Thursday, August 14, 2008

UPDATED: Paint It Black - Sports Sidelines Changing Shades

This year's Olympics should well be the turning point where the sidelines of sporting events are - to pay homage to AC/DC - Back in Black. Nikon's flagship D3 - even with a smaller chip than it's competition the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III (and even it's predecessor the 1Ds Mark II) has painted the sidelines at the Olympics (and so too, the news event press pens in DC) more and more black. (Click the photo to see it larger). This is substantially due to Nikon's high ISO - insane at 25,600 ISO, and amazingly useful at 3200 and 6400 ISO without having to even think about it much. To add to this huge lead, consider Canon's faltering with the autofocus mis-steps as highlighted by Rob Galbraith (repeatedly).

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In a few days, I'm headed overseas on assignment for two weeks, and I'll be working in mostly low-light museums and other national treasures in several countries. Even though I own an EOS 1Ds Mark III, and Mark II, instead, I am choosing to take my D3, and a D700 as well. It really was a no-brainer given the multiple times I won't be allowed to use flash - but still am required by my client to make images during the trip. My Canons will sit in the equipment cabinet back in the office.

UPDATE: While Gizmodo is busy counting $253,000 in gear - Quarter Million Dollars of Digital Photo Gear in a Single Photo (8/15/08), hit their link to see 23 cameras at work, and EIGHT of them are Canon's.

Feel free to add links in the comments to other images of this nature!

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Microsoft Mis-Steps on Intellectual Property

A contest that was purported to highlight Britain through "recommending" images that are not your own has turned into a black eye for the good folks at Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT). In reality, the program was really designed to get people familiar with Microsoft's "Live Search" functionality. I say "good folks" because they've been working hard to improve their positive visibility in the past few years, with the Microsoft Pro Photo Summit, Microsoft Icons of Imaging, photographers more reasonable fees for licensing of images for Vista, and their soon-to-be-released PhotoSynth promises to redefine the landscape of photography - literally. Yet, the Microsoft's Iconic Britain has raised the ire of the usually free-wheeling rights-easy folks in Flickr forums (see here), so much so that Nikon UK took the unusual step of releasing the following statement:

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"Nikon UK would like to confirm that it has formally withdrawn its support from Microsoft's Iconic Britain competition. This is due to the feedback and concerns raised by photographers and entrants surrounding the competition mechanic that was developed and promoted by Microsoft. As the camera prizes that were on offer have already been won, Nikon will fulfiLl its commitment to these winners, however it will not be associated with the competition going forward."
What's wrong with the competition? The action of submitting someone elses' image - however complimentary - is an infringement. It is the unauthorized distribution/transfer of one persons' images without their permission. Further, the winners of the competition are those that submitted the images - they get something for the quality of someone elses' work. How does this work?

Well, if you have pages and pages and pages of amazing images, and you have sponsor logos and promotional materials adjacent to these images - the sponsors gain the benefit of association, the pageviews and click-throughs that accompany them, and so forth. The unwitting "entrants" have, in most cases, no idea that their work has been submitted to a contest. Imagine that they have this great image on display on their website, and decided to submit that image to a contest that had as it's requirement that it either had not been in another contest, had not been published previously? These are just a few of the potential problems associated with this contest.

Nikon makes a point in their retraction from the contest "moving forward", that the contest award winners have already won the cameras, but I expect that this contest will be a one-time thing for Microsoft, given the negative attention it has garnered. CNET does a great job here of dissecting the language from Microsoft and Nikon UK, where they're trying to dance around how they're going to wrap up this contest. What is troubling to me, but wasn't highlighted by CNET, "the competition's final stage -- planned but as yet without a date -- would feature photographs for which Microsoft is "currently obtaining the copyrights"." CNET parses everything else, but not the point where Microsoft is trying to obtain "copyrights". Folks - that's a quoted word - "copyrights". Not "currently obtaining the rights..."

Kudos to the Pro Imaging website for their efforts on this.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Photo Business News & Forum - Top 10

Last night, we surpassed 1.2 million pageviews for the blog, and hope that everyone who's been here has learned a lot! Here are the top 10 posts, in order of pageviews, during that time.

  1. Nikon vs. Canon - Introduction - Our head-to-head comparison of our two newest cameras, back in December of last year, the D3 and the EOS 1Ds Mark III.
  2. Photo Booth Rig - The 'in detail' demonstration of a really cool photo booth where people can make images of themselves, and get a print, in under a minute!
  3. State of the Union - From the Photographer's Perspective - a look at how the photographers covered the event (including me), as well as some insights into the work environment and challenges we all face.

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  • A Must Watch - Do You See Yourself? - Harlan Ellison's on fire in this 3:24 piece excerpted from the upcoming feature documentary on him "Dreams With Sharp Teeth"
  • The Conundrum of Doing Nothing - This post, in such a short period of time saw a grassroots spike in readers. The bottom line - doing nothing can be very profitable!
  • US Presswire - Introduction - Many of you apparently 'saw the light' and spread the word about this in-depth piece on how bad shooting spec, especially of sports, is for you. It wasn't without it's detractors, of course.
  • Orphan Works 2008 - A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing - The orphan works dilemma needs to be solved. Just not this way. Museums and libraries find their missions frustrated by an inability to identify and contact rights holders
  • Anatomy of an Assignment: 3 Minutes and Counting - This post will always hold a special place for me, as it was the basis for the AssignmentConstruct site.
  • Free Not Working for Thee? - I hear a great deal from photographers who are asked to work for free, or whom were replaced by someone willing to work for photo credit, and paying to shoot something (by way of paying un-reimbursed expenses associated with the no fee shoot).
  • The Art of the Retoucher - This was a very early post, about how amazing retouchers work, and links to some of their samples.

So, you chose them - send the links to your friends, and share the knowledge!

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Heineken In Hot Water Over Alledged Copyright Violations

Well well. Heineken is the latest Virgin Mobile to fall into the Flickr trap with their allegedly infringing uses of a large number of photos from the Flickr site, with thanks to Rob Haggart over at A Photo Editor for bringing this to our attention - (Heineken Discovers Flickr Isn’t Full Of Free Photography, 8/11/08).

Haggart recieved a letter from one of the allegedly infringed photographers, and the offer to "settle" the matter was

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about $30 USD. All sorts of screen shots (here) show Heineken's website with the images there, since the site has been taken down. Here's one of Heineken's responses to a photographer, which reads, in part:
"...after our investigations, we have concluded that any use of the images was at best ...use of a temporary nature only and would not form the basis of any copyright claim in this jurisdiction. However, in order to resolve matters, and save time...we would be willing to pay in full and final settlement an amount of €15 per image allegedly used. This in our view represents a reasonable commercial royalty for the use of such images in this jurisdiction if, as we say above, there was any actual use in legal terms.

Before making any payment however, we will require you to provide us with evidence of the alleged use of each image, and proof of ownership by you of the copyright in each such image."
Virgin Mobile ran into the same problem, as discussed here, and reported here - Virgin Mobile sued over Flickr image used in ad.

When will billion-dollar corporations and ad agencies stop trying to go free & cheap for their content? This won't be the last time this happens - I can promise you.

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MoMa - Simon Says GET OUT!

Andrew Peterson (a.k.a. Thomas Hawk) is not a disrespectful person. Andrew Peterson also does not like to be taken advantaged of, lied, or mis-treated.

So, Andrew learned that the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (a.k.a. MoMA) has changed it's policy, as is outlined here:

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Photography is not permitted in the galleries. Flash photography is permitted only with a handheld camera in the Atrium.
Peterson decided to join the museum, and take in the sights, because (no doubt), according to their website, SFMoMA celebrates its' commitment to photography here:
SFMOMA began collecting and exhibiting photographs in 1935 — the same year it opened — making it one of the first museums in the country to examine photography as an art form. Today, the Museum's collection includes pictures from all over the world and embraces a wide range of subjects and authors from such diverse purviews as science, industry, government, entertainment, media, amateur amusement, and the fine arts.
Then, the man tasked with ensuring a quality visitor experience in one of the most liberal/free/accepting communities on the planet - Simon Blint (Facebook Profile), Director of Visitor Relations at the SF MoMA - decides that he is going to call in the museum's private Gestapo to halt a man with a fisheye lens from taking pictures in just the location he not only was explicitly permitted to, but had called ahead to confirm was acceptable.

One of Simon's friends - Simon Read, decided to defend Simon on his blog here:

He wrote:
On Friday, Blint asked a patron to stop taking what appeared to be some inappropriate photographs.
"Appeared to be" and "inappropriate"? As someone who was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, help me understand how Simon Blint can know what's inappropriate? Is Mapplethorpe inappropriate? ( - Robert Mapplethorpe's Sensationalism) Certainly not in San Francisco, where he's celebrated (and collected). Peterson notes the hypocrisy on his blog when he writes "It is ironic that the great Cartier-Bresson, who took thousands of photographs of unsuspecting people in his work, hangs in the museum while a photographer practicing the same type of work gets ejected...". Blint must have missed this.

Simon's Pal Simon further defends his pal:
It did not take long for disseminate his vitriolic rant to more than a dozen websites. The immediate result was an onslaught of vicious criticism, attempts to get Blint fired, and countless e-mailed threats—this, to a man who was doing nothing more than his job.
Actually, his jobs' description, back in July of 2004 reads, in part:
The Head of Visitor Services is responsible for directing front line resources to ensure that visitors have a positive and enjoyable museum experience...
It appears that he's failed in that - Mr. Peterson had no such thing occur, and he's a member of the museum who followed the written rules.

If you want to check in to see if his job gets listed, here's the link to where they post their openings. It's not there as of 8/11/08. Maybe it's time to get the Museums' previous Head of Visitor Services - John O’Neill, back.

Simon's Pal Simon goes on to then say "Regardless of who was right or wrong..." as if he's the modern day Rodney King suggesting "why can't we all just get along", then goes on to say "...Peterson/Hawk has crossed the line. A rational human being would have simply written a letter to museum management, stating his case and asking for the situation to be put right. Peterson/Hawk has instead savaged Simon Blint’s online reputation, which is guaranteed to hurt his employment prospects for years to come."

Yes - a search for Simon Blint turns up all sorts of references to Peterson's experiences. Perhaps Blint should treat all his museums' visitors as if they will shout from the rooftops about bad experiences they might have. Heck gets the new world order concept in their latest ad campaign where hotel staff are concerned about the review they might get on the website (one ad here). A letter to museum management would have received some apologetic form letter, and little else. Instead, SF MoMA searches too return the article. While Peterson may have used choice words and colorful language, he outlined his experiences, and only Simon's Pal Simon has said anything (so far). To suggest, as Simon's Pal Simon did "SF MOMA has yet to present its side of the story. Whereas Peterson/Hawk can skewer Blint at his leisure, Blint has a chain of command he must work through before he can defend himself." Yes, and it is exactly that bureaucracy that would have kept, in all likelihood, Peterson from a resolution that not only was satisfactory to him, but also would have established a precedent for handling things appropriately in the first place.

Blint should write an apologetic letter to Peterson - personally. That would be a start.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Breeders' Cup - Coming Up Lame

Imagine my surprise when a missive related to the Breeders' Cup landed in my inbox suggesting they have the right to limit images that are produced by the news media.

When you are producing an event, it may - or may not - be news. There are a number of examples where the news media has opted not to cover "news events" - domestically there's the LPGA and the Associated Press, as noted in this article, and internationally, there was the boycott of Crickett coverage in Austraila (as seen here), so the notion that the BC isn't taking a risk is pure folly.

Here's what, in part, Thoroughbred Times reported:

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The company will require licensing permission for photos and other images captured by credentialed media at the Breeders’ Cup and used for anything other than editorial coverage within 30 days of the event... {Peter} Land said licensing fees for commercial use of photos from the Breeders’ Cup most likely would be determined on a case-by-case basis. Media organizations using photos and images for editorial purposes after 30 days would not necessarily be charged....“Even though there is a 30-day sentence, it doesn’t mean you can’t use it after 30 days, you just need our permission,” Land said.

Mr. Land (LinkedIn profile) got this idea during his five years at the NBA, where he was in-charge of their marketing and communications shop.

Land was quoted in the article as saying "It’s not directed at the journalism community. This is primarily directed at photographers. Mostly these kinds of credential languages are prepared to prevent someone from using the images outside of the media environment." The problem is, that if a photographer wants to license an image to the journalism community - like Thoroughbred Times, Bloodhorse, or any other publication - not to mention newspapers, they're precluding them from doing that. Further, there are limitations on the commercial use of corporate logos, so the use of the Breeders' Cup logo in posters or advertising would meet that restriction.

If you're writing a license for your use, you might try this:
This photograph is licensed for one time advertising use in XYZ Magazine, for a full page ad, where the photograph appears 1/2 page, in the print edition only. The exercise of this license is contingent upon Client securing any and all necessary rights clearances from any recognizable individuals in the photograph, trademark owners, or other parties who may have a right to preclude the exercising of this license."
I am not a lawyer, but it's essentially like you selling a piece of the pie that is necessary to make up the whole pie - before the pie is consumed. Check with someone to ensure this language holds water, but it's a step in the right direction.

The problem is, I think, that the sport of horse-racing needs as much publicity as it can get - it hasn't reached the critical mass of the NBA/et al. With tracks such as Bay Meadows closing, and the likelihood of Santa Anita being sold, the sport is focusing it's attention in the wrong places.

This idea is the BC's Eight Bells - and needs to be put out of it's misery even before it gets out of the gate, let alone before it leaves the track!

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I Pledge To Screen My Photographers More

With thanks to the multi-tasking Daryl Lang over at PDN, for bringing to our attention the member of the press corps who interupted the speech by Sen. Barack Obama recently (Video: Obama Photographer Self-Destructs, 8/7/08). Go watch the video, and read what Daryl wrote, and follow his links. In short, a credentialed member of the press covering the news made himself the news.

This isn't new. And Let's remember folks - you get what you pay for.

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Let's be clear - this photographer was working for Bloomberg News, and I know full well that they have a great deal of assignments they need covered. But, the problem is, they don't have a stable of photographers everywhere, and they are harried. So, they cut corners, and when they are paying as low a wage and with as substantial a rights grab as they are, this is what they risk getting.

I can't tell you the number of times I have been in a press pen, and watched as other "members of the press" applauded and whistled when a speaker made a remark. Often, it's just one or two, and it happens a few times a month. It happens, and I cringe. Or, when I am at a press availability, and the "reporter", before asking their question, has to tell the musician just how many albums they have of the artists, and right after the press availability, are trying to get me, or some other member of the press to take a posed photo with their camera (usually a point and shoot) of them and the artist. I always decline, as do my professional brethren.

We are there to cover the news - whatever the news is. We are not there to fabricate the news or become the news. If there had been a forum for a Q&A with the candidate, then the question "why don't you start your events with the pledge of allegiance" might be appropriate - from a reporter. Surely, NOT from a photographer.

When you want a professional, hire one, and pay them a professional wage. When you're not paying a professional wage, the ones who look professional, act professional, shoot professionally, and are true professionals, will decline your assignment request. I recommend you take a minute to see how professional (and legendary) photographer PF Bentley handled a bad-deal situation in this previous post we did - At least the Hypocrite Knows Right from Wrong (1/11/07). When you have decided that any Joe can do your assignments as long as they have a camera and a few photos on a website, and the Joes that know that what you're paying isn't a fair wage, and say no, the Joes that don't know look at this as either a great opportunity to "build their portfolio", or, as a great opportunity to make a political statement.

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