Chicago Smug Meeting featuring Mikkel Aaland

I attended my fourth Chicago Smug meeting last night. Chicago Smug is a group of SmugMug users. SmugMug is a photo sharing site, but also allows you to sell your photos. You do not have to be a SmugMug user to be a member of Chicago Smug. I was not a SmugMug user my first three Chicago Smug meetings. I just recently signed up for a pro account with SmugMug because I plan on selling some of my images as ‘Fine Art’. Not sure how it will work out, but for $150 year (subscription fee to SmugMug), I’m willing to give it a try. Once, I actually have my gallery up and running, I will be sure to announce the grand opening. So, back to Chicago Smug, this group is made up of some awesome photographers (of all kinds) that are willing to share their knowledge and experiences in photography with anyone willing to listen. The information that I have taken from this group has been invaluable, and the kicker, it didn’t cost me a dime! Now that thought alone, in the world of photography, is astonishing. As many of us know or are learning rather quickly, nothing about photography is cheap (especially when it comes to equipment). Once a month this group hosts a meeting and has a guest speaker. Members of the group are invited to come, free of charge.

At my first meeting, I had the pleasure of listening to Jim Davis-Hicks speak about wedding photography, but more importantly about Thirst Relief. Thirst Relief’s mission is to overcome death and disease resulting from the consumption of contaminated water by providing safe, clean drinking water to those in need. Their work is amazing and I’m proud to say I make a monthly donation to this life saving cause.

Another meeting introduced me to the young and enthusiastic Brett Jarnagin. He is a wedding photographer based in southern Illinois and is truly a wizard when it comes to off camera flash and making the most out of your speedlites. What he does with light painting and levitation photography is truly amazing. After attending his ‘talk’ (can’t quite call it a workshop, those are a lot more informative and pricey) I was inspired to try a few of the techniques myself.

The picture on the left was some fun with off camera flash (positioned behind the couple). The picture on the right was a sad attempt at light painting. Trust me when I say there are so many fun and interesting ways to achieve this effect (my attempt does not do it justice). I will save the “How To”, for another post. It is a work in progress for me.

Now, on to the meeting I attended last night, featuring Mikkel Aaland. I won’t go in to detail about his credentials, but considering the link I attached to his name is from Wikipedia, you know he’s a big deal. In a nutshell he is a photographer and writer. He wrote one of the very first books on digital photography. His most recent works have been guide books for Photoshop and Lightroom. This evening he was speaking to us about the new Lightroom 4. Lightroom is photo editing software. It was created by the makers of Photoshop, Adobe, and is specifically for photographers.

Mikkel was introducing us to the new features to Lightroom 4. I am a Lightroom 3 user and I am extremely excited about the new features to Lightroom 4. There are new mapping and book making modules. The mapping allows you to find the locations of your pictures on Google Maps. Now, your camera needs some kind of internal GPS system or you can download GPS Tracking on your iPhone, in order to use this feature. By using the tracking device on your phone you can track where you go and then upload the phone to Lightroom 4 and the software will use time to connect location and the pictures you took. It’s pretty cool stuff.

The book module allows you to create a book directly through Blurb with your edited images in Lightroom 4. I have used Blurb before to create a couple books and have been quite pleased with the final product. To know that I will have the capabilities of creating a book directly after editing, is awesome. The amount of time you will save will be well worth the investment in the software.

Some of the other new features, as mentioned on Amazon.com are:

  • Highlight and shadow recovery–Bring out all the detail that your camera captures in dark shadows and bright highlights. Now you have more power than ever before to make great images under challenging lighting conditions.
  • Extended video support–Organize, view, and make adjustments and edits to video clips. Play and trim clips, extract still images from them, or adjust clips with the Quick Develop tool.
  • White balance brush–Get more consistent color across your image in scenes with mixed lighting sources. A flexible brush lets you refine and adjust white balance in targeted areas of your shot.
  • Highlight and shadow recovery-Bring out all the detail that your camera captures in dark shadows and bright highlights. Now you have more power than ever before to make great images under challenging lighting conditions.

Overall, I was impressed with the software and by Mikkel Aaland and his outstanding talent in the field of photography. Once again Chicago Smug brought a world class photographer to us, in hopes that we take the information and become better photographers ourselves.

I encourage anyone who is serious about photography to be sure to surround yourself with other photographers. These people are not your competition, but your colleagues. You will be amazed on how many people out there just want to help and see you succeed.

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