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Have you thought about bundling up a batch of 35mm slides and having them scanned so they can live alongside your digital images? The problem is, who do you send them to?

I can give you a headstart on your research in my latest Macworld article titled, Outsource your photo scanning projects. For this piece, I sent a batch of 35mm slides, negatives, and 4x6 prints to three popular services: ScanCafe, DigMyPics, and ScanDigital. All three did a good job and were great at communication along the way. But there were some differences between them also.

As a bonus, the folks over at posted the scans they made from my test batch. At the time they did the job, they didn't know I was doing research for an article. You can take a look at the work they did here.

If you're thinking about testing one of these services, make sure you read this article.

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The SkyShutter AeriCam has a 3-axis camera mount built into a radio controlled helicopter. So you can fly your DSLR or videocam over the area that you want to cover, such as a car chase, and shoot it from angles that would be otherwise hard to achieve.

While I was at PhotoPlus Expo, Jason Lam from AeriCam had a SkyShutter set up. First, it's a beautiful piece of equipment to look at. It's constructed out of 7075 aluminum with custom anodizing. Even though it only weighs 3 pounds, it can carry a payload of 7 pounds. It has direct gear drive providing lots of power, and 360 degree pan, tilt, and roll to get great shots.

In my case, I would want it to come with a pilot too. Because the last thing I would want is to crash both helicopter and camera. You can find out more at

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Tom Hogarty, Lightroom senior product manager, talks about Lightroom beta 3 that was announced on the eve of PhotoPlus Expo in New York. What I wanted from this interview were aspects of this release that excited Tom. And he was more than happy to tell me. We recorded our chat in Javits Center the day after beta 3 had been posted. Lots of great insights here, and if you plan on trying this version, you need to hear what Tom has to say.

Lightroom 3 Public Beta is available now for download at the Adobe Labs site. You can compare notes with others via Adobe's community forum.

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (18 minutes). Or better yet, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

Monthly Photo Assignment

Feet is the Oct. 2009 Photo Assignment. Shoes, bare feet, paws, manmade objects, my gosh there are so many possibilities. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is Oct. 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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For my recent New York trip, I brought two cameras: the Canon 5D Mark II and the Olympus E-P1. For the first three days, I shot exclusively with the 5D2. I was working at PhotoPlus Expo for Lowepro. I needed to take photos in the booth of photographer activities, and the 5D2 with the 24-105 zoom worked great.

All images by Derrick Story, captured with an Olympus E-P1 with a 17mm f/2.8 lens. High ISOs were used for all pictures. You can see more at the Digital Story Flickr site. Click on images to enlarge.

But on the fourth day, after I had completed my assignment, it was time to hit the streets of Manhattan. And for that gig, I packed my Olympus E-P1 with a 17mm f/2.8 lens and a Jobo GorillaPod. That was it.

I like to go out a little before dusk. This was a problem in the past with compact cameras because they didn't perform well at high ISO settings. But the E-P1 shoots great at ISO 1600, and lately, I've even pushed it to 3200 with solid results. Because it was raining while I was on the street, I needed the speed even more to offset the cloud cover.

My technique is fairly simple. I turned off the LCD viewfinder and framed the shots with my eyes only. The E-P1 is usually hanging around my neck at chest level or positioned at some odd angle to get the shot. About every 15 minutes or so, I'll turn on the LCD, review the recent shots to make sure I'm not screwing up, then turn off the viewfinder and look for another place to photograph. Since the shutter is fairly quiet anyway (then add a little street noise), I don't draw much attention to myself -- certainly less the holding the 5D2 with big zoom lens up to my eyes.

Everything is recorded in Raw. This really helps when trying to control deep shadows and specular highlights. I process the images in Adobe Lightroom 2.5 because it provides excellent Raw decoding for the E-P1. And since the camera handles white balance and color so well, combined with Lightroom's excellent processing, most of my post production is limited to cropping and minor exposure tweaks. This enables me to quickly post the shots online after the shoot is over.

On that Saturday night in New York City, the rain showers gradually broke open into a downpour. By 8:30 pm, I was back in the room sorting my images on a MacBook, and by 10 pm they were online at my Flickr account.

What an enjoyable way to finish off a great trip!

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As happy as Lightroom fans are about the announced posting of the Adobe Lightroom 3 beta, Aperture users are dismayed by Apple's silence. During my stay in New York, I've met with many photographers comparing notes about our shared community. One question seems to come up more than any other: What About Aperture?

Concerns seem focused on two issues. First, we've had Aperture 2 since Feb. 2008. That's a long time between releases in the hotly competitive field of advanced photography. And there's been no communication from Apple to photographers as to when they can expect an upgrade. During that same period, Aperture's primary competitor, Lightroom, has been very active and gaining market share. Many Aperture users are feeling left behind while their Lightroom counterparts are seeing their software move forward.

The second complaint centers on Raw file support. Many cameras are simply not supported. And the ones that are often see Raw updates long after the competition has released theirs. For example, the very popular Olympus E-P1 still is not supported in Aperture.

One photographer commented today, "I understand Apple controlling the message on new iPods, iPhones, and Macs. But when your professional software doesn't support the gear you want to use, we should at least hear what's going on with that."

Many shooters, myself included, had pegged PhotoPlus as the event for an announcement about Aperture 3. It seemed like the perfect time. New York is buzzing with top tier photographers. Nikon, Canon, and Adobe have muscled up their respective product lines. Photography news is getting lots of attention. And we don't have another major photo show in the US until PMA, which is having its own problems right now.

So, when I'm asked the question, "What about Aperture 3?" I have to say, I'm out of guesses. I put my money down on PPE, and the dealer has just swept it away. I know Aperture 3 is out there somewhere. But your guess is as good as mine as to when we will see it.

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Adobe Lightroom 3 beta Available

Adobe has put much work into the beta version of Lightroom 3. Now it's your turn. Lightroom 3 public beta is available now for download at the Adobe Labs site. This is your opportunity to test the next generation of Adobe's comprehensive photo management software.

Although there are plenty of new features in this beta release, a key focus is image processing. Adobe is striving for the best image quality possible and has once again paid lots of attention to the Develop module. You'll be able to see the difference with your own eyes because you can process a Raw file with either the older Lightroom 2 algorithms or the new beta 3 processing -- in the same application. This "processing versioning" is a first for Lightroom. They are retaining the version 2 processing for older images. Adobe doesn't want to change an image you've already adjusted. But you will have the option of reprocessing an older picture with beta 3 algorithms too. You'll be able to compare notes with others via Adobe's community forum. In the tests I've seen from Adobe, there's an improvement between Lightroom 2 processing and beta 3.

Screenshot 1 :You can now create HD slideshows with music... and export them as movies. Click to enlarge.

In terms of features, a few improvements that I really like include:

  • Image import interface redesigned. Instead of having the import dialog as a completely separate function as it was in Lightroom 2, it's now integrated into the main program interface. It's quite attractive and easy to use.
  • Slideshow authoring has also been improved, but what I really like is the ability to export your slideshows to movies using the H.264 codec. You can also include music in these HD beauties.
  • Major improvements to sharpening and noise reduction. From what I've seen, these built-in tools look as effective as third-party plug-ins.

Computer Requirements

Mac users will need to have an Intel processor running Mac OS X 10.5 or 10.6 to launch Lightroom 3. Windows users can use Windows 7 or most of the currently supported operating systems by Microsoft.

Screenshot 2: The import dialog has been integrated into the Lightroom interface. Click to enlarge.

You don't have to be a current registered Lightroom user to try beta 3. So if you've been curious about this application, here's your opportunity to see the latest version for free. The beta will be in English only. Adobe wants your feedback, so be sure to participate in the forums if you give this a try.

Remember, this is beta software. Keep your important Lightroom libraries in version 2 and create test libraries for this beta 3. You won't be able to import version 2 libraries into beta 3. I recommend that you grab a handful of duplicate Raw files and just play.

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Like many others, I'll be flying out of San Francisco and heading east to PhotoPlus Expo in New York City. We've already seen some important announcements for the show: Nikon D3S, Canon 1D Mark IV, delay of the Leica S2, and more accessories than you can shake a monopod at.

But there's still more to come, and by the end of the week we should know where we stand both hardware and software wise. I'll be working at the show as the Lowepro Photography Evangelist. I'll post updates on both my Twitter page (which also appears on the home page of The Digital Story), and I'll be posting inside info on the Lowepro Twitter page too. If you follow both, you'll have a pretty good idea of what's happening.

So, I've got to go. I have a plane to catch...

Fine art notecards are such a satisfying product to create. They are beautiful, functional, and affordable. When you hand someone a notecard that you made, they know you're an artist. More than once recipients have told me that they can't wait to get them in a frame.

Until recently, I was using Red River 60lb Premium Matte C2S for my matte surface cards. It's a beautiful stock that really shows off my images. But for this last print run, I tried the 60 lb. Paper Canvas because of the textured surface. And I love it.

First of all, I didn't have to change any of the print settings that I was using for my other matte notecards in the Epson R2400. I stuck with the Enhanced Matte Paper ICC profile, and the color and tone reproduced beautifully. Once out of the printer, the cards dried quickly and were easy to fold along the score. Personally, I like to use a roller to get a nice, crisp crease. The end product is a 5" x 7" fine art card that is textured on the outside, but is smooth on the inside for easy writing.

I also highly recommend the 5.25 x 7.25 Premium White Envelopes (Item#7163) for $12.59 for a box of 100. They're such a nice finishing touch.

If you want to know more about how I actually produce these notecards, be sure to read my article, Professional Photo Art Notecards Using Aperture and Red River Paper. I think once you produce a few of these beauties, you'll be just as thrilled with them as I have been.

To get free shipping, be sure to start at the Digital Story page on the Red River site. Red River Paper is a sponsor of The Digital Story, and we're thrilled to be working with them.

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"I was out in California visiting my mother and sister, and we rode up from Roseville into the Sierras looking for fall scenery," writes TDS member Jim Stocking. "We came back through the Carson Pass, stopping just before the summit at the Red Lake Vista. To our astonishment, a car drove up with a young female eagle that they were releasing back to the wild. Armed with my wife's Canon SD850, which she let me use for the trip, I caught the shot of the bird making its way to freedom after being tossed into the air."

As Jim mentioned, he used a Canon PowerShot SD850 IS set to ISO 100 for this wonderful shot of the eagle being set free. The shutter speed was 1/400 and the aperture was f/8.

Photo by Jim Stocking. Click on image to zoom to larger size.

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.

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Which Image is the Sharpest?

Here's a fun quiz: Which of these six images is most likely the sharpest? You'll need to click on the picture to zoom it out to see the real clue.

For those of you who have my Digital Photography Hacks book, the answer is actually one of the hacks. This is a trick that I've used for years when I have to turn around photos quickly and don't have time to examine each one of them at 100 percent magnification. Often, I'm just looking at thumbnails in Adobe Bridge, as described in my Photoshop CS4 Companion for Photographers, and I need to pick one quickly, process in Adobe Camera Raw, then send it on its way.

So, use this article's "Leave a Comment" to state which of these six thumbnails you think represents the sharpest image. I'll post my answer at the end of the day.

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