Tag: photography

Ethiopia: Adobe Spark

A couple of firsts for me on this trip, besides the sites, scenery and experiences:

  • Adobe Lightroom Mobile: I finally succumbed to Adobe and have purchased a subscription to Lightroom Mobile CC (CAD 6.49/mo). This allows me full access for editing photos made using the raw and hdr-raw features of the LrM camera on my iPhone. And, once the photos are in the cloud, space is saved on my mobile devices by just keeping the Smart Previews on my phone and iPad.
  • After a day of shooting, I would go through my images deleting duplicates. As I am travelling, not knowing how things would visually develop, I tend to take more ‘lead up shots’: the best I could get at the time, not knowing if conditions or angles would improve. If they did, great, I would simply delete those ‘lead up’ shots.
  • At first I was editing on iPhone only. Given the very slow upload speeds here in Ethiopia, I couldn’t work on the iPad. The smaller screen size of my phone worked, but almost made me blind as even the bifocals didn’t help. I ended up taking off my glasses and holding the phone up to my face for my blind eyes to see clearly!
  • Once photos were in the cloud with Smart Previews on the iPad, editing became a breeze – even easier than with Lr on the laptop! I can’t wait to get home and try it with an Apple Pencil; it should be even easier.
  • I’ve been rather disappointed with the performance of the SanDisk iXpand flash drive I purchased prior to the trip. I was hoping it would be a reliable place to keep large files, especially videos. While it has worked in that I have removed videos from my phone, it often (three of four times per use) needed to be unplugged and rebooted, which, understandably, is annoying.

  • TrackMyTour: Each evening, I would add photos and narrative to Waypoints created in TrackMyTour, which you are most likely already aware of from this blog (Ethiopia 2019). It’s not quite the app I would prefer for this, but it seems to be the best option of the myriad travel blog apps out there.
  • Adobe Spark Page: I’m also trying out the free version of Adobe Spark Page. While I find its themes and options highly limiting, it can be used to create a dynamic (though not interactive) photo essay. I can pull photos in from a few different sources including Lr Mobile and Apple Photos. Adding videos is a pain though, as they need to be online via YouTube or Vimeo; not easy to do with limited bandwidth and time. You can see my Spark Presentation Ethiopia 2019 online.

    If you have any questions or comments, please add them below – and don’t forget to re-share this post.

    Winter Workshops

    Check out my Winter Workshops page – top right of this page.

    I am offering two winter outdoor workshops – one in Guelph on Saturday, January 21st and the same in Dundas on Saturday, January 28th. These are full day workshops with a morning field session and an afternoon critique session.

    In February, I am offering a two-part Adobe Photoshop Lightroom workshop. On Saturday, February 11, I will teach basic Lightroom – Library and the basics of the Develop module. On Saturday, February 18, we’ll go into more detail on the Develop side plus do some printing using the Print module.

    For more information visit: Winter Workshops

    Apple iPad – for photographers?

    Apple iPadI’ve been away for a week up in “God’s country” – the Haliburton Highlands of Ontario – so I missed the hoopla surrounding the release of the Apple iPad. Some would call it a boring over-dramatization, even gaudy melodrama. I, for one, usually enjoy Steve Jobs delivery of new, revolutionary products. This time, he is showing his age with unnecessary repetition and  occasional silted delivery. However, this blog isn’t about Steve Jobs or the launch, it’s about the iPad itself.

    The iPad truly is Apple’s

    most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price.

    During the launch, I would have thought they would use the Beatle’s Revolution, but I guess things aren’t yet patched up between Apple and Apple Records. That being said, I am greatly excited by the potential of the iPad.

    Fifteeen years ago when I was teaching high school Geography, I conceived of a “notebook” somewhat akin to the iPad. Except mine had a stylus and was more productivity oriented than the iPad’s entertainment orientation. I like the iPad and it could certainly find a place in my life for these reasons (without having actually played with one). At the same time, I feel that I will pass on this first iteration, because, for me, it’s not quite there. For photographers as well, I feel it’s not quite there yet. Here we go:

    • the screen is gorgeous – the best on the market. Although I am not a fan of glossy screen for doing photo work, this one appears to be a keeper. And the 1024×768 size is decent, however
      • I want real estate. I would much prefer to cart around an extra pound of weight if it meant having a 15″ screen. When I move from my MacBook to something else, I don’t want to scrimp. You see, I’m looking at iPad as a way to shed weight and bulk and things. I want it to do what my MacBook does (well, almost) without having to carry my MacBook.
    • the interconnectivity is excellent – WiFi on all, 3GS if you want it (although no phone capability – so I still need to carry a phone although Skype might have something to say about that – very soon). Cameras can also be connected via the Camera Connection Kit (thanks, Dennis for pointing that out!). This makes the iPad a good replacement for the Epson Picture Viewer – but not an ideal due to the small hard drive of the iPad – 64GB maximum.
      • Productivity for me is the key. As I mention above, the iPad must be able to stand on its own so I don’t need my laptop with me as well. I live by my email, calendar and address book, so I’m pleased to see them implemented so well on the iPad. As well, iWork is an incredibly easy, intuitive and friendly set of apps that I use everyday. Keynote, alone is worth ditching PowerPoint which looks positively archaic next to Keynote. Pages kicks Word’s butt. Numbers is still maturing but still far more useful to me than clunky old Excel. I know Office is the industry standard on “every” computer (and, when needed I can export as Word, PowerPoint and Excel), but I don’t get rave reviews of PowerPoints like I do of Keynotes, and for me, as a photographer, it’s the presentation that counts. For me as a user, it is also the interface that counts and iWork has Office beat to death. However,
        • I need to come back to screen size. Sorry to harp on it, but, other than the lack of a USB, it’s the deal-killer for me. No doubt, Microsoft will come out with an Office version for iPad and there will be a whole slew of further offerings, but they will need to be workable on the 10″ screen. Maybe I need to get an iPad in my hands to see how well I can work on a small screen, but from first look, I’m skeptical.
      • the battery power is phenomenal. At 10 hours – even they overestimate by 20% – the iPad can work through a full day of use – nicely done, Apple!
      • the Apps have huge potential. I can easily see Adobe putting out a Photoshop for iPad. Being able to edit and manipulate photos on a touch screen would mean a Wacom Tablet at $200 is no longer needed. But again, the small screen size is getting in the way of real productivity

      The other potential deal-breakers for photographers and others – besides the lack of a USB – are:

      • the size of the hard drive. At only 64GB (the largest HD and most expensive iPad) is potentially 1/4 of what it needs to be. Heck, I have 12GB of music alone. And, I don’t want to just show photos – I want to upload the RAW images from my camera and at least start the file management process and perhaps some initial editing. Not impossible with only 64GB, but definitely limiting. You see, my laptop is my office – it has all the files I need to be productive anywhere. I don’t have time for the level of entertainment offered by the iPad – great if you are stuck on a commuter train for an hour everyday. But at only 64GB, I would be spending too much time swapping files rather than working on them. Let’s see, what files do I need today to be productive on the road…oops I forgot that file on my laptop…
      • the lack of multi-tasking. Why has Apple taken a step back from its leadership in multi-tasking. I am shocked by this, actually. I don’t want to close an app (like a photo, Keynote or Pages doc) just to search for another song or check my calendar or my emails

      The bottom line question for me is, can I get away from carrying around my laptop by using an iPad? Almost. The killers are:

      • screen size – it’s too small to be truly productive;
      • small hard drive – too small for RAW and manipulation;
      • lack of multi-tasking – who doesn’t multi-task these days!; and
      • lack of USB to upload photos.

      If I have some downtime after a shoot on the road, I want to go beyond just looking at my photos. And if I can’t be truly productive then I need to carry my laptop. If I need to carry my laptop then I don’t need an iPad. I would gladly pay $1000 for an iPad that had even a 14″ screen, 250GB hard drive and USB connectivity – something that would be more productive than entertaining. There’s my wish-list, Steve!

      Why Olympus?

      Natural Bonsai (ZD 12-60mm; E-30)

      Every once in a while I drag myself over to the dpReview Forums and take a look at the Olympus SLR Talk. I am constantly struck by the number of trolls who take pot shots at Olympus and the 4:3s system. In fact, right from the very first 4:3s announcement posters have sniped at Olympus:

      • Olympus cameras are not “professional” enough
      • the lenses are too expensive
      • the sensor is too small
      • yada yada yada

      which is all bogus when you get right down to it. Even dpReview had a thing against Olympus (which they have since toned down – and for good reason). It’s as if individuals in the Canikon group have such a superiority complex that they just need to bully around everyone else. I don’t get it? You shoot with what you like and let us create photographs with the equipment we prefer. Is Canikon better if its more expensive? Is it better if it doesn’t have the feature set that attracts us to Olympus? Is Canikon better if I can’t get the lenses I want in a size and price that suits me? Do I go and bash Canikon for this? The answer to all of the above is a simple “no”.

      It’s as if the Olympus snipers are a bunch of conformists: they feel slighted because not everyone in the world thinks like them so they need to vent their frustration by picking on the ones who don’t share their views. Wake up folks – Olympus has never had the market share of Canikon. Does that stop them from making fine cameras and even finer optics? No. It’s not unlike Apple computers – does a 5% market share ever get them down? I don’t think so, otherwise they would have cheapened their product to increase market share. The most popular isn’t always the best for everyone.

      Dawn, Little Blackstone Lake, The Massasauga Provincial Park, Ontario
      Dawn (ZD 50-200mm; E-30)

      Years ago, I, too, bowed to the Nikon god – for years I owned two FMs and an F2 plus Nikkor lenses: 24mm; 50mm; 85mm; 200mm Micro-Nikkor; and a 300mm f/4.5. I loved using the equipment. The FM especially was small enough for me to comfortably hike, backpack and canoe with it. We were inseparable; except when my photography took me to Pentax 67. I couldn’t afford to own both, so I traded in all my Nikon gear for what I believe is the best system I’ve ever owned – at least for me and my style of shooting.

      I am happiest shooting on a tripod – slow and methodical an hour before sunrise – that’s me! Learning this about myself led me to 4×5 – a gorgeous Zone VI wood field camera with 90mm, 150mm and 210mm lenses. In a word… Zen. So what’s this got to do with Olympus…

      During the same time I met the women who would become my wife and she was using her Dad’s Olympus OM-1 from the early 1970s (this was in the late 1980s). I fell in love again, not just with her, but with Olympus. I say “again”, because I took my first photos with my Dad’s Olympus OM-1 back in the mid-1970s. The OM bodies were the epitome of 35mm photography – small and lightweight with the largest viewfinder available – nothing came close to it back then and nothing comes close to it now. The lenses were wonderfully sharp, made with precision and equally small and lightweight. I ended up adding an OM-3 and an OM-4 to my kit along with Zuiko 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 90mm Macro (Tamron), 100mm, 20omm and a 300mm f/2.8 Tamron. All were wonderful lenses. Why the Tamrons? I’m a realist – I simply couldn’t afford the equivalent Zuiko lenses (nor could I afford the equivalent Nikkor or Canon lenses!).

      Tree fungus, the Arboretum, University of Guelph
      Tree Fungus (ZD 50-200mm; E-30)

      Was the OM system a professional system – sure it was. Olympus never slowed me down. Was it ideal for everyone? No, and it never captured market share like Canon and Nikon. Did that ever stop Olympus from making excellent equipment? No – the equipment was always first class. You see, photography is not defined by Sports Illustrated photographers. Not everyone needs 600mm f/4 lenses on cameras with a bazillion frames per second. I’m an artist; I assemble my images from elements in the landscape. I don;t ush a button and hope to capture something.

      So, what next? I had all this film gear and the world was going digital – what to do? Which system to choose – it was wide open for me because Olympus had stated that their new 4:3s system would not support their film camera lenses. Man I was pissed. All that money wasted – there was NO WAY I would buy into Olympus.

      I checked all the competitors to see how well they matched up to my requirements and soon discovered that only Olympus make a wide angle zoom that went to 28mm f/2.8 and wasn’t huge in glass or hugely expensive. And, as a bonus, I could own a 400mm f/3.5 (so coveted through the 1980s and 1990s) as part of a second zoom that would help me cover the entire range from 28mm to 400mm. Matched to an E-1, I had the ideal system for my style of photography – and it all fit into a waist pack with room to spare.

      You see, what everyone seems to miss is that photography is all about the photographer. The equipment comes secondary. What you need is the highest quality lenses you can afford that permits you to do the kind of photography you enjoy doing. That’s why I chose Olympus back in 2004 and why I have stuck with Olympus to this day. Especially since they came out with the Zuiko Digital 12-60mm f/2.8-4. What a superbly thought-out focal length range and aperture. I do 90% of my shooting with this lens now.

      Could I create better shots with Canon or Nikon? Perhaps, perhaps not. If I’ve “missed” a shot, it’s not because of the equipment. Have I ever lost a job or a photo competition because I use Olympus? No, in fact when Canikon people see my prints they marvel at the quality and want to know which model of Canikon I use. Has Olympus hampered my growth as a photographer? Not in the least.

      I have never felt the need to conform to what others have. Nor have I been swayed by what the camera salesman or adverts want to convince me of. Perhaps that’s why I chose Olympus – it tells the world that rightly or not, I can think for myself because I’ve chosen a system because of its inherent, proven qualities and how well that system fits to my style of photography. Do I expect Canikon exponents to understand my decision? No, they are not me. Let’s just agree to disagree and get on with our photography.

      Trees, Morning Mist, Bruce Peninsula, Ontario (ZD 12-60mm; E-30)

      Reality Check

      I just read an unbelievable post on dpReview…

      Format Wars?: http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1022&message=33831269

      Here is my response… (also found on dpReview):

      ——-

      I know I’m going to take a lot of heat over my post below, but here goes…

      Jim Stirling’s post is well thought out and certainly is all true, but the reality of history and context are completely missing.

      I can’t believe his original “Format Wars?” post – how did we ever take photos before this guy came along? Three camera systems needed to do photography? – give me a break! I want to say “More money than brains” except that he can probably write off his equipment against income.

      Before digital…

      • * How did National Geographic ever produce the kind of images they did with just one system and numerous bodies. It’s a rhetorical question because I know how they did it: some of it was supreme darkroom work, but really, the photographers (not he cameras) were the basis of the great images they produced. Yes, they used specialised equipment for some of the well-publicised shots, but for the vast majority they were using out-of-the-box film cameras and lenses.
      • How did Karsh or Adams ever cope with an 8×10 camera and glass negatives whether it was in front of dignitaries or up a mountainside?
      • How did any one of a thousand photojournalists ever capture such amazing images of momentous occasions? Not to mention the legion of wedding photographers who worked for years creating truly memorable images.

      You would think that this would all be impossible with what Jim Stirling has written.

      I realise I’m referring to days gone by, but we need to stop and think that if they could do amazing work with simple, manual mechanical film equipment then maybe it’s not the equipment, but the photographer! IQ has more to do with capture technique (exposure!) and post-capture processes than the sensor. And even more importantly, its being in the right place at the right time with the right knowledge to take advantage of the situation – equipment actually comes secondary – unless you are of the techno ilk that thinks equipment is supreme; then your photos will be technically perfect but still not be compelling.

      Bottom Line: The vast majority of people reading these posts are not cutting edge professionals who can write off their expenses against income – they are regular people on a limited budget who just want to learn and improve upon their photography. To get great pictures buy any dSLR system and get out there and shoot. Then spend some time analysing not just your images, but those of others. Ignore what system was used and concentrate on what focal length was used and why and how the photographer made use of visual design elements and “the moment” to create a compelling image.

      In fact, if posters spent less time posting and more time photographing and looking at, really analysing and discussing compelling photographs , we would all be better photographers!

      Get Out and Photograph!

      For too many days this autumn I have had commitments which have kept me indoors. I’ve caught “glimpses” of

      autumn  through the lens while conducting workshops and when out for family hikes, but I’ve not had the chance to move slowly and think about the images I’ve made. I’m that kind of photographer – slow and purposeful, working on a tripod, waiting for the light and the wind. I need to spend time with my subject familiarizing myself with its nuances, changing my composition inching closer, slightly to one side and a little lower. American photographer Fred Picker looks for the place where the subject “is looking back at me”.

      I’ve come to learn exactly what he means. The composition needs to feel right. I need time to photograph without distractions and this morning is just that time.

      As I got out of the car, I suddenly realized how quiet it was here. I could hear the morning rush of the city over to the west, but here at Starkey Hill,  I could hear the birds sing and the wind rush through the now brown goldenrod. The grey sky seemed to be keeping the sound in .

      Autumn is now weeks old, and the best of the colour long-past, but that’s not what I’m here for. I’m want to celebrate the subtle ochres, yellows and browns that grace the latter part of autumn. The wind won’t help things, though. I like small apertures and long exposures. Shooting at ISO200 will help. This is a recent change up from the base ISO of 100. On the E-30, dynamic range is about 2/3s of a stop greater at ISO 200. I want to take advantage of that. I’ve also reduced the contrast to allow the histogram to show me every detail.

      It’s so easy to ignore colour after the peak yellows, oranges and reds of the maples and birch throughout Ontario. There is still plenty of colour in herbaceous plants and wildflowers that fill the fields, There is even the odd purple aster to provide contrast to palette of warmth that is everywhere. The goldenrods first catch my attention. The warmth of the various browns contrasts nicely with the cold grey of the leafless shrubs in the background.

      As I hike along, stopping to set up and make a few photographs, the path transitions from field into pine plantation. Finally I crest the moraine and look down into a sea of golden yellow. Of course, the maples have all dropped, but the beech trees are now broadcasting their autumn glory. Soon the sun starts peaking through the morning cloud and the forest becomes a fireworks show of colour. The subtle colour I came out today to photograph have erupted. What a treat.

      After a few more images, I realize that it is about noon. At this time of year, here at this latitude, the sun is low enough that one can photograph all day and still have great light. But other commitments beckon. These three hours have been the most artistically productive three hours in months. It’s a rare day for outdoor and nature photographers to have all the elements woking together in one;s favour. Of course, that being said, if I get out more often, then I just might be surprised at what I can make of the ambient conditions on any given day.

      Landscape Photography

      We are half-way through the Landscape Photography course I am teaching at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario. I

      Hermitage Creek, Sulphur Springs, Dundas Valley Conservation Area, Hamilton, Ontario
      Hermitage Creek, Sulphur Springs

      am so energized by the 15 students, our hands-on field sessions and the classroom sessions where they work magic on their images. Despite the threatening rain each time we’ve been out, students are managing to produce some incredible photographs. I will be sure to highlight their work as a collection that can be viewed online.

      Like any other style of photography, producing quality landscapes is a craft. Ideally, you want to create the feeling that viewers feel a part of the photograph so they can “walk into the image”. To create a classic landscape – often called the grand vista – you want three elements:

      • the image portrays the surface of Earth;
      • the horizon is apparent or perceived; and
      • there is a progression from foreground through to midground and background.

      Now, these are not hard and fast rules. Landscapes can involve a whole lot more and a whole lot less.

      One method involves getting down close to a strong foreground element – rocks or foliage, for example – with a wideangle lens set to a small aperture (f/16), can be the start of creating a truly three-dimensional image. Of course, landscapes can also be made with telephoto lenses.

      As with any artistic endeavour, photographers are most successful when they have a clear sense of what they are trying to say. So work on your craft by looking carefully at your successes and failures to help clarify your vision and style.

      New Web Gallery

      Last week I returned from 10 days of backpacking with Kerry Little in the Gargantua area of Lake Superior Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada. I love northern Ontario: the rock, the trees, the lakes – spectacular! We didn’t hike far, but it got us away from people and into that picturesque beauty of the Canadian Shield.

      Now – have a look at my Web Gallery and feel free to leave your comments below.