Adobe Creative Cloud Released

Adobe released the new Creative Cloud suite last night. When Adobe announced they were shifting to a monthly subscription model for pricing for future software releases they got ripped big-time by a lot of users. Personally I am cool with it. I have already been a subscriber for the last year and love it. They send you access to everything they make which is very cool if a bit overwhelming. I am still learning how to use the older versions and now all this new stuff is in the pipe. I did see a lot of this stuff previewed at NAB and can say that the improvements across the board are impressive. The video troika of Premiere Pro, AfterEffects, and SpeedGrade got the most attention and have substantial workflown improvements.

There are rumors in the press that Adobe is considering alternatives to their pricing model given all the pushback they have received. That’s fine for some, but I am going to spend my time integrating all the new stuff into my workflow. The savings that will be gained from that will more than make up for my monthly fees. That may not be true for everyone, but that’s what works here.

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Posted in DSLR Video, Photography, Web/Tech

Not for Sale

I sold some gear recently on eBay, and I had one item listed that did not sell right away: a Nikon 105mm f2 DC. The DC stands for Defocus Control. Basically what this lens let you do is create great bokeh (or out of focus areas) in your image. I had intended to use the 105 as a portrait lens, but never really got the hang of using it, so it sat on my shelf, which is why I decided to list it on eBay.

And fortunately, it did not sell. Maybe it was the price, maybe it was the old design of the lens (it is 23 years old), but for whatever reason it did not move. And then I read this post on fStoppers about the 105′s bigger brother, the 135mm. And this is where I finally figured out how to use this lens.


You will note from the pic above that the 105 has a special ring called the Defocus Image Control. This is the feature that allows you to capture great bokeh. The key point that I picked up from the fStoppers article was that you set this in conjunction with the f stop you have selected on the lens. So if you are shooting at f2, twist the ring till it is set on f2, at f5.6, set the ring on f 5.6, etc. You can set the bokeh for the foreground, by turning left, or the background (which is preferable) by turning right. I had never quite got the hang of this, but I did two things once I read the article: (1) delisted the lens from eBay and (2) went out about 15 minutes before sundown and practiced with the lens on my D800 and one of my favorite models. You can see the result below:

As you can see the image looks great and the bokeh is very smooth. It was shot at f2.8 at 1/15th sec and ISO 3200 with defocus enabled. The result convinced me to hang onto the lens and find more ways to use it, now that I know what I am doing. Always helps ;-) .

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Posted in Photography

deanallman.com goes live

deanallman.com

I am pleased to announce that the redesign for my website is complete. The old site was largely focused on presenting my work as a photographer. The new site still has a strong emphasis on photography, but allows for more flexibility to present work in other areas, such as film and video, web development, or just writing in general. For instance, I can embed a trailer for a film or video in the layered slide show that plays when a visitor come on to the site, or link directly to a blog post from the slideshow as well. The site has a simpler design with the emphasis more on the work and ongoing projects than was done previously. I’m pretty excited about it. Enjoy and thanks for visiting. It’s going to be a lot of fun going forward.

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A New Design

deanallman.com

Finally completed the transition of my blog from TypePad to WordPress. This was no easy task as each of the images in the blog was stored on the TypePad server and had to be transferred and code then adjusted in WordPress. Tedious work but worth it. The blog begins a change in branding and design. I’ve been branding everything as Dean Allman Photography but along with the web development I have been doing for a long time I’m incorporating DSLR film and video work as well. I also like to write and sometimes write about more than just photography. To that end the site will now simply be branded deanallman.com. The design is minimalist as I want the focus to stay on the work, and the web has matured so much that I can post large images that are easily downloaded. I’ll redesign the website to fit in with the same minimalist theme starting this weekend. The plan is to post content more on the site now and use Facebook status updates and Twitter to let folks know when content has been updated or changed. I look forward to posting more frequently here. It’s going to be much easier to use and a lot of fun.

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March Rolls In Like a Lion

Doing all sorts of stuff with photography and video this month, so much that it fills each day and I work well into each evening. Here is what’s happening: Read more ›

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Posted in DSLR Video, Photography, Web/Tech

The Slippery Slope of DSLR Video

I make no bones about it – I am primarily a still photographer. When SLR’s began to incorporate video, I was excited about the idea, and would play with the feature on shoots here and there. I figured it would be a cool way to capture some behind-the-scenes footage at different shoots. While that is still a cool idea, what I found as I started to play with it is that this is not messing-around-with-a-camcorder kind of video. This is the real deal. And the more I got into it, the more I realized there was more to get into. Here is some of what I have learned: Read more ›

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Posted in DSLR Video, Photography, Web/Tech

Remastering Images With Adobe Camera RAW CS6

Put me down as one of the big fans of the new release of Adobe Photoshop CS6. It takes awhile to get into all the new features, but once you do there are a lot of really great workflow improvements. This is especially true with Camera RAW for CS6. I use maybe 20% of the total functionality in Camera RAW, and for this post I will just focus on the primary image enhancement tools in the control pallette that appears when you open a RAW image in Camera RAW.

CR

First thing I do when I open an image is to examine the histogram and get a sense for the mapping of the tonal values in the image (white is to the right, black is to the left). You can use the eye-dropper tool to set the white point and black point in the image. You can also now use the Blacks and the White sliders to essentially set the white point and black point, especially when you see clipping in the histogram (notice the blue triangle icon in the left side of the graphic indicating some clipping in the dark side of the tonal range). If necessary, you can refine this later using a Curves or Levels adjustment layer in Photoshop.

What I will do then is go down each one of the rest of these sliders one at a time. I usually only play with Temperature & Tint if the shot looks excessively cool or warm to me, otherwise I let it go, as I would say 80% of the time white balance was pretty accurate on initial exposure. In images where I have multiple light sources with varying color temperatures, I can use this as a creative tool. I can open an image as a smart object, and then open the same image again as a second smart object, and set each as a layer in the psd file. If I want to adjust the color temperature of either layer, I can simply click on the layer and Camera RAW opens again to allow adjustments. I can then use a layer mask on either layer and paint in whatever part of the image where I want the different color temp to appear.

I am now using Exposure much more frequently than in previous versions of Camera RAW. I find that a tweak by 1/3 or 2/3 stop in either direction is about as far as I usually need to go. The nice thing about all of these sliders is that they all are now set to a midpoint of zero. That way I can go under or over, which is more natural to how photographers think when we shoot.

I like adding Contrast in a scene where overall light was fairly flat and I do not have a lot of shadows to work with. It helps to give color a little more punch. I will use it in combination with Shadows. This is one of those areas where there is no right or wrong answer. It’s like trying to decide how much salt or seasoning you want in your stew and is mostly to taste.

Conversely I do especially like the advantage of using the Highlights and Shadows sliders to reveal detail in images where the RAW capture had intense shadows. This is a great improvement over Camera RAW CS5 where we only had Fill to lighten shadows. Using Fill also lightened highlights in the image, but now these two functions have been differentiated. You can lighten the shadows without affecting the highlights, or darken highlights without reducing detail in the shadows. Huge improvement.

I went back over images I had captured in Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks in May of 2011. On initial run through I really struggled with processing the RAW images in CS5, and was never really satisfied with how they came out. In CS6 this was a breeze, especially with canyon photos. (See slidehow below).

Utah_01
Utah_02
Utah_03
Utah_04
Utah_05
Utah_06
Utah_07
Utah_08
Utah_09
Utah_10
Utah_11
Utah_12
Utah_13
Utah_14
Utah_15
Utah_16

The last three sliders I use to add some punch to the color. I like bold color in my shots, and in the past I was guilty of over-indulging when using the Saturation slider. In general I now find a nice combo of Vibrance and a smaller Saturation value (nothing above +10) with a dash of Clarity thrown in, works just great.

I am somewhat tired of the constant upgrade cycle with software. I understand why a company like Adobe needs to do it. Photoshop CS5 was a stunning release, so I was somewhat skeptical of the value of this latest upgrade. But I am sold now. My images just look better, and for me that is the primary criteria in judging if I take the plunge to the next generation.

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Prepping Images for eBay Revisited

A few years back I posted an article here on the blog about preparing images for posting on eBay. In the post I discussed the project idea of building a small macro studio for photographing products using really inexpensive materials like a cardboard box, duct tape, and sheets of mylar used for diffusion. I also used two Nikon SB 800s for lighting. This was really very primitive product photography, but it was cheap and fun. I got some great shots and sold everything I posted on eBay.

The solution worked really well for a few shoots, but it kind of fell apart over long-term use, and I ran into several problems with using the system. Where do I store this box so that I can use it again? It was big and bulky and took up a lot of shelf space. How do I protect the box over the long-term from wear and tear? The answer was I can’t. Even reinforcing it with duct tape and wooden slats did nothing to hold the solution together. Finally, what if I need to photograph larger objects, or what if I want to use different background colors or use different shelves to hold the products? That proved cumbersome at best. The solution did not scale very well. Clearly, I had to come up with another idea.

Studio

Above is the new solution. It takes the original concept and tries to incorporate the new requirements at minimal expense. I used 3/4 inch PVC tubing to create a rectangular box. I then velcro’ed sheets of Mylar cut to the dimensions of the PVC frame on the top and on the two sides. I also used black foam core board as gobos set on either side of the plastic frame to prevent light spill onto a black background seamless that was set up behind the frame.

I then set up two Alien Bee mono lights on either side of the frame to use as primary lights, and wired them up with a Pocket Wizard. (You don’t have to use monolights. You can use any light, really. Just set your white balance accordingly.) I didn’t have to use real powerful settings on the AB’s: between one 1/32nd and 1/16 power. The Mylar does a great job of softening light, and if I wanted it even softer I could set up a diffusion modifier like a softbox on either AB. I also used a sheet of white plexiglass to sit the product on. The plexi gave a nice subtle shadow and also served as a bounce reflector fill. The combination of the white base with the black seamless introduced a nice juxtaposition as you can see in the images below.

Nikon D700

Once everything was purchased and set up the shoot went real well. Breaking it down for storage takes about 10 minutes. I can use velcro ties to hold the pvc tubing together and store them in a cabinet. I can roll the mylar up and store it in a shipping tube. The system is also very scalable. I can increase width by simply using different lengths of pvc tube. I can shoot light in from any direction, even from below (just put the frame on sawhorses and build a pvc platform to hold the plexi). I can use any color of plexi for a vibrant colored base. I can vary the background color by using a grey seamless and shooting gelled light onto the background. There are an infinite number of possibilities with this. It makes product photography a lot of fun.

Product photography is a nice bread-and-butter kind of activity for photographers. More and more and more we are using online services to market the goods that we have available for sale. Good decent photographs of products that are well lit go a long way towards selling an item online. Building one of these systems is a great thing to do. It doesn’t take too long, it’s not very expensive, and the reward is pretty great.

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Madden Museum of Art Show

I am pleased to be a part of this show at the Madden Museum of Art here in Denver. I will be attending the Artist’s Reception on Friday May 25, 2012 from 5-7 PM. If you can make it stop by. I’d love to see you, and I think you will enjoy the show!

ADE Madden PC-1

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Scenes from Rome, Florence, Siena, Pisa, and Venice

Scenes from Rome, Florence, Siena, Pisa, and Venice now on the website. Slideshow below:

Rome01
Rome02
Rome03
Rome12
Rome05
Rome07
Rome08
Rome09
Rome04
Pisa01
Rome11
Rome10
Pisa02
Sienna03
Sienna02
Sienna01
Tuscany01
Tuscany02
Tuscany03
Venice01
Venice05
Venice06
Venice02
Venice07
Venice03
Venice08
Venice09
Venice10
Venice11
Venice04
Venice12
Venice13
Venice14
Venice15
Venice16

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