Category Archives Photography

Hi everybody—-it’s time (well, it’s a bit overdue) for my 3rd annual “Best of 2011 Awards” (Well, it’s not actually my 3rd best of 2011; it’s my 3rd “Best of” awards but you know what I mean).

It’s important to note once again that I didn’t say “Best photography gear” or “Best Photoshop stuff” (though both of those are represented). Instead, this is just my favorite “bestest” stuff from 2011, (including things like songs, movies, travel stuff, food, etc.) presented in no particular order.

Hope it starts off your New Year right! (By the way; make sure you read my disclaimers at the end of the list). Here we go:

————–

My Best Switcharoo of 2011:
Switching from Sirius Satellite Radio to XM
Even though they’re owned by the same company, Sirius XM, the station selection on XM is much better, and it has the best stations from Sirius already.

Most-receptive crowd to present to in 2011:
My LSR seminar in Toronto.
Those folks were awesome! Can’t wait to go back!

Best iPad App:
Photo Manager Pro
I’ve tried about every portfolio app for the iPad, but this one is the easiest, and most flexible

Best App for frequent travelers:
GateGuru
It finds which airport you’re at, and tells you what’s there, in every terminal, from restaurants to airport lounges, gift shops to ATMs, and it saves you a ton of time.

Best iPad game:
Temple Run
I could have had at least two more books written if it wasn’t for this addicting game.

Best Photoshop plug-in Update:
Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro 4
My most-used plug-in of the year 

My pick for best up-and-coming plug-in for 2011:
Topaz Detail
It’s “Freaky Detail” in a plug-in

Best new retouching plug-in:
OnOne’s Perfect Portrait
This one stands alone 

Best iPad Photo Editing App:
Snapseed
Apple chose it as their App of the Year. I’m not surprised.  

Best thing in 2011 for photographers that’s not a camera, lens, or lighting:
Google+
An incredibly vibrant, active community of photographers and it’s growing like a weed.

Best place to show your images online:
500px (link)
Plus, their iPad App is a fantastic place to go for photo inspiration.

Best place to get cool, inexpensive gifts for photographers:
PhotoJojo’s Store  (link)
They have the most clever stuff anywhere!

Best game of 2011:
Call of Duty MW3 for XBox Live
I can’t imagine the cool things I could have accomplished this year had it not been released

Best iPhone App for Photographers:
True HDR
(link)

Best Restaurant Find of 2011:
Max Brenner’s in NYC
(link)
I’m not a chocolate fanatic, but this place could convert me

Best fun new restaurant:
Wagamama
(link)

Best New Blog for Photographers:
blamethemonkey.com
(link)
Great information, including lots of cool HDR stuff, from photographer Elia Locardi

Best Blog for Fashion Photographers:
fashionphotographyblog.com
(link)
Great resource and wonderful photography from Melissa Rodwell

Best New Studio Accessories of 2011
The gear from Tether Tools 
(link)
I’m hooked on their tethering accessories. It’s not cheap, but it’s not cheap!

Best Point-and-Shoot Camera of 2011
The iPhone 4s 
(link)
I love it because it’s always with me. 8-megapixels; I can edit and process “in camera” and upload to the Web directly from my “camera” or send the photo I just took as an email.  

> Best new tech blog:
The Verge
(link)
Great reporting with a fantastic layout 

> Best gadget of 2011:
Cordies
Brilliantly simple desktop cord management from Quirky.com

Best Photoshop Book of 2011
Matt Kloskowski’s “Compositing Secrets” (link)
I wish I had written it, but if I had, it wouldn’t have been as good 

> Best book every serious photography should own:
“The Photographer’s Survival Guide,” by Ed Greenberg and Jack Reznicki (link)
Don’t let the name through you off; it’s about model releases, copyright, and stuff you really need to know

> Best Prime Rib of 2011:
Keen’s Steakhouse on West 36th in New York City
(link)
When they serve it, it looks like something you’d see on the Flintstone’s

> Best burger of 2011:
Hands down it was Plan B in Hartford Connecticut
(link)

> Best burger in NYC:
Shake Shack
(link)
There’s a reason you have to wait 30 minutes in line to get in.

> Best Live Show I Saw in 2011:
Rock of Ages
(link)

Best Live Concert I Saw in 2011:
Rod Stewart at Caesar’s Palace
Some guys have all the luck :)

Best thing I added to my Mac in 2011:
Mac OS X Lion
Much better than I thought. Lots of great little improvements, and iCloud integration rocks!

Best business book of 2011:
Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki
(link)

Another that comes close:
“Crush It” by Gary Vaynerchuk
(link)

Best really handy accessory for hot shoe flash:
Rogue Gels
(link)
I never mind paying for things that make my job easier 

Best romantic comedy I saw in 2011:
Crazy Stupid Love

Best romantic movie to watch again during the holidays:
Love Actually

Best movie that wanted to be good, but really wasn’t:
Columbiana
Massive holes in the plot sunk this one for me

Best movie that was so bad it was kinda good:
A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas
We wound up seeing this as part of my wife’s new “Date Night Movie Roulette” where you’re not allowed to even look at what’s playing until after dinner. Then you go to the movies, and see whatever’s playing at that time. H&K was all that was on. It was so bad, it was good.

Best list I was surprised (yet thrilled) to be included in:
Top 10 Best Portrait Photographers Today
(link) Toby

Best Old School Style Song I bought in 2011:
Diverse City by Mac
(iTunes Link)
“It’s like a freak show, in your neighborhood”

Best Golden Oldie I added to my iPod:
Duke of Earl by Gene Chandler (iTunes Link)
“As I walk through this world, nothing can stop….the Duke of Earl”

Best Classic Rock Song From A Band I’d Never Heard Of:
Inside Out by XYZ (iTunes Link)

Best old R&B song I added:
Don’t Stop by Jeffery Osborne
(iTunes Link)

Best classic rock song I added:
Be Good to Yourself by Journey (iTunes Link)

Best new song:
So Help Me God by Fireflight (iTunes Link)

Coolest kinda-jazzy but yet kinda alternative song I bought in 2011:
Hello City by Bare Naked Ladies (iTunes Link)

Best song I bought after hearing it on my son’s iPod:
Dear X: You Don’t Own Me by Disciple (iTunes Link)

Best Country Song I bought in 2011:
That’s What I love About Sunday, by Craig Morgan (iTunes Link)

Best Band I Never Though I’d have on my iPod:
Sixx: A.M.

Best New Song:
Stand, by Lenny Kravitz
(iTunes Link)

Best guitar-related gift I got in 2011:
A Hartke Kickback 12 Bass Amp (link)

Best new reason to love England:
Tim Wallace

He makes we want to grab my camera, and a bucket of water, and shoot!

Best new photographer to learn from:
Cliff Mautner
I can’t believe how much I learned from watching his online class. 

Best Day Trip of 2011:
Flying to Cedar Key, Florida with my wife as the pilot

Best bargain in lighting in 2011:
Westcott’s Giant 7′ Parabolic Shoot Through Umbrellas
The megapixel race is over. Now, it’s whoever dies with the biggest modifier, wins (Link)

Best way to start a fight since mentioning HDR:
Mention that your App is only available for the iPad

————————

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMERS:
(1)
I could be totally wrong about any of these—they’re just my opinions

(2) Some of these things could have actually come out in 2009, or even 2008. I’m old and lose track of time easily.

(3) If you disagree with any of my picks, that’s OK.

(4) If some of my picks make you seething mad, and you want to post mean comments to me, remember—you can start your own blog today, for free, and by this afternoon you can post your own list (don’t worry—everybody will agree with all your picks). Here’s a good place to start (link).

Well, that’s it gang. I’m always on the lookout for great anything (songs, movies photo gear, iPhone/iPad Apps, restaurants, travel tips, etc.), so if you have something I missed on my list, just let me know.

On Wednesday’s episode of “The Grid” (our weekly talk show about photography, broadcast live each Wednesdays), I took some time at the end of the show to answer a lot of the questions people had here on the blog about how I post processed the images seen in my photo book from my recent trip to India (link to my “Four Days in India Part 1, and Part 2 from earlier this week).

The video clip above shows the Lightroom [Camera Raw] and Photoshop tweaks I did to the image, but there’s also some talk about shooting portraits on the streets, including a great street shooting tip from Zack Arias who was our in-studio guest. Lots of fun on the show (our topic was our Predictions for 2012 for the photo industry), and if want to catch the full episode (Zack was an awesome guest), you can watch it free online right here.

Have a great weekend everybody, and join me here Monday for my annual “Best of 2011” post.

I thought I’d pick up where I left off yesterday, with the remaining photos from my India Photo Book (I made the book on my last morning in Jaipur, but that was made a lot quicker by the fact that each night I would go through my images and make my “Picks” so I already had a folder with my favorite images all all ready to go, which makes the book-making process go much faster).

Post Processing
I didn’t have to do a lot of post processing on these, but they all got tweaking and sharpening in Photoshop or Lightroom. In particular, one thing I used a lot was a tiny bit of Highlight Edge Vignetting. Just a little bit in the Effects panel of Lightroom–I just drag the Amount slider to the left a little bit (as shown above) to darken the outside edges, and focus the attention away from the edges. Another thing I used here and there was Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro plug-in, in particular their Tonal Contrast preset. I normally didn’t apply it to the entire image—I would apply it, then hide the effect layer behind a black layer mask and then paint over parts of the image that needed more contrast.

I also increased the Clarity and Vibrance amount for some of the images, but overall it wasn’t anything fancy (it’s the same stuff I show in my live Photoshop World class called “Photoshop for Travel Photographers.”

Where’s all the HDR?
I’m waiting until I get back in the office (today) and I’m going to hand off some 5-shot brackets to RC Concepcion (who literally wrote the book on HDR post-processing) and let him have a go at it. I love the way he does his post on HDR images, so I hope to share those later in the week. And yes, I know…having RC process my HDR shots is cheating. :)

Next time, I’m building My Book in Lightroom 4
Now that Lightroom 4 Beta has a Books feature built-in, I’ll be doing my next book there, mostly because the layouts in LR4 are more flexible, so it opens lots of creative possibilities (see yesterday’s post where I showed the layout of the book in Lightroom 4. Worked even better than I expected!)

More Details on the Grid
Tomorrow, on “The Grid” Live (our weekly photography talk show), I’ll be talking about the trip, and some of the specific things I ran into photographically during the trip, so I’ll hope you’ll join us live tomorrow (Wednesday) at 4:00 PM ET at http://www.kelbytv.com/thegrid (or for the free rebroadcasts starting on Thursday).

 

Don’t forget to watch The Grid tomorrow at 4:00 pm. I’ll show some other shots, and we’ll talk about all sorts of stuff surrounding this. Thanks to everybody who gave me suggestions, helpful hints, warnings, and great advice before my trip to India. It really made a difference, and it was much appreciated! :-)

 

I just got back late Friday night—the trip was a birthday present from my wife (for my birthday last year—but this was the first chance we got to take the trip), and we had an absolutely wonderful time!

What an amazing, fascinating place. We were only actually there for four days (with a fifth day of travel back to New Delhi for our return trip), but it was totally worth it! We visited Agra (I always wanted to see, and overshoot, the Taj Mahal), and then we added a trip to Jaipur, which is an amazing city unto itself.

Photo Gear
I traveled very light (as usual for vacations), and I didn’t want to take a bunch of big photo gear that would get a lot of attention, so I took a Nikon D700, removed the battery grip, put black gaffers tape over the make and model (shown above—I know, it still look kinda big), removed my lens hood, and carried it all in a Think Tank Photo “Retrospective 20” shoulder camera bag (borrowed from RC), which is designed to not look like a camera bag. This isn’t an “India” thing, but smart anytime you’re traveling (there are some places here in the states that I wouldn’t bring a DSLR to, blacked out or not).

I took just two lenses; my go-to travel lens is a Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5 to f/5.6 VR lens, and my second lens was a Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8. I also tried out a new travel tripod: the Oben CT-3500 Carbon Fiber four section tripod, which worked perfectly and only weighs 2.3 lbs.

Shooting in Pea Soup
My poor wife—she planned this special trip for me to see the Taj Mahal, and not only did she set it up so I could shoot it at two sunrise shoots, and two sunsets, she arranged for us to have a room only 900 feet from the Taj itself, and she specifically booked a hotel room with a terrace that overlooks the Taj. However, here’s the view at dawn the second day (below). Not only could we not see the Taj, we couldn’t see the swimming pool 30 feet in front of us.

Thanks to unseasonably cold weather, we were socked-in with thick, dense fog. It was absolute pea soup. I still went, and got lots of foggy shots with solid gray skies. This fog soup started the day we got there,and stayed the following morning at dawn, all afternoon, at dusk, and the following morning, too. In fact, I didn’t see fog-less clear skies until we reached Jaipur. My wife was really upset for me, but I was totally cool with it, because I didn’t just want to photograph India—I wanted to see and enjoy it, and man did I ever.

My Photo Book
After a vacation trip, I usually make a photo book of my favorite shots using iPhoto (link to video I did on how to make these in iPhoto) and I’m sharing the whole book (put together in iPhoto) with you here (part one today, and part two tomorrow). However, once this was done, I wanted to see if I could do the same thing (or maybe better) using Lightroom 4 Beta’s new Book Feature, and I have to say it worked brilliantly well, and even allowed me to do things I couldn’t do in iPhoto (I know, I know…Apple fan boys rev-up your engines). Anyway, I’ll be talking about this Wednesday on the Grid at 4:00 pm ET, so catch us live then.

Please click on the photos for a much larger view (they look much better bigger. Also, I made these spread really large—if you’re on a laptop, you may have to enlarge the size of your browser). More details on everything tomorrow. :)

That’s “Part One” of my photo book, and I’ll publish the rest here tomorrow.

One more thing: Why you need a guide when you go shooting
When I knew I would be traveling to India, I called my buddy Vincent Versace (who had run photo workshops there) and he turned me on to Travel Scope India, which provides very reasonably priced English speaking guides, and they were absolutely fantastic!

We learned so much about the Indian people (and their wonderful spirit), and they were really accommodating and helpful when it came to me finding locations to shoot. Here’s an link to an article I read last night at Lightstalking.com about why photographers should hire a guide (not a photo fixer, but a guide) and it’s worth a read (and right on the money!).

Anyway, Travel Scope India are highly recommended, and if you have plans of visiting India, you’ve got to contact Dinesh at TravelScopeIndia.com (they totally rock, and can find you guides in cities all over India). Can’t say enough things about how helpful they were.

Hope to see you back here tomorrow for Part 2, with more photos and more details. :)

[Bill Frakes was one of the first photographers in the world, alongside Joe McNally and Corey Rich, to get his hands on the Nikon D4. Here’s his story on shooting Istanbul and Its Many Faces.]

We had an intense 10 days in Istanbul making this short documentary shooting exclusively with the Nikon D4. Exhausting and invigorating. Crazy great fun.

It’s a wonderful place. The only major city in the world spanning two continents. Divided by the Bosphorus, this place is packed with activity and people, but yet is comfortable and calm.

This is where East meets West. It is an ancient city with modern rhythms. It has been inhabited for more than 5,000 years, every stone is steeped in history — while every day new fascinations emerge combining eastern style with European flare.

I picked Istanbul because of its history. A city of one thousand names, it has been the capitol of two major civilizations. The Ottoman and the Byzantine. It was the eastern Capitol of the Eastern Roman empire. For thousands of years, it has been a cultural and religious center.

Our challenge was to really put the D4 to the test. And to challenge ourselves to extend our vision, to use this incredible new technology to not just make our lives better, but to honor the people who gave us the opportunity to have these chances by making better images.

This is photojournalism. We controlled nothing. Everything is candid. Reportage.
It’s real world solutions to real world problems.

In post we did virtually nothing to the files. We edited the video native.  On the stills we did minor corrections so that they would fit with the video when we put them together. No sharpening nor grain reductions. Some burning and dodging. Cropping. That’s pretty much it.

We used the cameras 18 hours a day for 10 straight days. We used it as a still camera, a video camera, an audio recorder and an intravolometer.

What stands out for me most about this camera is the power of subtle changes. Small ergonomic changes make it incredibly comfortable to hold. You can activate backlight on all of the buttons and controls, now you can see everything on the camera in the dark. The video controls are the best of any DSLR I have seen, and I think I have seen them all. Audio, always a Nikon strength, is better than ever. They dominate this just like they do small flash.

The camera is amazing. The high ISO files exceeded my expectations, and after the D3S I had huge expectations! The new video and audio functions have transformed this camera into something beyond what we have seen before.

It is a rock solid, well crafted, easy to use machine. The menus are simple and elegant. The autofocus is extremely fast and accurate. The sensor delivers perfect, very sharp images.

I didn’t have any concerns about the technical, the Nikon engineers had taken care of that for me. I was free to concentrate on the creative, which is exactly as it should be.

We had a tight team of four.

Laura Heald. My creative partner in Straw Hat Visuals. She is everywhere on these projects. She shoots video and stills. Collects audio. Carries gear. She just makes things happen in the most positive way possible. When we get back to the studio she puts the pieces together. Having her on location making creative decisions is incredibly helpful both in the field and then in the edit bay because she has such a great feel for the material. She is the calm in the storm.

Andy Hancock. Our good friend and long time associate came to Istanbul for the first half of trip to help with the stills and video for the backstage video. Andy’s only been out of the country a few times, twice with us, and it’s great fun watching a Texas cowboy on the loose. If you meet Andy ask him if he remembers his first trip abroad., it’s a really good story.

Jana Erb joined us from Munich to do data management and run some of our robotics. Like Laura, Jana doesn’t understand the word no. Whatever needs to get done, she figures it out. Always in motion she is, as my good friend Paolo Frisson from Manfrotto says, “an EXPLOSION.” Although she was constantly scolding her mobile for it’s imprecision, she managed to navigate us seamlessly through the labyrinth of the city once known as Constantinople.

My job on these things is to do the connecting. I figure out what we need to do and keep pushing until we’re done. I do the lion’s share of the shooting both stills and video. I am in charge of quality control. In the edit process, I do the rough edits for concept and style. And then I try to stay out of Laura’s way until she is ready for me to weigh in on the final edit.

Things happen for a reason. We were ready to go. Spent seven hours packing 14 cases of gear. Left for the airport with plenty of time for our 3 p.m. flight home. We got to the counter, nobody there. Jana took off to find her gate for the flight to Munich. Laura found an agent. We missed the flight out of Istanbul. I had looked at the wrong flight. Back to the city, tired, cranky and annoyed at what this was going to do to our post production schedule -which was too tight.

We got to the hotel. Checked back in. Rescheduled our flights. And went for a walk. Two cameras for me.  Laura took her beloved P7000.  Headed into the center of the old city for an hour. We got lost. Ended up walking for seven hours, slowly covering 12 kilometers, and we made my favorite images of the trip.

Lost and slow. Lovely way to see a new city.

You can see more from Bill on the Nikon D4 over at StrawHatVisuals.com, see his work at BillFrakes.com, and follow him on Twitter.

The first half was a snooze. The score was 2 – 0 until nearly the end of the half, but then in the final minutes of the half, we had a touchdown, a runback (which I missed because I was uploading photos already), and then the 2nd half lit up, and the game wound up going into triple overtime. It was awesome!

I was there shooting on assignment for wire service Southcreek Global Media and it was a perfect day for football, not cold, not hot—a nice breeze and beautiful blue skies. A perfect way to wrap up my football shooting season! :)

 

(Above: Michigan State’s Quarterback decides to keep the ball and run for it!)

Here’s a few shots from the game (probably my last this season, unless some playoff opportunity breaks loose). Now, onto to NHL Hockey!!! :-)

One more thing: Camera settings. Same as always, but since it was a day game, I got to shoot at 200 ISO (my camera’s native ISO) most of the day (had to crank it in overtime because it started getting kinda dark).

 

(Above: I love how you can see the ref signaling touchdown in the left background).

(Above: I just knew he was going to signal the first down after a big catch and run like this—so I just stayed on him after the play)

My thanks to the gang at Southcreek Global for the opportunity to shoot some football for you guys this year, and thanks to everybody here on the blog that put up with seeing a bunch of football this past couple of months. :)

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