Refurbished MacBook Pro Unpacking Photos

A lot of folks get pretty excited when they get a new Apple product and share their unpacking experience online. Just the other week, I was able to snag a refurbished 15″ 2.16GHz MacBook Pro at the Apple Store Special Deals section for $1499. I was curious to see how much of a departure the refurb unboxing ritual would be as a opposed to a new one. The machine is great, but the unpacking experience is a completely opposite of getting a one. Here are a few photos of my refurb unpacking experience:

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If you look close at the power supply, you’ll see that it’s packed in a plastic sandwich bag. I’m not kidding. But for the $500 savings, I can deal without the fancy packaging.

Refurbished MacBook Pro Unpacking Photos

How Shooting RAW Can Make You Look Like a Better Photographer

I generally take a mild offense when people look at my photos and say things like “wow, you must have a nice camera.” Sure, my Nikon D70 isn’t a bad camera, but it’s no D2x either. I also don’t have the greatest assortment of lenses either: I have the 18-70mm kit lens, along with the the 50mm f/1.8. That 50mm lens cost me $109 and is one of my favorite lenses. My point is that this NOT top notch equipment.

And while yes, I could go on ago trip and talk about how I studied photography and blah, blah, blah, it’s not valid for the point I’m trying to make. I do shoot my images in RAW mode and post-process them in Adobe Photoshop. But, this too does not make for an awesome photograph. Yes, you can pull out way more detail with RAW, tweak the colors more, etc., but it does not make up for a bad composition. So why am I saying that shooting RAW makes you look like a better Photographer? Because RAW forces you to edit your images. For me, about 10% of what I shoot could be considered “good.” The rest are either out of focus, not a good pose, or just simply not worth showing. Because I’m shooting RAW, I need to think about what I am going process and show.

No imaging service that I am aware of currently takes vendor-specific RAW images (or DNGs for that matter). In order to get your images printed, you have to process the images yourself. So out of the 200+ RAW images on your card, you are far more inclined to select only the best images out of the bunch to process. This generally a good thing since no one really wants to see all 200+ shots (30% which were out of focus anyway). Basically, the RAW work flow usually has people edit their images to best few. Some images look good on the surface, but when you start to process them, you can notice the flaws right away. When all is said and done, you a have a smaller collection of good images. The smaller good collection always stands out against the 600 images of your friends kid picking his nose.

How Shooting RAW Can Make You Look Like a Better Photographer

When Photo Retouching Goes Bad

You know, some folks used to (or still) feel that digital photography is not true photography. There are even those who feel that HDR imagery is impure. Say what you will about them, but neither technique is more awful than the photo retouching skills of Pageant Photo Retouching. What… the… fuck? When I look at this image, I think of child taxidermy. And it doesn’t stop there, this one is more frightening that the first! You’re supposed to have pictures of your kids with missing teeth. They shouldn’t look like botoxed, denture wearing brides of Chucky. They should resemble the cute and filthy little monsters they truely are.

And she charges money for this heinous service! Does anyone actually buy this crap? If so, why aren’t I making money in photography yet?
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When Photo Retouching Goes Bad

Shooting HDRs on Vacation while Travelling Light

I decided it was time to get caught up in the HDR photography frenzy. Honestly, it’s a lot of fun and you can get some really interesting images that you just simply can’t get with one shot. Rather than wasting a post trying to tell you how to create an HDR image, I thought I’d share some of my experience shooting images for an HDR and equipment you can use if you want to travel light.

You may need some new software in order to create an HDR image. My tools of choice are Adobe Photoshop CS3 and Photomatix. While yes, Photoshop does have an HDR function, the tone mapping function of Photomatix Pro can take your images further and it is worth every penny. If you want to learn more about how create an HDR images using Photomatix, head on over to HDR101. There you can also get a 15% discount on Photomatix. As for gear, I use a Nikon D70 and the 18-70mm kit lens for all of my shots. For the most part, a wide angle lens is ideal when shooting an HDR, but any lens will work fine. You will also need a tripod of some sort. When you’re traveling light, the Gorilla Pod is an excellent choice. I stuff my gear into a Lowepro Micro Trekker 100 back pack which holds my D70, 18-70mm, 50mm f/1.8, and SB-600 flash. The Gorilla Pod still fits in the bag, although the fit is a little snug. However, the bag is still small and not heavy.

I got to use the Gorilla Pod SLR Zoom on a recent trip to Maine and decided to try my hand at HDRs. Of the bunch, this one was my favorite:

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You can see the rest of the images here. More often than not, many tutorials will tell you use the auto bracketing feature of your camera to generate the different exposures. However, this usually isn’t enough information to generate a rich HDR image. The image above was composed of 6 different exposures. Using the Gorilla Pod, I was able to secure my camera to the dock railing as like so:

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It was a bit nerve racking at first seeing how if the Gorilla Pod didn’t work, my D70 would be at the bottom of Casco Bay. Each image was shot at f/9 and I only changed the shutter speed for each exposure. The Gorilla Pod was remarkably sturdy and it was able to stay in place even after adjusting the exposure dial.

You can even use the Gorilla Pod as a standard mini-tripod. I set my camera on an old dock on the beach to get this image here:

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As you can see, it can still work great even not secured to some type of object. So when you can’t take your Manfrotto Tripod with on your vacation, you still have at least one decent tripod option.

Shooting HDRs on Vacation while Travelling Light

Another Spring, Another 100-Year Flood

I hate this crap. After dealing with a major flood last May, I awoken yesterday to someone knocking at my door at 5am telling me to move my car because the parking lot was flooding. Here’s a view about 3 hours after the door knock:

It didn’t take too long for us to realize that they’d be evacuating us soon. So now we’re displaced again, along with a baby. Good times! :) If you care to take a look at 100-Year Flood #2, you can see them here.

Another Spring, Another 100-Year Flood

Glad I got the Nikon

You may want to put off that purchase of that Konica-Minolta Maxxum you’ve been eyeing. About a week after Nikon announces that they’ll no longer be making Film cameras, Konica-Minolta announces that they’ll no longer be making cameras! They’ll be handing over their DSLR production over to Sony, who will continue to make KM-mount DSLRs. Why, I don’t know for sure, but I have a feeling that Sony is more interested in the KM anti-shake mechanism used in their DSLR line. We’ll see, but I bet you can get some great deals on KM bodies now :)

Glad I got the Nikon

The beginning of the end for Film

Nikon issued a press release today which states that “95% of Nikon’s UK business being within the digital area, Nikon Corporation has made the decision to focus management resources on digital cameras in place of film cameras.” The release goes on to say that “Nikon will discontinue production of all lenses for large format cameras and enlarging lenses with sales of these products ceasing as soon as they run out of stock.” Damn I say! Apparently, only the F6 and the FM10 will continue to be sold however. But this is the first real nail in the coffin for film compatcs and SLRs. Can’t say I’ll miss ‘em much though :)

The beginning of the end for Film

Oooh, Lightroom

So if you haven’t already heard, Adobe released a public beta of a new app called Lightroom. So far it’s pretty good and beats the hell out of iPhoto. I can’t comment on how it stacks up against Apple’s Appature, but I can say it’s no Photoshop CS2 replacement, It’s definately more of a complimentry application than a replacement. So far though, it’s rather impressive. It’s quite peppy on my PowerBook and Mac Mini. It’ll be really intersting to see how it matures and I’m psyched that Adobe is bringing a good photo management too to the Mac. Now I just need take some shots!

Oooh, Lightroom

Why I like Nikon dSLRs

Canon just announced the EOS 5D which is a (relatively) low-cost, full-frame digital SLR camera. Canon has made some truly great cameras in recent years, but I find Canons current lens/body line up is bothersome. A digital SLR basically puts a digital sensor in a camera body that used to hold film. The digital sensor is smaller than the film it replaces, so the imagable area is now smaller. This is generally referred as the “crop factor”. So if you have a lens for an 25mm lens from your old 35mm camera and put it on a dSLR with a crop factor of 1.5, the lens will now behave like a 37mm lens, but it’s still a 25mm. A full-frame sensor has no crop factor as the sensor size is damn close to that of film. The larger sensor size usually makes the camera much more expensive.

A crop factor can have benefits for telephoto lenses (100mm lens behaves like a 150mm lens), but wide angle lenses loose the wide angle. To help this situation, most camera and lens manufacturerers have made “digital” lenses that work better with the smaller sensor and will deliver a true wide angle. Most of these digital lenses however, won’t work on traditional film cameras or with full-frame dSLRs. The latter is what troubles me. Let’s take a look at the Canons current dSLR line-up:

Model Megapixels Crop Factor 35mm Equiv of 25mm Lens

(focal length x crop)
EOS Digital Rebel 6MP 1.6x 40mm
EOS Digital Rebel Xt 8MP 1.6x 40mm
EOS 20D 8MP 1.6x 40mm
EOS 5D 12.8MP 1.0x 25mm
EOS 1D Mark II N 8.2MP 1.3x 32mm
EOS 1Ds Mark II N 16.7MP 1.0x 25mm

Notice that the crop factor differs between cameras and how a 25mm lens behaves on the different bodies. Now, imagine yourself with a 20D along with the nicer EF-S 17-85MM f4-5.6 IS USM, as opposed to the standard kit lens. If you go out and get that fancy new $3299USD EOS 5D, guess what? That $699 17-85MM lens doesn’t work with your new body. The entire “EF-S” lens line only works on the 20D down to the Rebel. So, you’ll now need a new lens for your new full-frame dSLR.

My trusty old D70 has a crop factor of 1.5, as does the new D50, the D2x, D2h, D70s, D100, and D1x. If I upgrade or downgrade, my lenses will still work and behave the same way on any camera in their line up, even my digital lens. Nikon isn’t the only brand offers consistency across their line up, Minolta, Olympus, and Pentax does as well, I just happen to like the Nikon lenses better. but people like myself who have made an investment in digital-only lenses aren’t going to be lining up to get a new body that now needs lenses originally designed for film.

Why I like Nikon dSLRs

Busy Weekend

A wedding and a birth, all caught on compact flash :) Friday, I shot my buddies wedding. It was hot as hell outside but I think we still managed to pull off some nice shots. The same day, my other buddy’s wife gave birth to an 8.5lb baby boy. We caught up with them on Saturday to get some shots there too. The amazing thing was that my D70 could shoot the entire wedding plus the baby the next day, on the same charge. Images of both life changing events are over in the photos section.

Busy Weekend