Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Nik Summit – Final Day Wrap Up


We’ll the Nik Summit is in the books, and overall I’d say it was a great success. My first two reports can be found here:

This report picks up from the next morning, Day 2, of the trip. Those who were able to catch a late flight on the following day were able to go on an additional photo walk that I was unable to attend. In addition, this trip report only covers the events that I attended and had feedback on. There were additional events not mentioned in this report, so my apologies to those speakers who are not featured here.

Balboa Park with Rick Sammon

Despite exhaustion, our group showed up in force for our 2nd full day of shooting

We all gathered at Balboa Park early in the morning to begin the walk for the next action packed day. I had never been to this park before, so I wasn’t too sure what to expect. It turned out to be a photographers delight which was immediately apparent as we drove up in the busses, and it did not disappoint.

Rick Sammon was a great fatherly figure to these girls who had a blast learning the Sammon Swirl and more
Rick Sammon – it’s like having a loving father with you to teach you how to improve your skills

During the previous day I had noticed that one instructor stood out from the others as being very proactive in educating the attendees in his group, and that was Rick Sammon. Now I’ll make the disclaimer that I never had the chance to follow Laurie Shuppp or Tony Corbell over the weekend, and this isn’t a knock on the other pros on the photo walk. Instead, it is a statement that will help you to understand why Rick Sammon has published so many successful photography books -- it’s clearly because this guy really enjoys sharing his knowledge of photography with others. I share that passion, so we had a great time helping everyone and each other throughout the final day’s events.

I failed at the Sammon Swirl, but I thought this zoom turned out to be a visual treat

The great thing about Rick Sammon during his photo walks is that he isn’t merely there to answer questions or chat with the brown-nosers trying to monopolize his time. Instead he actually makes sure that everyone gets some of his time and teaches them some new technique that puts a smile on their face. One great example of that is his teaching people how to do the Sammon Swirl, which you can see the girls in the picture with Rick earlier always brings lot of smiles, oohs and ahhs. Another fun thing he did was to have one of the girls in our group toss her hair so that everyone could get a chance at getting a shot like this:

Despite the pictures in this article, most attendees were actually well over 30

Everyone left the park laughing, smiling, and sharing their photos with each other as we assembled to go into the San Diego zoo, so I think it i safe to say that Rick Sammon’s morning group was very satisfied.

San Diego Zoo

This big guy didn’t want to come out and pose for us

At the Zoo part of our group (myself included) managed to lose Rick Sammon for a while, so I lead up a subset of our group for a photo walk by the Tigers and other small animals. We had a great time, and I took Rick’s lead and tried to look at the photos that people were taking and help them to improve upon them.

The net result that was by the time we got caught back up with Rick at the pandas, we had a group of people who felt comfortable coming to us both for questions and answers. It also taught me just how much I enjoy teaching aspiring photographers (which is the primary target of this blog), so I hope to get more chances to do that again in the future. Rick and I also got along very well so you may see more collaborations between us in the future. Stay tuned! In the meantime, if you ever get a chance to go on a photo walk with Rick Sammon, I highly recommend it!

I have better panda photos, but I enjoyed this one of this baby sleeping in the tree

Our time at the zoo was too short, so I didn’t get a chance to see the gorilla’s or many other animals I would have enjoyed photographing. However, I was dead tired by the time we had to call it a day, so I was happy to hop on the bus and go back to the hotel. However, in the future I would love to have more time at the zoo (especially on the private back lot tour) and more sunscreen (ouch).

Don’t let those zoo fences spoil your day

In the shot below, do you see that black chain link fence in the back? That nasty fence surrounded the entire cage, yet I just set my lens to f/2.8 and shot through it. The same is true of the Tiger shot earlier, and I mention this because some of the attendees were disappointed with the fence and upset that they “couldn’t get a shot”. I think I got a few shots, and taught them how to do the same, so I remind you to do what you can with what you have rather than give up. I hope you think these examples show that a little fence shouldn’t get in the way and ruin your fun:

After a great day at the zoo it was time to go back to the hotel to enjoy more presentations. The cool air and beverages were a welcome relief after the zoo, but the speakers on the second day were even more exciting than those on the first.

"Concept to Completion" digital workflow – Douglas Dubler

Douglas Dubler 3
Photo by Douglas Dubler
All Rights Reserved

While the photo shoots earlier in the day were certainly a thrill, the highlight of my day was listening to Douglas Dubler discuss his workflow and the display of his amazing huge prints. His “Avatar Beauty” print was a 60” x 44” head shot with amazing color and detail that you could stare at all day long. The fact that he displays his prints on a GTI VPI 52 print inspection station made every detail pop even more, but even being inches away I couldn’t find a flaw. 

During his presentation, Douglas discussed his “nothing but the best” philosophy to capturing photos using the best camera and lighting equipment, the best color space (ProPhoto RGB), his favorite resizing tool (onOne Software’s Genuine Fractals), and his favorite sharpening product (Nik Software’s Sharpener Pro) to create a final image for output on Epson printers.

It was clear that Douglas is a perfectionist that settles for nothing less than the best, and his work shows the fruits of his labor. Each photo displayed was simply breath-taking. As someone who aspires to become a great fashion photographer one day, I have found the new standard to which I will judge my photos. If you share my love of fashion or people photography, then I encourage you to check out his web site at http://www.douglasdubler3.com/ as it is a visual treat. You can also see Douglas’ work on the sample photos page for the Nikon D3x, and Broncolor’s portrait gallery.

I had the pleasure of spending time with Douglas later in the evening to view his private collection on his iPad and I can tell you that his web site only touches the surface of some of the amazing work that he does. For fashion photographers, Douglas’ appearance was worth the price of admission to this great photographic experience. Stay tuned for more about Douglas Dubler 3 on this blog, as I have made arrangements to interview him to learn more about this master photographer.

Joe McNally Keynote

Apologies to Joe for the poor image color and quality here that ruin his brilliant image

For most people attending the NIk Summit, one of the things they were most excited about was listening to photography legend Joe McNally (author of The Moment it Clicks and Hot Shoe Diaries) give a keynote, and he didn’t disappoint. Joe showed off his amazing collection of photos and shared some great stories that both made you laugh and also understand how difficult his career has been. Perhaps the most shocking detail to come out of the presentation is just how poorly National Geographic pays legends like Joe. Go to Joe’s Corporate portfolio at http://portfolio.joemcnally.com/ and take a look at slide 3. To do this amazing shoot Joe shocked the crowed that he was paid only $650, which made every well paid person in the audience wishing to become a photographer swallow a big dose of reality.

Overall Joe’s presentation was everything you’d hope for in a keynote of this type, and he was enough to take photos with everyone despite feeling under the weather. Here’s a shot of him with Vincent Versace (left) and most of the Nik Software team on hand at the Nik Summit:


I’d like to start by disclosing that Nik Software paid for my airline ticket and admission to this event as I’ve been a big fan of their products and my blog has helped to bring them new business. This gave me the opportunity to attend this event in San Diego when I probably wouldn’t have made it. The team at Nik Software let me blend in with the crowd and attend this event the same way you would, and I can say with all honesty that it was very well done.

There was surprisingly little attention placed on Nik Software products in their attempt to avoid making this seem like a big marketing event, but honestly I think they went too far in that extreme. I think some hands on workshops and more time from the wonderful Janice Wendt showing the amazing things you can do with Nik Software products would have been a welcome addition, to her conflicting mini-sessions. In addition, everyone in attendance – including the Nik staff, quickly realized that they tried to do too much in too little time in the attempt to create value. Instead, it just wore everyone out making people so tired in the evenings that it was very hard to enjoy the one on one time with the pros at the fireside chats.


I’ve spoken with the leaders of Nik Software and they are well aware of the concerns I have, and that my concerns are not unique. They share those concerns, and this was their first attempt where they learned a lot. However, I think everyone who attended enjoyed themselves and thought it was a great value.

Another summit is already in the works

I don’t expect the next event to be without its own unique growing pains either, but I am confident from what I saw here that it will be a great success. If you are within driving distance (or a cheap flight) from wherever that next Nik Summit occurs, I’d say it should be a no brainer on your things to do list. If the travel expenses will be significant, then you might want to hold off as I suspect that another event near you will happen at some point in the future.

Kudos to Team Nik for putting Photography First

I’d like to thank team at Nik Software, Tony Sweet, Vincent Versace, Douglas Dubler, and especially Rick Sammon for their time and knowledge that they shared with me at this event. I was pleased to see that every attendee had such great access to these big name pros. It was a great event and one that I would have felt was worth it had I paid my own money for it, so I encourage you to consider doing the same in the future.

About the photos in this article

All of the photos in this article were snapshots (none were staged) taken during the second full day of the Nik Summit using a Canon 1D Mark IV and all but the group shots were taken with the new Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens. The photos were all processed using the Nik Software Complete Collection Ultimate Edition in Adobe Photoshop CS4 on a Lenovo Thinkpad W701ds laptop (W700ds article here) in less than 10 minutes each.

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