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Towel Animals at Sea

Towel Animal

One of the talents shared by the Holland America staff is the art of creating towel animals. Each night, a different creature is waiting on your bed when you return from dinner. I've had the most amazing critters staring up at me. Last night, my greeter was and elephant.

The cotton beastie was constructed out of three folded towels -- one for each set of legs, and the third for the ears, face, and trunk. There are no other materials are used except for a set of paper eyes. After admiring the creation, I gently pick up my bunkmate and move him to the table across the way.

For those who want to learn the fine art of making towel animals, you can even take a class on board while at sea. Imagine the smile you could bring to someone's face when they come home from a hard day's work and are greeted by an adorable terry cloth elephant.

Shortly I'll be jumping in the warm waters of Belize and mingling with creatures of a different ilk. More to report soon...

No Podcast This Week

Even though I have somewhat of an internet connection at sea this week, I don't have enough bandwidth to publish a podcast. So, I'll save the show I have on hand and add it to our line up. The good news is that I'll have lots to report from this adventure, including new interviews and photography stories.

So stay tuned for more...

Chickens and Cats in Key West

Hen and Chicks

I spent the afternoon in Key West Florida. It was just a short layover before heading further south for more tropical waters. Key West is an odd and interesting place. First, there are chickens roaming the streets. It's true. No one I talked to knew exactly why, but each just accepted the fact that there are chickens everywhere.

Well, almost everywhere. I visited the lovely house where Ernest Hemingway lived and worked for years. Apparently, the fame of this location is shared among the legend of Hemingway and his 6-toed cats, all descendants of one white Snowball, who once ruled the Key West mansion with an iron paw.

Hemingway and Snowball have long since departed this earth. But there are nearly 30 descendants of Snowball still in charge of the Key West property, and half of them have 6-toes on their front paws. Interestingly enough, I didn't see one chicken on the Hemingway grounds.

I'm back on board and heading south to Belize. More to report soon...

Off to the Western Caribbean

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I'm on a plane this morning to Tampa, FL where I will then board a Holland America ship for the Western Caribbean. I'm going to have lots to report from this trip. First, our stops are at Key West, Belize City, Santo Tomas, and Costa Maya. I hope to find some interesting photographic subjects at these destinations that I can report back to you.

I'm also teaching a week long digital photography course with Ben Long as part of the Geek Cruises. I like this format because we're in class while at sea, then get to shoot when in port. I'll try to capture some gems from these class discussions and post them here on TDS.

So be sure to tune in this week to read the anecdotes and see the images from this adventure in the Western Caribbean. More to come...

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I've discovered an affordable photo management/photo editing package that Windows users might want to investigate. ACDSee has bundled their manager/editor packages, and are offering the whole deal for $79.99 US.

The Photo Editor offers features such as: one-click auto color balance, auto levels, auto sharpen, or auto contrast; adjustment/filter variations display up to 8 different previews of your original photo; and how-tos that teach you how to be creative with your photos, step by step.

The Photo Manager also has a nice array of goodies including: auto categories that automatically match your photos into categories based on camera information like IPTC and EXIF metadata; print layouts reduce the complexity and confusion of printing multiple photos; and organize photos by date and event with the calendar events view.

With the holidays fast approaching, this might be a good gift to help your favorite Windows photographer get organized.

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Kodak V705

"The Kodak Easyshare V705 has a 7.3 MP megapixel, 1/2.5 inch CCD that delivers 7.1 effective megapixels," says the Photography Blog. "There are a range of image sizes (3072 × 2304, 3072 × 2048, 2576 × 1932, 2048x1536, 1200 × 900) which are recorded as JPEGs. The camera has two lenses rather than the standard one. The first is a fixed ultra wide-angle lens equivalent to 23mm on a 35mm format camera. The second is a 3x optical zoom lens equivalent to 39-117 mm. There is also a 4x digital zoom should you feel the need to use it. The camera has 32Mb of built-in memory, of which 28Mb is available for picture storage - it is not supplied with either a SD Memory Card or MultiMedia Card."

I've been curious about this little camera since it's been announced. Photography Blog gives it an overall rating of 4 out of 5 stars. But they do have a few notes about performance speed and image quality that you should read carefully before getting too excited about this stylish compact.

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One of the most common questions I hear when teaching digital photography has to do with people wanting to serve their iPhoto libraries on the Internet. Now, thanks to Fastball Software, you can serve both iPhoto 6 and Aperture 1.5 albums on the web using the built-in Apache server in Mac OS X.

WebGem 1.1.3 is a nifty tool that you can download for free and serve up to 200 iPhoto and/or Aperture images. If you want unlimited photo serving, the registered version cost only $15.

Setup couldn't be easier. Download WebGem, add it to your Applications folder, launch it, open the Preferences to determine which iPhoto and Aperture albums you want to serve, set the limits on maximum image size you're going to make available, and click the Start Server button. WebGem uses your built-in Apache server and makes your albums available through port 9999. If you don't know what your IP address is, go to the Sharing Preference pane, click on the Services tab, click on Personal Web Sharing, and read your IP address at the bottom of the pane. It should be something like 172:18:1:4. All you have to do is add :9999 to that address, and you can view the shared albums on any Mac, Windows, or Linux computer. (That address is what you send to those you want to make these pages available to. For example, it could be http://172:18:1:4:9999).

If you want to make the full size version of the image available to viewers, such as clients for your photography, check the "Allow full size downloads" box in WebGem's preferences. A "Download Full Size Photo" link will be added to each photo page than enables viewers to grab the high resolution version.

Aperture 1.5 users can serve their images too, right along side the iPhoto albums. The key is to use the previews function in Aperture 1.5. Once you generate previews for the albums you want to serve, they are available through WebGem.

I recommend that you also turn on Mac OS X's Firewall if you're going to serve images from your personal computer via WebGem. To make sure others can access the photos (but not the rest of the information on your Mac), add Port 9999 to the "Allow" menu. Go to the Sharing Preference pane, click on the Firewall tab, click on the New button, add Port 9999, then turn on the Firewall. You can now safely serve photos from your Mac.

WebGem provides search (via keywords) and organization via your published albums. Users do have to use the browser back button to go from enlarged images back to thumbnails, but aside from that minor inconvenience, this application works great.

I think WebGem is one of those truly handy shareware applications for Mac OS X photographers. Who would have thought that photo enthusiasts would be able to set up an Apache server with a photo database backend in just minutes? It's a beautiful thing...

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If you have plans to attend PhotoPlus Expo and would like to add a fun dimension to your trip, I'm looking for a podcaster who can interview a handful of scheduled photographers.

I won't be able to attend PPE this year because I'll be teaching photography in the Eastern Caribbean that week. (I'll have lots to report from there, so stay tuned!)

So there's a real opportunity for someone who is handy with the mic and enjoys talking shop with other photographers. (We can provide you with the recording equipment.) If you're interested and want to learn more, please contact me ASAP by writing to derrick(at)thedigitalstory(dot com). You can always find the link on our Submissions page. In the subject line, put "PhotoPlus Expo - Your Name."

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Adobe announced a minor update to its current beta version of Lightroom. This update, available now, includes the following:

- Resolves external editor conflict
- Corrects export orientation for constrained portrait images
- Resolves missing image error with large web galleries
- Provides Photo Binder platform compatibility on optical media

You can download beta 4.1 at the Adobe Labs site. It is available for both Mac and Windows users. This build expires on Feb. 28, 2007.

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Mod Your Flash with a Cardboard Grid

Gut Mann's Cardboard Grid

One of the problems with location flash photography is that you often only want to light part of the scene (the subject) and downplay (but not eliminate) the area surrounding the person. There are lots of expensive accessories to achieve this effect. But I just read a post on the Strobist (scroll down the page until you get to the post titled "Free and So Easy: DIY Grid Spots for Your Flash"), where contributor Gut Mann designed a nifty grid for your flash head out of corrugated cardboard. Using this DIY attachment, you can create professional looking environmental portraits that emphasizes the subject, yet downplays the environment. Complete assembly instructions are detailed on the site.

You can get a rough feel for the effect by looking at an assignment shoot with a snoot by the Strobist. If you're a location portrait shooter, this is definitely a trick you want in your camera bag.

Photo from the Strobist website.

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