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


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.


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...

Friday, November 12, 2010

Tamrac Rally 5 Camera Bag - iPad Users Take Note!

By Chip Lenkiewicz, Penn Camera Tysons Corner
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When our local Tamrac rep showed me the Tamrac Rally 5, and mentioned that it could handle an Apple iPad or a netbook - I immediately got my iPad in the Apple case out to try if for fit. And it was perfect!

I have tried to find the perfect camera bag for lugging my Olympus E-PL1 kit around with my iPad in tow. Yet most bags I came across were for 13" laptops and much too big for my E-PL1 gear.

My list of everyday gear is below, and I can fit all of it (relatively comfortably) in the Rally 5.

  • E-PL1 with the Olympus Zuiko m43 14-150 (hood reversed) and the VF-2 EVF finder attached with a couple spare batteries
  • Olympus Zuiko m43 9-18 (hood attached)
  • Olympus Zuiko 43 50mm/2.0 Macro with the MMF-1 adapter attached and the hood reversed (on loan for testing - thinking I want to add this as my macro and fast portrait lens as well as macro work)
  • Panasonic 20mm/1.7 (my low light "normal" lens)
  • Lensbaby Composer in Nikon mount (hold over from my Nikon kit) with the Promaster m43 to Nikon adapter in a Lensbaby Composer case
  • Lensbaby pouch containing the Lensbaby .6 wide angle/macro converter with the Lensbaby apertures and aperture installer
  • Olympus FL-36R flash with spare batteries with a Stofen Dome attached (sometimes I like to have a less harsh flash than the pop-up gives - and the EP-L1 allows for the pop-up to be used as a wireless flash as well)
  • Circular Polarizing filters for the 14-150 and 9-18 lens
  • Apple iPad with the camera connection kit

All the above fits well with space to spare for small things like my iPhone earbuds, cleaning cloth, and such. And it all comes in at just over 6 pounds! Add my favorite travel tripod - Tamrac Zipshot - to the handle at the top of the bag; and I am still under 7 pounds. So as one can see the Rally 5 has space to spare.

Overall, this is a good-looking bag, and is a messenger bag style - it doesn't scream camera bag. And at its price point, it is very well built. The wide strap is comfortable on long days out. Side expandable pockets work well for the small things that you might need ready access to instead of opening the main bag. Sometimes camera bags offer too many pockets and pouches. In the end this one had just the right amount.

Some may read the above gear and wonder how it all works in the end... sounds kinda of cramped for the above gear. And yes it can be for my regular kit; but not for the way I work. I want a bag that I can travel with (read: get on an airplane) in minimal space, yet offer me the ability to have what I think I might need once I get there.

The way I work is that once I get to where I am going, the camera and my lens choice of the moment is around my neck. That is when the camera bag becomes my staging area. And that is where the Rally 5 bag stood out on a recent outing. It was small enough to handle what I wanted to use; but big enough once I got the E-PL1 out of the way to get access to my lenses and gear that I needed. It also had the pockets I needed to stuff things away when going in and out of museums here in DC.

Others may wonder why carry an iPad along. With the Apple Camera Connection Kit I am able to download my images on the go. With some of the apps I can do some basic edits (and more) and share them instantly. A few months back, I did a day trip to the National Arboretum in the morning; and later in the day over brunch with friends I was able to share pics from that day over brunch! There are times also that I do solo travel.

About 4 years ago or so - did a trip to SF by myself. Five days on my own. A total photography trip! Wish I had the iPad back then. The ability to stop and have a meal and review my images would have been nice. As well as being able to do searches that can be painful even on the likes of an iPhone. Sometimes it is nice to break out from the photographer mode and just catch up on news or a good book as well.

Things that I would have liked to have seen are maybe are a small zipper pocket on the main flap. Would be a great place to stow a P&S camera. And would have been nice to have seen an attachment loop at the base or side of the bag for ZipShot tripod or a water bottle with a hook.

In the end the Rally 5 and the rest of the Tamrac Rally series bags are well worth a look. Do want folks to know that (sort of required under new laws about blogging and such), that I bought this bag for review. And it is a keeper for me.... may end up replacing my other favorite bags - the Crumpler Million Dollar Home bags....

Camera Review: The Nikon Coolpix S8100

By Brendan Keenan, Penn Camera Tysons Corner
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Nikon has developed a reputation for having well-made, and most importantly, easy-to-use point and shoot cameras. In fact, a model from earlier this year took Consumer Reports top spot for sub-ompact cameras, the Coolpix S8000. So it was only natural that Nikon would build on a product that was very well received, and they have answered the call with the Coolpix S8100. A follow up to the top-rated S8000, the S8100 makes some important advances in technology.

The video mode has been upgraded to full 1080 HD video, versus 720 HD on the S8000. That goes for still photos as well, so you can shoot HD stills, and display them in full high definition by connecting to an HDTV. The camera is 12 megapixels, enough for printing enlargements up to 16x20, or for a good amount of cropping. Nikon also added a mode dial to help the user access the different camera modes quickly and easily and it's placement on top of the camera is convenient. The most significant change is something you won't see, but will make a world of difference in the pictures. That would be the image sensor itself.

The image sensor is the eye of the camera and collects all the information for the picture. In the new S8100, Nikon put in a backside-illuminated CMOS sensor, a far superior image sensor than the standard CCD sensors in most point and shoot digital cameras. The advanced CMOS sensor offers everything from better color reproduction, to better low light performance, even better power management that leads to longer battery life. The S8100 also has a better, brighter LCD screen, and the 3" size is more than enough to not only see your pictures clearly before you take them, but afterwards as well.

This camera also packs a big 10x optical zoom into its fairly compact frame, plus a lot more. You won’t miss a shot either, since it offers high speed shooting of ten frames per second in continuous mode (and at full resolution), as well as fast startup time, and very little shutter lag. With fast start up time, fast auto focus, and a very quick shutter, you can be ready at a moments notice to get those great shots other cameras might miss. It also has Nikon’s VR image stabilization, which will definitely come in handy, since this camera has a 300mm equivalent telephoto lens.

No Coolpix camera would be complete without Nikon's scene modes, for easy automatic use in tricky situations. Backlit subject, low light, can't use a flash? No problem. Just access the scene modes and set the camera for the type of photo you are taking. The camera will do the rest. Everything from portraits and sports, to sunsets, night shots and fireworks displays have a convenient, easy to access scene mode.

So Nikon answered the question, how do you make the best, better? You take a model with a proven track record and critical acclaim, and you pair it with the most cutting edge technologies available on point and shoot cameras. Make no mistake, the addition of a CMOS sensor is no small upgrade to the top rated compact digital camera of 2010. It further enhances an already great camera, and allows for anyone to get those great shots.

Viewfinders: Electronic vs. Optical

By Brendan Keenan, Penn Camera Tysons Corner
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Depending on the kind of camera you own, or are thinking of buying, the type of viewfinder it uses can vary pretty significantly. While many point and shoot cameras have done away with viewfinders altogether in favor of ever larger LCD displays, many people find that having a viewfinder can be very important, and some people won't buy a camera without one.

So why are viewfinders so important if cameras come with nice big screens? Just take a typical point and shoot camera out in bright sunlight. Good luck accurately framing or focusing your shot. On higher end cameras, viewfinders offer the ability to fine tune shots with manual focus, and provide shooting information. There are some important differences between optical and electronic viewfinders, and knowing the pros and cons of each type may help in a decision of what type of camera to purchase, especially if you are considering an interchangeable lens camera.

Optical Viewfinders:

On some higher end point and shoot cameras, like the Nikon P7000 or the Canon G12, there is an optical viewfinder in addition to the LCD screen. This type of viewfinder is essentially a small window near the lens that you can use for framing. Unfortunately, since it is near the lens, but not the lens, what you see is not exactly what you get. It is an approximation meant to help compose photos, but be careful to review the images to make sure you got the shot you were hoping for.

DSLR cameras offer a far better type of optical viewfinder, called a pentaprism, which uses a mirror to allow the user to essentially see through the lens. This is especially useful since you are able to clearly see everything the lens sees, and it makes things like manual focus, and small depth of field changes easy to see. In addition, the viewfinder will display shooting data such as f-stop and shutter speed, and give some other exposure related information. The coverage on this type of viewfinder is usually close to 100%, so framing and composing shots is far more accurate than with the type of viewfinder found on point and shoot cameras. Using optical viewfinders also makes the camera more energy efficient, so battery life is extended.

Electronic Viewfinders:

There are different types of electronic viewfinders as well. Many non-interchangeable lens cameras with a lot of zoom (sometimes called "superzooms"), like the Nikon P100, the Canon SX30IS, or the Panasonic FZ100, use electronic viewfinders that are essentially small LCD displays inside the viewfinder. This type of viewfinder is nice because it can display lots of information, and does provide an exact view of what the image will be, as opposed to some optical viewfinders. Not all electronic viewfinders are created equal however, and resolutions can vary significantly. If finding a camera with a built in electronic viewfinder is important, you should definitely try out different models to see firsthand. Some are remarkably sharp, while others can look very pixilated.

On interchangeable lens cameras using the micro four-thirds system like the Olympus E-PL1 or the Panasonic GF1, the electronic viewfinders attach on top of the camera, since the cameras themselves are so compact they can't house an in-camera viewfinder. These viewfinders also vary in resolution, so again make sure you check out each model if the viewfinder is something you think you will need or want to use. These type of viewfinders can be great for displaying lots of shooting information, and often beat optical viewfinders in low light. The resolution is limited however, and remember, more power consumption means shorter battery life.

The important thing to remember is that each type has it's strengths and weaknesses. Depending on the type of camera you are looking into, the size you want, and your shooting style, one may be much better suited for your use than the other. It really will depend on the user. So it is important to understand what you are getting if you are looking for a camera with a viewfinder. The easiest way to do this of course, is to come into your nearest Penn Camera and see the differences for yourself. Until you see for yourself, don't make any decisions. For some people the viewfinder can truly make or break the camera.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fotoweek DC is BACK

By Brendan Keenan, Penn Camera Tysons Corner
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If you are even a casual photographer in the D.C. area, and you aren't really excited, than you must not have heard. Fotoweek DC is back! Kicking off on November 5th with a launch party highlighting the winners of this year‘s international photography contest at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Fotoweek DC then runs almost nonstop, with events lasting all week from November 6th through the 13th. Fotoweek DC D.C. is the area's largest photographic event, and regardless of skill level, or field of photography, Fotoweek DC offers something for EVERYONE!

There will be photo galleries and exhibitions naturally, all around the area, including at the National Gallery of Art, the Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art and Design, the National Geographic Museum, and many other locations around town. The list is truly extensive, with multiple events on any given day. There will also be conferences and lectures from some of the biggest names in international photography and photojournalism, as well as instructors in photography, even Pulitzer Prize winning photographers will be in attendance. This is truly a huge event for the photographic community in the area, stretching across D.C., Maryland and Virginia and bringing together people from all over the world.

If you can't take the entire week off of work and just experience it all (my recommendation), there are some highlights that shouldn't be missed. One of the most popular from years past has been the NightGallery, consisting of nighttime photo projections done around the city. At night, the city lights up with huge images projected across some of the most beautiful, stunning architecture that DC has to offer. The effect is truly awe-inspiring, and should be a must see for everyone. Sites include the Corcoran Gallery and the American Red Cross on 17th street, as well as DuPont Circle, the Satellite Central in Georgetown, as well as several museums in the area; including the Holocaust museum, and the Newseum. More information can be found on the official website, Fotoweek DCdc.org. If the Georgetown area is convenient for you, then check out Satellite Central on M street. It will feature photographic presentations, as well as music on Thursday, November 11th, and a “slideluck potshow” on Friday the 12th that will be half great home cooked dining, half riveting slideshow. With everything going on this Fotoweek DC, you have no excuse not to be there.

There are plenty of events to keep everyone interested, so make it a family day and go see what Fotoweek DC has to offer. If you have any interest in photography whatsoever, Fotoweek DC has at least five things for you. This festival is only in its third year, but it is quickly becoming one of the most popular photographic events in the country. Just check out the website, it has all the information on the galleries, night events, contests, the event calendar, etc.

Penn Camera is proud to be a Platinum Sponsor of Fotoweek DC, joining other such names in photography as Epson, Getty images, Nikon, and many more. This is the type of annual event that is certain to draw thousands of photographers, both from right here at home, and around the globe. If you already live here, you really have no reason to miss out on this huge, educational, and just plain fun event. It only comes once a year, so let’s all help make this year’s Fotoweek DC the best ever!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Gallery at 18th Street: Photographer Milton Shinberg

Join us!
Gallery Opening for Photographer Milton Shinberg
Penn Camera 18th Street
Friday, November 5th
4:00pm - 6:00pm
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Milton Shinberg is a life-long Washingtonian and proud DCPS graduate. He is has been a registered architect since 1975, and founded Shinberg.Levinas Architects with Salo Levinas in 1997. Their practice centers on institutional design, primarily schools and religious buildings, as well as high-end residential work.

He has been involved with both black and white and color photography since the 1970’s. His photographs of the firm’s architectural projects have been featured in local and national publications. He is a graduate of Carnegie-Mellon University, afterwards interning with Arthur Cotton Moore before starting his independent practice in 1975. Shinberg has continued in the academic world as adjunct professor at Catholic University, currently teaching the cognitive and evolutionary basis of aesthetics to architects as a framework for design.

He has traveled extensively in the US, and to over a dozen countries, taking advantage of wonderful opportunities to harvest images of people and places along the way, as well as drawings in pencil and ink. Recent trips to Egypt and India were very fruitful personally and photographically, with images from the latter providing the material for this show.

Shinberg shoots with a Nikon D90, equipped with a Tamron 18mm-270mm lens (purchased from Penn Camera, of course). The lens has been indispensable for shifting back and forth between architectural scenes as well as faces without changing the lens. Images were imported into Adobe Photoshop Lightroom2 in preparation for this exhibit.

He is married to Judith Ross, and has two beautiful daughters, Kate and Samantha.

Gallery at Tysons: Photographer Duncan Whitaker

Join us!
Gallery Opening for Photographer Duncan Whitaker
Penn Camera Tysons Corner
Wednesday, November 10th
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Duncan Whitaker is a fine art photographer working primarily with intimate landscapes and cityscapes, as well as close-up images. Working in a world which is complex and often chaotic, he seeks to discern the essence of a scene or subject and, through simplification and composition, create a visually interesting and perhaps at times compelling image.

Most often, Whitaker photographs out-of-doors with natural light, using a 35mm camera and color transparency film. The resulting slide film is scanned to create a digital file from which a print is made using archival quality inks and fine art papers and without digital alteration.

Whitaker has had numerous solo exhibits and his works are in private collections throughout the United States. He is a member of the Waverly Street Gallery in Bethesda, Maryland, where his work is regularly exhibited. His photographs are also on display at the Whitehall Gallery in Annapolis, Maryland.

To view a sampling of his work, please visit his website at http://www.whitakerphotography.com/.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Get Creative and You Could Be a Winner! The Monthly Photo Contest

By Brendan Keenan, Penn Camera Tysons Corner
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Did you know that Penn Camera and Olympus sponsor a monthly photo contest that is open to everyone? Every month we provide photographers with a different theme and every month three winners are selected. First place wins an Olympus E-PL1 digital camera! Second place receives an Olympus Stylus Tough 3000 digital point and shoot camera, and third place receives a $25 Penn gift card. The contest is open to everyone, and you may submit up to three entries per day.

This month’s theme is pet portraits, so it's time to get out your camera, get fluffy ready, and get creative. When you have submitted your own photos, the next step is to help us narrow down the contenders. This is done by voting on Penncamera.com. Click on the monthly photo contest link at the top of the page to get started or just go to http://www.penncamera.com/photocontest.html. You will be able to see all the photos submitted, as well as the current front runners based on voting up to that point. To vote you simply choose between one of the two images displayed. The photos that win the most of these random "battles" are the top contenders to win the contest. Once the submission deadline has passed, and the votes have all been tallied, the top three photos are selected by our Penn Camera photographic experts and the first, second, and third place winners are decided. Then of course, the prizes are awarded. For more information on the specifics of voting and how the winning images are chosen, visit the photo contest section of the website and click on "guidelines". The important thing to remember is that this contest is open to everyone. You don't have to be a "professional" photographer to win the contest. If you don't have a cute pet, wait until next month, and we'll announce the new theme.

There are only a couple of days left to submit your photos (10/22 is the deadline), but you can still vote on others until 10/29. At Penn Camera we want to encourage people to take more pictures, get creative, and just advance their photography to the next level, wherever that may be. What better way than offering the aspiring photographer free cameras! The top prize E-PL1 is an interchangeable lens camera that will allow you to get more and more out of every photo, all in a surprisingly small package. The Stylus 3000 is a shockproof, waterproof, freezeproof point and shoot camera that boasts high image quality in addition to its super rugged design. It's a perfect camera for anyone who can be a little rough on their equipment, or just want to try out things like underwater photography. And of course, the $25 gift card will get you that much closer to whatever camera, lens, or accessory you have your eye on.

So now that you know the basics, it's time to get out and start shooting! Submit your best photos to us (remember, limit 3 images per day), start voting, and most importantly, have fun. It's a great feeling the first time you see your work up on a website, and knowing that lots of people are viewing it and voting on it makes it that much more exciting. So join us! Each month brings a new challenge and another chance to win! So what are you waiting for? Sign up for our e-mail newsletter if you haven't already, and Like us on Facebook to keep up on all the special deals we'll be offering throughout the upcoming holiday season. Good luck, and keep shooting!

Great functionality in a sweet little package: The Nikon Coolpix S80

By Brendan Keenan, Penn Camera Tysons Corner
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When it comes time to buy a good point and shoot camera, most people look for something that is easy to use, but still produces good images; and hopefully manages to be a good-looking and nice to handle in the process. If you want ease of use, coupled with unparalleled style and functionality in a sweet little package, look no further than the new offering from Nikon, the Coolpix S80.

The S80 is considered a sub-compact, or ultra-compact camera, meaning it can be easily carried in a pocket or purse. About the size of a thin cell phone, the S80 offers an impressive set of features for such a slim little camera. One of the great standout features on this camera is its large, 3.5" OLED screen. This touch screen not only offers full control over all camera function (menus, zoom, you can even take a picture simply by pressing the screen!), but also offers one of the most high resolution screens available on a point and shoot camera. The OLED technology offers incredible detail, a wide viewing angle, as well as vivid colors that just can't be reproduced on a standard LCD screen. You can even use the camera's editing features to get really creative with your images after you have taken them, without ever having to connect to a computer.

As nice as the screen is, it is just the start of the features on this powerful little point and shoot. It is a 14 megapixel camera, for high image quality and detail, even when cropping and enlarging. It manages to pack a 5X optical zoom into it's tiny frame (35-175mm equivalent). It has the standard set of Nikon features to help you get the most out of every picture, like Nikon's scene mode technology, and Nikon's VR image stabilization system. The VR allows for shooting at much slower shutter speeds, and will drastically improve pictures taken in low light, something that many point and shoot cameras struggle with. It also offers HD video recording with stereo sound, so when it comes time to capture a video in high quality, you know that you will be prepared, and playback is made easy by directly connecting the camera to an HDTV. Given the feature set, this camera is really something.

Of course, this camera is not for everyone. Some people like to be able to adjust shutter speed and aperture on the fly, or use manual focus when the need arises. This camera is not for those people. This is the perfect camera for someone who loves to own the most cutting edge technology available, and wants a device that will not only be simple to use, but will take great quality photos and video. Luckily with the Coolpix S80 that is exactly what Nikon has provided. A truly stylish point and shoot that will make all your friends ooh and aah (and possibly get a little jealous), but will come through when you need it to get the most important pictures.

If you are looking for great quality, fun features, and ease of use all in a stylish little package that can go wherever you go, The Coolpix S80 may be just the camera for you. It is certain to be a big seller this holiday season as touch screen point and shoots that perform well continue to become more and more popular. Stop by your local Penn camera today to try out the Nikon Coolpix S80 for yourself. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Nikon D90...

By Penn Camera Customer Bob Blanken

The Nikon D90 w/18-105 VRII DX Lens
The Nikon D90 was introduced in 2008 as the replacement for the D80 and the camera for which a D5000 or a Rebel owner might wish to upgrade. With a full feature set, the camera offers the passionate photographer wanting to upgrade from a point & shoot to a D/SLR the versatility for complete control and access to all Nikon lenses accessories. The camera offers some elements of a camera a professional might use, including a fast shutter and heavier duty body plus the Expeed sensor, but without requiring the expense and weight of a true pro camera.  While it will shortly be superseded by the D7000, already announced, this camera offers a great deal for the serious pro-sumer or as a backup for a pro, at a very attractive price point relative to its replacement. But first, let me delve into the camera. The D90 body is available with or without a 18-105mm Nikkor AF-S VR II zoom lens. The Nikon EXPEED image processor produces a superb rendition of the sensor’s data.

The main features are:

• Newly designed Nikon DX-format CMOS image sensor with 12.3 effective mega pixels and Integrated Dust Reduction System.

• Incredibly low-noise performance throughout a wide sensitivity range of ISO 200 to 3200; can be set to ISO 6400 equivalent.

• Incorporates Nikon's comprehensive digital image-processing EXPEED concept

• Revolutionary at the time, The world's first D-SLR movie function: D-Movie, selectable from 320x216 pixels, 640 x 424 pixels or 1,280 x 720 pixels in AVI format.

•Scene Recognition System, utilizing 420-pixel RGB sensor, improves auto focus, auto exposure and auto white balance performance; which is also integrated with the new Face Detection System.

•Live View enables face priority AF with the 3-in., approx. 920k-dot, high-density color LCD featuring 170° ultra-wide viewing angle.

•Picture Control System offers new Portrait and Landscape options for more vibrant customized colors.

•Active D-Lighting for smooth tone reproduction in high-contrast lighting.

•Multi-CAM 1000 auto focus sensor module featuring 11 AF points offers fast and precise auto focus coverage across the frame.

•Viewfinder with approx. 96% frame coverage and an easy-to-view 19.5 mm eyepoint (at -1.0 m-1).

•Advanced Scene Modes that automatically adjust exposure, image processing, Active D-Lighting and Picture Control settings for superior image quality.

•Extensive palette of in-camera Retouch Menus including several new retouch options such as Distortion Control, Straighten and Fish-eye.

•4.5 fps continuous shooting and quick response of 0.15-second start-up and 65-ms shutter release time lag.

•Built-in flash with 18mm lens coverage and Nikon's original i-TTL flash control that commands Advanced Wireless Lighting.

•Highly efficient energy-saving design that allows approx. 850 images on a single charge of the Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL3e (CIPA standard, with AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, with 50% of pictures taken with flash).

•Versatile Pict motion menu that creates sideshows combining five choices of both background music and image effects.

•Compatible with HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) output.

•Optional Multi-Power Battery Pack MB-D80 extends shooting capability and enables use of 6 x AA-size batteries.

•Included Nikon ViewNX software makes browsing and organizing your images easy.

•Optional photo-editing software, Capture NX 2 allows users quick and easy photo editing.

•Lightweight compact body weighing 1 lb 6 oz with battery.

•Numerous Custom Functions.

In the field the camera performed very well. Foremost, the camera, ergonomically, feels good is your hands. The controls are easily manipulated and adjusted. The menus rely more on type than icons so it is a simple to master, especially if you read the manual…sadly, often the least used accessory. While the view finder provides 96% coverage of the actual image, the 3” TFT-LCD with 920,000 pixels offer a 100% image. The screen is critical for aiding composition and sharpness review.

The D90 offers 720p HD-Movie at various capture settings. The camera, though should be tripod bound to get the best video for smooth pans and tilts. Hardware to support the camera hand-held is now readily available, and can be rented to test before you purchase. All that being said, the camera produces vivid videos that you will be pleased to show.

While I am used to shooting at ISO 100-800 and rarely higher, the D90 produces smooth images at ISO 1600 and 3200, so hand held photos in subdued light can be easily accomplished without sacrificing image quality.

Excessive noise that results at extended ISO settings can be tamed with software.

As in all cameras the built-in flash is most inefficient for the task at hand. I always recommend the first accessory to buy is the best flash you can afford. The good news is the on camera the flash can control off camera flashes such as the Nikon SB400, SB600, SB900  or even the Nikon  R1 Wireless Close-Up Speedlight System.

The major features that I consider essential:

•Bracketing for exposure and white balance.

•White balance control.

•Focus options.

•Picture control for jpgs.

•Image Quality.

•Metering choices.

•Flash Exposure lock.

•Scene Modes (for those still mastering the craft).

As an instructor, I would suggest renting it for a weekend, using it in all the ways you are likely to encounter and see for yourself the results it can produce. If you’re thinking about upgrading your D5000 or Rebel, or finally giving up your old film SLR, this would be an excellent choice. For current D/SLR users it is a significant upgrade over the entry level models, adding the HD video and giving you access to the full range of the lenses that Nikon offers.

Now, if you’re really serious and want a more substantial body with a faster response time, better auto focus, auto focus calibration, moisture sealed buttons, and more control. Then the D300s or the D700 would be the direction to take. A lot of pros favor the lighter weight of the D300s and the D700, over their big brother the D3x, which is also a heavier hit on your wallet.

The only other camera to compare to the D90 is the newly introduced Canon 60D, which offers several upgrades over the D90 but also comes at a substantially higher cost, or the Nikon D7000 which has been announced, and should be available in October/November of 2010. The D5000, or Canon Rebels are excellent cameras, but do not match the capabilities or durability of the D90, a hugely successful model which should still give any purchaser years of great service.

About the author:
Bob Blanken has been a professional photographer for over 40 years. Corporate clients have included Anheuser-Busch, L’Oreal, Toyota, AT&T, Disney, USPS, ALTA, AGA, Royal Ahold, and many others. He has photographed hundreds of weddings since 1967.