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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!

Cool Stuff – Week of March 30, 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, leave us a note with any feedback or questions in the comments below…

Tip of the Week: Edit Video in Adobe… Lightroom?

Tips & Tricks
You can now apply certain presets to video in Lightroom 4.

You can now apply certain presets to video in Lightroom 4.

It’s no big secret that video is now something even still photographers need to pay attention to. If you do photography for a living – or want to do photography for a living – then at some point, the specter of video is going to raise its head and you’ll have to deal with it, or risk falling behind your competition.

Since photographers are dabbling in video, it’s no surprise that a software application formerly dedicated to still photographers is itself now dabbling in video. The latest version of Adobe Lightroom, released this month, now offers DSLR video shooters the ability to do some video edits and effects without having to leave the program.

Among other things, you can do basic cuts and trims, apply color and exposure settings, and sync those settings between clips.

The folks over at Adobe – specifically, Adobe’s Senior Digital Imaging Evangelist, Julieanne Kost – have a great video showing you some of the things you can do to your video with Lightroom 4. Take a look – I think you’ll be surprised at how much you can do.

As an aside to our Aperture fans – yes, Aperture has had many of these features (and I’ve happily used them for a while) for some time now. It’s just nice to see Lightroom catching up.

Photo Finds – Week of March 26, 2012

Park Pobedy Station, Study 1

Park Pobedy Station, Study 1

NEW UPDATE! The winners of the free copies have been picked! Congratulations to Laura Michna and Kyle Reynolds! You’ll get an email shortly with details on how to download your copy.

UPDATE: We’re giving away two free copies of the Plus One Collection’s eBook version, which has the combined work of all 500+ photographers that contributed to the book. 

To win, leave a comment on this post and tell us why you want a copy. We’ll pick two comments at random as winners on Friday, March 30, 2012.

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

This week on Photo Finds, we have a photographer and a fantastic bit of collaborative work that he was instrumental in creating.

Some of you may already know Ivan Makarov, especially if you’re a photographer who spends any amount of time on Google+. His work on the Plus One collection (more on that in a second) has brought together a huge number of photographers from the Google+ community to contribute their photographs for a book that is being sold for charity. Ivan’s own work is featured in this book, and with good reason; his photography speaks to a lot of folks. (more…)