Getty Images Allows Social Media Usage

Huge news was made a week ago in the online photography business. Getty Images announced that they were allowing that many of the pictures on their website that are for sale now will be available for anyone for “non-commercial use”.

Until I investigated, it gave me pause, as I am represented by Getty through National Geographic, and surely did not want my images out there without payment. After all, I am a professional photographer who makes my living selling images.

Some websites such as petapixel.com decried Getty’s actions saying, “…in the end, this represents Getty throwing in the towel when it comes to non-commercial use of its images. They’ve lost this war, and rather than fight the hoards of people on the Internet who pull their images without watermark or credit and use them all over the place, Getty has created a legal use avenue that they believe will “benefit [their] content creators.”

In looking into the “embedding” process that Getty uses, I found that they are relying on a company that they acquired called PicScout. The software they use is sophisticated enough so that even a fragment of the embedded image is identified. According to Maura Mulvihill, National Geographic Society’s Image Collection Vice President and Director, Getty plans to use the PicScout software to crawl the web for violators of the terms of service that were agreed to when they were downloaded.

Here is an embedded Getty image. Click on it and it will take you to the Getty site where the picture is located.

It is interesting that I can “screen grab” this image and eliminate the information below the picture. Can they Getty still track the image?  I don’t know. Below right is a screen grab of the image taken from Getty’s site.

Getty Screen grabWhile Director of Imaging at National Geographic, I had several  software companies demonstrate their ability to survey the web and find sites that used NGS pictures illegally. My question always was, “Who will be the cop?” Their answer was NGS. We did not have the legal resources to do so.

Maura says that PicScout will contact the violators and negotiate a payment to Getty. What happens if a violator refuses to pay? Obviously Getty can’t hire all the lawyers in the world, so I would guess it depends on how grievous (read $$$) of an offense has occurred.  BTW, you can obtain the services of PicScout if you so desire.

You may have noticed that on this site that I have a link to National Geographic Creative where NG Image Sales sells my images, and you can also buy scenic/art photography directly from this website. The difference is that my pictures that Geographic sells (and receives a portion of the proceeds) are editorial and commercial in nature and the NGS clients are corporations, ad agencies or large volume users. NGS is not interested in selling to individual consumers — for them it is not worthwhile to spend the effort on such a small one-time sale.

The jury is still out on the Getty decision. A screen grab of an image on the web is still very easy. Today, not many people want a high resolution image to print – they want a lo res to send immediately to their friends. And that is why you don’t see many of my best pictures on my Instagram or Facebook feeds.

Photographers of Mexico

Recently in La Paz, Mexico I saw two different exhibits of photography, one at the Archivo Historico that featured works of Nacho Lopez and the Casasola Photo Agency, and another nearby at the Teatro de la Ciudad where five photographers presented photo essays.

Picture taken by Nacho LopezAt the Archivo, the exhibit contrasted two styles of photography. One by Nacho Lopez, was entitled “Aqui esta la Vaciladora” (loosely translated as “Here with the Itinerants”). Perhaps the first Mexican photojournalist, López’s work (selected from the 1950′s) shows the everyday life that he preferred to focus on rather than the politicians and social scene that dominated the photography of the day. His exhibit at the Archivo was small and highlighted his work in the pulque bars (named for a local alcoholic brew).

RevolutionariesNext to Lopez’s exhibit were selected images from the Casasola Photo Agency, taken from 1900 to 1930. All of these pictures were in the “line ‘em up and shoot ‘em down” style. Even pictures of revolutionaries were staged as seen here. They are quite the contrast from Lopez’s images where his underlying theme of social criticism is evident.

My discovery of the exhibit at the Teatro de la Ciudad was a visual treat. Called “del Asfalto a la Playa” (From the Asphalt to the Beach), it featured five prominent Mexican photographers, that to be honest, I had never heard of. All have photographed internationally for many years. Two photo essays stood out for me: One by Vida Yovanovich, a Cuban who fled to Mexico during the revolution of 1956, and another by Jose Hernandez-Claire.

Picture from Vida Yovanovich essayYovanovich’s images were small black and whites that featured everyday items well-used by their owners — a pair of shoes, a sink with a taped light socket over it, a stool, etc. All the pictures were on this theme and the overall effect was an appreciation of Yovanovich’s work, but also a respect for those who used these items.

 

Image from Religious EssayJose Hernandez-Claire’s essay was also in black and white — much larger — and featured religious celebrations throughout Mexico. They captured the emotional and physical connection of the participants in the images to their God.

Note to Bob: photo essays are alive and well in Mexico.

My Life Is Not an Open Book

Recently I found an illuminating infographic in the New Yorker magazine that shows how social media sites gather information about their users. As explained in the New Yorker:

“In short, they see people as data, breaking their users down into categories that fit neatly into a machine-readable stream of information. This data is gathered not only from what users share on the social networks themselves but also through programs that plug into these networks by way of an application programming interface, better known as an A.P.I. For instance, think of any time you signed in to a Web site or an application with your Facebook or Twitter login, used a Facebook or Twitter app that was made by a third-party company like Zynga, or clicked a Like button at the top of an article. In different ways, those applications all talk to social networks via their A.P.I.s.”

“This information flows both ways: the social networks receive data from applications and, in turn, they can provide developers and advertisers with data about their users. …Much of the information that they have about users remains internal, and is not made available to developers via their A.P.I. Taken together, they are a way of conceiving of how social networks see you. Facebook may provide items like your name, statuses, photographs, favorite television shows, friend requests, religious views, privacy settings, events, and check-ins. (What it can make available to these applications depends on your privacy settings.) For instance, when you play Candy Crush Saga on Facebook—currently the most popular game on the social network—the developer, King, has access to what Facebook describes as “your basic information,” which includes your name, profile picture, gender, user I.D., friends, and “any other information you made public.” In the Twitter A.P.I., as Paul Ford has explained, you are an amalgam of your tweets, username, favorites, retweets, location, language spoken, and so on.”

Here is the infographic developed by the New Yorker.

For my business pages, I get access to much of this information and it helps me understand how users are addressing my site.

For my personal pages, I rarely post to these sites, as I value my personal privacy and do not want the professional pictures I take to be all over the net.

A Tablet Is Not A Computer

For years, when traveling I took my laptop with me. This was always worrisome, as it is my prime computer and all of my files are on it, including emails, important documents, photographs, etc. It was also fairly heavy. It resided in my camera bag when traveling, and the rest of the time it was in my room. I have it backed up, (see my blog on backups), but I didn’t want to go through the hassle of restoring everything if it was stolen, which fortunately it never was.

When Apple came out with the iPad in 2010, I felt that it would perhaps be the intermediate step between my iPhone and my MacBook Pro. I was curious, but having an aversion to “Model One – Number One”, I decided to wait and see how customers felt about the machine. Of course, the response was overwhelming. Criticisms were leveled, such as not being equipped with a USB input and not having enough storage space. I was not in a great hurry to purchase, as I felt that my iPad would be WIFI only and not enough establishments at that time had WIFI, or it was locked and the password was not available. Also, I felt that with the early machines storage would be an issue.

What drove me to finally purchase an iPad was, of all things, when Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, Inc. declared that tablets (and the iPad specifically) were “post PC computing“. I found out that, at this stage of the game, one has to take the word “computing” as a generic term.

What I should have done was to research what the iPad could do, and what it couldn’t do. After my purchase, I ran across a simple way of understanding your computer needs in an article by Daniel Nations.

As Daniel says, “Many people use their laptop or desktop PC primarily for checking email, finding out what friends and family are up to on Facebook, playing casual games and browsing the web. Those are all things that the iPad can not only do, but in some cases, even outperform the laptop. For casual gaming, the iPad easily comes out on top. Not only does it have cheaper games, it has a huge app store full of them. The iPad can also excel at browsing the web or checking Facebook, being much lighter and more comfortable to hold while curled up on the couch.”

Then he goes on to say that a desktop/laptop computer user should make a list of the applications that she uses on her machine. Then keep the list handy and every time she uses an app or something like Spotlight, she writes it down. After 10 days or so, she should match this list to what she can accomplish on the iPad. This is great advice.

In my case, as a photographer/designer, it is obvious that there is no “heavy lifting” going on with the iPad. Here are some examples: “Pages”, Apple’s word processing program has a limited number of fonts and others cannot be downloaded to this program; importing pictures to the “Photos” app removes the file names and important data; apps such as “PhotoShop Touch” and “iDraw” are light weights compared to Photoshop and Illustrator; if you want to use “Flash” – forget it; in Pages, it is impossible to attach documents to email, etc. etc.

iPad users will be quick to point out that there are ways around these limitations, such as jailbreaking the iPad so Pages can download any font; that you can get applications to help you attach documents by importing them into that app first; that you can get apps that save the file names of images; etc.

Workarounds is what I call them. And yesterday when I used my iPad to go to an airline website to check in for a flight, it was built in “Flash”. And “Spotlight” only finds contacts and emails, not documents.Thanks Apple!

So caveat emptor. I thought I would be into “post PC computing”, only to find that I have purchased a larger and more expensive version of my iPhone, and it doesn’t make calls.

My sister has an iPad mini that she loves. Her uses for it are generally for social media and email. She had changed the default signature to read, “Sent from My Toy Tablet”. I would put the emphasis on “Toy”.

Who Are You, Brave Photojournalist?

Recently I attended the annual National Geographic Photography Seminar held at the Washington DC headquarters of NGS. It was great to see photographers and friends such as Nick Nichols, Steve McCurry, Jodi Cobb, George Steinmetz, et. al. Once a year is hardly enough to convene. As one National Geographic photographer said, “How come they always send me out there? What’s wrong with right here?” In short, we are gone a lot and fortunate that something like the seminar brings us together to commune in Photojournalism, where it is spelled with a capital “P”.

Several moving tributes to Robert E. Gilka, former Director of Photography who died in 2012 were given, both in on-screen form and by NGM executives. I always use a quote from a letter he wrote to a prospective photographer as a way to describe his view of the profession:

What I miss most in your pictures is the input of the photographer. You see what most of us see and that is not enough. To rise above the great pack of people calling themselves photographers, one must develop seeing senses to the utmost. It is with a special kind of seeing ability that photographers make interesting, exciting or provocative images.…My words are not likely to be comforting; they’re not meant to be. Photography is a tough profession.”

On the program this year was Tyler Hicks a New York Times photojournalist. He is what we sometimes refer to as a “bullet chaser” – in essence a war photographer. In 2013, 70 journalists were killed – over half were videographers or photographers. We are no longer considered “neutral” in combat, now it depends on which side you align with as to the degree of danger. Tyler has worked in Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Bosnia, Lebanon, Israel, Gaza and Chechnya  — usually countries where conflict is happening.

Tyler spoke and showed images of his work that in many cases was not done as an embedded (read controlled) journalist, but while operating on his wits, experience and, as he would agree, luck.

But none of his war images were as arresting as the images that he took at the Westgate Mall massacre in Nairobi, Kenya on September 21. 2013. I think that there are two reasons for this:

1. The mall is not a war zone, but a civilized shopping area that was overtaken by a group of terrorists who were very cavalier as they committed random carnage.

2. Tyler took several pictures from outside the complex, showing people fleeing the mall, wounded civilians, and bodies in cars where they had been gunned down in the parking lot. Tyler and his wife (also a journalist) then ENTERED the mall when the terrorists still controlled the area.

This left me thinking. If I were there would I, as a photojournalist, go into a place where I could plainly see by those fleeing that it was dangerous if not deadly? Obviously Tyler’s years as a war correspondent helped him understand some of the risks. As he said, when the good guys arrived, they did a store to store search, much like a house to house search in a war zone.

When in the field and in a dicey situation, we make decisions based on a recognition of risks, but sometimes we are wrong. An infamous National Geographic photographer was in Tiananmen Square, China during the repression of demonstrators on June 3 and 4, 1989. Not only did he not come back with pictures, but also he called the magazine and said he wanted the company to get him home as soon as possible to be back with his family.

So who are you, brave photojournalist? We would like to think that we are akin to Tyler, but until you are in the situation, you just don’t know. What I can say is that I am happy to be in a profession that has people like Tyler and Jim Nachtwey as members so that we can all see the unvarnished reality of life in their images.

An addendum to this post April 4, 2014: Heavy hearts as another photojournalist, Anja Niedringhaus, was murdered by an Afghan “policeman”. Many tributes to her on the web, but to see the power of her images, go to her site

Backup, Backup, Backup

Two days ago I did the unthinkable — I washed my cell phone. It was in an “Otter Box”, but soapy water still got into the phone.

As the phone was under a contract, I immediately looked on the net to see if I could revive it. Methods ran from using a vacuum to pull all of the water out to submerging it in a bag of rice, etc. Tried them all out, because in today’s world, a smart phone makes for mobile computing.

In short, yesterday I had to replace the phone. It had almost 12 GB of information on it, but I had little worries, as I knew that I had backed up the phone on my computer within the past few days. Sure enough, when I plugged it into my computer, all came back except for a few voicemails from last week and several text messages. No images were lost. If the text message were important, I could have asked the individuals who sent or received them to send them back to me, but they were not of that nature. And I’m sure that if I really needed any lost information that I could appeal to the NSA since they have all of it! Replacement of the phone was “free”.

Last year I had my camera pick-pocketed. In it was a 32 GB flash card. Every night in the field I download the day’s images onto an external “photo” hard drive that is made specifically for backups of CF and SD flash cards with slots for the cards and a screen for viewing stored images. So I lost about 20 pictures I had taken the morning before the theft — none prize winners. Insurance paid for the camera (and a model upgrade!).

A few years back, the hard drive on my computer went down, along with about 400 GB of applications, documents, and everything else that one “stores” on a computer. I had the hard drive replaced. Since I have automatic backup of everything on my computer (and my external hard drives consisting of 5 TB) I simply plugged the computer with the new hard drive into my backup drive and retrieved everything. Adobe and several other software manufacturers required me to re-enter my registration numbers, so keep those handy. The manufacturer later sent an email noting that the problem with the hard drive was theirs, and they eventually sent me a check for the amount of the replaced drive.

The point of this blog is to make sure you back up every device, and often. Fortunately, at this point in time, it is not hard to do. But do you do it? There is a saying about the computing world, “It is not if your device will go down, but when”. My son-in-law is a Marine and he says that for the Marines three is redundant.

Make it a point today to re-think where you stuff resides and if you have it backed up.

Fragile Landscapes and US Bureau of Land Management Solutions

As a photographer, I am interested in unusual landscapes and recently visited the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, a 280,000-acre property administered by The Bureau of Land Management (BLM). One hot spot for photographers is “The Wave”, a mesmerizing set of sandstone formations in northern Arizona eroded by water and wind.

The Wave

The Wave at Coyote Buttes North, Arizona

The expansion of the Internet has publicized The Wave – specifically thorough the proliferation of images and video available on the web. In addition, an article on the Vermillion Cliffs in the February 2012 issue of the National Geographic Magazine sparked the interest in The Wave and other nearby formations for millions of their readers.

Given this publicity, the challenge is how to keep too many visitors from spoiling the place.

 

 

The BLM is a federal agency that is responsible for the stewardship of 245 million acres of public land in the United States. The agency employs 10,000 individuals full time, but doing the math, this is about 2,500 acres of land per employee. And like the US Forest Service, a great percentage of BLM land is designated “multipurpose”.

The tag line for the Forest Service is “Land of Many Uses”, which has been tweaked by environmentalists to “Land of Many Abuses”. In many of their operations, the BLM is a contender for this title.

However, in June of 2000, The National Landscape Conservation System was set up. It consists of 27 million acres of the most pristine landscapes and ecosystems that are under the purveyance of the BLM, including the Vermillion Cliffs. These areas are primarily in the Western and Southwestern US. After the formation of these Conservation Lands, the BLM incorporated many of the tenants of responsible tourism with their administration of these remarkable resources.

Several methods are used to minimize wear and tear from tourists traveling to sensitive/fragile areas.

• Education (stay on trails, don’t litter, etc.)

• High fees (high entry fees limit people to those who can afford to go)

• Limit official access (establish restricted areas where permits are needed)

• Limit publicity (difficult for potential visitors to discover location)

• Difficult terrain (hard location to get to, need to hike in or have special vehicle)

In view of this list of ways to mitigate visitor traffic, how could the BLM respond to the high demand for visits to The Wave? Not by regulating publicity (out of their control) or high fees. The monument is a national treasure, and as such the government is reluctant to charge high fees to visit it. $7.00 is the cost for a one-day permit.

Permit

Required pack tag to be in restricted area

So, to their credit, the BLM limits the number of visitors to The Wave to 20 per day and has instituted a lottery – ten from their website and ten from applicants that arrive in person for the next day’s allotment. If you are interested in the details for applying you can go here.

Competition is fierce. For instance, the number of online applicants for April 19, 2014 is 257 and the maximum number of people allowed is six per applicant. So far 975 people are listed who want to go (an applicant can have from one to six people in their application – 10 total will go). For reference, individuals attempting to obtain a permit for April-June and September-November, the odds were about 4-5% for 2013. The $5.00 application fee is non-refundable.

Another of the responsible-tourism tenants is education, and part of the Vermillion Cliffs application is a professionally-done17 minute video that deals with safety, trails, protection of the environment, etc. You cannot continue the application without checking a box that confirms you watched the video.

Two Peaks at Sunset 9344

Sunset at White Pocket, Vermillion Cliffs, Arizona

Lastly, the difficulty of the terrain plays a part here. The Wave is a three-mile hike from the road with a large portion of it marked only by cairns. At the southern end of the Vermillion Cliffs Monument, the roads are sand, and every time a vehicle gets stuck (hundreds of times) that area becomes a sand pit. You can’t believe what the advertisements say about your four-wheeled drive vehicle – many of them won’t make this trip.

Rock fins

Fragile Rock Fins

Once you have won the lottery and are at these locations, you’ll see how fragile these formations are. Most have Navaho sandstone rock “fins” which are easy to snap off. Hundreds of years in the making – gone in a second.

The BLM will receive a $6 million increase from the federal government for the National Landscape Conservation System in 2014. If the BLM continues policies that promote responsible tourism, this is good news.

 

 

 

So You Want to Make a Movie

In December 2011, I asked my friend what she wanted for her birthday, which was in the beginning of December. She said that she didn’t really need anything; but that each year she canvassed her friends for used coats and then gave them to a charitable organization called Giving Back – Linda’s Legacy. She said a fine “present” would be for me to document what they do and give it to Giving Back as a contribution from both of us.

Linda Greenberg

Linda Greenberg

Steve Anstett

Steve Anstett

“So who is Linda?”, I asked. “Linda” is Linda Greenberg who started Giving Back and has now turned it over to an army of over 100 volunteers headed up by Steve Anstett.

What they do is to gather clothing, toys, games and items like strollers and playpens and distribute them on Christmas Eve to the homeless in Baltimore and Washington.

 

Finding out more on their website, I made arrangements with Sandy Dlugonski a teacher at the School of the Incarnation to make images of school kids filling backpacks. According to Steve, about eight years ago, Giving Back hit upon the idea of giving new items to the homeless. First they take a backpack and stuff it with socks, long underwear, a hat, a hoodie and gloves. The backpack is topped off with a handmade greeting card from the person who sponsored and filled the backpack.

Sponsorship of a backpack costs $25.00 and many young participants in the program raise the money through allowances and chores done around their house. For many children, it is their first experience with volunteerism.

Stuffing Backpacks

Stuffing Backpacks

Greeting Cards

School Greeting Cards

The operation goes into high gear in mid to late December. Several collection points around the Annapolis, MD area gather goods and they are transported to the Farmers Market in Annapolis for sorting.

 

 

 

On Christmas Eve day, twenty-five trucks filled with items for the homeless leave Annapolis for Baltimore and Washington, each followed closely by a phalanx of cars filled with volunteers. The goods are delivered to shelters during the day, and later in the evening to people actually living on the streets.

Once I learned all this, I felt that my part was not just to make a collection of still photographs for the organization. They had those. I thought that how I could help the organization the most would be to create a video that filmed the participants in Giving Back: the parents, teachers, students, corporate contributors, organizers, backpack stuffers, recipients, etc. and ask each person “Why? Why do you do this and what makes it important to you”. And then capture how the “clients” feel when they receive the backpack, item of clothing, meal and maybe a hug.

Backpacks to Trucks

Backpacks to Trucks

Thierry Humeau of Telecam FiIms contributed the use of professional video equipment to make the project easier. I have over 10 hours of video in the can at this point. A top-notch editor and friend, Gordon Durnin has agreed to edit video into a finished 12-15 minute piece. Hopefully it will portray Giving Back as an altruistic, wonderful organization that embraces the spirit of volunteerism.

Funny transition for me: From still photographer to videographer, but one that is more and more important for new media.

Wimberely Tripod Head

Recently, I acquired a Wimberely Tripod head tripodhead.com that is great for sports and moving wildlife such as birds, The head is gimballed, and it is possible to level the base of the head so that it jibes with the horizon (If you do not have this feature, when the horizon is in the picture it can appear at a 30 degree angle or worse).

I first tried it out with kiteboarders in Pompano Beach, Florida, but because the tripod was sunk in the sand (I don’t recommend it, but what can you do?), I was re-leveling the head over and over. The pictures were much easier to take, however, as I could follow the action with my 500mm lens with no problem.

A week later, I visited the Conowingo Dam in Maryland to try my hand with the new head with wildlife – bald eagles specifically. The day was so-so, but I was able to follow the birds easily with the Wimberely. My verdict is that the head is expensive, but worth it for long-lens photography.

 

 

Better yet, I met Bruce DeBonis, a dedicated amateur whose site is TravelThroughPictures. Check out his blog for some photo tips. The blog is written in a self-deprecating style, which allows us to deal with our own photographic issues and be open to his suggestions.

This spring, I attended a lecture at Look3 by Eugene Richards, one of the best photojournalists in the world. There he said, “I like to attend these types of events where I see what other photographers are doing. It reaffirms the doubts that I have about my own vision.” Certainly a healthy attitude for a photographer to have.

Slide Shows by the Travelin’ Man

If I am traveling and not on assignment, I rarely stay for more than two nights in the same town. Because the friend I travel with is gracious, I do have some time to photograph, but it is difficult to come up with cohesive stories about the locations we are visiting. Normally, the resulting images are a series of one-shots – interesting photographs, but of disparate subjects.

One way I can display them is to make “travelogue” slide shows, where I group the photographs visually and somewhat chronologically and then add music.

In this blog, I am not covering technical aspects of slide show construction or the programs that create slide shows, such as Microsoft Windows Live Photo Gallery, PowerPoint, Google Picasa, Apple iPhoto, etc. That blog is for another day. Here, I want to address the treatment of the subject matter.

Since I want to feature the still images, I do not use “Ken Burns” moves, or dissolves such as “ripple”. I use my own title slides, created specifically for that particular slide show, The music is usually one piece, hopefully establishing a mood or theme. Note: If you are presenting your slide show commercially – even as part of your portfolio, you must purchase the rights to the music, and this does not mean just paying for the track on iTunes.

The programs for organizing the shows are pretty sophisticated at this point in time, and the producer can time slide changes to musical beats, “clip” the music so that there is no dead space between tunes, etc. However, for better organization of the music and the images, you should leave the slide show programs and make a movie. Final Cut Pro and even iMovie are much more sophisticated and can create a professional product if you are interested.

The most important tip I can give in this blog is to edit, edit and edit some more. A five-minute slide show is a L-O-N-G slide show.

Here, I am presenting three “travelogues” that I produced in 2012. Note that the “key frame” presented for each show was not my choice, but established by YouTube. The show itself remains intact.

Hit the “full screen” button in the lower right on the tool bar to get the best effect. Also note that persons subscribing to the blog’s email feed will need to cut and paste the URL for each slide show into their browser to watch it.

The first show is on China, but not really. We only visited Beijing and the Yunnan Province, where we hiked for four days. The title slide helps clear up where we were.

The second show is about a week in Colorado, where we hiked several mountains in preparation for hiking up Mount Meru, a 15,000 ft. mountain in Tanzania. This slideshow has captions placed on some of the pictures to identify who the participants are for those who were not on the hike.

Lastly, a slide show on four weeks in Tanzania and Zanzibar, where we did get to see most of the country.

I have also included two stills from a memorial slide show for my mother. Slide shows such as these have captions on every picture, adding contextual information. I have done several of these shows for others. Also, for friends, I put together award presentation shows, etc.

 

 

 

 

Slide shows are a great way to feature my photography – and yours too!