Sunday, December 30, 2007

CSLR Challege 109 Results

Only one shot in each category placed this time. In the eligible category, longing for the sea placed 11th and Mechanical Wake, a shot of Alma's Car's door handle, placed 7th.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Shooting Shinny things is hard!

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Had quite a learning experienced doing the 'Lexus Shoot' for a recent CSLR challenge. I wanted to take 'artsy' shots that accentuated the curves of the car and with the silver color of the car, make it look like jewelry. Every thing was single light source with very direct lighting and a lot of falloff.
The big problem with shooting something so shinny is that you can see everything in the refections - I had to use my backdrops to block out objects from in the garage - initially all the shots would have reflections of tool boxes, benches and everything else in the garage. Once I blocked those out all I had to do is stop getting me and the camera in the reflections.
Probably shot about 100 shots to get the ones here - Even though they all look black and white, there was no conversion it's just the way the car's tones come out - any toning seen was all done with shifting white balance.
The one thing I did learn from this shoot is how nice it would be to have a big open studio with no clutter for shots like this.

Latest CSLR Challenge

After winning the last challenge, I had to come up the the topic and host this challenge. I chose 'Mechanical Art as the topic' and it turned out to be quite a challenge for me. I ended up putting up the maximum number of entries allowed and I don't think I was quite taken by any of them, but with me being off work for the holidays it did give me the time to do 3 separate shoots for this topic which was fun. Although it seems I may be stuck in a rut with my lighting technique - seems all the different pictures have the same low key lighting. Will have to break out of that...

Sunday, December 23, 2007

TaW:#2 - Moonshot Split tone.

Before Canon 1dmkII 300mm2.8L w/1.4x (500s @ F8 ISO200)

Okay, heres what I started with, a basic moon shot. I started this out as an exercise on using my camera's spot meter to properly expose a small moon against a dark sky as well as trying every trick I knew to get a sharp picture - Tripod, Mirror lockup, fast shutter speed, and since I didn't have my remote cord, I used the camera's ten second timer to make sure any vibrations from my finger hitting the shutter had a chance to settle out before the image was taken.

Well after getting the image into the computer it was pretty boring. So a little magic in Lightroom playing with Clarity, tone curves and finally a bit of split toning thrown in at the end just for fun got me this.
It looks much better at full resolution. But tone curves is the magic tool to use for bringing out the texture in the moon's surface. Using the tone curve, I repositioned the shadow and highlight markers to the edges of the histogram, Then I set the shadow slider to -100 and the Highlight slider to +100 and adjusted the lights and darks to get as much texture out of the midtones as possible. This really let the sharpness tool get some extra detail when cranked up. Finally a little spilt toning to turn the shadows blue and there you go, quite a bit of difference from where we started. And no trips to CS3 - all Lightroom, I love it. :-)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ain't the Internet great.

No matter what my problem is, someone's bound to have had it (and blogged about it ) before me.
Since I run a GoDaddy Domain, hosted through GoogleApps some of their tools don't play nice outside the network. I don't know why the same Google services work differently on their 'Apps' page but it does and I couldn't get our GTalk to work with Twitter but found this:

Cyborg Labs » Blog Archive » How to make Twitter work with your Google Apps hosted domain on GoDaddy

Thursday, December 13, 2007

'Skaterboy' takes first place!

I guess the "4th time's the charm" as my 'skaterboy' won 1st place in the Canon SLR challenge on Pbase. There's no cash or prizes but it sure is great to have an image recognized by your fellow Canon shooters as being the best. Of course, it could have been more due to my model than my photographic skills! I better use Aly and Matthew for the next couple sessions before it goes to his head! You can see the larger version of the wining image here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Oh oh...

Just placed my votes in the latest CSLR challenge and it appears that my submission Skaterboy is currently in the lead! It's still very early in the process, but it was nice to see none-the-less. The only thing with winning a challenge is you need to think of the next topic and host the challenge. The whole idea of me doing these challenges was that I could never come up with new photographic ideas and now after just a couple of these I gotta come up with a original topic? Great. Here's hoping for 2nd place...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Strobist: Strobist Photos of the Year: Rules and Regs

David Hobby over at the Strobist is running a photo contest with some really good prizes - A Canon G9 is the first prize announced. I want one! Need to start posting to the flickr pool!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Technique a week (TaW): #1 Soft Focus.

Here's one of learned from Chris Orweg, a Photoshop guru. It's a way to simulate the classic soft focus effect typically done through filters or special lenses in the past. It's pretty simple:
  1. duplicate your main image layer
  2. apply a Gaussian blur
  3. the use either a 'lighten' or 'darken' blend mode to the layer
  4. This will typically be way to harsh an effect so adjust opacity to taste.
This example I used the 'Lighten' Blend mode
Origninal Image (Click to Enlarge)

After (Click to Enlarge)

The effect should be suttle I may have applied a little too much in this photo - notice the soft focus on the highlights of Aly's hair and the flowers in the background. (tough to see on the thumbnail above, click to see a higher rez version where the effect is more apparent) I like it, I've learned it, I'll promise not to abuse it!

Technique a week.

This year I got a subscription to which, for those of you that don't know is a online video training site. My intention was to learn as much as I could about coding They have a lot of video training courses on webdesign but also photoshop and all things adobe - I started to plunge into there large library of courses. But it didn't take much time for the material to go in one ear and out the other. As it is I don't use this stuff everyday so how am I going to remember it? I'd often want to do something weeks after learning only to find out I'd forgotten all the steps.
So to put an end to all that forgetting and to hopefully ingrain anything I've learned into my thick skull, I've decided to do 'a technique a week' where I take technique I've learned - no matter how small and apply it to one of my images and post them here. Just like the CSLR challenge, this will force me to apply new concepts and to my photography and hopefully as I continue to practice these techniques, they'll become part of my workflow and hopefully become the inspiration for the creation of new techniques all my own and maybe even one day help to develop a signature style of my own.

Watch for the posts I hope I can keep it up for at least a year....

Sunday, December 2, 2007

I'm flattered...

20071120-Backlight-126-7.jpg, originally uploaded by photogeek21.

So my last minute shot in the 'Vodka Shoot' done for the CSLR "Backlight" Challenge was actually the one that everybody liked. It placed 6th overall and the actual Vodka shot didn't place!
To top things off, "The Strobist", David Hobby, the creator of the 'less gear - more brains - better light' blog, added my pic as one of his favorites!
Since I've probably learned more off his blog in a month than I've learned in years on my own, I'm really flattered one of my pics caught his eye... cool.

CSLR challenge entry #4

20071202-Skate-27-Edit.jpg, originally uploaded by photogeek21.

Keeping up with the CSLR challenge thing and doing my best to try something new with each entry. Here Ryan was patient enough to let me work the lighting. We had to work fast to take advantage of the cloudy sky ( a real rarity in Arizona)
The topic was 'Wide and Low' so I set Ryan up on a pony wall and used a clamping ballhead to support the camera at 'wheel level' - pretty sweet little clamp - its a Sinar View Camera mount so it had no problem keeping my MkII solidly supported.
Worked this one with two off camera strobes set to manual. The 'Master' strobe was triggered via sync cord and the second was using the Canon wireless slave mode. Don't know why I didn't use my ST-E2 I guess I'm not that confident in its operation outdoors.
I did do some Post Processing to get the Hyperfocal length, f16 wasn't enough so I focus bracketed and blended the images to get everything sharp.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Vodka Shoot Setup

Heres a the setup I used for the 'Vodka Shoot'. My Table was a sheet of glass on 2 sawhorses, a sheet of 4x8 pegboard was clamped to 2 light stands. (I was originally going to use the canvas you see on the floor to do the shoot be I saw the pegboard laying against the wall and thought I'd give it a try - the effect was really a pleasant surprise.

3 Strobes were used in the setup the main light was the 55oex behind the peg board set at full power. On the stand behind the camera was a 580exII set at about 1/16 power through a long snoot and a green gel. Finally the last 580exII was set at 1/32 power and hand held during each shot - the snoot let me just spotlight just the details on the front of the bottle without upsetting the backlit pattern being created by the peg board.

Notice the 'Strobist' light modifiers - Snoots were all made from sheets of black hobby foam and velcro and thats not a cooler under the sawhorse - that's my Softbox!

It was a fun learning and experimenting on this shoot - looking forward to the next challenge (My 'Reflections' shot took 6th place - 'Colors of my Holiday' (shot below) did not place)

Monday, November 19, 2007

My latest entry

20071120-Backlight-42-2.jpg, originally uploaded by photogeek21.

Haven't done product shots in a long time, so I took this weeks CSLR challenge of 'Backlight' to experiment with some strobes backlighting trough some Home Depot pegboard.

This was also the first time I used a gel on my flash. Think it came out OKAY. I still think it's missing something, just don't know what.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

First run with the 'Big Gun'

Shoot my first game with my new toy, the Canon 300mm 2.8L. Man is it a beast, luckily I already had a monopod that I and been using with my 300mmF4L IS so that helped a lot.
The lens, even with the Monopod was a bear to handle on the field, I could really see the motion in the viewfinder as I tracked subjects but wide open in the Arizona Daylight I was shooting about 1/5000s @ISO 200 which should be more than enough to counter act any camera motion.
Now I knew this lens was sharp ( I rented one a year or so ago) but looking at my images of the day I was still floored by the resolving power of this lens. Check out the shot below:

Heres the full image of one of the shots I took that day, even in the lightroom grid view I could tell that the images were more 'crisp' that those of my F4, zooming in I could really notice the resolving power of this lens - check it out.
This is a 100% crop of the image above, There are some .jpg artifacts that occurred in the conversion process, but you can still see the eyelashes in the runner (raw looks even better) I used to thing it was amazing to see the writing on the football in a shot, now I can read the fine print of the warning labels that are on the back of each of the helmets the boys wear.
Needless to say I am very pleased with the images this lens produced. Was it worth it? Jury's still out there - the cost (even used) is hard to swallow - especially since I already have the F4 version. But buyers remorse soon wears off and once it does the only thing I'll know about is how awesome this lens is.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

B&W mood

fall yucca, originally uploaded by photogeek21.

Another shot in the same day? Must have really put off the chores this weekend... But I couldn't resist shooting the yucca thats blooming in our front yard. I wanted a lot of detail so I used my sharp 50mm 1.8 and shot close and made this image with a composite of 2 images. 16 mega pixels - I hoping to print this life size (approx 4ft tall)

B&W conversion done with Adobe Lightroom - I really love the control you get in light room with the tone curves and the HSL sliders. I think the conversion is what makes this picture work.

Photo Entry

littlethings, originally uploaded by photogeek21.

Well, I said I was going to do it and I did. Here's my first try at getting back in the CSLR challenge. I hope I can keep it up this time and get my creative 'juices' flowing.

Friday, November 2, 2007

1st Place On Any Given Morn* by Barry photo - CSLR Challenge photos at

1st Place On Any Given Morn* by Barry photo - CSLR Challenge photos at

I just stumbled across my first entry in a photo contest (which I happened to take 1st!). I think I need to get serious again make a serious effort to use the the CSLR Challenge as an assignment generator and see how creative I can get with it.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Life is too short for 'Snapshots'

20071101-Halloween-2, originally uploaded by photogeek21.

More 'Strobist' work. This time with one flash to the left of me on a stand with a 45" silver umbrella and the other behind Aly on the ground lighting here backside and the tree. Still to chicken to take them off ETTL and now PWs so I'm triggering with a ST-E2. I'm loving flash photography now in ways I've never thought possible before - Thanks Strobist!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

First 'Strobist' sports portraites

20071026-Toughguy-37, originally uploaded by photogeek21.

Well just barely a week after starting to read the, I was inspired to go out and shoot some off camera flash shots in an attempt to capture some cross light balancing with the sun just about 45 min before sunset. I'm very satisfied with my first attempts. With a little more practice I may start offering sports portrait session as part of 10framesasecond. I'm still cheating abit keeping the flashes in ETTL not the Manual settings that true Strobists demand, but hey, it was my first time and the big thing was getting the flash off the camera.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Pulled the trigger...

I finally made my big decision so can you guess what I got in the mail today? If you guessed a brand new 1dMkIII you'd be wrong, I went the 'value' route and decided on the 5D with some optics. So what did I get? Why a 300mm F2.8L of course. The sports lens of sports lenses. I've rented one before and shot a game and man is this lens amazing. Well, I've got one to call my very own now and with 3 games left in this season to shoot - I can't wait.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Label those Cards!

You know I knew why they put the little labels on the backs of CF memory cards, I mean why would I label something that gets erased and re-written?
Well, last Saturday, I was shooting Ryan's Football game and they were really playing well and I was ripping off the frames. Filled my first 4GB CF by about mid way through the 4 quarter and had to swap it out.
After the game I was excited to get home and process an post the pics of the games my site. But I practically freaked when I reached into my pocket to retrieve my card and discovered that I must have lost it out on the field! I was so bummed I really didn't care about loosing the card at that point it was all the images on the card.
Alma tried to cheer me up by suggesting we go back to the field in the morning to look for it - but I knew it would be gone, someone would have found it during the games that were after ours. So early the next morning we used the trip to the field as an excuse to go out for breakfast. We got to the field and the whole family fanned out 'CSI' style searching the field. There were people getting prepping the field for the morning's soccer matches so just when I was thinking we should just get out of there and get some breakfast, I saw it, lying in the grass on the sidelines where I was shooting! What luck, the card was intact and undamaged. The pictures were posted - no harm, no foul.
Well now I know what that label is for now - It's just enough room for my name and phone number and that's exactly what's on each of my CF cards now.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Whoa! I've finally been enlightend

After getting a gig to take the Team picutres for both of Ryan's coach's football teams. I started to do some research on flash photography. The picutres are scheduled to take place about noon so I'm expecting some harsh mid-day Arizona sun, so I'm planing on using a flash to fill in any harsh shadows.
I've really come to like outdoor fill flash I almost never go out without my 550ex atop my camera. The only thing is that I've never had consitent results with it. So I was a bit nervous since I don't want to let the kids down. So after getting hooked on the Strobist site I was planing to fully adopt his techiques which is doing things manually with off camera strobes, But then I found Chuck Gardner's site that had a Canon EX Flash System Overview his tutorials were enlightening, I've had my 550ex for about 4 years and never really knew how it worked with the camera and what Canon's ETTL was all about. Simple things like if you shout in Av mode in bright sun the flash will automatically lower it's output by 1 stop because it assumes you want a fill flash. And that when shooting indoors just put your camera in Manual fix the exposure and let the flash and ETTL do the rest. (This was huge, as I always shot in Av mode and couldn't understand that if the camera knew I had a flash, why would it still set slow shutter speeds as if I had no flash?)
Now knowing that the camera is setting exposure for the ambient light and that the Flash and ETTL is exposing the subject - I got MUCH better results - and I now know what to adjust when I don't get what I want.

I just hope I can digest everything in time for the shoot - I also hope 2 550's will be enough to fill for the whole team.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Decisions, decisions.

Mama got me a Canon 1DmkIII for my 40th birthday! I love her SOOOOO much! But with all the chatter on the net about the focus issue with the camera, I put it on hold - there was no way I was going to take a chance with $4500.
Since I already have a 1DmkII, I also thought about just getting a 40d as backup at $1300 I could squeeze in a 300F2.8 and not be too far off the mkIII cost. The reviews on it's IQ and low noise performance have really peaked my interest and with a 6.5 fps rate its not much slower than my mkII.
I also thought about the 5D with it's full frame but I'm sure it's going to get revamped anytime now so I know I'd have some serious buyer's remorse if I bought it and a new 5DmkII came out a month later.
So I think I'm gonna hold off until I either here that Canon has conclusively corrected the mkIII focus issue or the 5dmkII is released.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

10framesasecond - Workflow changes

Okay, week 2 now with 2 games 700+ images, culled to about 400 to evententally post 180. My workflow didn't change that much, I did try to export right from Lightroom to an FTP site but no go. I think it's a windows OS thing but its probably safer to export locally and then upload. So no breakthroughs on week two and my total time from CF card to images posted to site was about 4 hrs.

The best intentions

Well after the first week of shooting my kids sporting events I had two things that I thought I would change for the next time to make things easier in post processing.
First was to put the camera in manual and keep the camera setting based off of meter readings prior to the game and also put the camera in a fixed White Balance setting. Basically fix every thing so so that I could hopefully apply a global adjustment in post. (Last week I found that the bright jerseys was freaking out the metering system and caused me to adjust about 3/4 stops in both directions.
Alas, the best laid plans went south when the clouds rolled in ing the after noon so the subjects would move from cloudy exposure to bright sun- about 2 stops difference. So I was forced to put the cameras back into auto exposure but I did end up leaving the WB set to cloudy - this worked out okay as I didn't get any noticable color shifts in the changing daylight.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

10framesasecond: My workflow

With a couple CF cards full of U9 soccer pics, I set off on my first attempt at creating a workflow to get images from camera to my exposuremanager site in the shortest time possible.
  1. Calibrate Monitor - even though I have my exposure manager site set up for display only, which allows me to make final touches to each picture as it is ordered, I thought now is as good a time as any to get into a habit of routine calibration.
  2. Import images from CF with Lightroom - ever since Lightroom's official release of 1.1 I've given up on the windows move command for transfering files - Lightroom's file renaming and Metadata templates really make it a one step process. 605 images imported.
  3. Cull images - Once one card is transferred and the the second one is being imported, I start going through and using the 'reject' flag to tag all the out of focus shots and 'missed' shots. I do this in the Loupe mode with as big an image as possible. I also will take this opportunity to identify any 'must post' shots with a 5 star rating. Once done I just have Lightroom delete all rejects. 211 images deleted.
  4. Identify shots to post for sale - So now that the bad ones are out I start back at the beginning and use the 'B' keyboard shortcut to send images to the 'quick collection' as a temporary place to store the pictures before tagging them and exporting them to Exposure Manager. Just how many should be posted? I struggled with this one a bit - I've heard interviews with photog's that claim they post everything because there always surprised at what images people buy. But when I look at a gallery with 500 pictures, I just can't believe anyone would have the patiences to browse through that many pics. So I went with just what I thought were my best shots. 97 images collected.
  5. Tagging - Right now I'm tagging pictures to Identify: which team has the ball (I'll use this tag to create sub galleries in Exposure Manager), the jersey numbers of the prominent players in the picture (this will be used for the search function in Exposure Manager ), and a 'posted' tag so I can later track what's been posted and what's been sold.
  6. Setup Collections - Right now I'm making a collection set that will mirror the gallery structure in Exposure Manager. Not sure if this is useful or if it will stay in my workflow but I'm doing it for now.
  7. Export Images - select all pictures in a team collection and export them to a Temporary folder and name it with the team name. I do this for both teams. Once again the templates in Lightroom really make this a easy to setup once and forget.
  8. Upload using FTP - I have my Exposure manager FTP site setup as network drive on my Windows machine so it just a matter of dragging and dropping the exported folders over between my local drive and the FTP site. I haven't tried exporting directly to the FTP site with Lightroom maybe I try this next week.
  9. Assign Gallery - once the files on on the Exposure Manager site, its just a matter of logging on to the account and telling what Gallery to assign the FTP files to. You must also tell Exposure Manager to create sub galleries from each folder.
Total time: 4 hours (with a couple breaks to lay down some licks on Guitar HeroII). Ouch! need to refine this much further....

Things to try next time - Although I hate to add to the workflow, the 500 pixel images are just too small to see any detail so I'm gonna have to start cropping the picutre to maximize the impact of each image. But we'll see how this impacts sales.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

My first sports shoot of the season.

Shot Aly's opening soccer game today. The GYSA complex was packed and I saw at least 2 other photog's there with their pro gear shooting games, luckily, I was the only one on my field shooting the game so no competition.
Shooting both teams is quite a bit different than my usual routine of just shooting Aly's team, I was really burning up the memory cards.
While I was initially worried about the geek factor of strapping on both cameras - that feeling quickly went away as I camped out in the only bit of shade on the field, fortunately, it was just off on of the goal boxes. I found myself needing both the 70-200 and the 300mm as the action moved from one end of the field to the other. So I put the 300mm on the 10D and would just switch cameras when the action moved. This was really cool but after shooting with the MkII, that 10D just feels like a snail, it was almost painful waiting for it to finish hunting for focus only then to fire off a few frames and report 'busy' as the buffer is struggles to transfer its contents to the CF card.
The shoot otherwise went really smooth, we got there early enough from me to take some shots with my expo disk for setting white balance later in Lightroom. I also did a little drill I got from Scott Kelby's blog, which basically makes you run through your camera's setup to make sure you're ready before the shoot, to quote Scott:
It’s WHIMS, which stands for:
  • W: White Balance
  • H: Hightlight clipping warning
  • I: ISO
  • M: Mode (JPEG or RAW)
  • S: Shooting (Resetting to the right shooting mode for the subject: Aperture Priorty, Shutter Priority, Manual, etc.)
Things I thought went right to do again:
  • Pre-shoot Expodisk
  • Two camera workflow ROCKS! (just need a faster 2nd body... I wish)
Things to change for next time
  • White balance - take it off auto and fix it at one setting. It may not seem like a big thing since I'm redoing the white balance in Lightroom - I didn't seeing the WB move all over the place on the initial import.
  • Shoot in Manual Exposure - With the weather as good as it is here, and the games only being an hour, I think I'm going to either meter off a grey card or take a light meter and just fix the exposure manual, I found the in camera meter getting thrown by all the bright uniforms.
Thats it, I had fun and most importantly, learned a couple of things alogn the way.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Adobe Lightroom 1.2 update

Just loaded up lightroom to work on some test prints to Exposure manager and got an update notice...
Adobe - Latest Product Updates: "Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 1.2 Update September 14, 2007 Included in the Lightroom 1.2 Update: Corrections for several issues including XMP auto-write performance, Vista grid display errors and noise reduction for Bayer patterned sensors. Additional camera support for the Canon EOS 40D, Fuji FinePix IS-1, Olympus EVOLT E-510, Panasonic DMC-FZ18 and more."
I have to say Adobe is really acting like a different company on this product, public beta, actually listening to the user base, and rolling out free updates. But do I dare update before the first shoot of Fall Soccer and potentially be cursing that I can't get my pics posted for sale?? Awe heck, why not....

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Getting ready for Fall Sports

Well with the final touches to, I'm finally fairly happy with it's layout and can turn my attention to getting ready for the first game of the Fall season. My daughter is the first up with U9 soccer. I've usually used the 70-200F4L for her soccer games but it looks like their playing a full size field now so I'll be packing my 300F4ISL. Haven't decided if I'm going to schlep both lenses around - I could put the 70-200 on my 10D body but I think that would put me over the top on the GEEK-O-METER! Maybe I'll just swap lenses.
After putting a full charge on the MkII batteries - actually I used the 'refresh' button for the first time since getting the camera and getting all my CF cards ready. ( I've never shot both sides of a game before so I imagine I'm going to burn up the megabytes on the field), I found myself with too much idle time on my hands infront of the computer and started looking at some more things I needed. One thing I don't have that every sports photographer should is a solid support for my big, white lens. After the some research I found the FEISOL 1741 a carbon fiber Gitzo knock off that got pretty good reviews. I know, I always rant about Chinese knock offs but I was blinded by the $99 price tag, roughly 1/3 less than the Gitzo. ( I'm saving my pennies for a real Gitzo tripod and Really Right Stuff's ballhead, which combined is almost a grand! - I know, still no excuse...) Anyway, I 'Paypal'd them the money and I'm waiting for my pod. Hope I get it before Ryan's first Tackle football game next week.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

ISO 25,000 ???!!!

Just got done listening to the the latest episode of Inside Digital Photo Radio, their guest, Vincent Versace, was talking about the new Nikon D3 and he shared a couple things I haven't read about this camera before...
ultralow noise at high iso (says ISO4000 looks like ISO200), an a max ISO setting of over 25,000, 7,000 frames off of one set of batteries, twin CF slots that support UDMA transfer (read: fast!) can use both full frame lenses and their 1.6x crop lenses (automatically crops in viewfinder), intelligent scene and color detection (would speak much more on this one)

Man, with the new lenses that Nikon just released, this really makes this Canon user green with envy - I may have to hold off on the MkII decision till I see some side-by-side comparisons.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Website Promotion, Internet Marketing and Blogging

Website Promotion, Internet Marketing and Blogging

This site was pretty helpful in making my site,, consistent in format when viewed in Explorer and Firefox. There was a real helpful post call 'No Margin for Error' that explained some of the differences in the 'default stylesheets' used by the browsers - heck, I didn't even think that a bowser has a default stylesheet!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

10framesasecond: Step 4 - some nice touches.

With the 2 main sections of my photog site complete, I wanted to put up some nice touches to give my clients a better user experience than what I've seen on some of my competitors. At this level (non-pro) most of the sites I've seen are really, really basic, usually using canned formats or 'site-building' software offered by the host providers. I thought the more I could do the separate myself from that, the better - And I'm a geek - so 'geek-on'.

First I put up a little 'About us' page that is pretty common but I was honest in the write up that this is a 'side-job' for me and a way to subsidize my hobby - so I didn't try blow myself up into some Pro photographer.
Next, I put up an events calendar that will show all my upcoming games and events that I will be shooting. Thanks to Google, this was about the simplest thing to implement on my site, just had to create a separate '10framesasecond' calendar in my Google account and setup the public sharing options in the 'Manage Calendars' section of Google Calendar. Once complete, Google provides a little snippet of code that you embed in your page and, Presto! you have a super versatile calendar on your page. Any changes I make on my Google homepage are automatically displayed on my site. These guys at Google are just too smart...

Saturday, August 25, 2007

10framesasecond: Step 3 - adding a blog page

Next thing I though would be good for the site is to add a little blog page that I could use to get the latest news out to visitors, like what new events have been posted, any promotions I'm running, etc. And if any of my clients are 'geeky' enough they could subscribe to an RSS feed of the page so they wouldn't have to check my page to see if anything is changed.
Wordpress software is part of the Linux server hosting package I picked up from While I have never used it before I had heard from more than one source that it's pretty powerful as far as what you could do with it and, key for me, is that you could design your own templates for it to give it your own unique look. This was just what I was looking for since I wanted the user experience to remain consistent throughout my site.
Installation was a snap GoDaddy's Metropolis application made it basically a click to install process and once it was installed on the server I just assigned it a URL, pointed my browser there boom, I had a blog!
Setting up the templates was a bit easier than Exposure Manager, it was obvious that wordpress is much more mature in the area of user customization than Exposure Manager. The Style.css file for word press is huge by comparison and the App is VERY customizable. Since I'm just using it for getting news out I didn't need all the functionality so I didn't bother working on comment sections or anything and just based my disign off the default template that was tweaked to use my Header, body, and footer background images and I was up and running.
As much as I like how super user friendly VOX and Blogger are, I can't help but think to move my family blog over to wordpress running on my server. I think security against obsolesence (or backruptcy) is what I'm paranoid of. I know Blogger is run by Google which I don't think is going to be going out of business anytime soon but I can't imagine what I'd do if I lost ten years worth of family memories due to some companies poor business decisions.

Friday, August 24, 2007

10framesasecond: Step 2 - integrating photos.

When I first started thinking about starting a website to sell photos I took during my kids sporting events, I thought it should be easy enough to create a site that I could host pictures organized into galleries and use some ruby on rails code or some of the canned photo server apps like 'coppermine' to tie it to a paypal shopping cart. I could then get orders and print them at the local Costco and make a better profit margin. Well, reality set in there was no way I was going to have the time to do all that now. Previous research I'd did on the pro photo hosting sites concluded that Exposure Manager is the best / most flexible to work with.
So I signed up and had a gallery loaded in about a half and hour. But I wasn't happy with the look - it didn't have the same 'feel' as my site so I used the template editor they provide and integrated my layout table and style sheet into the main templates and Whamo! You can barely tell you're being redirected to another site. I even mapped the URL so is still in the address bar when your actually on the exposure manager site. Pretty cool.
Overall, Exposure Manager lets you tweak quite a bit of the UI on the site through the use of Templates and Style Sheets but their interface is a bit weak - For instance, there are options to both create a new style sheet or edit an exsisting one but for templates, there is only a create option, so every time you need to make an edit, you first need to create a template then choose which one to edit. This leaves you with quite a few templates to delete after a template debugging session.
Another thing is they don't provide templates for all the areas of the site (like the shopping cart and the multi-selection product picker). A nit pick since the pages still used the color schemes setup through your stylesheets. I'm sure Exposure Manager will progress in this area, and it is workable as it stands right now - just not as polished as I'd like to see.

Took me about 2 hours to tweak the templates into something I could use. Lots of experimentation needed here as I didn't find there documentation on this very helpful.

Launching my photo site - Step 1 Setting up hosting

Okay, this has been put off for far too long. The first sporting event of the season is tomorrow and I don't even have my website setup yet. So today, I took the morning off of work and sat down to hack it out - how hard can it be? I've done webpages before.

First step get my hosting setup with Go Daddy. Of course since I'm in a rush I can't find any of their famous 30% off deals (the last one I had expired 7/31!) Oh well, I just used the 10% from the GB1 coupon code to give a little support to Cali and her podcast. A couple minutes to process the order and wham! I got a 100GB of server space crying for some content.

Fired up Illustrator CS3 and Dreamweaver and hacked out the framework of the site. Pretty bland right now but, I think it's a good foundation to build on. I tried using as much CSS as I could and I think I'm getting the hang of it and since I'm using a site wide stylesheet, it's really nice making global format changes by editing one file. - pretty cool.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

CS3 Install what a nightmare!

$1500 in CS3 Web Premium software and it crashes on install! Started researching on the web and found this to be a common thing... Yes, I tried installing as an Administrator. Yes, I tried running MSCONFIG and selective startups, regedits, etc. Still no success. For a company like Adobe to ask this much money for an app and have it's installer be such a piece of crap is just plain inexcusable. So I'm down to my last resort - a fresh install of Win XP Pro. It appears to have worked, So now I can spend the next several days installing all the drivers, other apps and patches that were working just fine before I bought CS3...Thanks Adobe

Thursday, May 10, 2007

A Chat with Loyd

Talking with Loyd, and he says LLC is the way to go as a sole proprietor. Recommends Arizona Corporation Commission as a good source for the 'play by play' to get started.
Also declarations are cheapest to publish in the Gila Bend newspaper.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Some Ideas to be different

I think I can provide a couple extra touches for the sports photo site by providing some photo manipulation to the customer that isn't typical for the others out there: (Hence Premium Pricing)
  • Sports Panos - Highly compress porportions of an entire Baseball field
  • Composites - like ry's moto jump and Elaina's pitch
  • Posters - ie: Rider of the year
  • Mag covers: sports illustrated.

Gotta Name - So I'm gonna do it.

Okay I'm gonna do it. Gonna start a couple web buisnesses based on my hobby. The intent isn't to get rich by any means but hopefully it will supplement a portion of my expensive hobby.
The first project will be a sports photo site based on the Exposure Manager platform - gotta cool name for it to (yea I dreaming of a MKIII!) This site will basically sell the photo's I take of the kids sports teams I will start taking more shots of both teams and hand out cards or where a tee shirt with the web address on it.
The second is based off of utilizing the large format Epsons Cas has hooked me up with right now gonna name it Here I'm gonna speciallize on artistic photo manipulation and canvas and fine art prints since these are where the other sites out there get a premium.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Don't worry honey, it was just me - Whew!

Whew, I was all worried that my mighty 1d had failed me and started backfocusing. The test I used for my 10d several years ago was flawed, apparrently the focus target is too small for the sensors to get an accurate lock on. A freind that I gave the lens to to test on his MkII told me he got better results from the test shown above. ( And once I printed it out - so did I!


Tuesday, May 1, 2007

What the F@#% !??

After shooting some indoor low light work with the MkII and my 24-70 2.8L, I noticed a disturbing trend my subjects were out of focus and the background was in! Could it be? My dream camera backfocusing like my measley 10d did when I first got this lens?

Just to be sure I gave the lens to a friend with a MkIIn and he got the spot on sharp test results. Arrgh! off to the shop goes my rig...

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Raising funds

Pretty sure I'm gonna go for at least a 24" printer with the hopes of doing some jobs on the side. Time to start putting everything I own on Craig's list to raise money!

Monday, April 23, 2007

z3100 Research turns up some issues

Looks like some serious color issues early this year...

Luminous Landscape Forum > HP Z3100 Problems with Colour Gamut

The internet is great for finding out stuff the sales guys won't tell you.
Most of those posts are from the Febuary time frame. Looks like there was some firmware updates that may have taken care of the issue.

Printing Insights #46 has a good log of issues.

What is disturbing is the feel from all the posts that HP is not recognizing the issue (or at least not being simpathetic to their costomers that just shelled out $4k for their product and now are pretty pissed) Finally found that HP had an official response.

Another thing I've been finding is that a lot of the people posting about their experience with the Z3100 have a 4000 as well, makes me think my 4000 is still well loved and deserves more attention.

Z3100 Not the answer?

Well I started getting all excited about the purchase of the HP3100 thinking of all the possibilities, that is until I called my brother to tell him my plans. He is a service manager for a prepress supply company and deals alot with HIGH END printers. Well he really put out my fire on this one say that while his company is an authorized HP dealer, they are not carrying the 3100 due the various problems tpeople are having with them. I'll need to do more research to (hopefully) disprove this but he says that every trade show its been at this year has got a Z3100 in it with an HP tech shaking his head and throwing up his hands in surrender.
He suggested that I fix the 4000 and if I wanted he'd get me the necessary parts and when I'm ready, he could throw a 7800 my way for cheap.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

My Home Studio

Heck, it's my only studio. And since its in my garage it's not setup very often. But every time I do set it up I try my best to learn something new. It doesn't seem like a lot, but I sure my wife thinks it plenty for a hobby I think I have enough lights but what is really on my list is more light modifiers, some barn doors, scrims, and with that epoxied floor I could use some big black drop cloths to control the light.
My backdrop is only 12' wide, which at the time I thought was plenty until I learned that I shouldn't put the subjects so close to the background or else I get too much spill from the key light on to the background. I now put my subjects about 10-12 ft in front of the background but at that distance, I run out of background pretty quickly if there is more than one or two subjects.

Easter Lighting Setup

Had some pretty pleasing results from this years studio shots so I thought I'd diagram the setup:

The main light was tweeked to get a consistent F5.6 across a wide enough area to fit the whole family and I made sure there was enough distance between subject and background to have at least a 2 stop drop in light to keep it deep black.

More Prism work

After seeing that re-profiling my printer with Prism helped the posterization of shadows I was getting using the cheap Kirkland Glossy Photo printer. I tried the same thing for my Epson Premium Luster paper, which is my perfered archival paper.
I had recently paid for a Cathy's professional profile which was fine when I got it but now was seeing the same posterization effects in the shadow areas of prints.

Creating a new profile did (PP2 - PLuster), in fact, improve the prints. So what's the deal? Is the printer color output shifting over time? My test prints show that all nozzles are firing. I'm starting to believe my brother who says its the third party inks I'm using, even though I have read people having the same issue with Epson Ink.

One to watch for now, I guess.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

My Studio

I thought that my Garage was huge when I built it, but the 30x44' space seems cramped when I set up my temporary studio in it. In order to get good separation between subject, camera, lights and backgrounds I using up about 2 1/2 bays so the cars get 'kicked out' when the 'Studio' is up. This year I had success with low key portraits using a single Photogenics 1200 with a 36x24" softbox placed about 7' out and 2-3ft left from the subject and about 8 ft high. A single reflector for fill. and my second Photogenics with a snout used as a hair light. This was evenly lighting the subject area for F5.6 and dropped off enough so the background some 11 ft. behind was 2-3 stops lower. Auto white balance on the 1dMkII seemed to have some trouble varying about 1000K from shot to shot.This kind of variation didn't seem too bad until I took a few white balance shots using an Expodisc synced the rest of the images in Adobe Lightroom which made all the difference. Gotta start using this thing more!

A sample of this session:

Epson 4000 funky shadows

Big expensive printer and I'm getting some funky things going on in the shadows

Original vs. print (Cropped)

looks like some Posterization in the shadow area. Tried to research websites for this problem most talk about inproper linerization which can't be fixed if your printing through the print driver like I am, a RIP is needed. Well RIPs are very expensive - I could buy another printer for the cost of a good RIP.

Others said its a problem with profiles/paper/media selection.

Profile Prism work

Retring the Profiling the Epson 4000 with profile prism to rid myself of some funky posterization going on in the shadow areas of prints.

First run using Kirkland Professtional Glossy Photo Paper
MIS pigment ink
Printing through QIMAGE and the Epson Driver useing the following settings
- Epson Premium SemiGloss paper selected
- 1440 fine dpi
- nothing checked
- No color correction

Profiled using the 'bright' target reccommended for Epson printers
Initial software settings:
Normal brightness, contrast, saturation and Metamerism set to off.
First results:
Exposure: proper (230)
WB: Excellent (1%)
LV:Excellent (5%)
2 patches cliped
SD:Excelent to grey patches clipped.
Exposure: 228
2 patches clipped.


A bit better and the colors over all are better.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Damn Epson 4000

Arrgh!! Look at this has been my life with a used Epson 4000. While I got this printer for free, I've put about $600 in ink in it so far and I'd say a majority of it has gone into the maintenance tank doing head cleanings. The more research I do on the web find that this is one of the 'facts of life' when living with an Epson Pigment Ink printer.
The output is wonderful when it's working. I though I could just go back to printing my work at Costco on their photographic Frontier printers but after several side by side comparisons, the output of these inkjets just really blow away the best results I got from Costco.
What to do? Well I saw an amazing printer, a HP Z3100 printer - 12 ink colors, 4 specifically for B&W prints, a miser on ink, it self-analyzes the heads for clogs, cleans only the heads that are clogged and, get this, if it can't clear the nozzle it activates backup nozzles to fill in. If things get really messed up, the heads are user replaceable. Now the bad part, The thing is $3800! Way too much for a hobbyist like me, so I'm thinking I better start a little side business to subsidize this purchase. Gonna look into it.