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Polipics: Fort Hood Tribute

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Fort Hood Tribute

Debbi K. Swanson Patrick

This photo was taken by Martin Howard, a retired Lt. Col. and pathologist from the US Army in Mississippi. I saw it on Flickr and felt it instantly conveyed the feelings of the Fort Hood rampage last week that left 12 soldiers, one civilian, and one unborn baby dead—and the shooter in the hospital. The questions are endless about the making of this tragedy—Who missed the signs? What was the final straw? How long had this been building? Were there terrorists ties? What is the Army and other armed services going to do about it?  In the meantime, there are soldiers, husbands, sons, brothers, daughters, wives, and a soon-to-be-mother, to mourn.

Here is retired Lt. Col. Howard’s story:

I served in the US Army in Iraq in 2004 with the Mississippi National Guard. I was briefly at Fort Hood during my Reserve duty in 1999. I look upon all soldiers here and abroad as my brothers and sisters. These VOLUNTEERS are the finest people I have ever known in my life. I am continually amazed at the sacrifices these young people make on our behalf. The tragedy touched me as it occurred here in America, on a base, where they should have felt safe one last time. Their loss is no less tragic than those a world away but it reinforces the resolve we must have even at home.

As for the photo, I took my boots outside to compose a tribute for the troops to post on Flickr to remind everyone to pray for the victims. The sun was just rising as I set the boots and flag on the ground to get my camera. The scene just made itself. I used a small flash on the boots but the whole shot was done in 3 or 4 takes.

Martin Howard, MD

LT COL, US ARMY (ret)

Here is a list of the deceased.

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Photo Essay: The Station Fire from the Front Lines

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The Station Fire, shot at the top of Lake Avenue in Altadena, CA
all photos
© Lynne Eodice

Stunning images of the Los Angeles area Station Fire have been circulating for weeks now online and  in newspapers, as area residents and professional photographers alike seek to capture the drama of the blaze that has devistated homes and even taken the lives of brave firefighters here in Southern California. Digital Photographer editor and professional photographer, Lynne Eodice, happens to live very close to the area where a majority of the fire was concentrated last week, and captured the following images with her Canon EOS 5D Mark II full-frame D-SLR using a Canon EF 100-300mm lens on August 29, 2009, just a couple miles from her home.  See more of Lynne’s photos of the fire after the jump…

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Digital Insider – A Potpourri of Accessories for your Digital Cameras

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f you are planning to purchase a new digital camera or D-SLR anytime soon, be sure to see our Editors’ Picks article in this issue. And after you get your new camera, don’t forget about all those wonderful accessories that can make your digital imaging experience more exciting and fun. These accessories can range anywhere from external hard drives (now so common and very inexpensive), to a bag (or bags) to protect all your newly acquired gear, and new software to make your digital image captures more creative. Of course, I have to mention a camera in this column as well— after all, Nikon has just announced a new flagship D-SLR. Read on.

Seagate External USB Hard Drives

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If you are like me, you are suffering from too many digital images consuming precious storage space on your home computer. Traditionally, if you needed more space, the solution would be to update the internal hard drive in your computer to a much higher capacity model— up to 1 Terabyte (1000 GB) is very common today. But that involves the hassle and inconvenience of shutting down your computer, removing an existing hard drive, installing a new one, reinstalling all your programs (and also the Windows OS if it’s on the drive you are replacing which is not without its own idiosyncrasies like getting the software re-authorized). In short, it’s a HUGE hassle. The better solution today is to go with one of the external high capacity USB drives.

In my opinion, one of the best external hard drive manufactures is Seagate (www.seagate.com). If you didn’t know it, Seagate is a household name in selling replacement drives for internal upgrade use, but they also make a wide variety of USB type external drives. These external USB drives have got to be the easiest way to expand your hard drive capacity. Just connect the drives up to your USB port, and away you go— no re-installation necessary.

All of the models in the FreeAgent hard drive series from Seagate work with USB2.0, and are backwards compatible with standard USB. Each FreeAgent drive is available in three model types: Go, Desk, and Extreme. The Go model drives are ultra-compact and available in 250GB ($120), 320GB ($150), and 500GB ($200) capacities, and come in ten cool colors (think pink, ruby red, orange, spring green, forest green, royal blue, sky blue, champagne gold, titanium silver and tuxedo black). An optional desktop dock and travel kit make the Go series practical for mobile or desktop applications. The Desk series models are available in 500GB ($130), 640GB ($150), 1TB ($200), and 1.5TB ($250) capacities. At the top of the line, the Extreme FreeAgent drives come in 500GB ($160), 640GB ($180), 1TB ($230), and 1.5TB ($280) capacities.

In addition to USB2, the Extreme models also sport eSATA and Firewire 400 ports for the maximum flexibility in connectability. I am constantly running up against the 1TB limit of my internal hard drive for stored images, so the FreeAgent Desk and Extreme models gave me blessed relief. From my personal experience, these two advanced models are without a doubt the easiest way to expand the capacity of your internal hard drives. For more advanced users with eSATA (Serial ATA interface) ports on their computers, the Extreme series run at top speed, capable of file transfers 6X faster than using USB2. FreeAgent drives are also available in pre-formatted Mac versions as well.

Toshiba External USB Hard Drives

Toshiba is another one of those companies well known for making internal hard drives for laptops and desktop computers, but until now it’s kind of been a big secret. Well now they are coming on strong as a supplier of high quality external USB2 hard drives. Toshiba (www.toshibadirect.com) offers three different capacities— 400GB ($180), 320GB ($160), and 250GB ($130). These models are very compact (.65” H x 3.2” W x 5” L), lightweight (about 6oz), and are available in a variety of colors: electric blue, black, carbon grey, hot rod red and gecko green. Also pre-loaded on each drive is NTI’s Shadow software, which allows for hassle-free file backup. The drives are compatible with Windows XP/Vista and Mac OS 10.3.9 or later.

New Camera Bags from Lowepro and M-Rock

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For years I have been known as the “bag man” around the office here, and for good reason. I am constantly on the move with cameras, lenses, and other accessories that need continuous protection. If you think about it, a good carrying bag is just about the best, most inexpensive investment you can make in the care and well being of your equipment. Two of my favorite bag manufacturers are Lowepro and M-Rock. Lowepro is the most seasoned veteran, but M-Rock is coming up very strong as an alternative source of quality bags.

Lowepro’s Classified AW series (www.lowepro.com) are designed for hardworking photojournalists. They are available in four different models based on size: 140, 160, 200, and the 250. The fast-access main compartment with an angled opening makes camera or lens selection fast and secure.

If you’re into ecologically “green” products, you’ll love Lowepro’s new Terraclime series of multi-purpose bags. Terraclime series bags are made from more than 95% recycled products. The Terraclime series is available in four models—10, 30, and 50 pouches, and the100 shoulder bag. Each model is also available in three colors: black, plum, or grass. Terraclime bags provide durable, soft-sided protection for a variety of cameras, D-SLRs, and other digital gear.

Some of you might be serious nature photographers, and that generally means you have an assortment of super telephoto lenses. The 600mm lens is considered a staple in telephoto lenses for nature photography. The only problem is how to carry such a long, heavy lens. Lowepro comes to the rescue with its Lens Trekker 600 AWII lens carrying case. The Lens Trekker AW carries not only a huge 600mm lens safely, but also your D-SLR body.

M-Rock (www.m-rock.com) recently sent me a couple of their latest offerings to test— the Zion 525 Laptop/backpack and the 516 Glacier. What I like about the Zion 525 is that it’s compartmentalized up the max for storing several digital cameras and lenses, and has a protected space at the back for up a 15-inch laptop computer. It all fits quite nicely on my back. The Glacier 516 is more of a conventional shoulder-carrying bag, with spacers and dividers for a single D-SLR and an assortment of lenses. It comes in two additional sizes— 515 and 517.

M-Rock also sent me a unique water hydration system called the Great Lakes 550. It’s actually a water bladder with a tube and mouthpiece and comes in a neoprene case with an insulated lining. It fits inside the rear compartment of the Zion and McKinley bags, but it can also be used separately. The bladder is easy to fill with water, or another liquid you might wish to drink while hiking on your photography excursion. Drinking is a simple matter of sucking through the provided plastic hose, and the valve seals to prevent leakage.

onOne Photoshop Plug-In Suite 4.5

onOne Software (www.ononesoftware.com) has long been a leader in releasing software plug-ins. While these plug-in software tools are targeted towards use with Adobe Photoshop, they will work equally well with Adobe’s Lightroom 2 and Apple’s Aperture 2. The plug-ins work on both Windows and Mac platforms.

The powerful plug-ins in the Plug-In Suite 4.5 include:

Genuine Fractals 6 Professional Edition (PE), which resizes digital images over 1000% with no claimed loss of detail or sharpness. PhotoTools 2 PE utilizes the power of Photoshop Actions to provide a complete library of effects created by Kevin Kubota and Jack Davis. PhotoFrame 4 PE creates stunning border and edge effects. Mask Pro 4.1 creates high-quality masks and selections even from tough subjects like hair and glass, making it easy to place a subject in a new background. PhotoTune 2.2 provides professional-quality color correction in an easy-to-use interface. PhotoTune 2.2 includes ColorTune for general color correction and SkinTune for color correcting skin tones accurately. FocalPoint 1.0 simulates selective focus or tilt-shift lenses, helping photographers blur and/or vignette an image to focus a viewer’s attention. Plug-In Suite 4.5 is now available to new users for about $500. This represents a total savings of almost $800 if each of the applications were purchased separately.

Nikon’s Capture NX2 Software

You don’t normally associate Nikon with software, but due to a co-development with Nik Software, Nikon has released a very powerful image processing application— Capture NX2 (www.nikonusa.com), which rivals Adobe Photoshop in many instances, and in some cases is much easier to use— without the learning curve of Photoshop. Capture NX2 works with Nikon NEF RAW files (no other manufacturer’s RAW files, however), but more importantly with all other manufacturers TIFF and JPEG files.

Capture NX2 utilizes revolutionary U Point technology (developed by Nik) to give photographers access to powerful Control Points that enhance color, exposure, and other image quality settings quickly and easily. This is a much easier process than using masks and layers with Photoshop. Capture NX2 works on both Windows (XP or Vista) or Mac platforms (OS 10.4 or higher) and is available for $179.95 (full version) or $109.95 (upgrade). A 60-day free trial version is also available.

Nikon’s new “Extreme D-SLR”— The D3X

If you’re a professional into no-holes-barred digital photography, you just might be interested in Nikon’s latest D-SLR— an extreme version of its flagship D3— the D3X (www.nikonusa.com). Like the D3, it sports the FX format full-frame sensor, so you achieve every bit of performance your lens offers without the focal length magnification issue. You also get an extreme resolution of 24.5 Megapixels, which is DOUBLE that of the D3! More importantly, this camera is wicked fast, capable of capturing extreme resolution images at speeds up to five frames/second. This is a very powerful tool for commercial, high fashion, fine art, and landscape photographers.

For the ultimate in flexibility, image files can be recorded in TIFF, JPEG, or NEF (Nikon’s proprietary RAW format), in either 12-bit or 14-bit compressed or uncompressed formats. Low noise capture is possible at ISO settings as high as 6400. This low noise ISO feature will be a boon to professional studio photographers, who until now had to be restricted to using larger format digital cameras to achieve a noise-free capture for large image blow-ups. Low noise capture with high ISO can help capture compelling images under extremely low light conditions. Twin CompactFlash slots are available, and the faster UDMA writing speed standard is supported. Like everything else in this high tech world we enjoy, professional performance has its price. The new Nikon D3X retails for about $8,000, body only.

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Photographing Children in a Developing Country

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I recently came across this post by cashewman called “13 Tips for Great Photography in a Developing Country” (via BoingBoing) and it got me to thinking about the times I’ve shot scenes of life in a developing country.  Over the past few years, I have spent time visiting the orphanages of Tijuana and Baja California, and always bring my camera along for the trips. Whereas in the U.S., photographing children is  fragile and often dangerous ground for photographers to trample, even for those of us with the best intentions, in Mexico the children and their guardians seem to welcome the chance for little ones to be in front of the lens. However, there are two things about photography that I have learned over the years that have helped me to understand the true experience of these orphaned children even better.

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The Economy: PMA Edition

It’s not surprising that because of the economic downturn PMA was smaller this year than previous years in terms of both attendance and lack of big announcements. There were no new D-SLR unveils from Nikon or Canon, though there were new hybrid, mid-range, interchangeable lens and point-and-shoot cameras announced by many. By simply walking the show floor, or even riding the nearly empty PMA shuttle over to the Las Vegas Convention Center, one could easily sense the drop in attendees, and though that isn’t to say that the show was entirely without impressive news from major players in the field, it was telling of the times. All this got me to thinking about the effect of the economy on the photo industry at large. The past few months have brought news of catastrophic worldwide job cuts at CE (Consumer Electronics) giants Sony and Panasonic, as well as the complete collapse, without warning or recovery assistance to clients, of online archiving service Digital Railroad. At PMA I began nosing my way into chats with the various camera manufacturers to get a feel for where they stand on releasing new products and the vision for the company’s future as a result of the state of the economy. There is a lot of optimism in the world of camera companies, which is good to hear, though frankly, expected from PR folks. Most companies seem to view the tough times as an opportunity for streamlining their visions for the future, and smaller companies see their larger competitors’ woes as an evening of the playing field, giving them a chance to jump into the consumer consciousness again with new products.

Pentax is one of those smaller companies who see their size and focus solely on imaging as being advantageous. According to Pentax Product Manager for Imaging Systems, Chris Pound, they are “in a better position to react” because they’re “running lean and mean” since they don’t have other CE products like televisions, such as companies like Samsung, to back them up. This forces them to maintain a clear vision for their company and keep focused momentum behind them to deliver on photographers’ needs, “not necessarily [integrating new] features because we can do it, but it’s what people want.” As far as Pentax’s Chris Pound and PR Manager Michelle Martin are concerned, there have not been any delays in developing and producing cameras in their point-and-shoot lineup. According to Martin, “Everyone’s pulling back” though in comparison still, “a lot of our competitors blow us away in the marketing area.”

Nikon is certainly one of those camera makers whose marketing dollars blow away Pentax, and they admit that their now year-old marketing campaign using Ashton Kutcher to promote the Coolpix lineup has been invaluable in changing the consumer attitude toward the company. Nikon Senior Technical Manager Lindsay Silverman brought up an interesting point in our chat—that he had initially been concerned that the Coolpix lineup would see decreased sales numbers due to the economic downturn. His logic was that he wasn’t worried about D-SLRs because professional photographers and photo enthusiasts would always buy their gear because it is their passion or even livelihood. However, if an average consumer has a point-and-shoot camera that works, even if it is not what they would ideally like to have, they might just hang onto it for the time being and spend that $250 on groceries. Silverman was glad, however, to report that his theory was disproved, as the Coolpix line is still doing strongly in the market.

Of course, Nikon’s direct competitors, such as Samsung, note that incidents like Ritz Camera filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month, and the subsequent closure of a number of its retail stores—in which Nikon and Canon were among its largest unsecured creditors—”presents a lot of opportunities to the big CE brands, who now have the ability to push out some new product, like [Samsung’s] NX Series“, according to longtime Samsung PR rep Jason Ledder. According to Ledder, Samsung is “leveraging the success they’ve had with cell phones and LCDs” and have the goal of being “a Top Three imaging company by 2010 or 2011, and the NX is a really big step towards that.” Although Ledder admitted that there will surely be “some changes to come”, probably regarding shakeout, he remains optimistic and even excited because “Samsung has made so many claims so boldly in the past year about where they are going to be as a company.”

Olympus also remains optimistic about its current position in the camera market, and affirms that they are “forging ahead with new technologies” despite it being “a challenging time for everyone in the industry”, according to Olympus Digital SLR Product Manager Richard Pelkowski. When I asked him if they had been forced to delay any product releases, Pelkowski clarified that it was “on the contrary”, adding that “You will see great things coming from this company.”

For now, the collective attitude seems to be cautiously optimistic. Though, to add to the anxiety that some of the companies voiced, PMA 2010 will not be held in Las Vegas— rather it will be at the Anaheim Convention Center, a choice that I have to assume had less to do with the PMAI’s affinity for Southern California’s warm weather and more to do with an offer from Anaheim that they couldn’t refuse.

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