Saturday, May 15, 2010

Nik Summit – Day 1


Color Efex: Graduated Neutral Density, Polarization Filters, Tonal Contrast & Contrast Only

Friday morning we started early by leaving the hotel at 6:30 AM to go to Cabrillo National Monument (specifically the Lighthouse, Monument, and Tidal Pools) where our mob of 250 people were split among some of the photography leaders including Rick Sammon, Tony Sweet, Laurie Shupp and Vincent Versace.

Tony Sweet 

Vincent Versace 

It wasn’t a sunrise event, but it was plenty early for me! I initially started with Tony Sweet as my group leader, but then I switched to Vincent Versace and then ultimately ended up with Rick Sammon. All of the instructors were good guys who were willing to answer questions, but Rick went to the next level by giving instructions and teaching techniques rather than letting people come to him with questions – or watching them do the same type of shooting (mistakes) as they always do. For this reason, day 1 definitely goes to Rick Sammon as the best of the best for a photo walk of this nature.

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Tide Pools from Above
Color Efex: Tonal Contrast, Pro Contrast, & Skylight

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A sea of photographers at the tide pools 
Color Efex: Graduated Neutral Density, Tonal Contrast,
Polarization & Skylight

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 Color Efex: Graduated Neutral Density and Polarization Filters

No, I didn't misfocus - Hell has frozen over - I've done an intentionally blurry shot of the lighthouse and focused on the rocks
Getting down low and enjoying the rock textures
Color Efex: Graduated Neutral Density and Polarization Filters

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The Model
Color Efex: Tonal Contrast

Surfers at The Tide Pools

Living in the Seattle area means that I don’t have much access to surfers (at least I’m not aware of any), so while out at the Tide Pools I had the opportunity to enjoy photographing some surfers. All of these photos were processed using Nik Sofware’s Color Efex using the Tonal Contrast to bring out the detail in the splashing water and waves and then the Polarization filter to bring a little more pop back to the skin. I used the Canon 1D Mark IV with a 70-200 f/2.8L IS II USM lens and simply cropped the huge images down to a 2400+ pixel wide image to get me the zoom I needed for these guys who were roughly a football field away.

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90 Degrees

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Hang On 

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Surfer Dude 

Old Town San Diego


Our visit to Old Town San Diego was way too short as we basically had time to eat lunch and get back on the bus. It was unfortunate too as there were tons of colors and things to see there. I did manage to snap one shot (above) on my way back to the bus, but there was so much more to see. Hopefully next time Nik will have more time on the schedule for Old Town!

One of the things I discovered when writing this trip report is that I’ve been so busy that when I had a chance to relax that I forgot to take some pictures when I should have been shooting. One of those occasions was my lunch with Rick Sammon at a local Mexican Restaurant in Old Town.

Canon Explorer of Light - Rick Sammon was always
on hand to answer questions

Hands on Lab

The lab was sponsored by Apple so there were a handful of MacBook Pro’s. It was clear this event was geared towards Nikon shooters and Mac users, despite the fact that there were nearly as many Canon shooters on hand (although I’m unsure about the number of PC users). Josh Haftel of Nik Software also confirmed that roughly 50% of their sales were for the Mac version of their products, so despite Apple only holding a meager 5% operating system market share, they are king of the hill at this conference where it seemed that PC’s were too uncool for words. :-) There were also plenty of attendees with their new iPads and buzz about these new devices was very high throughout the day. Apple was also on hand doing a Aperture 3 demo where they showed how far it’s come along to get parity with Lightroom 2.x, and surpasses it (i.e., non-destructive video edits, and way better zoom feature).

Digital Workflow by Rob Sheppard

Former editor of Outdoor Photographer magazine, Rob Sheppard (and, discussed his digital workflow. His mantra was “shoot it right” . and he made a claim that he can always tell a shot that was shot with AWB. I wasn’t a big fan of his speech because a lot of his recommendations are clearly outdated and not really necessary. For example, he cares a lot about file system organization for his files, but with tools like Lightroom it doesn’t matter what your disk structure is – Lightroom takes care of those details for you. Now, there’s no harm in doing file system level organization (in fact, at a basic level I do too), but I kept hearing a lot of things that were classic recommendations 4 or 5 years back but not really as applicable today (i.e., the AWB comment above). Ultimately I got bored and walked out, but much to my surprise there was another session going on that was not to be missed!

Advanced Portrait Retouching by Janice Wendt of Nik Software

This was by far the highlight of the day. Sadly it ran concurrent to the Digital Workflow session so I had to miss the first half.

During this session Janice showed her guru skills with Nik Software products that made even a heavy Nik Software user like myself hurry to scratch down as many notes as possible. This woman has mad Nik Software skills and did some amazing work in a big hurry. If you ever get a chance to see Janice in action, jump on it – you’ll be amazed at what she can do and how fast she can do it. She’ll also show you how the filters that you thought were useless in Color Efex can be used to do wonderful things that you could never imagine. Stay tuned for a future blog on this topic!

State of the Industry Panel (Paul Hurter, Rob Sheppard, Manuel Willie, Douglas Dubler, Vincent Versace, Chris Robinson)

Nik Software’s Tony Corbell asked questions to a panel of industry experts on a variety of topics. This was an interesting discussion that gave us a peek into what these photography gurus think will be going on in our industry moving forward.  Here are some random comments I managed to jot down from this session:

  • Camera companies need to stop coming out with higher megapixel cameras and focus on the quality of pixels. Rob Sheppard was especially frustrated that the G11 sales declined due Canon’s decision to offer fewer quality megapixels over what he claimed were inferior G9 & G10 bodies (based on image quality). He also cited how the 50D was inferior to 40D.
  • Workflow is the next big problem to solve – from image to exposure. Lightroom better way to go than Capture NX2, but there’s no substitute for Capture NX2’s – RAW handling & U-Point technology. – Vincent Versace
  • A recent industry report stated that an estimated 300 billion photographs were never monetized (i.e., not printed, etc…). Vincent Versace claims that although less than 1% of his images gets printed – but he makes much better prints now than in the film days.
  • Range Finder has said that print making will go down
  • iPad a big deal – and connected living rooms especially for displaying photos that tell stories
What are the jewels of Digital Photography over Film?
  • I can direct viewers attention (selected focus, lighting a specific area, etc…) – Tony Corbell
  • ProPhoto RGB is a brilliant color space – Paul & Douglas
  • Douglas – I can go from Inspiration to Execution to Observation with no interruption (film you had to wait for observation). The workflow can now be continuous & unbroken.
  • Rob – I can translate traditional darkroom techniques to color (because color sucked so bad in the darkroom compared to black and white)
  • Manuel – I can experiment more and spend less with more control  (“free exposures” – shoot & learn)
  • Vincent – I spent $9000 year on Polaroid yet a $5000 camera saved me money and I can make a huge print. Now we are only limited by our imagination.
  • Chris – Experimentation. I always felt tense with film (worrying the film would be damaged before successfully printed). Now he is happy to experiment with underwater photography.
What’s Next – where are we going? More video?
  • Paul Hurter – 3D photography and visors
  • Rob – Video is a great example - you can’t predict – it was an afterthought that took the world by storm
  • Manuel – Technologies in development like Focus after the shot
  • Douglas – iPad gives more flexibility  – take technology and think outside the box
  • Vincent – Laptop going away – the iPad is the UI of humanity – digital still capture (video and pull still frames out), and the advancement of workflow
  • Chris – I don’t know – who could have predicted where we are now?

Robert Beck of Sports Illustrated Keynote

Robert showed a bunch of cool images and briefly discussed gear, but didn’t really educate the audience. There wasn’t much about the details of how the shots were captured (i.e., camera settings were rarely discussed) so it was basically a slide show of his best recent sports photos. He has some amazing work so it was fun to see, but not as informative as I hope it would be.


Pushing it from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM (although activities were still going until 11:30 PM) was tough. There wasn’t much in the way of breaks, so after one day I’m pretty exhausted. It was  great because I experienced a lot, and beginners learned a ton, but a little less aggressive schedule would have been a welcome improvement. the Nik staff acknowledged that they are learning a lot from this first session so that they can do things better next time. We have another big day on Saturday so I’ll be a dead man by the time I go home on Sunday (sadly at 6:00 AM!!!).

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Tsweet said...

OUtstanding Blog post, Ron!
I hope you had a good time, and I agree, a little more down time would've been nice.
All the best,
Tony said...

Thanks Tony - it's an honor to have you stop by and comment. Thanks for your time answering questions and participating in what I think was a very successful event.

I'm working on the day 2 post now.

SUPERMHR said...

i was getting depressed while watching your pictures and asking myself: is the ANY Canon shooter? well EXCEPT you and rick of course. until you mentioned later in the text.
despite the fact that you mentioned, i dont get why everything is PC based in the world, but when it comes to graphics and photography...BOOM: Windows version TBA, Windows Compatibility problems, Mac sponsored events, Kelby Media!!!
you are now literally IN the community. could you find out why?!

tony sweet said...

no problem, Ron, I appreciate the mention and link.
Here's a link to the "little planet" technique:

I've tried on less than 360 pans and matching the skies can be difficult to impossible. If you don't have the really right stuff panning head, I think it's essential for panning. If you order from them, I"d appreciate it if you'd drop my name.

Janice Wendt said...

Wow! Thank you for the great post, Ron. Loved meeting you at the Summit. We will take note to have more down time next year.
It was fun to meet and work with so many amzing photographers of all levels.
Take care,