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The weather was perfect for hardcourt tennis at Stanford University. One of my favorite matches of the day pitted Shahar Peer from Israel against the defending champion Anna Chakvetadze from Russia. I was there to test the new Olympus E-520 digital SLR. This 10 MP body includes excellent sensor-based image stabilization, with modes for both horizontal and vertical panning. It also supports Autofocus Live View on its 2.7" HyperCrystal LCD, Face Detection, intelligent spot metering modes, Shadow Adjustment Technology, and more. The kit with a 12-40mm lens sells for less than $700.

So there I was in the photographer's area with press pass dangling from my neck going up against the giant Nikons and Canons. I asked the Olympus folks if I could borrow a couple of their pro lenses, and was able to attach a Zuiko ED 150mm f-2.0 (which is the 35mm equivalent to 300mm) both with and without a 2X doubler. I also tested the Zuiko ED 50-200mm f-2.8-3.5. Both lenses include tripod collars, so I felt a little more comfortable on the court with a monopod and some hefty glass. I did however, shoot with the kit lens and the 70-300mm f-4.0-5.6, and both yielded excellent results. I just couldn't stroll into the pro shooters area with only stock glass.


As for the E-520 itself, I was impressed. The Olympus reps suggested that I shoot in Jpeg mode, but the contrasty lighting really demanded Raw. So that's where I set the E-520, and it provided ample frame bursts in Raw (8 shots) to keep up with the action. During the entire day, I only filled up the buffer a couple times. At 3.5 fps, I was able to capture some good sequences without too much spacing between the shots. I set the ISO to 400 for maximum shutter speed, even in the bright sun, and thought the image noise was generally well-controlled and unobtrusive. The shutter sound itself is excellent.

Olympus is a sponsor of the US Open Series. And what a great event it is. The Tournament at Stanford (Bank of the West Classic) featured many stars including Serena Williams. I enjoyed both the event and the Olympus E-520. I'll continue to shoot with the camera and post updates along the way.

Photos of Shahar Peer by Derrick Story. Olympus E-520 with Zuiko ED 50-200mm f-2.8-3.5, ISO 400 in Raw capture mode.

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An interesting story broke last week when the Iranian propaganda machine managed to slip a doctored missile shot by the U.S. media. A couple things to note here. First, yes, we need to be diligent about examining images that we pass along as news. This side of the story is covered well by Daryl Lang in his PDN article, Newspapers Plan Corrections Over Iran Missile Photo. Be sure to click on the More Pictures link in the article that shows you how the image was doctored.

Photo and caption of doctored missile photos were provided by news agencies and put together by PDN Online

But in addition to that, what disturbs me is that there are still three real missiles in the shot. Yes, the doctored image is more ominous, I guess. But seeing a trio of rocket-propelled weapons arching upward is quite frightening all on its own.

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I've been testing photography applications from the new iTunes App Store and want to tell Flickr users about Exposure from Connected Flow. With this program on your iPhone or iPod Touch, you can get quick access to your Flickr photos, those of your contacts, featured images, and my favorite feature, "Near Me."

"Near Me" uses the location capability of your iPhone to find images posted to Flickr that are in close promixity to where you are at that moment. You can see the list of images, with the distance from you noted in meters. (For Americans) If you keep in mind that one mile equals 1,609.270 meters, then when you start seeing images in Exposure only 400 meters away, it dawns on you that these pictures are happening in your neighborhood. Most of the time, this is a good thought, but not always.

iPhone users can download Exposure for free with ads, or pay $9.99 US for the ad-free version. It makes your mobile device just a little more interesting.

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With the release of a second generation FireWire 800 model, Drobo has repositioned itself from a convenient backup system to an everyday workhorse that also archives your data.

'The second generation Drobo incorporates all of the features and functionality that consumers have grown to know and love in its predecessor: unparalleled ease of use, redundant data protection, and instant expandability that allows storage capacity to grow with users over time. New enhancements include an upgraded core processor, two FireWire 800 ports, dramatically increased USB 2.0 performance, and newly optimized firmware. This release addresses the needs of any user seeking a reliable method of managing vast amounts of data without sacrificing performance; from video editors, to heavy down-loaders, to photographers who shoot raw images,' reports data robotics in their press release.

So now you can use the device for realtime photography production, video editing, and other demanding tasks. Drobo's peace of mind comes at a price, as you would expect. Using the Drobolator to calculate available free space, you'll see that if you fill the Drobo up with four terabyte drives, your available data space is 2.7 TBs. 931 GBs is used for protection, and 3.8 GBs is reserved for overhead. But this is still more efficient than one-to-one backup. And that backup data has to go somewhere.

I have a first generation Drobo for managing my photo archive. I originally had it on an AirPort Extreme network, but I've since moved it to a workstation so I could connect the USB 2.0 cord directly to a computer. Since I've made that adjustment, I've been more satisfied with its performance as a backup machine, especially when searching for photos with Expression Media. But I'd love to try the new FireWire version. If anyone has any hands-on reports, please post a comment and let us know a little bit about your set up too.

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My favorite presentation yesterday at the Microsoft Pro Photography Summit was by landscape photographer Frans Lanting. It began when he captured through his lens thousands of Horseshoe Crabs as they came out at night on the New Jersey shores. Frans felt like he was looking back in time, and began to wonder what other examples he could find and photograph. And that was the beginning of his project, LIFE: A Journey Through Time.

You can visit this project in many ways, through the book, via the traveling exhibit, and of course, seeing Frans speak in person. The web site also provides an excellent experience, and I think you would enjoy spending a little bit of your life there marveling at the photos and learning from the text.

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I've just published the first of five Aperture screencasts on Inside Aperture; this one is on custom layouts using the book making tool. I walk you through the process of making your own postcard, but you could use the tutorial to design posters, fliers, and anything else your creativity comes up with.

Next week's screencast will feature the Retouch tool. These screencasts, plus 60 or so others, are available as part of my title, Aperture 2 Essential Training.

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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I've always had a fondness for luster finished papers and had been looking forward to trying Red River's 75 lb Arctic Polar Luster. This was going to be a dual test actually, because I had a new HP Photosmart Pro B8850 Printer sitting in my studio full of ink and ready to output. Why not test both at once?

First thing I did was download the color profile from the Red River site. They had the Arctic Polar Luster profile for the HP B9180, and I knew it would work fine in the B8850 since it's really the little brother to the B9180. I downloaded the profile and used the "Add Custom Paper" option in the Paper Type/Quality dialog box to add my profile. Now I was ready to print.

I first output a test print on HP Advanced Glossy Photo Paper so I would have a control image to compare against. I then loaded up the Artic Polar Luster and printed the same image.

I compared both images to the picture on my calibrated Apple Cinema Display. The colors were almost identical in both prints to what I was seeing on the screen. I say almost identical because the HP paper is slightly warm and the Red River is slightly cool. This had a mild impact on the rendering of the colors.

The tones were more saturated on the Artic Polar and the image was slightly darker. Not so much darker in a bad way, but very rich. I made a second print slightly increasing the gamma in the print dialog box. The colors were still quite luxurious, but the tones were about the same as my test print on the HP glossy.

Holding the prints brought to light a bigger difference between the stocks. The 75 lb Artic Polar Luster was substantial and felt like artwork in the hands. I couldn't set it down. And the finish is exactly what you'd expect from a premium luster stock: less reflection with rich tonality.

I did a little price comparison to see how much the Red River stock would cost me. A box of 50 sheets of 13"x19" Arctic Polar Luster runs $85.95. On the HP side, a box of 25 sheets of Professional Satin Paper runs $62.99. So the Red River runs about $1.70 a sheet compared to about $2.50 a sheet for the HP Satin. The Red River is 13 mil thick compared to 11.4 mil for the HP Satin. So it doesn't look like you have to pay more for this terrific luster stock.

As for the HP B8850 printer, it's output was every bit as beautiful as the B9180 I use often. It seemed a little slower however, and I'm going to continue testing and will post a follow up report. But the print quality was outstanding on both paper stocks tested in this report.

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Want to learn the ins and outs of Aperture 2.1? has just release my 5.75 hour video series titled, Aperture 2 Essential Training. I very much enjoyed recording this title, and I think you're going to like learning with it. A few of the things I cover include:

  • Understanding Aperture terms, interface, preferences, and workflow
  • Creating metadata presets and adding keywords on import
  • Importing images from a digital camera, hard drive, or iPhoto library
  • Using tethered shooting
  • Viewing images with previews, slideshows, and metadata overlays
  • Comparing, selecting, and organizing images
  • Correcting white balance, exposure, levels, and color
  • Using Retouch, Straighten, Crop, Vignette, and other image adjustments
  • Applying sharpening and noise reduction adjustments
  • Searching for images and creating Smart Albums
  • Exporting, archiving, and backing up photos
  • Designing books, publishing web galleries, and printing images

Lynda has also released three free videos on the catalog page, and I'm going to publish five more free videos on Inside Aperture, starting with the first one this coming Tuesday. These are good screencasts too, featuring managing previews, levels adjustments, retouching, lift & stamp, and custom layouts. That leaves another 66 videos for subscribers to enjoy on the site.

If you've been waiting to dig deep into Aperture, wait no longer. This title will get you up and running quickly.

Event Calendar

Events! See the TDS Event Calendar for photography workshops, speaking engagements, and trade show appearances.

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Once again Fourth of July is at our American doorstep, complete with lots of fireworks displays. If you want to capture your own fiery composition, here are a few tips. (Keep in mind that this month's photo assignment is "Fire,")

First: turn off your flash. Yes, you're going to be shooting in a dark environment, and if your camera is set to auto flash, it's going to fire. This is the last thing you want, so turn it off.

Next, break out the tripod. You're going to be using long exposures. Use a cable or remote release if you have one. If not, just gently press the shutter button with your finger.

Resist the urge to increase your ISO setting. Keep it at 100 to help reduce image noise. You might also want to switch to manual exposure. Auto exposure will overexpose your dark skies turning them to mushy gray. Start with a manual setting of 2 seconds at F-5.6 or F-8, and see what you get. Adjust accordingly from there.

Finally, use a wide angle lens so you can capture as much of the sky as possible. If you know the display is going to peak in a certain area, you can zoom in a bit. Remember, since you're shooting at the highest resolution possible, you can always crop your image later. You will also find it helpful to use manual focus mode if your camera has it.

Some compacts have a "Fireworks" scene mode. If you're toting a point and shoot, check you scene mode menu. You might be pleasantly surprised. The Fireworks scene mode usually works quite well.

Have a great time, be safe, and get some great shots.

About the Photo
Brian C Davenport went to Windsor,Canada to shoot the Freedom Festival fireworks over the Detroit skyline last year. Here's how he got the shot.

"It was a very long day but the last 30 min was outstanding," said Brian. "Getting there early in the day gave us a front row seat, right on the shoreline to set up our tripods. I shot about 200 images during the day, and the fireworks shots came out really nice. It was a little tricky as this was a show where there were very few single bursts so there was alot of light in the air most of the time. I settled on 18mm, ISO 100, f8 and 3-5 sec exposure. These settings gave some definition to the bursts without too much "blow-out" of the highlights."

Great shot Brian! Thanks for sending it in.

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iTMS Podcast Feed Fixed


Finally, after days of interrupted service, the Digital Story podcast feed is working again in iTunes Music Store. This was not an iTunes problem, but something that happened on our side of the fence. We tried to modernize our feeds and ended up breaking them all together in the process.

If you subscribe to The Digital Story in iTunes, all you have to do now is go to the Podcasts section in iTunes and hit the Refresh button. Our feed should now work and you will get the latest episode, Self Assignment.

If you have a problem getting the show in iTunes, please post a comment here so we can troubleshoot the situation. As you can imagine, I feel terrible about this inconvenience. I'm hoping we have everything now wired up correctly.

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