Agnes Caruso Photography

Photography


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Creative image manipulation

I love to take pictures and then play with them in an image editing software to create something unusual. Some are just great to look at while offering a different, yet natural view. While others can appear a little unusual. You can create repeating images or mirror images of your original. You can also add vignetting to make them disappear at the edges

This is an original image of a flowering tree on a background of tree trunk and water. It might not be a super interesting image by itself, it becomes something very different once you manipulated it in editing software. There are many ways you can alter an original and as you see the effect can be quite dramatic when you create a mirror image of the original.

 

This is a mirror image of the original photo above. You do not have to stop here. This can be further altered to create a much more abstract image. However, I stopped right at this step, feeling that this is what I would like to see.

 

Nature images like the ones above can still be recognized what they represent. However, more interesting are images of much more abstract objects. Flashing lights, for example, can create stunning tile like images, which can be used as stencils, decorative patterns or just pictures to hang on a wall.

This original image of lights on a ceiling was pretty interesting. It was shot with a camera set on a tripod at ISO1600, 85mm, f/2.8 and 1/80sec with a Canon EOS 5D mark III and EF85mm f/1.8 USM lens.

I was curious as to what effects I can create from this image. As you can see below, there were quite a few interesting outcomes.

 

Abstract mosaic

The image in the upper left corner is the original one. I used Corel PaintShop Pro X8 to create the other effects.

You can just imagine that by manipulating the original image one can create patterns that can be then used a tile, quilt or embroidery designs. The images here are just a few that can be created, there are many more that you can have at the end .

I found this very different but just as creative as taking the original images. For those of you who want to get some more technical information, it will be coming up in one of the next blogs.

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Let’s get started – the basic gear you want to have for your photography needs. Picking a camera.

I have been asked a few times as to what kind of camera and gear to buy for young budding photographers. If the person is serious about learning photography, a phone or a super compact camera is not going to be the best option. On the other hand, choosing the most expensive camera is also not helpful. You can compare this to giving a 16 year old a Ferrari as their first car. While there is nothing wrong with it if you have plenty money, it is probably much more sensible to have them perfect their skills on something more economical.

What features should you be looking for in a first camera?

  1. A viewfinder is a great option, as trying to stare at the LCD display to take pictures can be really difficult in bright sunlight.
  2. Camera that offers manual mode adjustment. Shooting automatic is not something that will teach a user how to adjust ISO, speed and aperture to get light just right.
  3. Good optical zoom for a point and shoot camera. Do you need 50x zoom or will 10x zoom be enough? For a first camera 10x zoom will be just fine. It also depends what kind of subjects is the person likely to be photographing.
  4. If choosing an SLR camera, picking a lens can be a challenge and I will post a separate blog on that.
  5. Ability to attach a tripod is important
  6. Ability to attach a speedlight. While a lot of compact cameras come with a built-in flash, being able to add a high power flash allows you to expand the capabilities of the camera
  7. A nice feature to have is being able to shoot in RAW format, which will allow to save maximum image information. Jpegs are OK for starting out, but they are compressed files and some information is lost.

The next question is should it be a digital or film camera, point and shoot or SLR, how many megapixels are needed for a good digital camera? Which brand should I buy?

Film or digital is a personal preference. Being able to develop film could be the limiting factor here. I shot both, and actually started with film and have no strong preference for either, both have their merits. Point and shoot vs SLR? Again that really is not a critical point for a young starting photographer, a point and shoot could be an advantage as exchanging lenses while not hard may not be the thing for every youngster.

Next, famous megapixels, what is more important is the size of the sensor not just the number of megapixels. A small sensor capturing a lot of megapixels like your phone camera will not deliver the same quality of image as a camera with a larger sensor and same number of megapixels. Most of the 18MP cameras will be perfectly fine to start with. There is definitely no need to buy a 50MP camera for a starting up photographer.

As to the brand, that is a very personal opinion, there are people using only one brand of camera or using multiple ones. Nikon, Canon, Sony, Fuji, Leica, Panasonic, Pentax are among some of the most popular brands. The best is to visit a good camera store, such as NYC-based B&H or Adorama, or VA-based Ace Photo, and check out a few different brands.

Here are some images from a point and shoot Canon PowerShot A430, Canon Powershot SX100IS, Canon Rebel EOS3Ti and Canon 5D mark III. Quality of the image is only an issue when you printing large images. The aim of the first camera is to develop the eye and learn how to harness the light. And to do this effectively, you do not need a top of the line camera.

Canon PowerShot A430

Canon Powershot SX100 IS

Canon EOS Rebel 3Ti

       

       

Canon 5D Mark III

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Adopting Windows 10 for a photography workflow

IMG_9094-Edit_pp-1Changes of computer platforms or even system upgrades can be daunting and I do not think that we are really feeling adventurous when our workflow is working. However, what to do when your process is not quite perfect or you have to make a change? Have many of you thought about upgrading to or changing to Windows 10? Probably not many. So I just want to show you a few tricks that seem to have worked for me and how I went about the change.

My existing workflow was working but getting a little tired and with two upgrades of the MacOS in short succession I was starting to get a little edgy with my once powerful MacBookPro. The time has come to do something to improve things. What were the factors that I took into account before making a decision how to go forward?

The most important point was what we all call a “pain point” so how much effort I am willing to put into the change. Do I really want to switch from a Mac, what are my needs going forward? Another obvious factor was value for money not just price. What would make the new computer or system valuable?

To start off, the new computer has to be able to do what I am already doing and have room to grow with my needs, and the system has to support all of the applications and tools I have and need or may need. Processing photos is not a simple task that any computer can do, at least not when you are dealing with large number of photos in RAW format. I knew I needed some serious power, so dual core and fast processor was critical. The next thing was RAM, which needs to be at least 8GB, so you can fly through the processing steps. When you browsing for actual computer make sure to look at the RAM and if it can be expanded if it comes with a lower number such as 4GB. A large hard drive is always good to have, but do not go crazy, remember – “value for money”, 1TB drives are pretty common, although 500GB are even more common. It is pretty common sense that you want to have a few USB ports, potentially some extension ports. One thing that seems to be getting out of style, but can still be needed is a DVD/CD drive. Yes, just in case you have some old fashioned disc copies of your software or images, it could be a critical part of your new gear. And finally, a graphics card. Yup, it needs to be good or your images are going to look like they need a lot of help and computer is still going to struggle if you are processing videos in particular. There are many choices, the type and version of the card makes a difference. The top card in 2015 is Nvidia GeForce GTX 980, followed by Nvidia GeForce  GTX 970 and AMD Radeon R9 290X. So here is your top three, but unless you are a video editor, play lots of games or a bit of a geek, it is not really going to help you much. My suggestion is read a bit more, and make a list of what your processing needs are, if you will be editing videos, it has to be a bit better than what you need for just images. Now if you thought I was finished on this topic, not yet. There is one critical issue, a backup drive! Yes, you need one and there is even more choice, My Book, My Cloud and variations on the theme from WD, SATA, Toshiba… and some more companies. I used both WD and SATA before, they both work fine, you can also back up to a cloud storage if you buy one of the Cloud Drives and use it to merge all your files from different sources. Choice of one over another is a personal and subjective decision, choose what you know if you are not sure. You may want to get some more in depth technical aspects of choosing an actual computer, then checkout ShutterBug, it is definitely a helpful resource.

IMG_8510-Edit_pp-6So now that we reviewed the needs, what can we buy? A Mac or Windows, so far we are equal, computers with both systems are technically pretty even. Yes, I remember Vista and Windows 8 and a few other things. However, Mac was not that good to me, system upgrade disabled some of my applications permanently and I had to change the photo processing workflow, so I think that we are still equal. The obvious thought was to toss a coin and decide, but obviously that is not the best way to solve the problem. Microsoft just raced through Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and then Windows 10 was coming. Should I switch to Windows 8? The answer was no, by the time I get settled it will be outdated. The new version, Windows 10, was just about to be released so I decided to wait till it comes out.

As you can figure out, I decided that Windows 10 offers a better value for money for me, allows me to run all the applications I use currently and I can establish a workflow that will do what I want and how I want. I am sure I can hear a few “Oh boy! is that going to even work? She must be a geek!”

I am not a geek but know enough about computers to feel comfortable jumping in a little ahead of the curve. So what software do I actually use on Windows 10? Adobe Lightroom is pretty much my workhorse, I use Portrait Studio for some of the work, Hugin – the perfect panorama tool, now supports Windows (Hurray!), Canon camera software (not super useful but has occasional use) and I also decided to test and run Corel PaintShop Pro X8. I know Adobe Photoshop, I used it quite a lot and I still have not made a decision if I want to keep using it or not. In meantime I wanted something close to it that I can have on my desktop, so Corel fits perfectly. I also create books on Blurb and there are two applications for book editing, that I am going to compare, but both work just fine so far. Again InDesign from Adobe is great and would be my choice for professional editing, but I find it a little tiresome when I have to return back to it after a break.

An even more critical question you may have is: how did the file transfer work, all the settings especially in Lightroom supporting processing, export etc.? The transfer and re-establishment of the same version (can call it a clone) took me about an hour. Now my laptop can rest and get upgraded to the newest OS and I can do real and fast work on Windows 10.

How does Windows 10 feel? You get pretty much the features of Windows 7 with the start menu and some of the Windows 8 features such as tiles still available. Touchscreen is a huge advantage, even if you think you may not use it, it comes in handy and on a laptop is it critical, on a desktop it is nice to have it. As to the critical settings menus etc those got moved a bit around so it does take a little time to find what you need. I just had an interesting conversation at a Micro Center store about Windows 10 and how some people feel that it is not ready for prime time. It can definitely do what my old laptop was capable of doing, it feels better than Windows 7 and it is faster. All the standard Office applications can be put on or you can use a cloud solution, there are many choices. New Microsoft Office 2016 is pretty much the same as its previous versions, there are a few new features which I have not yet explored. When it comes to Apps, on a desktop just use online services, Apps are not so useful.

WP_20151031_005 (2)And finally the all important question, how long did the transition take? How long before all was re-established, your settings for online services – Flickr, SmugMug, WordPress etc.? I would say a day, if you want to be conservative, set aside 2 days and take it easy. If you subscribe to Xmarks you can bring in all your bookmarks right across from various platforms and browsers, so that saves you time too. The hardest task you will face is actual computer selection and that is again “VALUE FOR MONEY”, I suggest making a list of must haves and would like to have. Then head to some of the stores to see what is out there. Best place to look in my opinion is B&H store, but as not everyone can get to the NY superstore, you can chat with helpful fellows at B&H online or visit some local stores to get a look at Windows 10. Some of the Microsoft store staff is really good and can take you for a nice tour of the system and they also run classes in case you need them.

In conclusion, it works! If you are still hesitant, reach out to me and I can try and answer your questions or give you some suggestions. Take it easy grab a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy!