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Nikon's D300 DSLR ($1,799 US) is the successor to the popular D200 that has been seen in the hands of many pros. Initial reports about this camera have been very positive, with improvements in high ISO shooting.

PhotobraphyBLOG has just reviewed the Nikon D300 and writes:

"The mid-range digital SLR camera market has never been so competitive, with new models recently announced by virtually all the major manufacturers. The Nikon D300 is the latest prosumer model to pass through our review lab. With the highest price-tag of any of the main contenders, it has a lot to live up to, but a quick glance at the spec sheet reveals some impressive features. A new 12.3 APS-C sized sensor, 51 point AF system, 3 inch LCD screen, 6fps continuous shooting, Live View mode and ISO range of 100-6400 are all squeezed into the D300’s dust and water resistant magnesium alloy body. We published some impressive photos and an in-depth report when nature photographer Jan Vermeer took the D300 all the way to Antartica. Now Gavin Stoker hits the not-quite-so-cold streets of London to find out what the Nikon D300 is capable of in a more everyday setting."

Nikon shooters take note. This looks like a sweet body for sure.

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Since we don't have Geotagging in most of our cameras yet, here's a slick device for SD Card shooters that enables us to add GPS position data directly to JPEGs. ATP's Photo Finder is a pocketable GPS tracking device that lets you insert the SD memory card from your time-synced camera, then it writes the positions directly to the file header of each shot. You can then plot the data with Google Earth to see the location of each photo.

The $100 device seems easy enough to use. Just make sure that your camera's internal clock is in sync with the Photo Finder, and that the device is on while you're out taking pictures. When you take a break, just remove the SD card from your camera, insert it in Photo Finder, and the data is added to each shot. Later, when you upload the images to your computer, you'll see the GPD info in the EXIF data.

If you shoot RAW, my guess is that you'll have to shoot RAW+JPEG and use Photo Finder for the companion files. Also, it doesn't accommodate CF Cards directly, but as shown in the illustration, can tag them via a USB memory card reader. This is an interesting device that I want to explore more.

If you have any experience with it, please post a comment.

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Previewing Matte Colors in iPhoto '08


I've been sharing a lot of iPhoto '08 tips lately at Macworld SF in the O'Reilly Booth. But I discovered a new one this weekend that I thought you might enjoy. When you have a print, and want to figure out the perfect color for the front matte, you can do so right on your computer.

One of the new goodies in iPhoto '08 is the Customize function in the Print dialog box. It allows you to design (and print if you want) single and double mattes in a variety of color combinations. I wanted to figure out a good color standard matte to use for a few prints I had just output, so I loaded the images into iPhoto and used Customize to preview different colors.

It worked great! After a few minutes, I had figured out just the right combinations for all of my prints. Now I can order the mattes online, or just head down to the local art store with my notes.

You may be thinking at this point, "how does it look when you actually make a print with these "virtual mattes"? Actually, they look pretty cool. And for fun I wouldn't hesitate at all. But you will use a lot of ink for those big solid areas, plus, I still like the way a real rag paper matte looks. But in a pinch? Never say never.

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I stopped by the Casio booth here at Macworld and played with the Casio EXILIM Pro EX-F1. It's still in the final stages of development, but they should have a full production model ready for testing by PMA. I have an appointment with Casio there to test the latest version.

I'm excited by these specs: 60 fps still photography, CMOS sensor, DNG format, 7 fps burst mode with flash, HD and SD video, external mic jack, and tons of other goodies. This camera is a true speed demon.

I'll report more after testing the finished model in Las Vegas, but I wanted to get it on your radar now.

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The Digital Photography Companion is the culmination of two years work. To prepare this book, I spent hours working with photographers and aspiring photographers to find out exactly what they wanted. As a result, I settled on an 8.5" x 5.5" trim size that allows enough room for healthy-sized photographs, yet fits in the backpack, purse, camera bag, or jacket pocket.

The book is designed to help you make pictures that distinguish your work from others. By mastering the controls on your camera and learning a few basic techniques, you can create virtually any type of image you want. The book will be your companion for such an endeavor. And you can order it now, and receive it by early March.

I also wanted to create a companion site for the book, so we've launched the The Digital Photography Companion online. Here I will publish tips to augment the information in the book, and feature photos from TDS members who have used these techniques to create their own look. More on this once the Companion is published.

In the meantime, I will be adding content to the DPC page regularly. I hope you enjoy this new addition to The Digital Story and share it with your friends.

Event Calendar

Events! See the TDS Event Calendar for photography workshops, speaking engagements, and trade show appearances.

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Remember the Pocket Tripod Too!


I constantly remind people to keep their compact cameras with them while on the go. That way if a great shot presets itself, they can grab it. But when going out for an evening stroll, take the portable tripod too!

Compact tripods, such as my favorite, Gorillapod by Joby ($22), enables me to use sign posts, newspaper machines, and just about anything else I can find standing still on the street, and use it for making long exposures. In the case of this image of Lori's Diner on Mason Street in San Francisco, I use the Gorillapod and a parking meter to make a 1/4 of a second exposure.

This technique will improve your street shooting at night, enabling you to capture sharp shots at low ISO settings (I used ISO 80 for this image on a Canon G9, and there is virtually no noise at all.) Then all you have to do is set your Drive mode to "self-timer," and the magical world of lights at night become your personal photo studio.

Photo by Derrick Story using a Canon G9 and Gorillapod.

Event Calendar

Events! See the TDS Event Calendar for photography workshops, speaking engagements, and trade show appearances.

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Raw is Still the Favorite Topic


During Sunday night's panel discussion at Book Passage in Corte Madera, and then during the first day of the Aperture workshop at Macworld SF, Raw was still the most popular topic among attendees.

I imagine we're in for more Raw discussion at Wednesday's Apple Store event (in San Francisco) that features Mikkel Aaland, Harold Davis, Rick Smolan, and myself. (directions and details here.) The talk starts at 4:30 pm.

The crux of what many want to know is why they should shoot Raw, what are its advantages, and how best to process the files? I'm happy about the interest because I think Raw provides some nice options for photographers, including:

  • Ability to recover highlights and shadows better than with Jpegs.
  • Option to change white balance with no quality penalty.
  • More data to work with overall for high quality conversions.

I hope to keep the conversation going on Wednesday night at the Apple store.

Photo by Colleen Wheeler take with Canon 5D with a 50mm f-1.8 lens.

Event Calendar

Events! See the TDS Event Calendar for photography workshops, speaking engagements, and trade show appearances.

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One of the problems with sharpening in Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom could be that you're not controlling what gets sharpened and what doesn't. For example, you may want to sharpen the buildings in a scene, but not the sky above them. Sharpening sky is a waste of time that only increases image noise. Same for portraits, you want to sharpen the eyelashes but not the skin pores.

You may have more control than you realize if you use this simple technique in either Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom. Display your photo at 100 percent (this technique won't work unless you're working at full view). Go to the Sharpen menu. Hold down the Option or Alt key (Mac or Windows) and click on the Masking slider. You be treated with an instant edges mask that shows you exactly what will be sharpened. The white areas will be affected and the black areas will be left untouched. Move the slider to the right until you have a mask that works for your photo.

Now all you have to do is set the Radius (usually 1.0 or less), then slide the Amount until you have the sharpening you want.

This provides you excellent control and will improve your sharpening greatly.

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We think that Photoshop Elements 6 is one of the best values in Mac software (along with iLife 08). Adobe just announced Elements 6 for the Mac at a preorder price of $89.99 US and upgrade from $69.99 US. For those dollars you get a Universal Binary version of Photoshop that features many of Adobe's latest technologies such as Photomerge GroupShot, Faces, Web Galleries and improved tools for B&W and scrapbooking. Plus, you can even correct lens distortion.

Here's what Adobe has to say:

"New features based on proprietary Photomerge technology let users easily combine the best facial expressions and body language from a series of shots to create a single, perfect group shot. The new Quick Selection Tool reduces a once time-consuming select-and-adjust task to a single click. Photographers – beginner to expert – can choose from one of three edit modes, each geared toward a different experience level. A new Guided Edit mode helps walk users through the steps of improving a photo. Photoshop Elements 6 software streamlines editing with clean, uncluttered screens that draw focus to the photos, with new tabs providing simple access to the many capabilities of the program. Additional enhancements include an improved conversion tool that dramatically converts color images into elegant, nuanced black-and-whites."

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How to Shoot at Aquariums


I was wandering around the The Florida Aquarium in Tampa last night for the Kodak-sponsored Closing Night Party at Imaging USA. Since it was a photography show, it's safe to assume that most of the attendees were shooters.

I was amazed at how many people did not know how to shoot exhibits at an aquarium. So I thought it might be time for a refresher. This technique applies to shooting through hotel windows and portholes on airplanes too.

  1. Turn off the flash. (all it's going to do is cause reflection in the glass).
  2. Increase your ISO (for aquarium and museum shooting) to 400 or above.
  3. Look for a subject that isn't moving too fast. You're not going to engage in action photography here unless you switch to movie mode (which is also fun!).
  4. Find a clean place in the glass, and put the nose of your camera right against it. This eliminates reflections from your surroundings.
  5. Shoot in Raw if you have it. You'll most likely have to do a little image cleanup when you get back to the computer.
  6. Don't worry about bad shots. You'll have some loss for this type of assignment. But the keepers will be outstanding!

All types of water shots are fun. I was lucky enough to see Howard Schatz this week and learn how he did those amazing dancer images underwater. Aquariums also provide great opportunity. Apply this technique, and you'll come home with a prized shot.

Photo of Lionfish by Derrick Story, captured with a Canon G9, ISO 400, f-2.8 at 1/6 of a second. Processed in Adobe Lightroom.

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