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Monday, January 31, 2011

Photographer's Rights

This is not a comprehensive discussion, the subject is too wide, but he subject keeps appearing in the news and on professional camera forums like Nikonians.org so I thought I would post links to various sites that have information and then make my own comments on them. Before we get started, it must be noted that there is no case that has gone through the judicial system that applies at a federal level to all people. The matter of fact is that the digital life has progressed faster than the laws have and most laws at a local level are reactions to local events or reactions to the infamous "I heard about it on the Internet".Also, I am not a lawyer and nothing here should be taken as legal advice. These are merely references and comments on those references.

  Also, Being "in the Right" doesn't mean taking the photo is the right thing to do. Generally speaking, if somebody asks a photographer to not take a photo, they don't (wives and kids excepted - grins). Generally, even if a permission to use form or release was signed, if the person asks for a photo to be removed from a site, any good professional photographer will remove the photo.

Also be aware that the right to take a photo does NOT mean you have the right to use the photo. I am currently working on a book and every photo I have taken has a release or permit to use form for it. For any photos taken with a view to using them in the book, if I can't get a signature, I don't take the photo. One older gentleman (95) looked me in the eye and asked, "Isn't my word good enough for you?" I told it sure was but the people I wold be working with wouldn't take my word. It has been problematic at times on that project as most of the property owners are older and lived in an age where a handshake was your word and that was all you needed, legal documents and contracts are seen with a degree of distrust. Generally, you don not have to have a release form for photos to be used for news and commentary purposes.

1) http://www.krages.com/phoright.htm  An excellent reference with a downloadable document. This is one of the most widely known and cited references. Every photographer should have a printed copy of this in their camera kit. Take note of the restriction "You may distribute the guide to others, provided that such distribution is not done for commercial gain and credit is given to the author" The author is Bert Krages II. Also, note that he is a lawyer from Oregon and as noted above, what he says does not necessarily apply everywhere. There are no national precedents yet that I can find.

2)  http://content.photojojo.com/tips/legal-rights-of-photographers/   Comments: Commandment 2 - Remember that being able to take the picture doesn't mean you can print it or publish it. You may be able to take a photo of a man cutting his grass but that does not mean you can use it without his permission in a book on"Men cutting their Grass". // Commandment 5 - This can be subjective. Exercise caution. // Commandment 8 - You may not have to explain what you are doing but it sure looks odd if you don't. I will discuss this further with a news story. I highly recommend explaining what you are doing in a courteous manner. An attitude will get you nowhere fast.

3) Andrew Kantor  http://www.usatoday.com/tech/columnist/andrewkantor/2005-12-29-camera-laws_x.htm  Comment - An excellent article with many valuable links. Check them out. (http://www.rcfp.org/pullouts/photographers/index.php)

4) http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4705698


The following are news stories concerning photographers and the issues they have run into. They may not have the right to take your camera and you may be reluctant to let some rent-a-cop take your photo kit worth several thousands of dollars (sit down some day and add up what you have spent it may surprise you.)

A) New York Times Oct 18, 2010 http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/18/you-can-photograph-that-federal-building/?ref=todayspaper  Unfortunately, it didn't go through the courts to make a precedence, it only resulted in a settlement.

B)  Copy of the Settlement  http://www.scribd.com/full/39623305?access_key=key-21nlcq8q54dwdoa8ofbr

C) New York Times http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/27/see-officer-i-can-too-take-that-picture/


D) http://www.wsvn.com/news/articles/local/21003309015872/#?hpt=T2    Comment - First he was taking photos in a sensitive area of the airport including restricted areas. You can't do that! Next, he remained silent when questioned. See my comments about about not having to explain what you are doing. Silence here is dumb. Explain courteously. Also, he acted suspiciously and became evasive. A big no-no. My comment? This guy deserved what he got. I would have arrested him if I was law enforcement. He didn't get arrested for taking a photo, he was arrested for acting suspiciously and refusing to answer questions.

E)  Banned for Life From Miami Metro http://verystretchy.com/blog/2010.07.01/banned-from-metro/ Comment: He had permission from the Chief of Safety and Security but the workers didn't want to hear or read it. Watch the videos. Quote from the Chief of Security, "He explained that while commercial photography on Metrorail property is prohibited without a permit, there is no such prohibition against photography that is personal, journalistic, or, in his words, “Johnny Tourist” photography. When I asked him how his officers distinguish between commercial photography and personal photography, he said, “If you tell us that you’re not using the pictures for commercial work and they’re (for) personal use, at that point in time the security officers, and/or the MDT representative should feel that his question is answered and at that point you’re free to take pictures until the next train comes or whatever.”Shame that isn't what happened.

F)  Miami-Dad Metrorail Update  http://stretchphotography.com/blog/2010.11.20/metrorail-update/#more-399

G)  National Press Photographers Association http://nppa.org/news_and_events/news/2010/07/miami.html

H) New York Clarifies Guidlelines http://www.nikonians.org/forums/dcboard.php?az=set_threaded_mode&forum=190&topic_id=62216&prev_page=show_topic&gid=62216#62311

I) Story from a friend on professional photography forum - "I just got lit upon by a police officer and a bailiff in Raleigh, NC, last week for taking photos of the Wake County Courthouse. It seems that it was a suspicious act on my part! These people actually saw me taking photos outside the building while they were inside. They came running out of the courthouse to confront me. The cop made me delete the photos I took. Fortunately, she didn't know that I had taken others from a different angle, and I kept them (and am posting one now because I guess I am rebel). When she asked me what I was doing and why, I said, "Taking pictures. Because I want to."It seems that wasn't the proper response. But, to be fair to her, she did have a sense of humor. When I asked if I could take a photo of the Federal Building, she said that she wouldn't--she said they have snipers posted on the roof, just waiting for photographers. I THINK she was kidding."

Here is my shot of the NC State Capital at night.
All in all, the legal status of photography is fuzzy gray at best. As I said at the top, there is no federal statute yet. Until somebody with enough fortitude and money is willing to get arrested and push it to the federal courts, there will be no definitive answer for everybody.

Friday, January 28, 2011

P&s vs DSLRs Pt 3 The intangibles

The last time I discussed this (Jan 22) I focused mainly on technical differences. But over the last few days I have made some observations I want to pass along. Part of the difference between the two are intangible things.

Handling: The other day as I came in I needed to make a quick pit stop. As I went into the bathroom, I simply placed my P&S down on the sink, lens down. I then realized, I would never have done that no matter what with my DSLR. It isn't just a matter of the cost of the equipment. It is also a mental thing, The DSLR is the "good" camera. The point and shoot takes great pictures but still it isn't my DSLR.
    I realized the other day when I came in the house, I had tossed the P&S on the bed. Again, I never would have done that with my DSLR.

Cleaning: I reach for a clean T-shirt to wipe the lens of my P&S, on my DSLR I use a microfiber cloth that is stored in a clean place. (No I would never use a Kleenex or napkin on either camera. That ruins any glass over time, eyeglasses included.) I put my P&S in my coat pocket (with all the crumbs and stuff down there.) but I do keep it in a case to help keep it clean. My DSLR I on me or in the bag and I keep the bag clean.

Do I sound like I don't like my P&S? No, I love it. I was able to easily take some movies of my father -in-law while I was down there. It is easier to have all the time and I can take shots I couldn't take (or wouldn't try to take with my DSLR). Here is one I took of my rental car for my Proj 365 photos while my wife's car was in the shop. Warning! Do not try to take a shot like this Leave this to professional idiots (photographers) . This was dumb trying to get the shot. It is difficult to hold the wheel, hold and aim the camera, keep the car in the lane, etc. and oh yeah, focus the camera.

Here is one I wanted to get of the snow on the side of the road as I passed by Fayetteville and Lumberton NC  on my way to Georgia on Jan 16th. The snow was all gone up in the Raleigh - Rocky Mount area but was still there in spots further south. Again, this was dumb trying to shoot while driving alone. And I got it as a movie also!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Time Required for Photos

Time is a critical thing in photography. Not only how long the shutter is open or what time of day the photo is taken (Yes, it matters) but how long photograph takes to produce. It used to be that time was how long it took you to take the film to the photo lab and for them to process it. Now it is how long it takes to process in Photoshop, Lightroom, NX Capture, or whatever you use to process the photo. The speed of the computer processor will have an impact on this but one of the main things that impacts your time is how many photos you took and how you prioritize them (in taking them and in processing them).
In the old days, you had 36 photos on a roll of 36 exposure film (maybe 37 if you were lucky). Now you can take hundreds and thousands of photos with a digital camera. Hey, it doesn't cost anything? Sadly, yes it does. It costs on the wear and tear of the camera. (My D300 shutter is rated for 150,000 clicks) and it costs time to process them. If you take 5 or 6 of everything (just in case) you are killing yourself on time management. You have to prioritize as you take the photos. Experience helps here greatly which is why you need to keep shooting all the time.
BUT This doesn't mean to take only one shot of a setting. If you are a long ways away (in either time or distance) and may never get back except at great expense, take some extra shots at various setting. I worked on a year round set of photos for a particular scene and later thought I would go back and reshoot the fall scene. The colors were not as bright the following year and I don't know if I will be able to go there the next fall.
When I started, I uploaded everything (Use a card reader instead of loading from the camera, it saves the drain on your camera battery). and then processed everything and eliminated the worst. That took TIME and it filed my external drives as I shoot RAW instead of JPEG (larger files but more flexible to work with).
My next stage was to load everything and then eliminate the worst (will come back to further eliminate others later - yeah, right).
Now I have gotten to the point I can limit the number of shots and can tell pretty much what has potential and if I want to work with it or not so now I pick and choose as I import from the memory card to the computer. Things are going a lot quicker. Do I always do this? No. For family shots and all I still upload everything and then choose what is workable and what to toss BEFORE I actually work on any photos.
If you are just starting out, don't fret, it takes time to learn "see" how a photo will come out and if it has potential. It also takes time to see how much time it takes to process a photo with your software. Try to only take the shots you need. Only load the ones with potential. As you gain experience with your equipment, you will not have to take as many shots to get "the good one".

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Point & Shoots vs SDLRs The Equipment

Pt 2 OK, in the previous post, the odd number photos were taken with the Nikon D300 and the even numbered shots were with the Canon SX 219 IS Point and Shoot (P&S). Is there a difference? Yep, but like I said, it is primarily due to the differences in post processing. With some extra effort the could be matched more precisely. BUT my point is that both cameras produced very good photos. And I still prefer my Nikon DSLR over the P&S, but the both have advantages and there are times I prefer the P&S.

So what are the differences? Beyond the obvious ability to change lenses. (I will probably have to extend this over several posts)
1) Ergonomics. The Images Doctors (Rick Walker and Jason ODell - great resource, google Image Doctors) recently had a podcast and the comment was made to the effect that the larger heavier cameras are easier to stabilize and shoot with; and I agree (but you can get too heavy). The Canon P&S has Image Stabilization (compensates for shaky hands, NOT subject movement or gross camera movement). but when I extended the lens to its full out zoom (386 mm IIRC) it usually required I prop it against something or get a tripod. A tripod for that little camera looks crazy but it is necessary. -- On the other hand, I find the Nikon D300 much easier to brace and stabilize using proper techniques (No elbows sticking out but rather tucked in.) even using an 80-200 mm f/2.8w/o VR (Vibration Reduction). The 80-200 is a big heavy lens but not the most by any stretch).  VR is Nikons name for the same thing as Canon Image stabilization. I.E. VR = IS.
  -- Even with IS, the P&S is difficult to stabilize at times.

2) Quality of sensor. There are basically three sizes of sensors out there. (A) Newer DSLRs like the Nikon D3 and D700 have a full size sensor, approximately the size of of the 35 mm film size.  (I would name a Canon model but there numbering system is worse than Nikons if that is possible, its all a matter of what you are used to really. Canon folks have difficulty figuring out the Nikon numbering system.) (B) Most other DSLRs which have a smaller sensor called APS-C. (C) Point and Shoots which have an even smaller sensor. No, I don't know the name for that size.
 - The result is that if a full size, a regular DSLR, and a P&S all have 12 Mega Pixels (MP), they don't have the same quality. Imagine a sensor with four rectangular pixels. Around the edge will be a little bit of "noise". Now have the same size sensor but with 8 MP instead. You have the same area of image capture and more resolution to differentiate with but also you have more noise. The end result is that a P&S with 14MP will not have the same quality image as a DSLR with 14 MP because the P&S has a very small sensor and thus will have a lot of noise since the pixels are smaller and the noise represents a greater percentage of the sensor size.
  -- The impact here will be noticed in the size of the print. If you are shooting for the web or 8x10s, a good P&S will be just fine. If you want to shot large shots (most folks don't) it may become a factor.

3) Portability: Here the P&S wins hands down. When my old P&S died, I missed having something in the console of my vehicle to capture those spur of the moment shots. I have some great snow shots that if I hadn't had the P&S, I wouldn't have captured the image. Even the smallest kits for a DSLR are a littel too awkward or large to carry on a day to day basis. That and the cost of having a DSLR kit even in the truck of the vehicle is not something most want to risk.

4) Interface: The DSLR has an optical viewfinder to look through. Most view about 97% of the actual image. I believe the D300 is rated at 100%. Most P&Ss don't have an optical viewfinder but rather rely on the LCD screen on the back. Viewing the screen can be an advantage when working at awkward angles but generally they result in the photog holding the camera in front of themselves several inches in front of their eye and the camera is not stabilized. Also, the glare of bright sunlight can make the LCD viewfinder also unusable. At times I have had to take the shot and hope I got what I wanted.

5) Interface again: Most DSLRs have major selection controls (such as white balance, ISO, etc) built around the camera body. Most P&Ss require you drill through layers of menu selections. (But DSLRs can have several layers of menus to work though also, but the major controls are readily accessible). a quick example. The White Balance and ISO controls are right on top, a quick reach and a spin of the dial and they are set. On my P&S, you have to select one of three buttons (hopefully the correct one), push it, turn the dial, select the setting, push the button again. you will know what this is when you try it in practice.

6) Features: P&Ss used to lag behind DSLRs but now they seem to lead the way in innovation. P&Ss had the ability to shoot movies before DSLRs. (the D300 is currently the top of the line APS sensor DSLR for Nikon. My D300 doesn't have a movie option, the D300s does.) My Canon P&S has an option for a fisheye lens effect. I can't afford a fisheye lens for my Nikon. And now that my Canon P&S had it, I imagine it will serve my needs. If I find a really need a DSLR fisheye, I will rent one, but for now, the P&S serves my needs.

7) Batteries: Most all digital cameras use proprietary batteries. It used to be P&Ss used AAs or AAAs,but now the trend seems to be to use proprietary batteries. The companies make more money that way. A WORD OF WARNING - DO NOT buy off brand batteries, at least for DSLRs. This is the voice of experience. I bought a back up battery for my D300 from an E-Bay vendor in hong Kong. The battery worked until I tired to charge it and it wouldn't recharge. I thought it might just not be showing the charge but it kept getting lower and lower. The cost of returning the battery almost made it not worth it to return. I got my money back and bought a Nikon battery. Most DSLR users buy brand name batteries. It doesn't make sense to spend the money you spend and then trust a cheap battery when you need it.
  -- BUT on my P&S I took a chance and bought a non-Canon battery from Adorama (great place to shop - I'll discuss shopping in another post). The battery was significantly less than the Canon version and it works fine. for a backup on a P&S, it is great.

Bottom Line - It sounds like a like my DSLR more and don't care about my P&S. Yep and Nope. I do prefer my DSLR but I love my P&S. The portability an features on it make it an invaluable tool in my photography kit. Sometimes you need a hammer and sometimes you need a screwdriver. (I can't resist - Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't Almond Joys have nuts, Mounds don't!)

In the end, it doesn't matter what brand you have or if it is a DSLR or a P&S, the camera you are comfortable with and love using is the camera for you. It isn't the equipment, its the skill of he photographer.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Point & Shoots vs DSLRs Pt 1 The Photos

I went home to Georgia last Sunday to see my father in law, pop, a truly amazing person. For one story about him, go to my project 365  http://hldphotosproj365.blogspot.com/2011/01/jan-17th_21.html to see a story about him.

But now, let me show you some photos I made on the trip. Some were made with my Nikon D300 using a 17-55 mm f/2.8 lens. Others were made using a Canon SX 210 IS Point and Shoot (P&S). The Nikon has 13 megapixels, the Canon has 14 but not all pixels are equal as the saying goes. but more on that in following posts. For now, let's just look at the photos for now.

Not a lot of difference. In fact the differences are more from the individual psot processing in Lightroom 2 than the camera. There were differences in the initial photos between the two cameras but careful adjustment can make them nearly the same. (depending upon how badly you want them to match). I shot the Nikon in RAW format, the Canon P&S only shoot jpeg. I shot the Nikon in aperture priority and left the P&S in Program mode. The Nikon was set to ISO 400 and the Canon to 200 (no particular reason) other than to see how the Canon did at lower ISO. I used ISO 400 on the Nikon to obtain faster shutter speed to counteract any hand shake.  I didn't worry about the white balance on the Nikon as I was shooting RAW format while the Canon jpegs where shot using auto white balance. Generally speaking, Auto White Balance works well outside in sunlight but not so well inside. (I suspect part of the issue is that inside you may have a mixture of light (tungsten, sunlight, and fluorescent). The issue with setting the white balance manually (even using Photoshop's eyedropper methods) is what is the "right color" temperature? Aahhh, the joys of digital photography (Film had these issues also but not as obviously to most as with digital's instant feedback on the LCD viewer.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Project 365 underway.

Well, I finally got started on Project 365 the other day. Basically it is a project for each person to take a photo each day for a year forming a basis of what their life is about. Do a google search for details from any of a dozen sites.

To keep this blog for discussing photography, I created a second blog at http://hldphotosproj365.blogspot.com/

As I just got a new Point and Shoot for Christmas (Thanks kids) I am trying to use it primarily instead of my Nikon D300 DSLR. Some of the things I have learned:
1) after you get used to a DSLR, the shutter lag of a P&S is VERY noticeable.
2) Knowing the camera is important. When you are trying to get the shot is no time to have to learn how to do it.
3) Yes there is a difference in snapshots and photographs.

A photo from Jan 12th The shot looks easy but what you don't see is the time spent at 38 degrees with a wind chill that had to be in the upper twenties at best. I read of a photographer that sat in a African river for 2 hours to get a shot of lions drinking at the river bank. He couldn't get the shot any other way.

Also, so say that inexperience shooters take hundreds of shots hoping a few come out good. Maybe so but it also takes a lot of shots to get the one you want, especially when the subject is moving in a non-predictable manner.

The best thing I can say to anybody is if you or your spouse like the shot, then smile and enjoy it. There are too many that will find technical fault or room for improvement as the saying does.

Have fun with whatever camera you use. The main thing is to use it.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Life has been busy.

Time slips away and suddenly you realize its been too long. Well, enough, a few thoughts as we go into the new year.

1) Read an interesting post in Strobist (an excellent site on photography lighting and photography in general). The post is to the effect Forget the Critics - Enjoy what you do. (Not quite in those delicate terms.) And they are correct; one judge may love it and the next hate it. I have had several prints that my wife loves but the "judges" didn't. Who is to say my wife (or anybody is wrong). The bottom line is somebody likes it, enjoy it. Its great to receive constructive criticism and to have things to reflect on and consider if they are valid and could possibly make a better photograph but in the end, if the client or recipient of your work likes it, its good.


2) I found out about a project called "Project 365". Basically you take a photo everyday,maybe more than one but at least one a day. At the end of the year you have a journal of your life and you have had a year to grow as a photographer. I will post the photos periodically.

3) My laptop of 7+ years died suddenly on Jan 2nd  (The logic board that failed). As I struggled with no computer and all my prints trapped on external hard drives (luckily I kept good backups) that were formatted in Apple format and my old Windows machine couldn't read, I had time to reflect on how computers have impacted my life, not always positively. I realized the amount of time I spent on computer instead of being outside or doing something. I saw how much stress they introduces as I tracked tons of email a day. Suddenly I couldn't read then and I saw how unimportant they were.

I now have my son's old iMac running for most work and the old Windows laptop for Photoshop CS5. But I will not be spending as much time on computers. (Yeah, right)
(BTW, Apple computers can read Windows format but Windows cannot read Apple format.)

KEEP GOOD BACKUPS. I lost everything after Nov 12th 2010 until Jan 3rd (except my photos on external hard drives.) I may be able to recover the hard drive info from the Apple laptop.

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