Back around 2015, photographers began pointing out that the $3,000 Meyer Optik Görlitz Nocturnus 50mm f/0.95 was surprisingly similar to the $849 Mitakon Zhongyi Speedmaster 50mm f/0.95. When asked whether the Nocturnus was based on the Speedmaster, Meyer Optik representatives denied it, but photographer Ori Cohen did some digging and found that the internal optics and specs of the lenses were identical:
“It seems that it’s undeniable that the Nocturnus 50mm f/0.95 I and II were based on the Mitakon 50mm f/0.95, having gone through several redesign stages,” Cohen wrote in 2017.
Fast forward a couple more years, and now Meyer Optik is admitting what photographers have suspected — that the “Made in Germany” Nocturnus was actually made in China.
“After analyzing the portfolio of products most recently sold and advertised by the previous supplier, a decision was made to discontinue the Somnium and Nocturnus ranges for the time being,” Meyer Optik writes in a press release. “In line with comments in the past on various online platforms, forums etc., the current Meyer Optik staff also soon became aware that internally the Somnium was actually a modified Russian lens and the Nocturnus was a modified Chinese lens.”
“That is an absolute no go,” says OPC Optics Managing Director Timo Heinze. “As a German manufacturer using the ‘Made in Germany’ quality seal, this is a shameful indictment. These lenses may be perfectly good in their own right, but their production methods and marketing goes against all our principles.
“With us, nothing of this nature will occur. At the same time, we are not ruling out launching lenses with similar characteristics in the future. But if we did decide to do so, they would, of course, be our own designs and produced by us, in order to genuinely earn the ‘Made in Germany’ label.”
So if you’re an owner of the original Meyer Optik Nocturnus 50mm f/0.95, sorry… you would have saved a hefty sum while getting the same image quality by buying the Mitakon Zhongyi Speedmaster 50mm f/0.95.
Abstract Aerial Photos of Melting Glaciers in Iceland
“Glacier Pools” is a photo series by German photographer Tom Hegen, who flew over melting glaciers in Iceland in a helicopter and captured abstract aerial views of the pools that form in the outwash plains.
“These Glacier Pools occur when a chunk of ice breaks off of a retreating glacier and embeds itself in the ground,” Hegen writes. “When it melts, it forms what is called a kettle pond.”
“In freshly deglaciated areas, such as around the melting glaciers in Iceland, there are dozens of small pools in the outwash plains,” Hegen says. “The lake colors indicate amounts of sediment or depth: the Deeper or clearer the water, the bluer the lake.”
I Trade Portraits for Backstage Photos with My Favorite Celebrities
I’ve been fortunate enough to present portrait work to some of my favorite personalities. Initially, I figured it would just be a clever way to use my artwork to meet some of my heroes. A year later, it has turned into an on-going project that has resulted in unique encounters, constant hustle, and endless Photoshop.
It started last February when I heard the Nature Boy, Ric Flair, was making an appearance in the Washington DC area. Being a lifelong fan, I really wanted to meet Flair, especially given his recent health issues. Shortly after purchasing a ticket to the event, it dawned on me that I should use this opportunity to not only try to introduce myself to Ric but to present a custom piece of artwork (from yours truly) honoring him.
On the day of the event, I managed to meet Ric and present him with the watercolor-style portrait I created in Photoshop. He was very grateful to receive the framed piece and was happy to pose for a photo too. The Nature Boy wasn’t the only one who took a liking to the work. Ric’s fiancé, Wendy, proceeded to chat me up about the art and asked me to pose for a photo with the portrait—which she kindly shared throughout Ric’s Instagram and Facebook platforms.
After that encounter, I had an epiphany of sorts: how many of my heroes could I meet through my art?
And so I got to work.
I began researching upcoming events in the DC area, honing in on acts, figures, and artists that I was inspired by. Then I began scouring the Internet to find their respective contact info. Once connected, I would arrange for us to meet at their local event where I would present a framed copy of the portrait as a gift to the artist. In return, I would simply request a photo and a signature on a separate print for my own safekeeping.
To my surprise, I was able to get responses from many of the talents I reached out to. Before I knew it, I was regularly going to events and presenting these passion pieces to many of the same people I grew up admiring.
Early on, I began treating each portrait as a new challenge. A chase of sorts, that consisted of finding prospects, contacting agents, creating high-quality artwork, coordinating with managers, arguing with security guards, etc., all to get my moment with my hero. After each meeting, my signed copy of the portrait served as a trophy for all my efforts.
I found these mini-missions to be very rewarding on a personal level. Instilling in me a greater level of confidence when seeing many of my heroes responding so positively to my artwork.
It’s been a full year now and I am still looking forward to creating the next portrait. Down the road, I would love to apply this style and passion to not only portraits, but also towards campaigns and brands, and possibly even doing some sort of gallery showing. Until then, simply using my art to meet my heroes is perfectly fine by me.
P.S. You can follow along with this ongoing work here.
About the author: Alon Avissar is a freelance art director who has spent the last 10 years working with numerous advertising agencies through the DC, NYC, and LA areas. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. In addition to collaborating with clients full-time, he continues to develop personal projects in his spare time, including print products, portraits and double exposure works. You can find more of Avissar’s work on his website.
When I found out I had the opportunity to travel to Antarctica, I couldn’t quite believe it. I should really start this story by thanking my mother: she’s had the travel bug her entire life, and eventually created a career for herself selling her experiences and knowledge. The same bug has allowed me to see the world from a very young age, and I learned quite quickly how much of an impact travel can have on your perspective on life, among other things.
Antarctica isn’t like any other trip though!
This took years of planning and booking, thousands of kilometers of travel, and a whole lot of effort coordinating the 13 other people who did the trip with us all the way from Australia. There are medical forms to fill out, all sorts of vaccinations – required for South America and so on – but we made it.
I have to admit to being a bit of a perfectionist. The thought of not being prepared for this opportunity really got to me and I started researching everything I could quite early on. I knew we’d be on a beautiful cruise ship that would provide me with most of the things I needed to survive, but I still felt that I needed to upgrade my photography gear.
At first, I was sure I was switching to Sony. I mean, who hasn’t thought that in the last two years if you shoot with any other brand? I also felt that I needed to get rid of my prime lens collection and switch to something far more versatile. I count myself very lucky that I have some close photographer friends who I speak to regularly.
After many conversations (maybe even a few heated ones at that) I made the choice to stick to what I knew: my trusty Canon 5D Mark III. I know this camera inside out. The choice of lenses is great, and I thought the fewer variables in a place so remote, the better. I also considered upgrading to the 5D Mark IV, but I knew if I did that I wouldn’t have room in the budget for the lenses that I wanted. So with that, I said goodbye to my Sigma Art lenses and I bought the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II, and a few months later the Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II.
It was a tricky decision that took me a while finally commit to. Prior to my trip, I was offered a 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II for a great price, but this would have meant using a 1.4x or 2x extender — and based on my research, it wasn’t going to perform as well as the 100-400mm.
And then, I was on my way. I had to remind myself that I was on holiday and I really didn’t want to spend the entire trip looking down the viewfinder of my camera. That being said, I had just invested in my new gear, so I wanted to test it all out and make the most of the experience.
The 100-400mm is an incredible lens for shooting wildlife, and the 24-70mm is a real workhorse. Even with the older AF system in the 5D Mark III, the lenses were fast, accurate and really enjoyable to use.
One thing you can guarantee is Antarctica will really put your gear to the test. I read a lot of articles that suggested taking two camera bodies — one with a telephoto and one with a wide-angle — but the reality was that I only had my 5D and the two lenses. In the end, regardless of the conditions, they performed exactly as they should and I’m glad I stuck with my gear.
If I could do it again and money wasn’t an issue, maybe I would take two cameras. On the other hand, two cameras would be more to get in the way (and to carry — we all know what airline baggage limits are like!) As long as you make smart, informed decisions, you’ll capture beautiful images in Antarctica.
After taking my 24-70mm instead of the 100-400mm out on the zodiac on my first day and subsequently missing whales breaching and a leopard seal sleeping on an iceberg, I quickly learned what would work best for the shots I wanted to take.
If you’ve ever thought of visiting Antarctica or working there in some capacity, I definitely recommend seeing it through — it is a truly incredible place that will stay with you for your entire life. We were lucky to have some incredibly knowledgeable and passionate expedition leaders on our ship, Le Lyrial. These leaders (some with over 20 years’ experience on the continent) are your biggest source of knowledge. They create presentations about the history of Antarctica, teach about the wildlife you are likely to see and their behavior in this environment, as well as take you out for zodiac tours and landings every day – weather depending.
I will note, that was one thing you’re never quite guaranteed of down there. The weather was unpredictable at best. We had one day of sunshine, one proper sunrise, and 6 days of grey skies, sleet and plenty of snow on the peninsula – none of it taking away from the experience. Animals don’t care about the weather, they’re well and truly used to it.
We saw plenty of whales almost every day and were even treated to a very rare sighting of an Antarctic blue whale. We also had plenty of opportunities to see Gentoo and chinstrap penguins, Weddell, leopard, crabeater and fur seals, and many Antarctic birds. It really is a nature-rich area. If you’re lucky enough to get close to some of the penguin colonies, they might come and greet you themselves!
I’m grateful that I went with my gut feeling (and friends’ advice) and took the camera gear I was most comfortable with. Many hours went into choosing what I thought was the perfect combination and I’m really proud of the images I was able to capture.
It’s hard to say what I enjoyed most about Antarctica. How do you sum up a 10-day, once-in-a-lifetime trip in just a few words? I’m not sure, but I’ll give it my best shot.
Antarctica is many things. It can be harsh, remote and extremely challenging. But it is also beautiful, otherworldly and full of life. Being able to experience the amazing wildlife, the stark yet beautiful landscapes of mountain and ice, and learn more about the strong history of human exploration is something I’ll never forget.
About the author: Arin Özdemir is a photographer and retoucher based in Brighton, Queensland, Australia. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Özdemir’s work on his website, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. This article was also published here.
Back in the day, a compelling photograph could be taken in a fraction of a second and considered for years, even decades. The small world of street photography was dominated by photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, who said, “Photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event.”
But today, while we may spend collectively a great deal of time taking shots, the time we take to consider their significance has been steadily whittled down, creating a vicious cycle of sorts not only in how photography is evaluated these days, but what kind of photography is made available for evaluation.
In the past, work that made it into the public consciousness came about due to the intent of a small, admittedly highly biased pool of individuals who had the opportunity and/or luck to gain access to a few select media. That state of affairs did change with the advent of the Internet, but rather than leveling the playing field as promised, it changed the channels through which this process could occur.
Instead of a select few, mainly straight white men of means in Western countries who were able to forego other employment and afford the expensive equipment necessary at the time, the promise was that anyone with any camera could play, and after the wide adoption of mobile phone cameras, that future seemed to be in sight.
Except that hasn’t quite happened. To be sure, more people have access to photographic tools and the ability to make it widely viewable than ever before. The floodgates opened, but we still can only view so many images in a day. Someone, or something, had to assume the task of filtering the flood.
And someone did; you could say everyone did, in the form of pressing the “Like” or “Fav” button on their phones. But in order to translate those billions of touches into a semblance of hierarchy, something more was needed: algorithms were employed to tell media outlets what kind of photos attracted the attention of the most people.
But the way we have been viewing these photos has resulted in a fundamental change in our tastes.
Viewing photographic prints has traditionally been seen as the best way to appreciate the full impact of a work. Then computers came into common usage, and though the first computer screens were woefully inadequate to the task, due to poor resolution, etc., they did get a great deal better. Looking at photos on a modern high-resolution, color-profiled screen became a joy, like a big, glowing print. As early as the mid-2000s, when people mostly viewed images on large computer screens, sites like Flickr were the place to view photography.
Theoretically, this should have been the pinnacle of photographic viewing experience to this point: large, highly detailed photographs with sumptuous colors and tones available at the touch of a button for our enjoyment. But even though it is possible to carry around a good-sized screen in the form of a tablet these days, that’s not what we’re doing.
Mobile phones have instead become the default media consumption tool; mobile sites like Instagram dominated the scene, trammeling website-based photography. As a result, most photos are viewed on small mobile phone screens in public settings. In this scenario, the details of a photo vanish into insignificance. You look down at your tiny phone screen in your hand, quickly sum up the general composition, the broad strokes of color, the heavy leading lines, and general contrast, because that’s all you can see.
It’s like squinting at a print hung on a wall from across the room. There’s no real way to get close; intimacy evaporates. Phone screen resolution has become exquisitely detailed in recent years, but the size is limited to one that can fit comfortably in one hand, and after having exceeded the human eye’s capabilities, resolution becomes meaningless. Likewise, strong, contrasting colors beckon from such screens far more than they do at larger sizes.
What we see is supposedly the general gestalt of an image, but what happens when something that aims to be more than the sum of its parts sacrifices those parts to emphasize the whole? Is it worth the time, effort, and thought to make a photograph today that rewards the unlikely possibility of extended consideration beyond the mere facts of its geometry and colors, removing the end purpose of those factors in favor of their simple existence?
I can’t say which came first, the chicken of small-screen viewing or the egg of shorter attention spans. In any case, the audience of these tiny images is for the most part people with a bit of spare time, perhaps on our way to work or at lunch, spending a few seconds amid our other distractions glancing at photos on our phones, making a quick judgement before perhaps pressing the “Like” button, and then scrolling to the next one.
If we’re deeply impressed (or, more likely, if we want to impress the photographer), we might type a series of exclamation marks, or perhaps even a real comment. I am confident by this point that, if a user with thousands or more followers follows me, it is done, possibly by a bot, in the hope that I will automatically follow them back. The bot will then unfollow me the next day.
This explains why the parts are sacrificed for the benefit of the whole; the “whole” here is not the photography, but rather getting people to pay attention to us. Consideration and appreciation have largely been jettisoned because not only do we not have the time, they, along with their goal, i.e. deciphering the meaning of a photograph, have both become extraneous to the more desirable process of gathering attention. This is not a coincidence, for although one depends on the other, once one is removed, the other will follow.
The inevitable dismantling of the old structures of photographic appreciation left space open to whatever primal impulses drive the public narrative of the day, even if the veneer of the old structures persists in an attempt to retain their aura of legitimacy. Many photography competitions these days feature social media prizes, and even the ones that don’t are inordinately influenced by such factors. Thousands upon thousands of photographers hustle to get their shots onto various popular online platforms, in anticipation of a deluge of likes, but no thought is given to time spent considering the images in question or the results of such theoretical evaluation.
The shots we see are all pleasant to look at… strong leading lines, heavy contrast, enticing colors, perhaps a funny juxtaposition, and… not much else. They’re meant to impress, but only briefly. Once the button is clicked, their job is done.
This state of affairs is not Instagram’s doing, nor Facebook’s. In fact, not much has really changed in the grand scheme of things. Photography has never truly been the mass media phenomenon its use in service of social media made it seem. We are not drowning in a “photographic flood” because “everyone is a photographer now.” It is true that everyone has a camera now. Everyone looks at photos on their phone. Everyone has a shorter attention span. Everyone likes attention. Exposure is our currency.
Is that not the norm, however? And isn’t meaning a subject for each viewer to decide themselves? Photographs, even at their best, have never themselves told stories… rather, they inspire us to conjure up our own realizations of their meaning. But what happens to our thought processes when the majority of the images jostling for our attention have done away with need for meaning beyond well-placed arrays of elements? Like lines of well-separated people in the frame, like funny shadows, like random hands, feet, or heads in isolation from their owners, like pleasing combinations of primary colors, like, scroll, like, scroll.
How many of us even bother zooming in, if the app allows it, to take in the details of a shot, the expressions of the people, the relationships and connections within that reveal a deeper context? And does that even help us appreciate the details as part of the frame seen as a whole?
“Thinking too much” (AKA thinking) is looked down on more and more this era of snap judgement. Amid national and global emergencies real and imagined, cascades of memes rising and falling each second at speeds previously unimaginable, few have time for reasoned analysis, the benefits of which are falling by the wayside in the rush to dominate the lofty peaks of comments sections. Just as social media gave a false impression of vitality to photography, so has it also created a disingenuous impression of what “good” photography is, and the flying buttresses of this construction can be seen in the contests, promotions, Internet listicles, and features of the day.
Is it not possible, even preferable, for photographs to be arranged in a pleasant geometric fashion with lovely colors AND hold deeper levels of meaning? Absolutely, as long as the former is utilized in service of the latter. But are such compositions being noticed under the current state of affairs? And if not, where is the motivation for the majority of photographers to strive for such meaning in their work?
Cartier-Bresson once said, presciently:
The intensive use of photographs by mass media lays ever fresh responsibilities upon the photographer. We have to acknowledge the existence of a chasm between the economic needs of our consumer society and the requirements of those who bear witness to this epoch. This affects us all, particularly the younger generations of photographers. We must take greater care than ever not to allow ourselves to be separated from the real world and from humanity.
Interesting work is still being done, if you look for it. It is often found in the modern equivalent of a closet shelf or desk drawer, languishing on the individual websites nobody visits anymore, or perhaps in a smattering of zines nobody paid much attention to, or a project we didn’t bother with because the shots didn’t take advantage of the incredible color gamut of our iPhone screen.
The good stuff is out there, as it always has been, languishing in the musty back stacks of libraries’ photobook sections or in our grandparents’ old shoeboxes. Occasionally, even now, some of it comes to light.
For about three seconds.
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.
One of the many marvelous photography techniques provided by analog photography is the double (or multiple) exposure of film directly on camera. I’ve always been fascinated by the possibility of handling the negative from the moment of shooting, and this factor was the key one for me when it came the time to chose a camera.
I needed a fully mechanical camera that allows me to control shutter speed, aperture, and lock the film for double exposures.
Nowadays, it’s relatively easy to produce double exposure photos. Although I like digital photography, I’ve always preferred to create my double exposures with my trusty old camera — to get out in the streets and enjoy shooting while avoiding tedious hours of post-production in front of a computer screen and then often ending up with a result that is closer to graphic design than photography.
The magic of double exposure is limitless. I love how it’s possible to mix and mash spaces that are completely different from each other, to make them clash inside a new world that comes to life inside a negative.
I call it pre-darkroom; a manipulation of reality that we cannot affect in any way. Only at the time of processing the film will we see how the planes stack with each other. Most times it is actually almost impossible to discern how the images complement each other; it might be simple luck, or it might very well be that these two worlds really take a life of their own on the silver of the film, and they become something else.
In the end, what we try to do is to clumsily control the light.
About the author: Sergi Escribano is a photographer based in Barcelona, Spain. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Escribano studied at the Catalan Institute of Photographic Studies, and his work has been exhibited in the US, UK, and Spain. You can find more of Escribano’s work on his website, Twitter, and Instagram.
The biggest and most common mistake I see in photographers in all genres is that they aren’t honest with themselves. They love the idea of being a photographer — the romantic side of it all. Sounds cool, right? But they hate the work part, the hustle, the grind, the guts of what it takes to run any successful small business.
They just want to do the fun part of taking pictures, spending their afternoons hanging out in coffee shops, shooting only things they are interested in, and talking smack. You have the right to do this, but you aren’t going to make a sustainable living doing things this way.
The second biggest mistake I see is photographers do is falling into the blame game spiral. It’s easy to blame the industry, blame people who are giving their work away for free, blame everyone else but yourself. Next, they blame their gear. Maybe if I just had that new camera with more megapixels, more features, etc. I’d get those assignments or clients instead of Johnny or Jenny Successful Photographer getting all the work in my market.
Guess what? That’s not going to help either. If your work sucks or is average, a nice camera isn’t going to get you more work. Yes, I own some pretty expensive gear, but that hasn’t always been the case for me. I worked my way up to afford it using some pretty basic cameras.
It’s time to look inward and do something about it, so step in front of that mirror you love to check yourself out in, stare deep inside your photography soul, and ask yourself if you want to have a go at this. If your answer is yes, here are a few things you can do now to start heading in the right direction.
Strengthen Your Portfolio
Get off your butt and go shoot the work you want to get paid to shoot. If you want to do wedding photography, go work as a second shooter, take portraits for your friends, intern, do whatever it takes to get more reps and more images, get out there and shoot.
If you want to shoot architecture, go find some buildings that inspire you and spend hours shooting them and experimenting with them. If you want to do documentary work, start a personal project (read my article here about that).
You get what I mean. Go shoot the work you want to get paid to shoot. Be proactive.
Follow Pros Not Influencers
Follow (I don’t literally mean follow them around, that’s creepy. I mean follow them online) and study the people who get the work you aim to get and learn their process from start to finish. Don’t aim to mimic them, but you can learn a lot from people on their social media feeds. You can learn about how they approach their clients, business in general, BTS on shoots, and stuff like that. People are open books these days, so go online and read them.
As for influencers on places like YouTube and Instagram, they make all their money doing reviews and tutorials and there is nothing wrong with that and nothing wrong with learning some things from them, but don’t confuse their success with subscribers or followers as being successful in their photography.
I’m not being an ass — those guys are better at doing that than I am and some make great money doing so, but most simply aren’t talented photographers. Seriously, look at some of their work and client lists — they are rarely receiving assignments from paying clients other than advertisers and camera companies, and I’m sure that is just fine with them.
Again, not a knock on those influencers — the last thing I need is their audience attacking me — just learn how to separate what they are saying. Also, some working photographers do both well, like Joey L.
Damn, that was long. I should’ve just said learn how to influence from influencers, learn how to run a successful photography business from successful photographers.
Find Your Vision
Figure out what your unique voice is with your photography and learn how to sell it and who to sell it to. That is way easier said than done, but to give you an example of how to achieve this, I can tell you a personal story.
As the editorial market was drying up years ago, I expanded into commercial photography. I had a lot of experience shooting for Conde Nast Traveler and the New York Times travel section. I noticed a lot of hotel photography was quite stagnant and boring, especially the lifestyle shots with models. I knew I was strong at photographing people in a realistic and natural way, so I sold those skills and morphed my editorial style into commercial work for hotels and resorts. That turned into a successful business for me, Mott Visuals — we now shoot hotels and resorts all around the world.
You’ve Got to Grind
If you got into photography to sit around coffee shops and b**ch and moan and sound cool by telling people you’re a photographer, that’s exactly how you are going to end up, a coffee shop photographer. I kind of like that phrase, you heard it here first: “Coffee Shop Photographer.” Next time you use that phrase you need to reference me, I’m copyrighting that. Oh man and when I titled this tip I had no intention of using the word grind, and coffee, sometimes it all just comes together.
Sure, I spend a lot of time in coffee shops, but I’m hustling, man. I’m studying my competition’s work, studying my own work, I’m learning new skills, I’m writing to editors, working on newsletters, and just grinding — it never ends.
Ditch the Negativity
Some of those photography threads are an endless rabbit hole of negativity. Be positive and surround yourself with positive and helpful friends both online and in person. I used to hang out with a lot of negative Nellys (not the rapper) who were always negative and jealous and it was taxing and infectious, so I stopped. I get a lot of negative comments when my articles go on major outlets but guess what, I could give two s**ts. That dude or dudette isn’t hiring me, and chances are they aren’t working nearly as much as I am and a big part of that is their attitude. That sounds cocky, but it’s true.
Don’t expect to get in the New York Times overnight. My path to this work was getting accepted to The Eddie Adams Workshop while I was studying in university and working on a personal project I self-funded in Vietnam. Then I met some editors, then my work was passed around, then months later I got my first assignment. Everyone’s trajectory is different and some people can get in quickly by referrals, but that’s not the norm. It takes time, hustle, and a solid body of work, so don’t get discouraged if things don’t pan out overnight.
The same goes for commercial work, I shot a lot of 3-4 star local hotels and honed my skills before I became an official approved photographer for InterContinental Hotels, it took time.
Shortcuts Don’t Work
Don’t lie about your resume or exaggerate your skills. This will eventually catch up to you, ruin your reputation, and it’s simply not ethical.
Treat Yourself Like A Business
Successful photographers treat themselves like a small business. They have a budget, they either do their own or outsource their accounting, and they have a marketing strategy. When you’re not shooting, you should be putting in full days working on the things I listed above, not just hanging out with the coffee shop photographers.
My apologies if some of this comes off harsh or brutal, but this has been my experience in my career so far, and I aim to help, not just to rant. I’m a fan of Adam Carolla, so I learned how to rant from the best.
If you have any questions for me, please ask away in the comments section and I’ll do my best to help out. Negative comments for the sake of being negative will be absorbed but not answered.
About the author: Justin Mott is an award-winning editorial, travel, and commercial photographer and director based in Vietnam for over a decade. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Mott has shot over 100 assignments throughout Vietnam and Southeast Asia for the New York Times covering tragedy, travel, features, business, and historical moments. You can find more of his work on his website, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram. This article was also published here.
Flickr Unveils a New Login That Ditches Yahoo’s System
After being acquired by Yahoo in 2005, Flickr became bound to its new owner’s authorization system, meaning all users needed to have a Yahoo account just to use Flickr. Flickr has just announced a new login system that finally frees the service from Yahoo.
“We set to work right away to bring all our members a new, secure login method that doesn’t require a Yahoo account, and we’re thrilled that the time has come to begin migrating members to the new login,” Flickr writes in a blog post.
Because Flickr has so many registered users, this rollout will take some time, but it should reach you sometime “over the next few weeks.”
“We hope you love this new, simpler login experience,” Flickr says. “We’re still hard at work on performance and stability improvements across the site (as discussed here), but we’re delighted to check this key item off our members’ wish lists.”
I got an email notifying me of the release of Topaz Sharpen AI, a program that enhances details and fixes out-of-focus/blurred shots. I initially expected that it was something similar to Adobe Enhance Details, which slightly enhanced the details of some specific shots and didn’t work for many other images. Topaz provided a demo fully-functional for 30 days, so I decided to give it a try.
Honestly speaking, I didn’t expect much. AI is the buzz word these days. Every company claims that their products feature wonderful AI but usually such AIs underperform my expectations.
I tell you the conclusion first so that you don’t have to waste your time. I was very, very impressed with Topaz Labs’ technology. It doesn’t work perfectly well with all images and it has some drawbacks, but the overall technology is really amazing.
Let me show you some images I processed using this software.
The first example is a landscape photograph I took during my travels in Australia. It was a typical situation for travel photographers: I had to take this photo with my 28-300mm utility zoom lens. There’s no problem with the focus or camera shake, but it was simply that the lens was soft particularly at the edges.
I was blown away. The following settings were applied. If you feel it’s a little too sharp at the center, turn Remove Blur down to, say, 0.40 and blend them together in Photoshop using the circular gradation tool on a layer mask.
As soon as I started using this software I noticed something unusual — It is really slow! This program is extremely CPU/GPU intensive, so you need to run it on a fast PC. My 27″ Retina iMac is not too slow (Core i7 7700K 4.2GHz with Radeon Pro 8GB and 40GB of RAM), but it runs really slow on my computer. If you turn off Automatically Update Preview switch at the right bottom of the window, it runs smoothly but you need to check out the preview to make appropriate settings. The workaround I found was to keep the preview size as small as possible — then it ran a little faster. Still slow but somewhat bearable.
Let’s move on to the next example. This photo was again taken with a utility zoom lens. I took this shot when I lived near the building (Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building) several years ago. The original image was slightly out of focus. Perhaps I should’ve fixed the purple fringe in Lightroom in advance. But the Sharpen AI enhanced the details dramatically and also removed the purple fringe to some degree.
So far this program is really amazing. But it doesn’t always work perfectly well.
This shot was taken with the Sigma Art 50mm f/1.4, so it’s actually very sharp and doesn’t really require any further sharpening, but I tested it, too.
The AI successfully sharpened the image except for the trees hidden in the shadow. The original was much better in this particular area. So you need to know how to blend two images using a layer mask in Photoshop to fully appreciate this software.
How does it work on photos with a shallow depth of field? I tested the AI with the above example shot.
To my surprise, it sharpened the focused part and also smoothened (or reduced the noise at) the defocused part.
The focused and defocused areas were easily distinguishable in the above example. Let’s try it with another sample in which the amount of bokeh varies within a single subject.
You might wonder why I couldn’t focus on a cat who stayed still. Well, I manually focused using an old lens… It’s a shame to show you such a badly taken photo, but it is a good example for the review.
These settings couldn’t fix the focus. So let’s try another algorithm.
A little better. But not very natural. Maybe you can blend it with the original to make it look as if the focus is on the nose of the cat. I need to test more photographs to draw a conclusion but I guess that the AI is not very good at handling this sort of photographs, that is, the amount of bokeh varies dramatically within a single subject.
The last example is a photo of an eagle I took in Australia with the 28-300mm utility zoom. I spotted an eagle while driving in the outback. I quickly pulled over the car and took this shot but unfortunately the camera couldn’t AF well.
Wow! I was utterly gobsmacked at the result. It’s magic, isn’t it!?
But it also sharpened defocused areas in an unnatural way as well. So I’d need to blend the sharpened image with the original in Photoshop. I’m not going to explain how to blend them in Photoshop in this article, as it is already too long and I want to focus on the AI.
The Bottom Line
This product doesn’t work perfectly for every photo but it works wonders on many photos. I highly recommend Topaz Sharpen AI if you have a fast computer. I bought it. I would be delighted if I could use PayPal though.
About the author: Yuga Kurita is a professional photographer based in Japan. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Kurita’s work on his website, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, 500px, and Instagram. This article was also published here.