The best of the best from 2010


The last week of the year is often one of the slowest weeks for news, so organizations prepare wrap-up stories and year-end features to fill the void. For you, the news consumer, it's a great opportunity to sample some of the best photography from the previous year. Here are some of the best collections from 2010 (click on the photos to go to the sites):

The best in photojournalism for 2010 from the New York Times:

We all know the interwebs have made it incredibly easy to find in-depth information about just about anything, and photography may be one of the best examples. Techniques, equipment, marketing, inspiration ... it's all there for the finding. The folks at Photo Shelter came up with a list of the best blog posts of 2010, and the amount and breadth of information is astonishing. Bookmark the post for ready-reference during the year:

The contest run by National Geographic consistently turns up some of the most stunning photography of the year. The winners in the People, Places and Nature categories have been selected:

Some of the best photojournalism happens on the playing field, and the editors at Sports Illustrated have a roundup of the best of 2010:  

The Guardian also has a terrific year-end wrap-up of its best imagery from 2010:

 Here's the collection that Reuters put together for 2010:

And the collection from Time Magazine:

Want to get into the act yourself? Pictures of the Year International is calling for entries in its 68th annual competition. Prizes and categories have been increased, including one for Multimedia Portfolio of the Year. Details are at the site (and the results from previous years' competitions are also fun to look at):
And speaking of getting into the act yourself: Google has a very cool new feature (still in beta) that gathers the best photographic moments from people in your social network and links it all together as a search result. So, if you searched for "Year in Pictures 2010," one of the results will be the collections of people you're connected with. (Let's leave the discussion of how they've collected this information for another day.)  Here are my results: 

Happy New Year, fellow photography enthusiasts. May your shutters never stick, may your light always be right, and may your backups never fail.


Photo apps you'd like to find under the tree

sent via iphone with Hipstamatic and Motion Picture app effects. (and thanks richard koci hernandez for the app suggestion.)


Added later:

I hadn't see any iPhone apps that could upload directly to Blogger, so we tried the Motion Picture app, and here are the results. Pretty slick. Also, the tremendous number of photo apps for mobile phones makes makes me wish that we had as many choices when we're editing photos at the desktop.

Along those lines, here's a list of the photo apps I like the best. I'm always watching for new ones, and you probably are too. Feel free to share any that you like a lot:

Hipstamatic: Of course. Easily one of the all-time greats. They got the effects really right, and so what if you see them everywhere? They're beautiful.

Instagram: The latest and the greatest way to share photos with your friends and the photo community. (See post below for more thoughts.)

Mill Colour: A very sophisticated set of controls for adjusting gamma, exposure, and other values, with a nice set of effects, as well.

Best Camera: The mobile phone app from Chase Jarvis, based on the thinking that the best camera is the one you have with you. Heavy emphasis on sharing and participating, but the effects aren't the most interesting. But it's impossible to argue with the logic: Photography isn't about the equipment, it's about vision.

Camera Bag: One of the best early apps, and I find myself still using it for the "Helga" effect alone. Simple and straightforward, a very easy way to take, process, and share mobile photos.

PS Express: The photo app from Photoshop, and how can you quibble with the masters of image handling? Still, it's not my favorite app for adjusting values; the sliders are clunky and inexact when I use them, but your results may vary.

Lo Mob: An extensive library of film-like effects, everything from overlapping 35mm film in a medium format camera to through-the-viewfinder looks. Worth it just for the niche factor.

Photogene: My favorite app for making simple adjustments to exposure and levels and for cropping. Easy and straightforward, and easy sharing, too.

The Photographers Ephemeris: An amazingly powerful app that can help you get that picture of, say, the full moon rising over Alcatraz Island. The app lets you plot the paths of the rising and setting sun and moon, and figure out when and where you  have to be to get the shot you want. Really good for when you're getting ready to travel.

Quad Camera: Take four shots in quick succession, and this app will combine them into one photo for you. You can also adjust the time between shutter clicks.

Photo Calc: A very nice reference tool to have in your pocket for figuring out equivalent exposures, depth of field values and other basic but sometimes complicated stuff. No math required, which in my book is a big plus.

Photo Studio: A vast selection of effects, and the cool thing here is that you can layer them any way you like, then save the process as a preset to use again.

Strobox: Did you come up with a lighting configuration that you'd like to save? Or did you come across one that you'd like to try later? This app makes it easy to generate lighting diagrams.

Camera Plus: The interesting thing here is that pictures are saved to a "lightbox," where you can process and post them later. It makes it possible to take pictures faster and then let the phone crunch the big files later.

Shake It: Instant photography for the mobile phone. Development is affected by motion, so you can shake your phone like you used to shake your Polaroid while it developed.

True HDR: This app takes three exposures at different exposure values, then merges them for an HDR-like result. I've had mixed success with this one, but they seem to be rolling out updates on a regular basis, so it's worth watching as the app evolves.

Blend Cam: Take multiple exposures with your phone, or layer images from your photo library. You get to choose a variety of blending modes, too. Very cool, very fun.

360: A very easy way to take 360-degree panoramic photographs. No stitching necessary.


Get the truth about your photos

Gary Fong gives extremely valuable photo critiques at the We Are Photographers photo site.

This isn't the Gary Fong who sells the Lightsphere and other flash modifiers. This is the Gary Fong who, among other things, has been a jurist for the Pulitzer Prize, been a judge for the Picture of the Year competition run by the National Press Photographers Association, was twice named the Photographer of the Year by the California Press Photographers Association, and five times was named the Photographer of the Year by the SF Bay Area Press Photographers Association.

You want credentials? He's got credentials.

If you'd like to improve your photography, and especially if you want to become a better photojournalist, Gary has opinions worth listening to. I haven't summoned the courage to undergo one of his critiques, but I sure learn a lot from reading what he has to say about the work of other photographers. Gary tells the truth, and that's a rare gift.


On Instagram and Flickr

I signed up with Instagram the other day, like a lot of other people have been doing lately. The new photo-sharing site has about 500,000 members now, after going live only about six weeks ago. Amazing.  Lightning in a bottle.

And as Robert Scoble found out during an interview with Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom, most of those new users are from places other than Silicon Valley and New York, which is good. It may seem like Instagram is just a new photo fad for the cool kids, but it's obviously become a lot more than that, and fast.

(A personal ancedote: The other night, I took a look at the photostream of someone who had started following me on Instagram, and I was blown away. Beautiful stuff, and the photos were obviously not generated solely from the Instagram filters, which are admittedly  cool, but limiting. These photos were layered and double-exposed and imaginatively original and just plain fun to see. And the other fun thing was, I didn't recognize a single place I was seeing. Turns out the user was from southern Australia, near the water. A powerful new loose connection.)

So now Instagram has been a featured app of the week on iTunes, and the four very bright young people at the helm have the happy task of figuring out what to do next. No, Systrom told Scoble, they don't plan to go to the web immediately, but when they do they want to keep things simple and let users have a fresh new experience. No, they're not looking for ways to make money yet, they're just trying to keep up with demand on their infrastructure. Good for them, I say. (But Tech Crunch reported that they did sign their first major partnership today, and it was with National Geographic. Not a bad place to start.)

 Instagram is taking off because it is a simple, well-executed platform for launching your photos across most of the major social media outlets -- Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare and .... oh the irony, Flickr!

Flickr! The original photo-sharing site of the digital age, or at least the one that made everyone stop and think about the possibilities. And It makes you wonder why Flickr didn't see, or chose to ignore, what was happening around them. Why aren't you able to send photos from Flickr to Facebook or Twitter?  Rather than ride the tsunami it created, Flickr turned inward. Their universe is limited to the people who are photographers and enthusiasts. Flickr invented photo sharing, ferchrissakes, and they should own the whole sector. But they don't.

Instagram, on the other hand, is positioning itself as the photo sharing site for all of social media. That's a very powerful place to be.


Stunning and amazing stop-motion graffiti

BIG BANG BIG BOOM - the new wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.

Street artist BLU released a breathtaking new stop-motion graffiti video called “Big Bang Big Boom.” It’s a fascinating artistic piece on the beginning, and potential end to life on Earth. Blu also created MUTO, another wall animation in the same way, using public walls and street objects as an enormous canvas.

from  PetaPixel


What if you could take the same picture 30 years later?

British amateur photographer and paramedic Chris Porsz likes to take pictures around his home town of Peterborough. Over the years, he's put together quite a large body of work. But in recent years he's become fascinated with the idea of re-creating some of the pictures he took in the early '80s. But he wouldn't be satisfied with then-and-now photographs of buildings or intersections -- he wanted to track down the people in his pictures and get them to re-create the moment he captured 30 years ago.

Porsz got a local newspaper to help; they'd run the original photographs with an appeal for information. And some of the  subjects have come forward. The amazing thing is, these weren't posed photographs. Porsz didn't know any of his subjects; they were captured as he practiced his street photography.

"I love capturing spontaneous moments and taking pictures of people," he told the Mail Online. "If something caught my eye, I would snap it. But if I'd asked the subjects to pose, it would have ruined it."

Porsz is continuing his project and hopes to eventually produce a book.

More images and a story are over here.


Re-Creating "The Girl With the Pearl Earing" using just a Bic pen

via New York Magazine

Yes, this blog is about photography, but sometimes we come across image-making that we just can't pass up.


A day in the life of New York City, in miniature

The Sandpit from Sam O'Hare on Vimeo.
Here's a  beautiful stop-motion, tilt-shift type short film done by Sam O'Hare with production assistance from Aero Film. (The original music is gorgeous, as well.)

Some tech notes: Although it looks like it was shot with tilt-shift lenses, it wasn't: Sam 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. The camera actually has an automatic cut off after 130 shots, so for longer shots I counted each click and quickly released and re-pressed the shutter release after 130 to keep shooting.

After he amassed his 35,000 stills over the course of five hot days and two evenings in August of 2009, he began putting the look together in post.
The footage was shot as raw NEFs, which I organised and colour graded in Adobe Lightroom. I always shoot raw, as it gives you so much more latitude when grading. These were then output as 720p jpg sequences and quickly stabilised to do the initial edit. Once the edit was mostly locked, all the final footage was re-output at full 2800px resolution, tracked, stabilised and the DOF effect and movement added in Eyeon Fusion, using Frischluft Lenscare. I output the final shots at 1080p. Although most shots stay with the basic tilt-shift effect, some have focus pulls, or more complex depth mattes were built up along with some paint work to allow buildings to drop out of focus next to the in-focus ground. This would not have been possible if I had shot using tilt shift lenses on the camera, which works best with relatively flat landscapes. New York City is anything but flat!
Why didn't he use actual tilt-shift lenses? He needed more flexibility than they could provide: 
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. Shooting tilt-shift requires a tripod, as it is very hard to stabilise afterwards, and gives less flexibility in the final look. I opted to shoot it on normal lenses, which allowed me options in the depth of field and shot movement in post. I used a tripod for the night shots, and my Gorillapod (which is much more portable) where possible, but many locations—like hanging over the edge of a roof or through a gap in fencing on a bridge-- had to be shot hand held, and the inevitable wobble removed afterwards.
Nice stuff, Sam.

(And a tip of the cap to Carlos Gonzales for the heads-up.)


The Indianapolis Star had a funny photo illustration of Coach K at Duke, but then they stopped the presses

Yes, it's hard to root for the Duke University basketball team if you didn't go to school there. The school is expensive, the kids are really smart, and someday they'll likely be your boss.

But maybe more than anything, Duke wins a lot. It's a little like rooting for the Yankees, or U.S. Steel.

On Monday night Duke won its fourth national championship under coach Mike Krzyzewski, and in the process ruined the storybook season of the Butler Bulldogs, the little school (4,200-enrollment) that made it all the way to the NCAA championship game.

The Indianapolis Star ran a story last Friday that pointed out how easy it was to root against Duke. The art department created an illustration for the story that looked like someone had doodled all over Coach K's face. But the illustration only ran in only the early editions of the paper. One of the upper executives of the paper, alerted by staffers, decided that the illustration didn't meet the paper's "standards," and he ordered it pulled. Here's what they ran in later editions:
Coach K called the first illustration "juvenile," and he's right. But then, what's he going to say?

And I know I'm a bad person and all, but I really like the first illustration a lot better. It was fresh and original, not tired and familiar like the second one. And which illustration might make you more likely to read the story? It seems harmless enough to me, and it had the kind of creative verve that newspapers could use right now.

And I'd bet the Duke students themselves might have thought it was funny. They are famously clever fans, and on Monday night, as the sportscasters set up the game, there was one student in the background crowd holding up a hand-made poster that said, "Distracting Poster."

So here's to you, nameless art department person who created the original illustration. Go Bulldogs.


Video shows Reuters photographers in Baghdad killed by US forces

WikiLeaks acquired and today released classified military video footage that shows two Reuters photographers killed by fire from an Apache helicopter as the journalists carried their cameras in a Baghdad neighborhood.

About a dozen people were killed in the incident, and two children were also seriously wounded.

From Wikileaks:

"After demands by Reuters, the incident was investigated and the U.S. military concluded that the actions of the soldiers were in accordance with the law of armed conflict and its own "Rules of Engagement".

"WikiLeaks wants to ensure that all the leaked information it receives gets the attention it deserves. In this particular case, some of the people killed were journalists that were simply doing their jobs: putting their lives at risk in order to report on war. Iraq is a very dangerous place for journalists: from 2003- 2009, 139 journalists were killed while doing their work."


More discussion of the video is here, and at the NYTimes, among many other places.


Nope, this is not a painting. And it's not Photoshop, either.

This one's been around a bit, but just in case you haven't seen it.

A makeup company set up a display in a store window that caught the eye of many people, including University of Hawaii professor Peter Kun Frary, who snapped this photo. The company was trying to make the setting look like it was a painting. They succeeded.

First seen on Laughing Squid. Also on Rocketboom. Also on Urlesque (which maybe had it first? I can't determine which.)


Is art, or is it plaigarism?

The Los Angeles Times has a fascinating story about the photographs of Sze Tsung Leong and David Burdeny. There are a group of photographs that look remarkably similar to each other. But can you say definitively that one photographer has copied the work of another?

The story was originally reported by Photo District News, and the Times adds to the discussion by interviewing collectors and gallery owners for their thoughts on, among other things, the nature of originality and copyright protection.

The LA Times article is here.

Want another timely example of how creative work "borrows" source material? Here is an ad from Pedigree that has wonderful slo-motion photography of dogs getting ready to catch a treat: (And thanks Mark Interrante for the link):

And here is an earlier video from the art collective from Plex Vitalic that, let's just say, might have been a derivative work for the ad:

In other news, and speaking of PDN:

Their selections for the 30 photographers to watch in 2010 was released today, and, as ever, the work is impressive and well worth your time to peruse.


How your photography can change the world

The mission of PhotoPhilanthropy is simple: To change the world, one photo at a time.

To that end, the organization helps photographers connect with philanthropic organizations, NGOs and other groups working for social change. Photographers volunteer their time to help spread the word and tell the stories.

If you'd like to help, PhotoPhilanthropy lists organizations from every part of the world that are looking for people with photographic skills who have a sense of social justice.

They also run a photo essay contest, with divisions for student, amateur and professional photographers. This year's winners, drawn from 219 essays from photographers from 30 different countries, are here.

Looking for a way to get involved? It just got a lot easier.


How to know that it's time to give up photography

(Photo by Chris Hester)

You've had the nagging feelings, right? The money just isn't rolling in the way you thought it would. The contest awards aren't piling up. And, funny, you haven't been sent to Vancouver to explore the Olympics in your signature style.

So is it time to put down the camera and fill out an application at Starbucks?

Peter Phun, a longtime shooter at the Riverside Press-Enterprise who now writes a very helpful photo blog, has made a list of 25 things that might indicate that it's time to give up the dream and put on a tie.

  1. You still can’t get a picture accepted by iStockphoto after maxing out your credit cards on gear.
  2. Your contest entry in the “feline” category, captured during a thrilling photo safari on the plains of the Serengeti, loses out to a picture of a cat napping on a sofa.
  3. When your studio is burglarized, all your photo gear is taken along with the picture frames and mattes — but your photos are mysteriously left behind.
The rest of the list is over here. (Link via Black Star Rising )

And also, if you're looking for more help trying to figure out if you're any good, maybe take a look at Chris Hester's very funny set of Bad Photography over on Flickr. If your shots look like his, umm ... yeah. Not so good. (That's his shot above.)


How Doug Mills creates stunning ski pictures for the New York TImes

It's simple and quite glamorous, really:

"On the day of competition, he leaves his room at 6 a.m., armed with ski boots, skis, long underwear, hats, gloves, crampons and the critically important hand warmers. Carrying 40 pounds of camera equipment — and a computer — he takes a chair lift, then skis to a second chair lift that brings him farther up the mountain. From there, he either skis down to his shooting position or walks (very carefully) with crampons to the spot where he will settle in for a day of photographing in freezing temperatures.

“I take plenty of hand warmers and I tape them to the inside of my sweatshirt,” Mr. Mills says. “I put them around my kidneys, because all your blood goes around your kidneys, so it really helps to keep you warm when you’re basically stuck on the side of the mountain with your feet and ice crampons stuck in the ice. There’s not a lot of movement. You can’t just walk around because you’re basically at a 45-degree angle.”

Well, ok, not really so simple or so glamorous.

There's a slideshow of Mills talking about how he does his thing at the NYTimes site over here.


Ants climb all over Congress in Colombia

A Colombian artist, Rafael Gomez Barros, has placed giant ants over the facade of the National Congress building in Bogota, Colombia. According to the artist, the ants symbolize the people displaced by the continuing armed conflict in Colombia. His exhibit opened Tuesday and will run through March 26. So if you're planning a picnic, you'll want to stay away from Bogota.

(Photo by Associated Press photographer Fernando Vergara)


very very cool stop-motion, time-lapse panoramas (or something like that)

Mustardcuffins has produced an amazing time-lapse video that is truly unique. (And really, how often do you see something that makes you want to use the words "truly unique"? Not often.)

The video is a little like walking around in a dream state -- things look real, but are quite definitely altered. Trippy, surreal, Dali-esqe and mesmerizing are other adjectives that come to mind.

I stumbled upon it via the Brian Auer's Epic Edits blog, who came across it via John Nack of Adobe, which is to say that the video has been out there for awhile, but I don't think it's gotten much play. It should, though.

Mustardcuffins himself hasn't offered up the secret sauce about how he made this (and rightfully so, in my view), but Digital Anthill has taken a shot at figuring out the methodology. You can take a look at that here.


World Press Photo pictures of the year

Italian photographer Pietro Masturzo won the top award in the World Press Photo association's picture of the year contest. t shows women shouting from a rooftop in Tehran in June, protesting the results of the Iranian presidential election.

Click on the picture to go to the World Press Photo site for a look at the other winners. An exhibition of the work will visit 45 countries and more than 100 cities during the year, with a confirmed U.S. date at the United Nations headquarters in New York for most of the month of July.


Very cool panoramas

Want to get a feel for what Burning Man is like without having to drive to the desert? Click on the picture for some very amazing pan