A quick look at the Sleeklens Through The Woods workflow for Lightroom

Recently, I have been contacted by the PR Relations Manager from Sleeklens, asking me if I would test and review their Through The Woods workflow. The agreement was that I would review the workflow honestly, without bias.
As was already the case earlier (see my review of printing at zor.com), this decided me to accept the request.
Here are my first impressions about the Through The Woods presets and brushes.
To illustrate this post, I used a few images from one of my trips to Northern Aragon (Spain) and the French Pyrenees.
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Ordering at Zor.com - My plexiglass test print, finally completely out of its packaging

How I print my pictures (part 2)

As mentioned in part 1, this post has been in my drafts folder for some time already. So prices that are mentioned below have probably changed in the meantime.

After my previous post about printing my images at Authentic, I thought that it would be useful to describe my experience with a newcomer on the market for printing images in Belgium (and France). Zor.com is a new internet printer, specialized in direct printing on several types of boards in a relatively limited range of sizes. Where they differ from the many other printers available today on internet is their prices. Surprisingly low compared to their competition.
They print on Dibond, acrylic glass, forex, carboard, and canvas.
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Maroon Creek valley, near Aspen, CO - Details of the Dibond print

How I print my pictures (part 1)

I have written this post (and part 2) already some time ago but had not published them yet. Here it is at last. Be aware that prices that are mentioned might have changed in the meantime, of course.

It has been some time that I have wanted to write a post about my experience with printing my images for exhibitions. As I had promised recently that I would write more about testing some techniques or material, I thought that it would be interesting to start with this part of my workflow as it is the one that is the most visible to the final viewer of my images.
This is Part 1 and you can expect Part 2 very soon, with my test of another company for printing my images.

For my very first exhibition a few years ago (Les Intrigantes), I was still optimistic and thought that I could get away with printing my pictures at one of the many general public printers available on the Internet today. I was convinced that the price would be low and hoped that the quality would be sufficient to satisfy my need for the best possible result.
I should have known better… In the end, I needed to send my images in parallel to two different internet printers to get a result only approaching what I was expecting. Some prints were too red, others were too green, none were close to the colours I saw on my calibrated display at home. In the end, a very expensive exercise and very far away from the high quality I was striving for. So, I had to turn to a better quality printer to get what I wanted.
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Importing the Picasa database to Lightroom

This post had been waiting in my drafts folder for a long time! Here it is published at last!

After the recent announcement by Google that they would stop active development of Picasa Desktop, a lot of people are looking for an alternative to replace it without losing all their albums, keywords,…

Good news for those who have been using Picasa Desktop to manage their pictures collection and want to switch to Lightroom: my plugin Lightroom to Picasa Importer is now available.
You might have seen my previous post about my procedure to convert Picasa Desktop albums into Lightroom collections. Although this was working, I found that it was a really cumbersome procedure and I wanted to find an easier way to do it. So, after a lot of information gathering and research on the structure of the Picasa database, I had enough information to try and build a Lightroom plugin to do the work automatically. I decided to take the plunge and quickly learned how to code in Lua to be able to write a plugin for Lightroom.
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How to convert Picasa albums into Lightroom collections

Picasa icon arrow icon Lightroom icon

For sorting and classifying my pictures, I have been using Picasa for quite some time now. While I still believe that this is the fastest images manager that I have ever seen, it has some limitations and I have been thinking about using Adobe Lightroom instead. My only issue before switching to Lightroom was that I first had to make sure that I could import the numerous albums that I had created to sort my pictures in Picasa. With 40K+ pictures and several thousands sorted in albums, I could not afford to lose this information when switching to Lightroom. A related issue was that I had many star-rated pictures in Picasa that I also wanted to transfer. Neither Picasa nor Lightroom support this kind of transfer and I could not find any solution that suited me on the Internet. So I looked at the problem myself. Dissecting the required process into simple steps made it easier to find a solution. The rest of this post will describe how I did it.
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A very cheap DIY spare part for my tripod

My Manfrotto 190B tripod has been following me everywhere and in all conditions for many years. It is now quite battered and its head even has a bent handle. But, until now, no parts had gone missing. That is… until my latest trip to the US.

Utah had a very wet early October in 2010 and it meant that the clay soil of the Capitol Reef National Park had turned into deep mud when I was there.

The Castle, seen during a flash flood of the Fremont river in Capitol Reef National ParkA waterfall appears out of nowhere after a big thunderstorm in Capitol Reef National Park

After several days of continuous rain and thunderstorms, I finally had the chance to take some pictures under the sun but with my feet (and those of my tripod) in deep red mud. A few hours after I had taken the following picture, I noticed that one of the rubber feet of my tripod was missing. It probably remained stuck in the deep mud. So if you ever find a black tripod rubber shoe somewhere along the main road crossing the park, it could be mine. 😉

The sun is finally back after several days of thunderstorms in Capitol Reef National Park. This picture was shot along the main highway through the park.

This meant that I ended up with a tripod with one leg slippery and unstable on hard ground. Not the best for a piece of equipment that is supposed to bring good stability to my camera ! Back home, I started looking for a replacement for this little piece of rubber. Looking at the Manfrotto catalog, I quickly understood that to replace one rubber shoe, I would need to buy a set of three costing at least 25 Euros. A bit expensive for such a small piece of rubber !

By coincidence, I noticed that the rubber shoes at the end of the metal legs of chairs or stools were very similar to what I was looking for. I easily found these rubber stool shoes in a local DIY shop (Brico here in Belgium). For the price of a 1/10th of the official Manfrotto spare part, I had a set of four of these rubber shoes. They exist in several diameters and the 19mm ones fitted perfectly on my tripod model. Other available sizes would easily fit other tripod legs diameters.
Actually, they look strikingly similar to the original Manfrotto tripod shoes that were attached to my tripod (see the pictures below).

The original rubber shoe on my Manfrotto 190B tripod. Dirty, I know...And my DIY replacement. As good if not better than the original !

So, for those of you looking for a replacement rubber shoe for your tripod (Manfrotto or other), look no further than your local DIY shop !

UPDATE: A little while after I had written this post, I discovered the Manfrotto Spares website. You can find all spare parts for Manfrotto tripods there.

Black & White snow patterns

With the winter 2010-2011 coming to a close, I wanted to show a few last pictures with snow before spring settled in. Here are a few images taken this winter, all of them converted to black and white from RAW files.

Natural patterns in the snow, close to La Hulpe, BelgiumNatural patterns in the snow, close to La Hulpe, BelgiumNatural patterns in the snow, close to La Hulpe, BelgiumArtificial patterns in the snow, created by skiers in Les Arcs, France

The first three ones were taken not far away from where I live with my Canon EOS reflex digital camera – nothing special there. The last one, taken during my ski holiday in Les Arcs (France), is a special case: this picture has been taken with my Canon Powershot A630 compact digital camera and was also converted from RAW to black and white. Wait a minute ! Many of you will probably think that I must be wrong: a Powershot A630 does not take RAW pictures !

Indeed, that is what I thought also until a few months ago when I discovered CHDK (Canon Hack Development Kit), a very potent and versatile (and free !) firmware update for many Canon compact digital cameras (Point & Shoot cameras).
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