Tuesday, 22 of July of 2014

Photography Is Not A Crime

Photography Is Not A Crime

…though the way some police officers and building security guards act, you’d think it was.

Just last week, a Buzzfeed reporter was in Washington DC photographing some rather strong examples of really terrible architecture. While the greatest example of terrible architecture infests Turtle Bay in New York, Washington DC does have several great examples to warn architectural students of what not to do in designs and reporter/photographer Benny Johnson set out to capture some of the worst ones for his readers.

However, in all but one case, whenever he approached a public building and began photographing it from the sidewalk or other place accessible to the public, police or security began to harass him about taking photos of the buildings. This is not unusual — photographers who are trying to capture specific buildings or specific parts of buildings with their cameras are often harassed. Photographers who have been filming or photographing police in public are also generally subject to harassment, illegal seizure of their equipment, and illegal destruction of their property.

So, what is one to do if one is out and about photographing subjects and security or the police start causing problems? First things first, be certain you checked with the public relations or media relations contact for the building (or agency in the building) ahead of time and got their permission (or at least their “sure though you don’t need permission”) and try to get it in writing (such as an email). Showing that to security guards can sometimes get them to cool it or give them something to tell whatever manager has gotten feathers ruffled over someone standing outside taking photos. If that doesn’t work and you’re asked to move along, just move along and make plans to post about it online later. That’s generally much more effective than trying to stick around and argue your point.

If, however, you’re ordered to hand over your camera or delete certain photos, politely but firmly refuse and ask them what probable cause they have to believe that your camera captured illegal actions in flagrante (one of the few exceptions that allows police to seize a camera and inspect its footage). Generally, if you know your rights and are confident in them, this will get your harasser to leave you alone. However, if security or the police begin forcibly grabbing your equipment from your hands or wrestling you to the ground over it, don’t fight them. Don’t touch them at all if you can avoid it — touching a police officer even if it’s just to shake his hand can be considered “assaulting an officer.”

Once the incident is over, post about it online. There are several websites dedicated to photography rights and to documenting official abuse of them. Find the one you feel most comfortable at and join in the discussion there. If you were seriously injured or if you suffered a loss of very valuable property due to official misconduct, you may want to consider hiring a lawyer to sue for damages. The Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment right to photograph public spaces and officials in public — even police officers — is so well-established that officers cannot claim “good faith” qualified immunity for harassing photographers. What that means is that your lawsuit can and will go ahead and the police officer will not be able to just say “I thought I was correct on the law” to protect himself.

Over all, when out photographing, if someone asks you to stop what you’re doing, politely ask why. Private spaces and private buildings can and often do have reasons to stop photography unless it’s done in a way to ensure that no trade secrets or individuals are visible. However, public and governmental building exteriors enjoy no such protection and can be photographed with impunity. Just be polite, be smart, and pick your battles with officials carefully.

– da Bird


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

Another Friday brings a close to another interesting week in the world of photography. This week has seen highlights from on-going troubles around the world to fierce storms sweeping the Pacific, from the anniversary of the Lunar landing to the beginning of the 101st Tour de France. On top of all of these big events, photographers and camera makers have been discussing some of the latest updates to photography and photography editing software as well as new cameras and new gear slated to come out in the latter part of 2014.

All of these stories and more were featured on our Twitter feed this week. However, if you’re not following us on Twitter then we will recap the highlights for you below!


That’s all for this week, folks. Have a great weekend and see you again on Monday!

– da Bird


Astronomy and Astrophotography

Astronomy and Astrophotography

Every day we Tweet out the images from NASA’s Astrophoto of the Day as our final tweet. These images are sometimes shots of the night sky from Earth showing things like the Milky Way, planets, the moon, or the auroras (Boreal and Australian), or just the stars. NASA also occasionally posts storm photography taking by storm chasers on Earth or satellites or astronauts orbiting Earth at some distance.

However, for the most part, the vast majority of images that NASA posts are images that only NASA could post. They’re images from the space telescopes that show distant galaxies, nebulae, the planets in more detail than any commercial scope could render, asteroids and comets, the sun and solar flares, and phenomena we didn’t dare dream was possible prior to the start of the Space Age.

So, how is NASA able to get these wondrous photos of things that aren’t just a little bit distant but so distant the amount of space between Here and There is impossible for the mind to conceive?

1) Space telescopes have REALLY big lenses — We’re talking lenses that are measured in meters and yards, not inches or millimeters. No human-wielded camera has the kind of optical power that one of these has (and humans who have a really hard time holding up a camera with a lens taller than they are).

2) Space telescopes have extremely precise lenses — The lenses you get for your camera are very precise but the lenses that NASA has built make your lenses look shoddy. That’s because the lenses for a space telescope have to be almost inhumanly perfect in order for that lens to observe distant lights unseen by the human eye.

3) Space telescopes can stay pointed at one place for a long time — On Earth, we’re subject to rotation. Once every 24 hours, we’re able to focus on (roughly) the same point of the sky. However, in space, telescopes can focus on the same part of the sky for weeks or months, allowing them to do the kind of long exposure photography that just isn’t possible on Earth.

4) Space telescopes work alongside a lot of other cool instruments — The photos we see on APoD aren’t the exact photos the telescope captured. Sometimes they’ve been colorized based on information gleaned from another instrument such as a radiation meter an infrared/ultraviolet imager. The colors are also added by a computer programmed to render them out in colors that the human eye would recognize if the human eye were capable of, you know, functioning as well as a space telescope.

Those are just some of the reasons why space photography (which should be distinct from astrophotography if you ask me) can do so many things that photographers on the planet’s surface can only dream about doing. If you’re an astronomer (or astrophysicist) or just a photographer, we’d love to hear your thoughts on astrophotography in the comments below!

– da Bird


Quick Outdoor Photography Tips

Quick Outdoor Photography Tips

Summer is beginning to wind down and people are hurrying to take their last-minute vacations before school starts back up in August and September. One feature of these end-of-season vacations is that they will generally involve a lot of outdoor photography. So, to ensure that you get the best photos during the brightest part of the year, we have a few quick tips for you to keep in mind when you’re out and about with your camera.

1) If people are involved, don’t have them face into the sun — For some reason, many photographers forget that the eyelids are not completely under voluntary control. If a person is facing a bright light source (and you don’t get much brighter than the Sun), their eyes will squint. They cannot control it. Yelling, threats, pouting, and the like will not convince them to somehow magically gain control over involuntary functions. So, move around a bit so that they are not looking into the sun.

2) Make use of shade and reflectors to control the lighting — Cheap and light-weight light-bouncers or reflectors can easily be made out of cardboard and aluminum foil. These tools can let you reflect or bounce light into a shady area, brightening it enough for photography without blinding any eyeball-possessing subjects. You can also, with a bit of practice and skill, fine-tune your control of the light with several reflectors/bouncers for greater effect.

3) Carry around a fill flash — Sometimes there will be too great a contrast between the sun and the shade and your photo will come out all dark with blotches of overexposed white. A fill flash can help you get around this problem and UV filters can also help cut the sun’s glare and reduce the contrast to more manageable levels.

4) Faster shutter speeds — More sunlight means more light in less time which means that you can speed up the shutter speed in order to help avoid overexposing an image. Also, if you’re capturing action shots of kids playing or sports events, a faster shutter speed is necessary to keep the images sharp instead of blurred.

5) A prime lens is a good ideaPrime lenses give you the best control over fast shutter speed, high ISO, and wide aperture. These three things can be vital in summer outdoor photography so consider investing in a prime lens for your summer photography line-up.

– da Bird


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

Another Friday brings us to the end of another lovely week in the world of photography. This past week has been full of hands-on with the newest gear from Nikon and Pentax as well as an official apology from Nikon, a lot of great advice from photographers on techniques and subjects ranging from black and white, to weddings, to lenses and gear, to the World Cup, and beyond.

All of these things and more were featured on our Twitter feed this week. However, if you’re not following us on Twitter then we’ll recap the highlights for you below!


That’s all for this week, folks! Have a great weekend and see you again next week!

– da Bird


Red Carpet Photography

Red Carpet Photography

One field of photography that is both famous and infamous is celebrity photography. As with every branch of photography, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about capturing images of celebrities — especially if you’re hoping to do it as a field of photography and not just as a fan (most celebrities don’t mind fans asking to take a photo of or with them but it would generally be a good idea to ask when they’re at a public event where photos would be a given instead of asking them when they’re out getting ice cream with their children). So, here a few quick do’s and don’ts when it comes to snapping shots of someone famous.

1) For an event, contact the public relations department of the venue, the production company, and/or the publicity/celebrity managers — This is especially necessary for “red carpet” events like movie premieres, awards ceremonies, public speaking events, or other big news stories. Oftentimes, access to certain parts of the event are restricted to those with press passes only and each venue will have its own rules regarding how those passes are granted and to whom.

2) Don’t show up and think you can shove your way through — If you’ve neglected to get a pass or were denied one, don’t show up and try to shove through the crowds to get your photos. That’s just rude. Also, some venues will tend to prefer to grant access to local journalists or to photographers who have a well-established professional reputation and you can bet they didn’t get that reputation by breaking the rules of the venues and the rules of common courtesy.

3) If you catch a celebrity out in public, be polite — Famous people go out just like everyone else. And, when they’re out grabbing lunch at a shop, picking up milk, going to their office, or taking their kids to the park, they do try to keep a low profile. Generally, if you approach them and politely ask for a moment of their time for a photo, they’ll grant it (or will tell you who to contact if you’re interested in doing a photo shoot). Some of them are remarkably supportive of new photographers and will try to work with you so long as you respect their privacy. So, ask (or if you snap a photo without asking because of a timing issue, approach them soon after and show it to them as a common courtesy, especially if it involves children).

4) Yes, you have a telephoto lens. No, that doesn’t mean you should use it — One of many celebrities’ biggest pet peeves is photographers staking out a location well out of normal eye shot of their property and using a telephoto lens to take pictures of them and their family going about their daily lives at home. Unless you’ve been specifically hired by a private investigative firm, please don’t engage in this paparazzi-style behavior. In some places, it’s even illegal.

5) If you’re asked not to use flash photography, then don’t use flash photography — Many venues forbid it because of the problems with lighting and with distraction it can cause. Some celebrities — notably those who have epilepsy — may ask that flash be avoided or be used in a certain manner so as not to trigger a seizure. Even if you think you know exactly how your flash would affect someone with epilepsy, respect their wishes because chances are, unless you’re a neurologist, they and their doctor probably know more than you.

6) If possible, send a copy of your finished photos to the venue or to your contact prior to publication — This is just a way of being polite and professional. Generally, a publicist won’t call you up and tell you not to publish photos that you’ve selected from your collection and edited for publication. This is just a way of letting them know what to expect and to show off your quality of work (and it can sometimes lead to you getting on a short list of preferred photographers).

7) Never mess with a production company’s camera crew — If, by some chance, you were invited to do photography on a movie or television show set or location, don’t get in the filming crew’s way and don’t disrupt the actors while they’re in character. Try to be as unobtrusive as possible and save your silly or candid shots for when they’re not in the middle of a scene.

– da Bird


The Art of Selfies

The Art of Selfies

With more and more people having smartphones with built-in cameras or low-cost point and shoots, selfies — photos of the person taking the photo — are officially on their way to becoming a “thing.” Most selfies are quickly snapped, involve either just the phone’s owner or the owner and a friend or two, have little in the way of posing or attempts to use composition techniques and may involve the dreaded duckface.

However, selfies can be more than a poorly shot self-portrait. With a bit of creativity, you can show a lot of attitude without having to contort your body or your face.

1) Prop your feet up on the railing and capture the scene in front of you. While technically this isn’t a “selfie” in that your face isn’t in the photo, it is a great way to show something you’re very passionate about (such as sports) without missing anything. It can also make it seem like you’re more laid back and relaxed about the activity even if you’re actually keyed up and excited. All in all, it’s a good way to show two events without any awkward posing.

2) Lift your chin and extend your neck. This will help your face look thinner and will get rid of any excess chins you may have.

3) Wear accessories such as a hat, scarf, funny glasses, etc. So many selfies just have the people or ball caps. Stand out from the crowd and do something a little different.

4) Crop the entire photo down so it’s framing your portrait.

5) Use an unusual masking technique. Get in a tub filled with bubble bath and water. Take a selfie on a rollercoaster. The sky is the limit here so do something original and amazing!

– da Bird


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

It’s been another great week in the world of photography with plenty of gear reviews and hands-on going up all over the web. In addition to announcements from Panasonic, Canon, and Nikon, there have been some pretty major software updates designed to help photographers with editing and compiling their portfolios and to help mobile photographers keep their photos organized and shared around the ‘Net. There have also been plenty of news stories this week covering the World Cup in Brazil and several other major news stories.

All of these things and more were covered on our Twitter feed this week. However, if you’re not following us on Twitter then we’ll recap the top stories for you below!


That’s all for this week, everyone. Have a great and safe Independence Day and holiday weekend and we’ll see you again next week!

– da Bird


Summer Care for Your Camera

Summer Care for Your Camera

It’s officially summer and in some places, that means the temperatures are hot enough to fry an egg on the asphalt (but don’t do it. It leaves a huge mess). Most cameras are fairly rugged when it comes to dealing with normal temperature ranges but there are still a few things that any photographer should make certain to take care of to ensure that the summer sun doesn’t fry their camera like that aforementioned egg.

1) Don’t leave your camera in the car — Just as you wouldn’t leave your kids or pets in a hot car, you shouldn’t leave your camera (or any electronic equipment) in the car. Not even overnight. Cars are enclosed spaces (even with the windows cracked) and that amplifies the temperature — even at night. Again, most cameras are pretty sturdy but if you melt or warp the sensors or chips inside because of the heat, there’s not a lot that can be done to fix them cheaply.

2) Sunsets and sunrises are great but the sun is very bright — Never aim your camera directly towards the sun unless you have special lenses and filters to protect the sensors. Direct sunlight through the lens can damage the sensors inside which is not something that is easily fixed.

3) Thoroughly test any waterproof casing ahead of time — Most waterproof casings will come with a test device that you can put inside where your camera would go and then submerge the case in water to make certain that it really is waterproof. After doing that, test it with your camera but carefully — don’t dunk the camera in the housing in a pool or something. Place it slowly in the water submerging it inch by inch and removing it frequently to check to see that the waterproof casing really is as advertised.

4) Waterproof doesn’t necessarily mean salt-waterproof — Most waterproof cameras are fine to use in a swimming pool or freshwater river/lake. However, be careful about taking them to the beach or into the ocean. The salts in the ocean water can be very corrosive and can damage the casing, letting water (and salt) get inside the camera. The salt, sand, and other fine particles can also cloud or scratch the lens.

5) Waterproof doesn’t mean rated for SCUBA depths — The average consumer waterproof camera is good for up to 30 feet of water. After that, the additional atmospheric pressures can damage the housing. If you’re interested in underwater photography with a SCUBA group who plans to go deeper than 30 feet, ask around about the best camera to use. Aside from needing to be waterproof at depth, there are other features a deeper-water camera will need to have to be effective.

6) Photography while skiing is a bad idea — If you’ve got one of those active-life straps or helmets and housings that are rated for use while waterskiing, then feel free to ignore this point. If, however, you’re using a rugged waterproof camera, try to remember those old physics equations about velocity and rate of change because dropping a camera or falling three feet while holding one when you’re going less than 3 MPH swimming is a different kettle of fish than falling or dropping one three feet at 30 or more MPH.

What other things would you suggest to novice photographers who are interested in really capturing the summer months? Let us know in the comments below!

– da Bird


Catching A Wave With Wave Photography

Catching A Wave With Wave Photography

With summer here, it’s also time to hit the beach and catch some waves. Surfers of all kind — board, body, wake — make for great photography subjects, as do the waves they like to ride. However, wave photography requires a bit of practice and some more specialized gear. Read on to get a few tips for getting started in this area of photography!

1) Know how to swim — If you’re going to be doing photography near any body of water deeper than a quarter of an inch, you definitely need to know how to swim. You might want to practice swimming with one hand as, if you’re taking photos, you’ll need to hold on to your camera with at least one hand.

2) Invest in safety gear — Get a good life jacket and some swimming fins. The life jacket can help keep your head above water if you get knocked over unexpectedly and the fins can help you maintain your balance and footing — especially if the floor of the beach is very rocky (which would instinctively have you balancing your weight precariously) or boggy with sand (in which case the fins will act a bit like snowshoes and keep you from sinking too deeply into the sandy mire). You’ll also definitely want to get some protective gear for your camera if it’s not waterproof and shockproof and a strap in case you lose your grip.

3) Observe first, then photograph — Don’t try to dive right in if you’re not familiar with the behavior of that particular beach. Find out when the tides come in and out and go out and observe them at least one time before wading in. Also spend time watching the way the waves behave throughout the day. Do they break further out at certain times? Remember these behaviors and talk to local surfers if you can to learn when the waves you’re most wanting to see will be the most prevalent.

4) Pick your spot carefully — When you’re observing, you might also want to go out in the water without your camera and try to find a few good places to photograph from. Bear in mind that active beaches will often have people swimming and surfing and that they may not always be able to see you before they smack into you. So, find a good place with a good view that isn’t going to result in bruises, cracked ribs, or a concussion from a surfer hitting you.

5) Go with a partner — Your partner doesn’t have to come into the water with you but it’s generally a good idea to have someone standing on dry land keeping an eye on you in case you run into trouble and need rescuing.

6) Have your camera settings ready before you get in — Most waterproof housings are not going to give you easy access to your camera’s settings so take time to learn which ISO, focal length, shutter speed, etc is best for what you’re wanting to do. Again, talk to the locals — especially local ocean photographers — and get their advice.

7) Practice makes perfect — If your first few sessions don’t go so well, don’t give up. Wave photography, like any kind of action or sports photography, can be a bit hit or miss at the beginning. However, once you’ve got everything dialed in perfectly, you can capture some really great images. So, keep trying!

If you have any great wave photos to share with us or any advice to add to our list, feel free to comment below or to head over to our Facebook page!

– da Bird