REVIEW : Peak Design Capture Pro and Accessories

A photographer that I respect placed the Peak Design Capture Pro at the top of his 2014 gear list so I had to check the stuff out to see what I was missing.  Peak Design made their name by funding some of their projects through Kickstarter and by playing it very straight in their marketing and knowledge transfer tools.  It all sounds good so let’s see what I learned. Continue reading REVIEW : Peak Design Capture Pro and Accessories

DXO Smart Lighting and Clearview – you probably need these tools

I have to start this post with a “thank-you” to Mr. Thomas Stirr who writes for the most excellent Photography Life website.  Thomas recently posted his experiences using a function in DXO Optics 10 called Clearview.  I seriously kicked myself.  You see, I have hundreds of photos shot on September 1st from a helicopter and on top of a cliffside at the Grand Canyon.  The shots were nice enough, I guess, but atmospheric haze and brutal haze from the direct sun on the Eurocopter windshield made the images, well, head to the not for future use bin. Continue reading DXO Smart Lighting and Clearview – you probably need these tools

REVIEW : Phottix TTL Radio Control Systems

Photographers have a love / hate relationship with flash.  On camera flash looks like crap, but as soon as we get the flash off camera, triggering it and getting good images seems to become an exercise in black magic.  Oh I know, every manufacturer has a “wireless control system” usually based on infrared, which as we know is Latin for “doesn’t work in the real world.”  Or only works for guys like Joe McNally.  Radio controlled remote TTL is the answer for the rest of us, and now the very excellent Phottix systems are available in Canada from Henry’s. Continue reading REVIEW : Phottix TTL Radio Control Systems

REVIEW and COMPARISON : Hasselblad H5D-50C and H4D-40

I have owned my H4D-40 for just over three years.  I often feel like I am not shooting it enough, but let’s face it, it’s big and by the time I load up the camera and a couple of lenses, it’s going to be a long day.  I have an RRS L Bracket on mine because I mostly shoot it off a tripod, rather than handheld.  Over the holidays I rented an H5D-50C from Henry’s Rentals to check it out.

Continue reading REVIEW and COMPARISON : Hasselblad H5D-50C and H4D-40

2015 : 10 Ideas to Improve Your Photography

As artists, we all want to improve our skills, to improve our abilities with our craft, and to grow as artists.  For your thoughts and perhaps inspiration, I offer the following 10 Ideas to Improve Your Photography in 2015.

1.  Don’t trap yourself in filler projects.  A 365 sounds like a good idea until you get tired of it.  Same thing happens with a forced deliverable such as shoot everything with the 50mm.  Forcing your creativity into a box never spawns more real creativity.

2.  Find and tell your own stories.  Repetition may be the mother of skill, but if all you do is replicate someone else’s hard work, you cheat yourself of your own innovation and interesting ideas.

3.  Post only your best work.  There’s no award for volume, so set your own bar very high.  If you like it, it’s worth posting.

4.  Get out of your own comfort zone.  Shoot something you would never normally do.  If you mostly do still life, go shoot sports.  If you shoot only action, shoot a still life.  The steps you go through to master the uncomfortable will make you better at the things that you like.

5.  Assign yourself projects.  Certainly clubs, communities and myriad groups can keep you busy with topic of the day, or the week or the month challenges, but they aren’t your projects.  You are building them for someone else.  Build for yourself.  A project can be simple such as shoot to get 10 keepers with a 24mm focal length, all at different lens openings.

6.  Take a notebook with you when you photograph.  Write down jot notes about what you were thinking when you made the photograph.  Don’t worry about recording settings, they are in the EXIF data and in the long term won’t matter much anyway.  Record your mental perspective or the feeling you had.

7.  Take an image you really like and produce 5 completely different interpretations of it using your digital darkroom to tell 5 different stories with the same core image.

8.  Using only a flexible desk lamp, experiment with different lighting positions on the same subject, using light and shadow to tell different stories and to set different moods.

9.  Carry a camera everywhere you go for one week, shooting anything that you see that is interesting to you.  If something catches your eye, shoot it, and try to use a focal length that mimics your eye, something in the 35mm to 50mm effective focal length range.

10.  Shoot video clips.  Don’t worry about the audio.  Shooting motion will give you a greater appreciation of the power of a great still.  Make a hybrid project containing your clips, some stills and overlay some music.  Your computer likely came with all the software you could need to do this.

Above all else, have fun, and make photos.

New release of Snapselect from Macphun

If you bought Snapselect on the App Store after reading the initial and followup Quick Looks, be advised that V1.1 is out.  Your Mac may not be set to auto update and if not, you definitely want this update in your machine.  As they promised, the folks at Macphun have improved the user interface, particularly to help serious photographers and editors who want to use Snapselect in conjunction with Lightroom or Aperture.  If you have not bought it yet, today might be the day.  Do note that like all Macphun software, it is Mac only.

I ran into some snags getting it to see images inside folders inside my existing Lightroom catalog, but getting to images in folders or on a card was no problem at all.  I was able to read folders from my Lightroom catalog with a different set of images.  So the issue could have been something to do with the first set being images from a Canon EOS-M.   You can also browse by Collection, a tool that I use all the time, but be aware that with this release Snapselect can only deal with top level collections, not collections stored inside Collection Sets.  While I find this inconvenient, I think it is fair to recall that Snapselect is designed to cull before you go through the whole import and collection building process.

I am not sure which RAW converter Snapselect is using, I suspect it may be the OS X native one.  What I found interesting is that Snapselect was able to open folders and browse images including EXIF and histogram for Hasselblad’s proprietary 3FR RAW format.  Photo Mechanic cannot do that and neither can the DXO tools.

Loading of an example folder of 500+ images took just over one minute, including the analysis phase.  The “similar” function is very effective.  I used a folder from a recent hockey game shoot and was very impressed by how the software gathered like images together as there were numerous burst mode sets of breakaways or glove saves.   The timeline view shows the images as they were captured, but as I noted in the third 7D Mk II review, the save sequence with the SD card looks like last frame in the burst first, instead of first to last.

It’s also handy to be able to group shots into time intervals.  I used the default example of 5 minute blocks and it really simplifies the edit process.  You only need to know two keys Z is a pick, X is a reject.  This is very quick but inconsistent with the Lightroom Pick/Reject keyset.  I don’t see these as reassignable at this point.

While there are other options such as a the much richer and much more expensive Photo Mechanic, Snapselect could very well be the culling program for the majority.  It is fast, easy to use and benefits from the talents of the Macphun developers.  If you shoot more than 100 images in a session, you need a culling tool and at $25, this is perfect, but buy it while it is on sale for $14.99 and you really cannot lose.

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