Book Recommendation: My Favorite Photoshop Books

There are scads of Photoshop books out there – befitting the long history of Photoshop. The vast majority of those books aren’t terribly useful – they basically document features and don’t solve real photographer’s needs.

Over the last year, I’ve come to enjoy two Photoshop books that are actually valuable to photographers needing to understand a workflow that solves their needs.

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The first, published about a year ago now, is Welcome to Oz: A Cinematic Approach to Digital Still Photography with Photoshop (VOICES) by Vincent Versace. This book broke new ground for me – helping me understand how to apply the features (oh so many!) of Photoshop in a logical way. This was the first book I had found that addressed the creative side of Photoshop for photographers.

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The second, published about a month ago now, is Scott Kelby’s 7-Point System for Adobe Photoshop CS3 (Voices). Kelby’s book takes a basic 7-step process and, through repetition over more than 20 images, tries to make it second nature. Perhaps the book is a bit overproduced – given how simple the 7-steps are – but it was still a very useful resource for me.

Both books are really, really useful for understanding the process of refining images in Photoshop – much more so than the usual Photoshop reference books. Both are Highly Recommended!

Beautiful Etchings by Terry Steinke

Beautiful weather today made wandering through this year’s Connoisseurs’ Marketplace in downtown Menlo Park a real treat. We caught an early brunch at Left Bank and then walked the length of Santa Cruz Avenue downtown looking at all of the artists and their work.

My favorite black and white photographer, Chris Honeysett, was there again this year. The current header graphic on this blog is a photo I shot a couple of months ago at Inverness that mimics a large black and white photo I bought from Chris four years ago. At his holiday showing at Fort Mason last December, I couldn’t resist one of his new photos showing San Francisco that he shot from Sausalito with The CIty barely visible in the shadows through the fog. Superb!

My favorite new artist was Terry Steinke from San Francisco and his beautiful etchings. Turns out that he’s not new to the event, it’s just the first time I noticed his work! We enjoyed hearing Terry describe the process he follows to create these beautiful hand drawn etchings – some using a single plate and others using three or four plates in register to add colors. They are just a delight to look at and enjoy.

Of note, we especially liked his engravings of Stow Lake – one of my long time favorite spots in Golden Gate Park – and Shadow Lake in Yosemite – one of those four plate etchings in color. He’s got a complete catalog of his etchings available online – take a look, they’re all very well done.

Both Chris and Terry are going to be back on the Peninsula next month showing at the Palo Alto Festival of the Arts, August 25-26.

About that Tomales Bay Launch for Hire

Today, I’ve completed a number of updates to what had become a pretty moldy oldie blog here at sjl.us. Sorry for the recent lack of tender care – but life’s been busy!

Part of today’s update included replacing the header graphic (of “ducks in a row” in Sharon Park in Menlo Park) with a new one from a recent photo shoot on the way to Point Reyes. Here’s the story.

As you head into Point Reyes on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard through Inverness, on the western side of Inverness you come across this vista with that lovely “Launch for Hire” pier jutting out into Tomales Bay. That’s where this new header graphic photo was taken using my trusty Canon 30D – shooting using my Tamron 17-50mm F2.8 Lens at f/9 and 29 mm.

In one of my offices, I’ve got one of Chris Honeysett‘s prints of that same building – but shot on a beautiful foggy morning from a position on the opposite side a bit northwest of the pier. Chris’ beautiful photo provided the inspiration for this alternate view.

Obviously, one of these days I will have to actually hire that launch! If you do go to Inverness or Point Reyes, be sure to stop on your way at Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes Station. Here’s a map. Earlier is better – the Creamery can get busy on a sunny afternoon!

My Secret Library in Santa Cruz

Live Oak Library - Santa Cruz, California

Yesterday I was wandering around Santa Cruz and need to “kill” a couple of hours.

After dropping some friends off at Twin Lakes State Beach, I was driving down E. Cliff Drive and came across Live Oak Library, a beautifully remodeled Craftsman style building.

Turns out I’m a bit of a library nut. Somehow they’re therapeutic for me – I can be totally blocked on writing while sitting in my office – but things just seem to open up with a change of scenery into the right library environment. No phones, peace and quiet, but a sense of space and wonder. The best libraries open so many new doors for me within the cocoon of their physical space.

Back to Santa Cruz. I was an accidental tourist there yesterday – and stumbled across Live Oak literally while driving by. Where else can you find a library like this sitting on a lagoon across from the Pacific Ocean? Constructed in such a beautiful and careful style. With a very friendly and helpful staff that took great care of me – I passed the time in sheer delight. This is what libraries are for.

I took a few photos of the library (still kicking myself for not having taken the camera inside!) – and of neighbor KSCO AM 1080‘s Art Deco studio and graffiti laden towers out in the lagoon.

Next time you’re in Santa Cruz and need a place to chill, check out the Live Oak Library – it’s a real treat! But don’t tell too many folks about it!

PS: Santa Cruz is also now very high on my list for one of my next photowalking episodes. The streets and bluffs along the ocean between Twin Lakes and Pleasure Point as really interesting and worth some deeper photographic explorations. Much of my earlier interest in Santa Cruz was around the Boardwalk – but there’s a whole lot more to explore.

Chris Honeysett

One of my favorite photographers, San Francisco-based Chris Honeysett, is having his annual holiday showing this weekend at the Gatehouse at Fort Mason in San Francisco. We went last night – a blustery and windy evening along the Marina Green – and couldn’t resist adding to our collection!

Pix – Using the Canon Powershot S500 in Manual Mode

I decided for several reasons to leave the “big” camera (a new Canon 30D) behind on the recent trip to France – and shot the whole trip using my trusty Canon Powershot S500.

A day or two into the trip, I decided I wanted to get acquainted with the manual mode capabilities of the S500 – I’d never paid any attention to manual mode before. I’d brought along one of my PowerBooks to be able to offload images to – and also brought the PDF of the S500 manual. As a result most of the Flickr sets have pictures taken in the S500’s manual mode – which I learned to really enjoy!

There’s a whole book yet to be written about using these little Canon beauties in their manual modes!

Out Exploring With A New Canon 30D


Sunflower – Palo Alto
Originally uploaded by SJL.

I’m a new Canon 30D owner – my first digital SLR – and have been having a great deal of fun exploring with this camera. I was out exploring this morning with my new Canon 30D and came across this beautiful sunflower in the Palo Alto Community Garden.

The beauty of the colors and the simplicity of its basic operation are the two big advantages of the 30D for me.

My everyday 30D lens has turned out to be the 18-200 mm Tamron zoom. It’s just great outdoors with its wide range of focal length.

I’ve also had a lot of fun (especially as a new grandpa) shooting with a Canon 50mm/1.8 lens as well – indoors without flash. For more of that kind of shooting, I’m now lusting after the Sigma 30mm/1.4 lens that Phil Greenspun writes about.

I’ve had one problem with my 30D – a tiny hair in the viewfinder (inside the camera body) which I was able to resolve myself (fortunately).

Otherwise, the 30D has just been a delight for me to use. It’s so rock solid in its feel yet such an easy shoot for an amateur like me!