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In Focus: August 2008

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Take sharp handheld shots with the Tamron AF28-300mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 XR Di VC LD Aspherical (IF) Macro lens. The compact, high-power zoom gives you a four-stop shutter speed advantage by incorporating a highly accurate gyro sensor that detects hand shake. This, combined with a 32-bit RISC CPU, delivers anti-vibration effects that result in blur-free images even when shooting at telephoto range or in low light. The lens covers a 35mm-equivalent focal length of 43-465mm and now features a built-in AF motor for use with Nikon D-SLRs. Estimated Street Price: $599. Contact: Tamron, (631) 858-8400,
photography gear

Carry your gear comfortably in the medium-sized Tamrac Expedition 6x (Model 5586). The foam-padded main compartment contains plenty of adjustable dividers to protect two D-SLRs with attached lenses along with five to six additional lenses, a flash and other accessories. A foam-padded front pocket with a water-resistant zipper holds most 14-inch laptops. Attach your tripod securely to the front of the pack using the QuickClip system. Estimated Street Price: $165. Contact: Tamrac, (800) 662-0717,
photography gear

Take the Olympus EVOLT E-520 safely into the water using the Olympus PT-E05 underwater housing. The durable, polycarbonate construction keeps the water out while also cushioning the camera from knocks and bumps. You can compose images using the 2.7-inch Live View LCD instead of the viewfinder, and optical-fiber connectors allow you to use up to two of the new UFL-2 underwater flash units. Rated to a depth of 130 feet, the housing also features five interchangeable lens ports for use with the following lenses: 14-42mm, 14-45mm, 11-22mm or 14-54mm; 7-14mm; 8mm Fisheye; 35mm; and 50mm Macro. List Price: TBA. Contact: Olympus, (888) 553-4448,
photography gear

Reproduce up to 1,000 different filter effects with Tiffen’s Dfx Digital Filter Suite. The software simulates the look of popular Tiffen glass filters, specialized lenses, optical lab processes and film grain. Available as a stand-alone application or as a plug-in, the filter suite works with Adobe Photoshop, Elements and now with Apple Aperture 2.1. Both versions can process 8- or 16-bit images and feature more than 90 individual filters and thousands of customizable presets. Estimated Street Price: $199 (stand-alone). Contact: Tiffen, (800) 645-2522,

photography gear

The latest update to Aperture, Apple’s image-workflow software, opened up the program to enhancement plug-ins. Joining the list of compatible apps are the Fisheye-Hemi and Viveza plug-ins from Image Trends and Nik Software, respectively. The Fisheye-Hemi corrects hemispheric fish-eye lens distortion so you can straighten vertical lines without distorting faces and bodies. Viveza allows Aperture users to control light and color by placing Control Points on colors or objects like the sky or grass. Brightness, contrast and color are easy to adjust using sliders. List Price: $29 (Fisheye-Hemi); $249 (Viveza). Contact: Image Trends, (512) 637-7300,; Nik Software, (888) 284-4085,
photography gear

The coolest factor of the Buck Knives X-Tract Fin multitool is its one-handed opening and locking ability, helpful when you’re out climbing or involved in other hands-on activities. The gadget includes spring-loaded scissors that can be flicked open, a three-inch steel drop-point blade, a Phillips screwdriver and 3⁄16-inch flathead, and a pair of needle-nose pliers complete with wire cutters. Estimated Street Price: $68. Contact: Buck Knives, (800) 326-2825,
photography gear

On your next summer adventure, slip on the lightweight Tilden II multisports sandals from Ahnu. With several features designed to keep your feet comfortable and supported, the sandals include QuiteLight nonmarking rubber outsoles for solid traction, lightweight and compression-molded midsoles for enhanced comfort and shock absorption, and a flexible heel structure that makes the fit more secure. List Price: $80. Contact: Ahnu, (510) 865-3900,
photography gear

During those summer storms, stay dry in the Columbia Hot Shot Shell. The lightweight design features the company’s Omni-Tech technology, which consists of microporous membranes that keep water out, yet allow perspiration to escape so you stay dry. The shell and liner can be worn separately or together depending on your needs. Estimated Street Price: $140. Contact: Columbia, (800) 547-8066,
photography gear

Stay on track and find the perfect landscape vantage point using the TrailDrop 2 from Highgear. Clip the compass to your backpack strap and know where you’re going at a glance. The transparent design allows you to lay it over a map and plot your course. A digital thermometer displays temperature readings in degrees Fahrenheit or Celsius. It weighs 1.5 ounces. List Price: $50. Contact: High Gear,
photography gear

Get dual-action support using the Cullmann 4405 tripod. The removable center column extends to a full-height monopod. When used as a tripod, the column functions regularly by allowing you to make various height and position adjustments to your camera. Black anodized leg segments enhance rigidity while center-column weight hooks increase stability. The tripod has a load capacity of 17 pounds and weighs less than four pounds; height ranges from 20 to 56 inches. List Price: $199. Contact: R.T.S. Inc., (631) 242-6801,
photography gear

M-Rock has increased the size of its Glacier bag to fit an SLR with up to a 4.5-inch lens attached. There’s room for an additional lens or photo accessories. Two dividers and a padded U-shaped lens cradle give you options for how to position the camera. With two shoulder straps, you can carry it messenger style or as a backpack. A bonus nylon jacket is included, along with a lens cloth. List Price: $55. Contact: M-Rock, (800) 773-7067,
photography gear

The North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) offers scholarships to 10 high-school students to attend its annual summit each year. Students attend programs, participate in field workshops designed for them and receive special instruction from nature photography and publishing pros. If you know any aspiring photographers between the ages of 14 and 18, encourage them to apply to the High School Scholarship program. The deadline is October 5, 2008. The summit is February 15-22, 2009, in Albuquerque, N.M. Contact: NANPA, (303) 422-8527,
photography gear

books n such

Face to Face: Rick Sammon’s Complete Guide to Photographing People by Rick Sammon (O’Reilly, 2008; ISBN: 978-0-596-51574-4). The travel and adventure photographer shares his stories from behind the scenes to teach you how to photograph people in low light, bright light, with or without flash and more. Filled with images showing people around the world, the book has advice for shooters of all levels.

Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America by Ted Floyd (Collins, 2008; ISBN: 978-0-06-112040-4). Learn about more than 750 species of birds, with descriptions of habits and ecology, age-related and seasonal differences, and other characteristics. More than 2,000 color photographs illustrate the book.

Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 for Photographers by Ken McMahon (Focal Press, 2007; ISBN: 978-0-240-52089-6). This instructional guide is packed with a variety of workflow projects, eye-catching images, and several tips and tricks on how to use the software. Learn how to enhance your workflow, organize files and easily share photos.

Botanical Dreaming: Using Photoshop, Your Camera, and Your Heart to Create Inspiring Images by Mark S. Johnson (White Light Publishers, 2007; 978-0-9792551-0-6). Through more than 100 unique flower photographs and useful advice, Johnson shows readers how to use macro photography and Photoshop to create beautiful floral imagery.

The Nature of Britain: A Celebration of our Landscape and Wildlife by Alan Titchmarsh (BBC Books, 2007; ISBN: 0-563-49398-4). Explore eight different British natural habitats, discovering their unique flora and fauna. Each chapter covers a specific area, with photos, descriptions and field notes of the animals and plants living there.

Save time separating complex objects from their backgrounds, such as tree branches with tricky edges, with Fluid Mask 3 from Vertus Tech, a plug-in that helps you produce natural-looking cutouts. Through localized edge detection and blending, the program better isolates a difficult area and applies alternative edge-finding and -blending techniques. A new Save Settings option allows you to easily recall edge detection, blending and resolution options from previous sessions. Processing times also are 40 percent faster. The company’s website offers useful video tutorials and free, live webcast training with a Fluid Mask expert. List Price: $239. Contact: Vertus Tech, (877) 55-VERTUS,

Having a polarizer is essential for great landscape photography. The Hoya HD circular polarizer uses polarizing film with 25-percent higher light transmission than the standard film found in photographic filters. Testing also showed the glass to have four times the breaking strength. With multiple coatings, the number of reflections off the glass surface has been greatly reduced, allowing you to capture more light. The coatings are waterproof, and scratch- and stain-resistant. List Price: TBA. Contact: THK Photo Products, (800) 421-1141,

The redesigned Nova AW shoulder bags from Lowepro now come with the company’s trademark All Weather Cover, keeping your gear protected when the weather turns. The bag is available in six sizes to meet the needs of shooters of all levels. The largest model can hold two SLRs with attached lens, plus four to five extra lenses or flash units. A padded top handle, shoulder strap and built-in belt give you plenty of carrying options. Estimated Street Price: $32 to $110. Contact: Lowepro, (800) 800-LOWE,

Back up and synchronize your images quickly and across your entire system with GoodSync. The software automatically syncs data between desktops, laptops and external drives. The program is based on an innovative synchronization algorithm that prevents file deletion and data loss, and eliminates duplicate files. With a variety of automated settings to choose from, you only need to set up your preferences once. The pro version allows an unlimited number of files. List Price: Free (standard); $29 (pro). Contact: Siber Systems, (877) 762-6367,

Especially useful for macro photography, the Ray Flash from ExpoImaging is a portable, lightweight adapter for a hot-shoe flash unit. It replicates the unique lighting effect created by heavy, tethered and powered studio ring-flash units by relying on the hot-shoe flash to generate light and automatically takes advantage of the camera’s TTL metering capabilities. The adapter easily slides over the front of the camera’s flash unit and locks into place for easy, secure use. Weighing just 16 ounces, it contains no electronics, batteries or flash tubes and doesn’t require cables. List Price: $299. Contact: ExpoImaging, (800) 446-5086,

With a scratch-resistant aluminum shell and shock-resistant rubber bumper, the LaCie Rugged Hard Disk drive can handle the bumps and knocks of life on the road. This is a nice way to store image files while in the field or back at your hotel. Capacity has been boosted to 500 GB, but the drive’s physical size is nearly the same as previous versions, thanks to a state-of-the-art Hitachi Travelstar 5K500, 2.5-inch internal hard disk. It’s available with USB 2.0 connectivity only or with USB 2.0, FireWire 400 and FireWire 800 for faster data transfers. List Price: Starts at $299. Contact: LaCie, (503) 844-4500,

FotoAlbum Pro 6 offers a great selection of tools to help you manage, edit and share your work. Aside from standard import and organizing functions, you can geotag photos using Google Maps; make manual adjustments to color, contrast and brightness; and create slideshows with custom transitions and background music. Importing is easier with a wizard that speeds up the process, and Quick Edit panels deliver instant access for viewing or changing image properties without wasting screen space. List Price: $39. Contact: FotoTime, (888) 705-0389,

Regardless of lighting conditions, the ClearWhite white-balance filter helps you get clean, color-balanced images from the moment of capture. The handcrafted filters are individually dyed and calibrated for use even in tricky indoor lighting. Made from durable, impact-resistant, satin-surface acrylic, the 4×4-inch-square filters are held in front of the lens and pointed at the
main light source when setting your camera’s custom white balance. This is designed to limit the time spent color-correcting later. List Price: $49. Contact: Digital Photography Kits,