Monthly Archives: December 2008

Reza War and Peace Book Winner

In my review of “Reza War and Peace“, I mentioned that we were giving away a free copy of the book courtesy of National Geographic. We had 27 entries for the random raffle, and I’ve chosen the lucky winner.

I generated one number between (and including) 1 and 27. Number 12 came out, and Pete is our winner!

And for those who didn’t win the free book, you can still get your own copy through National Geographic or Amazon.com.

PROJECT: Action and Preset Extravaganza

Action and Preset Extravaganza
Creative Commons License photo credit: ►Voj►

I’m pleased to announce, in the spirit of the holidays, an open source software development: The Epic Edits Action and Preset Extravaganza.

In our last project, we did reviews of cheap film cameras. But in this project, we’re going completely the opposite direction — it’s all about Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets (or whatever other software you happen to use). In the end, our collective creativity will be pooled into a large Styler Package and be distributed freely.

The Stylizer entries will be judged for creativity and prizes awarded after the January 12 Deadline for entry. Read on for more details on the concept and prizes. The entry form is at the bottom of this post, so be sure to bookmark it if you plan on participating.

THE CONCEPT

Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets are great tools for the digital darkroom. They can save a ton of time and they can give you awesome inspiration. Since we have a great community full of knowledgeable photographers, I want to put our heads together and generate a good resource that elevates our collective expertise and creative consciousness.

This resource will include the actions and presets with written instructions from the creators on their use.

THE SPONSOR

We’ve got a great sponsor for this project, and the prizes fit right in with the theme. I’m pleased to present Neil Cowley from Make Light Real as our sponsor and judge.

Neil is a photographer, an artist, a post-processing guru, and an educator. His photos are unique and his post-processing techniques are equally unique. Neil offers many Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets, along with tons of great textures in various themes. The actions emanate from his experiences teaching and sharing through his creative journal at www.MakeLightReal.com.

THE PRIZES:

UPDATE: The top 3 prizes include the ONE Action set and I’ve just reviewed it here on the blog. Read more.

  • 1ST PLACE: LIGHTSPEED WORKFLOW PACKAGE
    Valued at $290, this prize includes a Nostromo n52 left-hand keypad, “ONE” Lightroom/ACR preset, “ONE” Photoshop Action, and tutorials. This is an awesome package! This winner will also receive a $39 credit to use toward any additional items from Neil.
  • 2ND PLACE: PHOTOSHOP LIGHT REAL VIRTUAL COURSE
    Valued at $250, this prize includes the “ONE ACTION” workflow scripts plus a 4 hour training course covering the workflow scripts and working in LAB color space. This winner will also receive a $39 credit to use toward any additional items from Neil.
  • 3RD PLACE: ONE ACTION AND GOLDEN TOUCH PACKAGES
    Valued at $79 and $49, respectively, this prize includes the “ONE ACTION” scripts and presets for Photoshop and Lightroom, plus extra training materials along with additional Photoshop actions and 30 textures. This winner will also receive a $39 credit to use toward any additional items from Neil.
  • 1ST AND 2ND RUNNER UP: $39 CREDIT
    The two “honorary mentions” will each receive a $39 credit toward the purchase of any item from Neil’s offerings.
  • 5 RANDOM WINNERS: $39 CREDIT
    Just to shake things up a bit, we’ll select another 5 random winners to receive the $39 credit toward any item of their choice. So anybody could be a winner, you just have to participate!

So… basically we’re looking at over $1000 in prizes given out to 10 different winners. Not bad!

THE REQUIREMENTS

If you’re planning on participating and having a chance at some of the awesome prizes, be sure to read the following requirements very carefully. I’ve provided some useful links to appropriate resources, so don’t overlook them!

  1. CREATE AN ACTION OR PRESET
    The first important part of the project is actually creating the action or preset. The choice of software is up to you — whatever you happen to use. The action(s) and/or preset(s) that you choose to create and share are also totally up to you — they could be workflow timesavers, creative tweaks, or whatever else you can dream up. If you’re not familiar with creating these things, you can read up on creating Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets. And the creations must be your own — no swiping somebody else’s work!
  2. MAKE YOUR FILE ACCESSIBLE
    This is the hard part, but we’ve got some options for you. You’ll need to upload your action/preset file to the web so others can download it. If you have your own blog or website, this is no problem and you can host the file yourself. Some forums also allow files to be attached to posts. But sites like Flickr don’t allow this, while they do allow you to link to external files. To accommodate those of you with fewer options, Neil has offered to host your project files on his site. You can email him at action@makelightreal.com with your file. He’ll upload it to his server and send you the URL so you can link to it in step 3.
  3. WRITE ABOUT YOUR CREATION
    Once you’ve created your tool and made it accessible to others, you’ll have to write about it. There are many forms of self-publication, so don’t be intimidated. You should tell us what the action/preset does, how it works, and any special instructions for using it. You should also link out to your file from step 2 so others (including me) can download it and use it.
  4. SUBMIT YOUR LINK HERE
    When your written post is complete (with the link to your action/preset), come back here and fill out the form below. Just plug in your name, the location of your write-up from step 3, and your email address so I can contact you if needed.

DEADLINE: JANUARY 12, 2009

Multiple entries are fine, but each participant will count as a single project entry. So you could either put all your stuff in one post for the written portion, or you could do multiple posts. Either way, you get one entry into the contest and we’ll point readers to your whole collection at the end of the project.

Once the project comes to an end, I’ll gather up all the actions and presets and make a single collection (for each software) that can be downloaded by others. I’ll also link out to your write-up so people can learn how to use the tools you’ve created.

THE CONTEST

As mentioned in the sponsor section above, Neil is giving away a ton of cool prizes. The two of us will be judging the entries based on several criteria: usefulness, usability, creativity, execution, explanation, thoroughness, etc.

Basically, we’re looking to reward the individuals who put a lot of thought and effort into their project entry (and this certainly includes the written portion). We realize that not all actions or presets are big and flashy, and we’ll keep this in mind as we go through the entries — so don’t feel like you have to come up with some huge elaborate thing to be eligible for the prize.

Three winners will be chosen for the 3 grand prizes, and two runner-ups will be chosen for honorable mention. All five picks will also receive the $39 credit for textures.

In addition to the top five selections, we’ll choose an additional five entries at random to receive the $39 credit for textures!

THE ENTRY FORM

UPDATE: This project has been completed — see the results here.

The Bill of Rights for Photography Competitions

In the 24th episode of EXIF and Beyond, Jim Goldstein talks with Nick Dunmur of Pro-Imaging.org about the Bill of Rights for Photography Competitions.

This is a document that outlines the conditions for photographic competition organisers and sponsors to be guided by when constructing terms and conditions for their competitions. With so many online photography competitions out there, photographers sometimes forget to read the fine print. This has resulted in several contest organizers getting away with the “Rights Grab”, leaving photographers in a cloud of confusion when they realize they’ve given away the rights to their work.

If you’ve ever considered entering your photos in a photography competition, this interview is certainly worth a listen.

EXIF AND BEYOND: NICK DUNMUR OF PRO-IMAGING.ORG
BILL OF RIGHTS FOR PHOTOGRAPHY COMPETITIONS

Link Roundup 12-06-2008

Awesome things on the web this week… as usual.

PROJECTS

  • Beyond Phototips’ Photography Contest
    Beyond Phototips
    Susheel is giving away a couple of cool prizes — all you have to do is get creative with DETAIL. Try to dramatize a detail from some object that you would normally not have even noticed. Deadline is December 21st.
  • PROJECT: Iron Chef Photography – Paperclip
    Neil Creek
    In the latest Iron Chef Photography project, Neil challenges us to photograph… paperclips. See what you can do with such a simple object! Deadline is December 25th.
  • Something New – A Photography Project
    DIYPhotography.net
    You still have a little more time to find a partner and swap gear for a chance at a free equipment rental. Deadline is December 20th.

ARTICLES

PhotoNetCast Speaks with Adobe on Lightroom

PhotoNetCast

Episode #18 of the PhotoNetCast is now available for your listening pleasure. In this one, we talk with Tom Hogarty — an Adobe product manager for Lightroom. We talk to him about all kinds of things regarding the popular software, and he gives us some good insights to the “behind the scenes” work that goes into such software.

And as a special feature, Adobe gave us one copy of Lightroom to give away to our listeners! That’s a $300 piece of software! If you want a chance at the software, you’ve got until December 17th to enter the raffle.

You have two ways of entering: leave a comment (1 entry) or write a blog post (2 entries). In either case, we’d like to hear how Lightroom would change your digital photography workflow. Pretty easy if you ask me!

VISIT PHOTONETCAST 18 FOR MORE INFO

Photo Backup: Online Services

Internet
Creative Commons License photo credit: transCam

To wrap up this sub-section of the photo backup series, we’ll be talking about online backup solutions. I don’t personally use any of these services, so I’ll be relying on my knowledgeable audience to supplement this article with their comments.

FOLLOW THIS SERIES OF ARTICLES!
TOC — PHOTO BACKUP GUIDE
BACK — DVD PHOTO BACKUP… AGAIN
NEXT — SOFTWARE

In the next article, we’ll go over some software solutions for organizing and executing your backup strategy.

THE BASICS

Online file hosting services offer you the ability to upload your files (photos) to their system, while giving you the opportunity to download your stored files when needed. Some services are directly aimed at photographers, while others are more general and appeal to a wider audience.

What you’re basically doing is placing your files on a hard drive connected to the web. You access that drive via a web interface (HTTP) or an FTP interface. These web-connected hard drives are typically redundant, backed up, and distributed across multiple physical locations — so you shouldn’t have to worry about the host losing your files if their affairs are in order.

Some services will also allow you to use their own software for interacting with your storage space — giving you more options and features than a standard FTP interface. And most of them have some sort of web interface that you can access from any computer connected to the Internet.

BACKING UP

Backing up to most online services is quite different than backing up to a local drive. Internet connection speeds are far slower than local connections, and this may play into your backup strategy. Money may also be a factor depending on the particular service you’re using — some charge for both bandwidth and storage.

The specific procedure for backing up online will be determined by the hosting service. Some are completely manual, requiring you to choose files for upload and organize uploaded files as you see fit. Others might provide you with a piece of software that automatically monitors your archives for changes and uploads the files for you.

When choosing an online backup solution, you’ll want to evaluate the service for several things: supported file formats, upload methods, download methods, security measures, data redundancy, sharing capabilities, bandwidth limits, storage limits, price, revision tracking, etc.

STRENGTHS

The integrity of an online backup is probably better than any local methods — if your chosen service is good about their own backups. If a natural disaster wipes out your house, your photos will be safely stored in some other location.

Another strength of the online backup is the accessibility. You can get to your photos from just about anywhere at anytime.

Some online backup or archive services offer additional features aimed specifically at photographers. You might be able to share your photos in a gallery or even sell your photos as prints or stock.

WEAKNESSES

I think the major weakness of the online backup solution has to do with Internet access. Even the fastest Internet connections are way slower than anything right on your own computer. Plus, some Internet Service Providers will restrict your bandwidth usage, charge you extra for going over the limit, or throttle you down.

Other things you might have to worry about include the security of your photos (it is the Internet after all) and the long-term availability of your photos. I actually go hit by that last one — I signed up for a photo backup site and it ended up shutting down a few months after I got all my photos uploaded. I haven’t gone back to an online backup since.

Oh yeah, and these things cost money. Most services will offer up a few GB for free, but larger accounts will cost money on a recurring basis. You’ll have to evaluate if the ongoing cost is worth the extra protection.

CONCLUSIONS

Online backup solutions are still a bit sketchy in my mind. You can’t know how long they’ll be around for, and you’re basically entrusting your important collection of photos to somebody else.

If you feel the need for an online backup, do some serious research first — don’t rush into the first good looking offer. And if you’re not sold on backing up all your files through an online service, a good alternative is to only backup your “good” photos online.

In the end, you have to balance the pros and cons of such services and decide if it’s worth it. And, as with any backup method, don’t rely on just one method — at least two different backups are recommended.

SERVICES

As I said, I don’t use online backups. The sites and services listed below are some good places to start your research — I’m not recommending them in any way. Click at your own risk.

  • Amazon S3
    Amazon offers a reasonable rate on storage space and upload bandwidth — plus you can bet they’ll be around for a few more years.
  • PhotoShelter Personal Archive
    Geared more toward photographers, they offer good options for print and license sales… though the price is a bit higher than most.
  • Mozy
    These guys seem to have lasted through their infancy, and they have a decent looking backup solution — fancy desktop software for keeping track of things too.
  • IDrive
    Another service along the same lines as Mozy.
  • Carbonite
    Again, another similar service to the last two.
  • KoffeePhoto
    A little more photo-centric, these guys have a community built around their service.
  • Zenfolio
    Also aimed at photographers, Zenfolio gives you good options for displaying photos and selling prints.
  • SmugMug
    Similar to Zenfolio, offering solutions strictly for photographers.
  • Flickr
    Flickr may not be the first thing that comes to mind for photo backup, but a pro account gives you the ability to upload unlimited full-res images — plus the Flickr community is just awesome.

Book Review: Reza War and Peace

I’ll never get tired of saying how awesome National Geographic book publications are. They work with some of the most talented people around the world to produce amazing books and other publications. This book is no exception to the standard they’ve set.

Reza War and Peace is a book about many things, very deep and emotional. As the title suggests, the book is about war and peace. But it’s so much more than that too. This book is a testimony of humanity — at its worst, and at its best. It is comprised of 30 years of Reza’s work from across the world, and it contains some of the most incredible stories I never knew.

And just as the book is more than a collection of photos, Reza is more than a photographer or photojournalist. He’s a humanitarian, a story-teller, and a witness to the world. His conviction runs deep and this is his reality… his whole life.

Also, read on for a chance to win a free copy of the book.

Reza War and Peace can be purchased directly from National Geographic or through Amazon.com.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Reza Deghati was born and raised in Iran in the year 1952. In a short conversation I had with him he indicated that even at the young age of 6 or 7, he was captivated by pictures and paintings depicting people in need and he saw the power of such imagery. Once a teenager, he began using the camera to document the world around him — particularly those in need.

One particular instance he wrote about was in a local marketplace. An old woman was selling fish of poor quality. He was compelled to take her photo and learn her story. She told him that she would find fish left behind or on the ground from other vendors and try to sell them to people who had less money than she. The local law enforcement always had their eye out for her and she was forced to hand over part of her meager earnings. Reza told the story in his school paper, and thus began his journey into professional photojournalism.

Once out of high school, Reza studied architecture at the University of Teheran. All the while, he captured the growing turmoil in his homeland (through the late 1970′s) and the uprising against the Shah and the revolution that surrounded it. His photography caused him to spend much time in jail, but he kept going. In 1981, Reza was forced to leave his country in exile.

Since that time, Reza has been a nomad traveling from one troubled culture to the next across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. He has spent much time in Afghanistan and Egypt, not to mention dozens of other countries.

Reza is more than a photographer — he’s a true humanitarian. He doesn’t just photograph his subjects, he feels their pain and he gets involved. When I asked him if he considers himself more of a humanitarian or a photographer, he replied that the two labels are one in the same for him. This man is a true giver, dedicating his life and all of his material belongings to causes across the world. Reza honestly sees all the people of the world as only human beings — with no boundaries or segregations.

His hope is that people will react to his work. See his photos, read his stories, and be compelled to do something about it. Reza has been featured in many publications (including National Geographic) and received numerous awards and recognitions. All of which is well deserved.

When Reza is not out doing his work, he resides in his adopted country of France with his wife and two children.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Reza War and Peace is a hardcover with 296 pages containing 200 images. The first thing you’ll notice about it is the sheer size of the book — it’s 11×14 inches! And you’ll notice that there are more pages than photos, which means some photos are sprawled across two pages at nearly 22″ wide. All of the images are accompanied by in-depth personal accounts and explanations from Reza.

When I first recieved the book, I flipped through the images to get an idea of what was in store for me. The photos were powerful to say the least, but I had no clue what that book would present to me once I read it.

Reza takes us on a journey through his life, sharing his encounters and adventures. The book not only covers the topic of war and conflict, but also the peace and awesome nature of the human soul (often in the wake or midst of terrible events).

The major strength of the book is that stories are told to the point of evoking an emotional response from the reader. Photos sit alongside paragraphs of background information and inner thoughts from the photographer. Reza constantly reminds us that the people in his photos are human beings no different than you and I — the only difference is the situation they’ve been thrown into.

This little section is one account of my emotional response to the book: While reading the book, I’ll remember one moment for a very long time (maybe for the rest of my life). I happened to be upon the photo of the young girl from Sarajevo in 1993. Dressed in pink among a war torn environment, this little girl was selling her toys because of her situation. My 4 year old daughter came near me and saw the photo — she said “What is that girl doing with her toys?” To which I instinctively replied “She’s selling them.” — “Oh, she doesn’t want them anymore?” — I found myself unable to continue the conversation, realizing what I had gotten myself into. I finally found the voice to say “She wants them… but she has to sell them.” — “How come?” — Again, I couldn’t find the words. I closed the book, answered with a short “I don’t know”, and started to cry.

How could I possibly explain to my innocent and care-free little girl that not all kids are awarded the luxuries she has known all her life? How could I tell her that other kids are forced to sell their most prized possessions, hide from the violence of war, and arm themselves with guns to fight for their country and their lives? I couldn’t do it.

These types of emotions and inner thoughts are brought out through the entire book. As you peer upon the faces of the people in the photos, you realize that they are (or were) living in a reality so very different from your own, and yet, they are so very much the same as the rest of us. But Reza doesn’t just show us the sad moments — he also reminds us that people around the world are compassionate, giving, and full of life. He also shows us the beauty of these foreign cultures including their various traditions and ways of life.

ABOUT GETTING INVOLVED

Reza goes above and beyond the call of duty — he puts his money where his mouth is. In 2001, Reza founded Aïna, an NGO whose name in Farsi means “mirror.” The name references a metaphorical mirror in which people searching for an identity destroyed by war can rediscover their culture. Aïna contributes to the emergence of civil society through actions in the area of education (particularly focusing on women and children), information and communication. Aïna promotes independent media development and cultural expression as a foundation of democracy.

This effort is a major focus for Reza, and he feels very strongly about promoting and teaching free and independent press as part of rebuilding a severely damaged civil society. If you would like to learn more about this humanitarian society, I urge you to visit their website and learn about how you can help others in need.

ABOUT THE GIVEAWAY

One lucky winner will receive a free copy of Reza War and Peace courtesy of National Geographic. All you have to do is leave a comment below and tell me so. If you want to be sure your comment doesn’t hit the spam bucket, be sure to use the word “Reza” in your comment. We’ll draw a random winner 5 days from now — December 8, 2008.

[UPDATE] The book winner has been announced.

MY FINAL THOUGTHS

If you’re looking for a fun little coffee table book with lots of pretty pictures, this isn’t the book for you. But if you’re interested in experiencing the brutal and beautiful truths of our world, I would highly recommend this book. It’s an amazing book filled with amazing photos and stories, and it demands to be digested slowly and thoughtfully.

Reza gives not only a physical account of his travels, but an emotional one too. Be prepared to spend a lot of time studying this work, and be prepared to be emotionally torn.

I found this book very difficult to review because my write-up turned out 4 times longer than expected and I conveyed 1/4 of what I wanted to. My best advice is to pick up a copy for yourself and experience it firsthand.

Reza War and Peace can be purchased directly from National Geographic or through Amazon.com.

Fundamentals of Photography Book Winners

In the review of the “Fundamentals of Photography” book last week, I mentioned that we were giving away two copies of the book. We had 60 people enter the raffle, and today I chose the winners.

I simply generated two random numbers between 1 and 61 to match with the 61 comments. One of the comments was my own (#33), so if I pulled my own comment I would generate a new number. The winning numbers were 11 and 40.

The winners are Bill and Rick Grant. Congrats to both of you!

Also, keep your eyes open for another book review/giveaway in the next few days.