Thursday, September 1, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Gallery Opening for Photographer Gene Stevens

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Gallery Opening for Photographer Gene Stevens
Penn Camera Rockville
Friday, January 21st
7:00pm - 8:00pm
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Mr. Stevens has been working in the computer field for more than 40 years. During this time he has always been involved with photography. His first darkroom experience was in the early 1970’s in Germany and continued thru the early 1980s with a darkroom in his houses. After a hiatus brought on by daughter’s aversion to photography, the photographic juices got flowing with his documenting his son’s sports activities. Pro Photo was utilized to develop those prints and they suggested that he develop a portfolio and present those photos to Blanton Studio for possible employment as a sports freelance photographer. In that capacity, Mr. Stevens was the first photographer at Blanton to utilize digital images for high school sports using his 6 meg Fuji S2. At this point Mr. Stevens was able to see the results of his images and they began to improve dramatically. The computer replaced his darkroom.



After honing his skills with Blanton, Mr. Stevens was offered a unique opportunity to continue yearbook freelance sports photography with LifeTouch Studios but with a guaranteed minimum yearly stipend. Freelance frees have permitted Mr. Stevens to upgrade his camera from a Nikon F90 (90s, F100, Fuji S2, S3, S5) to the Nikon D700 to produce over 1.4 million digital images. Lenses were upgraded to the 2.8 series of Nikkor lenses as well as a couple of 1.4 lenses. Mr. Stevens has continued his development via schooling offered by Penn Camera. He got introduced to Adobe Lightroom and High Dynamic Range Photography by Chris Alvanas. Later Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop CS instruction, by Eilot Cohen of Penn Camera, permitted Mr. Stevens to take his photography to the next level. Using Trey Ratclift’s tutorials (Stuckincustoms.com), Mr. Stevens is preparing for his retirement from computer security positions when he will transition to photography full time. To that end, he has underwater images for sale at Atlantic Edge in Gaithersburg and has created a commercial web site http://clarityphoto.smugmug.com/ to complement his personal web site http://www.clarityphotos.com/ . Mr. Stevens hopes to expand his event photography (weddings and sports) to include travel, underwater, and commercial assignments.

CES 2011 Roundup

By Brendan Keenan, Penn Camera Tysons Corner
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The annual Consumer Electronics Show, or CES, wrapped up this past week in Las Vegas. The great thing about CES is that no matter what type of gadget you prefer, there is something for you. It is the Mecca of modern electronics, from 3DTV’s and GPS, to computers and software, new car technology, and everything in-between. Including of course, digital photography and video. Past years CES have always had something to delight fans of photography and this year was no exception. New models in everything from point and shoots, to high definition video, to interchangeable lens cameras. Here is a taste of some of the best new photographic products CES had to offer.

Let's start out with the point and shoot cameras, because there were some interesting new entries both at the entry level, and in the high end compacts as well. Canon debuted four new models in their venerable Powershot series, ranging from a model under $100, to a very nice looking higher-end model, the A3300IS, a 16 megapixel camera that also boasts a 5x optical zoom (with image stabilization), HD video recording, and a large 3" LCD screen. Believe it or not, the "A" series cameras are actually Canon's entry level line of Powershots, and even the A3300IS will sell for under $200 ($179 street). The next camera in the series is the A2200, which has a slightly smaller LCD screen, a 4x optical zoom, and steps down the resolution to 14 megapixels. It does retain the HD video recording, however.

Below that is the Canon A1200, essentially a 12 megapixel version of the A2200. The bargain of the bunch may just be the A800. At under $100 ($89 street) it still has 10 megapixels, though the video quality goes down to standard VGA resolution and it has the smallest screen of the group, albeit still somewhat large at 2.5". At the high end the most exciting compact was easily the Olympus XZ-1.It is aimed directly at the high performance compacts currently on the market, like the Panasonic LX-5, or the Canon S95. It boasts a high quality image sensor, along with HD video recording in a small frame. But that only scratches the surface. This camera has an impressive f1.8 lens, besting its closest competition, which have f/2 lenses. It can also take advantage of accessories via the accessory shoe, giving users the option of electronic viewfinders, flashes, and more. It has a dedicated low light mode, and combined with its fast lens and high-sensitivity sensor, this one could be a serious contender for best compact point and shoot. It will be priced to match, at $499.

Canon also unleashed a slew of new consumer camcorders, further extending their Vixia line of compact, high-performance compact video cameras. I lost count around the sixth model, I think there were eight new models total. Canon has completely redesigned the image sensor in their new HD camcorders, debuting the new “Canon HD CMOS Pro Chip”. Simply put, the company promises the sensor will deliver better image quality, as well as greatly increased low light performance. Sign me up. There is really a model available at almost every price point, and if you want features like full surround recording coupled with high resolution stills there is a model for you. Most of the models are upgradeable with accessories such as video lights, external microphones, everything you would need to get the most out of a small video camera. It would take too long to cover every model here, but as these models become available for purchase, we will have all the specs and pricing information on our website.

There were a few other notable photographic announcements, Olympus has announced a successor to their wildly popular mirror-less interchangeable lens camera, the EPL-1. Incredibly well received by enthusiasts, the company has not changed too much (if it’s not broke...), but have improved the auto-focus, which I can tell you, was already pretty good to begin with. Fuji debuted their anticipated X100, a 12 megapixel camera, with an APS-C sized sensor, which will certainly have some people eagerly awaiting a chance to see this very individually styled camera in action. Lady Gaga launched a line with Polaroid, I suppose to help add some of her pop star cred to a troubled company. Let’s hope it works. Every photographer I know has a soft spot for something Polaroid, whether they’ll admit it or not.

So we’ll end it there, the wrap up of this year’s CES is complete. These new models will be coming into stores soon, and if you want to know all the ins and outs of these models and others, you’ll need to stop by and visit our experts at your local Penn Camera. Trust me, we get even more excited than our customers, and that’s how you know you’ll get the best advice. So come see us soon. Until then, keep shooting!

Friday, January 7, 2011

December Photo Contest WINNERS

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December's contest theme was "Holidays" - Congratulations to the winners, and our thanks to everyone who submitted their photographs!


1st Place
Winner of an Olympus E-PL1
Bill Clayton - "Amid the Glitter"


2nd Place
Winner of the Olympus Tough-3000
Andrew Carbone - "Santa's Workshop"


3rd Place
Winner of a $25 Penn Camera Gift Card
Kristie Baxter - "Caesar"

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Memory of Christmas Past?

By Tom Sullivan, Video Guru and Penn Camera Partner
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Its Christmas morning before all the kids are up, and you’ve set-up the camcorder and adjusted the lights. You get your second cup of coffee and wake-up the kids to start the magic of the day. The kids squeal with glee and immediate attached the presents that at one time where so strategically arranged under the tree. They perform present opening acrobatics that defy gravity. You’re about to record the best surprise face you have ever seen. You zoom in, adjust your focus and hit the record button. The viewfinder screams “Memory Full” and your camcorder will not record. The moment is over and you hit replay to see why your card is full, and there sits your daughter’s spring dance recital still on the memory card. You forgot to clear it, or worse, you forgot to upload your last great moviemaking adventure into the computer.

I hope my little drama has not happen to you, and if it has, here is a simple little trick to make the day of moments live on in family history. Have more then one memory card, and format your old memory cards after uploading your old footage to your computer. For you persons that have not reached geek level status; formatting is when you erase all the information on your memory card permanently; on purpose. I know it’s hard to remember to erase your memory cards after you transfer the video. You get mesmerize in your latest cinematic masterpiece and just plain forget. Even the pros forget, but the difference is they have extra cards ready to go, and they make it a habit of checking the camera to see if they have a clean card ready as part of their camera set-up regiment. Memory cards are cheap and the best part is you get to keep using them over and over again. Remember the film days when you had to wait to see your results and the cost of film, processing and prints were prohibitive? Now you can see your results in real-time, and guess what, there’s no cost beyond the price of the present days cheap memory cards. You got to love technology.

Not all memory cards are equal and the one the majority of pros use is SanDisk. I personally use only SanDisk, because I know they won’t fail, and they have a great mix of different sizes and speeds; yes, speeds. For you videographers that are using the new DSLR’s camera’s to shoot video; speed can be a critical factor. So pull out your manuals or check with your favorite Penn Camera associate. They can help you with the right cards for your type camera, speed and shooting style. If you need help in getting your video into your computer or other devices look for one of Penn’s video class in January and February. These classes will cover this element of video and other aspects of the complete video production workflow for amateurs and professional.

Remember, memory cards are cheap, but family memories are forever, so get that extra card.

Happy Holidays
Tom Sullivan

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Tom Sullivan is a photography and videography professional with 25-plus years of experience in all aspects of video production on a local, regional and national level. His work includes video production for such clients as the Moscow Ballet, the National Parks Service, ESPN Sports, and PBS. Tom’s background in both still and video photography makes him an ideal instructor for bridging the knowledge gap between the still and motion fields. Visit his website for more information: http://gravitymediapro.com/

Friday, December 17, 2010

Gallery: Gallery at Pikesville



Gallery: Gallery at Pikesville
Members of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Photographic Society of America
Friday, December 17, 2010
5:00pm - 8:00pm
Reflections from the photographers: The photographic image is a direct representation of the exposed eye and mind of the photographer. A photograph serves as the means of introduction between the photographer and the viewer. A photograph can illuminate the determination and intensity by the artist both in front of and behind the camera's lens. When a photographer exposes the finer detail within the subject they share a greater intimacy with that subject.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Photographing Holiday Lights

By Brendan Keenan, Penn Camera Tysons Corner
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Every year around this time, people are rushing around, busily preparing for the holidays. Traveling, shopping, and decorating all in preparation. For a photographer, the decoration offers a unique yearly opportunity to capture the spirit of the season; from a home Christmas tree, a large light display, like brightly-lit houses and more. These are the kind of pictures that can really evoke that once a year feeling, and take you back to that special time of year, at any time of year. Luckily, it is easy to get great photographs of holiday lights, as long as you follow a few simple rules.

Photographing holiday lights is no different than most low light photography. This means your best friend will be a tripod. You don't need anything large, just something that will keep the camera steady. This is especially important because for most outdoor photographs you will be shooting without a flash, and the camera will need a slow shutter speed to expose properly. This makes keeping the camera stationary critical. Another way to improve low light performance is to raise the ISO on your camera, though be careful, go too high and your pictures will get noisy(grainy), and lose quality. It is something you can fix with software later, but the lower the ISO, the better the quality. Aim for a slow shutter speed instead. If you have a camera that allows you to use faster lenses, or a point and shoot with a fast lens, like f1.8, you should try to shoot with the aperture wide open as well to help expose properly. If you are feeling really creative, you can try to move the camera slightly during the exposure, to purposely create a light blurring effect. Sometimes blur is a good thing, and done correctly you can create a colorful, abstract masterpiece.

You don't need a DSLR to make the necessary adjustments, most current point and shoot cameras have a dedicated low light mode, and it is easy to disable the flash, and even adjust the ISO if necessary. The important thing is observing the low light rules, not what kind of camera you are using. What about using flash? When should it be used? Usually flash use should be reserved for shooting indoors. For example, a Christmas tree. If you shoot the tree with the proper mix of flash and ambient light the result will be a clear photo of the decorations. Shoot without flash, and you risk getting lots of shadows, and a much lower level of detail. Detail is the key with smaller displays. Unless it is already lit almost perfectly, your best bet in this situation is to use a flash.

As far as composition goes, obviously that can be subjective. I like to use as wide an angle as I can get when shooting outdoor displays, even a little distortion can be so worth it for a single shot of a huge display. For shooting indoors, just use the space around you as best you can. That great "star" effect around lights can also be achieved by using a smaller f-stop. This is nice if you want to create that effect without a filter, but remember, you'll need a tripod and a long exposure outdoors, and a fill flash at least indoors. I also like to try to get my photographs scouted out before sunset, and I like to shoot during twilight, when the light is soft in the sky, and it is not completely dark yet. This will let you experiment more with exposures, and you can still create a nighttime look, without losing all the sky light.

Like everything in photography, practice makes perfect, and if you aren't very familiar with low light photography don't let a few blurry pictures discourage you. Keep shooting, and remember the simple rules I mentioned above. You'll end up with wonderful holiday pictures you can enjoy year round. Visit our Classes website for information about the upcoming holiday classes and special holiday photo safaris. Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Three Tips to Shoot Better Holiday Video’s

By Tom Sullivan, Video Guru and Penn Camera Partner
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Well it’s that time of year when our camcorders get a workout during the holiday season, but the reviews from the last year’s video still have the family critics judging your expertise. So, how can we improve our videos and turn them into award winning family moments. Easiest and quickest way is to add a few accessories to the old camcorder or add these accessories as stocking stuffers for the new camcorder being delivered by Santa this year. We have 3 accessories that are a most for all professional and should be a most for your video efforts. These items will help you get that professional look.

Item 1: One of the most important items you can add to make your videos look more professional is to use a tripod. Having steady video is the key to capture the attention of your viewer. The brain can only process so much information and when that information comes in small bites viewers can only concentrate on a few stimuli at a time. It’s a lot for a viewer to listen to the audio and try to relate it to the visuals on the screen. If the visual has the added issue of constantly moving, it disorients and confuses the viewer. There is a reason all movies and television show always use tripods or some type of stabilizing support. There are a few exceptions, but that for the pro’s to use in a specialized storytelling techniques. So get a tripod.

Item 2: The type of tripod head you use is critical to producing great video. There are two main types of tripod heads; still photography which is a mechanical action that is always locked into position. With video things move and you have to move with them. You can only do that with the second type on tripod head which is called a “Fluid Head”. As its name indicates this tripod head has a constant fluid motion making it easy to follow the action. If needed you can lockdown these tripod heads for non-movement situations. Again, all movies and television show use this type of tripod head to give you the best viewing experience. Penn carries combo tripod and fluid head for video.

Item 3: Audio is the element that pulls everything together. It is a documented fact that if people are watching the greatest looking visual video in the world, but the audio is indistinguishable they will turn off the video. If the video is visually terrible, but the audio is great, they will continue to watch. The built-in audio mic’s in today’s cameras are better then ever, but they pick-up to much ambient noise which can be very irritating. There are some great mic out that are excellent and very affordable. There are many different types of mic’s, and you need to select a mic that compliments the type of video you like to shoot. One of the best all around mic is called a “Shotgun Mic”; it captures a pinpoint area of sound based on where you point the mic. It still will pick-up a little ambient noise, but far less then the on-board mic’s in your camera. One of the best out there is called the “Rodie”, it has some great additional features. If you plan on recording the family history by interviewing your senior family members then you need a Lavaliere mic or Lapel mic. These can come in either a hard wired or a wireless configuration. I recommend using wireless. It is so cheap for wireless unites and they are easy to use and more importantly they are not tied to the camera allowing you to move freely with the camera.

Give these items a try to help improve your videos, and remember you can purchase all these items at Penn Camera. At Penn Camera not only get great pricing; you get great expertise after the sale.

Don’t forget that starting in January Penn camera will be providing several classes on video production, editing and more. Spielberg Lookout.

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Tom Sullivan is a photography and videography professional with 25-plus years of experience in all aspects of video production on a local, regional and national level. His work includes video production for such clients as the Moscow Ballet, the National Parks Service, ESPN Sports, and PBS. Tom’s background in both still and video photography makes him an ideal instructor for bridging the knowledge gap between the still and motion fields. Visit his website for more information: http://gravitymediapro.com/

Monday, November 29, 2010

Gallery at Fair Lakes: Employee Show!

Employee Gallery at Penn Fair Lakes
Penn Camera Fair Lakes
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Now on display thru January! A very special showing of employee images in Penn Camera Fair Lakes.

Join us for a highly diverse showing of employee images in the Fair Lakes store. One of the things that separates Penn Camera Employees from our rivals in other stores is that many of us are real photographers.

Gaze with wonder upon a country road that leads to points left only to the imagination, look with nostalgia upon a venerable Stearman Biplane as it taxis by, see a classic example of why a Holga in the hands of an artist is not just a toy camera, and feel the emotional power as a WWII veteran looks upon the Vietnam wall. These are just some of images on display in Penn Camera Fair Lakes right now.


By Bill Moravek

By Joe Martin

Saturday, November 13, 2010

DC's Hidden Gems - Part 1

By Chip Lenkiewicz, Penn Camera Tysons Corner
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It is really great living and working here in the DC area. So much to do in just a few hours drive - North, South, East or West. Yet some of the best things are closer by as gas prices inch ever upwards. One of those gems is the United States Botanic Garden (100 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20001); right next door to the National Museum of the American Indian.

This place is a macro photographer/plant lover's paradise. It had been a number of years since I was last the the USBG. It had closed a few years back for a much needed renovation. In the process of the renovation, they added an outdoor garden.

On my recent visit there, I was treated to an upcoming exhibit of DC and international landmarks made out of botanical elements. It officially opens at or around Thanksgiving Day and runs thru January 2nd, 2011. A wonderful Holiday treat for young and old alike.

A few tips based on my recent visit... BIG thing... dress in layers. Botanical gardens are basically lavish greenhouses. So being able to shed layers of clothing and have a spot for them is a good thing. Next is that tripods and monopods are not allowed - unless you get a permit. Plan on going back at different times of year, and different times of day - DUH! As any macro photographer will tell you. The other tip is to allow your gear to get used to the temperature differences. Sometimes a simple micro-fiber cloth across the filter will be enough - unless you are coming in from the cruel November temps we have been having of late.

Otherwise take lots of pictures...