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There are good deals... and then there's free. Over on the Lowepro Facebook fan page they are conducting a special Free Bag Friday where the winner will get to choose one item from the Lowepro Gift Guide. To participate, all you have to do is post a comment on the Gift Guide about which bag you prefer and why. You have until midnight PST, Sunday Nov. 27 to participate. As with all give-aways, void where prohibited.

If you're feeling lucky, head over to the Lowepro Facebook fan page and join in the fun.

PS: If you didn't already know, I work with Lowepro and love their products.

The new Olympus PEN E-PM1is a camera that I've been toting for the last couple months with good results. DP Review has now put it through a full test. Their conclusion is similar to mine: you get the same image quality as with flagship E-P3, but for a lot less money and only a few less features. They gave the PEN Mini a Silver Award, which I also agree with.

Olympus PEN E-PM1 with Swiss Army Knife Olympus PEN Mini, 17mm f/2.8 lens, with Swiss Army Knife

Related, my satisfaction with the PEN Mini has helped me fight off the urge to invest in the Fujifilm X10 that's now available in the States for $600. It looks like a great camera with positive initial reviews. But the PEN Mini has interchangeable lenses, interchangeable viewfinders, a much larger image sensor, and... it costs less -- $450 with kit lens (PEN Mini)vs $600 with fixed mount lens (Fuji X10).

Ah, so many great cameras... so few credit cards.

Find great deals at the TDS Photography Store on Amazon.


I love working with disc reflectors, but I don't always have an assistant to hold them for me. I found the Flashpoint 24" Triangular Collapsible Disc that has a rigid design and can be held by one hand. It's silver on one side, providing lots of fill light. And on the other side it has black, white, and gray segments that can be used for establishing exposure and for color balance in post.

And the best part is, the Flashpoint 24" collapsible reflector is currently available for $19.95 from Adorama. Seems like a good accessory for your camera bag, or an excellent gift for that photographer friend of yours.

Find great deals at the TDS Photography Store on Amazon.

It's that time of year when some families take a deep breath and decide to spend time together. If you're the photographer for these brave souls, then you'll probably find yourself in a portrait situation or two. My advice: be prepared to work fast.

Family Portrait Family portrait with child. You're not going to have much time when little ones are involved. Photo by Derrick Story. Click on image for larger size.

I usually have a fair amount of equipment on hand for family portraits. And I rarely get to use any of it. For this image, I had a tripod-mounted Canon 5D Mark II with my trusty 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom. We shot in the morning light while everyone was fresh and alert. I scouted three spots and used them all.

When working quickly, look for areas with naturally diffused light. Keep your shutter speed high (1/250th or so) and your aperture fairly wide. Make sure everyone is in focus. The fast shutter speed helps with wiggly children. Shoot in burst mode.

Have fun! Your cheerful attitude will help mom and dad stay relaxed. Remember, people don't like being in front of the camera in the first place, especially holding a sack full of cats. Work quickly and get your subjects on their way.

And finally, trust that if you do all of this, you'll get the shot.

The Digital Story on Facebook -- discussion, outstanding images from the TDS community, and inside information. Join our celebration of great photography!

What to get that favorite photographer in your life? In this week's podcast I have a dozen great ideas. The bulk of the gifts are less than $50, and most are below the $30 mark. So, let's get to it!


Gifts Under $30

Freehands Men's Stretch Thinsulate Gloves -- $24.95 (until Nov. 30, 2011)

Joby Gorillatorch-- $28.20

Art & Soul by Brian Smith-- $26.20

The Glif Tripod Stand/Mount for iPhone 4/4S-- $20

Giottos Large Rocket Air Blaster--$8.95

Sanyo Eneloop AA NiMH 4-Pack with AC Charger -- $19.08

ExpoImaging Rogue FlashBender Bendable Bounce Card/ Flag -- $29.50

Canon Lens 1:1 EF 70-200 mm Coffee Cup-- $19.90 or the Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8 1:1 Thermos Travel Mug-- $26.90

Gifts Under $50

Lowepro S&F Lens Exchange Case 200AW -- $38.95

Impact 5-in-1 Collapsible Circular Reflector Disc - 32" -- $32.95

Gifts Under $100

Wacom Bamboo Connect Pen Tablet-- $69

Lowepro DSLR Video Fastpack 150 AW -- $99.95

And remember, these are nice treets for you too!

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (28 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

Black & White is the Nov. 2011 Photo Assignment. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is Nov. 30, 2011.

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

Red River Paper -- The $7.99 Sample Kit is back! And with free shipping.

Make Your Photos Sizzle with Color! -- SizzlPix is like High Definition TV for your photography.

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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Maximum HDR with iPhone 4S Camera

The iPhone 4S has a built-in HDR option that works quite well. But, by using the following technique, you can maximize its potential, taking your camera phone images to a new level.

Vineyard Sunset HDR with iPhone 4S Vineyard Sunset captured with an iPhone 4S and processed with HDR Pro in Photoshop CS5. Click on image for larger version. Photo by Derrick Story.

Begin in the Settings dialog for the iPhone. Tap on the Photos icon. Scroll down to the HDR section and make sure that "Keep Normal Photo" is set to "On." When you take an HDR image with your iPhone, you'll now get two images: the original non-HDR shot (normal photo), and the processed image. These two shots will build the foundation for the next step.


Now it's time to go take some great shots with HDR turned on for your iPhone. When you return home, you'll have two images for each picture. Open both of those shots in your favorite HDR program. I use HDR Pro in Photoshop CS5.

HDR Pro in Photoshop CS5 Take the two iPhone images and open in an HDR processing program, such as HDR Pro for Photoshop CS5.

By having two shots with different dynamic ranges, you're able to get even more out of the composition than you could with the original HDR produced by the iPhone. Once you get the image the way you want, save it and share. People will be impressed that you captured such beautiful landscapes with your humble mobile phone.

More Articles About the iPhone 4S

Gymbl Tripod for iPhone 4S - Hands on Review

Time Lapse Boogie with iPhone 4S

Glif Tripod Mount and Stand for iPhone 4

"iPhone 4S Camera, Ready for Prime Time?" - Digital Photography Podcast 296

iPhone 4S Camera Pros and Cons

iPhone 4S Camera Exceeds My Expectations

The Digital Story on Facebook -- discussion, outstanding images from the TDS community, and inside information. Join our celebration of great photography!

I don't always want to look the part of the photographer. Sometimes I'm just hanging out with friends, having a good time. That doesn't mean I don't want gear with me in case I spot a great shot. These are the days that I enjoy having the Lowepro Pro Messenger Bag 180 AWat my side.

Pro Messenger 180 AW Lowepro Pro Messenger 180 AW

The fabric looks like classic canvas. I love the way it brushes against my arms as I'm working. In fact, it's actually high tech material that's weather resistant and retains its good looks over the long haul. The flap is clever. In "security mode" it stays closed via generous amounts of velcro. Nobody is going to get inside the Pro Messenger without you hearing about it. But when you're working, change over to "quiet mode" that provides access to all of your gear without a sound. You can see how the FlexFlap design works on the Lowepro features page.

Inside, I can transport my 70-200 f/2.8 on body, plus a couple lenses, flash, and accessories. The pocket in the back has a zippered top and bottom. Open them both, and you have a trolly sleeve that slides over the handle of your rolling luggage. Close the bottom zipper and you can stow an iPad or collapsable reflectors there.

If the weather turns foul, I can use the All Weather cover to protect the entire bag. It's stowed behind the front pocket for easy access. Other handy features include a long fabric strap with generous shoulder padding, stretch side pockets, repositionable dividers for a variety of configurations, a large front pocket big enough to hold additional gear including a spare camera body, business card window, and top carrying handle.

Street price for the Lowepro Pro Messenger Bag 180 AWis $169. It's one of those rare items that performs as well as it looks.

Find great deals at the TDS Photography Store on Amazon.

From day one, I've wanted to print from my iPad and iPhone as easily as I can from my Mac. And for those who have an ePrint enabled HP printer, that day is here. I've been testing an HP LaserJet Pro 100 M175NW Laser printerthat has ePrint services as part of its wireless feature set. I can now easily print from my iOS devices, plus I'm enjoying a few bonus web services that I didn't expect.

HP ePrint in Pages on an iPad When I go to print in Pages on my iPad, the HP LaserJet Pro shows up in the dialog box.

To get started, you have to go through the usual set-up process for the HP printer to get it on your WiFi network. I ran into one glitch with the LaserJet 100 because its bundled software disc wasn't compatible with Mac OS X 10.7 Lion. Since a Lion update wasn't available yet, I had to connect the printer to a Snow Leopard Mac. Once the set up was complete, I've had no problems printing, checking supply levels, etc. from any of my Macs running Lion or Snow Leopard.

The hiccup is having to physically connect the printer to the computer via an USB cable to run the set-up software. If I had been able to connect the printer to the network wirelessly without involving my computer, I wouldn't have had any problems. Hopefully HP will release downloadable Lion-compatible software soon to ease this problem.

Once the printer is on the network and the Internet, I could go to and register the HP LaserJet using its unique code (that it will print out for you). As part of the registration process, you establish an unique email address for the printer.

Now the fun begins. I can print photos and documents directly from my iOS devices because the LaserJet shows up in all of their print options dialogs. It's literally as easy as printing from my Mac. Since I'm printing on plain paper with toner instead of ink, it's more affordable than inkjet output. Documents are crisp and detailed. Photos look remarkably good. I'm very happy with the HP LaserJet output.

But there's more. You can really get your geek on by taking advantage of HP's web services. When you establish your ePrint account with them, and choose your unique email address for the printer, you can use that email address to print from anywhere. I've been testing it with attachments I've received via Gmail and the Mail app for my iOS devices. All I have to do is forward that email to the printer address, and the LaserJet will output both the email and the attachment.

HP supports a variety of file types: Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Text files (.txt), PDF, HTML, and images (bmp, jpg, png, gif, tiff). The job spools quickly, and is usually available within a minute or two. This is very cool.

HP also has specific mobile apps for your devices, such as HP home&biz for iOS. But I haven't really needed them since the previously described services work so well.

Bottom line, I'm thrilled to finally have true printing capabilities from my iOS devices. And the bonus of having easy-to-use web services also, allows me give HP ePrint a nimbleosity rating of 4 out of 5.

The Digital Story on Facebook -- discussion, outstanding images from the TDS community, and inside information. Join our celebration of great photography!


Canon USA published a press release discussing the availability of three professional lenses. One of those included, the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS is the zoom I've wanted for years.

"The EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM EXTENDER l.4x is being developed as an L-series super-telephoto lens with an integrated 1.4x extender and high-performance Image Stabilizer technology. The new lens will offer exceptional flexibility by incorporating a built-in 1.4x extender that increases the maximum focal length to 560mm for sports and wildlife photography. High-quality images with high levels of resolution and contrast will be possible through the use of advanced optical materials such as fluorite crystal. The new lens will also include dust- and water-resistant construction designed for extended usage under harsh conditions."

What a wonderful complement to my 70-200mm f/2.8 IS. Of course this beast will be pricy. And there still isn't a release date for it. But I'm happy to get confirmation that my dream lens will someday be a reality.

The Digital Story on Facebook -- discussion, outstanding images from the TDS community, and inside information. Join our celebration of great photography!

No matter how digital I get, there are a few cameras that I will never part with. Today's analog favorite: the Hasselblad 500C with Zeiss Sonnar 150mm f/4 lens. And to house it all, another classic: the Lowepro Magnum 35 camera bag.

Lowepro Magnum 35 with Hasselblad 500C

A couple times a year, I pull out older cameras that I haven't used for a while and fire off a few frames -- just to keep them in good working order. This particular 500C was serviced about 8 years ago, and it sounds like an expensive Swiss watch when I wind the film advance crank.

I still have roll film and Polaroid packs. What I really wish I had was a digital back for this camera. That would be so amazing...

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And to house it all, another classic: the Lowepro Magnum 35 camera bag.