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Have an older flash that you really like, but it just doesn't fit with your new camera gear? For less than $25 you can use that light again with the Cowboy Studio Wireless Hot Shoe Flash Trigger/Receiverkit. It brings wireless flash photography to just about any flash/camera combination.

cowboy_studio_trigger.jpg The NPT-04 Cowboy Studio kit (Canon flash not included!)

In my case, I have a cool little Canon Speedlite 270EX that isn't much bigger than a deck of cards. I hadn't been using it because it doesn't have the wireless capability of the newer Canon Speedlite 270EX IIflash. So in a drawer it sat.

Thanks to the Cowboy Studio radio trigger set, however, I'm now carrying the 270 EX in my "bum around" backpack and using it with the new Olympus OM-D E-M5camera. This rig also works with my Canon 5D Mark II, which doesn't have a flash or a flash trigger built in to the body.

The Cowboy Studio trigger operates on a 433 MHZ radio frequency and has four different channels. You can use shutter speeds up to 1/250th of a second with the kit. The receiver uses 2 AAA batteries and the transmitter includes a 23A, 12V battery. The kit is light and compact. And it works great. There's even a PC socket on the receiver.

What you don't get is ETTL capability. In other words, no dedicated flash. For some, this may be a deal breaker. But I've been using manual flash most of the time anyway. With digital cameras, where you can check your results immediately on the LCD, it really isn't a problem.

For indoor shoots, I usually start with these settings:

  • ISO 400 or 800
  • Manual exposure mode, 1/30th at f/5.6
  • If the subject is too bright, I stop down to f/8 or more
  • If the subject is too dark, I open up to f/4 or more

I'm having a blast with the Cowboy Studio Wireless Hot Shoe Flash Trigger/Receiverkit. It's great knowing that I have off-camera flash capability with just about any camera/flash combination in my bag.


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Answer to Macro Question

The answer to yesterday's Can You Guess This Shot? is: a spider web with dew.

macro_answer_web.jpg

I noticed this potential shot outside the front door to my studio the other morning. So I put my Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro lenson the 60D, and composed as tightly as possible. The closer I got, the more abstract the composition became.

Macro When you get very close, it's sometimes hard to tell exactly what the subject is. Click on the image for a larger version. Photo by Derrick Story.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming...


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Can You Guess This Shot?

One of fun things about macro photography, is how it can abstract your subject. I captured this shot with the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro lenson a Canon 60D.

So the question is, "Can you guess the subject of this photo?" If you think you know, post your answer in the comment space below.

Macro What is this? Click on the image for a larger version. Photo by Derrick Story.

I'll post the answer in tomorrow's TDS blog post, plus a little info on how I captured it.


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Nikon officially announces their 800mm f/5.6 super telephoto. It's the longest focal length of any Nikkor autofocus lens. Then, in the second story, I try not to get my hopes up about the latest Canon rumor for an entry-level full-frame DSLR with some tantalizing (rumored) specs. I also cover how to put some pizazz in your group shots, and the value (and use of) a shot list for event photography. All of this and more on this week's podcast episode.

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (31 minutes). Or better yet, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App for only $2.99 from the Apple App Store.

Monthly Photo Assignment

Hot is the July 2012 Photo Assignment. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is July 31, 2012.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. And from those images, I choose the TDS Member Photo of the Day.

Podcast Sponsors

Red River Paper -- The $7.99 Sample Kit is back! And with free shipping.

Make Your Photos Sizzle with Color! -- SizzlPix is like High Definition TV for your photography. Get a 20% discount during July by adding "TDS" in the comment field of your order.

Need a New Photo Bag? Check out the Lowepro Specialty Store on The Digital Story and use discount code LP20 to saven 20% at check out.




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The Effects panel from iPhoto has found its way into Aperture's Adjustments tab. It's a bit like the new roommate who brings his HDTV along with the move in to the apartment. He'll also bring a few things that you're not crazy about too.

iphoto_effects_in_aperture.jpg

Edge Blur is one of new iPhoto tools that I like. Plus, in Aperture, it's easier to use. I like to apply Edge Blur to throw the background out of focus to direct the viewer's eye to the main subject. When used with restraint, it can be very effective.

Other bonus effects that I like include the Antique filter and the Fade slider. For this image captured at the U.S. Open in San Francisco, I played with Antique and Edge Blur.

I'm not as wild about some of the other iPhoto Effects, such as Matte and Vignette. We already have more elegant versions of them in Aperture. But like the roommate with the HDTV, you get the cool along with the unnecessary.

You can enable iPhoto Effects via the Add Adjustment popup menu in Aperture's Adjustments tab. Once you do, they'll appear as a new adjustment brick, as in the screenshot above. Some of them are fun. Take a look!

Aperture Tips and Techniques

To learn more about Aperture 3, check out my Aperture 3 Essential Training on Lynda.com. Also, take a look at our Aperture 3 Learning Center. Tons of free content about how to get the most out of Aperture.

My next open Aperture Workshop is scheduled for Nov. 2012, in Santa Rosa, CA. You can get on the pre-registration list, plus learn about all the other photography workshops offered this season by visiting the TDS Workshops page.


The Digital Story on Facebook -- discussion, outstanding images from the TDS community, and inside information. Join our celebration of great photography!


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World class BBQ has arrived in Sonoma County. The proof was in the mouth watering ribs, pork, and brisket served at the second annual Wine Country Big Q competition on Saturday July 14, 2012 in Santa Rosa, CA.

Competitors from all over the US converged on spacious infield at Sonoma Academy to compete in 6 categories. And the beneficiaries were the lucky attendees who sampled those masterpieces until they could sample no more.

If you love BBQ, and you weren't at the Big Q, be sure to circle your calendar for next July. You don't want to miss this again.


BBQ entry ready for judging. Photo by Brad Parrett


After an entree or two, you could then wash down the delicious BBQ with ice cold micro brewery beer or from a wide selection of Sonoma County wines. Music filled the air from two excellent bands: local here Pete Stringfellow and Paulies Garage. They really got the crowd going.

Enjoying the event.
Photo by Derrick Story. Click on images for larger versions.

Local businesses were behind the Big Q too with support from G&G Supermarkets, Johnson Pool & Spa, Niman Ranch, American Lamb, CA Pork Producers, Froggy 92.9, The River 97.7, Stella Artois, KSRO 1350, City of Santa Rosa, and Manly Auto.

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Photo by Mike Kallenbaugh

But the real stars of the event were the cooks who prepared amazing BBQ for all to enjoy. They began setting up on Friday afternoon and slow cooked their prize winning entries all through the night.

Lamb with wine for the judges!
Photo by Jim Pletcher

Photography coverage was provided by a team of six shooters from The Digital Story. Photographers on site were Brad Parrett, Mike Kallenbaugh, Jim Pletcher, Ernesto Pono, Grace Cheung Schulman, and Derrick Story. You can see their gallery of images from the 2012 Wine County Big Q online.

R&R Barbeque
Photo by Grace Cheung Schulman

As for me... I'm already wishing I had a few of those tender ribs stashed in my refrigerator. I guess I'm just going to have to wait for next year's competition.

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"The Night Before." Photo by Ernesto Pono.

Canon's latest EOS Rebel T4i may look similar to its predecessor, but inside it represents Canon's effort to keep up with today's generation of photographers.

rebel_t4i_back_screen.jpg

The reviewers over at Photography Talk really summed it up well in their post, Canon EOS 650D/T4i Camera Review:

"The EOS 650D is a successful attempt to blend the experience of the best point-and-shoot features with the creative freedom allowed through traditional DSLR technology. Canon has decided to use improvements in live view, focusing and video shooting to meet these new goals. The improvements made to the Rebel series with the 650D/T4i say a lot about Canon's goals for the future of consumer-level cameras."

A great example is the new touchscreen on the 4Ti. It is similar to what we used to on our smart phones in the sense that it's sensitive to contact, not pressure. This more responsive experience will feel natural for those making the transition from an iPhone to their first DSLR.

Another example is subject tracking and continuous autofocus in movie mode. It's what "we want" the camera to do while recording video, and therefore the device feels more natural to use.

I'm not saying that you should sell you 5D Mark III and buy a 4Ti. But for less than a $1,000, photographers can purchase a camera that is truly state of the art, and represents a path that many will be traveling as photography continues to evolve.


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There are a few basic steps to make Olympus firmware updates smooth and easy. If you have the new OM-D E-M5, firmware v1.2 is available. It improves the camera's performance when waking from sleep, and it displays the tracking focus point when shooting at low-speed continuous drive. The most important aspect for many of us is the waking from sleep improvement.

Here's a basic walk-through to get your camera up to snuff.

em5_update.jpg Most OM-D owners will be updating from firmware 1.1 to 1.2

Step 1 - Update the Olympus Viewer 2 App

There are two ways you can update camera firmware: 1) Using Digital Camera Updater or 2) via Olympus Viewer 2. Both should be residing in your Applications folder if you installed the bundled software for your camera. I use both, but am going to cover the Olympus Viewer method today because it has its own update. If you don't care about maintaining Olympus Viewer 2, you can launch Olympus Digital Camera Updater, and proceed to Step 2.

If you haven't installed the Olympus software on your computer yet (including Digital Camera Updater), do so first. I think it's good to keep Olympus Viewer 2 up to date because it comes in handy for checking Raw decoding, updating cameras, etc.

update_camera_viewer.jpg

In Olympus Viewer 2, go to Camera > Update Camera, it will let you know that you need an update. Do so. And be prepared to restart the computer afterward.

Step 2 - Update the Camera Firmware

Now that your computer software is up to date, you can apply the new firmware to the camera. Connect the OM-D via its USB cable and turn on the camera. It will ask you to select a connection mode. Choose "Storage."

In Olympus Viewer on your computer, go back to Camera > Update Camera. The software will check the firmware for both the camera body and the lens. It will then list the available updates.

Run the update for the camera first, and if necessary, the lens too. Be sure you have a fresh battery. And do not unplug the camera from the computer until the big "OK" appears on the camera's LCD screen.

Since you have everything set up, you may want to check the firmware on any other Olympus lenses you have. Simply attach the lens to the camera, and run the firmware update as previously described. I just updated a number of lenses that I hadn't checked in a while.

Firmware v1.2 did improve the waking from sleep for the OM-D. I recommend that you update yours when you have a few moments to do so.


The Olympus Micro Four Thirds Gear Guide

If you're interested in rounding out your micro four thirds kit, take a look at the The Olympus Micro Four Thirds Gear Guide. I recommend camera bodies, lenses, accessories, and even camera bags to help you design the perfect kit for you.

om-d_with_grip_flash.jpg

This guide will help you build an Olympus compact system camera kit, or add to an existing one. To assist you in making the best decisions for your photography needs, I'll discuss my experiences with these items, link to articles about their use, and recommend groupings that accommodate different budgets and shooting styles.

What is Micro Four Thirds (M4/3)?

To help you get your bearings, let's start with a few terms. "Micro Four Thirds" is a standard created by Olympus and Panasonic, with other partners joining in, including Sigma. The advantage of this standard is that you can interchange lenses and bodies within the system. So, for example, you can mount a Panasonic M4/3 lens on an Olympus M4/3 body, and everything works great.

What about the term Compact System Camera (CSC)?

Compact System Camera is a category term for high functioning, small cameras that have interchangeable lenses. This category includes the Micro Four Thirds offerings by Olympus and Panasonic, but also includes other brands such as the Sony NEX system.

The best way to think about this is: Compact System Camera is a generic term that describes an entire class of cameras, while Micro Four Thirds refers to a particular type of CSC.

Some advantages to the Olympus M4/3 Standard include:

  • Image Stabilization is built into the body of the camera. So any lens you mount on an Olympus PEN or OM-D series camera will be image stabilized. This includes lenses by Panasonic, Sigma, and others. Image stabilized cameras improve picture quality by helping to eliminate "camera shake."
  • A broad variety of camera bodies, accessories, and lenses. You can configure just about any type of kit that you would need for your photography.
  • Compact and light. Since these cameras don't have the mirrors and pentaprisms that traditional DSLRs use, both the bodies and the lenses are smaller and weigh less.
  • Can take advantage of technology from M4/3 partners. Panasonic for example, has developed some fantastic lenses that work perfectly on Olympus camera bodies.


Body Selection

There are two basic body systems within the Olympus M4/3 line: PEN and OM-D. The PEN series was the first compact system camera launched by Olympus. They are designed for entry level through intermediate level photographers.

In the Spring of 2012, Olympus added a new series to the M4/3 standard: the OM-D. The first body in the series is the E-M5. The E-M5 is also very compact, like the PENs, but aimed at intermediate to serious level photographers. Both PENs and OM-Ds use the same lens system and most of the same accessories.

Recommended PEN Bodies

olympus_17mm_pancake.jpg The Olympus 17mm f/2.8 pancake lens on a PEN Mini.

Currently there are two PEN bodies that I prefer. The E-PL3 and the E-PM1 (PEN Mini). Both are current generation cameras that provide an excellent balance between price and features.

The E-PM1 is the smallest PEN and a good fit for those moving up from a point and shoot digital camera. It's also a terrific second camera for OM-D photographers.

The E-PL3 is a bit more sophisticated and offers an adjustable LCD panel. Both cameras are available in a variety of colors. Resolution with the PENs is 12 megapixels, which is enough to make a 13x19 inch print.

Currently my favorite of the PEN series the the PEN Mini (E-PM1). I recommend the E-PM1 body (any color) with the 14-42mm zoom lens. Here is a selection of the recommended PEN kits.

Recommended Olympus PEN bodies with current best pricing.

Related Articles about the Olympus PEN

Olympus PEN mini

Olympus E-PM1 - Quality Nimbleosity

Morning Walk with the Olympus PEN Mini

On the Road with the Olympus PEN Mini


The OM-D E-M5

Olympus OMD Front Olympus OM-D E-M5 with 12-50mm zoom lens that has macro capability.

The E-M5 is also very compact. It looks like a mini-DSLR. But inside it packs state-of-the-art sophistication. Highlights include fast auto focus, 9 frames per second burst rate, 5 axis image stabilization, adjustable touch screen LCD, built-in electronic viewfinder, weather sealing, and 16 megapixels of resolution. The sensor is manufactured by Sony and implemented by Olympus.

This camera is highly recommended for intermediate to advanced photographers who want a sophisticated tool in a compact body.

The EM-5 is my current favorite micro four thirds body. I think the image quality and feature set is outstanding. It is an excellent value for the money. My favorite combination is the black E-M5 body with 14-42mm zoom lens.

Recommended Olympus OM-D kits with current best pricing.

As you can see from the options above, the E-M5 kits offer four basic choices: black or silver body with either the 14-42mm or the 12-50mm zoom lens. Both lenses have excellent image quality.

The 14-42mm zoom provides a real world 28-84mm zoom range (you double the focal lengths for M4/3). It is very compact and focuses quickly. The 14-42mm is the better choice for those who want the most compact camera/lens combination.

The 12-50mm zoom offers a wider range: 24-100mm in real world terms. It also includes a handy "macro" mode for close up photography. And it has a "power zoom" option for those who like to zoom smoothly while recording movies. Keep in mind, however, that the 12-50mm is a bigger lens that adds an additional $200 to the kit price. But if you enjoy close-up photography and want a wider zooming range, it is worth the price. This lens is also weather sealed, matching the weather sealing on the E-M5 body.

Related Articles about the Olympus OM-D

Olympus OM-D Brings Pro Body to Micro Four Thirds

A Closer Look at Macro Mode on the Olympus 12-50mm Power Zoom

Giants vs Dodgers Shot with an Olympus OM-D

Pros and Cons of the Olympus OM-D

Podcast Featuring Discussion about the OM-D


Additional Lenses for Micro 4/3 Cameras

I've had excellent experiences with Olympus, Panasonic, and Sigma lenses for micro four thirds cameras. My current favorites in terms of value/performance to augment your kit lens are the Olympus 45mm f/1.8, Panasonic 14mm f/2.5, and the Olympus 40-150mm zoom.

But there are many excellent options. Browse all of the selections (by clicking on the right and left arrows) to find the perfect accessory lens, or lenses, for your photography.

Recommended Micro Four Thirds lenses with current best pricing.

Related Articles about Micro Four Third Lenses

Olympus 17mm pancake lens

Sigma 30mm f/2.8 lens

Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens


PEN Accessories

Olympus has created an extensive line of accessories to augment your PEN system. I recommend an extra BLS-5 Lithium-Ion Rechargeable Battery for sure. I also think the electronic viewfinder VF-3 is a fantastic addition that I would be hard pressed to live without.

Recommended Olympus PEN accessories with the current best pricing.

If you don't want to invest a lot of money in interchangeable lenses, you might take a look at the Olympus lens converters. They offer fisheye, macro, and wide angle attachments that are compatible with the kit 14-42mm zoom. Personally, I prefer to have separate lenses for these functions. But for tight budgets, the converters may be just the ticket.


OM-D Accessories

OM-D with New Grip The Olympus Power Battery Holder mounted on the E-M5. The bottom part detaches if you want to use a lighter grip without the extra battery compartment.

For those with larger hands, I recommend the Olympus Power Battery Holder. It provides a secure grip that makes holding the camera more comfortable. It has two parts. The first part is the horizontal grip that I leave on the camera all the time. The second part attaches the to horizontal grip and provides space for a second battery, plus controls for using the camera in the vertical position. This Olympus Power Battery Holder is highly recommended, and it works great even if you don't use a second battery.

Recommended Olympus OM-D accessories with current best pricing.


Recommended Camera Bags

If you want an all purpose backpack that holds your laptop, tablet, and Compact System Camera, my favorite is the affordable Lowepro CompuDay Photo 250. It's my every day backpack that currently holds a MacBook Pro 15" Retina Display laptop, Olympus OM-D with grip, three lenses, and an iPad.

The Lowepro Event Messenger 100 is a stylish messenger-style shoulder bag that accommodates your camera with mounted lens, plus there's plenty of room for accessories. I like the Dual-Mode Flap design that can switch from maximum security mode to quiet working mode.

I also think that the Lowepro Passport Sling is a hip and versatile shoulder bag. It's been a hit with both men and women. It easily holds your Olympus gear, plus personal items. It does not accommodate an iPad or laptop, however.

I've also included a variety of smaller bags that I've tested with the Olympus cameras. I'm sure you'll find just the right bag for you.

Recommended Lowepro bags for Olympus cameras with current best pricing.


Ultimate Kits

Here are my recommendations for ultimate kits at the entry, intermediate, and advanced photographers.

Entry Level: Olympus PEN E-PM1 (any color) with 14-42mm zoom and 40-150mm zooms, and extra BLS-5 Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery.

Intermediate Level: Olympus PEN E-PL3 (any color) with 14-42mm zoom, 40-150mm zoom, 17mm f/2.8 lens, 45mm f/1.8 lens, VF-3 electronic viewfinder, and extra BLS-5 Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery.

Advanced Level: Olympus OM-D E-M5 (any color) with 14-42mm zoom and 40-150mm zoom, Panasonic 14mm f/2.5, Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens, Power Battery Holder, FL 36R flash, and extra BLN- Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery.

Editor's note - purchasing your Olympus gear through the links in this guide help support this site!

buffalo_1tb.jpg

As we get the hang of working with Solid State Drives that are much faster but tend to have less capacity than their mechanical counterparts, we can take advantage of a variety of supplemental storage options. Today I'm looking at the portable 1 TB hard drive.

There are a variety of portable, high capacity drives available for around $100. Currently I'm testing the Buffalo Technology MiniStation Stealth 1 TB USB 2.0 Portable External Hard Drivethat works great.

If you want to pay more, you can get Thunderbolt or USB 3.0 versions also. But since this is primarily a backup drive that runs in the background, paying extra for more speed isn't necessary for me.

The Buffalo drive, for example, is very light and about the size of a deck of cards. It uses a standard USB > Mini USB cord, which I like. The same cord can double for my other devices. And if I lose it, no problem. I have plenty laying around the house.

First thing I do after plugging it in to the MacBook Pro is format the device. I launch Disk Utility, which is in the Utilities folder (Applications > Utilities > Disk Utily) and choose "Mac OS X Extended Journaled." After completion, the Mac will ask if I want to establish this device as a Time Machine hard drive. I do! Then it will begin backing up the contents of my Solid State Drive.

time_machine_bu.jpg

Time Machine works in the background. So you can go about you work without any interruption. Yet, you have the peace of mind that comes with automatic backup. After the initial backup, which will take a while depending on the contents of your laptop, Time Machine only backs up items that change. So it's fairly efficient.

You can also use the hard drive for supplement storage of pictures, movies, music, etc. And since they are so light and take up little space, you can even carry two in your backpack.

Now you have the speed of an SSD for your everyday work, but additional capacity for backup and work files that you want available, even when on the go.


You can find more photo tips and "photography how tos" on my Pinterest page.