Holiday Gift Idea: Bill Fortney’s “America From 500 Feet, II” Photo Book

by Scott Kelby  |  2 Comments


Last week I saw my first copy of Bill Fortney’s amazing new book, “America From 500 Feet, II” which is a stunning photography book of images of the American landscape, taken from an Ultralight airplane (as seen above), over a period of one year, by two incredible landscape photographers: Bill Fortney and Mark Kettenhofen,” and I was blown away. We all were.

His original book, “America From 500 Feet” still holds the record as the best-selling aviation photography book in history, and this new project, if possible, is even better. The images are so dramatic, so beautiful, and so compelling, that it makes you see the American landscape in a whole new way. They include some great stories from their year on the road, and the entire hardcover book is beautifully laid out, presented, and printed. It would make a perfect holiday gift! You can find it at or Barnes & for around $32.

My congratulations to Bill and Mark for creating something really special.


Friday “Photoshop Insider” News Nuggets

by Scott Kelby  |  0 Comments


Hi gang—just a few quick things to take us into the weekend:

  • I came across some cool, quick-little “case study” videos from professional retoucher Jean-Michel Massey, which show the evolution of a commercial retouch, and I thought the videos were fascinating (Jean-Michel has some mad skills). Here’s the link to check them out.
  • My buddy RC “Rico” Concepcion (Ed Note from RC: “This was actually done by one of our regular readers, Firgs. Big thanks!) did something fairly horrible to Matt, Dave, Corey, himself and I (a still from it is seen above) that is just really, well…you’ve got to see it for yourself. It’s called “Elf Yourself” and if you’ve got two seconds, and don’t mind seeing grown men looking fairly ridiculous, check it out right here (totally for laughs).
  • Photographer Janine Smith (who was at my LA Lightroom seminar yesterday), turned me onto the fact that now lets you add products from other sites to your wishlist (for example, you could add things from B&H Photo to your wish lists, even though you’re on Amazon).
  • I just learned that will now make prints up to full 24″x36″ poster size (previously, their largest size was 20″x30″). I’m using Mpix to output some prints I’m doing as holiday gifts, because I can just upload them from my computer, and they’ll ship the final print, packaged flat, right to the person on my gift list. Sweet!
  • Just in case you missed it; Adobe announced a pretty substantial update to Camera Raw (called Camera Raw 5.2), which includes adding the Targeted Adjustment Tool (TAT) to Camera Raw, Snapshots, Camera Profiles, and Output Sharpening, along with support for some new cameras. You can download the free update from (Mac) or (Windows).

That’s it for today. I’ve got some pretty cool news for Monday, so I hope I’ll see you back here then. Have a wonderful weekend everybody!


Update From My Los Angeles Lightroom Tour

by Scott Kelby  |  0 Comments



Wow—what a great day yesterday in LA! The crowd was absolutely awesome, and we just had such a blast!!! (photos above by Matt Kloskowski)

Tom Hogarty, Adobe’s Lightroom Product Manager, flew in for the day to help field questions from the nearly 700 photographers on hand, along with my buddy Matt Kloskowski, and between the three of us, we were swamped all day.

Also on hand was our recent guest blogger, concert photographer Alan Hess, who posted some very cool shots from the day (including a slick pano of the meeting hall) over at his blog (here’s the link).

Matt is picking up the tour next year with his first tour stop being Covington, Kentucky on January 23rd. If you want to sign up, here’s the link for all the details.

Thanks to everyone in LA for being so much fun. I really got to meet some great people yesterday, and everybody made me feel right at home. Can’t wait to see you all again!


Scott’s Quick Nikon D3x Pricing Q&A

by Scott Kelby  |  1 Comments


I’m teaching my Lightroom Live Tour in Los Angeles today, so I’m just going to do a quick Q&A to address some things that happened earlier this week regarding my post on the introduction and pricing of the Nikon D3x. Here we go:

Q. First, did Douglas Sonders Guest Blog yesterday kick major butt or what?
A. Absolutely! I was so tickled to see the level and depth of what he showed. A lot of people promise to show you “the whole thing” but then fall short, but I thought Douglas really delivered, and if you look at the comments from yesterday, he just got an awful lot of new fans. Well done, Douglas! I’d love to have him back again for sure!

Q. You’ve taken a lot of heat because you mentioned on Monday that Nikon introduced a new camera. So, are you getting a D3x?
A. Nope.

Q. You’re not getting a new D3x? Why not?
A. That particular camera is not for me. I know there are photographers who need 23-megapixels for their type of work, but I don’t need it for what I shoot (heck I could probably get away with just 8 or 10 megapixels), so a D3x just doesn’t make sense for me.

Q. But then you’ll have to live with the pain of knowing that you’re not shooting with Nikon’s highest top-end camera!
A. It’s a pain I’ll just have to live with, but somehow, I’ll get by.

Q. Won’t Nikon send you a free D3x?
A. Nikon has never sent me a free camera. In fact, Nikon doesn’t even send me review units to test for a week or so, so I seriously doubt they’ll be suddenly sending me their top of the line camera free.

Q. Yeah, but what if they did?
A. I’d try it out for a few days, but then I’d go back to my D3. I just don’t want to work with images that big. 23-megapixels files are going to fill my memory cards twice as fast, and my hard drives twice as fast, and make Photoshop twice as slow, so I’m perfectly happy with my D3 and D300.

Q. So, do you think the price of the D3X is too high?
A. Personally, I think it should have been priced around $6,500, but that’s just my opinion (by the way, if it was $6,500 I still wouldn’t buy it, because again—I don’t need it for what I shoot). That being said, it’s not fair for me to tell Nikon what their pricing should be, anymore than I’d like Nikon to try and tell me what price I should sell my books for. Right now, $8,000 is their starting price. A year or so from now, it may be less, or they may do something wonderful like they did with the introduction of the D700, or like Canon did with the 5D Mark II (how soon we forget).

Q. Yeah, but I just checked Canon’s Web site, and they’re still selling their 21-megapixel EOS-1Ds Mark III for $8,000. Shouldn’t they lower their price?
A. I guess if they weren’t selling—they would.

Q. Canon’s new EOS 5D-Mark II is a 21-megapixel camera, too, and it also takes high-def video, yet it’s only $2,700. Shouldn’t Canon discontinue their much more expensive $8,000 1Ds Mark III?
A. I don’t think so. Why should Canon not offer a product that some high-end users want, and are willing to pay for?

Q. So Canon’s top-end 20+ megapixel DSLR and Nikon’s 20+ megapixel DSLR are both around $8,000?
A. Yup.

Q. So why are the Nikon users so mad? Both companies high-end cameras cost around the same amount.
A. Nikon users wanted the D3x to cost a lot less.

Q. So can’t they just not buy a D3x?
A. I’ve been told countless times over the past few days that saying “…then don’t buy it” is not a reasonable answer. The only answer they will accept is for Nikon to issue a public apology, and lower the D3x price dramatically—thousands lower than the price of Canon’s own high-end camera.

Q. Do you think that’s likely to happen?
A. Nope.

Q. I noticed that you closed the comments on your and Moose’s Tuesday blog post about the mean comments on the D3x from Monday. How come?
A. Because it started getting really ugly. People were starting to say mean things to each other—picking fights—calling names, etc. and this blog isn’t about that, so on the advice of friends I closed it to further comments.

Q. How many times have you had to do this in the past?
A. This is the first time I’ve had to do this since I started the blog back in 2005.

Q. All this over a Nikon product announcement?
A. Yup.

Q. But I just went and looked and I didn’t see any really mean comments.
A. That’s because I deleted most of them.

Q. You know you’re going to get some more nasty comments from this post, right?
A. Of course.

Q. They know you don’t work for Nikon; you’re not sponsored by Nikon, you have no family members at Nikon, and that they don’t even send you units to review, right?
A. If they didn’t, they do now.

Q. So why are they still going to trash you?
A. They’re mad at Nikon’s pricing, and I made the mistake on Monday of announcing that Nikon introduced a new camera.

Q. But you don’t determine Nikon’s pricing.
A. Apparently, they think I do. Or that I agree with it. Or that I’m trying to hide it, create a cover-up, or there’s some larger conspiracy.

Q. Aren’t there more important things to worry about in the world than Nikon’s pricing on a camera most of us don’t need in the first place?
A. I would love to think so.

Q. How likely are you to mention the introduction of a high-priced DSLR from any manufacturer in the future?
A. Very unlikely. But if I do, I will state up front that the price is outrageously too high and that I hate the company that makes the product (whichever company that may be).


It’s “Guest Blog Wednesday” featuring Douglas Sonders

by Scott Kelby  |  11 Comments


In today’s blog, I will be discussing two of my favorite shoots from the past year from start to finish. They showcase my love for fun and unique subjects, working on-location, and using Photoshop to bring elements of a photoshoot together to create a strong final image.

In the Spring of 2008, the Howard County (Maryland) Police Department hired me to shoot a variety of promotional and recruiting material. I photographed patrol vehicles, K9 units, bicycle officers, community relations, etc. Although, the SWAT team portion of the job was by far my favorite. Maybe I just watched too many action movies with my big brother growing up.

We started the day in an abandoned high school near Baltimore, Maryland. They were running training exercises pretending to rescue hostage victims from terrorists. I took a lot of natural light shots with my Canon 1Ds Mk2 body and my trusty Canon 16-35 2.8L lens. Due to the low light scenarios, I shot at 1000iso at f/2.8 and very slow shutter speeds (around 1/10 of a second). I had to use something I learned from living on tour buses and shooting thousands of photos of bands in low-light back rooms and concert venues, control your breathing and use any object (wall, pillar, an assistant’s back) as a makeshift tripod when you can’t bring one with you.



Next, we moved outside to do a set-up portrait of SWAT team members in action with their armored assault vehicle and their new Bell 407 pursuit helicopter. Boy were the neighbors concerned to see a police helicopter hovering 20 feet off the ground next to the old high school and 7 SWAT guys with large guns pointed at a guy with a camera.

The biggest issue we faced with this photo was the wind produced by a low-flying helicopter; thus, using my favorite Photoflex Extra Large LiteDomes were out of the question. In fact it was so windy, I had to have 4 police officers volunteer to hold my lights with only 7′ reflectors attached to make sure they didn’t blow away. Trust me when I tell you that I was eating bits of gravel for a week after that shoot.


As you will see in the video, I used 3 White Lightning X1600 strobes (660/165 true Ws, 1600/400 effective Ws) set to 3/4 power with 7′ silver reflectors attached as fill to the left and right of the SWAT team, and a White Lighting X3200 strobe (1320/330 true Ws, 3200/800 effective Ws) with a 7′ silver reflector set to 3/4 power to be used as the main light. I set it a little higher than my subjects and pointed it down to give them a dramatic overhead light. I wanted to shoot with enough light power that I could shoot at 1/160 at f/18 at 100iso, thus, turning a bright sunny day into a moody dusk shot.I used a police radio to have the helicopter position itself in the frame. The shoot itself took only 15 minutes. Any longer and I believe we would have died from rocks to the head from the low-flying Bell 407.As for on-site power, I used 2 Innovatronix Tronix Explorer battery packs (a great value for the dollar) and my SUV, which I converted into a 2000 watt sine wave power inverter, but that’s an entirely different blog for another day.


I couldn’t contain my anticipation to sit down the computer and begin editing. Here are the initial steps I made when I did my post-production:
Continue reading


Tomorrow’s Special Guest Blogger is…

by Scott Kelby  |  1 Comments

… a photographer whose work I pointed out back on November 7th; Douglas Sonders.

After I talked about his photography style here on the blog, he sent me a very nice email, and offered to show a step-by-step tutorial about how he lights, and then post-processes his images. I loved the idea, and asked him to be a guest blogger, and tomorrow he’s doing just that. I’m really looking forward to seeing him break it all down for us.

In the meantime, if you missed the Nov. 7th post, check out his work by clicking here, then check back tomorrow to check out his Guest Blog post. Can’t wait! :)

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