Tuesday
Feb
2012
07

Jumping the gun on the Nikon D800

by Scott Kelby  |  82 Comments

Since my post last night here on Google+ (http://www.scottgplus.com), and here on my blog earlier today, I’ve seen a lot of comments flowing in pro and con about this camera, and I just want to say a quick few things about the comments I’ve been reading thus far:

(1) The D800 was apparently created for a very specific type of photographer 
There is no law that every camera introduced by a camera company has to be designed to fit your personal needs. If you read that it has 36.3 megapixels and you’re like “36.3 megapixels is overkill!!!” then obviously this camera isn’t for you, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t photographers out there who read that spec and cheered! (Me being on of them). It looks like this was designed for commercial photographers, and wedding and landscape shooters that want to be using a camera with Medium-Format type resolution without the medium-format price. If that’s not you, that’s OK. Nikon makes other camera models for you.

(2) The D800 doesn’t appear to be designed for sports or action photographers (like the D700 was)
In fact, it looks like the D800 is an entirely different camera intended for an entirely different market, which is why it only shoots 4/fps (which for a camera with that high a resolution is actually very fast. If you’ve ever shot a medium-format camera, this is blazing!!!).

(3) The D700 was kind of a stripped down version of the D3…
but the D800 doesn’t seem to be a stripped down D4 on any level (even though the name D800 alone would make us think otherwise). I wish Nikon had given it a different name just to make a more obvious break with the D700 line, and I really hope Nikon does introduce a stripped down version of the D4, because I always thought the D700 had an important place in their product line that a lot of people really benefitted from (I have a D700 myself).

(4) This is the most important one: the camera isn’t shipping yet
…and there are only literally a handful of people in the entire world that have even taken one single frame with this camera. Instead of rushing to judge this camera and exclaim why it’s not for you, instead why don’t we wait until we actually see one with our own eyes, hold one in our hands, and in person see a print from it and what it can do? I know, that sounds crazy but why don’t we actually use one before we decide anything?

I know that from the specs alone, and from what I’ve read, and a personal account from one of the few people that did shoot one —- I want one, and I’m pre-ordering mine from B&H Photo this morning (they’re taking pre-orders here: http://bhpho.to/zJsYDU — just saw that Adorama is taking pre-orders as well: ). But just this once, why don’t we actually see, hold, and experience the product for at least 60-seconds before we tell the world why it’s not for us. You never know, this type of “try it before you trash it” thing might actually catch on. ;-)

Tuesday
Feb
2012
07

Nikon Announces The D800 And Baby Does It Look Sweet!!!!

by Scott Kelby  |  55 Comments

36.3 megapixels (wow!) with a full frame sensor. Full HD video with stereo sound (yay) built in HDR (sweet) and it looks like its aimed at the commercial, wedding and landscape markets (photographers who shoot medium format digital backs. I mean who used to shoot digital backs). ;-)

I haven’t seen one, held one, etc., but it sounds amazing and I want one. Bad!!!! (And yes, sometimes you need 36.3 megapixels). Two words: Whoo Hoo!

Read the full scoop at Nikon USA: http://bit.ly/wVaU77

Monday
Feb
2012
06

Lightroom 4 and Leaving The Past Behind

by Scott Kelby  |  146 Comments

Yesterday I was in Cincinnati, Ohio teaching a mini-version of my “Light it, Shoot it, Retouch it” workshop at the ProPhoto Expo (a really excellent event by the way, put together with the help and vision of none other than David Ziser himself), and during one of the breaks between sessions a very nice woman came up and told me how upset she was that Lightroom 4 wouldn’t run on Windows XP, and that she feared when Photoshop CS6 ships it won’t support XP either.

Here’s basically what I told her: It’s 2012. Windows XP came out in October of 2001 (more than 10 years ago—see the press release from Microsoft’s site above). It’s time to freakin’ upgrade! Then she said “But XP doesn’t have any bugs!” That alone was a sad statement — not for her, but for Microsoft as a company, and that she is so afraid of the problems that upgrading to a newer version of Windows will bring her, that she is mentally stuck using an OS from 11 years ago (but that’s an entirely different subject for another day).

Do you know how long 11 years is in technology terms?
This it what 2001 technology looks like and this is what we were using back then (below):

I doubt she’s still shooting a Nikon Coolpix 995, or using an old Nokia cell phone (that one shown above was the bestselling cell phone of 2001), or that she has a white antique iPod the size of a toaster, but yet….she’s still running Windows XP.

Microsoft doesn’t even support XP any more
So why do we think Adobe would or even should? I know there are pockets of people out there who are upset that Lightroom 4 won’t run on XP (when I did my last post about Lightroom 4, I heard from a number of them), just like I’m sure it’s very hard to find replacement parts for that DVIX player that someone still is using out there, but at some point these folks are going to have to leave the past behind, and upgrade their computer and OS, or they are literally going to be left behind by technology like Lightroom 4.

I would imagine that the woman I talked to has gotten more than her money’s worth out of her investment in Windows XP and a computer still old enough to run it, but at some point it’s decision time, and if I were her I wouldn’t wait another day. For everybody else still clinging to 2001 technology —- it’s time to freakin’ upgrade (and it’s time to upgrade that Nintendo Game Boy Color while you’re at it, too!):-)

Friday
Feb
2012
03

I Shot My First NHL Ice Hockey Game Last Night….

by Scott Kelby  |  101 Comments

… and it sure looked it! :(

(Above: That’s the game winning goal in Overtime above. Not a pretty shot, but then, none of them really were).

I absolutely love shooting ice hockey!
I’m just no good at it yet. Not only was it my first time shooting ice hockey, it was my first time at an ice hockey game. It was (as expected) a rough night. How rough was it? Well, I actually registered the domain you see below last night after I uploaded my photos to the wire service I was shooting for.

But I Still Had to Submit Photos
I was able to upload 25 shots to Southcreek Global that were, well….let’s say they were in focus. I think the puck might have actually even appeared briefly in one or two of those shots, but that’s purely by coincidence.

Here’s a capture from my Lightroom grid below of the uploads. They’d look better bigger (photos usually do), but not good enough that I want to put 25 of them nice and big here (though I’ll probably post a gallery later today over at my Google+ page, at ScottGplus.com)

I learned a BUNCH!!!!
The only reason I was able to send in anything at all, was that I did do a decent amount of research first, starting with the magical unicorn of sports photography, Dave Black, who gave me some great pointers and tips (but after seeing these would probably disavow knowing me). I also learned a ton from Bob DeChiara (a sports shooter from the Boston area, whom I met during my seminar tour up there, who shoots for US Presswire). He was a huge help, and had lots of very specific tips that helped me limp through the night. Without those two guys, I would have been totally sunk.

(Above: this was my home for the night. I sat right there the whole time, praying a puck didn’t come flying through that little hole in the glass I was supposed to shoot through. The opening is just big enough for a 70-200mm lens).

I did have a support team
Unlike when you shoot football, the other photographers shooting the game were really nice, friendly, and helpful (though they did sit me down and fill me with horror stories of things to look out for safety wise, complete with stories of busted lips, broken noses, two 70-200mm lenses smashed to bits in just 8 months, having to get stitches, and they put enough fear in me that I wouldn’t even put my lens through the tiny hole in the glass until at least the 2nd period. I was a tad freaked out (and after shooting the game, I think it was with good reason).

Scott Audette, the Lightning’s Team Photographer (and a kick-butt photographer) and his crew were great. They knew it was my first game, and they were really helpful, fun guys, who kind of showed me the ropes and kept me from being maimed for at least my first game.

My Gear and Camera Settings
One lens. One body. A Nikon D3s with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens (that’s what they were all shooting). Here’s the thing: the lighting in the arena was fantastic!!! (I’m not sure that sentence has ever been written before in sports photography history). They had just installed tons of new lights since every game is now broadcast in HD and I was able to shoot as 400 ISO, which is insanely low. Although I mostly shot at ISO 640, I would occasionally look and see my shutter speed at like 1/2000 of a second. This my friends, was a gift. I shot at f/2.8 the whole time (as usual).

I will say this: being limited to 200mm on a full frame camera using the 70-200mm lens was tough. I could cover the goal in front of me, but the far goal was just about off limits with that short a lens (however, my 300mm f/2.8 wouldn’t fit through the opening in the glass—not a chance). Since the lighting is so good, I think I’d probably try adding a 1.4 tele-converter at the next game, or I’ll take a D300s, so I get the advantage of the crop factor, and my 200mm will become a 300mm.

Even a thousand mile journey, must begin with but one step [gong]
OK, I know I kinda sucked my first time out, but I know this—I’m a fast learner (if “learner” is even a word). I picked up so much from that one shoot, and I am confident that I’ll do 100% better next game, and the next and the next. You can read about this stuff until the cows come one, but nothing beats actually doing it to spike your learning curve in a very dramatic way. In fact, I’m so confident I’m going to do dramatically better, that I seriously registered another domain with GoDaddy.com last night:

The bottom-line
The bottom line is—I had a ball. I liked shooting hockey much more than I thought I would. The action is incredibly fast, and having to shoot through a tiny hole, with both eyes open to avoid getting clobbered when they hit the wall, and never moving from that one position all night, didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for it one bit. In fact, it just made me want to get to my next shoot faster, so I can get better at it quicker (cause there’s only one way to get good at something—practice it a bunch).

It was just like what everybody had told me—the single hardest sport to shoot. I was skeptical when I first heard that. Now I know they’re absolutely right on the money. Nevertheless, it was a great night of learning, frustration and fun, and I just can’t wait to do it all again!!!

Thursday
Feb
2012
02

It’s Free Stuff Thursday!

by Brad Moore  |  366 Comments

The Photographer’s Legal Guide
If you’re in business, you will make a mistake. Nobodyknows that better than Jack Reznicki and Edward Greenburg. Join them as they take you through the finer points of terms and conditions in invoices to help you avoid costly mistakes in your photography business.

We’re giving away a DVD set that teaches you everything you want to know about the legal side of photography.  The set includes two DVD titles:  The Photographer’s Legal Guide: Model Releases & Copyright Registration and The Photographer’s Guide to Avoiding Common Business Mistakes.  Just drop us a comment saying you’re interesting in this prize and we’ll draw next Wednesday for a winner.

Photo Pro Expo
Photo Pro Expo in Cincinnati kicks off today and goes through Sunday! It features speakers Scott Kelby, Jerry Ghionis, Lindsay Adler, Joel Grimes, and many more, plus a trade show and print competition! If you haven’t already registered, you can still sign up using promo code PPESK12 for just $149. All the details are over at PhotoProExpo.com.

Lindsay Adler on The Grid
Yesterday’s guest on The Grid was fashion photographer Lindsay Adler! Easily one of the best episodes yet, Lindsay answered tons of questions on how she’s built her career, including great advice on business and social media. It’ll be up later today, so keep an eye out over at KelbyTV.com (or subscribe in iTunes).

LensProToGo February Promo
This month only, LensProToGo is offering an extra 7 days to any 7-Day Rental! All you have to do is place an order for a 2-week rental and use the promo code 7DAYSFREE to get the second week free. You can find all the details over at LensProToGoBlog.com.

Last Week’s Winners
Grant Meeks was the winner of the ticket to Light It. Shoot It. Retouch It. Live seminar in Austin on Monday, Joe Voegtle is the winner of the ticket to Photo Pro Expo this weekend, and Koye Hendrix is the winner of the Photoshop Elements 10 Book for Digital Photographers. Congratulations to all of you!

Wednesday
Feb
2012
01

It’s Guest Blog Wednesday with Tony Corbell!

by Brad Moore  |  32 Comments

Between Light and Shadow

As photographers, we are an interesting bunch of people.  We tend to disagree on just about everything in terms of what makes a great picture.  We all have opinions on image content, composition, what we like and dislike in an image and the choices we each make in terms of equipment and post processing.  But we all agree when we see a great image.  Even if it is something we don’t usually do in our own work, we know a good picture when we see one.  And one of the main characteristics present in every great picture is great light.  And light is, well, everything.  An image without good light may be interesting and it may be a good record keeping documentation of someone or some thing or some event. But unless there is great light present it tends to fall a little short and not stay in our own personal image memory bank.  You all know the image memory bank I speak of.  We all have one.

I like movies.  I mean really like movies and see more than most people I know.  I study the work of great cinematographers and listen to their interviews and techniques of lighting they utilize.  While they all tend to agree with photographers on how light can most effectively be used, they almost all agree across the board that they place as much or more emphasis on shadows as they do on light.  As we discuss light heavily in this post let’s also try to keep in mind the importance of shadows and how they play an important role in the making of an image.

By its nature light has to exhibit sufficient illumination to record an image and it has to direct the viewer’s attention.  It has to provide depth and dimension.  What it can do is make the viewer feel a certain emotion, tension, warmth, and more.  Coupled with composition, camera technique and subject matter, light helps to tell the great story. Let’s take a close look at the foundations of light.

I generally tend to begin my workshops discussing the three specific things I call the “Elements of Light:” Light Quality, Light Quantity and Light Direction. Creating a systematic way to approach these elements is key to creating predictable results.  Clearly I am not talking about removing anyone’s creativity in the face of image making.  But I am talking about a quick sort of mental checklist of all the things you have available to use in making a great image.

Light Quality

Light quality can be summed up quite simply if you break it down to the lowest common denominator.  For example, to me light quality is usually about selecting the right lighting tool and the right lighting application for the job or task at hand.  In every picture I have ever seen or have ever taken there is always one of these following tools used along with one of the following applications.  Think of it as “one from column A and one from Column B.” I have found that it breaks down to a 4 X 4 thing.  There are four Tools of light and there are four Applications of light.

Lighting Tools

  • Sunlight
  • Speedlight
  • Studio Strobes
  • Ambience

All of the lighting tools available fit into one of these four categories.  Once we understand what these tools are we have to master their use.  Of course, as working photographers we need to know not only what each of these tools can do for us but also what they cannot do. For example, I would not suggest photographing a group of 300 people with a single speedlight.  But advancements in speedlight technologies have pushed their capabilities further than some realize and if you haven’t used them lately, give them another look.  At the same time, studio strobes coupled with sunlight can yield amazing results. And certainly my tool of choice in the studio for a headshot will tend to always be the studio strobe with the appropriate light-shaping device for the job.  I added ambience to the list as a catch-all of things such as the light reflecting off of a warm toned building, light bouncing off of a projector’s screen, mini-spots in the ceiling in a hotel bathroom, soft window light on a rainy day, or light from a computer screen, lighting the face of an office worker.  Each tool of light has a right to exist and it’s own specific need and has a proper time to be used.  Understand each and know not only when it is appropriate to use each one but just as importantly, when not to use each one.

Lighting Applications

  • Additive
  • Subtractive
  • Transmission
  • Reflective

These applications of light are plugged into my head and when I get onto a location for a shoot I know I have these four to select from.  As the location, client’s need and opportunity is revealed I then make the decision on which application to couple with which light tool from above.

Additive is the use of flash in an ambient situation.  In my world this is most effectively used when I need to change the brightness of the ambience, specifically the background, to add drama and to overcome the limitations of the dynamic contrast range of today’s digital camera.

Subtractive refers to the technique of removing light from a specific area of a picture to either create more drama or improve the light quality, such as on a face.  A good example would be to move a portrait client under a porch or doorway in order to redirect light falling on the face to less top light and more front light in an ambient situation.  Subtractive can also define or describe the use of a black panel to redirect light away from a face on an overcast day.

Transmission might describe any light that travels through an interruption of some type, such as a diffused material.  Transmission light is best used in high-contrast lighting conditions and while improving on the light quality on a face by making it appear much softer, will change the light quantity on the face and in the background.

Reflective light ideally is used when strong directional light needs to be redirected back to the subject or object of a picture.  A strong backlit subject will often need a reflector to bring the dynamic range of contrast under control to prevent the clipping of highlights from strong backlighting.

Light Quantity (the appropriate exposure)

To my way of thinking light quantity is the most elementary aspect of what we do in the world of photography and knowing how to effectively utilize exposure to help tell the story is of critical importance in our image making.  Its not the easiest thing to master but we have to be able to place an exposure correctly in an image to record reality or create a stylized look. And the more we can do this at the time of capture the better off our lives will be.

The Light Meter

As we made the transition from film to digital we were faced with an interesting situation.  For those who were working with color negative film the transition was much more difficult.  Working with the less forgiving range of exposure in digital capture created clipped highlights, blocked shadows and lots or problems for many.  However, for those who were working with transparency film the transition was much easier.  The tighter exposure controls were a given and easier to understand. They were also use to working with a light meter more effectively or more accurately, based on need.  I remember hearing a well-known photographer state that he was so glad digital came along so he didn’t have to use a light meter anymore.  I happen to disagree.  I feel we have never needed a light meter more.  The use of a light meter can save so much post-production time if the photographers of today would just settle into to using it as a discipline.  Think of a carpenter using his or her measuring tape for every thing they do throughout the day.  We should treat our important exposures no differently.  I know we can see the back of our camera, I know we have the histogram there to aid in getting it right and I know we have the flexibility with shooting RAW to bring exposure up and down depending on the need.  But the fact is that all of this takes time.  And of all the things I possess, additional time in my world is not one of them.  The closer I can get to getting the exposure correct, the closer I can come to getting out from in front of a computer and back behind the camera.  Understanding correct use of the light meter is paramount to the successful photographer.

The Histogram

Of course we all know the importance of the histogram and the role it plays in getting us on track in terms of our exposures.  The histogram on our camera, the histogram in our post processing software.  They both allow us to know where we are in terms of relative brightness levels throughout our image.  So allow me to simply say that since the early inception of digital capture I have thought of the histogram and more importantly the window in which it is displayed, as a rectangular tube or pipe.  Anything within the tube will print properly.  Anything outside of the tube will not.  This is how I tend to think of the histogram as I see information slammed against the right or left of the representative window of the histogram.  Whatever is inside, GOOD.  Whatever is outside, BAD.

Light Direction

Light travels in a straight line.  Yea, I know how basic that sounds but it might help to dispel the rumors and myths about light wrapping around a face.  Light doesn’t wrap and in fact doesn’t bend unless it goes through water.  But the direction from which light strikes the surface of a subject has a lot to do with creating impact in our work.  I know that early on most of our photographic careers we learned the old rule that says “the angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflectance.”  Basically light comes off of a surface at the same angle it hit the surface.  The efficiency of the surface to either absorb or repel light has a lot to do with how we perceive it.  A highly polished black 8-ball has a completely different way of returning light than the porous of an unpainted ceramic mask.  As the surface changes so do the angles we can “get away with” in terms of light direction.  In addition, we learn through trial and error that as a given light source travels further away from the camera, more towards the background, it becomes more efficient in terms of its brightness as seen from the camera. Therefore as the direction of light changes, even if the distance does not change, the exposure can be affected.

I have learned over the years that anytime I use an accent light, hair light, “skim” light the exposure of that light as measured with an incident light meter aimed at the source from the subject, should read at least 1-2 stops BELOW whatever I am shooting at based on the key light on the subject.  This will prevent clipping the highlights of the accent and light and provide a big difference in image quality.

Light direction is a big part of the controls over which we have command Understanding more about the things we can do with light direction can keep you testing a lot but can also result in great creative work.

The Wrap-Up

Light can be controlled, enhanced and even created during post-production.  All who know me know how much I live and die by the use of Nik Software.  When I discovered Color Efex Pro in 2004 it literally changed the way in which I work.  And of course today I work with Nik Software in their San Diego office and understand the tools better than ever.  Within these tools I can create light effects and paint them in certain areas, I can also utilize very specific control points to apply an effect to a specific subject or object and generally optimize my “look.”  But to best understand the appropriate use of the software I must start with the best quality image possible and that takes discipline.  I can apply an effect to any image.  But to enhance an already top image is far more rewarding than to try to save a bad picture in post-processing.

Spend time learning light.  Watch it, read about it, test it.  Oh, and don’t forget the shadows.  Anytime there is a great light, there will also be a great shadow waiting to be explored.

Tony Corbell is a 32-year Veteran Photographer and Sr. Manager of Industry Relations and PR at Nik Software, Inc. You can see more of his work at at CorbellProductions.com

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