Tuesday, July 24, 2007

When it all goes "Pear Shaped"

Covering huge events can be a logistical nightmare - access, equipment, technical problems. And then it can all go up in flames.

Henry Wessel video

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has a show on Henry Wessel and KQED has produced a short film of him talking about his work. ("Short" may be relative - it's just under eight minutes in length.) (You'll need the RealAudio player, worth it because the quality here is really nice.)

Some of his work resonates with me, but some I may need to spend more time with. There's a new(ish) book as well that I should probably pick up.

Why would I link you to a quasi-art/documentary photographer? He's the quote:

In a still photograph you basically have two variables, where you stand and when you press the shutter. That’s all you have.

When asked how I teach photojournalism, I can talk at length about the mechanics and the techniques and aesthetics. But the two things I admit I haven't learned how to teach yet are ... where to stand and when to push the button. I'm not sure you can teach that, it may just be innate.

Journalists on the Other Side of the Camera

Kiernan Beer, editor-in-chief of Fortent Inform (a financial news service) was photographed by Brendan McDermid of Reuters after last week's steam pipe explosion in New York City. He tells his story on the New York Times' City Room blog.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Copyright Victory

Photo District News has a wrap-up of a recent copyright violation case - this is why registering your images is worthwhile.

Friday, July 20, 2007

WaPo goes LoCo

Confused? Join most of the newspaper editors around the world.

This week, Rob Curley (digital maven and massive bright spot to the news industry) launched LoudounExtra.com - the Washington Post's (WaPo) new hyperlocal web site covering Loudoun County (LoCo) in northern Virginia. Curley's the guy behind the Naples News site down in Florida where he went nuts building out massive databases into usable web content.

There are a lot of questions - mainly, does his hyperlocal franchise idea work in a busy, connected community? Naples was a largely affluent retiree community, LoCo residents may not have as much time to spend on the site. Can it work?

My big question is can the reporting (written and visual) quality match that of the WaPo? And does it need to? On today's site there's a photo gallery of a guy who's ready for the county fair demolition derby. Should the quality of photos be sacrificed in the name of getting more stuff out there? Will the readers even care? (Side note: I was teaching a workshop for high school newspaper and yearbook advisors on Thursday and one of the things I brought up was the decline in visual literacy over the last 20 years. But that's a post for another day.)

Hyperlocal is one of the answers - and it's a darned good one. Keep an eye on it and let's see how it does in the Washington area.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

NFL Requiring Photographers to Wear Branded Vests

If you want to shoot football, you have to advertise for Canon and Reebok says the National Football League. (Maybe this is to counteract the problems with the new Canon EOS-1D Mark III's autofocus mechanism ... says the loyal Nikon shooter.)

Why do we keep National Geographics?

It's an interesting question (better than one about what to do with saved fruitcakes) and the Sacremento Bee has taken a look at people who hoard the yellow bordered wonder that arrives monthly.

I have periodically thinned my collection, mostly due to space constraints and my incessant habit of moving every few years. (Do you have any idea how much a 30 year collection of NGs weighs?) (About 450 pounds, if you're curious.)

Thanks to Romenesko for the tip.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Shaina Fishman - Pet Photographer

Photo District News has a short piece up on an up-and-coming pet photographer in New York City. (Who happens to be a friend and fellow Syracuse alum.) Fishman has found a way to take what she knows in a direction few would go - and has been finding success at it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Newsweek and the Bad Photo Editor

Every magazine photo editor (and newspaper and wire service editor, too) makes a mistake at some point in their life. At the bad end of the scale are the days when you doctor someone's teeth or move a pyramid to fit a cover. But the other end of the scale can be just as damaging at times, when it's minor picture selections that mislead your readers.

In the July 2/July 9 issue of Newsweek is an article titled, "The Fading Forests of the Sea (different photos used online than in print)." In it, the author (Matthew Phillips) talks about how a one degree Celsius change in ocean temperature can have a dramatic - and disastrous - effect on sea life. As an example, he talks about the changes to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. When the temperature rises, "coral polyps become stressed and expel the (vibrantly colored) algae, causing the coral to bleach and eventually die."

Two photos accompany the article, cropped to the same dimensions and shown side-by-side. The first is of the Great Barrier Reef in 1996:

The second shows the Great Barrier Reed in 1998, just two years later:

Pretty dramatic, eh? Look at all that vibrant color that Gary Bell (from Oceanwideimages) has captured, and then look at how little there is in the second photo. We must do something or this is what will happen.

But look again. Where is the color coming from in the first image? It's coming from the fish - not the coral. If you look closely, you'll see the coral is fairly monochromatic - just as it is in the second image.

So how did this happen? Photographer Bell did nothing unethical here - his agency provided images of the reef. The photo editor probably didn't have any malicious intent, either - they needed a pair of images to show before and after effects. But the editing is dishonest - the dramatic tension is false.

As editors, we owe it to our readers to tell them the truth, to show them the facts and let them judge for themselves. Newsweek has failed its readers - not through a manipulation of an image, but through the selection of images. Photo editors can mislead as much as photographers.

P.S. - The online site gets worse, making reference to "Ford Hummers" in a caption. Hummer is a brand, not a vehicle line. And it's owned by General Motors, not Ford. Ugh.

NFL web video restrictions

John McClain at the Houston Chronicle takes on the National Football League's new 45 second rule for video and audio on the web. (Thanks to Al Tomkins for this, from the Morning Meeting email.)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

"Caretaking the Rare Glass"

Our friend (I hope he doesn't mind that) David Burnett has a great post on acquiring a new/old lens - and brings up the idea of not owning older gear but merely being the caretaker of it.

I so want a Speed Graphic ... 

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The YouTube Aesthetic

Khoi Vinh has a short post on the YouTube Aesthetic - how television commercials are now trying to look more amateurish. 

In a few days, I'll be set up to start scanning old slides again. I've finished my grandfather's collection (well over 6,000 photos) and am about to start my father's. Most of these photos have a lot of family value to them, but I expect to see a marked technical difference. My grandfather shot photos to record his life, as did my dad. But my father was a more technical person - he had a greater level of control over the mechanics of photography, though I'll be interested in studying the aesthetics of his imagery.

Why do I point this out? It used to be that "amateurs" strived to create "professional" type images, whether in stills or home movies. Now, it feels that the general public has given up on exerting a higher level of control over their work and will accept whatever comes out of their cell phones. And the "professionals" are now down-grading their work to match the "user generated" content they see on web sites like YouTube and Google Video.

Is this all about content trumping control? I don't know. If it's a great moment, it's a great moment and you accept the limitations of the photographer or their equipment. But when we have the option to produce high quality content and choose not to ... well, that bugs me a little. 

Open to thoughts.