Pixel Bender

July 19th, 2011 by Denise Ippolito

Dahlia ~ Before Pixel Bender
Image © 2011/Denise Ippolito Photography


Pixel Bender (PB) is a free Photoshop filter plug-in that you can download from Adobe Labs here. You can download it for CS4 but you will not have access to the “Oil Painter” filter which is the most popular filter unless you are using CS5. I haven’t really clicked with this filter but it is good for some applications. I always set up on a duplicate layer before running the program so that I can make adjustments. For this Dahlia image I desaturated it before starting and added some contrast and Accented Edges in Photoshop before running the PB filter.

Five Things Every New Lightroom User Should Know

July 18th, 2011 by Bret Edge

I’ve been using Adobe Lightroom as my RAW converter and photo editor of choice since version 1 launched a few years ago. Until last year I still relied on Photoshop to complete the bulk of my editing work. Why? Because I was stubborn – an old curmudgeon who didn’t want to change. Looking back, I wish I’d taken the advice of my friend and Lightroom guru Nat Coalson, who for years has been extolling the virtues of completing as much work as possible within Lightroom.

Finally I got smart and listened to Nat’s advice. I now do about 90% of my processing within Lightroom, only using Photoshop to blend multiple exposures or for complicated cloning – both of which just can’t be done in Lightroom’s current version. Even then, I import the finished product back into Lightroom so my entire image collection is in one place and easily searchable.

Lately I’ve noticed that many of my photo workshop clients are just now diving into Lightroom. Many of them are doing so with trepidation. Some of them are taking the plunge because I’ve badgered them into it. Regardless, if you’re new to Lightroom I’ve got a few tips to share that are guaranteed to save you time and effort down the road. These tips come from my own hard won experience. I hope they help you find Lightroom bliss.

Gitzo and Manfrotto Tripod Schematics Resource

July 15th, 2011 by Matt Dennison

If you have a vintage Gitzo or Manfrotto tripod, or you like to do your tripod maintenance yourself, chances are you’d like to have a diagram of all your tripod’s parts and part numbers. Digging around on the net for this information can be frustrating.

We’ve put together some handy pages where you can access diagrams and part numbers for nearly every Gitzo and Manfrotto made. We hope you find this resource handy for all your tripod needs!

Click one of the logos below to find the schematic for your tripod.


1400mm with the 5D Mark II done sharply

July 14th, 2011 by Paul Burwell



Purple Finch on the branch of a Spruce Tree – Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 500mm F4L IS, Canon 1.4x & 2.0x Extender II, @1400mm – Gitzo 3541XLS with Jobu Design BWG-Pro Gimbal Head

Sitting in my living room, I suddenly heard an extremely enjoyable and melodious tone from outside. Hearing it repeated a few times over about 15 minutes was finally enough to lift my sorry carcass off of the couch and out onto the back patio. I discovered a male Purple Finch (he of the melodious tunes) along with a female partner going about the process of building a nest in the Spruce Tree just outside of the back door of my home.

I ran to get my tripod (a Gitzo 3541XLS with a Jobu Design BWG-Pro Gimbal head attached) and set it up with my Canon 500mm F4L IS lens attached along with the 1.4x Extender II that is pretty much welded to the lens. I say welded because if you do much wildlife photography at all you know that there is rarely such a thing as too big of a lens.

I took some shots of the joyful little singer but discovered that (and as is often the case with the little song birds) that he just wasn’t filling the view finder the way I wanted. And with that 1.4x teleconverter attached to the 500mm lens I was already shooting at the maximum minimum aperture for my 5D Mark II, F5.6; assuming I wanted to use autofocus. I have a 2.0x teleconverter too and thought briefly about just throwing that on and making the best of things with manual focus.

Quick Tip: Using Lightroom Quick Collections

July 13th, 2011 by Bret Edge

I’m a little late to the party when it comes to using Collections within Lightroom.  My friend, workshop partner and Adobe Certified Expert Nat Coalson has been recommending their use to me for at least two years but until last week I’d never really seen the benefit.  Now that my eyes are finally open, I thought I’d share how I’m using Quick Collections with all you good folks.  I hope it’s helpful.

Last week I put off working on a large submission because I just wasn’t looking forward to all the work involved in assembling it.  Yeah, I know – it’s a good problem to have and I shouldn’t be such a slacker but frankly, I am.  At any rate, I started thinking about how I could streamline the process when I hit on a genius idea: create a Quick Collection of the images to submit and then export them all as properly sized jpegs.

It’s easy to add photos to a Quick Collection.  As you scroll through the filmstrip all you have to do is press the “B” button and they’re automatically added.  Once your Quick Collection is complete, select all the images and export them using whatever settings are needed.  When you’re done, you can remove all the photos from the Quick Collection and you’re ready to do it all over again when you receive the next submission request.

Another option would be to make a new Collection for each submission.  This way you’ll always have a record of each submission in the event that you need to resubmit the images, or for later reference when you’re making a fresh submission and don’t want to send duplicate images.

Learn more about Bret, view his images, scout his workshops and read his blog here.

A Montana Style Thunderstorm

July 12th, 2011 by John Batdorff
Madison Mountain Range Lightening Storm BW

Madison Mountain Range Lightening Storm BW Version


The one thing you can always be guaranteed when you’re living in the mountains is amazing thunderstorms. We’ve lost power for nearly half a day, my wireless router was fried by lightning, and at one point in time during a huge and very close lightning storm I was instructed we were going to downstairs to sleep. I guess there was a pretty rational fear of a tree dropping on the cabin (seeing as how one crunched my car last year). Yep, we’ve had some excitement in these here hills!

I did manage to take advantage of all this weather and get a fun shot of a lightning storm taking place on the Madison Mountain Range. The storm rolled in around 10 p.m. and created a light show that would have put Pink Floyd to shame. I don’t own a lightning trigger, but I decided to have some fun with some long exposures anyway. Using my tripod, cable release, and 24-70mm lens, I took several exposures but finally settled in f/6.3 at 93 secs.

Practice, Practice and “Know your Ax”

July 8th, 2011 by Jack Graham

“Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect”. …………….Vince Lombardi

I have a degree in music. I was a professional musician in and around New York City until 1989. In 1989, I played over 175 “dates” and made a considerable amount of money. 1989 was also when it was “Been there, done that” time in my life. That’s when I really moved into photography and used this medium to express myself, much like music.

To be a good enough musician to make it, one must practice, practice and then practice some more. You had to “know your Ax”, as we musicians used to say. The musicians local 802 directory in NYC was as big as a phone book. You had to be a good player to make it there. I still practice every day, but now with my camera.

Being just OK is not enough in music, or really any art form, to make it. In music, there are lots of great players at every turn, looking to take your job. All the silks you need come from wood-shedding and continued learning. Photography is no different.

As part of my photography workshops I constantly preach that we need to be able to get around our cameras, know each function button and what they do like the back of our hand, that way our right brain or creative side can function at capacity. This takes practice. Unfortunately, I see folk buying expensive equipment, myriads of software, the latest lenses etc., all looking for that “magic pill” that will make it all fall into place. Sorry folks, it does not work that way. It takes practice. I used to enjoy seeing the younger guys coming into the music store on 48th Street in NYC trying out new mouthpieces, thinking that a new mouthpiece was the Holy Grail. When I play my trumpet today; I still use the old Vincent Bach,Mount Vernon 1C (for you trumpeters) that I’ve used since high school! Believe me, it isn’t the mouth piece. It’s not the new gear that we have available today. Its practice and honing your skills.

Blasting Highlights

July 7th, 2011 by Denise Ippolito

I learned this technique from Arthur Morris. He first showed it to me in Florida and I was fascinated by the results. He advised the following: set the lowest ISO; set the aperture between f/16 and f/22; turn off AF and focus manually; an exposure between -1 and -2 stops should look pretty good but there will by necessity be lots of blinkies as the bright spots and starbursts are specular highlights.



Mute Swan ~ South Cape May Meadows, NJ
Canon1D Mark III, 100-400 mm lens, 1/1000 sec. at f/20, ISO 200, Exposure compensation -1
Image © 2010/Denise Ippolito Photography

Got A Cluttered Background? Insert Your Own

July 6th, 2011 by Mike Moats

Every macro photographer will run into a great looking flower with character, but the angle you want to shoot at has a horrible clutter background and you can’t do anything about it. All is not lost, you can insert your own background. Photograph and print your own backgrounds and just place them behind the flower. Now some may say that’s cheating, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

Here is how you do it. For a green background find a grassy field or even the grass in your backyard. This is how the subject looked on my first background shot.

Now just turn the focus on your lens till it becomes out of focus and a solid color like this. Now I have a nice solid green background.

Induro CT414 Carbon Fiber Tripod Meets Nature Photography

July 4th, 2011 by Maxis Gamez

Editor’s note: Welcome Maxis Gamez to the blog! Hailing from Sarasota Florida, Maxis is an active bird photographer and workshop leader. Maxis loves great gear, and will be providing us reviews of equipment that he uses in the field. You can learn more about Maxis, view his images and scout his workshops at his website GVisions.org.

It’s no secret. Many nature photographers are curious about the new heavy duty, yet affordable 8X CT tripod series from Induro. During this review, I’ll talk about the largest tripod Induro has ever offered and how it performs in the real world. If you have seen my images or have participated in my workshops, you’ll know that I’m not a casual shooter. I photograph in mud, saltwater, beach sand and everything else you can think of and my tripod comes along with me. Therefore, I need a tripod that meets my needs and can withstand my style of shooting!

The new 8X CT-Series of Induro tripods are the strongest, most stable tripods ever offered. A wide stance cross-braced magnesium alloy spider, ultra-light 8X layer Carbon Fiber legs, oversized center column lock and enhanced leg angle locks, contribute with up to 35% greater stability, rigidity and higher load capacity. The new 8X CT-Series also includes interchangeable rubber feet and stainless steel spikes, a tool kit and deluxe carrying bag and strap.

Let’s look at the new features:


  • Wide Stance Cross-braced Magnesium Alloy Spider: This feature alone provides an excellent core system stability and support. While I’m not a big fan of the tripod base, I must say that I adapted to the new magnesium alloy spider style base with ease. After all, if the tripod is more stable with the new magnesium alloy design, I’m happy!