The Charming Streets of Lijiang

New Alexia Sinclair video

Here’s a new video from my friend Alexia. She really hit it out of the park with this one! I’m so glad she’s one of the Masters over at The Arcanum!

Daily Photo – The Charming Streets of Lijiang

All the streets in and around this town in southern China are amazing and full of life right before closing, and then everything goes quiet and dead. It's so strange… it reminds me of those time-lapse photos where you see flowers open up when the sun comes up then close down as the sun sets.

The Charming Streets of Lijiang

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraNIKON D3X
  • Camera MakeNikon
  • Exposure Time3
  • Aperture4.8
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length15.0 mm
  • FlashNo Flash
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

Big Announcement! The Arcanum Opens its Doors!

New kind of Master & Apprentice based Academy for Art and Photography

Want to join in early for the initial launch? Jump on the waiting list now over at The Arcanum! We’re bringing back the Master & Apprentice method of teaching photography and art through modern technology. Come join with us in the new online movement and explore your own, personal, artistic path.

We’ve got some great Masters now for the first batch too, and we’ll have many more soon. But here are just a few Doug Kaye, Thomas Hawk, Catherine Hall, Karen Hutton, Jeremy Cowart, Dallas Nagata White, Frederick Van Johnson, Dallas Nagata White, Gordon Laing, Nicole S. Young, Doug Kaye, Alexia Sinclair, Laurie Rubin, Lisa Bettany, Dave Cross, Jaime Ibarra, Miss Aniela, Jason Law, Brian Matiash, Mike Hollman, Frank Doorhof, Mike Langford, Jackie Ranken, Doug Kaye, Tim Pierce, Bel Jones, Cliff Baise, Peter Adams, James Brandon, Alex Koloskov, Damion Hamilton and even more! Those names took a long time to type in, but they are worth it! Honestly, I am so excited to work with these amazing people — we’re building something completely new, in a way. This idea of Master & Apprentice is very powerful, and we are going to build this new kind of self-replicating Academy from the ground up in an organic way.

I am truly honored to be spending time with such excellent Masters. My theory is that the knowledge that is in their heads is extremely valuable, and the best and most human way to unlock it is by establishing Master & Apprentice relationships. This system allows the idea to flourish and self-replication. I know that even me, personally, if I could have someone like an Alexia Sinclair to mentor me, give me challenges, critique my work — how awesome would that be? I’d never forget it! I did the same thing with Jaime Ibarra , but I actually had to drive over to his house in Austin and have him show me stuff. How inconvenient! And it’s much better than just watching his videos on the Internet; often times watching videos on the Internet feels sterile and lonely without a human connection.

But I could go on and on… Pop on over to The Arcanum and see and read more for yourself!

Thanks Peter Adams!

Many people have been saying lots of very nice and exciting things today. I hate to pull just one out, but here’s a nice take on everything from one of the Masters, Peter Adams:

The Arcanum Launches!

Here’s another big idea from +Trey Ratcliff.

I’m super excited to be a part of this and here’s why…

Many of the photographers that I consider living masters today got their start as “assistants” to other photographers. They agreed to work all hours of the day/night (for very low pay) in order to learn the craft from their master. Needless to say, being a photographer’s assistant isn’t something that everyone can do.

What’s so cool about The Arcanum is that technology now makes this same master/apprentice learning model much more accessible to a far wider group of photographers. Apprentices can access/learn from masters but do so at their own speed and on their own terms.

If you’ve ever been on a photowalk with Trey (or any of us) you might have experienced shades of this. It could have been while listening to how/why a shot was setup, watching how flash can be used to light a scene, or just getting feedback on your technique.

Well, now there’s a way to take your learning process to the next level by tapping into that kind of coaching/feedback on a 1:1, ongoing, basis.

I’ll see you at The Arcanum.

Daily Photo – The Infinity of China

Here is a new photo I really love.

It was taken in the old city of Li Jiang, China when I last visited there. I did not get a chance to work on it until just recently. In fact, I love it so much, you can probably see it up there on The Arcanum website behind some of that parallax scrolling text.

I like the idea of this kind of Chinese infinity, the repetition, the slight variations on a constant theme. It all kind of came together in this scene.

liJiang China

The Infinity of China

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraNIKON D3X
  • Camera MakeNikon
  • Exposure Time1
  • Aperture6.7
  • ISO160
  • Focal Length28.0 mm
  • FlashNo Flash
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

RAW Photos in the Cloud – now on Google+

An interesting development!

I just found out today that Google+ now supports the uploading of RAW files — as far as I know, this is the only social network to allow this – cool! I have tried it now with a few different images, including this one below. They support RAW files from over 70 different cameras, and I can only assume they will add more as time goes on. I have a few thoughts on this. I have a lot of questions too, but sometimes good questions are more interesting! So, when I uploaded some RAW files to G+, they worked perfectly. I was then able to go in and edit the photo using the just-released photo editing tools. These have all come online recently because of Google’s acquisition of Nik. Those guys have not just been sitting around. What started as a little side-project, Snapseed, has now become a new way to edit photos in the cloud. In fact, the Snapseed “meme” is spreading across all the Google products, from the Android to the web.

HDR Photo

An Adobe Disruptor?

I think so! It will be a while, but we can already see the stepping stones for Google stepping on the stones of Adobe. I know I know… you guys think I am crazy, but think long term. To think that you’ll definitely be using Adobe products in five or ten years seems short-sighted. Remember back in 1997 when we thought for sure we’d be using Microsoft Word forever? There has never really been a compelling competitor for Adobe Photoshop. Sure, there’s GIMP, but that is such an edge-case that most professionals don’t take it seriously. But when Google bought Nik, I think they wanted to disrupt the whole way of thinking about photography and workflow. Nik Software is used by professionals, and the whole team is full of serious photographers. Nik Software lacked a lot of the things that Adobe Photoshop provided that most professionals need. All we need is layers and a few more vital tools, and we can all switch to Google’s toolset.

Just in the cloud?

I don’t think so. Personally, I keep all my RAWs in Adobe Lightroom and it is too cumbersome to upload them all and edit online. I just checked my Lightroom, and I have over 260,000 RAW files. I need full-on speed and responsiveness. However, based on the tea leaves I am bullish that my workflow will change in the next few years.

Nik in Android and the Web

I guess we should just calling them “Nik,” yeah? Google, okay… So the Snapseed software is now part of Android, and the editing tools on my Android phone and tablet are at least twice as robust as the web tools. I assume this is because they have only released version 1 of the web tools, and we’ll see all the functionality move over to the web too. But, I hope we end up seeing MORE functionality in the web interface. After all, it’s a full-screen environment that is better for creative professionals.

The Coming Future

I believe we’re headed to a hybrid environment – one in which we slide our SD cards into the side of the computer and we have Chrome-based client software that does all the essential stuff that Photoshop provides (layers, masking, other tools) — all client side! In the meantime, RAW files are being privately backed up to the web as well as all of our levels of undo. We can all look back at how our workflow has changed over the last five years. In fact, it’s probably changed multiple times! To think it won’t change many more times in the next few years is not realistic. Lord knows we’re all dealing with the same post-processing workflow and organizational problems – so I am happy that so many hardcore photographers at Google are also working on this problem. And yes, I think it will all be free.

More stepping stones I’d like to see

The current RAW upload is a little strange. Here are some issues (questions) I have: – After I upload the RAW file, there is no easy way to “edit” the file. I have to scroll to the bottom of the album (which takes a while with hundreds of photos), find it, click it, then click edit. – Albums currently max out at 1,000 – so this will be a problem for anyone that wants to upload a ton of RAW for Google to keep. – Question: When I use the new Edit tool, am I editing a JPG conversion that has already been made, or is it using the RAW? For example, when I pull up the “Shadows” in the “Tune” dialog, is it getting the light data from the RAW or from the flattened JPG (I hope the former!)

The Mighty Templegate

Khan Academy

Man, Khan Academy just gets better and better. I use it a lot with the kids to help with math, but it also has a lot more now… everything from Computer Science to the History of Art. Even if you’re a grownup, I think you’ll find some cool stuff over there.

Daily Photo – The Mighty Templegate

If I am going to shoot photos in the middle of the day, these are my absolute favorite kinds of clouds. These are usually hot days and the big clouds are angry and want to form a storm, but they just can’t get it done, so they roil about and look dramatic.

This is one of the many temple complexes around the ancient town of Lijiang. There were hundreds of different ways and places to shoot, so I often find the process of choosing just a few to be an interesting challenge.

Temple Gate

The Mighty Templegate

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraNIKON D3X
  • Camera MakeNikon
  • Exposure Time1/180
  • Aperture8
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length14.0 mm
  • FlashNo Flash
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias+3

Driving Through Remote China

Tripod like a Marine

Have you seen those videos of Marines disassembling and reassembling their gun blindfolded? I can do this with my tripod and camera. It’s not nearly as cool or impressive, and I usually do it while I’m alone. It’s just really from habit, since I’m always opening and closing my system. It’s become more of a meditation than a hassle.

Daily Photo – Driving through Remote China

I took a six hour drive through part of the Hangzhou. At some point, it began to get very hilly and moody. The ride was a little rough, so I would pull over from time to time to take breaks.

One time when I popped out, I thought the road and the scene felt fairly cinematic. I went through the old routine of opening up the tripod for a shot…

china remote driving

Driving through Remote China

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • Camera
  • Camera Make
  • Exposure Time
  • Aperturef/8
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length15mm (15mm in 35mm)
  • Flashflash did not fire
  • Exposure Programaperture priority
  • Exposure Bias

Man on Horse in Lijiang Square

October Special close to running out!

The year is going by fast! We haven’t run a sale since Father’s Day so October sounded like a great time do it. You can use the the discount code “Octoberfest20″ to save 20% on all eBooks over at Flatbooks.com and on the Tutorial and Tools at StuckInCustoms.com through October 31st, 2012.

(Note: The discount does not apply to Workshops, Prints or Apps)

Topaz Adjust Reminder

Be sure to check out the Topaz Adjust Review if you want to know one of my most commonly used plugins. I often use that towards the end of my process for a bit of extra sharpening and pop.

Daily Photo – Man on Horse in Lijiang Square

When I arrived into the middle of this opening within the tight city of Lijiang, a fresh rain had just made everything nice and slick. There were a few men walking around the old town square on horses in the midst of all the pedestrian activity.

Man on Horse in Lijiang Square

Man on Horse in Lijiang Square

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • Camera
  • Camera Make
  • Exposure Time
  • Aperturef/9.5
  • ISO200
  • Focal Length19mm (19mm in 35mm)
  • Flashflash did not fire
  • Exposure Programaperture priority
  • Exposure Bias

New York PhotoWalk Soon!

New York PhotoWalk!

It’s very soon! Thanks for all the feedback when I asked the other day…

See PhotoWalk Details Here – and see you soon! I’m packing now for the trip from New Zealand! It’s a long trip… ! No worries, I have a good book…

Daily Photo – Dark and Light in Lijiang

Here’s a photo that I edited live during the class a few days ago. The motions I went through are also inside of one those “Trey’s Lightroom Presets” I mentioned a few days ago… you can do so much in Lightroom nowadays that it is kind of scary!

This is one of the main streets in the city of Lijiang. During the day, it looks quite traditional, but at night, everything lights up and becomes wonderfully alive.

Dark and Light in Lijiang

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • Camera
  • Camera Make
  • Exposure Time
  • Aperturef/4.8
  • ISO200
  • Focal Length14mm (14mm in 35mm)
  • Flashflash did not fire
  • Exposure Programaperture priority
  • Exposure Bias

The Nameless Pagoda Sleeps

Never to be seen again

I processed this live last night during the Art of Photography class during the Q&A period. Even though we will be selling the videos in the future, none of the live Q&A will be seen again, except for people that registered. During the final session last night, I decided to edit this photo and show everyone the entire process. I had never processed it before, and I was so pleased. I decided to post it today! But, alas, only people that have already registered for the class will get to see the full video…

Did you enjoy the class?

Pop over to the Art of Photography and leave a comment, or maybe record a little YouTube video and give us a link. I’d love to see what you think! Thanks again for joining me – that was fun!

Daily Photo – The Nameless Pagoda Sleeps

Tom and I visited this Pagoda late one evening in Li Jiang. There was zero wind, so the perfect reflection made us happy. The thing that did not make us happy was having to get on the ground with our tripods in the lowest position. I do try to avoid getting on the ground as often as possible… but when the scene is right, I guess I have no choice!

The Nameless Pagoda Sleeps

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • Camera
  • Camera Make
  • Exposure Time
  • Aperturef/4
  • ISO200
  • Focal Length24mm (24mm in 35mm)
  • Flashflash did not fire
  • Exposure Programaperture priority
  • Exposure Bias

Along the River in Lijiang

iPad for Photos

I remember when I was in this spot, I saw two different people using their iPads to take photos.  They were not Americans — they were Chinese people.  And then, after that, I started noticing this more and more.  I think Americans are more “embarrassed” (for lack of a better word) to use their iPads for photography, but this is just anecdotal… I’ll have to look around more to see if this trend is consistant across cultures!

Daily Photo – Along the River in Lijiang

While I walked along one of the many little streams that flowed through the village, restaurants, cafes, shops, and homes lined the sides.  Each one was decorated a little bit differently with unique lanterns, fauna, decor, windows, furniture, and flowers.  You could stop almost anywhere to take a photo!  So, well, I did.

Switching lenses is still a bit of a pain.  The two lenses I used the most there were the 14-24 and the 28-300.  But many shots were kind of right around that 20-35mm zone, which menat I was never really sure of which lens to use… so I would end up swapping back and forth a lot until it felt right!

HDR Photo

Across the Top of the Old Village

New eBook – The Tuesday Composition


Over the next month or so, we’re launching a bunch of new eBooks at Flatbooks.com. We just released The Tuesday Composition by Joe Decker – go check it out!

The Tuesday Composition solves the mystery of why some images just seem more “effective” than others, bringing in ideas from the sciences and the arts. Addressing many popular misconceptions, this beautifully-illustrated 75-page book teaches the craft of creating incredible, compelling photographs, through both a discussion of principles and through in-depth looks at a number of “case studies.”

 

Getting Visas

Getting Visas for travel feels like a very 18th-century way of getting around the world!  As far as I can tell, the only REAL purpose of having them is as an extra revenue-source for the country.  But the process is always so silly!  Here’s two examples:

  • Each time I go to China, I have to fed-ex my passports to Houston where they process the Visas then send them back via fed-ex.  A little hint, btw, is that if you connect in Hong Kong, you can just do it there…
  • I connected in Australia and had about 10 hours where I could go explore and take photos.  What?  I can’t leave the airport because I don’t have a Visa?  Australia!  You slay me…  that’s a silly policy.

Daily Photo – Across the Top of the Old Village

The old town of Lijiang has these old rooflines that go forever to the horizon.  Part of the problem getting up above the roofline is, well, getting up above the roofline.  You have to head a bit out of town and walk up a hill to get this perspective.  I found the spot thanks to Stuck On Earth.

Across the Top of the Old VillageThe old town of Lijiang has these old rooflines that go forever to the horizon.  Part of the problem getting up above the roofline is, well, getting up above the roofline.  You have to head a bit out of town and walk up a hill to get this perspective.  I found the spot thanks to Stuck On Earth.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

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