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Tip of the Week: Use a Tilt-Shift Lens for Panoramic Photos

Tips & Tricks
Figure 1. A panorama taken with the Fuji X100's built-in pano feature.

Figure 1. A panorama taken with the Fuji X100's built-in pano feature.

Every week, we post a photography-related tip on our blog. These tips are typically inspired by questions we get from our customers. Sometimes we might feature a technique tip, and sometimes a gear recommendation. If there’s something specific you’d like to see in this section, let us know. Email us at [email protected]

There are many ways to create panoramic images. You can start with a really wide-angle lens, then simply crop down to a long, narrow band to create a “faux” panorama. You can also use the built-in panoramic functions of cameras like Sony’s NEX and Alpha series, as well as Fuji’s X100 and X-Pro1. You can also simply take a series of pictures and stitch them together in Photoshop, or, if you’re really into panoramic photography, you could rent a pano-head from us, like the ones from Nodal Ninja.

Today, we’re going to talk about one of my favorite ways to create panoramas. All of the methods above have some shortcomings that make it a bit harder to create good panos. Using a wide-angle lens and cropping, for example, leaves me with a lower-resolution file than I’d like. The built-in pano features in some cameras is neat, and I do use them (as shown in Figure 1), but they’re also relatively low-res JPEGs. Pano heads are great for this sort of work, but you have to find the “nodal point” of each lens you want to use, and that takes quite a bit of work. (more…)

Photo Finds – Week of April 9, 2012

Nicole S. Young

Nicole S. Young

Here’s the test I always apply to food photography: does it make me hungry? If the answer is “no,” chances are, the photographer isn’t doing something right. The issues are typically minor; the lighting is off, or the food isn’t styled properly, or the angle doesn’t flatter the dish. Either way, the photo is missing that essential spark that makes you go, “Mmmmm…”

It’s therefore a supreme compliment to photographer Nicole S. Young that her food photography invariably makes me hungry. This is a photographer who made clams look good to me – a hard thing to do, since I don’t like seafood. Exquisitely styled, meticulously prepared, and perfectly shot, her images jump off the screen and have, more than once, made my stomach growl. (more…)

Cool Stuff – Week of April 06, 2012.

Cool Stuff

Welcome to Cool Stuff, a weekly feature where we post our favorite links from the past week, including our favorite articles and how-tos, videos, images and more.

That’s it for this week’s Cool Stuff. As always, comments and suggestions are welcome!

Tip of the Week: Behold the Frankencam!

Tips & Tricks
The Frankencam: A Canon 5D Mark II with a Nikon 14-24 f/2.8G lens

The Frankencam: A Canon 5D Mark II with a Nikon 14-24 f/2.8G lens. Image Copyright © Sohail Mamdani

The practice of swapping lenses between platforms via adapters isn’t something new. Back in October 2011, for example, we wrote about using Canon, Nikon, and Leica lenses with Micro 4/3 cameras. Similarly, you can use an adapter to mount Nikon lenses onto Canon cameras, but until recently, this was limited to a smaller subset of Nikon lenses.

The “D” lenses from Nikon, the ones with manual aperture rings like the Nikon 35mm f/2, could be used via an adapter on Canon cameras. You could manipulate the aperture manually on the lens, and set the shutter speed on your camera. DSLR video shooters quickly took to these lenses for this very reason.


Op-Ed: Your Medium and Tools as Inspiration

Gear Talk

I just noticed that Instagram for Android was released yesterday, and it’s downloading as I write this. I really dig Instagram, SmugMug’s Camera Awesome, and all the other iPhone/Android camera apps out there; they’ve truly democratized photography and that’s for the better.

Then I saw this on Popular Photography: Inside the World of Large Scale Wet Plate Photography.

The story is about photographer Ian Ruther’s camera-in-a-truck that he takes out on location to make images. The cost of each image is a staggering $500, and the process isn’t exactly easy, as shown in the video below.

I’m old enough to remember the days of film, of loading hand-rolled 35mm film cassettes into my Canon AE-1. As late as 2010, I still developed a bunch of medium-format 120 film myself, having fallen in love with the medium all over again. I’ve even shot on 4×5 film on a borrowed Crown Graphic, and it was a wonderful experience. (more…)

Photo Finds – Week of April 2, 2012

Alex Koloskov

Alex Koloskov

Welcome to Photo Finds, a feature where we point you to some of the best photography around the web.

This week, we bring you the work of another photographer who was born and raised in the former Soviet Union. Kiev-born Alex Koloskov first came to my attention when alum Josh Norem pointed his website out to me. Since then, I’ve followed his work on his website, AKEL Studio, as well as on Google+.

Milk and chocolate, frozen in mid-air

Milk and chocolate, frozen in mid-air

Alex is one of those photographers whose work immediately makes you go, “Hey, how’d he do that?” The first image I ever saw of his was a shot he did of Godiva’s Chocolate Liquer, where two intersecting streams of liquid – one made of milk, the other of chocolate – were frozen in midair and wrapped around the bottle of liquor. My first thought was, “it’s CG.”

Turns out, it is a composite, but the frozen mid-air liquid? That’s real. There’s a behind the scenes shot of him actually tossing chocolate milk into the air and photographing it on his blog.

That made me groan. My girlfriend would never let me try something like that at home.

The cool thing is, Alex is very open about his tools and techniques. Take a look at the video below, on how he created a beauty shot with a model and a frozen ball of water, as an example.

His website and his Vimeo channel are full of examples like this one, and if you want to go really in-depth, you can check out his Masterclass on Mastering Splash, or one of his ebooks and video tutorials.

Alex is also very active on Google+. That’s where I found out that he’s also passionate about HDR photography, and even has a book on it, called “Realistic HDR for Landscape and Architectural Photographers.” To me, that’s the best kind of HDR, where, rather than crazy halos and impossible skies, you bring out the natural dynamic range that your eyes truly see. There’s also a really neat before/after tool for HDR images on his website that you should check out.

Alex is also going to be published in an upcoming issue of Scott Kelby’s Light It! magazine, where he shows off some of his techniques behind a new image. To find out more about him, visit his Google+ profile, which has links to the everything he’s working on right now.

Adobe CS6 and Lightroom 4 bogging down your computer?

Tips & Tricks

If you’re a photographer, chances are that you spend a lot of computer time ploughing through the Adobe Creative Suite and Lightroom. Chances also are that you’ve also spent a fair amount of time tearing at your hair as you wait for that filter, or that export, or some other function to wrap up.

What you may not know is that it might not be Photoshop or Lightroom that’s slowing your computer up. Here are a few tricks to help speed things up for you.

1. Close those browser windows and tabs. Do you really need to be checking your Facebook and Twitter feeds while editing photos and videos? Didn’t think so! We have all fallen victim to the Social Media gods, but a little resistance from a “hashtag” here and a “like” there will help you focus on whats important: color splashing and adding a vignette to all your photos!

You probably never noticed, but multi-tabbed browser windows eat up a lot of system memory. The photo above is a screenshot of my computers activity. More than 1GB allocated to internet browsing! If your computer is running 8GB of ram or less, then you should close those tabs and allocate as much memory to your editing software as much as possible.

2. Add more Ram. This is probably the cheapest and single most efficient way to speed up your computer. You’ll not only see a significant decrease in render time, but you’ll see the overall performance of your computer get a boost. If you own an i7 MacBook Pro or a PC equivalent, you should be able add up to 16gb of ram into your system. I did it to my MacBook Pro. It’s not even the top of the line model, but it was still able to pop in 16gb of ram without a hitch. Ram prices are at an all-time low, I picked up 16gb for less than $150 from Amazon.

3. Upgrade to an SSD (Solid State) Hard Drive. Although SSDs have gone down in price, they are still a good ways away from being cost-competitive with traditional spindle hard drives. With that said, they do provide significant performance gains. Computers will boot noticeably faster, will come out of sleep almost instantly, and will read and write files with greater speed.

How many times have you tried to open up a multi-layered .psd and found yourself staring at the screen, waiting for that status bar to reach its end? Check out the example below. A 128gb SSD was installed on this PC and scored the highest possible score, 7.9, on Windows Performance scales.

One draw back though, is that you won’t have nearly as much storage space to store your data. Those who do upgrade to an SSD choose to run their OS and Applications from the SSD, and store their data onto a separate hard drive.

These are just a few ways to get a performance boost out of your existing hardware, without having to drop the dough for the latest and greatest from Apple/Dell/HP/whatever. Regular maintenance and policing of the contents of your drive also helps.

Windows users can run Check Disk and remove temporary files to help with performance issues, while Mac users should run Disk Utility every so often as well. Another tip for Mac users: keep your Desktop clean and as file-free as possible. Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that does help.

Got a tip of your own? Leave it in the comments below!