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Traveling Light in Cuba

On the third day of our exploring Havana and its surrounding area, a comrade said to me, "I'm envious of your very nimble camera kit." I replied, "Thanks. It took me a month to perfect."

Before departing for the Caribbean, I published What's in my Bag for Cuba, detailing the gear that I had settled on for the trip. The plan was to use a Lowepro Pro Tactic 350AW backpack for the "A to B" travel, such as from Miami to Havana, then take out the gear I needed and tour using the lightweight shoulder bag that I had stashed in the suitcase. So, how did the plan work?

Derrick in Cojimar Cuba "Derrick Story in Cojimar Cuba" - I'm sitting on the steps of the fort in Cojimar with my shoulder bag on the ground. I was inspired while working in Hemingway's Cuba, when he conceived "The Old Man and the Sea."

In short, the kit worked great.

I built the kit around the Olympus OM-D E-M10, using compact zoom lenses during the day, such as the Olympus 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 EZ and the Panasonic 35-100mm f/4-5.6, then relied on a couple of prime optics at night, my favorite being the Olympus 17mm f1.8. I couldn't be happier with the results.

Other key accessories included the Lexar Professional 2000x 64GB SDXC UHS-II Card, which performed fantastic for my RAW+Jpeg stills and full HD movies. (Use good, reliable memory, especially for travel.) For the uploads, I inserted the Lexar card into the bundled high speed reader for blazingly fast transfer of these large files to my MacBook Pro 13" Retina Display laptop.

Along with my photo kit, the shoulder bag had a lightweight rain jacket, water, sunblock, first aid kit, and a few snacks. Thanks to this nimbleosity, I was able to work from early in the morning to late at night. My shoulders and back feel great!

As for my friend in Cuba, he's now a convert.


Nimble Photographer Logo

This kit has a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting TheNimblePhotographer.com.


Recover Photos from Memory Cards

What should you do (and more importantly not do) if something goes wrong with your camera's memory card? Help is on the way! Check out my lynda.com title, Recovering Photos from Memory Cards, and save those valuable pictures.

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Snapshots from Cuba - Part 1

I've been exploring the streets of Havana, Santa Clara, and Trinidad with my Olympus OM-D E-M10. Here's the first of a series of galleries from Cuba.

Cigar Shop and Tourists - Havana "Cigar Shop and Tourists, Havana" - Photos by Derrick Story

Street Corner - Trinidad "Street Corner, Trinidad"

Bears on Plaza - Havana "Bears on Plaza, Havana"

Yank Tanks "Yank Tanks"

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This week on The Digital Story Photography Podcast: Crazy RAW Plus Jpeg Tricks, South Beach Miami Photo Shoot, Cholula - All of this and more on today's show with Derrick Story. Podcast recorded on Jan. 17, 2015 before departing for Cuba.

News and Anecdotes

cholula-in-flight.jpg

Snapshot - "Cholula Hot Sauce" - During my flight to Miami on US Airways, they served a tasty egg breakfast. I like hot sauce on my eggs, but alas, they did not have Tabasco. Then a delicious act of kindness followed.

Weekly Update - "One Camera Disappears, and Another Debuts" Suddenly last week, there were no more Nikon D750s on the store shelves. Nikon has pulled the original version of the DSLR due to "flare issues caused by the position of its AF sensor." Improved versions will appear as they are ready. At the same time, Fujifilm announced the X-A2, a mostly minor update to the X-A1. The X-A2 offers a 175-degree tilting LCD that flips upward for easier self-portrait capture. Like its predecessor the X-A2 provides a 16MP APS-C CMOS Bayer-pattern sensor, unlike its unconventional X-Trans siblings. (Source: DP Review)

Feature Stories

Story #1 - "South Beach Miami" On my way to Havana, I visited South Beach for a couple days to explore the colorful night life I had heard so much about. I wasn't disappointed. And in fact I had a bit of unexpected luck.

neon-south-beach-miami.jpg

Story #2 - From the Screening Room - "Candid Portraiture with Steve Simon." I first met Steve Simon when we were both flopping at Ben Long's flat on Liberty Hill in San Francisco. Both Steve and I were speaking at the (now defunct) Macworld Conference. That's when I first saw his pictures. He has this magical way to becoming invisible when photographing in public.

You can watch Steve in action by visiting the TDS Screening Room. While you're there, you can start your 7 day free trial to watch all of Steve's movies, plus every other title in the library (including over 20 by yours truly).

Story #3 - "5 Crazy Things to do with RAW + Jpeg" - Over the years, I've found RAW + Jpeg to be one of the most useful settings on my camera. Here are five interesting reasons why.

  • Art Filters and Effects - Many cameras these days (especially posh point & shoots and mirrorless) include an array of special effects and art filters. When you shoot RAW + Jpeg, you get two files: the un-compromised RAW and the fun special effect Jpeg.
  • Gritty B&W - I believe that B&W photography is in the DNA of every shooter over 40. And most cameras have great B&W capture modes. What you see on the LCD is pure film noir, but what gets recorded to the card is an un-compromised RAW and a cool B&W Jpeg.
  • Digital Zoom - How many times have you heard don't use digital zoom? A lot, I bet. But when I'm street shooting with a prime lens, such as my Olympus 17mm, I set a function button for a 2X digital zoom. I can capture a full rez 2X Jpeg and still have the un-compromised RAW also.
  • Anything Mobile - Built-in WiFi is a beautiful thing. I can go from camera to iPhone in two shakes. But those hand-offs are much simpler with Jpegs. Then later, copy the RAW files to your computer for serious editing.

  • Quick Prints - Need a quick 4x6 print to send home with Mom? Most current printers talk to cameras, but the language they speak is Jpeg.

Virtual Camera Club News

Photo Assignment for January 2015 is "Backlighting". (You might want to check out our Screening Room selection first :-)

News from SizzlPix: Have your SizzlPix now, and with PayPal Credit, make no payment until July. Great for selling SizzlPix of your photography and collecting your profit even before you pay. Also helpful for any photographer with an opportunity for gallery showings.

Thanks to everyone who recently reviewed the TDS Podcast in iTunes!

BTW: If you're ordering through B&H or Amazon, please click on the respective ad tile under the Products header in the box half way down the 2nd column on thedigitalstory.com. That helps support the site.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. And from those images, I choose the TDS Member Photo of the Day.

Podcast Sponsors

lynda.com - Learn lighting, portraiture, Photoshop skills, and more from expert-taught videos at lynda.com/thedigitalstory.

Red River Paper -- Keep up with the world of inkjet printing, and win free paper, by liking Red River Paper on Facebook.

SizzlPix! - High resolution output for your photography. You've never seen your imagery look so good. SizzlPix.com. SizzlPix! now is qualified for PayPal "Bill Me Later," No payments, No interest for up to 6 months, which means, have your SizzlPix! now, and pay nothing until May!

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You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

One lens I definitely never leave home without is the $89 Olympus 9mm fisheye body cap lens. It occupies virtually no space in my camera bag (or better yet, pocket), yet takes big beautiful pictures.

Ocean Drive during Art Deco Weekend

I mounted this cookie on my Olympus OM-D E-M10 during Art Deco Weekend on Ocean Drive in South Beach Miami. When you have conditions such as these, capturing the vibe of the moment is a blast with the fisheye. Try doing this with your standard zoom.

Ocean Drive during Art Deco Weekend

With a maximum aperture of f/8, you're not going to do much work with this optic at night. But during daylight hours, set the focus lever to infinity, and fire away.

Ocean Drive during Art Deco Weekend

And image quality? Well, it's just fine. (In fact, my RAW files look great!) I say this lens is the best deal in Micro Four Thirds photography.

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The Art of Airplane Window Photography

Now with eased rules about electronic devices during takeoff and landing, our opportunities for airplane window photography are better than ever. Here are a few points to consider before you lift off from the tarmac.

Fog-Over-Valleys.jpg

Seat Location

As logic would dictate, a window seat is required. There are obstacles that come with this position, especially on long trips when it's time for a bathroom run. But these are the sacrifices we make for our art.

I also prefer a seat that's not over the wing. This is easier said than done, especially if you're tall. The more roomy Exit Row seats are great for comfort, but not so good for picture taking... unless you're in to wings and jet engines.

Take these issues in to consideration when booking your reservation.

Up Against the Glass

I still see photographers position the front of their lenses too far away from the window. You need to get your lens as close as possible to the surface. (And try to find a clean spot while you're at it.) This helps eliminate reflections. Notice that I say, "helps"? That's because unlike most windows in the world, these are twin panes with lots of space in-between. So you still have to keep an eye on reflections. But a good start begins on your side of the window.

No Flash

Again, I shouldn't have to say this: no flash!

airplane-window-sky.jpg

Exposure Compensation

High altitude photography is hell for camera meters. Once you compose your shot, use exposure compensation to adjust the lighting. Even with iPhones this is easy. If you have the current iOS 8, launch the Camera app, then tap on the phone screen to focus. When the sun icon appears, slide you finger along the yellow line. One direction makes the scene brighter, and the other darker. Do it!

Post Production

Generally speaking, the original images will look a little flat. I like to spice them up before posting.

Since I'm usually shooting window shots with my iPhone, it's easy to fire up Snapseed (or your favorite image editor) to adjust color and contrast. It only takes a minute or two, but makes a big difference. I usually have the image ready to go before the drink cart arrives.

When you touch down at your destination, cellular activity is allowed again, and you can post your prize-winning shot.


More Help on Managing Your Mobile Photos

In my lynda.com title, Managing Your Mobile Photos, I cover a variety of backup solutions for both iOS and Android users. These tutorials will help you build the perfect backup solution for you, so that you never lose a single memory (especially those cool shots from the air).


Join me on my Instagram site as I explore the world of mobile photography. And now Instagram features 15-second movies too.

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You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

This week on The Digital Story Photography Podcast: Portable RAID Drives, the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO zoom lens, Shooting and Processing Black-and-White Film - All of this and more on today's show with Derrick Story.

Snapshot - "Castles, Las Vegas" - I had walked by this pool of water twice a day going back and forth to work during a recent stint in Las Vegas. It seemed too good to pass up, but I couldn't figure out the shot I wanted. Finally, in the late afternoon on the third day, I saw this composition. Sometimes you just have to stick with it.

Weekly Update - "Nikon's D5500 is its newest entry-level DSLR" - Nikon's D5500 features a 24.2-megapixel CMOS sensor without an optical low-pass filter, aka OLPF, which is great for producing high-quality, sharper images. To tie it all together, there's a 3.2-inch, adjustable LCD touchscreen on the back -- an upgrade from the D5300. Nikon says the D5500 can handle up to 820 shots per charge with 60 percent flash usage, or 3200 without any at all. While it may look very similar to the D5300 from the outside, the D5500 is a definite improvement over its predecessor. It'll be available for $900 next month (body-only), and you'll have the option to choose between the traditional black hue or a spicier red. (Source: Engadget)

Story #1 - "Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO Premium Optic for Micro Four Thirds" Designed for Micro Four Thirds cameras, it provides a 35mm equivalent of 80-300mm focal length in a package that's only 6" long and weights 31 ounces. We recommend only using this zoom on Olympus bodies because it doesn't include optical stabilization. Instead, it depends on sensor-based IS that's built-in to Olympus bodies. I discuss the notable features in this pro grade lens. (Source: ct-digiphoto)

Olympus 40-150mm PRO Optic

Story #2 - From the Screening Room - Shooting and Processing Black-and-White Film with Konrad Eek. This is just flat-out cool. Konrad takes you on a soup to nuts journey with film capture, processing, scanning, and printing in a chemical darkroom.

You can watch Konrad in action by visiting the TDS Screening Room at lynda.com/thedigitalstory. While you're there, you can start your 7 day free trial to watch all of Konrad's movies, plus every other title in the library (including over 20 by yours truly).

WD-Hero-Shot.jpg

Story #3 - "Portable RAID Drives" - I recently had a peek at two impressive RAID hard drives: the LaCie Rugged RAID and the WD My Passport Pro. I talk about them in the third segment of today's show.

Virtual Camera Club News

Photo Assignment for January 2015 is "Backlighting".

News from SizzlPix: Have your SizzlPix now, and with PayPal Credit, make no payment until July. Great for selling SizzlPix of your photography and collecting your profit even before you pay. Also helpful for any photographer with an opportunity for gallery showings.

Red River Paper - Save 10 percent off your next order of inkjet paper and greeting cards. Good one per customer. Use discount code STORY10X - Ends 1/15/15.

And Finally...

Thanks to everyone who recently reviewed the TDS Podcast in iTunes!

BTW: If you're ordering through B&H or Amazon, please click on the respective ad tile under the Products header in the box half way down the 2nd column on thedigitalstory.com. That helps support the site.

Download the Show

In addition to subscribing in iTunes, you can also download the podcast file here (34 minutes). You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App for only $2.99 from the Apple App Store.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. And from those images, I choose the TDS Member Photo of the Day.

Podcast Sponsors

lynda.com - Learn lighting, portraiture, Photoshop skills, and more from expert-taught videos at lynda.com/thedigitalstory.

Red River Paper -- Keep up with the world of inkjet printing, and win free paper, by liking Red River Paper on Facebook.

SizzlPix! - High resolution output for your photography. You've never seen your imagery look so good. SizzlPix.com. SizzlPix! now is qualified for PayPal "Bill Me Later," No payments, No interest for up to 6 months, which means, have your SizzlPix! now, and pay nothing until May!

Want to Comment on this Post?

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

What's in My Bag for Cuba

I've completed the final packing of my Lowepro Pro Tactic 350AW for Cuba. I can bring onboard a total of 20 pounds for the flight from Miami to Havana. This kit has everything I need and weighs-in at 17 pounds. It will fit easily in a small overhead compartment or under the seat in front of me.

What Is In My Bag for Cuba

Highlights of this kit include:

Lowepro-Pro-Tactic-350.jpg

  • Olympus OM-D E-M10 with 14-42mm pancake zoom
  • Samsung NX3000 with 30mm f/2.0 lens
  • Samsung 16-50mm power zoom OIS lens
  • Olympus 17mm f/1.8, 9mm f/8, 75mm f/1.8 primes
  • Panasonic 35-100mm f/4-5.6 zoom lens
  • Two iPhones, one is unlocked with an international SIM card
  • MacBook Pro 13" Retina Display laptop
  • iPad mini with Retina Display
  • WD My Passport Wireless 1 TB HD
  • Lexar 256GB SSD drive
  • Waka Waka Solar Panel with USB charging
  • Zoom Q2 HD Audio and Video Recorder
  • Olympus compact flash unit
  • Joby GorillaPod Micros compact tripods
  • Small accessories, memory cards, and batteries

I'll keep you posted on how the trip unfolds, and if indeed I chose the right gear for the adventure.

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And on the Third Day

The image that I posted on Ello today was the result of two days of stewing.

Castles.jpg

I had walked by this pool of water twice a day going back and forth to work during a recent stint in Las Vegas. It seemed too good to pass up, but I couldn't figure out the shot I wanted. Finally, in the late afternoon on the third day, I saw this composition.

Sometimes you just have to stick with it.

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I was happy to see that my Night in Las Vegas photo was picked up on Flickr Explore. It was one of those late night projects when I probably should have been working on something else (or sleeping!). But that's what a grande Americano and a nice hotel room will lead to.

"Night in Las Vegas" by Derrick Story. Samsung NX3000, 30mm f/2 prime lens, ISO 100, 10 seconds, f/14.

When scouting the photograph, I wanted an interesting traffic pattern. I knew I was going to be working with long exposures, so the shape of the light streams were important.

Setting Up the Shot

Once I found the spot, I set up the NX3000 with 30mm lens on a Joby GorillPod Micro and chose the Light Trace scene mode. I've had good luck with this function on Samsung cameras in the past, and it proved to be a winner once again. Light Trace takes a lot of the guesswork out of streaming light photography.

I studied the flow of traffic for a while, then timed the shot so I had cars going away from me, both straight and turning left, while those facing the camera were in a stationary formation. I liked this juxtaposition. How the MGM Grand was framed in the background was also important. Once I captured the composition I wanted, I stopped for a coffee and headed up to my room at NYNY.

Processing the Image

I loaded the Jpeg into Lightroom and applied the Cross Process 2 preset. If you've read about my night shooting before, you know that I rarely go with the original color scheme. I'm usually looking for something a little less yellow. The lighting on the hotel influenced my choice for this image.

Lightroom-proc-lv.jpg

Cross Process created an interesting effect on the buildings, yet left the car lights alone (more or less). So all that was left to do was adjust the shadows - highlights - sharpening, etc. I then exported the image and uploaded it to Flickr.

Final Thought

The more I practice with night photography, the easier it is for me to visualize the final shot. This is helpful when scouting. Yes, you could set everything up, then look at a few exposures on the LCD. But that can be pretty slow going over the course of a chilly night. And a photographer can only drink so much coffee.

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Today at the Western Digital booth I learned about the WD My Passport Pro 2TB portable RAID storage with integrated Thunderbolt cable that feels as robust as any portable hard drive I've handled.

my-passport-pro.jpg

Its highlights include:

  • Dual-drive RAID storage
  • Up to 233 MB/s data transfer rates
  • Integrated Thunderbolt cable
  • No AC adapter required
  • Durable aluminum enclosure
  • 3-year limited warranty
  • Massive capacity - 2 TB or 4 TB
  • User-selectable RAID 0/1 or JBOD

If you're in the market for a portable Thunderbolt hard drive that can also provide RAID backup, I'd throw this one in to the mix.