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JPEGmini - like JPEG, but mini

JPEGmini logo

Google might be trying to take the file format world by storm with WebP, but an Israeli tech company, ICVT, would much rather that we took a look at their innovative JPEG-compressing technology, JPEGmini. It takes JPEG files and makes them smaller, without any perceptible loss of quality. As they put it, it’s your photos on a diet. JPEGmini uses baseline JPEG technology, so provided that your device supports JPEG, it’ll support JPEGmini, too.

There’s a maximum of 80% compression achieveable, but in order to manage that, you have to be working with a file that’s resolution in excess of eight megapixels. The smaller the file, the less compression is achievable.

JPEGmini works by assessing the photo to determine just how much compression it can get away with before the image quality becomes noticeably poorer. Then a unique JPEG encoder works its magic and creates the most compact version of the image that’s possible under current JPEG standards.

For the developers – Sharon Carmel and Dror Gill – the idea is to save storage space, to speed up email transfers of photos, and to save money by reducing the time it takes to move data from one place to another. You know, it’d be even more effective and efficient if it weren’t a web-based application and could be downloaded as a desktop app. Cos at the moment we’re all uploading and downloading photos in order to compress them, and when you’re on a slow connection, well it’s like pulling teeth. But the idea, that’s very cool.

You can go have a play and squash some pictures over at JPEGmini, for free. Let me know what you think.

(Headsup to TechCrunch)

Our September photo competition

Galileo thermometer

So my lovelies. We’ve had a few creative themes for the past few competitions. They’ve been marvellous, but a change can be as good as a rest, so this month, we thought we’d go and do something technical. We are, therefore, looking for your low-key photos. Dark, brooding, moody, seductive. Whatever take on low-key you want to give us, that’ll be fabulous. The one that we like the best will win a fabulous 12″ Fracture.

You’ve from today – Wednesday 7 September – until Wednesday 28 September to submit your entry. As ever, it’s one submission per person, and they need to go in our Flickr pool.

If you’ve any questions at all, drop me a note. Otherwise The Rules are here for your reference, and good luck!

The Rules

  • If you decide to enter, you agree to The Rules.
  • You can’t have written for Small Aperture or be related to either me or Haje to enter.
  • One entry per person – so choose your best!
  • Entries need to be submitted to the right place, which is the Small Aperture Flickr group.
  • There’s a closing date for entries, so make sure you’ve submitted before then.
  • You have to own the copyright to your entry and be at liberty to submit it to a competition. Using other people’s photos is most uncool.
  • It probably goes without saying, but entries do need to be photographs. It’d be a bit of strange photo competition otherwise.
  • Don’t do anything icky – you know, be obscene or defame someone or sell your granny to get the photo.
  • We (that being me and Haje) get to choose the winner and we’ll do our best to do so within a week of the competition closing.
  • You get to keep all the rights to your images. We just want to be able to show off the winners (and maybe some honourable mentions) here on Small Aperture.
  • Entry is at your own risk. I can’t see us eating you or anything, but we can’t be responsible for anything that happens to you because you submit a photo to our competition.
  • We are allowed to change The Rules, or even suspend or end the competition, if we want or need to. Obviously we’ll try not to, but just so that you know.

Saw this t-shirt; thought of you

t-shirt

Despite my current quest to divest myself of a vast accumulation of too much stuff, which includes at least half of my wardrobe and a small library of paperbacks, I really would like one of these ‘I shoot people’ t-shirts. In addition to my exploding wardrobe crisis, they’re also a bit pricey, at £21.95 (about US$35) plus postage. They come in small and medium sizes – I’ve no idea why there’s no large – and only in women’s fit. Mwahahaha!

Fancy one to scare the billy-o out of people when you’re indulging in some street photography? Head over to More T Vicar and take a look.

Maybe if I get rid of two old t-shirts, I can have one of these?

[Update: Large sizes should be available from 7 September and More T Vicar will give you a free t-shirt if you spend more than £50.]

Photogram - share photos by email

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I’ve got thousands of photos lingering on my iPhone. Mostly they’re there as reminders of quirky things, such as some crazy tiling I saw in the toilets of an Edinburgh art gallery or silly signs or posters that I spot in music venues, but sometimes I like to send a picture to someone. Usually, I toss it into an email and away it goes. An app was sent my way recently, though, that would let me send four photos in one go in a format that’s a bit more friendly than as an email attachment.

It’s called Photogram. You download it for free, set it up, and away you go. Select up to four photos, throw them into one of a healthy choice of backgrounds, add a message, and them send them on their merry way by email. Or FaceBook. Or Twitter. You can send the same ‘card’ to multiple recipients, and it remembers to whom you’ve sent a photogram previously.

The positives? It’s easy. It’s free. It’s a cute idea.

The negatives? Well, it isn’t eactly a negative, but it’s just not outstanding and I’m not sure how much I’d use it. Still, for nothing, you could do a whole lot worse.

Photogram, send photos for free.

Meet our new artisitic overlords, the LAPD

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Now I was always under the impression that it was the duty of the police to keep the peace, catch criminals, return truculent toddlers to their frantic parents, and direct lost tourists. But apparently, Long Beach police are also the gurus of good taste and the overseers of all that is aesthetically pleasing. If they see someone taking photos with ‘no apparent aesthetic value’ it is their policy to detain the photographer.

Please note, oil refineries are not considered to be of aesthetic value and therefore you can be stopped and questioned if seen photographing one.

This is something that Sander Roscoe Wolff, a photographer and writer for the Long Beach Post, discovered to his cost at the end of June. He was stopped by officer Asif Kahn when he was snapping pics of North Long Beach oil refinery. Apparently because his subject wasn’t pretty enough.

Taking photos of subjects ‘with no apparent aesthetic value’ is something that can contribute to a Suspicious Activity Report, along with asking about an establishment’s hours of operation and taking notes. Not forgetting attempting to purchase anthrax, or owning explosives for illicit purposes, or laying your grubby mitts on uniforms that could be used in all sorts of nefarious ways.

According to Police Chief Jim McDonnell, police officers don’t receive specific training in what can or cannot be considered aesthetically pleasing, but that they make these calls based on ‘their overall training and experience’ and what they consider to be behaviour regularly indulged in by tourists.

Now, forgive me for the shadow of doubt here, but I’m not sure that basing suspicions of criminal – or potential criminal – activity on the highly subjective value judgement of what a police officer considers to be aesthetically pleasing, beautiful, attractive, or photo-worthy is entirely valid, because, well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

In case this needs reinforcing, I should like to direct Police Chief McDonnell to Flickr, where searching for ‘industrial decay’ yields 78,627 results. Type in ‘windfarm’ and 40,282 pictures are spurted back at you. Go for the alternative spelling of ‘wind farm’ and there are 70,608 matches. Jeez, I’m not exactly turned on by photos of rubbish bins, but there are still over 14,000 of them on Flickr.

And dammit, if anyone were to see half of the photos that I discard following a shoot, I’d be locked up and the key thrown away for the offence of taking an ugly shot.

(Headsup to A Photo Editor)

Sony's range of video marketi... ahem... tutorials

Screen Shot 2011-08-11 at 14.31.57

Oh Sony, you get my hopes up, and then you dash them. Actually, you’ve done more than dash my hopes, you’ve disappointed me. I was so excited by the prospect of the Sony HowTo videos that you released today. People seem to love video tutorials and I really thought that you were on to a winner with your series of four minute shorts to help people get the most out of their cameras. ‘Aha!’ I naively thought, ‘Somewhere I can direct newbies to help them out a bit!’ But I’m hanging my head here.

You see, I don’t want to watch a four minute advertisement for a Sony product. And I can pretty much guarantee that people who already own the product – and are looking to make the most out of it – really don’t need any adverts for it. No, if I watch a four minute video called Learn to shoot in low light, I’m expecting a quick fire session in shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and the benefits of using a tripod. I don’t want to be preached at about the benefits of Sony lenses and sensors and the Auto HDR mode on some its cameras.

Get better results from your digital camera shows me how to shoot large or small resolution images, obviously on a Sony camera. Is that the best that you can manage in four minutes? Really?

There are more, but I can’t face wading through any more Sony adverts.

You’ve missed a trick here, Sony, and made fools of yourselves. Shame on you for calling them tutorial videos. That would be about helping people to become better photographers. These are self-promotional guff. Educate people for education’s sake, not for advertisement. It’ll serve you far, far better in the long run.

Android compatible remote controller, if you use Canon

If Android users have been feeling a bit left out by the dearth of remote controllers available for their cameras, that might be about to change. A Dutch company, Chainfire, has just released a beta dSLR controller app that needs only a USB cable to give you control over the aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance, metering, zooming, and loads of other things that you’d get bored if I listed. Only problem? As yet it’s only cmpatible with Canon Eos cameras. But, it is a start.

The app costs $8.51, but this is expected to increase once it comes out of beta. In fact, Chainfire wasn’t due to release it yet, but demand has been so high that they felt it was better to get the beta out there and work on the kinks than keep people waiting.

The developers have a huge wish-list of things that they’d like to introduce once things are running more smoothly, including but not limited to: video support, timelapse, scripting, and image review and transfer.

Want to know more? Head here.

(Headsup to TechCrunch)

News in brief: 150 million Instagrams

Yep, in just seven months 150 million photos have been uploaded to Instagram. (That’s about one every 15 seconds.) And all of those would have come from an iPhone because there’s no Instagram Android app and you can’t upload from your computer, either. Apparently, Instagram haven’t ruled out an Android app, but they are being super tight-lipped as to when one might appear. I can scarcely begin to imagine what will happen when Instagram hits the non-iOS collective. Is the world going to become one giant Instagram?

(Headsup to Engadget)

What is this? - In our NewsFlash section, we share interesting tidbits of news. Think of it as our extended twitter feed: When we find something that get our little hearts racing, we'll share it with you right here! Loving it? Great, we've got lots more News Flash articles - and, of course, we're still on Twitter as well, for even shorter news tidbits.

News in brief: Facebook in German hot water?

Facebook’s facial recognition doo-hickey is coming under a bit of pressure in Germany as the authorities there reckon that it violates both German and EU privacy laws. Facebook, naturally enough reckons that it isn’t doing anything wrong, but then as far as I can tell, Facebook wouldn’t think that selling your granny to the highest bidder to finance one orgiastic night of hookers and blow was wrong, either.

From the German perspective, Facebook is sitting on a massive pile of its users’ biometric data that it has gathered from images uploaded to the site. There might be an opt-out function, but they have the information regardless of whether someone consents to it or not. Facebook’s response is that this makes life easier for its users. And safer, too, apparently. I’d love to hear the reasoning behind that one.

Dr Johannes Caspar, Hamburg’s data protection officer, has requested that Facebook do something about it, pronto. If Facebook doesn’t, it could be fined up to €300,000. But let’s face it, that’s hardly a deterrent to multibillion dollar Facebook, is it?

What is this? - In our NewsFlash section, we share interesting tidbits of news. Think of it as our extended twitter feed: When we find something that get our little hearts racing, we'll share it with you right here! Loving it? Great, we've got lots more News Flash articles - and, of course, we're still on Twitter as well, for even shorter news tidbits.

July photo competition winner!

Champagne copy

Ooh we have sunshine in London! And it’s not just sunshine, it’s actually verging on the warm. So help yourself to a sherbet, or a glass of Pimm’s if you’re that way inclined, as we have a competition winner to announce. July’s theme was red in honour of my new dress (although it could quite equally be the thermometer right now) and the lovely guys at Fracture have supplied the prize. There were some cracking entries and we had a bit of a ding-dong when settling on the winner. But we got there.

Bubble, by Ivo Vuk

Many congratulations to Ivo for his picture ‘Bubble’. Get in touch, and we’ll sort out your prize for you.

And, seeing as it’s our competition and everything, and thought that we’d give an honourable mention, too. That goes to Vereesh for Gimme-Red.

Gimme-Red by Vereesh

Thank you for your gorgeous entries. We really do enjoy seeing what you come up with every month. August’s competition will be announced soon!

Our August photo competition

Pattern 11 - moss

We’ve done it! We’ve wracked our brains and thought of a theme for this month’s competition. It was terribly hard work, you should know. We’re looking for pictures on the theme of texture. It can be rough or smooth, you can do a macro of some fabric, you could capture the look of moss or lichen… we really don’t mind. We’re looking forward to seeing what you drop into the Flickr pool. Our winner gets a fabulous 12″ Fracture, too!

You’ve three weeks to submit a photo, so you have from today (Wednesday 3 August) until Wednesday 24 August. It’s only one photo per person, and they need to go in the Small Aperture Flickr pool.

If you’ve any questions, please be in touch. Otherwise, I’ve reproduced The Rules, just in case. Good luck and have fun!

The Rules

  • If you decide to enter, you agree to The Rules.
  • You can’t have written for Small Aperture or be related to either me or Haje to enter.
  • One entry per person – so choose your best!
  • Entries need to be submitted to the right place, which is the Small Aperture Flickr group.
  • There’s a closing date for entries, so make sure you’ve submitted before then.
  • You have to own the copyright to your entry and be at liberty to submit it to a competition. Using other people’s photos is most uncool.
  • It probably goes without saying, but entries do need to be photographs. It’d be a bit of strange photo competition otherwise.
  • Don’t do anything icky – you know, be obscene or defame someone or sell your granny to get the photo.
  • We (that being me and Haje) get to choose the winner and we’ll do our best to do so within a week of the competition closing.
  • You get to keep all the rights to your images. We just want to be able to show off the winners (and maybe some honourable mentions) here on Small Aperture.
  • Entry is at your own risk. I can’t see us eating you or anything, but we can’t be responsible for anything that happens to you because you submit a photo to our competition.
  • We are allowed to change The Rules, or even suspend or end the competition, if we want or need to. Obviously we’ll try not to, but just so that you know.

Why on earth would anyone do that to a Leica?

Screen Shot 2011-07-31 at 14.30.03

Okay, so Leicas are desirable because their optics are incredible and they’re beautifully made. But there is a great deal to be said for their understated design that oozes elegance. Not only do you know that you’re holding a serious piece of kit, but you know that you’re looking at something special. So why, oh Juno and Minerva, would anyone want to do something as hideous as this to something so gorgeous?

Apparently the people at Colorware think that having a choice of 21 different solid colours ranging from ‘cranberry’ to ‘frostbite’, 21 different metallic colours that take in shades of ‘candy apple’ to ‘sand’, and four different pearl finishes for the front, back, top, lens body, lens face, hotshoe insert, and port door of your Leica D-Lux 5 is entirely necessary.

Heavens-to-Betsy no! I do not need a $1,200 Leica D-Lux 5 that looks like this:

Yes, that really is possible.

And neither do I want to spend $400 having my existing Leica D-Lux 5 converted to something equally garish.

Ugh! Although I have to admit, it was quite good fun playing with the different colours.

(Headsup to Engadget)

Triggertrap is go!

Triggertrap

Woo-hoo! After Haje launched his Kickstarter appeal to get the universally awesome universal camera trigger, Triggertrap, going, over 720 of them have been snapped up by gadget-hungry photographers the world over. Yep, that groovy little device that’ll let you control your camera by just about any means you can think of will hit production later this year.

How does it work?

The device comes with a light sensor built in, which doubles as a laser sensor: point a laser-pointer at the Triggertrap to trigger your camera, or set it up so the camera triggers when a laser beam is broken – much like the laser maze in Hollywood blockbuster Entrapment. It also has an audio sensor, enabling you to trigger the camera when it registers a sound – like clapping your hands, the sound of a bowling ball hitting the pins, or somebody slamming a door.

Triggertrap also has a built in time-lapse photography functionality. This means that you can take a series of photos over a long period of time. When these photos are shown in quick succession in a video, it makes events that normally take hours or days (such as a flower wilting, or the sun coming up) appear to happen in minutes.

In addition to normal time-lapse photography, Triggertrap has a nifty trick up its sleeve: non-linear time-lapses. Instead of, say, five minutes between every shot, the Triggertrap can be configured to increase or decrease the interval between the shots. When you play the resulting video, this makes it look as if the scene you are photographing speeds up or slows down.

The Auxiliary port on the Triggertrap makes it possible to trigger the camera using external sensors, paving the way for many other creative photography projects. Suggestions so far include mounting a camera in a car and triggering it when you press the car horn; placing a camera in the fridge and take a photo every time you open the fridge; automatically take a picture of everyone who walks down the red carpet at a movie premiere; or police completely automatically taking a photo of people coming and going at a suspicious address.

From idea to reality

It’s taken Haje 18 months to get Triggertrap this far, from the simple idea of a laser trigger, to a fully developed product, with the help of lots of the lovely photographers via the Kickstarter website.

The project was launched with a goal of US$25,000 on 29 June 2011. Three weeks later, with only a week left to go until the funding is complete, Triggertrap completely destroyed its funding goal: 708 fans have pledged more than $60,587 (£37,100), in return for more than 700 Triggertrap devices.

Dozens of e-mails with great customer suggestions have already arrived with the Triggertrap team. Functionality like using the Triggertrap with flashes instead of a camera; the ability to trigger when a sound stops (as opposed to when it starts), and a feature that lets the user trigger the camera manually are all the result of suggestions and feedback.

Because the Triggertrap is open-source and built on the Arduino platform, it is easy to implement additional functionality through a software update, even after the Triggertraps have shipped to the customers.

They’re shipping in October

The Triggertrap is shipping in October, and can be pre-ordered for $75 + $5 shipping via Kickstarter until 31 July 2011. After that, the price increases to $125.

For more information about Triggertrap see http://Triggertrap.com

Changing Pace at the National Portrait Gallery

NPG_550_906_KHALIDYAFAIlef

Today marks one year to go until the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games. The cost and the disruption often incite groans in people when you bring it up, but some people have been getting terribly excited about it, and that includes the National Portrait Gallery. Together with BT, it has undertaken the largest photographic project in its history to record both the seen and the unseen people behind the Games. This includes athletes, coaches, broadcasters, and organisers. Changing Pace, the second in the three part series, opened this week.

Emma Hardy and Finlay MacKay were the photographers commissioned for this project. Hardy focused on those responsible for staging the Olympics; MacKay took on the competitors and their coaches. Their approaches were remarkably different. Hardy’s portraits aren’t closely cropped, but they’re nothing compared to the sweeping panoramas produced by MacKay. And whilst I was struck by no one smiling, or at least looking vaguely happy, in any of Hardy’s pictures, I really struggled with a sense of unreality when looking at MacKay’s photographs.

Andrew Triggs Hodge and Pete Reed (right) by Finlay MacKay, 9 March 2011, Redgrave-Pinsent Rowing Lake, Caversham (copyright: Finlay MacKay - National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 Project)

Oh, they’re impressive, but I’m not sure I’d want them hanging on my wall. Perhaps that’s what makes them perfect for documenting a monumental project at a major art institution.

Michael Morpurgo and Greg Nugent, by Emma Hardy, 21 April 2011, Iddesleigh, Devon (copyright: Emma Hardy - National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 Project)

It’s free to wander around the exhibition, and if you happen to be passing, do drop in and take a look. It’s not something that I’d go out of my way for, though, and I’m someone who has at least a passing interest in just about any sport imaginable.

Changing Pace is showing at the National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, London, WC2H 0HE until 25 Spetember 2011.

(Featured image: Khalid Yafai (left, sparring with Irfan Ali) and Frank O’Sullivan by Finlay MacKay, 26 November 2010, Birmingham City Boxing Club, Birmingham – copyright, Finlay MacKay – National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 Project)

Calloused feet and the Milky Way - our April competition winner's take on life

The Rickshaw Puller, by Sakshi Kumar

Do you remember the awesome shot of the rickshaw driver’s feet, which won our April photo competition? (If you don’t, there’s a pertinent reminder to your left.) I was thoroughly intrigued by the image, and where it came from, so I dropped an email to Sakshi, the competition winner, in the hope that she’d tell us a bit more about herself. Thankfully, she didn’t find me at all impertinent and gamely answered my roll of questions. Better yet, she said I could share.

Daniela: Where are you from, Sakshi?

Sakshi Kumar: I was born and bred in New Delhi, India. (And I’m 22, if anyone’s asking.)

DEB: When and how did you get involved in photography?

SK: My dad always loved to take my pictures. So even before I got into photography, I had the heart for it. My dad was my biggest inspiration though initially he didn’t support this decision of mine as he thought I was made for “bigger things.”

I took a degree in Journalism, which I followed with a postgrad in Photography. I also took an extra credit in photojournalism, which got me interested in opting for photography as a career option. Though I soon realized photojournalism is not my thing. I am too sensitive for that genre.

DEB: Photojournalism is definitely tough. So what sort of thing do you like to photograph?

SK: I mostly enjoyed landscapes, nature, wildlife, architecture, interiors and fashion. Astronomical photography is very intriguing and I’ve tried my hand at it, but not with much success up to now!

DEB: And the winning photograph? How did that come about?

SK: I was experimenting with portraiture. For me, portraits are more than pictures of pretty faces, they’re about someone’s character – a simple picture that could tell as much about a person’s life as her or his own words. So I went out on a shoot and started taking pictures of people’s feet in a more environmental setting. The winning picture was an outcome of it. The calloused feet belong to a rickshaw puller in a particularly poor part of Delhi. I think they express the hardships of his life.

DEB: Well, we definitely loved that picture! What’s your favourite photo that you’ve taken recently?

SK: Ah, this one! It’s a dog’s life!

It's a dog's life! (Sakshi Kumar)

DEB: And finally, if you could go anywhere and photography anything, where and what would it be?

SK: Ooh! That’s a hard one. I’d love to capture the Aurora Borealis, so maybe Alaska or Sweden for that. And Death Valley, just for the sheer beauty of its barrenness. Oh, and I’d love to get the Milky Way from Mount Teide. It’s mesmerising.

Many thanks so Sakshi for answering my questions. We hope that she’s enjoying her prize!

Don’t forget, the deadline for this month’s competition is tomorrow (Wednesday 27 July); the theme is red; Fracture are providing the awesome prize.

Shiny new photography gallery at the V&A

CIS:45:140

Come the autumn there will be a shiny new photography gallery at the V&A so that its extensive collection of photographs – some dating back to 1839 – can be shown off in the fashion to which it should become accustomed. When we say that the museum’s collection is extensive, apparently it is one of the largest in the world, which I suppose is only to be expected for the world’s greatest museum of art and design. (As it calls itself.)

The idea behind the new gallery, which has been converted from a study-space, is to chronicle the development of photography from 1839 to the 1960s as well as provide in-depth themed exhibitions. The first of these ‘In Focus’ exhibitions will feature Victorian portrait photographer Julia Margaret Cameron and street photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson.

The Brig, by Gustave Le Grey (1856) V&A images

The new gallery is due to open on 25 October, and it’ll be free to enter. Yippeedee!

The V&A is on the Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL.

(Featured image: Circe, by Julia Margaret Cameron (c.1865) V&A images.)

Canon Powershot S95 replacement imminent

Canon S95

Canon seem to have stopped the factories, and the shops are running dry of Canon’s über-compact does-it-all wünderkind. (How many umlauts can I stick in a single sentence?) It has all gone very quiet from Canon, which can only mean one thing: Everybody’s favourite compact is getting an upgrade (or should I say üpgrade?)

It’s a bit of a long story involving mine and my brother’s annual jaunt to a music festival and needing some pictures for a book, but last week I was desperate to lay my grubby mitts on the aforementioned pocket-sized snapperbox capable of shooting in RAW. If I were borrowing one, I would’ve taken anything that was sent my way, but given that I was actually prepared to lay down about £350 on this, the Canon S95 was my camera of choice. What can I say? I’m a devoted Canon fangirl. (And as far as I’m aware, there hasn’t been a bad review of the S95 yet.)

Searching high and low

And so the hunt began. First stop, John Lewis, that glorious flagship of middle-class shopping extravaganza. The audio visual team at the Oxford Street store are awesome, and if everything goes mammaries-up, their aftersales is splendid. I looked online, no S95s in stock. Odd, but oh well. So I called them. The entire company doesn’t have a single S95 available. Not a one.

Onwards to Amazon.co.uk. They only have a single one available. Amazon.com still has a few, but they don’t ship to the UK, so that wasn’t going to happen either.

So, in the company of my long-suffering father, I trudged along the High Street in the town close to the Small Aperture country retreat. Did any one of the electrical retailers there have an S95? Nope. One shop checked its system for me and informed me that they’ve discontinued it and none of their stores has it in stock.

So what the blazes is going on with the Canon S95?

My immediate reaction was that perhaps Canon has been struggling in the aftermath of the horrible tsunami and the S95 has come unstuck because of it. But, being the inquisitive sod that I am, I asked Canon what the deal with the S95 is, and they are declining to get back to me with the full details.

Is there a something else going on here? A something that might be an S99 in the near future, perhaps?

Exploding water balloons and patient girlfriends - a chat with June's competition winner

Dainty Rasengan, by Lindsay Stott

We loved the winning photo from June’s photo competition so much that we got in touch with Lindsay Stott – the muchly-talented photographer behind it – to ask him how he did it. He very kindly let us in on the secret of burst water balloons and patient girlfriends so that we can all enjoy our own Dainty Rasengen moment. And seeing as it would be a bit mean to just pick his brains and share his knowledge without getting to know him a bit better, we asked a few questions about him and his photography, too.

Daniela: Hi Lindsay. Would you like to start by telling me a bit about yourself?

Lindsay: Sure! I’m from the sunny town of Montrose, but was fleetingly in Dundee, having been born there.

DEB: When and how did you get into photography?

LS: I’ve always tried to be arty, but my wants never translated to talent. I sucked at painting, my drawings looked as if I’d done them left-handed (I’m right-handed), and the only sculptures I could do was carving my name into trees. I was better at the scientific side of life with a fair amount of talent in physics and maths. Stubborn to the end, along came photography: something that physics blended into and was arty.

DEB: Any exciting photographic projects on the go at the moment?

LS: I have a huge project going on just now, that is taking up a lot of my time. I am currently opening a photography studio with my business partner Steven Bedford, under the name of Mnemonic Photography (shameless plug). We are busy snapping away images of anyone we can get our hands on with our new studio kit and the surrounding area as it’s quite scenic.

DEB: Ooh! Good luck with that! But now it’s time to spill the beans. How did you capture that amazing bursting water balloon?

LS: Sure thing! I got the idea from a magazine or website a long time ago and always wanted to try it. When your competition came, I thought it would make a strong entry for the theme. Convincing my lovely girlfriend to get drenched for it was another matter entirely.

Dainty Rasengan, by Lindsay Stott

Anyway, this is the how. I placed said lovely girlfriend in a shower, made her hold a water balloon and a pin. I zoomed in close so that I had filled the frame full of face and balloon.

The exposure was set so that the ambient was darkness and my flash strong enough to bounce off the ceiling and all around the white shower tiles to give me a nice exposure at f/9. The flash is what will freeze the action here and not the shutter speed.

We did an ‘on three’ thing, with me counting and Ella, the lovely girlfriend, boldly applying ample pressure to the water balloon with the pointy needle to make it explode all over her. The balloon contracts far quicker that the water falls – tension vs gravity or some such nonsense – and you get a lovely little ball of water on her finger tips, only for a moment.

You then take the image into Photoshop, play around with the white balance, exposure, colour hues, vibrance and tonal curve until you are happy and your model is dry. Taa-dah!

DEB: That’s rather awesome. Thank you! And now finally, is there anywhere you’d especially like to take pictures, given half a chance?

LS: I actually have the privilege of going to China this year, with hopes to photograph the Terracotta Army. I can’t wait to flash ‘em!

Many thanks to Lindsay for the chat. Don’t forget to check out Mnemonic Photography!

News in brief: Copy Instagrams with Copygram

Instagrammers, if you’re looking for an easy means to download all your Instagrams, upload them to FaceBook or Google+, or even print them out (with SnapFish), you might want to take a look at Copygram. Non-Instagrammers, if you’re wondering what all the Instagram fuss is about, you can check out people’s public Instagram streams on Copygram.

In the nine days since Copygram has been going, 163,138 instagrams have been copied. So that’s just a few then.

It’s definitely worth noting that if your Instagram feed is public, anyone can download your images and have them printed off through Copygram. There is a note telling you that Instagram photos belong to the original photographer, but I doubt that’ll stop anyone, will it?

What is this? - In our NewsFlash section, we share interesting tidbits of news. Think of it as our extended twitter feed: When we find something that get our little hearts racing, we'll share it with you right here! Loving it? Great, we've got lots more News Flash articles - and, of course, we're still on Twitter as well, for even shorter news tidbits.

Amazon's killer deal on hard drives


I know I keep rambling on about the importance of backing up your photos (I did an extensive article on the topic earlier this year, which discusses the 'how' and 'when' in detail), but one of the main reasons people don't do proper backups is that external drives are perceived to be so expensive.

Today, I stumbled across a deal that is so bloody awesome I simply have to share it with you guys; Amazon's doing a 3TB external USB 2.0 drive by Western Digital for under $130, or you could opt for a slightly cheaper less-capacity version of the same drive.

Here's a crazy thought experiment: I used to pay 12 Norwegian kroner ($2.22 in today's exchange rate) for a 1.44mb floppy disk. If this drive had cost the same per megabyte as what I used to pay for floppies, it would cost more than 4.6 million dollars... And they still say 'everything used to be better'!

Remember: It's always a good idea to replace your back-up drives every year. I've ordered mine already, so what are you waiting for?