Aug 27, 2008

Lightroom 2 - Adobe's new USS Enterprise

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2

Its been 42 years since Star Trek briefly blazoned across our Universe... DSLR cameras didn't even exist... Darth Vader has come and gone!
The latest buzz began a month ago; Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 was unveiled. The digital photographer's blogosphere went ballistic...
My first exposure to Lightroom 2 was a couple of videos showing new Adjustment and Graduated Filter tools - I watched in amazement as the new adjustment brush delicately enhanced body, wings, and tail of two completely different airplane images - all without requiring that exhausting quick selection/quick mask Photoshop solution to masking.
I sensed, "A Revolution in Our Midst... !" Did some Adobe wag deliberately choose a warped space-time continuum as an icon for the box cover?
Maybe not; but I think Lightroom 2 will warp how we do digital photography to a completely new way of faster, more sophisticated workflow.

It's possible to have LR2 in hand before you have a book or video to learn from. The National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) is already producing video tutorials. Amazon will have Scott Kelby's book available September 21. Matt Kloskowski has in-depth videos on DVD through NAPP. Adobe TV shows a teaser LR2 series from Kloskowski; 8 to 10 minute overviews. Michael Clark, of Santa Fe New Mexico, has written an e-book explaining his use of LR2; it's been picked up as a source by Adobe. And each blogosphere rant gives us various other glimpses as this is written.
So what can I say that's new about LR2?
About a year ago, with my head pressed firmly into the wall of an ancient, remote Anasazi ruin, I did a handheld row-and-column multi-shot panorama. I came back to the mothership, tried to stitch it in CS2, and the stitching was a real mess. The next morning Jack Houser tried to stitch it in CS3 - it worked. Acting on gut instinct, I downloaded CS3. It's stitching was perfect - the image would later get Honorable Mention at the State Fair.
In the interim, CS3's Quick Selection tool and Quick Mask has slowly helped create several masked alpha channel versions of composite images which have recently won local awards and made it just below the final awards cut at the latest state fair. Privately, I was told by a highly decorated award-winning photographer who watched that judging ~ "You were robbed...!"

Conceptually, with what little I presently know about LR2, again my gut anticipates it will significantly enhance many aspects of professional photography digital workflow. If my new mothership tool can make archaic or even eliminate quick selection, quick masking, dodge and burn - just that response alone will clearly give me more time to shoot instead of compute. And, as my experience has gone with Photoshop, there will be amazing new little tips and tricks trickle out of LR2 for some time to come.

While Star Trek only lasted three years, The Next Generation has been with us for some time. May LR2 ~ Live Long and Prosper!

Aug 21, 2008

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Anasazi Moon New Mexico State Fair 2008

Trials and tribulations of juried competitions in a state fair photography exhibition can be either exhilarating or daunting. Let's take a walk through three nights of judging at the New Mexico State Fair, then, if you will, please add your judgment by commenting.

Scenario: In three nights, five professional judges have to go through 800 photos. The photographers range from youth to professional. Photos have the range of character from the Clint Eastwood movie "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly". So much of judging is a hewing process, chipping away at things that aren't the point or aren’t conceptual (by Judge) or aren't the 'right' image. Really, it's that last couple of images they see that makes all the difference.

At NMSF, each of these nights contains an added tableau. Volunteers put each image on an easel under direct, tungsten lights. Votes were averaged, tabulated, then each image was put into a bin based on score. When the category is done, judges congregate around a table to openly discuss a final order for image awards - First, Second, Third, and Honorable Mention. When the categories’ all done, professional, adult, and youth each get a Best of Show from all first-class winners.

This process is exacting. It's also tiring, both for judges and volunteers. Putting it simply, you sat through 300 images a night. Come 10:45 - your view is not on images ~ but on getting home and to bed. But you still have to finish category.

Crème de la crème - the exciting moments begin when your image sits on the table among six others. At this point, you've already survived a significant numbers game - let's say 12 of 180 - you're in 95 percentile rank (only 5% are better).
Now, your image sits there - third place one moment, honorable mention the next - depending on Judge chatter. Only 5% of images were better. Or, let's say your image scored was in the 95 percentile, but doesn't make the cut. So you drop to 94 percentile (so 1% of photographers are better).
Or, you took first place - even Best of Show for your major category.

But, you're still crème de la crème...
Now, if you let a small 1% difference affect how you feel about your ability as a photographer, that can lead to some really bad juju.
Remember, judges were tired, they wanted to go home, they had a duty, or any one of a number of other/different reasons.. After all, tired judges were painting on a wet canvas at the end of a series of long nights.

So, for several nights, You ranked among the Best of the Best. When it all fell out, you still were... And, you've only been competing two years, you’ve been in finals 3 times, you got People's Choice in another image, and there are numerous other award-winning images...

We invite your comments on the quality of a non-placing photo shown above.

Aug 16, 2008

The Longest 3+ Minutes on the Planet


1st 8 Olympic Gold Medal Winner – Michael Phelps


Professional Photographers Blogging from Beijing Olympics

Jason Lezak wins 4x100 relay & Gold

Some time before the Olympics, Simon Barnett, Director of Photography, Newsweek, gathered Vincent Laforet, Donald Miralle, and Mike Powell (The Dream Team) together to discuss shooting the Olympics.
Rich Haggerty, A Photo Editor, did an interview in which Simon said,
"For us, this is the first time our focus is overwhelmingly to our web presence, so we’ve come up with a new approach to editing. Each of three photographers will manage their own photo blog, editing, and uploading their best images – along with, I hope, some very personal anecdotes about what it’s like to be there experiencing it. I hope this creates a form of photo “Survivor” between them, where they are in a kind of creative competition. Then, I’ll go into their blogs each day and edit what I deem to be ‘best of’ which will be up on a showcased gallery around noon each day. It’s kind of photographic natural selection."

In simple terms, the professional photographer has the exciting, yet new demanding role of capturing that electrifying moment, picking it out from several thousand pictures, writing his feelings about that particular Olympic event, putting it on a blog, and 'instantly' sending it to his editor - so we can see it online in a very short time!  He's shooter, image processor, writer (even local director of photography) - all at the same time, using today's incredible array of exquisite Internet technology.
BTW, the antithesis of Simon Barnett's Newsweek view of a future direction in photography is expressed in 42 Things I Know by William Lobdell, former newspaper editor, written just before the Olympics.

Read More…

Newsweek's Dream Team began planning a year before the Olympics.
Here's what Laforet was worried about…
"We still have to worry about the following at each event we cover: We don’t know who will win/lose or become the news, where that will happen, when that will happen, or from where we can get the best picture from, or with what lens and exposure (nor when we can put our guard down or take a meal/bathroom break) never know this until the event happens _LIVE_
"In photography there are no second chances; you are either “hero or zero” with little in between. This is why photographers, who by nature are used to capturing what is a sometimes chaotic series of events, like to have at least the basics figured out before they get to the venue, so they only have to worry about making “the” picture."

If you're a photographer, Laforet wrote a very interesting experiential blog on A Third of the Way Through: Time for a Little Introspection.  Faced with incredible moment-to-moment pressure, Vincent noted his long sports photography history, the complexity of sport shooting at this level, then commented about the need to see a new way to provide Olympic photography.
One of the requirements was an Equipment Confirmation Letter containing a list of every piece of gear they conceivably might need.  In Laforet’s case, this meant 200 pounds of gear.  On a given day, he might use 60 pounds.
About three days in, he said "Well. Yesterday's post turned out to be quite cathartic—it helped flush whatever was holding me back out.  It's amazing how big of a role your state of mind plays in how you shoot."

If you're a photography blogger, then I must say - checking the blogging times of the Dream Team, they were on line at any time in the 24 hour day.
It's my guess, since they were acting as photographer, editor, and writer, they probably used Lightroom 2.  But it's also fair to say they need to know how to blog, technical aspects behind good writing, and getting images and blogs professionally prepared for US consumption.
In particular, Laforet’s A Third Day… used a short, creative intro, then put the meat on a separate page in their blogging space using Read More.

My congratulations to Simon Barnett and his Dream Team ~ Vincent Laforet, Donald Miralle, and Mike Powell.  Not only is their reporting inspirational, it clearly presages new ways for photographers to communicate about their driving passions which give us such visual glory!

But back to Michael Phelps and the 29th Olympiad...
or, Michael Phelps First 8 Minutes after Winning the 8th Gold Medal!
Last night, at 2307 hours, a surprised Michael Phelps became our all planet gold medal winner, helping to set a world record and winning his 8th goal medal.  Aaron Peirsol, Brendan Hansen, Phelps and Jason Lezak won the 4x100 meter relay at Beijing in a world-record of 3 minutes, 29.34 seconds, lowering the old mark of 3:30.68 set four years ago in Athens.
With the same reporting spirit Laforet displayed in Beijing, let's celebrate Michael's first 8 minutes after Jason Lezak touched the wall. 
We show Michael's expression 8 seconds later,

Michael Phelps sees they won 4x100

then Mom's expression. 

Mother Phelps sees they won Olympic Gold

Team celebrates before the 29th Olympiad at Beijing 30 seconds later. 

Phelps Team Celebrates Gold

Michael celebrates before the 29th Olympiad at Beijing one minute later. 

Michael Phelps Salutes Bejiing and Planet

Eight minutes later, Michael, the 1st 8th gold medal winner ever, is interviewed on NBC.

Michael Phelps & Team 1st NBC Interview

Our images, captured on a remote HDTV using rabbit ears, lack the nicety of $10,000-15,000 of on site equipment.  But, they are without copyright infringement.
And, on a very minor stage, not only have we replicated Newsweek's achievement, but we've enjoyed these rather incredible Beijing 2008 Olympics...

Aug 15, 2008

Blogger’s Help Crew and Internet Browsers

Browsers have slight differences in how they handle the input stream directed to them from all over the planet. 
What's an input stream?
To most bloggers, its words you write and pictures you show.  Naturally, you'd like to see both appear on the page in a harmonious fashion.
To a few bloggers, its underlying HTML that specifies what appears how on which page.

In the past few weeks of blog development, I've found differences between Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 3 with respect to Blogger. 
Many digital photographers prefer Firefox.  But, with Blogger, it has some limitations.  My landscapes are not always centered in the blog with Firefox, in spite of me specifying the center command in HTML.  Firefox won't make a PDF beyond the first page with Blogger.
Yet, in yesterday's bug release, the Blogger Crew put a new face on composing blogs.  Unfortunately, this morning, when I tried to compose a blog, IE 7 just sat there... (it wouldn't let me compose a blog).
As I had learned to do using both browsers to process blog PDFs, I thought, "Well, what will Firefox do?"
Firefox quickly let me compose and publish the D300 blog.
What I printed that blog in IE 7, the D300 image was centered.

Now, wouldn't you think the Blogger Crew would've thought of that before they published a partially working bug fix?

Most everyone who lives in the Southwest is familiar with the word Cuidate!  It means, “Be Careful…”

Wading through New Gear

Nikon D300 front view

Whether you shoot Canon or Nikon, there can be a vicious learning cycle.  You need a technical edge in the fast-paced, ever changing digital world.
For example, Nikon's just released the D700 - an FX prosumer DSLR with full sensor.  Your new D700 just arrived by FedEx, with a paper manual (my D300 had 421 pages).  Along with a new set of functions, it's time to wade into a new, complex manual, hoping there are not obfuscations.
Because your freezing fingertips don't need to think when you're in one of those fast-changing perfect lighting situations where you're about to capture a National Geographic quality snow image.

Is there a better way?
Yes, there are actually several of them.
1.    Download that camera manual as a PDF from your camera maker and do a word search.  It's way faster than reading the paper version.
2.    Buy Thom Hogan's Nikon D300 guide.  At 769 pages in PDF format, it's much bigger than Nikon's manual, and much more clearly presented.  Besides that, Thom's experience as a Nikon shooter adds a lot of value to observations in his thoughtful guide.
3.    Get on the net and look at videos provided by Nikon and other Nikon shooters; a bunch of them are eager to be first to discuss a gearhead's delight.  I have found some of those videos mislead me; try the tip.  If you don't like it, or if it conflicts with another special setting, chunk it.
4.    See if there is a description of new functions on Nikonians forum.
5.    You may have thought of an approach I don't use...

I've got some buddies who shoot Canon 40 D's.  I imagine they'd like to know about Thom Hogan's tip for why and when you shoot 14 bit on the D300/D700.  In a Texas nutshell, "At Magic Hour, whether shooting regular or HDR, set your camera to 14 bit.  You get four times the data in shadows and highlights.  At other times, set it to 12 bit.  You don't use up as much of your CF card shooting raw files!"
My apologies to Canon shooters; as Canon is a language I don't speak, I don't know where to get specifics.  But, ask your Canon buddies; I'll bet they do...

Aug 14, 2008

Paths of Light

Majestic Blessing Peoples Choice NM State Fair 2007 award winner

Majestic Blessing
©2007, Joe Bridwell, Chopawamsic LC
A slippery race across slick rock to the edge of White Rim Trail Overlook at Canyonlands National Park netted this gorgeous rainbow image.
Sharp edges of White Rim sandstone highlight cliffs formed by the Colorado River.
Nikon D70, 24-120 @ 24, 1/60, f16, ISO 200

Mountain Light, now in 2nd edition, was first published by Galen Rowell in 1986 through Sierra Book Club.
Galen Rowell won the prestigious Ansel Adams Award “For bringing breathtaking images of high and wild places among the world’s mountain ranges to new and growing audiences who thrill at the thought that such unspoiled places still exist and for making them want to help make sure they persist” in 1984.
With his first National Geographic publication about 1972, Rowell would climb the highest mountain in order to get images of breathtaking light in spectacular natural settings.

A quarter of a century later, I became aware of Mountain Light. Beyond the breathtaking images, Galen created a panoply of emotion and technical know-how as he described the history behind each of those hallowed 80 images.
When it was time to summarize my work as a portfolio, although I did not capture them with fore knowledge of Rowell, to my great pleasure, many images were taken in Mountain Light's tradition.

Paths of Light is a portfolio with 19 of nature's images taken between dawn and dusk. Magic Hour, that special time between dawn and dusk, actually provides just the right light for most of these images. We present each image in three parts; conditions of capture (touchy-feely), technical processing (photographers), and the piece de resistance - the image as we remember capturing it (everybody). Many of these images were deemed Worthy of Merit in Single Judge Competitions and State Fair Juried Competitions.

I must say, I've probably read Mountain Light four or five times now. In Paths Of Light, I've tried to incorporate some of the wisdom Galen gained in his many treks. It is my pleasure to provide different ways of seeing light against some of the most majestic landscapes our gorgeous southwest has to offer.

Photographic setting, format, and printing processes are always in debate. The venue: the southwestern United States, the Colorado plateau. The format: raw files and Photoshop development using advanced techniques. The prints: jpegs submitted to as 300 dpi images for each appropriate print format size.

We invite you to look at Paths of Light on

Bisti Badlands Cover NM Magazine Jan 2006 award winner

Bisti Badlands
©2004, Joe Bridwell, Chopawamsic LC
Lying on my side one mid day in the Bisti, northwestern New Mexico, I captured the sharp overhang of this hoodoo framing red dog hills against an autumn sky.
Imagine my surprise when it received the first award from my photography…
Nikon CoolPix 5700, 12.7 mm, 1/380, f7.6, ISO 100

Front Cover: Majestic Blessing, People’s Choice, Adult Amateur, New Mexico State Fair, 2007
Back Cover: Bisti Badlands, Cover, New Mexico Magazine, Jan., 2006

Aug 13, 2008

God's Hand

God's Hand Bisti Badlands award winner

God’s Hand
©2006 Joe Bridwell, Chopawamsic LC
One day, the Bisti Badlands was under siege from a norther. The Bisti is northwest of Chaco Canyon in northern New Mexico.
This rather unusual cloud formation caught my eye. I felt like God was saying, "In My House, there are many mansions..."
Later, I would recognize the complement between individual hoodoo towers acting like eroded fingers pointing up towards God's Hand – with it’s own beckoning fingers.
Nikon D70, 24-120 @ 34 mm, 1/30, f22, ISO 200.

Open for Business...

Pathways of Light is now accepting e-mail subscriptions for our digital photography blog. If you choose to become a PoL reader, you'll receive an e-mail for each blog we create.
Our passion is nature photography in those magical hours surrounding dawn and dusk in some of the gorgeous, wild country from our southwestern United States. From time to time, we will highlight an image, describe circumstances surrounding its capture, indicate something about its processing, and what gear created it.
We'll also be discussing digital photography, fine art, Photoshop, gear, blog creation, blog management, marketing, books, workshops, tours, and other items which appeal to us as time goes by...

We welcome your comments as this blog grows! There's an old saying, "There's 10 different ways to do the same thing in Photoshop!" That might be followed up with, "There are many workflow procedures; may be each photographer doesn't need to reinvent the wheel." While we've learned some of these concepts, we expect you know others. We hope your comments will help us to continue to grow _ and_ that, in turn, we can help you grow...

Aug 8, 2008

"Whoever Loved, That Love Not at First Sight?"

"Whoever Loved, That Love Not at First Sight?" Marlowe, 1595~(Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act 3, Sc. 5 ~ 1600). Paraphrased centuries later "... at First Light!"
Lavender Dawn White Sands award winner

My passion is provocative light on nature's gorgeous landscapes. I love Magic Hour when 'Light, Not Objects, Is the Source of Color.' Naturally, dawn, daytime, and dusk show very different characters; find the right light, pose the right landscape, and Luck will ride your shoulder in beauty.
Lavender Dawn, an award-winning image of White Sands, seems appropriate as the first image to carry our theme and illustrate Newton’s observation about 'light as the source of color.'

Actually, Marlowe wrote:
Where both deliberate, the love is slight:
Who ever loved, that loved not at first sight?
It's as if Marlowe knew digital cameras were on a rather distant horizon. Today's literal translations might be
"Deliberate - learn your equipment, learn your digital imaging environment (Lightroom and Photoshop), learn how to think Photoshop when you shoot…
"First Light - then go shoot when and where Lady Luck abides."
Our blog, Pathways of Light, is an effort to describe all aspects of Marlowe's famous line ~ just in terms of digital and fine art photography of nature.
We discuss happenings in the digital world.
We show you fine art photography in our book Paths of Light.
We teach you how to use Photoshop in Capturing Nature's Light, we show you presentation styles, and we discuss paths to turning your images into award-winning memories.
Anasazi Adventures is a Magic Hour Four Corners digital tour where we practice what we preach ~ shoot at dawn / dusk then midday discuss how you can turn your images into award-winners. Here, we take Pathways to new heights; we get out in the real wilderness with a camera to capture Pathways of Light!
When not otherwise occupied, we simply discuss other things that also interest us...

Reward yourself! Dance through our Fine Art Galleries. Look at limited examples from our book, workflow, and workshops. Take Pathways with us on tours to ancient Anasazi lands...