Adobe CS Moves to the Creative Cloud for Good

Today at its Adobe Max creative conference event, the company announced that when its new software hits—well, not shelves—this June, they will be available as cloud based subscriptions only. Along with the cloud-based subscription model, Creative Suite is also being rebranded Creative Cloud.

For the subscription fee, users will be given full access to the entire set of Adobe’s creative tools, with updates; as well as cloud storage services and collaboration tools.

What does this mean for photographers, illustrators, web designers and others in the creative field? If you normally purchase and use up to date versions, the only way you will be able to do so going forward is by subscribing to Adobe’s Creative Cloud.

There have been a great deal of rumblings (which will likely grow louder as more and more people hear the news) in the creative community since this announcement by Adobe, and the company has put a FAQ on their website regarding the many questions that everyone’s got.

Here’s the low down:

  • For a monthly subscription fee to the entire Creative Cloud, you’ll have access to all of the Adobe applications that were part of the Creative Suite (Photoshop CC, Illustrator CC, InDesign CC, Dreamweaver CC, After Effects CC, Premier Pro CC, Muse CC, as well as Acrobat XI Pro, Audition CC, Bridge CC, Encore, Fireworks, Flash Builder Premium, Flash Professional CC, InCopy CC, Lightroom, Media Encoder CC, Prelude CC and SpeedGrade CC), Edge tools and services (Edge Animate CC, Edge Inspect CC, Edge Web Fonts, PhoneGap Build, Edge Code CC, Edge Reflow CC, and Typekit); other services (including Creative Cloud storage, Story CC Plus, Kuler, Business Catalyst, Digital Publishing Suite, Single Edition, Behance and ProSite); Lightroom and Acrobat will continue to be available outside of the cloud;
  • As downloadable software that runs on your computer, not from a web browser or living in the cloud only, however, you will only have access to this desktop Creative Cloud (CC) software so long as your subscription is current. Canceling your subscription does not do anything to your files, you can still access them, and if you own an older version of the Creative Suite software, you can open and work on your files with those programs.
  • Individual, team and enterprise subscriptions are available.
  • You can purchase single app subscriptions;
  • Creative Cloud subscribers will get 20 Gigs of storage for their files. If you cancel your subscription, the capacity will drop to the 2 Gig free level of storage;
  • There is a free trial membership available that will give you 2 Gigs of cloud storage for files, and access to 30 days of trial use of the CC apps, as well as Lightroom and Acrobat.
  • Adobe is still selling Creative Suite 6 but the company says it won’t be updating the CS versions in the future.

Pricing: $49.99 a month for new CC members; $29.99 a month for people who are existing CS3 or later users; student and teacher pricing is $19.99 a month; full version of one of the desktop apps such as Photoshop is also $19.99 a month; team pricing is $69.99 and $39.99 a month for new CC subscriptions and businesses using CS3 or later respectively (and teams get more cloud file storage).

For more information, read the FAQ at or follow Adobe’s Creative Cloud blog at


Adobe Releases Creative Suite 6

Adobe Inc. announced the immediate availability of Adobe Creative Suite 6 today. The CS6 product line includes new releases of Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Flash Professional and additional titles. Four suite versions: Creative Suite 6 Design & Web Premium; Creative Suite 6 Design Standard; Creative Suite 6 Production Premium; and Creative Suite 6 Master Collection are available.

Announced last month and widely expected by photographers, Photoshop CS6 and Photoshop CS6 Extended are major releases of the image editing software. Added to increased speed and performance, the latest version of Photoshop will also offer photographers a host of new and improved features. New features include Content-Aware Patch, offering greater control than in the previous version; intuitive video tools, for the multimedia creator; improved type styles, and a new blur gallery that will let photographers imitate their favorite lenses’ attributes on any image. For the creative looking for 3D improvements, Photoshop CS6 Extended is optimized for 3D imaging.

For the digital designer comes the Illustrator CS6 upgrade as well as InDesign; the web designer sees new features and improvements in Dreamweaver CS6, Flash Professional; and the video-centric user will find enhancements within After Effects and Premiere Pro CS6 among other titles.

As always, we’ll have reviews of the new version of Photoshop as soon as we’ve put it through our testing.

For more information, go to Adobe’s website at


Adobe Photoshop CS6 Beta Now Available

Adobe Labs logo for article on Photoshop CS6 BetaAdobe Systems Inc. just announced that the beta version of Photoshop CS6 is available in both Mac and PC versions as a free download from Adobe Labs. The Beta version includes all of the features of Photoshop CS6 and Photoshop CS6 Extended, including the new 3D editing features. You can download the beta, try it out and even provide feedback on the beta forum.

This latest version of Photoshop includes enhancements to the software’s performance and new additions to the popular Content-Aware tools. You now have greater control using the Content-Aware Patch, while Content-Aware move lets you select and magically move an object to a new place in the image.

According to the company, the new Adobe Mercury Graphics Engine will enable near-instant results when using such tools as Liquify, Puppet Warp, Transform and Lighting Effects. Improvements have also been made to layers and type.

Look for Adobe to release the final version of CS6 by mid-year. Download Adobe Photoshop CS6 Beta software from Adobe Labs:



Software Review: Tiffen Dfx 3.0 Suite

Practically Every Digital Filter & Effect Except the Kitchen Sink

Text and Images by Diane Berkenfeld

The Tiffen Company recently released version 3.0 of the company’s Dfx digital filter suite ( I had used the first iteration of the plug-in for Apple Aperture a lot when it was first introduced. These days I use Lightroom extensively so I’ve been using the new version with Lightroom 3.

The suite is available as a plug-in for Adobe Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and Photoshop Lightroom, Apple Aperture, and as a stand alone program. One Tiffen Dfx photo plug-in license will allow it to run in all of the aforementioned image editors if installed on the same machine. The company also makes a version of the software for video/film editing using Adobe After Effects or Premier Pro, Apple’s Final Cut Pro 6/7 and with the Avid Editing Systems. One Tiffen Dfx video/film plug-in license will allow it to run in all of the aforementioned video editors if installed on the same machine too. It may not seem like a big deal, but most photographers use more than one piece of software for their imaging needs. Even though I do as much as possible in Lightroom, I still need Photoshop for some tasks. Knowing that I can use the same plug-in with both is convenient. I’m sure the same is true with folks working with video—using After Effects along with one of the video editors mentioned. For those multimedia folks who use Final Cut Pro X, look for a compatible version of Dfx in the future.

before and after image of orange poppies in field by Diane Berkenfeld

(l.) the original image, and (r.) the final image after masking the area around the main subject (the flower in the foreground) and emulating shallow depth of field.

I’ve been impressed with Tiffen’s Dfx software from the time the company launched the very first version, because of the extensive collection of effects and especially filters—digital versions of many of Tiffen’s photographic filters that we used to use so commonly with film cameras. Now with digital we can use software to emulate the effects of many of these filters in post-production, which is a great benefit because it lets you get really creative with your older images as well as those you just took. I love being able to go back to digital images that I shot years ago and tweak them in ways I wasn’t able to at the time the images were shot. The below shot is one that I photographed years ago on Ellis Island and every so often I’ll pull it out to work on it.

Tiffen Dfx 3 examples Ellis Island photos by DIane Berkenfeld

(l. to r.) Original image; Looks, color 8mm; ND Grad 1.2, cross print slide, preserving highlights; DeFog 6.

And, with the additional filters, lab processes, color correction and photographic effects that this new version offers, I’d say Tiffen has packed practically everything except the kitchen sink into Dfx 3. Over 2,000 different optical filters and effects are incorporated into the software. There’s so much that you can do with Dfx 3.0, you could conceivably replace a bunch of separate plug-ins—for B&W conversion, masking, adding lighting effects, adding blur/changing depth of field of an image, color correction, special effects like toning, adding grain, as well as debanding, deblocking, reducing noise, simulation of over a hundred film stocks, adding texture and matching the color, tone and detail of one image and applying it to another.

The DeBand, DeBlock and DeNoise are new, as are the key light and light rays, glow darks, color shadow and more.

That’s a lot of power in one plug-in/stand-alone software title. And what makes this software so unique is that its available in versions for both still images and film/video editing as well. With so many photographers delving into video these days, the familiarity of knowing how to use the plug-in for still images will be beneficial when you start working on video.

And like most plug-ins, you can tweak the strength of the filters. One of the cool things is that you can save filters as favorites, and when you’re looking for filters to use on an image, all of your favorites are in one location.

Diane Berkenfeld photo from Yellowstone park of hot spring in color and black and white

(l.) The original image, a close-up of a hot spring in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming and (r.) the B&W conversion, red filter. No additional tweaking was needed beyond the initial conversion.

There are so many different things that you can do with digital images these days, that sometimes you can find yourself at a loss as to exactly what a particular image might need until you begin to browse within the filters, seeing the effect on the image you’re working on. And I also think that once you use such an extensive program like Dfx, and get more familiar with the many things it can do, the extensive amount of choices becomes less overwhelming.

polarizer before and after image of boy by Diane Berkenfeld

(l.) The original image and (r.) Dfx 3.0's polarizer filter.

I love being able to use one program—stand-alone or plug-in—for a lot of the effects I like to use on my images. It makes your workflow quicker if you don’t have to keep switching from program to program. And with Tiffen’s Dfx plug-in for Lightroom, all I have to do is ‘Edit in’ Dfx 3.0, and I can browse filters to my hearts content. Dfx is very quick when you’re working within it, you see changes instantly on the fly when browsing among the filters and effects. When you’re done working with a filter or effect, rendering is pretty swift too.

Diane Berkenfeld screenshot of image in Tiffen's Dfx 3, masked

Masking is easy within Tiffen's Dfx 3.0 suite.

masked image of birds on rocks in ocean by Diane Berkenfeld

(l.) I had originally finished this image with a border in Lightroom; and then decided to work on it in Dfx 3.0, (r.) here is the image after masking and adding a graduated blue-red filter. I decided to crop the image, which I think makes the foreground stronger.

With regards to masking, Dfx gives you a variety of different ways to create the mask on your image, and a whole host of options for tweaking the properties of the mask once you’ve created it, and a myriad of ways to utilize masking a portion of an image with the thousands of filters and effects that the plug-in offers. Having the ability to create the mask within the plug-in saves valuable time, which may not seem like a lot when you’re working on one photo, but if you’re in the middle of a big editing session, all of that time switching between programs and plug-ins adds up. I also found it helpful that I could tweak the mask as much as I needed to if I didn’t like the way it was coming out—without having to start over.

before and after image of dalmation by Diane Berkenfeld

(l.) the original image, and (r.) the photo after I added highlights on the fireplace heath bricks at the top right. I added light, using a gobo for the mottled look on the bricks.

To find out more about Tiffen’s Dfx v3 software, watch the company’s promo video:


Book Review: Kevin Kubota’s Lighting Notebook

101 lighting set-ups described in detail, for you to recreate

Kevin Kubota Lighting Notebook book cover image Wiley ( recently published Kevin Kubota’s Lighting Notebook; 101 Lighting Styles and Setups for Digital Photographers, ISBN: 978-1-118-03510-8, $34.99. The photographer will also be releasing an accompanying iPhone/iPad App. for a more immersive educational experience.

The book features over a hundred lighting setups, complete with lighting diagrams and explanations. In addition, the author notes how costly each lighting set-up is in comparison to the others, how many assistants are needed, and depending upon whether Speedlights or studio strobes were used, how many lights in total are needed to reproduce the image.

Lighting diagrams are essential in a book that teaches lighting—because unless you’re learning hands-on, the easiest way to understand how the lighting set-ups actually work in the real world is to compare the diagram and photograph. Wide views of the entire scene, with the photographer in the shot are also included for the images; as are lists of exact tools used and exposure information.

The book features the obligatory section explaining the differences in various lighting equipment, from Speedlights to Monolights, packs and heads, scrims, reflectors and diffusers. And, Kubota includes a section on lighting basics, ratios and rules, which is beneficial to a digital photographer beginning to learn how to light their subjects artificially. Lastly, the author includes an extensive list of manufacturers of every kind of lighting equipment and modifier as a resource.

There’s a great variety of images included in the book, from studio to location, single subjects to families and kids, seniors and maternity imagery—with formal and candid, free flowing poses. Many of the images feature posing and lighting styles that are presently trendy, which is an added benefit to the photographer reading this book, as you’re handed specific directions how to recreate these great shots on your own. I also like the diversity—too many books feature images that are so similar, that Kubota’s large collection of lighting techniques is refreshing to see.

One of the added features of the book, is that because Kubota also has a line of Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom actions, he also finished practically every image using his actions, while explaining what steps were taken, complete with screenshots.

On one hand, I like the finished look that Kubota’s actions offer images—I use them on many of my own images—but as a caveat, I’m sure the hundred plus examples will increase the interest in Kubota’s line of actions as well.

Every Photograph Needs Light

Kubota starts out by explaining why lighting is so important in photography, and why knowing how to control light in your photographs is so crucial. This is a sentiment that seems to be lost among many photographers who have only shot with digital cameras and can check exposures on the LCD, (making corrections as needed)—as opposed to photographers who shot film and had only one chance to get the lighting of an image right. [read: during the shoot!]

“Good lighting is not a trend in photography, it is the backbone,” the author says in the first chapter. Understanding how to light your subject well, in a flattering manner or to achieve a certain mood is crucial to any photographer’s repertoire or style.

If you’re looking for a great field guide, one that you can flip through for inspiration and that includes step-by-step guidance on a wide range of lighting set-ups, Kevin Kubota’s Lighting Notebook will definitely provide plenty of fodder for your photography.

Diane Berkenfeld


Photography Auction at PhotoPlus Expo Bash to Benefit Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Survivors

Photo industry fundraiser to benefit the International Red Cross

Highline Stages logo

PhotoPlus Expo Bash and Benefit to take place Friday, October 28, 2011; 8pm to midnight at Highline Stages in New York City.

When the earthquake and tsunami happened in Japan this past spring, so many people around the globe rushed to donate money and supplies to assist the victims. Help is still needed, and once again the photo industry is coming together for a fundraiser that will benefit the International Red Cross, to help the survivors of the natural disasters, who are still in need.
The benefit is happening during the PhotoPlus Expo tradeshow at the end of October in NYC. The annual Bash at PhotoPlus Expo will be the site of this fundraiser. Tickets for the PhotoPlus Bash and Benefit for Japan can be purchased for $35 online, on the PhotoPlus Expo website, or after October 26, for $50 onsite. The venue for the Bash and Benefit is Highline Stages, which is located at 440 West 15th Street (between 9th and 10th Avenues) in New York City, from 8pm till midnight on Friday October 28, 2011.
To help in fundraising, 50 of the world’s most respected photographers will be donating an original print as part of a silent auction that will take place during the Bash and Benefit. Attendees will be able to bid on original signed images from such renowned photographers as Harry Benson, Susan Meiselas, Douglas Kirkland, John Isaac and others.
“The disaster in Japan last March has had an incredible impact on the photo industry and we wanted to create an event that would allow us to help—as an entire photo community—those most affected by the disaster,” explains Jeff McQuilkin, Director—PDN PhotoPlus International Conference & Expo. “The response we received from photographers invited to donate prints for auction has been overwhelming and in most cases their initial response was, ‘what else can I do?’ The benefit will not only help raise needed funds, but will continue the tradition of PhotoPlus Expo social events as being celebrations of community and photography,” McQuilkin added.
Highline Stages is a 45,000 square foot studio space that offers cycloramas and studio shooting spaces for fashion shoots, commercials and other productions.
For more information about PhotoPlus Expo, check out the website at or visit the tradeshow’s Facebook page ( or follow the show on Twitter (


Book Review: The Wedding Photography Field Guide

Wedding Field Guide book coverOnto field guide review number two. Michelle Turner’s The Wedding Photography Field Guide, capturing the perfect day with your digital SLR camera is published by Focal Press, (, ISBN 978-0-240-81787-3.

Let’s say that you’re going to be attending a wedding, and are passionate about photography, and you want to know more about the types of images you can capture—then you’ll be happy with The Wedding Photography Field Guide. You can definitely learn a lot about the types of photos that wedding photographers like Turner are shooting for their clients. The price is very affordable, and the field guide small enough for you to slip into your gear bag to refer to in a pinch.

As someone who has shot weddings and assisted other photographers with them for over a dozen years, the idea of a field guide type of book being written to teach someone how to shoot a wedding is fine if its designed for someone who isn’t planning on beginning a wedding photography business.

A book that talks about the various techniques for creative imagery doesn’t also need to explain that wedding photographers need to own and bring backup equipment to a job; or explain what a D-SLR is, what memory cards, flash units, or other basics that any pro is familiar with and are needed to shoot a wedding. If you’re going to be shooting a wedding (as a hired photographer) you had better know all about the equipment that you should own, and know that equipment thoroughly.

That said, I do think the author has a lot of advice to share on shooting creatively.

If you’re a photographer—a pro—and have shot weddings, say in more formal traditional ways, and want to read a book on how to shoot in a more contemporary style, then you will find this book to be helpful. The author includes a lot, and I mean A LOT of examples of images, showing not just one-offs, but a series of images from each bridal couple that she’s using, as examples, to illustrate the various situations she talks about.

If however, you’re buying this field guide to keep in your camera bag when you’re working a wedding… then personally I don’t think you’re experienced enough to be shooting that wedding, not for hire anyway. Wedding photography is not for the faint at heart. there is no do-over if you don’t get the shots.

On the other hand, if you are a pro wedding photographer and pick up Turner’s book to expand your knowledge of current trends or are looking for new ideas to use in photographing the affairs you’re booking, then you will find this book to be helpful. For that The Wedding Photographer’s Field Guide is well worth the $15.95 price.

— D.B.


Book Review: The Bird Photography Field Guide

Tipling's Bird Photography book cover artFocal Press ( puts out a series of Field Guides, little books that can fit in your gear bag, purse or backpack, letting you easily take a reference book with you when you go out to photograph. The subjects range from travel photography, to exposure, to bird photography to shooting weddings.

I’ve now read a few of the books in the series.

In this review we’re going to tackle The Bird Photography Field Guide, written by David Tipling, ISBN 9780240817767. The book not only includes a wealth of information that any experienced bird watcher or photographer would know, but also includes some basic photography info. While personally I felt that most of the basic photo education could have been left out, I do understand that there might be some folks brand new to photography who might be picking up one of these books—and in that case, you’ll not only learn all you want to about photographing birds, but also be able to better understand how your camera works. The book also covers some info on post-processing to enhance the photos you’ve just taken, and again while it is just the tip of the iceberg on post production education, its a good starting point for the novice digital photographer.

As someone who has photographed birds that can easily be found (meaning that I haven’t really searched out particular birds to photograph on any particular day) the author did a great job explaining the varied tips for capturing certain types of birds, and included tricks to getting better photos using blinds and how best to approach birds, among other tips.

The author’s experience photographing birds comes through, as the book is written in an easy to understand manner, ideal for the beginner photographer as well as the more advanced shooter who is looking to specifically learn about photographing birds.

And, because the Field Guide series of books are designed to be pocketable, you can easily take them with you into the field. Pricetag: $15.95, well worth the amount of tips you’ll get in The Bird Photography Field Guide.

— Diane Berkenfeld


PMA and CES to Co-Locate in 2012

PMA and CES Announce Colocation at 2012 International CES

PMA announced on May 4, 2011 a partnership agreement with the CEA, owner and producer of the International CES, to move the September 2011 PMA International Convention and Trade Show (a.k.a. CliQ 2011) to colocate at the 2012 International CES, which scheduled for January 10-13 in Las Vegas.

According to a press release distributed by PMA, PMA@CES will offer industry-specific content and display products representing all aspects of digital imaging, including the educational programs that PMA is known for.

“PMA colocation with CES creates a great opportunity for our combined audiences to learn from each other, grow, and take full advantage of the integration and connectivity of personal content (in the form of digital photography) and home entertainment,” said Ted Fox, executive director, PMA. “This convergence will expand with continued enhancements to camera phones and tablets.”

Gary Shapiro, president and CEO for CEA said: “This collaboration will significantly enhance the 2012 International CES digital imaging product offerings for our retail and other audiences,” adding, “Technology is speeding the rapid convergence of digital photography and home entertainment systems. The breadth and scope of digital imaging product offerings that PMA will now bring to CES will complement and further expand the extensive growth of CES in this product category.”

According to Fox, “Our agreement [with CES] is an excellent example of two trade associations coming together to constructively and proactively address challenges and provide new opportunities.”

— D.B.


PMA Launches CliQ and the website

It seems there’s a new photography tradeshow in town. Well, its actually a rebranded show. The Photo Marketing Association’s annual show, which had previously been for the trade only, has now been rebranded from PMA 2011 to CliQ 2011.

The CliQ show, which runs from September 8-10, 2011 in Las Vegas will feature presentations from well known photographers, workshops by industry experts, photo walks, seminars and the world’s largest annual photo trade show. The CliQ 2011 tradeshow will feature interactive zones, spotlighting technology, tips and techniques in these major areas: the Shooting Zone, Mobile Zone, Software tutorial Zone, Innovation Zone, 3D Zone, and Video Zone.

According to Ted Fox, executive director and CEO of PMA, the show organizers, “The PMA convention will continue to offer the same leading-edge programming for the retailers, custom framers, studios and chain stores.” He adds, “PMA members will recognize classic convention features, like the DIMA Printer Shootout, the DIMA Photo Book Showcase, Retailer Hot Picks, Photographer Hot Picks, DIMA Innovative Product Awards, and the Official Business Session.”

The GoingPro Bootcamp photography business seminar will also be featured at CliQ 2011, designed to assist the aspiring pro gain the knowledge and business know-how needed to be successful. In addition to graduates of photography programs, a growing number of soccer moms, or what PMA calls Jennifer, the Gen X mom, are becoming more educated about photography and becoming part time shooters. With the recent addition of the somewhat recently formed Professional Wedding and Studio Photographers Association International (PWSPI) to the PMA family, the association has expanded its reach to the pro photographer and videographer. PWSPI was founded by industry veterans Skip Cohen and Scott Bourne.

The mainstay of the Photo Marketing Association is the retailer and lab owner segments that make up a large part of their membership. The association plans on providing a lot of content on the website that ties site visitors back to their local dealers, for both educational opportunities as well as a marketing tool.

The first three days of the CliQ tradeshow, September 8-10, will be open to the trade only, which includes professional photographers, imaging retailers, lab owners and custom framers. DIMA and other regular pre-PMA show programming will be offered as usual. A day-long educational program for photographers will be held on September 9, and the GoingPro Bootcamp will be held September 10-11. The show floor will be open to enthusiasts only on September 10.

CliQ’s more than just a show

cliqworld screenshot for article

According to the press release, CliQ is a community, united by passion for still and motion images. It’s the source for all things photography and all levels of photographers; featuring industry news, product reviews and more. CliQ creates direct dialogue between manufacturers, retailers and photographers to help them learn, discover and share. The website will present all that’s happening in imaging. “CliQ is a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week commitment on the part of the association to provide content and tools for everyone involved in photography, from consumers to aspiring pros, to retailers and professional labs,” says Fox. The website offers how-to articles, news, an event calendar, contests, information about CliQ 2011—with more to be added in the future.


“The Art of Whale Photography” DVD Reviewed

By Diane Berkenfeld

the art of whale photography dvd cover artJim Tierney, the CEO of software maker, Digital Anarchy, happens to also be an adventure photographer who loves photographing whales. Tierney also lives in Hawaii, which, conveniently enough is where the Pacific Humpback whales migrate, to mate and give birth. He launched the website, to provide whale enthusiasts with information about the 12,000 Humpbacks that make the trip from Alaska to Hawaii each year. According to Tierney, about 13 million people go on whale watching tours annually. And it’s not just the Humpbacks that are fun to watch, but other types of whales too. One of the first products available from the website is the 2 DVD set, “The Art of Whale Photography.”

According to Tierney, who launched the website last month, “We’ll be adding additional training content, but also we plan on adding a lot more information and resources for folks interested in whales, whether they’re watching them or photographing them.” He added: “We also really want to promote what it’s like to see them on a small boat. I think many people think of whale watching as being on a large boat with the whales way off in the distance. In many places, like Maui, HI and Baja, CA, you can go out in small boats on calm water and see the whales up close. Close as in a few feet away close! It’s really an amazing experience.”

Tierney also noted that content related to issues involving whales will also be put on the website in the future.

“The Art of Whale Photography,” was created to provide aspiring and experienced photographers with tips and tricks on taking action photos of Humpback Whales, together with ways to get the most out of their DSLR cameras. Tierney moderates the video, interviewing Michael Sweet, considered to be Maui’s most experienced whale photographer, and marine naturalist and whale expert, Melissa Meeker. “Anyone who has ever tried photographing the fast moving Humpbacks or other whales likely has ended up with many shots of razor sharp water and blurry gray whale shapes,” says Tierney. The videos and website were created to help folks limit the number of bad shots they get, while increasing the chances of getting great photographs.

Michael Sweet photo of humpback whales

Pictured in this photo, is one of the 12,000 majestic Humpback Whales that migrate from Alaska to warmer waters every winter. This year nearly six million Americans will venture out on whale watching tours. Photo © Michael Sweet.

I checked out “The Art of Whale Photography” and have to say it has a lot of great information. I’ve been a photographer for over 20 years now, photographing on the water and land, but when it comes to Humpback Whales—which I have photographed in the past—there was definitely plenty to learn. Along with information specific to photographing the Humpbacks in their natural environment, Tierney and Sweet touch upon a number of general photographic tips that can make the difference between getting great photographs or being left with little in the way of a photographic record of your trip. Since so many people are now venturing out on these smaller whale-watching tour boats, such things as what gear to bring, the way you hold your camera, and which metering and focusing settings you choose can make a big difference.

While Sweet talks about capturing images of the Humpbacks from a photographer’s point of view, Meeker adds to the video by explaining an awful lot about the habits and actions of the whales that you might see when on the water. Knowing what you’re watching—she points out—will make it easier for you to anticipate where to point your camera. Understanding some of the graceful behaviors you might see will also make your excursion more enjoyable. And as Tierney points out, while he loves spending as much time as possible photographing the Humpbacks, every once in a while you ought to put the camera down and just enjoy the sights and sounds of being so close to these wondrous creatures. Using a toy model of a Humpback and easy to understand language, Meeker does a great job of explaining the Humpback’s anatomy, some of the activities that occur among the whales when they’re looking for a mate, as well as how the moms care for their young. This really is important to know, since the Humpbacks migrate from food-rich waters off Alaska, down to Maui, to mate and have their calves.

Overall, I felt the video was a great educational tool, both for the photographic tips as well as the great info. on the whales themselves. I think it was a little longer than it needed to be, but that’s mainly because after each section, the information was recapped—which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you’re going on a whale watching excursion, one using small boats—especially if its to view Humpbacks, “The Art of Whale Photography” is a great tool to use in preparing for your trip.

Along with the DVD set, the website also offers an iPhone app. and “The Humpback Whale Guide.” Other products are expected to follow. For more information, and to see Jim Tierney’s whale photography, go to To see more of Michael Sweet’s photography, go to his website at

Behind the Scenes on the Production of the Video

With DSLRs now capable of shooting video, we bet you’re wondering what camera/camcorder/video camera was used to shoot the video. Well, they used Canon EOS 5D Mark II and 7D DSLRs. I asked Tierney how the cameras worked out. Due to limitations of the camera’s autofocus, the on-water footage didn’t come out as well as expected. He explained that the DSLRs “worked beautifully for shooting the [human] talent. When you can lock the camera down, set the focus and depth-of-field, and let the camera roll… it produces exceptional video.” He added that the limitation of 12 minutes/4 Gigs of video shooting was frustrating to have to deal with, when the interviews were going great, but overall he recommends using the DSLRs for video.

For shooting video footage of the Humpbacks though, Tierney said professional video equipment or even dedicated consumer camcorders would have worked out better, because of their autofocus capabilities, image stabilization designed for a moving image, and aliasing/rolling shutter issues that the current crop of DSLRs have with fast moving subjects. “True video cameras have filters and components to minimize or eliminate these problems,” Tierney explained. He stressed that more controlled situations wouldn’t cause such issues, and DSLRs would be ideal for capturing such video.

That’s the main reason that there was little video footage of the Humpbacks in the DVD. I personally would have loved to see more video footage, even some more still photography—and will look forward to future instructional videos.