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Inevitably, when you're thinking about buying a new camera, it comes down to a horse race between two models. That's where a new site, Snapsort becomes invaluable. Just type in the names of your two finalists and let Snapsort provide you with an easy-to-read, highly useful, feature comparison.

It's also fun. I learned all sorts of interesting details about cameras I was curious about. The interface is clean. Performance is fast. Very nice.

You can keep up with Snapsort by reading their blog and following them on Twitter.

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"The Wall" - Grab Shot 191

"I spent four hours Thanksgiving morning walking the National Mall in Washington, DC," writes Rick Brandt. "Among my stops was the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I worked my way from the eastern end of the wall to the western end. At the very end of the western wall, where there is only one name, laid a wilting carnation -- an interesting photo opportunity -- I took it. Then I looked up and saw this gentlemen kneeling at the wall -- he was about 50 yards away and I considered swapping lenses -- I had the 24mm-70mm on my 5D, and the 70mm-200mm was in the backpack."

" I really wanted to get closer, but I thought if I took the time to swap lenses, the moment may be gone -- and I didn't think it was appropriate to physically get closer -- so I took several shots from where I was with the lens that I had on the camera. A few seconds later, a threesome of runners (the Thanksgiving Day Trot for Hunger just finished at the Lincoln Memorial, just up the hill from the wall) passed me, entered the frame and provided what I feel was some sorely needed balance to the composition."

As Rick mentioned, he captured the image with a Canon 5D at 70mm (24mm-70mm). He then post-processed the image with Aperture and Silver Efx Pro.

Photo by Rick Brandt. Click on image to zoom to larger size.

If you have a candid you'd like to share, take a look at our Submissions page, then send us your Grab Shot. We'll try to get it published for you on The Digital Story.

And you can view more images from our virtual camera club in the Member Photo Gallery.

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The "infrared look" in photography is a terrific alternative to traditional color imagery. There are many paths you can follow to experiment with the IR alternative. The pure approach is to actually shoot infrared with a digital camera.

You can purchase a very dense Hoya 52mm RM72 Infrared Glass Filter and put it over your lens. Some cameras work better than others in terms of displaying the IR effect. You can test your candidates by pointing a TV remote control toward the lens and seeing how bright the dot of light appears on the camera's LCD screen. The brighter the dot, the better the camera will record IR.

You can also have an existing DSLR modified for IR photography through 3rd party services such as Life Pixel. If you want to get serious about IR, this is the best way to go. They remove the IR blocking filter inside the DSLR so you can shoot normally without having to put that dense RM72 filter over the lens.

You can read more about ways to capture IR in my Macworld article titled, Photograph the invisible with infrared photos.

If you're not interested in dense filters or modifying cameras, you can fake the IR effect using your image editor, as I did with the shot of the Bodie House shown above. I created that effect in Aperture using these simple steps in the Adjustments panel:

  • Enable the Monochrome Mixer in Aperture. Move the Blue slider to -20 and Green to +80
  • Switch to the Color adjustment brick and click on the Green square. Move Luminance and Saturation sliders all the way to the right.
  • While still in the Color brick, click on the Yellow square and move the Luminance and Saturation sliders all the way to the right.
  • And finally, in the Color brick, click on the Blue square and move the Luminance slider all the way to the left and Saturation slider all the way to the right.
  • Now play with your normal image adjustment controls, such as Exposure and Enhance to perfect your photo.

You can even create fake IR on your iPhone using applications such as Photo fx 2.0. I go over all of these techniques in my Macworld article titled, Four ways to fake infrared photography.

Regardless of your approach, this contrasty, unusual, B&W look is very refreshing and a nice way to shake things up.

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Most sports arenas don't allow professional camera gear unless you're part of the media pool. So it's very difficult to get compelling shots from the stands as a spectator. I can't tell you how many times I've had to walk back to the car with my camera gear because I couldn't get it past security.

Image of Lebron James shooting captured from the upper deck of Oracle Arena using a Zeiss 135mm lens mounted on an Olympus E-P1 camera. You can see the entire set of images on the TDS Flickr page. Click on image to zoom.

Here in Northern California, however, you are allowed to pack a "non-professional" camera with your personal belongings. To most security guards that means a compact. Just try getting a decent shot with it from the upper deck -- or for that matter, anywhere in the arena. There are three main problems with compacts in these venues:

  • Their zoom lenses generally don't have the reach you need. And if they do, it's at too small of an aperture, such as f/5.6
  • They don't perform as well at high ISO settings.
  • Their shutter lag and slow burst modes aren't a good fit for action photography.

But what about the in-between cameras such as the Olympus E-P1 that have compact-like looks, but perform more like a bigger DSLR? The E-P1 has a good burst rate, minimal shutter lag, and excellent high ISO performance. The only problem is, Olympus doesn't have a long, fast lens for that body.

So I pulled out my manual focus Zeiss 135mm f/2.8 lens that was part of my Contax SLR kit and used a Rayqual micro 4/3rds adapter to attach it to the E-P1. Nice thing about micro four thirds cameras is that they double the focal length of SLR lenses. So my humble Zeiss zoom became a 270mm f/2.8 sports lens when mounted on the E-P1.

To get this rig into the arena, I stashed the 135mm lens in the bottom of my small shoulder bag, then mounted the stock 17mm Olympus lens on the E-P1. The security office took one look at the E-P1 with the pancake lens on it, and let me though the door. Once inside, I switched lenses. To help me focus accurately at f/2.8 with the telephoto, I attached a Horizon 4X loupe (that I still had for medium format film) to the back of the E-P1 with gaffers tape. (If I still had the E-P2, I would have used the electronic viewfinder instead. But alas, I had to send back the review unit.) Using the loupe attached to the E-P1's LCD, I found I could focus quite accurately.

I then took my seat in the upper deck, set the ISO to 800, put the camera in burst mode, and had a great time shooting pictures. You can see a gallery of shots on the TDS Flickr page. These shots are cropped, but even so, the edited shots still have plenty of resolution for 8" x 12" prints.

Now I have to resist getting greedy because I also have a German made Zeiss 200mm prime lens. But I think it's too big to pass as part of an "amateur" kit. So for the moment, I'm going to stick with the 135mm kit when I'm at events as a spectator.

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Personalized photography instruction, interesting events, beautiful location, and very affordable pricing: these are the cornerstones for the brand new 2010 Digital Story Workshop Series held in Northern California. TDS Workshops will feature a combination of classroom instruction with hands-on field events. Plus there will be opportunities for wine tasting packages and other local tours. And I've lined up some very nice swag for each attendee.

But we need to know what you think of this idea. Please send email (contact information is located on the Member Participation page) with the subject line TDS Workshop, and let us know what you think of the idea, and if you want to reserve a spot in one of the following events.

Proposed Workshop Schedule 2010

May 15, 2010 -- AMGEN Tour of California. The workshop would begin on Sat. night, May 15, and conclude on Tuesday 18th at noon.

June 25, 2010 -- Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic. The workshop would begin on Fri. night, June 25, and conclude on Monday June 28th at noon.

Sept. 25, 2010 -- Sebastopol Celtic Music Festival and the Hand Car Regatta. The workshop would begin on Sat. night, Sept. 25, and conclude on Tues. Sept. 28th at noon.

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (23 minutes). Or better yet, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

Monthly Photo Assignment

Slippery is the Jan. 2010 Photo Assignment. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is Jan. 31, 2010.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. It's a blast!

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The eye-catching feature of the Solio Mono charger is the 3" solar cell that can charge the internal 1000Amh Lithium-Ion battery. And indeed, this is a selling point for the device.

But if you're going to be happy with this purchase, you'll have to take a broader view and see this as an all-purpose back-up charger for your iPhone, digital camera, handheld GPS, or other small electronic device. That's because the easiest and quickest way to recharge its Lithium battery is via the USB port on your laptop or with a separate USB charger. This only takes a few hours. If you have to depend on the sun for a full recharge, it will take a few days. And that's only if you have direct sun shining on the device.

So the way you might want to think about the Solio Mono is that it's a back up charger for you small electronics that his its own back up via its solar cell.

I purchased one at the Apple Store for $79 specifically to charge my iPhone 3GS while working in the field. This particualar kit comes with the connections required for iPhones and iPods. The same charger is also available on Amazon for $59, but I couldn't tell which specific connections that kit came with. Either charger has the ability to replenish thousands of devices, it just depends on having the right connection, such as an Apple Dock Connector, for your particular gizmo.

You can tell how full its battery is by the number of green blinks you get when you push the clear button on the back of the device. Each blink indicates 20 percent charge. So, five blinks is full, and one blink is 20 percent.

I was happy with how the Solio charged my iPhone. For example, when the iPhone was at 59 percent charge, I connected the Solio via its dock connector cable. I pressed the clear button to initiate the charge, and 90 minutes later the iPhone was back to 100 percent full. The Solio charger still had 40 percent capacity, leading me to believe that it can come close to fully charging the iPhone.

I generally replenish the Solio's battery using its USB cable and the iPhone USB wall charger. It usually takes a few hours to top off the Solio after I've used it. I've also tried recharging the Solio via its solar cell. I got about 20 percent charge for every 5 hours of direct sun. I will use this feature more when camping to gather as much energy as possible, especially for topping off the Solio's battery. I like this option as a back up feature. Just don't get it in your mind that you're purchasing a solar charger that will keep your electronic device running on a daily basis.

To carry the Solio kit, I'm using the Lowepro 4.3-Inch Navi Shield GPS Carrying Case that holds the charger itself perfectly in the internal pouch, plus all of the cords and connecters in the secure mesh area. It almost seems as though the Navi Shield was designed specifically for the Solio Mono.

Overall, I like the Solio-Mono. I'll charge it completely before I hit the road, then top it off using the solar cell. By keeping my iPhone charged, I know I'll always have a 3-megapixel camera, voice, SMS, email, and Internet available as long as there's a cellular connection.

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If children aren't the most popular subjects for photography, they are definitely near the top of the list. The challenge, as I see it, is that most snapshooters don't really take a moment to consider the best way to capture shots of young ones. Yes, they are usually cute regardless of how casually we approach them with the camera. But there's potential for so much more.


In the article, 7 Tips for Photographing Children, the editors at Virtual Photography Studio help you think more carefully about your approach, enabling you to capture more meaningful memories. Keep these thoughts in mind the next time an opportunity presents itself.

Photo by Landon Michaelson.

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So Lady Like... and Such a Guy

Nothing like a birdbath to highlight the difference between males and females. I have a little backyard garden at my studio that I enjoy all day through a sliding glass door next to my desk. I maintain this little ecosystem for my distraction, plus it's a constant source of fresh images. Why drive to the mountain when its habitants will come to you?

One of the features in my own private Eden is a makeshift birdbath. It's heavily used, so I change the water daily and keep it shallow because, well, the birds like it that way. Just like with any creature you observe daily, you get to know their habits and quirks. In this case, the difference between some males and females.

The female in the top photo was very lady like as she bathed her feet and freshened up. The male, on the other hand, just bent over and stuck his head in the drink. I'm sure he burped afterward too.

Both images captured with a 5D Mark II and a 70-200mm f/2.8 IS L zoom. The female shot was tethered to a MacBook Pro (located behind the curtain) running EOS Utility. The shot of the male... just handheld. He wasn't nearly as shy. You can click on either image to enlarge.

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"Mama, don't let your sons grow up to be photographers," at least according to Wall Street Journal's Best and Worst Jobs 2010. Says the WSJ, "The 200 best and worst jobs in the U.S. in 2009 were based on five criteria -- environment, income, employment outlook, physical demands and stress -- according to a newly released study from job site".

Of course things could be worse: you want to be a photojournalist. That ranks #189. Ten slots below "Roofer." This is why I became a blogger too. Oh wait, "Blogger" didn't even make the list. Oh my...


I've been following the news from CES in Las Vegas, and I'm amazed at how many compact cameras are being announced. It's not just the variety of manufacturers that dazzles me, but the sheer number of models each camera maker is releasing.

For example, Sony announced 12 Cyber-shot compacts, Olympus chimed in with at least 9 new models, Panasonic adds 5 more, Samsung lists 4 new models, Canon released 4 new compacts, and I'm sure there are others I have forgotten. Are we buying that many point and shoots?

I thought the walls were closing in on the standard point and shoot. I mean, these days we have smart phones that are capturing 3 and 5 megapixel images, and micro four thirds systems that are half the size of traditional DSLRs. Don't get me wrong, I love compact cameras, but there's a lot of competition out there. Even a photo geek like me only buys a new compact every 18 months or so. And I know a lot of people with cameras that are 3 years or older.

So, I'm curious. How often do you buy a compact camera? Please post a comment and let us know. Maybe I'm totally off-base about this whole quantity thing.

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