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For the Sept. 2012 Photo Assignment, TDS shooters worked their backgrounds as much as their subjects. See for yourself in our gallery, Bokeh. And which one will be the SizzlPix Photo Assignment Pick of the Month?

Deborah Eves

"I took this photo to use as an award for excellence in teaching at the university where I work," wrote Deborah Eves. "I wanted the golden apple to shine in the foreground, standing out from the rest. The rest, though not as clearly standing out, shine in their own small way.

I hadn't planned to shoot this photo when I did, but was just playing around with the placement of the objects, all of which were found in the cubicles of my office mates. I used a desk lamp for overhead lighting. When I decided to shoot the 'official' version of the award, using an LED light and planning everything much more carefully, I was disappointed with the results. I ended up using my original shot." See all of the great images from this month's assignment by visiting the Bokeh gallery page.

Participate in This Month's Assignment

The November 2012 assignment is "Flash." Details can be found on the Member Participation page. Deadline is Nov. 30, 2012.

Please follow the instructions carefully for labeling the subject line of the email for your submission. It's easy to lose these in the pile of mail if not labeled correctly. For example, the subject line for this month's assignment should be: "Photo Assignment: Nov 2012." Also, if you can, please don't strip out the metadata. And feel free to add any IPTC data you wish (These fields in particular: Caption, Credit, Copyright, Byline), I use that for the caption info.

Gallery posting is one month behind the deadline. So I'm posting Sept. 2012 at the end of Oct., the Oct. gallery will be posted at the end of Nov., and on and on.

Good luck with your Nov. assignment, and congratulations to all of the fine contributors for Sept.

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Now Available! The Digital Photography Companion. The official guide for The Digital Story Virtual Camera Club.

  • 25 handy and informative tables for quick reference.
  • Metadata listings for every photo in the book
  • Dedicated chapter on making printing easy.
  • Photo management software guide.
  • Many, many inside tips gleaned from years of experience.
  • Comprehensive (214 pages), yet fits easily in camera bag.

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Windows 8 for Photographers


Clearly Windows 8 has much to offer for touchscreen devices and those wanting a refreshed interface. But I've spent some time looking into the benefits for photographers who have laptops and desktop machines.

I'm not finding a lot of information about Windows 8 for photographers. So I thought that collectively we could compile what we know here. And to put even a finer point on it, let's take a specific example. (Although I want this discussion to cover all types of laptops and desktop machines. This example is just one I'm familiar with.)

I have an Acer Aspire One netbook running Windows 7 (64 bit) with 4 GBs of RAM, AMD C series processor, and 1366 x 768 resolution. The trackpad is decent. Windows 7 runs great on this machine, as does Lightroom 4.2 and Corel AfterShot Pro. As a photographer, what advantages, if any, would I get upgrading to Windows 8?

I think an important piece of information is that I won't be taking advantage of Microsoft Cloud services. My primary platform is Mac and iOS, so iCloud is my default.

Why should we even think about this now? Well, Microsoft is offering a pretty sweet upgrade offer that's good for a couple months. So it seems if one were to upgrade, 2012 would be the time.

So... photographers... let's tackle Windows 8 from our perspective. Please comment so we can compile a few data points here.

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Great Night for a Haunted House

Want to hear something go bump in the night? Then you might want to find your nearest Haunted House and get in the Halloween spirit.


In my neighborhood (Santa Rosa, CA, USA), we have the Blind Scream Haunted House where I took this photo.

Halloween is a great opportunity for extreme night photography. Find something scary around you...

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More on iOS 6 Panoramas

When I originally reported on the new panorama feature in iOS 6, I was impressed by how good they looked right out of the camera. Then, as I dug deeper, I discovered the integration with iPhoto, Aperture, and iPhoto for iOS. In my latest Macworld article, Get the big picture with iOS 6 panoramas, I explain how that integration can help you produce some dynamic presentations.

oracle_arena_pano.jpg iPhone panorama at Oracle Arena before a game in Oakland, CA.

My biggest discovery was how the slideshow tools in the Apple apps recognize and present the panoramas. There are different implementations. My favorite is the elegant Ken Burns sweep of your image.

Great stuff. You might want to take a look.

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Halloween is the perfect excuse to experiment with extreme low light technique. In this podcast, I take a look at ISO, glass, file format, and a few tricks (and treats) that you can stash in your goodie bag. I've also come to a decision about the iPad mini, and report on that small, but significant quest. All of this, and more, on this week's TDS podcast.

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (24 minutes). Or better yet, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App for only $2.99 from the Apple App Store.

Monthly Photo Assignment

Panorama is the Oct. 2012 Photo Assignment. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is Oct. 31, 2012. Note: We're making an exception this month for image size. Submit your panorama at the size you feel appropriate.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. And from those images, I choose the TDS Member Photo of the Day.

Podcast Sponsors

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Make Your Photos Sizzle with Color! -- SizzlPix is like High Definition TV for your photography. Special this month, order one SizzlPix and get the second one for 50%. Put "TDS" in the comments field of your order.

Need a New Photo Bag? Check out the Lowepro Specialty Store on The Digital Story and use discount code LP20 to saven 20% at check out.

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During the TDS Fall Photography Workshop, we spent an afternoon with model Ewelina Bryczek. Our participants created a beautiful gallery of images that I thought you might enjoy.

Craig Tooley

We used a variety of lighting techniques outdoors, including fill flash and reflectors. Each participant selected their favorite portraits of the day, then shared them with the rest of the class during our closing presentation on Sunday.

I so enjoy sitting back and enjoying the images created by the collaborative effort of our model and photographers.

Ewelina Bryczek by Craig Tooley at the TDS Fall Photography Workshop. Click on image to see larger version.

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The Apple 1 was Apple's first computer and was hand-built by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak in Steve Jobs' garage in 1976. At the time, it was priced at $666.66 and sold without any accessories, including a case, monitor, or keyboard.

Apple 1 Computer The Apple 1 photographed by Derrick Story. Click on image for larger size.

I recently had the opportunity to hold this piece of Apple history in my hands. And I thought you might enjoy a close look at it yourself. I took this photo on a table with natural light coming through a window. (As you may have guessed, the owner didn't want me to walk off with it for a studio shot.)

For the technology fan that I am, this is a work of art.

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A fun post on PetaPixel describes how to use Art Filter 11 (Key Line) as an aid for precise manual focusing. I've tested it myself, and it's a clever diversion that prompted me to experiment with some of the other features on the camera.

omd_art_filter.jpg The Key Line Art Filter on the OM-D can be used as a manual focusing aid.

You can read the PetaPixel article for more detail, but in short, switching to this Art Filter makes it easier to manually focus with the camera because it converts the composition to a graphical image. So what you see in the electronic viewfinder is either in focus, or it isn't.

But there are two additional tips I want to add to help with this process. And they are good tips to know in general. First, the Art Filter hack requires that you shoot in RAW+JPEG, then later throw away the JPEG that has the Art Filter effect. Actually, you don't have to wait. You can accomplish this in-camera and view the perfectly focused RAW file right away.

On the OM-D, go to Menu H, select RAW+JPEG Erase, and choose JPEG. Now when you see the Art Filter JPEG in-camera, and hit the Trash button, the RAW file will remain and be viewable on the LCD. Only the JPEG will be discarded. If you want to get rid of the RAW file too, just erase a second time.

omd_non_art_filter.jpg The resulting RAW file benefits from the focusing aid of the Art Filter.

Second, I've programmed Fn1 button to toggle between auto focusing and manual focusing. This is very handy. Go to Menu B, choose Button Function, and set Fn1 to MF. After making this setting, it's easy to jump to MF to use the Art Filter hack, and then back to AF when you're done.

Actually, you don't even have to capture the Art Filter shot if you don't want to. For stationary subjects, you could go to manual focus mode, use the Art Filter hack to focus, then switch to any exposure mode you want, such as Program. Just don't nudge the focusing ring in the process.

One last tip. You can program the Fn2 to switch between RAW and RAW+JPEG. Go to Menu B again, choose Button/Dial Function, choose Button and set Fn2 to RAW. After making this setting, you can easily switch between RAW, JPEG, and RAW+JPEG by simply rotating the dial around the shutter button.

Even though there are some practical uses for this technique, such as precise studio work or landscape, it's mainly a fun way to get to know more features on your camera. Give it a try.

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iPad mini Buying Guide


Now that Apple is accepting orders for the iPad mini, here are a few things to consider to manage your budget while getting a device that meets your needs.

WiFi or WiFi + Cellular

The WiFi models will be available first, ready for pick up or delivered on Nov. 2. As I said in this week's podcast, WiFi-only can limit your connectivity. Public WiFi is often less than robust, and there are times you're not near an access point at all - frustrating for such a mobile device as the iPad mini.

But the price consideration for built-in cellular is substantial. The cheapest WiFi + Cellular model (16 GB) is $459 compared to $329 for WiFi only. A workaround is to activate a tethering data plan for your iPhone. AT&T for example, has a pro plan that provides 5 GBs of data monthly, and allows tethering via cable, WiFi, or Bluetooth. Your iPhone becomes a mobile Internet access point for the iPad mini and basically any other device you have with you.

I tested the tethering option with my iPhone 4S and a variety of devices, and it was remarkably robust. This data option costs $50 a month (compared to $25 a month for 2 GBs of data without tethering.) You're going to spend $30 a month for a decent data plan just for the iPad mini if you go the WiFi + Cellular route. So considering the initial investment for WiFi + Cellular and the additional monthly fees, tethering is more affordable.

Keep in mind that using an iPhone as an access point is not as convenient as having cellular built-in to the iPad itself. And you're tapping battery power in two devices instead of just one. It's not my first choice. But when you look at the economics of trying to squeeze an iPad mini into your budget, it could make the difference between getting the mini now, or having to wait.


Apple is offering free engraving on iPad minis that you order online. This is a cool option, but think it through. If you plan on reselling your device once the 2nd generation is available, then don't get engraving. Buyers won't appreciate having "Joe Smith" emblazed on the back of their mini.

Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader

This $29 accessory is a must for nimble photographers. It allows you to copy images directly from the memory card to the iPad mini. If you shoot with a non-SD card camera, get the USB adapter instead, then use your camera's cable to transfer pictures.

Smart Cover

It's wonderful, but it's also $40 - a tough call.

Bottom Line

The most affordable iPad mini (WiFi only with 16 GBs) plus the Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader, recycling fee and tax; and your grand total will be $394. The 32 GB WiFi only will run you about $500. The 64 GB model, WiFi only, over $600 (both with SD Card Reader option). In other words, this suddenly becomes a serious investment.

And finally, if you decide to take the leap, I would do so sooner than later. Once Apple runs through its stockpile on iPad minis, the wait time will probably stretch out to a couple weeks.

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Using Aperture on a Retina Display Mac

When Phil Schiller announced the MacBook Pro 13" with Retina Display, he showed photographs on Aperture, which has been rewritten to take advantage of the increased pixel density. Now there are two laptops with Retina (MBP 13" and MBP 15"). So, how are they different than Macs with a traditional LED display? Take a look.

Every icon, thumbnail, and letter in Aperture has been retooled to take advantage of the super high definition display. The details you can see in the thumbnails are stunning.

When debating between the 13" and 15" MBP, be sure to take a look at the tech specs. The 15" model also includes the NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M with 1GB of GDDR5 memory and automatic graphics switching plus the Intel HD Graphics 4000, while the 13" only includes the Intel HD Graphics 4000 card.

Either way, however, you'll see your images like never before with this hardware/software combination.

Aperture Tips and Techniques

To learn more about Aperture, check out my Aperture 3.3 Essential Training (2012) on Also, take a look at our Aperture 3 Learning Center. Tons of free content about how to get the most out of Aperture.

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