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Aperture 2.0 Hits the Streets

After months of speculation by the Aperture user community, Apple today released Aperture 2.0 with a raft of new image adjustment tools, an overhauled Raw decoder, major speed improvements, and additional camera support.

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The bulk of these changes can be loosely corralled into four areas:

  • Interface Changes, cleaner looking (and easier to understand) UI, including the tabbed inspector, double-click behaviors, and the new All Projects, which is similar to Events in iPhoto.
  • Performance Improvements, including an optimized database for better searching and browsing, and Quick Previews that use available Jpegs instead of always decoding the Raw file from scratch. Photographers can use this mode for everything but image editing.
  • Image Decoding and Adjusting, including the Raw 2.0 decoder and a host of new editing tools. Aperture now includes Baseline DNG that enables users to work with DNGs, even if the native Raw format isn't supported by Aperture.
  • New Camera Support, featuring Canon G9, Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, Nikon D300, Nikon D3, Hasselblad CF-22, Hasselblad CF-39, Leaf Aptus 75s, and the Sony Alpha DSLR-A700.

New users can now move over to Aperture for a cool $199. That's $100 less than the previous version. If you already own a copy, you can upgrade for $99. There's also a 30 day trial version available for download right now. If you like it, you can simply purchase an upgrade or full price registration number.

If you want to learn more about Aperture 2.0, visit Inside Aperture, where there's a new podcast interview with product manager Joe Schorr about the new features in 2.0, and a variety of blog posts by photographers who have been using the new app.

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Most of our DSLR's have pop up flashes, and most of us aren't using them as often as we would like. Why? Primarily because they produce harsh, unflattering tones. But a new $29.99 accessory called the Lightscoop could change that. Here's how Professor Kobre explains it.

Professor Kobre's Lightscoop slips over your Nikon, Sigma, Pentax, Fuji FinePix, or Canon camera’s pop-up flash and allows you to bounce the flash like professionals bounce an expensive external flash. The Lightscoop is the inexpensive answer to natural looking bounce flash and digital photography lighting. (Even professionals like it for casual shooting!).

And the best news? My Canon XTi is on the compatibility list...

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"'Lord G-d' has also been exclaimed - minus the soiled trousers - by those seeing a Canon 1200mm/5.6L USM for the first time. At 36 lbs, 33" long and 9" wide at the front element, calling this lens a 'tele' is like calling King Kong a monkey," wrote Allan Weitz in his post, The Mother or all Telephotos.

He shows some pictures captured with the monster lens, and then reminds us that using the 2X extender will get you a 2400mm/f11 rig... for those needing just a little more reach.

Thanks to Rick LePage for the pointer to this monster glass...

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When I'm in big cities, I try to travel by foot as much as possible. That's when I see the good shots, and if I'm lucky, I come home with one or two.

I was walking back from a dinner meeting in Las Vegas with a Canon G9 and a small Gorillapod tucked away in my jacket pocket. I felt like shooting something, but nothing caught my eye until I climbed a set of stairs for a street overpass and noticed this scene. I wanted the streaming lights of traffic driving by, but I thought they would look best in context with the Las Vegas cityscape.

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I mounted the Canon G9 to the Gorillapod and wrapped its legs around the edge of the overpass so I could compose the scene. I made sure the flash was turned off and set the ISO to 80 to control noise. I then went to manual exposure mode, which is very easy to use on the G9, and played with the settings until I saw what I liked on the LCD screen. The exposure was 1.3 seconds at f-2.8. I set the self-timer to anticipate when traffic would begin to move, then pressed the shutter button.

Some of the frames didn't have the right look. But this image has a nice combination of moving lights and stationary objects. So it became my "keeper" for the night.

Photo of Las Vegas traffic by Derrick Story using Canon G9, 1.3 seconds at f-2.8, ISO 80, using manual exposure mode.


"How I Did It" is a new feature of The Digital Story featured on The Digital Photography Companion mini site. These are techniques from virtual camera club members who have built upon information in The Digital Photography Companion, or have come up with new tips altogether.

We're building a living library of knowledge for everyone to use (and contribute to). If you have a "How I Did It" tip to share, just send it to me with the sample photo, and put "How I Did It" in the email subject.

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I've never been a fan of creating layer masks in Photoshop to adjust specific areas of color and tone. It's a lot of work. Nik Software has come to the rescue with Viveza, a plug-in for Photoshop and Photoshop Elements (Mac and PC) that allows photographers to use U Point technology to adjust their images. This is the same technology Nik employs in Capture NX. And it is incredible.

Basically, you just click on a color that you want to adjust and a U Point tool appears with brightness, contrast, and saturation sliders. If you move any of those sliders, Viveza modifies all of those specific colors in the photograph. If there's an area you don't want affected, just click on it and it's protected from the adjustment. You can watch a short tutorial on Nik's web site.

This plug-in is not cheap. It's going to list for $250 US when it's released in April. But it is truly amazing and will save hours of image editing time. I'll get my hands on a version as soon as its available, and I'll post another report.

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Hands On PMA - Sony A350 DSLR

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I stopped by the Sony booth at PMA 2008 to test the Sony alpha A350 DSLR (available as preorder for $899.99 US with 18-70mm lens on Amazon). What intrigued me most about this camera was the combination of Live Preview and a tiltable 2.7" Clear Photo LCD Plus screen. The screen angles upward for low angle shooting and downward for capturing shots while holding the camera over your head. You can also press it flush against the back of the body.

This opens up additional shooting possibilities for DSLR fans who weren't previously able to compose shots at extreme high and low angles. Plus, if you're working on a tripod, you can position the screen for your most comfortable viewing angle regardless of its shooting height.

I tested the Live Preview and it worked well, however, moving subjects weren't as smooth as I had anticipated. Since this is a still DSLR and not a camcorder, I don't see that as a huge drawback.

Other specs are impressive too: 14.2 MP Super HAD CCD sensor, up to 3200 ISO, CCD based stabilization for any lens mounted on the camera, robust battery, anti-dust technology, 9-point center cross AF sensor, and dual media slots for Memory Stick PRO Duo and CompactFlash.

The camera felt good in my hands and is quite light, making all day shooting treks less straining on the neck and back. I'll keep an eye out for follow up reports once the production model hits the streets in late April. But I think Sony has taken another positive step forward with this advanced consumer DSLR body.

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Shooting from a helicopter is tricky business. You have to photograph through glass that is often curved and full of reflections. Unlike with other through-glass shooting, you can't put your camera lens up against the surface because of the rotor vibration while flying. I was dealing with all of these factors while capturing this image of Hoover Dam with Lake Mead in the background at the Arizona/Nevada border in Southwestern USA.

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So here's how I did it. I used a Panasonic LUMIX TZ5 (just announced at PMA) in aerial scene mode. What that does (and what you can do on your own) is activate image stabilization and "warm up" the white balance to offset the coolness of shooting from above. I then looked for a patch of clean glass and held the camera as close to it as possible without touching it. I watched the reflections as the pilot maneuvered, and shot when the reflections weren't apparent.

You can increase your odds of success by wearing dark clothing (that doesn't reflect in the glass as much) and bringing a polarizer filter. Both help minimize reflections in the glass. If you're using a compact, bring one that has as wide a focal length as possible. The TZ5 goes to 28 mm, which helped considerably for capturing big scenes.

Photo of Lake Mead and Hoover Dam by Derrick Story using Panasonic TZ5, 1/320th at f-3.3, ISO 100, using aerial scene mode.


"How I Did It" is a new feature of The Digital Story featured on The Digital Photography Companion mini site. These are techniques from virtual camera club members who have built upon information in The Digital Photography Companion, or have come up with new tips altogether.

We're building a living library of knowledge for everyone to use (and contribute to). If you have a "How I Did It" tip to share, just send it to me with the sample photo, and put "How I Did It" in the email subject.

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Here's a new feature for The Digital Story: "How I Did It." These are techniques from virtual camera club members who have built upon information in The Digital Photography Companion, or came up with a new tip altogether.

The "How I Did It" tips will appear on The Digital Photography Companion mini-site, so we can build a living library of knowledge for everyone to use (and contribute to). If you have a "How I Did It" tip to share, just send it to me with the sample photo, and put "How I Did It" in the email subject.

This week's "How I Did It" is from Hans Stolz. Hans attended my Five Shooting Techniques to Make Your Pictures Look Better than Everyone Else's at Macworld SF (which was based on content from Digital Photography Companion). He liked the "Shoot at Night and Twilight" tip, and gave it a try from his hotel room in San Francisco. Here's what Hans had to say.

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"I own a Canon 10D and a Canon IXUS 65 camera," says Hans. "The photo, however, was shot with the IXUS 65 in my hotelroom in the Westin (former Argent) after your talk at the MacWorld conference. I followed your instructions on night shots."

"Here is how I actually did it:"

  1. I used my office chair which I rolled to the window.
  2. The camera was positioned on the armrest of the chair. I adjusted the camera so that it didn´t look in a right angle to the window (I think that is better for focusing).
  3. I set the camera in manual mode, the ISO to 80, flash off and the self timer to 10 seconds. 2 seconds didn´t work because the chair was still vibrating after 2 seconds.
  4. All the lights in the room were turned off.

"Fortunately, the Argent has floor to ceiling windows."

Hans camera was set to: ISO 80, f-2.8 with a 1 second exposure. Thanks Hans for sharing your work and your ingenuity!

Event Calendar

Events! See the TDS Event Calendar for photography workshops, speaking engagements, and trade show appearances.


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There are a lot of things to like about the just-announced Canon Digital Rebel XSi (450D). Inclusion of the DIGIC III processor is important. I'm using that processor in the G9, and it elevates the game noticeably. Also, 3.5 fps in a Rebel? My gosh, I don't have that speed in my EOS 5D. Having such a fast frame rate in a camera that sells for $799 US is a boon to folks who want to leverage burst mode. And you can shoot up to 53 JPEGs in burst, or 6 RAWs. Not bad at all.

The 3" Live View LCD is also a nice touch. Canon has designed this LCD so you can use it at odd viewing angles. You know how hard it is to shoot through a DSLR at ground level. Now with Live View on this well-designed LCD, low-angle shooting won't be a back-breaking task.

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Believe it or not, I'm not as thrilled about the 12.2-megapixel sensor, especially if the DIGIC III can't control its noise at high ISOs. Since I haven't shot with the camera yet, it's too early to tell for sure. But I do know that my 10 megapixel XTi is nosier than the 8 megapixel XT. I'd like to see what the DIGIC III can do with a 10 megapixel sensor instead. But more to discover on this front.

I should also mention that, if you do go for the kit with the 18-55, that lens is now optically image stabilized, and it only costs you $100. Something to consider.

Overall, the Canon Rebel XSi looks like a great upgrade at a compelling price. I think its going to put great image quality and versatility in the hands of promising photographers... and the result will be more beautiful pictures. I'll follow up after I have a chance to play with the camera in Las Vegas at PMA.

The Canon XSi is available on Amazon for $799 US.

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A Cornucopia of Keywording Advice

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I was reading Jon Canfield's post this morning, Using Standard Keywords, and I began to wonder about how many articles we've published on O'Reilly Digital Media on the art and science of using keywords.

So I did a quick search on the subject, and came up with list of 20 posts that help you organize your photo library. This is a true cornucopia of keywording advice.

So, for those of us in the middle of winter, now might be the opportune time to finally figure out what our approach is to organizing our libraries. And even if you don't want to actually do anything about it, you can read these cool articles and tell yourself it's research.

Event Calendar

Events! See the TDS Event Calendar for photography workshops, speaking engagements, and trade show appearances. I'm teaching an Aperture Lab at PMA next week.


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