a whole new take on nikon vs. canon

Who needs boring discussions about crosspoint autofocus or fps or lens choices? Cut to the chase:
I'm a Canon gangsta
and you're a Nikon shorty
face the facts but hey look on the bright side
at least we're not a Pentax!
And from Joey L's very excellent blog, a note about his new rap career:
Yeah I can take pictures, but I can bust a rhyme too. I don't even know how I should begin this blog... except... that... My alter ego is born. Okay, it's true- I have started a gangster rap crew which refuses to rap about anything non photo-related. Actually, we can't rap about anything else simply because we don't know about anything else.
Yeah, polish my lens.

marching band invades newsroom

We depart from our irregularly scheduled programming to note that for 57 years, the Cal band has marched through the newsroom of the San Francisco Chronicle during Big Game week, part of the festivities leading up to its football game with archrival Stanford.

I'm not a sports nut, even though I was the sports editor of the Chronicle for 10 years (1987-1997). Maybe I was overly influenced by the line from Joseph Heller's Catch 22: ""Like Olympic medals and tennis trophies, all they signified was that the owner had done something of no benefit to anyone more capably than everyone else."

Whatever. I've always believed that the Bay Area has its sensibilities and priorities in order. While the Giants and 49ers have diehard loyalists, I don't think fans in the region can generally be characterized as "rabid." (I grew up outside New York and went to school in Boston, so I know from rabid.)

Still, every year when the Cal band came marching through the newsroom, I'd find to my own surprise that I'd get a lump in my throat. It all seemed wholesome and sweet and uncomplicated -- the traditions, the fun and, around here at least, a feeling that yeah, go ahead and have a blast, because the game is great, and it's worthy of respect and honor, but it's not life or death. Your life won't be changed in any significant way if your team wins or loses. And that's exactly the way it should be.

Now, though, there's the added poignancy of seeing a college football marching band in the context of tradition that's in decline -- the newspaper. Don't get me wrong: I don't believe that newspapers will go away. Well, maybe newspapers will go away, but not news operations, or news people. There will always be news, and there will always be demand for it. It's just the delivery system that's in a painful process of change.

Approximately 15,000 people lost their newspaper jobs in 2009 as a result of that change. And many lives have indeed changed in significant ways because of it. And there aren't any marching bands making note of it. But the game will go on, the news game, no doubt about it.


eerie, weird and wonderful

Yes, it's a commercial (for Toshiba). But it's just plain stunning. And real. Click on the picture to check it out.

And somehow it's fitting that it happened in (and over) the Nevada desert.

Stick around for the ending, too.

Regarding the idea for the commercial, the blog PocketLint notes that
"The Space Chair is in fact virtually identical to a work by UK artist Simon Faithfull, as commissioned by the Arts Catalyst in 2004, called Escape Vehicle No.6 - a film which was recently shown at the BFI Southbank.
This time, the project was done with Toshiba HD cameras. Eight of them were strapped under a weather balloon, a chair was attached, and the whole thing floated 18 miles high. When the balloon eventually burst, the rig came crashing back to Earth -- at 700 mph.


so much to like

The word is getting out (thanks in great part to Photojojo, which we also love) about Pictory. What a great new way to find outstanding work on the internets, from some of the most engaging photographers (and people) around.

The first issue, produced by one-woman show Laura Bruno Miner, features guest design and photography from Steph Goralnick and pictures from Lomokev, aka Kevin Meredith, plus the work of 23 other people on the theme "Overseas and Overwhelmed." (Check it out for yourself over here.)

In Steph's very entertaining feature interview, she gives the lowdown on Phootcamp, NYC doings and the (upward) arc of her creative career, plus lots of other fun things. (I am proud to say I have one of Steph's rings, gifted to me as we discussed (futile) attempts at keeping camera gear safe in the sandstorms of Burning Man.)

Pictory's emphasis is on storytelling, in words and pictures. All photographs have detailed captions that let you know what's going on, and where. And that's one of the main requirements for submitting to Pictory -- you have to write good captions.

The magazine is a beautifully presented collection of work that takes best advantage of the visual storytelling tools available in the digital age, while still acknowledging the power and importance of the written word.

Nice going, Laura. All that work is paying off.


really fine work

Newspapers and magazines have rushed to embrace multimedia without really knowing if the time and expense are going to be worthwhile investments, at least from a business standpoint.

But from a journalistic standpoint, every now and then a project comes along that makes you see how powerfully effective all the various new storytelling tools can be. "Ian Fisher: American Soldier" from the Denver Post is one of those projects.

It's the story of a high school graduate who decides to enlist in the Army, and it follows him through basic training, his deployment to Iraq, and his return home. It's beautifully written, the photography and videos are breathtaking, and the presentation is clean and inviting. And at the heart of it all is a story worth telling.

"From the home front to the stark landscape of Diwaniyah, the images capture Ian's day-to-day experiences as a recruit, soldier, son and friend."
The project's home page is here.

Kudos all around.


Hot stuff

I like pictures of fire, and I know how difficult they are to take. There are many more misses than hits, at least in my experience.

But this is just simply one of the best I've ever seen.

It's from National Geographic and was shot in Jammu, India. Devotees of Sikhism, the world's fifth largest organized religion, were marking the 342nd birthday of Guru Gobind Singh, a founder of the faith, in July. The photo was taken by Jaipal Singh and distributed through EPA/Corbis. The photographer has a photostream on Flickr, where he posts a lot of his photojournalism work.


Nikon puts more distance between itself and Canon

The next iteration of Nikon's awesome D3 digital camera was announced today, and it's a stunner.

Full-frame sensor, 9 frames per second and an expanded ISO range that goes up to ... 102,400. Not a misprint. An ISO range in the six figures. Oh, and HD video, too.

Of course, the rig also has Nikon's superior autofocus system, which features 51 autofocus points and 15 crosspoint sensors. So you'll actually be able to use your autofocus in the incredibly low light that ISO 102,400 will open up. The press release blather says the camera might see in the dark better than you do; in this case, the blather might be right.

Interestingly, the megapixel count is down from the D3x, from about 25 to 12. But each pixel holds more information, making the incredible ISO rating possible. Just as interestingly, the price is lower than the D3x, too. The D3s will run about $5,000, with the D3x still up there at more than $8,000.

I'm looking at my twin Canon 5Ds now and asking myself, "why?"

A complete writeup from PRNewswire is available here.


Big news for the Impossible Project

Polapremium made two significant announcements on its website today for everyone who loves instant photography and everyone who loves Polaroid: The camera company has decided to get back into the instant film business and will be producing brand new One Step cameras, and they have commissioned the Impossible Project to produce Polaroid-branded film in the middle of next year.

From the announcement:
Large-scale production and worldwide sale of The Impossible Project's new integral film materials under its own brand will already start in the beginning of 2010 - with a brand new and astonishing black and white Instant Film and the first colour films to follow in the course of the year.

The fledgling efforts to re-create Polaroid film always seemed to me to be, indeed, an impossible project, but it's a dream that's apparently going to come true.

Polapremium's announcement is here.


Really? A new autofocus system from Canon? Yay!

So, as we shake the dust off ourselves from the long project in the desert, we come back to the VERY welcome news about the new Canon 7d that will be released at the end of September. Here are the highlight specs, as reported first by Engadget:
18 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor with 8 frames per second continuous shooting, 1080p 24fps HD video with full manual control, a 3-inch LCD, 19-point AF system, and wireless flash control.

This camera is not aimed at the professional, and we're disappointed it doesn't have a full-frame sensor. BUT ... and this is a huge "but" ... it DOES have a fully redesigned autofocus system, with 19 crosspoints. We've held off buying a replacement for our heavily used and increasingly battered 5D for this very reason: We won't plunk down the money until Canon makes the improvements needed for better autofocus performance in low light. The good news is that the 7D seems to be a step in that direction, and we can only hope the system will be grafted on to an upcoming version of the 5D.

The DPR review is over here.

Canon's press release is over here


why'd they do that? {media}

Time Magazine's cover picture about the protests in Iran carries a credit line that says the photo has been "digitally altered." It doesn't say HOW the photo was altered, so I find the disclosure pretty much useless.

It's fairly common practice for page designers to extend the sky at the top of a picture or the dark areas at the bottom of a picture to fill out the dimensions of a page, and/or to create a handy place to put text. But Time doesn't say exactly what was done to the cover photo, and I find myself doubting that it is even a photo at all.

It's possible that the sky was extended here. I don't think the photographer would compose the picture with all that empty space at the top of the frame. It just doesn't make sense, compositionally speaking. So sure, the designer could create a place for the cover text to go.

But without more information about the digital alteration, I found myself looking harder at the overall picture, and the more I do, the more it looks like a collage to me. Was the woman really standing in the foreground with her arms raised like that? Or was she "layered" into the photo? Was she really standing in front of structure that way? And what is that fence with the people standing behind it in the middle of the frame? Was that really there too? Or is this a composited picture with three or four source photographs?

I don't have a problem at all with composited photos. I once tried for days to get a shot of New York's Times Square that conveyed all the energy and light and movement of the scene, and I found it impossible to get. So I brought pieces of FIVE photos together, and I thought it worked ok:
But I would never have presented the photo as a straight "news" photo.

In the age of digital, telling the truth photographically is more important than ever. Any publication that wants to maintain its credibility and authority owes it to readers to explain what was done to a photo, and why. It's been a battle for years. Remember when New York Newsday doctored photos to show ice-skating rivals Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan on the same practice rink before the Olympics? Remember the differences in skin tone between Time and Newsweek versions of the same shot of O.J. Simpson? And remember when an L.A. Times photographer was fired for cloning in a bit of the crowd in a protest photo from Iraq?

Photo editors for news organzations are generally pretty clear on the subject: You can't alter an image digitally beyond what might be done in a darkroom. You can adjust for exposure, color balance and saturation, say, but you can't put something there that wasn't there in the original.

Back a few years ago at the Chronicle, we had a special baseball preview section that raised similar concerns. The cover shot prominently featured then-Giants manager Dusty Baker. His arms were extended, and he was holding a ticket in one of his hands. But the frame cut off a tiny portion at the end of the ticket. A page designer filled in the corner of the ticket because it suited his design needs for the cover. That sparked an hours-long "conversation" between the art department and the photo department that at times got more than a little hot. We eventually decided to have a somewhat less than perfect design for the sake of maintaining the integrity of the photo. The photo hadn't been altered significantly at all, but we all felt (well, almost all of us felt) that the principle was worth defending.

I'm pragmatic about it. If a compelling cover about the Iranian election leads more people to read about what's happening there, I'm all for it. And if you want to use a combination of two or three or a dozen photos to create that compelling cover, that's fine. But just tell me that's what's going on. And that means saying more than Time has in this case, that a photo has been "digitally altered." That's just not enough.


"give me those nice, bright colors"

"I don't think there's a better way to look at the world than with Kodachrome 64 ... "

-- Steve McCurry, whose shot of an Afghan girl is known throughout the world.

McCurry may be right, but apparently Kodachrome's time has come and gone. Kodak announced today that it will stop producing the color transparency, which the company said makes up less than 1 percent of its business.

The official announcement is over here, along with a very nice interview and slideshow of McCurry's work. (He said his archive includes almost a million transparencies, and about 90 percent of them are Kodachrome.) There's also an invitation to share your Kodachrome memories.

Time magazine has a short history and appreciation of Kodachrome over here. Kodak hasn't been processing the film for two decades. There's only one place left in the world that develops it, and it only processes a couple of hundred rolls of film a day.

feed your brain

Want to be a better tennis player? Play against somebody who's better than you. Want to be a better writer? Read the people you admire. And if you want to be a better photographer, look at some really good work.

Flickr is fun and encouraging, and there's lots of really good work to sample. But there's a lot that's not so hot, and there's a lot that feels more like Facebook than photography. The social networking ramble ain't restful, as Satchel Paige might have said. It can be a huge distraction and keep you mired in mediocrity. So work in some time looking at things that will take you from where you are to where you really want to go.

PDN's Photo Annual 2009 has been out for a litle while now, and it's a great place to see some of the best current work of the world's leading photographers, all brought together in one package. And if you're wrestling with how to design your website, take a look at the award-winners in that category. It might help you articulate what kind of presentation you're trying to achieve.


worth watching {local}

I succumbed to the lure of digital photography about five years ago. To that point, I was a film snob. Digital was silly, inconsequential and low-quality. (So much has changed in the quality part.) ... I looked down my nose at people who were all about the quick and easy of digital.

Then one day in the darkroom at the San Francisco Photography Center, where I would spend hour after weekend hour making prints, I had a casual conversation with someone who said, "Oh yeah, I've been posting a picture from my life pretty much every day for the past two years."

What? The same day? A picture produced and posted the same day, every day? Just like that? I went to the site, went through the archives, and that was that. I was in. The next day bought my first digital camera, a Canon Elph.

Then came the love affair with Flickr, which at least in the early years seemed more like a place for photoblogs than the gallery/exhibit vibe that it has now. And then came all the independent photoblogs, from everywhere, about everything. As you know, some are good. And some are ... really not so good. Just because you have the technical ability to give people an insight into your daily life doesn't mean that it's interesting. (For more examples, see Twitter.)

Anyway, when you DO come across a really good photoblog, and it's about the town you live in, well, it's worth talking about. Manuel Guerzoni is a really good photoblogger. His style isn't easily described. He's does street documentary, excellent portraits, even a moody landscape now and then. But his photoblog is full of personality and insight, with a quirky sensibility, and that's really what you're looking for: Someone who sees the ordinary in an extraordinary way. Good stuff.


Hit the shower

An Alabama company will make fully washable shower curtains from your digital photographs. Upload your files, specify a size and four weeks later you get the shower curtains of your dreams.

From photoshowercurtain.com:
"Custom shower curtains are no longer a dream! You can have a unique shower curtain printed that is just as unique as you are."
At $199 or $149 depending on size, this could be a fascinating opportunity for inspired interior design, or an expensive bauble for the photo egoist who has everything? You decide.

It's almost not fair {gear}

Olympus unveiled its Micro Four Thirds camera today, and it has done nothing but produce a surge in camera lust.

You are probably familiar with the Four Thirds (and Micro Four Thirds) system: It is a line of cameras and interchangeable lenses that are meant to marry the size advantage of compact cameras and the quality images produced by DSLRs. So far, Panasonic has produced two Micro Four Thirds models, the Lumix DMC DH-1, which has HD video, plus the DMC G1, which is essentially the same camera but without video.

Now comes the Olympus version, the E-P1 and god it is sweet.
First there's the retro styling: It looks like the pocket film camera that Olympus introduced in 1959. From the company's release:
When Olympus launched the legendary Pen series of cameras in 1959, this bold and revolutionary achievement rewrote the history of photography. Designed by renowned style guru Yoshihisa Maitani, the Pen represented the perfect marriage of simplicity, style and performance.
But this camera is most definitely modern: 12 megapixels, image-stabilized, integrated dust-removal and a three-inch screen. It doesn't come cheap, though: The anticipated price for the body, which will be available next month, is $700. Olympus has also announced two lenses, a Zuiko 14mm-42mm f3.5-5.6 ($800) 3X zoom and a 17mm f2.8 ($900) prime.

What you've got here is a camera with a sensor about 9 times the size of a "normal" compact camera (with useable ISO up to 1600), plus some gorgeous lenses, and it all fits in a package that would fit nicely in a jacket pocket.



A new photo blog at the Times

(Photo by Danny Wilcox Frazier)

The New York Times has launched a new photo blog, and, as you would expect, it's extremely well-executed. The navigation is simple and clear, the quality of the photos is stunning, and the ambition of the photographers and the photography is high.

That's all to the good.

What's maybe not so good is that Lens features work that might not be able to find a home in the paper itself, which doesn't say good things about the paper's priorities. The work is good enough for the website, but not good enough for the paper. Ouch.

An editor of mine once said that the toughest thing about putting out a newspaper was not deciding what to put in it, but deciding what to leave out. But we'll take the positive view that the web provides a place for what otherwise not might find a home. And we applaud the efforts of the people at the Times who did the hard work of launching the site, and it'll be a regular stop on our daily web visits.

More on the site from Photo District News, here.


Polaroid Week on Flickr

So, it's Polaroid Week over on Flickr, and it's one of my favorite weeks of the year. (Actually, it happens twice a year, but why be anal about it?) At any rate, all the people who love the qualities of instant film show off some of their best work, and it's really a treat. It's amazing, really, how good the quality is, which is true of Flickr overall. Yes, there are plenty of professionals who look down their noses at the site, but no matter. I think more and more pros are coming to realize what a resource it is, and that image buyers regularly go there and find the things they need.

But we were talking about 'Roid Week 2009. You'll find photos shot with 680s and Spectras and Swingers and Land cameras, and films like TIme Zero and Image and Fuji 100c. It's another one of the fine qualites of Flickr in general: If you want to learn about shooting instant film, there is an amazing amount of knowledge available, for free, from dedicated, generous photographers. Want to find out how to manipulate an SX-70 print? No problem. Want to see what happens if you pour a bleaching agent on some integral film? Here's a ton of examples. Ok, so I am a bit of a proselytizer when it comes to Flickr. So shoot me. But how many books do you think you'd have to buy, and how much searching would you have to do, to come even close to what's available to you with just a few clicks on Flickr?

Alright, end of speechifying. I really did want to talk about one thing in particular about shooting instant film, and especially expired instant film: The results are always unpredictable. You never know exactly how the next roll is going to behave, and you only get to play with its particular characteristics for 10 shots, because then the roll is over and it's on to the next one. But that's the beauty of it: The photographs are completely unique, and cannot be duplicated, and they won't ever happen in the same way again. You can't reproduce the results, and that's going to drive some people crazy. But I think of it as photographic jazz: Sometimes it just happens, and it's perfect.

That's not to say that the shot I posted above is perfect. Hell no. But it does have the qualities I look for with expired film, ones that suit the subject particularly well in this case. I was walking in the forest above the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve along the San Mateo Coast in Northern California. The reserve is a particularly wonderful place, both for the tidepools and harbor seals at the shoreline, but also for the forest of evergreens up above the coast on the bluff overlooking the beach. I go there more than I want to admit. And every time I go there, I find something new.
A couple of days ago, I was walking along at dusk, carrying a converted Polaroid 110a on a tripod. A young couple passed me on the trail, and as they passed by, they turned around to look at the camera. So I stopped and we chatted about cameras and Polaroids and the fact that yes, you CAN still buy instant film (from Fuji), and maybe, maybe, the Impossible Project will somehow succeed and some of the great Polaroid formulas will be manufactured again. The two of them, Nathan and Jamie, couldn't have been sweeter or more curious or more enthusiastic. Just really nice kids. So then I asked if I could take their picture, because they both had a timeless look about them. Well, by timeless I mean, they looked like I could have known them in college, and that's another thing I don't want to admit, just how long ago that was.

So the photo I took this week looks like it could have been shoved in a box back then, and maybe now I came across it as I was going through some old stuff in the attic, along with some patchouli oil and tie-dyed shirts and some stems and sticks from the Woodstock trip. (And I say this all very lovingly, without a trace of sarcasm. I wasn't a real hippie, I didn't grow up on a commune or anything, but I always thought the hippies were the folks with the biggest hearts. I'm naive that way.)

So that's what Polaroid Week and expired film can do for me. And it can do it for you, too, if you like.


The White House on Flickr

I've been getting Obama's Tweets for quite awhile, and of course his team emails on a very regular basis, but I didn't know until today that the White House has an "official" photostream on Flickr. Pretty cool stuff. Sure, it's filtered, but it's a backstage, behind-the-scenes look at images that there's no room for on tightly managed news sites.

Obama had a Flickr stream during the campaign, too, and I admit that although I had made him a contact, the campaign photos were not as compelling as seeing him at work in the White House.

Yes, there's a bit of "gee whiz" going on on my part. And maybe there's a "so what?" factor out there, too. But I like the access that's being granted here.


Turn that building into a video game? OK! {local}

I didn't get to see this, dammit, but it sure is cool. The people at Obscura Digital made the old Mint building at the corner of Fifth and Mission look like something out of an animated movie. From the description:
So this was a really sweet project. Ricky and the boys hoisted 5 20K Christies up to the 4th floor balcony overlooking the plaza. The other two were stacked away on the ground and off at a 40 degree angle from the smaller building.

We modeled the entire space in 3D and then created media for it in 3DSMax. Very cool.

The media we created was designed to work directly with the architecture and synchronized to a music track created by our own Alex Oropeza. Some of the new guys did some really amazing work with the media, and the FireFrame software did the trick by synchronizing and blending all the projectors and fitting it perfectly with the old SF Mint building.

The project was commissioned by one of our clients, McAfee, who are great to work with and really creative.
I don't know WHY they did it, but the fact they CAN do it is enough for me. Please put me on the mailing list.


Shooting fire

I think fire is one of the hardest things to photograph well. The scenes are almost always high contrast, there are hot spots that drive your camera sensor crazy, and freezing the action with a flash is a bad option, because you really don't want the flash taking away from the light of the fire.

So what to do?

Isa "Glittergirl" Isaacs was holding her Temple of Poi Fire Dancing Expo in Union Square on Saturday evening, so there was going to be a whole new set of challenges. Isa is an amazing person and an incredible teacher, and if you'd like to learn how to fire dance yourself, you can't do better than learning from her.I first met Isa about seven years ago, in a back street near the Chronicle building in a not-so-fashionable part of the South of Market. She was leading one of her fire classes, and the chance meeting eventually resulted in a story. Her school has done really well since then, and her free Union Square event was part of San Francisco's dance week festivities.

But like I said, photographing fire is really tricky. You don't want to set your camera on automatic exposure, because the light varies too dramatically between the hot bright light of the fireballs and the much darker ambient light. The camera is not very smart, and it's going to be fooled. Many point-and-shoots and DSLRs have multiple scene modes, but I don't think they have one for fire festivals yet.

If you try an aperture-priority setting, you'll get either a well-exposed flame with a completely dark background, or you'll get an overall scene that is much too bright. The same is true with shutter-priority. The camera will adjust for the flame or the scene, but not both.

(the camera's auto settings will often give you a result that's too dark.)

So you you have only option left, manual exposure. I know that's going to intimidate at least some of you (and me!), but in this case you'll likely only have to make the settings once, and then you're good to go. I find the right manual setting by taking a bunch of shots, and then picking the exposure that looks the best -- bright flame, but with sufficient ambient light. And I do the test shots with the highest ISO setting possible (in my case, 1600) and the widest aperture, so I can get as much shutter speed as possible. The performers are going to be moving, and I want the best chance of freezing the motion and getting a nice sharp picture.When I look at the test shots, I don't mind if some of the highlights in the flames are blown out, because that's the way flames are supposed to look -- extremely bright. And I try to let in at least some ambient light, so the performers don't look like they are standing in total darkness.

We were lucky on this night, because the show was beginning before it was totally dark, so we'd have some ambient light to work with. (Oh yes, I'm sure Isa had this in mind when she set the timing for her show. Uh huh.)
I was using a 135mm, 2.0 fixed-length lens, and I could afford to expose for about 1/200th or 1/320th of a second at 1600 ISO to get the look I wanted.
Compositionally, I looked for the moments when the dancers held the flame close to their faces, so their features would be lit up by the light of the fire. The flames are cool, but it's still all about the people.

There are lots more photographs from lots of other people over on Flickr.


The bust and the boom {local}

(photo by Brian Rose)
Brian Rose did a book that documented the dotcom boom in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, as seen through the effects on the architecture of the region. It's "California Dreamin' ... House + Home + Housing" and it gets right at the explosion of creativity and innovation of the time.
There are lofts and planned villages set around transportation hubs, and the sprouts of a new urbanism in some of the grittiest neighborhoods of the city.
Despite the scruffiness of the area, the side streets near the Knox are lined with live/work lofts. There are outstanding examples of modern architecture sprinkled throughout South of Market, but it's the wild diversity of the place that creates vitality. The humblest of sheds, the parking lots and gas stations, all are intrinsic to the edgy urban character of the area. Even upscale corporate housing like the Avalon Towers stands next to--perhaps a bit aloofly--its funky neighbors.
Look at the skyline of San Francisco today, with Rincon One rising over everything and a mini megopolis rising on the southern waterfront. Yes, the recession has put hundreds of projects on hold or scuttled them entirely, but there's movement and change and growth happening in spite of it. Where there were rotting piers,
(photo by john curley)

now there's a new part of the city rising, fueled by the billions of dollars the state is spending on stem cell research. You have to think that it's time for another look.


{video} You just have to hope that Obama's new dog doesn't have issues like this

I know, I know, this one has been around awhile, but it just reached me. Wow.

I do a fair amount of talking in my sleep, and when I was younger I'd replay basketball games, with shouts and jumps and bumps, all from the comfort of my bed. But this poor dog, Bizkit, has to be verrrrry tired when it wakes up. It clearly doesn't get much rest at night.

{local} Oh those Easter bonnets ...

Are there Easter celebrations like this anywhere other than San Francisco?

Thirty years ago, three bored friends decided to spice up Easter by dressing up in religious clothing. On Sunday, several thousand people crowded Dolores Park to keep the tradition going strong. They were dressed as nuns and bunnies and lots of other things. They sprawled on the grass and listened to bands and voted with their applause in the "Hunky Jesus" contest.

It all happens because of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. They once awarded me one of their Plenary Indulgences. I was the sports editor of the San Francisco Chronicle at the time, and the Cal football team was trying to decide whether to participate in a bowl game in Arizona. The state's voters had rejected a proposition that would have created a state holiday in memory of Martin Luther King Jr. I didn't think the team should go. The sisters thought I was right, and they sent along one of their "indulgences" as a sign of solidarity.

I was raised Catholic, and I knew what a plenary indulgence was: It let you out of the punishment associated with a forgiven sin. It didn't forgive sins, or give you license to commit new ones, but it might spare you years in Purgatory burning off the penalty for the sin. (And if any of you theological scholars wish to dispute my interpretation, by all means weigh in.)

Anyway, getting that indulgence was one of the highlights of my tenure in the sports job. In what other city would cross-dressing nuns take a stance about a football team's postseason travel plans?

The sisters do lots of good things besides making Easter in San Francisco colorful and extravagant and fun. They fight the good fights for social justice and equal rights. They raise about $100,000 a year for charitable purposes. And they're beautiful.

There is a nice history of the sisters over here.


Nan Goldin's holding an auction

From an interesting but disturbing feature piece in the The Telegraph, in which Nan Goldin explains why she is selling some of the collectibles she has gathered for decades:

"I didn't want to get rid of any of it but I'm completely and totally without money," she says frankly, carrot-curled head held high.
another snippet:

From the start, she found other people's sexuality fascinating. Her two portraits of Bea – a drag-queen friend of hers – which are part of the sale, are typical of this: raw and unflinching, but affectionate at the same time. "Right now, I don't have much of a sexual life but I'm interested in other people's relationships and I feel closer to them when I photograph them – for me it's a sign of love. I've never taken a picture out of meanness," she says, exhaling smoke, "but maybe I should start."

It's a good read, and it's here.

Joe McNally knows how to use light

Combining sharpness and blur in the same photo is a great way to imply motion. When Joe McNally was on assignment shooting dancers in Dubai, he did it twice in this awesome photograph.

He uses a Nikon D3, and in this case he set it for a triple exposure and bookended the flashes. He explains how he did it (a little) in his post here.

I'm also working my way though his excellent book, The Hot Shoe Diaries. You can get it at Amazon.

a big blow

"Beginning March 22nd, 2009, Alaska's Mount Redoubt, began a series of volcanic eruptions, and continues to be active to this date. Ash clouds produced by Redoubt have pushed 65,000 feet into the sky, disrupting air traffic, drifting across Cook Inlet, and depositing layers of gritty ash on populated areas of the Kenai Peninsula and Anchorage, about 180 km (110 miles) to the northeast. Mount Redoubt has erupted at least five times since 1900, with the most recent event taking place in 1989."
via Boston.com and Rachel Lea Fox


The very last Polaroid shipment

The sad day we all knew was coming has arrived.

A photo supplies wholesaler in New Jersey says it has received the last shipment of Polaroid film ever made. The shipment arrived Monday. And that's that.

You can still buy Polaroid 600 and Spectra films, at least, as they say, until supplies last. From the company's website:
Polaroid, founded in 1937 by Edward H. Land, was most famous for its instant film cameras, which reached the consumer market in 1948 and continued to be the company’s flagship product until its decision last year to cease all production in favor of digital photography products. Unique Photo is the largest film supplier in the United States and has enjoyed its 62 year relationship with the Polaroid Corporation and looks forward to helping it's loyal customers moving forward with their instant photographic needs.
The firm's website is here. Order what you can while you can. The prices are getting ridiculous on eBay.

And you can keep your fingers crossed for The Impossible Project.

via PhotographyBlog

{local} We're Number Two!

(photo is a detail from The Onion's first print edition in San Francisco four years ago. True then, true now.)

By "we" I mean San Francisco, and I suppose we could order a recount, but hey, it's just a silly poll. But still, Popular Photography went to some lengths to arrive at an allegedly "objective" list of the top photo cities in the United States. Here is their criteria:

To measure the differences, we compared the 30 most populous cities in the United States across 10 categories, including annual average percentage of sunny hours, number of days with measurable precipitation, per-capita number of camera shops and museums and galleries that exhibit photos. We even counted private security firms, since we’ve found that the more rent-a-cops, the harder it can be to take pictures in public.

Our sources? Municipal websites and federal databases from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, General Services Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Environmental Protection Agency, as well as private sources such as online yellow pages.

Among the things they said about San Francisco:
The onshore Pacific winds keep the East Bay smog in its place, allowing the cat-footed fog to drift through the treetops and bridge cables. And passing clouds and fog soften the light when you want lower contrast.
Which of course is a very nice way of saying it's often cold as hell, windy as the Senate chambers and probably overcast. But somehow, a lot of times, it just all works.

The complete list:
1) Denver
2) San Francisco
3) Austin (with a mention of the SXSW music festival)
4) Louisville
5) Jacksonville
6) Seattle
7) Fort Worth
8) Philadelphia
9) Dallas
10) San Jose (which of course proves the essential ridiculousness of lists like this.)

The complete story is here.

{local} we can't help it; we just love sexpigeon

here's a little bit of why.

and here's the site.


high beams

An ad for Honda uses hundreds of car headlights to create pixel art. Just plain cool. (And I love the rising sun in the background.)

via Gizmodo

{profile} Making beautiful images at age 98

NPR has a lovely profile of 98-year-old architectural photographer Julius Shulman. There are wonderful photographs accompanying the piece, and you could learn more about composition than a dozen tutorials could teach you just by examining his photographs carefully.
But what most typifies a Shulman/Nogai photograph is meticulous composition that will guide your eye endlessly, if you allow it. These photographers are notorious for the amount of careful consideration that formulates each frame. They've spent up to nine hours on assignment to leave with a mere 11 frames. Eleven perfect frames, that is.
I love Shulman's thoughts on the term "photo shoot," too. We all fall victim to the terminology ... "Oh, I have a shoot on Wednesday ..." Makes us sound all professional and fancy and busy and important. But haven't you also felt a little ridiculous saying that, too? A bit of a poseur? Shulman (and his partner Juergen Nogai articulate it perfectly:
"Shoot?" says Shulman, laughing. "Look at me. Do I have a gun? I'm a photographer." Nogai explains: "People are not thinking anymore; they're just shooting." Some would agree that the digital age has enabled a decrease in deliberation. If you can fill up a memory card with 1,000 images until you get the perfect one, after all, why stop to carefully compose?
The profile is here.

An excellent slideshow is here.


a wedding picture you won't see in many portfolios

Three little wedding guests playing outside on the lawn. Did David Lynch get married in Poland?

Photo by Federico Caponi

via Burn

i want to go to there

A sumptuous new place for photographic exhibitions (and eventually lectures and workshops) is opening in L.A. this weekend, the Annenberg Space for Photography.
The Annenberg Space for Photography is an entirely new cultural destination dedicated to exhibiting both digital and print photography in an intimate environment. The space features state-of-the-art, high-definition digital technology as well as traditional prints by some of the world's most renowned photographers and a selection of emerging photographic talents as well.
It's 10,000 square feet of photographic goodness. It's at 2000 Avenue of the Stars in Century City - on the former site of the Shubert Theatre. Hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 11am-6pm, closed Monday and Tuesday. The first exhibit is L8S ANG3LES, in which 11 prominent photographers give multidimensional looks at the city.

A very appreciative and thorough preview is available at PhotoInduced.

The home page for the Annenberg Space for Photography is over here.

{gear} Canon's entry-level DSLR with HD video

Canon introduced the Rebel T1i today, another step in the obsoleting of camcorders. Headlines: 15MP CMOS sensor, HD video, 920,000 dot monitor, Digic 4 processor, all for $800, body only. (The camera also has Canon's sadly lacking 9-point autofocus system, alas.) In all, it looks like a really terrific lower-cost alternative to the $3,000 Canon 5d Mark II if you're ready to jump into video.

Lengthy details and the official Canon announcement are readily available, but dpreview has an extensive hands-on review.


very simple: 1) Open the last saved jpeg image 2) Save it as a new jpeg image with slightly more compression 3) Repeat 600 times

this is what you get:

Generation Loss from hadto on Vimeo.

thanks to hadto

via Boing Boing

{local} the "character project" is coming to SF

Last summer, USA Network, in collaboration with the Aperture Foundation, sent out 11 prominent photographers to capture the character of America. Now the book is out, and a traveling exhibition will visit a number of cities, including San Francisco on May 8 and 9th (I'd tell you exactly where the exhibition is going to be, but the project's sadly annoying and flash-heavy website just doesn't work very well).
The effort has lofty intentions:
"Character Project is USA Network's ongoing initiative committed to celebrating America's characters -- the interesting, dazzling and distinctive people, from all walks of life, who make this country extraordinary."
Yes, there's a marketing hook: USA Network's "Characters Welcome" tagline is at the root of it all, but who cares? The network gave meaningful work to some wonderful photographers, including Mary Ellen Mark (whose photo is used above), Richard Renaldi, Jeff Dunas, Marla Rutherford to name a few. It'll be a show worth checking.

bruce haley's "tao of war photography"

Stunning. Frightening. Important.

Those are the words that leaped to mind when going through Bruce Haley's portfolio. He's a Frank Capra award winner, has photographed conflicts all over the world, and if you've ever thought about what it would be like to be an international photojournalist, here is a gritty description from someone who has been there. Some time ago (more than a decade, actually), he wrote The Tao of War Photography. Now he's put it on his website. Some excerpts:
8. If a rebel commander asks whether you would like to be buried in his country or your own, he may very well be serious and not just testing your resolve...
18. If you don’t understand the entire concept of indirect fire, do not go to a war zone... If you only remember one thing from this article, let this be it.......
31. Huge, menacing rats like to perch upon sleeping photographers’ faces at 3 a.m in seedy hotels in warring portions of the former Soviet Union.....
64. d. Truly give a damn about the world......

I'll just confess my ignorance right up front. Haley is one of the people I I should have known about already, but hadn't. For the more knowledgeable among you, forgive my naivete. I can understand the rolling of the eyes. But I won't let my ignorance lead to embarrassed silence.

Give yourself a little time with this site. It will remind you of what photography can do, and the difference it can make. The whole list of "diverse bits of good advice peeking above the sarcasm" is over here.

Via "We Can Shoot Too"