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The Digital Photography Book, Volume 1
3/9/2012 3:26:29 PM

The Digital Photography Book, Volume 1
/Scott Kelby, Berkeley: Peachpit Press, 2006 (218 p.)
The first volume of a series of four (as of March 2012) books written by Scott Kelby on digital photography techniques, this book quickly departs from the typical reference volume filled with both comments on how and reasons why a photographer should do anything. Instead, Kelby approaches this as though he and the reader were out together on a photo shoot and the reader asked how to do a particular task. The result is a 218 page book that contains about 200 one-page hints on how to make your photography better.
While you can read the book cover to cover as I did, you can just as easily pick it up and read a chapter or even a page or two on a specific topic of interest. Each chapter is devoted to a general area of photography like flowers, weddings, landscapes, and sports and most can easily be read in a single sitting.
For those who have not read other books by Kelby it may take a little time to appreciate the humor that he injects throughout the book. Although this is primarily limited to the introduction and first page of each chapter, it occasionally sneaks into other locations. If the humor bothers the reader, they can skip the introductory pages with no loss of content. For the rest of us, it offers a nice break as you are going through the book.
I will be reading the other four volumes of this series over the next few weeks and add comments on them as they are completed.  Peachpit rates this book as a Beginner Level volume but unless you are a true expert, any reader may find helpful information included. Chapter 11 may be of particular interest to more advanced photographers. In this Chapter, Kelby discusses techniques for taking specific photos which can be useful when trying to capture a certain mood or appearance.
Overall, a good book that can be read by photographers at all levels regardless of the type of digital camera they use (even those who use their smart phone as their only camera may find some of these tips valuable).
I Have a Smart Phone -Do I Need a Camera?
3/9/2012 11:37:56 AM
I’m sometimes asked the question, “I have a (insert smart phone name here), why do I need a camera?” There really is no easy answer to that question. For some, the smart phone with its built in camera may be all you ever need. For others, the limitations of the smart phone may make it impractical for most or all of their photography needs. (A brief apology here for the length of this post.)
When I was growing up, almost everyone had a camera in their home. Probably the most common type was the Kodak box camera that used rolls of 620 film and, as often as not, it was loaded with a consumer grade black-and-white film. “Real photographers” (those who were making money in photography) were typically equipped with a large format camera on a heavy wooden tripod or, for field use, some type of medium format camera, possibly a Hasselblad or some type of twin lens reflex camera.
As time moved forward, the Kodak box camera was replaced by smaller, lighter cameras like the Instamatic line that used a smaller film format that was in a cartridge making loading much simpler. At the same time, the 35mm single lens reflex became more popular for professional photographers although the studio cameras and medium format cameras remained.
Today, many photographers have moved to a totally digital environment, a process that may gain even more momentum with Kodak’s recent discontinuation of even more film options. In the digital world, the type of camera used seems less important while emphasis has been placed on the number of megapixels (millions of tiny dots) that can be captured on a camera’s digital sensor and transferred to the digital storage media. We still see cameras that sort of look like evolutionary descendants of Instamatics (point-and-shoot cameras) as well as those that have camera bodies and lenses like their 35mm and medium format predecessors. As the initial question points out, we also have cameras built into our smart phones.
So how do you know whether you need a camera or if your smart phone is all you need?
The first question you need to ask is “What will I do with my photos?” If you will only display your photos in relatively small sizes on the web (places like FaceBook and Flickr) or print standard size photos (3” X 5”; 4” X 6”, maybe 6” X 9”), then the camera in your smart phone may be all you need. A five or six megapixel camera can easily fill these requirements. (The iPhone 4s has an 8 megapixel camera.)
Will you be taking photos where you are close to your subject or far away? In most cases, if we are taking photos of our children we can get fairly close. In this case, the smart phone camera may be okay (see the next question). If, on the other hand, you are taking pictures of birds or dangerous wildlife where you can’t get close, then you may need a separate camera with either a built in zoom lens or interchangeable lenses.
How active is your subject? One of the problems with photographing children is that they don’t seem to be still for very long. If your smart phone introduces any delays between when you push the button and when the photo is taken then action shots are going to be much more difficult. A separate camera virtually eliminates this as a problem.
There are probably other questions that you need to ask as well but these are some basics that everyone should consider. More importantly, take those photos and preserve the memories.
Built to Last
3/5/2012 1:38:36 AM

Recently I posted some photos of the remaining buildings of the Pevely Dairy complex in St. Louis that is currently being demolished.  The image that originally captured my attention was two of these "milk bottles" that were built into the walls near the entrance to the corporate headquarters.

This triggered some thoughts about how businesses in the early to mid-1900's took pride in their buildings and planned to use them indefinitely.  As a result, they made their identity part of the building.  A few more from around the St. Louis area are shown here.

This building is on Kingshighway Boulevard near "The Hill" and "Shaw" neighborhoods.  The company was apparently founded in the early 1900's and bottled beverages, possibly seltzer water, for the local area.  As far as I can determine, the company is no longer in business.

The Wallace Pencil Company was headquartered in Maplewood, MO.  While it was purchased by Dixon Ticonderoga in the 1980's, the headquarters building remains (used by other businesses) and still displays the original logo.

The Scullin Steel Company went out of business in the 1980's.  The corporate headquarters building remains on the west side of the city and is now used as offices for Copying Concepts, a supplier of copiers, printers, and office equipment.

American Pulverizer is the only company of this group remaining in their original building.  The company which manufactures industrial equipment like metal shredders continues to use this building on the west side of the city.

And Yet Another New Product
3/2/2012 7:26:07 AM

As my previous post noted, this has been a busy week for technology and photography manufacturers.  This morning I awoke to read, both online and in USA Today, than Canon has announced the release of the new Canon 5D Mark III.  Preorders are now being accepted at some, if not all, Canon resellers.

The new 5D Mark III features:

  • A 22.3 megapixel sensor
  • 61 focus points
  • 6 frames per second
  • Dual memory card slots that allow both CF and SD cards
  • Video clips up to 29 minutes and 59 seconds in length
Of course, all these new features don't come cheap -- price according to USA Today is $3,499.00.  The USA Today story can be found at http://www.usatoday.com/tech/columnist/talkingtech/story/2012-03-02/canon-5d-mark-III/53323596/1.

Canon also announced a new Speedlite 600EX-RT flash, Speedlite Transmitter ST-E3-RT, GP-E2 GPS Receiver and the WFT-E7A Wireless File Transmitter. Canon's press release can be found at
Lots of New Stuff
3/1/2012 7:27:18 PM

The last week or so has been interesting to those of us who are involved with computers and photography.  I thought some of these points were worth sharing again here for those who may not have seen these things elsewhere.

The first item is actually a couple of weeks old.  On February 16, Apple announced their latest operating system for the Mac, OSX Mountain Lion.  Mountain Lion brings the Mac OS closer to the iOS used on other Apple products like the iPAD.  More information on Mountain Lion can be found at http://informationweek.com/news/hardware/mac/232601025?cid=SBX_iwk_related_mostpopular_Macintosh&itc=SBX_iwk_related_mostpopular_Macintosh

On the 26th, Adobe announced the release of the PhotoShop Touch app for the iPad2.  While not a full featured version of PhotoShop, Touch includes many of the key features of the full program and the price is right at $9.99.  The product can be downloaded now from the Apple Store.  More details are available from http://mashable.com/2012/02/26/adobe-photoshop-touch-on-ipad/ and several other sources (do a search in Google or Bing).

A third Apple related story is that Apple has scheduled a major press event for next week.  While the subject has not been announced, early indications are that Apple will officially announce the release of the iPad3.  Rumor also has it that for the first time the iPad will be available in two sizes.

There was also action in the Windows world with the availability of the Consumer Preview (think beta version) of the Windows 8 desktop operating system,  In addition, for data center managers, Microsoft also released the beta version of the Windows 8 Server operating system.  To try the new OS, start at http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/consumer-preview.  Be sure to keep in mind that this is not the final release so it may have bugs or be incompatible with your computer or software.

And, finally, Wacom released the Intuos 5 tablet earlier today.  The new tablet is a significant improvement over the Intuos 4 tablet.  It also offers a wireless option for all models which was only available on select models in the past.  The new tablet comes in at least three sizes:  small, medium, and large (no kidding) ranging in price from $229 to $469 (without the wireless option) from B & H Photo-Video.  Details at http://www.wacom.com/en/Products/Intuos.aspx,

The Digital SLR Expert: Landscapes
2/28/2012 9:03:40 PM

The Digital SLR Expert: Landscapes
/Tom Mackie, William Neill, David Noton, Darwin Wiggett, and Tony Worobiec, Cincinnati: David and Charles, 2008 (144 p.)
This is the fourth photography book that I have reviewed as part of the Missouri Book Challenge. When I read the introduction my initial thought was “Finally, a book by Canon shooters,” since the other three books were by Nikon shooters. I also thought that this book should be a fairly quick read since it was only 144 pages and about 2/3 of the book was taken up by photographs.
I was somewhat disappointed on both counts. First, once I had read the introductory materials, there was little reference to photography gear other than in the technical notes accompanying each of the photos. Second, while the material presented in the book was fairly complete, each set of two-three pages addressed an individual topic or technique and there was little or no segue between these groupings. As a result, I found it difficult to read more than five or six pages at any one sitting. This was further complicated by the extremely small font used throughout the book (younger readers may not find this problematic but my eyes just aren’t what they used to be J).
While I found the overall body of the book difficult to follow, there were small hint blocks scattered throughout the text which many will find helpful. The book itself is divided into five chapters with one chapter written by each of the authors so you do get different perspectives as you move from chapter to chapter but it might have been more useful had the views of two authors been shared in each of the chapters.
Many of the sections include tips on how to use PhotoShop. The unfortunate thing is that because the book was published in 2008 these techniques are geared toward PhotoShop 3. The same techniques are possible in PhotoShop CS5, and presumably in 4, it may take some searching to locate the specific tools or techniques referenced.
After struggling through this book, I would probably give it 2½ to 3 stars of 5. It is definitely not a book for a beginning landscape photographer.
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