Friday, August 19, 2022

Stable Diffusion

I recently viewed an article on PetaPixel that contained a portfolio of unreal landscapes created by photographer Aurel Manea.  Unreal in the sense that these landscapes, so beautifully depicted, do not actually exist anywhere other than in the photographer's imagination but were instead created through the use of an AI app, still in the beta testing stage, named Stable Diffusion.  The software is only one of several apps offered by Stability AI, an open source enterprise founded by one Emad Mostaque.  In creating landscapes from verbal descriptions this app draws upon Stability AI's LAION 5B, a 250 TB database of 5.6 billion images scraped from the internet.  In some respects it is similar to the better known DALL-E 2 but differs in that, being open source, the imaginary works belong to the artists who created them rather than to a research company that owns the app.

Since the entire point of this blog is to discuss the impact of AI on the creative arts, particularly photography, I may very well apply to become a beta tester of Stability Diffusion.  If I do so and am accepted I will report here on my progress with illustrations showing exactly what I have managed to create.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Bloom Photography Services

Professional photographers interested in a one-stop solution to their business needs might want to give serious consideration to Bloom whose website appears to offer everything one might need to run a successful photography business, including free invoicing and booking features.

Bloom offers two tiers of services - a free "starter" level that includes client galleries, a website portfolio and 100GB storage; and a $23/mo premium level that offers additional features and 1TB storage.  An extra 1TB of storage can be had for an additional $10/mo.

Since I'm pretty much fully retired by now I doubt I'll be using any of Bloom's services myself (and hence won't be able to offer any opinion on their quality), but I thought I'd throw this out for any photographers who might be interested.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Skylum Announces New Neo Extensions

I posted late last month that I had gotten the new HDR Merge extension for Luminar Neo along with an accompanying set of presets and HDR dramatic skies.  Although I have not yet had time to work with it extensively, it's apparent even at first glance that the extension fits seamlessly into the app and can produce some truly amazing results.

It turns out that this extension was only the first of a planned series.  I received an email yesterday from Skylum informing me that more are on the way.  Iryna Tyshchenko wrote:
"But also we want to expand the functionality of Luminar Neo even further by adding more Extensions.  As you may know, Extensions are pro tools that are designed to boost your skills and provide an outlet for your creativity.  With the help of Exentensions Luminar Neo will become even more suitable to solve any editing issues and add creativity and experimentation to your photography. 
"By the end of 2022 we are going to release 7 extensions in total, including HDR Merge that came out in July, Noiseless AI in August and deliver the other 4 in November and 1 in December.  Wow!"  (emphasis is Iryna's)
I later received a followup email from Ihor at Skylum urging users to subscribe to Neo in order to receive all the forthcoming extensions as part of their subscription plan.  The cost would be $59 for the first year and $89 annually thereafter.  This would entitle one to all subsequent versions and updates of Neo as well as all extensions released during the subscription period.  This represents a substantial savings over purchasing the extensions as a separate package at a current cost of $149. Nevertheless, however good a deal the subscription package may be, I think Skylum should have provided more information regarding the nature of the extensions to be released in November and December before asking users to blindly subscribe and hope for the best.

Meanwhile, Iryna's article also mentioned that the Clone & Stamp tool will be released in mid-September as a free Neo update.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Rofozzi Icon Camera Bag

I had actually been browsing leather camera bags on B&H's website Sunday evening but hadn't seen anything that wasn't ridiculously expensive.  Then, coincidentally, I received an email from the store yesterday advertising its weekly sales and lo and behold there was the Rofozzi camera bag listed at almost 20% off while supplies lasted I immediately ordered the item by phone and then hopped on the subway a half hour later to pick it up at the store.

The bag is sturdily constructed of leather with canvas backing and is spacious enough to hold a DSLR and at least one additional lens.  Since it lacks a tripod holder and is not water resistant it is not really suitable for traveling on assignments (when one would most probably want to have a bigger bag with one anyway), but it's perfect for wearing on one's shoulder while walking casually through the city.  And since that's the use I bought it for I'm content.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Skylum Releases Luminar Neo Update 1.2.1


For those who are keeping track, Skylum last week released its most recent update to Luminar Neo, numbered 1.2.1.  Its actually a very minor fix for some small bugs.  For example, in Windows one can now close Neo with the Presets tab open without experiencing a crash the next time the app is launched.  I installed the update without problem.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Create NYC "Postponed"


I received an email yesterday announcing that Create NYC, the planned successor to the pre-pandemic Photo Expos that had been held annually at the Javits Center in Manhattan, has been "postponed" until next year.  I can't say this comes as any surprise.  I had already made up my mind not to attend myself after the outrageous ticket prices - $150 for a one-day pass! - had been announced last month and had had difficulty imagining where the sponsors hoped to find anyone willing to travel to Brooklyn for an event that could most kindly be described as "low key."  The fact that no camera manufacturers or imaging companies, or at least none who had been announced, would be on hand to show off their newest products as they had at the Photo Expos only made a bad situation worse.

If the event sponsors hope to return in 2023 as they have promised, I believe their best bet is to return to the tried and true format that served them so well in the past and plan to once again hold an old school Photo Expo at the Javits Center. 

Friday, August 12, 2022

Nikon to Discontinue Z7

According to reports I've read Nikon is planning to discontinue the Z7, although the camera is still shown as available on Nikon USA's website.  The Z7 and Z6 are the oldest of the company's Z-mount mirrorless cameras and have been largely superseded by the Z7ii and Z6ii, so the discontinuance should come as no great surprise.  Most likely the Z6 will soon follow suit.

I saw both the Z7 and the Z6 at the NYC Photo Expo shortly after they were first introduced and was decidedly underwhelmed by both.  Neither really struck me as a professional level camera but rather as only a half-hearted attempt to catch up with Sony and Canon, which made it all the more surprising to me that Nikon was able to come from so far behind with the recent release of the stunning Z9.  There can't be any doubt that the company will attempt to build on its success by incorporating the revolutionary Z9 technology in its next generation of mirrorless cameras, and it may be that Nikon is already clearing away older models in anticipation of this.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

B&H Announces Optic West 2022

I received an email today from B&H announcing Optic West 2022, an in-person and live streaming event to be held November 6th and 7th in Monterey, California.  It will feature keynote speakers (Frans Lanting and Scott Kelby), brand ambassadors, image critiques, webinars, and an expo showcasing the latest imaging products.  Those interested can register at the above link.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Nikon Updates D7100

After just having posted on Nikon's retreat from the F-mount DSLR business, I was shocked to learn that the company has issued an update for one of its oldest models, the D7100, an almost forgotten consumer-level camera.  The update is a simple fix for a truly minor problem, i.e., a glitch in live view that would cause it to cease working after ten minutes' use.  Why Nikon would choose to issue such a non-essential update on a camera that by now should be next in line for discontinuance is a mystery.  Nikon, however, has recently gone to great lengths to reassure its DSLR customers that it has no intention of ceasing production or servicing of these cameras, so perhaps the update is intended to emphasize this claim to its customer base and those who may be contemplating a DSLR purchase.

Friday, August 5, 2022

35 Nikon F-mount Lenses Discontinued

According to an August 3rd article in Amateur Photographer, a UK based publication, Nikon has quietly discontinued 35 F-mount lenses over the past several years.  Despite the big number, this isn't really all that surprising.  I had already posted in May that according to its Medium-Term Management Plan Nikon expects its F-mount DSLR's and lenses to account for less than 5% of its sales by 2025 as it focuses its resources on building its Z line following the incredible success of the Z9 launch.  In order to make the Z line truly successful, however, Nikon will need to drastically increase the number of lenses available for its mirrorless cameras.  This is especially true when it comes to the DX format.  Nikon has been making a big push recently to attract vloggers to its Zfc and newly released Z30, but the fact that there is currently only a handful of lenses that can be used on these cameras may very well discourage potential purchasers.  It only makes sense then that the company would devote as much of its lens making facilities as possible to producing mirrorless camera glass when interest in DSLR cameras and lenses is in any case falling off sharply among both amateur and professional photographers.

A full list of the discontinued F-mount lenses can be found in the Amateur Photographer article at the link above.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Corel Releases Paintshop Pro 2023

I received an email today from Corel announcing the release of Paintshop Pro 2023 and offering a discounted upgrade price as a "loyalty" reward.  Unfortunately, there do not seem to be enough new features to make ordering worthwhile.  Those that are mentioned in the email include:
  • Focus stacking;
  • Enhanced frame tool for use in creating masks based on symmetrical and Preset shapes;
  • AfterShot Lab for editing RAW files;
  • Real time blend mode preview;
  • Snap to objects;
  • Improved usability and performance
None of the above, most of which are already available in other apps, seem worth the cost of an upgrade no matter how great the discount.  The software bonuses included with the Ultimate version of the updated app are also a disappointment.  Most, such as PhotoMirage Express, Painter Essentials 8, Highlight Reel, MultiCam Capture Lite, and Sea-to-Sky Workspace, were already included in last year's edition.  All that's really new this year is the inclusion of a font package.

I had originally purchased PaintShop Pro in 2020 when searching for a viable low-cost alternative to Adobe Photoshop.  I've already found that, though, in Luminar Neo which I consider the single best photo editor now available.  Accordingly, I'm not really in the market right now for any others, though I have to admit Paintshop Pro has always been a fairly sophisticated app with a number of useful features.  Another problem is that Corel seems to be falling behind in software development.  Just as there are, in my opinion at least, no revolutionary new features in the new edition of Paintshop Pro so it is the same with the new 2023 edition of Corel Painter, to which I've also no inclination to upgrade since there isn't a single new feature for photographers included in it.  If Corel wishes to maintain its user base and attract new customers it really must do more, and soon.