Category Archives Photography

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Just like I did for my Egypt trip last November (link) I put together an Apple iPhoto book of some of my favorite shots from my trip, and I’ve included some of those pages below (click on them for a much larger view). This time I’m trying Apple’s new Spiral-bound books (rather than the perfect-bound they’ve always offered in the past), and I’ll let you know how they come out once I get a final printed copy (later this week).

Of course, once again I did take lots of regular vacation photos and those are going into a separate iPhoto book for the family, and some of these photos will be included (but so will some of us posing in front of the leaning tower of Pisa and stuff like that).

The images below were all taken with either a Nikon D-60, (which I borrowed from my brother-in-law) or a Nikon D-5000 (which I bought while I was there—see yesterday’s post for why). I only used two lenses the entire trip: The 18-55mm VR Kit lens that came with the D5000 (and D60), and a 70-300mm f/4.5 – 5.6mm VR lens that I bought separately while I was there. Also, the Ferrari-for-a-day shots are here as well.

The images were all shot in JPEG mode (gasp!) and processed using Lightroom. I went to Photoshop a couple of times to remove some really distracting telephone lines and powerlines.

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About six weeks ago my wife told me she had a surprise for me. She had planned a special 8-day family vacation trip to Italy’s Tuscany region, and to celebrate my 5th year of being named the world’s #1 bestselling author of computer and technology books, she had set up a special photo shoot in Italy that was (her words) going to “blow my mind.” I so love this woman! :)

Anyway, last week was the week for our vacation, and as you might expect—it was absolutely incredible, and yes—the photo shoot she set up for me totally blew my mind. More on that in a moment. Accompanying me on this trip was my entire family, my Brother Jeff, and my brother-in-law and his family. But first, let’s look at how I left all my photo gear behind:

It Started With Missing Our Flight to Italy
We were scheduled to fly from Tampa to New York’s JFK airport, and then catch a connecting flight to Pisa, Italy that night. Unfortunately, our flight was so delayed (due to weather in New York) that we actually missed our connecting flight by about 20 minutes (no, they didn’t hold the plane), so we had to spend the night in New York and catch the next evening’s flight (this took our already short 8-day Tuscany trip down to just 7 days—including travel. Ugh!).

There are worse places to have a one-day layover than New York City, so we had a ball—we went shopping (though unfortunately B&H Photo was closed because it was Saturday), took the kids to the world’s largest Toys r’ Us (yes, we rode the Ferris Wheel inside), and my brother and I went to the famous Katz’s Deli for lunch, and I had the best Pastrami sandwich of my life.

Then we went back to our room for a quick nap (well, mostly for my daughter’s nap). I had brought a nice compliment of camera gear for the Italy trip (a little more than usual, because my wife had this special shoot set up, though she still hadn’t told me what the surprise shoot was going to be). I took my Nikon D-300, a 12-24mm lens, my trusty 18-200mm VR lens, a 50mm f/1.4 lens, my Epson P-7000, a tabletop tripod, and my Gitzo Traveler tripod, and lots of accessories and it all fit perfectly in my smallest camera bag—-my LowePro Stealth Reporter (which even has the NAPP logo and the word “Instructor” stitched on the front—a gift we gave to all the Photoshop World instructors one year).

Anyway, when I’m out of my hotel room, I usually tuck my camera bag and laptop out of sight, so they don’t get stolen while housekeeping is making up the room (a typical scam is for a thief to walk by a room being cleaned by housekeeping—they see a laptop or camera, knock on the door and act like it’s their room that’s being cleaned as they tell the housekeeper that they forget their laptop, and they walk off with your laptop, camera gear or both. So, I always hide mine).

You Snooze, You Lose
Anyway, after I got up from my nap, I saw my luggage, my laptop bag, and my NAPP instructor camera bag all lined up by the door, and I thought to myself, “Great, my wife thought to get my bag out of hiding.” I took it down to the airport shuttle; watched as the bellman carefully loaded it into the van, and off we went to JFK to catch our overnight flight to Italy, albeit a day late.

When we got to the airport, I had just gathered my camera bag, laptop bag, and luggage when my brother says, “My camera bag is missing!” We start searching around, then he opens my camera bag, and says, “This one’s mine!” As luck would have it, he had the exact same camera bag (with NAPP instructor stitched on it) that I did. As it turns out, while I was taking my nap, he checked out of his room and brought his luggage down to our room. The camera bag I saw lined up at the door in my room was actually his camera bag. At that moment I realized that my camera bag had been left behind, still hidden back in my hotel room.

It Gets Worse
I walked away from the group, and as I frantically dialed the hotel, I started to string together long phrases of words that could not be spoken on TV (even today). I got a hold of the front desk, and told them my story. They sent the head of security and the head of housekeeping immediately to my room to retrieve the camera bag. I gave them the exact location of the bag (they wouldn’t be able to miss it), and they would call back as soon as they found it, then we would arrange to have it rushed to the JFK Departures terminal where I would meet them, and still have time just enough time to make my flight.

They called back. They said the room had already been cleaned and there was no camera bag.

Adding Up The Loss
Needless to say, I was pretty much freaking out at the thought of losing my gear, and of not having any gear on my trip to Tuscany. I started to mentally calculate how much I had lost between the camera, lenses, P-7000, memory cards, filters, battery grip, and on-and-on, and it was easily over $5,000 worth of gear.

Once I got through airport security, I called the Police (unfortunately they said I would have to physically come in to a station to file a report). Then I called the hotel manager, and I politely explained my entire situation, while taking my concerns about my gear being stolen in her hotel up a notch. She said she would call the head of security again, and said she would see what she could do, but she didn’t sound hopeful. She’d call me if they heard anything. (Sigh).

It’s too late. I’m on the plane.
I’m sitting on the tarmac, and they’re just about the close the cabin doors, and the head of hotel security calls to tell me that somehow, they found they bag (without much further details). I was thrilled (relieved, overjoyed, etc.), and I told him my assistant would contact him and first thing on Monday we’d have it over-nighted to my address in Italy. I thanked him profusely. Apparently, the call to the manager worked.

In Tuscany, with No Camera
So I got to Tuscany on Sunday with no camera, but at least my brother-in-law had brought his Nikon D-60 and two lenses: the 18-55mm that came with his kit, and the wonderful Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5 – f/5.6 VR that I talked about two weeks ago. Luckily, he was more interested in shooting video on his Canon video camera the first few days, so he let me shoot with his D-60 a couple of times on Sunday late afternoon and Monday (I just shot to his SD card, then we downloaded the images onto a jump drive for me). By the way; the shot you see above was taken with his D-60, handheld with the 70-300mm VR, set to JPEG mode (click on it for a larger view).

When It Rains….
On Monday, my assistant Kathy calls me to tell me that the earliest I’d have my camera was Thursday evening, so I’d miss my special wife-arranged photo shoot Thursday afternoon, and basically I’d miss shooting the whole week, and would only have my camera one single day—Friday—the last day of the trip before heading home. Ugh!

I did what I had to do
Once I learned his, I bit the bullet and headed into the biggest camera store I could find in Florence and bought a Nikon D-5000 kit (it came with a 18-55mm VR lens), and the same 70-300mm VR lens my brother-in-law had (I couldn’t just borrow his, because we both had rental cars and we usually went our separate ways during the day), and a Manfrotto lightweight tripod and ballhead (loved the legs, but the ballhead was really too small).

This set me back around (wait for it….wait for it…) $1,950 (arrrgghhh!!), but I figured when I got back I could sell the gear on eBay, and I’d only be out $600 or so (I’d rather be out $600 than spend a week in Tuscany with no camera). Hey, at least they threw in a nice Tenba camera backpack with the Nikon logo stitched on it (It actually worked out really well)!

This I hadn’t planned on
If there was one thing I hadn’t planned on it was this; I fell in love with the D-5000. In fact, I’m keeping it. I was absolutely shocked at its high ISO performance. I took shots, hand held at 1250 ISO in a square in the town of Siena, and when my brother and I looked at them that night—full screen on my computer, you could barely see any noise at all. It was like ISO 400 on my D300. I was just amazed!!!! So, I pushed that thing up to 1600 ISO any ol’ time, and I was shooting at night handheld without a second thought.

Also, it has so many of the features of my D300 that I felt surprisingly at home. In fact, I could only find one thing that I really wished it did that I couldn’t figure out how to get it to do; I wanted to assign the center OK button to zoom in to a 100% view (like I do on my D-300), but I don’t think it offers that feature.

I was also surprised to learn that the image quality was fantastic (very D-300-like, but if you shoot in JPEG mode I would set the Picture Control setting to Vivid to make the color more punchy. While there, I would increase the amount of sharpening as well, but outside of that, I love that camera for travel work because it’s so light, compact, and takes such great images (even in low light). By the way; I never used the video! (I only had one 4GB SD memory card. It’s a long story, but that’s all I had. I should have bought more, but that’s another story).

The Fate of My D-300
So, what’s going to happen to my beloved D300? I’m selling it. It was my back-up camera, and the one I used for travel photography, but now I have a new low-noise, lightweight, replacement that even shoots video, so it’s time to wave bye to my D300 (and its sale will help offset the cost of my original problem).

What Was Your Wife’s “Big Surprise” shoot?
Are you ready for this? On Thursday morning, up pulls a red convertible Ferrari F-430, which my wife had rented for the day for me to drive through the hills of Tuscany and find a place for a sunset shoot of the car. Does it get any better than that?!!!

I’ve always been a Ferrari freak (which is why my wife chose to rent a Ferrari in the first place), but however great I thought driving a Ferrari would be—honestly, it was 10 times better than I imagined. Totally a surreal experience. I drove it from Montaione to Pisa, and everywhere in between. It really felt like you’d imagine a Ferrari would feel. It was more than just great looking and really fast. It was a race car on the street. Oh yeah, I got some cool shots, too! (You’ll see some tomorrow. I had my brother take it through some curves as I shot—-he really hated that—wink, wink) and then we took turns driving and shooting, and just having a ball. It’s a day I’ll never forget. Do I have a rockin’ wife or what!!!!!

OK, Let’s See Some Photos
Tomorrow I’m running a series of photos from the trip, so I hope you’ll stop by and check them out. I’m back home now, (and probably back in the office by the time you read this, taking lots of ribbing for leaving my camera gear behind). But hey, I lived a dream—-I went to Italy and fell in love (does it still count if the thing you fell in love with was a camera?).

Shooting Time vs. Family Time
Although I limited my shooting time (after all, this was a family vacation first), I did get to shoot for five hours by myself on Friday, which was great fun (although four hours of it was driving time to and from my shooting location in “The Crete” area of Tuscany). Tuscany is just a magical place, and it’s a very target rich environment for photography (and for food, and architecture, and landscapes, and history, and…..)

I really tried my best to make sure my photography didn’t get in the way of our family time, so I just took my camera along wherever we went, and I shot along the way (kind of like a photo walk). Of course, my wife went out of her way to make sure I’d get interesting things to shoot during the week, and anytime I needed a few extra minutes to “get the shot” she was totally cool with it. I took far fewer shots than any previous trip (less than 950 photos for the entire week-long trip), but I had such a relaxing time; got some great time with the wife and kids, got my internal batteries totally recharged, and still got at least a few decent shots, which I’ll share here tomorrow.

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I’ve been wanting to try out Lastolite’s new Kickerlite ever since I read about it back around the Photokina time frame, and while doing some shoots for my Digital Photography book, Volume 3 , I finally got a chance to use it, and I have to say, it’s surprisingly sweet (and a lot better than I thought it was going to be by just looking at it and reading the description of what it’s supposed to do).

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So, here’s how it works: it sits on the floor in front of your subject (as seen above—photo by Brad Moore) and it’s in the shape of a wedge aiming up at your subject (kind of like a vocal monitor for all you rock heads out there) and it kind of looks like a softbox.

There’s a horizontal H-shaped pole and flash bracket in the back where you mount one of your existing strobes on it. Then you aim the strobe down into the kicker light wedge at a 45° angle, and that light hits an angled reflector inside and that light is bounced back up toward your subject, and it creates a wide, soft, flattering fill light on your subject (it diffuses the light from the strobe by two stops).

What makes this different than a standard reflector is that a standard reflector can only reflect light coming from another strobe. The Kickerlite actually has a light inside it (well, you add a light to the back and it aims inside) so you have full control over the amount of light that it creates. This does an amazing job of evenly lighting your subject, minimizing shadows under the chin, eyes, and hair, and it almost gives your subject’s face a glow (as seen in the image below).

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Here’s the shot (above) I took using the set-up you see above (the main light is an Elinchrom RX-600 strobe with a Beauty Dish Attachment on it, and the strobe on the kicker light is an Elinchrom BXRI-500. However, you could also attach an off-camera flash like an SB-800 or a Canon 580EX II there instead.

I thought I’d show a quick comparison of the difference between using a reflector, and the same set-up using a Kickerlite instead (see the images below), and that pretty much tells the story right there.

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The Bottomline
I initially thought this thing might be a bit gimmicky, but after trying it we were not only pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to set-up and use, it had a bigger effect than we thought it would. It was a little weird using it at first because I’m not used to having much control over the light from what would normally be just a reflector, so I never had to make a decision about how much light should come from the reflector. I guess having that option of how much light you want from where a reflector would normally be is actually a good thing. It works well for lighting everything from beauty-style portraits to full length shots because of the large soft wrapping flow of light.

It does seems a tad expensive since you have to add your own light (I would think the pricing sweet spot for something like this would be in the $150 range, where it would be a no-brainer). I also think the name “Kickerlite” may cause some confusion because at the end of the day, its not a light; it’s a softbox (well, at least until you add a light inside it). Those two minor quibbles aside, it’s pretty a pretty clever unit all the way around and you can’t argue with the results.

The 3′ x 4′ Kickerlite comes with the softbox, the flash bracket, and a carrying case (it folds down to about 1/3 its size) for around $207 over at B&H Photo (here’s the link). You can learn more about it over at Lastolite.com.

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I’ve talked about Alltop.com before (which is basically a site that does a very clever job of gathering blogs about specific topics and it puts them all on one handy page, but that’s just part of the story). They call it, an “online magazine rack” that they update every hour.

Anyway, just recently, they introduced a feature called “MyAlltop” where you can set up your own Alltop page, with your own favorite blogs on it. So, I put one together with blogs about Photoshop, Photography, the Mac, and other stuff I check each day, and of all the things like this I’ve tried (various RSS readers, blog aggregators, Google-this, Yahoo-that, etc.), this is the quickest to use and easiest to set up.

One of my favorite features of Alltop is that you can move your cursor over a headline and it shows you the first paragraph or so from that post, so you can quickly decide if you want to click the link and read more.

It’s free to sign up, and once signed up, you just search by topic (Photoshop for instance), and it shows you a list of the Photoshop blogs they follow. To add one of those, you just check the box, and keep on choosing blogs until you’ve got your own custom page set up. You can also reorder the blogs in the order you want them to appear by just dragging and dropping. Anyway, it’s free, and quick, and definitely worth a try. Here’s the link to set-up your own page.

Let me know what you think after you’ve tried it for a few days. (If you want, you can check out my own page by going to my.alltop.com/scottkelby)

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When you get featured in Nikon World magazine, you get to do something that’s almost as cool as being in the magazine itself; they do a live interview with you (about a month after the feature comes out), where you get to tell the story behind each shot featured in the magazine. Then they marry that interview with the images and it becomes a really cool online audio slideshow and the whole thing is really nicely done. (Here’s the link to the audio slideshow interview).

Nikon did a great job with this whole concept (what a perfect follow-up to the article), and if you’ve got a few minutes I invite you to check it out over at their site (here’s the link to my feature page (shown above); just click the “Audio Slideshow” link or the direct link in the previous paragraph.

Also, I’m equally as excited that Nikon has asked me to do a similar live presentation in their booth each day at the Photo Plus Expo (PPE) in New York City this October (I’ll be including more photos in those presentations), so I hope you’ll catch the ‘live’ version then. Thanks to everyone at Nikon USA, and at Nikon World magazine for these wonderful opportunities. It truly is a honor.

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Just a quick update on yesterday’s official launch:

  • After a few Web site hiccups in the morning, we got most of the kinks worked out and a number of walks were completely full by dinner time (I believe Terry White’s Detroit Photo Walk was the first one to fill up) so if you’re thinking of joining a walk; I wouldn’t wait.
  • I approved dozens more city leaders last night (including walks in China, Portugal, Australia, Thailand, Japan, Canada, France, The Netherlands, The Philippines, Germany, and a dozen or so other countries, including dozens of locations in the USA) but until those leaders activate their pages, you won’t be able to sign up for their walks.
  • We have a fast-growing list of cities, and you can find them by going to the official Website, then clicking on Cities, and when the map appears, click on the “List by City” link just above the top left side of the map.
  • If a walk in a particular city fills up, we’ll check to see if someone has applied to be a leader, and then we can see about adding a 2nd walk.
  • The NAPP Gang: RC is leading a walk in Dunedin, Florida. Brad Moore is going to be leading a walk in downtown Tampa. Matt Kloskowski and Dave are also leading walks, but I’m not sure where yet. Corey Barker is leading the walk in Safety Harbor, Florida.
  • Just a note: the folks this year have done a great job of sharing their qualifications for leading walks, and it’s making the process move along much faster, so thanks to everyone who took the extra time.
  • PhotoWalkPro.com has joined on as an official WWPW sponsor, and my thanks to our co-sponsor Adobe Systems for their support (we’re working on some cool stuff with them for the walk—–more as soon as it’s all in place), plus my thanks to MPIX.com, Peachpit Press (publisher of my books), and of course NAPP (but they really had no choice, eh?).

Also, a big thanks to everyone who has volunteered to lead to walks, and shown such enthusiasm for this worldwide social photography event. You guys make it an awful lot of fun!

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