The Barefoot Photographer®

a photography blog

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Flat Creek Nature Area

The end of July!  It is hard to believe the end of July is here already!  I had all these ideas of things I wanted to do and places to go and I haven't gotten to do most of them.  Oh well.


Yesterday I visited another local spot that I had never been to before – Flat Creek Nature Area.  The wonderful walk is located in the heart of Peachtree City.  It is more of a swamp than a creek, in my opinion.  It is one of those places where you most likely will need some bug repellent – I applied some before I left the house.


The walk entrance is located near the entrance for the Frederick Brown Jr. Amphitheater.  In the parking area you will see a building that has "Flat Creek Nature Center" on it – but I have never found this building open or staffed with anyone.  While on the walk my friend and I noticed numbers on the side of the decking.  We kept trying to figure out what they could be for.  Finally after many theories were tossed about, she came up with what I believe to be the winner.  She thinks the numbers mark certain species of trees or plants and some where (maybe in the locked and never staffed nature center) there is a pamphlet that you can use for a self-guided tour of the area. 


Down this trail and along the deck walkway it is dark – even on a sunny day.  Most of the time we were out it was overcast.  Occasionally the sun would peek out and give us interesting subjects in a spotlight.  The foliage looked very healthy and a vibrant green.   I took some photos for no other reason than to look up what kind of plant it is in my field guides.  We started out early since it was forecast to become very hot.  About an hour in we found the humidity increasing quickly. 


It was disappointing to see trash scattered in the area, not much, but any is an eyesore.  There were some signs marking tree species.  We saw very few creatures while on the trail.  One type of creature seen was fish in the more creek-like areas.  The other creature spotted occasionally, usually too late, were spiders!  I started carrying my camera on the monopod above me to break the web first.  Walking into one is no fun, believe me!


I cannot wait for fall and a nice day to return to Flat Creek Nature Area.  Of course, by fall, the spiders will be larger!


Monday, July 28, 2008

Photographing Your Jewelry or Other Collectibles.


There may come a time when you would like to photograph a piece of jewelry or another small object.  Keeping photos of jewelry is a good idea for insurance purposes – and really, a photo of any collection that is of worth is suggested.  I like to suggest taking shots of individual items and then a group shot as well.  Here are some tips on photographing these items.  After you get the photos you want – where should you store them for safekeeping?  The first thing I always think of is a safe deposit box.  But if you don't have one or would like easier accessibility to them, you could just upload them to the internet to one of many online photo service websites.  (Of course, keep a backup on CD or DVD or even just a jump drive.) 


Many people think that macro, or even with some cameras super macro, setting is the one to choose for jewelry photos.  If your piece is not very dimensional – maybe that is OK.  With macro your depth of field is shallow, meaning a small section of the photo is in sharp focus and the rest is blurred.  It is great, artsy – but it won't show a 3D object completely sharp.  If your intent is to show the object – use a regular setting and zoom to get in close to the subject.  If you have a high number megapixel camera – you can crop down to get just your piece if need be.  Cropping does reduce the size of your photo file – so if you crop a photo taken with an 8mp camera in half – you end up with the same size of photo as if you had used a 4mp camera.


Landscape setting is the "semi" auto setting on most cameras with the largest depth of field.  Portrait setting will probably get your whole subject in sharp focus and have the background slightly to very blurred (depending on how far the background is from the subject).  If you are going more manual with this – choose a high number fstop – 11 or greater.  The higher the fstop the more is in focus.  The lower the fstop – below 8 usually – the more you have blur and sharpness in a photo.  If I were doing jewelry I would choose aperture priority and play with my setting from f11 and on up to see what I get that I like best.  Keep in mind that pros experiment with settings a lot to get the look they want – and they take a lot of photos.


If you need flash consider using auxiliary lighting instead.  A flash can create an unflattering glare that will take center stage and perhaps hide details on a piece.  Set your item by a window – take it outside.  But do not go for direct sunlight as this will create glare and shadows.  If you use a flash consider outside and something like fill flash.  If you need more light and want to put a "spotlight" on the piece with a lamp – think about using a screen to soften the lighting.  Use white plastic (like a Target bag) stretched on a coat hanger.  Place this between the object and the light to soften the light and reduce glare on the piece.  If you are using no flash and your camera's shutter is working slower because of it -- you may need a tripod or just place the camera on a table or any other steady surface.  If you are using a slower shutter speed -- just the push of your finger on the button "could" give you enough camera jiggle to not have a super sharp photo.  Set the camera down, put it on timer, push the button and stand back.


Think about your background.  Many people I know photographing art pieces will use one large piece of fabric for a background and under the piece – that way there are no seams, lines, or changes in colors behind the object.


So take some photos!  This is a great way to document your collection and practice with the camera – killing two birds with one stone.


Friday, July 25, 2008

The Rights of the Subject

I have talked before about objects in the public domain that you think are – of course – public, therefore they are free from any strings if you photograph them.  Wrong. 


Recently, in a search on the internet for information on this very subject I found that the light show on the Eiffel Tower is a copyrighted work of art.  Anyone photographing it or video taping the event can do so if it is for personal use.  If you plan to show it in a gallery and sell it – you are violating the intellectual property rights of the copyright owner.  The Empire State Building is another protected object.  A photo of the New York City skyline is fine.  But, if you photograph the Empire State Building – and clearly it is the subject of the photo – you are violating the intellectual property rights (if you use it commercially).


I read a story about Brad Pitt initiating a suit against photographers who took photos of him and his family.  The family was outside their home – on their own property.  The photographers were not on their private property – but they had tele-zoom lenses.  These lenses allow the photographers to get pretty good photos without violating any trespass laws.  Some other celebrity is doing a similar action – I can't think of who it is.  Anyway – just because you are on public property or your own private property when you are photographing someone else – you still may have privacy issues to deal with.  The issue would definitely get pushed if the photo shows another party in an unflattering way and you 'publish' it.


If a person or their property is easily identifiable in your photo and you think you may want to use it in a commercial way, you need to secure a release.  When I say commercial way, I mean place it in the public eye.  The only case I have heard of getting around this is the "art excuse."  A photographer, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, had a show at a gallery in NYC called "Heads."  The show featured head shots of people in Times Square.  The photos were taken as the people just walked by on their way to whatever.  One of the subjects, Erno Nussenzweig, felt violated.  Not only was a large photo of his face hanging – it was offered for sale.  The gallery was selling the portraits for $20,000 to $30,000.  Mr. Nussenzweig claimed also that the whole thing went against his religion.  He is an orthodox Jew with a certain sect that has a commandment about 'graven images.'  But – he was on the street – just walking by and in public view.  The photographer snapped the shot and the rest followed.


The lawsuit of Nussenzweig v. diCorcia was filed in 2005.  In February 2006, the court ruled in favor of diCorcia and the gallery.  The court ruled that the use of Nussenzweig's image was a form of artistic expression and that he could not block the publication, display or sale and that he was not entitled to any compensation from the sale of the artwork or any books.  The court also deemed the lawsuit as untimely.  The ruling was that Mr. Nussenzweig had one year from first publication to file a suit.  In March 2007 this ruling was upheld by New York's First Appellate Division.  In November 2007, the New York Court of Appeals sided with diCorcia and the gallery as well. (Sounds like Mr Nussenzweig kept appealing)  They stuck to the timeliness issue and did not get into the whole using someone's image in art thing.  They said that any privacy claims must be made within one year of first publication whether or not the subject learns of the publication during that period.   So if you don't know about it, you better file a case anyway?  OK


What does this tell you?  If you take photos for your own personal enjoyment, don't worry about anything.  Take the photos, look at them at home, don't sweat it.  For me – it says get a release if you want to do anything besides have a photo in your home on display.  If you plan to put photos on sites such as Flickr, you need to be careful and err on the side of caution.  That word "publish" can mean many things to many people.  One local museum clearly states in their photography policy, that you must read and sign off on prior to taking any photos on property, that 'publish' to them includes placing the photo on the internet and they mention Flickr specifically.  If the appeals court did not want to touch the 'images used in art thing' – just think how messy that could become and costly it would be to have a problem.  It seems much much easier to get a release and sleep easily.


Oh, and my trademark issue, I received an email yesterday with lots of "personal advice" from my infringer and she told me that even though she was right and I was wrong, she had changed the wording on her site anyway.  Don't you just love it?! 


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Intellectual Property -- Trademark Issue

As a photographer you have a responsibility to educate yourself about intellectual property.  I suppose I need to say – as a respectable, considerate, ethical, etc…photographer you need to know the limits and boundaries in the ever changing arena of intellectual property.  Being a photographer you have it from both sides.  You must learn to protect your property.  You also must learn about the rights of others and be mindful not to infringe on rights or leave yourself open to a disagreement.  I believe when dealing with intellectual property – it is best to err on the side of caution.


Almost two months ago now – I finally received my trademark registration for "The Barefoot Photographer."  I wanted to protect my name and website.  During the process I learned a lot about patience.  Even though I had been using the name for a long time – my application process took almost a year to complete.  I had one bump in the road along the way.  Because of that bump I met a very nice photographer and hopefully she will get her registration soon.  I believe we both handled that bump very professionally.


When the registration came through, I contacted a few people who had been using the name on the internet and perhaps locally.  Everyone I contacted was very nice – very professional and there was no problem.  Just recently I have had another bump – quite a large bump – and I can honestly say I am not dealing with a nice or very professional person.  She did not begin using the term "barefoot photographer" until after my registration came through.  She has a blog with that term in the tagline ("ramblings of a barefoot photographer").  Her blog is about her and her photography business.  I have asked her (more than once) to remove that term from the blog and she will not – at least she said (and I have this in writing from her) that if it was shown to her that she was in error in using it – she would remove barefoot photographer from her blog – she would comply with my request. 


Ok – so I give her my registration number with the US Trademark and Patent Office detailing that I had the rights to that terminology in services and class categories including photography services.  Pretty plain – don't you think?  You can easily verify this information with the USPTO.  No, she did not think that was sufficient.  Her feeling is that there are a lot of names on the internet like mine and some identical.  What she is failing to realize is that the identical names – in the United States – have been contacted and are either in process of deleting things or have changed the names on their webpages.   This also reminds me of the argument my kids have tried on me "but Mom, everyone is doing it!"  The answer now is the same it was then, "no, everyone is not doing it." 


I contacted the hosting company for her blog – nice people.  I had a response within 24 hours that they were requesting she change it.  She changed it alright – to another website!  Well – this story is not complete yet – hopefully in the next few days I will get compliance with my request and that will be that.  At present there are letters in the mail both to the person and to the web hosting company's legal department.  To keep my records and cover myself in the event it does get to the point of calling my attorney – I have printed every email from her and her hosting companies (the blog site and the web hosting site).  I even printed the page from Wordpress that says, "The authors have deleted this blog.  The content is no longer available."


As photographers we must protect our intellectual property.   You have to keep records, print emails, and document what happens in case things have to go to the next level.  If you do not, you risk being able to prove what was discussed.  My favorite part of this case is having in writing from her (in an email) that if it was proven to her she was in error, she would comply.  Well, it was proven and she still did not comply.  If I did not ask and demand this person to cease and desist the use of my trademark – well – my trademark would be useless.  The same thing can happen with the use of your photos.  If you allow your photos to be taken and used without permission or compensation – then how can you expect to do it later?  There are many people who take photos from the internet without permission.  You have to be ready for it and prepared to speak up.  As my granddaddy used to say, "Peter, if you don't look out for #1, no one will."  (I don't know why he called me Peter!)


The next blog will be about respecting the rights of the subjects you photograph.


Friday, July 18, 2008

Do you Photoshop?

To Photoshop or not to Photoshop – this is my question.  You know every photo needs at least a tweak.  In the days of film – the developer would work with the negatives to get the best (hopefully) print.  When I hear of taking your memory card directly to a source to print a photo – I cringe.  Each photo needs something to make it better than just right off the card.


So you tweak – you adjust contrast a little – we all know contrast can really make a so-so photo pop.  (I hate that term "pop" and I tried to think of something else to say here – but I can't.)  Colors may need a little punching up.  You can adjust the saturation or in a Camera RAW edit you can adjust vibrance and/or saturation.  A couple weeks ago I saw a photo another person had and loved the colors.  He was asked how he got such great color in the photo.  He adjusted the picture style in the menu on the camera and then tweaked that by adjusting the sharpness.  So – of course I had to go in to select a different picture style and set the sharpness, contrast, etc.  The picture style adjustment feature is really interesting.  In the monochrome setting you can choose a filter effect (yellow, orange, red or green).  These features are on my Canon XTi – depending on your digital SLR, your feature set may be different.  Selecting the picture style, to me, is like selecting a certain film.  Some films had certain characteristics to produce a photo that looked a certain way.  (Did I say "had"  oops, they still have it, I guess, but who uses film???)


OK – so using the camera and software to achieve the best color, contrast, sharpness, etc. is completely acceptable to me and many others.  Where I have an issue is the "changing" of a photo.  There is a letter to the editor in the August issue of Popular Photography taking them to task for removing an animal from a photo to make it a more pleasing composition.  When do you take it too far?  That is a question that each photographer needs to answer for himself. 


Have you ever seen a great photo complete with perfect sky – and then you find out the sky was cut and pasted from another photo?  How do you feel about that?  Frankly, I feel cheated.   That is something I would never consider doing – but I know others do it and think nothing of it.  Obviously, it is their choice.


I took a class with a great photographer once – I submitted a photo that I loved.  It did have a flaw.  The flaw was something natural though.  The tip end of a pine branch had one brown needle among the green.  I liked it – it gave the photo credence to me.  Had all of the needles been completely, perfectly green; you have to wonder.  Nothing in nature is completely perfect.  To show the imperfections (to me) is to show legitimacy of the photo.  The critique I received on that photo was that the brown needle in the frame was distracting.  For me – that was very subjective.  I could not have been happy with myself if I removed that brown needle from the photo and I did not find it distracting.  Those are the times you take the critique you get as it is, simply put, one person's opinion. 


I have said this before – and I will say it many times after – I would rather spend my precious time with my camera and not the software.


Friday, July 11, 2008

The Pond and the Backyard

It has been a while since I posted an update on the pond and the yard.  So here it is…


Tadpoles did arrive in the pond this year albeit a little later than usual.  There seems to be two batches.  I believe that the first batch came along soon after I posted I did not have any and worried it was due to the snake.  The second batch seems to be kind of new – maybe only 2 weeks out and much smaller.  When I am sitting in the house at night I can hear frogs "singing" just outside by the pond.  Sometimes even in the day I can hear them make a little peep or two, especially if we are getting rain.  Just this morning I stepped out on the deck and noticed a small bullfrog sitting on the rocks at the edge of the pond.  It was very near the pink water lily.  A tiger swallowtail flew by; I think it was attracted to the lily.  When it got a little too close to the frog – it jumped into the pond and swam away under the lilypads in a flash.


This is the second bloom for the pink lily this summer.  I had it for two years before it ever bloomed.  The pink is so pretty and it looks so perfect – the bloom almost looks artificial.  The white water lily that I have had since the beginning with the pond has grown immensely.  It is not uncommon for it to have 4, 5, or more blooms at a time.  The pads no longer just cover the water top – they poke up above the water level and create a dimensional effect for the pond.  The little floating heart has not yet bloomed this year.  It has a small, delicate, yellow bloom.


A few of the pretty koi added this year have disappeared.  I am thinking the snake is to blame.  I have not seen the snake for a long time.  It could be frogs – but one of those fish was pretty good size for a frog to make off with.  There are two koi left – one is white with a red spot covering its head and the other is a calico.  There are a few old fish that I believe are grown babies from some of my original shubunkin and comet goldfish.  They are black and hard to spot.  I think the hard to spot part is what has kept them around for so long.  The crew (5) of shubunkins I added late last year are growing and doing well.


A few weeks ago I found the baby turtle upside down on a lily pad.  I watched as it tried to turn over.  It kept trying but could not.  This was at a hot time of day and the turtle was in the bright, hot sunshing.  I dipped it out to look it over and noticed what appeared to be albumen all over it.  This was keeping it from turning back over.  I did not know what to make of this -- but now I am thinking it was in the middle of some frog eggs, the same eggs that hatched out a few days later for the second batch.  Just last week I spotted a baby fish on a lily pad.  I thought it was dead but then it wiggled.  So I went down the deck steps and lowered the pad into the water so the fish could swim away.


The baby rabbit has been back almost daily (or does it live in the backyard?) and I think it is still eating flowers along with some lettuce scraps I toss out.  The echinacea has still not produced a bloom – the rabbit eats the buds before they can bloom!  The plumbago looked like it had been trimmed when I was out there a couple days ago.  In addition to this baby – the one with the little white streak on its forehead – I have seen another baby rabbit that is about half its size.  The rabbits and the chipmunks enjoy the small grape tomatoes that I toss out to them.  I love grape tomatoes – but not when they get soft.  When they get soft – the animals can have them.


The hummingbirds are emptying the feeders on a regular basis.  They continue to fight even though there is plenty to go around for all.  I see one male hanging out in a butterfly bush.  As soon as another hummingbird comes near "his feeder" he dive bombs it.  The other day I thought I heard him hit against another in one of his attacks. 


Along with the hummingbirds, the bluebirds are still coming and going.  I saw a young bluebird sitting on the deck the other day waiting to be fed.  I thought perhaps it could not fly well yet – but it took off for a tree at the edge of the woods.  The yellow finches are coming for the seeds on the lemon balm.  This time of year the males are very vibrant yellow.  It is always fun to watch the birds come to the shallow water dishes in the yard.  As soon as I put fresh water they come to drink and splash around.  I think they hear the water running and come knowing it is cool and fresh.


I have some weeding to do (I always have weeding to do) and a little clean up here and there.  The backyard is work but it also provides a great place to take some photos – and I don't have to use any gas to get there!


Saturday, July 5, 2008

Bright Sunny Days

We all know that the best time of day to shoot great photos is either early in the morning or late in the day when the sun is not harsh and directly overhead.  But what can you do if you are out and about on a very bright, sunny day?


The first thing is filter – remember that circular polarizing filter.  Make sure it is turned to give the best protection from the glare created by bright, midday sun.  Some days it will be so bright that the normal protection from the circular polarizer may not be enough.  You should also invest in some neutral density filters if you find yourself shooting midday more than you care to.  The neutral density filter comes in different grades some will really block out a lot of light allowing for slower shutter speeds and colors not so washed out.  Since the ND filter will not help as well with glare as the CP filter – what I think would be ideal is a ND filter that is not too dark stacked with the CP on top to allow for the turn to either get the reflection (if that is what you want) or to take it out if you don't want it.  There are also gradient neutral density filters that are used to help darken a washed out sky while leaving the detail of a darker landscape.


Just as I tell people in class that a CP filter is like sunglasses for your camera – a lens hood is your camera's sun visor.  When you are out in bright sun – if you have a lens hood in that bag – use it.  I have seen guys on photo shoots taking off their caps and holding them out and over the lens to shade it a little for a shot.  The lens hood will help reduce flare by shading the end of the lens.  It really does work as a visor or hat you would wear or as if you put your hand up to shade your eyes to see better in the bright sunlight.  An added benefit of using a lens hood is that little extra protection it gives your lens.  Anything you may bump into with the camera lens will tap against the hood before it would reach the lens (but of course, your lens is filtered if for nothing else, protection, right?)


Now let's talk about settings on the camera.  The first thing to check is the ISO – is it set to the lowest your camera allows?  The lowest my cameras will go is 100 but I know some even take it lower than that.  Be sure to check this – and then check it again if you move to a shadier spot.  How is the white balance?  Sometimes – even in bright sun the white balance can help with colors.  Take a few shots of the same scene with different settings and decide which you like best.  I try sun, shade and cloudy almost all of the time when I am out to see which gives me the color I am looking for.  Have you ever used the exposure compensation settings?  You know – that little +/- thing?  Here is a good time to try it out.   Moving this setting to +1 or greater can really improve the photo in bright conditions.  If your camera has settings like "snow" "beach" and such – it is setting this exposure value (EV) for you when you choose a lighting condition that can be difficult to for shooting.


And what about that shadier spot….if there is some shade – try to use it.  Look for a great photo already in shade (before you shoot it make sure the camera is set for the shade and not the bright sun  Check that ISO, EV and anything else).  This is when a background can be a little tricky – if the subject is in shade and rich with color – but the background is washed out by sun – you won't be happy.  Look for a good subject with a good background.  If there isn't enough good shade, you can always make your own.  Get that umbrella out of the car and use it for shade.  This is where you may also need a tripod to hold the camera while you hold the umbrella over a subject and set the timer on the camera.


Don't forget – you still may need a flash.  Especially with bright sun you can get freaky shadows on faces.  If someone is wearing a cap – their eyes will be shaded and not show up well in the photo.  Also some subjects will just have a silhouette effect.  Even though it is super bright and everyone is wearing sunglasses – flash – and the photo will be better.  A lot of cameras have the fill flash feature – this is when you use it.  And when you do use this, you will need to be close enough for the flash to have an effect.


So go get a bottle of water and practice with that camera in the bright sun.  Practicing with features and settings before there is an event always pays off. 


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