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I've posted an underwater gallery from my recent trip to the Caribbean on a Geek Cruise. All of these images were captured with a rig that costs less than $500 US.

The Canon PowerShot SD700 IS is a 6-megapixel compact that has a large 2.5" LCD and is image stabilized. You can purchase the matching Canon WP-DC5 waterproof case that enables submersion up to 130 feet. (If you own a Canon compact, take a look at their Underwater Photography page. You can find the right case for your camera, plus there are tips to help you get the best shots possible with it.)

I don't like to use flash underwater (none of the images in the gallery used supplemental light), so I'm always looking for clear water with interesting landscape and fish. That way I can shoot in relatively shallow depths--often less than 10 feet.

Having a camera with image stabilization is very important. Everything is moving underwater, including you. The image stabilizer minimizes the effects of camera movement during exposure. I also increase the ISO to 400 to enable as fast a shutter speed as possible. And don't forget to use the camera's Underwater scene mode if it has one. It really helps with the white balance setting.

Once I'm out of the water, I still have some correcting to do in post production--most of it is levels and white balance adjustment. The good news is, once you figure out the adjustments you want, you can apply them to most of the shots from the day. Features such as "copy" and "paste" in iPhoto or "lift" and "stamp" in Aperture are real time savers for these types of assignments.

I also recommend that you get your own snorkel and mask if you plan to take up this sport. That way you know you'll be comfortable while diving. I have my own fins too, but they take up a lot of room in the suitcase. So I usually leave them at home when flying and use the fins available on the dive boat or for rent at the destination.

As with any type of nature photography, be very respectful of flora and fauna. Don't touch the coral or harass the fish. They will come to you out of curiosity if your body language is non-threatening.

Underwater photography is a terrific way to spice up your image library. I like the exercise I get with a good swim, and then you can celebrate your "catch" with a cold rum drink or two while relaxing on the beach afterward.

Photo of skin diver by Derrick Story, captured in Curacao with a Canon SD700 IS in a WP-DC5 underwater case.

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Hidden in the depths of your Bridge 2.0 folder is a nifty application called Photo Downloader. If you use the Bridge/ACR workflow, this gem can handle importing images from your memory card, and it provides many of the same options that are available in Lightroom's Import dialog box.

The coolest thing is, if you've upgraded to CS3, you already have all the components needed to build a nifty workflow: Photo Downloader to import images, Bridge 2.0 to organized them and fine-tune metadata, and ACR 4 to process your RAW and Jpeg files.

Photo Downloader is easy to access. Just open Bridge, then select File > Get Photos from Camera...

Photo Downloader launches and reads any card attached to your computer. It enables image placement to any location you want, allows file renaming on import, provides for automated backup to a separate drive, and even lets you add IPTC metadata to your pictures, so your copyright and contact information is included right from the start.

Other handy features include thumbnail previews of the images on the card, selective uploading, and even on-the-fly conversion to DNG. Not bad for a little app that many photographers don't even know they have.


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Most of us have "legacy" content that we would like to digitize: prints we laboriously perfected in the darkroom, slides that we exposed with the utmost care, and family mementos from previous generations. In other words, a good, versatile photo scanner is required equipment these days.

The Epson Perfection V500 Photo Scanner is a flatbed scanner capable of producing 13" x 19" enlargements from your 35mm slides (6400 dpi), uses LEDs for its light source, and includes Digital ICE to help eliminate dust appearing on your scans. All of this for $249 USD (or less).

PC Mag gave it an Editor's Choice for photo scanners, and the Amazon ratings are either love or hate... the hate stemming from slow scanning speeds (which wasn't noted by PC Mag). Seems like the bottom line here is... that if you want terrific quality for an affordable price, and are not in a production environment, the Epson V500 is a good choice.

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If you've been waiting to upgrade to Mac OS X Leopard because of Lightroom incompatibility, the wait is over. Registered users can now download Lightroom 1.3 update from the Adobe site.

The Lightroom 1.3 update (and Camera Raw 4.3 plug-in) also add support for seven additional digital cameras including the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, Canon PowerShot G9, Nikon D3, Nikon D300, Olympus E-3, Olympus SP-560 UZ, and Panasonic DMC-L10.

And as a bonus, Adobe has made available a technology preview of the Lightroom Export SDK, available as a separate download on the Adobe Labs site. It allows for the development of third-party plug-ins that will enable communication from the Lightroom 1.3 Export Dialog to third party tools, Web sites or devices.

"Once we get feedback from the developer community we will evaluate how to expand the SDK to other aspects of workflow outside of image export," said Tom Hogarty, product manager for Photoshop Lightroom. "The end result will allow photographers to further customize and streamline their workflows. This technology preview will give developers an opportunity to provide feedback and shape the way Lightroom's architecture will be utilized. While we have received numerous requests to provide an SDK that allows for image manipulation plug-ins similar to those available for Photoshop, our current focus is to continue to enhance the digital photography workflow by improving the connection to tools, functionality and services not available in Lightroom."

So good news all the way around for Raw shooters using Adobe products. If you want to keep an eye on the conversation around these topics, check out the Inside Lightroom web site.

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iPhoto is the backbone of photo app for many amateur photographers using Macs. In iPhoto ’08 Essential Training, I cover just about every aspect of iPhoto ’08, including how to burn CDs and DVDs; set up an advanced editing environment; and retouch, rotate, crop, duplicate, and manipulate photographs. I also share many tips on how to best organize large photo libraries with metadata, flags, keywords, ratings, and photo info. Exercise files accompany the tutorials.

I think this is a really good training if you want to dig into the latest version of iPhoto. There are nine free sample movies that you can peruse to see if this is the sort of thing you're interested in. Let me know what you think!

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Nikon P5100 Compared to Canon G9


Nikon has released the Coolpix P5100 just six months after the P5000 received positive reviews. Essentially, this is Nikon's high-end compact for serious photographers who want a capable point and shoot to augment their DSLR.

Many of its specs will look familiar to those of you who have been eyeing Canon's PowerShot G9: 12 Megapixels on a 1/1.8 CCD, optical image stabilization, 3.5X zoom, SDHC card compatibility, face detection, 2.5" LCD monitor, and all the settings any serious photographer would want. I think the P5100 is a smarter looking camera than its predecessor, going more with the matt black look instead of the mix of chrome and black.

Invariably, though, we all want to see how it stacks up to the Canon PowerShot G9. I've just returned from two weeks in the Caribbean using the G9 as one of my cameras, and it performed admirably. But the things I liked about it are missing from Nikon's P5100--notably the longer 6X optical zoom lens and RAW mode. Plus with the Canon you get a 3" LCD vs. the P5100's 2.5 monitor.

So when DPReview published their review of the Nikon P5100, I was eager to see if their thoughts were similar to mine. In short, yes, they were.

One of Richard Butler and Simon Joinson's primary complaints with the P5100 is that Nikon didn't really improve its handling speed. This is something they noted about the G9 too, although I have been fairly happy with its start-up and shutter lag performance. What the G9 doesn't have, as well as the P5100, is any sort of useful burst mode compared to a DSLR.

But where things really get interesting is the comparison of images shot at the lowest ISOs and ISO 400. My eyes see a clear difference with the G9 images looking hands down better. The reviewers seem to soften their comments here, but the pictures really tell the story.

Overall, even if you're a Nikon shooter, I think you should consider the Canon G9 as your high end compact. The Canon does cost $100 more, but that's about the only mark against it for a "pro point and shoot." For me, this is one of those many instances where you have to ignore brand and go with the better camera.

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Water Play in Costa Rica


After a while, the rain just becomes part of the landscape. I don't really think about it. I'm dressed for it. And I know from previous experience that the Canon 5D with the 24-105mm f-4 lens with front filter and lens hood attached is a fairly water-resistant rig.

So, wearing Tevas, swimsuit trunks, and an unnatural fiber shirt, I ventured out into the Port Limon area of Costa Rica to see what I could find. Ironically, while on a small boat in the Tortuguero Canals, I came across this young man swinging on a rope and splashing while it rained.

By moving the ISO up to 640, I was able to get enough shutter speed (1/180th) to freeze the water. The aperture was f-5.6. In fact, I never was able to move the ISO down during the entire course of the day. Seemed like I was always on a boat or hanging off a rustic train that jiggled and rattled its way through countryside and small villages.

I'm sailing home now as I write this. Cuba is off the starboard side of the ship. I really could go for a few more days... rain and all.

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Photographing the Panama Canal


We approached the first of three locks just as the sun was rising Friday morning. I was looking forward to getting a close-up view of passing through the Panama Canal, but I have to say, it was more exciting than I had anticipated.

The first photo here shows how it looks from the bow of the Volendam as we entered the lock. There are many preparations that lead up to this moment. The most visual are the interactions with the locomotion helpers on both sides of the ship that guide us through the channel.

We only have a couple feet of spare room on each side of the ship. So the helpers have to be very skilled to keep the Volendam clear of the lock walls so they don't scrape the sides of the vessel. The second photo shows our exit from the final lock and you can clearly see how little spare room there is.


I shot with the Canon 5D and the 24-105mm L zoom. I worked the bow (front of the ship) for quite a while because I wanted to capture images of the locks opening up. I then went to the third deck where I could walk the perimeter of the ship to capture the details of our transfer.

It cost the Volendam $180,000 to pass through the Panama Canal. But after spending the entire morning watching and learning about the process, I have to say that this is a highly technical endeavor requiring lots of man power and expensive equipment.

I captured about 300 images, and I have 40 that I really like. What an experience.

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Sometimes You Just Need a Good Place


On Wednesday we tied up at Willemstad, Curacao -- sometimes called Pearl of the Caribbean or Heart of the World. I got off the cruise ship and boarded a tender that motored 20 minutes along the coast to our diving destination. We moored, then jumped off the back of the boat into some of the most beautiful underwater scenery I've ever seen.

The first thing I noticed was that picture taking was so much easier than it had been any other day of the trip. Spending the next 2 hours photographing colorful fish, coral, eel, and even squid (as shown here) reminded me that great location does make a difference.


A good photographer should be able to make a good image anywhere. But take that same good photographer and put him or her somewhere stunning, and you'll probably get two dozen great images. Sometimes you just need a good place to shoot.

I teach all day today for the Geek Cruise folks, then next stop is the Panama Canal.

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Light is More Fickle Underwater


Shooting underwater presents different challenges than topside. We docked in Oranjestad, Aruba. Then a handful of us caught a bus over to a little marina where we hopped on a rustic tender to De Palm Island. For the next four hours we could snorkel, relax in the white sand, and partake in the occasional Pina Colada.

I was shooting with my Canon SD700 IS in its underwater housing. At first I was concerned about visibility because the water was churning. Sure enough, once beneath the surface, there wasn't the clarity I had hoped for. But I noticed that when I positioned myself so the sun was over my shoulder, the shots were much cleaner than from other angles.

Now you may be thinking this is simple, right? Well, it's a whole different world underwater. And it was a fun problem finding the fish, then trying to get positioned to fire off a shot before they darted way.


Even when I was in the right position, the movement of the water would produce a variety of effects. Sometimes in my favor, sometimes not. And finally, there was the task of composing the image on the LCD with all of those reflections.

I think dealing with the fickleness of light underwater makes snorkel photography fun. There are so many variables to contend with. And when I did get a good image, it was ever bit as satisfying as a beautiful landscape shot topside.

Photos by Derrick Story with a Canon SD700IS using the Underwater Scene Mode in a waterproof housing.

BTW: Can anyone identify this fish? If so, please leave a comment. They were very big, a couple feet easily, and easy going.

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