Nik Software + OneOne Software = One Suite Life

If you haven’t heard the news yet, OnOne Software has an absolutely fantastic deal going on right now.  If you own one of Nik’s powerful Plug-in applications, you can pick up a copy of Perfect Photo Suite 7 for 50% off.  This is an absolutely fantastic deal since these two programs compliment each other like a good wine and cheese.

Let me give you a quick example of how I use the two programs together.  I will often use Nik’s HDR Efex Pro to merge my brackets.  Then I will take that image and  see what it looks like after taking it through Color Efex Pro applying some selective Tonal Contrast to punch up the grunge and details.  Then I’ll use Perfect Photo Suite to add a texture or tone.  In this image I did both.

Texas UFO

A UFO in Texas

Equipment: Nikon D700Nikon 24-70
Post Processing: Lightroom, Nik HDR Efex ProNik Color Efex Pro, Perfect Photo Suite 7Photoshop

This is an image that I took while on a recent road trip with my family.  We were driving east of the DFW metroplex and this object was just sitting on the side of the road.  There was no way I wasn’t going to stop and grab a picture of it.  7 of them actually.  I processed my brackets with HDR Efex Pro.  Then I used Perfect Photo Suite 7 and threw Yellowed Paper Dark and Sunglow on it.  Finally I took that image into Photoshop and placed a mask on the OnOne layers and selectively toned them down.

So if you are currently using Nik for your post processing and don’t yet own the current version of OnOne’s Perfect Photo Suite now is an ideal time to upgrade.  The OnOne Suite has 7 different programs each offering you creative options for different types of photography.  They compliment each other well and each offer strengths for post processing.

OnOne Perfect Photo Suite 7

OnOne Perfect Photo Suite 7

Posted in HDR Efex Pro, Landscape, Nik Color Efex Pro, OnOne Perfect Photo Suite, Outdoor, Photography, Texas, Travel, Urbex | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

When Light Doesn’t Draw Your Eye

A couple of weeks ago Brady and I went out for a father son day.  We had no predetermined location in mind or activities planned.  I just wanted to try and give my wife a break from his normal everyday 3 year old behavior and give him a day of my time without the competition of his sisters.  The only restriction put on me by my wife was not to have too much fun or do something that she would be missing out on.

Since Brady’s current interests include Planes, Trains and Firetrucks (you thought I was going to say something else there didn’t you?), we headed to downtown Fort Worth for a day of spontaneous adventure with our first stop being Fire Station #2.  Our tour wasn’t overly exciting and rather short.  I think I had a better time chatting up some old Fort Worth history and discussing Niles City than Brady did playing on the trucks.

Our adventure continued with a short trip to the park followed by a quick drive over to the Fort Worth Stockyards.  This is a place I never get tired of shooting and it usually provides enough entertainment and visual stimulation to keep even the children entertained.

Fort Worth Cowboy

Fort Worth Cowboy

Equipment: Nikon D700Nikon 70-300mm
Post Processing: LightroomNik Silver Efex Pro, Nik Color Efex Pro,  Photoshop

While Brady and I were making our way back through Stockyard Station I spotted this Cowboy and couldn’t resist making this image.  While I was working with it in post I realized that my eye was drawn immediately towards the jacket and hat.  I found this fascinating because normally ones eye is first drawn to the brightest portion of an image followed closely by that of flesh tones.  I can only assume that since the majority of this image is light in nature that the stark contrast of the black jacket pulls the eye.

Posted in B&W, Fort Worth, Photography, Stockyards, Street, Texas | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Drive By Shooting

The shots I don’t get occur all the time. Most of the time it’s due to circumstances beyond my control. But to be fair there are a good many that I miss because I don’t have my camera with me. Or because I wasn’t prepared enough to take the shot as it unfolded in front of me. And I’ll even go as far as to blame my children for not letting me get the shot. Though the truth of the matter is I will always be willing to not get a picture and provide for my family.

North Texas doesn’t get a whole lot of fog. And it seems when we do it burns off rather quickly. So when our weather mimics the likes of Seattle with low laying clouds, a light misty rain and patchy fog I can just about kick myself when my job prevents me from spending the day running around with a camera.

Hiding Ft. Worth

Hiding Ft. Worth

Equipment: iPhone
Post Processing: Snapseed

On this beautiful day my curse was just that. I was plucking away at my day job missing out on beautiful scenes like the one above.  Fortunately for me I had to travel from one office building to the other mid afternoon and spotted this building being engulfed in the sky.  Now i’m sure shooting out the car window while cruising along at 60 mph in traffic is about as safe as texting.  But this scene was just too good to pass up and I didn’t have the time to pull over.

I love the shot I got and only wish I would have had the time to work it.  The images I am able to get out of my phone these days just amazes me.  It also makes me realize that using the excuse that I don’t have my camera just doesn’t fly.  Additionally I did all the post processing on this image on the phone using Nik Software’s Snapseed.  This is a must have photo editing app for anyone on a mobile device and as of this writing it is a free application for both iOS and Android.

Posted in Fort Worth, iPhoneography, Landscape, Photography, Texas | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Finding Photographic Inspiration

The continual search for inspiration.  It occurs in each of us constantly.  Sometimes we are aware that we are in need of it, but most the time we are just absorbing it without any conscience decision of doing so.  And occasionally we are receptive enough to realize that when it is pointed out to you and you have the means of absorbing it your should do just that.

I believe it was back in December, while perusing Google Plus, I came across some street photography by Frank Doorhof.  Posted somewhere amongst the comments of the pictures Frank made mention of Jay Maisel being a source of inspiration for him in street photography.  I had seen Jay’s name before and knew that he had classes on Kelby training so over my winter break I spent some time watching his courses.  I use the term watching here very loosely.  In fact I was completely engrossed in what he was doing and saying.

Time and time again we hear photographers tell you the key to becoming a better photographer is to practice.  Spend less on gear and more on the art.  And we all know this to be true.  But when these words of wisdom come from those who are sporting the best gear it makes it a bit hard to imagine that having better gear wouldn’t benefit the art.  So while watching “A Day with Jay Maisel” and seeing him utilizing a 70 – 300 variable aperture lens.  In fact the very same lens I use.  I was completely willing to put forth a level of trust that I could really obtain some good information from this class.

Next to gear I would have to say one of the most talked about subject matters in photography is light.  Good light.  Bad light.  Light modifiers.  How to make bad light good.  It goes on and on.  And yes, the best light may be in the morning and evening, unless it is overcast, but then it becomes flat light, unless you are on a sidewalk or near a light colored building that is reflecting light…  I could go on and on about this.  The truth of the matter is that really the only people who notice the light in an image are other artists.  I’m not saying that everyone else doesn’t notice the difference between an image with nice lighting vs one that isn’t.  But most people are taken in by the image subject.  And a badly lit image is better than no image.

Jay speaks about this also in his video and basically just says who cares, just go shoot.  I have tried to re-incorporate this motto back into my life.  I still look for the good light, but I am not going to stop taking shots now because of it.  Let’s face it, even if the light is horrible you can still learn from every shot you take.  Composition, focal length, exposure, etc.

Street Photography

Street Photography

Equipment: Nikon D700Nikon 70-300mm
Post Processing: Lightroom, OnOne Perfect Photo SuitePhotoshop

In Short Jay and Frank provided me with a huge sense of inspiration  One that I can go out and work with immediately without having to purchase a thing.  They re-affirmed that photographic art subjects are all around us.  We simply need to open our eyes to them.  Street photography is a never ending opportunity to create some great captures and I look forward to experimenting with more of this genre this year.

If you know of other inspiration speakers, teachers and sources please list them in the comments for others.

Posted in Inspirational, Outdoor, Photography, Street | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas Carnage

It’s a few days after New Years and the holiday season is winding down. Lights and lawn decorations are slowly disappearing from the neighborhood, while totes and storage containers are getting filled with seasonal dishes, towels, garland, and lights. Everything is slowly being prepared for the long hibernation of attic living.

This year my Honey-Do responsibilities include the privilege of being a triage nurse and surgeon to the onslaught of tree decorations. Oh yes, this Christmas season my son, who is now three, had his way with a multitude of ornaments leaving them in various assortments of mutilation and disarray. Who can really blame him. In fact, the problem stems from us buying ornaments that resemble his room decor.

The most punished of the season was the 100 Acre Express. I believe initially the smoke stack was knocked off followed by the disengagement of the wheels, though they remained connected for a few days with the assistance of the now missing grill. Pooh lost his hat one evening at Hobby Lobby while we were in search of photo props for our Holiday shoot. I can’t remember at what point Piglet lost his head, but I do recall my wife texting to tell me of the tragedy.

Christmas Carnage

Christmas Carnage

Equipment: Nikon D700, Nikon 50mm
Post Processing: Lightroom, Nik Color Efex Pro, Photoshop

I am hoping that model glue will work in my attempts to restore life to these so we can continue to hang them next year. Though the year after that, my suggestion will be to put only boring non-breakables on as our daughter will be at this same playful and intrigued stage of her life.

Posted in A Page In My Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gift Ideas for Photographers – 2012

I know it’s getting a little close to crunch time for gift giving ideas, but my daughter asked me today what I wanted for Christmas and all I could think in my head was “Please don’t buy me something useless that will just sit on a shelf”.  I know that might seem a bit harsh, but with the addition of our third child this year, space is becoming something of a commodity around here.  So as I was trying to come up with ideas  that could fit into her budget I decided I would post a list here for others who might also be in a similar situation.

Of course everyone’s budget is different, but my goal here was to try and pick things that are in a child’s price range.  Both those who should already have left the nest all the way down to those who still need mom and dad’s help with the buying, wrapping, and even filling out the card.  Of course most of these items can be obtained in different sizes and configurations, but maybe this will help those of you who are just stumped for ideas.

  1. The Nifty Fifty (Nikon Canon– Hovering right at the $100 price range this is one of the best pieces of glass you can buy for the price.  It is fast, sharp, quick on the focus and can make butter out of your backgrounds.  On a crop sensor camera this is a nice portrait lens.
  2. Gorilla Pod Focus – This is just one of those devices that I have been wanting for years but haven’t managed to buy for myself yet.  This model comes in at $80 and would make a nice addition to the camera bag of those who use a heavy DSLR.  Other than allowing you to mount your camera to all sorts of places I have been told that you can get away with using it in situations where traditional tripods aren’t allowed.   The smaller versions are also great for allowing you to mount flashes on trees, poles, and other irregular places.  Just make sure you get the right one to support the weight of the device you plan on using it with.
  3. Digital Picture Frame – Yes, there are still those out there who don’t own one of these yet.  The one I linked to runs $70, but I have seen them across the gamut from Black Friday Cheap to over the top expensive.  I have one that sits on my desk at work and manages to distract me for too often from what I should be doing.
  4. Digital Card Readers – The never ending advances in technology keep us in check by forcing us to always upgrade our peripherals as well.  New cameras and larger memory cards keep getting cheeper and cheeper.  Unfortunately this little beauty weighs in at $50 but that just may be worth it in order to continue to be efficient with all that data we need to ingest it into our computers.  The Hoodman card reader supports USB3 and UDMA that allows up to 5 Gbps data transfers of CompactFlash or SD cards.
  5. Memory Cards (SD / CF) – I don’t know anyone who couldn’t use more or larger memory cards.  I’m still rolling old school with my largest cards being 8GB.  But you know what they say, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.  That sure doesn’t mean that if I were gifted some 16 or 32 GB ones they wouldn’t immediately be welcomed into my camera.  I personally use the San Disk models and have never had a problem with them.  Of course these guys vary in price based on size and speed the 16GB versions linked run about $20 and $40 respectively.
  6. Sand Bags – This one made the list because of a small accident that occurred in my home studio not too long back.  Having small children will always lead to the destruction of stuff, so why not take some precautions that might prevent those that could possibly be expensive?  My son accidentally knocked over one of my strobes and bent the metal reflector.  Thankfully both my son and strobe were fine, but I now have sand bags on my gear for both of their safety.  The price of sand bags varies greatly depending on where you buy them, quality and the amount of weight they will support.  The one linked is a good bag for most uses at about $20.  These are also great gift ideas for those who like to work outdoors and fight windy conditions.
  7. Sticky Grams – These are just cool.  With Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram everyone is publishing their works of art and creativity to the social media circles.  But getting these square little gems printed is where the treasure really lies.  Art just looks better once it takes a tangible form.  You can get 9 of your images printed as magnets for $15 and then start placing them all over the place.  I was very impressed with the sets that I received from them.
  8. The Lens Pen – This is one of the best little accessories I carry in my bag.  For right at $15 this little guy has been a lifesaver.  I’m not exactly sure how the magnetic forces between my 3 year olds fingers and the end of my lens became so strong, but I can say with certainty that being able to use this little beauty in a pitch black theater saved shots.  I use it constantly to keep my dust and smudges off my glass.
  9. iTunes Gift Cards – Now how can you go wrong with this one?  Music, apps, movies, they have it all.  There are a plethora of photography apps available for all of Apple’s little iDevices.  Camera apps, editing apps, training apps, and apps that just let you enjoy viewing beautiful images.  Honestly you just can’t go wrong gifting most people an iTunes Gift Card.
  10. Training – Photography is a never ending journey of knowledge.  I love all aspects of photography and thrive to know as much about all of it that I can.  I may never incorporate it into what I shoot, but at least having some of that knowledge tucked away may some day help.  There are endless possibilities for training.  Lynda and Kelby both offer great video tutorials from a vast collection of great artists.  Craft & Vision offers ebooks I believe starting at $5 each.  I have purchased a dozen or so of these and they are a great for both learning and inspiring.

I hope this short list of ideas is able to help those of you who might be in need some gift ideas for the photographer in your life.  If you have any questions concerning this list or any other ideas hit me up and I will try and assist in any way possible.

Posted in Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Photo Editing with Nik HDR Efex Pro 2.0

Most people don’t usually think about using an HDR program to edit their photos.  But sometimes they produce just the look you had in your minds eye with the least amount of work.  The photo below is a great portrait, but I knew that there was a lot of dramatic details that I wanted emphasize.

Ryan Screamfest

Ryan Screamfest

In the case of this image I wanted to punch the details in the clothing and the background without pulling attention from the subject.  I loved the green tones in the backdrop and really wanted to bring those out more.  My first thought was to use Viveza, but after a few minutes of not getting the look I wanted I scratched that idea.

I then opened the image in HDR Efex Pro and quickly thumbed through the presets.  The dark preset was exactly what I was looking for.  I toyed with the manual controls a bit, but eventually decided that the preset nailed the look I wanted for the background and for the details in the clothing.

NIK HDR Efex Pro 2 Screenshot

NIK HDR Efex Pro 2 Screenshot

I think sometimes people overlook the use of an HDR program for doing edits on single images, thinking that they are only to be used on combining multiple images.  But most HDR programs offer a very powerful tone controlling options.  Using programs like HDR Efex Pro may not take your image to 100% complete, but it sure can assist in getting you there quicker.

After applying the effect from HDR Efex Pro I took this image back into photoshop to finish up.  The following is the final image.

Ryan Screamfest

Ryan Screamfest

Equipment: Nikon D700Nikon 70-300
Post Processing: Aperture, NIK HDR Efex PRO 2,  Nik Color Efex ProPhotoshop

A special thank you shout out to Ryan Screamfest for allowing me to capture such a wonderful portrait.   One of the best parts of being a photographer is having the opportunity to meet so many people and share a moment of history with them.

If you want to know more about HDR Efex Pro 2, check out my review of the software and if you decide to purchase make sure to utilize the coupon code “bcox” to get 15% off.

HDR Efex Pro 2

Posted in HDR Efex Pro, Photography, Software | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment