PhotoPlus — Heaven for Photographers

Late October may mean Halloween for most folks, but for photographers in the New York Metro area (and beyond) it means the huge three-day PhotoPlus Expo at New York’s Javits Center, the most awaited event of the year.  Photographers flock to PhotoPlus from many miles around (I overheard one couple telling a vendor that they were from the Dominican Republic!) to check out the latest equipment, possibly pick up a good deal at the “show price,” meet other photographers, and attend the talks and keynote addresses. And so yesterday there I was, making a beeline for the Canon exhibit (need I mention that Nikon and Canon have the most humongous exhibits in the entire show?) to check out the recently released Canon Powershot G15. Slightly smaller than its immediate predecessors (I own two G11s, one converted to infrared) and with controls slightly different, no articulated LCD display, but 12 megapixels instead of 10, I decided to spring for it when I found that Unique Photo, that great camera store in New Jersey, was offering a special show price.

Nikon had its usual crowd queuing up for the free goodies, which always includes a calendar with the most stunning photos; this one always finds a place on one of my walls. I also got to handle samples of some upscale models that I’m not likely to be able to afford in this lifetime!  Nikon chose to highlight their Coolpix line, which is produced in an extensive range of sizes and capabilities. Over at Canson Infinity’s display I met fellow Hudson Valley photographer Robert Rodriguez, Jr., who uses their exquisite paper to print his pictures. Robert is one of the finest photographers around, and we had an enjoyable chat about places familiar to both of us.

Renowned photographer Rick Sammon gave an informative and inspiring talk.

Another retailer doing a brisk business was Midwest Photo Exchange from Columbus, Ohio. Their staff was unbelievably helpful and good-natured under incredible pressure, and I picked up a LaCie Rugged Mini because I desperately need a new photo storage place to free up space on my computer (I don’t want it to explode when I install Perfectly Clear, the phenomenal editing software that Rick Sammon was plugging). The rep at LaCie was helpful about their products, and I’m going to use their cloud storage, Wuala, as another backup. One does hear horror stories about cloud storage companies going belly-up, taking all the files with them, but this company has been around for 30 years, and so …

Here are more photos from the event.

Showing my true allegiance …

Some exhibitors provide models and dancers that you can photograph.

Another model. Now, why do you suppose only men were photographing this one?

Enjoy the Unexpected (or, an afternoon at the Cherry Pond)

Rob Sheppard is one of the best photo bloggers around. He brings a reflective and philosophical dimension to his writing that I don’t think I’ve encountered so consistently since the passing of the late, great Galen Rowell.  In his most recent post, Rob describes how he arrived at his intended photo destination too late for the “good light” — and made the most of it, experiencing things he would have missed had he arrived earlier and then not stayed on. Nature is not bound by arbitrary rules, he says, and he was amply rewarded by being open to (and taking advantage of) what was available instead of being disappointed by something not conforming to rigidly preset expectations.

It was timely that I read Rob’s post when I did, because I had just returned from a few days’ foliage shooting in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and had a similar experience — the difference being that I knew in advance that I was heading right into the unexpected and had to be open to anything. At this time of year, with the seasons changing, the New Hampshire mountains create their own weather, and anything is possible, including experiencing bright sunshine, clouds, rain, snow, and wind all in one day, in fact all in one afternoon. Things can change drastically when you travel a couple of miles. So, all I knew when I headed northwest for the Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge was that it wasn’t likely to be pouring rain, which was fine, all I needed to know, it was the last thing I wanted.

Getting to the Pondicherry trailhead is one thing (I’ve met many native New Hampshirites who’ve never heard of the place); then you have to hike in a good mile or more to where the action is: the shore of Cherry Pond with the spectacular view of Mount Washington and the Presidential Range on the other side. It was quite a windy day, which meant (1) the light and other atmospheric conditions might be changing several times in the course of a minute; (2) there might not be any reflections of the mountains on the pond. It did turn out that the wind occasionally abated enough to create some reflections on the pond, but I discovered that the action of the wind, when it blew, on the water produced its own kind of beauty — a shiny texture. As for the rapidly changing light and other conditions, there was nothing to do but set up the camera, find a good composition that could be tweaked here and there, watch and enjoy nature’s amazing show, and press the shutter button whenever nature’s kaleidoscope produced a new version of the scene in front of me. It was indeed quite spectaular. We’ve heard of son et lumiere — “sound and light” shows, but this was neige et lumiere — snow and light, as the interplay of snow showers and sunlight continuously created different scenes on Mount Washington’s peaks. When I arrived in New Hampshire a few days earlier there was no snow on the mountains. The morning after my visit to the Cherry Pond, Mount Washington could be seen from North Conway completely covered in snow gleaming in the bright sun. Amazing. Sun, snow, and mountains, bless the Lord.

Here’s a selection of images from this shoot. I’m not going to dwell on the technical details — that’s not really important except to say that I tend to do much less processing in straightforward nature shots than in other types of images because I want to let the natural beauty show through, and thus my processing is aimed at helping that along rather than at enhancing the image in a way that suggests that the Creator didn’t get the world quite right.

These and my many other photos (always adding new ones) can be viewed (and purchased) on my Zenfolio site.

Some Quick B&W Conversions

Cardinal Timothy Dolan is coming to St. Anastasia’s parish in Orange County, NY to celebrate the centennial of our parish cemetery, and I’ve been asked to provide photos of the cemetery for use in the Commemorative Book and to photograph the event itself. In return for my services, the Centennial committee has kindly given me a free full-page ad in the Commemorative Book; I just had to supply the ad copy.

I selected five representative photos, added the text, and arranged it all into what I think is a really attractive design; hopefully the printer can tweak it a bit.

Then I realized that the ad would be printed in black-and-white, not in stunning color. And I thought, I want it to be my black-and-white, not the printing firm’s default B&W. Back to Photoshop. I made my own B&W versions of each photo and reassembled the ad. Here below are three of the five images and how I did quick (very quick — they needed them urgently) conversions of each.

For this autumn image of Cooper Lake I used the Neutral preset in Nik Silver Efex Pro 2, set the Brightness to 5 and the Contrast to 10 to ensure definition of what otherwise might have appeared as murky shadows.

What to do with a fall foliage image of New Hampshire’s beautiful Shelburne Birches that depends primarily on color for its effect? Relying on the whiteness of the tree trunks for definition, I simply added a B&W adjustment layer in Photoshop and used the “Lighter” preset to ensure some detail in the leaves.

It’s usually somewhat easier to do a B&W conversion of a non-nature image. This one is from my “Stieg Larsson’s Sweden” collection. With more time I would, and probably will, give this one more thought for a more “artistic” rendition, but for now I used the “High Structure (smooth)” preset in Nik Silver Efex, left the other values at 0 but set the Structure at 20.

Not leaving anything to chance, I provided a print-out along with the images on a disk. At first I set the printing option to “Use black cartridge only,” but this really muddied up the blacks, especially in the Cooper Lake image, so then I tried leaving it at the “High quality” default under the Color tab in the printing dialogue and this worked.