Borkware Photoblog

January 22, 2009

Just Finished Reading: Adobe Lightroom 2 Book for Digital Photographers

Filed under: Books, Buy It, Lightroom, Photoshop — Mark Dalrymple @ 2:22 am

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Rating: Buy It

As I mentioned earlier, my current main projects are portraiture and LightRoom. What better way to kick off the Lightroom 30-day trial then with a book that Explains It All. It took me a weekend to work through it all, although I did skim over the printing and slideshow chapters. I’ll probably be using Photoshop to do all my printing, and I never show slideshows to people.

If there is a Kelby book on a topic, I’ll usually reach for that first. They tend not to have a great deal of reference utility for me, but for a survey of features of a product like Lightroom or Photoshop, they’re hard to beat.

They’re also fun. I’m sure some folks find it annoying, but I enjoy humor in my technical books. (Just read some of the reviews of My Latest Tome for corroboration). Each chapter has a mostly-unrelated stream of consciousness introduction, covering topics from flobotnor to Vince Versace’s hallucinogenic cooking. Individual tutorial steps, in between the “select this” or “use X to toggle this mode” instructions, there live little chunklets of humor too.

His LightRoom 2 book is just like his Seven-Step photoshop book. There are chapters on the different modules and the main features in those modules with step-by-step tutorials on using the features. As he goes along, the different features are used together so you can get a feel for a workflow in using the product. Each chapter ends with a couple of pages of quickies discussing advanced features. If grok the preceding chapter, the quickies are all you need.

You can download sample photos to work through some of the examples, which is about the only real complaint I have with the book. Some of the examples don’t have corresponding photos in the download (due to usage rights). Sometimes a photo was actually placed in a later chapter’s download archive, so you thought it was removed on purpose, but it was just mis-filed. And some of the photos were “after” photos. In particular, the dust spot removal sample of the hotel in Dubai had already been corrected. No Fun!

Of course, he covers all of the Lightroom modules (library, develop, slide show, print, web), but he also includes examples of round-trips to photoshop, including double-processing a file. Unfortunately for that one he seems to have copied and pasted a dozen pages from his seven-point book with all sorts of photoshop stuff which I had already seen before. Also included are two “workflows”, one for on-location portrait photographers shooting tethered, and another for folks on vacation with their laptop, showing how to use libraries on a remote machine, and then migrating stuff back to their Main Machine when they get back. There’s a bonus video at Kelby Training with a wedding workflow. You have to type in a Secret Code from the book to get access to this video.

If you’ve never used LightRoom before, and you’ve just started your 30 day free trial, it’s worth it to get this book to get up to speed quickly on the software so you can decide whether to spend $300 on it.

January 4, 2009

New Gallery: Casino 2008

Filed under: Aperture, CLS, D3, flash, gallery, monopod, Nik, Nikon, Photoshop — Mark Dalrymple @ 10:53 pm

solo-angel.jpg (click the picture to visit the whole gallery)

Every year, the Casino Theater in Vandergrift PA puts on a Christmas program. Sometimes it’s a musical, sometimes it’s an oratorio. This year was a smorgasbord of songs and skits.

They were kind enough to let me run around with a camera during the dress rehearsal this year. They even allowed me to use flash, which was a surprise.

These were shot with a Nikon D3, with 70-200 f/2.8 and 24-70 f/2.8 lenses. An SB-800 flash served as a master to an SB-600 slave, positioned behind an umbrella to provide extra light. I was surprised at how much light it could pump out. I used a monopod with the larger lens since the whole package (D3, SB-800, lens, extra blocks of depleted uranium) became rather heavy.

Important lesson learned: It’s better to have a very good exposure at a high ISO than a bad (under)exposure at a lower ISO. Some of the images that I had to pull out of a dark basement did not look good at all. (I know, duh!, but it’s one of those things I had to learn the hard way.)

After the images were made (~900 during the 3 hour run of the show, running up and down stairs from balcony to main floor level), I triaged the images with Aperture. 1-star for adequate sharpness and composition. Then went through and chose good shots for 2-stars, and then 3-starred the ultimate contents of the gallery.

I edited each image in Photoshop using Nik filters. This was an excuse for Extreme Photowankery™, as well as learning how to use the filters, and playing around with a basic Wacom Graphite tablet that Uncle Google gave me. The general workflow was

  • Basic ACR adjustments, white balance, etc.
  • Noise reduction with Dfine.
  • Pre-sharpening with Sharpener Pro.
  • Adjusted lighting and colors with Viveza. I love Viveza. In nearly every case I darkened the stage and brought some brightness to the actors.
  • Retouching, especially cleaning up the stage floor. The Casino stage is filthy. I am now a master of the spot healing brush and the clone-stamp tool.
  • Dodging and burning using an Overlay layer. (fill with a neutral 50% color, then paint in white to lighten and in black to darken the image.)
  • Additional filtering using Color Efx pro. “Darken/Lighten Center” was used for most of the vignetting effects. “Tonal Contrast” was frequently used, especially to bring out detail in clothing.
  • The black and white images were done with Silver Efx Pro.
  • Final sharpening with Sharpener Pro.

I’m hoping next year they’ll let me shoot again. If they do, this is what I’d do differently:

  • Attend one or two more rehearsals. I had no idea what the show was about (except that there was a Waltz of the Flowers that included Bubbas in tutus), so each scene was a total surprise, and I frequently had the wrong lens. “Big dance number! And I have the 70-200. ack!”
  • Have two speedlights, one on either side of the stage (instead of the single one on stage-right) to balance out the speedlight coverage.
  • Watch the corners of the viewfinder. (another duh!) There is a railing in the balcony that appears in a number of shots. I did not notice it (outside of using it to not fall off the balcony) until after I started processing the photos.
  • Bring the power plug for the laptop and some blank DVD medio. I ran out of power before draining the last card. A show representative also wanted some images to display in the lobby, needing the images ASAP. It would have been nice to have been able to burn a DVD of rough-cut jpegs right there.

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