Category Archives: Story Telling

Lumia Smartphone shoots the Northern Lights!

Lumia Smartphone shoots the Northern Lights!

Shooting the Northern Lights with a Lumia Smartphone

by Stephen Alvarez

It stuns me how fast imaging technology is changing. Not in DSLRs. They are fantastic but have not advanced much in half a decade. I’m talking about telephones, that is where technology is moving at a breathtaking pace. For the last two and a half years I’ve been working with Lumia smartphones and had a ring side seat to watch those advances.

Two and a half years ago I was asked to shoot the Seven Natural Wonders of the World using Lumia smartphones.

Ok, really I was asked to shoot six of them, as I had already photographed the Grand Canyon with the Lumia 1020 while exploring the American West.

John Burcham wanders through knee deep snow in the frozen forest above Levi, Finland.

John Burcham wanders through knee deep snow in the frozen forest above Levi, Finland.

This was a straight up commercial assignment, first for Nokia and then for Microsoft. Throughout my career I have always been interested in the technology behind imaging. To me the exciting advances in cameras are all taking place in the smartphone space. Smartphones represent a democratization of photography. I have been happy to watch up close as the technology has advanced by leaps and …

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Safeguarding Truth in Photojournalism

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    This article was published in Ochre Magazine August 13, 2014. A Survival guide to protecting your images.

    It wasn’t the war in Gaza, the bloodstained entrance of an orphanage or starving children in Angola. Not mourning widows in Bangladesh, or infant female circumcision in Guinea-Bissau. It was the strain of an endlessly multiplying tweet. Someone had taken one of her photos from the Internet and made it the face of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. After nearly 20 years of award-winning reporting in over 80 countries, Ami Vitale came to the brink of leaving photojournalism over a tweet.

    This is not the story of a misappropriated image gone viral. This is the story of what happened next.

    When a photo is published on the web, it falls into nimble, anonymous hands that upload and share millions of images each day. Context becomes a casualty. Its loss threatens photographers’ reputations, may endanger their subjects, and chips away at journalistic credibility. If a photojournalist’s responsibility is authenticity, her challenge is control.

    James Estrin opened this conversation in “The Real Story About the Wrong Photos in #BringBackOurGirls” on The New York Times’ Lens Blog May 8, shortly after the offending tweet metastasized. Three

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George Steinmetz Wonders: Was It Worth Getting Arrested for National Geographic Cover Story Photos?

This month’s cover story of National Geographic,, about how to meet growing worldwide demand for food, is the story that got  photographer George Steinmetz in trouble last June, and he’s still stinging from the experience.

Read the story behind the story in Photo District News 

©2014 George Steinmetz/National Geographic

Brookover Ranch Feedyard, Garden City KS                                                     ©2014 George Steinmetz/National Geographic

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Gerd Ludwig Kickstarts 20-Year Chernobyl Retrospective Photo Book

Gerd Ludwig Kickstarts 20-Year Chernobyl Retrospective Photo Book

The Long Shadow of Chernobyl culminates 20 years of coverage by National Geographic photographer Gerd Ludwig into the most authoritative photo book documenting the aftermath of the worst nuclear disaster to date. The book is being funded in part by a Kickstarter campaign to offset the cost of printing this high-quality photo book.

Watch the video and pre-order today at: http://gerdludwig.com/kickstarter

Ludwig’s powerful images tell us tragic stories of the lives of the victims, the desolation of the Exclusion Zone, and the remnants of lives once lived in the now abandoned city of Pripyat. Inside the destroyed reactor #4, Ludwig takes us deeper into the belly of the beast than any Western documentary photographer. At the heart of the book are the people affected by the devastation – from the returnees who came back to the Exclusion Zone to live out their lives surrounded by desolation, to the children born with physical and mental disorders – from those suffering by the dramatic rise in cancers in the nuclear fallout areas, to those displaced permanently, haunted with the memories of the tragedy.

“I am driven by the duty to act in the name of these victims,” says Ludwig, “to give them …

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Indigenous communities fight poaching in Africa

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It is entirely possible, even likely, that if the current trajectory of death continues, rhinos, elephants and a host of lesser know plains animals will be functionally extinct in our lifetimes.  I’ve launched a campaign through the new website, IndieVoice.es and the stories will focus on the indigenous nomadic communities of Northern Kenya who are on the frontlines of the poaching wars. Much needed attention has been focused on the plight of wildlife and the conflict between heavily armed poacher and increasingly militarized wildlife rangers. However, the compelling story of indigenous communities caught in the cross-­hairs of the poaching wars, and who may hold the key to saving Africa’s great animals, is largely untold. Their efforts to preserve community cohesion are ultimately the best immunization against forces that threaten their wildlife and their way of life.  

 https://indievoic.es/projects/project_home/36/D

Its not too late to make a difference and there is so much we can do to influence the outcome of these species.  Please help share this campaign with your friends and colleagues. 

 

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Is the world ending tonight? Probably not but the Maya Long Count Calendar is

Is the world ending tonight? Probably not but the Maya Long Count Calendar is

 

December 20 2012 marks the end of the current Maya Long Count calendar. So will the world end tonight? Well the calendar certainly does and it is an extraordinarily long calendar. The current calendar started August 11, 3114 BCE. So what happens tomorrow?

Fire and Brimstone? Planet X colliding with the earth? Instagram seizing user identities? Other unspeakable horrors?

Don’t be too concerned. Tomorrow we enter the 14th b’ak’tun, the 14th Maya long count calendar.  Just like we enter 2013 on January 1st. In all my work with the Maya no one ever suggested that the world would end at midnight tonight. The modern Maya don’t seem worried about the end of the world. Plus there is no evidence of world wide destruction at the end of the last b’ak’tun, or the one before that, or the one before that.

Even without the end of the long count there is plenty to be worried about in the world. It would be easy to be pessimistic about the coming 14th b’ak’tun. The issues facing the world are huge. But I am hopeful. 

I am hopeful that we can figure out how to feed and care for 7 Billion people.…

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Iran where climbing is an act of rebellion

Iran where climbing is an act of rebellion

above, freedom of the hills a climber at 16,000 feet on MT Damavand

It has been a year since I returned from climbing in Iran. I’ve had a year to contemplate what I saw and a year to realize that if I want the photographs seen I’ll need to publish them here. So look for a few posts in the next month or so with the Iran climbing story in them.

A climbing story might seem unusual for me, after all I am much better known for going down than going up. But remember that my first NG story (the one where I went blind) involved climbing a tall mountain in Peru. Plus a good friend talked me into it by saying “this might be your only chance to go to Iran!”

For most Americans the “chance to go to Iran” sounds a lot like the chance to go to jail. But even though there were 2 american hikers in prison in Tehran I wasn’t worried. This was an official exchange between the American Alpine Association and its Iranian counter part.

When the story was assigned I started my crash course in Iran and its mountaineering culture. The first …

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Alan Lomax — Ethnomusicologist and Photojournalist

Alan Lomax — Ethnomusicologist and Photojournalist

Alan Lomax, wandering somewhere in Arkansas. This photograph of Alan conjures up the audio vision I have of the legend. October, 1959 ~ Photograph by Shirley Collins

Normally, it can take weeks (even months) preparing a story for this space. I need time in my attempts to share something imaginative, hopefully insightful — or dare I reach as an offering towards a sliver of enlightenment — in an era when everything and anything is brilliantly rehashed on the Internet.

This week I’ve decided to loose my laundry and dive as rapidly as I can into the Ring of Blogging Fire on a topic surely well written upon. What happened just under two weeks ago (though it’s been quietly going on for sometime) is indeed one of the biggest developments not only in the world of field recording history, it’s also a landmark moment for social documentary photography.

The Alan Lomax collection is now completely accessible online — 5,000 hours of sound recordings, 400,000 feet of film, 3,000 videotapes, piles of manuscripts — including 5,000 photographs he took over this astonishing career.

Alan Lomax dreamed of being able to give back to those he recorded. With the advent of technology, today …

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The Biodiversity Project on NPR

The Biodiversity Project on NPR

“I’m the only studio portrait photographer I know whose subjects routinely poop and pee on the background right in front of me,” he says from behind the lens.

It’s a comical sight here behind the scenes at the National Aquarium in Baltimore: Sartore, two animal handlers and a ridiculous amount of gear are cramped into a tiny, 50-degree back room. All for a puffin. Sartore is doing all he can to coax the little guy into a handsome headshot. In my mind, this is fun, but for him, it’s serious business.

This is what Sartore does in his down time, between Geographicshoots. His ambition: Photograph as many zoo species as possible.

Read more on NPR’s Picture Story blog / See more photos from the project on Joel’s website

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