Posts Published in December 2009

10 Most Popular PetaPixel Posts of 2009

As 2009 comes to an end, here’s a look back at 10 of our most popular articles from the past year:

  1. 4 Creative Projects that Bend the Reality of Street Scenes
  2. 21 Awesome T-Shirts for Photographers
  3. A National Geographic Photographer’s Incredible Antarctic Experience
  4. 7 Steps to Taking Clone Photographs
  5. 13 Tips for Staying Motivated in Photography
  6. Pro Camera Gear on a Student Budget
  7. The Chilling Effects of the Fashion World
  8. Some Thoughts on the Canon 7D
  9. PetaPixel Photography Gift Guide 2009
  10. Shooting Stars: Leonid Meteor Shower Peaks November 17

Image credit: New Year Eve London 2008 (Fireworks) by T@H!R – طاھر

Ten Years of Life Through Polaroids

This video is an interesting compilation of over 4,600 Polaroid self-portraits taken by Marc Tasman over ten years between July 24, 1999 and July 24, 2009. That’s a total of 3,654 consecutive days.

The video is similar to Noah Kalina’s everyday project, where he made 2,356 self-portraits over six years between January 11, 2000 and July 31, 2006. The difference is that Tasman’s self-portraits are much more… diverse.

(via Laughing Squid)

Stop-Motion Digital Photography on the Silver Screen

Animated films have had enjoyed increased exposure on the big screen this year. Films like Pixar’s Up, Miyazaki’s Ponyo, and Ari Folman’s animated documentary, Waltz with Bashir,  have received widespread critical acclaim, demonstrating that while animated films can be family-friendly, they are at their core a dynamic and imaginative medium with impressive potential.

Two major animated films this year, Henry Selick’s 3D film, Coraline, and Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, utilize an old animating technique that has been used for nearly a century: stop-motion.

According to the IMDB websites of both films, the individual frames of Coraline and Fantastic Mr. Fox were captured with Nikon DSLRs: the Nikon D80 and D3, respectively, along with a variety of other lenses, bodies, and equipment. Additionally, several Canon bodies can be spotted in a Wired.com video feature on Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Producer Jeremy Dawson notes how differently the film was produced because it was on a digital medium: instead of director Wes Anderson being present during the entire filming process, captured photographs could be remotely accessed and viewed for his approval, no matter where he was physically. The final film consists of 5,229 shots, 621,450 frames, an average of 120 gigabytes of data was captured per day, and the total storage for the images took up 18.5 terabytes of space.

Coraline also seems to have its share of behind-the-scenes camera aficionados; the titular character can be seen in one scene using a Leica camera.

Both films are visually captivating. Coraline director Selick does not stray far from the styles of his previous animated masterpieces, James and the Giant Peach and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Director Wes Anderson’s trademark vintage color palette also stays consistently impressive.

The behind the scenes featurettes of the films are worth a watch as well, and provide some interesting insight into the tedious effort and tremendous amount of time put into making these gorgeous motion pictures.

The Making of Coraline

Behind the Scenes of Fantastic Mr. Fox



Image and Video Credits: Fox Searchlight (Fantastic Mr. Fox) and Focus Features (Coraline).

Interview with Laura Brunow Miner of Pictory

Laura Brunow Miner is the former editor-in-chief of JPG Magazine and founder of Pictory.


PetaPixel: Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Laura Brunow Miner: I have a background as a print designer, but haven’t worked as one in a few years. I really enjoy deciding each morning whether I’m going to be an editor, designer, writer, entrepreneur, internet geek, or photography lover that day — or all of the above. I’m originally from a suburb outside Dallas, and spent seven years in the lovely college town of Lawrence, Kansas.

PP: How did you first get into photography?

LBM: I’ve got a long history with photography. I co-founded my high school photography club, and as a teenager I worked at both a one hour photo lab and a contemporary art museum. In college I did some event photography and took some classes while getting a degree in International Business with a concentration in art and design. After graduating I worked for an architecture firm in Lawrence, Kansas, as a graphic designer — though I often tagged along with the architectural photographers, and did some shooting myself.

Six months after moving to San Francisco I landed a job as a print designer for JPG Magazine, and over a few years there, worked my way up to editor in chief. During that period I realized how fulfilled I was by immersing myself in photography as an editor, particularly in a community setting where the results are always surprising.

PP: What was your first camera?

LBM: I learned on my dad’s fully manual Nikon F from the 60s — the original photojournalist camera.

PP: What equipment do you use now?

LBM: While I love taking photos, I don’t consider myself a photographer, and shoot pretty casually. I take a lot of iPhone photos, do some underwater point and shoot photography with a Canon Powershot D10, use a Canon Rebel dSLR, and just started playing around with a LOMO LC-A+.

PP: What is Pictory, and why did you start it?

LBM: Pictory is an online publication for big photos and small stories. I designed and founded it as a way to create my dream job for myself. I also felt there was a need for more online publications with the care and intention of print magazines, but also the practicality of the web.

PP: How many people are currently involved in Pictory at this point?

LBM: Just one, myself. Though I hired Jeff Croft of Seattle to build Pictory for me on a Django platform, and my husband, Wilson Miner, has been incredibly helpful with advice and ideas. I also plan to continue to work with a guest designer and guest copyeditor on each showcase.

PP: Why did you choose the name “Pictory”?

LBM: Besides the straightforward “picture + story” which helps explain that captioned photos are submitted, “pictory” is also a term used in other cultures for photo stories (try googling it!). Plus, I wanted a name that felt catchy enough for the Web, but didn’t immediately seem misspelled. (For example, I own piktory.com but opted for pictorymag.com instead.) I’m an editor after all — and particular about spelling and typos.

PP: How do you choose the photos that are included in the showcases? What are the things you look for?

LBM: Many factors go in to the selection. Is it an eye-catching photo, and does it look good at 1,000 pixels wide? Is there a unique perspective to the image or caption, or do I have a dozen other entries from the same viewpoint? Is it the best of those dozen? Does it work well in the flow of the showcase? (IE: too many vertical photos in a row can fatigue the eye, etc.)

PP: What has been the most challenging part of getting Pictory off the ground?

LBM: Putting one foot in front of the other during the months when my “to do” list seemed infinite. Design is fun for me, but writing specs or working on legal documents is not.

Another challenge was “keeping my eye on the north star.” One of the things that made the site successful was feedback from dozens of smart Web industry friends during development. The tricky part was staying focused on my own vision while processing smart advice that wasn’t always right for me.

The actual logistics of starting the online magazine was really fun — I wouldn’t call it a challenge. After a year or so of just doing editorial, it was thrilling to get back to design work — and a total luxury to have plenty of time to iterate and fine tune the design. Watching a capable developer think things through and ask the right questions during the code process was just as exciting. Pictory is sort of halfway between running JPG and a blog, so I felt pretty secure about how to execute it from the beginning. If I got stuck, I either went in favor of simple or waited until I had an instinctual feeling for what was right.

PP: What are some common mistakes photographers make in photos submitted to Pictory?

LBM: The number one mistake I’ve seen is people using the caption to describe things we can see in the photo. For example, if it’s a shot of a woman on a rooftop, they’ll describe her appearance and posture (which we can see) without explaining what they remember about the moment. It’s the equivalent of a stranger coming up to you at a party and telling you about his outfit, and you wanting to respond, “I can see your outfit, I want to hear about you!”

PP: What is the most important thing you’ve learned so far through Pictory?

LBM: I’ve learned how much faster I can learn and improve when running an online publication than I could when running a print publication. It’s like the difference of shooting with a digital camera or a film camera, in terms of the speed of feedback. I’ve also learned how completely fulfilling this work is to me!

PP: What’s Phoot Camp and why did you start it?

LBM: Phoot Camp is an invite-only camping trip for photographers that I founded last October, and which will continue annually. I started it because I love meaningful fun! I think I might be a “collaboration matchmaker” in my next life (or next career) and introducing 20 talented people to each other was well worth the hard work of organizing. I was thrilled with the photographs and videos that came out of it (displayed at http://phootcamp.com) and I’m really happy to see the friendships and working relationships that have thrived since.

PP: In your opinion, are there any “Silicon Valleys” of photography? If so, where?

LBM: LA and New York, because they are the two easiest places to make a career out of photography. I love visiting New York because it’s so easy to end up at dinner with a photo agent and drinks with a photojournalist and then brunch with a photo curator — and have great conversations along the way. San Francisco doesn’t have the same density of photo industry folks, but I pal around with new media innovators here and love it.

PP: Do you think we’ll see the end of print magazines as we know it? How is the landscape changing?

LBM: No, but I do think we’ll see an explosion of online magazines, as people are doing some really smart thinking on the topic already. Sports Illustrated and BERG are great examples.

I think there will absolutely be room for both in the market, though I’m going to compare print magazines to film again and suggest that they might be more of a purist offering. But I’m not sure if I even believe that, because who doesn’t love curling up in a recliner with a magazine?

PP: What are the main advantages and disadvantages of online magazines?

LBM: The feedback and metrics available for online media will turn good editors into great ones very quickly. Plus, there are so many possibilities for expanding on ideas, using infographics, quoting or referring to content, etc., online. I can’t wait to see the piggybacking and sharing of ideas that happens.

That said, online magazines don’t have the tactile appeal or portability of print publications — nor the mastery of the medium that has been achieved by some print offerings.

PP: Who are your favorite photographers?

LBM: My favorite “famous” photographer is Roger Ballen. Of the photographers I know, I could name dozens, but Bernie DeChant, Matt Nuzzaco, Paul Octavious Cribb, and Steph Goralnick are all consistently great.

PP: Anything else you’d like to say to PetaPixel readers?

LBM: If you’d like to be considered for Phoot Camp or have feedback on Pictory, feel free to contact me at [email protected] Thanks for reading!


Image credits: Photographs by Laura Brunow Miner. Headshot taken by Wilson Miner

13 Creative Light Painting Animations

Light painting is when you use bright points of light and long exposure times to “paint” light into a photograph. You’ve probably seen numerous tutorials on the technique by now, but if you haven’t, we posted a brief tutorial on the technique about half a year ago.

In addition to single frames of creative light painting, numerous photographs can be combined to create stop-motion animation done with light painting photographs. In this post we’ve compiled an awesome list of light painting stop motion videos to inspire you. Enjoy!

#1: PiKAPiKA THE MOVIE

Japanese animation crew PIKAPIKA specializes in light painting, and incorporates many groundbreaking ideas and experiments into their videos.

#2: Lightpaint Piano Player

An animated character playing a real piano. The frames were shot with a Canon Rebel with 20-30 second exposure times.

#3: Lucky – All India Radio

This video, created by Australian animation company Dee Pee Studios, was created using glowsticks. Each scene typically took a whole night to photograph.

#4: Light Graffiti / Painting Stop Motion

Each photo/frame in this video took 30 seconds to a minute to expose.

#5: POWER PILL light painting

A creative short film about a man whose video game comes to life. It was done entirely with still photographs and light painting.

#6: SPFW – IG Light

A medley of different light painting animations.

#7: Light Painting

A commercial that utilizes light painting animation.

#8: Spider walk

A short, conceptual video of a spider walking that took two hours to shoot and half a day to put together.

#9: Light Painting Animation

A simple compilation of various light painting animations set to a beat.

#10: Electrobloom – Michael Bosanko

Conceptual video of a flower blooming. What’s interesting about this video is how objects are three dimensional when the camera moves.

#11: Light Painting

An interesting compilation of clever light animations by Zé Brandão.

#12: Sprint – Light Trail

A Sprint commercial that follows around a beam of light traveling around a city and ending up at a woman’s phone.

#13: Light Graffiti Fight

A stop motion fight that uses light painting in creative ways.


I think the concept of animation using light painting and stop motion is still relatively unexplored, and that some serious thought and a lot of effort could easily yield a super-viral video. Are you up to the challenge?


Video credits: Videos copyright their respective owners. Sources can be reached by via the YouTube or Vimeo logo in the videos.

Merry Christmas! Lensbaby Winner Announced

Merry Christmas! It has been a week already since we posted our latest giveaway for a Lensbaby Composer, and this one has been our most popular giveaway so far. We received a total of 584 comment entries and 427 entries through Twitter, for a whopping total of 1011 entries.

Without further ado, the randomly selected winner of a Lensbaby Composer and Creative Aperture Set is…

#581: Henning Wüst

The top item on his Christmas wishlist was:

simple wish: peace on earth

Congratulations! Please send an email to [email protected] to claim your prize (We emailed you as well).

A big thank you to everyone who participated. We hope you’re all having a fun and safe holiday season!


Image credit: white christmas by brianjmatis

MIOPS: Smartphone Controllable High Speed Camera Trigger

MIOPS is a new smartphone-controlled camera trigger that combines all of the features photographers want in a high-speed camera trigger into one convenient device.

Read more…

Owner of Most Expensive Photo Launches Art Prize

Victor Pinchuk, the Ukrainian billionaire who purchased the photograph 99 Cent II Diptychon in 2007 for a record breaking $3.34 million, has launched an international award for artists called the Future Generation Art Prize.

The biennial prize awards $100,000 to a young artist under the age of 35. Anyone who meets the age requirement can apply online through the award’s website. Once the nominations have been received, 100 art experts from all over the world each select 2-5 candidates. From there, another selection committee reviews the resulting 200-500 entries and selects 20 artists for an exhibition. The winner will then be selected from the exhibition.

Pinchuk, who is 49, has only been collecting art for five years, but has ranked among the most active collectors during that time. Though he will not take part in selecting the winner of the prize, the prize stipulates that the finalists must include the winner of a separate Ukrainian award that he established. One of Pinchuk’s goals through his museums and awards is to establish Ukranian capital city Kiev as one of the cultural hubs of the world.

Future Generation Art Prize (via PDNPulse)


Image credit: Photo by Sergei Illin

Fleximus: A Flexible Digital Camera Concept

Remember the Nova Concept DSLR? Well this one might be even stranger. Fleximus is a conceptual digital camera that’s based on a flexible tube:

The viewfinder of this tube-shaped camera is on one end of the tube, with the lens on the other. You can either use the compact viewfinder by putting that end of the tube to your eye, or you can attach an optional three-inch display module for a more traditional feel.

The idea behind this concept is that it allows you to take photographs at unconventional angles and with greater flexibility.

This might be useful for street photographers… or maybe spies. The concept of separating the viewfinder physically from the lens and camera itself obviously isn’t new, and can be done already on DSLRs with accessories such as the Aputure Gigtube. However, seeing a whole camera design based around this idea is pretty interesting.

What are your thoughts? Would you consider buying this camera?

Fleximus camera concept (via PC Pro)

Colleagues Claim Physics Nobel Laureates Undeserving

boyleandsmithAbout two weeks ago we reported that the “Fathers of Digital Photography” who invented the CCD sensor had won a Nobel Prize in physics for their revolutionary achievement. Now, two colleagues of Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith are claiming that the Nobel committee erred by doing “extremely poor research”.

Eugene Gordon and Mike Tompsett worked with Boyle and Smith at Bell Laboratories, where the CCD was invented. They claim that Boyle and Smith were taking the concept in the wrong direction, studying its applications in memory rather than imaging. Furthermore, they believe that Tompsett, who formerly led the CCD researcher group, should have been awarded the prize after being the first two build two examples of the device. Tompsett told Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail:

If you take it all literally, the prize should have been given to me, I think if their name is on it, mine should be, too.

Smith rejected the criticism saying that while Tompsett could be credited for engineering prowess, he wasn’t the original source of the idea.

Though smaller committees play an important role in the Nobel Prize selection process, nomination is made by thousands of people and scrutinized by the experts in each field. However, despite the apparent reliability of the extensive, multi-step process, the Nobel Prize has received its fair share of controversy, and this is simply another entry on the list.

Why Higher ISO Leads to Larger File Sizes

Something you may have noticed when adjusting your camera’s ISO setting is that as you increase ISO, the number of remaining shots you have decreases. This is because the size of each photograph increases with ISO, and thus less of them can be stored in the available space of your memory card.

So why does the file size increase as you increase ISO? The answer has to do with image noise and file compression. First we’ll discuss the noise element.

Image Noise

You probably know already that a higher ISO number leads to more noise in the resulting image. This is because digital cameras achieve the same behavior of “more sensitive film” by amplifying the image signal the camera receives when it captures a photograph. This amplification also amplifies the noise that exists in every image regardless of ISO, and therefore higher ISOs have highly amplified noise.

To demonstrate, I captured the following photograph at both ISO 100 and ISO 3200:

Here’s a side by side comparison of crops from the two images:

The noise should be pretty obvious. The RAW file of the ISO100 version is 10.2MB in size, while the ISO3200 version is 14.7MB. In this case, the higher ISO leads to a 44% larger file.

An interesting property of digital cameras is that there is more noise in darker regions of photographs than brighter regions. The opposite is true for film. This means that the file size difference discussed here will be far less when shooting with more light, such as when you’re photographing outdoors.

As an example, here is another scene that I photographed first at ISO100, and then at ISO3200:

Though there is still a significant amount of noise in the image, the ISO100 photo has a 15.8MB file size, while the ISO3200 photo is 16.7MB. This means that for this outdoors shot, the higher ISO only caused a 5.7% increase in file size. There’s other factors that will cause this percentage to fluctuate, such as the complexity of the scene, but in general the percentage should be less when photographing with more light.

File Compression

Now that we’ve shown the increased image noise that comes with higher ISO numbers, we’ll discuss why this causes the file size to increase.

Regardless of whether you’re shooting RAW or JPEG, it’s likely your photographs are stored in a compressed format. While some cameras allow you to choose whether and how files are compressed, RAW images (i.e. Canon’s CR2 format) are usually compressed using a lossless algorithm, meaning the exact original data can be reconstructed from the compressed data. On the other hand, JPEG is lossy, so the more you work with JPEG files, the less data you’ll have as the compression throws out more and more data.

Here is a sequence of images from Wikipedia showing lossy compression (with PNGs):

The image on the right is the most compressed, and therefore has the least information. There is no way to recover the original detail from the compressed image to reconstruct the original (on the left), since the information was thrown out in order to save space when compressing the file.

The reason noise increases file sizes is because image compression relies on repetition, or patterns. In images with less noise, there are more areas of consistent patterns (i.e. the clear blue sky) that can be compressed. On the other hand, when noise is introduced, these adjacent areas that could have been grouped together and compressed must be split and stored separately, since the noise introduces randomness that cannot be compressed.

Here are four different 100×100 JPEG squares, saved with the same image quality:

On the left is a square with solid blue, which affords maximum compression and therefore the smallest file size. The second square has two shades of blue, alternating by row, while the third square alternates by column. Due to the way the JPEG format compresses images, the second square can be compressed more efficiently than the third, even though both contain exactly the same number of pixels of each shade. Finally, the last square has artificial noise added in using Photoshop. This noise introduces randomness, which results in the least compression and the largest file size.

Now, for a super simplified example of compression, consider the following “photo” with 3 “pixels”:

Since all three pixels are the same, instead of storing the data for all three, one possible way I could “compress” the photo would be to store the color information once and just remember that the entire range of pixels is that color. (i.e. Pixel 1-3 = Blue)

Now, lets say some “noise” is introduced, which changes the image to the following:

Now I can’t specify a single range and a single color, since the sequence has been interrupted. The best I could do might be to say (Pixel 1 & 3 = Blue, Pixel 2 = Yellow), which obviously takes more information to represent.

This isn’t exactly how image compression works, but hopefully you get the point that randomness interferes with compression.

Conclusion

In this post we showed that increasing ISO causes increased noise, which in turn causes larger file sizes due to inefficient file compression. Many of you more advanced photographers might have known some (or all) of this already, but hopefully it was illuminating for some of you.