Archive for June, 2009

Winner of the Hugh MacLeod Book Giveaway

Posted in Art, Books with tags , , , on Tuesday, June 30, 2009 by Miserere

by Miserere

  

A few weeks ago I decided to give away a copy of Hugh MacLeod’s Ignore Everybody. Today I performed the draw. I wrote the names of the nominees and their nominators on pieces of paper of equal size and then folded them twice. I shuffled them in a cap and asked my wife to pick one out without looking. That’s about as random as I could make it!

And the winner is… Reed Jaracz’s mum!

Hugh Macleod Book Raffle Winner
Please excuse the on-camera flash

I’ve contacted him to get a mail address to send the book to. Maybe a name too, although I could always address it To Reed’s Mum. Hopefully we’ll get her impressions after she’s read the book and I’ll post them here.

Thanks to all of you who took the time and care to nominate someone, and I’m sorry I didn’t have more copies to give away!

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New Samsung M8910 Pixon12 Cameraphone Is Better than Canon 350D (Digital Rebel XT)

Posted in Cameras, In the News with tags , , , , on Friday, June 26, 2009 by Miserere

by Miserere

  

Or at least, that what the guys at GSM Arena are claiming. Check out Page 2 of their preview. They’re even using this photo comparison as proof (click for larger size):

Samsung M8910 Pixon12 vs Canon 350D Digital Rebel XT

Photo credit: GSM Arena

Samsung M8910 Pixon12It makes me wonder exactly what type of vegetation they are growing in that arena… In case you’re wondering, the Canon 350D was fitted with a Sigma 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 at 28.8mm. No mention of what apertures they used or whether it’s the new OS version or the older non-OS. I suppose details don’t matter when you’re trying to prove that a camera phone is just as good as a DSLR.

I was going to go on a verbal tirade explaining why 12MP on a camera phone is a bad idea, but I don’t have time to waste on these things. It’s not like anyone is going to agree and write Samsung telling them they’re idiots. And I’m sure the engineers at Samsung know it’s dumb anyway, but cameraphones aren’t designed by engineers—they’re designed by the marketing department. 12MP is so much better than 8MP (because it’s a higher number, right?) that nobody will buy the Nokia N86. In the end it’s the consumer who loses.

Bird Photography with a Camera Phone

Posted in General with tags , , , , , , , on Wednesday, June 24, 2009 by Miserere

by Miserere

  

While most bird photographers lust over 600mm f/4 lenses and $500 tripod heads, there are some of us out there who believe all one needs for successful bird photography is a camera phone. Yes, you read that correctly.

Exhibit A:
Miserere - Urban Red-tail HawkHere is a Red-tailed Hawk in its natural habitat, a bike rack in Boston. The reason it’s sitting there is because it had spotted a wounded grey squirrel, which can just about be seen below it, hiding under the bike rack’s feet. I took this photo with my BlackBerry Storm, which has a very wideangle lens; I was actually standing about 3m away from the bird (click on the photo to see the complete frame). I was going in closer to get a portrait but somebody had a run at the bird and shooed it away. While Red-tail Hawks in urban areas are used to human presence and generally are not bothered by us, they are still wild, birds of prey and should be approached with caution. Running towards them, screaming, is NOT recommended because a female hawk close to its nest will not hesitate to attack you.

  

Exhibit B:
David William - Urban Red-tail HawkYet another Red-tail Hawk, in one more of its typical hangouts, a fast-food joint in New York. This photograph was taken by David William on his iPhone. Please visit his blog to read the humorous account of how he found himself so close to this hawk: Excuse Me, Waiter…? There’s a Large Bird of Prey in My Soup.

  

See? There is no need for expensive, heavy equipment to photograph birds. A camera phone is enough.

I rest my case.

The End of Kodachrome – A Sad Day

Posted in In the News with tags , , , , on Monday, June 22, 2009 by Peter Zack

by Peter Zack

  

Kodachrome 36 exp, photo credit unknownWell, Kodachrome has come to an end. For me it’s a sad day but I’m also a small part of the reason. I used to shoot 2-6 rolls a week of both ASA 25 and 64 slide film. In many ways a very fussy film to develop and even fussier to shoot with. But the image quality was superb. Beautiful grain and range if you nailed the exposure.

Digital has sounded the death of many fine films, although we have many others still available. Even though, like for most of you, digital is the future, I hope we still shoot film for decades (or longer) to come. It’s still one of the best ways to learn: a good basic camera, a notepad (since there’s no EXIF data) and an understanding of the basics. If you haven’t done it recently, grab the old film camera and get a roll of whatever film you like (try a roll of black and white) and go shooting. You might be surprised how rewarding it can be.

Kodak press release:
ROCHESTER, N.Y., June 22 — Eastman Kodak Company announced today that it will retire KODACHROME Color Film this year, concluding its 74-year run as a photography icon.

Sales of KODACHROME Film, which became the world’s first commercially successful color film in 1935, have declined dramatically in recent years as photographers turned to newer KODAK Films or to the digital imaging technologies that Kodak pioneered. Today, KODACHROME Film represents just a fraction of one percent of Kodak’s total sales of still-picture films.

“KODACHROME Film is an iconic product and a testament to Kodak’s long and continuing leadership in imaging technology,” said Mary Jane Hellyar, President of Kodak’s Film, Photofinishing and Entertainment Group. “It was certainly a difficult decision to retire it, given its rich history. However, the majority of today’s photographers have voiced their preference to capture images with newer technology – both film and digital. Kodak remains committed to providing the highest-performing products – both film and digital – to meet those needs.”

While Kodak now derives about 70% of its revenues from commercial and consumer digital businesses, it is the global leader in the film business. Kodak has continued to bring innovative new film products to market, including seven new professional still films and several new VISION2 and VISION3 motion picture films in the past three years.These new still film products are among those that have become the dominant choice for those professional and advanced amateur photographers who use KODAK Films.

Among the well-known professional photographers who used KODACHROME Film is Steve McCurry, whose picture of a young Afghan girl captured the hearts of millions of people around the world as she peered hauntingly from the cover of National Geographic Magazine in 1985.

As part of a tribute to KODACHROME Film, Kodak will donate the last rolls of the film to George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester, which houses the world’s largest collection of cameras and related artifacts. McCurry will shoot one of those last rolls and the images will be donated to Eastman House.

“The early part of my career was dominated by KODACHROME Film, and I reached for that film to shoot some of my most memorable images,” said McCurry. “While KODACHROME Film was very good to me, I have since moved on to other films and digital to create my images. In fact, when I returned to shoot the ‘Afghan Girl’ 17 years later, I used KODAK PROFESSIONAL EKTACHROME Film E100VS to create that image, rather than KODACHROME Film as with the original.”

For all of its magic, KODACHROME is a complex film to manufacture and an even more complex film to process. There is only one remaining photofinishing lab in the world – Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kansas – that processes KODACHROME Film, precisely because of the difficulty of processing. This lack of widespread processing availability, as well as the features of newer films introduced by Kodak over the years, has accelerated the decline of demand for KODACHROME Film.

During its run, KODACHROME Film filled a special niche in the annals of the imaging world. It was used to capture some of the best-known photographs in history, while also being the film of choice for family slide shows of the Baby Boom generation.

To celebrate the film’s storied history, Kodak has created a gallery of iconic images, including the Afghan girl and other McCurry photos, as well as others from professional photographers Eric Meola and Peter Guttman on its website: http://www.kodak.com/go/kodachrometribute. Special podcasts featuring McCurry and Guttman will also be featured on the website.

Kodak estimates that current supplies of KODACHROME Film will last until early this fall at the current sales pace. Dwayne’s Photo has indicated it will continue to offer processing for the film through 2010. Current KODACHROME Film users are encouraged to try other KODAK Films, such as KODAK PROFESSIONAL EKTACHROME E100G and EKTAR 100 Film. These films both feature extremely fine grain. For more information, please visit http://www.kodak.com/go/professional.

Baby Photography, Not as Easy as It Seems!

Posted in Miserere's Photos, Photography with tags , , , , on Thursday, June 18, 2009 by Miserere

by Miserere

  

Miserere Baby Photos - SimonA few months ago I published an interview with baby photographer extraordinaire, Carrie Sandoval. Her photography is stunning, and she makes it look so easy! While I had photographed plenty of young children, I had not tried my hand at babies, and after featuring Carrie’s photography on EtL I was itching to try it out. Plus, if I can shoot 4-year old kids that run around and don’t know what posing is, how difficult can a little baby be, right?

Hah! So wrong, so wrong…

Two friends from my home town were kind enough to have a baby during the time I was visiting my parents back in March-April. That’s how I know they’re good friends, see? I thought “I want to try some baby photography”, and they promptly had a baby a few weeks later. You can’t buy friends like that! Of course, they were all too happy to let me practice my skills on their little Simon, a mere 3 days after he was born.

Miserere Baby Photos - SimonBabies are cute, and I would have to be a bad photographer to mess that up. Turns out babies are cute over the medium or long term, say over a minute or so; but in 1/100s, they can look like scary aliens. No mother wants a photo of their child looking like a scary alien (or Winston Churchill, as my friend says). That must be Rule #1 of baby photography, surely. So as I stood there scrolling through the first pics of Simon on my camera’s rear LCD (and promptly deleting each one) I desperately tried to remember everything Carrie had said: Soft light, large windows, uncluttered background, cute props, make sure he’s fed, use 50mm-equiv lens… OK, OK, I have all that…now what?

In the end I figured out the missing ingredient was patience. While Simon had finished eating (drinking!) just before I arrived, he wasn’t quite ready to hang out butt-naked while some guy pointed a black box at him and made him lie in strange positions. It’s not his fault, and that’s something the photographer needs to understand: Sometimes it just isn’t the right moment to photograph the baby. Because I was flying back to Boston the next day, however, there were no other moments we could use. Eventually the there was a lot of daddy holding him until he calmed down, then 60 seconds of shooting in the basket until he grew restless, then mummy calming him…and just when things were on a roll, grandma and grandpa arrived for a surprise visit! I made the most of it and took some pictures of them with Simon. They were a bit suspicious of me to begin with, but the magic thing about babies is that everyone forgets the photographer when there is a baby in the room.

Miserere Baby Photos - Simon

  

Miserere Baby Photos - SimonIn the end I found that the best way to get good photos is to go with the flow. There is no point in forcing the baby to do something he doesn’t feel like because nobody wants photos of sad, crying babies (Rule #2, I believe). I took some photos of him lying down, but when he was being held by his parents I tried to capture that tender connection too. While the baby is important, we need to remember that he’s part of a family, and capturing that spirit of love and unity is just as important.

Miserere Baby Photos - SimonI hope Simon’s parents enjoy the photographs. As for me, I’m on the lookout for more babies; I reckon in 50 babies I’ll be able to show Carrie some of my work. And Simon? I told him I’d be back next April for the 1 year reunion, and I won’t be taking any monkey business from him this time!

Miserere Baby Photos - Simon

  

Do you have any baby photos to share? Show them in the comments section! Extra points if there’s a funny story around them.

All photos: ©Miserere.

Breaking New Ground: Olympus Pen E-P1, part 2

Posted in Cameras with tags , , , , on Tuesday, June 16, 2009 by Miserere

by Miserere

  

The other day I posted rumours of the Olympus E-P1. I hope everyone read through my satire and understood that I was very much in favour of Olympus’s intention to release a small camera with interchangeable lenses. While the film camera industry always had its small camera niche (Pentax 110, the Olympus Pen of course, Canon Canonete, etc.) the digital era gave us mostly P&Ss, with their often much-reduced IQ and overly simplified controls, to fill our need for a small camera.

Recently, Sigma introduced the APS-C sensored DP1 and DP2 in an attempt to tackle this issue, but they have met with mixed reactions. In any case, these cameras offered a fixed lens only. Enter the Olympus Pen E-P1:

Olympus Pen E-P1

Offering a 12MP 4/3 sensor, it is a sleek camera that will fit in a coat pocket, making it the almost-perfect street camera, at least for me. And yes, the lenses are interchangeable. Furthermore, you can use lenses from practically any brand thanks to an ever-growing number of adapters.

Olympus Pen E-P1

Offered in chrome or white, all you can complain about is the lack of a black version. Maybe I’m old-fashioned by I happen to like black cameras. And the best part might be the price. If you buy it with the 17mm f/2.8 pancake and the viewfinder, it’s $900. I consider that a great price. If you already have lenses, the body only is $750.

Olympus Pen E-P1Just so this doesn’t read like an ad, I want to make it clear that I don’t think this is the perfect camera that will bring all other cameras to their knees. It doesn’t have an integrated viewfinder (although Olympus are planning to release a model that will include one, as revealed by Akira Watanabe, product planning manager of Olympus’s SLR division), there are no fast 50 equivalent lenses (yet), and it doesn’t make coffee in the morning. It doesn’t come in black, either. Actually, I would say Olympus have come very close to making it perfect, if not for all, at least for some applications. Final opinion pending reviews from actual users, although beta testers have reported it responds like a DSLR. I still need to see photos at ISO6400; I don’t doubt Olympus, but I cannot believe that ISO will be usable (although this looks pretty good), but I’d be happy if even ISO1600 were usable.

Olympus Pen E-P1I wish Olympus luck in selling as many as possible. They plan to target the portion of the market who uses P&S’s, realise their short-comings, but don’t want/need the hassle or bulk of a DSLR. I think they have a point here, and they just might have introduced the first niche-carving camera in many years. Bravo to Olympus for innovating.

  

Olympus Pen E-P1

Read all the specs and technical details, and see more photos, at DPReview.

All photos: ©Olympus.com.

Ignore Everybody, by Hugh MacLeod (Win a Free Copy!)

Posted in Art with tags , , , , on Sunday, June 14, 2009 by Miserere

by Miserere

  

Hugh MacLeod - Ignore EverybodyMy preordered copy of Ignore Everybody sitting on my office desk on its release day, June 11th (thanks to Amazon’s great shipping policy).

With this title on the cover of his book, one would imagine Hugh MacLeod is throwing stones on his own roof. If we follow his advice we won’t follow it! Think about it.

I’m sure Hugh enjoys the conundrum, playful guy that he is, but in this book he does offer sincere advice for those on the road to becoming Artists, with Artist being defined as someone who creates Art, but not necessarily someone who gets paid for it.

Full of wit and humour (and cartoons drawn on the back of business cards, of course) throughout the 40 lessons (or chapters) you will receive sage nuggets such as the following:

Artists don’t have to suffer.
Clueless No-Talent Dumb-Fucks
who call themselves Artists
have to suffer.

This pretty much sums up Hugh’s attitude and approach. If you want sugar-coated, hand-holdy, lame, PG advice, this is not your book. I do want to stress that behind the humour and occasional foul language there are lessons to be learned about creating, advancing, marketing and enjoying your art. But even if you never intend to sell a single photo in your lifetime, I believe you can still gain a lot by reading this book, and doing it often.

Never compare your inside
with somebody else’s outside.
The more you practice your craft, the less you
confuse worldly reward with spiritual rewards,
and vice versa. Even if your path never makes
any money or furthers your career, that’s still
worth a
ton.

Hugh is such a nice guy that he sent a signed copy of his book to the first 1,000 people who preordered it. For free. So now I have two copies. I thought I would continue Hugh’s kindness and give away my extra copy, the unsigned one whose photo graces the top of this post.

Here are the rules of this competition:

If you want this book, get somebody to nominate you. They will do this by leaving a comment below this article explaining why you are creative and deserve the book. No need for novella comments, this can be explained in a couple of sentences. If there are photos of the nominee being creative, even better! If you are two friends, nominate each other! This is the perfect chance to nominate your spouse, partner, sibling, co-worker… who spends too much time taking photos and otherwise being creative.

IMPORTANT: Make sure you use a valid e-mail when leaving the comment so I can contact you if your nominee wins.

On June 30th I’ll pick a winner and will mail the book to him or her, anywhere in the world, free of charge.

Note: I will leave this post at the top of the blog until June 30th so everyone has a chance to see it.

Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box
of crayons in kindergarten.
Then when you hit puberty they take the crayons
away and replace them with dry, uninspiring books
on algebra, history, etc. Being suddenly hit years
later with the “creative bug” is just a wee voice
telling you, “I’d like my crayons back, please.”

  

See the winner here.