Great Accessory Roundup
Essential tools that make a difference.
By Arthur Bleich
There are a gazillion books about Photoshop but none better than
Scott Kelbyās The Photoshop Book For Digital Photographers ($40,
New Riders, www.peachpit.com). Kelby not only has a way with words
and a sense of humor, he knows Photoshop inside out and how to give
you the one, two, three on procedures large and small. As it says
on the jacket: this book ćcuts through the bull and shows you exactly
Īhow to do it.āä I canāt tell you how many times Iāve reached for
it to get me out of a hole. It covers everything photographers want
to know and leaves out all the other stuff youāll never need. If
your book budget is tight and you can only afford one Photoshop
book, this is the one to get.
The latest rage is shooting in Raw, a format that allows you to
take control of your image qualities such as tonality, contrast,
saturation, white balance, and more. Though RAW images require more
space on your memory card, many pros now swear by it as the ultimate
format. Other swear at it because of the added time it takes them
to process each image. Bruce Fraser, a renowned authority on digital
imaging and color reproduction, sets you straight with his new book
Camera Raw With Adobe Photoshop CS ($35, www.peachpit.com). By the
time youāve finished reading it, youāll know everything about Raw
and how to whiz through a workflow that automates tasks and makes
the format easy to work with.
If thereās one topic that usually confounds digital photographers
itās color management. And no wonder; it can be a real toughie to
grasp. No longer, though, if you get a copy of Color Confidence
($50, www.sybex.com) by Tim Grey. Without all the gobbledygook that
other color tomes are prone to use, youāll actually learn how easy
it is to have images roll out of your printer that match what you
see on your monitor. And though this is not a book for beginners,
you donāt need to be a geek to understand the many topics it clearly
presents that will help you get the kinds of prints you really deserve.
Tim also has a great, free newsletter you can subscribe to at: www.timgrey.com/ddq/index.htm.
Take off the blinders Thereās way too much emphasis on technical
stuff in digital photography today. Rather than shoot pictures creatively
to begin with, photographers are becoming sloppy, relying on imaging
programs to fix bad photos later. Get out of that death spiral and
read Bryan Petersonās Learning To See Creatively ($25, Amphoto,
www.watsonguptill.com). Whenās the last time you shot a vertical
image (you do that by turning the camera 90-degrees to the right
or left) or tilted your digicam for a more dynamic diagonal shot.
What about lines, shapes, and forms? Do you use them to advantage?
This book will get you in the groove and your pictures will soar
to new heights. Highly recommended.
If you havenāt yet experienced a computer crash thatās taken everything
with it or a hard drive thatās suddenly gone South with all your
data, then you must be living an exemplary (and probably dull) life.
Screams of anguish usually accompany data loss, but not to worry,
all is not lost if you have Prosoftās Data Rescue. Now in two versions,
one for Mac and the other for PC, itās an emergency hard drive recovery
utility that recovers your files even when your drive informs you
that itās no longer readable. How does it do it? Pure magic. Itāll
bring a big smile to your face and settle your stomach at the same
time. Data Rescue can also recover most ćlostä picture files from
digicam memory cards. Itās a helluva utility. (PC version, $129;
Mac version, $89. www.prosofteng.com )
PhotoFrame lets you interactively design stunning border and edge
effects in Photoshop. With over 2,000 professionally designed frames,
youāll never run out of options to enhance your images; in fact,
you may go nuts trying to pick the right one. You can add personalized
touches with shadows, glows, textures and bevels or combine any
number of ready-to-use frames. And itās easy to save your custom
frames to share or use over again. Your frame creations can also
be viewed in real-time using interactive previews and all your tools
are right at your fingertips with intuitive controls. ($199. www.extensis.com)
River goes green
To add to its great selection of inkjet papers, Red River Paper
(www.redrivercatalog.com) now has the first 100% recycled-content,
photo-weight papers that are environmentally-friendly. Unlike most
recycled papers that look yucky with flecks of junk embedded in
the surface, GreenPix (thatās what itās called) minimizes those
flaws and has a much cleaner look with a bright white surface. Result?
Sharp detail and brilliant color reproduction at a reasonable cost.
The new paper comes in many different surfaces and sizes, including
pre-scored greetings cards with recycled envelopes. Green is good!
The Nik Color Efex Pro 2.0 Standard Edition ($99 www.nikmultimedia.com)
includes 19 filters for a wide variety of photographic styles. Key
filters are provided for color and light enhancements, including
a Skylight filter, Midnight Blue filter, and the award-winning Sunshine
filter that turns gray-day shots into sunlit ones (no kidding!).
Filters in this edition offer a wide range of enhancement and stylizing
options ranging from correcting colors and adding light, to creating
cinematic day for night effects and beautifully diffusing light
in an image.
timeās a charm
Photoshop Elements just keeps getting better and better and v.3.0
is the best ever. It has a perfect blend of simple and sophisticated
features that satisfies the needs of both beginners and advanced
digital photographers alike. You can do complicated fixes with just
one click of the mouse like removing red-eye, blemishes or other
imperfections or do more involved procedures such as processing
Camera Raw data, for example. The program keeps its focus on the
kind of stuff that photographers (as opposed to graphic designers
who use Photoshop) need to do. Couple it with Mikkel Aalandās Photoshop
Elements 3 Solutions (Sybex) and, for a street price thatās a little
over US$100 for both, youāll have a winning combination.
The Iomega Super DVD Writer 16x Dual-Format USB 2.0 External Drive
reads and records to all DVD and CD formats and does it so fast
youāll think its just warming up when, in fact, itās finished. Just
crank up the included HotBurn Pro software, cry ćburn, baby, burnä
and youāre on your way. You can also back up your entire hard drive,
play DVD movies, and store thousands of still images on one disk.
In fact, thereās not much you canāt do with this flying machine
because it comes with software for backups, music, and video to
help get you off the ground. You can even use it to transfer home
videos, photos, music and other files from your computer to display
on your living room DVD player, plus, you can double your DVD capacity
up to 8.5GB on a dual layer, single-sided DVD+R disc. A phenomenal
piece of gear. ($169 after $30 mail-in rebate from www.iomega.com)
to the people
A spare battery for your digicam is a must-have but theyāre frequently
quite pricey when purchased from the manufacturer. Quest Batteries
has changed that. They now have a wide-ranging assortment of digital
battery packs for almost every digital camera on the market at prices
that wonāt cost you an arm and a leg. Quest has been making quality
AA and AAA NiMH batteries from the beginning of the digital camera
age, so it isnāt surprising that their Li-Ion replacements are as
good or better than the originals. Theyāve got batteries for Canon,
Nikon, Olympus, Sony, Fuji, Minolta, and many more. (Prices start
at $18 from www.questbatteries.com)
Itās hard to describe the incredulous look on the faces of an audience
when they see a big, gorgeous image projected on a screen from a
2-lb. video projector thatās about the size of a carton of cigarettes.
The InFocus LP-120 travels light and projects bright. Bad grammar
aside, itās a perfect laptop sidekick for presentations on the go.
In fact, itāll fit right next to your laptop in a small traveling
case without either of them complaining about being too intimate.
With 1000 ANSI lumens, an optical zoom lens, and a whisper-quiet
fan the LP-120 will also project DVDās, Videotapes, and images from
your digicam. It comes with an IR remote control, 2,000-hour lamp,
and a two-year warranty. ($1899 after rebate from www.infocus.com)
ColorPlus is the easiest way to make sure your prints match what
you see on your CRT or LCD display. Once a month, position the sensor
over your screen and sophisticated software will automatically adjust
the monitor to make sure your image colors are displaying correctly.
Since youāll then be seeing exactly the same colors on your monitor
that are in your picture files, you can make changes with the guarantee
theyāll print perfectly. Youāll save a fortune on ink and paper,
too. (For PC, $119. Mac users should order the Spyder, $169, www.colorvision.com)
Most scanners are becoming slimmer and trimmer, but not this big
boy. The Umax PowerLook 2100XL comes in three iterations, all humongous.
Its 12" x 17" scanning area can handle illustrations, newspapers,
magazines, transparencies, color photos, x-rays, textiles, and negatives.
It has an optical resolution of 800 x 1600 dpi (up to 9600 dpi interpolated)
and its 3.4 Dmax captures subtle details in the shadow areas of
your images. Itās fast, too. Just snap the included SCSI card into
most PCs or Macs, plug in the cable, install the software, and scan
away. The PowerLook is perfect for digitizing 11" x 14" silver halide
photos you may have printed in a past, non-digital lifeö it can
scan them in just one pass. ($1,099 to $1,599. www.umax. com )
The Epson Livingstation is more than just a run-of-the-mill rear-projection
TVö much more. Choose a 47ä or 57ä screen and enjoy sharp, brilliant
images that wonāt get out of alignment and have extraordinary shadow
detail. Itās one of the thinnest of its kind, is HDTV-ready, and
has all the usual features such as picture-on-picture, channel zapping,
freeze-framing and more. But now, hereās the good part. There are
built-in memory card slots so you can view your digital photos on
the huge screenö CompactFlash, SmartMedia, SecureDigital, Memory
Stick and, with an adapter, even x-D. Just insert one, sit back
and use the included remote to navigate through them. When you see
a keeper, print it out on the spot using the built-in 4ä x 6,ä 300
dpi dye sub printer. The Livingstation also comes with an external
CD-R/RW drive for archiving and storing your images. (47ä model,
$3200; 57ä model, $3700 www.epson.com)
This funky, frisky, mini-SUV was made for photographers, no doubt
about it. The Honda Elementās seats fold down to make comfortable
(well, almost) beds, or you can swing the back ones to the side
or remove them entirely. Thereās plenty of room for photo gear and
the all-wheel drive model will get you to those great image-op locations.
Itās easy on gas, rides well and, best of all, some models have
a huge removable skylight set into the rear of the roof. All you
have to do is stand up, poke your body through the opening, throw
a bean bag on the rim to stabilize your digicam, and shoot away.
Itās the perfect vantage point for capturing kidsā sports, wildlife,
and steaming volcanoes (from which you can make a quick getaway
if need be). A real dream machine and only $16,000 to $20,000 depending
on the model and how itās equipped. (http://automobiles.honda.com)
H. Bleich (email@example.com) is a photographer, writer, and educator
who lives in Miami. He does assignments for major publications both
in the U.S. and abroad, and conducts digital photography workshop
cruises. Visit his Digital PhotoCorner at www.dpcorner.com.