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James Balog and Extreme Ice

Friday, February 26, 2010

PBS’s NOVA special recently featured photographer James Balog and his “obsession” with ice. He’s spent 30 years photographing the natural world for National Geographic, and his most recent project is the EIS—Extreme Ice Survey—designed to document the unprecedented melting of the world’s glaciers. Watch a slide show at the NOVA site in which Balog himself talks about the work, specific images, and how he’s going about the EIS project. Then head to Balog’s own site to see more of his life’s work in his portfolio and to learn more about the Extreme Ice Project.

www.pbs.org: wgbh/nova/extreme ice

www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/extreme ice/melt-flash


Panorama Maker Software

Thursday, February 25, 2010

I’ve interviewed several photographers lately who make panoramic landscape photographs by stitching together multiple frames into a single high-res image. Jack Dykinga, the longtime 4x5 film photographer, has begun using tilt/shift lenses to create panoramas without even rotating the camera. Brandon Riza is a mountain climber who creates stitched high-res panoramas that show off his mountaineering conquests. Countless photographers create multiple-exposure composites every day, and no matter how they photograph their composites or what subjects they’re turning into panoramas, there’s one constant—the need to combine multiple images together in the computer. Smith Micro has just unveiled its entry into this software arena with STOIK PanoramaMaker. This affordable $40 program makes it easy to composite verticals, horizontals and even full 360-degree panoramas, whether you’d like the software to do it automatically or whether you want to take frame-by-frame manual control. Stitch, scale and skew images, correct for lens aberrations and distortions, even adjust colors and contrast to make sure images line up seamlessly in the final composite. And it’s all available for both Mac and Windows.


Finding Inspiration And Making Connections

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Last week I attended the 16th annual Nature Photography Summit, hosted by the North American Nature Photography Association in Reno. This was the tenth summit I’ve attended and I continue to find great benefits from attending. The summits are a mix of skills building breakout sessions, portfolio reviews, an industry trade show, and beautiful keynote presentations by some of the world’s best nature and conservation photographers. Every year I pick up some great new skills from the breakouts. The highlights of the skills sessions for me this year were Kevin Adams’ in-depth treatise on night photography, and Ian Shive’s and Rob Sheppard’s discussion on the emerging world of shooting video with DSLR’s. As great as the breakouts are, I find that the biggest reward from attending the summit for me is making connections and finding inspiration. This event is a great way to begin the year full of excitement and wonder and the energy to formulate my own projects for the coming 12 months.

I can honestly say that I probably would not have been able to take the leap to being a full-time photographer nine years ago if I had not attended several NANPA summits and made connections with other professionals in the industry. While I have made a few sales as a direct result of showing my work at the summit, a much bigger boon to my career has been meeting and learning from both photo editors and other photographers who have become friends over the years. At my first few NANPA summits, I learned simple things about how to present my work and how to talk to editors that were a huge help in becoming a professional. Most of these tips did not come from actual breakout sessions, but from incidental conversations and the phone calls and e-mails that followed. Now I find that by just asking around in between breakout sessions, I can pretty much find out anything I need to know, whether it is the specifics of a Photoshop technique, a question about a piece of gear, or feedback on marketing ideas I have. As a group, photographers seem to be generous with their time and knowledge, and whether you are a beginner photographer or seasoned pro, networking at an event like NANPA can pay big dividends down the road.

Colorful India

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

India’s been on my mind a lot lately—perhaps because I recently interviewed photographer Steve McCurry who has spent a good portion of his career photographing throughout the colorful country. It’s clearly a location many photographers find appealing, and whenever I have the opportunity to see more work from India I jump at it. Well thanks to blogger Rob Galbraith, we’ve got a great opportunity to do just that. He pointed out another great Big Picture posting at the Boston Globe’s web site, Boston.com. This group of images, titled Colorful India, celebrates the country’s 80th anniversary of independence and simply beautiful images of a beautiful country. It’s easy to see why it’s been such a colorful muse for so many photographers.

boston.com: big picture/2010/colorful india

In-camera HDR?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Say what you will about HDR photography (the technique by which many separate exposures are combined into one “high-dynamic-range” image), it’s certainly a powerful technique. The ability to pull additional detail out of highlights and shadows in post production—whether it comes from multiple captures or a single RAW file—is one of the most revolutionary aspects of the digital revolution. But practically since I saw my first HDR image I wondered one thing: will this technology ever be applied in camera? Well it turns out I’m not the only one who’s wondered this. Dave Ware has written a post at DPS in which he outlines the possible future approaches camera manufacturers may take to create high-dynamic-range captures without requiring any special post production. Whether that effect is created by multiple in-camera sensors (one for highlights, one for shadows), algorithms that modify tone curves to render scenes more like the human eye sees them, or even other HDR technologies that we haven’t yet begun to consider, it seems clear to me that improved dynamic range is one of those “holy grail” goals of digital photographers, and as the technology improves to be able to create HDR images in camera, not only will manufacturers work hard to deliver it, photographers are bound to seek out those cameras and yet again revolutionize the process of making photographs.  


Lenswork Technology Blog

Monday, February 22, 2010

Lenswork is a little magazine full of the best fine art black and white photography. It’s sort of a boutique thing, with the work of a few photographers selected for inclusion in each finely printed issue. The thing about Lenswork is that it focuses on the creative side of photography, the inspirations and artistic motivations, not delving too deeply into technical issues of the craft. Until, that is, editor Brooks Jensen started the Lenswork Technology Blog. It’s practically the polar opposite of the printed publication, full of information on all the real and practical technical issues involved not only in black and white printing but in all aspects of film and digital photography in general. I recommend starting with Jensen’s recent post about lens testing—a process he uses to determine how each of his lenses perform best. It illustrates not only how he goes about testing his lenses, but a downloadable high-res test patch to print and photograph so that you can carry out your own lens resolution tests too.


First Kodachrome, Now Tri-X

Friday, February 19, 2010

When they got rid of Kodachrome color transparency film, Kodak made many photographers practically weep with nostalgia. Well get ready, because they’re about to do it again for black and white film. While they aren’t eliminating it completely from the film lineup, Kodak is removing ISO 320 Tri-X (TXP) 120 and 220 roll formats from store shelves as soon as next month. It may sound like generally awful news at first look, but there are in fact a few silver linings. First, the format: Tri-X 320 will still be available in sheet form so large format black and white landscape shooters, for instance, will still be able to acquire the stuff. (In fact, as reported by The Online Photographer, the sheet film is still a “very strong” seller.) The other good news is that Tri-X 400 is not going away in the medium format. So while nobody seems to enjoy the additional signals that not all films are long for this digital world, there is reassurance to be gleaned from this situation. Kodak is still serving black and white film photographers their most requested formats, and since the films that don’t survive are the ones photographers don’t buy in the quantities they once did, you can impact which films stick around too. If you keep buying the stuff, they’ll keep making it.

kodak.com: global/en/professional/products/films/film Announcements


A New Aperture

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Apple-using photographers no doubt noticed last week’s announcement of version 3.0 of Aperture image management and RAW workflow software. Most notable in the newest version—at least for outdoor photographers—is probably the Faces and Places feature. Not so much for the “faces” part (which enables automatic face recognition) but for the “places” aspect—which integrates the power of geotagging directly into the RAW workflow. From Apple: “If you’re shooting with a GPS-enabled camera, Aperture 3 uses reverse geocoding to convert location coordinates into familiar location names, then displays those locations on the Places map.” And if you utilize an external GPS device, including an iPhone, Aperture 3 can import the pertinent tracking data to provide the same powerful geotagging information—allowing you to find photographs by location without ever manually keying in that location information. If you’re not yet using GPS while you shoot, fear not: you can also drag photos to the Places map to automatically tag them with pertinent location information, offering a graphical way to keep images organized by location.

Aperture 3 is filled with other interesting features too—especially for photographers dabbling with video capture on their D-SLRs. Aperture’s integrated handling of video and audio files means you can even do basic video editing directly in your RAW photo management software. To see all of the 200 new features in Aperture 3.0, visit Apple’s aperture web site at apple.com: aperture

Turn your iPhone, or even an iPad, into a portable hard drive

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Zoom Media Plus has announced the ZoomIt—a device designed to connect SD cards to iPhones and iPod Touch devices (and, presumably, the iPad when it’s released in April) to expand the storage capacity and versatility of the products. Though the designers’ intention was primarily to offer added music and video file catalog capacity, photographers are sure to enjoy the ability to tap into some of the unused storage space of their Apple devices—making the iPhone already in their pocket a useful photo downloading and viewing option. Hopefully version 2 of the ZoomIt will come with a CompactFlash version, so even more photographers will be able to tap into the power of their iPhones for practical photographic applications.

Apple itself announced a similar device alongside the iPad, called the Camera Connection Kit. Details aren’t particularly abundant thus far, but it looks like it will allow photographers to tether directly to their iPads via USB interface, or to download via a ZoomIt style SD card reader that fits the 30-pin iPad dock connector. Either way you go, it’s clear manufacturers are beginning to address how these devices can be most efficiently useful to photographers. And I think they’ve only begun to scratch the surface.


How to fail in wildlife photography

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Paul Burwell’s Wildshots blog is always a great resource for interesting and informative articles about wildlife photography. Most recently, Paul wrote about something from a different perspective—how NOT to succeed in photography. His story outlines exactly what a budding photographer should do to assure he’ll never become a professional. Advice such as “never show your work to anyone” and “don’t study the photographs of others” is a surefire way to ensure you don’t improve as a photographer and never succeed in the business of selling images. But even if you’re not looking to make a career out of wildlife photography, Paul’s advice is sound: if you want to improve as a photographer, there are lots of ways to do it—starting by doing the opposite of these “designed to fail” tips.


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