Monday, March 29, 2010

Lightroom Web Galleries

This new version of Red Grid #1 leads a random selection of pictures I used to try out two Web Gallery generators for Lightroom.  My objective is to assemble a proper digital portfolio in a few weeks and have an easy means to sustain the effort.

First is the very capable SlideShowPro for Lightroom that Michael Rather demonstrates in a recent Podcast, "Lightroom for Digital Photographers".  It took me about ten minutes to generate this gallery:  I just scratched the surface here.  One of the best features is the way it manages multiple galleries. I can't wait to have time to take a serious stab at configuring the tool.  For more information, see

The second is an iPhone friendly gallery generator called TTG iPhone Portfolio for Lightroom 1.1.  Unfortunately, it took me about an hour to eliminate the bugs, but I emerged with a better understanding of how these Web Gallery plug-ins work.  I'm going to make a few more changes to the template.  Shoot me a note if you're interested in the debugged ASP.NET version.  The test output is here:  For more information, see

These two galleries are being served by an HP MediaSmart LX195, which is literally sitting under my desk.  I got it to use primarily as a NAS for backups, but makes a great little web server for projects like this.      

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Park Bench In Flood #2, Day for Night

I posted an earlier version of this picture, but felt it did not have enough contrast and didn't quite make the leap to abstraction.  Playing with it in Lightroom 3, I was thinking it might be a good "day-for-night" candidate.  In the film days, you'd shoot tungsten stock in daylight and underexpose by 1-2 stops.  So in Lightroom I changed the white balance of the RAW file to tungsten, dropped the exposure and boosted contrast and saturation.

Technical: Nikon D700, Nikkor 180mm f2.8 "Leni Lens", ISO 200, f/4.0 @ 1/640s, handheld.  RAW file processed in Lightroom 3 Beta 2 64-bit and Nik Dfine, Vivenza and Color Efex Pro Complete, in which I applied the "Glamor Glow" and the "Polaroid Transfer" styles.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Flooded Trees, Part Two

Kicking the tires on Lightroom 3 Beta 2, the Nik tools now run properly.  This is a mix of Lightroom settings and Nik tools.

Technical: Nikon D700, Nikkor 180mm 2.8 (Leni Lens), IS0 200, f/8.0 @ 1/25s, handheld.  RAW file processed in Lightroom 3 Beta to and Nik Tools.

Lightroom 3 Beta 2 - Tethered Capture

A feature added to Lightroom 3 Beta 2 is native support for shooting tethered.  I could not wait to give it a try, so I am sharing a rather lame, but amusing to me, test shot.

A click File -> Tethered Capture - > Start Tethered Capture launches this spare dialog box that gives you options for naming files and where to save them.

Lightroom recognized my Nikon D700 immediately.  The shutter button in the tethered capture window fires the camera or just capture files as you shoot using the camera's shutter release.  Captures are displayed automatically on a secondary display by default.  Any camera Develop mode preset can be applied as you shoot, which is a real time saver.

The functionality hits the sweet spot for most uses, but a few features are missing.  While Lightroom can read camera settings like f-stop and shutter speed, but not set them.  There is no intervalometer, either.  Nikon shooters will have to buy Camera Control Pro if they need one full remote control or time lapse.

Some other random observations:

  • Performance is noticeably better than Lightroom 2
  • I left Lightroom 3 Beta 2 open over night.  Eighteen hours later, Lightroom was crawling, running much slower than the previous evening.  Closing and launching again cleared up the problem.  The Beta needs some code clean-up.
  • Plug-ins work properly now.  Nik tools, for instance, died during launch with Beta 1.
  • The new noise reduction is very effective.  You get a choice about whether to apply it or not.
  • The film grain effect is a nice addition, but limited.  Nik software in particular still has a superior grain engine.
  • I can't wait for the final product!
  • Man, would I have loved this tool when I was shooting catalogs!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sandy Shaw, 1991

One of the more rewarding aspects of shooting fashion and beauty is finding and nurturing new talent.  Sandy Shaw was my daughter's dance teacher.  Susan and I coaxed her into the studio for a few test shots and our clients loved her.  This picture was part of a beauty series I shot where I had the models scrunch up on a tiny stool.  Lighting is Broncolor strobe,  two heads with flood reflectors on the white seamless paper background and a single head in a special beauty rig I built with foamcore and gaffer's tape to give a soft spot effect.  I was trying to figure out how Irving Penn was able to achieve the stunning beauty light he was using at the time and this picture is as close as I every got.

Technical: Leica M2 from 1961, Leitz 90mm f2.8, Agfapan 25, Broncolor strobes, f/11 @ 1/60s.  Print on Agfa Portriga Rapid, toned in Kodak Rapid Selenium toner 31:1.  My grandfather gave me his M2 and M3 Leicas when his eyesight failed due to cataracts when he was in his early 80s.

Other photographers have remarked about this, too, but I tended to shoot with more DOF with the Leica than with SLRs.  Maybe it is a subconscious distrust of rangefinder focusing.    I can't say that I miss loading film into the M2, but shooting with a Leica is pure joy.  

James Spader's Stand-In for "White Palace", 1989

This is another St. Louis Galleria advertising photo from 1989.  I'm drawing a blank on the model's name and the purpose of the shot, but I remember that he was working as James Spader's stand-in when "White Palace" was shooting in St. Louis.  I heard he went on to work as Spader's stand-in for several other projects.  The agency said he'd left for LA when I tried to book him again the week after this shot.

The JPEG here looks really flat for some reason; the print I copied has a fairly long tonal scale.  I was going through my "flash blur" and split toning phases at the same time.  I had a nice North light studio in the Globe Democrat building, so I was able to shoot a combination of strobe and ambient light while hand holding the camera to create the flash blur on static subjects.  The leaf shutter on the Hassleblad really helped to fine tune the degree of blur.   

Technical: Hasselblad 500CM, Zeiss 180mm f/4, Agfa Pan 25, f/5.6 @ 1/8s, hand held.  Lighting from North window light, single Broncolor strobe head and single Lowell DP for the background.  Print on Agfa Portriga Rapid #3, partially bleached in potassium ferro-cyanide, toned in Kodak Rapid Selenium toner diluted 31:1.  Copy with Nikon D700, Nikkor 50mm f1.4G, f/5.6 @ 1/8s.  

Monday, March 22, 2010

Calumet Four Channel Radio Flash Trigger Set

Sync cords evil.  I hate to think how many sync cords I've purchase and how many shots I missed because they failed.  As I dusted off my vintage 1984 Broncolor Flashman (named when the Sony Walkman was at the height of its popularity) power packs with the idea of using them for a project, I realized I did not have a reliable sync cable.  So, rather than buy a $20 cable, I decided to pop for a budget model radio flash trigger from Calumet $39.  After a quick test this evening, I'm kicking myself for not buying one in 1984.  Well, not too hard - Broncolor charged about $900 for their model back then.

The piece on the left is the transmitter, which goes in the camera hot shoe.  The spring pin is a little long, so it takes some effort to put it on a Nikon D700 for some reason.  The larger piece on the right is the receiver, which can be attached to the strobe with a clip or the supplied Velcro tape and plugs in to the strobes sync jack.  The plug felt a little loose, but there were no mis-fires in my test.  I was able to trigger the strobe from just fine about 60 feet away, through a wall.  

On a side note, for the test, I bounced a single head off the ceiling with the Broncolor Flashman set at 1/4 power, the lowest setting.  It lit a 10x14 room so well that at ISO 200 I had to stop down to f/22!  I'm truly amazed that the Broncolor packs still work after 26 years.  By the time I bought my first Broncolor kit, I'd worn out three Balcars, three Normans and one Pro Photo kit in the course of nine years.  I guess it pays in the long run to buy the best if you can afford it.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

St. Louis Galleria Ad, 1989

Rummaging though my old fashion work, I came across this photo I did for the St. Louis Galleria in 1989.  It is unremarkable as a photo, but it has a back story...

The two models, whose names escape me, I'm afraid, we flew in from Chicago for the shoot.  They were real troupers, though, and we cranked out about 15 setups in different locations at the mall in one grueling day.  The next day, when I made the straight print for this picture at about 9:00AM with a 2:00PM deadline, I was horrified!  In our haste, we missed some price tags and signs, the male model's pinned up pant cuff had come undone and the chemistry between the models just wasn't there.  With no time for retouching or a re-shoot, what to do?  I decided to see if I could blur the unwanted detail by printing through fog and haze filters, but I couldn't preserve enough detail in the faces.  Finally, I grabbed a Cokin A216 "Speed" filter and made this version after a couple of tries and cleaned up the print with split toning and selective bleaching on Grade 3 Agfa Portriga Rapid paper.  I just barely made the 2:00PM deadline, fingers crossed that my client would accept the artistic license.  As it turns out, the Galleria ran the picture a number of times and, much to my surprise, the photo earned several awards that year.

Technical: Hasselblad 500 CM, Zeiss Sonnar 150 f/4, Kodak T-Max 400, f/8 @ 1/8s, available light.  Printed on Agfa Portriga Rapid Grade 3, partial bleaching in potassium ferro-cyanide, Kodak Gold toner.
Print copied with Nikon D700, Nikkor 50mm f1.4G, ISO 200, two photo grade fluorescent tube banks, RAW file processed in Lightroom.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Dried Flower #4, Solarized

This is yet another mummified flower from Susan's potpourri bowl, interpreted here using a strong reversal monochrome solarization technique in Nik Color Efex Pro.

Technical: Nikon D700, Micro-Nikkor 105mm f2.8, ISO 200, f/16 @ 1/6s, manual focus, tripod, cable release, tethered to a laptop.  RAW file processed in Lightroom 2.6 to crop and adjust color, then edited in Nik Dfine, Nik RAW Sharpener, Nik Vivenza, Nik Color Efex Pro and Nik Output Sharpener.  A "Raw Umber Sepia" preset in Lightroom added the toner effect.  

Dried Flower #3

The potpourri bowl offered up this little mummified flower.  The leathery petals still have vivid magenta, red, orange and yellow in spots.  Photographed on a Calumet portable light table, lit with a single Calumet Quattro 5500K fluorescent beauty dish.    

Technical: Nikon D700, Micro-Nikkor 105mm f2.8, ISO 200, f/16 @ 1/6s, manual focus, tripod, cable release, tethered to a laptop.  RAW file processed in Lightroom 2.6, Nik Dfine, Nik RAW Sharpener, Nik Vivenza and Nik Output Sharpener.  The fluorescent lighting isn't exactly 5500K, so I use the X-Rite Color Passport system to make a custom camera profile for Lightroom.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Obama comes to STL

Me and the wifey got to meet the President last night. Here's a little photo journalism from the evening.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Back Yard Fall Color Variations

This past year, my plans to seriously shoot the fall foliage never came to pass, but I did manage to grab a few shots from my back yard of this line of trees along Fish Pot Creek.  I've been working on sorting and archiving this weekend, and came across this shot.  The picture has a little clean up with Nik tools, but the colors were naturally saturated by the setting sun.

When the light is relatively flat on foliage, I like to see what a monochrome conversion with the contrast kicked up looks like.  While this version has no indication of fall, I like how "silvery" the leaves became.

Because it is almost as easy a clicking a button, if I'm in Nik Silver Efex Pro anyway, I try a solarization.  This version that looks has that line drawing or etching I thought was interesting enough to share.

Technical: Nikon D700, Nikkor 24-85mm f2.8-f4, ISO 200, 70mm @ f/8.0 @ 1/20s, handheld.  RAW file processed in Lightroom 2.6 and Nik Software Complete Collection.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Child Mummy #2, St. Louis Science Center

Revisiting a portrait I took of the child mummy at the St. Louis Science Center with Nik tools, I thought I'd try a warmer approach.  Considering that the mummy sits in a plexi case and is lit with a combo of sunlight and mercury vapor, I'm amazed by how clean the Auto WB is on Nikon cameras, even early models like the D100.

Technical: Nikon D100, Nikkor 24-85mm f2.8-f4, ISO 400, 85mm @ f/4.0 @ 1/15s, auto WB, handheld.  RAW file processed in Lightroom 2.6, Nik Dfine, Nik RAW pre-sharpener, Nik Vivenza, Nik Color Efex Pro.