Anatomy Of A Winning Ad – “So God Made A Farmer…”

Photo From Dodge Ram Commercial

These words summarized what was arguably the best commercial of the 47th Super Bowl between the Ravens and 49ers. I was not surprised that this Dodge Ram Truck commercial rose to the top of the pack, since I have been a long-time fan of the man whose touching words graced the 2 minute ad – Paul Harvey. The most intriguing aspect of this ad was that it was as low-tech as it gets. No fancy computer graphics. No matinee idols. No pop culture icons. No questionable language. No massive creative ad budget. It was merely the legendary voice of Paul Harvey, who passed away in 2009 at the age of 90, reciting a 35 year old text… and a series of touching photographs. Let’s take a look at the elements of this great ad and understand why it proved to be so appealing to so many – even lifelong inhabitants of big cities whose only experience with farms has been watching them on TV.

Photo From Dodge Ram Commercial
Image Credit – Chrysler Dodge

The Power To Move People – The Messenger

Based on my recent article regarding Looklet’s LookCreator software replacing photographers and models in the clothing catalog arena, some of you may have thought that I was ceding the world of photography to high end computer graphics. Nothing could be further from the truth. I still believe that a photograph can have profound impacts and change people’s minds and hearts, and in some cases, their wallets as well.

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Unwanted: Photographers And Models?

Svetlana

Imagine that instead of setting up for weeks’ worth of fashion photography, complete with models, hundreds of outfits, hair stylists, and makeup artists, you create a virtual catalogue based on computer generated models, photos of body parts, and photographs of clothing items and accessories that customers can interact with. No glamorous models. No famous photographers. No make-up artists. No hair stylists. No expensive studios. Sound surreal? It is already a reality – a virtual one – but a reality nonetheless. Looklet is a company that has developed and delivered the technology that makes this scenario possible.

Svetlana

Technology – A Walk Back In Time

Ever since my days of working in an engineering software company, I have been keenly interested in seeing how fast CAD and imaging innovations would develop and how far they would progress. First came 2D wireframe modeling, which rapidly progressed to 3D surface and solid models. Eventually, integrated CAD modeling software enabled mechanical engineers to provide detailed “walk throughs” of ships, buildings, and car designs. The process of “rendering” further enabled engineers to create much more realistic looks for their designs. The associated rendering software, which blended realistic surfaces, textures, shading, and light reflections on the engineering models, required very expensive computer software and servers – often costing upwards of $150,000 or more. The rendering process could easily take a few days before the software completed its magic. And while impressive in their day, the resultant animated “walk throughs” of the objects could be rather slow and amateurish compared to the simplest of today’s video games.

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Adobe to Provide Creative Suite 2 For Free? Not Quite…

Adobe Creative Suite CS2 Premium

Update: Looks like the information was incorrect after all – Adobe is NOT giving away CS2 for free. According to Dov Isaacs of Adobe, “On behalf of Adobe Systems Incorporated, You have heard wrong! Adobe is absolutely not providing free copies of CS2! What is true is that Adobe is terminating the activation servers for CS2 and that for existing licensed users of CS2 who need to reinstall their software, copies of CS2 that don’t require activation but do require valid serial numbers are available (Special serial numbers are provided on the page for each product download). Apparently there still is no such thing as a free lunch… ;)
See http://forums.adobe.com/thread/1114930

In a rather interesting move, Adobe has made the decision to allow users to download its 2005 Creative Suite Premium (CS2), which includes Photoshop, for free. One can speculate regarding the reasons behind the strategy. On one hand, it is hard to imagine that Adobe was counting on any revenue from this older version, since software firms normally only license the current version of their products. On the other hand, Adobe may be looking to entice some fence sitters to consider easing their way into Photoshop.

Adobe Creative Suite CS2 Premium

How does this benefit you? The Channel Mixer! My main purpose for originally purchasing Photoshop vs. Elements or other program was this one feature. As I demonstrated in my infrared photography article, the Channel Mixer allows you to extract the portions of visible and invisible infrared light in a way no other feature currently provides. This feature may not be exploited as much by others, but it is a prerequisite for those that are serious about infrared photography. I am now hopelessly addicted to the full blown version of Photoshop CS6, but if this feature had been available in other programs, I don’t know how quickly I would have jumped on the Photoshop bandwagon. By allowing users to download Photoshop CS2 for free, Adobe has lowered the costs and challenges for those considering entering the world of infrared photography. And this is just one of the features of Photoshop – there are many more great tools available in Photoshop CS2 that you can utilize for your photography needs.

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All I Want For Christmas Is… A Working Computer!

Christmas Tree

Some intermittent PC problems, followed by a serious crash and some toasted devices, and work associated with reconfiguring a new PC have consumed more of my time lately than I care to admit. All the while, a pile of photography gear has been staring at me daily, crying out to be reviewed. Computers, in their various forms, have become rather ubiquitous. Most of us tend to take them for granted, at least when they are working properly. One cellphone provider recently advertised that upgrading our smartphones wasn’t just about improving technology, but rather an improvement to our very lives. That’s a bit of a stretch, but it is fair to say that some of us indeed identify too much with our technological toys!

“A Little Neglect May Breed Great Mischief”
“For want of a nail, the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe, the horse was lost.
For want of a horse, the rider was lost.
For want of a rider, the battle was lost.
For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.”

– Ben Franklin
Poor Richard’s Almanac

When things go awry, however, we are reminded just how important technology can be to both our professional and personal pursuits. The following post details my recent experience and some insights that may help you prepare for the worst.

Christmas Tree

Attempting To Resurrect The Dead

Having had every model of PC since the original IBM PC produced in 1981, including a few I custom-built, and a number of Macintoshes along the way, I am pretty comfortable dealing with all manner of both software and hardware issues. I have successfully brought a few PCs back from the proverbial “dead.” As such, I have a healthy sense of paranoia regarding PC technology and realize that if anything can go wrong, eventually it will!

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Instagram Me Not

Instagram

Instagram’s recent change to their terms and conditions raised quite a ruckus. It essentially said that the company had the right to sell your photos to someone else without your permission and without compensating you. Ouch… The reactions have been pretty extreme, from users dumping their Instagram accounts to those saying, “Suck it up and stop whining – you aren’t paying for the service!” Each perspective (and everything in between) has some merit.

Instagram

After the internet erupted in flames regarding this issue, Instagram’s co-founder quickly issued an Orwellian statement that went something like this, “Well, I know we stated that we had the right to sell your photos and not compensate you, but that was really not our intent.” Really? Hmmm… let’s look at the language:


“Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you. If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to this provision (and the use of your name, likeness, username, and/or photos (along with any associated metadata)) on your behalf.”

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Lifepixel Adds Anti-Alias Filter Removal Service

D90IR vs D800

Lifepixel, perhaps best known for its high quality infrared digital camera conversions, recently added a new service to its list – removing your DSLR’s anti-aliasing filter. The price varies between $400-500 depending on your specific camera model. The notion of removing a DSLR’s anti-aliasing feature is not new. Maxmax.com has been doing this for years. Anti-alias filter removal, in the digital camera arena, has been thought of in a similar manner to overclocking your PC (before some manufacturers eliminated this capability) or perhaps souping up your car’s engine via a special engine conversion kit – a bit risky but capable of producing good effects. Why is this “risky” with respect to your DSLR? Voiding the warranty for one. Benefits? A sharper image.

With the non-stop onslaught of higher megapixel sensors and technology price reductions, I suspect many people lost interest in the idea of removing their DSLR’s anti-aliasing filter, if they ever contemplated it to begin with. As you may recall from some of the D800 articles on Photography Life, the anti-aliasing filter was introduced to reduce the effects of moire created when photographing subjects with fine, repeating patterns. The anti-aliasing filter accomplished this by slightly diffusing the image, which also slightly reduced sharpness. With the introduction of the Nikon D800E, however, Nikon once again raised this issue to the forefront by offering a camera model with the anti-aliasing filter removed as a product – not as a after-market service. Lifepixel, being one of the premier camera modification service providers, saw an opportunity to capitalize on the new-found interest and market for an anti-aliasing filter removal service. So for a mere $400-$500, you can have your DSLR’s anti-aliasing filter removed and be assured of maximizing your sensor’s resolution. Below is an example discussed by Nasim in his review of the D800 and D800E.

Nikon D800 vs D800E Low-Pass Filter

Chasing Sharpness

I know what some of you may be thinking, “Gee, that seems like a lot of money to gain a bit of sharpness.” Perhaps. But if life has taught me one lesson, it is this – never, ever underestimate people’s willingness to spend money to get a bit of an edge, however slight. That is not a criticism of my fellow man, but merely an observation regarding human nature. I recall when some of us found out about the ability to overclock our PCs. Despite the warnings about “frying” our machines, many of us marched ahead anyway. We were determined to soak up every speed advantage we could find. And while I never ended up turning my PC into a smoldering hunk of silicon and metal, quite a few of my DIY colleagues that were not so lucky!

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Mansurovs Has Become Photography Life!

Logo3

Some of you may have noticed that your familiar URL of mansurovs.com now shows photographylife.com. The primary reasons for the change are listed below. We are working on a new logo (which may look different than the one below) and expect to post it soon. We are also revamping our site based on feedback from our readers.

Logo3

A Different Beginning

Initially, Mansurovs.com was started as a small blog, where Nasim and Lola Mansurov shared their personal and commercial photography, recipes and occasional photography articles. They had no idea that it would grow to become one of the top photography websites, with over 1.5 million visitors a month. Although all recipes and most other personal articles were moved/deleted over time to keep the site relevant to photography, the name of the site and the domain were preserved.

Name Recall

After our recent photography workshop in Colorado, where we had a chance to gather as a team, we realized that some people continued to struggle with recalling the exact spelling of the Mansurovs name. Yes – it seems easy enough, but with respect to attracting and expanding our readership, we want a website name that is easy to recall and spell. And while Google or Bing search capability can often help people find a site name even when it is spelled incorrectly, we don’t want people to wade through a list of possible site names.

Correlation With Subject Matter

Another factor influencing our decision was the fact that the Mansurovs name did not directly correlate to the subject matter – photography. This is certainly not a deal breaker when selecting a site name – there are a variety of sites that have names unrelated to their core material. Having a name that closely relates to your main topic, however, can greatly improve people’s ability to find and recall our site name.

“Raison D’être”

The last factor relates to the very reason for the website’s existence. Our mission is to:

“Build a photography site that provides readers of all abilities with high quality product reviews, news, buying advice, tips and techniques, and other value-added, entertaining material that enriches their photography hobby or career”

We believe that Photography Life better captures the essence of why we continued to expand this site. There are literally thousands of photography sites. We wanted to build one that would prove valuable and serve people’s diverse interests as they grew and expanded over time.

Big Changes Are Coming

We have a number of major projects to expand the site. We will soon be adding a photography forum, where our participants will be able to interact with our team and each other, share their photography work, and ask questions. We will also be reorganizing the site and revamping the design (without over-cluttering it). A couple of other projects are currently being worked on, but I cannot share the details yet. We are excited about these changes!

We would be interested in hearing your thoughts and ideas regarding the site’s name change. Please feel free to weigh in below.

When “Hope” Becomes “Nope” – Copyright Infringement

Hope

Despite its appearance, this is not a political article, although with enough prompting, I would be glad to write one. ;) In a bizarre twist of fate, Shepard Fairey, the creator of the iconic “Hope” poster of the then-Senator Obama, was sentenced to 2 years of probation for copyright infringement and tampering with evidence, required to provide 300 hours of community service, and fined $25,000. As part of the civil case settled last year, Fairey was also required to pay the AP news service $1.6 million and 50% of future “Hope” poster profits. During the proceedings, investigators discovered that Fairey had grossly under-represented his profits on sales of “Hope” related items. It seems that “Hope” was based on a completely false premise – that Fairey had NOT infringed upon the rights of others. Another reminder that some things are not what they appear to be…

AP believed that Fairey had used a photo, taken by an AP photographer, Mannie Garcia, in 2006, as the foundation for the famous “Hope” poster. AP sued Fairey for copyright infringement. And with an apparent sense of righteous indignation, Fairey countersued. Unfortunately for Fairey, the ensuing investigation showed that he had lied regarding which image he relied on to create the “Hope” poster, and destroyed evidence related to the case. Fairey admitted his mistakes in court and issued a statement on his website today.

Hope

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Rocky Mountain High – Canadian Style

Canmore-To-Columbia-Icefields

My wife, Tanya, and I recently vacationed in the Canmore/Banff area of Alberta, Canada. We settled on this location after reading a variety of reviews and looking over some stunning photos of the many attractions and wildlife. We planned a series of activities that would take us to some of the most scenic, historical, and cultural locations, provide some challenging hiking expeditions, and enable us to take a “few” photographs along the way. After receiving a new Nikon D800 (review), which I tested thoroughly, I was eager to put it to work in the field. Most of the photos in this article were taken with the D800, although some were shot with my infrared D90 (converted by Lifepixel.com). For those of you reading this on an RSS feed, you may want to consider linking to the main Mansurovs site, as there are quite a few photos associated with this post.

From Calgary To Canmore

We flew into the Calgary airport, and after renting a car, began the 74 mile drive from the Calgary Airport to the town of Canmore. This trip is an interesting study in transitions. Near Calgary, everything seems to be under construction. Bulldozers, heavy earth movers, building cranes, and construction signs dot the landscape in every direction. The terrain is pretty flat apart from a gentle mountainside slope on the western side of the city. Off in the distance, we could see some purplish mountains but didn’t have a good sense of their scale. 25 miles or so outside of Calgary, the scenery changes quite a bit. Green rolling hillsides of farm land become the dominant theme, with the familiar golden yellow hay bales lining the bright green fields. The purplish mountains have risen in stature quite a bit and we quickly realize that they are far different than those we left behind in western Pennsylvania. We also unfortunately discover that there are few exits for gas or food!

At the 50 mile mark, the landscape is changing quite a bit. Those little purple mountains seem to grow larger by the minute. Green fir trees that seem to have been cloned, now begin to populate the landscape like huge blades of grass. At the 60 mile mark, we are at the base of the mountains. The term “majestic” doesn’t quite rise to the occasion in describing what we now see. The mountain peaks require you to edge closer to the car window and strain your neck in order to see them. Even in August, we can identify snow patches that never completely melt.

The road begins to roll gently as we wind toward the valley between the mountain peaks. The number of signs warning you about the local wildlife population increase, and based on the fences that line the woods along the road, we suspect that the signs are not to be taken lightly. We had taken 3 exits hoping to find a restaurant or gas station only to conclude that the notion of modern facilities next within 25 miles of the exit is a mirage. We begin to imagine that grizzly bears and wolves have posted these exit signs to lure gullible travelers, low on gas and food, off the main highway where the animals can leisurely dine on them.

Within 5 miles of Canmore, we are deep into the mountains that seem be growing larger before our eyes. I am constantly trying to keep my eyes on the road as the rocky towers on both sides of the road continue to command my attention. By now, we are seriously wondering if we have been transported to another planet, since it couldn’t possibly be part of the one which we came from. Soon we arrived at the Falcon Crest Lodge, which proved to be the excellent “base camp” for our adventures.

Falcon-Crest-Balcony-View

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Anatomy Of A Nikon D800 Repair

D800-Shrinkwrapped

Update – I now have a new D800 that is working correctly. See comment 142 below for the details.

“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”
The Inferno
– Dante

A number of our readers have been anxious to hear the results of my and others’ D800 repair experiences, particularly since they have sent their D800s in for repair but haven’t had them returned. Others are considering whether they should send their cameras to Nikon or return them to the retailer (if within the 30 day return window). What are the chances are of a successful repair? It is difficult to estimate. Based on a number of emails I have received and some posts on the various Nikon forums, it seems that Nikon’s success in repairing the D800 is mixed at best. Some people have enthusiastically given their D800 repairs a thumbs up. On a more disturbing note, however, others have reported sending their D800s back to Nikon’s Service Centers multiple times only to see them come back in the same shape as when they left. Those in the latter group are understandably very upset. A number of people are actively investigating the various “Lemon Laws” as possible mechanisms to force Nikon to provide new D800s. On just about every Nikon forum, at least one person has floated the idea for some form of petition, boycott, or other collective action that might cause Nikon to change its current strategy for dealing with the D800 autofocus issue. Everyone is wondering what it is going to take for Nikon to address this situation.

I have also heard from some people that they are “tired of hearing about D800 issues” because they neither own the camera nor have any intentions of buying one anytime soon. Fair enough. That’s one way to look at it. Another might be:

“Nikon is upping the game by significantly enhancing the resolution and capabilities of its new DSLRs. How is it doing on that front? How is it dealing with product issues when they arise? What should I take away from the D800 situation that might influence my decision to purchase the next DSLR from Nikon or any other manufacturer? Do I wish to take a chance ordering the ‘latest and greatest’ model given how Nikon has handled (thus far) the D800 situation or should I wait a bit? Is Nikon’s response to this issue consistent with what I would expect of a manufacturer if my DSLR experienced such an issue?”

D800-Shrinkwrapped

That’s a long way of saying everyone should take heed of the D800 situation. It certainly is not indicative of Nikon’s quality across the board, but rather specific issues associated with this particular model, which unfortunately, affect the D800’s main appeal – near medium format quality resolution. The D800 autofocus situation, and Nikon’s response to it, however, do provide some data points that potential D800 and non-D800 owners should consider as they weigh future purchasing decisions. If nothing else, it is a reminder that it often takes some time to work through issues once the manufacturing lines start ramping up. If and when Nikon announces D700, D300 or D7000 replacements, one might want to pause for a bit in light of the recent D800 situation.

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