Friday, March 31, 2006

You Can't Handle the Truth!

According to this story on, the Archdiocese of Boston's newspaper fired a freelance photographer who took a photo of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia making an obscene geature. The paper's editor said it wasn't personal, but he needed people on staff "he could trust."

The photographer, Peter Smith, apparently breached that "trust" not by taking the photo, but by making it available to the press. Smith said he released the photo after Justice Scalia said a story about the incident in the Boston Herald incorrectly characterized the gesture. Smith said the paper got the story right and that Justice Scalia was spinning his actions to deflect criticism.

By "trust" I presume the editor means he wants to hire people that will tow the Conservative line and not make waves. Smith, a 10-year veteran of the newspaper, apparently is not one of those people.

Smith should not feel bad about being fired by the Archdiocese of Boston. In fact, he should be relieved. They obviuosly don't stand for Christian values. They obviously don't believe in freedom of the press. And they obviously don't believe in the truth.

(Full Disclosure: I was raised Roman Catholic and attended Catholic schools for 12 years).

But then, this is the Catholic Church we're talking about here. I don't think anyone should be surprised by this.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

News Flash: Microsoft Has a Sense of Humor

Apparently Microsoft does have a sense of humor. Case in point: on its Piracy web page, the graphic at the top of the page features a man holding a laptop. But the thing is, the laptop is an Apple iBook G4

Someone at Microsoft obviously is having some fun at Steve Jobs's expense.

Pretty funny.

Pictures Don't Lie. But Politicians Do.

It seems that San Diego Republican Congressional candidate Howard Kaloogian is trying to pull one over on the voters by posting a photo on his campaign website of what he says is Baghdad, but to most everyone looks more like Turkey. The photo shows a peaceful city, with people milling about enjoying a leisurely day. Kaloogian says this proves that the media is only reporting the bad news and that things in Iraq are not as bad as they are making it out to be.

Here's what the would-be congressman has to say about the photo on his web site:

We took this photo of dowtown [sic] Baghdad while we were in Iraq. Iraq (including Baghdad) is much more calm and stable than what many people believe it to be. But, each day the news media finds any violence occurring in the country and screams and shouts about it - in part because many journalists are opposed to the U.S. effort to fight terrorism.

The trouble is that everyone on the blogs has been picking apart the photo: the fact that the shops lack Arabic writing on their signs, the women are dressed in decidedly un-Moslem garb, one sign says "2.Noter", which is Turkish for Notary (the 2 probably means the business is on the second floor).

Josh Marshall has a good piece about it on his Talking Points Memo blog.

I can understand why the Republicans would want to push the idea that Iraq is improving (even if it isn't). They want to win an election in the midst of an unpopular war. But in their zeal to win, they've gone overboard on this one. Kaloogian did not need to post a bogus photo and claim it's Baghdad. I'm sure you can get some photos in Baghdad today that would look calm and peaceful (at least in the Green Zone anyway). There's no need to keep lying about things and cheating, though that seems to be the Republican way these days.

UPDATE: The mystery has been solved (now that didn't take too long, did it?) The photo was taken in Turkey, the Istanbul suburb of Bakirkoy. Here's the proof.

UPDATE 3-30: The Kaloogian saga keeps getting better and better. This clueless hack has now apologized for posting the bogus Iraq photo (he blamed it on a staffer who stopped in Turkey on the way beck from Iraq) and replaced it with one that shows how peaceful Baghdad really is. Check out the photo here. Scroll down to the bottom of the page.

Something fishy is going on with his website. It's being redirected to another, unrelated site. I don't know if it's been hacked or it's intentional. Anyway, the posted photo is an aerial view of a section of Baghdad showing building and trees, no people, not even anything identifiable as Baghdad. There's some question as to whether this photo too is really of Iraq.

All I have to say is WTF!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Hello, Sweetheart. Get Me Rewrite

Ah, the photo magazine. That bastion of knowledge about all things (increasingly these days, digital) photographic. Apparently, all things journalistic don't come into play these days.

Case in point: the March/April 2006 issue of Picture Magazine Their cover touts a story about Apple Aperture software. Trouble is they refer to it as Adobe's New Aperture software. Now either Adobe is putting out a new product to compete with Apple's Aperture (they do, it's called Lightroom), or the editors screwed up the coverlines of the March/April issue.

Curiously, on page six in the latest Picture they have a thumbnail of the cover with the photographer's credit. But the coverlines on the thumbnail are in a different order than on the actual cover. Still, the story about Aperture says Adobe's Aperture.

There is a two page spread ad for Apple's Aperture on the inside cover of the magazine (called the second cover in the magazine biz). Since the coverlines are usually the last thing that gets done, you'd think the editors would be aware of their mistake. I find it hard to believe that an editor for a photo magazine would not be familiar with both Apple's and Adobe's products. Even if they weren't, it's an easy thing to check.

But, you argue, the editors do not know which ads go where in the issue. Ah, but they do. The editor-in-chief, managing editor and copy editors all have what's called a "map" which shows the layout and page each ad is on, who the advertiser is and where the editorial pages go. Anyone in editorial and advertising can get a copy of the map if they need one. They would have known that there is an Apple ad on the second cover. It may have even said "Apple Aperture." Though generally the map is not that specific, only naming the advertiser, not the product advertised.

Still, given such prominent play on the cover, you think someone would have noticed the mistake before it was too late. Since the mistake is repeated on the cover, the thumbnail inside the issue and the cover on the magazine's web site, there was ample opportunity for someone to spot it and change it.

Picture generally is a good magazine. This is just sloppy proofreading. Certainly its not the only magazine with these problems. The king of sloppy proofreading has to be View Camera magazine. But that's another posting for another time.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Can We Finally Shut the Hell Up About It Now?

Even before Nikon announced a launch date for its D200 dSLR earlier this year, there was speculation on the newsgroups and blogs that it would be a D2x killer. The camera would have as many, or more, megapixels than the D2x, it would be just as fast and it would have better high ISO noise levels.

All but one of these turned out to be true.

As is often the case on these newsgroups, the ill-informed, uninformed, and downright stupid people crawl out of the woodwork to give their opinions (which, by the way, are not based on fact, but speculation and stuff they've read posted by other ill-informed morons on other newsgroups). What passes for information is not informative, helpful or correct.

Well, the Nikon D200 has been out for a few months now and all indications are it's an awesome camera. I never doubted this. I knew it would not be a D2x killer, but also knew it would be a worthy camera to add to one's arsenal.

Thom Hogan, a well-respected reviwer of all things Nikon, recently posted a comprehensive review of the D200 on his web site. He admits it's a great camera, but don't dump the Nikon D2x for it.

Here's what Hogan has to say about the D200:

Don't delude yourself into thinking that the D200 is the equivalent to a D2x. It isn't. It may come close in many ways, but if you were to ask me which I prefer to shoot with from an image quality standpoint, my unqualified answer would be the D2x at ISO values up to 400. There's an intangible quality to the D2x images that I'm not able to reproduce with my D200.

Despite what I wrote in the last paragraph, the differences aren't so great that the D200 doesn't make a usable backup body for a pro who normally shoots with a D2x. It does.

So, there you have it. Hogan says it's a worthy backup to the D2x, but won't replace it in the pro's arsenal.

Maybe now all the nattering nabobs on the newsgroups can go back to spewing their ill-informed stupidity about the Nikon D3x and shut the hell up.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Ansel Adams Lost and Found

The Los Angeles Public Library has in its photographic collection 189 photos by Ansel Adams that were shot in Los Angeles around 1940. Much of the collection is of street scenes and portraits, far different from the Ansel Adams landscape fare we're used to seeing.

The photos are worth checking out, if for no other reason to see the breadth of the man's talent.

Some web sites and bloggers are claiming these are "lost" Adams photographs. The LA Public Library makes no such claim. In fact, the photos have been in the library's collection since the 1960s. Hardly lost, but available for anyone who cared to look. The collection is labeled with Adams's name and his birth date, 1902, but there is no date of death. Obviously these photos were cataloged before his death in 1984.

The photos are all black & white and square format. Probably shot with a Hasselblad. Curiously, the library catalog numbers list 4x5 at then end of the number, but the photos are square.

They may be little known photos, but hardly lost.

Anyway, they're worth checking out.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Please Stop with the Useless Reviews

I ran across a "review" of the new Nikon Nikkor 18-200 VR lens on a web site called recently. It typifies the useless garbage that passes for photography reviews on blogs these days. I think it's time we stop with the useless, stupid "reviews" that don't help anyone and don't add anything to the discussion of photography.

This "review" is basically review of a review (?), a rehash of Thom Hogan's comprehensive review of the lens. The problem is the writer of the"review" screwed it up royally, posting contradictory information at nearly every turn in the short piece.

Here's the "review" in its entirety:

Heads-up Nikon photographers. The Nikkor 18-200mm lens has been reviewed, and it looks like at $750, it's a pretty great piece of glass.

You get a little bit of everything with this lens. Zoom, Wide angle, and everything in between. And it all comes out looking good according to trials. To summarize:

The not-so-good:
Variable Aperture - f5.6 at full 200mm, makes for less than optimal results in low light
Distortion - Wide end distortion can apparently be visible
Build Quality - as with most 'budget' priced lenses, the lower price comes from somewhere

The good:
Great Optics - no complaints at all
Excellent zoom - if you want full zoom, you got it
Price - this all in one can't get much better at $750.

It finishes with a link to Thom Hogan's real review.

If you read this "review" closely, you'll notice the writer states that the lens "is a pretty great piece of glass," which Thom Hogan's review says as well. The entire "review" was lifted from Thom Hogan's. The writer then goes on to say that the wide-end distortion of the lens is visible, which is one of the lens's bad points. The he goes on to say that the lens has "great optics"!

So how can the lens have great optics if it exhibits visible wide-end distortion? Thom Hogan states in his review that the lens exhibits visible distortion at both ends. Still, he rates it highly:

Distortion performance is good. At both ends there's measurable distortion (about 1 percent complicated barrel at the wide end, slightly less than 0.5% simple pincushion at the telephoto extreme).

This isn't an architectural lens, but it's far from a fun-house lens.

Thom Hogan knows how to do a review. He actually uses the product in real world situations and posts his informed conclusions. You can take his reviews and make informed decisions about whether or not to buy the product.

With the "review", you can't. It's garbage. A waste of bandwidth. The writer has nerve even calling it a review. It helps no one to publish this drivel under the guise of reviews. The writer should have just posted the link to Thom Hogan's review and left it at that.

But that's the problem with the net these days and with blogs in particular. Everyone thinks they are an expert. Not everyone is.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Book Cover Photo Causes Grief Down South

And the Forrest Gump award goes to...

From the "Stupid is as Stupid Does" department comes this little tidbit from the world of book publishing.

Apparently someone from Alabama is suing book author Warren St. John because his publishing house used a photo of a 1972 Dodge Champion RV on the cover of the paperback version of St. John's book "Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer: A Road Trip into Fan Mania." The book, about the fanatics that call themselves Crimson Tide fans (those that follow the University of Alabama college football team) features a green RV on the cover, similar to one owned by a main character in the book. St. John bought himself a similar RV and changed the name of the RV to "The Hawg" for the book. The plaintiff calls his RV "The Toad."

As if that weren't stupid enough, the plaintiff has this to say about the "trauma" inflicted on him by St. John's use of the photo on his book:

Plaintiff as a proximate consequence of said invasion of Plaintiff's privacy was caused to suffer the following injuries and damages, to-wit: Plaintiff's RV "The Toad" is no longer a signature that uniquely identifies Plaintiff with Crimson Tide Fans and financial gain to Defendant(s) from unlawful exploitation of Plaintiff's likeness.

Basically this idiot is saying the books' publication has taken away his "fame" and bragging rights as the retarded poster boy for Crimson Tide fans, because now his RV is mistaken for "The Hawg," rather than being recognized at "The Toad." Apparently he thinks he's identified with his RV.

By the way, the plaintiff's name is Ron St. John. He's not related to the author.

I've heard of stupid, but this is a special kind of stupid. Maybe the plaintiff should go back to playing his banjo on the porch and forget all this nonsense.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Subway Shutterbuggin'

After being threatened with a lawsuit, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which runs the NYC subway system, says it will not enforce a ban on underground photography.

The MTA said earlier this month that it would aggressively discourage photography in the subway, because of the threat of terrorism. If you were caught with a camera underground, a cop would come up to you and "suggest" you cease and desist. Of course, terrorists with cameraphones were not accosted, only innocent tourists from Kansas with their little digital point & shoots.

Cops would come up to you in the subway and basically tell you it was illegal to photograph there and please stop. Since they carry guns, it would make sense to comply. Of course, there is no law on the books making photography in the subways illegal. But why argue with a cop?

So now the police department says it will no longer tell people to stop photographing in the subway. But how much do you want to bet someone comes forward three weeks from now and says they were threatened with arrest for photographing in the subway?

Of all the things transit cops have to worry about to keep the subway secure, photography should not be one of them. As I said, a terrorist is not going to be walking around with a Hasselblad taking pictures of trains. They'll most likely have a cameraphone or something smaller (a Minox perhaps, if they're prone to cliches.)

It's good that the police department admits that the ban was ridiculous. Even if it took the threat of a lawsuit to make them realize it.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Missing Link

Dutch online digital camera review site Let's Go Digital, which is translated into English and a number of other languages, apparently can't figure out how to translate web site URLs.

The site ran a "news" story about Ilford Photo's new web site. That story is datelined March 14. Never mind that Ilford Photo put out a press release about its new site on February 25. So they publish their news a bit late.

The only problem is that while the story is packaged as a "news" story (and is pretty stale, having been posted almost a month after the fact), it's really a word-for-word transcription of Ilford Photo's press release. Look for yourself. Read the Let's Go Digital story here and compare it to Ilford Photo's press release here.

And if that weren't bad enough, Let's Go Digital spent the time to transcribe the press release verbatim on its site, but cut the story off at the sentence that contains the URL to Ilford Photo's web site. So basically, you have a 690 word "story" about a new web site, on an Internet review site, but the "story" contains not one URL or even a mention of how to access the new web site they are writing about.

This is the Internet boys. It's all about interactivity. The whole point is to be able to jump from place to place. Writing a "story" about a web site but failing to mention the web site's URL is amateur hour. You managed to snag a screen shot and an Ilford Photo logo, so would it have killed you to copy the URL?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

National Geographic's Fish Story

When you think of magazine photography, the first thing that comes to mind is National Geographic magazine, the Mount Everest of editorial photography.

Well, apparently someone pulled the wool over their eyes (or the whale blubber, as it were). It seems that this time, the editors at National Geographic Adventure (NGA) were asleep at the wheel.

In the February 2006 issue of NGA, they ran a photo of a Humpback Whale breaching the water, with a female swimmer close by. The photo was apparently shot in Hawaii.

Turns out the photo, which was a stock image from Getty Images, was not a true photograph but a composite. According to NGA they weren't aware of this when they published the image.

In their March 2006 issue they ran this correction:

Early in the selection process we were assured by the photographer and his agency that the photo was real. While Hawaii is a place where magical things happen, further technical analysis proved - and the photographer eventually admitted - that the image was a digital composite.

I'm sure if they would have known it was a composite they would have labeled it as such when they ran it. But they didn't.

If they would have looked closely at the image (hell, even if they would have just looked at the image from across the hall), it would have raised a few red flags.

For one thing, the breaching whale did not cause any wake or splashing water. For another, the size of the whale and the size of the swimmer were all out of proportion. In the image, the swimmer looks to be a few yards away from the whale. At that distance, the whale would have been huge compared to the swimmer. It was not.

But the largest red flag that should have been waving in the NGA offices when they decided to run this photo is this one: in Hawaii, it's illegal for humans to swim with or even approach within 100 yards of a whale. You can swim with the dolphins, but not the whales. The only way someone could legally get that close to a whale in the open ocean is if a whale happened to swim by. Once they saw the photo they should have known it was a fake. An illustration. A digital composite. Call it what you will, but they should have asked if it was authentic or a composite.

Apparently they didn't. Apparently the photographer didn't volunteer that information either.

Which brings up the question, was the photographer trying to pull one over on them? Or did he (or she) think no one could be stupid enough to think the photo was real. If that was the case, the photographer obviously underestimated the stupidity of the NGA photo editors.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Mamiya's ZD Finally Arrives

The Mamiya ZD DSLR is finally beginning to show up on dealers' shelves in Europe and Japan. The camera, which was announced two years ago, sports a full frame 22 megapixel sensor.

The medium format digital camera, which uses Mamiya's superb glass, has been eagerly awaited by many, who no doubt hope it was worth the wait.

However, after waiting two years, I wonder if digital technology hasn't already passed the camera by. It would be a shame to plunk down $12,000 for a ZD body, and nearly a grand for a lens, only to find that the camera is already a dinosaur.

There's no word from Mamiya if the ZD will be available in the US anytime soon.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Giving Paparazzi a Bad Name

It seems the trend these days among Hollywood celebrities is staging their own paparazzi photos, which are then sold to magazines like People, Us Weekly and the National Enquirer.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, celebrities like Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Simpson are hiring their own photographers "to capture supposedly private rendezvous, tipping off reporters to their whereabouts and developing relationships of mutual back-scratching with magazine editors."

The paper dubs this Fake Paparazzi Journalism. It's a practice that I think gives real paparazzi a bad name (as if their reputations could get any worse). It also makes their jobs that much harder if they have to compete with hired guns who are strategically positioned for the "money" shots.

Says the Wall Street Journal:

Stars get to participate in the framing of their image and magazines appear to give readers a glimpse of the real celebrity untouched by public-relations varnish.

So now we can't even trust paparazzi photos to tell us the real story behind our favorite celebrities.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Digital Rules at PMA. Film, Not So Much

PMA 2006 has come and gone. The annual photographic manufacturer lovefest has concluded in the town that Mickey built (that's Orlando, Florida, the home of Disney World) and the consensus is (drumroll please) digital is here to stay.

Well, duh!

By all accounts, this was the year that digital photography and digital cameras finally overtook film at the show. The usual suspects trotted out their usual fawning "reviews" over the latest digital this or that (..."Listening to the needs of the marketplace, they made the LCD screen 0.0006 of an inch larger!"). Many of the reviews were of cameras that the manufacturers wouldn't let anyone touch. They had to be spied behind glass because they were either prototypes (and non-working ones at that) or mock ups.

But amid all the flash (sorry, couldn't resist) of the newest digital doohickies was one piece of heartening news courtesy of Fuji Film. The company introduced two new professional films at the show. That's right. I said film. As in, well, film.

Fuji announced Fujichrome T64 Professional Film, a new ISO 64 tungsten-type color transparency film that it says "delivers ultra-fine grain and optimum tonal scale and gradation under tungsten lighting." It also announced Fujichrome Provia 400X Professional Film, which it says provides "new levels of color saturation in the ISO400 class." 400X will replace Provia 400F. Both films will be available in 35mm and 120 size.

Any other year, this would have hardly been news. In fact, it would hardly even get noticed. Oh, wait, it hardly did get noticed. Amidst all the fancy new digital stuff, the photographic press hardly took the time to notice these two films, let alone write about them.

But the fact that Fuji is still committed to film in any form is good news for us analog types. The fact that Fuji is even doing R&D into analog products, when others like Kodak and Agfa are curtailing or dropping film altogether, is good news. It means that film will be with us for a while longer. It may not be available in the variety it once was, but at least it's still around.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Happy Birthday Victor Hasselblad

In celebration of Victor Hasselblad's 100th birthday, Hasselblad underwhelms the photography world by introducing the 503CWD digital camera. The integrated digital camera is priced at a whopping $14,000.

So what do you get for 14,000 clams? Well, not a whole lot.

The 503CWD is based on a specially designed Hasselblad 503CW film camera. The company basically slapped a 16-megapixel digital back onto a 503CW and added some electrical contacts.

For $14,000 I'll settle for nothing less than 25 megapixels. A 39 megapixel back or larger would have been nice too. Of course, 16 megapixels on a medium format back is not the same as a 16-megapixel 35mm DSLR. The medium format back kicks the DSLR's butt all over the place. Still, for $14,000 I expect a lot more.

No doubt the camera will be a killer performer. How could it not be with all that Zeiss glass available? Still, only 14 megapixels? C'mon Hasselblad. Not to mention the fact that the back is integral. Which means you can't use film if you want to. It would have been nice to have the dedicated back and film capability too. But then, you could buy a Hasselblad 503CW film camera and a 39 megapixel digital back (for upwards of $30,000 or so) to slap on and have the best of both worlds.

But then you wouldn't get the limited edition Victor Hasselblad biography booklet that's included with the 503CWD. Or Victor Hasselblad's signature on the camera. Oh, yeah, and the 1GB compact flash card that Hasselblad throws in too.