Archive for the Photo Gear Category

Nikon D750 First Impressions

Posted in Photo Gear with tags , , , on December 15, 2014 by chamimage


I have had my Nikon D750 for about a week now. Long enough to read the important stuff in the manual. The first thing I noticed was the size of the camera. When I ordered the D750 I expected the same D300/D700 chassis as previous cameras of this line had. This camera is much smaller and lighter. I was pleasantly surprised. Holding it in one hand is very easy. I just now grabbed my D4 to look at something and what a shock to hold that monster after a week with the D750!

The second thing I noticed is how quiet the shutter is. I am used to the snap of the D3 and D4 that is anything but subtle. Just what a wildlife photographer needs, a loud rifle shot every time you trigger the shutter. The D750 whispers. I still haven’t gotten used to it. Since I had hoped to use this camera to do more street photography I am very pleased that it doesn’t announce to all that I am snapping photographs.

On the subject of stealth. I walked around town with this camera and it got hardly any attention at all. My D4 draws people like a magnet. Big pro camera – people get curious. Little camera – meh. I like meh.

I bought this camera with the memory of carrying my D3 around Guanajuato, Mexico and Florence, Italy all day and having such pain in my shoulders it hurt to just think about putting the camera bag around my neck the next morning. I will be able to forget I have this camera with me.

So far I have not found anything this camera can’t do (it’s only been a week, give it time). The noise is a bit more than the D4 at the same ISO. I did find that it does not have a 10 pin connector so I can’t use my shutter release cable. You can buy a different cable that plugs into a USB type port in the side of the camera, or you can get a wireless remote. I bought the wireless remote after finding out the D750 has an infrared receiver on the back of the camera and you no longer have to fire the wireless remote from in front of the camera. I also learned that unlike the MC-30 cord that costs $64.95 (I bought a Chinese remote for $20 instead for my D4 after a energy bar melted chocolate into my MC-30 recently. You can still use the MC-30 if you want about 100 frames before the button finally comes back up.) The wireless remote was $13 – for the Nikon brand! Generics were $10. Unfortunately to use the same wireless remote on my D4 I think I would need a $99 receiver. I’ll meed two remotes when I bring both cameras. Fortunately the wireless remote is unbelievably tiny. I bet I lose a bunch of them.

The D750 has two card slots and both take SD cards. No XQD slot! Yeah! I guess now that SD cards have so much memory Nikon has decided why waste space with CF cards? I have only used SD cards in point and shoot cameras before so it is a bit to wrap my mind around, not having a CF card. The card slots are in the right side of the camera behind a hinged door that opens by sliding it sideways until it springs open. It seems like it might open too easily and spring open unexpectedly at inconvenient times and get broken, but it hasn’t happened yet. Strange that they put Fort Know security into opening the D4 card slot door, but make this door so easily opened.

The files from the D750 are 24 megapixel so I can envision maybe needing the second card in Africa where I have made one thousand images in a morning before. But I am never going to be a fat enough shooter to fill two 64 gig cards before downloading. Perhaps if I have a computer failure and can’t download it will come in very very handy. We did have a lightning strike take out some computers in camp in Africa on the last trip. I stopped leaving the computer plugged in while I was out.

I haven’t worked on enough files to get a feel for color and exposure biases with this camera. So far I just know that ISO 800 resulted a more noise than I had hoped for.

The D750 has gone retro and put the mode dial (for P/A/S/M; it is now a dial) piggyback on top of the release mode dial (S/CL/CH; Q/Mup,etc) that has always been there. ISO and white balance are now assigned to the buttons to the left of the LCD screen. Pushing the ISO or white balance button brings up a menu on the LCD. One small gripe I have is that it takes a while for the menu to appear on the screen. Of course I just tried to time it and for the first time all week the menus came up instantly. I am going to be using the back LCD to make ISO and white balance adjustments, among others, a whole lot more with this camera.

Oh what an LCD screen it is! Nikon’s first articulating LCD screen in a DSLR, I believe. No more crawling on my belly in the mud! Just pop that screen 90 degrees and hold the camera on the ground and use Live View to focus and frame your shot. So very cool. Hand held macro shooters will be in heaven. People who shoot video of their small children or pets will be in heaven.

I haven’t challenged the autofocus with birds in flight yet. That will have to wait until this weekend when I will mate this camera up with the 600 mm lens for the first time. In theory that will take some strain off of my shoulders when carrying my rig on the tripod, but with the superior high ISO performance of the D4 it will still have to remain the main big lens wildlife body.

I was pleasantly surprised when I put my non-CPU 24 mm prime lens on the D750 and told it what the lens was the camera recognized the aperture setting on the lens. On this lens, anyway, you can’t set the lens on f/22 and use the sub-command dial to set the aperture, you have to use the aperture ring. The manual suggests otherwise so apparently with other non-CPU lenses that might be different.

This camera has a built-in flash. I only use built-in flash as a commander unit and I have a commander unit for the D4, anyway, but for getting the accessory flash off of the camera without having to buy a commander unit this is a blessing for most people. I can use it to trigger my macro flashes without having to worry about the commander unit battery going dead, as it likes to do on a regular basis. Changing batteries in the dark is not fun.

When I first got the camera I decided the longest period of time known to man is the time between un-boxing your new camera and when the battery is finally charged and you can finally check your new camera out. While waiting for the battery to charge I couldn’t get the camera to manually focus. I tried adjusting the diopter. Everything was still blurry. I had major worry. As soon as the battery went in it focused like a champ. Not sure what that is all about, but I tell you because I know you will do the same thing.

So far this is looking like one beautiful little camera body. At $2,300 it is expensive, but cheaper than the Df. I think the light weight, quiet shutter and the articulating LCD screen are going to prove to be impressive and useful in the months to come.

Salem Building

Salem Building




Nikon Capture NX-D beta

Posted in Photo Gear with tags , , , , , on March 24, 2014 by chamimage
Nikon Capture NX-D

Nikon Capture NX-D

I have been toying around with the new beta version of Nikon Capture NX-D.

Nikon Capture is the program Nikon provides to work on and convert Nikon RAW files. It will only read RAW files in Nikon’s NEF and NRW  formats, jpeg files and tiff files. Unfortunately, Capture does not show PSD files so cannot be used as a browser to find a psd file and open it.

Previous versions included NX-1 and NX-2. The two previous versions were a collaboration with NIK and they included NIK’s control point technology for selective editing. Nikon has gone a completely different approach with NX-D and no longer has control points or any other selective editing option, at least in the beta version.

On the plus side, the browser has been laid out in a much more user-friendly and familiar way. The new look is impressive. It is a browser and the layout is much like what is found in Lightroom or Bridge, very familiar. It generates jpegs faster than Bridge (who doesn’t? Really Adobe, that is the best you can do? Little Breeze systems and Photo Mechanic with a millionth of your budget have no problem generating jpegs fast), but you can overwhelm it and freeze it up if you go from one end of the film strip at the bottom to the other end too fast. Hopefully that will improve with the final release this fall.

The jpegs it generates are gorgeous. Flipping back and forth between Capture and Lightroom with the same image shows a clear advantage to Capture. Jpegs and TIFF files are equal in the two programs.

Which leads me to what I use Nikon Capture for. Mainly I want to convert RAW files with it. I want all of those beautiful colors that Nikon intended for that image to have. I do very minimal work in Capture, just global exposure, contrast, Picture Control settings, and Active D-lighting, which is Nikon’s way of handling highlights and shadows. Adobe Lightroom and Camera Raw have come a long way with their camera profiles for Nikon files, but they can’t match the colors you will get converting RAW files in Capture NX. I had been very lazy lately, just using Lightroom for all my basic editing and RAW file conversion. Then I ran across a problem I haven’t seen for a while. I worked on a file in Photoshop for thirty minutes before discovering there were color shifts in the gray of the clouds. Greens and magentas that didn’t belong there. They will also crop up in shadows from time to time as well. I had to start all over with a file converted in Capture NX to get rid of the color shift.

There has been a lot of hand wringing about how Capture NX-D does not allow any selective editing. It is not a stand alone product that will let you do it all in one program. I have never used one program alone for processing my files so it is less of an issue for me. I rarely used the Control Points in Capture NX2. I do now have Capture NX-D, Lightroom, and Photoshop all open at the same time, but I like the Capture NX-D RAW conversions so much better than what Adobe can do it is worth it for me.

There are a few nitpicky things I hope they change before the final version comes out. There is no zoom or hand tool so to zoom to 100% you need to use a keyboard shortcut or go into the Image drop down menu. The same with sizing the image to fit your screen. I hate that. If you zoom a horizontally oriented image and then fit it to screen, your next vertical image will not fit to screen. Argh!

There is no longer the Double Threshold check box above the histogram on previous versions of Capture NX that allowed you to adjust both your white point and black point. You have to, again, use a keyboard shortcut or drop down menu to adjust white point and then go back and do the black point. There are no white point and black point eyedroppers in the toolbox above as before, but  they are in the levels and curves tool below on the right column.

There is a way to batch process and there is a way to paste your setting changes to other images, so if you have five images from the same set-up you can adjust one image and paste those setting to the others. You can even save recipes to your hard drive if you create something wild and wacky you might want to use again.

My workflow for RAW files has now become 1.) Edit globally in Capture NX-D for exposure, white balance, contrast, and Active D-lighting to bring back any errant blown out whites or blocked up blacks. 2.) Convert RAW file to a tiff in Capture NX-D. 3.) Make further minor changes in Lightroom to white point, black point, gradient tool, etc. 4.) Open in Photoshop for application of NIK filters (they can be put on a layer and painted in or out on a layer mask in Photoshop), levels and curves (again, layer masked), dust spotting (I always forget to do it in Lightroom so do it in ACR as a filter {in CC version of PS only}), rarely color correction or saturation. 5.) Save psd file with layers intact, save flattened large jpeg for stock agency upload, save small jpeg for web.

I am hoping Nikon users will try Capture NX-D beta out and comment to Nikon on what they would like changed so we can get some changes made. When Capture NX-D is released this fall it needs to be the best it can be because Nikon will then no longer support updates for Capture NX 2 so as soon as we get into the next generation of cameras Capture NX2 will not have a camera profile for them.

Epson 3880

Posted in Photo Gear with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 6, 2013 by chamimage
Queen Anne's Lace Seed Head

Queen Anne’s Lace Seed Head

I have been printing with the Epson 3880 printer for about three weeks now. So far I am impressed.

In previous blogs I detailed my efforts to rehab my Epson 4900. I lost the battle in the end. I don’t print on a consistent basis. I print like crazy for a gallery opening and then not so much for a few months. With the pigment based inks it is better to keep the ink flowing or the pigments settle and they can clog nozzles and lines. I went too long without printing on the 4900 and could never get everything unclogged and it needed a new print head. That would have cost about two hundred dollars less than a new 4900 and four hundred dollars more than the 3880 after the rebate. So I had to sacrifice the ink I had remaining for the 4900 (it is not compatible for the 3880) and get the Epson 3880.

Maasai Woman in Doorway

Maasai Woman in Doorway

My biggest concern was that the 3880 has eight ink cartridges and the 4900 has ten. The difference is that the 4900 has orange and green. So far I have not noticed a difference. I have one print (above image) with some oarnge-ish reds that I wish were richer and are out of gamut on the proof in Photoshop, but I haven’t finished fiddling to see if I can do better in post production yet. I would love to print that image side by side with both printers as it is to see if there is a difference.

The skin tones on the above images were perfect. I have made a lot of prints lately while catching up after trying to rehab the 4900 for six weeks (hey, I wasn’t going to give up) and have not been disappointed in any of them.

The 3880 prints 17 inches wide and has profiles for the Signature Worthy papers by Epson that I like.


My dislikes are minor. I wish there was a roll paper spindle.  I am now cutting sheets from the roll paper I had left over and it is a bit of a challenge. The paper doesn’t like to be handled so I wrinkle it. The sheets I cut are quite curled so I weight them down for a while before printing to avoid having the paper curl up and hit the print head and damage it. The make a de-curler, but it costs $360. The print of the top image is now completely flat after a couple of weeks after cutting it so the framer will have no problem with it. In the future I will just buy sheet paper. I did want to try the new Ilford Gold fine art paper, but it does not come in 17 inch sheets, only rolls.

The 4900 has a cool clear plastic window on the top and you could watch the printer working. It sounds minor, but I just saw a video where National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson commented that he also enjoys watching the printer work through that little window so I am not the only printer voyeur. The 3880 has an opaque black  plastic top cover. You can open the top cover during printing with the 3880, just don’t spill coffee or let dog hair in there.

The 3880 definitely prints slower than the 4900. I don’t think that should surprise anybody and given the price difference a 4900 purchaser would be disappointed if that were not the case. The print head on the 3880 is physically smaller and not as much ink gets put down on each pass. I am not a high volume, wait until deadline to print a whole gallery show kind of guy so it really doesn’t impact me if the printing takes longer. I have heard the Epson rep (Danno, I believe) and Jim Richardson say that printing in high speed (the head lays down ink in both directions) does not impact the quality of the result with the 4900. I have not heard if it does with the 3880 so always turn high speed off since the manual states that it will improve quality.


I like the paper feed better with the 3880. Thinner paper feeds from the top, which is quicker and less scary than putting paper in a pull-out tray on the bottom face down as with the 4900 (how does it not scratch the paper? It never does, but why doesn’t it?). The thicker fine art paper is also fed from the top in the 3880 via a second paper guide that has a less acute angle so the paper doesn’t have to bend as much. In the 4900 I fed the fine art paper from the front by hitting button that opened the platen and then feeding the paper into the printer, hoping it wouldn’t scratch or pick up ink somehow. It never did affect the paper, but sometimes I struggled to get the paper lined up perfectly straight and would get a paper skew warning.

I must admit the 3880 also gives me some paper skew warnings with the fine art paper, but I credit that to using the cut, curled roll paper that is harder to feed in straight.

Like the 4900, the 3880 has both photo black and matte black ink cartridges installed so switching from one to the other occurs at the flip of a switch. Gone are the days of my trusty old 2400 where you had to physically switch the black ink cartridge (that 2400 is still making prints for a friend of mine, after all of these years). The 3880 is said to switch the ink automatically depending on which paper you designate in the print dialog. Truth be told, I have never brought myself to actually trust the printer to switch the ink yet. I guess I’m a control freak when it comes to printing. I want to switch the inks myself and know that it is done and ready to print when I hit that print button.

The 3880 weighs forty pounds and I can easily move it myself. The 4900 weighed 150 pounds and was too large and bulky for one person to move (I did, but I shouldn’t have). I almost killed my retired neighbor when I recruited him to help me carry the 4900 downstairs and out to the car to take it for its final ride to the repair shop. Sorry, Roger. The college kid next door wasn’t home.

The 3880 is very economical with ink. I have made quite a few prints and even though the ink cartridges are smaller than the 4900 cartridges, I don’t seem to be seeing the ink levels go down nearly as quickly. The 4900 does do more head cleaning on a routine basis so maybe that is where the ink goes.

Love my 3880 so far. I miss my 4900, but it just wasn’t meant to be.

Printer Rehab

Posted in Photo Gear with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2013 by chamimage
Windblown Grass

Windblown Grass

I took my Epson 4900 printer to the printer hospital today. The prognosis is not good.

What I should say is that I roped my neighbor into helping me lug a bulky 150 pound printer downstairs and into my car to take it to the nearest repair shop 50 miles away after trying to fix it myself to avoid all of that trouble for the better part of the past six weeks.

Centennial Mountain Storm

Centennial Mountain Storm

I made the mistake of not making a print for a few months. I know now that the pigment inks in the 4900 tend to settle out and clump and then harden in the lines and the ink nozzles.

When I first turned it back on after all of that time it put zero ink on paper. All of the nozzles were clogged. Head cleaning brought back all but two of the nozzles, but at the expense of using a considerable amount of ink. Ink cartridges for the 4900 cost $89.95 each at Adorama. There are 11 of them.

Fence Post

Fence Post

After much research on line I found that this is a common problem with this printer. I also learned that the dirty little secret to fixing the last two nozzles was to soak a folded paper towel in Windex and put it into the printer and position the print head over it overnight. They say the ammonia vapors is what loosens the dried pigment so don’t use the non-ammonia kind. I don’t know if the foamy stuff might work better or not.

That cleaned up the two remaining nozzles, mostly, and I got a print made, but then I switched the black ink to matte black and could not get it to deliver any black ink from that point on, photo black or matte black. It sounds like this is something other than a simple clog. A new print head costs $1200, plus labor.

So, I am researching options in case the news is bad and the print head can’t be saved. I have about $500 in new ink cartridges invested in the 4900 so biting the bullet and fixing it is hard to not consider. I could buy a 3880, another 17 inch printer, for $1100. I think buying a used 4900 would be too risky, considering their known problems. For what it would cost to replace the print head I could pretty much write the old 4900 off and buy a new one. I am kind of stuck with Epson because I have developed a look I like with Hot Press Bright paper and know nothing at all about Canon printers.

All I know for certain right now is two things. I will be happy to get back to being able to print again and I am going to move my office downstairs.

All of the above images are from Red Rock National Wildlife Refuge in that little finger of southwest Montana that protrudes into Idaho.


Posted in Photo Gear with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2012 by chamimage

Pewter Cup

I might possibly be the last person on the planet to buy a smartphone. I remember photographing Maasai tribesmen on the savanna of Kenya in 2007 who whipped out smartphones the minute we finished taking their photograph. They live in mud (cow dung, actually) huts with no electricity or running water (they probably recharge their phones in the Land Rovers they drive for the tourists).

I still have no great hankering for a smartphone, but feel I ought to have a phone of some sort. If my parents or kids end up in the hospital they are going to want to call me. Other than that I don’t have much use for a phone outside of the office. I have e-mail for all of the other stuff.

The land line went away last week after I got a monthly Comcast bill for $173. I remember starting at $99 and being promised that price would never increase. So much for promises from the likes of Comcast, but that’s a whole other thing. I cut the cable back to basic, too, which was long overdue. I found out that I now get an OPB Plus channel that is more worthwhile having than all of those other channels put together. I can watch Austin City Limits again! Yes!

So, I’ve researched smartphones all week. And I still have no clue. I haven’t even decided between iPhone versus Android. I have a rather sketchy relationship with Apple that makes me reluctant to get an iPhone. iTunes is, to date, the only software that has crashed my hard so hard I lost all of my data. That leaves an impression.


I have learned that the iPhone has a 3.5″ screen and the top two Android phones have 4.7″ and 4.8″ screens. I am a visually oriented person so that is huge. I am told iPhone folks just blow the screen up and read things in little tiny bits at a time and that the tiny keyboard is no problem. I gotta wonder. The iPhone screen is the brightest. The Androids are catching up, slowly. Of the Androids it sounds like the Samsung Galaxy SIII will be the best in sunlight. I say will be because it is not available yet. The HTC One X not too shabby, either.


I know. When I told one of my business partners I had excluded the HTC One X because the camera was described as ‘unimpressive’ she said, “You are buying a phone and you are worried about the camera?” What can I say? I have priorities. I will use my phone to take photos WAY more than I will use it as a phone. I hate phones. The iPhone camera is good. The Samsung Galaxy SIII camera is decidedly better than the HTC, but how it stacks up to the iPhone I have no idea.  I eliminated the Samsung Galaxy Nevus because it has a 5 MP camera. Really. Even the 8 MP cameras in virtually every other phone is so 2003! The Androids load at least some software to embellish your images. iPhone does not. To a photographer that is no big deal because there are about 6 billion apps out there for that.

Scott Kelby had a brilliant idea. Since the majority of photographs are now taken with a smart phone, why doesn’t Canon or Nikon step up and offer to put an actual decent camera in one of the smartphones? They would sell millions more cameras, and the phone manufacturer could promote having a real honest-to-God camera in their phone. Then 99.9% of people could just have the phone and not need a camera, too.

Operating System

I know nothing about OS’s. I just know that they become obsolete really fast and iPhone is already ordering pieces (4″ screen glass – still too small) for their next model, rumored to be released in October. Do I really want to buy an iPhone now? On a two year contract? One reviewer said it would be committing yourself to 2008 technology in 2014. On the Android side, Ice Cream Sandwich OS is so new that only a handful of phones have it.


Not a biggie with me, but the iPhone is all glass. Very. Breakable. Glass. Drop it without a case on it and it shatters. Everywhere. The Samsung Galaxy SIII is said to be pretty ugly. Shiny plastic. The HTC One X is matte white or gray polycarbonate and is beautiful. Both Androids are a handful. Much larger than the iPhone.


Here is where it all kind of blows up. I would prefer to be on Verizon. The places I frequent are remote and you either have Verizon or you don’t have coverage. AT&T is great if you happen to live in one of the 29 spots where they are great. Verizon has something like 300 spots where they are great. Neither of the Androids I have researched are offered on Verizon. iPhone is. It’s all so confusing and twisted.

Maybe I ought to just add voice mail to the cell phone I use for work. Bought it in 2000. Doesn’t. Even. Fold. Just the equivalent of a handset. No screen. Ear holes, microphone holes, and a keypad. Built like a brick. Great coverage on Verizon. Crystal clear sound. It does absolutely nothing but make phone calls and hammer nails. The cheap charger is kind of falling apart, though. I bet I couldn’t find a charger for it on a bet.Maybe stepping up to 2008 technology would be a start.

Redwoods Black & White

New Stuff

Posted in Photo Gear with tags , , , , , , , on January 11, 2012 by chamimage

Black-tailed Buck

The past week has been unusually active in the new stuff release department. First was the announcement of the new Nikon D4, and then the release of Lightroom 4 beta. The Nikon is expensive, the Lightroom is free.

I really try hard not to geek out on new stuff. I try to remind myself it is only a tool and artistry is not dependent upon having the very latest stuff as soon as it is released. But part of me gets excited about the changes. Another part of me dreads the departure from the nice, warm, cozy norm I’ve gotten used to. Especially when things like video are involved. I just want to be a photographer.

I am, unexpectedly, on the fence about the new Nikon. I skipped the D3s so I’m still shooting a D3 and feel like I should upgrade. But the changes in the new model are mostly video capabilities and ethernet, so are not things I am excited about at all.Why don’t they make a lighter, cheaper,  stripped down version with no video or ethernet. An affordable camera that, I don’t know, takes photographs? I don’t need it to make my coffee.

I want my camera to take good photographs and it sounds all the world  like my D3 comes pretty darn close to what the D4 does in that department. The D4 shoots bigger files, but that usually comes at the sacrifice of more noise and for me it’s all about shooting as high an ISO as I can without noise. On the other hand, I saw a request today for 16 megapixel minimum images so I suspect if I don’t have the new camera my images will suddenly be considered not big enough just because there are going to be more larger files available. Editors are funny that way.

The fact that I don’t have $6,000 to spend on a new camera right now makes the decision pretty easy. And I’m betting a used D3s might be a lot easier to find and less expensive in two or three months. Time to sell my D300 for sure. It got used very little. Any takers?

Santiam River

I have only had Lightroom 3 for a short time and have not been enamored of it, so thought the Lightroom 4 beta would not interest me. But then I watched some videos to see what it is all about and ended up downloading it. It is a beta version so we are warned not to plan on being able to keep any of the changes we make to our files with it when the full version comes out in March.

The things that impressed me are mostly the basic panel changes. They changed the names of all the sliders, just to thoroughly confuse us. The recovery slider (now called Highlights), the Fill slider (now called Shadows) and the clarity slider seem to be the most significant improvements.

Also useful is that they have expanded what can be done with the adjustment brush and gradient filter. You can now paint in white balance changes and noise reduction. I have always done noise reduction in Photoshop, not because the noise reduction is any better, but because I always want to do it on a mask where I can put more where it is needed and less where it is not needed. Now I can do that in Lightroom. Cool.

The white balance portion of the adjustment brush means you can now warm up just the blue shadow areas where it is needed. Again, cool.

There is also a book making module. Not bookmaking, book making (although, a starving photographer might just welcome a bookmaking module). You can export your photo book to Blurb for printing, or to a PDF file. I have always made my books in Blub’s proprietary software and then I can’t do anything else with them. Now I can. I can make e-books that never have to be printed so they will be cheap or free instead of $20-40 a piece. I haven’t seen any videos about how the text gets added yet, whether you have to cut and paste from Word, or if you can type right in the Lightroom module. I had even considered In Design to make books with before, until I found out it costs $600.

Lightroom 4 beta also now has video editing to a limited degree.

Speaking of videos. The best videos explaining the new Lightroom 4 beta that I’ve found so far, by far, are the ones done by Julianne Kost at She can show you the work-around to be able to edit your videos even better in Lightroom 4 beta. The videos at Kelby Training are shorter, if you want more of a brief overview  (, but definitely see Julianne Kost’s video on the video editing. Both sets of training videos are free. Both have links to the download for Lightroom 4 beta.

African Elephant Herd in Samburu

I optimized this elephant photo from 2010 a couple of weeks ago for a submission to a client. I posted it on Flickr a couple of days ago. Last night on Animal Planet they had a two hour documentary on these elephants in Samburu. It was a very, very good documentary. There are a lot of elephants in Samburu. Apparently there are now a lot of elephant poachers in Samburu, as well. In Kenya, the rangers shoot first and ask questions later and that keeps the poaching from being worse than it is. But there are huge rewards to be had for desparately poor people, and there will always be some who are willing to risk it.

The local Samburu tribe do not consider elephants to be animals. They are above that. If they find a dead elephant they touch it and call it brother.

Samburu Warriors

Lightroom 3

Posted in Photo Gear with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 25, 2011 by chamimage

Lake Crescent

I purchased Adobe Lightroom 3 about 6-8 weeks ago. I have used Adobe Bridge and Adobe Camera Raw for viewing and converting my images for six years, so was obviously not overly impressed with Lightroom before. In fact, I have downloaded trial copies of both previous versions of Lightroom and uninstalled them from my computer after one week. I didn’t just not like them, I actively hated them.

Then I made the mistake of watching some of Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowskis videos on 100 Ways Lightroom Kicks Bridges A**. They actually made a separate video for each of the 100 reasons (must be nice to have that kind of time on your hands. And why do they hate Bridge so much?). I watched the first thirty and had found only four of them relevant in any way to my work flow. But the four reasons were good ones, so when Lightroom went on sale for about half of its usual price I bought it (does a sale on Lightroom 3 mean Lightroom 4 is imminent?).

I’m kind of regretting the purchase now because Lightroom does four things really well and for the rest of it I still need to have Bridge open to get anything accomplished, and now I have one more program to worry about because now that my images load faster and are sharper on full screen preview I can’t live without it. At times I have Lightroom, Bridge, Photoshop, and Capture NX (There are some Nikon RAW files that just do not convert well in Adobe) all running at the same time. Oy Vay!.

The four reasons I bought Lightroom, in order of importance, are:

1. Speed – My biggest complaint about Bridge, and the reason I finally gave up on it is that it seems to be loading images slower as time goes on. Lightroom is faster. Not FAST. But faster. Breezebrowser still kicks its butt on speed, if that is the only thing you are worried about (which makes you wonder how Adobe, with all of its money and brain power, can’t match other programs, seemingly ANY other programs, on speed). Huge advantage to Lightroom.

2. Full Screen Image Preview Sharpness – The first thing I do after uploading new images is to edit them in full screen mode and in Bridge I can’t delete images based on marginal sharpness because the previews are all unsharp. Of course, I often do that first edit in the field on my laptop and I am not able to judge sharpness on my laptop and have no intention yet of loading Lightroom on the laptop, anyway. But, for the images I upload at home I hope to be able to edit more viciously on the first pass with Lightroom. Marginal advantage to Lightroom.

3. Keywords on upload – The Lightroom upload utility is, disappointingly, slower than Bridge’s, but I console myself that it is adding keywords while it uploads (it is more likely slower because it is having to ‘import’ every file). Bridge does not allow you to add keywords on import, but I usually just select all of the images (Ctrl A) and do it immediately afterward, so a marginal advantage to Lightroom that is lost due to the slowness of uploading. A draw.

4. Contact Sheets – Adobe took the contact sheet function out of Photoshop with CS5. Some editors still want a printed contact sheet with DVD submissions so they have a quick visual reference to what is on the DVD without having to open it. Advantage Lightroom by virtue of an unexplainable loss of a useful  function in Photoshop.

Tie-down Horse

I wish I could end there, short and sweet and positive. At the risk of ranting, it is only fair to give a few of the 100 ways that Bridge is, indeed, better than Lightroom, and why I now have to use both programs to accomplish anything.

1. Lightroom is a catalog, Bridge is a browser. I don’t need a catalog. I think. It must be a necessary evil to allow putting the Develop module inside of the program because Apple’s Aperture employs it as well. Bridge (any browser) will happily show me every image on my computer. Lightroom will snootily ignore every image on my computer until it has been properly introduced via an ‘import’. But that’s not the worse of it. Oh no. If I open an image in Photoshop from Lightroom and work on it, it will faithfully save the psd file right there next to the RAW file. Good boy. Bridge will put the psd file any old place it feels like putting it, but almost never next to the RAW file with the same name. Do people in the Lightroom and Bridge divisions at Adobe even talk to each other? BUT, if I then make a jpg file for the blog, Flickr, etc,  as well, it will not be in Lightroom, I have to import it back in. ARGH! Second problem. Somewhere around CS4 I stopped having that Maximize Compatability box checked when I saved a psd file in Photoshop. The result of that is that Lightroom refuses to show me about half of my psd files. It knows they are there. If I try to synchronize files it will tell me the name of each and every one of them, along with a snooty message about what I have to do before it will be willing to consider befriending them. To see them in Lightroom I have to find them (in Bridge) and open them in Photoshop and do a Save As with the maximize comparability clicked on – THEN import them into Lightroom. One of the major reasons I have to have Bridge open to find files.

2. Filter Tab (or the lack thereof) – The other reason I have Bridge open to find files is that there is a heavenly, elegant, perfect tab called Filter in Bridge. If I just want to see the psd files, I click on psd. If I want to see five star files with a red tag, I click those two. If I click on a keyword it shows all of the files with that keyword. Lightroom, inexplicably, does not have the Filter tab that its FREE cousin has. It has what amounts to a Find or Search function that is so onerous I will never use it as long as I can just go to Bridge and find the image in half the time. Like I said, these guys at Adobe obviously don’t talk.

3 Develop – One of the things Scott and Matt repeatedly brought up in their videos was how with Lightroom you have it all in ONE program. Not really, but even then, going from the Library module in Lightroom to the Develop module is every bit as cumbersome as double clicking an image in Bridge and having Adobe Camera Raw open. You still have to go back to the Library module to open a different folder. Back and forth, back and forth. I am used to ACR and have yet to like the Develop module. They do the same things, but in the Develop module you have to scroll constantly to go from one tool to the next if you don’t know all of the keyboard shortcuts (none of which make any sense so depend on rote memory and repetition to learn). In ACR the tools are in tabs up top. No scrolling.

4. Folders – I will end my educational dialog (not rant) with folders. In Bridge folder hierarchies are maintained. I have an Africa folder with 18 subfolders and several sub sub folders. I also threw images in the Africa folder itself that were the touristy photos, or photos that were too few in number to warrant a sub folder of their own. I know where they are.  Works great – in Bridge. In Bridge when I click on the Africa folder to find my touristy photos I see 19 sub folders and few image files. In Lightroom, oh my my, when I click on the Africa folder I weep. I weep because there are 3,029 unorganized images in random order. Lightroom displays the sub folders in the side bar, but ignores their existence otherwise. Scott Kelby highly recommends using Collections in Lightroom instead of folders. I see why. I don’t want to use Collections. I have a system that has worked for me for six years. Another reason to have Bridge open. Sigh.

American Flag

It must be frustrating to work on Bridge development at Adobe. They give it away free with the purchase of Photoshop. If they made it really excel, built up the speed of image loading, sharpened up the full screen previews, and added keywording to the uploading utility, then people like me wouldn’t buy their expensive product – Lightroom. So, Bridge’s goal seems to be to offer a useable program for the casual user, but to remain mediocre enough that there is an incentive to buy Lightroom. What is harder to understand is why Lightroom hasn’t employed the concepts that really work well in Bridge and ACR, like the Filter tab and putting the Develop tools in tabs at the top so you don’t have to constantly scroll to find them. Maybe they will in Lightroom 4. Maybe I’ll download the beta version whenever it is available and try making some constructive suggestions to make it better.

I am obviously struggling to adapt to Lightroom after using Bridge for six years. I am sure starting out with it early on would be easier. Without something to compare it to some of its obvious flaws might not be so obvious. One could start out building collections instead of clinging to a file system that doesn’t seem to work in a catalog. On the other hand, I remember using Bridge for the first time was a bit rough. But then I was going from editing slides on a light table and storing them in files in a file cabinet to designing a whole new digital system then. This whole digital world is a wild ride.

What would work best for me is if Adobe offered an upgrade from Bridge for which they charged, maybe, $50. It would be faster and have sharper full screen previews. Maybe you could even add keywords on upload. It wouldn’t need a Develop module because we have ACR a double-click away. Just a lightning fast browser with a Filter tab. We could call it Light Bridge or Bridge Room. Or, they could name it Bridge and re-name the current free version Bridge Lite. I think the engineers at Lightroom and Bridge ought to trade places for three months, just long enough to become familiar with the other program and see what works better than what they have been doing.