Sunday, January 31, 2010

Top Photographers Interview: Trey Ratcliff (HDR & Textures Guru)

Trey Ratcliff

Unless you are from another planet, you know that High Dynamic Range imaging (HDR) is all the rage right now (usually created with Photomatix) . Many consider Trey Ratcliff as the man responsible for its rise from just being an interesting technology to one embraced by legions of Photographers. I first became aware of Trey when my wife was cruising around Flickr and found his Farewell India shot shown below:

When we saw this image we were blown away – it was like WOW, that’s the coolest picture of the Taj Mahal I’ve ever seen!

Many people have that reaction so they quickly try to find out how he does shots like this (which is basically combo of work done in Photomatix, Color Efex, and Adjust with some Photoshop fairy dust using complex masks). Of course when people go off to do they own, they usually create hideous attempts that looks good only to them, but no one else. ;-) I admit that I fell into that camp to so my love affair with HDR came and went, but the legions who follow Trey continues to grow.

In Early November 2009, I had a chance to interview Trey (upon the urging of my co-worker Sean Daniel). After speaking with him for a short time, I quickly discovered that Trey is really great down to Earth guy with a brilliant understanding of color and how the interaction of colors interact with our eyes (inspired by his study of the Impressionists) to create an image that most will find visually pleasing. Of course, my family is from Texas (with my sister living in Trey’s hometown of Austin) so I have a bit of a bias towards my deep South comrades (in a tolerant 21st Century way <g>).

The Interview - Question & Answers with Trey Ratcliff

Here’s some of the questions I’ve been wanting to ask Trey for a while, so I hope you enjoy them. The responses were taken from my cryptic notes, so the responses are not direct quotes but rather my interpretation of what Trey was trying to say (and Trey has had a chance to read this so you can consider him on board with the responses).

What’s the story behind the name stuck in customs?

Well, there are two sources. The first is fear of being stuck in customs as you return to your country. The second is a bit deeper. You get stuck in your own “customs” – and when you see that others do things differently you think they are doing it wrong. There is no wrong for them or right for you, it’s just people’s customs.

There’s a perception from your blog that you are travelling the world all of the time capturing these amazing photos from exotic places. What’s the real story with your travel and how did it all get started?

<chuckles> No, that’s not the way it really is. The post-processing shots are all out of order.

I have a different workflow. I used to be like most people where I would dump photos, process them all, then be done. It was a soft pressure that always hung over me

Now I let the photos sit and marinate for a while, and post-process them at a later time. For example, I went to Cambodia two years ago and still haven’t process the photos. It keeps the audience engaged as you jump from country to country. In addition as you learn new post-processing tricks you can apply them to shots from some of your favorite trips. This technique helps you to get over that guilty feeling. Instead of thinking of it as a pile of work to do, it’s more like a Netflix queue of entertainment to enjoy – it’s just my photo queue. [RON: Personally I LOVED this comment from Trey – this is going to be a major part of my new workflow as well!]

How did you get your photo in the Smithsonian? (or how did they find you)

I entered my first photography contest, sponsored by The Smithsonian. I figured that if you are going to do a contest, then do it for something legitimate! The winning photo, Fireworks over Lake Austin (shown above) is also on the cover of my new book - A World in HDR.

It’s a lot of people’s dream to be paid to travel. Who pays for all of your travel?

My web site does very well. I don't travel for anyone, just for myself. I travel to generate images which I can later license.

On your site, you promise a photo a day, but how long do you usually spend editing a photo to where you can actually deliver on that? Do you just queue some up from time to time so you can deliver them one at a time later?

I sit down on weekend or weeknights, and pull about 30 photos (11 unprocessed Lightroom catalogs) and process them in bulk. Each day I sit in iPhoto and pick one of freshly baked shots to upload to the blog.

Kyoto, Japan’s Bamboo Forest

You have a fantastic sense of color. Scott Kelby's 7 Point System book showed me tricks with LAB color and adjusting the black level of a photo to greatly improve the overall color of the image. Do you have any tips on how to get the rich colors you get?

I have done a lot of study of impressionism. It is one of my hobbies. In fact recently (the days before we spoke), I spent a lot of time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. My favorite is Renoir.

I love the way the colors are mixed together. The impressionists worked with pigments and oil paint to mix light. When mixing colors red and green make brown, but when you mix red and green light it creates a vibrant yellow. I’m also a big fan of Seurat’s pointillism (dots image). It’s interesting to note that much of these older images have lost their punch due to the pigments fading over the years but they were vibrant back then. True light is being the mixture of all of the different colors of lights by the time it hits your eye is fundamental.

What changes do you see ahead for HDR?

I don’t see any major breakthroughs. I’ve tried all the software packages, but I still prefer Photomatix the most . I also give feedback to software companies to help them improve in the future. A BIG step forward will be to predict where the sliders should go – need to differentiate day, night, etc… – because right now the default results aren’t very good. Final steps to remix tone mapped image with the original raw to make it more realistic, would be a big step forward to fix the problems of existing HDR algorithms.

What type of computer do you used to edit your photos?

My currently broken Apple MacBook Pro  (Funny Trivia: Trey did the interview while waiting in line at the Apple store to pick up his repaired computer)

What add-ins do you find most useful beyond those already mentioned on your site?

I like to use Lightroom for image management, Nik Software Dfine for noise reduction as HDR merges will make photos very noisy. I then use HDRSoft Photomatix for the HDR merge and initial processing. I really like Nik Software Color Efex (especially its Tonal Contrast filter as well as its film grains). I love to play with the presets in Topaz Adjust. Beyond that it’s just typical Photoshop layer masks, blending modes, etc…  When I’m done I keep my output images in iPhoto as my Portfolio holder.

The thing about add-ins is that there are many great ones out there, but knowing WHEN and HOW to use them is key! Get a discerning eye so you know the best filter for what you need. It takes time to know which one to use and why. There are plenty of people out there using these great tools in the wrong way.

The Impressionists didn’t mix their own paint – they would use others pigments. We are like modern day impressionists, and these software filters are our purchased pigments. Use them to your advantage.

Is just simply layer masking the real trick behind not having nasty gray skies in HDR images?

Human brain looks at skin differently than anything else so it’s a good case where you need to go back to the original and bring that in and process it differently. Skies are the same way – the brain just looks at it like a sheet of blue when there are no clouds, but there’s a lot of tones in there.

Any piece of gear that comes to mind that will help aspiring HDR photographers improve their chances of getting great results?

A good tripod and a Really Right Stuff head

Who is your favorite Photographer?

Edward Curtis

Where was your favorite place to photograph?


I really enjoyed my talk with Trey. He was a real down to Earth guy that you want to sit down and have a beer with. His talent is for color and his imaginative techniques make him an easy choice for my Top Photographers list. If you follow his work, you can see that it is evolving (like all of us) into something more and more special as each month passes (more so than the rest of us <g>). He’s gone from someone to watch to a Top Photographer in my book, so I look forward to seeing his new images each day on

You can view Trey’s portfolio presentation at

Trey’s Trick – Textures

In addition to the Photoshop plug-in’s mentioned above, Trey has one more trick that set his photos apart from the typical post processing that you or I would do – it’s his use of textures. I love the results he gets using blending modes and layer masks with textures, and as you see in the image above – the result is far more unique, compelling and visually pleasing than what your or I would typically get with our current workflow.

To purchase the same textures Trey uses for his photos, visit his Stuck In Customs site. I have his Ultimate Package and it has some fantastic videos that show you HOW he uses these textures as well as the tricks he’s picked up along the way to get such great images. You really need to get the Ultimate Package because the last two videos to me are more “to the point” and a great reference on how to take an ordinary drab photo and make it amazing (the Yellowstone Forest Bonus video only in the Ultimate Package will blow your mind). In addition, I’ve had some great success with textures only found in that package as I’ve done below:

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after

This was a bad photo that I had marked for deletion, but now it has been saved thanks to these textures and is selling in Europe for enough to pick up a new lens. Hopefully you can see why I’m excited about what texture layers can do for drab images, and how they are a key part of Trey’s digital workflow. If you want to experience the fun of learning this skill and possibly create some amazing work like Trey then the Ultimate Package Textures & Video Tutorial and his ebooks & tutorials are the ticket!

Special Offer


Trey has been kind enough to offer readers of this blog a 15% discount off his textures when you visit the site using this link AND enter the discount code RONMART15 as shown above in the shopping cart when you check out. Here’s a great chance to see some awesome videos of how Trey does his magic on photos that look like what you or I might get (on a good day <g>) and transforms them into something spectacular!


If you make a purchase using links found in this article, I may make a commission. Thank you for supporting the blog!

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

Friday, January 29, 2010

REVIEW: Think Tank Photo Urban Disguise Series Camera Bags

I’m a huge fan of Think Tank Photo bags, so when I thought of what would be the perfect “grab and go” style bag for me, I wasn’t surprised to find out that they had already invented MY IDEA (ha, ha). The solution turned out to be the Urban Disguise Shoulder Bags which met my following requirements:

  • Not a backpack – I like backpacks but when I’m wearing a suit or going out with relatives to a restaurant it feels a bit geeky to have a backpack on. This is where these unique shoulder bags come in handy.
  • Quick access to my camera with the lens attached – I want something where I can just reach in, pull it out, shoot, and then stuff it back in. If I need a piece of gear like a flash, diffuser, or a different lens I want the same quick access. This is where these bags are brilliant!
  • Can hold lots of extra stuff -  Every time I try to put together a small kit of must have things I need to take out when i shoot, I quickly find myself with a bunch of odds and ends (i.e., off camera flash cable, lens cleaner & microfiber, polarizer, extra CF cards, etc…) I need a bag that can hold that, but also anything I might acquire while I’m out (i.e., business cards, letter-size papers, etc…).
  • Comfortable – I’ve mentioned it many times, but I have a very bad back and shoulders. Comfort is key with me, and this strap rocks! In fact, I wish I could put it on my laptop bag and camera!
  • A place to store my keys – I hate digging for my keys, and my pockets end up with lens caps, etc… when I’m out shooting. This has a device to keep my keys within reach
  • Easy to keep things organized – I’m a messy guy, but if I can keep my stuff in an organized way I can be much more effective. I like when everything has its place so if something is going back into the bag, it’s obvious where it should go.
  • Ability to hold my long-lenses – on the cameraI decided that I use my 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM lens so much that I really wanted a way to have it mounted to my 5D Mark II and still be able to whip it out and shoot. However, if I wanted to switch to my 16-35mm or my 24-105mm then I could do that too and have the lens that was off rest nearby without having to reconfigure the bag.

I ended up with a Urban Disguise 50 and as luck would have it, a colleague gave me a Urban Disguise 60. Upon seeing my bag and hearing some of my feedback, a good friend of mine ended up purchasing the Urban Disguise 40. In this article I will discuss the series and what is different  between these bags. I’ll also explain what I would do differently if I was ordering a new bag based on my experiences, and what I really love about my UD50.

Urban Disguise Series

In a nutshell there are 8 different configurations in this series that mostly differ based on size and orientation (i.e., portrait / landscape). The smaller the number, the smaller the bag and the largest bags are designed to hold 10” to 17” laptops depending on the model. Naturally, the bigger the bag the more accessories you can hold as well as the more pockets offered. All feature the primary concept that you’ll insert your camera in the center of the bag (but the dividers are configurable) as shown in the Urban Disguise 10 picture below. This means when you open your bag you can just grab the grip and pull it out and you are shooting – this is what I LOVE about these bags!

Urban Disguise 10

Urban Disguise 40

Urban Disguise 30

Urban Disguise 70

The picture below shows a UD 70 that is jam packed with the camera body upright (but it doesn’t show the support pads very well) as well as extra lenses. I’d never pack my bag like this, but it shows what is possible:

Video Review

It is really hard to describe these bags without seeing them in action, so the best way to do that is just to shoot a video. Let me know if you like this video presentation and I may consider doing it more often in the future. However, if you prefer pictures then let me know that too and I’ll make sure my energy is spent working on that instead:


What’s in my Urban Disguise 50 bag

I carry a lot of stuff in my bag, but it’s never just bursting at the seems. This is why I think I could live with the Urban Disguise 40 because my bag always has extra space and never a laptop. Here’s what I typically carry in it:

My Friend’s Urban Disguise 40 Bag

My friend Eric Kool-Brown was kind enough to let me use his photos of his UD 40 bag. You can see his 5D Mark II with a 24-105mm lens on it, and the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM next to it. He has room on both sides for gear as well – just like my UD 50, but without the laptop compartment and a slightly smaller form factor. This is the bag that I wish I had!

Click for a larger image

Here’s another picture that shows all of the gear he was able to store in this seemingly small bag, and it wasn’t even fully loaded:

The Perfect Photo Walk Bag

I quickly discovered that this was the perfect bag for a photo walk or tourist scenarios (like the Pike Place Market shown above) where you are mixed in with crowds and you might be picking up items along the way. I loved its convenience and the ease at which I could reach in grab my flash, and then return it to the bag to avoid the extra dead weight.


As I allude to in this series, I think I would have been better off not trying to mix my camera bag with my laptop bag. I have a laptop bag that I love (the AI 17 - also made by Think Tank Photo), and I wanted this bag to be small. The UD 50 and 60 ended up being bigger than I wanted, so the UD 40 that my friend purchased was exactly what I wanted. It’s big enough to hold a lot of gear, but small enough to not be too obnoxious when talking the DSLR on a trip to the Space Needle or Pikes Place Market here in Seattle.

NOTE: As of December 21st, 2010, I’ve changed my mind and feel like the Urban Disguise® 50 V2.0 is the best compromise of size and storage needs, so I find myself preferring the 50 to the Urban Disguise 40 v2.0 I also own now.

Here’s a link to a complete list of Urban Disguise Shoulder Bags as well as similar offerings in the shoulder and sling bag category. 

Special Offer

Get a FREE bag when you enter their web site using this link. For more information, read this short article.

How I use my bags

I have a lot of Think Tank Photo bags. Now that I have this UD 50 bag, I do find myself using my backpacks less. However, I wouldn’t live without them. Here’s when and how I use each bag, so you can decide which scenario suits your primary the need most when ordering your bag(s):

Long Distance / Airplane Travel – If I’m going to be away from home, I want a lot of my gear with me. This means the Airport Acceleration bag is coming with me (although I still have yet to try out a roller bag). I like this bag because it can hold a ton of stuff (see the article below) and I can actually wear it for hours without ever getting any back pain. This is critical to me for International flights and for long day events (like the botanical gardens). I also love this bag for remote studio or on-location shoots.

All Day Events – If I’m going to be out all day and hiking a lot, yet I don’t need all of my gear, I’ll generally go for the Glass Taxi or Streetwalker Pro. I’m starting to favor the Streetwalker now because of its greater pocket configuration and depth, but I still love the size of the Glass Taxi – especially when in the stands at a motorsport race.

Sideline Sports / Photojournalism Work – If I’m going to be in crowds with a bunch of other photographers and/or I need to get to my gear quickly without being too bulky then the Modular Components are the ticket for me. They are great for sideline sports, so even if you are just a soccer Mom or a Basketball Dad you’ll appreciate these bags.

My Day Job -  I can’t live without my Artificial Intelligence 17. It’s the BEST laptop bag EVER – PERIOD!

Tourism / Photo Walks / Weddings / Nightclubs– The UD series are my go to bags for this now. I don’t even consider my bags for this anymore, but I might fill my Airport Acceleration with extra gear so I can go out to the car and do a gear swap if I need / want to (hey, I’m a Boy Scout so I am always over prepared).

I recognize that people don’t have the luxury to have so many bags, so hopefully this summary helps you to figure out which bag might be right for you.

No Hassle Returns

One FAQ I get from people is that they want to see these bags in real life, and/or they got a bag and decided it was the wrong one for them. Hey, guess what – no problem! Just order what you think is right, try it out, and if it isn’t for you they’ll take it back! Seriously, see my first TTP article for details about their no non-sense return policy that doesn’t have an end date. Sure, they’d like you to return it in resellable shape, but your happiness is #1 so don’t settle for second best because you can’t see one in real life. If you need more info, feel free to contact me as well. If I can’t help you, I’ll pass your name on to someone at Think Tank Photo who can – there customer service even blows Nordstroms away!

Ron’s Think Tank Photo reviews

Click here for a link to my other Think Tank Photo reviews.

Special Offer

Get a FREE bag when you enter their web site using this link. For more information, read this short article.


I was given a Urban Disguise 50 bag to review for this article and a co-worker gave me a Urban Disguise 60 as a gift for a work related activity. My friend purchased his Urban Disguise 40 without a special offer from this blog. I will get a commission if you use the special offer, so I appreciate your supporting more articles like this on this blog by using it!

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Protect your photos and videos with ioSafe

One of the problems for Photographers right now is the necessity to back up our photos, but the glacial pace (and sometimes great expense – for high speed services online) required to  backup our ever growing image library. I’ve always urged a strategy of offline backup using services like Mozy so that your photos are safe from fire, water, earthquakes, theft, etc… However, a cool company in Auburn, California called ioSafe has created a solution that is a revolutionary new way to protect your sensitive data. The solution is their cleverly designed shells that protect hard drives fire and water damage, and in the case of Solid State Drives (SSD) – even falls, collapsed buildings, bullets, and more!

What’s great about these drives is that they not only have protected the drive physically with a great case, but they’ve thought about problems like cooling (which to be honest most ordinary external drive makers fail to get right thus causing drives to fail), as well as theft (it can be bolted into concrete or metal just like a high-end safe).

Cool videos of IO Safe being tortured

I first learned of this product when I heard about the outrageous demo that they did at CES 2010 showing how indestructible this thing is! While I don’t have that video handy, I do have this demo which is just is good. Here’s some more cool demos:

I trust my Photos on the ioSafe

I trust this drive so much that for 2010, I’m going to store all my incoming photos on the ioSafe Solo. This drive will still be backed up online to Mozy to protect against loss that might occur due to a virus (caught in time), electrical surges, and physical theft (as I have no place where my wife will let me bolt it to the floor). This thing weighs about 10 pounds so you know there’s more than just marking hoopla going on here – this thing is a tank! It also cools well (which was my biggest concern), but it does generate slightly more noise than all of my other devices (about the same noise level that PC fans gave off during the Windows XP days). Fortunately, the noise isn’t enough to bother me so if you’ve PC’s for longer than 3 years you’ll get used to it rather quickly.

$1,000 Data Recovery Guarantee

These drives include a one time, no questions asked policy for 1 year. Click here for details. It also has a 3 Year standard manufacturer's warranty for defects. This can protect you should the worst case happen, or if your drive gets fried by an electrical surge. I highly recommend the extended data protection service if you won’t be using an online backup service in addition to this device.

Special Offer

Save 10% on ioSafe products. See this article for more details, or visit the Discount Coupon Code page.

Other articles you may enjoy

If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy these:


I was provided a demo unit for this article and I received a commission if you use the link I’ve provided. Thanks for supporting this blog for future articles and reviews!

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

Sports Illustrated Canon EOS-1D Mark IV Secret Custom Function Settings

Famous Sports Illustrated Photographer, Peter Read Miller, has shared his custom function settings for his 1D Mark IV here.

Canon has also released firmware v1.0.6 for the EOS-1D Mark IV, so if you are shooting with this cool new body then go here to get the latest update.

If you don’t already own a 1D Mark IV, then you might be interested in this article for an online retailer who has some units in stock (as of 1/28/10 at 8:11 PM). I bought mine 1D Mark IV from them!

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

Canon EOS 1D Mark IV’s in stock

EOS-1D Mark IV
Image Copyright Canon USA

I purchased my Canon EOS 1D Mark IV from and they’ve informed me that they have a few bodies in stock (as of this writing at 8:30 PM on 1/28/10). If you mention this blog they may also provide you with special offer to get one of these bodies at price below what others have been offering it for on the web (while supplies last, offer subject to change or cancellation).

To take advantage of this special offer, you must order using this link and you MUST mention this blog when placing your order. NOTE: Their shopping cart will say that they are out of stock, but place your order anyway. There’s no penalty to cancel your order so get one you should get in the queue ASAP.


If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

REVIEW: The Photographers Guide to Making Money

It’s funny that in today’s world the best way for photographers to make money is by writing books and teaching classes to millions of aspiring photographers, so I tend to laugh when I see books like this. However, as I read through this book I became pleased to see that its subtitle (150 ideas for Cutting Costs and Boosting Profits) was probably a more appropriate title. In fact, this book has no chapters and simply lists 150 tips of the trade – very good tips in many cases!

It’s actually quite hard to write a review for this book because I can’t do my typical chapter-by-chapter walkthrough. What I can tell you though is that you can think of this book as a collaboration of tips collected by the author, Karen Dorame, by a legion of seasoned professionals to come up with some great tips for any aspiring photographer – whether you intend to make money with your hobby or not. From basic tips like #1 – Specialize in a genre, to the practical like #14 – Practice is the cheapest training, there’s a lot of sound advice that may come off as “duh” to some, and a light bulb moment to others. For example, I’ve heard tips #33 – Raise prices instead of lowering them and #121 – Effective print displays sell larger wall art from multiple well-seasoned sources, but reading it in this book made me think – you know, I’ve heard this enough now that I think I’m going to do something about it!

There’s good tips in here from the beginner (#97 – Learn to say no), to the intermediate (#81 – Show only your best work), to even the hard core pro (i.e., #88 - Get on the blog bandwagon) so I can easily recommend this book for anyone. Just like going to the psychologist, you may feel that the book states the obvious, but if you look at your life you are certain to see that you aren’t really applying some of these tips (which really are more like rules) to help minimize your costs and maximize your profits. It’s sound advice and a super easy read. In fact, this is one that I’ll pick up from time to time to remind myself of what I should be doing, instead of being stuck in the habits of what I am doing.


If you take pictures of more than just your family, or if you spent more than just the cost of a kit lens DSLR setup, then it’s worth your time to read this book. Buy and read it, and then from time to time read it again and make sure your not falling into your old bad habits again.

Skill Level: All
Value: Good. At first it may seem like a waste, but when you think about the thought provoking actions you will take from reading it then it’s priceless. 
Recommendation: Buy it, read it, apply it, and then read it again. Good stuff that is sure to help you as a photographer more than a new lens or camera body.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Alien Skin Software Discount Expires on 01/31/2010

It’s with great sadness that I must announce that the discount code (RMN0908) I have been offering you for Alien Skin Software products expires at the end of this month. Due to reasons unrelated to this blog and its readers, Alien Skin has determined that coupon codes are subject to abuse rather than their intended purpose (to be complementary to reviews).  As a result, this is your last chance to save on these fine products which are a part of my regular workflow:

Alien Skin Software BlowUP 2

Alien Skin Bokeh

I thank Alien Skin Software for being a great partner to this blog and I look forward to reviewing more of their great software in the future. Despite the lack of a discount, I will still get credit for your purchasing using the links on this blog so as usual your support is greatly appreciated to keep more articles coming.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

How do I rescue lost photos and video from a formatted card? (PhotoRescue 3.1 Review)

DataRescue PhotoRescue 3.1

For the Photographer, there’s one feeling that is similar to, but much worse than the dreaded “oh, no – I locked my keys in my car”. It’s the realization that you just formatted the wrong storage card (potentially with family memories that can’t be replaced). Sadly for me, it’s happened more times here recently since video has come on the scene. I’ve tried to save precious moments in HD video with my Canon 5D Mark II only to remember that Lightroom doesn’t copy video files until AFTER I’ve formatted the card!!!! Precious moments lost forever – OH NO! Or are they?

Oh NO, where are my files???

I’ve used a product that used to come free with SanDisk Compact Flash (CF) cards called RescuePro which worked great for photos, but sadly it didn’t work for video (at least not from my 5D Mark II). I’ve even had some programs I’ve tried to use show me that it recovered videos, but when I tried to play them back they were rubbish (unplayable on most playback software and unusable when I did find something to play them).

How Does it Work

Here’s a simple walk through of screenshots that show this program in action. I tried it out on my old Transcend 120x 8GB CF card that I bought in 2007 and it took about 10 minutes (probably less) to recover my 6 videos. They were bit for bit the same as the originals and worked great as if I had never formatted the card in the first place.

Select your CF/SD card drive

Select a location for the recovered files

Progress during the recovery phase

Videos and photos located, now pick the ones to restore

Copy your desired recovered data to your disk

All done

As you can the user-interface is simply, friendly and effective. It should work with your CF & SD cards as well as USB sticks and much more. For more information visit support page here.

Advanced Features

What I really like about this product is that it does the one (and most important) thing right – in a simple way. It recovers photos and videos without any hassle are hard questions in the Quick Recovery option. This will work for nearly every restorable scenario. However, if you want have some control over what is or isn’t restored (i.e., no huge files over a size limit) then you might find the Advanced Mode shown above very useful.

The Advanced mode can also be used to load/restore card backups.

Afraid to erase your memory cards? – Try this!

I know some people have a half dozen or more memory cards because they are so afraid to erase their memory cards prematurely. Well, if you fall into that camp you are going to love the Card Image Backup feature shown above! This basically does a bit by bit (raw read to the disk i/o geeks out there) backup of your CF card so that you can format it without fear as your data is safe in a backup that may be restored at any time in the future.

Test your cards performance

This feature (under the Tools button) is super cool because it allows you to see if your card is functioning properly, but also helps you to understand what kind of performance you are REALLY getting from your memory card. In my case, I’ve always wondered what does 120x mean in terms of throughput speed on my Transcend 120x speed. Well now I know, it means 17MB/sec – COOL!

Try it FREE today

This is a cool product with many uses beyond just an emergency restore scenario. Try it out and see if it works for you! If it does, you can buy this program at a really great price using this special edition created for users of this blog:

NOTE: This version only differs in the link URL from the version you find on the site.


If you purchase this product using the link in the special edition in this article, I will get a commission. Thanks for supporting the blog!

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Adorama Introduces The APPOS™ -- Photo App Awards and Photo Contest for the iPhone

New York, NY (PRWEB) January 13, 2010 -- Adorama, one of America’s premier photography and consumer electronics resellers, announces that they are launching the APPOS, the first annual iPhone App Awards for Photography 2010 as well as an iPhone Photography Contest. The annual APPOS Awards are designed to spotlight the rapid rise in popularity of the iPhone as a new platform for digital point-and-shoot photography and to recognize developers of outstanding photo Apps.

AdoramaAn esteemed panel of judges include Photoshop Guru Scott Kelby, Nikon shooters Joe McNally and Moose Peterson and Canon shooters Eric Meola and Syl Arena plus popular WFAN radio personalities, former football quarterback Boomer Esiason and commentator Craig Carton. Winners for both the photo contest and the first ever APPOS Photo App Awards will be announced during the month of March.

We were amazed to see what our customers were accomplishing with their iPhones,” said Ahron Schachter, Adorama spokesperson. “They were getting photographic results that no ordinary digital camera could accomplish without the use of image editing software normally found on a desktop computer. But they were doing everything on their iPhones! We believe the Apple iPhone is changing the way people think about their photos; there’s no doubt it is changing the picture-taking habits of even novice photographers.”

With over 2,000 photography-related Apps in the Apple iTunes App Store for photography, iPhone owners are using this software on their phones to expand and creatively explore photography in ways not even imaginable on a standard point-and-shoot camera, no less a cellphone camera. These Apps (software programs that load on an iPhone or iPod Touch) are turning the iPhone into a very powerful photographic tool for capturing, editing and manipulating all types of photographic images and graphics right on the iPhone or iPod Touch (no computer needed).

The Adorama Photo APPOS Awards will cover six categories of photo software from colorization, masking/cropping, filters, zoom, panoramic and stop action Apps. Along with honoring the software titles and their developers, Adorama will showcase the winning Photo Apps, chosen by popular vote and award-winning photographers and their pictures, chosen by the panel of judges, in categories including Nature, People, Humor and Creative/Special Effects.

All photographic entry information can be found on the Adorama web site at:

Contest entries will be accepted until February 15, 2010. All winners will be announced during the month of March 2010 via the Adorama web site and via e-mail blast to Adorama’s more than 500,000 customers. Prizes include one Grand Prize of a $1,000 Adorama Gift Certificate plus 10 Wacom tablets, fifteen Canon wireless printers, thirty $100 Adorama Gift Certificates and twenty-five $50 Apple App Stores Gift Certificates.

About Adorama

For more than thirty years, Adorama Camera, Inc. headquartered in New York, NY, has been one of the nation’s largest retail and mail order suppliers serving professionals as well as amateurs in the photographic, video, digital imaging, consumer electronics and telescope/binolular fields. Adorama prides itself on offering the best combination of quality services, selection, knowledgeable staff, and competitive pricing. For more information about Adorama’s products, services, and the unique Adorama educational services visit

iPhone and iPod Touch are registered trademarks of Apple Inc. All other trademarks are property of their respective owners.


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Saturday, January 9, 2010

64-bit versus 32-bit Photoshop CS4 Plug-ins for Nik Software (and others)

64-bit Nik Selective Tool

32-bit Nik Selective Tool

I’ve received a few emails and blog comments from frustrated buyers of the Nik Software Complete Collection who have 64-bit Photoshop CS4 installed and were surprised when they only saw Viveza 2.0 loaded in the Nik Selective Tool (as shown above) when they started Photoshop. In case you missed it, Nik Software has a FAQ about their current and future 64-bit plans here as well as the system requirements for the complete collection here.

With that said, I apologize for not pointing out in my reviews that I am using the 32-bit versions of the products (most were written before I was using a 64-bit OS). I’d also like to point out that Adobe is aware that the transition period to move from 32 to 64-bit will take some time, so they have included both a 32-bit and 64-bit version of Photoshop (and both are installed by default). Personally I use the 32-bit version most of the time as a majority of my plug-ins (not just from Nik Software) are still 32-bit only, but if I have a big file I might do some initial processing in 32-bit and then do non plug-in related work in 64-bit Photoshop CS4 later.

Adobe Lightroom isn’t impacted by this problem as its plug-in model doesn’t allow for direct (in-process) integration, so it doesn’t care if your plug-in is 32-bit or 64-bit. This is why it is required to create separate TIF files (which most people hate) instead of working seamlessly in the history palette like the built-in features of Lightroom. Both models have their advantages and draw-backs, but personally I prefer the Photoshop CS4 model (despite its interim drawback).

In short, please be patient as the transition is being made by Nik Software and others to move their products to 64-bit as soon as possible. Some updates from select companies will come free as part of their current release, and others will require you to purchase a future version to get 64-bit support as there is development / testing cost involved with the transition. This policy will differ from company to company, so be sure to check the system requirements and ask if you are impacted.

I’m using 32-bit now, should I care about 64-bit?

For those who don’t know, I actually work in the Windows Server division at Microsoft so I’m very familiar with this topic. The same issues occurred in the past when we moved from 16-bit (Windows 3.x) to Windows 95 (which was part 16-bit and part 32-bit) or Windows NT 3.x+, and much worse problems occurred moving from DOS to Windows. As a result, there’s a good reason why I didn’t bother caring about 64-bit systems until December 2009 – it’s better to be on the legacy platform for as long as possible. My ONLY reason for upgrading was a hard drive crash, so I finally made the switch – but it also required me to toss out my existing RAM and buy all new RAM so I could get the minimum 8GB of RAM that I personally feel is necessary for a pleasant 64-bit experience (marketing and selected geeks will argue otherwise).

In short, I ONLY recommend you move to 64-bit Windows 7 (don’t bother with 64-bit Vista) if you are rebuilding your system (fresh OS install – for whatever reason) or if you are purchasing a new system. Recognize that the OS has a lot of great features to make the transition better now than in the past, but there will still be pain points (i.e., Canon & Nikon don’t have free drivers that allows me to see thumbnails of my RAW files like I could do in 32-bit). You may also find that some of your old hardware needs new 64-bit drivers, and because it is old they simply don’t (and probably won’t) exist.

But isn’t 64-bit Faster?

Install a fresh 32-bit OS (not from your computer manufacturer's disc, but from a Microsoft OS disc) and a clean install of Photoshop CS4 without any plug-ins and you’ll be amazed at how fast it is – without doing anything (same exact hardware). This occurs because all of those plug-ins that load when you start Photoshop slow it down (including its start time) and there’s lots of stuff that gets installed on your OS over time that slow it down as well. This coupled with disk fragmentation results in a slow performing, constipated-like, computer. A fresh install clears all of that up, so frequently those moving to 64-bit (which has a LOT less crap that runs on it) will sing its praises about how fast it is. The reality is that the biggest benefit is that you’ll have more addressable memory (if you install more – and again I say 8GB minimum), which helps Photoshop a bit. However, it won’t have all of your add-ins so you’ll find yourself back in 32-bit Photoshop like me in which case the performance is actually marginally slower in my opinion. This is the price of progress (i.e., no longer being limited to 4GB of RAM), so my two cents is that you shouldn’t expect miracles (again 64-bit lovers will send me hate mail about this). 64-bit will be great – in time – but for now the transition period is in place, so be patient. I think the holiday season of 2010 will be the time where the world fully embraces 64-bit, so it will rock then.

Fortunately RAM prices are coming down so I was able to pick up 8GB of RAM for about $250 for my Dell XPS 420 (which cost about $500 when I bought it). This will help with the transition, so as more users embrace it then expect to see a lot more native 64-bit products rolling out. In the meantime, don’t sweat having to run your 32-bit products in Windows 7 as it does a great job of handling them for most people (with a billion Windows users out there, there will always be some who have horrible experiences and who squeak loudly).

I don’t care, I want a refund

I know some people will just be pissed off that there is no native 64-bit support, and will insist on a refund. I contacted Nik Software about this subject and they reminded me that they have a 30-day money back guarantee, so if you aren’t satisfied they’ll be happy to work with you. However, I would encourage you to try the 32-bit support before you reach this conclusion as I think you may find that the experience is very good (after all, it wasn’t long ago where there were very few people running 64-bit with virtually no native 64-bit apps). Even for products that have native 64-bit support, I find myself rarely using that version as many of my favorite plug-ins are 32-bit only anyway, so there’s little point.

Again, my apologies for the confusion and moving forward I will try to note 64-bit support in my articles.


The comments in this article are MY PERSONAL OPINION alone and do not represent the official opinion, policy, position, etc… of Microsoft Corporation, Nik Software, or any other company. Please contact the appropriate third parties directly as their policies may change without notice and their position may differ from what I’ve stated in the future.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Canon announces a new 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens


My favorite lens in my line up for doing sports and fashion has been my 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM lens. However, I sold mine this past November as I had heard rumors that a new replacement was coming. I’m thrilled to hear Canon’s official announcement today that the new 70-200mm is coming as it is has been painful living without this lens over the last several weeks!

Here’s more info from Canon’s web site:

and stay tuned as I’m working with a partner to try to get a special discount for this replacement to one of Canon’s most popular lenses.

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