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All posts for the month February, 2013

… before we go to the nice and warm Philippines…

I’ll make this an exposure 101. If you’re a pro-photographer you already know this (or at least, you should! ;) ), but I’ve been asked about this a couple of times and I decided to do a simple, little write up about it, without getting into too technical language.

Why is it important to take (manual) control of your camera?
A lot of people, especially those who have just bought a camera or have just gotten into photography, use the automatic settings in the camera. In most of the average cases that would be just fine, but since a camera is just a thing, with no obvious intelligence, when things get out of average, the picture goes south as well.

My camera is set (in 95% of the cases) to full manual with spot metering. I prefer spot metering above all other settings, because I get to pinpoint a location in my frame for which I decide what exposure is the best one, based on the initial suggestion of the light meter in the camera.
The other metering methods are also working fine, but don’t just blindly trust the values the light meter in your camera shows you.
What you need to know about the camera’s light meter, is that it’s “calibrated” to assume that everything in your frame has an average hue. The light meter doesn’t see or read colors, it just sees light or dark. 18% grey may sound familiar to some of you, maybe not to others. But 18% grey is what the light meter thinks the average hue in your image is (or rather, should become). Green grass, for example, is about 18% grey, on a normal sunny day. So if you were to take an image of a sports field with mostly grass and you’d have your camera do everything automatically, you’d have a great picture with a perfect exposure. Of course there are plenty of other things that are -about- 18% grey. But what if you’re shooting somewhere where everything, or the bigger part of your frame, is NOT 18% grey?
If that were the case, and you have your camera set to automatic (or to manual, and you’d dial the exposure, ISO and/or aperture so that the bar sits nicely on the 0 in the middle), your camera will make everything 18% grey.

The perfect examples are in the two extreme ends of the light spectrum.
Imagine a winter landscape, with mainly… yep: snow. Snow is one of the purest, whitest substances on this planet (provided it’s not territorially marked by some inhabitant of this planet ;) ).
So what would happen in the camera when I’d point it at my winter landscape? The meter sees the landscape and ‘thinks': “Wow! That’s easy! A big frame full of 18% grey.” And so, thinking the purest white snow is 18% grey, the camera underexposes your image with about 2 stops.

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 70-200mm

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 70-200mm

D800, ISO100, 1/500 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 70-200mm

D800, ISO100, 1/60 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 70-200mm

D800, ISO100, 1/125 sec @ f/2.8, Nikkor 50mm

D800, ISO100, 1/500 sec @ f/2.8, Nikkor 50mm

D800, ISO100, 1/500 sec @ f/2.8, Nikkor 50mm

D800, ISO100, 1/125 sec @ f/2.8, Nikkor 50mm

In order to correct this, and to get the right exposure for the snow, you’d have to manually adjust the exposure time either by dialing up it with up to two stops, or use the exposure compensation.

The same thing goes for the other extreme of the scale. When what you see in your viewfinder (or your Liveview screen) is primarily black/dark, the light meter will assume that this is 18% grey and will adjust -overexpose in this case- the exposure to make the blacks look like 18% grey. You will have to underexpose the image to correct for the camera’s false assumptions.

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/5.6, Nikkor 14-24mm

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/5.6, Nikkor 14-24mm

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec  @ f/4, Nikkor 14-24mm

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/4, Nikkor 14-24mm

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/4, Nikkor 50mm

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/4, Nikkor 50mm

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/5.6, Nikkor 50mm

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/5.6, Nikkor 50mm

 

 

 

A couple of months ago I wrote a piece on one of my pictures being used without a license on the website of the Berkeley Daily Planet. It was a very sour thing, because I really wanted to pursue this due to Ms O’Malley’s outrageous attitude, but the outcome would simply not outweigh the costs I’d have to make in order to do what needed to be done for this.
I shared the link to this blog post in several groups on LinkedIn I’m a member of and got many comments on how crazy this really was. One of the members advised me to write a complaint to the State Bar of California, where all the lawyers are registered. They would be able to reprimand Ms O’Malley for her idiotic behavior in this case, IF she really was a lawyer as she claimed to be.

I took the advise, and wrote the State Bar a letter. The official complaint form on the website was only for lawyer-client situations, and didn’t offer any options for different situations, which kind of made me think that my letter would disappear in a trash bin, because it was not according to the prescribed format. But anyway… I sent off my open letter, including a screenshot of the website with my image on it and every single piece of correspondence I had with the Berkeley Daily Planet and Ms O’Malley, and I referred also to the contact I had with my attorney Mr Kinne from Kinne IP Group.
Here are the main lines of what I wrote:

I would like to file an official complaint against a lady by the name of Becky O’Malley, who claims to have been, and I quote “an intellectual property attorney and a member of the State Bar of California, a status which I could easily activate if needed”.

The issue is about a copyright infringement case. This lady is, together with a gentleman named Tom Butt, working for the Berkeley Daily Planet, an online news paper.

Just recently I discovered that they had been using since early 2010 one of my images, without my consent, without the proper licenses, and even with Mr Tom Butt’s name as accreditation with the image (screenshot of the web page attached).
At first I tried to settle the matter with them directly (correspondence attached), but things soon got so bold that I asked my attorney if there was any way to pursue this matter officially.
He gave me an outline of the possibilities, and I decided not to pursue the matter, because in the end it would cost me more money and grievance than I was willing to put into it.
The fact that I am residing in Finland and that I only have a raw file, i.e. the file is not registered at the US copyright office, to prove I’m the creator of the piece was part of the decision.
However, when Ms O’Malley so blatantly and shamelessly threw in my face that I should let go of the matter and that I would get nothing out of it, this turned more into a principle matter for me.
The fact that she is, or claims to be, a former Intellectual Property Attorney and a member of the State Bar of California makes this case all the more outrageous. Tom Butt, the journalist in question, has purposefully and knowlingly used one of my images and accredited it to himself, but when I confronted the paper, and Ms O’Malley, with all her knowledge of Intellectual Property and copyright infringement, about it she had absolutely no right to justify it like she did and slam the door in my face.
With the way she behaved, knowingly and purposefully defending, acknowledging, and approving copyright infringement, she has no business being a (former) Intellectual Property Attorney and member of the State Bar of California.

I sent it, and pretty much forgot about it. A month went by, then another month in which I was abroad.
But then, when I came home from my trip, I actually found an envelope from the State Bar of California.

Response letter from the State Bar of California

Response letter from the State Bar of California

I’ll pick out the piece that matters:

Based on our evaluation of the information provided, we are closing your file. Before the imposition of attorney discipline can be obtained the State Bar must present clear and convincing evidence of willful misconduct. We have concluded that there is insufficient evidence of willful misconduct that would warrant disciplinary action. Ms O’Malley was not your attorney and owed no fiduciary duty to you. In fact, she was not acting as an attorney in said matter, but could activate her membership status if she needed to. Moreover, the circumstances you described are civil in nature. As such, the more appropriate forum in which to address your claim would be through appropriate civil action.

Ok, so I agree that the circumstances I described are civil in nature. But they have concluded that there is insufficient evidence of willful misconduct?
She may have not owed fiduciary duty to me, but with her supposed background in Intellectual Property it was her civil AND professional duty to properly pay for an image that they were using. And also her conduct in the correspondence afterward was in my eyes a very willful misconduct.

So what is wrong with the juridical system of today?
The system seems to be protecting the wrong people…

….. when you expect one thing, you get something completely different.

That’s what happened when we went out for a sunrise shoot a week or so ago.
The weather was a bit… weird. I knew that if it would be completely overcast, the way it looked the day before, I wouldn’t go, because it wouldn’t be worth it, really. But the forecast said it would be partly overcast, which would be good. So we went out, and…
Yeah, it was completely overcast. I knew already then that what I’d be shooting would be monotone only. But it was good that we went, because even on totally overcast days you can find nice things to photograph.

D800, ISO100, 1 sec @ f/11, Nikkor 14-24mm

D800, ISO100, 1 sec @ f/11, Nikkor 14-24mm

D800, ISO100, 1 sec @ f/16, Nikkor 14-24mm

D800, ISO100, 1 sec @ f/16, Nikkor 14-24mm

D800, ISO100, 1/2 sec @ f/16, Nikkor 14-24mm

D800, ISO100, 1/2 sec @ f/16, Nikkor 14-24mm

D800, ISO100, 1/2 sec @ f/16, Nikkor 14-24mm

D800, ISO100, 1/2 sec @ f/16, Nikkor 14-24mm

D800, ISO100, 1/2 sec @ f/16, Nikkor 14-24mm

D800, ISO100, 1/2 sec @ f/16, Nikkor 14-24mm

(it’s funny how the color shifts when it’s rendered on the web. These images were all changed with the same setting in Lightroom, and look the same in full format. Here the hues are all over the map…)

Of course during the day the weather cleared up, and the clouds disappeared, bringing on yet another crisp and cold night.
I borrowed the Nikkor 300mm from a Buddy of mine (thanks Don!) and was presented with a good target in the early evening. Shot off the balcony of the apartment:

D800, ISO800, 1/1000 sec @ f/5.6, Nikkor 300mm + TC2 + TC1.4

D800, ISO800, 1/1000 sec @ f/5.6, Nikkor 300mm + TC2 + TC1.4

Tried to put 2 TC2s on top of each other, but that didn’t work. It’d require me to file off a piece of one of the TCs and that was a bit too much of the good :D
I like the image as it is, though. It’s a lot crisper than previous moon pictures I once took with my old Sigma 170-500mm.

A snow storm always makes for nice pictures. Especially when you get to take the images from the relatively safe environment of your balcony and you get to see people struggling to get by from a distance… ;)

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 70-200mm

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 70-200mm

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 70-200mm

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 70-200mm

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 70-200mm

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 70-200mm

 

 

At the visitor’s center near the entrance of the Rocky Mountains National Park we had inquired about a good hiking trail, and the lovely lady at the desk advised us to hike up to Lulu City. Lulu City used to be a very active mining town at the end of the 19th century, and there were supposedly a lot of old things left there from back in those days. Old huts, old tools, coal carriages, etc. etc. At least that’s what we understood (but we must’ve misunderstood).
We took the hike up and somewhere half way I spotted a grey bird disappearing into the trees. Strangely, we hadn’t seen many birds during our stay, so we upped the pass and went for the trees where I saw the bird go in. We set our gear down, looked around for the bird, which, we figured, had continued its trip, and took a gulp of water in the mean time. We almost choked in our water when all of a sudden the bird came flying directly at us. No joke, we had to duck otherwise it would’ve been a collision. The bird, a grey jay, settled contently on a branch in the tree behind us. So close we could touch it (we were tempted, but we didn’t).

D800, ISO100, 1/250mm @ f/2.8, Nikkor 50mm

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/2.8, Nikkor 50mm

So this was shot with a 50mm prime. It was THAT close :)
Another one of those awesome experiences! The little rascal seemed to be really curious. It didn’t seem scared at all and it let us take pictures for 5 minutes easily, sitting like this, sitting like that, hopping onto another branch and posing some more. I’m not quite sure if these birds are regularly fed by hikers. Maybe that’s why it seemed so tame. Or then… (I’ll go with this:) my Buddy Wayne and I send out such friendly vibes that the animals just feel comfortable around us :D (Ssssh! Let me have this thought, don’t spoil it!).

Eventually it took off, and so did we. We packed up our gear again, and continued to Lulu City, where we eventually arrived.

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/2.8, Nikkor 70-200mm

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/2.8, Nikkor 70-200mm

I don’t know if we completely missed the whole thing, but this sign was the only thing left we could find that indicated any activity or any sign of previous life in this location. There was absolutely nothing else here but this sign, trees, a lot of snow, and the baby Colorado River. But hold on…
There were… birds? No kidding!
And… was that the same bird as the one we photographed awhile ago?
We continued to the baby Colorado River where we set down our gear again for a break and to freshen up. Dragging a bag with about 15kgs of camera gear for 1,5 hours hiking through the snow uphill and downhill and more uphill gets you warm and sweaty. As I was about to get down and take some water to splash in my face, the little fellow almost hit me again, and went to sit right in front of me on a log, taking a sip as well.

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 70-200m

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 70-200mm

(had the big lens on, it was too close to focus properly)

And there, in the beauty of the Rocky Mountains, I got a crazy idea. These birds had been flying around so close, had seemed so unafraid…
I stood up, spread my arms wide, and waited.
And not for long.
It appeared that there wasn’t only one bird, but there were three. And all three took turns in landing on my hand, nibbling a bit on my fingers (one of them actually really bit my thumb!! :D ), and then taking off again. And that went on for about 10 minutes or so. My Buddy Wayne stood there, camera a-ready, and shooting pictures, as much in awe as I was (no food involved here, so yeah, I really think Wayne and I sent out such friendly vibes that the birds just felt really comfortable :) ). (Sssssh!! Don’t spoil it!! :D ).
So Wayne was supposed to send me a couple of those pictures he shot of me with the birds, but he hasn’t gotten around to doing that. Will add them later, once he has.

And after that little play we took a few portraits still, and then we head back to “camp”.
Even if “Lulu City” wasn’t really worth the hike, this little get-together with our Jay-friends made it absolutely worth the time.

All with D800, 1/250 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 70-200mm

All D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 70-200mm