A girly-man (me) and his dogs...

One of my dogs (Bonnie) was ill this past week, requiring a couple trips to the hospital, and though she is doing fine now (fully recovered), it was a scary few days.

So it made me reflect on some of my dog posts and thought I would "re-run" one of them today, so here it is:

It was not that long ago that I thought "dogs are stupid", you couldn't go away without either taking them with you or finding a sitter, it involved getting up in the middle of the night to let them out, they require constant walks, and don't even get me started in picking up their "little gifts".

So needless to say, I was NEVER going to be a dog owner.

But seven years ago our daughters REALLY wanted a dog, mind you we had gotten them every pet you can imagine in an effort to avoid that very thing, but gerbils won't fetch, cats are too cool for people and goats, well they just smell way too bad and hate it when you put ribbons in their hair.

I finally caved and got a miniature schnauzer as it's small and doesn't shed.

Well 30 seconds into dog ownership I realized the error of my ways. I loved my dog.

Two years later we got another schnauzer and just last year we rescued a third.

We put in a pellet stove and our first dog, Bonnie, can be found daily warming her buns in front of the fire and has no problem letting me know when the pellets are getting low.

I got my wife this canvas (of Bonnie ~ Cali ~ Gracie) for Christmas because the last things she sees every time she leaves the house are these three little faces peering out from between the fence posts begging her to stay.

People who don't have dogs will think the following is goofy (no pun intended, well, maybe a little), dog owners will appreciate it though (unless of course you are Michael Vick):

A Dogs Ten Commandments.........

1. Before you take me home know that my life is likely to last 10-15 years, so please be sure you are in it for the long haul.

2. Give me time to understand what you want from me

3. Place your trust in me. I will always trust you.

4. Don't be angry with me for long and don't lock me up as punishment.

5. You have your work, your entertainment, and your friends. I only have you and any separation from you is painful.

6. Talk to me. Even if I don't understand your words, I do understand your voice when speaking to me.

7. Be aware that however you treat me, I will never forget it.

8. Before you scold me for being lazy or uncooperative, ask yourself if something might be wrong. Perhaps I'm not getting the right food, I’ve been in the sun too long, or my heart might be getting old or weak.

9. Please take care of me when I grow old.

10. When it is time for me to “go on ahead”, please stay with me. Don’t say “I can't bear to watch” because I won’t want to face it alone. Everything is easier for ME if you are there, because I love you so.

Wanna Learn for free? Check this out...

Peachpit Photo Club has a library of past seminars that are 1 hour to 1 1/4 hour long that you can watch for free. Even better you can download these lessons for future viewing at time that is more convenient to you (and when you may not have internet access).

You will find seminars from photographers like Syl Arenas (flash photography), Matt Kloskowski (Photoshop), Scott Kelby (Photography Q&A), David Ziser (wedding photography), and many more.

While you are there be sure to sign up for an upcoming seminar with wildlife photographer Moose Peterson to be held on March 8th.

To make these seminars an even better learning experience each one comes with an assignment for you to complete that will help reinforce what you just learned.

Can't get much better than that.

So head over to the Peachpit Photo Club and let the learning begin.

Don't miss out on this... Seriously...

You have until February 28th to order one years worth of education from Photovision for a mere $49!

That's a saving of $150 (who said math wouldn't come in handy after school).


You will get six DVD's (one every other month), each over 3 hours long and stuffed full of photographic educational info from 6 (or more) nationally known photographers.

Photographers like Joel Grimes, Joe Photo, and many, many more.

$8 for each DVD is too good to pass on which is why I bought it too.

To get this deal you will need to use the promo code "WESTCOTT" during checkout.

You only have five days left so follow this link and do it right now.

New Shiny Image Contest details..

So before I tell you the details let me share with you the prize package:

Prize 1. The two DVD set "Digital WakeUp Call" from David Ziser. I don't think anyone has combined photography AND business as well as David, and he is the most prolific blogger on the surface of the earth and the entries are packed with useful information (no fluff).

Prize 2. "Adobe Photoshop CS4 Book for Digital Photographers" from Scott Kelby.

Scott Kelby trains tens of thousands of professional photographers every year on how to use Photoshop, and almost without exception they have the same questions, the same problems, and the same challenges—and that’s exactly what Shares with you in this book.

Prize 3. The (really) good folks over at IGT America will be donating a print, but not just any print, they are going to take an image from you the winner (an image of your choosing) and give you back a 16 x 20 Metal Print!

How cool is that?

Now for the details, the contest starts today (February 21st) and the winner will be announced on Thursday March 31st. That should give everybody enough time to create their image(s).

How do you you enter?

1. Join the Weekly Photo Tips Flickr Group (details on how to join can be found here).

2. Upload one (or more) image(s) of a reflective object (glass, metal, etc.). Check out our recent post on "photographing reflective surfaces" for a bunch of resources that will help you out.

3. Leave one (or more) comments on any blog post on Weekly Photo Tips and/or a comment on any of the videos on our YouTube channel.

We will mail the prize package to the lucky winner.

The rules are pretty simple, you can enter as many times as you like (one comment + one image upload = one contest entry), all ownership rights of all images remain with you the photographer.

The only thing we will use them (the images) for is to show as occasional "samples" of images
we receive as contest entries and to announce the winner.

Lastly, the contest is open to everyone world wide, if the winner should be outside the contagious 48 United States, they (the winner) will be responsible (only) for the cost of shipping.

Good luck everyone.

Photoflex LiteDome softbox sale!...

Right now you can get a Photoflex LiteDome softbox on sale for $85 with free shipping.

I own this softbox and can tell you it is quality construction and materials, it folds down to next to nothing making it extremely portable, and now the price makes it an unbeatable option.

Here is the setup shot from a shoot we did for a national food producer (you can read more about this shoot along with other images here).

And here is the final result.

So check out the Photoflex LiteDome softbox, you may want to ad it to your arsenal of light shaping tools.

Below is a video we did demonstrating the Photoflex LiteDome softbox, subscribers will need to return to the blog or can also head directly to our YouTube channel to watch it.

"Shiny" new contest....

It has been too long since our last contest and I have plenty of photography goodies to give away.

A recent post was about "photographing reflective surfaces" so that will be this contests theme.

It will be similar to past contests, you will need to submit an image of a shiny/reflective object to our Flickr group, and leave a comment on any post on the blog and/or our YouTube channel.

Tune in this coming Monday for all the details, the rules by which we will play, but most importantly, what the super duper prize package will be.

See ya Monday!

You probably already know this...

But just in case you don't, here it is.

David "The Strobist" Hobby and Joe "Numnuts" McNally are teaming up for the "FLASHBUS 2011 Tour".

It is a 29 city, 13,000 mile, all in 42 days tour that will provide you the opportunity to learn from the two people sitting at the very top of the small light pyramid.

And it's only $99 so follow this link and see if you can still snag a seat.

Sadly, it is already 3/4's sold out, so run, don't walk to the registration page.

Good luck.

Resources on photographing reflective surfaces...

One of the more challenging things to light is glass (and other highly reflective surfaces), because normally when we photograph a subject we are putting our light on that subject. But with glass we do the opposite, we are lighting around the subject.

I have put together some incredible examples of how to light reflective surfaces, so hang on, here goes:

The first resource (of course) is from David Hobby (aka Strobist), it was an assignment he shot of flavored vodkas, so follow this link to see all the shiny details.

Resource number two is from Strobist as well (seeing a theme here?), and it too involves alcohol (theme number two), this time it's beer, check it out.

This link is from DIY Photography (more beer).

These three links are from Pixiq (one, two, and three) and show dramatically different ways of shooting the same product (Vodka).

Here are the last two well done tutorials for lighting glass here and here (sorry, no alcohol in these).

We will close with a video tutorial on how to shoot glass.

Subscribers, you know the routine, you will need to return to the blog to watch the video (as it does not get pushed through with your subscription).

Life from the lighter side...

1. I think part of a best friend's responsibility should be to immediately come to your house and clear your computer history if you die.

2. Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize that you are so totally wrong.

3. All those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger was a big mistake.

4. There is much need for a "sarcasm" font.

5. I am 55 and still have not figured out how to fold a fitted sheet.

6. I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least some kind of tired.

7. Bad decisions often make our best and funniest stories.

8. You never know when it'll strike, but there comes a moment at work when you come to the realization that you're just not going to do one more productive thing for the rest of the day.

9. Can we just ignore whatever comes after Blu-ray? I don't want to restart my video collection yet again..... Beta, VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, and...

10. I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my thirty page chapter that I swear I did not make any changes to.

11. Am I the only person who keeps certain numbers in their cell phone just so I know who not to answer when they call?

12. I think the freezer deserves a light as well.

13. I totally disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night more kisses begin with Alcohol than with "K".

14. I have a hard time determining where boredom ends and hunger begins.

15. How many times is it appropriate to say "What?" before you just nod and smile because you still didn't understand a word being said?

16. Shirts get dirty. socks get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Pants? Pants never get dirty, you can wear pants forever.

17. There are times when I will look down at my watch 3 or 4 times and still not know what time it is.

18. Even under ideal conditions I have trouble locating my car keys in my pocket, finding my cell phone, or even something as big as my van - but I can hit the snooze button from 3 feet away, coming out of a dead sleep with eyes closed, doing it in about 2 seconds nailing it the first time, every time.

19. The first testicular guard, the "Cup", was used in Hockey in 1874. The first helmet was used in 1974. So this means it took men only 100 years to realize that their brain was important too. Who says we (men) are slow?

I am far older than I realized...

Things from when I was a kid...

1) When I was a kid we didn't have the Internet. If we wanted to know something, we had to go to the library and look it up ourselves.

2) There was no email, we had to actually write somebody a letter - with a pen and paper! Then we had to walk walk to the mailbox, and it would take like a week to get there. Stamps were 10 cents.

3) Child Protective Services didn't care if my mom beat me. As a matter of fact, the parents of all my friends and my teachers could "discipline" me too.

4) There were no such things as MP3's or iTunes! If you wanted to steal music, you had to go to the record store and steal the 45 yourself.

5) Or you had to wait around all day to tape it off the radio, and the DJ would usually talk over the beginning and totally screw it all up! There were no CD players! I had an FM converter in my first car, and after saving a few dollars moved up to an 8 track player.

6) We didn't have fancy shmancy things like Call Waiting! If you were on the phone and somebody else called, they got a busy signal, that's it! When I was REAL young we had a party line (which meant our neighbors and us shared the same line), two short rings and the call was for us, one long ring meant it was for our neighbor and at any time folks could pick up the phone and listen to your neighbors call.

7) There weren't any cell phones either (only on Star Trek). If you left the house, you were actually out of touch with your "friends". If you REALLY had to reach someone you could go to the nearest corner and slide in a dime inot the pay phone to make a call.

8) No Caller ID either/ When the phone rang it was a crap shoot, you had no idea who it was.

9) You weren't even allowed to own a phone, you had to rent them monthly for Ma Bell.

10) Our big technology break through was the Atari 2600 with a game called "Pong". Your screen avatar was a little green square!

11) You had to use a little book called a TV Guide to find out what was on! We had just three channels/stations. We actually had to walk over to the TV to change the channel or adjust the volume.

12) There was no Cartoon Network, you could only get cartoons on Saturday Morning and Davey and Goliath on Sunday morning.

13) Microwaves? If we wanted to heat something up, we had to use the stove.

14) Seatbelts and car seats? I don't think so.

15) In grade school we would have "duck and cover" drills that included going to the fallout shelter (in case of nuclear attack)

Some interesting fact from the mid 1960's:

Cost of a new home: $16,500.00
Cost of a gallon of regular gas: 31 cents
Cost of a gallon of Milk: 49 cents

Americas Top TV Shows

1 ) Bonanza
2 ) Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.
3 ) The Lucy Show
4 ) The Red Skelton Hour
5 ) Batman
6 ) The Andy Griffith Show
7 ) Bewitched
8 ) The Beverly Hillbillies
9 ) Hogan's Heroes
10 ) Green Acres
11 ) Get Smart

OMG! I am suddenly feeling old... really, really old.

You can't have too much memory...

If you are in the market for memory I have a couple of sweet Valentines Day deals for you from Adorama, great prices, customer service to match their prices, and shipping is free.

The first deal is for a 6 pack of 4GB SanDisk Ultra II Compact Flash memory cards and it includes a Think Tank card case to hold them and you get it all for only $74.95. That's almost half off the regular price (46% to be exact).

I've used SanDisk for quite some time and have been very happy with their performance, there are times when I shoot fast (machine gunning it) and have never had to wait while images are written to the card.

Deal number two is for a Lexar 16GB 100x Platinum II Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) Memory Card for just $29.95 (again, with free shipping). If you purchase two Adorama will take an additional dollar off each card.

That Gritty Dave Hill Look...

In the 4 plus years we have been writing this blog our post regarding the "faux" Dave Hill look is by far one of our most popular posts, so here it is again.

If you have not seen the work of Dave Hill you need to, please take a minute (or 10) and look at his incredible images.

Now to imply that the technique I am about to show you is "just like Dave Hill's" would be a like saying my child worn minivan is just like a Ferrari. The only similarities is that they both have license plates, after that all similarities come to an end.

Though the ladies do love my minivan, as it is the "sport" version.


Anyway, the technique I am going to show you will give your images a cool gritty look and works on most images, but it does work best on high key images. Below are several of my examples.

And though it looks like a lot of steps, after you have done it a couple times it will take you only about a minute to complete (really).

So here goes:

Step 1:
Open your image in Photoshop and create a duplicate the layer.
Go to "Filter" - "Other" - "High Pass" set the Radius to 4 Pixels.
On the Layers palette select the "Vivid Light" blending mode.
Flatten the image.

Step 2:
Create a duplicate the layer (again).
Go to "Filter" - "Other" - "High Pass" set the Radius to 7 Pixels.
On the Layers palette select the "Color" blending mode with an opacity of 40%.
Flatten the image.

Step 3:
Create a duplicate the layer (one last time).
Go to "Filter" - "Blur" - "Gaussian" set the Radius to 9.5 Pixels.
Go to "Filter" - "Noise" - "Add Noise" set Amount to 3%.
Got to "Layer" - "Layer Mask" - "Hide All"
Now use the lasso tool and select only the eyes (assuming the image has eyes, for multiple selections hold the shift key).
Go to "Select" - "Refine Edges" - set "Feather" to 5-6 pixels, then "Select" - "Inverse"
Select the brush on your tool palette, set the brush opacity to 30% and brush over the entire image once.
Flatten the image.

Step 4:
Go to "Filter" - "Sharpen" - "Unsharp Mask" and use the following settings:
Amount 100%
Radius 30.0 pixels
Threshold 0 Levels

That's it, give it a try, and I would love to see your results.

If you click on any of the images below they will open larger and in a new window so you can have a better view of how the effect has changed each image.

41 fun & educational Photoshop effects...

This is a link I came across sometime back and wanted to share with you folks, it's "41 Nicest Photoshop Photo Effects - Photoshop Tutorials".

I am not going to bore you with listing them all (because you really should go take a look), but I have done a handful of these tutorials and will share the results of two that I have done below.

Before you say things like "I don't want to give my client a tattoo", "surrealism is not part of my business model", or "Scott, you really are the smartest guy I know" (well okay, no one will say that), but before you say the first two realize that doing these kind of tutorials will have you using layers, brushes, and techniques in new (or different) ways that just might make you a better user of Photoshop.

And what starts out as a good learning tool could very well turn into a fun little project for a friend or family member.

Here are my two examples, the first is the "crack and peel skin". For this one you will need a background images, I used rust and dried mud, both of which I got (for free) at CG Textures.

The second is the "tribal tattoo" and I don't remember where I got the tattoo, sorry.

To get a better look simply click on any of the images to view larger and in a new window.

Westcott Apollo Softbox Review...

Here is our video review of the Westcott Apollo softbox.

Included here are a couple photos showing the wooden dowel extender we added for two reasons:

1. To give the center shaft additional stiffness/rigidity so that when we tighten down the thumb screw (on the flash bracket) it does not dent/collapse the shaft, and

2. When closing the softbox the center ring pulls beyond the shaft, so the next time you use the softbox there is a bit of fumbling (and mumbling) as you try and line up the shaft and center ring

The dowel cost (well) under a dollar and keeps the shaft from getting beat up during use and makes setup just that much easier. We did not glue it in so that if (for what ever reason) it needed to be removed at some point in the future.

Don't misunderstand me, the dowel does not take this from a good softbox to a great one, the Westcott Apollo softbox is outstanding... period.

It simply makes life a little bit easier.

Though they are not on sale right now (current price is $114 with free shipping), Adorama will often have them on sale for $95 with free shipping, so keep an eye on their site.

Below is our video review, subscribers will need to return to the blog or head directly over to our YouTube channel to watch it.

Strobist Photo Trade Secrets...

Strobist Photo Trade Secrets, Volume 2: Portrait Lighting Techniques has been released.

Similar to Volume 1 (see our review here), you get a lot of great lighting tips, but this set is focused on shooting portraits and are even more affordable (only $17.99).

You will find 25 different portrait lighting scenarios (microlessons) and the vast majority are shot using only SpeedLights, and many using just one light.

Great lessons, a wonderful resource, so please head over to Peachpit and check it out for yourself.

FYI: the spiral binding you see in the images below are my own "hack" that you can learn more about in our other review.

Winter in America...

We got 8 inches of snow yesterday and here is our forecast for today... another 12-18 inches... maybe more, they're "not sure".

Of course I am not telling many of you anything new as the storms we have been experiencing have already kicked the stuffing out of many of your communities on their way here.

Here are some image I received yesterday.

Feel free to post some of your winter images on the Weekly Photo Tips Flickr group, I would love to see them.

Phenomenal learning opportunity... FREE!

Learning Photoshop can be a daunting (and sometimes expensive) task. In the past I have shared some free resources but I think I may have stumbled across one of the most thorough Photoshop CS5 courses out there.

It is "Photoshop CS5" taught by Jason Welsh of the Michigan MI Learning Center and is available through iTunes U.

There is a total of 15 lessons, 15 assignments, and it comes with all of the practice images used throughout the entire course.

The 15 lessons are broken down into 132 different video presentations, the shortest is just one minute in length and the longest being 12. Small, manageable, and easy to digest bites of Photoshop information. This works out nicely in that you are not bound to the computer to watch long and sometimes overwhelming lessons.

Though the video segments are short, combined they total over 9 hours of viewing/learning.

Follow this link for all of the details.

Be sure to check out Jason's website and his YouTube channel, where you'll find over 1,700 videos covering Photoshop, 3D modeling, and much, much more.

Below is the course intro video, enjoy.