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SizzlPix, the Perfect Gift

In preparation for this weekend's TDS Fall Photography Workshop, I was hanging a few new SizzlPix on the classroom wall. I want workshop attendees to be able to experience these images firsthand.

As I was looking at the shots, I thought what perfect gifts they would make this coming holiday season. I'm mentioning this now in case you think so too, so you'll have plenty of time to get your shots together.


Imagine the double-delight when the recipient opens the box. First, they will see a handpicked image that you have been thoughtful enough to print for them. Then, they notice how the picture "jumps" out of the box. (If you have a SizzlPix, you know what I mean.

You can also share the following points to further impress your friend:

  • Waterproof photo prints? (dye-infused aluminum!)
  • Environmentally friendly? (no paper, wood, nor glass - no noxious fumes while manufacturing!)
  • Archival? (rated for a 50-year life; stain proof and scratch resistant!)
  • Economical? (The same or less cost than pro-quality matted, framed under glass!)

OK, maybe not the last point. We want them to think that you paid a lot for their gift. Anyway, this is something that occurred to me, and I wanted to share with you... before I forgot all together ;)

And if you didn't know this already... SizzlPix is a sponsor of The Digital Story. So we have that to thank them for too!

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Take the Camera, You Won't Be Sorry

I continue to advocate that photographers have a camera with them when they walk out the door. It can be any type of device, as long as it's capable of taking the types of pictures that fit your style.

As an example of this, here's a self-portrait I shot while waiting for a train in Munich with my friend Oliver. I had a Canon S90in my pocket (which has been recently updated to the Canon S95), and when I looked up, I saw this great reflective surface on the roof. Using the S90, I was able to frame one of my favorite portraits of Oliver and me in Munich.

Self Portrait, Munich Self-Portrait in Munich. Click on image for a larger version. Photo by Derrick Story with a Canon S90.

The thing is, whether I'm in Munich, San Francisco, New York, or at home in Santa Rosa, I have either the Canon S90 or the Olympus E-P1 1 with the 17mm f/2.8 Lens in my pocket or in my messenger bag that also holds the iPad.

When we had a recent discussion about this on the TWiP podcast, some folks commented that they didn't want to be in "photographer mode" all of the time. I agree. There are many moments in life that I just want to enjoy without a camera in my hand. The thing is, there are also other moments when I really want to take pictures. And I don't know ahead of time what the day has in store.

So I stand by my recommendation for photographers of all types. Have a camera with you, even if it's your smartphone. Because you don't know when a wonderful opportunity will present itself.

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I've talked a lot about hitting the road with only an iPad and some of the challenges involved with lightweight mobile computing. For example, how can photographers increase storage for their hi-rez images? Another concern in the field is replenishing the iPad's hefty battery after hours of use.

Mophie -- the makers of the Juice Pack Reserve-- have come up with a new device: the juice pack power station. The $99 device has enough capacity (3600 mAh) to charge your iPad, iPhone and iPod. Its 2.1 amps of high-density, high-output charging has the horsepower required to replenish that thirsty iPad battery. It also has many helpful features such as LED status lights and pass though charging (you can charge the powerstation and your device at the same time) while remaining quite compact.

I think backpackers and photographers working in the field for extended periods might find the powerstation a real blessing.

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The updated Lowepro S&F Series will be officially launched in the US at PhotoPlus Expo on October 28. There are many innovative components in this system, but the one that I think will thrill just about every shooter is the new Lens Exchange Case 200 AW.

Lowepro S&F Lens Exchange Case 200 AW The Lowepro S&F Lens Exchange Case 200 AW. Click on image for larger version. Photo by Derrick Story.

Not only does the case fit securely on the belt of the S&F Series, you can use it on a regular belt too. It has an All Weather cover to protect your glass in the harshest of environments. But the real treat is that it also serves as a second pair of hands. The case actually has two compartments that compress into one case. When you take the lens off your camera, simply put it in the open compartment. Then take the lens you want to mount out of the other compartment. Pull the case closed with one hand, and you're shooting before you know it. Here's a video demo of how that works.

The Lowepro S&F Lens Exchange Case 200 AW should be available in November 2010. If you really want to "wow" your favorite photographer with a great gift during the holidays, this affordable item is the ticket.

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Photography workshops provide an experience that you just can't get online. The combination of hands-on instruction, shooting on location, and direct interaction with other participants can inject renewed enthusiasm into your craft. This week I discuss some of the things that I think are important when considering a photography workshop to attend.

TDS Photography Workshop June 2010 on Location

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (22 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

Fall is the October 2010 Photo Assignment. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is Oct. 31, 2010.

TDS Autumn 2010 Photography Workshop

The next TDS Photography Workshop will be Oct. 16-18, 2010. The event is sold out. But, you can place your name on the reserve list for the next workshop. Just drop me a line.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. It's a blast!

Podcast Sponsors

Red River Paper -- Try the $7.99 Sample Kit.

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

Blurb believes passionately in the joy of books - reading them, making them, sharing them, and selling them. Learn more by visiting Blurb on The Digital Story.

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Review of the Giottos VGR9255 Tripod


The Giottos VGR9255 is an aluminum tripod/monopod with quick release ball head that fits easily on the outside of your photo backpack. I recently spend a week on the road with one strapped to my Lowepro Pro Trekker 300 AW as I worked in Germany. This Giottos only weights 3 lb (1.36 kg), yet extends to 62.6" (159cm). And when it's time to fold it up to pack in the suitcase, it only takes up 15.6" of space thanks to its ingenious "reverse technology" legs, that when collapsed, fold 180 degrees and surround the tripod center column and head. This also means that you have great flexibility in positioning the legs at any angle you may need while shooting.

The dual-control ball head is high quality. The movement is smooth, and when you lock it down, it's solid. The Giottos also includes a quick-release mount for your camera. All of the twist-knob adjusters on the legs and center column are equally silky and secure. This is a tripod that inspires confidence just by working its controls.

You can convert the Giottos to a monopod by unscrewing one of the legs and attaching it to the center column. Even though I think this is a terrific option, I didn't use it as much as planned because the tripod itself is so nimble, even in tight quarters. I also like the retractable hook at the bottom of the center column that can be used for hanging any type of weight to further secure the legs.

For $245, you get the tripod, ball head, deluxe case, and carry strap. Considering the quality of the ball head alone, that's a good value.

You won't hear me say this too often about sticks, but the Giottos VGR9255 tripod is actually fun to use. And it won't break your back or your bank account.

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Here's a collection of images that will have you seeing double. The assignment for August 2010 was "Tandem." Check out this great set of images from members of the TDS virtual camera club. And which one will be the SizzlPix Pick of the Month?

The October 2010 assignment is "Fall." Start working on your contribution now. Details can be found on the Member Participation page. You can now submit photo assignment pictures up to 800 pixels in the widest direction.

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 next month's assignment should be: "Photo Assignment: Oct. 2010." 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.

Photo by Scott Loftesness. (Click on it to see enlarged version.) You can read more about how Scott captured this shot, plus see all of the other great images on the August 2010 Gallery page.

Good luck with your October assignment, and congratulations to all of the fine contributors for August. Once again, it's a great collection of images.

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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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Why I Don't Drive in Germany


As much as I would love to put an Audi on the Autobahn, I usually resist the urge to drive in Europe. And if I did, I would need to have a clearer understanding of signs like these. At first, I had no idea what these meant.

Fortunately, I had a chance to ask my friend Oliver what they meant. If I remember correctly, the top sign with the X means no parking at all in the direction of the arrow. The lower sign with just the single slash, means you can stop there for a moment, but don't wander off. Perfect for dropping off a friend at work.

The bottom line is, when traveling, don't forget to photograph signs. They can be an interesting point of conversation, as well as informative.

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Inside the Dom, Cologne, Germany

When you get off the train in Cologne, Germany, the first thing you see is the massive exterior of the Dom. But to truly appreciate its grandure, you have to go inside. Believe me, it's worth it.

Image captured with a Canon 5D Mark II and 24-105 mm L f/4 lens at 24mm. Handheld, but leaning against a wall. I processed the photo on the iPad using Photogene.

Traveling to Munich on a High Speed Train

Faster than a speeding bullet. At least that's the way it feels when traveling on the train between Cologne and Munich, Germany. As a photographer, I much prefer it to flying for a few reasons. First, it's more comfortable. You can ride in First Class on the train for about the same price as economy on a cramped plane. Second, you get to keep all of your luggage with you. No messing around with check-in or weight limitations. And third, it's an amazing view out the window.

High Speed Train Through the window of a high speed train on the DB Bahn traveling from Cologne to Munich. Click on image for larger version.

I particularly like it when I enter Bavaria coming from Cologne. The countryside is just beautiful. I captured this fun image through the window using my Olympus E-P1 with the 17mm f/2.8 Lens.

About 3.5 hours later, I was in Munich feeling great and ready for action. Oh, and how fast is fast? Well, the train reached speeds of 180 MPH. That's fast!

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