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Category: Photography

Photography related posts

DragonCon 2015

We had a good time at DragonCon this year. It was a strange year and I felt kind of off the whole show. But I had a good time talking with friends and taking pictures.

The Costume Contest and Masquerade were great, seeing the BSG folks and Karen Gillian was great, and listening the Jim Butcher is always fun. Steranko was a crack-up and the American Horror: Freak Show folks were a blast. The Georgia Philharmonic Orchestra was amazing and Rasputina was delightful.

DragonCon 2015 Photos

American Horror: Freak Show

Costume Contest

Battle Star Galactica


Georgia Philharmonic Orchestra


Jim Butcher



DragonCon Photography Team Computer Setup

As a volunteer at DragonCon one of my current responsibilities is getting the computers setup for use by the photographers and the librarians. This year I had to re-learn a lot of what worked so well last year as my notes were not complete, so I decided to write them up more thoroughly this year and post them hear so that I will not loose them.

At the 2014 DragonCon we used a total of 5 computers, 3 for the photographers to drop off photographs at and 2 for the librarians to use for key wording. The computers were running Windows 7 and required a lot of Windows updates and video driver updates before they were ready to use, luckily the internet connection at the show was fairly fast on Thursday afternoon when I was setting them up.

We call the 2 librarian computers A and B; each computer has 2 external hard drives which we call the Piles, a primary drive and a backup drive. The primary drive on each library computer is shared on the network as Pile A and Pile B.

I don’t know a lot about Windows networking, so I winged it and believe I set up a Windows home network with file sharing turned on. I wasted a lot of time before I figured out that all 5 computers had the same network name so they could not share files, giving each computer a unique name fixed all of the sharing issues I was having.

On the desktop of each computer I made a shortcut to the shared Pile A and Pile B folders so that the photographers could easily find the correct place to copy their pictures to. At this point I was done with the 3 photographers computers, by the end of the show photographers had installed Infranview and other tools to help them edit and cull their photos.

On the librarian computer we install the latest version of Adobe Lightroom and use it in the 30-day trial mode. Next up is importing the keyword list provided by the show into Lightroom, this gives us a controlled vocabulary for keywording making pictures easy to find later on.

Then in Lightroom install the latest version of Jeffrey Friedl’s Folder Watch Plugin, this is the tool that automatically imports any new pictures found in watched folders into Lightroom, it is really amazing how quickly and reliably this works.

Then we use the Windows Sync Toy and Windows Task Manager to keep the primary and secondary drives in sync so that at the end of the show we can turn over the primary A and B drives to the show and keep the backup A and B drives for the photography team’s use.

Here is my updated checklist:

  1. Verify that each computer has a unique network name/id
  2. Run Windows Update and install all updates
  3. Update video card drivers if they are separate from Windows Update
  4. Verify that all computers are using the same type of networking so they can see each other, in Windows 7 a homegroup network is easiest
  5. External Drives
    1. Attach the primary and backup drives to the librarian computers
    2. Format and name the external drives and name them
      1. Pile A
      2. Pile A Back
      3. iPile B
      4. iv. Pile B Back
    3. On the Pile A drive make new directories named Pile A and Lightroom A
    4. On the Pile B drive make new directories named Pile B and Lightroom B
  6. Sync’ing
    1. Here is a great article that walks through setting up sync’ing
    2. Install the latest version of Sync Toy
    3. Set up a New Folder Pair in Sync Toy to keep the primary and backup drives in sync, use Echo so that changes to the primary drive are copied to the backup drive but not from the backup to primary
    4. Use Windows Task Manager to run Sync Toy every 10 minutes
    5. Verify at least once a day that the sync’ing is occurring successfully, but the primary and backup drive should have the same number of files in the Pile directories
  7. Lightroom
    1. Install the latest version of Lightroom and choose the 30-day version when launching it
    2. Preferences – “Lightroom > Preferences”
      1. General
        1. Uncheck “Automatically check for updates”
        2. Unchesk “Show splash screen during startup”
        3. Choose the correct DragonCon default library
        4. Uncheck the “Select the “Current/Previous Import””
        5. Turn off all completion sounds
    3. Remove all of the modules except for Library and Develop. Right-click the top toolbar and uncheck the unneeded modules.
    4. Then import keywords, “Metadata > Import Keywords”. Verify that the full keyword list is available in the “Keyword List” panel. More information about keywording in Lightroom is available at
    5. Setup Jeffrey Friedl’s Folder Watch Plugin
      2. Lightroom “File > Plug-in Manager”
        1. Choose “jf Folder Watch”
        2. Choose the parent folder on the Pile
          1. Defaults are good with the following exceptions (If desired “Apply meta data preset, covered elsewhere)
      3. Choose “Watch”
      4. Choose “Restart on Launch”
      5. Choose “Show Splash on Launch”
    6. f. Then create a new library named “dragoncon-2014-pile-a” or “dragoncon-2014-pile-b” and save it into the “lightroom a” or “lightroom b” folder on the attached primary external drive
  8. Testing
    1. Use a non-librarian computer to drop a couple of pictures into Pile A and Pile B
      1. Verify these pictures appear in Lightroom on the expected librarian computer
      2. After a period of time verify that the pictures and updated Lightroom library appear on the backup drives
    2. At least once a day check the primary and secondary drives to verify that they are in sync

We are always looking for better ways to handle the 30,000 plus pictures we collect at DragonCon, if you have any big ideas please let me know.


DragonCon 2014 Recap

We had a great time at DragonCon this year. The costumes were amazing, the photography staff did a great job capturing the event, and we actually got some sleep. Our son Eli stayed with the grandparents where he got to run wild and play with new toys.

My favorite costumes were How to Train Your Dragon, the Music Box Dolls from Chitty Bang Bang, and The Dreamer.

How to Train Your Dragon

Music Box Dolls from Chitty Bang Bang

The Dreamer

Bobbie made a great costume from a lost episode of Doctor Who named "The Celestial Toymaker".


The Celestial Toymaker

My favorite panels were Colin Baker, Ron Glass, Jeri Ryan, Terri Gilliam, Evanna Lynch, and Sparkfun.

Ron Glass

Jeri Ryan

Terry Gilliam

Evanna Lynch



Speedliter’s Handbook: Learning to Craft Light with Canon Speedlites by Syl Arena

I read this book on Safari Books Online using the Safari Books app on an iPad.

I am not a big fan of using flash in the type of photography I usually do, but I am trying to improve my skills with speedlites and strobes. I have an old Canon 550EX and a pair of Yongnuo cheapo flashes with Yongnuo wireless triggers.

The Yongnuo flashes work great when I have a lot of time to set them up and experiment with settings since everything is manual with them. But where the Canon flash is 95% reliable the Yungnuo flashes are more like 75% reliable, so they get the job done, I just have to pay closer attention to them and double-check every exposure.

So that is where my interest in this book began, but this book delivers so much more than what to do with your flash. The first 5 chapters are about how to see and capture light and are absolutely fantastic, a must read. It is so well written, where the book "Light Science and Magic" feels like reading a schoolbook, the Speedliter’s Handbook is much friendlier and more conversational. I really enjoyed it and expect to read it again and again until I have soaked it all up.

In the appendix of the book is a great resource of websites about photography, I filled up my news reader with more than a dozen of them.

From the publisher:

Getting your Canon Speedlite to produce the light you need can be a real challenge. For those new to flash photography—or for anyone who has previously given up out of frustration—Speedliter’s Handbook is a revelation. Photographer Syl Arena takes you on a journey that begins with an exploration of light and color, moves through a comprehensive discussion of the Canon Speedlite family and all of the accessories and equipment available to the Speedliter, then settles down to crafting great light in one photo shoot after another. Whether you want to create a classical portrait, shoot an event, or simply add a little fill light to a product shot, Speedliter’s Handbook shows you how.

A fantastic in-depth resource illustrated with over 500 images, Speedliter’s Handbook covers:

  • how to see the various characteristics and properties of light itself, as well as the differences between how your camera sees versus how you see
  • all the buttons and dials of the entire Canon Speedlite family
  • the basics of on-camera flash…and the necessity of getting your flash off the camera
  • how to beautifully balance flash with the existing ambient light
  • all the equipment necessary for great Speedlite shots
  • how to get amazing shots with just one Speedlite
  • how and when to use E-TTL versus manual flash
  • the use of color gels to balance color, as well as create dramatic effects
  • how to tame the sun—or any really bright light—with hi-speed sync
  • and much, much more

Whether you’re shooting portraits, events, or sports, Speedliter’s Handbook is an essential resource that teaches you how to craft the light you need for any type of shot you want.

I rate this book a 9 out of 10 and recommend it to any photographer.


The Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® 5 Book for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby

The Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® 5 Book for Digital Photographers by Scott KelbyI read this book on Safar Books Online using an iPad and the Safari Books Online App.

This is the 4th Scott Kelby Adobe Photoshop Lightroom for Photographers book I have read, and they all have been worth the time.

These books have been where I have gotten most of my personal photography workflow from and why I made the switch from doing all of my post-production in Photoshop to doing it all in Lightroom. In fact I only open up Photoshop to do quick panoramas (I have other software I use for large intricate panos) and for extensive retouching or composites.

About Stars, Labels, and Flags

I do not use stars at all, I have no reason to rate pictures on a scale. I use labels only to identify pictures that are part of panoramas or composites. I am a firm believer in using flags exclusively to identify the value of pictures.

A picture is either “Rejected” and deleted forever, not flagged because it is an ok picture that I may need at some point in the future, or it is a “Pick” and I have big plans for it.

Scott does a much better job of explaining why than I do and I hope he doesn’t take offense at me quoting him here:

“When you boil it down, our real goal is to find the best photos from our shoot, but we also want to find the worst photos (those photos where the subject is totally out of focus, or you pressed the shutter by accident, or the flash didn’t fire, etc.), because there’s no sense in having photos that you’ll never use taking up hard drive space, right? Lightroom gives you three ways to rate (or rank) your photos, the most popular being the 1-to-5-star rating system. To mark a photo with a star rating, just click on it and type the number on your keyboard. So, to mark a photo with a 3-star rating, you’d press the number 3, and you’d see three stars appear under the photo (shown here at the top). To change a star rating, type in a new number. To remove it altogether, press 0 (zero). The idea is that once you’ve got your 5-star photos marked, you can turn on a filter that displays only your 5-star photos. You can also use that filter to see just your 4-star, 3-star, etc., photos. Besides stars, you can also use color labels, so you could mark the worst photos with a Red label, slightly better ones with Yellow, and so on. Or, you could use these in conjunction with the stars to mark your best 5-star photo with a Green label (as shown here at the bottom).”

“Now that I’ve mentioned star ratings and labels, I want to talk you out of using them. Here’s why: they’re way too slow. Think about it—your 5-star photos would be your very best shots, right? The only ones you’ll show anybody. So your 4-star ones are good, but not good enough. Your 3-star ones are just so-so (nobody will ever see these). Your 2-star ones are bad shots—not so bad that you’ll delete them, but bad—and your 1-star shots are out-of-focus, blurry, totally messed up shots you’re going to delete. So what are you going to do with your 2- and 3-star photos? Nothing. What about your 4-star photos? Nothing. The 5-stars you keep, the 1-stars you delete, the rest you pretty much do nothing with, right? So, all we really care about are the best shots and the worst shots, right? The rest we ignore.”

“So instead, I hope you’ll try flags. You mark the best shots as Picks and the really bad ones (the ones to be deleted) as Rejects. Lightroom will delete the Rejects for you when you’re ready, leaving you with just your best shots and the ones you don’t care about, but you don’t waste time trying to decide if a particular photo you don’t care about is a 3-star or a 2-star. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people sitting there saying out loud, “Now, is this a 2-star or a 3-star?” Who cares? It’s not a 5-star; move on! To mark a photo as a Pick, just press the letter P. To mark a photo as a Reject, press the letter X. A little message will appear onscreen to tell you which flag you assigned to the photo, and a tiny flag icon will appear in that photo’s grid cell. A white flag means it’s marked as a Pick. A black flag means it’s a Reject.”

I really love Lightroom and I think this book is one of the best ways to learn how to use it.

From the publisher:

Since Lightroom 1.0 first launched, Scott’s Kelby’s The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Book for Digital Photographers has been the world’s #1 best-selling Lightroom book (it has been translated into a dozen different languages), and in this latest version for Lightroom 5, Scott uses his same award-winning, step-by-step, plain-English style and layout to make learning Lightroom easy and fun.

Scott doesn’t just show you which sliders do what (every Lightroom book will do that). Instead, by using the following three simple, yet brilliant, techniques that make it just an incredible learning tool, this book shows you how to create your own photography workflow using Lightroom:

  • Throughout the book, Scott shares his own personal settings and studiotested techniques. Each year he trains thousands of Lightroom users at his live seminars and through that he’s learned what really works, what doesn’t, and he tells you flat out which techniques work best, which to avoid, and why.
  • The entire book is laid out in a real workflow order with everything step by step, so you can begin using Lightroom like a pro from the start.
  • What really sets this book apart is the last chapter. This is where Scott dramatically answers his #1 most-asked Lightroom question, which is: “Exactly what order am I supposed to do things in, and where does Photoshop fit in?” You’ll see Scott’s entire start-to-finish Lightroom 5 workflow and learn how to incorporate it into your own workflow.
  • Plus, this book includes a downloadable collection of some of the hottest Lightroom Develop module presets to give you a bunch of amazing effects with just one click!

Scott knows first-hand the challenges today’s digital photographers are facing, and what they want to learn next to make their workflow faster, easier, and more fun. He has incorporated all of that into this major update for Lightroom 5.

It’s the first and only book to bring the whole process together in such a clear, concise, and visual way. Plus, the book includes a special chapter on integrating Adobe Photoshop seamlessly right into your workflow, and you’ll also learn some of Scott’s latest Photoshop portrait retouching techniques and special effects, which take this book to a whole new level. There is no faster, more straight-to-the-point, or more fun way to learn Lightroom than with this groundbreaking book.

I rate this book and its predecessors as a 9 out of 10.


Photography Q&A: Real Questions. Real Answers. By Zack Arias

I bought this book from Safari Books Online and read it using the Kindle app on my iPad.

I really like Zack Arias as a photographer and a person. He is very open about what he does, why he does it, his triumphs, and his troubles.

Photography Q&A is full of questions that amateur and professional photographers have asked Zack with his honest and heartfelt answers. So much good information here, it is an amazing amount of information.

If you don’t know who Zack is, take a look at his website at and really take a hard look at this video "Transform." I think after watching the video you will want to hear much more from Zack.

I really enjoyed reading "Photography Q&A", I learned a lot, I laughed a lot, and have decided I need to buy a light meter pronto!

From the publisher:

For years, editorial and commercial photographer Zack Arias has been a respected and trusted voice in the photography industry. Known for his photography, his teaching, and his ability to connect with photographers, Zack has long had an "open door" approach to discussing his career–the ups and the downs–and in so doing has provided a straightforward and candid look inside the industry. By consistently showing great work and offering helpful advice, he has built a large, loyal readership that looks to him for guidance in navigating the currents of a difficult and dynamic industry. Now, Zack finds yet another way to cut through the noise and offer truly valuable information to those struggling to make their way through the twists and turns of an ever-changing landscape.

In Photography Q&A, Zack answers over 100 questions that he fielded directly from the public. These are questions that range across all aspects of the photo industry: gear, marketing, street photography, vision, pricing, branding, light, models, work/life balance, technical advice, and much more. From how to "put yourself out there" and start to get jobs, to how to get paid for those jobs when the client is slow to cut the check–and everything in between– Photography Q&A answers many of the pressing questions that photographers are asking, but until now have not been addressed. The book also includes intermittent "Visual Intermission" sections–where Zack discusses individual images that were milestones in his development as a photographer–as well as worksheets on topics such as pricing and costs that help photographers to "know their numbers."

With all this material, and with insightful, honest answers that come straight from Zack’s experience as a photographer who has seen it all (or at least a lot of it), Photography Q&A is an essential resource for any photographer looking for the real answers to the real questions in the industry today.

I rate this book a 9 out of 10. It would have been a 10 if there had been more photographs.


Canon 5D Mark III: From Snapshots to Great Shots by Ibarionex Perello

I read this book on Safari Books Online using a web browser and an iPad.

I have read the "From Snapshots to Great Shots" for the 7D and the G12 and they were pretty good. So I decided to give the one for the 5D Mark III a try and it did not disappoint.

Unlike the books "Canon EOS 5D Mark III by James Johnson" and "Canon EOS 5D Mark III Digital Field Guide by Charlotte K. Lowrie" this book tells you not only about the features and functions of the Canon 5D Mark III but also tells you why you may choose one setting over another.

This book, and the series in general, did not blow me away or provide any mind-blowing insights. But it does contain a lot of information to get you starting working with your camera.

I really like the idea of the assignments at the end of each chapter, anyone who works through each of them will have a very solid understanding of their camera.

From the publisher:

Now that you’ve bought the amazing Canon 5D Mark III, you need a book that goes beyond a tour of the camera’s features to show you exactly how to use the 5D Mark III to take great pictures. With Canon 5D Mark III: From Snapshots to Great Shots, you get the perfect blend of photography instruction and camera reference that will take your images to the next level! Beautifully illustrated with large, vibrant photos, this book teaches you how to take control of your photography to get the image you want every time you pick up the camera.

With Canon 5D Mark III: From Snapshots to Great Shots, you’ll learn not only what makes a great shot work–you’ll learn how to get that shot using your 5D Mark III.

I rate this book a 7 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone interested in reading about the Canon 5D Mk III, especially beginning photographers who want to get the most out of their camera.


Two books about the Canon 5D Mark III

I read both of these books using Safari Books Online by O’Reilly Media.

They are very similar books and both of them are very similar to the owners manual that comes with the Canon 5D Mk III. But they do present the information in a way that is much easier to understand and retain than the manual.

What is missing here is an answer to the question, “Why would I use that setting instead of the other?” You will have to find some other book or better yet books to explain that. Even better, get out there and experiment like crazy. Buy a cheap mannequin off eBay to use as a practice subject and take pictures until your camera stops working.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III by James Johnson
From the publisher:

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III is the latest in Canon’s line of full-frame DSLR cameras. Its impressive array of capabilities and advanced controls allow the photographer ever more influence over the final image. With this comes more menus, buttons, and dials that the photographer must learn how to use to take full advantage of the camera.

This book explores the features and capabilities of the 5D Mark III in a way that far surpasses the user’s manual. It guides readers through the camera features with step-by-step setting adjustments; color illustrations; and detailed how, when, and why explanations for each option. Every button, dial, switch, and menu configuration setting is explored in a user-friendly manner, with suggestions for setup. The informative text is illustrated with screenshots and example images throughout, making it easy to follow along.

Author James Johnson covers everything from the basic features of the camera to the numerous advanced photographic options as he discusses topics such as focus and exposure, lenses, lighting, custom settings, and more. With this book as your guide, you’ll learn how to get the most out of this powerful camera.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III Digital Field Guide by Charlotte K. Lowrie
From the publisher:

Guides readers step-by-step through the functions on their new Canon EOS 5D Mark III

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III features an impressive 22.3 megapixels, a 3.2-inch LCD screen, 6 fps continuous shooting, Live View, an ISO range of 50 to 102,400 and full HD 1080 resolution movie shooting. Here to help you get the most out of these remarkable features?

Offering you more in-depth coverage than the standard manual, this full-color Canon 5D Mark III Digital Field Guide provides you with a better understanding of your camera. Delivering information in an easy-to-understand format, this portable guide features more than 200 inspirational photos by acclaimed photographer and veteran author Charlotte Lowrie. The handy trim size allows this guide to go where you go, allowing you easy access to information quickly so you can get the exact shot you want when you want it.

Helps you make the most of your Canon 5D Mark III and get the shots you want

Offers inspiration with more than 200 lavish photos from the author’s own portfolio

Provides step-by-step explanations on techniques and tips, all aimed at getting you comfortable and confident with your new Canon 5D Mark III

Ideal reading for both amateur and professional photographers alike, you’ll reference Canon 5D Mark III Digital Field Guide again and again.

I rate both of these books a 7 out of 10 and recommend either one of them, no need for both, to anyone who finds the owners manual of the 5D Mk III hard to read.


Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Photographs of the Famous and Infamous by Brian Smith

I read this book using Safari Books Online from O’Reilly Media.

Brian Smith is an amazing photographer and has a personality to match. He is able to quickly make a personal connection with people from all walks of life and create photographs that highlight their personality and emotion.

"Secrets of Great Portrait Photography" gives us insight to the methods Brian uses to get close to his subjects and capture images that make the client, usually magazine creative directors, and the subject happy with the results.

This is not a book about how to use your camera, how to pose a subject, or how to make them feel comfortable. It is a book about many of Brian’s favorite pictures and what he did or did not do to achieve them. It does not go very deep into anything, instead choosing to keep things light and easy. The only thing that bugged me was the amount of repetition, definitions and ideas are often repeated.

This photography in the book is fantastic and the writing is very conversational. I read the entire book in a few hours and spent much of that time dissecting the pictures.

I plan on taking his challenge of taking 50 portraits of total strangers seriously and maybe some time in spring or fall setting myself up somewhere very public and making myself ask strangers to let me take their portrait. Interacting with people like that is very hard for me; maybe doing that will give me some sort of insight to myself and make it easier for me in the future.

From the publisher:

In this sexy, bold book, Pulitzer-Prize winning photographer Brian Smith tells the stories behind the photos and lessons learned in 30 years of photographing celebrities and people from all walks of life. Smith’s long list of famous and infamous subjects includes pro basketball players Dwayne Wade and Shaquille O’Neal; billionaires Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and Donald Trump; tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams; actors Anne Hathaway, Antonio Banderas, Christopher Walken, Taye Diggs, Jane Krakowski, and William H. Macy; and many more.

You’ll get the inside scoop on what goes on at a celebrity photo shoot in this gorgeous guide to making professional portraits. Smith has mastered how to make a meaningful portrait on a magazine’s budget and on a celebrity’s schedule, which can sometimes be 15 minutes or less. Smith reveals his tips on connecting with people, finding the perfect location, telling a great story through portraiture, getting the ideal pose, capturing emotion and gestures, arranging unique group shots, and lighting the scene just right. You might not be photographing the rich and famous, but after reading Smith’s tell-all guide, you’ll know how to give everyone who makes their way in front of your camera the star treatment.

I rate this book an 8 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone with an interest in taking photographs of people.


A New Camera

I have finally upgraded to a new camera body. I have been shooting with a Canon EOS 7D for a long time now, well… a long time for me. I only hold onto a camera body until the new version of it comes out, then I sell the old one and buy the new one.

I started with inexpensive point-and-shoots, I never owned a film based SLR, and worked my way very slowly up to where I am today. I had the Canon 10D, 20D, 30D, 40D, 50D, and 7D. Out of those only the 20D and 40D were really great cameras for me, those two cameras did everything I wanted at the time and produced images that made me very happy. The other cameras were lacking in some significant way, that is not to say they were bad or that I did not create some great pictures with them, but they did not make me want to get out there and take pictures every day that I owned them.

I have been stuck with the 7D for a long time now waiting for Canon to come out with a new camera in the “less than $2,000” range. After going to the “Image” conference recently, I don’t think they will be coming out with a replacement for the 7D for some time. Maybe not this year. That makes me very sad. For me, the 7D kind of sucks.

Intellectually I know the 7D is a great camera. It has a ton of awesome features that make it the perfect camera for a lot of photographers. But I don’t like the quality of the images that come out of it, they feel extra “grainy” and “gritty” to me. Its not really noise, I am not sure what it is. But I prefer images to have a “smooth” and “creamy” feel to them while being tack sharp. When I take a picture using the Canon 70-200 2.8 L IS lens at f2.8 and ISO 200, the out of focus background should have a creamy smooth bokeh, and I do not feel like the 7D gives me that type of result.

I am lucky enough to have married someone who not only appreciates me, but also appreciates the photographs I take and enjoys taking photographs herself. For Valentine’s day this year she helped me work out a way to finally upgrade from the 7D to the 5D Mk III.

Financially moving from the 7D to the 5D Mk III is a big step, for us it was not an easy one. I actually thought of selling my motorcycle, which my wife and I both really enjoy, just to get out from under the 7D. But this year we have been really blessed and the upgrade was possible without having to sell anything. I am very grateful for my wife’s understanding and feel more blessed than I can express.

I am really looking forward to using the 5D Mk III this year.

Soon-ish I will have another post about the features that I think make the 5D Mk III a great camera followed later by a post about how it has performed for me.


A Lot Going On

The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of activity.

Working my way backwards:


The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Book for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby

I read this book as a PDF bought from O’Reily Media’s Safari Books Online mostly using an iPad and iBooks but also using the Preview app on a MacBook Pro.

I really dislike showing any photographs without the minimum of rotate, crop, exposure correct, color correct, and export at the needed sizes and Lightroom allows me to do that very quickly.

I have been using Lightroom since the beta of Lightroom 3 and I read Scott Kelby’s version of this book back then. I loved the book and Lightroom so much that I lent the book out until it didn’t come back, and that’s ok, I like to think that it is still floating out there somewhere being read by a photographer that has been stuck using some antiquated tools to manage and edit their photos.

This book for version 4 is a lot like the one for version 3, but it is well worth the read as many new chapters have been added and Lightroom 4 has enough new features and behaviors that the new book is a great help for getting the most from it. Scott does a great job pointing out the places that Lightroom 4 differs from previous versions but doesn’t dwell on those differences to the point that a person just starting out with version 4 would be distracted by them.

The only content in the book that I found not useful is the chapter pages, I would prefer that Scott went back to being funny or leaving the space blank.

From the publisher:

Since Lightroom first launched, Scott Kelby’s The Lightroom Book for Digital Photographers has been the world’s #1 best-selling Lightroom book. In this latest version for Lightroom 4, Scott uses his same step-by-step, plain-English style and layout to make learning Lightroom easy and fun. Scott doesn’t just show you which sliders do what, and he doesn’t just cover the newest features of Lightroom (though, of course, he does that, too, with discussions of the improved Clarity feature, White Balance adjustment brush, photo book capabilities, and much more). Instead, by using the following three simple, yet brilliant, techniques that make it just an incredible learning tool, this book shows you how to create your own photography workflow using Lightroom…

About My Workflow

I like the workflow that Scott covers in the book with the exception of using collections. I prefer to not use collections because they are only internal to the Lightroom database, I prefer to have my files organized in the computers file system so that I will be able to easily find them if I stop using Lightroom one day.

My current workflow looks like this:

  1. Get out there and take a lot of pictures
  2. Remove the memory card from the camera and use a card reader to get the images into the computer. My file structure looks like “Dave Import / 2012 / 20120725_eli-playground” which is “my import/year/yyyymmdd_name-of-event” then when I export I use the same structure but begin with “Dave Export”.
  3. Import the images into Lightroom adding my IPTC copyright information along with generic keywords from the shoot.
  4. Quickly look through all of the images and identify obvious rejects by flagging them by typing “x” which identifies them as rejects and get an overall feel for them.
  5. Now I take a break, at least 15 minutes long. This allows my thought about the images to gel and take shape.
  6. Upon coming back I will use “Flags” to identify the photos I never want to see again by typing “x” which marks them as rejected, and “p” which marks them as a pick. Photos that do not get a flag are kept, but they do not get exported. Then I delete all of the rejected photos, from the Lightroom database and also from the hard drive.
  7. Now I use “Filters” to work with just the picks and I switch to the “Develop” module.
  8. In the develop module I work my way through the images using the techniques that Scott covers in his book. Many images that were marked as picks may become not-picked or even rejected based on the results of being edited.
  9. Now that all of the picks are edited I add captions that describe each image and keywords that can be used to search for each image. This takes a long time and a lot of thought, but it is also what will make your images valuable in the future, if you cannot find a photo you cannot sell that photo.
  10. Then I export the picks as original size JPGs with an sRGB colorspace and my naming convention of “dave-nelson-20120725-112317-0001.jpg” which is “my-name-yyyymmdd-hhmmss-####.jpg”.
  11. At my SmugMug web site I create a new gallery giving it a name, caption, and pricing list then use MacDaddy to upload the exported images to that directory.
  12. Lastly I send out emails and post on various web sites that I have some new photos available for viewing and purchase.

This particular process has worked well for me but it has been tweaked many times over the years. Also keep in mind that I am a hobbiest photographer and that the money I do make from photography does not come close to paying for itself.

I rate this book a 9 out of 10 and a must read for anyone interested in using Lightroom to manage and edit photographs.


Photoshop Compositing Secrets by Matt Kloskowski

I read this book on Safari Books Online and followed along with Adobe Photoshop.

The full name of the book is a riduclously long “Photoshop Compositing Secrets: Unlocking the Key to Perfect Selections and Amazing Photoshop Effects for Totally Realistic Composites by Matt Kloskowski” that would guess was chosen to increase its chance of being found in Google.

This is a great book if you need to do compositing. The book consists of a collection of tutorials that give real world examples of how to do many different types of composites. All of the images used in the book are available for download so that you may follow along. I found the repetitive nature of the book annoying and yet helpful, repetition helps me remember how to do something but after many many times I just want to move on to something else.

From the publisher

Compositing is one of the hottest trends in Photoshop and photography today for portrait photographers, designers of all walks of life, and even retouchers. Everywhere you look, from group photos, to school graduation or sports portraits, to magazines, movie posters, and DVD covers, chances are, you’ve seen compositing.

In Photoshop Compositing Secrets, Matt Kloskowski takes you through the entire process behind creating convincing, well-executed, and captivating composites. You’ll see how to create images that run the gamut from real-world portraits for corporate, graduation, or group photos to sports portraits, templates, and collages, and even the surreal, dramatic composites that clients clamor for.

You’ll learn:

  • One of the most important secrets to compositing: how to master selections in Photoshop (yes, even wispy hair),
  • What background color, and camera and lighting setups work best for compositing,
  • How to move a subject from one background to another, and the Photoshop lighting and shadowing techniques to make it look real,
  • And all the Photoshop tips, tricks, and special effects you need to pull off a convincing, professional composite.

No matter if you’re a professional, an aspiring professional, or a hobbyist, Photoshop Compositing Secrets will sharpen your skills and open up a whole new avenue of photographic expression in an easy-to-understand way that will have you creating your own composites in no time.

I rate this book an 8 out of 10 if you are interested in doing composites in Photoshop.


Dave’s Photography Workflow (Part 1)

My current workflow focuses on future-proofing my photos so that I can take advantage of any new software that comes along. I do not want to be dependent upon any piece of software to work with my photos, so I stick to formats like JPG and Canon’s raw.

This post covers how I get the images onto my computer and begin the editing process. I currently use Apple Macintosh computers with Adobe Lightroom but it wasn’t to long ago that I used Windows XP, ACDSee, and Photoshop for the same results.

Setting Up the File System

NOTE: Instead of creating a “My Pictures” directory you can use the directory created by your computer such as “Pictures” on Mac and “My Pictures” on Windows, I prefer to keep this folder on an external hard drive or Storage Area Network device so create my own “My Pictures” directory. I also create a “Not My Pictures” directory where I store images that I get from other sources.

Create a “My Pictures” directory; inside that directory create an “import” directory and an “export” directory.

Now get out there and take some photos.

Copying Photos to Your Computer

I never plug a camera into my computer to transfer images. Use a quality memory card reader, not a no-name generic one, but one from Lexar, Sandisk, or other major memory manufacturer. If you have a card reader built into your computer you are all set. Plug the memory card reader into the computer first, then the memory card into the reader.

Put the memory card into the card reader and wait for it to appear then go to the directory on the memory card that contains your photos. Now open a second window and navigate to the “import” directory that you created earlier. Then create a new directory named with the date and a short description of the event. Use the format of 4 digit year, 2 digit month, and 2 digit day so that the folders will sort correctly and be very easy to find. For the description I use one or two words trying to keep the name short but easy to understand, it only needs to be enough information to jog your memory.

For example, Christmas family photos would go under “20101225-christmas-family”. But the word “family” is unnecessary if those are the only photos you took that day.

Now copy all of the photos from the memory card to the folder you have just created. Once the copy is complete eject the memory card from the reader. On a Mac it is very important that you do this first from the operating system before removing the card, I have permanently damaged a card by pulling it out of the reader before the computer was done with it.

Do not delete files or format memory cards using your computer, let the camera do all of that to keep your cards in good shape. I format my memory cards in the camera only after I have finished processing them, that way I have a quick backup if something goes wrong while I am working on them. It would be even smarter to make two copies of the photos when I move them to my computer on separate hard drives.

Importing into Lightroom

Now I fire up Lightroom and import all of the photos using my default meta data and add keywords that are applicable to them all. I am not covering meta information in this post, but cannot stress enough how important it is to properly tag your images with keywords, descriptions, locations, and anything else that would make it easier to find in the future.

Once in Lightroom I use the “Library > Rename Photo” to rename all the photos with the format of “dave-nelson-Date (YYYYMMDD)-HourMinuteSecond-Sequence # (0001)” which will result in filenames like “dave-nelson-20101225-191521-0001.jpg” which guarantees a unique filename even when I am shooting 6 frames a second. It may look like a ridiculously long filename, but it makes it really easy to see who took the photo and when it was taken.


Now that everything is set-up it is realy simple to import and rename new photos.
1. Create import and export directories
2. Create new directory for images “YYYYMMDD-name”
3. Copy images from memory card
4. Rename files using LIghtroom

The next step is going through the photos and flagging them as “selects” and “rejects”, adding keywords and descriptions, color correcting, rotating, cropping, and exporting.


National Geographic Photo Books

Through the Lens: National Geographic Greatest Photographs
Wide Angle: National Geographic Greatest Places

I believe that to be a great photographer I should study a lot of images created by other people, especially those considered great by a consensus. So I spend a lot of time looking at books about art history that contain photos of paintings by “The Masters” and photo books like the two I am writing about here.

I found these books at a local thrift store and could not pass them up. “Through the Lens: National Geographic Greatest Photographs” and “Wide Angle: National Geographic Greatest Places” are both full of great photographs that any photographer could learn from.

I think after reading these two books what I came away with is a better insight into what makes a great photograph. It is not always the lighting, the shadows, focus, color, contrast, and/or framing, but it can also be purely the subject matter. Of course keeping in mind that all those things can enhance a photo of a special subject.

These two books and books similar to them can be a good education about what makes a great photography for any photographer and they are very inexpensive, “Through the Lens: National Geographic Greatest Photographs” is available at Amazon for less than $12 right now with used copies available for under $6.

I give these books a combined 8 out of 10 and highly recommend them for any photographer.


Basketball: Norcross vs. Mountainview

blocked shot It was a great game at Shiloh High this weekend.

It was great to get out and take my first sports photos of the year. I have a lot of open days left on my schedule, if you have an event you would like photographed please let me know.


DragonCon 2009 pictures are up!

The Gallery is at
Here are some quick highlights

Here are some cool searches


Photography is not a Crime

Please do not let this happen to you. If you have the time and stubbornness please push the issue of Photographer’s rights as far as you can.

Trey Ratcliff of Stuck in Customs was harassed recently in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park trying to take photos of the World of Coca-Cola museum and told that he was not allowed to take photos of the building.

I will be getting in contact with management of the museum and see if I can find out what their policy actually is.

Here is a link to Trey’s blog post:


Painting with Light Workshop

On Thursday April 9th I participated in a “Painting with Light Workshop” at Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, GA. Judith Pishnery of Pisconeri Studio & Workshops brought us together for a night of photography and learning.

Photo: Our Confederate Dead

We began the night around 7pm filling out releases and donning nametags on the porch of the visitor’s center. After an introduction by Judith and some words from the cemetery staff we were left to wander the cemetery to get acquainted and take some pre-nightfall photos.

Around 8:30 Judith gave a presentation explaining how to paint with light. Although I had done some small experiments with a handheld speedlight and have written my name in the air with a flashlight before I had never “painted with light” to create a “real” photograph and I was looking forward to giving it a try.

Right away I learned that using a camera flash handheld really doesn’t put out as much light as I thought it did. Multiple flashes, 5 or 6, produced very little extra light even though each flash felt blindingly bright to me. A 6-volt camping flashlight slowly passed over a subject produces a much brighter image than a flash.

Photo: Ms. Watson

I was also surprised by the results of a small but very bright LED flashlight, which to my eyes appears very bright even if it is on the blue side of the spectrum, but to the camera’s sensor it was very dim indeed. The camping flashlight with its old-school style bulb was brighter and whiter than either LED flashlight I tried.

My best results were with using the 6-volt lantern panning it slowly first horizontally and then vertically to ensure total coverage of the subject(s) while the camera’s shutter was held open in bulb mode for as short as 20 seconds and as long as 3 minutes. Then in Lightroom I did some quick tweaking only spending some real effort on two of the photos to knock down some distracting lights.

This workshop was a lot of fun and I look forward to using what I learned in the future.



Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum

If you love motorcycles you will love this museum.

motorcycleMy wife was kind enough last year to give me a gift certificate for a weekend at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum. I finally got to cash in on that gift this January and spent a Saturday touring the museum. I have always loved motorcycles, a Honda Shadow, while in the Navy and now ride my BMW R850R every chance I get.

According to an employee Barber Museum is currently home to around 1200 motorcycles with around 750 of them on display at any given time and they are acquiring more all the time. Located just outside of Birmingham Alabama, the museum is located on the grounds of the Barber Motorsports Park, which hosts both motorcycle and auto racing.

On display are bikes going back to the earliest days when they resembled bicycles with tiny motors attached up to the latest sportbikes and recent model racing bikes. I especially enjoyed seeing the scramblers and enduros from the late 70’s along with the 2 stroke motoGP bikes.

1923 Scott Sprint Special. This was my favorite bike in the museum. It smelled of leather, oil, and gasoline. Just wonderful!


SmugMug Sponsoring Vincent Laforet’s Next Big Project

I have been using SmugMug to host and sell my photography and seeing their participation in the photography community is one of the reasons I continue to use them.

Vincent was one of the first people chosen to test and stretch the limits of the Canon EOS 5D Mk III which he did wonderfully with “Reverie.”  SmugMug hosts the video of “The Making of Reverie”  along with other content from Vincent, here is his SmugMug home page.


2008 Wings over Marietta Open House & Airshow

Had a great time at the 2008 Wings over Marietta Open House & Airshow. This was my first opportunity to see the USAF Thunderbirds.  It was a beautiful day with a wide variety of aircraft to see.

Photos of the 2008 Wings over Marietta Open House & Airshow Gallery or you can view the photos as a slideshow.