BL Blog

Cool Stuff – Week of November 4, 2012

Cool Stuff

Welcome to Cool Stuff, a weekly feature where we post our favorite links from the past week, including our favorite articles and how-tos, videos, images and more.

  • We begin in outer space, where Curiosity, the Mars rover, has sent back a self-portrait. Cindy Shepard, eat your heart out! Viva Mars!
  • Here on earth, the next James Bond movie is about to be released. Here’s a great behind-the-scenes (BTS) look at the locations and setup used in the film. Video geeks, this one’s for you.
  • Photographer Kenneth Jarecke posts a searing critique of Instagram and its use by Time magazine to document the effects of Hurrican Sandy. Definitely worth a read.
  • Photographer Steve McCurry is one of the most renowned photojournalists of our time. Here’s a great look at his work in the area of documentary portraiture.
  • This next one’s a bit artsy, but it’s absolutely worth a look if you’re interested in the “why” of photographs you see, not just the “how”. Flakphoto presents “Looking at the Land: 21st Century American Views,” a collection of lansdscapes and the stories behind them.
  • And finally, we bring you a collection of amazing videos from the folks over at PhotoShelter. Taken as part of their Luminance convention, these feature folks like David Burnett, Zack Arias, and more. Four videos have been released thus far; we can’t wait for all of them to be online. Our favorite so far? Retoucher Amy Dresser’s scathingly irreverent presentation, embedded here for your viewing pleasure.

And now for the Rundown

That’s it for this week’s Cool Stuff. As always, questions and feedback are welcome in the comments below.

Get the Missing Manual for Light

Gear Talk

 With autumn upon us, daylight hours are fewer and further between. I don’t stop shooting (later sunrises mean I can actually drag myself out of bed at a better hour), but I do take more time to catch up on my reading. Accordingly, I spend some time to put together a list of the best photography books that I want to go through each year and will bring you reviews of the ones I liked the most.

My (virtual) bookshelf is full of titles I’ve read or plan to read for reviewing or for personal edification. Some, like Brian Smith’s book on portraiture, which I reviewed earlier this week, are for personal edification and review. Some, like Light, Science, and Magic, are on there because the subject matter is of interest. And some are on there because I’ll read even an obituary by one of these authors.

Authors like Joe McNally, for example, whose books like Sketching Light and The Moment it Clicks make for fantastic and entertaining reading. Others write books so chock full of information that they become indispensable reference material that I find myself going to pretty often. My friend Syl Arena is an author and teacher who falls into the latter category, and his latest book, Lighting for Digital Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots is something that I think should be more appropriately titled “Light: The Missing Manual”.


Travel Fan Photography Challenge Winners

BL News

Congratulations to our winners from this week’s Fan Photography Challenge. Each week, a new theme will be presented to our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram community where they can participate by submitting or voting on photos for a chance to win prizes. Read more on our blog post, Announcing the Fan Photography Challenge.

The top photos from each theme will be included in our “Fan Favorite and Grand Prize Winner” Contest. Our guest judge, Rick Sammon, will select a Grand Prize winner who will walk away with a $1,000 gift card to use on while the Fan Favorite will receive a $500 gift card to use on


You Don’t Know Jack, the Canon 24-105mm Lens

BL News Cool Stuff

While we receive many notes of thanks (and sometimes even small gifts) back with our rentals, every so often we receive something that knocks our socks off. We received this letter back with a Canon 24-105 lens.
Dear Borrow Lenses, I am returning this Canon EF 24-105L lens, that you so crueley numbered 20033064. I’ll have you know that this number to you has a name, and his name is Jack. Jack arrived on my doorstep Sept. 27th. I was so excited to meet my new friend. Little did I know we would soon become more. I told Jack we were going to Disney World! He was so excited, he’d been so many places and had heard other lenses and cameras talk of Disney. On October 1st, we arrived and instantly Jack showed me how happy he was. I didn’t have too high of hopes, I thought “maybe I’ll get a few nicer pictures.” He surpassed all expectations. My images were so clear and sharp, such detail. Where have you been all my life Jack?! (Oh, that’s right, cooped up in your backroom! Shame!) I took Jack to more and more parks, he saw shows, rides, animals, and foods he’d never seen before. I was rewarded with pictures I’d never seen my T1i take before. It was inevitable… We fell in love. The 12th came and I couldn’t let him go! Just a few more days! And now it’s over, I want you to know, you may have his body, but he left his soul in my pictures! YOU CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY! WHAT WE HAVE IS TRUE AND NO DISTANCE CAN CHANGE THAT!!! SHAME ON YOU FOR BREAKING UP TRUE LOVE! =( I’LL NEVER FORGET YOU JACK!!! <3, FeliciaDear Borrow Lenses,
I am returning this Canon EF 24-105L lens, that you so crueley numbered 20033064. I’ll have you know that this number to you has a name, and his name is Jack. Jack arrived on my doorstep Sept. 27th…

The Switch – Moving from Canon to Nikon, Part V

Gear Talk

This is the conclusion of a 5-part series on an experimental switch from Canon to Nikon.

I guess the big question on everyone’s mind is, “Did you switch or not?” Well, read on, gentle reader.


Powerful Inspiration for Powerful Portraits

Gear Talk

Portrait photography isn’t easy. Anyone can point a camera at a person and make a quick image. If you’re technically accomplished, you can even get your lighting spot-on and make a great-looking photograph.

But the best portraits have an intangible quality to them that sets them apart. They have soul, that most overused yet accurate of words when it comes to describing photography. They speak to an innate part of the subject’s character, allowing the viewer to see not just what that subject looks like, but also what he or she is feeling and thinking.

Brian Smith is one of those photographers who can pull this off, and do so with applomb. He is perhaps one of the most accomplished portrait artists working today, and his portfolio, which drips with celebrities ranging from Anne Hathaway to Richard Branson and then some, attests to that accomplishment.

So it’s always with a lot of eagerness that I look forward to any kind of information – a book, video tutorial, whatever – from an artist like Brian. Fortunately for us, he has delivered a book on the subject of portrait photography, and what a whopper of a book it is.


Lock it down

Gear Talk
The Induro AT413, an excellent tripod for outdoor shooting.

The Induro AT413, an excellent tripod for outdoor shooting.

This is how the life of a photographer goes sometimes. You’re driving home on Highway 13, right around dusk. You glance off to your left and note that the moon, at an 8% crescent is going to set shortly, and it’s probably going to do so right behind the San Francisco skyline.

So what do you do? Well, if you’re me, you step on it and race for Grizzly Peak Road, a scenic, meandering two-lane stretch of tarmac that winds through the hills above Oakland and Berkeley while offering some spectacular views of the Bay Area, including the Bay Bridge, the San Francisco skyline, Oakland, Berkeley, and sometimes, the Golden Gate Bridge, too.