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The Olympus OM-D E-M5is about ready for its North American release. I've spent a few weeks with this beautiful micro four thirds system camera, and walk you through its highlights and a few of my nits. Then I switch gears to a handful of photo accessories that I've enjoyed using lately. Plus, there's a new photo assignment this month! All this and more with TDS Podcast Episode 323.

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (30 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.

OM-D E-M5 with 12-50mm Zoom The Olympus OM-D E-M5 with 12-50mm Zoom. More photos are on my TDS Flickr page.

Monthly Photo Assignment

Action is the May 2012 Photo Assignment. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is May 31, 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 -- The $7.99 Sample Kit is back! And with free shipping.

Make Your Photos Sizzle with Color! -- SizzlPix is like High Definition TV for your photography.

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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The $63 Macro Focusing Rail

Two of the challenges of macro photography is getting precise focusing and correct position. I've found that a focusing rail is an invaluable tool for close-up work. However, this accessory is usually a bit pricy for the enthusiast macro photographer. One exception is the Adorama Budget Macro Focusing Rail Set that sells online for $63.


We recently put this device through its paces at the TDS Close-Up Photography Workshop, and it got rave reviews. A couple of the participants have already ordered one for themselves.

Adorama's description reads: "Flashpoint rail sysytem provides rack and pinion movement, fine focusing adjustments. Two 6" rails allow movement in four directions, right, left, forward and backward. Mounts on, and accepts 1/4x20 threaded screws, will fit most tripods and copy stands. Positive locking knobs assure rock-steady focus."

I leave is mounted on a tripod in the studio. So whenever I need a close-up shot, it's right there and ready to use.

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Backyard Photo Adventures

We need to shoot often to improve our technique and stay sharp. But it's not always easy to fit a photo expedition into our busy schedules. That's when exploring our own backyards can become a photographic paradise.

joel_kaneshiro_bee.jpg Close-up photography is particularly well-suited to backyard adventures. This photo by Joel Kaneshiro was captured on a patio outside the TDS studio. (See photo below.)

Once the sun begins to shine, I usually stop by the plant nursery and spend $20-$30 on seeds and potted flowers. I plant the seeds and repot the flowers, and before I know it, I have a new crop of photo subjects. Plus, they attract bees, butterflies, and a variety of interesting insects.

backyard_photo_shoot.jpg During this patio shoot, Joel Kaneshiro is holding a diffusion panel for Chaz Benedict while he works a subject with a close-up lens and ring flash attachment.

For a small investment, both in time and money, you can create a rich photo environment that will provide countless hours of shooting.

Images from the TDS Close-Up Photography Workshop.

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Aperture Library First Aid

Do you ever have the feeling that your Aperture library isn't feeling quite right? For those Alka Seltzer situations, try running the Aperture Library First Aid tool.


Just 3 easy steps to potential relief:

  • Quit Aperture.
  • Hold down the Option and Command keys while relaunching the application.
  • Choose "Repair Database."

This handy tool is built right in to the app. And it just might provide the relief you need for that upset database.

More Aperture Tips and Techniques

To learn more about Aperture 3, check out my Aperture 3 Essential Training on Also, take a look at our Aperture 3 Learning Center. Tons of free content about how to get the most out of Aperture.

My next open Aperture Workshop is scheduled for Nov. 2012, in Santa Rosa, CA. You can get on the pre-registration list, plus learn about all the other photography workshops offered this season by visiting the TDS Workshops page.

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One of the features on the new Olympus ED 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 zoomthat intrigued me was the macro capability. I'm asked all the time if "macro modes are any good." I thought I'd run a quick test with the zoom mounted on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 16MP bodyand show you the uncropped results.

Macro Mode On Macro mode on Olympus 12-50mm zoom.

Macro Mode Off No macro mode.

Not only does macro mode on the 12-50mm zoom get you closer, it also renders a softer background. Not too bad for a compact lens (3.3 x 2 x 2 inches) that only weighs 7.5 ounces and is weather sealed.

To enable close up mode, press the "Macro" button on the side of the lens and move the zoom ring forward to the front optic. Once it locks into place, your world just got a little closer.

The zoom sells separately for $499, but you can save yourself a couple hundred bucks if you buy it in a kit with the OM-D.

So is macro mode any good? Well, it's not as close as your dedicated 100mm glass, but I like having this option on an all-purpose zoom that's easy to pack. So, I would say, "yes!".

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Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen stepped on stage at the de Young Museum in San Francisco to reveal the path to Adobe's future. Adobe is hoping that it's a path upward to the Creative Cloud.

Adobe's vision of cloud computing goes beyond hosting software and sharing pictures. They see a complete creative environment, a virtual studio that integrates tools, assets, published work, and ideas. On a basic level, V1 looks like this.

  • Creative Cloud membership provides users with access to download and install every new Adobe CS6 application announced at the event and two new HTML5 products, Adobe Muse and Adobe Edge preview.
  • Creative Cloud integrates Adobe's creative tablet applications, such as Photoshop Touch, into everyday work -- seamlessly synchronizing and storing files in the cloud for sharing and access on any device.
  • Creative Cloud members will be able to easily deliver mobile apps to iOS and Android marketplaces and publish, manage and host websites.
  • Adobe Creative Cloud members will have access to application upgrades, including new CS point-product features, before they are launched as part of major CS updates, as well as inventive new products and services as they emerge.
  • Adobe Creative Cloud membership is US$49.99 per month, with an annual contract. A special introductory offer of US$29.99 per month for CS3, CS4, CS5 and CS5.5 individual customers is also available.


But on an idealistic level, Adobe wants to build a virtual studio where participants have all the tools they need in an inspirational environment -- not only to create their work, but to easily publish it also. Unlike box software, where the manufacturer builds it then ships, the Creative Cloud will represent ongoing work by Adobe personal as well as its customers. New ideas inspire updates not tied to release schedules.

Setting up for the Creative Cloud event at the de Young Museum in San Francisco.

Artistic inspiration was the theme of the day. The event was held at one of San Francisco's best museums. The independent artists who created the imagery for Creative Suite 6 were present for the event. And Adobe showed off its in-house talent via demos by respected artists such as Jeff Veen.

Will it work? The keys to success will be in the many details that will be grappled with over the coming months. But the concept is solid. My recommendation is, for those of us who are Adobe customers, is to keep an open mind and take a close look at how you could make it work for you. Like any community, the more of us who participate, the better the odds of success.

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If you're an outdoor photographer who likes stream crossings on a fallen log, jogging down a winding trail, or mountain biking on a brisk Spring day, you'll probably like carrying your camera gear in the just-announced Flipside Sport.

Flipside Sport 15 and 10 Liter Two models of the Lowepro Flipside Sport. You can see the complete set of images on the TDS Flickr page.

Available in two colors (orange and blue) and two sizes (15 liter and 10 liter), the Flipside Sport is designed with a comfortable, lightweight harness system. This allows you to secure the bag to your body and maintain balance during transport.

Flipside Sport 10 Liter Back

Access to your gear is provided via the zippered rear flap.You don't need to remove the backpack to get to your camera. Simply slide off the shoulder straps and swing the bag around with the waist belt still attached.

70-200mm inside Flipside Sport 10 Liter

The smaller of the two bags, the 10 liter, will accommodate a 70-200mm f/2.8 IS L zoom on a Canon 5D Mark II body or equivalent, plus the 24-105mm f/4 L lens. The larger bag holds more.

Tripod Sleeve

Other handy features include innovative tripod transport sleeve, hydration pouch, removable camera box with cover, and an All Weather cover. You can learn more about the Flipside Sport series at More images available on the TDS Flickr page.The bag should be available in May 2012.

Author's note: This is a pre-release announcement. The Lowepro URL should be updated by midday Monday, April 23.

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The killer feature in Apple's 3rd generation iPad is the Retina display. The 9.7-inch LED-backlit glossy widescreen shows your pictures with 2048-by-1536-pixel resolution at 264 pixels per inch. And you will notice the difference right away.


One of the first tests I ran was to open my favorite shots in Minimal Folio on both the iPad 2 and the New iPad, then place the displays side by side. The difference is stunning. The New iPad isn't only the best mobile display I've seen, it's one of the most impressive ways to look at my images, period. It's like having a collection of SizzlPix that you can carry in your backpack.

My workflow for moving images out of Aperture and on to the iPad has changed a bit as a result. I've created a new export preset that saves the images at 2048 on the longest side at 264 resolution. I then upload the files to Dropbox so they will be available to Minimal Folio on the iPad. The files are bigger now than the 1024s I previously used, but the payoff is more that worth it.

So that leads us to the question that I and many photographers grapple with: "Is the Retina display worth the price of upgrade?"

If you use the iPad as a portfolio to display your work: yes.

If the iPad is an important part of your photography workflow: yes.

If the iPad is more of an email, web browsing, Facebook tool: you can probably wait, just don't look at The New iPad in the meantime.

The iPad 2 is a fantastic device. I was very happy with mine and still use it daily. But I needed the New iPad with its improved camera and Retina display for a project I'm working on. And even after reading the marketing copy and in-depth reviews, I was still shocked by the brilliance of the display. It's an amazing tool for photographers.

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This is one of the oldest, and most affordable tricks, for close up photography: the reverse ring. With this $10 adapter that you screw into the filter threads on the front of your 50mm lens, you can turn it around and mount it to the camera face first. By doing so, you increase the magnification of the lens substantially.

canon_50mm_reverse_ring What's wrong with this picture? (The lens is mounted backwards!)

We used this trick in the film days, but it was hard to predict results with it. Since the lens is reversed, you don't have autofocusing or auto exposure. But now, thanks to Live View on most DSLRs, you can see exactly what you get before pressing the shutter button.

moth_revierse_ring.jpg Moth photographed with lens reversed and with a wide open aperture.

Also keep in mind that with most of today's autofocus lenses, you don't have an aperture ring to control depth of field. So you're shooting wide open, often creating a bit of a "Lens Baby" look.

But since the lens is reversed, you can use any make or model glass that has the right filter thread diameter. So that old Pentax 50mm you have in the closet that does have an aperture ring, can now be pressed into service on your modern DSLR.

And like many of these types of techniques, an hour or two of experimentation can spur your creativity and lead to something really interesting.

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Ring flash is useful for macro and portrait photography. Yesterday I reviewed the impressive Orbis Ring Flash and bracket that combines versatility with professional results. And even though it's more affordable than much of the competition, it will still set you back $249.

If you want to experiment with ring flash lighting before making that kind of investment, take a look at the DIY Ring Flash Kit that you build yourself for $35 including the bracket.

Step 14

A few days after placing your order, you receive a flat box with the contents of your kit and a well-written instruction guide.

Step 1

I spent about 20 minutes assembling the components. If you want to see all of the steps involved, take a look at my Flickr set titled DIY Ring Flash Assembly.

Once completed, I mounted my Canon 320 EX Flash and took some pictures. The ring light worked remarkably well, and this is definitely a good way to become familiar with this type of lighting.

Step 17 Small Audi A3 model photographed with just the DIY ring light.

If you decide you like this type of flash modifier, I would consider getting a more sturdy rig such as the Orbis Ring Flash. The DIY kit isn't as sturdy, and it's a bit clunky to use. Another downside is that if you want to use a strobe with a larger flash head, such as my Canon 580 EX, you have to stretch the opening of the modifier to make it fit. Plus, you wouldn't want to show up at a model shoot with this attached to your camera.

That being said, the DIY Ring Flash Kit is a great weekend project that will introduce you to the joys of ring lighting. We'll be playing with this one over the weekend during my Close Up Photography Workshop.

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