Monthly Archives June 2008

So sorry for the late post today; more on why next week: I had a number of questions from the past week or so (on the Ring Flash review and other stuff as well) that I thought I’d address to get this week rolling. Here we go:

Q. I think the Ring Flash looks kind of harsh. Do you really like this look?
A. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of the Ring Flash look. In fact, my buddy Matt Kloskowski and I were just talking about how we weren’t crazy about the flat look it gives. and that it is kind of hot and harsh. Now, that being said; please don’t judge the effect of Ring Flash by the first time I really gave it a go—it takes practice (and I probably wouldn’t use it as my only light, as I did in the shots you saw last week–I use it as more of a fill). So, why am I buying one? Because despite the fact that I personally don’t like the look, it is the “hot” look in fashion right now, so I figured I’d better get up to speed on it so I can answer questions about it from my readers, and the only way to get good at any of this is to practice, practice, practice. So, hopefully I’ll be able to post some shots I like much better once I get to do just that.

Q. Do you get red eye from using a flash so close to the lens like this?
A. I sure did. Not on every shot mind you, but there were a handful of shots that had red eye.

Q. Isn’t $299 a lot to pay for a plastic adapter?
A. Yup. I thought the same thing when I paid $400+ for a 1-inch by 1-inch memory card made of plastic. It’s not the material it’s made out of that matters; it’s what it does that really matters. If it gives you a ring flash look, in a lightweight, easy-to-use solution; then it works. I think it’s probably ideal for anyone shooting ring-flash here-and-there, but of course, if you think ring-flash is your future, you might want to spend the money and get a higher-end unit.

Q. Do you think it costs too much for what it is?
A. Do I think $299 is the “right” price for the unit? No. I think it’s a bit over-priced, but the market will determine if their price is really “right”. If you see them drop the price, or start to offer rebates, etc. you’ll know the original price was too high. Personally, I think the “right” price would be between $149 and $199, and at that price I think they’d sell three times as many, but that’s easy for me to say—I have no idea what their arrangement with the UK manufacturer is; or how they’re selling, etc. If they’re selling like hotcakes at $299, expect the price to stay the same or go up. Again, the market will decide if the price is right, but if you’re asking me; $199 would be the sweet spot for starters.

Q. Is there any problem mounting the Ray Flash to a Canon flash?
A. None whatsoever. In fact, David (the Ray Flash Demo Guy), used a Canon 580 EX II for his demo, and it didn’t even need the little wedge thingy, like the Nikon’s do.

Now–on to other “Non-Ring Flash” Topics:

Q. What software do you use for your Blog?
A. I use WordPress, which seems to work just great, but I’m no WordPress expert. I am very thankful to have an excellent Web team behind me, in particular the wonderful Fred Maya, who customized the original template for me, and adds the plug-ins I need. I don’t know much “under the hood” stuff about WordPress, so I’m not going to be much more help than that, but you can learn more at the WordPress site (click here).
Q. What do you use for your picture header. Is that some sort of Plugin for WP?

A. It’s a plug-in Fred found for me. I really like it, but I run into people all the time and didn’t realize you can click on the little arrow in the lower right corner to expand the image downward. That kind of drives me nuts, but other that that—I think it’s pretty cool.

Q. I subscribe to many of the Photoshop World instructor blogs and I noticed that everyone “mattes” their photos differently. By “digital matting” I mean adding the extra space around the photo itself and usually includes adding a stroke to the photo to separate it from that space. I have experimented with many different kinds of digital mattes most of which I learned from your or Matt’s classes at Photoshop World in Orlando but not sure how to determine if a specific matte is appropriate for a specific photo. Is there a rhyme or reason behind the different formats of the matte and colors or is it all personal preference?
A. For me; it’s personal preference, and I usually go with a white matte, but then again, it always depends on the photo. If I add the matte in white, and it doesn’t look right, then I switch to black, and that’ll usually do the trick.

Q. If you add a digital signature to your “digital matte” does that make it a “signed print”?
A. If I sell a print, I always sign it by hand, and I think you should, but that’s just me—there are probably arguments on both sides. If I output the print myself, then I add an “A/P” on the bottom, on the opposite side of my signature, indicating that it’s an “Artist Print.”

Q. Scott, now that Lightroom 2.0 Beta has been out for a bit. How about an assessment against your wish list. As a participant in the forum, it would be nice to see your assessment of what they got right.
A. I’ve been kind of holding out for the final shipping version to be released. If Lightroom 1.0 was any indication; remember how they added additional features in the full release that weren’t there in the final public beta? I’m waiting until they ship the final version to see if that happens again, then I’ll give a blow-by-blow of how the features stack up with my very long wish list.

Q. Scott. If it won’t get you into too much trouble with sponsors, what do you think is the best digital camera under $2,500, body only? I want to take up photography for the first time. So far, from what I’ve seen, the D300 looks best.
A. My opinion is, of course, going to be biased because I’m a Nikon shooter, and I bought the D300 (no, Nikon didn’t give me one), so I think that pretty much tells you where I’m at. I think the D300 smokes, especially for the money, and (Nikon will hate me for saying this), I think it’s FAR superior to the Nikon D2Xs which was selling for around $5,000, body only, at the time the D300 came out (in fact, I sold my Nikon D2Xs after having my D300 for about two weeks). So, D300—that’s what I’d recommend to a friend (and have in many instances, and have gotten nothing but love in return).

Q. As long as I’m making long shot requests, the best indoor people lens that’s still fairly versatile for under $1,000.
A. If you want to shoot people indoors; I’m assuming you mean in natural light, in which case you’ll want a “fast” lens (meaning one that can shoot in lower light situations, like an f/2.8 lens), this is tougher, because there’s so many ways to go. I like the compression of a longer lens, so I shoot a lot of people with my 70-200mm f/2.8 VR, but if I want a wider portrait (like more of an editorial look), I use my 17-55mm f/2.8 VR lens. I also have the new 24-70mm f/2.8 lens that came out when the D3 came out, but I haven’t had a chance to try it with the D300, because one of my friends dropped it (accidentally of course) and it killed the lens; four days after I got it (the friend shall remain nameless, because you would know who it is, and I will spare him the shame—-oh the shame—-etc., blah, blah, blah). So, I guess it’s up to what kind of portraits you like to take, but I can tell you for the most part; if I was walking out the door and could only take one lens, it would probably be the 70-200mm f/2.8 (it’s not cheap, and it’s not lightweight, and it’s not small either. In fact, everything about it is bad; expect for the wonderfully crisp images it delivers). Hope that helps.

Well, that’s it for now. Sorry for the late posting. I’ve been struggling with Internet issues (more on this next week), but for now, have a great day (or what’s left of it anyway).



I don’t know if you’ll remember back a few months, when I asked for any feedback from my readers on a ring flash adapter made in UK, that connects to your existing hot-shoe flash to give you a ring flash look without buying a heavy/expensive ring flash?

At the time it wasn’t available in the US, and I was asking if anybody had any experience with it, because I was interesting in playing around with ring flash, as it become very popular with fashion photographers, and now you see that broad flat lighting look popping up everywhere (and it’s especially good for Macro photography).

Anyway, one day I’m sitting in our conference room after a meeting had just wrapped up and I look over in Larry Becker’s office, and I see Larry taking a shot with a ring flash. I shot right in there with the usual, “Hey, man! Where’d you get that?” and as it turns out, it’s that UK ring flash adapter I had seen months earlier, but now it’s available in the US from ExpoImaging (the people that make Expo Disc), and the US version is called the Ray Flash (I know, the name kinda… know).

Well, last week Larry told me a local photographer named David Maynard (a really good photographer, by the way) who has become something of an evangelist of this ring flash adapter, and offered to stop by and give us a live demo (he even brought a professional model along with him), so we finally got an hour to play with it, and I have to tell you—I was very impressed.

I took the shots you see above (totally un-retouched—just an exposure balance in Lightroom), during that demo session with David (click on it for a larger view) using a Nikon D300 with an SB-800 on top, mounted on the hot shoe, with the Ray Flash ring flash adapter attached (it actually just slides right over the top of your flash head, and around your lens).

I’m no expert at ring flash at this point, but you can see the flat, broad light it puts out, along with that classic “ring flash” halo that you see so often.

Three things I really liked about it:

  1. It’s very light (considerably lighter than any ring flash I’ve never held, by a long shot).
  2. It’s very easy to use; you pretty much just glide it over your lens, snap your flash head into place, and it’s ready to go (it has no on/off switch, and it’s just redistributing the light from your flash head.
  3. Of course the big thing is; the price. It’s only $299, which is pretty darn cheap for the ring flash effect it creates.

Three minor things I didn’t like:

  1. If you’re using a Nikon flash, it comes with a little wedge you have to insert to keep the ring flash level.
  2. It’s so lightweight, it feels a little flimsy, but not nearly as flimsy as some of the cheaper ring flashes I’ve held, so it’s only a minor gripe, but it is something you’ll notice.
  3. You do lose about a full stop of light from your flash, so you have to run it a little hotter (use more flash power) than normal, so your batteries won’t last quite as long, but again; not a big deal, but just so you know; you’re going to lose a stop.

The Bottomline:
Would I recommend the Ray Flash? Well, I’m buying one myself. The minor things are too minor to be deal-killers, and the advantages (great price, lightweight, small size) make it pretty much a no-brainer for anyone who wants to get a ring flash look, without the ring flash price and weight.

Dave Cross
was with me during the demo shoot that day, and he did a short video showing the flash itself and how it attaches to the camera (including the wedge issue for Nikon users), and you can watch it right on Dave’s site, right here.

For more info on the Ray Flash direct from ExpoImaging, click here.


First, a big thanks to the wonderful Moose Peterson for his inspiring story yesterday. He really brought things into perspective for many of us (myself included), and I can’t thank him enough for sharing his story and insights. Now, onto some news quickies:

  • One of my favorite photography podcasts has been “The Digital Photography Show” and last week I did an in-depth interview with one of the hosts, Scott Sherman, and we covered a wide range of topics, I shared a few photography tips (you have to hear how he tricked me, and put me on the spot, into giving them—-it’ll crack you up). Anyway, it’s online now at this link.
  • One of my readers, David Langston, brought this site to my attention, called, and it has lots of stories relating to photo permits, the hassles of photographing today in public places, and more. Definitely worth checking out (here’s the link).
  • I got this in an email from Kodak, and if you want a little Thursday photographic inspiration, click out this “Kodak Moments” Online Gallery. There’s some really great stuff there (here’s the link).
  • Lastly, thanks to PhotoTrade’s “HyperPhocal” blog, who lists my book, “The Digital Photography Book, Vol. 2” among their list of “5 books every photographers should own.” Here’s the link to their list.

That’s it for today, see you all tomorrow for a week-end wrap-up. Have a great Thursday, and keep showing those pixel’s who’s boss!

Today we released a brand new online training course on that was filmed live on location at Photoshop World Orlando.

The idea was to give everybody a feel for what it’s really like being at the Photoshop World Conference & Expo, and it includes a number of short segments from some of the actual training classes, some behind-the-scenes looks at the show (Including some of the special events), along with a mini-Tech Expo tour highlighting some of the new stuff from the trade show floor.

Also, we’re making this special class available to NAPP members for free; just use the link on the NAPP members home page, and then simply sign-on with your NAPP user name and password and you’ll be able to take this 2 1/2+ hour online class for free.


A Lifetime in the Making

The old, green, "retired" warden's Bronco stops with a lurch. The door swings open out of my hand, the truck is pointing down the steep grade. "The road is washed out beyond here, gotta walk the rest of the way." I got up at 02:20, drove thirty minutes to meet up with the biologists and then drove another forty minutes to get to this point. The sun is a rumor on the horizon when I grab my camera gear and head off while attempting to keep up with the 24yr old springbuck biologists I'm working with this day. Down we go at an alarming rate and speed in the darkness, alarming because we'd have to hike back up the same grade to get back to the truck.

A mile down the grade, the antenna goes up and the signal is found. Cross-country we go, hurdling sage brush in a marathon race with the sun. First, down a gully and then up a hill, my guides moving like pronghorn and quickly pulling away from me (oh to have young legs). Our route is precarious at best as we zigzag, following the signal. We reach a rise to get another sounding; I look over my shoulder to see the road way below us. Not even catching my breath, we're off again still cross-country, but now following the ridgeline we had climbed to. The biologists come to a quick halt; the signal has exploded, which means the quarry is less than 10 meters away. This routine is familiar, just did it the morning before, so I froze. Spotting the object of our quest, the biologists crouch down, walk very slowly towards the tan colored lump at the base of a sage. Less than a meter away it explodes in the air and down the slope and the biologists freeze. When they stand up and I see their faces, they look like they'd just swallowed a lemon.

"There's none here, must have been predated upon between 17:00 last night when we last checked and this morning." "She's broodless." With that, we head cross-country again, at least at a little less feverish pace and work our way back to the truck. The three mile jaunt netted all of us nothing, the biologists weren't able to collect any data and I not a photograph. Mother Nature still rules the roost and for the moment, the Greater Sage Grouse has five less chicks to booster its falling numbers.

At this point you might be saying to yourself, "Man, you got up mighty early and walked a long way to come back empty handed." As one of my first biological mentors always use to say, "There's data in no data!" For the biologists, the question is now to determine what happened with the five, four day old chicks. For me, the "dry run" provides more insight into the situation and sets my mind to working on how I'd photograph the event next time. And if you're a wise photographer, you make a plus from the negative.

I've been at this wildlife photography gig for thirty years and even with that, each and every day I learn something new about my craft (which joyfully means I don't know everything). This is key if you don't want to fall victim to the Darwin Theory of Photography, "evolve or perish." To get to the point where I could get skunked on the hillside, thirty years had been put into the craft. Practice wasn't needed to get skunked, but rather to learn that being skunked is part of the craft. The learned craft is what you fall back on when you do succeed and the chicks are there and for a moment Mother Nature let's you peek inside her very mysterious world.

It's really quite simple, this mastering of photography. There's only one unspoken secret in this quest. It takes time! You've gotta put in your time and learn from your mistakes as much as your successes and always, always look for the silver lining. There are days you're going to walk those three miles up and down hills only to get skunked. There are going to be those days when you fall out of bed and the image smacks you right in the face. In between is an incredible journey that if you only take a deep breath, smell the roses and every other bad clich© about enjoying life, time will make your photography as meaningful and as powerful as you want it to be.

Two years ago, every time I came up to a landscape photo opp, my mind would race and inside the word HELP would be screamed. "Where's the subject, how do I compose it, folks are watching me for inspiration and the best I can do right now is a joke." HELP! Then, just as it was for me and flash twenty years ago, the switch was turned on so for the last couple of years, making the decent to spectacular landscape photo requires no real thought on my part other than how I want to finish it in post. All the pieces of the puzzle have fallen into place. They just happen, life's experiences have finally taken over.

This, my friends is what's waiting for you and your photography! I know this for a fact. Playing is the heartbeat of passion. If your passion is photography, any kind of photography, play until you're exhausted because with time, and time is the most important ingredient (not f/stop or Photoshop plug-in), you WILL experience the same joys, same rewards, same quality images that get me up at 02:20 and walk three miles only to be skunked. The same love that you'll get up again the next day at the same time to walk the same distance to see if this day, you'll win. Great photography is a lifetime in the making!