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A Couple of Technical Bits

Not normally one for talking technical on the blog, as there are many people who do it better than I do, and I’m all too aware that if you want to kick up a stink in the photographic community, don’t start a discussion about something that actually matters like copyright, just slag off a particular camera brand.

However, there’s a couple of quick technical bits that I feel I ought to bring to folks attention. First off, after nearly 2 months of using it, I can add some feedback about my neat little camera strap cheat, pics of which are here, and which I first mentioned here.

On the whole, very happy with it. Certainly not noticed any hint of it coming loose, or working free, which was a concern some people have expressed. The only 2 little problems I’ve found are that when I’ve got a pocket wizard on the hotshoe, the whole rig becomes a bit unwieldy, and I’m slightly conscious of bashing the PW and damaging the aerial. Mind you, this is no different when the straps attached to the normal points, so it’s not really a specific problem! Secondly, it can occasionally be a bit fiddly in portrait mode if the clips that attach to the tripod ring don’t collapse beneath the hand. Happens about 1 time in 5, and can be fixed in a second or two, but is a bit of a niggle.

On the plus side, it’s much more comfortable to wear over long periods, is far more comfortable when moving quickly (running, basically), seems much less obtrusive, and much less likely to bang me in the guts and wind me – something that’s happened too many times to mention with the old system. Plus it feels really cool when you swing it up to your eye from your hip. I have a nasty suspicion this is because it resembles drawing a pistol from your holster, and that I’ve seen too many Spaghetti Westerns, but better that than a real pistol I say!

The second technical thing is the new Lightroom Beta, which you can download here. I’ve been using Lightroom for nearly 4 years now, and have come to rely very heavily on it indeed. I was forced to use it when Adobe bought out the company who made “Rawshooter” which I had used for a couple of years, and loved dearly. Although I’m now firmly in the Lightroom camp, it took quite a while to get used to it, and my initial impression was of a hugely overblown program that suited weekend amateurs who wanted to spend hours fiddling with each shot in “Develop” module, rather than pros like me who are simply keen to get the files processed and delivered to the client as either JPEG’s or TIFF’s. To this day I think I’ve used the slideshow module once, and the web and print modules precisely zero times, and I still think the whole idea of building a “catalogue” is bollocks.

Anyway, by rough estimation I’ve put more than a hundred thousand shots through lightroom since I started using it, so I’m fairly used to it’s quirks. I downloaded the first beta of version 3, and frankly thought “what a waste of time”. They seemed to have done nothing that had any bearing on my workflow, so I tried it, and then went back to using 2.6. Then I heard that the latest version supported native tethering, and I got quite excited.

For those who’ve not done it, shooting tethered is the height of convenience, (quick tutorial here) and whenever I’m able to do so (usually in a studio situation) I always do. No need to stop every now and again and download the pics, whilst watching progress bars scroll across the screen. Instead, every shot appears full screen (if you want it to) in front of your overjoyed client’s eyes. You can even set Lightroom to run a develop preset on the shots as they appear, so that stuff looks really finished and polished. The catch is that with previous versions of Lightroom you had to have the correct camera software installed, in may case Nikon Crappy Camera Control Pro. I shall put on record now the fact that I’ve never been a fan of any software from a camera manufacturer. They all seem to have been designed by someone who’s never set eyes on a camera, let alone used one professionally, and CCPro is no exception – and to make things worse you’re expected to shell out over £100 for the bloody thing. Canon users get the equivalent software free, I’d like to point out, in case anyone thinks that doing a lecture tour with them every year makes me Nikon’s stooge!

So on installing the latest Lightroom 3 beta, I tried the Native Tethering. Bloody marvellous, couldn’t be simpler. Plug camera into PC with USB cable, select “tethered capture” from the file menu, then “Start tethered Capture”, and away you go – shooty shooty shooty!

Desk - Technical bits
Screen Grab from the Lightroom beta, showing my desk. How Exciting. Try as I might, I can’t make my screengrab program capture the floating tethered menu that pops up – presumably because it’s on top of the main Lightroom window. Trust me, it is there!

First thing I noticed, besides the neat little control panel, was how much faster it was at importing and downloading than in v2.6. I’m not an expert, but I reckon this must have something to do with not having to liaise with the Nikon software just to get stuff imported. Hopefully this will also kill off the odd quirk I’ve been having since version 2.6 where every 10th frame or so refuses to import and everything freezes.

The first time I’ve got a chance to use it in anger will be on Monday, when I’ve got a book and some covers to shoot for Men’s Fitness. If it works how I’m hoping, then I expect I’ll be pretty quick to pay the upgrade fee when the real thing comes out.

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