Friday, June 26, 2015

Get 8 Free Custom-Made Alien Skin Exposure 7 Film Presets!

If you've been following the Roesch Photography Blog, you'll know that I've been using Alien Skin's Exposure software to edit my images. All of my photographs captured over the last 15 months or so have been post-processed using Exposure. I even went back through some of my favorite "older" images and re-edited them with the software. Over the last six months, since the release of Exposure 7, I've used Alien Skin's product almost exclusively to post-process my photographs.

Exposure is a photo editing software that does film emulation. The folks at Alien Skin have carefully studied all sorts of different films--color and black-and-white, older and newer, negatives, transparencies and instant--and made presets that, with one click, will make a digital image look like it had been captured with that film. They've emulated hundreds of different films and darkroom processes. And, based on my own personal experiences using film, they've nailed the presets.

But even if you are not 100% satisfied with a preset, it's all customizable. You can change presets or create your own. You can adjust each preset to customize it to the image being edited. You don't even have to use a preset as photographs can be edited freehand.
Yosemite Falls From Curry Village - Yosemite National Park, California
I used the Kodak Ektachrome 100SW preset for this photograph.
What I like about Exposure is that I achieve the look I want quickly and accurately. My workflow has sped up significantly since using the software and I'm more satisfied with the results. I've tried many other post-processing software options, and I have not found one that I liked nearly as much as I like Exposure. It's well worth the investment. It can be used in conjunction with Photoshop or Lightroom, or (as I use it) as a stand-alone program. It even does RAW conversion, although not every camera is supported. 

Back in the days of film, you loaded your camera with whatever film you thought would give you the desired look. Maybe you picked Kodachrome 64, or Velvia 50, or Tri-X or whatever--each film had it's own certain look, so film choice was critical to the look of the image. Now you can choose that look during post-processing. It's the freedom to "change film" after each exposure. And the reason you want your digital images to look like film is because film looks organic and digital looks, well, digitized--film simply looks better than digital in my opinion.

While Alien Skin has included in Exposure more film presets than you will likely ever use--tons and tons of them--there are some films that they've not yet developed (pun intended). But, if you are feeling up to it, you can create a film preset yourself. You can even create film looks that have never actually existed. There is a lot of room for creativity.
Tree In The Meadow - Yosemite National Park, California
I used the Ilford Delta 400 Pushed 1 Stop preset for this image.
I've created eight film presets for Exposure 7 that I'd like to share with you. These were designed using my own personal experiences with film photography; however, in the end, they are more-or-less "best guesses" at what the film should look like. I don't have the resources to do the precision work that Alien Skin does, but, perhaps, they will include their own (more accurate) versions of these in a future release.

I know that these presets will work in Exposure 7 for Windows. I'm not certain if they will work in older versions of the software or even the Mac version. You could certainly try it and see (please, if you do, let me know in the comments if it works). But for Alien Skin Exposure 7 for Windows, I know that these will work.

Click the link below for the film you want. In the new tab or window that opens, click the down-arrow (with the line under it) in the top-center of the page. That will download the preset to your computer. Once downloaded, right click and copy the file. Go to Window's C drive, then click to open the file ProgramData, then click to open the file Alien Skin, then click to open the file Exposure 7, and then click to open the file Exposure. Right click and paste the preset into the Exposure file.

Update: Someone told me that for Mac computers, the folders are HD, Library, Application Support, Alien Skin, Exposure 7, and finally Exposure. 
Holga 35mm North Dome & Washington Column - Yosemite National Park, California
I used the Holga 35mm Kodak T-Max 100 preset for this photograph.

This is similar to Ilford Delta 100, except more grainy and a tad more contrasty. Back in the days that I shot film, this was my favorite low-light monochrome film. It will show up under B&W Film.

Ilford Delta 400 Pushed 1 Stop

As you might guess, this has a little more grain and contrast than the non-pushed version. It will show up under B&W Film.

Holga Ilford Delta 400

Vignette and blur added to simulate the look of a Holga camera. This will show up under B&W Lo-Fi.

Holga 35mm Kodak T-Max 100

This simulates the look of using Kodak T-Max 100 35mm film in a Holga camera. This will show up under B&W Lo-Fi.

Agfacolor Neu Expired

I've never used Agfacolor Neu film before, but I imagined what it might look like if I developed an expired roll of it. It will show up under Color Fade.

Polaroid Summer Feelin'

This is based on a Polaroid 600 preset, but with a bunch of fun modifications. It will show up under Color Polaroid.

Kodak Gold 200 Tampered

There is a photographer who gives their Kodak Gold film a bath in water, salt and laundry soap prior to development. The result is a purple hue. I tried to match the look with this preset. It will show up under Color Film.

Kodak Ektachrome 100SW

Ektachrome 100SW was one of my favorite slide films. It's vibrant, but not quite as saturated as 100VS. It's also noticeably warmer. I think I got a pretty good match with this one. It will show up under Color Slides.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

What Cameras Are Best? Which Should You Buy?

Glacier Point Infrared - Yosemite National Park, California
I get asked often to comment about gear. People are searching high and low for any little tidbit that will help them decide which camera to buy. Sometimes people want to know what my opinions are on all of this.

Once upon a time camera makers would introduce a new-and-improved model every five years or so, and typically each manufacturer had two or three models to choose from. For the most part, from one company to the next and from one model to another, there were not huge differences. And you could expect whatever you bought would last at least one decade, if not two or three decades.

Nowadays, every year or two camera manufacturers introduce a new and improved camera for each model that they have. Each camera maker seems to have between a half-dozen and a dozen different camera models, and there seems to be large differences between them all. Oh, and you are using ancient technology if your camera is more than five years old.

No wonder people are spending so much time and energy researching gear! The problem is that the more time and energy that is spent on the web looking up different cameras, the less time and energy you have for what's important in photography.

So I have three thoughts to (hopefully) help you get through this.
Gas Station Sunset - Ehrenburg, Arizona
Captured using an obsolete cell phone camera.
1. Dance with the one who brought you, as the old saying goes. You probably already own a camera, and, although camera makers, retailers, and magazines (who make their money from camera makers and retailers) will tell you otherwise, what you already have is more than sufficient. The camera you have, unless perhaps it is broken, is a capable photographic tool.

Instead of replacing your perfectly good (but not perfectly new) camera with something that is slightly better (and new), use the money to travel or buy photography books or something else beneficial. There are things that are more important than gear.

And if you purchase that new camera, will your photographs improve? Not likely, because photography is in the mind and heart of the photographer, and not in the sensor. You can improve your photography, but that improvement cannot be bought with money--it requires thought and practice.
The Closed Road - Fish Camp, California
Captured using a Nokia Lumia 1020 cell phone. 
2. Have you seen Apple's iPhone advertisements that seem to be popping up everywhere? It shows a very nice photograph and says "Shot on an iPhone 6." These are found on full-page magazine ads and on billboards.

What occurs to me is that your gear doesn't matter. What is the point of buying Canon's 50 megapixel camera if an 8 megapixel camera can capture beautiful images that look good printed full-page in magazines or enlarged huge on billboards? You have the ability to create fantastic images that will look great no matter how large they're made, and you don't have to spend gobs of money. That's fantastic! And it means that you don't have to chase the latest-and-greatest and you don't have to fall for the highest-resolution offering.
Cathedral Spires From Cook's Meadow - Yosemite National Park, California
Captured using Nikon's cheap entry level DSLR.
3. A lot of people are surprised to learn that my primary digital camera is an entry-level DSLR aimed at beginners: the Nikon D3300. That's because those who market cameras use terms like "entry-level" and "prosumer" (whatever that means) and "professional" and other similar labels to make you feel the need to move up. They want you to spend more, so they market gear in such a way that you feel like what you can afford is not sufficient.

But the D3300 is a better camera in pretty much every way than all of the "professional" digital cameras from just 10 years ago. Those cameras produced images that were published in books and magazines and hung on gallery walls. This camera is capable of the same, but Nikon and those who sell Nikons don't want you to know that. They want you to believe that it's a good starting point for beginning photographers, but that you'll want to upgrade as your skills improve.

Don't get caught in the trap of thinking that some camera isn't good enough because of the label some marketing guy gave it, or because of how little it costs. It's plenty good enough just as long as the photographer using it is good enough.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Not Digital, Not Film, But Digital Film

Glacier Point Infrared - Yosemite National Park, California
What in the world is digital film? I don't know that it is actually anything, outside of my own definition: digital images made to appear as if they were captured with film.

One thing that I despise about digital photography is that it sometimes looks digitized. I remember about 10 or 12 years ago I could easily pick out a digital image. Place two prints in front of me, one captured with film and one captured with a digital sensor, and I could tell you which was which. Digital pictures looked digitized.

Camera sensors have improved by leaps and bounds since then, but sometimes digital images still look digital. Film looks organic. I can still sometimes tell just by looking whether an image was captured using film or digital, although it is so much more difficult than it used to be.

I've heard some use the analogy of MP3 vs. vinyl--digital music is cleaner but vinyl is warmer and richer. It's similar with circuitry vs. vacuum tubes in amplifiers. Or electronic drums vs. real drums. I think there's some truth in those analogies, but they fall short for me because I'm not a musician, and because we're talking about visual art and not audible art.
Half Dome From Mirror Lake - Yosemite National Park, California
What I find about film that is superior to digital is that film looks organic--it looks to my mind how a photograph should--while digital sometimes doesn't. There is something about the silver grain and film tonality that is "right" and there are sometimes aspects within a digital image that are "wrong"--all of which are subtle.

With all of that said, 99% of my photography is digital nowadays. I occasionally shoot film, but digital is so much more convenient that I trade the look of film for the look of digital. I then use software in post-processing (Alien Skin Exposure 7) to mask the digitalness (is that a word?) of the photograph and make it appear more analogue. I'm not always successful and I still occasionally cringe when I can tell a photograph of mine is digital.

I don't like digital photography because of how it looks. I don't like film photography because it is much less convenient. The happy middle for me is digital film--taking my digital captures and manipulating them to look like film.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Yosemite National Park In May - Part 4: Morning Stroll & Noon Bike Ride

Holga 35mm North Dome & Washington Column - Yosemite National Park, California

In the morning my five-year-old son and I got up early and went for a stroll around Curry Village. I was on foot--camera in hand--while he rode his bike. We saw some deer and just enjoyed the beautiful morning. After a little exploring we returned to the cabin for breakfast.

We brought with us to Yosemite some cereal and home-made cinnamon rolls. It was such a nice morning that we decided to have breakfast outdoors at a picnic table. Even though Curry Village was full of people, it was surprising just how peaceful the place was.

After cleaning everything up, showering and loading up our car, we checked out of our cabin. But our fun was just beginning. At Curry Village you can rent bicycles, so we rented two adult bicycles, one with a trailer for our two sons to ride in. Our seven-year-old daughter rode her own bike.
Tree In The Meadow - Yosemite National Park, California
We headed east from Curry Village on Happy Isles Loop Road with no real plans other than we wanted to visit Mirror Lake. The road is closed to traffic other than the Yosemite Valley Shuttle. The road was crowded at first with hikers and bicyclists, but soon emptied to the point that we were practically the only ones using it.

The first stop was Happy Isles, which is basically a series of islands in the Merced River. There is a little museum that was closed. We left our bikes behind at the museum and followed the short Happy Isles Trail to the end (it's about a half-mile round trip). This hike was interesting because it felt like we were deep in the woods, yet it was short and easy.

After Happy Isles we continued on the road towards Mirror Lake. This section of the road was quiet and surrounded by beautiful greenery. Pretty soon we came to the Snow Creek Trail (which is more of a road than a trail) and took it north to Mirror Lake. For whatever reason, the rented bicycles are not allowed to go all of the way to the lake, so there's a place to park them and then hike the remaining small section.
Washington Column - Yosemite National Park, California
One thing we discovered is that Mirror Lake is more of a swimming hole than an actual lake. It's nothing more than a wide spot on the Tenaya Creek, and the water is very cold. Still, it was a beautiful area and worth seeing. The kids liked dipping their toes in the creek and playing on the sandy beach.

Soon we headed back to Curry Village to return the bikes. I'm not sure exactly how far we rode, but I would guess somewhere in the five-mile range. That's a lot for a seven-year-old (and a dad with two boys riding in the trailer). It was a good time and something that I would definitely recommend to those visiting the park.

I used a Nikon D3300 DSLR to capture these photographs. This time I used both a Nikkor 40mm AF-S DX f/2.8G Micro lens and a Nikkor 55-200mm AF-S DX f/4-5.6G ED lens. All of the images were post-processed using Alien Skin Exposure 7 software.

Part 5
Yosemite Falls From Curry Village - Yosemite National Park, California
Merced River At Happy Isles - Yosemite National Park, California
The Happy Isles Trail - Yosemite National Park, California
Family Tree - Yosemite National Park, California
Fallen Tree Over Merced River - Yosemite National Park, California
Half Dome From Mirror Lake - Yosemite National Park, California
Mirror Lake Color Infrared - Yosemite National Park, California

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Yosemite National Park In May - Part 3: Curry Village & Tunnel View

Curry Meadow - Yosemite National Park, California

We arrived in Curry Village about one hour before check-in time for our cabin. I thought that, perhaps, they might give us the keys a bit early. After standing in line for 20 minutes, I was informed that I would have to wait 40 minutes until the actual check-in time to get the keys.

Instead of sitting around, we decided to unload the bikes for the two older kids and go for a stroll (with the youngest child in a stroller) through the area around Curry Village. We made our way past some trees, across a road, through a meadow, past some more trees, and to the Merced River near the Sugar Pine Bridge.

This area was incredibly beautiful and provided me with plenty of photographic opportunities. It was a great place to see North Dome, Royal Arches, Washington Column, Half Dome and Glacier Point--these are iconic sites within Yosemite Nation Park. 
Yosemite Forest - Yosemite National Park, California
Enough time had past that after our adventure was complete we were able to get the keys to the cabin. After unloading all of our stuff and settling in, we headed over to the Curry Village Pizza Patio for dinner. The food was good--we were hungry so we thoroughly enjoyed it.

The cabin turned out to be a great choice for accommodations. The beds were reasonably comfortable. The heater in the cabin kept us warm even though it was a cold night. The shared bathrooms were large, clean, never crowded and they were close by. We had no problems with noise from other campers--it felt private and peaceful.

Of course, staying in the park and especially right in Curry Village is a huge plus. We've stayed outside of the park before and the one-hour commute to Yosemite Valley is time wasted. I definitely recommend, if you can, pay the extra money and sleep somewhere inside of the park.
Friendly Squirrel - Yosemite National Park, California
Just before sunset we headed out to Tunnel View along Wawona Road. I wanted to capture the park right after sunset from that vantage point. I set up the camera on a tripod and exposed some frames. While there, I talked to a photographer (sorry, I don't remember his name) who was on a nine-month journey to visit every national park in America. He had spent almost three weeks in Yosemite. That would be an amazing trip!

After finishing up at Tunnel View we returned to our cabin. This completed the first day of our Yosemite National Park weekend vacation. With everything we had seen and done, it seemed like much longer than a single day. But we still had another day to go!

The lighting was much better for photography during this part of the trip than in the other two posts. I think that there is something especially magical about Yosemite National Park in the evening light (even more so than in the morning light). Once again, the gear I used was a Nikon D3300 DSLR with a Nikkor 40mm AF-S DX f/2.8G Micro lens attached to the front of it. This just proves that you don't need to spend a lot of money on gear to create great photographs.

Part 4
Half Dome Reflection - Yosemite National Park, California
Royal Arch & North Dome - Yosemite National Park, California
Glacier Point Infrared - Yosemite National Park
Washington Column Infrared - Yosemite National Park, California
North Dome & Washington Column - Yosemite National Park, California
Half Dome From Curry Village - Yosemite National Park, California
Young Bike Riders - Yosemite National Park, California
Dogwood Bloom - Yosemite National Park, California
Tunnel View Monochrome - Yosemite National Park, California

Friday, June 19, 2015

Yosemite National Park In May - Part 2: Mariposa Grove & Bridalveil Creek

Sequoia Forest - Yosemite National Park, California
Part 1 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7

After riding the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad and after our picnic lunch, we headed into Yosemite National Park. Our first planned stop was Mariposa Grove to see the Giant Sequoia trees.

Our five-year-old son, seven-year-old daughter and I went on a short hike through the trees. The kids were amazed at just how huge these trees are, much larger than anything they had ever seen before. Our one-year-old son had fallen asleep so my wife stayed in the car with him.

We didn't necessarily see a lot. We didn't see the tunnel tree. I'm not sure exactly which of the named trees we may have seen aside from The Fallen Monarch, which the kids found interesting. I didn't realize (until now) that the tree fell more than 300 years ago, but Giant Sequoia trees decay extraordinarily slow. After about 30 minutes we returned back to the car to continue our journey.
The Giant Tree - Yosemite National Park, California
Somewhere between the Wawona Hotel and Yosemite Valley along Highway 41 our one-year-old son awoke and needed some attention, so we pulled over at an unmarked wide spot. There was a beautiful  bloomed dogwood tree right there, immediately off the road.

While I was photographing the tree I noticed the sound of running water down in this small ravine. Looking around I found a small unmarked trail that lead down, so I traversed it to the bottom. The trail brought me to a small creek and a series of step waterfalls. It was a peaceful and rarely visited spot right off the highway. Yosemite is full of surprises!

Soon we were back on the road towards Yosemite Valley. After exiting the tunnel we could see that Bridalveil Falls was flowing. When we visited last autumn most of the waterfalls were dry, including Bridalveil.
The Green Marsh - Yosemite National Park, California
In the parking lot for the Bridalveil Falls trail we spotted a friendly deer who quite obviously was used to people. I think it expected to be fed because it came right up to us and even licked the hands of those who put their hands out towards the deer.

We spent a little time around Bridalveil Creek, exploring, climbing on the rocks, and hiking the trails (which we found to be stroller-friendly). It's a beautiful spot, although a bit crowded at times. After an hour or so we got back into the car and headed to Curry Village to check into our cabin.

Like in Part 1, the lighting was often harsh and contrasty. Midday is not typically the most ideal lighting for landscape photography. Once again, the equipment of choice was a Nikon D3300 DSLR with a Nikkor 40mm AF-S DX f/2.8G Micro lens attached to the front. This is a simple and light setup that works well for me. All of the post-proccessing was done using Alien Skin Exposure 7 software.

Part 3
California Blue Wood Tree - Yosemite National Park, California
Dogwood Bloom Monochrome - Yosemite National Park, California
Hidden Waterfalls - Yosemite National Park, California
Deer Lick - Yosemite National Park, California
Family On A Bridge - Yosemite National Park, California
Rock Girl - Yosemite National Park, California
Bridalveil Creek - Yosemite National Park, California
Rushing Bridalveil Creek - Yosemite National Park, California
Infrared Spire - Yosemite National Park, California

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Yosemite National Park In May - Part 1: Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad

Shay Locomotive #10 - Fish Camp, California
Back in May my family and I made a weekend trip to Yosemite National Park to celebrate my birthday and Mother's Day. From our house it is a five-hour drive to Yosemite Valley, so we woke up early in the morning on May 10th and began our journey to one of the most majestic landscapes in America.

The first stop on our trip was the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad, which is in Fish Camp just outside of the park along California Highway 41. This is a narrow-gauge excursion railroad that operates two Shay-type steam locomotives. The first train was scheduled to depart at 11 AM and we arrived about an hour before that.

There is a small gift shop next to the tracks--this is where our reserved tickets were waiting. It didn't seem like tickets had to be purchased in advance as there were plenty of empty seats. I'm not sure if it is like this all of the time. There is also a small museum (basically a barely organized collection of old stuff) and a gold-panning area (which costs extra) on the grounds.
Connecting Cars - Fish Camp, California
We spent most of the hour watching the crew add cars to the train. The locomotive would back up, add a couple of cars, then pull forward past a switch, then back up again and get a few more cars off of a different track, then pull forward again. Steam locomotives are quite animated, so that provided us with plenty of entertainment.

There are two types of train cars that the railroad uses and which you can choose between to ride: an open-air logging car and a more traditional covered coach. The logging car seemed pretty cool because they used two large trees--one on each side--to construct the seating. Since we have three young children we thought the security of the coach was preferable.

The train took us on a narrated two mile journey through the Sierra National Forest. It slowly twisted down through some beautiful mountain scenery to a water station, where water was added to the locomotive. Everyone had a chance to get off the train and explore for about 15 minutes before it was time to leave. The narration was both informative and funny.
Pipes & Steam - Fish Camp, California
The roundtrip took one hour to complete. The kids had a blast! The scenery was wonderful and the location peaceful. Overall it was a great stop. It was most definitely worth our time and the cost of the tickets.

There are a bunch of picnic tables next to the gift shop. We enjoyed eating lunch (that we had packed)  before continuing into Yosemite National Park. While we were setting things up, a large tree branch fell off a tall tree and onto the next bench over, hitting with a loud thud. It was frightening! Thankfully no one was hurt. We watched the second train, which departed at 12:30, head down the tracks and disappear into the forest.

Photography was a bit challenging. The midday light was harsh. Shadows were deep and highlights were bright--there was so much contrast! I used a Nikon D3300 DSLR with a Nikkor 40mm AF-S DX f/2.8G Micro lens attached. The photographs were post-processed using Alien Skin Exposure 7 software.

Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7
Boy Waiting To Board - Fish Camp, California
Roesch Family Waiting To Board - Fish Camp, California
Exposed Threads - Fish Camp, California
Rails Into The Woods - Fish Camp, California
Mom & Son Riding The Rails - Fish Camp, California
Three Young Riders - Fish Camp, California
Water Replenishment - Fish Camp, California
The Sierra National Forest - Fish Camp, California
Young & Old - Fish Camp, California
The Conductor - Fish Camp, California