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Archive for September, 2013

‘W’ for Weird; ‘W’ for Wildlife

September 26th, 2013 No Comments

“Weird & Wild,” says NatGeo on the day we post our ‘Weird News’ edition which happens to have a distinct NatGeo flavour: Wildlife.  Here are four stories from the past 24 hours.

A Toad and a Bat

Peruvian wildlife ranger Yufani Olaya was on hand with a camera when a Cane Toad snagged a careless bat.  The remarkable head-on photo he took seems to be that of an extraterrestrial creature.

Though cane toads seem to be omnivorous and voracious, bats don’t seem to be to their taste because the toad spat it out – and though dazed, the bat remained in such good health that it flew off!

The photo and story also appeared on

Yellow Top

Woodpeckers are ‘red top’ birds.  Well, Ken Johnson can show you photographs of a rare ‘yellow top’ woodpecker.  Kerry Wood at The Journal has the story.

Johnson, by his own statements, is “by no means an avid bird watcher” nor does he live “in the rolling countryside.”  All the more interesting, then, that he spotted and photographed these rare birds.

A wildlife expert explained the mutation as a “lack [of] carotenoid in its plumage.”

A Smiling Seal

We stay with the Unusual-Wildlife-in-England theme with a story by James Johnston in the Sunderland Echo.

Retiree Keith Cockerill happened to have a camera on him when a seal waddled up on a pontoon at the River Wear in broad daylight, and said ‘cheese!’

The lucky retiree explained that it “is unusual . . . to see [seals] basking in the sunshine” . . . and, what’s more, smiling!

(Un)Reality Shows

We stay in England and close with a story about a ‘Reality Show’ (which, to some critics, are about wildlife but let’s not go there).  This ‘reality show’ belongs on this blog because it’ll be about photogs!

Zoltan Arva-Toth on Photography Blog brings the interesting news alongwith a lengthy and detailed press release.  The survival test will be amongst style and fashion photographers through nine episodes.  Each participant has to try to make it to the next round by way of completing fashion shoot-related tasks.

Call for contestants to go out soon, in case you’re interested.

A How-To, a Gallery, a Controversy

September 24th, 2013 No Comments

Our weekly three-pack includes the usual tutorial and online gallery but the third component is a photography controversy which category is a weekly staple on our Pro blog.

The Einstein Monolight

We had featured this marvellously versatile piece of gear on our pro blog not too long ago.  Here it is on our retail blog as the subject of a nice tutorial by Rob Taylor on phototuts+ in which the focus is squarely on freezing action.

The amazing feature about this monolight is that this very professional piece of equipment’s “menu is as easy as operating, say, a phone or scientific calculator”!  You can learn how to use it easily, step by simple step.

In his tutorial, Taylor explains how you can set the Einstein to “1/10,000th sec at 1/16th power” and thus use it as a budget strobe to (nearly) freeze a sparrow’s flapping wings and flying water droplets.

Coast to Coast 

Ever thought of driving from New York to California?  That’s what Matt Borkowski did and he has posted some of his images on The Leica Blog.

 These are not ‘Art Photos’ but are snapshots by an unsettled wayfarer; as Borkowski tells it, they are just “some of my favorite images so far from our journey to California.”

He has managed to do quite an amazing job of portraying or expressing loneliness or solitariness.  We see man alone at the end of the land and woman alone at the literal ‘End’ of the road. 

Other images, notably a fine and appealing composition of a coastal town, various vessels, and an aircraft’s wing, impart that feeling of unsettled wanderlust that the photographer conveys in his short writeup.

“I am (HIV)-Positive” – Not

Getty Images sold a photo of a young female model to the New York State Division of Human Rights, which photo was then used for an HIV-Positive awareness campaign.  The problem was that the model is not HIV-Positive, nobody sought her consent, and she suffered a few awkward questions with family and friends as a result of the “I am Positive” admission improperly attributed to her.

Michael Zhang on PetaPixel has the story of this Brooklyn model who is now suing both Getty Images and the NYDHR for compensation.  

What Getty and NYDHR did is very controversial; what the model has done in response is not remotely so.


Awards, Prizes, and Neil Leifer’s Knockouts

September 23rd, 2013 No Comments

Today’s post is all about awards and prizes and who won what, such as—

Maja Daniels wins Getty Images’ Portrait Prize

Out of 721 photographers vying for the $10,000 prize plus a solo exhibition in Paris, Maja Daniels hit the jackpot, reports BJP.  She won Getty Images’ inaugural Contour Portrait Prize.

Daniels’s winning project ‘Mady and Monette’ is about twins who are Parisian peripatetic performers.  Visit her website for some of the images.

Tim Hetherington wins the 2013 McCrary Award for Excellence

Tim Hetherington was a brave and celebrated war photographer who died in a combat zone in Libya in 2011.  Yesterday, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society posthumously awarded him its McCrary Award for Excellence, reports BJP.

Hetherington was a Magnum Photos lensman and had distinguished himself in documentaries and photo books, besides on the front.  An exhibition of his work is being hosted by Liverpool’s Open Eye Gallery.

Frank Gaylord wins $684,844 

This 600 Grand Award won by Frank Gaylord is not a prize for a photographer but a lawsuit’s ‘winnings’ for a sculptor!

However, a photographer and a photo is at the centre of it all.  Marine John Alli took a photograph of Gaylord’s Korean War Memorial sculpture which was used by the United States Postal Service on a stamp, reports Michael Zhang on PetaPixel.

This improper usage of a ‘war’ memorial photograph led to a lawsuit and after the initial ‘skirmishes’ Gaylord’s lawyer took out the ‘heavy artillery’ and won the 600K ‘spoils of war’ for his client.

Neil Leifer wins . . . by knockout!

Sports Photographer Neil Leifer has won an award or two so he belongs in this post.  The featured story is not about him winning another prize, though.  In a particularly fine edition of Darkroom, we get to see Leifer discussing his photos while the Sports Museum holds a retrospective of his work.

If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool sports fan, you know who Neil Leifer is but if the name doesn’t ring a bell for you, this photo will – guaranteed.  Leifer took it, as he did this work of art the night a big-talkin’ ‘Lip’ put a ‘Big Cat’ to sleep. 

Leifer’s photography is . . . a knockout!


“A Buzzard Took a Monkey for a Ride in the Air . . .”

September 18th, 2013 No Comments
English: Image of the front door of Number 10 ...

English: Image of the front door of Number 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The week is closed out with a laugh and a chirp (or a howl) as our semi-weekly look at unusual and weird Photography News for today has humour and wildlife flavours.  All this from the past 24 hours!

The ‘Bunny’ Premier

British Premier David Cameron hosted a rugby team at 10 Downing Street.  One of the players’ way of saying ‘thank you’ was to give Cameron ‘bunny ears’ on the official photo!  He subsequently apologized, as SkySports reported with a reprint of the gone-viral photo.

Cameron was sporting enough to say ‘no harm done,’ reports This is Leicester.  This is not the kind of tomfoolery one can recommend; that said, one can’t deny that it elicits a chuckle!

Penguins = Funny – Yep!

Combining both funny (as in cute) and wildlife is a new book that reveals the ‘real world’ of penguins, whatever that might be.  All we get is one photo on the webpage but the post is worth a read.

Photographer Tui De Roy tells us that “Cartoons are very funny but real penguins are funnier . . .”

Who would have guessed?!

Wolves = Funny – Wot?

Who woulda thot it?  The answer is ‘Yes!’ if a video is to be believed.

HuffPost has a story about photographer Monty Sloan setting out to take videos of wolves.  It was not remotely scary as the funny critters fell in love with him and mobbed him!

This encounter must have been on one of those (not-so) wild animal parks but, still, this is cool!

Who was the Hero?

Before he became a ‘King’ and sang about falling leaves and fallen blossoms, the incomparable Nat Cole sang a song about a buzzard who took a monkey for a ride in the air (and, no, the monkey did not ‘fall’).  Now here’s a tale about a buzzard who took a camera for a ride in the air—

What Digital Camera brings us the ‘tall tale.’  Briefly, someone strapped a GoPro Hero with video-recording turned on on an eagle’s back and posted the (exciting) video online!  (Judging from the video, the eagle straightened up and flew right on its heroic flight.)

Tell me, who was the ‘Hero’ – the GoPro or the eagle?


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Three-Pack Tuesday featuring Parkour

September 17th, 2013 No Comments

Our weekly three-pack takes in a specialist mini-gallery, a mirrorless compact, and a how-to.


This (very) specialized mini-gallery on the Nikon Blog is about an emergent urban ‘x-sport’ that originated in Palestine from whence it gradually spread to Europe: Parkour.

 Claudiu Voicu is “a former parkour athlete” and “professional street sports photographer” so he brings the sensitivity of the athlete to his photography.

This sport, generally associated with marginalized social classes on the fringes, somehow suggests a post-civilizational, even dystopic, view in its imagery.  After all, where is the sports field?  The competitor(s)?  The spectators?  All we see are massive monoliths of concrete and someone who looks like a ‘street tough.’

These facts combine to offer a photographer a very different, and much more artistic, challenge than traditional sports does.  Look at the images and see if you agree.

If they inspire you to try your hand at photographing Parkour, take in Voicu’s tips: compose for the “colourful clothing” in the settting of “the urban landscape.”


The new Fujifilm X-M1 has just been reviewed by Jeff Keller and Andy Westlake on DPReview.

This is a high performance camera that is low maintenance.  In other words, novices who have no desire to creep up to amateur status but do want to take the finest possible photographs may find that the X-M1 is tailor-made for them.

Consider what Keller and Westlake have to say about the sensor: “We’ve been impressed with this 16 megapixel X-Trans APS-C CMOS sensor in our reviews of cameras like the X-E1 and X100S, with JPEG quality so high that you rarely need to use Raw.”

Coupled with that, this camera has different AE modes, filters, and all the electronic and wireless features one could want.  It also stands out from the crowd on a few criteria, such as excellent fill-in flash.

In the tradition of its predecessors, the image quality is more than just a good value for money; it is “exceptional.”


Shutterbug’s fascinating how-to is low on words and high on the pictures.  They teach and explain by illustration as to just how and when to make use of Shallow Depth of Field.

The usages range from creating “painterly effects” to setting off pin-sharp silhouettes to leading and holding the eye on a particular subject.

This tutorial, if nothing else, is a treat on the eyes.

Where Facial Aspect Tends to Form: David English’s B&W Images

September 16th, 2013 No Comments

If ever there was a Photographic category for which colour is not only wholly superfluous, but, unwelcome, and for which black-and-white is ideal, it’s sculpture, particularly of the human form.  (And this from someone who is a proponent of the merits of colour and its general superiority over black-and-white!)

That’s the first impression one gets and the last conclusion one draws from David English’s gallery, Ethereal Shadows, on the Leica Blog.  It contains images of statutary in The Melaten-Friedhof (Melaten Cemetery) in Cologne.

These images are – obviously – studies in form.  But they also have to do with lighting, expression, and – even – emotion.  That emotion is where the ‘expression’ comes in, both intrinsic to the sculptural subject – the sculptor’s expression – as well as that assumed and projected by the photographer.  (Indeed, the photographer says, “For me, the familiar aspect of Melaten relates to my background in classic films. . . . They are often highly stylized with sharp contrasts between brightly and darkly lit areas. Echoing the public’s fascination with psychoanalysis, they tend to project a highly subjective point of view onto the outside world.”)

An image that (quite evidently) combines all these elements to the maximum is ‘L2030606.’  Compare that with ‘L2030340’, another image that also combines the same elements.   But what an immense difference in the emotion and also the expression thereof: the second sculpture’s facial aspect is sorrowful and grief-stricken whereas that of the first one reveals a state of blessed peace, and so the direct, frontal shot and the harsh, dramatic lighting dovetail with, and accentuate, the emotion and expression of the sculptor that are intrinsic to the sculpture itself.  Would switched treatments (in composition, angle and lighting) not have detracted (significantly detracted) from the expression intrinsic to each sculpture?

These inanimate subjects provide a situation where faces lend themselves to black-and-white treatment.  In many or most of these sculptures the facial aspect is a non-complex expression of a particular emotion or state of being, and there is no issue of eye/hair colouration, skin tones, or complexion; therefore, in this case, the facial aspect tends to form.  It is because of the, in this case, face-tends-to-form factor that black-and-white is the right choice for photographing faces.

A careful examination of these photographs will actually yield two lessons.  The first is to recognize when and where to use black-and-white.  This would be (among others) in situations where, to paraphrase Vince Lombardi, “Form isn’t everything, form is the only thing.”  From which we can draw the second lesson as a corollary: depending on what your artistic objectives and intentions are, black-and-white may actually be the better choice when photographing a human subject.

New Gear and Gadget Roundup

September 11th, 2013 No Comments
Image representing Apple as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

New iPhone

As you may know by now, more photos taken with an iPhone are uploaded to photo-sharing sites than those taken with any other camera or smartphone.(!)  As such, it’s only reasonable for a photography blog to take note when a new iPhone hits the shelves – and that happened yesterday with the iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S.

The Telegraph, of all publications, has a very complete breakdown of specs and features plus some links that Apple fanboys may like.  For a tabular comparison, check out Tech Wrench.  Both iPhones have 8 MP cameras but the specs indicate that the 5S’s camera pips that of the 5C.  A textual comparison on Geek confirms this suspicion.

Finally and most importantly, check out Amateur Photographer’s take on the new iPhones for a camera-centric evaluation and a photographer’s point of view.

Both iPhones’ cameras also (of course) shoot video and here too the 5S is slightly better.

New Contraption

If you’ve ever tried to photograph lightning or fireworks, only to go ‘aargh!’, now you can make your family and friends go ‘wow!’   Hours back Shutterbug heralded the arrival of ‘The Lightning Bug.’  

This ‘bug’ is one smart contraption; in essence it is a shutter trigger with a sensor and automation to take the luck (and skill and anticipation) out of shooting lightning and fireworks!  Get the lowdown on the ‘bug’s website.

New (and Cheap) Everything!

To close out our Gear post, here’s Dan Richards on Popular Photography.  Minutes back they published The Best Photography Bargains of 2013.

This article is divided into three parts: Travel / Adventure, Everyday Shooting, and Studio Photography.  The typical reader of this blog will be most interested in the middle category, 

If you’re in for a DSLR, it’s Canon’s very-not-new EOS 60D that comes up trumps!  You see, Richards explains that after the announcement of the 70D, the 60D got steeply discounted to the extent that you can get “a larcenously good deal” for one of the best DSLRs out there.

You’ll also find some nifty little I-didn’t-know-thats, like the SpinLight 360 system, in this article.


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Most Photogenic Religion and Other Curiosities

September 10th, 2013 No Comments

Our semi-weekly tri-pack takes in a camera, a gallery, and an interesting news post.

Brand New from Olympus

Photography sites are abuzz today with Olympus’s new offering: a 16.1 MP Four-Thirds.  That’s the OM-D E-M1.  The big selling point is super-fast AF, named ‘Dual Fast AF.’  In addition, as long as you have a ‘Regular’ or Micro Four-Thirds lens mounted, the camera can focus on any one of 37 phase-detection focus points or focus by 81 contrast-detection target areas.

The camera has a few other upgrades from the previous model; these include an improved grip and improved EVF.  Philip Ryan has a comprehensive overview in Popular Photography which covers such improvements while Chris Cheesman’s summary in Amateur Photographer touches on the high points, coupled with an insight and a conjecture.

The OM-D E-M1 has a wonderful mix of necessary and customary pro functions plus enthusiast features, such as ‘Art Filters.’

World Photographic Cup

FIFA and ICC, watch out: football and cricket ain’t the only sports in town boasting a World Cup.  Another ‘Federation’ has announced another ‘World Cup’, this one for photogsZoltan Arva-Toth has the scoop on Photography Blog.

The sports model extends to the fact that competition will be by way of national teams!   (Coloured jerseys mandatory? Arva-Toth omits this key information.)  The call for entries has already been met by nineteen countries.  Oz is going to send a team.  (Our insider reports say that Shane Warne is arguing with the AIPP that he should be captain.)

We’ll know whether or not this is a real World Cup on finals day simply by observing the winning team’s behaviour: will they take victory laps and squirt champagne all over the place? 

Most Photogenic Religion

Some religious denominations are just more photogenic than others and the drama of Pentecostalism makes it a strong contender for ‘Most Photogenic Religion.’  Damaso Reyes’s photo-story on Pentecostalism on the Leica Blog is proof of this assertion.  Trances, shakes and wailing are in evidence.  

This gallery is brilliant photojournalism that brings a good few ‘decisive moments.’  Don’t neglect to notice some astute use of light (there’s a photo of a woman and a boy, each in religious fervour, but light is treated or employed very differently in these photographs such that each ‘light’ somehow suits the singular fervour of the subject).  

There’s a funny parallel at work in this photo-story: Reyes explains, “Pentecostals believe in the primacy of the direct relationship between god and the believer.”  Well, his photos get the viewer ‘inside the skin’ of his subjects, thus he creates something of a “primacy of the direct relationship” between his subjects and the viewer.


The Gorgeous Hues of Robert Caplin’s Photojournalism

September 9th, 2013 No Comments

It is enough to merely absorb the rich – even intense – and lustrous hues of Robert Caplin’s photographs and luxuriate in them.  How he does it is reflected in what he is principally drawn to: “First and foremost, I’m attracted to beautiful light both hard and soft,” explains Caplin in a just-published interview on the Leica Blog.

Caplin’s work is regularly featured in America’s premier periodicals including National Geographic – but you wouldn’t need to be informed of this fact if you but look at this classically NatGeo image.

To the question, “Was or is there a . . . type of photography that influenced your work or inspired you?” Caplin unhesitatingly answers, “Absolutely – photojournalism.”  The article supplies gobs of pictorial proof demonstrating this fact.  However, inclination towards photojournalism hitched to a preference for colour results in a wonderful departure from conventional B&W photojournalism: witness the photo of a homeless man or panhandler and other pedestrians at night with a brightly-lit stall to one side.  A B&W image would not have put over the tonal contrasts and realism that Caplin’s colour version does.

Caplin clearly does not only capture a moment – decisive or otherwise – or a situation or an event; he sees and brings out the hues that are inherent in the moment, situation or event.  Indeed, you can partly infer this from one of his methods of working: “Sometimes I’ll find a pocket of light and simply wait for a person or a moment to pass through.”  The photo taken in the evening of a man repairing a window of a brick house is a prime example of this mode of operation that resulted in a photo with lovely hues and colour temperatures due to different light sources.

Sometimes “the person or moment” is no more than a small silhouette bringing the gentlest and deftest of human touches to what is primarily a sedate study in architecture, composition, light and textures.  On other occasions colour, composition and light serve to support and accentuate what is primarily a spontaneous portrayal of human emotions and, indeed, that “moment” depicting a memorable instant in a human life.

It is this unusual combination of factors and approach that make Robert Caplin truly an unique photographer.


Funky Photography News — International Edition

September 7th, 2013 No Comments

Our weekly helping of Weird and Wacky Photography News takes an international turn today.  We look at arresting photographs of two world leaders and a wacky photograph of another.  Then we turn to buffet-table photos of flags of numerous nations as well as many photos of the flag of the United States.

“The tension was palpable.”  That hackneyed sentence (and lovely solecism) is used by any number of hacks.  Those hacks got their revenge a few days back courtesy of none other than Vladimir Putin and Barrack Obama!  Amazing photographs of these two world leaders on NY Mag prove that tension – if not exactly ‘palpable’ – is at least visible.  

The five photos show Putin and Obama walking up to each other in a manner that does not seem exactly warm and fuzzy but in the very next image you’ll also see two broadly smiling – beaming – faces.  But they couldn’t hide their true feelings for even a minute: in the fourth photo Obama seems to be grimacing in anger or pain while in the fifth photo, Putin’s jaw is so tightly clenched that you can see his facial muscles!

For light relief, let’s turn to the leader of France and also the news agency of France.  You may have already heard of L’Affair de Clown, French Style.  Newsbusters has the scoop on “the bizarro smiling clown photo” that couldn’t be killed.

Some sharp lensman took a photo of French President Francois Hollande looking even more silly than he usually does, and AFP and Reuters sent the photo downstream – only to have second thoughts and try to withdraw it and try to ‘kill’ it (probably after an obscenity-laced tirade from a certain someone in the Elysee Palace).

Too late – and worse, wrong move: once news leaked of this craven act of “self-censorship,” the photo went viral!  Big deal: doesn’t the renowned ‘Rottweiler’s other half not usually look like a bit of a buffoon? 

French Style also includes blue cheese, brie and grapes and these were the ingredients used at the Sydney Food Festival to construct the French Flag.  The festival used traditional and ingredients and foodstuffs central to each national cuisine to create the corresponding national flags.

Daily Mail has published high-res photos of all the food-flags with a detailed ‘List of Ingredients.’  The colours of some of the flags are a bit off (make that a lot off in the case of Oz itself) but the choice of culinary delicacy or ingredient, at least, is spot on.  You’ll see hearty food from meat pies to (relative) exotica like kiwifruit.

Now we’re all hungry!  But before you run off for a snack, here’s a look at only one country’s flag.

Photographer Robert Carley is hung up on the Stars and Stripes and shoots them wherever he finds them – and that does not mean the flag itself!

You see, in America, the Stars and Strips are splashed on anywhere and everywhere, including trunks and swimsuits.  Greenwich Citizen has published an article about Carley’s photos which include “a flag-painted car, road stripes in red, white and blue, a flag parking meter, a flag antenna, a flag painted car wash, flag garage, flag gas pump and flag tow truck.”  You’ll see photos of a flag-painted barn and a flag-emblazoned hot rod, among others.


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