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Canon 40mm Lens: Flat Out Fun

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.

Canon 40mm Lens Canon 40mm prime mounted on a EOS 60D. Photo by Derrick Story.

The 40mm will focus as close as 1 foot. It's not macro (even though Canon says that on the side of the lens), but it is close enough for interesting compositions.

Bougainvillea Flowers Close up of Bougainvillea flowers captured with the Canon 40mm wide open on a Rebel T1i. Photo by Derrick Story. Click on image for larger size.

The pancake lens also performed well in the studio. I used it to take a series of product shots.

olympus_with_sigma.jpg Olympus E-M5 with Sigma 30mm f/2.8 lens captured with the Canon 40mm f/2.8 pancake on a Canon 60D. Photo by Derrick Story.

And finally, with the 40mm twisted into a Canon Rebel T1i, I crashed the Lowepro Summer picnic for some candid work. I also passed the camera around to see how others liked it. In the process, they took a photo of me.

derrick_story_picnic.jpg Photo of Derrick Story captured at the Lowepro summer picnic.

I like to call this lens the "optical body cap" because it virtually adds no thickness to my 60D when packed in the camera bag. I know this type of lens isn't for everyone. But I'm having a blast with it. Currently they're available for $199 US.

You can find more photo tips and "photography how tos" on my Pinterest page.

For the May 2012 Photo Assignment, TDS shooters fired up their motor drives and captured the world moving around them. See for yourself in our gallery, Action. And which one will be the SizzlPix Pick of the Month?


Photo by Ron Boyd. "When I heard the assignment 'action,' the first thing I thought about was this photo captured at Bosque Del Apache. I really like the contrast of the two engaged in intense competition while the other birds are seemingly unaware." To see all of the other terrific shots from May, visit the Action gallery page.

Participate in This Month's Assignment

The July 2012 assignment is "Hot." Details can be found on the Member Participation page. Deadline is July 31, 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: July 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.

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

SizzlPix Pick of the Month for March and April Photo Assignments

Congratulations to Brian Reynolds for his "Eyes" photograph, and to Ruth Cooper for "Macro." Each will receive a SizzlPix for his winning image, selected by the good folks at SizzlPix.

twitter.jpg Follow me on Twitter


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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I Knew MobileMe Well

Like many other MobileMe users, I spent part of Saturday pulling content off my little corner of the Apple universe and saving it to the computer. As of today, it's goodbye MobileMe, hello iCloud.

mobile_me_discontinued.jpg I was greeted with this message when opening Aperture.

Just One More Thing...

This morning, however, when I opened my Aperture library to work on the TDS Photo Assignment (to be published soon), there was this parting message: "Click OK to move albums you have published to the MobileMe gallery to the Albums section of your library to preserve them." Aww shucks! Apple will relocate my MobileMe galleries to Aperture.

By the looks of the progress bar underway now, this will take a while. But, what a considerate eulogy for an old friend.

How versatile is the iPhone 4S? Nick Fancher, an Ohio based photographer, posted a "behind the scenes" video of a fashion shoot he did with just an iPhone 4S and a reflector as a fill light. He edited the images with Photoshop Express and Snapseed. Take a look!

Weekly Photography Podcast

You'll find The Digital Story in the new Apple Podcasts app. Subscribe (for free) today.

Podcasts are now out of iTunes and reside in their own app called Podcasts, which is available for free in the App Store. At first it may seem a little confusing to find and listen to your favorite episodes. So here's a quick walk through.

Step 1 - Search

To find a show, tap on the "Catalog" button and go to the "Search" field. In this case, I entered "Digital Photography." On the iPad, the results will be displayed as "Podcast Episodes" and "Podcasts." Browse both areas until you find something you want. (On the iPhone you'll only get the "Podcasts" listing.)

01_podcast_search.png Entering text in the Search field.

Step 2 - Select

One you find a podcast or episode you want to try, tap on it to reveal more information.

02_search_results.png Viewing search results.

Step 3 - Listen and Subscribe

You'll be presented with the most recent episodes for that podcast. You can listen to any of the selections by tapping on their title (streaming). If you want to download it for listening at another time, tap the "download arrow." You can also subscribe to the show by tapping the big "Subscribe" button.

03_subscribe.png Listen (tap on title), Download (tap on download arrow), or Subscribe.

Step 4 - Manage Your Podcast

Once you've subscribed to a show, it appears in your Library. You can see it by tapping on the "Library" button. At this point you can fine-tune some of the settings. On the iPad, click on the "gear" icon in the upper right corner to reveal the settings panel. On the iPhone, tap the arrow bracket > in the upper right.

04_settings.png Fine-tune the settings.

You can also share this podcast with a friend by tapping the "Share" button in the upper right and choosing one of three options: Email, Tweet, or Message.

Step 5 - Remove Episodes from Device

For individual episodes that you've downloaded and have already listened to, you can delete them if you wish to free up space on your device. Simply "swipe to the right" on the downloaded episode to reveal the "Delete" button.

05_deleting.png Delete to remove downloaded shows from device.

The Podcasts app seems well designed, and it's free. You might want to give it a try on your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad.

You can find more photo tips and "photography how tos" on my Pinterest page.

Giants pitcher Ryan Vogelsong had his stuff working, and hitters Melky Cabrera and Buster Posey did their jobs at the plate. The result: Giants defeat Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers 2-0 to pull within one game of the lead in the National League West.

I was there in lower section 128, row 13 on the third base side with my Olympus OM-D E-M5 and Olympus 40-150mm zoom.

Buster Posey Hits Buster Posey connects against the Dodgers at AT&T Park. Photo by Derrick Story. You can see the entire set of images on the TDS Flickr page.

I parked the ISO at 1600 and used Aperture Priority to keep the zoom at the widest setting (f/4-f/5.6). When extended to 150mm on the OM-D, the effective power of the lens was 300mm because you double the focal length for micro four thirds. The high speed burst mode (9 fps) was a pleasure for capturing the action. And since the entire package was so compact, I was able to enjoy the game as a fan and grab a few photos when the action heated up.

Ball for Young Fan Ball for young fan. Photo by Derrick Story

Special Thanks to Hunt's Photo

As you may have read in earlier posts, I had two temporary review copies of the Olympus OM-D, but was having problems purchasing one for myself. I had orders placed with the typical big camera suppliers, and they kept getting delayed.

So I contacted the great people at Hunt's Photo & Video based in New England, US. I worked with Gary, who contacted Olympus US to see what he could do. Within a week my Olympus OM-D was on its way to me. The price was the same as what the other camera suppliers were charging, but the service was heads above. And yes, Hunt's offers free shipping too.

They have a wonderful newsletter that comes out every couple weeks with lots of specials. I use it to help keep up on the latest releases. You might want to try it yourself.

Thanks to Gary and the entire Hunt's crew for getting that Olympus OM-D in my hands so I could shoot this great baseball game at AT&T Park.

You can find more photo tips and "photography how tos" on my Pinterest page.

Whether you work with models regularly, or are contemplating your first shoot, this week's podcast includes "5 Don'ts" for these projects. These warnings were culled from many conversations with the models I work with for TDS workshops and other projects.

In the second story I talk about the winner from the recent World's Ugliest Dog competition. Why? Because an artistic handling of an "ugly" subject can lead to an impressive photograph.

And finally, SizzlPix is offering a 20 percent discount to TDS listeners... on any size or quantity. Listen in to learn how you can take advantage and get "sizzled" for less.

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.

Monthly Photo Assignment

Signs is the June 2012 Photo Assignment. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is June 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 -- 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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One of the many feature improvements in Aperture 3.3 is the White Balance tool. Among its enhancements is an "uber auto" button and three "filters" for different types of photos. Here's an overview to get you up and running right away.

renee_white_balance.jpg The new white balance tool in Aperture 3.3 includes a "skin tone" option for your portraits. Photo by Derrick Story. Click on image for larger size.

White Balance Popup Menu

Prior to Aperture 3.3 your white balance option was Temperature and Tint. Now there are two additional choices: Skin Tone and Natural Gray. Plus, there's an Auto button, but I'll get to that a bit later.

  • Skin Tone - a great choice for portraits. This new algorithm is designed for portraits. Simply place the eye dropper on a skin tone and click.
  • Natural Gray - designed to correct color cast, but to also leave some feel for the ambient color in your image. In other words, it won't over-correct your photo. An example could be an underwater scene where you want to temper the blue, but not eliminate it all together.
  • Temperature and Tint - this choice is best for color casts that are more extreme where you really need to get in there and move sliders around.

Auto Button

The White Balance brick also includes an Auto button. When you click on it, Aperture runs all three "filters" and you can choose your favorite version. Auto Skin Tone works best when Faces is enabled because Aperture will use face detection technology to fine tune the correction. I had good luck with it, however, even when Faces was not enabled.

What's fun about Auto is that once you run it, you can cycle through the 3 filters to see the different types of corrections, then choose the one you want to use. On this portrait, for example, the Skin Tone version is beautiful, but the Natural Gray and Temperature and Tint versions were a bit too cool.

Recommended Workflow

Apple has made white balance so easy. I recommend that you begin by clicking the Auto button. Then cycle through the 3 filters and choose the look you like best. You can then fine tune the color by using the slider for that filter.

Keep in mind that these corrections are brushable too. So you can further adjust the color in specific areas. I'll cover that in a future post.

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.

The Digital Story on Facebook -- discussion, outstanding images from the TDS community, and inside information. Join our celebration of great photography!

Creating silhouette images is one of the easiest in photography, and often produces interesting pictures. The trick is to control the placement of the negative space in the composition, and to make sure your flash is turned off.

aquarium_silhouette.jpg "Aquarium Silhouette" Click on photo for larger size. Image by Derrick Story.

For example, in this aquarium shot, I had to wait a while until I had two people positioned on the left side. The process went something like this: 1) saw the potential for a good shot, 2) grabbed a position that had the right composition, 3) checked my camera settings, and 4) waited...

Once the elements come together, the actual picture taking is simple. The camera will read the large bright area and usually ignore the silhouetted subjects. So your photograph should be good to go without too much post production fooling around. Just make sure you're not in "auto everything" mode and that your flash is turned off. I think regular "program" mode works great for these types of compositions.

I like the graphical nature of silhouettes. And when these types of images are mixed in with your "regular" photos, they'll certainly grab the attention of the viewer's eye.

You can find more photo tips and "photography how tos" on my Pinterest page.

For the last few years, a chorus of us have been chanting that "the best camera is the one that you have with you." And I totally agree with that. But with high-end point & shoots improving in quality, and Compact System Cameras finding their stride, the "best camera with you" doesn't always have to be your mobile phone.

courting_butterflies.jpg "Courting Butterflies" captured with an Olympus E-PL2 with stock 14-42mm zoom during a family outing. Photo by Derrick Story. Click on image for larger version.

Don't get me wrong. I love shooting with my iPhone 4S. And there have been countless occasions where it has produced wonderful images I would not have otherwise captured. But whenever possible, I also tote a micro four thirds camera, such as an Olympus PEN, even on the most casual of family outings. Why?

  • Greater choice in lenses. I can use a compact zoom or a prime lens, depending on my mood.
  • Raw files. Don't need to say more here.
  • Better shutter speed and aperture control.
  • Bigger files, in case I want to make bigger prints.
  • More options, such as flash control, metering patterns, etc.

I enjoy those moments where I can wander off for a short bit and take a few pictures. In those instances, I love having a more advanced camera... while still knowing the iPhone is in my pocket if I need it.

You can find more photo tips and "photography how tos" on my Pinterest page.