Friday, June 29, 2007

Lightroom to the Rescue!

All hail the new champion of photographic postprocessing!

The newest addition to Adobe's legendary software lineup is a solid step in the right direction for photogs in need of a rapid route to finished images they can submit, publish or just email to family and friends.

Along with an intuitive interface, Lightroom borrows some of Photoshop's brains and adds some good old fashioned organization to this laborious process. Open your latest batch of imagery in the Library for intial inspection and culling, jump to Develop to get the postprocessing done, then decide on Slideshow, Print or Web for output to publishers, websites, wedding clients and the like.

The emergence of indie Preset writers is a strong indication of Lightroom's popularity - much more so than most other apps of this kind. I have a decent collection of these freebies already and like some of the effects a lot.

Check out a few I created in just minutes:

This is a favorite for adding character to somewhat ordinary images.

This is an image that I subjected to a number of custom Presets...

And another image subjected to color and contrast effects.

This image is one of a series of 36 parts images - my first opp to see Lightroom's organizational and processing advantages. An hour or so later, I had them adjusted, cropped, renamed and burned on CD for the client. I especially like the Export As Previous selection for making consistently sized images a snap.

With Adobe's horsepower in creating a new chapter in the Photoshop saga, this direction bodes well for the future of photographer-specific tools. Already releasing their first update, the Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom™ 1.1 update includes these enhancements:
• Flexible image management for multi-computer workflows
• Improved Noise Reduction and Sharpening technology
• Compatibility with Microsoft® Windows® Vista™
• New camera support

Lightroom is the beginning of the end for softwares lacking a clear, step-by-step interface. Their 'rooms' interface is a refreshing change toward speed and convenience and brining the many tools into a more familiar mindset. While it is a far cry from Photoshop's plug-in dynasty of creativity, Lightroom offers an approach to productivity that Photoshop never attained to. Whatever their relationship turns into, these softwares have solidified Adobe's reign over image management and manipulation all over again. Hail the new champion - again!

Travels with Mr. Lumix

A year and a half ago, I was laid off from a seven-year hitch with an environmental corporation that went nearly belly up with a huge layoff and splintered business groups. I was among the casualties, of course, and found myself relying a marketing design consultancy I have had in place since 1990. Fortunately, several good turns of fortune, and a lot of digging for sufficient clientele, lead me to a stack testing company that needed a website and a field technician. As part of a consortium with another company, I've received a couple year's worth of work that has become a bread and butter account while entering an entirely new field of work.

One of the advantages of working at heavy industrial plant sites has been the opportunity to shoot some quasi-clandestine industrial images while on-site as a contractor. A few images always make the otherwise hot, humid, strenuous and long-houred days photographically rewarding.

Allow me to introduce Mr. Lumix. As Panasonic's Model DMC-LZ5 point-and-shoot digicam, this 6 megapixel, 6X optical /24X digital 6-36mm zoom comes with image stabilization and video capability. Stuffed into a miniscule belt pouch, I can carry the Lumix all day and slip him out for rapid shots of nearly anything.

Standing on a stack between 150 and 300 feet in the air has its advantages, you know. Early morning light, high vantage points and a plethora of bold shapes and compositions is all a photographer needs to work with, right? This otherwise blah rooftop took on a visual twist when processing using a custom Preset in Adobe's new Lightroom application.

While the wide end is impressive for a consumer camera, the tele is quite a treat as well - I isolated this steel welder at roughly 150 feet with remarkable detail using the digital portion of this camera's zoom. The trick to getting good image's is the same one for all point-and-shoots in general - use only the lowest ISO settings if you want memorable or even useable results.


Friday, June 22, 2007

Welcome to Photographica!

Why Photographica?
To pursue a practical but creative perspective in the wilds of digital photography, I enjoy learning and applying techniques needed for the new age of photography. Yet, I am also quick to dispel any untruths and seek enlightenment through an accurate view of new and emerging technologies. OK, enough on that...

A Little History
Photography started for me in 1965 with a Kodak Tourist 620 rollfilm camera my Dad loaned me to shoot with at the Bronx Zoo on an eighth grade class trip. I can still remember shooting a Buddha-like Orangutan lazing in his cage. With a limited artistic ability to draw, seeing those color negatives turned into prints was my ticket to creativity.

I advanced into 35mm with Dad's Petri rangefinder, an Olympus PEN half-frame, and eventually financed my own SLR - an Exa 1A with a 50/2 Domiplan. Once I learned the basic film development and printing of monochrome films, I was off on the biggest discovery any 15-year-old could hope for - recording life!

Photojournalism was all around us in the sixties with Life and Look, National Geographic and the news magazines as major informants of the day. Inside their pages was an education for any budding visual artist like myself. Spurred on by the famous precursors of modern photojournalism, I never lacked for finding new subjects or shooting styles to develop in making memorable images.

As time went on I worked with most film format cameras at one point or another - Pentax Spotmatic, Mamiya C220 series, B&J 4X5 view, a Canon AT-1, Mamiya M645 system, N70/N80 Nikon film bodies and a slew of collectible 35mm and 120 folder cameras from th 1940's and 1950's. Eventually, I converted to digital starting with a D100 and traded up to a D70 a year later. Today I shoot with a D200 and, after November 2007, I will go on to the fabulous D300. A number of consumer Nikkor zooms became disappointing so I made it a priority to whittle the glass down to what shot best and reinvested in better gear overall (see The Mule Bag below).

Photography & Graphic Design
My trade in life started in the litho industry - first running small presses, then larger ones, and eventually learning 4-color process prepress skills with litho film and masking sheets. this went on for 15 years when, in 1990, the computer made its debut in the graphic design world and printing slowly went digital. I jumped into the new technological waters with abandon - struggling to make sense of this new tool called a computer. After I had successfully transferred my chops from the analog printing world into the digital realm, I embarked on what I had dreamed of doing for years - graphic design. Today, I am a 'marketing design' resource that offers graphic design, photography, websites and turnkey production for engineering and business clients.

Photography has served me well all along the way. Never a full fledged "pro", I have shot my share of commercial imagery, weddings, microstock and art. It has augmented my marketing design services for litho reproduction with added value to customers looking for a one-stop marketing design resource.

My Camera Bag
I am in the process of upgrading from a D200 to a D300 - in the meantime i shoot with the Nikon D40 and the following optics: Nikon's 18-70G ED AF-S DX, 24-120G ED AF-S VR, 70-300 ED Nikkor, and Sigma 10-20 HSM DC.

Three AI primes include the celebrated 24/2.8 AI-S, 105/2.5 AI and 135/2.8 Q AI'd Nikkors of yesteryear - all will happily on the D300.

A well used Bogen 3221 tripod with a 3265 Griphead is always in the car. I have, but seldom use, a Bogen Monopod and QR Ballhead. A Markins M20 is in my future along with some lighter legs, but for now the Bogen gear has been a solid investment.

I also built a simple tabletop sweep out of PVC pipe and a flourescent lighting diffuser panel - works well for small items and is a mainstay for on-location small product shoots.

For flash, I utilize Nikon's CLS System with an SB800 Speedlight, five Sunpak (422D/433D) flash units combined with Wein shoe-mount and peanut optical slaves,, Bogen light stands, umbrella brackets, several umbrellas and the most used light modifier I keep in the bag - a pair of Gary Fong Lightspheres. These are invaluable for location shots where time and space does not permit a long setup and testing situation with traditional modifiers.


Since I started shooting with the D100 in 2002, I have paralleled my learning curve with digital darkroom skills as well. Alongside favorite graphic design softwares like Quark Xpress, FreeHand and Dreamweaver, my Athlon-powered PC and Macintosh G4 are stocked with applications for postprocessing with Photoshop CS, Lightroom, and Nikon Capture.

Shooting Preferences
What do I like to shoot? Everything! Favorites are architecture, products, people and nature, but any subject that has a picture potential is fair game for me. Portraiture is an area I would love to pursue but have little room for a studio to use lighting, etc. so must rely on chance opportunities as they appear.

So that's it. Not much more to tell about me - I'd rather concentrate on photography anyway! Hope you enjoy the commentary and images I present - feel free to make your comments.

Brian Patterson