Sunday, August 9, 2009

Aperture vs. Lightroom - a competition

Well ..

In case you missed it. My post about not hiring uncle Bob (or me) to shoot your event contained a small side note that I hadn't yet chosen a post production software package. Obviously, I was looking at Lightroom and Aperture and I poked a little fun at Kevin Swan and Jason Aten (hey - I spelled that right on the first try Jason!) about telling me which was best.

57 follow on posts (or more) later and Jeff Youngren stepped in to suggest a bake off. Kevin may call me a chicken, but I'm going to say right here that I actually believe which one is better depends largely on what you want to do with it and on your personal preference and what you know. There are features in each package that trump the other - and - Lightroom has been around longer so it has more features. Lucky for you, if you don't have a Mac your decision is made - as Aperture is not available for a PC. If you have a Mac and haven't figured this one out, hopefully the bakeoff links posted here will help.

No matter what, I want to give a HUGE respectful shoutout to Jason Aten and Kevin Swan and the others, including Jeff Youngren (who submitted images from a recent event), Nathan Holritz who is also doing a Lightroom edit and Sara France, who may also do an Aperture edit. We're posting the links here and elsewhere so the entire pro-photo community can benefit from their hard work.

Onward and post away fellas.


Saturday, August 8, 2009

Dinner last Sunday Evening

Last Sunday evening we had some friends over for dinner. I left the camera in the bag for the evening and put on my apron instead. Here's the menu we put together - along with some notes. All of the produce came from a nearby farmer's market. Fish from Fish King, a legendary, Glendale based fresh fish market that supplies a lot of the high end restaurants and the meats from Whole Foods. Wines were supplied by Patrick McClenahan (yes, President and GM of KCAL, KCBS here in Los Angeles and a close friend). Richard Villa (CFO of TCW) and I did most of the cooking. The menu is mine ... for good or for bad. The evening was lovely - why we live in California - high 70's nice breeze, so we ate outside. 15 people in all.

Summer Celebration Dinner

Appetizers: Bruschetta of Summer Tomatoes, Salmon Cakes with Fennel, Zucchini slaw and sweet pepper aioli. (second recipe adapted from one I saw in either Bon Appetite (BA) or Gourmet. We served this course with a nice summery Pinot Grigio.

Salad: Spray of Summer Greens with Grilled Apricots, Feta and Simple Vinaigrette. During this course we transitioned to the first of two amazing Chardonnays, a Far Niente and a Cakebread. I was worried about the vinaigrette pairing with the Chardonnays, but the lightly caramelized apricot (and a drizzle of honey) calmed the acidity enough that it worked.

Seafood: Grilled Halibut Brochette with Mango Avocado Salsa over Basil, Jasmine Rice. The halibut was lightly marinaded in a tequila, lime, cumin base prior to grilling. We had this course with a stunning, 2001 Reserve Pinot Noir from Cakebread Cellars. While I was happy with the salsa fish and rice, I would change the marinade next time to be less acidic to match with the Pinot. (any ideas greatly appreciated).

Entre: Miniature Applewood Smoked Bacon Wrapped Center Cut Filets with Port Reduction. Simply roasted fingerling potatoes. Wok'd Light Pepper Verts. The wine pairing for this course was perfect, two wonderful 2001 Solaias from Antinori in Tuscany, Italy. A wonderfully balanced super-Tuscan style Cabernet blend. This course was as near perfect as it could have been from amateurs.

Dessert: Homemade Simple Vanilla Ice Cream over lightly macerated summer berries with a drizzle of light Coconut Carmel and Zinfandel/Chocolate sauces. Topped with a few toasted coconut flakes. Paired with a wonderful dessert wine. EOS. A late harvest blend from Napa.

I love these evenings and the opportunity to celebrate with friends. Patrick's son Eric was married the Friday evening before, and Richard's daughter Steph was married this spring. In truth, I'd put together a dinner like this in celebration of a particularly green lawn or pretty rose. The time we spend together is priceless. Doing it all ourselves is the most fun of all.



Monday, August 3, 2009

Don't hire Uncle Bob (or me for that matter!)

I was thinking about the difference between what our photographers do and what I can do. I'm an uncle Bob - sort of. As Jeff Youngren can attest, I stay out of the way of the pros and shoot my own stuff. I'm really basically looking for one image that I can give my friends as a gift after the event. (Jeff shot my closest friend's daughter's wedding). Frankly, that event really brought this subject home for me.

I've been shooting since I was 11 years old. I currently own a Canon 5D Mark2 and a 5D. I have a 70 200 2.8L IS, a 24-105 4.0L IS, a 17-40 4.0 L, and a 50 1.4. I’m buying a 24-70 2.8L right now. I also own and know how to use a 580EX. (all in, that’s about $8K worth of gear). So here's the deal ... The equipment I have isn't just as good as the equipment the pros have, it's the same. But does that mean I can shoot an event? In a word, no.

First off, I only have one of each. Having a spare body is nice, but if my flash died I’d be up the proverbial smelly creek. Each of my lenses is useful, but if I knocked my 24-105 on something, or God forbid dropped it, the 17-40 is not a stand in. Granted, I can use the 50 for most things, especially with half decent post production skills. (which I don’t have because Kevin Swan hasn’t taught me how to use Lightroom yet and Jason Aten is too busy to teach me Aperture. Yes, I’m still trying to decide). But the real thing is it’s not about equipment.

My very best images are average for a professional. Their command of light and focus and their vision gives them an enormous advantage. If I see something that works, it’s basically luck. A professional creates their own luck. They are aware of the light sources. They are experienced with the events themselves, and the flow. They physically move to places that allow them to take full advantage of the venue. They are tireless.

Once the event is shot their expertise in post-production takes over. They know how to use the new software to their full advantage, and they have the good stuff. They’re not using iPhoto to de-noise an image because the presets in Lightroom or Aperture work way better. They have an ability to see the hidden gems in an otherwise unremarkable image, and then reframe the image to highlight them. They will make the entire event look contiguous. They do this by manipulating the colors, but what you’ll notice is that it looks like everyone is wearing the same clothes for the whole event. You won’t see green dresses in one setting and blue dresses in another. You won’t be healthy and tan in one image and sickly pale in the next. There won’t be a blemish, a crumb or a smudge on any of your images.

I own the higher end software products, but I have a day job, so I don’t really know how to use them. Likewise, I own some of the best camera gear that money can buy, but I have no idea how to change my white balance in camera to deal with the florescent lighting in the room, which creates an ugly, green hue. I am too slow to capture you on the move and I will likely miss important moments because I’m in the wrong place.

Am I a bad photographer? No. In fact, it’s not unusual for people to look at my stuff and ask me whether or not I’m a pro. It’s just that for me the ratio of good to bad is like 1 in 50, and every once in a while I will miss something that I really wanted to get. (I’m sorry Edgar, Tera, Steph and Sean!)

Take it from me, hire a pro. You’ll be happy you did.