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Focusing on Pattern and Texture

Creative exercise is much like physically working out: it makes you stronger. And one of my favorite creative activities is focusing on a compositional element over the course of a day. On a recent vacation to Monterey, CA, I decided to work on pattern and texture. (What a great place to do so!)

Two Boats

The original shot had more boats in the scene, but the pattern and textures weren't hanging together the way I wanted. When I cropped to just two boats, I thought the image became more powerful.

It's interesting when you begin to look for certain compositional elements. After a while, you'll see them everywhere. When I experience this, I begin to wonder if I should "creatively exercise" more. Should I shoot with a mission in mind instead of just letting the visual world come to me?


Once again, cropping was used to isolate the pattern. There were a few distracting elements just outside this frame that I wanted to eliminate so I could focus the eye more precisely.

The thing about texture and pattern is that it is bountiful in both nature and the manmade world. In both cases, however, beware of distracting elements that disrupt the effect.

Two Pelicans Blue Sky

In this shot, I'm back to two main subjects with a soft textured background. Color helps carry the overall image.

The bottom line here is that by taking time to focus on an aspect of your photography, you can improve it overall. Pattern and texture is a great place to start.

You can see more images from this series in my Flickr set, Pattern & Texture.

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Testing the HP TopShot 3D Scanner

The HP TopShot LaserJet Pro M275 multifunctional printer produces fast B&W or color output (17 PPM black & 4 PPM color), is network enabled including AirPrint for iOS devices, and has a 3D scanner. Since its scanner is the most unique feature, I wanted to explore that function first.

hp_topshot_scan_screen_edit.jpg The bundled HP Scan software includes basic image adjustments so you can create a final product quickly.

The TopShot uses a raised arm with camera and LED lights to capture the image. You simply place an object on its white platform, raise the arm, and set up the job. You can scan directly from the TopShot's built-in LCD panel, but I preferred to use the bundled HP Scan software that provides more control over the process.

hp_scan_setup.jpg Set up is quick with HP Scan software.

Once you set up the job and make the initial scan, there are handy controls to straighten, crop, adjust tone and color, or even extract the background. You can then save the file to your computer.


The idea is to enable individuals and small business types to quickly create photos of objects without having to use a camera, set up lighting, transfer the images, edit them, etc. This ability could be particularly handy in a steady volume business where quick turnaround is important.

The image quality is sharp with good color. But the lighting isn't "soft box" quality, nor would I expect it to be. You'll get a dark shadow outline, and with shiny surfaces, probably a hotspot or two.

The HP TopShot LaserJet Pro M275 sells for $399 US. For that investment, you get a fast laser printer, unique scanner, and plenty of wireless and online features. It won't replace the photography studio for product shots, but it certainly can save you time when turnaround is the top priority.

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There are plenty of refinements and new features in the public beta of Adobe Lightroom 4, but the two tools that caught my eye are the robust video handling capabilities and soft proofing. I cover both of these, and more, in my latest Macworld Magazine article, Adobe Lightroom 4 Beta shines with new video capabilities.


The Lightroom 4 public beta can be downloaded from the Adobe Labs site. You don't need prior versions of the application to try the latest. Once the final release comes out, you either have to buy it, or take the beta off your hard drive.

Even if you aren't a Lightroom person, this release is notable for a couple reasons. First, you get to see and test the areas of image editing that Adobe thinks is important. Recognizing that their emphasis is on video, personal books, and printing and web output, helps us see overall trends in photography.

I also think that Aperture 4 is probably not far behind. The competition between Adobe and Apple is fierce in this area, and my guess is that we will hear something about a new version of Aperture before long.

In the meantime, there's much to enjoy with this Lightroom release. Check out my Macworld article for more information.

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Talking Deer

It was the craziest thing. I was out for a walk along the shore, and I saw these talking deer. But because of the sound of the pounding surf, I couldn't hear what they were saying.

(Don't worry: today is the last day of my vacation. I'm back to "real work" tomorrow...)

Really "Seeing" a Landscape

As you look at this picture, what to you see? Ocean, sky, rugged shoreline?

Monterey Landscape

Those were the elements that I noticed as I hiked by. But as you look closer, you might see that the beach is filled with dozens and dozens of Harbor Seals. Many hikers missed it on that day. Make sure that doesn't happen to you.

The Clever Joby Micro 800 GorillaPod


This is ingenious. A compact, machined-metal, ball head, tripod that you can leave mounted on your camera, yet, it doesn't get in the way. That's the JOBY GorillaPod Micro 800that I've been testing. This particular size is great for Sony NEX, as well as Panasonic and Olympus micro four thirds, and other cameras that size. For the Olympus Mini and Panasonic GX 1, however, I would go a size down to the Micro 250.

When not in use, the metal legs fit beneath the camera. When you need to steady a shot, just spread them out and precisely position the camera using the "just the right amount of tension" ball head. After you get the photo, fold the legs together and be on your way.

The 800 runs around $24 and the 250 is about 12 bucks. Nimbleosity rating is 4.5 out of 5. Very cool!

iPad for Exercise Bike

When I travel, I'm impressed with the exercise bikes I see in modern hotel gyms. They have a complete multimedia setups that help pass the time while I'm peddling away. After I got an iPad 2 for a client assignment, I contemplated ways to put my original iPad to good use. Then the lightening bolt struck: upgrade my exercise bike.

Close Up of iPad on Bike

The iPad fits wonderfully on the handlebars. It's a great size for this use. But how to secure it? I used a modul R case with the optional hand strap. It protects the iPad and creates a snug fit.

Close Up of iPad Back

For the actual exercise, I use the CycleOps MAGNETO trainer with progressive resistance. It's easy to set up, and it provides a good workout with my street bike. (I bought mine a while back at REI. You can get good deals on older models.) During dreary winter months here in Northern CA, I set the bike up in the shooting room at the studio. If I have an assignment I need to work on, I can switch back to photography in just a few minutes.

Bike with CycleOps and iPad

Since I've added the iPad to this rig, I found that I'm riding longer, and loving it! I'm able to maintain my workout regiment regardless of the weather outside.

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Photographers and other creatives can help connect with others by understanding the benefits of social media. I think the best approach is "be yourself." Share with others the things you find interesting, and take interest in what others do.

How to accomplish that can be a bit more challenging. Fortunately, PhotoShelter is offering a very helpful guide titled The Photographer's Social Media Handbook to help us with those details. You can get the PDF by requesting it here, and they will send it to you (in two parts) via email. It's free, and it's quite well done.

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When I first picked up the Polaroid Z340at CES, the sensation was more old than new. That's not necessarily a bad thing.

Polaroid Z340

Even though the Z340 has a digital camera on the inside, it feels and shoots like the traditional instant print cameras that were so popular in the 70s. Using a second generation ZINK printer engine, you get ample-sized 3" x 4" prints within minutes. The images look like the Polaroid prints of yesteryear.

But there's also a 14MP digital camera inside that writes files to an SD card. Controls include ISO settings, scene modes, and more. What you don't get is an optical zoom. Polaroid provides a fixed focal length lens, and if you dare, a 4X digital zoom (resist the temptation).

I liked the tradition wedge-shaped design that's now outfitted with a pop-up LCD screen. The menus were easy to navigate, although you probably want to just snap a picture and enjoy what emerges from the printer.

Is the new Polaroid Z340 worth the $299 price tag?That depends on what you need. As a digital camera, no. But as an instant print device with digital backup, quite possibly. It's easier to use than standalone instant printers, more compact, and much cooler looking. I found it hard to put down.

I'm back from Las Vegas, and my "travel light" system worked! This week, I talk about small planes, hotel life, and highlights from CES. Lots of fun stuff that you won't want to miss.

Las Vegas Sunset

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Monthly Photo Assignment

Mobile Phone is the Jan. 2012 Photo Assignment. Entries must be captured with a mobile device. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is Jan. 31, 2012.

Special Offer from SizzlPix!

20% Discount for Jan. 2012 - So we can build up a gallery of SizzlPix! made from cell phone images. Any TDS listener/reader gets a 20% discount on SizzlPix!™ Hi Definition Photography™ made from pictures shot with T-Mobile My Touch Slide 4G, Samsung Galaxy S II, or Apple's iPhone 4S.

SizzlPix! may be from 18" to 60" in the longest dimension. Photographer's cropping will be honored.

Shipping will be within one week. Photographer gives us permission to publicize, with credit, their SizzlPix! made from a cell phone original in yours and our on-line galleries and blogs, Twitter, FaceBook, Google+. etc.

When you fill out your order form for the SizzlPix, add "TDS Jan Offer" to get the discount.

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

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You might also want to check out my article, Artistic Gifts You Can Make in an Hour.

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