How to shoot fireworks and cheat

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First off Happy Independence Day 2015! I know that many of you will go out and shoot fireworks this weekend. I started a little early shooting last night. Believe it or not it was my first time shooting fireworks professionally. I just hadn’t been to a fireworks display with  my gear in all these years. The last time I remember trying to photograph fireworks was years ago and it was a disaster because I made the amateur mistake of trying to photograph them handheld. Every shot was a blurry mess. A few years back my buddy Scott Kelby was looking for a topic to blog about and I said why don’t you blog about “how to shoot fireworks”? He resisted at first, but then he did it and it was such a hit on his blog he has done it every year since. Every year I refer to his post just in case I’m get a chance to photograph fireworks and this year I actually made the time to do it. I figured I had several nights to try since fireworks here in Atlanta take place in different places all weekend long.

What you’ll need and the settings:

It will work best if you have a camera that can shoot in manual mode. Sure some cameras have Scenes and even “fireworks” modes. If you want to play it totally safe by all means use one of those modes. However, if you want to have complete control, shoot in manual mode. Next and I can’t stress this enough, you’ll need a tripod. Don’t even waste your time trying to do it without one unless you’re just doing it for the fun of it and don’t expect to have “great” shots. Ideally you’ll also want either a wireless trigger for your shutter or a cable release. This will help by keeping your hands off the camera and reducing vibration as much as possible. Here are the settings you’ll want:

  • f/11 aperture
  • 4 seconds shutter speed
  • ISO 100
  • White Balance set to Tungsten 
  • Manual Focus to infinity (the symbol that looks like a sideways 8)

Which lens? I fully expected to use my 70-200mm f/2.8 telephoto lens, but actually I was closer than I expected to be and I was glad that I brought my wide angle 14-24mm f/2.8 lens. I would recommend either a lens with a variable focal length like a 28-300mm or bring both a telephoto and a wide angle so that you’re covered depending on your location.

Now what?

After having those settings drilled into my head all these years I thought it would be a piece of cake. However, last night I realized two things about shooting fireworks: #1 Unless you’ve sat though the exact same show before, you have no idea what’s coming when. Shooting fireworks is kinda like shooting sports. You have to anticipate where the action will be and be ready for it.

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I had plenty of misses like the one above. Four seconds is a long time before you can press the shutter again. #2 and probably the thing I least expected is that fireworks shows can suck sometimes. We have to realize that fireworks shows cost money. In many cases you’ll see lots of what I call “streamers”. They go up and leave a trail of light, but no big pretty explosion at the end.

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It doesn’t cost you to shoot more pictures digitally, but what this really means is that you’ll only have a few chances to get the really “pretty/spectacular” ones. Yes there is usually a finale at the end, but it only lasts so long, If you haven’t gotten your timing together by then you’ll blow it.

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I got some “good” shots, but I wanted some “awesome” shots like the ones I see in magazines and on TV. Then I realized that I can cheat a little. I have a few good shots that could be combined in Photoshop to make an “Awesome” shot like the one at the beginning of the post.

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I combined 4 of my “good” shots into one composite in Photoshop CC 2015. I simply put each one on a separate layer and set the Layer blending mode to Lighten. This got rid of the black sky and left me with just the fireworks that I could then move into any position I wanted. I used a layer mask to mask away the remnants of the laser show and ghosting of Stone Mountain.

I wasn’t a fan of the smoke surrounding what would have been a nice shot. With Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 it was even easier with the NEW Dehaze feature in Adobe Camera RAW and better yet the Camera RAW filter. I was able to take this shot:

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While it was a layer in my composite I simply ran the Camera RAW Filter on it in Photoshop CC 2015.

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Dehaze only got rid of so much of it in the first pass. Since it’s a filter I could simply apply it two more times and turn it into this shot:

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I was quite pleased with the results.

The bottom line

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Go out tonight and have some fun shooting and celebrating the 4th of July. Always remember that we have Lightroom and Photoshop to make great shots even better. If you want to check out Scott’s post you can here.



5 Books to Improve Your Photography

I haven’t met a photographer yet that doesn’t think they could improve their craft. We attend seminars, we practice, we buy new gear, we watch other pros via YouTube and we read books. I thought I would give you 5 books that will help you improve your photography.

 

It’s Not About the F-Stop

by Jay Maisel

ItsNotAboutTheFStop

Jay’s book is all about tips and advice on everything from locations and gear to bring to people and enthusiasm. A great motivational piece:

You can get it here.

 

Understand Exposure, 3rd Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera

by Bryan Peterson

understanding_exposure

Bryan’s book deals with mastering the exposure for just about any lighting condition with just about any camera. It answers some of the questions I get asked the most.

You can get it here.

 

Picture Perfect Practice: A Self-Training Guide to Mastering the Challenges of Taking World-Class Photographs

by Roberto Valenzuela

pictureperfect

I get a little giddy just talking about this book. This is one of those books that with every page turn you’re going to learn something. Every page is loaded with not only great tips but out of the box thinking and practices I had not heard of before.

You can get it here.

 

The Digital Photography Book: Part 1

by Scott Kelby

thedigitalphotographybook

I remember when the 1st edition of this book came out and I read the entire book on a flight back home from California. I couldn’t put it down. Again this is an example of one of those books that has useful tips and techniques on every page.

You can get it here.

You can also get ALL 5 parts/books for one price here.

 

The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC Book for Digital Photographers

by Scott Kelby

lightroomccbook

While this is not a book about photography, it’s impossible to be a good photographer without a good workflow to manage your photos. Lightroom is the industry leader when it comes to photo management and Scott’s book is #1 best seller on the topic.

You can get it here.

 

Going to Photoshop World 2015 in Vegas?

If so you can SAVE $50 by registering here with the Discount Code: TerryWhite50



Why I shoot Nikon?

TW-D4

I can’t believe how many times this question comes up. Usually it’s asked by new photographers or photographers that haven’t yet made a decision on which brand DSLR they’re going to go with. Last week I attended a photography meet-up at one of the local studios. Keep in mind that this was just a casual setting and I didn’t even bring my gear (in hindsight I wish I had as there were some shooting opportunities there with new models). Two of the photographers walked up to me and we started talking about photography and videography in general. One of them asked me “so do you shoot Nikon or Canon?” and I said Nikon, his partner high-fived me while he turned and walked away in disgust as if he had just lost another bet or something. It was all in fun of course, but I guess I find it odd that people are so passionate about what tools they work with that if you use a different tool it upsets them. Last night I got asked on my Instagram feed.

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This one was obviously more looking for a recommendation than anything else and I respect that. It prompted me to write this post so that I can answer the question and of course point people to it the next time I’m asked :-) So let me get to the answer(s):

Why did I pick Nikon?

Nikon D70

My first DSLR was actually an Olympus E20N. I started to take my hobby more and more serious and while I liked my Olympus camera, it had a fixed lens. It was finally time (2004) for me to upgrade to a DSLR with interchangeable lenses. Having watched the market I knew that I was going to go with either a Nikon or Canon camera. I want to make this part perfectly CLEAR! I had ZERO bias towards either brand (and still don’t to this day!) None of my close friends were photographers. I was making my own choice simply by my budget and the specs. I knew I wanted a camera with a fast start up time. Yes we take for granted now that we can just turn on our cameras and start shooting, but back then it “startup time” was a concern. My budget at the time was around $1,000. That put me in the price range of the 1st generation Canon Rebel. It looked good to me, but the only problem is that that model had been out already for almost a year and while I new a newer model was probably coming, it hadn’t come by the time I was ready to buy. On the other hand Nikon had just introduced the Nikon D70. It was new, and this 6.1MP beauty had all the specs I wanted and was in my price range. That was it. Plain and simple. I went with the newer camera by one of the two brands I was looking at.

 

Why did I continue with Nikon?

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As almost any photographer will tell you, once you start buying lenses you’re not going to switch brands on a whim. There’s always a new Nikon and a new Canon camera coming out. So you’ll always be glancing at the other brand and latest new toys. However, there hasn’t been anything on the Canon side that made me say “I gotta sell everything and switch.” On the other hand for years Nikon has had a couple of features that lacked on the Canon side that made me happy with my choice. For one I was a heavy user of the Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS) and the ability to fire and control Nikon speedlights from the built-in flash. This wireless control is beyond just a simple wireless trigger and allows you to control the power and groups of flashes. The other long time advantage that Nikon had was built-in GPS support right in the menu of the cameras for years. While you still need to buy an external GPS module (when will you guys build these in as a standard option or least put them in the battery grips?), the support for them is and had been built-in for a very long time. I love having the geotag info go right into the metadata as a I shoot. Now these features that I’m sure Canon probably offers by now, but for years they didn’t.

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Did I ever consider switching?

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Yes there was a time. Well I’ll say that I considered ADDING a Canon DSLR back in the days when Canon was ahead on low light/high ISO shooting. Yep, I was drooling big time. I almost pulled the trigger on buying a Canon DSLR a couple of times just to have this capability. However, I waited and the next Nikon to come out had great low light performance and that was the end of my envy. I stepped up to a D700 (from the D300 that had replaced my D80 which had replaced my D70) and used it happily for several years before going to the D4 (D600 backup body, which replaced the D7000 and D5000 backup bodies before it) and now a Nikon D810!

 

Do I think Nikon is better than Canon?

Model: Kandice Lynn, MUA: Houda Bazzi, Lighting by Westcott

Nikon D700, Model: Kandice Lynn, MUA: Houda Bazzi, Lighting by Westcott

I can see the eyebrows raising as I type this. Let me answer it this way. Both brands produce GREAT cameras and with any two things you’re going to have advantages in one area over the other. So yes, I think Nikon glass (lenses) are better. But keep in mind that’s just from my observations looking over the fence. I haven’t actually spent a lot of time shooting different Canon lenses. It’s just an observation and even something that I’ve had Canon shooters whisper to me on the side. I think Canon does and has done a much much better job with video than Nikon has. There’s no question about it. If you’re looking to do DSLR video then you should probably look at Canon first. Also Canon seems to have the sports shooting market all but locked up. You’ll see more Canon cameras on the sidelines than any other brand in professional sports. Since I never shoot sports this isn’t something that I consider. My Nikon D810 does a great job shooting video too. My primary use for my Nikon camera is shooting portrait work and for that I’ve been happy since day one. Never had a complaint about the quality and my work has been used in print. If you were hoping for a clear definitive one is better than the other. I can’t give you one. It’s because I think they are both great and both have advantages and disadvantages over the other. I never understand why some people feel that in order to be justified in their choice, the other one must suck/fail. It’s a lack of confidence thing I think.

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Westcott liked the images from my Red Rock Canyon shoot so much that they wanted to use them for the Rapid Box packaging.

 

Which one should YOU buy?

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Believe it or not I really don’t care. Last time I checked neither Nikon nor Canon has paid a single one of my bills. So I don’t gain anything if you buy Nikon or if you buy Canon. The best advice I can give you is to buy the one that does what you need it to do. The one that’s in your price range and it probably wouldn’t hurt to buy the brand that your friends use. Huh? What do my friends have to do with it? Think about it this way. If you’re always shooting solo then no, it doesn’t matter which brand you choose. However, if you’re shooting with your buddies on a regular basis then having the same brand means that you guys can swap lenses, batteries and other accessories while you’re shooting. You’ll have a lot more fun and be able to focus on your photography rather than constantly glaring at the fact that he/she’s using something DIFFERENT. Both brands will allow you to capture amazing images, if YOU are up to it.

 

The Bottom Line

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I’m not really into  the whole Canon vs. Nikon war that so many of you fight (if you want to have a health RAW vs JPEG debate then I’m all for it – kidding…). I explained my choice above and most importantly I get the results I want from the investment that I made in my tools. I have friends that shoot Nikon. I have friends that shoot Canon. It’s all good (unless of course you shoot Sony! We just can’t have that at all! OMG YOU SUCK! —— Just kidding. LOL my buddy Frank Doorhof shoots Sony. It’s ok. No, really it is.)

Now you know Why I shoot Nikon.

Going to Photoshop World 2015?

Hey! If you’re going to Photoshop World this year that’s great and I look forward to seeing there. So much so that i’m going to give you $50 off your Photoshop World registration simply by clicking here to register and by using discount code: TerryWhite50



The 2015 Release of Adobe Creative Cloud is Here!

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All new versions of your favorite Adobe creative applications are here! As you might expect it has been a busy few months for me not only getting up to speed on all that’s new for Design and Photography (the areas I focus on), but also creating content so that you can get up to speed quickly.

Before we get to the content let’s talk about installation

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Last year when we released the 2014 Release of Creative Cloud there was a lot of confusion because the installer installed the new CC 2014 apps along side your existing CC apps. People didn’t know if they needed to keep the older apps installed or not. This time around the powers that be have decided that it’s best to “uninstall” your older CC applications by default. Of course you can choose NOT to do this if you want to hang on to your older applications. My colleague Jeff Tranberry has done a great job outlining what’s going here.

What’s NEW in the 2015 Release of Adobe Creative Cloud?

I just released 25 NEW videos outlining the individual top features of Photoshop CC, InDesign CC, Muse CC, Lightroom CC and the updated Mobile Apps. I put them all in a single playlist to make it easy on ya:

I’m off to bed now. Enjoy!

Thank You Netherlands, Paris and Milan!

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photo by CARLO COZZOLI

It seems like just yesterday that I was in Europe showing photographers how to take advantage of the Creative Cloud Photography Plan featuring Adobe Lightroom CC, Lightroom Mobile and Photoshop CC. It was a blast presenting at Fotofair in the Netherlands and special events in Paris and Milan.

I put together “my story” using my iPad and Adobe Slate to document the trip. Check it out here. My friend Victoria did an even more extensive Adobe Slate documenting the Milan visit here.

During my visit to Milan I met with reporters from Wired.it and Corriere.it. You can see the Wired story here and the Corriere story here.

I was also thrilled to see the Italian team put together this short video recapping my visit:

Thank you to all of you who came out to my events and sat in my presentations.

The Best Apple Watch Stand for the Money

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If you’ve been following this blog then, you know I got an Apple Watch on day one 4/24/2015. I also bought an extra charging cable that could remain in my suitcase for travel. I take my Apple Watch off every night and put it on the charger for the night. I hate wearing any kind of jewelry when I sleep and even if Apple Watch never needed to be charged I would still take it off every night. I knew from day one that I would want a charging stand to put it on. Even before Apple Watch shipped there were companies showing their stands and I was shocked by the price of some of them. Let me explain why. An Apple Watch charging stand has NO ELECTRONICS in it. It’s simply a stand that you supply with your charging cable and it gives you place to simply lay your Apple Watch on and because of the magnetic charging cable it would simply float there on the stand. The stands are usually made of plastic, metal or wood. For something that has no electronics I couldn’t believe what some companies were charging for theirs. For example, this one goes for a whopping $99! Granted it’s made of walnut, but still that seems like a lot of money for a small piece of wood. I don’t mind spending money on engineering and R&D, but the only thing to really figure out with these is to make sure the hole is the right size to hold the Apple charging cable. The first one I got was by Spigen and it’s OK. It works. However, for just $5 more you can have the BEST one.

griffin-watchstand

I ordered three different models including one that I had 3D printed from a design I downloaded from the web and I’m happy that I found the Griffin Technologies WatchStand. It’s by far the best one I’ve seen for the money. Like most of the others, there are no electronics in it and you need to supply your own Apple Watch charging cable. However, unlike most of the others the design is well thought out and provides great cable management and most importantly great weight at the base. There is no way that this one will tip over (a common problem with the plastic ones, like the one I 3D printed). I also really like the “lip” on one side that allows you to easily lean your iPhone up against it. While there are more expensive models that actually have a lightning adapter in them for your iPhone/iPad, the lip is all that I needed. Sometimes I grab my iPhone in the middle of the night to check messages and if I had to look for the dock to set it back on in the dark it would be a nuisance. With this one I can leave the lightning cable attached to the iPhone and just lean it back on the stand when I’m done.

watchstand-column

The center column detaches so that you can wrap any excess cable inside. You can also face the center column in a different direction. For example, I wanted to lean my iPhone on the side vs. the front. I was worried about those that have Apple Watches that have bands that can’t open, how would you use this stand. Then I saw this shot on their website and it became clearer:

watchstand-sideview

This side orientation is great for those Apple Watches that have metal bands that don’t open all the way. It will also be handing for Apple Watch OS 2 with the nightstand mode.

If you’re an Apple Watch owner and you want the Best Apple Watch Stand for the money, then look no further than the WatchStand by Griffin Technologies.

You can get it here.



Best Tripod for Travel

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One thing that I’ve learned the hard way more than once is that if you travel to a beautiful location without a tripod, you’re really limiting your potential. If you want to shoot long exposures you need a tripod as they are impossible to shoot handheld. If you want to shoot HDR during the evening or early morning hours you’re going to want a tripod. If you’re going to shoot time lapse then you’re going to want a tripod. I have a GREAT Tripod for travel. I bought it years ago. While I love the fact that it’s carbon fiber and therefore light weight, I wanted to see if there was one that was shorter when folded down? My search lead me to Sirui. I had never heard of them before. However, the specs were what I was looking for:

  • Maximum Height of 56.9″
  • Load Capacity of 26.5 lb
  • 8x Carbon Fiber Legs
  • Forged Aluminum Alloy Chassis
  • Short Center Column for Low-Angle Shots
  • Folds Down to Just 14.6″
  • Weighs Just 2.6 lbs

This one folds down to 14.6″ vs. my Gitzo which folds down to 16.7″. While 2 inches may not sound like much, it actually makes the difference of fitting in my suitcase horizontally instead of diagonally allowing me more room for my clothes and other gear. The maximum height is a little over an inch shorter than my current one, but load capacity is 50% more than my current one. This means it can hold my bigger bodies and lenses. The weight of the Sirui is only .4 lbs more than the Gitzo. Probably the biggest factor to compare is that the Sirui is less than half the price of the Gitzo.

The Sirui T-2205X 5 Section Carbon Fiber Tripod comes with:

  • Short Center Column
  • Padded Travel Bag with Shoulder Strap
  • Allen Keys
  • 6 Year Limited Warranty

The bag is really nice, but it’s really only designed to carry the tripod and the supplied accessories. Like most professional tripods this one does NOT include a ballhead. Once I added my Kirk Ballhead to it, it was a tight fit in the bag, but it did fit.

sirui-tripod

The Bottom Line

There are wide assortment of tripods out there are all different prices and capabilities. If you’re looking for one that is pro level, folds down very compactly and can hold heavy gear, this one will suit you well. This is definitely in the category of Best Tripod for Travel!

You can get the Sirui T-2205X here.

Apple Watch: 45 Days Later…

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Whenever a stranger notices that I’m wearing an Apple Watch, the 1st thing they usually ask is “do you like it?” I always find this question to be a bit awkward because I guess if there was something as personal as a watch or other wearable item that I didn’t like, I probably wouldn’t be wearing it. It’s like saying, hey those shoes you’re wearing, do you like them? However, I get it. It’s a hot new tech gadget with a lot of hype that they’ve heard something about or perhaps are interested in possibly getting one and it’s probably the first question that comes to mind. To answer the question for the record, YES, I love it! Now with that said, it’s a 1st generation Apple product and as history has always shown us it will get better with each iteration. Think back to iPhone 1.0 in 2007 and iPad 1.0 in 2010. I loved those products too, but could never imagine going back to those first models now that the newer ones are in hand. I expect to have the same feeling about Apple Watch 1.0 in a few years. But for now I’m very happy with it.

The next question I get and this is another odd one for me to answer is “Is it worth it?” Again, it feels kinda personal. I usually answer with the truth “yes, it’s worth it to me!” I can’t answer if it will be worth it for you or not? I have no idea what you consider to be of value and what your limits are? Some things that you would spend money on I would probably find not to be worth it to me. However, for the record the answer is YES!, it’s worth it (to me). My #1 measure for answering this question is, if something were to happen to it or if I could go back in time knowing what I know now, would I buy it again? hmmmm, Yes! My only debate would be would I buy the Sport model again or would I step up to the stainless steel model. I chose not to go with the more expensive models knowing that this is a first generation 1.0 product and that when 2.0 comes out then I would spend more on the sure to be thinner model with all kinds of new bells and whistles. I do want a stainless steel one and I’ve had to close my browser window a couple of times when I was tempted to just go ahead and order one, but I’ll wait.

 

Probably the least expected moment when someone asked me about Apple Watch…

The city of Milan Italy from the roof of the Milan Cathedral

The city of Milan Italy from the roof of the Milan Cathedral

I would have to say that I was a bit frustrated when one of my viewers on Periscope (follow me @TerryLWhite) asked me about Apple Watch during a live broadcast from Milan Italy last week. I know that the viewer didn’t mean anything wrong by the question, but I was a bit taken back by the question during that particular moment because I was showing this beautiful scene from the top of the Milan Cathedral. The beauty, the history, the architecture, the wow factor and out of the blue “has the Apple Watch benefited you on this trip?” Huh? Really? You want to talk Apple Watch now? Right now? Are you seeing this? So I was a bit snippy with my response and for that I apologize. He didn’t deserve that and his curiosity was genuine. There was nothing wrong with the question. I actually felt bad afterwards. For that reason, I thought why not answer the question in detail with this blog post?

Using Apple Watch on my trip to Europe

Apple Watch favorite face

Although I had traveled with Apple Watch from day one, this was my first trip abroad with it. I would say that the first thing I like about traveling with Apple Watch is that it changes the time based on where you are just like your iPhone. So I never ever have to set it. Last week I went to the Netherlands, Paris and Milan. The first thing I thought about was what information would I want to see at a glance every time I looked at my Watch? Apple calls the 4 customizable corners of Apple Watch “Complications”, not sure I would have used that term, but that’s what they are called. Also my buddy Jack just pointed out to me that Complications is the common term used for describing features of clocks beyond the time display. Learn something new everyday. My daily 4 complications were Weather, Battery Status, Activity (like a fitness band) and the Central Europe Time Zone (Paris time). I customized it by replacing Battery Status with Pacific Time and changed Paris time to Eastern Time (my home time zone – Atlanta). I also set the default to 24 hour (military time) since that’s what the rest of the world uses.

Speaking of Battery Life… I no longer display the battery status on my watch because since day one battery has NEVER been a problem for me. Not one time in 45 days have I run out of juice. I think the lowest the battery has been when I put it on the charger at night was 30% left. It actually averages between 40%-60% left each day. Since battery life has never been an issue for me, I figured why waste the space displaying the status at all times? I can always use the battery “glance” if I’m ever curious to how much juice I have left. While Apple states that you’ll get 18 hours of battery I have actually gone over that for the 1st time on this trip. I put my watch on at 8:00 am the day I left and didn’t take it off till the next afternoon in the Netherlands at 1PM, 23 hours later! I also kept it active on the 7.5 hour flight because the Delta 747 that I was on had WiFi. No need to go into Airplane mode. Apple Watch battery life is much better than expected!

AppleWatchFace-activity

After setting up the perfect watch face display above, the next thing was the Apps themselves. Some were very useful on this trip. I’ll start with the ones that are built-in. I love that Apple Watch shows me incoming calls. This is even more important when traveling abroad as calls can be costly. At a glance I could see who was calling and even better, if it was a call that I didn’t want to take I could just cup my hand naturally over the Watch to silence the incoming call and send it . This is a pretty sweet feature. The next one that was extremely nice was the Activity monitor. I did a LOT of walking around on this trip and it was great hitting/exceeding my daily Move and Stand goals. I used to wear a Nike+ Fuelband on one arm and sometimes a nice Marc Jacobs watch on the other. Now I have Apple Watch that gives me both a nice watch and fitness tracker in one. Speaking of it being a watch, people seem to be really impressed when I raise my arm to see what time it is and the Watch displays the time. This is what bugged me about using all other digital watches (including the Nike+ Fuelband) in the past is that you had to use your other hand to press a button to activate the display. There is no button to press thanks to the built-in accelerometer.

applewatchface-timer

The Timer was awesome to use. This was a work trip and I had presentations to do in each city. Normally I’d use a presentation timer on my iPhone, but more and more I’m using my iPhone as part of the demo to show mobile Apps. This lead to my using an iPod touch for music and to run my timer apps. I didn’t take the iPod touch out of my bag one time on this trip. The watch made a great timer. At a glance I could see how much time I had left and if I got carried away the taptic feel of the timer tapping my wrist when my time was up was PERFECT. Although I didn’t have slides to present during this trip, I have also used the Keynote App on Apple Watch as a wireless remote to advance my slides from my wrist. It was great to use the timer for the flight home. This way I was able to see how many hours I had left at a glance.

Notifications are killer! Not having to pull out my iPhone for every little thing is what I hoped Apple Watch would help with and it has. Having calendar reminders, text messages, and several 3rd party app messages pop up on my Watch instead of having to pull out my iPhone each time was great.

AppleWatch-flighttrack

There was one 3rd party app that stood out. If you want to see the 3rd party Apple Watch Apps that I like the most, you can see the full list here. However, the one for travel that was great to have was FlightTrack 5. All of my flights were loaded in via my iPhone 6 Plus and therefore available at a glance on my Apple Watch. I could see any flight updates, delays, times, etc.

The above color themes were captured with Adobe Color on Apple Watch from the various locations I visited and then sync'd to Creative Cloud and waiting for me on my Desktop the next time I launched Photoshop CC.

The above color themes were captured with Adobe Color on Apple Watch from the various locations I visited and then sync’d to Creative Cloud and waiting for me on my Desktop the next time I launched Photoshop CC.

I also liked using Adobe Color CC to collect the most popular color themes from each city. I’m becoming a fan of ProCamera 8 + HDR and their iPhone app now includes an Apple Watch app that not only gives you a remote shutter release from your Watch, but also a quick review of the images that you just took so that you can stay in place and shoot again if need be.

Apple Pay via Apple Watch came in very handy

Apple Pay on Apple Watch

During my stay in Paris I went to lunch at the underground Mall next to the Louvre. Nice Apple Store there by the way. The food court had a variety of restaurants. I noticed that when I went to pay for my meal, the familiar touchless payment symbol appeared and I thought, why not try it. Two taps of the side button and my Apple Pay was ready. All the cashier kept saying was “wow, wow, wow”. Apparently I was his first Apple Watch paying patron. Or maybe that was all the English he spoke :-) .

ApplePay-Paris

I used Apple Watch in a way that I never would have thought about before this trip. It seems that in several public places in Europe that if you want to use the restroom you actually have to pay € .50.

PayToilet

While that’s not the end of the world, it was frustrating the first time when I didn’t have any change. The next time, I saw one I noticed that it took Apple Pay (contactless payments via NFC in smartphones and Apple Watch). Now Europe just needs to update their train stations to take touchless payments and it would be a lot easier, faster and a more secure way to pay for tickets.

 

The Bottom Line

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The Apple Watch is far from perfect, but for what it is right now as a 1.0 product it’s GREAT. It does the things that I bought it for and if I had it to do all over again I’d buy it again. For every day use it has been a natural fit into my lifestyle and for travel it’s been great to have the things I want to know about the most at a glance. I look forward to the 3rd party Apps gaining access to the native functions of the Watch in the upcoming Apple Watch SDK. I have a whole drawer full of traditional watches, but Apple Watch is the one I enjoy the most. Apple Watch is a great product that will only get better over time.

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Memorial Day 2015

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Happy Memorial Day 2105

As you enjoy this day with your family and friends let’s not forget that this is the home of the free because of the brave.

An Affordable Thunderbolt 2 Dock with 4K and Dual Display Support

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For years now my MacBook Pro has been my primary computer. Now my only desktop computer is my Mac OS X Server. Having a MacBook Pro doesn’t mean that I don’t have a ton of peripherals that I need to connect. The last thing I want to do when I leave or return from a trip is connect a bunch of cables. That’s where a Thunderbolt 2 dock comes in. Although I’ve used a Belkin one for years now, people are always asking for a lower priced alternative. Elgato has created one the fits the bill nicely. For a hundred dollars less than the competition you still get 2 Thunderbolt 2 ports, 3 USB 3.0 ports, 1 HDMI port, 1 Gigabit Ethernet port, and an audio in and audio out port. Really the only thing missing is more USB 3.0 ports and a legacy port like Firewire 800 or eSATA. Since I connect more than 5 USB devices anyway I would still need a USB 3.0 hub. Also most people at this point have probably replaced their older Firewire 800/eSATA devices with newer tech. If you fall into that category then I would save save the hundred bucks and use part of it to buy a USB 3.0 hub.
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The design is nice and compact and it’s great having the audio ports on the front as well as the 3rd USB 3.0 port capable of charging your mobile device.

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The Bottom Line

If you have a MacBook Pro then having a Thunderbolt 2 dock is a big plus. You’ll enjoy the single Thunderbolt connection and the additional ports. The one thing I wish that these devices offered are more Thunderbolt ports. You really don’t gain any because you have to connect the dock to one of your existing ports taking up a Thunderbolt port on the dock and one on your computer. That leaves you with the same number of Thunderbolt ports that you started with. I would like to see a model with 3 or 4 Thunderbolt ports for true Thunderbolt expansion.

You can get the Elgato Thunderbolt 2 Dock here on sale.

For a few bucks more you can get this one by OWC that has 5 USB 3.o ports and a Firewire 800 port.



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