Take that Hi-Key shot the easy way

Because it opens on all four sides you can either use it in a portrait and landscape orientation.  I have one Interfit strobe pointed into on the right.


I got an early birthday present! The Lastolite HiLite Background totally rocks. Think of it as a giant 6×7′ wall of light to put behind your subject. Although I’m getting better with my lighting all the time, it’s still a pain to get a white background to be perfectly and evenly lit. Well that is no longer a problem for me. The HiLite Background is a collapsible, portable background that takes about 5 minutes to setup. Once it’s setup it’s about 1′ wide. All four sides can be accessed via zippers, but the idea is that you stick one or two strobes on the end(s) and fire right into it. The beauty is that the strobes don’t have to be that powerful or expensive. I even tried it with an Nikon SB800 speedlight and got good results. However, I did buy a dedicated low end Interfit strobe that I run on a very low power setting (I need to turn it down even more now that I look at the histogram/clipping warning of my latest shots).


Here’s the shot I got of Model Ada from the above setup


Lastolite also sells a vinyl train so that you can create a semi-seamless background. Although the HiLite background is 7′ tall, that may not really be quite tall enough depending upon your subject. So you may want to use it for portraits of people that are seated or on a posing stool.

Lastolite makes a smaller version of this background that is 5’x7′, but trust me, you’re going to want the bigger one. It’s interesting that I’ve now used it 3 times and the first and last times I was able to fold it down in about 2 minutes. However, the second time I wrestled with this thing for 15 minutes to get it back into the bag. Go figure!

If you’re looking to do easier Hi-Key, this is your answer! It goes for $473.99 at B&H Photo.

I had internet access in my car!

Actually it wasn’t my car, it was my car service. As you may have read in yesterday’s post, I’m in San Jose California this week on business. I usually fly into SFO because it’s a direct flight. I’ve used the same car service for years now. El Paseo Limo has never let me down. They are always on time, courteous and hassle free. However, when I got into the back of the car this past Saturday, I decided to do some email using my iPhone. As soon as I fired up the iPhone it detected a Wi-Fi network called "elpaseolimo9". I’m so used to blowing off networks that I don’t recognize (many of them being fake) that I dismissed the dialog box immediately. After a couple of minutes I started thinking about it and thought, "why would someone create a fake network at the airport called "elpaseolimo9"? So I went back to my network settings and sure enough it was still there! I asked the driver, "do you guys actually have internet access in your cars now?" He said, "yes!" He then pointed to the back window and low and behold there was a Linksys wi-fi router sitting back there. For a split second I thought I was on a episode of Pimp My Ride.


There was no additional cost or passwords. No login pages either. It was also fairly speedy and I was connected the whole way from SFO to downtown San Jose. My guess is that this router was connected to some type of 3g network such as Verizon’s EVDO service. However, I was impressed by just how seemless and well it worked. El Paseo, way to stay ahead of the competition and to keep your business customers productive/happy!

Did you forget something?

A funny thing happened on my way to San Jose this week. Well actually the last thing I was thinking about on Saturday was laughing. I left for Detroit Metro Airport early Saturday morning. I got to the airport with my usual two bags. My suitcase and my large laptop bag. Since I planed on doing some shooting once I arrived in San Jose that afternoon I also had a fair amount of camera gear too.
I’m no stranger to TSA "bag checks". In other words I have a lot of electronic gear, batteries, etc. that sometimes triggers the x-ray person to call for a "bag check." Normally I can predict which items are going to cause problems and I take them out ahead of time and put them in a bin. So I had two bins. One with my jacket and misc. electronic gadgets and one with my laptop all by itself. Well apparently I didn’t take out enough stuff and I got pulled aside while they performed a detailed search of my laptop bag. So this meant gathering up my two bins and walking over to the TSA desk. Since I didn’t have enough free hands to carry the bins separately, I stacked them on top of each other.



Red Alert!

You know how they swab your bag/items with the little cloth and put it in the machine to check for explosive residue and other elements? Well mine turned red and the alarm went off! I just knew it would be a matter of moments before two guys came up and hauled me off to some dark room. However, that didn’t happen. I did get a pat down and continued checks on my bag. The TSA guy was nice but a little freaked out and even went to his supervisor for advice. They tried another machine and everything came up green and I was on my way. So I put all the stuff back in my bag from the bin.


Nice flight

The flight was uneventful and I just watched a movie on my iPhone, read a magazine and listened to music. Once I got to San Francisco I used my regular car service to get me to downtown San Jose.


That sinking feeling – 40 minutes of panic!

Once I got to my room (about 5 1/2 hours later from leaving Detroit Metro). I decided to pull out my MacBook Pro and do some testing with my lighting while shooting tethered. I unzipped it and looked down and didn’t see my MacBook Pro. My immediate thought was, "oh I must have taken it out already and it’s on the desk behind me – right?" So I slowly turned around to see that it wasn’t there! Then I thought, "oh it’s on the bed behind the bag!" It wasn’t there either. My heart sank! I started freaking out wondering if at any time did I not have control of my bag. Then it hit me that I never put my laptop back in my bag at the TSA desk 5 1/2 hours ago! OMG! It was in the second bin on the bottom of the first one.
I pulled out my iPhone and called information frantically seeking the number for the Detroit Metro Airport. I got the number and of course NO ONE ANSWERED! No recording, no busy signal, just NO ANSWER! I called back 3 times and it just rang! Then I called information again and asked if they had a different number. They did, I called it and got a FAX tone! GREAAAAAAT! WTF! I called and asked for the number to TSA. "What’s TSA?" OMG! You’re kidding me right? I was really freaking out at this point! So now I called Northwest Airlines and begged for them to either give me a number for the airport that someone would answer or call them for me. Luckily I got a NWA rep that felt my pain and went out of her way to try to get a human being at the airport. She did reach one person who informed her that when items like laptops are left at the security check points, they are turned over to the police. She then found the number to lost and found. I thanked her and called that number only to hear and I kid you not – "our office hours are Monday through Friday from 9AM-5PM, please call back during those hours!" I was dying at this point! So I remembered what she told me about the police and I called and got the number to Michigan State Police and called them. Mike answered the phone and checked his computer log and yes someone turned in an Apple laptop around 8:30AM that morning!!! I had already asked my wife to head to the airport because I wasn’t getting anywhere on the phone. So I called her and had her head to the police station instead.


A happy ending

My wife picked up my MacBook Pro that evening from the Michigan State Police station. One of my colleagues was heading to San Jose the next day for the same conference I’m attending and he met with her to pick it up so that he could bring it out to me. I’m typing this blog entry on it and all is well. However, besides actually forgetting to put it back in my bag, it really reminded about some common sense things that we should all do:


What you should do besides not being forgetful

First and foremost I had done a complete backup the night before I left. So I had a backup at home. However, now I’m thinking I should also travel with a backup drive too. Even if I had lost my laptop for good and was willing to go out and buy a brand new one that day, my backup would have been at home (on my Time Capsule) and I would not have been able to restore until I returned home days later, which would have meant a very unproductive week! Also before I leave the house I just close the lid and let my MacBook go to sleep. So if someone had stolen it, all they would have had to do is simply OPEN THE LID and they would have access to everything! I do have a password set for login/boot up, but I didn’t have the feature enabled that requires a password upon waking from sleep/screen saver (I do now!).
Lastly, I plan to tape my business card to the bottom of it. The police had no way to know who was the owner and who to call? There was nothing on the outside of the laptop itself that identified the owner! Mike from the Michigan State Police told me that they get 3-4 laptops a day! – WOW!

Lesson learned and it will NEVER happen again!

Adobe TV is here!

One of my favorite Adobe people, Julieanne Kost has her own show (The Complete Picture) on Adobe TV showing tips in Photoshop and Lightroom.


You may have seen the announcement last week that Adobe has released the FREE Adobe Media Player. This Flash based player allows you to watch all kinds of streaming content from the internet right on your Mac or PC. You can also build your own favorites list. Well that’s cool, but what you may have missed in the announcement is in addition to the Adobe Media Player, Adobe also rolled out Adobe TV. This is content that is produced by Adobe evangelists, solution engineers, product managers, product specialists and partners. This content is PACKED with useful tips on all of Adobe’s creative tools which of course includes the Adobe Creative Suite line. As a mater of fact episodes of my very own (insanely popular) Adobe Creative Suite Podcast are there for your viewing pleasure.


Adobe TV features four channels, each targeting a specific audience: Photographers, Designers, Video Professionals, and Developers. Each channel features programming from Adobe evangelists, leading trainers, subject matter experts, and luminaries who pull in the crowds at industry events around the world. More than 200 videos are currently available on Adobe TV, with programming that mixes how-to information, case studies, personality-driven shows, and workflow deep-dives. The first set of videos offers secrets about Photoshop® software, podcasts and design tips for Creative Suite, techniques for Photoshop Lightroom®, tips on Adobe Flash® Professional software for beginners, approaches to taming the Web, and information about video and audio production.


How do I get the Adobe Media Player?

Well that’s easy, just download it from this link.

How do I get content from Adobe TV?

There are a couple of ways. You can do searches right in the Adobe Media Player (AMP) or you can go right to the Adobe TV page and watch the content in your browser. It is Flash based after all.

Controlling the whole studio from my laptop

As you know, I’m a big fan of shooting tethered right into Adobe Photoshop Lightroom (which by the way just came out with a 1.4.1 update) when I’m in the studio. Also as my buddy Scott Kelby mentioned during his Lighting Gear Week, that I recently switched to the Elinchrom strobes with the Skyport RX Wireless System. Well last night I took it up a notch with their USB RX module and EL Skyport app. When I first switched over to the Elinchrom strobes and Skyport wireless triggering system (in place of PocketWizards which are still cool and all), I thought it was extremely cool to be able to control the power output of each strobe directly from the unit on top of my camera (with this unit:).

I figured that would be enough (it’s never enough by the way is it?). Then while I was ordering a bunch of gear at Photoshop World, I decided to complete this setup by ordering their Skyport RX USB module.

The USB module and the FREE to download EL-Skyport app takes things to a whole new level. It gave me something I hadn’t considered before. It gives me not only the ability to control the power output of the lights remotely, but it also does it visually. Each strobe’s control panel shows up as a little floating window. So as you can see in my shot above, I was able to see and control each strobe (including the modeling lamp, sound, etc.) while looking at my shots in Lightroom as I took them.


I was in lighting heaven last night!

The Elinchrom system is NOT cheap. I never thought I’d be spending this much money on lighting for my "hobby". However, I was also tired of trial and error and I don’t want to have to keep buying lighting over and over again. So this was it! I wanted to buy a good set of studio lights ONCE and not have to think about it for a very long time (if ever again). I’m still learning about lighting and with each shoot I get better and feel more confident, but with this system it’s almost like cheating :-)


Here’s my Elinchrom setup:

2 Elinchrom 600RX heads – $978 EACH (it’s like a big ‘ole Band-Aid – just yank it)

1 Elinchrom 53" Octa softbox – $307.95

1 Elinchrom Strip Bank softbox – $197.95

1 Skyport RX Radio System (1 hotshoe transmitter, 2 receivers) – $259.95

1 Skyport USB RX Radio Slave Tranceiver for your computer – $104.95

Photoshop World ’08 – East – Wrap up!

photo by R.C. Concepcion


I had a blast at this year’s Photoshop World in Orlando! Being a Trekkie and having a Star Trek based theme was also a bonus. I wanted to take a moment here and THANK all the attendees that took time to come up to me and tell me that they appreciated the work that I was doing. I couldn’t believe how many readers of this very blog were at the show. It was great to hear all the feedback.


If you missed the show you’ll definitely want to check out my Creative Suite Podcast today for the special Photoshop World Keynote Episode. For those of you who were at the keynote, you’ll note that I had to leave out the funny spoof videos as they will be shown again at the Vegas show in the fall and I didn’t want to spoil the surprises. However, you will see Adobe’s SVP Johnny L. and Lightroom Product Manager Tom Hogarty show off the latest and greatest Adobe technologies including some sneak peeks at CS4 technologies.


Also whether you were at the show or not, you’ll want to check out the Photoshop World Blog which has several highlights and photos from the event. There are only two shows that I actually "enjoy" working/attending and those shows are Photoshop World and Macworld Expo. So I hope to see you in September at Photoshop World in Las Vegas. As you would expect, I bought some photography gear at the show and I’ll be reviewing it in the coming days. So stay tuned.

A really cool idea for the 3g iPhone

While I can’t take credit for the idea (wish I had thought of it), I have never heard anyone mention it before as it relates to the iPhone. I was reading a post on engadget.com about a new phone (I don’t even remember which one it was), but it had a feature that would be KILLER on the 3g version of the iPhone.

Here goes: Most of us that travel with iPhones also travel with laptops. One feature that we hope for on the 3g iPhone is to be able to use it as a wireless modem (tethering/DUN) via Bluetooth. However, what would even be sweeter is having the iPhone itself become a Wi-Fi access point. Having a 3g iPhone means that we’ll have the potential for significantly faster data access than what we now see over EDGE. Since the iPhone already has Wi-Fi built-in, why not just tap a button, set a password and have it broadcast a Wi-Fi access signal that you could tap into with your laptop and surf?

Of course there’s the whole battery life thing and I have no idea if the Wi-Fi radio uses more power than the Bluetooth radio, but it would be pretty sweet nonetheless. It would also allow multiple devices to share the 3g internet connection simultaneously whereas Bluetooth would not.

Either way, the next version of the iPhone should definitely have either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi internet sharing for your laptop! Steve would probably argue that the iPhone is so good that you shouldn’t need to connect to the internet from your laptop and maybe with all the new corporate support (MS Exchange support, VPN access, etc.) that’s coming in iPhone 2.0 he’s right. I can’t wait til June to find out!

You may remember that I have a running list of features that I would like to see come to the iPhone (some of which have either been addressed in recent updates or have been announced for the 2.0 software update due in June) and all of which could be implemented via software updates or 3rd parties. So while were on the subject of the 3g iPhone, here are my:


Top 10 iPhone 2.0.1 Feature Requests

  • Flash Player! – We can’t keep pretending that we don’t need this! With a faster iPhone, there’s no excuse
  • Video Recording – No reason not to have this either
  • MMS Messaging – Can we send some picts and video directly to our buddies without using email?
  • Cut/Copy/Paste – Duh!
  • Contact Search – I’m sure I’m not the only one with hundreds of contacts
  • Note Syncing – No reason not to have this
  • Audio Recording – Taking notes/Voice recorder would be a very popular feature
  • Email Anything – The ability to email anything that’s on the device, ie: contacts, voicemail messages, maps, etc.
  • Voice Dialing – Lesser phones have this basic feature
  • Consolidated Email Box (option) – I have 5 email accounts on my iPhone – my screen is starting to wear out in the spot that I have to keep hitting the Back button on.

Great turnout here at Photoshop World Orlando

Teaching Intro to InDesign CS3 at Photoshop World in Orlando – Photo by R.C.


I gotta say that I’m having some really good classes here in Orlando at Photoshop World. Yesterday, I had standing room only in the Adobe Theater on the show floor as I was showing the NEW Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.0 Public Beta and today I had about 300 people in my InDesign CS3 class.

There are about 2,700 people in attendance at this year’s east coast show. Everyone I have talked to is jazzed about the show and all the things that they are learning. I want to thank all of you who took the time to come up to me and let me know that you enjoy this blog and my Creative Suite Podcast.

Well back to work! I have one more class today and Midnight Madness tonight :-)

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.0 Public Beta

After a wildly successful Lightroom 1.0 public beta and launch, Adobe is back with another one! Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.0 is now available in Public Beta (download it here)! That’s right, once again Adobe is looking for feedback from the Photographer community to build the next version of its digital photography workflow tool.

Now keep in mind that this is a BETA! That means that it’s not done yet, nor is it feature complete. You can install the public beta of LR 2 without interfering with your LR 1.x install. The idea is that you’ll keep working in the current version of LR and test 2.0 along side your current version without disruption to your workflow. As a matter of fact the LR 2.0 public beta will NOT open your LR 1.x catalogs. So there’s no chance of your accidentally upgrading your existing catalogs only for them not to work in the current version anymore. Download it, import some images into it, play with it, give us feedback and at the end of the day get back to work with LR 1.x.


New Features

In addition to being a 64bit app here are some of the new features to look forward to:

-Streamlined Library Layout
-Smart Collections
-Powerful Filter Bar to search and refine images
-Suggested Keywords for simplified keywording
-10k pixel size limit raised to 30k pixels

Multiple Monitors:
-Four flexible modes for an alternate window: Grid, Loupe, Compare, Survey
(Check out the Live Loupe mode!)

Photoshop CS3 Integration:
-Open files in Photoshop as a Smart Object
-Select multiple images to merge as a Panorama
-Merge multiple exposures into a single Photoshop HDR image
-Load multiple files or virtual copies into Photoshop as separate layers in a single document.

Export Functionality:
-Auto-add exported images to the Lightroom catalog
-Auto Output Sharpening for images on export

Develop Module
-Non-Destructive Localized Correction for dodging and burning specific areas of an image
-Post Crop Vignette
-Basic Panel Keyboard Shortcuts
-Improved Auto Adjustment:  

Print Module
-Picture Package for multi-page layouts
-Print Module output directly to JPEG
-16 bit printing under Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard
-Enhanced Print Sharpening based on PhotoKit Sharpener algorithms


See it in action!

I recorded a special episode of my Adobe Creative Suite Podcast where I show many of the new features of LR 2.0. Also the good folks over at NAPP have put up a LR2 Learning Center with videos. Also check out what Adobe’s Photoshop Product Manager, John Nack has to say.

Also if you’re at Photoshop World this week, I’ll be demoing it after the keynote in the Adobe booth. Come check it out and say hello!

Adobe and Apple have announced that they are merging

It’s the news you’ve been waiting for and speculating about for years now! That’s right Steve Jobs and Adobe’s CEO Shantanu Narayen have announced that they are merging the companies. Although they haven’t settled on a name for the combined company yet, the new acronnym for the combined company will simply be "A.A."

The question on everyone’s mind is what will the new product line up look like? In the press release today, they gave a list of their top products to be sold and there are a few surprises:

  • Acrobat MacBook Pro iCS3 Connect Pro Hosted Edition Public Beta
  • iPhone 2.5 Flash iCS3 Developer’s mini
  • iPhotoshop Express for .Mac take 3 – includes 11GB of space for $101/yr or Free with a new aMac
  • Big Mac mini Master Collection iCS3
  • iPod hi-fi take 2 with iPremiere Pro enabled visualizer
  • Final Cut Studio now with iPageMaker 7.5.6.take2 for laying out your Blu-ray DVD covers
  • MacPro now with Blu-ray support, however this will only play movies burned with A.A. Encore CS3

These products are available and shipping today! Also now no matter what you purchase, you will receive a FREE iPhone case.

It is uncertain as to the fate of the Windows versions of the existing products, however both CEO’s said that they remain customer focused and that Windows customers shouldn’t be concerned. Steve went on to say that the Mac is a great platform and that he would give the Windows versions serious consideration, "no, really I will". They also announced that since they’ve now created the world’s largest software/hardware monopoly outside of Microsoft that prices will be raised immediately across the board by 25%. Shantanu went on to say that "the decision to raise prices across the board was not taken lightly. However, it was necessary to cover the cost of all the new package designs and trademarks of the new company and to hire a top legal team to continue to fight the mounting lawsuits that both companies would now be facing."

All in all I’m happy that this merger has finally happened and I can’t wait to see what the combined company does in the future.


Steve jobs pictured with Adobe co-founders Chuck Geschke and John Warnock. Steve was quoted back then in saying "I think you will see our companies do more than ever together in 2008!" What a visionary. He was right!

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