Tuesday
Dec
2007
18

Scott’s School of Hard Knocks

by Scott Kelby  |  1 Comments

rellocks2.jpgThe day before my seminar in Honolulu a couple weeks back, I got to spend some time shooting with just a great guy and photographer; Steve Dantzig (who wrote the book, Softbox Lighting Techniques for the Professional Photographer).

Steve and I wound up as guests on the same radio show a few months back, and as our interviews crossed paths, the host introduced us to each other, and as luck would have it, I had just bought his book (which is great by the way). Anyway, Steve lives in Honoulu (lucky dog); one thing led to another, and before you knew it, Steve had invited me to go shooting with him, at a beautiful cove about 30 minutes away (he even picked me up from the airport). Long story short; we got rained out, so we wound up shooting in his studio instead, and he quickly arranged to have a local up-and-coming model (and her entourage) meet us at the studio.

Anyway, once we got the lighting set up, Steve invited me to shoot as well. I was shooting my new Nikon D300. I was swapping cards during the shoot (using one for shooting, while the other was downloading into Lightroom; I couldn’t shoot tethered because I couldn’t get Nikon Camera Control Pro 2 to work with Mac OS X Leopard, but thankfully, it now does —no problem). So, here’s the “School of Hard Knocks” lesson. When the D300 ships, by default when you take a shot, it shows up on the camera’s LCD monitor (here’s the stinger:) even if you DON’T have a memory card in the camera.

So, as you might expect, I did an entire series of shots which vanished into thin air, because I forgot to put a card in the camera (On my D200 and D2Xs, I had turned that “go ahead and shoot without a memory card” feature OFF long ago, so I couldn’t accidentally take shots without there being a card in the camera. To do this on your D300, go to the Custom Settings menu, under Controls, and change control f9 [No memory card] to Release Locked [as shown above]. This locks your shutter release if no memory card is in the camera).

Luckily, this wasn’t a paid client gig, but had it been, this could have been a really serious situation. I have no idea why Nikon choose to set up the D300 so by defaul it shoots without a memory card, but it does, so all you new D300 owners be forewarned, and learn from another one of Scott’s famous “School of Hard Knocks” lessons from the field learned the hard way.

NOTE: Don’t forget to scroll down to the next post for some tasty Tuesday News Nuggets.

Tuesday
Dec
2007
18

Tuesday News Nuggets

by Scott Kelby  |  2 Comments

Happy Tuesday everybody! Here’s what’s goin’ on:

cep3_mainhead.jpgIf you’re thinking of buying any Nik Software stuff this Holiday Season, here’s a way to save some money. Moose Peterson (over at Moose’s News Blog), got Nik to give his readers a 10% discount of any Nik software purchases (like Dfine 2.0, Nik Color Efex 3.0, Nik Sharper Pro 2.0), by enter a special “Moose and friends” discount code (which Moose reveals on his blog). Anyway, here’s the link to Moose’s blog, with a link, and the discount code. Thanks to Moose for letting my readers get in on your deal. You’re not a bad egg. ;-)

  • You all have heard me talk (rave, exclaim, carry on, etc.) about Really Right Stuff’s L-brackets (which let you switch from shooting portrait to landscape in just seconds. Well, they finally put together a video demo to show how it works. Here’s the link.
  • This has nothing to do with Photoshop or photography, just an observation—but I was in the Apple Store last week, and it was (as always) just absolutely packed with shoppers. But what really struck me was how many employees were there assisting people. It seemed like there was one employee for every two people (and there were like 70 or 80 people in the store at the time). I’m not complaining; it’s a good thing, but it’s just kind of wild to see that many employees in a store that size. Keep an eye out next time you’re in the Apple store. It’s like the deck of a Starship.
  • Last week I mentioned that Sean Duggan is doing a black and white workshop at the Lepp Institute, but I forget to mention that NAPP members get a discount on any classes they take from the Lepp Institute. Not bad, eh?
  • I found this recent review of my Photoshop Seven-Point-System book, complete with Pros and Cons about the book. Here’s the link.
  • If you’re into Food Photography, I found a pretty cool flickr group dedicated to just that. You’ll find it right here.

That’s it for today. I’m in the studio shooting and working on stuff today. I’ve got some Big News for tomorrow, so I hope you’ll check back in then.

Monday
Dec
2007
17

The Best Photography Book of the Year is Almost Here: Joe McNally’s “The Moment It Clicks.”

by Scott Kelby  |  4 Comments

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The single most amazing photography book I’ve ever read is just a few weeks away from being published. It’s Joe McNally’s, The Moment it Clicks: Photographer Secrets from one of the world’s best shooters (Published by New Riders), and I can tell you, without a doubt, I’ve learned more about the art and craft of photography, from this one book, than any book I’ve read to date. Period! It’s just that good.

NOTE: Nikon has posted a special page where you can watch a short video clip on how Joe created some of the amazing images from the book, and Joe shares some amazing insights into what the book is all about—it’s incredibly inspiratinoal, and you’ve gotta check it out. Click here to watch it online.

Joe McNally, whose celebrated work has graced the pages of Sports Illustrated, Time, and National Geographic (to name a few), is amazing yet different because it actually blends the rich, stunning images and elegant layout of a coffee-table book with the invaluable training, no-nonsense insights, and photography secrets usually found only in those rare, best-of-breed educational and how-to books.

Now, I will tell you; It’s not really a book for beginners. It’s really aimed at serious photographers who want to learn what it takes to move to an entirely new level of thinking, of shooting, and making images that really captivate the viewer. It’s not really a how-to book (though it has a strong how-to element), and it’s not about camera settings (although he shares them for most images in the book), instead it’s a book about being a better photographer; about what it takes to “get the shot” (and how to get it), and how to start thinking differently about your work.

Here’s how the book came about, what makes it different, and why it’s going to be the book of the year for 2008; The Moment It Clicks was born during a digital photography workshop up in Vermont. We were up there shooting fall color, and it was the opening night of the workshop (I was there as a guest instructor, along with my best buddy Dave Moser), and after the other instructors had given their presentations (including legendary wildlife photographer Moose Peterson, and Landscape photography hot shot Laurie Excell), McNally takes the stage to finish off the night with his presentation.

So Dave and I are sitting in the back, and McNally kicks into high gear. Joe is one of the most captivating public speakers you’ll ever meet, and the whole class is ooohing and ahhhhing each time a new image comes up, and he’s got us laughing out loud one moment, and in tears the next. But Joe’s not just showing off his work—he’s a brilliant teacher and he’s tossing out these incredible little nuggets—the tricks of the trade—the real “meat and potatoes” stuff and we’re all hanging on every word (and scribbling notes as fast as we can write).

Every time Joe starts a sentence with, “An Editor at Time once told me…” or “My Editor at National Geographic one said…” we all grab our pens because we know another nugget is coming our way. At one point, Joe is talking about lighting people on location, and he gets to that point where he says, “An editor once told me…(I won’t spoil it for you here), and then he shared something so simple—it was just one sentence—but my buddy Dave and I both looked at each other, and got these huge grins, because at that moment—it clicked. At that moment, a concept I’d read entire books on, just suddenly and almost magically all made so much sense. It all came together, at once. It was “the moment it clicked.”

When the class was over, Dave and I were just blown away—it was all we could talk about. At one point, I looked at Dave said “Ya know, if all I took away from this workshop were Joe’s amazing one-liner nuggets—it would be absolutely worth the $795 I paid for this workshop, because I learned more about photography in that one hour than I had in the past three years.” Dave couldn’t have agreed more.

The next morning Dave and I were both still reeling from what we had learned, and I said to Dave, “I would pay anything for a book of just Joe’s little nuggets—just those one liners,” and that’s when it hit me¬; I’ve got to talk Joe into doing that book. Dave was all over it, and we started brainstorming on exactly what that book would look like.

What I really wanted to do was take what Joe does live, and transfer it to paper, because it all works so brilliantly together. For example, in Joe’s class, he throws out a nugget, and then bam—a photo appears on screen that so perfectly illustrates what he’s talking about that it bowls you over. Then he illustrates how he got the shot (and teaches the class how to get a shot like this of their own). It’s a clever three-pronged approach, and I don’t know if he does it that way consciously or not, but it really packs a punch. I wanted that same effect in book—a three-pronged approach, a triangle of learning, that would be unlike any other photography or teaching book out there.

After our dusk shoot that night, I sat down with Joe and convinced him that this was the book he had to write. I told him how his quote and images had totally connected with Dave and I, and how he needed to share his gift for teaching, and his amazing images, with more than just the incredibly fortunate 20 people at this workshop. He needed to take it to the next level, and basically here’s what I said: “Picture a two-page spread, and on the left page is one of your quotes. One of those “An Editor once told me…” stories that breaks it down the bare bones. Then, on the facing page is the image you use in class to bring that story home—to ‘seal the deal’ in their minds, and then we’ll tell “the back story.” The story of how it all came about; what happened at the shoot, and how the reader can get the same type of shot—just like you do in class.”

By the time I was done with my pitch, we had a deal, and “The Moment it Clicks” is what was born that day during that rainy and wonderful Vermont workshop.

So, that’s a little history on how the book came to be, and hopefully this gives you a little glimpse into an amazing book. One that teaches you concepts you never thought you’d grasp, that challenges you to try things you never thought you would; one that takes you places you’ve always wanted to shoot, and uncovers a side of professional photography that is as funny as it is fascinating. Click here to preorder it on Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.com. You will absolutely love it.


Friday
Dec
2007
14

Friday News Wrap-up

by Scott Kelby  |  0 Comments

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Howdy folks; here’s what goin’ on:

  • I’m honored to announce that Amazon.com has launched a “Scott Kelby Boutique” page, (which is basically a one-stop-shop for finding my books–see above), but it also has something you might find helpful; I did a a series of short video clips to explain, in my own words, what each of my latest books is all about (the Vol. 2 book isn’t there yet, because it’s still on press). You can check it out right here.
  • Photoshop User magazine columnist (and well known author and trainer), Sean Duggan will be teaching a”Digital Black and White” hands on workshop out at the Lepp Institute for Digital Imaging out in Los Osos, California on Feb 18 – 22nd, 2008. For the full scoop on his course (or to register—seating is VERY limited), click this link.
  • Congratulations to Jefferson Graham and Ed Baig over at USA Today’s popular Talking Tech video podcast, as they just posted their 100th episode. The show is absolutely top notch, and if you haven’t caught it yet, it’s very slick (and the hosts are great). Check it out here.
  • Here’s some more people posting their own reviews and before/after images from my “Photoshop Seven-Point System” book:
    • Andie Smith Designs (link)
    • Forensic Photoshop (link)
    • The Noded Blog (link)
  • Plus, the Epic Edits Weblog (link) included my blog in their “Great Photography Blogs and Feeds” list, and last but not least, Photography Bay did a one-year anniversary post, with lots of interesting insights into their first year, which includes something nice about me, so that almost guarantees them a mention, right? ;-) (link).
  • The new Photoshop World Conference & Expo website is now live, and conference registration is now open for the event, which takes place in Orlando, FL on April 2-4, 2008. Here’s the link.
  • If you want a quick laugh today, stop by Apple’s web site and watch the very cute ad on the home page. I will put a smile on your face for sure.
  • Next week, I’ve got two more episodes of “Scott’s School of hard knocks” where I give you a behind-the-scenes look at how I did something horribly wrong on a shoot (remember the “forgot to reset from 1600 ISO” fiasco?) These are both worse, but hopefully they’ll help you avoid similar disasters (at least, I keep telling myself that as I share these embarrassing moments from the field).

Have a great weekend everybody. Take some great shots, and keep showing those pixels who’s boss!

Thursday
Dec
2007
13

Nikon D300 Review (by Scott Kelby)

by Scott Kelby  |  18 Comments

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I’ve spent the past two weeks, many hours, had two meetings with Nikon Professional Services staff, and taken thousands of photos with my new Nikon D300 and I’m ready to spill the beans and let you know what’s hot (and what’s not) about Nikon’s new arrival. Here’s the straight scoop:

First, Why I Bought a D300:
I hate to admit it, but the main reason I bought a D300 in the first place is because of the bigger LCD screen on the back. I know that sounds silly, but it’s true (I had only actually held a D300 once; at Photoshop World, and then only for about three minutes. I spent much more time with the D3, as I actually got to shoot with it on location in Montana). Of course, I tried to justify the purchase by telling myself that there were other new features, but basically in my mind it was a D200, with a bigger screen and a few new bells and whistles, so I ordered it. Here’s the thing; I was wrong. Way wrong. The D300 is MUCH more camera than I was giving it credit for.

What kicks butt about the D300:

  • The 51-point (and 21-point) autofocus rocks. It’s much better, faster, and more accurate than the D200′s, that it made the D200′s focus seem clunky by comparison. This I did not expect.
  • The Live View (which I totally dismissed as something I would never use), has a feature I never knew existed; you can turn on Live View, look at a live preview of your shot and (get this), change your White Balance setting, and the preview updates live. That’s right—you can scroll through the different settings and see how different white balance settings look in real time. It’s very responsive, and it’s just plain fun to use. Also, the image on screen is crisp enough to actually use for getting shots above your head, down low for macro shots, and anywhere where your head won’t fit. Much cooler than I expected.
  • Press the Info button the back of the camera, and the camera’s shooting settings (which usually appear in the tiny LCD on the top of the camera), now fill the screen in big bright letters; and (that’s right), they’re live! So you can change Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO, and actually see the settings big and bright (really handy when you’re shooting on a tripod, which I do most of the time). I now use this to check my WHIMS settings in just a quick glance, even in low light situations.
  • Lower noise. Not low noise; but lower (don’t confuse the D300 with the D3. It’s the D3 that’s the low noise miracle machine). That being said, I have found that to me, the noise level when shooting at 800ISO on a D300 is like shooting at 400 ISO on a D200. That’s an appreciable difference, but I’ve been so spoiled at shooting at 6400 ISO on a D3 (whose noise looks more like the D300 at 800 ISO, to me anyway). So, lower noise for sure, but not D3-ish low noise. But any amount of lower noise is a big plus for me.
  • I love the way the front dial changes the LCD display readout to toggle between your full image and Histogram view, and your back sub-command dial scrolls through the images (leaving the still clunky Multi-Selector Dial on the back of the camera free for other tasks).
  • I love that you can assign the center button of the Multi-Selector Dial to jump to any magnification (to quickly jump in and check sharpness) with just one click.
  • I like that it has built-in sensor cleaning (I might actually love this feature, because I generally live in a dirty sensor state, but so far; my sensor hasn’t been dirty. Of course, I’ve used the built-in sensor cleaning three times now already, so maybe that’s why, but the only way to tell if you love this, is to one day realize your sensor is dirty, then run the built-in cleaning, and then see that it worked.).
  • The LCD monitor is as big and bright as I had hoped (I did check this out when I held that initial D300, and right then I was sold). I also like how big and easy-to-read the menus are on this new screen (it makes a bigger difference than you’d think).
  • The Auto White balance seems much improved, and you can use it in more lighting situations without a “gotcha.” In fact, I think it’s easily the best Auto White Balance I’ve ever used.
  • I really like the HDMI output, and if you’ve got a high def television, once you see your images on that baby, you’ll think this was how photos were meant to be shown.
  • I was surprised (pleasantly), at how many new features, tweaks, and enhancements were hidden among the menus, including much more robust control over White Balance, a nice built-in GPS menu (if you have a GPS unit connected), a “My Menu” where you can put your most used menu commands so they’re one click away, and a clever built-in Help menu that actually works quite well.
  • There are lots of little tweaks and enhancements that you uncover that make you just smile and nod. I dig that.
  • But more important than all of these very nice features, is the fact that I love the images the D300 produces. The color is outstanding (better than any Nikon I’ve ever used, and the color rendering is nearly on par with the D3′s). This camera just produces beautiful images, plain and simple, and if you want really saturated colors, you can pump up the saturation with some amazing results (perfect for the Velvia freak deep inside us all).

What Didn’t I like:

  • The main thing that’s driving me crazy is a little thing (but it’s always the little things, right?). When your image appears on the LCD monitor, there are two rows of info readouts, which appear at the bottom of the image window, and if you have the Highlight Warning turned on, it adds a very short third row. I want the option to hide this junk so I can see just the full image, full screen, without all the data taking up room.
  • I’d like the ability to see one big Histogram. Not a postage stamp sized Histogram; not individual RGB Histograms; just one big Histogram as big as they can fit it on the screen. Admittedly, I’m a “Highlights Warning” man myself, and I hardly use the Histogram that much, but when I do; I want it big.
  • I wish the noise was lower still. Don’t get me wrong; being able to actually shoot at 800 ISO and not cringe is a good thing, but I’ve been spoiled by the incredibly low-noise of the D3. I would trade some of the bells and whistles for lower noise.
  • If you get the optional battery grip (which I recommend), the way they’ve implemented the two-battery use is much clunkier than in the D200. Thankfully, the battery life seems better in the D300, than it was in the D200, but the D200′s battery grip was easier to swap out batteries with by far.
  • I wish Nikon had done something better with the Focus Mode Selector Button, that appears to the right of the lens, and constantly gets switched by accident during the course of taking your camera in/out of your camera bag. Just make it much stiffer, so it doesn’t switch so easily, or position it somewhere else, so for goodness sakes—do something to make it stay put.
  • Shooting tethered with the D300 requires buying the Nikon Camera Control Pro 2 (which ain’t cheap, at around $160, or you can upgrade from the first version for around $65). Canon users get to shoot tethered for free. Hey, I’m just sayin! Oh, and Mac OS X Leopard users; it doesn’t work with Leopard yet. Believe me, I’ve tried.

The Bottom Line:
Nitpicking above aside, the D300 is a much better, more fully featured update to the D200 than I had ever imagined it would be. How much so? Well, needless to say, I’m selling my D200 (through the EquipmentLady.com), but I guess what I’m most shocked about is that I’m going to sell my Nikon D2Xs now, too.

So, is my D300 actually replacing my D2Xs? Absolutely! I know Nikon will probably hate to read this, but here’s why:

  • The D300 and D2Xs are both 12 megapixel cameras, so there’s no pixel advantage there.
  • The noise at 800 ISO and higher on my D300 seems noticeably lower than the noise on my D2Xs.
  • The LCD Monitor on my D300 is bigger and brighter than on my D2Xs.
  • The D300 has better control over White Balance, has better Auto White Balance, has better Auto Focus capabilities by far, and I think it takes better photos all around (I could stop right here).
  • The menus on the D300 are bigger and easier to read, and the Info button that shows my settings (and lets me set them in real time), is just too handy.
  • With my D300, I get Live View (with live white balance changes displayed as I make them).
  • With the Battery Grip, I can shoot up to 8 frames per second.
  • I didn’t mention the D300′s Active D-lighting controls (which adjust for tricky exposure situations in camera), but the D2Xs doesn’t have anything that can touch it.
  • In fact, the only thing that I can think of that my D2Xs has, that my new D300 doesn’t have, is High Speed Crop Mode. When I need to use it, that rocks, but I don’t need to use it very often.

I think perhaps the most telling sign was when I realized yesterday that I just don’t want to shoot my D2Xs anymore. To me, that speaks volumes, and that’s why I’m selling it.

To me, the D300 doesn’t feel like an upgrade; it feels like a whole new camera from the ground up. The improvements are that significant.

One last thing: if you have a D300 (or are thinking of getting one), Nikon has an interactive D300 Digitutor web site with movies on how to use the D300′s new features. You can find it by clicking here.

I encourage anyone who’s bought a D300 to share your own experiences (good and bad) here on the blog by posting a comment. (I’ll save you one post; yes—I still want a D3; it is the next level of camera up from the D300, and it is just remarkable, but at its price; it should be). Thanks everybody (and thanks for your patience while I put the D300 through its paces, so I could post this review).

Wednesday
Dec
2007
12

Sunset Shoot in Maui

by Scott Kelby  |  0 Comments

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Here are some shots from our sunset shoot in Maui last Thursday (click on any one for a larger view).

I was lucky enough to have my buddies Joe McNally and Anne Cahill join me for this second shoot (we were all guests of photographer Randy Braun who put the shoot together), and when the sun started to set, I pulled out my Nikon SB-800 Flash unit for some location lighting. (Joe, Annie, and I all had one, but we only used one flash at a time). I set mine to Wireless mode, so I could use the flash off camera, and control it right from my camera, using the Nikon D300′s pop-up flash to trigger the wireless unit (when you do this, the pop-up flash doesn’t light your subject—it just sends out a light pulse that fires the wireless SB-800).

We each started out using the flash with just a diffusion dome to soften the light a bit, and then later as the sun went down, Joe put a yellow gel (a half cut of CTO) over the head of the flash (attached with black gaffer’s tape) to make the flash look more like the setting sun. From that point on, we were basically working to just balance the existing light with the light of the flash. We underexposed the sky to a stop to a stop and a half to make the sky look a little darker than it actually was. Then we kept dialing down the power of the flash until it looked about right.

Having Joe McNally, the master of location flash at the shoot, was amazing, and once we moved over to the rocks, Joe brought out a large gold reflector, and used it like an umbrella by firing the flash directly into the reflector so the light bounced back onto our subject. This worked to spread the light from the flash and make it softer, and of course, it worked wonderfully well (that McNally guy knows what he’s doing, eh?). Plus, Annie (who works for Nikon Professioal Services), was showing me all the cool new stuff in the D300. I was just lovin’ it! ;-)

The rest of the shoot had the three of us trading off shooting, and basically just controlling the power output of the flash, while Randy took shots of us shooting and was so gracious to put up with us shooting until after the sun had set). All in all, it was a beautiful night (the weather was perfect), and anytime you shoot with Joe McNally you can’t help but learn a lot, and I certainly did. Thanks to Randy Jay Braun for hosting the shoot (and for sharing the bottom three shots of us shooting live—that’s Randy with the white ball cap on), and to our model, Tricia Dong, for being so patient and fun throughout the entire shoot.

One last thing: the photos were just processed in Lightroom; no Photoshop at all (not even sharpening).

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