What is Miriam currently wearing?

One day I got a phone call from a former workmate asking if I’d be interested in taking photos for her fashion blog. I was kind of blown away because most of my photography had been just a personal hobby and passion. Of course I tried to do something more with it a couple of years ago with my 2013 photo project and book without thinking too much about where it would go – it was just fun to do! While I’ve only sold a couple of books (so far), what was more rewarding was to realize that by getting other people involved with project encouraged someone else to follow their passion.

Miriam, one of the models in the November theme, started her fashion blog called ‘Currently Wearing – Chic with a positive attitude‘ which has been hugely popular within the Swiss fashion world and she even has a large and dedicated following on Instagram.

This ethical outfit now on Currently Wearing (direct link in bio). Hat and jumpsuit via @amafillech

A photo posted by Miri Ramp (@currently_wearing) on

While most of my photo gear is a mix of digital and film rangefinders and SLRs, I was glad to test out Miriam and her husband’s gear (the regular photographer) even if it was only for 15 minutes. I don’t own a Nikon so it was a pleasure to shoot with their Nikon D3200 and especially fun was taking the AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1-1.8G lens for a spin. I used my favorite shooting mode on these DSLRs which is Aperature Priority where I can choose my aperture setting (blurry backgrounds anyone?) while the camera picks up on the shutter speed.

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If you’re interested in mix high-street fashion with luxury and vintage accessories from Swiss and African designers that’s unique, or as Miriam calls it “Afropean”, check out http://currentlywearing.com/.

Animated gifs are more expressive than static images

Photography is a lot of fun especially now when we have so many options to capture images whether its with a phone, camera, laptop, etc. Once in a while it does get a bit monotonous especially when I’m bored of taking static images. So I’ve been experimenting with creating animated gifs. It’s not all that new, but it is a lot of fun to bring a bunch of images to life.

While I’ve tried this with only a couple of images after a visit to the Olympic museum, I thought I’d give it a try with a lot more images after a photo shoot at work. This time each of the below animations contain approximately 60 images. The trick with an animated gif is that the more the images, the larger the file size so I’ve kept the gif small to reduce the loading/downloading time. Every image has it’s own distinct character, but when shown in a series they express more than just one image and gives a sense of time…

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The whole process is really easy to do with Photoshop and the best instructions I’ve found to do it is here: http://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/how-to-make-an-animated-gif/

There’s more to getting the job done than having the right tools.

Learning a new skill requires time, patience, and a genuine interest to do it well. This can go for languages, sports, art, cooking, etc. This goes the same for any kind of skill required for communications, whether it’s, writing, drawing, photography, videography, etc. In this day and age, you can do just about any of this on a phone, tablet, or laptop. Yet, just because the tools are readily available to us doesn’t mean we are skilled at using them. I like to write, but that doesn’t mean I can be a poet or novelist without some hard work, training and lots of practice.

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A perfect example of this is from a recent article form WIRED magazine “Here’s What It Looks Like When You Replace Photographers With iPhone-Wielding Reporters” highlighting the issue that with cutbacks in new media, journalists are expected to do more than just write. While I don’t believe communications today is all about writing, I believe that people are professionals at what they do – whether that’s writing a story or photographing an street scene. This takes skill, training and, if you’re very good, some talent. Compare the images above taken following the Stanley Cup (i.e. hockey) win by the Chicago Blackhawks. The iPhone-wielding reporter who took the left photo had the right tool at the right time, but instead of taking an interesting photo, what we get is a small, poorly composed photo of one player lugging the cup around. On the other hand, the one on the right was a dynamic shot by a pro-photographer that captured the excitement of the win as players and fans celebrated together.

Yes, a quick snap by an iPhone might capture the moment, but just because you have the tool doesn’t mean it does the job. Beautiful and engaging photos are possible with a phone or camera – what really matters is understanding how and what makes a photo great, which takes training, practice and even the talent or “eye” for it.

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David Ramirez’s pencil case – An illustrator I met at Malofiej23 who has both the right tools and talent – Follow him on Instagram

 

2014 was a blur

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1548 – that’s the year La Paz, Bolivia was founded by Spanish conquistadors and the exact number of photos I took in 2014. Over 1500 photos in a year using mostly digital cameras isn’t much, but I’ve been more picky this past year (i.e. a lot more black and white film) and probably had other things on my mind, like becoming a dad. Even if the year was a blur, it wasn’t because of all the traveling I did – the only time I got on a plane in 2014 was for a weekend trip to London. Here’s a gallery of photos which I do every year on Flickr – click on the arrows to move through the photos.

I’m still not totally convinced about the quality of photos from my mobile phone, but I’m getting the hang of it and post some once in a while on Instagram.

Being positive is good for health and communications

It’s been a while since I’ve flipped though my subscription of Communication Arts – I finally got through the 2013 Photography Annual and found a bit of inspiration, particularly drawn to photos related to health. Photos are a great way to share our emotions, relationships and connections with people and things. And there’s no more personal connection than to personal health.

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A campaign pointing out the health risks caused by smoking in cars. Headline: Don’t ignore their wishes / Alex Telfer

What is it about the world of media that uses negative imagery to try to catch people’s attention? There’s that saying about news: it’s not “Dog bites man”, but rather “Man bites dog” that will get the headlines. Yet, a lot has changed when it comes to this kind of view on news, and more broadly communication. With the ever-growing access to information and communication channels, communication professionals might think about placing less emphasis on the negative side of issues – especially if we want people to take action and do something. For example, researchers in 2007 found that the more students were exposed to anti-smoking messages, the more inclined they were to smoke. Results from the study suggest that campaigns don’t work by convincing individuals to avoid tobacco, but rather by helping change the social norms surrounding smoking. This means positivity works better than negativity, especially in a time where positive messages are more likely to spread and engage people, as shown by this study “Upbeat Content Best Bet for Anti-tobacco Messaging” or this report by the New York Times “Good News Beats Bad on Social Networks“.

These photos from CA’s photography annual shows that communication can have an impact when it strikes a cord between something visual, emotional, and making a positive connection.

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Assignment to illustrate a feature story, “Water for All” about the state of fresh water health and policies, or lack there of, governing right of capture rules / Woody Welch

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“Senior Moments.” – for these senior Olympians, age is just a number, and competition is a lifelong passion / Gregg Segal

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Trade advertising campaign to healthcare professionals for a new cancer drug. Portraits capture honest moments of joy as patients receive the good news / Peter Beavis

Digitizing negatives at home takes time, patience, and curiosity

The darkroom has this mysterious pull when it comes to photography. Maybe it’s because of the lure of the darkness and quiet, or that life and surprises are revealed when film is developed… whatever the reason, developing old-school film can be a lot more rewarding compared to automatically seeing photos taken with a digital camera. There’s still active communities interested in developing film, like one I found called ZebraLabs in Geneva.

Early this year, I bought a new/old film camera and wanted to see what I could do with my rolls of film. Originally I thought of creating a darkroom in my apartment, but realizing the cost, chemicals, and wife’s disapproval, I decided to see if it was worth the effort to scan developed film at home.

I found plenty of resources online that showed how to scan film for free. The main thing was to have a decent scanner – there is plenty of choice that range from $100 to $25,000. Rather than fork out the cash for a dedicated film scanner, I thought I’d try scanning my negatives using the scanner from my HP A3 all-in-one-printer/scanner.

One thing I realized when scanning is that that in order for the negatives to show when scanning, I needed an external light source to illuminate the negative. I used the Softlight app from Duddel Labs and placed it on top of the negative before scanning. The result is below.

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As you can see, what the scanner picked up was the “negative”, and that’s why film is actually called negatives. With the negative digitized, it was pretty easy to reverse the scan to turn the negative into a positive. I useda simple solution from the Adobe Forums on how to do it with Lightroom which led to…

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In the below image, I’ve placed the scanned photo from the photo lab (left) side by side with my scan (right) as a comparison. While my image came out the way I wanted, as you can see, there’s a big difference. For one, there’s no color in my image because color film actually requires a bit more work to develop. Second, the quality of my scan isn’t as clean as the one from lab. Overall, the exercise was useful in understanding how much time and effort it takes to digitize color film.

My takeaway from this? Invest in a dedicated film scanner or pay the lab to develop and scan film… unless you have the time, patience and curiosity to do it yourself! Also, I’m going to shoot only B&W with my film camera.

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There’s a “texture” to film photography

I bought my first digital camera in 2004 during a brief visit to Japan. Compared to my film cameras, it was light, pocket-able, and a great travel companion. It was an uneasy purchase not so much because it was a move into the 21st century where everything was going digital, but the fact that it made photography so much more about pointing and shooting rather than taking the time to absorb the environment around me and composing the shot. A lot has changed in 10 years, and the world has moved onto fast shooting and even faster sharing of digital images.

Nikon Coolpix 3700 – My first digital camaera

Digital has definitely made things easier in terms of taking, organizing, and sharing photos. Yet, the thing that is still missing after all this time is the process of photography… and how much value there is in taking the time to not only take the photo, but also wait for the images to develop.

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I went to a camera store last week and talked to the shop keeper about film vs. digital. He was also on the fence because while the resolution of digital cameras (especially the high-end DSLRs) have surpassed film, there’s still “something” missing from digital images. I asked him what… he said “texture”. It’s difficult to explain in words but when I compare film and digital photos, there is a something different in film images… it’s like there’s a soul or life to these images. This post has images developed from the first roll of film I took in 5 years. Do you see the “texture”?

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There are plenty of ways to alter digital images to have the same look and feel as film images, but if it’s to sit in front of the computer to do the alterations, it just defeats the purpose of the process of taking photos and being a part of life (go watch The Secret Life of Walter Mitty). Maybe that’s why there’s a return to film photography – just look at what Lomo is doing.

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From 2000 to 40 – a year in photos

Every year I put together a small set of photos that represent the year and upload them to Flickr. With 2013 over and done with, I had a bit of time this past couple of months to go through and organize over 2000 photos. It was a particularly special year because I also experimented with taking/posting a photo a day, which not only helped my photographic eye, but also gave me a nice collection of photos to use for the future. I’ve been doing this yearly summary on Flickr since 2003! Here are the photos for 2013 – one thing you might notice in the photos is that Ive also started experimenting with filters and developing settings to have more artistic control over the images.

The purist out there might cringe, but digital photos have made it much easier to do this kind of thing than to find a darkroom and play with the chemicals. Although, ironically, I’ve been thinking of taking an intro course to using a darkroom and even played around with the idea of developing my own film at home – it might all be leading in that direction especially since I bought a Voigtlander R3M camera a couple of weeks ago!

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Visualization isn’t just about fancy charts

Continuing from my last post on how data isn’t everything, visualization isn’t just about finding cool ways to show off data. “Visualization”, which seems to be a hot topic at the moment, is more than that. While it might be a buzzword that refers to showcasing data and statistics in a interesting way, I think “visualizing” something goes beyond that and should refer to how visuals, images, graphics, etc. help us understand any topic better and educate or inform people to know and do something with this information.

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A quick scan of Wikipedia shows that there’s a bunch of terms “visualization” can refer to,including: mental image, information graphics, perception, and thinking, highlighting that it’s an evolving field. Taking this idea further, there’s a difference in ‘information’ design vs. ‘graphic’ design. Whatever the tools or channels, the purpose of designing information is about making information accessible to the people who will need it and use it to make important decisions, as mentioned in Joel Katz’s book Designing Information. Graphic design, on the other hand, is more about making things look “pretty” or for aesthetic beauty. Both are naturally link yet have different purposes.

Visualization can then be like the signage in the photo above, the illustration below educating readers on the process of the Olympics Slopestyle, creating a chart out of Legos to show the impact of licensing, or allowing users ofGoogle Ngram to find the commonality of keywords in publications over a given time period.

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Taking time off work is a great sanity check

It’s been a while since I’ve been unemployed. There’s been two other times in my recent career path where I’ve taken significant time off between contracts/projects – once was in 2008 when I had about 4 months off and the other was in 2010 when I had about 9 months off. The key to taking time off work is to ENJOY the extra time away from the routine of a 40-hour work week and to explore any interests or hobbies you want to pursue. That’s just what I did in 2008 and 2010 when I not only took the time to catch up with family and friends, but also to work on my French, go back to school, explore and photograph new places, and caught up on sleep and reading… it’s great to have this kind of sanity check given how fast paced life could be these days – it’s like spring cleaning for your mind, spirit and body.

In the last month and a half off from my last job, I’ve put a little bit more time into my photography and working on this blog – I also have a couple of business ideas brewing and still need to work out the details. But I’ve focused a lot more on my photography, including publishing a book on my 2013 photo project, and being more involved with giving my photos a little bit more exposure, and it seems to be working… One of my photos was just published in Emirates Bride magazine, a sister publication of Emirates Woman, the regions leading womens fashion and lifestyle magazine .

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The photo they chose to include as part of a special feature on romance in the south of France. I took the photo in 2007 (available on Flickr) during a hike in Les callanques de Cassis near Marseille. The blue-green color is amazingly crystal clear and is like that because of the ice-age and glacial influence over thousands of years ago.

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