Friday, 21 of November of 2014

Archives from month » October, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

It’s Halloween today. Halloween is one of my all-time favorite holidays. Candy, costumes, and cute-but-creepy kids going around trick-or-treating. Of course, with the storm that blew through this part of the country, Halloween has been delayed because conditions are still too treacherous for the little tykes to be out on candy collection duty. Don’t worry; they’ll get to go out very soon when the situation is more conducive to it.

Halloween is also a great holiday for photography. Most people think of the “big” holidays — Thanksgiving and Christmas — as being the best time for photos with the family but I would argue that Halloween tops them both. Every Halloween, kids dress in different costumes. Every Halloween, the decorations are a bit different. Every Halloween, things are similar to but not the same as the years past. Halloween is also a very changeable holiday what with its position in the year. Generally by Thanksgiving, fall is nearing its end and conditions are fairly wintry. But Halloween? Some Halloweens are summery in their warmth while others are chilly but not cold. Sometimes all of the leaves are off the trees and some years the leaves are still changing from green to red, brown, or yellow.

Halloween is also one of the last holidays that gets people out of the house and gets them to meet their neighbors. For all the urban legends about dangerous treats, Halloween is one of the last holidays where it’s acceptable to go up, knock on a stranger’s door, and demand candy. And strangers, being ordinary people for the most part, love it and fill kids’ bags and buckets with all kinds of sugary goodness and comment on their costumes.

So, this Halloween, whether it’s tonight for you or still to be decided, take your camera and capture some of the holiday. Thanksgivings and Christmases run together but Halloweens always remain distinct in my memories. How about yours?


Storm Photography

Storm Photography

All of New Jersey, including those of us at Beach Camera, are bracing to ride out Hurricane Sandy. History Geek, being the upstanding guy that he is, kindly invited the Mrs. and I to stay at his secure facility during the storm. He’s got plenty of bread on hand for us and his place is pretty nice, if you like seeing dozens of gaming systems laid out in front of the television and typing on a computer that has multiple different colored LED lights and a cooling system like one I’ve never seen. Apparently geeks — especially those of the gamer variety — have things like this.

Regardless, it’s nice to have a safe place to be during the storm. I hope that all of you reading this are reading it from a safe location.

At any rate, in honor of today’s news, today’s blog post will be about Storm Photography. Storm Photography is one of the more extreme kinds of photography out there. Ranking on the “you’ve got to be crazy” scale just below sky-diving photography and taking photographs during an EVA in space, storm photography takes the photographer out of his safe zone and into the teeth of the storm. However, to those who venture much, the gain is great and storm photographers can bring home photos like these:


Desert Lightning Funnel on Ground


Storm Clouds South Dakota Streaking Lightning

Before we launch into the discussion: Please do not go out and try this. If you are interested in this branch of photography, find an experienced storm photographer in your area and ask them what gear you will need to invest in and if you can accompany them on a few shoots before attempting this on your own. Storms, especially those with high winds and a lot of lightning, are very dangerous situations and you should not go into them on a whim or unprepared.

Awesome aren’t they? Now, if you’re interested in trying out this spectacular and dangerous branch of photography, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind besides knowing your exposure, aperture, and ISO settings. First among them: don’t be stupid; be safe. Yes, of course, you want to capture the most stunning image of lightning strikes, tornadoes, or storm waves breaking. Do it from a safe location and a safe distance. Take advantage of the fact that there are cameras out there with great optical zoom. Don’t be the guy who sets up right next to a tall metal pole. That guy isn’t going to live long enough to take a great photo. Also, it should go without saying but don’t stay in a mandatory evacuation area. If the local government has told people to get out, then get out. Mandatory evacuations aren’t issued for no reason!

While you’re taking care of your own health and safety, remember to take care of your camera. Weather-proof it if you can. Camera “rain coats” are not that difficult to get. Find one for your camera and carry it with you.

The next thing you should remember to do is to take an umbrella. Preferably, a large one that will provide cover for both you and your camera and gear. Consider investing in a sturdy umbrella that is designed for high-winds so that you don’t have to worry about it blowing out or away. Also, you’ll want one that you can drive into the ground because storm photography is tricky enough without having to worry about juggling your camera and your umbrella.

Also, remember to carry your filters and a good lens cloth or twelve. If you’re capturing a storm, there’s going to be water or dust. Water or dust on a lens means that your images don’t come out as well as they could. Carry a lens cloth and use it. Additionally, storms are unpredictable in many ways. You never know exactly what kind of lighting you’ll have. Carry more filters than you think you’ll use because one of them will come in handy helping you to capture the perfect storm photo.

Once you’re on location, remember to stabilize your camera. Take a tripod that you can drive into the ground and make certain your camera and flash are fastened in place securely. If you’re trying to capture lightning, you need stability.

With your camera stable and all of your gear stowed and secured, it’s time to capture the storm. At this point, you’ll need patience (and a good radio tuned to the local weather station). Storms are unpredictable. You may get a few photographs and then think the storm has passed only to get back to your car and have a deluge slam into you. Be patient and hang around a bit. Even the end of the storm or the period immediately following its passage can have great opportunities for memorable photos.

And, the last point is the same as the first point: stay safe. If conditions get bad enough that your gut starts screaming at you to get away, listen to your gut. Better to lose the opportunity to take some photos than to lose your life.

– da Bird

Storm Clouds, South Dakota courtesy of National Geographic. Photo by Patrick Kelley. Funnel on Ground from Good Financial Cents, “How To Be Prepared For A Storm.” Photo by Jason York Photography. Streaking Lightning from 4Photos Blog, “Great Tips for Making Storm Photography.”


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

Another week gone brings us to Friday, the day we do our weekly wrap-up for those of you who aren’t following us on Twitter. It’s been a good week in the world of photography. Not only are the leaves changing color with the changing of the seasons here in New Jersey — providing lots of opportunity for great photos — but the photography industry has been ramping up in preparation for the release of many new additions to solid camera line-ups. Canon, Samsung, Pentax, and others are all rolling out new cameras and firmware updates to existing cameras. Of course, if you’re not keeping an eye on our Twitter feed, you might have missed some of these developments. Don’t worry. As always, we’ll recap the highlights from this week below!

Also, a quick comment to any of our readers on the Eastern seaboard: Watch out for Hurricane Sandy over the weekend and into next week. She’s looking to be a nasty storm. Some forecasters are warning that this one could be worse than the “Perfect Storm” of 1991. To get the latest information on this hurricane, check out the NOAA National Hurricane Center and your local weather station.

And now, on to the wrap-up!

That’s all for this week, everyone! Take care and see you again on Monday!

– da Bird


Famous Historical Photographs: Lunch Atop A Skyscraper

Famous Historical Photographs: Lunch Atop A Skyscraper

The twentieth century was filled with advances in photography. Owing to the work of George Eastman and other photography pioneers, photography became accessible to everyone. It also began to make its way into the world of news as news photographers and reporters collaborated on capturing both the image and the moral of the story. Some images capture both the good and the hard times that were to be had in the turbulent twentieth century. One of these iconic images is Lunch Atop A Skyscraper taken in 1932, during the Great Depression, in New York City.


Lunch Atop A Skyscraper
New York City of the 1930s was a city of contrasts. Both booming in some manners, it was also one of the centers of the Great Depression. When the Depression struck in 1929, New York City was hit hard as the financial industry began to collapse around it. Still, with the Dust Bowl wreaking havoc on crops in the Midwest, many people continued to travel to New York in search of jobs that would not be disrupted by Mother Nature’s whims. As the Depression dragged on, men would take any job they could find — even if it were extremely dangerous. Safety harnesses and ropes were uncommon for the construction workers of the 1930s as can be seen in this photo.

Many agree that Lunch Atop A Skyscraper was per-arranged and not a spontaneous image captured by a photographer who just happened to be on the scene. The workers in the photograph are sitting on a girder on the 69th floor of the GE building, 840 feet above the street. The men photographed were real construction workers working to build the RCA building (later renamed the GE building). However, the image of them sitting with their feet dangling from the 69th floor girder as they enjoyed their lunch break is thought, by many, to have been arranged between the photographer Charles C. Ebbets and the Rockefeller Center in order to promote the newest skyscraper to grace the New York city skyline.

Had you been there in that day and age, would you have joined in a photo opportunity such as this one?

– da Bird


Why buy a full-frame camera?

Why buy a full-frame camera?

With cell phone cameras making significant advances in image quality and in the ability to edit photos via apps like Instagram, many people are opting to use their cell phones as their primary camera. They cite reasons such as the fact that they always have their phone with them and that the phone can do many other things — check email, post to social media such as Twitter, Facebook, G+, make phone calls, and send text messages — that a camera, no matter how tricked out, cannot do.

However, while cell phones can do many things, any full-frame camera can do one thing better than a cell phone will ever do. That thing is taking high-quality photos. Why is this? In the end, it comes down to size.

Sensor SizeSize does matter in photography. The larger the sensor, the more it can do. A large sensor can capture more of an image, can record more of the depth of color and the depth of field. A dedicated aperture can soften or harden the focus, allowing the photographer to manipulate the image while he captures it. A camera can also allow for true optical zoom while a cell phone must settle for digital zoom only. And, with many cameras coming out today with on-board WiFi, the ability to send photos via email, text, or share them to social media sites is just as easy with a smart camera as it is with a smartphone.

Why does size matter in a camera’s sensor? Because a larger sensor contains more photosensitive diodes. These sensors and diodes are to a digital camera what film was to the older cameras. A full-frame sensor is one that is the equivalent to 35 mm film. It measures 36mm x 24mm in size. Higher-end cameras, such as the DSLRs that many professional photographers use, sport 50 mm x 39 mm sensors. The average cell phone, on the other hand, has a sensor that measures only 5 mm x 4 mm. The larger the sensor, the more diodes. The more diodes, the more photosensitive the camera is. The more photosensitive, the more information it can store about the images — light, colors, outlines, and depth.

No matter how advanced cell phone cameras become, due to the sheer physical dimensions required, they will not be able to beat a true camera in the realm of photography.

– da Bird

Image taken from Engadget, Why your camera’s sensor size matters


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

It’s been another full and busy week here at Beach Camera. The fast-paced world of photography slows down for no man or bird. Canon released a firmware update for its EOS-1D X yesterday. If you’re using this camera, be sure to get the update to version 1.1.1 for your camera’s firmware! With fall in full swing, photographers have been busy capturing images of this mercurial season. We’ve featured many stories of their work and galleries over on Twitter (which is why you should be following us on Twitter). Cameras announced last month are being tested and the results posted by review sites across the world wide web. However, if you missed these stories, we’ll 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


Photos That Changed History: James Meredith

Photos That Changed History: James Meredith

History Geek pointed out that this year is the fiftieth anniversary of a rather important event in American history. He forwarded me this photo and told me the story behind it. For those of you who weren’t born yet, consider today’s post a look into a past that is, thankfully, very different than the present we enjoy now.

The 1960s was a turbulent era in America. The case Brown vs Board of Education overturned the earlier precedent set in Plessy vs Ferguson and ruled that “separate but equal” segregation in schools was unconstitutional. This case paved the way for desegregation and integration in American schools. Many black families wanted their children to be able to go to the same schools as white children because those schools were better staffed, better equipped, and provided a better education and hope for the future than the failing schools the government had provided for blacks under “separate but equal.” However, discrimination and racism — the two forces that were behind many of these Jim Crow laws — were alive and well. Many fought to keep the schools segregated out of racism. Some fought out of fear that admitting blacks to traditionally white schools would lower the quality of education for everyone. Hand-in-hand with desegregation of schools came the greater Civil Rights Movement and the desegregation of American society.

In a bid to keep blacks out of their schools, traditionally white schools employed several different strategies. They were told time and time again to cease and desist with judging admission solely by skin color and, eventually, they were forced to admit James Meredith to the University of Mississippi. Meredith had been refused admission earlier even after passing the admissions test and having the requirements to attend the university. However, he was black and his admission, even when ordered by the US government, was not without controversy.


James Meredith
James Meredith applied for entry into the University of Mississippi after completing two years of study at Jackson State University. His grades and academic record, as well as his service in the US Air Force, gave him high marks for entry. However, his application was rejected. The NAACP filed suit on his behalf and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court upheld that Meredith had the right to be admitted to the school and could not be rejected solely on the basis of his skin color. He was admitted to the semester beginning in September 1962 but was forced to delay his entry into the university while the Kennedy administration re-established order on campus and in Oxford, Mississippi following riots by the anti-desegregation movement. On October 1, 1962, James Meredith was escorted onto the campus and to class by Federal Marshals. He attended the University of Mississippi for two semesters, pursuing a degree in Political Science.

Meredith’s purpose in applying for and attending the University of Mississippi was to force the Kennedy administration to stand up for his rights as an American citizen. He went on to receive a degree in Political Science and worked in politics for many years before retiring to Mississippi. Today a statue of him as a young man stands on the University of Mississippi campus noting that he was the first black student to be admitted and to attend the university.

– da Bird


Cinematics, Computers, and Video Editing: An Intro

Cinematics, Computers, and Video Editing: An Intro

The geek squad has been talking a lot lately about various new video games and movies they’re playing or watching. I happened to glance over and see a homemade video that one of the geeks had brewed up. It had live action sequences of them in various costumes interspersed with scenes from their games and gaming sessions. Then History Geek pulled up a movie he’d made many years ago. The movie played twice: once as it had been when he first made it using a borrowed camcorder, demagnetized razors, and a handful of hard-learned editing tricks he knew. The second play-through was where he had taken the original footage and edited it on his computer over the past few months. The difference in quality was amazing considering that everything he knows about video-editing he taught himself.

I got to talking to him about it and he admitted that video editing is a lot easier for him now with everything going to digital. He believes that probably only the big-time guys in television and movies still use film at all and that’s because they’ve been working with film for decades and know exactly how to coax the best performance out of it. Also, they have access to budgets and actors that the geek squad doesn’t. Still, the things that the geeks can do at home with no formal training are amazing. And they are.

Just two hundred years ago, the idea of being able to take a photograph that would last for years and years was something only a handful of people could imagine, let alone pull off. Barely a century ago, cameras were big, bulky, and most of the editing was done in a dark room with various chemicals. Fifty years ago, cameras were smaller and film could be developed at the local pharmacy. Photographers still had their own dark rooms and still used various tricks in the development process to create effects that they wanted. Cinematographers were just starting to get into their own and special effects in movies were starting to show up. Thirty-odd years ago, a few creative directors and producers in film got together and changed the scape and scope of movies with films like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and E.T.. Twenty years ago, computer and digital video editing began to reach its prime and instead of using only forced-perspective and scaled sets, movies like Titanic and Jurassic Park took off. Those two flicks combined robotics, stop-animation, and computer editing in a way that is now common place but was revolutionary in its day.

And today, in his apartment, with a mid-range PC and a lot of patience, a guy who knows very little about making high-end movies can put together a video, using inexpensive computer programs, that has special effects he dolled up himself that put movies from the 1980s to shame.

What video editing software do you find yourself using and how frequently do you wish you could digitize recordings you made fifteen or twenty years ago so that you could edit them? Let us know in the comments below!

– da Bird

Image taken from the cover of Movie History: A Survey: Second Edition


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

It’s Friday and that means it’s time for another one of our weekly wrap-ups. If you haven’t been following us on Twitter then you might have missed out on some of the top news stories in the world of photography from the past week. Travel photographers and journalists have been chronicling the beginning of autumn around the world and many of the attendant celebrations that come with the change of seasons. New cameras, announced over the past month, have made their way into the hands of myriad testers and tinkerers who have posted reviews and galleries. Photography techniques, tricks, tips, and debates have sprung up around the web.

So, let’s recap the past week, shall we?

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

– da Bird


Harvesting the Colors of Fall

Harvesting the Colors of Fall

It’s fall. Outside, the leaves are changing color on the trees. School buses make their way up and down the streets every morning and afternoon. The weather is getting colder and the days are getting shorter. Though summer may be over and its warmer days missed, fall is a great time to take wonderful photos. Some fall photos can be even more memorable than those taken during the summer!

There are several things you can do in the fall that you cannot do in the summer. First of all, in the summer, Halloween is months away. But, right in the middle of fall, you can capture houses decorated for Halloween, haunted houses that spring up whenever the holiday is near, and kids traipsing around neighborhoods in costumes on October 31st as they make the rounds trick-or-treating. Halloween is a great holiday for kids and for photography!

Not only can you capture images of kids in costume (always a winner in any book), but the works of art that some people can make with pumpkin carving for Halloween are magnificent. What better way to preserve this uniquely consumable art-form than to capture it on film (or digital memory card) forever?

Other great images you can capture during this season are the ever-famous (or infamous) leaf piles. While combining leaf piles and children can lead to a mess, it’s a fun mess and kids love nothing more than jumping into (or out of) piles of leaves. Provided, of course, that they’re not the ones raking them up. If you’re in a part of the country that has trees that change color, then images of the leaves changing before they fall are always welcome.

Then there are the other colors of fall that you can see even if you aren’t in a place where leaves change color (and yes, those places do exist. History Geek hails from them). The sky changes color slightly, becoming a little paler blue when it’s not covered in clouds. Since the days are shorter, evening comes earlier with its array of purples, pinks, oranges, and reds on the horizon. More and more often, people are up before the sun now meaning that shots of the sunrise are easier to obtain.

Lastly, with school in session, sports are gearing up. There’s the traditional American football game almost every Friday at the local high school accompanied, in many places, by a half-time show from the two schools’ marching bands. Basketball will be gearing up for its seasonal starting soon while soccer and baseball are in their off-seasons for now. Surfing, swimming, and water-skiing may be out at this time of year for all but those in the most southern of climes, but skateboarding, skating, and biking are still taking place. If you happen to live near a park where bikers and skaters can be found, you should be in for some great shots of them as they go through their tricks.

So, with all of that in mind, what are your plans for this fall? How will you capture the colors of this vibrant season before the winter snows set in? Let us know in the comments below!


– da Bird