The Great Debate


Well it’s decision time I s’pose.

Back in 2008, I had a decent Season. I was running Windows and using XP. I was an expert on XP. Friends used to call me all the time asking ‘whadoo I do when?’. We were ALL on XP. The difference was I was on it SO much and had problems virtually every other day, that I’d spend hours online trying to figure out how to solve them. I solved them so many times, over and over and over again I got awful damned good at it. You know how they say you need 10,000 hours of practice to Master anything? Um. Yah… HAHA, I must have spent that amount of time fixing WINDOWS. Then one day they announced Vista. And the howling began. Right then and there I decided it was time to make the change. I’d never worked on a Mac, had no idea how they even operated but Dammit, if it was gonna’ have to happen it had to be before they brought in Vista. So off I went to the Camera Store and tricked out my Shiny New ‘Cheese Grater’.

It had 4 Hard Drives, 8 Gigs of RAM and set me back about 5 Thousand. It was a Demon. Fast, Nimble had a single Optical Drive not two… Loads of Ports and handled anything I could throw at it.

Man, this was Livin’.

Sure. I admit. I had the occasional issue with the MacDaddy but they were very minor by comparison.

I had one drive go out on me a couple of years back. Because of the SIZE of the damned thing and the weight, (42.4 pounds), they made an exception to my having to bring it in and a great guy from Westworld Computers literally walked downtown, knocked on my door and replaced that drive in under eight minutes.  Love you AppleCare.  So, it’s been a real Warhorse and paid for itself many times over. However, my baby is finally starting to creak and groan. I can’t open the optical drive without hitting the button 20 times, although who really needs it anymore? Drive 2 is now dead, the main HD is starting to ‘Beachball’ all the time and, you have to face it. In this business, it’s like having a Shop Truck. if you’re a Plumber and you can’t count on your Truck to get you there, you’re unemployed. It’s essential.



Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 10.10.56 AM


The Monitor I’ve been on since I brought the machine home has been incredible. It was as good as they came short of an Eizo, at the time. An NEC MultiSynch LCD2690Wuxi. It has it’s own internal colour calibration using an X-Rite puck and their SpectraView II System. But?  It’s got hundreds of thousands of hours of use on it and the old girl just won’t calibrate to the values it used to or should.

I stumbled on this blog post from Terry White.

Photographers: Don’t waste your money on a Mac Pro

He makes a very good case. Howevah’. I have TWO CAVEATS.

1.) I have yet to see the screen. I don’t like glossy screen monitors. They’re sharp(e) and bright yes they are but, Ugggh. They reflect everything. Word that I read, at least is that they have an anti-reflective coating buried in the new iMacs, s-o-m-e-w-h-e-r-e, but I’ll need to see that for myself.  2.) Colour. Yeah, Colour. The last model of iMac that I looked at was so gaudy and fluorescent that I ran from the store screaming. I puked a little bit in my mouth. Shiny, over-saturated YUCK. I know. It hadn’t been calibrated, yet but…  How’s the new one going to be any different? Nevertheless… it’s time to work the ‘Due Diligence’ and do the research. Heavily. And time to go shopping.

On this I shall keep you posted.

John Sharpe/ Sharpeshots

*Addendum. Just found THIS.




My Biggest Little Secret-Shooting Studio Quality Photos Without The Studio

Bit of a more ‘involved’ post today.

This, to me, is a minor game changer for Pro’s. Heck even amateurs.

I had a past client contact me a few weeks ago to photograph BEER. Just the product as it was, in cans and boxes and boxes of cans. I’d done it in the past and to tell the truth I’m no real fan of shooting tabletop photography. Loads of people are but I just don’t seem to have the patience for it. Now, I’d done this about 18 month before and actually shot it in a friend’s garage. I used the same ‘process’ as this time with one significant difference. We’ll get into that in a bit.

The client that needed the photography makes this arrangement. 1.) Here’s a list of the products we need shot 2.)You source the product and we’ll pay for it. 3.) You shoot it and you get to keep it. This year it was almost a $1000 dollars worth of beer. I make everybody’s Xmas a little bit brighter. Meh. At any rate, there is a new and beautifully laid out Liquor store that recently opened up not far from here and I was so impressed with the layout, I asked them if they wanted to put in the order and put the client in touch with them to pay for the product. And soon it arrived amid a bit of complication with ordering numbers etc. International Commerce. It never fails.

I asked the store if they’d be kind enough to let my use a spare side room to do the shooting in and they agreed. That in and of itself was a pretty big thing. There was a PALETTE of beer and I did not want to move it twice. I set up shop a day later and got to work. Two lights in umbrellas and off I rolled. And then, (*there’s always and ‘and then’. I was getting some very strange shadows on some of the cans and I couldn’t figure out exactly where they were coming from. The mirrored surface of the cans was seeing almost 180 degrees, and these gremlins would just not go away. Unfortunately it’s a problem you just have to solve. Did I tell you about how much I adore shooting product?

I called my pal Chris at ‘The Camera Store’. I asked him if they had a ‘Light Tent’. Turned out they had light boxes for about $150 dollars. I went and picked one up on the way home and sent a few samples of the uglies, to my client to explain the complications. The other thing I decided to pick up as well was my buddy and superb local Pro Photographer, Greg Gerla. I did this as much for the company…did I tell you about how much I love table-top photography, as the expertise. Both were very welcome. Greg came to the store on a Friday at 11 and we set up the light box. It evened things out nicely, yeah… e-x-c-e-p-t for the UGLIES, those damned black shadows that seemed to creep in. The front of the box was open all other sides as well as the top were enclosed. It was Greg, actually, who deserves full credit for fixing that problem. He figured out they were coming from below and put some of the light box material under the cans. Problem solved.

Initially, the stuff looks pretty, blah. we put some cardboard under the product, drew two lines at right angles on it so each set of cans would appear the same to the camera, and in two hours… I thought it would take SIX, it was all done except packing a little gear out to the van. Off for Pizza!

This is how it looked before and after retouching.

Coors Before untitled-3315

OK so, if you’re PIXEL Peepin’ it’s not totally flawless, these are meant for very small point of purchase cards that get put on the shelves. nothing big and meant for Times Square.  Here’s the point of this exercise. I can’t and don’t ever use the Pen Tool. Why? I just can’t seem to get the hang of it. In order to make this WORK, you pretty well have to. There are quite a number of companies that will do a ‘Clipping Path’ for you. These are located in Asia, mostly India and Bangladesh, etc. Just Google “Clipping Path”, you’ll find it easily enough For 2 bux USD per image they will clip these out of the ugliest surroundings and put them on a transparent background for you. This file was a PNG. I’ve converted it to JPEG for the purposes of this blog. Greg and I shot 21 products. My total bill to clip each and every one of them out was $42 USD! Now it just gets better.  For being so darn understanding and generous, Bottega Wines and Spirits needed a shot done for their outside illuminated sign. They make up absolutely beautiful gift baskets. So in return for their kindness, I volunteered.

BottegaBasket BottegaBasketCLIPPED-BLOG


Here’s the take away. Take a very close look at the quality of the work done in the extraction. There are small fibres sticking out of the basket, notably on the left side. They even left THEM in. Look at the precision of the clip inside the basket handle. There are two white spots on the right side close to the bottom. As well look carefully at the white gaps on the left side of the basket. They worked around the fibres in front of them!!!  First I’d have to learn the Pen Tool in Photoshop, then I’d have to spend the rest of my natural life trying to get anywhere as good as this and all of this was done for $2.oo US. I retouched all of the elements inside the basket, labels, bottles etc. but non of this would have happened without ‘their’ help. For this work, I used

I’ve done this for location portraiture; you should see the job they do with hair! I’ve used it with Creative Work; it’s an indispensable tool. All you have to do is light your subject properly and leave the heavy lifting to them. It doesn’t matter WHAT is in the background, they’ve pulled it off every single time.

And? It’s not just for small product. Yep. Girls, Guns And Cars. Three things that never fail to go ‘BOOM’!.

8112 8135



Hope you find this helpful.

John Sharpe/ Sharpeshots


Brambles-Half-Gramme Holiday

I posted some time ago that I was a HUGE fan of Mark Dawson, a.k.a ‘Brambles’. His first album Charcoal, is my favourite album of 2013, and believe me I listen to tons and tons and tons of music. I’ve just discovered a new track which I purchased for a paltry $1.00 US. I’ve posted the song as it is on YouTube.
For my money, it’s like the ‘HOT TUB’ of warm and beautiful music. You just can’t help but soak in it.
Do yourself a solid and look him up on YouTube.
Now if I can just persuade him to start recording in 24 Bit. I downloaded the FLAC file at the very least.
John Sharpe/ Sharpeshots

The Family Shoot!

Had Megan Watts and crew out last week.

It appears, at least that the nice warm weather we had on this day is done for a while and that stinks because it was a great shooting day. Up here we have a 4.5 month outdoor shooting season. I’m not kidding. Everything goes from brown and dead to green and back to brown and dead again in the middle of  October. It’s a sad part of living in the Northern Hemisphere. You’ve gotta’ get it while you can.

Megan brought the kids and the pups and these wee guys are REALLY new. I got a huge kick out of all of them, kids included but Charlie stole the show.

Charlie Charlie-1270

It’s hard to get an idea of just how little Charlie is until he’s on the run and close to a normal sized Human..  he’s the smallest Doggie I’ve ever seen!

Split Toned

Split Tones

John Sharpe/ Sharpeshots

Best Of The Year Camera Reviews.

Well it’s coming up to year end and so it’s inevitable that the Camera Of The Year Reviews are about to begin.

I was a little surprised that Samsung came in as high as they did with second place but good on them, and it’s a Mirrorless to boot. A lot of Pro’s would never have seen that coming. The only thing that’s constant is change.

It’s not letting me post a link so you’ll have to do it the good ole’ fashioned way.–y6JvO8k.facebook



John Sharpe/ Sharpeshots

Battle River Railway

Ahhhh… Chris

He’s Eclectic to say the very least. He’s passionate about loads of old stuff. Boler Trailers, old buses, old farm equipment..mines, farms, make it old and Chris is fascinated. Probably why he puts up with ME.

He also climbs like a billy goat along with his effervescent “Lady Connie”,  can write incredibly long blog posts, finds missing people and fixes old telephones. Yup, he’s an enigma. Chris managed to finagle a trip on the Locomotive from Forestburg, Alberta, north to around Camrose. It’s something he’s wanted to do for a long, long time. I was elected the be the chase car, albeit there wasn’t a ton of chasing to do. The train averages about 10-25 miles per hour. Some independents bought the train, Chris could correct me on this… operate it as a small, local line of about 125 miles length for hauling grain, etc. Here’s a link to the Battle River Railway Page for the specifics.

We were told to be at the point of departure by 7:30 AM, and we were. Got into the Rail Office had some coffee and then it was off to the building where the Locomotives were waiting. I know nothing of trains but this thing was absolutely gigantic!  We got the nickel tour and soon enough they were ready to leave. I had loaded my backpack with all two tons of gear and brought along the Fuji XE-2 for the ‘bang-em-out’ shots. I never used my big stuff.

Chris tossed his key to me, asked if I was OK, we’d keep in touch by ‘text’ and soon they lumbered out of sight. I’m telling you, it was cold, bleak, wet, thoroughly miserable and dreary out. A perfect Pain In The Ass day to stay in the Motel. No worries, John.

We took Chris’ car up there… easy on gas and a ‘stick’. I KNOW how to drive stick, had a few of them over the years, but then STUPID came a calling. I put the key in the ignition, foot on the brake and the car won’t start. Try again. still not feeling the love. Try again it’s getting colder and colder. No luck, this is not going to be my day, slumped, frozen solid over the steering wheel, windows completely fogged over. The prospect of spending a very unpleasant day in a small car, playing frozen fish fillet was not going to happen but I, in my infinite ‘Duh’ moment, had no idea what to do to remedy the situation. Then I decided to call Jim, the owner of the ‘Forestburg Motor Inn’. Helluva’ a guy. God Bless Cell Phones, even on the Rogers Network which completely blows out west.

Jim-“Where are you?” John-“At the Grain Elevator.” Jim- “Okay I’m on the way.”

In about 4 minutes Jim shows up get’s in the car and fires it right up in three seconds flat… “How long has it been since you’ve driven a stick?” Me- “Quite a long time.” Jim-“You have to push in the Clutch”.

Sometimes? You just can’t FIX S-T-U-P-I-D.

As the old saying goes… “All’s Well That Ends Well.” Chris was all snuggly in his toaster oven hot Locomotive, living his dream. Me? I was all snuggly with a few shots of Maker’s Mark and a warm Motel bed. Still I managed to grab a couple of shots of these behemoths. You can’t begin to comprehend the size of these until you’re climbing all over them. They took the lovely Yellow and Blue one. I took the clean white bedsheets and the nice, warm comforter.

Chris "BigDoer" untitled-3266 untitled-3267 untitled-3268 untitled-3270 untitled-3277



John Sharpe/ Sharpeshots

Great News For Canon Shooters!

I shoot a TON of Brackets.

I do exposure fusion in Photomatix for all my interior work and one of my shoots a while ago for a client consisted of 435 images that were blended down to 87 Photos. I use 5 brackets for every shot so it adds up. Quickly.

So? I worried. Then I found SHUTTER COUNT in the Mac App Store. The good news is, I’d imagined that I’d shot a ton more frames than I actually have. The EOS 5DMarkIII is rated for 150,000 actuations, I’ve still got a long way to go.

Shutter Count Screen Shot


You have to attach the camera to the computer with the same cable you use for firmware updates and power it up. It’s quick and simple.

It works with all of these Canon Cameras.

Supported cameras:
・ Canon EOS-1D C (requires firmware 1.1.3 or later for correct serial number display)
・ Canon EOS-1D Mark IV
・ Canon EOS-1D X
・ Canon EOS 5D Mark II
・ Canon EOS 5D Mark III (requires firmware 1.2.1 or later for correct serial number display)
・ Canon EOS 6D
・ Canon EOS 7D
・ Canon EOS 50D
・ Canon EOS 60D
・ Canon EOS 70D
・ Canon EOS 100D / Rebel SL1 / Kiss X7
・ Canon EOS 500D / Rebel T1i / Kiss X3
・ Canon EOS 550D / Rebel T2i / Kiss X4
・ Canon EOS 600D / Rebel T3i / Kiss X5
・ Canon EOS 650D / Rebel T4i / Kiss X6i
・ Canon EOS 700D / Rebel T5i / Kiss X7i
・ Canon EOS 1000D / Rebel XS / Kiss F
・ Canon EOS 1100D / Rebel T3 / Kiss X50
・ Canon EOS 1200D / Rebel T5 / Kiss X70

When your shutter stops, it stops.

This is peace of mind that’s easy to afford.

John Sharpe/ Sharpeshots





Some Sensational Drone Video

Put Drones and GoPro’s together and the results can be sensational.

What’s even more amazing is that both of those are still relatively recent. When you combine fantastic footage like this with a killer soundtrack to accompany it, the end result is breathtaking. This is Surf Video shot in the Mentawai Islands in Indonesia. If it’s cold, wet and snowy like it was here all weekend, this is really gonna’ get yer goat!




John Sharpe/ Sharpeshots

Tim Cook on iPod Classic: ‘We Couldn’t Get the Parts Anymore’.

Saw this on MacRumours this morning.

It’s bye bye for the iPod Classic.


iPod Classic

I enjoyed mine very much and I still have it around here, somewhere. It NEVER gets listened to because last November 16th it got the feet kick out from underneath it. I just checked; it’s not even on the Apple Store Website anymore.

I’m a freak for good audio and snooping around online last year introduced me to Astell&Kern out of Korea. They’re really iRiver. Now I adored the thumbwheel on the iPod. Apple has always had a pretty decent User Interface and the iPod Classic was terrific. However, I went a little goofy and dropped $1400 on my Astell&Kern AK120. Since discontinued, it plays 24 bit files, has a pretty clumsy interface if you’re a Mac user and sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard. For a portable music player it was jaw-dropping. You’d have to hear what it does to my Car Stereo. It has since been upgraded somewhat but clumsy be damned, it’s still unspeakably good to listen to. So? I’ll miss you iPod Classic. I have a feeling they may become ‘slightly’ collectable… I love the old school way it operates, far nicer than the AK’s but in the interest of “OMG”, the sound is impossible to beat. Oh and I didn’t even THINK about the AK240. Even I have my limits!

The Astell&Kern line is not easy to locate, I had to drive to Edmonton to even listen to it. The best 3 hours I may have ever spent.

On a side note, we’re out of town chasing Trains for a couple of days; I won’t be posting until the weekend.  Time to bring home some new images.

It’s -6 here this morning, Kids!

John Sharpe/ Sharpeshots