The Whale Shark in Okinawa

Some goodies coming up for our awesome Passport Members!

I’m back from Japan and ready to share a whale-load of videos, photos, and special behind-the-scenes stuff. If you are a Passport Member then you’ll get to see a whole new video here about my crazy workflow, juggling different photos, HDRing, Lightroom, and more. It is a bit of a frenzied process, as I am trying to crank out as many photos as possible in a compressed time. Anyway, that’s today’s Passport video below that will be automatically unlocked if you are a member!

Here’s a video of my somewhat crazy (but amazingly efficient) workflow now that I am back in the saddle of my studio. Apologies for the sound getting strange around the 10-minute mark! I think my mic is broken… or something. I just can’t figure it out. I’m using a pro Samson mic. Anyway, I’ll try to figure it out or get a new one!

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Daily Photo – The Whale Shark in Okinawa

As much as I don't think any creatures should be in captivity, this was still pretty awe-inspiring. On the northern tip of Okinawa is a popular aquarium. I was asked to go take photos there even though I didn't really want to. Sometimes in life, you gotta do stuff you don't wanna do, right? Well, anyway, I showed up and tried to get the best photo I could. I wasn't going to half-ass it just because I didn't want to be there. So I put Tane and Olya up there right in front of the tank as the mighty beast swam past.

The Whale Shark in Okinawa

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2017-11-17 16:06:05
  • CameraX1D
  • Camera MakeHasselblad
  • Exposure Time1/45
  • Aperture3.5
  • ISO800
  • Focal Length30.0 mm
  • Flash
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias-1

Day of the Dead in Arrowtown

Lightroom Presets

Today’s photo is brought to you courtesy of… drumrolll…. Trey’s Lightroom Presets. This is the package from last year that contains heaps of presets. I hope you have a great time with them! 🙂

Daily Photo – Day of the Dead in Arrowtown

Here are two of my friends in full regalia at Halloween. They really did it up, eh? I was going to go to this party dressed as a unicorn, but my wife told me that would be stupid because no one else would be in costume. I finally agreed, since I try not to make her mad. But then we got there and almost everyone was in costume. Oh well. Unicorn next year.

Day of the Dead in Arrowtown

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2016-10-29 13:50:12
  • CameraILCE-7RM2
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/2500
  • Aperture
  • ISO800
  • Focal Length
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

The Golden Fields in the morning

A Special Passport Day!

Today’s photo was a lot of (fun) work, and this time, I happened to capture everything on video. You get to see me running out from my studio from the backyard, taking the photo, AND the final screen casting as I work on the photo. And if you haven’t joined yet, please become a Passport Member to see all the goodies today!

Passport Exclusive – Epic Sunrise With the X1D

Today, not one but TWO videos… the first showing me getting the photo and the second showing the editing. Enjoy!

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Exclusive content for Passport members

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Daily Photo – The Golden Fields in the morning

Of the two videos you saw above, you may recall that I was having A LOT OF TROUBLE trying to choose which one was my favorite. In the end, it was THIS one because I really like the warmth of the flowing grass fields here. Well, I kind of make up my mind then go back to other one, once again filled with self-doubt! 🙂

The Golden Fields in the morning

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2017-03-30 19:51:47
  • CameraX1D
  • Camera MakeHasselblad
  • Exposure Time0.5
  • Aperture8
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length30.0 mm
  • Flash
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

Happy September, and Welcome to the September Lightroom Presets!

Day ONE of a new month, get the new Presets!

Pop over to the Lightroom Presets page to grab the new ones at half price… this only lasts 24 hours – it’s something special we do for everyone here on the blog! 🙂

Daily Photo – Another Epic Dinner in Dubai

I’ve eaten at some really beautiful places in Dubai… I spend half the time eating and the other half taking photos. This is a very loungey-kinda-place around a pool. The pool helps keep everything a little bit cool, so you’re not always sweating out the wazoo!

Another Epic Dinner in Dubai

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2015-03-18 05:20:01
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time0.8
  • Aperture5
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length16.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias-0.7

Lightroom 6 and HDR? #WTFAdobeHDR

Aurora HDR 2018

Roughly 18 months ago I partnered with the amazing team at Macphun to develop an entirely new HDR software tool called Aurora HDR. I worked closely with them to include all of the features I felt was missing from Photomatix, Lightroom and other tools in my quiver. Since it’s release over 1.5million people have downloaded it. I’m blown away! Thank you for believing in us!

Aurora HDR 2018 is now available for both Mac AND Windows! Make the switch now.

Lightroom 6 Unreview

This sensational blog post is brought to you by Trey’s Lightroom Presets, which are mega awesome and were made by Trey, the guy writing this in the third person that thinks these presets will bring you happiness and enlightenment on your deathbed.

I’m a huge fan of Lightroom, but this HDR addition is mega lame. Mega Lame Dot Com.

I’ll also talk about some of the other big additions, which everyone seems to rave about without hesitation. I’m actually fascinated by the internet and how Adobe can make the slightest little change or improvement that should have been there several years ago, and everyone goes nuts like Moses has found a third tablet with five new commandments. I think actually there may be a hidden Adobe commandment that says, “Thou shalt cripple Lightroom so more plebeians must buyeth Photoshop.”

Intro

But first, since everyone probably wants to know about the new HDR functionality, we’ll get started with that. I’ve been doing HDR stuff for about 8 years and used just about every product. Every day I put up a new image here on the blog… so that’s 365 images a year, most of which have some element of HDR in them. It all started a long time ago with the HDR Tutorial, which I continue to update.

About 3 or 4 years ago I switched from Aperture to Lightroom and I never looked back. I really do love Adobe Lightroom and even made an Organize Your Photos! video tutorial here to show how I use it.

Here’s five of my favorite HDR images so you can see the kind of work I like to do. My work is not for everyone, and if you don’t like it, what you don’t realize is that I’ve already ignored you even before you’ve thought about it.

Inception Reflection New York

Taking the Yacht for a Midnight Spin

Exploring New Zealand on the way to the Antarctic

New HDR in Lightroom

In short, here are the three things I’ve found (I expand on each one below):

  • The results are a bit boring (often, quite boring)
  • LR HDR appears to be 60-90% slower than Aurora HDR 2017 for Mac
  • LR HDR appears to be 30-80% slower than Photomatix for Windows
  • There are absolutely no options for you to adjust the intensity of the HDR image. Even more surprising is the resulting new image has many siders pre-moved (including the highlight slider completely to the left), meaning there is little or no more recovery there.

Try This Yourself and try not to type #WTFAdobeHDR

It appears that you could save time by simply taking the middle exposure, dropping the highlights, and amping up the shadows. And by save time, I mean up to several minutes. I have a fast computer and using the HDR Merge on Lightroom is is pretty slow. If you just move THREE sliders on the middle exposure, you appear to get the exact same result in 2 seconds.

Tell me if I’m crazy; tell me if I’m wrong. I mean, I’m not, and I won’t listen to you anyway, but feel free.

Long_version

Here’s the new image that is created after merging in Lightroom HDR. You’ll see those three sliders on the right, each of which are automatically moved for you during the process. This took about 30 seconds on a Really Fast Computer.

3_second_version

Here’s one I made from the middle exposure in 2 seconds by simply moving those three sliders myself.

I’ve been scratching my head trying to figure out why they made something so underwhelming. Personally, I don’t want to have to use another tool in the process… I know the people at Adobe are smart, but I’m actually confused how such a big team can take so long to make something so uninteresting. The team at Nik made a great HDR product in a small portion of the time. The team at Photomatix made something better than Adobe many years ago (and way way faster).

It’s actually surprising to me that a big company is so far behind these small companies. Why didn’t they just buy Photomatix and get their uber-fast and much-more-interesting algorithms? I don’t own any of Photomatix, btw… but just wondering about the decision processes of Adobe. They do a lot of strange stuff, but I figure this is because many decisions are made by committee, and this is why we never see a statue of a committee.

Lackluster HDR Results

When processing the photo, there is literally ONE option to adjust the look of your photo, which is “Auto-Tone.” That is basically ZERO options. And I don’t even know why it is an option, because if it is not selected, your photo does not get HDR’ed! It’s like having a Gaussian Blur dialog with a checkbox inside that says “Gaussian Blur.”

I’ve tried about 10 different images in there. I toggle on and of the “Auto-Tone” image and I haven’t been impressed once. Again, I can get the exact same result by just moving those three sliders on the middle image.

01

The Before Shot

02

The HDR Results from LR

03

One of 20 different results from Photomatix

Like, why not have Presets with lots of options? Pretty much all modern filter programs out there have presets now with little thumbnails. Maybe you’ve seen the awesome MacPhun Intensify stuff for example? Honestly, it’s not that hard to do, and Adobe could have made some Very Interesting HDR Presets that could give you a lot of different looks.

For example, here’s a screenshot of Photomatix featuring some of the Vaingloriously Named Trey Ratcliff’s Photomatix Presets. These are recommended by 2 out of 3 doctors.

Before Photomatix Photo

Before Shot

Trey_s_photomatix_Presets

How presets look in Photomatix

Slow HDR Boat to China

I’m not gonna write much about this other than to say that in my 10 tests, it was always quite slow. It averages 30-80% slower than Photomatix. Maybe I’m just used to speedy Photomatix or other fast tools like MacPhun.

I have a fast Macbook Pro and I have used Lightroom to HDR merge many times. On average, for 3 RAW photos (each one 36 megapixels), it took 17 seconds to get into the dialog and then an additional 10 seconds after clicking merge. For 5 RAW images, it took 44 seconds to get into the dialog and an additional whopping 104 seconds after clicking merge.

Compare that with Photomatix (see my Photomatix Review) with the exact same photos. For 3 photos, it took 10 seconds to get into the dialog and then 4 seconds to process. For 5 photos, it took 16 seconds to get into the dialog and 5 seconds to process. That’s an amazing savings of over two minutes. TWO MINUTES DOT COM. (sorry I’ve been doing robot-voice lately).

I think one reason it is slow is because it’s converting everything to DNG first. So maybe if you’re already DNG it will be faster… personally I don’t covert to DNG. This is another topic… people ask my why I don’t convert. My short answers are: 1) It takes quite a bit longer during import. 2) In practice.I don’t really see the size savings as being material. 3) I’m not worried about my RAW photos going obsolete, and just in case they do, I can convert to DNG in 5 years or whatever when my computer is 50x faster.

Crippled Sliders

Here’s another surprise (the hits keep on comin’!). After the photo has been HDR processed, you’ll notice that the sliders have been pre-slid for your pleasure.

Maybe some of you know about the Photoshop “Merge to HDR” functionality. Now, I’m not really a fan of that either. However, there is one good feature that I was SURE Lightroom would include. In Photoshop, when you drag in a bunch of images for HDR, you still get a lot more control over the shadows/highlights and this sort of thing. Yes, you can add some gradients and adjustment brushes in LR, but it’s not on the surface. Even when I do that, I’m not seeing any more recovery.

And when you compare the HDR functionality in Photoshop to Lightroom, again, there is no comparison. At least the Photoshop one gives you some options to tweak out the intensity or variety of the effect. The only options the LR version gives you is around the ghosting.

Good stuff about the New Lightroom

It seems generally faster. Their marketing speak is “up to 10 times faster” which could mean literally anything (like the Help dialog loads 10 times faster whereas the curves tool is 1.2 times faster). But I do notice one of my biggest pet peeves is way faster — the crop tool. Before, when I would make a lot of changes to a photo, it was extremely sluggish during the crop.

Also there is a panorama merge, so that is handy for quick panos or people that want to only live life in LR. I still use Autopano because it is more powerful and lets me do HDR panoramas.

There are other features that I don’t use like facial recognition and advanced video slideshows. There are also some updates to mobile, but I don’t use those much, if at all.

What I wish they had added

Even though I love Lightroom, I find Adobe to be a frustrating company. It’s so obviously that they purposefully cripple Lightroom so people will keep using Photoshop.

A really good example is the content-aware healing brush. It’s Really Amazing in PS, and the spot-removal tool in LR is just not good enough. It’s literally Very Easy to add into LR, but they don’t do it.

Another good example is layers. Layers would not be that difficult to add (especially with their team of engineers that are using their time instead by working on such killer features as “Advanced Video Slideshows”).

I’d also like to see better catalog control and organization. I have it figured out, but it’s inscrutable to many people. I can’t tell you how many people, especially beginners, are super-confused about how to manage your LR catalog, especially if you travel and you have too many photos for one computer or drive.

In Sum

Obviously the thing THEY were most excited about was the HDR functionality. All their marketing material and blog posts begin with this amazing announcement. But it’s by far one of the most underwhelming features.

Camera Bag Stolen in Germany and… New April Lightroom Presets, Live!

April Lightroom Presets, only $2.50 instead of $5

The monthly tradition continues with my Lightroom Presets! I hope you have enjoyed the previous month packs, and here comes a funky-fresh one!

Daily Photo – Amazing Cologne

I loved everything about Cologne… except for my train ride back to Dusseldorf.

My whole camera bag was stolen! Can you believe it? I was distracted and before I knew it, my whole camera bag was swiped in a grab n' run! What a bummer! I still was holding my tripod and A7r, so I didn't lose those, luckily. But I did lost an A7ii, two Leica lenses, and a Sony lens. Ouch! Oh well, it's just stuff… But kind of inconvenient now, you know? Ah well…

I filed out a police report and everything. We're checking on insurance now to see what was covered… fingers crossed but I have low expectations!

Amazing Cologne

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2015-03-14 02:07:21
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1.6
  • Aperture4
  • ISO160
  • Focal Length69.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias-0.3

April’s Lightroom Presets coming in 2 days!

Set your Cal!

They are only half price for 24 hours! Here’s the Lightroom Presets page that will tell you more about them… and here’s a little video!

Daily Photo – And the Lights Spiral Down

This is one of my favorite photos from Dubai, I must say! I keep coming back to it over and over again, and it gives me great pleasure!

I would love to live in a home surrounded by these. Or at least have one or two rooms absolutely full of them. I've only seen a few of these stores around the world, and they have such a plethora of them in these locations that I picture getting ALL of them just for one room. That would either be insane or awesome, but probably awesome.

And the Lights Spiral Down

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2015-03-20 00:29:20
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/5
  • Aperture8
  • ISO80
  • Focal Length16.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias-0.7

March 1 – The First-of-the-Month Lightroom Preset party continues!

March 1, a Fresh Pack!

For 24 hours on the first day of each month, I release a new Lightroom Pack at half price ($2.50). It went great for Jan and Feb so let’s keep the party going! See more on the Lightroom Presets page!

Today’s photo below was made with one of the presets. Each pack always includes a Black & White preset, and this is one of them.

Daily Photo – Super Hef Comes to the Rescue!

We were camping out in a valley near a glacier on the main continent of Antarctica. We were only supposed to be there for three nights, but bad weather came in. It was not quite a blizzard, but too intense nonetheless. That delayed us for another night. We started to get a bit worried about rations and everything, but everything turned out okay because Hef came to grab us in his chopper the next day. Here's a photo I got as he was landing, with snow whirling about…

Super Hef Comes to the Rescue!

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2015-01-17 20:39:50
  • CameraILCE-7S
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/2500
  • Aperture6.3
  • ISO500
  • Focal Length35.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias+0.7

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