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Get Ready for New Version of iPhoto

iLife

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 ApertureTricks.com 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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Remember the Self-Timer Setting!

Self Timer Group Shot

Don't leave yourself out of group shots. Remember to use the self-timer setting on your camera so you can join the action. First set up the shot, put your camera on a steady surface (tripods are the best), check the focus, enable the self-timer, press the shutter, and run like the dickens to get in the shot -- you have about 10 seconds before the exposure is made.

If you can, position your camera within flash range (10 feet) and use fill flash, as in this sample shot. You'll find that it puts a little extra twinkle in the eyes.

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Last Minute Holiday Gift Ideas

Red Tree

Photographers are better prepared than most for pulling last minute gifts together. Here are a few ideas to get the creative juices flowing.

  • Gift Certificate for Family Portrait -- Here's a sure-fire way to score points with the relatives. Whip up a quick gift certificate for a family portrait taken by you. You can promise a few prints plus the images on CD. If you have an extra 8" x 10" picture frame around, you can mount the certificate in there with a note: Your Family Portrait Here!
  • Photo Lessons for that Budding Photographer -- While you have the printer fired up, you can generate another gift certificate for 5 Photo Lessons for that budding photographer who is getting a digital camera for the holidays. Someone else buys the camera; you provide the lessons.
  • Preload Family Album on Color iPod -- Do you know someone getting a new iPod? You can preload a family album on it before wrapping it. That way when they open the iPod, it will be ready for viewing from the get-go. Be sure to put the pictures on CD too so the recipient can load them into his or her iPhoto album when they sync the iPod to their computer.
  • Be a Holiday Photographer -- If you listened to Podcast #12, you know there are lots of advantages to being the holiday photographer. Add another one to the list... you can offer it as a gift.
  • Framed Enlargement -- When all else fails, you can print out a nifty 8" x 10" print and mount it in a frame. Try to choose a subject that is of interest to the recipient. And make sure it's a top quality photo! That being said, these gifts can be home runs...

If you have other last minute gift ideas, please post a comment and share it with our readers. Also, don't forget to check out More Last Minute Holiday Gift Ideas. Happy Holidays!

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Ziploc Bags for Cold Weather

Ziploc Bags

During cold weather, make sure you have at least one Ziploc bag in your camera case. Not only are they useful for protecting your equipment in the rain, but they help with condensation too.

Bringing a camera in from the cold weather to a warm house promotes condensation forming on the outside of its body, possibly migrating to the inside of the camera where it can confound electrical components. To prevent this mishap, place your camera in a Ziploc bag before coming inside. Leave the camera in the sealed bag until it reaches room temperature. The condensation will collect on the bag, not your camera, thereby protecting your investment.

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Stephen Johnson at Apple Store, SF

Stephen Johnson

Stephen Johnson, digital landscape photography pioneer, will be speaking at the SF Apple Store on Dec. 27, 7 p.m. Stephen will discuss his groundbreaking digital landscape photography project, "With A New Eye." You'll learn about the concept, tools, inspiration, and means for accomplishing this massive 8-year project.

I've had a chance to visit Stephen at his gallery in Pacifica, CA, which is just south of San Francisco. His work is magnificent. If you're in the Bay Area on Dec. 27, spend an hour with Stephen Johnson. The visit will get your creative juices flowing.

I took this photo of Stephen at his gallery while he was showing me a section of his massive print of the New York City skyline that he captured before the Sept. 11 attack. The image of the twin towers was haunting... for both of us.

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