Nov 28, 2008

Creative Christmas Books

Maddy and Erin

Best of Show
As of now, my daughter and granddaughter, heads lovingly together, are the best of some 1400 images. Their beauty is apparent; they are deeply linked by heart and heritage. They make me very proud…

Times are tight, money’s slow; what can you create for grandkids or kids or a loved one for Christmas?

I’ve got a Family Collection Set in Lightroom!
I went back to my first digital images, began collecting by year, then by event ~ pretty soon, I had over 1400 images. Then Scott Kelby published a blog on his travel workflow. Bottom line ~ he created 2 Collection Sets with Picks for books – 1 Pick for family Vacation, another for Fine Art. Bingo ~ new idea. Thanks, Scott...
For me, this meant creating two unique Christmas books; one for each grand girl. I didn't really want a collection of both; I'd rather have each girl get her own book to create her own memories.
Enter Lightroom's Picks; I simply go through and flag images of both girls, then separate them into individual Collection Sets in the main Lightroom catalog. When I had individual sets ready, I'd export them to main desktop catalog, move that to the laptop, then work up the book on the laptop using Blurb BookSmart. When done, I'd Export the modified desktop catalogs to the studio laptop, then Import them to the main Lightroom catalog. As my last step, I'd move any auxiliary BookSmartData files from Blurb over under Projects folder on my studio computer’s external hard drive.

Standard Lightroom Pick Workflow
There's real power in Lightroom's Pick flag. If you see a photo you like, simply press P and Lightroom sets a flag on that image. Then create a picks collection set with Best, Both, Grandpa, Kylie, and Maddy. Since I'm collecting images per girl for the last four years, I've got to go through several individual Collection Sets from 2004-2008 to compile one set just for that girl. It's just a matter of being patient; 1444 originals boiled down to 67 starters. That will become 40 finalists when the girl’s books are done.
Drudgery is over...

Family Collection Sets

Creative Blurb Workflow
Now the fun begins!
Photomatix has a plug-in for Lightroom; it allows me to preload Lightroom images to make an HDR image. Plug-ins really simplify set up steps I am about to describe. But, when I checked HDRsoft, Blurb had no mention of any plug-ins for Lightroom (too bad!).
So it was time to wing it and create my own workflow. I chose a standard 10x8 20 page softcover book from Blurb. I then chose a picture layout with one column for text and a title.
With both Lightroom and BookSmart open, I created one page at a time in BookSmart. If I had an image in Lightroom, I'd look at it, decide if it was how I wanted presented in the book, make changes with the Develop module if necessary, then click the Export button and save that image as a full JPEG in a folder for one girl.
Using Get Photos from BookSmart, I'd go get that photo and import it to BookSmart. I'd then drag and drop that photo onto the gray image area on each page. Then, I begin to write a description of memories that particular image evoked. Pretty soon, I'd have all 20 pages done.
Before I forget, my first two steps were to choose memorable images which I thought were Best of Kid then put them on front and back covers of each book.

I had the idea about noon one day; by noon the next day, the first book was ready to print for proofing. Yes, I did some back-and-forth as I decided how I wanted that book to look. But I knew once I had that book’s format, I had the second book nearly done!
After the proof step (or steps - I nag at words as I edit), I simply upload the book, purchase a copy, it comes by mail, I wrap it, and a girls heartfelt Christmas present is ready... with lots of deep love from grandpa and true delight on Christmas Day!

BTW, there's another aspect to this work. If I'm skillful in my writing, I'll be able to remind my granddaughters of an early history both through gorgeous pictures and clearly expressed love and feelings! Now, I consider that a low dollar creative family Christmas history...

Nov 25, 2008

Bosque’s Memorable Brilliance

Bosque's Memorable Brilliance

©Joe Bridwell
A cold but still morning found Bosque birds on the move. As the sun burned underbellies of capping clouds and began lightening distant hills, hunger called birds aloft.
A relatively short handheld lens ranged behind this flock; yet, image clarity balances an off-axis presence of the uppermost bird, where all are capped by morning’s glory.
Although these birds are normally white-gray, morning’s gentle, forgiving light, filtered through distant atmosphere lying east, shows such a wonderful concordance of soft, pastel color between sharp, in-focus birds and slightly out-of-focus hills as backdrop.
Nikon D300, 70-300mm, 155mm, 1/500, f4.5, iso 200, 0700 112308

Laptop Workflow
These days, my blog or workshop is written on a laptop. I put an image in Word, I pick up a microphone, and I begin to talk around the image. Pretty soon, a well edited piece, often containing multiple images, is the result.
That morning, I filled two 4 GB cards. With other commitments, it took a day before I actually uploaded the cards; I put images on the studio's external hard drive.

But Lightroom 2 contains a lot of the 'grease' to simplify this process. Indeed, this image took a few minor nondestructive changes and it was ready to publish. To start the blog, I needed to do several things:
1. Go through initial images, throwing away out-of-focus or badly composed images. VoilĂ ... essentially, shooting rapid fire, many shots produced only a few usable images.
2. To make that decision, I uploaded all cards, imported images with metadata, then went through using flags to Pick (P) or Reject (X).
3. With a 4 a.m. Bosque departure, when those cards were uploaded, I was still tired. So I exported images converted on the studio to make flag choices on laptop, then re-imported to begin development.
4. Bosque’s Memorable Brilliance used Lightroom's Develop module to perform the following steps:
a. Create a Virtual Copy of original DNG image.
b. Tweak Exposure, Clarity, Vibrance, Strong Tone Contrast, TAT (Lighten Clouds), Gradient Filter, and Landscape Sharpen Preset. I do this color work on studio computer with a calibrated monitor.
c. Save as a full-size JPEG.
d. Downsize JPEG using CS3 and return image to catalog.
5. Export appropriate images to laptop to write this blog.
6. When I'm done, it'll end up on an external hard drive on the studio computer with main catalog up to date from this new effort.

Checkout Scott Kelby’s Laptop Workflow In today's Photoshop Insider blog, Scott Kelby talked about a recent vacation where he used Lightgroom’s Collections, flags, and labels to quickly create Picks and Selects for a Travel Slideshow and a Fine Art Book.
For this Bosque trip, I shot two classes of images; birds in flight and five shot HDR still images. I found Collecting five HDR images in a unique collection let me quickly use the Photomatix plug-in to decide if HDR shots were any good.

Nov 18, 2008

Blog Rolls

Blog Rolls - Dynamic Table of Contents

Last summer, my digital horizons began expanding.  Quickly, I became aware there are good blogs, better blogs, and consistently top blogs.  Before I began blogging, I was using browser favorites to keep up with what was new.  It might take an hour per morning to browse, download the PDF, and read at some other time.  I didn't want to sign up for e-mail or RSS; it seemed better to download if I needed it rather than to have it crud up an already beleaguered hard drive.
Then I began constructing my own blog.  Some of its benefits included Blog Rolls (Blog List from Google gadgets), an automatic feature under Layouts.  One can create a series of blog rolls on the right-hand side of the blog.  So I began to include blogs; rather than calling them a dull thing like Blog Rolls, I could create my own names (Big Guy’s (Gal's) Blogs).

New Way Home...
I really enjoy Blog Rolls now; there's provider's name, title, and how long ago the provider put that blog on the net.  Now, it's like a dynamic Table of Contents – latest first.  If I like the title, I click on it - just that blog comes on my screen, then I save it to a PDF.  If one of the blogs runs a regular progression on a certain weekday, and it is a very long download, I click on the provider's name, go down to the blog, and make a PDF.

Now, each time I read a new blogger, I'll look through their blog rolls and add anyone of new interest to my list.  Pretty quickly, I find out if they are active bloggers - top bloggers (content and timeliness) sort to the top each day.
When I found Lightroom Forums, I subscribed to several threads.  Now, at a glance, I can see where the latest newbie is confused, then read a moderator's clearly explained fix.
Or, in several Lightroom specific blogs, I might find a tutorial example which clearly shows a complicated workflow like merging catalogs using snapshots of different panels.

Try it; you might really like Blog Rolls for your blog...
Or, simply use mine!

Nov 17, 2008

Lightroom Work Style

Lightroom Import Export Menu

Lightroom 2.1 File Menu – Catalog Import/Export Controls
When I recently took note of the Lightroom Forums community, I was seeking an answer to the complex question, "What is the difference between Main and Multiple Catalogs?" At that time, I've been reading along the digital photographers trail. That is: shoot them, import them, keyword them, and the job gets done with a main catalog.
At the same time, I was working my way through integrated workflows, trying to make Lightroom an integral part of my paradigm; shooting and writing! For me, writing occurs around an image. But it's more than that. Writing is the way where conscious and subconscious come together to express and mature unrecognized feelings and reorder awareness.

Needing to create a six part Lightroom, Photomatix, CS3 workflow for February, 2009, I fell back to years of working in Windows. I'd start off with an idea, put an image in Word, pick up a microphone, and begin to talk... on screen, words and feelings would appear around the image. Now, most writers I've read say writing is very hard. For me, it's a process which may take days; it's a process where I constantly have to edit - therein lies the problem. I've developed a habitat where it might take 5 or 10 edits to get a piece written. After a night of sleep, I might come back, make a change to an image, and keep on truckin’.
Since this is a description of a tumultuous, non-planned process, the pieces, the changing images - all appeared with Roman numbers for each edition and all appeared in folders (sometimes different folders depending on either capricious mind or state of progress).
Now, that tumultuous process is exactly what goes against the neat main catalog you see in digital photography books for Lightroom image organization. Here I was, creating multiple images in multiple versions with multiple folders. I'd begun to realize the laptop was a very creative environment whereas the desktop is more of a storage environment (particularly after I finally calibrated the laptop screen for CS3).
So I needed to gain control of this wretched tumult, consolidate images in one form and Word documents in another, and get on with my real-life ~ an abiding love for wild things and wilderness photography.

So I patiently drilled back into Scott Kelby's The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 Book for Digital Photographers. I could not find an exact solution to the problem which vexed me. So, it took more digging to reach a satisfactory answer. To my surprise, in the Library module lying under Import from Catalog and Export as Catalog, lay a very powerful set of answers.
Tongue-in-cheek, let me quote Scott Kelby, referring to his laptop, "The file structure you see here stinks. It's the one I use when I'm writing books, which has never been, nor sadly will ever be, very organized." Scott just didn’t bother to tell us exactly how he solved the disorder problem…

To make a long story short, I've consolidated all images for each phase of the six part workflow into their own folders. I've exported them to a main catalog, then sent it by ethernet to the studio computer. I've collected all writings, thrown away earlier edit versions, and etherneted that folder to a project folders on the studio's external hard drive. Others may use USB 2 or FireWire external hard drives instead of ethernet.

Thanks to Adobe engineers design skill and a little discipline on my part, I'm trying to be a bit more organized...

Nov 11, 2008

Golden Girls

Jackie, Kathy, & Wild Horses

As we rolled south from Shidoni Foundry, the conversation turned to wild horses.  Several months ago, a couple of us were shown where wild horses roam. 
When Kathy gets an idea in her mind, it takes a hard grip to wrench it away.  We had talked many times about 'going on a horse shoot...'.  After Jackie help me win an award for Lavender Dawn, she came on board as well.
But several circumstances - operation, moving, etc. - prevented shooting horses on location.
I suggested, "Jackie, turn at this next intersection and get over on the eastern frontage road.  We might see some horses..."

To our amazement, a small band was directly ahead in the field near a new housing development.  Soon, we were out of the car and among ‘em, cameras clicking.
Between that first wild horse shoot and now, Kathy had a recent, major back operation.  While she was along to shoot, she wasn't allowed to drive yet.
We quickly began to shoot in our individual directions. 

Jackie enticed the young colt with some hay, hoping to shoot a real, exotic close up.  Locals tend to bring hay to feed these wild animals.  In a subsequent picture, the colt got his feet to the top of a little gully’s edge - then stopped, front feet braced.  I could imagine him feeling, "I don't know this gal; she's really quiet.  Can she be trusted?"

Jackie & Colt

Kathy wanted to get up sun; a caretaker, I kept a close eye out in case she got in trouble.  In evening's final golden sheen of magic light, I got about three shots of Kathy and her favorite paint horse...
Seems like this picture really says it all, "Golden Girls, finally, with a lot of water under each individual bridge, we did get our first wild horse shoot.  Doesn't it simply whet your appetite for more?"

Kathy & Paint

As for me, I feel Kathy’s having the chance to wander free, to celebrate with her camera, to shoot wild horses - I watched her happy, about 15 years old, and in her own gorgeous element.

May I share a Praise ~ Each of us had good fortune this day.  From Shidoni to Wild Horses - part of the magic of gorgeous shoots in such different environs!

Nov 10, 2008

Shidoni's Color Scapes

Shidoni Foundry Metal Work Shapes

Shidoni Foundry, a fascinating photo adventure, is located in Tesuque, NM. With a museum, a yard full of unique shapes, and deep fascination of a roaring, hot metal pouring room, the foundry is a mecca for photographers.
Some 20 of us spent an excited Saturday wandering Shidoni. It was like we were on some other planet...

Pouring Hot Metal
Metal workers, clad in metallic heat reflection gear, seemed ghostly shapes from a science fiction novel. Were they really Klingons?

Shidoni Foundry Metal Retrieval

Here we've just retrieved a red hot iron cask full of flaming, molten metal. It's interesting ~ the man on the left, although some distance from the cask, reflects lots of heat.
Here's a close up ~ they set the cask on a base to cool slightly. I find it fascinating that flames are coming up off the liquid metal.

Shidoni Foundry Metal Cooling

Notice the cooler cask rim after workers set it in the crane-mounted pouring device. It's only the second pour for this set of shapes. I was lucky enough to catch a splatter shot - don't you love the flaming hot metal streaking away across the sand below? The roaring sound of the heater drowned any talk within earshot - unless shouted!

Shidoni Foundry Metal Pouring

It's almost like Fourth of July fireworks; oops, really, it's just some Klingon warship factory. Wouldn't want to get one of those flaming metal streaks caught in an open top boot...

We've seen how metal figures are cast at Shidoni's Foundry. Now, let's look at physical manifestations of this incredible process.

Outdoor Shapes
Outdoor figures seem from other worlds ~ yet with their own picturesque beauty.
From an eagle in a pond fishing, to a red box, to an abstract silver figure, then another dark, distant eagle... Shidoni’s yard is fascinating! Would beings from another world cheer?
Our image is a high dynamic range (HDR) mid-afternoon composite.
Our poster is color-coordinated - more subtle, pastel colors are chosen from within the image to create a complementary boundary.

Was this art or science fiction? The entire pouring shoot took about five minutes.

Nov 2, 2008

Forums and Firmware

Lightroom Forums D300 Firmware 1.1

In the midst of thinking like a Windows Explorer guru, I’ve been battling with one BIG vs many little Lightroom catalogs. If you can make an easy folder for each new project (blog, story, individual shoot, multiday shoot, workflow, etc.), then, should you carry that 'individualist' logic forward into Lightroom? I've been using individual folders for new projects for quite awhile. But, with a recent iPod, I've also been consolidating singles, albums, and podcasts into playlists, a simile to main catalogs, working catalogs, and collections.

Lightroom Forums are a planet-wide group of photographers interested in maximizing Lightroom use. From newbie to guru, a reader benefits from all levels of discussion as they grow into advanced use of Lightroom. I finally found a thread titled, "Should I be using multiple catalogs?"

It was like walking up this dry creek, looking for small, occasional loose flecks of gold, rounding a corner, and finding a dike containing a handful of gold nuggets the size of your thumb (almost wrote fist…).

Brad Snyder, Lightroom Guru and Moderator, posted,
"I think the most common arrangement among workflows I'm aware of, is a combination of 'working catalog' and Year/Month/Date 'archive catalog'. That is a single small scratch catalog used for active work (presumptively for max performance) and a large master catalog used for archival/retrieval.
"If you intend to use LR as a Digital Asset Management system, it doesn't make sense to break it into multiple chunks, requiring duplicate efforts of keyword, metadata and collection maintenance, and synchronization."

This response is similar to many during the month-long discussion about multiple threads.
I think in individual projects, some of which extend over long periods of time on the same image set as it evolves; I also do lots of work on a laptop; looks like it's really time to learn mechanics of creating an idea in a working laptop catalog, then using the Import Catalog function to combine working catalog and server’s master Lightroom catalog.
As if it was just that easy...

Nikon D300 Firmware Update 1.1
October 27, 2008, Nikon released a significant firmware upgrade.

There's a page of improvements. In my opinion, they boil down to Increasing ISO Sensitivity, Adding a Copyright Symbol, a Visible Value of High ISO NR, Improved Focus Acquisition Performance, and Noise Reduction under Manual Exposure at Bulb Shutter Speeds.
Installation instructions are clear; I find it takes a few minutes and perhaps 1% of battery to install these updates.

Both forums and firmware update significantly broaden efforts of a digital photographer to function with improved efficiency.