Archive for July, 2007

Why Concert Photo Restrictions Do Not Make Sense Any Longer

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

It was Petra’s birthday. I had purchased official tickets for the Norah Jones concert in Munich as a gift for her. I know she likes the music, a cool dark modern country and blues music. The tickets were expensive, and I was happy to just enjoy the evening as a concert visitor. We were excited.

As always, I was looking for some photo colleagues. However, upon entering the concert hall, Munich’s Olympiahalle, I did not see any. I would have expected to see at least one or two pros covering the concert. But then they appeared, in the break between warm-up session and main concert. They were shuffled in and told to stay in one corner in the back of the hall. I could spot Johannes Simon, a local PJ veteran working for GettyImages now, then Oliver Lang from AFP, and five or six others. When one of the photographers wanted to chat to the TV colleagues who had their equipment set up close to the sound engineers, he was told to go back to “his location in the corner” by a security guy. This did not make any sense to me as he did not try to take photos. In fact, nobody was taking any photos – the main lights were still on, the stage was still empty. No artist. No photos. No interest.

Then, at 9 pm sharp, the official concert began. The photographers were now guided to a location closer to the stage, and they were allowed to shoot for about 15 minutes, for about three or four songs. Then they were shuffled out of the concert hall again. And I wondered – does this make sense?

I was wondering, because hundreds of visitors were bringing their digital cameras. I’d say almost everyone had some kind of camera, if it was not a point-and-shoot camera, they at least carried a camera phone. People around me were shooting like crazy. Every few seconds a flash fired somewhere in the hall. One guy a few rows in front of me was apparently filming the whole concert with his P&S camera. A couple behind me was more focused on taking photos than on the concert itself. Yes, this tells you something about the quality of the concert, but it also tells you something about the sillyness of photo restrictions during concerts.

I could not resist and ask Petra for her camera phone (as I’ve just got an old Ericsson phone without camera). Well, I just could come up with this really really bad shot…

Norah Jones Munich
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

…from her old Siemens phone (with a mediocre 1.3 MP camera). But using a fairly decent 12 MP point-and-shoot (e.g. the new Sony Cybershot W200) I guess I could have achieved a quality suitable for newspaper standards, if not better. Throw in a seat closer to the stage, a tiny tripod, and a bit of post-processing, and you’ll get a couple of very good concert shots.

So, in my view, this whole “professional photographers may only take photos during the first 15 minutes of the concert” rule is utter nonsense these days. People (i.e. paying end customers) are taking the shots anyway. And they will increasingly blog about this, writing fan pages and concert reviews. They can not be hold back, unless you want to take away their phones and P&S cameras. But when this happens, people will not be attending concerts any longer. So this will not work. Concert agencies should actually be happy about the additional PR they get from this. They should allow photo cameras in order to improve their reach and to further increase the popularity of the artist. I agree that they should put restrictions on video cameras as this is were the real value of a concert lies: music, lights, emotion! A concert is a true multimedia experience; still photos hardly bring this across.

Ah, how was the concert, you ask? At 0.42 € per minute it was too expensive for my taste. The location (the Olympiahalle with seats) was not matching the music style which would have been much better in a smaller concert hall (e.g. Munich’s Muffathalle or Zenit). So the emotions were not really coming across to the audience. Unsurprisingly, Miss Jones left the stage at 10:25 pm, apparently a bit miffed at the lack of enthusiasm by the audience. Petra liked the concert, though. Which was the whole point of this excercise. :-)

Relaunch of USA Gallery

Saturday, July 14th, 2007

OK, today I need to blow my own horn: I just relaunched the USA Gallery and uploaded 233 new scans of the existing photos, replacing the old scans. I think the difference is definitely visible – just compare these two images…

Monument Valley (old scan)

Monument Valley (new scan)
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

I think the new scan (below) is way better than the old one (above).

And so, across the board, the new scans are much closer to the original slides in terms of color, brightness and saturation – and thus much closer to reality! :-) The larger versions have been saved from Photoshop with the sRGB color profile embedded, so that your browser should display the images fine no matter what. All this comes with one minor drawback, though: The average file size of the larger images has increased from about 68 KB to 91 KB, a 33% increase! However, with broadband access on the rise in the U.S. and in Europe, I am sure that you will prefer the improved image quality over the download speed.

And now please feel free to visit the revamped USA Gallery.

Oh, and should you wonder how I did the slide scans, please visit my step-by-step guide on slide scanning.


Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

Restless by William Boyd

by William Boyd
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc in 2006
325 Pages
ISBN 978-0-7475-8837-2

Imagine that your mother has lied to you about an integral part of her life – the time prior to your birth. Imagine that for some strange reason your mother decides to tell you her secret when you are 27 years old, a single mother still working on her thesis at the University of Oxford. And finally imagine that you learn that your mother was – a spy!

That’s the foundation of William Boyd’s excellent novel Restless. Ruth Gilmartin learns during the hot summer of 1976 a lot about her mother Sally, who has been hired by the British Secret Service in 1939 to become a spy in the upcoming world war. And an excellent spy she is, with assignments in Holland, Belgium, and the United States. She is perfect at doing what is requested of her and is always using her instincts to get a job done. Then, in 1941, one assignment goes badly wrong, and she needs to cover her tracks extremely well to escape her own colleagues…

The exciting story of Sally Fairchild unwinds in front of us, gently jumping between past and present. While it takes a few pages for the story to take off, it gains momentum and drama as the reader gets acquainted with the characters, soon steaming at full speed towards a great finish. Both parts of the story – past and present – are crafted well with deep and interesting characters. Ruth is working as teacher for English as foreign language, and so she is used to foreigners. Yet soon the question builds up whether everybody is actually who he says he is? Can Ruth trust anyone? This makes the story of the present as interesting as the story of the past.

There is one drawback for the story, though: Boyd has used several German characters for Ruth’s story of the present, probably to add credibilty to the spy theme and to create an environment of distrust, but all this does not fully add up. Why does Ruth need to have connections into Germany? Why does she allow for dubious German friends to stay in her appartment the whole summer, even if she disapproves it? Why does her son needs to have a German first name? All this is not really necessary and just distracts from the main storyline. Personally, I would have preferred a full focus on Ruth and her mother, and maybe even more insights into the actual work of a spy at wartime. But this remains my only criticism.

All-in-all, the story is captivating and intelligently written. Certainly not your typical spy thriller. A good read.

William Boyd, photographed by Mark Zanzig
William Boyd
Photo: Mark Zanzig/zettpress

The Great Global Warming Swindle

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007

Just came across the excellent documentary: “The Great Global Warming Swindle” by WagTV and broadcasted on UK’s Channel4. It underlines my previous posts on The CO2 Scam and the State of Fear and de-masks the whole global warming story as scam. I think that watching this documentary is 75 minutes well spent. Enjoy!