Apr 012013
 

Unexpected surprises often help to kick-start one’s enthusiasm and motivation and such a surprise came to me last week when I received an e-mail announcing that I was eligible for the entire collection of Nik Software absolutely free. I qualified for this generous offer by virtue of being an existing customer.

My first Nik Software purchase was Silver Efex Pro and I quickly became a convert to the U Point® technology employed. It became a no-brainer to upgrade to Silver Efex Pro 2. Subsequently, I bought Viveza 2 to enhance my colour images.

Four or five months ago, I contemplated the purchase of Define 2, Nik Software’s noise reduction software, as well as Sharpener Pro 3 but was put off by the fact that they were no longer available as hard disks and the two plug-ins would have set me back $210.

The opportunity to obtain these two Nik plug-ins for free made the offer good; it became even better when I was also set to receive Color Efex Pro 4 and HDR Efex Pro 2.

Given my usual skepticism, my first thought was, what is the catch? Why would Nik Software by Google want to give away $499 of plug-ins?  But it doesn’t always do to look a gift horse in the mouth and I have since accepted my good fortune along with this excellent collection of software.

The only downside is learning how to use the new plug-ins. To this end I have been helped by the free video tutorials on the Nik Software site and also found Keith Cooper’s reviews on his Northlight Images web site a good starting point.

I am still in the process of ascending the steep learning curve but have made my first tentative steps in applying Define 2 and Color Efex Pro 4 to my workflow. Below is one of my first attempts employing these two plug-ins.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

I have also experimented using Color Efex Pro 4 on images that I ultimately wanted to present as black & white photographs. In the photograph below, I used the Brilliance/ Warm, Detail Extractor, Graduated Neutral Density and Pro Contrast filters before converting to black & white with Silver Efex Pro 2.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

The acquisition of new software always raises a conundrum. Do I go back and apply the new software/plug-ins to images processed previously or do I let them stand as a testament to the level of processing available to me at that time?  I guess selectivity is the key here, unless I wish to remain stuck in front of my computer screen for the next four months.

Please help support this site by clicking on the Amazon link on this page if you are shopping for an item.

Jul 192012
 

My photographic productivity tends to ebb when the temperature soars above 90 degrees (32 degrees C) in Northeast Florida, as it has done for the past three weeks. Extreme heat has the same effect on me as extreme cold – I want to stay indoors.

In the absence of any indoor photographic projects or a studio setup, I eventually have to get out and brave the hot and humid conditions. I usually wait until after 4:00 pm and limit myself to an hour, 90 minutes at most, shooting time.

I recently went across the St Johns River and explored the South Riverwalk of Jacksonville. One of the main attractions on the south side of the river is the renovated Friendship Fountain.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

As an indication of how hot I get, when it came to having a cigarette before heading home, my cigarette packet, which is carried in my shirt pocket, was damp to the touch. Luckily, the cigarettes remained dry.

Nik Software’s Viveza 2 has become the latest addition to my photographic software and it brings to my colour photographs the same degree of control and enhancement achieved by Silver Efex Pro 2 in my B&W shots. It doesn’t have quite all the bells and whistles of Silver Efex Pro 2 and I would imagine Viveza 3 is in the pipeline.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

I have been extremely pleased with Viveza 2 and have no hesitation in recommending it. I know the Photoshop purists will say similar results can be achieved in Photoshop but not with the same kind of ease and convenience.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Please help support this site by clicking on the Amazon link on this page if you are shopping for an item.

May 292012
 

Memorial Day weekend should have been a time to get out and about with my camera, especially as it coincided with the Jacksonville Jazz Festival. Alas, Tropical Storm Beryl partly put paid to my plans. Sunday’s events at the festival were cancelled and I had to content myself with one day of shooting on Saturday.

The Jazz Festival is the one weekend in the year when downtown Jacksonville takes on the appearance of a bustling and vibrant city. For a Jacksonville photographer, it allows the opportunity to do some street photography, an impossibility during the rest of the year when the downtown area looks as though it has been hit by a neutron bomb.

This year, the festival also coincided with a friendly soccer/football match between the USA and Scotland at the Everbank Stadium on Saturday night. The presence of the Tartan Army and USA soccer fans added to the mix of people and choice of subjects.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

On Sunday, I spent an hour watching a Nik Software webinar given by photographer Derrick Story and featuring shots from his B&W Vegas project. Derrick described his workflow in Silver Efex Pro 2 and also talked a little bit about cameras. His “stealth” camera for candid street photography is the Olympus EP-2, soon to be replaced by the Olympus EM-5 OM-D.

I have to agree that a smaller camera is less conspicuous out on the streets and also less threatening for those people being photographed. But it doesn’t automatically follow that larger DSLR cameras are not up to the task.

I think it is safe to say that a DSLR will guarantee you a shot every time and that is the reason why DSLRs are the camera choice of mainstream press photographers.

I don’t think it is the bulk of DSLRs that people find intimidating but the lens that is attached to the camera.

On Saturday, I shot exclusively with my 100mm f/2.8L IS USM lens. It is a recent acquisition and after shooting for more than 30 years with manual focus lenses, I am enjoying the benefits of an autofocus lens.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

The 100mm f/2.8L lens is not large in comparison to say the 70-200m f/2.8L zoom lens but it is still large in the eyes of the public. Several times I was asked if I was taking photographs for The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville’s daily newspaper. That question has never been posed while shooting with my Zeiss Planar T* 1,4/50 lens.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

A DSLR camera, preferably full-frame, fitted with a prime lens — 24mm, 28mm or 35mm — is still capable of performing as a street photographer’s camera. With those prime lenses, a DSLR camera is certainly far less intimidating. But the best camera of all is the one you have with you.

Please help support this site by clicking on the Amazon link on this page if you are shopping for an item.