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Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

It’s Friday which means it’s time for another one of our wonderful weekly wrap-ups. This week has been a good one for photography in general. Sony is releasing their new Action Camera soon and we have it ready for pre-order if you want to be among the first to receive it when it hits the shelves. The “OMG Space Is Cool” club has been in mourning over the loss of Neil Armstrong. Even I got a little choked up hearing that the first creature from Earth to set foot on the Moon had died. I may be just a bird but I’m as much of an Earthling as the rest of you! Election season is also getting started. History Geek says that means that there will be a lot of photos about politics and politicians in the months to come. All good things for photography!

At any rate, if you haven’t been following us on Twitter then here are some of the things you might have missed out on this week.








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

— da Bird

New From Sony: Sony Action Cam!

Word just came from Sony that they have announced the release of their latest camera: the Sony Action Camera! Aimed at adrenaline junkies and sports enthusiasts, the Sony Action Camera will let you capture the best video of the action while you’re in the midst of it! This camera comes with an adhesive helmet mount, a waterproof ruggedized housing, and a universal tri-pod mount. Additional accessories include more adhesive mounts, a band mount — great for skateboarders or bikers — and a clamp mount designed for attaching onto goggle straps for great underwater footage! The large and easy-to-press stop and go button is designed to be pressed with the bare hands or with thick gloves, meaning that you don’t have to risk frostbite when filming your trek down the Alpine slopes.

Not only can you take this camera with you where ever you go — down the slopes, on the waves, under the sea, or into the air — but you can capture some of the best footage ever with the Exmor R CMOS sensor and the ultra-wide angle Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens! This sensor — the most sensitive available in a camera this size — lets you capture high-quality footage even in low-light settings. The Carl Zeiss lenses, usually found on high-end DSLRs, offer you the chance to capture breath-taking panoramas up to 170 degrees in scope!

The Sony Action camera also includes the ability to capture the action in high quality full HD 1080p as well as having full image-stabilization to reduce camera-shake and make your videos clear and easy to watch instead of blurry and difficult to view. With this Point-of-View Action Camera, you’ll have excellent footage of your adventures whether you’re skydiving or surfboarding! The built-in stereo microphone captures the sound of the action and the built-in Wi-Fi (on the HDR-AS15 only) lets you broadcast your video over the Internet without having to drag your computer out with you where ever your life may take you! And, with the 4x Slow Motion video capture mode, you’ll be able to get the clearest, most precise shots of the action without getting caught up in the confusion of the moment. Want to know exactly which horse crossed the line first? Or to see exactly how that skateboarding trick was done? Set the camera to capture in Slow Motion and you’ll be able to see it with none of the jerkiness that often comes with slowing the action down in other cameras.

You can back up your videos to your computer with the built-in Wi-Fi (available on some models) or by using the HDMI extension to connect your camera to your computer. Or you can playback your movies to your smartphone or tablet via the free PlayMemories Mobile app and then share them with the world over your social networking site of choice!

This camera is currently scheduled to begin shipping on September 23 so pre-order yours today! What kind of action will you capture with your Sony Action Camera?

— da Bird

Profiles in Photography: Mathew Brady

Can you guess the first war where war photography existed? Without having to use a search engine or ask your resident history buff? You might be surprised by the answer. I knew that photography had existed in the 1800s. However, it never really struck me that that meant that there would be photos from the American Civil War, the first war to be photographed by people. I figured that photography from that era was mostly confined to portraits and the like — things that don’t move much. That there are photos of battlefields and the aftermath of them kind of took me by surprise. Not so with History Geek, though. The guy is a relentless cynic.

So, here’s the story of the man often called the father of photojournalism and war photography: Mathew Brady.

Mathew Brady was born in New York in 1822. His parents were Irish immigrants. At age 16, Mathew moved to Saratoga, New York where he met the famous portrait painter William Page. Brady became one of Page’s students and traveled with his teacher around New York learning and perfecting his painting techniques. During his time under Page’s wing, Brady met Page’s teacher, Samuel Morse. Morse had met Louis Daguerre and returned to the US, hyping the new daguerreotype process. Morse became the epicenter of an artistic colony in New York where the members wished to study photography. Morse opened a studio to teach the eager artists and Brady became one of his first students.

Brady moved and opened his own studio in 1844. In 1845, he began to showcase his portraits of famous Americans. In 1849, Brady moved to Washington D.C. where he met the woman he would marry in 1851, Juliet Handy. Brady’s early award-winning images used the daguerreotype process. As ambrotype photography became more popular throughout the 1850s, Brady began working in that medium. In 1850, Brady produced his collection of portraits of prominent Americans called The Gallery of Illustrious Americans. This collection featured the famous portrait of the elderly Andrew Jackson at Hermitage.

Brady soon began offering a service that had become popular under the Parisian photographer André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri: the carte de visite. In doing this, Brady created the first modern advertisement with the ad he placed in the New York Herald offering his services in creating “photographs, ambrotypes and daguerreotypes.”

When the Civil War broke out, the only impact it had on Brady’s business was an increase in demand for his carte de visite among the transient soldiers. However, soon Brady was taken with the idea of chronicling the war itself by photography. He petitioned his friend General Winfield Scott for permission to travel to the battle sites to photograph them. Soon, he appealed to Abraham Lincoln who granted his request with the stipulation that Brady finance the trips himself. His friends tried to dissuade him but Brady was determined to chronicle the war. His first images were from the First Battle of Bull Run.

However, Brady’s eyesight was beginning to fail. He remained behind in Washington D.C. and hired a team of over 20 men to go out and capture the images of the battlefields for him. Each was given a portable darkroom and sent out to capture what they could.

In October 1862, Brady opened an exhibition featuring photographs from the Battle of Antietam in New York. Called “The Dead of Antietam,” his graphic depictions of the dead from the battle were the first time that Americans had truly seen the grisly results of war. Brady hoped to sell the images and plates to the government. However, the government was not interested in buying them after the war and the public, weary of the war, were not interested in them either. Having spent over $100,000 to produce the plates and photographs and with no buyer interested, Brady was forced into bankruptcy. Though he had captured some of the most famous and enduring photographs of the American Civil War, Brady died penniless and in debt in 1896.

— da Bird

Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

It’s Friday again and the Geek Club is gearing up for an all-weekend-long marathon session on some game they’re currently obsessed with. I’m hearing a lot of “Use the Force” and “For Ferelden” from them. Then there’s the arguments over someone called a Warchief. Don’t ask me, folks. These guys are nutty. Interesting, but nutty.

At any rate, they’re making their plans for the weekend. What plans are you making for your weekend? And did you see the big news this week on Twitter? Well, if you didn’t, we’ll recap it for you.

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

— da Bird

Photos That Changed History: Tiananmen Square

Photos That Changed History: Tiananmen Square

I was going through our archive of historical photos and looking for one to quiz the Geek Club on. I figured they’d know the Migrant Mother, the V-J Day photo, all of the photos from the Vietnam War. However, I figured I’d be able to stump them with something that happened when they were all kids. Instead, I wound up losing that bet when History Geek not only recognized it but remembered when it (and the video of the event) was on the news. Of course, he immediately got sentimental and started sounding like someone in his 70s instead of his 30s. I think the phrase “Get off my lawn” may have been mentioned.

Regardless as to whether or not you remember this event, it was one that did do much to change the course of history at the close of the Cold War era. So, here’s the photo and the story behind it!

Tank Man

The 1980s were a turbulent time in history. The US President, Ronald Reagan, had ramped up military spending and weapons programs in a bid to force the Soviet Union to back down. Revolutions were taking place behind the Iron Curtain as countries such as Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Hungary began clamoring for reform. Pope John-Paul II, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and Reagan stood together against the Soviets at a time when most of the world thought they were crazy for doing so. “Cowboy,” “warmonger,” “idiot,” were descriptions often given to one or all of these three. Movies such as The Day After and Wargames showed us how dangerously close to nuclear war we were, how pointless it was, and how devastating it would be for anyone who managed to survive the initial blast and fallout.

And then, at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, the Cold War ended even though everyone had known it would last forever. History Geek remembers being surprised at the Berlin Wall coming down, the Iron Curtain being torn apart, and the nations behind it rushing to join the West as quickly as they could. And though most of the world was focused on the USSR and the USA, Red China was still a place of concern for many.

China in the late 1980s was undergoing the same inner turmoil as the USSR. With the ending of collectivized farming and the slow introduction of more Western free-markets, China was torn between those who wanted further Westernization and the hard-liners who wanted to keep China “pure” of such things. Hu Yaobang was one of the Chinese leaders who favored a more moderate line that allowed for some loosening of the Communist grip while keeping the Party in power. His laxness and soft approach to the student protesters who gathered around China calling for greater reform was cited by the Party as being part of the reason for the later bloodshed.

Hu Yaobang died in April 1989 and his death created something of a flashpoint for the protesters. Now that they had a legitimate reason to gather, they began banding together to mourn Hu Yaobang and to demand still greater reforms. The most well-known place where student protesters gathered was Tienanmen Square in the Forbidden City in Beijing. From here students launched a hunger strike in hopes of getting the Communist Party to reform itself, reduce the corruption in the Party elite, and to introduce more modern democratic government into China. When the crowds had not been cleared out by June, the Party leadership ordered the army to move in and clear the Square. On June 4, the tanks began rolling.

As the tanks made their way through the streets to Tienanmen Square on June 4 and 5, many tried to stop them. The individual seen in this photograph is just one of many who did what they could do to impede the tanks and keep them from reaching the square. No one knows who the “tank man” is — China’s leaders say he was not arrested or killed following the Tienanmen Square massacre. However, no one has come forward to claim the mantle of being Tank Man. In the days just after June 4, some news services reported that the man in the photo was named Wang Weilin but no solid confirmation has been made. Time Magazine calls him the “Unknown Rebel.”

Whoever he was, though, he had a lot of nerve to stare down those tanks.

— da Bird

Profiles in Photography: Ansel Adams

Profiles in Photography: Ansel Adams

Here at Beach Camera, we’re big on photography. We like cameras, photos, and everything that has anything to do with those subjects. I, personally, like to look over photographs with the rest of the crew and I actually enjoy it when History Geek mentions that one of those photos is famous for changing photography history or even just general human history. Sometimes I feel like I ought to fly down to thank the guy’s professors and teachers for teaching him about these things and teaching him how to explain them to anyone — including a bird.

All of this is going somewhere — just let me get to the point.

Over the past few months, we’ve discussed various famous photographs. Starting now, we’ll spend some time discussing famous and important photographers. And, to start this off, we’re going to go with someone who has had one of their photographs mentioned on our site.

That’s right, folks. Today we’re going to talk a bit about Ansel Adams.

Ansel Adams is most well-known for two major things in photography. The first is his breath-taking photographs of the natural landscape in the American west. He is also known for working to develop the Zone System. Adams was born in 1902 in San Francisco, California to well-to-do parents. His grandfather had founded a prosperous lumber business which his father ran. Hyperactive and a bit of a hypochondriac, Adams was dismissed from school several times until his father took him out of school entirely, letting his education continue by means of private tutors — including himself and Ansel’s Aunt Mary — and Ansel’s own study. Ansel was drawn to the natural world and spent much of his childhood exploring the area around him, collecting bugs and exploring the nearby Lobos Creek all the way up to Lands End.

Ansel’s passion for nature and photography began on a family trip to Yosemite Park in 1916. On this trip Adams, equipped with a Kodak Brownie, took his first photographs of outdoor landscapes. He returned the next year with better equipment and tripods and worked to capture more images and to perfect his technique. During the winter, he learned how to find his way around a dark room by working part time at a local San Francisco photo-finisher. Adams also joined every camera club he could find, visited photography and art exhibits in the nearby museums, and devoured any photography magazine he could get his hands on. He explored the High Sierra with a retired geologist, Francis Holman, whom Adams called “Uncle Frank.”

Ansel met his wife while touring Yosemite. He married Victoria Best whose family owned the Best Studio, an art studio in the Yosemite area.

When he was 17, Ansel joined the Sierra Club and began working with the group to help preserve the American landscape and wildlife. He was hired to work as the club’s visitor center summer caretaker from 1920 – 1924. Ansel remained a member of the Sierra Club throughout his life and served both as a director and as a member of the board.

Adams spent his summers ranging through the Yosemite Park area and taking photographs. During the other seasons, he worked on his music and gave lessons in piano-playing. In 1921, the Best Studio published his first photographs of the Yosemite area. He continued to hone his photography and darkroom techniques, working with the Bromoil Process and other techniques favored by the pictorial photographers. He did not experiment with coloring his photos, however, as he felt that the Photo-Secession movement would be better served by using lenses, focus, contrast, and lighting as well as darkroom techniques to achieve its goals of elevating photography to a fine art.

Adams produced his first portfolio in 1927, Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras which showcased his new techniques as well as his famous photograph Monolith, the Face of the Half-Dome. With backing from Albert Bender, this portfolio went on to become quite successful and gave Adams contacts within the photography world that would allow him to spend his life doing what he loved best — photographing the natural landscape. Throughout the 1930s, Adams continued to experiment with new techniques and work to improve his own photography. He sided with the realists over the pictorialists when it came to photography and founded the Group f/64 with M. H. de Young Museum, Imogen Cunningham, and Edward Weston. The Group f/64 advocated “pure” or “straight” photography which disdained the use of colors, soft focus lenses, and lens effects that altered the image from the way a person would naturally view it. Under these constraints, even Ansel’s own Monolith would have been impermissible.

In the face of the Great Depression in the 1930s, many photographers felt that “art for art’s sake” was useless and instead turned their craft towards the goal of helping their causes. Adams began using his photography to preserve the wilderness during this era while other photographers used their efforts to capture some of the most iconic images of the Great Depression.

During the 1940s, Adams worked with the US Department of the Interior to take photographs of the nation’s most beautiful national parks. However, Adams was not very rigorous about noting the dates when his photos were taken, causing him to almost lose ownership of one of his most famous works Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico. Adams was highly-sought after and was invited to join the Naval Aviation Photographic Unit but was passed over when he could not be available before July 1, 1942. During WWII, Adams was disturbed to hear about the internment of Japanese-Americans and obtained permission to travel to the Manzanar War Relocation Center. His photos from this trip were exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art and later formed an exhibit called Born Free and Equal: The Story of Loyal Japanese-Americans. Adams also worked with the US military on many different photographic projects, including getting images of secret Japanese military installations in the Alaskan Aleutians.

In 1952, Adams founded the Aperture magazine with several others. This magazine was intended to be a place for serious discussion of photography with articles describing the latest innovations and techniques in the photographic realm. At this point, Adams considered himself to be on the downward slope of his career. He continued to work commercially until the 1970s when he retired. He refused to work with color photography, however, preferring black-and-white photography and developing the Zone System for measuring the proper length of exposure for various effects. He would later state that he wished he had been able to better master the technique of controlling and manipulating color as well as he did black-and-white photography.

Aside from his work in wilderness photography, Ansel Adams was commissioned by President Jimmy Carter to make the first photographic Presidential portrait in 1980. Adams’ influence upon photography continues even to this day though he passed away in 1984. His work, techniques, research, and writings have been cited by many photographers as being important to their own work. Adams also helped to establish photography as an art form in its own right. Many of his photographs are on display at museums such as the Museum of Photography at the University of California, Riverside.

— da Bird

Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

It’s Friday again, folks! I’m sure that everyone is looking forward to the weekend. However, there’s been some pretty big news this week in the world of photography and, if you aren’t following us on Twitter you might have missed out on these stories. Don’t worry, though. I’ll recap the highlights for you here. First off, the Olympics wrapped up their festivities in London. The next series of games will take place in four years. Kodak is still trying to unload some of their patents. Curiosity is still up on Mars taking photos like a pro. The US is getting ready for another presidential election. We’re still running our Dog Days of Summer photo contest. All these things and more are going on so here are the highlights from this week’s big stories on Twitter.

That’s all for this week, folks! See you again on Monday!

— da Bird

Photos That Changed History: Election Edition

Photos That Changed History: Election Edition

It’s an election year and everywhere I fly I hear or see advertisements for candidates for various political offices. Now, being a bird, I don’t get to vote but I do get to be amused by the things people will do to get elected or to stay in office. Really, some of these ads are quite humorous if you have my bird’s eye perspective on things. The “OMG Space Is Cool!” club, however, really only pays attention to politics when it’s something funny or it involves the NASA budget. History Geek is working on a funny political ad that, if it looks good, you might get to see later on. But then, that guy’s humor is something that most people don’t get unless they’ve hung around him for a while. Still, he did show me one photograph that demonstrated his views on journalism, politics, and prognostication. It’s an image that some of you might have seen and others of you might have no clue about if you slept through history class.

Fisheye Lens

In 1948, two candidates were vying for the US Presidency. One was the incumbent, Harry S Truman, who had been Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Vice President and had become President after Roosevelt died in office. Truman is something of a controversial figure in politics because he’s the President who ordered the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Apparently this is something that is still hotly debated in historical circles — further evidence, in my view, that historians take forever to come up with an opinion on anything.

At any rate, in 1948, these two candidates were facing off against each other. Truman was the Democratic candidate and Dewey was the Republican candidate. Truman faced some opposition in his own party from the Dixiecrats who ran Strom Thurmond as their candidate. Conventional wisdom of the day was that the split in the Democrat party vote would mean a Republican victory. Republicans were also slated to take control of the House and Senate. Working based on the predictions of their political prognosticator in Washington D.C., the reporters at the Chicago Tribune set up the paper’s template predicting a Dewey victory and a Republican sweep of Congress and many state offices. As the polls closed and the reports came in indicating that Democrats had made large gains in state offices and seemed to be holding on to and increasing their control of Congress, Arthur Sears Henning, the Chicago Tribune‘s D.C. political analyst, continued to forecast a Dewey victory.

Adding to the confusion of an already hectic Election Night was the fact that the Chicago Tribune‘s linotype machine operators were on strike protesting the Taft-Hartley Act so the machines were manned by inexperienced (and, after pulling an incredibly long shift for the Election Night coverage, exhausted) crew which resulted in not only an incorrect headline but five lines on the right-hand column being printed upside down. As if that weren’t enough to cause problems for the newspaper, the Tribune had recently moved over to using typewriters to compose the newspaper. The typewritten pages were then photographed and engraved on printing plates. This process required that the paper be sent to the presses several hours earlier than before.

So, what happens when you add in the confusion of Election Night, the long hours, inexperienced crewmen, and a forecaster in D.C. who had an 80% score on the previous five elections and who was swearing that Dewey would win? Well, the headline DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN is what happens.

To its credit, the Tribune did seek to correct the error when the results the next morning (sent in while most of the reporters were still working the night-long Election Night story). They ordered that all copies of the newspaper be halted from distribution and sent out runners to collect the erroneous papers and replace them with corrected versions. Still, though they tried hard to fix their error, copies of the paper still made it into the public’s hands and we have this photograph of the 1948 President-Elect Harry S Truman holding it aloft for the world to see.

— da Bird

Original image from the United Press, 1948. Records of the U.S. Information Agency, National Archives

Why Does Photography Exist?

Why Does Photography Exist?

There are a few things that I think will always puzzle me about humans. Really, you people fascinate me. As much as I razz on the guy, I think that History Geek is probably one of your best ambassadors to the Descendants of Dinosaurs (us birds for those of you who haven’t been following along). He’s tried to explain some of your stranger behaviors to me and — in some cases — has done a fairly good job. However, there’s one thing that makes me both wonder and appreciate humanity and that is our shared love of photography.

A random question I find myself asking frequently is “Why does photography even exist?” Why the obsession before the Industrial Revolution was even under way with figuring out how to permanently capture images? Humans have been creating images to decorate their homes and their religious centers since you guys figured out how to make colored mud. Just check out the caves where your ancestors lived. They’re filled with paintings of hands, of stylized animals, and of symbols. I wonder, sometimes, if your Paleolithic forebears had had cameras, if they would still have created the cave paintings.

Still, it’s true that humans have long been obsessed with capturing the image of a particular moment. Humans are uniquely visual like that — no one ever talks about capturing the smells of a moment or the taste and feel of a moment except in the most metaphorical of manners. But, everyone nowadays has a camera with them just about all of the time.

What is it about the visual effects of a moment that so appeals to you? Why do so many of your artworks — paintings, sculptures, tapestries — depict events and people? Why does photography even exist? Share your thoughts in the comments below. I’ll be posting my thoughts in a few days.

— da Bird

Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

It’s Friday again, folks! That means it’s time for another wrap-up of important news events from the past week. And this one has been interesting, hasn’t it? The Olympics continued in London, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab landed a new rover on Mars, we started another Photography Contest. Plenty of action to go around and plenty of big things coming up in the next few weeks if my eavesdropping on the Space Aces says anything.

However, if you haven’t been following us on Twitter then you might have missed out on a few of the other big news items this week. So, here’s a quick recap of a few of those for you who aren’t following us (but really should be).

That’s all for this week, folks! Stay safe and see you again on Monday!

— da Bird