Speedotron’s power pack and head systems are the studio lighting world’s equivalent of the American muscle car. They’re powerful, made in the U.S.A., and ruggedly built to take hard use. Since its beginnings the company has offered two lines of lighting systems for photographers with different requirements. The premium-priced Black Line is intended for commercial shooters, while Brown Line products are aimed at portrait photographers, yet when used normally both have similar quality, reliability, and longevity.
I said it last month but it bears repeating: “Never was there a time when it was so easy or inexpensive to create a great-looking website than right now.” Yet one emerging trend is to pack as much text onto the opening screen as possible and if a picture must be used it should be tiny and maybe show a portrait of the photographer. There’s an old joke whose punch line is, “First, you have to get their attention.” That’s true of websites as well. That landing page should be your signature image—that gasp factor—that makes the viewer look, linger, and want to see more. Give it a try.
The important characteristics of any studio lighting system are the quantity, quality, and color of the light they produce. Other factors such as recycle time, type of output control, build quality, and the ability to accept accessories may be crucial, but for many of us the most essential element is price. I was impressed by previous Flashpoint monolights (April, 2012, issue of Shutterbug) because they’re rugged, dependable, and significantly, for the advanced amateur and aspiring pro, inexpensive. Now Flashpoint has introduced a new family of monolights—the DG series—that builds upon all of the positive aspects of previous models and takes them in a new direction.
Never was there a time when it was so easy or inexpensive to create a great-looking website than right now. I created my own site (www.joefarace.com) using a WordPress template from Obox (www.obox-design.com) that’s hosted on GoDaddy.com and the whole magilla cost a little over $100—along with lots of my own time. What about your site? If you read Web Profiles regularly you know that from time to time I like to feature Shutterbug readers and if you would like to see your website or blog featured here, click my site’s Contact button and tell me about it.
Plug-In Of The Month
Want to add an arty touch to your photographs? Simplify 4 from Topaz Labs is the easiest as well as most fun way of creating digital artwork from your images. This latest version costs $39.99 and includes more than 100 presets collected into five categories—plus your own customized presets and favorites—to produce more or less instant artistic transformations. I say “more or less” because Simplify 4 offers sliders that you can use to tweak for adding depth and localized contrast, for example. There’s also a set of edge-aware and selective brushes that can be used to dodge, burn, smooth, or brush out effects.
The new year is a good time for a creative rebirth, so instead of trotting out all of those same old New Year’s resolutions why not try something to help you grow as a photographer? A few years ago I created an online gallery called “2011 Photo of the Day,” which was one of the hardest things I ever tried yet at the same time was rewarding because the commitment forced me to make a new image every day, even when I didn’t feel like it. Last October I introduced you to four photographers and their individual approaches to producing a photograph-a-day blog. If you missed it, you can read it on Shutterbug’s website. This year, I resolved to try a photo-a-day project in 2012 using the free Tumblr (www.tumblr.com) platform so there’s no excuse that you can’t do the same thing. If you follow me on Tumblr (http://joefarace.tumblr.com), I’ll follow you back so we can see how each of us does during the year.
Just when you thought the megapixel wars were over—or at least subsided—along comes the Nikon D800 with a whopping 36.3-megapixel (7360x4912) full-frame CMOS sensor. It’s wrapped up in a pro-quality magnesium alloy body that’s sealed and gasketed for dirt and moisture resistance. That rugged body weighs almost 2 lbs and when attached to the 24-120mm f/4G ED-IF AF-S VR II Nikkor lens (23.6 oz) that I tested, the package tips the scales at 3.46 lbs. It’s big.
There are lots of companies making speedlight accessories but what makes Graslon’s different from the others are the mirrors. Most speedlight diffusers work in a similar way: translucent material is placed in front of the flash head to scatter light and soften shadows, but many times that light doesn’t scatter and some gets lost. Graslon’s Flash Diffusers use a series of patent-pending mirrors that enlarge the light source before sending it through the diffuser. This allows the light to travel to the corners of the diffuser so that light coming through the diffuser is balanced and, well, diffuse. Two types of diffusers, or lenses, as Graslon prefers to call them, are available: the dome spreads the light everywhere (think bare-bulb effect) to take advantage of bouncing light off walls and ceilings; the flat lens is more directional and useful when you’re using the flash as fill in no-bounce situations. Much like a Zeiss Softar filter it’s covered in hundreds of mini-lenses or bumps that spread the light evenly across its surface.
The Pentax K-01 belongs to a class of cameras generally known as “mirrorless”—Pentax calls it a hybrid—that combine large LCD screens with interchangeable lenses and more often than not a retro look. Marc Newson, the Australian industrial designer who crafted the Pentax K-01, works in a style called biomorphism that uses smooth flowing lines, translucency, and an absence of sharp edges. The camera is available in black, white, or Newson’s signature yellow with the designer’s logo on the bottom.
One of the nicest gifts that anyone can give is a photograph. It can be a portrait of yourself and your loved ones or it can be the gift of a fine art print that you can proudly hang on the wall. Submitted for your approval this month are four photographers whose fine art work spans different genres, but what they have in common is an uncommon vision and a commitment to quality.