RIP Kodachrome

Posted June 22nd, 2009 by
Categories: Deserts, Newsworthy, Photos, Travel, Utah

Picture: Red rocks at Kodachrome Basin State Park, Utah

Kodachrome Basin

Today, the Kodak Company announced that it was retiring Kodachrome, its flagship slide film that it been producing for well over half a century. Take a look at any National Geographic Magazine circa the early 1990’s or earlier, and that’s all you’ll see; images shot on Kodachrome. When I first started shooting slide film after getting a job working for Galen Rowell, it was at the very cusp of the “velvia revolution”. Since Velvia was still so new, the default was to shoot the “industry standard” Kodachrome. It was certainly a wonderful film emulsion with a very natural palette. But for the richly saturated dramatic landscapes, it couldn’t hold a candle to what Fuji had developed. It was then, long before the advent of digital, that the grandfather of all slide films started its long slow decline toward retirement. The announcement today by Kodak just puts the final nail in the coffin of what was now, truly, an end of an era.

I can’t help but think of the Simon & Garfunkel song, “Kodachrome”, which today seems to be echoing inside the barren hallways of my cranium. I have to wonder how soon it will be before people hearing that song, or visiting the Kodachrome Basin State Park in Utah are asking themselves, “what was a kodachrome?”

Great Photo Biz Links for the week June 15

Posted June 19th, 2009 by
Categories: Newsworthy, Photo Business

From Don Giannatti: Preparing yourself for getting out there as a professional photographer. A great first post in a planned series. Lots of good heads-up info you need to know if you’re thinking that being a pro photographer is in your future.

From Scott Bourne: Get Creative: Telling Stories with your Camera. Be Brave, Shoot, Practice, Experiment; Stretch your boundaries. Learn to tell stories.

From Jim Goldstein: If it’s on the Internet, it’s free! Didn’t you get the Memo? A good rant following a number of recent incidents, including the US Family showing up in Czech grocery store window ad, and another photographers image being Farked into a million pieces.

From PhotoShelter & Peter Krogh: Digital Asset Management and the Professional Photographer. One of the most pressing issues faced my the modern professional: how do you manage your workflow from capture, to output, to archiving, and everything in between.

From John Lund: Interview with Dan Heller. John ask Dan about SEO and the scope of the stock photo marketplace. Personally I was a bit disappointed not to see any mention of Picscout or other image recognition technologies and their usefulness to photographers, but I understand that might be a ‘sensitive’ topic at the moment.

Bonus Link: From ZenHabits: The 10 Essential Rules for Slowing Down and Enjoying Life More. Mindful disconnectedness can be a good thing; preserve your vital energies that you need to fuel your creative self.

Beware another rights-grabbing photo contest

Posted June 17th, 2009 by
Categories: Photo Contests, Rants and Raves

Photographers Beware; There’s another really bad photo contest out there being run by what most would consider a very reputable institution. Courtesy of Photo Competitions, I saw their recent posting advertising an upcoming photo contest being done by the Smithsonian Magazine.

The catch: Just by entering the contest, (as opposed to winning) you’ll be giving away your permission for the Smithsonian to use your image however they want, with no payment to you outside of a “credit line”. And to be clear, this is your name next to the photo, not a line of credit that you can use to buy things at the grocery store or Home Depot.

See for yourself:

By entering the contest, entrants grant Smithsonian Institution a royalty-free, world-wide, perpetual, non-exclusive license to display, distribute, reproduce, and create derivative works of the entries, in whole or in part, in any media now existing or subsequently developed, for any Smithsonian Institution purpose, including, but not limited to advertising and promotion of the magazine and its Web site, exhibition, and commercial products, including but not limited to Smithsonian Institution publications. Photographs may appear on the Smithsonian Journeys Web site as well as in Journeys publications. Any photograph reproduced will include a photographer credit. The Smithsonian Institution will not be required to pay any additional consideration or seek any additional approval in connection with such uses.

Time for an uproar of disapproval, I think. My advice, stay FAR AWAY from this contest.

Seeing it for the first time

Posted June 15th, 2009 by
Categories: Space and Science

“So that’s what it looks like.”

There’s an unmistakable feeling you get when you see something for the first time. It’s that sense of “wow” and awe when you discover something heretofore unknown. I had that feeling this last weekend as I came across a recent posting by one of my favorite photoblogs, The Big Picture. This time they showed me something I really had never ever seen before; and despite being devoid of any life or color, they were simply amazing. Take a look for yourself.

Introducing: The Planet Mercury. Bigger, better, and closer than ever before.

Announcement: Photo Business Workshop in Utah

Posted June 11th, 2009 by
Categories: Photo Business, Photos, Stock Photography, Travel, Utah, Workshops

BrycePicture: Sunrise behind Thor’s Hammer, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

I’m very pleased to announce that I will be co-teaching a workshop on The Business of Outdoor and Nature Photography in conjunction with fellow photographer Charlie Borland and Aspen Photo Workshops. The workshop will be held November 5th through 8th, 2009 at Ruby’s Inn & Conference Center near Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. Joining us will be Marv Johnson, CEO of the online stock agency, Fogstock.

The focus of this workshop is about business, and takes place during the day, so photographers are free to shoot during the sweet light hours. As many people will know, Ruby’s Inn is within a few minutes drive of Bryce Canyon National Park, famous for it’s geology and wildly-shaped hoodoos.

For those that want some hands-on, out in the field instruction, Charlie and I will be doing a supplimental field workshop on November 3rd and 4th.

See the complete details here.

Wrapping up the Mediocre fiasco & how to do it right.

Posted June 8th, 2009 by
Categories: California, Mountains, National Parks, Photo Business, Photos, Stock Photography, Travel

Picture: Sunset light on the face of Half Dome, from Olmsted Point, Yosemite National Park, California.

Half Dome

In my last two blog posts, I reported on the mediocre quality of images used by Travel & Leisure Online for their Best Views from US National Parks feature, and the subsequent post when it was discovered that one of those ‘mediocre’ images was actually mine, albeit wrongly credited and badly reproduced.

So allow me to tell you how this has resolved itself. As soon as it was pointed out that the image metadata contained licensing information from one of my agents, yet that sale had never been reported, I contacted my agent last week and asked them to investigate. This morning I got an email saying that the sale had been re-instated, it showed up on my sales report page, and I’ll be getting my due percentage of the licensing cost. I’m sure when they contacted T&L, it was probably all explained as an ‘oversight’, which is not an uncommon excuse when dealing with high volume buyers and sellers. Today, the photo is now properly credit to me on the T&L web site, but the photo still looks like crap. OK, maybe not crap, but the reproduction quality of the scan is certainly ‘mediocre’.

Now, if by comparison to Travel & Leisure’s quest for low cost or free images, and the overall poor quality of their BEST Views presentation, look at a similar presentation done by National Geographic, called, “Best of the National Parks: The Most Beautiful Places.” The difference, in my humble opinion, is quite dramatic. Clearly, NGS cares about image quality and the overall quality of the presentation, and Travel & Leisure Online obviously cared more about saving money than distributing a quality product. So, which company do you think showed me the “Best” views, and which company do you think I admire more? (Rhetorical questions.)

OMG – I’m one of the mediocre Travel & Leisure photogs

Posted June 4th, 2009 by
Categories: California, Mountains, National Parks, Photo Business, Photos, Rants and Raves, Stock Photography, Travel

Photos: Storm over Half Dome from Sentinel Rock, Yosemite National Park, California

Yesterday, I made a post critical of the mediocre quality of photos used by Travel & Leisure in their online feature, Best US National Park Views. I said a couple were decent at best, a couple were “OK”, and the rest were, well… just plain blah.

Well surprise, surprise, surprise:It turns out that one of those mediocre “OK” images was actually mine.

Thanks to a phone call from former SAA President David Sanger, he had seen the metadata containing my name for the above image that Travel & Leisure had used, but had credited to a photographer named Matthew High. Now I admit when I first saw that image, I had a sneaking feeling that it might have been mine. I certainly recognized the location. But the scan was so light, the highlights so blown out, and I pretty much assumed that I wasn’t the only photographer to take a photo from this vantage point. I gave it no further thought after seeing the photo credited to another photographers name.

Here’s the original:


Besides, when T&L had contacted me originally about using one of my photos, the image they wanted was of Glacier Point at Sunset. FWIW, I found out in retrospect that I did get a follow-up note after I’d asked about payment. It was a short one line reply via email that said, “Unfortunately we have decided to use another image.” (read: Irony.)

Worse; the image was apparently sold by one of my agents. Yet there is no sale listed for this image in the last 12 months. (read: Opps!)

So now, in addition to using a bunch of blah images, they’ve so horribly slaughtered the scan of my own image that I didn’t even think it was mine. I’ve pointed the finger, and called my own photo “mediocre”. (Yes, I admit, I’ve taken lots of mediocre photos over the years. I just don’t shout about them publicly from the rooftop.)

Well this will not stand. Someone is gonna have to pay for this self-humiliation I’ve just put myself through. Oh, wait, Travel & Leisure will pay. Maybe I’ll charge them enough that they’ll think twice before scrounging for “Free” photos. 🙂

And as a Post Script: Let this be a lesson on the Value of Having Accurate MetaData!!! I’ll be paying forward a home brew to David when I see him at the upcoming SF meeting.

Travel & Leisure; When Best barely even equals Mediocre

Posted June 3rd, 2009 by
Categories: California, Mountains, National Parks, Photo Business, Photos, Rants and Raves, Stock Photography, Sunset, Travel

Picture: Alpenglow on clouds in evening above Half Dome and Tenaya Canyon from Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park, California.


A few weeks ago, I was contacted by an editorial intern at Travel & Leisure (Online) requesting permission to use an image of mine of Yosemite National Park for a feature they were planning on running called, “Best U.S. National Park Views.” The email said they could offer a credit line, but made no mention of payment. When I replied saying I’d be happy to have my images considered, but queried about payment, well… that was the last I ever heard from them.

Yesterday, I finally got a chance to see what Travel & Leisure Online selected for showing off the “BEST” views from our US National Parks. Sufficed to say, I think T&L got exactly what they paid for, and the result was completely underwhelming. Best Views; hardly. A representation of anything Best? Certainly not the best photos. I thought their photo selection was mediocre (at best) and at worst, just a crappy representation of our country’s most stunning visual landscapes. (My personal opinion is that only two of the images rise above “decent”, a couple more are “OK”, and the rest… ugh.)

If you’re like me, and are completely underwhelmed by this lackluster visual presentation, please contact the Editors of (second listing under the Comments & Questions section) and tell them that with visual features that use such poor quality photos, you see no compelling reason to return to the site in the future. With enough comments, maybe the editors will think twice before using photos that are merely (read: barely) (re-read: not even) good enough.

Houston, we have a problem… disappointment.

Posted June 1st, 2009 by
Categories: Aviation, California, Clouds and Sky, Photos, Space and Science, Weather

Picture: X-15 NASA Experimental Rocket Plane and storm clouds, NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards AFB, near Mojave, California.

X-15 at Dryden NASA Space Center

How do you deal with photographic disappointment? What happens when you go after a shot with a certain set of expectations, and then you are totally foiled in your attempts to get that shot?

I faced these questions myself over this last few days. As I mentioned in my last blog post, I recently had a very unique chance to photograph the Space Shuttle Atlantis at Edwards Air Force Base for my new book project. But you don’t see a picture of the Space Shuttle, do you?

I headed down to Edwards AFB last Thursday, for a special media tour on Friday that was to bring 15 members of the media to within 50 feet of the Space Shuttle. Needless to say I was excited, and filled with expectations of getting some really cool photos. But it was not to be. Within an hour of the media tour, the base was hit by both dust storms, thunderstorms, and wind gusts from 30-50 mph. The base was essentially shut down, while us media members sat in a NASA conference room, waiting. The shuttle was sitting in a huge “Mate-deMate” metal gantry structure, so any lightning within 10 miles presents a serious safety concern. It was only a matter of time until our ‘mission’ got completely scrubbed; a total no-go. “Sorry.” One of the NASA guys told me that they all felt really bad for having to cancel the tour. In his words, “For us, it’s like inviting you all (media) to a special dinner, and then when you get here, we have no food.”

For us photographers, we’re storytellers; we use our photos to tell stories or communicate and idea. So what do you do when the photo or story suddenly vanishes, and you have no chance at getting the shot you thought you were going to get? The answer: Have a back-up plan.

For this trip, the story I needed for my upcoming book had to deal with the history of aviation and flight research at Edwards. Having access to the Space Shuttle was like icing on the cake. Unlike other members of the media there that day, my story didn’t need the Shuttle. Fortunately, the NASA base had several planes on display in the parking area. And although inside a US Military Base, the NASA Dryden FRC is actually a separate property, belonging to a civilian agency. You can almost imagine my relief, and contrast to so many other situations, when I asked if it was OK to photograph these other planes. “Sure, on our property, you can photograph anything you want.”

I did get a shot of the Space Shuttle. It’s just a personal snapshot. I was maybe a hair over a quarter-mile away, through several fences. Still, I enjoyed myself. As I told some of the NASA folks, it was still a thrill and privilege to be as close as I was to SS Atlantis, and I was closer than I’d ever expected to be otherwise. But thanks to having a clear back-up plan, and a clear understanding of the story I needed to tell, I was still able to come home with the coverage I needed for my book.

A few major announcements

Posted May 28th, 2009 by
Categories: Fossil Beds

As a special preview of my upcoming newsletter, just for my blog readers.

First, as of this last Memorial Day weekend, I’m hereby happy to declare myself (nearly) fully recovered from my accident last February. All the pain medicines have now been weaned out of my system, and I finally feel like myself again for the first time in a very long while. All that’s left is to strengthen the broken wrist, but I can now hold my camera and twist in a large lens without fear of them hitting the ground with a big thud.

Backroads of the California CoastOn Friday, UPS delivered the advance copy of my fifth book, Backroads of the California Coast. Although the format has changed slightly away from the coffee-table style of my previous books, the printing in this book is excellent, and I’m really quite happy with how it turned out. It’s such a nice feeling when a project turns out as something you can be proud to show off. The book should be hitting the store shelves by mid-Summer.

And speaking of books, I’m delighted to announce that in tandem with my recovery, I’m now starting work on my sixth book, California; Yesterday & Today. This will be a hardback coffee-table format historical vs. contemporary, compare and contrast project. In addition to doing all of the modern photography, I’ll also be doing the historical research, as well as all of the writing.

In fact, to start this project off, I feel incredibly lucky, as I’ve just been granted access to photograph the Space Shuttle Atlantis on Friday at Edwards AFB as she gets prepped for her turnaround back to Florida. Edwards AFB is famous its role in aviation history, much of that put to celluloid in the film, “The Right Stuff“. I still can’t believe my good fortune that I’ll have this as my first official shoot for this new book project.

Great Big Rocket Glider Plane here I come. More announcements when I get back.