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Review of the Giottos VGR9255 Tripod

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The Giottos VGR9255 is an aluminum tripod/monopod with quick release ball head that fits easily on the outside of your photo backpack. I recently spend a week on the road with one strapped to my Lowepro Pro Trekker 300 AW as I worked in Germany. This Giottos only weights 3 lb (1.36 kg), yet extends to 62.6" (159cm). And when it's time to fold it up to pack in the suitcase, it only takes up 15.6" of space thanks to its ingenious "reverse technology" legs, that when collapsed, fold 180 degrees and surround the tripod center column and head. This also means that you have great flexibility in positioning the legs at any angle you may need while shooting.

The dual-control ball head is high quality. The movement is smooth, and when you lock it down, it's solid. The Giottos also includes a quick-release mount for your camera. All of the twist-knob adjusters on the legs and center column are equally silky and secure. This is a tripod that inspires confidence just by working its controls.

You can convert the Giottos to a monopod by unscrewing one of the legs and attaching it to the center column. Even though I think this is a terrific option, I didn't use it as much as planned because the tripod itself is so nimble, even in tight quarters. I also like the retractable hook at the bottom of the center column that can be used for hanging any type of weight to further secure the legs.

For $245, you get the tripod, ball head, deluxe case, and carry strap. Considering the quality of the ball head alone, that's a good value.

You won't hear me say this too often about sticks, but the Giottos VGR9255 tripod is actually fun to use. And it won't break your back or your bank account.


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Here's a collection of images that will have you seeing double. The assignment for August 2010 was "Tandem." Check out this great set of images from members of the TDS virtual camera club. And which one will be the SizzlPix Pick of the Month?

The October 2010 assignment is "Fall." Start working on your contribution now. Details can be found on the Member Participation page. You can now submit photo assignment pictures up to 800 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: Oct. 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 Scott Loftesness. (Click on it to see enlarged version.) You can read more about how Scott captured this shot, plus see all of the other great images on the August 2010 Gallery page.


Good luck with your October assignment, and congratulations to all of the fine contributors for August. Once again, 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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Why I Don't Drive in Germany

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As much as I would love to put an Audi on the Autobahn, I usually resist the urge to drive in Europe. And if I did, I would need to have a clearer understanding of signs like these. At first, I had no idea what these meant.

Fortunately, I had a chance to ask my friend Oliver what they meant. If I remember correctly, the top sign with the X means no parking at all in the direction of the arrow. The lower sign with just the single slash, means you can stop there for a moment, but don't wander off. Perfect for dropping off a friend at work.

The bottom line is, when traveling, don't forget to photograph signs. They can be an interesting point of conversation, as well as informative.


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Inside the Dom, Cologne, Germany

When you get off the train in Cologne, Germany, the first thing you see is the massive exterior of the Dom. But to truly appreciate its grandure, you have to go inside. Believe me, it's worth it.

Image captured with a Canon 5D Mark II and 24-105 mm L f/4 lens at 24mm. Handheld, but leaning against a wall. I processed the photo on the iPad using Photogene.

Traveling to Munich on a High Speed Train

Faster than a speeding bullet. At least that's the way it feels when traveling on the train between Cologne and Munich, Germany. As a photographer, I much prefer it to flying for a few reasons. First, it's more comfortable. You can ride in First Class on the train for about the same price as economy on a cramped plane. Second, you get to keep all of your luggage with you. No messing around with check-in or weight limitations. And third, it's an amazing view out the window.

High Speed Train Through the window of a high speed train on the DB Bahn traveling from Cologne to Munich. Click on image for larger version.

I particularly like it when I enter Bavaria coming from Cologne. The countryside is just beautiful. I captured this fun image through the window using my Olympus E-P1 with the 17mm f/2.8 Lens.

About 3.5 hours later, I was in Munich feeling great and ready for action. Oh, and how fast is fast? Well, the train reached speeds of 180 MPH. That's fast!


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One of the best parts of photokina is that it's in Germany. During my stay here, I've had the opportunity to visit with many German photographers, artists, and businessmen. In this week's podcast, recorded in Cologne and Munich, I visit with two very interesting people.

Photokina 2010

First, we hang out in Munich at the Boinx Software headquarters and visit with my friend Oliver Breidenbach. Oliver started this software company for creatives back in the mid 1990s. And they've created great tools such as Fotomagico. They also created BoinxTV that powered the FotoTV production at photokina. I visit with Oliver and we talk about Germany, business, and software for photographers.

Next on the show is an interview from the show floor at photokina. There I talk to photographer Guido Seitz. He specializes in wedding and engagement portraits. Our conversation focuses on the art of effective wedding photography and the business differences between Germany and North America. I think you'll enjoy.

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (43 minutes). Or better yet, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App for only $2.99 from the Apple App Store.

guidoseitzphotography.jpg Guido Seitz Photography

Monthly Photo Assignment

Saturation is the September 2010 Photo Assignment. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is Sept. 30, 2010.

TDS Autumn 2010 Photography Workshop

The next TDS Photography Workshop will be Oct. 16-18, 2010. The event is sold out. But, you can place your name on the reserve list for the next workshop. Just drop me a line.

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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I've been using the same disc reflectors for years, and they are still one of my favorite ways to light outdoor portraits. But while wandering the halls of photokina, I came across California Sunbounce. They've added some innovation to the traditional design.

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My favorite models were the ones that were rectangle with light aluminum frames and handles. They were very easy to hold, even in the awkward positions that you find yourself in at times while bouncing light. They also had an excellent collection of disc models.

If you like to bounce, you might want to take a look. After visiting the booth, I was all ready to find a model and go shoot some portraits.


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Photokina Comes to a Close

Sunday is the last day of photokina here in Cologne, Germany. Tomorrow, I get on the train and head back to Munich for a few days. I will have more reporting on Oktoberfest, so keep an eye out for that.

Also, this week's podcast includes reporting on photokina featuring an interview with a German wedding photographer. You won't want to miss that. It should be live Tuesday at its normal time.

A big part of my assignment here at photokina is to create and publish short videos for Lowepro. My basic rig is the Canon EOS 5D Mark II with the EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS zoom lens and an external lapel mic. With this setup, I can record good video on the noisy, artificially lit, trade floor at photokina. Here's an example. This is a guided tour of the Lowepro Pro Roller Attache x50 narrated by Tim Grimmer.



I used an 77mm ExpoDisc to fine tune the color using the Custom White Balance setting on the 5D Mark II. With video, it really helps minimize post production by getting the sound and color right at capture. Then I can upload the content, along with the stills into Aperture for trimming and assembly.

As you can see from the illustration, this short production consists of two still photos and the HD video clip. Very simple. But often simple is good for YouTube productions, especially if they are clean.


aperture3_video_editing.jpg Video production in Aperture 3. Click on image for full size version.


I then export a 720p HD version directly out of Aperture and upload to YouTube. Streamlining this workflow allows me to get the sleep I need to be strong the next day, yet produce the content quickly.

And BTW... photokina is a blast!

More Aperture Tips and Techniques

To learn more about Aperture 3, check out my Aperture 3 Essential Training on Lynda.com. Also, take a look at our Aperture 3 Learning Center. Tons of free content about how to get the most out of Aperture.



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The Stunning Fuji FinePix X100


Fuji FinePix X100, originally uploaded by The Digital Story.

Awarded a photokina STAR award, the FinePix X100 reminds me of the finely machined cameras of the 1970s. The top level dials are all metal, the body is constructed of magnesium alloy, and the trim is leather. The camera features an APS-C CMOS sensor, 23mm (35mm equiv) f/2 Fujinon lens, and the hybrid viewfinder can switch from optical to EVF mode. Very innovative.

Fuji reps said we should see the camera in the Spring of 2011, probably for a hair less than 1000 Euros. It's a beauty.