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On the High Seas

Cruise Ship

I'm off to San Diego this morning to board the Photoshop Fling Geek Cruise to the Mexican Riviera. During the week I will have Internet connectivity and will post the usual array of goodies on The Digital Story. I'll also post pictures from Cabo San Lucas, Mazaltlan, and Puerto Vallarta.

This week's podcast (published on Tuesday) will focus on "Life Beyond Program Mode," where I'll discuss situations where Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual modes are better choices (and how to use them). While I'm on the ship, however, I'll also be gathering material for the following podcast on why photographers like (or don't like) photo vacations. I hope to have interviews and location spots for that one. So stay tuned!

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HP 8700 Pro Printer

I've been looking closely at two professional printers for my studio: the HP Photosmart 8750 Professional Photo Printer ($499) and the Epson Stylus R2400 Photo Printer ($849). I had a chance to compare these excellent models at the recent Macworld SF Expo.

I was particularly interested in the B&W output. Why? Because I'm far enough along in my digital photography where I'm starting to miss having a chemical darkroom. I'm not missing it enough to set one up, but I would love to have a good B&W printer so I can begin making enlargements again.

The HP 8750 has nine print cartridges: cyan, magenta, yellow, light cyan, light magenta, blue, light gray, dark gray, black. The two gray and one black cartridges enable you to do B&W printing right out of the box without having to buy any special kits. It can print up to 13" x 19" enlargements, and there were some good paper choices available from HP. Connectivity includes USB 2.0 and Ethernet. It also has memory card slots so you can print directly from your media, although that isn't as big a concern for me with this type of fine art printer.

The Epson R2400 has eight individual cartridges: cyan, light cyan, magenta, light magenta, yellow, photo black or matte black, light black, and light-light black. Paper size can be as wide as 13" in either single sheet or roll. As with the HP 8750, making 11" x 14" enlargements with the R2400 are a snap, and Epson has some truly wonderful photo paper stocks to choose from. Connectivity includes both USB 2.0 and FireWire. One of the things that impressed me about the Epson is that I could download custom ICC printer profiles for the printer free of charge. Very nice. There are no media card slots however on this model.

So how did the prints look from these two units? Both did a great job with color output. Both provide archival quality. One thing I like at trade shows is you get to see the best prints possible in each respective booth. The B&W was also impressive with both printers. But I would give the nod to the Epson for B&W output. It was a close decision, however. One thing to note about the Epson is that you do have to swap out an ink cartridge for optimum B&W output.

There's a substantial price difference between the printers -- $350. So my bottom line is, if you have the budget for the Epson R2400, it would be my first choice because of the excellent B&W output and the ICC profiles. But the HP 8750 is a very tempting printer for $499. You can make big beautiful enlargements with it that rival the quality of the Epson's output. In this case, deciding between the two printers really comes down to how much money you have to spend.

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Cruise Ship Tips for Photographers

Cruise Ship

This coming Saturday, I'm boarding a Holland America liner as part of the staff for a Photoshop Fling Geek Cruise to the Mexican Riviera. We'll be visiting Cabo San Lucas, Mazaltlan, and Puerto Vallarta. The Geek Cruise concept is quite interesting. While we're at sea, we have a full conference with classes on Photoshop and digital photography. When we port, it's just like any other cruise. The tourists invade the destinations.

Here's the deal. This is my first cruise. And I'm wondering if those of you who have sailed before could share some tips for me, and for others who are considering cruises. I'll be packing a DSLR and a compact camera. I think I have a handle for photography while on the ship (although could use any suggestions you might have), but am really wondering about when we port in Mexico. How much equipment should I take? Any tips for getting great shots? Things like that.

Please post your sage words of advice in the comments area of this blog. It will help me next week, and countless others who are packing a camera on the big ship.

Oh, and BTW... I'll have an Internet connection while sailing, so I'll continue to post all week at sea.

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Round Ups!

If you're looking for a collection of photo tips or product reviews on The Digital Story, take a look at our new Roundups feature. You can find the links at the top of the page below the logo. These roundups will continue to grow as I add posts to each category. There's tons of good information there now. So go take a look at the Photo Tips and the Product Reviews roundups. They're a hoot!

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Apple announced that Aperture customers will not have to pay an upgrade fee for the Universal Binary version that will most likely be released in March. This is good news on a couple fronts. First, we avoid the $49 charge that many other Apple users will have to pay for UB upgrades. But beyond that, it's rumored that there will be other improvements beyond MacIntel compatibility.

Mac G4 and G5 users should be able to download the new version, when it's available, via Software Update. I'm unclear right now about how MacIntel users will get the update and load it on their new machines. More to be revealed.

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Digitizing Your B&W Prints

Cigar Store, SF

Like many traditional photographers, I have an extensive collection of B&W fiber and RC prints. Some of these images are very important to me, but I haven't been able to use them in my daily work because they haven't been digitized and cataloged on my computer. I'm changing that now.

This project began with a piece that I'm working on for Macworld Magazine. I like to write my "How To" articles while I'm actually doing whatever it is I'm writing about. So I pulled a number of my favorite B&W prints, scanned them on a very nice Canon 9950F scanner, then went about organizing the images and cataloging them in iPhoto 6. This has been a very satisfying project, and one that I will continue for months to come. I'll be sure to let everyone know when the Macworld article comes out so you can read every step of the process.

I chose this image of a San Francisco cigar shop for a reason. During a recent visit to the city, I noticed that the shop was gone and there was another business on this corner. I had visited Marquard's many, many times over the years, and was sad to see it go. This photo now means a great deal to me because it reminds me of things I experienced during those times in the past.

If you find this topic interesting, let me know and I'll put together an audio show and more written details about the system I use for digitizing my old prints.

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With last Thursday's announcement that Konica Minolta will be withdrawing from the camera and photo business, I was wondering if their recent partnership with Sony will carry on the Maxxum/Dynax lens mount. In a separate release last Thursday, Konica Minolta stated:

"...on March 31 2006, Sony will receive certain assets from Konica Minolta PI that are necessary for the development, design, production and so forth of digital SLR cameras compatible with Konica Minolta PI's Maxxum/Dynax lens mount system. Sony will accelerate development of new digital SLR cameras based on and compatible with the Maxxum/Dynax lens mount system with a view to marketing these models this summer."

Looks like Sony will soon be releasing DSLRs with Maxxum lens mounts. Just for the record, there are 16 million Maxxum/Dynax lenses in use now, all of which should work on the new Sony DSLRs. This could be an interesting evolution of the Minolta tradition.

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Adobe Camera Raw 3.3 Available

Adobe Camera Raw

Adobe's Camera Raw 3.3 plug-in and DNG Converter is available for download. This latest version supports 17 additional cameras (and a total of 113 camera models).

New cameras supported include Canon EOS 5D, Canon EOS 1D Mark II N, Canon EOS 20Da, Fujifilm Finepix E900, Fujifilm Finepix S5200/5600, Fujifilm Finepix S9000/9500, Kodak EasyShare P850, Kodak EasyShare P880, Mamiya ZD, Nikon D200, Olympus E-500, Olympus SP-310, Olympus SP-350, Olympus SP-500UZ, Pentax *ist DL, Pentax *ist DS2, and Sony DSC-R1. The Adobe Camera Raw 3.3 plug-in requires Photoshop CS2, Photoshop Elements 3.0 or Photoshop Elements 4.0

I've just tested the new plug-in with .CR2 files from my Canon 5D, and it works wonderfully.

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Watch Your Step While Shooting

Horses in Pasture

I wanted to test the new Canon 24-105mm IS L Zoom Lens, which I'll write about in more detail in a later post. Fortunately for me, there was a break in the rain up here in Northern California, so I mounted the 24-105mm on my Canon 5D and dashed off for a walk. I'm lucky because I have some great walking paths that provide lots of wildlife and vistas. A while into my stroll, I noticed a tempting shot and scampered up this slight grassy rise to capture a scenic with horses feeding in an open field.

After recording a few frames, I pivoted around to step down from the grassy rise and return to the trail. In mid-step, with right foot in the air, I noticed a snake curled up right where I was going to plant my foot. I awkwardly redirected my landing spot to the left of the snake so as not to cause harm to either of us. Because it was cold, he continued to watch me with a wary eye, but not move.

Since I managed to avoid stepping on him, I then took a short series of frames with the new Canon 24-105mm lens. He continued to watch me until I backed away and went about my business.

Snake in the Grass

I pass this tale along because it was a good reminder for me to watch my step while shooting. I tend to get absorbed in what I'm doing, sometimes forgetting about my surroundings. This can be dangerous in nature.

If you have a anecdote along these lines, please share it with others in the comments below. In the meantime, beware of snakes in the grass...

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iPhoto 6 Changes for Raw File Editing

iPhoto 6 Advanced Prefs

iPhoto 6 adds some terrific options to Apple's digital shoebox application, including better handling of Raw files, ColorSync management, and a non-managed library choice. Today I want to give you a brief overview of how Raw file editing has evolved in this latest release.

First, let me describe how Raw file management worked before in iPhoto 5. If you had Photoshop selected as your external editor, double-clicking on a thumbnail from a Raw file in iPhoto 5 would open a Jpeg interpretation of that Raw file in Photoshop. You could edit this Jpeg and send it back to iPhoto by saving in Photoshop. If you wanted to work in Camera Raw, you had to drag a thumbnail from iPhoto 5 on to the Photoshop CS icon on your Dock (this worked only if you haven't edited the file previously in iPhoto 5) or export it as "Original" and open that file in Camera Raw.

After editing in Camera Raw, you would click the open button to move the image to Photoshop where you could save it in any format you wished, or just hit save and choose your format there. You could then add the edited and saved PSD, Tiff, or Jpeg back to your iPhoto 5 library as a new image.

In iPhoto 6, you now have the Use Raw files with external editor option in the Advanced Preferences pane (iPhoto > Preferences > Advanced). Using this option changes your workflow considerably.

When the "external editor" box is checked, your double-click on a Raw thumbnail opens that image in Camera Raw (if you have Photoshop CS selected as your external image editor). Now, as far as I can tell, you can't "roundtrip" the changes back to iPhoto 6 just by hitting the "Done" button. But you can save to another format and import the edited Tiff, PSD, etc. back into iPhoto 6. So even though it doesn't technically "round trip" your Raw edits, this new method does save you a step... and is a welcomed improvement.

What's interesting though, is that iPhoto does remember your Raw adjustments made in Camera Raw. If you double-click the thumbnail again, it opens it in Camera Raw with your previous settings in place. [Update from a reader: it's actually Camera Raw that remembers your settings. Thanks Rafa]

If you want to edit your Raw file in iPhoto using the Adjust palette, you can go back and change the preference. But I prefer to leave the preference setting as it is and simply Option double-click to switch to iPhoto's editor, or CTRL-click on the thumbnail and choose either "Edit in a separate window" or "Edit using full screen." In my testing, I seemed to be working with the original Raw data using these options, opposed to building upon any instructions I've added using Camera Raw.

Now, if I uncheck the Use Raw files with external editor option, iPhoto 6 behaves just as it did in iPhoto 5 -- I'm working with a Jpeg interpretation of the Raw file, and my changes are saved back to iPhoto 6.

There's more to discover here, but I hope this gives you a good start with the editing options for your Raw files. If you would like my overall initial take on this application, take a look at iPhoto 6 First Impressions.

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