Monthly Archives: July 2012

Follow up to the Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 Review

Over on Facebook someone asked to show the differences between Nik HDR Efex Pro and the New Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 in a side by side comparison image.

Which is a reasonable request but there are some problems with this if you don’t look at it with a few things in mind. HEP2 not only has a new HDR Algorithm, it also has some big changes in controls. So how do you separate out what is due to the algorithm and what is because of the controls? Then on top of that even if the controls were exactly the same the images would not look similar because the beginning default image is of a lighter luminance value with the new algorithm than the old Continue reading »

ChromaLuxe MetalPrints – Product Review

Picture does not represent actual print quality

I’m probably the worst customer for most consumer products. I’m really tough on them and there are so few products or companies that I really think get things right and I just glow about their products.

  • When I had my big houses, I loved Casablanca fans, hate noisy inefficient fans to death and Casablanca always got it right.
  •  Loved my 1989 Toyota pickup. NEVER broke, Got me out of any slick location I got myself into and looked as good the day I sold it with 14 years and 200,000 miles on it as the day I bought it.
  • Even though they have gotten a lot of flack over the years, Loved my Dell computers in fact I am still using 3 – 8 year old Dells that I bought before people decided they wanted $400 PC and ruined an industry. I’m typing on one now.
  • My Canon 5D still amazes me even if it is old…I’m old, sometimes I’m amazing too.
  • I kinda like my iPhone even if I swore I would never have one. It actually is pretty cool and gets me hot babes…OK well lets just say it’s a cool phone.
Other than that, I’m not easily impressed.
So a couple weeks ago the nice folks over at ChromaLuxe asked if I would like some review samples of their – direct to metal prints – to take a look at and see if I liked their product and how it would be for my reader’s HDR Images.
I didn’t have the heart to tell them, I was already in love.
I guess I should tell you what ChromaLuxe HD Metal Panels are or maybe I should just let them tell you.

About ChromaLuxe & HD Metal Photo Panels

ChromaLuxe is the world’s leading brand manufacturer of high definition sublimatable photo panels. Through the dye sublimation process, images are infused directly into specially coated metal, wood and table top photo panels turning any image into a vibrant decorative focal point for your home. Manufacturer of the highest-quality metal photo panels in the industry, ChromaLuxe is the preferred supplier for professional photographic labs and digital print providers and the choice of professional photographers looking for the most vibrant display options for their artwork. A full list of ChromaLuxe lab partners can be found here: 

With their exceptional durability and image detail, ChromaLuxe HD metal photo panels are ideal for unique deliverables demanded by professional photographers looking for individualized, customizable client offerings or gallery displays, interior designers seeking one-of-a-kind decorative installations, or decorators of high-traffic locations such as restaurants, hotels and arenas. All ChromaLuxe HD Metal Photo Panels present an archival-quality, highly scratch-resistant surface that is waterproof and resistant to UV rays and other damaging elements that would easily destroy standard paper prints. 

For more information on the ChromaLuxe complete product line, visit


Simply put, ChromaLuxe HD metal photo panels are your images printed directly onto aluminum. 

I already have 2 in my home including a 45″ x 45″  Cluster 5- panel which you can see on the wall in this post about shooting HDR Interiors and I’ve given them as gifts too. They look absolutely outstanding 

But getting the review samples was the right thing to do, I wanted to try a really tough image that isn’t big and poppy like a lot of HDRs. It was a very subtlety toned image that really is tough to get right. I also wanted to see how it looked in all of their 4 Finishes
  • White Gloss Aluminum Photo Panel
  • White Matte Aluminum Photo Panel
  • Clear Gloss Aluminum Photo Panel
  • Clear Matte Aluminum Photo Panel
Earlier this week I received the sample panels and was not disappointed in any way. They were just as I expected, fantastic. The subtle tones of the image came out beautifully. The color were spot on (with the white substrate, more on this later) Detail was excellent. Finish impeccable. The nice thing about already having some made at one of their associate labs (Bay Photo Labs) is that I know these were not just spiffed up review samples. In real life they are just as good.
My favorite style was the White Gloss, It just does it for me and I like glossy images even though most photographers don’t. The matte image’s color was exactly the same except of course for the finish. The two Clear panels which are direct to the aluminum without white first, were less saturated in color so for me not as appealing but I like fairly high saturation in my images. However I really wonder how the clear panels would be with a Black and White Photo. I wish  had one to see.
For comparison I printed the same exact image I sent for the review samples on my Canon Pro 9000 Printer. This is a 8 Ink Dye InkJet Photo Printer. The ChromaLuxe uses a Dye Sublimation process. I printed on Canon Pro Platinum Paper at best image quality.
On first look, the Canon print was a little more saturated and the colors looked a little more like my screen Than the ChromaLuxe Not bad different just different different. But you have to bear in mind that I have gone through extensive work to get my printer to match my screen. This is something you really are not able to do with any commercial lab even with their soft proofing ICC profiles. You can get close but not as exact.
At a usual viewing distance, the Canon appeared to be a bit more sharp. Because of how Dye Sublimation works  there can be a little softness due to the process. But upon using a 10X Loupe ( how many of you have one or maybe even know what they are anymore?) and close examination. The Chromaluxe was a much more pleasing image as the added sharpness of the canon also added detail to the noise in the image. Granted no one really looks at a print this way and they really shouldn’t but to me it was interesting
I wish I would have had time to get some True Photographic process (Digital C) sample prints from Bay Labs done on both Kodak Eudura and Fuji Crystal for comparison. But there just wasn’t time plus I’m really a cheap bastard cuz I don’t get paid to do this LOL. But having compared other images done on those papers and process to what I get at home. I don’t think any one of them would have been a clear winner.
But beyond IQ, there are other things that just make ChromaLuxe images so fantastic. The variety of options that their associate labs have as far as styles and edges, frames if you desire one, Shapes even so called Luxe shapes. Different hanging options and even Cluster and Split  styles of multiple prints that fit together to form a wall of images. They are just amazing and fit into so many different Home Interior styles.
And then there is  the durability without have glass over them. Both of  the images on my wall get a LOT of sun, especially here in Southern California. They both have been up over a year and there is no sign of fading. Cleaning is easy, I use a mild window cleaning solution to get some off the dust and household cooking smoke off of them without any worry about damaging the print.
OK, I talked enough about them, you get it.
But I could see a lot of real demand for a product like this to all the HDR shooters out there. You already know I am the biggest fan of printing your work and this is just a  great way to display it. From “as the eye sees” variety of HDRs to a total grunge out, they would look great. How about this for a great Idea for those of you that shoot automotive or motorcycle  HDR images? Think of that; Metal on Metal…how cool would that be?
Anyway, Yeah I love this stuff. The people at ChromaLuxe couldn’t be any nicer or more helpful when I had some technical questions so you gotta love that. Remember though that the ChromaLuxe Metal Panels are available through their associate labs so look  at their list to find one  that you either already deal with or maybe someone you would like to. Like I said I use and am a BIG fan of Bay Photo Labs but they are for professionals only. Consumers can purchase some of the metal prints through SmugMug
OK, I’m off to write complaint letters about all the other products in the world I don’t like…but not ChromaLuxe…I love you

How to shoot Fireworks in 15 Seconds

How to shoot Fireworks in 15 Seconds

  1. Camera – Wide Angle lens
  2. Great Location
  3. Camera on Tripod
  4. ISO 100 or 200
  5. f/16, 15 Second exposure
  6. When you hear the mortor fire, press the shutter
  7. Have a Hot Dog
  8. Happy 4th












Edit: c/o Sport Photgrapher Dave Hahn:  “Don’t forget to pre-focus” (most likely with a wide angle you will focus at infinity AF turned off)

You can vary the Shutter Speed between 8 and 15 seconds, The longer, the more possibilities for multiple bursts being captured.

You can open the aperture up a bit if you need to expose the ambient light of the location more but for the condition I shot in and the exposure time of 15 seconds I liked the greater detail and clarity that f/16  gave. Opening up the aperture in this situation made the  background too bright because of the city lights. If it is very dark where you are shooting you may want to open up the aperture just a bit

Experimentation is the key but these are some starting points

Shoot Mid-Day, Yes, Yes you can!

Shoot Mid-day, Yes, Yes you can!

Anyone that’s been into photography knows, one of the most taught rules is “Never shoot in the middle of the day”. Even Scott Kelby during a The Grid broadcast a couple months ago during the “Live Critique” show that got a lot of buzz said so. To Paraphrase him. ” If you are a landscape shooter, there are two times a day to shoot. Other than that forget it”. And to directly quote him, talking about shooting during Golden Hours. ” That is the absolute most basic thing” ,  And,  “If you don’t do that, you can throw it in the trash”
Rutt rowww…Mr. Kelby, Did you just tell me I can’t do something? Not a good thing to do to this dawg.
But of course he is right and it also extends to portrait/wedding photographers and others. He’s right…well maybe he was right.
So why do we not shoot during the Mid-day? Well, the light is harsh, shadows are in the wrong place, colors are bad and I’m sure we could state a few more things and I guess we would be right.
But I’m going to say. We’re not.
Case in point. Saturday I took a drive down PCH ( Pacific Coast Highway) on a simply beautiful day. I pulled off in Cardiff by the Sea in one of the few remaining parking spaces that was left because it was such a beautiful summer day. It was about 1:30PM, certainly not a time of day we would shoot.
I got out, grabbed my camera and headed to the water. It was spectacular, the sky was a beautiful deep blue with white puffy clouds, the water a beautiful seafoam green. The sand a warm golden tone and the kelp washed ashore a sparkling emerald green. Wow how wonderful.
Snap went the shutter.
And I got this:
OK Mr. Kelby you’re right. I can’t shoot Mid-Day. The light is harsh, the color is bad, it’s all washed out. The dynamic range is multiplied by the specular highlights off water which can drive meters batty. It’s just an ugly day with bad light…Hey wait a minute! I’m standing here looking at it…
Umm…no it’s NOT. It’s FRIGGEN beautiful out!
So is the light really bad? Or, can our camera, as we knew them, just not capture it?

A flawed system

No matter what we may think, now or years ago. Digital or Film. Small formats or big honking 8 x 10 Large format. Cameras are a flawed system. They just are. They don’t see as well as our eyes and when you really consider that our “Human” camera is a system of both Lens (our eyes) and our mind that make up that system. They don’t even come close.
In fact our mind plays a huge role in how we see. Without our mind’s interaction, everything we see would be upside down and backwards. Our mind corrects for our eyes, the lens. We even use composition to do what our mind does naturally.
As a photographer, what can make us great or better than another photographer is knowing these flaws and how best to correct or compensate for them. It is, in some ways, what made Ansel Adam’s so great. Besides a great eye for light, composition and quite frankly shooting places that not many people could see without his photographs at the time. Mr. Adams knew and understood the flaws of his camera and film. It was the basis for his Zone System. It what made him know to expose a certain way, then process another and develop this way. To get the most out of a system he knew very well and knew if he didn’t do this he could not recreate in art what his eyes saw.
Getting back to my day at the beach
What my eyes actually saw was this:
Brought to you courtesy of…yes…HDR. High Dynamic Range Imagery.
So the “Rule” of photography of not shooting mid-day is not one brought about by our subject and “Bad Light” but it really was brought about by a flawed system that just wasn’t capable of capturing the light that was there. And while our lenses do a pretty good job of replicating our eyes, the sensor somewhat less as far as dynamic range goes. But the part that really is missing is that our camera is incapable of the manipulation our mind adds to this of putting together the range of luminance and color and in some ways boosting the midtones into the scene at an acceptable and pleasing level (The “Two Looks” theory).
Now don’t get me wrong, The Golden Hours are still an amazing time to shoot, as can be the Blue Hours (You forgot them Mr. Kelby) And I am not saying that HDR can make up for truly bad lighting situations. I still maintain it must be great light. In fact I will say that part of the day usually is not the best time to shoot. The 2 or 3 hour period leading up to the Golden hour when the haze and pollution in the sky increases. The angle of the sun is just in a bad sometimes in those hours. What I AM saying is. Look, Look around, does it look nice to your eyes? Then we should be able to capture that and HDR may allow us to do that or at least do that more often.
The truth is there are times that it is just is better to shoot mid-day.

What to shoot Mid-Day

A few  examples of things that may be better shot Mid-day: Well we have the beach scenes that we already talked about. Think about the above scenes with a colorful umbrella in the image or children’s sand pails at the waters edge. Just be careful of specular highlights on the water. Take them into consideration when metering the scene. Remember what a specular highlight is; it is a reflection and in this case it is a refection of the sun which can be many times brighter than our ambient EV15 light of a typical sunny day.
Shooting in Canyon Areas or close to a mountain range. When you are close to a mountain range that the sun sets or rises over. You really can’t wait for the Golden Hour. In fact the sun may set behind them a good two hours before civil sunset.
Shooting in Slot Canyons can be even worse. There may only be a short window of time that a great shot is possible in slot canyons and the dynamic range can really be high from the interiors to the sky. Waiting till too late in the day can really yield some really poor results as was shown in this article I wrote last year.
Wildflowers: This is one that really needs consideration. One of the reasons we sometimes can’t shoot wildflowers  during Golden hours is that a lot of flowers have not yet opened or start to close during that period. (Some flowers also close when it is windy and winds can increase towards sunset) And there are times shooting huge fields of wildflowers just looks great in the middle of a beautiful blue sky day.
But shooting wildflowers in the middle of the day do pose a couple problems. Ome that isn’t instantly recognizable if we do our usual HDR routine of measuring the Dynamic Range or brightness of the scene. At first with measuring the scene it may appear that it isn’t even that high of dynamic range. But our meters do get fooled with this and it’s one time we may be better off taking a shot and looking at our RGB histogram. One color channel usually blows out.

Red Channel Blowout and Flower movement are a problem in this image

Most often, especially with, red, orange, Yellow flowers, it is the red channel. So shooting HDR helps with keeping this channel under control and giving us a much sharper image than a standard one because just like when we blow out all channels (white) it causes a great loss in detail.

But there is something that does get in our way of shooting flower fields with HDR. Movement. Even with a subtle breeze wildflowers move, sometimes they simply vibrate but that causes more loss of detail and sharpness. It makes it difficult enough with a single image because we have to keep the Shutter speed up to stop the motion. I often end up shooting at a higher ISO because even though there may be bright sun, using f/16 for my aperture yields a 1/100 shutter speed and I need much more.
Now, consider that,  plus  now you want to do multiple exposures? I think not. So this is an instance where I will recommend a single exposure but then using some of the tools we have with HDR and doing a Single Image, Tone Mapped.

Single Image Tone Mapped Shot 12:24PM

No it is not a true HDR but what we are instead doing is something I alluded to earlier. How the mind puts together an image sometimes more so than the eye and we can simulate this by using tone-mapping to bring down the highlights till they fit and don’t blow out and then boosting the mid-range that our eye/brain combo gets so right but our cameras, as we knew them, get so wrong.

So get out there and experiment, try, look around. How do the conditions appear to your eye? If it looks nice, maybe it is nice. Maybe we just didn’t have the tools we needed before. But with HDR we do. I’m not sure that people yet understand the power that HDR enables us. Once we understand that as well as we did the limitations of our system, we may be quite limitless.
And images like this are possible. Okay Mr. Kelby, anything else you would like to tell me I can’t do?

Shot 3:55PM

Hope that helps,
PS For you portrait shooters, did you know it’s possible to shoot mid-day too? Not HDR but there are ways that you too can overcome the limitations of our flawed system have. Ask me.