Friday, August 30, 2013

Hie Jinja Shrine -- Akasaka

This article was originally published on May 29, 2011

The Hie Jinja Shrine is a Shinto shrine located beside a busy throughway in Akasaka.  The shrine is a modern reconstruction of an earlier set of buildings destroyed during WW II bombings.  To those, such as myself, with limited knowledge of Japanese culture, there is something alien and impenetrable in the Shinto iconography on display here.  But there was no attempt to prohibit photography, and I noticed Japanese beside me taking photos as well.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Inari Shrine -- Akasaka

This article was originally published on May 27, 2011

Before my first visit to Japan, I had never heard of Inari.  Even now, I don't completely understand its relationship to Shinto and Buddhism.  The shrines themselves are fascinating, though, complete with statues of fox messengers wearing red ceremonial dress.  The shrine where I took these photos is in Akasaka at one corner of the Imperial Residence grounds.  Eventhough located right beside a busy highway,  it is -- like most shrines in Tokyo -- an oasis of tranquility.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


This article was originally published on May 26, 2011

Everyone who travels has a favorite city he or she longs to return to again and again, a home away from home.  For me it's Tokyo.  Clean, safe and the epicenter of Japanese culture, it also has to be the friendliest city in the world.  I've found that Japanese people try harder than anyone else to show hospitality to visitors and appreciation to those who respect their culture.  Above all else, I've formed more close friendships on my brief visits to Tokyo than I have in all my years in my hometown NYC.

Over the next week or two, I'll be doing a series of posts to share the experiences I enjoyed in Tokyo -- more or less in chronological order -- while visiting several different friends.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Rare Zeiss Lenses

This article was originally published on January 31, 2013.  The edit was added as of today's date.

An article in PetaPixel had interesting news for Hasselblad fans. Apparently, the grandson of lens designer Erhard Glatzel inherited from him two Zeiss lenses that had never been officially released. These were the the Distagon 25mm f/1.4 and Distagon 18mm f/2.8, both of which had only existed as prototypes. Obviously, these are two of the rarest and most valuable lenses available; most Hasselblad users can only dream of shooting with them.

Even more fascinating, while searching for additional information on the web regarding Glatzel, I came across a 6-minute video on YouTube detailing Stanley Kubrick's use, when filming Barry Lyndon in 1975, of the Mitchell BNC camera and two low light Zeiss lenses with an incredible aperture of 0.7. These had originally been developed for NASA's use in space exploration. Kubrick used them wide open to film the movie's famous candlelight dinner scene, excerpts of which are shown in the video. From a technical point of view, the scene is a tour de force of low light photography and should be seen by any photographer who has ever puzzled over shooting candlelight without overpowering it through the use of additional light sources. The scene demonstrates that Kubrick was not only a great director, but also a consummate photographer with incredible technical skills (he actually began his career as a still photographer in 1946 for Look Magazine).

EDIT: Earlier this month, a Popular Photography article announced that these same Zeiss lenses are now available for rent, together with a digital camera from German camera maker P+S Technik, from partner groups in London, L.A., North Carolina and Munich. The article did not, however, have information regarding the cost other than to state: "you can be sure it won't be a cheap rental."

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Using High Pass Filter in Photoshop CS6

This article was originally published on January 11, 2013

There was a very basic article in Digital Photo Pro's February edition on using a High Pass filter in Photoshop CS6. Written by Tim Grey, the article is useful primarily to those who have no experience with this technique. It introduces its subject as "a local contrast-enhancement adjustment" and deals primarily with the need to make changes to the filter's settings depending on image size.

The DPP article is fine as far as it goes, but High Pass has become so important to retouchers, especially in making adjustments to skin tone, that it merits more discussion. Photographer Sean Baker described a much more detailed method, and the reasons for using it, in a Model Mayhem forum thread back in 2009. Essential to Baker's description is the distinction he draws between 8 bit and 16 bit images, each requiring a different methodology. Most significantly, in working with 16 bit images, is the need to check off "Invert" after choosing "Add" in the "Blend" dialog box for "Apply Image." As Baker points out, use of this method will result in far greater accuracy in the final image.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Editing Video in Lightroom

This article was originally published on January 3, 2013

Up until last week I had never known it was possible to edit video in Lightroom 4. Then I saw an excellent tutorial on Pop Photography's website that showed how to do it. The procedure is relatively easy. At bottom, it consists of capturing a still frame from a video clip and then bringing it into Lightroom's Develop module. There it can be edited just as though it were a RAW file. Once the editing on the still image has been satisfactorily completed, a preset can be selected. The preset can then be applied to the entire video clip.

There are some minor limitations on the editing tasks that can be performed. It is not possible, for example. to make adjustments for noise reduction or spot removal because these can change from frame to frame. Still, this is an amazingly easy way to do basic editing and can save a great deal of time. 

The Pop Photography tutorial is especially recommended to those photographers, such as myself, who are only just becoming involved in video. For many of us, video is an interesting feature now offered on almost all high end DSLR's, but it is not a priority. The ability to edit video in programs such as Lightroom offers a great way to experiment without spending a huge amount of time and money acquiring and learning Premiere or similar software.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Photoshop CS6: Third Party Plug-Ins

This article was originally published on September 14, 2012

In updating to Photoshop CS6, I discovered issues with several third party plug-ins I had been using without problem in CS5. Some software required updates of their own, and some were no longer being supported.

Lucis Pro 6 works fine with CS6. Before installing it, however, it's necessary to go into the Photoshop program files on your hard drive and create a folder named Filters within the Plug-Ins folder. Otherwise, installation will be aborted.

NIK Software no longer supports Color Efex Pro 3 or Silver Efex Pro 1.0. If you've been using those versions in CS5, it will now be necessary to purchase updates from NIK. NIK does still support Dfine 2.0, Sharpener Pro 3.0, Viveza 2 and HDR Efex Pro. It may be necessary, though, to download free updates in order for those programs to function in CS6.

OnOne Software no longer supports Photo Suite version 5.5. Again, it will be necessary to purchase an update to the current version 7.0.

In a friendly gesture, though, OnOne does offer free samples from Photo Effects 3 and PhotoFrame 4.6. Some of these effects can look cheesy, especially when applied at 100% opacity; but they can occasionally give a photo a different feel and are, in any case, fun to play with.