Inspired by Ray

Posted January 17th, 2014 by   |  Photography, Workshops  |  Permalink
Private workshop

Ray never stops learning. Here we are working in Photoshop on one of Ray’s personally-built computers.

One of the neat aspects of my job is that I get to travel around the world meeting lots of interesting people. Earlier this week I was down in Tampa, Florida doing a two-day private workshop with a gentleman named Ray. His goals were to learn a number of specific Photoshop techniques that he could use for his digital photography. Ray is 80 years old and has been shooting photos for the bulk of his life. During my time with him, he showed me images he created in the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s that blew my socks off. His creativity, his ability to pose subjects and create mood really impressed me.

Ray’s working career ran the gamut from owning a family business, to owning a flight charter service in Puerto Rico, to flying Boeing 727s as a commercial airline pilot for over 20 years. He’s ridden his Harley Davidson around North America multiple times, has traveled the world, builds his own computers, started a commercial testing laboratory, and the list goes on and on and on. The man is a living, breathing, walking fireball of constant energy.

More than all of his accomplishments though, I was most impressed with his tenacity towards learning. He never stops learning or pushing himself. Using his Nikon D800, Ray photographs his grandchildren’s basketball games, his neighbor’s birthday parties, his community center and anything else that strikes his fancy.

Ray stuck with me each day as we went through incredible detail in Photoshop. When we finished our first day of Photoshop work, I told Ray that it was time to quit, but he looked at me and said, “I’d keep working with you until midnight if you’d like.” On our second day, Ray actually said that we had to stop, but only because he was going on a date in a few hours to see Gershwin’s play, Porgy and Bess.

Ray never stops and I draw immense inspiration from his example. My hope for you is that you’ll never stop learning either.





Testing Nikon D600 Dynamic Range in Destin, Florida

Posted January 4th, 2013 by   |  Photography, Software  |  Permalink

A few days ago I took the new Nikon D600 to Destin, Florida to put it through it’s paces. My kit was simple, consisting of the D600 along with three lenses; the 14-24mm f2.8, the 24-70mm f2.8 and the 70-200mm f2.8.

One of my goals during the photo walk was to get a feel for how the camera worked for HDR photography. The D600 will only auto-bracket three frames in a sequence, compared to 9 frames in a Nikon D800 or D4. Previous Nikon pro-sumer cameras like the Nikon D7000 and the Nikon D90 also bracketed three frames in a sequence, but they were limited to two stops of exposure variation between each frame. A new feature on the D600 is that it allows up to three stops of exposure variation between each frame, which is approaching the bracketing range of the higher-end pro cameras.

I used the bracketing function on the D600 quite a bit and configured the camera to take three images, each 3.0 stops apart. This setting “3F 3.0” is just enough spread to cover most HDR scenarios such as this image of the staircase below. I performed the HDR merge in Nik HDR Efex Pro 2, then converted it to black and white in Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.

Black and white stairwell

Black and white stairwell along the Destin Harbor boardwalk. Nikon D600, 14-24mm f2.8.

Another one of my goals during the trip was to better understand the dynamic range of the D600 RAW files and see if its images are comparable to the Nikon D800. I’ve been amazed at what I’ve been able to pull out of the D800 (see this D800 post) so I shot a few high contrast images with the D600 that would put the camera to the test. In this first shot of the fishing boat, I shot a single frame in 14-bit RAW, then processed the shot using Adobe Lightroom and the Detail Extractor filter in Nik Color Efex Pro 4. As I expected, the D600 has an excellent ability to capture a full range from shadows to highlights.

offshore fishing boat

Offshore fishing boat in Destin Harbor, preparing to face the storm. Nikon D600, 70-200mm f2.8.

This was a pretty good result, but I wanted to really push the camera to see what was possible. For the next image, I took a severely underexposed image of a hotel and worked it over in Lightroom to see what I could pull out. Sure enough, the RAW file on a D600 had more than enough data to produce a beautiful shot. See the before/after below.

Wyndham Emerald Grande Destin

Here’s the before shot of the Wyndham Emerald Grande. Nikon D600, 14-24mm f2.8.

Wyndham Emerald Grande Destin

After processing in Lightroom 4 and Nik Color Efex Pro 4. Wyndham Emerald Grande, BMW, and palm tree. Destin, Florida. Nikon D600, 14-24mm f2.8.

I’m really liking this little Nikon D600 camera. The 24MP RAW files are excellent and I’m very pleased with the camera’s dynamic range. As I’ve said before, I love the smaller camera body for travel. This camera is a winner.





A Good HDR Burger

Posted February 2nd, 2012 by   |  Photography, Software  |  Permalink
Moonlite Diner near Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA.

Moonlite Diner near Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA.

A few nights ago I had just finished up running two weeks of photo workshops in Florida and I was craving an old-fashioned American hamburger. I found this place called the Moonlight Diner near Fort Lauderdale and figured they ought to have some big ol’ greasy burgers. I’m happy to say, their double-patty cheese and bacon burger hit the spot. The waitresses were all running around with “Got Shakes?” t-shirts and spoke in the unique diner language of “honey” “sweets” and “what kin I git fur ya?”

After the burger and fries, I decided I had to immortalize my experience with an HDR image. Since I had my Nikon D700 and 24-70mm f2.8 with me, I bracketed a sequence of 7 exposures. This shot was about 45 minutes after sunset, so there was just a little bit of blue left in the sky. My goal was to include the real crescent moon in the sky, but it was hidden by the evening cloud cover. Oh well, I’ll have to come back some day and try it all over again!





Between Workshops

Posted January 25th, 2012 by   |  Photography, Travel  |  Permalink

I’m down in sunny Florida running workshops for the Nikonians Academy and had a few hours this afternoon to hang at the beach near Fort Lauderdale. I took along my Nikon D700 and 24-70mm f2.8 lens just in case any interesting shots came up. While shooting the Dania Point fishing pier, a nice couple came over to ask me to take their photo. Of course, I said yes! Look at these beautiful people. They are from New Jersey and were taking some time to enjoy the sun. After the quick shots, she had her husband take a couple pics of me with their camera. It was a veritable festival of cameras right there on the beach.

Two love birds kissing in the Florida sun.

Two love birds kissing in the Florida sun.

Kissing each other seemed so much nicer than the standard pose here. But, you gotta do what you gotta do as a photographer.

Kissing each other seemed so much nicer than the standard pose here. But, you gotta do what you gotta do as a photographer.

An HDR shot of the Dania Point fishing pier.

An HDR shot of the Dania Point fishing pier.





Cocoa Beach, FL

Posted February 3rd, 2010 by   |  Photography, Travel  |  Permalink

Finally, the rain ceased today and I had an opportunity to spend a few hours photographing at Cocoa Beach, FL this morning. The weather was cold and windy, but I was still able to capture some fun shots. Now, its time for bed to get some rest before a 4-day series of workshops this weekend in Orlando!

Palm frond abstract. The sky was overcast and cloudy, so shooting big sweeping landscapes didn't make sense. Nikon D300s, 70-200mm f2.8, TC-14E, Gitzo CF tripod.

Palm frond abstract. The sky was overcast and cloudy, so shooting big sweeping landscapes didn't make sense. Nikon D300s, 70-200mm f2.8, TC-14E, Gitzo CF tripod.

Palm tree trunk. Black and white. Nikon D300s, 70-200 f2.8, handheld at ISO 1000.

Palm tree trunk. Black and white. Nikon D300s, 70-200 f2.8, handheld at ISO 1000.

The Ron Jon surf shop in Cocoa Beach. Nikon D700, 14-24mm f2.8, handheld.

The Ron Jon surf shop in Cocoa Beach. Nikon D700, 14-24mm f2.8, handheld.





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