, how to control your camera and get proper exposure and color balance jpeg will deliver great images for you. In a rough kind of way I equate jpeg mode to color slides and RAW to color negative from the old film days. Back then, in the days of film, people considered chromes, color slide film, to be the film of pros. It was a VERY unforgiving media. In color slides you either had the correct exposure or you had crap. You had to understand light and color temperature. You had to understand which filters corrected for color in different lights like tungsten or the old green florescent lights. Color negative was one of the most forgiving films ever made. Miss the exposure, no big deal. Screw up and not filter your lens for ugly light, no big deal. Most of your sins could be fixed in printing. With digital the same is true with jpeg and RAW. In jpeg you are best to get the exposure and color right. In RAW one can fix a host of errors.

Of course in RAW you get more data to play with, you can go back and change many things and do have a wider range of bit depth, but for what most people do with images jpeg is just fine.

There are times for each and one should always consider final use and other aspects to determine which is best.

 Always shoot in manual mode

This is one I have heard time and time again and have actually had someone tell me that I am not a “real” photographer because I often shoot in aperture mode.

Well the truth is, if you understand how to control your camera and how to get it to predictably give you the results you want then it does not matter which mode you choose.

I do often tell people who want to truly learn the craft of photography to shoot in manual mode AND to pay attention to the meter in the camera and to see how different situations effect the meter. The reason for this is so that they can learn how backlight, black or white subjects can make their meter lie to them. If one is always shooting in program mode then they never notice such things.

However; once one learns when and how a camera meter can lie, and how to make the meter read properly, any mode will work. I prefer aperture mode for much of my shooting. I do use the exposure compensation dial often. There are times I use shutter priority and also times I use manual. One should always select which works best for the situation one is in.

Always use spot metering

HA!!! This one really makes me laugh. Unless one REALLY understands reflectivity and pays very close attention to exactly where the spot is placed then one should STAY AWAY from spot metering! Different subjects reflect very differently and this must be taken into consideration when using a spot meter. While I am not a huge fan of the zone system one really needs to have an understanding of it and how different zones are metered and how the camera meter pulls everything to a zone 5 grey to accurately use a spot meter. Lost in all this technical jargon? Then do not use your spot meter.

On today’s cameras the metering systems are so good the full screen metering is usually just fine. There are times when spot metering is necessary, I use it maybe once or twice a year, but in general the full screen evaluative is just fine.

In Conclusion

There are no hard and fast rules in photography…except, maybe, that there are no rules. Each setting on your camera has a purpose and one should learn the craft of photography well enough to understand when to use each. Simply doing something because someone somewhere said “You should always” do this or that is not a good excuse. Learn WHY to use the various settings and you WILL be a better photographer.

I recently started to use the iPhone app TweetCaster to post messages to both faceboook and twitter.  I have not used twitter much and am in the process of learning this service to help with keeping my business name “out there”.

Being a photographer I wanted a method that will share photos with both services in a somewhat secure manner, and with a reasonable TOS.

The default photo sharing service in tweetcaster is Lockerz.  Wow…what a rights grab their TOS is.  First the photos are uploaded from my phone in a hi-res manner.  Second their TOS basically claims all rights to your content AND leaves you open for any misuse.  From my reading of the TOS it sounds like if someone takes my photo, which the TOS gives them right to do, then uses it in some manner that leads to legal action I am responsible.  No thanks…that one is out.

I next tried MobyPicture.  Good TOS, but I could not figure out how to turn off the “download original” link.

I then looked at yfrog.  Good TOS, does not allow downloading the original files.  So I tested it out…it did not post the link to facebook, just a message with the tweet text and no link.

I was thinking about just giving up, then remembered I had the Zenfolio app on my iPhone.  Zenfolio is who I use to host my site and I have been using the app to show people my photos on my iPhone and iPad.  It is a very nice clean interface.  I did a little looking at it and I can upload to any of my galleries, or make a new gallery directly from my iPhone, or iPad.  I can share directly from the app to twitter and facebook.  Best thing is that it does not place the image on some server who has a horrid TOS or that allows the downloading of the original file.  On facebook the image shows up as a thumbnail with a link to the image on my site, on twitter it is just a link to the file.

So, for now, my method of sharing photos is to shoot the image with my iPhone, edit in Snapseed, save to my gallery then upload to Zenfolio and share to the services.  A bit more laborious than I’d like, but, it keeps my photos off of facebook and the twitter hosts.  This makes the extra steps acceptable, to me at least.

I have found Zenfolio to be an excellent hosting service and highly recommend them.  If you wold like to use them this code will give you a discount at sign up time, and save a bit also:  CEK-8FQ-HNE

I recently read an article about how Adobe is changing their price structures on upgrades and is going to push end users to adopt a subscription pricing plan. This made me rethink how my work flow is and if there are other options.

I have always not liked being “married” to a single company for my tools. While I love my Mac computers, I also do not like the way all things Apple are, well, Apple. Buy a song from iTunes and one has to jump through hoops to play it on a non apple player. This is just one example of what I am talking about.

Several years ago a friend suggested I try out Ubuntu. Over the years I have played with it and beginning with version 10 it began to show real promise for me as an alternative OS. In the new release 11.10 it is finally “there”, IMHO.

After reading the Adobe article I began to really explore Ubuntu and the options it offers for photography. The main short fall in my past looking was quite substantial, but that was over a year ago…a lifetime in the computer world.

In my current workflow I am entirely Adobe: Lightroom to Photoshop back to Lightroom and then final output.

In Ubuntu I have found a method that works quite well, and while it takes more steps, in some ways I like it better.

First in my Adobe method I use Lightroom to download my images, apply presets and metadata all at download.

On Ubuntu to download I have found “Rapid Photo Downloader” (cost: Free) that will download very quickly to a selected location, will also rename at download if I choose.

To edit my images I then launch Bibble Pro 5. (cost: 199.95 for the pro version) In Bibble I can edit by rating photos, just like in Lightroom. Bibble offers many of the same tools as Lightroom, and in some instances better tools. It has a pretty steep learning curve, but really is a very nice program. After making selects and editing my images I export them to the hard drive.

** If you want other options that are cheaper Bibble light is 99.95 (the extra 100 bucks for the pro version is worth it.) Another free option is “Darktable Photo Workflow Software”. Has a look that is similar to Lightroom and does quite a lot, esp for free.

After exporting my images from Bibble, if I need to do other work to them I launch GIMP. This version of GIMP is similar to CS3 I am guessing. It works quite well and has a lot of nice plug in effects. Cost: Free.

After all edits are done I then launch “digiKam” to enter all my metadata. In my Adobe workflow I used Lightroom for this..and actually I like digiKam a lot better for metadata entry than Lightroom. DigiKam cost: Free. DigiKam can also be used as a RAW editor and other things, in my experimentation I have found that Darktable is a little easier to use and Bibble is better than the others by far.

With Ubuntu I can use what ever computer I want to. It will install and run on a Mac, or a windows box. I can make the computer dual boot in the rare event I need software that is only available on one platform or the other.

If you are a photographer looking at alternatives I am pleased with the work flow outlined above. Total cost is about 200 dollars and time to learn the software. That is a far cry cheaper than just using Lightroom, a $300 program. If you add in the cost of CS5 you are looking at almost a grand.

Dorthea Lange spoke volumes with those few words. As photographers we use our cameras to single out and select moments in time, or details most people walk by, never noticing. We record these moments and show them to an oblivious public. Viewers are forced to notice these details simply by the act of seeing our images.

As photographers we notice the way light reflects off a building facade, or a person’s face. We see those fleeting expressions that speak to our shared humanity.

When I was first entering the world of photojournalism I was fortunate enough to do my internship at the now closed Chattanooga Times. While there I spent many days riding with Billy Weeks. He taught me how to look at the world, and to notice small things. To constantly be looking at things and thinking “If such and such were there it would make a photo”. As you do this more and more often you begin to see great photos all around you.

Too often we walk by a very interesting scene and never “see” it. Photography forces us to open our eyes and see that which we normally pass by in the rush of daily life.

Often, to see a good photo, all one has to do is be still, listen and observe. If you do this suddenly you begin to see all kinds of neat things going on in the world around you. You see the way a leaf lies on the rocks, contrasting with the cold stone, or the way the reflection of a person and a street scape in a water puddle make an interesting composition. To see the special way people interact, that fleeting smile, glance or kiss. Think of Alfred Eisenstaedt ‘s photo of the kiss that celebrated VJ day. An iconic image of joy if ever there was one. A fleeting moment many would have walked by and never seen, but because he caught it on film it is now part of our shared memories.

By seeing these things and recording them to show to others we are opening the eyes of people who, in their normal rush to work, never notice them. We help people who rush by the unseen beauty of the world remember that beauty is there for the seeing.

We show that one does not have to go to exotic places to see exotic things.

Next time you use your camera remember that you are showing the world how to see. How to stop, relax and to notice the unseen world that is life.

Digital has no costs?

In this age of digital photography I often hear people say something along the lines of “Since it is digital I have no costs like in the days of film.”  All I can assume is that those who say this must also play the lottery regularly, as it is a tax on people who are bad at math.

In the days of film most photographers I know shot with two Canon EOS 1n bodies.  They paid somewhere in the vicinity of $1300.00 for the body with booster, if I remember correctly.  That was Canon’s top line body, the best they made and in my opinion the most rugged camera I ever used.  One could use this camera till it wore out, no need for an upgrade because the new version was “better”.  Those upgrades really had no impact on image quality.  We had a light table to edit slides on, cost about $150.00 no software required.  We billed all film, processing, slide pages and shipping to clients.

Today in the age of Digital the same top of the line Canon costs from $5,000 for the 1DIV to almost $8,000 for the 1DsIII (cost when released, not now at the end of its run).  Instead of a light table we have top end Mac’s running the full suite of Adobe software, usually a desktop tower and a notebook for location work.  That is thousands and thousands more than a trusty light table, a device that did not require costly yearly “updates”.

Instead of FED-EX we use high speed internet connections to deliver images, and have to be able to do this reliably from the road as well as at home.  Therefore, we have high speed DSL at home and a mifi card for the road.  Each month that is usually more than we used to pay for all FED-EX shipping combined.

Instead of archiving images in boxes or file cabinets we need large redundant hard drives that can be searched to find old images when clients need them.

In hard equipment costs alone the digital era costs about $17,400 more than in film.  That is just camera and computer expenses.  If I add in the cost of the software that is another $2000.00 at least. Then the internet connections are around $150.00 per month.

This does not even get into software updates, hard drives and memory cards.  All are additional expenses we as photographers incur.

Lets not forget that the “life” of our cameras is also greatly reduced as often the new versions do produce better images than the previous version.  You may be able to skip one iteration, but not two.

So after taking all this into consideration how does digital not cost anything?

Text copyright Harrison McClary

First I am not a “camera reviewer” who looks at pixels and such. I am a user and look at the “usability” of a camera I am using. The cameras I am commenting on are all cameras I own and use.

The Panasonic Lumix G2.

I bought this camera late in 2010 mainly to use the Leica M – micro 4/3 adapter and use my Leica M lenses on. I was very skeptical about the ease and usefulness of this at first. I could not find a good description of how the manual focus on this camera worked and how well using manual focus worked on a camera with an EVF. (Electronic View Finder).

The first thing I noticed about the camera was that it really is a nice small package. The Panasonic made adapter to mount the Leica lens on the G2 is very well made. The viewfinder is excellent. In no way do I find it annoying to use the EVF in place of an optical VF. There are some differences and it does take some getting used to, but it truly does work very well. Also if you use the back screen it does flip and twist making low level and high angle images much easier to shoot and compose. I LOVE this feature.

The supplied kit 14-45 lens does a nice job, is very light and has OIS (optical Image Stabilization). One thing I noticed is that on this camera a 14 (28 equivalent) seems “wider” than it does on the 35mm sized sensors I am used to. I think this has something to do with the 4/3 sensor compared to the 2/3 I am used to. I know it is mostly in my head, but the extra vertical space on a horizontal image does seem to make the lens “feel” wider to me. I used this lens when I toured the USS Alabama in Mobile and made photos in very low light situations and the OIS worked like a charm.
Low light image sample:

More photos from that tour are here.

Once I had determined that the kit lens worked well and that the image quality was acceptable to me I bought the adapter and tried my Leica lenses on this camera. As I mentioned above I was very anxious to see how the manual focus worked and if it was truly an option to use in manual focus mode.

It is. With a manual focus “non coupled” lens attached it is VERY easy to manual focus and shoot. I actually find it easier to manual focus this camera than any SLR I have ever owned. To use manual focus lenses varies depending on if you are using the EVF or the back touch screen.

Manual Focus using the EVF:
I tend to use the EVF for most of my shooting, I can not get used to composing a photo “at arms length”. So here are the steps for using the EVF first:

When looking through the camera simply push in on the exposure wheel on the back of the camera. This magnifies the view screen 10x. (Another method is, if you have the screen flipped around on the way to your eye you can press on the screen and the scene is magnified. I do not find this as easy as the other method as the image is magnified and it is more difficult to find what you want critically focused) If you want larger simply turn the exposure wheel one click to the right. You now have a hugely enlarged view of your subject and critical focus is VERY easy. Once focused just press the shutter button slightly to go back to full screen view and shoot away. Some may comment that this is worse than using an SLR and full screen ground glass focusing as you have to enlarge the image and it makes you go to the center of the frame. True, however if one is shooting with a Leica M or using the focusing assist split image on an older SLR then one is doing the same thing. This does not bother me.

Using the screen on the back of the camera:

When you are looking at the scene simply touch the screen where you want the focus to be. The screen is instantly magnified 10x to that spot. If you turn the exposure wheel one click to the right it is magnified again. Critically focus and shoot. GREAT for working on a tripod.

After having this camera for a few months now I have found using it with my Leica Noctilux on it with the adapter to be one of my favorite camera combinations to shoot with. I am easily able to critically focus the lens at F1, something I was never able to do consistently on my M6 or M9. Also, since the camera is 1/2 frame of the 35mm format the lens is equal to that of a 100mm lens. The 100mm focal length on 35mm was always my favorite focal length.

Some samples of this camera with Leica M mount lenses can be seen here.

Finally with the G2 and the adapters you can use pretty much any lenses you want to as long as they are in manual mode. You can get adapters to use Leica M and R, Nikkor, Canon FD and EOS, Minolta, Pentax K, and others. Also, since the micro 4/3 is “open source” you can use micro 4/3 lenses from Olympus and the other micro 4/3 lens makers with no adapters need.

For a travel camera I love this little body and highly recommend it.

Film Unpredictable?!?

Over the past year or so I have run across several blogs of current “photographers” who seem to believe it is not possible, or that it is hard, or unusual to produce good work using…gasp….FILM!!

Here is a quote from one such blog: “I stumbled across the website for XXXX XXXX. He was producing beautiful work and doing it entirely on film. This is possible, I thought.”

This is possible? I seriously wonder do these people think photography just began with a digital camera?

Here is yet another quote from a different blog: “I don’t mind film for unpredictable results when creating personal artwork or on the side as an added bonus, but it has reminded me that I will not rely on it for a client who is paying for consistent and reliable results. I will not put my clients in a situation in which my choice to use film has resulted in a lack of coverage or an undesirable outcome.”

Unpredictable results? Lack of coverage?

I am sorry, but all these previous posts point out is that there are a lot of people out there selling themselves as photographers who have NO CONCEPT of the craft of photography.

Digital is a new addition to the world of professional photography. For all you who think film is unpredictable and not worthy of using on a paying gig…get a bloody clue. We were shooting film in every circumstance you can possibly imagine and were delivering quality images that were as good as or better than what is delivered from most people using a digital camera today.

In my opinion all these blog posters showed was their lack of understanding of the craft of photography. To be a true professional and master of the craft of photography it really should not matter what kind of camera you use, it is just a tool. You should understand light, how your camera captures that light, how your recording media records that light.

In the days of shooting slide film (chromes) most photographers settled on one type of film and knew exactly how it would respond. I know whenever I shot a different kind of film I did tests to find that films true ISO, to see how it pushed or pulled, to see how it worked recording “magic hour” light and so on. To not do this was asking for trouble. Nothing like grabbing a box of Velvia that Fuji said was an ISO 50 film and shooting it at that only to learn it worked far better rated at ISO 32.

I will say this, if a photographer says they can not get consistent and reliable results with film then I’d be willing to bet that you are looking at a photographer who uses Photoshop to fix their lack of ability. They are not getting consistent and reliable results in digital either.

With film, in particular chromes, you either get it right or you don’t. Film is more of a test of your abilities than digital is, it is a final, complete, one frame at a time test.

In Adobe Lightroom, and Camera RAW Adobe now allows the development of custom lens profiles for lenses they do not supply custom profiles for.

Since getting a Leica M9 I have been wanting a way to apply lens data after the shoot as it is a royal pain to try to remember to enter it in each time I change the lens. The M9 does this automatically if your lenses are coded, which two of mine are. However, I have an older 35 Summicron and also two Voigtländer lenses than are not in the Leica coding database.

I downloaded the Adobe Lens Profile Creator and followed the directions in printing the chart, shooting the chart and using the software to create profiles for my 12mm VC and 40 1.4 Nocton VC lenses.  Once I actually read the directions and followed them the process was relatively simple and yielded what I think are good profiles for these two lenses.

First the Voigtländer 40 1.4 Nocton:

Before profile photo shot at 1.4

After profile:

Outdoors shot with the Nocton before:

After:

Now the 12mm Voigtländer lens, a much more dramatic difference:

After:

The one thing I am not terribly pleased with is the purple band on the left of the 12mm shot.  This is something I have noticed from the first frames I shot with this lens on the M9.  I was hoping this custom profile would eliminate the problem, but as you can see it has not done so.  I have used “corner fix” it does work pretty well, but is not perfect either.

If any are interested in these profiles they are located here:

Please leave me a comment if you do download and use these profiles.  Also please do not redistribute without giving me credit with creating them.

40 mm F 1.4 Nocton

12 mm / F 5,6 Ultra Wide Heliar

October 19 and 20

I covered workers cleaning the sands on the beaches of Dauphin Island by hand on the 19th.

Workers clean the beaches of Dauphin Island

On the 20th I headed down to Baldwin County, AL  to cover the  ”deep cleaning” that is being tried on the beaches there.  After shooting from beach level I thought it would be nice to get a high angle view of the operations.  I looked up and saw a 17 story condo unit so I headed over there to see if I could get on a balcony to make some photos. I found one that was having an open house and the Realtor let me stand on the balcony to make a few photos.  It worked very well.

Workers use different methods to deep clean the sands of Baldwin County

October 18

I spent today in the Dauphin Island Sea Lab making photos of different kinds of testing that is going on to determine the extent of the environmental impact of the spill.  I have met and talked with the director, George Crozier, several times and always enjoy talking with him.  He is a very interesting fellow to talk with and is one of the people I am very happy to have gotten to know during this event.

A researcher loading a gel as part of a micro-lab experiment at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab 1

Natalie Ortell loading a gel as part of a micro-lab experiment at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab 3

Natalie Ortell loading a gel as part of a micro-lab experiment at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab 2

A researcher loading a gel as part of a micro-lab experiment at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab 2

Natalie Ortell loading a gel as part of a micro-lab experiment at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab 1

Natalie Ortell loading a gel as part of a micro-lab experiment at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab

Andrea Hale bubbling nitrogen through sediment samples as part of a test at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab on Dauphin Island

Agota Horel testing sediments for nitrogen at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab on Dauphin Island

Megan Sabal weighing samples of infauna, small animals that live in sediment, at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab

Lela Schlenker taking red snapper mussel samples to check its diet at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab

A researcher taking red snapper mussel samples to check its diet at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab

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