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It's official -- the iPhone is now my compact camera. This dawned on me yesterday while I was documenting my garage clean-up project with my iPhone 3GS, then actually uploading a picture of the completed work to my Flickr and Facebook pages. It's the image capture device that's always in my pocket.

A few things have led to this change:

  • Tap Focus: This has been the single biggest improvement for me with the iPhone camera. Being able to control the area of the composition where the camera focuses -- and sets the exposure -- is huge. I now feel like I have the essential control that was lacking in previous versions.
  • Improved Low Light Performance: Let's face it, most of the shots we take on the fly are not in full sunlight. I've found that if I steady the iPhone and use my "hold the finger on the shutter button then softly release it" method for shooting, I can work in low light environments surprisingly well.
  • Video: I was just showing a movie to a friend that would have been far less illustrative as a still photograph. The video feature is huge for telling a story.

And then you have all of the connectivity options that you don't have with most cameras. Using an application such as Pixelpipe or Flickr Mobile, I can post images for others almost immediately. Add the variety of image editing tools available on the iPhone itself, and the options grow even more.

This doesn't mean that I'm shooting less with the Olympus E-P1, Canon 5D Mark II, or Canon T1i. What the iPhone means to me is that I'm capturing more of my life, images that I would have missed otherwise. And I'm just thrilled about that.

More on the iPhone 3GS

DIY Copy Stand for the iPhone 3GS

iPhone 3GS Movie Making Basics - Video for All

"iPhone 3G S from Photographer's POV" - Digital Photography Podcast 180

Flickr and iPhone 3GS are Great Companions

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"I was walking through Chicago's Millennium Park during the early evening," wrote Rick Brandt, "and noticed that just about everyone had a camera (or camera phone) taking photos at the Cloud Gate -- a 110-ton elliptical sculpture that reflects the Chicago skyline and clouds above.

"One photographer in particular caught my eye since her subject was a bride and groom. As the trio wrapped their photo session and headed away from the sculpture, I thought there was an interesting photo in the making -- I just had to get to the spot where I could frame up the subjects with the Cloud Gate behind them. So I took off on my 20-yard dash. With their emotions getting the best of them, the photographer and bride didn't take much notice of me. However, the groom seems to be wondering -- 'Who is this guy running at us?' -- just as I slammed on the brakes and made the exposure. Post-processing done in Aperture with the help of Silver Efex Pro from Nik Software."

Rick captured the image with his Canon G9 set to ISO 80 and f/2.8.

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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This must be the week for unusual camera announcements. First, we had the Nikon Coolpix S1000pj, a compact camera with a built-in projector so you can display your images on the wall. Now we have the Sony Party Shot DS1, a robotic mount that you place the camera in, then it uses Face Detection to scan the room, look for shots, and take them.

The mount pans a full 360 degrees horizontally, and it tilts up and down. When the camera (either a new TX1 and WX1 Sony compact) detects a face, it focuses, sets exposure, and grabs the shot. In theory, you can place the Party Shot in the center of the room, turn it on, and enjoy the festivities. After the last glass has been cleared away, upload the images to your computer and relive the experience all over again.

If you were a wedding photographer, imagine setting a couple of these up at the reception and letting them do their thing while you focus on your shot list. You may get some wonderful surprises, especially when curious guests eye the device and get their picture taken while doing so.

The only thing you'd have to figure out is how to lock it down. It appears that there's a security slot on the back of the device, but what about the camera itself? You'd hate for a guest to snatch your Sony while you were off elsewhere.

Pre-orders should be available now at and at selected retailers nationwide. The Party-shot camera accessory will be available for about $150 in September.

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Well, has confirmed what many of us had already experienced firsthand: the Olympus 14-42 mm micro zoom is a sharp lens. In their comprehensive test they write:

"Optically, the Olympus 14-42mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 tested quite well, showing sharp results wide open, and even better when stopped down slightly. CA [chromatic aberration] is a bit higher than we'd like at wide-angle, but happily the worst of it manifests only when the lens is significantly stopped down. At 25mm, the lens offers excellent performance, tack-sharp at f/5.6. Results for Distortion and Corner shading were both excellent. As kit lenses go, the 14-42mm is quite nice, and its compact design is quite welcome when handling the E-P1."

The only real concern with this lens is the chromatic aberration at wider focal lengths. I too had seen this in some of my high contrast pictures. In my case, I didn't notice any at longer focal lengths, and only sometimes at the wider angles. But it is something to be aware of with this zoom.

Overall, I think most of us agree that this is a heck of a good kit lens for the Olympus PEN E-P1

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In my latest Macworld article, Recover from digital photo disasters, I show you how to protect your digital images -- from memory card to computer. For example, here's a simple tip that many people overlook.

Photographers tend to overlook the most obvious booby trap: losing the memory card itself. Memory cards are misplaced all of the time. Often they're found by honest people, but if you don't have your cell phone number or e-mail address written on each card, how is someone going to return it to you?

I label the back of all my memory cards with my contact info.Start by writing your contact information on every memory card you have. (I affix a small label to my cards.) And don't stop with memory cards. Every hard drive you own, laptop computer, digital camera, and memory card reader (which could have a card in it) should be labeled with your name and contact information This is your first line of protection against losing valuable data. And I've seen this work. A friend of mine got a call from a rental car company informing her that three CF cards full of pictures from Iceland were found in the auto she had just turned in.

But what about SD cards you might ask? There isn't enough room for writing. That's why I use a labeler for them. In the article I show an illustration with my SD cards labeled.

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Reflectors and diffusers are perfect light modifiers for natural light portraiture. In this podcast, I talk about these accessories in general, and recommend the Photoflex Multidisc 32" that gives you five reflector surfaces and a diffuser.


Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (31 minutes). Or better yet, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

Monthly Photo Assignment

Transport is the August 2009 Photo Assignment. Think both literally (car, bike, bus, etc) and figuratively. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is August 31, 2009.

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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During last week's assignment in Southern California, I photographed some beautiful people. But the star of the week was an after-hours self-assignment: The all electric Mini E Cooper car. There are only 500 of these in the US right now, and I could not pass up the opportunity to photograph, then drive one.

This event was made possible by one of the 500 who have a 1-year lease on the all-electric wonder car: Mark and Amy Swain. I met them while Mark and I were teaching on a cruise to Mexico, and we've been friends since. When Mark and Amy invited me to dinner and my first Mini E experience after work one night, I packed my camera and headed to their home.

When shooting cars, I recommend that you get a good mix of detail shots and overviews. I like to take car shots late in the day when the sun is low. This helps me control contrast and get good detail. I've published a dozen images on the TDS Flickr site. Car lovers should enjoy this gallery.

Driving the Mini E was a thrilling experience. The car handles like a sports car (as Mini Cooper drivers already know), but now you have the added punch of instant acceleration. If you're cruising along at 40 mph, and you punch the "gas," the car rockets forward. It's really amazing to drive a vehicle that doesn't require a multi-gear transmission. The engine is always engaged.

Photos by Derrick Story using a Canon 5D Mark II with a Canon 24-105mm zoom lens. For more photos, visit the TDS Flickr site.

Braking is much different too. You just ease off the gas. Since the car is still in gear, it brakes itself. In fact, it even regenerates a little electricity during the process. Once you've slowed to a stop, you hold down the brake peddle to keep you in place. You can use the brake petal while driving too, but it isn't usually necessary except for quick stops. None of us knows the future of all electric cars. But based on my experience with the Mini E Cooper, I hope this trend is here to stay. I had a blast.

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There are so many ways to make a splash. Entrants in the June 09 Photo Assignment provide us with a few excellent examples.

The August 2009 assignment is "Transport." Start working on your contribution now. Details can be found on the Member Participation page. You can submit photo assignment pictures up to 600 pixels in the widest direction.

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 next month's assignment should be: "Photo Assignment: August 2009." 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.

Photo by Ruth Cooper.

Good luck with your August assignment, and congratulations to all of the fine contributors for June. It's a great collection of images.

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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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Nikon D300S Looks Strong

I know that's a weird headline, but when I look at the refreshed D300S, that's exactly what comes to mind. Nikon has taken a great camera and improved it in ways that are very instep with the times. If I were a boxer and was facing the D300S on the other side of the ring, I'd think, "Geez, that guy looks strong."

Aside from its solid build and great image capture, some of the features I like on this camera include:

  • Fast burst mode - 7 fps. That is fast enough for serious sports action. And combined with the image magnification from the cropped sensor, you have quite a rig with a 300mm lens attached.
  • 51-point autofocus - powered by a fast image processor gives you the ability to keep up with anything that's on the move.
  • Dual memory card slots - is a nice touch, and since we all have both SD and CF cards, we can put them to use here.
  • Excellent LCD - that's 3" and supports 920,000 dots.
  • External stereo sound input - for the 720p HD video capture. In my opinion, external audio is a must in a serious camera that captures HD

Overall, I think this is a terrific camera for any serious photographer owning Nikon glass. The list price is $1,799 US, and it's available for preorder now. There's more information about the camera on DP Review.

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Morning Light in Nagasaki

Nagasaki was a special visit for me on many levels. I knew it was going to be a great day when I saw the morning light...

Just about the time I had resigned to no photography in the dense fog of the Sea of Japan, we emerged from the haze and arrived in Nagasaki. And with sunrise, everything changed. The morning sky was beautiful. Large cumulous clouds refashioned the landscape creating a light show that alternated from dark subtlety to bright celebration across the city.

I had my camera bag with me as I climbed the stairs to an early breakfast. I opted for a bowl of cold cereal, some fresh fruit, and a mug of dense, bitter coffee. I stood at a laminated wood bar on the soggy aft deck while I ate. All the seats were too wet for sitting. Just as I finished the cereal, a bank of clouds shifted allowing the sun to illuminate a corner of the sky.

I pulled back the flap on the camera bag to see that the 24-105 mm f/4 was mounted on the Canon T1i. I checked the ISO to make sure it was at 100 (plenty of light here) and began composing shots while leaning against the deck rail. The first image that caught my eye was a distant bridge with a tall building. A beam of light broke through a clouds spotlighting a part of the tallest building leaving its other sides in shadow. I thought the effect was striking and managed to shoot a couple frames before composition changed.

Photos by Derrick Story, using a Canon T1i DSLR with a Canon 24-105mm f4 L IS lens. You can view a catalog from the entire trip to Asia on the The Digital Story Flickr page.

Then, to my right, I saw the light from the sun shoot upward from a dark bank of clouds creating a white rim on their edges accompanied by a bright shaft reaching upward. Below the light show, the city buildings were in shadow. The effect was wonderful, even though I knew the buildings would be too dark for my taste, I exposed for the shaft of light figuring that I could recover some shadow detail in post production. This is an advantage to shooting Raw.

Later, in Adobe Camera Raw, I used both the Fill Light slider and the Graduated Filter to better balance the buildings with the rest of the scene. I didn't want to make them too bright, since that would be unnatural. But I did want them to serve as an interesting foundation to the calamity unleashed above.

I then finished the bowl of fruit and prepared to explore the city. A light breeze help offset the warm, humid morning. I had the feeling that a good day lie ahead.

Previous Stops on Eastern Journey

Early Morning on the Beijing Streets

"Field Notes from Asia Shoot" - Digital Photography Podcast 185

If You Want a Boy, Visit Jeju and Touch Dol Hareubang

Robosquare: The Ultimate Robot Store in Fukuoka Japan

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