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New Site for Aperture Users

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I've been working on a new site that was recently launched at PhotoPlus Expo. Inside Aperture is a gathering place for photographers who want to learn Apple's photo management application inside and out.

The basic features of this destination include the blog that highlights a new daily post from one of six experts, plus me :) For example, I recently explained how to Create Your Own White Balance Presets. This tip enables you to create a list of presets that you can cycle through when determining the right white balance setting for your Raw files, just like you can in Adobe Camera Raw. We have stuff like this go up every day.

I'm also interviewing people who are directly involved with Aperture, such as Joe Schorr (product manager) and posting those discussions as podcasts on the site. Plus, there are articles and other chunks of useful information to help you master one of the best photo management tools to ever come down the pike.

I might also add, we're looking to add more contributors to the site. So if you have a few Aperture tricks up your sleeve that you'd like to share with others, be sure to drop me a line.

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You're Not Ken Burns -- But FotoMagico slideshows are so good that people will believe that he helped you.

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Camera club member Craig Lee pointed me to a lecture by renowned photojournalist David Burnett. Craig wrote:

"We had a great guest speaker, photojournalist David Burnett, at UF Monday night. He gave a guest lecture in conjunction with the opening of a show that has been making the rounds at university galleries. I filmed him as part of my job (Web Administrator at the journalism college here), and the video is available as a QuickTime streamed webcast on the University site."

David's commentary includes discussion and images of U.S. presidents and presidential campaigns, sports including the Olympics and baseball, and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It's really worth a look.

Thanks Craig for the heads up!

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More on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2

Last month, I reported on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2. Photography Blog had given the camera a decent review, but indicated that Panasonic hadn't really made much progress controlling image noise. But two more noteworthy reviews have been published since my October 11 posting. If you're interested in this camera, you might want to keep reading.

PopPhoto.com, one of the most respected technical reviewers in the business, gave the Lumix DMC-LX2 a very glowing review, calling it:

"A pocketable alternative to a digital SLR, the 10.2MP LX2 packs a gorgeous 2.8-inch LCD screen with a full 16:9 aspect ratio, loads of controls, improved burst rate, true high-definition video recording, a new image processor, and 16MB of built-in memory. It's even available in black in addition to silver. Best of all: its performance on our Certified Lab Tests -- and its "steal-me" price."

Then, I just read another review on Imaging Resource that also gave the Panasonic very high marks, saying, "While the Lumix LX2 could certainly be enjoyed by beginning users, since it has great automatic functionality, it's the photo enthusiasts who will get the most out of this sophisticated and snazzy little model."

Bottom line for me: I'd really like to shoot with this camera, especially in Raw mode, and see for myself. But on paper, I trust these reviewers and am now recommending the camera for advanced amateurs who want a pocketable Raw shooter.

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Adobe Camera Raw Update 3.6 Available

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Adobe has updated its Camera Raw plug-in (for Photoshop CS2 and Elements) and its DNG converter. This latest version includes Raw profiles for 13 new cameras, including the Canon Rebel Xti (400D) and the Nikon D80. It also includes compatibility for other cameras that I've discussed on TDS, such as the Olympus SP-510 UZ, Panasonic DMC-LX2, and the Pentax K100D.

The update is free. Mac users can download here and Windows shooters should go to this page to grab it. I recommend that you download the update now while you're thinking about it...

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Sponsor Note...

You're Not Ken Burns -- But FotoMagico slideshows are so good that people will believe that he helped you.

Take Me With You! (I think...)

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We were lucky once again, and caught a good cab driver when we arrived in Mexico. This time the mission was the Chacchoben ruins site, located about an hour from the port in Costa Maya. It had been raining all morning, so many potential site visitors stayed inside and hung around the ship. No way I was staying onboard with those ruins out there calling to me.

As luck would have it, the sky cleared a little by the time we arrived, and we had the entire site to ourselves. What a break! Ben and I wandered among the various excavated areas of the site, took pictures, and enjoyed the outdoor solitude.

Chacchoben Ruin

When we returned, we still had time for a beer and a basket of tortilla chips before reboarding the ship. As we strolled to the dock, I noticed this local resident who had been enjoying Mexican beers all afternoon. He was standing at the shore shouting at the cruise ship. I wasn't exactly sure what he was saying, so I created the title to this blog post myself.

We're back at sea now, and today is a teaching day for me. More to report soon.

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Marimba Players in Guatemala

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One of the hardest things when visiting foreign countries is finding a cab driver who can communicate and is willing to drive you around for half a day or so. After many failed interviews yesterday, Ben, Andy, and I found the right guy. Don't get me wrong, we met many nice people. But three photographers are not your usual cab fare.

So we drove off into the hills of Santo Thomas in Guatemala, and an hour later found ourselves in the Rio Dulce area. In a nearby park, we stumbled upon a family gathering... complete with a great sounding Marimba. At times, there were as many as four musicians all playing their part in the lively musical arrangement.

The entire day was enjoyable, and it's left me with a very upbeat feeling about Guatemala. I wish you could hear the music in this photo.

Next stop, Costa Maya, Mexico. More to come soon...

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Amazing Underwater Landscape in Belize

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Diving off the impressive coral reef in Belize was the first time I considered shooting landscape underwater. Normally, as you can imagine, the focus is on fish, rays, eels, and turtles. I saw and photographed lots of beautiful fish. I also had a glimpse at a green Moray Eel and captured some very decent shots of a Stingray... until he turned in my direction that is -- which caused me to turn tail. (Yes, I read the news headlines too.) I couldn't find him again once the coast was clear.

Speaking of clear, the water was unbelievably transparent. I had long views of purple fan coral, giant brain coral, and a host of other thriving residents on the reef. I actually started shooting landscape shots, and on first review on my Mac, they look terrific.

But, I had to be very careful while working. This is a very fragile environment. Not so much in terms of nature, but very much so in terms of mankind. It's so easily to carelessly catch a piece of coral with a flipper while treading water or shooting pictures. If you're lucky enough to ever visit Belize, please spread the good word among your diving buddies: keep a healthy distance from the reef. Our cameras are good enough that we don't need to risk the environment to get a good shot.

I recorded today's photo with the Canon SD700 IS in a Canon underwater housing. If you know this fish, please post a comment. He's beautiful I think, and he well represents the community I was so lucky to visit.

Soon, I head out to the ruins in Guatemala. Stay tuned...

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Towel Animals at Sea

Towel Animal

One of the talents shared by the Holland America staff is the art of creating towel animals. Each night, a different creature is waiting on your bed when you return from dinner. I've had the most amazing critters staring up at me. Last night, my greeter was and elephant.

The cotton beastie was constructed out of three folded towels -- one for each set of legs, and the third for the ears, face, and trunk. There are no other materials are used except for a set of paper eyes. After admiring the creation, I gently pick up my bunkmate and move him to the table across the way.

For those who want to learn the fine art of making towel animals, you can even take a class on board while at sea. Imagine the smile you could bring to someone's face when they come home from a hard day's work and are greeted by an adorable terry cloth elephant.

Shortly I'll be jumping in the warm waters of Belize and mingling with creatures of a different ilk. More to report soon...

No Podcast This Week

Even though I have somewhat of an internet connection at sea this week, I don't have enough bandwidth to publish a podcast. So, I'll save the show I have on hand and add it to our line up. The good news is that I'll have lots to report from this adventure, including new interviews and photography stories.

So stay tuned for more...

Chickens and Cats in Key West

Hen and Chicks

I spent the afternoon in Key West Florida. It was just a short layover before heading further south for more tropical waters. Key West is an odd and interesting place. First, there are chickens roaming the streets. It's true. No one I talked to knew exactly why, but each just accepted the fact that there are chickens everywhere.

Well, almost everywhere. I visited the lovely house where Ernest Hemingway lived and worked for years. Apparently, the fame of this location is shared among the legend of Hemingway and his 6-toed cats, all descendants of one white Snowball, who once ruled the Key West mansion with an iron paw.

Hemingway and Snowball have long since departed this earth. But there are nearly 30 descendants of Snowball still in charge of the Key West property, and half of them have 6-toes on their front paws. Interestingly enough, I didn't see one chicken on the Hemingway grounds.

I'm back on board and heading south to Belize. More to report soon...