Every once in a while I like going back and taking a fresh look at the tools that I have been relying on for years. During my last trip to Death Valley and the California mountains, I met a few photographers who I spent some time with, talking about what photographers generally chat about – camera gear and our favorite photography spots. One photographer had a very similar setup as mine, using a Gitzo Systematic tripod and a Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead. His ballhead had a different quick release plate than mine, so we started chatting about the differences in the setup and what we both like and dislike about the BH-55. After this discussion, I realized that I have never written about the BH-55 at Photography Life, although I have continuously relied on it for years and take it with me everywhere I go. In a way, I have gotten emotionally attached to this remarkable ballhead and it has become an indispensable tool for my photography work.
There have been some interesting debates lately about what’s ‘wrong’ with the digital camera market as people try to understand the rather dramatic decline in unit sales that has been happening over the past 4 or 5 years, with volumes down by half from their peak. I let my old, porous brain muse on this for a while and have some perspectives to share. One way to look at this situation is to simply accept that there is nothing fundamentally ‘wrong’ with the camera market at all in terms of sales volumes. From a macro-economic perspective we could view the digital camera market as functioning exactly as every other market has done when a breakthrough technology burst onto its stage. If we look at the history of various product markets the basic rise and fall of market volumes are predictable when they have been impacted by fundamental technological shifts – in the case of cameras it was of seismic proportions going from film to digital. When any kind of ‘game changing’ technology takes hold in any market there are initial and dramatic volume surges as consumers leave their current technology and adopt the new one. That huge upward spike in initial demand then declines quickly as soon as the initial ‘change-over’ market demand for the new technology has been met. Product life-cycle planning is based on these fundamentals.
What an amazing month it has been – ever since we announced the Content Sharing Contest, we have received many submissions from our dear readers. In fact, we have been a bit overwhelmed by the response, which is why it took us some time to go through the submissions, pick out the ones we felt like were suitable for the site and get the articles published. On this note, I would like to thank everyone for participation. If your article did not get published, please do not feel disappointed, as it does not mean that your work is bad or not worthy of getting published. It just means that there was stronger content that we felt was more engaging and educational for our readers. I would also like to apologize for not being able to respond to every submission, as I have been swamped with travel and other work in March. We published a total of 20 articles and you can see all of them by clicking this link. Now that the contest is over, it is time to decide who gets the grand prize, the Sony A6000. I went through each post and discussed the submissions with some of our team members at PL and picked our favorite articles. Below is the list of our favorite five authors. Now we need your help in determining who provided the best content and deserves the grand prize. I know it will be no easy task to pick the winner, but your feedback is important, since the content was provided for you, our dear readers.
It has been a while since Apple announced the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus and although I have had my Plus model for about 6 months now, I have not had a chance to provide feedback on what I think about this phone when used as a camera for occasional snapshots. Although I initially could not understand the point of such a large phone that is now known as a “phablet“, it did not take long before I was convinced that I wanted the iPhone 6 Plus. My main reason was reading – I no longer had to pinch with my fingers to zoom in to be able to read small text on a website. The larger surface area gave a lot more room, making it possible to use the device for email and web surfing. This meant that I could ditch my iPad and only carry one additional device when I needed to work, for which the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 fit the task perfectly, being a real laptop and not a laptop wannabe like the iPad is. After getting the iPhone 6 Plus, I realized that the built-in camera is actually pretty decent for photographing in daylight and when I do not have a real camera with me. It is certainly no Nokia Lumia 1020 or Samsung Galaxy S6, but I was not in a quest to find a phone with the best camera anyway. I was moving up from an older beat up iPhone and did not feel like switching to another system, so the built-in camera was certainly not a priority. I will be honest, I am not an iPhoneographer and I am not planning to be one anytime soon, so please take this review with a grain of salt. I only used the basic, built-in tools for capturing images, although I am aware of the fact that one can use third party apps to do plenty of cool stuff with the camera on the iPhone 6.
My wife and I have been to the Myrtle Beach (South Carolina) area many times over the past 20 years but it wasn’t until 2015 that we finally visited Brookgreen Gardens. To say that we were shocked with what we discovered there would be an understatement. We simply had no idea how extensive the grounds are and how much there is to see. From a photography standpoint Brookgreen Gardens is a treasure chest of creative possibilities. From the extensive sculpture garden with hundreds of pieces on display, to the Lowcountry Trail, the zoo and plantation sites, the pontoon boat cruise, and many natural areas, the facility is brimming with image opportunities. Rather than try to explain the photography potential of visiting Brookgreen Gardens I thought I would share some images that I captured during a single morning that we spent at the facility. My wife and I have already decided that the next time we visit the Myrtle Beach area we’ll be spending at least 2 or 3 full days at Brookgreen Gardens.
It is evident to me that images can carry and convey truth – small and capital T – and that most people aren’t actually talking about truth when they talk about objectivity and subjectivity. Strong statement, I know, but I think as usual, the people using the Internets simply bring their own ideas and not really paying attention to how writers define their terms.
I have been fortunate over the years to see a few of the many great apes in the wild. My work includes photographs of some of the highly endangered species such as the mountain gorillas. In this article, I will present my thoughts on the best places to capture these wonderful animals on camera as well as some of the issues I have faced doing so. Finally, I will outline my suggestions for camera and lens selections.
With almost all of our cameras featuring video capabilities (I’m looking at you, Nikon Df), most of you have probably considered going beyond the occasional family video. However, like photography, video requires post-processing for best results, and the prospect of buying After Effects, Premiere Pro, and SpeedGrade just to get your toes wet is daunting for many photographers. What you may not know is that you already have a powerful video-editing program in Adobe Photoshop CC, or CS6 Extended. This is an easy way for photographers to play around with film without purchasing hundreds of dollars worth of software, and is surprisingly effective. I’m certainly not a professional videographer as my example video will show, but I have enjoyed editing a few shorts, just for fun. The two most critical aspects of editing for video (not including cuts/sequencing) are color-grading and sharpening, both of which can be done relatively painlessly in Photoshop using tools you’re already experienced with.
If you haven’t noticed, camera sales are down. I mean, they’re way down. Unsurprisingly, everyone’s scrambling to find a reason why. There’s a video floating around from Mayflower Concepts that, at the very least, explains what is not the cause for the camera sales drop. If you don’t have 50 minutes to watch it for yourself, here’s the “TL;DR” version: It’s not due to the rise of phones with cameras – at least, not in the way you think. It’s not because the economy is in the tank, as most camera manufacturers claim on their financial reports. There’s simply no strong correlation between any of the global financial crises, or the simple existence of cameras on phones, to have any reason to believe either is the cause for a huge drop in sales.
If you become a student of street photography, the curriculum is littered with advice and maxims on what defines and makes a “good” street photograph; I use the word “littered” intentionally – because much of that curriculum is just that… things that can be tossed out. Within that heritage, I don’t claim to be a master, let alone a division chair or associate professor, or even a teaching assistant. But I am a student, or a ‘disciple’ of the genre if you will – one that realizes that that I will never stop learning the craft, and that beyond the techniques or gear used or the aesthetic of an image I am working to create, the genre is itself as much about a process of self discovery, growth, and expression of who I am as it is about the final “result.” That may sound out of place in a discussion of street photography, but to that end, I want to state that – in this student’s opinion – what matters most in street photography is the choice and act of your presence, and shooting “who you are” in an image. Grab some coffee, as this isn’t going to be another “three essential ways to improve your street photography” kind of article.