Posts Published in February 2010

A Day in the Life of New York City

The Sandpit is a beautiful short film by Sam O’Hare that shows New York City in miniature using a shallow depth-of-field. In an interview on Aero Film, O’Hare says,

It is shot on a Nikon D3 (and one shot on a D80), as a series of stills. I used my Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 and Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 lenses for all of these shots. Most were shot at 4fps in DX crop mode, which is the fastest the D3 could continuously write out to the memory card. The boats had slower frame rates, and the night shots used exposures up to two seconds each. [...] I shot over 35,000 [stills].

I did some initial tests a while back using a rented 24mm tilt-shift lens, which is the standard way to do this. However, after my tests, I found it made much more sense to do this effect in post, rather than in camera [...] The entire shoot was completed in 5 days and two evenings, during the hottest week of August 2009.

We found it interesting that the tilt-shift effect was faked (as was most of the movement of the camera).

Duplicating Photos of Younger Days

Online entertainer Ze Frank has an interesting gallery called young me / now me, which features user submitted “before and after” photographs.

Anyone can submit a photo duplicating a photograph from years ago. Here’s an example:

Reproducing my baby photographs would be fun and interesting, but some of them would definitely be pretty weird…

If you have similar photographs, feel free to link us to them in the comments!

Amazing Molecular Photo Wins Science Prize

“Save Our Earth, Let’s Go Green”, an electron microscope photograph created by Harvard scientists, was recently awarded first place in the Science And Engineering Visualization Challenge 2009 put on by Science Magazine and the National Science Foundation.

Noodlelike fibers stretch to latch onto a green sphere. Alone each fiber is powerless, but together they grip and support the orb, embodying cooperation at a microscopic scale. This electron microscope photograph catches self-assembling polymers in action, but it could also represent people’s cooperative efforts to save Earth, says materials scientist Joanna Aizenberg of Harvard University. “Each hair represents a person or an organization,” she says. “It shows our collaborative effort to hold up the planet and keep it running.”

What’s amazing is that each fiber seen in the photo has a diameter of 250 nanometers, or 1/500th the thickness of a human hair.

2009 Visualization Challenge: Photography (via Silber Studios)


Image credit: Photograph by Harvard University

Stop Motion Post-it Animation by Disney

It’s amazing what simple photography and tons of time and dedication can produce. This stop motion video was created using 25,000 pieces of paper and a 10 foot wall.

Our “Give a Day, Get a Disney Day” story unfolds through thousands of individual photos featuring Walt Disney World Cast Members moving sticky notes around by hand – no video cameras were used. Also, there were no post-production “tricks” used to create the giant sticky note Mickey Mouse, the background or to “animate” the pieces of paper. See for yourself.

Also, keep your eye out for the photographer behind the camera making a cameo appearance.

‘Mickey Notes’ – Disney Parks Celebrates Volunteering (via Boing Boing)

Interview with Dean Blotto Gray, Burton Snowboards Principal Photographer

Dean Blotto Gray of BLOTTO PHOTTO is the Burton Snowboards Principal Photographer.

If there’s one small joy in life that I look forward to every year, it’s probably the Burton product catalog, which always features an eye-catching mix of creative product photography, cutting-edge board and page design, and breathtaking location photos.

Burton outfitted gold medalist Shaun White and the USA Olympic Snowboard Team and is one of the biggest snowboarding brands worldwide.

If you’ve snagged a copy of this year’s catalog, The Good Book, Blotto’s shots are featured in some of the spreads.

With so many riders on the mountain, snowboarding photography is also an integral part for individual riders to stand out from the crowd and get mainstream exposure and street cred.

Snowboard and ski photography are perhaps the most physically demanding types of sports photography, oftentimes set in the dangerous and extreme weather locations. At the same time, it’s got a youthful style and high energy culture that is very apparent in Blotto’s work.


PetaPixel: Can you give us some background about yourself; what you do, where you’re based, and how you became a photographer?

Blotto: I grew up in Arizona and Texas during my younger years, but Phoenix became my home starting in Grade 6. By this time I was consumed with riding BMX bikes, which led to racing at the local tracks until my mid-teens. Around this time I found skateboarding and that took over until this day. Once college entered my life, snowboarding did to. After the very first run I ever took on a snowboard, I knew this was what I wanted to do because it was like skateboarding on the mountains, total freedom to adventure.

I eventually moved to Colorado, Utah and Oregon to pursue a life in the snowboarding industry, but not as a professional rider. My friends and I started a small snowboarding company selling t-shirts, hats and bindings, so out of necessity I picked up the camera because we needed to produce our own images for our marketing materials. In 1999, I took a position at Burton Snowboards, which eventually led to this Principal Photographer role. My home base is Burlington, Vermont, which happens to be the world headquarters for Burton.

My official job title is Burton Snowboards Principal Photographer. It’s a year round position that keeps me on the road documenting their professional snowboarding team as they compete, film and tour. The photographic materials are used for Burton’s advertisements, catalogs, editorial purposes plus my website, photo shows and books.

PP: How do you get around the mountain/locations while you shoot? Do you ride, too?

B: A snowboarding background is ideal to document the life and times of the athletes because you’re in the mountains about seventy-five percent of the time. Everything we do is one-hundred percent team work based…picking locations, traveling, building the features out of snow, accessing alpine zones, getting home safe at the end of the day and being able to relate to your subjects around you.

When shooting in the alpine environment, we access mountain areas via chairlifts, hiking, snowmobiles and helicopters. Your mode of transportation is dependent on where you are in the world and what your snowboarding goals ultimately are. I prefer hiking to snowmobiling, but I also spend as much time as possible shooting from the helicopter so I can document the snowboarder’s action from above…it makes for a very unique perspective not always seen in action sports. We also spend a great deal of time in any given city that has seen significant snowfall. Using cement, metal and architecture is a treat because it differs so much from the alpine regions.

PP: Which did you start first: riding or photography?

B: Started snowboarding in 1992, picked up a Canon 35mm SLR in 1997.

PP: How do you bring your gear on a photo shoot? Do you have a special photo bag you prefer?

B: Burton Snowboards is very flexible and enthusiastic when it comes to research and developing travel bags and camera packs. I’ve been using the Burton F-Stop Camera Pack and Double Deck Travel Bags since the year 2000. It’s the ultimate combination for checking in luggage during airline travel and the most reliable and comfortable bag to have on your back while shooting. Burton has listened to our needs as traveling snowboarders and photographers and produced reliable, smart luggage.

PP: What gear do you usually bring on a shoot?

B: Canon 1Ds, assortment of Canon lenses, Pocket Wizard remotes, ProFoto Strobes, SunPak Flashes and a point and shoot camera. There’s an assortment of safety equipment, proper outdoor clothing and of course a laptop and hard drives.

PP: Can you tell us about the most extreme or difficult weather or mountain conditions you’ve shot in?

B: Shooting in the alpine environment has the inherit risk of snow avalanches. It’s something you always have to think about, prepare for and be ready. If you plan your route and personnel properly, most situations will never get out of hand. My equipment of choice has never let me down during any winter condition. It’s comforting to know your equipment will perform right along side you, so you don’t have to focus any energy worrying about camera failure.

PP: How do you protect your gear from the elements and the cold?

B: I’ve found that the equipment I use has been weather sealed enough to stay protected in any snowy condition, no matter how wet or dry the snow is. I don’t use any aftermarket covers for the body or lenses, they only inhibit the use of the device.

The key to equipment longevity and reliability is a proper dry out and cleaning every time after shooting. It’s a big no-no in snowboarding to show up to a shoot with gear that doesn’t function properly. Athletes are risking their lives to progress and document snowboarding, so you need to be on point as the photographer.

PP: Have you ever broken equipment while riding/shooting?

B: I’ve dropped my share of lenses and cameras, there’s no doubt about that. If this situation occurs in the field, you must do what it takes to continue shooting and not hinder the flow of the session.

PP: How did you land a job as the Principal Photographer for Burton?

B: I was brought into Burton as a Team Manager with specialized skills in photography, cinematography, photo editing, marketing and travel. I was always taking photos during my team management days, so it was natural for me to graduate to the role of photographer.

PP: Your bio on your site says you travel 290 days out of the year. Where do you travel most often?

B: My travel schedule of 290 days per year is a result of Burton’s endless photographic needs from their riders. Our shoot locations are dependent on the latest snowfall reports, so when an assignment comes up, it could be New Zealand in August or Newfoundland in January. During the springtime, we set up man-made snow features at ski resorts (with the proper manpower in place) to create our vision.

Over the last couple of North American summers, I’ve found some time to document the track bike revolution in various cities. It’s a dream come true to photograph where it all started for me…bicycles.

PP: Do you have a favorite location to shoot at?

B: If I had to pick three locations I would never give up shooting it would definitely be Japan, Alaska and Central Europe. Each place offers such a unique vibe and backdrop for snowboarding and photography…from the type of riding that happens to the images you’ll capture.

PP: How would you say snowboarding photography is different from general sports photography?

B: The biggest difference between snowboarding and general sports is location, but more specifically dealing with the threat of avalanches in the alpine. A common thread is most of snowboarding’s photographers and cinematographers are snowboarders themselves, many of which are former professional riders.


Image Credits: Blotto portrait by Laura Austin, Blotto 1 and 2 by Jeremy Jones, Blotto by Gabe L’Heureux, all other images by Dean Blotto Gray

Wired Still Predicting the Demise of DSLRs

Back at the beginning of the year, Wired stirred up some fierce debate when it published an article titled, 5 Reasons to Ditch Your Digital SLR.

Unless you have a specific use that these cameras can’t meet, or you need the very highest level of performance only a Canon 1D or Nikon D3 can bring, you have no reason to buy a DSLR.

Today, they’re at it again with a new article titled, Do Mirrorless Cameras Spell the Death of DSLRs?.

[...] what does it mean for the DSLR, which has for years been the fastest growing sector of the camera market? A DSLR used to be the only way to go if you wanted a camera that had a big sensor and a reasonably responsive shutter. The other benefits, like interchangeable lenses, are arguably only there for the more serious. Take a look around you next time you’re in a tourist spot and you’ll see mostly sub-$1,000 SLRs with the kit zooms still on the front.

The argument is that the large sensors, small camera size, and interchangeable lenses on the newer cameras will steal all but the most serious photographers from the DSLR market. Their view is summed up nicely in the last sentence:

The DSLR won’t die. But it could become a niche product, and the specialist tool of the professional.

What do you think about this debate? Will DSLR cameras start to decline in popularity, or does Wired not know what it’s talking about?


Image credit: novoflex meets gf-1 by icedsoul photography .:teymur madjderey

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…

Old School Paparazzi Photograph

Here’s a photograph of paparazzi taken back in 1932. Looks like some things never change (paparazzi), while others do (check out those beastly cameras!).


Image credit: Photograph from the Wikimedia Commons.

Gather Up Your Photos with Showzey

Showzey is a web app that helps you collect and organize your photographs from various places on the web in once place.

One of its interesting features is the ability to collect all the attachments in your Gmail account and either save them to your Showzey account, or transfer them directly to a photo service like Flickr or Picasa (Facebook supported too). Here’s how you would collect the photos from your Gmail:

I don’t know about you guys, but usually when I receive a photo attachment in an email that I don’t save to my computer, I never see it again. This might be an interesting way to explore all the various photos you’ve been sent over the years.


P.S. Showzey seems heavily inspired design-wise by Mint

Visited.org – YouTube Videos by Keyword

This isn’t related to photography, but it’s something that I’m working on, so I thought I’d share it with you all.

Visited.org is a new website that allows you to watch YouTube videos voted on by keyword. Anyone can submit a YouTube link and a single word they think describes the video (i.e. “funny”, “scary”, “amazing”, “interesting”), and others can vote on whether the keyword describes the video well.

If a video is popular enough, it gets promoted to the front page and to the keyword page. This hopefully makes it so you can just sit down and watch exactly the kind of video you want to see, without all the other noise and garbage that other websites (i.e. YouTube’s browse) are filled with.

I’m building this service for a class here at UC Berkeley, but it’s also an experiment to see if this kind of submission and voting system works well for surfacing quality videos. It’s a community-powered website, so if any of you have time to submit videos you enjoy or vote on videos other people submitted, we’d appreciate the help!

We need some early users to get this thing rolling. Feel free to share your thoughts or suggestions in the comments here.

PMA 2010: Glasses for Photographers

These glasses might look like typical geeky photo dad gear or something your eccentric uncle might wear, but if your eyes have uneven prescriptions, they can come in handy while shooting. That is, unless you’re classy enough to have a monocle (or contacts).

California-based photo accessory company, Hoodman, showed off this pair of glasses for photographers at PMA earlier this week. The glasses can be set with corrective lenses from an optometrist, and each lens can be individually flipped up. Corrections for the shooting eye can be adjusted with the camera’s diopter, remaining unhindered by an extra layer of glass, while the tracking eye can still benefit from corrective lenses.