Holiday Book List

It seems like everyone is putting out a holiday book list this year, so I thought I would be a sheep, and add my two cents. I also thought I would try to be the last one to get one out. So, not in any particular order, this is a selection of what I would recommend this year.

Visual Poetry – Chris Orwig : This is a great book to feed your creativity and spark your imagination. This is not so much a book on how to use your camera, but how to use your imagination and creativity to get the images you want.

Vision Mongers– David duChemin : Case studies with working photographers, and discussion on what it takes to make a living with a camera in a way that feeds your soul. Only read this book it you want to step up from a hobby to the big leagues.

The Hot Shoe Diaries: Big Light from Small Flashes– Joe McNally : Speedlight master shows some amazing photographs and discusses how he lit them wrapped in great stories. Very entertaining, and instructional at the same time.

Digital Photography Book v3 – Scott Kelby : This is a great series with technical tips, tricks and know how, for the the beginning to intermediate photographer. If¬† you don’t have any of the series, get all three. You won’t be lost starting with the 3rd, but they do get a bit more advanced as the books progress.

Lightroom 2 for Digital Photographers– Scott Kelby : If you have been on the fence about Lightroom, buy this book, get the demo and sit down at your computer. Using this book you will be a maser of and convert to Lightroom in no time. Don’t set there wondering why and how people use Lightroom. This book will make you understand it’s power, and become proficient in no time.

Understanding Exposure– Peterson : This is not a new book, but a classic all the same. If you haven’t read it yet, you should to get an understanding of how to use light and aperture to get the look you are looking for.

Hot Shots Flip Books – David Ziser : Great set of little flip books with photos, lighting diagrams, and tech info on how to get the same shot. These are not books in the traditional sense, but worth a flip through to get ideas and how to light them. Keep them in your camera bag for when you are stuck.

A Hands-on Guide to Creative Lighting (DVD) – Nikon (Joe McNally & Bob Krist) : Ok, not a book, but educational none the less. Takes you from how to set up your speedlights in remote, through adding lights one by one in a studio setup, to several location shoots with Joe both indoor and out. Good stuff.

The Craft & Vision Collection– David duChemin (eBooks) These eBooks are great self-contained “chapters” that focus on one specific element of photography. Well worth getting at $5 a piece. There are 5 of them right now.

10 is 5$ Photography Class

TENI have had “10”, an e-book by David duChemin in my iPhone for a little while, and will read a chapter here and there when I have time. It really is worth giving the time to sit down and absorb it though.

One of the great things about this e-book is that instead of just giving a list of tips, he tells you why each one is important, and a bit about how to use it. At the end of each chapter is also a practical assignment you can do to drill each of these 10 ways to make your photography better into your photography “muscle memory”.

Read the text, look at the great photographs, complete the assignment, improve your craft. Not bad for 5$.

the WAR of ART

cover_war_artI finished The War of Art (Break through the blocks and win your inner creative battles) by Steven Pressfield a couple of days ago. I wish I could quote a few things, but I had to return it to the library. So this will be some thoughts from the book.

First of all, I don’t think I would have picked this book if it hadn’t been recommended to me by David duChemin. I should clarify that. First, I was certain that David had recommended it, but it was actual recommended by another of Davids blog readers on the previously linked post. David then commented that he was currently reading it. I then reserved it at the library, and a few months later, it was my turn. It is either popular, or someone had “lost” it for awhile.

So why wouldn’t I have picked this book? Well, I don’t really like “self help” type books, and I would have pegged it as one of those. Even when I got the book and glanced over it, I thought “oh crap”, not one of those. In the end, I was wrong to be wary of the book. First, it doesn’t seem so “self help” like. To me a self help¬† book would be about looking at the past, or even looking at what you will do in the future. This book is all about the present. The biggest take away I got from this book is asking myself the question “What am I doing right now that keeps me from my art?” Substitute for art: photography and goals.

I don’t have the page right now, but there was somewhere towards the end of the book where it hit me: I had let resistance overtake me. It took me quite awhile into the book before I finally figured it out. I remember commenting on blogs about not understanding how people could be worried about how their photographs were perceived, or how they could be so critical about themselves and their work, and how they could get into a creative funk.

That was before I decided that I was a photographer. Now I wanted to make money at this. Now I have a website. Now I wanted everyone to like my pictures, and feared that no one would. Now I have doubts. It was while reading some of the later parts about the difference between amateurs and professionals that it hit me. I am not doing this full time yet, but I was trying to make money at it, and much of the stuff he wrote about resistance felt true. I was surprised wen I realized it, both because I hadn’t thought that resistance was something that applied to me, and also because I had got something out of a “self help” book.

Other than examining your battle with resistance, there are many quotes in here that relate to photographers. Lots of material that can provide you with at least one take away. For such a short book, it is a no brainer to recommend.

Photoshop Lightroom 2 for Digital Photographers

lightroom2The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 Book for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby is too long a title for a book. But I will forgive Kelby for the title seeing as the book is such a great resource for Lightroom.

I had decided to give Lightroom 2 a trial 30 day workout. I figured that if I wanted to really get into the software, I should get a book so I didn’t get bogged down. I have a couple of other books by Scott, and figured that this one would be good too. I wasn’t disappointed. I like his writing style, and his “just explaining to my pal” way of telling you how to do things.

From my last post, you can tell that I really liked Lightroom 2. I wonder how much of that was from the book. I started by reading the book before I even imported some images. When I went to import, I knew exactly how I was going to set up my import, how I would apply some basic meta data on import, and most importantly, that I should go get a sandwich while the import process happened.

There is a lot of good info and tips in this book. Many books on how to use software are of the sort where they go through menu options, and buttons and tell you what they do. Not really that useful. But thankfully, this book is not like that. It is truly useful. For example, in the beginning chapters on importing, he covers the pro’s and cons of where you might store your photos, and how you might organize your folder structure. How to convert your RAW files to DNG seemed simple enough, and I decided to do that on import. I doubt I would have without the book. Now I get my metadata like keywords saved back into the DNG file without needing a sidecar file. I doubt I would have figured this out without the book. Explanations on creating metadata templates for copy write info, file name templates, practical info on what the initial preview setting actually does and how much time it adds to import if you pick 1:1 round out some of the other useful things I picked up.

Coming from Aperture, there are many things similar, but sometimes you make assumptions that can be frustrating if you don’t get some help. It was great to find out some of the things that Scott himself uses to make his workflow easier. I liked all the short cuts he gave, and how to switch between viewing modes, and especially how to use the lights out mode to see just your image. I still don’t use short cuts with Aperture. The way Lightroom stores images and how best to use collections and the way he sorts his images was all great info. I may not use or set up Lightroom exactly the same way, but hearing how someone else is using it is a great start instead of just clicking around hoping what you are doing is a good idea.

I think that if I was to go on about this book, it would end up being the same thing about every section. Scott tells you exactly how he uses Lightroom, some other possibilities, and shortcuts on how to do it. Everything is explained in a very simple manner as if he was standing over your shoulder telling you what to do. The images perfectly complement the text. There are just the right number of images that help you figure out what is going on. This just happens chapter after chapter. For example, I jumped ahead and tried to use the printing module in Lightroom without reading that part of the book. I figured some of the stuff out, but was getting confused about margins. After reading that chapter, it all makes sense. And he doesn’t just have a paragraph on how to set margins, he shows you how to create a couple of different print layouts, which shows you how to use almost all aspects of the tool with real examples. This is why this is a great¬† book.

If you plan on getting Lightroom, or even if you want to really get a good sense of the software during the 30 day trial, I definitely recommend this book. Get it before you download the trial or buy Lightroom and read the first few chapters. It will make your time with this tool much more useful and productive.

Lightroom vs Aperture Comparison


Aperture Screen Shot

I did a trial of Lightroom and Aperture a couple of years ago. They were both pre 2.0, but I don’t remember the exact versions. I picked Aperture. The need to switch modules in Lightroom was giving me frustrations, and the library function seemed to be stronger in Aperture. At the time, I hadn’t used Photoshop much, and had no experience with Camera Raw. These things had me leaning to Aperture. In the time since I have been fairly happy with it, but there hasn’t been an update in quite some time.

Since I last used Lightroom there have been several updates to the develop module that is backed by Camera Raw. The ability to paint adjustments and graduated filter effects sounded really cool. Also, my favorite technical camera book writer, Scott Kelby, has a Lightroom 2 book. This brings up my other beef with Aperture. Not really Apples fault, but because of the smaller audience, there are far fewer people blogging and writing books about it. Maybe Aperture is so much more intuitive that no one needs to explain anything. But then again, I just found out a couple of weeks ago that you could save individual book pages as jpegs. Continue reading

Tamron 17-50 vs Nikon 17-55

Tamron 17-55 f/2.8I own the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 lens. If you follow this blog, you will know that I had to send it in for service a little while back. I had issues with focusing, and some parts coming loose. While I had the lens in for service, I had to rent the Nikon 17-55 f/2.8 when I had a wedding to shoot. This is a bit of a comparison after using both. Not scientific at all.

First of all, I bought the Tamron because it was $450. The Nikon is $1230. A bit of a difference. I now know what that money gets you. The Nikon is a lot heavier. That could be a plus or a minus depending on what you like. The weight is because the lens has more metal in it. The lens I rented was very much a rental. It was banged up pretty good, but still worked. With the Tamron I am always very careful, and one of the issues I had was that the front ring where the hood snaps on was loose. You could wiggle it.

Sharpness is good across both lenses. The Tamron appears to be fine now that I have it back. I was never really happy with, and it seemed to get worse until I sent it in. Now I have no issues. I have not tried to examine sharpness across all apertures, and I don’t have comparison pictures, but I am happy with it now. I shoot a lot with this lens at 2.8, and it seems just fine. (My Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 feels sharper, but I haven’t¬† tried to collect proof.)

nikon17-55dxFocus speed is a world of difference. Night and day. You can’t hear the Nikon, and can’t tell when it is focusing (except for the odd time that it hunts, but so do all lenses). The Nikon seems instantanious. The Tamron is slow. I don’t really care about the noise. It doesn’t bug me. But it means that I can tell how long it takes for the lens to focus. It almost always turns to get close and then a few smaller micro adjustments. I have very bad luck with moving kids. That can be an issue with any lens, but I fell it is an issue with the Tamron.

So, it really depends how you want to use this lens. If you want a fast zoom lens (aperture) to use on a small light weight body, and price is a concern (when is it not), then this is a good option. If you want to shoot sports and moving kids, I am a little unsure on giving it the thumbs up. I do shoot my own kids with this lens, but not with great results. I try to shoot with my 70-200 if I am after moving things, but that is a much longer focal length, and a much heavier lens.

For me, I am considering replacing this with the Nikon version. This issue really holding me back right now is the full frame one. If I am going to move to a full frame camera, and I want to eventually, then the 17-55 will not work on those cameras. I will keep my D90 as a backup, so maybe it is a good lens to keep with the camera. In the meantime, I will have a better lens. Doing it over, I would probably try to save for the Nikon. Paying double (or more) seems like a Nikon Tax, but there really are good reasons that it should be priced more. It’s just whether you think the durability, the weight, and the focus speed are deal breaker issues for you.

What I learned from Zack Arias Critiques

Zack AriasI really had no idea who Zack was until Feb 18 2009. That was guest blog Wednesday on Scott Kelby’s site, and Zack posted the first video guest blog. It was truly amazing and inspiring. This is another piece of his work that really must be watched. The picture on the left, of Zack, ¬†is from that post.

Anyway, after that I started going to his blog. Not long after the guest blog post, he started doing critiques of other photographers web sites, and their work. (People volunteer to be critiqued). I have now watched 10 video critique posts by Zack Arias and Meg (his wife). There is so much content in there to talk about, and I have learned a lot. Some of which I knew, some of which reinforced things I was thinking about, and other stuff that that I am thankful to have learned now. There would be too much content to try to cover it indepth in one post, so I thought I would really just summarize in point form what I got out of his videos.

While I was watching these critiques, I took brief notes. This is really a summary of the notes I took. I am not getting into discussion of these points too much here, but there is a ton of material for further discussion. The material¬†is also collected from across the 10 posts, not in a order by post. I would encourage you to start from post one and just start viewing. Some of these things he hits on many many times, and it becomes more obvious when you take notes because you see the patterns you have written down.¬† There tends to be more “Don’ts” in the photo galleries section¬†and more¬†”Do’s“¬† in the sections on¬†his thoughts on what kinds pictures to take.

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The Magic of Noise Ninja

So, I have been thinking about getting some noise reduction software for sometime now. I always feel that my higher ISO pictures from my D90, such as 1600, were not quite as good as I would like, but I always seem to need to shoot at that speed.

Well, I jumped off the fence the other day. The wedding shot that I did had a lot of outdoor shots in the dark with some flash added. Turns out I didn’t hit my bride and groom with quite enough light. Lesson learned. But, I need to salvage this somehow.

I did a bit of web research and decided on Noise Ninja. This plugin has been around for a while now, and there are some really good challengers. In the end I decided based on price, and that they had both a Phtotoshop and Aperture plugin to go with their stand alone app.

Here are the comparison images. First is without Noise Ninja.


Here is the same image with Noise Ninja applied in Photoshop.


These images are super zoomed in, and I wish that I had hit them with more light, but the second image is cleaned up quite a bit. The noise reduction has made them softer than I would have liked, but it is a good compromise with noise removal. This was done with a D90 user contributed profile that I found on their site. I don’t really know how to use it yet, but it was a good start.

Nikon Creative Lighting DVD

Nikon Creative Lighting System DVDI just finished viewing the Nikon DVD called “A Hands-on Guide to Creative Lighting”. You can see excerpts of this DVD from Nikon here. You can get it for around $30. (I got mine from West Photo) This DVD features the host, Bob Krist, and Joe McNally.

This is a pretty good DVD, with something in it for everyone. Probably not for the ripest beginner, or the most advanced flasher, because it covers a lot of ground. A beginner or intermediate photographer with a speedlight or two willing to pause, stop, and rewind this DVD a few times will probably get quite a bit out of it.

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Check out West Photo in Minneapolis

I have posted before how I was frustrated with National Camera. I have stopped using them. I fugured that I was going to be a purely online buyer until I found out about a store in Minneapolis called West Photo.

West Photo is a whole different deal. For one thing, this is a store for photographers. Staffed with photographers, selling gear to phtographers. They even had a couple of people out at the MN Strobist event I was at.

I have been there a couple of times now, and while I wish they were open later or on weekends, I am glad I went. I¬†was surprised that their prices are right in line with Amazon and others. I am willing to pay a bit more (don’t forget the tax) to buy from a local store, but there are limits to the price difference I can handle. West Photos prices fall in my range.

The staff here also understand, use, and shoot with the photography equipment they sell. They had no problem telling me what they use and comparing it with other gear in their store. Real world experience counts for something.

They have lighting equipment out the wazoo. If you want to look at something and have knowledgeable people talk to you about it without sounding bored, this is the place.

If you drop by, tell Kyle or Jenn I sent you.