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Download The Latest Themes From Automattic

It’s a great time to be a blogger.

No, seriously!  For one thing, if you’re an old guy like me, who’s been blogging for ten or fifteen years, the golden time we all knew was coming has arrived; according to The Atlantic, Millennials are finally craving long-form reads.

So, you can finally setup that blog you’ve been dreaming of and write to your heart’s content.  And, while you can always setup a free blog on WordPress.com, I would personally suggest that you NOT become a digital share-cropper and invest in your own website with a self-hosted copy of WordPress, freely available from WordPress.org.
You can install free or premium themes on self hosted WordPress as well as WordPress.com, but what if you want a theme for your self hosted WordPress that’s only available on WordPress.com?  Of course, you can probably find it free on WordPress.org, but what if you want to modify it, or maybe even use the free, open source code as a basis for your own, very special theme?  Well, then I have good news for you!  Automattic, the folks who run WordPress.com and are responsible for a lot of the greatest stuff for WordPress.org, maintain a free repository of their themes.

Now, you could just go to https://wpcom-themes.svn.automattic.com and laboriously download each theme, one file at a time.  But, if you’re like me, you’re too lazy for that.  So, do like I did and get an SVN client installed and use it to download the lot of them!
I used Tortoise SVN because it’s free and easy to use.  So, go grab that and install it.
Once it’s installed, make a folder somewhere on your computer to hold all the themes.  And, make sure if you’re on a network to make it on your local machine.  If you do it on a network, Tortoise SVN will keep timing out when you try to download the files.
Right-Click on that folder and select ‘Tortoise SVN’ then ‘Export’ if you just want one copy of the files and don’t plan to update it frequently.  If, however, you want to periodically check for updates, choose ‘SVN Checkout’, instead.
Where you’re asked, enter the URL of repository as ‘https://wpcom-themes.svn.automattic.com’ and click on ‘OK’, or ‘Export’, depending on your goal.
Then, kick back and watch the themes download!

Once you have the theme you want, upload it to your self-hosted WordPress blog/site and activate it and enjoy the beauty of the latest and greatest theme from the folks who are the power behind WordPress!

(And, I know this might not appeal to everyone, but, hey, at least it’s not another photography post!)

 

Style Maker

Hopefully, you all won’t be too disappointed to not see links to a bunch of other blogs today.

I hate to admit it, but I wrote this at the last minute because I’ve been so busy.  So, if you all think this is lame today, well, I don’t blame you.  I’ll try to do better for next week and the rest of the month.  No promises, though.
As you may know, I dabble in WordPress, which just updated to a new version yesterday.  Along with that comes dabbling in both plugins and themes.  While I’ve actually created a couple of fairly basic plugins, I have yet to write a theme from scratch.  Still, I obsessively collect books and tools with which to make themes.  Today, I’m bringing you one of those tools.

This link comes to you thanks to WPTavern and is a website that lets you autogenerate style guides from other websites.  The site is called Stylify Me and it’s quite simple.  You just go to their site, then put in the URL of a site you want to use for the basic style.  The site then goes and analyzes the target, bringing you back their color palette, the fonts they use, and the sizes of pictures and thumbnails they use.  It takes all that, wraps it up with a sample graphic of the home page and gives it to you as an easy-to-save PDF style guide which you can use to make a site, or theme, with a similar look and feel.

So, yeah, unless you’re a hard-core geek or designer, not so cool.
But, if you are, well, then it’s the coolest!

Anyway, it’s been a long week for having a holiday, so it’s the best I’ve got.
Next week will be better.
I hope.

Photography Blogs to Follow, Part Two

As implied last week, here are some more photography blogs to follow.

I spend a fortune on camera gear.  I try not to, and lately, I haven’t had the spare cash, but it’s hard to resist the lure of that new, shiny bit of gear!  Thankfully, there’s a blog to help me with that; DIY Photography.  In fact, over the years, if you’re a faithful reader of this blog, you’ve seen me link to these folks regularly.  They have tutorials for everything from building your own sets to super cheap flash modifiers.  But, they’re not just about gear!  They also have lots of great tutorials for getting different shots without breaking the bank on new gear!  Definitely worth a look!

And, if you want to keep up on some of the latest trends in photography or the latest photographic news, I personally find that PetaPixel is a fantastic site for that.  The link I linked, for instance, takes you to a post showing GoPro video from a photojournalist who’s embeded with a special tactical squad in Ferguson.  It’s pretty crazy.
Not everything they talk about is quite as controversial, but they keep pretty well in touch with what’s going on it a lot of areas of photography today.

And, if you want the opposite of that video linked above, head over to the Photography Is Not A Crime site.  These folks keep watch on police officers and departments who abuse photographers in one form or another.  Whether it’s trying to keep us from taking perfectly legal photographs in public or legally and openly filming the police doing their job, PINAC, as they like to abbreviate their name, is watching and, in some cases, standing up to lawsuits to protect our rights as photographers!

Finally, there’s Photofocus.
This started out as a single photographer’s website that grew from his educational site into a much larger site filled with some of the best tutorials, commentaries and inspirational pieces around.  They’re another site that my regular readers will recognize me linking to quite a bit in the past.

So, there you have it, more blogs to thrill, inform and inspire the budding photographer!
Come back next week to see if I share more blogs or something completely different!  Even I don’t know!

Photography Blogs to Follow, Part One

Yes, this implies at least a “Part Two”.

Maybe even a part three.  We’ll see on that part, but at least two.
I’ve been at my new job for five weeks now and, frankly, I’m so exhausted by the end of the day, I haven’t really had anything left over for hobbies.  In fact, I’ve barely had any energy left over for watching television or reading.  So, you know, my photography has been, well, languishing, just a bit.  What that means, too, is that my creativity is at a pretty low ebb.  That’s okay, because, hey, that’s life, but I still want to share something cool with you on Fridays.  So, this week, I’m going to share some of the blogs I go to so that I can feel connected to and inspired by photography.

I shoot with Canon gear.  I’m not saying that Canon is better than Nikon, although long-time Nikon shooter Scott Kelby did change over to Canon a little while back, so make your own judgements.  In any case, as a result of my personal connection to Canon, I follow two important Canon blogs.
First, there are the Canon Professional Network blogs.  Specifically, I follow the Canon Professional Network “Technical” blog.  This blog has all kinds of information about the specialized techniques photographers use to get great shots.  I may never personally use most of these techniques and software, but it’s good for me to see what is available.  I also follow the Canon Ambassadors Programme blog, which highlights photographers who use Canon equipment and have been chosen by Canon to represent their brand out in the world.  These folks are really inspiring.  They consistently bring their best for us to marvel at and aspire to.

Of course, I don’t always believe everything the company tells me, because, well, they have their own agenda.  But, that’s why I follow the Canon Rumors blog!  As the name implies, they may not always be 100% accurate, but they really give us a good idea of what’s coming down the pike from Canon.  Also, this is where I learned that Canon finally updated their camera utilities for Windows 7 and up!  (If you haven’t yet, you can download them here: Canon Utilities.)

And, the last blog I’ll share this week is the blog of my favorite flash photography teacher, Syl Arena, Pixsylated.  I’ve taken his class twice and found it inspirational both times.  I cannot recommend Syl enough.  He is a very, very accessible small-flash educator and, although he does shoot Canon, his general photography teaching is pretty brilliant, too.  He has several books out, including his incomparable Speedliter’s Handbook, which is the definitive guide to Canon small flash and is being updated this Fall.  Seriously, this guy is the best and always happy to talk to an eager, new photographer.

And, I think that’s enough for this week.  More blogs next week!

Free eBooks for Photographers

Well, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love free and I love photography!

This week, I’ve got both for you!
Actually, I can’t believe I haven’t shared this collection of Twenty-Three Free Photography eBooks before!  I know LightStalking has shared them before, but, well, apparently I haven’t passed that all on to you, my dear faithful readers, before now.  Granted, I may have shared some of the actual books listed before, but not the full collection.
They link to everything from books on photography as a business to selling your photography to lighting to street photography to books of actual photographs taken by some really great photographers.  And, they’re all free!

So, hey, if you’re reading this, you’ve obviously been slacking already this fine Friday, so you may as well follow the link and check out these photography ebooks for yourself!

Essential Photoshop Skills for Photographers

I’m not entirely sure I agree with this list, actually.

I tend to follow the dictum that, as photographers, we should strive to make a better photograph in the camera, not in the computer. However, the reality of the modern age is that Photoshop exists and, well, the people who use it will tend to have an advantage over those of us who don’t.  According to DIY Photography, there are Twelve Essential Photoshop Skills that Every Photographer Should Know.  Those twelve things are Cropping, Adjusting Brightness and Contrast, Using “Curves and Levels”, Adjusting Saturation, Working with Layers, Sharpening, Using Cloning and Healing to Fix Photographs, Using “Content Aware Fill” and Adjusting Color Balance.

Now, just a bit of a disclaimer here; I use Adobe Lightroom to make minor adjustments to my digital photos.  And, with that in mind, I whole-heartedly endorse using software to do basic cropping as well as some correction for lens and camera aberrations.  And, yes, I do absolutely use Lightroom to correct color and white balance.  I even use it to make some very small and unobtrusive corrections for things like shadows or the occasional bit of junk in the background that distracts from the photo I want to share.
So, with all that being said, I still think the article is suggesting we learn Photoshop skills for the sake of simply using Photoshop.  “Curves and Levels” in this context are just a way of cheating and fixing sloppy photography in software.  So is a lot of the color corrections they describe.  Personally, I think it would be better and, for me at least, more satisfying to just improve my photography and take a better picture!

Still, it’s Friday and if you’re looking for some tips to improve your Photoshop skills, that link above will take you to a series of videos that will show you the basics of DIY Photography’s 12 Essential Photoshop Skills for Photographers.  Check it out and let me know what you think.

 

Free MIT Photography

So, I’m not quite done with the free photography links.

Again, specifically, links to a free photography course. This was shared by PetaPixel last month, but it’s so good, I wanted to make sure you didn’t miss it.
MIT has established a free learning annex on-line which they call “MIT OpenCourseWare”.  Through this program, they offer all kinds of classes on a wide range of topics, all based on classes taught at MIT at one time or another, of course.  I was surprised to see, again, thanks to PetaPixel, that MIT was offering a course on Documentary Photography and Photojournalism.  According to the class description, this is “…an introduction to the great tradition of documentary photography. Students learn to see the world around them in a new way and produce a documentary project. The course requires reading and writing about photography, as well as doing it on a regular basis. The class emphasis is on thinking about why people photograph, what photographs do and do not mean to us, and on doing documentary work, on telling stories with photographs. ”

They note that students are expected to already know basic photography and that this course should not be considered a “beginner’s class”.  I don’t know when I’ll get to it, because I just changed jobs, but I really look forward to digging into this class!
But, you don’t need to way for me!  Get started right away!

Free Photography Tutorials

Two things I love are photography and free.

This week, I’m sharing a link to links. But, it’s in keeping with the theme of free photography stuff.  The link comes from PetaPixel and it, in turn, links to their pick of the 25 best free on-line photography course and tutorials.
These tutorials run the gamut from beginner to advanced level of experience and cover a pretty wide variety of topics, including, but not limited to documentary and photojournalism, Lightroom and Photoshop, “Tilt+Shift” photography, night photography, introductory photography and art photography.  But, that really only scratches the surface!  You need to go and check these out for yourself.
The links tell you if there’s a start date or if it’s an “open” course or tutorial and roughly how long it will take, as well as the suggested skill level of the photographer, to help you pick where to start.  I’m confident that there’s something there to interest just about anyone!

So, go ahead, take a look and find one you can start this weekend!

Photography Link Grab Bag

Since I start my new day job this coming Monday, I’m slacking a little and just sharing some kind of random links about basic photographic technique.

One of the things you see a lot of photographers do, especially if they want to “go pro” and shoot portraits, is something called “seamless paper”.  Basically, it’s a huge, long roll of colored paper that you tape up to a wall or hang from a pole to get a smooth, uninterrupted, but still plain and not distracting background for portraits.  It sounds pretty straight forward, but, let me tell you, having worked with it a bit, sometimes, it can get a little tricky.  So, I’m starting out the grab bag of links with DIY Photography’s Best Tips for Working with Seamless Paper Backdrops.  These folks are always helpful and this collects some of their best tips for working with this mainstay of formal portrait photography, as well as some helpful hints for shooting other things with seamless paper.

The next link is from Canon, via PetaPixel, with a Tutorial on Cleaning and Caring for your Photography Gear.  This may seem super basic, but there are some good reminders here for those of us who forget how delicate our photography gear can be.  For instance, the suggestion to keep gear in a sealed, water-proof bag when moving it between temperature and humidity extremes until it can match local conditions to minimize fog, especially on lenses, is a great idea, especially in Houston!

Finally, I’ve been hearing how still photographers are passe now and, if you really want to “keep up” or break into professional photography, you need to know videography.  Personally, I’m not entirely sure that’s true, but it certainly does seem to be a theme these days, so I’m including another link from DIY Photography that’s an Introduction to the Basics of Cinematography.  Also, no matter how you feel about actually learning cinematography yourself, as a photographer, learning framing techniques from great cinematographers is a pretty good idea!

So, there you go; three links for you to explore on a lazy Friday, or this weekend, if you’re still pretending to work!
Either way, y’all have a good weekend!  And, get out there shooting!

Lightroom Workflow

With Apple’s recent announcement that they’re letting Aperture die, without really replacing it, photographers of all kinds are looking toward Lightroom as their photographic management and processing tool.

I, personally, have used Lightroom for years.  I can do most of the editing I would ever want to do faster and easier in Lightroom than I would in Photoshop.  Of course, I’m strictly an amateur and don’t do any other fancy art stuff with my photography.  And, I try to follow Syl Arena’s dictum to simply take better photos “in the camera”, because I’m a photographer not a Photoshop artist.  (Just to head off anyone’s hurt feelings, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with doing all kinds of post-work in Photoshop, but I prefer to be away from a computer more and just work with my camera.  It’s how I roll.)
All that aside, I know I could do better with Lightroom.  I could get more out of it with less effort if I took more time to learn the program.  So, with that in mind, I offer two links to tutorials for Lightroom.  (If you don’t use Lightroom, yet, hang in there.  Next week, I’ll share some pretty straight-up photography tutorial links for y’all.)

First, there’s a tutorial at PetaPixel titled The Ultimate Guide for Creating an Efficient and Effective Lightroom Workflow.  At less that 20 minutes, this video takes you through one way to set up a good digital photography workflow using Lightroom.  It’s a pretty simple and basic look at the software, but it will get you started down a good path that you can modify as you find tricks and short-cuts of your own.  It’s only a start and just scratches the surface of this amazing software, but it’s a good start!
Second, if you want to get more in depth with Lightroom, DIY Photography has a much longer tutorial titled Lightroom’s Develop Module Creative Workflow.  It’s an hour and fifteen minutes long, so a LOT longer than the first tutorial, but this one really goes into depth with the meat of this software.  What’s a little different about this tutorial is that it goes into more detail on the “why” question regarding the settings, not just the “how” of using the program.  So, in other words, it may be something you want to come look at again after working with Lightroom for a little bit.

So, there you are, two tutorials of varying length and experience level to help you get used to Lightroom!
Now, get out there this weekend and get some raw material to use in these with your camera!