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Living with a MacBook Pro

Firstly I would like to dispel any misconceptions you may have, I have a day job, I am a web application architect. Worst yet, I am versed on the Microsoft platform, particularly ASP.NET. So why talk and own a MacBook Pro?

The original idea was to separate my work from my photography, after all Macs have the reputation of handling media better then PC. Is it true, though? In my experience, the answer is no. Surprised? I was.

The Mac difference is not only in the hardware, it’s in the software and more precisely in the operating system. My previous statement holds true when running Windows on a Mac. Switch to Mac OS X (Snow Leopard) and life changes for the different for the better or worst. All of a sudden it is faster with, well, about anything but mostly media. I must not forget to tell you that with Windows 7 x64 the longevity of the MacBook Pro is about 3.5 to 4 hours whereas with Mac OS X you are looking at the better of 8 hours, standing record being at 11 hours, though I was not working on it permanently.

I have the 13-inch version and though admittedly the screen is small it is sharp and very usable at 1280 by 800. It’s enough to make small adjustments on photos but that is where it stops. I then hookup the 24-inch monitor and life is better and I can carry on editing. Plug in in an external monitor does take an adaptor, what is that all about? There is only 1 port out for the display and it’s an Apple display port, my pet peeve.

So what is so amazing about this machine? Try this, get on a plane at 5:30 in the morning and use your laptop for an hour only to realize that you left the power supply (charger) back at the office. Catastrophe, you have a full day’s work ahead of you at a client. So you arrive at your client and hook up your 3G modem, the fear is increasing that the battery will not make the day with the USB modem attached, so you dim the screen to minimum viewable and switch off the illuminated keyboard. You do further confortable hours of work. Would like to add that the machine was never shutdown, it had gone into sleep mode a few times though.

Talking of illuminated keyboards this is always a nice touch on a laptop. It comes in handy in various situations particularly when traveling in a plane or working in a relatively dark place. Both my MacBook and my Dell have one and I could no longer live without it. Since I am on the subject of keyboards, the Apple keyboard layout and shortcut keys have been the hardest part of my transition, not OS X as one may have thought.

OS X is intuitive enough to get used to, though I miss some of Windows functionality, Window snapping is one of these. However, one gets used to OS X’s ways.

Mouse pads, track pads, I have always hated them. The Mac multi touch track pad is efficient though rather different it’s PC counterpart. Firstly, it is truly multi touch, it also takes a little time to remember that double tap is not a click, with the Mac a click is a press of the pad.

Using both Mac and PC, OS X and Windows, I often get asked which one I prefer; my answer is always the same, for what purpose? Each have their own strength and weaknesses, I choose the one I need for the purpose I require it for. My MacBook Pro I use it for photography and other multimedia as well as when I need to be independent of electricity for long periods, however I would not use it for Microsoft development. For the later I will use my Dell after all it makes since to use a Microsoft based machine for Microsoft based development.

Basic HDR Photography

I cannot say that I am an expert in HDR or even photography, but I can say that i truly enjoy most type of photography. As many, I wish I had more time to practice it. However I digress, this post is about basic HDR.

Firstly, if you are really serious about HDR there is a wonderful tutorial on Stuck in Customs by Trey Ratcliff, or his amazing book A World in HDR which acts as a inspirational, tutorial and coffee table book. This post covers my basic understanding in a short summary.

1. Shooting an HDR photograph:

  • HDR photography is not that different from standard photography, however you will need a tripod or something to rest your camera on as you will be taking multiple shoots of the same thing.
  • Set your camera
    • Newby way: Set your camera to Aperture Priority, Continuous Mode and bracketed by 2 stops. Nikon cameras will do up to 7 photos in some models where as Canon cameras will only take 3.
    • Advanced way: Once you have your scene meter the highest light and the darkest shadow, from here you will take a photograph every 1 stop from the one to the other. This would be done in manual mode whilst locking the aperture and ISO and only using the shutter speed. So if the scene as a range between 1/125 and 1/2 of a second the resultant would be 7 photographs each taken at 1/125, 1/60, 1/30, 1/15, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2  of a second.
      F-Stop equivalence in shutter speed. Values shown in seconds.

      8

      4

      2

      1

      1/2

      1/4

      1/8

      1/15

      1/30

      1/60

      1/125

      1/250

      1/500

      1/1000

      You can use this scale as a reference, I do.

  • Shoot RAW
  • Make sure that your auto focus is OFF.
  • Make sure that the tripod does not move or vibrate.
  • Take your time!!!

That concludes the easy part.

2. Compiling the HDR

  • You will need either Photomatix Pro or HDR EFEX Pro both have a trial. There are more HDR software out there, these two are the highest rated. HDR EFEX Pro will also require Adobe Photoshop CS4 or above,  Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 or above or Apple Apperture 2 or above all of which are also available for trial.
  • Do not colour correct unless you do it on the whole set.
  • Do not crop or alter the photos at this time. 
  • Do convert them to JPG at maximum resolution.
  • Import the set into your favourite HDR program and adjust as required.
  • DO experiment, I personally like it when the final output is natural.
  • At this point you can crop and adjust the photograph.
  • Once the HDR process is complete you may want to get back the colours, I use a plugin called Topaz Lab Adjust mostly using the Spicify or Photo Pop presets.

That’s how I do it and here is some examples: