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First Photo I Uploaded to Flickr

I've been using Flickr for a few years, I know it was before they got bought by Yahoo, so I'm guessing 2004-2005 timeframe. I looked today to find the very first photo I uploaded to Flickr:


Of course it was a photo of Loki, our black lab. The photo was taken in July 2004, and thinking back to that timeframe is interesting. We lived in Half Moon Bay, CA. I was still the computer lab person at Hoover School. We had 2 dogs only, Loki and Odin who were both 4 years old (we had no idea Loki was going to get cancer). We weren't even thinking about having kids. Leif had only been at Yahoo for maybe a year. I believe we were still playing ice hockey at this point at Ice Oasis, but not sure. I do know for sure we didn't start doing the 11pm pickup games yet since those didn't start until we moved to Santa Clara. I didn't know anything about karate, real photography, and had no desire to move out of California.

It's amazing what changes in a matter of years...

Photo I Like: Big to Small

I took this photo the other day for the NAPP September Photo Rally. The category was "Things With Wheels". I kind of like it, so wanted to share it here. I like how I angled the shot going from the big dirt bike wheel to the little tricycle wheel, and I also like how the tricycle isn't in focus. Initially I was going to get a shot of the dirt bike and the tricycle next to each other, then I wanted to get Leif on the dirt bike, and Peter on the tricycle, and this was just an extra one I took. I guess some of the extra ones end up being your favorites.

I did very minimal editing - just basically adding sharpness/clarity, and brightening up the dirt bike wheel a bit since you couldn't see any detail in it in the original. I'm still learning!

Big and small

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Double Processing HDR

One of the classes I took at Photoshop World was Mastering HDR in Photoshop by Matt Kloskowski. While pretty much everything in that class was new to me (again, my version of HDR previously was doing a process, and clicking the "ok" button), the one thing that really excited me about it was when he suggested to double process HDR brackets if necessary.

What's double processing? Doing it twice! Once to make, say, the buildings look good, then reprocess it to make the sky look good. So now you have two HDR images, each with different parts that look decent. Put both into their own layers in Photoshop, then use a layer mask to "paint out" the bad sky in the top layer, revealing the good sky underneath.

I saw Matt do this during his class, and the lightbulb came on. I hadn't had a chance to try this, however, until now. I'm really glad I knew this technique, since I most likely would've just called this photo a wash, and moved on to something else.

After doing an initial HDR process, and throwing in some PhotoTools filters, and a little bit extra in Lightroom, this is what I was left with:


Not horrible, but upon closer look, the sky around the roof of the building on the right looks weird, and it also looks weird around the top of the sign, and white underneath the sign. I definitely wasn't happy with this. Then I remembered what I learned in Matt's class, and figured I'd at least try it. While I don't have the sky reprocess, this is what I was left with after combining them and doing the layer mask:

Golden sign

For my skills, I'm actually pretty impressed with being able to pull this off. I didn't really have any doubts that it would work, but I wasn't sure if it were something that I could do. It honestly is much easier than it seems since you only have to focus on one part of the photo during each process. For this I decided to go with the more photorealistic look instead of the surreal, and I'm pleased with how it turned out.

I'm sold on the double processing.

My First Foray into onOne Software's PhotoTools

While at Photoshop World a few weeks ago, I sat through several demos of the onOne Software Plugin Suite 5. Honestly, I had no intention of buying the entire suite, but after watching demos from Brian Matiash, Dave Cross, and a few of the onOne Software guys, I was sold. At some point it just gets more cost effective to buy the suite. And with the NAPP/secret show special discount, it was a really good price, so I couldn't pass it up.

I got it home, and still wasn't sure exactly what to do with it. I mean, kudos to the demo guys for making it look so easy, but in reality, as a newbie sitting down with it for the first time, it was overwhelming. Fortunately I caught the Scott Stulberg webinar on Creating Images with Impact which cleared a bunch of my questions up. I was ready to at least make some attempt at trying to use it, and decided to tackle each plugin one at a time. First up, PhotoTools!

It just so happened, that evening I had taken a photo of a double rainbow (all the way!) from the deck. Here's the out of the camera RAW photo:

Original photo

Typical rainy day, cloudy, dreary looking, photo. It's not bad, but I figured it could use some touchups. Normally I'd just pull it into Lightroom and do the best I could with it, but today I had PhotoTools, so wanted to see what it could do.

This is the point where I'd mention exactly what presets I applied to the photo, however I can't seem to figure out how to see the history of what you did in PhotoTools. I'm sure it's there, and I have a support email into onOne, and I'll update this when I know how to do it, but for now, just take my word for it, that I did a bunch of stuff. :)

After editing in PhotoTools, I did very minimal edits in Lightroom. More vibrance, more clarity, a little extra luminence smoothing, and here's the final result:

Double Rainbow!

I kind of like it honestly. The house is a tiny bit yellow, but I'm leaving it as is because you have the sun shining on it, which is what the color is from, I think. In the original photo, you can barely see the second rainbow, and even the first one is a little dull.

Granted I'm still extremely new at PhotoTools, but I'm sold on using it. It's actually surprisingly easy to use, and as long as you have the patience to go through the various presets, you can easily touch up your photo almost any way you want to.

Shooting Denver Broncos Training Camp

This was an extremely lucky thing I got to do. On their Facebook fan page, Mike's Camera one day put out a message saying they had 5 tickets at each of their 3 stores to go in 2 days and shoot the Broncos Training camp. Not just in the area where the fans were, but as a special Canon promotion. I saw the message late in the day, and didn't think anything more of it.

The next day (the day before the shoot), they put out another message saying that the Boulder store still had all 5 of their tickets. I figured the worst that would happen would be I'd lose an hour of my time, so i jumped immediately in the car to try and get one of the tickets. I apparently was the first one there, and managed to snag one.

I had no idea what to do, but figured I'd go, learn, and maybe get a few decent shots.


The day of the VIP Training Camp I showed up, got in because I was on the list, and...nothing. Nobody at the Broncos knew what this promotion was, and nobody from Canon was there as promised. I snagged one of the marketing people who took me back to the front where the head of promotions was. Along the way, we snagged about 6 other people who had arrived for the promotion as well (we just looked for people who had serious Canon camera gear).

At this point I'll give kudos to the Broncos. Even though somebody at Canon had obviously messed up, the Broncos took care of us, and worked it out so we could shoot with our gear from the end zone (normally you're not allowed to take in long lenses or gear like ours). I'll also add that the screwup had nothing to do with Mike's Camera. Canon had apparently approached them for this promotion, and they were just the ones getting the people down there.

In any case, we got to head into the end zone and shoot from various areas. We had to follow the rules they set out for all other press people which is we could shoot warmup and drills, but once they started scrimmaging and running plays, we had to stop. Understandable, but that's still the most interesting part, :)


I ended up hanging out a bunch with Grant Gutierrez and Demetrius Austin who both gave me tips on shooting the action. I had also read the appropriate chapter in Scott Kelby's Digital Photography book, and asked on the NAPP forums for advice, but there's really nothing like trial and error.

After the practice, the Broncos fed us lunch, had a quick speech by the coach, and had an area set up where you could get a couple of alumni autographs, as well as a couple of the cheerleaders.

All in all, even though I had never shot football like that (or at all, I guess), I'm really glad I decided to bite the bullet and take this experience. While the odds of me doing something like this in the future are unlikely, you never know.


More photos at

My Photoshop World Vegas 2010 Wrap-Up

Photoshop World, Las Vegas, 2010 is in the books. This was my first Photoshop World (or PSW as I'll refer to it from now on), and I didn't really know what to expect. I had read some about it in the past, was familiar with some of the instructors, didn't know anybody going, and that was about it. The only conferences I'd been to in the past had been computer industry conferences.

It's now been 4 days since I've been back, and my brain is still overloaded from everything. To say I had a great time would be an understatement. This was a completely different type of conference I'd ever been to, and I loved every minute of it.

First, Don't Be Scared to Talk to People!

I knew absolutely nobody going into this conference. Sure, there were a few people I had heard of on the NAPP forums, but I didn't actually know anybody. One thing is about that, you can't be scared at all to talk to random people. Whether it's people sitting next to you in a session (before it starts obviously), walking down the hall with you, at one of the parties, you just have to go for it. There was nobody I ran into that was really mean or unapproachable, and I came away with a lot of business cards, and a lot of new people to keep in contact with and follow on Twitter.

Me and Dave Cross

As part of this, I ran into Larry Becker in the lobby of the hotel while I was searching for dinner. I went up to him, and talked to him for a few minutes, and he was extremely friendly and helpful about which classes I should go to, and which instructors I shouldn't miss. That really set the tone for the whole week for me. At computer industry conferences, you just don't go up to the "bigwigs". It's just not done (between you and me, there's a lot of ego issues, but that's a story for a different time), so this was a very refreshing change.

And since I ended up being in so many of Matt Kloskowski's sessions, I kind of got a little worried that he would think I was stalking him (granted, he is my favorite instructor, but still...), but the last day I ran into him on the expo floor, he gave me knuckles, and graciously posed for a photo during the few minutes I talked to him. I got that type of reception from all the instructors I ran into, be it him, Scott Kelby, Dave Cross, or anybody else.

Pre Conference - NAPP Photo Safari

Technically the conference didn't start until Wednesday, but Tuesday is when various, extra pre conference events happen. From the list I saw upon registration, I selected to attend the NAPP Photo Safari, led by Joe McNally and Moose Peterson. I was a little afraid I'd be bored since it was a 9 hour pre conference, but I can safely say, there was no way to possibly get bored. We were given lunch, then Joe and Moose spoke to us for a couple of hours. The one thing they constantly reminded people was that they each had over 30 years of photography experience, so you can't just look at one of their photos and say, "why don't my photos look like that?" It takes a lot of time, a lot of effort, and just experience to get that good.

Valley of Fire

Our location shoot was at the Valley of Fire. It actually reminded me a little bit of Red Rocks. While we were given free reign to wander wherever (within a time frame), Joe and Moose would occasionally call people over to give little demos, and were always available to answer questions. Besides shooting the landscape, after a certain period of time they brought out 4 dancers whom they had worked with before, who did various poses for us on the rocks. I had never done any sort of shooting like that, and it was helpful to get tips from Joe and Moose (not just in the group, but one on one).

Fortunately while this was Las Vegas in the summer, it actually wasn't that hot out (I think 90 in the sun), so it was tolerable to be outside.

Once the sun went down, Joe brought out the lights, and both of them gave us tips with using off camera flash, lights, angles, you name it. While it was a very tiring afternoon, it was a very fun afternoon.

Conference Sessions

As I've said before, I've been to several computer industry conferences in the past. The way all of the ones I've ever been to choose speakers is basically they put out a "call for white papers." People submit papers, the conference board picks the ones they like, and those people speak. Note that nowhere in there is a requirement to actually be a good speaker. I can't even begin to say how many sessions I've walked out of at those conferences. There was one conference where I think I only stayed in 2 sessions (out of 7) since the speakers were horrific.

Compare that with the way NAPP does PSW. As far as my understanding is (from talking to Larry Becker at the conference), NAPP recruits people to speak, not just from instructors they currently deal with, but others that they're completely impressed with. As a result, EVERYBODY is a good presenter. I went to 11 different sessions. Yes, I did say 11. There was not a single one I wanted to leave. Every single one was awesome.

Matt Kloskowski during Photoshop Wars

For the record, here's my list:

Stuff You Need to Know to Be a Photographer - Zack Arias
Five Ways to Select People - Matt Kloskowski
Big Light From Small Flashes - Joe McNally
Tweeting With Authority - Rod Harlan and Scott Bourne
Mastering HDR in Photoshop CS5 - Matt Kloskowski
Blogging for Photographers - Rich Harrington, Scott Kelby, Matt Kloskowski, Jeff Revell
Lightroom and Photoshop Integration - Matt Kloskowski
The Many Uses of a White Seamless Background - Zack Arias
Romancing the Landscape - Moose Peterson
Hollywood Lighting on a Laptop and Bokeh - Vincent Versace
Lightroom Killer Tips - Scott Kelby

I loved them all. I took notes in every single one, and would easily recommend every single one of these classes to anybody attending PSW in the future (assuming they're given).

APC HDR WalkShop

One of the other things I got in on was the Artistic Photo Canvas HDR Walkshop, with Brian Matiash and Jacob Lucas. Basically my previous understanding of shooting HDR was basically "oh, let's bracket this and see what happens", and then my basic understanding of post processing was "oh, let's import this into Photomatix. That looks decent, I'll click 'ok'". So pretty much very little. Only 30 people got to go on this, so I was one of the lucky ones to sign up in time. Wednesday evening we boarded a bus for Fremont Street, Brian gave us a little intro, and turned us loose. My understanding was still pretty wary, so I asked Brian for some more information on light metering and such. He proceeded to not only insist I shoot everything that night in manual mode, but showed me how to do it (zoom in before you focus, how to meter light on a neutral part of the photo, etc...), once I had told him I had never shot in manual mode. Is it harder? Yes, if you don't know what you're doing, but once I started doing it, I kind of enjoyed the control you have over everything. I ran into Brian and Jacob at various points during the evening, and both answered all my questions (without getting annoyed :), and I had a very enjoyable time.

From APC HDR Photowalk

After the shoot, we went back to the hotel, and met up with the APC staff at Border's Grill where they had provided us with appetizers and drinks.

I'll give extra kudos here to the APC staff for not only arranging this, putting it together, and sponsoring it, but it was so much fun to meet them all and go talk to them in the expo hall during the conference. What a great group of people, who do fantastic work.

Get Togethers and Parties

I missed the NAPP forum party because of the Safari, but I did manage to make it to the Tweetup. I just did my thing, mingling with various people, and talking with different groups. Erik Valind was doing portrait shoots of everybody there. After making me laugh while taking my picture, I then did a cheesy pose, which is the one he ended up using on Flickr.

Photo by Erik Valind

In any case, I met so many people there I just can't remember everybody. I was tired and sweaty after the Safari, but I do remember spending 15 minutes talking hockey with Dave Cross, amongst other things. :) Anyways, it was a lot of fun.

Another party was the big PSW party at the House of Blues. I got there late because of the WalkShop, but I'm glad I did end up going because Scott Kelby's Band was playing, and wow, they are good! I'm bummed I missed most of their set, but still had a great time there. More mingling, talking to people I had just met the day before, and hanging out. :)

Expo Hall

You know, normally I just blow through the expo halls, no matter what conference I'm at. This time, I barely made it through the entire thing. I kept stopping to see demos, talk to exhibitors, watch Photoshop Wars, see a taping of Photoshop User TV, hang out with people, check out the Westcott Shootout booth, and other various things. The first day it was open, in 4 hours, I think I made it to 3 booths. There were so many different demos and so many exciting things going on.

Motorcycle at the Westcott booth
From the Westcott Shootout Booth

I spent very little money, honestly. I was going to buy a Wacom Intuos 4 medium tablet, but the show special wasn't anything too exciting (only a $10 difference off the Amazon price), so I passed on that. I spent a bunch of time at the onOne Software booth watching their demos, and did end up getting Plugin Suite 5 (really good discount on that one), but that was really it. Oh, I did buy a book too, but that was it. :)

Dumb Luck

I'm not sure what happened, but I actually hit a bit of a small winning streak at PSW. I never win anything, and if I do, it's normally like some extremely minor. I think my PSW luck actually started back in April during the NAPP CS5 webcasts and I was one of the lucky winners (5 total) to win a copy of Photoshop CS5 Extended. I was flabbergasted with that, but it was just pure awesomeness. '

Anyways, on this trip, besides all the vendor schwag, I got:

  • Won $80 in video poker
  • APC t-shirt at the tweetup
  • Lightroom conference t-shirt
  • 4 gig NAPP USB wristband
  • Became the mayor of PSW on FourSquare and won Our Studio Premium Collection volumes 3 and 4
  • One of the first 5 to get to the Peachpit booth and tell them "Photoshop Makes Me High" so got Adobe Photoshop CS5 Learn By Video
  • Alan Hess's Composition Digital Field Guide book (signed) from the "where's Alan Hess" contest APC was sponsoring.

In Conclusion

All I'll say to sum up is: WOW. I definitely want to go again...soon! I'm hoping to make it to the next one in Orlando for sure. I've already started putting some of what I've learned into practice, but I still have a long ways to go.

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