Kat

I recently had the chance to work with a new model - Kat Von G.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

This was the first model shoot I had done in a while, and it was also the first shoot where I had some control over the artistic direction. Don't get me wrong, both Kat & I collaborated on ideas & themes, but she left me pretty much to my own devices when it came to the look & feel of the shoot. So, I did my very best to channel my inner Joel Grimes on several shots.

The colour version of this shot is lovely, as Kat has gorgeous blue-grey eyes. However, when I was editing it just screamed at me to be a B&W shot. So, after a quick trip in to Silver EFX Pro 2, and some final tweaks in Lightroom 5, I ended up with what you see here. 

Overall, I'm very chuffed with the way this shot turned out. I didn't have to do very much by way of post processing, particularly on Kat's skin, thanks to her looking after herself, and by shooting the image slightly over exposed. 

I now need to get another date booked with another model, to see what other "looks" I can dream up.

Backup, Backup, Backup

I've been wanting to post something about backups for a while now, but have been too busy to do so. The reason I've been too busy is primarily due to the day job, but also because I'm creating a wee video to explain the diagram below.

The above is pretty much my "Set it, and forget it" backup routine, broken down in to it's constituent parts. Once I've finished the video, I'll share it here. 

The Hackintosh Project - The Build

In my previous Hackintosh post, I covered the hardware spec of the Frankenhack Mk I. I this post, I'll cover how I installed OS X 10.10.1 on to the Frankenhack Mk I.

There is a tremendous community of Hackintosh enthusiasts out there, and none more so than the crew that run Tonymacx86.com. Over there, they have a wealth of incredibly useful information, ranging from hardware compatibility guides, to detailed build guides. Being a community driven site, you can run your Hackintosh specs past forum users in an effort to determine if you hardware is compatible, and you can always ask for help, if you're having issues with your own build.

Luckily for me, all of the stuff I needed to know about installing OS X was detailed in this post. This made planning the OS installation very, very easy.

Pretty much, my build went like this:-

  • Created an OS X 10.10.1 boot disk on my MacBook Pro
  • Obtained the OS X Yosemite installer, via a free download from the Mac App Store
  • Downloaded Unibeast and Multibeast from Tonymacx86.com
  • Prepared a 16GB USB flash drive as my Unibeast installer (See video below)
  • Booted the Frankenhack MK I from the USB Unibeast installer with a couple of switches
    (I used the -x, PCIRootUID=1, and Maxmem=4096 switches to get OS X installed)
  • Ran Multibeast from the USB Unibeast drive, and configured my hardware accordingly

Ultimately, the hardest parts of the build, for me, was prepping the Unibeast USB flash drive, and figuring out which switches to use when starting the OS X installation process. Once I had gotten my head around these issues, the OS X installation was actually quite an easy and painless process.

Admittedly, there are still a few wee hardware and software niggles to be worked out on the Frankenhack MK I in order to fully enjoy OS X. However, I'm not too fussed about resolving these immediately, as I am more than happy (Delighted, in fact) that I now have a backup PC that runs OS X.

The Hackintosh Project - Hardware Specs.

Further to my post from the other day, here's a rundown of what hardware is inside the Frankenhack Mk I:-

- Gigabyte Z97X-UD3H motherboard
- Intel Core i5-4670K CPU
- 32GB (4 x 8GB) of Corsair XMS3 1600Mhz DDR3 RAM 
- 256GB OCZ Agility 3 SSD (For OS and Apps)
- 4TB (4 x 1TB, RAID-0) 3.5" 7200 RPM HDDs (For data and scratch)
- HIS Radeon HD7950 3GB PCIe Graphics card
- Fractal Design ARC Midi R2 case 

I'll post a "How I built it" entry very soon. I promise!

The Hackintosh Project - Revisited

Cast your minds back to 05 Feb 2014. This was the date that I made the decision that I wasn't going to install a Windows operating system on any of my PC hardware ever again, and that OS X was to be the way forward for my computing needs. This was to be the start of my foray in to the world of the Hackintosh.

Fast forward twenty days, to 25 Feb 2014, and I have made the jump to a 13" Retina MacBook Pro (rMBP). The Hackintosh idea is shelved almost immediately, as I have a real Mac and OSX to get to grips with. 

Go forward 10 months, to December 2014, and I experience a catastrophic failure of my rMBP. Turns out that something connected to one of the ports of my rMBP had shorted out the logic board, and turned my rMBP in to a very expensive paperweight. Luckily, the rMBP is still under warranty, and is repaired by Apple, FOC. 

As a result of the hardware failure, and due to the extraordinary demand on the Apple Store Genuises at this time of year, I was without my rMBP for 1 full week.

1 week. 7 long days. 168 torturous hours without access to Lightroom, Photoshop or Logic Pro X! 

I vowed there and then never to be without OSX for that length of time again!

So, looking upon this as a positive learning experience, there are two things that I take from it:- 

  1. I MUST get AppleCare sorted out on my rMBP, before the 1 year warranty expires
  2. I need a backup PC that runs OS X!

Resolving number 1, will be a straight forward purchase of AppleCare towards the end of January 2015.

Number 2, is already resolved. Well, sort of resolved. As of yesterday, 21.12.14, I completed my first Hackintosh build - aka Frankenhack Mk I. I say "Sort of", as there are a few minor snagging issues to be addressed before I can call it a full and final build, but I do have a fully functioning installation of OS X Yosemite (10.10.1) running on non-Apple hardware, without any major problems.

I'll cover the specs and build process of the Frankenhack Mk I in a separate post.

Lightroom Workflow

I've been thinking about starting up my own YouTube channel for some time now.

Ideally, I'd like to use it to help out others who are just starting out with cataloging, editing and sharing their photos via Lightroom and Photoshop. For anyone starting out with a DSLR, and is new to RAW image processing, it can be very daunting. I can remember when I was in that very same position, somewhere circa 2008. 

I had just gotten my first serious digital camera, specifically, one that could shoot RAW images (Ironically, it was not a DSLR). I couldn't figure out how to get the images in camera to look like the images I had in my head.

It was all very confusing and frustrating to me, so I turned, as one does, to Google to find out how to do this editing "stuff" with Adobe Lightroom. Fortunately, there were a lot of really good resources to help me get started, and, over time, (and 3 versions later), I am now completely comfortable working within Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. More importantly, I can now transfer the "artistic vision" I have in my mind from the camera to the computer screen.

So, I feel it's time to "pay it forward" with the knowledge I have gained over the last 6 years, and start giving back to the community that helped me to get going.

Canon EOS 7D Mk II

Today, 15 September 2014, Canon officially announced the successor to the now 5 year old Canon EOS 7D. Unsurprisingly, Canon have named it's new model the 7D Mark II.

Image Credit: Cameraegg.org

On paper it looks like a terrific camera:-

  • 20MP Dual-Pixel AF CMOS Sensor
  • 10 fps continuous shooting with autofocus
  • 65 all cross-type autofocus sensor
  • 150,000 RGB pixel metering sensor
  • Dual Digic 6 processors
  • Enhanced environmental sealing
  • Compact Flash (UDMA) and SD (UHS-I) slots
  • USB 3.0
  • Built-in GPS
  • Larger-capacity LP-E6N battery
  • Shutter speeds up to 1/8000th seconds
  • Shutter rated to 200,000 cycles (vs 150,000 on 7D)

DPreview have produced a very good first impressions review of it.

As an upgrade to the Canon EOS 7D, it's a very capable camera. The highlights for me would be the dual DIGIC 6 Image Processors, the customisable (intelligent) viewfinder, and the dual card slots. It's clearly aimed at enthusiast sports and wildlife photographers (who else shoots at 10 fps?), and thats OK. The GPS and intervalometer are very nice touches, but the lack of WIFI is a big omission in my opinion. 

Is it enough to convince me to drop my original 7D in favour of a 7D Mk II? Sadly, probably not. Whilst it's utterly jam packed with modern, useful features, it just doesn't have what I am looking for in my next camera. At the moment, the only affordable Canon camera with the feature set I require, is the Canon EOS 6D

 

 

Panoramic Sunrise

This may, or may not, be the last photo I post of this mountain, but this is actually my first attempt at a panoramic shot. Here's how I processed it.

Sunrise on Buachaille Etive Mor & Glen Etive | August | 2014

The final shot (above) is made up of three individual frames which have been stitched together in Adobe Photoshop. I took the three base exposures and processed them in Adobe Lightroom first, so that I could get some basic things (Namely - exposure, WB and lens correction) standardised across all three frames. In doing so, I knew that this would greatly improved the final, stitched panorama result. 

So, still within Adobe Lightroom, I selected all three of my standardised frames and exported them to Photoshop to be merged as a panorama using the "Photo, Edit It, Merge to Panorama in Photoshop" menu option. Once opened up within Photoshop, I selected the default (auto) option, and let Photoshop do it's thing.

Once the Merge to Panorama process was completed, I then applied the Adaptive Wide Angle filter. This dramatically fixed the distortion on the image, and gave me what you see above, after cropping the image down. After that, it was back in to Lightroom to do some further processing, ultimately giving me what you see at the top of this post. 

I'll cover the processing techniques that I use in future posts, but for now please enjoy the panoramic sunrise on Buachaille Etive Mor and Glen Etive.

Lightroom Tips - Backup Your Presets

Preset Folder.png

Out of the box, Adobe Lightroom has a very useful preset system.

However, that usefulness is promoted to ‘almost invaluable’ status when you create your own presets, or make use of the many 3rd party presets that are available.

If you do make use of your own, or any 3rd party presets, then it’s important that you know where they are stored within your computer, so that you can back them up. Any non-Adobe presets (i.e., your own and any 3rd party ones) aren’t backed up by default, so you should ensure that you have a way of recovering them, should disaster strike, or if you want to share them between multiple computers.

Finding where your presets are stored

As far as I am aware, there are two locations where you can store your non-Adobe presets:-

  • With your Lightroom catalog
  • In a folder of your choosing

Personally, I use the second option - in a folder of my own choice. I do this for two reasons:-

  1. I prefer to know exactly where my presets are stored, so that I can easily find them, copy them and store them in a safe location.
  2. I create multiple catalogs within Lightroom. By choosing where I store my Lightroom user and 3rd party presets, I can use them within multiple catalogs without having to re-import them.

To find where your presets are stored, go to Lightroom, then Preferences (cmd+, in OS X), or Edit, then Preferences (Ctrl+, on Windows). Click on the presets tab

Once there, click on the "Show Lightroom Presets Folder" button. This will open up a window with the location of where your presets are stored. Once you have this location, it's just a simple matter of making a copy of this folder, and any subfolders contained within it, and then storing them in a shared location. It's that easy :-)

Developing a unique style

Musicians have their own unique way of interpreting a lick, a phrase, or a passage of music. In doing so, they define who they are stylistically. Photographers evolve the same way.

Sunrise | Glen Etive | August 2014

I'm still very much in the process of trying to define my photographic style. I won't lie to you, the cinema is a huge influence on me. The application of cinematic colour grading and 16:9 crop ratios is where I seem to be headed at the moment, as you can tell from the above photograph.

Personally, I don't see this as being negative. During the course of learning about photography, a photographer is exposed to many, and often diverse, influences. This is a very good thing!

I studied the works of many famous, and not so famous, photographers whilst learning how to develop my own photographic skills. Also, being a huge movie fan, I studied the work of many famous Directors in order to get my head around certain lighting and colour grading techniques. I read books, magazines, newspapers, blogs, you name it! During all of this time I was constantly ingesting as much as I could about photography, composition, lighting, etc.

Studying the work of others really helps to build your technique, but, more importantly, it helps you to develop your own style. However, copying another photographer's work verbatim won't help you develop your own style. Borrowing elements from their work, (Lighting, camera angles, composition, etc.), will influence your work in a very subtle way, and will steer you towards the creation of your own unique style.

So, where am I going with this pun laden post?

I guess my point here is that you can't create a unique style of photography overnight. It takes time, effort and the influence of others. Namely, those you admire, and those who you aspire to be like. Once you have figured this out, borrow, don't copy, and just let your own style emerge.

Bad Light?

For me, natural light comes in two flavours: good and bad.

Trotternish | Isle of Skye | May 2013

Whilst it may seem a tad simplistic an approach, separating light in to good and bad works well for me when photographing subjects, both indoors and out. For the purposes of discussion, within this article I'm referring to good and bad natural light, and not light from an artificial source such as a strobe or flash. That's a whole other discussion!

So let me break down my take on good and bad natural light:-

Good light is usually found at the extremes of the day - either first thing in the morning, or last thing in the evening. What makes this light so good, is the warmth, tonality and depth that it brings to your images. It often brings out the best in your subject, whatever it may be, when you are photographing in good light. 

Bad light, on the other hand, can be quite a challenge to work with when photographing your chosen subject. Bad, or contrasty™ light, is usually found in the middle of the day, when the sun is directly overhead. It's the type of light that exhibits none of the qualities of good light, and gives you stark contrasts between light and shade.

If you are photographing a person in bad light, then you can over power it with a fill source. Strobes, hot shoe flashes, and reflectors are excellent fill sources and light shaping tools that can help you over power bad light, and create a much more pleasant look.

But what about landscapes? You can't over power bad light with a flash or reflector when you are photographing a mountain ridge or seascape? When faced with bad light, I would normally try and work out my options for shooting in the best location, and then come back later in the day, or early the following morning to get some good light. 

However, that isn't always practical, and sometimes you just have to run with what you have, especially if you are only in that location for that precise moment in time. So, do you look at the view and go "Nah, the light is shit, I'm not going to waste my time" or do you go "I'm here anyway, let's see what happens?" 

I think you can figure out what choice I would make when faced with bad light :-)

Kirstie

This is my dear friend Kirstie.

Kirstie is a former Commonwealth (UK) athlete who competed as a weightlifter. She doesn't compete any more, but she still keeps in great shape.

Recently, I managed to convince her to pose for me, so that she could have a record of just how amazing she looks!

I'll post one or two more of her photoshoot very soon.

This is my dear friend Kirstie. Kirstie is a former Commonwealth (UK) weightlifter. She doesn't compete any more, but she still keeps in great shape. Recently, I managed to convince her to pose for me, so that she could have a record of just how amazing she looks!

Life with the MacBook Pro

I love my 13" MacBook Pro. There, I said it :-)

Seriously, this is possibly the best laptop I have ever owned/used. It ticks many boxes for me: It's very light, extremely portable, excellent battery life, and a gorgeous retina display. 

The MacBook will be pretty much exclusively used for photography work, so that means Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop CC and some 3rd party plugins will be the main apps that I use. With that in mind, I went for the 2.6Ghz Core i5 CPU, 16Gb of RAM, and a 256Gb SSD. Whilst it's not as powerful as my Windows based desktop PC, (Core i5-4670K & 32Gb of DDR3 RAM), it's no slouch! 

Processing RAW files in LR & PS is a breeze with no noticeable lag when editing. It multi tasks very well, as you would expect, running several apps (Spotify, Chrome, Evernote, are loaded ALL of the time) in the background. It pretty much zips along nicely with anything and everything I throw at it.

OS X is pretty much living up to my expectations too. It's very slick, responsive, and, for the most part, intuitive. I'm struggling with some of the keyboard shortcuts in OS X, as I keep looking to use the Windows key, but I'm sure I'll get used to them soon enough. 

More later ...

The Hackintosh Project - Update 15/02/14

Further to my previous post about this project, events have taken an interesting turn.

After discussing my intentions to create a Hackintosh PC with friends who already own Macs, I was informed that it would be an arduous, thankless task, and not one for the feint of heart. I was also advised to "just go get a Mac and be done with it" from several friends too, in order to save myself the pain of attempting the Hackintosh build.

Well, being the stubborn bugger that I am, this made me even more determined to try a Hackintosh build. In fact, I am working of getting OS X 10.6.3 (Snow Leopard) installed and running within a VirtualBox VM on a Windows 7 host as I type this blog post. Once I get a stable, virtualised installation of OS X completed, I'll post about how I did it later on.

Surprisingly, all of the advice from friends did make me go back to the Apple store to see if I could afford to get myself a Mac device. After all, I have been looking for a new laptop for photography usage for some time now. Revisiting the Apple UK online store turned out to be one of my better ideas, albeit a slightly expensive one!

You see, Apple's online store is doing a promotion in the UK at the moment, based around their financing. The bottom line is that they are offering 0% APR over 10 months on "qualifying" purchases, which just happened to include the 13" retina Macbook Pro (rMBP) range of laptops.

So, to cut a long story short, my new 13" rMBP arrives next week, and I am giddy with excitement.

However, until it arrives, I will push forward on my adventures within Hackintosh land, and continue to work on the virtualisation of OS X within VirtualBox. 

The Hackintosh Project

Mac_Logo_Begins_by_Chico47.jpg

As a professional IT geek of some 26 years, (and counting), it may come as a surprise, to some, that in all that time I have never once laid hands on a Mac OS PC!

The bulk of my professional IT career has been spent in the company of DOS, OS/2, Windows, Unix, and briefly, Linux. In that order. Professionally, Mac OS devices have crossed my path on occasion, but those occasions have been extremely rare. 

And as for home computing, well Windows has always ruled the roost.

However, that may be about to change ...

History

I've always been a fan of building my own PC kit for home use. I've been building PC systems since the heady days of the 80486 CPU. 

As processor technology progressed in to the Pentium era and beyond, the one thing that remained consistent throughout all of my home brew PC builds was the operating system (OS). Specifically, the OS was always a variant of Microsoft Windows. That trend remains through to the present day. The OS of choice for my current collection of home PC systems is Windows 7 x64. 

My home PCs are used for a variety of things, but primarily, I use them for my photography workflow. I use several Adobe products to help me with this, along with some other 3rd party tools. I also use my PCs for gaming, but only when I'm not working on photographs :-)

Now, to be fair to Microsoft, and, in my humble opinion, Windows 7 is the most stable Windows OS I have ever used. I can honestly say that I've never experienced any serious issues with it, nor have I ever had to fight with it in order for it to function for me. It just works.

So why am I considering a change of OS away from Windows?

Irreparable Damage?

The next logical progression, in terms of Windows operating systems, would be to migrate to Windows 8, or more specifically, Windows 8.1.

Sadly, to date my experiences with Windows 8 haven't been very positive. Most of my gripes are centred around the hideous, (Sorry, I do think it's pretty awful), Metro UI.

I suspect that if you are running Windows 8 on a touch screen enabled device, then the Metro UI experience is a whole lot better. Unfortunately, any time I have experienced the Metro UI, it has been on a regular PC with no touch screen interface, which has made navigation around the OS a bit of a nightmare quite frankly. The only way I have found to bypass the Metro UI, and to restore the Start button interface, has been to install a 3rd party utility. 

Now, I know that a lot of the issues that I have experienced with the Metro UI are addressed in Windows 8.1. Certainly, adding the start button back in as an option is a major step in the right direction. However, for me the damage has already been done. The initial impressions formed from the previous interactions with the Metro UI, I feel, cannot be undone. 

Which way next?

So, what to do?

I had looked at perhaps going down the Linux route. However, given that I am somewhat dependant upon Adobe products to assist me with my photography workflow, I had to discount Linux as an option. (Yes, I know GIMP is a great alternative to Photoshop, but 80% of my workflow is based around Lightroom.)

OSX seemed to be the next logical alternative. Everything I use within my photography workflow is available within OSX. However, when looking at alternative PC solutions to facilitate my access to OSX, I soon discovered that my budget would be hit very hard, given the cost of the hardware I had chosen to replace my hand cranked, Windows PC. You have to run OSX on Apple hardware, as you can't buy a copy of OSX and install it on your PC.

Or so I thought.

Enter the Hackintosh

After searching for alternative ways to get access to OSX, I discovered Hackintosh. This interesting concept of hacking your existing PC hardware in order to run Mac OSX intrigued me greatly.

Initially, I was somewhat sceptical about doing this to one of my own PCs, as there is a very small risk of damaging your PC hardware. However, the more I researched and read about hacking OSX to run on "regular" PC hardware, the more I seemed to understand the processes involved, which, in turn, made me love the idea of trying it.

Now that I have a good grasp of what's involved, and that I already have pretty decent hardware to build upon, I will be starting on the journey towards creating my own Hackintosh PC.

This makes my inner geek sqee with delight at the prospect!

The Road Ahead

I should point out that I actually, and genuinely, do not have any objection to purchasing a Mac/Macbook. From what I understand, Apple's hardware is very well manufactured, and offers great value for money/return on initial investment. I suspect that at some point in my future, I will take the plunge and purchase a retina Macbook Pro to give me some scope for mobility within my photography workflow. 

However, I still want to try a Hackintosh build. With that in mind, I will endeavour to keep this blog updated with my progress, and, undoubtedly, my failures. It will be an interesting challenge!

Portrait - Rob Worrincy

Workshop portrait of Rob Worrincy.

This is a portrait shot of Halifax RFC winger Rob Worrincy. Rob very kindly modelled at a workshop run by the Über talented Glyn Dewis, way back in September 2013.

The workshop was 2 days of fun learning about lighting, how to pose models, and, most importantly, how to post process the RAW images in Adobe Lightroom & Photoshop. 

Glyn is a superb teacher, and on the 2nd day of our workshop our class processed an image similar to the one you see above. I hadn't looked at the RAW image I had shot of Rob for months, and recently I figured that it was time to see if I could remember what I learned from Glyn that day. 

I may not be in the same league as Glyn, but I am pretty pleased with the results you see above. If anything, it's a testament to how brilliant a teacher Glyn is! All processing was done in Lightroom & Photoshop, with a sprinkle of NIK Silver Efex Pro 2.