September 15th, 2014

Photokina 2014: Samsung Reveals 4K-Recording NX1 (Hands-on Preview)

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Samsung is making a concerted push at hybrid still and video shooters with its new flagship, the NX1, introduced at Photokina 2014. It’s one of the first cameras capable of recording 4K in the new HEVC codec, which promises more efficient compression than its H.264 predecessor.

We had a little hands-on time with the unit ahead of its Photokina debut and we think it will definitely pique the interest of video and still photographers alike.

New Sensor

The NX1 is built around a 28-megapixel backside illuminated, APS-C-sized CMOS image sensor (23.5 x 15.7mm). It’s a sensor of Samsung’s own design and is the first of its size to feature backside illumination. While it offers roughly 8 million more pixels than the NX30, the photo diodes are the same size (a space-saving consequence of the BSI sensor). This endows the NX1 with better low light performance, up to ISO 51200 (from a native 100). The sensor construction was also changed from polysilicate to copper, which Samsung says makes it faster and more energy efficient.

Video
One of the highlights of the NX1 is its 4K and Ultra HD video capture. The NX1 will record compressed 4K (4096 x 2160) direct to an SD memory card at 24 frames per second (fps) and compressed Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) footage at 24 or 30fps. It employs the new, more efficient H.265 or HEVC codec, which is what enables the NX1 to store 4K video to a Class 10 SD card rather than rely on an external recorder. The HEVC codec is used on many new 2014 4K televisions as well, so the NX1′s video can be played directly from a memory card on a compatible TV without prior transcoding.

You can also record uncompressed footage to an external recorder via the NX1′s HDMI 1.4 output. The NX1 can also record 4K to a memory card and output 1080p footage to an external recorder. What it can’t do is simultaneously record 4K to a memory card and an external recorder. There are mic and headphone jacks as well for audio recording and monitoring.

If 4K isn’t your thing, the NX1 also supports 1920 x 1080 HD recording at 60, 50, 30, 25 and 24fps.

Autofocus IMGP3443
Another highlight of the NX1 is its new autofocus system. It employs 205 phase detection points, of which 153 are cross type sensors, for 90 percent frame coverage. This phase system is combined with 209 contrast AF sensors enabling the NX1 to track focus on moving objects even while bursting at the NX1’s rapid 15fps.

The phase detection AF will also come as a boon to videographers since the NX1 will be able to lock focus faster and smoother than a purely contrast AF system could.

From our brief dalliance with the NX1, it was immediately obvious that the camera is fast. We aimed it outdoors at cars streaming down a busy New York Street and it locked focus quickly and burst rapidly. Reviewing the results in camera and we were impressed with how crisp (and reckless) the cabs appeared.

Rounding out the new AF features is its patterned AF assist beam which stretches out up to an 15m to help establish focus in very low light.

The DRiM processor has also been supped up from the NX30’s 64-bit chip to the NX1’s 128-bit engine. In terms of performance, the processing power delivers in-camera RAW image processing that’s three times faster than the NX30, in addition to a host of ultra-specific new scene modes such as Auto Shot. In this mode, designed for shooting baseball games, you highlight the batter and the path you suspect the pitcher’s ball will travel. The camera scans the scene at 240fps for the ball and Samsung promises the NXi will be able to reliably capture the moment the bat makes contact with the ball and snap a photo.

The new processor also powers a new multi-shot HDR mode that snaps two images in rapid succession so that even if objects are in motion in the frame, it wouldn’t scuttle your HDR composition. There’s a standard three image HDR mode in the camera too.

The NX1 offers a new, dust and weather-resistant magnesium alloy build. It feels sturdy in the hand, something professional shooters will feel right at home with. Samsung added a top LCD display for camera settings, another feature pros should appreciate. The pronounced hand grip gives you a firm hold on the NX1′s body. There will also be a battery grip for the NX1 that provides an extra 500 shots worth of life.

New EVF
The NX1 is outfitted with a new electronic viewfinder that Samsung says has a 5-10ms recycle time that is “imperceptible” to the human eye. In our time with the camera, the scene flashing by on the viewfinder’s OLED panel appeared extremely crisp. The main LCD display on the camera flips out between 45 and 90 degrees and has a resolution of 1,036k dots.

Connectivity
For connectivity with mobile devices, or for wireless 4K streaming, the NX1 uses the fastest possible Wi-Fi (802.11ac). It also uses Bluetooth for Wi-Fi authentication with a mobile device and for pulling metadata, like GPS coordinates, into image files.

The NX1 will ship in the middle of October for $1,499 (body only). There will also be a “pro kit” bundle that includes a 16-50mm S lens, the battery grip and an extra battery and charger for $2,799.

New Lens

Joining the new camera is another S series lens: the 50-150mm f.2.8 lens (77-231mm equivalent). It will offer four axis image stabilization good for four stops of correction and a nine bladed circular diaphragm. New for the S series is a custom focusing range button that, once pressed, will let you set focusing parameters on the NX1. According to Samsung, the custom focus button will only work on other NX series cameras with a firmware update and no upgrade is scheduled as of this writing.

The lens will be dust and splash resistant and will set you back $1,599. Availability hasn’t been finalized.

 

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September 15th, 2014

Photokina 2014: Olympus Intros 40-150mm Pro Lens, Firmware Upgrade for Studio Tethering

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Olympus announced today at Photokina that it will bring a new 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro lens to the market in November.

The M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm lens keeps a constant f/2.8 aperture and uses dual linear voice coil motors to keep focusing fast and quiet. Capable of focusing on objects as close as 20 inches away, the lens offers a dedicated function button, manual focus clutch and a sliding protective lens hood. It’s also dust, splash and freeze proof and measures in at a little over 6 inches.

The lens will set you back $1,499. Olympus will also sell a 1.4x teleconverter, the MC-14, for use with the lens in November for $349.

Firming Up

The OM-D E-M1 is also getting a firmware upgrade the will enable several new capabilities including USB tethered shooting using the new Olympus Capture software utility. Capture will display the E-M1′s live view display on a computer monitor and allow for remote controlling the camera from a desktop or laptop.

The firmware will also allow keystone compensation to correct trapezoidal distortion in live view and delivers the Live Composite Mode found on the E-M10 for capturing light trails in a dark sky. There are also two new Art Filters, improved EVF display lag, and a panning scene mode that sets optimal shutter speed to match the movements of your subject.

The new firmware will come pre-installed in a new Silver edition of the E-M1 (shipping this month) and will be available for current E-M1 owners on September 24th.

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September 12th, 2014

Friday Fun: David Yellen Shoots on Location with a Snapping Turtle and Uninvited Alligator

10_COVERThis month’s PDN cover features Ernie Brown Jr., aka The Turtleman, posing in a swamp with a large, irritated snapping turtle on his knee. For photographer David Yellen, the shoot–to promote Animal Planet’s Call of the Wildman–was more harrowing than it looks.

It took place last February on the edge of a swampy pond in northern Florida. Location scouts had certified the pond as alligator-free. But Turtleman announced upon arrival that there was an alligator about. “We called bullshit on him, but he said, ‘See those air bubbles over there? They’re going to start moving.’ And five minutes later we saw the alligator’s eyeballs,” Yellen recounts. Animal wranglers took up their guard with alligator nooses. Turtleman, who specializes in ridding people’s backyards of unwanted reptiles, started diving for the gator. “He was saying, ‘I’m going to get this guy,”” Yellen says. “Luckily, he didn’t. It was a nine- or ten-foot alligator.”

With the alligator lurking around, Yellen struggled to get just the right picture of Turtleman holding the 80-pound snapping turtle. “I kept getting closer, wider, and lower,” Yellen says. “I was really pushing it.” Yellen, who had never worked with a snapping turtle before, didn’t know that large snapping turtles can extend their necks 12 inches or more. Behind him, the animal wranglers, the producer, and eventually Turtleman’s manager issued increasingly urgent warnings for Yellen to “watch out.” He was also looking through a wide angle lens, so he was getting closer to the turtle than he realized. “I thought they were being paranoid,” he says of the worried crew.

Finally the turtle got Yellen’s attention by taking a lunge toward the camera, and missing by not much. The resounding snap of its jaws unnerved Yellen, but he pressed on. “I was like, I don’t care, I’m going to get this. I just didn’t feel like I was getting it. I felt like it needed to be more intense, and I needed to try harder. So I got lower and closer.” He got so low that pond water finally flooded into his waders. “It was disgusting,” he says. With his camera—a Hasselblad H2 with a Phase One back—within half an inch of the pond’s surface, he finally got the image he was after. “It’s not an intense stare-down” with the camera, he says. “[Turtleman] is not totally connecting with me. He’s just out there in the wild, and it kind of feels like that.”

September 12th, 2014

Sony Courts Filmmakers with New Full Frame Lens

Sony’s continued its push to make its full frame mirrorless system attractive to filmmakers with the new FE PZ 28-135mm F G OSS, the first full-frame lens with a power zoom for smoother focusing. SELP28135G_A-1200

The new E-mount lens is part of Sony’s effort to boost its full frame cameras among filmmakers by tackling three issues that bedevil still photo lenses during video shoots: changes in angle of view during focusing, focus shifts during zoom and the movement of the optical axis during zooming.

The new lens will combat these maladies with a supersonic wave motor drive and a double linear motor to reduce focus noise.

The FE PZ 28-135 will also have separate control rings for focus, zoom and aperture and features a maximum aperture of f/4. Optical image stabilization is also on hand to keep things steady—it can be switched off via a button on the lens barrel.

The new lens is set to ship in December for $2,499.

September 12th, 2014

Nikon’s New D750 Brings Several Firsts to the FX Line

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Nikon rolled out the pre-Photokina red carpet for its newest full frame digital SLR: the D750.

Situated between the D610 and D810, the D750 will have several firsts for Nikon’s full frame lineup including a new 24.3-megapixel CMOS sensor, Wi-Fi capability, a vari-angle LCD and a new build that makes it the thinnest DSLR in the company’s lineup.

According to Nikon, the slender build is due to its monocoque design. The body features magnesium alloy parts integrated with carbon fiber in the front and grip assembly to make a light yet weather-resistant package. The vari-angle LCD screen will be 3.2-inches in size and feature 1,229K dots for high-resolution viewing.

The D750 features a native ISO range of 100-12800 and can extend as high as 51200 or to a low of 50. It uses the same EXPEED 4 processing engine found on the D810 as well as its 91,000 pixel 3D Color Matrix Matrix III metering sensor. There’s also a highlight weighted metering option for shooting spot-lit details against black backgrounds. D750_24_120_top_2

The AF system features 51 points including 15 cross type sensors, 11 of which are compatible with teleconverter lenses shooting at f/8 or faster. The camera’s Advanced Multi-Cam 3500-FX II AF system can track objects in continuous shooting mode at the camera’s maximum burst speed of 6.5fps in either RAW or JPEG. A first for any Nikon DSLR, the D750 can lock focus on subjects in as little as -3 EV illumination.

It features a maximum shutter speed of 1/4000, shy of the D810’s 1/8000 and it’s rated for 150,000 cycles.

Nikon also added a new clarity parameter to its picture controls to adjust mid tone contrast. Like the D810, there’s also a flat picture control to deliver more dynamic range during video shoots (ideal for color grading in post-processing). All the picture controls are adjustable in .25 increments.

As noted above, the D750 is Nikon’s first FX-series camera to offer built-in Wi-Fi. Using the company’s Wireless Mobile Utility App you can  transfer images to smartphones or use mobile devices as real-time viewfinders and/or remote triggers. With the UT1 communications unit and the WT-5a wireless transceiver, you can enable wireless FTP transfers or trigger and operate the camera in HTTP mode through a web browser (where you’ll see a real-time live view preview as well as have the ability to start and stop recording).

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Video Features

When it comes to video, the D750 borrows heavily from the D810’s feature set. It offers 1920 x 1080 HD video recording with a choice of 60, 30 or 24fps with full manual control over exposure settings. The Power Aperture function gives shooters the ability to seamlessly and steplessly open and close the aperture during recording, another goodie derived from the D810.

Video is recorded to the D750’s two SD card slots and can also be simultaneously output to external recorders and monitors via HDMI.

On the audio front, there’s a built-in stereo mic, external mic input, and a headphone jack for audio monitoring.

The D750 will ship this month for $2,295, body only. A kit including the 24-120mm lens will ship in October, though pricing wasn’t announced.

More Gear

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In addition to the the D750, Nikon added  the AF-S Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G ED wide angle full frame lens to its lineup. It’s the company’s first wide angle lens with an f/1.8 aperture. It features a seven blade diaphragm, two ED elements, two aspheric elements and a 77mm filter size. It will ship in September for $799.

Finally, there will also be a new speed light in the Nikon lineup. The SB-500 has a guide number of 24 at ISO 100 and covers a 16mm angle for full frame cameras (24mm for DX sensors) with a head that swivels vertically at a 90 degree angle and rotates at 180 degrees. It incorporates a 100lux LED for video lighting and accepts a pair of AA batteries. It will also ship in September for $249 with a small stand so you can mount it to a tripod or on a table top for off-camera use.

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September 8th, 2014

Robert Frerck on How to Track Down Copyright Infringements in Textbooks

After publishing our story about the dozens of lawsuits filed against textbook publishers for reproductions of photos that far exceed the limits of usage licenses, we heard from travel photographer Robert Frerck. He won a summary judgment in August on his copyright infringement claim against Pearson Education, and a settlement last May from McGraw-Hill on a separate infringement claim.

“It seems that once a publisher used your image with a valid license, you were fair game for any additional products that they might fancy to produce,” he told PDN via e-mail. In the following excerpt of our exchange with Frerck, he touches on the risk of suing clients, then shares his advice and strategies for tracking down infringements by textbook publishers.

PDN: Was it difficult to bring suit against a client?
Robert Frerck: I had been doing substantial business with all of these publishers for decades, so it was a very difficult decision. I was aware that if I proceeded with this action I might be be putting an end to several profitable client relationships. However I was also very disturbed that these companies had not been truthful in their actions with me. Over [many] years I had met many of their picture editors personally and we had developed a relationship based on trust and I considered many of them to be personal friends. So I felt betrayed when I learned that these companies were knowingly cheating me as a standard business practice. I think that in the end that was the deciding factor in persuading me to pursue legal action.

PDN: What has the process been like for you? Have you ever questioned whether it was worth the headache?
RF:  It has been very frustrating at times. However, it has also been rewarding to see that this information has come out and that my position has been vindicated. The bottom line is that it has been well worth the effort, from both a “securing justice” and a financial perspective.

PDN Are there any particular lessons you’ve learned from your experience pursuing these claims? Any advice you’d give other photographers who might be considering in a similar position?
RF: Fortunately, I still had almost two decades of past invoices and these were coupled with their respective purchase orders and related communications. Most importantly the language of these invoices very clearly stated: what reproduction rights I was licensing and what I was not licensing. So this was sufficient to make a case. However I then decided to expand my data collection in a somewhat different way from other photographers in similar cases. Rather than simply looking at past invoices and making those invoices the substance of my claims, I decided to purchase almost all of the textbooks that were indicated by my invoice record[s].

By actually having the textbooks in my hands, I discovered many things that were not revealed simply by looking at the invoices. For example there were numerous uses of my images that were not mentioned on the purchase orders and consequently never invoiced or licensed. Where only one use was indicated on the purchase order, I might find a second or third use of an image in the actual text (for example, a second use in the table of contents). I also found images that were indicated for use as a 1/4 page on the purchase order but in the text were used as a double page chapter opener, a mistake with a huge impact on the bottom line.

Another interesting thing I discovered – and for this I bless Google and the internet and companies like Amazon: I would find the title of the text that was listed on my purchase order/invoice but then I would also find that there was an “International Edition” of that same title; or a “Spanish Language Edition” or a newer “expanded edition” or a “CD or internet website use” that I had never licensed. Many of my claims against publishers are for uses in products that were never licensed in the first place. It seems that once a publisher used your image with a valid license, you were fair game for any additional products that they might fancy to produce. Unless you were actively spending countless hours researching these titles on the internet you would never have been aware that this was occurring. I guess that is what the publishers were counting on.

In the final analysis, pursuing this type of litigation is not for everyone; first it helps to have reliable records and a lot of patience and perseverance. However, in a way it is like the unraveling of a good mystery and you are trying to discover all of the wrinkles in the plot. You must also be prepared to put up with a lot of BS from the defense lawyers, but my lawyers have been great in countering them. And most importantly, remember that the truth will be found out in the end.

Related:
Has a Textbook Publisher Trampled Your Copyrights? There’s a Solution for That.

September 5th, 2014

Photographers Settle Copyright Suit Against Google. But On What Terms?

A copyright infringement lawsuit against Google that began with a bang in 2010 and plenty of bluster by trade groups about protecting the rights of their members has finally ended with a whimper.

The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), Advertising Photographers of America (APA), Professional Photographers of America (PPA) and several other trade groups representing photographers and visual artists have announced a settlement of their class action lawsuit over the Google Books program on (mostly) undisclosed terms.

“The parties are pleased to have reached a settlement that benefits everyone and includes funding for the PLUS Coalition, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping rights holders and users communicate clearly and efficiently about rights in works. Further terms of the agreement are confidential,” NPPA announced today on its web site.

The lawsuit, almost identical to a separate lawsuit filed against Google by the Authors Guild, was a reaction to Google’s Books Search program. Under that program, Google has been working with several libraries to scan books and periodicals and make the content available through its search engine results. The plaintiffs sued in 2010 to stop Google from copying, scanning or displaying copyrighted photos and other visuals in printed publications without permission.

Under the terms of the settlement, NPPA says, Google admits no liability. And with no mention by plaintiffs about how a revenue stream from the Google Books program will be shared with visual artists going forward, it seems unlikely that today’s settlement included any concessions from Google to pay license fees for images scanned as part of its program.

Last November, a federal court dismissed the Authors Guild lawsuit on fair use grounds. That decision likely weakened the hand of ASMP and other photo industry plaintiffs in their claim against Google.

But ASMP and the other plaintiffs launched their lawsuit with high expectations.

ASMP said in 2010 that the goal of the suit was to make sure photographers are “fairly and reasonably compensated” when their works are distributed through Google search results.

When NPPA joined the lawsuit in 2013, NPPA’s then-president said in a prepared statement: “I feel it is the NPPA’s responsibility to protect that principle of ownership, and not allow companies like Google to infringe upon our rights uncontested.”

Advertising Photographers of America also joined the lawsuit in 2013. “Holding Google Books responsible for their flagrant copyright infringement is something APA has been working on and we’re pleased to continue this fight in conjunction with the other plaintiffs,” the APA president said at the time.

Meanwhile, the Authors Guild is in the process of appealing its copyright claim against Google to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York. NPPA said in its announcement today, “This settlement does not affect Google’s current litigation with the Authors Guild or otherwise address the underlying questions in that suit.”

Related:
Judge Dismisses Authors Guild’s Lawsuit Against Google
ASMP, Other Trade Groups Sue Google (for PDN subscribers)

September 4th, 2014

Video Pick: Wildlife Advocate’s Story Wins Yale e360 Video Prize

Yale-360-home“Badru’s Story,” a video by the documentary photography/video team of Benjamin Drummond and  Sara Joy Steele about efforts to monitor the effects of climate change on biodiversity in Uganda’s Bwindi National Park, has won first place in a video contest held by Yale Environment 360, the online publication of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. The team will receive $2,000, and their video will be shown on e360.yale.edu for 30 days; the second- and third-place winners will be shown in the coming weeks.

The video follows researcher Badru Mugerwa as he leads a team cutting through the dense forest to set 60 camera traps that will record the movement of wildlife. After making into into the dense growth and painstakingly setting each camera trap, Mugerwa says, “You better have interesting things on this camera after 30 days.” He is part of the Tropical Ecological Assessment & Monitoring (TEAM) Network, a global network of field station which records similar data across the tropics. “Badru’s Story” includes some of the thousands of images the camera traps in Bwindi have recorded, including photos of elephants, gorilla families, chimpanzees (some of whom check out the cameras quite closely), anteaters, leopards, and numerous birds. A representative of the Ugandan Wildlife Authority interviewed in the video notes that Bwindi is one of the few forests in the world “where you find gorillas and chimpanzees feeding together.”

Drummond and Steele, whose work has often focused on the human effects of climate change, also show, in video and stills, the community living around the park

TEAM Network: Badru’s Story from Benjamin Drummond / Sara Steele on Vimeo.

The Yale e360 video contest was judged by editor Roger Cohn; Elizabeth Kolbert, an environmental writer for The New Yorker and e360, and documentary filmmaker Thomas Lennon. Yale e360 supports and publishes documentary work on environmental issues. (See PDN’s article on their support of Evan Abramson’s video about the conflict over water resources on the Kenya and  Ethiopia border.)

Related Articles:
Video Pick: One Family Business Copes with Climate Change

An Under-Reported War Over Water [A Project Supported by Yale e360)

September 3rd, 2014

Mary F. Calvert Wins $25,000 Women’s Initiative Grant

From "Missing in Action: Homeless Female Veterans." © Mary F. Calvert

From “Missing in Action: Homeless Female Veterans” © Mary F. Calvert

Photographer Mary F. Calvert has won the Alexia Foundation’s 2014 Women’s Initiative Grant to fund her project called “Missing in Action: Homeless Female Veterans,” the foundation announced this morning. Calvert was a finalist for the $25,000 grant last year, when it was initiated by the Alexia Foundation to support photojournalism projects about issues affecting women.

The Alexia Foundation says Calvert explained in her grant proposal that female veterans are the fastest growing segment of the US homeless population, and are four times more likely than civilian women to become homeless because of health issues, and psychological and economic stress. Those issues are often exacerbated by the strains of parenthood. But the Department of Veteran’s affairs is ill-equipped to address the needs of female veterans, according to critics.

“Mary Calvert’s project on homeless female veterans in Los Angeles qualifies as the poster story for our mission statement,” Alexia Foundation co-founder Aphrodite Tsairis said on the foundation’s blog. “The stark emotion evoked in her images promises to deliver the raw naked truth about a neglected segment in the military.”

Calvert’s work will focus on homeless female veterans in the Los Angeles area. She will explore the efforts of the Department of Veterans Affairs and other organizations to provide services, as well as “put a human face on this neglected crisis” by allowing women to tell their stories in their own voices, according to the Alexia Foundation.

As a condition of the grant, Calvert is expected to submit a project portfolio of at least 60 images by March 1, 2015. The Alexia Foundation expects to assist her in creating a multimedia production of the finished work, according to communications director Eileen Mignoni.

Mignoni says the Alexia Foundation received 400 applications for the Women’s Initiative Grant this year. The foundation’s nine-member Photojournalism Advisory Council selected the winner. The advisory council members include Jim Dooley, Brian Storm, Ed Kashi, Ami Vitale, Pim Van Hemmen, Huang Wen, Whitney Johnson, Aidan Sullivan and Lacy Austin.

Related Articles:
Anatomy of a  Successful Grant Application: Tim Matsui on the Women’s Initiative Grant (for PDN subscribers)

Tim Matsui Wins Alexia Foundation Women’s Initiative Grant

September 3rd, 2014

Photojournalists Launch “Selfie Against the Death Penalty” Campaign

Documentary photographer Marc Asnin and VII Association, a non-profit organization founded by VII Photo Agency, have launched a social media campaign that advocates for the abolition of the death penalty.

The “Photographers Selfie Against the Death Penalty” campaign is part of a collaboration between Asnin’s Neverland Publications and VII Association on Final Words, a book and traveling exhibition that presents the final statements of 515 inmates executed in Texas since 1982. The aim of the project is to focus on “the humanity at the center of the death penalty in America,” the organizers said in a statement.

To participate, photographers are being asked to upload an image to the Final Words site, and to finish the statement “I stand against the death penalty because….” Among the photographers who have participated so far are Larry Fink, Rudy Archuleta, Anthony Barboza, Sim Chi Yin, and several members of the VII Photo Agency.

For full instructions for how to participate in the campaign, visit the Final Words site here.