Archive for December, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

Mark Zanzig/zettpress

A busy year nears its end. It’s been an exciting year, even if sometimes a bit challenging, especially considering the past few months of economic mayhem. I am sure that we will survive in 2009 – more about this in a separate post. :-)

Now is the time to think back, to rest, and to celebrate. And to say “Thank You”!

And so we want to thank our customers, big and small, our partners, our colleagues, and last but not least – we want to thank you. 400,000+ individuals visited this year, a slight decrease from the 470,000 visitors we saw last year but still very good compared to other sites. We served about 2.7 million pages in total. Thus, Petra and myself would like to thank you for visiting our site.

Without you, our life would be very different and quite boring.

Merry Christmas!

Lightroom 2.2 available

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

Adobe continues it’s upgrade (bug-fix) bonanza for its popular Lightroom software. On Monday, version 2.2 was released. It now supports the Canon EOS 5D mark II.

In addition, Adobe claims that several bugs have been fixed, including this nasty one:

Lightroom could become unresponsive when using the graduated filter under certain conditions

No mentioning of improved performance, so folks with high-end computers may continue to see mediocre performance from Lightroom. I have not even made the step towards 2.1 (mostly due to the mixed user feedback), and before I go for 2.2 I will closely monitor the reports of others.

Anyway, if Adobe keeps this pace, we will see Lightroom 4 around summer 2009. ;-)

### UPDATE 05-JAN-09 ###

Looks like this minor release has gone wrong big time, and it looks like you should NOT upgrade to version 2.2. Gordon McKinney was one of the first to report a serious memory leak in LR 2.2 for Windows that seems to be linked to the use of the (improved) Adjustment Brush and Gradient Filters. Adobe has confirmed the existence of this bug. Ouch. Lightroom’s stability has taken a big hit this time, and it seems to affect the system stability as well. Rolling back to version 2.1 or earlier seems to be also a challenge for a lot of users. I will definitely skip the 2.2 release.

As a consequence, emotions are peaking at the Adobe Forums over this mediocre minor release. Adobe had the same problem with version 1.4 which had to be rolled back and was quickly replaced by 1.4.1 which has always been reliable. I agree with the folks who find it bizarre that Adobe is unable to get solid software out 18+ months after the launch of a product. One can’t help thinking that they just throw beta software at paying customers who then do the testing for Adobe.

Meanwhile Adobe reported solid results for Q4/2008, but they will still fire 600 employees. I just hope that they don’t cut too much into the Lightroom team. If they do, they may not be able to fix the revenue problem they are facing (growth was less than 1%). Lightroom is certainly one of the key products that will help Adobe with this.

### UPDATE 03-MAR-09 ###

Adobe has released version 2.3 of Lightroom. If you have been working with the buggy version 2.2, I strongly recommend to update to version 2.3 which seems to be much more solid than version 2.2!

Exploring the Blue Hour

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

EOS 1ds mark II, EF 24-70/2.8L @ 24mm, 8 sec., f/22, ISO 100
Mark Zanzig/zettpress (Archive Photo)

1ds mk II, EF 100-400/4.5-5.6 L @ 100 mm, 15 sec., f/32, ISO 100
Mark Zanzig/zettpress (Archive Photo)

As the outlook for the economy (and especially for newspapers and journalists) is rather gloomy, I thought I would explain how to achieve stunning shots during the “Blue Hour”, despite of darkness setting in.

The term “Blue Hour” describes the period between sunset and complete darkness in the early evening, and the time between darkness and sunrise in the morning. It’s called “Blue Hour” because during this time you can capture a beautiful dark blue sky while still maintaining the darkness of your surroundings.

Here are a few tips for you to help you getting the most out of this period.

1. Get a solid tripod

This is the first requirement. While you can work without tripod, e.g. by putting the camera in a place where it sits solidly, you have virtually no control over the exact look of the photo. This means that you will later have to crop and turn the image, reducing its actual size, sometimes dramatically.

The tripod helps you to take exactly the picture you want, and where you want it.

2. Get a remote control

You can put your camera to self-exposure mode and use the exposure times up to 30 seconds, but this is awkward and leaves you with too few options, because you can only select exposure times in large steps for the long exposure times (e.g. just 25 or 30 seconds, but not 27 seconds).

I am using Canon’s TC80N, a tiny little plastic box with a cable that costs about $135 right now. It’s a lot of money for the limited functionality it offers, but that’s the way Canon tries to milk us. Well, so be it. There are cheaper knock-offs available with a smaller feature set. You will have to take a look around and read some reviews if you want to use such a cheaper device. Having said that, I have to admit that I am quite happy with the TC80N.

2.1 TC80N Settings

I use a combination of “Self-timer” and “Long exposure”. The “Self-timer” is set to 3 seconds and allows the camera to rest calmly prior to the shutter release. The “Long exposure” is set to whatever exposure time you need or want (more about that later). Once you press the START/STOP button, the timer counts down and then opens the shutter for the pre-determined time.

3. Camera settings

Connect the remote control to the camera. Put the camera to ISO 100, and f/16 (or f/22). This ensures little noise and tack-sharp images. The drawback is that we’re talking about very long exposure times. That’s why you need a solid tripod.

Next you set the camera to “M” if you are using the cameras “Self-timer”, or to “bulb” if you are using the remote control. Finally, make sure that you shoot in RAW format.

4. Test shots

Now you can start the fun. I’d start with an exposure time of 4 to 5 seconds and check the results. The important part are the brighter areas in the picture. There should be at least some pixels that are bright, otherwise I’d consider the image “underexposed”. If shooting RAW you can correct a slight underexposure in Photoshop or Lightroom. That’s why I recommend to shoot in RAW.

Anyway, if the test images turn out too dark, you prolong the exposure time. If you do not use the remote control, you select the new exposure time at the camera; if you use the remote control, you select the new exposure time at the remote control. A good idea is to add another five seconds and then do another test photo.

5. Production shots

Eventually you will come to the desired result. Then take a couple of shots. There is always the risk of tiny vibrations that ruin the photo (unless you have a very solid tripod). You will probably see this once you are back from the shooting, when you look at the 100% view in Photoshop.

Always keep in mind that as the time progresses in the evening, you will have to prolong the exposure time if you want to capture the dark blue sky. If you don’t do this, you will only have a few good shots before the low light prevents any further photos.

Here are two photos that may help you. I took them today, the first one at 4.53 pm, and the second one 17 minutes later. The remaining sunlight had gone so fast that I had to increase the exposure time from 25 seconds to 44 seconds!

Long exposure shots usually look best where you have no or very few street lights. With their warm light, street lights can destroy the effect of the “Blue Hour” to the degree of making a photo completely useless.

All this takes a little experience, but once you know how to do it, you can fully focus on your views.

EOS 1ds mark III, EF 24-70/2.8L @ 70mm, 25 sec., f/16, ISO 100
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

EOS 1ds mark III, EF 16-35/2.8L @ 16mm, 44 sec., f/16, ISO 100
Mark Zanzig/zettpress