News and Views from Dave Wilson

Archive for April, 2011

Some humour for you Strobist types

by on Apr.24, 2011, under Photography

My writer wife stumbled upon (and immediately blogged) a hilarious video called “I’m Reading A Book” by Julian Smith this morning so I had a look through his other offerings and came across this equally funny piece which struck me as pretty appropriate for this blog. Enjoy!

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Logomotion Goes Loco

by on Apr.22, 2011, under Photography

Here’s something fun and different. During my visit to Chicago recently for the FIRST Robotics Competition Midwest Regional, I took along the Canon Powershot G9 and my shiny new Gorillapod Focus. The G9 can shoot timelapse video so I would attach it to various railings in the stadium and shoot the competition or crowd or pits or whatever. I’ve cut together some of this video now and you can see the result below.

I first tried this a couple of years ago at the San Diego Regional and you can find that video here. That one is encoded as an interlaced MPEG-1 file, though, so it doesn’t look as good as the new video which is 480p instead.

FRC Midwest Regional – Logomotion Goes Loco! from Dave Wilson on Vimeo.

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Copyright Infringement Update

by on Apr.21, 2011, under Photography

If you were following this blog back in late January, you may remember that I had my first serious case of copyright infringement when a local telephone directory company decided to pick up one of my photos from Flickr and use it on the cover of their local directory. After an exchange of 5 letters and a couple of phone calls, I am delighted to report that the claim is now resolved. The directory company admitted that they were at fault and paid a mutually acceptable fee for a license to use the image. As expected, it seems that this was another case of someone in the production side labouring under the misapprehension that any image which is on the internet is automatically in the public domain.

As regards the actual settlement, you’ll need to take me out and buy me a few beers to find out the final cost to the infringers. Suffice it to say that it was less than my original demand but significantly more than they would have paid had they approached me for a license in good faith prior to publication. No doubt some of you are also wondering why I decided to settle rather than taking the matter to court. I’m 100% sure that I could have won a larger settlement after taking legal action but, weighing up the pros and cons (mostly cons related to the time, effort and stress involved in a dealing with lawyers and a court case) and after discussing the situation with my wife and a couple of lawyer friends, I decided that negotiating rather than litigating was in everyone’s best interest.

So what have I learned through all this? The main thing I take away from the experience aside from being doubly careful to embed copyright info in all my files (which was apparently not something I did until the end of 2004) is that it’s easy to bluster about taking someone to court but, when you are actually in a position to do it, you need to think long and hard about how much time and effort it will cost both you and your family if things get nasty. I think, in the end, this worked out as a win-win – the negotiation was very professional, no-one got stuck with legal fees and I was fairly recompensed for the use of one of my images.

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Small Town, Big Community

by on Apr.17, 2011, under Miscellaneous, Photography

One of the wonderful things about living in a rural area, and one thing that I missed when living in the city, is great community spirit. Our local town, Dripping Springs, celebrated its annual Founders’ Day this weekend and you won’t find a better example of community spirit than this event. The fun starts on Friday evening with a parade in which half the town kids ride on floats sponsored by local businesses and organisation, and the other half catch the mountain of candy that is thrown from those floats. The carnival is in town and the parade route goes right through the middle of it, adding to the fun. On Saturday and Sunday, the center of the town is filled with booths set up by local artists, craftspeople and businesses and 100s (literally) of barbecue aficionados – teams from all over the state – determined to win an award for best fajitas, brisket, chicken or a host of other smoked staples. All of this is, obviously, a lot of fun and I’m sure the booth vendors do well at the event but the thing that really sets this apart from the many, many city art shows I’ve attended is the fact that everyone is so incredibly sociable and talkative.

Being a “home town” event, I recognise a fair number of friends and neighbours there but, regardless of whether I’ve met anyone before, everyone is sociable and most are keen on conversation as much as selling their wares or winning the barbecue competition. The atmosphere is wonderful.

As I headed to the car after my first experience of a Founders’ Day 5 years ago, I remember hearing something over the public address that said a great deal about the event. It’s odd but those three words said more about the event than I could manage in this whole post. They were “9th Place Brisket.”

You can see more of my favourite images from the event over on SmugMug.

Drew and a couple of his Pack 101 buddies on the parade float.

Sousaphones from Dripping Springs High School Band

A fairy on a parade float

The driver of one of the vintage trucks in the parade.

Cheerleaders from the High School get ready for the parade.

The littlest cowboy in the parade.

Some bigger cowboys ride through the carnival near the start of the parade.

Onlookers cheer for one of the parade floats.

Members of one of the barbecue teams offering samples of their cooking.

Lone Star BBQ and Chili Team - Smoking since 1979.

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Timelapse Videos by Terje Sorgjerd

by on Apr.17, 2011, under Photography

I’ve just discovered some gorgeous timelapse videos produced by Norwegian landscape photographer Terje Sorgjerd. Take a look at his Vimeo account or FaceBook page to see more examples of his work. His latest video was taken last week on Spain’s highest mountain, El Teide and shows some superb night-time sequences including a Sahara sandstorm blowing in.

The Mountain from Terje Sorgjerd on Vimeo.

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Talk Imagery Podcast, Episode 2

by on Apr.09, 2011, under Photography

With all the recent travel and other excitement, I just realised that I completely forgot to mention the fact that I was a guest on Scott Wyden’s new “Talk Imagery” podcast recently. This is a new video podcast using a discussion format. Scott invites half a dozen or so of his photo buddies from across the continent to get together and discuss various photographic topics.

In episode 2, we talked about branding and the importance (or lack of importance) of various online photography sharing services. Others joining the conversation were Pat O’Brien, Rob Hanson, Brian Matiash, John Milleker, Heath O’Fee, Phil Cohen, Joe Hoetzl, Jesse Pafundi and Mike Olbinksi.

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It’s Not The Kit That Counts (most of the time)

by on Apr.09, 2011, under Photography

How often are you told,on showing someone a particularly good picture you’ve taken, that you must have a great camera? I always think that this is somewhat similar to telling a great author that they must have a very high-end word processor! I’m a great believer in the adage that your actual photography equipment is nothing like as important as what you do with it. A consumer grade DSLR and kit lens can be used to take superb images (as can an iPhone, a Holga, a cheap point-and-shoot or whatever “low-end” camera you care to substitute). The issue is not how much the equipment cost but your artistic vision and your ability to use the equipment, limitations and all, to achieve the result you are aiming for.

For 95% of my photography, the camera is essentially irrelevant. I’m either shooting outdoors in good light or have the camera on a tripod where shutter speed is unimportant. I’m also normally shooting for online use and, even when I do print images, I seldom do sizes above 20″x16″ and normally stick around 12″x18″ unless I have pictures to produce for a show. As a result, the lens quality is typically not an issue. You don’t need a $2000 lens if your main aim is to produce 8″x12″ prints or low resolution images for the web.

Given this, the question that comes to many people’s mind is why bother upgrading to an expensive camera system if a cheap one will do a great job? The answer to this question, for me, is that an expensive camera and lens combination opens up new vistas of photography that would otherwise be completely closed to me. It allows me to stretch my photography into new and interesting areas, notably sport and low light photography.

A great example of this was my recent experience of shooting at the Austin Rodeo. I was fortunate enough to gain press access to the event one evening to shoot inside the arena during the show. The lighting was absolutely awful (if you think a floodlit football stadium at night is problematic, imagine yourself with 2 stops less light than that) but I had to use as high a shutter speed as possible to try to freeze the action. Typically, this will mean using a shutter speed of 1/1000 of a second or thereabouts but there was no way this could happen. In the end, I shot most of the evening at 1/500th, f/2.8 and ISO 4000. The last two numbers are the critical ones. To get something close to a decent shutter speed, I had to use a very fast (and, hence, expensive) lens with a wide aperture and also crank my sensitivity up to a ridiculously high value.

Had I not had the D700, I would have been stuck. My D90 will shoot acceptable images up to about 2500ISO but 4000ISO wouldn’t be usable. At 2500ISO, my shutter speed with the expensive glass would have been about 1/250th or so leading to a significantly blurrier image for most of the action shots. Had I been using a kit lens at f/5.6 (at the long end, the D90 kit lens is a 105mm f/5.6) I would have been looking at 1/60th, definitely not something that would have yielded anything other than “creative blur” for most of the evening.

As with many cases, the expensive equipment comes into its own in the “corner cases”, situations that most people never encounter and that cheaper equipment is just not designed to handle. You are paying for a reduced set of limitations rather than better pictures in normal use unless your definition of “normal use” involves a lot of low light sport shooting. The more expensive camera can handle a wider range of lighting situations and still expose a shot properly but, regardless, it’s still up to you to know the capabilities and limitations of the equipment and work within those limits to compose and shoot that great picture.

Hanging on For Dear Life, Austin Rodeo

Bull Rider, Rodeo Austin

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Anyone for a large print?

by on Apr.04, 2011, under Photography

Texas Lone Star

Texas Lone Star, originally uploaded by DaveWilsonPhotography.

I was pretty chuffed when I got an order for a 50 inch print last year but I’ve just beaten this size record by a substantial margin. The nice folks at Austin Bergstrom International Airport have licensed one of my pictures of the lone star sculpture outside the Texas State History Museum for use in a large banner inside the main terminal. Final print size 276″ x 180″! I’ve just shipped them the file (after a lot of careful rescaling, sharpening and noise reduction) and it was a whopper to process, taxing my PC to the limits (or, more precisely, taxing my PC’s hard disk paging to the maximum).

I have no idea when the final banners will be displayed since I gather they are to be used to fill a space that is usually occupied by an advertising billboard but keep an eye open if you are flying through AUS over the next few months and you may see this somewhere near the security lines.

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