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iLifeZone

By popular demand, TDS readers have asked that I post the photo assignments on the web site as well as discussing them in the podcast. You got it!

The July 2006 photo assignment is "heat." It's summer, so let's fire things up and get those sizzling images turned in by July 31. I'll post the images on August 7 (a slightly longer lead time than usual because I'll be on assignment). If you have any questions about the details, visit our Submissions page. To see past winners, take a look at previous photo assignments.

On a different note, the second episode of the iLifeZone is now available in the iTunes Music Store.

Scott Bourne interviews Jason Snell of Macworld Magazine fame, plus we have an iTunes tip from Chris Breen, an introduction to iPhoto Library Manager by me, and a GarageBand goodie from Scott. It's a great show. I hope you have a chance to listen...

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Canon G6

Back when Digital SLRs were wildly expensive, "prosumer" cameras satisfied the needs of advanced amateurs and some pros. These cameras had many SLR features -- such as hotshoes, filter rings, spot meter, manual exposure, fast lenses, and more. Consumers paid a premium price for these cameras, but compared to the even more expensive DSLRs, prosumer models seemed worth it.

In my recent podcast, Five Must-Have Camera Features, I noted the functions that I would insist on if I were buying a prosumer model today. I discuss these because I'm seeing features that were once standard -- such as RAW mode and a hotshoe -- disappearing from this class. Or is it possible this breed of camera is disappearing all together?

Personally, I like cameras such as the Canon G6 and the Sony Cybershot DSC-R1. But these compact, sophisticated picture machines will cost you between $650 and $900. Some people, such as TDS reader Ben D ask, "Why not just buy a DSLR?"

We've already seen Nikon pull back on building prosumer models. Will others follow such as Canon, Olympus, and Sony? Is it time to choose between a beefed-up compact such as the Canon PowerShot S3 IS ($460, but not RAW mode, hotshoe and other "prosumer" features) or a full-blown DSLR such as the Nikon D50? I'm curious about your thoughts around this...

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How to Shoot Fireworks

Fireworks
Photo by TDS reader, Brian C Davenport -- Details at end of article.

Pyromaniacs all across the States are gearing up for their favorite day: The Fourth 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.

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 recently 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."

Great shot Brian! Thanks for sending it in.

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Sony DSC H2

Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-H2 is the main competitor to Canon's highly rated PowerShot S3 IS. Both cameras have been reviewed on DPReview, so we can now compare apples to apples from the same reviewer.

DPReview really likes the Sony H2, giving it a highly recommended rating and a slight edge over the PowerShot S3. One of the deciding factors was the $100-less price tag, making it a better value for the buck.

I'm disappointed that Sony also decided not to include RAW mode with this camera. If they had, I would have recommended it over the S3. But as it stands right now, I have to say that it comes down to personal preferences. Both cameras are solid, and you almost have to hold each of them to decide which one is for you.

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Knock-Out Punch

Eight featured slideshows that are as distinctive as the artists themselves... One photographer used this medium to bring his heritage to life, while others relived vacations or captured the rhythm of everyday events. One entrant created a movie to promote his photography studio. Still others shared life's drama, such as a balmy evening of boxing in Texas, or a garage band's road to local fame. These are just a few of life's tales vividly captured in the entries featured in the FotoMagico Slideshow Showcase.

You can watch each of these presentations, read about the techniques and software the artists used, and consider if any of these approaches might help you better share your images with the world. So sit back, turn up your speakers, and take a trip to the movies, digital story style.

Pentax K100D

Pentax's new K100D DSLR is compatible with any lens that Pentax has ever produced. This is intriguing news for fans of the traditional Pentax K1000, which was the outrageously popular camera for beginning photographers during the 1980s.

In your closet right now you might have the components to build a formidable digital system. The Pentax K100D is an affordable ($699 with 18-55mm lens) 6.1 megapixel DSLR featuring shake reduction technology, 11-point auto focus, 2.5" LCD, and a stainless-steel chassis that is built to last (much in the same way its predecessor the K-1000 stood the test of time).

If you have Pentax lenses stashed away, you might want to further investigate this camera. It's a handsome body with plenty of modern bells and whistles that enables you to use some of your favorite glass from the past. Nice move Pentax!

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Aperture

Apple has release updates to iPhoto 6 and to Aperture. Both of these updates are available via Software Update (under the Apple menu) or downloadable from their respective support pages.

New goodies in iPhoto 6.0.4 include a variety of new Greeting Card and Postcard themes for use with Apple print services, including invite and thank you card designs for summer parties, weddings, birthdays, etc.

Aperture improvements seem more under the hood dealing with overall reliability and performance. I downloaded both of the updates they are running fine on my Mac. You'll need some bandwidth however. The Aperture update is 14.2 MBs and the iPhoto 6 download is 36.4 MBs.

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Raw Photography with Older Cameras

Canon G2 Black

One of the things I like about my older Canon PowerShot G2 is that is supports Raw as well as Jpeg. This used to be common with advanced amateur models such as the G1 and G2, but these days you often have to buy a digital SLR to get Raw support.

Of course Raw photography isn't any fun unless you have a good application to interpret the files. I remember (way back when) struggling with Canon's software to process my Raw files... probably why I decided that Raw was only for special occasions. But now I can have my Raw and convenience too. Adobe's new photo workflow application, Lightroom, supports many of those older cameras that could capture Raw, including my black PowerShot G2. (You can see the entire list of supported models on the Adobe Labs site.)

I guess this is the modern version of nostalgia -- I really enjoy grabbing the G2 (it has a very smart custom leather case like cameras of yesteryear) on my way out the door, knowing that I have a fast f-2 lens, full manual controls, vari-angle LCD screen, hot shoe, and yes, Raw format. It even uses the same batteries as my state of the art Canon 5D DSLR.

When I return home, I can process my 4-megapixel Raw files with the beta 3 version of Lightroom. And they look great. It's old meets new. And it's a lot of fun.

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Pro Shooter Shares Travel Tips

Travel

Have you ever wondered how professional photographers prepare for trips to exotic (and sometimes hazardous) locations? In the article Travel Advice for Photographers, pro shooter Ed Carreon shares tips from his years of experience. Regardless if your next adventure is a safari in Africa or a family vacation in Hawaii, I'm sure you'll glean some gems from Ed's advice.

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Peephole Fisheye Lens
Photo by Make Magazine

Here's a new thing to do with your compact camera: hold a peephole viewer to the front lens for "do it yourself" fisheye view of the world. (Peephole viewers are available at any hardware store for cheap.) The creative folks at Make Magazine demonstrate their spin on the concept based on a paper by H. G. Dietz at the University of Kentucky.

The Make Magazine version is simple. Hold the peephole viewer in place and take a picture. This gives you a superwide view of the world. (Thanks to Phil and the crew for posting this cool idea.) Mr. Dietz goes into more detail about this technique and discusses mounting the viewer on a variety of cameras.

If you want to go the other direction and create a super-telephoto for your compact, take a look at our earlier post on digiscoping.

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