Saturday, December 20, 2008

Artistas: the Maiden, Mother and Crone

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Often, I talk about work on this blog, but can't show it because it is showing in film festivals or otherwise not available for online distribution. So I'm always happy when I can post work. Here is the trailer I edited for the film Artistas: the Maiden, Mother and Crone -- a documentary directed by Sue May.

Artistas Trailer

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Here is the trailer I edited for the film "Artistas: the Maiden, Mother and Crone," a documentary directed by Sue May.

Trends in Photography: Annie Leibovitz

Trend: Leibovitz Schadenfreude.

The Worst Photograph Ever Made
But for inspired badness, this recent "photograph"* by Annie Leibovitz for the Lavazza calendar has it all: a pandering (unto capitulation) to empty style; excessive color which is nevertheless unattractive; an attractive model who is also unattractive ...
Lawsuits Claim Leibovitz Owes $778K For Photo Services
The suits offer a rare glimpse into the big budgets behind Leibovitz’s celebrity portraits, which are surely among the most expensive shoots in the industry. A wardrobe stylist who worked on a Disney campaign with Leibovitz claims the photographer owes her $386,467 – including $109,960 for one shot alone.
Annie Leibovitz Looking Like a Deadbeat
Though she's paid handsomely ($2 mill/year) for her consistently newsy (King Kong LeBron! Naked Miley! Tina Fey!) VF work, there's been a stream of reports about the portraitist facing some financial straits. In addition to her cute little pair of lawsuits, she reportedly took out a $5 million mortgage on her Greenwich Village home earlier this fall. If the financial downturn affects even our most populist and wealthy of mainstream artistes, what hope is there for the rest of us?

Friday, December 19, 2008

First, Cut a Hole in the Box

Wired has an article about a "television studio in a box" that I found fairly amazing. I teach a television studio class, and we use a fairly expensive setup including a large switcher, audio mixing console, monitors, etc. to do switching (live editing) on three-camera setups. So it's impressive to see the equivalent in a small package at a sane price.

TV Studio in a Box Enables Long-Tail Television
"We had to take a process that normally has 5 to 30 people creating a show and make it easy enough for one person to run, [someone] who has never run a TV show before," explained Philips. Indeed, the TriCaster allows a single operator to mix multiple cameras (higher-end models support more cameras) interspersed with graphics, pre-recorded clips, real-time effects and more than 300 three-dimensional transitions. The box outputs to the web, television stations or big screens in churches and sporting arenas.

NewTek's entry-level TriCaster, with support for three cameras, costs $4,000. That may seem like a lot, but considering that it can be used in place of a mobile production vehicle, four grand is small potatoes, relatively speaking.

Films by Photographers

A friend emailed seeking films made by photographers. I sent back a short list, but realized that many of those that came to mind are quite hard to find. Here are a few that do show up on DVD....

By Elliott Erwitt there's: Beauty Knows No Pain

And by William Klein: The Delirious Fictions of William Klein

Or for those of you able to view PAL disks: Qui ĂȘtes-vous, Polly Maggoo?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Trailing Off

Since my recent adventure in cutting a trailer for a documentary, I've been thinking this might be something I should do more of. It has several pluses: it's a relatively intense, fast, and direct process and allows me to focus on editing instead of all the myriad details that even basic doc production requires.

Which doesn't mean I don't love doc production. It's just nice, sometimes, to do something that is a direct challenge: take this stuff, cut it into a trailer. I kinda like that.

Lame Ducker

So here's a question: you've most likely seen the video of the recent shoe-throwing incident. It happened in a room filled with cameras, still and video.

Which covered it better? Was there a still that will be the iconic moment from the incident, or is a still from the video enough? Does the video coverage beat the still images? Was no one able to react quickly enough to get a great photograph?

Above: accidental question mark, found in The Bronx.

Photography in the News: Blurry Blue Fuzzy Edition

I was so ready to hate this article. It's actually pretty good, however....

Photography captures spirit of the spirit world
"Now, you might assume a class titled paranormal photography would focus on things like which shutter speed is ideal for capturing otherworldly entities or what kind of lens is best for grabbing shots of ghouls. But Nathan Lewis actually spends most of the course debunking so-called spirit photos."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Elliott Erwitt Would Have Gone

I wasn't able to go to Santacon this year. Chris Corradino did, however. His photos can be seen here.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Robert Frank in the NYT

The Sunday New York Times has a piece on Robert Frank.

I always use Frank's The Americans when I teach photography classes. Sometimes students look at it blankly at first, sometimes they get a few ideas about working at the portfolio level (as opposed to the single-image level) and sometimes it sneaks up on them -- where they find they think about it later, while doing their own work.

Snapshots From the American Road
He didn’t seem interested in reflecting on why the book continues to have such an afterlife or why it has become a cultural touchstone, but chose instead to explain why it is still meaningful to him. “I’m very proud of this book because I followed my intuition,” he said, speaking with the clipped inflections of his native Swiss accent. He added that the idea of making a photographic chronicle of America wasn’t simply to take one picture at a time; it was a larger endeavor, “a matter of putting a book together the way I saw it.”

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Umbrellas of The Bronx

Mrs. New York Portraits needed a new umbrella. The small, ultracheap ones you buy in a Duane Reade don't last, so she pointed me to a good one -- with white puffy clouds on blue skies underneath. I bought it for her, and it arrived, and it was great.

I mentioned, though, that it seemed like it might catch the wind. Like most things, we debated that for a while.

This morning, walking in the Bronx, I was very surprised to see the identical model, clearly blown far away from its owner. It sat just inside the fence of a park where the famous black squirrels roam. I'm hoping they figure out how to use it.

Photography in the News

Fantastic post by the NYT's Moises Saman on photographing in Iraq:

Hide the Camera
"Through most of the eight hour journey we were not able to get out of the car, making it really frustrating for me as a photographer, as we passed some incredible scenes that would have made for very interesting images. When we approached checkpoints I would hide my camera in the back seat, under a newspaper, or between my legs trying not to look suspicious to the policeman or soldier glancing inside the car.

"Photographing in this kind of situation is tricky. Sometimes I did not even have the opportunity to raise my camera to eye level and look through the viewfinder, instead shooting from the hip or at arms length. I usually work with two cameras and two fixed lenses, a 35mm as my widest, and a 50mm, but in some of these situations one camera is enough. I rarely use any longer lenses."
Follow the link -- the photos are outstanding.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Big Sky Here We Come

I admit it -- I've been doing all my posting over at my other blog: New York Portraits.

But I want to share one bit of good news over here: our film Bend & Bow will be screening at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in February 2009.

Bend & Bow Screening at Big Sky

This just in: our short film Bend & Bow will screen at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in February 2009. This will be the second year we've had a film selected as an "official selection" for Big Sky.

(That's not the royal "we" or the editorial "we" above -- "Bend & Bow" was made with my Profluence pals, so there are six of us involved.)

Monday, December 08, 2008

Inside Looking Out: Tribeca

Had to run down to the triangle-below-Canal to drop off a video. Followed my iPhone to the address I was given, and walked in through a closed door.

Quickly got the feeling I'd trespassed into a place I wasn't supposed to be or even supposed to know about. An alarm rang, a nice lady came out. She looked at the address on the package in my hand and said "They've moved to Number Six now" and sent me down the hall.

I left with the feeling that if I'd just known the secret password, I'd be on to a plane to somewhere right now, being briefed for a mission.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Trailer Trash

So I spent the weekend editing a trailer for someone's documentary. I liked the final version, and I think it's a good match for the intended audience. The thing is, though, that a lot of it was cut "to the bone" -- meaning the footage was difficult and problematic, but after extensive editing jiggery-pokery and some serious scalpel work to trim out every last troubled frame, you probably can't tell there were major problems.

When you see the finished product, it looks sensible, I think. But beneath the surface, everything is held together with duct tape and rubber bands. If you wanted to extend this shot one more frame, you couldn't -- because the camera moved. If you wanted to add another line from this interview -- there's no way, because of an audio issue.

But that's okay -- cutting material with problems is a great workout, and you can find solutions. Half-way through the process, though, I find myself thinking: there's no way, this is just unfixable.

I'm always surprised to make it to the end with a watchable piece.

Trends in Photography: Free! Edition

Trend: photographers arguing about working for free.

Four Reasons to Consider Working for Free
"As for me, what am I really giving up? Not money, unless someone would have hired me that day to do something equally interesting. I am giving up time I would have spent shooting something less useful for me."
"IF YOU ARE WORKING FOR FREE - simply to get “a” job - you risk destroying the entire business for everyone. In fact - your dream job - that you do for free - will be a job that some qualified person will no longer be getting paid for. And you’ll hurt that person’s chance of feeding their family in accepting to do that job for free. It’s quite that simple."
Free is Killing Me!
"The next day I heard from them: Both schools are going with someone else. I asked them who the photographer was and how much was he charging and I was told it was a professor from the UCLA Science Department."
A Rant about “Free Photography” Rants
"Come on, Vincent... destroying the entire business for everyone... that's pathetic. Does this mean that you will go back to shooting film so that those who manufacture and develop film can feed their families? I could insert a thousand similar analogies here, but the point is that technology has already changed the entire business. The only “destroy” part is what those who refuse to recognize and adapt end up doing to themselves."
Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business
"The rise of "freeconomics" is being driven by the underlying technologies that power the Web. Just as Moore's law dictates that a unit of processing power halves in price every 18 months, the price of bandwidth and storage is dropping even faster. Which is to say, the trend lines that determine the cost of doing business online all point the same way: to zero."

Photography in the News, Scout Edition

Nice article on Scout Tufankjian in the Daily News today.

Obama's run: The inside view from a Brooklyn photographer
"Riding on the campaign buses and planes, Tufankjian went almost everywhere Obama did, following the candidate to 39 states. "It got a little rock star in the sense of, 'Good morning, Butte, Mon- - no, no, we're in Tampa," she remembers. When she could, she got back to Brooklyn to remind her boyfriend what she looked like."
Of course, it's meant to sell her book Yes We Can: Barack Obama's History-Making Presidential Campaign. It's still a good article, though.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Brooklyn Film and Arts Festival

"12th and 3rd in Brooklyn" screened Friday night at the Brooklyn Film & Arts Festival. It has played slightly differently for each audience I've seen it with. This was a very attentive audience, and I think it went over well.

Above: J L Aronson, director of "Up On the Roof" and "Last Summer at Coney Island" listens to Stefanie Joshua, director of "Bushwick Homecomings" during the filmmaker question-and-answer session.

Trends in Photography: Sony Alpha 900 Edition

Trend: people are starting to realize that the Sony Alpha 900 is a great camera.

The Sony A900 and the Nikon D3
"If I were an art photographer, especially shooting for fine printmaking, I'd get the A900. Its image quality is superlative, yet it's still reasonably portable, fun and comfortable to shoot with, and easy to use."
Sony Alpha 900: Camera Test: From megapixels to viewfinders to sensors, size matters.
"Resolution? Excellent across all ISOs. It was best at ISO 100, with 3230 lines. For comparison, Canon's 21.1MP EOS-1Ds Mark III ($7,500, street, body only) scored 2830 lines and Nikon's 12.3MP D700 ($2,700, street, body only; $3,375 with 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S VR lens) turned in 2350 lines in the same test."
Judging Value
"That's something of what I feel about the D3x and why I cancelled my order. Yes, I can afford it, but I simply find it not to represent good value. After testing the 24MP Sony A900 (which I purchased for less than the equivalent of US $2,500 here in Toronto last month) the thought of paying US $8,000 for a camera that that has the same resolution, the same frame rates, a similar large and bright viewfinder, etc, just seemed to me to be a bad value proposition. The Canon 5DII at well under $3,000 is another current alternative in a full-frame 20+ MP camera."
Sony A900 Field Review: And Then There Were Three
"In the light of the just announced (Dec 1, 2008) price for the Nikon D3x (US $8,000) the inherent goodness of the Sony A900 comes into focus (no pun intended). For the cost of a D3x one can buy a Sony A900 plus the exceptional Zeiss 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, the very fine Sony 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, a Sony A700 body as a backup, a flash, a couple of 16 GB high speed memory cards, and still have enough left over to pay the sales taxes. The same goes for the Canon 5D MKII, though you'll have to pick two or three of your favourite lenses from that company's lens line-up and something like the 50D body as backup instead."

Minor Disaster

Today, just after noon, a section of the ceiling fell in.

On the plus side: there was no nude man playing the tuba standing in a bathtub following it. On the negative side: I count on the ceiling to stay where it belongs.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

No Dogs or Photographers

Speaking of beach weddings....

IOP Keeping Photogs Off the Beach
"With an engagement ring on her finger, the North Carolina stylist was set on a small beach wedding and shelled out thousands of dollars for a house. She went found local photographers online with hundreds of beautiful beach weddings. Then she tried to book one to shoot her nuptials. No dice."

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Photography and the Mumbai Story

Mumbai photographer: I wish I'd had a gun, not a camera.
"It is the photograph that has dominated the world's front pages, casting an astonishing light on the fresh-faced killers who brought terror to the heart of India's most vibrant city. Now it can be revealed how the astonishing picture came to be taken by a newspaper photographer who hid inside a train carriage as gunfire erupted all around him."

Helpful New York Tip #7

"So, when do you want to put the wreath up? "

"I dunno. When do you want to put the wreath up?"

"Well, why don't we do it when there's a long line of people trying get onto campus?"

"You read my mind."

And How Does the Subject Feel?

Well, it seems the current economy has had people looking back to the WPA photographers....

Girl from iconic Great Depression photo: 'We were ashamed'
Lange was traveling through Nipomo, California, taking photographs of migrant farm workers for the Resettlement Administration. At the time, Thompson had seven children who worked with her in the fields.

"She asked my mother if she could take her picture -- that ... her name would never be published, but it was to help the people in the plight that we were all in, the hard times," McIntosh says.

"So mother let her take the picture, because she thought it would help."

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Early Photographers Like ... Caravaggio

Are there any news stories about Photography today? Do they involve famous painters and fireflies? Yes. Yes they do:

Caravaggio experimented with photography

If You Can't Hire Miley, Get Helena

Speaking of Miley Cyrus and her future as a photographer, are there any models or celebrities who are now switching careers? You know, because modeling or being a pop star -- it's just not as fun as photography?

Yes there are.

Helena has photography passion
"I've had four or five exhibitions so far but I think this will be my first one in New York. I'm a little freaked out because I don't have it all ready yet but we'll see. It might be very big prints and very few!" she added, laughing.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Chalk Talk

So I've been teaching various versions of my Seriously Fun Photography course for a few years now. In that time, a lot has changed: quality DSLR cameras have dropped to under $500, cell phone cameras have become omnipresent, and the idea of photographs living in the computer rather than a shoebox is now well established. More significantly: we've seen the rise of the Serious Amateur, the Prosumer, and the Weekend Pro -- all of whom take photography very seriously, but don't fit in the traditional niches.

So I'm considering developing another class with a different approach. "Seriously" came about because people wanted to go one step past the basics and start developing their creativity. This new class would be more like what I imagine the best camera clubs might have been in the era of the 35mm camera. It would cover a broad range of skills, be repeatable, and be an experience even advanced photographers could benefit from.

I've been writing notes about it during my morning subway ride....

"12th and 3rd" Screens Thursday and Friday

My short film on stickball, made with Iris Lee and Maya Mumma, will screen Thursday and Friday nights at the Brooklyn Film & Arts Festival. I'm teaching Thursday night, so I'll be attending Friday.
The "Observing Brooklyn; Encountering Change" documentaries series will illuminate a broad range of Brooklyn life including exploring a recently rediscovered century old tunnel beneath Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn stickball players sporting reunion, 1969 family outing in Coney Island, period Brooklyn footage, Brooklyn senior citizens doing some combative reminiscing and several other short Brooklyn films.

The screenings will be held at the Brooklyn Historical Society, 128 Pierrepont Street, in Brooklyn Heights.

Programs begin at 6:00 pm and admission is $5.00. Please call 718-222-4111 for information.

Photography in the News

Speaking of Annie Leibovitz, it seems she's been able to help an otherwise unemployable youth find a career:

Miley Cyrus Inspired To Become A Photographer By 'Naked Scandal'
Miley says, "I do want to come to London to study photography. I hear there are some really great art schools, so I would love to do that. I got to work with an amazing photographer. Leibovitz was amazing and so talented. And that's what I want to do with my life. I would love to be a photographer. I would love to work with her again."

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Getting the Word Out

Chris Corradino is a friend of this blog and an excellent photographer and photo teacher. Among his areas of interest: nature photography. The catch? While stripped-away quarries will work if you're Edward Burtynsky, generally you'll need nature if you're going to work as a nature photographer.

So, in an effort to Help Spread the Word! he's suggested posting the following image:

In this case, clicking on the image links to The Nature Conservancy. We're approaching the time of year when a donation to a group just like that could make a great gift for someone who's tough to buy for. Or just for anyone nature-friendly. Or just for anyone....

By the way, Chris has a book available now: From Manhattan to Montauk: A Photographic Journey. Follow the link to preview the first 15 pages.

Leibovitz on Lenses

I've been reading Annie Leibovitz at Work.

I'll discuss the book once I finish it, but I wanted to highlight Leibovitz' use of lenses in her early days with Rolling Stone, as detailed on page 16:
"During the early years at the magazine, when I thought of myself more as a photojournalist than a portraitist, I usually carried three cameras on assignments. I didn't want to lose time changing lenses. I would take a 35mm lens, a 55, and a 105.

"A 35mm lens provides a perspective close to what the human eye sees, and it was my lens of choice. The 55 was considered a 'normal' lens, very classic, simple and noninterfering. The 105 was on a body with a meter and I could use it for light readings. Zoom lenses were not really an option then. They weren't made well. When you saw a photographer with a zoom lens on his camera you didn't take him seriously."
I find it interesting how much that situation has changed today. If you look in the camera bag of any typical photographer in the "working, but not famous" category today, you'll be very likely to find two great zoom lenses packed, with possibly no primes at all.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

On the Beach (500th Post)

On Halloween, Mrs. New York Portraits and I went to Florida for a beach wedding. We left New York -- with daily high temperatures in the 40s -- for a room a few yards from the beach.

My task for the weekend was to photograph the wedding. (I'm hesitant to say that, because I'm not a wedding photographer, and I know a lot of wedding photographers, and they're not particularly happy when they hear you've taken a gig away from a full-time wedding photographer. It was a family thing, though, and besides -- taking pictures gives me something to do other than stand close to the open bar.)

So I did. The technical specs: just under 1300 shots (about 12 gigabytes of files), using cameras mounted with a Sigma 24mm f/1.8 and a Tamron 90mm f/2.8. Balanced beachy daylight with fill from my Metz 58 during the service, then at sunset the trick was to get seascape skies mixed with the flash -- without the flash looking like flash. Went fine.

The wedding rehearsal was scheduled on Halloween, and everyone -- bride, groom, guests and all -- came in costume. Maybe I'll be able to post a few of those soon. Until then: a casual snap of Mrs. New York Portraits in a kimono, waiting for the rehearsal.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Tofurkwiches All Weekend

Above: yesterday's tofurkey spectacular, photographed with my iPhone.

Black Friday Bargains

Memory Cards keep getting bigger and cheaper -- but these two deals on Compact Flash cards are superb:

SanDisk 8 GB Extreme III CF Card

SanDisk 4GB Extreme III CF Card

$30 for 8 gigabytes is amazing. There are also incredible deals on SD cards.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

iPhone as Action Cam

So around 125th Street, they jumped on the train: a video camera operator with a backpack holding huge batteries, a still photographer, a woman, and a mysterious man in the background. They quickly grabbed some footage of her on the train, as seen above, then rode along until we came out of the tunnel near Yankee Stadium. They shot a little out the window, then jumped off just as quickly.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

iPhone as Pocket Cam

So a long while back -- right after the Webby Awards, actually -- my handy fits-in-my-pocket camera went kablooey. I've shot a lot since then, of course, with my regular cameras, but I haven't purchased a small carry-everywhere. In the meantime, I've tested my iPhone in that role.

Generally, it's awful. Good looking pictures, but too slow a process to get started and too clumsy to get the photo. So if the photo is of something that moves faster than a window, the odds are not on your side.

Above: a window.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Toilets of the Upper East Side

Thursday morning I stepped outside to find a toilet sitting on 89th Street. I stopped and took a photograph. People stared at me. I walked to 87th, where I found two toilets. I stopped and photographed them. People stared at me.

I chose not to look on 85th street.

Alas, Poor Tunick

This just in: Spencer Tunick is still a hack.

Hold on ... receiving another report ... and the media still writes about him. That wouldn't bother me except that they neglect to point out that when he says his work "explores the relationships and comfort levels of people in a party atmosphere" he means to say "I'm doing the same thing again, and continuing to claim it's more than it is."

You can more or less write all future Spencer Tunick articles ahead of time: "Yesterday, Spencer Tunick photographed a large or small group of people without clothes. He then issued a press release claiming his work is greatly significant, despite the fact that you can't find a single reputable curator who's interested in it. (Of course, finding people to sell it -- that's easier, and a different thing altogether. Blue Dog paintings sell. Nagel prints sell.) The press release mentioned AIDS, global warming, issues of representation or something else not actually related to the work. Managing editors read four words into the release -- as far as the word 'nude' -- and assigned the story to a writer who copied and pasted in the text of a previous article, replacing only the location of the event and a quote from someone who may or may not have actually been there."

New York Magazine covers the latest event:

Spencer Tunick Got a Bunch of People Naked in Brooklyn the Other Night

Warning: the article has a teensy-tiny photo that is NSFW (not safe for work) viewing if you work somewhere where people have superhuman eyesight.

Best article on the general lameness of the Spencer Tunick experience:

Why doesn't Spencer Tunick get any respect?
The problem with Tunick as an artist—and the main reason, I think, most critics have ignored him—is that he doesn't seem to have anything to say. His installations are spectacular and attention-grabbing, but as for what it all means … well, to put it bluntly, I don't think it extends too far beyond, "Wow. That's a lot of naked people."
Above: on 86th Street.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Dogs of The Upper East Side

Above: somewhere in the East 90s.

Sub Nosa

Today on the subway, a fight almost broke out. One guy yelled at the other guy for a long time. The exchange was very charged, just short of actual punches. At least, as of 86th Street. They were still on the subway, sitting across from each other, when I left.

I didn't take a photo. I was just sure that would be seen as more offensive than what they were saying.

Above: a modified poster in the subway at 86th Street.

Sony Alpha 900

I've shot with both Nikons and Canons. They remain the two big forces in professional cameras. I've been adamantly trying to explain, however, to those who won't take them seriously, that Sony is starting to make better cameras than the big two.

Of course, respect comes slowly to any brand, and grudgingly. Now Pop Photo has a review of the new Sony Alpha 900 that hints at this. I say hints, because they explain the Sony beats cameras $5000 more expensive in major areas such as resolution, viewfinder and in-body image stablization -- the essentials of traditional photography -- but they nitpick with less-crucial areas such as live view and the ability to shoot HD video, which are sometimes useful but not the main point of a pro camera.
"With its first full-frame DSLR, Sony has shown that it can definitely run with the big boys. While we have yet to test Canon's new, midrange, full-frame 5D Mark II, this Sony currently packs the most resolution you can get in a DSLR. Add to that fast AF, an outrageously appealing viewfinder, and a body with a great grip and plenty of dedicated controls, and you've got a winner."

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Frugal Traveler: New York City

Here's a Frugal episode I forgot to post: Frugal Traveler: New York City.

I think it is my last episode with the series.
"The Frugal Traveler discovers that New York is really a city of small, manageable neighborhoods, and it's not expensive if you know where to go."

How's Manhattan Voting?

At Crumbs, one "Obama Rocks" cupcake remains while two trays of "McCain" cupcakes -- sprinkles and all -- sit untouched.

Monday, November 03, 2008


Went to Nokomis, Florida to photograph a relative's wedding. Had a great time. Have to share one story: after the ceremony and shooting some setups on the beach, took a break, went to the the open bar, and asked for a beer. The bartender looked me in the eye, and told me "We don't serve the hired help."

Back in New York

Went to Florida to photograph a wedding. Photos soonish....

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's Okay, We're from Television

This term I've been teaching a television production class. For our first 5-minute piece we've been working on a three-camera interview-style show.

So we have three people running cameras, one on lights, a sound mixer, a technical director (running the switcher), and a director. You know the routine: "Ready camera 1 ... take camera one. Ready camera 3...."

It's interesting, to me anyway, how the process is a sort of improvisational editing. When we cut something in post, we work to find the right moment to cut -- so that the conversation makes sense. Live, however, it's always a bit of a best guess....

It's great fun to watch. We did four run-throughs on Tuesday, getting better each time. Then finally recorded to tape -- and had a few errors. In Thursday's class we're doing another run-through or two -- then going to tape for the final version.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Welcome to the Bigs

Above: A broken wheel results in a lost lead during the Big Wheel Race, October 18, 2008.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Camera Talkish

Every time my photography class is listed at Hunter Extension, I get a few emails asking about cameras. Some terms, everyone has point-and-shoot or advanced compact cameras. (As the above image shows. Taken during an exercise in photographing chairs, from the last term of the class.)

Other terms, people want to know what DSLR they might begin with....

Three great basic DSLR cameras at the low end of the price scale:

Sony Alpha DSLR-A200 Digital SLR Camera Body with Sony 18-70mm Zoom Lens, 10.2 Megapixels Kit, with 2GB CF Memory Card, Lowepro Holster-Style Case

Nikon D40 6.1MP Digital SLR Camera Kit with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED II AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor Lens

Canon Rebel XS 10.1MP Digital SLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens (Black)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

12th and 3rd Goes to Brooklyn

One of my short films will be showing at the Brooklyn Film and Arts Festival in a program called Observing Brooklyn; Encountering Change. It looks like a good screening:
The "Observing Brooklyn; Encountering Change" documentaries programs series will illuminate a broad range of Brooklyn life including exploring a recently rediscovered century old tunnel beneath Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn stickball players sporting reunion, 1969 family outing in Coney Island, period Brooklyn footage, Brooklyn senior citizens doing some combative reminiscing and several other short Brooklyn films. The screenings will be held at the Brooklyn Historical Society, 128 Pierrepont Street, in Brooklyn Heights.

Okay, Some Idling

Well, there's actually a lot to blog about. I'll see if I can't catch up now that things are almost to a new normal. First, this week sees the return of my class for Continuing Education at Hunter College: Seriously Fun Photography.

Here's the course description:
Seriously Fun Photography

Build on the basics and master the skills and ideas advanced photographers use in a fun, low-pressure class. Open to anyone able to shoot a photo and import it into a computer (and welcoming advanced students as well), in this class we'll use the digital camera as a fast way to learn the essentials of photography. We'll learn-by-doing, exploring professional techniques while creating a portfolio project (on any topic of your choice) to show your advanced skills. If you've always been interested in photography, but have put off becoming great at it, this is your chance.

Instructor: Ted Fisher
THU 6:00:PM - 8:00:PM
Location: 71 E 94th St. CS
10/30 - 12/11 Sessions: 6
Tuition: $250.00

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Putting the B in BRB

Sure, I've been away from blogging for a month. But that doesn't mean there isn't a lot going on. I'll try to catch up and explain, but here are a few things worth mentioning right off:

My short film "Notebook on Santas & Elves" screened at Antimatter Film Festival in Victoria, B.C. I did not get to go. Instead, I went to New Orleans. (More on that soon....)

Another short documentary -- "Bend & Bow" -- is going to screen at Detroit Docs International Film Festival next month. I won't get to go to that one, either. Instead, I'll be going to Florida. (More on that too.)

Found out "12th and 3rd in Brooklyn" will also have a screening in a couple of months, but can't give details yet....

I've made the first phase of a necessary schedule change: I no longer work at New York Institute of Photography. (Details to come....) I do still keep busy, though: I'm finishing a term of teaching three online classes, a Thursday-night photography class, plus my Bronx Community College classes in editing and television production. Finished, as well, editing the first episode of a new series on artists. (Details, maybe, soon.) Working on a new Frugal episode. Also, writing a longer documentary piece....

On the photography side, finished a couple of photo assignments (including a little studio lighting work) but have had little time for the New York streets....

Above: went to the photography shows in Chelsea on Friday, then on to an art show in Brooklyn....

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Frugal Traveler, Looking Back

Was a little too busy to post the Frugal Traveler: Looking Back episode when it went online. There's a new episode on the way...

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Or, Learn To Hurdle

So here's how I read this: first, there was flooding, then the track sank, then they built a fence around it, then they realized they couldn't trim the weeds near the fence with the riding lawnmower.

So the important thing is to draw lane 8 at the track meet, because otherwise it's tough going.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Antimatter 2008

My short film Notebook on Santas & Elves will be screening Tuesday, September 23 at Antimatter Underground Film Festival in a program called "Creative Violation."

I like that title, and I also like the fact that there's a Jem Cohen video in the program. Sounds like a fun night. Wish I could go....

Monday, September 01, 2008

Cut Off

After a lot of slowing down and dropping out, my cable modem bit it last Monday. Right at a time when I had to do online grading, post files for review, write stuff, and communicate on several projects. When classes were starting, also.

The service from my cable company was terrible. It could have been resolved in a day. It took until Sunday at 4 p.m. and would still be going on if I listened to their advice. It cost me money, time, at least one gig, and a weekend that could have been a lot of fun.

I tried Plan B, too -- visit Starbucks and other places with wireless access. It worked, but it was problematic. Starbucks was just like always -- tough to log on, expensive, and it included a screaming child at 10:30 p.m. Guess he'd had a lot of coffee.

I'll also no longer visit the local coffee house that charges extra if you plug in the wall. They have a smug note about not stealing their electricity from them. They can turn off their lights, for all I care -- I won't be back because of that note.

Now I have a new cable modem -- went to Queens to get it -- and things are running. But I'm about a week behind.

Above: we dropped into the Met on Sunday, to celebrate Mrs. New York Portraits passing the Second Exam. This seemed like the most appropriate work to photograph.

And How Was Your Week?

Mine, let's say, was mixed.

On Par: The Annoying Guy Part II

Sunday, August 24, 2008

On Par: The Annoying Guy Part II

The latest episode of "On Par" is The Annoying Guy Part II.

I like the way the series is going. It has a touch of style, I think, and enough substance to make it interesting. As a freelancer, I'm not sure if I'll be cutting these next year or not, but I think it will be interesting to see it develop through another season. The humor, increasingly, comes out of the timing. Something happens, someone reacts, something is revealed. Usually, all in under 2 minutes 30 seconds....

And Then It Was Fall

Hoping to get a day for street photography in the upcoming weeks. The weather has been great, and New York is shifting into fall nicely....

On Par: Slow Play

Saturday, August 23, 2008

And Then There's Golf

While I've been posting the Frugal Traveler episodes here, I've been posting the "On Par" series over on my other blog, Actualities. It's a series about golf.

I wouldn't call it documentary in style. On the other hand, I've been learning a lot that applies to documentary production while working on it: it's a two camera shoot in natural light, done fairly quickly (have to get out of the way to the other golfers, after all) and with just a few takes possible. You have to establish a setting, a situation and a problem to solve, solve that (and lead into a lesson) and do it all in (usually) 2 minutes and 30 seconds.

In any case, there are about 16 episodes now (I've been involved in about 3/4 of those, approximately), so check out the playlist. They're made in a fun style, so you might like them even if you aren't a golfer.....

And By Wednesday I Mean Not Wednesday

When I said the Frugal Traveler series was wrapping up on Wednesday, it was because I thought the "looking back" episode was running then. Which is why I was frantically editing it on Tuesday. About 10 p.m. I found out it wasn't running yet.

Which is fine, and sometimes that's how editing goes. There's a very strange relationship between deadlines, non-deadlines, and the decision-making process in any work. It's particularly a keenly felt thing in those pieces with a tight (or nearly-impossible) deadline.

Walter Murch, in talking about the editing process on "Apocalypse Now" calculated that all the work and hand-wringing and thinking resulted in an average of one edit per day. That won't fly in most types of work, and there's a fast collapse of the infinite possibilities that exist at the beginning of the process. Sometimes there's a keen awareness that decisions need to be made, they can't endlessly be reversed, and the piece has to move toward completion somehow.

I once had a professor who had been a classical music composer. He told the story of how he felt every piece he had composed had started as a masterpiece, and with one decision somewhere in the process it had changed and missed that mark. That's probably true.

On Par: Playing Backwards

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Frugal Grand Tour, Episode 9

On Par: Coming Up Short

Frugal Grand Tour, Episode 8

This Wednesday will mark the end of this summer's Frugal Traveler series, so I'm posting the series in order.

Two Years

First, happy birthday to Photography. Today marks the 169th anniversary of the announcement of the invention of Photography. (Of course, I prefer to think of the creation of the first photograph in 1826 as the beginning, but the 1839 announcement really marks the date when the world noticed.)

Second, two years ago I started this blog with a post on Beginnings and Endings. I'm now thinking of ways to improve it, ending the old model and moving toward a new one.

Third, I'm increasingly aware that the term "blog" is actually 'blog -- as in short for Web Log -- and has in fact not really matured from that role. Initially the idea was to post a record of your "interesting" journey to Web sites -- what you read and what you thought of it -- and now the unfortunate state is that there's little unique content being posted. It's mostly links to large news sources -- the same ones people call "dinosaurs" in favor of blogs -- and at best a comment. That's kind of pointless. Blournals -- 'bjournals or Web Journals -- are increasingly pointless as well. I follow a few, mostly of authors or photographers I like. 9 out of 10 posts are trivia, so I wait for that 10th and hope the content is worth it.

So what model is worth following? Magazine? Channel? Daily Photo?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Frugal Grand Tour, Episode 7

Frugal Grand Tour, Episode 6

This Wednesday will mark the end of this summer's Frugal Traveler series, so I'm posting the series in order.

On Par: Relief on the Range

Frugal Grand Tour, Episode 5

What's With The YouTube Stuff?

My latest edit -- an episode of the "On Par" series called Child's Play -- is currently on the front page of The New York Times.

You may have noticed I've been posting YouTube versions of some of the edits I've worked on for NYT. (I've been posting Frugal Traveler episodes here, and On Par episodes on my other blog, Actualities.) Well, why is that?

The NYT now has a YouTube Channel. Which I think is great, since there were bootleg versions of the pieces going there previously in any case -- even some recorded off the computer screen. It seems better to have authentic versions, with ways for the folks who watch them to find more.

There's also an article on how other media companies are addressing the YouTube User issue:

Some Media Companies Choose to Profit From Pirated YouTube Clips
"After years of regarding pirated video on YouTube as a threat, some major media companies are having a change of heart, treating it instead as an advertising opportunity.

In the last few months, CBS, Universal Music, Lionsgate, Electronic Arts and other companies have stopped prodding YouTube to remove unauthorized clips of their movies, music videos and other content and started selling advertising against them."

Frugal Grand Tour, Episode 4

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Photography Photography, More or Less

This week I spent two days helping with a video about photography. I dragged in a set of lenses -- a 20mm f/1.8, 24mm f/1.8, 50mm f/1.4, and a 90mm f/2.8 -- and a couple of camera bodies, a meter, a monopod and a few other accessories. I was ready to talk about Photography, capital P.

Then they put peach-colored makeup on me, heavy like cake icing. Then they put product in my hair, and then decided how many buttons I should have unbuttoned. Then they told me where to sit, how to say my name, and which way I should look.

Because the important thing in video is sincerity.

On Par: The Long and Short of It

Now that the "On Par" series is winding down I'm embedding all of the episodes I've been involved in. Enjoy.

Frugal Edinburgh

I usually give links for each new "Frugal Traveler" episode as they come out. I noticed, however, that the New York Times is posting these on YouTube as well. It turns out you can embed them.

You can see this episode at the usual New York Times site as well, of course.

The Edinburgh episode marks the 13th and final for the summer tour. There is a "reminiscence" episode that will post this upcoming Wednesday, also, looking back on the Grand Tour.

Frugal Traveler: Week 12, Dutch-Belgian Border

I forgot to post last week's episode. Embedded above via YouTube, and at the New York Times as always.

Nature Photography, More or Less

Lone plant on a rooftop, more than 24 stories up. Nature is good at its job.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Terrible Twos

We're nearing the second anniversary of this blog, so it's time for a redesign, and maybe a bit of rethinking about content. I'm helping with a video about digital photography this week, so I've been thinking a bit about how people use photography, how it fits in, and how it might continue its evolution.

Above: a trapeze shot from Wednesday.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Bend & Bow Screens at Dokufest Today

If you happen to be in Prizren, Kosovo, please attend today's screening of the International Documentary Challenge films at Dokufest International Documentary and Short Film Festival.

Our short film is listed as:

Bend & Bow
Natalia Paruz reveals the moment that changed her life and how she became known as the "Saw Lady" to millions of New York subway riders.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Dokufest Screening

Here's the program that includes our film "Bend & Bow":

International Documentary Challenge.

If you happen to be in Prizren, Kosovo, on Tuesday, please attend.

Friday, August 01, 2008

I Rarely Leave Manhattan

So I'm not Matt's Secret Cameraman.

Don't Even Bring Up the Sound Crew

It's easy to forget that, when creating a video that's seen by a large audience, folks will tend to bring their own, unique perspective to it. They'll interpret it in their own way.

The Frugal Traveler has a great post about a viewer who's just certain that the series is actually shot by Matt’s Secret Cameraman.


On my other blog, I've posted about that upcoming film festival:
Santas To Antimatter

Santas to Antimatter

Back in 2002 my short documentary film "Larry in Relation to the Ground" screened at Antimatter Underground Film Festival. The next year I showed another short there, also. I wasn't able to go, either year, but watching from afar my sense was that this was an excellent festival: a great audience, excellent and edgy programming, and a fantastic location. I even loved the posters they put out for the fest.

So yesterday I was very happy to receive this email:
"We are pleased to inform you that your entry Notebook on Santas & Elves has been selected for screening at the 11th annual Antimatter Underground Film Festival, September 19 to 27, 2008 in Victoria, BC, Canada.

Thank you for your patience. We have viewed a record number of high quality works from around the globe and selected an impressive range of films from our open call to screen at the festival. The ratio of work selected to work submitted was approximately 1 in 8. We'd like to take this time to thank you for your vision and perseverance as makers of this extraordinary medium, and for allowing us the honour to view and screen it."
Since I have to make two other trips this fall, I doubt I'll be able to fly to Victoria. It's an expensive trip from New York. Still....

If only there was some show I could watch about ways to travel without spending too much....

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Breaking News

Just found out: my short film "Notebook on Santas and Elves" is going to ... well, I'm not sure I'm allowed to say yet. Will announce the festival and screening dates very soon. Let's just say it's a festival I like very much.

Blind Item

My film "Notebook on Santas and Elves" is going to ... well, I'm not sure I'm allowed to say yet. Will announce the festival and screening dates very soon.

Video Catch-Up

A new "On Par by Bill Pennington" episode about Slow Play.

And also two "Frugal Traveler" episodes:
Week 10: Gdansk, Poland

Week 11: Germany.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pictures, Or It Didn't Happen

Since my pocket camera went kablooey, I've been at a loss. I carry my DSLR when appropriate, but I miss a lot of the shots that arise in daily life. No camera, poor Internet access, no photos: maybe I should learn to sketch.

Monday, July 28, 2008


This weekend my Internet access has been on, off, on, and mostly off. So much for good luch.