About Jeb E. Buchman

Father of two awesome boys, and one mean old cat.

The Best Macintosh Computer Systems for Photography

Last year I wrote a blog article detailing what I felt were the ideal Macintosh computer setups for building a cost-conscious digital photography “studio”.  However, as you’d expect, the never-ending technological improvements in the computer industry have rendered that article out-dated and obsolete.  Ah, the price of progress.

Word of warning: If you’re not into computer hardware, reading this article will be less exciting than watching asphalt dry.

Anyway…here’s an updated list of Macintosh computer solutions for digital photography:

THE MAC MINI

In my old blog post from last year, I suggested that the Mac Mini was an excellent solution for those with entry-level computer experience and/or for those who are novices in photography.  While that opinion still holds true (The Mini is an awesome choice for beginners), I now believe the Mac Mini is also quite capable of being a bare-bones full-time, “do-it-all” computer for photographers of any skill level.

Why did I change my mind?  I own a Mini that my son abuses sometimes…and I put it through its paces just to see if it could handle my photo workflow.  And, to my surprise, it handled it all without a hiccup.  Uploading, cataloging, post-processing in both Lightroom and Photoshop.  The Mini did it all just fine.

Apple offers four processors in the Mini: A 1.4GHz (grass grows faster than 1.4GHz), 2.6GHz (turbo boost to 3.1GHz), 2.8GHz (turbo to 3.5GHz), and 3.0GHz (turbo to 3.5GHz).  The 2.8GHz model is powerful enough to efficiently handle Lightroom and Photoshop, provided you max-out the RAM at 16GB.

The “graphics card” is not actually a card, but the Intel Iris Graphics module (which is not upgradeable, unfortunately).  As a result, while you can drive two 2560 X 1600 monitors, a 4K monitor via Thunderbolt 2 is not possible.  Nevertheless, for photography, a 2560 X 1600 monitor is more than adequate resolution and a great cost-efficient option.

The Mini offers either flash storage or a “Fusion Drive”.  A Fusion Drive is a combination of a small amount of flash storage (used for quickly accessing, opening and running software programs), and a larger amount of traditional hard-drive storage (for storing files such as photographs, videos, and music).

If you opt for the Mini with 2.8GHz, you can add a 2TB Fusion Drive, which is enough storage for the casual photographer.

Here’s how I would configure a Mac Mini for photography use:

  1. 2.8GHz Dual-Core i5 (Turbo-Boost to 3.5GHz)
  2. 16GB 1600MHz LPDDE3 SDRAM (I have no clue whatsoever what LPDDE3 means)
  3. 2TB Fusion Drive
  4. NEC EA275WMI-BK 27″ Widescreen LED Backlit WQHD IPS Monitor ($594.00)

Cost of setup: $1,893.00

THE MACBOOK AIR

All apologies if any of you own or use a MacBook Air.  I mean no disrespect.  But, if you’re in the market for a photography laptop, look elsewhere.

While the MacBook Air is more than capable as a very light and portable machine for generic computer usage (i.e. surfing the web, word-processing, using iTunes, spreadsheets, emailing, Twitter, Facebook, etc…), it is not powerful or sophisticated enough to efficiently handle intensive post-processing of photographs.

The most powerful processor you can stuff in the Air is a gentle 2.2GHz.  A toddler’s abacus has more processing power.  Even more importantly, Apple does not make a Retina display for the Air (the Retina display is Apple’s version of a high-resolution, wide color gamut monitor), making post-processing a nearly impossible task…especially if you’re a stickler for the details, like color fidelity.

If you’re in search of a portable computer to handle the everyday basics in life, the Air is an excellent option.  I’d just stay away from it if you’re a photographer.

If your heart is set in stone on wanting a MacBook Air, this is how I’d configure it for photography:

  1. 13″ Macbook Air
  2. 2.2GHz dual-core i5 processor
  3. 8GB of RAM
  4. 512GB Flash Drive
  5. LaCie 4TB Rugged Mini Portable Hard Drive ($219.99)
  6. Lots of patience  (priceless)
  7. Tums ($1.99)

Cost of MacBook Air Setup:  $1,769.99

THE MACBOOK PRO

The ubiquitous MacBook Pro underwent a major overhaul this past year…the result is a lighter, more powerful, and more versatile laptop with Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C. Thunderbolt 3 is literally twice as fast as Thunderbolt 2…but, unfortunately, Thunderbolt 3 requires a different sort of plug than Thunderbolt or Thunderbolt 2.  Therefore, if you have a bunch of Thunderbolt 2 devices (like I do), you need an adapter to plug them into a Thunderbolt 3 port.

Last year I said the MBP is simply the best photography laptop money can buy, and the quality of the new version has only strengthened my opinion.

The new Retina display has a wider color gamut than the previous MBP, and you can hook up TWO 5k displays (or four 4K displays) via Thunderbolt 3 on the 15 inch.  That’s some serious graphics power for a laptop.

Both the 13 inch and 15 inch versions offer a “Touch Bar” as an option, which replaces the old function buttons at the top of the keyboard.  Technically, the Touch Bar adapts itself to whatever program you’re using, allowing you to customize certain changes with the tap (or slide) of a finger (i.e. screen brightness, volume, etc.).  The Bar is more of a gimmick than a useful tool at this point, but I’m sure it’s likely to catch on in time and become more helpful.

As was the case with the old MBP, a Fusion Drive is not an opinion…you can only get a very fast flash drive for the machine’s internal storage…from 256GB capacity all the way up to a ridiculously expensive 2TB.

The ideal MBP setup for photography:

  1. 15″ MBP with Retina Display
  2. 2.8GHz (turbo boost to 3.8GHz) Quad-Core i7 processor.
  3. 16GB 2133MHz LPDDR3 RAM
  4. 512GB Flash Drive
  5. Radeon Pro 560 with 4GB memory Graphics Card
  6. LaCie 4TB Rugged Mini Portable Hard Drive ($219.99)

Cost of Setup: $2,918.99*

THE IMAC

As I said above, the MacBook Pro is the finest laptop for photography.

Well, the iMac is the finest desktop for photography.  By.  Far.  It recently experienced an upgrade, getting Thunderbolt 3/USB-C, faster processors, and better monitors.  The 21.5 inch model utilizes a 4K display, and the 27 inch has a 5K display with support for a billion colors.  Clearly, Apple had photographers (and videographers) in mind when they upgraded these displays.

If you choose the 27″ iMac, you can opt for a ridiculously fast 4.2GHz Quad-Core processor with turbo up to 4.5GHz.  By comparison, my 4-year-old Mac Pro has a Six-Core 3.5GHz processor with no turbo.  The extra two cores do little, if anything, to improve speed.  For an example…suppose you have a V8 and V6 engine side-by-side.  Obviously, the V8 has two more cylinders.  But, if the V8 has less horsepower and less torque than the V6, which engine would you prefer (if they cost the same)?  When using a computer to drive Lightroom and Photoshop, what matters far more than number of cores is the power of the processor.

The 27″ iMac can drive one external 5K display or two 4K external displays.  So…if you want (and can afford it), you can have two 5K displays (the 27″ iMac itself, plus one external 5K display) sitting right next to each other on your desk.  That’s pretty cool.

Apple offers quite a few different models of the iMac with several different processors.  To be honest, the more expensive and faster processors technically aren’t necessary to drive Lightroom, Photoshop, and/or any other third-party post-processing software you like to use.  While tricked-out iMacs might run a little bit faster…if price is an issue (and when isn’t it?), I would be more than happy with the base processor, and prefer to spend my money on the larger 27″ display and maxed-out RAM.  Next to processing power, nothing helps a computer run more efficiently than adding RAM…and, obviously, the larger display with support for more colors is a great benefit to photographers.

Here’s my recommended iMac:

  1. 27″ iMac with 5K Retina Display
  2. 3.4GHz Quad-Core i5 (Turbo Boost up to 3.8GHz)
  3. 32GB 2400MHz DDR4 RAM
  4. 2TB Fusion Drive
  5. Graphics Card: Radeon Pro 570 with 4GB memory.

Cost of Setup: $2,599.00*

* As you can see in the comparisons above, if you don’t mind using a desktop computer vs. a laptop (and don’t have the need for a portable machine), the 27″ base iMac is not only significantly cheaper than the MBP, it’s faster (more powerful processor with more RAM), with cheaper storage, and a much larger and more advanced monitor.

THE MAC PRO

Darth Vader’s Trash Can. Now a functionally obsolete machine.

Stay away from this catastrophic abomination of a computer like you’d stay away from a Sony Betamax.  If you’re around my age (44) or older, you may remember Betamax.  In the early 80s, it was hailed as the new mainstay for video cassette recorders. Problem was, the video industry never bought into Betamax…they went with VCRs instead.  VCRs won, Betamax lost.  So, anyone with a Betamax basically ended up with a machine that played tapes which no one made.

Unfortunately, I bought into the hype when the funky-looking Mac Pro came out.  Compared to other pro-level desktop computers, the MP is extremely diminutive with no space for internal peripherals…and therefore nearly impossible to make any internal upgrades…but hey, that’s ok because you can add peripherals to it on the outside.  Great, right?  Wrong.

(If it sounds like I’m a little bitter about the Mac Pro, it’s ’cause I am)

Apple tried to revolutionize the professional desktop computer industry…I’ll give them credit for having the guts to try.  To make a computer successful, it needs the industry to buy into it and make processor and graphics card upgrades as they become available.  But that never happened.  The computer industry just snickered at this machine and went on about its business, never offering upgradeable hardware for the Mac Pro.  Newer processors and graphics cards do not exist for the Mac Pro, and they never will.

I can’t even sell it on Ebay.  No one wants one of these things…and who could blame them?

My obsolete Mac Pro. One foot tall, one mountain of regret.

According to Apple, they will be offering a completely redesigned and fully-upgradeable Mac Pro in the distant future…and by “distant” I mean not until at least 2019, in my opinion.  Oh…and Apple publicly admitted the current Mac Pro was not designed properly to be a long-term solution.  Gee…thanks.

Cost of Setup: 4 years of regret.

THE IMAC PRO

Looks like a regular iMac, but it won’t act like one.

When I first read that Apple is coming out with an iMac Pro, I quickly thought to myself, “Finally, here’s my replacement for the cylindrical Mac Pro”.

The iMac Pro is going to be an awesome machine:  A state-of-the-art 8, 10 or 18 core processor that turbos up to 4.5GHz, a Radeon Vega graphics card (that is supposedly up to three times faster than the fastest graphics card in the current iMac), FOUR Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports (and the ability to connect two external 5K displays), an up to 4TB flash solid-state hard drive, an even better monitor than the new 27″ iMac, 10Gb ethernet, and up to 128GB of RAM.

But…the next question you have to ask is: Does a photographer really NEED all of this power to simply catalog, post-process, and print photographs?  The answer is an emphatic “No”.

Then I read what the base price will be, and I laughed.  Supposedly, the iMac Pro will start at over $5,000.00.  So, if I want the base model of one of these, I’d have to fork over the cost of a Leica M Type 262 camera.  No thanks. If I had 5 grand to burn, I’d rather have the camera.

I’ll just stick with my old Mac Pro until it dies, then go for a regular 27″ iMac…but I appreciate the effort, Apple.

The Leica M Type 262. Brand new it’s roughly the same price as the new base iMac Pro.

 

Happy Shooting!

Neutral Density Filters

If you do any work with Neutral Density Filters, here’s a helpful reference chart of exposure times:

For example, let’s say you’re looking for a target exposure time of around 1 minute and have a 10-Stop ND filter with you.

Set your camera and lens up on the tripod for the composition you’re seeking, then dial in your aperture to f/8 (for argument’s sake we’re starting at f/8) in aperture priority mode, lowest ISO, and check to see what your camera recommends for shutter speed (remember, in aperture priority mode, you choose the f-stop and the camera will choose the appropriate shutter speed for the “correct” exposure).

Arbitrarily, say the camera sets the shutter speed at 1/30s.  Looking at the chart above, if you dial back the shutter speed to 1/15 seconds without a filter on, adding the 10-Stop filter will give you the target shutter speed of 1 minute.  You can close down the aperture one stop to f/11, which would increase shutter speed to 1/15s.

Now put the camera in manual exposure mode, and manually focus the shot (auto focus gets weirded out and may not focus properly if you use an ND filter on the front of the lens, so manually focusing before adding the filter is the best way to achieve proper focus). Next, if using a Nikon, you set shutter speed to “Bulb(on a Nikon, selecting “Bulb” means you manually control shutter speed depending on how long you press the shutter release…I don’t know what other camera systems name it).

Finally, you mount the ND filter on the front of the lens, press and hold the remote shutter release for one minute, and you’re done!

Here’s a real-life example of what an ND filter can do for a photograph:  I set up two cameras right next to each other:  A Sigma Quattro DP0, and a Nikon D810 with the Nikon 14-24mm lens at 14mm.

This is a shot taken with the Sigma DP0 Quattro, no filter attached.  This camera has a fixed lens at a full-frame focal length equivalent of 21mm:

I was in aperture priority mode, and the shutter speed was 1/6s at f/22, ISO 100. (Can you see the car in the clouds?)  

The shot below (which is the same one I shared a few weeks ago), used a 5 stop ND filter on the Nikon D810 at 14mm (you can see how much wider the composition is than the 21mm shot above):

Nikon D810, Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 at 14mm, f/22, ISO 64, 78 seconds.  Singh-Ray 5 stop Neutral Density filter.

Both images were taken at exactly the same time.  As you can tell, the clouds were moving pretty quickly that evening…and moving in the same direction (west to east) as the lawn was cut.  Had the clouds been moving in a different direction, it would have made the photograph look geometrically awkward since the clouds wouldn’t have lined up with the mowed grass.

In my experience, Neutral Density Filters have proven to be the single most valuable type of filter I’ve used.  Not only can ND filters allow you to shoot at extremely long exposures which would not be possible without these filters, but an ND filter can also allow the photographer to control depth of field, regardless of the amount of ambient light available.  For example, on a typically bright sunny afternoon, using a fast prime lens wide open (at, say, f/1.4) would be difficult, if not impossible, due to an exceedingly fast shutter speed beyond the capability of the camera’s shutter (usually 1/4000s or 1/8000s).  But, with an ND filter on, you can slow down that exposure, without any loss in image quality…and grab that portrait with a crisply thin DOF.

You can also use an ND filter to remove any moving objects from a scene.  For example, if you’re shooting a waterfall, and there is no possible way you can set up the shot without people walking into your composition…if you use an ND filter to extend the exposure time, any moving objects will literally disappear and become invisible (provided the objects aren’t a source of light, like flashlights or a mirror reflecting the sun). It’s MUCH more efficient to use an ND filter to clean up the scene rather than trying to clone out everything in Photoshop later.

Happy Shooting!

Cloudy Sunset

Nikon D810, Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 at 14mm, f/22, ISO 64, 78 seconds.  Singh-Ray 10 stop Neutral Density filter.

A cloudy sunset from a few days ago in Hunt Valley, MD.  A healthy wind was responsible for causing the motion blur on the trees to the right.

I was testing out the Lee SW150 Mark II filter holder, a contraption which mounts on the front of the lens via an adapter.  The SW150 II allows you to use up to two 150 X 150mm square filters, by sliding the filter into the grooves on the front of the filter holder.

For an explanation of filters, you can check out this article:

https://jebbuchmanphotography.com/2015/04/16/essential-gear-for-a-landscape-shot/

If you want to use a filter with the Nikkor 14-24mm, a filter holder is mandatory due to the large front lens element, which does not allow standard circular filters.

The SW150 II seemed to do a fine job last night.  Used with the Singh-Ray 5 stop ND filter, no significant vignetting or light leakage was noticeable, even at the widest focal length of 14mm.

I used the original SW150 for many years, and the Mark II never version is much easier to assemble and carry.

 

Lee SW150 Mark II filter holder.

Singh-Ray 5 stop Neutral Density filter, 150 X 150mm square version.

 

Happy Shooting!!

Improve the Sound Quality of the Music Played By Your Computer

For any questions, please feel free to email me at: jeb@jebbuchmanphotography.com

 

This post has nothing to do with photography, per se…but if you enjoy playing music through your computer, and have ever wondered about ways to increase the quality of the sound output, read on…

Recently, I’ve taken an interest in attempting to maximize the quality of the music I listen to through my computer, without permanently scarring my wallet.  At my desk, I’ve always used iTunes via my Mac Pro to play music…and when I’m not at my desk, I use an iPod Touch.

I have about 3,000 CDs I’ve acquired over the years, and occasionally I’ve purchased some music through the iTunes store.  A few years ago, I went through the painful process of ripping all of my CDs into iTunes, by using the Macintosh “Superdrive” (which is basically just a bare-bones CD reader/writer with an annoyingly short USB cable):

The Macintosh "Superdrive". There's nothing super about it.

The Macintosh “Superdrive”. There’s nothing super about it.

I had to manually place each one of my CDs into the Superdive, which ripped each CD onto my hard drive in AAC file format.  What’s “AAC” format?  Read on…

I like think about the difference between various types of music files they way I would think about digital photography:  When you take a picture with a digital camera, you can usually choose between creating two different file formats: 1) uncompressed RAW files, or 2) compressed Jpeg files.  Inexpensive digital cameras only allow you to record compressed Jpegs, while more advanced cameras let you choose between RAW files or several different types of compressed file formats, including Jpegs.

Uncompressed RAW files essentially show you exactly what your camera’s sensor saw the moment you took the picture (save for minor adjustments your camera will make).  A Jpeg, however, since it’s compressed, will shave off some of the information contained in the RAW version of the same file.  Jpegs are smaller files, and are therefore significantly more ubiquitous in online media.  They are easier to send, receive, and view, and you can store many more of them on a hard drive than larger RAW files.

But, with that compression, you tradeoff quality.  The quality of the Jpeg depends on how much compression takes place.  A higher quality Jpeg file will shave off less of the information contained in the RAW image than a lower quality Jpeg file.  Obviously, the lower the quality of the Jpeg file, the smaller the footprint of the file on your hard drive.

If you do any kind of editing, cropping, or wish to create large prints, you probably work with RAW files, because they contain more information about the image (i.e. a wider color gamut) than a compressed Jpeg version of the same file.

Digital music files basically work in very much the same manner.  In iTunes, you can choose to rip a CD in uncompressed format (i.e. an “AIFF” file), which essentially creates an exact digital replica of the music on the CD (it’s music’s version of a digital RAW photograph file).  You can also choose a variety of compressed music files (i.e. AAC), which shave off some of the information contained in the music files on the CD in order to create smaller files.  The ever-popular mp3 format is an example of a compressed music file.

An AAC file is sort of similar to a Jpeg in digital photography; they are both compressed versions of the original uncompressed file.  Since an AIFF file is uncompressed, typically it will sound better than the same file saved in AAC format (provided that: 1) the original recording is good enough to hear the difference, and 2) your hardware is capable of playing higher quality, uncompressed music…more on that later).

If you want to really dig into learning about the differences in various audio file formats, check out this article:

http://www.macworld.com/article/3020689/software/everything-you-need-to-know-about-digital-audio-files.html

When I ripped my CDs via iTunes a few years ago, I wasn’t really concerned with the quality of the sound (nor was I aware of the differences between compressed and uncompressed audio files), and chose to rip all my CDs into the compressed AAC format.  Furthermore, whenever you buy music in the iTunes store, you’re purchasing a compressed audio file.  iTunes does not sell uncompressed file formats.

Well, a couple of months ago, when I became interested in extracting more detail and clarity out of my listening experience, I did a lot of research on the various file formats, their advantages and disadvantages, and the hardware/software required in order to help your computer churn out higher quality music files.

I eventually concluded that ripping CDs into an uncompressed format (such as AIFF) will pretty much create the highest quality music file my ear is capable of hearing.  Higher quality uncompressed music files are available for download in online music stores which technically contain more information about the music than a standard music file on a CD. However, there is intense debate over whether the human ear can hear any difference between those better-than-CD quality files, and the exact replica of the same music file on a CD.

So…guess what I decided to do?  I satiated my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder by starting all over again, re-ripping every single one of my CDs on that damn Mac Superdrive, this time recording them in uncompressed AIFF format, instead of compressed AAC format.

Quick side note:  Just like converting RAW files into Jpegs is a one-way street, the same holds true for uncompressed music.  Once you compress a music file (i.e. converting an AIFF file into an AAC file), you cannot reverse the process.  You can’t convert a compressed file back into the original, larger uncompressed file.  Once you shave off that info to compress the file, it’s gone forever. That’s why I had to re-rip all of my CDs.

AIFF files are significantly larger than AAC files, roughly about ten times larger.  Fortunately, the 2 TB Lacie Rugged external hard drive that I used to hold all of my AAC files was still more than enough space needed to hold all the AIFFs:

The Lacie 2TB Rugged external hard drive. It can be yours for around $140.00.

The Lacie 2TB Rugged external hard drive. An excellent, cost-efficient choice for an external storage solution.

After that catastrophically boring process of re-ripping my CDs, I finally had my all of my music saved in the best possible file format for audio quality.  Next up on the agenda was figuring out what hardware I needed to buy in order to process the detail and clarity of the AIFF files…without needing to take out a HELOC on my house.

Basically, there are three very important pieces of hardware required to pump out high quality sound from a computer:  A DAC (Digital Analog Converter), an amplifier, and a set of speakers and/or headphones.

The DAC takes the digital music files and converts them into an analog signal.  Don’t ask me to explain why the DAC is needed, or how it works…because I have no clue…that’s way above my pay grade.  All I know is that a DAC is required if you want high-fidelity sound.  Most Macs (and other types of computers) have a built-in DAC.  Your computer has a built-in DAC if it has a headphone jack…if it does, then congrats, your computer has a DAC.  However, most external DACs do a far better job of processing the digital information than a computer’s internal DAC. The price of external DACs range from under $100 into several-thousand dollar territory.  My search for an acceptable combination of affordable price and good quality led me to the Schiit (yes, Schiit is really the name of the product…I laughed too) Modi 2 Uber DAC, which costs under $200:

The Schiit Modi 2 Uber.

The Schiit Modi 2 Uber.

The amplifier is somewhat self-explanatory:  it takes the analog signal created by the DAC, and amplifies the sound waves.  This not only makes the music louder, but it also enhances the detail and clarity of the audio.  It “cleans up” the sound.  Like the DAC, the price of an amplifier ranges from around $100 into the several-thousand dollar range.  I stuck with Schiit products and purchased the Schiit Magni 2 Uber amp, which also costs under $200:

The Schiit Audio Magni 2 Uber.

The Schiit Audio Magni 2 Uber.

You can purchase Schiit right from the Schiit website:

http://schiit.com

What I really liked about the Modi and Magni is that they are exactly the same small dimensions; stacking them on top of each other was a breeze, making organization of the system extremely simple next to my computer:

The stacked Schiits are to the right of my Mac Pro. To the left is the Mac Superdrive. I hate that thing.

The stacked Schiits are to the right of my Mac Pro. To the left is the Mac Superdrive.

Hooking up the Modi and Magni couldn’t be easier: All you need is a USB cable from your computer into the Modi, and a standard two-prong RCA cable from the Modi into the Magni.  Then, another two-prong RCA cable runs from the Magni into my desktop speakers.  The Magni also has an audio jack if you wish to listen to headphones instead of your desktop speakers.

The desktop speakers I chose are the Audioengine A5+, with the Audioengine S8 subwoofer.  High quality speakers run well into the thousands of dollars (see the trend here?), so I needed something that balanced good quality with a decent price.  A pair of A5+ run $499 on Amazon…and they sound pretty good:

The Audioengine A5+ speakers on my desktop.

The Audioengine A5+ speakers on my desktop, at 7:52 pm.

Like I said previously, when I’m not at my desk, I use an iPod Touch to listen to songs.  To pull more detail and clarity out of the music the iPod plays, I purchased the Chord Mojo portable amplifier.  It’s literally the size of a credit card, and it does a FANTASTIC job amplifying the sound into my headphones:

The Chord Mojo

The Chord Mojo.  It looks like a cheap M&M dispenser, but it’s really an excellent amp.

Last, but definitely not least, are the headphones.  Absolutely no single piece of hardware can improve the sound quality of the music more than a good pair of headphones.  I spent weeks trying to find the ideal set of headphones that balanced affordability with quality.  I settled on the Sennheiser 800.  They aren’t cheap, but I can’t come up with the words to explain how good they sound.  They literally take listening to music up a whole new level for me:

The Sennheiser 800.

The Sennheiser 800.

With the Sennheiser 800, I can actually hear instruments in the background of some songs that I had never been able to pick up before.  And, if the quality of the recording is excellent, I can sometimes actually hear things like the guitarist’s pick pluck (say that fast 5 times) the guitar strings.

If you’re looking for a more sensibly-priced set of headphones, I would recommend the Sennheiser 650.  They are really good, as well.

Now, one very important point I should make is that, regardless of what type of music file you use, and regardless of what hardware you use to listen to the music, if the original recording of the music in the studio wasn’t great, then the music will never sound great.  Great audio equipment is all about fidelity…in other words, all it can do is reproduce the existing sound recorded in the music file.  If the artist wasn’t able to or didn’t want to create a high-quality recording in the studio, then all good equipment can do is faithfully reproduce the sound of the low quality recording.  But, if the artist made a high quality recording in the studio, then good equipment will faithfully reproduce that excellent recording.

Again, I think of it the same way I would a photograph:  A great computer monitor won’t make a poor quality digital image look great…the monitor can only faithfully reproduce the level of quality of the original file.  It’s all about fidelity.

 

Happy Shooting Listening!!

 

La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Cove is a beautifully cozy, small beach surrounded by rocky cliffs in southern California, only a short drive from downtown San Diego.  There’s a park adjacent to the cove, and eccentric shops lined along the streets which pass through La Jolla.

If you’re ever in the San Diego area, I recommend visiting La Jolla…both the town and the cove.

Leica M9 with Leica Summicron 50mm f/2 at f/13, ISO 160, 1/180s.

Late afternoon in La Jolla: Leica M9 with Leica Summicron 50mm f/2 at f/13, ISO 160, 1/180s. Click on the image to view in full-size (5212 x 3468 px).

 

The image below was taken inside the cove, along the western edge of the beach.  I hung out in the cove until after sunset (it’s an awesome place to take in a setting sun), and dropped the tripod down just outside the reach of the relatively peaceful and cooperative tide.  The sun set behind me, which provided almost perfectly warm, diffused lighting of the rocks and beach inside the cove.

I used an ND filter to slow down the exposure to 15 seconds; the long exposure made the ebb and flow of the tide splashing against the rocks look like a soft, foggy mist.

Image was converted to black and white via Adobe Lightroom.  Click on the photograph to view in full-size (7103 x 3503 px):

Nikon D800 with Zeiss Distagon T* 25mm at f/16, ISO 100, 15s. Singh-Ray 5 stop neutral density filter.  Really Right Stuff TQC-14 tripod.

 

Happy Shooting!