“The Art of Whale Photography” DVD Reviewed

By Diane Berkenfeld

the art of whale photography dvd cover artJim Tierney, the CEO of software maker, Digital Anarchy, happens to also be an adventure photographer who loves photographing whales. Tierney also lives in Hawaii, which, conveniently enough is where the Pacific Humpback whales migrate, to mate and give birth. He launched the website http://whalewatcher.net/, to provide whale enthusiasts with information about the 12,000 Humpbacks that make the trip from Alaska to Hawaii each year. According to Tierney, about 13 million people go on whale watching tours annually. And it’s not just the Humpbacks that are fun to watch, but other types of whales too. One of the first products available from the website is the 2 DVD set, “The Art of Whale Photography.”

According to Tierney, who launched the website last month, “We’ll be adding additional training content, but also we plan on adding a lot more information and resources for folks interested in whales, whether they’re watching them or photographing them.” He added: “We also really want to promote what it’s like to see them on a small boat. I think many people think of whale watching as being on a large boat with the whales way off in the distance. In many places, like Maui, HI and Baja, CA, you can go out in small boats on calm water and see the whales up close. Close as in a few feet away close! It’s really an amazing experience.”

Tierney also noted that content related to issues involving whales will also be put on the website in the future.

“The Art of Whale Photography,” was created to provide aspiring and experienced photographers with tips and tricks on taking action photos of Humpback Whales, together with ways to get the most out of their DSLR cameras. Tierney moderates the video, interviewing Michael Sweet, considered to be Maui’s most experienced whale photographer, and marine naturalist and whale expert, Melissa Meeker. “Anyone who has ever tried photographing the fast moving Humpbacks or other whales likely has ended up with many shots of razor sharp water and blurry gray whale shapes,” says Tierney. The videos and website were created to help folks limit the number of bad shots they get, while increasing the chances of getting great photographs.

Michael Sweet photo of humpback whales

Pictured in this photo, is one of the 12,000 majestic Humpback Whales that migrate from Alaska to warmer waters every winter. This year nearly six million Americans will venture out on whale watching tours. Photo © Michael Sweet.

I checked out “The Art of Whale Photography” and have to say it has a lot of great information. I’ve been a photographer for over 20 years now, photographing on the water and land, but when it comes to Humpback Whales—which I have photographed in the past—there was definitely plenty to learn. Along with information specific to photographing the Humpbacks in their natural environment, Tierney and Sweet touch upon a number of general photographic tips that can make the difference between getting great photographs or being left with little in the way of a photographic record of your trip. Since so many people are now venturing out on these smaller whale-watching tour boats, such things as what gear to bring, the way you hold your camera, and which metering and focusing settings you choose can make a big difference.

While Sweet talks about capturing images of the Humpbacks from a photographer’s point of view, Meeker adds to the video by explaining an awful lot about the habits and actions of the whales that you might see when on the water. Knowing what you’re watching—she points out—will make it easier for you to anticipate where to point your camera. Understanding some of the graceful behaviors you might see will also make your excursion more enjoyable. And as Tierney points out, while he loves spending as much time as possible photographing the Humpbacks, every once in a while you ought to put the camera down and just enjoy the sights and sounds of being so close to these wondrous creatures. Using a toy model of a Humpback and easy to understand language, Meeker does a great job of explaining the Humpback’s anatomy, some of the activities that occur among the whales when they’re looking for a mate, as well as how the moms care for their young. This really is important to know, since the Humpbacks migrate from food-rich waters off Alaska, down to Maui, to mate and have their calves.

Overall, I felt the video was a great educational tool, both for the photographic tips as well as the great info. on the whales themselves. I think it was a little longer than it needed to be, but that’s mainly because after each section, the information was recapped—which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you’re going on a whale watching excursion, one using small boats—especially if its to view Humpbacks, “The Art of Whale Photography” is a great tool to use in preparing for your trip.

Along with the DVD set, the website also offers an iPhone app. and “The Humpback Whale Guide.” Other products are expected to follow. For more information, and to see Jim Tierney’s whale photography, go to http://whalewatcher.net/. To see more of Michael Sweet’s photography, go to his website at www.gallerysweet.com.

Behind the Scenes on the Production of the Video

With DSLRs now capable of shooting video, we bet you’re wondering what camera/camcorder/video camera was used to shoot the video. Well, they used Canon EOS 5D Mark II and 7D DSLRs. I asked Tierney how the cameras worked out. Due to limitations of the camera’s autofocus, the on-water footage didn’t come out as well as expected. He explained that the DSLRs “worked beautifully for shooting the [human] talent. When you can lock the camera down, set the focus and depth-of-field, and let the camera roll… it produces exceptional video.” He added that the limitation of 12 minutes/4 Gigs of video shooting was frustrating to have to deal with, when the interviews were going great, but overall he recommends using the DSLRs for video.

For shooting video footage of the Humpbacks though, Tierney said professional video equipment or even dedicated consumer camcorders would have worked out better, because of their autofocus capabilities, image stabilization designed for a moving image, and aliasing/rolling shutter issues that the current crop of DSLRs have with fast moving subjects. “True video cameras have filters and components to minimize or eliminate these problems,” Tierney explained. He stressed that more controlled situations wouldn’t cause such issues, and DSLRs would be ideal for capturing such video.

That’s the main reason that there was little video footage of the Humpbacks in the DVD. I personally would have loved to see more video footage, even some more still photography—and will look forward to future Whalewatcher.net instructional videos.

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Spider Holster’s Black Widow Now Available

Spider Holster, the maker and namesake of one of my favorite accessories is now shipping its Black Widow Camera Holster, which is designed for smaller DSLRs, EVILs and P&S cameras. The Black Widow will let owners of these lighter-weight cameras shoot from the hip the way pros using the Spider Pro have been doing. What makes the Spider Pro and Black Widow great is that they let you keep your camera on you, but at your hip. This is an ideal way to carry your camera, because it eliminates the neck, shoulder and back strain that carrying a camera by its strap can cause. And, trust me, it works well. Now that I’ve begun shooting with the Spider Holster system, I won’t ever photograph another event or portrait session without it.

Combining the strength of stainless steel and heavy-duty resin, the lightweight and durable Black Widow was designed to take cameras from hip to hand in a flash. When the camera is slid into the holster, the Black Widow locks it in place. An audible click from the built-in locking mechanism provides users with peace-of-mind that the camera is secure for hands-free carrying and protected from a snatch-and-grab threat.

The Black Widow Camera Holster comes with the Spider Pin which attaches directly to the camera’s tripod mount or to the accessory Black Widow Plate, and is the key to the Black Widow’s quick access. Designed primarily for photographers using quick-release tripod plates, the Black Widow Plate lets you carry your camera and fluidly bring it to your eye to shoot.

“Too often photographers miss the perfect shot because they’re rooting through bags for their point & shoot or they didn’t pack their DSLR because it was too cumbersome,” said Shai Eynav, president of Spider Holster. “With the Black Widow Camera Holster, the camera stays put at the photographer’s hip, providing maximum comfort while ensuring that the user is in the best possible position to capture life’s memorable moments. The success of the SpiderPro proved the merits of our design concept and the Black Widow will allow a new audience of casual shooters and photography enthusiasts to comfortably carry their camera to places they never would have thought possible before.” Eynav is a professional photographer who designed the Spider Holster out of necessity.

Along with the Black Widow, several accessories were also announced. The Black Widow threads onto any leather belt, but the company also offers its own Black Widow Belt, ideal for photographers who don’t normally wear clothing that can accept a belt. Also available is the Black Widow Pad, a cushioned extension of the belt that provides a resting place for the camera against the user’s body. The Black Widow Pad can attach to a standard leather belt, and be used with that way instead.

The Black Widow Camera Holster will sell for $49.99, the Black Widow Belt for $15.99 and the Black Widow Plate for $15.99. Additional Black Widow Pins are $7.99 and the Black Widow Pad sells for $8.99.  Go to www.spiderholster.com/blackwidow/ for more information.

— D.B.

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Olympus Introduces Flagship E-5 DSLR

Today Olympus announced the E-5, the new flagship E series DSLR. The camera uses a 12.3MP High-Speed Live MOS Sensor with Olympus’ proprietary TruePic V+ image processing engine for crisp images that display greater detail than previously available. The E-5 also incorporates the capability to shoot 720p HD video, at 30 frames per second.

Other features of the camera include a 3-inch, 270 degree swivel LCD for flexibility when shooting isn’t straight on, and 10 creative in-camera Art Filters that can be applied to both still and video.

The art filters are an example of features that first appeared on enthusiast level DSLRs and have migrated to the pro level. The Art Filters can be used in all shooting modes. ISO range is 100 to 6400, and the top shutter speed is 1/8000 of a second. The camera can capture up to four multiple exposures to be combined in either real time or in the camera at a later time.

The E-5 employs an in-body Mechanical Image Stabilization system to compensate for camera movement, up to 5 EV steps. Now the full line of compatible Olympus Zuiko Digital lenses become image stabilized.

The new Dramatic Tone art filter represents real space in a more imaginary way by applying unrealistic tones of light and darkness based on local changes in contrast. This new filter joins the Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale & Light Color, Light Tone, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, Cross Process and Gentle Sepia filters previously available on the E-30, E-620 and PEN series cameras.

Rear of the E-5 with optional vertical grip attached.

Like its predecessor, the E-3, the E-5 is completely splashproof and dustproof. The camera also uses a built-in Dust Reduction System with a Supersonic Wave Filter. The shutter is expected to withstand 150,000 exposures.

The Olympus E-5 is compatible with a range of external flashes and can wirelessly control both the Olympus FL-36R and FL-50R flashes with its commander function incorporated into its built-in flash.

The E-5 has a built-in microphone and also features a microphone jack so you can use external microphones for even greater quality audio capture while recording video.  The E-5 can accept both CompactFlash Type I UDMA and SD (SDHC/SDXC) media cards.

Olympus is scheduled to ship the E-5 DSLR in October. Street pricing for the E-5 body is $1,699.99.

For more information, go to: www.olympusamerica.com.

— Diane Berkenfeld

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New Camera Gear from Pentax

Pentax today announced a new DSLR camera, lens and two P&S cameras, one of which we’ll be discussing later. Now onto the DSLR body and interchangeable lens.

K-r DSLR

New on the DSLR front is the Pentax K-r DSLR offering a wide range of automatic and manual features sure to appeal to most DSLR shooters. This 12.4MP camera is being offered in three colors: traditional black, classic white and Pentax red.

The K-r is the newest DSLR introduced by Pentax. It will be available in black, white and red.

Features of the K-r include a large 3-inch LCD, widescreen HD video capture (720p HD video at 25fps), maximum 1/6000 of a second shutter speed, large ISO range of 100 – 25600, and 6 fps framerate that can capture 25 images in a single sequence. Other features of the camera include a viewfinder focus point indicator, improved in-camera HDR mode including a Night Scene HDR mode, and improved noise performance.

Pentax offers two options to power the camera: a rechargeable lithium-ion battery or four AA-size batteries which means that if you’ve forgotten your charger or suddenly find yourself with a dead battery on vacation, you will be able to power the camera with four AA batteries using the optional AA Battery Holder (D-BH109).

The K-r also features infrared data transfer compatible with the IrSimple high-speed IR data transmission system for transfer to the web or other IrSimple-compatible devices. The K-r DSLR is packed with features. The K-r utilizes Pentax’s own shake reduction mechanism and dust removal mechanism.

The new smc Pentax DA 35mm f/2.4 AL lens.

Creative types will love the addition of a wide-range of in-camera image processing and special effects filters. These include custom image functions, digital filters and cross processing modes. The camera ships with the Pentax Digital Camera Utility 4 software package that includes a RAW processor.

Pentax will be shipping the K-r in October. MSRP for the K-r body is $799.95, MSRP for the K-r with the 18-55mm lens kit is $849.95, MSRP for the K-r double lens kit including the 18-55mm lens and 50-200mm lens is $899.95, and the MSRP for the K-r double lens kit with the 18-55mm lens and 55-300mm lens is $999.95.

35mm Lens

Pentax also announced the smc Pentax DA 35mm f/2.4 AL standard lens. The lens has a minimum focusing distance of 0.3 meters. The new 35mm lens is also expected to ship in October with an MSRP of $219.95.

Optio RS1000

Although we usually feature DSLRs here on the Picture-soup.com blog we wanted to mention the new 14MP Pentax Optio RS1000 P&S camera.

The Pentax Optio RS1000 on the left and some of the included skins on the right (note, skins are not to scale).

This compact P&S model is unique in that it comes with 11 different skins that allow users to customize the camera to their own personality. In addition to the included skins, Pentax is also including a Skinit gift card so users can order a high quality, pre-cut 3M vinyl skin from www.skinit.com. Other ways to personalize these compact cameras include using the included stencil on printed photos or other unique printed pieces to use as skins; or download the Pentax personal skin designer software that lets you import a photo and save the skin as a PDF for printing.

For more information, go to www.pentaximaging.com.

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Canon Announces 7DSV DSLR for Studio Photographers

canon 7D dslr for picture-soup.com article

Canon U.S.A. has announced a new studio version of the popular 7D DSLR. Today the company introduced the EOS 7DSV (studio version), which is designed for school and event photography. The camera was also introduced with a new optional Canon barcode solution. The EOS 7DSV DSLR Camera features four levels of “locking” camera controls. By giving administrators the ability to “lock” the camera, unwanted features can be disabled. This would give a studio the ability to ensure each photographer’s work is reliable and repeatable.

The camera has four different “lock” levels allowing administrators to enable the appropriate level of camera functionality for any studio operation. Custom functionality is also achieved through each level by unlocking individual features according to operator-specific needs. This complete level of control is guarded by a daily password preventing anyone with a different vision from changing the camera settings and disrupting the overall project and workflow.

Add the barcode solution and customer data is linked directly to the image file. This is highly desired by school photographers but can also be beneficial to forensic and medical photo workflows as well as event and even catalog photography.

Once the barcode option is enabled, customer, organizational, patient and/or other data will be embedded directly into the image file’s EXIF data by scanning a barcode for easy identification when reviewing the completed work. While shooting, the actual reading of barcodes can be easily managed and, based upon each person’s workflow, the critical task of file management is accomplished with less risk of error. Upon completion, a visual confirmation will appear on the camera’s rear LCD screen.

“We know professional photographers are constantly searching for ways to simplify the workflow process,” said Yuichi Ishizuka, executive vice president and general manager, Consumer Imaging Group, Canon U.S.A. “With the addition of the new EOS 7D Studio Version camera, professionals and business owners can be confident that data management will be streamlined and they can focus on the current task at hand.”

The EOS 7D Studio Version kit includes Canon’s WFT-E5A unit, which along with the optional barcode reader can scan and seamlessly manage image and customer data through a “wired connection”. A wireless system configuration is also possible through Canon’s BU-30 Bluetooth adapter. Existing WFT-E5A units require a firmware update to work with Barcode functionality. According to Canon, this firmware update will need to be done at a Canon USA Factory Service location. However, once you choose this option, the ability to read and embed GPS data will no longer function.

The EOS 7D and EOS 7DSV feature 18MP resolution utilizing an APS-C sized CMOS image sensor and Canon’s proprietary Dual DIGIC 4 image processors. The cameras utilize a 19-point AF system, Live View, ISO range up to 12800, and new iFCL Metering. The 7D/7DSV can also capture full HD video. Ruggedly built, the cameras utilize a magnesium alloy body that is dust- and weather-resistant; and the shutter durability is guaranteed up to 150,000 cycles. The cameras are compatible with over 60 Canon EF and EF-S lenses, in addition to other EOS system accessories.

The new EOS 7DSV Barcode Kit (EOS 7DSV and WFT-E5A with firmware change) will carry an estimated selling price of $ $2,599. The EOS 7DSV Body only will carry an estimated selling price of $1,829. Both are available by special order through select Canon authorized dealers.

The following Barcode Scanners are compatible; Honeywell 3800, Honeywell 3820, for scanning via bluetooth and Honeywell 4600, for scanning 1D and 2D barcodes.

Email all inquiries and questions regarding Canon’s EOS 7D Studio Version DSLR or Canon’s Barcode Solution to ProSolutions@cusa.canon.com.

For all other information, go to www.cusa.canon.com.

— Diane Berkenfeld

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Sigma 17-50 f/2.8 Lens Now Available

sigma 17-50mm lens for picture-soup.com news itemYesterday, Sigma Corporation announced the release of its new 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM lens. The lens was first introduced at the PMA show earlier this year. The lens is designed for DSLRs that utilize the smaller APS-C sized image sensor.

The lens has a minimum focusing distance of 11-inches throughout the entire zoom range and a maximum magnification of 1:5. It is currently available only in the Canon mount, with Nikon, Sigma, Sony, and Pentax mounts becoming available in the coming weeks.

For Sony and Pentax shooters who are using cameras that offer in-camera stabilization, they can utilize the anti-shake system of the lens or camera body.

MSRP for the 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM lens is $980.

For more details, visit www.sigmaphoto.com.

— D.B.

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Sony Joins the Compact Interchangeable Lens Camera Party

Sony recently introduced two new Alpha compact digitals that join in the non-DLSR, interchangeable lens category that Olympus, and Panasonic are already part of, with their micro four-thirds systems. The cameras were first announced at PMA earlier this year.

Sony's Alpha NEX-5

The Alpha NEX-5 and NEX-3 provide the quality of a DSLR in a compact body. Because this type of cameras don’t utilize a mirror prism, their physical size can be much smaller than the ordinary DSLR.

Both Sony models utilize a newly developed 14.2 MP Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor. The sensor is 60% larger than the micro four-thirds camera sensors.

What makes the new Alpha NEX-5 and NEX-3 cameras so cool is that the APS-C sensor continually adjusts focus and exposure while recording video—the first of its kind. The NEX-5 offers Full HD movie capture at (1080i AVCHD and 720p MP4) with Full HD 60i recording. The NEX-3 shoots 720p HD video, saving them as MP4 files.

Features of the cameras include built-in stereo microphones, Sony’s BIONZ processor, and high speed burst of full-res images at up to 7 frames per second. The cameras are also the first to incorporate the Sweep Panorama feature that allows your images to show up to 226° horizontal or 151° vertical field of view. With a firmware update available mid-summer, the cameras will also be able to shoot 3D Sweep Panorama images with a single lens.

Sony Alpha NEX-3

Both camera models feature a 3-inch LCD, that tilt up or down for added flexibility.

Three new E-mount lenses are being introduced with the NEX-5 and NEX-3: the 16mm f/2.8 prime lens, an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS standard zoom and an 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS zoom.

The cameras come with a super-compact clip-on flash. They also feature dual media card compatibility, accepting both Memory Stick PRO Duo (and Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo) and SD cards, (including SDHC and SDXC formats).

An optional mount adapter—LA-EA1—makes  all 30 of the Alpha family lenses usable on the camera bodies, as well as older legacy A-mount lenses (manually focusing only). Other optional accessories include an ultra wide converter that gives a 12mm view and a Fisheye converter; an optical viewfinder, and stereo microphone. The flash, optical viewfinder and mic all connect to the cameras by the accessory shoe at the top of the camera body.

Sony is shipping the NEX-5A digital in silver and black and NEX-3A digital in silver, black and red as a kit with the 16mm lens (MSRP $650 and $550 respectively); and as a kit with the 18-55mm lens (MSRP $700 and $600 respectively). The camera bodies, accessories and 16mm and 18-55mm lenses will be available in July. The 18-200mm lens will be available in the fall.

(l. to r.) NEX-3 in red, silver NEX-3 with accessory stereo mic, the rear tilting LCD is a feature of both models, the NEX-5 and NEX-3.

For more information, go to www.sony.com.

— Diane Berkenfeld

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Canon Expands Rebel line with new DSLR

Canon U.S.A., today introduced its new flagship model for the company’s popular Rebel DSLR line: the Canon EOS Rebel T2i DSLR. The camera is ideal for the photo enthusiast looking for a camera they can grow into as well as a backup camera for the Canon shooting pro. The Rebel T2i offers 18-megapixels resolution for still images and can also capture full HD video at 1080p.

The Rebel T2i offers a wide range of impressive features including an ISO range of 100-6400 (expandable to 12,800), a 63-zone Dual Layer Metering System, and Canon’s proprietary DIGIC 4 Imaging Processor. For the Rebel T2i, Canon developed a new 18MP CMOS sensor. The camera also offers 3.7 fps continuous shooting for stills, an expanded ± 5 EV exposure compensation range as well as a number of user-selectable Canon image processing features, including tagging of RAW files, and in-camera optimization of JPG files.

Other features include: Canon’s Auto Lighting Optimizer to enhance shadow detail and add contrast to “flat” scenes, Highlight Tone Priority adding up to one stop of detail in bright highlight areas, Peripheral Illumination Correction for automatic correction of vignetting, High ISO Noise Reduction with four user-selectable settings, and Long Exposure Noise Reduction applied to exposures one second or longer.

The camera has a 3-inch LCD. The EOS Rebel T2i Digital SLR camera is the first EOS model to support SDXC memory cards. The camera also incorporates such features that photographers are used to seeing in a Rebel: Live View, a built-in pop-up flash, and the EOS integrated cleaning system, as well as compatibility with Canon EX-series Speedlites and Canon EF and EF-S lenses. The EOS Rebel T2i Digital SLR camera is also compatible with Canon’s new BG-E8 battery grip and new RC-6 wireless remote control for both still images and video capture.

The video capture in the Rebel T2i allows for manual exposure control, selectable frame rates and an external mic input, for added flexibility. Photographers can also capture video in standard definition with the camera. Adding a new pro-level feature for EOS cameras, the Rebel T2i includes an Auto ISO function that works in all Creative Zone exposure modes including Manual where users can set a limit to the highest ISO the camera will use, enabling them to retain the lighting and look they desire for a scene. By setting an Auto ISO range, videographers can retain dark shadow areas and avoid blowing out highlight areas in a scene while still retaining the benefit of automatic ISO adjustments. The Rebel T2i DSLR captures video in both NTSC (US system) and PAL (European system) standards at selectable frame rates.

The camera also features Canon’s new Movie Crop mode, whereby you can get an additional 7x magnification when shooting SD video; this is done by the camera cropping the image directly from the CMOS sensor.

Canon expects to ship the EOS Rebel T2i to dealers in early March. Estimated retail price for the camera, body only is $799.99; and MSRP of $899.99 for the kit version that includes the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS zoom lens. For more information about Canon, check the website at www.cusa.canon.com.

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Product Review: ExpoImaging's Ray Flash Ring Flash Adapter

By Diane Berkenfeld

The Ray Flash is an adapter that fits over the head of your DSLR’s accessory flash and turns your flash into a ring flash. The Ray Flash uses the power of your flash—redirected through the adapter’s body—onto your subject. The Ray Flash has a center diameter of 4 1/8-inches and can accommodate most professional 35mm interchangeable lenses.

A range of models are available so you’ll want to check the ExpoImaging website for your DSLR/flash combination to see which one will work for you. The reason behind this is that there are differences in the height of different models of flashes sitting on various camera bodies. Originally the Ray Flash was designed to work with Canon Speedlites (580EX and 580EX II) and Nikon Speedlights (SB800 and SB900) but they will work with a range of other camera/flash combinations including cameras/flashes from Olympus and Sony; as well as flashes from Metz and Sigma.

The question is, when so many camera manufacturers and some lighting equipment makers make dedicated ring flashes, why would you go with an adapter instead? Price. The price ranges start at around $225 to $400 or so for dedicated ring flashes from camera makers and companies including Sunpak and Sigma; and upwards of $1,000 to $1,800 for ring flash heads from companies like Lumedyne, DynaLite, Comet, and Elinchrom. The ring flash heads average 3,000 watt seconds (w/s) of power. And if you own a lighting system that isn’t compatible, you’re out of luck—unless you’re willing to go out and spend thousands of dollars more for a full system of lights.

But when you’re looking for portability, a smaller unit is necessary. Street price for the Ray Flash is $199. which is a less than the cost if you were going to go out and buy a dedicated ring flash. And, by design, you’re getting more versatility out of your equipment, since you can most likely use a flash you already own.

Using the Ray Flash

(l. to r.) Installing the Ray Flash on a flash is quick and easy. Just slip it on, and turn the locking mechanism (on the top of the Ray Flash) to secure the adapter to the flash.

(l.) Final image; (r.) Close-up in Adobe Lightroom. Note the distinctive Ring Light highlights in the eyes. Photos © Diane Berkenfeld.

You will lose one stop of light from your flash by using the Ray Flash adapter. Because of the design, you can still use TTL modes with the Ray Flash adapter. Depending upon your shooting situation, though, you may want to use the flash on manual instead of TTL, to compensate for the light loss. A locking mechanism secures the adapter to your flash head, so it won’t slip off. And there is no change in color temperature.

Another example of the soft lighting from the Ray Flash. Photo taken with the Ray Flash on a Sigma EF 530 DG Super flash, Nikon D300s. Photo © Diane Berkenfeld.

The lighting from a ring flash is distinctive—virtually shadowless lighting on the front of the subject with a soft halo of shadow around the edges. The further away your subject is from the background, the harsher the shadow behind the subject will be. With other lighting methods, it is usually the opposite, in that you’ll get softer shadows the further your subject is from the background.

The Ray Flash, or any ring flash for that matter is ideal for Macro photography, however you can use the Ray Flash for wider compositions such as portraits too.

I tested out the Ray Flash (model #RAC 175-2) with a Nikon D300s body, AF-S DX Nikkor 18-200mm F/3.5-5.6 G lens and Sigma EF 530 DG Super flash. I also decided to try it out with the Lensbaby Composer and Fisheye optic on the D300s and the Sigma flash.

Using the Ray Flash adapter is very easy, it just slips over the head of the flash. I had no problems using it, in fact, when using the Nikkor lens, I held the D300s body with my right hand, and zoomed the lens with my left. When I tried taking photographs with the Lensbaby, which was much shorter than the Nikkor, I found it a little more difficult to shoot, but not impossible. Because I was using the Fisheye optic, I could see the back of the Ray Flash adapter in the viewfinder. For the image of Mardi Gras beads (below) that I shot with the Fisheye Lensbaby, I actually liked the circular crop that I ended up with.

(l.) This image was captured with the Lensbaby Composer on a Nikon D300s, using the Fisheye optic. The black ring is the back of the Ray Flash - visible because of the Lensbaby's shallow physical size and Fisheye's wide field of view; (r.) Final cropped image, exposure adjusted slightly, bringing out the blacks. The outline around the circle was created in Photoshop. If you look really closely you can see the reflection of the Ray Flash in the highlights. Photos © Diane Berkenfeld.

If you’re looking for an economical ring flash lighting solution the Ray Flash adapter might be right for you.

For more information, go to the website www.expoimaging.com.

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Lark publishes new Magic Lantern Guides book for the Olympus E-P1

LarkOlympus E-P1Lark Books has published Magic Lantern Guides – E-P1. The new book is authored by Frank Gallaugher, who has years of experience shooting with Olympus cameras. The book (ISBN: 1-60059-671-1) costs $14.95 and will be available November 3, 2009.

Magic Lantern books help new digital photographers take the trial and error out of using and shooting with their new cameras. No matter if you’re a beginner or more experienced photographer, Magic Lantern Guides offer practical information and smart advice, while explaining all the features of a DSLR or interchangeable lens camera, and are written in an easy to read style. The Magic Lantern Guides are easier to understand than many of the manuals that come with these types of cameras.

You can check out the website at www.larkbooks.com to find out more about this book or see the other titles that Lark Books publishes.

— Diane Berkenfeld

[Editor's Note: Read the PictureSoup review of the Olympus E-P1 on this website.]

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