Photoholic

Our daughter wrote recently in her blog entry called PHOTOholic “So now I take pictures whenever I can of my family. I am known in my family as the picture nazi.” It reminded me so much of myself. When we had a young family I would constantly be taking pictures. Since it was the days of film I didn’t take nearly as many as I would today with a digital camera, but still enough that people would complain. Ann’s mother would often say “I hate it when you take my picture”. And yet those pictures over the years are one of the main links with the past and each year they increase in worth.

As many, I moved into taking video. But video is a very different animal. It takes a lot more time to edit and it is more difficult to share, more difficult to sort through and throw out way you don’t want. The video tapes sit on the shelf and are almost rarely used, while the still images are viewed frequently. I came to the conclusion that video was a diversion and for the most part stopped using that format so I could focus on still images. The videos I do create are mostly done with still images anyway.

So Sara, keep on taking those photographs. You can never recover what you did not capture. Your children will grow so fast that you only have one fleeting moment to capture each of them at this stage of their life.

Here are some additional images from our daughter’s blog which clearly demonstrate she has far greater talent than we do in capturing those precious moments:

SISTERS

SIBLINGS

Abigail - 1 week oldEmma - 2 1/2 years old

Peter - 5 years oldAndrew - 7 years old

Sharing Photos on the Web

Three Approaches to Photo Sharing

There are basically three approaches to sharing your photos online. You can upload your photos to a online photo sharing service, you can create your own galleries to be loaded onto your own website, or you might sign up for a blogging service and create a photo blog.

For the first category there are many options, both free and fee based. One of the most popular photo service is Flickr, operated by Yahoo. It offers free, but limited accounts and is supported by many programs. My only comment about Flickr is that I find it to be difficult to view images on it and does not have the best user interface. Personally I prefer the offering from SmugMug, which charges an annual fee but offers unlimited photo uploads.

If you would rather post your photos on your own website there are many tools that allow you to create galleries of your photos. What tool you might use depends on how you manage your photos on your computer. This artile is written for those who use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. If you use a Mac and the iPhoto program, I will write about those options in a seperate article.

If you wish to create a photo blog then you have the option of either installing blogging software, such as WordPress, on your own webiste or sign up for a free blog account at a place such as blogspot, operated by Google. This article is created on my own website using the WordPress software. I will not be covering photo blogs futher in this article but will focus on the online photo sharing sites and creating your own photo gallery for hosting on your own site.

Previously I wrote about the Web feature in Lightroom and how easy it is to create a web gallery. I decided to also try a program that I had used previously, JAlbum, and compare those two approaches with what I usually use, SmugMug.

I should also note that I shoot all my photos in RAW. I previously wrote about why you should shoot in RAW. The reason I mentioned this aspect is that any photos that are placed on a website need to be converted to another format, such as JPEG, before they are posted. That step has some bearing on the effort required to build a web gallery using Lightroom with RAW images.

Let’s start with the common things. I use Lightroom to import the photos and do some post processing. Some things I use Adobe Photoshop CS3 for, but in all cases, I am also using Lightroom for managing my photo library. Lightroom has some nice features to help you sort out which photos you wan to use, including marking a photo as a pick, assigning a rating, or creating a quick set.

Once I have the group of photos I want to publish to a website, then the different methods I could use include the following.

Online Photo Gallery

The simplest approach is to upload your photos to one of the online photo services. There are several advantages of using an online photo gallery:

  • No need to have a website
  • Offsite backup of your photos
  • Easy access since such sites have built in navigation to select you individual galleries and to navigate wthin each gallery
  • Easy sharing of images in items such as blogs or email.
  • Visitors can not only view your photos but can order prints if you allow them to.

I have an account with SmugMug which allows me unlimitted uploads. There are also free services including the popular Flickr as well as many other services. There is a Lightroom plugin that works with SmugMug. So all I need to do in Lightroom is to exported my images directly to SmugMug. See the dialog box below on who that is done.

The process handles any temporary conversion to JPEG files, using my Lightroom post processing, before uploading. Inside the dialog box I can create the album where to put the photos. Like othere services such as Flickr, SmugMug handles all the gallery creation and menuing system. So in a matter of less than a minute I am finished and can go walk away while the images are uploaded.

You Own Hosted Photo Gallery

Some do not want to use a online photo sharing site and would prefer to host on thier own webstie. There are some advantages to this approach including:

  • You can use your own identify
  • Extensive customization can be achieved on the gallery interface

But this approach also has many disadvantages:

  • You must have a website and use some of your disk space.
  • It usually requires several steps to first create the gallery and then upload it
  • It may be difficult to get a link of a particular photo to use in something like an email or blog
  • You have to create some way for users to navigate to your individual galleries, which might mean creating a HTML page with hard coded links.
  • Viewers can not usually order printes and may not be able to download the images, even if you want them to be able to.

Lightroom Generated Gallery

As I previously mentioned Ligthroom has a Web feature. This is also simple to use because once I have the photos selected, Ligthroom will create all the files needed for an online gallery, including JPEG files with the post processing, and the navigation for the website, and then upload them using FTP to my personal website.

There are limited templates to pick from and that galleries are rather straightforward. It takes a bit of extra effort compared with SmugMug, but when I am finished I have a stand alone gallery. It is not tied in with my other galleries so I would need to have my own index page I would need to edit so others can find my photos.

JAlbum Generated Gallery

The last method is the most time consuming and in many ways the one with the least desirable results. JAlubm is a free and excellent program. Because it is an open source program, developers have written many templates to choose from. I just picked one that came with the program. Starting with my selected photos in Ligthroom I had to first export the images to a JPEG file, saving them in a temporary location on my hard drive. I then needed to start JAlbum and import those same images. Creating the gallery is rather straightforward and once I am done the program will even FTP them to my website. But as was true with the Ligthroom created gallery, I end up with a stand alone gallery and it would be up to me to create some index page so people could find the gallery

Click on the links below to see how each gallery looks, all using the same group of photos.

Method
Ease of Use
Integrated Gallery
Photo Sharing Tools
End Result
SmugMug Excellent Yes, SmugMug handles all navigation Excellent, using in blogs, slideshows, ligthbox Excellent, well integrated with other galleries
Lightroom Gallery Very Good No, stand alone gallery Limited Very good, but limited templates
JAlbum Good No, stand alone gallery Limited Great selection of templates but many are quirky.

So when I look at what SmugMug offers me the easiest path to publishing my photos and provides a lot of other support such as the menuing system and ways to share individual photos in things such as a blog. So that is what I will continue to use. For those occasions where I feel the need to place a gallery on my own website I will use the Web feature in Lightroom.

Photographing Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake was formed by a volcano and is the deepest lake in the United States. It has not water inflow or outflow so the water in the lake is only from the local snow fall. It is one of the clearest water bodies anywhere and the deep blue from the depth of the water. The picture above is a merge of 3 photos. Click on it to see it enlarged.

Ann and Franz at Crater Lake

This was our first time to visit this National Park. It was less than a two hour drive from Medford. We arrived in the morning and took some pictures from the area near the Crater Lake Lodge.   Ann was shooting with her Nikon D70 with 18-70 mm Nikon lens and Franz with his Nikon D300, using both a 18-200 mm Nikor lens as well as some Nikkor prime lenses.

Ann at Crater LakeFranz

All the photographs were processed through Adobe Lightroom.  Little changes were needed however.  Only Photoshop CS3 was used for the photomerge at the top.

Nikon D300, 22 mm lens, ISO 200

Crater Lake

Nikon D300, 24 mm prime lens, ISO 200

Nikon D300, 18 mm, ISO 200

Crater Lake

Nikon D70, 70 mm, ISO 400

Crater Lake

To see how well the Nikon 18-200 mm lens did compared with the 24 mm prime, I have added two photos of each into one image. Click on the image below to view enlarge so you can compare.

This may not be a good way to evaluate since the scene is different and each had a different post processing.  In any case when I do a 1:1 image, the both look equally good.  If you need a highly enlarged and identical images to see a difference, maybe that difference is not so important in the first place.

We then got on our bikes and started to bike around the lake. Franz carried the Nikon D70 on a backpack so we could take some photos from different locations.  He started out trying to take it in a simple case but that did not work since it would swing to the front when leaning over to pedal so he returned to the car and took his LowePro Sling 200. That bag is a bit large to carry a single camera but it worked, but not ideally.  To carry a DSLR on a bike, a back pack is best, preferable one made for biking such as the Camel Bak bags.

Franz

The LowePro Sling 200 has the stability strap (you can see hanging in the photo below) to keep it from swinging to the front but it was still too much on one side to cycle easily with.

We ended up going half way around the lake but had to turn back because the rim drive road was closed at some point due to snow. Can you believe, snow in July!

On the drive back to Medford we stopped at the Rouge gorge to take a few more pictures. It is hard to capture water falls.  Franz put on a 24 mm prime lens that would stop down to f22 and he set the D300 to shoot at the lowest ISO setting.  Setting the camera to shoot in Aperature Priority mode still resulted in a shutter speed that was too fast to blur the water.  A neutral density filter would be needed. Also brining more than a table top tripod would certainly have helped.  But since that was all he had, he proped the table top tripod on the top of the fence as you can see below.

Ann just balanced her Nikon D70 on the fence post.

We had a great time and hope to visit Crater Lake National Park again. You can see all our pictures at our SmugMug Gallery by clicking here .

Adobe Lightroom Web Feature

I was reviewing this tutorial from the Digital Photography Connection about the Web panel in Adobe Photoshop Ligthroom and wanted to give it a try.  I had just taken about 15 shots of our new one week old grandchild and the other grandchildren and thought they would be some good photos to use to create a web gallery.

I usually post my photos to a SmugMug account I have and able to do that directly from Lightroom.  But I liked the idea of creating my own web gallery.  I first did some quick processing of the photos using  Lightroom and then created a web gallery which I have posted here.

There are several templates you can select from.  I picked a Flash based one.  You can change all the titles, and the colors of the templates, saving those chagnes if you wish.  This template allows you to view individual pictures or run a slide show.

This again shows the power of Lightroom.  From the initial step of importing the photos from the camera, through post processing, to creating a web gallery, I was able to do all the steps right from within Lightroom.

I have used other software to create web galleries, such as the well done program JAlbum. Since I shoot in RAW and did some post processing.  To use a program like JAlbum I would need to use Lightroom to export all the photos with the changes I had made to JPEG files first.  I would then need to start up Jalbum and import those JPEG files.

By using Lightroom to create the web gallery, there was no need to export the photos as JPEG files and then reimport them.  That was all handled by the Web feature in Lightroom.  Looking at the files, I see it created various sizes of each photo, Large (980×650), Medium (780×520) and Small (678×450) along with thumbnails.  It also created the index.html file, the javascript files and a flash file.

Nikon D700 – Where it fits

Nikon has released a new full frame (FX) digital SLR named the D700.  In a simplified way you could think of it as a D3 sensor in a D300 body.  Until the D3 was released, all Nikon digital SLR were based on a DX sensor size with a crop factor of abotu 1.5.  The D700 is the second DSLR from Nikon that offers a sensor the same size as 35 mm film so that a lens will have the same field of view as it did on a film camera.

But where does this new model fit into the lineup.  As you can see from this chart, it is significantly more expensive than the highly rated D300 while also being signficantly less expensive than the D3.  As one would expect, the price point increases rapidly as the model moves toward the pro level.  One could argue that the best camera, strictly from a price point, is the D300.  Above that model, the price increases rapidly.