Buyer Beware?

Please! Release Me! • Portable Printmaking • Finding The Lightning And The Trigger • Rendering Time-Lapse Movies

While photographing fall colors with a class in southwestern Colorado near Gunnison, we found ourselves in the midst of a cattle drive directed by a cheerful and capable horsewoman. She stopped to talk with our group for a while and gladly signed the model release I always keep ready in my camera bag. Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon EF 24-105mm lens at 24mm, 1/500 sec. at ƒ/11, ISO 200.

Please! Release Me!
Q I’ve started to look for a photo stock agency to promote and sell my work, and I have grave concerns about how one in particular operates. Nowhere on the agency’s site do they concern themselves with model or property releases. In fact, many of the unreleased images with recognizable properties and people are offered for full commercial uses. When I asked the agency about how release matters were handled, the reply I got back was, “The buyer is liable for misuse. If no model release is provided and one is needed for the commercial application, then the buyer is at fault.” I have never heard of such logic. How much responsibility do agencies have in this matter?
Via the Internet

A The real question here is how much responsibility the photographer has in securing the permission of his/her subjects. With some exceptions for editorial use, I always secure a release for any recognizable person or property in my photographs, even if I don’t anticipate trying to market the images. You never know. There are three good reasons for this: 1) It’s the right thing to do; 2) My agencies (Getty, Corbis, Photo Researchers and AgStock) require a release for any such image before they will represent it; 3) An unreleased image is virtually worthless on the commercial market for that very reason you mention, liability; Oh, yes, and 4) The user and the sellers are at the very least morally liable for misuse, and you, the photographer, are one of the sellers.

There’s no doubt that it’s hard to know what’s being done with your images these days; I trust my agencies to protect me, and they put the rules in place that make that possible. A stock agency whose motto is “Buyer Beware” sounds like bad news to me, both for the industry as a whole and for individual photographers seeking to market their work.

Portable Printmaking
Q I’m on the road a lot and frequently photograph opportunistically—that is, I come across a great scene and start shooting. The more action there is, the more likely I’ll need to get a signed release for someone or something in the photograph. I’d like to have a truly portable printer that would give me a letter-sized release and a high-quality 8.5×11 print to give in return for the consent. Does anyone make this kind of small printer?
B. Bellamy
Via the Internet

A Back in the days when I drove a one-ton camera bag (a big four-wheel-drive Ford van), I actually installed an Epson 2800 inkjet printer on a high shelf, and I used it to make prints up to 13×19 inches for the very purpose you describe. It also was convenient to make demonstration prints for field classes right there on the spot; the students could see the finished output and apply that knowledge to their captures.

Time and technology march on. I’ve downsized my work vehicle to gain more agility on the back roads of the Rockies, and digital display with Live View—on the back of the camera, on a laptop or on an iPad—is faster and more effective as a teaching tool. That said, there are still times when we’re on the road, or even in a hotel room, that we wish for exactly the printing capability you’re seeking. I’ve recently purchased the Canon Pixma iP100 inkjet printer, which is petite (about 13x7x2.5 inches, 4.4 pounds) and portable, and prints photographs and text documents up to 8.5×11 inches. The output is extremely sharp with excellent color due to five ink colors (in two cartridges). For text printing, it’s incredibly fast.

A couple of accessories make this the ultimate field printer. The LK-62 Battery Kit allows the printer to be used without any external power, and the BU-30 Bluetooth Adapter connects the laptop and the printer wirelessly at distances of up to 33 feet. Canon also offers the PU-200U Automobile Power Adapter. So there you go. You can set up your office/studio wherever you drive or fly.

There are a number of other compact printers on the market, but they generally use the dye-sublimation rather than the inkjet process and are limited to 4×6 prints. The Canon Pixma iP100 retails for $249.

Finding The Lightning And The Trigger
Q I read an article where you suggested the use of a device called “Lighting Tiger,” which you use to catch lightning as it strikes. For the life of me, I cannot find it anywhere. If you would be so kind and let me know where to find it, I would be thankful to you after each lightning strike.
M. Huidobro
Via the Internet

A The device is called a Lightning Trigger, available for $329 from, (800) 452-4167. The manufacturer is Stepping Stone Products in Dolores, Colo., where there’s lots of lightning!

So what’s the big deal? Anybody can capture lightning strikes at night by simply setting a looooooong exposure and letting the strikes record as they occur. What makes the Lightning Trigger so special is that it allows the photographer to capture lightning strikes in daylight. A strike in the vicinity of the camera activates the shutter, which captures the lightning if it occurs within the frame. Lightning behind you will trip the shutter, too, but pixels are cheap. If lightning is happening all around you, by the way, it’s time to take cover. I’ve been known to put my tripod-mounted camera outside the vehicle and let the Lightning Trigger do the work while I’m safe inside.

Rendering Time-Lapse Movies
Q Some time ago, you wrote about how to convert time-lapse images into a video. I can’t find the article, so please tell me how to do it or identify the article.
E. Framan
Via the Internet

A The article you mention, “Easy High-Definition Time-Lapse Movies,” was published in Currents, the magazine of the North American Nature Photography Association, back in the spring of 2009, when the publication was in paper form. We’ll give you a summary here.

The basic premise of time-lapse photography is to capture a series of images of a single scene at regular intervals over an extended period of time so as to record changes in the scene, such as clouds moving, astronomical phenomena or other action, and to accelerate the time of the sequence in the playback. One of my favorite subjects for time lapse is the annual balloon festival held in Colorado Springs each Labor Day weekend.

The equipment needed to accomplish time-lapse photography is either a built-in intervalometer (some Nikons) or an external intervalometer/cable release (all Canons and some Nikons) for your DSLR camera. Here are the basic steps. 1) Clean your camera’s sensor because any debris will be evident on every picture in the sequence and in the subsequent movie. 2) Place the camera on a sturdy tripod. 3) Be sure you have adequate power. For long sequences, you’ll need to access a power source beyond the camera’s battery or be there to change it. 4) Set your exposure to “aperture priority” and possibly auto ISO if lighting conditions will be changing and you want to maintain a standard ƒ-stop and shutter speed throughout the sequence. 5) Select the capture interval, e.g., five seconds, depending on the speed of the action. 6) Use the smallest JPEG capture format because this resolution is better than HDTV, and you’re going to be streaming these images, not printing them. You may be taking thousands of images, so be sure your capture media will hold them all. 7) Save all the images to one folder on your computer. 8) Assemble the images on your computer in QuickTime Pro (a $29 upgrade to QuickTime available from Apple for both PC and Mac). Open the program, then File > Open Image Sequence. Browse to find the folder containing the images. Highlight the first image in the folder and click Open, which will bring up a box headed Image Sequence Settings. From the drop-down menu, choose the speed you want the program to stream the images, from 29.97 frames per second (standard video) to as few as 6, depending on the effect you want to achieve. When you click OK, the program processes the images and a finished QuickTime movie appears on the monitor. From the menu bar, click on View > Fit to Screen and View > Play All Frames, and start the movie from the standard video controls that appear at the bottom of the image. Save the movie as a self-contained movie; the result is an .mov file that can be inserted into other programs or played as a stand-alone using the QuickTime Player.

For information about upcoming seminars and digital-imaging workshops, visit If you have any tips or questions, address them to: OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHER, Dept. TT, George Lepp, 12121 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1200, Los Angeles, CA 90025-1176 or online at

One of North America’s best-known contemporary outdoor and nature photographers and a leader in the field of digital imaging and photographic education, Lepp is the author of many books and the field editor of Outdoor Photographer magazine. One of Canon’s original Explorers of Light, Lepp finds inspiration in advancing technology that fuels creative innovation and expression of his life-long fascination with the natural world.