The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 11, Number 11 22 May 2009

Copyright 2009, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 254th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. It's the 50th anniversary of the English language publication of Robert Frank's The Americans so we toured the original 8x10 prints at SFMOMA. Then Shawn previews the small, unique and tough Pentax K-7. Is it a redefining moment for the venerable camera company? And if you haven't seen Thierry Legault's stunning shot of the Shuttle and Hubble silhouetted by the sun (hey, they're orbiting Earth, remember), Michael Tomkins points you to it with details on the capture, too. Out of this world!


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Feature: Frank's 'Americans' -- An Outsider Who Looked In

It was a simple plan for self-promotion. Get a grant to tour the American continent, photographing freely, and turn it into the recognition Robert Frank felt was slow coming to him.

Born in Zurich in 1924, Frank began his career in the photo business as a retoucher before learning the trade in a commercial studio. When he emigrated to New York City in 1947 he quickly found work with clients no less demanding than Harper's Bazaar.

But his real passion was outside the studio walls, photographing people in the street. "It gets you prepared to know what you should take pictures of or what is the right thing to do and when," he said.

He took his 35mm Leica M3 to Peru to shoot the faces of the aged framed in worn collars and the backs of the children burdened with sacks. No sights and scenery for this photographer. And he entered a photo contest conducted by a cheery New York magazine with vignettes of a handful of people who worked in his neighborhood.

That preparation led to the grant proposal, which included letters of reference from no less than Walker Evans and Edward Steichen, photographers with different styles, certainly, but a shared appreciation for Frank's desire to create an "observation and record of what one naturalized American finds to see in the United States."

He got that grant and bought a used Ford. In 1955 he drove it from New York to Detroit to South Carolina to Miami through the South to Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Los Angeles. Then on to San Francisco, Nevada, Idaho, Montana and back to New York. During that 10,000 mile trip across the U.S., he stopped at local coffee shops, cemeteries, parks, banks, bars and post offices (not to mention a jail in Arkansas) to get a peek at real life on the scale of the whole country.

By the time the Ford returned to New York in 1956, Frank has shot 767 rolls of black and white film. Then he relived the adventure, reviewing over 27,000 frames from the contact sheets he printed. He marked the keepers in red grease pencil and made over 1,000 8x10 prints to work with. From those 1,000 prints, he selected the 83 images that would be published in The Americans.

But not so fast. First he organized them into sequences that played against each other. By his choice of subject matter, which did not fondly echo the American mythology so much as it foreshadowed the turbulence of the 1960s, and by his grouping of the images, Frank broke new ground in photography. Contrast The Americans with the other iconic photo book of the 1950s, The Family of Man, to appreciate his achievement. As Malcolm Jones wrote in Newsweek (http://www.newsweek.com/id/138381), "Literature, Ezra Pound said, is 'news that stays news.' You could say the same about The Americans.'"

First published in France in May 1958, the format presented one of Frank's images on the right-hand page with text on the facing page in French by Alain Bosquet about American political and social history. The first English edition was published in 1959 by Grove Press but the French text was replaced with an introduction by the beat novelist Jack Kerouac and captions on the facing pages by Frank.

Since 1959 the book has been reprinted a number of times both with and without Frank's involvement. But in July 2007 Frank revisited the work he had left behind as a relic of his past for a 50th anniversary issue that would take advantage of what modern technology could do for The Americans.

In republishing the American edition of the book, the German publisher Steidl (http://www.steidlville.com/books/695-The-Americans.html) scanned all 83 images from the vintage prints in Frank's collection, creating tritones to print rich blacks and reveal highlight detail using three black inks. Additionally, Frank extensively revised the crops, often resorting to the full frame image. Two new images were reproduced from negatives, replacing the original images of the same subject. And while Kerouac's text and Frank's captions were unaltered, a different typeface was chosen. Frank selected the paper, endpaper and book linen. He also chose to bind the anniversary edition as a conventional thread-stitched book, designing a new dust jacket made from the same Xantur paper used for the text, sealed with varnish. And on July 18, 2008, Frank did the press check himself at Gottingen, Germany.

That attention to detail would have surprised Popular Photography, which had reviewed his images as "meaningless blur, grain, muddy exposures, drunken horizons and general sloppiness."

And indeed as we wandered the gallery rooms at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art where we took in the exhibit "Looking In: Robert Frank's 'The Americans'" (http://www.sfmoma.org/exhibitions/382), we saw the blur, the grain, the flat exposures, the crooked horizons that Popular Photography had lamented.

But was it general sloppiness?

Take a look at his favorite image from the book, a north view of Lafayette Park in San Francisco, the background dominated by a crooked evergreen in front of a white apartment building. In the foreground, on the grass, a black couple are enjoying the day. Until the man hears someone behind him snapping a camera and turns to confront the young Frank.

"All I could do," Frank recalled in an NPR interview (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100688154), "is just stand there with my camera and just keep photographing, but a little bit away from him so he could think and accept that maybe I photographed the panorama of the city."

The image itself suffers from the confrontation. The horizon is so crooked that the tree looks straight and the hill the couple are reclining on seems flat. And the two of them are washed out enough that the drama is muted. The sky, on what is clearly a sunny day, is dull and gray. It was taken in haste.

We grabbed the picture from one site or another, opened it in Photoshop and got to work. We straightened the horizon and recropped the image. Then we adjusted the levels to brighten the sky and get some black in the image. And, without question, the image came to life. It was more dramatic, pulling you into it in a way the original just hinted at.

Was Popular Photography right?

Well, we tried another image, this one of a black woman holding a white infant on the street. We'd been struck by the original image at the exhibit for the expression on the child's face. Mouth pursed. Again the tonal range was flat and the paper a bit yellowed over 50 years and we wondered what it would look like with a little help from Photoshop.

It was reproduced full frame and was fairly straight, with a wide angle lens converging some verticals at the right edge that really didn't bother us. But getting the yellow white was the first job. And the image popped.

In fact, not until we had done that did we recognize the sidewalk on the left side of the picture, mostly out of focus thanks to the shallow depth of field. But our compression of the tonal range, darkening the woman holding the infant, also emphasized her pursed lips, a detail that had escaped us on the flat original.

This is a lot easier to do in Photoshop that it was to do in the darkroom with different paper grades fifty years ago. In an AmericansuburbX interview (http://www.americansuburbx.com/2009/01/theory-interview-with-robert-frank.html), Frank said, "I am aware of the new technological stuff that you can use with photographs. Photographs don't depend so much on a darkroom now. Sure, I'm aware of it. I try to keep in step. But I also don't want to be swept away by it. You want to stay yourself."

And an autofocus lens doesn't hurt either, particularly if you're climbing up a hill in Peru and want to turn around to photograph the two boys carrying your stuff up behind you. Focusing an M3 takes a while.

Fifty years later, it was too late for autofocus but not for tritones. Popular Photography noticed the defects, some of which modern technology can address.

But the real value of these images lies elsewhere. Admittedly, wandering a gallery where the prints have been hung on a wall next to each other is not the same thing as paging through the book. But unlike the book, it hangs each image in the company of all the others it shared a chapter with. They are still in sequence in the SFMOMA exhibit but they are not booked in isolation. They are part of a story you can see at a glance.

You start the story with a detail. Maybe it's the reflection on the tile behind her of the woman holding the infant that leads you to consider their paired pursed lips you suspect would never kiss. Maybe it's the scowl on the reclining man's face as he turns away from the charm he's employed on his date to confront the intruder (who obviously didn't learn from Walker Evans how to use a right-angle finder) that leads you to consider this unhappy shadow on a sunny day in a carefree city.

The images and not their style are the compelling experience. We don't gasp, as we might looking at a print of Half Dome under a storm, "That's gorgeous!" confusing the unreal tones with the real rock. We know Frank's shots are captured from reality without much artifice. There is nothing to confuse. They looked that way. The shallow depth of field was a consequence of a slow film speed, near focus and overcast day rather than the selective focus decision of the photographer, who probably didn't have a chance to think it over.

He focused, instead, on scenes in a story, stills from a movie. A story we would not have seen play out, a movie we would never have known the ending of, except it's 50 years later now and the story has played out, the movie ended. That infant would be middle aged if things worked out, that couple in the park infirm at best.

And in a sense, that makes looking over these 83 images something like looking at a family album. Not one in which you recognize someone in their youth, but one in which you see a youth you won't recognize in old age. Is that man in the park the man we sat next to on the 1 California bus the other day?

It won't surprise you, perhaps, to learn that Frank moved from stills to film and video (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0291071/) when the story itself became his focus. He returned to still photography in the 1970s but his work since then defies simple categorization, involving constructed images, collages and physically manipulated negatives.

But then he was always interested in more than documenting what he saw like the photojournalists or turning it into a personal if technically sophisticated statement like Group f/64 or making the argument that photography is an art like the Photo-Secessionists. He was the outsider, looking in, who captured in his compositions -- some fleeting, some considered -- the poetry of each moment without resorting to rhyme.

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Feature: Pentax K-7 Hands-On Preview

By SHAWN BARNETT
(Excerpted from the full preview posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/K7/K7A.HTM on the Web site.)

We spent some quality time with the new Pentax K-7 and came away quite impressed, with renewed hope for a camera company with a long and proud history.

With the introduction of the K-7, Pentax appears to be positioning itself as a leader in the rugged camera category, making a smaller camera that is better sealed against the elements, with 77 seals that deliver "weather, dust and cold resistance." That latter point is perhaps the most unique, with no other dSLR of this class offering a promise of durability down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit.

DESIGN

The Pentax K-7 is a little smaller than the K20D and a little lighter as well. Built with a steel chassis and a magnesium alloy body, the K-7 feels tight and solid. Despite its sturdy build, the new camera's body weighs less, just 26.5 ounces with battery and card. Compared to the K20D's 28.3 ounces with battery and card, the K-7 has lost about 1.8 ounces. Dimensions are 5.1x3.8x2.9 inches, while the K20D was 5.6x4.0x2.8 inches.

At first blush, the K-7 seems very similar to the K20D, but a closer look reveals a complete redesign.

First, the grip is recut, with a nice finger slot to improve the hold. The shutter button seems a little higher on the grip top as well and just to the right is an AF illumination lamp that wasn't on the K20D, which lights green when the K-7 has difficulty focusing. The IR remote sensor is a little further down on the grip.

And the wide strap loops are replaced by more traditional lugs, which usually require D-rings to accommodate a strap. Pentax provides leather-like pads to minimize scratching, but its the rattle potential that still concerns me, especially while you're recording video.

Much of the weight savings must have come from the grip, which is tighter and the camera's more angular design. Instead of creating the illusion of flow with all the curves you see on the K20D, the K-7's design speaks of efficiency.

CONTROLS

Control placement, while similar to the K20D, is also more efficient. The EV adjustment makes more sense next to the status display and the new ISO button does too.

In addition to the usual unique Pentax capture modes, the Mode dial has a new icon for Movie mode. The Status display glows a very bright green and several of the icons on the rear Status display come very close to matching this green.

Were it not for all the controls packed tightly on the right side, I'd call this look minimalist. "No nonsense" comes to mind as a good description for the complete lack of flair compared to the K20D. I like it. Just give me the view, the controls I need and a nice big LCD to see my photographs.

Playback and Trash look good together. Pentax separated the AF mode switch and Four-way navigator for an easier interface and they nested the AF button itself in the center of the switch, a logical move.

The Live View button is well-placed where it's easy to reach, yet hard to press accidentally (at least for me; Dave found himself pressing it too often). I'm also pleased to see the IR remote window still on the back of the camera where it makes more sense when taking a shake-free photograph is the goal rather than getting into your own shots.

The left side of the camera includes the mechanical flash release button, the excellent Raw button and the AF switch, but the PC Sync has moved to just below the flash release button. New components include the Microphone jack and the HDMI jack, both concealed under rubber doors. Much as we liked the plastic door on the K20D, the Pentax K-7 returns to a rubber door for the majority of its ports.

COOK'S TOUR

Battery. A new battery comes with the K-7, a 7.2v 1,860mAh lithium-ion battery that also has a new pin-out and a new charger: the corded D-BC90. The new battery is rated at 980 images per charge or 740 images with 50 percent flash usage.

Battery grip. The D-BG4 battery grip comes with two trays, one for six AA batteries and one for a single D-BC90 battery. The battery door is not removable, so you can leave a battery in the camera to double the battery life. While this design is nice because you don't have to worry about the cumbersome tower that goes up into the battery compartments of other camera designs, you will have to remove the entire grip to change the K-7's internal battery. The D-BG4 duplicates several controls from the camera's main interface, including the shutter release, front and rear e-dials, the AE-Lock and the AF button.

Sensor. Inside the K-7 is a brand new 14.6-megapixel CMOS image sensor manufactured by partner company Samsung, yielding images at 4672x3104 pixels or below. With dimensions of 23.4x15.6mm (APS-C), the K-7's sensor has a Bayer RGB filter and offers improved on-chip noise control as compared to that of the K20D. Four-channel readout coupled with a newly designed PRIME II image processor allow the K-7 to yield 5.2 frames-per-second shooting, the fastest of any Pentax dSLR to date.

The K-7 can store 12-bit Raw sensor data in either Pentax's proprietary .PEF format or Adobe's DNG (digital negative) format. Burst depth at the maximum frame rate is limited to 40 JPEG compressed, 15 PEF Raw or 14 DNG Raw files. At a reduced frame rate of 3.3 fps, this increases to 17 Raw files of either format, with JPEG bursts at this speed limited only by available battery and memory card capacity.

Shake Reduction. Pentax has mounted the K-7's image sensor on a ball-bearing supported moveable platter, allowing for sensor-shift image stabilization -- which Pentax brands Shake Reduction -- compatible with all Pentax interchangeable lenses produced to date. For the first time, the sensor-shift mechanism can correct not only for horizontal and vertical motion, but also for rotation around the axis of the lens barrel. One degree of rotational correction on either side of the central position is possible and Pentax is claiming 2.5 to 4 stops of correction can be derived from its sensor shift system.

The drawback to Pentax's Shake Reduction technology is you can't see its effects in the optical viewfinder, as you can with Canon and Nikon's lens-based stabilization systems. But thanks to Live View mode, you can indeed see the effect on the LCD.

Dust removal. The K-7 also includes a new DR II dust removal system. Where past models relied on the sensor shift mechanism to remove dust from the sensor -- rather ineffectively according to our tests -- the K-7 now includes a piezo-ceramic element to vibrate the low-pass filter. A dust alert system can check for the presence of dust on the low-pass filter, at the user's prompting.

New shutter mechanism. A newly-designed shutter unit is capable of a maximum 1/8000 second shutter speed and a rated lifetime of 100,000 cycles. To prevent vibration issues in long exposures, the K-7 offers a mirror lockup function that also functions during continuous shooting in Live View mode. A full 5.0EV of exposure compensation is available in either 1/3 or 1/2EV steps and the K-7 also includes a 2- and 12-second self-timer.

Prime II processor. A new processor design also graces the K-7, called PRIME II. The new design allows faster image processing, again contributing to the faster frame rate, as well as the ability to record and play movies.

Lens mount. On its front panel, the K-7 features a KAF2 Lens mount, which is also compatible with KAF3, KAF and KA mount lenses. Pentax K mount, 35mm screw mount and 645/67 medium format lenses can also be attached, although there may be restrictions including the use of an adapter.

Metering. Automatic exposure is achieved courtesy of a new 77-segment metering sensor, which replaces the company's 16-segment metering system. Options include Matrix, Center-weighted and Spot metering, selectable via the switch beneath the Mode dial.

Sensitivity. The combination of sensor and processor in the K-7 combine to yield sensitivity ranging from ISO 100 to 3200 equivalents by default. This can be expanded to a maximum of ISO 6400 if required. When shooting bulb exposures, the K-7 is limited to a maximum sensitivity of ISO 1600 equivalent.

White balance. The K-7 offers a wide range of white balance settings: as well as Automatic and Manual modes, there are no less than ten white balance presets (Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Daylight Color Fluorescent, Daylight White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Tungsten, Flash and Color Temperature Enhancement). This last option is used to retain and enhance the lighting tone -- for example, to enhance a sunset. Finally, three specific color temperatures can be manually stored in-camera for later recall. We're pleased to report that Auto White Balance is excellent, easily compensating for tungsten lighting, something that has previously eluded the entire line of Pentax dSLRs.

Modes. Exposure modes include Green (fully automatic), Manual, Bulb, Shutter- and Aperture-priority and a Hyper Program mode which allows shutter and aperture to be simultaneously adjusted around a predetermined Program exposure. There's also Sensitivity Priority, plus Shutter-and-Aperture Priority where the user defines both shutter speed and aperture and the camera selects an appropriate sensitivity.

Eleven-point AF. The autofocus system is also upgraded, based around a SAFOX VIII Plus AF sensor and a secondary light color sensor. The wide 11-point AF sensor has nine central cross-type elements and the light color sensor allows the camera to take account of the light source when determining microfocus. The autofocus algorithms have also been reworked for improved AF responsiveness and a dedicated AF-assist lamp means that the camera's internal flash needn't be raised when focusing in poor ambient lighting conditions.

LCD. The 3.0-inch LCD display with 921,000 dots of resolution is essentially 640x480 in real-world terms. The display is an in-plane switching TFT type, which offers wide 170 degree horizontal and vertical viewing angles and includes an anti-reflective coating. Depth-of-field preview is possible in both the optical viewfinder and on the LCD display.

Live View. Focusing in live view mode has also been improved. The K-7 offers both contrast detection AF and face detection capable of recognizing up to 16 individual faces in a scene. When in live view mode, the display can be magnified from two to six times if using autofocus, up to a maximum of 10x magnification in manual focus mode. Optional histogram, grid overlay and over/underexposure highlight displays are also available in live view mode.

Viewfinder. Another area in which Pentax has upgraded the K-7 is the glass prism-type TTL optical viewfinder, which offers a 100 percent field of view and 0.92x magnification. Four interchangeable focusing screens are available, including a new Natural-Bright-Matte III screen and the viewfinder offers -2.5 to +1.5 diopter adjustment to cater for eyeglass wearers.

Composition correction. One of the more unusual features of the K-7 relies on its sensor-shift image stabilization mechanism. When shooting on a tripod, you can fine-tune your framing by manually controlling the position and rotation of the image sensor. A total of two degrees rotation and two millimeters of horizontal or vertical adjustment (one degree and one millimeter on either side of the centered position) are available.

Electronic leveling. Thanks to an internal leveling sensor, the K-7 also offers an electronic level function that actually rotates the sensor to a level position when enabled, correcting for errors of one degree in either direction. The K-7 performs this unique trick whether held horizontal or vertical.

Lens distortion correction. The K-7 can correct for lens distortion and lateral chromatic aberration in-camera when using DA and DFA lenses, another feature usually found on more expensive camera models.

Time-lapse. Pentax has also included a time lapse mode in the K-7 and the camera can also shoot multiple exposures with an overlay of the previous image on the LCD to assist in alignment.

HDR. A high-dynamic-range function automatically combines three shots with differing exposures in-camera, yielding a single image with increased dynamic range. There are two modes, HDR1 and HDR2, which apply Standard and Strong amounts of compensation for different effects.

A bagful of filters built-in. Six Custom Image presets (Bright, Natural, Portrait, Landscape, Vibrant and Muted) offer -4 to +4 steps of fine-tuning for saturation, hue, brightness, contrast and sharpness.

Monochrome mode includes the same range of adjustment over brightness, contrast and sharpness and adds -4 to +4 steps of image toning, plus the ability to specify either a green, yellow orange, red, magenta, blue, cyan or infrared color filter. Other post-capture filters include Toy Camera, Retro, High Contrast, Extract Color, Soft Focus, Starburst, Fisheye, Monochrome, Color, Water Color, Pastel, Slim, Miniature, HDR, Base Parameter Adjust and Custom Filter.

The Base Parameter Adjust function allows the user to specify a brightness, saturation, hue, contrast and sharpness adjustment for a specific image. The custom filter meanwhile allows a filter to be created and saved for future use, with the user selecting from a combination of color, contrast, sharpness, shading and distortion effects.

Copyright. You can now specify a copyright holder for storage in the Exif header of photographs via the camera's menu system, rather than setting this via an attached computer.

Movie mode. Thanks again to its high-speed image processor and four-channel sensor readout, Pentax has been able to offer a high definition movie capture mode for the K-7. Movies are recorded at a full 30 frames per second with 1536x1024, 1280x720 or 640x416 pixel options available. Movies are stored as MotionJPEG compressed AVI files.

The K-7 includes a mono microphone and a 3.5mm stereo jack through which an external microphone can be connected. Pentax recommends an external microphone for optimal sound quality. Pentax provided a $250 Rode SVM shoe-mounted stereo mic for us to use with the prototype K-7 and we found it to be an excellent addition.

You can lock exposure during video capture and the K-7 offers the unusual ability to specify an aperture prior to capture. Contrast detection autofocus is possible during video shooting, but is not continuous; you have to trigger the autofocus manually, with the lens likely to briefly seek around the focus point before locking. Finally, image stabilization functions during video capture.

Storage and interface. The K-7 stores images on Secure Digital cards, including the newer Secure Digital High Capacity types. Interface options include high definition HDMI and standard definition NTSC/PAL video outputs, as well as USB 2.0 Hi-speed data connectivity. The K-7 comes bundled with Pentax Digital Camera Utility 4 software, based on Ichikawa Soft Laboratory's Silkypix application.

New lenses. Pentax has also announced two new lenses which bring the company's weather-resistance to a new price point. The SMC DA 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 AL WR has pricing of $200, while the SMC DA 50-200mm F4-5.6 ED WR is priced at $250. Both lenses should ship in July.

APPRAISAL

Pentax has it right when it calls the K-7 a camera with pro features at a semi-pro price. I'm tempted to warn pure amateurs away from the K-7, as I did with the Nikon D300, so that they don't get lost in its wonderful tangle of fine-tuning options. But the good news is that if you lock the Pentax K-7 into Green zone mode it turns off most of the options that can befuddle and just starts using Pentax's years of experience to take well-balanced photographs.

We'll be updating this hands-on preview over the next couple of days, so stay tuned as we flesh-out more details of the intriguing Pentax K-7. And we'll of course have full test results available, once we're able to update our prototype unit with final production firmware.

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Feature: Astronomer Captures Shuttle, Hubble

By MICHAEL R. TOMKINS, News Editor

An article in Britain's Daily Mail (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1182090/Solar-powered-Amateur-astronomer-snaps-space-shuttle-telescope-speeding-sun.html) tipped us off to a truly spectacular digital photo captured by French engineer and amateur astronomer Thierry Legault.

The image shows NASA's space shuttle Atlantis just minutes from reaching the Hubble space telescope, as both are in transit in front of the sun. Captured shortly after noon on Wednesday, the photograph clearly took immense planning on Mr. Legault's part.

Having used the Celestial Observer Web site (http://www.calsky.com) to determine the ideal time and location from which to capture the image, he left his home in Paris en route to Florida. With him came the equipment on which the image would be captured -- including a Canon EOS 5D Mark II dSLR, Takahashi TOA-130 refractor telescope and Baader solar prism. On his arrival, the Floridian thunderstorms common at this time of year threatened to nix the photo opportunity and Mr. Legault told the Daily Mail that his greatest challenge was to find a hole in the clouds.

Some 370 miles above his head, Atlantis was within several minutes of reaching the space telescope. The shuttle's crew are tasked with servicing Hubble for the fifth and final time, repairing two failed instruments, adding two new ones and performing a general overhaul that should see the telescope through to its 24th year in service. At the time of this writing, that mission continues.

With the shuttle measuring just 35 meters in length and Hubble itself around 13 meters, the difficulty of the shot is obvious. Together, the pair were moving at a whopping seven kilometers per second and would transit the sun in just 0.8 seconds. Triggering his shutter at four frames per second some two seconds before the expected transit, Mr. Legault captured a total of 16 frames at 1/8000 second, with the EOS 5D Mark II set to ISO 100 equivalent.

The results speak for themselves. The outline of Atlantis is clearly visible in silhouette, alongside the speck that is Hubble. In the background, the sun is an eerie yellow ball, with 95 percent of its light reflected away by the prism.

Looking over Mr. Legault's Web site (http://www.skynyx.fr/legault/), it is clear he's no stranger to capturing exceptional astronomical images. This week's capture mirrors an earlier photo shot from Normandie, France in 2006 showing a solar transit with Atlantis having just departed the International Space Station. Aspiring astrophotographers will find plenty of interesting material on the site beyond the photos, as well. Mr. Legault has thoughtfully provided a number of articles sharing his experience in selecting and using the necessary equipment.

Hearty congratulations to Mr. Legault on a truly unique capture!

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RE: Slide Show Season

I read your digital photo newsletter and appreciate all of the helpful tips and reviews. Currently I am researching the best approach to trying to archive my 30+ years of still and digital photos. My ultimate goal is to produce some photo and/or video slide shows archiving the highlights of our family.

We now have a daughter getting married. I hope to produce a memorable slide show presentation combining pictures of her and her fiance to share at their rehearsal dinner in June 2010 (plenty of time, I hope)!

We did use Roxio Easy Media Creator 8.0 a few years ago when my son was married but I found that program to be very frustrating and not terribly user friendly (end product was great). At this time I'm willing to take some local classes to perfect my technical skills and invest in new software for my PC. Do you have any suggestions for me: where to begin, software that works well for this, additional resources?

-- Laura

(We're in the middle of just such a project right now. We build the slide show itself in a program designed to do just that, exporting it as a movie that we can burn to a DVD using a DVD authoring program. DVD authoring is a separate step, but it makes the show playable on a lot more devices (including just a DVD player hooked up to a TV). The real work is creating the slide show. We've been writing about this a long time in the newsletter. You can catch up on by visiting our Index (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-indx.html) and typing "slide ?show" in the Text Search box. One of the better Windows options we've found is Photo to Movie (http://www.lqgraphics.com). We reviewed an earlier version of it some time ago and were impressed with how easy it was to do pan and zooms and follow a curved path with the zoom, too. For Mac users, there's nothing quite like Boinx Fotomagico, just out in a new version, and iDVD. -- Editor)

RE: Capture NX 2

I have a Mac laptop and a Windows desktop. Is Capture NX 2 compatible with both the Mac and Windows formats? I would like to purchase the program for my Mac, however, I would also like to be able to install it on my PC rather than buying two different programs. I would like to use it with Photomatix on both Mac and Windows.

-- Wendy Arthur

(Yes, Capture NX 2 is cross platform but you'll need two licenses. There is no Photomatix plug-in for NX 2 but you can still run the stand-alone version. -- Editor)

RE: Management Issues

I have found your Web site to be an invaluable tool for all questions photographic.

I am interesting in finding out more about image management software. I am of course aware of the existence of programs such as Lightroom and Aperture to process images from camera to computer and to back up these files on DVD, etc.

However, I am looking for a larger scale tool to organize and access and manage (retrieve/send out) images within a photo library (with a high capacity and back up system). Do you have any suggestions for me as to where to look for this information? Ideally, I would like to be able to use it on both Macintosh and Windows platforms.

-- Fay Torresyap

(Take a look at our Software Review page (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT.HTM) which has a few reviews of old favorites like QPict, Cumulus and Portfolio (the latter two of which are cross-platform). But we recommend Lightroom. It builds a database of your collection (which can be offline) with keywords and rankings, which is about as large scale as it gets for images. If you want to work with different media types, you might prefer Expression Media. Peter Krogh's The DAM Book (just out in a new edition) discusses both in detail, as well as using Bridge/ACR for digital asset management. -- Editor)

RE: Taking Advantage

I've been reading you newsletter for years. I always look forward to getting it. Once again I've learned something new. I've considered using my Auto ISO feature (on my A700) but was afraid to because I did not know enough about how it would work. I always try to use the lowest ISO setting and I was afraid it would automatically be selecting too high a setting. After reading your article, I'm definitely going to do some testing with mine and see how it goes. That could be a really great feature to actually be able to use! Thanks for the info!

-- Jamie

(Thanks for writing, Jamie! We all learned (and tend to prefer) to manually control the camera. But new cameras have some advanced features that shouldn't be ignored. Previously we mentioned this in regard to autofocus mode (where spot focusing is what we learned and multipoint focusing the new technology, which can track of moving subjects). And with Auto ISO, it's the same thing. We all feel we should force the lowest ISO possible but a capped Auto ISO can do things a manual setting can't. Glad you liked the article. It's a bit sacrilegious, perhaps, but these cameras are getting very smart! -- Editor)
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Editor's Notes

Like that HDR look but want to use it with a subject that won't sit still for a series of bracketed exposures? No problem. Russell Brown shows you how to simulate the look in Camera Raw and Photoshop CS4 with a Raw image (http://www.russellbrown.com/Transfer/FauxHDR_SM.mov).


Kate Labs (http://www.katelabs.com) has released its 99 euro Frame 1.0 [MW] to test digital cameras and lenses. It analyses exposure, color, resolution, vignetting and noise (signal-to-noise ratio, dynamic range, tonal range, and color sensitivity) and includes a variety of test charts, including Kodak Q-13, Q-14, and Q-60.


The New York Times has launched Lens (http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com), a photography blog designed to present "some of the most interesting visual and multimedia reporting. It will be a showcase for the work of Times photographers, and will highlight great images from other news organizations and from around the Web."


Art & Mobile (http://labs.artandmobile.com/tiltshift) has released TiltShift Generator, a Flash application to blur parts of an image, simulating shallow depth of field.


Ubermind (http://www.ubermind.com) has released its $39.95 Maperture Pro Aperture plug-in for geotagging photos with import of tracklog data from a variety of GPS devices, altitude tagging, reverse geocoding, customizable keywords and copy/paste of geotag data.


Adobe Labs (http://labs.adobe.com) has Camera Raw 5.4 and DNG Converter 5.4 release candidates.


Light Crafts (http://www.lightcrafts.com) has released its $199.95 LightZone 3.7 [LMW] with Raw support for the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon EOS 50D, Canon Powershot G10, Nikon D3X, Nikon D90, Nikon D700, Olympus E-30, Olympus E-620, Panasonic DMC-LX3, Panasonic DMC-FZ28, Panasonic DMC-G1, Pentax K2000, Sony A300 and Sony A900.


ACD Systems (http://www.acdsee.com) has opened beta testing for its new Pro Photo Manager for Mac (http://www.acdsee.com/proformac). Over 2,800 Mac users have signed up to test the beta and provide feedback for the final version to be released in 2010.


DxO Labs (http://www.dxo.com) has released 83 new DxO optical correction modules, extending the collection to over 1,200 modules. And to celebrate the company's fifth birthday, DxO Labs is offering a 25 percent discount during May.


Think Tank Photo has published The Top Six Points When Selecting a Roller (http://www.thinktankphoto.com/roller) and a timeline of the company's innovations (http://www.thinktankphoto.com/inventions).


ExposureManager (http://www.exposuremanager.com) has announced a new Two-Image Group Package template designed to enhance an event photographer's product offerings to customers of school and team group pictures and individual portraits.


The free iPhoto Buddy 1.3.2 (http://www.iphotobuddy.com) introduces iPhoto Buddy Menu, a menu bar application providing access to any library and adds the ability to create a new library in just one step.


NPR has revealed The Secret of Google's Book Scanning Machine (http://www.npr.org/blogs/library/2009/04/the_granting_of_patent_7508978.html?ft=1&f=96651030), detailed in Patent 7508978. "Google created some seriously nifty infrared camera technology," the article explains, "that detects the three-dimensional shape and angle of book pages when the book is placed in the scanner. This information is transmitted to the OCR software, which adjusts for the distortions and allows the OCR software to read text more accurately."


Echo One (http://echoone.com) has released its $24.95 DoubleTake 2.2.1 [M] image stitching application.


The free JAlbum 8.3 [LMW] (http://jalbum.net) adds faster smooth image scaling, faster file update comparisons, "zipstream" publishing that archives an album before uploading and then unzips it on the server, an option to import settings from an existing album when creating a new one, text rotation and more.


Human Software (http://www.humansoftware.com) has released Edit for Aperture 1.7.5 with a Smooth&Tones module for smoothing skin and other surfaces without affecting other details, 360 degree spherical lens correction in FixLens, an option to add noise in the out-of-focus areas of Depth of Field and new blurring kernels in Depth of Field.


Rocky Nook has published Mastering the Nikon D700 by Darrell Young and James Johnson, available via the Imaging Resource Amazon affiliate program at a 34 percent discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1933952237/?tag=theimagingres-20).


Nik Software (http://www.niksoftware.com) has released Dfine 2.0 Update for Lightroom 2 as a free download to current Dfine 2.0 owners.

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One Liners

For just $150 per insertion you can list your URL or 800 number here (up to a maximum of 70 text characters).

Digital Photography Tutorials for Beginners: http://www.photoxels.com

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Signoff

That's it for now, but between issues visit our site for the latest news, reviews, or to have your questions answered in our free discussion forum. Here are the links to our most popular pages:

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Happy snapping!

Mike Pasini, Editor
editor@imaging-resource.com
Dave Etchells, Publisher
web@imaging-resource.com

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