Category Archives: Tips and Tricks

Using Nik Plug-ins with Capture NX 2

As much as I like using Nikon’s Capture NX 2 image editing software for processing my NEF files, I also really like using Nik Software’s plug-ins.  Currently, only Color Efex Pro 3 works natively within the Capture NX 2 environment.  However, I was recently having a discussion with one of my contacts at Nik Software, and he mentioned an interesting fact: the Lightroom implementations of Nik’s plug-ins can essentially be made to work as “stand-alone” applications, and launched directly from Capture NX 2.  This is because Lightroom doesn’t really support “plug-ins,” instead it supports external editing applications.  The upside of this design is that if you have the Lightroom version of a Nik plug-in installed, you can send it TIFFs or JPEGs directly without using Lightroom or Photoshop!

Here’s how to make Nik Plug-ins work with Capture NX 2 as external editors: Continue reading Using Nik Plug-ins with Capture NX 2

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Stepping outside the comfort zone

Small strobes DO produce big results!

There’s a reason I shoot wildlife and landscapes.  Birds and deer don’t ever complain that I didn’t get their “good side,” or ask me to retouch their photos.  Also, most outdoor photography is all about natural light.  I admit, I’m a big fan of The Hot Shoe Diaries and I’m amazed at what can be done with the Nikon CLS system.  I just don’t have many opportunities to try out the fancy techniques.  That changed on Saturday when I attended my friend David Tejada’s Small Strobes, Big Results workshop.  Even though I had a reasonable understanding of flash technique, David’s class brought everything together in a studio/location setting.

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The Importance of Settings Presets

Between writing my eBooks and teaching my photography workshops, I’ve used a lot of processing tools in a variety of ways.  Usually, when I’m teaching, my students will be frantically writing down settings that I use to try to remember the various techniques for sharpening or color enhancement.  Certainly, it’s important to keep notes of the settings that you use often, but many people overlook the simplest way of them all to maintain your commonly used settings– saving presets.

Let’s face it, post-processing isn’t something that we want to spend hours doing.  Time saved in post can be time used for making more photographs.  Almost every image editing suite I’ve used offers the option of saving custom settings so that the next time you edit an image, you can quickly reproduce the exact color or sharpness setting that you took hours to create the day before.

The mechanism by which you store saved settings will depend on your editor, so you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the appropriate help topics or the user manual to determine the way to save settings.  Once you do that, you can quickly reproduce certain “looks” and other effects without having to consult your handwritten notes.  The other nice thing about using presets is that they provide you with a viable starting point for further fine-tuning.  For example, you might have a generic tone curve that you use to adjust image contrast for portraits.  Once you apply the basic tone curve, you can tweak it to suit the nuances of your specific image.  Other times, the factory default settings can be a bit extreme, and a user-defined preset can allow you to use a tool with a starting point that is more to your liking.  Often time you’ll see this with special effects filters.

Good candidates for saved presets:

  • Sharpening: USM, High Pass, or Smart Sharpen
  • Levels & Curves (contrast)
  • Saturation/Vibrance (color)
  • Black & White conversion
  • Special Effects filters
When a tool lets you save your settings, take advantage of this time-saving feature!

Happy shooting!

-Jason

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Lightpainting in Garden of the Gods

After what has seemed like an eternal winter, the weather here in Colorado is finally warming up.  Moreover, we seem to have shaken the 60 mph winds that made photography difficult last week.  I finally got out to attempt a project that I’d been previsualizing for some time; lightpainting the Siamese Twins formation in Garden of the Gods.

I’ve photographed this formation before during the daytime; it’s a popular spot to catch the juxtaposition of the twin rock towers with the summit of Pikes Peak between them.  But I’d never hiked to it at night.

The Siamese Twins, in the classic daytime capture.

Lightpainting is a technique whereby you artificially illuminate your subject with a flashlight or lantern.  This technique enables you to control the exact placement of light in the scene and you can use it to selectively illuminate subjects of interest.  I headed up to the Siamese twins with my gear in a Think Tank “Streetwalker Pro” bag.  I had my D3s, 16-35/4, 24-70/2.8 and a 70-200/2.8 VR II.  I also had my Gitzo tripod and a couple of strong flashlights.  I reached the formation about 20 minutes after sundown and I set up.

Continue reading Lightpainting in Garden of the Gods

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Future, thy name is SSD

It seems like every six months or so, you see a newer, faster microchip processor hitting the market.  My original Mac SE, which cost me $1800 (with educational discount) in 1989, ran at a whopping 8 megaHertz.  Today, we have dual-core, quad-core, and even octal-core machines running from 2-3 gigaHertz.  That’s fast.  Memory is faster, graphics cards are faster, everything is FASTER!  Except, that is, for your hard drive. Yes, while hard drives have gotten faster over the years, they now represent the weak link in your ability to load and process data.  Let’s face it, most computers are not processor-limited anymore.  Any halfway decent machine is going to run fast, and unless you are into hard-core video rendering, even the lower end of the processor line-up will be very good.

But back to those hard drives.  They rotate.  They have moving parts.  They can fail.  My wife’s hard drive failed after barely a year in a brand-new iMac.  The good news is that I’ve seen the future, and it is amazing.  Solid-state drives (SSDs) are computer equivalents of the flash memory we use in our cameras.  No moving parts, and damn near instant read times.  SSD’s have been out for a few years; I first saw them showing up as an expensive option in the Apple MacBook Air.  I had no idea why anyone would want to pay such a premium for a drive that had less capacity than the standard HDD.  Until I saw the light.

First of all, consider how we use our laptops.  For many of us, the laptop is the “travel” computer.  We have a primary desktop computer at home to do our heavy-lifting.  A clean install of my OS (in my case, Mac OS 10.6) with my critical applications runs about 45GB.  Even with a 120GB drive, that still leaves me a good bit of free space.  On my laptop, I don’t need to store every NEF I’ve shot or my entire music collection (hello, iPhone), so a 128GB drive is actually plenty.  Moreover, I usually travel with a 250GB FW800 drive to store my images on, anyway. Continue reading Future, thy name is SSD

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