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Posts tagged “review

fast track photographer


the title of this post is also the title of a book by dane sanders, wedding photographer and educator extraordinaire out of newport beach in the states, that i finished reading while lazing around in camp during my recent reservist stint.

this book is certainly different from other photography books i have come across. you won’t get f-stops or shutter speeds here. the focus is not even on the business of photography, though at face value that is what it appears to be.

rather, sanders is concerned about the business and marketing of the photographer, which in essence sets the premise for the rest of the book. he explains that with the homogenization (big word, i know) of photography, it is no longer possible to be known for simply shooting fantastic images, especially when people are already drowning in the sea of photos all around (just look at facebook).

thus, sanders believes that the spotlight should be on the photographer, and examining what changes can be made to either transform an indivisual into a dependable freelance, contractual photographer or a maverick signature, brand-name photographer (like him), depending on the personality and preferences of that individual.

with those 2 types forming the foundation, sanders then go into the details. he identified 14 key factors that makes up a photographer’s ‘DNA’ (or pDNA), determining which of the 2 types a photographer falls under and what needs to be done to further improve his/her current practices.

the 14 pDNA quotients are: experience, self-starter, program-starter, confidence, risk tolerance, need for control, need for collaboration, artistic identity, entrepreneurial identity, attractiveness, grumpy factor, creativity from people, creativity from self and self-promotion.

while this book is targeted primarily at wedding photographers, i believe that the principles espoused are relevant to photographers in every genre, especially if their concerns are marketing and growing the business in this day and age. i think that the photography world has been thirsting for literature like this for a long while.

not going to say more. go pick up the book, you won’t regret it.

on to other news, i am bracing myself for non-stop shooting and editing this coming weekend and the start of next week. looks to be fun though. good thing the bugs let me off in time.

for more of my thoughts, click here.


50 1.4

i recently got my hands on canon’s 50mm f1.4 lens and i have to say, it is a piece of glass that i forsee will aid in expanding my visual palette!

i don’t really consider myself a gear-head but hey, everyone loves new toys from time to time. the previous lens that i owned which is similar to this is the 50mm f1.8. it is resting in pieces now, literally, after a fateful encounter with my camera strap, which caught and hurled it to the floor.

so far, the 2 things about the lens that i am most impressed with are its sharpness and its ability to throw the background really out of focus at f1.4. auto-focus speed on the lens is pretty fast too.

needless to say, i can also shoot in low-light conditions now without having to crank up the iso speed on my camera and still maintain an acceptable shutter speed.

on a 1.6x crop body like mine, the effective focal length works out to about 80mm. not really great for street photography (as opposed to 50mm on a full-frame camera, though some say 40mm actually replicates our eyes’ field of vision) but a fantastic option for portraiture.

been shooting mostly headshots of friends with it since i got the lens. i doubt that this lens will overtake my 17-55mm f2.8 as my main lens largely because i like to shoot wide but i will still definitely be using it a fair bit.

for more posts on photography, click here.

shiny new apples

apple recently released new versions of the macbook and the macbook pro. of course, it will be old news by the time you read this. i don’t pretend to maintain a tech blog, unlike my brother’s. but having a brother who is extremely tech-savvy as well as the constant bombardment of advertising messages mean that it is impossible for me to not know these things.

apple’s designers seemed to have injected the genes of the imac into the new macbooks in terms of looks. to be perfectly honest, i am not really a fan of the black area bordering the display. seems to me like apple is trying to extend the palette of colours on their computers beyond the ones that they are already well-known for, such as white and silver. of course, this excludes the old emacs which i consider to be disasters.

performance-wise, i find nothing to jump for joy about on the software side, other than the features than os x users are already familiar with. there are definitely advances in terms of hardware. those looking at the macbook pro will have a 2.4 ghz, 2.58 ghz or 2.8 ghz option while those contemplating the macbook can choose either the 2 ghz or 2.4 ghz. as usual, ram is customizable, up to a maximum of 4 gb for both machines. same with the internal hard drives, which max out at 320 gb.

perhaps the most significant upgrade would have to be the inclusion of the new nvidia graphic cards. the macbook pro will hold the more powerful dedicated version of the nvidia graphic processors, together with the shared one that the macbook features.

on a personal note, i am starting to feel like i need (not want) a macbook pro. i am definitely not one of those gearheads who lust after every new technology in sight. thing is, i am beginning the feel the limitations of my 2 generations-old macbook, especially since the post-processing i do on my photography is very application-intensive and i like to run batch processes.

only problem now is that resources are not unlimited. since i am looking to replace my faithful but aging dslr end of the year, i might have to wait quite a while before i can even entertain the possibility of getting a shiny new apple. well, guess i have to make do with what i have at the moment.

the new macbook starts at S$2088 and the macbook pro at S$3188. both are available from apple online.

for more mac+tech posts, click here.

lightroom 2

adobe released lightroom 2 a couple of days ago and being the photography software geek that i am, i was quick to download the trial version from their website.

my initial concern of backward compatibility with the first version proved to be unfounded as i was able to smoothly transfer my catalogue of photos (all 6000+ of them) into the new version, along with all the edits i had made on them, as well as ALL of the develop presets that i use.

for the uninitiated, lightroom is basically a photo-management software that allows photographers to download their photos and organise them before adjustments to white balance, exposure, contrast, etc. can be made. these adjustments can then be synchronised among an unlimited number of photos, saving time and effort. it is in essence a dressed-up variant of adobe camera raw, with the ability to create web galleries as well as prepare photos for print.

[warning: if you have no prior experience with lightroom, the next part is going to sound like mumbo-jumbo crazyspeak]

the interface remains pretty much the same, with the 5 modules – ‘library’, ‘develop’, ‘slideshow’, ‘print’ and ‘web’ arranged in a linear workflow fashion. what has changed looks-wise is perhaps only the addition of fancier looking icons. users retain the ability to customise the display area to their liking.

the most striking addition to this version really is the ability to make local adjustments on photos, instead of just global adjustments. for instance, it used to be that once the exposure on a photo was tweaked, every single pixel undergoes that same amount of increase or decrease. with lightroom 2, users can apply changes to a selected area by using the ‘brush’ or the ‘gradient’ tool. sounds familiar? yeah, it’s pretty much being able to do ‘masking’ in lightroom without having to take a photo into photoshop.

the other new feature that impressed me is the ability to add a vignette to a photo AFTER it has been cropped. in the first version, the position of the vignette is relative to the edges of the original image, meaning that if i were to crop a picture substantially, the vignette would either be off-centered or hardly visible at all.

kudos to adobe for doing a great job of listening to the feedback of photographers and designing a platform that is increasingly looking like a viable replacement for photoshop. while that might not be the case for those who rely extensively on photoshop to realise their aesthetic vision, lightroom 2 might just prove to be all that the working photographer needs on the post-processing end of things.

lightroom 2 can be purchased off adobe’s website for US$299 or if you already have the first version, the upgrade starts from US$99.

for more mac+tech posts, click here.

the dark knight

i am going to call ‘the dark knight’ probably one of the best films i will watch all year. considering that i hardly feel the compulsion to see the inside of a theatre, this claim may or may not be accurate.

the film follows in the tradition of the over-hyped, box-office record smashing superhero blockbuster. but dismissing ‘the dark knight’ as another ‘hero kills villain to save the day and get the girl’ flick will not do, for this rendition is not simply one of black against white. rather it explores all the grey spaces between those two extremes. this movie is by no means an excursion into the intricacies of the human psyche, but the psychologically-charged script is certainly a refreshing deviation from the mindless bang-about that has come to characterise the genre.

on the technical end of things, ‘the dark knight’ is a masterclass in hollywood excellence (yes, the irony). one can expect the usual gloss that is hollywood cinema – the action sequences beautifully choreographed, the sets darkly atmospheric and the editing top-notch. with the kind of money poured into making this film, it would seem an awful waste if this aspect turned out otherwise.

still, a movie is dead without its actors – the cast so star-studded that even edison chen got a cameo as a receptionist (amazing that they would let him near computers and technology in light of the recent scandal). of special mention is of course, heath ledger, breathing new life into a character that has long since lost its novelty. i was struck by how much restrain he gave the joker, for it would be easy to prance about in stark lunacy. this version of the joker appears to tip-toe the highwire between sanity and madness, occasionally doing a flip with a flourish, flicking his tongue with lick of his blood-stained teeth. in short, madness with a mission. look for ‘best supporting actor’ to be awarded posthumously this year.

it is precisely this ambiguity that lends intellectual weight to the film. vigilante justice is not rooted in black and white; and man, even the very best of us, stands at the edge and ‘a little push’ is all that is required. even the title reveals this. just who is the dark knight? can evil and chaos stand beside honour, valour and love? yes it can. it is also called the human condition.

for more of my thoughts, click here.