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Bird Photography on High Island and Galveston Island, Texas Gulf Coast

My friend Ed and I got to spend a few days doing some bird photography on the famous High Island in Texas, and nearby Galveston Island. Neither of us had been there before, but it was on our “bucket list” of bird photography destinations. We hadn’t been able to do much preparation, but fortunately the areas are incredibly friendly and easy to sort out for both birders and bird photographers. After only a few days of course we’re no experts, but can pass along our observations on how to make the most of your trip and a few favorite photos.

MindShift launches rugged new Exposure outdoor photo shoulder bags

The MindShift Exposure shoulder bag, shown in "solar flare" is a storm-resistant carrying solutionRegular readers and my safari clients know that I’m always on the lookout for the ultimate field photo bag. Especially when working in inclement weather or in situations where you can’t set a bag down, it has to be both versatile and easy to access. I’ve used a variety of bags from MindShift (and sister brand Think Tank) this way successfully, but I think they’ve outdone themselves with their new Exposure series…

 

PolarPro extends popular Polarizer and ND filter line to standard cameras

QuartzLine FiltersPolarPro is one of the top makers of cinematic filters for drones. I’ve been using their excellent Polarizer, Neutral Density, and combined Polarizer + Neutral Density filters with my Mavic Pro drones for over a year – and they’ve performed perfectly. Its new QuartzLine set of filters are suitable for use with lenses and cameras that accept screw-in filters from 37mm to 82mm. As the name implies they are made out of nearly pure Quartz glass. PolarPro claims a ‘hyper-neutral’ color profile and has added additional scratch resistant and water and oil repellant coatings. Filters range from a simple UV and CPL, to ND filters from ND8 (3-stops) to a dramatic ND100K (which sounds like it is a pretty amazing 16 stops). The ND8, ND16, and ND64 also come in a combination Polarizer model. Filters will ship starting on May 15th, but are available for now. Prices range from $60 – $240 depending on size and model.

Cool new Profile and Preset functions accelerate image editing in Photoshop and Lightroom

Profiles can also be used to create a certain look either from a particular film, camera, or styleAdobe has completely overhauled camera profiles and presets in both Photoshop and Lightroom. Camera profiles are expanded and renamed Profiles. They can now include both a variety of more traditional RAW file interpreters and some new Creatively-focused Profiles. Similarly, Presets are now easier to find, organize, and use. Adobe has worked with partners to provide a variety of Profiles and Presets, and I expect to see more. All you need to do to get the new features is let your Creative Cloud software update your Apps. I’ve written a .

Tips on creating a pro-caliber mobile photography workflow

Every photographer wants to go lighter, and almost all of us have a smartphone with us all the time. So, as phone cameras continue to improve, it’s worth checking in once in a while to see what’s possible with a minimal amount of gear. I did that recently, working with a Google Pixel 2, Pixelbook, and filling in with my lightweight as needed. The most recent version of Lightroom Mobile was also a key component. I .

How to create and share 360-degree panoramas with your drone

What I love most about drone panoramas is that they combine a unique way to show a location with being dead simple to shoot once you have a good workflow. Now that they are natively-supported by Facebook and purpose-built sites like Kuula.co, friends can get a sense of where you’ve been more easily than ever. There are a variety of approaches that will work, and I’ve outlined some of them, along with tips and my workflow in a .

Setting up your own private photo sharing cloud

While most people are perfectly happy letting their smartphone photos get backed up to Google Photos or iCloud, more serious photographers typically want to have more control than the free, automated, syncing, provides. This is especially true for those of us with large libraries of images and videos captured using standalone cameras that don’t automatically sync to the cloud. There is no shortage of public cloud services you can purchase, typically for about $100 per Terabyte per year. These include Adobe’s and Google’s Clouds, and Amazon Drive. Personally I like the deal I get with Amazon, as I can purchase 1TB of space, but my 10TB of photos don’t count towards that. However, it doesn’t have the photo-friendly editing and display tools of Google Photos or the Adobe Cloud. But what if you don’t want to trust your image library to someone else? You can set up your own, private, photo-sharing cloud fairly easily, especially if you have or are willing to purchase a Network Server (NAS). We’ve outlined some of the options in a .

Sony's mirrorless Alpha a7 III is a great reason to consider dumping your DSLR

Sony Alpha a7 III Mirrorless Digital Camera (Body Only)Sony’s latest full-frame mirrorless, the , continues to up the pressure on traditional DSLRs. Not only does it do everything you’d expect in an equivalent DSLR – fast AF, 4K video, 10 fps, 24MP, etc., but it does some things better. Access to the augmented information available on it Electronic Viewfinder, super-high-performance phase detect AF that works even when shooting video, and 5-way image stabilization. All in a 1.5 pound package. For action shooters who can find the right Sony-mount lenses to pair with it, the $2K price should be well worth it. ! For now I’m sticking with my as my primary camera, but if I didn’t have such a large collection of Nikon lenses, I’d be pretty close to making a switch.

Zephyr: A drone simulator for fun and for learning

Whether you are learning to improve your drone flying to qualify for a commercial opportunity or simply to have more fun, it can be an expensive process involving trial, error, and crashes. It’s also hard to quantify your progress. Zephyr is an impressive drone simulation environment for the PC that lets you advance your flying skills from the comfort of your armchair. Using a controller that closely mimics the controller for your drone, you can fly through a wide variety of training lessons or just free fly in any of several nicely-crafted landscapes.

DxOMark looks back at how far smartphone cameras have come in only a few years

Industry camera benchmarking site DxOMark has published an interesting white paper chronicling the progress it has seen in 6 years of testing smartphone image quality. The progress in both hardware and software behind the improvement in results is fascinating and impressive. I’ve , along with charts from the paper and a link to the original.

DJI's new Mavic Air gives you more reasons not to put off buying a drone

DJI Mavic Air (Arctic White)If you’ve been stalling on getting into the fun hobby of drone photography, DJI has come up with another reason not to. Its new Mavic Air combines some of the very best features of the amazingly-popular Mavic Pro with the diminutive Spark. I’ve written up our . For serious photographers, I think the Mavic Pro still offers some big advantages, like more flight time, faster lens, and possibly more support for advanced video modes like D-Log (although the Air might also support those). Most of the fancy photography features of the new Air will help you get started quickly, but won’t do much for those of us who already shoot RAW and use Litchi for our panoramas. The 32MP built-in panorama mode certainly isn’t a match for custom panos like the one below I built out of 46 RAW images using Photoshop and Hugin.

Luminar by MacPhun (now Skylum) coming to Windows: Competition for Photoshop and Lightroom heats up

As a Windows user, I’ve only heard about MacPhun and their Luminar photo editor, but have never had a chance to use it. However, this fall I was able to start using their AuroraHDR product when they brought it to Windows, and have been very impressed. Now, the company (renamed Skylum) is bringing its flagship Luminar image editor to Windows, and it looks like it will be an exciting new entry in the desktop photo editing space. With a price point even less than Adobe Photoshop Elements, it provides a set of features that looks very similar to both Photoshop and the image editing portion of Lightroom. Mac users can try or purchase it now, by . Pre-orders for the Windows version will start on November 1st. I got a chance to use the beta and was very impressed by the interface and architecture. I’ll be doing a more complete review once the shipping version is available.

 

Getting started with drone photography: A Resource Guide

DJI Mavic Pro There is plenty of information on the web about drone photography, but I’ve learned from experience that it is spread far and wide, and it can be very time consuming to get the bits you need. It can also be expensive if you order the wrong drone or even worse crash your drone because you were missing a key piece of information (yep, done that). So we’ve put together a resource guide that provides at least one approachable path for you to get started, have fun, and develop the confidence to push yourself and your drones further. We’ll be adding to this guide on a regular basis, so please let us know what additional topics you’d like to see included!

Sony a6500 tested: Solid upgrade for top of the line compact mirrorless

Sony Alpha a6500 Mirrorless Digital Camera (Body Only)One after another Sony has been knocking down the barriers for those considering switching from full-size DSLRs to smaller, mirrorless, APS-C cameras. Better autofocus, high frame rates, and an increasing selection of lenses for its E-mount make the Sony a6000 family an excellent choice. Image quality is also highly competitive, as you’d expect from the company that makes sensors for much of the industry. One of the few remaining Achilles Heels has been its control and menu system, which have been hard to like. That was our biggest beef when we . With our recent field test of the newer we can confirm that Sony has made progress on the camera’s interface, but it is still more quirky than we’d like.

Best laptops for Photo Editing

I’ve just updated my guide to some of the , so it is current with the latest models. Not a huge amount has changed since it was last updated 6 months ago, but more models now have Nvidia 10xx (instead of 9xx) GPUs, which is a sizable jump, and now many of them have 7th generation Core CPUs (Kaby Lake). There are also gains in performance, some decreases in size, and ports moving towards newer standards. One important development on the horizon is Nvidia’s new “Max-Q” laptop architecture, which will enable thinner models with discrete GPUs. Those should start showing up in the market by July. Their primary focus is gaming, but as always, gaming laptops can be ideal for image processing.