Monday, September 10, 2012

Advanced Long Lens Techniques

Blue Footed Booby on Galapagos, North Seymour IslandMore and more travelers, including travel photographers, are choosing destinations to see wildlife. They're interested in conservation, the environment, along with viewing and photographing wildlife in their natural habitat.

At some of these locations a good DSLR, with a telephoto lens having a focal length of 200mm will suffice, as you can get fairly close to the animals, but generally you'll need a 300mm lens or longer, and 400mm or longer could be a real help.

I found that even in the Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador, which Charles Darwin's book, “Origin of Species,” made famous, where many of the birds and other wildlife have a small “circle of fear,” you often need a lens with a 400mm focal length.

The “Circle of Fear” is the distance from an animal, inside of which, the animal has discomfort or distress from the photographer's or observer's presence, which may cause the animal to flee.

In other locations, such as an African safari, or a hike in Denali, a super-telephoto focal length of 500mm or more is virtually a “must.”

Smartphone Apps for Photography: iBird Explorer Pro (updated 2012)

iBird Explorer ProOne of my photographic passions is wildlife photography. More and more travelers are choosing destinations throughout the world, specifically because they wish to observe and photograph wildlife. I'm one of those photographers.

When home, you'll generally find me visiting the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge for a number of hours each week.

An important part of wildlife photography is properly identifying the wildlife you encounter, both flora and fauna. Sometimes, especially if you've not visited a location before, identification isn't easy. I'm often visiting wildlife locations with well studied wildlife enthusiasts, or wildlife experts, and they are very helpful in identifying wildlife, but sometimes I'm out alone and need some help.

Monday, August 20, 2012

How do I register my image's copyright and what can I do if it's violated?

In Part I of my copyright series, “I'm not a "Pro." Why should I worry about copyrighting my photos?” I discussed why both professional and amateur photographers, and even weekend vacationers should seriously consider taking measures to raise the level of their copyright and other protection for their photographs.

In Part II of the series, “What do photographers need to do to protect and document their copyright?” I discussed practical suggestions to protect your photos and establish your copyright firmly.

In this last article of the series, I discuss copyright registration in the US, how and when you can, and why you should, register your photographs, and if your copyright is violated, what remedies registration extends to you, that you otherwise wouldn't have.

You can submit your photographs to the US Copyright Office, part of the US Library of Congress, via postal mail, or online. If you register your photographs by postal mail you don't have to print each image, but can submit them on CD. You can register your photographs whether already published, or still unpublished. Your photographs are eligible to have their copyrights registered the moment you make them.

FBI Anti-Piracy Warning Seal now available to photographers to protect image copyrights

FBI Anti-Piracy Warning SealThere is a new tool available in the Photographer's arsenal to fight copyright infringement of images, the Anti-Piracy Warning Seal (APWS), shown on the left.
The APWS is the official insignia of the FBI and the US Department of Justice. It was designed to help detect and deter criminal violations of US intellectual property laws through public education of the laws and the FBI's authority to enforce them.

You might have noticed this seal before on DVD movies, and some software, for example. In the past, the use of this seal was only available to the entertainment and software industries. Now, in the US, all copyright owners may use the seal, as long as they follow the appropriate regulations for the seal's use, which can be found in 41 CFR Section 128-1.5009.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

NSL Photography and the NSL Photography Blog are back up!

Hi All,

Update: Scott Wagner, GoDaddy's interim CEO said in the afternoon of September 11th, in an emailed statement, "It was not a 'hack' and it was not a denial of service attack (DDoS). We have determined the service outage was due to a series of internal network events that corrupted router data tables."

I wish GoDaddy would get their story straight.

Whether hackers took down the site or not, hackers which do take down websites, or make public the private accounts of individuals, for any reason are criminals, and must be dealt with by our court system to bring them to justice for their criminal behavior which affects ordinary people everywhere.


On September 10, 2012, my registrar and intermediate URL host of my NSL Photography galleries, GoDaddy, went down at 10:20am. They returned to operation fully about 9 hours later.

Some weren't able to access my galleries at all, or this blog. I'm sorry for the inconvenience that caused some of my visitors.

They were apparently taken down by a single hacker group, Anonymous, as they have taken credit for the event, over their stance against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) which GoDaddy initially supported, but eventually pulled back from that support. Apparently it wasn't enough for Anonymous who has taken the law into their own hands as they have decided to be prosecutor, judge and jury.

While I disagreed with GoDaddy's support of the Acts, and publicly said so, I am outraged by the callous disregard for the law, and for the millions of innocent customers of GoDaddy, including me, that Anonymous has put out of business. We depend on our websites being operational. I believe that GoDaddy's support of these Acts was a poor choice, but they had the right to do so, and as one who believes in the US Constitution, I support that right, and the rule of law.

People will never be free unless they support the rights of others to also be free, even when they disagree strongly.

The hacker group who took down GoDaddy is nothing more than a common criminal who deserve serious prison time.

Thanks for bearing with me during this outage.


Monday, August 13, 2012

What do photographers need to do to protect and document their copyright?

Copyright? In Part I of my copyright series, “I'm not a "Pro." Why should I worry about copyrighting my photos?” I discussed why both professional and amateur photographers, and even weekend vacationers should seriously consider taking measures to raise the level of their copyright and other protection for their photographs.

In this article, the series continues with practical suggestions to protect your photos and establish your copyright firmly. In the next, (last) article in the series, I will discuss copyright registration in the US, how and when you can, and why you should, register your photographs, and if your copyright is violated, what remedies registration extends to you, that you otherwise wouldn't have.

Smartphone Apps for Photography: Photojot

Photojot app for iPhonePhotojot is application which permits professional photographers and serious amateur photographers to record details about shoots or individual shots for future reference when detailing image information, and plan future photo sessions.

It is especially helpful for “forgetful” travel photographer needing data about their photographs.

With it you can capture essential information to organize photographs for various purposes. You can scout locations and jot down notes about them, to plan future photo shoots.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I'm not a "Pro." Why should I worry about copyrighting my photos?

Copyright?I'm asked this question often when I run workshops, or anytime I'm with enthusiasts and we're talking photography.
“You're a pro. I understand why you copyright your photos, but why should I worry about it? I'm not selling my photographs or using them in my work.”

It's important to understand that every time a photographer, or even a weekend vacationer presses the shutter release on their camera to make a photograph, the image is copyrighted the moment it's made. That's right, every photo made is copyrighted, the instant it's stored on film or in a memory card.

But that's just the start.

Photography Exhibition: The Getty Museum - Portraits of Renown: Photography and the Cult of Celebrity

Princess Caroline of Monaco, by Andy Warhol, American, 1983The Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California, regularly has extraordinary photographic exhibitions. Portraits of Renown: Photography and the Cult of Celebrity is no exception.

This exhibition will run through August 26, 2012

Photography's remarkable ability to shape identities has made it the leading vehicle for representing the famous. Soon after photography was invented in the 1830s, it was used to capture the likenesses and accomplishments of great men and women, gradually supplanting other forms of commemoration.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

It's July 4th, and that means photographing fireworks

Fireworks at the Philadelphia Museum of ArtWednesday, we in the United States celebrate our nation's birth. In Philadelphia, America’s birthplace and the nation's first capital, that means after a concert at the foot of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, more than 500,000 people will enjoy one of the largest and most spectacular fireworks displays in the nation.

I'll be there. If you're there too, look for me south of the Art Museum.

Here are my updated tips for photographing fireworks using your digital camera:

Farewell to Facebook, at least for galleries and samples

Facebook LogoFacebook has been in the news lately, and for many, the news hasn't been good.

Privacy issues continue to be in the news, as Facebook continues to adjust and readjust user privacy settings, requiring users to constantly reassess Facebook privacy policies, settings' options, and how Facebook has changed user settings from prior user choices.

Lately Facebook not only added their own email service, but without consulting their users, unilaterally changed their users' default displayed contact email address to users' new email address, without so much as a simple notification of the change.

While it's true it's easy to change the default contact address back to the old one, I would ask why that should be necessary, why Facebook would decide to “tamper” with their users' contact address at all, and why Facebook didn't contact a single user, letting them know they made the change, and if not desired, how to revert back to their original address.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tips to capturing aquarium images while traveling

Raccoon Butterfly fish, native to Hawaiian waters in the Pacific OceanThere are amazing public aquariums for travelers to visit for hours of great enjoyment and learning. Some house more than 10,000 colorful and interesting wildlife species.

Photographers in public aquariums encounter a myriad of challenges; fish in constant motion, darkness, dirty glass walls, water which washes out even the brightest colors, and general bans on tripods, monopods and flash use.

Here's my public aquarium photography tips to assist in capturing great images from your visit:

Photography Exhibition: Philadelphia Museum of Art - Ralph Eugene Meatyard: Dolls and Masks

Untitled, 1960s, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, American, (1925-1972), Gelatin silver printThe Philadelphia Museum of Art has become one of the foremost exhibitors of fine art photography in the nation. Ralph Eugene Meatyard: Dolls and Masks, an extremely interesting and thought provoking exhibition is certainly worthy of this great institution.

This exhibition will run through August 5, 2012

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Travel portraits: family, friends, and interesting subjects

In front of Old Christ Church, Philadelphia, PAWhen traveling with friends and family, most travelers eventually want to get a nice travel portrait or two. Travelers often try to capture interesting portraits of a local inhabitants.

Sometimes the friend/family exposure is dictated by where and when you're there. Sometimes the “choice” of background and light is made, in part, to keep a famous background in the photo, to say, “We were there.”

Sometimes you can choose the time of day your photographing, the background, and the way your traveling companions are facing, thereby control how light illuminates your subjects but more often, locations and schedules dictate exposure details.

The place and time for portraits of local inhabitants is rarely in the traveler's control, but the photographer can often control their position to help set up the portrait.

US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit grants injunction against 1994 Illinois eavesdropping law

Independence Hall, Philadelphia, PAIn 1994 the Illinois legislature amended their eavesdropping statute so that it applies to “any oral communication between two or more people regardless of whether one or more of the parties intended their communication to be of a private nature under circumstances justifying that expectation.” (Ill. Pub. Act 88-677 (1994) (codified at 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/14-1(d)))

The law was intended to circumvent an Illinois State Supreme Court decision (People v. Herrington, 645 N.E. 2d 957 (1994) which held that “there can be no expectation of privacy by the declarant where the individual recording the conversation is a party to that conversation.”

Since then, the ACLU in their suit, “American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois v. Anita Alvarez has been seeking to have the scope of the law narrowed.

The ACLU had intended to implement a “program of promoting police accountability by openly making audio and audio/visual recordings of police officers without their consent when: “(1) the officers are performing their public duties; (2) the officers are in public places; (3) the officers are speaking at a volume audible to the unassisted human ear; and (4) the manner of recording is otherwise lawful.”

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Snapshots versus Photographs — Taking versus Making Images

The Great Sphinx of Giza in the foreground with the Pyramid of Khafre in the background at the Giza Necropololis. Note the prominent display of casing stones at the apex of the Pyramid of Khafre.Periodically I receive emails from travelers who compare travel photographs made by me and other professionals, with their own, taken in the exact same place, why theirs look so different from the professional shots.

They typically send me an example of their photography, although, invariably I already know why there's a difference. It's not that they don't have the technical ability or knowledge to shoot wonderful photographs. It's ordinarily their approach, their conception of their photographs and the process to make them. Simply put, it's the difference between a snapshot and a photograph.

When I'm out touring I don't merely “point and shoot.” I look for specific composition possibilities to show off the natural beauty, the architecture, history, landmarks, the general location, the culture of the location, etc., before me.

I take time to get away from the viewfinder to see and experience where I am, rather than immediately point and shoot at each scene or landmark I see. If your trip is always revealed from the narrow viewpoint of your camera's viewfinder or monitor, you'll miss far too much of the travel experience. You'll miss the fun of travel, much of the interaction with what surrounds you, and you'll miss the best photographs too.

Smartphone Apps for Photography: PhotoCalc

PhotoCalc LogoOften, today's SLR/DSLR lenses don't have Depth of Field (DOF) markings, so you can't directly tell, in advance, what will be in and out of focus in your photograph.

When you're using manual exposure, are you experienced enough, and is your memory good enough to know what your exposure reciprocation table will tell you when you want to adjust your aperture and shutter speed to produce specific effects?

Have you been leery of using your flash in manual mode to obtain precise results because your flash exposure calculations are too difficult?

Have you had a difficult time determining sunrise and sunset information for the area in which you're traveling so you can plan those marvelous “golden hour” photos?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Reduce your TSA and CBP airport hassle and angst with Global Entry

US Airways plane boarding at the jetwayIt isn't often I write a pure travel article in the blog, which has absolutely no photography content, but I felt that this information is so important for any traveler or travel photographer, that I had to include it here.

Like you, I'm decidedly not a terrorist!

Like many, I travel frequently for work and leisure, and like many air travelers, I'm unhappy with TSA's (Transportation Security Administration) and CBP's (Customs and Border Protection) approach to security, which lumps me together with criminals and terrorists to be scanned or frisked, in order to fly to my destination, as if I'm a public enemy.

I know many leisure travelers who have substantially reduced the frequency of their air travel due to the hassle of TSA's and CBP's “one size fits all” approach to security, they consider too onerous, too time consuming, too unpleasant, a waste of their time, and a poor utilization of taxpayer dollars.

There is a program, administered by Customs and Border Patrol, which can eliminate much of the frustration, angst, and hassle of going through TSA security, plus, if you're a US citizen or resident alien returning to the US, from another country via air, CBP passport control and customs.

Photography Exhibition: The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - Silver, Salt, and Sunlight

Gustave Le Gray, Cloudy SkyThe Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, periodically has terrific photographic exhibitions. Silver, Salt, and Sunlight; Early Photography in Britain and France is definitely one such exhibit.

This exhibition will run through August 5, 2012

“The invention of photography in 1839 was a pivotal achievement that changed the course of cultural history. The early years of the medium were rich in experimentation. As each process and technique was invented, artists enthusiastically explored new possibilities for visual recording and expression. This exhibition celebrates the golden age of early photography in France and Britain, the two countries in which the medium was simultaneously invented.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Introduction to White Balance for Digital Camera Users (Part III): Gray Card or White Card?

Paris Metro, Concorde Station, Paris, FranceIn the last week I received many emails asking which is better for measuring white balance accurately via a digital camera, a white card or a gray card, so I'm adding an unexpected Part III to my series on White Balance. (Part I, Part II)

Without knowing it, they've asked a question which has an technical answer, though not one they're expecting, and an unexpected practical answer too.

Let's go back to Part I of the series and review what white balance is:
"White balance is the process of adjusting color casts, so that objects which appear white to human eyes/brains are rendered white in the photograph by the camera."
To put it more simply, photographers set a digital camera's white balance to get the colors in images “right,” where the images' colors are what photographers' brains tell them their eyes are seeing.

Philadelphia Police Apparently Need Remedial "First Amendment" Education

Independence Hall, Philadelphia, PAOn the night of March 14, 2012, Temple University photojournalism student Ian Van Kuyk was arrested outside his residence while taking pictures of uniformed Philadelphia policemen performing what has been termed a “routine traffic stop.”

Van Kuyk, who was with his girlfriend who was also arrested, said he was never closer than ten feet of the scene when police ordered him back. He said he voluntarily backed up and was at least thirty feet away when a uniformed Philadelphia police officer approached him aggressively demanding he stop taking pictures. Van Kuyk stated he politely told the officer he was a Temple University photojournalism student, and within his rights to be taking photos on a public street.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Introduction to White Balance for Digital Camera Users (Part II)

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Dexter Avenue Church, Montgomery, AlabamaLast week, in Part I, I discussed the concept of white balance and defined it. The general idea of white balance is to get objects which appear white to human eyes/brains to be rendered white in your images, so the rest of the colors will render properly as well.

I also discussed the important concept that sometimes, things we consider to be “white” aren't always white when we look at them, and that it's not wrong to ensure they don't look white in our images. During the “golden hours,” for example, white can appear “golden.” At sunset white buildings can take on red and golden hues.

This week I'm going to discuss the practical side of getting your white balance “right,” or at least as “right” as you can get it, so the colors in your saved image are rendered as you saw them.

Photography Exhibition: The National Portrait Gallery - In Vibrant Color: Vintage Celebrity Portraits from the Harry Warnecke Studio

Lucille Ball by Harry Warnecke (1900 - 1984)Periodically the National Portrait Gallery has some incredible photographic portrait exhibitions. In Vibrant Color: Vintage Celebrity Portraits from the Harry Warnecke Studio is such an exhibition.

This exhibition will run through September 9, 2012

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Introduction to White Balance for Digital Camera Users (Part I)

Apollo/Saturn V Center at Kennedy Space CenterI'm often asked about white balance by travelers using digital cameras who periodically have a noticeable and sometimes severe color cast on their travel photos. More often than not I'm queried about what white balance actually is, why “auto white balance” doesn't work, and how to get the color rendition of a scene “right.”

It turns out that white balance is a difficult term to define for most people. Here's my try.
White balance is the process of adjusting color casts, so that objects which appear white to human eyes/brains are rendered white in the photograph by the camera.
I'm sure you're asking what the heck that means.

Photography is all about light. If we examine light, which from the sun appears white to our eyes, we find it's made up of a whole spectrum of colors, each with its own color temperature which describes its individual color. Cameras need the ability to render the colors of scenes as the human eye sees them, and that isn't necessarily easy.

Photography Exhibition: The Museum of Modern Art - Eugène Atget:“Documents pour artistes”

Eugène Atget. Coin, Boulevard de la Chapelle et Rue Fleury 76, 18E. June 1921. Matte albumen silver printThe Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), in New York, NY has some of the most amazing exhibitions of contemporary photography in the US. Eugène Atget: “Documents pour artistes” is another in a long line of great exhibitions. If you’re in the New York City area, don’t miss this exhibition.

The exhibition will run from February 6 through April 9, 2012.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tell your Senators and Representative to not support proposed Anti-Piracy legislation SOPA and PIPA

Today, across the Internet, many have darkened their websites in protest of the pending Anti-Piracy legislation in the US Senate and House of Representatives. Others are presenting statements and editorials explaining their serious objections to this new legislation, as currently written.

As a professional photographer, I take my work, copyright issues, and piracy of copyrighted work, mine and that of others, very, very seriously. Theft of copyrighted material, photographs, drawings, film, video, music, art, the written word, and creative ideas made public through various means, is very serious business.

I believe that more must be done to protect the creative products of human minds. Without it, those who create such work will be unable to make a living as others unfairly steal their hard work and genius. Without protection, creativity will be stifled and the world will loose much which makes human endeavors great.

That being said, the current pending Anti-Piracy legislation is heavy handed, a dangerous assault on free speech and the constitution, wrong thinking, and will stifle creativity by putting too much power in those hands who have cash in their pocket. It will hand over great power to a few companies and organizations who have large resources, over who gets to exercise creativity, and cause independent artists, artisans, and authors, to be lost in a sea of cash they don't have, in my opinion.

The Anti-Piracy bills, if enacted into law would violate the First Amendment, illegally censor Internet content, and cripple the Internet, while threatening whistle-blowing and other free speech actions.

It's one thing to go after websites which are allegedly directly involved in copyright infringement, but the proposed bills would allow the government to target sites that merely provide information which could help users get around the proposed law's censorship provisions. That amounts to unconstitutional prior restraint against protected speech, and, in my opinion would severely damage online innovation.

Social media sites like Facebook, Google Plus, or YouTube, sites with user generated content, would be especially vulnerable to proposed law. They would have to expend huge amounts of their resources to police their sites for copyright violations, as these new PIPA and SOPA proposals make them liable for the uploads from you and me, which might be copyright violations. Venture capitalists have said, en masse, they won’t invest in new online startups if the legislation passes, as it would be likely that under the new law, new companies couldn't be successful, due to the onerous liability and capital requirements required.

Talk about damaging the potential for innovation, something these bills are supposed to enable, but don't!

Worse yet, the proposed laws would decimate the open source software community. This would be tragic for those who love freedom and liberty. Anyone who writes or distributes VPN, proxy, privacy or anonymization software would be immediate targets of the proposed laws. This would even include organizations funded by the US State Department to create software which helps democratic activists get past authoritarian regimes’ online censorship mechanisms. It's ironic that the proposals would replicate the same practices as these regimes, and outlaw the tools used by activists to circumvent censorship in countries like Iran, Syria and China.

Then there is the provision in these laws which would grant broad immunity to all service providers, even if they overblock innocent users, by blocking sites voluntarily with no judicial oversight. Since the proposed law's standard for immunity is so low, as to be beyond any reasonable thought, with the potential for abuse “off the charts,” these service providers need only act “in good faith” (vaguely defined) and base their decision “on credible evidence” (extremely vague) to receive immunity from prosecution or civil suit.

The proposed law would allow big business associations like MPAA and RIAA to create site blacklists of competitors and independents to shut them down, even if the evidence was bogus. Intermediaries would be under enormous financial pressure to accede to shutdown demands to avoid court orders. This gives outrageous censorship powers without any judicial or legal oversight to big business. Independent creators and purveyors of creativity would have a difficult or impossible fight against this, due to the huge financial resources of the corporations they would be pitted against. Anti-competitive and anti-trust laws would be of no help in this fight.

The proposed law would give the US Attorney General new authority to block domain name services (DNS), a provision that has been universally criticized by Internet security experts and First Amendment scholars. Even the blacklist bills’ authors are now publicly second-guessing that provision. The problem here is that the methods used to accomplish this task, something that China currently uses to censor the Internet available to their citizens, would make the Internet in the US even more vulnerable to hacking and piracy than it already is, and ironically like other provisions of the proposed law, that is part of what it is supposed to stop.

Finally, the proposed law circumvents a pillar of American justice, that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt. Under the proposed Anti-Piracy legislation, it's like the old Soviet Union, where you were guilty unless you prove yourself innocent, beyond a reasonable doubt.

Once accused of piracy or copyright infringement, under the proposed law, your work product, your photos, movies, music, etc. can be removed, stopping all marketing of your products and all sales. Moreover, restoration won't occur until you prove it's yours and there was no piracy or copyright infringement. During that time, the fight to prove your innocence will cost a bundle, and you'll be unable to draw an income from your work.

All copyright holders already have a reasonable mechanism to halt infringement and recover damages, both statutory and actual, via the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and having used it myself, I can tell you, it works, though it could use some improvements.

That being said, neither PIPA nor SOPA are the answer. These are dangerous pieces of legislation and must be stopped. Please, contact your Senators and Representative in Congress and tell them to vote against these bills and write legislation which reasonably and constitutionally work to help creative Americans, not put them at risk or at the mercy of big business. Tell them to not put the Internet, content providers and ordinary Americans at risk to hackers and thieves.

Tell your legislators the law they write must not deprive Americans of our basic human rights.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Have a Happy and Healthy New Year

Fireworks in Philadelphia - Happy New Year EveryoneMay this new year bring you health, happiness, and the sweetest of years possible.

I hope everyone's travels are without incident, that cruises make it to every port, that planes and trains arrive safely and early, that road trips have no accidents or flats, and that everyone enjoys their travels safely, see amazing sights, and enjoy and learn about the new people met and the cultures encountered.

I hope that everyone creates the best photographic memories possible of their travels, that every exposure is in sharp focus, with a perfect exposure, and with brilliant color.