April 29, 2006

Lies, Damned Lies, and Ignoring Your Own Links

A guy named Rich, who runs a blog named West Coast Imaging News, is spreading unfounded fear about the updated National Park Service policies regarding commercial still and video photography.

But he's hardly the only one; the National Press Photographers Association probably started the whole thing with their own fact-free and straw-grasping press release on the subject.

I feel incredibly sorry for anyone working at the National Park Service, as they're surely currently being flooded with letters that have no basis in fact. Here, then, is an overview as it pertains to still photography.

Fact: The new NPS regulations were based on the established regulations the BLM has used for years.

Fact: The new regulations do not affect your ability to use a tripod, flash, or multiple lenses.

Fact: The new regulations do not automatically apply to you simply because you want to sell prints.

Here are a couple relevant quotes from the National Park Service.

First up, an overview of what the regulations mean to you:

The NPS does not require a permit for still photographers, commercial or non-commercial, when going or doing anything that members of the visiting public are generally allowed to go or do without a permit. This is true whether or not the photographer uses tripods, strobe lights, or interchangeable lenses.

And further clarification on when you need a permit (the Cliffs Notes version of which being "for advertising shoots"):

A permit is [...] required pursuant to 36 CFR 5.5(b) for persons taking photographs of vehicles, other articles of commerce or involves the use of a model, set or prop for the purpose of commercial advertising.

Note that "for the purpose of commercial advertising" bit. That's the kicker. That's what allows you to shoot portraiture on both BLM and NPS land: you can sell prints to the portrait subject. You just can't sell the subject of the portrait (which is illegal anyway). It should also be noted that in the BLM version of these regulations, "model" specifically excludes humans, referring only to mock-ups (e.g., the Death Star). I can't speak to whether or not the NPS has adopted that position as well, as they seem to bounce back and forth between BLM-model and empty-headed-model.

In fact, you can even shoot BLM or NPS land, then go back to your lab and Photoshop in the product you want to sell and be completely within the regulations. They only cover taking the product to the site for in-situ photography.

Moreover, for still photographs, this "new" policy is basically identical to the NPS' previous (as of 2004) policy:

As a general rule, permits are not required for either commercial or non-commercial still photographers.
However, written permits issued by the Superintendent may be required when the still photography
involves advertisement of products or services and/or the use of models, sets, or props, or when such
photography could result in damage to the resources or significant disruption of normal visitor uses.
Permits shall be required for photographers granted access to areas normally closed to the visiting public [...]

Posted by Colin at 7:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 28, 2006

Ghetto Diffuser

I was looking for a quick-and-dirty way to diffuse the on-camera flash for a picture I was taking.

Ever the MacGuyveresque photographer, it struck me as I looked at the bedroom floor: socks.

White gym socks.

I pulled one down over the flash head, and damned if it didn't work beautifully. It does impede the autofocus assist flashes somewhat, mind you, but it sure does make beautifully diffuse final images.

Posted by Colin at 7:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dovetail

Gruber on Cringley on Aperture: >[Cringely is] certainly wrong that “Apple’s Aperture photo touch-up program could die so PhotoShop [sic] could reign supreme.” If Apple were to buy Adobe and replace Aperture with an app from Adobe, it’d be Lightroom, not Photoshop. Calling it a “photo touch-up program” shows that Cringely has no idea what Aperture actually is. While Robert X. Cringely is certainly perhaps one of the most vocal people referring to Aperture in such a manner, he's hardly alone. It seems that even after all this time, the only people who know what Aperture _actually_ does fall into one of two camps: Apple employees, and serious photographers. The probable reason? Every damned bit of coverage Aperture got early in its life had to play the "ZOMG APPLE'S TAKING ON PHOTOSHOP!!111" angle, which never was, still isn't, and likely never will be true. Everyone was obsessed with whether Apple would incur the wrath of Adobe, or if they were taking on Photoshop... despite the fact Aperture had nothing in common with Photoshop (other than a couple basic image adjustments and RAW import capability, I suppose) and Adobe didn't then have an announced competitor to Aperture. Being concerned about Aperture taking on Photoshop is like being concerned about pencil sharpeners taking on pencils; they're not competitors, they're _complementary tools_. Just as pencil sharpeners enhance one's enjoyment of a good pencil, so does Aperture aim to improve one's experiences with Adobe Photoshop. Why this hasn't managed to seep into the heads of the hype crowd is beyond me; talking to a single Aperture user or watching a few minutes of one of Apple's demo movies would reveal the fact that oh, hey, that's nothing like Photoshop at all.
Posted by Colin at 6:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 25, 2006

Another One Bites the Dust

Mamiya yesterday joined the ranks of numerous other longstanding photographic companies, announcing that they're done with some aspect of their company. Adios to Mamiya cameras. I have to say this one came as somewhat of a shock. Konica-Minolta had been in awful shape, but Mamiya had their high-end niche carved out. Though they were slow to get on the digital train, the "ZD" system they finally did come up with looked spectacular (albeit entirely out of my income bracket).

As is the case with K-M, Mamiya sold the division off rather than simply letting the axe fall. We'll see what comes of it. Hopefully more than has come of Konica-Minolta cameras since their announcement.

So long as they keep to producing PocketWizards and Sekonic light meters, I couldn't care less what Mamiya does with the rest of their business.

Posted by Colin at 11:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Overnight Prints

I need some business cards, and I've heard several people rave about Overnight Prints (.com), so I sent them a request for samples a week ago and completely forgot about it until they arrived on my doorstep today.

The quality of the samples rocks, and they are indeed some of the thickest, sturdiest cards I've ever had the pleasure of handling. Assuming they can even vaguely manage to be consistent in their color reproduction, I'm all over $10 business cards.

At $15 for 100 double-sided cards, it would even be painless to run a promotional set with a discount on the flipside in addition to a run of plain ol' blank-backed cards.

More on them later, once I've come up with a final card design and ordered a box. For now, they look promising, but we'll see if the hype holds up.

Posted by Colin at 12:13 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 23, 2006

Sweetest Photoshop tip ever!

I found this one courtesy of Kevin Kubota, a professional wedding photographer.

Have you ever ended up with an effect you really loved but had no clue how you did it?

While you can't dissect existing files, you can help prevent it in the future. Pop open the General preferences, check the "History Log" box, set the radio button to "Metadata"... and every modification you make to the image—including full setting information—will be logged to the file's metadata. I expect this will bloat the PSD sizes up a bit, but hey, it's better than having to write down steps by hand. Disks are cheap.

Photoshop also offers you the option to log to a text file instead of the image file itself. That may suit you better, depending on your preferences.

Great thing to know. It'll save me the trouble of flogging my snapshot button.

Posted by Colin at 7:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sweetest Photoshop tip ever!

I found this one courtesy of Kevin Kubota, a professional wedding photographer.

Have you ever ended up with an effect you really loved but had no clue how you did it?

While you can't dissect existing files, you can help prevent it in the future. Pop open the General preferences, check the "History Log" box, set the radio button to "Metadata"... and every modification you make to the image—including full setting information—will be logged to the file's metadata. I expect this will bloat the PSD sizes up a bit, but hey, it's better than having to write down steps by hand. Disks are cheap.

Photoshop also offers you the option to log to a text file instead of the image file itself. That may suit you better, depending on your preferences.

Great thing to know. It'll save me the trouble of flogging my snapshot button.

Posted by Colin at 7:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 19, 2006

Purchase My Life

In the tradition of All My Life For Sale un and deux, and as the interesting basis for her senior thesis, Deedee Adams has created Purchase My Life. She's selling nearly all of her worldly possessions on eBay, tagged and indexed, starting at under a buck.

Among the reasons she's doing it is to examine what she terms a "scarcity complex:"

Q: Yeah. Um, what's a scarcity complex?

A: It's the belief that you cannot throw anything away because you may need it again in the future. If you were to throw it away and were to need it again, you believe that you would not be able to get it. Thus the reason why you keep a million old ballpoint pens, old school binders from 1998, and boxes and boxes of stuff that just sits in storage. [...]

Having been brought up in that sort of environment—money was tight, anything that possibly had a future use was hoarded only to never be used again—it's an interesting angle to take for this sort of project.

Posted by Colin at 8:11 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 17, 2006

Fitness

Yeah, so my latest attempt at an exercise regimen spectacularly sputtered out and died the week after I started, but then something odd happened.

I started feeling really guilty about it, because I do have the time in the week to fit it (and a lot of other stuff) in. So I started back up again today. I can't guarantee the cardio portion continue through the summer, seeing as it gets hotter than Satan's taint out there, but I should at least be able to manage some bitchin' abs and biceps if nothing else.

Then the hotties will be all up ons.

Posted by Colin at 12:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 15, 2006

Diffuse and bounce

I've been conned into asked to shoot my brother's senior portraits, as the studio the yearbook advisor switched the school over to sucks, to put it bluntly.

Back when I was graduating from the same high school, we used a local photographer here in Chandler. Great guy, did excellent work, and his studio was centrally located for the entire population of the high school. And by "his studio" I do mean his studio: it was him and him alone. His wife doubled up as receptionist/salesperson and a realtor, but the actual photographic work was all his.

When or shortly after I graduated, the yearbook advisor left. She'd been working there for quite some time and was due for retirement. The new advisor came along and changed over to an entirely different photographer (ostensibly for reasons I won't get into).

To the detriment of everyone's photographs.

The new photographer, while local in the sense of "Phoenix Metro," is a trek for every single student and his or her family. The new photographer is also a photo mill full of undertrained, inexperienced camera jockeys who couldn't take a decent picture if it was their front-row ticket out of the Second Coming.

I have seen the proofs my brother got back. They're downright appalling. For reference, I learned to set studio lights and shoot portraits in my second semester of high school photography. If you have two eyeballs and four brain cells, you can make passable but uninspiring portraits of nearly anyone who sits down in front of the camera. Beyond the most basic skills, it is a matter of artistic vision and experience, but I could probably train a monkey to set broad and short lighting properly.

The "photographers" at this studio, then, are less capable than trained monkeys.

So now I get to sweep in and save the day by shooting a couple formals and a cap and gown (using my cap, gown, and stole, which are still hoarded away in my parents' closet). While I'm happy to do it, it's insane that I have to.

On the plus side, it gives me an excuse to head to Tempe Camera and buy a couple LiteDiscs (which are deliciously inexpensive), since I'm planning on shooting this without any sort of flash. I dig the natural light look, and with just a little coaxing from a bounce card and a diffusion panel, I should be able to get kick-ass results without having to buy or rent strobes.

Posted by Colin at 10:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Recipe for a Weekend

My weekend thus far has involved:
Jehovah's Witnesses (Aaaaagh!)

My weekend will involve:
Home Depot
Formica or perhaps veneer
Polyvinyl Acetate
Particle board
Craftsman power tools

Posted by Colin at 11:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 12, 2006

Spring Sale at REI

REI's Spring Sale is on, bringing savings of up to 30% on whatever they've decided to put a sale on.

The good news for those of us looking for roof racks or other means of hauling gear is that every Thule product is on sale at slightly over 20% off. Crossbars, feet, bike carriers, locksets, cargo carriers, ski racks... And it's not limited to just their roof products; hitch-mount and trunk-mount stuff is also on sale.

I know where I'll be later this week.

Posted by Colin at 12:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 9, 2006

5% Cashback on Gas and Automotive Purchases

If you have a Discover Card, do yourself a huge favor and enroll in their latest cashback bonus promotion!

From now until ... several months from now (I can't recall), they're offering a 5% cashback bonus award on all gasoline and automotive purchases. If you've actually read your cardmember agreement, that's about a gazillion times higher than the standard rate.

As always, this promotion is absolutely free, but you do need to specifically enroll in it. You can do so either by speaking with a customer service rep at 1-800-DISCOVER (where they'll even tell you which call center you've been routed to!) or by self-enrolling using the cardmember web site at Discovercard.com.

With gas prices on the rise and many people gearing up for spring and summer journeys, this couldn't come at a better time. Take advantage of the beautiful weather and make some money at the same time!

Posted by Colin at 6:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 8, 2006

Vision Like Magic!

So, I just went and sunk over $100 on my second eye exam in under six months because EyeMasters proved to be so incredibly inept this year.

The revolving circus of ODs at EyeMasters continually tried changing my contact prescription since December and only made it worse on each visit. The doctor I saw today at Nationwide Vision (which, it's worth mentioning, is locally-based) did my exam, told me my contact prescription was the same as the one I gave the optician during the pre-exam, and took me up front to order a couple boxes of lenses. Astounding!

EyeMasters never did get it right; the final prescription they were willing to come up with left me with woefully obvious artifacts of astigmatism. Everything in my left eye had fuzzy duplicates around it, and light sources haloed like nobody's business.

The last doctor who saw me at EyeMasters told me (a) then don't look out of your left eye by itself, and (b) he wasn't willing to change the prescription because I had 20/15 corrected vision and we'd just make things worse if we kept trying to fix something that wasn't broken. Even despite my pleas that my left eye is my dominant one and it's noticeable in ordinary vision.

In fact, I still have a pair of trial lenses waiting for me at EyeMasters that I'm never going to go pick up. There's no point, given I can't wear anything but Acuvue and the script is wrong anyway.

Posted by Colin at 3:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 6, 2006

Pet Peeve #281

A random pet peeve I run into far too often: web sites which use the exact same meaningless title on every page.

There are some very large companies guilty of this.

Two reasons to fix it:
1. Your viewers can actually make useful bookmarks from your site! "MadeUpSite.com: How to Mix a Mudslide" and "MadeUpSite.com: Sober Up With Coffee" are easily distinguishable in a list of bookmarks. "MadeUpSite.com" and "MadeUpSite.com"... aren't. And to make matters worse, Internet Explorer can't handle identically-named bookmarks, so for most sites so afflicted, their visitors can bookmark a whole one page. Sexy.

2. Google (and many other search engines) like your site better when it has unique titles for each page. It also makes it easier for potential visitors/customers to find your site.


If you're using a commercial solution to manage your website, feel free to bug the hell out of your vendor until they make their product useful. Anyone who's paying for the privilege of useless page titles is just being screwed.

Posted by Colin at 6:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Spammity Damn!

Did you know Michael S. Cox is a spammer?

Well he is, and he's also a ballsy bastard who thinks pointing to bad pictures of people justifies his own idiocy.

Ah, yes, I can see it now:
1: "Spammer!"
2: "Am not!"
1: "Are too!"
2: "Well... you're ugly! So there!"

Posted by Colin at 6:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack