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.
Wherein I hereby submit your Secret Santa’s A-list of gizmos, gadgets, and gear for the digitally minded who may have thought they had everything but didn’t know that they needed more stuff to produce that ultimate image. This month’s column can be used as a shopping list for your favorite photographer or you could grab a Sharpie and circle all of the goodies you like and leave it near where your spouse eats their Wheat Chex. It’s worked for me.
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.
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.
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.
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.
While my silver 10-speed bike is a far cry from the silver Audi R8 I recently piloted around Sonoma Raceway they both have one thing in common: they are essentially transportation devices that allow a person to get from one point to another. And while the R8 gets you there lots faster than a bicycle, the journey is part of the experience. The one thing that the imaging tools featured this month have in common is they help you make images; they do so in different ways, based on the kind of photographer you are and what you like to photograph.
Thanksgiving Day is celebrated in the United States and Canada, although up North it’s the second Monday in October. Other places around the world observe Thanksgiving celebrations as well and I’d like to celebrate it here by thanking the people who make this column possible. Big thanks goes to Editorial Director George Schaub and Managing Editor Andrea Keister, who occasionally suggest sites for the column but mostly just make me look good. A big thank you goes out to all of the magazine’s readers for their support over the years. In recent issues I haven’t had as many Shutterbug Reader-of-the-Month sites but I’ll make up for it this month, starting with…
The field of studio lighting equipment is a large one and advanced amateur and professional photographers have many different kinds of products to choose from. There are self-powered monolights, traditional power pack and head systems, or continuous light sources that let you see in real time the lighting effect that’s produced. The kind of photographer you are and the type of images you make determines the lighting system that best fits your working style and Dynalite, Interfit, and Rime Lite are three companies that produce systems for every photographic discipline.
There are two general types of inkjet printers available—dye ink and pigment ink. While pigments have the reputation of delivering longer print life, dye inks have the advantage of producing more vibrant colors. The longevity differences are not as much of an issue as they once were, however, with dyes making strides in that direction; in fact, in the case of the Artisan 1430, Epson is claiming up to 200 years in storage, and 98 years on display, and that certainly rivals pigment durability.