Digital Innovations
The Rainbow Connection

Digital Innovations

Mary Farace jumps for joy in front of my Canon EOS D60 digital camera with 22-55mm EF zoom using Adorama's Pro Optic Fisheye lens that attaches to the front of any camera lens with a Series 7 adapter.

If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain." --Dolly Parton

I've often written about the interesting photo ops "right in your own backyard," but yesterday, near the end of a thunderstorm--while the sun was shining but rain was still falling--Mary called me to look at a rainbow. I grabbed my Canon EOS D60 with EF 22-55mm zoom lens but it wasn't wide enough, so Mary suggested attaching Adorama's Pro Optic Fisheye lens (see article in Shutterbug, November 2002) and I was able to capture the rainbow's origin and destination in a single frame. Initially, Mary held the umbrella while I tried to keep the D60 dry but after we moved into the front yard, I asked her to pose for a few photographs "under the rainbow" that we'll both treasure. These are hardly works of art and would never hang in either of the two art galleries I owned, but they capture memories of a particularly fun, if wet, Sunday afternoon.

Konica's Inkjet Paper QP Professional Photo Glossy delivers rich tones and vibrant colors on the thickest, heaviest paper on the market and the finished results on papers look just like a smooth lab-produced print, making them ideal for promotional purposes such as this zed card.

Paper Me Over
If you look in the back of this magazine, you'll see all kinds of ink jet papers that are available for your printing and viewing pleasure, but the big decision is always: which one to use? One of the more interesting and least heralded (at least so far) are the wonderfully brilliant and heavy papers from Konica ( Konica's Inkjet Paper QP Professional Photo Glossy paper delivers rich tones and vibrant colors on the thickest, heaviest media on the market and the finished results on the microporous surface papers look just like a smooth lab-produced print. At 73ÞF and 55 percent humidity, it's bone dry within 5 sec.

The QP Professional papers have an RC base just like a "real" photographic color print and all papers in the family have a whiteness factor of 101 percent Brightness and 96 percent Opacity. How long will prints last? Konica's official statement is that "image quality can be maintained for several years in a cool, dark place."

In addition to Professional Photo Glossy, Konica offers QP Professional Photo 2-sided Glossy for use as post cards, invitations, and greeting cards. Konica's silky ink jet paper, Premium Photo Silky, has a textured surface that's less sensitive to fingerprint marks. QP Premium Self Adhesive has the same quality as Konica's heavyweight glossy ink jet paper, but with an adhesive back. Then there's Multi Project Photo Paper, which is a matte-coated photo paper that's useful for business applications but because of the smooth surface also makes great contact sheets for digital camera files.

With new memory card types being introduced every other week, or so it seems, having a multi-format reader such as the Belkin Universal Serial Bus 8-in-1 Media Reader & Writer means you have most of your digital media bases covered.

Plug-In Of The Month
This month's winner is a suite of plug-ins from Denmark. Mac OS versions of the PowerRetouche ( photo editing Photoshop compatible plug-ins are now available and support more image modes and are faster and more memory efficient than the current Windows versions. PowerRetouche plug-ins were designed by Jan Esmann, a Danish artist, who wanted to bring the same level of control to digital images provided by a traditional darkroom and include some unique capabilities, such as radial density correction and combining several operations in a single control panel. Exposure correction, for example, combines levels, curves, brightness, and saturation operations in one intuitive interface. Here's a look at components of the PowerRetouche suite:
· Sharpness Editor: Includes three sharpening methods that Esmann calls an "optically true blur." Two of the sharpening methods won't damage images like Unsharp Mask can and feature options to sharpen edges only or restrict sharpening to certain brightness values or certain hues.
· Noise Corrector: This plug-in offers five methods for subduing image noise with options for preserving detail and retaining sharp focus.
· Lens Corrector: Corrects lens distortion from wide angle or telephoto lenses and includes a special option for converting panoramic lens images into conventional views.
· White Balance Corrector: It's based on optical parameters to correct the color of the light in an image. You can manually select Kodak-Wratten filters (or European KB20-KR20) for correcting daylight/incandescent light, while an Auto mode calibrates any filter color from the image itself, ideal for working under mixed light sources or neon.
· Exposure Editor: Correct exposure (under or over) in the entire image or target corrections to any range of shadows, mid tones, or lights.
· Contrast Editor: Full control over all aspects and variations of contrast: mid tone preservation, range expansion, hardness/softness, gamma, color separation, and brightness.
· Saturation Editor: Alters saturation while preserving the exact hue and all the original image's color and brightness relationships.
· Density Corrector: Corrects uneven radial exposures from most lenses in digicams, zooms, wide angle lenses, or mid-range SLR cameras (corrects darkening toward the edges and corners or too bright central areas).
· Transparency Tool: Edit transparency in layers with great accuracy. Useful for correction layers, masks, or cutouts.
· Toned Prints Converter: Converts any image to give the appearance of a traditional toned print. It includes presets to emulate Sepia, Kallitype, VanDyke, Silver Gelatin, Platinum, Palladium, Silver, and Cyanotype. (Cool, huh?)
All of the PowerRetouche plug-ins support 8 and 16-bit RGB and 8 and 16-bit CMYK, and 8 and 16-bit Grayscale is also supported. A few support LAB, duotone, and multilayer files. The full filter pack costs $159 US, with individual plug-ins varying from $32-$54 each.

It wasn't a dark and stormy night, but dark clouds and rain showers caused me to move my Canon EOS D60's ISO setting to 800. PowerRetouche plug-ins are ideal for conditions like this where you need to color correct and minimize image noise to get the best possible image made under the worst possible lighting and color balance conditions.

Baby You Can Read My Card
Belkin Corporation ( who makes the coolest most useful computer accessories on the market offers a Universal Serial Bus 8-in-1 Media Reader & Writer with an estimated street price of $44.95. Not only does it have a tiny footprint to save space, but its lightweight, vertical design has four rubbery feet that grip my desktop instead of sliding all over the place like other card readers do. The Belkin USB 8-in-1 Media Reader & Writer works with CompactFlash I and II, IBM Microdrive, (the soon to be extinct) SmartMedia, Secure Digital, MultiMediaCard, Memory Stick, and MagicGate (see sidebar) memory media. It lets digital photographers transfer, edit, and store their files at transfer speeds up to 12Mbps and draws power through the computer's USB port. It features two slots that work with eight different media types for simple drag-and-drop file transfer for efficient file management and backup. Unlike most card readers, Belkin includes some software, in this case, Ulead's Photo Express photo editor (Windows), which lets you share photos via e-mail, the web, or print. Photo Explorer is included for Mac OS computers, for capturing, viewing, and editing images along with COOL 360, and can transform photo sequences into 360Þ or panoramic images.

When working with a Danish plug-in, such as PowerRetouche, you can really get the "colour" correct on this brace of Austin Healey roadsters photographed with a Canon EOS D60.

Holy Format Batman, Not Another One
Yes, boys and girls, just when you though it was safe to buy a new memory card reader out comes yet another new format. That's one of the advantages of using a multi-format reader like the Belkin USB 8-in-1 Media Reader & Writer; it reads eight different formats including MagicGate. Sounding like something from Lord of the Rings, MagicGate Memory Stick media lets users access copy protected music or other copyrighted data (e.g., your pix). The standard (purple) Memory Stick media does not have copy protection technology and records, transfers, and plays back non-copy protected content, such as presentations, documents, pictures, video clips, voice, and unsecure MP3 music files. MagicGate Memory Stick technology works with OpenMG music management software providing a key that communicates that the content can be recorded to a secure location. MagicGate Memory Stick media will increase capacity from the currently available maximum 128MB to 256MB, 512MB, and up to 1GB between 2002 and 2003. Memory Stick media developers are working on producing up to 20MB/second transfer speeds by 2003.