“The Art of Whale Photography” DVD Reviewed

By Diane Berkenfeld

the art of whale photography dvd cover artJim Tierney, the CEO of software maker, Digital Anarchy, happens to also be an adventure photographer who loves photographing whales. Tierney also lives in Hawaii, which, conveniently enough is where the Pacific Humpback whales migrate, to mate and give birth. He launched the website http://whalewatcher.net/, to provide whale enthusiasts with information about the 12,000 Humpbacks that make the trip from Alaska to Hawaii each year. According to Tierney, about 13 million people go on whale watching tours annually. And it’s not just the Humpbacks that are fun to watch, but other types of whales too. One of the first products available from the website is the 2 DVD set, “The Art of Whale Photography.”

According to Tierney, who launched the website last month, “We’ll be adding additional training content, but also we plan on adding a lot more information and resources for folks interested in whales, whether they’re watching them or photographing them.” He added: “We also really want to promote what it’s like to see them on a small boat. I think many people think of whale watching as being on a large boat with the whales way off in the distance. In many places, like Maui, HI and Baja, CA, you can go out in small boats on calm water and see the whales up close. Close as in a few feet away close! It’s really an amazing experience.”

Tierney also noted that content related to issues involving whales will also be put on the website in the future.

“The Art of Whale Photography,” was created to provide aspiring and experienced photographers with tips and tricks on taking action photos of Humpback Whales, together with ways to get the most out of their DSLR cameras. Tierney moderates the video, interviewing Michael Sweet, considered to be Maui’s most experienced whale photographer, and marine naturalist and whale expert, Melissa Meeker. “Anyone who has ever tried photographing the fast moving Humpbacks or other whales likely has ended up with many shots of razor sharp water and blurry gray whale shapes,” says Tierney. The videos and website were created to help folks limit the number of bad shots they get, while increasing the chances of getting great photographs.

Michael Sweet photo of humpback whales

Pictured in this photo, is one of the 12,000 majestic Humpback Whales that migrate from Alaska to warmer waters every winter. This year nearly six million Americans will venture out on whale watching tours. Photo © Michael Sweet.

I checked out “The Art of Whale Photography” and have to say it has a lot of great information. I’ve been a photographer for over 20 years now, photographing on the water and land, but when it comes to Humpback Whales—which I have photographed in the past—there was definitely plenty to learn. Along with information specific to photographing the Humpbacks in their natural environment, Tierney and Sweet touch upon a number of general photographic tips that can make the difference between getting great photographs or being left with little in the way of a photographic record of your trip. Since so many people are now venturing out on these smaller whale-watching tour boats, such things as what gear to bring, the way you hold your camera, and which metering and focusing settings you choose can make a big difference.

While Sweet talks about capturing images of the Humpbacks from a photographer’s point of view, Meeker adds to the video by explaining an awful lot about the habits and actions of the whales that you might see when on the water. Knowing what you’re watching—she points out—will make it easier for you to anticipate where to point your camera. Understanding some of the graceful behaviors you might see will also make your excursion more enjoyable. And as Tierney points out, while he loves spending as much time as possible photographing the Humpbacks, every once in a while you ought to put the camera down and just enjoy the sights and sounds of being so close to these wondrous creatures. Using a toy model of a Humpback and easy to understand language, Meeker does a great job of explaining the Humpback’s anatomy, some of the activities that occur among the whales when they’re looking for a mate, as well as how the moms care for their young. This really is important to know, since the Humpbacks migrate from food-rich waters off Alaska, down to Maui, to mate and have their calves.

Overall, I felt the video was a great educational tool, both for the photographic tips as well as the great info. on the whales themselves. I think it was a little longer than it needed to be, but that’s mainly because after each section, the information was recapped—which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you’re going on a whale watching excursion, one using small boats—especially if its to view Humpbacks, “The Art of Whale Photography” is a great tool to use in preparing for your trip.

Along with the DVD set, the website also offers an iPhone app. and “The Humpback Whale Guide.” Other products are expected to follow. For more information, and to see Jim Tierney’s whale photography, go to http://whalewatcher.net/. To see more of Michael Sweet’s photography, go to his website at www.gallerysweet.com.

Behind the Scenes on the Production of the Video

With DSLRs now capable of shooting video, we bet you’re wondering what camera/camcorder/video camera was used to shoot the video. Well, they used Canon EOS 5D Mark II and 7D DSLRs. I asked Tierney how the cameras worked out. Due to limitations of the camera’s autofocus, the on-water footage didn’t come out as well as expected. He explained that the DSLRs “worked beautifully for shooting the [human] talent. When you can lock the camera down, set the focus and depth-of-field, and let the camera roll… it produces exceptional video.” He added that the limitation of 12 minutes/4 Gigs of video shooting was frustrating to have to deal with, when the interviews were going great, but overall he recommends using the DSLRs for video.

For shooting video footage of the Humpbacks though, Tierney said professional video equipment or even dedicated consumer camcorders would have worked out better, because of their autofocus capabilities, image stabilization designed for a moving image, and aliasing/rolling shutter issues that the current crop of DSLRs have with fast moving subjects. “True video cameras have filters and components to minimize or eliminate these problems,” Tierney explained. He stressed that more controlled situations wouldn’t cause such issues, and DSLRs would be ideal for capturing such video.

That’s the main reason that there was little video footage of the Humpbacks in the DVD. I personally would have loved to see more video footage, even some more still photography—and will look forward to future Whalewatcher.net instructional videos.

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Creating Large Format Negs with HP Wide-Format Inkjets

By Kristin Reimer

Photography has been evolving since its conception, however the age of digital seems to be ushering in new technology with a rapid speed that has exceeded the industry’s expectations. New technology brings with it fresh ideas and creativity. It’s often inevitable when things are new, that it will bring with it, its share of critics and curmudgeons who must have something negative to say.

When I had been asked to write this article about the HP DesignJet Z3200, with the Large Format Negative Application, a printer that has the technology to create large format digital negatives, I was very excited. I thought to myself how far this industry has come and how exciting these times are. My thoughts immediately took me back to my days in college learning photography… more specifically, it brought me back to the stone age days of laboring over making the perfect digital negative that I could use to create my platinum and palladium prints. I was young, I was impatient, I wanted everything “now” and on top of it, I was made even more impatient from the constant inhalation of chemicals in my little darkroom.

Times Have Changed

As I read about this printer, I drooled and immediately began thinking of getting into non-traditional processes once more. I had been wanting to for a long time, one of the things holding me back was the reaction I had to thinking about the time extensive process, not to mention the expense of, making digital negatives.

I immediately heard the wedding bells of technology, the marriage of digital photography and alternative processing. I saw myself barefoot in the kitchen printing out thousands upon thousands of digital negatives and spending my time lovingly stroking platinum over a sheet of paper, confidently sandwiching my perfect digital negative and placing it under U.V. lamps to finish to perfection. The end result—exquisite.

As I was mapping out my plan to become the supreme ruler of non-traditional processes, I had another thought; everyone else and their Uncle Bob would be too. I’m sure by now you’ve heard all the rants that have come from how easy digital photography has made it for the masses to partake in our profession. This brings both advantages and disadvantages. The market changes, it becomes tougher to keep the proper rates, it becomes more competitive. On the flip side, it forces us to become more creative, it forces us to push ourselves, to find ways to stand ahead of the pack, to stay away from complacency. This is the attitude that led Hewlett-Packard to push ahead and create this innovative tool for our industry.

“Invent.”

HP’s slogan was created in 1999. I think they chose wisely.

I want to digress a moment here for a history lesson. You won’t be quizzed, but there is a nifty little tidbit at the end.

Sir John Herschel, mathematician, astronomer and chemist, made significant contributions to the birth of photography. From Sir John, we received the word “photography” which is Greek for “light” and “writing,” in addition to the terms “negative” and “positive.” Sir John also contributed to the work of fellow photography pioneers, Niepce and Daguerre, supplying them with his discovery of an early photographic fixer.

Joseph Nicephore Niepce, chemist, brings to us, the invention of photography, and the world’s first known photograph in 1825.

Louis Jacques Daguerre, artist and chemist, was also working to perfect the process of early photography. From Daguerre, we have received the famous Daguerreotype. Daguerre was in direct competition to William Fox Talbot, inventor of the calotype process, and the first to hold a patent in Britain for this early photographic process.

In 1829, Niepce and Daguerre formed a partnership to further explore and create in the world of photography. Unfortunately Niepce passed away a few years later. The contributions by both live on today.

In those early days of photography, the art world was ablaze with excitement about this new process. Just as we often think there are too many photographers working today, the new processes brought to the photography world brought an ease that had the masses rushing out to create “Daguerrotype Studios” worldwide. Of course, with the creative excitement, came the local critics. Many artists claimed photography was not art. It was considered “soulless” and simply a “mechanical process.” Many artists felt photography threatened their livelihood and the invention would destroy the world of painting.

Sound familiar?

Photography continued to expand and develop. Competition continued to grow and boundaries and creativity continued to be pushed further. By 1884, the photography world saw the development of film by George Eastman.

Digital Merging with Film and Alternative Processes

The birth of digital photography began in the 1960’s and by 1990, the first digital camera was available for commercial sales.

Just as in the late 1800s, the debate raged between painters and photographers, so today does one often see a debate between digital and traditional photography. In the early days it was in relation to the lack of personal touches eliminated by using a mechanical box, much as today we are presented with further mechanical debates, which seem to take photography even further away from “art.”

As digital photography entered its more mature years, we began to see another faction being created, that of traditional film photographers who stood firm in their craft, abstaining from further mechanical interferences to their art. The film faction holds that it can be seen as being even more artistic for its connection to the human touch required. The “alternative processes” that employ even more of the human hand, the mixing of chemistry, the precious metals that are painted by hand on to a single sheet of paper, have raised the bar, and the price tag of another early aspect of photography.

And here is where Hewlett-Packard enters my history lesson. Just as photography began with mechanics and chemistry, not the “arts” per se, so too has HP entered our world. Similar to the birth of photography, HP was birthed in technology, not the “arts.” In the early 1800’s a partnership was created between two chemists, Niepce and Dagueere that led us to this exciting new world. In the early 1930’s, a team of engineers formed a partnership to create a company that would eventually find itself involved in a rich history of photography and creative leadership. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard founded their business in 1939, and in the 1980’s they entered the photographic printer market. How’s that for that “nifty tidbit” I tried to entice you with earlier?

And for those us who are working in digital capture? Imagine being able to take a digital file and transform it into an actual piece of film, and to be able to do in a way that one can afford! Let your mind run away with ideas of the future of your photography.

Preserving Photographic Masterpieces

hp photo for picture-soup.com article

Gabe Greenberg with a negative being printed on the HP Designjet Z3200. Photograph courtesy Elliott Erwitt.

Of course, this printer has another wonderful selling point. In the hands of masters that we have studied, this is a way to preserve old negatives and to ensure that a fragile archive and its history isn’t lost. In the hands of master photographer, Elliott Erwitt, the HP DesignJet Z3200 was used to create 30×40-inch, perfect renditions of his most iconic images in platinum. Who would have dreamed we could afford to see 30×40-inch platinum prints? Erwitt and HP have bridged our “mechanic” digital world with the artistry of years gone by and allowing precious, original negatives to sit undisturbed in a proper climate to ensure they will remain preserved in history.

Gabe Greenberg and Elliott Erwitt reviewing the negative. Photograph courtesy Elliott Erwitt.

On a personal note, I was fortunate enough to have worked with Elliott Erwitt for a number of years running his studio. I wish I could fully describe what it was like as a young photography student viewing his vast archive of negatives. The history at my fingertips was awe-inspiring. I was able to see the elaborate and time-consuming process that happened with every print that was created in his darkroom. Elliott treats his tools with the utmost respect.

Making the print. Photograph courtesy Elliott Erwitt.

Elliott keeps the tradition of photography alive, but I also know how much he respects his time and strives to work the most efficiently he can. The HP DesignJet Z3200 must be a welcome tool to his studio, one which enables him to keep his archive of negatives pristine and enables him to produce gorgeous gallery prints while leaving him time to continue making the art we all know and love.

Elliott Erwitt with the final platinum print for picture-soup hp article

Elliott Erwitt with the final platinum print. Photograph courtesy Elliott Erwitt.

HP has raised the bar and has closed the gap between artists around the world. With that gap closed, we may find some competition among ourselves, but I urge you to join in on the fun and see where that competition may take you. Without the early competitiveness of Talbot and Daguerre, I wonder where we might have ended up?

More information about HP Designjet solutions is available at www.hp.com/go/designjet. Retail price from $ 3,496. (24”) to $ 5,799. (44”).

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Celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Infrared Photography with Digital Infrared

By Diane Berkenfeld

Are you looking for a new direction to venture in with your photography? Want to get more creative with your images? If you could photograph the invisible, why wouldn’t you? Or do you simply miss shooting with Infrared film? You can shoot B&W and even color Infrared (IR) photography with digital cameras that are converted to be able to record the Infrared portion of the spectrum. Infrared photography captures the near-Infrared portion of the spectrum.

This year is the 100th anniversary of the first B&W Infrared film photographs taken by Robert W. Wood, to illustrate a paper for the Royal Photographic Society Journal in 1910. The Wood effect, named after Robert Wood is the dreamy appearance seen in B&W IR photographs and false-color characterized by color IR photographs.

Precision Camera offers more than just camera repair services—they’re also experts in Infrared (IR) Conversions. Unlike the days of shooting film, when you could put a roll of Infrared film in practically any camera, attach the requisite filter to the lens and begin shooting, digital IR needs a dedicated body. Most folks will use an older camera—P&S or interchangeable lens—that they’ve put aside when they upgraded, for this use. Mark Soares, Sr. Strategic Markets Manager, Precision Camera, says this isn’t always the case though. “We do have customers who specifically buy cameras for the purpose of converting them to IR (especially true for the Micro 4/3 format).”

mark soares infrared image for picture-soup.com article

"Tracks" taken with a camera at the 665NM Conversion. Photograph © Mark Soares.

Folks are converting all sorts of cameras, from Point & Shoot models to DSLRs. High-end P&S cameras such as the Canon G series or Micro 4/3 cameras like the Panasonic Lumix G and GF series are popular cameras being purchased by photographers specifically to be converted for IR photography.

DSLR and EVIL IR Conversions

If you check out the Precision Camera website (www.precisioncamera.com), you’ll see that the company requests a lens be sent along with the DSLR body that is being converted. This is because they calibrate the focusing of the lens to the IR focal plane of the camera.

“We typically recommend a lens with a focal range of 14-80mm, as we find that we can perform focus adjustments that will work within that range. Most photographers report being able to use the camera with numerous lenses with no problems whatsoever, however, we have seen slight focus shifts when an oddball lenses is mounted on the camera,” Soares notes.

Remember when we shot IR film, most lenses had the IR marker on them that we would use when focusing? Well lenses don’t have that marker anymore, so the body has to be calibrated to the lens. Soares says, “We will do this service as part of the conversion at no extra charge because we want to ensure the camera is ready to shoot when the photographer gets it back in their hands.”

This is only necessary for DSLR cameras. P&S models and most of the Micro 4/3 type cameras are made so their imaging sensors control the AF and can compensate for these small focus shifts.

mark soares infrared image for picture-soup.com article

"Tree" taken with a camera at the 715NM Conversion. Photograph © Mark Soares.

“A new trend is the conversion of Micro 4/3 cameras or ‘EVIL’ (Electronic Viewfinder, Interchangeable Lenses) cameras. The reason they are so well suited for this modification is because the imaging sensor in the camera actually controls the autofocus (contrary to a DSLR’s separate AF assembly) and as such a wider range of lenses can be used with them without affecting the focus. The lenses produced for these cameras are also fantastic for IR. We recommend these cameras to anyone serious about IR who is willing to invest in a dedicated IR body,” adds Soares.

Which Wavelength Do I Want?

visible spectrum from nasa.gov website for picture-soup.com

The visible light spectrum. At one end is the invisible Ultraviolet light, and at the other end is the invisible Infrared light. Image courtesy NASA.gov.

“We offer several types of filters—Full Spectrum (clear), 665nm, 715nm and 830nm. By far the most popular one is the standard 715nm filter, which is reminiscent of the typical IR filter used in the film days (R72 filter). The 715nm allows for authentic IR images to be produced, however, it lets through just enough light to allow the user to produce low saturation color images with it. The end result is a converted camera that can produce low saturation color IR images, and can be used for the more traditional B&W IR look. It is a very versatile conversion,” explains Soares.

What if you want to shoot across the IR spectrum? Soares recommends getting the Full Spectrum conversion and investing in filters to place in front of the lens. “This would be far cheaper and more versatile then converting several cameras. The only drawback is that if you are using a DSLR without live view, the viewfinder would be black since the IR filter placed in front of the lens would be blocking all the light.”

“An 830nm conversion for example may produce high contrast and pure IR images, however, the difference when looking at the images is essentially in the amount of contrast in the picture,” he says.

Soares adds: “It takes very simple post processing to make a 715nm image look like an 830nm image (just desaturate and increase the contrast). In fact, one of the advantages of the 715nm is that because it lets in a little visible light, it actually fills in the highlights enough to have detail in them, whereas the 830nm, as punchy and captivating as it may be, would often have information in the highlights lacking.”

mark soares infrared image for picture-soup.com article

"Wedding" taken with a camera at the 715NM Conversion. Photograph © Mark Soares.

“The 665nm image would be at the other end of the spectrum where there is quite a bit of visible light hitting the sensor, and as such it is primarily used for color IR work—attempting to emulate a 715nm or 830nm conversion from these 665nm images would not be successful because there is too much visible light to remove from the image in order to match a higher wavelength conversion.”

Digital or Film

Contrary to popular belief, most of the people who are having IR conversions done these days, had never shot IR film. Soares notes that they have seen examples of Infrared photography and want to try it themselves. “Most customers are simply captivated by the IR look and surprised by the ease of use of these converted digital cameras,” he adds.

mark soares infrared image for picture-soup.com article

"Car-Comp" taken with a camera at the 665NM Conversion. (l. to r.) custom white balance, false color effect done in post processing, B&W effect done in post processing. Photograph © Mark Soares.

In the days of shooting B&W Infrared film, you had extremely long exposures, usually needed to shoot with the camera on a tripod, which might have been limiting to where you could shoot. And if you’ve had any darkroom experience with B&W Infrared, you’ll remember the loading and unloading of film into the camera and developing tank in complete darkness, as well as very, very dense negatives, which required long exposure times in the enlarger. The outcome was always beautiful, but took a lot of work to accomplish.

Digital IR photography on the other hand is much simpler and less labor intensive to do. It is also more convenient.

According to the Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infrared_photography) about Infrared Photography, by 1937 there were 33 different Infrared films available to photographers. Eastman Kodak discontinued its B&W Infrared film in 2007, due to a lack of sales.

Freestyle Photographic, (www.freestylephoto.biz) specializing in all things B&W, imports Maco and Rollei brand true Infrared films from Germany. They also import an extended sensitivity film from Ilford Photo, based in England. The Maco B&W Infrared film has a sensitivity up to 850nm. The Rollei B&W Infrared film has a sensitivity up to 820nm, and is also produced by Maco. The Ilford SFX200 B&W film is not considered a true Infrared film, but has an extended red sensitivity of up to 740nm.

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Overheard at WPPI 2010…

By Diane Berkenfeld

The WPPI (Wedding & Portrait Professionals International) 2010 (www.wppionline.com) conference and tradeshow celebrated its 30th year by once again attaining record-breaking attendance numbers and a sold out tradeshow. In addition to the hundred plus programs, 300+ exhibitors—thousands of attendees made the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino their home away from home from March 4 through 11. WPPI Plus classes began on March 4, platform programs began on March 7 and the tradeshow ran March 8-10, with the conference ending on March 11.

Program topics ran the gamut from business, marketing, Photoshop and digital workflow, lighting/posing, and Social Media. In addition to the programs run by WPPI, a number of the exhibitors held hour-long programs at their booths. These included Miller’s Lab, Kodak, Nikon, Canon, Sony, and many others—large and small. No matter where you turned, you were likely to learn something new.

With all of the programs to choose from, the more popular had lines of attendees waiting for the doors to open. A few of the presenters were given encore dates/times and asked to re-present their programs because there were so many folks who had to be turned away when the rooms hit capacity.

What’s Said in Vegas, Doesn’t Stay in Vegas…

I thought I’d share some of what I overheard while attending programs and lectures at exhibitor booths on the tradeshow floor.

  • While in an elevator, admiring a shirt that read, “Film is not dead” I was told that all of the images on display at the Fujifilm booth were captured on film. A few days later I finally had the opportunity to check out these gorgeous, vibrant images and was not disappointed.
  • At the Miller’s Lab booth, TriCoast Photography’s (www.tricoastphoto.com) Mike Fulton and Cody Clinton gave a presentation on one of the specialties they’re know for, Wireless TTL flash photography: Use your TTL flash for creative lighting. By setting the zoom on the flash more telephoto than your field of view, you’re in effect creating a focused, light that looks as if you’re using a snoot.
  • Attending another talk at the Miller’s Lab booth, this one given by educator and web expert, Gloria Antonelli (http://gloriaantonelli.com):
    • “Your website or blog is your home, and your Facebook/Twitter etc. accounts represent your vacation home.” —Gary Vaynerchuk
    • And… Web 2.0 requires a regular workload in addition to the offline work you do in your business. Social media is a two way street. Communicate with your audience and community. Be a friend, and others will want to be your friend in return. If you’re too pushy, you’ll turn your followers off.
  • Doug Gordon begins his program with everyone singing and dancing to YMCA. Photo © Diane Berkenfeld

    Attending Doug Gordon’s (www.patkenphotographer.com) program ‘Posing is Back and it is the New Black,’ the reason brides don’t want posed photographs is that they think it takes too long. Not true when you have a system. In the course of the two-hour talk, Doug was able to show attendees two hundred different poses for the bride and groom. His is a style of posed photojournalism. Yes, he takes the time to light and pose correctly, but he also finds the energy and passion in the moment and brings that out in his images.

  • During the Canon sponsored Keynote, speaker Gregory Heisler (www.gregoryheisler.com) explained his philosophy behind taking pictures.
    • He’ll always put himself in the position he’s going to ask his subject to take, because its important to him to know how they will feel while being photographed. He also explained that he’d never photograph someone in a way he himself wouldn’t want to be photographed in.
    • And, even though he has finally migrated to 35mm DSLRs, Gregory still uses a cable release, because it gives him the ability to have a face to face conversation with his subject while taking pictures—which stems from when his experience shooting with large format view cameras that required this type of shooting.
  • Vicki Taufer’s (www.vgallery.net and www.vgalleryhaven.com) program, ‘Unleashed,’ was all about her studio’s pet photography. One of the most important things she said was, “People are paying not only for photographs but for the experience.” Other photographers made the same statement, pointing out how your personality and the way you treat your clients is just as important as your photography skills. You are selling the experience of your photography, not just the images on pieces of paper.
  • JB and DeEtte Sallee (www.salleephotography.com), speaking at the Kodak booth, talked about the importance of adding a “whopper” package to your line. While you may never sell this one, the next highest one won’t seem as high in comparison.
  • In their presentation, ‘Creating Loyalty Beyond Reason’ first time WPPI speakers Justin and Mary Marantz (www.justinmarantz.com) mentioned some great business books:
  • Kay Eskridge’s (www.imagesbykay.com and www.celebratesexy.com) program on boudoir photography was one of the more popular topics, with WPPI attendees lining up early to make sure they would get a seat.
    • Kay, like many of the other program presenters uses royalty free music from Triple Scoop Music. “If you’re complaining about people copying your images and you’re not using royalty free music, you’re doing the same thing,” she said.
    • It is imperative for male photographers to have a female associate/assistant present at all times during boudoir shoots. She suggested guys should also ask their clients to have a female friend at the shoot as well.
    • And, backgrounds and props don’t always have to cost a lot of money. Kay showed how she has created backgrounds from wall panels found at Lowes, shower curtains and satin sheets from Bed Bath & Beyond, and doors and shutters painted in hot colors from Home Depot. Oh, and if you’re going to buy and use satin sheets—use flat not fitted sheets, and use a steamer to get out wrinkles.
  • Lori Nordstrom (www.nordstromphoto.com) presented a business program that was filled with inspiration—for the photographer [read: artist] to understand that their studio is a business and needs to be run that way to be profitable. Some of what Lori discussed:
    • Ask for referrals, and for each one, give your current clients a small gift.
    • Be charitable, its good for you and your business.
    • You may have to handhold clients to help them, but they’ll appreciate this customer service—and the experience you provide.

Photographer Jules Bianchi (r.) is interviewed at the Pictage booth. Photo © Diane Berkenfeld

Photographer Huy Nguyen (r.) of F8 Studios speaks at the ProDPI booth. Photo © Diane Berkenfeld

There were a number of first time exhibitors at the tradeshow, as well as established companies showing brand new products and services, which is exciting, as it shows the growth in the industry.

Look for the wrap-up article of great new products and services to be posted on picture-soup.com soon.

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Double Take

dou·ble take

Function: noun

Definition: a delayed reaction to a surprising or significant situation after an initial failure to notice anything unusual—usually used in the phrase ‘do a double take’


Article by Diane Berkenfeld

Double Take (ISBN: 978-0-06-179153-6) published by Harper Studio, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, is the memoir of Kevin Michael Connolly; a young man who, like many of us is different, although he’s spent his entire life the only way he knows how.

On a trip during his junior year of college, Kevin responded to being stared at by embracing the inevitable leers, answering back with his own—camera lens. Thus began a 17-country trek to find out if it truly was human nature—no matter the location or upbringing—to stare at that which we find different.

Thirty-two thousand plus images later, an exhibition, website, and memoir were born, along with answers to some burning questions: ‘What did those looks mean? What did they say about the other person, and how did that affect me? Kevin says: “I knew the basic answers: people stared because they were curious… But it felt like there was something deeper than that…”

Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Photograph © Kevin Michael Connolly.

In addition to those questions Kevin found that the experience was therapeutic. “Each photo was a miniature catharsis—only a fraction of a second that lasted about as long as the shutter speed on my camera.”

A daunting task made more so by the fact that Kevin Michael Connolly was born without legs.

In the book, Double Take, Kevin lets the reader in to his life, beginning at the time of his birth, through childhood and his many travels, especially those surrounding the impetus for the photo project that led to The Rolling Exhibition and Double Take.

Through poetic yet poignant words, Kevin tells the story of his growing up just like many other American kids, but with the added pressures and concerns of also growing up with a disability—not that it ever stopped Kevin from doing what he wanted. Kevin Michael Connolly rolls with the punches, and doesn’t let anything stop him from fulfilling his dreams and goals.

Although Kevin says in the book that he never started out with the intention of being an inspiration to others, once you read his words, you can’t help but feel that if he can do all of the things he’s accomplished in his life to date (he’s in his mid-twenties), you begin to think, ‘how could I let seemingly little things stop me.’ Visit his website and you’ll see first hand examples of Kevin’s infectious sense of humor and good nature.

At the beginning of each chapter of Double Take is an image from The Rolling Exhibition, a constant reminder of what Kevin experiences on a regular basis.

While a student at Montana State University, Kevin double majored in photography and film. “I think that while I enjoyed the collective energy and teamwork of working on a film, photography provided a nice counterbalance in that any project was undertaken alone. Company and compromise balanced by solitude and autonomy,” he explains.

While on a trip oversees, an experience in Vienna frustrated him to the point that he decided he would go out shooting the sights and not let it ruin the trip. Impulsively that afternoon Kevin captured the first image that led to the formation of his expansive photography project. It was when he reviewed his images later that evening that he saw the expression of a man who had done a ‘Double Take’ at Kevin. It had hinted at something larger. Kevin began shooting in earnest, and throughout his stay in Austria as well as the next two stops in Ireland and New York City—and 1,200 photographs later, the idea was firmly planted.

Initially using a Nikon D70s, Kevin gravitated to the Nikon D200 because of its added durability. You see Kevin isn’t comfortable using prosthesis or a wheelchair, he gets around via skateboard; so his camera, especially for The Rolling Exhibition project was being held just an inch or two off the ground. Lens of choice was an 18-200mm VR II Nikkor. “The only way in which I was able to shoot from the hip and reliably capture subjects was to memorize what one specific focal length would produce in any given situation. That said, everything in The Rolling Exhibition is shot on an 18mm focal length,” Kevin explains.

He explains in Double Take that he never looked in the direction the camera was pointing. “I’d wait for the feeling on the back of my neck, the one that lets you know someone’s staring, and I’d secretly fire off a shot from my hip.”

Split, Croatia. Photograph © Kevin Michael Connolly.

Most of the images were captured at ISO 320. “If I was shooting in an open area and there wasn’t too much contrast in light, I would usually trust the program mode. If I was shooting between buildings, at night, or in any situation with contrasty light—I’d go manual, though I’d never go wider than f/8, if I could avoid it,” Kevin explains.

Editing 32,000+ images down to only 48 seems like it would be a time consuming task to undertake. But, “the editing process was pretty fluid throughout the shoot,” says Kevin. “Because of the nature in which I shot the series (never looking through the viewfinder, shooting from the hip, never stopping the skateboard, etc.), I had a fair [amount] of technical mistakes—especially early in the trip. Most evenings after I’d finished shooting, I would trash some of the shots that were obviously useless—whether it was poor framing, exposure, or whatever,” he explains.

”By the time I arrived home, I had parsed it down to 20,000 or so and after that it became a matter of each photo matching some specific criteria. I made four passes through the set of images, and each time I added another criteria,” he notes. “My ultimate goal was to create a photo series that accurately represented my thesis—which was that everyone stares. So representing men, women, kids, and countries evenly was a high priority. Once that was achieved, I began to focus on making the series aesthetically beautiful. To be honest, I feel as if I could have gone smaller on the final number, but forty-eight allows me a lot of options when it comes to mixing and matching images in different galleries around the world,” he adds.

Initially deleting unwanted photos and working on a PC was Kevin’s workflow. Nowadays he uses a mixture of Adobe Photoshop CS4, DxO Optics and Adobe Lightroom on a Mac, depending upon where the photos will be used. “Thankfully the only work I had to do on a couple of [The Rolling Exhibition] images was some mild-dust removal, which kept the post-process from being too time consuming,” he says.

Kevin had intended for The Rolling Exhibition project to be turned into a photo book, but was convinced to write a memoir instead. “It was only after I had gone through a fair number of meetings that I met the folks at HarperStudio—who really convinced me that I had more to say than what could be fit into photo captions. For that I’m still thanking them. I think that someday down the road—maybe in a year or two, there will be a photo book popping up,” Kevin says. As to whether he would add to the original forty-eight photographs, Kevin says it might be a possibility.

One of the concerns Kevin had about the project was that he had been photographing strangers in countries around the world and not alerting his subjects to that fact, hence no model releases. But as it turns out, it was a non-issue. “There’s a lot of stuff I can’t do with the photographs—such as licensing—but I never planned on that anyway,” he adds.

Kevin is an avid traveler, so the question comes up as to whether he will continue shooting images for the project. “It’s certainly a possibility that I’ll add to the project, though I don’t think it will ever be totally overhauled,” he says. “I think that the aesthetic look of the photo series was so specific that it could be stagnating to keep shooting in such a fashion.” He adds: “I think that I’ll always shoot from a low angle [chuckles] and that I’ll always stray toward portraiture, but I don’t think it will always revolve around being stared at.”

London, England. Photograph © Kevin Michael Connolly.

Q. What types of photography are you into shooting?

A. I think I’ll always gravitate toward the stuff that requires some sort of adventure to undertake. I work the best when I’m in a situation that forces me to think “on my feet”, so to speak. Traveling on a skateboard fulfills that need pretty well, and allows me to cover a lot of ground at low angle in a very interesting way. So with that in mind—and if I was a betting man—I’d say that my photo projects will probably gravitate toward “survey portraiture” for the next project or two.

Q. Are there any other photo projects on the horizon that you want to talk about?

A. I do have something that I’ve been working on for the past few months. I’m still in research mode, but I’ll tell you that the photos will be framed more deliberately than last time. This one will also have a bit of sci-fi/Robocop vibe (though no Photoshop!), but that’s all I should probably say…

Q. How much photography vs. film do you want to do?

A. I think that writing and photography will probably be my focus for some time to come as far as new projects go. I still really enjoy the autonomy offered by that form of work. That said, there is a film project in the works.

Q. Who are your favorite photographers?

A. Robert Frank really resonates with me. I was thinking about his work on the Americans series quite a lot while I was shooting my own project. The number of images, distances traveled, and the survey-like nature of The Rolling Exhibition all drew parallels to Frank’s series in some way. Other than that—I really enjoy James Nachtwey’s work—though in some ways more for its process than end product. After seeing the documentary War Photographer, which is a portrait of Nachtwey and his craft, I was completely inspired. Not inspired to go to the places that he’s been to necessarily, but by the way he was able to move through incredibly tense situations with a very deliberate calm while still taking photos. Not many people have the resilience or fortitude to create anything—much less art—in the places that he does.

X Games Athlete

In addition to all of his traveling, photography and film interests, Kevin Michael Connolly is also an X Games athlete competing in Mono skier Cross.

Kevin began skiing as a youth, competing regularly until he was 18. Once he started college, his classes and other activities kept Kevin pretty busy. His only competitions over the past few years has been at the annual X Games.

He begins gear preparation at the end of the summer, and starts hitting the mountains by mid-December. Training these days is done with the local college and youth racing teams; as well as a private practice jump that Big Sky Resort generously built for Kevin. “The thing could throw you about 50 or 60 feet, and was a good tool for teaching you how to stay calm in the air. Pretty much the entirety of January is spent on the hill.”

“Between the demands of the book, photo assignments, and skiing—things need to be juggled pretty deftly,” Kevin explains. “Usually I try to keep each part of my life as separate as possible so that I can focus on one thing at a time. When I go out to shoot, I want to be excited about it. I don’t want to be thinking about skiing or writing, because it’ll keep me from focusing on the task at hand. Generally, I would say that my ski season is shorter and more compressed than most in order to deal with other work when I’m not involved in X Games.”

Home page of www.therollingexhibition.com.

To check out The Rolling Exhibition website, go to the website at www.therollingexhibition.com.

To see more of Kevin’s photography, go to his website at www.kevinmichaelconnolly.com.

Click here to read more about Kevin’s X Games experiences as a Mono ski Cross racer on the Harper Studio website.

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Photographer Grows Her Brand from Flickr Beginnings

The photography of Natalie Dybisz a.k.a. Miss Aniela

By Diane Berkenfeld

The ubiquity of the internet has allowed artists far and wide to reach a much larger audience than they would have been able to by traditional means. This is true of Natalie Dybisz a.k.a. Miss Aniela, (www.missaniela.com) a photographer and artist who has turned her self-portraiture, initially created and posted on Flickr for her own enjoyment, into a brand, complete with a new liveBooks powered website, two self-published books, exhibitions and more to come.

Natalie Dybisz a.k.a. Miss Aniela's website homepage. All images © Natalie Dybisz.

“Aniela is my middle name. I wanted a kind of alter-ego to serve as a name to use on Flickr,” Natalie says. Once she started exhibiting her work, she says it felt right to stick with that name as her artist’s moniker.

Natalie explains that she was fond of snapping photos as a teen, when she first began to shoot self-portraits. Her interest in photography blossomed when she went to university. It was at this time that she discovered online photo sharing as well as the joys of digital processing.

Early on she used Sony compact cameras and lacked a tripod. Natalie then graduated to a Sony R1, which features a swivel screen that makes capturing self-portraits convenient, and a tripod. She used the R1 for about two years. In September 2008 Natalie transitioned to her first DSLR, a Canon EOS 40D. She recently upgraded yet again to a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, a larger, sturdier tripod and flashes.

Natalie Dybisz a.k.a. Miss Aniela's website. All images © Natalie Dybisz.

Natalie’s first website was created in 2007, as a place on the web where she could display a gallery of her photos and write about herself. She transitioned to a liveBooks site this year. “I liked the look of their sleek, fast Flash sites. It looked ideal for displaying photography, and I also liked that I was able to talk about my ideas and have the designers create a custom site based on my vision for my brand,” she says. Adding, “I also like being able to edit my site whenever I want, to edit text, and to add or remove pictures, which is easy enough in the editSuite that comes with the site.” The liveBooks site is the portfolio or gallery, for Natalie’s more refined work, as well as a place to disseminate information about her books, prints and her contact information. “The website is a showcase, a place that is generally consistent. My blog, (www.missanielablog.com) however, is a place with constantly updating information, a place to share essays or thoughts, or to promote my events,” she says. “The way I choose to use Flickr is rather like a studio, where I share lots of images, to see which gauge the most reaction or comment, or just for me to see images build and then to determine which ‘do it for me’ in the long term, and I may then add them to my galleries on my main website. I use Facebook and Twitter to link through to blog posts or to Flickr posts,” she adds.

Miss Aniela and Rossina Bossio. Photographs © Natalie Dybisz and Rossina Bossio.

Miss Aniela. Photograph © Natalie Dybisz.

Miss Aniela. Photographs © Natalie Dybisz.

In addition to a number of exhibitions and speaking engagements, Natalie has produced two books which are available on Blurb (click here): Self-Gazing, a collection of self portraits taken over the course of three years; and Multiplicity, with images taken over the course of more than four years that showcases her evolution of multiplicity photographs. As savvy a businesswoman, as she is a photographer, Natalie also offers fine-art prints of her work and commercial licensing opportunities.

Natalie has also collaborated with other artists. The books She Took Her Own Picture, Selections from the Female Self Portrait Artists’ Support Group available on Blurb (click here), features the work of 44 female self-portrait artists on Flickr including images from Miss Aniela; and In Her Own Image, Selections from the Female Self Portrait Artists’ Support Group also available on Blurb (click here).

(l. to r.) Natalie's two self-published books: "Miss Aniela: Self-Gazing" and "Miss Aniela: Multiplicity" and two books she's collaborated on, as part of the Female Self Portrait Artists' Support Group: "She Took Her Own Picture" and "In Her Own Image"

Q: What inspires you?

A: I have an assortment of inspirations. I don’t look at as many photography books and exhibitions as I should, and I spend too much time online looking at photo-sharing sites. I am inspired by anything from childhood thoughts to dreams, to raging depressive thoughts, from the joy, yet futility of life, to the chilling mystery of death.

I like the work of several people I have seen online, like Rossina Bossio and Rosie Hardy. I also admire the work of Gregory Crewdson, Julia Fullerton-Batten, and Ellen Kooi.

Miss Aniela. Photograph © Natalie Dybisz.

Miss Aniela. Photograph © Natalie Dybisz.

Q: How did you know you were onto something with the Miss Aniela brand?

A: It wasn’t easy for me at first to see Miss Aniela as a brand, probably because my work is so personal, so it was like the images were not just my work, they were me. The stage, therefore, of separating myself from my brand whilst also being able to accept that my brand is very personal, was a challenging step. So, whilst I saw from 2007-2008 that my work was becoming popular and I wanted to go further with it and do it for a living, it still took me a while to see that my artwork can be considered as a brand and a business, something I can sell without feeling as if I were selling myself. As such—I could objectify the self-portraiture as one aspect of what I do, and not the sum total of my being.

Q: What did you think when you realized the large number of people that were viewing your images on Flickr?

A: I was surprised and pleased but always aware that it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Just because a load of people have clicked on your work doesn’t necessarily validate one’s images. It just meant I had the attention of an audience for an unforeseen length of time, and yet, the audience wasn’t all mine to play with, it was an audience through Flickr. I try to use that audience the best I can in encouraging them to visit my site, join my mailing list, join me on Facebook and Twitter, etc. Even then, the number of people following you and your updates doesn’t often feel like it means anything till someone actually offers me an exhibition or buys a print.

Q: How have you been able to grow your photography into a brand?

A: It has been fairly easy to self-publish books and to make these available to people online, and also to show and sell them at presentations and events. Exhibitions are an aspect that is harder to achieve, as they require collaboration with galleries or other venues. Most of my exhibitions have been offered to me, so the whole scene of approaching galleries is something new to me. I try to keep my brand consistent across books, gallery shows, and my website, in terms of graphic identity, but with the exhibitions, it is harder because the gallery will present the exhibition on their own terms.

Q: What direction do you think you’re going to take your work into next?

A: I would just like to carry on doing what I do, producing images I am artistically engaged with, and pursuing exhibitions and print sales. I would like to have a large-scale exhibition that is accessible to both the art scene and the general public. Another angle to my photography goals is to broaden my experience and my learning of the technical side to the art so I can teach workshops in the UK and beyond. I would like to become a published author (outside of my self-published books) and write books on photography and art, something that I will hopefully begin this year.

The 'About Me' page on the Miss Aniela website. Photograph © Natalie Dybisz.

All you have to do is take one look at Natalie’s work to see that she’s got a great eye for photographic composition and design, and we expect to see much more of Natalie Dybisz a.k.a. Miss Aniela in coming years. Go to the website www.missaniela.com to see more of her work, or check her out on Flickr, Facebook and Twitter.

Want more information about liveBooks? Click here.

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