Monday, July 30, 2007

More Rumors About The 40D?

More rumors abound about the upcoming release of the New Canon 40D. I can't really tell if the Camera Enthusiast's are spreading the same rehashed news ( myself included ) or if there is any real new info to be had. But, as they say, where there is smoke there's usually fire and there is a whole lot of smoke. Most of it is probably being blown up our behinds!

Rumor List: 10.1 -12 Mega Pixel, Digic II ( 80% ) or Digic III ( Just a few people have said this! ), 2.5 inch LCD, 5 -7 Frame per sec ( who cares ) etc...

I can't imagine spending any more on a camera with those specs than I would for a new rebel XTI!
Give me a full frame 12 Mega Pixel with a 3 inch LCD and I'll be happy for a few more years.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

5 Days Of PR Shooting

I'll be hitting the sack earlier than usual tonight. Tomorrow begins a five day PR shoot for a Consulting Company at Convention locations in Raleigh and Durham. Run-and-Gun will be the order of the day, with most of the photography being photo-journalistic in nature. Our lighting weapon of choice will be the Canon Speedlite 580 Ex and more Canon 580's if needed. I spent a couple of hours making a killer accessory reflector for the strobe out of some old White cardboard.
I think the Strobist would be proud!

After Friday.............Vacation! But I'll be taking my Desktop and 20 inch Dell Monitor just in case!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Kiva.org...... Loans To Entrepreneurs In Developing Countries

The next time some S.O.B. from the Democrat or Republican Party calls to solicit a Campaign Donation, tell them where to go ( you know where ) and do something useful with your extra cash. Kiva.org makes it easy for you to make micro- loans to the working poor in Developing Countries.

From their site:

By choosing a business on Kiva.org, you can "sponsor a business" and help the world's working poor make great strides towards economic independence.


Twenty Five Dollars might buy you a new pair of sunglasses or a used light stand, but the same amount could help some man or woman in a developing country start a life-changing business. Each Kiva Sponsor is pre-screened and counseled on good business practices and the stats on the repayment of loans make American Borrowers look like swindlers. The micro - loans are disbursed by local Kiva Field Partners who must have an established history of accountability and credibility with Kiva.org. Each sponsored business repays their debt thru the Field Partner who is held accountable for maintaining a journal of progress for each loan recipient. When the loans have been repaid, the Field Partner returns the funds to the lender ( You ) who may withdraw his funds or re-loan.

Personal Note: I would describe myself as a hard- core, Ronald Reagan, pull yourself up by your bootstraps kinda guy. This organization has met my standards for the "Teach a man to fish" life Philosophy.

Check it out.

Response to The Abe Vigoda Edition CF Cards is Amazing!

Who could have guessed that the Abe Vigoda Edition CF Cards would be such a hot property! I might even have to cut Abe in on the deal.

Keep those orders coming!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Fastest CF Card Ever?

After posting about the new SanDisk CF / SD cards, I got to thinking. Does it really matter what Corporate Sponsorship brands any new Digital Product, especially when they are both in different fields? Could SanDisk have released the new Extreme Yugo edition. Would you really care?

While you're thinking about that. I present to you the latest and greatest offering in Portable Digital Media..........The Abe Vigoda Extreme 1X !

On Sale Now:Get them while you can!

Sandisk Extreme Ducati


SanDisk has just released the specs on its new Extreme Ducati CF and SD Cards. The line-up consists of 4- and 8- gigabyte (GB) capacities for the SanDisk Extreme Ducati Edition Compact Flash card and 4GB for the SanDisk Extreme Ducati Edition SD Plus card. The SD Plus card features a snap-open connector that enables the card to be plugged directly into the USB port of a personal computer without the need for a cable or reader. Read / Write speeds are quoted at 45 megabytes per second for the Compact Flash cards and 20MB/sec for the SD Plus card. Those specs put the CF Card at twice the speed of the SanDisk Extreme III and 5MB faster than the new SanDisk Extreme IV card.

Because the new CF cards move data faster than the transfer rate supported by most card readers, SanDisk offers the optional SanDisk Extreme FireWire Reader, which supports Fire Wire 400 and 800 connectivity.

Suggested retail prices are $164.99 for the 4GB Compact Flash card, $314.99 for the 8GB Compact Flash card and $129.99 for the 4GB SD Plus card. They will also be available for pre-order on the SanDisk website at www.sandisk.com/Ducati.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Canon Issues Press Release on Mark III

Canon USA has issued a press release partially addressing some of the concerns over Auto Focus reliability and other glitches in the new EOS 1Ds Mark III. They will release a firmware update ( Version 1.0.9 ) at the end of July to resolve some of the known problems with Auto Focus, LCD viewing and other minor software issues.

Press Release from Canon USA July 20 2007:

Canon EOS-1D Mark III Firmware Update, Version 1.0.9

In the interests of better customer support, Canon has developed new Version 1.0.9 firmware for the EOS-1D Mark III Digital SLR camera. This firmware update incorporates the following improvements and fixes:

  • Improves the look of images when enlarged on the LCD monitor
    Applies a slightly stronger sharpness setting to the LCD monitor when images are enlarged.
  • Improves the consistency of AI Servo AF under certain conditions
    Reduces the tendency of the camera to autofocus on high-contrast backgrounds when shooting in conditions where AF detection is difficult, such as when the main subject is not completely covered by the AF frames or if the main subject's contrast is low.
  • Provides countermeasures for Main Dial response errors (Main, Quick Control, Vertical-grip Main)
    Fixes a rare response error in the Main Dials in which they either did not respond when rotated or would change several clicks worth even if only clicked once.
  • Corrects errors in the Italian and Simplified Chinese menu screens.

Please note that Version 1.0.9 firmware is currently scheduled to be made available for download from the Web at the end of July. It is NOT currently available for download. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. However, Canon U.S.A. Factory Service Centers in Jamesburg, NJ and Irvine, CA can install the updated firmware as of now. EOS-1D Mark III customers who wish to send their cameras into a Canon Factory Service Center for this upgrade are welcome to do so at their own expense. (Customer pays shipping to the Factory Service Center; Canon installs the firmware update and ships the camera back to the customer at no charge.) On the other hand, if the customer prefers, he or she can wait until version 1.0.9 is available for download at no charge from Canon's web site. If a customer sends his or her camera into the service department now, and firmware is upgraded by the service department, the soon-to-be-available download will not add any additional functionality to the camera -- there will be no need to perform a further firmware update when version 1.0.9 is made available for download on Canon's web site.

U.S. residents are kindly directed to contact the Canon Customer Support Center for further assistance at 1-800-828-4040. Support hours are Monday thru Friday - 8:00 AM to 12:00 midnight; and Saturday 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM (all times EST). Alternatively, if electronic support is preferred, please send your email to carecenter@cits.canon.com

This information is for residents of the United States of America and Puerto Rico only. If you do not reside in the USA or Puerto Rico, please contact the Canon Customer Support Center in your region.

We appreciate your understanding in this matter. Thank you for your support and patronage of Canon products.

--- End Press Release.

Anyone interested in reading the full story on the Auto Focus problems with the EOS 1Ds Mark III can follow this link to Rob Galbraith's site to read his detailed report on the camera.
.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Frank Lloyd Wright

Once while testifying in court, Frank Lloyd Wright referred to himself as the world's greatest architect. Asked later how he could make such an excessive claim, he replied, “Well, I was under oath, wasn't I? (Secrest, 1998, p. 376).


Maybe like me, you sometimes fantasize about greatness, recognition, the respect of your peers, maybe even fame and fortune. I wonder sometimes if I will ever have the success in my career and life that I hope for. I get caught up in the daily struggle to move forward, personally and professionally. Depending on the day of the week or who knows what, my assessment of my progress is unsure and very fickle. Today I am the greatest photographer that ever lived, tomorrow I can't find a good photo to save my life. If there was a pill I could take when I wake up in the morning to push me in the direction of the former as opposed to the latter. Oh well!

Could it be that the truly great photographers, architects, artists etc... are cursed / blessed with a greater measure of arrogance and narcissism than your average joe? Do they get up in the morning with the idea that the world is holding it's breath waiting for their next move? Do they let failure get in the way of their opinion of themselves?

This ought to give you plenty to think about the next time you pick up your camera.

Well, I better get going.....the world is holding its breath.


The excerpt above this post is from an article in the Annual of Psychoanalysis (2005), written by James William Anderson Ph.d.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Alien Skin Software Review


Click image for Large Preview.

I've been trying to schedule enough time to put together my review of 3 Software Plug-ins from Alien Skin Software: Exposure, Snap art and Blowup. Work and other commitments have kept me from my blogging duties, not to mention all the time I have spent playing with the Filters. The image above this post is some Album Cover art that I have been working on. There isn't one element in the image that hasn't been run through at least one of the film- look filters in Exposure or the Faux- art filters in Snap art. I haven't had the time to test the upressing software Blow-up, but I'll probably get the opportunity soon enough to use it on the Album Cover image. I am very particular about upressed output, so I am interested to see how well the Alien Skin software holds up to Genuine Fractals, which is my standard choice for resizing images.

EXPOSURE:

The idea behind the Exposure Plug - in, is to render images captured digitally more like what you would expect from photos taken with traditional film. To do this, Alien Skin provides 36 different Black and White and Color Film Stock filters and 54 other variants of traditional printing and processing looks applied as a Photoshop Plug-in. Just a few of your choices in the monochrome filters include the look of Fuji Neopan, Ilford Delta 3200 and 200 SFX infrared film. With 19 choices of Color film stock, like Fuji Velvia, Kodachrome 64 and ISO 500 GAF, you can't go wrong. There's more than enough variables of filmstock and processing filters to keep you up all night applying different combinations. Each filter application creates its own layer so you don't have to worry about altering the underlying background image. None of the filters take more than a few seconds to run on 8 bit color images and just a tad longer on 16 bit.

Note: Most of my photographs are created with an 8 mega pixel camera with the subsequent Raw File producing a 45 MB 16 bit processed tiff. My PC runs a Pentium 4 with 1 gigabyte of Ram, so I'm not quoting figures for a Apple G-5 with Dual processors. Who really needs to spend that much money on a machine that saves you just a few seconds anyway. Go get yourself a PC and have more time to make coffee and Cold Calls.

With the variables of color, tone , focus, and grain you can create your own magic filter and save it as a preset in the user settings box, displayed under the filter choices in the settings tab. This will let you repeat the mojo on other images. Don't try and remember what you did, just save your settings and give it a memorable name. Exposure saves the settings for you in a special file; all you have to do is click the manage button in the user settings box and import any previously created filter. Visualizing the before and after has been made easier than ever with the Preview Split drop down box, which lets you choose a screen split ( Filter / No Filter ) in 8 different ways. ( Example: filtered on left with right side unaffected or filtered on right with left side unaffected, top, bottom, diagonal, or full screen) . This is just for previewing the effect on the image versus no filter at all. You can set the screen split any way you like that works for you. When you are ready to apply the settings, hit the OK button and you're done. The software applies the settings and ( if you like ) creates a new layer in your file with filter applied. This keeps you from altering the original and also allows you the option to fade the filter back with the percent slider in Photoshop. You can finesse the image even more by knocking it back a little using a layer mask to grab just the right pieces. You don't have to beat somebody over the head with a filter. Give them a taste and keep them wondering !

SNAP ART:

Snap Art is billed as a Plug-in to help you create beautiful, natural media artwork from your digital images. There are 10 different Art Styles to choose, including Watercolor, Oil Paint, Impasto, Pointillism and my personal favorite Comics. All of them do exactly what they're supposed to do, turning your images into faux works of art. With the option to apply variations of color temperature, contrast, saturation and brush stroke, they give you endless ways to enhance your photos. You can also pick a Canvas ( Background ) texture for your artwork with over 14 Choices to choose from, parchment, wood and leather to name a few. These filters are hard core and you will want to run them on a duplicate layer, just as you would with the Exposure filters. Setting the strength of each parameter on a given filter is much easier and comes with many more options than your standard Photoshop filter. The final output is also much more believable than what you get with the crappy filters in PS. I can see myself using the Impasto and Oil Paint filter to create ready-made portrait backgrounds for compositing. Remember. Try not to over do it. A little goes a long way !

Alien Skin Lists the retail web price as follows:

Exposure : Retail $199.00 US / $149.00 for registered owners of other AlienSkin Software.
SnapArt : Retail $149.00 US / $ 99.00 for registered owners of other AlienSkin Software.

Mac and PC compatible !

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

David Honl Light Mods For Portable Strobes

Photojournalist and Entrepreneur David Honl has created some really cool Light Modifiers for your portable on camera strobe system. At the core of these simple lightweight tools is a Speed Strap with rubberized coating that can be left on your Canon or Nikon flash at all times. There are no messy adhesives required, just a Velcro outer edge to secure the strap to itself and for mounting various gobos, reflectors and snoots. Each light modifier will attach quickly to the Universal Speed Strap directly to the outer Velcro edge. Ballistic Nylon is used for all the strap accessories maintaining a stylish and indestructible professional look. Trust me, these things are brilliant and affordable. The Speed Strap sells for $9.95 US and the other accessories are under 20 dollars each.

I will be buying a set of these!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Time For A New Watermark System

Recently I have given more thought to the importance of metadata and watermarking for images published on the web. I have always been a little slack in marking my images with the proper metadata. I create so many different versions of each image and save them in so many sizes and formats that I more often than not forget to check that I have included keywording and metadata. Even when I remember to mark an image as a copyrighted piece of original art, complete with keywords and warnings; they somehow end up naked and metadata free when they finally show up on a clients web page. No copyright, no keywords, a completely untraceable image. 20 years from now an image could still be circulating in cyber space and I might not even remember that I created it! It's not that I'm that concerned about unauthorized use or suing somebody for damages when they have inadvertently used an image beyond our agreement. I just think it would be great if every image had a simple reasonably small watermark that could point web surfers in the direction of the original content creator. Maybe something as simple as a 3 number system with letters replacing numbers in different positions when the original 999 numbers have been exhausted.

Example: 000, 001, 002, thru 999 then 00A, 00B, 00C and continuing, letters in the first position A01, A02, A03, and second position 0A1 0A2 etc... should give 8,722 different combinations that would be permanently connected to individual photographers worldwide. Each person having a number for life! We would of course have to reserve the number 666 for 'Celebrity Photographer' Annie leibovitz (Just kidding).

If we take it to the next level and use 3 letters and include case sensitive lettering, the possible combinations go far beyond my ability to calculate. After I sell this idea to Corbis or Bill Gates I don't care what the rest of you do with the number system, I'll be living on an island with my harem, counting my money.

Now, the idea in my head is an elegant, artistic font ( Watermark ) that would be uniquely recognizable as a creator tag, possibly contained in a sphere or rectangle with rounded edges. It would definitely have to be so attractive and hip looking that it would be an interesting yet non distracting inclusion into an image. Something like the signature of the artist in an illustration or painting, which we now expect to see on any piece of artwork. For web images, I can't imagine it would be too hard to implement this system. One organization could be created to establish and manage the assignment of each lifetime code with a one time fee that would grant each individual permanent ownership of the number combination, similar to a Brand burned onto a cattle rancher's inventory. To simplify the point, each image is like a wayward steer who has escaped from the rancher's property. Without a brand ( that can't be removed ) the animal's owner cannot be established. An image with a simple code could be connected to you ( Content Creator ) and your website as quickly as you could look up a word on Wikipedia. Without this simple solution, web viewers are unlikely to connect an image with the 'Photographer' who worked so hard to create it. The available options for hidden watermarking and metadata don't address the simple vanity issue of having your work identified with you, the photographer!

People are already accustomed to Social Bookmarking Buttons, favicons in the URL and similar logo identifiers. Why not create something similar for photographers?

Remember, I came up with the idea first! Send your check or money order to......

Friday, July 6, 2007

Nikonians.org Website for Nikon Lovers

A reader has turned me on to a really great website www.nikonians.org for Nikon Shooters. It's quite a comprehensive website, featuring articles on Nikon Cameras, lenses, flash and related gear. Nikonians offers it's members varying levels of service including inexpensive ( niksecure ) camera / gear insurance, forums and the option of displaying personal gallery images in forum posts. Classifieds, photo tours and seminars open to Silver level ( $25 yr) members round out the extensive package. Basic membership is free, with Silver, Gold or Platinum level memberships costing $25, $75, and $200.00 respectively.

From the Nikon site:

Full membership levels have access to:

- Receive rebates from selected companies
- Show your support with special icon in the community
- Sign up for our attractive Photo Insurance NikSecure
- Get your own image gallery
- Access local Nikonians events and workshops
- Upload images and link to images in the forums
- Access to classifieds (sell & buy area)
- Free shipping from the Nikonians Pro Shop (Platinum only)
- Search for photography friends in your area

Almost makes me wish I shot with a Nikon........almost!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Work of Chema Madoz at haha.nu

haha.nu which bills itself as a lifestyle blogzine has a wonderful page of images by Photographer / Artist Chema Madoz. There are around sixty incredibly beautiful black and white images to view on the page, mostly quirky and thought provoking images of mundane objects. It is an amazing example of what a great mind can do with the average 'found' object. The artists book "Chema Madoz", 80 page hardcover from Publisher Assouline '1999' is available at Amazon.com. I noticed that there are several used available at very reasonable cost.

Check it out

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

My New Software Has Arrived!

I finally got around to picking up the mail at my old address. The new software from Alien Skin had been waiting patiently for me on the porch. Thank goodness no one else found it before I did. I have not had time to install the new Plug-Ins, but have gone over the documentation ( Pamphlet ) included with each disk. The good folks at Alien Skin were smart enough to include some of the clearest and best written install and usage instructions I've seen in quite a while. Each Plug-In is Mac and PC compatible and runs on Adobe Photoshop CS or later.

The Plug-Ins I will be testing are : Blow-up ( for upressing ), Exposure ( The final version. I have been using the Beta for more than a year ) and Snap Art. Check back with me in a day or so and I will post my impressions of each, along with a sample of some final art.

Time to cook some hot dogs on the grill and enjoy the day. Happy 4Th of July to All!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Editing......Part 5

Continued from the 'Editing The Raw Files...Part 4' post on June 19Th :

12) Don't get too carried away with color corrections at this point. There will be plenty of opportunities to tweak the final image in Photoshop. The goal is to get all your Raw Files taken in the same setup to have a consistent density and color balance. This is also the best time to apply the basic level of sharpening to the images.

NOTE: Most digital cameras will de-focus ( blur) the Raw Output slightly to combat Moire Patterns which plague images captured digitally. It is recommended and expected that there will be a basic level of re-sharpening applied in the Raw Processing Software. The old debate about sharpening or not sharpening the Raw file before conversion has been settled. The majority of professional camera manufacturers explicitly recommend a minimal re-sharpening on the Raw File before conversion. Canon digital cameras will definitely produce a softer Raw Image than the same file produced by a Nikon or Fuji. This is the way the camera was designed and is not a flaw.
I generally run a level 2 sharpening on my files processed in Canon's DPP ( Digital Photo Professional ) Raw Processing software. It is a minimal, but effective starter point prior to un-sharp masking.

Contrast, color temp and gamma can also be dealt with on a case by case basis; although I rarely change any of theses settings and tend to leave them in their default ( 0) state. Your final output should determine how snappy you should set any of these parameters. I believe the best practice is to find the settings that produce the smoothest, noise free, color rich images that your camera is capable of, and then leave them alone! You will more accurately learn your camera's true capabilities when you process your files consistently using the same settings.

NOTE: Under or overexposed images can benefit from a duplicate file with the proper exposure correction. The extra file can be used later to composite the missing ( blown out / too dark ) data back into the final Tiff image. Most Raw conversion software will let you copy and paste from a thumbnail to create a duplicate of any image. Remember, it's always better to manipulate the data rich Raw File when making extreme exposure corrections. You will always have the best end result when you are working from the master Digital Negative.


to be continued...

Sunday, July 1, 2007

More Canon Secrets?


For those of you who e-mailed me about the technical drawing featured in the June 28th Post "Technology You Haven't Seen!" , there is still no definitive answers from Dr. P at Space Command Headquarters. The executives at Canon USA won't acknowledge any proprietary research on Special Focus Invisibility, which is rumored to be the technology behind the New Canon EOS 1D Mark III. Any of my readers capable of interpreting the data featured in last week's post will have their photograph posted and excerpts from their research included in a special article on this site!

Good Luck to all!

Update :

Response from the SCH and Dr Pimento:

Dr. Pimento said...

re: More Canon Secrets

I feel I must respond. This is, after all, a subject of unique interest to me. I am Dr. Pimento. In 1973 I earned my Ph.D. in esoteric crypto-linguistics (admittedly an obsure science). I have examined the code in the Canon 1D MkIII and have found, shall we say, "parallels" between it and the glyph-language found on fragments of the infamous Roswell "flying disc".

Canon, however they came to be in possession of this "au├čerirdischen" code, decided to incorporate it into the autofocus instruction set in the new 1D MkIII. They would have been well advised to contact Dr. Pimento for his input before committing themselves to production.

I have discovered an error in their translation of the code. For the present, time does not permit me to discuss the matter at greater length. All I can say at this time is, a crucial MISUNDERSTANDING of one key symbol in the code has crippled the autofocus.

God willing, Dr. Pimento will set the record straight and call the guilty to account.

Dr. Pimento

received: July 2, 2007 1:50 PM