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LightZone was demoed at the recent Macworld Expo and caught the attention of many photographers. It is a "designed from the bottom up" image editor that protects your original files and only associates editing instructions to it. This is a popular (and welcomed) approach also embraced by Apple's Aperture and Adobe's Lightroom.

Even though LightZone has an image viewer and file browser, its real appeal is how it analyzes your pictures then displays the shapes and densities of the tonal zones for easy editing. This visual approach should feel very natural to photographers.

LightZone is currently a Mac application that requires OS X 10.3.9 or later. A Windows version is coming soon. You can download a demo and try if for free for 30 days. If you like what you see, LightZone can be purchased for $249.

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Aperture Workshop Notes PDF

Aperture Class Notes

For my recent Inside Aperture Power Tools workshop that I led with Scott Bourne at Macworld SF '06, I compiled class notes to accompany the workbook. I promised the class that I would make those notes available online. I'm also offering them to everyone in The Digital Story community.

These notes are in PDF format (5.8 MB download -- 30 pages). Topics include importing images into Aperture, comparing and rating, editing tools, vaults and backup, exporting images, and printing. In part, I'm releasing these notes because there are many misconceptions about Aperture, such as limits on export configurations (based on the presets Apple provides that are totally editable). I think that publishing good information is the best way to help photographers understand the potential this application presents.

My copresenter, Scott Bourne, also has lots of great tips on his site, He has, for example, a goodie I submitted about using the DigitalColor Meter utility to read RGB values in Aperture (thanks Joe for this one!).

If you're using Aperture, or want to learn more about how it works, please download the "Inside Aperture" PDF (5.8 MB). Feel free to share it in its entirety, but please don't take out excerpts. If you have questions, post a comment here or write me directly. And most importantly: enjoy this wonderful application!

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Grab Shot 12 - Chess Players

Chess Players

"I was walking in the little Sardinian town of San Sperate, well known for its "murales" or wall paintings and came across this scene outside a coffee shop," said Nina Contini Melis. "Several people playng chess at a table in the courtyard, who seemed to be perfectly in proportion to the painted scene on the side of the coffee shop. I decided to turn it into BW because I liked it better that way."

Nina used a Nikon 70S to capture this interesting juxtaposition shot.

If you have an interesting candid you'd like to share, take a look at our Submissions page, then send us your Grab Shot. If we publish it, you'll receive an ultra cool custom carabineer keychain.

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iPhoto 6 Editing

Looks like the iPhoto engineers have been having coffee with the Aperture guys. iPhoto 6 has not only adopted Aperture's full screen editing mode, but you can "compare" up to eight images onscreen at once while doing so. Clearly, iPhoto is becoming one of the premier consumer apps on the Mac platform.

In full screen mode, you can view your images without the distractions of the user interface, enabling you to concentrate on the image itself. If you want to edit the picture, activate the Adjust palette (Apple did not rename it the Heads Up Display as in Aperture) and tweak brightness, contrast, temperature, etc. And if you're not sure which image in a series is the best, put it along side your initial favorite in full screen mode and compare it. Once you figure out which one is the best, mark it as a favorite.

When you consider that you also get One-Click Effects, Photocasting, greeting cards, calendars, RSS publishing via iWeb, and a performance boost, iPhoto 6 seems like the deal of the year. How much does it cost? Only $79. Oh, did I mention that you also get iMovie HD, iDVD, GarageBand, and iWeb? Yup, still $79 for the whole collection. Apple calls the package iLife '06.

You can buy iLife '06 right now at the Apple Store. Shipping is free.

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Get Ready for New Version of iPhoto


Most likely we'll have a new version of iPhoto in the iLife 06 suite that Steve Jobs will probably announce during his Tuesday morning keynote address at Macworld SF. The question is, what will the new iPhoto have? Since Apple has made a big splash in the pro photo market with Aperture, we might see some of those features included in the next version of iPhoto.

No matter what happens, just like the release of the public beta of Adobe's Lightroom, photographers are bound to win. After tomorrow's keynote, Mac users will have not one (Aperture), not two (Lightroom), but three (iPhoto 06) excellent photo editors to choose from.

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Best Way to Convert to B&W

Black & White Train

I've read many articles about converting color digital images to black & white. This is something I have to do on a regular basis for my personal and wedding photography. The question is, "is there any single right way to do this?" My answer, "no."

Black and white conversion is like black and white photography itself. It's a fertile environment for experimentation. Some photographers feel that they get better results when they set their digital cameras to record in B&W from the get-go. This makes some sense, but also eliminates the opportunity to have a color version of the image too.

Lately, I've been leaning toward shooting in color, then converting to B&W by either using desaturation or the channel mixer in Photoshop. To desaturate in Photoshop CS, go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation... Then I drag the Saturation slider all the way to the left.

To use the Channel Mixer, I go to Image > Adjustments > Channel Mixer, then click the Monochrome box. You can then play with the sliders to get the effect you want.

For the shot of the train I've run with this post, I used the Monochrome Mixer adjustment in Aperture. It's similar to the Channel Mixer in Photoshop, with monochrome already selected for you.

If you have a favorite method for converting color to B&W, please post a comment and share it with others. This is one of the joys of digital photography.

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Photography Mayhem at Macworld SF

Macworld SF

I thought I'd pull my head out of my Aperture for a few minutes to share a few things that will be happening at Macworld SF next week.

There's going to be some truly exciting photography news. Apple and its (partners/competitors... depending on what day of the week it is) are going to be firing some heavy artillery. The upshot for those of us who love photography: good times! Be sure to check The Digital Story on Monday for the latest news.

Speaking of Monday, I'll be leading my Inside Aperture Power Tools workshop. Scott Bourne from will be joining me on stage. Plus, I'm meeting with the Apple product manager today, and I think he'll also be there to handle some Q&A sessions. This is going to be the Aperture event next week. There's still room if you want to join in.

I'm also leading a User session on How To Use Your Digital Camera, which will be more fun tricks than boring How To.

There's some really cool stuff going on with Digital Photography Day(s) on Tuesday and Wednesday. Macworld Magazine is conducting their own cool photography event at 1pm on Wednesday. I'll be joining them on stage showing off some photo techniques.

And if you're a User Group member, I'll be hanging out in the User Group Lounge at 4pm on Thursday. Finally, the O'Reilly Booth is going to be teeming with activity, including talks by David Pogue and the rest of us. Be sure to check out the schedule.

So, stay tuned for all the announcements early in the week. It's going to be a good time for photography enthusiasts.

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Manfrotto 718b

This is the time of year when outdoor conditions are challenging, and there's usually less light for shooting. In other words, it's tripod weather. But I don't always want to lug around my heavy Bogen 3021 for a mere casual hike. Photography is supposed to be fun. That's when I'm glad I have Manfrotto's 718b Compact tripod with pan and tilt head.

Not only are these sticks light (3.1 lbs with head), but they provide enough height for most shooting situations -- 55" with center column collapsed, 65.5" with center column extended. The Manfrotto is constructed of black anodized aluminum and will support cameras up to 5.5 lbs.

I like the "easy flip" locks for the center column and legs. This approach is a blessing in cold weather. The 3-way head includes a quick release plate for quick camera mounting, and you can buy extra plates making camera switching a snap. The 718b even includes rucksack-styled carry bag for easy toting. But, if you're using the Tamrac Expedition 3 or Expedition 4 compact camera backpacks, the Manfrotto will strap on the outside of the backpack nicely. Don't forget the Lowepro photo gloves for added comfort while handling the aluminum tripod in cold weather.

You can purchase the Manfrotto 718b online for for about $95. It feels well-built, so I'm confident it will serve your well for years to come.

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Favorite Photo Gear of 2005

Nikon P2
The Nikon P2 is among my favorite photo gear selections for 2005. Read on for more...

Lots of great hardware was released in 2005. So much in fact, that I don't have time to list it all. But I certainly have my favorites. Here's my short list of the best of the best.

Nikon Coolpix P2 -- This beautiful compact camera takes great pictures providing you with 5 megapixels of resolution, a Nikkor 36-126mm glass lens, 2.5 inch LCD monitor, and WiFi connectivity. In other words, it's a great Nikon compact that allows you to wireless connect to your computer or printer. The P2 is also one of the few compact cameras that gives you decent control of the aperture. Not bad for less than $399.

Canon Digital Rebel XT (350D) -- I have lots of cameras, but this light, powerful digital SLR body is my absolute favorite for casual shooting. The 8-megapixel CMOS sensor, compact body, and tasteful design makes it as beautiful to hold as the pictures it produces. You can pick one up with an 18-55 mm lens for less than $899.

iPod video with Camera Connector -- Talk about having your music and your photos too. The latest iPod is a great digital music device, can play video, and is a wonderful storage container for your photos. If you purchase the $29 Camera Connector, you can upload images directly from your camera to the iPod for backup and storage on the go. For less than $300, you have a terrific camera accessory and the best digital music player on the planet.

Not a bad lineup. Soon I'll post my favorite software of the year too.

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Car Window Photography

Car Window Photography

When you find yourself on a road trip, be sure to keep your camera handy. Car window photography produces images that have an entirely different feel than other shots.

Objects in the foreground will show motion blur while the landscape remains relatively sharp. This juxtaposition gives the viewer a sense of motion -- something that we don't typically see in travel shots.

Keep in mind, however, that it's best to let someone else drive while you're taking pictures. No shot is worth finding yourself stranded in a ditch by the side of the road...

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