Monthly Archives October 2010

Wow–what a week! This was my fourth hands-on field workshop with Bill Fortney (pictured with me above in Moab. Photo by Chuck Barnes), and it was perhaps our most fun workshop yet. Fun is really a great way to describe Bill’s workshops, because he really makes fun an emphasis of the week, and the whole time you’re laughing and making new friends while you’re learning.

Wednesday Night
The workshop starts with a social evening on Wednesday night, where Bill introduces the team of instructors and photographers helping the class out, and he shows slideshows from each of us. I used Aperture to do my slideshow, because I can sync each slide to the music, and I wanted to include a sports section to my slideshow, sync’d to the Fox NFL Sports theme, and while the syncing worked great, for reasons I can’t understand, the slides looked kind of pixelated and a bit jaggy on the big screen. I sat in the front row, so I could see it clearly, but people sitting a few rows back said they never noticed it (but I was cringing the whole time nonetheless).

We spent the night all getting acquainted, but we didn’t stay up too late because the next morning we had to be ready to roll at 5:30 am to catch the sunrise light (essential to landscape photography).

(Above: one from Mesa Arch, just after dawn, and after most of the photographers had already left (click for a much larger view). When we got there at 6:00 am in pitch darkness, there were already around 30 photographers, tripods in place, already set up and ready to shoot. They weren’t happy to see us. In fact, some were down right ornery. Shot on a Nikon D3 at f/22 with a 14-24mm lens and presented here using my cinematic style wide screen cropping [link]).

We head out to our shoots in a caravan of cars, but we try and carpool as much as possible, to keep the number of cars to a minimum (less cars means less chance of anyone getting lost, and we don’t have as many parking issues), plus by having groups riding together, you wind up making new friends.

Two Shoots a Day. Minimum.
We shoot at Dawn and Dusk each day, and I threw in an extra mid-day shoot on Saturday as I arranged to have a mountain bike rider meet us at Slick Rock Trail for a location-flash portrait shoot, then some stunt riding and jumps in natural light (it turned out to be a blast).

(Above: Here’s the simple on location lighting set-up I used for a mountain biker portrait. A Nikon SB-900 flash mounted on a Lumapro lightstand, shooting through a Westcott 40″ shoot through umbrella. I used a Pocket Wizard to fire the flash, so both Canon and Nikon shooters could use the Nikon flash. I also used a Nikon external battery pack to reduce recycle time).

(Above: Here’s the view from the rider’s point of view [well, over his shoulder, anyway]. Some of the students were shooting natural light, while waiting for their turn with the Pocket Wizard. A few participants brought their own flashes, so they were firing theirs through the umbrella as well, with another participant, or me, holding their flash. As you can see, we were shooting in very bright sunlight, at 2:00 pm in the afternoon. It looks hot, but it wasn’t—the weather was perfect!).

(Above: Here’s the final image that set-up creates (click on it for a larger view). I shot this at f/22 at 1/250 of a second to get the ambient daylight dark enough to where the flash would overpower the sun and light the subject. I set the flash to Manual mode and put it at full power. After about 15 or so minutes, the SB-900 overheated and shut down. Luckily, I had a back-up unit, so I swapped it out. About 15 minutes into that session, the other SB-900 was on the verge of overheating, too [ugh!] so we moved over to shoot Tyson, our mountain biker, do some jumps in natural light.

(Above: Here’s me sitting on the ground, in the red jacket, taking the shot you just saw. The guy holding the flash is holding it for someone else in the class. Photo by Wayne Bennett, one of our team leaders).

(Above: Here’s one of the shots I got shooting Tyson as he did some jumps. Shot using a 70-200mm lens at f/2.8 to get the shallow depth of field. This was taken about 25 feet from where we shot the portraits of him).

Then, back to the classroom
After our dawn shoot each day, we’d all meet at a yummy breakfast location, have some break time to shower or just relax from the dawn shoot, then we’re back in the classroom from 10:30 am to 12:00 noon. We break for lunch, then we’re back in the classroom until 5:00 pm, when we head out for a dusk location shoot. After that, everyone’s free to go and grab dinner, but a group of students and an instructor headed out two nights in a row to take Star Trail shots (and they got some killer stuff on the 2nd night, when the sky cooperated).

(Above: here’s another from Mesa Arch after everyone left, shot from just beyond the right side of the arch, looking down onto the valley. I knew shooting directly into the sun that I’d get some lens flare, but weird as it may sound, I kinda like it).

A Lightroom Crowd
Out of the 35 photographers in the crowd, 33 were already using Lightroom, so we focused on that most of the time (the other two downloaded free 30-day trial versions so they could learn it as well). We did cover some of the important stuff in CS5 for landscape photographers, but I have to tell you—–Content Aware Fill became a running joke with us, because I’d open an image and mention that something should be taken out, and I use the Spot Healing Brush set to Content Aware to remove it, and then I’d say “This probably won’t work…” but son-of-a-gun if it didn’t work miraculously just about every time. If you’re a landscape photographer, Content Aware fill alone is worth the CS5 upgrade. It’s like it was created for outdoor photographers.

(Above: I wasn’t in quite the right position to catch the sun coming up through the arch, and the photographers who were there, were in a fightin’ mood, so I got this one after sun-up off a bit to the right). This is actually an HDR shot merging three exposures, but I wanted to keep it more photorealistic. More on that part coming up).

An HDR Crowd
Pretty much everybody at the workshop was into HDR; they were either already shooting and processing HDR, or they wanted to, and as luck would have it, Nik Software was about to release their HDR Efex Pro plug-in for creating HDR images, so I asked the folks at Nik if I could show it to my class before it’s official release yesterday. They obliged, and the participants in my class absolutely loved it! A number of them who were NAPP members bought the plug-in on Friday (using a special discount code just for NAPP members), and they were processing their images already. It was getting LOTS of love from the participants. It’s got so many great presets built-in, you can just choose the one you want and bam–you’re done.

(Above: Here’s all I did to process the HDR image using Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro. I opened it up, clicked on the Preset called “Gradual Contrasts 2,” which I thought gave it more of a photo realistic look, then I dropped three Control Points on the sky to darken the exposure a bit. That’s it. Click the screen cap above for a much larger view. By the way—this plug-in is going to be HUGE!)

In Class Critiques
One of the most helpful parts of the week, is the in-class critiques. Each participant turns in three images (either stuff they took there in Moab, or stuff from their portfolio), and I put all those into the Bridge and we evaluate each image in front of the class (we don’t know who shot what, so it’s an anonymous critique unless the shot is so awesome that we ask you to let us know who took it). If we recommend a crop, or a Levels adjustment, or a filter, etc., I can pop-open the image right there and tweak it in front of the class, and it’s a great learning experience. We’re very kind to the students we’re critiquing, but we’re also frank and honest about what can be done to improve the image (I actually played a cricket sound effect over my mic when one particular image came up, just for laughs). By the way, just because I used Bridge in this instance, doesn’t mean I advocate using the Bridge. Remember what I always say about the Bridge—“There’s a reason why it’s free.” ;-)

(Above: Here’s one from our first dawn shoot. The light only lit up the butte there for about two minutes, and then tucked back into the clouds, only to return a while later as very harsh light. I got this one before things got too squirrely. Just Lightroom, no HDR or plug-ins or anything. Well, I did run an Unsharp Mask). By the way, “I like big buttes and I cannot lie. You other brothers can’t deny!” (sorry, that was lame).

The Best Burger Ever. Really!
While we were there I did a Google search for “Best burger in Moab” and found Milts Stop & Eat, (link) a “hole in the wall” off the beaten track where the locals go that’s been there since 1954. That’s a good sign, but what also caught my eye was it had 34 reviews on , and yet had a rating of 4-1/2 stars (out of 5), which is very rare. We were having dinner somewhere else, and asked the server what she thought of Milts, and she admitted that it blew their burger away. We went the next day, and it was, without a doubt, the best burger I’d ever had. Unreal. Better than my beloved In/Out Burger. Better than 5-Guys. Just off the charts.

Besides being a world class landscape photographer, Bill Fortney is a hamburger aficionado, and in fact had a Web site where he rated burger joints around the country, in his search for the perfect burger. We told Bill about it, and he went the next day. He came back and announced to the class that he went to Milt’s, and he rated their burger the highest rating he had ever given any hamburger joint in America. Yes, it’s that good.

I loved how the place looked very much like it must have looked back in the 50s. They’ve probably never changed the grease, which is probably why everything tastes so good. The cooks are gruff. The service is indifferent. They play old bluegrass on the radio. It’s cramped, and the chairs are uncomfortable. It’s absolutely perfect. :)

(Above: Here’s a hand-held HDR of the interior at Milt’s, processed using Nik’s HDR Efex Pro in all of about 60-seconds [it’s late and I want to go to bed]. The customer at the counter wasn’t all that thrilled that we were taking pictures with him in the frame. He glared over at us, with the kind of glare that lets you know you’ve taken enough shots).

An iPad Crowd
It seemed like every photographer at this event had an iPad with them, and their portfolio on it, which I think it really cool. I’ve never seen anything that makes your photos look better than showing them on an iPad (it’s the digital equivalent of metallic printing) and everybody was sharing images and their picks for favorite apps the entire workshop. If you’re still on the fence about an iPad, just ask a photographer who has one. It’s like they were made for photographers (one of the participants was using his as his photo back-up device, using the Apple Connector Kit).

A Great Crowd
Teaching with Bill Fortney, is always a treat, but I have to say (and Bill would agree), what made this workshop was the people who were there to take the workshop. This group was so into it. They were so passionate and willing to learn and try new things. They had a great attitude, they were up for anything (and up each day at the crack of dawn), and they were simply a pleasure to be around. I made some new friends, and learned some new things. I got to spend an hour with one of the team leaders who was an absolute ace at HDR (as we saw in his opening night slideshow), and he shared his step-by-step processing method with me and Wayne one night, and we were both very impressed (and I learned a lot, which is always the case at these workshops. I always learn something from the other photographers at the event, and this was no exception).

(Above: one for the road—from sun-up near double arches. This shot had a massive lens flare that I was certain Content Aware fill wouldn’t fix, but it sure did, in all of about 30 seconds total, in five different spots. I’m still amazed).

Thanks Bill
It’s a true honor to get to speak alongside Bill Fortney. He is the real deal. Plain and simple. Bill loves people, and he has a real passion for sharing what he’s learned in his many years behind the lens. You can tell he loves every minute of it, and I love every minute I get to spend with him, and the wonderful folks that came out to spend a few days learning Lightroom, Photoshop, and photography in one of the most beautiful and breathtaking places on earth. Thank you Bill for letting me be part of your workshop, and thanks to everyone who made it such a memorable week—one I won’t soon forget.

The amazing Moose Peterson spent a few days at our offices last week, and I snagged Moose for a quick interview about “Captured,” his just released book on wildlife photography (produced by Kelby Training), and how it came to be. If you’ve got a quick sec, check it out below. A big congrats to Moose on creating what I truly believe will be the landmark book on wildlife photography. has it in-stock now, ready to ship. Barnes & has it available for pre-order. Should be in bookstores any day.

Hi Gang: I just got back tonight from a really memorable workshop out in Moab, Utah, but I am so worn out, I just want to go to bed.

So, tomorrow I’ll give you guys the full run down from the workshop, along with photos, but if I don’t hit the hay soon, I won’t make it into the office at all tomorrow, so I hope you’ll check back tomorrow, because I’ve got a lot of fun stuff and images to share. :)

Hi Gang: This week I’ve been out in Moab, Utah leading a hands-on workshop with landscape photography legend Bill Fortney, along with a team of top notch instructors and 35 or so very fun, totally energized participants, and we’re havin’ a ball out here shootin’ and working with Lightroom and CS5.

An HDR Love Fest
I got special permission yesterday from Nik Software to show my class Nik’s new HDR Efex Pro plug-in for Photoshop and Lightroom and it was a big hit with the workshop participants (and most of our participants at the workshop are seriously into HDR). I had a pre-release copy already so I knew it was going to be a hit, but now that I’ve shown it to a crowd, it’s going to be even bigger than I thought.

The area is pretty socked in with clouds, so we haven’t had a lot of shooting opportunities yet. I got just a couple of shots off at sunset (that’s us shooting sunset above), and a handful at dawn yesterday, but I surely haven’t set the landscape world on fire so far. I haven’t had a chance to really go through my images yet, but I hope to have some to post for you guys on Monday.

The Missing Video
I had planned to run a video interview today with a special guest, but I guess it got bogged down in the video dept., so I’ll have to run that next week as well. In the meantime, here’s wishing you all a fantastic weekend, and we’ll see you back here next week.

Hey gang, Brad here with the latest news…

It’s official! Larry’s Cheap Shots blog goes LIVE! – Posting “a few times a week,” Larry’s new blog will cover what you already know from watching DTown TV, PLUS Larry will post photography money savers, behind-the-scenes info, videos from back episodes, links to cost effective solutions all around the web, and more! Check it all out at

Join us Friday, Oct. 15th at NOON (Eastern) for this month’s NAPP Member LIVE Training event, which will be open to the public! Corey Barker will present his cool Tips & Tricks! There will be NO 3D in this so Ps Extended isn’t required. Only the live event is open to the public. The replay will still only be for NAPP members and only NAPP members can submit questions early. Scott will share the link here as soon as he can!

Ron Martinsen has posted his chapter-by-chapter review of Scott’s Lightroom 3 Book over at

There’s still time to sign up for Scott’s Lightroom for Digital Photographers Tour stop in London on October 15 (that’s just a week from tomorrow!), and Matt Kloskowski’s stop in Seattle on November 18. Get all the info over on

Have you checked out Kelby Training Online lately? We’ve had some killer classes going up lately, like…

Frank Doorhof, one Kelby Training’s newest instructors, will be teaching a lighting seminar and workshop in Italy on November 13th and 14th. You can find all the details over at (Sidenote: I assisted Frank for one of his Kelby Training classes, and this guy rocks! These are events you definitely don’t want to miss.)

And lastly, Epson has announced new printers in their Stylus Pro lineup! The newest models are the Epson Stylus Pro 4900, 7890, and 9890. You can find more info on them by visiting their product pages (just click each model number), or by reading the press releases here.

The Importance of Practicing and Sharing

Before I started blogging I was always playing around with Photoshop, Illustrator and other apps I had an interest in learning more about and wanted to improve my skills in. The idea was always the same…to try and recreate something I saw and liked using this tool. I pretty much spent a decade doing that, always saving to my computer.

Towards the end of 2006, life played its odds and my office was robbed. It turned out that the burglars chose to take my backup drives on the exact day that I decided to backup my files. So my laptop and my two backup drives were taken and I found myself completely lost in space. All those years of learning by practice were gone.

Since that day I decided that everything I learn I would put up online on my blog. So I restarted my routine of experiments and after these almost four years I’ve learned quite a lot of things besides to never take your two backup disks to the same place at the same time. The most important thing I’ve learned is that the best way to promote your work is through sharing your knowledge and the secrets of your work. It’s true and I have a few examples to illustrate that.

Super Interessante

I always liked to play with space scenes in Photoshop, trying to come up with solutions and techniques to create those scenes. I am also always checking out work by other designers (James White, Chuck Anderson, Scott Hansen, Eduardo Recife, and a bunch of others) so I can learn new things as well. In 2007 I was playing with brushes in Photoshop and created a nice space scene, and then I posted a tutorial on my blog showing how I created it.

A few months after that tutorial I received an email from one of the largest publishers in Brazil asking me if I wanted to recreate that exact same scene for the cover of one of their magazines.

I thought to myself, if I hadn’t published that tutorial, I would never be hired to create a cover for that magazine.

Illustration for Wired

After that experience I was convinced that it was merely a coincidence, or beginners luck as they say, and would never happen again. Nevertheless I stayed true to my idea of practicing and sharing to not only learn more but help others as well.

In one of these practicing days I decided that I would have to create an abstract scene using vectors. So I spent a few hours in Illustrator and came up with a very cool design using only vectors, then in Photoshop I played with some textures and boom! The design was done and it was nice.

A few months after that I was checking my email and I saw one from the guys over at Wired Magazine UK telling me that they were inviting designers to create the cover of one of the sections of their magazine. They also said that they saw my tutorial and really liked it and invited me to create a version of that illustration for them.

Once again the same idea came to mind, without practicing and sharing that never would have happened.


In 2008 I was writing a Photoshop tutorial for a popular web site, and that same year MSNBC had released their new site with a very colorful background design. I remember that I received quite a few emails asking me how that was done and if I could create a tutorial on that.

I took some time and started playing in Photoshop trying to recreate that effect. I learned that we could create that same sort of effect using the Fibers filter with Motion Blur. So I created the tutorial, published it, and it was a big hit.

Almost three years later while checking my email I saw this message from a designer over at MSNBC saying that they use my blog for inspiration and saw some of my tutorials including the MSNBC one I had created. They invited me to come up with a background for their new web site design. I was totally blown away.

These three examples show how important it is to practice new things and to evolve through personal projects especially when you’re just starting out your career as a graphic designer, illustrator, or digital artist in general. Working on projects for ourselves allows us to do what we love and to follow our passion, because we are our own clients.

However, perhaps just as important as practicing is to share what you learn. In the past I used to do my personal projects and keep them in a vault just for myself, waiting for the great day to show the world what I was capable of. That day can sometimes take longer than you think though. So why only keep it to yourself?

Sharing my technique and skills allowed me to evolve quicker and to apply the things I’ve learned on professional projects with clients that otherwise I am sure I would have never gotten the chance to work with.

“Put yourself out there, being awesome is long tail” – Allan Branch

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