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Chart: Write-Offs

Food photography is tricky. Just ask people who have tried to get a shot of a Thanksgiving turkey with trimmings, or wanted to capture a moment at an elegant restaurant. All they're likely to get are half-baked snapshots where the food looks pasty and washed-out.

Now most new cameras from Pentax and Olympus can take the guesswork out of your epicurean close-ups. Along with presets that ready the camera for specific situations, such as fireworks, sports, or portraits at night, there's a "food" or "cuisine" mode that makes the colors more vibrant and appealing.

For this appetizer of togarashi tuna from the Hillview Grill in Sarasota, Fla., the Olympus Stylus 500 softened the flash, intensified the contrast, and warmed up the colors compared with the camera's normal setting. Tip: If you're taking pictures in a fancy restaurant, it's a good idea to ask your waiter first. Some chefs are sensitive about their creations.

With food mode, you'll get better results if you use the flash and, for food that's served low on the plate, shoot from the top down. For a fanciful dessert that soars over the plate, find an angle that keeps the whole tower in focus and highlights its three-dimensional aspects. If it's a birthday cake you're shooting, you'll get a better picture if you switch to the camera's "candle" mode.

It's an old Wall Street axiom that legislators are bad for stocks. Now, two finance professors have discovered strong evidence that Congress does depress market returns. Michael Ferguson of the University of Cincinnati and Douglas Witte of the University of Missouri looked at stocks over the past 104 years, comparing daily returns when Congress was in session with when it was in recess.

Even after removing other seasonal trends, such as the January effect (stocks tend to rise in January), the study found returns were 2 to 6 percentage points higher, in annual terms, during periods when Congress was out of town.

The less popular Congress is, based on 40 years of monthly Gallup and Harris polls, the more pronounced the effect. Fully 90% of gains in the Dow Jones industrial average occurred during recesses. (Half of those gains can be attributed to other previously uncovered seasonal effects.)

Though the study is compelling, Witte warns it would tough to design a trading strategy around just the legislative calendar. But if you have a big chunk to invest, he says, "do it right before Congress is going to take a break."

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