Monday, December 17, 2012

Last days for Photoshop CS6 upgrade offer

There was a lot of backlash when Adobe announced the launch of their CS6 versions of their creative suite applications, they were only going offer reduced upgrade pricing to owners of their current product line CS5. So if you were using an older version you would have to pay full price to upgrade to CS6. The PR nightmare that erupted prompted Adobe to modify their policy and offer a limited time special upgrade path for users of CS3 and CS4. Well that "limited time" frame is about to run out, you have just a few more days (until 31-Dec-2012) to purchase their CS6 version or you will have to pay full price.

Toronto International Film Festival 2012

Just completed my tenth year photographing the Toronto Film Festival, things have changed over the years. The length of the festival has grown to more than a week, the number of films screened each year has increased and fan participation has become insane. Most if not all festival events have moved south from Yorkville to the entertainment district centered around the Bell TIFF Lightbox now in it's second year. More of the stars are staying in the new luxury hotels located in the area also so Yorkville is playing no real part in TIFF anymore. The crowd of fans has changed also, more people have been showing up to the gala red carpet events and realize that to get a prime location in the fan area you must show up earlier then ever before.
The schedule was terrible this year, most of the movies with bigger names attending the galas all premiered the first weekend leaving the middle of the week empty. The weather that first weekend was filled with rain so one had to pick their locations wisely, opting for smaller but dryer gala locations. Breaking from tradition the festival opened with a Hollywood action flick "Looper" instead of a Canadian content film.
With the schedule being front end loaded with bigger galas, the mid week Hollywood Foreign Press "InStyle" party which I skipped this year was a bust. Most of the attendees were local talent who were in town filming TV series, Rookie Blue etc.. The action picked up again Thursday with the premiers of Billy Bob Thorton's "Jayne Mansfield’s Car" and the premier of "Twice Born" starring Penélope Cruz it then petered out with the closing gala of "Song for Marion" attend by only Terence Stamp and the director other expected talent pulled out at the last minute.
Due to weather and venue locations I missed seeing some of the bigger stars like Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and John Goodman but did manage to see some other new names for me Johnny Depp, Christopher Walken and Will Smith. The Prince of Wales Theater was used more this year and for fans this venue is terrible. I only spent one day at this location and the carpet is so short and the fan area so small that taking pictures is a real challenge. Even Tom Hanks complained that the venue was more like a cattle run, he felt like he was being lead to the slaughter. Hopefully the TIFF organizers re think scheduling next year or redesign the layout of the carpet for this venue.

Security became an issue this year with the autograph collectors. I've been dealing with professional autograph seekers for years but they seemed to be more aggressive this year. The "hounds" as we call them often show up minutes before the talent arrives at a venue, they often hang back and eye the crowd looking for opportunities to push their way to the front to obtain autographs. If the crowd isn't too large that works to their advantage they can easily move up and down the rail getting multiple items signed. A new tactic this year was an accordion style piece of cardboard that they could deploy over the heads of the front rows in the crowd putting their items in front of all others and blocking our cameras. I have no idea how these people make a living, and looking at them the obviously don't make a very good one... Their hourly rate must be very little since they travel to galas, press conferences and hotels all day and looking at them they don't have a dental plan. Late in the week some of them booed a young actress because they didn't get their items signed, real classless group of individuals. The TIFF organizers hired extra paid duty officers to combat the hounds late in the week, posting them in the rear of the crowd, the hounds disappeared completely. Hopefully this is the new norm for security in the future.
Because I picked smaller but dryer venues this year I saw some younger talent that I've never seen before but I did manage to see some more Oscar winning talent too. Repeats from previous years were Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim Robbins, Robert Duval, Marisa Tomei and Penélope Cruz. New Oscar winners for me this year were Billy Bob Thorton and Christopher Walken.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Peregrine Banding - Toronto Sheraton Centre

 Peregrine Falcons Rhea Mae and Tiago have nested at the Toronto Sheraton Centre Hotel for the past 7 years and have returned again this year to the hustle and bustle of the downtown core to raise their young. This year's eyases were banded by the MNR and the Canadian Peregrine Fundation on Wed May the 23rd. There were four chicks  Marlee a 595g male, Journey an 850g female , Cosmo the runt at 535g male and finally Fef a 815g female. The sex of the young are determined by weight and you can see that the females weigh a lot more than the males.

 Two bands are installed one on each leg, one from the Canadian Wildlife Services the other from U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services from south of the border. A temporary piece of  tape, a different color for each chick is applied over the US tag which allows the fledge watchers an easy way to identify each bird and keep track as they leave the nest usually 40days after hatching. Fledge watch starts this week 04-Jun-2012.

 I've attended this event twice now and this year was special as I was able to see the chicks being extracted from the nest. A small access panel located at one of the 43rd floor ledge allows the MNR biologist to snatch the chicks from their protective parents. The technician had to use a broom with one hand to hold back mom, while using the other to collect the better than handful sized bundles of beaks and claws. I managed to shoot over the shoulder of the MNR tech and watched through the Hotel's mechanical room window as the parents circle looking for their family. I was told that this is the only site that allows the chicks to be banded without a tech being left behind to distract the parents. The banding is rather quick and the stress on the young is controlled by spraying water into their mouths, which happens to be the only water they consume for the rest of the life.

I must thank the Canadian Peregrine Foundation and the Sheraton Centre Hotel for allowing us access and for their hospitality to witness this very special event. I recommend this event to anyone who is interested in birds or nature, and I hope to witness Rhea Mae and Tiago's young being banded again next year...

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Joe McNally comes to Canada July 2012

Joe McNally is bring his One Light / Two Light Seminar to Canada with stops in Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, Montreal and here in Toronto on July 7th at the Toronto Congress Center , 650 Dixon Rd (in the Leonard Cohen room). I've seen Joe before and he is a genius when it comes to lighting with flash big or small units and makes learning fun with his humor.

from Kelby Training:
"The One Light, Two Light Tour, with Joe McNally is all about creating great lighting! All day, lighting problems, solutions, tactics and strategies will be demonstrated, live, using simple gear and small flashes. It's about producing stunning results that will thrill clients without tugging an eighteen-wheeler full of gear around with you. For over five hours, Joe will be shooting onstage with every frame shown immediately on screen, and he’ll mix in short video clips of lighting lessons in the field, all designed to show you how to get great results every time, with a minimum of gear."

If you are interested in lighting or using flash this is one guy who is a must see... remember NAPP members can attend at a discounted fee of $79.

Aftermath Update : Joe amazing as usual, making it look so easy. This is the second time I've attended a McNally seminar and he is a very informative and humorous instructor. He broke the sessions up with videos and images from some of his recent jobs. Interesting to hear what happens to guys that are making a living or trying to in the business. Shooting a wedding the McNally way, 330 Gig worth of images... cant imagine sorting through that amount of work.  

Friday, April 6, 2012

Photography Anyone Tour - Toronto

Clay Blackmore's "Photograph Anyone Tour" is coming to Toronto this spring. Two 1/2 day seminars are available on May 23rd 18:00-22:30 and May 24th 14:00-18:30 for $69 - $79 with two full day master classes 09:00-17:00 held on Friday and Saturday 25th and 26th respectively for $199 or book both a seminar and a master class for $249.
Everything from camera settings, posing and lighting will be covered in this unique seminar which uses a live video feed directly from Clay's camera. Clay will cover to how handle portraits of children, mother and child, maternity, men, women, high school seniors, business portraits, small-to-medium groups and detailed wedding coverage. Technical aspects of using your camera and your speedlights as well as post production retouching techniques will covered. The masterclass provides hands on use of your camera and speedlight setups so you can practice what you've learned.
Attendees of the masterclass will receive a copy of OnOne's Perfect Portrait a value of $99. If interested I suggest you book soon as dates are filling up quickly.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Lightroom 4 and Photoshop ACR v7.0

 Early adopters of Lightroom4 (LR4) like myself are receiving  pop up warnings when trying to export Edit into Photoshop CS5. The Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) version used in LR4 is ACR 7.0 however Photoshop's ACR hasn't been updated yet resulting in the following warning:

This version of Lightroom may require the Photoshop Camera Raw plug-in version 7.0 for full compatibility.
Please update the Camera Raw Plug-in using the update tool available in the Photoshop help menu.

 The suggested method of updating doesn't work because again you can't update to something that isn't available yet!! Not sure what Adobe was thinking? Looks like a rush to market with little fore thought of the consequences.

 Adobe's response to user's question are:

Camera Raw 6.7 (currently available on Adobe Labs: ) provides compatibility between Lightroom 4 and Photoshop CS5. The final release of Camera Raw 6.7 through the Adobe update mechanism will be available in the very near future.

Camera Raw 7.0 (currently available on Adobe Labs as party of the Photoshop CS6 beta: ) provides seamless compatibility between Lightroom 4 and Photoshop CS6. The final release of Photoshop CS6 will be available later this spring. 

However some users are still having issues after updating to ACR v6.7. Some who have updated to v6.7 still get the warning, others are complaining about noticeably brighter images in Photoshop rendered images "Open Anyway" compared to those that were rendered in LR4 which appear to match the original. Jeff Schewe recommends rendering in Lightroom prior to Photoshop editing, or to instal ACR6.7 with the caveat of dealing with the know issues. I will move forward with Lightroom rendering rather than dealing with all of the unknowns of ACR6.7.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Manfrotto Magic Arm

 I recently purchased the Manfrotto Magic Arm which is, truly magic. The arm provides a flexible and stable way of mounting a camera to a pole or any flat surface in locations where tripods are forbidden. The arm is available in two different models and each offer different configurations with /without camera brackets etc.. One model uses a locking lever the other uses a variable friction locking knob which provides a more precise method of positioning your camera or lighting head. The locking knob located at the elbow joint when tightened also locks in place the two ball joints at either end making it very easy to position your camera.
 Both models can be purchased with a quick release camera bracket (which uses a 200PL-14 plate) or a removable camera / umbrella platform bracket. I went with the platform version and then added a Manfrotto 323 quick change plate adapter, essentially the flexibility of both models in one. The arms can also be bought without a camera bracket or in a kit which includes: platform bracket, backlite base and a super clamp. I recommend getting a super clamp even if you do not own the magic arm, it's an indispensable piece of equipment when trying to securely mount a light, gobo or any equipment that uses a spigot. You can use a super clamp along with a Justin clamp and mount a speedlight almost anywhere on location.
 The arm is ideal for low light or night photography in places where tripods are not allowed: buildings, observation decks etc.. The rent a cops (security) in these places are usually only interested in tripods, so if it doesn't have three legs they'll usually leave you alone. Others have used the arm to mount cameras on bicycles or cars to capture video and have found it to be very stable.
 The arm likely wont fit in your bag but it's fairly light and compact when folded up and can be easily transported around. I order mine through B&H in New York because local shops here in Toronto didn't carry the friction version. I received the arm within a couple of days and even with shipping charges the price was cheaper when I compared to local prices on similar model.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lightroon Ships at Half Price

Adobe's Lightroom 4 has been released and for the first time in Lightroom’s history, Adobe has lowered the price from $299 down to just $149 for the full version, and only $79 for the upgrade. Also remember that NAPP members receive a 15% discount.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Adobe: Upgrade Policy About Face

 Late last year Adobe announced that they were changing their upgrade pricing policy which offered a reduced price for current users of older versions of their products. They had allowed users who were within a couple of older versions a special upgrade price to their newly released products. Currently you can receive a reduced upgrade price for Photoshop (PS) CS5 if you have a license copy of PS CS2 or newer. Their new policy would only offer a discount price to users who were using the current version of their creative suite applications (versions CS5 or CS5.5 depending on the app).
 This caused a huge uproar in the user community and Adobe has since changed it's policy at least for the latest version CS6 to be released early this year, but going forward it appears you will need to be a user of CS6 to be entitled to a reduced price for the next version down the pipe.This change appears to be a one shot grace period for next year only, after that you'll need to stay current or pay full price when you want to upgrade.

Adobe's press updated policy:

Upgrade offer for CS3 and CS4 customers

We’re very excited about the upcoming release of Adobe® Creative Suite® 6 software and Adobe Creative Cloud™. CS6 will be a major new release of our creative desktop tools, with huge improvements for every type of creative professional. Adobe Creative Cloud will be our most comprehensive creative solution ever, giving members access to all of the CS6 desktop software plus additional services, new tools, Adobe Touch Apps, and rich community features. In addition, Creative Cloud members will receive continuous upgrades and updates to all products and services as part of their membership.
With these great new releases coming in the first half of 2012, we want to make sure our customers have plenty of time to determine which offering is best for them. Therefore, we’re pleased to announce that we will offer special introductory upgrade pricing on Creative Suite 6 to customers who own CS3 or CS4. This offer will be available from the time CS6 is released until December 31, 2012. More details on this offer, as well as any introductory offers for existing customers to move to Creative Cloud membership, will be announced when CS6 and Creative Cloud are released later this year.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Canon: One Price Fixes All

Canon Canada has gone to a flat rate repair fee business model. If you send a camera or lens into their service center you will be charged a set fee for the repair regardless of the problem. Depending on the camera/lens model they set the price for your repair even before they look at the unit. This could work to your advantage if the repair were say replacing a sensor or shutter mechanism. The flip side is also true if your repair consisted of cleaning some lens contacts that you could have performed yourself.

The repair fees seem to be based on original model value, for instance a sample of their DSLR models breakout as:

Model Repair Fee*
Rebel T2i $149
EOS 60D $199
EOS 7D $219
EOS 1DS III $299
* plus taxes and shipping

I recently sent in one of my Canon EOS 7D bodies for repair. I was getting an "error 30" code which points to a problem with the shutter. The camera was returned within 5 days and required a loose connection to be soldered. They also performed a sensor and eyepiece cleaning (they normally charge $40 for a sensor clean) and firmware upgrade (not sure about the firmware upgrade, was certain that I was up to date, maybe a reflash?). The complete cost was $247 including taxes and shipping (Mississauga to downtown Toronto). The repair warranty is good for 90 days, I will put this model to work and leave my newer model as a backup.

One has to ask "In store extended warranties are they worth it"? Henrys here in Toronto offers an "Extended Life Plan" which extends the warranty from 1 to 3 years and provides some lemon protection, price protection and full in store replacement in the early months of ownership. For a Canon EOS 7D they charge $219 which is the exact same price as a single out of warranty repair charge from Canon. Is it worth it, that is a great debate for sure. I've owned 4 DSLR bodies and this is the first out of warranty repair that I've had. I've only had one other dealing with Canon's repair center, which was a defective/recalled battery grip for my old 20D. Before deciding if you should spend the money on an extend warranty plan you may wish to first check the cost of an after warranty repair charge at this site: Canon Canada Repair Ctr.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Camera Shutter Life

I was recently looking for information regarding the shutter life for my camera. The manufacture gives approximate shutter life expectancies in their warranty information but how accurate are they? This Web Site contains average measured shutter life for popular makes and models.