This is my photography blog.
There are many like it but this one is mine.
About Paul Lannuier
Photographing the free world (and also New Jersey) since 1983, Paul Lannuier is an internationally acclaimed and award winning photographer and photojournalist* currently based in the Republic of Texas who, while fully appreciative of the superb BBQ and Mexican cuisine, truly laments the lack of quality pizza and bagels in the Lone Star State. When not actually photographicating, he blogs about photography, astronomy and ham radio. Enter at your own risk.
* Not really.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
In the beginning... the Nikon FGNikon FG. A Christmas gift from my parents in 1983, the FG was my first "real" camera; I'd previously been limited to snapshots with a 1960's vintage Polaroid "Swinger", a Kodak 124 Instamatic or the infamous Kodak EK4 instant camera that I got for Christmas in 1976. The FG was my first SLR and was the camera with which I learned to take a proper photograph.
It wasn't, however, the camera I originally wanted. That singular honor is bestowed upon the Canon AE-1. It's been so long that I don't remember why, other than that's the camera all of my photo-geek friends were raving about at the time. As Canon sold 5 million of them, I was clearly not alone in my thinking that the AE-1 was The One. Unlike 5 million others, however, I couldn't afford The One. Neither could my parents, apparently -- after dropping hints for months before Christmas 1977 that this was the only gift that would make me a better, happier child, I was sure an AE-1 was waiting for me inside that biggish box under the tree. Wrong-o: it was a pair of boots. I felt like Charlie Brown on Halloween ("I got a rock..."). I doubt I was able to hide my disappointment, but later in life, after years of self loathing followed by more years of therapy over the incident (no, not really...) I came to understand that my dad simply wasn't earning enough dough in the late 70's to buy his bratty kid a pro-level SLR camera.
So I gave up on my dream of being a photographer for a few years. Until 1983. My family came into a bit of change after selling some property, so when my mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas it didn't take me long to come up with an answer. So off we went, down to the new camera store that had just opened in Closter to pick up my AE-1. That's where my memory is fuzzy, because I left the store not with a Canon but a Nikon FG, with it's 50mm f1.8 kit lens plus a couple of third-party lenses -- a Sigma 70-210 f4.5 zoom, and a Starblitz 28mm f2.8 wide angle prime. Why I switched from Canon to Nikon, I have no idea. But the FG was marketed as Nikon's answer to the AE-1 Program model (the 2nd-generation AE-1 with full auto exposure), so I didn't lose anything by going to the "N" brand. I eventually added an MD-14 motor drive and an SB-15 flash, and this was my rig for over 15 years.
Stevie Ray Vaughn at The Metro, New Brunswick NJ, April 1984
Miraculously, I still have most (if not all) of the original negatives for everything I shot in 35mm format safely filed away; someday I'll break down and buy a quality film scanner and get them all digitized.
After the Canadian Grand Prix in 1999, I decided it was time to upgrade to an SLR with autofocus. I decided to follow my original dream of owning a Canon and, being budget-limited once again, settled on their entry-level SLR, the Rebel 2000. This came with a 35-80mm f4-5.6 kit zoom; I added a Tamron 100-300 f/4.5-6.3 zoom and a battery grip (the latter because I became spoiled by the MD-14, making a compact SLR into something I could get a real handle on). About a year after that I added the EF 28-135mm f3.5-5.6 Image Stabilized zoom which remains a workhorse in my stable of glass to this day and is a big reason I stuck with Canon when I graduated to a digital SLR.
The Rebel 2000 did a fairly nice job on nature and landscape shots, but at the 2000 and 2001 Canadian Grands Prix I was less impressed with it; I found it struggling to auto-focus quickly enough to be much use for motorsports work -- probably more because of the Tamron lens than the Canon body -- so I ended up leaving it on manual focus while at the races.
By 2004 I switched to a digital SLR, the Canon 300D, which I chose over Nikon simply because I already had a few hundred dollars investment in the 28-135mm IS lens. Also, the 300D was the first sub-$1,000 DSLR; there was no Nikon to be had at the time that was anywhere near my budget. So the switch from Nikon to Canon was complete. And now, with a few thousand dollars worth of glass in my bag, I'm even further locked in with Canon, at a time when the photographic world's pendulum is swinging back Nikon's way. The Rebel 2000 was auctioned off on eBay, leaving the FG as the sole 35mm camera in my collection.
When I first got the FG I was not a camera geek. I had no real idea where the FG stood in the Nikon product line; I never heard of the F3 or what made it better than the FG; I had no knowledge of, or insatiable lust for, expensive Nikkor lenses. I was just happy to have a "real" camera after years of playing with toys! That it was considered an "entry-level" model was of no concern to me. I didn't really become a true gearhead until recently, after I bought the 300D and started following the advances in digital SLRs and learned more about high-end lenses. Now, 25 years down the road, I'm starting to appreciate the FG a little more for it's technical merits -- for example, I had no idea until today that the FG was the first Nikon to have fully automatic exposure control.
The thought of selling the FG has crossed my mind a few times over the years, but a quick perusal of eBay Completed Listings shows them to be worth $50-$75. Frankly, the memories it evokes is worth substantially more to me than a tank of gas, so the FG sits on my desk now as a nostalgia inducer. Still, I can't help but think about buying a few rolls of Velvia and following Ken Rockwell's lead: Shoot film, send it off to be developed and digitized, and enjoy an effective 175 megapixels of resolution at a much greater dynamic range than even the most expensive digital SLRs can muster. His arguments are compelling.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Bag RoundupOnce upon a time I used to mock my wife for her handbag habit. "Why," I would ask, "does one woman need so many handbags?" Until one day I took an inventory of my own collection of bags. For shame. It was at that moment I realized: I'm a Bag Man. And damn proud of it.
Bags for cameras, bags for computers, bags for shortwave and ham radio gear, bags to keep other bags in. My B&H wish list has no less than 5 more bags flagged as "need" items. This bag thing is completely out of control...
My Top 5 bags of all time:
Tamrac 517 Holster: Got this one for Christmas a few years back, and it's the one I keep coming back to for carrying an SLR with a small zoom lens without having to pack a laptop along for the journey. It lets you add a couple of side bags for additional storage -- I have the lens case (5378) and accessory pocket (5384) for it, which I attach when needed.
The 517 works well for lenses up 7.5" long, such as my EF-S 10-22mm or EF 28-135mm IS. It's just a bit too short for my 70-200 f2.8L IS, though; since that's my favorite lens du jour, I'm considering the Tenba Shootout as it's the only such bag that will let me carry the 40D and 70-200mm with the lens hood attached (not reversed), which means something approx. 14.5" in depth; unfortunately Tamrac does not appear to have anything that deep. Nevertheless, I love my 517 -- it's been all over creation with me without a single zipper mishap or any other trouble.
LowePro FastPack 350: This is the bag I will usually grab for any extended trip and/or any time I need to haul my MacBook Pro along with me. Holds my 40D with 70-200mm attached (lens hood reversed. Bah!), plus every other lens I might want to bring -- typically speaking, my 10-22mm, 28-135mm, 100mm macro, and (in the upper compartment, if I plan on shooting birds or race cars) my EF 300 f4L IS.
The laptop compartment is well padded and keeps my overpriced MacBook Pro safe and sound, and it also makes a nice pocket for carrying magazines or a book or two when the computer stays home. Wish it had a tripod holder but it's kind of small for that anyway, so no biggy.
Nicely built, not too big like some other camera backpacks I've seen, and fairly lightweight. It's not especially built for extreme weather conditions, but that hasn't been a problem for me since it apparently never rains in Texas... There are plenty of backpacks I'd rather have (and will likely have in the future) but most of them cost a hell of a lot more and are typically much bigger than the FastPack. At the time I bought this, it was both the smallest and most economical backpack that would carry a 17" laptop. All in all, no regrets.
Tamrac Super Pro 14: The mother of all camera bags. This one holds everything I own, with room leftover for a few things I don't own yet: two DSLR bodies, both my big L lenses, all of my smaller lenses, a point-and-shoot, flash, 17" MacBook Pro, Kindle, spare batteries, filters, CF cards, and every charger and adapter I would need to keep all of this shit charged. Only things it's missing are wheels and a solar panel. When I want to take it all with me, it goes in here; when not on the road with me, it's where I keep all the stuff I don't need to take.
Ridiculously expensive, but all quality camera bags fall into that category, don't they? It has loops along the bottom front edge to which a tripod or monopod may be attached but I don't like to use that -- the tripod is too exposed and I don't relish the thought of my not-inexpensive tripod and head getting knocked around on the ground every time I set it down. It's supposed to be within airline size limitations for carry-on, but I'm not going to chance taking it with me when I fly; nothing scares me more than the prospect of being forced to turn over $8K worth of camera and computer equipment to the airport monkeys who handle the checked luggage. I have no doubt the bag would survive the punishment, but have no confidence that it would arrive at my final destination. So this bag's travel is limited to the back of the car only. When it's loaded with cameras and glass and a laptop, it is fucking heavy! This is not something I want to be lugging around an airport with my lower back problems...
Gilfer Bag: These were custom built for Gilfer Shortwave by Tenba, and I have two of these left from my days there and has been my man-purse of choice since, like, forever. It was sold as a carry bag for larger shortwave portables like the Sony 2010 and Grunding Satellit 700, all Cordura, interior dimensions around 11.5 x 5.5 x 7.5 in, with a zippered pocket in front and an unzippered compartment in back. One of mine is used as a radio "go bag" with VHF/UHF handhelds, spare batteries, an HF QRP rig and some antenna wire... all the crap one might need for the Apocalypse when cell phone service and the Internet has ended. The other one is kept empty, sometimes used for the 40D + 70-200mm combo, other times to carry lenses and stuff that won't fit in the 517 holster. Both of these bags are over 20 years old with barely any sign of wear other than dirt. I'm a Tenba fanboy for life because of these bags. Universal Radio still sells their version for around $30. Superb quality. Gilfer also sold a smaller sized model back in the day; sure wish I had one or three of them...
NewtBoot: Another old favorite of mine, the NewtBoot is a small (3x5x8 in.), double-sided Cordra case originally designed for the Apple Newton. My Newton days have long since passed, but the NewtBoot is still in use as it holds a point and shoot camera, wallet, smokes (well, not those anymore...), and assorted small goods nicely. Incredibly, it seems they are still available for $15 from the original seller! I may have to buy a couple more as I have no idea where mine might be packed away since the move to Texas.
So that's the lowdown, the bag obsession is clearly not gender-specific. I still don't get the whole shoe thing, though. Don't expect I ever will.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
On Tit PatrolI spent my New Year's Day out at Whiskey Hill photographing tits. Yes sir, I love tits. And praise the Lord, I'm finding Texas is chock full of great tits!
Yes, sir... those are nice tits, aren't they?
And you know, I'm not just a tit man...
I saw some peckers out at the ranch, too, but as everyone knows I prefer tits to peckers.
Update 1/11: Here's an old one for all you cock lovers:
Friday, December 19, 2008
Working with Aperture & PhotoshopMy Aperture/Photoshop workflow is constantly evolving as I dig deeper into various post-processing techniques. There are doubtless hundreds of Photoshop books describing hundreds of suggested workflows; the one that makes the most sense for me is described in Leslie Alsheimer's "Black and White in Photoshop CS3 and Lightroom", and my own system is adapted from that. Photoshop integration is different with Aperture than it is with Lightroom -- for one thing, Lightroom and Photoshop share the same Camera Raw engine, while Aperture uses it's own raw converter then round-trips to Photoshop as 16-bit TIFF/PSD files, thereby losing all adjustments done in the first part of the workflow. As non-destructive editing is the Holy Grail of post-processing this is not a small consideration; the non-destructivness of Lightroom in this process is a strong selling point for that software. Still, I prefer Aperture to Lightroom in many ways and have decided (for now) to stick with it instead of switching over to an all-Adobe system. I figure I'm cool as long as I take my time and get it right the first time at each step, from the actual camera, through Aperture, to Photoshop, and back into Aperture. So far I've had few regrets for picking Aperture over Lightroom.
Why bother with Photoshop at all? I've done OK with Aperture alone for quite a while, as long as the adjustments I make are global adjustments (i.e.: applied to the entire image). For example, if I increase the contrast using slider in Aperture, the whole photo gets enhanced. Most of the time this is fine. However, there are times that I need to make some selective adjustments to only certain areas which need to be sharpened (or brightened or darkened or desaturated or whatever); Photoshop is the unquestionably the best tool for this type of work.
Over time I've settled into a image processing workflow that can be broken down into 4 general steps.
- Rate, tag & straighten your images upon importing into Aperture.
- Perform initial global adjustments in Aperture.
- Take image to Photoshop for selective adjustments and heavy processing.
- Return to Aperture for b&w conversion and/or final tweaks.
1. Rate, Tag & Straighten
Obviously, it all starts at the camera. The most important step in the process is, get the exposure right. Or, at least close. Use the camera's histogram. This is the one step you can't repeat later, there are no do-overs. I keep my 40D set to automatically bracket my exposures +/- 1 stop and use rapid-fire shutter drive just in case I don't have the time to screw around with camera settings. The golden rule is, if you start with shit, you'll end up with shit.
After I import the raw files into Aperture, I rate the shots that have some promise as 1-star and tag them with copyright info, keywords, captions, and whatever other metadata is required. At this early stage I will also straighten the image if needed; I do not crop my images until the final steps, after most other adjustments are completed.
To serve as an example, behold my Up In Smoke BBQ photo, taken 23-Nov-2008; in this case, for Step 1 I added various copyright and keyword info to the IPTC metadata fields in Aperture, rated it one star, and set it aside for almost a month before coming back to it.
2. Aperture Global Adjustments
I try to do as little tweaking as possible at this step -- primarily the basic White Balance-Exposure-Enhance-Levels thing, plus possibly some Shadow & Highlight work. Just work down the bricks in order, making small adjustments; if a big adjustment is needed, the photo is probably crap anyway. However, with a little care, images that might be slightly under- or overexposed might be salvaged into something useful, maybe even spectacular. Just remember, less is more at this stage. What I hope to end up with at the end of this step is a good base image for further adjustment work in Photoshop. This version gets a 3-star rating to show that I've completed the initial adjustments.
In this example, my Up In Smoke image already had a fairly balanced histogram so I left the Exposure alone. I warmed up the White Balance slightly, and in the Enhance brick I dialed in a little Definition (0.55), Saturation (1.10) and Vibrancy (0.45). That's it -- no Levels or Shadow/Highlight adjustments even though the image is pretty dark in the foreground. Whenever I dialed in some Shadow, the noise got pretty awful (this was shot at ISO 800). So I adjusted for the sky (the most striking feature of the photo) and left the shadowy regions for Photoshop. Selecting "Edit With Photoshop" from the Images menu duplicates & converts the image to PSD format and launches Photoshop.
3. Photoshop Selective and Creative Adjustments
Here's where things aren't quite locked down yet, as I'm still working out this part of my method. Alsheimer suggests converting to black & white at this point, but I don't know if that works for me unless I know for sure I want the finished product to be monochromatic. Also, despite being a Photoshop user since version 1.5, I'm still learning how to use the software. So with a stack of books by my side, Photoshop is a new adventure every time I dig in.
For this photo, I ran the image through Noise Ninja to knock out as much of the ISO noise (using the tailgate of the black pickup as reference). Then I did a Color Range Select on the shadows, Feathered at 10 pixels, and applied a Curves Adjustment Layer to the selection, brightening the foreground just enough to keep the noise from popping back up. I selected the Up In Smoke sign and boosted the saturation a wee bit, then saved and returned to Aperture. This version gets a 4-star rating to show that it's been Photoshopped. Since it was converted to PSD format in the previous step, I am able to return to it later and have all of my layers intact. For the next step, however, I work on a duplicate version rather than add my final Aperture adjustments to this version.
4. Aperture Final Adjustments
Now we're almost home... The Photoshop output is close, but I want more dramatic and vibrant skies so I pump up the Highlights (28.0) and High Tonal Width (70.0) and add a little more Vibrancy (0.30). Some Shadow (9.0) and Low Tonal Width (14.0) bring the foregound out a little more, and finally some Vignette (Type: Gamma, Amount: 0.44, Size: 0.76) to finish it off. Rate this 5-star to mark it as finished, and voila... instant Velvia!
But wait, there's more. Duplicate this version and convert to Monochrome (Red 35%, Green 35%, Blue 0%). Re-tweak Shadows (29.0), and Low Tonal Width (28.0), dial in some Mid Contrast (4.0), go even heavier with the Vignette (Amount: 0.7, Size: 1.5), and finish it off with Sepia Tone (0.5).
This is also the stage where I will crop the image if necessary, although this particular shot is one of those rare occasions that cropping is not needed. If I cropped earlier in the workflow before the Photoshop round-trip, I wouldn't be able to change the crop later without having to repeat all of the adjustments in Steps 3 and 4. Again, the destructive editing beast rears it's hideous head.
Back to the black & white thing -- I choose to convert to monochrome in Step 4 (Aperture) rather than Step 3 (Photoshop) because I still like the simpler Monochrome Mixer in Aperture better than any of the several ways of handling monochrome in Photoshop. Maybe I just don't have a handle on the Photoshop B&W adjustmet tool yet, but I just seem to get better results with Aperture -- with the added bonus that, by doing the conversion in Step 4 I'm able to use the same Photoshop-tweaked version for both color and black & white final versions.
I keep separate versions for each step along the way, so for every final image I have (at least) 4 versions (or 5, if I have color and b&w final versions). This way, if I want to go back at a later date and re-tweak or try out a new technique or whatever, I can jump in at any point.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
Out & About in Texas
Friday, September 12, 2008
Thursday, August 21, 2008
New Jersey Botanical Garden
After driving past the New Jersey Botanical Garden for years, we finally stopped - a week before we leave NJ for good.
Linda came away with some nice shots, too. It was her first time out with the 300D; once she got over the habit of holding a DSLR like it's a point-and-shoot she was off and running like an old pro.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Stoned in Texas
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
The Shandaken Inn
Linda and I found ourselves in the Catskill unexpectedly on July 4th, having loaded the car with nothing more than cameras, a couple of toothbrushes and coffee. We took a western approach, exited NY17 at East Branch, followed NY30 (and the Delaware River) all the way to Margaretteville, lunched in Roxbury, then took NY28 until, some 6 hours later, we stumbled upon The Shandaken Inn, a charming little B&B whose new owners, Dean and Brig, just opened to guests the day before. Despite having little in the way of cash or clothes, we were tired and sore and decided to stay the night and had a nice time chatting into the evening with our gracious hosts and after a wonderful breakfast the next morning we headed home.
My hopes for catching the morning light was dashed by clouds - but as always, clouds make for dramatic b&w skies. The above was shot from a low angle @10mm, and while the original RAW image had the building fairly underexposed because of the sun directly behind it, a little Aperture and Photoshop magic brought it to life to my satisfaction (despite a bit of lens flare at left).
Behind the Inn runs the Esopus Creek, and a little trailblazing yielded some neat shots of the area.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Little Yellow Flower
This little guy caught my eye while doing some yard work in Closter, a solitary beacon of color amidst a sea of grass. See this photo for an idea how small it was.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Canon EOS 40D | EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 (@10mm) | 1/100 @ f/13 ISO 100
I love this lens...!
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Old Farm, Warwick, NY - An HDR Oddysey
Canon EOS 40D | EF 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM (@ 12mm) | Multi-exposure HDR @ f/5 ISO 200
In my continuing attempt to come to grips with the High Dynamic Range Imaging revolution I'm