Monday, May 24, 2010


The Nekton Liveabords have been a staple of the SCUBA and Underwater Photography world for many years.  They have ceased operations as of May 17th.  The Aggressor fleet is picking up their reservations.  Sorry to see them go.  Click below for more

Saturday, May 22, 2010


If you are an underwater photographer, being able to view and compose a photo using a D-SLR in a housing is much more challenging than on land.  Nikonos photographers using an accessory viewfinder and those using a digital Point & Shoot camera screen do not have problems viewing with most diving masks.

The way to make viewing and composing easier with D-SLRs is to use a PHOTOGRAPHER'S MASK.  By definition, a Photographer's Mask is a mask with:
  • BLACK or Dark SKIRT, 
  • Low Volume and 
  • Very close to the eyes.
Of course, the most important feature of a mask is correct fit.  Once you have established that you like a mask, the advantage of the black skirt is that reflections are eliminated.  These can interfere with viewing inside the housing.

Low Volume allows for a design that gets the glass of the mask close to the eyes.  This gets your eye a more normal distance to the camera viewfinder inside the housing and allows you to see more of the entire image in the viewfinder.  Using a standard Diving mask, there is a high likelihood there will be severe vignetting, cutting off the edges of view.  Your photos will most likely be poorly composed and require a lot of cropping.  The mask on the left is considerably closer to the eyes than the one on the right, and provides room for a prominent proboscus.

Composing the Sea Lion dance here required a good clear view and fast reflexes.

Click here to see some more examples of my underwater favorites.

I currently use a Cressi Matrix mask.

Other Black Skirt examples are: the Cressi Superocchio, ScubaPro Framless, Essence Liquidskin Mask, Atomic SubFrame, Mares X-Vision or the Oceanic Shadow.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Resuming the discussion from yesterday, clearly the camera manufacturers, the printer manufacturers and the ancillary frame manufacturers and art world never break bread at the same table.  In the sophisticated age of 2010, looking at the absolute chaos and mishmash of formats and Aspect Ratios, the physical photo landscape looks like:
  • Software printing preset sizes (Photoshop, Lightroom, et al.)
  • Printer Paper sizes
  • Frame sizes, 
  • Chip sensor sizes 
  • Backing material sizes and 
  • Mounting Adhesive sizes
were all designed in a Vacuum.   This may all be moot as hanging a photo on the wall becomes a quaint memory.  

MY vote is that 4 x 6, 6 x 9 and 8 x 12 OUGHT to be the 21st century standards of 1.5 to 1 ratio.  There is a 2 inch increase as you go up the scale of the proportions: 4, 6, 8.  These represent 80% of the worlds cameras see below from Wikipedia. The sizes of 5 x 7 and 8 x 10 need to go away forever.

Wikipedia entry:
As of 2008, DSLR sales are dominated by Canon's and Nikon's offerings. For 2007, Canon edged out Nikon with 41% of worldwide sales to the latter's 40%, followed by Sony and Olympus each with approximately 6% market share.[27] In the Japanese domestic market, Nikon captured 43.3% to Canon's 39.9%, with Pentax a distant third at 6.3%.[28]


Full Frame 35mm & APS-C   =  1.5 x 1 = 4 x 6 print =  8 x 12 print = 6 x 9 print   Most Canon & Nikon D-SLRs

APS-H   =  1.81 x 1  (a few high-end, very high speed Canon models)
4/3 rds  =  1.33 x 1   Olympus / Pentax

4 x 6 Print   3:2 = 1.5 x 1 (See above)
5 x 7 Print  = 1.4 x 1
6 x 9 Print - 1.5 x1 
8 x 10 Print  = 1.25 X 1
8.5 x 11 Print  = 1.29 x 1
8 x 12 Print = 1.5 x 1

4/3 rds = 1.33 x 1 = Standard TV
16 x 9 = HDTV

1:1 = Square

Speaking of format, I highly recommend the book: Photographic Composition by Grill & Scanlon.
Photographic Composition

For an offbeat look at format, Panoramic breaks all the rules.  Click here for an example.


Monday, May 17, 2010

DECLARING WAR - Frame & Paper Manufacturers

I have declared WAR on the printer Paper manufacturers and ALL the Frame People. 

The war is about The Business world being 8.5 x 11 and the same for digital photo printing.  The traditional film photo world was 8 x 10.  Film is gone, but the Frame People AINT CHANGING!  Maybe the digital people don't frame anything and the endangered species (remaining film people) still go to Costco and have an 8x10 made.

There has been no transition to keep up with plethora of formats since the digital revolution.  Now add on Mounting Board sizes, mounting tissue and being able to frame in 2010 is a complete mess. 

Go into Adorama or B&H in NYC and you see rows and rows of 8.5 x 11 paper.  Go into an art Store like Pearl or Michaels and you can barely see any 8.5 x 11 frames except for the cheap certificate frames.  Now that we have the extra size of the 8.5 x 11 the helpful employees that can't sell me the frame size I need, cheerfully suggest that I "cut the picture to fit."  That is not the right solution!

Going on-line to Print?  Costco offers 8 x 10  or  8 x 12!

Ever shoot medium format in the film days?  I loved the square format a Hasselblad could produce.  Don't get me started on being able to find frames.  It is all custom, naturally.  Still, here is a nice square composition from Sulawesi Indonesia.  It is a nudibranch, Nembrotha cristata.  To see more from the Sulawesi trip, click here.

I invite your comments.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Adobe says they are now shipping Adobe Photoshop CS5 but Amazon says they shipping May 25th.  I am not sure when Adobe is actually putting the boxes in the mail.

This is major upgrade with the easy to use and controversial CONTENT AWARE FILL feature.  This is a powerful new feature that makes editing faster and smarter.  The downside is that it has lots of implications for retouching such as EASILY removing your watermark from photos you want to protect.

At the recent NAPP seminar at Javitz Convention center, they told us that Noise reduction in Camera Raw is improved and hopefully we will not have to rely on plug-ins like Noise Ninja.  This improvement will also affect the performance of Lightroom as it uses Camera Raw as its processing engine too.

There is improved full HDR functionality, so Photomatix may no longer be necessary For the HDR crowd.  Adobe giveth, Adobe taketh away.   And, so cool, there is now a mini-Bridge built into Photoshop.

In addition to new features, Adobe put their development team to attack over three dozen "annoyances" or fixes.

Click here for the Abobe site for CS5   Adobe upgrade is $199, full version $699

Note there is a Student and Teacher edition for $199 at Amazon if you meet their criteria.  This has ALL the features of the regular version.

Windows Student & Teacher Version

Mac Student & Teacher Version

Ugrades from Amazon are $191.  You can upgrade from the following versions:
  • Photoshop CS2, CS3, & CS4
  • Photoshop CS3 & CS4 Extended
For more information on eligibility, visit

Windows Upgrade

Mac Upgrade

Full Version from Amazon is $661.

Windows Full Version

Mac Full Version

Check out my fine art gallery which was made possible by Photoshop. 


Saturday, May 8, 2010


Quick update - we have a venue change for this Wednesday: 

I will be presenting a multimedia program and slide show of the Manatees of Crystal River, Florida on Wednesday May 12 to the NYC Sea Gypsies club in Manhattan. All are welcome.

Old Castle Pub & Restaurant
160 West 54th Street (around the corner from MOMA)
New York, NY 10019-5301
(212) 471-4860

Friday, May 7, 2010


Metadata in Digital Photography can be a subject attacking the brain 180 degress from the creative instincts of most photographers.  BORING.  But is is a critical topic to understand because of Intellectual Property rights, Copyright issues and use on the Internet in particular.  It is also important for your sanity in being able to find find images in the archive on your hard drive.

Most searches bring up a drab computer definition stating that metadata is "Data about data."  This doesn't do anything for me regarding photography.  So I came up with one.

What is Photographic Metadata?
“Useful information written into your photo file that will identify who owns it, what camera took it along with exposure information and keywords describing the photo making it SEARCHABLE.  Some is written by the camera and some is input by the photographer after downloading to a computer."

I invite your comments.

Now Metadata can include GPS tags that would locate where this picture of the Manthiri Liveaboard Dive Boat was taken in the Maldive Islands.   See more of my Nautical gallery.

The excellent book, The DAM Book, Second Edition, by Peter Krough has a good relevant definition on page 64 but it is too long.

The DAM Book: Digital Asset Management for Photographers

Monday, May 3, 2010


Ikelite recently upgraded it venerable D-SLR Underwater Housing.  The main improvement is the addition of two additional port locks bringing the total to four.  I have been using Ikelite camera housings since 1980 with no major issues or floods and I used to sell them as well.  Older housings can be upgraded for a couple of hundred dollars and to my mind, it is almost like getting a brand new housing for the price of a tuneup. Details can be viewed here.

Some folks have been critical of Ikelite because of port lock failures but I never had an issue.  I was and still are RELIGIOUS about watching the port lock indicators snap to attention to be sure they are locked.  I used the two lock system for years without incident.

The other improvement to the housing is the addition of a  1/4 Screw socket at the top of the housing.  This is ideal for mounting a Focusing light, small video camera in its housing, etc.

In practice, the housing is still an excellent performer as it always has been.  Of the "serious" housings for shooting underwater, Ikelite is perhaps the most versatile choice depending on your camera model.  Some Olympus D-SLR housings might be be less expensive, but will not work with non-Olympus systems.  However, Ikelite is not as expensive as the metal housings.  That can leave you with extra money to buy a BACK UP BODY as insurance against the unthinkable.  We always travel with back up bodies for each housing.

You can purchase Ikelite housings here.

Here is a hilarious new photo from the Crystal River, Florida trip using the new Ikelite housing.  The Manatee is fine, just sleeping upside down.  I could almost hear the snoring.  Click here to see a larger version in the Lighter Side Gallery.