BrickHouse Photo School

Tips, Tricks and Reviews for Photo Hobbyists

Archive for April 2009

The Great American Influence: Roy Stryker

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Roy Stryker may not be known for his camera work, but he is probably one of the most influential people in documentary photography.

Roy Stryker

Roy Stryker

Stryker, an economist by training, was the head of the Farm Security Administration’s Historical Section – a U.S. government department that was created during The New Deal. The FSA employed such noted documentary photographers as Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Gordon Parks and John Collier Jr. to name a few.

Born November 5, 1893 in Great Bend, Kansas, Stryker was the son of a farmer. He served in the infantry in World War I and when he returned home, he studied economics at Columbia University. He was asked to stay at the school once he graduated to teach economics with his mentor, Rexford Tugwell. The two collaborated on a book, “American Economic Life,” which used an extensive amount of photographs to highlight topics. Even in his lectures, Stryker used photographs from his collection to help bring a “real face” to the theories he was teaching.

Stryker followed his mentor to Washington D.C. as Tugwell was serving on President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Brain Trust. Tugwell was appointed as the head of the FSA and made Stryker the head of the Historical Section – the section appointed to document the FSAs initiatives.

Stryker assembled one of the greatest teams of documentary photographers with a single task: document the effects of the Great Depression on the people in the hardest hit areas of the United States.

Although not a photographer himself, Stryker understood the importance of photography as a tool to both document and to influence. With his work with the FSA, Stryker was a singular figure in building one of the greatest collections of documentary images in U.S. history.

Books for Your Library: ‘African Air’

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Photo books are a great addition to any library. As photographers, we are constantly searching for new ideas and are always interested in seeing concepts-done-well. Here’s a suggestion to add to your library …

“African Air,” a photo essay by George Steinmetz, offers a unique, bird’s-eye view of Africa through the lens of an award-winning National Geographic photographer.
Steinmetz, who has been a contributing photographer to National Geographic and GEO magazines for more than 20 years, takes to the air in this book, flying sometimes thousands of feet in the air with the aid of a motorized paraglider (think parachute with a motor).

This book features amazing panoramic photos taken in more than 14 African countries. From urban sprawls to remote villages and miles upon miles of seemingly endless desert, Steinmetz offers the viewer a unique look of the African landscape.

Since 1986, Steinmetz has completed 18 major photo essays for National Geographic magazine and 25 stories for GEO magazine. Born in Beverly Hills in 1957, he graduated with a degree in geophysics from Stanford University. He began his photography career after hitchhiking through Africa for 28 months.

KODAK Gallery Launches First Ever Mom-a-Thon by Giving Away One Million Free Photo Cards for Mother’s Day

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I will often publish media releases related to photography on this blog in order to help keep you informed. These media releases are created by the respective companies. I edit the releases for space as needed.

KODAK Gallery recently announced that it is giving away one million free personalized Photo Cards as part of Mom-a-Thon 2009. KODAK Gallery is calling upon all children, fathers, spouses and friends – both young and old – to participate in this first ever Mom-a-Thon.

People simply visit, create a one-of-a-kind personalized printed Photo Card featuring a photo and message and share it with someone they love on Mother’s Day.

“KODAK Gallery’s Mom-a-Thon makes it easy to show mom how much she’s appreciated on Mother’s Day. Moms share a special bond with their children and they deserve more than a typical card and flowers,” said Peter Brumme, Senior Director of Marketing, KODAK Gallery. “We are not just giving away one million free cards, we are giving away one million personalized cards and each one is as unique as the mom who receives it.”

KODAK Gallery needs help to get these free cards in the hands of one million deserving mothers:

1. Consumers visit and browse the Gallery’s exclusive designs in a variety of shapes and sizes.
2. Choose the design that best reflects their relationship with mom. Select a favorite photo and add a personalized message.
3. That’s it – one more mom will be smiling this Mother’s Day!

KODAK Gallery encourages people to celebrate all the relationships in their lives with a free personalized Photo Card or one of the Gallery’s other unique personalized photo gifts. Gallery makes it easy to create high quality, affordable personalized gifts like Photo Books, Calendars, Mugs, Mouse Pads, and more that mom will treasure for years to come.

Shipping is an additional charge. Offer entitles consumer to a $2.49 credit toward any photo card. Offer expires May 16, 2009.

Written by jeremyparce

April 29, 2009 at 6:22 am

Photo Gear: Tripods

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The Manfrotto geared head model 405.

Tripods are too often an overlooked accessory in photography. Most hobbyists, if they even own a tripod, too often settle for a model that is cheaply made and doesn’t offer the range of benefits a good tripod can offer. Plus, if you’re going to put your $1000+ gear on something, shouldn’t it be the best?

First, let’s discuss the basics: a tripod is composed of two parts, the legs and the head. The legs are, as you may already guess, the base of the tripod. It’s important, then, to get the best support possible.

I think the heavier the legs, the better. My favorite manufacturer in Manfrotto because I think this company offers the best product at the best price. I particularly like model 161MK2B (kinda boring name) AKA the “Super Pro Tripod Mark 2 Black (kinda long and still boring name). Despite the rather boring name, this tripod is fantastic. It’s very sturdy and has a high load capacity. This is a great base in which to begin.

As for tripod heads, I prefer what’s called “geared heads” because they are highly precise and easy to operate. In the Manfrotto line, I like the model 405 (now I think Manfrotto REALLY needs to working on product names) because its gearing system is needle-sharp. It allows for 360-degree panning and front and lateral tilt. This is very important for macro photography and landscape work.

I’ll warn you: This whole setup isn’t cheap. The tripod itself will set you back almost $500 and the head is about $400. Yeah, I know. Most hobbyists don’t want to set back nearly $900 for a tripod but, unlike most other photography gear, tripods don’t really go out of style. A good tripod now will last you probably your entire photographic career.

There are less expensive alternatives that are good but don’t offer the same quality as this gear. Be sure to look for these qualities when purchasing your next tripod:

  • Heavy-Duty Design: The heavier the legs the more stable the tripod. Try to pick gear that “feels” like it’s well made. If in doubt, move on.
  • Head Interchangeability: Can you change the head? If not, this probably isn’t the best tripod for your money.
  • Well-Known Names: Sometimes I’m not a fan of “brand names” because there’s some gear that may not be well known, but are great pieces of equipment. In tripods, I say go with the names you know. Manfrotto, Bogen, Slik – but only the “pro” rated gear and Swarovski Optik.

Polaroid Acquired by Hilco Consumer Capital, L.P. and Gordon Brothers Brands, LLC

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I will often publish media releases related to photography on this blog in order to help keep you informed. These media releases are created by the respective companies. I edit the releases for space as needed.

A joint venture led by Gordon Brothers Brands, LLC (“GBB”) and Hilco Consumer Capital, L.P. (“HCC”), which includes private equity fund Knight’s Bridge Capital Partners and other institutional investors, announced today the Federal Bankruptcy court for the district of Minnesota approved its acquisition of substantially all the assets of Polaroid(R), including the Polaroid brand, intellectual property, inventory and other assets. Jeffrey Hecktman, Chairman and CEO of The Hilco Organization, and Michael Frieze, CEO of Gordon Brothers Group, are proud to have Polaroid associated with their organizations and as a leading brand in their distinguished portfolios.

The joint venture partners, who recently acquired The Sharper Image, Linens ‘N Things and Bombay brands, plan to develop a full-scale global licensing and marketing strategy for wholesale, direct-to-retail (DTR) and e-commerce businesses to leverage Polaroid’s innovative and pioneering heritage.

Stephen Miller, Co-President, Gordon Brothers Retail Group stated, “Polaroid is an iconic brand known globally for their technical innovation and high-quality products that deliver on its reputation of ease-of-use. As a Boston-based company, it’s a privilege to keep Polaroid’s roots in America while expanding the brand internationally.”

“The Polaroid brand has immense global appeal that translates into almost all categories,” commented Jamie Salter, CEO of Hilco Consumer Capital. “This is a terrific opportunity to unlock Polaroid’s brand value and transform its multi-channel platform of diverse and unique consumer products using leading technologies and trend-setting innovations.”

During its 72-year history, Polaroid has developed one of the world’s most widely recognized consumer brands. The joint venture recognizes that Polaroid’s unique “innovation-made-simple” brand platform has global appeal across a wide demographic and can be expanded to numerous product categories. The Polaroid brand began with polarized sunglasses, evolved into instant film, camera and camera accessories, and expanded well beyond into flat panel televisions, portable DVD players, digital photo frames, digital HD camcorders, waterproof digital cameras and more.

Always on the cutting edge of the latest “instant” technologies, Polaroid is also responsible for the world’s very first ZINK enabled printing device. The Polaroid PoGo Instant Mobile Printer offers the capability to print and share 2”x3” borderless, color images from a camera cell phone or digital camera in under a minute. In 2009, Polaroid unveiled a digital camera with the same printing capabilities, the palm-sized PoGo Instant Digital Camera.

The flexibility of the Polaroid brand offers limitless potential to embark on additional product opportunities, ranging from consumer electronics to commercial imaging. The joint venture intends to partner with a number of global institutions in the ongoing development of the Polaroid brand.

Written by jeremyparce

April 28, 2009 at 6:12 am

Places to Go on the Web – Great Photo Sites Issue 15

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I love photography. Not only do I love to take photographs, I love to talk, teach, and explore photography. I also like to look at great photographs to get ideas on how I can be a better photographer.
If you have any interest in digital photography, then a visit to some of these sites is worth your time. Looking at great photos will help make your own photos better because you can get ideas, tips and see what and how others are photographing their subjects. As your cruise Cyberspace, spend a few minutes looking at these Websites:

Jehad Nga: Jehad Nga’s use of light and shadow is simply amazing. Born in Smith Center, Kansas, he discovered photography while a student at UCLA in 2002. Between 2001-2002, he traveled the Middle East taking medical volunteer positions and eventually trained to be an EMT while interning at Magnum Photos. In 2003, he traveled to Iraq to cover the U.S.-led invasion and in the summer of 2003 he began working in Africa. Since 2004, he has been based in East Africa. His client list includes Marie Claire, Newsweek, Time Magazine and Human Rights Watch.

Chris Rainier: Chris Rainier is considered one of the leading documentary photographers working today. His photography of sacred places and indigenous peoples have appeared in Time, Life, National Geographic publications, Conde Nast Traveler and publications of the International Red Cross. He was included in the American Photo Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People Working in Photography Today” list.

Michele Laurita
: LA-based photographer, cinematographer and director Michele Laurita started in photography more than 10 years ago shooting for music groups and album covers. She has photographed – to name a few – Ben Affleck, Selma Hayek and Nicholas Cage. Her client list includes Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Rolling Stone and Modern Bride.

Astrophotography: The Beautiful Images from the Hubble Space Telescope

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Probably since the beginning of time, we have looked at the night sky and wondered, “what’s up there?”

Star-Birth Clouds M16: Stellar “eggs” emerge from a molecular cloud. (Photo Credit: NASA, ESA, STScl, J. Hester and P. Scowen, Arizona State University)

Star-Birth Clouds M16: Stellar “eggs” emerge from a molecular cloud. (Photo Credit: NASA, ESA, STScl, J. Hester and P. Scowen, Arizona State University)

Space and its mysteries have been the topic of books, movies, comic books, poems and songs. But thanks to technology in imaging, we are able to see what composes the our universe.

The Hubble Space Telescope has recorded images that not only provide scientists with valuable information about the universe, but also are artistic masterpieces. The HST is a space-based telescope that was launched in 1990 by the U.S. Space Agency. It is located 380 miles above the Earth. In its first 15 years, it has recorded 700,000 images. More than 4,000 peer-reviewed papers based on Hubble data have been published.

The HST moves around Earth at about 5 miles per second. To compare, if a car could travel that fast, a road trip from LA to New York City would take about 10 minutes. It completes its orbit of the Earth in 97 minutes and travels more than 150 million miles every year.

The images captured by Hubble have been featured in multiple magazines and websites. While many enjoy the images, some people wonder about the color of the photos taken by the HST. An explanation is given that these are false colors used to show differences and separate the various elements of the subject.

From the Website, “Taking color pictures with the Hubble Space Telescope is much more complex than taking color pictures with a traditional camera. For one thing, Hubble doesn’t use color film — in fact, it doesn’t use film at all. Rather, its cameras record light from the universe with special electronic detectors. These detectors produce images of the cosmos not in color, but in shades of black and white. Finished color images are actually combinations of two or more black-and-white exposures to which color has been added during image processing. The colors in Hubble images, which are assigned for various reasons, aren’t always what we’d see if we were able to visit the imaged objects in a spacecraft. We often use color as a tool, whether it is to enhance an object’s detail or to visualize what ordinarily could never be seen by the human eye.”

Furthermore, filters are used to recreate colors as explained, “Many full-color Hubble images are combinations of three separate exposures — one each taken in red, green, and blue light. When mixed together, these three colors of light can simulate almost any color of light that is visible to human eyes. That’s how televisions, computer monitors, and video cameras recreate colors.”

Written by jeremyparce

April 27, 2009 at 7:54 am