Screamin' Deal Alert: Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens just $1899!

Screamin’ Deal Alert: New Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens just $1899 with rebates and stuff!

How To Claim This Awesome Deal…

It’s normally around $2,500 at B&H Photo, but when you add the lens to the Checkout (and actually go to checkout) it then shows a lower price of $2,199 — PLUS there’s a $300 mail-in rebate which brings it down to just $1899, which is a pretty smoking’ deal. Here’s the link: http://bhpho.to/1bkwrM4

Update – 01.18.2014

After using this lens since purchasing in early November, I have to admit it is a vast improvement over the previous model. Colors are more vivid, the IS seems more stable, and the clarity is super sharp. Although expensive, this lens is hands down worth every penny.

To see what other users are saying about this lens, check out reviews for it over at B&H (http://goo.gl/zdYUud) or on Amazon, at http://goo.gl/KpMZxg.

 

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM

 

Screamin’ Deal Alert: New Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II Lens just $1899!

Screamin’ Deal Alert: New Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II Lens just $1899 with rebates and stuff!

It’s normally around $2,500 at B&H Photo, but when you add the lens to the Checkout (and actually go to checkout) it then shows a lower price of $2,199 — PLUS there’s a $300 mail-in rebate which brings it down to just $1899, which is a pretty smoking’ deal. Here’s the link: http://bhpho.to/1bkwrM4

 

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First Impressions: Canon 85mm f/1.2 II

My new Canon 85mm f/1.2 II just arrived in the mail today. As always, UPS delivers everything after sundown.. kinda stinks when you’re wanting to play with new camera equipment. But I opened the box and put the lens on my body, and oh – my – gosh.. I’m in love. I took some test shots of my dad and cat – I couldn’t resist.

Canon 85mm f/1.2 II Initial Results

As a many reviews suggest, initial results seem to confirm this lens is freaking sharp; I’m absolutely floored with the results!

For more of my work, visit my portfolio at: http://www.stephenmasker.com

Image showing Canon 85mm f/1.2 II

Just Arrived: Canon 85mm f/1.2 II

My new Canon 85mm f/1.2 II just arrived in the mail today. As always, UPS delivers everything after sundown.. kinda stinks when you’re wanting to play with new camera equipment. But I opened the box and put the lens on my body, and oh – my – gosh.. I’m in love. I took some test shots of my dad and cat – I couldn’t resist.

Initial results seem to confirm this lens is freaking sharp; I’m absolutely floored with the results! 2013-11-14_0027

Castle Hills House Shoot – 11/13/2013

Some images of a home I photographed this evening in Castle Hills – an upper-class subdivision located in Lewisville, TX.
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Reverse Geotagging on Instagram – Tag Anyplace from Anywhere

Oh. My God.

The issue of geotagging on Instagram has plagued my life since Columbus set sail for America. I’ve been working on a solution to this problem for months, and Google was no help…

I am an avid user of Instagram (MaskerPhoto), and, frequently, when I upload images to my Instagram account I like to simultaneously add them to my Instagram Photo Map.

The problem I’m describing exists when there is a difference in the geography between where the image was captured, and where the image is being uploaded. For example: I often – almost always – capture images on my iPhone or DSLR at a location with the intent of editing and sharing them on Instagram at a later date and time. However, when you get to the last page on Instagram (Scale & Crop > Edit > Share…), right before you click the green ‘share’ button in the top right corner, you have an opportunity to enter a caption, add people, Add to Photo Map, Name This Location, and select various social media platforms to share to.

The ominous ‘Add to Photo Map’ is what this post is about. Suppose you’re in Washington D.C., snapping photos with your DSLR of The White House. You get home – wherever that may be – process the images, put them on your phone, and prepare them for sharing on Instagram. On that last Instagram page – the ‘Share’ page – you choose ‘Add to Photo Map’, then try to search for ‘The White House’… what happens? Nothing. Instagram can’t locate it. ‘The White House’ isn’t a ‘nearby location’. So, what’s the solution? Trick Instagram into thinking that you’re near The White House by reverse engineering the geotag metadata. Here’s how:

1. In the App store, search and download an app called ‘Pixelgarde‘. At the time of this article, it’s free.

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2. Open Pixelgarde and select an image from your camera roll, then, select the pencil in the bottom left corner.

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3. Choose ‘Change Geotags’ from the list of options that generates.

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4. Now, the trickiest step:

On the ‘Change Location’ map, toggle between ‘Map’, ‘Satellite’, and ‘Hybrid’; enter an address – or city – then click ‘Done’. For some locations that you enter, the red pin will relocate without any problem. Other times (and more often than not, unfortunately), the app will return an ‘Error: Received invalid response.’ If this happens, click ‘OK’ then ‘Cancel’ to cancel out your address/city search. Instead, zoom in or out on the map and drag the red pin with your finger, zooming as needed relocate it. Be careful not to simultaneously drag the map while you do this. It’s easier to relocate the map first, then move the red pin.

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5. Choose ‘Done’, then ‘Done’ again. Now, your image should appear with a small, colorful ‘X’ in the top right. Next, choose the ‘Share’ button on bottom right of the app.

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6. Choose ‘Save a Copy’ > ‘Done’

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7. Select a sharing size (I choose ‘Original’), then ‘Post’.

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8. Now check your camera roll. The most recent picture should have been the image you were just working on. If you followed the steps correctly, the geolocation has been changed. Send it to Instagram, choose ‘Add to Photo Map’, and enjoy the magic.

I hope this has been helpful! Let me know how it works out for you, or if you find any faster, better apps for reverse geotagging images. Much love!

Post Production: How to Quickly Separate Photographs from XMP Files

A client recently asked me for my .RAW images to deliver to a photo editor for a family shoot I did in North Texas. The shoot was for an online ad campaign for health insurance, and the deliverables – my .RAW files – sitting fees, etc. were negotiated prior to the shoot.

So, the shoot was over, I’m at my computer – importing images into Lightroom (Lr), going through my typical workflow process; keywording images, organizing them, and so forth. As you likely already know, when you edit images in Lr, you’re not actually modifying the original image. Instead, Lr is saving a ‘copy’ – an edited version – stored in the Lr catalog. Worth discussing are files called .XMP files, which stands for Extensible Metadata Platform. The .XMP file format was created by Adobe and are used to organize large volumes of files into a searchable database.

In the case of camera raw files that have a proprietary file format, XMP isn’t written into the original files. To avoid file corruption, XMP metadata is stored in a separate file called a sidecar file. For all other file formats supported by Lightroom (JPEG, TIFF, PSD, and DNG), XMP metadata is written into the files in the location specified for that data.

An example of .xmp/sidecar files written side-by-side to the original RAW/.CR2 files.

An example of .xmp/sidecar files written side-by-side to the original RAW/.CR2 files.

Now, the (belated) purpose of this entry: Providing that you, at some point (regardless of whether it’s during importing or exporting) add EXIF data to your .RAW images (such as copyright, keywords, location, time, etc., etc.), every image you apply that data to is going to generate an .XMP file (aka ‘sidecar’ file) in the same folder as your images. This is also applicable if you edit RAW files, meaning, .XMP files are generated even for adjusting settings such as cropping and white balance. Regardless if you apply/change/modify EXIF data and/or edit the image, only one .XMP file will generate per original RAW file.

Now lets assume that you’re in a situation like mine. Assuming you knew you needed a copy of your RAW files, you could copy all of your RAW images before importing into Lr, then paste them in their destination, and you’d be done. But I like to keep my workflow consistent, and consistency, for me, means applying EXIF data and staying organized. So, lets assume then that you do things my way. You’ve imported all of your RAW images into Lr, applied additional EXIF data (keywords and such), .XMP files have generated and appear side-by-side to your original RAW files (in my case, .CR2, Canon’s RAW proprietary file format). The question then becomes: How do you export your RAW files without simultaneously exporting your .XMP/sidecar files? The solution to this problem is easy; actually, too easy, but I looked right past it – and it’s an easy mistake to make. Instead of selecting all of your RAW files one by one (which you could do by holding Command and clicking on each individual file), instead save yourself some by following these instructions:

  1. Open the folder containing your RAW and .XMP/sidecare files (likely located on your internal or external hard drive).
  2. Right click anywhere inside the folder
  3. Choose ‘Arrange By’ > ‘Kind’
  4. Voilà – You’re done

And just that quickly, your .XMP files have been immediately arranged separately from your RAW files, making it easy to press ‘Command+A’, highlighting all of your RAW images, copy them, and paste them in the new location. Further, there’s no need to reapply the ‘arrange by’ command (so as to lineup the .XMP files with their restive RAW files).

Anyway, I hope this tip helps some of you out there. It’s definitely a time-saver, and something I’ve repeatedly overlooked in the past. Special thanks to my friend and photographer Thorpe Griner for troubleshooting this issue.

The Amazingly Awesome PocketWizard PC5N Locking PC Sync Cable

The failure of my 580 EX II strobes to fire has given me more stress than any other single piece of photo equipment that I’ve ever owned. But now those days are over. The reason the flashes were failing to fire was not because of the strobes themselves, and not because of the PocketWizards, but because of the free, horribly designed radio slave cable that connects the PocketWizard to the flash (they’re free/packaged with your PocketWizard). Specifically, the issue was with the PC male end of the cable staying connected to my flash. It would constantly become loose, and thus the flash would not fire when the PocketWizard was triggered by the Wizard on the hot shoe of my camera body.

The solution, then, was to find a locking PC Male To 1/8″ (3.5mm) Mini cable to prevent the PC end of the cable from disconnecting or becoming loose from the flash. B&H sells such a cable (made by PocketWizard), and I ordered four of them (two for myself, for my two Canon strobes), and two for a friend, who’s using Q-flashes. As it turns out, the cables aren’t compatible with the Q-flashes, so he didn’t need the cables, which means I have two of these items to sell. If you’re interested, they’re $25/ea., and after testing them on my Canon 580 EX II Speedlights, I wish I had bought these a very long time ago. You can read more about them here: http://goo.gl/DahCt and for reference, I included pictures of the freebie/crap sync cable that comes with the PocketWizard (on the left) and the new PocketWizard Locking PC sync cable – for sale – on the right.

CPS, TF Camera Repair, and the Canon Factory Service Center

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As it turns out, CPS is well worth the investment should you ever damage your equipment. But in the interim, here’s a tip: Don’t try to balance your iPhone between your head and shoulders while securing your camera to your tripod. Better yet, don’t talk on your phone at all when using camera gear.

My day came to quick and unfortunate end when both my 5D Mk III and attached 16-35mm f/2.8 II USM lens went shattering into pieces after making contact with the tile floor about 5.5 feet below. This self-inflicted accident happened around the end of last month, and my camera and lens are still out for repair.

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My 5D Mark III ($3,500.00) and Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM ($1,700.00) in pieces on the floor after falling 5.5 feet.

Turns on there are a number of different avenues to pursue a camera accident. Thankfully I haven’t had one in a long time, but now that I have, I can explain some of the options incase any of you encounter a camera boo-boo.

First there’s TF Camera Repair managed by a man named Toshio, who I believe is a former Canon repair technician. I was referred to him by a Dallas wedding photographer some time ago, but never got the opportunity to use him until now. I’ve heard nothing but great things about him. He provides you with a quote and offers a slight discount on repairing your items (compared to the Canon Factory Service Center estimates).

Secondly, there’s Canon Professional Services. I highly recommend becoming a member. Currently, they offer three tiers of membership: Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Each has its own advantages and ranges in price (Free for Silver, $100/yr for Gold, and $500/yr for Platinum). However, you have to have more than a big wallet to qualify for the Gold and Platinum memberships. For the highest level of membership, you have to be a professional photographer with a minimum of 50 CPS product points accrued by owning eligible CPS products. Gold requires 20 CPS product points, and Silver 10. CPS product points are earned each time you register your Canon product(s) on the CPS website. Once you have enough product points and enough cash to pay the annual fee, then you can become a member of that tier and earn the benefits.

In my case, Toshio quoted me $308 (parts and labor) for the repair of the 16-35mm f/2.8 II USM lens, but wasn’t able to provide a quote for the damage to the body because he didn’t have the tools necessary to repair it. Fortunately, Toshio’s shop is about 10 minutes away from the Canon Factory Service Center in NJ, and offered to drive the body over to Canon at no additional cost.

After Toshio quoted me the repair cost of the lens, I logged on Canon’s CPS website and found out I could become a Platinum member. The initial investment was steep ($500/yr), but at the Platinum level all repairs are 60% off, plus, you get free shipping to and from the Canon Factory Service Center, 6 free cleanings/yr, and a bunch of other benefits. Unfortunately, I paid $100 to ship and insure my gear to TF Camera Repair because I wasn’t a CPS member at the time, which sucks, but at least the return shipping of my equipment will be free.

Here’s a break down of the various quotes for my incident:

Non-CPS member mailed straight to Canon Factory Service Center in NJ:

  • Canon 5D Mark III: $279.00 (Labor) + $0 (Parts) = $279.00
  • Canon 16-35mm F/2.8L II USM: $269 (Labor) + $160 (Parts) = $429
  • Shipping to location: $102 (insured, shipping from TX via UPS) 7-10 business days
  • Shipping from location: $65 (approx) 7-10 business days
  • Total: $875

Mailed to Toshio @ TF Camera Repair in NJ:

  • Canon 5D Mark III: [Unable to be repaired by Toshio; Equipment needed for repair] Approx. repair cost: $215
  • Canon 16-35mm F/2.8L II USM: $308 (Parts & Labor)
  • Shipping to location: $102 (insured, shipping from TX via UPS) 7-10 business days
  • Shipping from location: $65 (approx) 7-10 business days
  • Total: $690

Canon CPS Repair, Platinum Membership (60% off parts and labor):

  • Canon 5D Mark III: $189.03 (Parts and Labor)
  • Canon 16-35mm F/2.8L II USM: $120.81 (Parts and Labor)
  • Shipping to location: Free, overnight
  • Shipping from location: Free, overnight
  • Total: $309.84 (+ a $500 annual fee and thousands of $$$ in Canon equipment to qualify for the Platinum Membership). 

For more information on Toshio at TF Camera Repair, check out some of the great reviews on Google through this link. Also listed is the phone number and address, should you need to contact him. Heads up! He’s a little difficult to understand, but very friendly. 

For more information on CPS, check out this link.

If you’re a Nikon or Sony user, click here. 😛

Portrait of a Skateboarder, No.2

Here’s another outtake from the skateboarder Anthony Najera and I were photographing at Scion Skatepark in Lewisville on Monday night. Not sure if I like this one or the first one more.

Photograph taken at Scion Skate Park in Lewisville, Texas on Monday, July 8, 2013.

This portrait was made using a Canon 5D Mark II (because I, like an idiot, dropped & damaged my 5D MkIII, currently out for repair), two Canon 580 EX II strobes at full-power, fired remotely with PocketWizards. No light modifiers were used.

The RAW image was processed first in Lightroom, where clarity, whites, and individual saturation colors were modified. The image was then processed in Photoshop CS6 using Nik Software, specifically Viveza and Color Efex Pro. Finally, the image was sharpened, then exported as a .tiff file back into Lightroom, then exported again as a .jpeg for the web.

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