Happy Snapping!




Zoom Street Magazine has consolidated its content—(5 years and counting)—and moved it here. Why? Because now visitors can find what they’re looking for fast, without downloading bulky monthly issues in PDF format and then searching through them.

In short, what appears on Zoom Street stays on Zoom Street… thanks to “Permalinks.”

To zoom in on a particular review or subject use the search box in the upper right-hand corner. It looks like this (only smaller and without the red border):


If you entered “Sondheim” (as somebody did in the above example) you’d instantly see our review of his new book, as well as an item on his previous book which appeared here Dec. 16, 2010.

Yep, Archives-R-Us!

Another advantage to the move: frequent updates and breaking coolness instead of monthly issues. That translates into more work for us and—we trust—more fun for you.

Hope you enjoy 2012!

Road Work Ahead

photo by Derek Pell

Although most of my time is gobbled up by editorial duties for Zoom Street, I still accept photo assignments for newspapers and magazines. I recently shot stills and a video for The Bark (it’s The New Yorker for dog-lovers). The subject was scent-detection dogs and it was a fascinating assignment. Adding to my inspiration was knowing the photos would benefit from the magazine’s talented art department.

In short, it was a plum.

The tip here is to approach every assignment like it’s a killer opportunity—even when it seems downright dull.

Case in point: the other day I was asked to shoot the installation of two highway stop signs. A story only of local interest because it featured an intersection known for its auto fatalities.

A news assignment like this offers little creative freedom and a tight deadline. (I took the photo at 6:PM and the editor needed it by 7.) The goal was to tell the story in a single shot—hopefully with a touch of drama. (Did he say “drama”?…Yes he did.)

The shot at top is the one that ran, and the little drama it possesses is due to the wide angle composition, contrast, and color saturation. I broke a rule by having the stop sign dead center, but it works in this case because of the converging lines surrounding it. As for the  saturation, this is a personal preference. I usually under-expose my shots a few notches for impact. Some people like it, some don’t. [1/200 sec. at f/13; –1/3 EV; 12-24mm lens at 13mm]

Because of the time limitation, cropping was done in camera, which is a good habit to develop—deadline or no deadline—because less time in post-production means more time to shoot.

When the photo appeared online it received a surprising number of favorable comments. Comments on a news item rarely mention an accompanying photo, so it was very gratifying. It made the roadwork worth it.

The photo below didn’t run with the article, but I decided to use it to fill a pothole on my blog.

photo by Derek Pell



You can never have enough batteries. Spares for the camera, the strobes, audio recorder, etc., etc. I add batteries to every shopping list so I’m not caught unprepared. When I see a battery caddy half-empty (it’s never “half full”) it’s a warning sign.

Time to stock up.

Zoom Street Photo

As for rechargeables, keep ‘em charged and have a rotating system. A good battery checker is a helpful accessory. When you head out on location you don’t want half-drained bats loaded. And if you’re shooting video with a DSLR, twenty minutes of shooting will drain the power. Pack spares.

So how many batteries do you have on hand?

Snap it up!


I first wrote about John Burdett’s series featuring detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep  in a post on 05/05/2010 (see Thai Wire Act).

If you missed The Godfather of Kathmandu in its original edition you can catch in in paperback here.

It’s Burdett at his best.

Copyrights & Wrongs

Copyrights & Wrongs

Here’s a tip for Adobe Lightroom users.  I’d intended to post this on New Year’s Day, but it fell through the cracks in my memory.

Back to the Future

If you’ve created a metadata preset that includes copyright info—(and well you should, it’s simple)—don’t forget to update it. Otherwise you’ll still be taking shots in 2010.

I updated mine, but then discovered that Lightroom was still showing 2010 in the metadata panel. Hunh? Then I realized I hadn’t changed the copyright setting in my camera—doh. And the Lightroom preset doesn’t override what the camera’s metadata.

And while you’re at it, check the Time Zone when you travel.


One more cheap tip.

ISO Dumb

From a former film-shooter’s perspective, one of the coolest things about digital photography is the ability to change the ISO setting shot by shot. With film if you wanted to change the speed, you had to load a new roll.

The only gotcha today is remembering to check your ISO before shooting. Lets say you cranked up your setting to 1200 to capture a subject in low light. The next day you go out to shoot at high noon, forgetting to dial that sucker down to 200—(or whatever your camera’s default setting is)—and wind up with a noise storm.

So I had an idea…Light bulb

ISO Brilliant

Although I’m not an engineer, I’m certain it would be a snap to have an ISO-Reset feature. One push of a button and you’re back at 200.

Here’s a doctored shot of the dial on my Nikon D300s.

Zoom Street Photo (doctored)

Below is the unaltered dial. You’ll see I removed the superfluous Quality setting. With the immense capacity of memory cards today, why on earth would anyone want to change this from the maximum Fine/Large? Duh.

Zoom Street Photo

But until the manufacturers adopt my simple (yet brilliant) solution, remember to check your settings before pressing the shutter.

To Each His (Or Her) Own…Menu


This is My Menu… and I do mean mine. Like other Nikon DSLRs, the D300s lets you create your own menu items in whatever order (Rank) you desire. This is very handy, as it saves having to drill down through sub-menus to change a setting. As you can see I placed Battery Info at the top of the list as it gives me a more accurate reading than the camera’s battery icon. It’s also much easier to see. I would have put the  Format memory card  command at the top of my list because it’s the first thing I do after inserting a card. (It’s a habit I suggest everyone adopt—it helps prolong the life of the card.) But for some strange reason, Nikon doesn’t allow you to place Format in My Menu—go figure.

You may wonder why I chose to include Clean image sensor since you can set this to auto-clean whenever you turn the camera on and off. That, however, strikes me as overkill and the less shaking of delicate  mechanical parts the better. I clean the sensor when it needs it. The one  exception being my D90 which I set to auto-clean because it’s prone to attracting dust motes and eye-sores. The D300s has a better build designed to keep its innards free of foreign interventions.

If you’re still searching for a tip in this post, it’s the obvious one: take advantage of this feature and save yourself some fumbling in the field. You can easily add and remove items as priorities change. Or you can opt to have My Menu display 20 Recent Settings instead.

Either way you’ll save a few extra seconds which can make the difference between getting the killer shot or walking away empty-handed.

If only I could  really customize the bugger…