No More Camera Raw Updates for CS6

A little over two years ago, Adobe announced that it would no longer update Photoshop CS6. Instead, it would concentrate all its resources on the Creative Cloud, its subscription based software. However, to placate CS6 owners, Adobe would continue to update Camera Raw for CS6 for at least the near future. That time came to an end this week.

Adobe announced on Tuesday that the next Camera Raw update would be the last update to Camera Raw for CS6. It then released Camera Raw 9.1.1 on Wednesday. What does this mean?

It doesn’t really change much for users that are doing their raw processing in Lightroom and moving to Photoshop to do the things that cannot be done in Lightroom. It also doesn’t change much even if you are using Photoshop CS6 to process your raw images and do not plan on buying a new camera in the near future. Finally, it doesn’t change the fact that Photoshop CS6 won’t work on some future version of Windows or Mac OS X.

What does change is that future cameras will not be supported in Photoshop CS6. So, if you are using Photoshop CS6 to process your raw images and want to buy the latest Nikon, Canon, or Sony camera, you will need to find another way to process raw images from that camera. You will have two choices: (1) Use Adobe’s DNG Converter to convert the raw image to the DNG format; or (2) Use Lightroom (the latest version) to process your images and then edit them in Photoshop.

This is just one more step in the slow march to obsolesce of Photoshop CS6. Whether you want a feature in Photoshop CC 2015 or Photoshop CS6 stops working on a future version of Windows or Mac OS X, the end result is the same. You will be subscribing to the CC sooner or later.

Get High: Go Fly a Kite

By Jeff Attaway from Abuja, Nigeria
By Jeff Attaway from Abuja, Nigeria

Everyone wants a drone but the reality is that $1,000 and really more like $2,500 after accessories, a gimbal mount, extra propellers, etc. is a lot of money. But, being able to take aerial photos without renting a helicopter is very attractive proposition.

I was reminiscing with an old friend this week about flying those huge Green Giant kites in our local school yard. (My older readers will remember that those kites were free with five labels from Green Giant frozen vegetable packages.) After hanging up, I starting thinking about whether it would be possible to lift my GoPro into the air with a kite. So, I did what everyone does today when faced with a complex problem, I Googled it.

Surprise! It has a name: Kite Aerial Photography or KAP. The American Kitefliers Association (AKA), devotes a section of its website to information on KAP. Moreover, you can put together a decent KAP kit for about $40. This means, while you still must worry about breaking your GoPro, you don’t have to worry about breaking an expensive drone to get aerial shots of the beach. You also don’t have to worry about national and local regulations and kites are not seen as evasive or as dangerous as a drone so you can even fly one on the National Mall.

First, you need a kite that creates uplift; many stay afloat using drag. A simple but effective kite that creates uplift is a Conyne Delta Kite, available starting at $20 Amazon. Your also need string, about $10 on Amazon. Finally, you will need a camera mount. There are plans for DIY mounts available for free online. The simplest one appears to be by Make magazine and AKA has one online as well. I suspect any one of these DIY mounts shouldn’t cost more than $10 to build. So, for a total of $40 bucks you have your “drone.”

Flying a kite is also a lot simpler than flying a drone. You simply mount your camera to the mount, turn on your camera’s intervalometer to take images every few seconds, and go fly your kite. When done, simply pull in your kite and download the images to your computer. There are no batteries to recharge or die on you, except for the one in the camera.

While I am sure, there is a steep learning curve, I think it can also be fun. Who minds a day outside in beautiful weather? How about a day at the beach? You can do this with your kids or grandchildren. They get to fly a kite and you get to indulge your passion for photography.

While not as powerful and maneuverable as a drone, it is much less expensive and simpler to operate. I need to follow the advice I get from someone around the office almost every day and go fly a kite.

Adobe Releases Creative Cloud CC 2015

Correction: When Adobe first introduced Lightroom 6 (perpetual license) and Lightroom CC (subscription based licensing) a couple of months ago, I assumed that any new features added to Lightroom CC would be added to Lightroom 6. That is apparently untrue. Today’s announcement from Adobe is only applicable to Lightroom CC, the subscription based version of Lightroom. So, I have struck out all references below to Lightroom 6. Lightroom 6 did not and will not be getting the Dehaze adjustment and other new features in Lightroom CC at this time and probably not until the next major upgrade, i.e., Lightroom 7. There are a number of theories why Adobe has done this from it is required to do so by law to greed. I suspect that this will make owners of perpetual licenses upset but Adobe has never promised that the two versions would always have the same features and the two haven’t since Lightroom Mobile was introduced two years ago.

Adobe released major updates to all of its Creative Cloud applications this morning. The updates include support for new cameras and significant bug fixes as well. Photographers will be most interested in the changes to Link to list of changes in Lightroom  6 and CC, Link to list of changes in Lightroom Mobile (CC subscribers only), and Link to list of changes in Photoshop.

2015-04-09_Mojave National Preserve_Zwit_Before deHaze
Before Dehaze adjustment is applied to image.

Lightroom 6 and CC 2015 now include a Dehaze adjustment. (Click the images on the right to see a larger version.) Dehaze removes the effect of atmospheric haze in an image and is located in the Effects panel of the Develop module. A simple slider allows you to remove (or add) haze from your landscape images.

The Lightroom update also includes two new adjustments in the Gradient Filter, Radial Filter, and Local Adjustment Brush: Whites and Blacks. These sliders are the same as the Whites and Blacks adjustments in the Basic panel and can be used to fine tune tones in the lightest and darkest parts of an image being affected by the local adjustment.

2015-04-09_Mojave National Preserve_Zwit_After deHaze
After Dehaze adjustment is applied to image.

Lightroom Mobile was given significant new capabilities, including a tone curve adjustment and the ability to adjust color channels and the B&W mix and add vignettes and split toning. In addition, you can now import and sync iPhone and iPad videos to the web and your desktop. Lightroom Mobile is only available to CC subscribers.

If you are a designer, there were a multitude of updates in Photoshop for you. If you are a Photographer, the Dehaze and new adjustments in the Gradient Filter, Radial Filter, and Local Adjustment Brush were added to Camera Raw, the export dialogue was redesigned, and the Healing Brush, Spot Healing Brush, and Patch tools are faster.

The most exciting update in Photoshop for photographers, however, is the ability to add monochromatic or color noise to blurs. If you have ever blurred a background in Photoshop, you know how well it works. In fact, it is just too good. The blurred areas are too smooth in comparison to the rest of the image and, when you print the image, it is very obvious. Now, with the ability to add monochromatic and color noise to blur, we can match the texture of the blur to the rest of the image.

Overall, this is a great set of updates to Lightroom and Photoshop for photographers. If you have Lightroom 6 or subscribe to the Creative Cloud, update now. If you own Lightroom 5, you might want to consider updating to Lightroom 6 or even the Creative Cloud.

The Ethics Of Nature Photography: Is The Image More Important Than The Subject?

Is the image more important than the subject? Hint: NO! Moreover, I can’t even think of a hypothetical where it might be.

If you have been reading my blog, you know that I recently returned home from Death Valley National Park and Mojave National Preserve appalled and concerned by the behavior of some fellow photographers. See Ethics And Courtesy In Pursuit Of An Image. The Audubon Society has just published online Too Close for Comfort, an article from its May/June 2015 magazine, detailing how some photographers are pushing the limits and hurting wildlife in pursuit of an image. I highly recommend the article.

And, let’s all remember that our national parks and wildlife refuges are fragile, the animals we photograph are live there, and we are mere visitors.

It’s Finally Here! Adobe Releases Lightroom 6 AND CC

After nearly 21 months, Adobe released Lightroom 6 and CC today. (Yes! Two versions. See below for the distinctions and why you might want CC rather than 6.) As Adobe stated earlier, there are not many new features and most of the improvements are below the surface. However, the new features and performance improvements should make for a faster and more streamlined workflow.

The new features include:

  • HDR Merge: As a fan of using Lightroom to tone map my HDR images, this one is great! All the steps for merging a series of exposures into a HDR image and tone mapping the resulting HDR image can now be done within Lightroom. In Lightroom 5, you had to select all the images, go to Edit In > Merge to HDR Pro in Photoshop, which would open and merge the images, save the image back to Lightroom as a 32-bit TIFF, and then use the tone and other adjustments within Lightroom to tone map the HDR image.
  • Panorama Merge: As with the HDR merge feature, all the steps for merging a series of images into a panorama can now be done within Lightroom. In Lighroom 5, you had to select the images, go to Edit In > Merge to Panorama in Photoshop, save the resulting image, and process the image in Lightroom.
  • Facial Recognition: If you take a lot of portraits, you’re going to love this one. Select a face in one photo and Lightroom will search for that person in your other photographs.
  • Filter Brushes: If you have ever used the gradient or radial tool, you know how helpful these tools can be but sometimes they are just a little too inflexible. For example, your horizon isn’t always a straight line and using the gradient tool to darken the sky means darkening any mountains or trees that extended into the sky. With the filter brush, you can remove any adjustments applied to those mountains or trees. Filter brushes have existed in Photoshop Camera Raw since last summer and now they are finally available in Lightroom.

The improvements include the following…

  • GPU Acceleration: Photoshop and many other applications offload part of the processing load from the CPU to the GPU (graphics processing unit) to speed up processing. Lightroom 6 now does so as well. This should give Lightroom to be a big performance boost.
  • Slideshow Module: The Slideshow module now has more transition effects and you can include still images, video, and music in a slideshow.
  • Web Module: Web modules can now be created with HTML 5 rather than being limited to Falsh. HTML 5 is the latest HTML standard and ensures compatibility with all current browsers.

With this release, Adobe is releasing two versions: Lightroom 6 and Lightroom CC. The difference is that Lightroom 6 is the boxed version and has a perpetual license and Lightroom CC is only available by subscribing to the Creative Cloud. The other big difference is Lightroom 6 doesn’t come with Lightroom Mobile; you must subscribe to Lightroom to be able to use Lightroom Mobile.

Lightroom 6 is available immediately from Adobe as a download at a cost of $149.00 and, if you are upgrading from Lightroom 5, $79.99. If you subscribe to the Creative Cloud or the Creative Cloud Photography Plan, Lightroom 6 is included in your subscription and can be downloaded immediately from the Creative Cloud application. (To avoid server meltdown, Adobe is rolling out the update so, if it doesn’t appear in the Creative Cloud application, try again later today.)

I will be working with Lightroom CC today and will post a more detailed review later.

Postscript: For those trying to decide whether to upgrade to Lightroom 6 or move to Lightroom CC, Adobe has published a comparison of Lightroom 5, Lightroom 6, and Lightroom CC.

Ethics And Courtesy In Pursuit Of An Image

I try to keep some thoughts to myself and not be too critical of anything or anybody but sometimes it is awfully hard to remain silent. This is one of those times.

During my just concluded trip to the deserts of Southern California, I was shocked by the less than admirable behavior by some photographers in pursuit of an image. I don’t know if they were simply ignorant of our professional ethics and common courtesy or blithely ignoring them. In any case, their behavior was unacceptable.

2015-04-05_Death Valley_Zwit_0131What did I see that so upset me? I saw photographers walking off trail, disturbing wildlife, littering, purposely stepping in front of other photographers, using inappropriate equipment for the environment or subject, and simply being obnoxious. They may think that one person can’t hurt anything but it is the accumulation of damages of that one person plus thousands or others or even millions of others.

Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, Death Valley National Park, and Mojave National Preserve as well as much of the other lands we photograph are delicate habitats. Within them, there are endangered environments and species and, even if not endangered, the destruction of some environments can take nature hundreds or thousands of years to repair. These refuges, parks, and preserves are our legacy and their destruction would be a sad reflection on us. Once they are gone, they are gone.

I do, however, realize there are competing interests that must be accommodated within these areas, e.g., recreation, hunting, photography, endangered species. Accommodations can be difficult to negotiate and enforce, especially with the high demand put on these areas by visitors and limited budgets. So, preservation falls to us: The photographers and other visitors to these special and unique places.

Most of us aren’t trained as naturalists or biologists. Instead, we need to rely on the experts-the people in charge of these lands, photography associations, and outdoor organizations-that have developed codes of ethics. See, e.g., North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) Code of Ethics and Leave No Trace Center For Outdoor Ethics. These codes of ethics are based on science, designed to preserve the outdoors for everyone, and protect the ecosystem and animals living within these precious resources. Read them and follow them.

2015-04-07_Death Valley_Zwit_0239One common and major element of most of these codes of ethics is one that I need to emphasize to everyone-photographers and non-photographers: Treat everyone courteously. It’s simple and makes for a more enjoyable time for everyone. Remember, you are not entitled to go to the front of the line just because you arrive late for sunrise. Those already there got up earlier than you and arrived on time.

By all means, enjoy our refuges, parks, and wild lands but remember we are treading on irreplaceable habitat that, if it is to survive, we must help protect. No image is worth the cost of crippling damage to the environment.

Aperture and iPhoto: Time is Running Out

Apple announced last year in a long anticipated move that it would cease development of Aperture, its pro photo editing application, and iPhoto, and replace both with Photos for OS X. While Apple has only said that Photos for OS X will be released this spring, it is becoming clear that day is quickly coming.

First, Apple sent an e-mail today reminding Aperture users that Aperture support is ending and that, with the release of Photos for OS X, Aperture will no longer be available for purchase. Moreover, Apple is running a public beta of Yosemite 10.10.3, which includes Photos for OS X. Public betas generally come close to final release. You can participate in the beta but be aware installing this beta will overwrite your current operating system and you do this at your own risk.

Based on my experience so far, Photos for OS X is not Aperture. See MacWorld’s First Look: Photos for OS X Brings Easier Navigation and More Powerful Editing. Photos for OS X incorporates many features of Photos for iOS. Its interface is simpler than Aperture and available adjustments, while powerful and more numerous than iPhoto, are fewer and not as sophisticated. It also includes some new features allowing you to create books, cards, and slideshows and your photos can be synchronized between different devices using iCloud (although you may need to pay for increased storage on iCloud if your library is larger than five gigabytes)..

If you are using Aperture or iPhoto to manage and edit your images, it’s time to start thinking about what your are going to do and how you are going to make the transition from Aperture or iPhoto to Aperture.

Editor’s Note: If you need to make the switch from iPhoto or Aperture to Lightroom, the School of Creative Photography can help you. Our Lightroom class is scheduled for April 25 and 26, 2015, in Sterling, VA, and will get you up to speed quickly on managing and editing your images in Lightroom. If you are already using Lightroom and want to learn more about its advanced features, the School of Creative Photography is offering an advanced Lightroom class on May 2, 2015, in Sterling, VA.

As Spock Would Say, Fascinating

Photo of the dual nature of lightWithout light, there is no photography and one of the most interesting aspects of light is how it acts as both a particle and a wave. It was one of Albert Einstein’s great insights.

While scientists have confirmed the dual nature of light in the laboratory, they haven’t been able to observe both behaviors at the same time until just recently. A team of Swiss and American scientist recently took a “photograph” of the dual behavior of light. See Simultaneous Observation of the Quantization and the Interference Pattern of a Plasmonic Near-Field published in the journal Nature Communications. The article isn’t an easy read; I was lost half way through the first paragraph. For a more understandable explanation, see the articles on Discovery and the one on the website of Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, the university at which the photograph was taken.

For photographers, this is a twofer. One, we learn a little more about light and, two, we get to see light and its dual nature in a first-ever photograph.


Look and Learn: World Press Photo of 2014

One of the best ways to learn how to make great photographs is to look at great photographs and, once a year, we have an opportunity to view some of the best press photos when World Press Photo announces the winners of its annual photo contest.

WPP announced the winners of the 58th annual World Press Photo Contest on February 2. This year’s overall winner is a photograph by Mads Nissen, a staff photographer for the Danish daily newspaper Politiken, of an intimate moment between  a Russian gay couple. WPP also awarded prizes for images in the categories of Contemporary Issues, Daily Life, General News, Long-Term Projects, Nature, Portraits, Sports, and Spot News. WPP also posted short interviews of the jury members reflecting on the contest and photography.

The World Press Photo Foundation supports and works to establish high standards for photojournalism and documentary photography. Its yearly contest, if not the most prestigious contest for photojournalism in the world, is one of the most prestigious and this year’s contest drew 97,912 entries from 5,692 photographers in 131 countries.

Breaking a Creative Rut

Sunset on the Susquehanna River near Drumore, PA.
Sunset on the Susquehanna River near Drumore, PA. Nikon D750 with 24-70mm at 70mm, 1.6 sec, f/11, and ISO 100

Until this last weekend, I had been completely focused on work, the ongoing requirements of daily life, and other people’s tribulations for almost six months. In other words, I had been in a creative rut. It had even been a few weeks since I had my camera out of its bag! However, after a just a couple of days in new surroundings, I feel reenergized and I am once again reminded of the need to shake things up frequently to keep yourself fresh.

A dilapidated greenhouse door on the grounds of Valley Forge National Historical Park
Nikon D750 at 70mm, 1/2,000 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200

It is easy to fall into a rut. There are simply lots of people, events, and other things competing for our attention. It is especially easy to fall into a rut during this time of year; it is cold, rainy, and just not very agreeable outside. And, inertia being what it is, it is easy just to go with the familiar and safe. Ruts also pulverize your creativity.

What changed this last weekend? Dingo and I found ourselves at home alone and looking at another weekend of working on the house and doing laundry. In a moment of relative spontaneity (it played out over a couple of days), we decided to get in the car and drive north to Pennsylvania. I was going to see and photograph some new places and Dingo went along to smell some new places.

Nikon D750 at 70mm, 1/80 sec, f/11, ISO 100

We visited six new parks, hiked about twelve miles, took a few hundred images, and got a good night’s sleep on Saturday. I also met a couple of other photographers while on the road and, based on their recommendations, have some additional locations to check out on the next trip. Overall, a great weekend. It was relaxing and gave me some quality time with Dingo.

More importantly, I feel like it broke the rut. I still may have painting and the laundry to do but I feel great and I got some good images. My recommendation to you is to remember to shake it up and get out soon.