Sunday, 21 of December of 2014

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Pushing the Boundaries of Art or Decency?

Pushing the Boundaries of Art or Decency?

Photographers, like all artists, are looking for ways to expand their art. Where painters had Picasso with his cubism, sculptors had Auguste Rodin, and musicians had Elvis Presley, photographers more or less stuck to the limitations of their field, notable exceptions being Alfred Stieglitz and Ansel Adams. However, in more modern times, some celebrity photographers have been trying to push the boundaries of their portrait photography in ways that often leave viewers more scandalized than supportive. Most everyone can recall the kerfuffle over Miley Cyrus’s photoshoot with Annie Leibovitz, the argument there is less “is this edgy and new?” and more “is this creepy?”

And, sometimes, photographers might go over the line by participating in their shoots in a way that, if the facts of the case are true, is definitely unethical. Terry Richardson currently stands accused of abusing his position as a celebrity photographer in order to coerce several women into compromising situations.

Now, both Richardson and Leibovitz will defend themselves with the argument that they are “pushing the boundaries of their art.” While I am no photographer myself, I can say that the argument is fairly weak in both cases. Taking racy photos is hardly innovative. Chances are it’s been being done since the first camera was invented. While every generation likes to tell itself that it “discovered” all of these “new” things when it comes to sex and nudity, that’s not the truth. Pushing the art of photography isn’t happening because a couple of celebrity photographers can convince people to take off their clothes. Photography is growing as an art and a field by both technological innovations (like smartphones), ways of playing with lights and colors during processing, people figuring out new ways and techniques to use in photography to create new optical illusions — all things that generally encourage people to stay fully clothed and use their cerebrums instead of their hindbrains.

But that’s just the opinion of a bird who works for a photography retailer. What do you think? Who’s really pushing the boundaries of photography as an art? Let us know in the comments below!

— da Bird


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

Another Friday brings an end to another week in the world of photography. This week saw the announcement of a new super-powerful mini camera from Samsung and saw their arch rival Apple filing for a dual sensor patent. One begins to wonder if we’re looking at the beginnings of yet another lawsuit on the horizon. Aside from that news, photographers have been busy capturing the images of the mudslide in Washington state, the on-going fighting in Syria, the changing of the seasons around the world, and much, much more.

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


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

— da Bird


Disaster Photography

Disaster Photography

I’ve been checking the latest news stories — especially the ones about the missing Flight 370 and the recent mudslide in Washington state. There’s also the ongoing troubles in Turkey, Syria, and Egypt along with the Ukraine. And, in all of these places, photojournalists are there sending images of what’s going on back to those of us living in safe, comfortable conditions.

It must take a really special kind of person to do that. I know that my personal response to being in a dangerous situation is to look for a way to get out of it, not pull out a camera and start snapping photos. Like most normal people, I prefer to observe world-shattering historical events from a distance. Preferably a distance of time as well as space. But photojournalists flock to these locations and often risk their own lives to let the rest of us see what is going on. String reporters and local reporters also do the same, helping to get the story out. And, in this new 24/7 news cycle, we’ve gotten used to the “fog of war” effect where the first stories on an event are usually dead wrong.

Still, it must take a really special person to run towards the sound of gunfire, towards police pounding on a protester for taking a photo of them, towards the ground zero of natural disasters and man-made ones alike. Are they adrenaline junkies? Disaster fetishists? Or just incredibly brave people committed to telling the truth and not letting it be airbrushed and glossed over by people in the green zones.

What do you think? And could you do it? Let us know in the comments below!

— da Bird


Spring Photography

Spring Photography

Spring is a great time of year. Even though it seems like, for some of us, Spring is determined not to show up until nearly summer-time, it’s still a much better time of year than the long, cold, dark days of winter. Spring is alive and ripe and filled with color and warmth. The end of the abomination that is “Standard Time” gives us more hours of daylight to work with. Shoots of green are beginning to fight their way out of the barren ground. Flowers have not yet begun to bloom but they have begun to appear in tiny buds on trees or bushes. The world is waking back to life and with these days, we have a few fun photography experiments you can try to help you shake off the winter doldrums and embrace the fresh spring air!

1) Sky photos — The calendar says it’s spring but, right now, in a lot of places, it doesn’t quite feel like spring yet. The temperatures are still chilly (it’s actually supposed to snow here tomorrow). The winds are blustering and biting. The ground is still cold, wet, and icy in a manner that makes you remember to wear shoes even for a quick jaunt to your car. But, the sky is definitely different. The angle and position of the sun has changed for most people. So, making certain you take steps to protect your camera, take some photos of the sky. Don’t take photos of the sun itself without the proper kinds of lenses, filters, and sensor guards but you can take some good photos of the sky at dawn, at sunset, or even the wispy white clouds that mark the arrival of spring. Also, spring is a great time for some storm photography in certain parts of the world — just keep your head and stay safe.

2) Time lapse — If you’re wanting to show how quickly things can change, spring is a great time to demonstrate that with time lapse photography. Shoots will be coming out of the ground, flowers will be forming in buds that will soon open. In just a few weeks, the world will look completely different.

3) Cute animals — If you hang around the Internet for long, you’ll have trouble distinguishing us from the ancient Egyptians because both civilizations are known for writing on walls and worshiping cats. Photos or short videos of animals — especially kittens or puppies — doing something adorable (poking at a flower, trying to eat a plant, confronting another new-born animal) will get you lots of attention. Even better is if you have a grown animal who has learned some kind of funny trick (such as a dog who can play basketball to some extent).

4) Spring festivals — Spring often brings with it a lot of festivals. Some religious, some cultural, and some little more than a “time to get outside and PAH-TAY because it’s not winter anymore!” kind of event. These events often are great avenues for photography as the unexpected can always be expected to happen whenever enough people get together.

5) Urban exploration — Once again, stay safe doing this and try not to break any laws. But, spring, with new shoots coming up from the ground and plants and animals reawakening, is a great time to explore abandoned buildings and lots. Greenery forcing its way through cracks in the cement can often been more beautiful to look at than an entire yard covered in grass.

These are some of our suggestions for how to spice up your photography this spring. What are some of yours?

— da Bird


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

Another Friday brings an end to an improving week. Spring officially started a couple of days ago and the weather might actually decide to let that happen. That means that soon photographers will be taking to the road on trips to photograph the awakening of all the plants and animals that hibernate through the winter. However, this week had only a bit of the Holi celebrations in India, unrest in various parts of the world, and a lot of new cameras coming out. It’s been a crazy one and if you’re not following us on Twitter then we’ll recap it for you below.


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

— da Bird


Announcing the New Samsung NX Mini Mirrorless Camera

Announcing the New Samsung NX Mini Mirrorless Camera

Samsung, never one to be outdone when it comes to innovation in cameras, just announced their latest NX camera, a mini mirrorless. While the specs are pretty intense, the coolest thing about this camera is that it will be the smallest interchangeable lens camera out on the market. It’s practically a pocket-sized DSLR.

And, if that’s not enough to pique your curiosity, then the fact that it’s lightweight and smart should do the job. Tiny as this camera is, it still comes with built-in WiFi and wireless networking so that you can share your photos immediately after taking them. It also comes with a flip-up LCD screen so you can frame yourself in the image if you’re taking a selfie. The NX mini will come with a large 1-inch type 20.5MP BSI CMOS Sensor, allowing it to pack a punch well over its weight class while not having all the additional bulk you’ll find in a more traditional high end DSLR. The projected price tag is also very sweet: $449.

Lastly, the NX mini will be able to replicate a lot of functions that other cameras could only dream about having. Imagine pairing it with your smartphone and using the NX mini as a baby monitor. Your infant wakes up and begins making noise and the camera takes a photo and sends it straight to your phone so you can determine if you need to drop what you’re doing right now and go tend to your offspring or if your child is content and happily gurgling at that black box thingy while you finish whatever adult task you have on your plate. You could also use it as a spy cam in a pinch though you probably don’t want to leave it anywhere where it could get wet or broken or shot at.

We will be stocking this sweet little NX mini on our shelves so check back for updates on pre-ordering and availability!

— da Bird


VSCO Announces $100K Scholarship Fund

VSCO Announces $100K Scholarship Fund

From the “this is pretty nifty” corner of the Internet comes this article about Visual Supply Company, the makers of the VSCO Cam smartphone app, have set up a scholarship for artistic and mobile photographers.

Now, normally, when we talk about mobile photography or smartphone apps, it’s in the context of a brand new area of photography and, occasionally, in hopes of getting them to be more disciplined and more like traditional photographers who walk around with heavy, expensive equipment. And, goodness knows that the traditional fields of photography offer very few scholarships of late. Yes, there are some and they do help a lot. But when it comes to actually giving money to a photographer who can guarantee a return on it (of sorts), such contracts or awards usually go to someone with a good bit of experience, not someone who shows a lot of promise but could use some money and time to hone their skills a bit more.

Photography, like many of the other arts, is a field where practitioners — even professional ones — expect people to spend a while starving for their skills and art before they finally manage to stumble onto a gig that will let them pay the bills. And while there is some merit to having such a rough shake-down, what it really does is close the field to the young and experimental and ensure that only the already rich or the old (who have more money and more leisure time) pursue the artistic bounds of photography. All of the other young photographers are either too busy working outside of the field or are scrambling trying to get enough work so that they can eat something other than ramen. And mobile or Internet photography, what with its share-ability and tendency to be free and easily “borrowed” by others is probably one of the most difficult fields to work in. So, it’s great that some place like Visual Supply Company is willing to put its money where its mouth is and see what it can do to support and welcome new, young mobile photographers to the field.

— da Bird


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

It’s Friday again and it’s been another fun week in the world of photography. With the paralympics in Sochi and plenty of other big news stories swarming the stage this week, there have been plenty of opportunities for photojournalists to get their names out there and take a photo that could change the world. In addition to that, plenty of photographers have been out offering advice on everything from aperture to shutter speed to lens and lighting tricks to their less experienced brethren. And, the manufacturers have been testing out and tricking out their latest camera designs in hopes of discovering the Next Big Thing when it comes to cameras.

All of these stories and more were featured on our Twitter feed this week. If you aren’t following us on Twitter then we’ll replay the highlights for you below.


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

— da Bird


The Shared Experience of Art and Photography

The Shared Experience of Art and Photography

A post I read over at The Online Photographer has gotten me to thinking about the experience that is shared between the creator and the audience in both art and photography. The audience will almost always walk away from the image with impressions that the artist never intended to make. Sometimes, those impressions are exactly the opposite from what the artist intended. And, in some extreme cases, modern interpretations are forced upon Classical or pre-modern arts and literature using methods to divine meanings that the creator could not have intended because such vocabulary or philosophies were non-existent in his era (ex. “a postmodern, deconstructionist, gender-feminist, Marxist literary interpretation of misogyny and social justice in Homer’s The Iliad“).

Still, there is a very real shared experience between the artist and the audience which sometimes results in one reading more into the work than the other intended. Some photographers view this with a mild bit of dread as it seems the author of that article, Mike Johnson, feels. He seems to be of the mindset that once a photo has been taken, no future variance in interpretation should be allowed. While I can see some merit in that viewpoint (after all, none of us are going to radically reinterpret V-J Day in Times Square as being anything other than a celebration of the end of World War II), I also can understand that sometimes, even if the reason for taking the photo is still the same, the feelings about the photo will be different. And that’s okay. The example that Johnson gives is the photo of his daughter and the paper mâché dog. He originally took the photo just to capture a moment he thought was particularly precious. But now, he looks at the photo and sees it as:

The photograph is a metaphor for a child’s innocence and it is tinged with sadness. Children are easily duped, in particular because they have unfettered imaginations. For instance, Westerners spin a yarn about Father Christmas. Although absurd, children have no problem believing it. Their scant knowledge of the real world and their fertile imaginations combine to make the story utterly believable to them. One day, they will awaken. For now, the ruse gives them joy, so we let them persist in their ignorance…

There’s nothing wrong with his present interpretation. He shouldn’t feel as though he’d be tarred and feathered for his perspective changing. Indeed, though we still view V-J Day in Times Square as an iconic image of celebration, we also now look back on it as being from a simpler era where men and women had more clearly defined roles. Indeed, if a sailor grabbed a random woman on the street today and kissed her, he’d be guilty of assault. Sometimes we long for a return to that simpler era and sometimes we look back and are amused that we ever once thought the world could be such a simple place.

Changing your view and your interpretation, so long as you are not forcing a completely alien viewpoint on the creator, is not only normal, it’s human. We all view the world through our own parochial points.

— da Bird


Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey

Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey

If you missed the premiere of this awesome show last night, you can catch it tonight on National Geographic at 9/10 Eastern. Trust me, it is worth your while to watch this and record it for posterity so that this series doesn’t survive only in bootlegged editions like the first one from 1980 did.

Last year, FOX announced that they were going to redo and bring up-to-date the series that Carl Sagan had done in the late 1970s called Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. In that era, the show made use of some of the most high-end computer graphics and camera effects to help bring the story of the entire universe to life for the audience. Aimed at those who were not scientists but had the same innate curiosity and wonder about the workings of the cosmos as any astrophysicist, Cosmos went on to become something of a landmark show in the geek crowd. Using language that was both precise but easy-to-understand in its elegance, Sagan helped introduce many children and adults to the fundamentals of the space age.

In the thirty-four years since the first Cosmos aired, science has advanced by leaps and bounds. The optics in our telescopes have improved. The lenses in the cameras on our space probes, landers, and satellites are much better and more powerful. And those advances have trickled down to the photography market, helping to improve cameras for everyone. We’ve learned so much more about the universe than we knew in the late 1970s and Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey shows that in more than just its top-notch special effects, computer graphics, and camera effects. With shows like this, it’s easy to believe that we’ll not only see another generation of scientists, engineers, and space explorers come up, but we’ll also continue to see improvements in optics and data processing that will improve consumer-grade goods like televisions and cameras.

So, if you have the chance to watch this show, do so. If you don’t, then see if you can find someone to record it for you and send you the DVD. No word out from Fox yet as to whether or not it will be available for sale or digital download after the airing.

— da Bird