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

Reimagine the Client Gift: Custom Self-promo Magazines

Sponsored by Blurb

While small self-promo pieces for clients are a popular option for photographers during the holiday season, a multi-page printed promo can have much more impact.

Fashion photographer Benjamin Kaufmann recently created his first print run of a custom self-promotional magazine that mimics the high-end glossy magazines that he regularly shoots for.

For design and production of the issue, Kaufmann turned to self-publishing platform Blurb. He found that the site’s design capabilities, high-quality paper options, and flexibility in production was the perfect vehicle to create a magazine tailored for his clients. And with on-demand printing, he could quickly follow up with new clients to solidify the relationship.

“The more one communicates on a personal level with clients and the more effort one puts into self-marketing, the greater the feedback will be,” Kaufmann says.

For the full article on PDNonline, click here.

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Photos © Benjamin Kaufmann

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!

November 5th, 2014

PPE 2014: Building a Career in Fine-Art Photography

Be nice. This simple and self-evident maxim was one of many takeaways from the PhotoPlus Expo seminar, “Your Picture on the Wall: Building a Career in Fine-art Photography,” which was held on Thursday, October 30 at the Javits Center in New York City.

Hosted by collector, curator and former gallerist W.M. Hunt, the panel included gallerists with different ideas and interests: Andrea Meislin and Sasha Wolf from New York, and Catherine Edelman from Chicago. While they may show different work, the gallerists all agreed that being pleasant and respectful goes a long way when you are trying to get a gallerist interested in your work.

Wolff told a story about an artist who came to all of her openings, was enthusiastic and pleasant, and all the while never asked to show Wolf her work. Instead, it was Wolf who asked to see her work.

Hunt recalled a letter he received from an artist who praised a talk he gave. The artist never mentioned his own work. “It was implicit that he wanted me to champion his work, but he didn’t ask for it,” Hunt says. Showing an appreciation for a gallerist’s time and the work they show, and being able to talk about how your own work might fit, shows that an artist has done some homework and has “an appreciation” for the gallerist, Hunt noted.

Appreciating the work a gallerist does also came up when the panel discussed the issue of exclusivity. Each said they preferred, and Wolf insisted, that they be the “home” gallery for the artists they represent. That means they handle responsibilities like recordkeeping, exhibition production and business for their artists. This didn’t mean they aren’t willing to have the artist show with other galleries, the panelists said. They just want all of those arrangements channeled through them. Edelman noted that she’d lost exclusive artists to galleries in New York City. She advised that artists not “use dealers” as stepping stones to larger galleries. “It’s a small world and we know each other,” Edelman noted.

On the perpetual question of print pricing, sizing and editions, Meislin suggested that photographers not offer images in more than two sizes, and said she doesn’t want the total number of prints available of a single image to exceed 10. “The smaller [the edition] the better,” she said. Wolf agreed, saying that collectors “feel good knowing that they have one of not very many.” She, too, felt that two sizes of prints was a good bet. She also added that she prices the work of artists who are new to her gallery based on the career they’ve had and what collections have purchased their work. She also looks at other artists who are at similar points in their careers. Meislin added that she also considers how much money goes into producing the work.

Artists should “have feeling about it,” Hunt said of their pricing. Artists should have done their homework and have an opinion, otherwise the conversation about pricing becomes “cumbersome,” he said.

All of the panelists agreed that image sizes should be appropriate for the work, and that big prints weren’t necessary or even preferred. Wolf talked about artist Bryan Schutmaat’s show, currently on view at her gallery. His portraits of people living rough lives in the West wouldn’t work as large prints, she said. But at the right size they are beautiful and powerful.

Edelman reminded the audience that artists can “always raise prices but can’t lower them.” Photographers should start low, and if an edition sells quickly the price should increase slowly.

The panelists also discussed making prints for special editions of books and for charity sales. Edelman said that when one of her artists wanted to offer a print with a special-edition book, she and the artist chose an image from an edition that was already sold out. That way they weren’t undercutting the market for the larger print of that image. (The print was also made at a smaller size for the book.) Hunt says that when photographers want to donate works to charity auctions, he advises them to print them differently and in “a weird size.” He also suggested they write all over the back of a print specifying that it was created for charity, and consider creating an edition specifically for donation purposes.

An audience member asked who should be responsible for framing, and all of the gallerists had different answers. Meislin said she expected artists to handle 50 percent of the production costs, and that she would front the artist’s 50 percent if necessary, but would recoup those costs when sales were made.

Edelman says she tries to get her artists to pay for production, but will ultimately pay for everything if an artist needs that. She noted that she’ll recoup the framing expenses when an artist sells a framed print if she’s paid for the production.

Wolf said she doesn’t want to pay for production, but she will. She reminded artists to keep in mind that they are not “in our league” in terms of the overhead gallerists have to come up with each month to keep their galleries open.

MFAs aren’t necessary, the panelists agreed. But they also agreed there was value in an MFA degree, not only creatively, but in the network it provides artists. Wolf noted that MFA teachers will call her to recommend artists.

To close, Hunt asked what had changed recently in the fine-art photography business. Wolf got the last word. “Tragedy abounds,” she said jokingly. “But I feel blessed, no matter what little things change.”

Related Stories: What To Expect From the Photographer/Gallery Relationship (For PDN subscribers; login required)
Selling Prints to Fund Books: It’s Complicated (For PDN subscribers; login required)
13 Tips For Building Your Fine-Art Network (For PDN subscribers; login required)

November 4th, 2014

OSI Announces 2014 Audience Engagement Grant Winners, and New Funding Model

Open Society Documentary Photography Project has announced the winners of its Audience Engagement Grant Program, which supports photographers who “have gone beyond documenting a human rights or social justice issue to enacting change.” This year, Open Society Foundations offered two forms of support. The Project Development grants  gave grantees a chance to attend a workshop, organized by Creative Capital’s Professional Development Program, to learn strategies for moving their projects forward. The Project Implementation grants supported photo-based artists who, in partnership with other organizations, are using photography to engage a unique audience. Grant winners were also invited to the professional development retreat.

The grant winners in the Project Development track are:

* Nazik Armenakyan: to document women living with HIV/AIDS in Armenia.
* Paul Botes: to showcase the impact of the Lonmin Marikana Mine violence in South Africa.
* Robert Godden: to address migration policies, practices, and research in Nepal.
* Cristobal Olivares: to confront violence against women in Chile.
* Thenmozhi Soundararajan: to expose sexual violence against Dalit women in India.
* Andri Tambunan: to chronicle the rise of HIV/AIDS within indigenous Papuan communities living in Tanah Papuah.

In the Project Implementation track, the following photographers and partner organizations were named winners:

* Mario Badagliacca with the Archive of Migrant Memories (AMM) on their campaign to collect, archive, and share testimonies of migrants held in Identification and Deportation Centers throughout Italy.
* Rula Halawani with Al-Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art to produce an exhibition addressing Palestinian identity and collective memory, as these relate to the natural and physical environment.
* Karim Ben Khelifa with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Open Documentary Lab, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab to create an augmented reality installation that will allow users to engage with soldiers from across enemy lines.
* Jean Melesaine with Silicon Valley De-Bug to work with California public defender offices in effectively and responsibly producing client “social biography videos” as tools for reducing sentencing and potential incarceration.
* Pete Pin with the Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia and Michael Weiss (of IXL Learning) to create an online platform for Cambodian Americans to share their family stories based on ephemera saved from before the war and refugee camps.
* Michael Premo and Andrew Stern with Working Films’ Reel Power Initiative to educate and mobilize communities in areas surrounding shale beds and to build public opposition to the recent lift of a ban on fracking in North Carolina.
* Brooke Singer with the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice to develop a more accessible, user-friendly Superfund365.org, a data visualization archive of the worst toxic-waste sites in the United States.

Open Society Foundations, which funds the grants, announced in April that it decided to divide its funding for projects being launched and those that are ready to implement after recognizing that “cultivating collaborations and effectively executing these projects requires significant effort, time, and strategic planning.” In announcing this year’s winners, Open Society also noted that documentary photographers have to do more to advocate for lasting change than simply raise awareness. As the Open Society Foundation’s website notes, “The 2014 grantees take on multiple and often simultaneous roles—artists, activists, advocates, and community organizers, to name just a few.”

More information on the grant winners, and some of their images, can be found on the Open Society Foundations’ website.

Related Article:

Open Society Announces 2013 Audience Engagement Grant Winners

November 4th, 2014

PhotoPlus Expo 2014: Gerd Ludwig’s Tips on Shooting in Low Light

Gerd Ludwig dips into his bag of tricks at PhotoPlus Expo 2014 © Matthew Ismael Ruiz

Gerd Ludwig dips into his bag of tricks at PhotoPlus Expo 2014 © Matthew Ismael Ruiz

During his PhotoPlus Expo seminar, “Digital Vision in Low Light,” the photographer Gerd Ludwig offered a peek behind the curtain at the tools and techniques he uses to make National Geographic-worthy images under terrible conditions. The veteran photographer spoke for two hours about the ways he uses small strobes and long exposures as well as rapport with subjects to make the images he captures in Russia and the Ukraine for NatGeo, his book Broken Empire, and his Chernobyl iPad app, The Long Shadow of Chernobyl.

One of the first things Ludwig shared was that he had never had an image published in National Geographic that was shot at a speed higher than ISO 500. He often shoots at night—or in the case of a sarcophagus he photographed at Chernobyl, in pitch darkness—but darkness isn’t the only reason Ludwig likes to use strobes. Harsh fluorescent lighting can make for hideous color tone, something he would regularly encounter in Russia.

“The Russian fluorescent lights are the worst in the world,” Ludwig explains. “They’re very green.” He would use strobes to counteract the sickly green glow, often attaching gels to suit his esthetic.

For one famous shot of the control room of reactor #4 at Chernobyl, he revealed the secret to the dramatic lighting that seemed to emanate from within the control panel: During a long exposure, he and his assistant crouched behind the panel and fired strobes up onto the wall-mounted displays. Again, he used a variety of gels to get the tone of the light just right.

Here are some additional technical nuggets that Ludwig shared during his seminar:

- When shooting in low-light with strobes, Ludwig typically shoots TTL on Aperture Priority, firing his strobes at -1, or -2 1/3 EV.
- Strobes are often more effective when the subject looks away from the light.
- In falling snow, using a wide-angle on the strobe on camera illuminates the snow closest to you, to dramatic effect.
- Using a headlamp can be helpful when working in complete darkness (a trick he used in the sarcophagus at Chernobyl). You can get a red one that isn’t as intense, and during long exposures, you can “paint” your scene with the headlamps to emphasize various elements.
- In a pinch, you can use your hand as a reflector, provided you have light skin.
- You can use the free sample set of gels at your local camera store to make your own flash gels.

Much of Ludwig’s work in Chernobyl focuses not just on the ruins of the plant, but of the people affected by the plant’s meltdown, particularly, the children of victims of contamination from the disaster’s nuclear fallout. The children’s physical condition is difficult to witness—most are permanently disabled by the effects of radiation. But in videos he played of himself taking photographs in the hospital, he engaged the children completely, encouraging them to dance, even crawling under tables to meet them on their own level. In one particularly touching moment, he touches the hand of a blind and deaf boy, sitting on the ground because the boy cannot walk. The boy smiles instantly, and Ludwig returns the favor.

“When shooting underprivileged victims,” Ludwig told his audience, “you have to realize that when you point the camera at them, you temporarily increase their pain.”

 Related Article

PDN Video: Gerd Ludwig on Why He’s Risked His Life at Chernobyl

November 3rd, 2014

PhotoPlus Expo 2014: So, You Want to Publish a Photo Book

During her PhotoPlus seminar titled “To Be Published, or Self Publish,” Mary Virginia Swanson, consultant and co-author of Publish Your Photography Book,
ran through the steps involved in producing and marketing a photo book, but again and again she returned to the questions  photographers need to ask themselves before they even consider publishing their work in a book. She asked, “Have you established an audience, and have you established value for your work?” She added, “I see photographers jump ahead before they’ve built an audience for their work.” She said when photographers describe their dream book to her, some mention special papers, large format, and special binding. “I think: ‘That’s a $100 book.’” She urged the audience to consider carefully what prospective buyers will pay to own a book of their images.

She said that photographers have to ask themselves why they want to publish: “Do you have a story you want to share with everyone? Is there a cause or idea you want to advance? As an artist, is it time to get your work out?” As an exercise, she recommended that photographers answer the submission guidelines available on many book publishers’ websites. She showed the lengthy guidelines on the site of Princeton Architectural Press, which ask for a “project description and audience assessment” in eight pages or less. “I feel that if you can complete the Princeton Architectural Press submission guidelines, you can talk to any publisher,” she said. Filling out answers to their questionnaire can help photographers refine their proposals, Swanson said, because “it gets you into the mind of the publisher.” Portfolio reviews, she noted, also provide opportunities to meet two or three book publishers who will “fire back questions” that can help a photographer articulate a book idea.

When shopping for a publisher, she said, “Understand there are small presses and major trade publishers.” A large trade publisher might have staff who can help with design, editing, production management and publicity. Swanson appreciates the attention many small presses will put into designing a book that fits the photographs, but notes that a small press “may be a one- or two-person office” that needs help from a photographer or author on tasks such as editing and publicity. Swanson says there are situations when a publisher, confident that a book can sell well, won’t ask a photographer to contribute towards the cost of production, “and may even pay a small advance.” Those deals are unusual, however. “Most publishers will ask you to contribute in some way,” she said. (For more on this point, see PDN’s article, “The Costly Business of Photo Book Publishing.“)

Whatever the size of the publishing house, she said, “author support is vital” to selling a book. Publishers “will want you to have a website and be active on social media.” While a book takes about a year from concept to binding (less if you self publish), the marketing plan has to begin much earlier, she says, starting with registering a domain name for the book project, planning exhibitions and book signings, and reaching out to potential buyers. Photographers may be affiliated with an association that would buy some copies at a pre-publication cost, or they may be represented by galleries that will buy copies to sell to collectors. Limited edition books have become increasingly collectible, Swanson noted. These are often printed in small quantities, include a signed, limited-edition print, and sell for a few hundred dollars. However, to sell these highly priced editions, a photographer needs to have “established value”—that is, demonstrated that their prints can fetch a high price.

Self-publishing gives photographers total control over design, production and marketing. Photographers who are used to managing photo productions or long-term projects may find self-publishing appealing. “Are you able to manage a publishing project? Are you able to keep to a production calendar?” She noted that print-on-demand companies like Blurb and others now offer a high degree of customization. Swanson showed images of the studio at Conveyor Arts, a production house in Jersey City, New Jersey, that specializes in small-run, custom-designed editions of artists books and exhibition catalogues, and has worked with photographers such as Paula McCartney.

Whether you design your book yourself, or work with a publishing house’s design team, Swanson recommended consulting the many resources available to learn about options for papers, format and binding. Her recommended resources include the Indie Photobook Library, which also organizes traveling shows of photo books; the site Thephotobook.wordpress.com; Aperture’s publication The Photo Book Review; the annual NY Art Book Fair; and the website of the online bookstore Photo-eye,  which includes a showcase of self-published books. If you see a book you admire, she recommended reading the colophon in the back, where the typeface and type of paper used in the book is noted. “Learn the language of publishing so when you work with a designer on your book, you’ll know the vocabulary, and be able to talk about the elements.”

Related Articles

Photographers Share Details of Their Recent Book Deals

The Costly Business of Photo Book Publishing

Tips for Self-Publishing Your Photo Book

The Value of Self-Publishing

November 1st, 2014

PPE 2014: Leading The Revolution in Smartphone Photography

At a panel held at PhotoPlus Expo on Thursday, October 30, panelists discussed the various ways smartphone photography is affecting visual communication and the photography industry.

The talk, titled “Leading the Revolution in Smartphone Photography,” featured TIME magazine Director of Photography and Visual Enterprise, Kira Pollack; photographer Benjamin Lowy; visual communication strategist Stephen Mayes; and Andrew Delaney, Head of Content for Getty Images. The talk was moderated by consultant and educator Patrick Donehue.

Pollack prefaced her portion of the talk by saying that 99.9 percent of the images published by TIME in print and online were made using professional cameras. Pollack emphasized smartphones as communication platforms, noting that they are as important for consuming images as they are making them.

She described TIME‘s coverage of Hurricane Sandy in New York. TIME picture editors gave five photographers, Lowy among them, “the keys” to TIME’s social media channels and they uploaded the images they made immediately. It was an instance when the photo editors of TIME were watching the story develop “in real time,” she said. One of Lowy’s images landed on the cover of the magazine. It was the first time a smartphone image ever made the cover.

Pollack also noted that she uses Instagram to keep track of where photographers are traveling, because they often post images that alert their followers to where they are, making Instagram a tool for editors to find photographers if an assignment comes up.

She also said that TIME had recently begun working with a technology called Capture, which allows users to search for images based on date, time and location. As an example, Pollack showed a screen grab of the search she had done that identified images made in the neighborhood of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s apartment in New York City’s West Village during a two-hour stretch on the night he died.

Lowy, who has photographed conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere,s said using smartphone freed him from the need to carry his larger camera with him everywhere, which was liberating.

In conflict zones, smartphone cameras allowed him to move and make pictures less conspicuously. During Hurricane Sandy, as other photojournalists stayed onshore, he was able to wade out into the water with his smartphone, protected in a plastic zipper bag, and make pictures others wouldn’t for fear of ruining their gear.

Lowy also noted, however, that using smartphones in war zones can be dangerous because of the information they transmit. Bashar Al-Assad’s forced were thought to have targeted photojournalist Remi Ochlik and British journalist Marie Colvin in Homs, Syria, by locking in on their satellite phone transmissions. The journalists were killed by artillery.  (The Committee to Protect Journalists has published a report, titled Information Security, that includes safety advice.)

Getty Images’ Andrew Delaney said smartphones are allowing people to capture slice of life imagery, with unique perspectives, that advertising, corporate and editorial clients are interested in. He noted that, with the proliferation of smartphones, Getty is getting a wider and more demographically diverse view of the world from its contributors. Delaney said advertisers need “localized communication and localized imagery,” and that smartphone images are feeding some of that need. He also noted that amateurs are really “leading the charge” when it comes to capturing smartphone imagery that is selling to stock photography clients. A lot of the images of people are unusable, however, because the images aren’t model released.

During his portion of the talk, Mayes pointed out that smartphones have increased the ability of the general public to look at and understand images in a more sophisticated way, a growing sentiment among image makers that I heard quite a few times during this year’s PhotoPlus conference. Photographers “now communicate with people who get what we’re trying to tell them,” Mayes says.

Furthering the “visual language” analogy, Mayes compared images to spoken and written language, pointing out that not all language is precious, and a majority of the billions of images being made are equally expendable.

Mayes also argued that an image today often acts as a “husk for a data package.” For example, an image you make of your child in your yard can, when plugged into search engines, yield information about the child’s location, education, socioeconomic status and so on. Striking an ominous-if-realistic note, Mayes argued that we might be headed for a future in which we’re all digital serfs serving information, through our phones, to a master we don’t even know.

Photographers, if they can master the ways these digital systems work, “can become the masters,” Mayes said, and argued that smartphones had opened a “doorway into a rich area of image-making and communication with a power beyond anything we can imagine at this point.” Stay tuned.

 

October 31st, 2014

PhotoPlus Expo 2014: V.360° Camera Sees All

V.360 with AppVSN Mobil showed off an intriguing new 360 degree camera at PhotoPlus Expo that it plans to launch in November.

The V.360° uses a 16-megapixel backside-illuminated image sensor and a lens surrounded with mirrors that enables it to capture a single 360-degree shot. It can also record 360-degree video.

The camera connects to Android and iOS phones and tablets via Bluetooth, for camera controls, and Wi-Fi, for transferring stills and videos from the camera to your mobile device.

The free app will let you manipulate the 360-degree video or image to see every available angle or lay the perspective flat for a panorama that requires no stitching to complete.

In addition to its 360-degree capture capabilities, the camera is waterproof to up to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes and is shock, vibration and dust resistant. It has a built-in GPS sensor for geo-tagging images and its own processor so images and video can be encoded right in the camera, not in the app, for faster performance.

It features a GoPro-compatible mount and tripod mount as well.

The camera will retail for under $500 when it launches in the coming weeks.

October 30th, 2014

PhotoPlus Expo 2014: Mylio Launches with Mission to Reunite Photos Wherever They Are

Mylio

A new software company founded by former Microsoft executives is taking aim at what it views as a signature problem plaguing modern photography–images spread across multiple platforms, often disorganized and frequently unprotected.

Their solution, Mylio, is a mobile and desktop software solution that can monitor and replicate images across a user’s devices including external drives and cloud services. Once your device is loaded with the software, your entire image library is accessible, even if you’re offline. Using its software, Mylio says it can compress a RAW files as large as 100MB down to just a 1MB editable image for viewing and accessing on mobile devices. Your original RAW files will remain unchanged on your hard drive. You can make non-destructive edits to images in Mylio and those changes will propagate instantly across your entire collection on every device.

Mylio presents you with a photo-driven view of your entire image collection. From this unified view you can also tag, organize and make non-destructive edits that will instantly propagate across all of your devices. If you need to do more serious editing work, you can open images into your photo-editor of choice.

Given this bird’s-eye-view of your photo collection, Mylio can also judge which photos are unprotected according to its 3:2 principle (an image is protected when there are three copies made in two separate locations). Armed with this knowledge, you can quickly identify which photos need a little extra security.

The service is billing itself as cloud and device agnostic though at launch will only support iOS mobile devices and Mac and PC desktops. Android support is coming soon. It will use a tiered pricing structure based on the number and type of images in your collection as well as the number of devices you want to link with the software.

Plans start at $50/year for a library of 25,000 JPEG photos stored across three devices and span up to $100/year for 50,000 RAW and JPEG photos on five devices or $250/year for libraries as large as 500,000 RAW and JPEG images across 10 devices. You can kick the tires for free with a plan that unites three devices and monitors 1,000 images.