Selfies and Dingo

Selfies are huge on social networking sites. The word selfie was declared by none other than the highly respected Oxford Dictionary as the word of the year for 2013. For those of you who don’t know what a selfie is (there are some people who don’t), it is, according the Oxford Dictionary, “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.” There are even selfie derivatives now with my favorite being a belfie or an image of your posterior.

2014-04-10_Dingo Watching NOVA

Dingo watching an episode of NOVA’s Inside Animal Minds, a series about the science of animal cognition and how it is changing what we know about the intelligence of animals. Check your local PBS station for dates and times.

I think that a large percentage of the selfies I see are, to be totally frank, self-indulgent and egotistical exercises of the photograph art. I really don’t care to see you eating dinner or dressed in a cheerleader outfit or diaper or sitting on your toilet. (Yes, they are out there.) However, I can’t say that I have never shot a selfie. I do so very occasionally to document a moment but even then I don’t post it on Facebook.

Despite my general feelings about selfies, I have decided today to make one exception to my general rule of no selfies: Dingo can make selfies. Dingo is my above average dog and she watches NOVA (see the image with this post for proof) and Nature on PBS, Ceasar Millan on Animal Planet, and any animal show on the National Geographic Channel. No cartoons for Dingo. She can also convince any of my office colleagues to part with their lunches with just a look.

Over the next few weeks, I am going to train Dingo to take selfies for two reasons: (1) she needs to learn some tricks and (2) I get to spend quality time wither her sharing my love of photography. (It has been difficult to train her to use Photoshop or Lightroom because, without opposable thumbs, she has trouble using a mouse.) Dingo can be stubborn but responds well to food. So, she should learn quickly following the training outlined in this Photojojo article; it is based on the use of positive reinforcement, i.e., use food to incentivize the dog to take its picture. I also need to buy a new app, Big Camera Button, for my iPhone.

I will report back in a few weeks and post some of Dingo’s selfies. In the meantime, what do you think of selfies and dogs and cats…



Report on the Black and White Workshop in Baltimore, MD

The last weekend in March, the School of Creative Photography held its annual workshop on black and white photography in Baltimore, MD. The students were a small but hardy bunch. While enduring wind and rain on Saturday and Sunday, they caught some quintessential black and white images of Baltimore.

On Friday, we visited Housewerks, an architectural salvage yard, and the Inner Harbor. On Saturday, we started the morning in Fells Point then moved on to the B&O Railroad Museum, and finished up at Green Mount Cemetery. On Sunday, we skipped Mount Vernon Square first thing in the morning due to torrential rain but the conservatory in Druid Park provided us with a wonderful inside location later in the morning.

Baltimore provided everyone with incredible opportunities for great image making. Here are a few images from the weekend…

Adobe Released Lightroom 5.4, Camera Raw 8.4, and Lightroom Mobile Today

Adobe released Lightroom 5.4 and Camera Raw 8.4 for Photoshop and a new offering, Lightroom Mobile, today.

Lightroom Mobile is completely new application and, based on first impressions, appears to largely satisfy a need expressed by many Lightroom users: How to show and edit images on the iPad. (Several images of the Lightroom Mobile interface are included here. You can click on the image to see a larger version.) In addition to being able to show and edit images on your iPad, any modification made to an image on the iPad, including metadata, will be reflected in your Lightroom catalog.

Screen shot of Home screen in Lightroom Mobile

Home screen showing the catalogs that have been synchronized with Lightroom Mobile.

Screen shot of grid view of images in a collection sync'd to Lightroom mobile

Grid view of images in a collection

Screen shot of editing screen in Lightroom Mobile

The Edit window in Lightroom Mobile.

The ability to edit images on your iPad is huge. However, there are some limitations:

  • Only subscribers to the Creative Cloud or the Photoshop Photography Program can use Lightroom Mobile.
  • You can only sync collections. This means that, if you want to take a folder of images with you for editing on your next cross-country flight, you must create a collection with all the images in that folder and synchronize that collection with Lightroom Mobile.
  • Lightroom Mobile uses smart previews, which are much larger than regular previews, to enable editing. The more smart previews you carry, the more space the images will take up on your iPad. (This could be a good thing because now you can justify a 128 gig iPad 4 to your significant other!) You can carry some images as regular previews and some as smart previews; you just won’t be able to edit any images with regular previews.
  • Both your iPad and computer must have access to the Internet to sync your changes. You iPad must upload the changes to the Creative Cloud and then your computer must download the changes to Lightroom. So, at a minimum, there will be some delay between working on an image on the iPad and the changes appearing in Lightroom.
  • Lightroom Mobile is available only for the iPad. Adobe is working on Android and iPhone versions but hasn’t committed to a release date for either version.

The new versions of Lightroom (Mac | Windows) and Camera Raw offer the usual camera and lens updates as well as bug fixes and are free to current Creative Cloud or Photoshop Photography Program subscribers and perpetual licensees of Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CS6. If you are subscriber to the Creative Cloud or the Photoshop Photography Program, you should update Lightroom and Photoshop using the Adobe Creative Cloud app. If you have a perpetual license to Lightroom or Photoshop, the new version can be downloaded by opening Lightroom and, in the main menu, clicking on Help > Check for Updates… or by opening Photoshop and, in the main menu, clicking on Help > Updates…

As always, you should update to the latest version of Lightroom and Camera Raw even if you don’t plan to use Lightroom Mobile or have a new camera. Both contain bug fixes.

- Brian

Caveat to Above: As noted above, Lightroom Mobile was just released today. As I use the app, I will likely find aspects of the app to like and aspects to hate. In a couple of weeks, I will post some further thoughts on Lightroom Mobile.

I Might Just Change My Mind…

Image of rusty lightI have never been a big iPhoneographer. I have occasionally taken images with my iPhone in the past but I have generally looked at the iPhone camera as an “emergency” camera to only be used in the absence of one of my big Nikons. I crave the control given me by my Nikons to set the set the f-Stop, shutter speed, and ISO independently as well as change lens. Thanks to the efforts of our iPhoneographer instructor, Joyce Harmon, a students, and an investment on Kickstarter, I think that I might just change my mind about iPhoneography.

First, Joyce introduced to a camera app that is really good. ProCamera 7 has, among other things, three distinguishing features for me: (1) separate focus and exposure control; (2) TIFF file format; and (3) night/long exposure controls. With ProCamera, I can set both the focus point and the point in the image at which the exposure should be measured so I can focus on my subject and expose for a bright background to prevent the highlights from blowing out. TIFF file format allows me to capture high quality images or, at least, uncompressed files and the night/long exposure settings gives me some additional tools for long exposure. Is it perfect? No but it is a heck of a lot better than previous camera apps.

Second, a student recommended the Vivid HDR app to me. I simply have never gotten the results that I wanted from any of the HDR apps that I have used in the past and, because it is so easy to blow out the highlights with these cameras, HDR is literally a “must have” for me. Vivid HDR, unlike many of the other HDR apps, takes three images rather than two and blends them together very well and quickly. I am particularly impressed with its ability to handle motion, removing my dog from several image sequences where she shouldn’t have been (like any dog). Beyond that, the colors are good and the app is fairly intuitive.

IMG_1575-editThird, I participated in a Kickstarter project for a universal lens adapter and rig called the Beast Grip. The Beast Grip allows me to mount lens with a 37mm thread on the iPhone and expands the size of the iPhone. The iPhone has always been a little small for me to hold comfortably so the increase in size is a welcomed change.

Moreover, with the above, I have found iPhoneography to be a pleasant change from lugging around a lot of equipment. Its biggest impact may be one that is hard to measure: I feel free to experiment when I use the iPhone. When I pick up one of the Nikons, I always feel as though I have to get the perfect image and then, when working on an image from one of the Nikons, I am reluctant to experiment with different software effects. I am not sure why this is but it is. iPhoneography might just be another way for me to exercise my creativity.

- Brian

Editor’s Note: Joyce Harmon will be teaching a course for the School of Creative Photography on iPhoneography on Saturday, April 5, in Sterling, VA.


Download Our Free Exposure Handout

Exposure equals f-stop plus shutter speed plus ISO plus creativityWhile creativity is important to a great image, so is getting a good exposure. To assist you, the School of Creative Photography has put together a “snapshot” that explains exposure in one page and provides a flow diagram for determining and verifying exposure. Put a copy in your camera bag until you fully understand exposure.

Calumet Photographic Files for Bankruptcy: Where to Go Now

Calumet Photographic filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy last night and has closed all its US stores. Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code is the liquidation chapter, which permits a business to close down and pay off its debts in an orderly manner. If you were a customer and have something on order or left something with them for repair, there are a lot of unanswered questions today. Unfortunately, it will probably be a few days to a couple of weeks before you get an answer from Calumet.

Since last night, I have received some calls and e-mails about where to shop locally now for camera equipment. We all want to see and feel new equipment before we buy and local camera stores are your best bet for that as well as knowledgeable staff, i.e., skip the big box stores. Those of us in the Washington/Baltimore area are lucky because we have three terrific local, independent dealers: (1) PhotoCraft in Burke, Virginia, and Embassy Camera in Washington, DC; (2) Ace Photo in Ashburn, Virginia; and (3) Service Photo in Baltimore, Maryland. I have shopped at all three and, although I favor Photocraft, I can recommend them all without reservation.

How will the local market shake out? It is difficult to say. After Calumet, there is really no other national chains left. So, let’s support our local, independent camera stores. We need them.

- Brian

Time to Transition from Capture NX to Lightroom

Capture NX-D betaOn Tuesday, Nikon finally released the long-lost update to Nikon Capture NX 2, Nikon’s software for editing raw images captured with its digital cameras. Now called Capture NX-D, it is in public beta and available for download from Nikon. Once finalized, the application will replace Capture NX 2.

In other words, Nikon is setting Capture NX users free or, as some feel, abandoning them. New cameras will not be supported and there will be no more updates for new operating systems or to fix bugs. More importantly, however, is NX-D will not support edits previously applied to images in Capture NX 2 because of two changes.

First, Nikon is updating how it stores edits to an image. In NX 2 and earlier, edits were saved in in the raw file. With NX-D, Nikon will store edits in a sidecar file as is done by Photoshop and Lightroom (if you are writing edits to XMP). Second, NX-D is losing what made NX 2 exceptional and so attractive: Control Points. They allow you to apply adjustments to specific areas of an image rather than globally without having to create complicated masks as in Photoshop.

So, if you are a Capture NX 2 user, it seems to me that you have two choices at this point:

  1. Continue to use Capture NX 2 until you can’t; or
  2. Transition to Lightroom or an all Photoshop workflow. (Don’t go to Aperture; it looks like it will have the same fate as Capture).

The problem with the first option is that you are simply delaying the inevitable. A system update or a new camera will eventually force you to make the transition to a new workflow. The only real option is to make a change.

How do you make the change?

  1. Select a new editing application. My recommendation is Lightroom. It is available for Windows and Mac; it is widely supported by third-party plugin developers; and really is a complete workflow in one application. If you are careful in the field and get a decently exposed image, it is all the editing application that you will need for most of your images.
  2. Export all the images that you have edited in Capture NX 2 as 16-bit TIFFs. While you won’t be able to change any of the original edits, you will preserve the image as edited in Capture NX 2.
  3. Import all the original raw images into Lightroom or whatever program you choose as your primary editor if necessary.

This leaves you with two copies of some images. The original raw image that you can edit in Lightroom and the TIFF, which has all your edits from Capture NX 2. The TIFF can, of course, be further edited in Lightroom.

This is not an ideal solution but it is a solution and probably easier and cheaper than maintaining a computer forever with a current version of Windows or Mac and Capture NX 2.

- Brian

Postscript: My comments should not be read as criticism of Nikon. Nikon had a tough decision to make regarding Capture NX 2; it was time to update the software or just drop the software.

I think that Nikon made the right decisions. It choose to create a replacement, use sidecar files to save edits, which is the standard method today for storing edits, and to drop control point technology. This last decision was the most upsetting to me because the control point technology is what made Capture NX stand out from the competition. However, it may have been dropped simply because it was not possible to use the technology any longer due to licensing issues.

What is happening here will happen again. When it comes to technology, change is unrelenting. This is why I believe in standards, such as the DNG format. Standards mean more than one company can support the same technology.

Editor’s Note: The School of Creative Photography will be offering its intensive one and a half day Lightroom course on May 3 and 4. It covers the most important portions of the application and will provide you with a complete background from which to starting using Lightroom to process your images.

Black and White Photography: It’s All About Tones

2014-01-04_Bruno_Zwit_0003-editWhen you think of classic photographs, you generally think of Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Dorthea Lange, and Gordon Parks and the one thing that they all had in common was that their most famous works were in black and white. Black and white photography has gone through a renaissance since it was seemingly vanquished in the early years of the digital revolution and has regained much of its lost prominence. Leica and Phase One have even introduced black and white only digital cameras.

Join the School for Creative Photography in Baltimore, MD, beginning at noon on Friday, March 28, 2014,  for an intensive two and half day workshop on black and white photography. Black and White Photography: It’s All About Tones is all about helping you to take and create stunning black and white images with your digital camera.

This workshop combines field and classroom work. You will learn what subjects make the best black and white images and more than enough ways to convert the color images from your camera into stunning black and white images. We will also take advantage of all that downtown Baltimore has to offer, including the waterfront, an architectural salvage business, and a cemetery, to practice what we learn in the classroom.

If you have any questions, please drop us a line at

Tulips Everywhere: It’s Holland in Haymarket

elliot-sternc2a9-2013-tulips-000191Nothing says spring like tulips! When they bloom, you know that spring has arrived and summer is just around the corner.

To help celebrate the arrival of spring, the School of Creative Photography will hold a field trip to a tulip farm in Haymarket, VA. Tulips Everywhere: It’s Holland in Haymarket will be held on Saturday, April 19, 2014, and be led by Elliot Stern.

Tulips Everywhere: It’s Holland in Haymarket will, of course, focus on how to photograph these beautiful flowers and helping you take incredible and creative images.

What kind of cameras do you use?

Most of us don’t need more than one camera but most of us own more than one camera. I personally own film, instant, and digital cameras (several of each). Why? Because each provides me with a different look or facilitates taking a particular type of image.

My Nikon D800 makes it easy to produce very large prints while my Fujifilm XE-1 makes it easier to take photographs on the street because it is much lighter and smaller than the D800. I also have a small but wonderful collection of plastic film cameras, which are nice for two reasons: (1) you never know what will come out of the camera (because (a) the cameras are just not precise equipment and (b) the film must get developed first) and (2) you can take a break from worrying about complicated menus and settings. And why the instant cameras? They are just fun!

So, what kind of cameras do you use?