Force Compositions To Be Perfectly Horizontal
Thursday, January 23, 2014
You know how when you handhold your camera and try to take a level picture, it's almost never truly level? Well here's some technology that could help. It's from the Horizon app for smartphones, and it forces you to take perfectly horizontal videos. No, it doesn't shock you into compliance. Rather it simply crops and recomposes utilizing the built-in level, so even if your camera is crooked, your shot isn't. Not only does this provide perfectly level compositions, it goes so far as to eliminate vertical videos (which apparently really bother some folks). I'm all in favor of this simple fix, and I really hope the technology will make its way into my DSLR soon.
Live From Sundance
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
If you're a film buff or a budding DSLR moviemaker, you should really tune into the HD Video Pro blog this week to read editor Neil Matsumoto's dispatches from the Sundance Film Festival. He'll be live blogging everything from features and documentary reviews, as well as filmmaker interviews, panels and more. The 2014 Sundance Film Festival includes nearly 120 feature films from almost 40 countries and more than 50 first-time filmmakers that were culled from more than 4,000 feature submissions, about half of which were made in the U.S. It promises to be an interesting week at the festival for Neil—and for his readers.
What We Learn From A Raw Vogue Cover Shot
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Annie Leibovitz photographed Lena Dunham, star and creator of the HBO television show Girls, for the February issue of Vogue. Seemingly within minutes of its release, the cover became somewhat controversial because Ms. Dunham is considered to be a feminist and the idea of appearing retouched on a fashion magazine cover is not good for the cause. That's the generous reading, if you ask me. The petty reading as that Ms. Dunham is farther from the typical cover subject, and therefore people started clamoring to see the unretouched cover shots out of what I would be more likely to call mean spirited spite. Whatever the reason, the web site Jezebel went so far as to offer a $10,000 bounty for unretouched images from the session. This caused an even bigger stink, but it worked. Within hours they had half a dozen unretouched shots in hand. (Maybe the famously financially challenged superstar photographer turned them over herself. Ten grand is nothing to sneeze at.) To most the controversy is about how dramatically altered Ms. Dunham was made to appear in the magazine. But to me, and I think to many other photographers as well, the retouching actually appears fairly minimal, tasteful and downright realistic. I'd say the changes qualify as simply making someone look their best—not a total digital reinvention. These are the kind of retouches I do for portrait clients on a daily basis. Personally, I don't see anything wrong with minor adjustments like these that remain realistic and don't utterly obliterate the subject of a magazine cover. I think there are better targets, worse examples of retouching with an unhealthy agenda, and I just don't think this is worth the hubbub. We photographers can look at the before and after shots for the insights they offer into what Vogue, and the world's foremost photographer, consider ideal for an editorial spread.
Updates To Photoshop Creative Cloud
Monday, January 20, 2014
Part of the deal with moving away from the old "buy a box of software" model and shifting their products to the cloud (the "Creative Cloud" in fact), was that Adobe promised to provide more regular, incremental improvements and new features to the software. So far so good, because just the other day they announced major improvements to Creative Cloud software, and specifically to Photoshop CC. What's new? Perspective Warp, which helps you to manipulate multiple perspectives on different elements within the same image, Linked Smart Objects allow you to save space with a single Smart Object linked through multiple files. Changes to the smart object are distributed across all associated files that incorporate that object. And lastly, if you're ahead of the curve (as I so desperately wish I was) and in possession of a 3D printer, you can now make 3D prints directly from Photoshop. Pretty cool stuff. I see no reason not to download the update asap.
Photoshop’s “Blend If” Controls
Friday, January 17, 2014
Helen Bradley is my Photoshop guru. She's got a knack for explaining complex features in a straightforward, easy-to-understand manner. And such is the case with her exploration and explanation of the Photoshop feature known as "blend if." These sliders are found in the layer style palette, and they're a tremendously useful way to blend content between layers without having to create complex and detailed selections. In the example Ms. Bradley shows, she uses the "blend if" sliders to replace a boring sky with one she deems more interesting. Most important, she maintains the fine detail in the foreground subject without having to make any sort of selection at all. It really is a powerful tool, and one that doesn't get a lot of coverage. Take a look at Ms. Bradley's DPS write-up and I'm sure you'll want to add this technique to your repertoire too.
Tiffen ND 3.0 Ten-Stop Neutral Density Filter
Thursday, January 16, 2014
Last week at the Consumer Electronics Show, Tiffen announced a new 10-stop neutral density filter. I want one of these neat little things. The ND 3.0, as it's officially called, produces a whopping ten stops of neutral (meaning no color shift) density (meaning darkness, like sunglasses provide). Why would you want an image to be darker, much less ten stops darker? Landscape photographers regularly rely on ND filters all the time to help lengthen exposures; it's an ideal technique for creating smooth, blurry water (from waterfalls, tides, or any other situation in which water is moving). That's an effect that's always intrigued me, as does the way things blur over time as they move across the sensor during a long exposure. The ability to make a normal daylight exposure really long (this ND 3.0 would take a 1/125th shutter speed and turn it into a very long eight-second exposure) simply allows you to create some really unique special effects. I'm on board. Learn more about this neat filter and what it can do at Tiffen's web site.
Polar Bear: Spy On The Ice
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
I was stopped in my tracks the other day as I walked through the living room and saw on TV a wildlife photographer using a remote-controlled video camera to document polar bears in the Arctic. Turns out I was seeing a 60 Minutes repeat from 2011 in which they profiled innovative wildlife filmmaker John Downer as he attempted to make a film about endangered polar bears in a whole new way. Typically polar bears are photographed from great distances with telephoto lenses to avoid getting close to the dangerous animals. But Downer's approach was the opposite: get up close and very personal with these enormous subjects. To do it, he built remote controlled spy cameras and disguised them as icebergs, snow drifts and even a giant snowball that can be rolled right up to the nose of a curious animal. The result is the film, "Spy on the Ice," a documentary of the polar bear and its existence on the shrinking arctic tundra, which will be released later this month on DVD. There's plenty of great behind the scenes footage available online that shows just how Downer pulled off this feat of wildlife filmmaking. Start with the 60 Minutes piece, which is online at CBS News, then check out the Animal Planet page on the film with several video excerpts as well as technical explanations of Downer's equipment and his process. Lastly, visit Amazon to pre-order the film which will be available in two weeks as an affordable double feature DVD.
Photographing The Aurora Borealis
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
A recent solar wind blew charged particles toward earth, and when those particles react with the atmosphere and magnetic fields near the north pole, the Aurora Borealis appears. This solar event had good timing, because photographer Andy Long had just emailed me about his new eBook, "Photographing the Aurora Borealis." I took a look and was instantly impressed. Unlike some eBooks that are just thin booklets of basic information, this one is in fact a detailed study of the northern lights and how to photograph them. Mr. Long clearly knows his stuff. He's written 100+ pages of detailed and useful information including everything from a scientific explanation of how the northern lights are formed, to how best to find them and what to do with your camera when you do. Along with being a great resource for photographers interested in photographing the Aurora, it's also a tremendous example of self publishing done right. Learn more and purchase his book direct from the author at www.firstlighttours.com/ebooks.html.