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The “Panorama Machine”

29th December 2010

Panoramas Made Easy

Last week Fedex dropped off a small package with another high tech gadget. The shiny box contained a panorama base – a device for easily capturing photographic panoramas.

Let’s back up to last October when I met Howard Chen at the PhotoPlus Expo in New York. An attractive photo in front of his booth caught my attention. He proceeded to show me how the e-Filming PS-30B Digital Drive Panorama Base automates the making of panorama photographs with popular DSLR cameras: mount the camera on the base, press a few buttons on the control panel and press the start button. A few seconds later and you’ve captured a set of high resolution images ready to be combined (stitched together).

In addition to the drive unit, the package contains a vertical bar mount, a remote controller and control cables. A cable connects the device to the remote control socket on your DSLR camera. The six included control cables are usable with most of the popular DSLR cameras.

I spent a few minutes installing the Cool Stitch software from the included CD-ROM and printing the 16-page user’s manual.

The manual describes the five options available from the LCD control panel: shoot, time, speed, function and language. However in practice, I found that I needed to change only the shoot option.

There’s also a short article “How to Shoot Photos for Great Looking Panoramas” that appears when you run the Cool Stitch software. I recommend that you print this document and carefully follow the several helpful tips.


Making a Mini-Gallery

19th December 2010

Since September I’ve been taking and printing several large portrait photos. The photos are of our grandkids, so I’m particularly proud of them. Being 12″ x 18″ prints, they are relatively expensive to individually frame and require lots of wall space to display separately. Consequently, they’ve been sitting on my desk in a pile and every once in a while I pull them out to show relatives and friends. Of course this isn’t exactly the best way to show off these faces.

Well this weekend I finally decided to do something about this unwieldy stack of photos. My goal is to have a way to display a dozen or so large photos in a small space. I also want an easy way to change the photos often. I am not looking for an elegant display, just a simple way to show the faces attractively.

The Holiday season has always been a wonderful time for me. While it’s envigorating to all of my senses, I’ll concentrate only on my visual sense here.

As I look around at the Christmas and Chanukah decorations, I’m overwhelmed by the variety of colors, textures and shapes. I’m often amazed at the intricate detail that I find. Let me show you what I mean.


Here is an ornament which at first glance looks simple. But look a little closer and you’ll see that it is very elegant.

The colors are simply amazing. I love the way in which it was made from many strands of yarn woven into an intricate pattern and carefully wrapped into a solid ball.

By taking a close up photo, I am able to see this detail. If you click on the photo, you’ll see this detail in the enlargement.


To photograph these ornaments, I used the available light. I set the camera ISO to 800. The lights were incandescent so I set the White Balance accordingly. I used a large aperture to blur the background which in turn helped to produce a shimmering look. To avoid camera shake, I braced my elbows against my sides to keep it steady.

With close-ups, you may want to turn off Auto Focus (AF) and manually focus the lens. At short distances like these, manual focus comes in handy.

Note that if I had used a flash, I would have spoiled the visual look and feel that I wanted to retain.


If your visual sense appreciates all of the stimulation that the Holiday season brings, go fetch your camera and take a few up-close photos. They’ll help you recall the Holidays long after they’re over. Happy Holidays!


Written by Arnie Lee


For a couple of months, I’ve had a small box sitting on a shelf waiting for me to investigate its usefulness for mobile phones.

This morning, I heard the word bluetooth and it reminded me of this box which contains a small bluetooth device. So I pulled the box out and had it working within 10 minutes. For this week, I’ll consider it my favorite geek device.

It’s called the Polaroid Pogo. Those of us who remember the name Polaroid, know that this company is considered the inventors of instant photography that was so pervasive from the 1950 through the 1970s. While Polaroid no longer makes the film/paper packs, the Pogo instead uses a heat sensitive Zink (for zero ink) paper to produce near instant prints. From what I can tell, Polaroid licenses the Zink technology under its own name to take advantage of the historic instant connotation.

Tips for holiday photos

11th December 2010

It’s never too early to prepare for the festive holiday season. To help you along, I’ve jotted down a few picture-taking tips that may help you capture those great and memorable photos to share with family and friends.

Whether you’re using a convenient point-and-shoot or an advanced DLSR, most cameras have a wide range of adjustments and settings. I’ll key in on only a few of these.

If you’re a user of certain Nikon cameras and want to find a photograph or two from a specific day there is an easy way to do it.

Let’s say you’ve just returned from a photo-filled vacation and want to look for a favorite photo from a specific day of the vacation. You snapped so many photos, however, that previewing all the photos on your camera would not only can take time but battery power as well. One answer is to use the Calendar Playback feature found on certain Nikon cameras such as the D3000 and D5000.

Nikon’s Calendar Playback is a quick way to find a photofrom a specific day.

To start, press the PREVIEW button on the back of your camera. (It’s to the top left of the LCD monitor.) This will display a photo you snapped in the LCD monitor. Then press the THUMBNAIL-PLAYBACK-ZOOM OUT button. (It’s to the left of the LCD monitor next to the big question mark (?) symbol.) Press the button until you see a calendar.

Notice the little thumbnails appearing on the dates you took photos. Press the multi selector to select a specific date on the calendar. Press the THUMBNAIL-PLAYBACK-ZOOM OUT button to display thumbnails of the photos corresponding to that date. These thumbnails will appear on the right side of the LCD monitor (highlighted in yellow in the following photo). Press the up or down multi selector to select the photo you want to preview. Then press the OK button to preview the picture in the LCD monitor.

Thumbnails of the photos corresponding to the date on the calendar

Press the PREVIEW button again if the LCD monitor goes blank.

This is a simple and quick way of finding a photo from a certain date while the memory card is still in the camera.

Written by Scott Slaughter

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Portrait Tip # 3

10th December 2010

Portraits are one the most common type of photographs. We’d like to share some tips for taking better people pictures.

The “Eyes” Have It

When taking pictures of people, most viewers will tell you that it’s the eyes that catch and hold their attention. Here’s a few examples of how the eyes make a difference.

Here we have filled the viewfinder with the infant’s face. However her eyes are focused downward – pointing away from the photo.

Here the young girl is looking directly at the photographer. While she sports a serious visage, her eyes draw me into the photo.

This young lady is also looking directly at the photographer. Her large eyes become the center of attention and help “make the photo work”.

Here we’ve decided to move in and eliminate the forehead and the chin. The result is a photo that totally emphasizes the child’s bright, compelling eyes.


I think you’ll be rewarded if you are patient and wait for the subject’s eyes to meet the lens.

A complimentary tip – long ago my mentor taught me that before pressing the shutter button, I should make sure that the lens was carefully focused on the eyes. This has been remained essential words of advice since.

Written by: Arnie Lee


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On the Equipment Horizon

06th December 2010

At the PhotoPlus Expo this past September I stopped by the Sony booth. Having received pre-show information, I wanted to try their pair of new cameras – the Alpha A33 and A55. While both look and function like DSLRs, a more appropriate term might be DVF – Digital ViewFinder – since neither uses a reflex mirror. Instead, they sport a fixed translucent “mirror” that sends a small portion of the incoming image to the viewfinder and the remainder to the “film” light sensor.

This technology isn’t new. In the early 1960’s Canon made a model called the Pellix using a similar scheme with a pellicle mirror. My uncle bought this camera back then, one of the first to have Through The Lens metering (TTL) and it served him well for many years.

Sony believes that their updated translucent mirror has life in the 21st century. There are several advantages to such an arrangement. First, a static mirror eliminates the reflex mechanism providing a space, weight and cost savings. Removing this mechanical assembly also allows for a higher frame rate. Next, the electronics measuring the auto exposure remain uninterrupted from frame to frame giving instant responses to varying changes in lighting. Similarly, the auto focus system stays 100% available – a very important consideration for high speed continuous shooting.


I enjoy genealogy, the research and study of my family heritage. My research has taken my wife Deb and I to many parts of the US snooping through old dusty and musty smelling county courthouse records, family landmarks, walking old cemeteries and discovering fascinating facts.

Many years ago my father gave me an old shoebox of family photos. Many dated back to the late 1880’s and on to the present. Most were of family members in posed (studio) positions for photographers but there were many that showed family members outside in various scenes.

Some were shown in front of old barns, a few with horse and buggy but many were of old family homes. Many photos were done at cemeteries, funerals and thank goodness, happier times. In particular, some were taken in front of buildings that were relevant to my ancestors at the time of the photo. Other examples would be possibly a town square or courthouse or even a church.

Descending on Las Vegas

02nd December 2010

In years gone by, November was the time to travel to Comdex, the huge COMputer DEaler eXhibition. For as long as it was alive – some 25 years, I attended the Comdex Expo in Las Vegas.

Although the last Comdex took place in 2003, I’ve continued to travel to Las Vegas to analyze and discuss the publishing business with two of my closest friends. Lest you think these trips are gambling junkets, we actually visit lots of mass merchandise, retail and book stores to gauge the products, trends and competition. And most of us don’t gamble at the tables – the publishing business is a big enough gamble.


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