Photoshop World – What a Blast!

I’ve just returned, very tired but very inspired, from Photoshop World 2012 in Las Vegas.  PSW is a semi-annual (Orlando in the Spring, Las Vegas in the Fall) event of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals.  If you don’t know about NAPP and you’re into photography, design, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom and video, you definitely should look into NAPP and all its programs, events, training and other benefits ( ).

Anyway, event-central was the Mandalay Bay Resort Hotel.  The Mandalay is a fantastic venue for something like this, although I’d hate to think about how many miles I walked INSIDE the hotel complex during the 4 day event.  The main event was Photoshop World, but actually, the hotel itself offered some interesting details to shoot.

I’ve been to more than my share of professional and trade shows and conferences, and for the most part, I’ve found most to be boring at best, and more often a waste of time and money.  Most are primarily a vendor trade-floor with a few breakout sessions or speakers that might be worth attending.


Classes were packed, 2 or 3 concurrently, starting at 8:00 and going into the evening.  And, although I obviously couldn’t attend more than one for each slot, I might’ve if they were spread over more days and times.

OK, enough PSW and NAPP propaganda already!  What about a few of the more inspirational and instructive highlights, of which there were many.

One of my favorite instructors is Julieanne Kost , actually of Adobe.  She is not only a really terrific instructor with an engaging wit and dozens of voices and sounds to punctuate her sessions, but she is a fantastic photographic artist.  Check out her website ( ) for a huge collection of tutorials and instructions, all really easy to follow, and FREE.  Don’t miss her Blog and Portfolio tabs.

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HDR at the Rail Museum


A Day at the Orange Empire Railroad Museum – Perris, California

I’ve toyed with High Dynamic Range, or “HDR”, photography off and on for a few months now, but I’ve resisted fully going down that road. It’s very common now to hear the term “HDR” touted as though it was the latest cure-all for ignoring what used to be careful lighting, thoughtful composition, and the tedium of waiting out, or searching out, a scene that was within the tonal range of the camera’s capabilities.

In the days of film (B&W especially) and Ansel’s Zone System, we could readily hit a 9-stop range, and maybe even push it some. With today’s typical digital sensor limitations of 5 stops, or 5½ at best, those shots we chased or had to wait for are not within the range of the cameras that most of us have today.

Thus opened up the HDR world. I lagged behind for quite a while trying to avoid 8-stop or greater scenes, or more troublesome yet, trying to light interior or wide-range shots with flashes, reflectors or other traditional fill-light magic.

I still find myself bristling when I hear someone say, “Just use HDR and bracket it”, as though tht will magically cure a bad or highly contrasty image. It’s sort of like when a scene didn’t materialize without content conflicts or compositional mistakes, the catch-phrase became, “Oh, just Photoshop it out!” I hated it before, and I hate it now. (And I really hate to hear “Photoshop” used as a verb!)

But slowly, and with no small amount of coaxing and coaching from some of the those whose opinions I value, most notably my good friend and mentor, Robert A. Hansen (, I began to see, like much that I had grudgingly come to accept in the digital world, that HDR is just another of those techniques that can be used either badly or to combat and bend the limitations of our equipment and situation. So, I’ve decided to give it a fair try for a while and see what happens.

I went on out to the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, California, home of the world’s largest rail junkyard, to give HDR a good try. I remembered my former trips to OERM from the Ilford and Tri-X days as a great location for details, shapes, forms, shadows and, of course, subject matter that wasn’t everyday. And, I figured that there would be plenty of opportunity to shoot images that were well beyond a 5-stop range and still had plenty of interest in the darker, or highlighted details.

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The “Great American Horse Drive”

EPN Horse Drive & Sombrero Ranch — Craig, Colorado

I just returned from an absolutely great photography workshop trip in northwestern Colorado. The event was centered on the annual gathering and 62-mile drive of about 450 horses from their winter range home in Brown’s Park Ranch southeast of Dinosaur National Monument, to the 20,000-acre Big Gulch Ranch, west of Craig, Colorado. Big Gulch Ranch is one of the numerous ranch holdings and stables in Colorado, Wyoming and Arizona which are owned and operated by the family-owned Sombrero Ranches Company, and its herd of about 2,000 head is said to be the largest single horse herd in North America.

Somewhat more of a photo event rather than a true workshop (not a huge emphasis on instruction), this is an event organized under the banner of the Equine Photographers’ Network ( No great surprise that the focus was on horses, more horses, wranglers with some long-horns and ranch scenery thrown in.

Not having done much in the horse photography world before, I was very intrigued when I first learned of the “Great American Horse Drive”. After reading the background of the horse drive and EPN’s related workshop, my expectations were fairly high on being able to be amongst horses, real ranch hands and in an exciting photo shooting environment. And, I hoped that I might even be able to catch sight of some of the wild Mustang horses that roam the open federal lands in Northeastern Colorado and Southwestern Wyoming. But this event far exceeded even my best expectations.

Yes, the instruction was a much lesser part of the workshop than the actual field shooting, but there was still no shortage of helpful technical guidance, tutoring, discussions (topics: digital workflow, what equine clients look for, business Q&A, etc.), and even a very good critique. Scott Trees ( ,who is widely recognized as one of the preeminent equine photographers in the world, was the main professional instructor. Also providing both photographic and technical guidance were EPN’s founder, Carien Schippers (, also a highly recognized equine photographer in her own right, and Mark Kettenhofen of Nikon Professional Services who brought lots of Nikon toys for us to use and who introduced us to Nikon world of video capture.

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