June 2006 Archives

TSA Approved Lock

Travelers to and from the United States have to deal with the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) when checking luggage. One of the post-911 rules is that bags cannot be locked. This presents a problem for photographers who have more equipment than they can carry onboard.

There is a solution. You can use TSA-approved luggage locks that have a combination for you and a key slot that only TSA officials have the key for. This prevents snooping in your bags by non-security handlers. If the bags are inspected by TSA personnel, an indicator on the lock turns from green to red letting you know the bags have been opened.

I don't recommend that you pack valuable gear in bags that you check. But if you must, consider these locks as an extra layer of protection.

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Sony DSC H2

Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-H2 is the main competitor to Canon's highly rated PowerShot S3 IS. Both cameras have been reviewed on DPReview, so we can now compare apples to apples from the same reviewer.

DPReview really likes the Sony H2, giving it a highly recommended rating and a slight edge over the PowerShot S3. One of the deciding factors was the $100-less price tag, making it a better value for the buck.

I'm disappointed that Sony also decided not to include RAW mode with this camera. If they had, I would have recommended it over the S3. But as it stands right now, I have to say that it comes down to personal preferences. Both cameras are solid, and you almost have to hold each of them to decide which one is for you.

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Screenshot Fun with SnapNDrag


Seems like I always need to capture something off my screen. Mac OS X has built-in tools to take these pictures, but they're rather primitive. On my new MacBook Pro, I've been using SnapNDrag. It's free, runs on both PowerPCs and Intel Macs, and is a joy to use.

The problem with the built-in screen capture on the Mac -- SHIFT-CMD-3 for full screen and SHIFT-CMD-4 for selected area -- is that you don't have any real controls for after you make the capture. You can open the image in Preview and change the format, but it's a little cumbersome. And it seems that whenever I need to make a screen capture, I'm in the middle of a project and in a hurry.

SnapNDrag gives you many more options. In addition to the selection tool and full screen capture, SnapNDrag provides you with a handy Window capture, which is very convenient for taking pictures of menus and dialog boxes. You can choose your image format -- Jpeg, Png, Gif, or Tiff -- at the time of capture, and even scale the image based on four presets -- 100, 75, 50, or 25 percent. Plus, it just works great.


A handy companion for SnapNDrag is EasyCrop. You can trim your screenshot (or any other image you have), rotate it, scale to any percentage, and set the quality. If you buy EasyCrop for $11.95, you get the upgraded Pro version of SnapNDrag for free.

Both SnapNDrag and EasyCrop are nimble image tools that I use a lot, especially when I want to work quickly.

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Section 8

The techniques used to create 30 Miles East of LA are very simple using basic software. The movie has 3 tracks: video (created in FotoMagico), music, and voiceover (both tracks added in iMovie HD). In this podcast, I talk about how the project began 2 years ago when I digitized the 20 year-old tapes of the band's music. I then began collecting and scanning the visuals, and even returned to Southern California to photograph the locations where the band performed 2 decades ago.

If you're interested in saving some of your old cassette tapes, you may want to read the article, Five Fun Ways to Play with Audio Hijack Pro. It describes how to use Audio Hijack to convert analog tapes to digital files.

Listen to the Podcast

Now that I've piqued your curiosity, it's time to listen to today's audio show titled, "The Making of 30 Miles East of LA." You can download the podcast here (29 minutes).

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Knock-Out Punch

Eight featured slideshows that are as distinctive as the artists themselves... One photographer used this medium to bring his heritage to life, while others relived vacations or captured the rhythm of everyday events. One entrant created a movie to promote his photography studio. Still others shared life's drama, such as a balmy evening of boxing in Texas, or a garage band's road to local fame. These are just a few of life's tales vividly captured in the entries featured in the FotoMagico Slideshow Showcase.

You can watch each of these presentations, read about the techniques and software the artists used, and consider if any of these approaches might help you better share your images with the world. So sit back, turn up your speakers, and take a trip to the movies, digital story style.

Grab Shot 44 - "Ice Cream"

Ice Cream

"This is one of my favorite portraits of my son," said Frank Blanco. "His team had won the baseball game that day, and I had promised him lunch at a restaurant. He ordered, among other things, a chocolate shake. I think it made him even happier than winning the game."

Frank used a Nikon D100 set to ISO 200. The flash was turned off and the camera was in Aperture Priority mode @ f-5.6. Shutter speed was 1/20th.

If you have an interesting candid you'd like to share, take a look at our Submissions page, then send us your Grab Shot. If we publish it, you'll receive an ultra cool custom carabineer keychain.

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Pentax K100D

Pentax's new K100D DSLR is compatible with any lens that Pentax has ever produced. This is intriguing news for fans of the traditional Pentax K1000, which was the outrageously popular camera for beginning photographers during the 1980s.

In your closet right now you might have the components to build a formidable digital system. The Pentax K100D is an affordable ($699 with 18-55mm lens) 6.1 megapixel DSLR featuring shake reduction technology, 11-point auto focus, 2.5" LCD, and a stainless-steel chassis that is built to last (much in the same way its predecessor the K-1000 stood the test of time).

If you have Pentax lenses stashed away, you might want to further investigate this camera. It's a handsome body with plenty of modern bells and whistles that enables you to use some of your favorite glass from the past. Nice move Pentax!

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Apple has release updates to iPhoto 6 and to Aperture. Both of these updates are available via Software Update (under the Apple menu) or downloadable from their respective support pages.

New goodies in iPhoto 6.0.4 include a variety of new Greeting Card and Postcard themes for use with Apple print services, including invite and thank you card designs for summer parties, weddings, birthdays, etc.

Aperture improvements seem more under the hood dealing with overall reliability and performance. I downloaded both of the updates they are running fine on my Mac. You'll need some bandwidth however. The Aperture update is 14.2 MBs and the iPhoto 6 download is 36.4 MBs.

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temple of knowledge

"The Main Reading Room at the Library of Congress is a temple of knowledge," says Tom Bridge, "but photography is generally prohibited. I did managed to sneak this one shot of the ceiling, and I thought it was particularly cool."

Tom used a Canon PowerShot S410 in Program mode (1/50th @ f-2.8)

If you have an interesting candid you'd like to share, take a look at our Submissions page, then send us your Grab Shot. If we publish it, you'll receive an ultra cool custom carabineer keychain.

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Derrick Enters the iLifeZone


I've officially entered the iLifeZone. It's a new audio show produced by Pixel Corps, hosted by Scott Bourne, and joined by Chris Breen. The three of us are getting together three times a month at the Pixel Corps studio in San Francisco to talk about all things Macintosh.

The first show, which is available in iTunes Music Store, covers streaming full length movies via Front Row, iPhoto and GarageBand tips, and the latest in Mac news. We're quite the trio of individuals, and when you put us together in the same studio, I think the chemistry is great.

You might want to enter the iLifeZone yourself...

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Levels Histogram

How do you build a basic image processing workflow with the tools you already have? It's quite easy and involves only a few steps. This workflow might not be as convenient as what you'd enjoy in a contained environment, such as with Aperture, Lightzone or Adobe's Lightroom, but you don't have to spend the dollars either.

This podcast covers the following steps:

  • Upload your images
  • Crop to improve composition
  • Adjust exposure using levels command (see illustration above for example of good levels settings)
  • Correct the white balance
  • Sharpen using Unsharp Mask

You don't have to spend more time managing your images on your computer than you did capturing them in the first place. I'll show you how to work more efficiently.

Listen to the Podcast

Now that I've piqued your curiosity, it's time to listen to today's audio show titled, "Image Editing Workflow." You can download the podcast here (32 minutes).

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Raw Photography with Older Cameras

Canon G2 Black

One of the things I like about my older Canon PowerShot G2 is that is supports Raw as well as Jpeg. This used to be common with advanced amateur models such as the G1 and G2, but these days you often have to buy a digital SLR to get Raw support.

Of course Raw photography isn't any fun unless you have a good application to interpret the files. I remember (way back when) struggling with Canon's software to process my Raw files... probably why I decided that Raw was only for special occasions. But now I can have my Raw and convenience too. Adobe's new photo workflow application, Lightroom, supports many of those older cameras that could capture Raw, including my black PowerShot G2. (You can see the entire list of supported models on the Adobe Labs site.)

I guess this is the modern version of nostalgia -- I really enjoy grabbing the G2 (it has a very smart custom leather case like cameras of yesteryear) on my way out the door, knowing that I have a fast f-2 lens, full manual controls, vari-angle LCD screen, hot shoe, and yes, Raw format. It even uses the same batteries as my state of the art Canon 5D DSLR.

When I return home, I can process my 4-megapixel Raw files with the beta 3 version of Lightroom. And they look great. It's old meets new. And it's a lot of fun.

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Grab Shot 42 - "Hotel Cancun"

Cancun Hotel

I've been to Cancun a couple of times recently," said Brian Davenport, "and really love the excursions. I always find something to photograph down there."

"This one kinda surprised me though, it was right there at the hotel, no travel needed! I was taking a tour of the grounds shortly after we arrived... getting the kinks out of my legs after the flight. I discovered this impressive architecture down one of the paths between the hotel buildings. It immediately caught my eye. I shot this scene in different lighting throughout the week. I like how this particular image turned out."

Brian used a Canon Digital Rebel XT, Sigma 18-200 3.5-6.3 DC lens, f8 @ 1/40, ISO 100, tripod mounted.

If you have an interesting candid you'd like to share, take a look at our Submissions page, then send us your Grab Shot. If we publish it, you'll receive an ultra cool custom carabineer keychain.

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Pro Shooter Shares Travel Tips


Have you ever wondered how professional photographers prepare for trips to exotic (and sometimes hazardous) locations? In the article Travel Advice for Photographers, pro shooter Ed Carreon shares tips from his years of experience. Regardless if your next adventure is a safari in Africa or a family vacation in Hawaii, I'm sure you'll glean some gems from Ed's advice.

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Peephole Fisheye Lens
Photo by Make Magazine

Here's a new thing to do with your compact camera: hold a peephole viewer to the front lens for "do it yourself" fisheye view of the world. (Peephole viewers are available at any hardware store for cheap.) The creative folks at Make Magazine demonstrate their spin on the concept based on a paper by H. G. Dietz at the University of Kentucky.

The Make Magazine version is simple. Hold the peephole viewer in place and take a picture. This gives you a superwide view of the world. (Thanks to Phil and the crew for posting this cool idea.) Mr. Dietz goes into more detail about this technique and discusses mounting the viewer on a variety of cameras.

If you want to go the other direction and create a super-telephoto for your compact, take a look at our earlier post on digiscoping.

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New Lightroom Beta Available

Inside Lightroom

I've been testing the new Adobe Lightroom Public Beta 3 on a new Intel MacBook Pro and am impressed with the application's performance. There are also many UI refinements from Beta 2, including a new module: Web.

That's where I started experimenting. The Web templates are quite attractive, although you don't have much flexibility with them yet. There are 3 presets -- HTML gallery, Exif metadata, and Flash gallery. You have two options for exporting: Save to your hard drive or upload to your web server. You can enter your FTP settings directly in Lightroom saving you a couple steps.

The code Lightroom generates is XHTML compliant and looks fairly clean. It uses CSS and JavaScript to perform much of its appearance and navigation magic. I really liked how my generated site performed in both Safari and Firefox.

The Develop module also received some attention. You now have additional tools above the filmstrip -- most notably a Before/After view, which is really handy while image editing. There are RGB value readouts too.

A member from The Digital Story community, Jeremey Barrett, has published first impressions of Beta 3 on his weblog. You might want to take a look.

One final note: still no official word on the Windows version yet. For now, the beta is only Mac. But you can sign up to be notified as soon as the Windows beta is ready.

"Shutter Priority" - Podcast 36


Shutter Priority mode is often overlooked in favor or Program and Aperture Priority. But there are many situations where this forgotten mode comes in handy. Today, I discuss using shutter priority to control the appearance of water, freeze action in sports photography, create unique effects with panning, and for controlling the background when using the flash.

In the shot above, I used a fast shutter speed (1/500th) to freeze the action of the breaking wave and capture the mist in the air. If I had wanted a different effect, such as a more ethereal look, then I could mount the camera on the tripod and set the shutter to 1/15th or longer (1/10 or even 1/4). This is a good situation where using Shutter Priority can help you capture the shot you want -- whether it's frozen motion or soft flowing textures.

Listen to the Podcast

Now that I've piqued your curiosity, it's time to listen to today's audio show titled, "Shutter Priority." You can download the podcast here (29 minutes).

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Zoom Effect

If you're in the mood for a little photo amusement, give BeLight's Image Tricks a spin. This Universal Binary application (that's absolutely free) works on both PowerPC and Intel-based Macs running OS X. It taps the power of Core Image to arm you with an array of special effects for your photos.

I applied the "zoom blur" effect to this image capture in Silicon Valley. The effect transformed a pleasant, but not exceptional photo, into something far more dynamic. I could have selected from any number of transformations, including bump distortion, circular splash, glass distortion, and more. Plus I have nuts and bolts adjustments such as unsharp mask, exposure, gamma, hue, white point, monochrome, and others. There's even a nifty cropping tool and image resizer.

If all of that isn't enough, I can also use the image generator to create my own patterns for backgrounds and textures. Some of the most interesting ones require an upgrade to the Pro version, but that's still only $9.95.

Image Tricks is a terrific tool for creating new looks for your old pictures. Yes, you can use it as a standard image editor, but its real charm is how it encourages the child that just wants to play.

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Grab Shot 41 - "Jet Landing"


"A few months ago, I was at a model airplane meet in the Los Angeles area," said Allen Rockwell. "All of the radio controlled models were turbine powered. I was impressed by their realism. Here's one that I captured on a landing approach."

The photo was taken with a Canon 30D and a 100-400mm IS lens at 400mm. Processing was in Apple Aperture, Photomatix Pro (for HDR processing), and Photoshop CS2.

If you have an interesting candid you'd like to share, take a look at our Submissions page, then send us your Grab Shot. If we publish it, you'll receive an ultra cool custom carabineer keychain.

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Olympus 720 SW

Here's an interesting camera for summer activities: the Olympus Stylus 720 SW. This very pocketable point and shoot is immerse-able in water as deep as 10' for as long as an hour. And it can take a licking too -- up to a 5' drop -- and still keep taking pictures. On top of that, it's kind of cute.

If you're looking for a tough little camera that can survive the rigors of summer activities, you might want to take a closer look. The 720 SW has a 7.1 MP sensor, 2.5" LCD monitor, 3X optical zoom, 28 preset shooting modes, uses xD-Picture Card, has 19.1 MB of internal memory that lets you shoot even when your media card is full, and comes with a Li-Ion rechargeable battery and charger.

The 720 SW has ISO settings for 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1600, but I don't recommend going above 400 except when absolutely necessary to get the shot. You can capture video and sound with the QuickTime movie mode at a maximum quality of 640x480 at 15 fps.

The Olympus Stylus 720 SW is available online at Amazon for about $360.

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Cruise View

I often refer to The Digital Story as a virtual camera club. Indeed, an online meeting place for the exchange of ideas is a beautiful thing, and I know many of you agree. But there are times when working face to face in an exotic location is the ultimate photography experience. I have such an opportunity coming up at the end of October, and you can join me if you wish.

I've put together a digital photography workshop with my friend Ben Long, and we're taking it on the high seas to the Western Caribbean. This Geek Cruise (Oct. 28 - Nov. 4, 2006) features stops in Key West, Florida; Belize City, Belize; Sano Tomoas De Castillo, Guatemala; and Cozumel, Mexico. The sailing begins and ends in Tampa, Florida. What's extra special about this trip is that we have a full-fledged photography workshop included in the trip. Here's a quick overview of the topics we'll cover.

  • Location Shooting Techniques
  • Introduction to Shooting RAW in the Field
  • Introduction to Adobe Bridge and Photoshop Workflow
  • Introduction to the iPhoto 6 and Photoshop Elements 4 Workflow
  • Introduction to the Aperture Workflow
  • Photography Clinic
  • Exposure Techniques for Minimum Post Production
  • Photoshop for Photographers
  • Mastering the 80%: Image Editing in iPhoto 6, Aperture, and Elements 4

We have three instructors for this week-long workshop: writer, photographer Ben Long, Macworld Magazine editor Kelly Turner, and myself, Derrick Story.

We've integrated the workshop with the days in port to provide a full-bodied photography adventure. While at sea, we get together in classrooms and learn techniques in preparation for our excursions in the Western Caribbean. Then, when we return to the ship, we compare our experiences, fine tune our techniques, and prepare for the next adventure. We'll even have open camera clinics where you can ask any question and have us help you with your equipment.

Members of the Digital Story audience will receive signed photo books by me. I'll also have a special "The Digital Story" birds of a feather session where we can get together to meet one another and talk about grab shots, photo assignments, and other virtual camera club topics. I think this will be tons of fun.

If you're interested in a late-season photo vacation this year, take a look at the Geek Cruise home page for complete information about the trip, the photo workshop, and the other sessions offered on this cruise. As a tempting teaser, you might want to peek at some of my photos from the Mexico cruise. You'll see a mix of location shots combined with the images from ship life while at sea. It's a powerful experience.

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How to Share Your Slideshow


Once you've made your slideshow, how do you share it with others? You may want to enter it in the FotoMagico Slideshow Showcase, post it on your web site, or make it available for download. Here are a few tips for sharing your video masterpieces.

iDisk and .Mac

If you have a .Mac account, this is the easiest place to post your slideshow. In the Finder, select "iDisk" from the "Go" menu and choose "My iDisk" (Go > iDisk > My iDisk). Your iDisk will appear on your Desktop. Double-click it to open it.

You have a couple of options at this point. If you want to make it available for download, drag your slideshow into the "Public" folder. It will take a while for it to finish uploading, often 20 minutes or more, so you can go grab a cup of coffee. Now, all you have to do is tell people the name of the file and the name of your .Mac account, and they can download the movie out of your public folder. This is a legitimate way to enter your presentation in the Slideshow Showcase. I think this is the best method of all.

You can also make a movie web page to show off your work. Instead of using the "Public" folder, find the "Movies" folder and drag your slideshow into it. Once it has uploaded, you can go to the .Mac site, log in, and click on the "Homepage" tab. In the "Create a Page" section, click on "iMovie." Choose a template from the offerings. Then when the template is loaded, click on the "Choose" button. You'll see your slideshow in the list of movies. Select it, then publish the movie page. You can now send this url to friends and family, and they can watch the slideshow right there in their browsers. This is also a legitimate way to enter your presentation in the Slideshow Showcase.

File Sharing Service - Mac or Windows

There are free services that allow you to upload your slideshows to a server, then the service sends an email to your recipient with a link so that person can go download the slideshow.

In my post, Big File Transfer Winner, I list a couple of these services and how they perform. My two favorite free services are DropSend and YouSendIt. You can use any of these to enter the Slideshow Showcase.

Burn to Disk

If you don't have any bandwidth for electronic transfer, you can always burn your slideshow to disk and mail it. All you have to do send an email to questions@thedigitalstory.com, and I'll email you back with a mailing address that you can use to send your disk to.

This tip is to help you prepare your entry for the FotoMagico Slideshow Showcase. Submit your Entry Form today (to get on the books), then start working on your presentation. Deadline to submit your presentation is June 15. Don't delay!

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"Vacation Packing" - Podcast 35

Packing Your Gear

Exploration is in the air. It's vacation time! All of the techniques we've been thinking about, equipment we've been accumulating, and plans we've been making are about to be put in motion. I'm one of those strange people who actually enjoy packing for a trip. In this podcast, I talk about camera choices, bag selection, accessories, and tips for on the road.

Here are a few links to supplement the conversation:
Review: Lowepro Rolling CompuTrekker AW
Manfrotto Digi Compact Tripod a Winner
Tamrac Expedition 4: More Features, but Higher Price
Sigma 55-200mm F4-5.6 DC Lens Perfect Complement for Canon Rebel
Connecting your iPod video to the TV... Wow!

Listen to the Podcast

Now that I've piqued your curiosity, it's time to listen to today's audio show titled, "Vacation Packing." You can download the podcast here (32 minutes).

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Sony's partnership with Minolta has yielded the Alpha DSLR-A100 system -- its first Digital SLR. The new camera features a 10.2 MP CCD image sensor. Sony is offering 19 lenses, plus the camera will be compatible with Minolta-mount lenses.

Sony has brought many of its own innovations to this camera, such as its Super SteadyShot image stabilization and dynamic range optimization, combined Minolta-type brilliance including Eye Start AF and honeycomb pattern metering. The A100 accepts CF cards and Sony's Memory Stick.

The A100 captures in both JPEG and RAW formats. Because of the APS-sized sensor, the camera does have a 1.5x image magnification. The Sony DSLR will list for $899, and is expected to ship before the end of July.

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Grab Shot 40 - "Bomb Squad"

Security Guard

"While at Samys Camera (in LA) testing a Nikon D200," said Jennifer Tofani, "one of the store guards spotted me taking pictures and started mugging. The old koot was great. I love the bomb squad emblem on his shirt."

The D200 was set at ISO 200, Aperture Priority mode at f-4.8, and shutter speed of 1/1500 of a second.

If you have an interesting candid you'd like to share, take a look at our Submissions page, then send us your Grab Shot. If we publish it, you'll receive an ultra cool custom carabineer keychain.

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iView MediaPro 3.1

iView Multimedia has released the latest version of their robust cross-platform digital asset management application. iView MediaPro 3.1 is now Universal Binary for the Mac (runs on the new Intel-powered Macs) and runs natively on Windows computers.

This latest version features a new Notepad Tool that enables communication between a MediaPro user and his/her client. The client simply drags and drops selected catalog items onto the Notepad palette, adds comments and then e-mails the Notepad file. This Notepad file imports easily into the creative professional’s original catalog where he or she can view the client’s feedback and execute the appropriate actions.

You can download iView and try it free for 21 days.

FotoMagico Review on MyMac.com

MyMac.com says: It's here, it works, it's affordable, and it comes with timely tech support. It's easy to learn, very easy to edit and export, and really impressive in its final output. It is FotoMagico, dynamic audio slide show software that will have your family, friends, students, teachers, or business associates all saying: "Wow, that was great. Do you think I can learn how to make a show like yours?" in its review of FotoMagico 1.5.

Have you prepared your entry for the FotoMagico Slideshow Showcase? Submit your Entry Form, then start working on your presentation. Deadline is June 15. Don't delay!

And don't forget... if you wish to use FotoMagico to create your show, you can get a $10 discount off the software by entering "Digital Story" in the discount code box. Visit the order page and select FotoMagico. You'll be able to enter a coupon code at the first checkout page. The code is set to "Digital Story". Once the code is input, and the Checkout button is clicked, the $10 discount will be reflected on the final order total page.

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Grab Shot 39 - "Cat Eyes"

Mandy the Cat

"I recently visited my parents and had my camera just in case," said Kevin Miller. "I found Mandy reasonably cooperative and took these while lying on the floor. My dad saw me spread out on the hall floor and thought perhaps I had had a heart attack."

Kevin was just fine... he's a photographer. He used a Canon 30D, F4.0, 1/60, ISO 200, with flash.

If you have an interesting candid you'd like to share, take a look at our Submissions page, then send us your Grab Shot. If we publish it, you'll receive an ultra cool custom carabineer keychain.