August 2009 Archives

"Soft Background" really brought out the artists in this month's contributing photographers. We have 21 outstanding images featured in the July 09 Photo Assignment. You have to see this gallery.

The September 2009 assignment is "Simple." Start working on your contribution now. Details can be found on the Member Participation page. You can submit photo assignment pictures up to 600 pixels in the widest direction.

Please follow the instructions carefully for labeling the subject line of the email for your submission. It's easy to lose these in the pile of mail if not labeled correctly. For example, the subject line for next month's assignment should be: "Photo Assignment: September 2009." Also, if you can, please don't strip out the metadata. And feel free to add any IPTC data you wish (These fields in particular: Caption, Credit, Copyright, Byline), I use that for the caption info.

Photo by Landon Michaelson. You can read more about how Landon set up this shot, plus see all of the other great images on the July 09 Gallery page.

Good luck with your September assignment, and congratulations to all of the fine contributors for July. It's a great collection of images.


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Now Available! The Digital Photography Companion. The official guide for The Digital Story Virtual Camera Club.

  • 25 handy and informative tables for quick reference.
  • Metadata listings for every photo in the book
  • Dedicated chapter on making printing easy.
  • Photo management software guide.
  • Many, many inside tips gleaned from years of experience.
  • Comprehensive (214 pages), yet fits easily in camera bag.

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Using Old Lenses on New Cameras

Of all the cameras I had in the past, my favorites were made by Contax. The first model I bought (when I had absolutely no money) was the Contax 139 with the Zeiss 50mm f/1.7. I later added the Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 and 135mm f/2.8 lenses. It was thrilling every time I picked up the camera. Over the years, I had other favorite bodies too, including the 167MT and RX.

After I made the transition to digital photography, I sold much of my film equipment. I did keep, however, my absolute favorites. I wasn't quite sure why at the time; I just didn't want to part with everything from the past. So I still have the Contax RX body, 5 prime lenses, and the pocketable Contax T. I also kept the Hasselblad 500C with both the 80mm and 150mm lenses.


The Transamerica building in San Francisco. Shot with an Olympus E-P1 with a Zeiss Distagon 35mm lens mounted. Photo by Derrick Story. Click to enlarge image. See more images with this rig on the TDS Flickr page.


I didn't use any of this equipment for a long time. Then, when I started shooting with the retro-looking Olympus PEN E-P1 camera, I got a hankering to try the collection of Zeiss lenses on that body using the Rayqual Micro Four Thirds adapter for Contax M lenses. I wrote about the experiment in the article Zeiss Lens on Olympus E-P1? Oh Yeah!. There are some good reader comments there too.

When I wrote the article, I promised to publish shots using a Zeiss lens on the E-P1. My opportunity appeared this week when I had meetings in San Francisco. I packed the Olympus with the 35mm Zeiss Distagon lens, and clicked photos as I walked from one appointment to the next. You can look at the set of images on the TDS Flickr page. These are Raw files processed in Adobe Camera Raw.

I had a great time shooting these images. I was manually focusing with the well-damped focusing ring in the Zeiss Distagon. I set the E-P1 in Aperture Priority mode and used the click-stop aperture ring on the Zeiss lens to set the f/stop. In all honesty, I felt more like an artist than a snapper using this rig.

Now that I have the bug, I'm going to see about mounting these lenses on my Canon 5D Mark II. Since it's a full frame sensor, everything should look as it did when they were mounted on my Contax bodies. I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, I'm going to continue to shoot with the Olympus E-P1 and my collection of Zeiss glass.


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Snow Leopard Notes for Photographers

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Snow Leopard is available for distribution tomorrow. After reading initial reviews of the latest Apple OS, I would say it's a recommended upgrade for Mac users using Intel machines, especially photographers who demand a little more from their computers. I have a few notes for those of you thinking about making the move.

First, read Jason Snell's excellent Review: Snow Leopard. He's been working with the software for some time now, and he does a great job of showing us the ins and outs of the new OS.

If you're a Photoshop users (CS3 or CS4), then you should be hanging out at John Nack's blog. John is addressing Photoshop compatibility running on Snow Leopard. There's lots of good information there. As far as I can tell, Lightroom should also run fine on Snow Leopard.

Aperture and iPhoto users should have a smooth transition to Mac OS X 10.6. Apple is very good about taking care of their own, and users should have a great experience with both applications.

If you want to save a few bucks, you can buy Snow Leopard on Amazon for $25 instead of the regular $29 price tag. Family packs are available too.

BTW: Amazon notes on the Snow Leopard product page that Tiger users must buy the more expensive Mac Box Set that lists for $149 on Amazon and includes the OS plus iLife and iWork. But in Jason Snell's review, he remarked that Tiger computers will boot from the upgrade disk. I'll report more as soon as I test myself.


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"This shot was taken at a local balloon festival," writes Jim Garrett, "an Air Force band was playing and this toddler just came up to the edge of the stage."

Jim captured this flag waving shot with a Pentax K100D with the kit 18-55mm lens -- F5.6, 1/90 sec., ISO 200. He then edited in Picasa using "Focal B&W" tool.

Photo by Jim Garrett. Click on image to zoom to larger size.

If you have a candid you'd like to share, take a look at our Submissions page, then send us your Grab Shot. We'll try to get it published for you on The Digital Story.

And you can view more images from our virtual camera club in the Member Photo Gallery.


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Apple has announced that Snow Leopard (Mac OS X 10.6) will be available on August 28, 2009 as a $29 upgrade. Many of us Mac users are excited about this because of the improved performance and stability that comes with this release.

Along those lines, our photographer brains might be wondering about compatibility with existing Adobe apps, specifically Photoshop CS4. John Nack has posted about this issue on his blog and points to an official Adobe FAQ.

Photoshop CS4 users on a Mac might want to take a peek.


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If you visit www.thedigitalstory.com, you'll see lots of new features. We've been busy over the last few months upgrading both the infrastructure and the layout. In this podcast, I take you on a tour of the new Digital Story to familiarize you with all the goodies.

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (31 minutes). Or better yet, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

Monthly Photo Assignment

Transport is the August 2009 Photo Assignment. Think both literally (car, bike, bus, etc) and figuratively. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is August 31, 2009.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. It's a blast!


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Podcast Sponsors

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The Canon Speedlite 270EX is a compact hot shoe flash that is an excellent accessory for modern Canon DSLRs and G series compacts. For this review I've tested the 270EX on a Rebel T1i and G9. Owners of older DSLRs, such as the Canon XT have reported that the flash works, but you can't change some settings, such as switching from 1st curtain to 2nd curtain.

Menu Controls on T1i and G9

The story is much more interesting with the Canon Digital Rebel T1i. Mount the 270EX in the hot shoe then go to the Flash Control menu, and you have a variety options including E-TTL II or Manual exposure (1/64 to 1/1), Shutter Sync (1st Curtain, 2nd Curtain, or Hi-speed), Flash Exposure Compensation (-2 to +2), and E-TTL II Metering Pattern (Evaluative or Average). You also have access to two Custom Function settings: Auto Power (on or off) and Quickflash with continuous shot (on or off).


Both photos unedited. Top image captured with 270EX flash in bounce position on a Canon Rebel T1i. Bottom image captured with flash in same position on a Canon G9. The T1i renders a cleaner image with the flash. Click to enlarge. Photos by Derrick Story.


You have many options on the G9 too, even though it's an older camera. There's quick access to Flash Exposure Compensation (-3 to +3) via the Function button. If you open External Flash Settings on the Menu, you have Flash Mode (Auto or Manual 1/64 to 1/1), Shutter Sync (1st Curtain, 2nd Curtain, or Hi-speed), Slow Synchro option, and Safety FE option. The flash responds well to these settings.

Physical Characteristics

The bottom foot of the flash (that slides into the hot shoe) is well-constructed using a metal plate instead of a plastic fitting that we normally see. The flash head pulls forward to "Tele" position for focal lengths 50mm and longer. It also swivels upward at 60, 75, and 90 degrees. I love this feature and consider it a real bonus on such a compact flash. Another improvement that Canon had made over the 220EX is requiring fewer AA batteries from four to only two for the 270EX. And it still has plenty of pop with a guide number of 72 ft. at ISO 100 (28mm focal length). Since most of the settings are controlled via the camera menu, there are only two buttons on the flash itself: the on/off switch and the hot shoe lock lever.

Operation

The 270EX uses an intermittent flash firing system for autofocusing assist and exposure evaluation, regardless of the head position. This system worked fine on the T1i, but it isn't supported on the G9. As for the exposures themselves, I rate the 270EX as excellent on newer cameras. I'm especially impressed with the bounce flash exposures on the T1i. The E-TTL II system in Evaluative mode does a great job of rendering flattering exposures. The results weren't quite as good on the G9, which I attribute to older flash metering technology in the camera. The pictures were still quite good, but not the same amazing quality I saw on the Rebel T1i. (See photo examples for comparison.)

Bottom Line

The Canon 270EX is selling on the street for about $150 US. That's not cheap by any means, but reasonable compared to other Canon flashes such at the 430EX II at $264 or the 580EX II at $400. The 270EX fits in your pocket (or the palm of your hand) and is an excellent match for newer Canon DSLRs (40D on up) and is serviceable on many older Canon cameras such as the G9. The swivel head is the killer feature that really sold me on this accessory.

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OttLites for Small Product Shots

OttLites are awesome! They offer full spectrum lighting that more accurately replicates natural outdoor lighting. It's perfect for people like myself who may need to take product shots, but don't own a lot of lighting equipment.

Right photo is with OttLite, left image with regular lamp.

In the past, if I needed to photograph a project for a magazine submission, it had to be done outside using natural light to capture true colors and accurately show what the project looked like. But what if it's raining, or the sun has already set? (Like so many people in my line of work, I tend to burn the midnight oil, which isn't very good lighting for photography.)

If something is photographed under a regular tungsten bulb, a yellowish-orange tint is cast over the object. Shooting the same object under my OttLite gives me the cleaner results of full spectrum lighting. Rain or shine, day or night, I achieve more accurate outdoor lighting each time I shoot indoors.

OttLites come in a variety of styles ranging from floor to desk lamps. The bulbs are easily replaceable, but that's something you won't need to do for quite a while. The low heat, low glare, OttLite bulbs and tubes are rated to last 8,000 to 10,000 hours! Wow! Talk about an enlightening experience.

Zeiss Lens on Olympus E-P1? Oh Yeah!

The Olympus PEN E-P1 is a versatile camera that can accept Leica, Nikon, and Zeiss lenses with the right adapter. I have a small cache of Zeiss prime lenses in the Contax M mount that are part of my Contax RX kit. Since I don't shoot very much film these days, I've been looking for a way to put this wonderful glass to work. I read about the Novoflex Four Thirds adapters, but I could not find the Contax mount anywhere (the Leica version seems more plentiful here in the States).


Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.7 Contax MM mount on an Olympus E-P1 using a Rayqual CY to M 4/3 adapter. Photo by Derrick Story


The Search for a Contax Adapter

After scouring the Web for any adapter that would work, I found a great site called Japan Exposures that had all sorts of photographic exotica, including Rayqual Micro Four Thirds adapters for Contax M and Nikon F mounts. I purchased the Contax mount for 18,700 Yen, and they shipped it to me within a few days. I had a very good customer experience with them.

Mounting the Lens on the E-P1

The Rayqual mount is excellent. There's no wiggle at all. It's finely machined and has a solid feel. The first lens I tested on the E-P1 was the Zeiss 50mm f/1.7 MM. The set up is easy. You mount the adapter on the body, then attach the lens to the adapter. Everything clicks into place. There are no electronic contacts on the adapter, so you work in aperture priority mode. Focus with the lens wide open, then if you need too, stop down to make the exposure. The E-P1 sets the appropriate shutter speed for you. It worked great. If you have lots of light, then you can focus stopped down. Although I must admit, what I wanted to do was shoot wide open most of the time taking advantage of the unique qualities of the Zeiss Planar lens.


Top view of Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.7 Contax MM mount on an Olympus E-P1 showing the Rayqual CY to M 4/3 adapter. Photo by Derrick Story


You can configure the E-P1 for manual focus-assist giving you 7X magnification with just a push of the OK button. I love this mode and use it to get the focus just right, then back off to normal view and take the picture. Focusing on the 3" LCD was easier than I expected. Working with the silky smooth focusing ring and the click-stop aperture ring on the Zeiss Planar provided a truly classic photographic experience.

Picture Quality

As far as picture quality, my favorite lens was the Zeiss Distagon 35mm f/2.8. The shots were beautiful at every aperture setting. Next, I also liked the 50mm f/1.7 and the 85mm f/2.8. They were a little softer on the edges than the 35mm, but still quite good. I was disappointed with both the Zeiss 135mm f/2.8 and 200mm f/3.5 telephotos. They weren't as sharp on the E-P1 as they are on the Contax bodies. It seemed to me that the E-P1 performs better with the wider and standard lenses than with the longer focal lengths. I will continue to test and report more on this.


Existing light shot using the Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.7 Contax MM mount on an Olympus E-P1. The ISO was set to 1600, aperture to f/1.7, and was able to get a shutter speed of 1/30th even in this very, very low light. Photo by Derrick Story


Final Thoughts

Shooting with the Contax lenses on the Olympus E-P1 is a brand new experience. It's so unique, it's almost hard to describe. I'm once again focusing the camera myself, yet I have a big 3" LCD with digital focusing assist to provide a new twist on the process. The camera looks good with any of the Zeiss lenses mounted, and the shooting is outright fun. Most of the camera functions work just fine, including flash, image stabilization, and even movie mode. There are a few gaps in the metadata because the camera can't report aperture or focal length, but you get ISO, white balance, shutter speed, etc. The shots look different than with any other lens/camera combination.

For the time being, I'm going to work with these lenses on the E-P1 and see how it affects my photography. I'm already feeling more creative every time I pick it up. I'll publish a collection on our Flickr site soon.


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Both the just-announced PowerShot G11 and the PowerShot S90 only capture in Standard Definition video (640x480). What? In the whacky world of hardware engineering, where we gain a high-sensitivity 10 MP sensor with DIGIC 4 image processing providing better noise reduction, being referred to as a "Dual Anti-Noise System," we don't get what Canon is pushing everywhere else: HD video.

It reminds me of the time a few years back when RAW was the premium feature photographers sought. Suddenly we saw RAW support dropped from high-end compacts, such as the Canon G series, and only available in DSLRs. Now we have RAW in the S90 and G11 (RAW returned to the G series with the G9), but HD video is omitted... even though we get HDMI output on the G11, not to mention the Vari-angle LCD that's perfect for video capture.

There might be an overriding technical reason for no HD video on these new cameras. And I would love to hear it. Because right now it feels a little like a sales and marketing decision. I hope it isn't.


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Want to create professional looking art notecards from your own images? In this podcast I explain the techniques I wrote about in the article Professional Photo Art Notecards Using Aperture and Red River Paper. These products, based on your photography, look great. I hope you give them a try.

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (30 minutes). Or better yet, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

Monthly Photo Assignment

Transport is the August 2009 Photo Assignment. Think both literally (car, bike, bus, etc) and figuratively. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is August 31, 2009.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. It's a blast!


Sample notecard before folding. Red River paper is scored in the middle so it's easy to fold and get a professional looking card. Click to enlarge image.


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Podcast Sponsors

SiteGrinder lets you take ownership of your websites. Effortlessly output pages right from Photoshop.

Red River Paper -- Try the $7.99 Sample Kit.

Add Magic to Your Slideshows -- FotoMagico presentations are so amazing that your audience will be asking how you did it.


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I've been testing the new Eye-Fi Pro card (and will report on it soon), but I still have an older Eye-Fi Explore card too. For those of you who also have older cards, I want to remind you that there's probably a firmware update waiting (especially if you haven't used the card in a while). For my Explore card, the update provided me with "selective transfer," a function I had wanted for a long time.

Basically it works like this: After the firmware update, leave the card connected to the computer and go to the Settings tab in Eye-Fi Manager. Click on Upload Settings, and change the preference from Automatic to Upload Selected. Save your settings and unmount the card. Now, with the card back in the camera, initiate uploads by marking the images you want to transfer with the Protect key. Only those photos will be transferred via Eye-Fi Manager.

After you're done with the Eye-Fi transfers, you may want to Unprotect your pictures. Some photo applications won't let you image edit protected pictures...


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Want to view your Flickr images a new way? Check out Flickroom. This Adobe AIR application not only provides that beautiful charcoal colored interface that makes your photos pop, the Flickroom team has also included a host of useful features such as instant notifications for any activity on your photostream, upload photos by just drag-and-drop, add comments, mark faves, add notes, tweet about your photos, and chat with other Flickroom users.

I haven't replaced viewing Flickr with their traditional browser, but I do like Flickroom for "really looking at my photos online." The cleaner interface lets me see my shots differently than I do on Flickr. I also use Flickroom for looking at my site the way the public sees it since it doesn't display images I mark as private.

There wasn't much information about the folks behind Flickroom on their site, so I wrote them and asked about their story. They replied:

Flickr Essential Training

"Ours is a small startup company which has some very talented Flash/Flex/AIR developers and testers. We have decent experience in creating applications (for clients) based on these technologies. Some of the members of our team are photographers and share their pictures on Flickr. Sometime back they felt that the user interface of Flickr could be enhanced immensely if it were made a desktop application using a technology like Adobe AIR. So that led to the whole idea, and we started working on it. Although the current beta version that is available provides limited functionality, we are working on a lot of desktop-integration features that would make the Flickr experience really seamless. With every update of this application, we hope that the experience of Flickr users would get better and better."

Just in the short time I've been following this story, I have noticed remarkable improvements in the application. So much so, I now feel comfortable recommending it for others too. I have a feeling that within another few updates, Flickroom will become a favorite application among many Flickr users.


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"Ready, Set... Go!" Grab Shot 182

"The picture was taken at our son's school fete back in June," writes Michael Haley. "It's a very English kind of event -- a great fund raising event for the school put on by the parents. All funds from the event are used to fund school outings for the children."

Michael used a Canon 450D with a Canon EF-S 55mm to 250mm F4 - 5.6 IS lens, ISO 200, f5.6, 1/1250, colourspace RGB Adobe 1998.

Photo by Michael Haley. Click on image to zoom to larger size.

If you have a candid you'd like to share, take a look at our Submissions page, then send us your Grab Shot. We'll try to get it published for you on The Digital Story.

And you can view more images from our virtual camera club in the Member Photo Gallery.


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On June 22, 2009, Kodak published A Tribute to KODACHROME: A Photography Icon. The initial idea for the page was a good one: have top photographers Steve McCurry, Eric Meola, and Peter Guttman share their thoughts and images about the world's most famous film. But now, weeks later, there are also dozens of anecdotes, tributes, and frustrations contributed by photographers who had an affinity for Kodachrome.

It's quite an interesting read. And combined with the great slideshow of Kodachrome images, you really get a sense of this product's place in photographic history.

Here's my own flashback photo: Birthday party in Southern California. I'm the one in the red shirt. Click photo to enlarge.


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You can make photo art notecards that won't be just good; they'll be professional too. And I'll show you how. This workflow uses Aperture software, an Epson printer, and Red River paper. It's fast, efficient, and archival. Once you're set up, you can print just a few cards whenever you need them, or for larger runs, spend a rainy afternoon creating entire sets of cards to sell or give as presents. Of course you can make substitutions to this workflow, but if you have the tools listed here, that's where I'd start.

Equipment

  • Quality ink jet printer. I'm using the Epson R2400 for this project.
  • Red River notecard stock. For glossy surface, use 60lb. Pecos River Gloss (#8451) and for matt surface, I recommend Premium Matte C2S (#1567). Both stocks are 7" x 10" and fold down to a 7" x 5" note card.
  • Photo software. I highly recommend Aperture 2 (or later) for this project. Why? Because I create the notecards using Aperture's book making tool. This allows me to design everything precisely as I like, and then it remembers all my settings so I can revisit the project at any time and print more cards that look *exactly* like the original set.
  • Envelopes. You can use what ever you want here, I found Darice 5" x 7" envelopes at the craft store for about 10 cents each.

Designing Your Card

Since I'm using Aperture, all of my images were already organized. I decided to make a themed set of cards featuring my recent shoot at Bodie State Historical Park in Northern California. I highlighted half a dozen shots for this project, then clicked on File > New from Selection > Book. This is the first step to opening the layout tool. Next, in the following dialog box, choose "Custom" from the "Book Type" popup menu. We won't be using any predesigned templates for this project. Click the New Theme button, give it a name, such as "5 x 7 Notecard," and enter the following information:

Page Size - Width: 7", Height: 10", Margins - Top: 5.5", Bottom: 0.5", Inside: 0.5", Outside: 0.5". Then click OK.


The Aperture layout tool. It was originally designed for books, but it's great for notecards too. Click to enlarge image.


Your selected images will be added to the new project you just created, and you'll be greeted with the layout tool interface. Open up Master Pages (Gear icon > Show Master Pages), and click on the 1-up template. Go back to the Gear icon and choose "Show Layout Options." You'll see new dialog boxes appear above the Master pages that allow you to specify settings.

Go back to the Gear menu, choose Add > Photo Box. A placeholder box will appear on your 1-Up Master page. Click on it to select, then add these numbers to the Size & Position box that's above the Master Pages box:

X: 0.50, Y: 0.65, Width: 6.00", Height 4.00", Angle: 0°. You can adjust these settings later to your particular tastes, but this will get you started. Then right-click on the photo placeholder and choose from the popup menu: Photo Box Alignment > Scale to Fit Centered. You've now set up your template. You can add text by choosing Gear > Add > Text box. Type your text in it, then click on the "T" at the top of the interface to format it. You'll probably have to rotate it 180° if you want it to print correctly on the back of the card.

Now go to the Pages box (below Master Pages) click on the 1-Up thumbnail, and drag a photo from the Filmstrip to the empty placeholder in the big browser window. To make sure your Master Page settings are honored, I recommend going back to the Gear icon and choosing: Reapply Master. You've now designed your first notecard. You can add more notecards by going to the + icon and selecting "Add New Page" from its popup menu. I created eight of these 1-Up pages for my Bodie notecard set.

Get Ready to Print

As with any big printing project, make sure your screen is calibrated and your printer is full of ink and ready to go. I choose the R2400 for this project because it handles card stock easily, plus it seems to like Red River paper. To avoid paper feed problems however, I only load one sheet at a time for notecards.

For notecards using the 60lb. Pecos River Gloss, use the following settings in Aperture.


The Aperture Print Dialog. You can save your settings as presets so it's easy to print the job later on. Click to enlarge image.


Select the notecard you want to print, then click the "Print" button in the lower right corner of the Aperture interface. A dialog box will appear with "Custom Book Preset" selected in the left hand column. Make a test printing one card, so I recommend that you use the "From X to X" setting instead of Print All. Next, select your printer from the popup menu. And for paper size, I've had great luck with 8" x 10" sheet fed (even though the paper is really 7" x 10"). I set the ColorSync profile for Epson glossy paper (in this case, SPR2400 PremGlsy Photo.icc), then click the Save As button in the lower left corner to save this preset. Give the preset a descriptive name, such as "R2400 7x10 Notecard Glossy," click OK, then print. Aperture will remember this preset, and you can use over and over again.


Sample notecard before folding. Red River paper is scored in the middle so it's easy to fold and get a professional looking card. Click to enlarge image.

You have other options in this dialog box too, such as setting Black Point (which opens up the shadow areas) or increasing gamma (which brightens up midtones). The nice thing about these adjustments is that you can tweak your output without having to mess with the picture itself. If I do make print adjustments, I note those settings in the description area of the photo so I can use them again next time.

To print matte surfaced cards, I swap out the black cartridges in the R2400, then create a new preset in the Aperture Print dialog box that uses the Enhanced Matte Paper ICC profile. I then load up a sheet of Premium Matte C2S and make a test print. If I'm not satisfied with the initial output, such as the shadow areas rendering just a little too dark, I make a "New Version from Version" by right-clicking on the image. Now I can adjust the image for the matte surface and try another print.

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Since all of my print settings are saved as presets, and my card layouts are saved as templates, I can come back to this project when ever I want to print additional cards. If you use Aperture's Vault, it will save your settings to a backup drive.

Final Touches

Once all the printing was done, it was fun to spread out the cards and choose my favorites. Some images looked better with the glossy surface while others were really nice on matte. I carefully folded the cards along the score, then bundled each one with its matching envelope. I even found 5" x 7" cardboard boxes at the craft store that I could use for packaging sets of notecards.

Obviously there are variations to just about every step in this process. You can use other photo applications or printers. The tools I chose were the result of testing, with these being the easiest and most efficient.

And I have to say, now that the project is over, making custom notecards from my own pictures is very satisfying.


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Our own Stephanie Scheetz attended the CHA Summer Convention and Tradeshow in Orlando, Florida, and sits down with Derrick to report on interesting things there for photographers and creatives looking for new opportunities. We talk about trends, specific products, and business endeavors that you might be interested in.

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (25 minutes). Or better yet, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

Monthly Photo Assignment

Transport is the August 2009 Photo Assignment. Think both literally (car, bike, bus, etc) and figuratively. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is August 31, 2009.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. It's a blast!


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-


Podcast Sponsors

SiteGrinder lets you take ownership of your websites. Effortlessly output pages right from Photoshop.

Red River Paper -- Try the $7.99 Sample Kit.

Add Magic to Your Slideshows -- FotoMagico presentations are so amazing that your audience will be asking how you did it.


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Backing up your pictures is much easier when you know where they all are. But as I've discovered over the years of teaching photography, students aren't always sure about the locations of their images. Verbatim might be able to help. Their PhotoSave DVDs are preloaded with Windows software that scours your hard drive, finds all of the pictures on it, then gives you the option of burning the entire collection on to one or more DVDs -- depending on how many photos we're talking about. This could be particularly handy if you're about to wipe Mom's PC hard drive and want to make sure you don't lose any stray pictures in the process.

Since PhotoSave is Windows only, Mac users have to run VMware Fusion or a comparable virtual machine to use PhotoSave. But you can do that. I tried it on a MacBook running Vista, and it worked.

After you insert the PhotoSave disc, its built-in software launches and you have the option of automatically scanning your hard drive for photos, reading images off an attached memory card, or manually picking the folders you want backed up. Since you can manually burn images with any writable DVD (that costs less than $3 each), that doesn't seem like the best use for this product, so I imagine most folks with choose to have PhotoSave autoscan their computer or a large directory.

If you have more pictures than will fit on a single disc, PhotoSave will burn to multiple discs for you. Once you put it in motion, it seems to work fairly quickly gathering the images and placing them on the disc in their originally named folders.

Once the disc is burned, it is recognizable by both Windows and Mac computers (running Leopard) -- although very slow on a Mac. On my MacBook, it shows up with the burn date as the name of the disc, and inside are my file folders full of pictures. I was able to browse the DVD using Adobe Bridge 5. But this requires patience since DVDs read much slower than hard drives. And it seemed to me there was extra work involved creating the thumbnails than with a standard DVD full of photos. Nontheless, it did work. On Windows, the experience was more pleasant.

I could see using Verbatim PhotoSave DVDs for special situations, such as backing up images from an unorganized amateur photographer who had hundreds of photos, but not thousands. But impatient photographers who have lots of big images should stick to hard drives and other speedier backup systems. And even though you can use a Mac, I would say that PhotoSave DVDs are best left to Windows computers (unless you have *a lot* of time on your hands). Verbatim PhotoSave DVDs are available on Amazon.com for $15.64 for a five pack.


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It's official -- the iPhone is now my compact camera. This dawned on me yesterday while I was documenting my garage clean-up project with my iPhone 3GS, then actually uploading a picture of the completed work to my Flickr and Facebook pages. It's the image capture device that's always in my pocket.

A few things have led to this change:

  • Tap Focus: This has been the single biggest improvement for me with the iPhone camera. Being able to control the area of the composition where the camera focuses -- and sets the exposure -- is huge. I now feel like I have the essential control that was lacking in previous versions.
  • Improved Low Light Performance: Let's face it, most of the shots we take on the fly are not in full sunlight. I've found that if I steady the iPhone and use my "hold the finger on the shutter button then softly release it" method for shooting, I can work in low light environments surprisingly well.
  • Video: I was just showing a movie to a friend that would have been far less illustrative as a still photograph. The video feature is huge for telling a story.

And then you have all of the connectivity options that you don't have with most cameras. Using an application such as Pixelpipe or Flickr Mobile, I can post images for others almost immediately. Add the variety of image editing tools available on the iPhone itself, and the options grow even more.

This doesn't mean that I'm shooting less with the Olympus E-P1, Canon 5D Mark II, or Canon T1i. What the iPhone means to me is that I'm capturing more of my life, images that I would have missed otherwise. And I'm just thrilled about that.

More on the iPhone 3GS

DIY Copy Stand for the iPhone 3GS

iPhone 3GS Movie Making Basics - Video for All

"iPhone 3G S from Photographer's POV" - Digital Photography Podcast 180

Flickr and iPhone 3GS are Great Companions


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"I was walking through Chicago's Millennium Park during the early evening," wrote Rick Brandt, "and noticed that just about everyone had a camera (or camera phone) taking photos at the Cloud Gate -- a 110-ton elliptical sculpture that reflects the Chicago skyline and clouds above.

"One photographer in particular caught my eye since her subject was a bride and groom. As the trio wrapped their photo session and headed away from the sculpture, I thought there was an interesting photo in the making -- I just had to get to the spot where I could frame up the subjects with the Cloud Gate behind them. So I took off on my 20-yard dash. With their emotions getting the best of them, the photographer and bride didn't take much notice of me. However, the groom seems to be wondering -- 'Who is this guy running at us?' -- just as I slammed on the brakes and made the exposure. Post-processing done in Aperture with the help of Silver Efex Pro from Nik Software."

Rick captured the image with his Canon G9 set to ISO 80 and f/2.8.

Photo by Rick Brandt. Click on image to zoom to larger size.

If you have a candid you'd like to share, take a look at our Submissions page, then send us your Grab Shot. We'll try to get it published for you on The Digital Story.

And you can view more images from our virtual camera club in the Member Photo Gallery.


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This must be the week for unusual camera announcements. First, we had the Nikon Coolpix S1000pj, a compact camera with a built-in projector so you can display your images on the wall. Now we have the Sony Party Shot DS1, a robotic mount that you place the camera in, then it uses Face Detection to scan the room, look for shots, and take them.

The mount pans a full 360 degrees horizontally, and it tilts up and down. When the camera (either a new TX1 and WX1 Sony compact) detects a face, it focuses, sets exposure, and grabs the shot. In theory, you can place the Party Shot in the center of the room, turn it on, and enjoy the festivities. After the last glass has been cleared away, upload the images to your computer and relive the experience all over again.

If you were a wedding photographer, imagine setting a couple of these up at the reception and letting them do their thing while you focus on your shot list. You may get some wonderful surprises, especially when curious guests eye the device and get their picture taken while doing so.

The only thing you'd have to figure out is how to lock it down. It appears that there's a security slot on the back of the device, but what about the camera itself? You'd hate for a guest to snatch your Sony while you were off elsewhere.

Pre-orders should be available now at www.sonystyle.com/retail and at selected retailers nationwide. The Party-shot camera accessory will be available for about $150 in September.


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Well, SLRGear.com has confirmed what many of us had already experienced firsthand: the Olympus 14-42 mm micro zoom is a sharp lens. In their comprehensive test they write:

"Optically, the Olympus 14-42mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 tested quite well, showing sharp results wide open, and even better when stopped down slightly. CA [chromatic aberration] is a bit higher than we'd like at wide-angle, but happily the worst of it manifests only when the lens is significantly stopped down. At 25mm, the lens offers excellent performance, tack-sharp at f/5.6. Results for Distortion and Corner shading were both excellent. As kit lenses go, the 14-42mm is quite nice, and its compact design is quite welcome when handling the E-P1."

The only real concern with this lens is the chromatic aberration at wider focal lengths. I too had seen this in some of my high contrast pictures. In my case, I didn't notice any at longer focal lengths, and only sometimes at the wider angles. But it is something to be aware of with this zoom.

Overall, I think most of us agree that this is a heck of a good kit lens for the Olympus PEN E-P1


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In my latest Macworld article, Recover from digital photo disasters, I show you how to protect your digital images -- from memory card to computer. For example, here's a simple tip that many people overlook.

Photographers tend to overlook the most obvious booby trap: losing the memory card itself. Memory cards are misplaced all of the time. Often they're found by honest people, but if you don't have your cell phone number or e-mail address written on each card, how is someone going to return it to you?

I label the back of all my memory cards with my contact info.Start by writing your contact information on every memory card you have. (I affix a small label to my cards.) And don't stop with memory cards. Every hard drive you own, laptop computer, digital camera, and memory card reader (which could have a card in it) should be labeled with your name and contact information This is your first line of protection against losing valuable data. And I've seen this work. A friend of mine got a call from a rental car company informing her that three CF cards full of pictures from Iceland were found in the auto she had just turned in.

But what about SD cards you might ask? There isn't enough room for writing. That's why I use a labeler for them. In the article I show an illustration with my SD cards labeled.


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Reflectors and diffusers are perfect light modifiers for natural light portraiture. In this podcast, I talk about these accessories in general, and recommend the Photoflex Multidisc 32" that gives you five reflector surfaces and a diffuser.

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Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (31 minutes). Or better yet, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

Monthly Photo Assignment

Transport is the August 2009 Photo Assignment. Think both literally (car, bike, bus, etc) and figuratively. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is August 31, 2009.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. It's a blast!


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Podcast Sponsors

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During last week's assignment in Southern California, I photographed some beautiful people. But the star of the week was an after-hours self-assignment: The all electric Mini E Cooper car. There are only 500 of these in the US right now, and I could not pass up the opportunity to photograph, then drive one.

This event was made possible by one of the 500 who have a 1-year lease on the all-electric wonder car: Mark and Amy Swain. I met them while Mark and I were teaching on a cruise to Mexico, and we've been friends since. When Mark and Amy invited me to dinner and my first Mini E experience after work one night, I packed my camera and headed to their home.

When shooting cars, I recommend that you get a good mix of detail shots and overviews. I like to take car shots late in the day when the sun is low. This helps me control contrast and get good detail. I've published a dozen images on the TDS Flickr site. Car lovers should enjoy this gallery.

Driving the Mini E was a thrilling experience. The car handles like a sports car (as Mini Cooper drivers already know), but now you have the added punch of instant acceleration. If you're cruising along at 40 mph, and you punch the "gas," the car rockets forward. It's really amazing to drive a vehicle that doesn't require a multi-gear transmission. The engine is always engaged.


Photos by Derrick Story using a Canon 5D Mark II with a Canon 24-105mm zoom lens. For more photos, visit the TDS Flickr site.


Braking is much different too. You just ease off the gas. Since the car is still in gear, it brakes itself. In fact, it even regenerates a little electricity during the process. Once you've slowed to a stop, you hold down the brake peddle to keep you in place. You can use the brake petal while driving too, but it isn't usually necessary except for quick stops. None of us knows the future of all electric cars. But based on my experience with the Mini E Cooper, I hope this trend is here to stay. I had a blast.


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