software

How to photograph the Aurora Borealis

This year (2013-2014) is a good time for seeing the Aurora Borealis (and its lesser-known Southern twin, the Aurora Australis) – commonly known as the Northern- and Southern Lights. I have my heart set on seeing the Lights with my own eyes in the coming year, so in this post I’d like to talk about how one can best prepare for capturing this natural wonder.

A friend, Bart Vastenhouw, travelled to the region of Varanger in Norway to see and photograph the lights. Here is one of the photographs he came back with:Aurora at Varanger

Bart captured this beautiful scene using a Canon 40D and Canon 10-22mm F3.5-4.5 wide-angle lens. The 40D was a good camera, but these days there are better ones to choose from. The lens is decent too, but for best results you’d want a wide angle with larger aperture (F2.8 or faster).

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How to batch separate & crop multiple scanned photos

In this post I’ll show you two ways in which you can automatically split a (collection of) scanned pages, each containing several photos, into individual image files. My experience is that for this GIMP works better than Photoshop, and as an added bonus: it’s free!

Caveat: The GIMP script will work only on Windows computers due to its dependence on deskew.exe. If an Apple user can suggest a workaround, I’ll be happy to hear it!

[2013-05-16 Update: the GIMP script can now handle TIF files as well]
[2014-10-02 Handles reading .tiff and .jpeg extensions too. Output dpi set to 600.]

AutoSplit_Gimp_Photoshop

Just like you, I also have old photo albums at home. Albums with family photographs, glued to paperboard pages. And you also probably want to have them in digital format – e.g. to share with family members, to protect them from degradation and loss, or just for your digital library.

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Adobe Lightroom 4.2 is released; supports new cameras incl. Nikon D600

Work these last few weeks was crazy, and I have yet to tell you about my experiences with the Nikon D600, of which I am now a very satisfied owner.

But since I got this camera, two weeks ago, a major thorn in my side was the official lack of support for it in Adobe Lightroom, my main photo editing / workflow software. It was possible to get around this by tricking Lightroom into thinking the images came from a D800, but this was a schlep and no ideal way to deal with it.

Since yesterday, Lightroom 4.2 is available, and adds supports for 22 new cameras, including the following important mainstream models such as:

  • Canon EOS 650D / Rebel T4i
  • Canon EOS M
  • Nikon 1 J2
  • Nikon D600*
  • Panasonic DMC-LX7
  • Pentax K-30
  • Sony Alpha NEX-5R
  • Sony Alpha NEX-6
  • Sony Alpha SLT-A99V

* Nikon claims that D600 support is preliminary, meaning that there might be small inaccuracies in e.g. white balance that need to be corrected manually.

Endorsement:
If you’re still undecided and know that you could use it, yes: I can definitely recommend buying Lightroom. The amount of time it has saved me is worth much more than its cost. Currently retailing at $130 it is cheaper than almost any DSLR lens, and it will add more to the quality of your photo’s than a lens of that price. There are freeware alternatives out there, and I’ve used many of them. In the end I prefer using a single and reliable piece of software over many loose and vendor-specific tools.
You can support this site by ordering it now via this link:
Adobe Lightroom 4 for $129.95 (via B&H)

Find your stolen camera online!

If you ever had a digital camera stolen (I have) you know how disruptive and frustrating it is. And in the worst case you may lose valuable photographs, making the loss all the more upsetting!

Did you know that most modern digital cameras store the camera’s serial number in every photo? This digital fingerprint is called the EXIF data, and accompanies every RAW or JPG file that comes out of your camera. While easy to modify or remove, most people don’t ever tamper with this data. Not even camera thieves.

Today I came across a website that can examine a photo taken with your camera before it was stolen, and then search the internet for photo’s taken with it. So if the camera thief or an unsuspecting new owner uploaded any photos with your camera you might be able to track it down!

Visit stolencamerafinder (http://www.stolencamerafinder.com/) to see for yourself. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find any photos taken with either my or my girlfriend’s stolen cameras online, but maybe your results will be better. Give it a try!

Flickr to update interface

Venerable photo-sharing site Flickr is reported to be on the verge of its most drastic (and long-overdue) redesign in many years. Tech website BetaBeat just reported that Flickr is adopting a new interface that will look more like Google+, and less like a whitespace-and-text-filled website from the 90s. The new look is set to be introduced on February 28th, with the uploader coming in March.

I’m a Flickr user myself and still find their moderate pricing combined with unlimited storage a killer feature. Furthermore their focus has always remained on making photography accessible and not social networking (I hope this doesn’t change). And they offer some pretty neat online photo editing via Picnik. Not to mention powerful privacy filters. But…

Unfortunately the website is a clunky dinosaur. When I have to share photographs of an event, and I want customers to view and download the photographs Flickr was always a bad choice. To download a photograph at full resolution you have to go through at least 3 click (or right-click) actions – each of them being slow. And the interface in general looks (and is) straight out of the last century. It’s probably telling that parent company Yahoo is still battling to get out of its downward spiral (having led to them to fire their CEO last year).

But things are apparently about to change, and I think that Flickr can still save itself. Despite the many other photo sharing sites Flickr still has a uniquely powerful name that is almost universally recognized. Probably their strongest competition, Google’s Picasa Webalbums and/or Google+ doesn’t offer unlimited storage, and is still too entangled in other services and afflicted by a niche/nerd image.

Thus – looking forward to the upcoming change!

Firmware update for the Nikon D5100 and D7000

Yesterday, Nikon has released new firmware for their D5100 and D7000 DSLRs. Since they were launched this is the first update for the D5100 and the third update for the D7000, and correct a couple of very minor issues.

If you own any of these and are happy with the way your camera works you may safely ignore the update.

Not sure whether you should upgrade or don’t know what firmware is? Then read this. Personally I own a D7000 and yes, I will upgrade mine. If you also wish to stay at the cutting edge and upgrade you can

Don’t know how to upgrade the firmware? You can read the official instructions on Nikon’s site (see download links above), or just watch Jared Polin’s informal and verbose video – see below.

To be honest Jared can really benefit by ranting less and keeping it shorter. But at least you now know how this works!

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Interested in any of these cameras? Support this site by ordering from B&H photo.