Tiffen’s Dfx 3.0 offers photographers software that can make their images stand out from the crowd. The bundle is a digital emulation of 2000 of the company’s glass filters that for convenience uses the same names of the company’s Soft/FX or Pro-Mist filters, so those who’ve shot with their filters in the past know exactly what to expect when applying their digital equivalents. For those who haven’t, rest assured that the company who made their name in filters knows their stuff. As a bonus, the software also includes effects created by lenses, lab processes, film grain, color correction, plus natural light effects.
I must confess that previous versions of Tiffen’s Dfx Digital Filter Suite, while interesting, did not make the final cut of power tools in my personal digital toolbox. All that’s changed in 3.0. It takes all of the good stuff from the previous versions, blends in new options, and wraps it around an interface that, while still containing a few less-than-elegant elements, retains its individuality and provides for smooth workflow.
While National Photography Month may be the entire month of May, Camera Day is celebrated on June 29th. That day is also the 126th anniversary of the birth of James Van Der Zee, the African-American photographer of the Harlem Renaissance that occurred during the 1920s and ’30s. It’s also a day when photographers of all ages and abilities should venture forth into the world to capture all the beauty that surrounds us. Follow the examples set by the four photographers who are featured in this month’s column and I’m sure they’ll serve as great sources of inspiration for your images.
National Photography Month started in 1984 as the week-long American Photography Celebration but now runs the entire month. May was also the home of “Take Your Camera to Work Day” that was funded out of my own pocket but faded after a few years because of the cost of creating a user-friendly site. If anybody’s interested in helping relaunch the website I could restart it next year, depending on whether the Mayans were wrong or not. May is also my birthday month and I’d like to thank all of Shutterbug’s readers for their support over the years.
Tumblr (www.tumblr.com) is a free microblogging platform that lets you post text, images, videos, quotes, and audio using a short-form blog called a tumblelog. Using free or modestly priced templates, it’s the easiest kinds of photoblog to produce and you can literally have a blog up and running within minutes. With 6.8 million weekly visits the site ranks as the 10th largest social network so it’s a good way to keep clients and friends up-to-date about the kinds of photographs you’re making. You can see my own attempt at http://joefarace.tumblr.com. Give Tumblr a try and send me a link to your blog because I plan to have an all-Tumblr Web Profiles in the near future.
A monolight is a self-contained studio flash that consists of a power supply, flash head, and modeling light wrapped up inside a single housing. Monolights are typically powered by AC current but there are times on location when an electrical outlet may not be so conveniently located and long extension cords can create safety hazards, even when securely fastened down. I’ve had people trip over taped cords and believe me, it can ruin your day. That’s why a new breed of monolights, such as Adorama’s Flashpoint II monolights, offer a DC option with a battery pack when you might be out standing in a field or, at one time during my tests, in a big parking lot. A switch lets you choose between AC or DC power provided by a dedicated Ni-MH battery pack that measures 7x7x3” and weighs 2.65 lbs.
Maybe it was the 17th Earl of Oxford (www.shakespeare-oxford.com) who really wrote the above line but it’s a nice thought nevertheless. The quote’s actual authorship was the concept proposed in the film Anonymous as well. (Look for a review of the film on my movie blog www.ihatepopcorn.com.) What’s for sure is that the creative endeavors of the four wedding photographers featured this month display work that transcends the genre, producing images of beauty, sensitivity, and love. And isn’t that what weddings are all about?
During a portrait session and perhaps to a lesser extent when shooting a wedding, you can control the lighting, background, and subject. During a portrait session, I try to manage everything from the subject’s pose, clothing, and makeup and the resulting photographs tend to be as much a portrait of me as they are of my subject. What often emerges from that control is a style, which is not something I’m conscious about when photographing, but the truth is that over time we all develop a signature way of shooting. The danger is that we keep shooting that same way or different versions of the same shot for the rest of our lives. Any style you develop must grow and change as you learn. Otherwise, what’s the point? As we continue to shoot and learn from experience, and reading magazines like Shutterbug, we start to tweak and improve those results until what emerges is truly a personal style.
“Lighting is really common sense and personal observation. This is applied to a few rules of photography which cannot be broken and to others which I tend to bend a little.”—Paul Beeson
A monolight or monobloc to our European friends is a self-contained studio flash that is typically, but not always, powered by an AC power source and allows for different light modification devices, including reflectors, light banks, or umbrellas. The key phrase in that last sentence is self-contained. To my way of thinking the biggest advantage monolights possess is just that—if you’re shooting on location or for that matter anywhere and the power pack in a pack and head system stops working, so do you. If you have a couple of monolights and one of them fails, you can still shoot.
As a creative medium, traditionalists may call black-and-white photographs “monochrome” while some digital imagers may prefer the more computerese “grayscale,” but there’s more to this medium than just an absence of color. One of the reasons that purists prefer “monochrome” is that it’s a more precise term that covers images created using sepia and other tones. Many digital cameras have Black and White or Sepia modes that let you capture images directly in monochrome but these photographs are really color (RGB) files without any color! If you prefer, you can capture your images in color then use any of the software I’ll introduce this month to convert that color photograph into a monochromatic one. You’ll also find a few useful hardware tools to make your photographic life a bit easier.
In January I featured the work of Thomas Lee (www.thomasleephoto.com) in this column and while researching for this month, I came across the outstanding work of Ralph Lee. This coincidence got me to thinking: why not have an entire Web Profiles featuring photographers named “Lee,” a surname derived from Old English leah or meadow. The most interesting part of my search was discovering that these photographers are a diverse lot, stylistically and geographically, even though they all have the same surname. I’ve introduced them here in alphabetical order with Jeff Lee last as the custom for “Blog-of-the-Month.”