There are a number of popular HDR photography programs out there. Microsoft Excel isn’t one of them. Photography enthusiast and software engineer Kevin Chen came up with the strange and hilarious idea of using Excel to create an HDR photo, and he presented his results in this 12-minute presentation he gave at !!Con 2017 (pronounced “bang bang con”).
Chen is a computer science student at Columbia University and was previously an intern working on camera software at Apple.
In his presentation, Chen first explains the math and technical aspect of how both digital photography and high dynamic range (HDR) imaging work.
“Have you ever taken a photo with areas that are too bright or too dark? As any photographer will tell you, high dynamic range photography is the right way to solve your problem,” Chen says. “And, as any businessperson will tell you, Microsoft Excel is the right platform to implement your solution.”
After reading into one of the foundational papers about HDR imaging, Chen found that the algorithm is “just a system of linear equations” — perfect for Excel!
To use Excel as an HDR photography program, Chen broke down his photos into grayscale pixels with each cell in the spreadsheet containing a pixel in the photo. By making the cells square and then zooming out (using the zoom level setting), the photo emerges.
Chen then did some number crunching on the values and voila! His final black-and-white HDR photo has much greater dynamic range than his original photo.
LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph, the photo festival in Charlottesville, Virginia, announced today that is ceasing operations due to lack of funding. A statement from the festival’s board, posted on the LOOK3 website, says, “While our event was beloved by many in Charlottesville and in the international photography community, we unfortunately do not have the financial resources to continue.”
The festival had grown out of slide shows that National Geographic photographer Michael “Nick” Nichols hosted each summer in his backyard in Charlottesville. The LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph became a 501(c)3 nonprofit in 2006. Its sponsors have included Canon, Fujifilm, Leica, National Geographic and Adobe.
Over the past ten years, LOOK3 had hosted portfolio reviews, exhibitions and talks by Joseph Koudelka, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Donna Ferrato, Larry Fink, Richard Misrach and others. In 2010 and 2014, it took hiatuses to offer LookBetween, a gathering for young and emerging photographers.
GoPro Laying Off Up to 300 Workers as Karma Drone Flounders: Report
GoPro is reportedly laying off roughly 200 to 300 employees, mostly from the aerial division that works on the company’s struggling Karma drone.
TechCrunch first reported the layoffs after hearing the news from sources close to the company. GoPro wrote in a letter to laid-off employees that this decision was made “to better align our resources with business requirements.”
GoPro has struggled to compete in the camera drone market, which is dominated by the Chinese company DJI and its popular drones, such as the Spark, Mavic Pro, Phantom. DJI has a dominant consumer drone market share of about 70%.
The Karma didn’t return to store shelves until February 2017, when GoPro revealed that the flaw had been a faulty battery clasp that would cause the batteries to disconnect in-flight. By then, however, the damaged had been done — GoPro’s Karma had taken a serious reputation hit and the DJI Mavic Pro had enjoyed months of sales while the Karma was in for repairs.
It seems that these struggles have taken a huge hit to GoPro’s bottom line, and management is now looking to stop the bleeding.
Lately, the photography sphere has been inundated, not with the gazillions of photos everyone is talking about, but with article after article proclaiming that photography is dead/over/irrelevant/trash.
The questionable assumption here is that it was ever alive in the first place, but what puzzles me most is how this status has been defined. And it is about status in the end, because the reasons given for photography’s untimely (or exceedingly timely, depending on the source) demise are invariably centered around the rise of social media, short attention spans, instant sharing and, inevitably, cat pictures.
However, in a world where so many photographer bios begin with “I began documenting the meaningful moments of my existence with my iPhone in 2009,” I wonder if some context is missing from this argument. The so-called “life” of photography referred to in these articles arose from the concurrent rise of digital cameras and the Internet in the 2000’s, resulting in an army of technology-minded dudes buying the latest megapixel box they’d seen get a gold star on DPReview so they could make sure every pixel was sharp before Photoshopping the living hell out of it (using the handy Living Hell slider), uploading it to Flickr or 500px and watching the Faves roll in.
Ok, so I’m exaggerating. A bit. Obviously, a few of these people were, and remain, serious photographers with serious work. But the driving force behind this boom, this zombie “life”, was mainly hippishly whitebread men who worked in IT buying rather large cameras and showing their files to each other on rather small screens. Numbers ruled this phase of the game: numbers of faves/likes, numbers of followers, numbers of shots, no matter how awful the photos. One such dude in San Francisco (because of course it was some dude in San Francisco), made his only goal taking a million (completely unremarkable) shots, and he got quite a lot of attention from his considerable fandom.
I can’t remember his name for some reason.
During this time, the dedicated photographers who had been working quietly and being ignored for decades before the boom, continued working quietly and being ignored, though a handful got caught up in the storm and propelled to Internet stardom. Magnum, sitting suddenly up in its comfy chair and remembering its illustrious history, returned belatedly to the fore when they realized that their website needed an upgrade; they began changing their reporting and recruitment styles to suit the “life” of this new reality. Skateboarding also factored in there somehow, because of course any old thing being subjected to rejuvenation must by law involve skateboarding.
So for a time, everyone was All About Photography, particularly “street” photography, which is the easiest to practice because it doesn’t require anything in the way of studios, sets, models, lights, conscious thought or, from looking at most of it, talent. Bloggers featured their friends in “The (insert number here)-best photographers RIGHT NOW”-type listicles, some of which became actual books. Publishers pole-vaulted onto this suddenly relevant bandwagon, and groups on Flickr appeared and thrived on the drama of clashes between personalities.
Amid all this, it must be admitted, some photographers did actually get to know about other photographers and enjoy each other’s work. Several collectives emerged from the chaos, e.g. in-Public, Burn My Eye, and Observe. Of course, many others promptly disappeared when they found out that ego clashes are far less entertaining when you’re actually trying to work together in some fashion.
But then Facebook and Instagram arrived on the scene, along with decent mobile phone cameras. These burgeoning businesses quickly realized that what the vast majority of people wanted out of all this was not actually photography, but rather that short sharp injection of dopamine that came with simply seeing something new. Clicks, but not those of the shutter variety. Eyeballs, but not through viewfinders or at exhibitions. Photography itself didn’t particularly matter to these industries; it never had. It was a means to an end, which inevitably means an end to the means.
Digital camera performance plateaued as manufacturers tried to make them more like mobile phones, cramming things like wifi, video, and touchscreens into their machines and then wondering why nobody was buying their larger, heavier boxes. Computational mobile photography came to the fore, the camera boom waned; the party began to lose steam. Video was supposed to take over, but nobody could figure out the fundamental difference between the two media.
In any case, most people discovered they could get all their ego-driven drama needs from Facebook, and all their dopamine hits from Instagram, effectively severing the connection of conversation and photography that had been the accidentally advantageous side-effect of sites like Flickr, where you could do both, but not with the same rabid intensity. Some people tried to lure young would-be photographers into thinking they could “make it big” through competitions that they could only participate in after paying for the honor of consideration by their illustrious jury of people they’d never heard of. But then the world quickly learned that photography, like the cake, was a lie after it was found that many entrants in these contests were the result of applying a bit too much of the “Asshattery slider” in Photoshop.
The relationship between actual photography and social media was fraying; some would-be serious photographers desperate to hold onto these heady days tried spamming all their contacts about Kickstarter campaigns to fund their photo books. Precious few were any good. But then, truly good photo books have always been 1) few and far between and 2) generally ignored by most people.
And then, photography was dead, lying on the metaphorical sidewalk in a pool of its own metaphorical blood. You read it in an article by some famous Internet person with an impressive-sounding name. And then you read it again. And again. Dead. Over. Kaput.
But what died, exactly? The techie crowd had become bored with these particular machines, moving on to newer, shinier gadgets, and young people, like most young people, just wanted to hook up. Nothing wrong with either, and certainly nothing new. The dedicated photographers who had been working quietly and being ignored likewise continued in this fashion, and will keep doing so even while everyone else is using brain implants to beam live VR experiences featuring their cats.
In short, the “death of photography” these articles lament is actually the loss of the veneer of popularity photography momentarily enjoyed when it was caught up in the perfect storm of technological progress and social media. The three were conflated so closely for a time that most people assumed that, when the latter two moved on, photography would be rendered meaningless. But that is a false narrative; the essence of photography hasn’t changed; it has always been, at its core, a small, largely ignored niche. Not something for everyone, nor the grand new universal language once promised to us. Photography’s unique and quirky nature of stopping time and conveying complex emotion in one small frame was one of the things that drew me to it when I was growing up, and it occurs to me that perhaps we should just let it be what it actually is, without all the trappings, the bells and whistles of social trends.
Put your glasses back on, photography. Lose the makeover. Put on those comfortable shoes. And welcome back.
Photography is dead? Good. Long live photography.
About the author: TC Lin is a photographer based just outside Taipei, Taiwan, at the edge of the mountains. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Lin is an original member of the Burn My Eye photography collective (which can also be found on Instagram). You can find more of Lin’s work on his website, Flickr, and Instagram. This article was also published here.
Alison Wonderland on Staying True to Yourself in the Music Industry
Australian producer Alison Wonderland has been making headlines left and right. In addition to announcing her spot on the 2018 Coachella roster, she’s not only made DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJs list of 2017, but she also managed to celebrate Australia’s same-sex marriage announcement with an actual proposal between two female fans on her stage just days after the bill was signed.
Congrats to the two amazing women who got engaged during my set on the weekend. Australia just passsd the same sex …
Godox AD600 Pro Strobe Announced, Brings Performance Upgrades
Godox has released the new AD600 Pro, a new 600Ws wireless strobe that’s marketed in the US by Adorama under the name Flashpoint XPLOR 600 PRO TTL. The strobe builds upon the success of its popular predecessor, the Godox AD600 (AKA Flashpoint XPLOR 600 HSS TTL), with a number of spec and feature improvements.
The Godox AD600 Pro has TTL connectivity and is compatible with Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fujifilm, Panasonic, and Olympus cameras.
It features a guide number of 285 feet (87m) at ISO 100 and is designed for both on-location and studio use. You can squeeze out up to 370 full power flashes per 2-hour charge of the 28.8v/2600mah Lithium battery, with rapid 0.01 to 0.9 second recycling times (at low and full power, respectively).
Features and specs include a built-in 2.4GHz wireless R2 remote system with a 262-foot range, TTL/Manual/Multi-Flash modes, linking to simultaneous multi-camera systems, HHS up to 1/8000s, flash durations of 1/22s to 1/10000s, 9-stop output control (full to 1/256 power) in 25 steps, 5600K color temp, and proportional/variable/synced modeling with its 38-watt LED (the equivalent of a 400-watt conventional bulb).
The Godox AD600 Pro has an integrated reflector as well as a Bowens mount for additional light modifiers to be added.
Quick Tip: Dominic Bracco II on Writing Better Pitches and Grant Applications
Photographer Dominic Bracco II says working closely with writers has contributed a lot to his success. He has produced and published stories with two writers in particular: Erik Vance and Jeremy Relph. “Collaboration is huge. It’s been really good for me economically,” he says. “A lot of photographers don’t think like writers, but freelance writers are good at approaching magazines. They write really good pitches.”
Bracco has worked with Relph in Honduras on a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. He has also successfully pitched environmental stories with Vance to Harper’s Magazine, Scientific American, bioGraphic and other publications. “It wasn’t easy at first, but we have a track record,” Bracco says. “We know what our beat is, and publications and funders know that we know what we’re talking about.”
By pitching constantly, and observing how Vance and Relph pitch stories and write grant applications, Bracco has improved his success rate. “My early pitches were long and wordy. I had a tendency to blab on endlessly,” he says. Now, he opens with a one-sentence theme, explaining what the story is, and why the reader should care.
Jurors for grant competitions “have to look at a ton of work, so yours better be damn good, and your writing better be concise. You have to punch them right away,” he says.
Meet Ciao Lucia, The Line Every Cool Girl Will Want to Wear
As the owner of L.A.’s hippest boutique, ShopSuperStreet, Lucy Blair Akin, has been steadily changing California’s fashion landscape by stocking street-savvy brands like Lorod, Hyein Seo, Sandy Liang and Area. With a bustling boutique under her belt, Akin is now forging a new path and carving out her very first clothing line, Ciao Lucia.
Taking her inspiration from the girl on eternal vacation, Ciao Lucia, embodies the spirit of Paris, Cannes, London, and Rome—where in Italy she was chr…
Revolutionary ‘Metalens’ Can Focus All Visible Light on One Point
Researchers have created the first “metalens” that can focus the entire visible spectrum of light onto a single point in high resolution. The breakthrough brings metalenses one step closer towards replacing bulky camera lenses with much smaller chips.
Instead of using solid pieces of curved class to focus light, “meta-material lenses” are covered with an array of “titanium dioxide nanofins” that helps focus light on a point in exactly the same way.
Back in 2016, the researchers stated that the next challenge would be figuring out how to make these metalenses focus the entire visible spectrum and all colors onto a single point:
This focusing of the entire visible spectrum has now been achieved. Here’s how, according to Harvard SEAS:
Previous research demonstrated that different wavelengths of light could be focused but at different distances by optimizing the shape, width, distance, and height of the nanofins. In this latest design, the researchers created units of paired nanofins that control the speed of different wavelengths of light simultaneously. The paired nanofins control the refractive index on the metasurface and are tuned to result in different time delays for the light passing through different fins, ensuring that all wavelengths reach the focal spot at the same time.
Harvard SEAS reports that the latest metalens is able to completely eliminate chromatic aberration, a common issue in modern camera lenses. This is when lenses fail to focus all colors on the same point, causing colored or rainbow edges to appear in areas of contrast in photos.
Prior to this development, eliminating chromatic aberration “has only ever been achieved in conventional lenses by stacking multiple lenses,” Harvard says.
The fact that multiple optical lenses have traditionally been needed to combat chromatic lenses mean that camera lenses — especially high-end professional lenses — can be extremely bulky and heavy. A metalens replacement could one day offer the same optical quality at a fraction of the size and weight.
“Using our achromatic lens, we are able to perform high quality, white light imaging,” says researcher Alexander Zhu. “This brings us one step closer to the goal of incorporating them into common optical devices such as cameras.”
With this focusing challenge solved, the researchers will now be moving onto scaling the lens up to roughly 1cm in diameter, which would open up a new world of possible applications.
There’s no word on when we might see a metalens launch for mainstream cameras or smartphones, but Harvard says it has licensed the IP from this research to a startup company for commercial development.
The women say that Roma often promised to act as a mentor to them before making advances, including during meetings in his office. The alleged misconduct ranges from sexual harassment, manipulation, and coercion to an instance of oral rape.
One of the accusers is Mozhan Marno, a former student of Roma’s who went on to become an actress — she’s had roles in the TV series’ “House of Cards” and “The Blacklist.”
“He would also often remind them of his professional stature,” the Times reports. “That stature carries considerable influence, beyond the usual power disparity between professor and student: In the field of photography, Mr. Roma could make a difference by providing letters of reference, recommendations for grants, and introductions to art dealers and collectors.”
Roma made a name for himself in the photo industry starting in 1974 by photographing the ins and outs of Brooklyn using a homemade camera. He’s married to Anna Friedlander, the daughter of the famous American photographer Lee Friedlander. The winner of two Guggenheim Fellowships, Roma went on to become a Full Professor in Columbia University’s School for the Arts as well as the founding Director of the school’s Photography Department.
Roma has denied the accusations against him through his lawyer, Douglas Jacobs.
“The statements they are making about his asserted misconduct are replete with inaccuracies and falsehoods,” Jacobs tells the New York Times. “All four have taken isolated, innocent incidents, none of them predatory, and have created fictitious versions of reality that are libelous and in the present political climate designed to damage his career and his personal life.
“Professor Roma’s sympathies then and now lie with those who have been mistreated in any way and he completely fails to understand why these women have chosen to create these complaints two decades after the alleged facts supposedly occurred.”