The Fuji X-E1 – Some thoughts and impressions

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Last year, not long after it came out, I bought a Fuji X100 because I was intrigued by the promise of a small, rangefinder-like camera with a fixed 35mm lens. I liked the idea of being forced to shoot with a specific field of view; I loved the look and feel of the camera; and it’s hard to beat Fuji’s lens and image quality. What was easy to beat, at the time, was the X100’s autofocus and clumsy menu system. These issues were so frustrating that I sold the camera not long after I bought it. I came to mildly regret this decision as Fuji released firmware updates that addressed many of the issues that had bothered me, but didn’t think seriously about returning to the camera. But with the release of the Fuji X-E1, I couldn’t resist giving Fuji another chance. Here are some of my impressions and thoughts about Fuji’s latest mirrorless camera.

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Alien Skin Exposure 4

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To me, one of the most unexpected byproducts of digital photography is that it has rekindled tremendous interest in film processes of one kind or another. Alien Skin’s Exposure 4 plug-in for Photoshop lets you explore all sorts of film processes without ever having to soak your hands in noxious chemicals. I recently spent some time with the latest version, and was pleased to find that it remains an excellent option for users who want either a specific traditional film look, or any kind of analog, or grunge process. You can read my entire review here.

Turn Any Bag Into A Camera Bag

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Hi. My name is Ben and I’m a bag addict. It’s true, I have a problem. For years, I was convinced that there was a single, perfect camera bag out there in the world somewhere. So, over the years, I have amassed an embarrassing assortment of bags. A while ago, I came to realize that there is no single camera bag that’s appropriate for every situation, which only exacerbated my problem, because now I have a perfect justification for owning still more bags. Alas, the discovery of Mountainsmith Kit Cube has made the whole situation even worse, because with the Kit Cube, I can turn any bag into a camera bag. This means my bag fetish is no longer constrained to just camera bags!

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Photoshop Touch 1.0

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iPad-toting Photoshop users finally have an actual version of Photoshop for their tablets. Photoshop Touch offers layers-based compositing, masking and retouching tools, and color correction, all wrapped up in a touch-based interface. The question, of course, is what exactly it gets you in the way of a tablet-based post-production workflow. In this detailed review, I take a look at the app from the point-of-view of the serious, working photographer.

Flare: Push-button image editing effects

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Whether you’re an experienced Photoshop user, or a casual image editor, there will be times when you want to quickly and easily get a stylized look on an image. The Icon Factory’s Flare 1.0 is an inexpensive, capable little application that makes it easy to get stylized treatments and borders onto an image through a simple push-button interface. Check out my full review here.

nik Silver EFex Pro 2.0

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There are lots of ways to convert color images to black and white. In Photoshop, you can use a grayscale mode change, or convert the image to L*A*B color and then extract the Luminance channel. Or, you can pull a single RGB channel, drain the saturation out of an image or use Photoshop’s excellent Black and White conversion tool. The list goes on and on, but in my opinion, the best way to perform black and white conversion (more accurately called grayscale conversion is with nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2, a plug-in for Photoshop, Aperture, and Lightroom.

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Pixelmator 1.6 – Inexpensive Image Editing

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Photoshop’s a great image editor, and all, but you need a lot of money to get it. If you’re a Mac-based photographer who’s been looking for a more affordable alternative, and iPhoto is not for you, then you might want to consider Pixelmator, an incredibly speedy Photoshop alternative that offers a fair amount of power at a reasonable price. Read the full review here.

Alien Skin Exposure 3

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A photographer friend recently sent me this extraordinary collection of color images shot during the Depression. One of the things that’s fascinating about looking at them is that we simply are not accustomed to this subject matter being in color. It’s a fine example of McCluhan’s “medium is the message” idea. Your choices of black and white or color, grungy or sharp, saturated or muted – all of these have a huge impact on the reaction the viewer will have. For film photographers, many of these decisions are determined by film choice, and the ability to choose specific films to achieve a particular look or feel is one of the great advantages of film shooting. Alien Skin Exposure, a sophisticated film-simulating Photoshop plug-in, gives this same power to digital photographers.

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Portable Printing with the Polaroid PoGo Printer

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PolaroidPogo

I just spent the last week motorcycling from San Francisco to Oklahoma, (to teach at the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute) camping and motelling along the way. As is usual on a motorcycle, I tried to stay on the smallest roads possible, and so ended up in some fairly interesting locations. I was probably supposed to be blogging, tweeting, and Facebooking my exploits as I went, (Karaoke night in Roswell, NM will definitely make you believe in alien visitations) but to be honest, one of the nice things about such a trip is to be out of the media bubble, not engaging in it further. So rather than trying to provide heavy coverage of my trip, I decided to simply enjoy myself. But also, I have a penchant for mail – the physical kind made from crushed wood pulp. Sitting in a forest or remote desert at night, writing letters and postcards, is a pretty nice way to spend an evening, but just because I’m using analog communications doesn’t mean I have to scrimp on imagery. Thanks to the amazing Polaroid PoGo printer, I was able to print images in the middle of nowhere!

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Photoshop CS5 Full Review

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Photoshop CS5 has been shipping for a couple of weeks now, and if you follow such things, you’ve probably already heard about its new features. Photoshop serves many markets, from photography to graphic design to movie and web site production, so determining an overall assessment of the program can be tricky, as different markets have different needs. For photographers, though, Content-Aware Fill and the new Camera Raw are reason enough to upgrade. Many other features abound, and you can read about them in my comprehensive review.