Conserving America’s Wildlands Exhibit

I had the privilege of working with Rhett Turner to produce the prints for his latest exhibit Conserving America’s Wildlands: The Vision Of Ted Turner — Photography By Rhett Turner. Rhett has captured an incredible story of the wild places his father had the foresight to preserve. I’ve literally looked for hours at every photograph in the show, and am excited that others can now see all the detail and beauty that is in these photos. If you are passing through Atlanta, I hope you can make the time to see it. 

Lightroom Hacks – Adding a second curve to your processing

Right now, Lightroom is limited to one curve per file…or so I thought. A happy accident showed me how to apply two different curves to a Lightroom file.

The curve dialog in Lightroom offers us several ways to apply a curve to apply a curve. The most relevant here are the “point curve” and the “parametric”. you choose these by using those icons nest to “Adjust” in the curve box.

Parametric Curve

I had assumed that you could only use one of these, but it turns out that you can use both a point curve and a parametric curve, and that lets you add a second curve adjustment to your Lightroom files.

The catch is you have to be careful with the parametric tool, which I feel is a poorly designed approach to using curves. But used with care, it can help you take just a little more control of your file until later this year when Lightroom gets the ability to use curves in the mask tool.

If you are not using curves, you should. If you’d like to learn more about how I use curves, it is a tool I teach as part of my four session color and black and white processing workshops, and is covered in my upcoming book.

Point Curve

New Highlight Step Wedge

Getting highlights right is a critical part of making fine quality prints. To help me in that, I created a step wedge that lets me see how specific highlight and shadow tones are printed. These values are so important that every ICC printer profile at West Coast Imaging had to pass this test to be approved for production. I’ve got a new version of this step wedge that you should be using. Why a new version? My original was created using Joe Holmes’ Ekataspace PS5 color profile in the days of drum scanning. That version works great in Photoshop, but using Ektaspace causes some differences from the PROPhoto workflow of Lightroom. The new version in PROPhoto RGB allows the brightness percentages to match up with how Lightroom is used. If you’d like a copy of this file, you can get it from this link:

How do you use it? Well that is a much longer story, but a good starting point is to print it out on the paper(s) you regularly print on so you can see how much highlight detail they are printing. On a really good printer profile, you should just barely be able to see the 254 RGB patch. Tell me in the comments how you’ve found to use this tool!

Gigapixel AI for Large Prints

Are you using Gigapixel AI? What do you think of it? I needed to make some large prints for a museum show recently, so I decided to give it a try and Wow!…I’m amazed by this software! It has changed my expectations of what is possible, and is letting me make better large prints than ever before. I can now get 4×5 film like quality at larger sizes, and it really helped with all the large prints I had to make for the museum show, some up to 76 inches wide! It is now a standard part of my personal workflow, and I’ve put together a 2 hour mini clinic so I can walk you through how I use it. Check out the link below for more information:

What Motivates Your Photography?

What motivates you to make photographs? Motivations are so unique to each photographer and what brings them reward from the process. I have friends who find little personal reward from printing, which is a complete contrast with the reward I get from making a print that brings to fruition what I saw and felt, and what I wanted to say.

I was talking with a friend recently that said he would rather be outside than be inside printing, where for me both motivate the other. Going out and making photographs of nature makes me want to make prints that can communicate and express what I saw, and then in the process of making those prints, I am filled with awe and wonder at all that is contained in creation which drives me back into the field to make more photographs and the cycle repeats. 

There is no right or wrong, that’s not the point of this musing. The point is to discover what motivates you! The things that motivate us seem easier to do, make it easier to endure the work or hardships required to attain our goal because it often doesn’t seem like work. 

For me, sitting in front of the computer for hours working on one of my photos does not seem like work. Make no mistake, I am giving it intensive focus and effort, trying to tune my perception to tease out the essence of the subject and the light, and to work through the nearly limitless options that can be expressed through color  and density correction, sharpening, masking, and more. It can be exhausting mentally, often requires obsessing over small details that actually make a big difference, and it can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. For me the reward is worth it. Once I see in my mind’s eye what the photograph could be, it is as if I have no choice but to spend the time necessary to create that vision. The foreknowledge of what I can create makes the effort seem less like work than it is, and makes it easy to enjoy the journey. 

What is sheer brutal drudgery for some is joy and rewarding for me.  But what about you? What do you find most rewarding? How do you use that knowledge to improve your photography? 

What don’t you enjoy? Are you putting off things that can help you grow just because you don’t enjoy them? What can you do to grow your skills in those areas to get better at them, and make them easier so that your dislike of that part doesn’t hinder your photographic goals? What could you learn if you just journeyed a little further to see what is over the next hill? Photography can be both fun and work, and if you neglect the work, you won’t keep growing. 

The answers to these questions will be as unique as you are. The point is finding the things that motivate the pursuit of photography so you can lean into it and continue to grow and enjoy the art and craft of expressing yourself and the world around you though light and lens. 

Lightroom vs Photoshop: Do I need Both?

Photographers get pretty dogmatic about what processing software to use. We do that with camera brands too, but that’s a story for another day. Often these dogmatic positions are based on emotions rather than a thorough understanding of both the tool and the result we wish to achieve, and that stops us from growing as photographers.

I’m going to suggest that your toolkit shouldn’t be either Lightroom or Photoshop, but both. 

Most photographers I meet primarily use Lightroom for processing. That’s no surprise, because Lightroom took most of the things that were hard about Photoshop and made them easier to access and harder to mess up. So right from the start, Lightroom and Photoshop were designed to use different methods to achieve a satisfyingly processed photo. Different means different, that that means we’ll usually get different results too. 

If computers generally frustrate you, Lightroom is the better choice. It is going to hide a lot of the process from you so that you can’t mess up your files as easily, and with many photos it is possible to make pleasing results. 

But the more serious you get about your photography, the more time you spend at it, the more you should consider learning Photoshop and the added tools it gives you. You can do it…It’s just another tool like many you have mastered in your lifetime from driving a car in city traffic to the expertise that allow you to be successful in your profession. 

Photoshop has a reputation for being hard, and honestly there are way more ways to mess things up in Photoshop if you don’t have a solid workflow. But once you get a good foundation, Photoshop becomes easier to work in that Lightroom in many ways, and lets you achieve a higher level of precision and exert more control over the process. 

The thing is, all those things you need to learn to understand Photoshop, the things hidden in Lightroom, are things you need to learn to take more control over your photographs. There are a lot of ways Lightroom can bite you hard too. I know experienced photographers who have lost entire catalogs of photos because of one wrong click in Lightroom because they were lulled into a false sense of security. Lightroom isn’t perfect and neither is Photoshop. It’s always up to you to know how they work and make sure they are doing what you want them to do and not do things that are destructive to your photo archive. 

The fact is, if you want to grow as a photographer, you have to become more versed in all aspects of the process. It’s not about which software you use, but about how you think about the problems you need to solve, and understanding which tool lets you solve those problems to your satisfaction. 

The honeymoon phase of photography is when you like everything you do and it seems easy. But the real fun starts when you start to see beyond your current experience, and feel that drive to get more from your photos. That’s when the real learning starts, and when things get really rewarding. 

So I’d encourage you to make this the year you start using Lightroom AND Photoshop, and break through the barriers that are keeping you from using one or the other. In the process you’ll gain some new skills, and feel more confident in whatever processing choice you make.

RAM Upgrade from 16GB to 64GB

Photoshop loves RAM. Having too little can make your computer run slow, which can make image processing either frustrating or impossible. And the larger your file size, the more ram you need. 

For years now, I’ve been making 16GB work, because that is the limit of my Macbook Pro.  If I’m not running other apps, and I’m careful with not opening too many Photoshop files (My typical files are about 1GB in size) It works fine. But if I want to keep open all my productivity apps like mail, web browsers, spreadsheets, spotify, etc, it’s very easy to use up all my RAM and slow things down. 

This winter I transitioned to a 2018 MacMini with 16gb of RAM. I selected this model because it was one of only two mac models at the time that allows me to upgrade the RAM myself, and can hold the amount of RAM I need, all at a better price than apple’s top of the line models. This week I finally got a break in my production schedule that allowed me the time to take it apart and upgrade it to 64GB of RAM. And what a difference it has made. Even running only Photoshop, there is a noticeable difference in speed for several common functions, which has made it easier for the computer to keep up with me and the speed at which I apply processing changes. But the most noticeable difference is that I can now run all the other applications I need with no penalty. I can have several 1GB files open in Photoshop, have my Lightroom catalog accessible, along with all my productivity apps.  I’ve been using the mac “Activity Monitor” to see how much RAM that uses, and I’m usually using 32-38GB of RAM unless I really push things in Photoshop. 

I wanted to know how much RAM lets me run smoothly because the current generation of macs does not allow you to upgrade your RAM or storage. What it comes with is what you are stuck with till you upgrade. And Apple charges a premium for extra RAM and storage, so over provisioning will cost you. So if I were buying a new mac today for Photoshop use, how much RAM would I want? First of all, the new macs use RAM a little differently, so the theory is you can get by with less. For a hobbyist, I think 8GB is too little, as it will cause some slowdowns based on my limited observation. 16GB should be functional, but may have some some slowdowns if you try and have too many apps open while Photoshopping. 32GB would make it easier if you are spending more time processing and will let you keep more apps open. I think that would get you 80% of the benefit of going up to 64GB. And based on what I’ve experienced this week processing for an upcoming exhibit, I haven’t been able to use all 64GB I installed. 

So some takeaways. If your mac can be upgraded, and you use Photoshop, I’d recommend going up to at least 16GB. Depending on your mac, you might be able to upgrade to 24GB or 40GB, which are really good break points. How much just depends on cost. Check out Other World Computing to see what RAM your mac uses and how much it costs. They also have install videos that can show you if it’s easy to install, like on a 27 inch iMac, or if it requires taking out the motherboard like it did on my 2018 macmini. I have bough all my RAM from OWC for nearly twenty years, both for all the computers at West Coast Imaging, Aspen Creek Photo, and my personal computers. They offer a lifetime warranty and have never let me down. 

One final question, why did I go with the Intel based MacMini instead of the new Apple Silicon Macs? In November, there were only two mac options if I wanted more than 16GB or ram, the 27inch iMAc and the 2018 Mac Mini. Based on raw specs, the new macs are faster, but Photoshop is more RAM dependent, and would have far more effect for how I use it than a faster processor. So I saved a good chunk of money with the MacMini and still exceeded my performance expectations. The computer is waiting on me to make decisions more than I am waiting on it, so there was no ROI on a faster model. If I was doing video day in day out or other extremely processor intensive work, then I’d want something faster, but as it is, I think I’m able to work about 95% of optimum, and that last 5% would cost me a lot more for minimal gain. My photography would get more out of another trip than it would processing a couple percent faster. 

Life, and photography are full of tradeoffs. This is how I made the tradeoffs for my computer system. I hope it gives you some ideas for upgrades for your system, and just how far you do (or don’t) need to go. 

Maine Coast Workshop – January 2023

“Without question, maritime Maine is the most ruggedly beautiful stretch of the United States east coast. It’s one of those special places that hooks you, and keeps calling you back. Most of us fortunate enough to visit here do so in summer or autumn, though the Maine coast in winter – serene and free of summer’s crowds – yields remarkably intimate and evocative photographs, making a compelling case that this sublime landscape, and the charming Down East culture that inhabits it, are well worth experiencing during the colder months.”

Maine Winter Coast Workshop with Visionary Wild – January 23-27, 2023

New Website

What can you do with a couple free hours on a snowy Saturday morning? How about create a new website! And yes, I really put this together in under four hours.

I’ve been wanting to redo my website for some time, and have been trying to find a platform that would best fit my needs. After bugging all my friends asking what they use, and researching a few of my own options, I finally settled on Squarespace.

Squarespace has always had an excellent design aesthetic, geared towards the professional photography/design/publishing world. So their built in tools made it effortless to put together galleries that had the look I want but I’m not good enough at graphic design or CSS to create it without a good template.

The online sales features we the other driving factor. There are several really good photo website companies that charge exorbitant transaction fees, but that was a deal killer for me. With squarespace, I can choose a plan where I only pay the credit card processing fees. They don’t take a cut, and I like that business model a lot better.

A couple things helped bring the site together so fast. First of all, I had a clear objective in mind. That helped me at the many decision points and as I learned to think like the Squarespace platform.

Having an existing website also helped, as I could use that as a template and copy test from it for the new site. And building the galleries was easy as I already have my favorite photos exported as web ready jpegs.

So there you go, that is how you get a new website in about four hours. Click on over to and have a look. I’ve never had this much work online before, and I’m excited to be able to share it.