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Archive for March 2008

Apple’s Aperture 2.1: New & Improved!

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Apple Aperture’s new Dodge & Burn command

BY DOMINIQUE JAMES

Apple’s Aperture just keeps getting better and better, and it’s all happening right now. Based on the latest official announcement, and starting with the release of version 2.0 just a few weeks ago, the development of this professional software has been unusually, and overwhelmingly, fast. It is so fast that it would be fair to say that it actually caught almost everyone in the photography and digital imaging industry by surprise! The strategic sequence of Aperture’s recent product development, public release and announcement has been so swift that something like this have never before been seen in the handling of a major professional photography software. Playing by the numbers, Aperture has gone from version 2.0 to 2.0.1, and then to the current 2.1 version in no time at all. The series of events just seems amazing.

Aperture, which was introduced about 26 months ago as the first and the most sophisticated all-in-one post-production tool for professional photographers, now certainly reinforces its “all-in-one” claim. As a digital post-production tool that aims to streamline, speed up, and dramatically improve the quality of a professional photographer’s work, Aperture, now at version 2.1, provides almost all the essential tools for asset management and organization, RAW conversion and fine-tuning, editing and enhancement, archiving and digital/print output. After a shoot, it would now seem that Apple’s Aperture is the only one that a photographer could really ever need.

Not so long ago, photographers using Aperture were loudly and impatiently lamenting the tight-lipped policy of Apple which has been deemed as the seeming lack of support for the software. Some photographers were even verbally threatening to switch to a competing software. In the midst of what appears to be a mutiny-in-the-making, little did anyone suspect that a new major version was about to be unleashed. With the sudden launch of Aperture 2.0, things have been upturned overnight.

Loyal Aperture users have been rewarded for their patience, and the threat of potential switchers were effectively quelled. The introduction of a major version, loaded with more than a hundred new and amazing features that a lot of photographers have been relentlessly requesting, as well as a few new and unexpected surprises that was thrown in, all helped to reaffirm and re-establish the role of Aperture as a major tool of some of the greatest professional photographers on earth today.

When version 2.0 came, it became apparent that Apple will be springing more surprises. The new release hinted at the idea of creating an avenue for third-party image editing tools with the Edit API. The availability of 3rd-party image editing tools right inside Aperture was almost expected, but how it will be implemented remained to be seen until version 2.1 came along.

A lot of photographers love, and constantly use, what is known as third-party export plug-ins. And now, with Aperture 2.1, Apple has set the stage for the introduction and inclusion of an amazing new set of plug-ins: the third-party editing tools. For the longest time, Aperture’s built-in editing capabilities, which have been collectively referred to as “adjustment tools,” have amply provided photographers with more than adequate ways and means to easily and quickly refine digital images from within Aperture. However, it seems inescapable, and at the same time inevitable, that Aperture’s adjustment tools will face serious comparison from Lightroom. After all, Lightroom is made by Adobe. And as we all know, Adobe is the developer of the industry-standard image editing standard, Photoshop.

While Aperture, no doubt, have been viewed as having a vastly superior organizational and asset management capabilities when compared to Lightroom. Aperture is also regarded as having other far better tools as well as tools that are not available in Lightroom, However, Aperture have been also generally perceived as a software that needs to aggressively compete in the arena of image editing. This is not to say that Aperture’s RAW decoding capabilities or editing tools are less than adequate. As a matter of fact, in a lot of respects, Aperture provides elegant editing capabilities and output. However, it is clear that Aperture needed reinforcement.

In Aperture 2.1, with the addition of new built-in editing tools, and the availability of 3rd-party plug-ins, no one can say that it has not strengthened its editing capabilities. Apple’s almost singular focus on these aspects clearly show that they are keen on providing photographers with the latest and the greatest technologies they themselves can offer as well as all available cutting-edge third-party editing plug-ins.

In the next few weeks, photographers using the latest version of Aperture can expect plug-ins such as:

  • Nik Software’s Viveza plug-in, powered by U Point technology, which provides a powerful, precise, and easy way for photographers to selectively control and adjust color and light in their digital images;
  • PictureCode’s Noise Ninja plug-in that delivers advanced high ISO noise analysis and reduction;
  • Digital Film Tools’ Power Stroke plug-in which features a simple, stroke-based interface to quickly mask and intuitively perform targeted adjustments;
  • Tiffen’s Dfx plug-in that provides an expansive suite of creative filters and effects;
  • dvGarage’s dpMatte plug-in which is a high performance chroma key tool for creating seamless composites, and the HDRtoner plug-in that enables the selection of multiple photos to create a single high dynamic range (HDR) image; and
  • Image Trends’ plug-ins that include Fisheye-Hemi to quickly and effortlessly correct wide-angle lens distortion, ShineOff which automatically removes shine from faces, and PearlyWhites that automatically whitens and brightens teeth.

A complete list of 3rd-party plug-ins will be available for download here.

For now, Apple developed and demonstrated its own editing powerful plug-in called Dodge & Burn. This editing plug-in samples what third-party developers can do and will do, and what phtographers can expect. Dodge and Burn amply showcases the power, the promise, and the amazing possibilities of third-party editing plug-ins for Aperture. Apple gave us a peak into how photographers will be working with their images.

Who says that Apple is not listening to its customers? Everything that’s happening with Aperture right now is a clear demonstration that Apple’s management team and engineers are listening to what photographers have been saying. By now, and with the incredible support that Apple has thrown into Aperture, there should be no doubt that they are listening to photographers.

At the rate Apple is going with Aperture, it does not seem far-fetched that there might just come a time when photographers won’t need to round-trip to an external editing software when working on their images. Aperture may just one day end up really being the all-in-one professional photography software that is.

(Credit: Photo in screenshot by Dominique James/The Playground)

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Press Release: Apple releases Aperture 2.1 with powerful image editing plug-in architecture

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CUPERTINO, California—March 28, 2008—Apple today released Aperture 2.1, which introduces an open plug-in architecture that makes it easy for photographers to use specialized third party imaging software right from within Aperture. Available today as a free software update, Aperture 2.1 includes the Apple-developed plug-in, Dodge & Burn, which adds brush-based tools for dodge (lighten), burn (darken), contrast, saturation, sharpen and blur. Over the coming months, third party software developers will deliver image editing plug-ins for localized editing, filters and effects, noise analysis and reduction, wide angle lens correction and more.

“The image quality in Aperture 2 has won over the most demanding photographers,” said Rob Schoeben, Apple’s vice president of Applications Product Marketing. “Now, thanks to our open plug-in architecture, users can access an entire industry’s worth of imaging expertise without ever leaving Aperture.”

“To date, maybe two percent of my photographs needed to be touched up outside Aperture,” said John Stanmeyer, founding member of the VII Photo Agency and contributing photographer for Time and National Geographic magazines. “Now that I can dodge and burn right within Aperture’s new plug-in, I can’t imagine when I’ll have to open any other application to tone my images.”

By clicking on one or more images within Aperture, users can choose from a menu of installed plug-ins and apply specialized imaging operations to either TIFF or RAW images. Apple is working closely with key developers to bring the most requested plug-ins to Aperture such as:

  • Nik Software’s Viveza plug-in, powered by U Point technology, which provides a powerful, precise, and easy way for photographers to selectively control and adjust color and light in their digital images;
  • PictureCode’s Noise Ninja plug-in that delivers advanced high ISO noise analysis and reduction;
  • Digital Film Tools’ Power Stroke plug-in which features a simple, stroke-based interface to quickly mask and intuitively perform targeted adjustments;
  • Tiffen’s Dfx plug-in that provides an expansive suite of creative filters and effects;
  • dvGarage’s dpMatte plug-in which is a high performance chroma key tool for creating seamless composites, and the HDRtoner plug-in that enables the selection of multiple photos to create a single high dynamic range (HDR) image; and
  • Image Trends’ plug-ins that include Fisheye-Hemi to quickly and effortlessly correct wide-angle lens distortion, ShineOff which automatically removes shine from faces, and PearlyWhites that automatically whitens and brightens teeth.

Pricing & Availability

Aperture 2.1 is available immediately as a free Software Update to current Aperture 2.0 customers. Full system requirements and more information on Aperture can be found at www.apple.com/aperture. Information and availability for third party imaging plug-ins can be found on www.apple.com/aperture/resources, www.apple.com/downloads, and at the Aperture community site www.aperturepluggedin.com.

Tips for judging, critiquing and self-assessing photos

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I often solicit other people’s opinion when it comes to assessing the quality and creative merit of my photographs. I genuinely want to see how others react to the pictures I’ve taken. I want to find out if my viewers are seeing the same things as I am seeing, if they are seeing things I am not seeing, and in the process discover if there is a connection going on through my pictures.

The problem is, most people tend to be “nice” rather than “critical” when it comes to their feedback. They are often not as open and not as candid as I want them to be when analyzing my pictures. They typically play it safe.

This is why, I pay special attention to non-verbal clues, and I try to also read between the lines. It’s actually a good thing to know what other people really think of my work.

Of course, I can’t blame why I usually reap safe reactions. Maybe, they are uncomfortable dispensing negative comments. Maybe, they don’t want to hurt my feelings. They are thinking that I might feel bad if they sound harsh in their judgement.

But then again, the people I ask might just don’t know what to actually look for. I can’t say I blame them because I myself sometimes do not know exactly what to look for, until I recently came across an interesting and helpful checklist from TangoTools.com that helps me focus my attention on photographic details I need to focus on.

It’s an amazing eight-part checklist with a total of 72 questions! I don’t know of any other existing checklist that provides this much point-blank level of scrutiny. This certainly is a great way to put my pictures (and yours too) to a test.

Here it is:

Part 01: Impact & Interest

  • Does the image grab your attention and hold it?
  • Does the image appeal to the senses?
  • Does the image suggest mystery or intrigue?
  • Does the image provide a fresh and original view of the subject matter?
  • Does the image express a unifying thought or idea?
  • Does the image focus on one simple subject?
  • Does the image make the most of the available subject matter?
  • Is the image more than a mere snapshot?
  • Does the image achieve the creator’s objective?
  • Does the image avoid being too busy or confusing?
  • If the image breaks with tradition, does this enhance the experience?

Part 02: Viewpoint

  • Is the horizon level; are the verticals vertical?
  • Is the image free from unwanted perspective distortion (e.g. caused by tilting the camera)?
  • Did the creator use a fresh viewpoint?
  • Does the viewpoint highlight the important features of the subject?
  • Does the viewpoint avoid unfortunate juxtapositions (e.g. lamp post sticking out of head)?
  • Has the best choice of low, normal or high viewpoint been made?
  • Does the viewpoint make best use of light and shadows?
  • Does the viewpoint minimize clutter and distractions?

Part 03: Composition

  • Is the cropping appropriate for the subject? (Should the crop have been tighter?)
  • Has the best format been used (vertical, horizontal, square, panorama)?
  • Is there space in front of animals, faces or transportation (e.g. space to move to)?
  • Does the composition lead the eye to the main subject (e.g. through the use of lines and curves)?
  • Does the main subject stand out from the background (e.g. contrasting olor, brightness or focus)?
  • Does the composition avoid the “bull’s eye effect” (e.g. main subject is offset from center)?
  • Does the image make good use of forms, patterns and textures?
  • Does the image convey a sense of depth (e.g. shadows, perspective, selective focus)?

Part 04: Color

  • Was the best choice made from color, black-and-white or sepia?
  • Is the white balance correct (e.g. no yellow, orange or green cast)?
  • Are color saturation levels appropriate?
  • Has appropriate use been made of contrasting and complementary colors?

Part 05: Technique

  • Is the image free of barrel and pincushion distortion? (Note: An occurrence that is common to very wide angle lenses.)
  • Does the image avoid lost detail in blown out highlights and dark shadows?
  • Is the image free of distracting reflections?
  • Is the main subject in sharp focus?
  • Is the image free from dust specs, smudges, and scratches?
  • Is the image free from lens flare effects?
  • Was fill-flash used when needed?
  • Does the image have a good total range?
  • Is the image free of excessive contrast?
  • Is the image free from handshake blur?
  • Is the image free from digital sensor noise?
  • Was subject motion handled appropriately (e.g. either frozen or exaggerated)?
  • Does the image avoid clumsy or obvious post-processing?

Part 06: Manipulation & Presentation

  • Has the image been over-sharpened?
  • Is the image free from artifacts of excessive JPEG compression?
  • Has any manipulation contributed to the subject matter and its impact? (Or, is it just a Photoshop demo?)
  • Does any manipulation represent a fresh style wit merit?
  • Is the size of the printed or displayed image appropriate for the subject matter?
  • If printed, is the image’s resolution high enough to support the print size?
  • If used, is the framing suitable for the subject matter?

Part 07: Landscapes

  • Is the horizon not in the middle?
  • Does the image avoid wasting space on a featureless sky?
  • Does the image include elements in the near, middle and far distances?
  • Was the image taken at an appropriate time of day?
  • Was good use made of the hyperfocal plane?

Part 08: Portraits

  • Was the correct choice made between flattery and revealing character?
  • Does the image minimize un-photogenic features?
  • Does the image emphasize photogenic features? (Have small blemishes been removed?)
  • Is the lighting effective?
  • Does the subject appear natural and relaxed?
  • Does the image reveal the subject’s character and interests?
  • Does the image tell a story or suggest history?
  • Is the image free of red-eye effects?
  • Was a good choice made of lens focal length? (Note: No big noses from wide-angle lenses.)
  • Are the background and props appropriate?
  • Are the eyes in sharpest focus?
  • Does the lighting make the hair “alive”?
  • Do the clothing and accessories avoid drawing attention away from the subject?
  • Do the lighting and viewpoint reveal the shape of the subject’s head?
  • Is the subject free from unfortunate shadows on the face or elsewhere?
  • Is the sharpness of focus appropriate for the situation?

Written by dominiquejames

March 24, 2008 at 6:38 PM

Special Announcement: The new online blogs of photographer Dominique James

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Redefining his online presence, professional photographer Dominique James recently created and introduced six new exciting content-specific blogs.

With razor-sharp focus on modern photography and digital imaging, these blogs contain valuable and meaningful information that targets specific audiences. Previously, all information were dumped on a single location. It was apparent, however, that he and his audience has outgrown it. “I was looking at a more organized way of presenting and sharing information and photographs on the net,” Dominique James said. “Breaking up the presentation into separate blogs was the logical and right thing to do.”

While these new blogs are distinct and separate, prominent links can be found in the homepage of all the new blogs. These links organically and strategically joins all the blogs. Visitors can quickly and easily move from one blog to another. This means that while online guests can focus on specific areas of interest, it is also a breeze to foray into, around, and out of each of the blogs.

These are the new weblogs:

  • Dominique James, The Photographer – This is the official website of professional photographer Dominique James featuring diverse, creative and cutting-edge commissioned works that span portraiture, fashion, product, food, interior, architectural, landscape, travel and adventure digital imaging for a variety of advertising, commercial, corporate, entertainment, editorial and multimedia projects.
  • Perfect Photo Pixels – This is a website that focuses on all things photography such as practical hints and tips, techniques and styles, equipment and gears, software and hardware, trade and industry news, and, groundbreaking developments and events for the benefit of photographers from hobbyists and enthusiasts to the semi-professionals and the professionals. This website serves information, knowledge and opinion about photography.
  • Dominique James Stock Photography – As a showcase of Dominique James’ stock photography, the images here serve as a rich and potent visual device that not only expressly communicates ideas and emotions but also well-considered commentaries about the world we live in today. From wide angle shots to macro images, this is an exclusive look at our modern civilization as singularly seen through the eyes of professional photographer Dominique James.
  • Dominique James Fine Art Photography – Constructing a new and exciting visual vocabulary that connects with the viewers in a different plane and at a different level, professional photographer Dominique James presents a series of intriguing fine art photographic images in this website. The non-literal fine art photographic images are personal and private explorations and visual expressions of feelings and thoughts.
  • Dominique James: The Inside Stories – This is Dominique James’ intimate look into the fantastically singular but multi-dimensional world of photography. He digs deep and wide, and he explores photography in profusely unexpected ways. For the first time, Dominique James openly and candidly shares with you his innermost thoughts, views and feelings about the craft and art of photography.
  • Dominique James: One Red Man – Personal rants, raves and musings on anything and everything that is “categorically” not about photography. Is there a better way for him to exorcise himself of bothersome demons than by candidly and publicly blogging (meaning, confessing) about it? He has favorite topics of course, but he casts a very wide net. Expect a surprising motley of subjects to be tackled here. Although Dominique James is aware that this blog can easily and quickly turn into something that is awfully self-indulgent, hang around because from out of the whole thing, some topics might just be of interest to you. In such cases, enjoy these precious common threads of interests.

Other than these new blogs, Dominique James maintains his presence at other sites on the net which includes The Playground, Inside Aperture, and Aperture Professional Users Network (AUPN). Likewise, he maintains an online gallery at Flickr and a mobile blog at Tumblr. And as a long-time fan of Apple, he is the vice chairman of the thriving online community, PhilMUG, together with its sister site, PodCentral.

In line with the introduction of these new blogs, the previous popular online presence of Dominique James at Blogspot, which he religiously maintained for four years, have been retired.

Dominique James is one of today’s finest professional photographers now based in the United States. His professional working experience spans more than 15 years. He is a Nikon Pro Photographer, an Epson Pro Photographer, and an Apple Certified Trainer for Aperture. Worldwide, he regularly conducts popular photography and modeling workshops, lectures and seminars.

Send Dominique James an email at dominiquejames@mac.com for inquiries, bookings, feedback and comments.

Written by dominiquejames

March 23, 2008 at 1:25 AM

Lensbaby 3G: Tips & Hints On Using A “Selective Focus” Specialty Lens

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(Note: This article originally appeared in iMag Photography Magazine. To download the free PDF file of the published version, click here.)

Focus On TreesBY DOMINIQUE JAMES

The first time I got to use a Lensbaby 3G, not one but several of my colleagues asked me what I need it for. They know I have already accumulated quite a number of fabulous Nikkor lenses that I interchangeably fit into my current D2Xs and all my other Nikkor-mounted cameras, and to add another lens, a Lensbaby 3G at that, seemed a little odd. If ever I get another lens, it had to be one of the newfangled Nikkors. So, indeed, at this time, what do I need a non-Nikkor lens for?

Inventor Craig Strong would surely know how to answer that question. But as for me, well, I just had to get one.

All I can say is that Nikkor doesn’t have one of those specialized “selective focus” lenses that brings one area of the photo into sharp “sweet spot” focus surrounded by gradually and almost magically increasing blur. That’s a perfect excuse right there. Once the idea was planted on my head, there’s no escaping the fact that I’d get my hands on one, even if later than sooner. No matter how long it takes. I guess, that’s just how it is with photographers.

Well, I eventually did get my hands on one. It took 3 iterations before I did get hold of one. So, was it all worth it?

I can definitely say that using a Lensbaby 3G added zest to my photography. The Lensbaby 3G lens never fails to spice up what otherwise would have turned out to be ordinary, commonplace, or drab images. I must say that everything looks good through a Lensbaby 3G.

It is easy to use the Lensbaby 3G. It doesn’t even come with a manual. Out of the cute square box, it comes with only a small and thin multi-fold brochure that carries an explicit warning saying it is safe for photographers to read it because “it is not a manual.” These guys sure know of our aversion to reading manuals! A little but surprising touch that made me love the Lensbaby 3G more.

To make the most out of your Lensbaby 3G, here are a few tips:

  • Lensbaby or not, it’s easy to get dust on your lenses. You don’t even have to do anything! The best way to keep your Lensbaby 3G clean, or at least to minimize dust from clouding your lens, is to make sure you cover both ends at all times (conveniently provided), and also use the protective see-thru plastic casing when storing (also conveniently provided).
  • Keep the Lensbaby 3G Aperture Set handy. With this set, you can nterchange among several magnetically levitating aperture disks that will help you achieve the f/2, f2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, and f/22 aperture settings in a carrying case with removal tool. You can, of course, buy a replacement, if you lose it.
  • If you don’t have a tripod, or if you have a heavy monolithic one that you just keep and use in a studio, you should not only consider but actually get a sturdy yet infinitely lightweight tripod that folds into the smallest configuration possible. It’s a pain to carry a tripod, so get the one that is ultra-lightweight, and that compactly folds. Also, a tripod with a carrying case is a big plus. You will not only thank yourself but most especially congratulate yourself for taking the trouble of getting and lugging one around. Lensbaby 3G is designed to work so well with a tripod. With a tripod, you can fine-tune your focus, take long exposures, achieve infinitely repeatable results, and create interesting micro variations. Besides, Lensbaby 3G or not, an ultra-portable sturdy tripod is one of the best accessories you can get that will considerably extend and improve the quality of your photography.
  • You can already do so much with just any of the three basic or standard Lensbabies. But to really get the most out of it, particularly if you are using the Lensbaby 3G, you might want to consider adding the Wide Angle/Macro, Wide Angel/Telephoto, Digital Optics, and Macro lens kits. These conversion lenses adds an amazing array of capabilities to your existing Lensbaby. For just a little more, you open yourself to an amazing range of photographic styles using your Lensbaby. And if you have money to burn, it’s not a bad idea to go all the way with the Creative Aperture Kit and the Creative Aperture Blanks. And, don’t forget the awesome Custom Case, the Lenspen Pro, and specially-branded Lensbabies caps and tees.
  • The tenet “know your subject” is nowhere more important than when using a Lensbaby. Knowing your subject, in this case, literally means knowing where to sharply focus across your composition and focal plane. Once you know what the particular focus of an image is, you can keep that sharp while gently blurring away everything else in the frame.
  • Vary your composition. Move the frame all around a focused subject to see what works best. The focused subject does not necessarily have to be in the center. It can be on the left or right part of the frame. Put to good use the age-old “rule of thirds”. The rule of thirds works best with a Lensbaby.
  • Expose images properly. You might have the tendency to under or over-expose an image. With a Lesbaby 3G, keeping perfect exposure gives you a wider latitude in post-production. If you wish to subject your final images to post-production processing, properly exposing RAW images will help give you a wider latitude.
  • With the Lensbaby 3G’s ability to create as many variations of sharply fine-tuned series of images, it is best to use a post-production tool such as Apple’s Aperture. Aperture allows you to easily and quickly select the best shots from the many you’ve taken by allowing you to compare two or more selected images side by side, use the Loupe tool to assess the quality and sharpness of the image, rate and organize the images in many different ways, and create various outputs from websites to slide shows and from photo books to fine art prints.

Red Wine GlassesFirst time I’ve seen a photograph taken with the original Lensbaby were flirty shots of flowers taken by a photographer friend. The images possess glowing color highlights, subtle prismatic color shifts, and also featured the now trademark graduated blur. The images taken with the original Lensbaby were either soft and ethereal or raw and imperfect. Of course, it best suited portraiture, black-and-white, and artistic photography. I was amazed and amused. I thought it quirky, but at the same time, I was amazed at how beautiful the images came out. It was creative and it was inspiring.

And the problem is, I couldn’t stop thinking of it since then. I kept postponing the inevitable (read: to get the lens), rationalizing that I can do the “selective-focus” magic in post-production using Photoshop. But months and months, and several thousand pictures later, not once did I actually do something to create an image with a “selective-focus” approach similar to what a Lensbaby can produce.

The first and the original Lensbaby gave way to a new one. Lensbaby 2.0 came.

Lesbaby 2.0 is a compact, all-around, portable and infinitely fun lens to use. This new version of the lens has been designed for quick shooting, and even for travel and adventure photography. All you have to do is compress to focus, bend it around to find the sweet focused spot, and click away. A couple of new technologies were added to the second version of Lensbaby. The optics is considered sharp and bright. It had a magnetically levitating aperture disks, and provided an aperture range of from f/2 to f/8.

Still, I somehow missed getting this second version.

And now, comes Lensbaby 3G. Finally, I did get hold of one. But now, despite the latest and the greatest, I’m still wishing I’d get my hands both on the original and the 2.0 Lensbabies. It would be uber-cool to collect them all, just like the Nikkor lenses.

While operating on the same basic selective-focus principle, this new lens sums up the experience of the two previous models. It is a “hybrid love child” of an old fashioned bellows camera and an up-tight tilt-shift lens.The Lensbaby 3G is amazing because you now can do the following, which previously, you can’t: precise focus control, longer exposures, and repeatability. What makes this possible is that you can lock the lens in place b pressing a button on a focusing collar. Then you can fine focus, using a traditional barrel focusing ring. With your camera mounted on a tripod, you can take variations to the same composed subject with focus on selective areas. This time, with the Lensbaby 3G, you get not only get better but more importantly a really refined razor-sharp focus on selected areas. Using a low dispersion, multi-coated optical glass doublet, the Lensbaby 3G delivers images with a tack-sharp sweet spot. Also, aperture settings now ranges from f/2 to f/22.

To fully enjoy the Lensbaby experience using still cameras, you might want to try out the Lensbaby 0.6X Wide angle/Macro Conversion Lens, the Lensbaby Wide Angle/Telephoto Kit, and the Lensbaby Micro Kit. These are compatible with all Lensbaby models that can be used for both film and digital SLR cameras. All of these bundle accessories, as well as a few others, effectively extend the functionalities of a Lensbaby.

Other than Nikon, the Lensbaby 3G will mount with the following camera brands: Canon, Sony Alpha, Minolta Maxxum, Pentax K, Samsung GX, Sigma SD, Olympus 4/3rds (E1), Panasonic Lumix DMC, Leica R, Pentax 67 and the Mamiya 645.

Is a Lensbaby only for still camera? The answer is “no”. If you’re into moving pictures, there is the Lensbaby 3GPL designed to create movie magic! This special lens puts the same magic of selective focus into making movies.

For more information on Lensbaby 3G, go to the www.lensbabies.com website.

Written by dominiquejames

March 22, 2008 at 5:16 PM

The city of San Francisco … making it your own

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sanfrancisco25.jpg

San Francisco, just like New York, Chicago, Paris and London, is one of the world’s most amazing cities. It is also one of the most photogenic, and hence, one of the most photographed. Anyone can snap a picture of San Francisco, and for sure, take home an image or two that looks like a postcard. As a matter of fact, daily, with the non-stop influx of professional photographers and tourists, the collection of beautiful and amazing images of its vibrant and iconic architecture, historic landmarks and amazing natural formations just grows and grows.

It’s really easy to take beautiful pictures of San Francisco. Just point a camera, and shoot. A lot of people do it every day. Photographers, and specially tourists who are returning from vacation, always take home with them amazing landscape pictures. This is what makes picturesque San Francisco anybody’s city. Anyone can take home a piece of it, even if just in pictures.

The problem begins when each and every photograph of San Francisco begins to look the same. One person’s snapshots is the same as the next. In this case, there is no longer anything unique and surprising and different, hence beautiful, in a city such as San Francisco.

The challenge, therefore, to a real photographer like yourself, is how to make San Francisco your very own. How do you come up with photographs of world-reknowned landmarks and make people see it as if they are looking at it for the very first time. How do you make something familiar look quite unique in your photograph? How do you make it your very own?

Here are a few ideas on how you can photograph a beautiful city such as San Francisco, and in the end, come away with familiar, and yet still uniquely awesome photographs.

  • Plan your photographic trip. Even before landing at San Francisco’s airport, make sure you already have a very good idea of what places you want to photograph, and where they are. One of the most useful tools to a photographer today is the Internet. Conducting online research will help you determine which places you want to take pictures of. Also, bookstores offer photography guides to some of the most famous cities, including of course, San Francisco. Doing your research weeks before your trip will help you figure out places of personal interest to you.
  • Do not try to take pictures of all the landmarks. It’s not a good idea to rush from one place to another. If you try to capture as much famous landmarks as possible by rushing here and there, you might end up with a bunch of ordinary-looking photographs. Be selective of the places you want to visit, specially if you only have a limited number of days to spare, and, spend as much or as little time as necessary in all these places. Enjoy experiencing the sights as much as you might enjoy photographing them.
  • Enlist the help of a local. If you are visiting a place for the first time, it is often helpful if you know someone who has been living in the city for a long time. A “local” meaning, a friend or a relative, or even an acquaintance introduced to you because of this trip, can easily point you out not only to the best places, but how to go around these places easily and quickly. Knowing and going around with someone who has an “inside knowledge” of the city makes for a really worry-free and enjoyable photographic experience.
  • While you may be busy taking pictures of the familiar and iconic landmarks and architecture, keep an eye out on the unfamiliar. It’s easy to get drawn into the same thing that everyone else is photographing such that you lose sight of other beautiful and amazing sights that’s all around you. Just because something is not familiar or typical, and does not appear in the guidebooks, doesn’t mean that it isn’t worthy of your photographic attention. Take time to photograph the unexpected and the unusual that may happen to present itself along the way. This is a great way to personalize your collection of photographs.
  • Bring as few photographic equipment as necessary, but also bring as much as you need. There’s no point in lugging so much stuff that you might not even end up using, and that it just weighs you down. And it’s also foolish not to bring the things you know you know from experience that will need. The less you bring, the better. But, don’t forget to bring the really essentials. One of the things you need to bring is a sturdy but lightweight tripod. This simple piece of photographic accessory often comes handy, but sadly, is often forgotten. A tripod can make a huge difference in the quality of your photographic images.
  • Perfect timing is everything. The beauty of a landscape is not just in the main subject itself (the iconic architecture or historic landmark), but how that subject is bathed in perfect light. Shooting at a perfect angle, and at a perfect time (when the light is just right), makes for a huge difference between an ordinary and an extraordinary photograph. Be patient enough to wait awhile to get the right kind of light, and be prepared to come back when lighting conditions are ideal when taking pictures of certain landscapes.
  • Be bold, be brave, and be different. Sometimes, all it really takes is the right mindset. You can choose to photograph something in the way that everyone else is photographing it, or you can choose to be bold, to be brave, and to be different by following your own vision. Being safe is understandable. Taking “safe” images is reassuring. But you can go beyond that. Think and imagine what else can be done, how it can be done, and then, just do it. Experimenting with something different may not always yield the result you expect but it can open up possibilities you may have never thought possible before.
  • Almost everyone will be shooting the same things you are shooting are going to shoot in high resolution JPEG. Be different from them. Shoot using your camera’s RAW format setting. You are making the most out of your digital camera’s capabilities by shooting in RAW format. While JPEG has its certain convenient advantages, it does not give you enough latitude that can translate to amazing post-production work. RAW is the right way to go when shooting landscapes. RAW allows you to make the most out of the details and bring out the best from each of your photographic images.
  • Use the right post-production tools. Shooting is half of the creative challenge. Digital capture is just that: digital capture. It is simply the beginning of an exciting and creative post-production workflow. Any photographer worth his grain of salt knows that the other half that really makes the image pops out is how a photographer injects the right kind of post-production work. The final, resulting images can really come out stunning and amazing! Choosing the right set of digital post-production tools is mostly a matter of personal preference, but many creative photographers handle their post-production work using Mac computers and with a pro software such as Apple’s Aperture 2, Photoshop CS3, among others.

With these ideas, you are on your way to creating unique and unusual images of even a much-photographed city such as San Francisco. It’s great when you are able to show pictures of something familiar but in a quite different way. It’s fun when people who are looking at your photographs are seeing something that they’ve seen countless times before, and yet, feel as if they are looking at it for the very first time. It’s a wonderful experience to unexpectedly “re-discover” something all over again for the first time. There is therefore no excuse why you cannot create unique, special and amazing images that you can call your very own.

Written by dominiquejames

March 18, 2008 at 7:50 PM

Macworld 2008: A paradise for photographers

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Every year, Mac faithfuls from all over the world flock on a pilgrimage to Moscone Center, and also to Apple’s Headquarters located at Cupertino, to participate in the Macworld event. It has been said that there are trade shows, and then there is Macworld. The energy, intensity and mood is quite different from all the other (even bigger) trade events of this nature.

People attend Macworld for many different reasons. Through the years, and because of Apple’s professional applications such as Aperture, Final Cut Pro, Logic, and also even because of iPhoto, iMovie, Garageband and the like, Macworld has grown to encompass wider creative and technical fields. Casting the net, the hip geeks, the creative types, and the business-minded mix and mingle to get a feel for the new Mac landscape, and to satisfy the need to be at the forefront of it all. It’s a vibrant mix where the order of the day is the exchange of information. Exhibitors and vendors talk to conference and exhibit attendees, hawking their goods and services.

An estimated 50,0000 people attended this year’s Macworld. Last year, there were about 35,000 attendees. The growth in the number of people showing up at Macworld has been primarily driven by new Mac users who wants to experience first-hand what the whole thing is all about.

If you are into photography, or audio or video, there certainly are a whole bunch of things that you’ll find interesting in Macworld beginning with the many different conference tracks conducted by world-reknowned professionals and industry experts on various subjects to the product and service exhibits by all sorts of companies on the show floors.

While the biggest star of this year’s Macworld is definitely the new MacBook Air that Steve Jobs officially announced in his much-anticipated keynote, and while much of the excitement was focused on it, a thousand and one things were going on all at the same time such that it’s easy to get caught up in the dizzying vortex of the entire Mac experience. The secret is to keep focused on key areas of interest.

THE KEYNOTE

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: the MacBook Air. What, if any, does it have anything to do with photographers? As the biggest product announcement of the year, this deserves a look. MacBook Air is the 3rd in the family of the Macbook product line. It sits between the MacBook and the MacBook Pro. In form and factor, it is definitely different from its 2 sibling models.

Professional photographers tend to use the MacBook Pro. Hobbyists tend to go for the MacBook. That?s how it has always worked.

The question now is, where do we fit in the new MacBook Air? The profile and the specs of this new machine is quite unique to the other two. There are a couple of things that makes the MacBook Air appealing for photographers on the go. First, at 3.0 pounds, is that it is the lightest laptop ever. And second, with a height of .16 to .76 of an inch, and a width of 12.8 inches and depth of 8.94 inches, it’s the thinnest ever. The new form factor is definitely attractive to photographers who are always on the go and who are always saddled with an assortment of heavy gear. Having a laptop that small (but not tiny) and light (but not lightweight), is an attractive option and provides a small measure of relief from all the heavy weight that one has to trudge along. Not that the MacBook and MacBook Pro are heavy bricks, and not that the new MacBook Air will be able to compete in terms of performance and price, but there is something appealing about the new MacBook Air?s form factor.

The specs of the new MacBook Air makes the most out of the best technology that is available right now. It is cutting-edge. It runs on an Intel Core 2 Duo processor at a standard 1.6 GHZ with 2 GB RAM, and contains an 80GB standard storage space with option to expand. It has a 13.3 inch widescreen TFT LED display, a full-size back-lit keyboard, a built-in iSight camera, and a large multi-touch trackpad. This makes it incomparably portable without the usual compromises. These allows for ergonomic comfort and better computing paradigm where you can really do almost anything you want to do on a laptop.

For hard-wired connectivity, there’s one USB 2.0 port that supports a transfer rate of up to 480 Mbps, an audio out and a Micro-DVI connector. But the real essence of this machine is in its wireless nature. That’s where it’s supposed to shine. It has both a built-in Airport Extreme WiFi wireless networking based on IEEE 802.11n that is backward compatible, and it has an enhanced Bluetooth connectivity based on the 2.1 plus EDR (Enhanced Data Rate) specifications.

More or less, that’s about what photographers will get. With good support for graphics and video, this is a very capable portable machine. And now, for the question that comes to mind: Is the MacBook Air good for photographers?

A lot has already pointed out the glaring absence of a built-in slot for optical media, and there has been one-too-many voices raising concerns over storage space, and about its other specs. To design a machine in the dimension of a MacBook Air, there are bound to be limitations. But such limitations are actually negligible, and understandable, compared to the compromises of other sub-notebooks manufactured by other brands. The MacBook Air can be considered the best in its class. It is a new standard in mobile computing, even for professional photographers.

What makes the MacBook Air really compelling is that it is designed ultimately for wireless computing. With the Remote Disc Software, you can plug optical media into other nearby Macs, and even PCs, that the MacBook Air can wirelessly read. But if you have to, with an optional USB-connected SuperDrive, you can directly hook up to all sorts of optical media. With its 5-hour battery life, you don’t need to plug-in soon.

MacBook Air, at its current configuration and price, is a desirable portable machine that will appeal to a wide range of laptop users including a wide spectrum of photographers. While the specs are quite different, and may even be not deemed currently comparable to either the MacBook or the MacBook Pro, it is ultimately a serviceable machine that can get the job done.

THE SHOW

Two huge halls of Moscone Center, the West and the South, were filled to the brim with exhibitors. A total of 486 exhibitors participated, which is up by more than a hundred compared to last year. And, unlike last year which was dominated by iPod accessory vendors, this year provided a great diverse mix.

The biggest photography vendors were in full force at the show floors. Most of the familiar brands filled the South hall. While not entirely a photography and digital imaging show, there’s more than enough photography-related exhibitors present to showcase and demonstrate their latest and greatest products and services. If you are a Mac user, it’s a good way to round up what works best with your machines.

Vying for the attention of photographers are the pavilions and booths of Nikon, Canon, Adobe, Samsung, HP, Epson, Quark, Casio, Fujitsu, Ricoh, and others. At all hours, product demonstrations, sampling and mini-sessions were being held at some of the booths.

Also notable are several innovative photography vendors showcasing their products and software. Among them include: Lensbabies (selective focus lenses), O’Reilly Media (photo software books), Lynda.com (photo software training DVDs), Lacie (external storage devices), Anthro (computer appliances, tables and chairs), Booq (carrying bags and cases), among others.

Other big exhibitors whom photographers want to check out were also present such as AOL, IBM, Google, and Microsoft.

Of particular interest to those who are into photography is the B&H and the Best Buy booths. Good deals were offered on photographic equipment from cameras to studio lights, and a myriad accessories from trusted photography brands. Attendees can even buy all sorts of products, from cameras and lenses to accessories and cases, at discounted prices right off the show floor.

THE CONFERENCE

One of the main attractions of Macworld 2008 is the conference proper. The conference, concurrent with the exhibition, was where up-to-the-minute Mac-centric knowledge is disseminated. The many different sessions spanning days or hours offered insights into products and services, notably that of new gadgets and software, and provided extensive sharing, training on various fields of interests particularly on photography and digital imaging.

The conference, like all previous Macworld events also held at Moscone Center, “officially” began with the keynote address of Apple CEO, Steve Jobs. This keynote sets the tone for the entire event. From there, and throughout the 5-day event, it panned to various themes of interest or of major concern to attendees.

The conference programs, attended by more than 5,000 delegates, was segmented into several categories. Each conference program addressed covered a gamut of grounds. There were the Feature Presentations, the Educator Academy Series, the Market Symposiums, the Power Tool Conferences, Specialty Programs, Hands-on MacLabs, Birds-of-a-Feather Meets, Users Conference, and MacIT Conference.

For photographers or anyone who’s into digital imaging, from shooting to post-production, several sessions are of interest. There are a number of extensive Aperture and iPhoto lectures, as well as Photoshop and Lightroom classes. The Power Tools Conferences, for example, offered 2-day seminars on Aperture by Derrick Story and Ben Long, From iPhoto to Aperture by Joe Schorr, Lightroom by Mikkel Aaland, Adobe Creative Suite by Sandee Cohen, Photoshop by Micheal Ninness, Advanced Digital Photography by Steve Simon, Beginner Digital Photography by Lesa King, among others.

Likewise, on the show floor itself, and almost round-the-clock, a series of short talks covering software, products and various services also feature photography topics. A huge Digital Photo Experience pavilion was devoted entirely to learning about photography and digital imaging. Professional photographers and imaging experts took their turn, hour by the hour, to talk nothing but photography. Likewise, pavilions and booths of Apple and Adobe conducted never-ending seminars.

Because of how the conference was setup, one impressive benefit to the attendees is that it provided a venue for serious interaction among participants that facilitated business and social networking.

THE SOFTWARE

Aperture is Apple’s all-Mac post-production software specially designed and built with the professional photographers in mind. From shoot to output, Aperture provides today’s working professional photographer with the platform and framework where they can quickly and easily prepare and submit their works in various final formats on time. Although there were a lot of Aperture-related exhibit and conference activities going on during Macworld, it wasn’t until about a month after that the new version of Aperture, now at 2.0, was publicly introduced.

Apple touts Aperture 2.0 as “the better way to better images.” It delivers over 100 dramatic new features including advanced image processing, a streamlined interface, faster performance, and unprecedented Mac integration. Long-time Aperture users will welcome the seemingly long-overdue update with open arms, and those who are new to Aperture will have an easier and faster time adapting the workflow and its incredible features. All the best features of previous versions of Aperture, plus the new ones designed into the current 2.0 version, will serve the demanding needs of today’s busy digital professional photographers.

THE MOTHERSHIP

The Macworld experience is never really complete without a “pilgrimage” to the “mothership”? And by “mothership,” it means the “mecca” — the Apple Headquarters at 1 Infinte Loop in Cupertino. This is about an hour-and-a-half drive South of San Francisco.

Not all Macworld attendees can go to Cupertino. But every year, delegates from various Asian countries gets the chance to visit the famous headquarters. Several Filipinos, from retailers and suppliers to the members of the media and Mac enthusiasts, usually join in this tour.

The Apple Headquarters is where all the Mac products are born; and this is where Steve Jobs holds office.

One of the highlights of this tour is a visit to the famous Company Store. In this store, aside from the usual Apple merchandise you see in Apple stores all over the world, one can pick up several exclusive officially-branded Apple merchandise that cannot be found nowhere else. Items such as caps, hats, shirts, jackets, mugs, notebooks, pens, and the like, all bearing the famous Apple logo, are all here. And, if lucky, these can be had for a good discount as well.

Not to be missed in this tour is the cafeteria. They serve excellent food at all hours.

A MAC-CENTRIC PHOTOGRAPHY & DIGITAL IMAGING EXPERIENCE

Apple have the reputation of being the preferred platform of people dealing with or working in the creative field. Macworld 2008 reaffirmed that stature to the members of the creative community. This year, because of the presence of major photography vendors and the digital imaging contents of the conference, also saw a fortified focus that appealed and delighted photographers.

The next Macworld, which will be held in January 5 to 9, 2008 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, is expected to provide a more interesting environment for photographers and all those in the field of creative profession. This is something to look forward to.

Written by dominiquejames

March 18, 2008 at 5:15 PM

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