Editor’s note: Do you ever wonder what a pro photographer uses day to day in his or her own studio? Robert Rodriguez Jr. gives us a peek at the hardware he uses in his business. While we all have our own opinions as to what hardware is best, it’s fascinating to check out a working studio with hardware selected by many years of experience. Tomorrow, Robert gives us a look at the software he uses. Great stuff. Thanks Robert!
I’m often asked about the equipment setup in my studio, and how I use it all together to run my business. This includes computers, applications, backup hardware and strategies, printers, network configuration, and everything else I use on a regular basis. This doesn’t only include processing and printing, and framing, but also marketing, writing, teaching workshops, and everything else that keeps the bills payed. Because I’ve refined and adjusted it many times over many years, I thought I would share my current setup based on my experience, needs, and workflow.
This will be a two part article, so the first will be on the hardware side of things with notes on usage.
Computers and Peripherals
-Mac Pro 2.66GHz Quad Core with 16 GB Ram, and 4 internal hard drives. I use this computer mainly for my photography workflow, including image processing, archiving, printing, exporting, and other related tasks. The 4 drives allow me to separate the operating system from the data, which makes managing and backing up everything much easier.
Every macro photographer will eventually run into a great looking flower with character, but with a horrible cluttered background. All is not lost: you can insert your own background! You can photograph and print your own backgrounds and just place them behind the flower. Now, some may say “that’s cheating” but hey, we’re not journalists, we’re creating art.
Here’s a good example of a nice group of flowers at a botanical garden, and no camera angle or small f/stop will get rid of the clutter.
Are you in the market for a softbox for your speedlights but not sure what to buy? With all of the choices out their nowadays it can be a bit daunting because over the last few years the market has been flooded with all types of modifiers for speedlights with every kind of design, feature and price tag you can imagine. However I have to say, after experimenting with many of these new products, I think I may have found a new favorite!
Let me introduce you to the new, Phottix Easy-Up Softbox, made by a company that is already producing a lot of cool photography tools at very affordable prices! The Phottix Easy-Up softbox is a 28″ softbox built on an umbrella frame that folds down just like any standard umbrella which takes minimal room in just about any gear bag. It produces a directional, soft quality of light, that comes with a front diffusion panel and also (perhaps my favorite detail) an included egg-crate grid!
The Phottix Easy-Up is a reflective softbox meaning that your flash actually faces towards the back of the softbox filling it with light before being channeled out the front diffusion. This allows the light to marinade around in the box completely filling it with light which prevents hot spots on the diffusion face. This softbox also mounts on any standard umbrella swivel adapter as you can see in this detail shot. Any umbrella adapter will work but I also prefer to use Frio coldshoes on all of my adapters for an extra secure fit.
The Phottix Easy-Up also has a recessed front which helps to make the light more directional and if that isn’t enough control, it also comes with an egg crate grid for maximum shape and control of the light! Most softboxes on the market don’t come with grids so this is a very welcome addition. Not only can
I captured the below image of a Red-winged Blackbird this past February while co-leading Art Morris’ IPT (Instructional Photo Tour) in Southwest Florida for a couple of days. The blackbird landed on a perch close to a Cormorant that was drying its feathers and resting. As soon as the blackbird started calling and moving closer to the Cormorant the Cormorant closed it’s wings and started moving up and down the perch readjusting its position. Every once in a while the Cormorant would shout back at the blackbird, the two of them continued to argue over the area and it was fun to watch them interact. The below image is a composite of the two while resting. I do wish the perches were connected. To enhance my silhouettes I used a curve adjustment in Photoshop. I also sharpened the images with the Unsharp Mask filter.
Lightroom 4.1 is finally out of beta and available for download from Adobe. As usual, this update provides additional camera raw support, additional lens profiles, and fix numerous bugs that have surfaced since version 4 was released. Some new features are also included.
The most noteworthy new feature is the ability to process HDR tiff files in either 16, 24, or 32 bits. Previously this was not possible, and you needed Photoshop or other HDR software in order to process single 32 bit images. Now it can be done in Lightroom which I think is cool since it provides a more consistent editing environment regardless of whether you’re processing regular raw files or HDR files.
Now I must admit I rarely use HDR for my nature and landscape work, but it is very useful for other commercial projects where dynamic range is a major issue.
My experience with HDR has been than even after I apply tone mapping in Photomatix Pro (my HDR software of choice) I still need to do some additional processing in either Photoshop or Lightroom in order to really fine-tune the image to my liking. Now we can do this in Lightroom on the original 32 bit HDR file.
Thanks to our pals over at Fotobug: Jim Caldwell and Fred Rogers, for a great review of the Eckla Gear Carts!
Learn more about the Eckla Gear Carts and see all the available accessories in the OPG store.
Hi, I’m Jim Caldwell from the Photo Bug. Let’s face it. As photographers, we’re equipment junkies. We just have to have the latest thing out, and when we go out in the field we end up carrying all this stuff with us. By the end of the day, we’re totally exhausted. So, gee, you would think there would just have to be a better way.
Well, actually there is a better way. Introducing the Beach Rolly Cart, imported by our friends at Outdoor Photo Gear. The Beach Rolly Cart can be assembled in just minutes. If you fold the flap, it can usually fit in the trunk of your car or in the back of your SUV.
The Rolly Cart features pneumatic wheels, which can handle nearly any kind of terrain, such as concrete, road paths, grass, soft beach sand, and even wet sand. The frame of the Rolly Cart is made of heavy gauge aluminum, and a thick heavy rubberized material that is completely waterproof and very strong. In fact, the Rolly Cart can handle up to 176 pounds.
Just so you know, once you get in a location, if you get tired you can always use them as a little beach chair. Hey, Fred, look it. There’s a heron over there. Would you mind wheeling me over there so I can get a good shot.
Fred: Fat chance of that happening. Want to race?
Jim: Well, okay. Maybe we don’t recommend the Rolly Carts for racing.
Fred: No, no.
Jim: But they can haul up to 176 pounds of equipment or surf boards, kayaks, canoes, even your luggage, and I always seem to get in the second or third floor, the high floors, and it’s much easier to carry equipment up to your hotels when you’re traveling. So, I really like the Rolly Cart. They’re really well-built, under $200 from our friend Chris Klapeke at Outdoor Photo Gear. Fred, what do you think?
Fred: I say that these are field tested by Jim and Fred, and we like them.
Jim: Yes we do. So we do recommend the Rolly Cart. So, stop breaking your back and get
Our pal Mike Moats has announced a Macro Photo Contest with a twist: No flowers or critters allowed! We’re happy to be one of the sponsors of this contest, and we’re looking forward to seeing some unique images.
Here is Mike’s original post about the contest that lists some of the prizes and rules. Have fun!
Special Assignment Macro Contest, Tons Of Great Prizes
This is not your typical macro in nature contest.
No flowers or critters are allowed.
Any subjects in nature other than flowers or critters are eligible.
I need you to go out and explore and find me some cool macro subjects or search out past images in your hard drives, but no flowers or critters. There are tons of great subjects other than flowers and critters, so the challenge is to find something that will win yourself one of these great prizes.
You could win!
Tamron Macro Lens – Your choice of a 60mm or 90mm lens Lensbaby – Composer Pro with Sweet 35 and a set of Macro Converters (retail $450) Vanguard – Alta Pro 263 aluminum tripod with the SBH-100 ball head. (retail $209) Think Tank Photo Bags – Streetwalker Pro Bag (retail $169) One spot in a Macro Boot Camp, location of your choice (retail $169) Nik Software – Color Efex Pro 4 (retail $159) Hunt’s Photo – $50 Gift Certificate Outdoor Photo Gear – $50 Gift Certificate Creating Art With Macro E-Book (retail $14.95)
Free to enter
You have until August 1st, 2012 to submit your images. You may enter three images. Send small file jpegs (200kb ) and your location to, email@example.com No limitations on processing of images. Winning images will be posted online on August 2nd.
If you would like ideas of subject matter to shoot outside of the flowers and critters, visit my website at tinylandscapes.com
I’ve been using Guru Gear Backpacks for a few years now, and they’ve been great for me. I started with the Kiboko 30L which is this bag here and I still use this bag a great deal depending on how much gear I want to carry and what I’m doing. But the 22L, which was released recently has found a home here on my studios as well, basically because it’s a smaller, smaller profile and it has a couple of enhancements and upgrades I really like.
Fall colors reflected in the Swift River in New Hampshire
I’ve heard it said that the process of creating a photograph isn’t complete until you’ve made a print. I don’t know that I’m in complete agreement but I will confess that I derive tremendous satisfaction in the art of printmaking. In a blog post I wrote last year titled “Pixels vs. Prints” I wrote about how viewing a photograph on a monitor and in print are two wholly different experiences. A master printmaker I am not. I’ve only been making my own prints, on an Epson Stylus 2880 printer, for a little over a year. But, I’ve learned some lessons in that time that I’ll share here with the hope that your own foray into the wonderful world of printing may be a bit less intimidating.
There are three primary manufacturers of printers capable of producing fine art photographic prints: Epson, Canon and HP. HP printers use a dye-based ink while Epson and Canon both use a pigment-based ink. I don’t have the time to fully discuss the pros and cons of each, but you’ll find a good basic explanation of each here. Most photographers I know, including a few who are master printmakers, use pigment-based ink printers. The primary point I want to discuss here is selecting printer size because yes, size does matter.
Monument Cove and Otter Cliffs in Maine’s Acadia National Park. The curve of the shoreline in this photo adds a peaceful line that leads the viewer’s eye to the cliffs.
Lines, real and implied are an important component in any photo’s composition. Lines can be straight (horizontal, vertical, or at an oblique angle,) or curved. All lines work to divide your image into distinct parts, so you need to study your compositions carefully to see how these divisions work. Do they cut an image in half, creating a static feel, or do they divide the image into unequal parts which can provide an asymmetrical balance and more dynamic feel?