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For years I never trusted auto-focus for sporting events because I felt I missed too many shots. Then auto-focus got better. But lately I've been using some of my prime lenses from the past and rediscovering the joy of manual focus.

young_warriors_fanPB077468.jpg Young Warriors Fan - Olympus OM-D, ISO 3200, Carl Zeiss 85mm f/2.8 lens at f/2.8, manual focus - Photo by Derrick Story

I like watching how the image changes as I twist the focusing ring right and left, then discovering the look that I want for the scene.

Another advantage is prefocusing on an area where good shots typically happen, such as around the rim at a basketball game. Then I can lower the camera, watch the action, and if something unfolds, I can raise the camera and shoot instantly. I don't have to worry about missing the photo while the camera auto-focuses.

For this image of a boy sitting on his dad's shoulders during a break in the action, I used the Olympus OM-D body with a manual focusing Carl Zeiss 85mm f/2.8 lens. My effective focal length on the OM-D is 170mm. I always shoot wide open at f/2.8. ISO set to 3200.

I still pack a couple auto-focus lenses in my bag when I go to the game. But I rarely use them. I'm very much enjoying being in charge of the focusing myself.

Take a look at the Olympus Micro Four Thirds Gear Guide for an overview of cameras, lenses, and accessories.

iPad mini DIY Case (and more)


Before long, we'll have many cool and interesting cases to choose from for the iPad mini. In the meantime, you probably have an excellent leather case right under your nose.

The Leather Folio Pad

The iPad mini is about the size of note-taking pads that we use at conferences and workshops. I looked in my office supply cabinet and found three of these leather folios with paper. On the left side was a solar calculator attached to a sleeve. Don't need that any more! So I carefully removed the sleeve and calculator with an X-acto knife, and now I have a folio for the iPad mini. I leave the paper pad in. It's still handy to have. Then I place the iPad mini facedown on the paper and zip up the folio. Fits perfectly. I look stylish. iPad mini protected.


Stump for mini

The $24 Stump Stand works great for the mini too. If you have one that you used for the full-sized iPad, dig it up. I think it's even better with the mini.

There are two vertical positions, lean and upright, that securely display the mini in portrait mode. If you want a lower angle for typing, then go to ramp mode. I keep a Stump Stand on my desk.


The Jack by Insanely Great

The $10 Jack by Insanely Great was originally designed for the iPhone. The suction cup adheres to the back of the iPhone and the grip pad on the bottom of the stand keeps the device from sliding around on your desk. I've had one for a while and use it in certain situations for the iPhone.

Trying it with the mini, I discovered that the suction cup doesn't like the aluminum back for more than a few minutes. But if you turn the Jack around so the suction cup is on the desk and the friction pad against the back of the iPad, it works much better. I kind of like it actually, especially as a mod.

The point is, if you have things like this already in your odds and ends drawer, dig around in there and see what you can come up with. You probably have more iPad mini accessories than you realize.

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Canon EF 24-70mm f/4 L IS USM

Canon has just announced the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4 L IS USM for $1,500 US, and I have to say, I'm scratching my head.

I can get the Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS EF USM AF Lens for $1,149 that has the same constant aperture, excellent image stabilization, and better reach... for $350 less. With those savings, I can buy another lens for $350. Heck, I can buy an iPad mini.

For the new 24-70mm, it seems as though the built-in macro mode with hybrid IS is enough, in Canon's mind, to charge the extra money. Oh, and why is IS a good idea for this lens, but not the $2,300 Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Zoom Lens?

DP Review says that the new 24-70mm f/4 is designed to go with the Canon EOS 6D Digital Camera. Yeah, that makes sense.

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Photographers aren't the easiest bunch to buy for, especially on a tight budget. That's why I've published the TDS Gift Guide for Photographers. Here are 12 items, ranging from $25 to $329, that are sure to please the shooter in your life... even if that's you.

Cowboy Studio Wireless Flash Triggers $25

Have an older flash that you really like, but it just doesn't fit with your new camera gear? For less than $25 you can use that light again with the Cowboy Studio Wireless Hot Shoe Flash Trigger/Receiverkit. It brings wireless flash photography to just about any flash/camera combination.

Purchase: CowboyStudio NPT-04 4 Channel Wireless Hot Shoe Flash Trigger Receiver

Background article on Flash Triggers

Canon 40mm Pancake Lens $149

After a week of shooting with the Canon 40mm EF f/2.8 STM lens,I have to say this is one enjoyable little prime. At half the size of the 50mm f/1.8, it focuses quieter, is built sturdier, and is ever bit as sharp.

Purchase: Canon 40mm EF f/2.8 STM Lens

Background article on Canon 40mm pancake lens.

NEEWER 48 LED Ring Light $32

I've been having a blast with the $30 NEEWER 48 LED Ring Lightthat mounts directly to my macro lens and is powered by 2 AA batteries. Sound too good to be true? It isn't.

Purchase: NEEWER 48 LED Ring Light

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SizzlPix Holiday Special 50% Off Second Image

SizzlPix are like Retina displays that you can hang on the wall. High Definition images fused into polished aluminum. A SizzlPix gift defies words; you have to see it to believe it.

Purchase: and enter "TDS" in the comments field to receive your 50 percent discount on the second image ordered. Offer good through the end of Dec. 2012.

Flashpoint 24" One Handed Reflector and Calibration Target $19.95

I love working with disc reflectors, but I don't always have an assistant to hold them for me. I found the Flashpoint 24" Triangular Collapsible Disc that has a rigid design and can be held by one hand. It's silver on one side, providing lots of fill light. And on the other side it has black, white, and gray segments that can be used for establishing exposure and for color balance in post.

Purchase: Flashpoint 24" One Handed Reflector

Background article on Flashpoint reflector.

Lowel Ego Lights Kit $100-200

Lowel Ego Lights are affordable soft lights that can be used for portrait and product photography, as well as video recording. Each lighting unit consists of two custom 27W screw-in compact daylight fluorescent lamps that are balanced at 5000 degrees color temperature.

Purchase: Lowel Ego Lights

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iPad mini $329

Taking pictures with the iPad mini is more enjoyable and less awkward than with its bigger brother, the full sized iPad. As I suspected when I originally wrote about necessary features for the mini, the built-in camera is important. And thankfully, it works well.

Purchase: iPad mini overview page

Lowepro Photo Hatchback $89

This multi-use backpack is great for camera gear, a day at the beach, or just bumming around town. Plus it has a dedicated iPad protection sleeve.

Purchase: Lowepro Photo Hatchback 16L AW Camera Bag - Galaxy Blue

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GorillaPod Focus with Ballhead X $149

The GorillaPod Focus with Ballhead X is no chimp. At the top of the Joby product line, this tripod combines stability and flexibility in a package that only weighs 762 grams, less than 2 pounds. Yet it can stabilize a camera rig up to 11 pounds.

Purchase: GorillaPod Focus with Ballhead X

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Rogue Master Lighting Kit $199

The Rogue Master Lighting Kit provides the nimble photographer with a variety of flash modifiers and gels in kit that occupies about as much space as a full size laptop computer. I recently shot a portrait session using just two Canon Speedlites with FlashBenders attached.

Purchase: Rogue Master Flash Lighting Kit with Softbox, Bounce Diffuser, Reflectors, Grid and Gel

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Samyang 7.5mm Fisheye Lens for M 4/3 $299

A great way to shake things up photographically is with an ultra wide lens. I recently had a chance to experiment with the Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 UMC fisheye lens for micro four thirds on my Olympus OM-D. Samyang makes this lens in various mounts, so they most likely have one for your camera too.

Purchase: Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 UMC fisheye lens

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Olympus 15mm f/8 Body Lens Cap for M4/3 $59

If you like pancake lenses, you're going to love this. The just-announced Olympus BCL-15mm f8.0 Body Cap Lens is literally the size of a body cap, yet transforms to become a fixed focus snapshot lens that's a blast to shoot with. The lens is just 9mm thick, and when the cover is in place (to protect the glass), it looks like a body cap for your micro four thirds camera.

Purchase: Olympus BCL-15mm f8.0 Body Lens Cap for Olympus/Panasonic Micro 4/3 Cameras

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Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (31 minutes). Or better yet, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App for only $2.99 from the Apple App Store.

Monthly Photo Assignment

Flash is the Nov. 2012 Photo Assignment. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is Nov. 30, 2012.

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.

Make Your Photos Sizzle with Color! -- SizzlPix is like High Definition TV for your photography. Special this month, order one SizzlPix and get the second one for 50%. Put "TDS" in the comments field of your order.

Need a New Photo Bag? Check out the Lowepro Specialty Store on The Digital Story and use discount code LP20 to saven 20% at check out.

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If the iPad 3 has a 5MP iSight camera, and the iPad mini also has a 5MP iSight camera, then why do the two devices render images so differently? Here are side by side photos in a backlit situation.


My friends over at Boinx Software ran a similar test between an iPad mini and an iPad 4.

So, is the hardware different? Or, is it an implementation of the software? We'll try to get to the bottom of this and report back. If you have some information, please post here.

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AirPlay Mirroring with iPad mini

One of the tests I used to gauge the WiFi capability for the iPad mini is how AirPlay performed when streaming video to an Apple TV. I tested the mini with a variety of apps, including the ABC Player, iTunes, NBC and others. In short, video playback was smooth and the audio was crisp.

ipad-mini_airplay.png Enable AirPlay by pressing the Home button twice and sliding the Dock to the right.

What's interesting about using AirPlay with a mini, is that it feels like a fancy remote control that has volume adjustment and programming selection. It's much easier to carry around the living room than the full sized iPad, and definitely easier than a laptop.

On the downside, when I watched ABC Player, NBC, and WatchESPN, the video was not full screen on the HDTV. It's kind of a letterbox look. The good news is that the quality was terrific.

In a sense, the iPad mini feels like a mini DVR. Choose the Apps you want and connect to an Apple TV over WiFi... and enjoy.

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iPad mini Camera is a Valuable Asset

Taking pictures with the iPad mini is more enjoyable and less awkward than with its bigger brother, the full sized iPad. As I suspected when I originally wrote about necessary features for the mini, the built-in camera is important. And thankfully, it works well.

Cactus with iPad mini Uncropped image from iPad mini processed in iPhoto for iOS. Photo by Derrick Story.

Advantages to using the built-in camera include:

  • No accessories required. The pictures go straight to your Camera Roll.
  • Beautiful, large LCD viewfinder for composition. It's like having a digital view camera. Yet, it's not too big like with the full-sized iPad.
  • Choice of camera software. You can use the built-in Camera app that comes with the mini, or choose other popular apps such as Camera Awesome, Camera+, or ProCamera. They all work great.
  • Image editing is easier than on an iPhone. Sharing, however is just as simple.

The sample image I posted has decent specs: 2,592 x 1,936 (5MP), 1.7 MB file size, f/2.4, 1/840th sec, ISO 32, and 3.3mm focal length.

Even though I do carry a Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader for the mini, if I'm after a quick shot that I want to turnaround fast, such as for an Instagram post, then the iPad mini is definitely a fun option.

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3 Best Smartphones for Photographers


Even though there were relatively few camera hardware changes between the Samsung Galaxy S2 and the current S3 model, DP Connect rates the S3 in the top 3 smart phones for photographers (at least in its summation at the end of the review).

The Nokia 808 is on top of the heap (no surprise) and the iPhone 5 is also a strong performer. So among these three devices, you can choose the other features that you want, and still know you have a quality camera with you all the time.

Personally, I'm very much enjoying taking pictures with my iPhone 4S. If you're an Instagram user, take a look at my Instagram page (DerrickStory). It's a great way to share your camera phone work with others.

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The Apple Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader for iPad is available now for $29 and is a necessary accessory for nimble iPad-toting photographers (iPad 4 and mini). And unlike past situations, you can get the reader now so you're ready to go once you receive your new iPad.

But you do have to purchase both the SD card reader or the USB version separately. In the past, the older versions came together for the same price. No more. I went with the SD card reader for now.

In case you're wondering, the reader does not work with the new iPhone 5. You'll get an "incompatible accessory" message.

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For the Sept. 2012 Photo Assignment, TDS shooters worked their backgrounds as much as their subjects. See for yourself in our gallery, Bokeh. And which one will be the SizzlPix Photo Assignment Pick of the Month?

Deborah Eves

"I took this photo to use as an award for excellence in teaching at the university where I work," wrote Deborah Eves. "I wanted the golden apple to shine in the foreground, standing out from the rest. The rest, though not as clearly standing out, shine in their own small way.

I hadn't planned to shoot this photo when I did, but was just playing around with the placement of the objects, all of which were found in the cubicles of my office mates. I used a desk lamp for overhead lighting. When I decided to shoot the 'official' version of the award, using an LED light and planning everything much more carefully, I was disappointed with the results. I ended up using my original shot." See all of the great images from this month's assignment by visiting the Bokeh gallery page.

Participate in This Month's Assignment

The November 2012 assignment is "Flash." Details can be found on the Member Participation page. Deadline is Nov. 30, 2012.

Please follow the instructions carefully for labeling the subject line of the email for your submission. It's easy to lose these in the pile of mail if not labeled correctly. For example, the subject line for this month's assignment should be: "Photo Assignment: Nov 2012." Also, if you can, please don't strip out the metadata. And feel free to add any IPTC data you wish (These fields in particular: Caption, Credit, Copyright, Byline), I use that for the caption info.

Gallery posting is one month behind the deadline. So I'm posting Sept. 2012 at the end of Oct., the Oct. gallery will be posted at the end of Nov., and on and on.

Good luck with your Nov. assignment, and congratulations to all of the fine contributors for Sept.

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Now Available! The Digital Photography Companion. The official guide for The Digital Story Virtual Camera Club.

  • 25 handy and informative tables for quick reference.
  • Metadata listings for every photo in the book
  • Dedicated chapter on making printing easy.
  • Photo management software guide.
  • Many, many inside tips gleaned from years of experience.
  • Comprehensive (214 pages), yet fits easily in camera bag.

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