Sunday, 23 of November of 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

It’s been another busy and interesting week in the world of photography this past week. Photokina is coming up in just under two weeks and camera makers and photographers are getting ready for the show. There have also been some big movements this week with the start of the Burning Man festival and the US Labor Day holiday. Storm photographers are gearing up and offering advice for anyone who wants to get in on this kind of photography in the up-coming storm season in the US. Nikon and Canon have both had major announcements this week as well.

All of these stories and more were covered on our Twitter feed this week. 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 on Monday!

– da Bird


5 Student Portrait Photography Tips

5 Student Portrait Photography Tips

Across the US, the school year has started and that means that soon, for many schools, it will be time for student portraits and yearbook pictures to be taken. While some schools do these photos during the early spring semester or later into the fall semester, many still hold them closer to the beginning of the school year so as to give the yearbook press time to organize the bulk of the photos and go through the various iterations of layouts and designs.

Generally, schools hire a professional portrait photographer to come in and do the photos. The professional will know what to do and will already have all of the gear he needs to take care of his side of matters. Therefore, our tips will focus more on helping you and your child to get the best school photo you can.

1) Make certain you know when school photos are being done — Most schools will send home announcements and pre-order forms for school portraits. You will need to check in your child’s backpack and ask them directly about it. If the school has a web presence, you might check there in case your child is one who frequently forgets to mention such things. Once you know when the photos will be done, mark it on the calendar and set yourself any other reminders you deem necessary. Fill out the pre-order form and send the payment as requested.

2) Prepare to prepare for the session — Depending on your child’s age, this may take more or less time and may (or may not) become a contest of wills. Parents generally want portraits with their children wearing the best clothes they can, with their hair decently arranged, and (for older children) any blemishes obscured or make-up that is appropriate. However, no child wants to wear something to school that will be uncomfortable or prevent them from playing or socializing normally during their breaks. Some schools do have strict uniform requirements as well so check with your child’s school to see if they will allow non-uniform clothing on the day of the shoot.

3) Get ready for the photo shoot — A day or two before the photo shoot, sit down with your child and discuss what you would like them to wear and if you would like them to have a particular hair-style or hairdo for the photo.

For young children: This discussion will be less a discussion and more of an announcement. Show your child what you would like them to wear and use a hair-style or hairdo that they are used to wearing (this is not the time to begin doing experimental hairstyling). If they have major objections to the outfit, see if they would prefer your second or third choice but, in the end, you the parent decide what they are going to wear and how you are going to handle the disagreement.

For tweens: Children between the ages of 10 – 13 will have much more feedback into what they want to wear and have the skills to make a forced clothing option backfire. They may want to wear something more comfortable or more in line with what all their friends are wearing. However, again, you’re the parent. If they are wanting to wear something that is completely inappropriate, veto it. But, if they simply do not want to be stuck in your choice all day, let them take their regular clothes to school with them so they can change as needed. Older tween girls may want to wear make-up so be certain that, if you allow this, you check their make-up in the morning and explain to them that less is more and that laying on the make-up too heavily will cause the light to reflect in odd ways and might make them look terrible in the photo (especially given that most 13 year olds are not the most skilled make-up artists).

You may also wish to speak with older tweens about how to make their expressions look natural so you do not get the “dead-eyed forced fake smile” in the photo (more on this in the next section).

For non-senior teens: Wardrobe, make-up, and hairstyle options with this age-group become less about imposing your will and more about reaching an agreement you can both live with. Do veto any clothing options that are extremely inappropriate (“no, sweetheart, you are not leaving the house wearing daisy dukes”). However, these are the years to let your child do something (photo-wise only) that they may regret or that might make for a wonderful story years down the road. So, if your child dresses like a goth most days, replete with make-up to match, let it go.

Instead, for this age group, focus on facial expressions and intent. Explain that simply turning up the corners of the lips does not make a smile. Have them practice in front of a mirror. Suggest that, instead of focusing on smiling “big” like they did when they were younger (a trick that generally works with smaller children because of their lack of more complex emotional drives and reasoning), they think about something that makes them happy. A favorite story. A movie-star they daydream about meeting. Tell them to fix that in their mind instead of worrying about looking good for the photo. A relaxed, natural smile, even if it winds up being more of a wry grin, is a thousand times better than the fake, forced, dead eye smile that makes the person look more like a deer caught in the headlights than someone having a photo done.

Kids in this age group may not always want to smile for the camera, as well. Again, have them practice the expression they plan to use and suggest ways to make it look more photogenic. Lastly, if your child is determined to use a silly expression, practice it with them so that it at least looks good and check to see if you can get a second photo set with a more normal expression.

For seniors — Senior portraits are done very differently than normal school photos and will be the subject of a future blog entry that will also include homecoming, prom, and school club photo sessions.

4) Make plans for a retake if necessary — Sometimes kids miss the first photo day due to illness or other things that keep them from school that day. Or, the child may have come down with a rash, allergic reaction, or injury that you would not want photographed for posterity (my younger brother wrecked his bike and had a black eye the day before school photos and one year I was covered head-to-toe in poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac the week of school photos). Sometimes the child will rebel and deliberately ruin their first photo session or the photo session will result in unflattering images of your child. That’s why schools generally plan a second photo session. If your child needs to have their photos redone or done later, know when the re-shoot will take place and plan accordingly.

5) Don’t sweat the small stuff — At the end of the day, a school photo is not that big a deal. Yes, it goes in the yearbook and yes, it’s generally something you’ll want to hang on the wall as a milestone marker. However, if it doesn’t turn out perfect, just take a deep breath and stay calm. Please do not take the frustration out on your child or the photographer. Check into having a re-shoot done or simply chalk it up to kids being kids and tell yourself that the weird expression or hairstyle (or whatever) will make for an interesting and entertaining story years down the road. Humor and a long-sighted view will serve better than temper in this case as in many others.

Portrait photography can always be a bit of a hit-or-miss thing when it comes to getting the photos done for an entire school. There are hundreds of students to photograph over the course of a day, the setting cannot be changed easily, lighting rigs can cause problems with heat and make-up, and kids themselves frequently balk at following orders. However, with proper preparation, getting your child’s school photo this year can be made much easier.

What are some strategies you’ve tried in the past? How have they worked out? Are you planning to try out our advice this year? Let us know in the comments below!

– da Bird

Photo “Fake Smile” taken from NakaKon – “Terrible School Photos…. Again.”

Photo “Fond Memories” taken from Yearbook Fail.


Happy Labor Day!

Happy Labor Day!

Today is one of the last days for grilling and barbecuing before the weather turns colder and the days grow shorter. It’s also a day to take off and enjoy the waning summer weeks with your friends and family and to get lots of photos for posterity. So, all of us at Beach Camera would like to wish all of you out there a happy Labor Day and hope that you will stay safe as you travel to your various celebrations and Labor Day sales!

– da Bird


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

It’s Friday again and that means that the end of another busy week in the photography world. This week has seen major gear announcements from Fujifilm and Pentax — among others — as well as plenty of advice just in time for the end of summer. Underwater photography, nature and wildlife photography, and several other fields that are best practiced when the weather is warm have had practitioners penning articles filled with advice to help bring new people into the field.

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’ll recap the highlights for you below!


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

– da Bird


Red Light Camera Woes

Red Light Camera Woes

Have any of you heard the story about a man who was caught running a red light by a traffic camera? The camera got a photo of his license plate which the police mailed to him along with the ticket. The man responded by mailing back a photo of the money to pay the fine. The police, after having a good chuckle at the man’s antics, mailed him a photo of handcuffs after which he promptly paid the fine. Checking the news today brought that story to mind and it makes a good segue into today’s topic which focuses on a big story in the news is about several places reconsidering red light cameras following a glitch that caused 17,000 tickets to be thrown out in court.

Red light cameras have always been a bit controversial due to their inability to distinguish out-right violations and cases where a violation may have occurred but was done to prevent a greater problem — such as a person making an illegal right-turn or U-turn (after taking care to note the traffic conditions, of course) to get someone in their car to a hospital who was having a heart attack. They are also controversial in light of the fact that many places deliberately shortened the length of time for the yellow light — something that can be extremely dangerous for all drivers — in order to ensnare more drivers and generate more revenue. Lastly, many people object to being policed by machines instead of humans because machines lack the ability to discern whether or not to issue a ticket given the circumstances and because the machine itself can’t be cross-examined in court (the Eight Amendment says that the accused shall have the right to confront his accusers and it’s rather hard to confront a camera).

It seems now, in light of these cameras running amok, that law-enforcement-via-camera may be rolled back to law-enforcement-by-human-beings once more. And, if these simple machines are having problems already, body cameras might also have similar issues — especially given the greater need to store and transmit the video in real time.

What do you think? Have you ever been ticketed by a traffic camera? Do you think the system should be scrapped or could it be fixed? Let us know in the comments below!

– da Bird

Red Light Camera photo by: Derek Jensen


Police and Photography: Pros and Cons

Police and Photography: Pros and Cons

In the wake of several incidents, the most recent being the events in Ferguson, Missouri, there has been much more discussion about requiring police to have and use dashcams and (in some places) portable or wearable digital video cameras in order to have a video and audio record of every encounter they have during the course of their duties. However, there are pros and cons to having this kind of technology and those will need to be taken into consideration during the discussion about whether or not to issue mandatory body-cameras to police officers and what policies to have governing their use and the use of the recordings themselves in court. To kick off this conversation, we’ll list just a few pros and cons below.

Pro – There will be a visual and audible record of every interaction a police officer has while on duty. This will help to determine if the police officer is in the right during an encounter that leads to an arrest or to the use of force. It will also help to determine if the officer was in the wrong or if the force used was excessive. Having this record should help protect all parties.

Con – The Miranda warning states (approximately) that “anything you say can be used against you in a court of law…” There is no current legal presumption that the police must turn over recordings that could incriminate them (the Fifth Amendment applies to police as well) or that could help to exonerate the accused.

Pro – The Supreme Court and many appellate courts have ruled that police do not have an expectation of privacy while in public and on duty. Officer cameras will help to remind the police of this principle and might keep them from harassing photographers or bystanders who are recording an arrest or interaction.

Con – The police might not have an expectation of privacy while on duty but people generally do. In public or in a publicly accessible place, a person might have their image and actions recorded by security cameras or by other individuals but having their conversations recorded can violate privacy laws (this varies by state). Additionally, people do have an expectation of privacy inside their homes and an officer camera would, presumably, be taken on a search which could violate that person’s privacy.

Pro – The video acts as incontrovertible and neutral evidence. Officers should be recording the whole time they are on duty with the presumption being that any missing video would exonerate the suspect.

Con – Taken as a whole, it can be incontrovertible and neutral. However, if only selected segments are shown, the video’s tone can change drastically – for either side. Also, this would require that police always have the video rolling. Over-relying on it can lead to problems down the road for cases where there are legitimate technical issues with the camera or the camera is damaged during an altercation. Finally, storage and transmission becomes a major concern if the cameras are rolling 24/7. Video files can be compressed, yes, but even with compression, they are still large files.

There are, of course, more arguments for and against police wearing body cameras. What do you think? What policies or laws would you draft governing their use and the use of the video generated by them? Let us know in the comments below!

– da Bird

The photo of the officer wearing the ear-mounted camera is from Renee Jones Schneider with the Star Tribune for the article Police body cameras raise questions about privacy rights.


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

It’s been another busy week in the world of photography. Photojournalists have been out covering stories ranging from the troubles in Ferguson, MO to the Little League World Series and the Stromboli volcano. Sony and Samsung have made headlines as well with their announcements about cameras coming in the near future and Nikon made a huge splash this week with the reveal of their newest camera.

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’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


Learning the Night Sky

Learning the Night Sky

Since there are so many astronomy-related events coming up in the next few months, I promised you an explanation of how to find out where to see things in the night sky. After spending a lot of time looking through incredibly confusing star charts and making images that were great…but you had to know what you were looking at and roughly where to find it already, I stumbled across these great articles over at Outer Space Universe that do a much better job than the guides I was attempting could have done. So, to learn more about the constellations and where (and how) to find them in the northern night sky, read up on their guides about the summer, fall, winter, and spring constellations.

Now, why is it important to know where the constellations are and how to find them? Well, if you’re ever interested in astrophotography, the constellations are kind of the road signs of the night sky. If you’re trying to take a photo of Jupiter, for example, it will be helpful to know that it might rise in or near Virgo. If you’re going to watch a meteor shower, it might be useful to know that it’s going to be appearing in the same part of the sky as Draco. And, if you’re interested in trying to get a photo using your telescope and DSLR of one of our neighboring galaxies, Triangulum, it helps to know when and where to find it in the night sky. Lastly, the night sky has begun to grow unfamiliar to many of us with the increase of light pollution from cities. Unlike earlier generations, many of us can’t find some of the more common constellations because we never see them. Therefore, it’s nice to give yourself an excuse to get away from the lights of the city and to spend time under the same canopy of stars, finding your way through the different constellations, that have fascinated humanity for countless generations.

And, if all else fails, it’s helpful to know the stars in order to navigate should you ever find yourself appointed captain on a boat without GPS or other helpful navigation tools.

– da Bird


Getting Ready for Fall Photography

Getting Ready for Fall Photography

Even though summer is still in swing and autumn won’t be setting in for over a month, the time has come to start planning any trips you might make to do some special fall photography. In the United States, along the northeastern seaboard, the trees and forests that are native to the region do put on a spectacular show as the seasons move from autumn and into winter. The leaves on the trees go from a verdant green to tawny golden-yellow or bright red before they finally fall to the ground to become compost for the next generation.

If, like many people, you’d like to capture this changing of the seasons, you’ll need to make a few travel plans and set aside some gear to ensure that your trip will be well worth the effort. We have some helpful tips on things you should look into below.

1) Location, location, location — The northeastern states are popular travel destinations for many reasons. Take time to decide where you want to go and to check with local photography groups in the area to see if they have any special trips or specific suggestions about where you should shoot from. Do try to stay a little off the beaten path so drive if you are close enough or rent a car if you must fly in to your destination. Fall is also a great time to explore so don’t be afraid to set up your GPS and just drive around until you find a few good locations to photograph from.

2) Once you’ve decided where, check for the best “when” — Once you know where you’d like to go to do your photography, you’ll want to check the local state and region information on when the color change takes place. Usually you can find this on a state tourism website and there are apps that can help you determine the best time for your trip. The change in colors doesn’t happen all at once so do some research and plan your trip accordingly.

3) Go for soft lighting — Bright, sunny autumn days aren’t the best time for fall photography. You’ll do better to wait for the softer sunlight around the sunrise or set or to find ways to decrease the ambient light such as shooting on days that are somewhat cloudy.

4) Experiment with different ISOs — In order to ensure that you get photos that really bring out the richness of the leaf colors, set your ISO low and consider using matrix metering to help you achieve the look you want with your photos.

5) Get high — In terms of elevation. ;) Try to find a road or path that will let you get above the forest canopy and get a shot of the forest as a whole instead of just a few of the trees.

6) Update your camera kit with lenses and other good accessories — Take some longer lenses such as an 85mm or a 70-200mm lens with you in addition to the normal 35mm wide angle lens you might carry. You may also want to add a good sturdy camera bag conducive for hiking and a tripod to your photography kit if you don’t have them already. Also, a good flash can be helpful if used sparingly and to help highlight shadows or elements closer to the camera.

7) Fog and mist are great — These can lend an air of mystery to your photos. Don’t moan if the forecast calls for them but instead figure out a great way to work them into your photography!

8) Autumn composition is unique — A stream you might have just walked past in the summer will look much more photogenic in the fall with the golden leaves reflected in it. A pile of mushrooms can make a great photo that brings autumn to mind without relying so heavily on coloration. Though autumn is a very transitional season, take the time to do some exploration and experimentation because you won’t be able to come back in a few months and see things quite the same way.

What are some suggestions you have for fall photography? Where are your recommended places to visit? Let us know in the comments below!

– da Bird


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

Another week has drawn to a close and this week has been full of events. On Monday, Robin Williams passed away at his Marin County home. His passing has dominated the news cycle this week. However, there were also stories about the supermoon with many great photographs taken of this annual lunar event. Nikon announced a new camera — the D810 — and more information about the events and reveals planned for Photokina were announced.

All of these stories and more were covered 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 Monday!

– da Bird