Nikon Scanner

Yesterday I had to scan a Velvia slide from my files.  Yes, for those of you don’t remember the “old” days, there was a thing called “film” which had to be digitalized before you could use Photoshop on the image.  A film scanner was the answer.  But, a dedicated 35mm film scanner (rather than a flatbed scanner with a film holder) is now quite a rare beast.  I’m not sure such a thing is even manufactured any more.  I have a long discontinued Nikon Coolscan 4000, which is certainly adequate for magazine-sized reproduction.  The problem, however, is getting the scanner to work with any current computer operating system.

I’m running Windows 7 64-bit on both desktop and laptop machines, but Nikon scanner software was written many years before this OS.  I guess I could have kept an old computer around, but no thanks, I don’t want to do that.  So how have I been able to use my scanner — infrequently though I do — along with Nikon Scan software on my current machines?  Ah, Google to the rescue.  Type in “how to use a Nikon scanner with Windows 7 64″ and this link appears (there are other links but this is the one I used):

Follow the directions, and all is well.  Don’t have Nikon Scan software?  It’s still available for download directly from Nikon’s website.

Autumn 2: Visionary Wild Workshop

Continued from the previous post:  Then I drove on, to the workshop sessions based at Boulder, Utah, in the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument.  While the aspens on Boulder Mountain were shedding their leaves, the cottonwoods in the lower canyons showed prime color.  And red rock county…well, it’s eye candy for photographers.  All the workshop participants came away with incredible images resulting from a contemplative approach to classic Utah scenery.  Here’s another slideshow, and an invitation to join the Visionary Wild group on another workshop.

Hoodoo along the Escalante rim, at sunrise.Cottonwoods in The Gulch.Hoodoos at first light.Drying mud curls.Autumn cottonwoods define the Boulder Creek drainage.The last aspen color on Boulder Mountain.Box elder in Long Canyon slot.Formation on King Bench at sunrise.A canyon wall reflects the blue color of sky.Cottonwoods and the red wall of The Gulch.Slabs below King Bench.Red aspens on Boulder Mountain.Bounce light on sagebrush and rocks, in Long Canyon.

Autumn 1: Colorado

October was a busy month.  On the way to conducting two Visionary Wild workshops with Jack Dykinga and Justin Black, I spent a few days working autumn aspens near Ridgway, Colorado.  Plagued with bad weather and vehicle problems (after being far off paved roads, by pure luck I happened to be almost in front of the only repair place in Ouray when my truck’s fuel pump decided to quit) I still managed to get some images.  And I will say: I am really happy with the new D810.  Here’s a short slideshow.

Aspens and the Sneffels Range.Aspen grove on Sunshine Mesa.Aspen boles.Aspen grove glowing after rain.The view from Silver Jack.Aspens along Owl Creek Pass.Late afternoon storm near Ridgway.

New Camera…Cannot Open RAW Files

Almost every time a new Nikon camera is introduced, I receive the same email: “I just bought the newest Nikon, but I cannot open the RAW files in either Lightroom or Photoshop.  These programs worked perfectly with my old camera.  Is my new camera defective?”

This past week alone I got five such emails concerning the D750.

When you purchase any camera you should check with Adobe as to which camera bodies are currently supported, given the versions of the Adobe software you own.  Go to this web site:  http://helpx.adobe.com/creative-suite/kb/camera-raw-plug-supported-cameras.html.

The other email I constantly receive is: “I have Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS4, but cannot open the RAW files from the new Nikon I just purchased.”

Well, your new Nikon did not even exist when those old versions of software were created.  Your options are to either upgrade the software (in my opinion the better option as newer versions of software generally offer more), or see if you can use the free Adobe DNG converter with your new camera.  Find out here:  http://helpx.adobe.com/photoshop/camera-raw.html#dng.

You might discover you need to upgrade your computer.  Another typical email I get: “I’m using Windows XP, but Lightroom 5 won’t work.”  Really?  Look at the operating system requirements for Lightroom 5:  Windows 7 with Service Pack 1 or newer.  XP is, in computer terms, ancient history.

So now I’m waiting for another email to arrive: “I use a typewriter, but I can’t seem to load Microsoft Word.”

I have no idea how to answer that.

D810 + T/S

Well, I did it.  I bought a Nikon D810 several weeks ago, and I’m extremely impressed with the camera.  I won’t go into all the details about the D810, as there are many, many reviews on the Web.  However, I will note one feature that has not been talked about much, and that is the split screen live view mode.  This is incredibly useful for landscape photography using Nikon’s tilt/shift lenses.  Activate Live View, tap the i button, and select split screen.  The live view image is divided in two, across the short dimension of the frame.  The “plus” and “minus” buttons allows zooming in for a magnified view.

Here’s where this comes into play with a T/S lens.  If you’re making a tilt while the camera is in a vertical orientation, the split live view allows you to zoom into separate points on both foreground and background, on both near and far, and consequently to accurately position the tilted plane of focus.  Being able to view near and far points simultaneously makes using a T/S a lot easier.  I do wish Nikon had allowed repositioning the split across the long dimension of the frame also, for when the camera is used in a horizontal orientation.  But, hey, I’m really happy with what we got.  Really happy.

Hummers

I couldn’t resist.  Earlier this year, while on my way to the Galapagos, I stayed over in mainland Ecuador for a few days to photograph hummingbirds.  Hummers have been worked a lot, but they are magnificent little birds, and, since I was in a location with many species, why not spend a few days photographing?  As I said, I couldn’t resist.  Here’s a short slideshow.

Buff-tailed coronet hummingbirds.Booted racket-tail hummingbirdPurple-throated woodstar hummingbird.Fawn-breasted brilliant hummingbird.Green violetear hummingbird.Rufous-tailed hummingbird.Violet-tailed sylph hummingbird.Buff-tailed coronet hummingbird.Rufous-tailed hummingbird.Rufous-tailed hummingbird.Buff-tailed coronet hummingbird.

For hummingbirds on perches:  Nikon D800E in 1.2 crop mode, 500mm lens with an extension tube (for closer minimum focus), plus a bracket-mounted flash with Better Beamer flash extender attached, flash output between -1 and -2 fill.  Matrix metering, aperture priority (so shutter speeds were between 1/60 and 1/250 sec.), ISO 1000 (low light where I was photographing), f/11.

For hummingbirds in flight:  Nikon D4 with 80-400mm lens, manual exposure, ISO 400, 1/250 sec. at f/11.  In order to freeze the wing movement, I needed to light the entire scene (no fill flash here) using very short flash durations.  This is actually easy to get: set a regular flash on manual output at about 1/16 power and position the flash relatively close to the subject.  I used four flashes: one on-camera (set at an even lower power output), two on light stands aimed from either side toward where the birds would fly into a feeder, and one on another light stand and aimed at an artificial background (a print of out-of-focus vegetation).  To determine flash position, and consequently the f/stop to use, take a shot and take a look at the camera’s LCD.  The on-camera flash triggered all the other flash units; in other words, the flashes were simple slave units.  Since I was the only person working the area my flashes did not interfere with any other setup, otherwise I might have needed radio flash triggers which I don’t own.

I might note that most Nikon flashes can be set in an SU-4 mode, which allows them to act as basic optical slaves with any brand of camera.  Slave flashes certainly don’t need to be current models.  I have a Nikon SB-80DX (discontinued 10 years ago) which I picked up brand new in the box about a year ago for $25.

HDR (a different way)

I’m not a fan of HDR images.  Well, let me clarify that statement.  I’m not a fan of the all-too-typical HDR images I see.  Over-saturated cartoonish colors, with halos around edges, and lots of noise.  No thanks.

But there is a quick and easy way to create naturalistic looking extended dynamic range images, by using Photoshop’s HDR Pro to first create a 32-bit file, and then using the adjustments in either Camera Raw or Lightroom’s Develop module to work on that file.  To be honest, I thought many photographers already knew this trick, but on a recent Van Os Photo Safari which I was leading I discovered that very few of the participants seemed aware of it.  So…OK, here goes, step-by-step.

  • Shoot a series of images varying the exposure by one or two stops between shots, just as you would for any HDR composite.
  • In either Lightroom or Camera Raw make whatever basic adjustments are necessary.
  • Select all the images, and open all in HDR Pro.  From Lightroom: Photo > Edit In > Merge to HDR Pro in Photoshop.  From Bridge: Tools > Photoshop > Merge to HDR Pro.
  • In HDR Pro, check Remove ghosts, and select 32 Bit as the Mode.

  • And now you have a choice to make.  If you normally work in Camera Raw, check the box to Complete Toning in Adobe Camera Raw.  If you normally work in Lightroom, just click OK at the bottom of HDR Pro, and then save the file as a TIFF.  Make sure you save it as a 32-bit file.

  • If you’re going the Lightroom route, import this new file into Lightroom, and then open it in the Develop module.
  •  With either method,  process the file in Camera Raw or Lightroom as you normally do… but check out the range of the Exposure slider.  It’s now plus or minus 10 stops either way, double what it was before.  Wow!  That’s a 20 stop exposure range, definitely an extended dynamic range.

Travels (Continued)

On my return drive up the coast from California, I stopped at Bandon, Oregon, to photograph the seastacks.  Bandon is one of the classic locations on the Oregon coast, and, indeed, I’ve photographed there many, many times.  I don’t think I’ve ever gone past Bandon without stopping, if for no other reason than just to walk the flat, packed sand beach.  On this location I was lucky…I arrived just in time for a great sunset.

Beach and seastacks; Bandon, Oregon. Nikon D800E, 45mm T/S lens.

Beach and seastacks; Bandon, Oregon. Nikon D800E, 16-35mm lens.

Travels

I’ve been traveling a lot this year. Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting some images from several locations. Several months ago I made a very quick “get out of the office” trip down the coast from my home in Oregon to Bowling Ball Beach, just south of Mendocino, California. I entered the redwoods in thick fog, with periods of intense rain. The only image I took was this, shot with my Nikon D800E at ISO 1600 with the 80-400mm lens.

The redwoods coast, in fog and rain.

Better weather awaited me at the beach. Here are three images, taken the same afternoon about 2½ hours apart, all three done with the 45mm T/S lens on my D800E. FYI, the “bowling balls” are concretions eroded out of the steeply tilted mudstone cliffs.

Bowling Ball Beach, California.

Bowling Ball Beach, California.

Bowling Ball Beach, California.

If you even plan on photographing here, try to time your visit for a low tide around sunset, wear rubber boots as you’ll be wading, and bring a heavy ND filter to soften the waves.

Tony Kuyper’s Luminosity Masks Panel

In my opinion, one of the main reasons (if not the main reason) to use Photoshop is the option to make and use masks, which allow a correction or adjustment to be applied to one specific area of an image.  But actually selecting that specific area can be extremely difficult, especially if there are fine, overlapping details,  Trying to use the standard selection tools such as the lasso or magic wand is far too often a lesson in frustration.  Selecting by luminosity, by tonality (how light or how dark a given area), is a much better way as this luminosity selection is based on the image itself and consequently will make a self-feathering selection.

Quite a few years ago I learned about making luminosity selections from Tony Kuyper’s website, www.goodlight.us.  In fact, I wrote about luminosity selections, and Tony’s Photoshop actions to make these selections, in some of my early eBooks on Photoshop.  Over the years Tony has refined his actions, and recently he produced a completely new Photoshop “Action Panel version 3.”  I’ve used his previous actions, but his latest panel is amazing.

Do yourself a big favor:  if you’re running Photoshop CS5, CS6, or CC, particularly if you’re a landscape photographer, get the new action panel.  Do yourself an even bigger favor, and get the action panel along with Sean Bagshaw’s video tutorials on using these actions.  The total package is $79 and is worth far more than that.  I highly recommend both the action panel, and the video tutorials.

Here’s the link about the panel:  http://www.goodlight.us/writing/actionspanelv3/panelv3.html.

And the purchase link (see the “special offer” at the bottom of the page):  http://www.goodlight.us/specialoffer.html.