Category Archives: All

Cheap Macro Lens: Magnify Your Savings

cheap macro lens for canon image

Cheap may be a bit of a misnomer here, but all of these suggestions guarantee results without robbing you blind.  It should be noted that some lenses – specifically the Canon lenses mentioned here – are by no means cheap, either in terms of build quality, or price.

These suggestions are also aimed at Canon users, because I recently helped a friend select a lens for his T3.  Some suggestions, like Sigma lenses, will hold up across the board.

Cheap Macro Lens Suggestions for Canon Photographers

cheap macro lens for canon image

Sigma 70-300 f/4-5.6 APO DG (~$210)

Okay, so you want a cheap macro lens?  They do exist.  You can buy one a Sigma 70-300 f/4-5.6 DG for around $144, but I wouldn’t suggest it.  Why?  Well, it’s achromatic, meaning that different colors have different focal lengths.  Contrast isn’t that great, and if you want to focus on two colors at once, god help you.

Luckily there is an alternative to this dilemma: upgrade to the better version from Sigma, the 70-300 f/4-5.6 APO DG for around $210.  I know…it’s $60 more expensive, but your photos will thank you.  I used to own this particular lens for Nikon, and it works wonders in its price range.  Still, you can do better.

cheap macro lens for canon image

Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 (~$420)

Another decently priced third-party lens, this sucker is ideal if you’re looking for an inexpensive all-purpose telephoto that can double as a macro machine.  Think of it as your standard kit lens, and then some for wildlife, nature, sports, and macro.  It won’t perform as well in low light, but most zooms don’t anyway.  And all of these uses packing into one cheap macro lens will cost you around $420.

cheap macro lens for canon image

Canon 60mm f/2.8 EF-S USM Macro (~$470)

For those wanting brand-name goods, and all the quality that goes along with it, look no further than the Canon 60 mm f/2.8 EF-S USM Macro.  Prices on this lens vary depending on age and seller.  Used ones might go from anywhere between $300-400, while brand new usually tops out at $470.  The fact that it is a prime will not be lost on users – image quality shows exactly where this camera stands in terms of cost-effectiveness.

cheap macro lens for canon image

Canon 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro (~$570)

Another excellent but not exactly cheap macro lens from Canon, this glass verges on expensive, but won’t leave you penniless.   It’s an old film lens that will still work on your digital Canon.  You can expect to pay more for it brand new, but the great thing about film lenses is, you can also find them online for dirt cheap…usually.

Keep in mind when shopping for a cheap macro lens that there are a lot of options out there.  While these are just my suggestions, I recommend doing your own research.  Beware that some manufacturers have old lenses floating around out there that will not work (or might even damage) your DSLR.  It’s best to do some research first, or better yet, speak to someone at your local camera store who can help guide you in the right direction.  And if you really, really want that cheap cheap CHEAP Sigma 70-300 f4-5.6 DG at $144, I know these guys have it in stock.

Just remember that paying for pro glass is never a truly bad idea, and that better image quality is always a wise investment.

The Other Body: Choosing a Second Camera

canon instant rebate sample

One of the things I’ve been helping people with a lot recently, is choosing a second camera.  That is, these folks already have one camera, but want another – either as a backup in important situations, or as a replacement to their current setup.

The Second Camera

A lot of photographers spring for a backup camera body, if not a second system.  A lot of consumers or would-be “clients” like to ask commercial photographers if they have a backup camera.  And while some of us don’t, most of us do.

But if you’re looking to buy, what should you be aware of?  Firstly, people buy second camera bodies for all sorts of reasons.  Maybe you read a review you like, or maybe you’re drooling about the latest specs.  Then again, you could want to increase your versatility, or maybe you just want a lighter camera.

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The Canon PowerShot G16 works well as a second camera, offering many manual features found in products aimed squarely at pros.  

First off, if you’re buying a camera based on specifications, or impulse…don’t.  You may only love it for a matter of days, or you may realize after a couple months that new model has even better specs.

Second bodies are a serious investment.  It doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be fun, just that should be handled appropriately.

As an Addition

Back in the days of film, photographers would buy a second camera and outfit it with a different lens or a different film, to diversify their abilities.  With the advent of the digital camera and an adjustable ISO setting, this phenomenon has almost disappeared.  But many photographers still keep a second body handy in case the first should fail.  For those using prime lenses, differing focal lengths on different bodies makes more sense:  maybe a 30mm f/1.4 on a full frame body, and a 60mm (about 90mm equivalent on a 1.5x cropped sensor) with a smaller format sensor.

Another thing to keep in mind when selecting an additional camera body is special features, or specifications in the second camera that might differ from the first, thereby giving you an edge.  Maybe there’s a wider ISO range, or video capabilities lacking from your old still-image camera.  Either way, the addition of another piece of equipment is a great opportunity to improve performance.

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The Canon SL1 is a light camera with a compact body, offering a second chance at portability that might have been missed from the 5d.  

While most brands make comparable equipment, lens mounts and lens compatibility are ongoing issues for photographers.  One way to avoid a load of lens trouble is to buy a second camera of the same brand that you’ve already purchased into.  Already purchased a Canon?  Buy another.  Maybe a different model, but save money and patience by selecting a model that can mount the lenses you already have.

Most people following this approach are dedicated pros who need a second camera to fill in in case the first should die.  Or they may want the added benefit of twice as much camera.  Enthusiasts usually don’t follow this route because there is no gain in using the same system twice as much.

As a Replacement

As a replacement, many people prefer a lighter camera.  Some may want to keep the same manufacturer, while others are ready to experience new technology.  At any rate, the point here is to make sure you’re getting the features you want.

Where less weight is required, some manufacturers offer better alternatives.  If already invested in Canon equipment, consider the SL1, which has the distinction of being the lights DSLR ever made.

Or if you want something with all the latest features in a light package, the E-M1 and E-M5 from Olympus offer some excellent options.

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The OM-D E-M1, an Olympus flagship that weighs considerably less than a DSLR.

Another thing to consider in a replacement is the tech leap – that is, how much new technology you’re getting in the next camera.  Since technology is quickly improved upon in the camera industry, it makes sense to save money and purchase a system when it just comes out, thereby extending the shelf life.  On the other hand, older models can be very inexpensive, and if you’re only after one feature or so, buying an old camera can still be an upgrade in some ways.

Others may be looking for something less conspicuous, or quieter, or sporting a smaller, more cropped processor for the equivalent focal length on some lenses.

In any case, make sure you’re looking at the right cameras.  Enthusiast cameras and manufacturers like Sony, Panasonic, Fuji, and Olympus offer alternatives for those who don’t want to lug around a DSLR.  Some even have as much control.  But for others, the real win is going to be and optical TTL viewfinder, or a larger sensor.

At any rate, do your research or consult your local camera store.  Or just ask me!

Cameras and Memory Loss: Fact vs Fiction

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One thing that seems to cropping up on the news and camera sites, is a recent claim, centering around cameras and memory loss, that links photography to an inability to remember.  This claim stems from research conducted by Fairfield University in Connecticut, but is it accurate?

The Truth About Cameras and Memory Loss

Something that seems to be glossed over in a few articles, is the fact that there were two studies conducted on the relationship between cameras and memory loss.  Both studies focused on memory in college students, by placing them in art museums.  In the first study, the students were shuffled around and asked either to observe, or take a picture of a work of art.  A few days later, they tested these students on what they could remember.  Results were disheartening.  This is probably the study that you’ve heard about.  But the second study required students to simply view the art or in some cases, zoom in on particular details before taking a picture.  In this study, the students remembered more of the art that they photographed.

I doubt that every student possessed a dedicated camera.  Many were probably using cell phones, and a study of memory in cell phone users vs people using dedicated cameras would probably be extremely interesting, if not damning evidence against the cell phone industry.

Fact and Fiction

The fiction here is that using a camera – a foundation laid in the headlines – will mean you won’t remember what went on in front of you.  The story goes that while we were too busy fiddling with our cameras, we forgot to participate in or remember the scene in front of us.  

Any photographers – photographers using a dedicated camera, not just a camera-phone, or something that never gets used out of auto mode – know the facts.  We can not only remember the moment, we have a good time remembering our process.  We may not remember the exact f-number on our lens at that given moment, but we remember talking to our models, or the excruciating hike up a mountainside at dawn, or getting stopped by a cop for photographing where we shouldn’t have been.  We remember the time we spent composing, or (for those of us who suck) the time we spent chimping and then re-composing only to chimp and chimp again.  Yes, we remember.  After all, we use our heads when we photograph anything.  We have to.  Our cameras are usually manual, if not in a priority mode that requires us to think about at least one variable.

Other studies show that photography can actually improve memory in seniors, and is it any wonder?  There is a lot of thinking that goes into any photography that doesn’t just rely on a camera’s algorithms.

More than anything else, what this study shows is that we as a collective have reached a place in our picture-taking where we no longer think – where a snapshot has now become our knee-jerk reaction to anything interesting worth sharing at some point in the future.  Instead of remembering the experience in order to talk about it later, it’s easier to take a picture with our phones and upload it to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.  And we don’t remember vague details because we don’t take the photograph ourselves, but let the camera take a light reading all on its own and adjust the algorithm accordingly.

The study, and its implications, might be a little skewed as it appears in the media.  But the alarm, even if it is more in response to fiction or fact, is real.  And it should be.  People actually can’t remember where they were or what they saw because they were too busy adding the 199th photo to a Facebook album, or selecting a filter for an Instagram of their breakfast sandwich.

In what world is that not terrifying?

Do you remember?

cameras and memory loss sample image

Sam came over to my apartment one day, shortly before I dropped out of college.  She wanted to show me her new tattoo and she brought along a half-gallon of ice tea from the convenience store.  We sat on my floor and talked for the better part of an afternoon, and in the evening, I asked her to sit under the overhead light in my room so I could take this photograph.  

 

cameras and memory loss sample image

Talking online one night, Alex asked me if I wanted to come over and drink.  So we stayed up late drinking beer and smoking cigarettes and talking about philosophy and music (particularly Andy McKee).  Then we got the great idea to give each other mohawks.  I woke up to Alex playing his guitar.  This was shortly before his mother would come storming into the room, upset that I had given him the haircut.

 

cameras and memory loss sample image

Sarah said she wanted to hang out, and all I ever wanted to do back then was take photographs.  We’d been spending a lot of time together that week, hanging out at her house or talking on the phone.  There was an impulse there – one that I never acted on.  So one evening we went down to the creek and I photographed her just standing there, but with a different look in her eye.  She played “Linger” on her phone.  I almost kissed her, but something stopped me.

 

cameras and memory loss sample image

Kit and I went out to Centralia one night, to see if we could photograph the smoke coming up from the ground.  We couldn’t, but I was testing a new camera that night – a Canon Sureshot Autoboy 2.  Shortly after this photo was taken, we went to a local amusement park and got chased by security.  We got separated in the confusion, and I spent the morning at a local police station.  

 

 

Candid Street Photography without Permission: Is It Legal?

candid street photography legal example

Today, I found out that someone on the internet doesn’t like a photo I took.  What should I do about it?  Write a blog article, of course!  I’m joking.  Haters gonna hate, and photographers gonna photograph.  That’s just the way the world works.  But the comments made about the photo in question brought up a subject that is interesting to me:  permission in candid street photography.

Candid Street Photography

Now to be honest, this was not a “street” photo in the purest sense, as I was in the subway when I took it.  But as an accurate depiction of fellow New Yorkers doing whatever it is that they do, I stand by it.  The photograph was taken without permission, and it shows four people on the subway.  Two of the people in the frame are only partially represented, and the main point of interest is a woman reading a book.  The title?  “Woman reading book, F Train.”

Here is the photo.

 

candid street photography legal example

 

Some people seem to like this photo.  I like this photo.  I liked it before I took it, and I liked it after I took it.  But I can understand why people might not like it, and I certainly understand why people would feel that it’s unfair for me to photograph other people without their permission.

And even though I understand why they feel the way they do, it isn’t going to change my mind about the way I photograph people, or whether I should keep the photo up online.  Here are some of the questions I asked myself when I began thinking about others’ concerns.

Is it legal?

From the MTA’s Rules of Conduct and Fines, Section 1050.9 (restricted areas and activities), Article c:

Photography, filming or video recording in any facility or conveyance is permitted except that ancillary equipment such as lights, reflectors or tripods may not be used. Members of the press holding valid identification issued by the New York City Police Department are hereby authorized to use necessary ancillary equipment. All photographic activity must be conducted in accordance with the provisions of this Part.

In other words, as long as I’m not using equipment other than a camera all on it’s own, yes it is completely legal.

Now, from the same Rules of Conduct and Fines, Section 1050.7 (disorderly conduct), Article i:

No person...shall:  ...conduct himself or herself in any manner which may cause or tend to cause annoyance, alarm or inconvenience to a reasonable person or create a breach of the peace;

With that in mind, were someone to say, “Don’t take my photo,” or “You’re making me uncomfortable,” or even if I were to notice someone not at peace with me and my camera, I wouldn’t take the photo.

Despite the fact that taking the photo might still be in legal gray area, there is nothing wrong with putting your photography aside long enough to be a thoughtful human being.  But that in and of itself shouldn’t stop you from your right to free speech, or the pursuit of liberty and happiness.  Which bring us to the next point of discussion…

What about the Right to Privacy?  

You don’t actually have an explicit right to privacy in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

What you do have – upheld by the Supreme Court for decades – is an implied right to privacy.  The implied right has been used mostly in defense of civil liberties against government control, and it extends to areas where you might have a reasonable expectation to privacy, like your own home.  Or a restroom.

But probably not the New York subway.

Even with local laws, New York has shown itself to be more inclined to uphold freedoms of speech and press before individual claims to privacy.

Of course, this only holds true if the images are used non-commercially.

Is it fair though?

Though I hate to bring up this side of the debate, it tends to show up frequently.  Should you, as a photographer, worry about what is fair?  Believe me, there are times where I see a shot and don’t take it.  There is still something to be had in being just a human being once in a while, and not always a photographer.  But when most people bring up the ethical or moral arguments, I tend to tune out.  Ethics and morals vary by location and demographic.  And this city has a large, multinational, polyethnic demographic.  I also like to point out that I’m not an Ethicist or a Moralist, and am hardly qualified to speak on these finer points.  Then again, I’m not a lawyer, so I probably shouldn’t discuss what is legal and what isn’t.  But most of the people who might object to me and my candid street photography, probably aren’t photographers…

Candid street photography is more than just a kind of photography.  It’s a raging debate.  I think that in this current day and age, though, we’re just getting more used to cameras and the idea that privacy doesn’t seem to exist anymore.

One time my girlfriend told me she was afraid of falling asleep on the subway, because she might drool on herself and become the subject of a photo somewhere.  “Like the photographs you take, baby.  Woman sleeping, Q Train.”

How to Pick a Camera: Four Questions You Should Ask

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If you’re thinking about how to pick a camera this holiday season, odds are your head is spinning with so many different camera models.  Don’t worry!  This happens to the best of us.  But here are some tips for helping you select your dream camera this holiday season.

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The Olympus OM-D E-M1 is hot this season, and with good reason:  offering the latest in features and performance, this mirrorless camera is one of the best you can buy.  

1.  What will it be used for?

Figure out what kind of camera you want.  Brand doesn’t really apply to how to pick a camera.  Most camera brands offer extremely similar products.  But cameras come in all shapes and sizes, and those shapes and sizes are good for different things.  Compact cameras are excellent for travel, where lightweight capabilities are needed.  Some mirrorless cameras shine here, as well.  Maybe you want a mostly-automated camera that will take “great pictures” right out of the box, like a bridge camera.  Or maybe you want complete creative control, and require a DSLR.  Cameras like the Canon 70D and T5i, or the Olympus E-M1 or Pen E-P5 all offer such control.  Where lighter models are concerned, go with a Canon SL1 or something even smaller…bridge cameras like the Canon Powershot SX510 HS offer some control without sacrificing portability.  Or you can even find everything-proof cameras from Olympus and Pentax that will survive freezing cold, dust, drops, extreme pressure, and even extended submersion in water at varying depths.

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The latest Pen, the E-P5 has both touch screen and built in WiFi, as well as an improved User Interface.

2.  What features do you want?

This holiday season, a lot of manufacturers have laid on the bells and whistles.  And while all of them are offering the same features, they are doing so in different models.  Do you want a touchscreen?  Built-in WiFi?  Maybe you want interchangeable lenses, or a bigger sensor.  Maybe you want HD Video…or perhaps you just want a camera that shoots still images.  Whatever you want, there’s a camera for that.  Knowing what features you want in a camera will save you time when you finally go shopping.  Here, the newest models will have more features, while older models may lack WiFi or touchscreens.  And some cameras are WiFi compatible with a necessary card that is usually sold separately.  It’s best to chat with a salesperson if you’re looking for very specific features in your purchase.

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The most recent addition to the Canon T Series, the T5i offers some nifty features and abilities without a super-high price point.

3.  Who is it for?

Most cameras are getting smaller, and because of that, folks with big hands (like myself) can get frustrated handling cameras seemingly designed for hobbits.  The next step you should take in learning how to pick a camera is considering the person who will be using the camera.  Of course, it’s not just size that can sour a user’s experience:  a good user interface is always a plus, and simplistic controls for young photographers will get them out and shooting in no time.  If the Canon SL1 is too small, consider a T3i, which offers a larger body.  Want a bit more from a DSLR?  Try prosumer models like the Nikon D7100 or the Canon 70D, which both offer budding photographers plenty of leeway.  Or maybe the recipient of your gift used to shoot film, but now wants to see what all the digital fuss is about.  If this last example is the case, try the Canon G Series, or Nikon P Series.

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The T3 is old, but scrappy.  Even though new-fangled features may be missing from this workhorse, she’s still capable of some great image quality.

4.  What is your budget?

You can’t put a price on good photography, but you can put a price on a good camera, and that price is usually pretty steep.  So if you aren’t looking to buy the latest and greatest, how much can you expect to pay?  Even for bargain hunters, an excellent camera can still be had for under $400 – you just may have to sacrifice some of those extra features and the latest improvements.  A good choice here would be the Canon T3, which after several years, is still on the market, due in no small part to its plucky performance.  If you’re looking for mirrorless equivalents, check out the older digital Pen cameras from Olympus – recent additions to this camera line have left older models at more affordable prices.

Well there you have it folks!  A few questions to get you thinking about what you really want in a camera.  And if you’re still stumped, go ahead and contact me here and I’ll help you pick one out.

Nikon 1 V3: Mirrorless Goes Manual

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Circulating the web right now is a rumor that the upcoming Nikon 1 V3 – expected to appear early next month – will offer mirrorless tech in a new package.

Nikon 1 V3

Rumor has it that the next addition to the struggling Nikon 1 system will be the V3, a manual mashup following the design of the Nikon P Series cameras (which were in turn the answer to Canon’s G Series), but with interchangeable lenses to boot.

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The back of the P7800, showing an abundance of manual control dials.

Is it true though?  Since mirrorless cameras started appearing, and increasingly since their advocates began predicting the death of the DSLR, many of us have been waiting for a mirrorless camera to offer external controls for manual photography.

Whether we want to buy into mirrorless systems is beside the point; until there is a camera out there offering manual control at a decent price point, who cares?

The decent price point is key here, because despite the fact that Olympus has been making great strides in the E-M cameras, neither one is particularly enticing from a fiscal standpoint.  And while Nikon and Canon both seem to offered examples of too little too late, a combination of interchangeable lenses with outward controls speaks to many of us enthusiasts who are thoroughly disgusted with novice-forward offerings of Fuji and Olympus.

Not only is it a win for consumers to see this final missing link between a mirrorless camera and a DSLR, but it’s about time both Canon and Nikon got their minds in the game – by kowtowing to consumers’ desires for mirrorless cameras that don’t suck.

Nikon 1 V3 sample pic

An awkward grip and bulky viewfinder made the V2 an epic fail.

Because, if we’re going to be honest, the offerings from these two monolithic manufacturers has done just that.  Canon’s M 1 leaves something to be desired, and the eye-gouging lack of aesthetic, among a dearth of other pluses, has left the Nikon alternative in similar straits.

Will it be the end of the DSLR if we do see a Nikon 1 V3?  Somehow, I doubt it.  People will always want a DSLR.  Manufacturers like Nikon and Canon aren’t going to relax the stranglehold they have on the industry, and the only contender to an SLR consumer base is Olympus, whose mirrorless flagship still offers only half the sensor size.  Another thing to consider is that no matter who the manufacturer is, any mirrorless camera is aimed at enthusiasts and not professionals, so it’s going to be laden with junk features no one really needs, like grainy black and white filters.

I mean, artistic filters?  Really?  Is the camera industry that scared of the iPhone and Instagram that they have to offer crap filters to make idiots feel more artistic?

But I digress.  What was the point I was trying to make here?  Oh yeah, that camera companies are backwards and market to established niches, but are lazy when it comes to cross-selling to anyone other than “enthusiasts.”

Nikon 1 V3 sample pic

Hopefully the V3 looks more like the compact V1.

Anyway, it’s too early to tell right now exactly what the Nikon 1 V3 will look like, but we can still expect it early next month.

Just in time for an epic case of buyer’s remorse.

The Autographer: a Wearable Automatic Camera

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The Autographer is a new camera design for a relatively new concept:  automatic photography.  Having arrived on the market in July, I was surprised that I hadn’t heard about it sooner.

The Autographer

It is designed to be worn around the neck or clipped to a piece of clothing.

It stems from a similar conceptual device, the Vicon Revue, to help people suffering from memory loss.

It has built-in GPS and Bluetooth.

It has a fisheye lens and a 5 megapixel sensor.

It has other sensors, too:  a color sensor, a magnetometer, a thermometer, and a proximity sensor.

Why?  Because the Autographer doesn’t need you to press the shutter.  It takes photographs automatically.

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Included with the camera is a leather strap that can be worn around the neck or the wrist, and a clip on the back of the camera allows it to be attached to clothing.

With the Lomo Sydrome reaching pandemic scale, and the rise of the Cult of Instagram in full swing, was it any wonder someone would come along and offer people the chance to take great photographs without consciously taking them?

Not that the photographs are great by any technical criteria.  Squashing a camera system into a plastic shell the size of a stick of gum had to have some effects on image quality.  But playing into the same sick mindset of most digital photographers today is the idea that if you spray and pray, something good might just happen.

I’m torn.

Part of me revels in the hunt for a good image.  In knowing, exactly when to take the best photograph.  And sometimes missing it altogether.  But another part of me – a voyeuristic, obsessed part of me – wants to have photographs of everything I am missing.  Or maybe not what I am missing so much as a comprehensive record from one very fixed point on my body, of what is going on.

See, one of the ideas I’ve been toying with for a while now is documenting everything (EVERYTHING) that goes on in a given space.  My apartment, my bedroom…even my immediate surroundings when I ride the subway to work.  The Autographer might be able to help me with that.  But then again, is it really something to be proud of when I sift through random images triggered by five different sensors and not my brain?  Could I even hold my head up and call myself a photographer after doing something like that?

When I first heard about the Autographer, I wanted to jump right in and try one on for size.  But with the holidays coming up, and the usual need to go out and spend tons of money on food and drink and presents and travel, I can’t afford it right now.  At about $400, it’s not too expensive to me, though others might be turned off by low image quality at such a high price point.

Because there are some cons to the image quality – first off, there’s highlights and lens flare.  And a 3 mm lens might be great for those who love fisheye lenses, but I think most of us are sick of the distortion at this point.

Another thing going against this camera is the software, which does allow you to connect to a smartphone, but limits the amount of photographs you can access – the Autographer can take thousands in a day, but you can only view 50 on your mobile device.

Thousands of photos in a day.  And then sift through all of that looking for something wonderful you had no direct control in arriving at?

I’ve got a love/hate thing going on here…love the potential, but hate the implications that I might just be a lazy excuse for a photographer.

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The camera design is minimalist, with two buttons and a brief menu.

Most people seem to be taking a negative position towards the camera.  Most follow the Gearhead approach of bitching and moaning about the fact that there’s noise and distortion and it costs too much.

But cameras always cost too much and still we pay and forfeit limbs for them.  And this really is pretty revolutionary, when you think about it.  Everyone goes on about Google Glass, which seems to be on track to become the next luxury item. People actually vie for position to purchase this product as Google makes it available, ensuring the product is being presented to potential consumers in the right hip/cool light.  Now enter the Autographer with it’s low fidelity imaging handicapabilities, and you’ve got to wonder if this isn’t the ground floor for tomorrow’s cutting edge tech?

I need to find this camera so I can test it.  I’m not completely sold, but I’m not completely blind to the applications, either.

Getty Images: Now with More Evil

getty images now with more evil

Getty Images used to be respected among photographers and businesses.  Not only was it a place you could find high quality photographs for paid use, but it was a great place for commercial photographers to go.  Not any more.

Getty Images:
Fishing for Infringement

I have a friend – we’ll call him JD – who blogs for a living.  He gets paid to increase a company’s online presence, by blogging about anything and everything.  See, the trick to online traffic (the “Buzzfeed Method” is an apt name) is to put out a bunch of random, funny, feel-good “articles” – these aren’t usually articles, and the most popular are simply image slideshows – on the internet.  Sprinkle them out over social networking and watch them take off in a viral fashion.  The easiest (least time-consuming) way to do this is to recycle the same old stuff that’s already out there…images and all.  But what poor JD didn’t know is that he was recycling a Getty Image.  When JD got a letter in the mail demanding payment for illegal use of the image, my interest was piqued, so I decided to do some research into this.

First off, the image in question can be seen here.

Not exactly what you’d think of in terms of a Getty Image, but what the hell do I know.

So I go to Getty Images, just to confirm that it’s their image.  Hours of searching yield nothing, so JD gives me the exact file name of the image, and lo and behold, there it is.

Using the keywords from the title, or even doing an advanced search for the image on the Getty Images website still yields nothing.

Now I do a google image search, and a boatload of other sites are using the same damn image – everyone from Yahoo to independent little bloggers scuttling in Getty’s shadow.

getty images now with more evil

Yup.

The price Getty demands, is nearly $1000.  For a grainy, crappy photograph of two old people holding cats.

Now, I take photographs.  And mine are just as grainy.  And they’re just as worthless in terms of actual creative merit.  But this isn’t about the art of photography, and it’s certainly not about protecting photographers, no matter how much Getty Images wants you to think it is.

Here’s the deal.

Getty Images is a business.

They want to make money.  How do they do this?  Originally, they found talented photographers and offered them copyright protection by selling images at decent prices for businesses and marketing firms.  The only problem is, the profits were split 20/80 in Getty’s favor.  So a lot of photographers are more than happy to go to other stock photography sites and sell their work there.

The new business model

With all the photographers leaving Getty Images, not to mention the fact that there’s only so much you can charge an advertising company to use a Magnum photograph, a new business model was needed.

The winning idea?  Go around the web and buy up images, like terrible cat photos.  Let some internet junk-mill like Buzzfeed spew it all over the web, and when independent bloggers start recycling the photos, jump in and demand ransom.

If people aren’t scared from the get-go about a quasi-legal-sounding letter from Getty’s Legal Department, there’s always the fear of courts and legal fees.

It’s genius, and evil.

Because Getty Images rarely goes to court over this kind of stuff.  Nab the ones who are dumb enough to pay and just make sure stupid people continue to use stupid images.

The fallout from this?  A lot of photographers, screwed out of profits, are migrating to new stock photography entities, while the blogging and design communities have become more and more vocal about the bogus strategy.

I’m not for copyright infringement.  I’m really against it.  What JD did was wrong.  But once an image gets out there and can be viewed on so many websites, shouldn’t we just consider it public domain?  This was, afterall, not the culmination of a world-renowned photographer who crawled his way through a war zone to capture the plight of humanity.  This photo was taken decades ago.  Why is anyone’s guess, but this certainly wasn’t a “professional” photo then, or now.  It was at some point scanned to a computer, and over time made its way to the web, and after years of being looked over, started popping up in articles titled “Most Awkward Family Photos EVR.”

How did our panel of consultants react?

getty images now with more evil

Oh…mah…GAWD.

getty images now with more evil

Like, whatever.  JD used images without permission.  What’s your site again?  I want to put this photo on my Facebook.

getty images now with more evil

(silence)

getty images now with more evil

So you’re telling me that for every nickle Getty makes, the original photographer gets a penny?  Isn’t photography supposed to be easy?  That’s what they told me when I bought my first DSLR last week.

Well, there you have it folks.  The New Getty Images!  Keep shooting.

And when you sell, make sure Getty gets its cut.

The Arcanum: Magical Academy of Buzzword Hogwash

the arcanum photo examples

How do you sell a poisoned turkey to wannabe photographers for $30 per month?  If you’re The Arcanum, you style yourself a “magical academy of artistic mastery” and call it a day.

The Arcanum:  Art Photography’s Sad Future

Okay, so there’s more to it than that.  Four whole steps, people!

  1. Find an energetic soundtrack that will make people get excited about a bunch of gearheads salivating over their tripods and Professional Cameras in a field somewhere.
  2. Add some cool graphics and make a quasi-ballsy statement about universities being broken.
  3. Throw in ample product placement for Google and Apple smart devices.
  4. Finally round it all out with obscure terms like “neo-shaman” and a system of “levels” and “spheres” not unlike Scientology.

And if any of that isn’t enough to lure ‘em in, call yourself Hogwarts.

There is so much stupidity going on here, that I’m choking on my own rage.

It’s a great business model, sure.  It’s viral marketing in real life, playing to the worst common denominator who has no creativity and needs to be prompted before anything even remotely original worms its way into his or her under-functioning cerebral cortex.

Learn from Masters

The Arcanum’s whole shebang is upheld by the statement that the master-apprentice relationship is ancient and time-honored.  And that’s true.  During the Italian Renaissance, would-be painters imitated the work of the masters and, in doing so, found their own style.

The propaganda for the Arcanum clearly wants this idea to be something you associate with a “master” wearing Google glasses or some other image-sharing device while an “apprentice”  follows along…and does what exactly?  We’re not quite sure.

the arcanum photo examples

If you want to know how “master photographers” think, post your photos to just about any critique forum and watch them swoop in like buzzards.  If it’s not the focus, it’s the bokeh.  If it’s not that, it’s the lighting.  Or the contrast.  Or the crop.  Or the fact that it’s not a full-body portrait.  Or the fact that it is a full-body portrait.  You get the idea.

Referenced in the promotional Youtube video is the concept that this magical academy is somehow not “one size fits all” because the “masters” pick you.  Never mind that you’ve never heard of said masters, or that their work might not seem overly creative or artistic.  Because it’s all about spheres and levels, folks.

Spheres and Levels

I thought Gearheads were a dead end in the evolution of photography, but apparently I’m wrong.  Since you’ve only got a matter of days to brag about your cutting-edge camera before it is rendered obsolete, now you can talk about spheres and levels.

With Arcanum, there are three spheres, and ten levels in each sphere.  As you progress from one level to the next (the gamer-oriented term “leveling up” is used), you are somehow imbued with New Powers of Photography.  People will call other people things like “warlock” and “neo-shaman” (words actually used to sell Arcanum to people).  Maybe people will even refer to themselves in such a manner:

I am a Sphere 2 Level 9 Masterchef of Photography, with +3 Bokeh and +1 Artistic Sight of the Unseeing.  Now roll three twenty-sided dice!

the arcanum photo examples

My buddy Justin, who is a Level 19 Jedi in Boston.  

Wannabe Photographers

This service is clearly aimed at a large and growing community of photographers:  the wannabes.

I use the term wannabes not in reference to gear or learning, but simply in regard to photographers who are too busy wanting to be a certain kind of photographer to actually go out and just become it.

I don’t care what you photograph with – an iPhone, a mirrorless camera, or a DSLR.  Hell, even break out the 35mm.  And while I’m a staunch advocate of self-taught photography, there is admittedly a lot to be gained from classes and workshops.

the arcanum photo examples

Thinking for yourself will help you take more artistic photographs.

But what can an Arcanum photographer teach you about art?  Man Ray argued that multiple photographers taking pictures of the same subject would produce varying images.  What constitutes art in photography isn’t so much about technique, as it is about vision.

Other art forms – like painting, pottery, sketching, sculpting – take time and require an individual to master certain techniques.  The technique physically shapes the vision.

Photography as art requires technique in a similar manner.  It helps to expedite the vision, and influences the way it is perceived.  But because art photography is as much about capturing as it is about creating, vision must precede it.

Old White Guy Photography

There’s an idea in vogue right now, called “old white guy photography.”  What is old white guy photography?  Old white guy photography is any kind of photography where you travel around and do the same shit someone else already did before you, only you do it worse.

the arcanum photo examples

Ansel who? No, I photographed this my Nikanon D24,000,000 and a 62mm f/0.78 ABCDEFG lens.  

The Arcanum is old white guy photography marketed to a hip, tech-friendly consumer base who will shell out money and time, and buy into a nonexistent school for the benefit of mercurial titles.

Every discipline in the magical academy is pretty much old white guy photography.  Landscape, portrait, fashion, wedding, product, and general photography make this sucker a white-out.  There is no art in these kinds of photography.  They are professions – that many people aspire to.

And for a fee of $30 per month, you too can see old white guys walking around taking photographs of fields or pagodas or skydivers or Times Square.

True story:  I live in the City of New York, and there’s more to it than Times Square.

Now I know what you’re thinking:  you’re thinking, Yeah, but there are women and people of color listed as masters.

Despite the name, old white guy photography does not know age or race.  It is a disease of the mind and it must be quashed.  As a white guy myself (getting older), I freely admit this.

Originality is the source of all good art.  Sometimes it’s stolen originality, but it is still original.  Not everyone is doing it, and the person who produced it probably didn’t get the concept from plodding around in another artist’s shadow.

Probably.  Maybe.  Who knows.

A Little Advice

My best ideas for photographs come from outside of photography.  I study art history, read books, explore new neighborhoods, and talk to strangers.  But that’s just me.  Maybe you’ll get something from following a Level 9 Hufflepuff in Conrad, Montana.

the arcanum photo examples

I like drugs and I like painters, so I photographed this painter doing some drugs.  It was a win-win. 

I myself am nothing special.  I’ve won some contests, sold some work, and I’ve shown my images here in New York City.  I’ve been doing this for several years and my output still sucks.  I have many more decades before anyone is going to look at my material with any real appreciation – not because I’m ahead of my time, but because I’m still kind of young and I still suck at photography.  The good news is, if you buckle down and force yourself to shoot, day after day, and think about why you shoot – what kinds of things interest you and what kinds of art interest you – you can become a more artistic photographer.

Take my word for it – I’m a Level 274 Gandalf from NYC.

 

 

 

Olympus Instant Rebates for December!

olympus instant rebates december

Howdy folks!  Just nabbed some information regarding Olympus Instant Rebates for this month, which I will be updating as more news comes in.  There are some awesome deductions out there, if you’re looking for Olympus equipment and didn’t do all of your shopping on Black Friday.  These rebates are effective from Dec.3-5 (Tuesday through Thursday).  Check it out.

Olympus Instant Rebates on These Cameras:

olympus instant rebates december

STYLUS XZ-2

Reg. Price:  $599.99 - $150 instant rebate = Final Price: $449.99

STYLUS XZ-2 with Viewfinder

Reg. Price:  $849.99 - $150 instant rebate = Final Price: $699.99

STYLUS XZ-2 with Waterproof Housing

Reg. Price:  $926.98 - $150 instant rebate = Final Price: $776.98

olympus instant rebates december

XZ-10

Reg. Price:  $399.99 - $100 instant rebate = Final Price: $299.99

olympus instant rebates december

TG-830 iHS (red, blue, silver, or black)

Reg. Price:  $279.99 - $80 instant rebate = Final Price: $199.99

TG-830 BLK W/8×21 RC II WP BLU (camera and binocular adventure bundle)

Reg. Price:  $299.99 - $80 instant rebate = Final Price: $219.99

TG-830 BLK W/8×21 RC II WP MAG (camera and binocular adventure bundle)

Reg. Price:  $299.99 - $80 instant rebate = Final Price: $219.99

olympus instant rebates december

SZ-15 (red, silver, or black)

Reg. Price:  $199.99 - $50 instant rebate = Final Price: $149.99

olympus instant rebates december

TG-2 iHS (black or red)

Reg. Price:  $379.99 - $50 instant rebate = Final Price: $329.99

tg-630_wht_front

TG-630 iHS (white, red, black, or blue)

Reg. Price:  $199.99 - $50 instant rebate = Final Price: $149.99

olympus instant rebates december

VR-370 (black, red, or silver)

Reg. Price:  $129.99 - $50 instant rebate = Final Price: $79.99

 

As you can see, Olympus Instant Rebates for this month open up some great savings and offer a lot of creative possibilities in the form of lightweight, ultra-portable compacts.  Get yours today from your authorized Olympus dealer, and if you don’t have one nearby, check out these guys.

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