Category Archives: Photography

Images of the sunny morning sky in Gardena


Two shots captured off our second-floor balcony this morning.

First, a look at a sunlit cloud in an otherwise clear and brilliant sky, cleansed by days of rain that ended yesterday:

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 13 January 2017, ISO 160, 7.9 mm, 1/500 sec, f4.0

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 13 January 2017, ISO 160, 7.9 mm, 1/500 sec, f4.0

A minute later we were drawn by a sound we’d nearly forgotten from our years in California, thumping out a few hundred feet overhead:

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 13 January 2017, ISO 400, 86 mm, 1/500 sec, f6.4

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 13 January 2017, ISO 400, 86 mm, 1/500 sec, f6.4

Back 40 years ago we lived in Hollywood, then in its seedier years.

Because of the high crime rate in the area, our apartment was frequently overflown by police and news helicopters in search of moscreants.

So ubiquitous were the whirlybirds that the first word other than ma-ma and da-da uttered by toddler son Derald was heli-heli, ususally accompanied by an upthrust right hand, pointing at the aircraft.

UPDATE: Another shot, taken from the same vantage point as the first, depicting this evening’s sunset:

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 13 January 2017, ISO 160, 4.3 mm, 1/125 sec, f3.3

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 13 January 2017, ISO 160, 4.3 mm, 1/125 sec, f3.3

Mr. Fish: Making America Great Again


From Clowncrack, his blog of patrial puissance:

blog-fish

The image is based on one of the most famous photographs taken during the Vietnam War and captured by Eddie Adams of the Associated Press, the summary execution by South Vietnam’s chief of the National Police Nguyen Ngoc Loan of a handcuffed prisoner on 1 February 1968 during the famous Tet Offensive:

blog-fish-photo

Caution: Selfies may be hazardous to your health


Not just hazardous, but lethal, as two new stories reveal.

We’ve noted before the sometimes calamitous nature of our indulgence in digital narcissism, with selfie-snapping stupidity now listed as a cause of more deaths than shark attacks.

Wikipedia even maintains a list of selfie-related deaths and injuries.

And now we have two more tragedies to add to the list.

We start with a fatality

First from the Press Trust of India:

A 21-year-old engineering student died when he was hit by a speeding train while trying to take a selfie here in the wee hours today, police said. The incident occurred past midnight when the student was returning after celebrating New Year, they said.

Gunasekharan, a resident of Dindigul district studying at a private college in the city’s outskirt, died on the spot when he was trying to take a selfie with the train in the background using his mobile phone, police said.

The victim was hit by the train and hurled at a distance of around 100 feet, they said.

And a near-lethal bite from a crocodile

And while the consequences of the second selfie disaster weren’t lethal, they could’ve been.

From Radio France International:

A French tourist has been bitten by a crocodile in a Thai national park as whe tried to take a selfie with the beast. She was taken to hopsital and is expected to recover.

The crocodile bit 47-year-old Muriel Benetulier on the leg when she ignored warning signs and approached it to take a selfie, park officials said.

The incident took place at the Khao Yai national park, three hours north of Bangkok.

Local media posted pictures of park rangers dressed in camouflage carrying the victim strapped to a stretcher, a thick bandage around her knee. Another photo showed a ranger pointing to a pool of blood close to a sign saying in Thai and English “Danger Crocodile No Swimming”.

Fearful photographers call for camera encryption


While the security-conscious among us rely on encryption to protect our phones and computers, there’s another piece of hardware where matters just as much — the digital camera.

And for journalists, camera encryption can be a matter of life and death, both for the photographer and for her sources.

The increasing intrusiveness of state law enforcement and security makes encryption all the more necessary, and now some of the world’s leading photographers are calling on camera manufacturers to include sophisticated encryption in their hardware.

It’s a call we heartily endorse.

From Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation:

Freedom of the Press Foundation is publishing an open letter to the world’s leading camera manufacturers—including Nikon, Sony, Canon, Olympus, and Fuji—urging them to build encryption into their still photo and video cameras to help protect the filmmakers and photojournalists who use them.

The letter is signed by over 150 documentary filmmakers and photojournalists from around the world, including fifteen Academy Award nominees and winners, such as Laura Poitras, Alex Gibney, Joshua Oppenheimer, and many more.

Documentary filmmakers and photojournalists work in some of the most dangerous parts of the world, often risking their lives to get footage of newsworthy events to the public. They face a variety of threats from border security guards, local police, intelligence agents, terrorists, and criminals when attempting to safely return their footage so that it can be edited and published. These threats are particularly heightened any time a bad actor can seize or steal their camera, and they are left unprotected by the lack of security features that would shield their footage from prying eyes.

The magnitude of this problem is hard to overstate: Filmmakers and photojournalists have their cameras and footage seized at a rate that is literally too high to count. The Committee to Protect Journalists, a leading organization that documents many such incidents, told us:

“Confiscating the cameras of photojournalists is a blatant attempt to silence and intimidate them, yet such attacks are so common that we could not realistically track all these incidents. The unfortunate truth is that photojournalists are regularly targeted and threatened as they seek to document and bear witness, but there is little they can do to protect their equipment and their photos.” (emphasis added)

Camera manufacturers are behind the times compared to other technology companies. All iPhones and many Android phones come with encryption built into their devices. Communications services like Apple’s iMessage and FaceTime, plus Facebook’s WhatsApp, encrypt texts messages and calls by default. And major operating systems on PCs and Macs give users the ability to encrypt the hard drives on their computers. Yet footage stored on the professional cameras most commonly used today are still left dangerously vulnerable.

Finding the right way to do provide encryption in their products will take some research and development from these camera manufacturers, and we welcome having a conversation with Nikon, Sony, Canon and others about how to best move forward on this important initiative. However, we are hopeful they will publicly respond with a commitment to building encryption into their products to protect many of their most vulnerable customers.

We’d like to thank Field of Vision, the International Documentary Association, National Press Photographers Assocation, and Sundance’s Documentary Films Program, who we partnered with on this project and who all helped organize this effort. The letter below is addressed to Canon, and nearly identical letters have been sent to Sony, Nikon, Fuji, and Olympus:


Dear Canon,

We, the undersigned documentary filmmakers and photojournalists, are writing to urge your company to build encryption features into your still photo and video camera products. These features, which are currently missing from all commercial cameras on the market, are needed to protect our safety and security, as well as that of our sources and subjects worldwide.

Without encryption capabilities, photographs and footage that we take can be examined and searched by the police, military, and border agents in countries where we operate and travel, and the consequences can be dire.

We work in some of the most dangerous parts of the world, often attempting to uncover wrongdoing in the interests of justice. On countless occasions, filmmakers and photojournalists have seen their footage seized by authoritarian governments or criminals all over the world. Because the contents of their cameras are not and cannot be encrypted, there is no way to protect any of the footage once it has been taken. This puts ourselves, our sources, and our work at risk.

Image of the day: Well, back to the drawing board


Back in Berkeley, our avian neighbors included Coopers hawks [subjects of lots of our previous photos], parrots, and assorted other colorful critters, but here at the new Casa esnl in Gardena, our most prominent feathered friends are seagulls and swallows.

The most prominent sight from our balcony is a hulking four-story apartment building, whose owners decided they had to do something to keep birds from doing what they do-do, installing a flock of those fake owls on the parapets.

Here’s how effective they are:

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 20 October 2016, ISO 125, 86 mm, 1/500 sec, f6.4

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 20 October 2016, ISO 125, 86 mm, 1/500 sec, f6.4

Images, flags, burning desires, and Vietnam


Following up on our previous post about Donald Trump’s to criminalize and deport folks who burn flags as a means of protesting malignant policies of the American government, we are old enough to remember the Vietnam War, the American government’s failed effort to cement a regime in then-South Vietnam that would dance to a tune orchestrated in Washington.

At the start of World War II, Vietnam was part of the French colony of Indochina, and during the war, Japan invaded and seized control of the region, and a powerful guerilla movement spring up under Ho Chi Minh — who was provided with arms and advisors by the Allies.

Nine years after the war’s end, Vietnam was ruled by Emperor Bao Dai, who had grown increasingly unpopular, Ho’s forces, meanwhile had turned against the French, inflicting a disastrous and decisive defeat of a trapped French army at the battle of Dien Bien Phu on 7 May 1954.

As a result, the nation was partitioned at, with the north governed by Ho and his allies, and Bao Dai ruling in the South, with an election to be held in 1956 to decide on reunification and the leadership of a united Vietnam.

But with U.S. back, Ngô Ðình Diêm defeated Bao Dai in a 1954 election in the south, and the U.S. began pouring in military aid while cutting off the north from sorely needed access to resources.

That same year, as the Pentagon Papers noted, “President Eisenhower is widely quoted to the effect that in 1954 as many as 80% of the Vietnamese people would have voted for Ho Chi Minh, as the popular hero of their liberation, in an election against Bao Dai.”

Since neither the U.S. nor the South Vietnamese governed had signed the treaty calling for the elections, the vote was never held [talk about yer foreign interference in an election. . .].

The stage was thus set for war, and events in Vietnam were elevated into a major Cold War confrontation, with the Soviet Union backing Ho and the U.S. backing Diem.

The U.S. spent lavishly supporting Diem’s military, while Soviewt aid to the North was less extensive, although it did include the war’s decisive weapon, tjhe virtually indestructible AK-47 Kalashnikov assault rifle, a weapon more durable than any then used by the U.S., and still in use among guerilla forces around the world.

The North supported guerilla forces in the south, the famous Viet Cong, and they steadily eroded the Diem military.

Under John F. Kennedy, American military “advisers” were dispatched to the South, quickly assuming combat roles before becoming the dominant force supporting the Diem regime.

But Diem, a member of the country’s small Catholic community, was immensely unpopular among the country’s majority Buddhists, and the first and most dramatic instance of protest involving fire occurred on 11 June 1963, when in protest of Diem’s repression of the country’s Buddhists, a monk named Thích Quang Duc immolated himself at an intersection just a few short blocks from the Presidential Palace in Saigon.

Images of the act prompted a wave of outrage against Diem that swept around the world:

blog-fire-monk

As the war intensified, the draft began to loom larger in the lives of young American men, many of whom could see no valid reason for killing and being killed in a nation many had never heard of before the war flared into a raging conflagration.

One young man who received his draft notice announced he would not servem declaring:

“I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong. . .Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?”

A year later he would declare:

“My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father.”

And thus Muhammad Ali earned a federal prison sentence, emerging from behind bars to prove himself the greatest pugilist America has ever produced.

Organized protests began to arise [some of which we participated in], and on 15 October 1969, more than two million Americans marched against the war.

One emblematic action of protests throughout the Vietnam war was flag-burning, here illustrated by protesters demonstrating at the 20 January 1969 presidential inaugural of Richard M. Nixon:

blog-fire-flag

Needless to say, the flag-burnings outraged Republicans of the day.

But the most potent and iconic symbol of the war was the result of the American military’s use of fire bombs during the conflict, delivered sometimes by U.S. jets and, in this instance, by American-supplied South Vietnamese fighter-bombers.

It happened on 8 June 1972, when the village of Trang Bang was targeted with napalm bombs because of intelligence suggested that it harbored Viet Cong guerillas.

One of those burned by the napalm was a nine-year-old girl, Phan Thi Kim Phuc, and the image s of her flight from the devastation captured by Associated Press photographer Nick Ut burned their way into the American conscience, revealing the ruthless strategy employed by the United States to win at all costs:

blog-fire-vn

But a second photo, showing her grandmother carrying the seared corpse of one of her cousins is perhaps ever more devastating:

blog-fire-vn-2

Perhaps no one better captured the hypocrisy of criminalized flag-burning with the burning of human bodies by a detestable weapon of war that did esnl’s favorite alternative press cartoonist of the 1960’s, R. Cobb, in this brilliant 1967 graphic for the Los Angeles Free Press:

blog-fire-cobb

As for the legality of burning the American flag, here’s the bottom line from Texas v. Johnson, the 21 June 1989 Supreme Court ruling that is currently the law of the land:

If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.

We have not recognized an exception to this principle even where our flag has been involved.

But with Republicans in full control of the White House and national legislature and poised to gain control over the Supreme Court, we expect that Trump will get his wish, one way or another.

Finally, back to Vietnam

The Vietnam War taught the American government two important lessons.

First was an end to the draft.

While virtually unreported by the American media, the real reason Richard Nixon realized he had to end the war was the rebellion of U.S. troops along the Demilitarized Zone [DMZ] separating the two halves of Vietnam.

That’s what happens when you draft young men to fight for a cause for which they see no valid reason to sacrifice their own lives.

Ripping unwilling combatants away from their homes, families, and jobs is a sure-fire way to foster resentment and rebellion, nowhere better shown that in Daniel Zeiger’s brilliant 2005 documentary Sir! No Sir!, recorded here from a broadcast on BBC:

Sir! No Sir! A Film About The GI Movement Against The War In Vietnam

America turns to mercenaries, embedded reporters

Since Vietnam, America has fought its war with mercenaries, soldiers recruited often from the nation’s poorest regions, where youths facing bleak prospects at home are drawn to the military by promises of job training, education funds, and a position they are assured will imbue them with self-dignity and respect.

No more unwilling combatants; rather, a military filled with those who see no other alternative than lives filled with misery.

The second lesson the Vietnam war taught Americans military and political elites was that free-roving reporters could capture images and stories threatening to their interests by revealing powerful counter-narratives to the official line.

Hence the evolution of the embedded reporter, carefully contained and controlled.

And by criminalizing flag-burning, Donald Trump would deprive protest movements of one of their most powerful symbolic acts.

Image of the day: Daughter and granddaughter


Just a simple case of grandfatherly indulgence, featuring daughter Jackie and granddaughter Sadie Rose:

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 14 October 2016, ISO 1600, 4.3 mm, 1/60 sec, f3.3

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 14 October 2016, ISO 1600, 4.3 mm, 1/60 sec, f3.3

UPDATE: We couldn’t resist adding another image,featuring Sadie Rose and her rocking pig:

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 14 October 2016, ISO 1600, 9 mm, 1/60 sec, f4.4

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 14 October 2016, ISO 1600, 9 mm, 1/60 sec, f4.4