Shooting Football At Yale

This was my second time photographing football and like my first time it was very frustrating.

I will admit from time-to-time I take advantage of my position. For instance today I ‘borrowed’ a photographer’s field pass from the Sports Department and headed to the Yale Bowl for the Yale-Cornell football game.

This was my second time photographing football and like my first time it was very frustrating. A 300mm lens (which on my camera shoots like a 480mm lens) provides an extremely narrow view. There are probably people who pan to the action and click. It didn’t come easy to me.

On top of that there were a boatload of marginally soft shots or shots where the autofocus point wasn’t where I wanted it! This may be a camera adjustment I’ve missed. It’s back to the manual to make sure.

Finally, my lenses are slow. That limits my finished photos in a variety of ways with the most problematic today being depth-of-field. Often the background was in focus, making it very difficult to separate it from the action. Fast lenses have produce a shallow depth-of-field and blurry backgrounds.

Did I have a good time? Absolutely. I enjoyed the game which was played under ideal conditions. There were also a bunch of photographers I know and it’s good to see and learn from them.

I’ll be back to try again.

Sleeping Giant–The Leaves Are Leaving

I would never take a photo that might compromise anyone’s safety. This was just about the increasingly hostile atmosphere toward photographers.

Helaine and I spent an hour or so going up and down Sleeping Giant early this afternoon. There are still plenty of leaves on the trees, but the brushy growth along the trail has really begun to die back and it’s changed the entire look of our walk. The dropoff at the edge of some trail sections is now a lot scarier looking. It’s as if the mountain is balding–rapidly.

Up on the top this afternoon we ran into students from a middle school in the Bronx. the boys from that school were there a few weeks ago. Now the girls. The girls were louder and more physically active–at least when we saw them.

I was taking photos when one of the chaperones told me to stop. The truth is when you’re in public, no matter what your age, you have no expectation of privacy and photos are fine and unrestricted by law. Of course that doesn’t comport with what this guy wanted, so he made up a rule. I’m going to have to start carry my “photographer’s rights” in my wallet.

This isn’t about taking pictures of the kids. I would never take a photo that might compromise anyone’s safety. This was just about the increasingly hostile atmosphere toward photographers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked to stop for no apparent reason.

It is great that these kids get the opportunity to spend some time in the country. It’s got to be the other end of the Earth for them.





Financial Humor From PBS

It’s part of the changes we’re all going to have to make to embrace and compete with the Internet.

My friend Wendie asked me to take a look at the attached video a few days ago. She is Managing Editor of Nightly Business Report, the long running daily financial show on PBS. Like everyone else in broadcasting they’re trying their best to think outside the box.

This video was put together by a photographer/editor–an old school team member. It’s part of the changes we’re all going to have to make to embrace and compete with the Internet.

HDR Photography At Lake Watrous

There are a few other little tweaks I did which I’d mention, but Helaine gets upset when I fool with Mother Nature.


Over the weekend Ann Nyberg, who I work with, sent me an email with a link to a Hartford Courant column by Rinker Buck. I’ve written about Rinker’s famous telling-off-the-boss column in the Courant.

This time Rinker wrote about a photographer in Litchfield County who is fooling with HDR (high dynamic range) photography. It’s all the rage, though often it turns out overdone and unrealistic.

lake-watrous-components.gifI had a few shots I took at Lake Watrous and bracketed for HDR, but never processed. Tonight I found a tutorial by Bert Monroy and tried my luck. The result is the photo at the top of this entry. The sequence on the left is made from three of the images used to create the HDR.

Without HDR you can see the trees/lake or the sky, just not both together. There are a few other little tweaks I did which I’d mention, but Helaine gets upset when I fool with Mother Nature.

This is a lot closer to what I saw than “Clicky” can provide on his own.

Photographer’s Friend

Drop in a series of photos (from your hard drive or Flickr/Picasa) and a few minutes later, out comes a video. It’s very cool.

I stumbled across this a few minutes ago, Animoto

Drop in a series of photos (from your hard drive or Flickr/Picasa) and a few minutes later, out comes a video. It’s very cool.

The process takes a little longer than I expected, but a whole lot less time than if I did it manually.

I’m curious what you think, so you’ll find the video and a link to the original photos below.

How To Do Customer Service The Gorillapod Way

There doesn’t seem to be a reason. It looks fine. I haven’t mistreated it. I can pop it back in, but it’s not very sturdy.

joby.jpgAs you probably know, I am a photographer. I love taking pictures and I have all sorts of accessories for my camera. Among the best things I have is a gift from my daughter Stefanie (possibly the nicest, most thoughtful gift she’s ever given me), a Gorillapod.

A Gorillapod is a small, extremely flexible tripod. You can use it on a desktop or put it on the ground like a regular tripod. Where it differs is when you bend its legs. For instance, you can bend its legs around a light pool or the railing on a deck.

The Gorillapod turns nearly anything into a camera brace. It scratches a photographer’s major itch.

Recently, while playing with mine, one of the Gorillapod’s legs popped from its socket. I can push it back in, can no longer safely trust the pod to hold when its legs are wrapped around something.

I fired off an email:

My daughter gave me a Gorillapod SLR-ZOOM for my birthday last year. It’s quite a nice present for a photographer. I’ve only used it a dozen or so times, but when I went to use it a few days ago, one of the legs popped out of its socket. It did so at the very top where it connects to the ‘camera platform.’

There doesn’t seem to be a reason. It looks fine. I haven’t mistreated it. I can pop it back in, but it’s not very sturdy.

I’m not sure what to do. It will be fine as a ‘standard’ small tripod, but I can no longer trust it to hold my SLR by wrapping the legs… which, of course, is its advantage.

Is there something I can do, or a warranty under which it can be repaired?

The next day I got an email from Helga at Gorillapod’s parent company, Joby.

Hi Geoff,

I’m so sorry this happened to your SLR-ZOOM.

Could you please send me a photo of the damaged Gorillapod w/ the Joby logo showing and the type of camera you were using?

Do you know where it was purchased?

Please send me your address and phone number as well.

Thank you!


I did and promptly got another email.

Hi Geoff,

We will send you a new one that will ship out today.

Again, I’m so sorry that this is happening.

Thanks and hope you’re having a great day!


And today, in a plain yellow padded envelope, my new Gorillapod.

I am astounded. This is too easy. It’s as if good customer service matters to them! What a concept.

This is a really good product – very useful. Just as important, it’s a product the manufacturer is proud of and stands behind. There’s something in short supply today.

Why can’t every service story end this way?

Interviewed For New Haven Magazine

I don’t belong anywhere near that list. Speaking to me is the journalistic equivalent of slumming!

Last week I was approached by New Haven Magazine. They wanted to interview me for a story.

Was I flattered? Sure.

Of course there are always nagging worries. Why exactly me? I don’t want to be like Dr. Joyce Brothers, emergency guest when all else fails.

I asked who else had been featured.

  • Roya Hakakian, author, Iranian ex pat.
  • C. Megan Urry, chair Yale Physics Dept.
  • Hugh Keefe, leading defense attorney
  • Jonathan Rothberg, scientist entrepreneur
  • Peyton Patterson, CEO

I don’t belong anywhere near that list. Speaking to me is the journalistic equivalent of slumming!

Tonight, New Haven Magazine’s publisher Mitch Young and photographer Steve Blazo, came by.

I always worry how to answer a reporter’s questions? I’m not interested in towing the company line, but I don’t want to tick off my bosses either. Anyway, everyone can tell when you’re bullshitting to stay politically correct. Who needs that?

Years ago, we had an anchor at the station who was often quoted saying outlandish, foolish or even stupid things. I suppose she was sought out once reporters realized she made for good copy&#185.

She’d write it all off to being misquoted, but if you read the words and closed your eyes, you could see her saying them!

One question tonight came out of left field. Mitch asked, in light of Keith Olbermann’s move from sports to news, whether I’d like to make the transition to anchor? Keith Olbermann is not your typical TV anchorman. His career, though on the upswing now, has not been without setbacks and hardship.

I find what Olbermann, Lou Dobbs, Bill O’Reilly and a few others do very interesting. Their job demands a skill set different from those employed by a totally impartial anchor. They also work within a structure different from conventional, and impartial, TV journalism.

I don’t think local news will be moving in that direction anytime soon, so the point is moot. It was still interesting to think about. It’s a choice I won’t have to make in real life.

I’ll let you know when the article is published… unless it’s incredibly embarrassing.

&#185 – Don’t ask. I will never tell. However, your guess is probably correct.

Learning About Lenses

When I carry my camera, I usually also take along my four lenses. I bought two when I got the camera, another one for my birthday and the fourth… do I really need to make up an excuse?

As it turns out, the fourth is the cheapest, simplest, most basic of my lenses. Made of plastic, it feels like a toy when held.

It’s called a prime lens – no zooming here. It has a fixed focal length of 50mm. What makes it different from my other lenses is its speed. It is a 50mm f/1.8.

I didn’t always know what that meant either.

It’s not the fastest, but this is still considered a fast lens. They’re called fast because low “f stop” lenses pass more light, allowing you to shoot with a faster shutter speed.

The added bonus is, low f stops produce a very shallow depth of field. In other words, the area in focus is quite small. That ‘feature’ makes this little lens perfect for portraiture.

I had the 50mm in tow Sunday when I went to a friends house to take some shots of his nearly one year old daughter. I’m not as good with people as I am with inanimate objects like trees and rocks. Still I managed to get off a few nice shots.

I used my all purpose 18-125mm zoom lens too, but the 50mm was absolutely the best. The softness of the background makes the shots.

Every time I pick up the camera, I learn something new. Getting at ease with this lens is part of that process. Even after 30,000 shots (really) on this Canon Digital Rebel, I’m far from proficient.

After seeing a few samples, my friend Steve sent an email tonight:

I won’t say “I told you so” but I told you so. If you recall, that is the lens I urged you to get and told you you’d fall in love with it. It’s what

will make you more of a “people” photographer.

Lenses are like children. You should never have a favorite. It’s just, I’m beginning to appreciate this lens more than I had.

Ansel And Me

I put a PBS documentary about Ansel Adams on my Netflix queue a few months ago. Netflix doesn’t stock this title… and after a few months, it looked like they never would.

Enter eBay. The disk arrived Thursday and I watched it last night.

Beyond being a photographic master, Adams was an emotionally complex man. His childhood was marked by family financial problems and the San Francisco earthquake. He was conflicted between being a concert pianist and taking photos. He had both a wife and mistress.

I’m glad that I got to understand more about Adams, but I wish this doc would have given me more about his technique. How did he do what he did? Other than a passing mention of red filtering, there was little to help me as a photographer extend Adams’ work.

I didn’t even see my favorite Ansel Adams photograph, a non-panoramic documentary portrayal of a California farm worker’s family.

There was one thing I took from the show – Yosemite. I knew it was beautiful. I had no idea it was that awe inspiring.

Now I’m obsessed with Yosemite. I’ve got to go. It’s not quite that simple.

Yosemite is different at different times of the year. That especially applies to its waterfalls. Many start flowing with the snowmelt in the spring and stop during the dry California summer.

Summertime crowds at Yosemite are large. I’ve got to avoid that.

With the problem of TV rating periods added to the equation, April or possibly early June, seem best.

I’d like this to be a real photography trip. That means lots of walking with my photo bag and a tripod. It also means a methodical approach to the shots I take.

Maybe I’m biting off more than I can chew? Right now, it sounds like a plan.

It’s Not The Camera

I am a photographer. That’s my hobby.

I’m a good photographer. I’ve seen the work of great photographers. Their best shots are better than my best shots. I’m OK with that.

I take a lot of care with the mechanics of my photography. I try and think through shutter speed, aperture, lens focal length and film speed (it’s still called that) before I press the shutter. I don’t always get it right, but at least I think about it.

As a photographer there is a question I’m asked all the time. In fact, I received this yesterday:

Hey Geoff,

I just saw the most recent batch of pictures you had on your site, and they’re amazing. I was just curious, what kind of camera do you use? I’m sure you have said it before on your site, but I don’t recall. I really want to get into photography and your camera seems to take really great pictures. Any info would be great. Thanks!

Let me repeat the operative part: your camera seems to take really great pictures.

I know the writer meant well. I would guess every photographer gets asked this question from time-to-time. It misses the point. It used to bother me. Oh hell, it still bothers me, but I’ve gotten used to it.

There is an excellent shot of Helaine, Steffie and me, taken a few years ago in Newport, RI. The sky had turned blood red at sunset. I’ve never seen anything like it.

I set the camera and handed it to a passerby. His shot was great, but it’s really my shot. If he would have just pointed and shot, the effect wouldn’t have been as vivid. I took the picture!

My camera is a Canon Digital Rebel. It’s the original 300D. I usually carry 4 lenses which go from 10 to 300mm.

It takes better pictures than when I first got it.

A Dose Of Humility

Tonight was the night for “Off the Wall,” the photographic charity event for the Arts Council. I’d seen the setup Thursday when there was a photographers preview.

Immediately, I felt outclassed by photographers with greater skills than mine. Maybe it’s just a case of familiarity breeding contempt, but my pictures looked like snapshots versus the real artwork hung at the 70 Audubon Street Gallery.

OK, not everything the others did was Ansel Adams worthy either. There were strange photos and inappropriate photos. There were photos that would keep you from falling asleep at night.

One artist submitted three photos of naked people, lying on their backs. The shots were taken with a wide angle lens, giving the bodies an otherwordly shape. Visualize – naked people on their backs. It wasn’t pretty&#175.

A few of the photographers shot dolls, but in a very surrealistic way. Really creepy!

Considering most of the photos were taken on color digital cameras, there was a large number of black and white or sepia photos. It seemed overdone. I’m saying that even though one of mine was B&W!

The “Off the Wall” concept has 165 tickets distributed and 165 photos from 55 shooters on the wall. The tickets are drawn at random. When yours is called, you take a photo off the wall.

Please Lord, not 165th. Actually, with three photos on exhibit, I was praying not to be 163, 164 and 165!

Over 120 sweaty bodies squeezed into the gallery. On this warm August evening, whatever air conditioning power the room possessed had long since given up its fight. It was stuffy and still.

Up front, the emcee began to call numbers. As the ticket holders called out whichever photo they wanted, I started ticking off the corresponding boxes on a gridded piece of paper.

Through the first dozen or so, no one called any of my choices to take off the wall… and I’d selected a dozen. More importantly, no one took any of the photos I’d shot!

Number 45, my ticket number, was called in the second dozen. The rules give you 20 seconds to choose. I was ready.

Stef had asked about a beautiful zebra photo, taken (as we later found out) in Kenya. It was still available and so we snatched photo 48B taken by Charles Kingsley.

Nice shot Charles. Congratulations. It will be on the wall of a dorm room with a full semester’s worth of clothes on the floor (or so I assume).

More and more tickets were called, but my photos continued to sit on the wall. Each photographer started with three photos hanging. Some already had all three picked.

On a short wall, where it once sat with the works of four other photographers, my contribution was starting to get lonely. The wall was getting bare the way a man goes bald – gradually.

Eighty four photos were gone before any of mine got chosen. It went to someone named Bitsie who said it was her first choice. My second shot went to the very next ticket holder as pick 86.

My moody, black and white, Atlantic City Boardwalk photo – the one my friends Dennis and Rick thought would go right away, was still on the wall as Helaine and I walked out. We told each other we wanted to watch the Phillies game on ESPN, but we really didn’t want to see that photo sit, uncalled.

As we walked to the car, I began to tell Helaine what I’d do differently to go sooner next year, but she’d have none of it. “Don’t change you style,” was what she said. Whether I follow her advice or not, she’s obviously right.

Am I disappointed I went so late in the process? You bet. but, this is my first time in any kind of exhibition. I was glad to just be there.

OK – I would have been happier going in the first dozen. Who am I kidding?

&#175 – My friend Josh sent an email to say: BTW: the distorted photos of naked people were created with a large pinhole camera and printed with platinum process — very unusual. I agree way too much easy digital, and predictable imagery, which might be why I appreciated the pinhole nudes more than you.

Off The Wall

Every year the Arts Council of Greater New Haven raises funds with “Off the Wall.” The concept is simple. 55 photographers donate 3 prints each. The 165 photos are matted and framed prints and then exhibited for a week. 110 $85 tickets are sold to benefit at the Arts Council. One ticket is given to each photographer.

On August 7, all 165 tickets are drawn at random. In the order of drawing, each ticket holder selects a photo.

I asked if I could be included and the answer was yes. I’ve looked at works from prior years in their brochure. I’m hoping my photos aren’t chosen 163, 164, 165.

Here are my tentative picks to donate (which have probably been posted here before):

Sunset Couple – What Is Real

Helaine walked in the room as I was playing with this photo. “That’s not how it looked,” she said.

We then proceeded to discuss the photo, taken atop East Rock just past sunset.

Is it the photographers goal to capture exactly what happened, or do we get a pass to embellish and present an interpretation? In other words, is a photographer allowed the same latitude a painter gets?

In this case I’ve lightened the photo beyond what was present, while deepening the blue of the sky to enhance the contrast with the clouds. They were pink in real life, but only barely. The color is brought out with the contrast.

I’m not sure we’ll ever agree on this.

The “as shot” photo is first, followed by the new, improved model.


Ken Melech just left the house. He’s a photographer at the station, someone I’ve known over 20 years.

With no cell service in my neighborhood, he stopped by to use the phone.

He’s up here because of a bear sighting. Really. No joke. It’s been seen in the vicinity of the elementary school Steffie attended.

So far there’s no video and I’ve certainly got no still photos, but it’s a pretty curious situation. Who would have thought I live in bear country?

Ansel – My Hero

After blowing out of a poker tournament, Helaine and I headed to the Strip. We were going to Bellagio where I wanted to see the Ansel Adams exhibit.

I’m with you on this. Las Vegas is the wrong place for America’s foremost nature photographer. On the other hand, I’m here and it’s here!

As a photographer, how can he not be a god to me? His displayed work did not let me down. Not every print was genius, but there were more than enough for a lifetime’s work.

It was interesting to listen to the narration (you are given an audio ‘wand’ to listen to), especially when it was Adams’ own words describing the circumstances of a shot.

I was a little disappointed, because I wanted more technical disclosure. Adams kept notes. I wanted to know if a shot was a 3 second F4.5 or 1/30 F11. Why did he make his choices? How did the darkroom affect his finished product?

Now I’ll go look for that info, because it’s surely on the net somewhere.