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3D-Printed Muscle Straight Out of ‘Westworld’ Makes Robots More Realistic

21 Sep

[ By SA Rogers in Conceptual & Futuristic & Technology. ]

If you watched HBO’s ‘Westworld’ earlier this year, you probably remember the scenes where the nascent humanoid robots were strung up on circular frames like Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Vitruvian Man,’ with machines printing white muscle fibers onto their skeletons. While the process of constructing androids doesn’t quite resemble this sci-fi vision just yet, it’s surprisingly close, especially with a new breakthrough in synthetic muscle tissue announced by researchers at Columbia Engineering. Their tests show a bundle of white muscle held in the palm of a researcher’s hand, moving and expanding in response to low power sent through a thin resistive wire.

This self-contained ’soft actuator’ is three times as strong as natural muscle, so yes, it’s true: Skynet is going to kill us all. The creators took inspiration from living organisms, using a silicone rubber matrix with ethanol distributed through micro-bubbles to simulate muscle tissue. It’s capable of expanding up to 900% when electrically heated to 80 degrees celsius, and can perform all sorts of motion tasks when controlled by computers.

“We’ve been making great strides toward making robots minds, but robot bodies are still primitive,” says Hod Lipson, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Columbia and leader of the project. “This is a big piece of the puzzle, and, like biology, the new actuator can be shaped and reshaped a thousand ways. We’ve overcome one of the final barriers to making lifelike robots.”

“Our soft functional material may serve as robust soft muscle, possibly revolutionizing the way that soft robotic solutions are engineered today,” adds Aslan Miriyev, a postdoctoral researcher in the Creative Machines lab and lead author of the study ‘Soft Material for Soft Actuators,’ published by Nature Communications. “It can push, pull, bend, twist and lift weight. It’s the closest artificial material equivalent we have to a natural muscle.”

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[ By SA Rogers in Conceptual & Futuristic & Technology. ]

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How to Understand Reflected Versus Incident Light and Get More Accurate Exposures

14 Sep

Do you ever get under or overexposed photos when you use your camera’s light meter? Do you get frustrated that even in auto-mode you can’t get the correct exposure? That’s because there are two different type of light to deal with when taking a photo.

When you make a photograph the light is your raw material, which is why it’s important to understand how it works. It’s a very broad topic to cover, so for this article, we are just going to focus on the difference between incident and reflective light because that’s the key to getting your exposure right.

Incident versus reflective light


We all know this difference in a very intuitive way; let me give you an everyday example: when there is a sunny day, do you wear white clothes or black ones? Easy! You wear white or at least light colors, but why? If the sun will be the same, why wouldn’t you wear dark colors? Because you know that dark colors absorb light and therefore you’ll feel the heat more than wearing white which will reflect more light and keep you fresher. This is the same principle you need to apply when measuring the light for photography.

The difference explained

Diagram How to Understand Reflected Versus Incident Light and Get More Accurate Exposures

Incident light is that which is illuminating your scene. It falls on the subject before being altered (reflected) by it which is why it’s also a more accurate light reading.

When light hits objects it gets transformed by them and reflected out; this is what we perceive and what the camera captures and reads. This is called reflective light.

Light metering

Let’s see how these two concepts apply to light metering and exposure when you take a photo. In the next examples, I always used the same light for each.

In this first shot, I metered the light once I had framed the image I wanted, so it gave me a reading making an average of the reflective light.

General Reading - How to Understand Reflected Versus Incident Light and Get More Accurate Exposures

The settings were ISO 400, f/5.6, with a shutter speed of 1/80th.

And the resulting photograph looked like this:

General Reading Result - How to Understand Reflected Versus Incident Light and Get More Accurate Exposures

Reflected light from a dark subject

However, like we said when talking about clothes, dark objects absorb light. So if I make the reading by measuring the black part of the photo, the settings that were “correct” before, now appear to be underexposed.

Black Reading - How to Understand Reflected Versus Incident Light and Get More Accurate Exposures

Even if the lighting is always the same, your camera thinks there is less. As a result, your photos will be overexposed.

Black Reading Result - How to Understand Reflected Versus Incident Light and Get More Accurate Exposures

Exposure: ISO 400, f/5.6, shutter speed 1/13th.

Reflected light from a light subject

On the other hand, light objects reflect most of the light, so your camera will receive the message that it needs to reduce the exposure if you meter off something light.

White Reading - How to Understand Reflected Versus Incident Light and Get More Accurate Exposures

And as a result, you will end up with underexposed images.

White Reading Result - How to Understand Reflected Versus Incident Light and Get More Accurate Exposures

Exposure: ISO 400, f/5.6, shutter speed 1/200th.

None of these three readings gave you the correct exposure on your image because none of them were about the incident light. In order to get this accurate reading, you need to use a handheld external light meter, which can be very expensive. Fortunately, there are other ways to get the right exposure without having to spend a fortune.

Black and white… and gray

Back in the 1930s, a photographer called Ansel Adams developed a technique for the optimal exposure of photographs by dividing the degrees from light to dark into 11 zones, therefore it’s called the zone system. Everything in the world has a color and lightness that correspond to a zone. All light meters, including the one integrated into your camera, are designed to give you the middle zone: Gray V that reflects 18% of the light. So, what you need in order to have a correct exposure is to measure the light reflecting off of this tone.

Gray card Reading - How to Understand Reflected Versus Incident Light and Get More Accurate Exposures

You’ll find gray cards on the market which are used to calibrate your exposure and white balance. They are a very practical and economical way to turn the reading of your reflective light into an incident light accuracy.

It is also very easy to use, you just have to put one in front of your subject and frame it with your camera. Once that’s the only thing in your shot, press the shutter button halfway to see the light meter and adjust your exposure accordingly. With those settings, you can have the perfect exposure regardless of the tones in your image.

Grey cardReading Result - How to Understand Reflected Versus Incident Light and Get More Accurate Exposures

Exposure: ISO 400, f/5.6, shutter speed 1/30th.

Real world examples

I know what you’re thinking, that was an unreal example because most of your photos will have much more colors than just black, white and gray V. That’s true, but the principle remains the same. Look at these real life examples:

Bridge Reflective - How to Understand Reflected Versus Incident Light and Get More Accurate Exposures

Reflective reading with an exposure of ISO 400, f/5.6, shutter speed 1/80th.

Compared to the incident reading:

Bridge Incident - How to Understand Reflected Versus Incident Light and Get More Accurate Exposures

Incident reading with an exposure of ISO 400, f/5.6, shutter speed 1/320th.


How to improvise!

What if you don’t want to be carrying around a gray card? Or did the perfect image catch you unprepared? No problem, everything in the visual world has its equivalent in the zone system.

For example, grass or wet cement correspond to the gray V zone so you can always look for elements like that in your photo and you will get a very accurate reading from them.

Take this composition of candle holders. When they are all white the photo is dark, sad and shows all the imperfections of the backdrop because it’s underexposed. However, when I add a gray candle holder and measure the light in it, the exposure is perfect.

Candleholders Reflective

Exposure: ISO 1250, f/11, shutter speed 1/125th.

Candleholders Incident

Exposure: ISO 1600, f/8, shutter speed 1/125th.

Tip: So that you are never caught off guard, you can measure the palm of your hand and figure out how much lighter or darker it is than the gray card, that way you will always have the perfect reading “at hand”.

Things to remember:

  • Get close enough to the gray object so that it’s the only thing you see through the lens, or at least the majority of it, and take that reading to set the exposure values.
  • The gray card or object needs to receive the same light as the rest of the scene. Be careful to not cast a shadow with your body or your camera when getting closer to measure the light.
  • Reflective light depends also on the material and shape of the object so a black car, for example, reflects more light than a black wool sweater.

There you go, understanding the difference between reflective and incident light can transform your photo from snapshots to pro shots!

The post How to Understand Reflected Versus Incident Light and Get More Accurate Exposures by Ana Mireles appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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Sony: ‘Our company has a vision which is more important than profit alone’

12 Sep

Recently, DPReview was invited to Japan to visit both the Sony headquarters in Tokyo and Sony’s image sensor factory in Kumamoto. The trip was an opportunity to gain some insight into both the philosophy and the technology that underpins the company.

We spoke to both Sony Semiconductor Solutions, the company making the imaging sensors in your cameras and smartphones, and Sony Digital Imaging (DI), the division of Sony Imaging Products and Solutions (SIPS) that makes everything from interchangeable lens cameras (ILCs) to action-cams and camcorders, and lenses. Sony Corporation itself, the umbrella above all these groups, has its hands in a number of sectors – from consumer electronics to smartphones to professional services and motion pictures. Sony Semiconductor, as we previously reported, is its own company, which has some interesting implications we learned about through the course of our conversations.

Be the guinea pig

“The electronics industry is constantly searching for new ideas and there are still many products for us to make. If the guinea pig spirit means developing innovative ideas and embodying them in new products, then I think this is an admirable spirit.” These are the words of Sony co-founder Masaru Ibuka.

At the Kumamoto sensor factory hangs an image of co-founders Ibuka and Akio Morita arm-wrestling in good spirit.

At the Kumamoto sensor factory hangs an image of a golden guinea pig right below a candid of co-founders Ibuka and Akio Morita arm-wrestling in good spirit. On it these words appear, along with one of the principles set out in the Founding Prospectus: “To establish an ideal factory that stresses a spirit of freedom and open-mindedness, and where engineers with sincere motivation can exercise their technological skills to the highest level.”

“If the guinea pig spirit means developing innovative ideas and embodying them in new products, then I think this is an admirable spirit”

More than 70 years later, the ethos of the co-founders still persists in the mindsets of Sony employees. It’s evident in everything from the philosophy of Sony Semiconductor and its relationship with other manufacturers to Sony’s new flagship: the a9.

Planning innovation: Sony a9

Our testing has shown the Sony a9 to be a formidable camera, not just for stills but also video. At Sony, a new camera like the a9 takes two to three years to develop, we were told. Therefore, the photographic technologies the a9 offers had to be planned for years in advance, not long after Sony introduced the world’s first full-frame mirrorless cameras a mere 3.5 years ago. And as we learned during our visit, most of the advancements in the a9 stem from new sensor technologies.

Two to three years ago, how would it have been possible to predict sensor readout speeds that offer autofocus calculations at 60 fps and a fully electronic shutter that is only a stop behind the speed of mechanical shutters? The answer lies in the constant communication between Sony Semiconductor Solutions and Sony DI. And since Sony’s sensor foundry is one of the best in world, providing sensors for everything from cameras and smartphones to security and medical devices, this in-house knowledge and communication is a key advantage.

It takes 2 to 3 years to develop a camera like the Sony a9. Koji Hisamatsu, Mechanical Engineer of the a9, showed us its magnesium alloy body. It offers improved ergonomics and weather resistance over previous models.

Yasufumi Machitani, project leader on the a9, talked to us about the development of the camera. A number of its features, like blackout-free shooting and fast AF/AE calculation, require sensor readout speeds conventionally thought impossible. A stacked BSI-CMOS sensor with integral memory was necessary for these technologies, and the camera division’s awareness of such coming sensor technology years in advance allowed it to plan the a9.

Daisuke Miyakoshi, in charge of the image sensor portion of the product design division, elaborated on this cross-communication: his team is a bridge between Sony Semiconductor Solutions and SIPS (Sony Imaging Products and Solutions), the latter in charge of both product and system design and Sony DI’s parent company. The system design department sends new imager proposals to the product design teams making cameras, and together the teams evaluate success and pain points of actual sensor designs.

This information is then used to send new specification formulations to the image sensor development department at Sony Semiconductor. The communication between these three groups allows fine tuning of both sensor and camera.

Product strategy

Sony’s product strategy is simple. Imagine a pyramid with three customer types: at the top pros, in the middle high amateurs (‘enthusiasts’), and below that consumers. Products are intended to fall within one or span two of these segments.

Rice fields at dusk. Miyama Sansou, Kurokawa Onsen. Photo: Rishi Sanyal
Sony a7R II | 12-24 F4G @12mm | 1/30s, F4, ISO 5000.

Sony believes there is a growing market of pros and enthusiasts, with shrinking demand at the entry level (it’s hard to argue with that, given the death of the compacts and the rise of the smartphone). This brings a higher demand for better performing products, be it in terms of autofocus, speed, resolution or sensitivity. Therefore, Sony says its product strategy is to pack as much available technology into each product as possible, barring hardware limitations, to meet a certain price point. Machitani-san explicitly told us “there is no intention to limit functions of cameras to certain groups”. In fact, Sony claims it includes many of these functions – where others might remove them in an effort to segment products – just to see what creatives do with them.

It’s a strategy not always taken by other camera manufacturers, but one that makes sense in a post-smartphone era: target customers who want a dramatic step in quality and features from what smartphone imaging offers. It’s not entirely without its issues though. For one, some may find the user interfaces of some Sony cameras overwhelming due to the number of features. Sony is aware of this and constantly iterating – the a9 for example offers an encouraging ergonomic and usability refresh.

Of course, Sony’s own crowded camera lineup can sometimes be at odds with its intended strategy, since Sony is less afraid of cannibalizing itself than other camera companies. Take for instance the short product replacement cycles. Or the almost inevitable focus – since Sony believes in a growing pro and enthusiast market – on full-frame E-mount, which has left the impression among some that Sony is abandoning A-mount1 and APS-C.2 Or the appearance of advanced new technologies in more niche products before they find their way into other product lines. Many of these ‘issues’ stem from the pace of iteration and innovation at which Sony is moving, if not due simply to its relatively newcomer status. But Sony is actively learning, and recent market data suggest its strategy is working.

Vision over profit

You might think that Sony Corporation would like to keep the in-house knowledge of Sony Semiconductor Solutions for its own camera division, but that’s not the case. For one thing, the sales of the semiconductor division to third-parties is a large source of income for the corporation at large, but it goes beyond that.

Although Sony tends to hold its proprietary sensor technology for its own cameras for roughly two years,3 it publicly discloses sensors that are available for sale and their underlying technologies. This allows other manufacturers to integrate Sony sensors into their own products. And this is where it gets interesting: any manufacturer can approach Sony Semiconductor and ask for their own design requirements, often building on Sony’s own sensor advancements that are made public (take full-frame BSI-CMOS or dual-gain for example, two technologies found in the Nikon D850). But if an OEM does so, Sony Semiconductor is not allowed to communicate any intellectual property it gains to Sony’s camera division.

Having this wall (or more accurately, perhaps this two-way mirror) in place makes a lot of sense. After all, OEMs wouldn’t approach Sony about new designs if the sensor division leaked proprietary information to its own camera engineers. So, no folks, Sony’s camera team has not been aware of the Nikon D850’s sensor all along, prepping a response to it years in advance…

There are interesting implications of this wall between Sony Semiconductor and Sony DI: it means that newer, better technologies than those available in Sony’s own cameras may appear in any other manufacturer’s camera, despite using a ‘Sony’ sensor. Indeed, we’ve actually seen multiple examples of this: ISO 64 on the D810 and 16-bit analog-to-digital conversion on the Hasselblad X1D to name just two.

Could this threaten the growth of Sony’s own camera division?

Sony executive round-table. From left to right: Takashi Kondo, Chief Marketing Manager, Hiroshi Sakamoto, Senior General Manager of Marketing, Kenji Tanaka, Global Head of ILCs, and Masanori Kishi, Deputy General Manager of ILC lenses.

When we asked this question, the message from DI executives was clear: “Our focus is to increase the overall market”. Paraphrasing slightly, global head of ILCs Kenji Tanaka said: “Please think about vision. Our company has a vision, which is much more important than profit alone. Of course, if we cut our supply of sensors to other OEMs our camera market share might increase. But this is not our vision. Our vision is to grow the entire imaging market, and Sony alone cannot make every [imaging] product.”

While every manufacturer wants to be number one, no single company can make every product – even within a single sector. It is clear that Sony believes that competition is healthy, and that if Sony sensors help make better products, be it in a Sony device or other OEM device, the consumer wins. And ultimately, that is the purpose of the company.

“Our company has a vision, which is more important than profit alone”

It’s possible that the worst of the camera market collapse is over, but we do wonder whether Sony’s strategy might change if the market continues to shrink. Would the huge current investment in ILCs still pay off? Would sales of class-leading sensors to other OEMs still make sense? The answer from executives was “yes”.

Growing the market

Like every camera manufacturer, Sony wants to grow its market share. But it sees the gain of market share as a secondary effect, almost a byproduct, of growing the market overall. In fact, Sony admitted it doesn’t expect to continue to gain market share simply by getting users to switch systems. Tak Kondo, General Manager at Sony DI, remarked that “the industry is stagnated partly because of a lack of interesting products from camera manufacturers. It’s our obligation to increase the market size.”

We probed Sony about its strategy to move users away from smartphones, arguably the very cause for the declining camera industry. “We want to expand the photo-shooting culture” Tanaka-san told us. “By growing this culture, we hope to stimulate the desire for something [much] better than a smartphone”. Furthermore, Sony chooses to place its focus on mid- to high-end products, which show increased demand. The global decline in the industry is due to a drop in demand for low-end products – both DSLR and mirrorless – thanks to the smartphone.

By making versatile cameras that offer vast benefits over smartphones and more computational photography-oriented devices that widen its user-base, Sony hopes to reverse this trend. That is, grow the market through innovation, a message we’ve heard before.

Why Sony?

Sony believes that it is in a unique position to grow the imaging market. The communication between its image sensor development engineers at Sony Semiconductor and the camera teams at Sony DI give the company a unique advantage: an understanding of important sensor technologies to come two, five, or ten years down the line. The two-way communication between a cutting-edge sensor foundry and camera engineers that need sensor technologies to solve photographic problems is a unique advantage for Sony’s camera division. And Sony’s sensor design and fab group must stay cutting edge simply due to the number of sectors it has its hands in: from smartphones to the medical industry.

Shiraito Falls near Mount Fuji in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture. It’s often said that Mt. Fuji is shy, rarely revealing herself. This day was no exception: the entire region was covered in thick mist and rainfall, and the spray from the waterfalls themselves was intense. Photo: Rishi Sanyal

Sony a7R II | 24-70 F2.8GM @46mm | 0.5s, F11, ISO 100

Mirrorless cameras are still in their infancy. However, Tanaka-san stressed that when you compare the development speed of mechanical products vs. semiconductor technology, the latter is far faster. Since much of the capability of mirrorless cameras is derived from the image sensor itself, its development speed is much faster than DSLR. So while mirrorless camera technology is a relative newcomer to the field, Sony’s insight into semiconductor advances puts its camera division in a unique position to innovate and iterate quickly, bringing greater speed and functionality to consumer products across shorter refresh cycles.

Will Sony’s ‘guinea pig’ approach pay off? The latest U.S. dollar-based statistics from NPD are certainly encouraging: the first 6 months of 2017 showed a 36% growth in mirrorless camera sales compared to an 11% decline in DSLR sales. In the same period, Sony’s sales of full-frame ILCs grew 42% compared to a decline of 5% for all other manufacturers. It also maintained a #2 position in sales of full-frame ILCs (likely helped by the release of a flagship camera), while growing 26% in mirrorless ILC sales year-on-year. Sony is now at the top in mirrorless ILC sales in the U.S.

While these sales figures are all dollar-based, with many Sony products retailing at relatively high prices, they’re significant – especially when you consider the impact the Kumamoto earthquake must have had on the company.

Challenges

Despite these encouraging figures, Sony’s path will not be a smooth one. Canon and Nikon have been making cameras for a long time and are widely viewed as photography companies, as opposed to consumer electronics companies. Part of the reason the a9 is being targeted so aggressively at pros, and why Sony is working so hard on expanding pro support, is to overcome the perception of the company as a manufacturer of TVs, Walkmans and PlayStations.

At the opposite end of the pyramid, smartphone cameras offer something that most, if not all, standalone cameras to-date lack: convenience of image ingestion, curation and sharing. While Sony PlayMemories apps offer some solutions,4 they leave much to be desired. Thankfully, Sony is well aware of the importance of integrating with cloud services and smartphones.

The hillsides near the Kuju Mountain Range in Kumamoto prefecture provide endless vistas. I shot this through a window of a moving bus on the way to Kurokawa Onsen. The volcanic region offers many hot springs and resorts within Kurokawa’s ‘enchanted’ forest. Photo: Rishi Sanyal

Sony a9 | 24-70 F2.8GM @35mm | 1/1000s, F2.8, ISO 1250

And then there’s video. Increasingly, cameras that do both stills and video well are more attractive than those that can’t. Sony is on the right track here, offering cameras that are highly capable at both, but there’s still work to be done. The Sony a9 offers some of the sharpest video around thanks to the fact it oversamples a full-frame sensor, yet it lacks a Log profile or an intuitive autofocus interface in video.5

Meanwhile of course, competitors aren’t standing still. Canon’s Dual Pixel AF in video offers a clear user benefit in combining performance and UI/UX. Four Thirds cameras offer 4K video with compelling (mechanical + digital) stabilization. The Panasonic GH5 offers 6K Photo, pre-capture, and effectively simultaneous video and stills capture in its high-resolution anamorphic mode. RED Cinema cameras – albeit in a very different price bracket – can capture at 120 fps for stills extraction or for 24p video.6

But theoretically, these are all challenges that Sony is well placed to face. Sony’s executives see the relationship between Sony Semiconductor and Sony DI as being key to planning for the future, and they assure us that the founders’ spirit of innovation will continue to bring compelling products to the market.


Footnotes:

1 Tanaka-san assured us that ‘the A-mount customer base is small, but loyal, and we need to serve them.’ While Sony does not intend A-mount users to transition to E-mount, it does see the a9 as a potential body for A-mount lenses, via adaption. To that end Sony assures us the disadvantages associated with adapters – like the lack of proper subject tracking – are addressable, though it won’t officially support or offer a solution for Canon lenses natively.

2 Expressing very frank surprise at the idea that some of our readers feel Sony is less committed to APS-C, Sony DI executives assured us that, on the contrary, they are fully committed to APS-C. They pointed in particular to its potential to increase business by its adoption as a second camera for pros (a6300/6500) or a first-time camera for casual users (a5100/6000).

3 While we weren’t explicitly told this, one might surmise it from the fact that the sensor in the a7R II has not appeared in any other manufacturer’s camera since its launch over 2 years ago.

4 For example, ‘Sync to Smartphone’ ensures all my JPEGs from my a7R II end up on Google Photos via my Google Pixel in full resolution original quality without me moving a finger.

5 We asked Sony about the omission of S-Log2 and PlayMemories on the a9. We suggested it ostensibly appeared like forced product segmentation, uncharacteristic of Sony’s product strategy. While it still appears that may indeed have been the case, we were assured that Sony takes our negative feedback about these omissions seriously.

6 Some RED cinema cameras are capable of assembling 24p footage from 120p capture by frame averaging, which removes the stutter that would otherwise result from the higher shutter speeds you’d likely shoot 120p footage at. It’s quite clever.

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More Lessons from the Photography Masters: David Burnett and Vivian Maier

06 Sep

The more you can learn about photography the better off you will be. Find out everything you can even if it doesn’t seem important to you at the time. The best way to do this is to have a close look at the masters, photographers who molded the photography world as we know it today.

Some of these shooters are still with us and some of them have passed. Whatever the case may be, their legacy remains here to teach us through their experiences. In this installment of the Master’s Series, we’re going to look at two of my personal favorites – David Burnett and Vivian Maier.

David Burnett

More Lessons from the Photography Masters: David Burnett and Vivian Maier

Image By Eric Smith (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

“He’s been everywhere but only for an hour.” – American Photographer Magazine

David Burnett’s photojournalism career and creative output place him high in the ranking of some of the most influential camera jockeys of the late 20th century. Named one of the 100 most important people in photography by American Photographer Magazine, Dave has photographed it all. From the Vietnam War to the Olympics, from Obama to Bob Marley, his iconic images quite literally empower the viewer’s world to be seen from a different point of view.

Tips from the career of David Burnett

After shooting the world’s beautiful (and sometimes dark) moments of history for the larger part of a half century, Burnett shows us so many ways to improve ourselves as image makers, photographers, and general human beings. Here are a few things you can glean from the career of David Burnett that can help you develop (photo jokes never die) as a photographer no matter what type of photos you make.

See David’s work on his website here.

Go with your gut

So many times we get sidetracked by what is considered normal. As photographers, we rely heavily on the visual influence of other photographers which in turn shapes our own work. That doesn’t mean that we should replicate their work to the letter. Don’t always go with the photographic flow just because that’s what other photographers may be doing.

More Lessons from the Photography Masters: David Burnett and Vivian Maier

So many times you will see David Burnett at sporting events completely separated from the rest of the photo press herd. He shoots what feels right to him, as you should as well. Learn to trust your own artistic instinct. Make your image representations of a mixture of the moment and your own vision regardless of the current photo trends. Don’t be afraid to shoot a scene differently than it has been photographed before. Lay down. Stand on a chair. Shoot weird reflections. Do whatever you have to do to reach that lofty height called individualism. No memorable work has ever been ordinary.

Shun the worship of gear

I’m guilty of this at times. No matter what I do or even how much I might write about not allowing yourself to throw away money on the latest and greatest camera or lens, there’s still a little part of me that loves to read about new cameras and really eyeball that “one lens that could change everything”.

Then there’s Dave – one of the most celebrated photographers of all time, hauling around a 60-year-old Speed Graphic 4×5 with a lens ripped from an aerial reconnaissance camera and a plastic Holga 35mm (considered a toy). While he does shoot digital as well, a large chunk of Burnett’s most enduring photographs was made using film cameras that are essentially antiques and not considered tools of a modern photographic professional.

More Lessons from the Photography Masters: David Burnett and Vivian Maier

The takeaway here is that your gear is just an extension of yourself. Your camera, lens, tripod, are all just tools that perform a job. Don’t let them become something more than they are or even worse, begin to believe you are nothing without the newest piece of camera tech.

Focus (jokes again!) on cultivating your basic skills and creativity using whatever gear you may have and when it’s time, you’ll know when to upgrade. Or in the case of David Burnett, downgrade. Whatever the case may be, use the tools that allow you to produce your work in the way that suits you best.

Give back

It almost feels as if I’ve undersold the importance of David Burnett’s contribution to the world of photography and photojournalism. While his career speaks for itself, there’s one thing that usually isn’t mentioned. That is just how down to Earth, human, and unpretentious Dave has remained despite his success. I’ve been oddly fortunate enough to correspond with him personally on a few occasions over matters photo-related and otherwise (onions?). Each time, I’ve talked to a person and fellow photographer – not David Burnett: Preeminent Photojournalist.

More Lessons from the Photography Masters: David Burnett and Vivian Maier

No matter where your journey takes you as a photographer, always remember that awards or accolades may make you an authority on the photographic medium but they should not make you an elitist. Don’t shy away from sharing your knowledge when it can help someone make better pictures. It can mean a lot. I know it did for me.

Vivian Maier

Vivian, oh dear Vivian. Where to begin? Vivian Maier is something of a paradox. Even now, I’m unsure what personal information about her is fact and what is not. What I do know about is her work and the way it was serendipitously introduced to the world. Vivian Maier was a nanny, an eccentric, and one of the most prolific street photographers of the 20th century. As a child in 1930, she and her mother briefly lived with Jeanne Bertrand, who was an award winning portrait photographer of the early 1900’s. Whether Vivian was taught the craft by Jeanne isn’t certain but it’s quite possible.

Tips from the career of Vivian Maier

Her work was literally stumbled across in a storage unit in 2007. Vivian passed away in near obscurity in 2009 but her photographs continue to inspire and teach us even today. I first learned of Maier’s images through John Maloof’s excellent documentary “Finding Vivian Maier” which is currently on Netflix and really merits a watch if you want to learn more about Vivian Maier and her unbelievable life. Here are some things I learned from one of the best street photographers you’ve never heard of.

There is beauty everywhere

One of the wonderful things about photography is its revealing nature. A photo can portray an otherwise mundane or common scene in a way that shows that there truly is beauty in all things. Some of those things might even be tragic and sad, but the soulful connection and wonderment are there, too. Vivian’s photographs showed not only the scenes of the streets of New York and Chicago, but the unseen emotion to be found there.

More Lessons from the Photography Masters: David Burnett and Vivian Maier

The key to producing a strong photograph anywhere is to learn that there is in fact, meaning in everything. Look for interesting light, interesting people, anything that can bring out the hidden. It’s your job as a photographer to be able to capture those hidden gems into images that can be shared with others. So, if you find yourself in a slump or there seems to just not be anything to shoot, look closer. Find the beauty and make a photo.

Recognize the moment

This echos back to some teachings by the photographic titan, Henri Cartier-Bresson. You can see in some of Maier’s photographs that she waited. She waited until the instant the shutter should be released in order to capture the moment best. This is one of things that makes her photos so powerful.

Whether it was the exact instant the subject’s eyes met hers or when their footsteps were perfectly in sync, the opportune moment was patiently awaited. Also worth mentioning is the unobtrusiveness of Vivian’s technique. Lot’s of her images were made with a 120 Rolleiflex (among others). This type of camera isn’t held up to the photographer’s face but rather cradled below. This made her blend into the scene more and she was able to capture images which were less intruded upon by her presence.

More Lessons from the Photography Masters: David Burnett and Vivian Maier

Work to anticipate photographic moments before they happen. I know, it sounds extremely difficult. But the truth is that the more you practice, the more you shoot, the better you will become at “getting lucky.” You can train yourself to be present in the scene and intuitively recognize when photos will happen. The hard part? Putting in the shooting time to make this kind of skill manifest itself.

It’s okay to be weird

If there’s one thing you can learn about Vivian it’s that she was, for the lack of a better word, weird. Vivian Maier was a weirdo by the common views of her time. She dressed differently, acted differently, and made images that we’re different. In fact, it’s one of the very reasons she’s still being talked about today.

More Lessons from the Photography Masters: David Burnett and Vivian Maier

Even if she didn’t know at the time, her uniqueness would set her apart and lend a fresh perspective to her work and methodology. So, don’t try and hide your weirdness when you photograph things. Be different and celebrate all the little quirks that might make your images completely fresh. Much like the lessons learned from David Burnett, the real breakthroughs in your photography never come from falling into line with accepted norms. Relax, be different.

See her work on the official Vivian Maier Photography site.

Final thoughts

Knowledge is the cornerstone of most anything you will ever undertake. How do you gain knowledge? Well, usually it comes through experience (often mistakes) and it can take a while for us to learn our lessons. As photographers, those giants who came before us offer incredibly valuable teachings. Their lessons are here for us to scoop up if we just take the time to listen. Don’t just study the photographs of the masters but learn how and why they made them.

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Now with More Minimalism: Brandless Brand Trademarks Bland White Boxes

28 Jul

[ By WebUrbanist in Design & Products & Packaging. ]

Viral Silicon Valley controversies like those revolving around Juicero (a device that squeezed out juice) and Lyft (which seems to be reinventing the bus) are often held us as examples of how innovators are out of touch, which leads us to Brandless, a brand that is apparently reinventing minimalist packaging — the kind of thing that companies like Target have been doing for ages.

To be fair, the Brandless boxes don’t look all that bad, and color-coding products make some sense. Plus, the idea of making everything the same price (three dollars) is fascinating if a bit difficult to scale. They are trying to take things a step further, too, by putting more information on the box (including the Brandless name) and less on the product, which could in theory be a nice way to visually declutter one’s home.

But of course, reality and regulations don’t always play nice with packaging design — for starters, the smooth look is interrupted by a black-printed net weight stamp toward the bottom and other essential labels of that sort. And, really strangely, a white trademark stands out from the colored portion of the product. Naturally, if one wants to order the flat-priced products, a shipping charge also interrupts the otherwise consistent pricing scheme.

None of this is meant to knock the conceptual underpinnings or commercial viability too much — entrepreneurs Tina Sharkey and Ido Leffler are clearly tapping into the West Coast demographic that has money and craves simplicity. But their claim to be making something “completely fresh and new” is a bit much — grocery and convenience store chains have been selling products in simplified and distinctive brand-free packages for a long time, with the same mission in mind (to reduce the “brand tax” people pay to get a name-branded version of something).

For now, the company is rolling out around 200 initial products. And, at least for the time being, they are all at the same price point. But one has to wonder: does that flat rate idea really make sense for a growing consumer brand? Surely some things are best bought in bulk to save money, or simply too expensive to sell for a few dollars. And consumers who want one-stop shopping may find their offerings a bit thin. In the struggle for minimalist simplicity, Brandless just may be making things harder on themselves than they have to.

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[ By WebUrbanist in Design & Products & Packaging. ]

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Three Good Reasons To Learn More About Photography

28 Jul

Photography has become so popular, mainly because of the inclusion of cameras on mobile phones, so it’s more difficult for your photos to be noticed. But, if you learn a little more about photography your photos will be more likely to stand out from the crowd.

Your life is full of gadgets and equipment that can be challenging to learn to use really well. Learning to use your camera will make your photography so much more enjoyable. Photography is therapy. Picking up your camera, making time to take photos, can be a wonderful break from the busy pace of your daily life.

Three Good Reasons To Learn More About Photography - Thai ladies

Committing even a small amount of time regularly to learn more about photography will help you enjoy the creative process of image making. It will help overcome frustrations you may have because you don’t understand your camera well enough. As you study you will find that your creative ideas and expression will come more naturally. And, as you know and understand more and begin to relax when you have your camera in your hands, you will find a personal groove and means of expression that will be unique to you.

So here are three really good reasons for you to learn more about photography.

#1. Create outstanding photos

Most of us love to share our photos and see the response or family and friends have to them. Even more exciting is when strangers begin to show appreciation for our photographs. The desire to have your photos seen and enjoyed by others can be a real motivation for you to enjoy photography. But getting your photographs noticed is not so easy.

Three Good Reasons To Learn More About Photography - girl with elephant

This has become more of a challenge in recent years because pretty much everybody has a some form of a camera these days. Social media has made it extremely easy to share photos and have them seen by a potentially global audience. But how do you get your photos noticed when everyone else is sharing their photos in the same way?

Take some time to learn more. Learning about light, exposure, color, tone, composition and timing will help you produce more creative, more interesting, more noticeable photographs. And, if you think about it, you probably something about these things already, because you see them all the time, but are not necessarily thinking about them.

You can’t see anything if there’s no light. Light is the essence of photography. With no light, you can have no photo. Learning to appreciate different types of light and when some light is better for making photos than others, will help you create more outstanding photographs. You see light all the time and if you can begin to understand it and appreciate how to expose your photographs well, you will create more compelling images. Knowing something of the limitations of your camera and how it captures tone and color will also help greatly in the creative process.

Three Good Reasons To Learn More About Photography - flower

Compose and time your photos better

Learning composition rules and developing a real feel for them will also help your photographs be more impactful. Like with any creative expression, learning the rules will allow you to eventually implement them without really thinking about them. This is when I believe you will become most creative.

Certainly timing your photographs well takes research and practice. Learning to anticipate action and choose precisely the best time to make a photograph, the decisive moment, is a skill that will certainly enhance your photography and make it stand out.

2. Become intimate with your equipment

Learning how to use your camera well and becoming confident will result in a more enjoyable and more creative photography experience. I have met (and taught) many people who own very nice cameras but are not confident in using them. If you don’t have a good understanding of your camera you will most likely become somewhat frustrated when you pick it up to use it, or later when you are looking at disappointing photos.

Three Good Reasons To Learn More About Photography

Becoming familiar with your camera and how to use it well takes time and commitment to study. Because each camera model is different, with the controls in different places, it means you need to do some research and hands on practice to know how to use your cameras with confidence.

Essentially all cameras are the same. They function the same way, with light hitting the sensor (or film) to create photographs. Whether you use a camera in any of the automatic modes, or prefer to use it in Manual Mode, the process of creating photos is the same, but the amount of creative control differs greatly.

Setting your exposure manually gives you far more control over the end result. Learning to do this takes a bit more dedication but will ultimately result in you making more unique, creative photographs. If your camera is always set to one of the automatic modes then the camera is making some (or all) of the most creative choices. Cameras are smart, but they are not creative – you are.

Three Good Reasons To Learn More About Photography

Learning to take control of the camera will help you enjoy the creative process of photography far more than if you have to stop and think about the basics of what to do each time you pick up your camera.

3. Photography can be therapeutic

Having creative drive, wanting to make good photos and have others enjoy them, will hopefully lead you to want to learn more about using your camera well. Doing that will free you up to enjoy your whole photography experience and you can then experience photography as a therapy.

Three Good Reasons To Learn More About Photography

Expressing your creativity with a camera you understand and love is very therapeutic. Taking time out from your busy day, even just for 10 or 15 minutes, to take a few photographs can be enjoyable and relaxing. Indulging in longer photography sessions on weekends or during vacations can be terrifically therapeutic.

I find when I pick my camera up to shoot for pleasure, (it’s different shooting for work if I have a client to please,) I can easily become absorbed only in making photographs, and nothing else matters! Being able to really zone in on what I am doing helps me forget all the worries and stresses I may be experiencing in life and just enjoy the process of being creative.

Narrowing the attention of your thoughts to the creative processes of photography, meditating on photography, brings a whole other dimension to the experience. Being aware of and intentionally seeking opportunities where you can use your camera creatively can help you relax differently than other activities you may enjoy. Watching the news on TV, checking social media, or going to a movie are all things that add a change of pace to your daily life. But a lot of what you do to relax does not involve being creative. Being creative with your camera adds a whole new dimension to life and can be most therapeutic.

Three Good Reasons To Learn More About Photography

Conclusion

Having the desire and drive to want your photos to be noticed when you share them is a good reason to learn more about photography. Overcoming the frustration you may feel because you haven’t taken the time to learn how to use your camera is another good solid reason to invest some time, and maybe even some money, in learning how your camera functions and how you can control it better (preferably in manual mode.)

Once you are on the path to learn more about your camera and about photography, knowing that it can be wonderfully therapeutic, should be most encouraging for you to follow some course of study to make the most of your camera – even your phone camera! Here’s a video for you to watch more on this topic as well.

What other good reasons do you have for learning more about photography? Please share in the comments below.

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How to do More Creative Wildlife Photography by using Rim Lighting

27 Jul

Wildlife photography is one of the fastest growing hobbies today. With DSLR and lenses getting cheaper by the minute, it is only bound to grow faster. With more and more people taking to wildlife photography as a means to connect with nature and share its beauties, it’s become imperative that you start pushing the bar of your photography ever higher. One of the best and easiest ways to do that is to try out rim lighting shots. If you do not know what that means, you are on the right page – keep reading.

How to do More Creative Wildlife Photography by using Rim Lighting

There are many ways to get creative with your wildlife photography, but in this article I will teach you one of the most impactful. Let’s start with getting to know rim lighting a little better.

What is rim lighting?

By definition, rim lighting in photography means any image where the light at the edges of the subject seems more intense than the other areas. For example, take a look at the image below.

How to do More Creative Wildlife Photography by using Rim Lighting

Notice how the outline of the giraffes stands out? The rim of the subject looks well-lit. Quite simply, that’s what rim lighting is about.

How do you achieve rim lighting?

First and foremost, you need to position yourself such that the subject stands between your camera and the light source (more often than not, that will be the sun in nature photography). Rim lighting will happen in the natural world only if you can see the rim, lit up with your eyes. Some of the easiest subjects for this are animals that have a lot of fur and are not too smooth coated, for example, bears, giraffes, lions, or deer with antlers.

Take a look at the visual below for a quick understanding on positioning yourself.

750

Guidelines

There are a few guidelines that you need to adhere to while trying to obtain a rim-lit image:

  • Rim lighting happens best when the sun is low in the sky, so try to look for a subject around that time.
  • A dark background is necessary (check all the images in this article) so make sure that you try this in an area where your background is conducive to good results.

Speaking about the camera now, composition aside, rim-lit photography can be done using one of two approaches.

Approach #1 – Exposure Compensation

Using exposure compensation is the easiest way to execute rim-lit shots. Once you have ensured that you are able to see a rim-lit subject just go ahead and try a test shot with a little underexposure. Take a look at the sequence of images below.

How to do More Creative Wildlife Photography by using Rim Lighting

Make note, by default when using the built-in metering system in your camera, more often than not the image in such scenarios (a lot of black and little bit of white) will turn out to be a bit washed out. It is just that the camera does not know what is the most important part of the image and makes an error in judgement (it tries to average the exposure).

Knowing where to stop with regards to exposure compensation is a subjective call. You could be happy with the second or the third image above. Just know that the more you underexpose the darker the surroundings will get.

This is a perfectly valid way of getting a rim-lit shot, but I generally recommend the second approach. The simple reason being that exposure compensation doesn’t reset itself. If you forget your camera is set at an EV of -2, it would mean disaster for the next few shots where you may not be trying to create a rim lighting shot.

How to do More Creative Wildlife Photography by using Rim Lighting

Approach #2 – Exposure Lock (AE-L)

This approach is slightly more advanced in terms of understanding. Imagine yourself standing in front of a monkey with the sun setting behind him and the immediate background being dark trees. Now, do the following:

  • Point your camera toward the sky. Half press your shutter-release button to activate metering.
  • Next, press the Exposure Lock Button (AE-L or * button) which often resides right where your right-hand thumb would rest.
  • Now, recompose your image with the subject as needed and click.

What happens is that when you point your camera towards the sky and ask it to meter from there, it takes a light reading from the bright sky and sets up a shutter/aperture combination accordingly. Let’s assume for a minute that the value came out to be 1/2000th at f/4.

Now, if you press the Exposure Lock button, the camera will lock on to these readings and will not change them for your next set of clicks. So when you recompose and photograph the monkey, the camera uses the locked in settings thus rendering only the areas in the frame that are as bright as the sky correctly. In this recomposed image, the only area that is as bright as the sky is the outline of the monkey, giving you a nice, well exposed rim-lit image.

How to do More Creative Wildlife Photography by using Rim Lighting

Practice around home first

Go ahead, practice the AE-L at home and then get out there and try a couple of rim-lit shots. Here is what you can do at home, before heading out to the wild.

Catch hold of a friend or family member and make them stand in front of a car at night. They should be covering the headlight of the car completely. If you stand at the other end with your friend in between yourself and the light source, you should be able to see his entire body with rim lighting.

Now that you know how to get a subject, go out there with your camera and start trying the exposure compensation trick to get some fabulous rim-lit images. Please share your rim-lit wildlife images below as well as any questions you may have about this technique.

How to do More Creative Wildlife Photography by using Rim Lighting

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Why I Use ACDSee Versus Adobe Bridge for Culling Images and More

27 Jul

Believe me, I have tried. Over the years, I have tried to wean myself off ACDSee. But, like Al Pacino in The Godfather, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”. ACDSee does what I want it to do and, as a single package, and it does it better than anything else I have found.

I use Lightroom as a factory, a mass production tool. I import the images, I process them, that’s it. For a long time, I have felt no urge to look at anything other than the Library and Develop modules.

ACDSee Image Software

The wood shed.

Continuing the analogy, what I might call handcrafted images, are processed in the garden shed, with Photoshop. Pretty much everything else I do in ACDSee.

ACDSee in place of Adobe Bridge

First and foremost, ACDSee is an Adobe Bridge replacement for me. For something like 80% of the time, I use about 20% of its capacity, that is its ability to act in the place of Bridge. I am certain that I have only launched Adobe Bridge once in the last year. I had to do it just once to write this article! ACDSee simply does it better in my opinion.

ACDSee Image Software

Standard file manager style screen

Any of the different versions, even the most basic of them, meet my needs. The screen shots for this article are from ACDSee Ultimate, but my previous experience is that all versions work in a similar way. You would need to work out just how many bells and whistles you wanted to invest in. ACDSee offers a good comparison of the different versions on their website. I am sure you would find that ACDSee is not a challenging piece of software, it works quite conventionally.

This article may well invite some comments suggesting that “such and such” software does that too, and I am sure that is true. Is the elephant in the room Photo Mechanic, is it Irfan View, or even Adobe Bridge? I am also sure that there are even others. So I try others, I give them a go, but I end up back in the arms of the little-known all-around beauty which is ACDSee.

ACDSee Image Software

Lifestyle

I tend to be a little bemused when I have heard people talk about having a lifestyle. I have wondered if I ought to get myself such a thing. My reaction is not much different when people talk about having a workflow. Different situations seem to me to require different approaches, and I have wondered if I should get myself a workflow.

The truth is that I am not totally slapdash. For example, if I have been out on a photo walk, there is a routine which I tend to follow. Stepping through that routine seems a good way to look at some aspects of ACDSee. Here is my process.

IMPORTING IMAGES

ACDSee provides a ton of choices for importing photographs, let me highlight just one.

ACDSee Image Software

Import window of ACDSee.

I am a huge believer in the adage that “Data only exists if it exists in two places”. The extension of that thought is that you do not actually have a backup until you have a third copy. Presuming that you leave your images on the card in the camera, ACDSee gives you the choice to make two copies on import and to give you those second and third copies of your images. The first copy can be imported to one folder and the second copy can be imported to another location. That might just prove to be a very useful safety net one day. You might be glad you tried ACDSee for this reason alone.

It might be a consequence of having used computers since before The Ark, but I still tend to think in terms of named and dated folders. Libraries, collections and the like, clearly work for some, but I import to my date/location file structure, then into Lightroom from there.

THE CULLING PROCESS

One of the most important parts of my workflow (Oops! did I just admit to something?) is the culling process. I will take a long time sorting through the photographs, in sweeps, which are progressively more demanding, deleting those which I do not want to spend time processing. ACDSee helps me with the cull in at least 3 ways.

ACDSee Image Software

1 – ACDSee is fast with RAW files

Subjectively, I tend to find Adobe Bridge rather clunky to operate and slow in responding. It was painfully slow to open a folder and draw the thumbnails on a computer with quite high specifications. The same folder was opened, with thumbnails and images viewable very promptly, in less than ten seconds with ACDSee. It was taking so long with Bridge, the images were still not viewable after 2 minutes, that I moved to another copy I have of the same images on a faster, SSD drive. In all fairness, Bridge was then just as quick as ACDSee.

ACDSee Image Software

Adobe Bridge

Objectively, ACDSee is faster at drawing a RAW file than Bridge to an insane degree. I took shot Image A and opened it to a full-screen view in ACDSee, then in Bridge. Then I reversed the process and opened Image B in Bridge first, then in ACDSee. Both ways, using ACDSee, the image was clear, viewable in sharp detail, within 2 seconds. Using Bridge, after more than 30 seconds I gave up, clicked to zoom in, and only then did it become a clear, sharp, fully-drawn image.

ACDSee Image Software
That adds up to an awful lot of time over the years. I cannot fathom that there is anyone who likes sitting and waiting for their computer to catch up. Not only would you save a huge amount of time cumulatively, it also makes for a much more satisfying experience.

2 – Comparing images is easy with ACDSee

Second, the process of culling is easier because ACDSee offers an excellent tool for comparing photographs in close detail. I know Lightroom offers something similar, probably others do too, but none seem to work as well as that in ACDSee. Often I will have a series of four or five shots (or more) which are largely similar. ACDSee lets you put those shots on screen, next to each other, all at the same time. Actually, I think it works best with just three on screen at a time.

ACDSee Image Software

Three or more photographs compared side by side.

The choice as to which photograph to keep often comes down to a technical decision such as which shot is the sharpest. For a portrait, that usually means looking at the eye. With ACDSee, when you zoom in on one of the photographs which you are comparing, all of the shots zoom in to the same point, at the same level. Again, I acknowledge that other software probably does this, but I have not come across all the things I want, working as well as they do, in one package.

ACDSee Image Software

All three shots zoomed in to the same level.

3 – Full-screen mode

The third way in which ACDSee helps me cull images is that it goes to full screen so very easily and quickly. It displays photographs in the way I want to see them. Full screen, with no window border, no mouse pointer. Double click or hit Enter and you are in full screen. Also “Crtl/Cmd+scroll wheel” zooms you in. That is how I want to view photographs.

Then, there are two bonuses. First, a right click option is Zoom Lock, which means I can Page Up and Page Down between shots which are full screen and zoomed in to the same point and level. You might even prefer this to the side by side comparison. The next bonus, which can be useful now and then, is that the EXIF data can be brought up very quickly with ALT/OPTION+Enter in the full-screen view mode.

ACDSee Image Software

Full-screen mode, with the EXIF data, added on the right.

All the above is mostly about ACDSee being used as a replacement for Adobe Bridge. One important thing I have not squeezed in so far is that you can open an image straight into Photoshop from ACDSee. It does the file browser function of Bridge just as well, and a very easy keystroke combination of Ctrl/Cmd+Alt+X takes the image into Photoshop. It is probably the only shortcut I can use without looking at the keyboard.

These factors alone make a case for why ACDSee keeps pulling me back in. However, there is more!

BATCH PROCESSING

ACDSee Image Software

ACDsee has a good selection of batch operations.

The tools which I probably use most often, and they work very well, with all the options you could ask for, are the batch tools. I find it so helpful that ACDSee will batch resize a number of images, then convert the file format, then rename them. There are a few other tricks too.

It is not part of the batch menu but, at least in my mind, it is linked. I often publish directly to social websites where, again, you are given useful choices.

ACDSee Image Software

Send to …

ACDSee Image Software

This is probably a good place to mention again that I know Adobe has the tools to do all of this. But I do not think anyone can believe that they are as simple to use, and they are certainly not all in one place.

MANAGE

As I have already confessed, I am still in the mentality of file browsers, and that is the format which you are looking at with ACDSee. It has all the benefits which you would expect from such a tool. You can search, play with metadata, sort by different criteria, look at different views … it just works well.

ACDSee Image Software

Full-screen slideshow.

Seems this might be the time to mention that ACDSee does good slide shows too, with some level of sophistication. Full screen, with the toolbar you can see above only appearing when you click on the screen. Most notably, that gives you the ability to change the delay. For more sophisticated settings, you can dig a little deeper.

ACDSee Image Software

Slideshow settings window.

EDITING

Finally, the part of ACDSee which I use least often, though still appreciate, is the program’s capacity as an image editor.

I do sometimes use it for one-off processing of an image. Some people suggest that ACDSee is a full blown alternative to products which are much better known. ACDSee will handle RAW, it has layers, it is non-destructive … it has some clever tricks … if you do a search on You Tube, you will find plenty of people offering not just enthusiasm, but solid tuition that might persuade you that ACDSee can meet ALL your photographic needs in what would then be a very reasonably priced package.

Read dPS author Leanne Cole’s review here: Photo Editing Alternative – An Overview of ACDSee Ultimate 10

It might seem trivial, but what I often use ACDSee for is cropping and leveling. Without a description of the minute details, it has all the usual cropping facilities, but with the easy ability to set dimensions precisely to the pixel.

ACDSee Image Software

Pixel precise cropping.

You can then place the mask precisely on the image, in a way that I have not found any other program capable of doing. I also like the way it allows you to vary the opacity of the image area outside the mask. If you set a crop dimension and move through a series of photographs, the dimension will also be retained from one photograph to the next.

ACDSee Image Software

A helpful tool.

It also works similarly with regards rotating the image.

ACDSee Image Software

You can rotate by the degree.

I’ve not used anything else which lets you rotate the image with such precision, auto-cropping as you go.

Again, a clear display of what is happening, with helpful options

CONCLUSION

I love the forensic, hugely detailed reviews which, for example, DP Review conducts. This article cannot be of that nature. It is more a taster, highlighting a few of the things which I find helpful to me personally, and which might work for you too. I also join others in celebrating the underdog, particularly if it is, in fact, a really good team, which plays a good game.

Why not go over to ACDSee, download it for a 30-day free trial and give it a go yourself. If you already use it, tell us in the comments below what features you love the most and why.

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No More Ugly Apartment Buildings: 13 Designs Refreshing the Paradigm

25 Jul

[ By SA Rogers in Architecture & Houses & Residential. ]

Apartment buildings are typically so hideous, it’s kind of exhausting. A structure with some measure of character gets knocked down in a prominent spot and before locals dare to dream that something cool might go up in its place, there’s another boring old block of apartments (or worse yet, condos) adding to the dull architectural noise of the city. Of course, it’s all subjective. You could argue, fairly enough, that pretty much all new apartment buildings are ugly, and that trying to make them ‘cool’ results in an even more irritating visual offense. What do you think – are these 13 designs switching up the same-old same-old in a positive way?

Lots of Light: 9 Units at the Apartment in Kamitakada

Developers looking to squeeze big bucks out of a project by creating high-end luxury housing are a lot more motivated to build structures that are more interesting than usual, but every now and then, there’s the rare project that gives some aesthetic consideration to a building that’s actually affordable to the average city resident. Takeshi Yamagata Architects designed this 9-unit building in Tokyo as a cluster of four buildings connected by open-air pathways, integrating gardens, curving walls and lots of windows for the feel of an urban refuge minus the multi-million-dollar price tag.

325 Kent by SHoP Architects

Currently under construction on the site of an old Domino sugar factory in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the 325 Kent project by SHoP Architects is part of a redevelopment masterplan transforming the refinery into a 380,000-square-foot complex with a waterfront park and four residential buildings containing 2,800 rental units. SHoP’s building will house 522 of those apartments in a 16-story structure, arranged around a dramatic elevated courtyard. The units at the top will be stepped to create a series of spacious outdoor terraces. Nope – this one isn’t going to be cheap.

Pixelated Concrete: 222 Jackson by ODA

Over in Queens, the 11-story 2222 Jackson building by ODA features a pixelated concrete facade creating voids and projections for shade, privacy and outdoor spaces. Located just steps away from MoMA PS1, the building is conceived as a modular grid, giving it about 30% more outdoor space than the same-sized building with the same number of units arranged in a more typical shape.

Parasitic Growth: Plug-In City 75 by Stephane Malka

Commissioned to update and expand a 1970s-era building in Paris, architect Stéphane Malka proposes a system of parasitic wooden cubes that would attach to the facade, extending the living space and reducing the structure’s energy consumption by 75 percent. The unusual design would help mitigate problems with poor insulation and permeable windows while adhering to the city’s restrictive building laws, which don’t allow architects to build vertically.

Contemporary and Complimentary: p17 Housing in Milan

How do you sensitively design a new apartment complex that will blend in with a historic neighborhood while reflecting the era in which it’s being built? For P17, a residential housing complex in Milan, Italian architectural firm Modourbano harmonizes with surrounding buildings while retaining a contemporary feel, thanks to the beautiful natural hues in its sandstone facade.

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No More Ugly Apartment Buildings 13 Designs Refreshing The Paradigm

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[ By SA Rogers in Architecture & Houses & Residential. ]

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PocketWizard releases MultiMAX II trigger with 20 ControlTL channels and more

18 Jul

Radio flash trigger manufacturer PocketWizard has reintroduced its much-loved MultiMAX transceiver, having added more control options and improved handling. The MultiMAX ll offers a total of 52 channels, including 20 dedicated to ControlTL devices, as well as improved features for time-lapse and sequential triggering.

The new version of the MultiMAX features a PowerControl function that allows the user to manually control the output of up to three groups of flashes compatible with the ControlTL system from the MultiMAX display panel. The screen is now illuminated by a blue LCD backlight, which the company says improves contrast and legibility, and the keypad is said to be brighter than that of the previous model.

The system’s intervalometer has had the burst limit lifted so users can set it for any number of flashes for as long as they like, making the mode useful for timelapse photography, and the SpeedCycler mode is now equipped to perform sequential firing of up to sixteen cameras or flashguns in sequence. That last part is useful in fast moving situations, when you can’t wait for an individual flash to recharge, so the MultiMAX just fires the next one in line.

The PocketWizard MultiMAX ll costs $ 230 and is available now. For more information, watch the video below or head over to the PocketWizard website.

Press Release:

The Best is Back –Introducing the MultiMAX II

More timing features, same great reliability, all at a lower price.

LPA Design, manufacturers of PocketWizard Photo Products, the global leader in reliable wireless control of cameras, flash lighting and light meters, announces the MultiMAX II and the return of unique timing features that only PocketWizard technology provides. Whether you are a sports, wildlife or wedding photographer, you will be happy to learn that the most powerfully-featured wireless radio on the planet, the PocketWizard MultiMAX, is back and fully compatible with all other PocketWizard radios.

Building on the legendary MultiMAX, the MultiMAX II takes its place as the most versatile, reliable and predictably compatible radio on the market. For the past 16 years, the MultiMAX has helped capture amazing images, many of which have landed on magazine covers throughout the world. MultiMAX Transceivers continue to be found in frequency crowded environments triggering arena flashes or remote cameras behind soccer goals, hockey nets, basketball nets, horse jumps, bull chutes, and the finish line of major International Track and Field events.

After a brief hiatus, the MultiMAX II returns with new features including 20 ControlTL channels, Manual Power Control and an improved blue backlit LCD which provides better contrast for improved viewing in dimly lit studios or on-site locations. The key pad is brighter too, allowing photographers to easily change settings on the fly. Its 344 MHz frequency sets it apart from 2.4 GHz noise in crowded venues.

“The MultiMAX II continues to provide incredible features that professional photographers have come to rely on. It has a whole suite of built-in tools designed for the demanding sports shooter like Patterns, programmable delays, and a settable contact time. The MultiMAX II is also Custom ID ready. Photographers can create incredible depth of field or stroboscopic effects with Multi-pop, give rear curtain sync to any camera, and even synchronize multiple cameras together, states Patrick Clow, Technical Support and Customer Service Manager.

The MultiMAX II has a total of 52 channels: 32 Standard Channels and 20 ControlTL Channels. Photographers can creatively control groups of lights or cameras allowing them to work in crowded venues or with multiple flash set-ups. And now with Power Control, photographers can remotely adjust the manual power settings of ControlTL compatible radios and flashes in up to three zones with as many flashes in each group as you want.

“Professional photographers have clamored for years to bring back the MultiMAX. We listened and we responded by making a great radio even better and offering it at a lower price. The MultiMAX II Transceiver is and remains the only radio on the market that performs special PocketWizard features including Infinite Intervalometer, SpeedCycler and Ultra Long Range. It is the most reliable Transceiver on the market for capturing life’s most amazing moments, states Karen Marshall, CEO of LPA Design

The MultiMAX II will be available at retail and on line in the US and Canada starting July 17, 2017. The retail price will be $ 229.00 USD in the US and $ 309.00 CAD in Canada.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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