IRIS lecture David Griffin: “Inside National Geographic Magazine”

May 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

This is my second week in a row of culture in Los Angeles. Who would have thought?

On Thursday evening I was lucky enough to attend yet another IRIS lecture at the Annenberg Space for Photography. This lecture featured David Griffin, the Director of Photography for National Geographic Magazine. In a word, his talk Inside National Geographic Magazine was fantastic. Now, I have been a fan of National Geographic from childhood when I would steal borrow my older brother’s subscriptions that came to the house to flip through the pictures. It is safe to say that now I appreciate the photos in the magazine a little differently. But I still borrow his magazines (shh!).

Griffin spoke honestly and openly about the things that National Geographic (NG) looks for in a photographer: talent, planning and flexibility. These things are crucial to the magazine, and the photographer needs to be able to consistently communicate a sense of place, people, action, and must have technical prowess. Consistency is the key, in that a person can have luck and snap a good picture, but as a NG photographer, one needs to have the skill to create good (NG standards here) images on a regular basis. Griffin touches on this point in the following video from February 2008, which also shows some of the images that he spoke of at the Annenberg:

TED Talk: David Griffin on how photography connects us

Griffin also spoke of the innovations in photography that NG has had in the past, from the first photo published in the magazine in the late 1800’s as just an illustration to accompany the technical article to the newest innovations that are in practice today for the photo essays. He also spoke of the innovations that the magazine is making in this digital age as print circulation declines, such as NG on the Apple iPad.

Getting a glimpse inside of this magazine’s photographic process was an amazing and inspiring experience. I truly enjoyed every moment Griffin spoke and could have easily listened to him for a few more hours.

Thank you to the Annenberg for making quality speakers available for these IRIS nights. I look forward to many more of these lectures (such as photographer Ian Shive next week).

And as always, thank you for stopping by!

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Inspiration and the “Best Camera”

May 26, 2010 § 2 Comments

I recently posted about how I received Chase Jarvis’ book “The Best Camera (is the one that’s with you)“. Well I have actually been able to take a look through it, and you know what? I got inspired!

Now of course, Chase Jarvis is a great photographer, and I’m not trying to mimic or copy him, but it got me thinking about using my iPhone camera. I have been known to use the camera in my phone, but lean toward using my trusty point and shoot (with more megapixles, a zoom feature–why would the iPhone camera do that?–and a FLASH).

Anyhow, I have been giving my iPhone a whirl more than I usually do, and am sort of looking for simplicity. I also purchased the application (“app” for short) that Chase Jarvis developed, Best Camera. I have created a nifty little Flickr set for those photos that I edit with that app.

I am not an iPhone app reviewer by any means, except when an addictive game asks me to rate it repeatedly. However, the Best Camera app is very limited to just a few filters, one border option, and the only option to crop as a square. One can stack these filters, mix them up, etc to create a cool photo. However, it leaves something to be desired as far as color correction and exposure (As much as can be done with a 3 megapixel camera).  I understand Jarvis’ idea to work with simplicity to bring out creativity. All I’m saying is when you cannot adjust the exposure in an expensive little POS that camera, it helps to have some control in post-processing.  My workaround is to adjust the exposure, cropping, etc. in another editing application on the phone and then add the creative filters in Best Camera. Or I’ll just work directly in Best Camera and have some fun, which is Jarvis’ point.

Clouds detail

Cloud fun taken with iPhone and edited in Best Camera.

Thanks for stopping by!

David Maisel: Black Maps lecture

May 23, 2010 § 2 Comments

One of the wonderful things about living in (or near) Los Angeles is the proximity to cultural activities.

What, Los Angeles has culture? Sort of.

The Annenberg Space for Photography IRIS lecture series is a free lecture series featuring a different notable photographer each week. It amazes me that these lectures are free, given the quality of the series. It is a great experience to have these photographers share their perspective and photos.

Last Thursday, I was able to attend the lecture of David Maisel: Black Maps, a lecture that appealed to me because of the aerial photographs and because of my background in geography.

His aerial images are intriguing, focusing on the strange beauty of environmental impact as seen from 500-14,000 feet above the Earth. The images aren’t titled in a way to give a preconception of how one should feel about image, allowing the viewer to process their image on their own. The images were from some of his earlier projects (roughly 1983-2007), and althought I found something beautiful and saddening in each image, the most interesting to me was The Lake Project, which is focused on the imagery of the dying Owens River and Owens Lake on the Eastern side of the Sierras (see map below).

This area is rich in history because of the water wars that ensued when Los Angeles was starting to grow. As an Angelino, I must admit that I have forgotten about the historical aspect of how we get our water, and it was saddening to see the reminder.

What most interested me about this lecture is found in the title “Black Maps”, which refers to a poem by Mark Strand:

“Nothing will tell you where you are/Each moment is a place you’ve never been”

As Maisel pointed out, one is unable to read these images, and one would not be able to read a map that is completely black.

As a geographer and mapmaker, it was so very hard for me to wrap my head around the notion of a map being completely black. As a practical mapmaker that works in the real world, I think, “That’s a waste of ink!”. But I get his point. Looking at these images, there is not way to tell which way is North or South, East or West. Looking at these images, I could not tell where in the world (or universe) these images were being made.

I like the idea that he married geography and photography in this project, in that having a sense of geography, one has a sense of place. When I look at images of the world, I usually get some idea of where in the world they are located (urban, rural, Venice, Australia, etc.). When looking at Maisel’s images, I don’t have a sense of geography, and therefore no sense of place.

Of course as a geographer, I would have loved for him to be able to link on his website a Google map of where all of these places are located that he photographed, but that is not to be at this time.

Thanks for stopping by.

Adorama iPhone Contest

May 22, 2010 § 4 Comments

Back from a lovely cruise to the Mexican Riveria. I got one photo that I absolutely LOVE, it just needs to be tweaked a bit. Coming soon.

Before I left for vacation I found out that I was one of the lucky recipients of Chase Jarvis’ “The Best Camera” through Adorama’s iPhone contest. Here is the photo I entered for consideration:

Adorama iPhone contest

Taken with my iPhone and edited it using the Photoshop and Photogene applications for the iPhone.

Some pretty amazing photographers were judges for the contest, so I am honored that they even SAW my photo. To win something cool for entering is even better.

I received the book earlier this week and have renewed my spark to take photos with my iPhone.

Thank you to Adorama for creating this contest, Chase Jarvis for the inspiration, and the talented judges who took the time to even glance at my photo.

And of course, thank you for stopping by.

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