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Soon, you'll be hearing about the going-ons at the Nature Photography Summit in McAllen, Texas. This should be an interesting trip for a variety of reasons.


At first, McAllen might seem like an unusual choice for this event. It's only a few miles from the US/Mexico border in the Rio Grande Valley. There's enough questionable activity that I've been advised not to go out at night by myself. Hmmm, Las Vegas this isn't.

But this area does support abundant wildlife, including the World Birding Center. So there won't be night shooting during this adventure, rather wildlife photography during the day. Plus, there's the conference itself at the McAllen Convention Center.

So stay tuned. I have a feeling there will be some interesting reports coming from Southern Texas.

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MacBook Pro 15"

A common question that I get from readers is: "which computer is the best for the traveling photographer?" Now's a great time to look at this, because all of the players have just been revised. The options for Mac users are tempting: iPad 2, MacBook Air (11" and 13"), and the MacBook Pro 15".

Since our focus is travel, let's start with weight, horsepower, battery, and resolution:

  • iPad 2 3G $829 - 1.35 pounds, 1GHz dual-core Apple A5 processor, and 9.7-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit glossy widescreen Multi-Touch display (1024 x 768), 10 hours of battery life.
  • MacBook Air 11" $1,399 - 2.3 pounds, 1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor with 3MB shared L2 cache, 11.6-inch (diagonal) high-resolution LED-backlit glossy widescreen display with support for millions of colors (1366 by 768), 5 hours of battery life.
  • MacBook Air 13" $1,799 - 2.9 pounds, 2.13GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor with 6MB shared L2 cache (upgraded option), 13.3-inch (diagonal) high-resolution LED-backlit glossy widescreen display with support for millions of colors (1440 x 1900), 5 hours of battery life.
  • MacBook Pro 15" $2,349 - 5.6 pounds, 2.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor with 6MB shared L3 cach, 15.4-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit glossy or optional antiglare widescreen display with support for millions of colors (1440 x 1900), 7 hours of battery life.

The next step is to decide what's most important to you in the "processing power vs weight" category. The MacBook Pro 15" is the fastest machine with the most storage. If you're capturing video and large Raw files, you're going to appreciate this muscle. A great machine for serious pro assignment photography.

The iPad with the optional Camera Connection Kit is a great choice for vacation travel, when you won't have as serious processing demands. It can handle Raw files and video, but it works best when you select a handful of favorite shots and play with those. The photo applications for the iPad are also quite affordable compared to the MacBooks. Typical price is $1.99 to $9.99 each.

The MacBook Air 13" strikes a compelling balance between the other two. It's weight is closer to the iPad 2, but it has much of the muscle of a MacBook. It's not as fast or contains as much storage as the new MacBook Pro 15", but it does run Photoshop, Aperture, Lightroom, and iPhoto very well. And the solid state drive does give it a very snappy feel. iPhoto comes with the machine, and you can get Aperture for $79 in the Mac App Store.

I've posted three articles on Macworld Magazine that dig deeper into these scenarios: Field testing the MacBook Air for photographers, A photographer's workflows for the MacBook Air, and A photographer's workflow for the iPad. Once you feel for which direction you want to go, check out the appropriate article for more details.

Bottom Line Considerations

Price -- iPad 2 3G with 64 GBs of Flash memory: $829 US; MacBook Air 11" with 1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4 GBs Ram and 128 GBs Flash storage: $1,399 US; MacBook Air 13" with 2.13GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4 GBs Ram and 256 GBs Flash storage: $1,799 US; MacBook Pro 15" with 2.2GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7, 4 GBs Ram, 750GB Serial ATA Drive @ 5400 rpm, and 15-inch Hi-Res Antiglare Widescreen Display: $2,349 US

Connectivity -- The iPad comes with 3G cellular built-in ($15 month) so you have access to the Internet practically anywhere. The MacBooks have built-in WiFi requiring a network to browse the Web.

Space -- The iPad 2 and MacBook Air fits in most photo backpacks. The MacBook Pro requires a dedicate laptop storage area, which usually increases the size of your bag.

Power and Battery -- No doubt that MacBook Pro is a beast when it comes to power. The question is, how much power do you need on the road? The MacBook Pro also gives you 7 hours of battery life, 2 hours better than the Air, but not quite the 10 hours you get with the iPad.

I do a lot of traveling, and most of it includes assignment work. I'm currently using the first generation iPad and the beefed-up 13" MacBook Air (as listed in this article) on the road. My video editing is light; I'm usually preparing short movies for YouTube. I do shoot Raw with a Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 60D. I haven't had any problem processing those files using Aperture on the Air. I would consider myself a light-duty pro photographer. Take this information and decide where you fit, then make the perfect choice for you.

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For the Jan. '11 Photo Assignment, TDS shooters lowered their sights and assembled a rock solid gallery for Ground Level. This collection is outstanding! And which one will be the SizzlPix Pick of the Month?

Emil Trollklint "Ground Level"

The March 2011 assignment is "Blue." Start working on your contribution now. Details can be found on the Member Participation page. Submit photo assignment pictures 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: March 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 Emil Trollklint. (Click on it to see enlarged version.) You can read more about how Emil captured this shot, plus see all of the other great images on the January 2011 Gallery page.

Good luck with your March assignment, and congratulations to all of the fine contributors for January. Very, very impressive!

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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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Olympus E-PL-2 with PENpal Bluetooth Adapter

Macworld Magazine has published my review of the Olympus E-PL2 micro four thirds camera. I've talked about this compact interchangeable lens device before, but the full review covers everything from important features, accessories, and image quality; to using the camera with an HDTV and pairing the PENpal Bluetooth accessory with a Mac. We cover a lot ground!

The pros and cons list in the review shape up like this:


  • Ergonomically comfortable body with textured hand grip, recessed on/off button, mode dial, and control wheel
  • Improved 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Zuiko MSC zoom kit lens
  • In-body image stabilization
  • Manual exposure and art filters in movie controls
  • Accessory Port 2 for expanded functionality
  • Built-in wireless flash control


  • No built-in external mic jack--must buy accessory port adapter
  • Complex menu system
  • Limited to AVI movie format (Motion JPEG OpenDML)

Overall, I think this is an excellent camera for the photographer who wants a compact, lightweight design, but still retains plenty of control and a variety lens options. The Olympus PEN E-PL2 camera kitis available for $599 US.

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With Spring around the corner, it's time to start thinking about photography workshops for the 2011 season. We have some great events lined up, and here's an overview of the schedule. Also, some notes from the field as I'm in Ventura right now recording a new "Photo Assignment" title for Yes, another report from a hotel room, somewhere.

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

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

TDS Summer 2011 Photography Workshop

We're making plans now for the Summer 2011 TDS Photography Workshop. If you want your name on the reserve list, 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

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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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Ralph Ansel Vegas Lights

"While reading Red River's information on their new card paper, I clicked on your link about BOKAH taken in Las Vegas, and enjoyed the image of OOF Lights," writes Ralph Ansel. "During my visit to Las Vegas, I did some photos of lights at the candy factory's decorated cactus garden. I used a Canon 5D MarkII, Canon 24-70mm f2.8 at about f8 in Aperture Priority mode. I adjusted the lens opening to get a 1 to 2 sec. shutter speed and zoomed the lens during the exposure."

Nice shot, Ralph! I think the effect is striking.

Photo by Ralph Ansel.

This is our 210th Grab Shot! Wow. If you want to review the collection that began back in 2006, go to our Grab Shots page.

If you have a candid you'd like to share, take a look at our Submissions page, then send us your Grab Shot. We'll try to get it published for you on The Digital Story.

And you can view more images from our virtual camera club in the Member Photo Gallery.

The Digital Story Podcast App is the best way to stream or download weekly TDS podcast episodes. No more syncing your iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, or even your Android phone just to get a podcast. And the best part is, The Digital Story Podcast App is your way to help support this show. Download it today!

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35-105mm Canon Zoom

I was just reading a Canon advisory about peripheral AF points operation limitation with certain EF lenses, referring to eight older lenses released between 1990 and 1995. One of the lenses, the 35-105mm zoom, is still hanging around my studio.

Just to be clear, the advisory doesn't say that the lenses don't work with the new Canon bodies. The issue is, "...the peripheral AF points do not function as cross-type AF points resulting in vertical and horizontal lines not being simultaneously detected. Vertical or horizontal lines can only be detected separately."

One of the things I enjoy about my Canon DSLR system is that I'm still using favorite lenses from years ago, such as the 85mm f/1.8, on current bodies, such as the 5D Mark II and the 60D. This particular advisory doesn't bother me much, In fact, I appreciate the information... just in case I decide to break out the 35-105 zoom (which was a mediocre lens at best, btw).

The good news is, that in most cases, you're going to get solid performance with your older Canon EF lenses on any Canon DSLR body. That's why we say that good glass is an investment.

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There are a handful of applications that enable a connection from an iPad to your DSLR. But if you really want to control the camera remotely, take a look at onOne's DSLR Camera Remote HD for the iPad.

I've connected a Canon T1i, 60D, and 5D to my MacBook Air, and then used my iPad as command central. This includes working in Live View, video recording, and using the iPad as an Intervalometer to set both interval and number of shots for a session.

DSLR Camera Remote

The set-up is painless. First, I downloaded the iPad app from the App Store ($49.99). Then I went to the onOne site to download the server for my MacBook.


Connect the camera to the MacBook, turn it on, and fire up the server. Then launch the iPad app. It will see your computer on the WiFi network and list it for you. You tap the name of your computer in the list, and DSLR Camera Remote HD makes the connection. You now have control of your camera from the iPad

At this point, you can turn off and on Live View (for cameras that have it), take pictures, focus (via Live View), adjust parameters such as white balance and ISO, and even record video if your camera supports it. When all of the settings are to your liking, you can switch to full screen mode that gives you a bigger version on the image with the Fire button. You have the option of saving your photos to the computer only, or the computer and the camera.

DSLR Camera Remote HD is designed for Canon and Nikon cameras. The interface is well designed, functionality works great, and for Canon users in particular, it's worth the price for the Intervalometer alone.

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Over the course of an event, such as WPPI 2011 in Las Vegas, I notice little adjustments along the way. Here's an example that made me smile.

Body Painting at WPPI 2011 On Day 3 at WPPI, the body painters were wearing undergarments. Click on image for larger size.

Earlier in the show, when I walked by the Unique Photo booth, they were body painting models, but with no undergarments on top. This has been a popular attention grabber at Vegas photo shows in the past. Aside from the attractive models, the artists are quite good. It's amazing at how fast they work, and how effective the results are.

Then, on Wednesday, I passed by the booth again on my way to see Brian Smith present at the Sony booth, and I noticed that the models were now sporting bras beneath the body paint. Looks like, even in Vegas, you have to cover up these days.

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Vegas Bokah

This image was captured from an overpass on Las Vegas Ave., looking down at the cars and lights on the street. I was shooting with a Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L on a Canon 60D. I opened the aperture all the way to f/2.8, then manually defocused the lens to create this abstract bokeh composition.

I'm seriously considering making a SizzlPix of this image. I think it would be fascinating to hang on the studio wall.

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