Tonight’s Sunset

posted by on 2010.06.28, under Landscape Photography, Photo of the Day
06.28:
Tonights Sunset - Nikon D300, Nikon 18-200mm, f/6.3, 1/60 sec., ISO 200

Tonight's Sunset - Nikon D300, Nikon 18-200mm, f/6.3, 1/60 sec., ISO 200

Photo of the Day

posted by on 2010.06.27, under iPhone Photography, Photo of the Day
06.27:
Lakeside Amusement Park - iPhone 4 Camera

Lakeside Amusement Park - iPhone 4 Camera

So this past week, I got my iPhone 4. My primary reason for upgrading is the vastly improved camera. Finally, the camera in my phone is good enough that I don’t have to carry a point and shoot when I don’t want to lug around my DSLR. The added benefit is that I always have my phone with me so there will be fewer photos missed because I didn’t have a camera. Of course, the iPhone 4 camera isn’t even in the same galaxy as a DSLR in terms of image quality, but it is good enough for casual shooting.

Photo Backups: iPad vs. Epson P7000

posted by on 2010.06.11, under Photography Equipment
06.11:

One of the luxuries of being a photographer in the digital age is the ability to back up your photos in the field to insure that you don’t lose any of your hard work. This is especially important for weddings or expensive trips where there are no second takes if a digital catastrophe claims your data. There have been devices on the market for years that enable photographers to backup their memory cards. I use the Epson P7000 and it has served me well at weddings and on various trips where I wanted to be sure that I came home with all my photos. With the introduction of the Apple iPad and the Camera Connection Kit, there’s been a lot of buzz in the photography world about the potential for the iPad to serve as an in-field backup device. Here I briefly compare the pros and cons of the iPad and the P7000 for photo backup purposes.

The Pros for the Epson P7000:

The main advantage of the Epson over the iPad is storage space. The P7000 has a 160GB hard drive. Currently, the largest iPad you can get is only 64GB. Why on earth would you need more than 64GB for photos? Well, at a wedding I shot recently, I ended up with nearly 40GB of photos in one day (RAW files, not JPEG). Imagine being on a two week trip where you’re shooting extensively everyday and you need your backup device to cover you the entire time. Also keep in mind that your iPad will most likely have other files on it (movies for the plane?) that will take up precious space.

The Epson P7000 is designed specifically for the task of backing up photos. It has both SD and CF card slots as well and USB ports. It even allows you to connect another portable hard drive to make a backup of your backup without needing a PC. The Camera Connection Kit for the iPad only has an SD slot. If you need to backup CF cards (which most pro-level DSLR’s use) you have to plug a CF card reader into the USB port on the Camera Connection Kit. I did a quick speed test between the iPad and P7000 comparing the backup of a CF memory card with 188 RAW files on it. The iPad took roughly 11 minutes where the P7000 took less than 6 minutes. That’s a huge difference if you have a lot of cards to backup.

The Cons of the Epson P7000:

Price is the biggest downside to the Epson P7000. At $799 it is almost as expensive as the top of the line 64GB 3G iPad which can do so many other things.

The Pros of the iPad:

The display on the iPad is quite simply amazing. It’s gorgeous. The Epson P7000 has a beautiful 4 inch display, but it’s nothing compared to viewing your photos on the iPad’s 9.7 inch IPS display and being able to pinch and zoom to examine detail.

The iPad obviously has much more flexibility in terms of potential uses. With the App Store, you can download apps that allow you to edit your backed-up photos and email them or post them to the web. There’s even an option to post your photos to a MobileMe album which is the ultimate in backup security because it ensures that your photos will make it home even if you or your gear don’t. There are also rumors that there may soon be iPad versions of Lightroom and Aperture which would open up even more possibilities for editing and sorting your photos on location.

The Cons of the iPad:

Like I mentioned before, physical storage space is the biggest downside to the iPad right now. The download speed of a CF card to the iPad was also disappointing (Epson was almost twice as fast).

Conclusion:

If you have less than 64GB of photos to backup (or however big your iPad model is) and you don’t mind the slow download speed, the iPad and Camera Connection Kit are the way to go. You’ll be able to review your photos on a large and beautiful screen and have a lot of options for editing them.

However, if you shoot in RAW and are shutter happy like I am, the iPad’s limited storage is currently a deal breaker. I’ll be grabbing my Epson P7000 when I head out on trips in the near future. But down the road, when we have iPads with more storage and apps for Lightroom and Aperture, the situation will change entirely.

A Photographer’s Perspective on the iPad

posted by on 2010.04.05, under Photography Equipment
04.05:
The iPad is hard to photograph because its so shiny!

The iPad is hard to photograph because it's so shiny!

So if you don’t want to buy an iPad, whatever you do, don’t go look at them in the store. That’s the mistake I made yesterday on launch day. The iPad is stunningly beautiful and will immediately find a spot in the heart of any geek. It sure found a spot in mine…I walked out the door as a proud new owner of a 32GB model. This brief review is basically my first impressions of the device coming from a photographer’s perspective.

First off, photographers are sure to appreciate the iPad’s GORGEOUS display. I am most interested in the iPad as a way to show off my photos to people and it does a stunning job of that. The IPS screen is better than many computer monitors out there. It’s crisp, bright and has very good viewing angles. It’s also pretty color accurate. I freshly callibrated my Samsung 245T monitor (on which I do all my photo editing) and then synched some of my favorite photos (from Aperture through iTunes). The photos on the iPad looked very close to the way they displayed on my monitor. Impressive color accuracy for a consumer device straight out of the box. The only gripe I have is that the photo synching process in iTunes down-rezes and compresses the images and there doesn’t appear to be a way to control that process. Zooming into the photos on the iPad shows noticeable compression artifacts, but overall it’s no big deal…they still look amazing.

Other observations:

  • It’s fast. Sooooo much faster and snappier than my iPhone 3G
    The apps that have been reformatted for the iPad are where it’s at. Standard iPhone apps work but are greatly disappointing on the large screen.
  • The optional VGA output adapter will only output a signal when a video is playing (such as a TV show or movie). It wont show you the screen operations of the iPad. It does work for photo slideshows through which look pretty good. I haven’t tried it with Keynote yet. The output resolution is obviously VGA so don’t expect to get blown away by HD video or anything.
  • Typing will take getting used to just like the iPhone, but I think it’s fine for emails or short bits of writing (I’m doing this entire post on the iPad and I’m typing pretty fast).
  • If you’re a photographer and want to take the iPad into the field and use it for location scouting purposes, be sure to wait for the 3G version. The wifi version won’t do you any good unless you have a portable wifi hotspot that works with your phone service.
  • For some reason, it doesn’t charge when connected to the computer…only when plugged into an AC outlet. Annoying, but not a big deal.

That’s all for now, but as I continue to use the iPad, I’ll post more in the coming days.

Portraits

03.22:

I’ve been more interested in portrait photography lately. When my friend CJ asked for some head shots, I jumped at the opportunity to practice my flash photography techniques with him. We planned to do the shoot outdoors, but it was lightly raining that day so we had to stay indoors mostly. I used my neglected Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8D lens which is the best $112 I have ever spent on photography gear. It’s SUPER sharp, pretty good wide open and has decent bokeh. Did I mention that it cost $112 brand new? With the crop factor of a DX format camera, 50mm is a nice portrait focal length where you can get close to your subject without feeling uncomfortably close. Thanks to CJ for being such a great model!

Nikon D300, Nikon 50mm f/1.8, Nikon SB-900 Speedlight, a bunch of reflectors, diffusers and light stands

Nikon D300, Nikon 50mm f/1.8, Nikon SB-900 Speedlight, a bunch of reflectors, diffusers and light stands

Snow Shoeing to Dream Lake

posted by on 2010.03.07, under Landscape Photography, Photo of the Day
03.07:

Nymph Lake - Nikon D300, Tokina 11-16mm, f/16, 1/200 sec., ISO 200

Nymph Lake - Nikon D300, Tokina 11-16mm, f/16, 1/200 sec., ISO 200

I went snow shoeing this Saturday with my friend Zach in Rocky Mountain National Park. We had been planning the trip for a few weeks but I didn’t expect the conditions to be so perfect. On Friday, there was a significant snow storm which dumped tons of new snow on the park. I think the accumulation far exceeded the forecasts. The storm moved out quickly and by the time Zach and I got to the Bear Lake trailhead at 6:15 am on Saturday, there were beautiful clear skies. Everything was coated in fresh snow. We didn’t make it up to Dream Lake by sunrise because highway 34 is closed just east of Estes Park while they replace a bridge. With the detour taking extra time, we would’ve had to get up 2:30 AM to make it for the 6:30 sunrise. Ouch. But it didn’t matter anyway because there was so much blowing snow off the peaks before the sun came up, we wouldn’t have been able to see anything. Here are two images I took along our hike. Winter looks so nice in toned black and white!

Dream Lake Ice - Nikon D300, Nikon 18-200mm, f/16, 1/25, ISO 200

Dream Lake Ice - Nikon D300, Nikon 18-200mm, f/16, 1/25, ISO 200

The Ice at Dream Lake (above) was beautiful with all kinds of interesting bubbles, cracks, and ripples. Zach and felt very comfortable walking on it as it appeared to be at least a foot thick.

Thanks Everyone!

posted by on 2010.02.08, under Compassion Gallery
02.08:

Nikon D300, Nikon 18-200mm, f/3.5, 1/40 sec., ISO 800

Nikon D300, Nikon 18-200mm, f/3.5, 1/40 sec., ISO 800

I want to say a huge ‘thank you’ to all the people who came to the Compassion Gallery launch at Coopersmith’s in downtown Fort Collins on Friday evening. We had a great turn out with over 40 people! I appreciate everyone’s support and interest in seeing my photos on display.

If you missed the opening, don’t worry. The photos will continue to be on display at Coopersmith’s through April 7th 2010. The show consists of 14 archival prints (8 black & white and 6 color) of African wildlife and Maasai tribal people that were taken during my recent trip to Tanzania. As always, 50% of every sale at Coopersmith’s and online is donated directly to CURE International.

Introducing Compassion Gallery

posted by on 2010.02.01, under Compassion Gallery
02.01:

I’m proud to announce the official launch of Compassion Gallery which is a website where people can buy high quality prints of my photographs and 50 % of each sale is donated to charity. This venture was born out of my love for photography and my desire to help people in need around the world.

Currently, proceeds from print sales are going to Cure International. CURE focuses on the 125 million children in developing countries who can be cured — and cured completely. They help kids with Hydrocephalus, Cleft Palate, Clubfoot, spinal deformities, and crippling orthopedic conditions. If these conditions go untreated, they seriously limit a child’s ability to play, go to school and become a productive member of the community. By correcting their disabilities, CURE is able to bring hope and joy back to their lives and enable them to led fully functioning lives. CURE has seen 1 million patients and performed 70,000 life-transforming surgeries.

Each photograph on Compassion Gallery is printed in my studio with the absolute highest standards of quality. I use the latest pigment ink printing technology on the best cotton rag paper (Museo Silver Rag) and sign the back of each print in pencil. Several proofs are made prior to the finals to ensure the very best in color accuracy, tonal value and sharpness. Every print is made with archival materials and, if cared for properly, should easily last a lifetime.

Please visit Compassion Gallery today. When you make a purchase, you’ll not only be getting a stunning photograph to decorate your home or office, you’ll also be directly impacting a child’s health and well being somewhere in the world.

Photo of the Day

posted by on 2010.01.08, under Photo of the Day
01.08:
Ice Crystals in the Window - Nikon D300, Nikon 35mm f/2, 1/3200 sec., ISO 200

Ice Crystals in the Window - Nikon D300, Nikon 35mm f/2, 1/3200 sec., ISO 200

It was 11 degrees below zero (fahrenheit) when I got up to go to work this morning. There were these cool ice crystals on the window at work and fortunately I had my camera with me.

Image Quality in the Digital Age

01.03:
Kee Beach, Kauai - Nikon D300, Tokina 11-16mm, Singh-Ray Color Combo & 3 stop grad ND, f/16, 1/6 sec. ISO 200

Ke'e Beach, Kaua'i - Nikon D300, Tokina 11-16mm, Singh-Ray Color Combo & 3 stop grad ND, f/16, 1/6 sec. ISO 200

I’m a perfectionist when it comes to image quality. Like most photographers, I love getting the sharpest, smoothest images with the highest resolution and dynamic range that I possibly can. Recently though, I’ve started wondering if the whole photography industry might be a little too caught up with digital image quality. As a little Christmas present to myself this year, I picked up a nice coffee table book of Galen Rowell’s photography. I am surprised at what I see in his images. There is graininess, motion blur and focus errors in a surprising number of his photos. It’s not isolated to Galen’s work either. The same flaws are present in a National Geographic retrospective book that I looked at with photos from dozens of different photographers. Here’s the question I have to ask myself. Do these technical image quality flaws subtract from the awesomeness of the work in those books? Absolutely not.

I’m guessing that the vast majority of people who enjoy Galen Rowell or National Geographic don’t even notice those technical errors, so long as they are not photographers themselves. I think they are more impressed with the subject matter, lighting and composition of a photograph. This is a huge relief for me. There are countless wonderful images that I have grievingly cast into digital purgatory because they have a slight technical flaw. I have been taught how to look for these flaws by the countless camera review websites and photography blogs out there. People on these sites routinely discuss the sharpness of their photo prints when viewed under a loupe. Really? A loupe? When you have a gallery show, do you hand out loupes to all the visitors? The camera manufacturers love this because the inevitable conclusion to all our problems is always to buy more expensive gear. Are the corners of your images a little soft? Well then you need a “pro” lens. Are you making prints of your photos? Certainly nothing less than the highest resolution digital camera available will suffice. What’s interesting is that the personal work of most of the camera reviewers out there is artistically mediocre at best. But darn it, their images are “tack sharp.”

There are extremes in every debate. The infamous Ken Rockwell would try to convince us that he’d give up his digital SLRs and just shoot with the camera on an iPhone, but he’s too cheap to actually buy one. Gimme a break. Of course your camera matters and you should do everything you can to avoid blur, focus on the right spot and expose correctly. But seeing what Galen Rowell and the folks at Nat Geo accepted as good enough gives me a new perspective on how to judge acceptable vs. unacceptable quality in my own images. I can only hope to be as adventurous and creatively brilliant as the photographers on my coffee table, but it’s nice to know that technical perfection takes a back seat to more important aesthetic considerations.