Archive for March, 2009

They Call Me the Wanderer (lenses) part 2

Sometimes when you travel or go on a shoot that involves a lot of moving (like the zoo or nature trail), you want to pack light and don’t want of need the hassle of lugging and switching lenses constantly.  Today, I wanted to introduce you to the super zoom lens category.  Canon, Nikon, Sony, Tamron and Sigma all make super zoom lenses.

What is a super zoom you might ask? A super zoom lens has a range of 18mm (wide angle) to 200mm or greater (telephoto). 

These lenses eliminate most of the need for multiple lenses or constant swapping. However, they aren’t perfect.  All of these lenses can produce image abnormalities such as barrel distortion, pincushion distortion and chromatic abberation (click on the word to see the wikipedia definition). The distortion issues can be easily fixed in photoshop and the chromatic abberation (pink or blue edges in high contrast areas) can be fixed in lightroom 2.0 with only one or two quick steps.  These lenses also come with various versions of vibration compensation.

Although not perfect, a super zoom is almost a must have for “walkabout” situations.

p.s. I have added a lens page in the gear section on the website!


Love the One You’re With (Lenses) part 1

When I first discovered blogging, the very first blog I read was the strobist by David Hobby. I don’t remember exactly where I saw the comment (possibly in Professional Photographer Magazine or Photoshop User), Mr. Hobby said that his work left him using speedlights all of the time while he left his studio lights stashed at home under his bed.  He then said that he was reminded of the song lyrics – “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.”  With this great idea in mind, let’s explore this concept with lenses.

I never seem to have the lens I need, not enough zoom, not wide-angle enough, not macro enough, not cheap enough to afford…you get the idea.  I want to show you some shortcuts to find either a way to acquire the lens you need or at least the look you want to achieve with that lens you don’t have.

Today I want to give you the link to four lens rental companies. I have a close friend who has used at least two of them with satisfactory results. The obvious advantage of lens rentals is that you can get a specialty lens when you need it but don’t have the major investment of a lens you don’t need all of the time. Additionally, you get the option of trying out (renting) different lenses before commiting to a purchase.

  1. – This one was my friend’s favorite.  My friend said they would practically “bend over backwards to help you” and the prices are the best he’s found.
  2. – Another site my friend used. He reported that there were no problems with this experience either (the prices are a little higher than LensGiant).
  3. – This site I found in PhotoshopUser Magazine. They offer a discount to NAPP members – look for the discount code on the NAPP member site under the “member discount” section for more details.
  4. – I threw this one in just for comparison. I don’t know much about them beyond what is on their site.

If you have any experience with the listed companies or have a suggestion for an addition to this list, please leave them in the comments section.

p.s. if you are uncertain of a web retailer or online business you might be able to check them out at This website has helped me to avoid bad companies in the past. It really helps to read some of the company reviews. Keep in mind that most people won’t post unless they are unhappy about a product or service.

Ken, Tao and a preview of next week

Today I want to point you to a couple of blogs.

 Ken Rockwell is a blog I have known of for a long time. It is a fantastic site for photography education, and gear reviews.

Tao of Photography is a blog that is fairly new to me. It appears that Andy (the blog’s author) posts infrequently, but the content is pretty good and his sidebar links are fantastic.

Both of these sites are definitely worth at least a slow browse through their various content.

Next week I will be starting a multi-part series about lenses (how to get the effects you need, without breaking the bank).  Stay tuned!

Grunge Overlays Made Easy (a short tutorial)

 Recently, I wrote an article about grunge overlays without actually explaining what overlays are. I apologize for the oversight.

 An overlay is simply a picture, pattern or graphic design that is used in Photoshop to add texture to an image.


 To apply an overlay, simply open the photo you want to edit in Adobe Photoshop.  Then open a new empty layer in Photoshop above the original image (background) and add the image you want to use as the overlay. Change the layer mode of the overlay layer to either soft light, hard light or overlay and then reduce the opacity to somewhere between 20 to 50%. If you want to use multiple images as overlays try to lean towards the lower end on opacity (around 15 to 20%) and let the effects build up. Some artist use over 10 overlay layers in their images. As a finishing touch I usually add a hue/saturation adjustment layer to tweak the final image.


 Tip: if you want to reduce the effect on the subject, use the lasso tool to select the subject then add a gausian blur (found in the filters menu) and apply it at 250 pixels on every overlay layer –Not on the Original Image. If you use the eraser or layer mask, you will affect the color casts created by the overlay.


For some samples of before and after images, click on my facebook link or go to facebook and search for the tags “grunge and outofnapkins“.  If you want to see how cool overlays can be, check out the portfolio from Sallee Photography – (Sallee Photography is one of the best wedding photography studios in the nation.) It might be hard to tell, but they use overlays on virtually every image. The beauty of their use of overlays is that it is very subtle but also very striking and gives a look that isn’t something that you can get straight out of the camera.  By the way, they have years of education and experience in photography, fine art photography and in photoshop (all help tremendously in creating such beautiful images).


 Next week I’ll have a look at how to speed up your photoshop with an “actions” tutorial.

A Close Call

About 6 months ago I bought my son some very powerful magnets to play with (trying to add a little science to playtime). Imagine my surprize when I walked into my office and saw him holding a magnet with the stylus from my tablet dangling from it. Boy I panicked.

Fortunately he had not gotten around to seeing if the tower or external hard drive were magnetic. It did however get me thinking. I routinely back up my external drive onto my internal drive and vice versa, BUT, both drives are next to each other, in reach of children and (although safe from crashes) not safe from physical threats. In the very near future, I will be purchasing a second external hard drive to back up the first so that I can store it somewhere PHYSICALLY safe.  The other thought I had was that I need to explain to my children (all 3 of them) about computers and my photography gear and explain how they are used and how they can be damaged.  Hopefully this will help them make better decisions when unusual situations arise (such as finding out what is magnetic while the parents aren’t around).

p.s. So far, the tablet seems to have survived the shock.

Hardware Lists and a little entertainment

On my main website –, I have added two sections in the hardware category (cameras and computers). They are listings of manufacturers, some retailers, and a few review and news sites. I have also added a couple of links in the entertainment section. One is for a web comic that deals with photography and the other couple of links are for photography related t-shirts, clothes and other merchandise.

Also, I added a book – The Complete Guide to Light and Lighting in Digital Photography– to my essential reading list page on this blog as well as a couple of magazines that I consider indispensable.

A new Rebel from Canon & “The Orton Effect” tutorial

Howdy, ladies and gentleman, please allow me to direct your attention to the center of the ring. Canon has just announced their newest camera – the Canon EOS 500d – Rebel T1i. You can find a full report on it from the website Digital Photography Review (

And in other news, today I would like to introduce you to the orton effect. The orton effect is a photoshop technique that mimics orton photography (click here for the wikipedia definition). The technique (developed by photographer Michael Orton) is when you overlay two or more slides of the same subject but at very different exposure settings to create visual interest. Usually one slide is under exposed and the other is overexposed and blurry or soft focus.

To create this effect in photoshop, here are the steps:

  1. Open a file in photoshop.
  2. Make a duplicate layer (make sure the duplicate layer is on top).
  3. On the duplicate layer in the layers panel, click on the eyeball (so that the duplicate layer is invisible)
  4. Double click on the background layer so that it becomes a new layer (“layer 0”) that you can manipulate.
  5. Make sure the original layer is still highlighte and add a levels adjustment layer – (along the top menu in photoshop, click Layer/new adjustment layer/ levels).
  6. In the adjustment layer dialog box drag the center triangle to the left until the middle display reads “2.00” – (you should see the image get lighter)
  7. On the duplicate layer in the layers panel, click on the eyeball again (so that the duplicate layer is now visible)
  8. Apply a gausian blur to the duplicate layer, the radius should be approximately 5 to 15 pixels (settings can vary by image – you will need to play around with the settings)
  9. On the duplicate layer set the layer mode to multiply.
  10. If you want to adjust the density of the image, double click on the half black, half white circle on the adjustment layer and move the middle triangle around until you are happy.

You’ve done it. hope you enjoy the Orton effect.  For some samples of before and after, click here.