Monthly Archives: March 2011

On Timelapses and Terrible Photo Contests

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I’m up to my eyeballs packing for what is turning out to be nearly three months of back-to-back travel, from polar regions to equatorial jungles, including both stills and video (not to mention audio), and it’s the packing challenge of a lifetime of packing challenges.

I’ll be posting regularly from the road, but in the meantime, even though my house looks like a second hand photo equipment and luggage store, I didn’t want to go longer than a week without a new post…

After my political musings, some readers pleaded for a return to good old photo how-to posts, and I was happy to oblige (really, that was just my audition to be Frank Rich’s replacement at the NY Times). I asked for suggestions and the first request was how to make a timelapse sequence.

Now this is a well-documented subject and rather than reinvent the wheel (I would, if it would help me figure out how to pack five bags of gear into three), I figured I would point you to the tutorial that I used to learn.  It comes from one of the great young guns of multimedia, Zach Wise.  Zach is a multimedia producer at the NY Times and he’s doing wonderful work there.

You will need to invest $30 in software (Quicktime Pro) to do it this way, but it’s super easy. Really, if I can do it, software-wise, you know it’s easy.

And finally, before I go, I wanted to give you heads up about yet another rights-grabbing travel photography contest, this time brought to you by rough folks at Rough Guides.

On the surface it doesn’t look too bad: you submit photos for their free World Photo app and if yours is chosen, you get a chance to win a free SLR (it’s a Canon, admittedly, but still, not bad:-)).  What’s the beef? They’re not charging for the app.

Well, I would gladly have given up the smug satisfaction of always being right when I’m suspicious of publishers running photo competitions that are no more than ploys to get free photographs for use from unsuspecting amateurs, and I have to admit it was buried down pretty deep in the terms and conditions…but here it is, read it and weep, the magic phrase that gives them all the rights to use and re-license your photographs:

By submitting an entry, each entrant (or their parent/guardian on their behalf) grants to the Promoter a perpetual, royalty-free, non-exclusive licence to edit, publish, translate, modify, adapt, make available and distribute the entry throughout the world in any media now known or hereafter invented.

Now, let’s not be too cynical and try to look at the bright side. They are only asking for worldwide distribution….I’ve had contracts offered and seen contest terms where they want those rights “throughout the universe” (no, sadly, I’m not kidding).

And they do say they’ll “contact you” if they really love your photograph, but according to the rules, they don’t have to. And if they don’t intend to exercise those blanket rights, why require them and then bury them deep down in the fine print (because nobody ever reads that far down in the fine print and you can get away with almost anything, I guess. Just ask the Governor of Wisconsin

Also, there’s some confusion as to deadlines (the contest begins in Dec. 2010 and ends in March 2010… so it’s either a typo, or it may be the first contest ever to be over before it began.), but unless you really enjoy having your rights run roughshod over, I’d avoid this Rough Guides contest.

A House Call from Tony Sweet and the Image Doctors

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You know how hard it is to get a house call from a doctor these days, right? (Relax, this isn’t going to be another political screed like the last post….although it easily could have been:-)).

Well, imagine my good fortune when I got a house call from not one, but two doctors (as well as one of the leading art photogs in the biz) last weekend!

Yes, that’s right, Tony Sweet and the Nikonians’ Image Doctors, Jason Odell and Rick Walker, were shooting in the Philly area last weekend, and I coaxed them into coming out to chez Krist for a visit.

They thought they were getting bed and breakfast, and that they did, but what really happened was that I got an amazing, in-person walk through of Jason’s and Tony’s latest e-book, The Photographers Guide to HDR Efex Pro .  HDR Efex Pro is NIK Software’s entry into the HDR world and NIK has hit a homerun.

It’s a powerful program, and so subtle that it lets you get out of the “grunge” over the top HDR stuff, and into more subtle, natural-looking HDR (thereby making it more useful to a lot of working shooters whose clients won’t buy the “HDR look” but they sure love an extended tonal range!). Of course, you can go way HDR with this software too.

While the software has that nice intuitive NIK interface, you still need a guide to walk you through it and point out all the subtleties in a clear and straightforward manner, and this e-book does just that. And if you are not good at “e-book learnin’”, Jason has created a 111-minute video based instruction module, called “Mastering HDR Efex Pro,” as well.

You can buy the e-book and the video series separately, but bundled together you save 15%. For learning software, I love the video option….it’s just so easy to have it up on the second screen, or your laptop, while you’re playing with the files on your main display.  And then having the book as a backup is perfect.

These guys, their energy, and their work just blew me away….Tony Sweet is doing such amazing things with his iPhone camera that it almost makes a DSLR redundant….proving once again that it’s the eye behind the camera, and not necessarily the camera, that makes the picture.

Tony’s getting ready for his workshop season, and from what I briefly experienced of his teaching, his energy, his eye, and his mellow nature, those are going to be some kickin’ workshops.

When it comes to the world of HDR, I’m glad to report that the doctors are in….and that is just so Sweet!

 

Don’t Let Them Do to Teachers and Firefighters What They Did to Us

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Nothing in this world is black and white anymore, but the struggles of the Wisconsin unions and those of all the state workers behind them in Jersey, Ohio, Indiana and who knows where else make it necessary for freelancers to choose sides.

Are you siding with the power of big government and crony corporations, or with the dignity of the individual worker (or in our case,  “individual content producers”—that’s what photographers, writers, musicians, and artists are called in contracts).

Because those of us who cannot unionize have been run roughshod over for the last thirty years to the point where, not only can we not collectively bargain for better wages….in more and more cases, we are expected to work for next to nothing, or even for free…oh excuse me, I mean “for links, credit, and exposure.”

The only problem is, while our income and rights have been eroded by usurious contracts, “work for hire” terms, crowdsourcing, and the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, our corporate employers have enjoyed tax loopholes, courts that rule in favor of the big business each and every time, and the ability to cloak themselves in the myth that’s “what’s good for big business is good for America.”

Yes, the internet has made it rough for media companies, but the first place they look to make up the shortfall is not by replacing the management who totally misjudged how to make money in the new economy, but by bullying the freelancers into doing more for less, and giving up the rights to our creations.

Here’s what happens when you lose the right to collectively bargain. Whenever freelancers band together to try to set rights and rates, we are legally stopped by the provisions of Sherman Anti-Trust Act. They call it “price-fixing.”

On the other hand, when the cable monopoly Comcast and NBC want to merge, they get the red carpet treatment. Wait, isn’t Comcast already a monopoly? Sure, but that’s okay because it’s good for (big) business.

When Rupert Murdoch wants to own TV stations and newspapers in the same area, formerly prohibited by a law outlawing media monopolies in a given market, it’s no problem….we just change the law that prohibited the practice,  so that now he can own whatever he wants!

So we individual content producers have not been able to collectively bargain, and not to put too fine a point on it, but our day rates haven’t gone up much at all from the late 70′s, and our claims to copyright have all but eroded. But not to worry, because it’s good for business, and what’s good for business, um, is good for a very very small group of Americans at the top of the economic food chain.

There’s no doubt that our entitlement programs are bloated and that unions can and do protect some incompetent and underperforming members in jobs they shouldn’t have. 

But that is far less draining on the deficit than corporate tax dodges and the extension of Bush era taxbreaks. You’d be amazed at how many of the American corporations (who just won the ability to donate unlimited funds, anonymously, to politicians who toe their corporate line thanks to the Federal Election Commission vs. Citizens United Supreme Court ruling) are headquartered offshore and don’t pay any taxes at all.

Well, enough, this is supposed to be a photography blog. I’m going back to talking about lenses, cameras, and neato gear. It’s much better for the blood pressure….