Monday, December 20, 2010

ImagePrint 8 - Why I use it and its benefits

If I was going to use one word to describe ImagePrint I would be profiles. By that I mean, the best printer profiles that I can find in the business. No matter what the paper, subject, and program that I am outputting from to my Epson 3880, it is unmatched. I use this setup with my Macbook Pro.

What is ImagePrint? ImagePrint is essentially a printer driver on steroids. The standard printer driver that Epson provides, while it has improved over the years, it is not of the caliber of the highly accurate profiles that ImagePrint provides. The people at ColorByte have profiled numerous inkjet printers and papers to ensure that you get the most accurate prints from your printer.

Who is ImagePrint for? ImagePrint is for anyone that wants to get the best quality consistent output that they can get from their high end inkjet printer.

This is not meant to be a complete review of ImagePrint by any means. For some reviews see:

My intent here is to show why I use ImagePrint.  I will say up front that the scans that I have utilized are from an older CanoScan 8000F and cannot begin to exhibit the quality of the prints that came out of my Epson 3880.  I did scan each of the prints on the exact same scanner with the same settings.

I can talk all day, but I figured that it would be better if I just show you 6 sample prints on Epson Premium Glossy paper. (other than print 4 on Premium Luster) I used a standard test print that I got off  The prints in order are:

1 PSD file from ImagePrint
2 InDesign Print Through App (PTAP) to ImagePrint
3 Photoshop through Colorburst RIP
4 InDesign Print Through Colorburst RIP using ImagePrint profile on Premium Luster
5 Epson Driver
6 Epson Workforce 600

Prints 1-5 are on my Epson 3880. Print 6 is for comparison to office printers with the same paper (Epson Premium Glossy) using my Epson Workforce 600.

These are each of the full size prints. I would like to point first to the color blending in the top center. Below are all of the prints in order, showing just the color blending at the top center. Please keep in mind that with the older scanner, the scans are a bit grainy. Keep in mind that these prints were not tweaked or optimized in any way other than by the output profiles that produced them.

The top two bars are from ImagePrint. These show consistent color blending. The others show either hard corners as in the last 3 or just a muddy output from overinking the paper (print 3).  I also want to point out that the ImagePrint prints were exactly what was shown in Photoshop and InDesign with the Proof profile loaded. Each profile from ImagePrint has a proof profile for Photoshop that is linked to it. What I got on screen was exactly what I got on paper. It was much better than I have ever done using color calibration equipment that cost as much as ImagePrint or more and required hours of my time per print, paper, and application combination. I am so glad that those days are gone.

Next I would like to direct your attention to the portrait in the bottom left corner. Look at the detail and color rendition especially.

Again, the ImagePrint profiles render the most accurate color and detail. The Epson driver is not bad though. The Colorburst version has warmed the color up. The ImagePrint profile used with the Colorburst RIP shows the difference in sharpening that is used by Colorburst on the same profile.

I hope that these images have shed some light on the quality that is consistently produced utilizing ImagePrint. Gone for me are the days of printing multiple prints on each type of paper and wasting days on end to get the print just right. With ImagePrint I have found that for me it really is as simple as clicking the print button, no matter what the print.

Note: For direct printing from Photoshop, Lightroom, or InDesign you will need the additional PTAP (Print Through Application) option. It is well worth it to save the step of printing to JPEG from InDesign.

In addition to the color printing profiles ImagePrint has black and white profiles as well. Not only that, if you like to add color accents to your black and whites like I do, you can use the black and white profile for the black and white parts and the color profile for the color part. It is great for those accented portraits, where I want those red lips or jacket to show through.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Move over Lightroom here comes Capture One Pro 6

Focus mask from Capture One Video
If you are familiar with Adobe Camera Raw, or Lightroom version 3, you need to take a look at Capture One Pro 6.

I got turned on to Capture One Pro when I was looking for someone to ensure perfect focus on some of my  more critical work. I was doing some work that was very exacting using image stacking with either Helicon Focus or the image stacking capability of Photoshop. Reshooting precise work when a set of images must be shot with exact focus bracketing can be a real pain. Some would ask, why not just go to f/22 and hope for the best. Well, anyone who has done macro work will tell you as you stop down too much you lose detail as you leave the camera's sweet spot. In addition you will see every speck of dust in the lens. If you have ever worked in a dusty or even worse and environment with powdered metal there is no getting that dust out.

I looked at getting a Marshall Monitor for its peaking filter to ensure perfect focus. The while looking around the net I saw Joey L's site and his videos turned me on to Capture One Pro. If you don't know who Joey L is, he is the talented up and coming photographer who shot the still pictures for the Twilight movie. He now uses Capture One Pro with his Phase One camera.

As I always do when I look at gear and software I looked for how I might use it. Well I found its "killer app."  Focus Mask. This feature, as shown in the above photo from one of the Capture One Pro videos, highlights exactly what is in focus. It was the perfect solution for what I needed. It didn't stop there though. There was much much more to Capture One Pro.

Since I cannot do Capture One Pro 6 justice by showing you screen shots or verbiage, I will link you to their site and point you to the videos to watch to quickly show you the power and versatility that this program has.

First go to :
Look at in this order:
54 Workflow
17 Focus mask
21 Variants
30 Local adjustments 
46 Spot removal
36 Lens correction
31 Keystone corrections
40 Advanced color editor

Don't miss reading the notes at the top of the page on the Noise Reduction advice.

Then go to:

Go to Capture & Import and look at Capture Pilot. It is a brand new iPhone/iPad app for viewing your images while you shoot. What a great tool for an Art Director on a shoot! Having tried it, I can say that is very fast and it has finally given me a reason to get an iPad.

After that, if you have time and want to see more, look at the rest of the videos on the second site.

If you have not seen enough to wow you from that quick run through then I would have to say that you are either difficult to impress or you are already a user of Capture One Pro 6!

I hope that this has been helpful. I tried to steer you to exactly what I felt most impressed me when I looked Capture One Pro. Why waste your time when someone can steer you to what you want without all of the searching.

Some might say "well I don't use a medium format camera." Well neither do I.  Capture One Pro is made by a company who produces medium format cameras, but it works very well with DSLRs. I use Capture One Prothe with my D3 and D700 with great success.  My guess is that Capture One found that either the current tools did not have the feature set or were not exacting enough for their medium format clients so they came up with their own software tool. I for one am glad that they did.

Side note: I have used Lightroom for my tethered shooting and post processing, but when I am not tethered I prefer to import with Photo Mechanic to add metadata/captions and do my sorting since it is the fastest application I have found for this. (This is what many of the sports shooters and others on tight deadlines that I talked to use religiously.) I then post process in Adobe Camera Raw through Bridge. (I am not a big fan of the way Lightroom uses their catalogs to hold all setting changes to RAW files. I had a bad experience with Lightroom 2 and I had to redo all of the metadata and editing of my files from Istanbul and Afghanistan.) I then use Imageprint to print my photos on an Epson 3880. I have found that all of this color calibration obsession to be a nightmare. With the great printer profiles from Colorbyte I was able to save myself a lot of wasted time going through calibration for each type of paper, etc. It is impossible for me to get anything even close to the accuracy of the profiles from ColorbyteImageprint is well worth the money for me. I'll have to describe it and show my samples from the Epson drivers, other RIP application profiles and the profiles from Colorbyte at a later date.

In addition, I also like that there is no need to import my photos into a catalog as I do with Lightroom. Capture one merely makes its own directory inside of the directory that contains my photos to store its information on those photos. This is great for working with others and for my own backups. I am not a big fan of importing into a special catalog. (On one job I had to wait over and hour to import all of the photos into a Lightroom catalog for editing.) What I end up with with either tethered capture or just opening up my files in capture one are NEF and JPG and a Capture One directory in my image directory.

My changes to images in Capture One need to be processed and output as a TIFF, DNG, or JPG so that the changes are visible in Bridge and Adobe Camera Raw. That is fine with me, since this is the same as with every other program as well.

My next thing to check is to see whether Capture One passes Crop and Keystone changes on to the next file when I am capturing a sequence. I cannot do this with Lightroom tethered shooting, so my work around was to auto apply all adjustments as I shot and apply crops and keystone correction to all files (copied from the first file) at the end. To have crop and keystone applied to each consecutive file as I shoot would save me the heartache of having to explain to the art director or anyone else what the final crop and keystoning would look like. Right now in Lightroom I have to periodically copy the settings for crop and keystoning over to the lastest file as a check for myself and to show an observer what the final file will look like. With Capture One's new Capture Pilot iPad/iPhone app it would be great to have the final image pop up on the screen with all edits to include crop and keystoning for observers holding iPads to see.

Update 12/20/2010:
I got the chance to test two things on a recent shoot. First, the cropping and keystoning. Second, using Capture Pilot in a direct link between the Mac and the iPhone using the Hot Folder option in Capture One.

First, if you use cropping and keystoning together and pass the settings on to the next file, the crop shifts vertically and gets smaller with each successive shot. I contacted Phase One and I will have to wait to see what the fix is. I tried this in the latest version of Lightroom (3.3) and they have fixed theirs. It now passes on the crop and lens correction properly.  - fixed in Capture One Pro 6.1see update 2/07/2011

Second,  I tested using Nikon Camera Control Pro 2.7 and Capture One Pro 6 using the Hot Folder function as well as utilizing my iPhone and Capture Pilot without a router. I was able to shoot files with Nikon Capture on Live View, or Capture One normally, and see my files immediately on my iPhone.

To link the Mac directly to the iPhone without a router I followed the instructions here:

It worked great. If you get any hang-ups, just restart the Capture Pilot application and be patient. All of these links takes so time and patience the first time.

I can't wait to try this with an iPad for the Photo Booth and pass them around at my next wedding. See the notes on: PhptoBooth II

Update 1/31/2011:
For those of you who do a lot of Black and White, there is a great site that compares Capture One Pro 6 with Lightroom 3 for Black and White. It is called The Intuitive Lens. There is also a comparison between Capture One Pro and Silver Efex Pro from Nik Software here,

Update 2/07/2011:
New Capture One Pro 6.1 fixes the shifting problem that was experienced when using cropping and keystoning together. I just got the chance to try it.  Much better! I will have to check out what else they fixed.

Update 12/04/2012
New Capture One Pro 7
I have been using Capture One Pro 7 for about a month now. It works great with the Nikon D4. I have used it tethered by USB, Ethernet, and Wifi, with no dropouts. The only time that I had to reconnect was when I shut the D4 off. The D4 takes a while for the network to start up and link back up when powered on. Check out the amazing highlight recovery in Capture One Pro 7 here. I have to test that out of some of my photos. I will have to see if I get anything close to that good of a result. I will write a new piece once I get the chance to test it. I am also looking forward to trying out the catalog features. The catalog in Capture One Pro 7 (with thumbnails) can be stored on your laptop with all of the files stored on external drive(s). In this way I can organize my files in the catalog on my laptop using only the thumbnails stored in the catalog file, without being connected to any external storage drive(s). I have used the catalogs in Lightroom in the past, but the catalogs became prohibitively large and unusable because they contained the actual photo files. It looks like Phase One has come up with a good way to handle this. Check out the videos by searching Capture One Pro 7 on YouTube.

If you don't already have Photoshop, Photo Mechanic, etc. then Capture One Pro 7 is definitely the way to go. It is like getting Lightroom with all of the Nik Software plugins, Adobe Camera Raw and Camera Control Pro (Nikon) wrapped into one - for a lot less

Update 12/05/2012
Tried importing one drive into a catalog - leaving the files where they were and not loading the actual files into the catalog. It got through 13000 files before I stopped it and the catalog was 20GB. By my calculation that would make 2TB of pics makes a 200GB Catalog. Not too bad for adjustable files. It would be nice if the catalog was smaller, but with full size editable thumbnails (I guess you really can't call them thumbnails...), that is to be expected.

Update 9/17/2014
Just see Capture One Pro 8

Monday, December 13, 2010

Best way to learn Wedding Photography

Well, since I am not a Wedding Photographer, take this advice with a grain of salt. We all have cameras, and we are all asked at one time or another to shoot a wedding. I shot two this fall as a favor to some friends of mine. At one I set up a photo booth. If you have not tried using a photo booth, I highly recommend using one at a future event, and definitely at your next wedding. See my relatively simple setup here.

The best way to truly learn wedding photography is by doing. Along these lines I would recommend working as an assistant for a wedding photographer for some time before striking out on your own.

If, like most people, you don't have the time to do assistant photographer work, or you just don't have the contacts then there are a few books and videos that are good to learn from.

When I was writing a quick bit on the best way to learn photography, I realized that I forgot to mention some of the wedding photography videos. The first set that I would recommend are by David Ziser.
Wedding Photography - 15 Ways to Improve Your Photography Using On-Camera Flash
Wedding Photography: Stunning Off- Camera Flash Photography Techniques
Wedding Portraits - Classical Lighting and Posing Techniques
Wedding Portraits - Getting the Perfect Shot at Tricky Locations
These are all done by David Ziser for Kelby Training.
These videos are a great way to see how to set up the lighting and shoot many of the posed shots for a wedding. Keep in mind that these are in almost ideal conditions. There is no low-light shots of dancing or any of that type of shooting. That is something that just has to be experienced.

The next set is of some high end wedding photographers. (That is not to say that David Ziser is not high end. What I mean by that is that when you see the weddings shot in the masters series, you will not want to think of letting your daughter see them!)  The videos are from Masters of Wedding Photography. There are two videos which feature high end weddings shot by professional photographers. These will give you a feel for some of the action and stress involved in shooting weddings.

For posing and ideas, I would recommend Contemporary Wedding Photography by Julie Oswin and Steve Walton. This book has some great photos that will give you some ideas for exciting photos of your own. I would also recommend 500 Poses for Photographing Brides by Michelle Perkins. This is another book of ideas.

For some more lighting ideas I would recommend Existing Light Techniques for Wedding and Portrait Photography  and  Master Lighting Guide for Wedding Photographers by Bill Hurter. These two books cover the basics of using natural light to its fullest and adding artificial light when necessary.

I recommend perusing the bridal magazines and the latest wedding photography books in your local bookstore for ideas as well. The bride-to-be will be looking at these as well, so it is good to see what is currently in style.

If you at all intimidated by this list of books and videos, just wait until you see what is out there. Weddings are a big business and it is all about the photos. There are thousands of books and videos out there. I have just attempted to highlight a few that I have learned from from the hundreds that I have read and looked at.

Since I am not a professional wedding photographer, I can't tell you all of the latest or offer expert advice. Most of the shooting I do at weddings is more photojournalistic style. I will say that for me it is all about capturing the moment. I like to get those small pieces of emotion, the uncontrolled movements, gestures, and facial expressions between people that truly express the feelings at specific moments throughout the day. These books and videos show you poses and lighting techniques. What I do is keep all of these things in mind when I position myself, my lens, and my lighting so that I can maximize my potential of getting the shot I want.

My notes to myself of weddings:
- Setup Photo Booth at reception - bring extension cord
- Use flash - but try not to annoy (without flash the colors end up muted)
- Bring umbrellas and stands ready in case of impromptu large group shots later in the evening.

The flash is very necessary to get clean crisp and colorful shots indoors and outdoors, especially later at night. I set my D700 to ISO 1600 and the SB-900 flash on TTL with some exposure compensation dialed in. This gives me light in the background and some fill in flash. I use flash as much as I can, but time my shots to get the right moment. If I blast away like I do at a photo shoot or site survey, they crowd and usually the groom with be ready to kill me after the first few minutes.

About the umbrellas and stands; Several times people have asked me to get a group shot of  "the whole class of ..." or "this whole side of the family..." later on with a few minutes notice, usually later in the evening. With two stands and umbrellas ready to go I can easily accommodate these requests.

Some words of advice I will give are; If you haven't shot a wedding in a while, more recently it is stylish to paint all bars and meeting areas with dark colors instead of  the traditional color white. This can be a nightmare when utilizing a bounce flash. Do the best that you can. One wedding I went to had a glass ceiling and glass walls on 3 sides which was even worse. I really felt for the wedding photographer at that one. Oh and to make matters worse, the fouth wall and the rest of the building had black walls. (It was at the Baltimore Aquarium.)

That's it for now.

Update December 2013 :
How to become a Professional Wedding Photographer is a new DVD from Fstoppers. If you are planning on getting into wedding photography, this thing is full of great tips and advice to get you started. I highly recommend it if you are planning on getting into wedding photography. I have watched all 14 hours and I can assure you that it is current and applicable. Great job guys!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 and the 70-200mm f/2.8 - my go-to lenses

I know that I have said that I love the new 85mm f/1.4 and the 24mm f/1.4. Well, while I love these lenses, my go to lenses for work and many other shots are often the 24-70mm f/2.8 and the 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses. This goes all the way back to my old  Nikon F5 with a 35-70mm f/2.8 and a 80-200mm f/2.8. I used these for years. Originally these were the focal lengths and lenses that Nikon recommended in its schools.

24-70mm f/2.8 on 24mm f/4

Well I found myself wandering Bandolier National Monument on a short break from work and since I was working, I had my 24-70mm f/2.8 and the 70-200mm f/2.8 with me. I took a few shots inside and outside of the cave dwellings.
I won't begin to describe the history of this site, since I know little about it. You can find out more on the park service's web site here. There are many petroglyphs and cave dwelling in the side of a mountain.
70-200mm f/2.8 on 200mm f/4 from over 100 yards away
24-70mm f/2.8 on 24mm f/5.6
24-70mm f/2.8 on 24mm f/8
24-70mm f/2.8 on 70mm f/8

24-70mm f/2.8 on 70mm f/4

24-70mm f/2.8 on 24mm f/10

Ok - what do I want to cover? Well, with just two lenses you can cover just about all of the shots that you will have to take. You can see shots to document, wide angle shots, tight zoomed and cropped shots in both bright sunlight and darkness of the inside of a cave dwelling.

Going back to these lenses from several weeks using the 85mm f/1.4 and the 24mm f/1.4 exclusively reminded me of a few things. First, I can still isolate my subjects down to f/2.8. Second, I can zoom to get exactly what I want when I can't walk to the best point for a specific focal length. The side of a mountain usually constrains ones movement pretty well. Third, these lenses autofocus extremely fast. This is very beneficial when shooting anything moving. My favorite example of this are children. While I use the 50mm f/1.4, 24mm f/1.4, and 85mm f/1.4 many times for portraits, these lenses do not focus nearly as quickly as the 24-70mm f/2.8 and the 70-200mm f/2.8. I have found that many times it is better to throw on a flash, bounce it off the ceiling or a wall, and crank the ISO on the Nikon D700 up to ISO 1600. This way I get the background light and a bit of fill of a moving child, keeping everything sharp.

For work I primarily use the 24-70mm f/2.8 and the 70-200mm f/2.8 and the 14-24mm f/2.8. The 14-24mm f/2.8 is mainly for covering the entire overview shot, or to accent a specific part of a scene while still covering that small part in the context of the rest of the scene.

I am often asked, what if I want to buy one lens to cover anything. Well first I would start with the 50mm f/1.4. For around $400 you can take great pictures with great isolation, providing good learning potential.  The all around lens for a little more is for those DX shooters the 18-200mm VR II and for FX shooters the 28-300mm VR. I have only played with these lenses and have not use them extensively. You can read the reviews at

In short the main notes are:
-with the  24-70mm f/2.8 and the 70-200mm f/2.8 one can cover just about any shot.
-the Auto Focus is fast on both lenses, making them great for kids and sports.

The Nikon D4 now allows me to shoot fast moving subjects with my 24mm f/1.4 and 85mm f/1.4 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Buenos Aires - Some thoughts and mistakes

First my notes to myself:
-Shoot f/1.4
-Depth of Field and Focus Bracketing (Use f/1.4 and f/5.6 at least, prefer 1.4, 1.6, 2, 4, 5.6, 8)
-Shoot murals while overcast
-Use tripod
-Carry less, keep moving, get closer

(I try to give a summary to myself of just simple notes of things that I forgot to do or that I could do to improve.)

On this trip I used the Nikon D700 with an 85mm f/1.4 (which I got hours before leaving, from Penn Camera), 24mm f/1.414-24mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses , a Singh-Ray Vari-ND filter, and several B+W filters, including the wide angle circular polarizer. I brought my Gitzo tripod with me, but foolishly I did not use it. I say foolishly, because the night shot of the Puente De La Mujer (Bridge Of The Woman) was sadly not as sharp as it would have been when using a tripod.

I left the 70-200mm f/2.8 in the safe at the hotel for the most part and primarily used the 24mm f/1.4 and the 85mm f/1.4. I had the 14-24mm f/2.8 and an SB-900 speedlight in my bag. When it was brighter out at mid day I dropped on a B+W KR6 77mm and the Singh-Ray Vari-ND filter on either the 24mm f/1.4 or the 85mm f/1.4 and made sure to set my white balance to daylight. That allowed me to drop the light coming into the lens so that I could still shoot at f/1.4 in the bright sunlight. Below is an example of one of the shots during this harsh light time. It looks like it was taken during an overcast day, but you can tell by the shadow under the bench that it was taken close to high noon.

Mural, high noon

I really love the 85mm f/1.4. The ability to drop the depth of field so shallow and have the in focus plane be so incredibly sharp is just amazing. As I said, I picked up the lens just before leaving on my trip. The first thing that amazed me was how clear and cavernous 10 elements and 9 groups can be. The lens really looks empty when you look at it from the front. It looks almost as though there is filter and then the aperture blades in the rear. I will have to take a shot of the inside of the lens to show the inside. I can say that the pictures with this lens nothing short of amazing.

That brings me to my next note; shoot 1.4. What is the point of using and carrying 1.4 lenses if you shoot at f/5.6 and f/8? I dropped into the old "f/8 and be there" mentality as I instinctively do when I shoot travel photography. I flash back to the days of my old Nikon F5 with a 35-70mm f/2.8 and a 80-200mm f/2.8. Now that we have digital we can shoot a lot more and take more chances.  It may be harder to get exacting focus when you shoot f/1.4, but the shots are just outstanding by comparison. On f/8 the shot looks like it was taken with a point and shoot, on f/1.4 it looks like medium format.

Just look at the above photo of a very mundane subject and how f/1.4 just pulls it out. It is even better with portraits! This is another example using the B+W KR6 77mm and the Singh-Ray Vari-ND filter at about 2pm in bright sunlight. I did find that it was often good to shoot f/1.4 and at least f/5.6 to ensure the focus is sharp and you get a bit more depth of field when you need it. Bracketing using 1.4, 1.6, 2, 4, 5.6, 8 pretty much covers you, if you have the time of course. On many SLR cameras these setting are just the roll of a knob when you are in aperture priority mode.

So, Yes! You can shoot in mid day with harsh light as long as it is even and still make it look like a great colorful overcast day. Using the B+W KR6 77mm and the Singh-Ray Vari-ND filter in tandem is what I use. I think of it as sunglasses for my camera. When you need sunglasses, so does your camera.

Their are fantastic murals all over the city of Buenos Aires. For most, think of these as very high end grafiti. They are fantastic and are one of the great artistic sights in Buenos Aires. In the example below you can see that this mural is on a wonderful piece of architecture.

This mural is shown in detail on For the murals while overcast note and other fantastic murals, check out the pictures on in Buenos Aires (under featured or locations) and you will see how some of the murals have harsh shadow due to the angle of the sun.

Now we are on to two more notes. Shoot at the right time and use a tripod.

Featured is the Puente De La Mujer (Bridge Of The Woman) in the north end of Buenos Aires

The second note is more important. That is USE A TRIPOD!  We all know this, but we get lazy or we are in a hurry. Well back to the old "f/8 and be there" days. Had I used a tripod and set the camera on f/8 and ISO 200, I would have had an amazing saleable photograph. Instead, being lazy I shot it on F/1.4 and 6400 and got a nice shot, but not good for anything by a 4x6 inch print, if that. It is muddy and full of grain. Now if I lived in Buenos Aires this would be no problem. I would just go down there on a similar night and shoot it again with a tripod. Well since I was just travelling through, I have to live with this shot.

Now on to Carry less, keep moving, get closer. One of our nights in Buenos Aires, my wife and I went to one of the myriad of dinner / Tango shows that are featured. Buenos Aires is known for originating the Tango. My wife and I wanted to get some pictures of the dancers. When I go to dinner with my wife I can't exactly be rolling the old pelican case full of strobes, stands, light modifiers, etc. with me. I also can't whip out anything like a 70-200mm f/2.8 or better yet my 200mm f/2.0. (I got away with using that one in Istanbul on our trip because we were in a dark orchestra pit setting on the aisle. The lighting was extremely low and red. I will have to post about this at a later date.) So what I used was the 85mm f/1.4 and the 24mm f/1.4. If I had to choose one for the night I would take the 85mm f/1.4. So if you are wondering what I would carry if I had only one lens to buy or carry to a dark concert the 85mm f/1.4 would be it. With the Nikon D700 and the 85mm f/1.4 you can get shots of the people on stage in the original lighting and not disturb the performance. (Just make sure to turn of the auto focus assist light which blazes like a flashlight in darkness.) The lighting designer has often taken a lot of time to get the lights just right and those on stage try to hit their marks just right. I like to capture all of this in the shot if I can.

The shots I got of tango dancers in motion just turned out wonderfully. Especially if you consider that all I did was turn slightly around in my chair sitting across from my wife and shoot a few shots. This was not a photo shoot type, just several shots at carefully timed instants. Dinner and dancing cannot equal photoshoot if you want to stay married.

I have many more notes and thoughts, but I have tried to keep it to a manageable number for a short post.

If you would like to see more from Buenos Aires check out Buenos Aires on


For those that asked about vignetting with the 24mm f/1.4 and the Singh-Ray Vari-ND filter - there is slight but noticable vignetting if the Vari-ND is the only filter on the lens and the lens is on 1.4. If it is set to 2.0 or so the vignetting is reduced so that it is not noticable. I have used this with video as well on the D4.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Nikon 85mm 1.4G from Penn Camera

Street Mural Buenos Aires

I just got back from Buenos Aires. Over the next week I will sort through my images and put some of the best ones on the site

Just prior to leaving I decided to check with the trusted local camera shop here in DC (Penn Camera) to see if they had by any odd chance a Nikon 85mm 1.4G in stock. I got lucky earlier in the year with a 24mm 1.4G that they happened to by some miracle have in. Well as luck would have it, they were able to locate a lens that had been designated for someone who did not come in to pick it up. Two hours prior to leaving for Buenos Aires, I pulled into the Rockville store and walked out with an 85mm 1.4G. I can't get that lens anywhere, but Penn Camera delivers yet again.

The results that I have gotten from this thing are nothing short of amazing. I would almost give up my Nikon 200mm 2.0. (Just kidding. That one is even more amazing. One of these days I will put up my Istanbul pictures where I used that to capture a traditional music and dancing performance without flash in the dark.)

The above picture is of a street mural. There is a lot of high end graffiti in Buenos Aires.

The below picture was taken in almost total darkness of two tango dancers in motion. Sure this one was at f/4, but look at the color rendition and the sharpness in low light. I was amazed that it focused so well in low light without the red assist light on a flash. (Another great trick. You put an SB-900 on top of the camera, turn it on, but hold down the flash fcn button on the camera which has been programmed to cut off the flash. What you get is the red low light illuminator, but the flash does not fire.)

Tango Dancers, Buenos Aires

Monday, November 15, 2010

Polaroid is no longer in business

This is a fact. Unfortunately unscrupulous vendors are using this to jack up prices on Polaroid instant film, particularly Polaroid 600 film and Polaroid 600 cameras.

Asking prices for the camera on Amazon are:

+ $5.49shipping

Sign in to turn on 1-Click ordering.

And for the film on Amazon are:

+ $4.99shipping

Sign in to turn on 1-Click ordering.

You may ask why I am bringing this up.

Well a good friend of mine had the idea that for her wedding she would use an old Polaroid 600 camera at the guestbook station. The idea was that the guests could take their pictures with the Polaroid, stick the photos to the book, and write a short message.

Well, she tested some old film that she had been loaned, which was from 2004, but was well cared for, and it worked. The color wasn't perfect, but it worked. So she decided to order some "new" film on Amazon from "mgiwarehouse". You can see the prices that mgiwarehouse charges for this film and the camera.  She decided to buy a 3-Pack of film from mgiwarehouse at the same prices shown above. That would make it roughly $50 for a pack of 10.

The wedding night came around and she set up the book. The first few pictures from the pack of film she  was given worked fine. Then came the mgiwarehouse film. Not one, not two, but all 3 packs of film failed. The pictures were orange blobs and leaked in the camera. The batteries went dead after 2-3 shots. There she was, on her wedding night, the day she waited for with anticipation for all of her life, and there would be no pictures for the guest book. She was out over $150 dollars, wasted on an unscrupulous vendor who took advantage of her.

Unfortunately, I was not there to examine the base of the packs when they were opened, or it would have been immediately obvious to me that the packages had been recycled. The battery contacts were scratched, mashed in, and clearly used an recharged. There is no telling how old the film was and the foil wrapping appeared to have been reglued.

When she tried to ask for some form of refund or compensation, she received a message stating that it was her fault for buying "expired film".  I am hoping to get the exact response to post here, but what I have for now is that "We have clearly specified that films are expired, plus Polaroid is no longer in business". There was to be no refund of any type. mgiwarehouse said that it was all her fault.

The above listings are a direct copy and paste from Amazon's site this evening! The listing clearly states "New"!

I will post some pics of the packs, once I get my hands on them, to show you what I saw when she quickly showed them to me.

Lets put an end to this now so that no one else has to experience this on their wedding night!

It only takes a minute to go on Amazon and write a review. There are already a few, but somehow they have managed to get buried.

Since I always try to provide a solution, if you want an instant film camera, look at the new Polaroid 300. It is from the "The New Polaroid."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Best way to learn Photography

I am often asked what the best way is to learn photography. Since it is such a broad topic I figured that I would touch on how I learned photography and cover some of the people or things that I have learned from.

For today I want to cover just a few examples of some of the videos, books and courses that I am glad that I watched, read, or attended over the years. I am not selling anything, I just feel that it is better for you to learn from what I learned, than to have me regurgitate what someone else said. I might end up being a lot less eloquent. I will try to mention only the ones that had the greatest impact on me or that I found provided particularly good coverage of a certain topic.

First, for portrait lighting I really got a lot from the Best of Dean Collins. It is a great video set where Dean explains how to do lighting. It may look a bit dated, but it is an excellent set of videos to learn from. Many other videos just copy what Dean did back in the 80's. Dean's videos are now available for free on Youtube. Click here:  Best of Dean Collins

I have to say that I would not have benefited as much from the videos or in general if it were not for Marty Kaplan (  Marty teaches a great set of courses with Smithsonian.
Smithsonian Resident Associate - Photography is the link to all of the Smithsonian photo classes. This January Marty is teaching The Joy of Photography which is a basic course and Introduction to Studio Portraiture which covers studio lighting. I learned a lot from Marty's courses. You get a lot of experience over the course of 1 night a week for 8 weeks. The price is also the best I've seen. If you are in DC take advantage of it!

For Photoshop, in my opinion, you can't beat Deke McClelland. His set of Photoshop training from Basic to Mastery is excellent. It is available from here. I've watched many a Photoshop tutorial. I just wish that I had seen Deke's stuff sooner.

I also got some good tips from a quick skim of Scott Kelby's "The Digital Photography Book." There are three volumes full of tips. I must admit that I just skimmed them in Borders (read them several times really).  The tips were great, I was just too cheap to buy them at the time.

There are also "Hands on Guide to Creative Lighting" with Bob Krist and Joe McNally is also very good if you use the Nikon system.

That's all for now.

Update: I have to add Taz Tally's tutorial on Photoshop for Printing. This tutorial is also very informative. Sections 14,17,18 on using the grey target for color balance in Photoshop are the best that I have seen. Also Chris Orwig did a great job with his latest Adobe Camera Raw set of tutorials.

Update: Due to a request I decided to quickly write up the Best way to learn Wedding Photography with some quick info on some of the books and videos that I learned from.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Best Camera Mount - Manfrotto RC2 Mounts and 200PL-14

I wanted to explain the mounts I use as well as how and why I use them. Many people swear by the Arca-Swiss style camera mounts, but I prefer the Manfrotto RC2 mount with the 200PL-14 plate. On speaking with some of the guys at Penn Camera, they tend to agree. The Arca-Swiss mounts may be durable and precise, but for me they are too slow and require me to look at the mount rather than just slapping the lens or camera on the mount an go. This ability to slap and go has served me well over the years, especially with my 400mm f/2.8.

With the 400mm slung on my back with the camera already on it, I have climbed ladders and run across the ground with my monopod in my hand. I first extend the monopod, which has a flat mounted 323 RC2 System Quick Release Adapter with 200PL-14 Plate on top, I then sling the 400mm off my shoulder with my right hand on the mount. With my left hand on the grip of the monopod and my right on the lens mount below the lens with my right arm holding up the lens and camera on the top of the outside of my arm, I rock the 200PL-14 plate on the base of the lens mount into place onto the 323 RC2 mount. It is the fastest means that I have come up with to quickly and securely attach the 400mm to a monopod. I use the flat 323 RC2 and not a ball head because invariably I found that the ball head would be in a precarious position when it came time to slap it down. Since I only have two hands, I prefer consistency and precision to a little extra flexibility.

Above, I have pictured the 200PL-14 Rectangular Quick Release Plate with 1/4"-20 Screw mounting bracket and the 322RC2 Grip Action Ballhead . I will use these two to show how I setup my mounting and show how quickly and easily the plates snap into place.

Notice on the 200PL-14 the labels LENS and the arrows. Well these indicate which direction the lens should be pointed relative to the plate. I actually use the plates backwards, with the camera in the direction of the arrow and the lens extending in the opposite direction of the arrow. The front element of the lens (where the lens shade is) would then be in the opposite direction of the arrow. I do this so that I can get the back lip on the base of the plate (the smaller lip edge) to slide into place as I rock the plate and snap it down to the mount.

In the sequence of photos below I show how this is done with a 70-200 f/2.8 lens, minus the camera. Notice how I fit the base edge into the back of the plate and just rock the lens forward. As the lens rocks forward it presses down on the brass pin on the mount, causing the locking latch to snap into place. With my left hand I can then check the latch, or I can just roll my right index finger around to check it as well. That is all there is too it.

To remove the lens, I just use the thumb on my left hand to press forward on the locking latch an the lens comes right off into my left hand. (Note: In the pictures below I used my left had to hold the lens because I was taking the picture with my right.) Once the lens is removed, I can easily fold out the ring on the bottom and connect it to my RS-4 Camera Strap by Black Rapid. The strap has a clasp on the end that the ring can quickly attach to. (I don't do this with the 400mm. I keep the strap that came with it from Nikon securely attached to it at all times. No one wants to drop that thing with a camera attached. I liken it to dropping a new car off a cliff.)

These mounts have served me well over the years and I hope that Manfrotto/Bogen will continue to make them long into the future.