Saturday, July 30, 2022

Latin Music at Lincoln Center

The outdoor dance concert of Latin music at Lincoln Center last week was so crowded I couldn't even get inside.  I took a couple of photos from outside, though, that shows the energy of the crowd well enough.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Skylum Releases HDR Merge Extension for Neo

As promised, Skylum released yesterday the HDR extension to Luminar Neo.  Before activating the extension, it was first necessary to install the latest update to the app, numbered 1.2.0.  Once the update had been installed I went to my Luminar member account from which I was able to activate the extension with only a single click.  Upon returning to the program, and while still in Catalog mode, a panel then appeared into which photos could be dragged for HDR editing. 

Along with the extension I was able to download two sets of HDR presets I had preordered  along with a set of dramatic HDR skies.  Interestingly, though when preordering I had been instructed that the presets would work only with Neo, I also received two additional sets of the same presets in the form of Luminar AI templates.  I'm not sure how well these latter will work, however, since it is only Neo that has the HDR extension.  I will have to experiment and report back later.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Ballroom Music at Lincoln Center

I went at the beginning of the month to Lincoln Center to hear Georgie Gee and his Make-Believe Ballroom Orchestra perform an evening of dance music that was part of the venue's outdoor summer festival.  The number I enjoyed most was a tango titled Fernando's Hideaway.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Video Modes on GoPro 9

Last week I posted that I would from time to time be advising readers of experts I considered worth following on YouTube.  One such is MountMedia.  I had been experiencing difficulty understanding the differences between various video speed modes (e.g., time lapse, time warp, etc.) on my GoPro9 and found the tutorial addressing these different modes extremely helpful.  I was also impressed by the video quality of the tutorial itself.  It was well lit and well shot.  I think one is naturally more trustful of online tutorials when the material therein is presented in a professional manner, while on the other hand a slovenly presentation would necessarily make one less trustful of author's expertise no matter how impressive his or her credentials. In this case I subscribed to the author's YouTube channel and will be viewing more tutorials there whenever I have time.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Seeds of Hope at Lincoln Center


During the July 4th weekend I walked down to Lincoln Center to photograph a performance piece titled Seeds of Hope that was part of this summer's Lincoln Center Outdoors festival.  The piece had been scheduled to last an hour, but when I arrived only ten minutes late it had already concluded; all that remained was a musician performing South Asian music to fill in the balance of the hour.  Accordingly, I never did learn the meaning of Seeds of Hope other than that it involved wrapping trees in colorful ribbons.

The trip was not a total loss.  The music was excellent, and while I was at the venue I had an opportunity to photograph a stunning array of contemporary sculpture that had been set up in the reflecting pool beside the Henry Moore sculpture that is its permanent fixture.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Nikon Refurbished Sale - 3 Days Only

I received an email yesterday from Nikon announcing a 4 day sale on refurbished cameras and lenses.  These include the Z7, the Z50 with 16-50mm VR lens, the Z5 with 24-50mm lens, and the Zfc with 28mm lens as well as 10% off other refurbished products.  Check the links above for sale prices.  There should still be 3 days left as of this writing for those wishing to take advantage of the low prices.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Experts Worth Following on YouTube

Adding a new feature to this blog, I'm going to begin posting links to YouTube tutorials by photographers and digital imaging experts whom I consider worth following.  My criteria in choosing these experts will be very simple - they'll have passed muster if I've found their tutorials helpful enough that I've subscribed to their YouTube channels.  I should mention straight off that I don't know any of these individuals personally and am not affiliated with them or their businesses in any way; to date at least, I've never even corresponded with any of them online.

The first such expert is Skyler Ewing Photography whose tutorial on creating a Modern Black Preset for Luminar Neo was concise (7:44 in length) and easy to follow.  By the end of the video I'd recreated the preset on my own computer and saved it to My Presets in Neo where I'll no doubt be using it extensively.  I hope it's helpful to you as well.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Free Photoshop Filters


I came across a set of free Photoshop filters that are actually improvements on the app's own native filters, at least from what can be seen on sample images. They were created by a developer named Terry Johnson and can be downloaded with no strings attached from Johnson's website. I rarely use Photoshop anymore myself - I've moved on to Luminar Neo - but I'm sure the filters will be of use to those who still do.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Texas Swing at Lincoln Center

I went with my Nikon Df at the end of last month to hear Queen Esther (top and bottom photos) and her Texas swing band perform with guest musicians at this summer's Lincoln Center Outdoors Festival.  As is my practice, I stayed for the entire first 50-minute set that ended with the Sons of the Pioneers' Tumbling Tumbleweeds before heading home with my photos.  The music was fine, and I enjoyed being able to shoot from a spot immediately in front of the stage.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

New Neo Presets for HDR Merge

I posted yesterday that Skylum is releasing HDR Merge as an extension to Luminar Neo.  As an owner of both Neo and Aurora, I will receive a the extension for free when it is released on July 28.  In the meantime I preordered a set of presets and HDR skies, also to be released on July 28, to be used with it.  According to the announcement the "Mega Pack" will consist of 20 HDR presets and 20 HDR skies, all of which looked excellent in the previews I was shown.

In addition to the HDR presets I also purchased on sale a set of cinematic color grading presets that can be used with both Neo and Luminar AI.  I had always wondered why neither program had offered an option for color grading.

Monday, July 18, 2022

HDR Extension for Luminar Neo

Skylum has announced the imminent release of HDR Merge, an extension for Luminar Neo that will appear as a separate module withing the app.  It's the successor to Luminar Aurora, itself an excellent HDR app but one that hasn't been updated by Skylum for quite some time, though it's still available for purchase and most likely will be for the foreseeable future since, in contrast to HDR Merge, it can be used independently of Neo.  Using AI, HDR Merge will have the ability to merge up to 10 bracketed photos into a single image but can also be used on a single photo to improve its dynamic range.

HDR Merge will be released on July 28 but is available for preorder now for $49.  According to the email I received, it is only the first of several planned extensions to Neo.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

GoPro 9 Accessories

Several days ago I posted here on my interest in using my GoPro Hero 9 for vlogging.  In line with that I went earlier this week to B&H and picked up two accessories that would be indispensable for such a purpose, the GoPro Media Mod and the GoPro Display Mod.  While the Display Mod has gotten uniformly excellent reviews, those given the Media Mod were much more mixed with many users complaining that it was far too awkward to be used easily and that the directional mic was not of high quality.  Nevertheless, owning the Media Mod is really a necessity for anyone wanting to use GoPro accessories, not only the Display Mod but third-party microphones and GoPro's own Light Mod, which I intend to purchase at some future date.  

After setting up the Media Mod and placing it on my camera, I found it worked well and while there are definitely inconveniences in the design (e.g., it's necessary to completely remove the GoPro from the mod in order to download videos via USB and to remove the battery for recharging) these are nothing that major.  On the other hand, the mod, which totally encases the GoPro when placed upon it, does provide added protection for the camera.  I have not yet tried using the Display Mod with it but do not anticipate any problems.  I also need to review the video I shot  yesterday, the first using the mod, to see how well the microphone performed.

GoPro routinely releases its newest models on September 22 of each year, and it should be interesting to see what the specs will be on the latest model. (Last year's model, the 10, showed only modest improvements over the 9, and that was the principal reason I opted to purchase the less expensive older model.)  Hopefully, the newest model will be compatible with the batteries and accessories I have already purchased for the 9 since I almost certainly will want at some point to upgrade.

Friday, July 15, 2022

Create NYC Tickets on Sale

Create NYC, sponsored by Photo Plus, is the apparent successor to the venerable three-day Photo Expo event that before the pandemic had been held every autumn at the Javits Center on Manhattan's West Side.  I used to enjoy riding the subway down to 34th Street each year and spending a few hours examining all the products on display at the exhibitors' booths.  It was a definite treat.  So much for fond memories.  The new entity is a completely reimagined event that will be held from September 29th through October 1st at the Duggal Greenhouse in Brooklyn.  But much more than the venue location has changed, though the long subway ride to Brooklyn alone is enough to have discouraged me from attending.  For one thing, the show seems no longer to be catering exclusively to photographers, or even videographers, but rather to "creatives," an ambiguous term that takes in, according to show's announcements, even graffiti artists.

Though the three-day schedule lists "creator walks," "creator workshops," and "stage sessions," there is ominously no mention made anywhere of the exhibitor booths and displays that had in the past been my chief reason for attending.  

Perhaps the biggest change is in the price of tickets.  In the past, those attendees registering before a certain date were given free admission to the venue.  That, unfortunately, is no longer the case.  Now a "limited" number of tickets have been put on sale at the outrageous (to me at least) price of $150 for a one-day pass and $300 for a three-day pass.  If I had had any lingering thought of attending, those prices have made up mind for me.  I will find better ways to spend my time here in Manhattan on the days the show is in progress and I have a feeling many other photographers of my acquaintance will also skip the show.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Cinecolor LUT's

I received an email yesterday from Noam Kroll, founder of Cinecolor, offering a trial subscription membership that will allow subscribers to immediately download for free Cinecolor's  Hollywood Epic LUT pack as well as another free (as yet undescribed) pack next month.  I've downloaded free Cinecolor LUT's in the past and have found them to be of excellent quality.  But those were no-strings-attached downloads while the current offer, available for only one week, requires applicants to supply credit card information.  I'm reluctant to do that - and am not interested in subscriptions in general - and so won't be taking advantage of the offer myself, but I put it out here for those photographers who might be want to try it.  As far as I know, it's a perfectly legitimate offer.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Nikon to Leave the DSLR Market


In late May I posted that according to its Medium-Term Management Plan Nikon would in the future be discontinuing many of its DSLR's and F-mount lenses to concentrate instead on developing and promoting its Z-mount mirrorless line.  It seems now that that process has not only begun but is happening even more quickly than had been anticipated.  Nikkei Asia reports that Nikon is leaving the DSLR market altogether and will be releasing no new DSLR models, though it will continue for the time being at least to market those already in production.  Nikon's announcement marks a clear break from its past history of reliance on the SLR as its flagship camera system.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Nikon to Increase Lens Prices


Nikon has announced in a statement to DPreview that effective August 1 it will be raising the price of almost all its Z mount lenses (the F mount lens shown above is for illustration purposes only).  According to the chart shown on DPreview, however, the actual price increase will be relatively modest for most of these lenses with no increase exceeding $100.  Still, money is money, and those photographers wishing to avoid the increase are advised to make their purchases prior to August 1.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Anamorphic Effect

I recently posted on the anamorphic Sirui 50mm lens I purchased at B&H.  In the top photo the image size is of normal proportions, but everything within it appears compressed or "squeezed."  When the photo is resized in Photoshop (by enlarging the width by a factor of 1.33 while leaving the height unchanged), however, it becomes a wide panoramic image with the contents correctly proportioned.

Saturday, July 9, 2022


I recently posted on the newly released Nikon Z30 that's being heavily promoted as the ideal vlogging camera, though to be honest I'm not sure it's any better suited to that activity than many other cameras currently available, including my own GoPro Hero 9.  Posting on the Z30, however, did cause me for the first time to seriously consider vlogging itself.

In many ways posting on a written blog such as this is much better suited to my talents and temperament.  For one thing, it gives me an opportunity to exercise the writing skills of which I'm perhaps inordinately proud.  For another, it allows me to stay further in the background than would be possible with a vlog.  As perhaps the least photogenic person of all time, I'm not at all anxious to have my face constantly, or even occasionally, before the public.  And then there is the question of personality.  According to the not particularly well written Wikipedia article on vlogging:
"Researchers have conducted experiments using crowdsourcing for Amazon's Mechanical Turk to determine what kind of personality traits the Vlogger might have.  Many Vlogs have been personified by by five big personality traits such as Extraversion, Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, Neuroticism, and Openness to Experience."
I have to admit that of the five the only one that immediately rings a bell in my own case is Neuroticism.

In spite of the above I think it might nevertheless be interesting to experiment with vlogging.  After all, I have really nothing to lose.  I certainly have sufficient free time.  And there's no need for me to go to a great deal of expense.  I have pretty much all the necessary equipment - not only do I own the GoPro Hero 9 but also the Panasonic Lumix G9 which records excellent quality 4K video (though I think 1920x1080 might be sufficient for my purposes, at least initially) as well as the Sirui 50mm anamorphic lens I recently purchased to use with it.  As for software, I have the most recent version of Corel VideoStudio as well as Topaz Labs' Video Enhance AI.  Taken together, these should be more than enough to enable me to begin my experiment.  If I do decide to proceed with it, I'll not only describe the results here but will probably also create a YouTube channel on which to post the videos, though before doing that I would need at least enough experience to develop the basis of a style.

Friday, July 8, 2022

Mourning Shinzo Abe

I'm taking a break from posting about photography to express my sincere condolences to my many Japanese friends on the passing of Shinzo Abe.  Any political assassination is shocking but nowhere more so than in Japan where any form of gun violence is almost unheard of.  This cowardly act cannot but deeply traumatize this peace loving nation.  Certainly Abe was a respected leader who deeply loved his country.  May he rest in peace.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Exposing Muybridge

If Eadweard Muybridge wasn't the greatest American photographer he was by far the most interesting.  Although quite versatile - his photographs of Yosemite are among the finest ever shot of that location - it was the stop motion photographs of animal locomotion he undertook as an 1872 commission from Leyland Stanford that won him his greatest recognition.  It would not be overstating his accomplishments in this genre to name him the true inventor of motion pictures.

Muybridge's personal life was, if anything, more fascinating and certainly more sensational than his photographic career.  Apparently, he led the life of a normal well adjusted businessman and was in no way remarkable until in 1860 he suffered a severe head injury in a Texas stagecoach accident that completely altered his personality.  Thereafter he became increasing eccentric but also, in taking up photography, revealed incredible artistic ability.  In 1874 he shot to death his wife's lover but was acquitted at his murder trial on the grounds of justifiable homicide.

A new documentary film, Exposing Muybridge, has now been released and has won the best documentary screenplay award at this year's Writers Guild Awards after having received favorable reviews at a several film festivals.  It should be a worthwhile watch for those wishing to learn more of this groundbreaking photographer.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Darktable Releases Major Upgrade

I first heard of Darktable several years ago when it was mentioned as an open source alternative to Adobe Lightroom.  Since I've been very happy using DxO PhotoLab 5 as my preferred RAW processor I never bothered to download the Darktable app.  In spite of that, I think it's worth mentioning here that a major new upgrade, i.e., version 4.0, has recently been released.

The principal new features are as follows:
  • Color and exposure mapping to save target colors to color pickcrs;
  • Filmic v6, a "new color science" that allows for more saturated colors;
  • "Guided laplacian" highlight reconstruction that uses information from non-clipped RGB channels to permit reconstruction of clipped highlight channels (along with that, a noise setting has been added to allow Poisson noise to be added to reconstructed highlights);
  • Uniform Color Space 2022;
  • Improved user interface;
  • Performance and Open CL support changes.
This might be a good time for those still in search of a Lightroom alternative to download the updated app and explore its features for themselves.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022


Those seeking alternatives to Adobe Lightroom's catalog system as a means of organizing their digital libraries may want to give serious thought to digiKam, an open source app that runs on a number of operating systems including Windows, MacOs, and Linux.  According to its website, it allows users to import photos and videos directly from cameras as well as from storage devices and then organize them into albums where they can be tagged, labeled and rated.  DigiKam is free to download and has recently released a major new update, numbered version 7.7.  

Believing that what is most important in keeping track of photos is an organized mind, I personally have never felt any great need to catalog my digital images and have instead always been careful to file them in folders where they can be easily located during a quick systematic search in Adobe Bridge.  Still, for those who need additional help, digiKam may prove a useful tool.  I will probably download it myself at some point if only to explore its features.

Monday, July 4, 2022

Happy 4th of July


The 4th is a day for fireworks and backyard barbecues, of course, but it's also a day to reflect on the freedoms we enjoy as Americans.

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Instagram to Turn All Videos into Reels

Even as Mark Zuckerberg has cautioned Meta employees that the company is experiencing "one of the worst downturns in recent history," changes have been announced for Instagram, Meta's big success story.  According to TechCrunch, Instagram is now experimenting with turning all videos uploaded to the site into Reels, one of its most popular features.  There are still some privacy issues involved, most notably exactly who will have the ability to remix audio on the newly created Reel, but the project is moving ahead regardless.  Such changes are inevitable, considering Meta's current financial difficulties, as the company searches for innovations that will increase its revenue flow.

Friday, July 1, 2022

Nikon Releases Z30 Mirrorless Camera

To a great deal of fanfare Nikon has announced the release of its new compact Z30 mirrorless camera.  While Nikon is advertising it as "creator ready," the term is here clearly meant to apply to influencers and vloggers rather than professional photographers.  Still, what's being offered the user is definitely impressive: 4K video with a generous 125 minute time limit (subject to shutoff if the camera overheats), 120p slow motion, in-camera time lapse, live streaming up to 60p, eye-detect AF mode, auto area AF mode, built-in stereo mic (with optional wind muffs and external mic available as add-ons), and e-VR video image stabilization.  There's also an AC power adapter (the optional UC-E25 cable is sold separately) and an optional Bluetooth remote.  On the inside, the DX CMOS sensor measures 23.5x15.7 to produce an effective image size of 20.8mpx.

The Z30's one great drawback as far as I'm concerned, and the one most likely to deter me from purchasing it, is the lack of an electronic viewfinder.  The need to frame shots solely through the rear LCD screen effectively makes this a point & shoot camera no matter how impressive its specs.  But then again professional photographers are not the Z30's targeted customer base, which makes it all the more curious that a camera intended for enthusiasts should lack a built-in flash.  Even vloggers must want to take a still photo sometime.

Considering its specs, the Z30, already available for pre-order at B&H, is competitively priced at $706.95 for body alone, $849.95 with a Z-mount DX 16-50 lens, and $1199.95 with the 16-50 lens plus and additional Z-mount DX 50-250 lens.  For $146.95 more users can purchase a Creator's Accessory Kit that contains a tripod grip, a Rode VideoMicro shotgun microphone, and a Nikon ML-L7 Bluetooth remote control.