Wednesday, June 20, 2007

RAW: Continued

I was a diehard JPEG shooter who began experimenting with RAW about a month ago. I was stumbling around for a while but I’m now happy to report that I’ve gotten some help and am settling into it.

Initially, I had no idea what I was doing wrong. I only knew that I was intensely frustrated. It seemed like too much work to shoot Raw and affirmed my choice to shoot Jpeg in the first place. Pro mountain bike photographer, Seb Rogers, pointed me in the right direction. What I needed was a better workflow.

That search led me to Adobe Lightroom, a program that promises to do it all – manage your photo library, edit, produce slideshows, print and web, all in one slick and polished looking app. And, I ordered Michael Clark’s Lightroom workflow e-Book to help me out.

Michael Clark is a professional adventure sports photographer, probably one of the best out there. I figured he would be a great person to learn this stuff from. His e-Book costs $29.95, and at only 96 pages long, it seems a bit pricy for such a small e-Book. This is not an instructional manual for Adobe Lightroom. You can get that for a lot less money elsewhere. This is a step-by-step guide that takes you through Michael’s own workflow, from how he sets up his Nikon D2x (D200) for Raw capture, moves files from camera to hard drive, importing to Lightroom, editing and developing the raw images in the Lightroom develop module and Photoshop CS2, to archiving. Michael shares some personal tips using Lightroom as well as lessons from the field.

My 30-day-trial with Adobe Lightroom is almost up. Lightroom is not yet the all-in-one photo app that I am looking for. I feel that version 1.0 of Lightroom is let down by overly simplistic sharpening and noise tools, but I hear that version 1.1 is on its way and has addressed those issues and more.

Stay tuned!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Confessions of a Gym Rat


My mum fell and broke her hip earlier this week. It wasn’t anything dramatic. She just lost her balance and fell to the floor. And now, she has a couple of titanium screws holding her hipbone together. Despite regular visits to the gym, she did not have functional strength to maintain her balance that may have prevented the fall.

My mum’s not that old. She’s in her 60’s. She visits the gym twice a week and works out mainly on the machines there. The problem with machines is that they can only exercise the muscle along one axis. That’s great for isolating and rehabilitating an injured muscle, but in real life, you can twist and turn and use your muscles in three dimensions.

Mum didn't have much chance to right her balance before she fell. Her stabilizer muscles were not developed in her gym routine. For example, the Leg Press machine she is so fond of is fine for building up the quads, but ignores the stabilizer muscles of the legs, and ignores the relationship between the legs, the core (muscles of the middle body), and the upper body. It’s the same for the other machines at most gyms.

I'm a gym rat, but if you’ve guessed I’m not a big fan of machines, you’re right. So if you’re wondering how else to get a workout in the gym, I can point you in the right direction. Core Performance, by Mark Verstegen, is a good place to start. The emphasis is on working out the body as a whole, and has elements of Pilates and Yoga. What’s also great about Core Performance is that the workout can be done with a simple home gym, or adapted for use while traveling.

If you’re an athlete and work out with weights for strength and power, another good reference is Dr. Michael Colgan’s: The New Power Program. One of Colgan’s premises is to avoid using machines for the reasons mentioned above, and prefer the use free weights and cables in order to recruit more muscle groups that are involved in stabilizing the weights. I’m a big fan of Dr. Colgan. His earlier work, Optimum Sports Nutrition, is a sports best seller, and it literally saved my life.

Despite my buff appearance in the photo on top, I'm not an expert. The authors of the recommended books are. Working out or training puts a lot of stress on muscle, joints, bones and the cardiovasular system. Please follow their advice at your own risk.

Photo by Stephanie Yeow

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Shopping For A Camera Bag

The D200 is physically much larger than my 350D. One problem that has cropped up is that my camera pouch no longer fits. So once again, I find myself shopping for a new bag, and I hope someone reading this can help.

My photography revolves around my participation of active outdoor sports, and bringing back images that I can share or publish. Typically, I’ll move ahead into position, whip my camera out of the bag, spin the aperture ring and fire off a few shots. Being able to access my camera quickly is a must. A velcro flap rather than zips are preferred. I don’t use lens caps while my camera is in the bag, so some dust protection is needed.

I prefer chest pouches for their flexibility. I can have it in front, or spin it to my side if it gets in the way, or have it moounted to my belt or backpack. The best bag I used was a ‘Galen Rowell’chest pouch with my Nikon FE2/FM2. It was a lightly padded bag with a Velcro flap cover. It wasn’t big enough to fit my Canon 350D however, and so I got a Newswear Body Pouch. The Newswear Pouch is not designed for this purpose, and the top flap does not overlap the body of the pouch, so dust protection is not good.

Update 10 June:
I need a chest pouch to fit the D200. The Lowepro Topload Zoom 1 is a contender, although it uses zips insteaad of velcro to close. Seb Rogers, a pro mountain biking photographer uses one for his D200. Jimmy Chin, a mountaineering photographer uses an M-Rock holster for his D200. I haven't seen one of those, so I'm not sure how they close. I've also seen pics of a Tamrac 5514 holster bag that might do the job. If anyone has any input about any of these bags, please let me know. Thanks.

Photos:
Top: Mountain Biking Nepal. Taken with a Nikon FM2, 24mm lens, original 'Galen Rowell' Chest Pouch
Right: Crossing a Bamboo Bridge in Northern Thailand with the Newswear Body Pouch

Old Dog, New Tricks

Today, I bought a used Nikon D200 and a Sigma 50-150/F2.8 lens. I also wanted to get a Nikkor 12-24/F4 and an SB600, but I ran out of money, so those will have to wait for another day.

There is very little not to like about the D200, but I won’t be selling my little Canon 350D just yet. The D200 is tough and heavy, but the 350D is small and lightweight. Both cameras have qualities suitable for outdoor pursuits. I want to make sure the added weight of the D200 does not interfere with my participatory style of photography before I let go of my 350D.

I won’t gush about the D200. Enough has been said about it. I will say that the 350D has met my expectations for travel and adventure photography. Flickr photographers like Chris Spira make good use of the 350D.

If you are upgrading from a 350D or a 400D, be cautious about switching systems. It could be an expensive lesson, as I've had to learn. It’s tough for an old dog to learn new tricks. Had I begun photography with a Canon SLR, I would probably still be shooting with a Canon. But I started out with Nikon. And that’s how I expect cameras to look, feel and function.

I’m just an old dog.