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May 29th, 2015

Up in the Air: Vincent Laforet Finds Common Ground From the Skies

Sponsored by G-Technology

Sometimes it takes a new perspective on life to see the ways in which we’re all connected. Photographer and filmmaker Vincent Laforet has been working at his craft for the past 25 years, winning a Pulitzer Prize for his New York Times coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan post 9/11 and capturing the human spirit through acclaimed journalistic and commercial assignments. But it’s only recently that he’s had the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream of his: taking to the sky at night to capture the intricate manmade patterns resembling “brain synapses” and “computer chips” of some of the most dense metropolises in the world.

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Los Angeles / © Vincent Laforet – AIR

His project, Laforet AIR—named as such because air is an element “that we all share,” he says—began in New York City. The aerial images spread like wildfire online. “I think these images struck a chord,” Laforet says, “because when you look up at buildings in a big city, you feel pretty insignificant, alone and somewhat powerless—but from the air you feel much more connected.”

G-Technology was the first company to see something special in his project, he says, jumping on board with his idea and helping him get it off the ground. Armed with what Laforet terms the “perfect storm of technology”—including some of the most “well-built, reliable, and fast” hard drives ever made—he was able to finally make his childhood dream a reality. He’s already photographed San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and he’s just completed a whirlwind trip through Europe, capturing nighttime aerial shots of London, Barcelona and Berlin, among others. Laforet couldn’t be more excited about the project, even though, he admits, he hasn’t slept much over the past year.

London / © Vincent Laforet – AIR

New York City / © Vincent Laforet – AIR

Making technically sound images from a helicopter at night was something that was not possible a couple of years ago, he says. But now with the improvement of digital camera sensors, and the ability to shoot clean and sharp images at a high ISO, he’s able to successfully shoot close to 10,000 high-resolution images of a city within a single day. Shooting from a helicopter is no easy task with all of the vibration and the added difficulty of shooting at night, he explains—let alone the sheer expense of air time—so it’s essential he uses the best and fastest technology to back up his work. With fast drives, photographers are less likely to skip out on making that second or third copy, and when so much is on the line, “you can’t afford to have mistakes,” he says. “You can’t afford to lose data.” Before he even leaves the helicopter, he explains, he already has three copies of his images: one on a G-DRIVE ev SSD (“the fastest and most stable hard drive you can get,” he says, “you can drop it and it’s fine—there’s no moving pieces”) mounted to a G-DOCK ev® with Thunderbolt; and two G-DRIVE® ev ATC with Thunderbolt copied to a G-RAID® with Thunderbolt 2, RAID 1.

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Laforet photographing from a helicopter.

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Laforet’s G-Technology storage in its case.

This “cutting-edge workflow” ensures that when he gets to his hotel room to do his first round of edits (selecting approximately 500 images from the shoot), he isn’t ever concerned with loss of data, because of the redundancy in his image storage. Waiting for data to copy over is one thing the photographer doesn’t have patience for, but he says the G-Technology drives make the process as painless as possible. Once he’s made his initial selection of shots in his hotel room, he then copies them to the Cloud and syncs them to two 64TB G-SPEED Studio Xls (one in Los Angeles and one in New York City) for safekeeping until he returns home. The process of protecting his data is allowing this high-stakes project to be possible, he says. “It’s pretty bulletproof at this point.”

This secure transfer of files is what also makes it possible for Laforet to translate his bird’s-eye view of cityscapes to the rest of the world. Lights not only ignite the landscape from above, but they serve to tie one culture to the next through distinct color patterns. Daylight-balanced LED lights, for example, (which, he says, are becoming more and more common) allow other surreal hues created by older sodium vapor and fluorescent lighting to be revealed. In Los Angeles, “you have one street that’s all green, followed by one street that’s all blue, and five streets that are all yellow,” he explains. “There are many more commonalities throughout the world and distances are much shorter than we assume. From up there, it’s clear there are a lot of stories to tell.”

Laforet plans to photograph as many iconic cities in as many countries as possible. His hope is to continue growing his audience through his website, laforetAIR.com, and also through social media meet-ups, lithographs and fine-art prints, a book of the images, and eventually, exhibitions.

“This is the most organic and pleasurable assignment I’ve ever done,” he says. “The act of photographing these cities and the joy that people seem to exude when they see their city is really special.”

April 6th, 2015

The Essential Tool Box: Richard Patterson Takes Out His Tenba Tools

Sponsored by Tenba Tools

“Long gone are the days when I was a one-bag kind of dude,” says New York City-based shooter Richard Patterson. “If I’ve got just one bag, I’m on vacation.” Patterson started out as a photojournalist before delving into the motion camerawork that fills his schedule with sports, documentary and commercial gigs now.

As any photographer-turned-cinematographer knows, making the leap to digital video means having even more gear to pack, organize and reconfigure for every shoot. “There’s just so much technology to juggle. It’s unbelievable,” he says. “These days when you pack for a job, you have one item and four things to accompany it—the charger, the battery, the wall plug, and the plug for the wall plug to make it into four plugs.”

While he sometimes packs as many as eight to ten cases for a job, the essential kit Patterson carries fits into just a couple bags. “My go-to bags are the Tenba Roadie Large Roller and Roadie II Hybrid that converts into a backpack if needed, which is really comfortable,” he says. “My equipment breaks down to fit between those two very nicely.” To keep everything in them at his fingertips, Patterson uses Tenba Tools pouches and wallets. He gave us a look inside to see how he keeps it all straight.

Patterson Gear Shot Overall
Pictured: Patterson’s Tenba collection includes a Transport Air Case (top left), but most of his essential gear fits into his Roadie II Hybrid and Roadie Large Roller (top middle/right). (more…)

March 30th, 2015

5 Things You Can Do With Your New Platypod Pro

Sponsored by Platypod Pro LLC
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The 1980’s television hero MacGyver was famous for getting out of jams with nothing more than duct tape and a Swiss Army Knife. Photographers won’t necessarily be defusing bombs in out-of-control trains (we hope) or facing down other MacGyver-esque perils, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t use a trusty do-it-all tool in their camera bag.

The Platypod Pro is just such a tool. It’s a sturdy base plate with a 3/8-inch titanium screw to securely mount tripod ball heads. The company recommends an Arca-type ball head mount with an L-bracket on the camera for maximum stability, but almost any ball head as large as 5 inches tall and 3.5 inches wide will screw firmly into place and fit in the carrying case. In addition to the 3/8-inch screw, there’s also a 1/4-inch screw at the end of the plate for mounting a range of photographic accessories.

The Platypod Pro Deluxe Kit includes three stainless steel spikes and lock wheels, a 1/4-to-3/4-inch female spigot adapter,a sleeve and a wallet case that pops open to accommodate a mini tripod head or collapses down to stow only the Platypod, its screws and memory cards or other small accessories.

So what can you do with the trusty Platypod Pro by your side? Here are a few ideas.  (more…)

January 15th, 2015

Under Pressure, FAA Issues Handful of Exemptions for Commercial Drone Use

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For as long as inexpensive camera-toting drones have been popular, their commercial use in the U.S. has been in a precarious proposition. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the division of the U.S. Department of Transportation that governs the use of our airspace, waited years after the proliferation of drones to issue any guidelines on their use in commerce. Until recently, if you were an architectural or real estate photographer looking for inexpensive ways to capture bird’s eye views, or a production company itching to take advantage of new perspectives in your video, the word from the FAA was clear: No, you can’t use drones for commercial purposes.

But that isn’t stopping businesses from using drones. DJI Global, the manufacturer of the wildly popular Phantom remote-controlled camera drone, skirted the FAA’s ban on commercial drone usage by donating the use of its DJI Inspire 1 during NBC’s broadcast of the 2015 Golden Globes for some free publicity. And under pressure from Congress—who included directives for the FAA to begin to develop the framework it will use to regulate commercial drone flights in a 2012 appropriations bill—the administration has begun to issue exemptions to its six-year-old ban.

In June 2014, it issued the first exemption to British Petroleum, who wanted to use drones to survey Alaska’s North Slope. In September, it issued six exemptions to film and television production companies, and in December, it issued four more exemptions, including one to a construction company. In the first week of 2015, Douglas Trudeau, a 61-year-old real estate agent in Tuscon, Arizona, received the first exemption to use drones for a real estate business. He had applied for the exemption back in July of 2014, after being informed that even though he was not selling his drone footage, using photos and clips shot from drones in his real estate listings constituted commercial use.

CNN—who wants to use drones for newsgathering purposes—has also appealed to the FAA. It recently entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the administration, working with the Georgia Tech Research Institute to collect data to help the FAA develop its framework for regulating drone usage in journalism.

While the FAA was called out by Congress more than two years ago and urged to get started on their regulatory framework, there is still no timetable for the process to be completed. For now, the FAA is issuing exemptions on a case-by-case basis, but if the red carpet at the Golden Globes and Amazon’s drone delivery plan are any indication, it will have to move quickly to keep up. As the FAA attempts to levy fines on drone pilots it feels are violating its vague guidelines, U.S. judges have already found in favor of at least one pilot: A federal judge tossed out a $10,000 fine on the grounds that the guidelines were not specific enough. The National Transportation Safety Board later overruled the judge and re-affirmed the FAA’s right to regulate, but it’s clear that the guidelines are doing little to stop commercial flights.

In the meantime, the administration has put together a website with safety tips for recreational, business, and public service users.

Related articles:

Commercial Drones are Legal, Federal Court Says

Court Refuses to Hear Challenge to FAA’s Drone Cease-and-Desist Orders

DJI One-Ups Phantom With More Powerful, 4K-Recording Inspire 1 Photo Drone

Drone Photographers Take To The Skies To Find New Perspectives

January 5th, 2015

Sony Brings Its Action Camera Into the 4K Era

 

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GoPro no longer has the 4K action camera market to itself. At CES, Sony has added 4K (3840×2160) recording to its new flagship action camera, the FDR-X100V.

Several advanced functions from Sony’s A7 camera line have also trickled down to the X100V, including full pixel readout during recording, which reduces jagged edges and false colors by pulling all of the data off the CMOS sensor. When shooting in 4K at 30 frames per second, you’ll enjoy bit rates of 100Mbps or 60Mbps when shooting at 24 fps. The X100V can record in full HD at up to 120 fps or at 240 fps when shooting at 720p resolution. It also supports Sony’s XAVC S codec.

The optical image stabilization system has been revamped from earlier action cams with a specific emphasis on stabilizing the camera for use on drones where low amplitude vibrations can induce nauseating jitters. The lens will provide the same 170-degree angle of view as previous Sony action cams.

Sony has added wind reduction to the stereo microphone as well as automatic exposure control and white balance settings to give pro users more latitude when adjusting exposure.X100V_in_the_box-1200

Also new for Sony’s 2015 action cam line is a Loop Recording feature, which lets you designate a recording time interval and when the camera hits the end of the allotted time, it will automatically loop back to the beginning and start over-writing previously recorded footage with new video. You can set loop recording at 5, 20, 60, or 120-minute intervals or set it to unlimited and it will use the entire capacity of your memory card.

For those in search of a quick, shareable highlight reel from the day’s adventure, a new Highlight Movie Maker function uses algorithms pegged to the cameras gyro sensor to flag content recorded when the camera was moving or turning rapidly and compiles the clips automatically into a short movie.

The X100V will be slightly larger than Sony’s existing action cams, so it won’t be compatible with older waterproof cases. Look for it in March for $500 or for $600 when bundled with the new RM-LVR2 live view remote. The new remote is waterproof to a depth of 10 feet and lets you control Sony’s action cameras and preview images.

AS200V_side1-1200If you don’t need the 4K experience, Sony’s new full HD HDR-AS200V updates the AS100V with Loop Record, Highlight Movie Maker, the full pixel readout functionality and a wind-reduction microphone. It will also ship in March for $300 or for $400 with the new live view remote.

 

December 23rd, 2014

PDNPulse: Top Stories of 2014

As another fascinating year in the world of professional photography comes to a close, we look back on the stories that drew the most interest from PDNPulse readers this year.

From manipulated news photos, to photographers arrested for doing their jobs, to collaborative efforts between photographers and an interview with one of photography’s most influential star makers, these stories capture some of the highs and lows of the photography business today.

1: George Steinmetz Wonders: Was It Worth Getting Arrested for National Geographic Cover Story Photos

2: 2014 Winter Olympics Op-Ed: Everything You’ve Read About Problems for Photographers in Sochi is True

3: PDN Video: Lens Blog’s James Estrin’s Career Tips for Photojournalists

4: Photographers Share Intimate Images of Loved Ones for Curated Photo Website

5: AP Severs Ties With Photographer Narciso Contreras Over Photoshopped Image
5a: Photographer Fired by AP Says Decision Was Fair, But Process Wasn’t

6: How Much Do Editorial Clients Pay? “Wiki” Gives Names and Fees

7: If that Kim Kardashian Photo Looks Familiar…

8: Calumet Photographic to Liquidate, Closes U.S. Stores

9: Photographer Creates Free iPhone App for His Signature Style

10: Wal-mart Sues Photographer’s Widow Claiming Copyright for Decades of Portraits of Walton Family

11: Suffolk County Pays $200K to Settle News Photographer’s Unlawful Arrest Claim

12: How Should Clients React to Sexual Coercion Allegations Against Terry Richardson?

13: AP Photographer Anja Niedringhaus Killed in Afghanistan

14: Cowboy Lifestyle Photographer David Stoecklein Dies, 65

15: Photojournalist Camille Lapage, 26, “Murdered” in Central African Republic

November 20th, 2014

Gear Roundup: Must-rent Equipment from CSI Rentals

Sponsored by CSI Rentals

For many photographers and videographers, few things in life are more precious than gear. As the page turns on 2015, visual storytellers have a surplus of technological riches available to them, and at equipment rental hotspots like CSI Rentals in New York City, it’s easy to keep up with changing technology and trends. CSI makes the process even easier with perks like a mobile website to reserve gear, and nationwide shipping for shoots that take you outside of the city. Here are a few products to keep on your radar for your next project.

1) Canon Cinema C100 with Dual Pixel AF Sensor
Canon C100
CSI Rentals offers many different cinema cameras and packages. Among them is the new, upgraded Canon C100 with Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology. The EOS C100 offers an autofocus mode to help ensure sharp focus and smooth focus transitions. The upgrade provides a new Continuous AF (Autofocus) function for all autofocus lenses, using Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology.
CSI Rentals daily / weekend rate: $195

2) Canon 7D Mark II

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CSI Rentals also now rents the latest Canon 7D Mark II, the first EOS DSLR to run dual DIGIC 6 processors, a one-two computational punch that powers a 10 frames per second (fps) burst mode. Canon bumped up the buffer to accommodate up to 31 RAW images or 1,900 JPEGs, vastly surpassing the original 7D’s 130-JPEG buffer. The 7D Mark II also employs a new 65 cross-type AF system for better low light focusing as well as an improved version of the Dual Pixel CMOS AF found in the C100 above.

The 20-megapixel 7D Mark II uses a newly developed APS-C-sized sensor with a native ISO range of 100 to 16,000 for stills and video. The camera records 1920 x 1080/60p HD and features a 3-inch display or a viewfinder with a 100-percent field of view that can overlay data such as an electronic level display or a grid. Built-in GPS is also on hand for geo-tagging images. The 7D Mark II’s magnesium alloy body offers four times the moisture and dust resistance of the original 7D so inclement weather shouldn’t be an obstacle to your shoot.
CSI Rentals Daily/weekend rental rate: $60

 

3) DJI Ronin Handheld Gimbal
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CSI Rentals has a full line of camera rigs, sliders, and stabilizers, and has recently added the new DJI Ronin handheld gimbal to its lineup. Famous for its drones, DJI has its own brushless gimbal based around the company’s 3-axis stabilized Zenmuse technology—the same found on its flying machines—for run-and-gun filmmaking. The Ronin will support a wide range of camera bodies—from Micro Four Thirds cameras like Panasonic’s GH4 to cinema cams like the RED Scarlet. A tool-less balance adjustment system simplifies your set-up and DJI promises you’ll be up and shooting (and running) in five minutes. A SmoothTrack Control features gives a single camera operator the ability to turn rapid tilting and panning into smooth, stabilized movements. The included remote control lets a second operator wirelessly pan and tilt the Ronin while the first operator physically moves the device to compose a shot. An Upright Mode lets you flip the gimbal over so you can bring the camera closer to eye level.
CSI Rentals Daily / Weekend rental rate: $225

 

4) Blackmagic Design URSA
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Designed to be operated by either large crews or a single operator, the URSA sports a pair of 5-inch touch screen displays on both sides for control over audio and other camera settings. There’s a huge 10-inch flip-out LCD for framing your scene or navigating through the camera’s menu. The guts of the URSA are composed of a Super 35mm-sized, 4K image sensor that supports frame rates up to 60p and 12 stops of dynamic range. It also boasts a global shutter. BlackMagic’s pitch with the URSA is its future-proofing. The sensor and lens mount assembly can be changed so sensors can be field-upgradeable and you can mount either EF or PL lenses to the camera body to suit your needs. You can record either ProRes or Ultra HD 12-bit lossless Cinema DNG RAW to a pair of hot-swappable CFast cards.
CSI Rentals Day / Weekend Rental Daily rate: $350

 

5) iKan iLED 312
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There are plenty of new lights to illuminate your production. Among the newcomers that caught our eye is the iKan iLED 312. This on-camera LED delivers a wide-angle 60-degree beam for consistent lighting with a variable color temperature between 3200 tungsten and 5600K daylight. A dimmer can adjust light intensity from 10 to 100 percent and a built-in LCD display gives you a read out on all of the light’s vitals: brightness level, color temperature and remaining battery life.
CSI Rentals Daily/ Weekend rate: $35

 

6) Profoto B1
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Another lighting must-rent is Profoto’s B1 500. This battery-powered monolight lets you cut the cord so your flash can always be with you. Compatible with the full range of Profoto light modifiers, the B1 offers TTL metering for Canon and Nikon cameras with the company’s Air Remote. At 500 Watts, it’s about 10x more powerful than speedlights for when freezing action and getting studio results outdoors is a must.
CSI Rentals Daily / Weekend rate: $50

If you’re in the New York City area, you can stop by CSI Rental locations in Manhattan or Brooklyn to speak with a rental expert onsite. It’s one thing to watch a YouTube tutorial, quite another to speak with an expert in the flesh with the technology in hand.  Visit www.csirentals.com to see their locations, inventory and rates, and check out their app for iOS and Android mobile devices.

November 18th, 2014

My Adidas: Company Printing Customer Photos on Sneakers

Left: a screen shot of the #miZXFLUX app image adjustment screen. Right: the preview screen of the #miZXFLUX app.

Our special edition PDN Tulipmania sneakers. Left: A screen shot of the #miZXFLUX app image adjustment screen. Right: The preview screen of the #miZXFLUX app.

Earlier this month, athletic and lifestyle apparel company adidas launched an app, #miZXFLUX, that allows customers to use their own photographs to create unique sneakers.

Customers can use the app to scale and size their images on a pair ZX Flux sneakers, which are modeled on the ZX 8000 running shoes adidas originally released in 1988. The photo-printed shoes cost $110, and the app is available for Apple and Android devices.

An adidas representative told Sports Illustrated about the materials and printing process. The images customers upload from their phones are upscaled and sharpened from the 115dpi minimum resolution before they are printed. “We actually improve the photo from the phone and final production is 300 dpi printing quality,” adidas global digital manager Mac Russell told SI.com.

Adidas’s Vietnam factory uses “a large wool printer” to ink the photographs onto single pieces of synthetic leather for the shoe’s upper, Russell added.

It will be interesting to see if any professional photographers take advantage of the technology. In addition to creating shoes with great images, enterprising photographers might come up with good marketing and promo efforts. Feel free to email us if you need our shoe sizes.

November 10th, 2014

Canon’s New 100-400mm Lens Is Steadier Than Ever

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It’s been 16 years since Canon shooters have seen a new 100-400mm EF lens. The wait is now over.

The second generation EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L II USM lens is official and boasts improved image stabilization, giving it four stops of stabilization versus the 1.5 available on the first generation model. Image stabilization is also now tripod sensitive and will be available in three modes: standard, panning and during exposure only.

The lens has been redesigned from the original “push-pull” zoom to a rotating zoom that Canon says will keep the lens steadier and more precise when zooming. The zoom torque adjustment ring has had its own makeover so you can set your zoom tension more easily.

The optical formula has been revamped as well. There is now one Flourite and one Super UD lens element in the lens as well as newly developed Air Sphere Coating to minimize flaring and ghosting.

The new 100-400mm will be able to focus on objects as close as 3.2 feet away.

The lens will offer Flourine coatings on the front and rear surfaces to keep dusty and water from beading on the lens and will feature a weather resistant magnesium housing to keep it safe from the elements.

It will ship with a new lens hood that will feature a slide window for quick access to lens filters, so you don’t have to pop the hood off to adjust your filter. The tripod mount has also been redesigned so that it’s quickly detachable.

The new 100-400mm will hit retail in December carrying a $2,199 price tag.

November 7th, 2014

First Hasselblad Camera Used in Space Up for Auction

Atlas CameraYou can own a piece of photographic–and space–history next week when the first Hasselblad camera body and Zeiss Planar 80mm lens carried into orbit on the Mercury-Atlas 8 goes up for auction.

The Hasselblad 500c was purchased by astronaut Wally Schirra from a Houston photo shop in 1962. The camera was not blasted into space as-is. Schirra, fellow astronaut Gordon Cooper and the U.S. Air Force camera lab made their own tweaks, such as adding a 100-exposure film container, an aiming device on the side of the camera and a new paint job to minimize reflections.

The camera snapped multiple images of Earth from orbit as it travelled on what was America’s fifth manned mission to space.

The camera will be auctioned by Boston’s RR Auction on November 13. The terrestrial version of the 500c is fetching $400 on eBay. The celestial version, with the custom film container and lens, may command up to an astronomical $100,000 in auction.

UPDATE: It did much better than $100,000. The camera sold for $275,000!