Hi all,

I've just returned from Photokina in Cologne, Germany. It was quite an experience. Ten huge buildings, two floors each, full of photo gear, accessories, software, printers, you name it. If it is photographic, it must have been there somewhere.

There was no way I could see the whole thing, but I made it a point to get to the Epson and Canon displays, and they were truly impressive. The new 5D Mark II created a huge buzz, and the G10 did too, on the Point and Shoot front. I salivated over the large format printers, and shed tears over some of the fast L series lenses.

modelOne interesting thing that I haven't seen elsewhere is that several of the companies sponsored models and lighting setups. You could shoot to your heart's consent, no charge, no model release. Here's one I got during the show:

The Microsoft Booth was really quite attractive - very modern and sleek. We had a theater and lounge areas on either end. Between and to the sides there were booths for different Microsoft Imaging technologies. The Pro Photo Tools were featured, as were Expression Media, Office 2008 Media Edition, Windows Home Server, Microsoft Research.

Then in the theater, we had presentations on Pro Photo Tools, PhotoSynth, Deep Zoom and the Yosemite Project, Capture One, Using Capture One and Expression Media to improve your workflow, Image Composite Editor, Windows Live, and many others.

In conjunction with the show, we focused on both Photosynth - which allows you to create 3D composites of a subject or area, and the Microsoft ICE (Image Composite Editor) for incredible panorama stitching. Pro Photo Tools also got quite a bit of attention.

A little more about ICE - No more do you need to carefully calculate your nodal point, level the gatheringcamera, and carefully match the exposure to get a good panorama. It runs as an application on your system, and you can save out in one of several different formats, including common ones like JPEG or TIFF, and more advanced tiled formats like HD View and Silverlight Deep Zoom. ICE makes panoramas easy! I stood in one spot and shot a 360 of the Canon booth - didn't switch to manual exposure; didn't pay any attention to the level of my camera. ICE did a remarkable job stitching them into a single panorama.

Unlike Microsoft ICE, Photosynth runs as a web-based service. The viewer is necessary to explore a synth, but it's a free download. Here is a great video tutorial on how to synth (new verb) http://photosynth.net/howtosynth.aspx. WolfgangEssentially, Photosynth can analyze similarities between hundreds of images of the same item or place, taken by one photographer or many. Then it builds a 3-D model of that, and you can move around the scene, zoom in and out, and truly get the experience of being there. Relive a vacation, or visit a distant place you have always wanted to see.

HomeServer

Another fascinating theater session was the Deep Zoom Yosemite Project... Combining panorama with Silverlight, Microsoft - in conjunction with the park service and several other sponsor companies - photographed the entire Yosemite Valley in a single hour. It required months of planning and many volunteer teams, but the results are starting to come in, and they are fantastic! One complete side of the valley is now stitched together, and the other side is in process. You can dig into some of the composite panoramas here. You can also download the Deep Zoom composer here.

The area around Cologne is absolutely beautiful. We took a drive down the Rhine Valley to the south, and shot some castles. Toured one - quite a climb up from the roadside! But it was well worth it. Then at night, we did a couple of trips over to the river - just on the other side of the Fair - and shot castle the Cologne Cathedral and railroad bridge at night. I know every photographer who ever went to Cologne has the same shots, but now I have them, too.

All in all a great trip, good reception for Expression Media and Capture One as partners in photographic workflow. This brings me to the big announcement... Phase One and Microsoft have joined forces - Capture One limited edition, and Expression Media 2 are now available in a bundled package. Current Capture One users can purchase Expression Media 2 for 79 Euro, or 119 US Dollars through the Phase One site. Windows or Mac - a great deal!

Capture One is simply the best RAW processor I've ever seen. You can make several adjustments to an image and then selectively apply some of them to any number of additional images. The controls for RAW processing are intuitive and very powerful. In many (most) cases, processing in Capture One and saving out as uncompressed TIFF is all I need to do.

Expression Media doesn't do a good job of editing - Capture One doesn't do a great job at image organization and catalogs. Together we've got the workflow pretty well sown up.