The Digital Photo Guy

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Monday Morning Tip – 10/26/09

by on Oct.26, 2009, under Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing, Photoshop Elements, Workshops

Go-o-o-d Monday Morning from Boron, CA

Yeah, you read that correctly. I’m in Boron, CA (pop 2000), just outside Edwards AFB in the California High Desert. We drove up here last night without any plans for where to stay and lucked out. George, the manager at the Boron Food Mart let us boondock in his parking lot so we had a very quiet night in the middle of Boron. Today, we’re meeting up with some friends and touring the wind farm in the area. There’s also a huge solar facility nearby. I hope to have some great photos to post next week.

Monday Morning Tip

Today’s MMT is open to all viewers since it’s something that many of us may need to do over the next few weeks or months, upgrading your Windows XP or Vista PC to Windows 7. I received Windows 7 last week along with a new 160GB Western Digital hard drive. I wanted to get out of Vista bad enough that I paid Microsoft’s usurious price for the new OS.

For most people, here’s a great set of instructions from Smart Computing magazine. In a nutshell, if you’re upgrading from Vista, is should be a snap. The operative word is should. Upgrading from XP requires a clean install meaning you need to backup your data, reformat your hard drive, install Win7 and then reinstall all your applications INCLUDING your settings. In other words, a complete and total PITA. Many experts are advising people with XP to consider just buying a new PC with Win7 preloaded.

Since my main Fujitsu laptop running Vista is just a year old and I like it, I decided to go the upgrade route. However, having designed disk drives and computers in a past life, I knew better than to trust the old, “when in doubt, swap it out” theory. I wanted to remove my old 320GB C: drive and set it aside in case things went “bump” in the process. That way, I could always fall back to the old Vista system if necessary.

I was only using about 60GB of the 320GB so I decided to order a new 160GB C: drive. When everything was back to “normal”, I would use the 320GB drive as a portable backup device. The theory sounded good but things started going sideways almost from the get-go. Most of it was my fault for using new software that I hadn’t yet tested. Without getting into all the gory details, here’s what I would recommend for people who want to save their old C: drive in toto.

First, a quick tip, buy the System Builder version of Windows 7 and save US$10 because the Retail version only gives you access to Microsoft’s vaunted (NOT!) tech support. You can tell how much they think of their tech support when they only charge an extra 10 bucks. This is where your kid, neighbor’s kid, kids’ friends, niece, nephew, etc can come in handy. Put them to work if you run into trouble. If things really go sideways, apply the $10 you saved toward a Geek Squad visit.

Quick tip #2. Follow the KISS principle. Use the Windows Easy Transfer utility (Start->All Programs->Accessories->System Tools->Windows Easy Transfer) to move your data and settings from the old C: to the new C:. The Smart Computing article (above) tells how to do this in great detail. Smart Computing used to offer free tech support to anyone but I think they’ve stopped that. These days, you have to be a subscriber. The Easy Transfer utility will need a medium sized removeable media (DVD burner, 16GB USB drive, External HD, Network drive, etc) to store all the data and settings that will be moved to the new HD.

Quick tip #3. Readers of this forum need to be especially mindful of this step. Deactivate Adobe Photoshop CSx. This is an option under Help in PS CS4, it may be located elsewhere in other versions. If you don’t deactivate PS CSx, it will think you’re trying to install a 2nd or 3rd version and will lock you out. Don’t ask how I discovered this. When I get home, I’m going to have to contact Adobe and prove to them that I have a legitimate copy of CS4, a royal PITA. There may be other programs that require deactivation so think about what programs you have on your PC before pulling the old C: drive.

All-in-all, my upgrade went fairly smoothly. There were a few things that surprised me such as the biometric scanner. The Fujitsu laptop originally came from Fujitsu with an integrated biometric scanner and password software. When I tried to upgrade the software, the developer wanted another $50 for a whole new program. Given this, I may look for a new password program. Many printers including the high-speed laser, the color laser and the Dymo label printer needed new drivers, which was no surprise. So far, the only thing I haven’t figured out is a Microsoft 2.4GHz transceiver. I don’t have a clue what that may be since everything else seems to be working.

Recommended Books

While in Bishop, CA for the Eastern Sierras workshop, I stopped by the Mountain Light Gallery which was established by Galen and Barbara Rowell in 2001, just before their untimely death. One of the books I purchased there was Mountain Light: In Search of the Dynamic Landscape. This is an outstanding book for all photographers, not just landscape photographers. It’s only US$30 and should be on every serious photographer’s bookshelf.

I’ll write a full review in a week or so after I’ve had a chance to distill what I’ve learned and continue to learn from the book.

IMPORTANT NOTICE for Photoshop Elements Webinar Students

A number of people registered for the webinar seem to be incommunicado. I suspect their e-mail program is relegating my messages to their spam folder. If you’re registered for the webinar and haven’t received the 3 e-mails over the past month, please check your spam filter. You need this information to participate in the webinar on November 14.

We have students registered from Hawaii to Connecticut to Florida to Washington. If you are a serious digital photographer or want to be one, you owe it to your artistic side to take this webinar. In 4 hours (9AM to 1PM Pacific Time), you’ll learn more about getting the most out of Photoshop Elements. And, you won’t find a better deal than this webinar.

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Monday Morning Tip – 10/12/09

by on Oct.12, 2009, under Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing, Photoshop Elements, Webcast, Workshops

Win a $179.99 Software Suite!

Another score for the Photoshop Elements webinar with Rob Sheppard. Topaz Labs has graciously donated a complete suite worth $340 to a door prize winner during the webinar on November 14. I watched the Topaz Labs demo at Photoshop World and I can honestly say it “blew my mind”. It takes a lot to impress me with software anymore but the Topaz products were in a totally different class. (bundle does not include Enhance and Momentum which are video plug-ins).

Go to the Head of the Winner’s Line

If you want to just grab a complete Topaz Suite for free and skip the door prize effort, get 3 people (including yourself) to register for the Photoshop Elements webinar on November 14 from 9AM to 1PM (Pacific Time). The webinar is just $59.95 and covers everything a digital photographer needs to know about Adobe Photoshop Elements including the newest version 8.

If you’ve already registered, just get two more people to register and put your name in the PayPal Comments section. Be sure to also send me an e-mail with your friend’s name in case your friend wrote something like “Peggy’s friend” when you’re registered as Margaret.

To date, here’s a list of all the door prizes for the webinar:

Black Rapid camera strap the easiest, most comfortable way to carry a dSLR

1-2-3 of Digital Imaging v5 (PC), a 3500+ page DVD book to learn PS and PSE

Photoshop World Workbook, 800 pages of hints, tips and tricks from PSW

Topaz Labs Bundle, a $340 suite of programs that normally sells for $179.99

Webinar Door Prizes

Monday Morning Tip

Photography is a journey. If you ever arrive at your destination, you’re dead. Photography is a life-long pursuit of an ever changing vision. Even professional photographers are constantly learning and challenging themselves to improve their skills. The best way to learn is by listening and watching others who are better than you. In the beginning, it’s best if your teacher isn’t too far ahead of you on the learning curve but, as you improve, you want teachers who stretch and expand your horizons. Sometimes, you may feel as if the lessons might break you but always remember, what doesn’t kill you, just makes you better.

I just got back from 5 days in the Eastern Sierras on a Great American Photo Workshop led by Rob Sheppard. It was a great workshop with lots of fieldwork and, what I wanted, in-depth critiques. Too often, we drink our own KoolAid and start believing all the praise heaped upon us by friends and family. When you attend a workshop, you’re paying a professional for their honest feedback about the quality of your work and, more importantly, how you can improve. The GAPW workshops are a bargain at just US$795 (excluding lodging, meals and travel).

Here are some of my favorite photos from the workshop. I haven’t processed all my photos but these stood out. My MMT for the week is: take lessons at every opportunity. In the beginning, local camera clubs and camera stores can provide lessons for free or very minimal cost. As your skills improve, you might want to take paid local workshops. At the high end, workshops can range from a few thousand dollars to $10,000+ for exotic locales and name instructors. Just keep in mind that a big name doesn’t always translate into better lessons.

Ancient Bristlecone Pine

Ancient Bristlecone Pine

Fast Water

Fast Water

Color at Sabrina Basin

Color at Sabrina Basin

Magic Light

Magic Light





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Photoshop World – Friday 10/3/09

by on Oct.03, 2009, under Articles, Photo Editing, Photoshop Elements, Schedule, Webcast, Workshops

Score, Again!

I snagged several extra Photoshop World workbooks for drawings to be held during the Nov 14 webinar with Rob Sheppard. These workbooks contain class materials from virtually every class offered during PSW this week. That’s over 800 pages of material covering everything from Fixing Common Image Problems by Dave Cross to Graphic Secrets: Totally Text by Lesa Snider to The Perfect Panoramic by Jim DiVitale.

For me, yesterday was more about recharging the batteries and gaining new inspiration than pushing sliders, tweaking colors and adjusting angles. For inspiration, Jay Maisel is at the top of my list. He’s an oddball (synonym for New York photographer) but his ability to see while the rest of us simply look is amazing. His photos of what, at first glance, appear to be everyday, mundane objects is nothing short of brilliant. If B&H had a “Jay Maisel Eye” in their catalog, the owners would be multi-billionaires. Even his photos of kids, which rarely do anything for me, inspire and amaze me. He’s not a splashy, entertaining presenter but he doesn’t need to be, his photos speak for themselves.

Fay Sirkis presented The Eyes Are the Windows to the Soul. The beginning was slow and I was concerned when she said she was going to show us a technique that she applied to every photo. It turns out she’s a 1 trick pony but it’s a huge pony. I was impressed at the breadth and depth of information she was able to pack into a single tip. Her one technique had more product extensions than a MacDonald’s hamburger!

Jack Reznicki was, as usual, full of great tips, tricks and hints but, also as usual, he’s a photog, not an instructor. He was all over the place and it would have been difficult for less experienced photographers to follow. I had to laugh at the people using camera phones to try to capture his exact set-up instead of understanding the concepts.

Joe McNally was my favorite. He most reminded me of my own style: immediately useful tips and info presented in a rapidfire, humorous manner that always kept you on the edge of your seat. I really liked that Joe used V as his model instead of the typical, svelte, 20-something blonde. V was about 350 lbs of muscle and looked like a bouncer at a Las Vegas bar. He was amazingly agile and could leap into the air on cue for McNally.

There was only one disappointment during the day. It was obvious the instructor really didn’t know how to express themselves and convey their ideas. The one thing that surprises me is the lack of preparation most photographers put into their presentations. They don’t seem to understand that presenting an instructional lecture is a completely different animal. I’m also amazed at the frequency of equipment failures.

Today is slow until noon so I’ll be scrounging in the Expo area again. I’m really looking forward to 2 sessions with Ben Willmore, The Newest in HDR and Mastering Curves. PSW wraps up at 5PM this afternoon but a lot of it is, “Rah-rah, sign up for next year!”

One final point of philosophy. After one attends a number of these conferences, it becomes obvious that the tools change and the techniques get better but the desired results are always the same. We’re always looking for ways to get the most out of our art. Bottom line, it’s useful to come to these conference once in a while but don’t drink the Kool-Aid. It’s not Scott Kelby’s art, it’s YOUR art. If you find a way that works for you, don’t let the “next big thing” seduce you into trying something just for the sake of trying something new. This falls under my favorite Dr. Mits Tomita saying, “Keep an open mind but not so open that your brains fall out.”

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Photoshop World – Friday 10/2/09

by on Oct.02, 2009, under Articles, Photo Editing, Schedule, Workshops


Yesterday, I scored BIG TIME for my readers and webinar students. I went to many of the booths in the Expo and shook them down for prizes for Rob Sheppard’s webinar on Nov 14. At Nik Software, I got a promise of 15% off coupons. I still have to make arrangements with Nik after PSW so it’s not yet active. Then, I got a SUPER deal from the guys who market Topaz Labs software. They will extend the show price of $129 for the entire Topaz Suite ($339 value) to all my students. I also got a coupon good for a free copy (not trial) of any of their programs to give away during the webinar. It takes a lot to impress me with software but I can honestly say the Topaz stuff blew my socks off. It did things that my engineering, technical mind said couldn’t be done. I’ll have a complte writeup on some of their modules over the next few weeks.

Finally, under the heading of “It Don’t Get No Gooder’n This”, I scored a FREE (as in gratis, zero, zip, nada, nothing, no cost) Black Rapid camera strap. You, in the back, STOP yawning! You think camera straps are boring? Well, citizen, take a look at their site. Photos can’t do justice to how easy it is to carry AND deploy your camera using a Black Rapid system. I will give a FREE Black Rapid RS-4 to one lucky winner at Rob’s webinar.

The prize list keeps getting longer and the $49.95 Early Bird Special days keep getting shorter. Remember, the Early Bird Special pricing for Rob’s webinar ends sometime tomorrow, Sunday or Monday depending on when I have time to update the website.

Classes on tap for today include Location Lighting with Joe McNally, The Eyes are the Windows to the Soul with Fay Sirkis, ABCs of Digital Portraiture with Helene Glassman, Seeing the Light with Jack Reznicki, Light, Gesture and Color with Jay Maisel, One light for Real People with Jack Reznicki. Talk about an All-Star line-up. There are other classes in the Expo area but I’ll be busy shaking down more vendors. I’ll also be snagging PSW Workbooks (800 pages of Photoshop tips) and anything else that isn’t nailed down.

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Photoshop World 2009 – Thursday 10/1/09

by on Oct.01, 2009, under Articles, Photo Editing, Photoshop Elements, Schedule, Workshops

Photoshop World 2009, Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas, NV – Thursday, Oct 1, 2009

I’m posting this from my RV (named Arbey) in the south parking lot of Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas waiting for the first classes to start at 10:45AM. John Loiacono, SVP/GM, Adobe Creative Solutions Business Unit gave a keynote starting at 9AM but I was still drinking coffee. Besides, I’ve heard approximately 2 bazillion keynotes in my life and they all sound exactly the same – “Shish, boom, bam! Rah, rah, ree, kick’em in the knee! Rah, rah, rass, kick’em in the other knee!”

The classes I’ve selected today are Fixing Common Image Problems with Dave Cross, Mastering the New Adjustments and Masks Panel with Ben Willmore, Retouching Faces Step-by-Step and Digital Photographer’s Notebook with Kevin Ames, Lighting, Lenses, & Composition with David Ziser and Creative Lighting for the Digital Photographer with John Williamston. As you can see, these are some of the top pros in the field today so I’m anxious to get started.

Photoshop Elements webinar – What’s Included

Rob sent me an e-mail that gives a hint of what’s included in the webinar on Nov 14. First and foremost, many new PS (Photoshop) and PSE (Photoshop Elements) users don’t realize that PS was never intended to be a photography tool. PS was, and still is, designed for graphic artists. PSE was completely made over with PSE3 to be a photographer’s tool. Even the dark interface that some users complain about is meant to complement photos. PSE, combined with a few popular plug-ins (add-ons, like a 3rd party stereo system for your car) can do as much as PS but at a much lower cost and learning curve.

Rob has more points that I’ll elaborate over the next few days. In the meantime, because I don’t have time to change the pricing, the Early Bird Special price of $49.95 will be extended until this weekend. After that, the price goes to $59.95. Also, Early Birds get a choice of 3 different Early Bird gifts. If all that’s not enough to entice you, I’ll snag an extra copy of the Photoshop World Workbook as a drawing prize for the webinar. Click here to register now. We accept MasterCard, VISA, American Express and PayPal, all secured through PayPal at no cost to you.

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