July 20, 2012
Flipboard's 2nd Anniversary: The Team Celebrates in Palo Alto
Flipboard is turning two years old this weekend and celebrated its anniversary this past week in its Palo Alto CA parking lot with friends, family, employees, investors and Silicon Valley influencers.
For those of you who don't know what Flipboard is, you're missing out on a beautiful online experience. Pegged as a 'social magazine', Flipboard is an app for the iPad, iPod and Android which allows you to view content in a way that is stunningly delicious, where photos and simplicity rule.
Part aggregator and part stunning UI for content you already consume, it was listed in the 50 Best Inventions in 2010 by Time Magazine and they describe the experience: "Flipboard ends the chaos by grabbing updates, photos and links from your friends and other interesting people, then reformatting everything in a wonderfully browsable, magazine-like format." Well said and it's spot on.
The team is headed by former Tellme head Mike McCue, who is a natural "marketing machine," precisely because he "isn't one."
Mike one of the most genuine, down-to-earth understated entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, with a heart and brain that are equally matched.
So, when the team said c'mon down and celebrate with us, how could I refuse?
They have attracted great talent who want to make a difference in the way we consume content today.
In a world where we're constantly barraged by irrelevant stuff, whether its from social media or websites and blogs, Flipboard lets you dictate what you want to see in a gorgeous format.
The casual outside party held a number of surprises, such as the photo booth where you could get your photograph taken in front of magazine cover, like Rolling Stone. You could also feel ten years old again, while you fished for a miniature teddy bear wearing a Flipboard T-shirt from a machine. And, they had a buffet of pork, beef and chicken barbecue as well as a variety of salads, beer, soda and wine.
Below Flipboard CEO Mike McCue and Klout's COO Emil Michael
We all know that Scobleizer aka Robert Scoble is a huge fan of the app :-)
Back to the local touch. Sinister Dexter who has an awesome sound, played blues, rock and hopping jazz for several hours and sadly by the time I wanted to kick off my shoes and swing dance to a number, they were starting to pack away their instruments.
Kudos to the Flipboard team for all of their successes to-date. I, for one, am a fan, and no I sadly don't have any stock or work for them.
Photo credits: team show in car and Emil/Mike shot from Eric Alexander of Flipboard, other photos by Renee Blodgett.
June 13, 2012
Fotobabble for Websites, Facebook Timeline & New iPhone App Release
Fotobabble announced three new updates this week: Fotobabble for Websites, Fotobabble for Timeline and a new iPhone App release.
Fotobabble for Websites is a new application that for the first time lets an organization run photo and audio-driven campaigns and promotions directly from any website. Through the visual impact of photos, the emotion of voice and the power of social media, brands and businesses can increase web traffic and audience engagement.
Everloop.com, the leading online social site for kids and tweens, selected Fotobabble for Websites to power its INSPIRE contest with international pop star Greyson Chance. Kids were invited to take a photo of what inspires them, add their voice, and enter to win an iPad and autographed posters.
Fotobabble for Timeline is the only Facebook application that engages fans with the visual impact of photos and emotion of voice. Easy to install, brand and customize, the app lets organizations launch creative Facebook marketing contests and campaigns.
Fotobabble features such as photo contests and voting; "like-gating" with Talking Photos; customized photo galleries; and more are now fully Timeline compatible.
Creating Talking Photos with Fotobabble’s iPhone App allows you to make iPhone photos bolder and more beautiful with just a couple of simple clicks. Powerful effects, filters, cropping tools and more help you create Talking Photos that you’ll want to share with everyone.
- Effects – Choose from ten gorgeous effects ranging from vivid color to washed-out retro.
- Filters – Enhance, adjust, and perfect your photos with one-click editing tools.
- Cropping and rotate tools – Flip, crop, and rotate your photos to position them however you want to.
- More – Fix red-eye, brighten or saturate your photos and more.
June 08, 2012
Learning About the Magic of Lighting with Rick Friedman
If you have never done a photo workshop, and are remotely interested in photography, then you should figure out what you want or need to learn and set aside some time for a few workshops and classes. Why do one if you're not a pro or planning to be one?
Easy...workshops give you access to the best photographers in the world (aka the instructors) and people who are the most passionate about photography you'll likely run across (aka the attendees).
Rick Friedman is a well known photographer based in Boston who I met and worked with about 15 years ago. Although I've known of and respected his work for a long time, I've never done one of his workshops and the timing couldn't have been better. Rick's magic sauce? Among other things, lighting.
Lighting isn't an easy thing to master. If anything, I find the thought of dealing with flash more stressful than actually dealing with it. While mastering the art of lighting takes time and understanding it can be complex, once you dive in, you realize that you can get up to speed fairly quickly with the basics and Rick is an excellent instructor to get you there.
He did a series of workshops on the west coast recently: San Francisco, Los Angeles and the San Diego area.
While Rick is primarily a Nikon shooter, we had plenty of equipment and toys that worked on both Nikons and Canons and as most people know, I'm a huge Canon fan and am never far from my trusty Canon 7D.
His workshops are designed for wedding photographers, portrait photographers, photojournalists and serious amateurs who want to improve their knowledge of lighting. He started with a single light and a single piece of advice: "Look for the element you can't control and set your exposure for that unknown element," which btw, is often the sky. Read the ambian light first and proceed from there.
The strobe gets set to TTL because if you shoot on shutter priority, then you'll always be shooting wide open. You want to use a strobe to fill in the shadows on someone's face even if there's a lot of light. You can see this again and again with so many failed portrait shots we've all done in our lives.
We then moved onto Infrared remote controls which apparently don't work as well in bright sunlight and pocket wizards, which gives you a lot more flexibility. If money isn't an issue, go for the Pocket Wizards TT5s, because they can be used as both a transmitter and a receiver. (here's the one for Canon and here's the one for Nikon).
We tested out different light modifiers, using grip equipment, adding colors to images using Rogue's photographic gels and something they also make called a Rogue Grid Set. Frankly, next to the Rogue Flashbenders (they come in small and large sizes), I thought the Grid set was the coolest thing I used all day.
The Grid set also reduces light or rather diffuses it. It features stacking honeycomb grids that provide 16 degree, 25 degree, and 45 degree spot lighting control.
This means that photographers can choose among three different size grid spots using this small, lightweight system. Love love love it.
Since I didn't have much time with the product during the seminar, what I'm most eager to try in more depth is the use of the color gels inside the grid and testing them out in both indoor and outdoor settings (notice the purple one inside the grid in the photo -- more after I have had a chance to try it out).
Remember that I travel a lot, so bags need to get packed and moved frequently from place to place, so it's important for me that my equipment is flexible, small and lightweight. It also has to solve a problem I have often when I shoot.
Bringing along a flash isn't a high priority at the best of times, since I often end up with additional glare, shiny foreheads and harsh effects on people's faces. Flashbenders diffuse the harshness in a similar way that photo softboxes do however they're smaller in size and faster to set up. (this is key for me). And, while I may have the time to set up a reflector (California Sunbounce model is a decent one), more often than not, I won't have time to fuss. That said, I do have a reflector (the Calumet model), since they're useful to have on hand for a studio shoot and when you have more time.
If you have the space, the money and the time to fuss, then you'd probably want a Dynalite in your collection, but know that it takes a little training to use them effectively and they're over $1K to purchase. If you're going to do more studio shooting on a regular basis however, then I'd encourage you to check them out. (we got some pretty fabulous results using one in the Calumet studio, which is where the workshop was held).
Of course if you're Rick, you're used to carrying things around and sometimes in this business, a reflector just becomes a natural extension of you from time-to-time.
Matte Black Cinefoil is essentially nothing more than a matte black aluminum material that virtually soaks up light. It is ideal for masking light leaks and/or eliminating unwanted reflections and can also be molded to form barndoors, flags and other configurations.
You can of course overdue it with the colored gels but a girl has gotta play until she figures out exactly what kind of effect she ultimately wants to end up with...
I love Sepia, antique black and white and every variation in between, but if you're going to go dreamy and soft, you may as well add a tint of color.
Photo walk anyone? Our days were perfect.
Below is our team photo, the one we created on the fly after a little imagination and modification. Since we were in San Francisco's Mission district, adding a l'il graffiti backdrop seemed like the right thing to do which means that we required a lot less time to get the lighting perfect than the "Vermont" class who chose the inside of a New England barn for their shot.
If it doesn't look like we're having fun, then look again!
May 26, 2012
Photographer Rick Friedman Does Coast-To-Coast Lighting Tour
I just returned from another trip and took close to 4,000 shots on my trusty Canon 7D. The longer I've been shooting, the more I can appreciate the complexity and value of lighting. A photographer star in this area is Boston-based Rick Friedman, who holds a number of workshops around the country.
Rick has a number of upcoming workshops where you can learn a 'hands-on' way to control your lighting. His events are highly interactive and designed for portrait photographers, photojournalists, corporate and event photographers, wedding photographers, and serious amateurs who want to take their knowledge of illumination and light to the next level.
His workshop begins with ways to create wonderful light using a single speedlite and continues to add a 2nd and 3rd speedlite and progress to using studio strobes. Rick teaches using both Nikon and Canon and brings different lights for participants to test out so you can determine what will work best for their 'kind' of shooting.
The man doesn't go without a number of accolades attached to his name, from published work in Time, Newsweek, U.S. News, The New York Times, USA Today, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Stern and Discover Magazines to producing over 75 book and magazine covers. The books Hillary Clinton, Infra Structures, and The Gourmet Prescription are a few of his projects. He has won awards from the American Society of Media Photographers, the National Press Photographers Association, and the Boston Press Photographers Association.
A couple of my favorite shots which show off his lighting skills really well:
And don't you love this is a regular gig since the 80s? He has photographed every presidential candidate from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama and is currently covering the 2012 presidential campaign. And, his archives contain one of the largest private collections of portraits of professors, scientists and doctors.
He recently completed a 10 city "Location Lighting workshop Tour" of England, Ireland and Wales and is now is doing the U.S. circuit. His 2012 Workshop Schedule that covers 10 cities coast-to-coast is below: (excludes the ones that have already passed).
- May 25th & 26th at Calumet in New York
- June 1st & 2nd at Calumet in San Francisco
- June 4th & 5th at Calumet in LA
- June 8th & 9th at Calumet in San Diego
- June 23 - Boston, MA Creating with your DSLR
- September 22nd & 23rd at Calumet in Cambridge, MA
July 13, 2011
ScanCafe for Quality Slide & Negative Scans
I recently had nearly 2,000 slides scanned from a service called ScanCafe, a company based in Burlingame, CA in the heart of Silicon Valley. I love their story and how it all started because it's not dissimilar to my own.
One of the ScanCafe's co-founder who I've yet to meet, had to travel back to Switzerland to attend the funeral of his grandfather. They tell the story: "Every family seems to have a family archivist, and among his many gifts, Laurent's grandfather was an enthusiastic photographer, who left behind countless Agfacolor prints, slides and negatives. As the engineer in the family, Laurent volunteered to scan in all those old photographs so that they could be shared with the extended family, who are scattered all over the world. Many of these photos, in fact, had been forgotten altogether...." I'll stop right there.
They nailed it at the "need" level and solving a real problem and that's the point. Many of the photos in our lives are forgotten altogether. I went through a simliar situation, once when I had to hand scan and photocopy (yes really) slides from the 1940s for a family reunion when my grandfather was still alive. Disjointed as our extended family is and despite the fact that reunions and get togethers used to be plentiful in my childhood, they had waned and in fact, were resented because of the amount of work it took to make a meet-up happen. Recapturing earlier family memories rebonded my relatives and for me personally, it gave me a deeper understanding and perspective of what made our family culture tick.
Forward wind the clock to when my grandfather finally passed and I wanted to do the same thing at the funeral. With very little notice, I had didn't have the time to convert the best of his life, so I resorted to showing slides on a rickety old machine that was scratchy, hard to manage and frankly, just didn't do the job. The equipment was old and outdated. When I was a kid, no one minded swapping out slide after slide and manning a machine because it was the only option available.
I learned about ScanCafe from my friend Rick Smolan, who is an amazing photographer and had ordered his own slide scan batches through their service. Having tested a few of my slides on a friend's high-end scanner, I was disappointed by the grainy results and weary that any service could return the clarity or color quality on a set of slides that were over 80 years old. I also had a stack of slides from SE Asia that were nearly 20 years old, many of which were sadly scratched and poorly stored.
ScanCafe's results were incredibly good not to mention the fact that their service and marketing team aced it. Since I am who I am, I had an endless set of questions, not to mention fears and concerns about parting with the only copy of some of the most memorable moments in my life. A huge call out to their head of marketing Wade Lagrone who walked me through the process before I embarked on the image scanning journey. Step-by-step, he assured me that my slides would be safe and sound and why.
One of the reasons I was concerned about the safety of the slides is the fact that they ship them to their scanning facility in Bangalore India and my fears had to do more with shipping mishaps than anything on the ground in India. Sure, things get lost from time-to-time when you ship things overseas but more often than not, they tend to be small uninsured parcels with no tracking numbers. The risk is dramatically reduced when you're shipping something in a massive crate, one which is so large that it would be pretty hard to misplace or suddenly go missing. Point taken.
The process is pretty simple. You can either order boxes through them which includes peanuts for protection or use your own. If the latter, be sure to take their tips for a smoother process, such as how to pack your slides and reduce the risk of scratching and extra movement during shipping.
After they do a run through of your photos, they allow you to review them and only order the ones you want, which is a fabulous feature. Why pay for the ones that are lousy? And, how would you know if you've never gone through a process like this before or had a clue about the quality of the results?
Once you review them and say yay or nay to your images, they ship them back to you on CDs clearly marked in a similar way to the way you tagged them when you sent them. In my case, I marked things by region and country and put them in separate plastic bags, all of which was logged on a separte piece of paper I could refer to later. The result was zero confusion on the receiving end as to what slide scan went with a specific period of time, event, person or trip.
Sending your valuable and precious memories is a stressful and emotional experience for most of us. If it's the only photo of your parents or grandparents in a particular embrace or with a particular smile that you resonate with, the thought of losing your only copy is painful.
I would use ScanCafe again in a heartbeat and based on my research, the feedback I've received about competing services and of course my own positive results, these guys are the best gig around, hands down. Below are some of the results from their scans...bear in mind the age of some of these images and the fact that many had faded through direct and indirect sunlight and have been severly scratched over the years.
The below scan of India came from a slide which is about 20 years old.
May 30, 2011
Utah Canyon Shoot: Testing New Graphic Tripod in the Desert Cold
On a recent trip to Utah, I had not yet tried out my new graphite tripod, the one I spent far too much on but did so because it is a full length one and yet it folds down to 12 inches and weighs a mere two pounds. When the sun started setting, a light jacket was no longer enough, but you forget about these things when you’re a photographer on a mission.
There I was with four other photographers who were clearly already “one” with their tripods and experienced with cold evening “waits” for that precise moment when you snap that killer shot. Freezing cold despite my layers, I observed them as much as I did the canyon before me which was changing color by the minute as we neared 8 pm. Since I was told the magic time was between 5 and 7, I didn’t realize I’d be standing out there for nearly four hours until 9 pm turning into ice.
The good news is that my photographer counterparts (Canadian, French, Swedish and a New Yorker) were great companions and even offered me some of their tools to play with, such as a cool blue filter and different lenses. They were two for two (two Nikons and two Canons) and I had my Canon 7D with me and my new 85 (1.2) lens. We all tried various settings and I found myself going through flash card after flash card since I was shooting raw. I seem to go through more cards driving through Utah than my last shoot in Paris somehow.
I found myself cursing how long the sun was taking to deliver the optimal moment given how cold it was, but alas it came and it really didn’t arrive until close to 8:30 pm. Once you’ve committed to waiting, you learn a helluva lot about your camera and about the way other photographers think and work.
What I realized is that I’m not really a wide angle landscape fan even though I always take those shots when the opportunity arises. I really love close ups of rocks, landscapes, fauna and earth; it’s the textures and depth of the land that turns me on rather than the expansive aspect of a horizon.
Perhaps it’s because I like getting my hands dirty; I like being “in” a situation creating from within rather than observing from the outside. Not sure if that makes me a producer, director, artist or just high maintenance or a variation of all three, but although I left completely satisfied, I was thinking on my drive back to my hotel, how much I was looking forward to using the tripod for model shots more so than mountain ones.
May 15, 2011
Testing Out Photosynth: Photo Stitching Technology
Testing out stitching technology using Photosynth, a free iPhone app at TEDx this past weekend.
March 20, 2011
My Top 12 Apps for #SXSW or any Conference for That Matter
After a gruelling week (translation: no food or sleep) in Austin for SXSW, I took a look at the apps I used most frequently and why.
Here's my top pick: the top 12 apps, most of which are iPhone apps, but some of them I also used on my laptop.
Plancast: Plancast is doing remarkable things given that it's still only a team of three. I had a chance to hang a bit with founders Jay Marcyes and Mark Hendrickson on the main floor early on. When I brought up the issue of Plancast seeing multiple accounts (this happens if you check in with Twitter the first time and another social network like Facebook the second time around). They know about it and can now automatically merge accounts. I used it to see where friends and colleagues were going to hang throughout the week, including international folks. It also included guest lists of some of SXSW’s biggest events and parties, which was instrumental for planning SXSW in advance. Since you can also see how many people (and who) signed up for each one, the sheer volume can give you an idea of whether its likely to be crowded with long lines or have a smaller more intimate feel.
Foursquare: While I'm not a heavy user of Foursquare or any location-based service app on a regular basis, I find it incredibly useful at conferences where a large number of known colleagues, companies and industry people will gather. I used it just like I did last year....to see where friends were traveling and when so we could hook up. While I used email and texting in advance to line up "must-do" meetings, it was incredibly useful to get a sense of who was going where and when. You could also get a sense of where the "geeks" were hanging out vis a vis the big brands, the marketers, the early adopters, the bloggers and so on.
Twitter: Hands down, I still used Twitter more than any other app at the conference, with Foursquare coming in a close second. And yes, I used it on my laptop during sessions and on my iPhone during after hours.
iPhone App SXSW Go: I couldn't have lived without this at SXSW this year. Trying to cover Interactive and Film while also trying to catch a few music acts in between it all, was mind boggling even with a full night's sleep, no alcohol and tons of caffeine. The search funtion allows you to search for a few key words of a talk you're looking for or a person who is speaking and you can also navigate within the app by each section of the event: Interactive, Film or Music. Or, you can search across all three.
iPhone App Wi-Fi Finder: With thoThe app actually works. You can set it to automatic and it will pull up known places within a certain parameter. It also lets you know if its locked, paid or free so you can make the best possible choice. It apparently also has an international feature to find hot spots outside the U.S. as well. (useful for international conferences/events if you do many of those).
Hootsuite on the iPhone: If you manage more than one Twitter account like I do, Hootsuite on the iPhone is a great user experience, especially when it comes to managing streams of your accounts as well as your lists. I can easily and quickly scroll down a handful of accounts to determine who has DMed me recently or not. While SXSW was particularly cluttered and it was easy to miss messages, HootSuite still provided me with the most efficient way to manage the process. BTW, on the Blackberry, I'm still a huge fan of Seesmic.
Bump: I just met Bump co-founder Jake Mentz at DEMO three weeks ago and I have to admit, I gave him a hard time the night after his presentation because frankly, I simply didn't 'get it.' He was patient and took the time to share various scenarios of where it would be useful and frankly, where and when it wouldn't. I did my first "bump" with USA Today reporter & pal Ed Baig.
The first time didn't work but when it did, we both had an aha moment. I'm still not sure I see myself using this app frequently although I DO get the times where it could be useful, such as the time I was introduced to a friend of a friend who I knew I wanted to stay in touch with. We were both at a dark (and loud bar) without business cards and no pens. One bump and we both had each other's data, photos, Twitter handles and Facebook account information. Useful. I'm such a card junkie to be honest and still write down notes from our meeting including a visual to remind me of them, i.e., purple scarf who was a Social CRM geek. You get the idea.
Urban Spoon (Austin Eats): Given how insane my schedule was this year, I actually didn't have TIME to eat. I kid you not. I went four days living off nacho chips and diet coke, something that works when you're 22 and in college, but not when you're covering hundreds of panels, events, and films over the course of a few days. After the fourth day, I started tapping into Urban Spoon for recommended BBQ joints and food trucks (great ones on the East Side of Sixth Street -- under the bridge).
Foodspotting: See above. I needed food, couldn't find food and 90% of the venues and parties didn't have food. Chips ain't enough friends. Foodspotting and Urban Spoon became close friends mid-way through the conference.
Uber for the iPhone: Uber is relatively new -- in fact, I read a New York Times article on an airplane (over someone's shoulder) before arriving. With hundreds (okay, thousands -- 50K you could say) of attendees all competing for far too few taxis and pedicabs, Uber comes to the rescue. Uber provides on-demand town car service via both its app and text messaging service. You simply launch a map so Uber determines where you are, lock down where you would like to be picked up and put in a credit card. (btw, Android is also supported). We used it a couple of times and yeah, it actually worked.
Instagram: All I heard about for months was Instagram, Instagram, Instagram, to the point where I was thinking "ENUF already." Then, peer pressure won as it often does in the technology industry and I tried it after migrating from my Blackberry to the iPhone. Okay, so I had many "this is really cool moments," especially when I could instantly make industry gurus and Apple fan boys blue, red and sepia with one button click. Instagram makes you feel like a ten year old again, a ten year old in art class who can create on the fly without a lot of effort. And so, I had a one month love affair with it, and then I got bored and went back to the regular iPhone camera - simple and quick and most of the time, did I really need antique, sepia or gothic additions? That said, during SXSW, I found it useful as photos with a little more texture and color can add depth, humor and a little "fun" to your tweets, especially when you're tweeting four times as much as you normally do.
Lastly, here's an app everyone seemed to be talking about at SXSW but I did NOT USE:
Beluga: Beluga is like having your own chat room with friends. Perhaps I didn't get this because I felt it was for a much younger demographic. Then again, I didn't really get into "using it" so perhaps there are wow moments I've yet to have with it. Beluga allows you to set up messaging groups, called “pods,” and then blast out messages to an entire group. Mobile chat room of the future? Hard to say, but where it could be useful if I were a tad more organized is setting up a group dinner at a restaurant in between parties on the fly.
Oddly, I pretty much ignored Facebook for most of the week although I did check in from time to time to make sure no one sent me messages there. (not the most efficient way to reach you when you're on the road). At least, it's not a great way to reach me.
March 18, 2011
Blurb Releases BookSmart 3.0
- Automatic two-page spreads - Drop your photo in our new two-page template and BookSmart automatically spans your photo across two pages with full bleed.
- Automatic book size change functionality - Now you can take an existing book project, click "Change Size" and create a smaller or larger version of your book. BookSmart automatically copies the entire contents of your book into the new book size and saves your original version so you can always order more.
They are also upgrading Blurb's standard end sheets. Currently, Blurb's end sheets are white. As of Wednesday, April 13, 2011, their standard end sheets across all hardcover books will be mid-grey and 30% thicker. There will be no extra charge for this end sheet upgrade.
Download BookSmart 3.0 and give it a try: http://www.blurb.com/create/book/download.
March 15, 2011
Creative Minds From Palm Springs to Long Beach to Los Angeles
A few visual highlights from Palm Springs to Long Beach to Los Angeles to consciousness to networking with filmmakers to a post TED soiree with friends in Encino and Santa Monica.
Below, Peter Hirschberg and Dan Gould.
Amanda Coolong, Dan Gould, Richard Green, Renee Blodgett, Jennifer Pogue
Photograph from JR Exhibit in Long Beach, this year's TED Prize winner