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If ever there were a trip where you wanted to balance having the photo gear you need, but not too much of it, it would be a visit to Cuba.

cuban-ice-cream-vendor.jpg "Cuban Ice Cream Vendor" by Derrick Story.

In my latest article for lynda.com, What to Pack for a Photo Trip to Cuba: Nine Essentials, I explain what I packed for my recent trip, and how I used it. Some of the items might surprise you...


Nimble Photographer Logo

My camera bag for Cuba had a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting TheNimblePhotographer.com.

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Composing an image in a crowd of people is challenge. On one hand, there are lots of different colors and shapes. But I believe that every shot needs some sort of focal point. And in a crowd, it's often the person looking back your way.

riding-the-f-line.jpg "Riding the F Line, San Francisco" by Derrick Story.

This is difficult for some photographers because there are now possibly two people in the mix that know you're taking pictures: you, and the person looking back in your direction.

But the compositions are compelling. While the rest of the world is heading one way, there's a single human that breaks away from the herd. And when that happens, snap the shutter.

children-in-chinatown.jpg "Children in Chinatown" by Derrick Story"

Most of the time, they won't be looking directly at you (although it's great when they do). It's the disruption in the pattern that's important. It's that single yellow flower in a sea of red that breaths life into the image.

So when you're shooting in crowds, look for the person looking back your way. That's usually the shot you'll keep.


Join me on my Instagram site as I explore the world of mobile photography. And now Instagram features 15-second movies too.

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FrankenPod Meets Mirrorless

I feel like the The Most Interesting Man when I say, "I don't shoot with a tripod often, but when I do, I keep it light." And even though I don't have the rugged good looks of the Dos Equis guy, I know what I want when it comes to photography... even if I have to make it myself.

My current rig for high resolution capture is the Olympus OM-D E-M5 with its 40MP capture mode, using the new ECG-2 External Metal Grip with built-in Arca Swiss compatible plate.

Olympus-ECG-2-Grip.jpg Olympus OM-D E-M5 II with 17mm f/1.8 lens and ECG-2 grip with built-in Arca Swiss compatible plate. Notice that the grip also provides access to the battery compartment.

I then add a MeFOTO DayTrip Tripod, which is only 9.4" tall when folded, and substitute the Joby Ballhead X, which I think is a great value in Arca Swiss compatible tripod heads. I also like that Bullhead X has a panning function (via a second knob) that's great for panoramas.

mefoto-daytrip-jwith-ballhead-x.jpg MeFOTO DayTrip with Joby Bullhead X. I don't need to bring its adapter plate if I'm using the ECG-2 grip.

When I want to shoot a panorama, HDR, or high resolution shot with the E-M5 II, I simply slide the camera into the Bullhead X, tighten the knob, and start shooting. The tripod, head, and camera bracket weigh less than 3 pounds, are super compact, and very fast and convenient to use.


Nimble Photographer Logo

The FrankenPod has a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting TheNimblePhotographer.com.

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When I first read about the YONGNUO YN35mm F/2 lens for Canon, I thought it was a steal for $122. I immediately ordered one and have been having a blast shooting with it.

cat-yongnuo-35mm-f-2.jpg Dibs the Cat - Captured with the YONGNUO YN35mm on a Canon 70D at f/2. The lens definitely has its own look, and an interesting one at that. Photo by Derrick Story.

Then, when I returned to Amazon to copy the URL for the TDS Photo Podcast #477, Amazon had this message posted on the site: "Currently unavailable. We don't know when or if this item will be back in stock."

yongnuo-35mm-70d.jpg The YONGNUO YN35mm on a Canon 70D. Works great.

I went over to eBay (the other source for the lens when it was released in the US) and the asking price had jumped to $280. Hmmmm...

As for the lens itself, I think it's fun. The only oddity so far has been that its EXIF identification is: Sigma A 24-105 mm f/4 DG OS HSM and not YONGNUO YN35mm.

I discussed it in more detail on the TDS Podcast, if you're interested. I sure hope it comes back to Amazon at $122. If so, I recommend it. (Not so much at $280 on eBay.)

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This week on The Digital Story Photography Podcast: Hands On with the Yongnuo 35mm f-2.0 lens for Canon, Olympus Camera Grip ECG-2 with Built-In Arca Swiss Plate, SF Street Shooting Workshop Notes, Compositing Photos on a Tablet - All of this and more on today's show with Derrick Story.

Weekly Update - "Ricoh unveils Pentax K-3 II with Pixel Shift Resolution mode" - It uses an improved image stabilization system that drives a new Pixel Shift Resolution feature, designed to reduce false color. Retaining its predecessor's 24MP sensor, 27-point AF system, and durable construction, the K-3 II offers sensor-shift IS with a claimed 4.5 stops of shake reduction. Also included are built-in GPS, an improved AF algorithm, gyro-sensor-based panning detection and automatic horizon correction. Something that's no longer included is a built-in flash. The Pentax K-3 II will be available in May for $1099.95. (Source: DP Review)

In other news... "American Photo Magazine Stops Publishing, Readers Switched to Pop Photo" Pop Photo editor-in-chief Miriam Leuchter writes that American Photo has discontinued publication effective immediately, and that existing subscribers will automatically be receiving copies of Popular Photography instead. If the reader is already subscribed to Pop Photo, their two subscriptions will be combined into one longer subscription. In 2015 that American Photo had a total print circulation of 100,000 and audience of 1,092,000. The brand will now live on solely through the American Photo website, which Bonnier says has an average monthly readership of 100,000. (Source: PetaPixel)

yongnuo-35mm-box.jpg

Story #1 - "Hands On with the Yongnuo 35mm f/2.0 lens for Canon" - It's about the size of the Canon 50mm f/1.8, and it was selling on Amazon for $122 (that's what I paid). But when I went to check the Yongnuo 35mm f/2.0 catalog page, it said that it's currently out of stock and "We don't know when or if this item will be back in stock." And on eBay, it's now selling for $280. I provide my hands-on review of this suddenly rare lens in today's first story. 

Story #2 - "SF Street Shooting Workshop Notes" I just returned from spending a few days in San Francisco with 8 fantastic photographers. Here are a few of the takeaways from the experience.

Story #3 - From the Screening Room - Creating Photo Composites on Smartphones and Tablets with Seán Duggan. Sean uses a variety of apps, including Photoshop Touch.

You can watch Sean in action by visiting the TDS Screening Room at lynda.com. While you're there, you can start your 7 day free trial to watch all of Sean's movies, plus every other title in the library (including over 20 by yours truly).

Story #4 Hands on with the Olympus External Metal Grip ECG-2 for the OM-D E-M5 Mark II. This handsome all-metal grip also serves as an Arca Swiss adapter plate. Plus you have access to the battery compartment without removing the ECG-2.

Virtual Camera Club News

News from SizzlPix: For April, We'll make it easy to delight your friends and relatives with SizzlPix of your or their favorite photographs with a Digital Story exclusive! Take a 20 percent discount; 25 percent on 2 or more shipped together. Just put "TDS April" in the comments space on the SizzlPix.com ordering page.

Thanks to everyone who recently reviewed the TDS Podcast in iTunes!

BTW: If you're ordering through B&H or Amazon, please click on the respective ad tile under the Products header in the box half way down the 2nd column on thedigitalstory.com. That helps support the site.

Download the Show

In addition to subscribing in iTunes, you can also download the podcast file here (34 minutes). You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App for only $2.99 from the Apple App Store.

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

lynda.com - Learn lighting, portraiture, Photoshop skills, and more from expert-taught videos at lynda.com/thedigitalstory.

Red River Paper -- Keep up with the world of inkjet printing, and win free paper, by liking Red River Paper on Facebook.

SizzlPix! - High resolution output for your photography. You've never seen your imagery look so good. SizzlPix.com. SizzlPix! now is qualified for PayPal "Bill Me Later," No payments, No interest for up to 6 months, which means, have your SizzlPix! now, and pay nothing until May!

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I've been running my RAW source files through Lightroom CC's HDR Photo Merge and Google's HDR Efex Pro 2 to compare the differences. I have head to head examples to show you here.

lightroom-hdr-sf-v2.jpg San Francisco Skyline - Image processed with 3 RAW source files in Lightroom CC. Photos by Derrick Story. Click on image for larger view. Also, you can see a better rendering of this image on the TDS Flickr page.

Lightroom's workflow is an all-RAW process. In other words, you start with your camera's RAW files, and the resulting merge is a DNG that you can process in the Develop module.

The advantage to this is that more quality is retained through post production. Take a look at the Lightroom version above. It has virtually no tell-tale edge glow on the skyline buildings, and the overall image is very clean.

hdr-efex-sf-v2.jpg San Francisco Skyline - Image processed with 3 RAW source files in HDR Efex Pro 2. Photos by Derrick Story. Click on image for larger view.

When I processed the same 3 source files in HDR Efex Pro 2, the resulting image was more dramatic. But it also included edge glow around the skyline buildings.

Now to keep things fair, remember that I made editing choices in both applications to reach the final result. But, in both cases, I was trying to produce the best photograph possible.

The opinion I'm developing about both of these applications is this: When I want a more "photographic" image, I'll use Lightroom CC for my HDR processing. I think the overall quality is higher, and there are fewer tell-tale HDR byproducts.

However, when I want pure drama, I think HDR Efex Pro 2 delivers the goods. And if necessary, I can clean up those tell-tale remnants in post.

Free Guide to Adobe HDR and Panoramas

Check out my free eBook, Rocky Nook's Guide to HDR and Panoramas with Photo Merge in Lightroom CC that shows you how to create beautiful HDRs and panoramas with the latest Adobe technologies.

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Good news for those who prefer to work in Adobe Camera Raw. The latest release includes many of the same features as Lightroom CC, including the slick HDR and Panorama Merge.

selecting-frames-hdr.jpg

To test this, I selected two RAW files in Bridge and opened them in ACR. (This is the same two RAW file technique that I cover in my free eBook, Rocky Nook's Guide to HDR and Panoramas with Photo Merge in Lightroom CC.) With both files selected in ACR, I right-clicked on a thumbnail and chose Merge to HDR.

From this point, the process is very similar to Lightroom CC. A preview is generated, you choose a few basic settings, then click the Merge button. ACR processes the image and places a new DNG file in the same folder as the source photos. From there you can process the photograph as you normally would. In my case I used a graduated screen to add a bit more drama to the sky.

adding-grad-screen.jpg

Since this is a RAW process from start to finish, you can generate high quality output, and stay within your normal workflow... regardless if that's Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw.

Free Guide to Adobe HDR and Panoramas

Check out my free eBook, Rocky Nook's Guide to HDR and Panoramas with Photo Merge in Lightroom CC that shows you how to create beautiful HDRs and panoramas with the latest Adobe technologies.

Want to Comment on this Post?

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

vsco-free-00.jpg

As if getting Lightroom 6 wasn't good enough, now VSCO has created a Film Pack with presets for TRI-X and Kodak Gold 100, and is offering it for free.

After you download VSCO Film 00, use their setup guide to install the presets in Lightroom 6, 5, or 4. VSCO's approach uses custom camera profiles that complement the film presets to fine tune the tone and color balance of your photos. The result is an impressive film emulation that is integrated into the Lightroom workflow. There's no round-tripping or being forced to wander outside the Develop module to use these tools.

vsco-presets-film-0.jpg

For example, here's 0-TRI-X+2 applied to a photo I captured in Paris with an Olympus OM-D E-M10 and the 14-42mm EZ zoom. When I installed the VSCO Film Pack, I selected only the cameras I typically use (Olympus, Canon, and Fujifilm) plus the Standard Presets. There might be a temptation to install all of the profiles, but they will occupy space in your left-side Presets column (although they can be collapsed by camera make).

Applying a preset is a simple process. Open the image in the Develop module and navigate to the VSCO presets on the left. The presets are designed to work with RAW files. You can use them with Jpegs, but it's a bit of a workaround, as VSCO explains here.

When I apply the TRI-X presets, for example, I notice the most activity in the Tone Curve, Grain, and B&W bricks on the right side of the Lightroom Develop module. I can continue to adjust the image, if I wish, using the other sliders.

The results are quite good. And I have to say, working with this free Film Pack does stir my interest in their other products.

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Free eBook on Lightroom CC HDR Merge

One of the things that I've been doing over the last couple months is learning the ins and outs of Adobe's new Photo Merge that was incorporated into Lightroom CC. And I'm glad I did, because it's fascinating.

Essentially what Adobe created was an all-RAW workflow for HDRs and panoramas. You start with RAW files and end up with a highly editable DNG that you finish off in the Develop module. It's smart, and it works.

And what's even more interesting, is that it works with just two RAW files exposed at -2.0 EV and +2.0 EV. That's all you need. I programmed a function button on my OM-D to quickly capture these sequences, then all I have to do is process in Lightroom CC with all my other files.

hdr-pdf-cover.jpg

After weeks of testing, I wrote an eBook titled, Rocky Nook's Guide to HDR and Panoramas with Photo Merge in Lightroom CC. In this free guide (yes, free!), I cover the entire workflow for both HDRs and panoramas using your camera and Lightroom CC's editing tools. I think this guide will be very handy for anyone who loves this type of photography, and especially those who want a fast start to learning Lightroom's new star features.

There are plenty of other interesting new tools in Lightroom CC, such as the super handy filter brush. But having a built-in RAW workflow for both HDR and panoramas is pretty exciting stuff.

You can download the eBook here.

This week on The Digital Story Photography Podcast: Lightroom 6 (and CC) Ready for Primetime, Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 V2 Hands On, OM-D E-M5 Mark II Firmware Update Makes for a Faster Start - All of this and more on today's show with Derrick Story.

Weekly Update - "Apple buys camera-technology company LinX" - The acquisition would indicate that Apple is planning to do more of the imaging hardware development in-house. Currently the iPhone range uses image sensors supplied by Sony. An implementation of the LinX technology in future iPhone generations could not only mean improved image quality but also a whole new range of features. (Source: DP Review)

In other news... "NY State Police lock down campus for suspicious package that contained developing supplies" - After a full lockdown of the campus and immediate evacuation of the building containing the suspicious package, it was discovered via an X-ray machine that the package was nothing more than an abandoned container filled with supplies used for photographic development." (Source: Imaging-Resource.com)

And finally... "Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Firmware Update 1.1" - Various fixes include: Audio can be faded out of movie files created with My Clips editing. Speed at which information is displayed when the camera is turned on has been improved. The issue of noise appearing in images captured while shooting with High Res Shot has been corrected. (Source The Photography Blog.)

Story #1 - "Lightroom CC Debuts" - Creative Cloud customers now have a brand new version to work with. The box version (Lightroom 6) is available too, but at a price. Highlights include:

  • New Photo Merge for both HDR and panoramas.
  • Facial recognition.
  • Advanced video slideshows.
  • Filter Brush: Precisely control which parts of your image are affected by the Graduated or Radial filters. Now you can use a brush to edit the filter's mask, adding or subtracting filter effects wherever you want.
  • Increased performance using GPU support (Mac OS X 10.9 or 10.10 only).
  • New camera profiles including: Canon 5Ds, Nikon D5500 and 7200, Olympus E-M5 Mark II and SH-2, Lumix GF-7, Fujifilm X-A2 and XQ2, and Samsung NX500.
  • Lots of new lens profiles.

Requires Mac OS X v10.8, 10.9, or 10.10 or Microsoft® Windows 7 with Service Pack 1, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1.

I have an eBook titled, "HDR and Panoramas with Photo Merge in Lightroom CC" that's published by Rocky Nook and that's available at this URL for the price of an email address.

e-m10-w-pana-20mm-web.jpg



Story #2 - "Hands on with the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 II. This gem weighs in at only 3 ounces and measures 2.48" x 1.00". Its fast aperture and natural 40mm effective focal length make it a wonderful street shooter. More about it in today's second story.

Story #3 - From the Screening Room - Photo Restoration Techniques: Damaged Black-and-White Images with Neil Rhodes.

You can watch Neil in action by visiting the TDS Screening Room at lynda.com. While you're there, you can start your 7 day free trial to watch all of Neil's movies, plus every other title in the library (including over 20 by yours truly).

Virtual Camera Club News

News from SizzlPix: For April, We'll make it easy to delight your friends and relatives with SizzlPix of your or their favorite photographs with a Digital Story exclusive! Take a 20 percent discount; 25 percent on 2 or more shipped together. Just put "TDS April" in the comments space on the SizzlPix.com ordering page.

Thanks to everyone who recently reviewed the TDS Podcast in iTunes!

BTW: If you're ordering through B&H or Amazon, please click on the respective ad tile under the Products header in the box half way down the 2nd column on thedigitalstory.com. That helps support the site.

Download the Show

In addition to subscribing in iTunes, you can also download the podcast file here (34 minutes). You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App for only $2.99 from the Apple App Store.

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

lynda.com - Learn lighting, portraiture, Photoshop skills, and more from expert-taught videos at lynda.com/thedigitalstory.

Red River Paper -- Keep up with the world of inkjet printing, and win free paper, by liking Red River Paper on Facebook.

SizzlPix! - High resolution output for your photography. You've never seen your imagery look so good. SizzlPix.com. SizzlPix! now is qualified for PayPal "Bill Me Later," No payments, No interest for up to 6 months, which means, have your SizzlPix! now, and pay nothing until May!

Want to Comment on this Post?

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.