Google Makes Nik a Free Download (…for those who don’t know the original Nik plugins were the “cat’s meow”)

B&W conversion using Silver Efex Pro 2

B&W conversion using Silver Efex Pro 2

Final edit includes adjustments performed using Color Efex Pro 4, Tonal Contrast, Pro Contrast and more.

Final edit includes adjustments performed using Color Efex Pro 4, Tonal Contrast, Pro Contrast and more.

As many photographers may have heard Google has just made the Nik Collection a “free” download. Many photographers already know about the Nik plugins, however I personally have met many photographers who never heard of Nik plugins, even after Google acquired the Nik collection from Nik. I guess I was naïve to have thought everybody knew what they were. I have been using Nik for many years now. I had purchased Color Efex Pro 3 and Silver Efex Pro 2 from Nik and then after Google acquired them one day out of the clear blue I received an email from Google giving me a link to download the whole collection and this in turn moved me up to Color Efex Pro 4. Google stated because I was a current Nik Customer they were dishing out the love and it really was a beautiful day for sure.

Now real quick for those who don’t know the original Nik plugins were the “cat’s meow” especially Color Efex Pro and Silver Efex Pro.

I fell in love with Silver Efex Pro 2 (SEP2) for making black & white conversions. Although I have several methods for making B&W images SEP2 is by far the best and most creative. I love my color images, but at the same time I can get lost in playing with SEP2. Most important to me when working with images that have a face, is being able to see the zone mapping so I can apply my personal recipe for zone mapping human skin. I’m not going to go into all the details about the zone system, but for those who know about Ansel Adam’s zone system… well you know what I’m talking about.

Most important (in my opinion) is that if you want to create amazing black & whites you need to first create a great color image and then move into SEP2. So for those of you who have Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom, you need to get these plugins and get started learning how to use them. For me… if you asked me to choose one tool or plugin for Photoshop and nothing else. Hands down the Nik collection would be my choice, mainly Color Efex Pro.

Another source that increased my wanting for using SEP2 was famed photographer Vincent Versace’s book “From Oz to Kansas” but you must first read “Welcome to Oz” because it is all about making cinematic edits that can stop at being beautiful color images or… move to the next book “From Oz to Kansas” and that is taking those awesome color edits and moving to black& white. The books truly are worth reading, however so many people I meet who want to call themselves a “photographer” want instant gratification and reading a book is just too much trouble, or so it seems. Sometimes I will mention that I learned “this or that” technique from a book I read and I get looked at like I have two heads.  I want to be the best photographer I can be and when I look at anybody who has ever succeeded at anything I many times see people who know their craft inside and out and many will tell you that part of knowing your craft is studying the people who have traveled the road before you. When you think about it it’s a “no brainer,” but seems many have no brains. Every photographer out there in this big ole world wants better images and the Nik collection will get you closer to that holy grail, but do yourself a favor and read a book or take a class that is written or taught by a true master of the trade/art. Fuck those stupid Facebook advertisements and find somebody who is a master. I live in NYC/Philly area and when I know Joe McNally or Cliff Mautner or Lindsay Adler are in town speaking or teaching… well you bet your last dollar I’m gonna be there. And those are just a few of the masters photography has to offer.

So down load the Nik collection from Google and let your creativity move of to the next level. I did!

Window of Doom

1/320 sec at f/5.0 ISO 50 200mm Model Melina Martin

1/320 sec at f/5.0 ISO 50 200mm Model Melina Martin

In a place where dreams are all you have and your soul is never free.
You hold your sins as though you are a king in a world so far away.
Time stands still and the hours reach to kill you.
Mortals bow to you if only in your dreams.
Light from above shines on your face as your memory fades away.
Time will be the only key in a sea of lost faces.
Walls of stone no one adores you.
A castle of doom with no glory.
Guards stand tall watching above you.
Waiting for the key of time to let you walk away. (Model Melina Martin )

Melina Martin at ESP (…let’s shoot our way out of this prison)

1/30 sec at f/2.8 ISO 1600 70 Lindsay Adler Lightroom preset “Dark Memory”


Model Melina Martin looked fabulous on Tuesday evening for the third and final photo shoot at Eastern States Penitentiary. Yes it was hot and very humid, but we made our way through the old shambles of the penitentiary and captured some nice images. Miss Martin is new and still learning and that is why I asked her to do this shoot. I wanted to give the young lady camera time and really just a chance to work with here again. I shot with her back in the spring time and she was amazing.

So as we entered inside of the walls at of ESP we started at a location I have not used before. I have always wanted to shoot around the old greenhouse, which by the way is in very good condition. I also found a second gate that has a medical cross on it. Located next to the greenhouse it must have been another entrance to the medical ward. The first well-known gate with a cross is located just off of the central rotunda in what would be numbered “Cell Block 3” but as  you head down that corridor about 50 feet you come to a locked gate with a medical cross the has remnants of red & white paint. This as I was always told was the main entrance to the medical area also known as “Cell Block 3”.

Crazy I know but the more I visit this creepy place the more I get to know it… and yes there is always the creep factor when I’m inside the walls of this 11 acre wasteland. The creepiness starts to rise when you have idle time and stop and actually look at any one particular thing. But I think the most intense feelings (for me personally) are stirred up when I walk through the earliest built cell blocks like #1 and #4. Just to think of that concept that once you (the prisoner) entered the cell block and walked into your cell that is where you stayed for the duration of your sentence, in that cell and the tiny court-yard located off the back off the cell. You had one hour a day in the court-yard and the walls are so high all you can see is the sky. And then someone will speak or make a loud noise and you come back to the reality that you here for a photo shoot. But it’s that short time you drift away that you think about the pain of that prisoner living a life of immense solitude. And I also think that maybe it was a fitting punishment for his crime. How many people did he murder? Or was it rape? Did he kill children? Yeah lots of crazy thoughts as I walk through that creepy old place. And then all of a sudden we stop walking and we’re at a shoot location and my mind comes back to f/ stops and ISO settings.

So for this day I used my all-time favorite window location at cell block 3, but I ran into technical problems with my radio flash and not having a lighting assistant of this day was really making me… well let’s just say “troubled” although I can think of a lot worse four letter words to use here. So I sent Melina off to change wardrobe as I worked out the issue and the issue turned out to be a controller not properly fitted to the camera’s hot shoe. Such a simple fix… after you replace speedlite batteries (that were ok to start with), change flash units and maybe ten other things… then you notice the controller is just not quite mounted correctly… duh!

I found a new location under a stairway that had a lot of crackled paint and that made for some nice shots, but very crowded area and that made for a lot of distractions. So at this point I said to Melina “Ok, I think we’re pretty much done for the night, but let’s shoot our way out of this prison, we’ll find other places to shoot as we work our way back to the exit.” And with that statement she busted out in laughter and I had no idea what she was laughing at. She said “shoot our way out of this prison that is so funny.” Then I started to laugh too. It did sound funny when you think about it.

So as we started to so-called “shoot our way” back to the exit I stopped at the junction where cell blocks 8 & 9 separate. There was very nice window light, soft and pleasing natural light. This is where we finished up the shoot and then headed back out through the main gate to Fairmount Avenue.

I look forward to next year.


1/160 sec at f/3.5 ISO 50 155mm

1/160 sec at f/8.0 ISO 50 70mm

1/160 sec at f/8.0 ISO 50 70mm

Final Shoot at ESP for 2015 (…it looks as if heat & humidity will be the arch nemesis.)

1/30 sec f/3.2 ISO 100 160mm

1/30 sec f/3.2 ISO 100 160mm

Tomorrow August 18th will complete the summer photo shoots at Eastern States Penitentiary in Philadelphia. As I have posted in the past these shoots are really a lot of fun because it presents a challenge. Like always there is the challenge of light or the lack of. And again this month it looks as if heat & humidity will be the arch nemesis. June’s shoot was a real sweat box of a time while July wasn’t quite as bad, but tomorrow is going to be… well let’s just say I’ll have a Gatorade IV hooked to my arm. Flying solo with no lighting assistant it will be just me and Miss Martin. Melina Martin will be my model and I am really looking forward to our time together. While Junes’ focus fell on straight beauty in a vintage dress and then July found me capturing images of the amazing tattooed Bree Arkham, August will have me photographing pure ebony beauty at its best.

So let’s see what happens… something always happens… good or bad something always happens.

Meet Melina Martin model/actress (I found the town had been overrun with white legs… everywhere. )


1/100 sec f/3.2 ISO 100 200mm

Melina Martin 1/100 sec f/3.2 ISO 100 200mm

Meet Melina Martin Philly based model/actress. I think we’ll see a lot more from Melina in the future. Her test shoot went very well. She has lots of confidence, eager to learn and a warm easy-going personality. We enjoyed the warm spring afternoon as it was perfect for an outdoor shoot. Not too hot, not too cold and no bugs lol. I intended to shoot around Lambertville and do a “street walk” style shoot. This style shoot will really test the model if she is new because she will be right out where people can see her. Crazy I know, but it can really produce some nice images with a “Street Photography” style to them. I don’t do this with just any model, but when they are studying acting as Melina is, most can handle it. I use my classic line “are you nervous” (they always say yes) then I say “so act like you’re a model doing a model shoot.” And really it most times makes them laugh, it also makes them think “this photographer is an asshole” but I always win them over with humor.

However on this day I did not get to use my classic line. I went to scout the town in the morning and I found the town had been overrun with white legs… everywhere. There were white leg cyclists, white leg joggers, white leg walkers and because the weather was nice and being a somewhat touristy town… essentially the town was crowded. Crowded to the point I was uncomfortable and this was two hours before Melina was due to arrive from Philadelphia. So I said nix nix and we went two miles north to the next river town of Stockton. What a beautiful little town, named after one of our forefathers Richard Stockton I love this place… plus I grew up just outside of Stockton so I guess I’m biased to say the least. But I really did want to shoot in Lambertville because it has a lot of character… and it has a lot of characters wandering the streets lol.

So we captured our images at the old Prallsville Mill at the north end of Stockton. A few fishermen and fisher boys and a few dog walkers, not too many people around. Some music broke out at one point when a band started up and we just headed to a private out-of-the-way area by the old quarry house and finished in the old quarry house/office after Melina had noticed the door was unlocked. So in the end we had a great shoot with good weather and nobody to bother us. Now off to the edits.


Thanks so much and have a great day.

1/30 sec f/3.2 ISO 100 160mm

1/30 sec f/3.2 ISO 100 160mm (not bad for a slow shutter speed)