Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Thanksgiving Blackout (plus other stories)

So here we were hosting a traditional Thanksgiving Day feast (or, as the historians like to call it, “Native American Massacre Day”).  Just our luck we had a power outage that day, starting about noon and lasting until 10:00 PM, just about the time people were leaving.
A brief panic ensued; after which time Plan B was amassed: Our kids live about two miles away, and they still had power.  We moved the entire feast over to their ovens, and started getting out the candles and camping lantern.  Baked desserts were completed on the BBQ.  Whipped cream was whipped via a battery-powered drill retrofitted with a beater.  And Thanksgiving was held, successfully, by candlelight.

Being the family photographer, it’s my job to document everything, and the worst thing I could have done on this night is to use a flash to take pictures.  When you’re dining by candlelight, you want to be able to capture the emotional warmth that the candles can provide.  So I set my A55 to 12,800 (it’s second-highest ISO) and shot in RAW, knowing that my new copy of Lightroom 3 would be able to quash the noise better than any software I've owned previously.  (Click on any image to make it larger.)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Printed books now on sale! 10% off at Lulu.com

Printed books are now on sale! Buy one of my printed books at Lulu.com and enter the code "TURKEY" during checkout to receive 10% off. Hurry before the sale ends!
Love your camera, but hate your pictures?  Learn the secrets of the Kodachrome shooters at www.FriedmanArchives.com/seminars

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Faster Flash Recycling Times - Another Set of Family Portraits

I can't believe it's been two years since I took studio portraits of our children and grandchild.  Only now the family is larger - our 2nd grandson is starring in this set.

I'll go into more details about how I made these in a minute (including how I got around the flash recycling requirements when shooting an uncooperative 2-year-old), but first here are a few of my favorite shots from the session (and as always, click on any image to make it larger):

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lessons from Shooting Radioactive Tomatoes

The shot above is a stock shot, using tomatoes taken from our garden out in back.  (Must have been the soil mix responsible for the largeness of the left one...)   Below is the identical shot, taken on a tripod with a cable release, using just the ambient room lighting:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Deleting Images Forever / Screen Saver for Photographers

Dear Gary,
I am very much enjoying your posts, and as always, they inspire me to pick up my camera (aging but still wholly capable KM-7D) and get snapping.

Now, then ... given the deluge of shots the digital age imposes on us, a blog post on post-processing workflow to get things down to a manageable number would be VERY much appreciated!!!  I know, I know ... start with a glasses off, thumbnail view and take it from there.   But WHERE to take it?  Thumbnail view gives a good starting point with respect to composition & lighting, etc., but so much can be done in post production (especially with RAW files) that I wonder sometimes how to select between a half-dozen very similar shots.  What should a basic keep/discard-rank decision heirarchy look like to make this efficient and unplug the front end of the post processing workflow ... and unclutter my folders?  I've heard that stacks are useful, but then aren't you simply keeping second rate photos that should simply be discarded?  I haven't managed to develop an effective, cut-throat process to help me let go of the also-rans.  I'm sure that other readers face this same hurdle, where you probably do this in your sleep. 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Nova Scotia Artifacts

I remember thumbing through a National Geographic magazine back in the 1970’s, and came across what I thought was an insanely phenomenal picture: A two-page spread of an ocean scene; with a boat on the left page and the tail of a whale on the right half.  “Wow!” I said, “What are the chances of that scene happening just when the photographer’s camera was pointing in that direction?  And the camera just happened to be focused at the right place!”  (This was the days of manual focusing, folks…)  “This is an amazing once-in-a-lifetime shot!”

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

More on A900 Sharpness

My last blog post on using directional light to improve apparent sharpness generated a LOT of responses from full-frame Alpha 900 owners.  Below is a representative sample.  I believe this topic affects many people, and so I will share with you my reply as well:

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Sharper Pictures from your Camera Phone

My father-in-law passed away a little over a week ago.  He did so on his own terms - at home, surrounded by people who loved him.  He was a great man.

For the funeral I was tasked on assembling a slide show of his life, consisting of scans of old snapshots and other media.  Two of the images caught my attention - they were both taken with my cell phone camera, but the apparent quality of one image seemed superior to another.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The 5 Dollar Studio

 “Wow!  That camera of yours takes great pictures!” said Howard, after seeing the professional-quality portrait I had just taken of him using only one flash and 5 dollars worth of white cloth.  Of course he was kidding; he was making a reference to something I had said in Day 1 of the seminar, saying that if you ever want to get punched out by a photographer, just say to them “Wow, those are great pictures!  What kind of camera do you have?”

This was at the end of Day 2 of the Orlando seminar, just after everyone had gone home, and I had agreed to use the MacGyver-esque wireless flash technique I had demonstrated on Day 1 to take a high-quality portrait of a very special seminar attendee, Howard Herman, the guy who taught me to play Jazz piano in my youth, and still one of the best piano players in Florida.  Howard, of course, was the kind of person who always felt much more comfortable behind a keyboard than in front of a camera, and so the assignment had become a double challenge: Get the light right AND get the subject comfortable, relaxed and natural.  

Friday, July 9, 2010

Hong Kong and Shenzhen - Part 2

The heat wave continues.  It’s hot and humid in Shenzhen, the mainland China province which manufacturers no end of consumer electronics goods.  How hot is it?  Here's a picture I took just five minutes after my camera emerged from the air-conditioned hotel room:

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Hong Kong and Shenzhen - Part 1

I love China.  Some of you might remember the China Blog I kept when I was teaching English there in 2003.  Well, now I’m back; this time in Hong Kong on my way to the Shenzhen province, where most of the consumer electronic goods in the world are manufactured.

I’ve always been fascinated with the old part of China.  Maybe that’s why I try to balance my shots between the shiny new buildings - copied from the West and symbolize economic success and modernism – and the old, dirty parts that are its heritage.  I especially eschew Soviet era relics.  I shoot these things knowing that in about 70 years or so they will be mostly gone. Plus, I see it as providing a kind of balance to what you typically see in the press regarding modern China. (Click on any picture to make it bigger.)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Great Firewall of China

The Great Firewall of China is blocking access to Facebook, youtube, my blog, flickr, and a host of other sites.  (Don't ask how I posted this).  No AT&T reception since I entered the Shezhen province.  Blog updates will be a little late, folks!  But I can provide this really nice photo in the meantime!


Florida and Nova Scotia seminars are open for enrollment! http://www.FriedmanArchives.com/seminars

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Exposing for the Forest

I don't know of any camera anywhere that can expose accurately when shooting in the forest.  Usually they come out overexposed and have horrible color - nothing at all like the way you saw it.  The good news is you can solve the problem in two easy steps.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Wonderful Tool for Seeing your Dust

Cleaning dust off my sensor has always been a 20-minute ordeal. You’ve been there: Stop down your lens, take a test shot, move it to your computer to examine for dust, and if you find some, good luck being able to target it accurately. I’d use all sorts of wet wipes, vacuums, blowers, and even my trusty LensPen, but no matter how hard I tried to provide good light I could never actually see the dust particles on the sensor, so I never knew if I got everything off without having to put the lens back on and go through the whole test process again.

That changed forever when I found the new SensorKlear Loupe from Lenspen at the PMA show.  Simply put, it’s like a loupe used to view slides, only it has 4 bright LEDs pointing downward to illuminate the dust, and an opening near the bottom so you can reach in and grab the dust with whatever tool you please. Hear me now and listen to me later: this simple device REALLY makes a difference! Unlike every technique I’ve tried in the past, using the SensorKlear Loupe, you can plainly see the dust. (And, unlike similar products like Sensor Loupe by Visible Dust, the SensorKelar Loupe lets you look at the dust while you're cleaning it.)  My lens cleaning time is now down to two minutes and there’s no need to ever take a test shot.  Highly recommended.

The product is available at most photo retailers and at Amazon.com.   

Florida and Nova Scotia seminars are open for enrollment! http://www.FriedmanArchives.com/seminars

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Where have I been?

So it's been awhile since my last newsletter.  Yeah, things have been busy.  My 12-year-old desktop computer died, so a whole week of productivity was lost configuring a new computer and learning Windows 7, Lightroom and Office 2010 (and trust me, the learning curve is far from over!).  Attended the Photographic Marketing Association trade show here in California and have been writing articles for David Kilpatrick (one for Photoworld, one for Master Photography magazine) and of course taking lots of pictures.  But perhaps the most memorable happening of the last two months was (were) the successful back-to-back seminars in Copenhagen and Utrecht (which is about an hour away from Amsterdam).

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Camera of the Future

Recently one of the Spanish newsgroups had interviewed me (and my very talented Spanish translator, Francesc Garcia) about the books, photography, and other general stuff.  (If you're interested you can read the whole thing here, but it's in Spanish.  A Google translated version is here.)  One of the questions I was asked was "What would your dream camera be like?"

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The A500's Metering has Nothing to do with Face Detection

 In December's blog entry I raved about how unexpectedly good the A500 / A550's metering system was, and at the time I had attributed it to the integration of Face Detection into the metering algorithms.  It made perfect sense, and if I were on the design team, I too would have said, "Hey, look, it's reasonable to assume that the face is what you want to focus on, and it's equally reasonable to place a great emphasis on the light on the face when determining what the exposure should be!".  Placing such emphasis on the face meant getting great shots in very difficult light - even shots of people who are backlit!  (See the December blog for examples.)

It turns out that I was completely wrong.  I did some follow-up tests with a backlit subject and shot with Face Detection ON and OFF, with Live View ON and OFF, with Multi-segment metering and Center-weighted metering, and even with Autofocus set to ON and OFF.  They ALL came out exposed identically to the left figure above.  So Face Detection really had nothing to do with it.  Then I grabbed my A700 and took the same shot of the same subject.  It took a darker shot, as I have been trained to expect from all built-in light meters made since the 1960's.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Lumodi - A different Breed of Flash Diffuser

You've heard of umbrellas and softboxes before - those are classical means of diffusing light (especially light from an accessory flash) for very pleasing portraits.

Let me introduce you to a 3rd kind of diffuser: Something called a "Beauty Dish" made by a company called Lumodi.