Friday, October 28, 2016

After a really long wait - the new MacBook Pro laptops are here!

I have been using the same MacBook Pro now since before the London Olympics in 2012 and waiting anxiously for a newer faster model to become available. Well...yesterday that time came, and the new model looks great!
Here are my main reasons for wanting a new laptop:

* Processing power - As most of you know, I am all about workflow and the speed at which I can download and retouch my photos. Let's face it, even if I am not under Olympic deadlines, I am still trying to work as efficiently as possible. And as we all know, time is money.

* Smaller and lighter - I carry my laptop all over the world and already have enough weight with cameras and lenses. If I can get a thinner and lighter laptop, I am really happy. In the past, I have had people suggest that I get a MacBook Air, but the Air does not have the 15" screen size, SSD capacity or processing power that I desire.

* Better screen quality - Let's face it, the quality of the screen is vitally important to photographers. Even with the retina display on my older MacBook Pro, I found it difficult to retouch images on the screen as compared to my 32" 4K monitor at home.

* Faster I/O - It seems that a day does not go by without me finding myself downloading images from a memory card or transferring a lot of data to an external device. I want the fastest data ports available so that this process can be as fast as possible.

* Longer battery life - I spend way too much time on airplanes, and really want to have longer battery life on my laptop. I fly United Airlines all the time, and I really hate that they have hidden the A/C plug under the seats. Not only do I have to become a human pretzel to plug in my laptop, but the cord is constantly tangling in my feet. I would love to fly coast-to-coast without worrying about my battery life.

The new MacBook Pro has addressed all of these with the following enhancements:

* A new 2.9Ghz quad-core i7 processor for really fast computing power.
* The laptop is now 17% thinner and a half pound lighter.
* The new screen is 67% brighter, with 25% more color gamut and higher contrast ratio.
* The new MacBook Pro comes with four Thunderbolt 3 ports, with each port able to be a power port, display port, USB port and more. Love that! Yeah - I will need new connector cables, but I am OK with that. I love the idea of being able to plug in the power to the MacBook Pro in any of the four ports, and on either side of the machine. Simple, yet effective!
* The new laptop now has up to 10 hours of battery life. I am not sure how much battery life I will get if I am hammering on Photoshop nonstop, but even if I can get 6 hours of battery life, I will be happy with that.

The new MacBook Pro has addressed all of these issues and added a couple other nice enhancements. Most notably, the new Touch Bar. The Touch Bar is a really innovative way to replace the antiquated function keys with a high res, color, and touch sensitive strip which applications can customize. I love this idea. What excites me most about the Touch Bar is the thought of Adobe Photoshop showing me options depending on what tool I am using at the time. That should be awesome!

There are some other enhancements, which are less important to me, but still welcome:

* A large trackpad, which might make retouching a bit easier
* Better speakers, which might make my hotel neighbors even more irritated. :)
* A more responsive keyboard. This never bothered me in the past, but newer should be better, so...
* It can drive multiple 5K monitors. I may use this, but not sure yet.
* A finger print reader for easier login and for making purchases online.

They have many options when ordering the new laptops. They come in the older silver color and a new Space Grey color. I like the new color best. As I mentioned earlier, I prefer the 15" version, since I find the 13" display too small to work on effectively. I like the 1TB SSD size. Sure...the 2TB version would be awesome but Apple wants way too much more for this option. I am upgrading to the faster 2.9Ghz processor.

Here are the current options at B&H.

There are many times when new products are announced and I have to think long and hard about whether or not I am going to invest in the new technology. Not this time. I have already ordered my new machine!!!


And also, remember that you and your friends can enter your email address at the top right of this blog to get an email any time I write a new blog post or send my monthly newsletter.

If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

If you own a Canon printer, I would wait to update to the new Sierra Mac operating system

Last week I decided to upgrade the operating system of my main editing Mac to the latest Mac OS Sierra (10.12). Each time I do this, I cross my fingers and hope that I am on the leading edge and not the bleeding edge of technology.

All of my applications seem to be running just fine, but when I went to print an image on my Canon Pro-1000, I could tell that something was not right. All of my paper profiles were missing. I called Canon tech support (which has consistently been amazing) and they told me that Apple has made some pretty major changes to the print driver pieces of the OS and that they do not have updated printer drivers yet.

Luckily, I have two other Macs in my house, that have not been upgraded to Mac OS Sierra, so I am able to print from them. This is a bit of a pain, having to move images from my main system to another Mac in order to print, but at least it works. But if you own just about any Canon printer, and have not updated your Mac OS yet, I would recommend waiting for a little bit so that Canon can finish developing their new drivers.

I hope this helps some of you Mac people out there.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Photographing fall colors in the California Sierras and Mammoth Lakes

Yikes! It has been two weeks since my last blog post. Sorry about that everyone. I promise you I was not slacking, I just have been shooting so much lately that I have not had time to sit down and write. the last blog post was all about the Canon 5D Mark IV and this blog post includes all photos taken with the new camera.

Early last week, I did take 4 days away from work to head to Mammoth, CA for a little rest and to celebrate my birthday. Some people might think that taking time off from my photo business, means that I put my camera down for those days and don't think about photography. But for me, it is just the opposite. One of the ways that I relax, is slowing down and taking photos just for the love of it. This is exactly what I did on this last trip.

I was driving with my wife and my mother-in-law and as we made our drive through the Lake Tahoe area we saw our first bit of fall color. We stopped and i grabbed the 5D Mark IV. I only brought a couple of lenses with me on this trip, and ended up using the Canon 28-300mm for almost every photo. I like that this lens gives me so many focal range options in one lens. For this first photo, I walked to a position where this rock would be in the foreground of my image. Even thought the mix of green and yellow trees was my subject, I wanted to include more in my image than just the trees. By moving to this position, I had a strong foreground, middle ground and background (skies).

As we continued driving, we came across numerous other spots of color. I liked this cluster of trees with the Sierras in the background.

This area had a large cluster of fall colors, but I decided to zoom in and isolate just these trees. I liked the way that the one dark green tree popped out amongst all the other lighter trees. I used the rule of thirds to place the dark tree off to the right side of the frame.

As you can see, I like photographing both tight and wide shots. They offer completely different views, but both have their own unique qualities.

Some people might avoid shooting photos which include these barren Aspens trees, but I liked the juxtaposition of the leafless trees and the colorful foliage.

For this photo, I did something completely different. I brought the photo into Google's NIK ColorEfex Pro software and added some effects to bring out the colors in the trees.

On our second day, we were out for a hike when I came across these flowers. They were far enough from the background that I could photograph them showing separation from the tall grass. I zoomed the lens all the way to 300mm and shot this at f/5.6 to have only the flowers in focus.

As I was hiking farther up the McGee Canyon trail, I could not help but be amazed by the scenery. At this point, I put on my Tiffen HT Circular Polarizing filter on the 28-300mm lens to help boost the color in the sky.

The hiking trail took me right up against the trees and I looked up to see the sun coming through the branches. I changed the aperture of the Canon 5D Mark IV to f/18 to give me a starburst effect from the sun. This is a simple shot, but one of my favorites from the trip.

Speaking of favorites, I really love this shot. I had hiked higher along the trail and wanted to get a shot of the colorful tress and mountains in the distance. But I also wanted to have something interesting in the foreground. I saw this patch of flowers off the trail. I went over to the flowers, got down very low and shot this to include all three in one photo. I took this photo at f/13 to have all elements in focus.

The next day, my wife and I decided to visit Devils Postpile and Rainbow Falls. We stopped along the drive to get this photo of the Minarets.

If you have never seen Devils Postpile before, you will be amazed by this site. These are 60 foot high columns of volcanic basalt rock that were naturally formed more than 100,000 years ago. I am amazed, not only by the large wall of columnar rock, but by the mass of rock columns that have broken and fallen to the base of the rock wall.

I climbed up a rock opposite of Devils Postpile to get this more distant view of the formation.

And then we continued the 2.5 mile hike to Rainbow Falls...

We have done this hike a couple of times before, and made it part way there about 6 years ago. Unfortunately, at that time,  I was walking with our large dog and did not see a step down with a rock in the pathway. I rolled my ankle and ended up breaking my right foot. That was the end of that hike. I had to be taken off the path on horseback. That sucked. So this was my redemption hike!

Good news. This time I made it to Rainbow Falls without incident. I carried my Gitzo travel tripod with me so that I could take some slow shutter shots. I set the camera to ISO 100 and an aperture of f/22 to get a shutter speed of 1/4 second (with the polarizing filter turned as dark as I could get it). I started with a wide shot...

...and then zoomed in tight to isolate some of the water falling across the rocks.

We mostly visit Mammoth in winter time for skiing, and it was a really great to see this amazing area in the fall. After shooting the Olympics for a month and then coming home to shoot numerous events in the SF Bay area, it was really nice to get a way and relax for a little bit. It was also fun to take photos strictly for the pleasure of taking them. That is my way of relaxing, and it worked.

If you live somewhere with nice fall colors, make sure to get out and capture some nice photos for yourself!


And also, remember that you and your friends can enter your email address at the top right of this blog to get an email any time I write a new blog post or send my monthly newsletter.

If you are interested in purchasing any camera equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.