In the summer of 2006, I spent a weekend in Chicago with photographer Arnold Crane. Arnold was an expert with film cameras; he owned just about every Leica product made, and he also was a Nikon user. Arnold had recently made the transition to digital photography when he purchased a couple of Nikon D2x bodies. As you might expect, for someone used to shooting and processing his own black and white film, the leap to digital presented a tremendously steep learning curve. I told Arnold that in exchange for lodging and good conversation (the man did interview most of the 20th century master photographers), I’d do my best to help him get a basic processing and printing workflow going.
Arnold and I spent two solid days going through the fundamental steps of processing, using Nikon’s Capture NX software. Since Arnold had never used Photoshop, it seemed reasonable enough to try the new Nikon software on his NEFs. By the end of that weekend, I had sketched out, on paper, what would become my standard approach to NEF editing with Capture NX. I was also very tired! When I returned to Colorado I realized that I might have a chance to put the whole concept of NEF editing with Capture NX into writing. And so I did.
Luminescence of Nature Press was born in late 2006 when I published The Photographer’s Guide to Capture NX. I had no idea what would happen next. As it turned out, many Nikon users around the Internet were struggling with the NX interface (especially those used to Photoshop or Nikon Capture 4). The completely new editing paradigm of adding adjustments to an Edit List instead of choosing predefined tools was difficult for many people to come to grips with. Moreover, the new Control Point feature introduced in Capture NX made local editing amazingly simple, once you knew what to do. Word got around that my eBook was helpful, and things have grown steadily since.
Before I went full-time into photography, I had received a doctorate degree (in biology) from the University of California, Riverside. In the early 1990’s there wasn’t a lot of dedicated research scholarship funding in the biology department, so I did what most of us in the department did to pay our bills: I taught. Being a graduate teaching assistant was a truly rewarding experience. When you teach, you have to be an effective communicator. What’s more, you have to understand your target audience. Trying to explain the biochemistry of fermentation to college freshmen in a way they can understand is no different than trying to teach someone who has barely used a computer how to perform digital post-processing. At the end of the day, the satisfaction that comes from knowing that you’ve helped someone improve their knowledge or skills is second to none.
When it comes to photography, there is the technical side and the creative side. With traditional darkroom methods, photographers could choose whether to embrace the technical side and process their own film or to farm out that work to a local lab. Today, digital photography practically requires that a photographer have at least some form of computer skills, especially if they want to get the most from their images by shooting in RAW. Levels & Curves is a powerful tool, but it’s a hard concept to grasp if you’re used to a traditional darkroom setting.
In the last five years, I’m happy to have grown my library from that one simple eBook on Capture NX to a stable of multiple publications and video training tutorials. At the end of the day, photographers don’t want to be software engineers. They want to share a creative vision. If I have helped you along your path to digital proficiency, I am happy to have done so. I look forward to meeting more of you in 2012 on my Photo Safaris and web training sessions. The best part about this job is meeting people and making an impact in their photography!