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Aerial Photography Without a Drone


Taking pictures from a high vantage point is fun. And you don't necessarily need a drone to do so.

I've put together an "Air Stick" that uses an Olympus Air A01 with a 14-42mm EZ zoom mounted on the end of a Manfrotto Compact Xtreme pole. On the other end of the Xtreme I've attached an iPhone 6S using the very secure MeFOTO SideKick 360 SmartPhone Adapter. This rig allows me to photograph from vantage points high above my head.

I also replaced the cheesy ball head that Manfrotto includes with a more robust model that that features a quick-release plate. Not only does this provide a more secure attachment to the pole, but I can quickly remove the Air for packing in my bag.

Speaking of which, this setup is very compact. The Xtreme pole is only 15" long when collapsed. But when fitted with the Air and SideKick, then completely extended, it's 5 feet in length, plus my 6 feet of height, plus however high I hold it over my head... You get the idea.

IMG_0309-aerial.jpg Rooftop perspective using the Air Stick fully extended. Photos by Derrick Story.

There are a number of applications for this set up. Large group shots suddenly are much easier. Just extend the Olympus Air over your head, comfortably compose on the iPhone LCD, and even make exposure adjustments and control the zoom from the smartphone.

Not to mention great vantage points while traveling, on vacation, covering events, or just seeing your local world from a new perspective. The 16MP Olympus Air produces beautiful images captured in both RAW and Jpeg. And you can immediately post your favorite shots via the iPhone.

PB030404-aerial.jpg iPhone 6S attached to the Xtreme pole using the MeFOTO SideKick.

PB030411-aerial.jpg Olympus Air attached to the Xtreme pole using a ball head with quick release.

You can also use the Manfrotto Xtreme as a standard monopod when not pressed into service as an Air Stick. It's light and compact, making it easy to bring along. If you want to see the world from a higher vantage point, but not crazy about flying drones, consider this option. It's easy and it's a blast!

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy Cycling with the Olympus Air.

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The Air Stick has a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting

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This is The Digital Story Podcast #504, Nov. 3, 2015. Today's theme is "We're going to make some changes." I'm Derrick Story.

Opening Monologue

There are only two directions in publishing: moving forward or falling back. In the last year, I've seen plenty of each. In the moving forward category, the team at Rocky Nook is definitely on the rise. They invested in personnel who have brought new ideas to the company, and their risks are paying off. I'm lucky enough to be part of that change, and I'm excited about the prospects for 2016.

As for falling back, I think the old Digital Story served its purpose, but I have not been feeling the passion that I want from this enterprise. So we're going to shake things up, and as of today, I'm presenting to you a new show. If you like what you hear, I want you to get behind it. So let's get to it.

It's Not a Paperweight; It's a Flash

I just finished a new eBook titled Rocky Nook's Guide to Flash Terminology. It's a free download, and in it I illustrate and explain the meaning of all those terms we hear in flash photography.

We all have these things, but I sometimes get the feeling we're too lazy to pull them out of our camera bags. Here's a scenario when I think it's worth your trouble to power up the speedlight.

Twilight Portraits. These are the coolest images. Whether you're shooting a wedding or visiting a big city, go outside at twilight, find a stunning sunset or city light backdrop, steady your camera, and make a portrait using slow synchro flash.

Don't overexpose your subject. Dial down flash exposure compensation to pull the speedlight illumination into alignment with the background lighting. These portraits can be stunning.

Get Your Training On

This week's lynda recommendation is Street Photography: The City at Night with Steve Simon. After you finish your twilight portrait, explore the mysterious side of the city with a fast lens and a sharp eye. Steve Simon will provide the inspiration and technical knowhow to help you get the most out of this adventure.

In the News

  • Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II sales to resume on November 7 - DPReview
  • World-Famous Instagram Model Essena O'Neill Quits Social Media, stating that, "Since the age of about 15, O'Neill had cultivated an identity of false perfection that she obsessively shared with the world and filled an endless need to acquire more validation through social media. O'Neill is now reorienting her career to speak about how the creation of this fake persona that was based completely on physical appearance has had a tremendously negative impact on both the perception of her own self-worth as well as starving her from experiencing life outside social media." - FStoppers Original Article.


Gear We Like

The Tenba Cooper Luxury Canvas 13 Slim Camera Bag with Leather Accents ($229). The exterior features Peach-wax cotton canvas (20% polyester reinforcement) with 2x water-repellent PU coating, waterproof, full-grain leather base and accents. Inside you'll find ilicone-coated, water-repellent ripstop nylon and soft, brushed tricot. Hardware: YKK® zippers with hand-riveted full-grain leather zipper pulls. The Cooper 13 Slim accommodates a mirrorless camera with 3-5 lenses or a DSLR with 2-3 lenses (up to 70-200mm 2.8). The rear padded sleeve will hold a laptop up to 13 inches.

Support This Show

What does Jon, Christopher, Ed, Craig, Edward, Tim, Kevin, Larry, Thomas, Byron, Gary, Randall, and Sean have in common? They have pledged their support of this podcast by becoming an Becoming an Independent Online Supporter. Their support of Independent Online Publishing has helped fund our latest server upgrade to ensure that this content reaches anyone who wishes to listen. You can do your part today by clicking on the Sponsorship tab at the top of

Member Quote of the Week

Intelligent comments culled from The Digital Story Facebook page.

In regard to my post, Why I Take My Bag to Breakfast, Steve Blazevich writes: "I always go straight home after I'm done shooting what I have to, I can't stand the idea of going in a store while leaving my camera bag in the car. Most times it's not practical either for me to carry everything in to a store. I should look in to a better bag." I agree Steve, get yourself a nimble bag and you won't have to rush home after a shoot.

Post your thoughts on our Facebook page. Believe me, I read them.

Software Download

Camra camera app saves photos and video directly to the cloud. The newly released Camra apps aims to make things easier by uploading images and video straight to the cloud as you shoot. The added bonus is that you can keep shooting, even if you are out of storage, as Camra never stores the files locally. A free Camra account offers up to 5GB of storage space but $0.99 a month buys you a full 100GB. If you'd like to give the app and service a closer look you can download Camra now from Google Play and the Apple App Store. Via DPConnect.

How Long Should You Let Your Inkjet Prints Dry?

Red River Paper posts in their latest newsletter: "As a general rule, you can handle and work with photo inkjet prints as soon as the come out of your printer. They are "dry to the touch" but in reality it takes about 24 hours for an inkjet print to fully cure and dry." Red River Paper is the longest running sponsor of The Digital Story.

What the Heck?

My inaugural "What the Heck?" goes to the development team at Apple responsible for Photos for OS X. Why don't you give us star ratings? Really. You've created this beautiful editing interface and integrated cloud connectivity, and yet you refuse to provide a reasonable method for enthusiast photographers to rate their images.

I'm begging you. Get off the stick and give us a front end that's deserving of the genius that we see in the other parts of the app. It's not too late. We're asking you to please give us the tools we need to do our job.

Found in the Bottom of the Bag

I've added the Walking Man Flask Set to the Nimble Photographer Store. The Eastern Sierra Fall Color Workshop holds the top spot on the TDS 2016 Workshops Reserve List. And if you plan on ordering through B&H Photo or Amazon, please stop by the TDS site first, click on their respective ad tile, then place your order. That extra step helps support the site.

See you next week!

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I recently purchased a SanDisk Ultra Fit USB 3.0 Flash Drive for my MacBook Pro, hoping to extend its storage capacity for backup files. The concept is great. Insert the tiny drive into an open USB port and leave it there. By doing so, I've added 128 GBs of storage to my laptop.

At first, I used Apple's Disk Utility to erase the Ultra Fit formatting it for the Mac. I was hoping to keep Aperture libraries there. By doing so, however, the performance was so slow that I abandoned that idea and reformatted again with MSDOS. But the read/write speed didn't improve.

For example, a 3 GB audio file took 1:21 to copy from the Mac to the Ultra Fit. That is not blazing fast.

So unless I'm missing something, this isn't up to USB 3.0 standards. I have a SanDisk Cruzer Flash Drive that is blazing fast. So I know how a USB 3.0 drive should perform.

The Ultra Fit is a nice idea. But for me, it just didn't work. Back to the drawing board.

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New Items in The Nimble Store

Two new items have been added to the Nimble Store. We now have a special edition Walking Man Flask Set that features a handsome matte finish with silver walking man logo and metal funnel, all neatly packed in a custom gift box.


We've also added a handy Silver and Black Microfiber Cloth that not only can be used to keep your optics shiny clean, but can serve as a neutral color swatch for white balance correction in post production.


We're working on additional tempting items for nimble photographers. So be sure to keep an eye on for swag, journal entries, and daily photos.

Nimble Photographer Logo

These products have a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting

The Affordable, Dramatic Grid Modifier

Many portrait photographers strive to create very soft, diffused lighting for their female subjects. And most of the time, this is a good call. But I've discovered that a strong directional light from a grid modifier can produce dramatic effects that diffusers cannot.

grid-modifier.jpg Rogue Grid Modifier was placed to the photographer's left to create the dramatic lighting. Photo by Derrick Story.

And you can do so without spending a lot of money. For example, the The RogueGrid2 Flash Grid 3-in-1 Stacking System for electronic flashes is $39, includes stacking grids and color gels. I used this system with a speedlight to create the portrait above.

The grid was placed to the photographer's left creating a harsh, directional light. A diffused panel was positioned on the right to serve as a fill to soften the shadows and balance the overall effect.

For a weekend project, you can make your own DIY grid modifier. The article, How to Make a DIY Grid Spot Out of Straws With Tape Instead of Glue, shows you step by step how to design a grid for your flash, and for just a few dollars.

You might also be interested in a free eBook from Rocky Nook titled, Rocky Nook's Guide to Flash Terminology. It explains 43 practical flash terms, including Grid, Bounce Flash, Brolly, Cold Shoe, Forced Flash, Gobo, Hot Shoe, Ring Light, and many more. You can keep it as a reference resource on your smartphone or tablet.

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

Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO Lens is Sweet


One of the benefits of workshops is learning about other photographer's gear. This last weekend I spent some quality time with the Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO Lens mounted on my OM-D E-M5 Mark II. After a few shots, I was reluctant to unmount this beautiful zoom. Here are the basic specs:

  • 14-28mm (35mm Equivalent)
  • Aperture Range: f/2.8 to f/22
  • 3 Aspherical, 1 DSA, 4 ED, 2 HR Elements
  • Anti-Reflection ZERO Coating
  • High-Speed Imager AF with MSC
  • Manual Focus Mechanism (Snap)
  • L-Fn Button for Settings Control
  • Dust, Splash, and Freezeproof Design
  • Rounded 7-Blade Diaphragm

In terms of handling, the 7-14mm PRO is smooth, quiet, and fast. It has a nice heft that balanced wonderfully on the E-M5 II. And the images were terrific.

workshop-lab-sunleaf.jpg Workshop Lab - Captured with the Olympus 7-14mm at f/2.8, 14mm, on an E-M5 Mark II.

The one missing gap I have in my transition to serious Micro Four Thirds photography is pro level super wide zoom. Looks like I better start saving...

Nimble Photographer Logo

The Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO Lens has a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting

On today's The Digital Story Photography Podcast: Favorite Hardware from PPE, Interview with Simone Wilson and John Hershey, TDS Fall Photography Workshop Wrap-up - all of this and more on today's show with Derrick Story.

Weekly Update - c't Digital Photography reports: Noteworthy Announcements from PhotoPlus Expo:

Canon has done their part with the G5X (Oct. 13) and a new mirrorless model. They also had a solid printer announcement (Oct. 21). Sony dropped the RX1R II with 42MP sensor and EVF (Oct. 14), and then Leica's cool SL system with Type 601 full-frame mirrorless camera and lenses (Oct. 20) was a great surprise. Sigma piled on with the 20mm f/1.4 (Oct. 16), And I love Fujifilm's unveiling of the weather-sealed 35mm F2 lens and 1.4x teleconverter (Oct. 21).

In other news, "How to make a dead simple DIY speedlight grid" Imaging-Resource reports: "If you're looking for a fun, simple DIY project this week, photographer Isiah Xiong has you covered. In his latest video, shared on YouTube, he shows off a simple way to make a speedlight grid with nothing more than straws, tape, scissors and thick construction paper."


Story #1 - "Interview with Simone Wilson and John Hershey"

Simone Wilson has authored the beautiful, informative Sonoma Coast book featuring images by herself and TDS member John Hershey. I sit down with Simone and John at the TDS Studio to discuss what it takes to conceive, author, and publish a book.

Story #2 - Wrap-up from the TDS Fall Photography Workshop

We covered everything from color temperature for portraits, to wildlife photography, to shooting landscapes. Here's a brief wrap-up of the just-concluded TDS workshop in Sonoma County.

Story #3 - From the Screening Room - Up and Running with FotoMagico with Richard Harrington. Slideshows are a great way to showcase your favorite photos. FotoMagico is an easy-to-use Mac application for exporting high-quality slideshows in variety of formats, including movies, DVDs, and even standalone iOS apps. FotoMagico lets you combine photos and music as well as add narration, movies, transitions, and movement. In this course, Rich Harrington shows how to set up a new slideshow; customize the display and playback options; enhance the slideshow with layers, graphics, and watermarks; and publish it as a self-contained movie, an iOS app, and as a reel for posting on YouTube or Vimeo.

You can watch Richard in action by visiting And you can sign up for your 7-day free trial by visiting the TDS Screening Room.

Virtual Camera Club News

TDS Workshops 2016

We've had a change at the top spot for week two of the Reserve list with Fall Color in the Eastern Sierra garnering the most reservations. If you're looking for a satisfying photo adventure, take a look at the TDS Workshops Page for more information.

Holiday Note from SizzlPix

5k Ultra High Definition SizzlPix orders received over the next few weeks can be guaranteed to beat the rush and be delivered for the holidays. (a surprise for that person who "has everything.")

For The Digital Story Virtual Camera Club members ... if you'd like additional copies of for gifts, or 5k Ultra High Definition SizzlPix of any other of your images to make spectacular, amazing holiday gifts, order any two SizzlPix to be shipped together, and we'll give you 20% off on the second one! Order any sizes from 18-inches up to a mind-boggling 48 by 72". Imagine -- six feet! and no sacrifice in resolution, luminance, and impact. You can walk up to even the biggest 5k Ultra High Definition SizzlPix as close as you can focus your eyes, and every detail will be there, without grain, noise nor distortion, just as you see it on your phone or pad! Yes, it is like retina display for your wall.

Note from Kevin Miller about Red River Paper - Kevin did some price comparisons with Epson stock, and here's what he found for 10 mil thickness and luster/satin surface:
Epson Ultra Premium Luster 13x19 (from Epson site), #50, $115 or $2.30 per sheet. Thickness 10 mil.
Epson Ultra Premium Luster 13x19 (from B&H Photo), #50, $77.50 or $1.55 per sheet. Thickness 10 mil.
Red River Arctic Polar Satin 13x19, #50, $64.76 or $1.30 per sheet. Thickness 10.5 mil.

Thanks to everyone who recently reviewed the TDS Podcast in iTunes!

BTW: If you're ordering through B&H or Amazon, please click on the respective ad tile under the Products header in the box half way down the 2nd column on That helps support the site.

Download the Show

In addition to subscribing in iTunes, you can also download the podcast file here (41 minutes). You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App for only $2.99 from the Apple App Store.

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 - Learn lighting, portraiture, Photoshop skills, and more from expert-taught videos at

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

SizzlPix! - New 5k Ultra High Definition SizzlPix output for your photography. You've never seen your imagery look so good.

Zenfolio If you want your site to look as good as your photos, visit today.

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My passion for photography is renewed every time we gather together for a TDS workshop. The climax of the event is the class slideshow on the final day. Here are some of our favorite images from that presentation.

Heather Kimber - Safari West

Heather-Safari-West.jpg Canon Rebel XS with Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom.

Derrick Story - Safari West

Derrick-Story-Safari-West Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II with Olympus PRO 40-150mm f/2.8 zoom.

Jennifer Hobbs - Lambert Bridge, Dry Creek Sonoma County

Jenni-Lambert-Bridge Canon 7D with 28-75mm zoom, converted to B&W in Lightroom.

Larry Borreson - Safari West

Larry-Borreson-Safari-West OM-D E-M5 with Olympus M.75-300mm F4.8-6.7 II.

Philip Swenson - Dry Creek, Sonoma County

Phil-Swenson-Dry-Creek Nikon D7200 with Tokina 100mm f/2.8 prime.

Larry Borreson - Workshop Group Shot

Larry-workshop-group-shot.jpg Panasonic GH4 with Lumix Vario 12-35mm F/2.8 zoom on a tripod.

Join Us in 2016

We have a terrific season lined up for 2016. You can join us by visiting the TDS Workshops page, then use the Send Me Info form to get on the Reserve List for your favorite event. Spending time with your peers and capturing great images will energize your photography too.

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

Highlights from PhotoPlus Expo


The announcements have been steady from PhotoPlus Expo, but no real blockbusters. This seems a bit odd considering this is a non-Photokina year. But what we do have is rather interesting.

Canon has done their part with the G5X (Oct. 13) and a new mirrorless model. They also had a solid printer announcement (Oct. 21). Sony dropped the RX1R II with 42MP sensor and EVF (Oct. 14), and then Leica's cool SL system with Type 601 full-frame mirrorless camera and lenses (Oct. 20) was a great surprise. Sigma piled on with the 20mm f/1.4 (Oct. 16), And I love Fujifilm's unveiling of the weather-sealed 35mm F2 lens and 1.4x teleconverter (Oct. 21).

So even though we haven't seen the screaming headlines like notable other years, there seems to be a little something for everyone. Wish I was there to see it in person.

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Our first podcast was in the Fall of 2005. Now over 680 episodes later, we're more dedicated to sharing news about gear and thoughts of artistic inspiration than ever. You can help support our independent online publishing in a few ways.


Pledge Through Patreon

Patreon is the easiest way to support The Digital Story and The Nimble Photographer - all with just one click of a button, and for as little as $5 a month. Visit our page at and click on the Become a Patron button. It's that easy. As a thank you for your support, you will have access to the exclusive content and behind the scenes news. Plus I publish tutorials and tips exclusively for Inner Circle Members.

Become an Independent Online Supporter - Single Contribution

As an individual who believes in small business publishing, you can contribute by Becoming an Independent Online Supporter. The Digital Story, The Nimble Photographer, and theAnalogstory are solely owned and operated by Derrick Story. This is his day job. Contributing only takes a minute, but helps provide toward a year's worth of content, not only for the current publishing, but to bring to life the new ideas in the hopper.

Podcast Sponsorship

Sponsors of the weekly podcast receive much more than the typical canned ad spots. The Digital Story gets behind its sponsors and explains to listeners the benefits and uniqueness of their product or service. Sponsorship includes informative story spots on the podcast, ad tiles on the, and short blurbs on social media sites.

Our goal is to do this in a way that informs and entertains the listener. Product mentions contain useful information. And we feature sponsors who have products and services that we believe are interesting and helpful to our audience.

Sponsors can sign up for a single show, but we recommend a bundle of four that includes a discount. You can learn more about becoming a sponsor by writing Derrick at:

Our Thank You

By becoming a supporter of The Nimble Photographer and The Digital Story, you're helping to ensure the steady flow of quality content. Our endeavor is independent, honest, and focused on the enjoyment of photography and storytelling. We ask that you renew your support each year, and we thank you for your faith in our efforts.