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Tripods Getting Smarter Too

The march of innovation affects everything, not just the latest digital camera or computer. Tripods are an excellent case in point. Take a look at the new Davis & Sanford Traverse Tripod ($169) that folds up ingeniously to a mere 16", but extends to a comfortable 57".

Other companies, such as Benro, offer the Travel Angel Aluminum Tripod, ($231) that's a full-featured, sturdy camera support with legs that also fold up over the tripod head resulting in a compact unit you can take just about anywhere.

Even traditional brands, such as Manfrotto, offer a 4-Section Tripod with Ballhead ($115) that's relatively compact (19" folded) and supports most DSLRs and all compacts.

My point is, if you haven't looked at tripods lately, like everything else, they have continued to improve. And chances are, you can get something just right for your needs that fits within your budget.

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Many photographers are revisiting wedding photography because it remains a good source of income during tough economic times. I just read a good article titled, How to Become a Top Wedding Photographer that contains some excellent tips for pushing your business up to the next level. It's a good read if wedding and portrait photography is part of your revenue stream for 2010.

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2010: Year of Software Decisions

As I look into my crystal ball for 2010, I predict we'll have new versions of many of the heavy-hitter software applications that we depend on for photo management and processing. How those new releases match up with the way we shoot will impact people on both sides of the equation.

Sometime during 2010, my guess is that we'll see Photoshop CS5 with updated versions of Adobe Camera Raw and Bridge. Lightroom 3 will probably come out of beta and on to the shelves. And Aperture 3 will most likely debut too. The big question is, how will those new applications match up to our evolving photography?

For example, I want one application that has Raw support for all of my cameras. I want to be able to catalog my video as well as my still pictures in the same environment. And I want integration with the other applications and services I use.

What's on your application wish list for 2010? If you have specifics that are important to you, please share them in the comments below.

Happy New Year! (It's going to be an interesting one...)

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"Wrinkles" often mean expressive texture. And the Nov. 09 Photo Assignment participants created a "tactile" gallery of images that you'll just want to touch.

The January 2010 assignment is "Slippery." Start working on your contribution now. Details can be found on the Member Participation page. You can submit photo assignment pictures up to 600 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: January 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 Amar Rameshbabu. You can read more about how Amar captured this shot, plus see all of the other great images on the Nov. 09 Gallery page.

Good luck with your January assignment, and congratulations to all of the fine contributors for November. 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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The better you understand your subject, the more likely you are to capture its essence. That's exactly what Paris Visone has done in her coverage of the punk rock band Protagonist.

"When touring with Protagonist, there was a lot of staying at random houses, taking advantage of every clean bathroom you can find, and a lot of different smells (some good, most bad)," writes Paris. "I have been shooting this band for 5 years now, but this is the first time I actually hit the road with them. They are somewhat used to the idea of the camera constantly in their faces, so that helps my cause. Plus, sometimes I help them carry equipment. So can they really complain? I like to consider myself the 6th member of the band. (Just don't tell them that.)"

Photo of the rock band Protagonist playing at Fest Live by Paris Visone. You can see the entire set of images on the Lowepro Flickr page.

Paris depended on her Canon 5D Mark II, 24mm 2.8 Lens, 35mm 2.0 Lens, Speedlite 430EX II, Mac laptop, various hard drives, and a Lowepro Fastpack 250 to capture these amazing images of the band.

"It's awesome having Paris with us on the road because she has a way of taking pictures that always captures the moment," said Brian, the guitar player. "She always knows just the right time to take a photo, and we sometimes relive entire days by looking at her images."

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It's time to review what has changed in our personal photography world, then think about the adjustments we want to make for the new year. For example, does your post production workflow still match the equipment you're shooting with? Does your backup strategy have another year in it? Are your online services still meeting your needs? And finally, have you set any goals for 2010? In this podcast I discuss how to make key adjustments so you're prepared for the year ahead.

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (29 minutes). Or better yet, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

Monthly Photo Assignment

Embrace is the Dec. 2009 Photo Assignment. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is Dec. 31, 2009.

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!

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All you need is a hot shoe, $50, and 3 AAA batteries to shed new light on your macro photography. The Sunpak LED Macro Ring Light slides into any hot shoe and fits lenses up to 67mm filter size diameter. The 12 LEDs are daylight balanced and are bright enough to illuminate subjects up to 2' away.

The three-position switch offers settings for off, low, and high. The flexible arm makes it easy to position the light around the lens, or from an off-axis angle if your prefer. Weighing in at just a few ounces, this accessory packs easily and can make close-up photography on the go a real breeze.

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DIY nano Stand for iPod Video Recording

The 5th generation iPod nano has terrific new functions such as an intelligent FM radio receiver and a video camera that can record hours of SD movie capture. One challenge that I encountered while recording video, however, was finding an easy way to steady the camera for scenes where the subjects were stationary, such as during a speech or a musical recital.

By modifying two parts of the packaging for the nano, you can quickly create a stand that works on any horizontal surface, allowing you to record super-steady movies. When not in use, the stand folds up so it's nearly as compact as the nano itself.

All you have to do is drill a hole in the flexible holder that your iPod ships in. I simply put the nano in the holder, marked on the clear plastic where the camera lens is with a Sharpie, removed the nano, drilled the hole, then reattached the iPod. When you're ready to record, stand it up in the open lid. You'll find that you have a number of adjustments that you can make just by moving the iPod around in the open lid. This allows you to get just the right recording angle.

When you're done recording, place the holder in the lid and secure with a rubber band. You can leave the nano in the holder if you know you're going to record more video soon, or put it back in its regular case.

A couple of additional tips: 1) drill a largish hole because the microphone is next to the lens and you'll get better audio pickup. 2) if you drill a second hole on the side of your stand, you can plug in the headphones also and use the stand for hands-free movie viewing.

One thing that I always mention to people who purchase Apple devices is to hang on to the packaging. There are always components that they can repurpose later for accessories such as this DIY nano stand.

More DIY Projects

You can find more do it yourself projects in the DIY section of The Digital Story, including:

DIY Copy Stand for the iPhone 3GS

Convert Your Roller Suitcase into a Tripod or Mic Stand

DigiScoping with a Compact Camera

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Do you need to send a last-minute greeting card via email because it's too late for it to get there via regular postal mail? And of course, you want it to be spectacular!

Click on the image to open up a full screen version of Michel Bricteux's animated card. It may take a minute to load, but once it does, the lights will go on and off. Thanks Michel!

We have a technique that might save the day. TDS member Michel Bricteux sent me this wonderful animated card of Calle Alcala, Madrid, that was created using Photoshop. Here's what Michel wrote:

"Attached you'll find a 'fun' project meant to serve as animated Season's Greetings. The background picture is a HDR composite made of 9 pictures (+/- 0.3EV, Nikon D3X) using Photomatix Pro. The animation was created using Photoshop CS4's very cool and simple-to-use Animation tool."

Once you've created the individual images that comprise the animation, it's a cinch to build the final GIF in Photoshop. Here's a short tutorial on eHow. Then attach the animated file to an email and send it off. It conveys the message that you care, and it shows off your artistic talent too.

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Tips for Cold Weather Photography


There are two rules in cold weather photography: 1) Protect you, 2) Protect your gear. Make sure you have layers of clothing that can go on and off as you work in the field. Be prepared for moisture so that you can stay dry. You never want to mix being wet and cold at the same time. It can lead to disastrous results. And be sure you have protection for your hands. Metal tripods become icy uncomfortable to hold.

As for your gear, your bags should be weather proof. If you use Lowepro bags, the "AW" models have an outer cover that's a terrific extra layer of protection. Keep spare batteries in your pocket, not your bag, so they stay warm. And finally, let your gear warm up in cases or Ziploc bags before exposing it to indoor temperatures. Otherwise condensation will form on your camera and lens.

Here's a good article by Laura Charon titled, Cold Weather Photography that provides additional insights (and some great photos!).

Photo of Boulder Creek in the Snow by Mark Castleman.

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