Using an iPad as a graphics tablet

This topic came up in today's Intro to Photoshop workshop.  If you have a Mac and an iPad, iPad Pro with Pencil or even an iPhone, there is an app called Astropad that allows you to turn your iDevice into a drawing and creative platform.  I have used it with the original iPad 3 and it worked just fine.  Will be trying it with the iPad Pro and Pencil this weekend.  It does require a Mac client be installed and I do not see an option to work with Windows.

Lightroom 4.2 is now available

One of the things I love about Adobe Creative Suite is how the Application Manager downloads updates automatically.  Lightroom doesn't do that, and you have to launch it to maybe get a notice.  

If you area Lightroom user, head over to and download the 4.2 update.  It's worth your time.

Firmware Updates You Might Care About

We have a lot of members in the club shooting the Canon 7D.  Canon has made Firmware Update 2.0 available for download on their website, and the package contains the instructions to update your camera.  There are some significant enhancements to be found and I recommend users be current on their firmware.  Packages are available for Mac and Windows.

Link to Download

The Pocket Wizard people have updated the firmware on their TTL1 and TTL5 controllers for Canon.  The new code is version 6.150 and adds support for extended control as well as the new radio controller for the Sekonic L-358 Flash Meter.  You need to install the PocketWizard Utility on your computer (the CD was in the box with the unit) and then connect the PW to the computer with the supplied USB cable.  When you launch the PW utility click the Update button and download the new firmware.  Update is very quick.

OS X Mountain Lion

Since a significant proportion of our members are Macintosh users (according to the web site browser in use stats), I wanted to touch on the OS X 10.8 upgrade released by Apple yesterday.  This release, code-named Mountain Lion, adds enhancements to your Macintosh experience.  The upgrade is straightforward, buy the app in the Mac App Store, download it, give it permission to run and away you go.  I have it installed on four machines now and for the most part it works just fine.

I've tested with Photoshop CS6 and Lightroom 4.1 with all the popular plugins, or at least the plugins that I own which include the Nik Suite, the OnOne Software Suite and the Topaz Bundle.  All worked fine.

I did find a couple of no-can-does though.  If you use either of the LaCIE USB3 PCIe card or ExpressCard/34 neither of those work under Mountain Lion.  LaCIE drivers are not working and there is no information on when or if LaCIE will get around to them, one of the many reasons I recommend avoidance of LaCIE products.  Less likely to cause you issues is the Matrox challenge so unless you are using Matrox video encoders no worries.  If you are using any of the Matrox outboard video devices, they need new drivers too, although Matrox is working on them already and I hear middle of August as the target date.

There are significant and subtle differences in Mountain Lion so there are a couple of small learning curves to be aware of.  I suggest reviewing MacWorld's information for more detail.  The only real caveat is hold the upgrade if you have something that has an imminent best before date requiring your computer since that will encourage Mr. Murphy to appear.

So far so good.

Thoughts on Single Image HDR using Photomatix Pro

I am taking a video course with Moose Peterson called Romancing the Landscape.  The class is about a year old and one of the many things I am learning is the tip to handle very flat landscape light before getting to your regular post processing workflow using single image HDR with Photomatix Pro.  I know you can do single image HDR with other products, but I thought I would get a trial version and see what I could do with it based on what I was learning from Moose.

This shot is from last fall and shot with the Hasselblad, wide open with very flat depth of field and originally very flat and very blue light.  This single image HDR from Photomatix Pro is a preset called Photographic 4, saved as a TIF, cataloged in Lightroom and then exported as a much smaller JPEG.  I could certainly have spent more time editing it but I wanted to use this as an example of how single image HDR can really make colours pop.  

This image was shot in Seattle this past spring on a drenching rainy day where the sky was literally that grey and the light was very flat.  Single image HDR pulled detail out of the sidewalk on the left and under the tents on the right, that was really much darker in the original raw file.  Again, I just picked a preset called Monochrome 1 and did no other editing.  Some more work would improve the photo but I got probably 85% of the way to where I would want to be in a single step.

The last image is a composite, multiple images layered together.  Then the entire composite out of Photoshop was driven through Photomatix Pro as a single image HDR using the Surreal preset.  This is intentional, many people think of this look when they hear the acronym HDR and it is specifically what I wanted to achieve, an unreal look to an unreal image.

HDR is most often thought of as a series of composite images where a fair bit of work is required to make the final really stand out.  Take a look at Bryan's class for more information.  What I hoped to share here is how much you can actually accomplish with a single image HDR and a tool focused on HDR work.  


The new phone book's here - ok not really but actually better

FULL DISCLOSURE:  I am an unabashed champion of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.  I generate personal revenue from training people on Lightroom.  Readers should expect me to be enthusiastic about Lightroom.

Now that the mumbo-jumbo is out of the way, I wanted to let all the members know that Adobe released Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4.1 today.  Existing Lightroom 4 users will be prompted to install the update.  In addition to bug fixes and other enhancements it adds support for a number of new cameras including the Canon 1Dx (would be cool if it were actually shipping), the 9arf bargle snarb Fuji X-Pro 1 (that Bryan likes to call "Ross' favourite camera" as if warts could be favourites), the 5D mark III, the Nikon D4, the Nikon D800 and D800e, the Leica M Monochrom, the Leica X2 as well as lens profiles for the new Sigma lenses for micro four-thirds.

At its new retail price of $149, imho there is no more feature rich and powerful image management and editing software on the market.  Photoshop CS6 is certainly a powerful tool, but even Adobe says it is a designer's tool first and a photographer's tool second with Lightroom being their flagship tool for photographers.  Even Apple Aperture evangelist, professional photographer and noted curmudgeon Scott Bourne is switching to Lightroom.

It's available in lots of places, online and in retail stores (call Bryan at Henry's at 905-898-4655 if you want a box product with media) and comes to run on both Windows and Mac OS X.

If your photo editing software is older, or you don't have a catalog management system for your photographs and would like a great one with an integrated editor, you cannot lose with Lightroom.


Gear Review ; The Expo Disc

I've now done a lot of simple shoots and two major shoots using the Expo Disc.  At first glance, I was very skeptical of this pearlescent piece of plastic in a metal ring but the proof, as my granny used to say, is in the pudding.

Most all, or certainly all the ones I've seen, digital cameras have rich white balance controls.  Twenty five years ago, I would use a Minolta Color Meter III for critical film shoots to ensure I was going to get colours that were "correct".  With digital, white balance is much simpler to achieve but many folks don't ever switch off auto.  That's too bad but a topic for a different post.

What I want to talk about here is building a custom white balance for your shoot.  It's really easy.

1.  Set your camera exposure properly for the light from the sky, and take a photo of a Kodak 18% grey card.  Oops.  Don't have one handy, or a grey popup reflector in your bag?  That's the point of the Expo Disc.

So here's how it works.

1.  Put the Expo Disc on to the end of your lens.  You can just hold it there or buy the size that fits the largest diameter filter ring you will typically use.

2.  Turn autofocus off

3.  Point the camera towards your light source with the disc on (like the sky for example) and take a photo allowing your camera to manage exposure.

4.  Go into your camera's menu settings and choose Custom White Balance and select it.  It will ask you if you want it to use the current image, meaning that greyish white thing you just shot.  Select yes.

5.  Now that the white balance has been recordedm, make sure your white balance is set to use Custom.  Use this white balance until the end of your shoot or the light changes, such as from cloudy overcast to bright sun.

That's it.  While it surely is more work than leaving everything on auto or even picking one of the presets for white balance, you will be getting the right white balance for the light where you are.

Now why bother?  Although we can do amazing things in our digital post processing, the closer to a great image we are when we start, the better we are when we end.  Having taken the 60 seconds to do this for my cameras prior to shoots, when I load the images into my editor, I have found that my editing time is less, and that I have to do a lot less tweaking.  And while I believe that the automatic white balance in my cameras is pretty darn accurate, I have shot the same subject at the same time with custom white balance and with auto white balance and for me, i prefer the custom.  Your mileage may vary, but if you want to get a really great white balance, the Expo Disc gets the job done well and with consistency.

Keep making photographs


Bryan Weiss on "In the Know"

This wednesday, June 22nd 2011, Bryan Weiss, Owner of Daytripper Photo and co-founder of the Newmarket Camera Club will be appearing on the Rogers Cable 10 Newmarket show "In the Know" with host Julia Suppa.  Be sure to tune in from 6-7pm and call in with your photography questions!  He will be talking about photography basics and showing many cameras and photos to help you know whats the right model for you and why!
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