News and Views from Dave Wilson

Archive for September, 2010

Copyright Buildings?

by on Sep.29, 2010, under Photography

I’ve just realised that I’ve neglected to update the blog for over a week! Sorry about that. What with kids back at school, sports starting back up again and business trips, things have been a bit busy recently.

By way of background to my last blog post, I spent a week in Boston attending the Embedded Systems Conference and managed to tag a day on at the beginning of the trip to get together with Brian Matiash and Bob Lussier to shoot pictures around the city. We had a great time and one of the most spectacular locations we visited was the plaza in front of First Church of Christ Scientist.

This plaza contains a fabulous array of buildings in different architectural styles placed around a large reflecting pool. For lovers of HDR and architecture photography, it was a dream and we spent a couple of hours shooting different buildings and different angles.

One of the views I really wanted to grab was a wide angle shot of the Prudential tower and various other tall buildings reflecting in the pool. Unfortunately, on Sunday afternoon, there was a bit of a breeze so the reflection wasn’t too impressive. Assuming it would be calmer early in the morning, I headed out again the next day and set up to take a few more shots. On Monday morning, the plaza was deserted except for a couple of yellow-jacketed security guards. After 10 minutes or so, I was approached by one of these gentlemen who, very politely, checked on what I was doing. I indicated that I was an amateur photographer and blogger capturing images for my own collection at which point he and told me that the building was “copyright” since they were keen to control the use of its image and that I would need a permit to continue shooting.

On checking later, however, I discovered that it is not possible to copyright images of a building in the US if that building was built before 1990 and is visible from a public place. In this particular case, the building is obviously older than 20 years so the claim cannot apparently be true. The church is, of course, very much visible from a public place even though this particular shot was taken from the plaza which is apparently private land.

Given our experiences at the John Hancock building (which prompted the previous post), it definitely pays to be aware of your rights to take photographs in a public place especially if you are shooting in a large US city. Take a look at Pete Talke’s recent post outlining those rights if you have a minute. Please note, however, that this applies to the US only and that rules are very different in other countries.

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Advice for Security Guards

by on Sep.19, 2010, under Photography

Dear security guard,

I’m delighted that you have a good job, a nice uniform and a sense of authority. When exercising this newfound power, especially in the context of terrorism prevention, you may find the following hints and tips helpful.

  1. Almost everyone walking past your building is carrying a cellphone camera capable of taking pictures that can be blown up to 10″x8″ or larger. A very small number of these people (probably none at all) are terrorists.
  2. The likelihood of someone being a terrorist is not proportional to the size of their camera or the amount of equipment they are carrying.
  3. Anyone eyeing your building with bad intent is unlikely to do so by setting up a whole lot of gear and standing there very visibly for 10 or 15 minutes. Stealth is a far more likely strategy for someone who doesn’t want to be noticed.
  4. People in this USA are entitled to take photographs of pretty much anywhere that is visible from public property (with a few exceptions which don’t include your office building).
  5. You can’t profile based on race when you have suspicions regarding the behaviour of passers-by but many of you apparently believe you can profile based on camera equipment choice. Please ensure that you approach and interogate all point-and-shoot totting grandmothers the same way you would a serious photo enthusiast.
  6. Telling someone they can’t use a tripod near your building “for copyright reasons” is a lame excuse that doesn’t mean anything. Please think of a better way to try to fob off people who are easily intimidated.
  7. Telling someone they can’t use a tripod “for insurance reasons” is also a cop-out. In case you find yourself talking to someone capable of thinking, please ensure that you can provide a more specific reason. Be prepared to explain why a tripod is an insurance risk. I can understand why, for example, swimming pools and trampolines could be a problem but I’ve never heard of a single tripod-related third-party injury that would cause insurance rates to change.
  8. When trying to defend your assertion that photographers pose a security risk, it is generally considered very offensive if you equate their risk to large truck bombs. I guess it is possible to pack C4 into a camera bag but a truck full of fertiliser or a car trunk containing a small thermonuclear device definitely pose a rather more significant risk. Do you approach all vehicle drivers to check whether they pose any risk to your building?

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave a comment. In the meantime, here’s one of the threatening images I shot of your building yesterday (when no-one approached me to complain).

Sincerely yours,

Dave Wilson (amateur photographer and tripod user)
John Hancock Building, Boston

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Falling Water

by on Sep.15, 2010, under Photography

A while ago, I posted a gorgeous video by Cristóbal Vila. While reading Todd Landry’s blog today, I noticed he had posted another video by Cristóbal so here it is for your delight and delectation. This one deals with “Falling Water”, a fabulous house by Frank Lloyd Wright.



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HDR Video Demonstration

by on Sep.12, 2010, under Photography

Most of you will know I’m a fan of High Dynamic Range photography. This is a pretty processor intensive business so imagine how much CPU time doing the same thing for video at 24 or 30 frames per second would take. A few folks are playing with this, though, and I was interested to find the following video via a posting on HDR Photog today.

I take exception, somewhat, to the scene asking “What do people look like in HDR?” since the answer depends heavily on the tone-mapping choices made but, putting this aside, the video certainly makes for an interesting couple of minutes.


HDR Video Demonstration Using Two Canon 5D mark II’s from Soviet Montage on Vimeo.

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Changing Direction

by on Sep.10, 2010, under Photography

Sometimes you sit down with an idea in your head and, after a few minutes experimentation, something totally different evolves. I think that’s one of the wonderful things about digital post-processing – there are so many possibilities!

This evening, I was wandering through my archive of unprocessed images playing with some shots I took in Las Vegas last February. I had initially intended processing a few more HDRs but the results didn’t inspire me. I had flipped one reflection shot so that the reflected text was readable and noticed that it made an interesting geometric design in Lightroom’s thumbnail display as it sat next to the original image. This led me to open the image in Photoshop and create an abstract by duplicating the original 4 times and flipping the copies horizontally and vertically. The result bears very little resemblance to the original reflection shot but creates a pure geometry abstract that I really love.

While I sometimes end a processing session disappointed at not managing to create the image I had in my mind when I started, in this particular case, the result, to me at least, is so much better and so much more different than I had originally envisioned. A happy accident? I guess so but I’ll take these now and again when the chance arises!

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End of a Web Era

by on Sep.04, 2010, under Computer, Miscellaneous

Today marks the end of an era for me. Despite the fact that I’ve been out of the PC video business for almost 15 years (and out of the video business completely for 3 years), I was still managing a rather popular site documenting PC video codecs. The site, www.fourcc.org was set up after a heated discussion with Microsoft who, at the time, required people to register their video codecs with them but then didn’t actually make registration information available so, if you had a new pixel format to support, you had no idea if there was an existing registration for it or not. The site aimed to cure this problem by providing a place where people could register their codec and pixel format identifiers (Four Character Codes – fourccs) but which would also document what those fourccs actually meant so that developers could reuse them as required.

The site took off rather quickly and today is getting somewhere around 22,000 hits (or 3500 page views) each day. I, however, have been neglecting it horribly for a few years so recently decided to sell it so someone still in the business who has a track record of doing good things with similar sites.

All the best, Bjarne – I hope the site is as good to you as it has been to me over the last decade and a bit.

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Photography Power Lunch

by on Sep.03, 2010, under Photography

I just wanted to give a shout out to some local HDR photographer buddies after a very enjoyable lunch at Chuy’s on Barton Springs Road yesterday. Austin has a thriving community of HDR enthusiasts and we manage to get together reasonably often to shoot (though I think it’s true to say that we’ve never managed to get all the “core crowd” together in one place yet – maybe this year?). Yesterday, though, it was purely social as Jim Nix invited us to get together for a lunch and geekfest. It was a great success and I’m sure we’ll do it again soon.

Yesterday’s attendees were:

You will find these guys and many others in my newly revamped blogroll over on the photoblog. By the way, if you’re new here, you may not realise that I post different material here and on the photoblog. The photoblog is strictly for image posting but I tend to include random articles and news here which I don’t have over there. Just to make life really difficult for myself, I also post different pictures to Flickr too so you may also want to take a look over there every now and then.

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Gorgeous Animation – Lilac Wine

by on Sep.01, 2010, under Photography

I’ve been a fan of Jeff Buckley’s version of “Lilac Wine” for years so was interested to see this link on Stuck in Customs today. The animation is so beautiful, I had to steal it and post it here too. I’m sure Trey will forgive me!

Lilac Wine from Matthew Landa on Vimeo.

While I’m writing, I should apologise for the complete lack of Flickr and photoblog updates this week. I’m working on a commercial job that’s eating a lot of time and, on top of this, the kids went back to school so I no longer have my summer 30 minutes of uploading time in the morning. I’ll get back in the swing in a week or so once the paying gig is out the way.

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