If you want to get real hands-on, you can use the Expert
mode shown here, but the results produced by the presets
for the different classes of soft focus, diffusion, and
fog filters that are built in Andromeda's new ScatterLight
Lenses make it the best digital soft focus filter available.
© 2001, Mike Davis, All Rights Reserved
"You do that voodoo that
you do so well"--Cole Porter's "You've Got Me Under Your Skin"
When USB and FireWire were
first introduced, manufacturers promised us a more stable connectivity
environment and while both technologies are big improvements over serial,
parallel, and especially SCSI ports, there is still some voodoo involved
in getting peripherals to connect and stay connected. Every now and then
my old SmartDisk USB memory card reader would "forget" that it was connected
to my Power Macintosh G3 and after searching and not finding solutions
to the problem, I found the best thing to do was disconnect then reconnect
the cable from the back of the computer. This problem disappeared when
I started using a G4 for most of my work, but now my USB-based Imation
SuperDrive, which worked perfectly on the G3, exhibits intermittent connectivity.
Unplugging and re-plugging the cable solves the problem but it's still
annoying. FireWire is not immune from its own set of idiosyncrasies. One
photographer told me the only way his computer would recognize an external
FireWire hard disk and CD-RW drive at the same time was to connect the
hard drive first, the CD burner next, and finally everything else in his
FireWire device chain. Any other combination wouldn't work and caused
the computer to "lose" either drive! Kevin Elliott of Mac MDs (www.macmdcare.com)
tells me FireWire is especially problematical on early "blue and white"
G3 Power Macs. I didn't have many problems with my G3 until I installed
an external FireWire drive but since then all kind of hard drive problems
surfaced that drove me crazy. If you're having problems with your USB
and FireWire devices, start by looking at how and where the devices are
cabled. When connecting any kind of device, always use high quality cables
such as Belkin's gold (www.belkin.com)
or cables from Granite Digital (www.scsipro.com).
Plug-In Of The Month
For a long time, I've been looking for the perfect digital soft focus
filter for glamour and portrait photography and Andromeda's new ScatterLight
Lenses may just be it! There are four separate diffusion categories, each
with its own pop-up menu of presets available in the interface. Depending
on the settings, DreamOptic filters range from subtle to dramatic, adding
a soft glow to landscape and portrait images. The SoftFocus lens produces
effects similar to lens mounted, commercially available soft focus filters.
The StarLight lens effects place light over the brightest areas of an
image to create "starlight" effects and, much like an on-camera star filter,
produce the most dramatic effects when used with images containing focused
points of light. The Soft Diffuser lets you create more extreme fog and
mist effects. The ScatterLight Lenses plug-in has Expert and Novice modes
so you can dig into it as deep as you want. The Novice mode is the place
to work until you think you need more soft focus power; then click the
Expert mode check box and grab the five sliders to produce an unlimited
number of diffusion effects that can be tailor-made for your specific
image. Download a demo from their web site at www.andromeda.com
to try it for yourself.
One of the most useful image management tools available was just upgraded.
Extensis' Portfolio 6 (www.extensis.com)
includes a suite of new features that makes it the easiest and most effective
way for professional and aspiring pro photographers to organize, retrieve,
and distribute digital image files. Available for Mac OS and Windows computers,
an OS X version should be available by the time you read this. (The current
version operates in the Classic environment allowing Mac OS X users to
use the program's cataloging and file management features right now.)
New features include FolderSync,
which links Portfolio catalogs to folders on your hard disk, and keeps
them synchronized. The new Express Palette provides instant access to
files from anywhere on your system. Need web? Using built-in templates,
you can create web pages based on a catalog's contents in a few steps.
The program's Collect and Publish feature automatically collects images,
links them to a new catalog, and generates a browser to view the catalog.
A new cataloging option lets you rename files, add keywords, and fill
in other field values--on the fly--as items are catalogued.
The program supports Exif (Ex-changeable
Image File) and imports data captured by digital cameras. Portfolio has
always been known for its cataloging capabilities, but the new Instant
Cataloging feature lets you select any file, folder, or disk and instantly
capture the image's files. Portfolio 6 sports a new streamlined, revamped
toolbar and costs $199.95. Upgrades from previous versions are $129.95.
Eye Heart (www.eyeheartco.com)
has produced a series of charming and easy to use templates that are must-have
digital tools for anyone who photographs children. The template designs
focus on children's and infants' portraits as well as sports magazine
covers. A professional graphic designer created these 300dpi templates,
and they show it. For children's portraits, the designs vary from soft
pastels to bright, clever montages that allow you to place from one to
four different photographs. Using the templates is a snap: You drag your
image files into the template and it's finished. That's it.
The templates are compatible
with Adobe Photoshop 5 and later and worked great with Version 6 and the
beta of Photoshop 7 I'm currently using. The infants' CD includes 27 templates
that are appropriate for newborn portraits, but seemed to work great with
any photograph I tried of really young kids. The instructions are found
in a PDF (Portable Document Format) file on the disc, but I just opened
and started working--and so will you. There are currently two discs for
children and four sports CDs. Prices are $99 each and collections are
available to save you a few bucks. The company intends to offer a new
CD each month, so check their web site for the latest templates.
The availability of generic paper profiles from Legion Paper's
web site makes it possible to take advantage of their lush
Somerset Photo Enhanced Textured (Radiant White) paper to
print this South Beach image captured with an Olympus E-20N.
© 2001, Joe Farace, All Rights Reserved
Fine Art Paper Profiles
One of the most fun and creative ways you can use your ink jet printer
is to experiment with different kinds of papers with interesting textures
and ink absorption characteristics, but judging from the questions I get
during Shutterbug's Digital Workshops, this is often the time when the
fun goes out of the process. The stock answer to this problem is that
you should create a custom profile that is hardware, ink, and paper specific.
Many new digital imagers don't want the hassle involved, but some forward-thinking
paper companies are taking steps to put fun and creativity back into printing.
This month I want to give props to Legion Paper (www.legionpaper.com)
who has created a series of generic profiles for each of their various
kinds of papers and different kinds of Canon, Epson, and (soon) HP printers.
Legion claims that "these profiles yield very satisfactory results but
are not as precise as the custom profiles" that can be purchased from
online resellers such as GalleryPrint (www.galleryprint.com)
and InkJetMall (www.inkjetmall.com).
Instructions for using the generic profiles with Adobe's Photoshop (www.adobe.com)
are available online at Legion's web site. It's a good idea to print the
instruction page and save a copy in your "test print" file that I've long
advocated in this column.
Sony's Micro Vault is the length of a car key and the thickness
of a highlighter and plugs into any USB-enabled computer--you
just drop it in your pocket and go.
If you have to transport data from place to place, I've got good news.
Sony's Micro Vault (www.sonystyle.com)
makes carrying data a painless proposition because you can drop it in
your pocket and just go. About the length of a car key and the thickness
of a highlighter pen, the Micro Vault plugs into any USB-enabled computer.
Unlike other storage media, you don't need a card reader. You simply remove
the Micro Vault's end cap and insert the built-in USB connection into
your notebook or desktop computer and go to work. These pocket-sized devices
are available in four color-coded models according to capacity, including
16MB (orange), 32MB (red), 64MB (blue), and 128MB (black) models with
suggested list prices of $49.99, $69.99, $99.99, and $149.99. You can
store all kinds of data, including digital images, PowerPoint presentations,
as well as audio and video files. Micro Vault is perfect for moving files
from floppyless laptops, like Apple's iBook and some of the tiny Sony
models, to desktop machines. What's more, they are Windows or Mac OS aware
and let you transfer data without cables, adapters, or driver software.
This latter feature only works
with Windows 2000, Me, and XP or Mac OS 9 and higher, but if you're working
with another operating system, driver software is provided on an 80mm
Pocket CD. The Micro Vault is bundled with Sony's Zone software, allowing
you to create a "security zone" and any data stored within this zone is
password protected, ensuring the file's privacy if the Micro Vault is
shared with others or is misplaced. One word of caution: Take it out of
your pocket before going through airport security. While it's unlikely
that x-rays will damage any information stored on a Micro Vault, metal
detectors may cause data errors in any kind of magnetic storage device.