Field Testing the Canon 1DX

Canon 1DX Digital Camera Body by Jay Goodrich

I know everyone out there is waiting in anticipation to see the noise levels on the image files for the Canon 1DX, but I need to set some ground rules so you understand where this test comes from. I am not a testing lab like DxO Mark. Nor am I going to shoot images of trinkets and do-dads on a gridded platform in a controlled environment. All of those tests as far as I am concerned, are useless. Why? How many photographers out there shoot that way? I shoot adventure and architecture imagery – my studio is indoors at times, but for the most part it is not. The environments in which I work are where I need to test a piece of equipment; I don’t need to test them taking pictures of my kids’ toys. So a lab test will probably confirm something different than I would.

Also, I do not shoot Nikon. I know that Nikon is heralded for their noise capabilities, but again, how does that help me if I shoot Canon and have thousands of dollars tied up in Canon equipment? On a side note, you can read about my struggle with the decision to switch from Canon on my blog from last year, and why ultimately I decided to stay. This is related to what you are about to read. In a nut-shell, I stayed with Canon for two primary reasons: my relationship with my rep, and the availability and diversity of Canon’s selection of lenses.

Ok, with that said, there a few more things you must know. I am not sponsored by Canon in any way. I have nothing to gain by posting this review except the knowledge that I obtained in creating it. I am not biased, but I am opinionated. And testing pre-production cameras is not a cool or glamorous job in any aspect. It’s more like a drug deal gone south. You get a phone call late in the afternoon. Caller ID is blocked. The caller says, “You can pick it up at 4pm.” And hangs up. You then head to the designated pick-up location and are handed a nondescript black bag with no outer markings on it. Inside is a camera body, battery, and charger. No manual, no white paper; you are essentially on your own. The camera has a label on the viewfinder marked “Sample”. Nothing gets you hooked like a sneak peak, does it? You quickly realize that you are not in Kansas anymore. I did manage to download a 50 page document on the auto focus, and if I didn’t hadn’t, this whole thing would have sucked big time. One last note- I was asked not to post any images that went beyond ISO 6400 because the camera I had was a pre-production model and nothing was finalized on it, especially the firmware.

So I have this camera in hand, now what? With only 48 hours, I am definitely not making a movie. I will leave that up to Vincent Laforet. I already knew that I wanted to test three aspects of the 1DX. 1. Its ability to render noise at higher ISOs. 2. Its autofocus capability. 3. Its new feature set. Let’s start from the bottom and work our way to the top.

There is a reason this camera has the “X” in its model number. Like Apple and many other companies out there, the X version correlates to many things. The tenth, the top, the eXtreme. In other words, it has typically represented a company’s highest offering at the given point of release. Everything from there builds to higher levels from the X position.

Once you put this camera in your hand you quickly come to the conclusion that something has changed. This camera is bigger than the current 1D Mark IV. It also weighs more. In a side by side comparison, with strap and battery installed, the 1DX weighed 3 pounds 8 ounces. My 1D Mark IV in the same configuration weighed in at 3 pounds 2.4 ounces. That’s a pretty significant change in weight. I am sure it comes from the fact that there is a third processor in there now, a different battery, and god knows what else. This camera feels bombproof though, and it sounds rock solid when you drop the shutter release. The shutter is noticeably quieter and very firm in its actuation.
The menus are similar to the 1D Mark IV, yet completely different. Canon has definitely thought through the layout of this machine. The menu system is way more intuitive-more so than ever before. You are going to need a PhD to understand the autofocus and its options. Thank you for the 50 page PDF on Canon’s website.

The other amazing feature is that almost every button on the body is customizable. Smaller hands? No problem- move the function to a different location. Coming from Nikon? No problem- match the locations of the similar features, including shutter and aperture adjustment locations and adjustment directions. There are many new button controls on this camera as well, and all of the operation ones are available in horizontal and vertical format. This includes the depth-of-field preview button.

Coming from a 1D Mark IV, I immediately fell in love with the full-frame sensor and the ability to use my 15mm Fisheye the way it was intended. Which leads me to overall image quality. This camera has a little feature in where the camera will pull chromatic aberration out of the image for the given lens attached. This works exceptionally well. Almost to the point of turning it off in Lightroom, but still not quite. And finally, Canon users now have in-camera multiple exposures as well as exposure merging. Since I didn’t have a manual this feature was a little harder to understand, but I did manage an artistic multiple exposure that I really liked.

Multiple Exposure Feature Canon 1DX by Jay Goodrich

Out I went to shoot what I shoot a lot of…mountain biking. Here is my auto focus test. A cool thing that Canon has added to the menu system is info availability on the more complex functions of this camera. If you are in a menu item such as one of the six preset auto focus functions and forget your manual at home, you can just touch the info button to get a definition of that function while you have it highlighted. This worked extremely well for me when in the field shooting guys that don’t do well with waiting around. I read the auto focus PDF before heading out, but as you learn how to use the auto focus in this camera it is imperative to have the “more info” available to you. It definitely takes time to get you used to this camera. It is EXTREMELY fast. To the point of going PLAID as they did in the movie Spaceballs. I found it hard to keep up. My first hour was spent missing shot after shot, scratching my head. Then it came together, and whoa! This ain’t like anything else that’s been done before. Like I said earlier, you will need to work this camera a ton prior to taking it out on a commercial flight.

Mountain Biking Canon 1DX Autofocus Test by Jay Goodrich

This camera has 61 focus points, and 41 of them are usable with most lens combinations and apertures – a major upgrade from the 1D Mark IV. The options here are limitless, and cover just about every conceivable aspect of autofocus shooting. Once I figured out enough to get the camera to work for me instead of continuously working for it, I was able to link together series after series of in-focus images. A fourteen image count was the longest. This camera’s shutter operates at 12 frames per second, meaning that keeping your subject in frame while shooting will only slow the thing down to about 10 frames per second. That is so unbelievably fast over my 1D that it was mind blowing for me to witness. Head over to our stock site to see that series of 14 images.

One other really cool option with this camera is in the view finder. You can turn every icon off to view just the subject you are about to shoot, or option it up one icon at a time to see everything. It is a true Heads Up Display (HUD) and can really help when trying to get used to the speed you are about to witness.

And finally noise. I know, I know, does this camera beat Nikon? I do not know, nor do I care anymore (see last year’s discussion). This camera does whole heartedly kick the crap out of my 1D Mark IV, probably by about 3 stops. I feel that ISO 3200 images need little to no post processing noise reduction, and even though I can’t show you ISO 12,800, 25,600, or 51,200, they will be usable too. Surprisingly, the ISO 51,200 images show more detail than the ISO 25,600 ones, although Luminance Noise is higher. Here’s the kicker, up to ISO 51,200 there is almost no Color Noise. Crazy! In comparing them with my current 1D, I can say that there is no competition. The high ISOs for this camera produce very few artifacts in the 5 digit ISOs, so as far as I am concerned Canon has succeeded ten-fold from their past equipment updates. I was told that the production camera will be even better.

Car Image Taken with Canon 1DX by Jay Goodrich

The included images were shot as RAW files and converted to JPEG for the web. I used Adobe’s Lightroom 4 to make that conversion, and I did not add any other adjustments to the file prior to export. I opened those TIFFs in Adobe Photoshop CS5 to zoom into 100% and then pulled a 2000 pixel crop out of that. Click on the image to see it enlarged to those dimensions. I am starting with ISO 400 and above because honestly, the image files below all look the same. I didn’t verify that I could post full res JPEGs for you to download, so I am not taking any chances in doing so. Notice how much detail the images possess even though Luminance Noise gets higher at ISO 6400. FYI-you can easily pull this noise out utilizing just Lightroom 4.

Car Image Taken with Canon 1DX at ISO 400 by Jay Goodrich

Car Image Taken with Canon 1DX at ISO 800 by Jay Goodrich

Car Image Taken with Canon 1DX at ISO 1600 © Jay Goodrich

Car Image Taken with Canon 1DX at ISO 3200 by Jay Goodrich

Car Image Taken with Canon 1DX at ISO 6400 by Jay Goodrich

So where do we go from here? I have to honestly say that this camera isn’t for everyone. And Canon obviously knows that with the recent release of the 5D Mark III. The same auto focus with slower frame rates for half the price. It does lack the weather sealing and other features, but for most it will do more than a better job for even the most seasoned veteran. So why buy the 1DX? For me it is because of the speed. The frame rates, followed up with an auto focus system that can clearly track those subjects at that speed is what I need. I also need that high ISO availability in the darkness of the forest when shooting those fast paced mountain biking subjects. If you are photographing wildlife or landscape, you could easily own the new 5D and never have any problems. But if your shooting style and subject matter require the speed, this camera delivers on another level.

With all this good is there anything bad? As far as I am concerned there are three drawbacks. Although they are not game changers for me, they might be for you. One is the price. Granted, the option set delivers, but competitors are still charging a lot less. The second drawback is weight. Almost a half pound heavier than my current 1D is still almost a half pound heavier than my current 1D. And third is the feature set. This is both the blessing and the curse. If you are not techno savvy, you will struggle with this camera for a bit longer. It is a complex piece of engineering, and you need to have a pretty firm grasp on technology to get along with it. Remember, you can always teach an old dog new tricks, but there is a definitely a learning curve to doing so. And make no mistake, 48 hours did not really have me past that learning curve, because I didn’t even touch the video side of this camera. There are many upgrades there as well, including the video file format, sound quality and level adjustments, and again the list goes on.

Canon has definitely produced a piece of equipment that deserves the “X” designation. This camera is going to be their top performing professional still camera that the market sees. It also has strong video capability at a better price point than the newly announced 1DC. If you focus on stills rather than video, but still want great video options, and you photograph a lot of action, look no further. I am on board; 48 hours was enough time to get me addicted. I used up every minute of my “Sample” time for sure. In addition, we will be posting a gallery of mastered images from this past weekend on our main site with the original RAWs inset so you can see how far these images can go in the processing department. Our new website is scalable, so you will be able to see everything as large as 1800 pixels on the long side. It’s game changing time. Again. Consider this my “Sample” to you.

  • Abstract Landscape of the Painted Hills by Jay Goodrich

    Daybreak on the Day formations of the Painted Hills Unit of John Day Fossilbeds National Monument.

Goodbye Drobo and Hello to Thunderbolt

Last year I wrote about storage issues that my office was facing. At the time, making decisions on how to approach the problem wasn’t a simple task. Recently, a new issue arose. A much graver one. The complete demise of our main workhorse computer – a five year old Mac Pro. At the time it was purchased it was a beast, the best we could get. It screamed…Like a Lambo on the TV show Top Gear. In the last few weeks though, it just decided its time was up. The slow down. High Speed Racer to needing a walker to bed ridden in mere days. What was happening and could we survive this next issue? More importantly could our bank account?

At first, I thought it was the Drobo. We had some wireless mouse issues early on that forced us connect it via eSATA instead of USB 3.0, so I thought this device was now producing another issue. It probably had a little bit to do with it, but not everything. The next thing was the addition of Lightroom 4. Again, at first nothing really seemed amiss here either. It was after about a week of running it as our main editing software that we saw the main slow down. Was it to blame? Again, yes, but not entirely. We headed back further and made the connection with the new operating system. Lion. Nothing went wrong when we installed it contrary to everything that we had read. It went much smoother than anticipated. Here is where it all comes together though. The sum of all its parts. All the upgrades combined, all created for faster machines, newer machines, the top of the line machines even, and our trusty Mac Pro go its chest caved in. One collapsed lung, followed by another, then heart failure. It didn’t help that I was adding thousands of new images at time, boosting the collection to close to 120,000 images now.

Here is where our next major dilemma entered the room. Apple hasn’t upgraded the Mac Pro since 2010. Almost a full two years to the date at this point. Could we hold out? They say that you upgrade when you need it. If something new comes along and you aren’t in need at that point, wait until you are. We humans are so technologically dependent and crazed at this point that we tend to just upgrade at the release of the latest and greatest when in fact if we wait, we truly will save some much needed dinero. My office was not only in the need scenario, but the crisis one as well. When you utilize a main computer day in and day out for running a business need becomes a serious reality, and upgrading to essentially two-year-old technology didn’t make the most sense.

Earlier this year I traded in the fully-loaded 17 inch Mac Book Pro for a fully loaded Mac Book Air and have never looked back. I am still completely in love with the Air. Super light and super fast, even if the bench tests don’t prove it, this computer feels way faster. It runs Lightroom and Photoshop without any problem. I think again, because of newer technology. And my external portable Thunderbolt drive is shockingly fast. Here is where the decision making heads to an even weirder decision. One that anyone who knows me never would have thought. iMac. Technology that is less than a year old and again lighter, portable, and more self-contained. But would it be fast enough?

Answer. We are back! The key here is again a sum of parts. The iMac is a less upgradable solution than the Mac Pro. And for that you receive a major bank account savings. So the key is to purchase it loaded with all its upgradability included. So we are now running a 27 inch iMac with 32GB of RAM, a 2TB internal hard drive, iCore 7 3.4GHz processor, and…a brand new Lacie 6TB Thunderbolt Big Disk as our operating storage. It screams and I now try to keep my thought processes up to speed with it instead of waiting while the machine struggles along to make it work.

The beauty of this whole system is that it takes up much less room. Life is simple the way Apple wants it to be. The same way I want it to be. One cable plugged into the back for the hard drive and we are done! Of course there are always draw backs. Many critics hate the glossy screen for reflectivity. I concur. I however do not have this machine in a room that is lit by a ton of daylight. The resolution and clarity of images on the display are mind-blowing in comparison to my old 30 inch Cinema Display. Working off of an external Thunderbolt hard drive is so fast I can’t tell that it is connected to my computer via a cable. Video streams without any hesitation. I am sure the RAM and processor have something to do with this as well, but a benefit is a benefit.

Any other downfalls? Well, when this machine slows down, it is done. There really isn’t anything to add. Unless they start producing SSD drives in the 1TB range that are affordable. And when the 6TB external drive is full, there currently isn’t a larger replacement via Lacie. I have heard way too many bad reports about the Pegasus drives to even consider that route. These are all things that will change in time I am sure, but for now I am working in peaceful harmony with my technology once again. Oh, and the Drobo? Well it has become the backup of everything. All computers in the office send their entire hard drives to it. The world is covered in the corporate headquarters of Jay Goodrich Inc. For now? Okay, on to the new website, stay tuned.

E-books on Time and Processing Techniques – Great Gifts for Any Photographer

I am friends with many professional photographers. Some of them are really famous, while others like myself, are in the process of making names for themselves. The amazing thing that transcends all of them is the fact that none of them believe they know it all and at the same time they are all willing to share the aspects of knowledge that they specialize in. I can actually say that I do not have a friend in the photography world that hasn’t inspired me at one point or another.

I have been traveling for a ridiculous amount of time. Pretty much non-stop since September. While this allows me very little time in the office it does afford me some time on airplanes and in hotels. Instead of sitting there and losing my mind, I tend to work my butt off. One of my missions is always to learn more and figure out how to implement what I have learned into my professional career and business. On a recent Alaska Air flight I managed to read two great e-books by two of my well respected friends and photographers.

Creative Processing Techniques in Nature Photography Cover

The first book is Creative Processing Techniques in Nature Photography by Guy Tal. As some of you might have read from a previous post, Guy’s first book was a personal favorite of mine explaining concepts and ideas that I didn’t even understand in a clear and concise way. Creative Processing Techniques continues Guy’s search for excellence. His images and writings connect the very place in which he lives to the very being of his existence. I understand why he is so successful at what he does because his surroundings give him the driving force and inspiration to do so.

Creative Processing Techniques not only explains how computer image processing works, but it dives into the often forgotten why. Guy defines why he uses one technique over another and suggests that you the reader define your personal goals for your images prior to even opening a photograph in Lightroom or Photoshop. Every chapter is followed by an exercise that will help you understand what was previously written about on your own. He also includes an extensive overview of how Photoshop works and how it is an integral part of his image making process. He walks you through using Curves, Saturation, and Layers. This book is packed full of explanations and techniques that not only the beginner, but the seasoned pro can benefit from, and like his previous book, I learned something–a new way to blend two different exposure valued images.

Photographing the 4th Dimension--Time Cover

The second book is by Jim Goldstein entitled Photographing the 4th Dimension–Time. Jim is one of the most intelligent people that I know. He not only understands the creative side of photography, but he truly grasps the technical side as well. I guess that is why I email him every time I need advice on social media and the way the web works in regards to photography. I was in California during my travels this fall and made some time one evening to have dinner with Jim in San Francisco. During dinner he told me about the book he was working on. It was one of those situations where my jaw dropped and the straw to my margarita fell out of my mouth. Now why didn’t I think of that great idea? Because Jay, you are a dumbass.

Photographing the 4th Dimension not only explains the techniques in a simple vocabulary, but it explains how the human perception of time works. The how-to for star trails, time-lapse, and a technique that I have never even heard of–Cinemagraphs are covered with great detail. Cinemagraphs are a way of using Photoshop to illustrate a motion sequence within a still photograph. Really cool. Jim’s book also gave me a script for a technique that I am currently using to create star trails. This is going to help me speed up the process of creating those images ten fold now. The last two pages of the book include a folding field checklist that you can print and take with you to make sure you remember everything while you are out in the wilds at night. Yet again, life made easier by reading.

I am hoping that you have yet to purchase a holiday gift for yourself or someone you know because both of these e-books will keep your bank account full while giving you the knowledge to take your photography skills to the next level. Again, beginner through pro there is something here for each and every one of us to utilize.

Well, what are you waiting for…begin downloading.

Field Testing the New Canon 8-15mm Fisheye Zoom

Devil's Club in Late Afternoon by Jay Goodrich

There are people out there who completely despise the fisheye lens.  They feel that the world should have a straight and perfect horizon. In some situations they are completely right, I on the other hand fell in love with the fisheye many, many years ago. On a whim I went out and bought Canon’s 15mm f2.8 Fisheye. I now use this lens on almost every adventure sports shoot I do and now I am totally excited to see what the new Canon 8-15mm Fisheye can do. Once you learn to use it properly, its distortion characteristics can make a small cliff jump look huge, a not-so-steep line look death defying, and totally curve your surroundings if you choose.

The main thing that I lost when I switched from film to digital was the effect my fisheye had on my scene. Based on the variety of subjects that I shoot, I chose to utilize Canon’s 1.3x crop sensor 1D series of cameras, now the current 1D Mark IV. The standard 15mm fisheye still has some fisheye effect with the cropped sensor, but not as much as if it were on a 1Ds or 5D (these cameras have really slow frames rates to shoot action though). And now, I am shooting a 7D as well, it has a 1.6x crop factor. Umh, Mr. Fisheye? Where did you go and why do I just have a monster wide angle now?

That’s where Canon stepped in with more sheer genius. Enter the 8-15mm f4 fisheye zoom. Zoom? Yes, zoom. Just when I felt like my bank account was safe for a little while, they went ahead with this new crazy idea. A fisheye, that is in fact a fisheye, for any camera they make. And if you so choose to, you can now even get a full 180 degree view in your shot. Canon will you have my third born? Actually scratch that, my hands are full with just two.

Stoking the Fire at Sunset by Jay Goodrich

Two weekends ago I taught a workshop with my friends Art Wolfe and Gavriel Jecan in Olympic National Park. On that trip, our local Canon rep showed up with everything Canon currently makes, including that there new fangled fisheye zoom thingy. I did in fact steal and monopolize it for two days. Hey, no else knew what the hell to do with it.

My initial reaction. Buying one. This lens is super sharp. And super cool. I started at 15mm with my Canon 1D Mark IV and then progressed to 12mm and bam return of the full fisheye effect. Using a 7D you would tune in 10mm. The other cool thing in comparison to the older fisheye, an ultra-sonic focus motor. No more gear whine while focusing and now a blazingly fast focusing lens. The other nifty little feature is a zoom lock to keep the lens from zooming to 8mm. A handy little feature if you don’t want a circular composition in your rectangular zoom finder.

Stoking the Fire at Sunset, 8mm Full Fisheye by Jay Goodrich

So again Jay, is there anything you don’t like you kiss ass? Well honestly, the chromatic aberration on this lens seems a bit more extreme to me in certain situations than the older fisheye. Especially when you have extremely large differences between your lights and darks. I did expect some because it is impossible to have such a field of view without any fall off on the edges. And I am also thinking that the fact that this lens is a zoom makes some difference as well. Is this a game ender for the lens. Nope. I just made some adjustments in the lens correction panel of Lightroom 3 and by by the problem was solved. Except the one regarding my bank account. Stupid Canon. I love you by the way.

These are the Droids You are Looking For

The DROBO Box Upon Opening by Jay Goodrich

Over the course of the last two months of my life I have been staring down a growing problem in my office. My 2-2TB hard-drive system that was storing my seventy thousand digital image collection was sending a few warning shots across my bow. “Danger Jay, capacity almost full.” It all began with a little orange light on the main drive icon in Lightroom which quickly migrated to a red light. It was the light of inevitability. Something needed to be done. What I quickly came to discover is that there is somewhat of a void in the middle storage capacity offerings. There are a ton of options in the 2-4TB realm and a ton after the 10TB realm (with a huge cost difference) but not much in the 4-10TB zone. I knew that I could have just added more drives, but the reality of backing up, security, and expandability all needed to fit the current needs of a growing office and image catalog.

Enter the initial solution, which we were very excited about, based on the recommendations of a support person from Lacie. Notice how I used the word initial. I am fairly aggravated with this company right now. This wasn’t a misunderstanding between an uneducated consumer. This conversation was between a somewhat professional photographer(that would be me) with a stated workflow, a complete business growth description, along with a budget. Lacie’s support person recommended a storage server that they made that was a bit above our budget, but he talked it up to the point where I was ready to pull the trigger. Unbeknownst to me at the time, he failed to listen to a word that I had to told him. They sold me on a sever that was for storage only, that wouldn’t work well with my Apple computers, and wouldn’t allow me to work directly on my images through Lightroom. This all came to light with essentially a day of phone calls to Lacie technical support after receiving the device. Without boring you with a complete play by play, know this–I WILL NEVER OWN ANOTHER LACIE PRODUCT AGAIN. EVER.

Now after the return of our storage server, I realized that I had to figure this thing out on my own. Enter Google and the wonders of the world wide web. After researching article after article on RAID, storage, backup systems, servers, etc., and multiple phone calls to multiple storage companies, I narrowed my options. G-Technology and Data Robotics seemed to offer what we were going to need, with what was now seeming like a support staff that understood how a professional photographer worked. I have been using G-Tech mobile drives for backup when I travel for about a year now and have been happy with their performance, so this company was quickly rising to the top, although it was a little over our budget due to the need of an additional eSATA card for our main Mac Pro.

More phone calls and finally a decision. It was after an hour long conversation with a tech support person at Data Robotics that we chose a DROBO S. A quintessential black box, that looks like a droid fresh out of Star Wars. The cool thing about DROBO is that it is almost limitless in how you configure it. It runs its own RAID system called BeyondRAID, which eliminates many of the issues of a conventional RAID storage setup and allows upgradability without reconfiguring the entire system from scratch. We chose to buy the basic DROBO S without drives so that we could choose the best drives on the market for life span, storage size, and price. We ended ended up filling our 5-bay DROBO S with five Western Digital 2TB Caviar Black drives which spin at 7200RPM. In addition, we purchased it with both eSATA and USB 3.0 PCI cards to actually do something that I never do–see which was technically faster in a bonafide numbers test. The cost associated by adding an additional PCI card was only $40 so it seemed like a no brainer for optimal speed in the long run.

We received everything, installed the cards, hooked up DROBO, and within an hour’s time, was sending our entire photography folder structure to DROBO, which now goes by the name of R2. Why R2? Because, like the title of this post states, this is the droid you are looking for? Everything in our office has to have a cool, off color name. The vacuum goes by the name Patrick courtesy of our daughter Jade.

If you read my posts often enough you should know by now that I almost never test on numbers. I always test on usability for my work, but in this case I decided a numbers test wouldn’t hurt. If we were running a huge catalog externally, we needed to see how much time was going to be spent, uploading, downloading and editing between eSATA and USB 3.0. And even though this test is a numbers test, it still isn’t scientific enough for some. What did we do? We took a 13.51GB folder full of various images and video and dropped it into DROBO in two separate configurations. One with DROBO connected to the Mac Pro via USB 3.0 and the other with it connected via eSATA and timed it as we released the mouse. Surprisingly there wasn’t much difference, but a definitive winner. The file loaded into DROBO while connected via USB 3.0 in 3 minutes, 29 seconds. With eSATA it loaded in 3 minutes, 35 seconds. Not much faster and probably not even perceived by a human just watching it happen. The next test was to see how the seventy-thousand image catalog functioned with our storage connected via both options as well. And this is where USB 3.0 excelled far beyond what I expected. There was zero hang time when opening Lightroom 3 from a complete computer restart while DROBO was connected with USB 3.0. I cannot say this was the case when connected with eSATA. The catalog was much slower during scrolling, folder opening, and during import and export tasks. We didn’t time any of these functions because the results were so drastic our brains could perceive them.

This whole scenario played out in the time-frame of a two month period. It wasn’t easy to figure out what to do, probably because there aren’t a ton of storage solutions out there for in the middle range storage market. As of this writing DROBO S has been performing perfectly since its initial startup and we haven’t experienced any noticeable import, export, editing, or connection problems. We also have the ability to add an additional 5TBs of storage as the current drives begin to fill. And we can do this while everything is up and running, just by pulling out a full drive and replacing it with one of a larger capacity–something that you cannot do with a conventional RAID storage setup. Did I say this is the Droid you are looking for already? And now for a freebie…

Because I want nothing to do with Lacie…and have already ready converted all of my external hard drives to G-Technology, G-Drives, the 15th person to re-tweet this post with the hashtag #droboR2 gets my last 500GB Lacie Rugged FW800 hard drive. Bye Lacie, I hope we never cross paths again.

Creative Landscape Photography – Guy Tal Continues to Impress

Cover to Guy Tal's New Book

On Sunday I had a rough flight, not because of weather, but because of time. I flew non-stop from Miami, Florida to Seattle, Washington. This was a 6 and a half hour journey, in coach with no upgrade available. I know now I will never break the law because if I cannot handle six hours of reduced freedom, there is no way 6 x 6 room would work.

In that time frame though, I managed to read Guy Tal’s new ebook–Creative Landscape Photography. And for the most part it kept my mind occupied for a couple of hours of that flight time. Only bathroom breaks, beverage service, and some aerial photography interrupted the process.

I have to confess that Guy’s writing makes me jealous on a regular basis. Jealousy aside I absolutely love the eloquence to which he composes words. He has the innate ability to write in a way that compliments his amazing images to a tee. It is very rare for a person to master multiple disciplines and Guy proves his mastery with this new book.

The book brings you through the thought process of creating fine art landscape imagery.  It all begins with a definition of the creative process and systematically progresses through concept, visualization, composition, capture, processing, and presentation. Through out the whole book Guy interjects tips to help you follow his ideas. In addition, there are exercises after each section that help you better define what you read. You can print those exercises, take them into the field with you, and hone what you read as you photograph.

As many of you know I am a money making professional, with a proven skill set, and even I walked away from reading this book with a better and stronger knowledge of where I want my photography to head. As if that wasn’t enough, Guy even explained the use of the histogram in a digital camera so well that all of the questions that I have ever had regarding its function are now answered. I am headed out to Colorado and Utah as you are reading this and I cannot wait to work through some of his chapter ending exercises. I will let you know how my photography is affected by them.

Regardless of your current photography skill set, Creative Landscape Photography by Guy Tal will push your photography to a higher level. I enthusiastically recommend that you head over to his website and download a copy for you own enjoyment, you will not be disappointed. And if you are flying from Miami to Seattle, good luck, maybe there will be an upgrade available for you. If not you could always read.

And the Answer is…HDR and an iPhone 4

The Paradise Valley, Mount Rainier NP, Washington by Jay Goodrich

Last week I created a post asking what a certain photo of Olympic National Park had to do with the new iPhone 4 even though the photo itself was not taken with the iPhone 4. I managed to stump everyone who participated. Thank you all for playing along. The answer is that last week’s photo is an HDR image, a series of 4 exposures that I hand blended in Photoshop. The connection to the iPhone is: now with the new iOS for the iPhone you can create in-camera/phone HDR (high dynamic range) images with one touch of the shutter release.

Now for the nuts and bolts. It really works. Pretty nicely too. Exceptionally well if you think about the fact that you are creating images with a phone and nothing else. The above image was created using the HDR function in a new iPhone 4. I did some post processing in Lightroom 3 just to add some saturation, but that for the most part that is it. Pretty cool. Super fast. And like Chase Jarvis always says–”The Best Camera is the One That’s With You.” This little add by Apple is a new key to getting great landscape shots at the beginning and ending of the day when the light is low and super contrasty. I know HDR has been around since the 3Gs hit the shelves, but those are third party apps, to have this little gem, all you have to do is upgrade your phone’s operating system. And just so you don’t think I am pulling your chain, here is the image with the HDR function turned off:

The Paradise Valley--No HDR, Mount Rainier NP, Washington by Jay Goodrich

Pretty amazing isn’t it. But wait there’s more….

The image of Olympic National Park that we posted last week will be one of ten in a new series of images of mine that are going to be mastered for use as wallpaper on your Lock and/or Home Screens of your iPhone. I know what you are thinking–How much? Well here’s the deal…it’s FREE! Not a penny, but there is a simple catch–all you have to do is sign-up for our monthly newsletter. It is in this newsletter that we will post the link to download the file that gives you 10 original Jay Goodrich images for use on your iPhone free of charge. Not too bad. And, remember we will never sell, forward, or share your email with anyone. Period. And if you are wondering how to sign up for our newsletter look at the top right of any post on this blog. Oh, and the next newsletter is set to go out on October 1st.

Tomorrow I will be posting more images on the Outdoor Photographer Blog highlighting this evening in Paradise Valley.

  • geyser bacteria colors by Jay Goodrich

    the multiple colors and patterns of geyser bacteria in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

  • geyser bacteria colors by Jay Goodrich

    the multiple colors and patterns of geyser bacteria in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Photoshop CS5 – Spot Healing Brush Tool – Welcome Back from the Darkside

Continuing my exploration of Adobe’s new CS5 Master Collection from a recent first post of ours, I have discovered a newly reinvented friend in Photoshop CS5. The Spot Healing Brush Tool has, up until now, never been my favorite tool to fix and remove dust, branches, etc. from an image. It just never seemed to get it right, unless I was using it to clone dust out of a clear blue sky. Now Adobe has brought this tool back from the “Darkside” and in the process made my job of cloning things out of an image almost too easy. If you roll over the above image you will see what I am talking about. In the past cleaning up an image like the above one would have taken hours and the use of multiple tools and possibly layers to get everything right. This morning it was about a 15 minute project and the new image looks almost perfect.

The key to the Spot Healing Brush is in one of the dialogs at the tool’s top menu named Type. In this dialog, a new option has surfaced and it is aptly named Content-Aware. I have to tell you that it works like magic. I don’t know how those brainiac people at Adobe came up with this one, but it is truly amazing to work with on an image.

A simple click and drag is all it took to remove all of the unwanted items in the above photograph. The image above is about color, texture, and lines. With the Content-Aware option for the Spot Healing Brush Tool I was able to make the image solely about that and not about the sticks that have made their way into the waters over time. Soon I will discuss using another tool where this option exists and works just as amazingly–Content-Aware Fill. It allows you to fill any selection and it works like magic too!

What is Thy Bidding My MASTER COLLECTION CS5 – Just the Beginning

Multiple technique HDR image

Last week we received our copy of Adobe’s Creative Suite 5 – Master Collection. I am sure that many of you already know about this software from all of the buzz Adobe has generated about its release. We decided that the Master Collection was a good choice for our office because we are starting to work in many other creative avenues in addition to just photography. Jay is shooting video now with the addition of stills, we are offering design work to our commercial clients, and to have the ability to open, adjust, and create any concept or idea we come up with in-house to promote Jay’s work, is an amazing time saver. Although we are just getting started with this substantial software package, Jay has spent the last week diving into the newest version of Photoshop and is quite pleased by its features and performance. Here is a little write up on the new version of HDR Pro.

Many Adobe users have probably seen the new “Puppet Warp” feature of Photoshop CS5 or the major updates to the selection and masks tools, but there is much less info out there about the new version of HDR Pro that is included with the software. I have to say that many years ago I dove right into HDR in CS3 looking for a way to solve the interior lighting issues you need to overcome when shooting high-end architecture photography. Although the process worked, it was slow, time consuming, and a major memory drain on my computer. I then migrated to using Photomatix almost exclusively for this work. It is fast and fairly accurate. I now use a mix of Photomatix and hand blending techniques to get my exposures exactly where I want them. When I heard that Adobe was updating the HDR component of Photoshop, I was really excited to give it a try.

My initial reaction is wow! This is vastly improved over the previous versions. The new HDR Pro processes way faster than the original versions, I feel safe saying, it feels just as fast as Photomatix. It has a ton of new adjustment sliders that allow you to create more artistic “grundge” HDR images or a completely realistic image based on whatever your current creative mindset is. In order to test it out, I took the same group of images, made adjustments in Lightroom and then exported them twice, once to Photomatix and once to HDR Pro. From there I mastered the final image generated just like I would any image in Photoshop CS5. I wasn’t trying to achieve the same effect in each, I was making my adjustments on what was produced so that I could compare the final product. Here are the results.

You can see that there are a few differences between the images, but I actually like both.

Photomatix image created with Exposure Fusion

There is more contrast in the Photomatix image and a bit more haloing, but I like that effect. The Photoshop image handles the color a bit better but could use a little more contrast. I would give either of these images to a client. The Photoshop image appears a little closer to the scene as I remember it and there is a a little more detail in the shadows. The overall scene feels warmer in the Photoshop image which is why the colors look correct the light was really spectacular that evening.

HDR Pro image created in Photoshop CS5

So what do I think? I think Adobe is on the ball giving photographers the tools they need to create in an all-inclusive package. The key to any photographic tool is to use it where it should be used, then the results will shine. For me I still love Photomatix and I will continue to use it. I will also use HDR Pro now too. It will all depend on the effect and the final image that I am trying to create. Soon I am going to highlight the differences between creating a hand blended HDR image and one generated in Photoshop’s HDR Pro. Stay tuned to our blog until then!

  • Tulips in the Skagit Valley © Jay Goodrich

    The tulips of the Skagit Valley are in full bloom during an amazing spring sunset.

The New Canon 1D Mark IV

I have just received a 1D Mark IV camera from Canon to try for the next week. I can tell you that my initial reaction is that this thing is pretty amazing. The above image was taken at ISO 800 last night. We are hoping to put together a video in the coming weeks of what I discover. More soon.

Aperture 3 – a Quick Personal Comparison to Lightroom

For starters, I feel that I need to qualify this review with a little bit of my history with Apple Computers and Aperture software. I bought my first Mac over 20 years ago and have been using them exclusively as my publishing platform since. My standard saying is, “You can have my Mac when you pry it from my cold dead fingers.” I purchased Aperture 1 on the day that it was available and haven’t used it since Adobe released Lightroom, I found that Lightroom was better integrated with Photoshop for the way that I worked on my images. I know that the issues I had with the first version of Aperture have since been resolved from reading other people’s reviews; so with the release of Aperture 3, I felt a strong urge to give my “until death do us part” hardware company another shot with their software. I have spent a total of about 8 hours working in Aperture 3 prior to creating this review. I loaded it into a 2 year old Mac Pro, with OS 10.5.8, 2 x 2.8 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon processors, and 8 GBs of ram.

I also want you to have a brief overview of my current workflow. All of my initial editing, renaming, cataloging, and keywording is currently accomplished using Photo Mechanic by Camera Bits, Inc. I can tell you that this will never change. Photo Mechanic is super fast, super responsive, and super easy to get those images organized to a point where I can work on them further. Once I am finished in Photo Mechanic the images are imported into Lightroom. This is where I apply global and some local adjustments prior to finishing the images in Photoshop. All of the Photoshop images are stacked with the original raws and assigned a rating, color code and flag per the way my wacked out brain works. At this point, they are ready to send out for usages, added to the web, or uploaded to my Photoshelter account.

I had a bunch of tasks in mind once I downloaded my trial version of Aperture 3, yesterday. I have a set workflow in place, so my main concern is how easy it would be to integrate Aperture into that workflow. Next, I wanted to review all of the new features and adjustment tools. Then, I wanted to see what I could produce with some of my current images and how fast I could do it.

I opened Aperture for the first time in a bunch of years last night after dinner. I watched all of the videos that pop up as you start the software for the first time and then was off to the races. I decided to only import two folders from my terabyte of images that reside on my computer. I figured if I couldn’t get a good idea as to how this software would work with creating only two projects on the platform, I could stop right there and continue on with my current workflow. I chose two folders of images that I captured in Yellowstone this past summer, both of which contained untouched raws, HDR merges, and final Photoshop selects. With this first stage, I discovered my first problem. Aperture does not read any of my Lightroom ratings, color coding or stacks. It does organize the files so I can see them in the order in which they reside in Lightroom, but all of that important info attached to the photos falls by the waste-side. There might be a way to do this and have it work, I just don’t know it yet. Also, I discovered that Aperture drops all of my IPTC contact info from my Photoshop finals. And yes, this info is present when viewing the images in Photoshop and Lightroom. Everything else appears to be correct – filenames, keywords, and IPTC data on the original raws.

Next up were the features. I have to say that I am pretty amazed here. The browser is super fast even while you are uploading, something that Lightroom lacks. I managed to find my first bug fairly quickly. I went right into the adjustments tab once the import was complete, selected an image, chose the retouch adjustment, and proceeded to clone dust out of an image. I have to say that I usually do this in Photoshop, because even Lightroom is way too slow with its version of this tool. Aperture proceeded to crash 5 times in a row. So it looks like I will either need to slow down on the way I clone and become more patient, or continue to work this process in Photoshop.

preprocessed raw image in aperture photoshop comparison by jay goodrich

Now I wanted to master an image and see if I could get similar results here in Aperture to what is available to me in Lightroom. This is where Apple left me drooling. I have to say that they are crushing Lightroom in their ability to apply local adjustments to an image. You can see what I was able to get out of my raw in just a couple of minutes using only Aperture 3. The adjustments tab contains over 20 adjustments, and 30 presets, and this is the kicker – they can all be applied locally, with a custom brush that you create. In addition, you can create presets for both individual adjustments or a series of them. The adjustments do apply super fast, although there was some glitchyness as the hardware applied it to the raw. Sometimes it only displayed part of the image during it’s redraw process, this was fixed by just clicking on the image again. Not a big problem, but it definitely contributes to frustration. I also tried clicking one of my existing .psd files to see if I could go back into Photoshop and make additional adjustments to a final select. This was not a problem, however, Aperture needed to create an additional psd of the existing psd to do so. Meaning it was treating my final Photoshop file as a raw. All of the adjustment layers were present and workable. My main wish here is that it would read my psd as the psd and open it directly, and then re-save it as the original.

processed raw image in aperture photoshop comparison by jay goodrich

With the discovery of how amazing the adjustments tab is I decided to see if I could match an image in Aperture with one that has been processed through my current Photoshop workflow. And to my amazement it actually exceeded the current Photoshop image, by holding more detail in the highlights, and giving me a very close rendition (as seen below) without using anything but Aperture. This could make it a more powerful editing tool for me, bringing images into Photoshop only for merges and panoramic creation.

image comparison of aperture 3 and photoshop

image comparison between photoshop and aperture

So what else do I like? The GEO tagging feature is a really cool option. I do not GEO tag my photos in the field, but with a quick click of the “places” tool in the upper right hand corner of Aperture, I was able to tag all of my Yellowstone photo locations in a couple of minutes by dropping pins on the map exactly where I know I stood. Then I was able to easily attach the specific photos to those locations. Way cool. The slideshow feature is really impressive too. It gives you the power to pretty much create a movie with your images, add music, add video that you have with your D-SLR, sync those images to the music, and then export the whole show directly to youTube, Quicktime, or even as full resolution HD. Having the ability to upload directly to Flickr and Facebook is a welcome plus for me also.

I know that I haven’t even touched the surface of this software and upon more review could find even more likes and dislikes with it. My main objective here was to see if it will do a better job for me personally. Anything that speeds up my editing processes, contributes to my bottom line and that is an ever growing necessity in this industry.

Am I going to make the switch back? Well that’s not an easy question to answer. Losing my ratings, stacks, and color coding would make my life a little harder. I will have to decide how important it is for me to keep those settings, and if the answer is yes, then making the commitment to update all of the folders and images accordingly. However, the adjustment tools are calling me like the Sirens of the Odyssey. I think before I jump off of the boat half cocked, I am going to do a little more research and see what Adobe steps up to the plate with in Lightroom 3. Never-the-less, if I was a current Aperture user, I would already have the upgrade. And as it stands right now, I really want to make the leap.

Pros:

-great image adjustments – especially on the local adjustment level

-slide show and places

-uploading to Facebook, MobileMe, and Flickr – it would be even cooler if they added posting to Twitter and personal blog galleries similar to what Photoshelter offers.

-speed when browsing and adjusting

Cons:

-doesn’t read Lightroom’s ratings, color coding, and stacks

-duplicates current .psd files as if they were raws

-crashes and glitchy redraws with certain tools in certain situations

-loses IPTC contact info with existing .psd files


  • Cyclists Go Head to Head by Jay Goodrich

    Riding the obstacle course of the Teva Mountain Games in Vail Colorado.

The new 5D Mark II in action

As you may or may not know Canon announced a new 5D Mark II last week. The camera has 1080p HD video recording as part of the list of features. A very talented photographer by the name of Vincent Laforet used a pre-production camera to film a video entitled Reverie. It is pretty amazing. To view it click here.

  • Front End of Ford Farm Truck Washington by Jay Goodrich

    The frontend of a Ford farm truck found in the Skagit Valley of Washington State.

You need and iPhone!

By now you have probably heard everything under the sun about the new iPhone. I can tell you that I did purchase one the second day that they were available from one of the Apple Stores in Denver and I have yet to be disappointed. Yes, all my friends will say that I am the most biased Apple fanatic that they know, and this is probably a correct description, but this does not go without justification. I have owned Apple products for more than twenty years and in that time frame honestly have only had two issues with their equipment not caused by myself, the end user. In my current G5 I had a hard drive fail and my first iPhone had something go wrong with the speaker. In both instances, Apple’s customer service took care of both issues the way I would expect them too, with zero headache for me. This is why I have been an Apple user for so long-they have it together. Enough of my history though, let’s get to the main subject of this article, which is the hailed iPhone.

I have heard it dubbed the “Jesus Phone” by many, including my local Vail newspaper, and I have to say that I feel it might deserve even more recognition. This little piece of equipment packs the punch of a laptop, and the convenience that I would expect from those amazing designers at Apple. I have used everything from first generation Palm Pilots, to the latest Blackberries and Treos and have always been disappointed with some aspect of their operation. Sometimes it is the fact that I have had to carry multiple devices or other times it is the inability to search for info that I need because the device is running a cut up version of an operating system that I cannot understand. The iPhone takes care of all of my past issues and the end product is so easy to use that I was up and running in a matter of minutes.

I now have the ability to reply to my incoming e-mails, search actual websites; I can even order something online if I need to, wherever, whenever, and however. I have all the info from my address book (this includes websites and e-mails), I have all of my Safari bookmarks, I have all of the music that I listen to, I even have my podcasts to catch up on when I have some spare time. Are you seeing a pattern developing here? The absolute best part is, that I now have one piece of equipment for it all. I only use my laptop to download images at the end of a shooting day and use my iPhone for everything else. Even my two year old daughter loves it, when I am working in my office I can turn on one of her movies that I have downloaded from iTunes, press play, and she can watch Cars or Toy Story while I work away undisturbed, mastering images on my desktop.

I have heard all of the issues, AT&T’s Edge Network is slow, that the next generation is the one everyone should wait for, that you can’t use it wearing gloves, and the list goes on…What does it all mean to me? Absolutely nothing. This thing works, it works on all levels, and it keeps my hectic life organized so I can now work the way I have always wanted-being able to photograph and not worry about missing an important e-mail from an important client, while I am doing so, and now they don’t have to wait for my response. It is not business as usual, it is business the way it should be, the best customer service that I have ever been able to deliver thanks to a phone and much, much, more, it’s an iPhone.