It’s a crazy world, I know. We’ve all have times when things get a little out of hand. It’s the nature of today’s beast – everything gets done fast, which means next time it’s got to be faster. Everybody is looking to achieve, to be better, to be the best on the block. It can be difficult, and can lead young adults today into not only despair, but coping methods that always end up being negative. I’m talking about addiction, here, folks. And whether that addiction is about drugs, alcohol or just the Internet, it can be real. It can make for a situation in which the person trying to escape the pressures of everyday life ends up making things a whole lot worse.
This story plays out again and again.
The Right Influences Can Change Everything
A friend of mine ended up getting addicted to Cocaine in his early 20s. It was rough for him, and it wasn’t until he decided to finally give himself over to his addiction completely that he could make the change. He hit rock bottom, basically, and decided that he would need the best drug rehabilitation that money could buy. He decided to get straight, to stop partying and to cut a lot of ties with people who were helping to contribute to the problem. Those are typically the most difficult things to do, but if you find that an addiction has taken over, you really don’t have a lot of choice but to surrender.
The Right Change For Him
Once he got out of Rehab, and started going to Narcotics Anonymous meetings on a weekly basis, he realized that he had more to live for than ever. He started getting into auto mechanics, and bought himself an amazing old Ford Galaxie. He started eating right, cutting down on red meats and going to yoga. He started to be the guy at parties that you could talk to, basically because he wasn’t already hammered beyond his means.
I talked to him about his situation one day, because we were really close, and he said the whole situation was something he wanted to put behind him, but was on his mind everyday. It was one of those things that he just couldn’t shake, despite the success of the rehab, and the fact that he hadn’t used in a long time. I mean, is there a rule about these things? I really doubt there is. It’s just instinctual.
But he said it was friends like me that kept him going. And he thanked me.
Snorers usually should consult a doctor before using any type of sleep apnea treatment. They will only end up wasting time and money if the treatment that they consider does not suit their condition. The doctor will examine the patient’s condition before proposing a solution. The patient’s overall health will be evaluated to identify the root of the problem. He or she must also provide the doctor with an accurate health history because this is essential for a solid diagnostic. The physician should also be informed if the patient is taking any type of medication or undertaking any type of treatment, especially if that patient has been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea before.
Mild to moderate cases of snoring can be helped by using a snoring mouthpiece. These are devices that improve the movement of air by increasing the size of the air passageway in the throat or epiglottis. A mouthpiece is usually recommended if the cause of the snoring is the position of the jaw. Snoring can also be treated using certain types of medications, but the person´s overall health should be assessed thoroughly before any type of medication is prescribed. Surgery can also be an option for some, especially if the snoring is frequent and severe. Such procedures can be slightly invasive and may come with an array of side effects. Patients are advised to conduct their own research and gather more insights about their best course of action.
Getting In Touch With A Sleep Doctor
You should talk to a sleep specialist if you have been snoring for some time now. This is because hat snoring can indicate a prevailing health problem. It can also be a signal that you may have to alter your lifestyle. The snore sound is typically caused by the vibration of respiratory structures. There are several conditions that can prompt snoring. These are throat weakness, fat deposits around the throat, obstructed nasal passageways and the more serious obstructive sleep apnea.
People who are taking relaxants may also experience snoring because their throat or facial muscles are unnaturally relaxed. It is advised to seek treatment for this condition as soon as possible if this becomes bothersome because this can also affect your relationship with other people. If the volume and consistency of your snoring is unpleasant, you may receive complaints from a loved one such as a spouse or partner. This can make you feel embarrassed about your condition. If you want to reduce or get rid of snoring, you should consider a wearing snoring mouthpiece. But you should still obtain the opinion of the doctor before checking out snoring mouthpieces that may or may not help you. It depends on the case, of course.
Give Your Partner A Break
If you are suffering because of this and your partner has become tired of listening to you snoring all night, you can do some simple things that can minimize the problem. The first and the easiest thing that you can do is to change your sleeping position. Most of the people sleep in the wrong position because of natural habit, which can actually increase breathing issues. If you sleep on your side, it may be possible you need to change this habit. It will be tough for you initially to change your sleeping position but once you start trying, you will eventually get it right.
Here’s the tough one: you can also quit drinking because drinking can be a major cause of snoring. Similarly, you may need to look at your weight as well because people that are overweight often face lots of breathing issues just due to the added girth. Getting enough sleep everyday is another very important and effective remedy because people that lack sleep tend to snore more often (this is all chicken and egg, of course). You should also consider setting up a timetable that is consistent. And finally, if you are taking sleeping pills, try to minimize the intake of these pills because they can also cause snoring and blockages. In the end, this problem is curable with the right amount of effort.
If you’ve created only one holiday card, e-mail is a perfect way to send it. But what about those other familial obligations? The incessant: “When do we get a new photo of the kids?” Or “How big is the puppy?” Or “I can’t wait to see the new house.” Admit it, you’ve already thought about building a Web page, e-mailing your URL to everyone you know, and then just sitting back and letting the family marvel at your creativity and technical acumen. If you’re like me, the only thing stopping you is time. Well, listen up: Some new tools can get your baby photos on the Internet faster than you can get off the telephone when that long-winded cousin of yours calls.
You know you’d love to receive this gem.
PictraAlbum from Pictra and Photo Creations All-in-One Studio from Creative Wonders let you compile photos into albums and publish them on the Web without any troublesome technical or design machinations. Say you just want to send some snapshots without a lot of cute extras. PictraAlbum is a bare-bones application with a single purpose: organizing your photos into albums. It assumes your pictures are ready to go; just pick one of 14 background styles, drag and drop the digital photo into your album, enter captions, and hit the Publish button. Your vacation album is uploaded to PictraNet. Now you can answer all those eager questions with one URL (www.pictranet.com). You can even password-protect the site if you’re worried about those photos of the dog ending up on some bestiality site. You can add new albums or update old ones whenever you want, as long as you don’t exceed your allotted storage space limit. 10MB (about 30 photos) costs $49.95 for a year; 30MB bumps it up to $99.95.
If you want something fancier, check out Photo Creations. It’ll make cards, banners, and other stuff, but its focus is photo albums. It has ready-made templates for wedding albums, baby books, and the like (complete with themed graphics), but you can also build an album from scratch. Drag your photos into place, type in captions, paste in graphics and clip art, even add sounds (you can record your own or use the ones provided). Piece of cake. Then you can either e-mail your album (a player is automatically attached) or upload it to the Creative Wonders Web site. Unlike with PictraNet, though, displaying your online album here doesn’t cost you anything, and there’s no limit to how many pictures you can upload.
Do It Up!
But if you really want to impress the gang with your computer savvy (that’s right, be proud of your inner dork), build your own Web page. Windows Draw 6from Micrografx has a Web Publishing Wizard that makes it hugely easy to create a site that looks like you hired a professional (it also has an extensive array of image editing and drawing tools). Say you’ve got a snapshot of you, the family, and the new dog together on your summer camping trip. Start with that, type in a caption for the photo, add a forest background and some outdoorsy clip art, and create buttons that link to other family members’ pages. Draw will save the whole business in HTML, letting you review all the links in the process so you know that everything works. All you have to do is upload the creation to your Internet service provider. When some important event happens, just update the Web site, complete with photos. Think of it–you can e-mail your in-laws the URL and never have to mail a photo again.
Of course, your in-laws might ask for reprints of those lovely photos they’ve seen on your Web page. But the Web can even help you there: Kodak recently launched its Picture Network, and PhotoNet from PictureVision has been around for a while. When you drop off a roll of film, simply check a box on the order envelope asking that your photos be uploaded to the Web. Within a week your newest photos are on the Web, in addition to being developed and printed. You can e-mail your in-laws a photo postcard from the Web, or simply send out the URL, and your family can see the latest picture of the baby and even order the reprints themselves.
Although PhotoNet’s basic service (30-day storage) is free and enables you to print photos on things like mouse pads, mugs, and calendars, Kodak Picture Network has some significant features that make it more useful. You can upload your own photographs to your personal site (although you can’t get reprints). It’s also available through more than 30,000 developers who already use Kodak. PhotoNet, on the other hand, is available only through participating stores (such as Wolf Camera and The Camera Shop).
Old Skool, New Action
A time may come when even you will want to resort to the arcane tactic of actually printing your cards or photo albums. Of course, almost any new ink jet printer turns out crisp color photos, especially if you use glossy paper. But recently there’s been a spate of those devices that claim to do everything from scan to fax to copy to print to wash windows. Xerox has just such a device: The Document HomeCentre. It combines a detachable color scanner, a color ink jet printer, and a color copier.
Whoever invented that detachable scanner is right up there with Einstein, as far as I’m concerned. It’s great to be able to capture images from bound books and magazines–no need to rip out pages any longer. It captures both photos and text beautifully.
The $499 HomeCentre also does an impressive, if slow, job of printing and copying in color, cranking out one vibrant color page per minute (black and white is four times as fast). Unfortunately, it doesn’t do quite as well with printing photos. Even after adjusting all the controls–color intensity, contrast, and so forth–the photos that scanned in so nicely came out fuzzy and discolored. Now, you may be a computer dork, but I’ll bet you still have some pride. So you probably don’t want to mail distorted copies of your photos. If you really want to print your own photos, I’d recommend investing in a top-quality ink jet printer. .
Here’s a warning: Your computer can save you the hours you once spent getting photos developed and mailed. But think twice before you tell everyone how easy it was to build your Web page. You could spend twice as much time handling the deluge of technical calls you’ll get from everyone in your family trying to do the same thing. But, hey, at least you’ll all have something to talk about at those holiday get-togethers.
There are some important things that you need to keep in mind while searching for a good data recovery company and without these features you should not trust just anyone. First of all make sure that you are dealing with experienced company and by experience I do not just mean work. Make sure that they are doing effective and successful data recovery in the past and best way is to speak with few of their clients. They will give you a realistic idea about their services and will also tell you about the time that they take to recover data. Another important aspect is their qualification because you may find some unqualified and part time professionals that work in this field. Do not get fooled and always trust qualified people. You should visit their office and check their labs. Make sure that they have got upgraded tools and effective structure to plan data recovery. There are different factors that can cause data damage and they should be able to meet all of those factors. The company should have software as well as hardware experts that can diagnose the precise fault and then address that fault accordingly.
A good photographer stores tons of images on his hard disk drive.
Hard drives are difficult. They have a very circuit aboard and a number of moving parts. In terms of hard drive data recovery, the initial thing that you have to evaluate is whether it is a hardware problem that is stopping you from accessing computer data. If you are unable to hear the platters rotating or you hear noises that are more serious then you should stop using the drive instantly. Your smartest choice is to send the drive to someone who is qualified.
A hard drive recovery service can be expensive because technicians might need to disassemble your hard drive to repair. Recovery is generally done within a ‘clean room’ as hard disks are sealed avoiding errors as a result of dust or perhaps other contaminants. Also, hard disks are finely tuned machinery also it takes expert equipment to see the platters coming from a physically destroyed drive. If you are sending your hard drive to someone you should attempt to obtain an advance estimate of fees and you should definitely send it to a reputable company as you may only get one real chance at full recovery.
Things To Keep In Mind
If you are looking to choose a data recovery company that can retrieve your lost data then there are some very important things that you should always keep in mind. First of all you need to know your problem and if you think that your data problem is minor one then you can hire an individual expert because that will charge you less and will give you complete data recovery service. If the problem is on bigger level like there is a problem in your company’s database system then you should hire a professional data recovery company that can deal a problem of that level. This company should have professionals and experts of data recovery and they must have prior experience of working with similar data systems. This prior experience is very crucial because only an experienced professional can diagnose the exact problem that bothers your data system and he will be able to provide you with precise solution that will not affect other parts of your data system. At times, rookie professionals can make the problem worse by involving all parts of data systems. You should also check the success rate of that particular data recovery company and make sure that its success rate is more than 70 percent at least.
It may be annoying to hear noises coming out from your hard drive, including clicking sounds and other failure evidence whenever you use your computer; but there is a more pressing issue here. If you experience a clicking hard drive, then you may have a severe problem. This could range from a hard drive just malfunctioning or one that is near its death. Now, this should not really scare you if you like tinkering with the inside parts of your computer. You will only need some precision screwdrivers, dust remover spray and knowledge of the parts you will be playing with. But first, you need to check whether you really have a physical failure or some sectors in the hard drive can still be fixed.
Run the CHKDSK C: /F /R command. This will run through the system of your computer and check for issues. The process will fix any damaged sectors. Restart the computer to see if the process has fixed your clicking hard drive problem. If you are still hearing the same noises, then you will have to remove the hard drive and check from the inside. Open the hard drive using a precision screwdriver and check if the arm is what is making the clicking hard drive noise. Use the dust remover spray; this will remove any dirt and dust that has accumulated in the hard drive. Plug the hard drive back and turn on your computer. If it is still making clicking noise, unplug it and clean the rest of the hard drive using the dust remover spray.
When it comes to recovering your lost data then you are not left with many options but to hire a professional and experience data recovery company. Fortunately these days there are lots of companies working in this field and all of these companies have got very positive record. Searching online will yield lots of results but every data recovery company is not trust worthy. You need to think on certain aspects before making your final decision. First of all make sure that company is local because that will make it easy to access as well as they will have more experience in dealing with locally used hard drives. Every region has specific brands that are more common and local data recovery companies are always expert of their own brands. Secondly you need to look at the previous experiences because experience always comes in handy in dealing with critical issues. Success rate is also a factor that you should keep in mind because a data recovery company much have a success rate of more than 70 percent and only then you can consider them good enough to work on your data recovery. Keep these things in mind and choose the best company, such as this one here.
If you haven’t been using photocompositing, what cave have you been living in? The latest image editing applications offer a wide variety of powerful tools and effects that require almost no prior experience or photographic training. From the process of selecting the appropriate images to final output, imaging programs take the guesswork of photo-compositing. Many of the latest consumer-oriented applications, such as Adobe PhotoDeluxe and Microsoft Picture It!, include guided tutorials which walk users through the steps involved in integrating text, graphics and images.
You too can create photos this cheesy!
But it has not always been so simple. Until not too long ago, photo-compositing required professional expertise. It was usually done by service bureaus and photo tabs. it involved expensive equipment and long hours of tedious masking and printing with little guarantee that the finished product would turn out as hoped. Hours of work could go down the drain with one errant spray from the airbrush. Traditional photo-compositing tricks and techniques took years to master.
As little as five years ago, digital-imaging programs that could handle complex photo-compositing were still extremely expensive. All that has changed. Today, even casual photographers who work with their images on computers can get involved in very sophisticated photo-compositing. All it takes is a way of getting images into the computer and an image-editing program. Even a low-end image-editing program will do.
Photo-composites can include calendars, greeting cards, family announcement, flyers and numerous other creative projects. But not all calendars, greeting cards and other projects with several images on them are photo-composites. Photo-composites are not just several photos put together, but rather specific elements from different photos merged seamlessly in the computer, to make the final design. With a little imagination, virtually any graphic and image can be successfully integrated into a composite in the computer.
Photographers interested in trying it can use any one of the newer consumer-oriented image-editing programs on the market. To be considered photo-compositors, digital-imaging photo applications should support image layers, the ability to work with different design elements on different layers of a composition. Layering is very helpful when working with numerous image, graphic and text elements. With it, modifications can be made to the individual elements at any time during the creative process. Layers are stacked one on top of the other. For output, the various layers are merged together.
Many of the consumer-oriented imaging programs support layering and are able to handle photo-compositing. Microsoft’s Picture It!, for example, walks users through the various steps involved in making a photo-composite. It starts out by listing the numerous preconfigured projects, including calendars, greeting cards and the like, it has been designed to create. Once the project type has been selected, it’s possible to select the specific design style from group of predefined templets.
It’s simply a matter of selecting the image to be incorporated into the design. All the guesswork of choosing the right text and placing it in the right position is taken care of by the program. It takes users through the process, step by step, making it possible to add or change text and add additional design elements such as graphics and clip art. This is low-level stuff, but it’s a good introduction to the process.
When more sophisticated compositing is called for, programs like Adobe Photoshop, Live Picture and Ron Scott’s QFX come into play. They provide an extensive selection of tools with which to edit and integrate images and graphics. These applications not only have the basic controls which regulate color balance, brightness and contrast, they include plug-ins that generate texture and special effects of all kinds.
The advanced programs include very sophisticated masking capabilities, making it easier to define the specific elements within an image that will be in incorporated into the composition That makes it much easier to select and match various image elements and combine them into a new cohesive image.
The Lady in the Lake composite image, for example, is made up of elements or layers from two different photographs that were combined with vector-based text. The original photograph is of the model in the sculpture garden setting. It includes the model, the various sculptures, the surrounding grass and background. The other photograph is a colorized, black-and-white image of a small lake in British Columbia. One image was scanned into the computer with a drum scanner, the other was scanned in with a flatbed scanner.
The image’s photographic elements were assembled in Photoshop by first using a combination of the Magic Wand and Lasso masking tools to select and then delete the areas of the photograph that were not to be used in the final composition. Once these extraneous elements had been removed, all that was left of the original image was the model and foreground sculpture, and several large transparent sections.
The photograph of the Canadian lake was subsequently loaded into Photoshop as a separate image and saved in its entirety to the clipboard. Once in the clipboard, the lake image was pasted under the original layer. Finally the two layers were merged and cleaned up. Vector-based text was added in Ulead’s PhotoImpact as a third layer.
Besides offering simple layering schemes, Photoshop and the Mac-based Live Picture also include transform layers that affect whatever is beneath them without actually changing the underlying data. These sophisticated layers are used, among other things, to warp, change contrast and adjust color. They’re also especially useful during the creation of many-layered images.
Photo-compositing, whether it’s done with an entry level program or a high-end package, is a lot of fun. It can be as much fun as photo composition in a camera’s viewfinder, and the results can certainly be a lot more bizarre.
Anyone with the chance to look at Howard Bingham’s 36 years of photographs undoubtedly can attest to the truly remarkable nature of his observer’s eye. Along with Muhammad Ali, notable images in his collection include those of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, James Brown and The Beatles. The photos are dramatic, usually candid, and cover a spectrum of locations and events. From the boxing arena to the White House, from Zaire to a riot-sieged Watts, they take us back with ringside seats.
“I look for mood shots,” he says with animated eyes. “I like talking heads, faces, people engaged in conversation. If it is a one-on-one thing, I would have them talking with my camera, talking about life, talking about their children, talking about their wives, just to get them into a mood and make a good picture.”
Bingham’ usually shoots with Kodak black-and-white film and Nikon cameras, including the N90s, F3 and F5. “I have the F5,” he explains humbly, “but I really don’t know how to use it like I should be using it.” If the past is any indication, however, he will certainly accomplish this task as he goes.
Determined From The Start
Bingham and Ali are actually best of friends.
Bingham’s prolific career began in 1961, when a supermarket box-boy finally had enough of his job. After a couple years of hard work and no promise of promotion, the young college student walked up to his supervisor and quit. “I told them to take this job and shove it,” he recalls, chuckling a bit at the memory. He then developed an interest in photography.
Surprisingly, Bingham failed the photo course he took at Compton Jr. College, but that hardly stopped him. “I went to this guy’s darkroom at the L.A. Sentinel,” he remembers, “and every day for a week, I knocked on his door.” Persistence paid off. After turning Bingham away several days in a row, Photo Editor Cliff Hall finally let him in to quietly observe. The “apprenticeship” included everything from carrying Hall’s bags to picking up food, film, and joining the editor on assignments. After a month, Bingham convinced the paper to hire him.
With a paycheck that barely allowed him to eke out an existence, and little prior training, things were tough at first. “I went out on assignment. I came back with no film, underexposed film, overexposed film, but always had a good alibi for it,” he explains. “It was actually on-the-job training. I learned as I went along.” And learn, he did. Bingham’s job at the Sentinel sent him straight into the heart of Los Angeles, where he began to cover major events in the black community. One such event was a prefight press conference covering the bout between two young boxers.
Friendship Of Champions
“I met Ali in 1962,” he recalls. “He came to Los Angeles to fight a fighter by the name of George Logan, so I met him at the news conference, introduced myself, took my photographs and left. Later on that afternoon, I saw Ali and his brother on the corner of 5th & Broadway just looking at the girls go by. I asked them if they wanted a ride.” Muhammad Ali, known then as Cassius Clay, accepted the invitation, and Bingham showed him around the city. The two new friends managed to keep in touch long after their fated first meeting. When Ali was in town for a fight, Bingham entertained him. He never left home without his camera. The workouts, interviews, social events, and quiet time were all captured on film.
Eventually, Bingham was fired from the Sentinel for moonlighting. His 18-month stint there had been a good experience, but low pay forced him to accept work on the side, work his editors considered an interference. “It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he remembers with a grin. Bingham was then able to become a free agent and spend more time with Ali. What ensued thereafter was a lasting friendship and perhaps the most intimate photo chronicling of the world-renowned boxer. Bingham’s photos capture not only the rise and fall of a heavyweight champion, but also the beliefs, emotions and struggles of a man.
While undoubtedly his main focus, Muhammad Ali is not the only subject that has kept Bingham busy over the years. He has also spent extensive time photographing Bill Cosby and his family. What began as a job taking still photos on the “Bill Cosby Show” quickly grew into a lasting relationship “I have been working for the Cosbys ever since the mid-’60s,” Bingham says, “mainly, because they can trust me.”
In addition, his in-depth photos of the Watts riots earned him national recognition when they were featured prominently in Life magazine. A newcomer at the time, Bingham now attributes this to his honest, nonthreatening disposition and a strange knack for timing. These traits allowed him to shoot the weapons arsenals of rioters and the meetings of rival organizations. “I could walk out of a Black Panther meeting and right into an “US” meeting and no heads would be turned, because they knew me as an individual,” Bingham explains. “They knew that I had integrity.” Since then, his work has graced the pages of Time, Sports Illustrated, Newsweek and Ebony, among others.
Bingham often accepts speaking engagements, is actively involved in mentorship programs and exhibits his photography all over the world. His book, Muhammad Ali, A Thirty-Year Journey, is already published in several countries and will soon make its way to Japan. Most recently, he was presented with PMDA’s Professional Photographer Award at their annual awards dinner in New Orleans. Prior honorees include Harry Benson, Eddie Adams, and Bingham’s mentor, Gordon Parks.
As for the future, Bingham plans to continue his involvement in a motion-picture deal with Sony, based on the life of Muhammad Ali. He will be Sony’s point-person for the film, their consummate contact for information. When asked whether he will take pictures on the set, Bingham nods with a smile. “I will not be the main still photographer, but I will always take photographs for the rest of my life. I like taking pictures, and I will take pictures on the set with Ali,” he says. “I will always be shooting.”
One of the keys to a good photograph is to make sure that the final image makes full use of the available tonal range of the medium in question. In very simple terms, this means making sure that dark areas of the image print (or display) as black, and the brightest portions as white. This is an obvious over-simplification, but it is enough to bring us closer to brighter, snappier, more appealing digital images. As a bonus, it turns out that “stretching” the tonal range of an image also generally leads to brighter, cleaner colors as well.
Beauty. Just a beauty!
To help understand this, consider what a “dull” image looks like: Everything is rendered in shades of gray, with nothing either fully black or white. it’s pretty easy to understand that stretching the available tonal differences across the full range from black to white will boost the contrast, making for a more appealing image. What’s less obvious is that this simple tonal stretch also boosts the color saturation, “cleaning up” dull, muddy colors. A full discussion of “contaminant colors” is beyond the scope of this article, but a little digital work with some dull, uninteresting photos will quickly reveal what I’m talking about. (A brief word of guidance: Rich, dark shadows usually lead to stronger, more saturated colors.)
Contrast And Brightness
Many applications provide “brightness” and “contrast” controls, similar to those on a TV set. The mechanics of these will vary somewhat from application to application, but the general concept is the same everywhere. The “brightness” control adjusts the overall brightness or lumination of the picture, and the “contrast” control adjusts the tonal range between the lightest and darkest parts of the image. Among the various “low end” image-editing applications, I like the tonal adjustments in Microsoft’s Picture It! and JASC’s Paint Shop Pro the best, although both are limited when they are compared to more capable (and more expensive) software.
Contrast and brightness controls are comfortable for most of us, given our familiarity with similar adjustments on television sets. They also relate directly to our perceptions of images, making feedback between our actions and changes in the image immediate and intuitive. Unfortunately, contrast and brightness adjustments have a disadvantage because they affect too much of the image at once, often making it difficult to achieve the results you want, even though the controls themselves are easy to understand.
Using Photoshop’s Levels
Many new digital users shy away from so-called “high-end” image-editing applications, either because of price, or because of an impression that they are too difficult to use. Price needn’t be an object, as “lite” editions of various professional products are often bundled with scanners or digital cameras. As for using the software, even a little understanding can make previously intimidating tools familiar and convenient.
In this column, I usually try to avoid discussion focused on a specific piece of software, but this time, I’m going to break my own rule. The reason is that Adobe Photoshop’s “Levels” control is so useful, and illustrates so well how tonal correction works, that I’d be remiss to ignore it. Also, a few other programs have similar “histogram-based” tonal corrections, so the Photoshop-specific discussion here will be more useful than would otherwise be the case.
At the heart of the “Levels” tool is a display of the tonal content of the image. This display takes the form of a graph with the number of pixels in the image assigned to a given brightness value, plotted for each possible brightness value within the computer’s range of 0 to 255. (See the accompanying screenshot for an example of what this looks like.) Underneath this graph are three sliders, in the form of small triangles, colored black, white, and gray. The white and black sliders set the “white point” and “black point” of the image, essentially telling the computer what parts of the tonal range you care about, and what parts you want to ignore. Working in combination, the white and black sliders allow you to decide exactly how you want to “stretch” the tonal range of the image. The white slider sets the “white point,” which is the brightness value that will be made pure white: Anything brighter than this level in the original image will also blow out to pure white. Likewise, the black slider sets the “black point,” the brightness (darkness?) level that will be forced to pure black. Anything darker than this level will also appear as pure black. In between these limits, the remaining tonal values will be distributed across the range from black to white proportionately, depending on how the gray slider is set.
The gray slider controls the “gamma” of the tone conversion. This is really just a fancy way of saying that it sets the point that the computer will force to a middle gray: Set it lower, and the midtones of the picture will get brighter; set it higher, and they’ll get darker.
If you play with the “Levels” control a bit, you’ll soon come to appreciate its power: By allowing you to adjust highlights, shadows, and midtones independently, it provides a great degree of control over how the final image looks. What’s more, it is actually very easy to use once you’ve gotten used to it. (Here’s a tip for Mac users: If you hold down the “Option” key while you move the sliders, Photoshop will show you exactly what portions of each image are being pushed to white or black. This is very handy in determining when you’re fully utilizing the available tonal range. Unfortunately there isn’t an equivalent function on the Windows platform.)
A fast lens is definitely an asset as it will allow you to shoot at a faster shutter speed and in dimmer light. It will also provide a brighter image in the viewfinder for quicker and easier focusing. Excellent lenses are available in the 300mm range with an aperture of f/4. These also work well with compatible 1.4X and 2X converters. If your budget allows, I recommend the faster f/2.8 lens. When used with the converters, this will give you an excellent combination with plenty of versatility for most photographic situations. If you are really getting serious about photographing birds, a great lens choice would be a 500mm f/4 or f/4.5.
Yeah, not the best shot.
To get the best performance from your camera and lenses, you must use a good tripod. The trick is to purchase one that is light enough to carry with ease, yet still provides a stable platform for your heaviest equipment. The tripod should reach at least to your eye level, and should allow the legs to splay out so you can shoot low to the ground. Don’t skimp on this important accessory – buy the best that you can afford! It will pay off with much sharper images.
Just as important as the tripod is the tripod head. I prefer the heavy-duty ball-head models, as they pan smoothly and adjust quickly with one knob for both horizontal and vertical movements. This can be important during a moment of action, where time spent fumbling with your tripod head can result in a missed photo opportunity. Be sure to buy a tripod head that offers a quick-release system, so you can quickly and easily remove the camera for hand-held shooting when desired.
I prefer to shoot transparencies, with a film speed in the ISO 50-100 range. These films produce the finest resolution and color available. If your goal is to have your work published, then this should also be your choice.
There are also some great print films, with a large variety to choose from. A 400-speed print film effectively gives you a faster lens without the big price tag. It’s important that you choose a film that suits your color palette, so do some testing in various situations before making your final decision On print or transparency film.
Know Those Birds
Spend some time in your local library doing research on the subject(s) you wish to photograph, or purchase an informative field guide. Visit some bird clubs in your area, as many of these are led by individuals who are walking encyclopedias on waterfowl and other wildlife.
It’s also important for you to spend plenty of time observing your subjects in the field. By getting familiar with your surroundings, you will know what birds to look for during various seasons, and the best time of day to photograph them. Keep a notebook of your field observations and refer to it from time to time.
Although you can photograph waterfowl throughout the year, I prefer the period from fall through spring. This is when waterfowl looks best – spring in particular is a peak time. During this season the birds are dressed in their “Sunday Best” and will pay little attention to you, as the males are busy trying to attract the company of an interested female. In late spring and early summer you have the opportunity to photograph young goslings and ducklings. This is a very photogenic time, and you’ll enjoy the antics of these little bundles of fluff.
City parks provide an ideal location to photograph ducks, geese, and perhaps even Mute and Trumpeter Swans. Many regional and state parks have lakes and ponds that provide year-round photo opportunities. Wildlife sanctuaries are also excellent places to locate and photograph waterfowl. The advantage of these areas is that they’re easily accessible, and more importantly, the wildlife is habituated to human presence. It is much easier to photograph a duck that won’t fly off at the mere sight of you!
Most waterfowl are best photographed from shortly before sunrise until midmorning, and then again from midafternoon until after sunset. These are the periods of time when the birds are most active, and lighting conditions are optimum. Calm days will provide you with the most advantageous conditions for waterfowl portraits. When the wind blows, birds tend to be more nervous and keep their distance. If the birds take flight, be aware that they will generally lift off into the wind. They also prefer to land against the wind. Knowing this will enable you to set up accordingly, thus maximizing your potential for dramatic images.
I like to arrive at my chosen location about an hour before sunrise. This allows the birds to settle down and get accustomed to my presence. Even habituated birds tend to be a bit skittish when they see a photographer arrive with a photographic arsenal. By moving as slowly and quietly as possible you will minimize this initial disturbance. Generally, within a few minutes, the birds will gradually begin to approach you again. The key is to be patient and keep still.
I bring along a small foam pad on which I sit or kneel. This pad not only’ provides a comfortable and dry seat, but also allows me to photograph from a more natural perspective, that of the birds themselves. My tripod is placed as low to the ground as possible, because it it allows a lower profile, which is less threatening to the birds and it affords maximum stability for long telephoto lenses, thus resulting in sharper images.
If you want to put impact into your waterfowl images you must pay special attention to lighting. Always be aware of how the light is striking your subject and whether it adds to or detracts from your photo. Don’t just see the duck in front of you, but notice the colors and textures under varying light conditions and angles. Make sure that you can capture a catchlight in the bird’s eye to give your subject a lively sparkle. Watch out for any deep shadows falling across your subject that may spoil an otherwise perfect photo.
In most instances, front lighting or sidelighting early or late in the day will provide the best rendition of fine feather details, colors and textures that all waterfowl possess. When the bird is lit from this angle, you will capture the catchlights in the eyes, as well as the full spectrum of hues in the iridescent head coloring of species such as Mallards, Buffleheads and Goldeneyes – the male’s head coloring changes from nearly black to a brilliant green with just a slight turn of the head, so watch for the most colorful pose.
Swans can appear quit? dramatic when backlit, especially when they splash in the water against a dark background. Other opportunities to utilize backlighting occur at sunrise and sunset, or anytime there are spectacular colors in the sky. In these cases you can silhouette birds in flight by exposing for the rich color in the background. Similarly, birds can be positioned against a background of richly colored water for striking silhouettes.
Once you’re settled in at your location you must be prepared for anything that may occur. Have all your. equipment conveniently located for easy access. It’s a shame to see a great photo opportunity unfold, only to discover that you need a different lens to get the best shot. I like to keep my longest lens mounted on my tripod, while keeping a 300mm and 80-200mm zoom lens handy. I also carry a 1.4X teleconverter, a 25mm extension tube, extra batteries and an ample supply of film.
To begin with, it’s a good idea to take a meter reading of the existing light, even if nothing is going on at the moment. I like to spot-meter an average-toned object that is in similar light to my prospective subjects. By presetting your exposure, you’ll be sure of being ready to fire in a split-second – and believe me, sometimes that is all you’ll have! Check your exposure periodically, as the light level can change quite rapidly during the first few minutes of sunrise and the last remnants of dusk.
To photograph birds in motion, practice your panning technique. Have the controls loosened on your tripod head so that your camera moves smoothly as you follow the bird through the viewfinder. Try to keep the subject in the same position in the frame, and be sure to follow through as you press the shutter release. Unless you are after a special slow-speed effect, use the fastest shutter speed possible for the situation. This will increase your percentage of sharp images.
If you have only one or two frames left on a roll of film, quickly reload a new roll so you won’t miss out on any of the action. There’s nothing worse than running out of film as a great scene unfolds before you!
One of the most challenging aspects of photographing waterfowl in action is the ability to catch them in flight. I like to use a shoulder stock for some of my flight photography as this affords good mobility, along with making it easy to pan lenses up to 500mm. For longer focal lengths, I stick with a heavy tripod and sturdy ball head.
To freeze the motion of birds in flight, a shutter speed of 1/500 and faster is necessary. It’s also important that your focus is right on target. The new predictive autofocus technology can greatly increase your success. With these systems, it’s important to remember to lock onto your subject at the earliest possible moment and continue to hold the sensor on the bird as long as possible while you photograph. If your lens has a focus limiter, switch it to a setting that will include only the distances you might expect your subject to appear in. This will speed up the focus and minimize unnecessary searching through the lens.
Those without autofocusing equipment can still attain outstanding images. One method is to preset your focus at a specific distance and wait until the subject appears in the area of sharpness. With birds that are flying directly toward you, you must press the shutter button a split second before the image looks sharp in the viewfinder. If the image looks sharp when you fire the camera, your focus will actually be behind the subject due to the inherent time lag in your reaction time.
Another option is to constantly follow focus on your target wherever it goes. This is relatively easy when the bird is fairly distant but as it comes closer, it requires good coordination to keep up with the rapid movement of the subject.
I would be remiss if I didn’t include a short discussion on composition. I like to think of it as the glue that bonds wonderful light and an interesting subject together. I like to keep things fairly simple and look for clean, colorful backgrounds that complement my subject. In situations where the environment will enhance the shot, I try to incorporate it into the image. Remember, you don’t always need a full-frame portrait for a pleasing result. If you can combine these elements along with good technique, you can capture a dramatic image.
When you are photographing active subjects, try to give them room to move in the frame. For a duck in flight, leave some space in front to imply that the bird is going somewhere. Most flight images look rather static when the subject is centered in the viewfinder. I recommend that you study composition by looking at quality photos in various magazines and books. Then, using the basic building blocks of proper composition, go out and practice, practice, practice! Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, but do make an effort to learn from them.