Friday, April 30, 2010

10 Questions

Heber Vega is a humanitarian worker and photographer. He's originally from Chile but now based in northern Iraq doing humanitarian work. Heber has a very informative blog and website. Currently, he's doing a series of interviews called "10 Questions", it's about photographers who shoot for NGOs (non-government humanitarian organizations).

He has interviewed several different photographers, and  last week interviewed me. He just posted the text and pictures on-line, this morning. If you would like to see the interviews and learn more about photographers who shoot for NGOs click here.

Have a great weekend.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Nikons arrived, my Canons are for Sale

Well, as much as I hate to do it, I'm selling my Canons. It's been 6 years that I've worked with them, but it's time to let 'em go. These two workhorses have done an admirable job for me and I have enjoyed making images all around the world with them, but the new Nikons were expensive, and it's time to recoup whatever is left of my original investment of $12,852 in May of 2004.

So, without further ado, here is the technical info and some images of my "legendary" Canons. If you, or anyone you know needs these, I'll be auctioning them off with a starting bid for the whole system of just $3500 USD (plus shipping). Please note that I will not be selling individual components of this system, it goes as a package deal. If you're interested just send me an email with your bid and when I get back from my assignment in Ecuador on May 8th, (if there are any bids) I'll contact the winner. My email is

In the case of a tie, I'll go with the person who's email came first. Please don't call my house, as my wife knows nothing about these cameras. I'm really hoping that by offering them up to you guys, my friends first, that the cameras will go to a good home....if nothing happens here, then they go to an Ebay auction and will probably end up being purchased by a re-seller who will clean them up, split up the set and sell the pieces individually for more.

The complete system includes the following:

2 Canon EOS 1D Mark II bodies
1 Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS Lens (USM)
1 Canonm EF 16-35 f/2.8L Lens (USM)
1 Canon EF 2x Extender II (mint condition..never used)
1 Canon Speedlight 580EX Flash
4 batteries Canon NIMH Battery Pack f/EOS 1D (they hold about 40% of their original longevity after a full charge). In other words, when I start a day with a fully charged battery and shoot 300-400 frames per camera, they would burn through one battery each.
All original boxes, lens cases, cables, software disks,1 like-new charger and 1 "thrashed" but repaired charger.
No lens caps, no straps, no UV filters (UV filters were always protecting the lenses but now I'm transferring those filters to my Nikons).

 click on image to enlarge, then click again to see full size

As you can see by the pictures in this link, the bodies and lenses are pretty "rough" on the outside, but they are in excellent working order. The lenses have no scratches on the front or rear elements. My buddy Ken Rockwell tested and reviewed the 70-200 after I dropped it a few years ago, see that review here . Ken commented... "Not only does this dropped lens still work, it's one of the best lenses I've tested for real-world use".

I recently slipped and fell on wet pavement while working in Hanoi...the body with the 16-35 lens hit the ground, but it's still working just fine. That story here.

Both bodies have over 160,000 shutter releases. One had a defective shutter which Canon replaced free of charge after about 40,000 and it's now at 126,051, the other shutter is at 162,611. These shutters are rated for 200,000, but often work well beyond those predictions. So, even if the shutters die at 200,000 frames, you still have a combined total of over 70,000 shots left, or the equivalent of 1,944 - 36 exposure rolls of film before taking them in to Canon to have new shutters installed.

I have tried to answer any and all possible questions here but if you need to know something else about the cameras, please email me rather than leaving a comment on the blog, as I won't be looking at comments nearly as often as checking my email. And, again, I'm going to be in Ecuador until the 8th, so emails won't necessarily be replied to quickly either. Sorry.

Again, please don't call the house, my wife has no info on the cameras.

Anyway, I would love to see these bodies continue to be used, they would be great tools for someone who's on a budget, and  needs or wants a professional system. I was making a living, selling the images that I was shooting with these cameras just last month, perhaps you can too.

If you are new to this blog and you would like to know a bit more about me, here's a link to a recent interview I did about my work as a humanitarian photographer.



see more photos below, click on each image to expand

Monday, April 19, 2010

It’s official, I’m announcing retirement:

The retirement of the two Canon Mark II bodies and the 16-35 and 70-200 lenses that have served me so well over the last 6 years. These two workhorses have been the tools which have helped me earn a living. They have been by my side through thick & thin, and then some. I’ve lived with them and enjoyed them as friends. I’ve slept with my head resting on them during train rides across India, I’ve protected them from would-be robbers in Haiti, and hid them under beds in Kabul, Cotabato and Cali. I've been tossed out of Cuba with them when I couldn't convince immigration officials that I was a vacationing tourist who just happened to have worn-looking professional cameras. My Canons have been locked up with my PackSafe in countless five-dollar-a-night hotels around the globe. I’ve shot them, unprotected, in heavy downpours in East Timor and in the dust storms of Southern Sudan. I’ve made images of Rajasthani rickshaw drivers and watched their eyes light up as I showed them their picture on the screen. I’ve handed them to novice monks in Burma and watched in delight as they discovered, wide-eyed, about the magic of digital photography.
Although I have mishandled them, including one incident when I dropped my 70-200 nine feet down, off of an elephant, (that story here) and Ken Rockwell's review of the amazingly undamaged lens here), only once did these Cameras ever let me down; that was in Sri Lanka, back in 2006 while shooting one-year anniversary of the Tsunami when a shutter broke (story here).  
But alas, technology marches forward in this new age of building faster, lighter, better, sharper cameras every 6months. In “digital camera years” these Mark II bodies are dinosaurs. In order to serve my clients well, and provide them with the best images I can deliver, it’s time to replace them with upgraded technology. So, a few days ago I pulled the trigger and ordered two Nikon D3s’s from Adorama…..Nikon you gasp…yep, that’s right, Nikon. After much thought and a thorough analysis of the costs, I have decided to switch back to Nikon. You may remember my story in 2004 when I was robbed of my two trusted D1X’s while in a really bad neighborhood in Lima Peru (story here).  
The debate that many photographers have over Nikon vs Canon, is something that has never really interested me, and I’ve always said that which camera you’re using doesn’t make a difference (see my quote in the last paragraph here.
My decision to “upgrade” is based on the improvement in picture quality at high ISO’s which I believe to be the most significant advancement in recent years, and my decision to switch from Canon to Nikon is based mostly on economic reasons....Let me explain: The way I see it, at this time, Nikon offers a full frame pro body with high ISO capability for $5000 while Canon’s full frame Mark IIIs is $6,115 and lacks high the newer, cleaner, high ISO settings. Since I have to buy two bodies, the math is simple. I can get 2 Nikon bodies, the 2 new lenses I need (the17-35 f2.8 and the new 70-200 f2.8), one extra battery and a flash (SB-400) for $14,609, while with Canon, it would cost me $12,229 for 2 full-frame 1Ds Mark III  bodies, (old technology with max 1600 ISO), plus another $2499 for the new improved 70-200 2.8, for a total of $14,729 . (Replacing the 16-35 2.8 would add another $1,520, but of course, I could just keep using my existing 16-35, 2.8).
Perhaps some would say, “but you can get the 5D Mark II for $2,500”…..I know, I know, but I need the toughness of professional bodies which can withstand the rigors and abuse that I will be subjecting them to, as well as ergonomics that don’t allow dials to be accidentally rotated when bumped (this is a problem I see with the command dial on the 5D Mark II). And then there was the option to get the new Canon Mark IV but I really wanted to get back to a full frame, for the little bit of extra wideness rather than stay with the 1.3 crop factor.
So; soon, I’ll be shooting Nikon again. Frankly, I’m looking forward to something new. Change is good, that’s one of the reasons I love my job so much…whether it’s traveling to a new country, covering a new story or in this case, getting new camera gear; change offers me an opportunity to learn something new.
Sure, I’ll have to get used to lenses that mount and zoom in the reverse direction, and yes, I’ll have to read an owner’s manual the size of an encyclopedia, but hell, why not, I need something to do on my next 16 hour trans-pacific flight.
As for the future of my 2 “gently” used, near “mint condition” Canons (ha ha), I’ll be selling those in order to help defer the cost of the new Nikons. So, if you know someone who might be interested in buying them, let me know, I’ll give them a great deal.



Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Model Release?

I get a ton of questions regarding model releases, and to tell you the truth, I rarely if ever get them because most of the images I create are for editorial use. That being said, there are occasions when I want or need to obtain a model release.
Woman, Wad Shamam,  Sudan (no, I did not get a model release)

It's always a pain digging through the camera bag (which is usually back at the hotel, or in the vehicle, too far away to get at) for a paper copy of a model release. So, when I learned from my friend Matt Brandon (The Digital Trekker) about Easy Release, available as an iPhone App, I went ahead and grabbed it for $9.99. It's an amazing tool which just eliminated another piece of paper that I had to worry about carrying around. Wow, every time I am away for a few months I come back and something newer, faster, easier has come along!
Easy Release works like download it onto your iphone or ipod touch, fill in the "photographer details" and next time you need to get a release you follow the on-screen instructions, and have the subject of your photo sign right on the screen of your iPhone. When it's all done, you email yourself, and the model a copy (including a PDF with a photo if you like) and you're done!
Moro Islamic Liberation Front Fighters, Cotabato, Mindanao, The Philippines 2009
(no, I did not get a model release)
Be advised, it does take a bit of time to fill in all the information using the tiny screen on your iphone, as you stand there, in the field with the model, but in the long run, having a digital copy makes a lot of sense, and the time and effort is probably worth it.

Here's the link to the App Store page for Easy Release

Below please find and exerpt from the American Society of Media Photographers about model releases. (full tutorial here)

"A release is a written agreement between you and the person you are photographing, or the person who owns the property you are photographing. The purpose of the release is to protect you from any future lawsuits the person might file for claims such as defamation and invasion of privacy.

A model release says the person being photographed has given consent to be photographed and to the use of the images you capture. It doesn’t just apply to professional models or situations where people know they are posing for photos. You should seek to get a signed model release any time that your photos contain recognizable images of people, unless you are certain that you will never want to use them for anything other than editorial purposes.

A property release says that the owner of a certain property, such as a pet or a building, has given you consent to take and use images of the property. You don’t need one for public property, such as government buildings (although you may run into problems just from photographing them, for security reasons). But for images of private property — and particularly of objects that are closely identified with specific people — you are safer if you get a release.

The releases you obtain should be saved forever and should be linked in some way with the photographs to which they relate. You can expect to be asked to produce them whenever you license an image, and you will need them if you ever have to defend yourself in court."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Coke, Color and Cops

Coca-Cola, or "nectar of the gods" as I call it, is the one thing that you can usually find, no matter where you are in the world. Zambuanga, Mindanao, the Philippines was no exception. I liked the combination of texture, color and shape in this scene, which I noticed on the side of the shop were I had just purchased a cold Coke.
I'm always on the lookout for great color combinations, and this mixture of blue with a dash of red caught my eye. The image was shot from the back window of the vehicle I was traveling in while stopped at a stoplight in Koronadal, Mindanao, the Philippines. Waiting for the boy to notice me as he peered out of the garage, I squeezed off a frame at the very moment our eyes met.
Cops are usually the guys you want to be friendly with, especially in dicey areas. While in Cotabato, Mindanao, the Philippines, I got to know the policeman who was in charge of the checkpoint on a bridge on the outskirts of town. On the day that I left, I asked to make his photo, he happily complied.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Back in San Diego

I can't believe that it's been over three months since my early January departure for Sri Lanka to cover a story about post-war peacebuilding for the Asia Foundation . That assignment, followed by other NGO jobs, and my work leading 2 back-to-back photo tours in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia as well as a new photo tour to Vietnam, has kept me pretty busy.

I'll be home for a while, catching up on correspondence, re-supplying, recharging and enjoying the comforts and conveniences of San Diego.

It's always nice to come back and see some of the mail that has accumulated, including publications that have come in, from clients who have used some of the images that I shot for them.(below EductionDevelopmentCenter's use of an image I shot for them in East Timor)

It's also my opportunity to catch up on reading and get inspired...mostly by my magazine subscriptions including NPPA and National Geographic.

Once I dig out from under tons of correspondence and catch up on phone calls, I'll have a surprise announcement for you gear-heads, so please stay tuned, and as always, thanks for following the blog.

Cheers, Karl