25 Random things about me...

I was recently “tagged” on Facebook and the rules are that once you've been tagged, you’re supposed to write 25 random things about yourself.

Here are my 25 things.

1. I would love to be as tall and as thin as it says I am on my driver’s license.
2. Even though my girls are now teenagers, I go in their room every night and check on them.
3. I rarely sleep past 4am, regardless of when I go to bed.
4. At 53 I often think that two thirds of my life (at least) is behind me.
5. When many people were avoiding the draft, I enlisted in the army at 17.
6. I enlisted on Pearl Harbor Day.
7. Folks would laugh if they saw how I acted with my dogs.
8. I never learned to swim or ice skate, but made sure my children did.
9. I love the Simpsons.
10. My favorite Christmas movie is “A Christmas Carol”.
11. My favorite non-Christmas movie would be “Shawshank Redemption”.
12. I think the best movie I ever saw was “Sixth Sense”.
13. Reality shows that have the goal of ending up alone on an island counting your money is not even close to winning. I would rather be penniless with my friends.
14. Some bumper stickers are true, mean people do suck.
15. To teach myself patience I will often get in the longest line at the grocery store.
16. I met my wife while I was on a date with another woman.
17. I am no fan of the cold and snow; I often fantasize about being a snow bird.
18. I love Disney.
19. Most of my friends don’t know I did a jazz radio show.
20. Writing my blog has turned out to be waaaaay more fun than I thought it would be.
21. I don’t “get” sushi.
22. I love nature shows.
23. How government works makes no sense to me. Like the bank bailout - instead of giving the banks billions of dollars, give the money to us, we pay off our credit cards, car loans, and mortgages. People are saved from bankruptcy, get to keep their homes, and the banks still get their money - everyone wins.
24. Is it me or is every other TV commercial about erectile dysfunction?
25. The most embarrassing thing I ever did was 45 years ago and I remember it like it was yesterday. I was (around 7) visiting my dad, his new wife had just had a baby, there was a big family dinner to celebrate, and my job was to set the table. Well, being the brainiac that I was thought that my stepmom was coming home from the hospital and needed clean conditions and I had seen a big box in the bathroom that said “Sanitary Napkins” so I grabbed an armful and put one under every single fork on the table (Keep in mind this was in the 60’s and those “napkins” were the size of a twin bed). You can just imagine the reaction when everyone came into the dining room.

Lightroom 2.3 (RC) is available...

Adobe has announced Lightroom 2.3 Release Candidates are available for download.

Keep in mind this is a "Release Candidate", not an upgrade, and as such it will install separately from your current version of Lightroom.

When version 2.3 is released you will then need to uninstall the release candidate manually, as this housekeeping is not done automatically (though I think it should be).

Here are the links to download Lightroom 2.3 Release Candidate for Macintosh and Windows.

If you have yet to make the Lightroom move and are wondering what all the broo ha ha is about, you can download a 30 day (fully functional) trial version here.

Keeping in the Release Candidate "theme" Adobe also announce the availability of Camera Raw 5.3 (RC).

Maine Strobist Meet-up - January 18...

The turnout for the Maine Strobist meet-up was outstanding, especially considering the fact that it was held in the middle of a blizzard that left 20 inches of snow on the ground! Of all the folks who were scheduled to attend, only 2 or 3 did not make it.

You can check out some of the images on this page.

The only downside (for me) was watching the video, I came to the realization I really am fat and old. And all this time I thought folks were just joking.


Thanks to Gary for hosting the event, it was a bunch of work and he did a great job.

I am a Disney Addict...

There, I said it... isn't that the first step to recovery?


My family and most of my friends are Disney fanatics and this post is meant to amuse us, them, and any other Disney darlings out there.

If you would like to get this video customized with your name (or anybody else's), simply follow this link.

Baby photography that inspires...

I was looking at the work of Carrie Sandoval and it is just tooooo good not to share, her work is jaw dropping (and inspiring).

To see more of her work and to learn how she does it be sure to check the following links:

1. Here is a video of Carrie doing a shoot, it's part of the Nikon "Look Good in Pictures" series

2. This is an interview with Carrie and she share more tips and tricks for photographing babies

3. Or if you just want to sit back and enjoy some of the best newborn photography out there, watch her slideshow "2008 in review"

The best B&W conversions you'll ever see...

One evening I received an email from my friend Stacey Kane, it was short and to the point:

"These are the best black and white conversions I have ever seen" followed by a link to Bohemian Art Photography.

I knew these had to be good because Stacey does not hand out praise willy nilly, she has a critical eye, and she LOVES black and white photography.

So I followed the link and spent the next hour (or so) looking at beautiful black and white images.

Just to give you a bit of how Bohemian Secret came to be, here is Sonia in her own words:

"Bohemian Secret has been created to share my love and passion for Black and White Photography. I have been asked so many times how do I do it, how do I achieve my BW images?

So as I sat one evening, a thought came to me and suddenly I realized that The Bohemian Secret was born. It was important to me to take time and create the space within me for the Secret to reveal itself. So I dived into a world of shades of grey and beyond, thinking about each and every aspect of what I do, how I live, and even who I am. I spent a few nights putting things together, not realizing what for, just following the inner feeling and at times it felt like the Secret had a life of its own."

There are a bunch of things I like about Bohemian Secret, here are just a few:

1. It comes with a 35 page pdf, walking you through the process of coming up with your stunning black and white images. You aren't just given some actions and left to struggle through on your own, trying to figure things out.

2. It's not just 1 (or a couple actions). Though you do have the option of creating a "click and done" black and white, but if you buy these secrets it's because you want the depth that is possible, and you want the details that is available in the shadows AND in the light.

3. Sonia challenges you to think, to think about the process and to think about what it is you are trying to achieve.

4. The accompanying pdf not only walks you through the possibilities of each of these actions, for every action, every step there are also sample before and after images to show you the possibilities. It is like Sonia is sitting next to you walking you step by step from beginning to end.

Here is a screen shot of just the Basic B&W actions:

While reading the pdf you also get a sense of her passion for photography, and it comes through that she cares about yours as well. She wants you to get the absolute most you can from using her actions.

If you want to be challenged to think about light, if you want to paint with light and dark, if detail is important to you, then Bohemian Secret is for you.

And know that much of what you learn will carry over to all of your images, making you a better over all photographer.

It is not only the best thing you can do for your black and white photography, it is likely the least expensive as well, selling for only $55 I challenge anyone to show me this much quality for such an affordable price.

Two thumbs way up for Bohemian Secret.

I'm looking for a lens, can you help?...

If any of you currently shoot (or have shot) with the Nikon 35-70mm 2.8 lens I would love to hear about your experiences with it (and feel free to share an image or two).

I've pretty much made up my mind to get one, but having others confirm that it's a wise purchase is a good thing.

In my bag I have a Nikon 17-55 2.8 and an 80-200 2.8 but would like to fill the "gap" between the two. You would also find a Nikon 18-200 in there, but it's focusing speed is measured with a calendar, not a stop watch. It's a great vacation and outdoor shooting lens, but just too darn slow for any inside work (like weddings and receptions).

Lastly, if you know of one for sale (other than eBay) please let me know. Thanks.

Holy frozen fingers Batman!...

I was getting ready to make my coffee this morning and looked out at our thermometer only to see that the temperature had dropped to 13 degrees below zero!


One last reminder that this coming Sunday (1/18) is the Maine Strobist meetup @ North Dam Mill here in Biddeford from noon to 7.

Thanks to Gary for all his work in organizing this gathering.

Seven lighting setups in seven minutes...

Here is yet another outstanding lighting video from Mark Wallace.

In this video Mark demonstrates seven different lighting setups, they include:

• Fashion Light
• Portrait Light
• Beauty Light
• Fashion Light II
• Beauty Shots
• Glamour Light
• Flare

I think flare is my favorite.

Mark uses studio strobes but they can easily be swapped out with speedlights.

You can see more images that were shot in these setups and the detailed layout images on this page.


Pocket Wizard Accessories...

When I bought my Pocket Wizards I knew I was making an investment in my photography, but it was also a financial investment and it was one I wanted to protect.

So I decided to buy the Hildozine Transceiver Caddy and Storage Jacket. Though it was a pragmatic decision when I ordered them, I was down right giddy the first time I used them!

First the protection, when you throw your Pocket Wizards in with the rest of your gear, you don't have to worry about them getting banged up or putting a crimp in your antenna.

Second, when shooting outside on uneven ground or in windy conditions, there is a real possibility of your equipment taking a tumble, (again) your Wizards are protected from damage should they hit the ground (or a rock).

Third, the Transceiver Caddy has an integrated bungee that will keep it securely attached to almost anything. This was a big plus as I am not a fan of Velcro, it doesn't take long for it to become so imbedded with crap that it's no longer functional and when removed Velcro leaves a horrible sticky residue behind that would survive a nuclear winter.

I truly believe that if you make the decision to buy Pocket Wizards it would be silly not to include the Caddy and Storage Jacket.

If you have been reading this blog for any length of time you know two things about me, 1. I like good equipment and 2. I like to save money (though I am sure some of your picked 1. fat and 2. old).

Here comes the saving money part - The best price anywhere for the Caddy or the Jacket is only $12 and can be found at Midwest Photo Exchange.

If you are a Strobist fan Midwest Photo Exchange is the only place where you can find all of David Hobby's goodies, and having dealt with them myself I can understand why. Great people, outstanding selection, and pricing that will make your wallet smile.

So, if I had to boil this blog entry down to just three words they would be - "Cover Your Wizard!".

New Pocket Wizards for $127.95...

No, that's not a misprint, I paid $127.95 for my brand new Pocket Wizards, let me tell you how I did it (and you can too!).

Watching the Strobist Seminar DVD's made me realize how much David Hobby knows (and I don't) and on multiple occasions during the seminar David drove home that the king of the hill for wireless triggering options was Pocket Wizards. "Regardless of where you start, you'll end up with Pocket Wizards".

But, $188.95 is (for me) a good chunk of change, then I remembered something billionaire investor Warren Buffett said when asked if he could give just one piece of advise to folks, what would it be? "Spend your money once".

If I was going to go wireless, I was going to do it right (spend my money once), no cutting corners, no going "cheap".

So the hunt was on for the best possible price and I went to my home away from home, eBay.

There I found Exposure Capture.

At the time I was looking they were running a sale on Pocket Wizards, $305.95 a pair, and with the $25 rebate each, the final price was $127.95.

Sadly the sale is over but their everyday price is still outstanding, Exposure Capture pricing is $170.95 for one and $322.95 for two. Even though they're not currently on sale, Jennifer told me they frequently run promotions/sales so if you want to keep an eye out, you may catch a sale.

We have a great price, then throw in the $25 rebate from Pocket Wizard and a great price just got even better. You can get the form here and the rebate offer is good until February 28th.

But there's more, if you use the code “WEEKSHIP” when you order, your shipping will be free!

If you don't find any Pocket Wizards in their eBay store, you can order them via email.

Lastly, when you buy your Pocket Wizards, be sure to register them online to extended the warranty from one year to three. Only a company confident in the quality of their products would do that.

I could not be happier that I bought my Wizards. The first time I put them to the test was with my Twilight shoot and they were simple to use, worked like a charm, and fired every time.

There are less expensive options, there are "comparable" options, but answer this question, why do more pro's use Pocket wizards than anything else?

Come back next week and I will tell you about some very inexpensive Pocket Wizard accessories that will improve their usability.

See ya then.

Free Photoshop actions at Action Central!...

Action Central now has over 170 actions, over 50,000 visitors each month, and is the most popular site for free Photoshop actions.

Everything on the site is free.

Here are a couple cool actions.

Photoshop Facelift:

Portrait Pop:

Thanks to Jason Anderson for bringing this to my attention.

My "Twilight" Photograph...

Last week I posted about Zach Hodges "Twilight" tutorial, well, this is my effort.

Here's how I did it.

First, taking the photograph:

1. I used three flashes (SB-800's) triggered by pocket wizards (more on them later this week)
2. The two rear flashes were "bare bulb" with anti-flare cards and the front flash was in a small soft box (see setup image below)
3. All flashes were set to 1/4 power
4. Each person was shot individually and stood on the same (marked) spot in front of a white background

Second, processing the images:

1. I brought the RAW images into Lightroom and over saturated the images
2. Then I brought them into Photoshop and did two things you would usually try to avoid
3. The eyes were over brightened
4. I then over worked the skin, so that is was very smooth, almost "plastic"
5. Using the magic wand I selected the white background, then "inversed" so that the person was selected
6. Because the background was white, separating the subject from the background was really, really easy

Third, the background:

1. I took a nature shot that had a cloudy, dark, ominous sky
2. The image was cropped, leaving mostly sky (what land was left would be covered by people)
3. The image was burned until it was quite dark (and had the right "look & feel")

Finally, bringing it all together:

1. Each person as brought into (or onto) the background image and remained on their own layer, this made it easy to move them into the right position later
2. Once I had everyone into position I then applied the "Dave Hill" technique to the entire image, though I did leave out the fourth and final step of the process as I wanted the image to more "smooth" than "gritty"

and there you have it...

Should you give this a try I would love to see (and share) your results.

The Prize Package Extravaganza Winner is...

Maestro, drum roll please...

The winner of the prize package extravaganza for the November/December photo contest is...

Marcus Brammer of Denton Texas!

Image Name: "Watch Your Step"
Image Location: Venice Beach California
Equipment Used: Cannon 5D: lens 70-300mm, focal length 70mm: exposure 1/400 sec at f/11
Post Production: Post processing was done with Photoshop CS3 and OnOne software

From Mark: "It was the long shadows drew me to take this picture."

You can check out all the cool stuff Marcus won here.

Happy New Year!...

My hope for you is a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year.

Thank you for spending time with me this past year and I look forward to seeing you back in 2009.