Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Using CTO & CTB Utility Gels for Creative Effect

As a lot of you may know, I like to use the occasional gel in my shots to add a bit of interest. Sometimes these gels are rich and vibrant colours that drench an image in saturation and other times I just want to add a little something extra colour-wise without overpowering the whole image [...]

The post Using CTO & CTB Utility Gels for Creative Effect appeared first on DIY Photography.



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DVDs: Chris Pine's "Finest Hours" (So Far), Savvy Horror Flick "The Witch" And The Overlooked "Cop Rock"

The summer has been a little slow in terms of DVD/BluRay releases. But this time we can watch Chris Pine become a star, Zac Efron continue to become an actor and the infamous/cult favorite TV show Cop Rock finally get its due.

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THE FINEST HOURS ($39.99 BluRay combo; Walt Disney Studios)
THE WITCH ($24.99 BluRay combo; Lionsgate)

Actor Chris Pine became a movie star this summer. He did it at the Cannes Film Festival where the crime noir flick Hell Or High Water demonstrated Pine could carry a movie and have that certain magnetism movie stars offer in something other than Star Trek. Sure, he's made other films, even some hit films. He's even tried to launch a second or third franchise. But nothing quite captured the magic and charisma he's capable of until Hell Or High Water. Not that a down and dirty movie like that is going to become a blockbuster. But it's the sort of film stars like Harrison Ford made in between tent poles like Star Wars and Indiana Jones. if you're wondering what I'm talking about, check out The Finest Hours. This square-jawed, old-fashioned Disney movie about a daring rescue at sea displays Pine in fine form. Oh, what the classic studio system could have done with this guy, tossing him into a new movie every month -- comedies, dramas, action, adventure, crime and so on -- until they figured out where he worked best. If you're in the right mood, you can appreciate the wholesome conviction Pine displays here. This might have been the film to set his career on fire in a new way. A few years from now, you might watch The Finest Hours and wonder why it didn't.

Similarly, The Witch looks like a spring-pad for all sorts of talent. It's a low budget horror film about colonial America, where a family living on the edge of a haunted wood is bedeviled by trouble. Writer-director Robert Eggers really delivers the chills here in a story that's more spooky than gory. The look of the film is fantastic, especially the cinematography of Jarin Blaschke. (When you want to check out a film because of the cinematographer, you know he's special. Blaschke is.) The actors are top-notch too, obviously led by Anya Taylor-Joy as the daughter who may or may not be in league with Satan. The tension here is wonderful, so it's a pity the film is a let-down at the finale. our heroine is beset on all sides. Whatever happened -- whether she defeated the forces of evil, joined them or was in league with them all along -- I wanted her to be an active player. Instead, after an entire movie in which Taylor-Joy seemed smart and capable, she became merely a pawn with no real choice in the climax. That doesn't keep this from being a very impressive effort from all concerned.


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THE LAST PANTHERS ($39.99 BluRay; Acorn Media)
OUTSIDERS SEASON 1 ($24.96 DVD; Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
MAJOR CRIMES SEASON FOUR ($44.98 DVD; Warner Home Video)

Three tight, smart TV shows for crime fans. The Last Panthers is a British miniseries with an embarrassment of talent on display. A continent-sprawling story of jewel thieves of a certain age, it stars John Hurt, Samantha Morton, Goran Bogdan and the brilliant Tahar Rahim. They are perhaps better than the material but it's fun if serious stuff and they have a ball.

For those jonesing for motorcycle-based crime shows (is there such a sub-genre) now that Sons Of Anarchy is gone, here comes Outsiders. It's not a biker gang, just Kentucky mountain folk who live extremely far off the grid and like it that way. Leave them alone. Seriously. But people won't and the black sheep who tried to break away is back and may be their best hope at preserving a brutal life apart. And there are bikes. And guns. And tattoos.

A little less convoluted is the procedural pleasures of Major Crimes. Sure there's a season-long arc but this spin-off/extension from The Closer has Mary McDonnell as the calm yang to the yin of Kyra Sedgwick's now long-departed head of the Major Crimes unit. McDonnell is wonderfully self-possessed throughout. While the show isn't a patch on Battlestar Galactica or, frankly, as enjoyably eccentric as The Closer, it's good to have McDonnell's intelligence on display.


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THE NAKED ISLAND ($39.95 BluRay; Criterion)
MANHUNTER COLLECTOR'S EDITION ($34.93 BluRay; Shout! Factory)
THE FILMS OF MAURICE PIALAT ($49.98 BluRay; Cohen Media Group)

If Criterion releases it, I wanna see it. Usually it's a classic work I get to revisit. Sometimes it's a movie I've read about for years but never actually seen. When it's a movie I've never even heard of, I know I need to wake up and check it out pronto. That's the case with Japanese director Kaneto Shindô's 1960 film The Naked Island. It doesn't strike me as an out and out masterpiece, like so many films Criterion has introduced me to in the past. But it's a distinctive, memorable work I'm delighted to get under my belt. Nearly a silent movie, it tells the wordless story of a family surviving on a tiny island off of Japan. A husband, a wife and their two small boys labor day in and day out just to get by. The husband and wife row in darkness to a nearby island just to get buckets of water. They return, labor up a steep, crumbly path to their home, store some water in cisterns for drinking, cooking and cleaning. Then they return to the other island and do it all over again so they can water the modest crop the family grows in tenuous rows clinging to the side of the hills on their small patch of land. And then they do it again. And again. All of this is told in simple, almost documentary style (though the actors are trained, not locals). Criterion's supplements (from a director interview to an appreciation by actor Benecio Del Toro) illuminate the post-war context of the movie, how Shindô revolutionized the independent film industry and so on are great. But you can appreciate this elemental tale as pure cinema, a universal story related with disarming ease.

Manhunter might seem leagues away from The Naked Island. But both films thrive in the quiet moments. Manhunter is Michael Mann's adaptation of a Thomas Harris novel that preceded The Silence Of The Lambs. It's a terrific film and easily William Petersen's career highlight, here playing the FBI profiler who becomes disturbingly immersed in the minds of criminals. Petersen, Kim Greist, Joan Allen and Brian Cox (as the first Hannibal Lecktor) are all impressive. But the most memorable turn is Tom Noonan, an excellent stage talent and film director in his own right. He plays a serial killer desperately trying to make a human connection. When the movie pivots to his point of view and makes us empathize and feel for this ultimately vicious character, it's a truly remarkable accomplishment. It's a very worthy companion piece to Jonathan Demme's Oscar winner and this new edition is bursting with extras and a director's cut.

And to switch gears one more time, director Muarice Pialat does not fall trippingly off the tongue of even many film buffs who certainly know their Truffaut and Godard. Pialat only made ten films, four of them starred Gerard Depardieu and three of his movies are contained here. You get a mother dying of cancer in The Mouth Agape, high school students facing a future of unemployment (or worse, miserable jobs) in Graduate First and Depardieu as the Pialat-like Loulou, a wastrel who wins the girl but can't be bothered to change his petty criminal ways. The movies savor long takes, quietly observant scenes and an unsentimental worldview. A bonus feature delves into the cinematic sensibility of Pialat.

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DIRTY GRANDPA UNRATED ($39.99 BluRay combo; Lionsgate)
GODS OF EGYPT ($35.99 BluRay combo; Lionsgate)

Two bad movies, one that's fitfully funny and should have been better and one that's just bad and should have been worse. I may be the only person who had high hopes for Dirty Grandpa. I was down for a stupid, dumb comedy that critics overlooked because they wanted "plot" or "character" or something high brow like a litany of dick jokes that were actually funny. Screw that! I just wanted to laugh! I was eager to laugh. Dirty Grandpa rarely allowed me to law, except in bewilderment and how dumb it was in not being able to achieve enjoyable dumbness. Zac Efron is an uptight lawyer about to be married to sexless, hatefully controlling fiance. His dad is the equally bland and uptight Dermot Mulroney. Grandpa Robert De Niro used to be a big part of his life but has been out of the picture for years. When grandma dies, De Niro guilts Efron into a road trip from Atlanta to Daytona Beach, Florida. Ostensibly it's to play golf or something. But really dirty Grandpa wants to loosen Efron up and keep him from marrying this awful girl and having a miserable life. Oh and Grandpa sure would like to sleep with a college girl. In about two minutes they bump into the girl Efron SHOULD be with (a college friend who shares his passion for photography) and her best friend (Aubrey Plaza) who is really really into old guys. That makes the film sound far more sensible than it is. De Niro and Plaza have a fun time going at each other. BUt since they meet five minutes in and she practically spreads her legs at hello, why the heck does De Niro talk as if getting her will be some difficult challenge. She is definitely open for business, grandpa! Efron is game, despite idiotic clothes that beat us over the head with how lame he is. The two leads have some good banter. But this flick could have been dumb in a much smarter way and a lot more fun.

On the other hand, I'd rather watch it again than Gods Of Egypt which may be campy fun for someone somewhere, but life's too short for that sort of thing. The special effects are weirdly ineffective, the casting absurd and the story witless without even the awareness of Dirty Grandpa which at least knows it's witless. Sad.


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LOU GRANT SEASON ONE ($39.97 DVD; Shout! Factory)
THE UNTOUCHABLES COMPLETE SERIES ($89.98 DVD; CBS Home Video/Paramount)
HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL COMPLETE SERIES ($84.98 DVD; CBS Home Video/Paramount)
COP ROCK: THE COMPLETE SERIES ($29.93 DVD; Shout! Factory)

Should I say it again? Where is the complete I'll Fly Away and The Paper Chase and about a million other TV shows that deserve to be available in boxed sets with their entire run ready for perusal? Other than convoluted music rights and the such (the bane of shows like WKRP and The Wonder Years et al for many years), it remains a mystery why some shows are available and others have disappeared. Take Lou Grant. One of the more acclaimed dramas of the 1970s, it's an Emmy winner featuring one of the most beloved characters in history. It also co-stars Nancy Marchand who had a late career peak with The Sopranos. But it's taken ages for us to get even Season One out on DVD. The show wore its (bleeding) heart on its sleeve even to my 11 year old sensibility back in the day and hasn't aged particularly well. Yet I'm thrilled to actually know that rather than wondering if my memory is right. And anyone who cares enough to buy season one would surely want to whole show, so it's a shame we're not getting all five years at once.

It's no surprise to see The Untouchables repackaged in a nice neat boxed set. Like Lou Grant, it wanted to right wrongs. Unlike Lou, it thought the pen might be mightier than the sword but neither was a match for the tommy gun. One of the most violent shows of its era, The Untouchables was ground-breaking in its way and a career peak for Robert Stack.

I'll take Have Gun, Will Travel any day, however. It has the noble instincts of Lou Grant, the cynical awareness of how the world really works of The Untouchables and the good taste to let our gun for hire be a cultured man of leisure. There's no reason why do-gooders have to always toil at low-paying jobs like reporters or cops, is there? Only fanatics will watch all 225 episodes from its six year run. But dip in anywhere and you'll be pleasantly entertained.

As for Cop Rock, I would love to report it's an unappreciated gem. The truth is that it seemed a bewildering mess to me when it debuted in 1990 and it remains a (less) bewildering mess today. It's deeply ambitious, almost crazily so and can now be appreciated for the bold step forward it was from creator Steven Bochco. Even at the time, you knew it was a memorable experience for all involved. How could it not be? It's cheering to hear the cast celebrate their work today and rightly so. Essentially, this was Hill Street Blues with musical numbers. Crazily, they recorded the performances live on set in most cases, which explains why vocals (surely sweetened at some points) felt a little unpolished even to my untrained ears back then. They delivered five original tunes an episode, which is truly daunting when you think of a terrific show like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend struggling to come up with two good numbers per episode today. What works? The drama, to a degree. This is clearly the bridge between Hill Street Blues (the most influential and important drama of all time) and Bochco's darker NYPD Blue. (It's also the bridge between The Singing Detective and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.) It was also a bold step forward in bringing musical theater into TV, a gambit paying dividends everywhere today from Glee to those live TV musicals. Cop Rock wouldn't seem nearly so disconcerting today. Of course, if it lasted more than eleven episodes they would have figured out how to incorporate the songs better so they would push the story forward rather than often repeat what we already knew. They'd also learn how to make the songs move. So often, the musical numbers were visually static since they were probably exhausted just getting the songs on their feet. And the hardest part would be maintaining the quality of the five songs delivered by Randy Newman for the pilot. If we got numbers like the terrific "Guilty" (a jury's verdict sung by former members of The Temptations) and Kathleen Wilhoite's "Sandman" included in that first episode, we'd still be talking about this show. To be clear, even the pilot isn't truly satisfying. But TV Guide calling it one of the worst tv shows of all time is patently absurd. It's smart, it's ambitious, moments of it are thrilling and when it falls flat on its face that's only because Cop Rock is trying something so very, very hard. Getting to see it again all these years later when its trail-blazing has borne fruit is a pleasure. Watching the nutty finale (where the cast and crew break down the fourth wall and join in a sing-along that dispenses with plot and character altogether) is a joyous, what the hell moment.

Thanks for reading. Michael Giltz is the founder of BookFilter, a book lover's best friend. Looking for the next great book to read? Head to BookFilter! Need a smart and easy gift? Head to BookFilter! Wondering what new titles just hit the store in your favorite categories, like cookbooks and mystery and more? Head to BookFilter! It's a website that lets you browse for books online the way you do in a physical bookstore, provides comprehensive info on new releases every week in every category and offers passionate personal recommendations every step of the way. It's like a fall book preview or holiday gift guide -- but every week in every category. He's also the cohost of Showbiz Sandbox, a weekly pop culture podcast that reveals the industry take on entertainment news of the day and features top journalists and opinion makers as guests. It's available for free on iTunes. Visit Michael Giltz at his website and his daily blog.

Note: Michael Giltz is provided with free copies of DVDs and Blu-rays with the understanding that he would be considering them for review. Generally, he does not guarantee to review and he receives far more titles than he can cover; the exception are elaborate boxed sets, which are usually sent with the understanding that they will be reviewed. All titles are available in various formats at varied price points. Typically, the price listed is merely the suggested retail price and you'll find it discounted, not to mention available on demand, via streaming, physical rentals and more.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.



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Horse of Another Color

Using an underwater snoot, Your Shot community member Davide Lopresti made this bright photo of a sea horse. These delicate creatures live in shallow tropical and temperate waters around the world, and they use their elongated snouts to suck in their dinner: the plankton and tiny crustaceans that drift by them.

This photograph was submitted to the 2016 Travel Photographer of the Year contest.

Browse galleries of editors’ favorites >>




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Photography, ceramics meld into 'Doublemix' at De Soto - Los Angeles Times

Even now, when the strangest of bedfellows aren't so strange anymore, the materials brought together in "Doublemix" at De Soto Gallery in Venice induce a shudder of surprise. Photographer Denis Darzacq and ceramic artist Anna Lüneman have ...



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Photography from Binghamton Boys and Girls Club to be displayed - Binghamton Homepage

Photographs taken by kids at the Binghamton Boys and Girls Club will be on display at the Connelly Gallery this upcoming First Friday. Over the course of seven Fridays, the children, ranging in age from 8 to 17, learned how to use professional cameras ...



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Photography and gourds at new art exhibit - Sierra Star

The Timberline Art Gallery Photography and Gourd Exhibit opened this week featuring six Mountain Area artists. The photographers are Andrew Erickson, Wendy Denton, and Karen Tillison, and the gourd artists include Gretchen Lee, Jacqueline Kurtt, and ...



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Photos of extraordinary 19th-century glass sea creatures

Before underwater photography brought marine life to light, a father and son team made remarkable scientific models using glass techniques still not fully understood.

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Opinion: A Disturbing Trend in Photography

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I’m old. Believe me, I know it. I’ll be 70 in a few months. That fact may make it hard for you to take me seriously, but bear with me for just this post. With age comes wisdom, right? What I want to write here is that I think the field of photography by those making art is changing in a disturbing way. Read on.

Photographic series or bodies of work are being explicated, explained, contextualized, rationalized, and elevated with text or verbal rationals. You’re thinking: so what? That’s no big deal. Let me start with a short history and then let’s take a look at current practice.

20 or 30 years ago, going to a photo show at MOMA or the Met, SF Modern, ID in Chicago, or even the Whitney often meant you were confronted with a row of framed and matted photographs along with perhaps a brief statement from the show’s curator that gave some biographical data on the photographer or maybe explained in what context the works were being shown. The titles of the work were usually the place and the year the images were made.That was it. The expectation was that the photographs stood on their own, were to be viewed and understood on their own terms, usually as single images sitting next to other single images—think Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Harry Callahan, Frederick Sommer, Lew Baltz, even Ansel Adams and Cartier Bresson. Few words were necessary. There were exceptions, of course. For instance, Robert Adams, who had whole reams of text used to flush out his work and build a rational.

Now, go to a show by a recent MFA grad or sit across the table from someone showing you their work at a portfolio review and things are very different. For most work there is absolutely no understanding possible without a written or verbal account of what the photographer is up to. I always have the sense that I am joining the telling of a story in the middle, trying to play catchup. For most works, separate the photographs from the words and you have no ability to comprehend what is going on.

This isn’t always awful, as perhaps it is part of the evolution of the medium into a specialized category that leads to increased specificity and a clearer intent. But, and this is my main point: the photographs often aren’t very good. It’s as though photography has been sublimated to a necessary part of the total, that the words are the priority and the photographs somehow are ancillary or secondary and therefore not needing much attention.

This resides perilously close to using the photographs as illustrations, really another field entirely.

What is this? My theory: most new art photography these days come from MFA grads who have studied the medium, not only its practice (although often not enough) but its theory, its criticism, its analysis. As the medium’s craft has become easier, more fluid and automatic, mastery of the technical and visual has become less important.

Students flowing out of MFA programs now that were started in the 60’s and 70’s are graduating with degrees and thesis works that are equivalent to PHD dissertations (there is no PHD in applied photography) as the MFA is the terminal degree in the discipline. These grads and recent grads are learned, academic, studied, vocal, theoretical, and informed in the medium’s history. They are also “conceptual” in that the thought is formed, the work is made to fit the thesis, and then executed as a package with the written text to go along with it. This can resolve itself in performative works, video and/or photographs with a primary written component and a secondary tier of importance to the photography.

As photography at this level has grown, the treatment of it as an academic pursuit has as well. Very often the craft of the medium is subsumed, indicating the artist has little interest in the inherent qualities of the discipline itself, using it simply as a vehicle for visual communication. In fact he or she may have graduated from just that: a department of visual communication.

This constitutes a “literalization” of the medium or in effect a deconstruction of its inherently visual qualities resulting in an analytical and intellectual final result.

Go to a graduate thesis show and take a look. The students are concerned with issues of identity, gender, developmental and emotional positioning, posturing, physical and emotional abuse, cultural and societal pressure and assumption, human rights, sexual identity, and on and on. Each of these ideas and many others takes on a personal relevance and importance square in the photographer’s aim, as though there is a catharsis that when shared it is assumed to have relevance to others who are there looking at the work. Of course, much of this is narcissism, self-absorption, even making work with blinders on.

Before you label me an old guy with a lack of sympathy for the young and an inability to see the value in younger’s peoples ideas, read on. Joni Mitchell once sung that “the old hate the young” but I have always really liked the young; take my forty years of teaching at the university level that I really enjoyed as a case in point. Youth is vibrancy, endless energy, huge flexibly, and a sense of discovery that is wonderful to be around. But making the assumption that I or any viewer wants to hear the personal story as a prominent component of the art just really gets me going. I do not. I want to be able to look at the art and judge it on its own merits. Presently, I find a good deal of it lacking.

Look, the practice of making pictures used to be hugely craft based. You needed to study photography and the making of pictures hard to be good at it. It used to be difficult to do well. As a professor I seldom saw any student any good at it until they were a couple of years in. Now, the level is higher and proficiency comes without much work. I doubt most students two years into their degree can accurately tell you what ISO is, aperture and shutter speed settings, 18% gray, reciprocity failure, D-Max and so on. You can build the case, of course, that they don’t need to know those things. Put the camera on “P” and fire away.

My point? As photography becomes ubiquitous, as we are all photographers and even the most simple of cameras made today provides stunning results compared to a few years ago, photography is free to explore areas never approached before. That’s all good. But please give me less words and better pictures! I find the story, the text, mostly boring and condescending, telling me how to look at the photographs rather then letting the photographs do the talking.

It’s ironic that as photographs have become easier to make and there are more photographers than ever before making more photographs the pictures are worse.

As Kurt Vonnegut wrote in Slaughterhouse Five when referring to the allies massive bombing campaign of the city of Dresden towards the end of WWII that killed people in the hundreds of thousands:

So it goes.

About the author: Neal Rantoul is a career artist and educator. After 10 years teaching at Harvard and 30 years as head of the Photo Program at Northeastern University in Boston, he retired from teaching in 2012. You can find out more about him, or see more of his work by visiting his website. This article was also published here.



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The Not-So-Obvious Reason for Using HDR

Get Viktor’s Rapid Editing for HDR eBook, Course & Presets Bundle at 60% off now over at Snapndeals, only until June 7th (AUS time). 

Over the past five years or so, HDR (high dynamic range) has become a huge part of my photography.

Even with the latest advances in camera sensor technology, the dynamic range of the human eye is much wider than any modern camera sensor, and as a result, can only partly interpret the human experience. The goal of HDR photography is to artificially increase the dynamic range of a given photograph, making it as close as possible to the human experience.

Images The Not So Obvious Reason 01

I do not consider HDR to be a photography style, but rather, a technology that helps us to extend our creative reach and overcome the limitations of modern photo equipment, specifically a camera’s sensor.

When the dynamic range of the scene we capture exceeds the dynamic range of the camera’s sensor, it results in the loss of information (or details) in both the highlight and shadow areas. HDR technology allows us to separately capture these details from the darker and brighter areas of the scene, and merge that information during the editing process.

Even though every generation of modern camera offers a larger and larger dynamic range that gets even closer to the human experience, HDR technology continues to be an extremely valuable tool to have in your toolkit.

But, those who read my blog and follow me on social media often give me a hard time when I post an HDR processed image with a dynamic range that is not extreme. As a result, I get blamed for using HDR for no reason and am accused of intentionally complicating the editing process.

Images The Not So Obvious Reason 02

In this article, I will demonstrate exactly why and how I use HDR when the lighting of a scene is not too extreme.
I took the featured photo in the Eastern Sierra during my driving trip to the Southwest.

Images The Not So Obvious Reason 03

Covered by the clouds, the sun diffused the light and made it less dynamic. I could see right away that I did not need HDR processing to capture and preserve the entire light range. However, I took three bracketed shots anyway just to make sure I collected as much information from the scene as possible.

When I started editing the photo in Lightroom, I only used a single RAW image (middle bracket). The challenge was to overcome the mild haze in the air, so I had to apply pretty aggressive edits in Lightroom (contrast, clarity and vibrance) to bring back the contrast and colors of the scene.

Once I was happy with the result, I evaluated the image by zooming in to 100% (1:1 in Lightroom), in order to see what noise reduction setting to use. When I did this, I realized that the image started to break up because of my aggressive editing. The deterioration in the image was beyond digital noise and was almost impossible to fix even using the dedicated noise reduction tool.

Images The Not So Obvious Reason 04

This is when HDR came to the rescue. I selected three bracketed shots and merged them to HDR using the HDR Merge module of Lightroom.

Images The Not So Obvious Reason 06

After Lightroom produced a brand new HDR image in DNG format, I used the Sync functionality of the program to apply the editing setting of the original RAW file, to the new HDR image.

The effect of the edits were identical to the original RAW file, but the image was much cleaner without any traces of deterioration. The newly created HDR file had much more information and details, which allowed me to push it much harder without producing negative artifacts.

Images The Not So Obvious Reason 05

The image is cropped 100% without any noise reduction added.

The digital noise of the image was mild and was completely eliminated using the noise reduction plugin.

Conclusion

By merging multiple images to HDR, it not only helps us overcome the dynamic range limitations of modern photo equipment, but can also to produce images that have more digital information and details, compared to individual out-of-camera RAW files.

Get Viktor’s Rapid Editing for HDR eBook, Course & Presets Bundle at 60% off now over at Snapndeals, only until June 7th (AUS time). 

The post The Not-So-Obvious Reason for Using HDR by Viktor Elizarov appeared first on Digital Photography School.



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The Not-So-Obvious Reason for Using HDR

Get Viktor’s Rapid Editing for HDR eBook, Course & Presets Bundle at 60% off now over at Snapndeals, only until June 7th (AUS time). 

Over the past five years or so, HDR (high dynamic range) has become a huge part of my photography.

Even with the latest advances in camera sensor technology, the dynamic range of the human eye is much wider than any modern camera sensor, and as a result, can only partly interpret the human experience. The goal of HDR photography is to artificially increase the dynamic range of a given photograph, making it as close as possible to the human experience.

Images The Not So Obvious Reason 01

I do not consider HDR to be a photography style, but rather, a technology that helps us to extend our creative reach and overcome the limitations of modern photo equipment, specifically a camera’s sensor.

When the dynamic range of the scene we capture exceeds the dynamic range of the camera’s sensor, it results in the loss of information (or details) in both the highlight and shadow areas. HDR technology allows us to separately capture these details from the darker and brighter areas of the scene, and merge that information during the editing process.

Even though every generation of modern camera offers a larger and larger dynamic range that gets even closer to the human experience, HDR technology continues to be an extremely valuable tool to have in your toolkit.

But, those who read my blog and follow me on social media often give me a hard time when I post an HDR processed image with a dynamic range that is not extreme. As a result, I get blamed for using HDR for no reason and am accused of intentionally complicating the editing process.

Images The Not So Obvious Reason 02

In this article, I will demonstrate exactly why and how I use HDR when the lighting of a scene is not too extreme.
I took the featured photo in the Eastern Sierra during my driving trip to the Southwest.

Images The Not So Obvious Reason 03

Covered by the clouds, the sun diffused the light and made it less dynamic. I could see right away that I did not need HDR processing to capture and preserve the entire light range. However, I took three bracketed shots anyway just to make sure I collected as much information from the scene as possible.

When I started editing the photo in Lightroom, I only used a single RAW image (middle bracket). The challenge was to overcome the mild haze in the air, so I had to apply pretty aggressive edits in Lightroom (contrast, clarity and vibrance) to bring back the contrast and colors of the scene.

Once I was happy with the result, I evaluated the image by zooming in to 100% (1:1 in Lightroom), in order to see what noise reduction setting to use. When I did this, I realized that the image started to break up because of my aggressive editing. The deterioration in the image was beyond digital noise and was almost impossible to fix even using the dedicated noise reduction tool.

Images The Not So Obvious Reason 04

This is when HDR came to the rescue. I selected three bracketed shots and merged them to HDR using the HDR Merge module of Lightroom.

Images The Not So Obvious Reason 06

After Lightroom produced a brand new HDR image in DNG format, I used the Sync functionality of the program to apply the editing setting of the original RAW file, to the new HDR image.

The effect of the edits were identical to the original RAW file, but the image was much cleaner without any traces of deterioration. The newly created HDR file had much more information and details, which allowed me to push it much harder without producing negative artifacts.

Images The Not So Obvious Reason 05

The image is cropped 100% without any noise reduction added.

The digital noise of the image was mild and was completely eliminated using the noise reduction plugin.

Conclusion

By merging multiple images to HDR, it not only helps us overcome the dynamic range limitations of modern photo equipment, but can also to produce images that have more digital information and details, compared to individual out-of-camera RAW files.

Get Viktor’s Rapid Editing for HDR eBook, Course & Presets Bundle at 60% off now over at Snapndeals, only until June 7th (AUS time). 

The post The Not-So-Obvious Reason for Using HDR by Viktor Elizarov appeared first on Digital Photography School.



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Judgement day is upon us, Selfie Robots are about to be a thing thanks to ASUS

The future is starting to look like a very scary place, and it’s not due to Skynet, but ASUS, with the announcement of Zenbo, a tiny robot assistant. Introduced at the 2016 Computex Taipei consumer electronics show, ASUS presented a working model which rolled around on the stage, responding to commands. If you only want to waste [...]

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Judgement day is upon us, Selfie Robots are about to be a thing thanks to ASUS

The future is starting to look like a very scary place, and it’s not due to Skynet, but ASUS, with the announcement of Zenbo, a tiny robot assistant. Introduced at the 2016 Computex Taipei consumer electronics show, ASUS presented a working model which rolled around on the stage, responding to commands. If you only want to waste [...]

The post Judgement day is upon us, Selfie Robots are about to be a thing thanks to ASUS appeared first on DIY Photography.



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All hail the video portrait

In an April 2016 interview, Mark Zuckerberg told Buzzfeed News, “I wouldn’t be surprised if you fast-forward five years and most of the content that people see on Facebook and are sharing on a day-to-day basis is video.” Given the proliferation of video features available on millions of smartphones – from image stabilization to incredible [...]

The post All hail the video portrait appeared first on DIY Photography.



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Confessions of a Newbie: Business Advice I Wish I’d Known

jenna1

I have to admit, when I first started my photography business I didn’t think it was going to be that difficult. I thought I’d get a camera, take some photos, put some stuff out on Facebook and people would start hiring me. They would give me money, I would give them photos—done deal! How tough could it be?

Well…as it turns out, it was a bit more complicated than that. But most of what I could find still focused on the photos—and I was struggling more with the business side of things. So for anyone else out there still in those beginning stages, here are a few things I had known for getting your photography business up and running.

Side Note: Most of the examples in this post are for wedding photography because that’s how I started. Now I’m a professional underwater portrait photographer. So if you go to my site and don’t see any wedding photos—that’s why. I figured these examples would be more relevant than underwater examples.

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Price Your Work Correctly

It’s tough to come back from bad pricing. I shot my first wedding for $650, and it went awesome! That couple recommended me to everyone… as a wedding photographer that did great work and only charged $650. It took me awhile to realize I was actually losing money shooting weddings at that price. I didn’t know how to account for gear, insurance, travel costs, editing time, ordering costs, and a whole lot of other stuff too. Bad pricing almost killed me in the beginning.

Finding your pricing sweet spot is kind of like a cruel treasure hunt. My advice for your first step—see what others are charging in your area. Not to compare yourself—but to research. This will at least give you a general idea of where the market is. Successful photographers aren’t shooting in a price range because they drew that number out of a hat, it took a while for them to get there, which means you can learn just as much from their price range. Here in Montana, for example, most wedding photographers stay around the $2,000 – $4,000 range. If you shoot in California or New York your average market prices are probably going to be a bit higher.

Then take a close look at everything that goes into your entire shoot—from planning all the way to delivering the photos. I’ve found that personally, between what I offer and what I have to spend (editing time, travel costs, everything), I was breaking even somewhere around $1,200.

Everyone is different, but this should give you at least a starting point.

Insure Your Gear

Chances are, if you’re just starting out, you’re spending a huge chunk of your savings (if not all of it) on new gear. You’ll need a camera and a couple decent lenses for almost any kind of photography you choose to pursue, and that doesn’t come cheap.

Granted, with how fast photography technology is moving you can get a fantastic camera nowadays for a fraction of the price you’d have paid a few years ago, but it’s still going to leave a dent in your bank account. And if something ever happens to your gear (which something most definitely will), do you have the money to start over? Probably not. Insure your gear. It costs about $28/month to insure your gear with PPA. If it’s between that or a new lens, get the insurance.

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Learn to Edit Efficiently

Of course you’ll want your shots to be the best they can be SOOC (straight out of camera), but part of what a client is paying you for is your post-processing skills. Skin retouching, color correcting, removing or adjusting things in the background (like fire hydrants or drunk in-laws): all these edits take time. And your time is valuable.

Try and develop a series of steps to editing, and get to know your shortcuts in Photoshop and Lightroom. For example, in Photoshop, pressing ‘B’ on your keyboard gives you the brush tool. It may not seem like much, but pressing ‘B’ instead of manually selecting the brush from your toolbar every single time makes a bigger difference than you think. The more shortcuts you use the more milliseconds it shaves off per photo, saving you hours of editing time.

And for the love of God go easy on the clarity and saturation sliders. You’ll thank me later.

Draw Up a Contract

I didn’t know I needed a client contract until a client asked for one. Whoops.

Thank God I got one though, because when you’re shooting weddings for as low as $650, you get taken advantage of, and without a decent contract there’s a couple times I probably wouldn’t have been paid at all.

Depending on what you shoot, there are countless different contracts you should be using. I shoot portraits, so I need a portrait agreement and a model release. My clients also receive digital files with some packages, so I also need a print release. I have a consignment agreement for art that is sold in galleries, plus a digital works agreement for my work that is used for book covers, websites and album covers.

For a basic portrait agreement, you’ll want to include spaces for both your company information and the client’s information, product or services to be agreed upon, deposit amount, cancelation terms (by both parties), date of delivery, and additional information, like travel fees, or shooting requirements. Almost all wedding photographers, for example, have a clause that ensures they are fed on the day of the wedding. My wedding photography contract guarantees me a piece of wedding cake because, well, I like cake.

As much as we want to believe the best in people, a handshake does not ensure you’ll be treated fairly. You’ll want at least something down on paper.

Contracts courtesy of www.photofern.comContracts courtesy of www.photofern.com Learn to Network

A hugely significant way photographers find clients is through referrals; referrals from happy clients and referrals through like-minded businesses. A wedding photographer should be working with local wedding venues, wedding planners and jewelry stores. A newborn photographer should be working closely with local baby boutiques, delivery centers and wedding photographers. A landscape photographer should be working with local magazines, hotels and tourism centers. No matter what you shoot, there are businesses and people you need to know. Don’t be shy here—if you want to run your own business you’ve got to put yourself out there.

Contact these companies and start building a relationship. Maybe you’ll give a venue free photos of every wedding shot at their place, and in return you’re first on a short list of recommended photographers they give to couples getting married at their facilities. Think about what you can offer them and what you want in return, then ask for a meeting!

Have an Online Presence

All those people and businesses you should be networking with? Without an online presence it’s very difficult for them to recommend you. They need a website they can send clients to, a Facebook page they can tag you in and an Instagram account they can pull up to show your work. When people hear about you, the first thing they’re going to do is whip out their phones and Google you. Make sure something comes up.

Get Your Marketing Materials Ready

Since I started out shooting mostly weddings, I thought I’d hit up a local bridal fair. So I printed some flyers, set up a booth and was quickly embarrassed. My “flyers” were a joke. I don’t have an actual example, but let’s just say they looked something like this:

jenna1

Needless to say I got no new bookings, and the next day I tried to create my own handouts based on a few I had seen at the fair. It was a massive failure. Turns out, creating marketing materials is much more of an in-depth process than I originally thought. I probably should’ve just bit the bullet and bought a few templates to get me started, because I was just flat out no good at it and because nothing says “I have no idea what I’m doing” more than really crappy marketing materials.

Develop Your Portfolio

They always say, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” You can also apply this to your portfolio. You want it full of photos that will lead you to the clients you want, not necessarily convey the clients you have.

For example, if you want to shoot destination weddings, you’ve got to get some portfolio shots of somewhere other than where you live. My first year I took a greyhound bus to the California coast, slept on peoples’ couches and gave out free “wedding-styled photoshoots.” Clients stepped back into their dress and a tux and we took pics at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, at the beach at sunset in Los Angeles and in downtown San Diego. I came back with a treasure trove of photos that looked nothing like Montana. Now it actually looked like I had shot some destination weddings.

Be Prepared to Explain Yourself

You know why I shot my first wedding for $650? Because that’s what they said they’d pay me, because that’s what they thought was fair. They didn’t know everything that goes into wedding photography, and that’s not their fault. If you’re going to charge enough to make a living, you have to be able to explain yourself to clients who think otherwise.

Practice this before your first sales meeting. You want to be confident in your answers. You aren’t asking them for charity—you’re explaining why your services are valuable.

Figure Out if this is Right for You

People told me I’d never enjoy photography if I did it for a living instead of just as a hobby. Are you freaking kidding me?! I do not love photography any less because I get paid for it. Getting paid for it just means I ABSOLUTELY LOVE MY JOB! No way would I trade this in. All the stress, the sleepless nights, the responsibility, everything—totally worth it. I wouldn’t go back in a heartbeat!

Of course, I have friends that have gone full-time and hated it. They liked the part where they pressed the shutter button, not where clients are badgering them 12 hours after a shoot wondering where their photos are.

Running a business isn’t for everyone—and there’s nothing wrong with that! If you want something stable without all the responsibility, maybe keep your day job. If you’re like me and have gotten fired from almost every job you ever had because you have a tiny problem with authority, running your own business might be a perfect fit.

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Bonus Tip: Ignore the Facebook “Pros”

Oh, dear God, virtually every photographer on Facebook is lying. Yes they may be booking clients, but they are also dealing with horrible clients and cancelations, and broken gear and unexpected business expenses. No one posts about these things because it doesn’t look great, but trust me, that doesn’t mean they aren’t going through it.

No one is wildly successful from day one—we’re all just as much of a hot mess as you are—but what people post on Facebook is meant to convince you otherwise. Don’t fall for it. Just skip over it and focus on what you need to do to get better.

And if you’re starting out and you’re a bit overwhelmed—that’s why I created PhotoFern. Meant to be a complete resource for photographers, we have classes, downloadable client contracts, fully customizable marketing templates, a combination of 300+ Photoshop actions, Lightroom presets, textures and overlays as well as a lively and supportive community all focused on the same thing: making our photography business a success. Use the code PHOTOFERN16 and enjoy your first 2 weeks free, and if you have any questions, feel free to shoot me an email or message me on my Facebook page. Be sure to follow me on Instagram and Periscope if you’d like to watch some of the underwater shoots from under the water :).

About the author: Jenna Martin is a conceptual photographer from Billings, MT. She specializes in creating alternate, dream realities through photographs. She also provides online training. You can follow her on her website, Facebook, and Twitter. This article was also published here.



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Everything you ever needed to know about C-Stands

C-Stands have been a staple support system in the photography and film industries for longer than many of us can remember, but there’s more to this seemingly simple tool than one might assume at first glance. This video from Jay P. Morgan of The Slanted Lens shows us everything there is to know about these humble yet very versatile [...]

The post Everything you ever needed to know about C-Stands appeared first on DIY Photography.



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Everything you ever needed to know about C-Stands

C-Stands have been a staple support system in the photography and film industries for longer than many of us can remember, but there’s more to this seemingly simple tool than one might assume at first glance. This video from Jay P. Morgan of The Slanted Lens shows us everything there is to know about these humble yet very versatile [...]

The post Everything you ever needed to know about C-Stands appeared first on DIY Photography.



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Review of the Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary Lens Plus TC-1401 Teleconverter Bundle

One of my favorite subjects to photograph is wildlife, so when asked to review the Sigma 150-600mm lens, I was excited about the opportunity to see how its results compared to my Tamron 150-600mm.

Sigma 150-600mm

In addition, Sigma recently began offering a bundle for their 150-600mm with a 1.4x teleconverter. Since I shoot mainly with a Nikon D750 full frame, the lens bundled with a 1.4x TC interested me very much. The 1.4x TC makes the 600mm, an 840mm on a full frame camera, so in theory this allows my full frame camera to shoot wildlife with nearly the same zoom factor as a crop sensor. (Nikon crop sensors are 1.5 and Canon, 1.6)

There are two things to consider when looking at a new lens:

  1. First is its ease of use
  2. Second is the quality of its optics.

In this article I’ll be applying both of these considerations as I review Sigma’s new bundle, and make comparisons between the Sigma and Tamron lenses. All images in this article were captured with the Sigma 150-600mm with the 1.4x TC.

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Focusing

The Tamron features a larger, thicker focusing ring than the Sigma, which makes it easier to manually focus the lens. As for the Sigma, it has an extra setting on the autofocus switch for manual override (MO) which combines autofocus with an option to manually focus. I did not notice any major difference in the focusing responsiveness between the two lenses. Both did a fair job when grabbing focus, though neither lens is going to focus as quickly as a much more costly 600mm prime lens. The minimum focusing distance on the Tamron is just slightly less than the Sigma – not a game changer, but nevertheless a plus for the Tamron.

Focus Limiter switch

While both lenses have a focus limiter switch, with settings between Full and 10m (Sigma) or 15m (Tamron) to infinity, the Sigma features a third option on the limiter switch for 10m to 2.8m. In my testing, this third option proved very useful and was easy to locate and use, in order to focus on closer objects much quicker.

Customization

A feature the Sigma lens offers that the Tamron does not is an extra customization switch, which provides for an optional USB docking station (purchased separately). This allows a photographer to create two customized setting for OS (Optical Stabilization), AF, and focus-distance limits, and can also be used to download firmware updates directly to the lens.

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Zoom Lock

Both the Tamron and the Sigma have a locking switch to prevent zoom creep at 150mm. However, the Sigma can also lock at several other focal settings, and what is even better, a quick twist of the zoom ring will unlock the it, without having to fumble around to find the switch. (In some cases this might be the difference between capturing and missing a killer shot!)

I found that my Tamron lens crept more than the Sigma, but this could be caused by the fact that it is an older lens with more use. Still, the lock switch on the Sigma is a great feature, especially since one can “soft lock” at many focal lengths.

Image Stabilization

Both lenses have their own image stabilization systems: Tamron’s VC (Vibration Compensation) and Sigma’s OS (Optical Stabilization). The Tamron has a simple on and off for the VC, while the Sigma has two settings: #1 is the standard setting for normal lens movement, and setting #2 is used for hand-held panning on a vertical plane, which will correct for up and down movement in subjects, such as birds in flight.

sigma-150-600-3

Zoom Ring

The zoom ring on the Sigma turns counter clock-wise, which is no big deal for Canon shooters. But for Nikon users, this is opposite from the normal zoom rotation on most Nikon lenses. It’s not a big deal, but does take some getting used to.

Tripod Collar

Both lens come standard with a tripod collar, but the foot on the Sigma collar is much smaller than the Tamron’s. This is only a minor problem, but I found a solution for it. I added a 5 inch quick release plate to the foot, which makes a great handle to carry the Sigma lens, as well as a plate to connect to a tripod.

sigma-150-600-1

Image Quality

Here is where the comparison gets tougher, as both lenses are much sharper at the shorter focal lengths, and both are softer at the longer focal lengths. Both are sharper when stopped down to f/8 or f/9, than wide open. In my opinion, the difference in image quality between the two is negligible. There is no clear winner here, both having areas where they are slightly better than the other.

The addition of the 1.4x TC to the Sigma when stopped down, doesn’t seem to affect the image quality. The Sigma seems to have a clear advantage when it comes to chromatic aberration (CA), and even using the 1.4x TC there was noticeably less fringing in high contrast areas, when compared to the Tamron. Of course, CA is very easily corrected in Camera RAW or Lightroom when shooting in RAW.

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Warranty

The advantage for warranty goes to Tamron, which offers a 6 year one, compared to 4 years with the Sigma. Still, in my opinion, both lenses are well constructed, and I am not convinced how much of an advantage that is, as most warranty issues show up early on.

1.4x Teleconverter

Adding the bundle of the 1.4x TC, and the 150-600mm Sigma can get your full frame camera back in the field when it comes to wildlife photography. While adding the teleconverter seems to slow the autofocus a bit, I shot with this bundle on both my crop sensor and full frame sensor cameras, and I believe the autofocus was more responsive on the full frame.

NOTE: Before purchasing the 1.4x TC, make sure the camera will autofocus at f/8. Many entry model DSLRs will not autofocus above f/5.6, so while this bundle may fit those cameras, manual focus will be necessary. Other models may only autofocus on the center focus point, and still others may have a limited number of focus points with the 1.4x TC.

Adding the 1.4x TC did seem to give a softer image when the lens was extended to 600mm (840mm), but if you stop down to f/10 to f/11 the images are nearly as sharp as at 600mm without the TC. Of course, stopping down means either using a slower shutter speed or a higher ISO, which may add some blur or noise to an image. I did find that the OS on the Sigma did a nice job of reducing camera shake, when hand holding at slower shutter speeds.

The above images show the range and extra reach of the Sigma 150-600mm with the last 2 images having the 1.4 TC added for an extra 240mm of reach.

The above images show the range and extra reach of the Sigma 150-600mm with the last two images having the 1.4x TC added for an extra 240mm of reach.

Tips

The rule of thumb when shooting with long focal lengths is to set the shutter speed equal to, or greater than the focal length, so remember that when by adding the 1.4x TC to a 600mm, one is now shooting at 840mm on a full frame, and 1260 mm on a crop sensor. For sharp images, a shutter speed over 1/1000th of a second is a must.

When carrying your camera with a large lens such as these 150-600mm lenses, it’s best to hold them by the lens rather than your camera. These lenses weigh much more than your camera and can put a lot of stress on the lens mount if carried by the camera. Likewise, when mounting on a tripod, always use the tripod collar to reduce stress on your camera’s lens mount (it is better balanced using the collar and won’t be front heavy).

Conclusion

Both the Tamron and Sigma lenses are well designed, and for the price range are great equipment investments. As mentioned earlier, I feel the image quality compared very closely. The Sigma does offer some useful extra features, out-weighing the issues of the smaller focusing ring and the counter-clockwise turning of the zoom ring for a Nikon shooter.

If you currently have a Tamron it may not be worth making a switch. But with the addition of the 1.4x TC, the Sigma bundle offers a great setup for full frame cameras, as well as crop sensors for some extra reach. So if you are looking for some extra reach (and we all are) the addition of the 1.4 TC to the Sigma may be a game changer. It was for me!

As a result of my review of the Sigma bundle for this article, I sold my Tamron 150-600mm, and purchased the Sigma 150-600mm bundled with the 1.4 TC, to extend the usage of my full frame Nikon D750, especially for photographing wildlife.

The post Review of the Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary Lens Plus TC-1401 Teleconverter Bundle by Bruce Wunderlich appeared first on Digital Photography School.



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Virtual Reality: It's not just for gamers anymore

Sunshine, Tapas, And Great Healthcare In Southern Spain

By Gigi Griffis, InternationalLiving.com

Lying at the heart of sunny Andalucía, Seville is one of southern Spain's most beautiful cities. Waves of conquerors, from the Romans to the Moors, have left their stamp on its spectacular architecture. Thousands of tapas bars line the streets, and the warm Spanish sun nurtures parks full of palm trees. With such beauty all around, it's easy to see what drew Ohioans Karen and Rich McCann to Seville, where they now enjoy fine dining, a great social scene, and terrific, inexpensive healthcare.
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In 2004 Karen, now 63, and Rich, 71, embarked on a year-long adventure in southern Spain. The newly retired couple had always loved the idea of living overseas, so they decided to try it for a year, making a home for themselves in sunny Seville.

"I always wanted to live abroad," says Karen. "In fact, we talked about it on our first date. Rich was in the naval reserves, had traveled in Asia, and was talking about Singapore, and I thought, 'Okay, as long as it's abroad!'"

Eventually, the couple was asked to join friends for a vacation in southern Spain -- an offer they couldn't refuse. And they fell immediately in love with the place.

"We got here, and it was like, 'Oh my God, we really like this'," says Karen. "It's so much like California -- the weather, the Spanish speakers, the palm trees. We were comfortable with the whole atmosphere.

"We kept our place in Ohio and told people we were going for a year ... but six months in, we looked at each other and said, 'We don't want to go back'."

So the couple sold their large Ohio home, cleared out 20 years' worth of possessions, and planted themselves permanently on Spanish soil. They renewed their year-long visas for a second year, then a third, and eventually got permanent residence cards that they only have to renew every five years.
2016-05-23-1464022968-5397796-hpSevilleSpain2.jpg
Seville is the capital of the Andalusian region and the fourth-largest city in Spain. It's known for its mild winter weather (temperatures never drop to freezing, while summers rarely dip below the mid-80s F), large old town with three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and flamenco music. The architecture shows the accumulation of cultures that make up Andalusian Spain; palaces, towers, spires, columns, and intricate church facades abound, as do sprawling plazas and charming, maze-like alleys full of shops and restaurants.

When asked why she loves Seville, Karen raves about the vibrant and affordable social scene, as well as the great food.

"I think the first thing that struck me was the vibrancy of street life here.

"Everybody dines out. Tapas, drinks ... there are allegedly 3,000 little bars in the city. People here take their social lives as seriously as Americans take their business lives. They have a strong understanding that family, friends, and personal life are important and meant to be front and center.

"Seville has an amazing food scene. It has changed a lot just in the 10 years we've been living here. There's still a lot of classic fare, usually cooked by somebody's grandmother out back in the kitchen. But some trendier places have sprung up lately, along with food tours and cooking classes. The trendy new spots are serving traditional dishes with a twist, such as carriadas (stewed pig cheeks) with an added, fancy dollop of cream sauce and a sprig of parsley. They're creating Spanish fusion dishes, such as bull-meat burrito or grilled tuna steak with chocolate (mole) sauce. And foreign dishes such as pad Thai, spring rolls, and guacamole are appearing on menus. It's an exciting time to be eating in Seville.
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"Costs vary widely, but typically we spend under $30 per person for a good meal with wine. A lot of the bars have super-cheap beer. The cheapest in town is just 40 céntimos (about 45 cents) and the average is about $2 for a beer and $2 for a tapa. You don't have to spend a lot to enjoy the street life; we had friends come visit us from San Francisco, and every time the bill came they burst out laughing. For six of us to eat out was the cost of two glasses of wine in San Francisco."

Beer and tapas aren't the only things that are affordable in southern Spain, according to Karen. Housing -- particularly for renters -- is a good deal. And the overall cost of living is comparable or less than their costs in the States.

"Overall," Karen says, "our cost of living is about the same as Cleveland. We spend more on travel and a lot less on food, going out, and entertainment. We don't have a car here, so we save on that, because in Seville we can walk everywhere ... And our rental is a fabulous deal. We pay far less than we'd pay in any city in the U.S.

"My Spanish friends pay about €500 or €600 ($530 to $636) a month for modest places on the outskirts. The normal cost is €800 to €1,000 a month ($848 to $1,006) in a more central location, but that depends on things like balconies and garages. This is for a one- or two-bedroom."

Another great deal, according to Karen, is private health insurance. And not only is it affordable, but the quality is good, especially for primary and secondary care.
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She says, "When I first moved, my doctor in the States told me my cholesterol was high. I wanted a second opinion, so I went to a private clinic here in Seville. It was only a five-minute wait. The doctor took my records himself ... And then told me my cholesterol is a little high, but we can make a few dietary changes ... basically, drink more red wine, eat more dark chocolate."

The couple's private insurance, through Sanitas, a subsidiary of the global provider Bupa, costs them just €500 (around $530 at time of writing) a quarter. They've selected outpatient coverage only, which includes house calls and private clinics. (Their coverage is a bit higher than average because of Rich's age.) Karen says that a couple in their 60s with both in- and outpatient coverage could expect to pay about €600 ($636) a quarter. If you plan to retire to Spain, she recommends that you apply for private insurance as soon as possible, as some insurance companies won't let you sign on after age 70. (Private health insurance valid in Spain is required of non-European Union citizens applying for a residence visa.)

Every interaction with the Spanish healthcare system in their 11 years in Seville has been overwhelmingly positive.

"I love that the doctors here make house calls," says Karen.

"One time I got bronchitis. I was in bed for days. They said, 'We'll have a doctor out to you in two hours.' And two hours (to the minute), the doorbell rang. He was great. He prescribed some meds, Rich ran to the pharmacy across the street to get them, and I was better in two days. To have someone come to you like that when you're ill is an enormous luxury."

The couple also loves Seville's relaxed pace of life. An average day includes time for writing, photography, morning yoga or Pilates classes, siestas, shopping, meeting friends for coffee, tapas in the plaza near their house, and exploring Seville's charming neighborhoods with notepad and camera in hand. Karen's love for southern Spain and living abroad runs so deep that she has continued blogging (enjoylivingabroad.com) and writing books on the subject even into retirement.

"Seville is a very old city," she says. "I pick a neighborhood, photograph it, pop into shops, meet people, chat with everyone ... it's an interesting way to spend my time. In the winter, I go in the afternoons; in the summer, the mornings."

Karen and her husband are also learning more Spanish. She says, "We started taking courses after that first vacation. And here's something I'd recommend: private lessons. Sitting with 20-year-olds who speak three languages and are at their peak ... well, my learning capacity is different. We stuck it out because we liked the social interaction."

Looking back, Karen says the move has changed her in a profound way, and worked wonders for the couple's retirement.

"Moving here has revitalized my life in a way I didn't expect. I thought it would be fun and interesting and stimulating ... but I didn't think it would transform me. Yet I feel like a new person. Moving abroad is the best way to reinvent yourself ... you get to become the 'you' you want to be at this stage of life."

This article comes to us courtesy of InternationalLiving.com, the world's leading authority on how to live, work, invest, travel, and retire better overseas.

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Test-Drive A New Life In Spain This Year For $2,000 A Month


Earlier on Huff/Post50:



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from DIYS http://ift.tt/1sIpEvx