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Just North Of Middle-Earth

So last week I shared a few before and after images to help new photographers understand the power of the digital darkroom. The images I shared were what I would call classic photography. I did some basic contrast and color enhancements. In today’s image, I went ‘HOG WILD’ and had some serious fun. I used all sorts of tricks from the onOneSoftware bag including lots of textures. I was after that ‘Hobbit Vibe’. Here’s the before image. I know it’s not for everyone, but I dug it. As an artists, I guess that’s what ultimately counts. If you dig it, remember you can always click on the image to get the larger version (make sure to click the X3 size) to use as your daily desktop.

Here’s the image straight out of the camera…..

Quick Question, I would love to hear your thoughts! What are your feelings about the digital darkroom? Do you see it as an place to experiment and try different things or do you prefer a more classic approach to image processing. There’s no right answer, I’m just curious what everyone’s aesthetic preference is?


I absolutely love making movies. I just wish they didn’t take so darn long to produce. The shooting alone takes a great deal of time. Then the editing, writing and recording the music, and finally piecing it all together. This movie was in the works for 6 months. I’m sure I could have finished it faster if I focused on it, but I still like to bring you some levity during the week.

Thankfully I don’t have any ‘high power studio execs’ financing my movies, no way would they have let me produce an experimental, lo-fi, super high contrast movie backed by a space-rodeo-symphony soundtrack. I love the freedom of only having to answer to my creative self. However, I wouldn’t mind the box office rewards that come along with blockbuster movies. Until I’m approached by Hollywood to direct the next Transformers, I’m going to maintain my ‘indie filmmaker’ status. We will cross the one billion dollar bridge when we come to it!

About the movie – I’m a bit like Edward Burns in the fact I make my movies on a shoestring budget. I probably differ from him in the fact that I have to…for me, there is no other budget. He made Newlyweds for $9000 in 12 days…yep, you read that right!

  • I shot it over the course of 9 days in San Francisco.
  • I used Lightroom to compile the time lapse sequences. I could have used TimeLapse Assembler for a small donation.
  • iMovie (Free w/ a MAC) to edit it.
  • I recorded the music on Garage Band (Free w/ a MAC)
  • I shot it with a used and rather inexpensive Nikon D5100 and Nikon 16-85 VR lens

Want proof that you can make a great movie for under $10k? Get Edward Burns’ ‘Newlyweds’ here.


The American Cowboy – Part I


Meet Doug! When Doug fills out his taxes, he puts ‘Cowboy’ down as his occupation. Over the next week I hope to tell his story and share a bit about what it means to be an American Cowboy. However, before I begin to tell his story, I thought I would share with you what I did to prepare for this assignment. You just don’t show up to one of the most storied ranches in Colorado with a couple of cameras and hope to learn as you go.


I decided I needed to take a riding lesson. As I looked around for an instructor someone suggested Cliff to me. After Cliff told me he was bucked off a horse, broke his leg in 4 places, and bruised his heart I was pretty sure he was a true Cowboy. When he told me he was 75 when it happened, I knew he was the right guy for the job. We spent an hour riding with Cliff and he did his best to teach us everything we needed to know.

What I Learned From Cliff

  • When you feed a horse a treat, feed it with an open hand. If you try to pinch the food between your index finger and thumb, you might lose your fingers when the horse takes their first bite.
  • If your horse gets away from you, turn it in a circle to quiet it down.
  • Wear leather soled cowboy boots. If you are ever bucked from your horse, you want your foot to slide out of the stirrup. Otherwise, there is a good chance you will get dragged by the horse.
  • A tall horse is a horse that is over 15 & 2 hands high. The horse I rode, Smiley, was a tall horse. There are taller horses.
  • My wife Shauna is a much better rider than myself. Cliff reminded me of this quite a bit.

Cliff’s horse Mack, pictured here, is close to 17 years old and getting ready for retirement. When I asked what retirement had in store for Mack, Cliff said…”I’m going to turn Mack loose on 3000 acres of free range and tell him that he earned it buddy!”. Now that’s a guy who loves his horse.

Gear Decisions

After hearing Cliff’s story, the first thing I did was get a pair of leather soled riding boots. When I showed up at Sheplers in flip-flops and told them I was looking for a pair of boots I could drive a 1000 head of cattle with, they didn’t know what to make of me. I’m pretty sure they thought I was making another ‘City Slickers’. Next I had to make a decision on the most appropriate gear for the story. I knew I was going to be riding a tall horse named Smiley which meant I wasn’t going to be getting on and off that often. A day of mounting/dismounting a horse with all that gear can really hurt their backs. I also knew I was going to be high in the Rocky Mountains, on uneven terrain, pushing cattle for up to 8 hours. All that while making images and trying not to get in the way of the real cowboys. As a photographer I read that as, take a very light and versatile kit. I test rode a few configurations during my riding lesson and came to the conclusion I would carry my Nikon D700 and 28-300 for the single handed versatility (you have to be able to shoot with 1 hand from the top or a horse) and a D5000 with 50mm 1.4 AFS lens for nearby portrait work. I left the 70-200 and 24-70 behind. The cropped sensor with the 50mm 1.4 gave me a nice light weight 75mm portrait lens. I did throw in a 17-35mm that I could use if need be. Oh yeah, no flash! I didn’t want to spook the horses.

After deciding on the gear I was going to be carrying, I decided to use my cycling photography system. Riding on the back of a horse is somewhat like riding on the back of a motorcycle right? The system I use for that is a few Think Thank Skin Components, Think Tank 40 Digital Holster, and Think Tank Belly Dancer Harness. I use the Belly Dancer Harness because you can hike it way up. That way it keeps all your gear in front of you, but you can still sit on a motorcycle, or Smiley in this case. The Digital Holster can easily hold a Pro size DSLR with a long lens. I used the Skin System Double Wide in front to keep a wide angle lens and snacks. The Skin System Chip cage on my left held my D5000 and 50mm 1.4. Also, the thing I like about the Belly Dancer harness is that it lets me comfortably wear a CamelBak hydration system full or 100oz or water, rain gear, and extra food. All in all, it worked perfectly!

That’s Smiley on my left. I hope to see you back here tomorrow as we take a look at what it means to be a Cowboy!

The complete series

Corporate Religion II

Corporate Religion II

Round two of a location I shot earlier this year. However, unlike a previous image, I didn’t include the sky in the composition. Having not included the sky, I wanted to emphasize the contrast between the office building and church. To achieve the contrast I was looking for, I made a selection out of the church in the foreground and used that selection to control a couple adjustments I made using Photoshop and Nik Color Efex Pro. After I made the selection, I was able to apply a slight darkening curve adjustment and moderate desaturation to the office building in the background. I was then able to apply a brightening curve adjustment and Nik Color Effects Pro Tonal Contrast filter to the church to enhance its character. Here is the image as it was fresh out of the Photomatix 4 oven.

Continue for Capture/Processing Notes…

That’s Some Harry Potter S#!t

Harry Potter Sh...

I hope everyone had a great weekend. I was able to get a couple of nice rides in and I think I have the details of the fitness challenged hashed out, so make sure to check out this weeks iPhone Friday when I will announce it. It should be fun, and I hope you decide to participate.

During a slideshow for some friends of our recent trip to Alaska, my buddy exclaimed…”That’s some Harry Potter S#!t!” when he saw this image. It made me laugh, and I thought it was an accurate description. I can’t take credit of this one, it is another image from my wife’s D5000. You can find other images from the flight around the summit of Denali in the series Approaching Denali.

Continue for Capture/Processing Notes…