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I have a traditional lightbox anchored at the studio that I use for viewing slides and negatives, and sometimes product photography as well. It's big, bulky and works great. But sometimes I want to work in other places as well. And in those instances, the iPad makes a great light source.

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There are several apps you can use to enhance this experience. I like Light Box - Illuminator Viewer that I bought a while back for 99 cents. It keeps the screen lit without the iPad going to sleep, and makes it easy to adjust brightness. Plus it has some cool grids available as well that I've used for product shots.

IMG_0029.jpg The 99-cent app, Light Box - Illuminator Viewer

Different iPad Resolutions

I have the original iPad that was released in 2010. And yes, it still works great. I use it for sleeving negatives and organizing slides. Because it isn't a retina display - only 1,024 x 768 pixel at 132 ppi - it isn't as good for critical viewing of negatives and slides via a loupe because you can see the pixels of the screen itself when magnified.

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It's great for sleeving negatives, however, because the illuminated surface is the exact width of 5 frames, which is the length that I cut my negative strips. And if I want a closer look with a loupe, I can certainly do that as well.

If you're going to spend a lot of time with the loupe, then you'll probably want to use a tablet with a higher resolution screen. My iPad mini 5 display has 2048 x 1536 resolution at 326 ppi, and it's great for examining image detail with a magnifier. The pixels aren't an issue.

So it really depends on what you're going to do and the needs you have. I actually use both devices for my work, and I have the Light Box app on each iPad.

Other Illuminating Uses

The iPads also make great light sources for product photography. And because we're just talking about continuous light output, the resolution doesn't really make a difference. Just position the iPad like you would any softbox and fire away. You can even use your smartphone as the camera (why not?) to complete the super mobile studio.

I also use the older first gen iPad as an illuminated platform for product work. For a high tech look, I sometimes use the Grid 1 in Light Box. It looks pretty cool.

Bottom Line

The continuous, adjustable illumination from a tablet can be used in many ways. I find it interesting that I leverage the iPad for traditional film work all the way to a modern photo studio. And the fact that a 9-year-old device is still productive today just makes it all the better.

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

By the time Tim Cook and Phil Schiller took the stage on Sept. 10, 2019, most of us knew that the latest iPhone wouldn't support 5G connectivity. We had seen the pictures of the third camera, however, so it was time to learn about some of the details. And for the most part, they were quite good.

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The bottom line is, if you like smartphone photography and videography, then you're probably going to love the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max. They are computational photography beasts. Starting with the A13 Bionic processor, adding a third camera that covers ultra wide (13mm equivalent f/2.4 5-element optic that provides a 120 degree field of view), and topping it off with a beautiful Super Retina XDR screen, iPhone 11 Pro has some serious game for picture lovers.

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Other noteworthy enhancements include night mode, beefed up battery life, and a few imaging tricks including Deep Fusion, which Phil Schiller gushed as, "computational photography mad science."

As Macworld more calmly described it: "It's Night Mode on steroids. When snapping pics in low to medium light, the AI engine will snap 9 images - 8 images before the shutter is snapped and then a long exposure shot when the button is pressed - to get every possible exposure. Deep Fusion will then examine every pixel to optimize the shot for detail and noise, creating the best possible photo."

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Pricing is about what one would expect, with iPhone Pro starting at $999, and iPhone ProMax weighing in at $1,099. If you're fine with just two cameras and more modest features (probably not many in this audience), then the regular iPhone 11 starts at just $699.

The big question for many of us is: do we want to hitch our wagon for the next 2-3 years to a smartphone without 5G? Unless you're the type to upgrade every year, the prospects of entering 2021 without a 5G phone that you're still paying for is worth thinking about.

If 5G isn't an issue for you, however, and you just love the thrill of computational photography, then the iPhone 11 Pro is a tempting device for sure. And I'm sure the images it produces will look great on that new Super Retina XDR screen.

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

This is The Digital Story Podcast #704, Sept. 10, 2019. Today's theme is "My 6 Favorite Digital Cameras of All Time." I'm Derrick Story.

Opening Monologue

In the early days of digital photography, the medium seemed almost too good to be true. You didn't have to buy film, there was no processing lab, and you could shoot as long as your batteries lasted. And the cameras along the way have been equally remarkable. And over the last 20 years, 6 in particular stand out for me. I'll tell you which ones, and why, on today's TDS Photography Podcast.

My 6 Favorite Digital Cameras of All Time

OK, so I tried to whittle this list down to 5, but I just couldn't. So, maybe we'll look at it as 5 +1 great cameras of all time.

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The very first camera that blew my mind was the ground-breaking Canon EOS 10D, released in 2003. For less than $2,000, I had an interchangeable lens DSLR with a 6.3MP sensor. It felt so good in the hand with its comfortable grip and Magnesium alloy body. I could finally afford a semi-pro DSLR, and I loved the heck out of that camera.

Just two years later, in 2005, Canon released the full frame Canon EOS 5D. This was the camera I used while working at the Beijing Olympics and on my first trip to Iceland.

The 5D was more expensive, $3,200, but was relatively affordable for a semi-pro full frame 12.8MP sensor. It was also compact for a full frame DSLR, and that was what closed the deal for me. I traveled all over the world with the 5D, and will always consider it one of the best cameras of all time.

In 2008, Nikon released the D700 12.1MP full frame DSLR, a camera that I still use to this day.

The D700 is a stunning camera. The color it captures is as beautiful as any camera I've ever used. The metering is amazing. And I can use practically any F-Mount lens on this digital body, which is why I still covet it today.

If you want to have a Zen-photo moment, then mount the classic Nikon 105mm f/2.8 on the D700 and shoot portraits. It's as thrilling now as it was 10 years ago. I could spend the entire podcast reviewing all of its impressive features. It is truly a DSLR for the ages.

Fast forward to March 2016 when Olympus released the PEN-F, a classic digital camera for the ages. This is one digital that I will never part with. Every aspect of the camera is machined to perfection, and the images it produces are outstanding. The PEN-F has garnered more conversation in the field than any camera I've every used. It's now discontinued, but you can still buy a new one today.

Right on the heels of the PEN-F, in October 2016, Olympus released the OM-D E-M1 Mark II. In my mind, this camera marked the coming of age for Micro Four Thirds. It was the first MFT camera that I could use professionally, and I still do to this day.

For $1,500, you get a compact, durable, weather resistant, fast, reliable 20MP camera that accepts a huge catalog of lenses that range from the amazing 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO, to the diminutive Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 pancake. The E-M1 Mark II is the most versatile camera I've ever used.

Then in 2017, Pentax released the Pentax KP DSLR, 24MP APS-C compact camera has outstanding sensor-based IS like the E-M1, but gives me a beautiful optical viewfinder, great color, and super-editable RAW files.

I know that Pentax isn't very popular these days with most photographers, but I have to say that the KP provides unmeasurable joy when I'm using it.

These six cameras, four of which I still use, are among the best creative tools I've ever worked with. I don't know what manufacturers have up their sleeves next, but it's going to be hard to top this list.

New Course Offering: Podcast Skills

A course on podcasting has been the number 1 request for new workshop topics. And after some time thinking about the best way to make this happen, I've come up with a one day skills course that you can attend from home, or wherever you have an Internet connection.

This one day event will cover the following topics:

  • Recording Hardware
  • Editing Software
  • Concept and Creation
  • Essential Storytelling Techniques
  • Show Notes
  • Syndication and RSS Feeds
  • Getting Your Show on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Stitcher, and More
  • Adding Music to Your Show (and Where to Get It)
  • Editing Workflow
  • Promoting Your Podcast
  • The Ins and Outs of Advertising and Sponsorships

The topics will be divided into modules and presented live, and they will be recorded as movies as well. Each participant will receive the catalog of HD movies from the day as part of their tuition.

The course will include insider tips, best practice techniques, and multiple Q&A sessions. Each participant is also entitled to one follow up one-on-one session after the workshop to address questions unique to his or her goals.

The live course, set of recorded videos, and the follow up one-on-one session costs only $249. Inner Circle Members get a 10 percent discount on tuition.

The first two course dates are scheduled for October 12 and November 9, 2019. Participation is limited to 10 people per course, first come, first served. Registration is open now at www.thenimblephotographer.com. Click on the Workshops tab.

Scientists Who Took the First Picture of a Black Hole Awarded with $3M Prize

You can read the entire article here.

The world's first photo of a black hole, revealed this past April, was the result of years of collaboration between 347 astronomers from around the world. Today, those astronomers get to figure out how to split $3,000,000 in prize money for their hard work.

In case you missed the news in April, an international consortium of over 300 astronomers were able to achieve something previously believed to be impossible: they captured a photograph of a black hole using a planet-scale array of eight ground-based telescopes. And now, they're being awarded with the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, sometimes called the "Oscar of science," and $3 million in prize money to split between them.

So, I did a little math, and that prize works out to be $8,645 each. Doesn't seem like much for photographing a black hole.

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On our Facebook page, Harold wrote: "After hearing your comments on the transition from lynda.com to be included in linkedin.com/learning, I went there where one free month is offered. I then went to lynda.com. On that website, there is a link to migrate, and it, too, included adding one free month. All my saved programs moved over. Just and FYI for your fans."

You can get started today by clicking on this link to start your 30 day free trial.

Updates and Such

Inner Circle Members: A big thanks to those who support our podcast and our efforts!

B&H and Amazon tiles on www.thedigitalstory. If you click on them first, you're helping to support this podcast. And speaking of supporting this show, and big thanks to our Patreon Inner Circle members:

And finally, be sure to visit our friends at Red River Paper for all of your inkjet supply needs.

See you next week!

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

The Nimbleosity Report

Do you want to keep up with the best content from The Digital Story and The Nimble Photographer? Sign up for The Nimbleosity Report, and receive highlights twice-a-month in a single page newsletter. Be a part of our community!

Want to Comment on this Post?

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

Dedicated Camera vs iPhone - Fill Flash

When I'm out in the world as a tourist or family guy, people (who don't know me) always act a little surprised when I pull a camera out of my pocket instead of an iPhone. One of the reasons why I do this is for fill flash.

Yes, smartphones do have tiny little LED flashes that work in some situations. But when you have a really bright background, they just don't get the job done. If you've tried it, you know what I mean. More often than not, you end up with an overexposed background and underexposed subjects. With a decent fill flash, however, you can balance all of the elements.

Wine-Country-Portrait.jpg "Family Portrait with Fill Flash on a Bright Day" - Fujifilm XF10, Program mode, fill flash at +1.0 , RAW+Jpeg, processed in Photos for macOS. Picture by Derrick Story

One of my favorite "family on vacation" cameras is the Fujifilm XF10 because in part, it has a great flash. It's far more powerful than my iPhone, and it's very intelligent.

For this portrait, I captured in RAW+Jpeg with fill flash set to +1.0. It was a very contrasty afternoon, and taking the group shot in the bright natural light was out of the question. Nobody would have liked it.

So I moved the family to the open shade with a pretty background - definitely a better recipe for success. Others were trying it as well with their smartphones (some of which I took for them), and they couldn't quite tame the light. The LEDs just weren't powerful enough.

One side note to technique: even when using the Fujifilm XF10 or similar camera, give it a chance to evaluate the scene. Compose the shot, press the shutter half way until you get a confirmation light, then continue pressing to take the picture. You will get the proper balance of fill light and background exposure. If it's not quite right, you can always increase or decrease the fill light via the flash exposure compensation setting.

When I handed my camera to others to take a photo with myself included, they didn't understand when I explained that they had to press the shutter button halfway first. They are so used to shooting with smartphones that they "tap" the shutter button. The exposures were not nearly as good as a result.

Bottom line for me is that I save one of my front pockets for the XF10 when hanging out with family. I still use my iPhone for many of the pictures. But when the situation demands a bite more finesse, I'm so happy to have a dedicated camera as well.

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

For me, photography goes well beyond what I see on the computer screen. Creating fine art prints and greeting cards produce the tangible results that I find satisfying.

Nikon-Cameras.jpg Candidate images for my fine art print, "Nikon FE".

As a result, you'd think that I'd be a diehard full-frame sensor photographer. But I'm not. I'm actually a fan of Micro Four Thirds. And I've developed a nice little workflow for creating beautiful fine art prints from these cameras. And if you shoot Olympus or Panasonic, you may be interested in this yourself.

Overview

The 20MP sensors from the E-M1 Mark II, PEN-F, and other MFT cameras provide more than enough resolution for 11"x14" prints. And what's interesting, the dimensions of a MFT sensor are almost exactly the same as a sheet of 11"x14" paper. Here's how it shakes out if you look at a 20MP file in Photoshop.

print-resolution.jpg PEN-F file opened in Photoshop.

So if you want to print full frame, without any cropping, then 11"x14" paper is a great choice. (And if you do need to crop, you have some resolution to spare.) It's also a refreshing size compared to the abundance of 13"x19" prints that we see these day. 11"x14" has a classic, timeless look to it. And you can still get frames and mattes for these dimensions.

IMG_5029.jpg 11"x14" print on a table.

My Project

As a result of owning TheFilmCameraShop on ETSY, I get to work with lots of classic SLRs. I thought it would be fun to photograph some of my favorites and offer them as limited edition prints.

The first in the series is the beautiful Nikon FE that was manufactured from 1978 to 1983. The image is printed on the fabulous Red River Paper Palo Duro Softgloss Rag (1308). Here's the description for it.

Made from 100% cotton rag and featuring a lightly textured soft gloss surface, Palo Duro SoftGloss Rag gives you the classic look of a darkroom photographic print with the performance of modern inkjet technology. Its surface look and feel reminds many of the traditional F-Type print. This OBA-free archival paper is ideal for museum-quality and conservation grade photographic prints. We think that Ansel Adams would be stunned by the emotional power of a Palo Duro SoftGloss Rag print.

It is stunning indeed. There's just enough gloss to give the image the deep blacks and contrast that I want, but it retains that wonderful rag cotton texture that feels great in the hands and looks timeless on the wall. I just love these prints.

What I Recommend

As with any camera, use the best technique possible when capturing your images. For this series, I shot in RAW on a tripod. I experimented with focus stacking and high resolution shot to create the best files possible.

I edited my candidates in Capture One Pro 12, taking my time to fine tune the picture and eliminate any dust spots. I then output the master file to my Canon Pro 100 using the Palo Duro Softgloss Rag (1308).

Resources

Paper: Take a look at 11x14 Photo Paper for Inkjet Printers on the Red River site. There are some terrific surfaces there.

Frames: I recommend a 16"x20" Black Wooden Photo Frame with 11"x14" Matte Openings. These look great on the wall and have a real museum feel to them.

Finished Product: My fine art print, Nikon FE, is available at TheFilmCameraShop.

Final Thoughts

Fine art printing will bring out the craftsman in you. We get used to working quickly with fast turnaround. But this project will allow you to spend a couple hours working with just one photograph, with results that you can truly be proud of.

And this Micro Four Thirds/11"x14" print tandem produces impressive results that look great on the wall. Give it a try.

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

This is The Digital Story Podcast #703, Sept. 3, 2019. Today's theme is Fast Glass, Classic Lighting, and More." I'm Derrick Story.

Opening Monologue

How often can you say that you scored a true bargain on a brand new piece of photo equipment? Well, I did, with the Kamlan 50mm f/1.1 lens. And I'm going to tell you why today. Plus, I spent some time on Sunday studying portraits painted by Peter Paul Rubens, and as a result, I have a few insights to share. All of that, and more, on today's TDS Photography Podcast.

Fast Glass - The Kamlan 50mm f/1.1 Lens for Mirrorless

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I purchased the optic on Kickstarter for $199 with metal lens hood and 62mm ND4 filter. It's now showing up on on Amazon for $249 (without the ND filter), and I'm sure we will see it plenty of other places. I've been shooting with it on my OM-D E-M5 Mark II, and I can tell you, this lens is the real deal.

It's designed with 8 elements in 7 groups, 11 aperture blades that form a beautiful circular opening, weighs about 600 grams, and is available in Micro Four Thirds, Sony E, Fuji XF, and Canon EOS-M mounts.

The manual focusing in well-dampened and a pleasure to use. The "clickless" aperture ring turns smoothly allowing for "aperture racking" in video work.

Here are five things that I've learned shooting with it.

  • You Don't Always Need Autofocus - The MF Kamlan isn't going to replace my AF Olympus 45mm optics, but I did discover that for certain types of photography, manual focus is just fine. In fact, I enjoyed it.
  • Lens Hoods Should Be Included - I think that it's BS that we should ever have to buy a lens hood after purchasing a brand new optic. Not only does the Kamlan ship with a handsome metal lens hood, it's reversible as well.
  • I Am a Sucker for Big Honkin' Polished Optics - I could look at that 62mm front objective lens all day.
  • On Olympus, the 2X Doubler Helps for Focusing - Unfortunately I could not figure out how to get any of the functions in MF Assist to work. But the 2X Digital Tele-converter does a fine job of helping with precise focusing. I assigned it to a Function button so that I could easily turn it on and off.
  • Lens Info Setting is a Beautiful Thing - I love being able to have basic metadata for my MF lenses, and this setting allows that to happen.

I have captured many images with the Kamlan 50mm f/1.1 Mark II, and I have to say that I really like the pictures. It is sharp where I need it, and dreamy where I don't.

I think all mirrorless shooters would enjoy this optic. But it is especially appealing for Micro Four Thirds photographers.

Do You Have a Film Camera that Needs a Good Home?

Over the last year, I've received donations from TDS members who have film cameras that need a good home. What I do is inspect the items, repair and clean as I can, then list them in TheFilmCameraShop where I can find a good home for them. If you're interested in donating, please use the Contact Form on TheNimblePhotographer site. And thanks for you consideration!

The Lighting of Peter Paul Rubens

During a visit on Sunday to the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco, I spent some quality time with the paintings of Peter Paul Rubens and other Flemish artists from the early 1600s. And what I enjoyed most viewing their work? The lighting!

Rubens-Portrait.jpg

I posted a sample of one of my favorites: Portrait of Paracelsus from 1615. This light is coming down from an angle on the left side while the face is turned slightly to the right, exposing more of the left side.

The eyes are not straight ahead, but looking back to the left. There is some shadow from the nose on the right side, as well as shadow on the neck and right side of the face. But it isn't too harsh. More like the effect that we would get from using a white reflector for fill.

The effect is quite pleasing, and definitely worth playing with for portraits of men, boys, and girls.

B&H Deal of the Week: Olympus TG-6 for $50 Off

If you have an outdoor adventure in the works, you may want to bring along an Olympus Tough TG-6. It's:

  • Waterproof-rated to IPX8 for use underwater to depths of 50' / 15m
  • Freezeproof to temperatures as low as 14°F / -10°C
  • Shockproof to falls from 7' / 2.1m high
  • Crushproof to withstand up to 220 lbf / 100 kgf of pressure
  • Dustproof-rated to IP6X to protect the internal components of the camera

And right now, you can get it for $399 - $50 off!. That's a great deal!

New Nimble Podcast: Musician Monique DeBose

I've just posted my conversation with Monique DeBose, award-winning playwright and Jazz-R&B-pop singer/songwriter, who has toured and entertained audiences throughout Europe, India, and Asia. Her third album-The Sovereign One - debuted at #2 on the iTunes Jazz Charts.

You will definitely want to tune in for this one!

Updates and Such

Inner Circle Members: A big thanks to those who support our podcast and our efforts!

B&H and Amazon tiles on www.thedigitalstory. If you click on them first, you're helping to support this podcast. And speaking of supporting this show, and big thanks to our Patreon Inner Circle members:

And finally, be sure to visit our friends at Red River Paper for all of your inkjet supply needs.

See you next week!

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

The Nimbleosity Report

Do you want to keep up with the best content from The Digital Story and The Nimble Photographer? Sign up for The Nimbleosity Report, and receive highlights twice-a-month in a single page newsletter. Be a part of our community!

Kamlan-PEN-1024.jpg

Want to Comment on this Post?

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

There is something truly exciting about a prime lens with a big hunk of objective glass encased in a smooth functioning all-metal design. And the heart beats even faster upon discovering that such lens can be purchased for $249. Let me introduce you to the Kamlan 50mm f/1.1 Mark II.

IMG_0372.jpg

I purchased the optic on Kickstarter for $199 with metal lens hood and 62mm ND4 filter. It's now showing up on on Amazon for $249 (without the ND filter), and I'm sure we will see it plenty of other places. I've been shooting with it on my OM-D E-M5 Mark II, and I can tell you, this lens is the real deal.

One important thing to note if you start shopping around for the Kamlan 50mm, is to make sure you're purchasing the Mark II, which should cost you around $249. There are still plenty of Mark I versions floating around online. They cost less, about $175, but they are not optically as good as the Mark II.

IMG_0374.jpg

It's designed with 8 elements in 7 groups, 11 aperture blades that form a beautiful circular opening, weighs about 600 grams, and is available in Micro Four Thirds, Sony E, Fuji XF, and Canon EOS-M mounts.

The manual focusing in well-dampened and a pleasure to use. The "clickless" aperture ring turns smoothly allowing for "aperture racking" in video work. The outstanding metal lens hood is cleverly designed to screw into the outer edge of the lens allowing for filters to be mounted separately with the inner threads that are 62mm. And yes, the lens hood reverses, making this already relatively compact wide aperture telephoto very portable.

IMG_0369.jpg

To take full advantage of its optical design, I recommend setting the aperture between f/1.1 and f/4.0. Center sharpness is good at f/1.1 and overall sharpness from corner to corner is terrific by f/4. There's really no need to stop down more than that.

Kamlan 50mm f/1.1 II MFT Kamlan 50mm f/1.1 at f/1.1 on an Olympus E-M5 Mark II. Photo by Derrick Story.

At wide apertures, depth of field falls off quickly, even with the smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor. Dibs was sitting on an ottoman that was right next to the futon. Both the back of the ottoman and the futon are dreamily rendered in the image. Center sharpness is quite good.

The biggest challenge with the lens is accurately focusing with an electronic viewfinder that isn't really designed for this type of optic. I switched to the PEN-F to see what the difference would be compared to the E-M5 II.

On the plus side, the superior EVF on the PEN-F made focusing much easier. Also, the Lens Info function allowed me to set up metadata for the Kamlan that would appear in the EXIF. On the downside, the lens doesn't balance as well on the PEN-F as it does on the E-M5 or the E-M1. That being said, I love the results that I get with the Kamlan on the PEN-F.

Kamlan 50mm f/1.1 II MFT Kamlan 50mm f/1.1 at f/1.2 on an Olympus E-M5 Mark II. Photo by Derrick Story.

One thing to keep an eye on with this lens is the aperture changing without your noticing right away. You won't get any indication in the viewfinder (other than the shutter speed adjusting). But being a clickless aperture ring means that you can accidentally turn it while focusing if you misgrip. This wasn't a huge problem for me, but I did shoot some images at f/1.2 and f/1.4 without realizing that I had stopped down a bit.

The weight is going to bother some more than others. On one hand, the metal design feels like a quality optic designed by a premium manufacturer. The heft has a certain confidence about it. On the other hand, we are talking about 600 grams. So if you're super nimble, this might feel just too darn heavy.

And finally, do use that lovely lens hood in bright conditions, because the lens will flare a bit with the sun shining on it. If you're going for that, you'll have a blast. But if you want to retain the excellent contrast and color that normally comes with this optic, use the lens hood.

None of these cautions dampened my enthusiasm for this bokeh beast. I appreciate the quality build, smooth focusing, handsome design, and best of all, the images themselves. I've always liked the 100mm focal length, and I'm so pleased to have it for my MFT cameras.

The bottom line is that the Kamlan 50mm f/1.1 Mark II is an excellent value for those who enjoy wide aperture photography. And for those of us who shoot Micro Four Thirds, it is a real gift. Highly recommended.

What Is AI Structure in Luminar 4?

As we lead up to the release of Luminar 4, Skylum is teasing us with new features to chum the waters. The latest is AI Structure, which is potentially quite useful.

luminar-ai-structure.jpg

Structure is a detail-enhancing tool found in most image editing applications. Depending on its particular algorithm, it typically increases midtone contrast with a bit of clever sharpening. It's particularly useful for architecture and landscape work.

The challenge is, when applied globally, is that there may be elements in the composition, such as people, where you don't want the structure applied. Who wants to increase the skin texture of their mom?!

Our best option then is to apply structure with a brush so we can use the enhancement locally instead of globally, only increasing the contrast and detail to the areas of the image that can benefit from it. This works well, but it is time consuming.

What Skylum proposes with AI Structure in Luminar 4, is to use machine learning to identify the areas in the image that would benefit from structure enhancement, and leave the other areas alone.

I think the best example of this is the "Human Aware" before/after illustration on the Luminar 4 page, where the woman is untouched during the application of structure, but we see real enhancement in the wood background.

The key to all of this working is accurate masking with no halos. The better the algorithm, the more useful the tool. In this case AI Structure looks darn good.

We will continue to see changes to our image editing tools thanks to machine learning. This latest innovation in Luminar 4 promises to be a good one.

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

This is The Digital Story Podcast #702, August 27, 2019. Today's theme is "5 Things I Learned Taking Pictures on Las Vegas Blvd." I'm Derrick Story.

Opening Monologue

I packed my carry-on bag with three cameras, a couple changes of clothes, and a water bottle and flew to Las Vegas for the week. My goal was to explore The Strip, not as an afterthought as I normally do while there for a conference, but as a primary goal. Four days later I returned home with a collection of images and a bit wiser than when I had left. The latter is the focus of today's TDS Photography Podcast.

5 Things I Learned Taking Pictures on Las Vegas Blvd.

I have a screenshot of the weather app on my iPhone that was captured at 7:46pm last Wednesday in Las Vegas. It reads that the current temperature was 106 degrees. By the time I wrapped up the evening's photography at 11pm, the temp had dropped to tepid 92 degrees.

Weather was definitely a factor during the entire week's shoot. And it is the best place for me to start with lessons learned.

  • Do Your Homework - With a little bit of research, I learned that there is a second Monorail access at the MGM Grand that saved me 15 minutes of walking through the smoky casino to the entrance that everyone knows about. I learned about free trams that I didn't know about. I found ATMs that were a fraction of the service charge price in most casinos. And I found the best places to eat at an affordable price.
  • Take into Account Factors that affect Your Energy - As I've said many times before, creativity and energy level are tied to one another. In order for me to be effective in the searing Nevada heat, I had to plan my excursions to incorporate relief during the shoot itself. For camera bag, I was carrying the Think Tank Urban Approach 5 with Canon G5X Mark II, Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II, Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens, and sometimes a Contax Aria film camera with 50mm lens.
  • Don't Shy Away from Tourists, Embrace Them - To be perfectly honest, most people in tourist locations don't care about you or your camera. I would stand there taking pictures as people walk by without ever a word about what I was doing. And if they did ask, I would say that I'm a tourist as well capturing the sites and sounds of the location. I often initiated conversations just to learn more about folks.
  • Don't Look Like a Pro - Leave the DSLR with super tele at home. Forget your humongous tripod. And don't even think about a bulky photographer's vest packed to the gils. These items will make people uncomfortable and attract unwanted attention to yourself. Save the bulky gear for your next landscape shoot where the trees don't care. And you definitely want to stay off the radar of security personal and people who don't like photographers.
  • Be Flexible - This applies to all aspects of your being. Be flexible mentally and adapt to your environment. Be flexible in your choices of subject and technique. Be flexible physically and remember to work all of the angles from low too high. And be flexible emotionally, understanding that the world doesn't care about your photography and isn't there to accommodate your needs.

So, now that I'm home, how do I feel about the photo shoot? In my pick set, I currently have 32 images that show the people and places on the Las Vegas Strip. And I very much like those photographs. I can tell that I was more focused about my photography than I had been in trips past where I did not make it my primary work.

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How Do You Listen to Your Podcasts?

Here are the results from, How Do You Listen to Your Podcasts?.

  • Apple Podcasts (twice as many as second place)
  • Overcast
  • A smattering of others including Pocket Cast, Google Play, and Spotify.

paul-and-dad-1024.jpg "Paul and His Dad" - Las Vegas Blvd. - Canon G5X Mark II - Photo by Derrick Story.

The Story of Paul

When people approach me on the street, it usually takes me a few seconds to gauge how to react. So when Paul plopped his backpack down on the bench where I was working, I wasn't sure what to think at first.

This story is about what happened next.

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Updates and Such

Inner Circle Members: A big thanks to those who support our podcast and our efforts!

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And finally, be sure to visit our friends at Red River Paper for all of your inkjet supply needs.

See you next week!

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.

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

I was thinking about last week's podcast during a morning shoot on Las Vegas Blvd., and how reflections could be used creatively.

IMG_0310-1024.jpg "Las Vegas Reflection" - Canon G5X Mark II - Photo by Derrick Story.

It began when I spotted a group of buildings across the street reflected in a store window. I thought the elements worked well together, creating an interesting juxtaposition of shape and color. This motivated me to seek out more compositions.

Woman with Yellow Hair "Woman with Yellow Hair" - Canon G5X Mark II - Photo by Derrick Story.

One of the things that I talked about in the podcast was how two worlds could be captured at once using reflections. In the "Woman with Yellow Hair" image, we have the one group going in the doors while a shadowy stranger approaches in the reflection. They work nice together, and I think all of the elements are more interesting as a group than just any single person.

Then there are more active reflections, where I have both versions of the subject in the same frame.

Man in Red Shirt "Man in Red Shirt" - Canon G5X Mark II - Photo by Derrick Story.

In the "Man with Red Shirt" photo, it appears that he is admiring himself in the glass. I think he's merely watching the street below, but I don't know for sure... and that interests me. Plus we have the other group visible in the glass but not in reality.

And finally, I combine two "mistakes" in the "Tourist Pointing" photograph. I have the reflection of the man in the white shirt, and just his physical hand on the right edge, adding "off-framing" to the mix. Viewers may or may not spot his hand, and that's part of the fun.

Tourist Pointing "Tourist Pointing" - Canon G5X Mark II - Photo by Derrick Story.

I captured a variety of images that hot morning in Las Vegas, many of which I like. And the reflections series definitely added some variety to the mix.

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