January 9th, 2015

National Geographic’s Photo Engineering at Work

Striving for new and unusual ways to photograph subjects from land, sea, and air, National Geographic photographers often turn for technical assistance to NG photo engineers Kenji Yamaguchi and David Mathews. The two men, who are the subjects of an article in January PDN and now on PDN online, devise ingenious tools for making pictures that would otherwise be too dangerous or difficult for photographers to make. ““These guys are the unsung heroes of the Geographic,” says long-time contributor George Steinmetz.

Yamaguchi and Mathews worked behind the scenes on Nick Nichols’s Serengeti lions project, Steve Winter’s snow leopards project, and various projects by underwater photographer David Doubilet, to name just a few examples. Here are some videos that show their technical ingenuity in action:


Nick Nichols and his assistant, Nathan Williamson, at work on the Serengeti lions project with a robotic camera tank and a camera drone.


Steve Winter explains how he used camera traps to photograph a mountain lion at night under the Hollywood sign.


The Photo Engineering department faces possible budget cuts, but National Geographic recently profiled of Kenji Yamaguchi, with this video showing him at work in the publisher’s Photo Engineering lab.


Addition videos on National Geographic’s web site:

Steve Winter describes his 2008 snow leopard project in northern India. Scenes of Winter setting up remote cameras and strobes on snow leopard trails start at 2:47.

An encounter, narrated by Steve Winter, between a tiger and a robotic camera vehicle developed by NG Photo Engineering.

Scenes from the sinking of a ship for the creation of an artificial reef, featuring David Doubilet’s remote camera images from the ship’s deck as engineers set explosive charges, then detonated them. Remote camera images begin at 1:21.

Related Article:
The Technical Ingenuity of National Geographic’s Photo Engineering Department

January 8th, 2015

Mamiya Leaf Credo 50 in the Wild

The January issue of PDN features a review of the Mamiya Leaf Credo 50 medium format camera system.

You can get a sneak peek in this video starring our frequent co-tester, David Patiño, who used the Credo 50 in a marathon product catalog shoot late last year (among other things). Enjoy!

Special thanks to Generic Brand Human for producing the video.

January 8th, 2015

The Photo Drones of CES 2015 Do the Flying for You


The FAA may be making uncomfortable noises in the direction of commercial drone photography, but that hasn’t stopped drone makers from hitting CES with several new products. Many of the photo drones at the show got their start on Kickstarter, where they successfully raised millions in 2014 with an eye toward shipping in 2015.

In fact, the Consumer Electronics Associations is expecting a banner year for drone sales, estimating the global market will grow 55 percent from 2014 to hit $130 million in revenue this year. In five years, drone revenues are projected to hit $1 billion.

What’s new for 2015′s crop of flying cameras is that this breed can operate without user intervention. Once you program them, they’ll follow a subject around without any further instruction. Welcome to the future.


AirDog showed off its auto-follow drone for GoPro cameras. The drone, which  is now available for pre-order for $1,295, can be programmed to autonomously follow a moving subject without any operator intervention.

The secret is the company’s Air Leash waterproof transmitter which can keep the drone locked on its holder up to 1,000 feet away. You program the drone to follow you and it can then keep pace with a subject moving as fast as 40 miles per hour. You can also program it to hover, circle or point the camera directly down.

Depending on your air speed, the AirDog will stay aloft for between 10 and 20 minutes. It weighs 4 pounds with GoPro, gimbal and battery.


Similar in spirit to the AirDog, the Hexo+ can also autonomously track a moving subject while carrying a GoPro aloft. It will be slightly cheaper than the AirDog, with a pre-order price of $1,149 and a ship date of September.

The drone is programmed using a smartphone app, which lets you set your desired framing. Unlike the AirDog, you won’t need to hold a remote to keep the Hexo+ on your tail and you’ll be able to choreograph more complex flight patterns using the app. It has a flight time of roughly 15 minutes and uses a brushless gimbal system to stabilize a GoPro (including the Hero4). It will ship standard with a 2D gimbal but you can upgrade to a 3D gimbal as well.


The Zano distinguishes itself by its tiny size and equally tiny price. At an expected retail price of $279, this palm-sized drone is infinitely cheaper than almost all competitors (even Parrot’s inexpensive Bebop). It sports a 5-megapixel integrated camera and is controlled via Wi-Fi from Android and iOS devices.  It uses Wi-Fi to stay tethered to the camera operator and can fly autonomously, tracking a moving subject within Wi-Fi range.

It will offer a removable battery and microSD card slot and will stay airborne for between 10 and 15 minutes. It’s expected to ship in June.

January 7th, 2015

Upcoming Grant Application Deadlines: Alexia, Center, Light Work, The Documentary Project

Application deadlines for grants worth between $1,000 and $20,000 are approaching.

Alexia Foundation Professional Grant

The Alexia Foundation’s professional Alexia Grant is meant to give professional photographers and visual journalists the means to produce bodies of work that promote world peace and cultural understanding. Both still photography and multimedia projects are eligible. The grant is administered by both the foundation and the Alexia Chair at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

Individual photographers or visual journalists from any country are eligible—proposals with multiple content producers are not accepted. Proposals for projects that have already won grants or awards of more than $1,000 in the previous calendar year are not eligible. Professional grant applications carry a $50 application fee; winners will receive $20,000 to produce their proposed project.

The application deadline for the professional grant is Monday, Jan. 29, 2015 at 5 p.m. EST. Winners will be announced on or around March 1, 2014.

For more info, go to www.alexiafoundation.org/grants.

CENTER Choice Awards

CENTER, the non-profit organization dedicated to supporting photography since 1994, recognizes outstanding photographers working in all processes and subject matter with its Choice Awards. Awards are presented in three categories: Curator’s Choice, Editor’s Choice and Gallerist’s Choice. First, second and third place prizes are awarded in each category. Choice Award winners are invited to participate in an exhibition at the Center for Contemporary Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, during Review Santa Fe.

This year’s jurors include Phillip Prodger, the curator at the National Portrait Gallery in London; Enrico Stefanelli, president & director of the Photolux Festival in Italy; and Alice Gabriner, TIME magazine’s international photo editor.

Last year’s Curator’s Choice winner was Manjari Sharma; Jeanine Michna-bales won the Gallerist’s Choice; and Morgan Ashcom was the Editor’s Choice.

The deadline for applications is February 19, 2015. For more information, go to www.visitcenter.org/choice-awards/#.

The Documentary Project Fund

The Documentary Project Fund has opened its first Call-For-Entries for 2015. The call is open to all still photographers, emerging or established, but applicants must demonstrate the skill level necessary to plan and execute a documentary project. Winners will have six months and up to $5,000 to complete their photographic project. The Documentary Project Fund is also available to photographers working with other nonprofits, but only if that group matches funds.

Submissions are accepted twice a year, and are judged by the board of The Documentary Project Fund. Half the funds are released upon acceptance of the award, with the second half of the funds to be dispersed at the completion of the project, contingent upon the project’s successful execution. Award announcements are made via email, approximately one month after the Call-For-Entries closes on March 30, 2015.

Previous winners include Matt Black, who won an award for his work documenting California’s Central Valley.

For more info, go to thedocumentaryprojectfund.org or send an email to info@thedocumentaryprojectfund.org.

Light Work Grants in Photography

Light Work has been offering grants to artists in Central New York since 1975, supporting more than 110 artists, some multiple times. With the stated goal of encouraging the production of new photographic works in the region, three $2,000 grants will be awarded to photographers who reside within an approximate 50-mile radius of Syracuse, N.Y.

All applicants must reside in of one of the following Central New York counties: Broome, Cayuga, Chemung, Chenango, Cortland, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego, Schuyler, Seneca, St. Lawrence, Tioga or Tompkins.

Applications will be reviewed by three judges from outside the grant region; decisions are based solely on the completed application and the candidate’s portfolio and. Repeat offenders are welcome—artists who won the award in 2009 or earlier are eligible to re-apply. Full-time students are not eligible.

Grant recipients will be published in Light Work’s Contact Sheet: The Light Work Annual, and are invited to participate in a special exhibit at Light Work. The deadline for applications is April 1, 2015. Apply online at lightwork.slideroom.com.

Light Work was founded as an artist-run, non-profit organization in 1973, with a mission to provide direct support to artists working in photography and related media, through residencies, publications, exhibitions, and a community-access lab facility.

For more info, go to www.lightwork.org/grants/apply or email grants@lightwork.org.

Related Article 

Chasing the Money: How to Fund a Documentary Project


January 7th, 2015

New Instagram Feed Highlights Effects of Climate Change

Everyday Climate Change (photos © the individual photographers)

Everyday Climate Change (photos © the individual photographers)

An Instagram feed showcasing the work of photographers documenting the causes and effects of global climate change launched on January 1. Founded by Tokyo-based photographer James Whitlow Delano, @everydayclimagechange was inspired by the @everydayeverywhere feed, which presents selected images of daily life around the world, and will show how extreme weather and changes to the climate affect life in the developing and the developed world. So far, the feed has featured images by Sara Terry, Katharina Hesse, Michael Robinson Chavez, Janet Jarman, Paolo Patrizi, Ed Kashi, David Butow, John Trotter, Delano and other photographers who have covered such topics as water shortages, pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, forest fires, rising sea levels and the destruction of crops by infestations of funguses and insects.

Delano says that before launching the feed, he contacted photographers he knew who had completed bodies of work relating to climate issues. “I am looking for photographers who are able to see how local climate changes relate to the bigger, global picture,” he says. Delano, who has covered logging and deforestation in Southeast Asia, says he sought photographers based around the world. The contributing photographers are from five continents, and the images featured so far have shown diverse locations: a farm in Mexico; wetlands in Guinea Bissau; a denuded rain forest in southern Papua; a stretch of beach in Far Rockaway, Brooklyn. Says Delano, “I love the way that the photographs tell us that we must all consider how to deal with these issues.”

Though he gave contributors suggestions for hashtags, Delano says he wants to take a hands-off approach to editing. “I have told photographers that I will not curate or interfere unless photos go way off theme. As a photographer, I cherish latitude and freedom.”

Seven days after its launch, the feed has attracted over 1,600 followers. Photographers who have agreed to contribute in the future include Patrick Brown, Ron Haviv, Dominic Bracco II, Veejay Villafranca, Suthep Krisanavarin and Peter DiCampo, co-founder of @EverydayAfrica and @EverydayEverywhere. Delano says he’s happy with the work so far, but might expand the feed in the future. “In a month or so, we may start accepting hashtags or doing a Follow Friday like other everyday feeds. I like the democratization of the feeds that way,” he says. “First, though, I wanted to have a look how the feed functioned. So far, so good.”

Related Articles

Founders of Everyday Feeds Launch @EverydayEverywhere, “Family of Man for the Modern Age”

Picture Story: Everyday Africa on Instagram

Environmental Crusaders: Photographer Peter McBride and the Colorado River

January 7th, 2015

The New Memory Cards of CES 2015


Spare a moment for the humble memory card. While they certainly don’t get top billing at CES–how can they when socks now warm themselves–they remain an invaluable photographic tool. CES saw several new memory cards announcements.

And here they are:

Lexar launched 1000x microSDHC and microSDXC UHS-II cards for use in action cams, smartphones and other devices needing the tiny card format. The 1000x U3 cards boast read speeds of up to 150MB/s and will be sold in 32GB, 64GB and 128GB capacities for $60, $110 and $190, respectively.

They’re due in the first quarter of 2015 and will be backwards compatible with UHS-I cameras/readers and non-UHS-I devices, though performance will dip to Class 10 speeds.


Toshiba has updated its FlashAir wireless SD card. Now on its third generation, the Class 10-rated FlashAir III creates its own wireless LAN access point, allowing up to seven devices to access the card’s contents remotely. New photo sharing and image management features let you access the card’s contents from a web browser and, thanks to its Internet pass-thru capability, lets you access both the card and the Internet on your home or office router.

Images can be transferred from the card to other devices directly using the card’s Wi-Fi access point. Smartphone and tablet users can connect to the card to view or transfer images using the free FlashAir app for Android and iOS devices.

The FlashAir III ships in March in 16GB and 32GB capacities for $80 and $100, respectively.

Panasonic Memory CardsPanasonic will update its line of 4K-capable UHS-I type SDXC/SDHC memory cards with a maximum read speed of 95MB/s and a maximum write speed of 90MB/s. The cards will now be available in capacities from 32GB to 128GB. Pricing and availability were not announced.

Eye-Fi will extend its cloud offering beyond memory cards thanks to a new partnership with Olympus. The two will bring the Eyefi Cloud online photo sharing and management service to Wi-Fi-enabled Olympus cameras.

Olympus cameras that support the service will automatically upload images to the Eyefi Cloud where they can be viewed by others using the Eyefi Cloud app. Supported cameras were not announced.

Eyefi Cloud is a subscription-based service and Olympus camera owners will get an extended free trial plus discounted subscriptions when Eyefi Cloud integration goes live sometime later this year.

January 7th, 2015

DJI at CES: Gimbals Galore


Drone maker DJI tipped off CES attendees to four new products in the works for 2015.

While details are sparse, the company said it would offer a new mount that will let owners of the new Inspire 1 drone decouple the 4K camera from the drone for hand held use. It will offer two modes: one for tracking movement and another for keeping the camera locked.

The company also plans to launch a wireless thumb controller for its Ronin gimbal that combines a pressure sensitive joystick and an OLED display so  you to control the unit’s motion with a nudge of your thumb.

For owners of Sony’s A7 camera series, DJI is prepping  a 3-axis Zenmuse gimbal that will stabilize the cameras for drone photography (including the A7 Mark II, A7R and A7S).

Finally, DJI announced the H4-3D GoPro Hero4 Black edition gimbal for use on the Phantom 2 and Flamewheel systems.

thumb controller


January 6th, 2015

Smartphone Photography Advances at CES 2015 as Kodak, Panasonic Hit U.S. Market


While high-end camera announcements have been few and far between at CES, smartphone vendors kept things exciting with new phones that push the smartphone photography envelope.

Panasonic disclosed that its Lumix CM1, originally announced at Photokina for European markets, will be coming to the U.S., though pricing and carrier availability were not announced.

Like Samsung’s Galaxy Camera, the CM1 fuses an Android smartphone with some serious photography parts. How serious? How about a 1-inch, 20-megapixel CMOS sensor, the same one found in the company’s FZ1000 camera and a huge upgrade to the tiny sensors crammed into even the highest-end smartphones.

There’s also a 28mm, f/2.8 Leica lens with a manual ring to adjust aperture, ISO, focus and shutter speed. The CM1 has a mechanical shutter and offers DSLR-style shutter priority, aperture priority and manual exposure modes too.

Not to be outdone, it can also record 4K video at 15 frames per second (fps) or 1920 x 1080 video at 30fps.

As far as its smartphone parts, the phone runs Android 4.4 (Kit Kat) on a 2.3GHz quad-core processor with 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage and a microSD card slot for memory expansion. While the lens juts out of the phone body more prominently than most phones, the overall package is just .8 inches thick, which is slimmer than the Galaxy Camera’s 1.4-inch waistline.


Asus also trotted out what it dubbed was the world’s thinnest Android smartphone with a 3x optical zoom lens. The 13-megapixel ZenFone Zoom features a 10-element lens with an aperture range of f/2.7-4.8 and optical image stabilization. It measures in at .47-inches thick at its thickest point. The phone uses a laser autofocus system and boasts an HD display that’s 5.5-inches in size.

No firm word on when the ZenFone Zoom will hit stores but it’s said to retail for $400.

Announcing the KODAK IM5 Smartphone: Simplifying the Smartphone Experience

Kodak (yes, them) has also thrown its hat into the smartphone fray in conjunction with the Bullitt Group. The 1.7GHz Kodak IM5 will be an Android-based phone with a 13-megapixel image sensor and on-board photo editing software for tweaking, sharing and printing images. It features a microSD card slot, its own apps store, and a 5-inch HD display.

No word on pricing but the Bullitt Group said the phone will start its journey to end-users in Europe in the second quarter with worldwide availability thereafter.

Intelligent Flash_02

Finally, Lenovo introduced its Vibe Xtension Selfie Flash for illuminating your mobile self portraits. The Xtension plugs into your phone’s audio jack and uses eight diffused LEDs to shed light on your visage. Lenovo says the $30 flash is good for 100 flashes per charge and that it will offer 100 percent sync with your phone.




January 6th, 2015

Fujifilm Intros XF 16-55mm F2.8 Lens at CES

XF16-55mm&X-T1GS[1]Fujifilm used CES 2015 to debut a new all-weather 16-55mm zoom lens for its X-series cameras.

The XF 16-55mm F/2.8 LM WR (24-84mm, 35mm equivalent) is sealed in 14 places to keep dust and moisture out of its innards. The lens features an internal focusing system and a twin linear motor for high-speed autofocus. According to Fujifilm, the lens can autofocus in as little as .06 seconds.

The optical elements are coated using a new Nano GI (Gradient Index) coating that reduces ghosting and flaring by altering the refractive index between the glass and air. The XF 16-55mm employs 17 elements in 12 groups including three aspherical elements and three ED elements.

The lens will ship in February for $1,200. XF16-55mm_Flat

January 5th, 2015

Nikon Adds D5500 DSLR, Telephoto Lens at CES

D5500_BK_55_200_frttopAfter a year spent filling out its advanced full-frame DSLR lineup, Nikon came to CES 2015 ready to entice advanced amateurs with the new D5500.

The camera sports a 24.2-megapixel DX format (APS-C-sized) sensor with no optical low pass filter and a native ISO range of 100 to 25600. It was built using the same monocoque design approach responsible for the D750′s relatively light-but-tough build.

It’s capable of burst speeds up to 5 frames per second in JPEG and RAW and sports a 3.2-inch, vari-angle touch screen display. Video can be recorded at 1920×1080 at up to 60 fps and Nikon has carried over the flat picture control setting, stereo microphone and audio inputs from the D750.

The D5500′s autofocus system features 39 points with nine cross-type sensors.


Rounding out the feature set is Wi-Fi and a battery rated for 820 shots by CIPA.

The D5500 will sell body-only for $900 beginning in February. Throw in an 18-55mm kit lens and you’ll pay $1,000. Nikon will also sell a kit that bundles an 18-140mm lens for $1,200.

Joining the D5500 will be a new 3.6x zoom lens. The AF-S DX 50-200mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR II ($350, February) offers three stops of Vibration Reduction and a silent wave motor.

Nikon will also replace its 300mm f/4 lens in February with the new AF-S Nikkor 300mm F/4 E PF ED VR lens. It uses a phase fresnel design that helps to shed a full pound and a half of weight and 30 percent of size vs. the earlier generation lens. It has an electro-magnetically controlled diaphragm which delivers more consistently when shooting at faster frame rates, Nikon said.

The lens’ Vibration Reduction technology offers up to 4.5 stops of correction with a sports mode and tripod detection.

The telephoto lens will retail for $2,000.