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I'm a big fan of what Nik Silver Efex Pro 2can do for my B&W photography, so when I heard that they've just released Color Efex Pro 4 for color work, I wanted to give it a try.

Color Efex Pro 4 Project in Process Project in process with 4 filters active. Click on image for larger version. Photo by Derrick Story, shot in Kauai.

Essentially, this software provides a set of 55 customizable photo filters that you can combine in just about any imaginable way. When you build a set of filters that results in a look you want to repeat, save them as a recipie to apply to other shots.

As with Silver Efex Pro 2, there are plenty of sliders to tailor the intensity of highlights, shadows, contrast, color, etc. And, as you'd expect, control points are available to fine tune a specific area.

I combined four filters on this shot from Kauai to create a look I had always had in my mind for this image, but hadn't been able to achieve. My workflow went like this.

  • Make basic image adjustments in Aperture 3 to the master Raw file.
  • Choose Color Efex Pro 4 from the Photos > Edit with Plug-in menu.
  • Click on the Landscape filter grouping in the left column.
  • Choose a filter that looks appropriate and preview its options by clicking on the variations icon to the right of the filter name (see illustration).
  • Pick a variation I want, then tweak to taste.
  • Click the Add Filter icon in the right column to add another effect to the image (if you don't use Add Filter, then the next effect you choose replaces the previous one).
  • Repeat process until I've added the right amount of filters and adjusted them for the look I want.
  • Click on Save Recipe in the right column to save my settings. Give the recipe a name.
  • Click the Save button in the lower right corner to process the image and send the Tiff file back to Aperture,

Original Tree Image from Kauai Here's the original tree image in Aperture before working on it in Color Efex Pro. The shot is fine, but it doesn't have the Jurassic Park mood that I wanted.

Just like with any Edit plug-in in Aperture, you're adding another image to your library. I like to stack them together to keep things organized. Color Efex Pro 4 works with Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop also. So, regardless of your preferecne for image editing software, you can use these filters.

A few of the other features I like in Color Efex Pro 4 include a zooming tool, compare mode, choice of background shade, and history browser. There are two editions of the software available from the Nik site: Standard (26 filters) $99.95 or Complete (55 filters) for $199.95. Works great on both Macs and Windows machines. If you own a previous version, you can upgrade to the Compelte Edition for $99.95. And if you purchase Color Efex Pro 3.0 or the Complete Collection on or after August 7, 2011 you are eligible for a free upgrade to Color Efex Pro 4.

Bottom line: I was able to learn the software quickly by watching a couple videos on Nik's On Demand Video Training page, then put these effects to work on my images. The visual nature of the interface makes it easy to create the look you want. It's not for every image, in part because I don't want to fill up my Aperture library with large Tiff files. But for that special shot you want to get just right, Color Efex Pro 4 can get you there quickly.

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.

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The new Olympus PEN E-PM1, known as the "Mini" is exactly that. It's smaller than what I used to call a compact camera, such as the Canon G11. Yet, the Mini sports a 3" LCD, shoots at 5 fps, has an AP2 accessory port, captures 1080p video with stereo sound, and records 12 MP Raw or Jpeg files. Plus, it accepts interchangeable lenses.

Olympus PEN E-PM1 with Swiss Army Knife Olympus PEN Mini, 17mm f/2.8 lens, with Swiss Army Knife

The focusing on the current PENs is wickedly fast. And to be honest with you, I don't mind the streamlined look with a minimum of dials and buttons. In part this works for me because Olympus improved the menu system. It's actually easy to use.

I'm going to be putting the PEN Mini through its paces over the coming weeks. I'll certainly have more to report. But for starters, I wanted to show you just how darn petite this beauty is.

Street price for the Olympus PEN Mini with 14-42mm zoom is $499 US.

Find great deals at the TDS Photography Store on Amazon.

One More Thing, Thanks Steve

If it hadn't been for Steve Jobs, you probably wouldn't be reading these words right now. Yes, I've always been a writer. But I've had many stretches where I had to do other things to pay the bills. Oddly enough, they all involved the Mac.

Steve Jobs, 2003

Steve Jobs, 2003

In the late 80s, I was hired as a graphic artist using PageMaker on a 9" screen. Along the way, I learned every nuance of deploying Macs in the workplace. My next gig, happily, was a writing job. But as part of the deal, I had to maintain a network of Macs for a communications dept. I didn't get that position because of my prose. It was because I was the best Mac person among the applicants.

Years later, when I walked in to O'Reilly Media (called O'Reilly & Associates in those days), I had a PowerBook 1400 under my arm. It was the only Mac laptop in the building. Shortly thereafter, over half the computers there were Macs, including the one used by Tim O'Reilly. This momentum allowed me to launch Mac DevCenter. My words had never seen such a large audience.

Things continued to improve. I started writing for Macworld Magazine, was on the faculty for Macworld Expo, and wrote my first book chapters for David Pogue in "iPhoto: The Missing Manual." Not long after, I was recording my words for My first title? "Aperture Essential Training." Every time Apple invented something new, my career surged forward.

I was working on my Mac when I got the news. Steve Jobs had passed away. I wasn't ready for that.

A fellow writer, Glenn Fleishman wrote, "I've never been this sad about the passing of someone I didn't know." I felt the same way.

The thing is, I have no idea what my life would have been without Steve Jobs. His insanely great company helped a teenage poet from Southern California make a living doing what he loves. And I'm not the only one.

When I look at my fortunate career, I only have one regret: I never got to thank the man who helped me so much. It's true, I didn't know Steve Jobs. But he changed my world.

iPhone 4S Camera

As I mentioned yesterday, Apple announced my next camera during their special event today. I had a good feeling that they were going to put some muscle into this upgrade. And in all honesty, they exceeded my expectations.

Let's start with the lens. The 4S has five optical elements with a maximum aperture of f/2.4. Glass is so important to picture quality, and I'm happy to see this type of attention paid to a "camera phone." Plus, having the wider aperture helps in low light situations.

They've also beefed up the infrared filter to help improve color. Then Apple added the A5 chip with an image signal processor that's fairly robust for a camera of this nature. The picture taking experience is also improved. You can now activate the camera directly from the Home button, and it is more responsive once you do, including less shutter lag. It might actually feel like a real camera. Use the volume button to trip the shutter if you wish.

The backside illuminated sensor now supports 8 megapixels of resolution. This gives you a bit more latitude for cropping, especially since you're working with a fixed lens that has a moderately wide 35mm focal length.

Other goodies include face detection, HDR, 1080p video (at 30 fps), and a nifty editing app for basic adjustments. And of course this all works with the 3rd party apps that have been delighting us to this point.

I'll write a full review of the iPhone 4S camera as soon as I get my hands on it. But based on the specs I see, I think it will be an excellent photographic tool.

Find great deals at the TDS Photography Store on Amazon.

Do you know the varying degrees of warming filters in your white balance presets? Have you tried WB bracketing? Have you figured out how to adjust the color in real time using your camera's LCD screen? These are a few of the tips that I share in this week's podcast. Listen in!

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (25 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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For many, Apple's announcement of the 5th generation iPhone is the next step in mobile communications. For me, it's my next camera.

The history of iPhone photography is a condensed chapter in the big book of digital imaging. With the first iPhone, we had a 2-megapixel camera with very few controls... much like our early compacts a decade ago. But now, with the latest unveiling of Apple's smartest of smart phones, we'll have a camera that can stand on its own 3 feet with most dedicated compacts. (Well, granted that you've found a way to mount it on a tripod.)

My point is, that we'll have legitimate megapixels, robust image processing, and a variety of software to choose from. It's a real camera. Plus, it includes GPS, cellular connectivity, WiFi, Bluetooth, razor sharp screen -- and it even makes phone calls.

I'm sure I'll enjoy hearing about the wonders of iOS 5 and the increased horsepower under the hood of the new iPhone. But what I really want to do is go take pictures and see how they look in Aperture. Tuesday is new camera day.

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

For the Aug. '11 Photo Assignment, TDS shooters experimented with various surfaces exploring the theme Reflection. The imagery in this gallery is beautiful. And which one will be the SizzlPix Pick of the Month? (These will look great Sizzled!)

Ruth Cooper for Reflection

Recent SizzlPix winners include: Richard Lucic for June 2011, True Grit, and Matthew Rampton for July 2011, Smoke. Congratulations to both.

Participate in This Month's Assignment

The Oct. 2011 assignment is "Side Lighting." Start working on your contribution now. Details can be found on the Member Participation page. Deadline is Oct. 31, 2011.

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: Oct. 2011." 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 Ruth Cooper. (Click on it to see enlarged version.) You can read more about how Ruth captured this shot, plus see all of the other great images on the Aug. 2011 Gallery page.

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

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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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Remarkably smooth. That's my first impression of Flickr's Photo Session. It's a new feature that allows you to share a set of images in real time with up to 10 guests located... well, just about anywhere.

Flickr Photo Session on an iPad Photo Session being viewed on an iPad.

I fired up a Photo Session on my MacBook Air, then joined from an iPad and an iPhone 3GS. As I navigated from image to image on the MB Air, the photos moved in perfect sync on both mobile devices. In just minutes, you could lead a presentation to a small audience with no hassle.

If the guests sign in with a Yahoo ID, they can chat with you or among themselves via the pop-up window in the lower right corner. It's like having your own mini webinar. You can navigate the images, or allow others to drive. On the iOS devices, all you have to do is swipe the screen.

During my session, I was interrupted with a text message. I jumped out of Safari on the iPhone and took care of business via text. When I returned to Safari, Photo Session needed about 5 seconds to reconnect, then I was back in business. Very nice.

I know some photographers have been wondering how Flickr would respond to Google+. Well, this answer is sweet. Try it.

For more information about Photo Session, take a look at this FAQ.

Flickr Training

I have a title, Flickr Essential Training that provides all the ins and outs you need to master Flickr. Stop by and learn how to get the most from this terrific photo sharing environment.

Previously on The Digital Story

Exploring Interesting Places Via Flickr

Become Your Own Museum Curator with "Galleries" on Flickr

Using Google to Search Within Flickr

Flickr Keyboard Shortcuts

Flickr Updates Share Tools for Facebook, Twitter

Introduction to Flickr Essential Training

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

I'm speaking at the Mac Computer Expo in Petaluma, CA on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011. My talk, A Photographer's Workflow for the iPad is part of my Nimble Photographer series where I show the powerful things you can do with just a compact camera and an iPad. Admission to the Expo, and my talk, are free.

Mac Computer Expo

For the session that begins at 2 pm, I'll connect the iPad to the digital projector and use it to illustrate how to organize, image edit, and output images captured on the go with your digital camera. I'll cover my favorite iApps, and share a few tricks I've learned along the way. After the session, I'll stick around for follow-up questions and to chat with folks about anything Mac.

The entire session line-up for the day is quite impressive. If you're able to join us, get there early enough to see the keynote at 9:00 am and stay for the entire program. Plus, there's an expo hall with plenty of Mac vendors showing off their latest products.

And if you're part of our photography community, please introduce yourself to me. I love meeting members of our virtual camera club.

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

Eye-Fi Update

When I noticed the latest iApp update from Eye-Fi, I tested it right away on my iPhone. Why such a hurry? Well, my super nimble photographer set-up consists of a Canon S90, Eye-Fi Pro SD card, and my iPhone. Everything fits in my pants pockets, yet, I have sophisticated controls on the S90 to make beautiful images and send the ones I want immediately to any of my social networking sites.

If you haven't tried the Eye-Fi iOS app for the iPhone or iPad, it's quite refined these days. The app itself is free. But of course you need an Eye-Fi card.

Simple Workflow

Eye-Fi Download

On the Canon S90, I shoot Raw+Jpeg. I've configured the Eye-Fi card to send any Jpeg I mark as "protected" to the iPhone. I have it ignore the Raw files all together. When I see a shot on the S90 that I want to publish, I simply launch the Eye-Fi app on the iPhone, then hit the protect button on the S90. Within a few seconds the Jpeg is transferred from camera to mobile phone.

Later, when back at the studio, I upload the Raw files in to Aperture as part of my normal photo management. So I'm getting the best of both worlds. I have the ability to capture high quality images in the field and publish them immediately, while still maintaining a Raw workflow for maximum quality when I need it.

For projects where I need finer control, I use a more robust version of this workflow - iPad with ShutterSnitch talking to an Olympus PEN with an Eye-Fi card. But for extreme nimbleosity, you can't beat the compact camera to iPhone workflow.

More Nimble Photographer Articles

Review: Filterstorm Pro for the iPad

Revisiting a Wireless Workflow from Camera to iPad

Adobe Launches Carousel for Mobile Photography on iPhone, iPad, and Mac

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

PhotoToaster for the iPad

Putting Eye-Fi "Direct Mode" to the Test

iPad Camera Connection Kit

M.I.C. CF Card Reader for the iPad: Does it Work?

Eye-Fi Card, iPad, and ShutterSnitch for Wireless Transfer

iPad as a Photo Softbox

How to Create and Deliver Content for the iPad

Acme Made iPad Cases for Style and Protection

Will the iPad Squish my Photos?

The $2 iPad Stand

Bluetooth Keyboard and iPad - A Powerful Combination

Turn Your iPad into a Live Camera

Lowepro Classified 160 AW is Perfect Bag for iPad Toting Photographers

"iPad for Photographers" - Digital Photography Podcast 219

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