Eye Candy

December 13, 2013 · 26 comments

7-261-9  stock photo of Clouds, Sunset on fog

Wander through the landscape images posted on many Facebook, Instagram and Flickr pages and you’ll see millions of sunsets, clouds, tropical beaches and gorgeous landscapes, all accompanied by gushing comments, “Wow,” “fantastic” “amazing!!” “dope”. Professional travel photographers know that sunsets aren’t always that gorgeous, that the light is not often brilliant and magical, and that not all mountain vistas are “knock your socks off” scenes. With all the eye candy presented online it is easy to get jaded, to see such images as commodities, commercialized, trite and clichéd.

You’ll get a hint of that in the tags people add, especially on Instagram : cloudporn, sunsetporn, as if to confirm that that all the images are faked, dolled up by in Photoshop in an effort to show something that isn’t there.

But that is not the whole story. The essence of photography is the art of seeing, of standing before a subject and discerning its nature, finding what is interesting and unique and then trying to accurately record it for others. This is especially key in travel photography. Two photographers walk into an Asian market; one see orchids, the other sees flies. Which is the truth? For me the greatest potential for photography is the capacity to find what is wonderful in the world, to see beyond the ordinary and mundane elements of life, to the hope and potential and wonder of it all.

So a photo of a sunset is marvelous not because it is a pretty picture, but because when you actually go out there, when you stand on the hill above the clouds, as the golden light reflects all around you, it touches you. The true value of the image is not so much that it looks wondrous, but that it can inspire the viewer to go out themselves and see the sunset, to seek and find their own moments of awe and inspiration, to see the orchids…

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Finding the source of a photo on the web is seldom easy. This photo of a serene piano player on the streets of Kiev, playing placidly in the rain while facing helmeted security forces, quickly went viral yesterday and was picked up by social media and traditional media worldwide. Photojournalist Jeremy Nicholl of Russian Photos asked on Twitter if anyone knew who took the photo. Here is how I found out:

1. Jeremy referred to a tweet by TheBlogPirate
2. A Google Image search for the image found an earlier tweet by Sergiu Zamari in Hungary at 7:59am on Dec 7th. The caption was “Man playing piano to riot police!”
3. A search on the English caption found many additional uses but none seemed promising.
4. The image used by @zamari was larger and a repeated Google Image search found a Photo of the Day entry by Ukrainian blogger Igor Bigdan . The photo was credited (c)Левый Берег to a Ukrainian news service Left Bank
5. A search of the Left Bank site for piano (піаніно) and pianist (піаніст) and review of recent images came up empty.
6. Another Google image search adding the filter site:lb.ua found more images including an even larger one on a Russian aggregator blog
7. A source credit pointed back to a Google Plus post by Gordon Black which was a reshare of a G+ post by Oksana Vus
8. Near the end of the comments one commenter noted the image had been published by Der Speigel and Oksana replied “Dear, this is not my photo! ” and referenced a tweet by Ukrainian journalist Nastya Stanko at 6am on 12/7
9. A Facebook search found Nastya’s Facebook profile where she posted on Saturday a reshare of a photo posted by Олег Мацех
10. in a comment on a reshare of the image by Anastasiia Bereza, Oleg, one of the protest organizers, explains “Thank you all! Use the photos on your own, it is common property and collective authorship” and explains that the photo was his idea, that Andrew Meakovski is the photographer and Markiyan Matsekh is the pianist, and that although it wasn’t really staged they did ask people to move away a few steps for a moment.

In another interview Oleg says “It was a great pleasure to watch the crowd, happily singing Chervona Ruta (a Ukrainian folk song) while the police timidly began to shake their heads in time to the music.”

What is fascinating about this convoluted journey of one image across the web in less than 48 hours is that it rapidly hopped from one social media network to another and another (Facebook to Twitter to Google+ to blogs to Twitter again) and that it was variously credited along the way to several different sources before losing attribution completely. A news service or anyone trying to source the image might have a very difficult time tracking it down.

Last month a jury recently awarded news photographer Daniel Morel $1.2 million after finding Getty Images and AFP guilty of copyright infringement for misappropriating Morel’s images of Haiti earthquake from Twitter even though they knew (or should have known) the source and sought permission. This situation is different since the image was actually made by the protest organizers who were keen to have the image published to further their cause. However, considering how fast it spread and how it jumped from service to service, there really wasn’t an easy way for a prospective publisher to find that out. Tracing back to the source takes time and perseverance.

Interestingly, in the same two hour timeframe that it took me to track down the source using search engines, Jeremy found the same source through his multiple twitter contacts.

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1-775-1  stock photo of Flags, American Flag on office building

It was 1994 when I became an American citizen, more than 35 years after moving here as a child. My wife and two kids, all American born, were at the swearing-in ceremony with me. My main reasons were to get through the immigration line quicker at the airport and to be able to vote before my son did (not that we disagreed). The passport was a convenience but I was surprised, even overwhelmed, when I stood in the voting booth for the first time in my life and voted. After all those years I had a voice. And I won’t ever forget it. Enjoy the 4th of July, whoever, wherever you are, and don’t ever forget to vote!

1-690-26  stock photo of California, San Francisco, Baseball game

1-640-72  stock photo of Flags, Ameican Flags and balcony  with dog

3-223-4  stock photo of California, San Francisco, Wall painting, Chinatown

5-793-60  stock photo of Flags, American Flag

7-149-3  stock photo of Flag, Wall with painted American flag

8-164-12  stock photo of Trinidad, Carnival, Costumed dancers in parade

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Sharing

June 25, 2013 · 10 comments

7-640-695  stock photo of Greece, Athens, Acropolis, Tourist photographing the Porch of the Caryatids, Erectheion

When I started out in photography the career path was well-defined, thanks to the business counsel of ASMP and quite a few years of tradition. You developed your best possible work, created a portfolio, showed it around and little by little you’d get assignments, building a reputation and a body of published work. Contacts were editors, designers, art directors who produced printed material for ultimate distribution to readers, subscribers, shareholders and consumers. Aside from the occasional fine art print sale, or workshop, I rarely knew the people who finally enjoyed my work (and paid for it when all was said and done).

Today, with the internet, everything has changed. Everything.

Ordinary users still read stories, news and features, and books, but they do so online. Yet, with smartphones, their experience of photography is no longer mainly passive. They share everyday experiences, images shot on the fly, holiday scenes, parties and baby portraits using the same internet that also distributes carefully crafted images by pro shooters.

The practice of sharing images is not new. When I was in college we cut photos out of magazines and pinned them to dorm-room walls along with postcards and our own snapshots and polaroids. Today’s dorm-room wall is social media, the function is identical. We show things we like to our friends, both personal images and things we have seen and heard online.

It is the basic technology of the internet that underlies this profound change, not any conscious decision or moral failure.

Pro photographers are often distressed by this public sharing. They view everyday users in the same light as the editors and art directors they are used to working with, as people who need to license their images before they publish them. But the public isn’t interested in commercial publishing, just sharing with friends. Even if the theoretical audience is millions, the practical audience is often just a handful of friends, especially in social media where new posts sink quickly.

To make sense of this new regime I think it’s best for photographers to see user sharing of their work not as a threat but as an opportunity. One could do worse than have thousands of people like your images. The challenge is to find ways to build their audience, leverage their popularity and invent business models for direct photographer-consumer interaction.

Traditional photographer-editor licensing will continue in commercial publishing and advertising. And to be sure there will be cases where a line must be drawn. But sharing is here to stay. We must adapt.

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TRVL Magazine

December 9, 2012 · 3 comments

5-750-8932  stock photo of Canada, Quebec City, Fetes de la Nouvelle France, Parade

I first met Dutch travel photographer Jochem Wijnands in Jerez, Spain when we both covered the annual Flamenco festival. With our shared interests in travel and the business of photography we have kept in touch ever since. Facing fewer stock sales, closing print magazines, and online competition Jochem took a step that may augur a hopeful future direction for photographers. He began publishing a free iPad magazine, TRVL, which has now won numerous awards including best magazine app of 2011.

Working with a small group of travel photographers from around the world, TRVL  produces visual-intensive photo essays on specific destinations (82 so far) with full-screen images (now for the Retina iPads too), along with story text, video and a photographer commentary. At first they charged for iTunes downloads but sales were slow so they switched to free downloads.  That made all the difference. Over lunch during one of his frequent visits to SF, Jochem and TRVL co-founder Michel Elings explained that they first had to build an audience, only then will they look at how to monetize the product. Numbers must be good since the app is consistently at the top of popularity lists.

Another step that differentiates the magazine has been to the move to a custom publishing platform, Prss. Built in native code with an emphasis on ease of use and efficience, the platform will be free for everyone to use. I’ve signed up for trial access and look forward to giving it a try.

Itunes link
Facebook page 

photo from Les Fêtes de la Nouvelle-France, Quebec and featured this week in the Quebec issue of TRVL

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Back to Blogging

October 5, 2012 · 4 comments

4-960-792  stock photo of Czech Republic, Prague, Astronomical Clock, Old Town Square

It has been a full year sabbatical, a long rest from regular blogging, and it is now time to return.

The year has been a busy one. The photography industry continues to struggle in full-crisis mode as the transformations wrought by digital image capture and transmission change the economic landscape and undermine the old business models. At the same time more and more people are producing, enjoying and sharing imagery, at home, on the go, formally, but moreso now informally within their social networks. Social media use has expanded amazingly fast (one billion now on Facebook!). And there’s Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram. I’ve particularly enjoyed repurposing old and new images on the iPad for posting to my Instagram account (now with over 70,000 followers)

On a personal front, old and new. My father Cyril passed away in December at age 90. He bought me my first camera, introduced me to international travel at an early age, and encouraged my world adventures and growing photography business. Then in January our first granddaughter Rose was born; and only 4 1/2 months later along came Samantha. Two darling delights.

So…Lots of time for thinking. I’ll be exploring new ideas, new directions for my photography and media adventures online over the next few months and look forward to your feedback, comments and support. It’s nice to be back

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0-429-11  stock photo of California, Marin County, Sunset over the Pacific

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle…..

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Steve Jobs, 1955-2011

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5-311-36  stock photo of California, Marin County, Golden Gate Bridge, north tower

The secret to getting great photographs of the bridge is finding interesting points of view. Here are five location-aware tips of places to help you see the bridge in a new way, and come home with better photos. The original list of tips is set up on Foursquare and is visible in the mobile app whenever you are near each location. You can add them to your 4SQ to-do list using your phone or by clicking the “save” button” next to the location title on this web page. You can also of course checkin to the location.

If you complete the tip, i.e. take the photograph, then you can mark it as done and it shows up on your profile seen by your friends. Foursquare also tracks how many people list and complete each tip and the once most followed are more prominently displayed. Users can also “follow” the entire list and share it with their friends.

Golden Gate Bridge

7-470-3  stock photo of California, San Francisco Bay, Golden Gate Bridge

When walking across the bridge be sure to look up and explore different angles of the towers and cables. You’ll find lots of intriguing compositions and abstracts. Early evening the light is best.

Hawk Hill, Marin Headlands

2-452-28  stock photo of California, San Francisco, Golden Gate Bridge tower and Transamerica Building

To get the bridge with the city of San Francisco in the background, pull over about half way up Conzelman Road. There’s one spot where the Trans America Pyramid lines up with the North Tower.

Fort Point National Historic Site

8-720-66  stock photo of California, San Francisco, Fort Point beneath Golden Gate Bridge

This Civil War fort offers a unique view from directly underneath the bridge. The intricate girders contrast with the historic brickwork. Shoot in the late afternoon from the top level.

Marshall Beach

4-526-27  stock photo of California, San Francisco, Golden Gate Bridge from Baker Beach

To get the classic shot of the bridge from the ocean side, park at Baker Beach and walk along the shore to Marshall Beach, where you can frame the scene with surf on the rocks in the foreground.

Berkeley waterfront

2-152-16  stock photo of California, San Francisco Bay, Golden Gate Bridge at sunset

In the winter you can get a great shot of the sunset behind the Golden Gate Bridge. You’ll need a long lens and a tripod. Move back and forth until you get a pleasing composition.

If you like these and are interesting in additional photo tips, or just want to connect on Foursquare you’ll find me at @davidsanger

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All about Location

September 16, 2011 · 7 comments

5-720-2652  stock photo of Sweden, Stockholm, Looking at the map

I have been playing quite a bit lately with Foursquare, the location-aware social media platform, and am quite intrigued by the implications and opportunities for travelers, travel journalists, destinations and brands in the travel industry. The first movement in mobile computing was freeing the device from the stationary desktop so that we could “connect” while moving around. The second movement now is for our device to be aware of where we are at all times, so that the information and actions available to us relate directly to where we are in space and time.

Foursquare makes a game of it by allowing people to check in and accumulate points and badges. The more powerful theme, however, is to make available to users specific information depending on exactly where they are. On a city street? Here’s a map. In a restaurant? Here’s the menu. At a scenic spot? Here’s the history, and here’s some photo tips. At a train station? The next train is in x minutes. Been here often? 10% discount.

The consequence of this is that with location awareness we travel through an internet of places, rather than just look things up from afar. Venues such as restaurants are already using location awareness to offer specials or reward loyalty, if the user is interested. Travel journalists and publications too must begin thinking about providing information to users directly on location, of having a point of presence in real-space so that users can read, learn and share, right there. As this capability rolls out there will no doubt be many creative and ingenious applications which will significantly change how and where we interact as travelers.

As an example I have just set up the first of a series of location-aware travel photography tips “Top 5 places to photograph the Golden Gate Bridge” along with a blog post describing the list and how it works.

If you have thoughts or experience as a travel writer or photographer using location-aware platforms, please add your comments below. See you there!

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Castles Castles Castles

August 31, 2011 · 8 comments

4-960-984  stock photo of Czech Republic, Cesky Krumlov, Castle Round Tower

Everybody dreams of castles, grand old-world opulence, majestic homes of lords and royals, with elegantly decorated rooms, defensive fortifications and ornate architecture flourishes. Now, of course, we only visit castles as tourist sites. Many ancient castles are now protected as national treasures and historical landmarks, where we can walk through and try to imagine what life was really like in those centuries, whether it was really as luxurious as the fairy-tale stories (most certainly not).

Here’s a gallery of castle images selected as a trial run of two new product offerings I am testing, RedBubble for t-shirts and stickers, and Cafe Press for mugs and greeting cards. These are in addition to my standard offering of fine art prints through Pictopia.

Please try them out and let me know what you think, what you’d like to see more (or less) of in the future.

Note: Empire Avenue shareholders get an additional 10% discount on prints.

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