Sunday, January 30, 2011

Word on the $treet

This is near the Boom Boom Room.


I really don't know what to say about this ad I photographed at Macworld in San Francisco yesterday. I had no idea Bruce Weber was even shooting for Apple.

3D, Give or Take a D

Philana Chiu demonstrates a process for 3D photography at the 2011 Macworld event in San Franciso, January 29, 2011.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Word on the Street, Cliche Edition

Despite its eventual fate, the ongoing Word on the Street project soldiers on.

In Love and Wha?

On my other blog on documentary photography I've been focused on photojournalism as a subject. So, lately, all of my reading has consisted of books written by photojournalists. I guess, if you think about it, that's not a great idea.

I mean, take people who are good at making pictures and ... have them write. Hmm.

That said, books about photojournalism don't have to be entirely about, you know, taking pictures. Sure, some photojournalists really consider that the important part. But if you want to sell some books, you might want to, you know, include other details.

Like, the specifics of your sex life.

Now, not everyone will be happy about that. You might get a mixed review here or there.

For example, here is Janet Reitman's review of Shutterbabe: Adventures in Love and War, the latest book I've finished reading.
Bang-bang girl
Perhaps the first "cowgirl" memoir was Leslie Cockburn's "Looking for Trouble," a reflection of her highs (and occasional lows) over 25 years as a foreign correspondent and television producer. While filled with amusing insights, Cockburn's book, with chapter heads such as "Dinner With Drug Lords" and "Lunch With the Ayatollahs," rubbed many critics the wrong way. It suggested a blue-blood Yale graduate waltzing around war zones in designer bush-wear.

Now comes "Shutterbabe: Adventures in Love and War," Deborah Copaken Kogan's memoir about her life as a roving war photographer. It's an unfortunate title, but I was willing to give the book a shot given how rare young female war photographers are -- let alone those who write about the experience. Alas, "Shutterbabe" is not so much a cowgirl memoir as a "bang-bang" memoir: a self-aggrandizing story of the lusts and yearnings of a bored, post-feminist bad girl with a hankering to "see war."

Now that you know ... read it anyway.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Word No Longer on the Street

On my other blog, I've been shooting a series of Word on the Street photos. So, above, a glimpse at their eventual end: not with a bang, but with a really loud jackhammer.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Documentaries in the News, Real Cash Edition

You know what I need? Fifty ... Million ... Dollars.

The New York Times has a little article on how I can get that. I mean, they didn't name me specifically ... but I could really use the cash.

Ford Foundation to Put Up $50 Million for Documentaries
The Ford Foundation’s program, called JustFilms, will dole out money in three ways. The first involves partnerships with organizations like the Sundance Institute, whose Sundance Film Festival opens on Thursday in Park City, Utah. JustFilms will contribute $1 million a year over five years to support Sundance’s documentary film workshops, for instance.
Short of that, I need to set aside a little more time to get a couple of films finished and out the door.

Ah, send the money anyway.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Nissin 466

I'm teaching a unit on bounce flash techniques, so I needed a snap of my little, teensy-but-useful Nissin Speedlite Di 466.

(Yes, they make them for Canon and Nikon and they even have a Micro Four Thirds model in White.) Inexpensive, powerful enough, very lightweight in the camera bag, and a Gary Fong Collapsible Lightsphere fits on top.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Thursday, January 13, 2011

On Perspective

I'm just going to be honest. There's no other way to tell this story, and there's no reason to hide the facts behind making a point. It's just what happened.

On Monday, January 10th, my wife and I saw that a woman had collapsed on the sidewalk. Another woman was on a cell phone calling for an ambulance. She seemed to know the woman's name. We stayed until the paramedics and firefighters arrived.

Later, I looked out our window expecting to see the ambulance drive away, taking the woman to the hospital. But a very long time passed, and eventually the ambulance and firetruck moved away. I found myself hoping that I had somehow missed them wheel the woman on a gurney into the ambulance. I also thought it might be possible that they had moved her to another vehicle, just outside of where I could see.

Instead, as the post-sunset light on the street turned blue, the Medical Examiner's vehicle arrived.

I'm teaching two Intro to Photojournalism courses this term, so I couldn't convince myself to not photograph some of these events. I'm asking my students to photograph what happens, so I felt I should photograph what happens.

I don't see any way it helps anyone, but it's a photograph of what happened.

Word on the Street, Ironic Crimefighter Edition

I don't know if the "OMG" is on purpose or an accident.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Word on the Street, Eponymous Edition

Since moving to San Francisco, I've been photographing any etched messages I find on the sidewalk. I've called the series Word on the Street.

This was on Divisadero. I hadn't seen it before Sunday night, though I've walked over it before.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Have Your People Call My People

The thing about Zoo photographs (beyond being completely unnatural, unsporting and often sad ... if you really think about it) is that the backgrounds are often ridiculously artificial. I think, from a technique standpoint it makes sense to approach these kind of shots backwards: background first.

The other tough thing: getting model releases signed.

Above: Saturday at the San Francisco Zoo.

Sunday, January 09, 2011


In case you haven't realized it, I'm in San Francisco, blogging at:

San Francisco Portraits & Documentary Photography

There will be more posts here once I sort out the role of each blog.

Only in Threes

Three seagulls perch at the San Francisco Zoo, Saturday, January 8, 2011. While free to come and go, the birds seem to choose a steady diet of dropped French Fries over what they can find at the nearby shoreline.

Invisible Microphone

Above: at the San Francisco Zoo, just moments before this post.


Above: A young gorilla pauses play while an older gorilla looks on at the San Francisco Zoo, Saturday, January 8, 2011.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Word on the Street, Self-Referential Edition

I assume someone took the time to stuff the bits of plant into the letters, but maybe instead someone tried to sweep the street and left this behind. I can't say for sure.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

A Second Try

Another day, another attempt to get a decent rainboots shot.


Above: A runner passes a puddle in the Marina District, Thursday, January 6, 2011. This winter San Francisco has lived up to its reputation for rapidly changing weather.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011


Above: Rainboots in the Marc by Marc Jacobs window, Fillmore Avenue, San Francisco, January 5, 2011.

Followup to "Storyesque"

December 27th I was visiting LACMA when by chance I met a pair of interesting characters. I snapped a few shots using a "feature" approach (as in something that's of interest on its own merits rather than as a current event, as opposed to "news") and showed a few of those photographs in this post: Storyesque.

Now, I'm posting one more. Why? It looks very much like the earlier shots. Is it a more interesting photo? No.

It's a frame from a video clip. At the size used online, and under the shooting conditions present it is just about identical to the look of the still images I shot.

A few key points:

The original still photos are 4,300 pixels wide. So, if you wanted to make a print at 300 pixels per inch,  you could make a 14.3 inch print (a little smaller if you've done any cropping).

The video capture is 1,920 pixels wide. So, to print at 300 pixels per inch would result in a 6.4 inch print. (Printing at 200 pixels per inch would create a 9.6 inch print.) So, just based on pixels you end up with a still that is quite usable online or for a newspaper page (often thought of as 150 pixels per inch -- meaning a 12.8 inch print should work) but maybe just enough for book pages and probably not enough to make a good exhibition print for a museum wall.

For video that looks good, you'll likely shoot at a shutter speed of 1/50th of a second (I'll address why another time) which means there's not a lot of possibility of freezing fast motion or keeping every frame sharp. If I had selected a few frames earlier or later the look would be a little softer.

More on this soon...

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Word on the Street, Double Feature Edition

One of the things I'm not sure photographers fully appreciate yet about micro four thirds format cameras like the Panasonic GH1 and Panasonic GH2 is that you can essentially work with a 100% viewfinder. If you see it, that's exactly how it will appear in the final image. That makes working with edges much easier, really. If you want a crack in the street exactly at the bottom of the frame, just compose it in the viewfinder as you like.

Above: two snaps north of Fillmore Street today.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Photography in the News, No Pictures Please Edition

I watched Smash His Camera last night, so I blame Ron Galella for this:

Banned at Birth: Maryland Hospital Bars Delivery Room Pictures and Video
'Shifler, who works as a photographer, feels like the ban on picture taking encroaches upon her family's rights. Many of her children have been in the delivery room as their new sibling was added to the family, snapping pictures of their new brother or sister.

'They've gotten beautiful pictures and they've loved every second of it," Shifler said. "How can you tell someone you can't take a picture of your own child?" she said.'


Generally, I know why I like one picture and not another. Now and then, however, I find an image I keep coming back to ... but can't quite define the attraction or significance.

Above: At the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, Friday, December 31, 2010.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

On Space

I'm not actually 500 pounds with little teensy feet and hands the size of basketballs. Sometimes photographs distort the world.

Actually: all the time.

Above: A self-portrait made at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, Friday, December 31, 2010.

Upland Highland Regiment

As we were preparing to return to the Bay Area, the city of Upland decided to throw a surprise parade for us. Actually, if your television is on the Rose Parade broadcast right now, you just saw this group go past.

Above: Upland Highland Regiment marching band and drill team prepare for the Rose Parade, San Antonio Avenue, Upland, California, Thursday, December 30, 2010.

Word on the Street (2011 Edition)

Technically, not a word, but still... it counts.