The making of my last video

Yesterday, I did a video review of the HyperMac external battery and some of you have been asking me what software did I use to produce it? So I thought I would give you a quick run down on my workflow for that particular video. So here goes:

 

The Animated Intro

AE4

The Animated Intro was done using Adobe After Effects CS4. While I’d like to take credit for all that creativity, I took the easy route and bought a template. The template was delivered as an After Effects CS4 project that I was able to modify (as I do actually know how to use After Effects) and craft to my liking. The template was already in HD format.

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HyperMac External MacBook Battery Review

hypermac

Now that Apple has increased the number of MacBook models where the user is not able to change the battery, external battery options are more important than ever. No matter how long the battery lasts inside your MacBook Pro, chances are you’re going to encounter a situation where it’s not long enough. This is where the HyperMac External Batteries come in.

I’m planning a trip later this month that will involve a 6 hour flight and I want the option of using my MacBook Pro as much as possible. I don’t have the most current model with the sealed battery, but even with two batteries, it won’t be enough for this trip. So I was intrigued by the HyperMac offerings.

Rather than trying to put this review into words, I recorded this video explaining how the product works along with the results of my "worse case scenario test":

 

 

The Bottom Line

The HyperMac solution is definitely worth it if you need to get longer than a few hours of portable use out of your MacBook. If you have one of the newer MacBook products with a sealed battery, then this solution can be even more of a must have for frequent or long haul travelers.

HyperMac Batteries are priced starting at $199.95 and go up to $499.95 for the largest capacity/longest life model. Learn more about the HyperMac batteries here

 

Lastolite Ezybox Hotshoe Softbox Review

_TLW9098

I got a chance to try out the Lastolite Ezybox for Hotshoe Flashes over the weekend and I’m quite pleased with the results. The Ezybox is  designed to be a light modifier for your hotshoe flash. Basically a softbox for your speedlight. The kit comes with everything you need to setup a softbox for your speedlight in about 2 minutes. Once you take it out of the bag, it pops right up to it’s full size in one easy motion. You then place the hotshoe bracket/ring on the back of it and you’re ready to mount it on a light stand or pole for hand held use. Of course the only thing missing at this point is your speedlight.

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Are you a sports photographer? If so…

Sadly, of all the thousands of photos I’ve taken over the years, not a single one is of a sporting event. However, if you have a great sports shot or two you might want to enter Scott Kelby’s New Contest:

 

 “Shoot on the Sidelines With Scott & Mike"

 

Scott Kelby is offering a once in a lifetime opportunity to shoot with him and Mike Olivella on the sidelines of the Florida State Seminoles and the Jacksonville State Gamecocks. 

Here’s a short video Scott recorded about the contest.

 

See his site for details on entering. Good luck!

 

 

Vonage is still my choice

vonage

I’ve been a Vonage customer now for several years for my home office line and for VoIP on the go. Lately I’ve been getting a barrage of ads from Comcast trying to get me to go to their Digital Voice service on my home line. Even if I were going to switch this line over, I would probably go with Vonage instead. 

 

What is Vonage?

Vonage is a service provider for Voice over IP (VoIP). This means that you can get telephone service over your high speed internet connection instead of standard phone service from the phone company. The advantage is typically around price! Vonage offers unlimited calling for a flat rate of $24.99/month. This is unlimited local and long distance calling to anywhere in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico, plus unlimited calling to landlines in Italy, France, Spain, UK and Ireland. I also get the vast majority of calling features (25+) offered by the phone company (AT&T) including: Call Waiting, Caller ID with Name, 3-Way Calling, Call Forwarding, etc. 

 

How does it work?

vonagephoneadapter

Once I signed up for Vonage they handled the phone number switch as well as shipping the Vonage router/phone adapter I needed to connect up to my network to actually have something to plug my standard telephone into. The router can either be used as a router for your network or simply plug it into your existing router. On the back there are two RJ-11 jacks for (for two line compatibility). Plug any standard landline/cordless phone in you want to use. It’s amazing, when someone calls your number, your phone rings. When you want to make a call, you pick up the phone you’ve always used and dial the number. 🙂

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iPhone App of the Week – MobileMe iDisk

idisk

When Apple introduced the iPhone OS 3.0 update they also updated MobileMe to include the new Find My iPhone feature. One of the other things that wasn’t widely publicized was that they also introduced a new iPhone App to allow you to access your MobileMe iDisk from your iPhone or iPod touch running the 3.0 update. Well Apple delivered the app this week as a free download from the App Store.

 

How does it work?

The App itself is very basic in operation and easy to use. Once you launch it you enter your MobileMe username and password. After that you’re presented with 4 tabs: IDisk, Recents Shared Files and Public Folders.

The iDisk tab will show you all of your folders on your iDisk and let view any document that is viewable on your iPhone/iPod touch such as PDFs,  MS Office docs (.DOC, .XLS. PPT), images such as .JPG files and iWork documents such as Pages, Keynote and Numbers. 

idisk-folders     idisk-viewimage

Yes, it does work in Landscape mode too.

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Vent mount for your iPhone

ventmount

Last week I reviewed the New Navigon Turn-by-Turn Navigation App for iPhone. During that review I didn’t have a mount for my iPhone in my car. I knew what kind of mount I would want and therefore I ordered it from Amazon. 

Here’s a short video on how the Arkon IPM129-ST Removable Air Vent Mount works.

 

 

The Bottom Line

If you need to mount your iPhone in your car and you don’t have round vents (like on the Mustang), this mount works great. It ranges from $8-$12 on Amazon and you can order it here.

 

Get a little more reach with a teleconverter

nikon14teleconv

Yesterday, I had a rare moment where I saw deer in my backyard AND they stayed long enough for me to grab my camera and photograph them. Of course the problem is getting close enough without scaring them away. First I tried shooting with my Nikon 18-200mm VR lens, which was still attached to my Nikon D5000 from the photowalk. Shooting from the window (through the screen) didn’t get me close enough and just wasn’t cutting it.

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I also figured if I was going to go outside, I might as well gear up with something better. So I ran and grabbed my Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens and my Nikon 1.4x Teleconverter. Although I got this teleconverter as a birthday present last year, this was actually my first time using it.

  

They were still there

Luckily when I returned the deer were still there just relaxing in grass. I approached a little at a time. With my lens all the way out at 200mm, the 1.4x teleconverter effectively gave me a 280mm reach. The closer I got the more nervous they got and eventually decided to move along. 

deer-12

 

The Bottom Line

Although you do lose one f stop with this teleconverter, it’s great for situations just like this one. Now that I’ve had a chance to use it, I plan to use it more often. The Nikon TC-14E 1.4x II Teleconverter for D-AF-S & AF-I lenses only, goes for $469.95 at B&H Photo. You could also go with this 2x teleconverter for $499.95.

 

I need a lens!

lenspro

 

A few months back I took a trip to Page Arizona and I mentioned the fact that I rented the Nikon 14-24mm Wide Angle lens ($1,600). I also mentioned that I would tell you more about the company I rented it from. Well I’m finally getting around to it. I was reminded about this great service in two ways recently. One way was that it was mentioned on a recent episode of Nikon DTown TV and the other is that I have a family reunion coming up in a couple of weeks.

 

Sometimes renting is better

nikon200-400

Let’s face it. You could go broke buying all the really nice lenses that are out there today. While I have no problem spending money on something that I’ll use and benefit from, there are just some things that I won’t use enough to justify the price of ownership. I have all the lenses I need for my day to day shooting. However, there are those special events that come up once or twice a year that you really need a specialty lens. For example, maybe you’re shooting a sporting event that will only happen once for you because you’re not a regular sports user. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a nice 200-400mm lens or maybe a 200mm f/2.0 lens? Well those lenses cost many thousands of dollars. So instead of buying them and only using them a couple of times a year, why not rent them for much much less?

To buy the Nikon 200-400mm lens would be $6,280. However, to rent it for a week would only cost $250.

To buy the Nikon 200mm f/2.0 lens would be $4,900. However, to rent it for a week would only cost $175.

 

LensPro To Go

These guys were great to work with! I met them personally at the last Photoshop World Conference and tried them out for my last vacation. Not only was the service very trouble free, I got to use the really nice glass that I really wanted to take and for a price that was really reasonable and well within my budget. You order the lens you want directly from their website. They offer insurance which I highly recommend, because it’s one thing to pay for a really nice lens, it’s another to pay for one that’s not even yours because it got damaged! My lens arrived in a really good Pelican case along with the Fedex prepaid airbill to ship it back. 

 

The Bottom Line

If you need a really nice lens but won’t be using it often, LensPro To Go is your answer! Check them out here.

 

AT&T FamilyMap vs. MobileMe Find My iPhone

familymapvsfmi

A couple of months ago I reviewed AT&T’s FamilyMap service. This service allows you to track the location of the cellphones you have on an AT&T Family Plan. However, since that time Apple introduced the Find My iPhone feature, which works with iPhones and iPod touch devices as long as you have a MobileMe account ($99/year or less). After I posted my FamilyMap review, many of the blog readers here signed up for the free trial and many said the same thing. "It’s just not accurate enough." Now while I didn’t have a problem with the accuracy of it, I do have a problem continuing to pay for a service I may not need anymore. 

 

AT&T FamilyMap

This service works by giving you a website that you can go to and "Locate" your loved ones. Depending on the phone the accuracy and the ability to pinpoint the location can vary widely. For example, a phone with a built-in GPS is liable to be more accurately found than a phone without one as it would have to rely on cell tower triangulation. AT&T FamilyMap starts at $9.99/month for up to 2 phones and 14.99/month for up to 5 phones on the same family plan.

 

MobileMe – Find My iPhone

The MobileMe Find My iPhone feature only works with iPhones and iPod touch devices. You log in to the me.com website, click the settings icon and then click the Find My iPhone link. Your iPhone’s location will be pinpointed on a map. You have to have a MobileMe account to use this feature and MobileMe retails for $99/year (or less if on sale). In order to find more than one iPhone, you would need the Family Pack which is $149/year (or less if on sale). 

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