A New Dark Cloud over Photoshop?

Pixology Magazine ExcerptAs you have likely heard, Adobe recently announced that moving forward Photoshop will only be available on a subscription basis. The new version of Photoshop that has been announced (but not yet released) has been rebranded “Photoshop CC”, with the “CC” standing for Creative Cloud. In short, Adobe is no longer selling most of their key software applications with a perpetual license, but instead will offer software on a subscription basis via the Adobe Creative Cloud.

These changes have caused many photographers to be alarmed and in some cases angry, because the changes lead to a variety of potentially negative consequences for photographers. These include potential loss of access to images you’ve created using Photoshop, as well as a potentially significant increase in the cost of using Photoshop.

I’ve written a rather extensive article on this subject for the upcoming June 2013 issue of my Pixology digital magazine. However, because I felt this was an issue of particular interest to photographers, I’m releasing a free excerpt edition of this issue of Pixology magazine.

You can read the article, “A New Dark Cloud for Photoshop?” in the special excerpt of Pixology magazine here:


And if you’re not already a Pixology magazine subscriber, you can sign up for a subscription at www.pixologymag.com.

Posted in Pet Peeve, Software | 24 Comments

May 2013 Issue of Pixology

PixologyMay2013The May 2013 issue of Pixology magazine has been delivered to current subscribers. This issue features–most prominently–an article covering the new features in Lightroom 5 Public Beta. This, of course, suggests that the final release of Lightroom will include the very same features, and you can get a head start by learning about the new features in this latest issue of Pixology.

The May 2013 issue of Pixology also includes coverage of the issues related to posterization, the use of the Navigator panel in Photoshop, creating collections in Adobe Bridge, and more.

If you’re not already a subscriber to Pixology digital magazine, you can get a special 20% discount by subscribing through the Pixology magazine website here:


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Unexpected Sunlight

Today marks the first day of the Olympic National Park field photography workshop I’m leading along with Wolfgang Kaehler, and things are certainly not going as expected. In this case that means we’re unexpected working with lots of sunlight. And heat. And no rain! So we are focusing on subjects under much more sunlight than expected.

The average high temperature in May here is 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Instead, it hit a high of 88 degrees. There isn’t a cloud in the sky, and not a drop of rain to be found. I’m sure most folks in the Pacific Northwest are celebrating this great warm weather that is certainly a unique occurrence in May. But we’re looking forward to some clouds in the next few days, as well as lower temperatures. After all, photographing a rain forest in bright sunlight with nothing but clear blue skies overhead seems like a bit of a mismatch.

So, we’re making the most of lots of sun, and lots of contrast. After all, you have to make the most of the conditions you’re given. But I think we’ll all be more than a little happy to see clouds in the coming days.

In the meantime, I think we might have to take advantage of the clear skies and perhaps photograph the night sky this evening…

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Learning Silver Efex Pro

LearningSilverEfexPro2PosterIf, like me, you enjoy creating black and white interpretations of some of your color photographic images, you may want to take a look at my latest video training course, “Learning Silver Efex Pro 2“. This course features a full hour of high-definition video with a series of lessons designed to help you master the use of Silver Efex Pro 2 to create a black and white image from a color original.

Silver Efex Pro 2 is easily my favorite software tool for creating black and white images. It provides not only a high degree of control over the interpretation of the basic black and white photo, but also includes a variety of excellent creative effects.

The new video training course is offered through the new Vimeo on Demand service, and the cost is only $9.99. If you’d like to see a preview trailer, get more information, or purchase this video training course, you can do so through the Vimeo on Demand website here:


Posted in Announcement, Black and White, Products | Leave a comment

A Wide, Wide View

Sometimes you have to take a picture just because you want to see if it can be done. Such was the case when I was walking back to the recording studios in Graz, Austria, with another trainer. On the way back I suggested a route that would take us up Niesenbergergasse, where there’s some rather substantial graffiti artwork along a couple of long walls. The other trainer had never seen these walls before, and agreed that they were pretty impressive even if they weren’t your type of art. In passing, he wondered if we could use the iPhone panoramic capture mode to record the entire wall. He was leaving the next day, and it was already dark, so it would be my job to test it out. It turns out it was possible. Sort of.


First, for those not familiar, allow me to explain the panoramic capture mode available on the iPhone (at least in recent versions of iOS). You essentially capture what would otherwise be a video clip, panning along a subject. An arrow helps you maintain proper alignment as you move. The general idea, I think, is that you can simply stand in one position and take in a wide view by panning the camera. But that wouldn’t work in this particular case, for a variety of reasons.

So, instead I was going to need to walk along the full length of the wall, hopefully with some degree of stability. But there was another wrinkle. The iPhone can only capture a panoramic image in this way that spans a total of 10,800 pixels. To cover the full length of just one of the walls of graffiti required five sequential captures. So I knew I was dealing with a large image here.

To be honest, I didn’t even bother trying to assemble the full-resolution version of the panorama. Right from the start I sized the images down to a more manageable size. Then there was another wrinkle. For some reason Photoshop couldn’t automatically align the images, so I had to assemble the panorama the “old fashioned way”, manually aligning the images and blending with layer masks. That sure brought back memories of a simpler time!

As you can probably imagine, especially if you’ve ever had the opportunity to witness my slightly (not really) clumsy nature, the images didn’t come together perfectly. To begin with, the individual captures had a bit of a zig-zag nature to them. For the most part this wasn’t too obvious considering the subject matter, but a small ledge toward the bottom of the wall turned out to be anything but straight in all of the individual captures.

The final panorama was also a little tricky to put together, but it did work. The final image (again, after having reduced the pixel dimensions of the source images) is 21,165 pixels by 1,006 pixels. So if I were to print the image at 6″ tall, it would end up being over ten feet wide. That’s a rather wild aspect ratio. But it was a rather wide subject, so that makes sense.

Of course, I don’t have any need for this photo, and there were certainly more important things I should have been doing with my time. But sometimes you just have a take a break and give something a try just to see how it turns out.

If you’re so inclined, you can view a larger version of this panorama in your browser by clicking the image below:

Posted in Panorama, Technology | 3 Comments

The New Art of Photographing Nature with Art Wolfe

TNAPNCoverI am happy to announce that a new book I’ve worked on with world-renowned photographer Art Wolfe is now available. The new book is called “The New Art of Photographing Nature“, and it is a complete revision of Art’s original “The Art of Photographing Nature”.

The original “Art of Photographing Nature” was co-authored by Art Wolfe and Martha Hill, the former photo editor of Audubon magazine. That edition of the book became a popular resource for landscape and nature photographers. Now updated based on the latest technological developments, and with many new images, “The New Art of Photographing Nature” is, I think, a tremendously worthwhile update.

And of course, my involvement in this book project was more than just making sure everything was updated for a digital world. I also added a series of sidebars throughout the book, addressing some of the key issues photographers have to contend with, and the key concepts that should be understood.

So, if you’d like to learn from one of today’s leading photographers, a photo editor with valuable insights, and my perspective on the latest technology and workflow issues, I think you’ll enjoy this informative book. You can order your copy of “The New Art of Photographing Nature” through Amazon (with both a print and Kindle edition available) here:


Posted in Announcement, Book, Products | 2 Comments

Nik Software Hangout on Air Interview

For those of you who missed my live “Hangout on Air” interview yesterday, the recording has been posted online, and you can view it here:

This interview was hosted by Nik Software (now part of Google) in Mountain View, California, and I was participating via a video feed from Graz, Austria. The subject was “Questions that Counfound Photographers”, and I tried to address some of the questions that seem to cause the most confusion or frustration for photographers, and also addressed other topics. I hope you enjoy the interview…

If you’re not able to see the video above, you can also find it here: http://youtu.be/_tB5KDg6DBg

Posted in Interview | 3 Comments

Wide-Angle Blurs in Broad Daylight

Creating images with motion blur can be a great deal of fun. But what about in broad daylight with clear blue skies? Yes, of course, a neutral density filter makes this possible.

But what about when you’re using a wide-angle lens? Now what? Sure, you can just buy a big filter and hold it in front of the lens, but what fun is that?

Fortunately, there’s now a great solution for photographers who want to enjoy all the benefits of filters and filter holders for their wide-angle lenses. And I had a chance to play around with this new solution recently, capturing wide-angle captures in Times Square under clear blue skies, with nice slow shutter speeds.


The “trick”, so to speak, is still an extremely large filter. But if you’ve ever employed the “hold a filter by hand in front of the lens” technique, you know the results can be a bit mixed. If the filter is not held perfectly flush with the front of the lens, you’ll quite likely end up with various artifacts in your images, caused by reflections bouncing back and forth between the filter and the lens.

WideAngleNDFilterOf course, anytime you’re using a filter there’s a risk of some artifacts caused by reflections, especially if the sun is in the frame. But your results will be much better if the filter is flush with the lens.

Enter the WonderPana system from Fotodiox. This is a system consisting of a variety of different filters, including neutral density, polarizer, graduated neutral density, and other options. But the cool part is the mounting system. With WonderPana we finally have a good solution for attaching filters to wide-angle lenses.

Not all lenses are supported, but many popular wide-angle lenses will work with the WonderPana system, and that list will surely grow over time.

You can check out the Essentials kit for the WonderPana system on the Fotodiox website here:


And of course you can find the full range of filter options and other products from Fotodiox on their main website here:


Posted in Equipment, Products | 4 Comments

Deciding on Distortion Correction

A reader inquired via a comment on my previous blog post (“Seeking Blue on Blue“) about why I didn’t correct for the distortion of the church spire in my Blue Church photo captured in Bratislava, Slovakia. For reference, a small version of the photo is included to the right here.

The primary reason I didn’t correct the geometric distortion of the scene is that it was there intentionally. My feeling was that the Blue Church is already a bit of an unusual subject visually, and so I thought that a wide-angle shot that created an exaggeration of the unusual nature of the subject might be interesting. I actually captured other shots with a longer lens from a position further from the church, but favored the distorted image as being a bit more interesting visually.

So, the short answer is that the ideal solution if I didn’t want that distortion was to capture a different image, not to capture a wide-angle shot and then remove the distortion in post-processing.

And this raises another issue that I think is worth exploring. Specifically, if you don’t want distortion in the image, it is really best to avoid it in the first place. To be sure, you can apply lens correction adjustments and transformations to an image in order to straighten it out. But if you photograph a subject up close with a wide-angle lens rather than backing up and using a longer lens, the degree of correction is going to be significant.

Consider, for example, this version of the same image, which provides a sense of how much the image must be manipulated to achieve a somewhat straightened belltower:

Naturally if this was my intent for the image I would need to crop rather significantly. Hopefully I would have taken that into account in the initial capture, leaving some room around the subject so that I could crop without losing any key areas of the photo.

However, this strong transformation also creates a problem in terms of image quality. All that stretching and skewing of the pixels means more than a few pixels will need to be added or removed from the image. The result is a loss of sharpness and detail in the photo. In fact, the result can be a very significant reduction in image quality. That might not be a problem if the image will only be shared online, but if you’ll print the photo that loss of quality can have a big impact.

Obviously the choice of lens and–by extension–the choice of position relative to the subject plays a key role in defining the final image. In this case I opted for a distorted look, so I went out of my way to get close with a short lens. I could have taken a different approach, of course. But I would suggest that the worst approach would have been to capture an image with distortion you intended to remove later, unless it was simply impossible to capture the image you were really after.

What do you think? Should I have avoided the distortion in this case? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Posted in Creativity, Philosophical | 12 Comments

Seeking Blue on Blue

When I’m photographing a subject with a strong color element, I almost always prefer to have a background that is either relatively neutral or that has a color that is complementary to the subject’s color. But for the Blue Church (really Saint Elisabeth Church) in Bratislava, Slovakia, I was hoping for a blue sky to go with the blue subject. But a blue sky was not going to happen…


On my first visit to the Blue Church the sky was overcast, though with enough texture to provide some degree of contrast and drama. The sun was in the sky above the church, so I captured a sequence of exposures with the intent of assembling a high dynamic range (HDR) image from the frames. When I assembled the images, I decided to enhance the drama a bit in the process, since the scene was already looking a bit gloomy. I also decided to make the Blue Church stand out a bit by converting everything except the church to black and white. The result is shown in the left image above.

Today the forecast called for rain most of the day, and tomorrow I depart to begin recording new training videos. So my expectation was that my only other opportunities would involve more clouds, not less. However, the forecast ended up being far from accurate, and there was a reasonable amount of sun peeking through the broken clouds. So I hustled over to the Blue Church again, hoping for a blue sky behind the brilliant blue subject.

Unfortunately, there was still a fair amount of cloud cover. The light was much stronger than it had been the previous day, so there was better overall contrast, and the color of the church seemed stronger. It wasn’t the blue sky I had been hoping for, but I had run out of time. And all things considered, I had gotten pretty lucky with the weather.

As photographers we sometimes have to make the best of the circumstances we’re given. I do find, however, that when I’m in the same place for more than a couple of days, I enjoy returning to a subject more than once to take advantage of different weather or lighting conditions.

Have you found yourself visiting the same subject multiple times, in the hopes of getting better conditions? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below…

Posted in Photography, Travel, Weather | 5 Comments