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Camera Lens Rentals opens its doors

LensesIf you ever need to rent a lens you certainly can’t complain about a lack of options. A few months ago I reviewed 8 online lens rental stores and now we can add the aptly named Camera Lens Rentals to the list.

This new store is strictly Canon with a fair selection of standard, wide and telephoto lenses. They follow the standard rental model. Prices are fairly competitive and they offer an optional damage waiver for a few dollars more. In addition, they are currently promoting a “3 clicks special” where you rent three lenses and get your fourth rental for free.

For their grand opening, they’re offering 15% off your first rental with the discount code GRANDOPEN.

Also, be sure to check out my reviews of competing services Rent Glass and Zip Lens.

Ice Cold Photography

npsmall.jpg I spent this past weekend in Chicago and, as you may know, it was FREEZING in Chicago this past weekend. But since a mere 6 months ago I was living in Alaska I know that extreme cold doesn’t mean I can’t take my camera out and I now have some lovely photos of very cold Chicago dwellers. For those of you that have never yet ventured out with your camera at 25 below but think you might be brave enough this winter here are a few tips:

Use A UV Filter
They are a hell of a lot cheaper to replace than a lens. Extreme cold makes glass more brittle, last winter I was out shooting at -30F, put my camera down, gently, and the UV filter simply shattered. But it cost ten bucks to replace so I didn’t have to be too worried!

Get A Good Camera Bag and Heat It!
A decent camera bag is a worthwhile investment anyway but especially if you do a lot of outdoor photography. In the cold it’ll offer some protection by itself and you can make it even better by padding around the camera with hand or foot warmers (they cost about $2 at sports stores). Wrap them in a thin cloth first to protect the camera in case they leak little carbon particles.

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Perk up photos of snowy scenes with these simple and practical tips

farmstand in winterI spend most of the winter shivering in New England despite numerous layers of silk, fleece, and wool. One of the few consolations that the season offers is the opportunity—often numerous opportunities—to photograph snow. Although driving in snow is wretched, seeing it is glorious.

However, for years, my snow shots were disappointing. I would try to capture a brilliant snowy scene and wind up with an image that appeared dingy or slightly blue. Luckily, the cure was simple.

I had forgotten that cameras are designed to expose for a nice, even medium grey. Grey, not white. So snow throws off the camera’s metering system, which tries to make the snow a nice shade of grey.

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The Library of Congress… on Flickr?!

Part of the cowling for one of the motors for a B-25 bomber is assembled in the engine department of North American [Aviation, Inc.]’s Inglewood, Calif., plant (LOC)In a post titled “My Friend Flickr: A Match Made in Photo Heaven” on the Library of Congress blog (who knew the Library of Congress had a blog?), the Library of Congress, the largest library in the world and research arm of the United States Congress, announced today (January 16th 2008) that they have posted over 3,000 photos to Flickr from their most popular collections. And all of the photos have no known copyright restrictions.

The real magic comes when the power of the Flickr community takes over. We want people to tag, comment and make notes on the images, just like any other Flickr photo, which will benefit not only the community but also the collections themselves. For instance, many photos are missing key caption information such as where the photo was taken and who is pictured. If such information is collected via Flickr members, it can potentially enhance the quality of the bibliographic records for the images.

How cool is that? But there’s more! This is a pilot project created in partnership with the Library of Congress called The Commons. The Flickr blog describes it best:

There are two main aims to The Commons project, starting with the pilot: firstly, to increase exposure to the amazing content currently held in the public collections of civic institutions around the world, and secondly, to facilitate the collection of general knowledge about these collections, with the hope that this information can feed back into the catalogues, making them richer and easier to search.

So far, the photos are grouped into two sets: The 1930s-40s in color and News in the 1910s. Both amazing collections, but don’t take my word for it, go check it out!

Library of Congress on Flickr

The Commons

Free noise reduction plugin for the GIMP

GREYCstoration pluginI’ve been using the GIMP image editor (also known as the GNU Image Manipulation Program) (also known as the wonderful, open source, free photo editor with the awful name) a lot lately. Version 2.4.2. I highly recommend a second look if you haven’t tried it recently. The newest version has vastly improved controls for cropping and selections, a foreground selection tool, a healing tool, and better brush management among other enhancements.

But one thing my stock GIMP install didn’t have was a decent noise removal filter. That is, until I downloaded and installed the GREYCstoration plugin. Installing it is as simple as downloading and dropping the plugin into the GIMP plugins directory. Restart GIMP and you’ll find a new menu under Filters | Enhance | GREYCstoration.

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