The PhotoActive Podcast, Episode 49: Creating Panoramas

You want to capture a wide-angle shot, but what if your widest lens isn’t wide enough? In this episode, Jeff and Kirk talk about creating panoramas, from the ingenious Pano mode in the iPhone’s Camera app to stitching many images from traditional cameras or drones.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at the PhotoActive website. You can follow The PhotoActive on Twitter at @PhotoActiveCast to keep up to date with new episodes, and join our Facebook group to chat with other listeners and participate in photo challenges and more.

Photo: My New Shakuhachi

I got a new shakuhachi this week. This one is made by Kodama Hiroyuki, who is a true master of both making and playing the instrument. You can learn more over at my shakuhachi website, where I have been chronicling my experience learning this Japanese flute.

This is the “root end” of the instrument. The bamboo is pulled out of the ground and cut, leaving some of the roots on while it dries, then the roots are cut off, leaving this attractive pattern around the bottom edge.

Link to full-size version.

See more of my photos, and follow me on Instagram.

The PhotoActive Podcast, Episode 48: Adventures with Dan Bailey

Photographer Dan Bailey is our guest this week to talk about his book FUJIFILM X Series Unlimited: Mastering Techniques and Maximizing Creativity with Your FUJIFILM Camera — though we’re not focusing on Fujifilm cameras. We’re more interested in questions such as how many of your camera’s features you should understand, whether technical details really matter, and how Dan became a pro photographer and expert in the first place.

Check out other episodes at the PhotoActive website, subscribe to PhotoActive on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Overcast. Follow PhotoActive on Twitter at @PhotoActiveCast to keep up to date with new episodes, and join our Facebook group to chat with other listeners and participate in photo challenges and more.

Pixelmator Pro Brings Powerful Editing Tools to Apple’s Photos App

You have long been able to use external photo editors with Apple Photos, but the release yesterday of Pixelmator Pro has made Apple Photos a much more powerful photo editing tool. When you open a photo in other external photo editors via Photos, make changes to the photo, then the finished photo is saved back to your Photos library. If you want to go back and tweak your changes – say you want to adjust your exposure a bit more, or change the saturation – you either work on the edited photo or you start over from your original.

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With the new Pixelmator Pro, your edit history is saved, and when you re-open a photo you edited with it as an external editor, you can go back and tweak any of the adjustments you have made. This is a game-changer for Apple Photos, and it now provides the best of both worlds: simple photo library management, including in the cloud, and powerful editing capabilities. (To access a photo editing extension, select a photo and press Return to open it in Edit mode, then click the little circle with ellipsis icon and choose Pixelmator Pro.)

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Pixelmator Pro’s ML Enhance (ML for machine learning) is an interesting tool that can automatically optimize your photos. Similar to clicking the magic wand in Apple Photos, or other automatic adjustments in various photo editing apps, I find that it is sometimes a bit heavy handed, but for many people, this is an excellent way to enhance photos. I found it especially good at correcting the white balance and skin tone in this photo, which I shot with my iPhone the other day.

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However, I wish Pixelmator Pro had automatic adjustment options for individual adjustments. For example, in Apple Photos, I can click Auto buttons for Light, Color, Black & White, White Balance, and more. Each group of tools has an Auto button. With Pixelmator Pro, there are “ML” buttons for some tools – the ones that display by default – but not all. For example, I recently learned how the Curves tool in Apple Photos can help improve the contrast and dynamic range in my photos; I now often use the Auto button to see how this looks. In Pixelmator Pro, there is no such option for Curves, Levels, or even Black & White.

While Pixelmator Pro’s auto-adjustments are useful, the real power comes in the wide range of editing tools available. You need to take some time to explore the interface.

Pixelmator3In the photos above, I’m in the Color Adjustments section, which is where you will probably make most edits to your photos. By default, only a few adjustments are displayed, but if you click Add at the top right, you discover a menu with more than 15 tools. And when in the Add Effects tool, clicking Add displays ten menus with dozens of options (including vignette, which is one I use often, though subtly).

If, like me, you appreciate Apple Photos as a way of managing your photo library, and making it available across devices, but still want more powerful photo editing, then Pixelmator Pro used as an extension is a great addition to this app. The ability to return to your photos and adjust your edits is powerful, and I would expect other photo editing tools to try to emulate this as well.

For more on photo editing apps for Mac – Pixelmator Pro, Luminar, Affinity Photo, RAW Power, Capture One, and others, check out this episode of the PhotoActive podcast, where my co-host Jeff Carlson and I discuss the many options available. I wish this version of Pixelmator Pro had been available when we recorded the episode; our discussion would have been quite different.

The PhotoActive Podcast, Episode 47: Jeff Becomes an Event Photographer

Photoactive 400Recently, Jeff was the event photographer for the CreativePro Week 2019 conference in Seattle, a task that requires a different approach to making photos. You’ve probably been asked to shoot some type of event, so we talk a little about specific gear to deal with low-light situations and catching candid shots in a crowded setting.

Listen to PhotoActive, Episode 47: Jeff Becomes an Event Photographer.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at the PhotoActive website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @PhotoActiveCast to keep up to date with new episodes, and join our Facebook group to chat with other listeners and participate in photo challenges and more.

The Semiotics of Black and White Photographs

"The black and white image was, in some essential way, photography’s defining feature – that was where its power lay and colour diminished its artfulness: paradoxically, monochrome – because it was so evidently unnatural – was what made a photograph work best." William Boyd: Sweet Caress: The Many Lives of Amory Clay

All photographs are simulacra, imitations of a reality that is filtered by a camera’s film or sensor to capture light and convert it to lines, shapes, and colors. Different film stocks and different cameras present the same reality in different ways. (Not to mention choices made by a photographer in post processing.) People generally don’t think about this, ascribing to photographs – at the ones that don’t look "doctored" – a certain level of realism.

As photographers increasingly use digital filters and presets to alter their photos, these images stray further and further from the reality that the camera captures. Perhaps a filter applies a vignette, a bit of texture, and washes out the colors, to suggest an old-fashioned image. Or a filter might increase or decrease saturation, sometimes to create a false ideal of accurate skin tones (this is what Kodachrome was designed for, at least for white people). Other filters are used to match current social media fads, rather than to enhance images in any particular way.

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Photo: Dahlias

My partner is an avid gardener, and we have hundreds of flowers of many kinds. As part of my recent office makeover, I have a space where I have decided that I will experiment with flower arrangement, and photograph some of my creations. While this isn’t properly ikebana, I have been perusing a book on that Japanese art to get some inspiration. Here’s an example.

Link to full-size version.

See more of my photos, and follow me on Instagram.

The PhotoActive Podcast, Episode 46: Pet Photography with Norah Levine

Photoactive 400When you think of portrait photography, do you envision tails and fur? This week, we talk to Norah Levine about her book Pet Photography: The Secrets to Creating Authentic Pet Portraits, and how to take great photos of four-legged (or winged) family members.

Listen to PhotoActive, Episode 46: Pet Photography with Norah Levine.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at the PhotoActive website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @PhotoActiveCast to keep up to date with new episodes, and join our Facebook group to chat with other listeners and participate in photo challenges and more.