Vivid Light Photography, digital and film photography online
The Digital Tool Box
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Much like you, the staff at Vivid Light Photography is continually being bombarded by the latest in digital technology. We regularly get software to test and hear of new software plug-ins that will do everything from adjust and color correct your digital images, to solving the problems of world peace. Besides reviewing a software product, I would like to get you thinking about how digital has changed the way we work, and the tools with which we choose to work. I find it interesting to see just how these digital tools have affected the way we photograph and how it has affected us as artists. See Jim's column this month, Just Another Tool, for some additional thoughts as well.

As a case in point, let me give you a brief history of changes that have taken place in my own experience since switching to digital, and why my digital tool box is continually being updated and revised.

Several years ago on my first trip to Zion National Park, I was still shooting film. It was a no-brainer that I should be shooting a good fine-grained well saturated film, and I should have a filter selection that at the very least included a polarizer, a warming filter and a selection of graduated ND filters.

The reason was quite simple. If you wanted the slide to come out the way you envisioned, you would need these tools to do it. On my next trip out to Zion, I had switched from my Nikon F100 to the D100 digital SLR. This time, my thinking was still pretty much the same -- I'll need a polarizer, a warming filter and a set of ND filters if I intend to capture digitally what I was seeing here on this trip. Obviously with digital, I wasn't concerned about film selection, because I could easily change my white balance in-camera, or shooting in RAW, change my color temperature settings later in Photoshop.

A Problem: On my first trip, it was December and cold, not a big problem. On the second trip it was spring and things were different. Dust was the first thing that became very obvious. The soil is quite soft, and I noticed that every time I took my grad filters out to use, they were speckled with a coating of this very fine dust. Now because these filters are a resin based filter, they attract this dust. No amount of blowing, wiping, or cleaning would remove all of the particles. So, I shot anyway, thinking that I would remove the few remaining specks when I got the images into the computer (can you say time-consuming?).

The Solution: This year, on most of my photo tours, the subject of various digital tools would often arise. The reason is quite simple. Over the last few years, there has been an abundance of after-market plug-ins, Photoshop upgrades, and other such tools, designed to make our editing work easier. One of the latest and most interesting series of plug-ins have come from nik multimedia, Inc. They have, nik Color Efex Pro 2.0, nik Sharpener Pro, and Pen Palette. While I am currently testing these plug-ins, and because of the problems I experienced in Zion, I wanted to share with you some of the features of the nik Color Efex Pro 2.0 digital photographic filters.

Before or After What's the Difference? As I mentioned, folks on the tours were aware of such filters, and conversations arose around whether they would be as effective when used after the fact, in the computer, as they are in the traditional way, in front of the lens. God forbid if we got into the artistic moral value, and the right and wrong of it all! But anyway, most agreed that theoretically the end results should be the same -- what difference does it make? 

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