Thank you for coming over to read this month’s newsletter. Many of you have written over the last four weeks about your photography questions and I’ve posted a few answers to the blog. There were tons of questions about cameras and lenses and travel photography.
It looks like Nikon will announce some new cameras during August. My hope is for a new FX body to replace the Nikon D700. Also, I’m hoping for a new high-end compact camera with interchangeable lenses (ILC). Hopefully the ILC will be something that I can put in my pocket, but also have high-performance focusing and frame rate. The rumor mill points to an announcement around August 24th, so keep your eyes peeled!
Despite not traveling much for workshops or photo business, I still put a few thousand miles on the vehicles while exploring and taking photos. One of my destinations was to Redding California for a family wedding. As you might know, Redding isn’t notorious for its stunning scenery or cityscapes. However, Redding does have one of the neatest bridges I’ve ever seen called the Sundial Bridge.
Each morning while my family slept, I went down to the bridge to shoot in the twilight. I knew they wouldn’t want to get up with me to photograph in the wee hours. Also, I knew they would rather hang out by the hotel pool later in the day, rather than photograph the local scene. Sometimes being a photographer on a family trip requires some compromises. With that in mind, check out the article below titled “How to Capture Great Images without Annoying Your Non-Photographer Travel Companions.”
October brings our annual Art of Travel Photography workshop in Washington’s beautiful North Cascades. We still have seats available and would love to have you along for the adventure. Also, if you are considering a trip to Africa this year, we are down to our last seats for the November photo safari to Tanzania. You can find more information on both of these adventures down below.
For you social media gurus out there, I’ve recently joined the Google+ fray and have started posting new photos and comments. Feel free to drop me a line or a comment!
So far, I really like Google+ as the developers seem to have solved many of the frustrations of Facebook. For example, with Google+ you can choose how your contacts are arranged while deciding who gets to see what information. Also, the site tends to work much more like a blog and less like a platform for advertising. If you are on Google+, then come on over and say hi.
Stuff I Like This Month
Nik has now developed their Snapseed iOS app for the iPhone and iPod Touch. If you’ve already purchased the app, then the upgrade is free. By the way, some of my images are used on their website to advertise the app!
2. Native Viewing for RAW Files in Windows
Microsoft released a new Codec for Windows that allows users to natively view RAW files.
3. Mount Your iPad
Tether Tools new has a mounting option for your iPad.
4. Free Photo Magazines
5. The Photographers by National Geographic
Here’s a National Geographic documentary titled The Photographers that you might enjoy. It was created in the days of film, but still has inspiring footage that should encourage you in your photography.
July GOAL Assignment: From Afar
Last month’s GOAL (Get Out And Learn) Assignment was to purposely take photos so that the subject was minimized. I wanted you to take shots so that although the photo was taken from a distance, the subject was still an important part of the scene.
Conventional wisdom dictates that your photos will be better if you get closer to the subject. Most of the time, I wholeheartedly agree with this wisdom and work hard to follow suit. But, every once in a while it is good to break the rules to see what happens. Many times, it is only through photo experimentation that you break through an artistic barrier.
During July, I experimented with photos “from afar” as I traveled in Oregon, California and Washington. In each locale, I attempted some shots where I worked at minimizing the subject to make it seem smaller, but still important in the overall scene.
One of my favorite attempts with this approach was at a city park in Corvallis, Oregon. In the middle of the park stood an incredibly large deciduous tree and right underneath was a steam train locomotive. I photographed the scene from a few different angles and finally found a composition that worked for this month’s GOAL Assignment. I used the tree as the main foreground element, which minimized the train so it became less prominent in the composition.
I framed up the shot with my Nikon D700 and 14-24mm f2.8. The contrast was very high so I shot a 7-frame HDR sequence. I put the frames together in Nik HDR Efex Pro and then finished it in Photoshop CS5.
At other times during the month, I shot some pics that were just terrible flops. In the interest of “teaching,” I’ll share one of the images. Look at the pic to the left with the boat and the gray sky. My thought was that I would use the boat as the subject. I’d frame the image with a wide-angle lens so the sky and water would dwarf the boat. The result?
The best thing I can say about it was that I was “experimenting.” The ugly truth is that this photo suffers from poor composition, no definable subject, and major lack of inspiration. It represents the perfect example of a poorly conceived snapshot.
So, What Makes a Photo Taken from Afar Work?
1. Main Subject is Recognizable
Make sure the mountain or person in the scene is clearly separated from the background and easily identifiable.
2. The Rules of Composition Still Apply
Don’t forget to place the main elements using the rule of thirds. Doing this unconsciously tells your viewer that the item is important, and should be paid attention to.
3. Strong Color
Strong Colors can help improve photos from afar. Yellows and reds are great colors for your minimized subject since they really draw people’s attention.
4. Leading Lines
Leading lines can help draw the viewer to the subject. For example, take a look at the photo of the Sundial Bridge. The leading lines help lead the viewer’s eyes into the frame and up to the sundial.
Thanks for taking the time to participate in July’s GOAL Assignment. Hope to see some of your pics soon!
August GOAL Assignment: The Doors
Everyone loves a good door photo. Your GOAL (Get Out And Learn) Assignment for August is to throw your entire photographic skillset at photographing doors. Red doors. Barn doors. Car doors. Dollhouse doors. Any door is good and all doors will do.
Post your photos to our Flickr group!
CEO Interview: Foto Bridge
I’d like to introduce you to a relatively new USA company called FotoBridge that specializes in scanning slides and negatives. Many of the readers of this website are long-time film shooters who’ve amassed thousands of images over the years. Lots of folks have asked me to suggest the best options for digitizing their files.
For many years, I’ve been recommending a company called Scan Cafe to photographers who’ve contacted me. Scan Cafe has an excellent reputation, but they require users to ship their slides to India in order to complete the scanning process. I have my own large inventory of about 14,000 slides that are keyworded and archived. Since I live in the USA, I’ve wanted to find a company that was domestic but also reasonable in pricing. Additionally, since I use my photos in books and other editorial projects, I really need professional caliber scans at the highest resolution and bit depth.
A few months ago I was reading an entrepreneurship magazine and saw an article on a new USA based company called FotoBridge that specializes in film and slide scanning. I emailed the company to find out more information and then sent off some slides for them to scan to check the quality of their service.
I asked FotoBridge to scan my images at their highest resolution (4000ppi) and highest bit depth (16-bit). The results of the scans were sent back to me on a CD-ROM as TIFFs. Each of the photos ends up being approximately 17 megapixels with a file size of about 105 MB. If you scan the images in 8-bit mode, then the file size ends up being somewhere between 20MB and 30MB. After seeing the results of the scans, I can say that I’m pleased with the results and would recommend them for future work.
At the same time I sent in my slides for test scans, I asked FotoBridge’s CEO Ed O’Boyle if he’d be open to an interview. I thought it would be great if the readers of this website got to know the company’s CEO a little better, so I interviewed him last week. The interview between Ed and I is printed below:
Mike Hagen: Ed, I’m intrigued by your personal story since I also resigned from a corporate job to start my own business. Tell me about your decision to leave your corporate gig and start your own scanning company.
Ed O’Boyle: Most of my career prior to founding FotoBridge was spent in management consulting, with a couple breaks along the way. I have been very fortunate over the years to have worked with extremely smart and capable people. I worked with some great companies too, from small Internet startups to Fortune 100 global organizations.
Consulting always provided tremendous opportunity for personal growth and a wide diversity of business experience in fast-paced, challenging environments. I guess I always viewed consulting as somewhere in between your standard corporate career path and entrepreneurship. For all those many years – at some level, it fulfilled a need for autonomy, creativity, risk taking and variety. I think some would argue an entrepreneurial bent is a necessary characteristic of successful management consultants.
What makes successful new companies tick has fascinated me and engaged my imagination for as long as I can remember. I think the decision to leave consulting start FotoBridge.com in 2007 was spurred by many things. I had always had a passionate interest in photography, technology and digital media. And by that time, I had been informally researching the nascent photo digitizing market and monitoring developments for a couple years by then, so it was the idea I knew I wanted to pursue. I saw a need that I felt I was very much in tune to address. It was something that I believed was important work in and of itself and had the type of business challenge, need for creative solutions, opportunity and risk I had become increasingly drawn to at the time.
Additionally, the consulting world I was immersed in was undergoing some fundamental change and restructuring. A few years prior, in the wake of the Enron scandal, the firm I was with, PwC Consulting was sold to IBM. Suddenly, the culture and autonomy that attracted me to consulting was changing and adapting to a much larger “corporate” model. IBM is a great company, with perhaps some of the best “corporate” career opportunities in America, but I feared becoming a square peg in a round corporate hole. Long story short, they incented me to stay through the end of 2006. At which time I had a window of opportunity to assess my priorities – and of course my thoughts focused doing my own thing and creating a startup.
So events, experiences, timing and opportunity seemed to converge for the founding of FotoBridge.com in 2007.
MH: What inspired you to start a photo scanning business rather than something else?
EO: I think as far back as 2003 or 2004, I recognized that I had a personal challenge on the horizon — to digitally preserve a lifetime’s legacy collection of photo prints, slides and negatives. I had a lot of time, expense and personal emotion invested in my collection. I convinced myself it had to be done eventually, for all the right reasons. I had thousands upon thousands of photos that were in effect my life’s time machine that weren’t accessible, weren’t necessarily safe, and were probably deteriorating. Initially, I thought someday I’d bite the bullet, buy a scanner and tough it out. But that someday never came. Despite being absolutely convinced it was not an optional project, it never seemed to happen.
Personally, I knew I would gladly hand over my collection to a reputable service for digital conversion, if it was affordable. I’m at the tail end of the baby boomer demo, so it made sense to me as you step back into the core of the demographic, the size and value of these personal and family collections would likely increase. It occurred to me that preservation and permanence would become increasingly vital as time passed. At the same time, I knew we were witnessing an explosion of digital image sharing, not to mention a burgeoning market for creative photo services and products. While these markets were being driven largely by the “born digital” images of today’s digital cameras, I believed there could be a significant knock-on effect for converted images.
The idea for a national photo scanning service started to germinate a bit more for me probably around mid-2005 when a friend lost his mother and was searching for the best way to quickly and efficiently preserve a very large collection of family photos (and share with siblings spread across the country). He called me and asked what I recommended. I did some quick research and found only a couple small companies providing quality capture and digital conversion services. The market was clearly immature and highly fragmented, much to my surprise. I made a mental note and started to track the early signs of growth in the national photo scanning services market.
MH: What year did you start your business and how have you grown since then?
EO: We started mid-2007, had our first online customers that November 2007. During the first quarter of 2011 we passed the 10,000 customer mark and exceeded 20,000,000 photos scanned (photo prints, slides and negatives).
MH: What sets you apart from the other professional slide/negative scanning services such as www.ScanCafe.com or www.slidescanning.com?
EO: In 2007 when we started, and to some extent today, photo scanning service providers seemed to follow one of three paths. One was to fully automate and provide a low cost, and in some cases, less than highest quality offering or adopt a more manual, operator centric job-shop approach. The latter allowed for higher quality in some (but not all) cases, at much higher prices and longer turnaround times. A variation of the job-shop approach is to reduce the cost of service by off-shoring the labor component to a low labor cost country. Today, all three approaches exist and to some extent are finding an audience. Not surprisingly, customer requirements, perceptions and preferences vary.
Our goal from the beginning was to synthesize the best from the first two approaches, then innovate in a creative way that allowed us to effectively deliver quality results at a competitive price without outsourcing critical processes. This hybrid approach leverages our unique adaptations of certain technologies with highly optimized processes and a simplified, price-fixed model. To be successful, we knew we needed to engineer the best technical platform for applying our photographic capture and digital image optimization skills. One that effectively automated tasks that systems could do better, less subjectively, and more consistently than humans, yet allowed for application of human expertise through manual, image by image processes.
Trust, safety, privacy and value are paramount for our clients when choosing us. We define value along four essential dimensions. Quality, speed (turnaround), price and customer experience. We’ve designed our model from scratch to exceed expectations, engender trust and ensure our ability to deliver the best possible value.
From the start, we recognized that going through the steps to organize a photo collection and successfully procure the right service was necessarily a “project” for customers. It was imperative for us to simplify the process from start to finish, at the same time provide a compelling value. By eliminating and reducing friction at every step, start-to-finish – end-to end, we wanted to not only help convince people that digital preservation was personally important to everyone, but provide them an easy means to get it done.
We authored a brief guide to help photographers and consumers define their requirements of a photo scanning service, which can be downloaded here.
MH: Tell me about the equipment you use and the resulting files. What file types, dpi, and bit depths are available?
EO: Currently, we use Nikon, Kodak, and Epson equipment. Our systems, processes and equipment are continuously evaluated and innovations are deployed as technologies and approaches advance.
We deliver high quality JPEG images on DVD/CD for all photo print, slides, and negatives packages. We can also provide Internet delivery or upload images to a dedicated hosting service account. For slides and negatives, we offer a TIFF option, which includes 3 file versions – TIFF, JPEG and JPEG redux (“Web Ready Images” are downsized JPEGs useful for digital frames, smart phones or anywhere full size files are not required). The TIFF option includes a mobile hard drive for most packages. Our standard 35mm slide and negative packages include 2000dpi film scanning, 3000dpi and 4000dpi are options (photo print scanning standard is 300dpi, with 400dpi and 600dpi options). Standard bit depth is 24 (8 per channel) although higher bit depths can be requested as an additional option for slides and negatives.
MH: Do you offer other services such as dust/scratch removal or image touch up?
EO: We don’t provide the type of photo restoration services necessary for fixing or recreated content that has been physically damaged in the original media. We do air blow for dust and use infrared digital cleaning (aka digital ICE), which can eliminate or drastically mitigate the presence of stubborn particles, fingerprints and fine scratches for transmissive media. Our process also includes 100% Quality Assurance that ensures quality capture and resolves issues such as color shift, red-eye, orientation, etc.
MH: Most of our readers are photographers, but many of the shooters also have old movies on film, VHS and other formats. Talk a little about your transfer services for movies.
EO: Our Movie Film-to-Digital and Video-to-DVD services were launched in the middle of 2010 only after thousands of our photo scanning customers requested the service. Our initial ambition was to focus exclusively on the still image digital preservation market, building a brand around quality, simplicity and value in a market we were very passionate about. Needless to say, the passion of our customers in preserving their legacy movie and videotape collections infected us too after the onslaught of requests.
But before entering the market, we needed to prove we could deliver the same value proposition we became known for in the photo market. That included the highest possible technical quality transfers, at a super value, and with an exceptional customer experience and support. It took us quite a while to devise and optimize the right solutions and processes, but we are very happy with the results.
As with our photo prints, slides, and negatives offerings – the Movie Film-to-Digital and Video-to-DVD packages are complete, inclusive, flat-rate solutions. Every package includes inspection, cleaning, standard repairs, professional high-quality digital capture, audio transfer, opening titles, background music, and enhancements. Our Platinum option includes a mobile hard drive containing uncompressed editable .AVI/.MOV files.
Movie Film-to-Digital Packages apply to 8mm, Super8mm, and 16mm movie film. Video Tape-to-DVD Packages apply to VHS, S-VHS, VHS-C, BetaMax, Video 8, Hi8, Digital-8, and MiniDV.
MH: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
EO: I’d like to encourage everyone to take stock of his or her legacy photo collections. It seems that today, that despite our collective infatuation with the next new thing, people are in fact looking back and increasingly seeking to mine and preserve important personal and commercial content. That’s not surprising, it always been there and today’s devices and digital options are expanding the utility and pure joy of accessing newly rescued and digitally preserved image collections.
For us, it was our passion for photography and interest in preserving our own visual heritage led us here. What we’ve learned since we started FotoBridge was that we underestimated the broader impacts. Today, we are constantly in awe of the significance and value of the content we are entrusted with on a daily basis. Sometimes it is mind-boggling. Beyond the deeply personal, memory soaked visual artifacts that are frozen in time and extremely treasured, there is much, much more than we expected.
Both from individuals and organizations, many of these efforts evolve into intensely interesting and engaging trips of discovery through time. In many cases, images of significant historical, commercial, educational, and cultural significance are rediscovered and preserved. One can theorize about what types of unique content must be “out there”, locked away in inaccessible forms. But to actually experience the rebirth of these amazing photographs and the information inherent in what they capture just blows us away. We love what we do.
MH: Thanks for your time and thoughtful responses Ed!
EO: Thanks Mike!
Photo Techniques: How to Capture Great Images without Annoying Your Non-Photographer Travel Companions
It goes without saying that if you are reading this article, you probably love photography. I bet that you and I could easily spend an entire day taking photos in a city park and not once look at our watches. Photo enthusiasts love the creative process and the mental focus required to capture that great shot. We don’t usually care how long it takes.
But, when we go on holiday or travel with non-photographers, we often feel guilty about holding up the rest of the group while we take our photos. We always lag behind, only to catch up later and find our friends with their hands on their hips, frustrated by our slowness.
You want stunning photos and that’s going to take some extra time. Your traveling companions want to check off a bunch of items on the sightseeing list, which doesn’t allow for lollygagging. How do we make it all work together so everyone is happy?
I have a couple kids and a (very patient) wife who allow me a little bit of slack in the photo department. However, the truth is that when it’s dinnertime and we are in paradise, then the rumbling stomachs win out over the camera every time. Here are ten methods I use while traveling with my friends, my family and my camera gear.
1. Prepare Your Camera Ahead of Time
This is essential. You want everything to be ready to go so all you have to do is compose the shot and take the photo. The last thing you want to do is hunt and peck through your camera buttons to set white balance, exposure, auto focus, etcetera (check out our free Nikon Camera setup guides!).
2. Consider Shooting in Program Mode
3. Make a Written Photo Plan
If you know exactly what you want to photograph during the trip, then it is much easier to plan everyone’s schedule. For example, if you want to photograph Trevi Fountain in Rome at twilight, then let everyone know the date and time you plan to make the shot. People are much more likely to allow you photographic freedom if you’ve already communicated your schedule.
4. Offer Your Traveling Companions a “Gift” for Letting You Slow the Group Down
5. Set Up the Shot Before Posing the group for Photos
Have the tripod ready, timer set, and the exposure all figured out. Be sure to take a test shot before the group gets into place. Once this is done, pose everyone, snap the pic and be done.
6. Don’t Expect the Same Level of Photography as You Would Traveling Alone
I know that my photo output falls by a substantial amount when I travel with my kids and family. I have to balance the time I spend with them with my desire to make great images. Learn to hang out without having to take pictures (is this possible?).
7. Get into Better Physical Condition
Photography is difficult all by itself simply because of the added weight of the gear. Add to that the need to run ahead of the group or lag behind and later catch up, and you have a recipe for hyperventilation. Obviously, the better shape you are in, the less of a burden you’ll be on your group. Also, you’ll get better photos since you’ll spend more time exploring scenes if you know you can actually catch up with the group.
8. Plan to Get Up Early Before the Group
I always try to wake up before sunrise when I travel in order to get some early morning shots before the rest of the group wakes up. After my shots are done, I come back to eat breakfast with everyone and then we leave for the rest of the day. I feel good about making the extra effort and I am energized for the rest of the day. I also now that I made some good shots in the morning and don’t feel as much pressure to get shots later in the day when the entire group would normally be waiting on me.
9. Pack as Light as Possible
I generally don’t bring my big professional SLR gear when traveling with groups. Rather, I bring my smaller DX sized cameras like the Nikon D7000 and some smaller lenses. I know that if I bring all my heavy f2.8 stuff, I’ll really be struggling to keep up with the group. A great travel kit is something like a Nikon D7000, 18-200mm zoom and a 35mm f1.4. If wide-angle photography is your thing, then swap out the 35mm f1.4 for a 10-24mm DX zoom. Bring along a few memory cards and a battery charger and you’ll be ready to go.
10. Take Photos While Everyone Else is Resting
If the group decides to take an afternoon siesta, then use that as an opportunity to get outside for more photos. In fact, I often “encourage” siestas and rest periods for my traveling companions just so I can get out to take some pics. Don’t tell my wife I said that.
Special thanks to reader Judy Lee who suggested this topic for the newsletter!
Workshop and Business Updates
Art of Travel Photography in Mazama, WA
Join us this October, 2011 for the Art of Travel Photography workshop to Washington State’s stunning North Cascades. Based out of Mazama, WA we’ll be photographing landscapes, mountains, and the Old Western town of Winthrop. The goal of this trip is to teach photographers how to take better travel images in unfamiliar territory.
There’s still time to sign up for the November 2011 Safari to Tanzania Africa. We’re down to our last seats. Our group of intrepid adventurers will be traveling throughout the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara and Tarangire NP in our specially modified Land Cruisers. It is the trip of a lifetime and a wonderful opportunity to check another item off of your bucket list! Click for more information about the Tanzania, Africa Photo Safari.
These Tanzania safari trips are popular, so I’ve added two more for 2012. The first one will be in May 2012 and the second in November 2012. May 2012 will include the Wildebeest rut during the Great Migration. November 2012 will include the Mara River crossing in Northern Tanzania. You can find more information on these adventures here.
Our photography adventure to the Galapagos Islands is scheduled for September 14th – 23rd, 2012.
The trip includes three nights in Quito Ecuador and seven nights on our expedition yacht in the Galapagos Islands. Prices range from $5700 – $7000 depending on your cabin choice. Join us for the trip of a lifetime.
Custom Group Trips
If you have a group and want to arrange a custom photo safari or photo trip, contact us and we’ll put together an incredible itinerary just for you. Simply email or call and weill give you all the details for how to go about creating the trip of your dreams.
Every month I run private workshops for people who want to learn in a one-on-one environment. These are great for folks who want to focus on specific topics related directly to their interests. Topics have included product photography, learning your camera, Lightroom, Capture NX2, wedding photography, Photoshop, color management, nature photography, digital workflow, macro photography, location portraiture and many others. I also regularly consult with businesses, schools, organizations and museums to assist with their photographic and digital workflow needs.
Call (253) 851-9054 or email ([email protected]) if you have questions about private tutoring or consulting.
It is encouraging to hear from so many of you who read the newsletters and comment on their helpfulness. I’m always interested to hear what you’ve been up to, so feel free to drop me a line via email, Facebook, or Google+ any time.
If you need more photo encouragement during the month, be sure to check out our blog for regular updates, news, tips and commentary.
Out There Images, Inc – “Get Out And Learn!”
PO Box 1966
Gig Harbor, WA 98335