Recently in Rant - Opinion Category

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Co-blogger Jason recently queried why I had written off using a DSLR as both my still photo camera and video camcorder in fieldwork. My pat answer up to now has been while there are some strong pros, there are some definite cons:

Pros:

  1. Beautiful video. The sensors are much larger, much better bokeh, brighter lenses.
  2. Interchangeable lenses.
  3. One less device to carry or forget to bring batteries or memory cards.

Cons:

  1. Audio: Most DSLRs have really atrocious onboard mics, low digitization rates, and no option for external audio (such as XLR jacks or even plug-in-power). They rarely have adequate mic monitoring (onboard displays or live monitoring via headphones) and usually only offer automatic gain, no manual gain option .
  2. Form factor: The SLR form factor is really designed for one form of eye-level shooting and not for live action.
  3. Autofocus: Some DSLRs cannot autofocus while video recording.
  4. Auto-Aperture: Some DSLRs cannot adjust the aperture while video recording, this makes lighting changes in a single clip difficult. Others cannot adjust the aperture in a stepless fashion, causing visible artifacts during adjustments.
  5. Zooming: OK, power zooming is generally evil, but everyone does a slow zoom once in a while, and not having a power zoom is a (major) pain.
  6. Sensor: Because almost all SLRs are single-sensor, you get color mosaicing from the Bayer filter.
  7. Shutter: Most DSLRs use an electronic rolling shutter when shooting video, unlike the mechanical shutters on dedicated video cameras. This can cause strange "jellyroll" effects on tall objects that move quickly across the screen -- or during fast pans.
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Rebuttal

Audio was one of the killers for me, since I do my own camera and audio. I usually have an external mic or two in interviews, feeding back into my camera. I've done dual sound using a flash recorder, and it isn't ideal. I prefer having a strong onboard sound option.

Interestingly, some DSLRs are now getting external audio options. The Olympus Pen E-PL2 (micro 4/3) has external audio through the SEMA-1 option, it provides for a 3.5mm plug-in-power jack. The higher end of the Lumix series such as the GH2 have 2.5mm audio mic jacks. And the higher end of the Canon EOS series also have 3.5mm audio jacks. Still, no real-time headphone monitoring (I think).

After the jump, I look at some specific cameras from the Canon EOS and Panasonic Lumix (micro 4/3) series. I'm interested in those two as I own older models in those series and can swap lenses.

I have to say, I'm not 100% convinced -- but like many things he has asked about before, Jason has gotten me thinking seriously about this.


Just a little rant here:

Increasingly, many schools are asking for letters of recommendation to be sent via PDF.

I sign my PDF letters using the PDF secure signature feature in Adobe Acrobat Pro.  This embeds a digitally verifiable image and hash that links back through a public key system to me. It also locks and signs the PDF file so that it cannot be tampered with.

Adobe Acrobat Reader will automatically verify any embedded signatures that it finds in documents it opens, and let the reader know that the signature is bona fide.

I just found out that Preview.app in Snow Leopard (Mac OSX 10.6) doesn't either:  1) display, or 2) verify signatures. It just leaves a big blank where the sig should be.

 

 

Stupid, just plain stupid.

 

Spending the last month writing has resulted in my carpal tunnel syndrome flaring up again. Now I have it in both wrists. Typing, mousing, and now driving are painful.

I now have braces on both my hands, which truly sucks.

I just ordered a new ergonomic mouse, we'll see if that helps. I may try switching keyboards as well.

The good news is that MacSpeech Dictate which used to be really bad has improved over the last few versions. It now has correction and learning capabilities, which makes it actually usable. I am using with my Sampson Go Mic, which is a huge improvement over the cheap headsets that I've used previously.

I am now using speech recognition for my e-mail correspondence. Unfortunately, Dictate is still not quite fast or accurate enough for writing academic text. But maybe after some more training it will get better or, I will get laryngitis.

Well.... I lamed out and decided to get an iPhone 4 after all.  The iPad is tempting but too expensive and JCR's comments about not using his iPad as much after getting his iPhone4 seemed to resonate with my gut feeling of what I would end up doing with it.   If the iPad had a front-facing video camera for Skype and SD-card support, I'd reconsider but methinks that Steve J. is keeping the video-camera for the iPad 2.0 -- and likely will never get an SD-card or USB jack since Steve likes to keep it proprietary.

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I thought seriously about getting an Android-based phone, but in the end lamed out on those too. They don't seem to have any must-have advantages over the iPhone. One thing that would have swayed me is free tethering, but it seems that all of the 'droids that have tethering also have it as an extra option, just like the iPhone. And though you can root them and add a hack to tether, I could also jailbreak and do it on my iPhone if I was that inclined.

So I lamed out and got an iPhone. I drove up to my "nearest" Apple store, which is in West Hartford.  They were clean out of stock (and judging from the inside of the Apple Store, I think Apple is entirely quitting the computer business and selling only iPhones and iPads).

I walked across the mall and went to a Radio Shack. I knew that as the unsexiest store in the Mall, it had the best chance of actually having stock of the iPhone and I was right.

So I'm now the proud (?) owner of an iPhone 4 -- 32 gig.

Thanks everyone for the comments!

My contract for my original iPhone 3G is up and I'm in the market for a new smartphone. I'm currently kind of pissed at Apple because the iOS 4.0 update really crippled my iPhone 3G, rendering it impossibly slow. This is the kind of crud that Microsoft used to pull (Vista, anyone?) and I'm kind of getting sick of the closed environment that iOS represents.

Nonetheless, the iPhone 4 is a huge temptation, as is the couldn't-be-worse-named iPad.  One consideration is that I almost never do voice calls -- maybe 15 minutes a month, tops. So there, the iPad's data-only plan is good. But it's way too large. If I could get the iPad data plan with the iPhone form factor.... (and no, an iPod Touch wouldn't work since it doesn't have mobile data, which I need).

Anyway, so I guess I'm really forced into a smartphone. Any thoughts gentle readers on the Droid X and Evo 4G?  New Haven isn't a Wimax/4g city so the Evo's greatest feature is worthless here.

Found a useful infographic online:

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Any and all thoughts welcome.

Jason -- what are you running these days?

The whole Adam Wheeler and Harvard academic fraud ordeal had me thinking about the importance of early detection in these types of cases. It seems like these students often start small (plagiarizing student papers) and then move onto bigger things (Wheeler was caught when he tried to fake his Rhodes Scholarship application).

In fact, Wheeler was apparently for one semester from Bowdoin College when he was caught plagiarizing a paper in his sophomore year. He could have gone back but Wheeler instead applied to Harvard on false credentials (claiming to be from MIT) and was accepted. There, he continued faking material until he was caught.

In Wheeler's case, it seems like Bowdoin did all the right things -- suspending him for one semester. That should have been Wheeler's wake-up-call, unfortunately it wasn't.

On the other hand, I've seen cases of plagiarism at colleges (not just Yale) where the actions taken weren't as harsh -- such as just an 'F' on the paper, which is just a rap on the wrist, really. I think this only encourages students to believe that academic fraud isn't a serious issue and could encourage them to continue in that vein, only trying harder to not get caught.

I'm in an anti-Mac rut these days.


Getting ready to give a fancy presentation to medical types and just realized that Pages has no way to type an italic x with an over bar over it as in arithmetic-mean (x=1.0). The image below is a GIF picture -- you can't write the x on the left hand side of the equation in Pages!

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Arugula!


What century are we in!  It turns out that x-bar isn't a standard Unicode glyph and so programs have to support it themselves, which Pages doesn't.


I know Steve Jobs doesn't do math, but is some basic math support too much to ask? I'm not asking for LaTex, but I am asking to not be made to seem absolutely daft.

I was trying to access the Department of Labor (USA) in order to get information on employment conditions for people with disabilities and the DOL.gov site requires a password -- even for the top page?


Weird. I ended up getting the data from BLS.gov.


Cornell's ILR school has organized the BLS data in a much more accessible fashion: http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/edi/disabilitystatistics/

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I've recently been looking at recent statistics issued by the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) regarding Americans with Disabilities employment discrimination cases.

All charges of employment discrimination under the ADA have to be channelled through the EEOC so this data can be considered authoritative. Of course, many claims are settled even before they go to the EEOC so that data is not visible.

The data is available here: http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/statistics/enforcement/ada-charges.cfm

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Appalling Figures

In 2009, there were 18,776 charges of employment discrimination under the ADA that were resolved by the EEOC. Of those, 11% were settled and 6.5% were withdrawn with benefits. Not all settlements are positive for plaintiffs, but let's be optimistic and say that 100% were. Of the mere 5.1% of cases that EEOC found reasonable cause, only 2.2% of cases were successful.

So a whopping 11+6.5+2.2 = 19.7% of cases brought before the EEOC had positive outcomes for the plaintiffs.

(The EEOC counts 22.6% as "merit resolutions," but I'm unsure how they get their data since the missing 3.1% would likely be the 3.0% of unsuccessful "reasonable cause" claims).

Or put another way, 80.3% were found for the defendants, the employers.

Put another way, only 5.1% of cases were found to have reasonable cause to go to court and the EEOC won just less than half of these, resulting in only 2.2% of cases there were actually "won" by the EEOC in litigation.

Put another way, it sucks to be disabled in the United States.

What about the big bucks won by "professional litigants?" The EEOC shows that $67.8 million in benefits were won in 2009. With a total of 2065 + 1217 + 408 = 3690 people settling or winning benefits, that's an average of just over $18,000 each.

Not enough to pay your lawyer, or even six months of wages.

Like I said, it sucks to be disabled in the United States.

Or put another way, it is great to be an employer in the United States. Plenty of workforce flexibility.

Question of the day

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How many anthropologists suffer from dromomania?

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I just received my new copy of MacSpeech Dictate, version 1.5. I have to say that I'm impressed. Although I was not happy about the $50 upgrade fee, the accuracy of the speech recognition is much improved. You can guess of course, that I am typing this using the speech recognition software. So far there have been no errors in recognition.

Yes, this is how it should have been from the very beginning. Now, you can spell out names using the international radio alphabet (foxtrot alpha!). However, I found that this doesn't work perfectly, for example I have to type f-o-x-t-r-o-t a-l-p-h-a because I could not get MacSpeech to recognize when I wanted letters and when I wanted words.

Also, training new words,isn't as easy as Dragon Naturally Speaking. You can't just say "correct that." You have to train new words individually in a separate panel. Also because there is no "correct that" command, it can be frustrating when the speech recognition does actually make a mistake.

The overall verdict so far after my short time testing it is that the basic speech recognition is improved greatly. The ability to add the words is fantastic, although he should have been in the original release. However the inability to correct words on the fly is a huge impediment and limits the ultimate usability of this program.

Overall, I'm glad to see some improvement being made in it, and I hope that they continue to work on further. Perhaps one more release and it will be at the level where Dragon Naturally Speaking was five years ago.

My partner and I watched in disbelief reports of 3-7 hour waits at early voting polling stations -- with estimates that the lines will be even longer on Tuesday itself.

My partner asked me if Tuesday was a national holiday so that people could go vote. She was doubly astonished that it wasn't a holiday, so that people would have to take off work in order to vote.


Rachel Maddow is right on target when she calls the long lines at Southern polling stations a new form of the racist system of poll-taxes. The only people who can afford to take off an entire day to go vote are those in white collar professional jobs.

Obligatory Japan content: In Japan, I've never had to wait more than 5 minutes to vote. And this was for a country where we don't use electronic voting machines but good old paper and pen.

My moped-EV decided to toss me. Ouch. Photos after the jump. A bit gory, so NSFW.

Ask vs. Aks / Ax

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On March 1, I gave a talk on deaf identity and language ideologies at Swarthmore college. During the talk, I discussed the language politics behind the pronunciation of the word "ask" in spoken American English.

The contemporary African American Vernacular English pronunciation of "ask" as "aks" or "ax" is often used as an example of bad pronunciation by prescriptive language critics. However, the "aks/ax" form of "ask" is just as old -- if not older, than the "ask" form -- and dates back to Old English.

People have e-mailed me asking for a citation. The best source is the Oxford English Dictionary (second edition 1989) which gives these usages:

I. 1. trans. To call for, call upon (a person or thing personified) to come. Obs.

a1000 Cædmon's Gen. (Gr.) 2453 [Hi] comon cor{th}rum miclum cuman acsian. 1205 LAY. 19967 He lette axien anan Men {th}at cu{edh}en hæuwen stan.

2. without mention of the person asked: a. with the thing asked as an object sentence or clause (in indirect, or, less commonly, direct oration).

c1000 Ags. Ps. xiv. [2] Ic ahsi{asg}e, Hwa {th}ær earda{edh}? a1038 Charter of Eanwene in Cod. Dipl. IV. 54 {Edh}á ácsode {edh}e bis~ceop hwá sceólde andswerian for his módor. c1200 ORMIN Te{ygh}{ygh} sholldenn..asskenn what he wære. a1300 Cursor M. 7887 He askes, quat was {th}at leuedi? c1305 St. Crist. 149 in E.E.P. (1862) 63 {Th}is gode man..eschte what hi wolde. c1386 CHAUCER Wife's Prol. 21, I axe, why the fyfte man Was nought housbond to the Samaritan? c1420 Avow. Arth. xxiv, Gauan asshes, ‘Is hit soe?’ 1455 E. CLERE in Four C. Eng. Lett. 5 He askid what the Princes name was. 1549 COVERDALE Erasm. Par. Rom. Prol., He axeth not whether good workes are to be done or not. 1597 SHAKES. 2 Hen. IV, III. ii. 71 May I aske, how my Lady his Wife doth? 1711 STEELE Spect. No. 454 {page}6 To ask what I wanted. Mod. Ask who it is. He asks if you are ready. I merely ask, ‘Is it true?’

b. with the question expressed by a n. or pronoun: To ask a question, this, something. to ask (a horse) the question: to call upon him for a special effort.

c1320 R. BRUNNE Medit. 430 Some axen questyons to do hym wrong. 1387 TREVISA Higden (1865) I. 67 {Th}re questiouns bee{th} i-axed. 1803 PEGGE Anecd. Eng. Lang. 114 A true born Londoner, Sir, of either sex, always axes question, axes pardon, and at quadrille axes leave. 1850 TENNYSON In Mem. xiv, And ask a thousand things of home. 1894 H. CUSTANCE Riding Recoll. vi. 88 Until the last ten strides, when I really asked ‘King Lud’ the question.

We can see that 'aks/ax' was a valid pronunciation from 1000 CE ("acsian") through at least 1549 CE ("He axeth"). If anyone axe, just say that no one lesser than Chaucer spelt it that way.

I recently wrote a short article for the Anthropology News titled: A Case against Giving Informants Cameras and Coming Back Weeks Later (. Vol. 49, No. 2: 20). Here is a snippet to whet your appetite:



A Case Against Giving Informants Cameras and Coming Back Weeks Later
By Karen Nakamura (Yale U)

Giving informants cameras and asking them to take photographs of their environment is a growing trend in anthropology. The resulting photos are later displayed, analyzed or exhibited as examples of a particularly internal, private or emic view of the world. Students love this technique, which is inexpensive and initially appears to be risk-free, with all of the hallmarks of reflexive anthropology. If not done carefully, however, it can be problematic both ethically and methodologically.

.....

For those who choose to do photoethnographic work that involves providing informants with cameras or video equipment, it is essential to first critically examine the ethical and methodological implications of a project. The anthropologist must consider both the potential harms and benefits that a project might pose for an informant. Possible ways to address these concerns include giving informants high quality photographic equipment (to keep) as well as technical training, so that in the future they can use their new tools and skills for their own purposes, to address their own needs. Informants working for an anthropologists (i.e. completing assigned tasks) should be paid as field assistants. Prior to using an image an anthropologist should receive permission to do so from both the photographer and any people that appear in the photograph. Finally, photography should supplement, not replace, long-term fieldwork–it is time and labor intensive, but ultimately necessary for interpreting and contextualizing visual images from the field.

You can read the rest at the full text PDF.

Comments, criticism, and feedback on this article are more than welcome -- either here or by e-mail.

I recently took a trip to Awaji Island to visit the earthquake museum there (see other blog post) among other things. It's a 200 km round trip by car from Itami City in Hyogo Prefecture (where I'm staying this week) and I decided to rent a Toyoto Prius.

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The rental cost ¥10,500 for the day; the tolls were ¥7800; and (drumroll) the gasoline only cost ¥1350 for 10 liters. That works out to 20 km / liter or about 47 mpg! According to the car's computer, the average mileage was 23 km/liter or 53 mpg. I think the discrepancy is because the tank may have been a little less than full when I picked it up (and reset the odometer/drive computer). **

** The exchange rate is ¥113 to US$1 and plummeting.

In any case, let's take the average to be: 50 mpg.

This was for mixed city / highway / island / mountain driving with four passengers. Wow.

Everything I had heard about the Prius: poor acceleration, poor visibility, little luggace space, jerky braking, mileage not as high as advertised, etc. proved not to be true. The acceleration was great, visibility is fantastic (especially with the back view LCD monitor/camera), there was more space in the back than I thought, and I couldn't tell when the car was using ICE, electric motors, or regenerative braking -- it was that smooth.

I'm totally in love.

Sign me up for one when I get back.


So I'm starting to get the first round of ding letters from the various film festivals that I applied to last year.* One of the things I hadn't realized going into this was just how competitive the film festival market is. One festival I applied to received 1700 films, and they could screen less than a hundred (including shorts).

*In the next few months, we're also sending ding/acceptance letters for job searches as well as applications to the PhD program.

This means that the chances of getting into a film festival (assuming random probability, which it isn't) is 1:17. That would mean it's harder to get into a competitive film festival than it is to get into Yale College! :-)

Here are some other acceptance to application ratios in my experience: Yale anthropology PhD program 1:20; academic journal ratio 1:5 (?roughly¿); anthro teaching job 1:150. So getting into a film festival isn't as hard as getting a job, but ranks up there!

The students in my Visual Anthropology course are busy in production on their ethnographic films about various aspects of life in New Haven. We talked on Monday about common pitfalls and guidelines when filming and editing an ethnographic film:

Rules when making an ethnographic film

  1. Don’t expect anything to go right. Don’t expect informants to get back to you. Informants will avoid you. Informants will get kidnapped or arrested.
  2. Sound is CRITICAL.
  3. Think about your storytelling. What is primary: the audio or visual channel? Choose a primary channel and then watch your film with the sound off or without any visuals and make sure that your primary channel works w/out backup.
  4. No one cares how difficult it was to get a particular shot/interview. If it sucks, it sucks and you shouldn’t include the vestiges of it in your film for sentimentality’s sake.
  5. Pacing is very important. Understand what beat your film is at and try to maintain it, or use change of pace/beat as a deliberate creative element.
  6. Short is good. Shorter is better.
  7. Storyboard. Storyboard. Storyboard.
  8. Think of your film in terms of shorter sequences that work to establish your story. No sequence/section should be more than 3-5 minutes long.
  9. You will run out of tapes/film/batteries/power cables at a critical moment.
  10. Talking heads suck. Sometimes it’s better to condense a 10 minute interview into three or four points that an overlay, intertitle, or VoG (voice-o-God) can summarize.

Thoughts? Comments? Please post!

Following up on my earlier blog entry on why to avoid photo sharing sites such as Picasa, a post on OpenVision.tv blog notes that Google's YouTube service also requires you to sign over distribution rights to them for free:

In short, when you upload a video to YouTube, you grant them a license that allows them to do with it as they please. They can sell it, license it, remix it, make t-shirts, put it in a movie or on a cereal box - whatever fits their business model, without even an email message letting you know.

Steve Borsch has an excellent blog entry on why using Picasa's web album is a particularly bad idea -- because posting your images on it gives away all of your photograph's duplication rights to Google, without compensation and in perpetuity:

Your Rights

Google claims no ownership or control over any Content submitted, posted or displayed by you on or through Picasa Web Albums. You or a third party licensor, as appropriate, retain all patent, trademark and copyright to any Content you submit, post or display on or through Picasa Web Albums and you are responsible for protecting those rights, as appropriate. By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through Picasa Web Albums, you grant Google a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce, adapt, distribute and publish such Content through Picasa Web Albums, including RSS or other content feeds offered through Picasa Web Albums, and other Google services. In addition, by submitting, posting or displaying Content which is intended to be available to the general public, you grant Google a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce, adapt, distribute and publish such Content for the purpose of displaying, distributing and promoting Google services

"Promoting Google services" is very vague. A coffee table book about Google could be construed this way. Definitely an advertising campaign -- how pissed would you be if Google used your photograph on billboards across America and didn't pay you a penny? They have every right to since you gave them that right.

Furthermore, this is hidden in the Terms of Service which no one reads. How many other photo sharing sites have similar rights grabs in their TOS? Previously, I've blogged about why you should never enter most photo contests, but now it appears you shouldn't ever post anything on the web unless you own your own server.

National Geographic is up to their usual tricks, running a contest that deprives all entrants of any rights to their own photographs:

By submitting a photograph for consideration... you grant to National Geographic Society and its subsidiaries and licensees (the "NGS") a royalty-free, worldwide, perpetual license to display, distribute and reproduce the Photograph, in whole or in part, in any medium now existing or subsequently developed for editorial purposes without further review or participation from you.

For more info about other photo (and poetry) scams, see my previous blog entry on this topic.

Salon.com has a wonderful series titled Ask the Pilot where former pilot, Patrick Smith, ruminates on the airline industry. His most recent article touches upon photography at airports and how we are rapidly becoming much like pre-Glasnost Soviet Russia. Stopped numerous times by airport security who try to stop him from taking photos (but won't cite the law or regulation being broken), Smith manages to track down someone who can actually tell him the letter of the law:

"No, it's not against the law," says Anne Davis, a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) spokeswoman. When asked about jurisdiction, Davis describes TSA as the overseer of all airport security matters, including the supervision of local law enforcement. "The buck stops with us," she says, adding that the agency has no specific policy with regard to picture taking, other than asking people not to tape or photograph screening apparatus.

Had any problems recently taking photographs at airports? Post a comment here!

Link: What is a Pro?

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Sam Longoria has a nice essay titled, "What is a Pro?" It's written for indy filmmakers, but I think it applies just as equally to still photographers. To quote: "While skill and/or talent certainly are important, the defining quality of a Professional is payment. Think 'paycheck.' May you earn many big ones."

Amen.

AlterNet posts a disturbing story about a quadriplegic man who died in a Washington DC jail after a minor drug conviction. Sadly to say, this isn't news to any of us who study disability issues:
Thirteen months ago, Superior Court Judge Judith Retchin sentenced Jonathan Magbie, a 27-year-old quadriplegic, to a 10-day Washington D.C. jail sentence for marijuana possession, assuring attorneys she had checked with the jail and that it could handle someone in his condition. By the fourth day of Magbie's sentence, he was locked in a cell with no ability to communicate or call for help. His breathing tube had been improperly placed; his weight had plummeted since his arrival; his apparent pneumonia had gone untreated. That night, Sept. 24, 2004, he was taken to Greater Southeast Community Hospital, where he died. (Read the rest of the story).

In the continuing criminalization of photography, MSNBC reports on a man who was imprisoned for 24 hours and had his name and mug shot broadcast on local news reports for..... taking "artistic photographs" of a balloon and a table at a state fair in Texas.

Destitute peapickers in California; a 32 year old mother of seven children. February 1936. Dorothea Lange.


Mississippi Delta Negro* children.
July 1936. Dorothea Lange.
Label titles are by Dorothea Lange

I'm still too blisteringly angry to blog about Katrina, but this is photography related, so let me rant. The Wall Street Journal today (2005.05.07 pB1) has an article titled "Americans who fled drought in the 1930s found little sympathy" about the Okies and Arkies who left the dustbowls of the Great Plains. The last paragraph of the article reads:
The Resettlement Administration, under the leadership of Rexford Tugwell, did something else for the Dust Bowl refugees. It hired photographers such as Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn, and Walker Evans to produce a pictorial record of the Depression's effect on the rural poor. In a 1965 interview, Mr. Tugwell explained why: "Because this was so dramatic, and because it meant misery and tragedy for so many families, and because we hoped it would never happen again, at least not in the same way, we thought we ought to have a record of it for future generations ... and also to show people who weren't involved in it how extremely serious it was."

Scroll forward to September 7th, 2005. The National Press Photographers Association had filed an official complaint based on reports (such as this one by Reuters and the Washington Post) that photographers have been systematically prevented by DHS and FEMA from taking photographs in New Orleans and other refugee sites -- even after securing permission from the people they are shooting:

NPPA Opposes Any Suggestion Of Photography Restrictions In Hurricane Katrina's Aftermath


NEW ORLEANS, LA (September 7, 2005) The National Press Photographers Association opposes any attempt whatsoever to prohibit or restrict photography and videotaping of any events, including the recovery of bodies, following Hurricane Katrina.

Photography, both still and video, is an essential form of speech and a fundamental part of the Constitutional right to freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

It is entirely inappropriate for a federal agency to make demands on what journalists can and cannot shoot and publish, NPPA president Alicia Wagner Calzada said today from the scene of the hurricanes aftermath in New Orleans. Calzada is a staff photojournalist for Rumbo in San Antonio, TX, and is on assignment covering Katrinas aftermath, which now includes the effort to recover bodies from homes, buildings, and outdoor areas as flood waters are pumped out of the damaged region.

How have we gone from a government that was so ashamed of how it handled the 1930s Depression that it commissioned photographers to forever sear those images into our collective memories, to one in 2005 that is so ashamed of its response that it wants to forever prevent those images from ever being made?

Anindya Bhattacharyya has a story in the New York Times about his travels as a deaf-blind man in the U.S.:


WHEN you are deaf-blind, technology is an ever-present companion. I travel with a laptop for e-mail, phone and Internet access. I use a G.P.S.-equipped Braille Note note-taker to get information about my surroundings. To communicate with others, I have a Screen Braille Communicator with two sides: one in Braille, which I can read; the other an L.C.D. screen with a keyboard, for someone who is sighted.

We are reaching the point where the evolution of sensor design is plateauing and we are seeing only minimal differences between different platforms. And I think this is a good thing because it forces us to return to the original question of how we choose cameras. This article was stimulated by people finding that Leica R9/DMR was taking photographs that were only slightly better in quality than the much less expensive Canon EOS 20D. The Nikon D2X photographs also rival those taken with the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II even though the sensor size is much different.

The BBC News is reporting on 'Fears over CIA 'university spies':

CIA scheme to sponsor trainee spies secretly through US university courses has caused anger among UK academics. The Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholars Program pays anthropology students, whose names are not disclosed, up to $50,000 (27,500) a year.

They are expected to use the techniques of "fieldwork" to gather political and cultural details on other countries. CIA scheme to sponsor trainee spies secretly through US university courses has caused anger among UK academics. The Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholars Program pays anthropology students, whose names are not disclosed, up to $50,000 (27,500) a year.

The Connection.org has a fascinating online radio interview with photographer Mary Ellen Mark. From the program notes:

The photographer Mary Ellen Mark insists that "reality is always extraordinary." For more than forty years, she has been focusing her lens on the gritty, and often unattractive reality of people who inhabit the seamier side of society. Her first in-depth project took her to the Oregon State Mental Hospital where she spent more than a month living with female inmates.

Amateur photographers are suckers for scam artists who run photography contests. In this article, I'll talk about the most popular scams and how to recognize and avoid them. Don't give your photographs away for free or worse - pay for the privilege of seeing them in print!

The BBC has an online article titled Blogging from East to West that talks about the important role that blogs have in promoting democracy.

"According to Reporters Sans Frontières, at least 63 bloggers [in China] have been arrested, and most of those are publishing articles outside of the country.

"These are people who are really resisting government oppression."

So why are authoritarian governments so worried about blogging? Perhaps it is because the internet is so virulent. In the same way that spammers can reach millions of people in an easy way, ideas deemed dangerously democratic by many regimes can spread faster than bacteria on a petri-dish.

Julien Pain, of Reporters Sans Frontières, says: "Blogging is a very, very important tool in terms of freedom of expression.

Various Japanese industry analysts believe that in two to three years, the number of major manufacturers involved in compact digital camera production will be halved. The relentless 6-month product cycle, deep discounting of old stock, competition from camera-phones, market saturation, and huge R&D investment is not sustainable over the long run. Who will survive? Let's look at the field:

  1. Canon
  2. Nikon
  3. Minolta
  4. Sony
  5. Kodak
  6. Pentax
  7. Olympus
  8. Panasonic
  9. Leica (Panasonic)
  10. Casio
  11. Ricoh
  12. Sanyo
  13. Kyocera/Contax
  14. Toshiba
  15. Epson

We've already seen Epson, Toshiba and Contax leave the field (although Epson is trying to get back in with the R-D1). Casio and Ricoh are struggling to stay in play, and Pentax is looking weaker in recent months. According to a recent report, Panasonic only holds 3% of the compact digital camera market in Japan. Also check this listing of sales.

Have thoughts who will remain? Post a comment here.

Since the cold-war days of 1952, there has been a law on the books that journalists from foreign countries must apply for I-visas before entering the U.S. But it hasn't been enforced in the past several decades and journalists from foreign countries have freely visited the USA. Those from Japan, Europe, and other friendly nations have entered on the same 90-day visa waivers as tourists without thinking twice about it.

Now, it seems that the current administration has decided to enforce the I-visa restriction. If you identify yourself as a journalist at immigration and tell the CBP officer that your intent is to work as a journalist during your visit to the USA and you are not in posession of an I-visa, you may find that you will be denied entry, fingerprinted, photographed, and deported with prejudice. This can result in your being denied entry in the USA in the future for any reason (usually this lasts from 5-10 years and then you can file a request to have this travel ban lifted).

In an earlier blog, I commented on how I didn't like how professional series Minolta SLRs tended to be ... button and dial profuse... in comparison to the professional series Canon EOS SLRs which tend to be button and dial sparse. A reader wrote back to me saying how he preferred the proliferation of buttons because it meant he could tell the camera settings at a glance.

This is only my own opinion and it only counts for my own working style (although I know many professional photographers agree with me), but I prefer control spartan cameras because basically I never change the settings. With my SLRs, I almost always shoot in aperture-priority, one-shot focus, single-shot drive mode. I have the auto-focusing control shifted to the rear '*' button so I can control it with my thumb, auto-exposure lock is thus set with the shutter button. This is how I shoot 99.9% of my work. Never changing modes means I only have to think about the photograph not the camera.

When taking the Amtrak to my professor's house, I was shocked that the conductor on board the train asked for IDs as well as tickets. I understand that Greyhound buses also are requiring IDs. What has the U.S. come to? Are we living that much in a culture of fear that we allow this?

Of course the standard response is "security" but what security are we gaining?

  1. First, there is no security to be gained. The conductors only glance at the name and photo. Any bad guy can buy a fake ID for $50 at a college campus (or make their own with an Epson printer and Photoshop) that would pass scrutiny. So we gain no security.
  2. Second, for the honest people this means that people without licenses, passports, or State ID cannot ride the train. This is a group of people that largely includes the urban poor and recent immigrants. Suddenly, we are restricting the travel of a certain class of people. This should bring up shades of Plessy v. Ferguson for most reasonable people.

Three photographers immediately come to mind when I think of the intersection of documentary photography, fine art photography, and photojournalism.


  • Dorothea Lange
  • William Eggleston
  • W. Eugene Smith

What I enjoy about all of them is that they managed to capture the ordinariness of everyday life. Lange gave poverty a face; Eggleston focused on the beautiful banality of suburban and urban modernity; Smith on the heroic nature of daily existence. They do with film what anthropologists try to do with words.

One of my friends, documentary photography Wing Young Huie, was strongly influenced by Eggleston. You can this in his work on Frogtown (a neighborhood in Saint Paul MN) or Lake Street in Minneapolis. One major difference is that Eggleston works in color and Huie in B&W (mostly). Eggleston's influence is much more apparent in Huie's latest work on Chinese-Americans and ethnicity in the United States, post-911.

Nan Goldin also seems to fit in this list, but I have never found warmth in her photographs. They are devoid of humanity. I think this gestalt is what makes them appealing to many, but it is not why I photograph.

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This page is a archive of recent entries in the Rant - Opinion category.

Photo - Photographs is the previous category.

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