Tuesday
Dec
2013
24

A Christmas Song For Christmas Eve

by Scott Kelby  |  23 Comments

Below is an audio clip of “The Christmas Song,” made by my wife on her iPhone using her iPhone’s built-in Recorder App (which is normally used for making voice memos), but how it came to be is what makes it special (and it’s why I asked my wife if I could run this on my blog. That’s her above earlier this year taken during the Photoshop World Concert Pre-Conference Workshop — photo by William Beem),).

Here’s the story behind it, which I copied and pasted  from an email my wife sent to one of her friends. Here it is in her own words:

Our daughter was 3-1/2 year old at the time and she used to constantly play with the voice recorder App on my iPhone. I was in my bathroom blow drying my hair (singing/humming that song) when she came in playing around with that recorder App on the phone. She likes it when I sing “The Christmas Song” so she asked me to sing it into the phone. So I did. The phone did a pretty decent job with the recording so I thought I would send it to Scott’s brother Jeff (because he’s always after me to sing him Christmas songs) and then as I was about to send it I thought: “Well, mom might like to have it, and so and so might like it” and then it became my Christmas card!

It took quite a bit of convincing to get my wife to let me run this on the blog a few years back, and again today (especially since she was just goofing with my daughter when she did it, plus it was recorded in just one take, into an iPhone no less, and not done in a professional recording studio), but I think the spirit of Christmas got the best of her, and she finally said yes.

I hope you enjoy listening to it, and that it brings a little Christmas Eve spirit your way. (click this link to hear the song).

Merry Christmas everybody! :-)

Monday
Dec
2013
23

Announcing My Brand New Book: “Photoshop For Lightroom Users”

by Scott Kelby  |  15 Comments

Hi Gang: I know it’s the end of the year, but at the very last minute I’m jumping in with a brand new book (should be available next week, just in time for your Amazon and Barnes & Noble gift cards ;-) called “Photoshop for Lightroom Users.” Here’s why I wrote it:

Lightroom is such an awesome program for organizing and editing photos, but after you’ve worked with it for a while, you’ll hit a wall — a point where you realize that there are things you need to do that Lightroom just won’t do. It could be anything from retouching portraits to blending two or more images together to stitching panoramas to creating realistic HDR images, to adding beautiful type to your images — there are lots of incredible things you could do…if you only knew Photoshop.

But while Lightroom is pretty easy to learn, Photoshop is…well…it’s Photoshop. It’s this huge amazing Swiss-Army knife of a program with 100+ tools, and two dozen floating panels, and a ton of filters and compared to Lightroom it seems really complicated, but that’s only because…it is. But what if you only needed to learn about 10 or 20% of what Photoshop can do. What if you only needed to learn a few important techniques for photographers? That’s what my new book is all about. Teaching just the stuff Lightroom can’t do — and it’s one of the shortest books I’ve written (at 192 pages), so it’s short, sweet, right to the point, and even shows you things you might think you need to jump over to Photoshop for (but you can actually do right in Lightroom — I show you how).

Anyway, you can pre-order the print version right here from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or the Kindle version which is available right now!

I really feel like this book will help a lot of folks add Photoshop to their workflow in a quick, easy and fun way (especially all those folks who got in on the $9.95 Photoshop CC/Lightroom bundle, which ends at the end of the year). Anyway, thanks for letting me tell you about it, and I hope you find it helpful.

Holiday Cheers,

-Scott

Friday
Dec
2013
20

Pocket Wizard Responds To My “Epic Remote” Fails With Helpful Tips

by Scott Kelby  |  41 Comments

On Tuesday I did a post about my latest “Epic Remote Camera” fail (my 2nd fail in a row at an NFL game). The camera shoots fine in tests minutes before the players take the field, but once I move into position a bit farther back and the players actually come out, the remote camera only triggers intermittently at best. Arrrrggghh!!!)

ABOVE: That’s my basic remote floor mount rig: four pieces: a metal floor plate (from fplate.net), then an Oben BB-0 Ball Head which attaches to that plate. Then a PocketWizard Plus X and a sync cord that connects the PocketWizard to the camera. The Camera is a Canon 1Dx and I generally use either a 16-35mm lens or an 8-15mm Fisheye zoom. 

Anyway, the folks at PocketWizard contacted me and had some ideas as to what might be causing the interference, and strategies to get more reliable results (and to keep me from pulling my hair out). I asked if it was OK to share key parts of their three-page letter to me with you here, and they were happy to let me share it in hopes it might some other shooters experiencing similar issues. It sounds a bit “markety” here and there, but it’s still solid info. Here’s a few highlights:

“Our first piece of advice; Use the right gear for the occasion, in this case use the Plus III or MultiMAX the next time. The PlusX is our “value priced” radio and is perfect for simple setups, but shooting remotes in a stadium requires a bit more than the PlusX has to offer. Both the Plus III and especially the MultiMAX have special features that help make sure the radio signal gets through in challenging environments.”

OK, that makes sense, and when I look back, I realize that I’ve done most of my remote triggering using the PowerWizard Plus IIIs or the older Plus IIs and haven’t had many problems, so I’m wondering if using the Plus X instead couldn’t be the main culprit right there. Next time, I’m going back to the Plus IIIs for sure. Test results soon on this swap out.

“Second, you’re putting your camera close to the ground; real close in fact. The ground is a sponge. A radio sponge. It absorbs radio waves like you wouldn’t believe. The higher you can get the radio the better but we realize that isn’t always possible which is why we’ve designed special features just for situations like this. Those features can be found on both the Plus III and MultiMAX, but not on the value priced PlusX.”

Ah Ha! More reason to use the Plus IIIs instead of the Plus X. And those features are…

“In both the Plus III and MultiMAX you have a couple of special features designed particularly for remote triggering.  The one that would have helped the most here is Long Range Mode.  What this does is double the communication to make sure the receiving radio can hear it.  Just like repeating yourself to someone who can’t quite hear you. It’s a bit more technical than that, but that’s the general idea.  Using this feature should effectively double the reliable distance your radios will work in.”

Definitely will turn that feature on. Don’t actually know how yet, but that’s why God invented Brad Moore. ;-)

They also just had some troubleshooting tips in general to help for more reliable remote triggering:

“Due to the invisible nature of radio waves, understanding exactly how they work is not for the faint of heart.  Any one of a million things can have an influence on them and getting them to do exactly as you want is both science and art.   

Here’s a short list of the key things you can do to increase your success with remote cameras so before you go out on your next remote triggering event, read these basic rules of engagement: Whenever possible,

  • Maintain a line of sight between radios.
  • Keep the antennas parallel and at least 12” apart.
  • Make sure the radios, especially the antennas, are not near any large metal, concrete, or high water-content objects.  
  • Make sure the radios are not blocked by large objects or hills. Crowds gathering between you and your remotes will reduce range. Try to keep the antennas above the heads of crowds.
  • PocketWizard radios will have reduced performance if deployed close to the ground. 
  • Try to get them up high – 4 feet or higher improves range dramatically. Consider using a cable to locate the receiver higher up.
  • Avoid mounting them to metal railings or other building structures.
  • Avoid “Dead spots”.  These can be caused by a number of things but the solution is usually the same: move the unit a few inches or feet away from the problem area.
  • Avoid mounting them near long cable runs for other equipment or close to wiring.
  • When a long burst is needed or especially when using a radio in the hot-shoe of your handheld camera, increase the contact time (MultiMAX only) on the remote receiving unit. If range is an issue or remote operation is intermittent, this will help. If any single trigger is received, a long burst is guaranteed.”

I really found this all helpful, although there are some things in that last list that I can’t change [like deploying remotes close to the ground, or for things like mounting in the ceiling of arenas or domed stadiums, not mounted to metal railings], but at least I know there are some things I can try when I run into interference. I do think just switching to the Plus IIIs might do the trick for my situation, as I’ve never run into these problems before, so I’m hopeful, and will hopefully get to test this fairly soon.

My thanks to Dave Schmidt and his team at PocketWizard for reaching out, and for letting me share this troubleshooting info. and I fully expect to have a better story next game (if I can get permission to set up a remote, which I’d better get on if I have a prayer of doing that).

Have a great Weekend everybody, and Happy Holidays. :)

-Scott

 

Thursday
Dec
2013
19

It’s Free Stuff Thursday!

by Brad Moore  |  31 Comments

A Beginners Guide To Photographing Christmas Morning with Pete Collins
Join Pete Collins for this special holiday class that is all about taking those Christmas photos on Christmas morning. If you just got a brand new DSLR camera and you want to learn how to make your photos better, sharper, faster, and not drive your family crazy while you do it, then this class is for you!

Leave a comment for your chance to win a free rental of this class!

Kelby Training Live
Want to spend a day with Scott KelbyMatt Kloskowski, or RC Concepcion? Check out these seminar tours!

Shoot Like A Pro with Scott Kelby
Feb 21 – Tampa, FL
Feb 24 – Atlanta, GA
Mar 12 – Phoenix, AZ
Mar 28 – Minneapolis, MN

Lightroom 5 Live with Matt Kloskowski
Jan 31 – Covington, KY (Cincinnati Area)
Feb 5 – Richmond, VA

Photoshop for Photographers with RC Concepcion
Feb 19 – Lansing, MI
Feb 26 – Oklahoma City, OK
Mar 4 – New York, NY
Mar 26 – Arlington, TX

You can check out the full schedule for seminars through March! And don’t forget, if you register for a seminar at least 14 days in advance, you can save $10 by using the code KTL10 at the checkout. And leave a comment for your chance to win a ticket to one of these events!

Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers on The Grid
If you missed the live airing of yesterday’s episode of The Grid and need some last-minute gift ideas that are under $100, you’ll want to watch it as soon as it’s posted! Scott and Matt shared some of their favorite photo tools, gadgets, and gizmos (I’m assuming, since I wasn’t there for the show today. More on that later…) that the photographer in your life will love and won’t break your wallet! You can check it out later today on KelbyTV.com and YouTube, so keep an eye out for it!

Advice From 88 Cinematographers
Our buddy and Kelby Training instructor Mike Kubeisy just sent me this link to check out, and I found some great advice here! Over at TheBlackAndBlue.com, they asked 88 people from the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC), “What’s the best professional advice you’ve ever received?” The responses are great because they’re not just applicable to cinematographers, but also photographers and anyone who is ever on set for a shoot of any kind! Check it out, and you’re sure to find some words of wisdom that you’ll take to heart.

93.3 FLZ Jingle Ball Concert
A couple paragraphs ago I (Brad) mentioned I wasn’t around for The Grid yesterday, and that’s because I was photographing the 93.3 FLZ Jingle Ball concert in Tampa for Clear Channel. The show featured a bunch of pop stars like Flo Rida, Enrique Iglesias, Robin Thicke, Miley Cyrus, and lots of others. If you’re into any of those people or just concert photography in general, you can check out the photo galleries right here. Of course, you also know that at least one of those people I mentioned is a bit on the risqué side, so some of the images on there are too. There were other photographers shooting as well, so you can see who shot what in the credit line below each image.

Just a little behind the scenes info… Because there are so many acts on the bill that play in very quick succession throughout the day (the stage rotates, so on one side that the crowd sees is the current performer, and on the back side they’re setting up for the next performer), the photographers shooting for the radio station had card runners taking cards to photo editors who were working on the images and posting to the site throughout the concert. So, the reason I say all of that is because I wanted to say that I had a blast shooting and think/hope I got some cool shots, but I haven’t actually seen all of them yet! I went through some of the galleries and was happy with what I saw, but haven’t seen all of them just yet ;-) Hope you enjoy!

Last Week’s Winners
KelbyTraining.com Rental
- Karen Kurta

Kelby Training Live Ticket
- Evan Gearing

If you’re one of the lucky winners, we’ll be in touch soon. Because of the holidays, I’m not sure what the plan is for the blog next week, so we may or may not see you here again next Thursday. Either way, have a great Thursday today!

Wednesday
Dec
2013
18

It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Corey Barker!

by Brad Moore  |  13 Comments

Griswold Ain’t Got Nothing On This!
Hello everyone and Merry Christmas! Corey Barker here and I just wanted to pop in and share a few things as we wrap up the year and get ready for what hope to be a very exciting 2014. One thing I wanted to share, or re-share is a video time-lapse I had done last year on taking a normal photo of a house and decorating it with Christmas lights all in Photoshop. It was a lot of fun and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Well here it is and is set to some rather appropriate Christmas music. If you haven’t seen it yet go ahead and check it out and if you are a NAPP member then you can see the tutorial in real time over at the NAPP member website.

The Bear & The Hare Christmas Spot
Many of you may know of my friend Aaron Blaise, who is a former Disney animator and perhaps one of the best illustrators I know. He also has taught at the last two Photoshop World’s and has wowed crowds with his skill in creating realistic character art all in Photoshop using a Wacom Cintiq.

Just this past year Aaron went back to his roots to do some 2D hand drawn animation on a Holiday commercial for a London based company. Aaron had told me about the project months ago but couldn’t reveal too many details. When I finally saw the finished piece I was nearly brought to tears. It’s a beautiful piece and has a lot of heart. It shows how 2D animation can still capture our hearts the way the old Disney classics used to.

Aaron did all the animation of the actual bear and hare characters and other animators did the rest. What is interesting is how they did it. It combines practical model effects with 2D characters and animated as stop motion. When you are done watching the video go and watch the behind the scenes of how they did it. That is as impressive as the piece itself.

In the end the spot is nothing short of amazing and big tip of the hat to Aaron and the rest of the production for making a piece of art and not just an advertisement.

A New Down & Dirty Book is On the Way

Just this past week I finished up Volume 2 of the Down & Dirty Tricks for Designers book. The first book was a big hit with designers and was filled with eye-catching images. I believe this next one is as every sequel should be, better than the first. I have completely new material throughout the book with an expanded 3D chapter that takes Photoshop 3D to the extreme. In addition to more 3D I have my Hollywood Effects chapter with a complete movie poster project from start to finish. I also have a short chapter where I use images provided me by notable photographers like Moose Peterson and Glyn Dewis.

As I mentioned the book is in post-production and hopes to be shipping sometime in late January/early Feb 2014. Be sure to look for that soon and also check out coreysbarker.com for more info as well. Here are a few examples of what you can expect to see in the book.

This was created with images shot by Glyn Dewis and is a play on the movie Looper starring Bruce Willis.

This is the poster project I referred to earlier. This tutorial is fully step-by-step starting with the raw image right out of the camera.

The 3D chapter boasts some of the most eye-catching and complex 3D you probably ever seen in Photoshop. You will see how this very logo was created entirely in Photoshop with no third party applications used at all.

What about product design? No problem, learn how to create and combine simple shapes into an elegant product shot that you can view and render from practically any angle.

As I said, these are merely a small taste of all the fun that is to be had in this newest Volume of Down & Dirty Tricks for Designers. What always drove me to write such a book like this was because these books, and the first volume, were the books I would have been looking for if I were a design student or aspiring artist. Often just seeing what is possible is enough to fuel your creativity and drive you to create something that sends that thrilling chill down your spine. I only hope this book can do that for you. Stay tuned…more to come!

You can see more of Corey’s work at CoreySBarker.com, and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube.

Tuesday
Dec
2013
17

Another Epic Remote Camera Fail….

by Scott Kelby  |  98 Comments

Above: Me and Mike Carlson, lying down on the job getting our focus set. I use auto focus to focus on the spot where I think the players will come through the smoke (Chip Litherland and Casey Brooke Lawson were our stunt models for focusing position), then once the focus is locked in, I switch Auto Focus off (Photo by Casey Brooke Lawson)

OK, the remote shoot wasn’t exactly “Epic” but to be fair, my buddy Mike Carlson (who shoots for the Bucs) warned me in advance that because of a series of factors, it’s very hard to get an epic shot of the player intros at Raymond James Stadium.

One being that the pyro comes out on these big rubber wheels, and they are incredibly distracting (he was right, and it was worse than I thought); plus you have a huge Publix sign in the background (awesome grocery store, but….), and it was a gray overcast day (I could go on….), but what really killed it is that once again, my remote camera didn’t fire consistently (to say the least). Arrrrrrrggggghhhhhh!

Above: Here’s my lonely little rig. f/plate, a Manfrotto ball head, a Canon EOS 1Ds body with a 16-35mm f/2.8 lens, and the evil PocketWizard Plus X remote (more on the evil part soon).

Above: There were three of us firing remotes. The guy on the far left isn’t really a scary stranger — he shoots for the Bucs too, (nice guy in fact) I’ve just never been introduced, so we’ll just call him “Scary Stranger” (Danger!). Then Mike’s rig behind mine, and then mine pretty up close on the far right. It’s the triple threat! (not really).

Above: When we were both lying there getting our focus set, I look over and Carlson is taking a picture of me, so I rolled over and flashed this devistatingly sexy pose. Sorry you had to see this. (Photo by Mike Carlson — his best photo of the day). 

Above: I stand behind my remote camera and do a number of test shots — everything’s working perfectly. Of course, we have to move way away from the pyro, so I back-up about 40 feet away so I can shoot a different angle of the player intros with my 70-200mm. Here’s the Defense taking the field as a unit — the individual Offense intros are next. This was actually shot with the remote camera. Not terrible. Not great. But the individuals is where it gets good!

Above: Here’s a shot from my shooting position on field, taken hand-held with my 70-200mm f/2.8 at 70mm. The guy in the red kneeling on the right side — that’s “Scary Stranger.” He probably thinks his remote is firing, too. 

Above: Here’s what the shots look when I zoom into 200% from the same position. In this case, I kinda like the other shot (zoomed out to 70mm) better, but this is kinda cool. But I’m not worried, that remote has me covered (snicker, snicker).

Above: Here’s Vincent Jackson leaping through the smoke and up in the air. Doesn’t look like much from the remote camera and the wheels look really huge!

Above: The same moment from my hand-held 70-200mm 40-feet away. Not great, but certainly better. 

Above: Well, at least the remote fired, right? Right? Right? (Man, those wheels ARE distracting). 

OK, here’s the problem with the remote
It did fire. Occasionally. Just like in Denver. You see the three shots in a series above? Well, I fired the remote 17 times and it only took those three photos. For the player intros, I fired around 196 shots total, but the remote only fired 28 times total. That’s around 166 times it DIDN’T fire. There are a number of players where it never fired, so I missed them altogether. It would fire maybe one or two frames, or not at all.

It wasn’t just me
Right before kickoff, I went over to Mike and told him my remote didn’t fire most of the time. He said he had the exact same problem (and this wasn’t the first time this has happened). We were both using PocketWizards (we checked — all three of us were on different wireless channels), but I was using the PocketWizard Plus X, and Mike was using the PocketWizard Plus IIIs and yet we’re both having firing issues.

Mike may have figured part of this out
I stood there and tested the remote (just like in Denver) and when I was close to it, it worked perfectly — fired every time, but when I walked to the shooting location 40 or so feet away on the field (like in Denver), it didn’t fire every time. Mike said the same exact thing — when he’s close to the camera — it works every time. When he walks away it stops firing consistently.

Don’t PocketWizards have like a 400 ft range? 
Nope. According to their Website, the Plus X’s range is actually 1,600 feet (500 meters). So, why aren’t they firing when you’re just 40 or 50 feet away? That’s exactly what I’d like to know. Could it be some sort of interference? Could be, but I have no idea from what. The three of us are firing the only remote cameras. There’s something seriously wrong here, and I’m not the only one having the problem, so if you’ve run into something like this and you’ve found a solution, please let me (and Mike) know ’cause this is really starting to get old. I don’t want to blame PocketWizard because they are the gold standard when it comes to stuff like this, but I’m stuck and very hesitant to rig any more remotes until I get this figured out, so any help, ideas, or advice would be really appreciated big time.

Above: Parting shot: So where does all the smoke go after the player intros? At Raymond James Stadium it gets sucked down the tunnel and back into the media and locker room area. I took this quick shot so you could see what it looks like as I headed back in to the photo work room to tear down my “it works sometimes” remote rig.

Ah well…maybe next season, as this was the Buc’s last home game of the season (and after all this time of shooting the Bucs, this was my first time setting up a remote camera at a Bucs game. Sigh). Thanks and a shootout to Mike Carlson for his help and advice — I hope to repay his kindness by solving this “we only fire sometimes” mystery. To be continued…

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