Thursday, November 20, 2014

First Impressions: Olympus E-PL1

Got this cute little camera yesterday. Spent some time shooting with it and playing around.

First impressions: For $70, it may be the best cheap camera I have ever used. Got it on Craigslist from someone who didn't have a use for it anymore.

Very responsive, essentially no shutter delay, continuous firing is about 3 fps, but the buffer is big enough to keep the camera usable after a short burst.

So far, I am loving it. Almost everything you see here was done between 1250 and 3200 ISO. Very little low-ISO stuff, and it all holds together pretty well.

Auto ISO and Auto WB are good. Autofocus is killer, on the money almost every time. Adjustable focus points, too.

This camera sells brand new for over $500
Used, you can generally get them around $150 or so. Considering what I paid for it, I am thrilled.

Monday, November 17, 2014

2014 Digital Workflow

It's been a while since I posted about the details of my workflow. Recently, here's what my system looks like.

Non-photo-nerd people, feel free to skip this one. Photo-nerd-people, feel free to criticize how I do this. It won't change anything, but it might make you feel better ;-)

You can see previous iterations of my workflow here.

Step 1: Import RAW (NEF or NRW) files from memory card using Firewire card reader.
 - My file structure is organized by date and event, then by file type.

Drive --> Year --> Month --> Date w/ subject --> file type or export folder

Step 2: Convert all raw files into Digital Negative (DNG). This eliminates pesky sidecart files and still allows raw format editing, which has significantly more flexibility than the editing capabilities from JPG. I use Adobe DNG Converter for this process. It's a free download.
 - During this process, DNG converter re-names all my photos to include my name, the date they were taken, and a serial number. This means that each photo has a unique name on the hard drive, which is good when you need to search your archives years later for a specific image.
 - This process is automated. Go grab a beer!

Step 3: After the DNG conversion, I pull up Bridge (yes, I'm on CS4, but someday I'll move to the CreativeCloud version) and allow it to build a cache of the folder, which it then stores on the folder for later use.
 - This process is automated. Go grab a beer!

Step 3 1/2 : Delete all raw files (NEF, NRW). They are just taking up space at this point; the DNG serves the same purpose and is more user-friendly.

Step 4: Selections in Bridge are made quickly from the Filmstrip view mode.
 - Any image I might want to keep or work with later gets 1 star.
 - From there, any image that I am willing to edit gets a second star.
 - Selections of edited images for final output occasionally get additional stars, but mostly 1 and 2 is all I use.
 - ALL images with 0 stars get permanently deleted.
 - Keyword in Bridge when necessary. I'm not as good at this as I should be, which makes finding images more difficult. Keywording is your friend!

Step 5: Editing takes place in Camera Raw, which has everything I need to make sure the image looks like it should. You can also batch process large groups of images in this program to add the same edits. Great for photobooths. Big-time cloning and skin softening and other editing is taken into Photoshop as needed, which doesn't happen very often.

Step 6: Once all edits and selections have been made, all edited (2 star) DNG files are processed with the FREE Dr. Browns 1-2-3 script. A similar script has been built into Photoshop and will allow you to achieve the same end. (They call it Image Processor) Since I am still on CS4, the good doctor takes care of it for me.

Dr. Browns script saves each image as a high quality JPG (suitable for small format printing) and as a web-version JPG. It runs a script that creates the 1px grey border you see around all my web images, sharpens them, and resizes to 1500px on the long dimension. It then converts the profile from adobe1998 to sRGB for web viewing.
 - This process is automated. Go grab a beer!

Step 7: Backup. The main drive I use is still a 500gb RAID1 array, which is two drives mirrored to each other. Thus far, everything we have done has been automatically saved on 2 drives, each of which has a full copy of our work.
 - For extra redundancy, everything is copied to the archive drive.
 - That archive drive is then backed up to an additional copy, so we have 4 copies of current photos (the most recent 400gb or so) and 2 copies of old stuff.

Every time one drive fails, I immediately purchase a brand new one with double the previous capacity and start the copying. This way, my archive space is continually expanding and drives are always being renewed.

Things to note: I DO NOT USE LIGHTROOM (OMG). I don't like programs that manage files for you in large libraries. They are typically resource hogs, and since I am using an aging 2007 macbook pro, I don't have the luxury of unlimited RAM and processing power. 2.2ghz dual core processor and 6gb of memory do just fine with this setup.

Computer: 2007 refurb 15" macbook pro. 2.2 ghz dual core processor. 6gb ram. Running whatever the latest version of OSX is.

Hard Drives: I buy all of them from Seagate. All are formatted in EXFAT, which can be read by WINDOWS and APPLE machines and supports large drives for both operating systems. Just in case I decide to switch to windows someday (ha!)

  • 3tb archive drive
  • 2tb portable archive drive
  • 2x 500gb working drives. 
  • Oh yeah, and another 2tb for Time Machine. Note that NONE of my photography is stored on the laptop's internal 500gb hard drive. I use that for movies, music, documents, and generally everything else aside from photography.

Card Reader: FIREWIRE Compact Flash card reader. I never plug the camera directly into the computer. I always eject the card and use a card reader. When the card is re-inserted back into the camera after editing and backup, the card is FORMATTED in camera. This process keeps me glitch-free and ensures I don't corrupt any of my cards. I use 4gb and 8gb compact flash cards so that in case one is corrupted during a large shoot (weddings, sports), I don't lose the entire shoot.

Engagement Party: Scottsdale Edition!

A smattering of photos from our engagement party in Scottsdale this weekend. We had a great time and we are very thankful to all who showed up and partied with us!

Kristen getting makeup done before going wedding dress shopping!

Boys went to the Goodguys car show while the girls went shopping

Incredible view from the party, hosted by the amazing Russ and Lynne!

Temperatures down into the 60s meant some quality time by the fire pit

Monday, November 10, 2014

Inspiration in The Print

In case you didn't know, I work for a company that does chemical process printing, in the darkroom. While that isn't everyone's cup of tea, we generally say that pressing the shutter is only half of the photographic process. The other half is printing, holding, burning, and working with the chemicals to produce the print exactly the way you intended it. Each print is hand-made, one-of-a-kind, and subtly different from every other.

Something about working in the darkroom to create something you can hold gets me, but even if you're just getting inkjet prints from your instagram feed, holding something that you made is... empowering somehow. Like it justifies all the angst and learning and creativity and failed shots that took you to this one finished print.

Recently, Zack Arias put out a challenge to his followers on DEDPXL: Make a photograph with a narrative surrounding the idea "The World Has Changed."
He required that people include some specific elements in their narrative (a news delivery device, something spilling, a human element) and then gave us a month to complete our images before submitting them for critique.

I've been reading a lot of David duChemin's posts recently about making prints, which in turn have inspired me to make more prints and blog on my own about the effect it has on me.

Even before I knew what I was going to shoot, I knew I wanted to make a print for this assignment. Specifically, a platinum/palladium print.

I spent a few weeks getting the props and the model all geared up, we spent about three hours shooting, then another three or five hours working on the negative and printing. I shot everything digital, then we printed the negative on an inkjet printer, then into the darkroom (which isn't all that dark for palladium printing) and playing with chemistry to create the final print.


After the print dried, we scanned it (with a camera) and here you have the digital submission of the finished print.

My original hope was to mail the print in for my submission, hoping that the critique panel gets the same sense of wonder holding a physical print, but alas, they asked me just to stick with digital submission. Fair enough, I guess.

Anyway. Back to the original point: MAKE PRINTS, GET INSPIRED, SHARE THE LOVE!

Even if you can't get your instagram pictures printed in palladium (something I'm working on, but we'll talk about that later), you CAN get them put on some beautiful 100% recycled paper.

Take a look at Artifact Uprising. They are based in Colorado, print on recycled paper, and they are turning out some incredible prints at very reasonable prices.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Camera Day Challenge

Yesterday was another randomly chosen Camera Day Challenge, where I encourage people to shoot with a few constraints (one camera, one lens) and post their pictures up the following day. Nothing fancy, just your everyday life.

I decided to play with a setting I don't use very often on my D300s. The Multiple Exposure setting allows you to overlap a bunch of exposures into one picture. I generally chose just two, but the camera will do many. Great for applying textures and colors in a very weird way.

Everything with the 35mm lens.

my favorite

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Freidlein Prairie in the Snow

A quick overnight up at Freidlein Prairie, in search of snow.

We stayed in the same campsite as the last time we were there. This time it rained and snowed all night and well into the morning.

Beautiful, and exactly the kind of relaxation we needed.