Category Archive: Gear

This happened to me: Saint Petersburg thieves steal lens off front of tourist’s camera (video)

I was in Russia for a couple of weeks at the start of August, and the trip went well (you can see a few pictures on my tumblr). That is, it went well until my last night. Thieves stole my 35mm lens right off the front of my camera in the metro in Saint Petersburg. The red ring on the front of an L lens might as well be a neon sign.

It’s a known attack in the city, but after speaking with the police, seems to be relatively new. You can see how quickly the crime happens in the video above.

I’d spent the afternoon near the water outside the Peter and Paul Fortress (site of this Cartier-Bresson image) and, as the sun went down, joined the crowds getting back on the metro at Gorkovskaya Station. Getting on to the metro, I put my bag and my camera across my body in front, as is my habit in crowded situations. The train car doors opened and suddenly I was being jostled more than I should have been for the size of the crowd. I saw hands going for my camera, and instinctively reached to protect camera, camera bag, wallet, and phone. It was too much to protect and the 4 or 5 guys, all dressed alike, kept gently jostling me back and forth. That was enough. I finally pushed through the crowd, but then felt that some weight was gone. I looked down, and my lens had disappeared. The pickpockets had quickly run out of the train car right as the doors shut.

There was a bit of distance before the next station, and once there, I found a metro worker and got the police involved. The thieves were no doubt long gone and I would be leaving the country the next day, but I needed a police report. I don’t know how the process would have gone if I didn’t speak Russian, but I have to say the metro police were quite pleasant to deal with. They took down information about the crime, noted descriptions of the guys who surrounded me (all wearing baseball caps, buzzed haircuts, nondescript gray t-shirts), and had me look at a book of mugshots. They had apprehended one person in the area about the same time as my theft, but I couldn’t make a satisfactory identification.

I consider myself lucky. I didn’t get hurt, my gear was insured, I didn’t lose my passport, and so on. I wouldn’t hesitate to go back to Russia (this was my 4th time in the country, and the first during which anything bad happened) or Saint Petersburg, but I’ll stay a bit further away from crowds in touristy areas next time.

I’ve got to commend Package Choice, my gear and liability insurance company, for handling this as well as they did. Less than a week after the theft, I had a replacement lens in hand. I’ve never filed a claim with any insurance company before, but this was easy. Pay a small deductible, provide a few documents (police report, proof of ownership), and they did the rest. I shopped around a bit before settling on them a few years back, and I couldn’t find anyone else that offered the same service and coverage. From the get-go, they’ve provided domestic and international coverage for theft and accident, domestic liability (and a little international, or more if you pay extra), and very quick responses on everything from updating gear lists to getting same-day insurance certificates for free to getting my lens replaced in this case.

Try out a Think Tank Retrospective bag for free

Think Tank Retrospective bag

Think Tank Retrospective bag

I’ve been using a Think Tank Retrospective 7 bag for the past 6 months, and I couldn’t be happier. Now, Think Tank is offering a free test drive of the bag (and others in the series). You get the bag for a couple of weeks and decide whether or not to keep it. Return it with a written evaluation of the bag, and you won’t be charged. Or decide to keep it and pay for the bag. There are a couple of restrictions: you must be in the US, you must use a credit card (not a debit card), and you have to sign up for the test drive before June 15.

The bag isn’t perfect, but it’s the best I’ve used. It’s small and has a nice variety of pockets. The flap closes with velcro (not my favorite), but comes with flaps to cover up the velcro so the bag is silent in quiet situations (this is great!). The strap is really durable and the strap pad doesn’t get in the way–the strap on my previous Domke bag, for instance, frayed to the point of breaking pretty quickly. And the bag comes with an attached rain cover so you don’t need to worry about bad weather. I’m not particularly fond of the divider system, though. Instead, I replaced the dividers with a 2×2 insert from my Domke bag, but others I know like the Think Tank dividers.

Do yourself a favor and try out the bag for free. Or, if you’re planning to buy anything else from Think Tank, click through this link to send a little love our way with your purchase.

By the way, if you click through our links to buy anything here, we get a small cut of the sale. It’s a way for us to keep the lights on here at dvafoto. Thanks to those of you who have clicked through us in the past! Consider bookmarking this link to Amazon. It doesn’t change prices for you and gives a small portion of the sale to dvafoto.

1.8 Gigapixel Cameras Fly on US Drones

Gizmodo has written about the “World’s Highest Resolution Camera”, with 1.8 gigapixels, which is being developed for the US government. They shared this clip from the PBS show NOVA which recently broadcast an episode called “Rise of the Drones”.

This is the next generation of surveillance. … It is important for the public to know that some of these capabilities exist. – BAE Systems Engineer Yiannis Antioniades, who designed the sensor

I know some folks working on drone-related journalism and drone-related photography. This should give you some more ideas about what might be possible. And I can’t help but think of what extreme ‘Google Street View’ style projects could be possible from a camera also known as “Wide-Area Persistant Stare’. Maybe some day we’ll see such a thing, for now it remains a classified US Government program.

Scott also recommends having a look at the Dronestagram project, which compiles Google Maps aerial landscapes of the sites of drone strikes. You can follow them on Instagram or on Tumblr.

How to take photos…..IN SPACE!!!

Major Aldrin's helmet, open hatch, Blue Maurer Camera

Major Aldrin's helmet, open hatch, Blue Maurer Camera

“We always sent cameras outside with the guys during the EVAs (Extra-Vehicular Activity – NASA speak for space-walk). They were mostly stock D2Xs, but had some minor mods in order to deal with the rigors of functioning in a vacuum with several hundred degree thermal swings. They had a custom fit thermal blanket wrapped around them, a large viewfinder so that they can be used with the helmet, and a big button that could be pushed with those oven-mitt gloves to release the shutter. We turned them on before they went into the airlock and used Program mode, then hoped for the best.” -Captain Alan Poindexter, Photography In Space

I usually steer far clear of gear and technique blogs, but this post on Luminous Landscape is worth a quick look. Taking pictures in space is no easy task, but with Captain Alan Poindexter’s help, you might return with a few keepers. Poindexter, astronaut and former commander of Space Shuttle Discovery, was picked to be lead Photo/TV crewmember on STS-122 in 2008, and shared a few of his experiences dealing with the difficulties of photographing in space. When taking pictures from space, you’ve got a lot to deal with. Light is very low, everything is in constant motion, and there’s a host of engines and fans causing most surfaces in the shuttle to vibrate. One of the images presented is a 4-second exposure of the coast of India against stars in space; during that exposure, the shuttle traveled 20 miles. And contemporary digital sensors allow the photographer to use light reflected off the Earth as a light source. Some scenes had 16 or 17 stops of dynamic range; and with the fast speed of the orbit, lighting conditions change quickly. Good luck on your next trip outside the Earth’s atmosphere!

Image from Hasselblad astronaut photography manual (pdf link)

Image from Hasselblad astronaut photography manual (pdf link)

While you’re at it, why not look through Hasselblad’s photography manual for NASA astronauts, or large collections of photography from the early Mercury and Gemini missions.

(via metafilter)

Win a Think Tank Photo bag from dvafoto

We’re proud to announce a dvafoto contest in partnership with Think Tank Photo. They’ve donated a Retrospective 5 bag for us to give away to friends and fans of dvafoto. We’ve got the bag in hand, and if we weren’t giving it away, it would be going out on assignment with one of us. It’s small, doesn’t look like a camera bag, and has a ton of neat features (extra pockets, customizable dividers, great strap, a special velcro-less silent mode, and on and on). It’s a great bag, and now there’s a chance for you to get one free.

Think Tank Photo - Retrospective 5

Think Tank Photo - Retrospective 5

We thought this presented a great opportunity to start a discussion about powerful imagery, similar to our recent post about the most powerful photography as chosen by Reddit users. We want to hear about which photograph you would nominate the most powerful picture you know and to give away a great camera bag to one lucky person who has answered our question. We will randomly draw a name from all the entries and discuss submissions in a future post on dvafoto.

For all the information you need about entering this contest and to see which images both Matt and Scott chose to nominate themselves, visit the contest page at

The deadline is March 30, 2012 DEADLINE EXTENDED to April 6, 2012.

We’re looking forward to seeing your entries!

Receive a FREE CAMERA BAG from Think Tank Photo

Need a Halloween costume? Here’s a fully-functioning digital camera costume.

Tyler Card and Adam Barr - fully-functioning camera Halloween costume

Tyler Card and Adam Barr - fully-functioning camera Halloween costume

Need a last-minute Halloween costume idea? You probably don’t have time to do it now, but Tyler Card and Adam Barr built a fully-functioning digital camera Halloween costume. There’s a behind-the-scenes video (warning, annoying and loud music…) that documents the process of making the whole thing. The guts of it all are a torn-apart laptop and an actual digital camera that outputs directly to the computer’s LCD. One click of the giant shutter, and there’s a picture visible on the back of the costume. Pretty great!

(via PetaPixel)

And since I think that’s Tyler in the costume, that also makes him…wait for it…a camera card. Zing!

Some thoughts on iPhone pictures and POYi

A Grunt's Life - 2011 POYi 3rd Place Feature Picture Story

A Grunt's Life - 2011 POYi 3rd Place Feature Picture Story

Damon Winters’ iPhone-taken story, A Grunt’s Life, was awarded 3rd place Feature Story in the 2011 Pictures of the Year International. This has been met with controversy. Many, including most prominently Chip Litherland, say the pictures aren’t photojournalism and that they don’t represent what was in front of the camera, others, such as Logan Mock-Bunting, say that the images violate POYi’s rules that stipulate, “No masks, borders, backgrounds or other artistic effects are allowed.”

I have no problem with the pictures being allowed in the contest. There haven’t been masks, borders, or backgrounds added to the picture (and “other artistic effects” should be read as non-photographic elements added to a picture; the structure of the sentence in the rule makes this clear–”other” indicates that forbidden effects would be of a sort similar to borders, backgrounds, and masks and not of a sort that includes such things as color filters, flash, grain, black and white conversion), and I think there’s no reason not to call this photojournalism. What follows is a modified version of my response to these concerns that I posted in a conversation on the Luceo Images facebook page.

If the color modifications of an iPhone application are to be forbidden, why allow black and white or flash in photojournalism, then? That’s not what the scene looked like in front of the camera. Or why allow ISOs, apertures, and shutter speeds that manipulate light in a way that the human eye can’t achieve (the human eye can’t have infinite focus starting on something at 3 feet away; the human eye can’t let in enough light in an instant as a ISO3200 on bulb; etc.)? As long as the content remains true–that is, nothing has been posed or removed or added to the frame–and it’s intended (photographed and presented) as journalism, I don’t see a reason to disqualify pictures from the contest.

I see arguments against these types of photos as similar to complaints about Salgado making pictures that were too beautiful for the subject matter. Our goal should be to make people look, and these do an admirable job at commanding the attention, not just because of the content but because of how the pictures look and how they were taken. So much photojournalism shot in the traditional style gets ignored or washed over; we need to use everything at our disposal to connect to audiences.

And I’m wary of a lot of the argumentation around these images.

Slippery slope arguments don’t work. It’s perfectly possible to imagine a world where Winter’s photos are awarded, but more traditional photography still gets published and awarded. In fact, there’ve been other problems with over-toning in the past, or Holgas, or other weird techniques, but it hasn’t destroyed all of the other photojournalism that’s still being produced, nor does it mean that non-hipstamatic photojournalism won’t hold public attention. Recent coverage of Egypt proves that. Even the most straightforward wire photography was going viral.

Arguments about the tradition of photojournalism don’t work, either. Older ideas aren’t necessarily better. They might be, but we need evidence that new photojournalism tells a story less accurately or connects with audiences less well than old, straightforward photojournalism. Only then can we fully discount the new style. If we held on to the traditions, we’d be moving corpses like Brady, we’d be shooting daguerrotypes, we’d be posing and using huge lighting setups like the early Life photographers, we’d be layering frames like W. Eugene Smith, we’d all still use film. Traditions fall by the wayside. Methods evolve. New styles emerge.

I don’t want to say that just because the technique is novel or popular that that makes it okay, either. That’s fallacious reasoning. Danielle Steele sells a lot of books, but that doesn’t make her books great literature.

As I see it, the photos are faithful to the story and to how things were in front of the camera, and that’s all that really matters. The colors might be juiced a bit, but that doesn’t invalidate the work. Really, the colors aren’t changed much at all compared to work such as Richard Mosse’s infrared work exploring conflict in Congo.Artistic technique goes a long way in communicating tone and emotion in photography, and I think we (photographers and the public) would be a lot worse off if we (photographers) couldn’t use aesthetic language in photojournalism.

[Matt, the other half of dvafoto, wanted me to say this: 'Matt agrees with everything but wanted to record the fact that he still hates iPhone photographs. Even his own.']

Oops – a video compilation of cameras being dropped

oops from Chris Beckman on Vimeo.

Chris Beckman‘s short “oops” (concept by Billy Rennekamp) is cringe inducing. Oops is composed of disparate footage of cameras being dropped, edited together so it seems like the same camera is dropped, picked up, and dropped again (or attacked by an ostrich, as the case may be).


Building the future of photography at home: DIY Computational Photography - Large Light Field Camera Array - Large Light Field Camera Array

We’re a ways off from hand-held cameras that can do it, but the future of photography will involve pictures in which the depth-of-field and focus and camera position each can be adjusted reliably and with quality in post-production. It’s a complex mathematical and computational problem, but the power is within reach.

So you want to influence the future of photography? Well, you gotta build a camera, ’cause this future isn’t for sale, yet.” - Demonstration of modifiable depth of field achieved by DIY light field array - Demonstration of modifiable depth of field achieved by DIY light field array

Two enterprising photography enthusiasts have taken a page from MIT‘s and Columbia‘s and Stanford‘s computational photography research labs, and have built their own light field camera arrays, and they’re posting instructions on how to build your own, including a method for achieving the effect with just one camera. Check out much more information and some of the science behind the project at

(via MetaFilter Projects)

Morris on McCain

In in a thread over at Lightstalkers thanking people for their comments on his (remarkable) video The Dear Leader, Christopher Morris mentioned that he has a new video out (and, probably, more to come as he just finished a two-week video roadtrip around the US). It is a bit more rough than the Dear Leader film, focused on the last days of the John McCain Presidential campaign. And, for those interested, he said it was shot on the new Canon 5d MkII (see the thread for more info)

Here is a direct link to the video. It is also on the TIME magazine site, though no one can seem to get it to play there.

Morris definitely has me more interested in trying video, as a different way of expressing something.. anyone want to lend me a MkII?