Happy Birthday, Hubble
Monday, April 30, 2012
It's hard to believe the Hubble Space Telescope is already 22 years old. It seems like just yesterday it was sent out there into the great unknown. I guess that's the first sign that you're getting old: when things that happened two decades ago seem like they were just yesterday. The good news, though, is that Hubble has 22 years of amazing photographs under its belt, and courtesy of this post at Brain Pickings you can see a few of my personal favorites. Have you ever glimpsed anything as stunning as the towering gases of the Carina Nebula? You wouldn't have, if NASA hadn't funded this deep space explorer back when I was young. It's outlived the shuttle program, and it's soon to be replaced by a newer, presumably even better deep space telescope, but it's hard to argue with the images this machine has delivered to humanity—glimpses of the cosmos that we would never have begun to understand otherwise. A pretty remarkable feat for photography, I would say. Celebrate two decades of Hubble imagery with the new National Geographic monograph filled with stunning photographs and scientific explanations that make the jaw-dropping images even more remarkable.
Learn To Light People By First Lighting An Egg
Friday, April 27, 2012
I believe that light is the most important element in any photograph. Some of you, no doubt, are saying "duh," while others are thinking it's not as important as the camera or the lens, the subject or the moment. These other elements are obviously important, but I believe it's the light that we should all be most concerned about. After all, light is the reason for the "photo" in the word "photograph." So, the point is this: anything you can do to improve your understanding of lighting, and skill with utilizing the appropriate light to render your subject exactly as you want, will be a huge benefit in all of your photographs no matter what you shoot. To that end, I recommend you head over to DIYPhotography.net to check out this great little video by Joe Edelman, who uses a simple old egg to demonstrate the basics of great portrait lighting. It's super simple, but that also makes it super effective. Plus, it's neat to see how different lighting scenarios can have such a huge effect on the same subject—even if it's just a little old egg.
RAW Capture From Your Phone?
Thursday, April 26, 2012
There are a lot of smart people in the world. They figure out how to do things that would never even occur to me. Things like accessing the uncompressed image data from your iPhone's camera and saving it as a TIFF. This is brilliant—and something I never thought of, and now I can't imagine shooting phone photos without it. What's most exciting about this breakthrough—as explained in the great DP Review's explanation of the new "645 Pro" app—is what it foreshadows: the potential eventuality of RAW image capture from the camera built into your smart phone. It only makes sense. After all, if phones now have more megapixels than most D-SLRs from just a few years back… Well, if you're going to use your camera to take pictures—and the statistics say you most definitely will—then you might as well make them as great as possible. Check out the app, and then keep those fingers crossed that RAW capabilities aren't too far behind. And don't mistake my enthusiasm for a better quality phone picture for an endorsement to leave your real cameras at home. I'm just excited to see technological advancements in the cameras we carry with us everywhere.
American Landscape Photography Contest
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Our sister publication, the ever inspiring Outdoor Photographer, is hosting a unique photography contest. It's the American Landscape Photo Contest. Can you guess what the entries should consist of? That's right: your best images of the American landscape. What makes this contest unique for us is that it’s a fairly serious affair, with a judging panel that includes OP editor Christopher Robinson and master landscape photographers Jack Dykinga and Dewitt Jones, and a grand prize that includes not only a few thousand dollars worth of prizes (Canon, Nikon or Sony D-SLR included) but it also offers the opportunity to have your photographs featured in a multi-page spread in an upcoming issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine. That's pretty cool. Check out a few early favorites, and look for the link to enter at http://www.outdoorphotographer.com/photo-contests/the-american-landscape-2012/great-shots.html.
From Shoulder Bag To Backpack
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
While I do relish the opportunity to take pictures outdoors, you'd be hard-pressed to mistake me for a true hiker. I spend a lot of time in the studio and on location—and when I am on location, it's more likely to be in someone else's office rather than in the woods. So when I tell you I've been a shoulder bag guy ever since I can remember, you'll understand. My first bag was a shoulder bag, and I’ve stuck with them since. So when the folks at LowePro sent me their new Flipside 500 AW backpack, I was expecting, frankly, to hate it. How ridiculous would I look, I thought, wearing a backpack in the city? Still, the bag didn't seem particularly cumbersome, and it sure appeared to have plenty of room inside, and what could it hurt to try something that might help me a little bit to save my shoulders, my knees and my increasingly aching back? So I gave it a try. And on the way to my first location shoot—only 30 minutes after packing the thing—I was already sold. Backpacks have a lot of advantages, and this one's got a lot going for it. I filled it with two D-SLRs, a 70-200mm zoom, 100mm macro, 24-70mm zoom, 15-30mm zoom, 50mm prime, two PocketWizards, two Speedlights, filters, and all of the various accessories I carry regularly, and the pack accommodated them with nary a complaint. I've subsequently learned that backpack users are, apparently, somewhat afraid of having their bags zipped open and the contents spilling out or being pilfered from literally right off their backs. I wasn't smart enough to consider this initially, so I was stumped when I couldn't figure out how to open the thing. Turns out the folks at LowePro are smarter than me (and hopefully many criminals are dumber than I am too) and they made the pack open from the back side—the part that is protected by your own back when you're wearing it. This way your expensive items are extra protected, which makes extra sense in the city. The main reason I was sold, though, was when I put on the pack I realized that all that weight that's been bearing down on my right shoulder for a decade would now be distributed across both shoulders and onto my hips. Comfort; I could get used to this. The pack has all of the quality bells and whistles you'd expect from LowePro—like a zip-out weather cover, tripod carrier and extra pockets for arranging your accessories—and it's clearly a very well-made product. Even if you think you're not a backpack guy… Well, don't speak too soon. Consider trying a backpack in lieu of a shoulder bag, and you may find yourself pleasantly surprised. Learn more about the LowePro Flipside backpack lineup at http://www.lowepro.com/flipside.
Homemade ICE Light
Monday, April 23, 2012
Just the other day I mentioned a new light from Westcott that's garnering all sorts of buzz. It's the ICE Light, and it looks like a combination of a flashlight and a light saber. At almost $600, this handheld light source is not the sort of thing most of us can afford to buy by the dozen. But just after writing about the ICE Light, I was at my local home improvement store when I stumbled on the next best thing: a half-fast knockoff. It's a combination work light and flashlight, but its specs are somewhat similar to the ICE Light. Namely, it uses LEDs for bright, cool, constant illumination, and it really does look an awful lot like the real thing. Unlike the ICE Light, though, a pair of these bad boys will set you back less than $15. (And a built-in magnet makes these work lights easy to attach to all sorts of locations—including light stands. Okay, okay… I know this light pales in comparison to the real thing—especially since the light isn't daylight balanced, it isn't nearly as bright, and it isn't as soft as the ICE Light—but it still could come in handy in the right circumstance. And at this low price, you can't afford not to buy one! (Plus, the thing really is handy as a work light too.) Pick them up at your local Home Depot. http://www.homedepot.com/buy/commercial-electric-17-led-handheld-work-light-291869.html.
Nikon Lens Selector
Friday, April 20, 2012
I feel like I may have mentioned this in the past, but it's neat enough that I'd say it's worth coming back to. Scott Kelby just reminded me about this useful tool: a lens focal length simulator from Nikon, which can become an invaluable tool when selecting your next lens—or even camera body. Better yet, it can become an informative tool to help learn about the effects of different focal lengths and sensor sizes. With the tool, simply input all the particulars of lens and focal lengths, and you can even look at the type of photograph you'll be making, and then the simulator will display how a given scene will look on a particular sensor, with a particular focal length lens at a particular distance. It's simple but super-effective, and a great way to help plan your next lens purchase (or, like I said, to learn a little more about how focal length and sensor size affect images). Check out the simulator at http://www.nikonusa.com/en_US/IMG/Images/Micro-Sites/Lens-Simulator/simulator.htm
Preserve Your Favorite Films
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Store your film forever! Well, maybe not forever, but at least for a long, long time. Storing film is becoming a very real necessity for photographers who enjoy shooting with the tangible stuff. As more and more films disappear from production and, eventually, the photo marketplace... well, if you have a favorite film, you'll need to stockpile it if you'd care to shoot it a few years into the future. And you'll want your stock to last. With this article from Photojojo, you can gain some insights into storing your film most effectively. Open it, label it and cool it in the fridge: there's not too much to the secret for successfully storing film, but it definitely does take a plan. The article will help you develop an approach and implement it, so that if your favorite film disappears from the marketplace you won't be stranded without it forever. (The only thing I disagree with in this article? You don't need a label maker! A little tape and a marker will serve you just fine.)