At my workshops and lectures I am often asked by photographers how I am able to get sharp images at slow shutter speeds out of the affordable 70-300mm zoom I use for backpacking while they are unable to get sharp images with their 70-200 f/2.8 pro lenses. It is true that when it comes to lenses, the price tag does match the quality in terms of durability and sharpness at wide apertures. But by the time my carry-along backpacking lens is stopped down to f/8, it is nearly impossible to tell the difference between photos taken with it and images taken with the most expensive pro lenses. Honestly, the lack of sharpness in photos has less to do with the tele lens you are using than it might seem and more to do with long lens technique.
Some of the best photography is in the worst weather!” I’ve been saying that for decades and it comes from coming in from the cold, soaking wet and thrilled to death with the images I captured. The drama in the light, clouds and the response to it by nature is a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle you just can’t duplicate. In order to see it and photograph it, you have to get out in it and be able to work. And that’s where the challenge lies.
Rehabilitation Through Photography (RTP) is an amazing organization, acclaimed for using photography to enhance the lives of autistic children, veterans, the mentally challenged and others who can benefit from a positive influence on their lives. The group recently changed its name to the Josephine Herrick Project, in honor of the founder who in 1941 made a commitment to help WWII veterans overcome the often-debilitating emotional effects of war.
As someone who loves riding vintage bicycles as much as shooting with state-of-the-art cameras (and had a serious crash a year ago to prove it), I was particularly intrigued by a project under development by Chaotic Moon involving an innovative bicycle helmet designed to capture critical imagery during an accident.
When we all shot film and our exposures were not perfect, there was very little we could do about our mistakes. All that has changed, and now we can make meaningful adjustments to the contrast, exposure and the color cast. It is a great time to be a photographer.
Digital opens visual doors, and John Neel walks through many of them in his new book, Rethinking Digital Photography. This 240-page book is filled with ideas and experiments that encompass both historic film approaches and leading-edge software techniques, including how-to building guides for gadgets and hybrid imaging devices, using odd and wonderful software to build unique images and adapting items such as toy camera lenses into your work. In all, it’s a great visual workout and idea book that breaks out of the traditional digital how-to book mold. In this excerpt, Neel takes us through techniques combining panoramic shooting and using software filters to create “planets.”—Editor
In his latest book, Vintage Lighting (Amherst Media, 128 pages, $34.95; ISBN-13: 978-1-60895-221-2), pro photographer Christopher Grey shows how to capture the lighting techniques of bygone eras with today’s cameras, light sources and postproduction tools. Spanning the period 1910 through 1970, from Edwardian through “Hollywood” to Pop and the Sixties, he shows in imagery and text how to recreate the many lighting styles, poses and props this exciting period in portraiture produced, finishing up with some digital processing techniques to help you enhance your images even more. In this excerpt, we look at his take on the Edwardian Era.—Editor
On The Cover
In this month’s issue we cover a quartet of software programs that can be very helpful to photographers. We’re also happy to present our annual “Weird and Wonderful” report that covers unique gear. Tests include the exciting new Sony Alpha 99, a “full-framer,” and the latest Canon PIXMA printer, the PRO-10. The cover shot is by Rick Dahms, who is part of our roundtable on professional associations, and who tells us that the shot is of “Pepper Fewel, innkeeper and trail boss, with daughter and wrangler Tiffany Fewel on the fence. Cherry Wood Bed, Breakfast & Barn, Zillah, Washington.”
Every so often a treasure-trove of previously inaccessible images is made available that makes me want to drop everything and just marvel at the collection. Such was the case with almost a million never-before-seen photographs unveiled one year ago that represent a remarkable visual history of New York City.
Think of the image you create with your digital camera as a negative and that you are a master printer who can take that negative and make as good a print as you have ever seen. When you adopt that mindset you begin to understand the potential of each shot. The expectation that you can do something more with an image can be built into every type of lighting condition, contrast and exposure problem you might face. The attitude should not be that you can “fix it” in software, it is that you should think beyond the exposure to what can be done to the image later when you download it to your computer and work with it in software.
What is the optimal ISO setting for each shot? How do you decide on the ISO setting to balance shooting needs and image quality? Given that the lowest ISO possible gets you the best image quality, how do you make decisions based on lighting conditions and shooting needs, such as when you need increased shutter speed for hand held shooting or narrower apertures for increased depth of field? How do you decide whether ISO 100, 400 or 800 is best?
Snap Art 3 from Alien Skin Software (www.alienskin.com) can quickly take your photographic images into the realm of hand drawn, professional level traditional art media, from Classical to Pop (#1). Whether you want to fulfill your own dreams of artistic expression or expand the services you offer to clients, Snap Art 3 (SA3) makes it strikingly fast and easy, and does not require drawing by your own hand. Rather than in the wrist, it’s all in the software. Hundreds of preset effects are only a click or two away. You do, however, still have a vast array of options to control via sliders—variables such as brush size, color saturation, contrast, tone, light direction and more.
Since Snap Art 3 is a plug-in, in order to use it you must have Photoshop, Lightroom, or Elements to run it (see the list at the end of this article). Whether you work on Windows or Mac, SA3 couldn’t be more straightforward. In Photoshop, open a photo and choose Filter>Alien Skin>Snap Art 3. You’ll be presented with 11 art media styles to choose from: Color Pencil, Comics, Crayon (new), Impasto (thick textured paint), Oil Paint, Pastel, Pen and Ink, Pencil Sketch, Pointillism (inspired by Impressionist painting), Stylize (this creates a posterized or silkscreen look) and Watercolor. Chose one of these and a large preview opens as SA3 applies the effect. If you like it, click OK. If not, delve into the tabs and submenus to tweak and vary the look until you have completed your masterpiece.
On The Cover
This month’s issue features the latest on new cameras seen at the CES show, including the latest in “connected” cameras and a novel take on 3D shooting. We also have reports on some new film and film cameras, as well as a new test on a production model Canon EOS-1D X (our lab test on www.shutterbug.com was on a preproduction sample). Inside you’ll also find news on some accessories that may just catch your eye, plus a revealing look at the fine art photography market.
Now is the time for all good photographers to set aside their high-tech digital cameras and exotic lenses—at least for a day or two—in preparation for next month’s Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day (WPPD). This thirteenth-annual event occurs on April 28, and everyone is invited to participate.