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Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

Today is Black Friday and we do have plenty of things on offer for those of you who are wanting to get a headstart on your holiday shopping but who don’t want to deal with the insanity of the crowds in the malls and stores around you. And, the holiday shopping season has been the thrust and major topic of discussion this week across the Internet in the world of photography. There have been loads of guides posted to help you figure out what kind of camera, flash, camera bag, memory card, or lens to get for that photographer in your life. There have also been plenty of “look-backs” over 2013 discussing the biggest and best items to come out during the past year.

And, if that wasn’t enough, last Saturday was the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination — a major photographic event considering the role that the Zapruder footage has played in keeping that event front and center in the minds of the populace.

All of these things and more were discussed in our Twitter feed this week. However, if you’re not following us on Twitter then we’ll recap the highlights for you below!


That’s all for this week, folks! Have a great weekend and see you again on Monday!

– da Bird


Photographing Comet ISON

Photographing Comet ISON

If you’ve been waiting to get a great photo for the capstone of 2013, then your wait may be nearing its end. The comet ISON has begun its approach to the sun and will soon be headed back out to the edge of the solar system, not to be seen again for many, many years. Tomorrow, November 28th, the comet will make its closest approach to the sun and then will head back out as if shot out of a massive slingshot. If the comet survives its brush with the star, then in early December, it will be close enough to Earth to be seen with the naked eye.

If you missed seeing Haley’s comet back in 1986 (next pass some time in 2061) and the Hale-Bopp comet in 1997 (next pass expected in 4380), then you’ll want to see comet ISON.

Comets are not uncommon sights, I know, but they are rare enough when compared to the annual meteor showers Earth gets to see (the Leonids and the Perseids) so you’ll want to do something to preserve your memory of seeing ISON make its first pass through the inner Solar System and survive. If you have a DSLR, then you should be able to get a photo of ISON that will stand the test of time. And, the good people over at Space.com have some very great tips on how to capture a photo of a comet. Some of the most important are below:

  • Boost your camera’s sensitivity to ISO 800, or higher. You would want to keep your exposures relatively short, especially if you are using your DSLR on a plain, fixed tripod. This will not only prevent the images of the comet and background stars from trailing due to Earth’s rotation, but it will also keep the brightening dawn sky from washing out the scene.
  • Don’t forget to “bracket” your exposures — that is, take a series of shots of the comet at various shutter speeds and/or apertures. This will increase your chances of getting the correct exposure.
  • Switch your camera mode from Auto (A) to Manual (M) so you’ll be able to control its focus as well as lens aperture, shutter speed and white-balance settings. Set the camera to its highest resolution (RAW mode) so you can capture as much fine details and color information as possible. Consult your camera manual on how to change settings.

If you manage to get some footage of this comet, we’d love to see it. Feel free to share it with us over at Facebook or here on our blog! Until then, we’ll be keeping an eye on the sky for the chance to see this once-in-a-lifetime comet passage.

– da Bird


Congratulations, Sony!

Congratulations, Sony!

It’s just come in that the Sony Alpha 7R has been named the 2013 Camera of the Year. This is not really unexpected if you’ve been following Sony’s progress in cameras for the past couple of years. Well, this year, Sony was the breakaway winner even if their entry to the competition came in just under the wire.

According to Popular Photography, the Sony Alpha 7R actually outperformed their expectations. The body of this camera is very small and streamlined — smaller than the Leica M — and packed to the brim with electronics. Even with the smaller, more compact and heat-generating body, the Alpha 7R was competitive against the other cameras in its weight-class, including the Nikon D800. Designed for serious amateurs or professionals, the Alpha 7R has a weather-sealed body, easy-to-handle body and easy-to-learn controls. It also has a very clear viewfinder and on-board WiFi with built-in connectivity. When it first arrived, everyone seemed to be expecting another super-small DSLR and not a mirrorless interchangeable lens compact with a full-frame sensor. Over all, once subjected to the Popular Photography Lab’s rigorous testing, this camera came out well in the lead for 2013.

So, if you’re still looking for that perfect gift for the photographer in your life and you know one who is getting serious about photography as a hobby or you know a professional photographer who is looking for a little something light-weight but flexible to add to his toolkit, then the Sony Alpha 7R may be just the thing you’re looking for!


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

The days are getting incredibly short now and the holidays are drawing closer. So, you’ll notice that, over the next several weeks, our weekly wrap-ups will likely be filled with helpful advice on finding that perfect camera for the photographer in your life or what kind of camera bag or memory card or tripod or flash or some other accessory he might like. You’ll also probably notice that there are more and more articles about weatherizing your camera and gear and advice on how to deal with the low lighting outside or how to capture great images of that one house in your neighborhood who goes all out with the Christmas decorations.

This week, however, the stories were mostly about new cameras coming out for the holidays, reviews, a few tips on picking out the best tool for the job, and some looking ahead to CES 2014. All of these stories and more were featured on our Twitter feed. However, if you’re not following us on Twitter then we’ll recap the highlights for you below.


That’s all for this week, folks. Have a great weekend and see you again on Monday!

– da Bird


Facebook, G+, Flickr, and Photography

Facebook, G+, Flickr, and Photography

Photography has long been a hobby and a passion for many people. Ever since the first consumer-grade cameras came out, millions of people the world over have embraced photography, capturing images that have both historical value and sentimental value. The twentieth century was the first full century of photography and saw great advances in the field. However, it has only been in recent years that photographers and camera manufacturers have been able to network and share their photos, techniques, and ideas over the Internet. And, there are three places, by and large, where you can be certain to run across photographers online.

Facebook is probably the most popular gathering place for photographers. It’s a solid platform, most people who are on the Internet have Facebook accounts. It’s fairly easy to use, has a large audience, and has built-in sharing tools so that photos can be posted to other people’s walls. The commenting system is robust and, since Facebook is the largest community on the Internet, chances are that you’ll make some very good connections there, personally and professionally, as a photographer.

However, Facebook isn’t a photographer’s preferred place to hang out when he’s online. By and large, the G+ community and Flickr are the two most highly-preferred places for photographers to talk amongst themselves and show off their work. Flickr is a dedicated photography community. Currently owned by Yahoo, it’s been around for a few years. Photographers can control viewers’ abilities to download their images and can embed copyright and watermarks into their photos to ensure that their images can’t be stolen and used without their consent — something that happens all too often over the Internet. G+ is preferred by photographers over Facebook strictly because G+ caters to a more technically savvy audience. Facebook has a high population of younger people and an greater population of the less technically inclined. That can make it harder for photographers to find assistance in developing apps for their smart cameras and other mobile devices. It also tends to lead towards photographs being shared and spread around without proper attribution. So, photographers generally stay with G+ where they are more likely to find the kind of people they’re looking for.

There are other photography communities and websites out there. Instagram is one of the most well-known but caters largely to mobile photographers and doesn’t afford much chance for professional DSLR users to join in. Picasa is another site that has a lot in common with Flickr but never managed to reach the kind of audience Flickr has. What are some sites you find useful to visit when you’re looking for a photographer or for advice on your own photography? Let us know in the comments below!

– da Bird


Matching the Camera to the Photographer

Matching the Camera to the Photographer

The holiday season is quickly approaching. This is also the time of year when many people start getting a bit curious about photography and decide to try their hand at it. After all, with two major holidays falling so close to each other this time of year, friends and family are taking the time to make their journeys back home to be together. People who might not see each other but once or twice a year are getting together and making new memories while catching up on all of the events of the past several months. So, if you or someone you’re close to is thinking that this is the year they want to be the one to record those events on their camera, then it’s time for you to start thinking about how to match the photographer to the best camera for the job.

The Mobile Photographer — Is the person in your life always on the go? Do they seem to suffer from ADHD? Are they tech-savvy? Do they know what the world “app” means? If so, then you might be dealing with a mobile photographer. Chances are they already have a smartphone with a built-in camera so, for the holiday season, look into smartphone camera accessories you can get for them that they can clip on to their phone to help enhance their mobile photography.

The Snap-shooter — No longer satisfied to just use their mobile phone for photography but not yet certain that they want to spend a lot of money on the hobby, next in line is the snap-shooter. This kind of photographer can generally be counted on to take fairly decent photos and knows enough to avoid having problems like red-eyes or a photo where someone has their eyes closed in mid-blink. They’re used to working under series file-space and format constraints. They don’t need a lot of options or modes to get the rough look they’re trying to achieve. This kind of photographer generally can benefit greatly from a decent point-and-shoot camera. Point and shoots have several good generalist “modes” and don’t require a lot of fine-tuning for shutter speed, focal length, or aperture mode. They handle light-balancing on their own.

The Aficionado — If every time he brings his camera out, he’s constantly harping on what it can’t do, then chances are you’re dealing with an aficionado. This is the photographer who has memorized every manual setting on his point and shoot and has tricked his camera out to go way above and beyond what it’s supposed to do. But, he’s still not certain about dropping all that money on a DSLR. After all, those things are expensive and fragile. So, make him happy by getting him a compact or hybrid camera. It has much of the power and versatility of a DSLR but without all of the fragility and expense. With a hybrid (aka “compact” aka “four thirds”) camera, the aficionado can begin to experiment with different forms and modes of photography without having to deal with the price-tag for full-fledged DSLR components.

The Pro — If you know a professional level photographer, chances are shopping for him will be a nightmare. You’ll have no idea what kind of lenses to get him (unless he provides you with a list) or what kind of flash or accessories he’s after. Memory cards are always a safe bet with him but then, that’s what all of his friends and relatives get him so he’s probably got enough storage space to back up the full array of images from the Hubble Space Telescope. So, what do you do for this photographer? Simple: ask him what he wants. If that ruins the surprise to much for your taste, then a gift card for his favorite photography shop should suffice.

– da Bird


Weekly Wrap Up

Weekly Wrap Up

Another Friday brings another end to another week in the world of photography (and also nets me $5 for the frequency of the use “another” in a single sentence). There has been a lot going on this week what with the typhoon in the Philippines and many new camera announcements and previews coming out in advance of the holiday shopping season. Pentax, Canon, Nikon, and Sony all have near gear to show off before Christmas and are currently refining their plans on what will be on offer at CES 2014 early next year. Beyond that, plenty of photographers both professional and amateur have been writing guides filled with advice on how to weatherize or ruggedize a camera for wintry conditions as well as the best way to capture memorable winter photos and portraits.

All of these things and more were covered in our Twitter feed this week. If you’re not following us on Twitter then we’ll recap the highlights for you below!


That’s all for this week. Have a great weekend and see you again on Monday!

– da Bird


Not to Keep Beating a Dead Horse But…

Not to Keep Beating a Dead Horse But...

Digital zoom will never beat optical zoom. It just won’t happen. I don’t care how good the computer is. I don’t care how precise the algorithm is. I don’t care how much the original image was downsampled or whatever. Digital zoom will never turn out as well as optical zoom. The more you try to zoom, the worse digital zoom winds up being when compared to the same level of optical zoom.

Why is that the case? Because optical zoom uses physics and mirrors and lenses and lights and other things that actually work to bring a distant subject “closer” to the camera. Digital zoom just blows the selected area up, making the pixels larger, and then uses processor power to try to clean the end result up. Optical zoom will not result in the end result being a pixelated nightmare that looks like something from a cubist’s studio (unless you are taking photos of things from a cubist’s studio).

Every time I see a smartphone or camera-phone manufacturer touting that they’ve re-invented zoom, it makes me cringe. Yes, they might have a better algorithm. Yes, the processor might clean the image up more. But it’s not going to be a good zoom.

Mobile photography has its place. With cameras built into so many phones these days, it’s a great way for people to get started in photography without having to purchase dedicated equipment. Also, since everyone generally has their phone with them (but not always their camera), the built-in camera can be good enough for what they need such as making a shopping list, getting a photo of something funny, snapping an image of an unfolding event. But mobile photography is not going to replace all photography. Camera phones are not going to replace zoom cameras and they certainly are not going to replace DSLRs.

We love mobile photography because it’s a great gateway into the world of photography. However, enough with the triumphalism, Nokia. You make great phones but you’re not going to knock Nikon off their perch any time soon. Even with your gee-whiz digital zoom.

– da Bird


PSA: Gmail Users!

PSA: Gmail Users!

A few months ago, Google Mail (aka “Gmail”) made some changes to its user interface that have been causing a lot of confusion. The first of these changes — the tabbed inbox — was announced and is easy enough to figure out. The other change, though, was not well-publicized, and has been causing us and many other websites ranging from places that are not traditional “bulk email” sites like Fanfiction.net to places like vBulletin.com. To help you deal with these changes and to help you make your Gmail.com email account work better for you in the future, we’re posting this helpful guide on both the documented tab changes and the undocumented spam folder/score changes.

First of all, any Gmail user who visits the web interface has no doubt become very familiar with the three tabs that Gmail now uses to sort non-bulk email by default. But, just in case, here they are:



The first tab is, of course, the primary mail tab. Any email that looks like personal correspondence or professional correspondence will generally go here. Emails in this tab generally don’t have any images or HTML code embedded in them. The second tab, highlighted with blue, is the social tab. If you’re active on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, G+, LinkedIn, etc, you’ll generally check this tab to see if anyone from those sites is trying to get in touch with you. The final tab, highlighted with green, is the promotions tab. Emails that score as bulk or advertising emails generally wind up here. If you do not get an order confirmation email from us, this is the first place you should check if you are using the web interface.

If you are using an application such as Outlook or Thunderbird as your mail client and you notice you are not getting our emails anymore, or if you are using the web interface but our emails are not appearing in the first three tabs, then you’ll need to go your Gmail account on the web and look at all of the folder options on the left-hand side of the menu. Expand all of the folder listings by clicking on “More.”



Once there, navigate to the spam folder.



If you have a message in the spam folder that should not be considered spam — such as an order confirmation email from us — then click on that message and, within the message, indicate that it is not spam and should not be scored and treated as such by Gmail’s automatic filtration system.



It may take several emails before your Gmail account “learns” not to mark our emails as spam. Sometimes the filters learn the first time. Sometimes they take a few times to get it right.

If, after following these instructions, you’re still not getting our emails, please contact us by phone for further assistance.

– da Bird


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

The end of another week in the world of photography has come. This week has been very good for photographers considering that it kicked off with an eclipse over New York City. If you got any good shots of it, we’d love to see them over on our Facebook page. Nikon and Tamron have made headlines with the reveal of their new products, the Nikon Df and the latest telephoto zoom lens from Tamron. Photojournalists have been out capturing the end of fall and the breaking news stories from around the globe.

All of these things and more were covered on our Twitter feed this week. However, if you’re not following us on Twitter then we’ll recap the highlights for you below!


That’s all for this week, folks! Have a great weekend and see you again on Monday!

– da Bird