About a fraud, and who is responsible. The curious case of "war photographer" Eduardo Martins

So I just came across the really weird story of Eduardo Martins, a very successful war-zone photographer and leukemia survivor, who made quite a name for himself by posting photos from Iraq, Syria and Palestine, gaining international attention and coverage for his work and personal story, reaching over 100.000 followers on Twitter, and who knows how many others on other social media, being published in many top tier news and lifestyle publications and having exhibitions arranged and his work exposed by the world of photographic information and entertainment.

 

As it turns out, the guy is a fraud and stole all the work he claimed to have shot while in dangerous war zones, and now, having been exposed, he is M.I.A. somewhere in Australia, where he is apparently living in a van, and hopefully hiding in shame.

 

So all is well that ends well, in a way, but not really, because this case brings a pretty serious issue in today's media distribution out in the open, and this is who should be considered responsible for situations like these.

 

There will always be impostors, con-people and frauds, this is just a fact of life, in the same way bad weather and having to eat at regular intervals are, so while legal responsibility (and moral, if you believe in such things) is quite obviously his, there is another issue that I, as a member of the public, feel has less to do with him and more to do with how the current media landscape has shaped out to work.

 

How is it possible that someone who is lying about very specific issues (there aren't thousands of photographers who have been to Aleppo in the midst of the civil war) is not intercepted by the filters that huge media players should have in place not only to ensure interesting, new and unique content, but also (and mostly, I would say) to keep cheaters, thieves and frauds away from the public?

Do these media outlets even have filters, fact-checking processes, or reference checks in place, or is an x number of followers sufficient to guarantee publication?

 

I won't go into too much detail on this story, because there is a lot of news about it already, and it makes no sense to repeat the same snippets of information, but there seem to have been many instances of his stories not holding up to even basic scrutiny, and some people did get suspicious, yet very few (Thank you, Natasha Ribeiro of BBC Brazil) seem to have made the extra effort to actually check if that foul smell of fraud was there for a reason or not.

 

What is the work ethic of digital media publishers, as a whole, in this fast and consumption-oriented market? 

We can all agree speed has become a vital variable in the making of a successful story, and it's quite clear that publishers need to adapt or, most likely, get kicked out of the market, but is there really no place for some form of control over what is being published?

If not for legal or economical reasons, is there at least no pride in trying to provide information that the reader and viewer can trust? 

 

And what about the value of news, and the taint a case like this should bring over publishers as a whole?

Those stories, sold for real (SOLD, mind you), have contributed to shape people's views of social and political issues, they might have convinced people to take action or get involved with some cause, and all this based on the fantasy stories of some Brazilian dude that likes to surf.

 

Sure, Eduardo should pay for what he took from others, but is there not a huge amount of responsibility over the heads of these big media players, which readers PAY even for their reputation of providing real, valuable stories?

 

And even worse, this case becomes even more disgusting when you think that so many people applying for low-pay, blue-collar jobs, need to go through all kinds of checks, as if the fate of the world depended on your local fast-food server not having smoked a joint in the last ten years.

Not to mention the countless photographers that work hard, struggle to improve and never see a dime, because they get "exposure" and they can "build their portfolio".

Yet it would seem that having 100.000 Twitter followers just seems to open the doors to the most prestigious levels of photo-journalism.

 

Where is the balance here, and at what point can it be said without fear of being too harsh, that big portions of the digital media market are prostituting their credibility in favor of speed and followers?

And at what point should the public hold publishers accountable for the bad work they do at providing news and information?

 

A quick search has shown me that some of the media outlets who published this guy's work have taken those pages down, and I am sure they will jump on the victim band-wagon, siding with us, the public, against the horrible deeds of this fraud. 

But guess what, I don't want them on my side, they are not the public and they are not victims in this case, they are part of the problem, and I would like to see them apologize for the superficiality of their choices.

 

Actually, they can even keep the apology. I would like to see them hire a fact-checker or two, and make an effort to guarantee that what they publish is solid and news-worthy, not just the story of the hour, whether true or not.

 

Ok, rant over. Time to take some photos, for real!

Are different lenses actually that different? Comparing three 50mm lenses

Which of the many lenses that flood the market is the best for your needs?

 

The range of options, for most any brand, can go from the price of a drink, for a vintage lens, to the price of a small car, for top of the line, cutting edge technology, new ones.

And obviously there is a whole spectrum of alternatives between these extremes.

 

But what justifies the different prices, and how different are different lenses once we compare them in the real world? 

Although there is no lack of information online, it can still be hard to make up your mind, especially if you are new to the world of photography, or if you get sucked into extremely in-depth pixel comparisons, which are definitely useful and informative, but don't really give you a feel of how the lens will actually perform in real life, in "normal conditions".

Or maybe they do, but I had a pretty free afternoon, today, so I thought I would run my own test on a few lenses I have, and see what results, if any would emerge from a comparative test.

So fasten your seat belts and sit tight, because today we are comparing three 50mm lenses and trying to extract some info that might be useful.

 

But first things first, lets talk about samples and "methodology".

 

The lenses I am comparing today will be:

  1. The Pentax "kit lens", an 18-55 mm zoom with a variable fastest aperture of f3.5 to f5.6
  2. An old Pentax 50 mm f1.7 (k-mount)
  3. The Tamron 17-50 mm f2.8

I chose these lenses because they seem like a good sample of what most photographers will have in their own home or studio, so my guess is that most people will be able to relate with a selection of lenses that is similar to this one, which is the whole point of a comparison, in my opinion.

 

So let's get a closer look at the contestants.

 

 

First in line is the Pentax kit lens. It has very similar technical specs as any other kit lens from any other brand.

 

It's not a fast lens, as mentioned earlier, and the widest aperture available at 50mm is f4.5, a setting that will not win you any bokeh or creamy blur competitions.

 

It feels rather light and cheap, but also well assembled. While it's mostly made out of plastic, it's not excessively flimsy and can take a bit of a beating without too many issues. 

 

Also, to the credit of Pentax, it has at least some weather sealing, in the form of of a ring around the mount, which add a little bit of protection from the elements.

 

This lens, should you want to buy it, will cost anywhere between 40 Euro (for a second hand version without weather sealing) to around 170 Euro (for a new lens with weather sealing).

 

 

Second comes a really cool lens, in my opinion.

It's a 50mm prime with a fast speed of f1.7.

 

It was a good lens, in its time, and you can feel it just by picking it up. 

It's almost completely built out of metal and the focusing ring is smooth and has a lot of travel, making precise focusing rather easy.

It feels solid and well built, although I would try not to drop it.

 

On a modern DSLR, it looks, and is, very compact, making it a great choice to take around for a walk in the city.

 

Obviously this lens is manual focus only, so that is most definitely something to take into account.

You can find this lens for anywhere between 20 and 50 Euro, in my experience. 

 

 

Last but not least is the only non-Pentax lens in this comparison.

I'm talking about the Tamron. This 17-50mm lens has a constant fast aperture of f2.8, which is reall a great thing to have on a zoom lens, in my opinion. 

 

The build is mostly plastic, but it's heavy and solid, with no serious give at the joints, and it feels like a serious, well built piece of gear.

I would still not recommend dropping it, though.

 

This is the most bulky lens of the lot, and the heaviest, by far, although that sweet f2.8 is definitely worth the weight, in my opinion.

 

It's also the most expensive, and will set you back around 350 Euro if you buy it new, and somewhere in the 180 Euro range, for a used one.

 

Ok, so now that we met the contestants, let's set them all to the 50mm focal length and see how they perform against each other.

 

I don't have a professional testing setup, as the ones you find on the bigger websites that review and test gear, but I also think this can be a strength, because most users are not dealing with graphs, extreme enlargements and pixel comparison, but they might just want to know if that lens they saw at a flea market for ten bucks will perform any better or differently from the gear they already have, or if it's a waste of money.

Or they might be on the fence about upgrading from a kit lens to their first more serious glass, and might want to get a better understanding as to what the differences will be, and there are so many opinions online, often not backed by photos or proof, that it can be a little daunting to make a choice.

 

Based on these considerations, I decided to setup a very easy comparison, something that could easily be reproduced by anyone, and also give a visual, "photographic" comparison of the various lenses and how they perform. 

There are a lot of other, similar, resources online, and should you be looking to make up your mind on a lens, I encourage you to check out as many of them as you can.

 

Anyway what comparisons did I try out?

 

I used my old Pentax ME as a model. I set it on my couch, by the window, and set a tripod on the floor in front of it, so that I would be able to change lenses and settings without altering the position of the camera too much.

 

I decided to start out with the lowest possible setting which all three lenses could share, which, for obvious reasons is the f5.6 aperture of the kit lens. 

I decided to use a value of ISO 100, because I wanted the work to be done by the lens, rather than the camera, and I settled for a shutter speed of 1/50 to keep in line with the "rules" to cut down on shake blur when shooting hand-held photos.

 

I used manual focus for all the photos, and I used the "1.7" mark on the lens as my focusing point.

All images are unedited and untouched, except for the last set, which I edited because, ultimately, that is what happens to all photos, so it's kind of relevant, I would say.

 

All these variables are arbitrary, of course, but they still enable us to see what differences, if any, these lenses will show with normal use.

 

So with all this intro, it's time for a little less conversation and a little more photos, time to compare!

 

 

Let's consider this the benchmark image for all three lenses. 

 

As I mentioned earlier, these are all shot at f5.6, ISO 100, 1/50.

Starting from the left is the vintage Pentax 50mm, the second is the Pentax kit lens, and the third is the Tamron.

 

Considering they are all shot at the same settings, it's not too surprising that the images are not too different, though the Tamron does seem to be a little darker than the other two, while the kit lens does seem to be just a little lighter than the others.

 

There are a few other things to be noticed, however, the first being that all three lenses frame the image a little differently. 

The vintage Pentax flattens the image more, and brings the subject closer to the viewer, while the Tamron takes a bit more of the surrounding space into the frame, with the kit lens being somewhere between the other two. 

 

In terms of color, aberrations or other such qualities, I don't see a huge difference between the lenses. In terms of focus, however, there are a few observations to be made. 

Considering the focus point on the front of the lens, it's normal that there would be some blurring moving back in the image, but all three lenses perform quite differently in this aspect.

The Tamron, seems to be a clear winner here, with the logo on the camera body being equally in focus as the lens, and quite crisp and contrasty.

The Pentax prime lens performs well enough, but there is some noticeable blur on the camera body, not necessarily a bad thing, but definitely more evident than the Tamron.

The kit lens is the one that displays most blur on the camera body, and is also has the lowest contrast. 

Again, I want to point out how blur is not an issue in itself, as you might be very well wanting to have a nice, soft, fallout from the point of fucus, but in terms of comparison, the kit lens definitely does not perform as well as the other two.

 

 

This next comparison is a little more arbitrary, as I decided to see how the different lenses would perform at their fastest aperture, but as the range goes from f1.7 to f5.6 I had to change a few other settings too, in order for the images not too be blown out.

So are the results.

 

In the case of the Tamron I did not make any changes if not setting the aperture to f2.8, while with the Pentax prime I increased the shutter speed to 1/160 to compensate for all the extra light coming through the lens after setting the aperture to f1.7.

Since I could not use a faster aperture on the kit lens, I bumped up the ISO from 100 to 400. 

 

 In terms of exposure all three images are pretty balanced, with none of them sticking out too much, but what is interesting to me, in this case, is how dramatic the change in the depth of field becomes. 

 

While the Tamron blurs gradually and "elegantly", the Pentax prime has such a shallow depth of field that the knobs on the camera body are barely recognizable.

The logo on the camera is also much less readable than in the Tamron photo, and there is clear chromatic aberration on many of the edges, which the Tamron contains better while having better contrast.

 

Again, it's a matter of preference which one you prefer, and they have not been edited, so that also counts for something.

 

Last but not least is the kit lens with enhanced ISO sensitivity.

 

Now that we are looking at photos with more controlled blur, its relatively poor performance in the previous comparison becomes a strength (in a way), as it offers a pleasant fallout from focus to blur, with the higher ISO setting helping to blow out some of the highlights, contributing, in my opinion, to give an nice illusion of blur. 

The color also appears to be warmer, slightly leaning into the yellows rather than the blues, while the other two are a little colder, with the Pentax prime having the coldest color temperature.

There is no noticeable ISO noise, even once the photo is enlarged quite a bit.

 

But really, what is photo without at least some basic tweaking of contrast and, saturation and white balance?

So let's see how these lenses perform in the most ultimate sense. What pictures will they produce once we are done editing them to out liking?

 

Let's see...

 

 

 

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Get the aperture ring in your vintage M42 lens to work in full manual mode: An easy mod

I really enjoy using M42 (AKA screw mount) lenses. 

Manual focusing is a great exercise and the quality of the glass is often surprising.

 

My first experiences with this Osawa 28mm f2.8, however, were not great, as I soon noticed I had no control over the aperture, which was constantly set to f2.8, and with no option to switch the lens into manual mode, I was stuck with a very shallow depth of field.

 

There is an easy fix, however, depending on the lens you are using, which will not take much of your time, and will definitely give you all the aperture control you need, and all it requires is a screwdriver, a ballpoint pen and enough confidence to open up the back of your lens without too much fear of damaging it (which is always a possibility...).

 

So if you are having issues with your collection of vintage and legacy lenses, you might want to follow the simple steps shown in the video.

 

Please let me know if you have any comments, feedback or alternative approaches to this simple mod, and if you enjoy my videos, please subscribe to my channel for more, all support means a lot.

 

Or follow me on Instagram @photon.captures

 

Thank you for watching!

Amsterdam's Gay Pride 2017

 

 

 

 

I'm really happy with the photo above.

 

It's not necessarily the technical aspects, or the composition, that make me feel proud of the photo I took, either, but it's something that has less to do with the shot itself and more to do with me and the way I approach what I do.

 

There are a number of big events going on in Amsterdam over the course of the year, Kingsday and the Gay pride being the biggest and most colorful.

These events offer a huge opportunity for any photographer to go out and take some awesome shots, but they can also be a hard wall to walk into, once you get home with a memory card full of images that are all the same, highlight nothing, and do not click with you.

In my opinion this has to do with the massive availability of interesting visual cues these events put in front of you at every corner. It's like a constant parade of the most creative, outlandish, fun and crazy costumes, and it's often easy to start shooting everything you see just because it's interesting, not because it makes for a photo you want, or like.

This has been my mistake in the last couple of years: approaching these days as if I was going to shoot a safari, from a distance, without really interacting much with the events around me.

This has to do with my approach to things, I guess, as I don't like walking up to strangers to take photos. I generally feel I'm invading their space and interrupting what they are doing, which really bothers me. 

The consequences of this wanting to be at a distance, as a photographer, are that I either attempt to sneak a shot (which inevitably sucks), or I will just let the opportunity slip, telling myself there will be more and better photos to take. 

 

Now let me tell you, should you be having similar thoughts, that is not the case. 

The photos you don't take are gone, the ones you take in a hurry or without motivation are bad, and nobody gives a shit about how many chances you had to take awesome photos, if you didn't actually take them.

 

So after a few years of being disappointed by the days that are supposed to yield the most interesting street pics, I decided to change my approach, this time, and actively pursue the images I wanted to take home.

 

It took me a couple of hours walking around town to actually sync with the vibe of the city and start approaching the people I wanted to take photos of, and the one above is the first shot I was really happy with, because it's a mix of all the elements I was looking to capture in an image.

I asked if I could take some photos of this really cool man and his awesome outfit. Lucky for me, he was nice enough to take some time posing and talking to me, and I tried not to rush it, and maximize the time he was willing to give me, rather than take one pic and keep going.

Well, soon enough there were people around us, asking to take selfies and enjoying the show, and my photos transitioned from a still image of an awesome costume (and person), to something more alive, where some elements were planned, and some popped randomly into my viewfinder, like the two girls taking a selfie.

Once I took this photo, I knew I had what I wanted, and I had it simply by asking, interacting, and being part of the environment I wanted to capture, rather than an observer.

 

Once I had this realization, everything became easier, and I was able to enjoy my afternoon walk, choose what I wanted to photograph and do it the way I felt was right.

As an added bonus, most people I asked, were nice and friendly, so I also got some decent human interaction out of the whole day. Seems like a win to me.

 

So my advice to myself and to anyone who wants to take it is to let go of all the burdening rules you set out with. 

There is no extra value in a candid photo rather than a staged one, there is nothing tangibly different between a true moment of life you capture stealthily, and a moment you ask to be a part of, and actually, I would argue there is much more life in an image you have a story for, or in the portrait of someone whose hand you shook.

And the next image is a perfect example of this.

 

 

 

 

As I was turning around I saw these guys kissing and I immediately thought it would be a great shot, because of how intimate it was, yet part of a massive party in the city.

By the time these thoughts crossed my mind, they were leaving, each going their own way. 

I quickly debated what to do, and how comfortable we might all be if I asked them to try and kiss again for the camera, or how awkward, but then I decided to give it a try, and approached them.

Well, it turns out that was their goodbye kiss, and they had no problem kissing again for the camera. 

In the end, the image is exactly what I saw when I turned around the first time. I had the choice to let it go and consider it a missed opportunity, or I could try to get my shot. 

I decided to go for it, and could not be happier with the result.

 

Furthermore, I noticed that once you break the ice, it becomes easier to concentrate the energy you would put in taking millions of snapshots into actually choosing your next photo even on the basis of the surrounding environment. 

The most beautiful model will not help if your photos are taken with distracting shit in the background, in uninteresting settings, or without any though as to what you are trying to portray, and yes, the time you have available to make these choices in a context like a street party is a matter of seconds. Possibly minutes if you are very lucky. 

In the case of this image, I like how nothing is cut in the frame, from the church towers to the people crossing the road on the left, it makes me feel like this image contains all it's elements fully, and that makes me consider it a success.

 

The next two images also show how I tried to focus on the full context of the image, rather than the subject.

 

 

 

 

It's a quick realization. The real issue is putting it into practice, and accepting that a good photo will, most likely, require some thought, work and interaction, even for the most interesting subject.

Once you do start putting the work in for each one of your images, once you decide you will bring that photo home the way you like it, rather than let it slip, things become easier, and you will notice an increase in quality for most of your work that day.

 

So after this long post, here a re a few tips, should you be taking photos ad a street party or parade:

  • Interact. People are there to party, and they will likely be happy you appreciate the work they put into looking good.
  • Know what you want. Don't be clueless about what's happening, have your settings adjusted, know how you want to frame the shot, explain why they might need to move, or what you are trying to achieve.
  • Let life happen. Once you are set, welcome the unknown. If someone randomly steps up, see if they can be integrated in your frame. Don't expect this to be a controlled environment.
  • Network. This will be an awesome chance to create contacts, spread your work, and possibly meet new colleagues or friends. Embrace it.
  • Be aware. You are asking people to stop their things to give you some time. Don't abuse it.
  • Have fun. There is no reason to go back home disappointed. The good shots are there, nice people are there. Go out and have fun.

 

 

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Taking Apart an old 400mm Camera Lens

What's inside a camera lens? Well, not much, in the case of this old but sturdy 400mm Pentor lens... 
This lack of frills and special features makes it even more interesting to stare in guts, as every screw on this piece of gear has an immediately evident function to it, there is nothing misterious about it. Yet this metal tube, with a couple of glass bits at its ends is, in all it's simplicity, is a functioning photographic lens, and can deliver quite decent images, provided you know and accept its limits.

Let's see what's going on inside it!