May 23rd, 2016

Diving Equipment Maker Cleared in Death of Underwater Photog Wes Skiles

A Palm Beach County jury has cleared diving equipment manufacturer Lamartek of wrongdoing in the 2010 drowning death of Wes Skiles, a renowned underwater photographer and cameraman, reports the Palm Beach Post. Skiles’s widow, Terri Skiles, filed suit in 2012 alleging that her husband had died because of faulty breathing apparatus manufactured by Lamartek. She claimed the Lamartek knew the apparatus—called the O2ptime FX rebreather—was prone to failure. She was seeking $25 million in compensation for her and the couple’s children. The death had been declared an accidental drowning by The Palm Beach County Medial Examiner in November 2010.

The lawsuit went to trial last week. Jurors found that Lamartek, which is also known as Dive Rite, was not responsible for Wes Skiles’s death. The jury also concluded the rebreather was not dangerous, according to The Palm Beach Post report

Skiles was a regular contributor to National Geographic magazine and National Geographic television. He grew up exploring the caves of northern Florida. National Geographic credits him with developing and refining a technique for using multiple strobes to dramatically light the underwater environment of caves.

Underwater Photographer Wes Skiles Dies on Shoot

Death of Underwater Photog Ruled Accidental

Widow of Underwater Photog Wes Skiles Blames His Drowning on Defective Gear

May 23rd, 2016

Ultimate Mobility, Power, and Control with the Siros L (Sponsored)

(by Erik Valind)

As a location photographer, there’s few things in life that I enjoy more then shooting at an amazing location, and then facing the unpredictable conditions that come with it. Due to the unpredictability of working outdoors, I’ve become a big lighting guy mostly out of necessity. Whether I’m dealing with scrims and reflectors, small flash, or large strobes, I’m always looking for ways to control the quality and direction of the light to flatter my subjects, and to enhance an image. When I first got my hands on the new Broncolor Siros L, I immediately recognized the possibilities that this new flash would open for me. Some of the most important qualities I look for in a strobe is mobility, power and control. To put the Siros L to the test I partnered up with Sierra – an incredible model and athlete with Wilhelmina Fitness in NYC, and we took off for Central Park to create some killer images!

Lights and Mobility

With the blossoming bright trees in the distant background, we had found our first location on a sun-lit patch of grass. I started with the sun as my key light, letting it doing most of the work to illuminate both the model and the background. With the sun doing the heavy lifting, a single strobe would be sufficient to perfect this initial setup. To further sculpt the model and to make her look more 3-Dimensional, I added a rim light behind her.

Before and After
The battery-powered monolight is VERY mobile. I attached a Broncolor 30 x 120 cm Stripbox to a single Siros L 800 unit, and my assistant was able to hand-hold it the entire time. With one hand on the unit, and the other hand firmly on the built in handle, my assistant was able to track the model’s movement from pose to pose. Being able to work this quickly on location is invaluable, and at the same time can save you from having to pull expensive shooting permits in some major cities.

Lights and Power

One obvious reason for shooting outdoors vs. inside in the studio is the sun! The sun did a great job front-lighting the previous images, but what I really enjoy is the sun flare aesthetic. To achieve that backlit glowing light and streaming sun flare in your camera lens, you need to specifically place the sun behind the model, and just out of the frame. Unfortunately the resulting placement usually leaves your subject in the dark or as a partial silhouette.

To illuminate the model and achieve the look I wanted, I needed to fill in those shadows with some light. Here is where I put the power of the Siros L to the test. Two units were used for this setup. I chose the Siros 800 L again because it has a maximum 800ws, which is plenty of power to compete with the bright afternoon sun.

To modify the Siros, I used a Broncolor 75 cm Octabox on the models face, then I used a Broncolor 30 x 120 cm Stripbox to enhance the backlight wrapping around the model’s side. With the available power in this monolight, I didn’t have to turn the flash power up to maximum, which gave me fast recycle times for quick shooting. The extra power and fast recycling times allowed me to get more shots than usual, and this allowed the model to work quickly while not tiring herself out while holding difficult poses.

Lights and Control

The sun began to set, and we decided to try for one last setup before dark. With no more direct sunlight to utilize, I brought out the third Siros L in my kit for a total of three flash units. With this many flashes combined, the ability to precisely modify and control each of them becomes paramount. I started out with a rim light placed behind the model on either side. These were each modified with a Broncolor 30 x 120 cm Stripbox to soften and control the direction of the light. The design of the Siros L with its exposed flash tube is amazing in how it is designed for use with every existing Broncolor lighting modifier.

160401_ESV0753-Edit160401_ESV0731-Edit160401_ESV0747-EditTo save myself the hassle of running back and forth between all of the lights to get the exposure dialed in, I just turned on the Wi-Fi function on each Siros. This allowed me to easily control them from my shooting position while using the BronControl app on my iPhone. This saved me time and energy as we were racing the clock against the sun. Once the rim lights were correct I added the final Siros L with the super portable Broncolor Beauty Box for a punch of even contrasty light on the front of the model’s body.

Once my lights were in place and the lighting ratio perfect I began shooting. As I changed my aperture for creative control of my Depth of Field throughout the shoot I needed to adjust the power of all of the flashes accordingly. This was made even easier with the Broncolor RFS Transmitter on top of my camera, which gave me the ability to control all three lights as a group – maintaining the lighting ratio – while powering them up and down very precisely in 1/10th stop increments.

It was incredible how quickly we got everything setup, fine tuned and adjusted on the fly using the intuitive control of the BronControl App and RFS Transmitter.

That was a wrap on my first shoot with the Siros L! As we piled into the cab on the way back to the studio, I replayed in my mind all the many lighting setups we had just run through. I’m happy to say that the Siros L has passed all my tests, leaving me with a glowing first impression. The Siros L is an amazing kit for any photographer who enjoys shooting on location as much as I do! For more information on the Siros L, click here…


(All photos (c) Erik Valind)

May 20th, 2016

Great Weekend Reads in Photography & Filmmaking

Jonathan Petit | Flickr

Jonathan Petit | Flickr

“People who say they don’t have time to read simply don’t want to.”
Julie Rugg


The Horror of Virtual RealityThe New Yorker

50mm Is the Only Lens You NeedWired

Facebook Is a Growing Digital GraveyardBBC

Creating a World of WonderPDN

The Case Against Steven McCurryNY Times

Your Opinion of Steven McCurry Doesn’t Matter Photo Shelter

Steven McCurry & Photojournalism’s Burden of Truth – Disphotic

Why Facts Aren’t Always Truth in PhotographyTime

The Liberating Limitation of Short

How Instagram Is Changing the Art WorldVice

What it Takes to Be a Great Sports Photographer from Someone Who KnowsForbes

Oculus Video Chief on the Future of VR FilmmakingCNET

What Every Photographer Needs to Know About BrandingRF


Bonus Weekend Audio

A podcast covering what it takes to create a successful documentary while shooting abroad featuring filmmakers Arianna LaPenne, Alex Mallis, and Brian Chang.

May 20th, 2016

Francesco Anselmi wins 2016 FotoVisura Personal Project Grant

Italian photographer Francesco Anselmi is the recipient of the 2016 FotoVisura Grant of $5,000 for Outstanding Personal Project. Anselmi was recognized for his ongoing series that documents the profound changes that Greece is experiencing called “Greek Chronicles.” 

FotoVisura Francesco Anselmi Image

Photo © Francesco Anselmi, from his long-term project ‘Greek Chronicles.’

The FotoVisura Grant for Outstanding Personal Project furthers the work of professional photojournalists pursuing personal projects on socio-cultural issues.

Four finalists were also named in the 2016 FotoVisura Grant: Portuguese photographer João Pina for his documentation of the human cost of the next summer Olympic games in Brazil; Colombian/American photographer Juan Arredondo for his images that capture the lives of child soldiers in Colombia; European photographer Anja Matthes for her series documenting a community of LGBTQ youth of color in the underground NYC Kiki Ballroom scene; and American photographer Johnny Milano for his work that documents the growth of the White Power movement within the U.S. Descriptions of the finalists’ work and the list of 20 honorable mentions can be found on the FotoVisura website.

The grant submissions were judged by a five-person panel: Beth Flynn from The New York Times, Jean-Francois Leroy from Visa pour I’Image, Blinton Cargill from Bloomberg Businessweek, Kate Bubacz from Buzzfeed News and Michael Wichita from AARP.

FotoVisura is accepting applications to the FotoVisura Multimedia Grant through May 22; details on the grant are on the website.

Related Links: 

Álvaro Laíz Wins 2015 FotoVisura Personal Project Grant

Crowd-Funding Success Story: João Pina

Juan Arredondo Named One of 2015 Aaron Siskind Fellowship Winners

May 20th, 2016

True Confessions, Photography Edition

Photographers, especially pros, are expected to conform to a set of, if not standards, then expectations. Keep the mode dial firmly on manual. Don’t say you’re a “natural light” photographer. And so on.

But in our unguarded moments, we’ve all slipped.

The folks at Digital Rev TV are clearing the air with a series of raw, heartfelt photographic confessions. We hope they’re cathartic.

May 19th, 2016

New Software Promises to Take the Grunt Work Out of Ranking Your Images

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 6.16.56 AM

Artificial intelligence has been on a role lately. In March, a computer program defeated a human in the ancient Chinese strategy game Go–a feat that was formerly thought to be a decade or more away given the state of the art. Last week, we learned that a U.S. law firm “hired” an AI algorithm based on IBM’s Jeopardy-winning Watson to do legal research for it.

So Picturesqe should come as no surprise.

Picturesqe is a new software program that sifts through your images, groups similar ones together and then ranks them by which ones look best. The idea is to reduce the amount of time it takes photographers to cull through large imports. The software looks for visual similarities (colors, scenes, faces) when grouping and initially is using criteria like under/over exposure to rank how “good” a photo is.

As the software learns about your images and style, it will grow more sophisticated and be able to rank images based on factors such as sharpness, color harmony and composition.

After your images are organized and ranked, you’ll be able to evaluate them yourself and make the final decision about which ones stay and which ones are trashed. An intelligent zoom feature enables you to zoom into the same spot on all similar images simultaneously to check for fine details.

Picturesqe works on RAW images, not just JPEGs, and supports over 600 RAW formats at launch.

It’s a free download for Windows for three months and is available as a standalone program or a plug-in for Adobe Lightroom. After that, you’ll pay $40/year. A Mac version is promised for the future.

If you download the software, you will have the option to participate in Picturesqe’s research program to help “train” its algorithm to perform more effectively. In effect, Picturesqe will take your photos after they’ve been sorted so the algorithm can be fine tuned–the company says they’ll only be thumbnails and won’t be linked to you or shared in anyway (you can read the full privacy policy here). The research program is opt-in, so you’re not obligated to participate.

May 18th, 2016

The “New Rules” of Composition

Photography, like many other disciplines, has a loose set of rules that are very often strategically broken by artists and practitioners–to prove a point or to simply experiment. Thumbing one’s nose at the rules of composition, in particular, is a time-honored tradition.

Photographer James Allen Stewart has his own spin on compositional rule-breaking and has put together this video explaining his approach.

What do you think?

Hat tip: Nick Pecori

May 17th, 2016

Google’s Gigapixel Robot Camera Is Taking Pictures of Museum Work


Medium format cameras are widely used in commercial photography but they also have a thriving (if less well-publicized) life in museums, where they’re used to create high quality digital files of precious artwork. Those cameras, and the photographers who operate them, have some new competition from Google’s Art Camera.

This custom built, robotic camera creates gigapixel images from artwork. The robotic system steers the camera automatically from detail to detail, snapping hundreds of high resolution stills of the painting. A laser and sonar system ensure that the camera is always in focus while Google’s software ingests the stills and stitches them all together.

The results are on display in Google’s online Cultural Institute, where a user can zoom in up close on artwork without having to travel to a real museum (welcome to the future).

Google is now dispatching 20 of these Art Cameras to museums around the world. And, they’re free. Museums will be able to create incredibly detailed, gigapixels images with a robot/laser/sonar camera–for free.

It’s not clear if these cameras require Google personnel (photographers?) to operate (we’ve asked Google).

May 17th, 2016

The Curator Final Deadline

Submissions for The Curator Fine-Art Awards will close in one week. Enter your work by May 24 to be considered for our annual group exhibition, returning this summer to Foley Gallery in New York City. Other prizes include $3,500 cash, $200 to B&H Photo, print exposure in the August “Fine-Art Photography” issue of PDN and on, and the chance to be featured in The New Yorker‘s Photo Booth blog. Enter at


Founder, The Magenta Foundation
Director, Flash Forward Festival Boston

Foley Gallery

Photo Editor

Associate Photo Editor
The New Yorker

Co-Founder & Creative Director
CoEdit Collection



May 13th, 2016

Great Weekend Reads in Photography & Filmmaking

Rosmarie Voegtli | Flickr

Rosmarie Voegtli | Flickr

“Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.”
John Locke


Renting a Darkroom in TokyoJapan Camera Hunter

How I Became the Subject of My Own Boston Bombing PhotosBill Hoenk

The International Center of Photography’s Brave New World Christies

So, What Is a Video Essay Really?Filmmakers Magazine

Under Pressure at the Bloomberg Picture DeskCreatives Go!

I am Lucy Wainwright and This Is Why I Shoot FilmEmulsive

Paris Attack Photo Sparks Press Freedom CaseNY Times

The Polaroid Reborn, But Will It Survive? – Financial Times

Kids Photography Grows UpPDN

Anatomy of an Unnerving Ad CampaignBBC

What It Takes to Be a Good Street PhotographerEric Kim

Exposing Hollywood’s Age-Old Achille’s HeelNo Film School



Weekend Audio