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All posts for the month May, 2010

It’s a bit complicated to do a self portrait and make it look good, that’s why he let me do it ;)
But if you need video, you really have to contact Peter John Mäki. He’s the main camera guy at Communication & Design / White Herring Video Productions. It is a company creating a variety of video productions: from family events to documentaries and high-quality corporate and commercial material.

Communication & Design / White Herring Video Productions

D700, ISO1600, 1/500 sec @ f/11, Nikkor 50mm, two off-camera SB-800s with Photoflex softbox and some post-processing in Photoshop for a clean finishing touch

This is only a quick post, just as a warning. Some time ago I wrote a post about a website called Alihashop which turned out to be a big scam.

The “If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is” is a fairly solid motto to live by, so please do keep an eye out for these kind of things.

This morning I was checking my site and site statistics and my eye fell on a Google ad for Admreshop. Not putting the actual link up, so they won’t get any Google rating boost from me, but it’s a .com site, so if you’re curious you can check it out. DON’T BUY FROM THERE THOUGH!!!
The first thing I saw was an ad for  Nikon D700, for only €780. Too good to be true, yeah? Second thing I saw was that the layout of the pages were EXACTLY the same as those from the Alihashop I remember. Dubious, yeah?
I bet if you go through the order process you’ll find that you can pay only by money transfer or Western Union. Dodgy, yeah?

I haven’t kept track of IP numbers or domain registries, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the registrar / company behind the domain name is the same.

I’m not totally happy that these kind of sites appear next to my blog in the advertising space, but unfortunately I have no say in what Google shows in their ad space. And you can’t of course blame Google (not completely, at least), because these sites are paying customers and it’s impossible for Google to check everything.
But with your own common sense you get a long way, so if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

Beware!

A year and a half or so ago I wrote a piece about Digimarc Digital Watermarking. Back then I had tried the service and wasn’t all that happy with the results, especially not with the price tag that came with it. I never looked back, and I still think that the best way to protect your images is with a big fat watermark dead center.
Occasionally I look at the stats for of my blog and on structural basis I see people having searched for Digimarc ending up here.

The surprise was when in mid February of this year I received a mail from a lady called Gina Giachetti, sent from a gmail address, who apparently is responsible for the pr stuff at Digimarc. In the mail she addresses me with my first name. I don’t find that a real problem in itself, and I don’t require anyone to call me Sir, but for courtesy’s sake she could’ve at least introduced herself and not pretend like she’s known me for 10 years already (and save me the trouble of Googling her to find out who on earth SHE was).
Anyway… She writes me that Digimarc has released 3 new editions of their products and that the prices have gone down. Furthermore she hopes that, as a blogger that reaches the photography and digital imaging community, I will share this information with my readers.

So my blog has been getting an daily average of a whopping 20-30 unique visitors, with some rare peeks if I write something really funny or stupid, so I had my doubts if the reason of her contacting me was truly just her hope of me sharing that new information about Digimarc. What I actually believe is that she found out that if you search for “Digimarc watermarking” in Google the fifth search result on the first page is my blog post, and that’s not really the best marketing / sales post you could imagine.

So I wrote her back that I’ve had previous experience with Digimarc Watermarking and that I wasn’t really all that happy with the service and it’s quite against my principles to promote and support products that I don’t support myself. But that of course I’m happy to talk to an executive or representative and if they can prove to me that the service indeed has approved I would gladly share the information.
I promptly receive a reply from Ms Giachetti in which she writes, among others, the following:

If you like, I’d be happy to arrange for you to speak with a Digimarc executive, and provide you with a way to try out the new technology for yourself. Let me know if that interests you and I’ll see what I can do.

So, wow, try the new technology out for myself, eh? That sounds cool! :) So I tell her sure, I wouldn’t mind testing the new technology and see if it got any better. It takes a week for her to reply this time, after which she apologizes for the delay because of busy schedules. But we’re still on for a talk with an executive, she has someone and we only have to arrange a time to talk.

I inform her with my schedule, we compare and come to the conclusion that around this day, around this time, would be the best for both parties. After that I haven’t heard anything anymore, nor seen any sign of life. I wonder…

So at this point I’m not sure what the service really does. I haven’t used the new version, nor seen it in action, so for all I care you still get a non-working service, only they made it $400 cheaper. To which I say: a $99 product which isn’t working, still is too expensive.

So after my positive rave about PhotoDeck yesterday, I’d like to move the attention a bit more to my own side (site) again.

As you may have noticed, there’s no longer the “search for my pictures on Photoshelter” box on the right side here. It has changed now to a box that will search for my images straight from my own site, which is how I have envisioned it to be.

Stock @ arnoenzerink.com

Stock @ arnoenzerink.com

The library is growing every day and you can purchase online with PayPal and your credit card, without a hassle. If you want me to make a (discounted) quote for the use of one or more images, you can also contact me straight from the site.
The advantages? You get a better price and I get a better price, because I don’t have to pay commission to an agent (unless of course you have a good bulk deal with one of the agents, can’t fight that kind of discount ;) ).

Ordering single prints is also possible. It’s not yet implemented in the features, but will be soon, so for now if you’d want a print, it’s going to be good ol’ manual labor ;)

So… head on out to the stock site and see if there’s anything you want/need.
I don’t do micro stock, so it’s going to cost you a tad bit more than 5 bucks, but still… You get good stuff for a good price.

PhotoDeck

PhotoDeck

I’ve been in several stock agencies now for a bit over a year and although it’s been slow and far from making me rich, it’s made me a nice little extra. But the chunk of commission that the agencies take out of your sales is handsome. It hovers between 40% and 60% (and no, I’m not talking about those thieving microstock agencies where you get a penny and they keep four). Sure, they do the marketing and everything, but still. Ever since I started this whole photography business I’ve been wanting to be able to sell straight from my website, but the solutions just weren’t good.

I signed up for Photoshelter, but after they took the stock selling out of business and it basically just turned into a portfolio with a commercial back-end where you have to do your own marketing, it didn’t really do anymore what I hoped. It’s got a hefty price tag for storage space AND they still take 20% off any sales you make through their website. It is, at this point at least, the only thing that really works as a commercial outlet as an extension of your own website.

And then a while ago I came across the name PhotoDeck. I think I read it somewhere on a forum, I can’t even remember. First thought: oh, another one of those. I went to check it out anyway, but found that they were in BETA testing and I needed to put my email address in just for the hopes of getting through to the stage where I could actually test and use it. And -initially just for the “what the heck” of it- I put my name in. Didn’t hear back for a week or two, came across the name again, and read up on it some more. I put my name in the hat again and promptly received a mail back that I was now part of the circle of people with a BETA account and I was welcome to try it out. Which I did immediately.

And guess what…? First impression? I can’t say anything else than WOW!
I got a gig of space to start with, uploaded my pictures and started fiddling around with the application and I’m totally impressed, I’m totally sold. Oh, and then they added 5 gig without me asking (seriously, hook, line and sinker :D )
The ease with which everything is customizable is just SO relieving! No more hassle of trying to find the right positions and right coding in a stuffed php template, but just a simple, effective user friendly WYSIWYG user interface. Straight-forward, easy to adjust pricing profiles, auto-watermarking upon upload, galleries, collections and a lot more features still to come, if we may believe the rumors.
And even if you’re a complete idiot (like me) and have some problems with a few things here and there, the response to the question is quick and helpful.

It’s in BETA still, and you can sign up for an account, but things should be going all live in a month and a half or so.
I don’t know what the prices are going to be like, and I assume they will have different types of accounts. I’ve been so rude as to ask what level of pricing I’m going to have to expect and without naming any numbers they said it will be more affordable than the direct competition.

I’m not paid for advertising (unfortunately) and I’m not working for them (unfortunately), but I would seriously recommend giving this a try.

To check out how the visual implementation works seamlessly with the rest of my website, go have a look at my shiny new web store at http://stock.arnoenzerink.com. Oh, and while your there, don’t forget to buy a picture or two! I’ll give the first 100 people buying a picture a 50% discount if you contact me for a quote! *LOL*

I’m proud to say that one of my pictures has won the gold medal in the Bulgarian “The Wild” photo competition. Check out also the other winning images. Great stuff there!

Siberian tiger leaping out of the water of a shallow pond

D200, ISO100, 1/1000 sec @ f/2.8, Nikkor 70-200mm

Last year a bunch of photographers decided to participate in the Help Portrait project. In short: a photographer takes a picture and provides a print (or two) without any charge for time or material for someone he or she believes is in need. The “rules” also stipulate that the photographer is not to write about it or add the images to a portfolio, but I asked for and got the parents’ permission to write a blog post about this, because to me this is such a special situation (I’m sure everyone participating will say that about their project).

So… My “project”…
It’s always a bit tricky to ask something like this from someone in your direct circle of friends, especially in a case where the “need” is so hard to define, so at first I wasn’t sure if I should ask Max’s parents at all if I could do it. But they thought it a nice idea, except the timing wasn’t all too good.

Max is probably one of the bravest little fellows you’ll ever meet. He’s a, now, 5-year old boy who was diagnosed with a malign, inoperable brain tumor a few months before we decided to participate in Help Portrait.
The shock for us was already significant. Someone so young being faced with such an unfair, harsh future. You can imagine (or actually I doubt if anyone can who hasn’t been through it themselves) what impact this must’ve had, and still has, on Max’s parents and sister and environment.

Around the time I asked Max’s parents how they felt about me doing this Max was in the middle of his radio treatments. He was sick, nauseous and exhausted all the time and didn’t at all look like himself because of all the medication, so we agreed to postpone the whole thing until Max was feeling a bit better.

A lot of things have happened since, and even though the medical world is kind of helpless in this case, Max has been doing relatively ok, and I had the privilege to be invited to his 5th birthday party just last weekend. He was looking fabulous, and if you wouldn’t know something was wrong, you wouldn’t have been able to tell. He was just like any other 5-year old, playing, laughing, running around…

Max

Max

Max

Max

It’s hard to know and accept that that’s basically the only thing I am able to do for them, when there’s so much more you wish you could do.
The only other thing I can say is Respect, with a capital R, for Max and his parents and sister.

Max had another MRI yesterday to see what’s going on in his head right now, and if you have a spare moment, I’d like you to send your prayers, good Karma, positive energy to Max and his family.
It’s the only thing we can do to help.

If you’re interested in following Max and his family or if you personally want to leave them a few words of support, you can sign up for the Facebook group Miracle Max: http://www.facebook.com/robert.gerritsen#!/group.php?gid=159940013092

Tsk tsk tsk…
There I was, reading through one of my photography magazines. I ended up with the back cover, checking out how Nikon presents one of its new lenses to its public. Lo and behold, and imagine my surprise, when the ad showed a beginner’s mistake in its copy text. Of course, this kind of error doesn’t show up in the automated spell-check, because both its and it’s are spelled write.

One would think that, with a company of this size, probably hiring services from a well-paid agency, these kind of miss steaks wouldn’t occur. They’d be pulled out in the first correction stage. But nooo….
Shame on you, Nikon!

(the whole sentence reads: It’s huge zoom range brings distant objects right up close.)

Nikon ad

image: courtesy of Nikon, scanned from the back cover of Practical Photography, May 2010 issue.

All you need is a dinner table, a willing family member, an Ikea light and a camera. Et voilà.

Butterfly lighting

D700, ISO3200, 1/125 sec @ f/4.8, Nikkor 50mm

DNA-results are printed straight from the laser printer within a couple of minutes ;)

No, seriously…
Sometimes the boss has to go to work in the weekend, and since I have nothing better to do in the weekends I’m a good boy and drive her. As a reward I get to shoot some pictures.

Reaction vials on a tray

D700, ISO200, 1/125 sec @ f/2.0, Nikkor 50mm

Reaction vials in a basket

D700, ISO200, 1/10 sec @ f/8, Tamron 90mm macro

Cryogenic vials

D700, ISO400, 1/125 sec @ f/4, Nikkor 50mm