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I've just stumbled across five terrific video tutorials on new Photoshop CS3 features created by Russell Brown, Photoshop Master. The tutorials cover Smart Filters, Photomerge, converting color to B&W, Auto-Blend Layers, and the new Clone Source feature. You can watch them now for free by visiting Russell Brown's site. And of course, you can download the public beta if you're a current CS2 registered user.

Some pretty cool stuff here by one of the best Photoshop guys on the planet...

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What can you say about a full-featured 6MP DSLR for less than $600 US... with lens? Well, the folks over at Imaging Resource have lots to say, and they put it all in their latest review of the Nikon D40.

"Intermediate photographers wanting a camera to start a business on a budget should look to the Nikon D80 or Canon 30D, as these are more suited for professional photography. Those who already own a bagful of Nikon glass should also look to the D50, D70s (before they disappear), or D80, because you want to use that fine Nikkor equipment as long as you can. But if you're just getting started in SLR photography and want a light, sweet, competent, and simultaneously friendly digital SLR, the Nikon D40 is a superb choice."

Solid Nikon quality at a very affordable price... If you haven't made the DSLR jump yet, this is a camera worth looking at.

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Next Podcast Focuses on Indoor Sports

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It's that time of year when indoor photography suddenly seems so appealing (and warm). In my upcoming Tuesday podcast (Dec. 19, 2006), I talk about sports photography under the lights and the lens selections and lighting challenges that go with it. Indoor sports are great fun to cover... provided you're prepared.

This image was captured with a Canon 5D, 85mm f-1.8 USM lens set to f-2.8 at 1/180th of a second. I set the ISO to 800 to deal with the relatively low light and fast moving objects, and the while balance was set to "custom" and measured with an ExpoDisc. No flash!

I'll get into all the details in Tuesday's podcast. Be sure to tune in. You can subscribe to The Digital Story podcast via iTunes.

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Aperture Demo Download Is Worth Trying

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You can download the current version of Aperture and try it for free for 30 days. This is a full, complete working edition of the application with no limitations.

Even better, the current demo version available is the same V. 1.5.2 that registered users have access to. Another thing to keep in mind... if you are a developer, you can grab this demo version, then get the Aperture Export SDK from the Apple Developer Connection site and play with writing an Aperture plug-in for the application.

No matter how you want to experiment, the Aperture demo is worth trying if you're interested in professional level photo workflow.

Download Public Beta of Photoshop CS3

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Adobe has released a public beta of Photoshop CS3. Registered users of CS2 can get a serial number for the beta and download it today. According to Adobe's PR firm:

"Adobe is delivering a widely available Photoshop CS3 beta to enable customers to more easily transition to the latest hardware platforms, particularly Apple's new Intel-based systems. The beta is available as a Universal Binary for the Macintosh platform, as well as for Microsoft(r) Windows(r) XP and Windows Vista computers. The final shipping release of Adobe Photoshop CS3 is planned for Spring 2007."

At first, you might have a hard time tracking down the URLs for the download. The normal spot, Adobe Labs, didn't have the download posted on Friday morning as we had heard (all the info should appear there shortly, however). But there are some direct download links floating around if you want to grab the Mac (685MB) or Windows (337MB) beta right now:

Here is the best current link for the CS3 Beta Download. You'll also have to get a registration number to run the software. That should be available here. Once you go to the serial number page, you'll need to enter your registration number for CS2 in order to receive the temporary SN for the CS3 beta. Keep in mind that you have to login in to the Adobe Labs site to do any of this. If you're not already registered, you'll have to do that first.

Over on the O'Reilly Digital Media site, Colleen Wheeler has posted more information about this beta, plus a link to a training video for it. You might want to take a look at Deke McClelland's Photoshop Beta Preview.

And finally, yes, that is the real icon for Photoshop CS3. For a long time we had thought that it was just temporary. But I've heard it's the real thing. Quite a step down from the feather...

Alien Skin Snap Art Filters for Photoshop

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One of the advantages of digitized photos is that you can easily manipulate them to look like various types of artwork, from watercolor to charcoal to pastel and beyond. Photoshop comes loaded with plenty of filter effects. But for those who want more -- such as oil paint, pencil sketch, pen & ink, comics, etc. -- Alien Skin has released a new plug-in called Snap Art.

What's different about Snap Art isn't so much the various effects such as colored pencil and watercolor, it's the amount of control over the effect that goes above and beyond the filters that come bundled with Photoshop. For each effect, you start with a palette of factory settings to choose from. Then you can customize the setting of your choice with types of brushes, different paper stocks, saturation controls, and much more. You really have a lot to play with here.

For me, the photographer (and not the fine art artist), Snap Art has more tools than I need. I seem to be able to create most of the effects I want using the filters that come with Photoshop. So spending $149 for the additional filters in Snap Art seems like overkill. But if you really like tinkering with your photographs to see how far you can push the artistic envelope, then you might want to take a look at Snap Art. There's a whole artist's studio worth of tools in this package.

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Sponsor Note...

ExpoDisc Custom White Balance -- Simply Better Color. Simply Better Pictures. Visit www.expodisc.com

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The notion of matching a high-performace CF card to a speedy reader is appealing for those of us capturing huge Raw files. I'd never really considered a paired card/reader scenario until I came across the SanDisk 4GB Extreme IV CompactFlash Card with FireWire Reader. But now that I've had some time testing this dynamic duo, I have to say that I think it's a pretty good idea.

When you buy the kit that includes a Extreme FireWire Reader and 4GB Extreme IV CF card, you have file transfer capabilities up to 40MBs a second. That's pretty speedy. I tested this duo against my longtime favorite reader, the Belkin 15-in-1 USB 2.0, and was a little surprised with the results.

I transferred 386MBs of Raw files from the Extreme IV card to a LaCie 7200 RPM hard drive (via a PowerBook G4) in 49.7 seconds. When I put the same Extreme IV card in the Sandisk reader using the FireWire 800 connector, the data transferred in 29.4 seconds. That's quite a difference, especially when compounded over many shoots.

You'll need either FireWire 400 or 800 capability to use this reader, and it only takes CF cards. But if you want a high-speed solution to uploading lots of big Raw files, the the SanDisk 4GB Extreme IV CompactFlash Card with FireWire Reader is a powerful answer. The kit is available for $279 online.

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Refocus Your Image... After Capture!

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Imagine being able to change the focus of your shot after you've uploaded it to your computer. That's what Ren Ng will be discussing at the upcoming Camera Owners of the Bay Area meeting on Dec. 13, 2006 in Cordura Hall 100 at Stanford University from 7:30-10:00 pm.

The idea is to capture extra information at the sensor, which is missing in conventional cameras. Special processing enables physical functions of the lens to be implemented in software. This approach provides unprecedented photographic features, such as the ability to refocus photographs after the image is taken.

I doubt if this technology will find its way into camera stores any time soon, but it's certainly worth keeping an eye on. If I have a chance to make it to the Dec. 13 meeting, I'll post a follow up report.

Photos by Ren Ng

New Adobe Tutorials Available

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Adobe has posted new white papers and primers available as PDF downloads. These tutorials are authored by some of the biggest names in the Photoshop and post production world.

New titles available (for free) include: The Role of Working Spaces in Adobe Applications by Andrew Rodney, A Raw Workflow in the Real World: The March of the Yellow Penguins by Jeff Schewe, Calibrating the Digital Darkroom Environment by Karl Lang, Black and White Conversion Tutorial by John Paul Caponigro, and more.

You can download these tutorials and browse the entire list by visiting PhotoshopNews.com.

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Sponsor Note...

ExpoDisc Custom White Balance -- Simply Better Color. Simply Better Pictures. Visit www.expodisc.com

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I'm a big fan of George Jardine's Lightroom podcasts, but the current one with Richard Benson and Thomas Palmer is incredible. George (who is the Adobe Pro Photography Evangelist) speaks with fine art printer and photographer Richard Benson and his printing partner, Thomas Palmer, while they recount many fascinating stories such as working on the Gilman Paper Company book, working with Irving Penn and Paul Strand, and many other luminaries.

Listening to Richard and Thomas talk about using a printing press to replicate fine art photography is a study in precision and patience. These two gentlemen are fine art masters, and George does a great job of encouraging them to discuss their craft in detail. If you're interested in fine art printing, especially as it relates to photography, you should listen to this interview.

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Sponsor Note...

ExpoDisc Custom White Balance -- Simply Better Color. Simply Better Pictures. Visit www.expodisc.com