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Pentax K-5 DSLR in the Elements

I packed a Pentax K-5DSLR on a recent trip to the Eastern Sierra to test its ruggedness and picture quality. In short, it impressed me on both counts.

Pentax K-5 Pentax K-5 with Cokin Graduated Filter. Photos by Derrick Story. Click on image for larger size.

On the very first day I found myself in the rain at 9,000 feet at Sonora Pass in Northern California. I had to protect the other cameras I had with me. But with the K-5 in hand, I marched out into the hostile environment and shot pictures for about 20 minutes.

Sonora Pass in the Rain In these hostile conditions I could march out into the environment with the Pentax K-5 in hand.

In terms of performance, good conditions or not, this camera has some excellent specs: 16.3 APS-C image sensor, useable ISO from 80-3200, 7 fps burst mode, 1080p video, 3" LCD with 921,000 dots, 100% field of view optical viewfinder, body-based shake reduction system, both Pentax PEF Raw files and Adobe DNG capture, and in-camera HDR.

Here's one of my favorite photos from the trip captured handheld at twilight with the Pentax K-5.

outside_bridgeport_k5 Twilight landscape capture with the Pentax K-5 and and kit 18-55mm zoom. Click on image for larger size.

You can get this camera and lens for Pentax K-5$1,350 US. And for your investment, you get a serious camera for outdoor work. I'll be writing a bit more about the Pentax K-5 in coming weeks, including a full review on Macworld Magazine.

Find great deals at the TDS Photography Store on Amazon.

Morning Walk with the Olympus PEN Mini

I love the morning light. So as I'm heading out the door, I usually grab a camera for my walk. Today, I had the Olympus PEN E-PM1with the 17mm f/2.8 prime lens. I love this combination because it is very compact, yet produces great results.

Waning Sunflower in Morning Light

Eggs Chickens Lemons Figs

Morning Ride

I'll have the PEN Mini with me on my trip to Photo Plus Expo this week. If you see me there, please say hi!

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Art and Soul

The first time I saw Brian Smith shoot, I realized how he makes those compelling portraits. Brian is like a sculptor. And with his camera he chips away all distracting elements until he discovers the essence of his subject.

You can experience this for yourself by getting your hands on a copy of Art & Soul, a stunning collection of portraits and thoughts by well-known actors, musicians, and filmmakers. Brian teamed up with editor Robin Bronk to portray the thoughts and images of dozens of stars sharing their views on the importance of art. The book was created in partnership with the Creative Coalition, and a portion of the proceeds will support their nonprofit programs.

Anne Hathaway photographed by Brian Smith Anne Hathaway photographed by Brian Smith

Now here's the truly amazing part. You can purchase this book on Amazon for $26 with free shipping. And it's a lot of book: 13" x 10.5", 256 pages, over 4 pounds.

I recommend it not only for all portrait photographers, but for anyone who loves the arts and admires those who create it. Art & Soul is inspiritional reading. You may want to buy two copies: one for the artist in your life, and the other for you.

Find great deals at the TDS Photography Store on Amazon.

Make Your Own Photo Thank You Cards

Red River Thank You Card

Want to say "Thank You" to that office coworker who went the extra mile, school volunteer who helped your kids, or hair cutter who made you look spectacular? Hand them a personalized photo card that you designed and produced yourself.

One size that I think is particularly attractive is the 5.5" x 4.25" A2 card produced by Red River Paper. There are six surfaces available in this size: 1 glossy, 3 mattes, and 2 specialty. Red River also offers plenty of help so you can set up your inkjet printer to produce these mailable works of art. For the finishing touch, put your cards in envelopes or clear top boxes.

And remember, the holiday season is right around the corner. Choose a handful of your favorite photographs and print a stack of cards to have on hand. Not only will the recipients be impressed with your artistic prowess, many will be flattered that you've shared your work with them.

Red River Paper -- The $7.99 Sample Kit is back! And with free shipping.

Glif Tripod Adapter for iPhone 4

It's as light as a feather and as snug as a glove, and it mounts your iPhone to a tripod or serves as a stand. It's the Glif for the iPhone 4/4S. I keep one in my shirt pocket when I'm out and about. I use the Glif for making movies as well as watching them. For $20, it will kick-start your photography with your new iPhone.

Find great deals at the TDS Photography Store on Amazon.

PhotoSync Import

Now, more than ever, your iPhone photos need to be incorporated into your photography workflow. With the 8 MP camera in the iPhone 4S, you have print-worthy images of important events that should be properly cataloged.

In iOS 5, Apple introduced Photo Stream to help with this situation. I'll cover the ins and outs of this technology in a future post. But for those who need a bit more control over sync between iPhone and computer, or for iOS 4 users, there's a terrific app $1.99 called PhotoSync that I have found invaluable for managing my iPhone photos.

PhotoSync easily moves images from the iPhone to a dedicated folder on my Mac. I then import those pictures into an Aperture library. On import I can add more metadata to the images and organize them as well.

Here are the steps.

  • Install PhotoSync on the iPhone and Mac.
  • Launch PhotoSync on the iPhone.
  • Choose images to sync. (First time sync all, then just new shots in the future.)
  • Select which device to sync to. You choose your computer, iPad, iPod Touch, or another iPhone.
  • If PhotoSync is active on the receiving device, it will show up in the list of destinations on your iPhone.
  • Upload the photos from the iPhone to the Mac.
  • Open Aperture and choose Import.
  • Ensure that the "Do not import duplicates" box is checked.
  • Click Import and enjoy working with your images.

Aperture Import of PhotoSync Images The Aperture Import dialog for my iPhone images. Click on image for larger size.

I don't maintain just one Aperture library. I have many that I use for different purposes. One of those libraries is dedicated to my mobile photography. This workflow, using PhotoSync, makes it easy to keep my iPhone pictures safe, and available for use.

More Aperture Tips and Techniques

My next Aperture Workshop is Nov, 12-13, 2011 in Santa Rosa, CA. Write me if you're interested in attending.

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.

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

The upgraded camera is one of the major features of the iPhone 4S. But does it have enough horsepower to be your everyday compact camera? In this podcast I review the specs and features of the iPhone 4S camera, then talk about how it performed in my testing. Plus you'll learn tidbits such as the ISO range, shutter speeds available, how its HDR works, and more.

Also be sure to check out iPhone 4S Camera Pros and Cons that has some good supplemental infomation in easy to absorb list form.

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (32 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

Side Lighting is the Oct. 2011 Photo Assignment. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is Oct. 31, 2011.

TDS Nov. Aperture Workshop

I've organized an Aperture Workshop on Nov. 12th and 13th. Signups are in progress now. If you want a registration form, or just more information, drop me a line. BTW: We include a professional model shoot as part of this workshop. Just saying...

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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iPhone 4S Camera Pros and Cons

Apple's latest iPhone comes equipped with an overhauled camera that sports many useful features. Even though I give it an overall "thumbs up," I do have a few nits with this pocketable point and shoot. Here's my list of pros and cons.

iPhone 4S Camera


  • Operates more like a camera. Press Home button twice to reveal camera icon. This helps photographers respond quickly to photo opps. Volume button doubles as shutter release. Fast focusing and reasonable shutter lag. Overall, an enjoyable picture taking experience.
  • Increased resolution with 8 MP backside illuminated sensor. Improved dynamic range too. Movies now at full HD (1080p).
  • Improved 5-element f/2.4 lens.
  • Useful HDR option that helps photographers tame harsh, contrastly light.
  • Responsive AE/AF lock puts exposure and focus control in the hands of the shooter.
  • Close focusing allows iPhone to serve as a mini scanner to record information faster than typing.
  • Handy editing controls (rotate auto enhance, red eye removal, and cropping) allow for quick clean up while reviewing images. Cropping tool is non-destructive. You can return to a cropped image, choose crop again, and recrop a different way. (Thanks Erik Wessel-Berg for that tip.)
  • Excellent image quality for a mobile phone.

with_hdr_iphone_4s.jpg With HDR turned on, you can better tame harsh, contrasty light.

no_hdr_iphone_4s.jpg You really notice a difference in this type of light when HDR is turned off.


  • Lens is at the bottom of camera when using the volume button as the shutter release. Much better to have the lens closer to shutter button.
  • Lack of burst mode is puzzling given the horsepower this camera has under the hood.
  • White balance tends to be on the warm side, which is great for people pictures, but would like to have a simple control, such as "normal," "warmer," "cooler."

Bottom Line

Highly recommended mobile phone camera. The iPhone 4S takes good pictures, is fun to operate, and responds quickly. Take advantage of the increased resolution and use the cropping tool to tidy up your images before sharing them with others. I love the HDR option for taming contrasty days.

I've also published the podcast, "iPhone 4S Camera, Ready for Prime Time?", where I delve in to the specs and features of this device. I talk about how the ISO and shutter speeds work together, more on the HDR function, how to choose spot metering instead of pattern, and more.

Nimbleosity Rating: 4.5 (out of five possible)

More Nimble Photographer Articles

Review: Filterstorm Pro for the iPad

Revisiting a Wireless Workflow from Camera to iPad

Minimal Folio for iPad: Truly Useful Portfolio and Presentation App

Return of the Nimble Photographer

Nik Software Brings Its Magic to the iPad with Snapseed

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Capturing the Action at Safari West

One of the events during the TDS Oct. Photography Workshop was a visit to Safari West for a morning of wildlife photography.

I Have My Eye on You "I've got my eye on you."

To maximize this experience, we had our own photographer-guide (Adrian) and our own safari vehicle to explore to 400 acre wilderness teaming with birds and African wildlife. After the shoot, we enjoyed a lunch in the beautiful outdoor environment before heading back to the studio to process our work. Since TDS Headquarters is only 20 minutes from Safari West, we keep our travel time to a minimum. This keeps the day focused on photography.

I Have Something to Say I have something to say... but I forgot what it was."

Once back at the studio, the photographers had 90 minutes to sort, edit, and prepare their work for the portfolio presentation on the big screen. I look forward to this show every day because the images are outstanding.

I'm planning to return to Safari West next year for the Action Photography Workshop in June 2012. If you've always wanted to try your hand at this, get your name on the reserve list. There's an easy-to-complete form on the Workshops page.

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How to Make Flowing Water Beautiful

Flowing Water - Sierra

Water is one of my favorite photo subjects, in part because there are so many things you can do with it. Recently I photographed a mountain stream in the Eastern Sierra of California. For this image, I wanted the water soft and dreamlike.

Start with the camera mounted on a tripod to steady the shot. I prefer exposures around 2 seconds. At that interval, the water is softened, but not overly dreamy. To create this long exposure, I put the camera in Aperture Priority mode and stop the aperture down to f/16. I then add a polarizer to give me another 2 stops of density. If I'm working in early morning light, this will usually provide the shutter speed I'm looking for. One important tip, make sure you're not in Auto ISO. Set the camera manually to its lowest ISO setting. Then use the self-timer or a remote release to take the shot. You don't want to jar the camera when making the exposure.

These images can be real eye-catchers when showing off your landscape work.

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