Wednesday, 27 of August of 2014

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Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

Ah, Friday. How I love thee. You bring a close to a busy week and the opening to a bright weekend. Friday, O Friday, you are truly the most perfect day of the week.

Oh…excuse me, folks. I just love Fridays. Also History Geek took the DeLorean out this week and hit up Elizabethan England and has been reciting sonnets ever since. He’s actually thinking about putting some of them to metal in something he calls “a mash-up of awesomely epic proportions.” But then, the guy is a little nutty sometimes.

Okay, enough about that. Let’s get on with the weekly wrap-up of things you might have missed out on!

That’s it for this week! Have a great weekend and see you on Monday!

– da Bird


Photos That Changed History: Nessy!

Photos That Changed History: Nessy!

I made another mistake today. I made the mistake of asking History Geek what was the most fascinating thing he could think of. Now, in context, I had been asking about photographs and photography techniques and since the guy can be pretty creative, I thought he’d give me something to work with. However, instead he just muttered “The universe is made of twelve particles of matter and four forces of nature.” I think he’s been listening to the whole Symphony of Science too much again.

I did finally get him to throw me a line when I asked him what was the biggest hoax he could think of involving photography. Art Geek shouted “Bigfoot” but History Geek sighed, rolled his eyes, and growled the subject of today’s post.

Back in the 1930s, Christian Spurling and his stepfather Marmaduke Wetherell took a trip to the Loch. The Daily Mail sent Wetherell — a noted big-game hunter — to try to find actual evidence of the Loch Ness Monster. Wetherell, his son Ian, and Christian made the trek there. However, instead of actually trying to find the monster, they created it. Christian used modeler’s clay to create a serpentine head and put it on top of a toy submarine. Wetherell zoomed in on it, using the fact that, without anything to compare it to, the human eye will trick the brain into thinking that the small model is huge. They then convinced a local surgeon to claim the photo as his own work, lending it an air of borrowed prestige. That is how this photo came to be known as the “Surgeon’s Photo.”

With this “evidence” in hand, the hunt for the Loch Ness Monster kicked into high gear. Several expeditions were mounted over the next decades to scout and scour every inch of the Loch and its bed. The monster was never definitively spotted. In 1994, on his deathbed, Spurling admitted that the photo was a hoax his stepfather had pulled off to get revenge on those who mocked him for being taken in by an earlier prank.

There are still a lot of believers out there who think that there really is some kind of dinosaur-holdover or other monster inhabiting the Loch. So, if you happen to be in that area, keep your camera handy just in case there really is something there.

– da Bird


Yep. It’s Summer.

Yep. It's Summer.

The past couple of weeks have given us a few “scorchers” up here in New Jersey. I think the only person not complaining about the heat is History Geek and that’s because he points out that he grew up not too far away from the Gulf of Mexico, spent time living out in Arizona, and then lived in a country not known for having air conditioning in every building. Oh, he’s got AC at his place now but mostly because the guy and his room-mate have about five computers between them.

So, all of the rest of us who are normal and actually think that 90° on the Fahrenheit scale is “hot” are looking for ways to beat the heat. Me? I like to go to water parks. No, really, I do. I don’t get the same giddy screaming thrill from the rides that you humans do — not sure why that is but I am certain that one of the Space Aces will explain it to me at length — but I enjoy hanging around the venues nonetheless.

Why? Well, have you people seen the looks on your faces when you’re on those rides? That alone makes the trip worth the effort. Then there’s the free food. People at water parks drop enough food on the ground in a single day for me and the Mrs. to eat for a month. Also, free baths are awesome. And, it beats hanging out at the Nest complaining about the heat and boredom.

There’s only one downside to water parks and that’s the fact that cameras and water don’t really mix well. So, I’m now in the market for a waterproof camera. I’ve managed to narrow it down to three but am having trouble picking out the best one.

There’s the Olympus Stylus Tough 8010 that looks pretty good. Affordable, durable, and feature-packed. You can get great pictures with it, film HD movies — the works. But then there’s the Nikon Coolpix AW100 that is also very nice, very durable, and feature-loaded. And, if those two weren’t enough of contenders by themselves, there’s the Canon PowerShot D20. Honestly, what’s a bird to do? I’m going out of my mind here trying to decide between these three cameras. If you could give me some advice in the comments or vote in the poll over on our Facebook page, that would really help me out a lot!

– da Bird


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

It’s been a busy week here at Beach Camera. The past couple of days have been real scorchers. Our sweepstakes ended — thanks all who participated! History Geek has been listening to Castella nonstop and is deep in the developmental stage of his next magnum opus. Not that he’s talking about it or anything. Just muttering to himself in some strange foreign language all the time. A car has been lost. Then the keys. And then found again. Check our Twitter about it — it promises to be an epic cycle.

And, speaking of Twitter, here are some of the highlights from this week in case you haven’t been following us:

That’s all for this week. See you next week folks and have a great weekend!

– da Bird


Photos That Changed History: Einstein Edition

Photos That Changed History: Einstein Edition

After the first post in this series, I have to admit I was a bit confused on what to do next. I didn’t want to get too boring by just doing well-known photos all the time and I didn’t want to pick things that are so obscure that no one but me would know about them. So, while I was batting around ideas for more photos to write about with History Geek earlier and asked him to send me the silliest historically significant photograph he could think of. Remind me never to challenge him like that again. I should have known that a guy who spends his weekends picking out bass riffs would give me more than I’d asked for. So, without further ado…behold, today’s photo.

Everyone knows who that is, right? I mean, even I knew it. Albert Einstein. One of the greatest minds of the 20th century. The guy who brought us general relativity and special relativity. The man responsible for quantum physics even if he didn’t like it. Einstein is synonymous with “genius.” History Geek points out that Einstein developed his theories without computers of any kind. He pretty much came up with general relativity while working in the Swiss patent office.

All of the Astronuts swear (and I have to agree) that Einstein is one of the giants of the 20th century. Without his work in physics, most of the modern marvels we have today might not exist. He laid the foundation that other scientists — Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, Neil deGrasse Tyson — have used to make their own great breakthroughs. Again, according to History Geek, if Einstein hadn’t been so resistant to quantum theory (“God does not play dice with the universe!”), then there might already be some kind of Superunification Theory developed and physics would be moving on to still greater and grander things (what those things are I don’t know but History Geek assures me that they would be quote-unquote “awesome.”)

Now, why is this photo so historically significant? Because most photos of great thinkers, revolutionaries, or leaders show them with a grim, dour expression. I mean, unless you hang around with the Space Aces, most people’s idea of scientists are guys in white coats who are completely serious and have no sense of humor or wonder or that one crazy scientist who is going to build a Kill-O-Zap ray cannon in his basement and blow up the whole world. However, this photo goes a long way towards proving that scientists are human. They can be humorous, irreverent, silly, and fun to hang around. Before this photo was taken on Einstein’s 72nd birthday, most people thought that scientists were always serious and always determined to ruin everyone’s fun with dry facts. The image of one of the greatest minds of the 20th century — possibly one of the greatest minds of all time — sticking his tongue out at a photographer…that’s an image that helped make science fun.

– da Bird


Something I Don’t Get…

Something I Don't Get...

Okay, so I’ve been working among humans for a while now and though I’m getting used to your people’s habits, there are still several things that humans do that confuse me. I’ve tried asking History Geek about them and he just shrugs and says “People are crazywierd.” Not that I think he has much room to speak considering that he’s currently listening to The Oohlas album for the billionth time.

So many of you out there like to take photos. You’ll take pictures of landmarks. You’ll take pictures of monuments. You’ll take pictures of landscapes, the sky, other people, animals. But 99.999999999999999% of you flip out at the thought of having a picture taken of you. I know that History Geek is terrible about this. I asked him if I could get a picture of him and he said something about his remote ancestral heritage holding a belief that photos steal a portion of the soul and that he has a personal ambition to pass through life without there ever being actual evidence of his being here. “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

What gives? I doubt very seriously that History Geek believes that stuff about his soul. But why stubbornly refuse to be in a photo? What gives? Can any of you explain your objections in the comments below? I’d love to understand this whole photo-phobia thing because it’s not making a whole lot of sense to me right now.

– da Bird


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

Fridays are fantastic, aren’t they? It’s like they’re the most perfect day of the week. I love Fridays so much that even History Geek’s latest musical find isn’t getting on my nerves at all. Of course, it could mean that I’m going deaf like he is. I seriously cannot understand how the guy can blast screaming guitars directly into his eardrums all day every day and still hear me muttering under my breath.

Oh, he says it’s because he developed heightened senses in high school — whatever that means. Something about lockers, flag poles, and having his drum sticks stolen on a regular basis.

At any rate, here’s some interesting things you might have missed this week. Be sure to check them out! And, if you have any questions, comments, or interesting things you’d like to share, post them in the comments. The geek crew and I have a running bet on how many comments will pass the moderation queue. Help me out with this, people, because I really do not want to have to wash the DeLorean with my tongue.

That’s all for this week, folks! Have a great weekend and give your Dad a call on Sunday!

– da Bird


Photos That Changed History

Photos That Changed History

I think I’m hanging around with History Geek too much because his fascination with the past is starting to rub off on me. I’m still not a big fan of his taste in music (though I suppose Eric Calderone is fairly skilled) but listening to the guy ramble on about historical macro-trends and predictive theorems no longer annoys me as much as it did.

The fact that he brings me food every day and took me back in time to see my great grandpa T-Rex also might play in to my ability to tolerate the guy. Out of the entire “OMG Space Is Cool” crowd, History Geek is the one I can hang around with the longest. So, when I got stumped for a follow-up to the History of Photography series, I took the problem to him. The following conversation ensued:

“Why not talk about photos that altered the course of history or completely changed the perception that people had on certain historical events?” he suggested. “Like the Berlin Wall changing people’s perspective of Reagan in the 90s or the first images of Earth from space both frightening and inspiring people to greater heights?”

“Lay off the space stuff, man.”

“Space is awesome. I’d sooner lay off breathing. Anyway, photos of history. I can help you with it considering that I got a BA in History.”

“In History? And you work in Marketing?”

“Yeah…I realized that I didn’t want to teach around the time I graduated from university.”

So, taking his advice, today we’ll start looking at some of the most well-known and, in some cases controversial, photographs in history. We’re going to start out with a very special photo, however — one that’s been featured on this site before. That’s right, it’s View from the Window at Le Gras by Niepce.

Why is this photograph important? Well, it’s important because it’s the first permanent photograph ever created. Earlier photographs created using a camera obscura faded when exposed to more light. Niepce was one of the first to develop a way to permanently “engrave” a photographic image on a surface. He called the process “heliography” or “sun writing” since the image was created by the sunlight hardening the bitumen of Judea he’d put on a pewter plate inside of the camera obscura. The bitumen of Judea (a mixture that is kind of like asphalt) hardened when exposed to sunlight. The unexposed areas remained water soluble and could be washed away with a mixture of lavender oil and white petroleum, leaving behind the image you see.

This scene is the result of an eight-hour-long exposure — hence why the sunlight seems to reflect off of both buildings.

This particular plate can currently be viewed in the Harry Ransom Center’s main lobby at the University of Texas. The University purchased it from Helmut Gernsheim in 1973. He’d rescued the photographic plate from relative obscurity. It had been long forgotten by all but the most die-hard photography enthusiasts. That’s kind of difficult to imagine in this day and age — the very first example of something being forgotten and misplaced for nearly 150 years. Apparently, though, this is something you humans regularly do. At least according to History Geek who points out that everyone forgot about science for a while (he swears that if Rome hadn’t fallen, the Industrial revolution would have occurred in the 1300s instead of the 1800s. But then, this is the same guy who willingly blasts heavy metal directly into his ear canals so take that with a grain of salt).

Check back later for more photos from history. And, if you have a photograph that changed your life, tell us about it. Who knows? Maybe one of you out there will capture the Tank Man or Migrant Mother.

– da Bird


Photography History: Ubiquity

Photography History: Ubiquity

And we’re finally back on our trek through photography history. History Geek got the DeLorean patched up and is feeling up to the trip this time around. So, let’s set the time circuits for the end of World War II and look at photography as it became more prevalent and culturally entrenched, particularly in the United States.

With the smaller, easier to carry and use Kodak cameras, photography was well on its way to becoming the new American pastime. Throughout the 1950s, during the boom that followed the end of the second World War, amateur photography as well as professional photography grew by leaps and bounds. Not only did Kodak continue to make cameras smaller and easier to use, the assembly-line process also made them cheaper, bringing them into the price range of the average American consumer.

Prior to World War II, photography, while not uncommon, had remained mostly in the hands of professionals for newspapers and magazines or for the upper-middle class enthusiasts. When the war was over and the G.I.s returned home, cameras — along with cars, refrigerators, and early television sets — were one of the many consumer devices to flood the market and become household items.

Cameras, in the hands of amateurs and professionals alike, would provide some of the most culture-changing photographs and movies. In 1963, Abraham Zapruder, a Dallas businessman, captured the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on his video camera. Photography also provided some of the images that brought about a sea change in American opinion concerning the Vietnamese conflict. Photographs of the Apollo 11 mission helped to capture the imagination of people the world over. Photographs taken during the Vietnam War helped to turn American popular opinion against the war. Photos taken of the aftermath have also been used to try to incite feelings of guilt and horror. Photographs of the Berlin Wall coming down would usher in an era of optimism and confidence.

Also, photography became a medium of color as Kodak and other companies worked to develop color-capturing cameras instead of the black-and-white negatives that earlier cameras had saved.

In addition to still photography, motion photography became more and more ubiquitous after WWII. While moving pictures had been around prior to the war, after the war, the television and the movie theater became icons of Americana.

Owing to Moore’s Law and advances in technology, cameras have become ever more compact and powerful. As History Geek takes us back to our own time, stop to try to imagine a world where cameras are rare. Cameras today can be found in smartphones, in surveillance equipment in almost every store or office, in the hands of just about any tourist, attached to computers, and more. In less than two hundred years, cameras went from being rare objects handled only by the wealthy enthusiast to being commonplace objects that even children can use.

And now that we’re back to the present era, it’s time to get ready for another feature. Check back later this week to learn more about photography, cameras, and other things that we all think are cool!




– da Bird


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

It’s Friday. Thank God it’s Friday. This week has been pretty eventful for all of us here. The shuttle Enterprise made it safely to its new home in New York, Ray Bradbury and Mr. Trololo went to their final abodes, History Geek discovered a new band and has been blasting it non-stop all day today (Castella, if you’re interested. And no, I have no clue where he finds this stuff but his inability to hear at normal levels now makes perfect sense to me), Canon released a new EOS (Rebel T4i), and Venus made her last appearance across the sun for this century (the Space Aces claim she’ll make another appearance some time in 2117 and they have plans to be there. Don’t. Ask.)

If you were off doing things during the week, here’s a quick recap of what you might have missed.

That’s all for this week! See you guys on Monday!

– da Bird