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Category: Useful Stuff   |   View all recent posts

This is
WHAT: Useful Stuff, Tools for Photographers   |   WHEN: July 30, 2008
If you're like me, I always seem to have bookmark issues. 'Hmm.. where did I put that bookmark for cool new packaging ideas? Was that in Firefox or Safari? And was it on my laptop or desktop machine? And was that my old workstation or new workstation? Great googily moogily... there's gotta be a better way.' Enter My bookmarking debacle instantly got a whole lot easier... and cooler. I feel compelled to share this little bit o' heaven in hopes that somewhere I can help just one person who suffers from the same plight I used to. Okay, that last part was a little dramatic and so charity cliché speak, but roll with me here - there's a payoff somewhere down the line. I promise.

So what is Quite simply, it's a way for you to tag your favorite sites into categories that you can then access from any browser on any computer at any time. For example, I've got several packaging resource sites that I've tagged, so anytime I want to see one I just go to my page (you'll need to create a free account, and no, you don't get junkmail offers) click on my "packaging" tag, and voila... there's all the sites I've bookmarked in addition to any notes I made about each site as I bookmarked it.

Also, there's an option to add super convenient icons and/or links to your browser of choice (or at least Internet Explorer, Safari & Firefox and possibly a few others) so that you can tag any site for future reference or quickly get to your list of tagged sites. So go ahead, tag anything you want. Tag that "Top 10 Signs You Might Be Addicted to Blogging" site you stumbled upon the other day. You know you want to read it again. Seriously, you need to.

Here's a sample of my collection of tags I've used to group the sites I want to remember. Each tag brings up a list of at least one and most of the time multiple sites I've bookmarked under that category. You can also choose to view your categories in list format and it will show you in parentheses how many sites have been bookmarked in those categories.

One of the coolest things about, too, is the "popular" feature where when you click on this link you see a constantly updated list of - what else - popular sites that people are tagging recently. You'll see a fair amount of techy programming sites here, but you'll also find just as many entertaining if not useful sites. Warning, this may not help your aforementioned addiction.

If you're looking for a way to simplify your internet life, give it a try. It might be just what you're looking for. And if not, you'll at least spend 5 minutes of your life trying it out that you would have otherwise spent wasting brain cells mindlessly surfing the web.


Making an HDR Image
WHAT: Useful Stuff, Tips, Tricks & Tutorials   |   WHEN: July 23, 2008
I've had a few people ask lately about how I make an HDR image, so i thought I'd share my non-rocket science, wizard-behind-the-curtain technique on a couple images from a recent wedding I photographed.

First off, some of you out there may be asking, 'What in the world is an HDR image?'. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range image, which - when you really boil it down - means an image with a whole lotta detail. Typically in digital photography one thing that's become a little more difficult is achieving details in both the highlight and shadow areas of a single image. Digital just doesn't have the same latitude and forgiveness that good ol' fashion film does, so you actually need to be more accurate with your exposures in the camera. Even then, there's just some images you're not going to be able to get all the detail you want because of the range of dark to light areas your trying to capture. That's where HDR comes in.

There's several different ways to create an HDR image, but basically they all involve combining multiple exposures into one image. Some people will bracket an image, meaning they'll shoot the same scene at several different exposures and then combine those images in post-processing. I've done this and it works pretty well if you're subjects don't move and you've got a tripod. However, this method doesn't work so well when shooting people because unfortunately they have a tendency to not be able to hold an exact position for a couple seconds. So, what I do in that case is shoot one image in RAW format and then in Lightroom (or Adobe Bridge or whatever your flavor of choice is for RAW image processing) I create multiple versions of that image with different exposure values, a couple increments over exposed to get those shadow details and a couple increments under exposed to get those highlight details.

Then, because Photoshop - as awesome as it is - does a fairly lousy job of creating HDR images with it's "merge to HDR" feature (even the guys at Adobe will tell you it's less than stellar), I use a crafty third party app called Photomatix Pro to combine all those exposures into one image. What's great about Photomatix Pro ($99) is that it's got a simple clean interface and still allows you lots of control to make tweaks to the resulting image.

Here's a couple samples of HDR images I created using the above process.

6 exposures generated from 1 RAW file.

Resulting HDR image. Notice the details in the shadows and highlight areas.

6 exposures generated from 1 RAW file.

Resulting HDR image. I know it's kinda hard to tell in this smaller image, but in the full resolution image, there's tons of detail in this image.

Hope that helps.


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