TWIP #121 – Snowblind
This week: Tips for Shooting in the Snow, Nikon D3-S Goes into Space, and an exclusive interview with the CMO of LiveBooks, John Philpin.
NEWS AND DISCUSSION
Shooting in the Snow
Since it’s winter in most parts of the country, Alex asks Steve for his advice on shooting in the snow. Steve was recently back in Canada to photograph the Olympic torch making it’s journey across the country.
Steve’s first tip is to dress appropriately so that you’re comfortable and can focus on your photography rather than focusing on the fact that your ear has fallen off in the cold. Even though he has professional camera bodies and lenses which are weather sealed, Steve still tries to keep his camera dry as much as possible. It’s easier to do in the snow than in the rain as you can shoo away the snow. He also has a Gortex shell that he’ll wear and can use to cover up the camera to protect it in between shots.
As far as exposure goes, the camera’s meter will be fooled by all of the snow so you have to overexpose by at least a stop when photographing in the snow. Steve normally shoots on Aperture (Av) priority and sets his exposure compensation to +1 full stop. Also when changing atmospheres, condensation can put you out of business so he takes a plastic bag along with him to put the camera in when moving from outdoors to indoors. This allows the condensation to form on the outside of the bag rather than on the camera. Alex ran into the same thing in Brazil moving from a air-conditioned room to the humid outdoors.
Another tip is to bring extra batteries and keep them in an inside pocket to keep them warm.
Ron thinks that the real fun of shooting in these extreme conditions is that things like snow, ice, and frost change the things that would otherwise look ordinary. Take a new look at the world if it’s covered in snow.
Joseph agrees with all of Steve’s points and also adds that if you’re going to be getting in and out of your car getting shots then you might be better off leaving the heat off in the car to avoid the problem of things fogging up or condensation collecting on the body and lenses.
Finding a good pair of gloves is also essential when shooting in cold weather. Steve uses a pair of mitts that he found at Target that you can fold the end over and expose the ends of your fingers which makes it easier to operate the knobs and dials on the camera.
Nikon D3S, 14-24mm f/2.8 headed into space
NASA has purchased eleven D3S models to use aboard the International Space Station. Nikon indicates that NASA to date has captured over 700,000 pictures in space using Nikon equipment. Steve has shot with the D3S and thinks it’s the best camera he has ever used so he thinks NASA made a good choice in selecting this camera. Alex feels that Nikon has the edge over Canon when it comes to still photography and low light performance but that Canon has the edge when it comes to video.
Adobe Camera Raw 5.6, Photoshop Lightroom 2.6 now available
Newly-supported models include the Canon EOS 7D, Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, and Nikon D3S.
Canon Picture Style Editor, EOS Utility updaters posted
Latest update from Canon includes support for EOS 7D, 1D Mark IV. On a side note, there are also firmware updates for 5D Mark II and 1D Mark III related to the WiFi transmitter grip as well as a minor noise fix in bulb exposures on the 5D Mark II.
Lensrentals.com and Ziplens are merging
Lensrentals.com, Inc. and Ziplens are pleased to announce they will merge into a single company operating under the Lensrentals.com banner. While the merger will take effect immediately, all current Ziplens orders will be filled as scheduled. All Ziplens existing orders will be filled as planned – then things start to merge into Lensrentals. Both Steve and Joseph have used LenRentals.com and encourage everyone to give them a try. In addition to renting camera bodies and lenses, they also rent lighting gear.
INTERVIEW WITH LIVE BOOKS CMO JOHN PHILPIN
Fred: John is here from LiveBooks to talk about their service and what they can do for photographers. Thanks for joining us on TWiP this week.
John: Thanks Fred. It’s an honor to be here.
Fred: First off, for those who aren’t familiar with LiveBooks, what is your mission?
John: LiveBooks has been around for awhile now offering portfolio sites for creatives to show off their work in the best possible way. The name itself comes from portfolio book and we took that concept and brought it online.
Fred: Back in the early days of the web, people struggled with HTML and then Flash when it came out. Looking at LiveBooks, why would a photographer just jumping in, use a service like LiveBooks rather than developing their own site using an off the shelf tool like MobileMe or .MAC or something like that?
John: I would argue that it’s tougher these days. I come from a technology background and one of the things I say to people is that you don’t know how hard it is to do some of the amazing things that we are able to do until you try to do it yourself. Yes you can buy things off the shelf but then you have to host it. If you have someone else build it will you be able to get a hold of them to do the updates. There are many reasons why you wouldn’t want to try to do it yourself. The idea of building something from scratch is just something that is a thing of the past. Photographers want to spend their time taking photographs and making money from them rather than spending all of their time building and maintaining a web site.
Fred: You’re right. It can get very involved. What happens if you decide LiveBooks is for you and you get your site setup and then a year from now you decide you want to change it?
John: I would question why you want to change. When we build a site, we spend a lot of time working with the photographer to understand their brand and how they want it to represented. To come along a year later and say you don’t like the way it looks would be kind of like Apple waking up one day and deciding they don’t like their Apple logo anymore. It can change and involve but I would not recommend changing it around. What you do need to do is change the content around and that’s what we offer. Essentially you are looking to build a web site that is your brand presence. Then you keep the content flexed and moving at the same time.
Fred: What about newer technologies like Blogs, Twitter, and Facebook. These have APIs that you can link into. Are there any plans for LiveBooks to allow for that kind of thing say for example if I wanted to include my blog in the site and have it all have the same look and feel?
John: It’s not possible in the sense of there being a single link you can click on and you publish your photos to Facebook for example. We are cautious to opening up the floodgates to simply Twitter your photographs all over the web but we can enable that in certain ways to make things happen. The key for us is making sure that we are servicing our clients with the things they need. We have plans but I won’t into much detail at the moment.
Fred: Speaking along the lines of integrating mainstream technologies into the beautiful LiveBooks UI, what about SEO? With a Flash web site, are those engines from companies like Google and Microsoft able to find your sites or are you suffering because you made the decision to go with Flash?
John: No, in fact we are quite aware of that and have some of the best tuned sites on the web. We run mirror sites behind the scenes in HTML and that is what the crawlers access. We have partners that we work with that help tune the site.
Fred: Is the SEO stuff part of the baseline fee or is that extra?
John: There is a baseline there and then you can do even more with it. SEO is not to be handled by amateurs so we put a baseline in place and then we can offer you partners that we work with who can really help you tune it depending upon your business.
Fred: What’s the cost of getting one of these sites up and going?
John: Right now you can select one of our pre-design sites which we just launched about four weeks ago and get started for only $39 per month.
Fred: Wow that sounds great. I remember the LiveBooks sites being really expensive before?
John: We don’t like to think of it as being really expensive. Nobody buys these sites just because their are pretty or look good. People put money into their web site because they want to make money so we always talk about return on investment. The reason that people have historically spent $1000′s with us is because they’ve been getting results from that investment. What we are doing with our $39/month pre-designs, is that we are coming into making it more affordable for those who couldn’t afford the $1000′s of dollars to get started. What you get with that is a pre-designed site that has all the colors that we recommend. Then if you want to modify that going forward then you can. The top ends can still have the customized sites.
Fred: For the average person who wants to get a LiveBooks site, what’s the timeframe they’d be looking at from the time they plunk down their credit card to the time they can start Twittering and directing people to check out their site?
John: It varies. There is no reason why you couldn’t go live within minutes. The limitation has more to do with the way the Internet works. You are given a temporary URL within our domain and then you have to allow for the DNS changes to go through before your domain will point to it. Even though theoretically we can get the site up very quickly, there is a lot of work to do in terms of choosing images, deciding upon text that will go on the pages, etc that happens in parallel with launching a new site and that can take some time.
Fred: Now let’s say that I’m a fine art photographer and I want to sell my work through my site. Take us through how that will happen.
John: There are lot of ways that can work. In addition to selling your work you may also be looking to sell you services and obtain commissions from agencies, etc. You might be looking to sell images over and over again. The point of all of that, depending upon the type of photographer that you are, we work with networks of partners that integrate with our services. The answer to your question is that it depends. The key is working out what kind of photography you are doing and making sure we bring visitors to your site and show you off in your best light and provide whatever integrations are needed to sell you work. For example, in the wedding photographer world, we work with Pictage. The wedding photographer can upload their images to Pictage and then the customer can go online and order their prints, etc directly from them.
Fred: And you help facilitate that whole process?
John: Absolutely. It just depends upon how far they want to take things. It varies customer to customer. The reason it varies and the reason why we are so good at what we do is that you can call us and chat with us. We find that personal touch is what makes us different.
Fred: Another question has come in via Twitter from Frederick Soon and he is wondering if there will be multi-lingual support coming?
John: There are a few questions that come to mind when we talk about multilingual support. The first is, are we taking about French and German or Korean and Japanese (e.g. double-byte languages)? The second is do you mean within our own product in the edit suite or displaying those characters on the web site Though we don’t support double-byte characters for what the customer sees, there is nothing stopping someone from creating images with Chinese or Korean characters in them and using that to get their message out to their audience. When it comes to the edit suite, we have plans but in terms of the market in the English speaking world we have really been focused on selling into the US marketplace and there is so much opportunity outside of that market and into markets other than photographers that we are really putting our energy and resources into expanding into those markets first before we start moving into non-English speaking markets.
Fred: Would you say that you would tackle targeting markets outside of photographers such as designers over adding support for double-byte languages for example?
John: Absolutely and if you look at our site today you’ll see that we are already selling into the interior design, the architects, and graphic design spaces.
Fred: Looking forward, I have an iPhone that I’m consuming more and more content on. Are there any plans at LiveBooks to allow the management of these sites on a device like this and what about when people hit a LiveBooks site with the mobile device. What’s the experience that they’ll get?
John: The iPhone as wonderful as it is doesn’t seem to like Flash. Presently what they’ll get is a little warning page about Flash not being supported with a link to the HTML version of the site. That works but what we need to change is for that to change and have it happen automatically. As we do that the site will be tuned for an iPhone display. Going back to who are immediate customers are, does a commercial photographer put their best foot forward by showing their work to an agency on a 3 inch screen? Maybe not but it all depends on the customer. A wedding photographer for example may want to show a slide show on a device like that so that will examples of how and where we will put our time and energy. The challenge is that there are so many different directions and pulls that we have to focus on our customers and what their needs are.
Fred: I know you have recently received $5 million in funding. What have you done with that money and how has it changed the company moving forward?
John: Most recently we have moved into the interior design, architecture and design spaces and targeted our products to those markets to enable those professionals to show off their work in the best possible way. To move into new markets costs money. There are things we want to do with our technology so we’ve put money into there and money is needed to change our business model so we’ve put some of the money into that as well. Needless to say we are very happy with the fact that the investors believed in what we are about and invested in us given the economy.
Fred: Where can people go to look at sites that were created with LiveBooks?
John: There are so many. We list a number of them on our web sites and marketing materials. People like Chase Jarvis, Harry Benson, and the Rich Davidon foundation are using our service. The guys who founded the company years ago have done a great job of bringing some of the great photographers on our platform. Hopefully we can be the launch pad for photographers going forward. They can head over to www.livebooks.com and check out the trials.
Fred: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today.
John: My pleasure Fred and thanks for having me.
Jonathan Danforth writes: I know that you try to minimize the video chatter on the show but I wanted to know from my expert council their opinion on video stabilization. I am looking for something portable and compact that I can use to keep the videos shot with my 7D stable. Despite my best hand holding efforts the videos make me want to throw up!
Ron: The obvious first start would be a tripod but having said that, one of the differences with video is that you want to help the viewer understand depth relationships so you want to be able to move around when shooting video so tripods aren’t always the best option. I’ve seen a lot of solutions ranging from putting a camera on an office chair and rolling it around to investing in more expensive steady cam solutions.
Alex: There are many options out there but we like to use the Merlin.
Ron: There are also some great tools out there for removing that motion from video. The one thing to know about using those tools is that you’re probably going to have to crop in to remove the movement so when you’re shooting you’ll want to shoot a little wider than you’ll think you’ll need to get the finally result that you’re looking for.
Alex: We use stabilizer in Motion and that works really well. When shooting, you want to frame the subject, let them move around in the frame and not follow everything that’s going on.
Ron: Have a purpose for your shooting and set it up so that you’re not constantly moving around trying to follow the subject.
Joseph: There are a couple of great solutions out there that people can buy to help to steady things. www.steadycam.org offers a great DIY solution.
Rob Ryan asks: Am I correct in thinking that using Nikon’s Hi 0.3, 0.7, etc and Lo 0.3, 0.7, etc. ISO settings are just pushing the sensor’s designed range (e.g. in D90, ISO 200-3200), and thus a potential loss in pixel depth. I was naively using Lo 0.3, 0.7, etc. ISO settings, assuming it was like using higher quality low ISO film, but only just realized that there might a loss in pixel depth, and that I should only do that when lighting conditions demand it. Is that correct?
Steve: Yes, I think you are right on this. I too had the same idea. Those who migrated from film to digital had that drummed into our heads that the higher the ISO the more grain and the lower the ISO the higher the quality but I know that with Nikon cameras there is the range of ISO that the engineers have deemed the best ISOs for the best possible results. At the high end, Nikon is saying to go there if you need to get the picture but it’s not the quality that we are comfortable with. On the low end, you are getting an ISO of 100 or 50 but there is a compromise that is happening in terms of the pixel depth. You’re better off to use an ND filter and stick with the low end ISO that the camera suggests but if that isn’t practical or available as option then you can slip into those lower ISO ranges to get the shot.
John Healy writes: I’m from Ireland but am traveling to Naples, Florida after Christmas for the new year. There is always a fireworks display at the beach, from Naples Pier on New Year’s Eve and I’d like to try to get some good shots of it. I’d really appreciate any tips or advice you can give me!
Joseph: All of my fireworks photography has been done on film. A couple of good links to check out include a couple of articles on Scott Bourne’s site – Photofocus. 10 Fireworks Photography Tips « Photofocus How To Photograph Fireworks – TWIP « Photofocus. A couple of great points to keep in mind from these posts. Find a great spot and get setup. One of the things to consider is finding a great location with a great background. Try to get downwind from the smoke. Use a cable release and/or timer. If you’re shooting RAW, the enhanced noise reduction will not be of any benefit. Using flash won’t do you any good in terms of the fireworks, however if you want to put someone in the foreground then you can use the flash to fill them in. Another great site to visit is http://digital-photography-school.com/how-to-photograph-fireworks
PICKS OF THE WEEK
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