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Frank Field Photography's Digital Darkroom

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About Frank Field Photography 

Frank Field of Frank Field Photography specializes in capturing landscapes from coastal Northern California. He spends a lot of his time capturing the beauty of coastal areas along California's historic Highway 1 which includes parts of Marin, Mendocino and Sonoma counties. Frank took an interest in landscape photography back in the late 1960s when he backpacked across the White Mountains of New Hampshire. 


Frank finished school and spent his career as an electrical engineer, working as an R&D leader managing the development of high performance data communications networks and other internet-related projects. His retirement has provided him with ample time to devote to his love of photography and the coasts of California. 

Frank had a laptop that was 5-years old, but he wanted a system that provided ample storage and performance today, yet could be expanded as his needs changed in the future. 

Challenges: 

  • Finding a machine that could capably act as his digital darkroom. 
  • Configuring a machine that would optimally run Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom. 
  • Finding a machine that could organize and process tens of thousands of large RAW files. 
  • Building a system that could expand to meet his storage and RAM requirements.

"I considered rolling my own system but frankly did not want to take on the system integration job that one inevitably faces. I want my available time to go into photography!"

The Solution 

In order to meet Frank's requirements, Puget Systems built a Puget Systems Serenity. The Serenity is crafted around the compact Silverstone SG10 chassis which takes up less space than a traditional case while allowing for flexible storage and expansion options. 

In order to provide Frank optimal performance across Lightroom and Photoshop, we began with the Intel Core i7 6700k 4.0GHz. This quad-core CPU provides fast exporting of images, but most actions within Lightroom are single-threaded so the higher clock speed provides optimal overall performance. Both Lightroom and Photoshop support GPU acceleration which means your video card choice will impact performance. For this reason, we added the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 GPU to his system.  

Working with large RAW files means having enough RAM is crucial. We went with 16GB of Crucial DDR4-2133, but Frank has room to upgrade to 64GB if his future work requires it. We also gave the Serenity a fast Samsung 850 EVO 500GB SSD boot drive. This allows Frank enough room to run his programs and projects on this fast SSD. We then added a Western Digital Red 2TB for long-term storage and archiving.  

The end result is a complete digital darkroom solution that's quiet, powerful and expandable. Puget Systems built a system tailored to Frank's needs, putting his money towards a solution that's optimized to his work flow within Photoshop and Lightroom without adding unneeded complexity and cost on components he wouldn't utilize. 

Why Puget Systems? 

In Frank's words: 

"I started my search looking at the major vendors. I was surprised at the inflexibility the offered. I found largely fixed configurations with limited options to customize. I found a few systems that came close to meeting my needs. But all came up short of my needs. I was delighted to find Puget Systems. The website has a trove of useful information (e.g. on the performance needs of applications like Lightroom and Photoshop). The compact Serenity desktop system’s physical size is perfect for my work-space. The machine is whisper quiet. I was able to configure a machine that fully met my needs today while allowing for all the future growth. The machine was professionally assembled, packaged and arrived in pristine condition.

Yes, the Puget custom system was a bit more money than the closest system from the major vendors. But, for a price premium of 10% to 15% from what I could see, I have a system that does not compromise my needs today and supports future growth. Any of those compromise systems would lead to early upgrade to another new system, more than wiping out any apparent savings in initial cost." 

Responsive technical support is also important to Frank. Early on, a WiFi card was giving him some trouble, but support was able to resolve the issue. 

"The tech support people sunk their teeth into the problem and wouldn't let go until they had a solution." 

Q & A with Frank Field

Q: Tell me about Frank Field Photography. How did you get started and what drew you to photography? 

I first began to photograph the landscape in the late 1960s. I was back-packing extensively in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and wanted to record some of the extraordinary scenery. As I left university and became highly engaged in my profession as an electrical engineer, I had less time available for photography. The latent interest remained across all those years and now in retirement I have been able to devote considerable time and energy pursuing photography as an avocation.

Q. What are some of your earliest memories of taking pictures. Did your parents have a camera they let you use? Do you recall the make/model? 

My early mountain photography was done with a Kodak Instamatic camera – the most popular consumer camera of the day. These cameras generally had fixed focus (much like today’s smartphones) and produced a square-format image on film about 26mm on edge. I used slide film and projected images on the wall.

Q: Your black and white photography of the Sea Ranch is stunning. What is it about monochrome shots that you find appealing? 

Thank you for your kind comment! Monochrome photography is the classic medium for fine-art images. Removing color helps to emphasize shapes and textures while producing an image that can be somewhat to highly abstract. Textures, shapes and abstraction are qualities I aim to capture in much of my photography, both work I show in color and the “black and white” work. Unlike the days of film where the choice of film dictated black and white or color, nearly all of today’s digital cameras capture images in color and the conversion to monochrome is done after the fact on the computer. This opens ranges of interpretations that were very difficult or not possible in the days of film.

Q. Tell me a little about the equipment you use. Do you prefer a specific camera body or enjoy a certain lens? 

I shoot Nikon DSLR cameras exclusively. About a year ago, I started to shoot “full frame” (sensor size 36mm x 24mm equaling 35 mm film) Nikon bodies. Cameras like these are the result of 20 years of evolution of digital photography. The industry moved beyond the quality of film some time ago and we can now routinely capture images over ranges of light and contrast that were unthinkable in the days of film. I use a variety of Nikon lenses, both fixed-focal length prime lenses and zoom lenses. I prefer prime lenses but there are places like the ocean bluff-edge where I cannot zoom with my feet!  I do most of my photography at focal lengths of 24mm to 100mm or moderate wide angle through normal to short telephoto.

Q. For someone just getting started with photography, what are a couple of tips you'd give them based on your experience? 

First, keep it simple. Even entry-level DSLRs produce images of exceptional quality. It is the photographer, not the camera, that dictates the quality of the image. If the beginner over-buys a camera, he or she can be overwhelmed with more camera than a new photographer can reasonably use.

Second, get out and shoot images and shoot more images. Use your computer and an application like Adobe’s Lightroom to examine and optimize your images and learn from your experiences. With digital imaging, we have rapid feedback, near zero-cost to shoot additional images, and there is no better way to grow your abilities as a photographer.

Q. How do you feel the internet has enhanced your business? Do you learn from certain photographers or communities you've found online?

There is a world of aesthetic and technical information literally at our finger tips. I have come to know the work of several fine European and Asian landscape photographers I might never have seen without the internet. There are sites dedicated to different genres of photography (landscapes, portraits, wedding, etc.). There are sites dedicated to various brands of cameras (for Nikon devotees, for Canon devotees, etc.). The internet is today’s medium for sharing images; costs of physical printing and distribution have led to seemingly fewer and fewer books dedicated to the fine-art aspects of photography.

Q. What role does your computer play in your work? What tools and/or software do you work with? 

The computer is the heart of today’s “digital darkroom” for organizing, optimizing, printing and sharing images. It is also the storage facility for our images; the growing capability of today’s cameras has produced a never-ending need for more and more storage capacity. Single raw image files from the camera are 25 to 50 Mega Bytes (before processing which can lead to files multiples of that size) and most of us end up with catalogs of tens of thousands of images.

Like most photographers, Adobe’s Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC are my key applications. Both benefit from added computing power, expanded RAM and a better video card. There are several other specialty applications I use but it’s this pair of Adobe applications that drive my computing and storage needs.

Are you a photographer who spends your days in Photoshop and Lightroom? You can configure a system of your own today.