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The new iMac’s are here! I’m somebody!

I’m a fanboy. Of Apple. But that’s okay! I’m no less qualified to make an unbiased review of the amazingly awesome and uber sexy new iMacs just released last week. On pure impulse I purchased the 27″ 2.7 GHz i5 model, the most “accessible” in my opinion due to price point.

-Hold on a sec, this is a photography blog. Why are you talking about a computer? 

Aha! I’ll get to that. First let me say that I was never a huge fan of the unboxing videos. It seemed perverse in some way, but let me tell you as I cut the tape on that snow-white box I wouldn’t have minded someone pointing a camera at the table to relive that moment. As is getting to be the case with Apple products, packaging is getting pretty spartan which is a good thing for me. I hate clutter. There was one box for the wireless keyboard and Magic Mouse, documentation, OS and App disks, (and Apple stickers) and the iMac itself with the power cord tucked neatly into the styrofoam. Set-up, is literally plug and play, and with my time machine backups, I was up and running in 20 minutes with all my applications from my Macbook Pro. The 7000 pictures took a bit longer to transfer (man I need some better storage). The first thing that’s noticeable is how good the screen looks. This is what everyone should be looking at be it for work or for play. Congress should pass a law that outlaws any other screen to be on the market and subsidize these babies. I’m just in awe with how crisp, bright, and representative of the intended quality of photos displayed on it. The second thing that is noticeable is that it is faster than anything I have ever worked on. With the new “Sandy Bridge” processor, it races. Opening Photoshop, Bridge, Lightroom, Photomatix, file importing, surfing, and Skypeing at once are still faster than doing just one on the 2.53 GHz i5 Mackbook Pro I own. As for Thunderbolt? It’s got potential, but until there are some peripherals that support it, it’s just two holes in the back of the display.

So, in the olden days, someone might remark in their photo zine on the architecture of their new darkroom, how the electrical was this and the bench design was that. Same thing here, except with less sawdust and this also plays Portal. I include this computer review here because if you are 1) a photographer and 2) can afford it, this will be second to camera alone in your arsenal for the level of quality it allows you to work. It supports SDXC cards for super fast imports which is great not having to wait 20 minutes for a full 8 GB card of RAW. At times it seems it is built specifically for those who work in the visual medium. Now the downside is that it is a pricey investment, but I believe it is an investment that will pay off in spades. I prefer the trackpad to the mouse (years of laptop use) but there is no option in store to opt for one or the other, so buy online if you just want a trackpad.

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Kendall-Jackson Winery

Living in Sonoma County means knowing where the wineries are because visitors from out of town look at you like a dozy shut-in if you can’t recommend a place to go for a good flight (hip term for wine tasting). Such a recommendation was made just last month with visiting family where we piled in the car and went to Kendall-Jackson winery. It’s a very warm, french-inspired chateau with good wine (I’m not a huge drinker of it myself) and good people. They let me take pictures all around the property which is very much anathema to some other establishments around the area. Jess Jackson, of Kendall- Jackson, died today. I never met him or really even read much about him before the obits started trickling out, but I felt very welcome at his place. So, I’ll be going back to  pay respects arriving empty handed and departing with memories of a nice afternoon and a bottle of Chardonnay.

The Point At Which To Embark…

Or the Embarcadero, as the San Franciscans call it… I guess everyone calls it that. Anyway, it’s the main marine port of commuters and tourists alike with the Ferry Building acting as berth and landmark for the bustling area. It’s also one of the most convenient places to grab a really tasty bite in the city. Stalls line the Ferry Building making it a veritable market for a wide range of appetites from Chinese, pastries, and the un-kosher but very delicious Boccolone which serves nothing but “Tasty, Salted, Pig, Parts”, to farmers market offerings and specialty boutique shops that, respectively, sell only amazing cheese, oysters, and bread. Aaaand I’ve just made myself hungry again. The downside? They don’t allow tripods to be set up inside. Lucky I got this shot seconds before I was told to pack it up. Seriously though. Was there a tripod war I never learned about? Is War of the Worlds to blame? If you ever make it to San Francisco, touristy or not, get here.

Tangerine Fluff

Airports these days are not known for their aesthetically pleasing environs or calming environments. I spent time with my Dad, who is a pilot, at the Charles M. Schulz Airport in Sonoma County which is an exception to the spartan, tile-lined, conveyer systems in most American cities. Whenever I’m there, I get to tour the premises which to me seems like I’m always breaking some vital FAA regulation but in doing so, I got to see some restored World War II aircraft and hang out with some great people who live and breath aeronautics. I would go as far as to say that they really do love the smell of jet fuel in the morning. I made this shot after a bottle of Stella Artois on an empty stomach when I noticed that I had only a few minutes left to shoot. I’m just glad that the composition ended up framed well.

Tip: Histograms

When you take pictures you probably do what I do and hope that your smart camera has done all the legwork for you. Most of the time it does but sometimes, especially for those tricky lighting compositions, a little insurance is wanted so you aren’t cursing a shot that turned out too dark or too bright after you brought it home and loaded it in your computer. If you have something like photoshop and shoot in RAW, you don’t have to really worry as exposure can be manipulated pretty much how you want it without photo degradation. For you JPEG shooters who don’t want to spend a ton of time in post here is what you do to optimize your lighting experience: Check the histogram. Now I won’t go into a detailed explanation of this graph but to say that it is an indicator that tells you how much visible light is in your picture. Visible light is the range from so dark no detail is present to so bright that details are pure white. Here’s a visual sample of the effects different exposures have on a histogram:

As you can see, the darker picture shows the histogram detail shifted to the left (the darker range) while the lightest picture is shooting off the right side of the graph area (the lighter range) As you move from left to right along the graph the details of your picture will appear darker to brighter. Your sweet spot for the most detail is generally in the center of the graph.

Most DSLR cameras have the ability to show a histogram preview of your picture. So if you are shooting a scene like the one above and want to get the most detail out of it, you may want to manually adjust your camera’s exposure so that your histogram has as much detail (peaks) toward the center of the graph. Now, it’s not necessary to always get your histogram centered. Below is an HDR image. This wouldn’t be possible right out of your camera, but it’s to illustrate what a detailed picture looks like in a histogram.

This tip  is mostly helpful for landscapes or well-lit people shots. Sometimes you want darker, like a night shot of a candle, or brighter, like an artful sun-flare behind a tree.

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