In an effort to update my website content more regularly in 2018, I am experimenting with this new layout. Please check back often in full-screen mode, and do click on the smaller images!
New beginnings often start during the new year, and this website is no different. I do, however, feel that new beginnings are confusing without providing a little context, so I'll rewind a bit. One month ago I had a different day job, and so did my former colleague, Melissa (pictured in this December series). She was about to embark on a journey taking her from Hawaii to California, and I asked her if we could do a shoot together before she moved. She graciously obliged. I asked around the usual suspects for an assistant, and to my surprise, one of my photography mentors, Allan Higa volunteered as tribute. Assistants make me feel more confident on photo shoots because they give me an extra set of eyes to catch things I may miss, a sounding board to bounce ideas off of in the field, a conversationalist for the models during any down time, and they’re incredibly great VALs (voice activated light-stands) when I choose to try off-camera modified light.
As this is a story about change, Allan pushed me to try new preparation strategies. He prodded me for details about the shoot, specifically what kind of shots I planned to get, and what equipment I was bringing. I'm not a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants fellow, but my "style" was to have a basic concept and "let Hawaii happen" as the ads say. You know, organically. He suggested I spend more time storyboarding the shoot Pinterest style, so I decided to give it a try. I have never had so many keepers from a shoot. After listing what I packed, he said I brought too much stuff. Of course I did. The thing about being a "mirrorless photographer" is that I can fit a lot of stuff that I don't need in my camera bag. I prefer having something I won't use better than not having something that I need. Allan said I would be tempted to use stuff I don't need because I have it. As usual, he was right. I brought an off-camera light + remote and some portable light modifiers. I used them because I had them, and decided not to select those for edits because they weren’t strong images. In my defense, I do like to experiment because…
[Star Wars: The Last Jedi SPOILER ALERT]:
“Pass on what you have learned. Strength, mastery, but weakness, folly, failure also. Yes failure most of all! The greatest teacher failure is.” - Master Yoda.
I fail regularly on photoshoots, but don’t tell my models that, please. I do learn from failures most of all. One last photography related change I decided to make started with this shoot as well. I decided to begin the process of switching my post-processing workflow from Adobe Lightroom Classic CC to Phase One Capture One Pro 10. I’ll save the details on this change for a future post because I’ve already rambled more than I planned to. This was a wonderful lead in for my 2018 photography adventures, so here’s to 2018!
Up - up - down - down -
Left - right - left - right -
B - A -
My favorite thing in all the world is entertaining friends! December and January are especially great because the holidays have a way of bringing back friends from abroad too. This year I had the luxury of taking a few days off to spend some time playing tourist with such friends. I only have photos from one adventure though because I was too bashful to ask the other visiting friend if I could take some photos with her in them. I deeply regret that, and hope another opportunity might arise in the future. I am slowly building the willing-to-ask-for-what-I-want muscle and being okay with the answer, but I'm not all the way there yet for the things I really want, so I don't do.
Ruby likes to hike when she's back on the island. We've done the Makapu'u lighthouse trail, the Nanakuli pillbox hike, and now the Lanikai pillbox hike. This one ended up being a greater adventure than we anticipated. I did ask Ruby if she'd be kind enough to pose for a few photos so I could try out a new lens. It seems that Fujifilm has manufactured two prime lenses that users fall in love with. I already own and love the XF 56mm f/1.2 R. The 24mm field of view was never one that greatly appealed to me dating back to my Canon 5D Mark II and Zeiss Classic floating-element prime lens days, but after hearing the praises of the XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR for years, and seeing results from a few photographers I follow on the social medias, I decided it was time to pick one up. It did not disappoint. It's sharp to infinity focus stopped down, and the colors are contrasty. Distortion is so amazingly well-controlled that it works incredibly well for panoramas! The bokeh is beautiful and smoothly transitions from the in-focus details to the out-of-focus background. There's really just one more test I'll have for it to be me all-around landscape lens...
But I digress. The real adventure began when we decided to make our way back down from the pillbox. Ruby hyper-extended her knee jumping down from the old cement structure. Of course she was scheduled to leave O'ahu in a few days to go skiing in Idaho! I feel really bad about it still. Ruby was a real trooper. She refused to be that person who gets helicoptered down a mountain. We inched our way down the steep inclines and were even assisted on several of the more difficult passages by a few of the hikers making their ways up and down the trail. One marine even happened to have hiking rescue on his resume having lived near the rockies in a past time. He left his group to help Ruby and me. I don't remember his name, but thank you, sir. We are grateful. Aloha is still alive. Needless to say, our day was cut short. We've decided next time, no hyperextending.
Into the woods
It's time to go
I hate to leave
I have to, though
Into the woods
It's time, and so
I must begin my journey
- Steven Sondheim
I teased in December that I would elaborate on my post-processing transition from Adobe Lightroom Classic CC to Phase One's Capture One Pro 10, and with a slow month of people shooting I decided this would be a good time to write a post or two detailing some of the more technical parts of the craft.
The seeds of making this change were planted when Adobe released Lightroom CC alongside Lightroom Classic CC. Those of us who were around for the previous major Adobe strategy shift remember the challenges switching from the purchase pay model to the subscription pay model. I liked owning my software and having the autonomy to pay when updates were significant enough to my workflow to justify an upgrade. The new model forced users to continually pay for the software regardless of whether the user found the updates useful or not. If a customer had to cut off from the monthly payments for any reason, they lost access to the develop (edit) and map modules, unlike the purchase model where all functions of the existing software remained. Adobe also discontinued their Camera Raw updates for older editions of the software so new cameras' RAW files do not work without the latest versions of the Adobe Lightroom software in an attempt to force purchasers to adopt the subscription plan. Adobe also has a reputation of making it difficult to cancel subscriptions. Reluctantly I settled on the subscription plan when the price of the photography package (Lightroom CC Classic, Lightroom CC, Camera RAW and Photoshop CC) came down to a somewhat reasonable $9.99/mo with an annual commitment.
Then a few months ago the Lightroom CC / Lightroom Classic CC thing happened. It appears Adobe is doubling down on the cloud and attempting to run their software online as well as encouraging subscription users to pay additional storage fees to keep their photos on Adobe's servers. The red flag is assigning the "classic" moniker to refer to the traditional, hardware accelerated local version of the software. It has me worried that "classic" will be the next thing to go extinct. I am not excited for this prospect, so I decided I'd need to take a serious look at alternative digital asset management + RAW decoding softwares. There are some new and exciting options now that the photography software community has identified the same opportunity to market a Lightroom alternative: Skylum's Luminar, OnONE's Photo Raw, Corel's After Shot Pro 3, Apple's Photos, and Phase One's Capture One Pro 11 are some options, not to mention Affinity by Serif, Pixelmator Pro, and GIMP as photoshop alternatives. Some have been around longer than others, but its great to see competition heating up in this segment.
I chose Capture One. Capture One is regarded as one of the best RAW decoders. Phase One was one of the vendors at PhotoCon Hawaii, and they offered a convention exclusive price on the software which pushed me off the fence (mixed metaphor?). Yes, this means you own the rights to use the version of the software in perpetuity! They do have a subscription option for those who prefer to lease. Also, of the Lightroom alternatives, Capture One is the most mature. Many of its growing pains have largely been addressed, there’s a substantial user base which means more plug-ins, “film styles,” and 3rd-party support than the other options, and there are more high quality tutorial content available. Even here in Hawaii we’ve been able to organize video conference workshops on Capture One software!
The transition has not been unchallenging, particularly on the digital asset management side. Many of the keyboard shortcuts are different, despite the graphic user interface looking quite similar. I’ve been having difficulty switching between the “Grid” and “Develop” modules (LR terminologies) as well as finding quick solutions for sorting the selects from the entire set (without having to go through the menu system). I’ll chalk these challenges up to user error. Capture One SINGS as an editor. Color rendering looks beautiful and images look sharper and contrastier! There are more editing tools (levels, color-editor, layers and masking) and better tools (split-tone [LR] vs color balance [COP], keystone independent [LR] vs keystone independent and simultaneous axis [COP], RGB Curves [LR] vs RGB, Luma, R, G, B, Curves [COP]) just to name a few of the differences. I’m especially impressed with the natural results from Capture One Pro’s “high dynamic range” tools as opposed to Lightroom’s “white / black / highlight / shadow” slider tools. In one sentence, Capture One Pro’s editing tools are far more advanced than Lightroom’s.
For those concerned about the direction adobe is taking their software, or those looking to reduce their need to round-trip edit to Photoshop, I hope you find this testimony helpful.