Digital Imaging: The Paradigm Shift Continues: A Thousand ASCII Character Is Worth...
The paradigm shift in imaging that digital capture kicked off continues to roll on with ever capable smartphones and wearable tech such as Google Glass, and it all shows no sign of letting up and has me wondering where it will end. Cameras (if you want to call ’em that) such as the UK-based OMG Life Autographer has a form factor not much different than the original Minox subminiature film camera, which measured 3.1x1x0.62” and weighed 4.5 oz. By comparison, the 5-megapixel Autographer measures 3.5x1.4x0.9”, weighs 2 oz, and costs $399. An iPhone 5s is slightly bigger, heavier, and has an 8-megapixel camera and does a bunch of other stuff, but so does the Autographer. It has a thermometer, motion detector, accelerometer, and GPS, and like a Minox includes a lanyard for wearing around your neck.
Plug-In Of The Month
Two versions of Macphun’s Intensify software are available: Intensify sells for $39.99 and is only available on the Mac App Store. Intensify Pro is $59.99 and can be used as a plug-in for Adobe’s Photoshop or Lightroom as well as Apple’s Aperture. Intensify’s tools let you enhance detail but also add the ability to control contrast, structure, detail, and sharpening across tonal ranges. It has four detail enhancement methods, including pro contrast, structure, details, and micro sharpness.
There are dozens of presets to get you started, providing one-click starting points or you can create your own. Intensify lets you work with multiple layers, each with its own opacity control à la Photoshop. Tuning controls for color temperature, exposure, shadow recovery, and saturation let you create a starting point for further enhancement. All of these features are wrapped up in a beautifully designed interface that’s powered by a 16-bit image-processing engine with native Raw processing capabilities. Intensify works with Mac OS 10.7 (Lion) or later versions, including 10.9 (Mavericks) with which I tested it. Sorry, Windows users.
New & Updated Photoshop Actions
Remember the ASCII-art dot-matrix photos that were popular in the 1980s? PanosFX’s free ASCII-art action recreates the effect by producing images pieced together from ASCII characters. The set contains five actions that let you produce not only the classic ASCII-art effect but four modern variations as well, including Gray, Color, Color tiles, and Color tubes. The free Paperworks actions were created by Pit Hermann and let you make papercraft projects. His Pencil Stand actions let you produce (surprise) pencil stands with your photos printed on them. There’s also a set of Advent Calendar actions and Panos Efstathiadis has bundled his Paper Cube actions that let you make paper cubes with images printed on them. Mac OS and Windows versions work with Photoshop CS4 and later as well as Photoshop Elements 11 or later.
Zip ’Em Up
.ZIP is an archive file format supporting lossless data compression and was created in 1989 by Phil Katz. A .ZIP file may contain one or more files or folders that may have been compressed. Windows-only WinZip Express is an add-on ($9.95) to WinZip 18 ($29.95) that streamlines photo management and sharing and can save hours when converting and sharing image files. Without downloading your photos to your desktop, you can resize selected images with a few clicks. You can then add custom date and time stamped watermarks, protect your files with AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption, and package multiple photos into a single Zip or Zipx (JPEGs can be compressed 20 percent more) file. You can save files to your computer or the Cloud (Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive, SugarSync, and CloudMe), send your files as e-mail attachments, or post on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.
Let There Be Light
One of the most difficult parts of setting up a shooting session in the dark is seeing what you’re doing. A flashlight helps but it never seems to provide enough light or put light where you need it. Pelican, who makes those indestructible waterproof cases, offers a solution in their 9420 LED Work Light. It’s battery powered and folds up to 29” so it can be slung over your shoulder or hung from the tripod straps on your backpack. The 9420 LED Work Light weighs 8 lbs and has two LEDs that produce 1000 lumens of light and four hours of burn time. It has a 5-foot high mast and gets the job done without the hassle of power cords, especially if the nearest AC outlet is miles away.
Digital Wildlife Photography
Because of a growing deer population, predators such as mountain lions have been spotted here on Daisy Hill. I set up a Minox wildlife camera in my backyard to see if I could photograph her but ended up getting hundreds of pictures of deer. Wildlife cameras? If you go to Cabela’s you’ll see row after row of these cameras so, while popular, it’s not something you will see at the remaining brick-and-mortar camera stores in the US. Of all the cameras I’ve seen, the Minox models stand out because of their quality construction. After all, who has more experience with making cameras for surreptitious photography? With its integrated wireless GSM feature, their new DTC 1000 allows images to be transmitted to your cell phone, other wireless device, or your e-mail address. The camera has 8-megapixel resolution with an IR flash that has a range of more than 50 feet. The DTC 1000 is compact (4x5-7/8x4-3/16”), has a 2” color monitor, and a retail price of $499.
A New Take On Pro Camera Straps
JOBY, those clever folks who produce the indispensable GorillaPod mini-tripod, introduced the Pro Sling Strap, which uses a pulley system that dynamically adjusts, allowing you to keep a camera close to your body and then rearrange it to take a shot. This feature has two modes: a fast-cinch mode for instant deployment and a locked mode where photographers can run, hike, or bike without placing their camera in harm’s way. For peace of mind, the Pro Sling comes with a camera tether. Using computer-controlled looms, JOBY created a custom textile for this strap that compresses to a tiny footprint but is still durable and supple. The JOBY Pro Sling Strap is available in S-L and L-XXL sizes and has a retail price of $69.95.
Classic WB Tool Updated
ExpoImaging’s ExpoDisc is one of the classic white balance tools that can also be a useful accessory when working with LED lights in the studio. The new ExpoDisc 2.0 Professional White Balance Filter works when shooting Raw or JPEG and is useful in reducing color correction editing time. Made in the U.S.A., each ExpoDisc 2.0 is hand tested on a transmission spectrophotometer and adjusted using custom filters to ensure neutrality and 18 percent light transmission. The original ExpoDisc was available in Neutral and Portrait (warm) versions, but 2.0 combines these versions into a single tool and includes two custom warming gels, enabling you to add varying degrees of warmth for pleasing skin tones. The new filter mount design attaches securely to lenses and even low-profile threaded lens filters. It will initially be available in a 77mm size ($49.95), with other sizes to follow, but you can also simply hold ExpoDisc 2.0 over the lens as you work.
ExpoImaging, Inc.: www.expoimaging.com
MacPhun Software: www.macphun.com
OMG Life: www.autographer.com
Pelican Products: www.pelican.com