Posts Published in January 2010

Protect Your Gear by Flying with a Gun

A few days ago we came across this brilliant trick for protecting your valuable camera gear while flying. Most airlines don’t allow you to fly with your luggage locked, but there’s a clever way around the rule — bring a gun.

No, we’re not advocating violence, and no, you don’t need a real gun at all:

A “weapons” is defined as a rifle, shotgun, pistol, airgun, and STARTER PISTOL. Yes, starter pistols – those little guns that fire blanks at track and swim meets – are considered weapons…and do NOT have to be registered in any state in the United States.

I have a starter pistol for all my cases. All I have to do upon check-in is tell the airline ticket agent that I have a weapon to declare…I’m given a little card to sign, the card is put in the case, the case is given to a TSA official who takes my key and locks the case, and gives my key back to me.

That’s the procedure. The case is extra-tracked…TSA does not want to lose a weapons case. This reduces the chance of the case being lost to virtually zero.

It’s a great way to travel with camera gear…I’ve been doing this since Dec 2001 and have had no problems whatsoever.

If you’ve ever lost anything valuable while flying, or have had anything mishandled and broken (I have), this might be a good way to ensure your gear’s safety.

Expensive Cameras in Checked Luggage (via Boing Boing)


Image credits: B A N G ! by mr.beaver and Lufthansa by caribb

An Artistic Image Compression Algorithm

American Pixels is an experiment by Jörg Colberg that uses a special kind of image compression algorithm to create a distinct look. Here’s Colberg’s statement:

These “American Pixels” are an experiment. Image formats like jpeg (or gif) use compression algorithms to save space, while trying to retain a large fraction of the original information. A computer that creates a jpeg does not know anything about the contents of the image: It does what it is told, in a uniform manner across the image.

My idea was to create a variant that followed in the footsteps of what jpegs do, but to have the final result depend on the original image: in a very direct way the computer algorithm becomes part of the image creation. The idea was to build a hierarchical compression algorithm, where the compression – in effect the pixel size – depends on the information in each uncompressed pixel and its neighbours. So adaptive compression (acomp) is a new image algorithm where the focus is not on making its compression efficient but, rather, on making its result interesting.

[…] What is more, it produces images that have spatial depth: as you zoom in you can see more and more details. acomps are designed for a wall: The viewer has to be able to walk back and forth in front of them.

Basically, the algorithm leaves detail where there needs to be detail, and compresses areas of less detail. By doing this, the resulting image doesn’t look entirely realistic, yet doesn’t look entirely artificial either.

Compare Camera Specs with SnapSort

SnapSort is a new web application that’s super simple but surprisingly useful. Give it two camera models and it will give you a side by side comparison of the specs, as well as pick a winner for you. In addition, it lists pros, cons, and similar cameras for each camera.

The service was created by a team of four — two programmers, a CS professor, and a “serial entrepreneur”. Here’s a screenshot of a camera comparison:

The website states that the service will eventually turn into a personal camera recommendation service. There’s no word on how SnapShot plans to generate revenue, but this type of application can do well with both advertising and affiliate sale business models (much like Flickr’s Camera Finder).

I’m pretty interested in seeing where this service goes, especially with such a large team behind it. If you’re currently in the market for a digital camera, give SnapSort a try!

(via Photojojo)

The Million Dollar Homepage of Photography

Back in 2005, a student in England named Alex Tew launched The Million Dollar Homepage, through which he sold the pixels of a 1000×1000 grid for $1 each. Although it was an extremely simple idea, the unique project attracted enormous amounts of press coverage, and eventually earned $1,037,100 in a matter of months. It also spawned countless copycat websites that virtually all failed, since the idea was no longer novel.

Now, Colorado-based artist Shane Rich (@oncemany) might have devised the next surprisingly-profitable — yet super-simple — idea, this time photography-related. His new website, oncemany, is a photo-a-day Project 365 with a twist: each day of the year is purchased by a company or individual that wants to promote something. Rich gives the sponsor complete exposure on that day, collaborates with them for the resulting photograph, and provides a high-quality signed print.

The cost of purchasing a day is creative as well — the price of each day is the day of the year. This means January 1st costs $1 to buy, and December 31st costs $365. If you’re wondering how much the total for the year would be, it’s $66,795, assuming he succeeds in booking every single date. So far, there has been no shortage of sponsors, with most dates early in the year booked already.

Regardless of whether or not he succeeds, oncemany is sure to spawn many similar or even identical projects. However, like in business it’s often the first-mover that gets all of the pie, and by the end you might be wishing you had thought of this idea first.

(via PhotoInduced)

Light Painting Animation by Freezelight

Freezelight is a Russian group that creates light painting photographs and animations. They have a pretty interesting blog showcasing their work, and opened up a Vimeo account a few days ago to showcase their films.

The above animation is titled “Freezelight Magic Forest“, and consists of roughly 300 photographs shot with a Canon 5D Mark II, EF 50/1.4, and EF 24-70/2.8. They also have a pretty interesting behind-the-scenes video showing the creation of a light painting animation.

This would have surely been included in our 13 creative light painting animations post a couple weeks ago had they been online then.

(via Gizmodo)

Interview with David Baker of milouvision

David Baker is the photoblogger behind milouvision.


PetaPixel: Can you tell me a little about yourself?

David Baker: I’m 46 years old and live in Southampton on the south coast of England. I’ve worked for a government agency for the past 26 years latterly in a legal/policy environment and I view my photography as an effective antidote to my office life.

PP: How did you first get into photography?

I started using a Canon A70 in about 2003/04 when my wife, Stef, and I began visiting stone circles, dolmens and standing stones. Despite my advanced years, I used to be a keen online Unreal Tournament player and during a lull in competitions and tournaments, a fellow player talked about his new camera, a Canon 300D, and suggested that I also buy one as I had become disillusioned about online gaming. This occurred at the same time when it was confirmed that I had no musical ability at all. A friend in Cornwall is a marvelous guitar player and after a visit, I thought I’d be one too. Sadly not. So, in January 2005, trying to engage a creative aspect of myself, I also bought a 300D.

Almost immediately I wondered what I had let myself in for as I had always used the A70 on auto mode. I started reading magazines, books (fortunately Southampton has an excellent library) and looking at other images in various exhibitions and photoblogs. In the spring of 2005, I started posting images on a web forum and as a consequence, in November 2005, Jamey (of http://www.jameyhoward.com/photoblog/) started a photoblog and convinced me that it was a good idea to start one too. I choose milouvision as my online gaming name was milou (I was a huge Tintin fan and milou is Snowy).

PP: Which are your favorite Tintin comic books?

DB: It has to be The Black Island. When I was a child in the 1960s, my mum used to return from a jumble sale with a big roll of comics – the Beano, Topper etc – and occasionally there was a Tintin book amongst the weeklies. I think the first one I saw was The Black Island and for a youngster from a small provincial market town it promised adventure.

PP: What equipment do you currently use?

DB: In January 2006 I bought a Canon 5D which I’ve only just sold due to the purchase of a 5d Mark II. For 95% of the time, I use a 17-40L lens. I also use a 50mm prime and a 70-200 zoom and I use a tripod about 80% of the time. I also regularly use Lee ND grads and a Lee ND plus a polariser and the mighty B+W 10 stop ND which I’ve just replaced as I dropped my 5D Mark II on its first outing in very high winds. I got distracted and the whole set up fell onto the rocks albeit from a very low height. The camera was ok but my 10 stop ND was smashed and buckled on the 17-40 lens. I used a knife to take out the filter glass and fortunately the front element of the lens wasn’t scratched. I then used the knife to tease the remains of the filter from the lens thread and again fortunately the thread wasn’t stripped although it looks likely that it’ll have to be replaced. A little later whilst cleaning spray off a Lee grad, the wind whipped it from me and it scuffed on the rocks.

PP: Anything on your wish list?

DB: A Canon 16-35. Maybe. Is it better than the 17-40? I don’t know. One thing against it, is that there’s no 10 stop ND filter for the filter ring size. An alternative would be a Zeiss Distagon either 18 or 21mm. A 100mm Canon macro lens is on the cards as I want to explore some still life work and I really ought to get around to sourcing a new tripod ball-head.

I do a lot of square cropping so I’d love to be able to do that in-camera by having a button that changed the format from 3:2.

Every now and then I think about exploring large format.

PP: How would you describe your photography to someone who has never seen it?

DB: Coast hugging. My main photographic passions are sand, sea, stone and the odd cow. I saw a photograph by Guy Edwardes in Outdoor Photography magazine of Keyhaven beach and the sea looked fantastic drawn over the shingle beach. I tried it myself a week or so later and that was that, I was caught. It’s a fair comment that the majority of my work is a variation on a theme.

PP: What is your goal in photography?

DB: The wildlife photographer Andy Rouse once said that landscapers are those who try to get in focus two rocks that are seven miles apart. There’s a goal. Alternatively, it’s getting that ultimate coastal shot. The one that always eludes and you almost get it. It’ll never be caught as what then?

A year or so ago, I wanted to exhibit so I was fortunate to exhibit twice in the past year. I have just started a couple of photo projects – stone and wood – to motivate me. I wrote a guide to Westdale Bay in Pembrokeshire (http://freephotoguidesukwales.blogspot.com/2009/06/westdale-bay-pembrokeshire.html) last June so I would like to add more to the free photo guide project (http://www.freephotoguidesuk.blogspot.com/).

PP: Are there any special tricks you’ve picked up for photographing the coast?

DB: It may sound a cliché but getting to know ‘your’ part of the coast is invaluable in terms of assessing and recording the changeable nature of light, the tides and the way the coast evolves and changes the landscape. See it in the wonderful dawn light – it’s worth the early start! Other than that, get to know the tide tables, chase ‘bad’ weather so that you can shoot in the changeover from ‘bad’ to ‘good’, accept that you will get wet, even if the waves are counted, and buy a decent pair of wellies. Hopefully, it’ll all help to being a committed coast-hugger.

PP: What’s special about the “changeover from ‘bad’ to ‘good'”?

As an example, I followed a rain storm from Southampton to my local patch of coast at Keyhaven. The rain had cleared the air of dust so I shot in good light with all the drama ahead sweeping across the Solent providing rain clouds lit from underneath by a setting sun.

PP: How much do you shoot?

DB: I’ve stopped coming away from a coastal location with 300 shots of essentially the same scene. In terms of how many shots at a particular site, it’ll depend on what I’m trying to achieve. I’m getting more fussy in my old age about the available weather conditions (something which I’m trying to correct) principally due to being frustrated by the potential of a location if only the clouds were just so, or there were less people or if only the headland was over there. Dreadful. I should work at it. I really like being surprised by a location especially one that I know well, where I think I’ve seen all this before and then all of a sudden the elements come together. I think landscapers are eternal optimists and even though there might be moans and groans when the weather is poor, we’ll still make the trip out.

PP: What have you learned about photoblogging since starting your own?

DB: That the support, encouragement and inspiration of fellow photobloggers is immense.

PP: How many photographs do you have tucked away at this point?

DB: I’ve just sold my 5D which after three and half years use had a shutter count of 14,000. I’m a fairly ruthless editor. My back up folder is 273gb which includes RAW files, 16 bit TIFFs, jpegs, stock images – well, everything. I’m always chopping away at the images in periods of self doubt, deleting material left, right and centre.

PP: Have you tried your hand at HDR photography?

DB: I’ve blended two images from a RAW file – one for the sky and the other for the foreground. I’m not sure if that counts. The principle issue I have with ‘extreme’ HDR is that there’s often a strong light source but without the attendant shadows.

PP: Who are your favourite photographers?

DB: Joe Cornish, Charlie Waite and David Ward for landscapes, and Michael Kenna for mono and duotone work. I’m also a big fan of Fay Godwin. I’m fortunate in being able to have collected about 100 photo books, some second hand. The Michael Kenna books are beautifully produced. I have a regular sort out. I also follow a whole host of photobloggers who provide an enormous amount of inspiration and motivation.

PP: Who is one person you’d like to see interviewed on PetaPixel?

DB: It’ll have to be my pal Gary or Tristan.

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

DB: Have fun, stay fluffy, and to paraphrase Andy – cheers for reading, and if you’re a follower of my photoblog then many thanks.

Photos from Earthquake in Haiti, Mobilizing Global Compassion and Action

The past two days have been filled with increasingly grim news following the catastrophic magnitude 7 earthquake in Haiti. If you had a chance to catch MSNBC’s coverage of the aftermath in the video above, there are some very powerful images.

Boston’s Big Picture also has some extremely moving photographs, which, without words, speak to the devastation and dire need in the small island country.

How to Help

Consider a compassionate donation to reputable charities — but a word of caution: donate DIRECTLY to charities and be wary of scams.


Update: Photographer Lane Hartwell (@lanehartwell) has created a magazine containing powerful photographs from various photojournalists have documented Haiti in the past. It’s being sold on MagCloud, and all proceeds will go to the Red Cross.

2 Years of Hard Work for a 60 Second Shot

Photographers often go through hours, days, or weeks of work to achieve certain photographs, and the dedication is usually reflected in the end result. That might seem like a lot of work to you if you typically only spend a few seconds framing and snapping a photograph, but what if I told you that a crew from BBC spent two years working on a 60 second clip?

The clip is of a tracking shot where a camera moves through the forest, showing a time lapse of the plant life growing over the course of a year. Now the hour or two you might spend on a photograph doesn’t seem all that long, huh?

(via Digital Photo Experience)

Study Finds Photography Undesirable as a Job

Job portal careercast recently released a ranking of 200 jobs from best to worst for 2010. The Wall Street Journal republished the data in a nice, sortable chart as its Best and Worst Jobs 2010 list. Since you’re reading this, you probably want to know how jobs involving photography rank on the list. The answer: pretty low.

The job “photographer” ranks 126th on the list, right below “waiter/waitress” and right above “advertising salesperson”. “Photojournalist” is near the bottom of the list, ranked #189 below “firefighter” and above “butcher”.

In terms of the methodology used, five categories are evaluated and summed up: environment, income, outlook, stress and physical demands.

I think the methodology is flawed because of the fact that they focus primarily on tangible upsides and downsides. Many photographers I’ve spoken to chose photography as a career for reasons including a passion for photography and the opportunity to see the world. These things aren’t accounted for in the study, since they don’t have categories such as “job satisfaction”.

What do you think of these rankings? If you disagree, what should photography-related jobs actually be ranked?

(via A Photo Editor)

Neat Hand and Paper Parkour Animation

Here’s a dose of creative inspiration: a hand animated video of parkour. Created by Serene Teh and Noel Lee, parkour motion reel is a pretty unique take on the flip book style of animation.

While this video isn’t directly related to photography, the concept can definitely be done with photographs instead of being hand-drawn, and might make for some pretty awesome animation. Photographs have already been used in this kind of animation, but usually using stop motion (i.e. The PEN Story and stop motion with wolf and pig.)

If you have any examples of photographs being animated by hand in this manner, please link us!

(via Laughing Squid)