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Macworld Expo 2009 for Photographers

It could be that I’m now more interested in photography than I have been in previous years, but Macworld Expo 2009 seemed to include more products and services aimed at photographers than usual. I’m not surprised – I see a lot of people carrying DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) cameras these days, as prices have come down in recent years on gear aimed at enthusiastic amateurs like myself.

This isn’t a comprehensive look at everything photo-related at the expo, by any means, but these items caught my eye while walking the show floor.

HDR Imaging — Depending on how a scene is lit, it’s not uncommon to take a photo where you see plenty of detail in one area (such as the sky or background) and very little in another (the foreground, for example, which can appear underexposed). High dynamic range (HDR) image processing combines multiple exposures of the scene to produce an image that reveals details from both areas. (For more information, see “Photomatix: A Virtual Magic Wand, 2006-10-16.)

I haven’t done much HDR imaging, but a friend recommended I take a look at Topaz Adjust ($39.99), a Photoshop plug-in that achieves HDR looks from single images as well as multiple photos. He was ready to put down money for it until he realized that it works only on Intel-based Macs, not his Power Mac G5.

At the other end of the show, Creaceed was demonstrating Hydra 2 ($79.95), an HDR program that operates in a standalone version or as an Aperture plug-in. In addition to bringing out details in photos, it can align images shot handheld (typically you get better results when the exposures are taken on a tripod).

Tiffen Filters — Pro photographers use glass filters in front of their lenses to affect how their photos will turn out, such as compensating for color casts or adding warmth to a cool environment. Working with digital, however, it’s possible to make those types of adjustments during post-processing.

Tiffen was showing off its Dfx v2 software (from $99.95, depending on specific package), which mimics the looks offered by the company’s massive range of physical filters, film lab processes, gels, and special effects.

Lowel Lighting — Photography is more about light than about the camera, a fact that becomes clear once you start to venture into lighting your own scenes. Lowel had a bright booth that mostly showed off the Lowel Ego ($125), a tabletop light designed to bathe objects in soft, manageable light, as opposed to the harsh highlights and shadows produced by most on-camera flashes. (Depending on your needs, you may also get good results using an inexpensive do-it-yourself lightbox.)

Fluid Mask 3 — This item appeals as much to image editing pros as it does to photographers, who are finding that they need to have at least some familiarity with Photoshop or other ways of manipulating pixels. Vertus was showing off the capabilities of its Fluid Mask 3 ($149), software for selecting and isolating difficult-to-mask areas such as hair, by masking images of smoke. It made for an impressive demo.

Joby Gorillapod — Joby wrapped several of their flexible camera tripods around all areas of their booth, demonstrating just how versatile the alien-looking Gorillapod can be. Compact and bendable, the tripods are easier to lug around than traditional tripods and can be secured to almost any surface to help steady a shot. I already own the SLR-Zoom model, which supports cameras up to 6.6 pounds (3 kg), so I was eyeing the Go-Go ($34.95), which is the original Gorillapod model outfitted with a suction cup clip that could affix to the back of an iPhone or other compact device for watching movies on long
plane or train trips.

And for when you have to call your art director while out on a shoot, Joby was also showing off the Zivio Boom Bluetooth headset, which features a retractable boom microphone and a high degree of adjustability (a pivoting ear bud and several sizes of earpieces) for comfort.

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