October 2006 Archives

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...

Grab Shot 71 - Fresh Catch


"The juxtaposition of the two sets of people struck me as a photo op," said Landon Michaelson. "White collar and blue collar. The bird added the final touch."

"The couple stopped here briefly, as did I, then the moment was gone."

Landon used a Nikon D200 with a 85mm 1.8 at f/4, and a polarizer and ND filter to keep shutter speeds in check in the bright sunlight, as he was shooting wide open for awhile. The shutter speed was 1/50 second. Landon thought f/2 was too shallow and would lose the fishermen, so he switched to f/4 and grabbed this shot. You can see more of Landon's work at Best Kept Secret Photography.

If you have a candid you'd like to share, take a look at our Submissions page, then send us your Grab Shot. If we publish it, you'll receive an ultra cool custom carabineer keychain.

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Off to the Western Caribbean


I'm on a plane this morning to Tampa, FL where I will then board a Holland America ship for the Western Caribbean. I'm going to have lots to report from this trip. First, our stops are at Key West, Belize City, Santo Tomas, and Costa Maya. I hope to find some interesting photographic subjects at these destinations that I can report back to you.

I'm also teaching a week long digital photography course with Ben Long as part of the Geek Cruises. I like this format because we're in class while at sea, then get to shoot when in port. I'll try to capture some gems from these class discussions and post them here on TDS.

So be sure to tune in this week to read the anecdotes and see the images from this adventure in the Western Caribbean. More to come...

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I've discovered an affordable photo management/photo editing package that Windows users might want to investigate. ACDSee has bundled their manager/editor packages, and are offering the whole deal for $79.99 US.

The Photo Editor offers features such as: one-click auto color balance, auto levels, auto sharpen, or auto contrast; adjustment/filter variations display up to 8 different previews of your original photo; and how-tos that teach you how to be creative with your photos, step by step.

The Photo Manager also has a nice array of goodies including: auto categories that automatically match your photos into categories based on camera information like IPTC and EXIF metadata; print layouts reduce the complexity and confusion of printing multiple photos; and organize photos by date and event with the calendar events view.

With the holidays fast approaching, this might be a good gift to help your favorite Windows photographer get organized.

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Grab Shot 70 - Woodstock


"My wife has always wanted to see where the Woodstock Festival was held," said Jim Stocking. "The two of us, along with my brother and his wife and daughter, made a pilgrimage out there on a day that began as rainy and overcast. By the time we got there, however, the sun was breaking through and we saw a beautiful rainbow."

"I took the picture with my Canon S80 using program mode with white balance set to cloudy, then I checked the histogram to make sure the exposure did not clip at either end. I used the Curves adjustment in Photoshop to tweak up the image, trying to darken the rainbow and lighten the landscape."

If you have a candid you'd like to share, take a look at our Submissions page, then send us your Grab Shot. If we publish it, you'll receive an ultra cool custom carabineer keychain.

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Kodak V705

"The Kodak Easyshare V705 has a 7.3 MP megapixel, 1/2.5 inch CCD that delivers 7.1 effective megapixels," says the Photography Blog. "There are a range of image sizes (3072 × 2304, 3072 × 2048, 2576 × 1932, 2048x1536, 1200 × 900) which are recorded as JPEGs. The camera has two lenses rather than the standard one. The first is a fixed ultra wide-angle lens equivalent to 23mm on a 35mm format camera. The second is a 3x optical zoom lens equivalent to 39-117 mm. There is also a 4x digital zoom should you feel the need to use it. The camera has 32Mb of built-in memory, of which 28Mb is available for picture storage - it is not supplied with either a SD Memory Card or MultiMedia Card."

I've been curious about this little camera since it's been announced. Photography Blog gives it an overall rating of 4 out of 5 stars. But they do have a few notes about performance speed and image quality that you should read carefully before getting too excited about this stylish compact.

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Steve Simon has been passionate about documenting life through photography since he began taking photographs at age 12 in his home city of Montreal. He authored a column on photography and for eight years his articles appeared in The Montreal Gazette, The Ottawa Citizen, The Toronto Star and The New York Times among others. He graduated from Concordia University in Montreal with a degree in Communications/Journalism.

While I was in San Francisco for some other work, I had a chance to meet Steve and learn about his new book, Heroines and Heroes. Our conversation was very interesting, so I asked him if I could pull out the microphone and record the dialogue. This is a real field interview, complete with street noise in the background and recording levels set just a bit too hot. But the information is terrific, and I wanted to share Steve's thoughts with you.

He covers his trips to Africa, the Heroines and Heroes project, traveling with photo gear, shooting technique, and a wealth of other tips. I think you'll enjoy what Steve has to say.

Listen to the Podcast

Now that I've piqued your curiosity, it's time to listen to today's audio show titled, "Steve Simon on Heroines and Heroes." You can download the podcast here (27 minutes).

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One of the most common questions I hear when teaching digital photography has to do with people wanting to serve their iPhoto libraries on the Internet. Now, thanks to Fastball Software, you can serve both iPhoto 6 and Aperture 1.5 albums on the web using the built-in Apache server in Mac OS X.

WebGem 1.1.3 is a nifty tool that you can download for free and serve up to 200 iPhoto and/or Aperture images. If you want unlimited photo serving, the registered version cost only $15.

Setup couldn't be easier. Download WebGem, add it to your Applications folder, launch it, open the Preferences to determine which iPhoto and Aperture albums you want to serve, set the limits on maximum image size you're going to make available, and click the Start Server button. WebGem uses your built-in Apache server and makes your albums available through port 9999. If you don't know what your IP address is, go to the Sharing Preference pane, click on the Services tab, click on Personal Web Sharing, and read your IP address at the bottom of the pane. It should be something like 172:18:1:4. All you have to do is add :9999 to that address, and you can view the shared albums on any Mac, Windows, or Linux computer. (That address is what you send to those you want to make these pages available to. For example, it could be http://172:18:1:4:9999).

If you want to make the full size version of the image available to viewers, such as clients for your photography, check the "Allow full size downloads" box in WebGem's preferences. A "Download Full Size Photo" link will be added to each photo page than enables viewers to grab the high resolution version.

Aperture 1.5 users can serve their images too, right along side the iPhoto albums. The key is to use the previews function in Aperture 1.5. Once you generate previews for the albums you want to serve, they are available through WebGem.

I recommend that you also turn on Mac OS X's Firewall if you're going to serve images from your personal computer via WebGem. To make sure others can access the photos (but not the rest of the information on your Mac), add Port 9999 to the "Allow" menu. Go to the Sharing Preference pane, click on the Firewall tab, click on the New button, add Port 9999, then turn on the Firewall. You can now safely serve photos from your Mac.

WebGem provides search (via keywords) and organization via your published albums. Users do have to use the browser back button to go from enlarged images back to thumbnails, but aside from that minor inconvenience, this application works great.

I think WebGem is one of those truly handy shareware applications for Mac OS X photographers. Who would have thought that photo enthusiasts would be able to set up an Apache server with a photo database backend in just minutes? It's a beautiful thing...

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Grab Shot 69 - Tired of Art


"I grabbed this shot at the Getty Center in Los Angeles," said Julianne Fishell. "My son was tired, and his feet hurt, so he collapsed on the bench while the rest of us looked at the paintings. I took a quick shot of him with my camera because I liked the way the empty room looked. I didn't realize until I uploaded the photo that his tie dyed shirt matched the colors of the gallery, and his state of collapse mimicked the position of the nude in the painting behind him."

Julianne used a Canon 30D with the Canon EF-S 10-22mm lens. ISO 1000, shutter speed 1/80, aperture f/4.0. There was no flash allowed, so she had to use the super high ISO. She had the camera on shutter priority and had been snapping shots around the interior of the museum to try out her lens, which was brand new at the time.

If you have a candid you'd like to share, take a look at our Submissions page, then send us your Grab Shot. If we publish it, you'll receive an ultra cool custom carabineer keychain.

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If you have plans to attend PhotoPlus Expo and would like to add a fun dimension to your trip, I'm looking for a podcaster who can interview a handful of scheduled photographers.

I won't be able to attend PPE this year because I'll be teaching photography in the Eastern Caribbean that week. (I'll have lots to report from there, so stay tuned!)

So there's a real opportunity for someone who is handy with the mic and enjoys talking shop with other photographers. (We can provide you with the recording equipment.) If you're interested and want to learn more, please contact me ASAP by writing to derrick(at)thedigitalstory(dot com). You can always find the link on our Submissions page. In the subject line, put "PhotoPlus Expo - Your Name."


Adobe announced a minor update to its current beta version of Lightroom. This update, available now, includes the following:

- Resolves external editor conflict
- Corrects export orientation for constrained portrait images
- Resolves missing image error with large web galleries
- Provides Photo Binder platform compatibility on optical media

You can download beta 4.1 at the Adobe Labs site. It is available for both Mac and Windows users. This build expires on Feb. 28, 2007.

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Mod Your Flash with a Cardboard Grid

Gut Mann's Cardboard Grid

One of the problems with location flash photography is that you often only want to light part of the scene (the subject) and downplay (but not eliminate) the area surrounding the person. There are lots of expensive accessories to achieve this effect. But I just read a post on the Strobist (scroll down the page until you get to the post titled "Free and So Easy: DIY Grid Spots for Your Flash"), where contributor Gut Mann designed a nifty grid for your flash head out of corrugated cardboard. Using this DIY attachment, you can create professional looking environmental portraits that emphasizes the subject, yet downplays the environment. Complete assembly instructions are detailed on the site.

You can get a rough feel for the effect by looking at an assignment shoot with a snoot by the Strobist. If you're a location portrait shooter, this is definitely a trick you want in your camera bag.

Photo from the Strobist website.

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Grab Shot 68 - Sin


"It was only after the Lamborghini Diablo sped past that I saw that it had SIN as the license plate," said Andrew Burke... "and a beautiful blond passenger!"

Andrew captured this grab shot with his brand new Nikon D50 camera at 1250th of a second, f4.5, using the 70-300 lens at 135mm.

If you have a candid you'd like to share, take a look at our Submissions page, then send us your Grab Shot. If we publish it, you'll receive an ultra cool custom carabineer keychain.

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iPhoto 6

I've been doing a lot of iPhoto talks lately, and I've noticed that a lot of people don't know how to preview the images on their memory card using iPhoto 6. I first read about this trick on MacOSXhints, and it's pretty handy.

When you have your camera or card reader connected to your Mac with iPhoto open, hit the Return key twice in succession. iPhoto 6 will allow you to preview the images on your memory card. You can even drag specific pictures to the Source pane.

Once you've finished previewing your pictures, all you have to do is click on the Library folder (or anywhere else really), then back to your Camera Icon in the Source pane, to upload your pictures the normal way.

It's really a handy way to see what's on your memory card before adding the whole enchilada to your iPhoto library.

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Memory Cards

Experience is the best teacher... as long as you learn from your mistakes. This podcast is dedicated to lessons I've learned the hard way. I talk about situations such as finding myself at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with dead batteries, capturing landscapes at ISO 1600, and not double-checking my facts before dispensing advice on memory cards.

If you want to revel in (and learn from) my mistakes, you're sure to like this podcast. And if you have your own lessons that you learned the hard way, be sure to send them to me, and I'll do a reader version of the show. (Go to the Submissions page for info on how to contact me.)

Listen to the Podcast

Now that I've piqued your curiosity, it's time to listen to today's audio show titled, "Things I've Learned the Hard Way." You can download the podcast here (28 minutes).

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Canon Rebel XTi

Canon "played it safe" with the latest version of the Canon Digital Rebel 400D (XTi), according to a recent review in Digital Photography Review. But playing it safe isn't always a bad thing, because the latest Rebel earned a Highly Recommended rating.

So what do you get for your hard earned money? The new Rebel features a 10.1 megapixel CMOS sensor with improved microlens array, excellent dynamic range, nine point auto focus sensor, large, bright, 2.5" LCD monitor with 160° viewing angles, three settings for long exposure noise reduction, and a new dust reduction system.

Pretty good stuff for a camera that is $100 less than its predesessor -- $849 on Amazon with 18-55mm lens. If you want to shoot RAW, this is a camera to consider.

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Grab Shot 67 - Takeoff

Grab Shot

"While eating lunch at a port-side fish restaurant in Acco/Acres (near Haifa, Israel)," said Yuval Yeret, "I noticed some local boys jumping from the old city walls into the water. I switched into continuous-shot mode and tried to grab some interesting shots. This was in the afternoon (15:06 to be exact), and since we were in daylight savings time, the sun was already on its way down. We had significant backlighting there, which makes this an almost total shilouette. It adds to the shot I think."

"I think the best of the bunch is this one, capturing the act of takeoff..."

Yuval used a a Nikon D80 and a Nikkor 18-200 VR lens set to 135mm. ISO 250 in aperture priority mode.

If you have a candid you'd like to share, take a look at our Submissions page, then send us your Grab Shot. If we publish it, you'll receive an ultra cool custom carabineer keychain.

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Digital Photography Special iLifeZone


It's a Photoshop, iPhoto, and Aperture bash on the latest edition of the iLifeZone. Yours truly teams up with Scott Bourne and Jan Kabili to talk about digital photography and Macs. As always, the conversation is lively. You gotta check it out.

You can subscribe to the iLifeZone via iTunes Music Store.

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Grab Shot 66 - Beach Chairs


"I captured this moment after a troup of beach-goers had staked out their spot, set up their chairs, and immediately left to take a walk," said Francine Kunkel. "Left on their own at the empty beach, I thought the chairs truly had a wonderful, peaceful view of the ocean."

Francine captured this shot with a Canon Powershot 2 IS, f4 at 1/1000, at a Northern California beach.

If you have an interesting candid you'd like to share, take a look at our Submissions page, then send us your Grab Shot. If we publish it, you'll receive an ultra cool custom carabineer keychain.

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Looking for Aperture Bloggers

Aperture 1.1

Are you a profession or serious amateur photographer using Aperture? Would you like to be part of a high profile weblog that focuses on Aperture and digital photography? If the answer is yes to both of these questions, send an email to derrick(at)thedigitalstory(dotcom). Put "Aperture Blogger - Your Name" in the subject line, and describe why you'd like to join this blogging community in the body of the email. If you have any links that I should see, include those too.

Deadline for this "Call for Aperture Bloggers" is Wed. Oct. 18. So if you're interested, don't procrastinate. Send that email today.

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2

This is a camera that many serious photographers want to buy, but may be leery of because of the image processing shortcomings in the first model, the LX1.

The latest release, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2, once again tempts our willpower. It has a 4X Leica zoom with image stabilizer (that is 28mm on the wide end), true 16:9 format option, 10 megapixels of resolution, 2.8 inch LCD monitor, beautiful metal body, RAW mode, ISO range up to 1600, and a brand new Venus III image processing engine.

The bottom line with this beautiful machine seems to be this... if you shoot at ISO 100, or even 200, you're going to be pretty happy with the results. But once you start pushing it to ISO 400 and higher, you're going to have some image noise to deal with. For more details about this, take a look at the review on photographyblog. If grappling with the noise at higher ISOs isn't a deal breaker for you, this is a gorgeous camera with a Leica lens that you can buy for around $500.

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iView Media Pro

iView Multimedia has released an update to its flagship digital asset management program, iView MediaPro. In today's press release, iView says that it's increased performance for both Mac and Windows versions. This is heartening, since this is the first update to the popular application since the Microsoft acquisition. Many had feared that Microsoft would eliminate Mac support for the product. This release is a good sign for Mac users of iView Media Pro.

Download iView MediaPro 3.1.2 at www.iview-multimedia.com/downloads/index.php. This update is free for registered users of MediaPro 3.x. This update works best with the latest version of QuickTime (7.1.3) from Apple, which is strongly recommended to both Windows and Macintosh users.

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You don't need a diving rig to enjoy taking pictures around water. And by the same token, water photography isn't just for that once a year vacation to Hawaii. Much in the same way that macro and panorama photography can add new dimensions to your image catalog, so can water pictures.

Looking for a new way to get great kid shots? Put them in a pool and jump in with your camera. How about children playing in the surf zone at a beach? Or maybe a canoe trip on the local lake? Splashing in the gutter on a rainy day? There are lots of opportunities for water shots.

You will want the proper equipment, however. Underwater housings, such as the Canon WP-DC5 are affordable and work great. Olympus and other brands also make housings for their digital cameras. And they protect your investment topside (in the rain for example) as well as in the pool.

This week's podcast talks about water photography and provides you with tips on how to get started. Maybe it's time you got your feet wet...


Listen to the Podcast

Now that I've piqued your curiosity, it's time to listen to today's audio show titled, "Water Photography" You can download the podcast here (30 minutes).

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The September Photo Assignment was "Circle," and we have quite a gallery for you. Sixteen images submitted by The Digital Story members illustrate a bounty of creativity and craftsmanship. In other words, they look great!

To produce the gallery, the pictures were first loaded into Aperture. I then added the accompanying stories to the IPTC caption field and combined it with the EXIF data from the photograph. The final step was to create a web gallery in Aperture and upload it to the Digial Story server. You can view this month's photo assignment here.

The October assignment is "Reflection." Start working on your contribution now. Details can be found on the Submissions page. Because of our new gallery format, you can now submit photo assignment pictures up to 600 pixels wide for horzontal shots, 400 pixels wide for verticals.

Good luck with your October assignment, and congratulations to all of the fine contributors for September. It's a great collection of images.

Photo by Nina Contini Melis

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Epson R2400

One of the biggest challenges in digital photography is producing clean, accurate prints using your desktop printer. How do you tackle color management, screen calibration, printing resolution, and all the other variables that befuddles most photographers between capture and output?

Fortunately for us, Ben Long has published a four part printing tutorial on creativepro.com. In this series, Ben covers:

  • Part 1: Selecting a photo printer.
  • Part 2: Color management, soft proofing, make your first print.
  • Part 3: Paper profiling.
  • Part 4: Paper profiles, RIPs.

This is a series I highly recommend.

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Grab Shot 65 - Rockets and Red Glare


"I took this shot from the Golden Gate Bridge on a Friday bike ride," said Brad Immanuel. "Two jets, F-18s, I think, were flying formation around the bay. They flew toward the east side of the bridge and then over it while I checked the view out. I had a lot of trouble getting my Digital Rebel to auto-focus, and by the time I got a shot off, they were right overhead. So it's a hastily composed image, but I think the tower, planes, and glare all play well. I turned up the color in Aperture."

Actually, Brad, this might be an instance when the shot you could get was the best composition. Brad recorded this photo with his Digital Rebel XT set to ISO 400.

If you have an interesting candid you'd like to share, take a look at our Submissions page, then send us your Grab Shot. If we publish it, you'll receive an ultra cool custom carabineer keychain.

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Sea Turtle Rising for Air


I had been hoping all week to visit a sea turtle underwater, and I finally got my chance while snorkeling at Kahekili Beach Park in Maui. I spotted this guy resting beneath a rock ledge about 20 feet down. I knew that turtles generally come up for air a couple times an hour, so I just hung out to see what would happen. Sure enough, about 15 minutes later he headed for the surface. I gave him lots of space so he could go where he wanted, but photographed his ascent and decent.

I have all sorts of great shots in this series, but this is one of my favorites. He looks graceful, and the feeling of weightlessness is really communicated here. After he caught his breath, he went back to his spot under the reef.

One quick note about sea turtles. If you're lucky enough to visit one while snorkeling, please give them lots of space. And what ever you do, don't touch.

One final shot from Maui, then back to regular business. I'm including this wonderful congregation of fish from a Black Rock dive because it just felt so good to be swimming with them. Hope you enjoy it. See you back in Northern California for my next post.


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Lightroom (top) & Aperture

With the release of Lightroom Beta 4 and Aperture 1.5, I felt it was time to check in with these two premier applications to see how they were evolving. Back in January, I published Lightroom vs Aperture round 1. Today we go at it again.

Much has changed in 9 months. Lightroom is now available for both Mac and Windows. Aperture runs in Intel-powered Macs as well as PowerPCs. Lightroom's Develop module has grown up into one of the most elegant image editing tools I've ever used. Aperture's performance has improved dramatically, to the point I can do serious photo editing on my 17" MacBook Pro without the need for a desktop computer.

There's lots to discuss, so you might want to spend the next half hour with me as we explore the highlights of these two revolutionary applications.

Listen to the Podcast

Now that I've piqued your curiosity, it's time to listen to today's audio show titled, "Lightroom vs Aperture Revisted." You can download the podcast here (31 minutes).

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Grab Shot 64 - Multitasking


"Snatched this picture while in Milan," said Jennifer Tofani. I was thinking of it for the circle assignment, but it is really a grab shot even though it has all the circles. I just couldn't believe the blue arrow pointing to this guy with a video camera and on the phone. What a world."

Jennifer used a Nikon D200 in RAW mode, 1/130 at f/4.5. The ISO was set to 100. Focal Length was 70mm on the 18 -70 mm Nikon lens.

If you have an interesting candid you'd like to share, take a look at our Submissions page, then send us your Grab Shot. If we publish it, you'll receive an ultra cool custom carabineer keychain.

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Moray Eel in Maui


As I continue to work with the Canon SD700 and the WP-DC5 underwater housing in West Maui, I'm getting more comfortable with the rig each day. The only glitch I had today was some fogging on the inside of the housing after a short session of above-water shooting. So I had to swim back to shore, take the camera out of the housing, defog, then return for a second tour of snorkeling.

I'd also recommend the optional weights that you can get for the housing. I noticed that I wasn't staying submerged as long as I would have liked on my free dives. Part of what was working against me was the WP-DC5 housing that is buoyant by design. The optional weights help counter that. And when you're trying to stay under during a dive, every little bit helps.

The top image is a Moray Eel I caught relocating from one rocky area to another. I had to shoot fast to catch him, and the SD700 was very responsive. The bottom shot of the Rectangular Triggerfish is from above also. I really like the clown-like face, complete with blue lips, that is displayed on the top of this beautiful fish.