Archives for Photo News category

Instagram is DownInstagram, Facebook, Flickr and Twitter are filled with photographs of peoples’ lunch.  From Big Macs to foie gras, if they’re eating it, it’s being posted somewhere.  But who knew it was now an issue that warrants attention from the New York Times.  But apparently in some establishments it has become more than just a bad photography issue as some  Restaurants Turn Camera Shy.  This article may blow the “problem” out of proportion just a tad.  Maybe this is a New York City issue, but as often as I eat out in Phoenix I have never been terribly inconvenienced by someone snapping a picture of their plate before they dig in.  I do think the practice is way overdone and am not certain why every meal needs to be documented.  But I would think the diner pulling out a tripod or standing on their chair to get an aerial shot of their dinner are the exceptions that don’t necessitate outright photography bans.

Regardless, this is an interesting take on where photography has come with cameras being in every pocket and purse.

For any of us who have ever used a “handicap,” perceived or real, as an excuse to not do something, this story can be very humbling and encouraging.  The last hobby you might expect a blind person to take up is photography.  It is all visual after all, right?  But a group of blind individuals in Mexico City are doing just that disproving that photography is strictly a visual art.  Although they cannot see the end result of their work, which may be a frustration to most of us, they are taking photography beyond the visual and are presenting the world as they “see” it through their photographs.  They use their other senses, hearing, smell, touch, to compose their images making them a visual interpretation of a world they cannot see.

Read the whole story of these inspirational photographers here.

The site Amateur Photographer reports that the Long Beach, CA police department is enforcing a new rule where officers are now stopping citizens for capturing images ‘with no apparent esthetic value.’  The goal, according to Police Chief Jim McDonnell is not to stop the ordinary tourist from photographing the city but stop would be criminals and terrorists from photographing subjects “…with no apparent esthetic value, i.e. camera angles, security equipment, security personnel, traffic lights, building entrances etc’.

In my view, this begins what could be a very slippery slope.  There are way too many variables that put the police in the position of stopping anyone from photographing and put innocent photographers at risk of false accusations.  How does one tell the aesthetic value of a photograph from any perspective other than that of the photographers?  According to Chief McDonnell, “officers are able to make a judgement about the aesthetic nature of a subject ‘based on their overall training and experience’. ”  But the aesthetic value is in the eye of the artist, the photographer.  A building entrance?  A traffic light?  These are common, everyday subject to the majority of people, but someone with a good photographer’s eye can certainly turn them into an aesthetically pleasing photograph with no ill intent.  This ruling has the potential to put enormous amounts of subject off limits as well as leaving very broad interpretation of aesthetic value up to one individual’s interpretation and pre-conceived notions.

I contend that the criminals and terrorists in America are not walking around our streets with the latest DSLR snapping photographs of their next target.  If I had criminal intentions wouldn’t it be much easier and less risky for me to use the details of a Google Map to find my targets?  My point is that I think rules such as this being enforced by the Long Beach police are misguided and presenting a false sense of security.

The ACLU has filed suit against the District of Columbia accusing the police department of violating a photographer’s constitutional right.  D.C. police allegedly lied to a photographer taking their picture on the street when they told him he needed their permission to photograph them and then detained him.  The suit claims this violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights.

D.C. Police Violated Photographer’s Rights: ACLU From NBC Washington

Necessity is the mother of invention.

Photo of the Capture Camera Clip SystemThe standard camera strap has been the main means of securing our cameras since the early days of film SLRs.  For the most part it has been pretty convenient to have your camera around your neck and within easy reach for when the perfect shot comes up unexpectedly.  But for photographs on the move there can be a lot of movement of the camera as you walk, hike or chase down the next great image and excessive movement can put an expensive camera in danger of damage.  This is where a photographer from San Francisco had an idea.  He invented a device to securely attach your camera while still keeping it within easy reach so no shots are missed.  Peter Dering developed the Capture Camera Clip System with three goals in mind; 1) a locking mechanism that ensures total security 2) able to attach to any strap or belt and 3) the device had to as compact as possible.  The resulting Capture is a small device that works with the tripod mount on your camera and securely fastens to any strap such as a belt or backpack.

Being an individual and not a large corporation with a ton of research and development, marketing and start up costs behind him Peter also got creative with how he is funding the launch of his invention.  He turned to Kick Starter, a funding platform for creative projects that allows regular individuals with an idea to source funding to launch that idea.  Whether it is  music, film, art, technology, design, food, publishing or any other creative fields really, Kick Starter allows people to support creative endeavors through financial funding.  Funders are not investing in these projects with hopes of a financial return, instead they are getting something back.  In the case of the Capture Camera Clip System, a $50 “backing” gets you one of the first Captures after production starts.  For photographers, this would be a great way to support a small inventor and get a photography gadget that would keep your camera secure and within easy reach.


Nick Risinger, an amateur astronomer and photographer from Seattle, quit his day job and set out to document the entire Milky Way through photographs.  Such an undertaking required a lot of planning and calculating.  It required traveling 60,000 miles by air and land back and forth from the Western United States to South Africa in order to find locales with as little light pollution as possible.  He used 6 Finger Lakes ML-8300 monochrome cameras with Zeiss Sonnar 85mm f2.8 lenses specially mounted on a Takahashi custom mount that rotated in sync with the Earth’s spin.  All of that was combined with some very detailed calculations and computer work to be certain there were no gaps in the final image.  The result is a 360 degree, 5,000 mega pixel view of the entire night sky stitched together from 37,440 separate exposures.  Dubbed the Photopic Sky Survey, the amazing image allows you to see 20-30 million stars with incredible clarity.  The final image allows you to zoom and pan and explore the amazing night sky in a way that only a 5,000 mega pixel image can do.

Cover image provided by National Geographic

Something strange and wonderful happens when light enters a dark space through a tiny opening. Aristotle described the phenomenon back in the fourth century B.C. Leonardo in Renaissance Italy sketched the process. In Coney Island and other 19th-century seaside resorts, tourists lined up to see the magical results. Shift to a Boston classroom, the year 1988. Cuban-born Abelardo Morell, teaching an introductory photography course at an art college, was curious to step back in time. On a sunny day, he covered the classroom windows with black plastic, making the space as dark as a cave, cut a dime-size hole in the material, and told his students to watch. Almost instantly the back wall came alive like a movie screen, its surface covered with a fuzzy image of people and cars moving along Huntington Avenue outside. Then the double take: The image was upside down, sky on floor, ground on ceiling, the laws of gravity seemingly gone haywire.

Morell had turned his classroom into a camera obscura, a dark chamber, the Latin name for perhaps the earliest known imaging device and the ancestor of the photographic camera.

Tom O’Neill –  Bravura Camera Obscura – National Geographic, May 2011

The magical process Tom O’Neill writes about in May’s National Geographic hitting news stands tomorrow, April 26th, is the camera obscura.  This forefather to the modern camera can be traced back all the way to Aristotle’s time and comprised of an entire room in its earliest stages.  A rather simple device, the camera obscura takes advantage of simple laws of the physical world.  When light passes through a small hole in the wall of a completely darkened room or box, an inverted image of the scene outside the hole will be produced on the opposite wall of the room.  Over time the camera obscura was used by artists, mathematicians, architects, astronomers and entertainers becoming smaller and even portable over the years.  In the 19th century it took two tracks, one leading to the camera as we know it today (or more appropriately as we knew it pre-digital with light sensitive film) and one as an amusement park and carnival attraction awing 19th century entertainment seekers with its wonderment.

Jump forward to the late 20th century and Cuban born photographer Abelardo Morell’s resurrection of the camera obscura. Morell’s work combines the predecessor to the modern camera with the modern camera itself.  His photographs of the images projected by the camera obscura were a first in the early 1990s and have seen been displayed in galleries and museums and published in his book Camera Obscura.  The May 2011 issue of National Geographic traces the history and principle behind the camera obscura as well as Morell’s work since his early experimentation with the device in the 1990s in Tom O’Neill’s article Bravura Camera Obscura.  This is a great bit of photographic history that has been brought to the 21st century by Abelardo Morell.  Be sure to pick up a copy of National Geographic this week to get all the details and view more of Morell’s photography.  And if you’re inspired by how Morell’s work draws from the past, consider some online history of photography classes that will increase your knowledge of the field.

Image courtesy of Abelardo Morell/National Geographic

Image courtesy of Abelardo Morell/National Geographic



I wrote about Florida state Senator Jim Norman and his proposed law in that state to ban all photography on agricultural sites, farms, ranches, orchards, etc., without written consent of the farmer.  It appears that Mr. Norman has backed down just a bit on the law and made some changes to it.  The St. Petersburg Times has also written in more detail about the true motive behind the bill that I speculated on in m y original post.

In the original draft, photographing a farm or other agriculture site without written permission of the farmer or their representative was be a felony.  That puts it up there with rape and murder.  Where those photographs were taken from was also not up for debate in the original version.  That means even if you were standing on a public street when you took your photograph, not on the farmer’s property, you would be committing a felony.  It is widely know that photos taken from public sidewalks, streets, etc. of privately owned buildings and what not are perfectly legal to take.  A federal court even ruled recently that federal buildings and courthouses were not exempt from this rule.

In his scaled back version Norman graciously agreed to make it a misdemeanor rather than a felony and distinguished between photos taken on the farmer’s property and taken from public property or the air.  Those are a good start.  But the real issue is why such a law is even being pursued in the first place.  This is not because paparazzi are stalking the farmer’s daughters.  As the St. Pertersburg Times quoted one advocate for the bill, they

“…fears activists will invade Florida farms and gather footage for public campaigns to replicate a 2008 California constitutional amendment that bans confinement of animals where they can’t stand, sit, lie down, turn around and stretch their limbs…”

Basically, if something inhumane is happening on Florida farms Senator Jim Norman wants to make sure the public doesn’t find out about it and have a chance to change it.  The changes he has made to the bill make it less of a photographer’s rights issue but also brings out the true motives behind the bill.   Now I think the animal rights side takes precedence.

The Florida State Senate, under the wise guidance of one Republican Senator Jim Norman from Tampa, has decided to take on the pressing issue of photographs being taken of that state’s farms without the farmer’s written permission.  I guess they fixed all those pesky economy issues and have some free time on their hands.  The gist of Florida Senate Bill 1246 can be summed up in its official title:

An act relating to farms; prohibiting a person from entering onto a farm or photographing or video recording a farm without the owner’s written consent; providing a definition; providing penalties; providing an effective date.

Sounds rather odd on the surface. Why on earth would this Senator care if people are photographing the cows and citrus groves of Florida?  In fact, if this is a big concern to the people of Florida, I’d say they are already in big trouble.  A Google Image search of Florida citrus groves returns 187,000 images ranging from aerial photographs down to the trees.  Looks like the damage is already done Mr. Norman.  But if you dig a little deeper into the underlying motives of this bill the typical big business influence on politics becomes a little more clear.  It is widely speculated that this bill has nothing to do with taking pretty pictures of red barns in fields of hay or black and white cows chewing grass.  It is more about what is in those barns and how those cows are treated.  And more importantly what “agribusiness” (not Joe Farmer) doesn’t want you to see.  Films like Food, Inc. and groups like PETA have dug up dirty little secrets that large conglomerates of the agriculture business would rather not be known.

So Jim Norman is more likely protecting big business than trying to stamp out the local photography club’s trip to the country.  By prohibiting all photography of all agricultural facilities in the sate of Florida without written consent of the farmer or farmer’s representative (even photography from public property outside of the farm) this law is attempting to stop the photography and video taping of things that large corporations don’t want their consumers to know go on.  If it steps on the first amendment rights of a few photographers along the way, so be it.

Photo of Mesa's Diving Lady historic neon motel signI wrote about some of the great Phoenix area neon signs from years gone by a while back.  In my list of signs worth photographing was one in Mesa, AZ known as the Diving Lady.  The lady graced the Starlite Motel on Mesa’s Main St. since the 1960s continually diving into a pool of neon “water.”  Unfortunately in one of Arizona’s harsh thunderstorms last year the diving lady dove for the last time and the historic neon sign tumbled down to the Starlite parking lot.

But not willing to let this piece of history and representative of a time gone by be forgotten the Mesa Preservation Foundation is leading the campaign to restore her to her former glory.  The cost of restoration is estimated to be $60,000 to $65,000 and the foundation has set up a Facebook page along with accepting donations through PayPal on its own site to help fund the project.

And speaking of the Mesa Preservation Foundation’s website you can see images of the Diving Lady, both pre and post storm, including the one here taken by yours truly.