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Field work is the greatest teacher of all. That's where your preparation, knowledge, and ability to think on your feet come together to enable you to capture once in a lifetime images. I had many such moments on the recent visit to China, South Korea, and Japan. In this podcast I share anecdotes from working in Asia.

Equipment that I used on this trip included the Canon Digital Rebel T1i, battery grip with AAs, 70-200mm f/4 L, 24-105mm f/4 L IS, 18-55mm IS, and 50mm f/1.8. No external flash, but monopod with tripod ring for the 70-200mm. I also packed the Olympus E-P1 and the Olympus Stylus Tough 8000.

Many of my students had more equipment, and sometimes more expensive gear than my rig. But I was able to carry everything in needed in a shoulder bag that was always with me, even in the hot, humid Asian afternoons. This allowed me to get shots that others missed.

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (32 minutes). Or better yet, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

Monthly Photo Assignment

Soft Background is the July 2009 Photo Assignment. You can create the effect when you shoot with a telephoto or wide aperture lens, or take care of it in post production with Photoshop. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is July 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!

Photo by Derrick Story in South Korea with Canon Rebel T1i and 24-105 mm f/4 L Canon zoom. For more images from Asia, visit the TDS Flickr page.


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I just returned from a trip to Asia, and I was pleasantly surprised how often I used my iPhone 3GS for photos and video capture. Because of its excellent connectivity, the iPhone works great with Flickr on the fly.

Flickr Essential Training

I cover a lot of these basics in my just-released Flickr Essential Training on Lynda.com. But one new feature that has surfaced since I recorded the title is worth sharing here.

Now you can send a photo from you iPhone directly to Flickr and create a Twitter post too. That's how I posted the image titled Nagasaki Streetcar Ride. It's really easy. All you have to do is read the FAQ, Can I post to Flickr and Twitter from my mobile?, then add your unique email address to your iPhone. When it's time to share, email the image from the iPhone using the mobile address, and you're set. It's a great way to add images to your Flicker account, and then tweet about them at the same time.

Jeju is an island off the southern tip of Korea. It's a popular vacation spot for Koreans, as well as Chinese and Japanese. It's particularly attractive to Korean newlyweds who enjoy the stunning landscape of the island, from shoreline to the dormant volcano crater.

Basalt stone is everywhere. It's used for buildings, statues, and fences. The most interesting use of the porous volcanic rock are for statues called Dol hareubang, often placed at entryways. They are known for offering protection and fertility.

But there's a lesser-known and fascinating tradition associated with these "stone grandfathers," as explained to me by a native Korean woman. She said that newly married women who wanted to conceive and have a boy, would rub the nose of the Dol hareubang. "That's an interesting anecdote to pass the time," I thought. "But it's probably not really practiced these days."

About 10 minutes later, as I was heading back to the car, I passed the Dol hareubang. And as if it were scripted in a movie, a Chinese woman walked up to him and deliberately rubbed his nose. I looked around for my Korean friend, but she was nowhere in sight.

Photo of woman rubbing nose of Dol hareubang captured by Derrick Story using a Canon Rebel T1i and Canon 24-105mm f/4 L IS lens. More pictures from the Asia trip are available at the TDS Flickr page.

Previous Stops on Eastern Journey

Early Morning on the Beijing Streets.


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Because I had traveled from the West Coast of the US, my first morning in Beijing was an early one. I had awakened at 3:30 am. Since I was planning to be on the streets by 5, I got up, had a few sips of bottled water, and watched the city come to life outside my hotel window.

In the thick Beijing haze, there wasn't much light to work with. Colors were muted, and people seemed to vaporize as they trailed off in the distance. I decided to work with the Olympus E-P1 today. I didn't want to attract attention to myself when I wandered off into the alleys, and the E-P1 helped me look more like a lost tourist than a photographer. Plus, it's quiet when I shoot, so I can work closer to people without being noticed.

I wanted to capture shots that had an older feel to them, more like Alfred Stieglitz working the streets of New York. I set the ISO to 320 to give me just enough sensitivity to work handheld in the overcast lighting, but with a slow enough shutter to blur motion. I shot in Raw+Jpeg to cover my bets. The only Raw profile available right now for the E-P1 is with Olympus' own software. Since I tend to work more in Photoshop CS4 and Aperture, I wanted to have good quality Jpegs right now too. The shots I published with this note are Jpegs processed in Adobe Camera Raw. I haven't looked at the Raws yet.

The built-in image stabilization on the E-P1 is pretty good, and thank goodness, because the slowish f/3.5-5.6 14-42mm lens gave me shutter speeds between 1/8th and 1/30th of a second on the back streets in the hazy morning light. All of these variables did come together, however, in an earthy, street grit sort of way. The E-P1's built-in digital level helped me square up shots even when I was holding the camera at weird angles. And the quiet shutter never betrayed me, even when standing less than 10 feet from subjects.

I've posted a set of images on The Digital Story Flickr page. More stories to follow in the coming days, so please stay tuned.

Photos by Derrick Story, captured with an Olympus E-P1. You can view a catalog from the entire trip to Asia on the The Digital Story Flickr page.

More Articles on the Olympus E-P1

If you're interested in the Olympus E-P1, check out my ISO Comparison post. I run at series of photos from the camera staring at ISO 100 all the way up to ISO 6400. I also have a podcast covering the features of the E-P1. I also have a First Look at the Olympus E-P1 article at Macworld Magazine. Another helpful tip is the Olympus E-P1 "Please Check the Status of Your Lens" Message.


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Make Your Own Gift Wrapping Paper

You put a lot of thought into finding that perfect present. So why not put a little extra time into how it's wrapped and really impress the recipient?

A great way to personalize gift wrap is to use a plain paper printout of one of your pictures. It could be a portrait, a sentimental vacation shot... just about anything that has special meaning. Another creative twist is to take close-up shots of textured surfaces. Now you can make your gifts purr with fur, or go rough and rugged with an image of tree bark.

The size of your finished gift wrap will be determined by the maximum paper size your printer can accommodate. Print the image so it fills the entire sheet of paper or just the center of it.

Imagine the surprised look on your friend's face when you give them your wonderfully wrapped gift... and that's before they even open it!

More Great Creative Output Projects

Stephanie has many more creative output projects waiting for you. Just visit our Creative Output section, right here on The Digital Story.

If you have a full frame DSLR, you can easily digitize your favorite 35mm slides at home. I'm using a Canon 5D, Sunpak 444D flash, and a 1980s slide copier. That's all you really need.

Like many long time photographers, I have a collection of 35mm slides. Some of these images are prized shots that I would love to have digitized. I tested a few outside services, but after viewing the results, really wanted to have more control over the process. So in about an hour, I rigged up the home slide digitizer using the following parts.


Photo of Canon 5D 35mm slide digitizer by Derrick Story. See complete set of images on the Digital Story Flickr page.


  • Canon 5D DSLR
  • Sunpak 444D flash in manual mode
  • Vintage 35mm slide copier attachment
  • Tripod
  • Photoflex arm to align the flash
  • Photoflex flash diffuser
  • Cable release

I had a Canon T-ring adapter for the slide copier so it would mount to the 5D. All exposure settings are manual. So I set the ISO to 100 and shutter speed to 1/60th. There's no aperture setting on the slide copier. Instead, you control exposure by how much light you output from the flash. That's why I dug out an old Sunpak 444D flash. It has manual exposure settings (1/16th through full), and I had an extension cord for it too. I set the flash on 1/8 power for dense slides, and 1/16 power for those a bit lighter. I position the flash a few feet from the front of the slide copier and align it so the light evenly illuminates the image.

One of the advantages of this approach is that I can shoot in Raw mode. So once I digitize the image, I can use Aperture, Lightroom, Adobe Camera Raw, or even iPhoto to tweak tone and color. With the 12MP 5D, the file resolution is 3929 x 2619. If I use the 5D Mark II, then I get 5616 x 3343, enough to make a 12" x 19" print at 290 ppi.

I wouldn't recommend this approach if you have hundreds of slides to scan -- an outside service makes more sense in those situations. But when you want to digitize a handful of your favorite images, this method works great. And for Canon shooters who have upgraded from the 5D to the 5D Mark II, you can put your old 5D to work and just leave the rig set up permanently in your studio. In fact, why not tether it to a laptop for a slick digitizing production rig?

I have sample images and lots of shots of the rig itself on the Digital Story Flickr page, including a comparison scan from DigMyPics and this method.

For more interesting home projects, be sure to check out the Photography DIY section on The Digital Story.


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The Olympus folks write: "This is the PEN Story in stop motion. We shot 60.000 pictures, developed 9.600 prints and shot over 1.800 pictures again. No post production! Thanks to all the stop motion artists who inspired us."

It's a terrific video celebrating the PEN history. And in my opinion, the tradition is going to continue with Olympus E-P1.

More Articles on the Olympus E-P1

If you're interested in the Olympus E-P1, check out my ISO Comparison post. I run at series of photos from the camera staring at ISO 100 all the way up to ISO 6400. I also have a podcast covering the features of the E-P1. I also have a First Look at the Olympus E-P1 article at Macworld Magazine. Another helpful tip is the Olympus E-P1 "Please Check the Status of Your Lens" Message. And finally, if you're interested in getting creative, take a look at Applying Olympus E-P1 Art Filters in Playback Mode.


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What goes in the camera bag this time? As I prepare for a return trip to Beijing, plus side visits to Japan and S. Korea, I want to travel light, yet have everything I need. I discuss the possibilities in this week's podcast.

Here's a hint for those of you who read these show notes. I'm leaning toward taking the Canon Digital Rebel T1i, battery grip with AAs, 70-200mm f/4 L, 24-105mm f/4 L IS, 18-55mm IS, and 50mm f/1.8. No external flash, but monopod with tripod ring for the 70-200mm. I'm also going to pack the Olympus E-P1 and the Olympus Stylus Tough 8000.

Interesting choices? I'll explain myself during the show.

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (26 minutes). Or better yet, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

Monthly Photo Assignment

Soft Background is the July 2009 Photo Assignment. You can create the effect when you shoot with a telephoto or wide aperture lens, or take care of it in post production with Photoshop. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is July 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!

Photo by Derrick Story at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.


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Podcast Sponsors

SiteGrinder lets you take ownership of your websites. Effortlessly output pages right from Photoshop.

Red River Paper -- Try the $7.99 Sample Kit.

Add Magic to Your Slideshows -- FotoMagico presentations are so amazing that your audience will be asking how you did it.


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Beautiful 4th of July weather that's perfect for picnicking and fun for sports. When the sun is high overhead, however, your photographs will be very contrasty. Often, what I like to do in these situations is shoot in Raw, then convert the images to B&W in post production. My eye likes gritty, contrasty monochrome images, and there's no better light for that than a high sun on a summer day.

I used one of my favorite street shooting rigs, the Canon Digital Rebel T1i (500D) with the 70-200mm f/4 L zoom. This combo is light, nimble, and provides great image quality. I shot in Raw because I knew I would need all of my options available when I got to post.

Photo by Derrick Story. Canon Rebel T1i, Canon 70-200mm f/4 L zoom. ISO 200.

I processed the photos in Aperture, including the monochrome conversions. It's funny how mood influences the choices I make in post. Today, I felt like pushing the edges, so that's exactly what I did with these shots. I much prefer these to the color versions, which are nice, but just don't have the same tooth.

You can see more images from this series on the TDS Flickr site.


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Fireworks

Pyromaniacs all across the States are gearing up for their favorite day: The 4th of July. Technically, it's an American holiday to celebrate independence from England. But we all know its true popularity stems from great BBQ and dazzling fireworks displays. If you want to capture your own fiery composition, here are a few tips.

Let's start with the basics: 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'll also have to switch to manual exposure. Auto exposure will overexpose your dark skies turning them to mushy gray. Start with a manual setting of 3 seconds at F-5.6 or F-8, and see what you get. Adjust accordingly from there.

If your camera captures in Raw, you may want to consider it for this event. You'll have an easier time recovering blow-out highlights and controlling the shadow areas of the image.

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.

These tips will ensure that you come away from your 4th of July celebration with more than a tummy full of hot dogs and beer. Have a great time!


About the Photo
Brian C Davenport went to Windsor,Canada to shoot the Freedom Festival fireworks over the Detroit skyline. 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."

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