Many people think they need to travel far from home to make photographs when, chances are, if they took the time to look around they would discover that photo ops are right around the corner. That’s where self-assignments come in: for the past 30 years mine has been making images that I can walk to from my front door—like the tiny flower in my front yard I captured this afternoon. It wasn’t made for any commercial purpose and is just a way for me to appreciate and document the small things of daily life that many people take for granted. It’s personal projects like this that help us all stretch our talent, skill, and imagination. You can think of it is as a form of digital meditation.
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.
First impressions: the D-Lite RX ONE To Go Kit includes a pair of Elinchrom monolights so you know it’s going to contain quality products. Then you discover that the maximum output of each light is 100 watt seconds and you start to think you’ll need more power. That’s until you’re reminded that this fully loaded two-monolight Elinchrom kit sells for less than $700. Interested now?
Sigma’s 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM is part of their DC series of lenses designed for APS-C-sized sensors so the imaging circle is matched to the size of the sensor. For this assignment, I used a Canon EOS 60D with a 22.3x14.9mm sensor, producing an equivalent angle of view of a 28-56mm lens. Shooters of Nikon, Pentax, Sigma, and Sony cameras, the other mounts for which the lens is available, will achieve an angle of view equivalent to 27-52mm. Unlike other lens manufacturers, Sigma priced the different mounts the same ($799) so don’t feel you’re going to be paying a premium for your camera choice. Bucking a trend with camera manufacturers’ lenses, the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM includes a lens hood at no extra charge.
Not too long ago there was an online discussion about what inspires people to create new images. For me, new things are what inspire me. It can be a new lens, a new accessory, or maybe just a new place to make photographs. Here are some new tools for your inspiration along with a few ways to make old things reinspire you.
In a previous column I offered a few ideas on creating Contact pages with built-in spam protection. Littleton, Colorado’s Tim Mosholder (www.mountainviewphoto.com) sent me a tip for WordPress users that lets you use an e-mail link that’s impervious to spambots. CryptX (http://wordpress.org/plugins/cryptx) is a free WordPress plug-in that automatically changes all e-mail links on your site’s pages by adding [at] and [dot]. For example, Tim’s e-mail is “info[at]mountainviewphoto[dot]com” and the link works when your clients click on it but spambots won’t see it.
These days it seems that using LED lighting systems for studio portraiture is like puppies and kittens—everybody loves them, and why not? All you need to do is turn on an LED light panel and shoot, right? While there’s obviously more to it than that, the WYSIWYG nature of LED lighting is especially helpful for new or aspiring pros who want to get up and running quickly or in applications where the lighting needs to be consistent so lots of portraits can be made in a short amount of time, something event photographers will take to heart. With that in mind I recently tested Bowens’ Mosaic LED light panels (#1). Originally developed for film and video use, they are available in models designed for mounting on traditional light stands for portraiture, so I put them to work in my home studio.
The Pentax MX was a 35mm Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera produced from 1976 to 1985 and, for a time, was the company’s flagship SLR. It was solidly built featuring all-mechanical construction, including the shutter, and only the metering system was battery dependent. The new all-digital, all-electronic Pentax MX-1 couldn’t be more different. For openers, the MX-1 is not an SLR but an advanced digital compact camera with the kind of retro styling that’s all the rage these days with camera designers and, apparently, camera buyers, too. So, how does the MX-1 stack up?
Instead of visions of sugarplums, it’s visions of gadgets, gizmos, and software dancing through digital photographers’ heads during the holiday time. Presented for your approval is a group of fun, clever, and affordable tools that will put a smile on your face when opening holiday gifts and make imaging in 2014 more exciting.
Lester A. Dine invented the ringlight for making dental photos in 1952 but today people use them for all kinds of photography. A ringlight is a circular light source that surrounds the optical axis of a lens causing light to hit the subject from different angles, producing soft shadows in much the same manner as a light bank. When photographing people, the unique way that a ring flash renders light also produces a shadowy halo around the subject that’s much beloved by fashion photographers. I use a small ring flash to photograph butterflies, but if you want to photograph people, to paraphrase Jaws Chief Brody, “You’re gonna need a bigger light.”