How to shoot the G20

Allegations that police protecting the G20 site have been demanding that people delete photos they’ve taken of the downtown Toronto security area are worrisome. I say worrisome because either we are dealing with very  poorly trained police officers or else we’re seeing a frightening new assumption of powers not granted police in the Canadian Criminal Code.

England has been going through this nonsense of police officers putting themselves above the law by demanding that tourists delete photos of public places for sometime now. Since 9/11 and the London subway bombings, this situation has been escalating to the point that it was raised in the British House of Parliament.

So, if you want to take photos of the G20 site or the anticipated protests how can you ensure the safety of your images?

First if you can produce some sort of professional affiliation with a recognized news medium it’s less likely that you’ll be asked to delete your images. But let’s say you don’t work for The Toronto Sun. Now what? As a former news photojournalist who has covered protests and demonstrations this is what I’d do:

• I’d create my own official looking “press pass” and I’d laminate the card and hang it around my neck. Might work. Might not but better than nothing.

• I’d dress conservatively. No black clothing. No photographer’s vest. No dark glasses. No combat boots.

• I’d hang around the official press photographers. They aren’t going to be stopped and if you’re near them neither will you.

•I wouldn’t concentrate on shooting portraits of individual officers. Right now that would not be wise. Not illegal mind you, but not smart.

• I’d be fairly aggressive (but not belligerent) in stating my rights to be there and to be shooting however I’d also be moving slowly away from the offending officer. This usually works. If you’re not actively creating a disturbance the officer, who is likely assigned to guard a specific area, won’t follow you if you slowly back away from their area. The last thing you want is to trigger an arrest.

• If you’re part of the protest make certain you have confederates who are videotaping and shooting still images of your discussion with authorities. Regardless of the outcome upload those images to the Flickr and that have cropped up on the Internet. Send copies to the mainstream media and your lawyer. Raise a stink.

• Here’s an old photographer’s trick: Use a camera that holds two memory cards. Delete the unused one. Cops and border police have fallen for this trick since the beginning of digital photography.

•Finally (and I’m not certain this is technically possible but I bet it is) buy a WiFi enable memory card. Get an app that turns your I-Pad or I-Phone into a WiFi hub and (here’s the part I’m not sure of) and set it to auto upload your images to a Flickr site by using your cellular phone account. As you shoot, your images will be transmitted from the card to the I-device and then automatically uploaded to the Internet. Then you can cheerfully delete all of your images knowing that they are already published. (If this isn’t possible today, it will be tomorrow knowing the Internet and photo geeks.)

BTW protesters are going to be using Twitter and other sites on the Internet to communicate with each other during the protests. Mass groups of people intent on doing mischief who are being directed by Tweets is a frightening concept and you don’t want to get too close. And part of your $1-billion has gone to a bunch of guys sitting in a room with computers searching for any reference to “G20” or any Tweets with the hashtag #g20. (Good morning guys.) So watch what you say online. 🙂

Want to do something else this weekend? Go read George Orwell’s 1984. It’ll scare the c**p out of you.

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How to shoot pro sports

Scott Kelby (of Photoshop fame) has a great blog posting on how to shoot a professional sporting event.

First you need a media pass because you won’t be shooting from the stands for this one. So how do you get a media pass? It can be pretty easy. The trick is you’ll need a letter from the editor of a legitimate publication. Still means print for most people and it won’t guarantee you’ll get a pass for the biggest pro games or events but you never know.

Sometimes you can get in with a letter from the editor of your local community newspaper or city magazine. What you need to prove to the folks who issue passes is the even will get some great publicity from the fact that you’re there taking photos. Another way to get a pass is to shoot for the event organizers. If you know somebody at the public relations company that’s promoting the event, your chances of scoring a pass can be pretty good.

Have a read of Scott’s blog and get out and keep shooting.

Software – Which one is best for you?

It depends. That’s the answer to so much in photography. It depends on what you want to accomplish. So let’s rate the very best software packages by their usefulness. And let me say these are just my favourites and my list may not match yours or some other professional’s list. That’s okay. The idea is to have fun while creating the images you want to keep forever. These are my suggestions:

So if you’re a point and shoot family or vacation shooter and you just want to see your images after you’ve shot them I’ve got one suggestion for Apple computer users and one for PCs. For the Mac learn how to use IPhoto. It’s terrific and comes with your Mac. It will allow you to download and view all your images just about automatically. If you do want to make some changes like cropping or changing the brightness then IPhoto is perfect. It will also allow you to upload to email or your website effortlessly. The only caveat is to watch out that any changes you make to your originals aren’t reversible. What I do when I import my images to IPhoto is to burn a copy of all my images prior to any editing.

The simplest software for PCs is Picasa. This is a free program from Google and it’s great. It is also available on Mac.

Next up for the amateur photographer who wants to do more with their images my choice at under $100 is Adobe Photoshop Elements. Elements has been around forever and it is a very mature piece of software. Designed for the beginning photographer, Elements offers 80 or 85 per cent of the $900 Photoshop features photographers use for around a tenth the price. PS Elements is a bargain IMHO and if it was all I had to use I would not be unhappy. Best of all it is available for Macs or PCs.

Now let’s say you’ve been shooting for a year or so and you’re getting pretty good. Maybe your cousin asks is you could take some photos at a wedding. You’ve got your digital single lens reflex camera and the lens that came with the kit (usually something like an 18 to 55mm f/4 to f/5.6 lens) and since most weddings and receptions happen indoors you’ve bought an external flash and maybe a fast 50mm f/1.8 lens which Canon and Nikon sell for under $150. Maybe you’ve bought a second or third memory card. So you’ve got a pretty good kit for shooting weddings or other special events but what software should you use?

You could use Elements or IPhoto or Picasas but thanks to digital photography you’re likely to shoot several hundred images (I usually shoot well over a 1,000 at any special event I do.) and it’s going to be a very slow process looking at each individual image in these software packages and then you’re going to want to edit them. For wedding shots especially shots of the bride your images are going to need to show the wedding dress as absolute white (without losing any detail) and her skin tone exactly as she looks. You can do all this in the less expensive packages but about 99.9 per cent of all wedding and special event photographers are using a piece of software called Lightroom from Adobe.

I’ve got a copy of Lightroom 2 and it’s very good. Aside from being a better than average photo editor (and photo editing especially when it comes to digital noise has been vastly improved in the just releases Lightroom 3) it’s also a first-class data manager. Also the software is configured to run fast on any recent computer (four gigs of RAM is highly recommended) that is ideally equipped with two external harddrives (I’ve got two separate 2-terabyte drives plugged into my Mac and one 2-terabyte backup drive on one of my PCs). There is a bit of learning curve with any sophisticated software but LR2 or 3 is pretty easy to grasp. Lightroom works on both Macs and PCs.

For Mac fans, Apple’s Aperture is very similar to Lightroom and is highly regarded by many professional photographers.

Finally we come down to my last two picks. Photoshop CS5 is essential if you want to do any complex layout work such as magazine covers or posters. It is a huge, complex and expensive package but if you’re a professional shooter who has progressed past doing the odd wedding or other commercial shoot, it’s also essential. All kinds of plug-in software which can create all kinds of special effects and looks works in Photoshop. There is a ton of online training for Photoshop (as there is for much of the software above) and if you need it, it’s there. At just under $1,000 this is not a purchase one makes lightly. I have a copy of CS4 because after I bought Photoshop Elements, Abode offered me a deal to buy CS4 for $300 US. Could not get my credit card out fast enough. Would I do it again? Absolutely. Am I upgrading to CS5. Nope. New software upgrades don’t make my old software any less useful.

Finally and this is for Nikon shooters only but Capture NX2 is my favourite editor. This is mainly for processing Nikon NEF (RAW) files although it will work on JPGs and TIFFs taken with any manufacturer’s cameras.

It does a much better job of editing Nikon NEF files than any of the above packages including Photoshop. It uses what’s called U-technology to allow for the dragging of tools right off the menu onto the image. Colours, contrast and just about everything else can be changed quickly and accurately in seconds. In Photoshop for comparison you’re dealing with the need to create new layers. I took a day-long Photoshop course along with over 600 other Photoshop users and it reminded me why I like NX2 so very much.

Now remember what I said: This is just my list. There are hundreds of other software packages out there including the plug-in packages (I love the complete kit I’ve got of NIK Software which I use all the time. It works in conjunction with Photoshop and Lightroom and one filter package called Color Efex 3 also works with NX2. NIK developed the Capture NX2 software exclusively for Nikon.

So which package is best for you? See why I say it depends.

It depends on whether photography is just a fun thing or a serious hobby or a profession. It depends on what kind of images you shoot and how many. It also depends on how much money you want to spend and what results you are looking for from your files.

Live this weekend – Studio work

Zack Arias, who is one of my top 10 young photographers working today. He’s streaming live today and tomorrow at http://creativelive.com/live and as well there’s a tweetchat at #askzack with a live chat to http://creativelive.com/chat .

Zack did five hours last night and now he’s setting up his studio. This is truly first-class studio work which he will be selling for $125 after the webcast but you can have it for free.

Head on over and learn from one of the young masters of flash and studio.

Maximum Photoshop = Maximum Fun

Yesterday’s none stop Photoshop extravaganza called “Maximum Photoshop Tour” lead by Dave Cross of Scott Kelby fame was amazing.

With a sold-out crowd at the Toronto Convention Centre that I estimated at 600+ Dave got the day underway right on time. Everybody who attended got a workbook that contained all of the notes for the day’s lessons. Plus we got a CD that contains two PDF magazines and jpg and RAWshots from the actual course. How cool is that?

BTW B&H, the mega-US photo retail giant, was there handing out their huge catalogue. They assured us that they do ship to Canada and you can choose whether to use UPS or US Mail.

All in all, a great day and highly recommended experience. Thanks Dave and thanks to Scott Kelby.

Photoshop training tomorrow

I spent yesterday reviewing one of my textbooks on Photoshop CS4 in anticipation of tomorrow’s big Photoshop event being held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The MAXIMUM Photoshop Tour is being hosted by one of Scott Kelby’s instructors Dave Cross. If you’ve ever used Photoshop you know what an intimidating software package it is but the parts needed for photography aren’t all that hard to grasp.

Taking courses like this one, are what keeps me at the top of my game and I recommend you look around for similar courses coming to your city this summer.