Unauthorized Use

As photographers in the digital age many of us are torn between getting our images noticed in an ever increasing pool of images, or protecting our images to prevent any potential unauthorized use. I've tended towards the former by publishing many of my images on sites such as Google + and Flickr while attaching a creative commons license that allows non-commercial use with attribution. Up until last week I hadn't come upon a situation that caused me any extra thought on the matter. Last Friday I was cruising through my Flickr stream and noticed that a random image from my 2012 project 365 had received an inordinate amount of views (about 400, which is more than 2x the total before that).  I dug a bit more into the stats and saw that all the views were coming from this page, which was a bit surprising. Looking at the article it seems that every image they use is from Flickr. If you scroll down to # 4 on the list you will see Sandy Springs Georgia, which happens to be the part of town that my office is located. The image of mine that they used is of the "King and Queen" buildings, which look like giant chess pieces. Here's the image:

World's Biggest Chess Pieces

The image is nothing special, just something I captured on my way home from work one Summer day in my quest to keep the project 365 going.

Here's where I have a question.  If you scroll down the page on Flickr with my image you will see that is licensed under Creative Commons attribution, non-commercial. My question is if the use of my image in a Kiplinger online article qualifies as "non-commercial"? My initial thought is that the use of my image is in violation of the copyright I attached to it because it is on a commercial site. If that's the case, do I have a rightful claim for unauthorized use?

It's an interesting situation, and the first time I've encountered it with my own images. My initial inclination is to do nothing. The image has no real redeeming value from an artistic standpoint and it's not like the Kiplinger article is going to be something that goes viral. But, If I were so inclined, could I contact Kiplinger and demand compensation?

What are your thoughts on this? Do I have a case or not? I'm interested in hearing your thoughs.

Why HDR Might Be The Perfect Tool For Landscape Photographers

In my short time as a "serious" photographer I have come to embrace HDR (high dynamic range) photography and am quickly becoming convinced that HDR is the perfect tool for landscape photographers. Based on my experience so far, HDR seems to be the best way to as accurately as possible reproduce the wide range of lighting that seems to most often be present while shooting outdoor landscapes. Our eyes are much better than the camera's sensor at balancing out the dynamic range of a scene, so my goal with most landscapes is to use the camera to reproduce what my eye sees as realistically as possible. And, because of the wide dynamic range of many scenes, some type of exposure bracketing combined with HDR processing seems to be a great way to accomplish that goal. Let me use a set of images from our just completed trip to Colorado to demonstrate:

Here is the series of three bracketed shots I took at the West portal of the Eisenhower Tunnel, which goes under the mountains at the continental divide (at an altitude of over 11,000 feet) just West of Denver. It was a fairly sunny day and that combined with the snow and darkness of the tunnel entrance indicated to me that HDR might be a good option.

Here's the first image (zero exposure compensation). This is typical of what most people would get if they took their camera, focused on the tunnel, and pressed the shutter:

As you can see in the above image, it was a pretty bright day and there was a wide range of light, from pitch black in the tunnel to blazing bright white on the snow. The camera's metering system did an OK job at best with this and the image would qualify as a "snapshot" and not a photograph in my opinion. You can tell what the subject is and make out that there is snow in the background and some kind of dirt in the foregroud. But beyond that, the rest of the details are hard to make out. There are probably thousands of images like this on people's computers and in their vacation photo albums.

Here's the second image (2 stops underexposure):

This image shows what happens when the camera underexposes by 2-stops. The tunnel just about loses all detail and becomes one big shadow but the road and snow take on a lot more detail. You can make out some of the dirt and grime on the snow, the shadows caused by the clouds on the snow, and the sand in the foreground actually looks like sand.

One last image, this time overexposed by two stops:

The third shot, over exposed by 2 stops, is needed in order to capture the details that are hiding in the dark parts of the scene. The foreground sand and background snow are blown out and almost pure white. But the details of the tunnel come into view. Compare this image to the first one (taken at "normal" settings) and you will see that the tunnel has stoplights in it (red on the left and green on the right). Also the windows above the tunnel tubes reveal more structure and the doors in the middle of the tunnel become apparent.

Now it's time to work some magic and combine the three images into one cohesive, detailed photograph using HDR software. I use Nik's Color Efex Pro 2 (which I can highly recommend) to generate the final image but you can use any number of HDR applications or plugins:

Big difference, huh? :-) Compare this final image to the first one at the top of this post (the snapshot) and you will see a HUGE difference. Getting to this final image took a little work and experimentation with the various settings in HDR Efex Pro (and I have more learning to do) but I think I got it pretty darn close to what my eyes saw that day when I parked the rental car at the top of the pass, got out and looked back at the tunnel we had just come through. It took a few seconds for my eyes to adjust to the brightness of the scene but once they did I was able to make out the details inside the tunnel, see the dirt on the snow behind/above the tunnel and make out the details of the tire tracks in the sand right in front of me.

If I had just taken out my DSLR and snapped a quick photo I would've never captured all of that. All it took was a little bit of foresight, three bracketed images, a tripod (get one now!), and a bit of time with some specialty software in order to create this final image.

I think the final result is well worth the effort and I will continue to use HDR, whenever I can, to create realistic photographs of landscapes (and just about anything else) that represent what I saw with my eyes at the moment I captured the image(s) with my camera.

If you are looking to create realistic Landscapes with your digital camera and aren't using the power of HDR, you might want to give it a go and see what happens. I think you'll be happy with the results!

Stairway To Eternity

I'm almost finished with my project 365 :-) I can't believe I'm on day 348 out of 366. While I'm happy to be almost finished, I'm also a little sad that it will be over. I've learned a lot about photography this year and the experience had definitely been worth it. Here's my image for today. I call it "Stairway to Eternity:

As I was walking out of the office, right at sunset, I was thinking about what I could do to capture an image for the day when I looked over at the stairway of the parking garage and saw that it was bathed in the final bit of daylight (which was slightly blue, a perfect match to the famed "blue hour"). The alternating stairs in the concrete tower looked pretty cool so I grabbed my trusty Canon Powershot S95 and clicked off a couple shots. When I loaded the images up on the computer I saw that the inside of the stairwell had a nice, contrasting color and texture to the outside. All in all I think it's an acceptable shot.

Only 18 more days....

Good Intentions

I'm still working my way through the roll of film I shot last weekend at an abandoned house. Here's another image that I think tells a story: The thing that caught my eye here was the way the ladder was just leaning up against the porch, as if someone was thinking of doing something but just got distracted and left. These old, abandoned buildings have a lot of stories to tell and I think photographs can help in the telling of those stories

On another, although related note, I'm finding that I am wanting to re-scan a fair number of images since I got the DigitaLiza scanning mask. It does a fantastic job of keeping the negative flat, which improves the scanning result considerably. I plan on doing a review of the DigitaLiza here pretty soon which will include how I set it up to work with my CanoScan 9000F .

Architecture Photos-Rolleicord Film vs Canon Digital-Three Columns And Stairs

Our office building has some neat features that I figured would look pretty good in black and white. Back in early October, I took a photo of the space between two of the buildings with my Canon S95 and converted it to B&W using Silver Efex Pro. Here's that digital Image: When I got my Rolleicord I immediately knew that I wanted to re-take that photo using black and white film to see how it came out. I went out to the building on a Saturday and tried to replicate the shot from my digital camera as best as I could. I recently got back the negatives from the lab and here is the result:


As you can see, the perspective isn't quite the same as with the S95. That's because the Rolleicord shoots a square frame and as well uses a 75mm lens (about 49mm on a 35mm camera). I used Ilford HP5 Plus film (400 ISO) and mounted the camera on my tripod.

As far as "post-processing" goes, here's what I did:

I scanned the developed negative at 2400 dpi and at 16 bit gray using my CanoScan 9000f. The resulting file was 51 megs. I imported the image into Lightroom and tweaked the contrast, highlights and shadows a little to get the reflections in the building windows to come out a little better. I also had to clean up a few dust bunnies that somehow made it onto the negative.

Overall I'm very happy with the final result. I need to get better at using the scanner and at doing adjustments in Lightroom but that will come with time. I will pobably also go back and re-shoot this image again to see how it comes out with me doing the developing, instead of a commercial lab.

Which image do you like better, the digital image from my S95 or the scanned film image from the Rolleicord? Let me know, I'm interested to see what everyone thinks.

Happy Shooting!

The First Image Scan From The Rolleicord

Here is the first film scan from the Rolleicord: I took the developed negative and scanned it with the Canon CanoScan 9000F Scanner that I recently purchased. The film was Ilford HP5 Plus, 400 speed. This particular image was overexposed so I had to make some adjustments once I got it scanned. I am still trying different settings to find out which combination works best. So far it seems like the settings from the VueScan software that I am trying out are the "best" (compared to the Canon supplied software) but I need to scan in some more negatives to be sure.

I have 2 more rolls of developed film coming back to me so I should be able to scan in those negatives next week.

Stay tuned...

Three Columns And Stairs In Black And White

I'm really starting to enjoy seeking out scenes that might look better in black and white instead of color: Today, I was walking around outside our office during lunch and saw this composition of the building columns framing a stairway. I thought it would make a nice image for day 283 of my project 365:

I converted the image to to black and white using Silver Efex Pro, which I'm really starting to like.



Project 365 Day 282-Courtyard Tree In Black And White

Today was a busy day at work. As I was heading out of the office I figured I better find something to take a photo of for my project 365. It was kind of a cool, gray day her in Atlanta so I was thinking about shooting something that would look good in black and white. That's how I came to photograph the tree in our office building courtyard. It looked better to my eye in B&W than color. Here's the result: I ran the image through Silver Efex pro and once again I was very impressed with the results. I think it's getting easier for me to "see" in black and white and I'm looking forward to it.

Eat In Take Out

Today was a busy day. I got home from work a little late and then I had to get the grass cut because rain is likely this weekend. By the time I got done I was in no mood to make Dinner. So I did the next best thing, I called our favorite local Chinese restaurant to pick up some Mongolian Beef and Chicken with Broccoli to take home for Dinner. Their neon sign was glowing brightly in the window as I walked up to the door so I grabbed a quick shot for day 272 of my project 365.

Project 365 Day 271-Mega Extreme Building

Wow, I've made it to day 271 of my project 365! Today was a busy day at work but I had time to shoot a quick image while driving back to the office from a lunch meeting in the Buckhead section of Atlanta. I call it "Mega Extreme Building" for a couple of reasons. Reason one is that I like the look of the building but I like it even better when I tilted the image a bit. The second reason is because I applied a developing preset to the image in Lightroom called "Mega Extreme-Don't Click It". The preset is from Trey Ratcliff and can be found on his blog, Stuck In Customs.com I bought the preset packabout a month ago and have been exploring and enjoying them ever since. If you are looking for some creative Lightroom presets, I recommend you check them out.

Happy Shooting!