Digital Innovations: The Time Machine; Photography Has The Power To Freeze Time

All Photos © 2004, Joe Farace, All Rights Reserved

"Adapt or perish, now as ever, in nature's inexorable imperative."--H.G. Wells, 1866-1946

Your digital camera is a time machine that lets you show how the people and places look at this particular point in time. Many people think they need to travel to exotic locations in order to make great photographs, when chances are if they took the time to look around, they would discover great opportunities are just around the corner. For the past 30 years my personal self-assignment has been making images near the places that I live. How close? I prefer making photographs that I can walk to from my front door, but sometimes stretch the rule to include car travel when confronted with irresistible subject matter. This self-assignment wasn't done for any commercial purpose; it's just a way for me to show an appreciation of daily life that so many people take for granted. It's personal projects like this that help us stretch our talents, skills, and imaginations. Think of it as digital yoga.

When giving presentations I often talk about making images "right in your own backyard." This is "my" backyard and this photograph of my wife Mary was made using a Hasselblad Xpan. The negative was scanned and digitally toned in homage to the style of photographer Phil Borges (www.philborges.com).

Photoshop Action Of The Month
Photoshop Actions are not plug-ins. They are a set of instructions that geeks call "macro" but since Shutterbug readers already have another use for that word, let's stick with instructions that tell Adobe Photoshop CS how to use some of its many controls and commands to accomplish a specific effect. Most times this is a one-click operation but occasionally an Action will pause for manual interaction. Panos Efstathiadis has created many impressive Actions, some of which can be found on Adobe Studio Exchange (http://share.studio.adobe.com).

(Left): This photograph of model Kellie Alexander was made at an abandoned farm and was captured with a Canon EOS 20D using an 85mm f/1.8 lens at IS0 200. Exposure was 1/250 sec at f/5.6 with fill from the built-in (pop-up) flash. (Right): While not a single-click operation, the steps that Panos Efstathiadis' B&B Filmstrip Photoshop Action produces for users of Adobe Photoshop 6, 7, and CS is so simple to follow that any digital imaging newbie can produce an effect such as this.

Yeah, I know it's a weird URL but it is one of the best places on the Internet to find useful and free Photoshop Actions. B&B Filmstrip is a set of Actions that frame your image as a strip of film. The author urges you to take a minute to play the Read Me Action first to get some useful information. Then it's just a matter of clicking a few buttons to choose from the basic effect or a more sophisticated, text-decorated one including optional sepia and negative effects.

We Don't Need Any More Stinkin' Formats! Or Do We?
Digital Negative (DNG) format is an open format supported by Adobe Systems (www.adobe.com) and the specifications were made available to other software and hardware companies. DNG includes all of the information that is currently stored in digital camera raw formats, plus all of the additional metadata (such as body serial number) that many manufacturers include but is only accessible when using their proprietary software.

I made this image during an autumn stroll in historic Louisville, Colorado. It was shot with an EOS 20D using Canon's raw .CR2 format, and then converted to DNG using Adobe's DNG Converter.

DNG should be a safer format for archival purposes because it eliminates concern that a particular raw file format (see sidebar) may not be readable once the camera creating it becomes obsolete. The latest update to Adobe's Camera Raw includes a copy of DNG Converter that will convert your raw files into the new format. As I write this, the current release ignores some proprietary metadata and only includes the basic information necessary for creating a high-quality image file. Look for updates as soon as camera manufacturers jump on the bandwagon.

A Digital Pokémon Album?
Most digital album programs have "me-too" interfaces that put me to sleep. TriWorks' DigiBookShelf takes both a literal and fresh look at digital albums, making it fun in a particually playful--think Pokémon--Japanese way. You should download a copy of the Windows-only freeware version and experiment. If you like, the freeware software can be temporarily (15 days) upgraded to the Pro version that costs $43.99 after that time. DigiBookShelf 2005 Pro includes a multiple bookshelf display, 3D slide show capability, and lets you burn albums or slide shows directly to CD or DVD without leaving the program.

The Digital Negative (DNG) format includes all the information stored in current raw formats, plus the proprietary metadata that many manufacturers include. Adobe's current release of DNG Converter may ignore some of this proprietary metadata and only includes the information necessary for creating a high-quality image file.

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