Tag Archives: photography

Putting Together A New Mac Workstation

I haven’t had a desk since we got our previous house ready to receive our son. Instead, I tried to do work anywhere I could, which usually involved sitting on the couch in front of the television. Let’s just say that situation was not conducive to production.

With the new house came a new office with a new desk and a blank canvas for a new computer workstation. In putting together my requirements for the new system, I had a few hard requirements. First, I knew I wanted a Mac. I use both at work, and find that the Mac lends itself better for my creative workflow. I also knew that I wanted a desktop. I have an older MacBook plus my iPad for portability, and I wanted the feel of a real desktop and a place I had to go to work.

Most of the work I do on the computer involves a few different categories: general home-office activities (e-mail, document management), photo and light video editing, and some software development. The biggest use of the system resources would likely be required by the photo and video editing, and I wanted to make sure that whichever system I went with would not be an immediate bottleneck to my workflow.

I gave up building computers from scratch 10 years ago, so I was not interested in a Hackintosh or any other form of assembling a computer from components; I was looking for an off the shelf-solution. That meant the iMac, a Mac Pro, or a Mac Mini.

I ruled out the Mac Pro both because of price and because it’s too much computer for what I do. That left the iMac and the Mac Mini, an option I actually didn’t consider until a coworker brought it up.  As I researched that option more, it became the preferred option. You can get practically the same machine in a Mini that you could as an iMac for much less. The configuration I looked at had an iMac priced more than $600 more than the configuration I chose, simply for the “cool” factor.


In the end, I’m a week in but very happy with my system choice. Here are the details [affiliate links]:

Mac Mini (2.6 i7, 4 GB RAM, 1TB HDD) – The fastest i7 processor available in the Mini today with a respectable 1TB of disk space. With the iMac, there isn’t a clean way to upgrade the memory. With the Mini, however, upgrading the memory couldn’t be simpler, so I ordered the bare minimum RAM and saved $200 by doing the upgrade myself.

Corsair Vengeance 16GB (2x8GB) RAM – This RAM was $99 compared to the $300 price tag of upgrading to 16GB via Apple, and it took 3 minutes to swap out.

2 x Dell S2340M LED-Lit Monitor – I was looking at both the 21″ and 27″ iMac. The 27″ was too big, but I like the real estate that 2 monitors offers. These Dell monitors were well rated and reasonably priced.

Logitech HD Webcam C310 – Relatively inexpensive, but very high quality webcam for FaceTime and some recording.

Logitech K810 Keyboard –  The beauty of this keyboard is that it allows me to sync with up to 3 devices, so I can pair with my computer, iPad, or iPhone, all from one keyboard. The layout is more Windows-centric, but it is fully functional in the Mac world.

Super Drive – This would have been necessary even with the iMac. Apparently, no one uses DVD drives anymore.

Magic Mouse – A mouse! And it’s magic!

Wacom tablet – This is an old, old Wacom tablet, but I still use it occasionally for precise touch-ups.

iPad 3 – I still plan on using my iPad as a portable extension of my desktop, and I’m continuing to explore new ways to do so.

Note: Amazon affiliate links used above.


Going Mobile – Editing Images On The Road With An iPad

We took a family trip down to Durango, Colorado, for Christmas. Instead of packing a suitcase full of photography and computer gear, I wanted to experiment with taking only what was necessary…the minimalist approach to packing and saving my aging back. So I left the 40-pound laptop at home, along with the other gear I knew I wouldn’t need, and instead packed my camera, a few lenses, and my iPad to see to what level I could take and post process images without using my normal workflow of Lightroom on a huge, heavy laptop.

Equipment and Software

Importing The Images

The D7000 has two SD camera slots, and I typically shoot RAW to one card, and a JPEG to the second card. I expected that the iPad would only be able to use the JPEG files, but the iPad recognized the Nikon NEF format, and I was able to import the RAW images. With the card reader in the iPad, I simply inserted my SD card with the RAW images, the iPad image import dialog came up and prompted me to select which images I wanted to import.

David Monnerat Photography - iPad - Image Import

iPad Camera Import

I did not test it, but you can also use the other USB adapter that comes with the Camera Kit to plug your camera in via a USB cable to import the images, which would be handy if you are using a camera with an CompactFlash or other type of media.

Depending on how much space is left on your iPad, you may not want to import all the images, especially when your SD card might be larger than the capacity of your iPad. I suggest importing only the ones you want to edit or to work in batches. Process just what you need on the iPad, and save the rest for when you get back to home base.

Editing The Images

Once on the iPad, all the different photo editors that I tried were also able to pull up and edit the RAW file, as well. None of them, however, seemed to be able to access the images while still on the SD card, which would have been a great way to conserve space…maybe in a future release.

Ideally, a mobile version of Lightroom would exist, but unfortunately the only Lightroom application in the App Store are tutorials, not editing software. So instead, I looked around for the best candidates that would allow me to do more than just the basic editing that the native camera app provides. To do this, I started with the image below.

David Monnerat Photography - Polar Express - Original


My test image was underexposed, which forced me to adjust the exposure, as well as test the noise reduction necessary to handle an image at a higher ISO, in addition to some of the normal edits I would have done in Lightroom, include white balance, contrast, and sharpening.

There are a lot photo editing applications available in the app store, so I limited myself to some of the more popular applications, namely: iPhoto, Snapseed, Photogene, and Photoshop Touch.


I don’t use iPhoto on my Mac, and I don’t see iPhoto fitting in to my mobile workflow, either. The features were limited, and the interface was clunky, so it didn’t take me much time fumbling around to decide to move on to another application.

David Monnerat Photography - iPhoto

Editing with iPhoto


Snapseed is a free application, but it has a lot of the features of its non-free peers. Accessing those features, though, takes a little getting used to, with a combination of vertical and horizontal swipes to select and apply adjustments. It wasn’t my overall favorite, but the image I was able to produced compared well to the other candidates, and the price was right.

David Monnerat Photography - Snapseed - Editor

Editing with Snapseed


Photogene for the iPad was the low-priced ($2.99) but full-featured step up from Snapseed. It had a lot of nice features, was easy to navigate, and produced an excellent image. The noise reduction algorithm worked very well; so well, in fact, that I had to dial in back in some images. The iPad version is better than the original Photogene for the iPhone, and easier to navigate than the new Photogene2.

David Monnerat Photography - Photogene - Editor

Editing with Photogene

Photoshop Touch

My favorite application turned out to be Photoshop Touch. The most expensive of the bunch at $9.99, Photoshop Touch had all the feature that I was looking for and the feel of the full version of Photoshop, which made it a very comfortable choice with a minimal learning curve. The noise reduction worked well, and the ability to maintain edits in layers, just like the full Photoshop, made managing changes a breeze.

Photoshop Touch For iPad - David Monnerat Photography

Photoshop Touch

Photoshop Touch For iPad - Editing Image - David Monnerat Photography

Photoshop Touch – Editing Image – Layers

Photoshop Touch For iPad - David Monnerat Photography

Photoshop Touch – Filters

Photoshop Touch For iPad - David Monnerat Photography

Photoshop Touch – Tools

Photoshop Touch For iPad - Filters - David Monnerat Photography

Photoshop Touch – More Filters


Editing images on the iPad presents its own challenges, include the capacity of the device as well as processing power for larger images. But with the ability to import RAW files, and the features of the available applications, both free and paid, it is within the realm of possibility to process images with great results without needing a computer. Now, I’m not giving up my laptop or Lightroom any time soon, but the next time I find myself wanting to travel a little lighter, I feel confident that I can survive with just my camera and my iPad, and still create print-ready images.


David Dreams Of Pictures – Mastery In The Art Of Photography

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a documentary film about Jiro Ono, an 85 year-old sushi master on his continuing quest to perfect the art of sushi. Food Critic Masuhiro Yamamoto describes it as “a film about a man who has dedicated his life to create the perfect plate of food, knowing all the time that there is no such thing as a perfect food. As good as he is, he knows he can always do better.”

Jiro Dreams of Sushi - Official Photo

The way Jiro approaches sushi is nothing short of the way that Picasso approaches a painting, or Richard Avedon approaches a portrait. He strives for perfection, and to elevate his craft. He is always looking ahead, and always above himself.

In the movie, Japanese food critic Yamamoto lists “the five attributes of a great chef,” all of which, he asserts, Jiro possesses in abundance. I would add that the same attributes can be applied to a great photographer, as well, and any great artist.

Five Attributes Of A Great Photographer

They take their work very seriously and consistently perform at the highest level.

Whether you are shooting for yourself or for a client, you should approach them the same way. You won’t learn if you aren’t consistently pushing yourself to your upper limits. You can’t grow if you’re not challenging yourself. And you can never be great if you don’t constantly look above yourself and where you are with your abilities.

They aspire to improve their skill.

The equipment is changing, the technology is advancing, and photography continues to be more accessible. In the past, the barrier to entering photography was being able to afford a camera. Now cameras are affordable, and they are everywhere. The bar separating a good photographer from a great photographer continues to rise, and great photographers know that they will always have something to learn. They continue to improve their skills to separate themselves from the rest, and to reach that bar. In the movie, Jiro says “repetition build intuition”.  The more you practice, the more you’ll be able to rely on that intuition to see and capture your vision.

They maintain cleanliness.

Cleanliness in a restaurant shows a number of things. It shows that the staff cares about the experience and the quality of what they create. If a chef is willing to work in dirty kitchen, what does that say about the quality of food he is putting out? In the photography world, your camera is your knife. Keep your equipment clean and in good working order. Not only will your gear be ready when you need it, but it projects a positive image to your clients, as well.

They are impatient; better leaders than collaborators; stubborn and insist on having it their way.

Many of the great photographers are trailblazers, doing something no one else does. They don’t wait for things to come to them or for someone else to solve their problems. They move forward, figure it out, and lead the way. Instead of shooting someone else’s vision, there is a push to express their own point of view in their images.

They are passionate about their work.

If you’re not passionate about photography, you might still be able to make great images, but you’ll never be a great photographer.  Passion presents itself in a number of different ways, but its easy to tell in an image when it’s not there. Being passionate about your craft is one of those attributes that separates a good photographer from a great one.

More from Jiro…

Every ingredient has an ideal moment of deliciousness. =  Decisive Moment

Umami in food is the ‘ahhhhh’ when you eat or drink, the satisfaction that your body has reacted. It’s a physical response. = Photographic Umami is when someone physically reacts to an image.

Why buy rice you can’t cook properly? = Why buy gear you can’t use properly?

To make delicious food, you have to eat delicious food. = To make impactful images, you need to be open to the world around you. You need to notice light, and emotion, and all the ingredients that go in to making an image. You have to know what makes you react, and then use that in making your own images.