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Top Photography Gear Stories of 2011

The past year showed us how priorities are shifting in the world of photography. New DSLR announcements were at a premium -- in part due to the flooding in Thailand, but also because of a changing market. Mobile devices and Compact System Cameras grabbed more than their fair share of the headlines. I found a comprehensive wrap-up over at photography talk.com, with their article, 15 Unforgettable 2011 Highlights of the Digital Photography World.

Glif Tripod Adapter for iPhone 4 The iPhone 4S was a big photography story in 2011, sporting improved optics and an 8MP sensor housed in a very mobile device.

From my own perspective, I thought it was interesting that the only new DSLR camera that turned my head in 2011 was the impressive Pentax K-5, which has become one of my favorite DSLRs. (And it was technically released at the end of 2010, though hard to come by then.)

Compact System Cameras were a much different story. Nikon, Olympus, Samsung, and Panasonic all had big debuts. I've been shooting with the new Olympus PEN E-PM1, and love it. I fell deeper in love when Olympus released the 45mm f/1.8 prime lens to go with it.

And last, but certainly not least, was the iPhone 4S with its great lens system and increased resolution. I've published many shots taken with the iPhone 4S, and it is truly the camera I always have with me.

We'll see what 2012 brings. I suspect we'll see more interesting stories in the DSLR category. I think 2011 was just a off-year timing-wise for those cameras. At the same time, I don't see the CSC and mobile device train slowing down.

What ever happens, I'll be on top on the news and posting the stories that I think are most interesting. Buckle up.


The Digital Story on Facebook -- discussion, outstanding images from the TDS community, and inside information. Join our celebration of great photography!


The Exchange of Ideas

As 2011 comes to a close, and we begin to think about our goals for 2012, improving our photography will be on many lists. I'm about to announce next year's workshop schedule, and one of these events might fit nicely into your aspirations. In addition to the instruction itself, one of the major benefits I've observed is the exchange of ideas among the photographers themselves.

Participants Chatting During Street Shoot
Participants talking about a shoot they had just finished during a recent Lowepro workshop in San Francisco.

Usually, at the beginning of the workshop, folks are a bit quiet and depend on me to lead the conversation. Makes perfect sense. But then, as we begin to work, much of the conversation shifts to with each other. Any of you who have attended one of these events know exactly what I mean.

Learning begins to happen on many different levels at once -- not to mention feedback on project ideas, comments about photos, and ideas about the business side of shooting. Often these conversations extend well beyond the workshop itself.

If you've never had the experience of working with other photographers in a positive environment, consider attending one of these events in 2012. You can get on the reserve list now for the workshop that you find most appealing.


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I just watched a terrific video by Lee Morris of FStoppers about improving the audio for your DSLR videos. I was expecting a complicated setup that I wouldn't be interested in. Instead, he used an iPhone app called iTalk Premium ($1.99) by Griffin Technology. And that was it. He demonstrates the app in this movie.

Use An iPhone To Record High Quality Audio For Your Videos from FStoppers on Vimeo.

italk_sync.png

You can transfer the audio files from your iPhone to your Mac or Windows computer using iTalk Sync, which is a free download. I've tested the audio recorder and the sync app, and they worked great.

The result is a high quality .AIFF audio file that I can import into Final Cut X to sync with the video. In the tutorial, Lee shows how to do this with Adobe Premier. The process is essentially the same with Final Cut X.

Overall, I think this is a great solution to improve our movie making. I'll be testing it soon for video I'll be recording in Las Vegas for WPPI.


The Digital Story on Facebook -- discussion, outstanding images from the TDS community, and inside information. Join our celebration of great photography!


Winter Shadows

I was scouting a location yesterday afternoon, when I noticed the beautiful graphic design created by winter shadows.

winter_shadows.jpg

I found a high vantage point and snapped a few images with the iPhone 4S, then processed the picture in Adobe Camera Raw. The low sun this time of year makes for tough driving, but great photography.


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2011 was a busy year for photographers and tech fans alike. In this week's podcast, I review a dozen of the topics that I discussed, each one marking a particular month. I include the podcast number for each in case you want to revisit a particular subject. We began the year with Aperture being available in the new Mac App Store for $80, and close out 2011 with an all-iPad time lapse movie. And there was so much in between. Please join me for this last podcast of 2011.

Listen to the Podcast

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You can also download the podcast here (32 minutes). Or better yet, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App for only $2.99 from the Apple App Store.

Monthly Photo Assignment

Family is the Dec. 2011 Photo Assignment. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is Dec. 31, 2011.

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

Red River Paper -- The $7.99 Sample Kit is back! And with free shipping.

You might also want to check out my article, Artistic Gifts You Can Make in an Hour.

Make Your Photos Sizzle with Color! -- SizzlPix is like High Definition TV for your photography.

Need a New Photo Bag? Check out the Lowepro Specialty Store on The Digital Story and use discount code LP20 to saven 20% at check out.




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Monta Ellis scored 26 points and led the Golden State Warriors to a 99-91 victory over the visiting Chicago Bulls last night at Oracle Arena in Oakland, CA. I was there with a Zeiss 135mm f/2.8 lens mounted on an Olympus PEN Mini. I talked about this rig in yesterday's blog post.

Monta Ellis Shot in the Lane
"Monta Ellis Shot in the Lane" by Derrick Story

For the shoot, the ISO was set to 1600, aperture at f/2.8, with most of the exposures at 1/1000th of a second. Manual focusing was aided by an Olympus Electronic Viewfinder.

It was an entertaining game and fun to shoot. You can see more of the images on my Flickr Set: Bull vs Warriors.


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For your next event shoot, say a pro basketball game, which would you rather have: a 280mm f/4 on a 21 MP body, or a 270mm f/2.8 on a 12 MP body? Now here's the real question: which one do you think has the best odds of getting in the arena?

canon_vs_oly_pen_280mm.jpg Left - Canon 5D Mark II, 20-200mm f/2.8 zoom, 1.4X extender. Right - Olympus PEN E-PM1 with Carl Zeiss 135mm f/2.8 prime lens.

For tonight's game, I'm choosing the Olympus Pen E-PM1(camera on the right, 12MP, 5 FPS) with a Zeiss 135mm f/2.8 using a Rayqual micro 4/3rds adapter. When I shoot micro 4/3rds, I can double the effective focal length of any lens I mount on the body. And since the Olympus PEN Mini has image stabilization built-in, the lens is automatically stabilized.

If I don't get turned away at the door, I hope to have sample shots for you tomorrow.


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As the New Year approaches, I like to get organized. One of the best ways to store and transport camera gear is with a professional roller bag. I've been testing the new Lowepro Pro Roller Lite 150 AW, and it has become my new "go-to" hold-everything bag. It stores a ton of gear, yet it is ever so nimble: exterior is only 14.0 x 7.3 x 18.8" (35.6 x 18.4 x 47.6 cm). That means it will fit in the overhead compartment of virtually any commercial airplane.

Open - Lowepro Pro Roller Lite 150 AW
Nimble, yes. But this roller stores a ton of gear too.

What's Inside My Bag

  • Canon 5D Mark II with 70-200mm f/2.8 L zoom attached
  • Canon 60D with 15-85mm zoom attached
  • Canon 580EX and 320EX SpeedLites with Off-Camera Shoe Cord
  • Canon 24-105 f/4 L zoom
  • Canon 17-40 f/4 L zoom
  • Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro
  • Sigma 50mm f/1.4 prime
  • Lapel mic
  • Expo Disc (under the 17-40mm zoom)
  • Canon S90 compact camera
  • Rogue FlashBenders
  • iPad 2 (inside pocket)
  • MacBook Air (outside pocket in Acme Made Skinny Sleeve)
  • Batteries, memory cards, etc.
    • Lowepro Pro Roller Lite 150 AW

      Cool Features

      The 150 AW has durable YKK Zippers that accept your TSA lock. On top there's a padded handle, but there are also handles on the other three sides. No matter which way you reach for this bag, you'll have a handle to pull. The in-line skate wheels are user-replaceable with wheels that you can get at any skate supply shop. If the weather turns bad, pull out the attached All Weather cover to protect your gear. (Have you seen the cute stop motion video of the Pro Roller with the AW cover?). The dual-bar extendable handle hides in the back of the bag keeping the overall depth to less that 8". Stretchy front pocket great for disc reflectors, documents, or a MacBook Air.

      Front - Lowepro Pro Roller Lite 150 AW

      The Bottom Line

      If you need a stylish organizer for stowing your gear at home, yet has the versatility to roll out the front door for a road trip, take a look at the $259 Lowepro Pro Roller Lite 150 AW. Great looking, nice capacity, and oh so nimble.


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Canon 85mm f-1.8 Prime Lens

I bought my Canon 85mm f/1.8 EF USM lens for wedding work well over a decade ago. At the time, I was shooting film with an EOS Elan. The 85mm was only my second Canon prime lens, after the 50mm f/1.8.

Cameras have changed a lot since my wedding days. Most of my DSLR work is with the 5D Mark II or 60D. And yet that $350 investment I made so many years ago is still helping me produce some of my favorite images.

The 85mm f/1.8 is affordable. Right now, it's available for $358 at B&H. The focusing is so quiet and fast that you would think it uses the latest in micro motor technology. It's sharp. Very sharp. And when wide open, the bokeh is very pleasing.

Girl on Scooter - Washington DC

"Girl on Scooter" by Derrick Story. Click on image for larger size.

One of the SizzlPix I have hanging in the studio gallery was taken in Washington DC with the 85mm at f/2 on the 5D Mark II. The image has the characteristics of this lens all over it. It's sharp, yet the background is pleasingly soft. And it has a feeling to it that I don't seem to get with other lenses.

When you're thinking about investing in glass, keep in mind, that your favorite lenses will serve you for years. As for me, yes, I'm still crazy about the Canon 85mm f/1.8 prime.


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airport_extreme_5th_gen.jpg

When you're a photographer, spending time and money on your WiFi network is like having to buy tires for the car. You need them, but there are so many other things you'd rather do with the resources. But when my 4-year-old AirPort network pooped out, I had no choice but to upgrade. Of course now that the project is finished, I'm loving it.

The Basic Setup

I began by adding a new Airport Extreme 802.11N5th generation router. I have 3 networked drives connected to the 3 network ports on the back of the router. I discuss this setup in the article, Personal Cloud Storage for Photographers, and in the podcast, Create Your Own Cloud. I also have 3 WiFi printers on the network, plus the iHome iW1 Wireless AirPlay Speaker System and various computers and iOS devices.

The AirPort Extreme has dual band support, so the devices that use the 2.4GHz band (iPhone for example) and the computers that can use the 5GHz band (MacBook Air) can tap their respective bands at the same time. I usually have a number of devices on WiFi at any given moment, and after a month of testing, I have not experienced a bottleneck.

Some of the particulars that I enjoy with the AirPort Extreme 5th Gen include:

  • Guest Network - I love this feature! In addition to my working network that supports my various hard drives and computers, I can enable a second network for visitors just by checking a box in the setup menu. They have full access to the Internet, but not to my machines. This will be perfect for the 2012 TDS Workshop season.
  • Speed - You can read the technical articles about how the AirPort Extreme stacks up against other routers, but based on my heavy use, I can tell you that it does quite well. I'm enjoying the improved performance.
  • Port Forwarding, etc. - I had problems with the old router setting up outside access to some of my NAT drives, such as the Iomega StorCenter 4 TB ix2 that requires port forwarding. I went through the steps again with the new 5th gen AirPort Extreme, and everything works great.
  • Apple Integration - One reason that I stay within the AirPort family is that I can check and change settings from any Mac, iPhone, or iPad. This makes it very easy to monitor my network.

Bumps in the Road

airport_security_setting.jpg

After I set up the new AirPort Extreme, my WiFi network seemed solid. That is, until I tried to log on with my PowerBook G4 1 GHz running Mac OS X Tiger. Yes, I still have a 2003 laptop on my studio network. And as a side note, I think this is one of the best PowerBooks Apple ever produced. To this day, it runs like a champ.

But, for some reason, it couldn't log on to my new network. I discovered that the problem was that I had set the AirPort Extreme to "WPA2 Personal" for security, instead of "WPA/WPA2 Personal." My old Tiger PowerBook doesn't support WPA2. So all I had to do, once I figured out the problem, was switch to "WPA/WPA2 Personal" and reboot the router. Everything worked great after that.

The Bottom Line

Even though I didn't want to spend the $179 for the new Airport Extreme 5th Gen,I'm loving the features and performance. The Guest Network is a big plus, and having all of my network drives happy and accessible improves my workflow. Based on one month of testing, I can easily recommend this router for home or studio use.


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